My thoughts about culture and our present conditions. As Dianne Moore says in Learning to Love a Wounded World, "This requires a willingness to feel everything…. the horror and the beauty of what is here…. the fear and the Love.”

Ideological Barriers to Sustainability

While we watch helplessly as Obama selects advisers and heads of key bureaucracies from the status quo elite, with the same ideologies that have brought us to this potential brink of global economic and environmental collapse, some of us have been having discussions about what we can do outside the structure of government to make ourselves ready for the possibility of the worst of times to come.  This effort to find alternatives in our immediate lives, options we can employ ourselves, is what some are chiding as an example of the "fractured left" typically not pooling together like the conservatives do, and going along with the program like good team mates.  

A few of us recognize the hidden values in that chiding that leads the crowd to aggregate into various forms of government that have been quite problematic in the past.  "Fasces" for instance, is a Latin word that means a bundle of rods, which, when bundled together, is much harder to break than any individual rod.  This word association was apparently one of Musselini’s gift to the world as a governmental description.  If one is worried about breaking, fascism is supposedly an answer. But here I think we are dealing with other problems, problems that in the end can be the demise of a bundle of sticks as well.

Aside from the simple fact that I don’t consider myself "right" "left" or otherwise, I consider this sort of nonsense to be little more than a retrospective analysis based on the notion of competition between the Republicans and Democrats for seats of power.  The illusion we are supposed to be persuaded by is the notion of democracy.  But what we have is not democracy.  Not the participatory form at least.  Ours is an election and legitimization of an elite who, once elected after a big carnival ritual where much money is spent, much attention is played to the personalities involved, we then sit back and allow this elite to manage, much like upper management manages a corporation.  So, as usual, I ignore it.  We have some serious issues to deal with now, and partisan competition is not at the top of my list of concerns.

In one of those discussions where someone naively sugguested we could be on the verge of a massive reindustrialization of the US, thanks to these brainy elites, many from the Clinton era, to compensate for the loss of productivity resulting from the last thirty years or so of neoliberal policies that led to the international corporate bill of rights like NAFTA and GATT these very elites designed, I was recently asked the following question:

"I’ve written elsewhere about my skepticism concerning "sustainable
development," which I consider to be a euphemism for "status quo." I
have also expressed the opinion that, to raise up the poor in the world
would require considerable sacrifices in the living standards of the
rich, sacrifices that are politically unlikely in my view.

For these and other reasons I am pessimistic about humanity’s future.
Perhaps you or others on this list can offer reasons for me to be

I consider "sustainable development" to be an oxymoron.  To me, the notion of development connects with a network of meanings that imply "progress" or an enlightenment version of cultural evolution where it’s seen rationally progressing in an ever improving direction.  However, also rationally, thanks to the sciences that this evolution created, we see it has become one which is now quite clearly putting the entire human race at risk.  The risk arises because development, or progress, now involves the ever expanding rational homo centric economic forces that are the very definition of improved conditions for humans on the planet of these words.  One of the primary reasons for what has become the potential demise of societies based on this strategy is underlying economic logic built into this version of development, which is the very capitalist based economic ideology that inherently in its fundamental goal ignores the laws of ecology.  In those laws we can find, through our science, the rules of succession, where at the higher levels of succession we find that a balanced (and therefore sustainable) eco system is by its nature a very complex and biologically diverse one.  In diversity lies stability as long as some catastrophic force does not enter the picture.  A force like a volcano, or a meteor.

Rather than attempting to achieve a complex and balanced state of biodiversity in their environments, humans are using their technology, driven by a recent discovery of a very potent source of stored energy, fossil fuels, to attack biodiversity and thereby lower the levels succession of ecosystems all over the planet.  What human "genius" has discovered is how to use energy-driven technology to supplant biodiversity.  The sum total of industrial agriculture is based on that fundamental trade off.  Agriculture itself is therefore an energy intensive process of maintaining a monoculture in a constant battle against the very obvious and definable forces of nature that want to complexify any given biologically inhabitable area of the planet.  Agriculture creates eco zones whereby the biomass is primarily designed to feed the human and none other but those human’s choose.  Any of the other species that threaten that are considered "pests" that must thereby be eradicated.  In the sense of competition, then, humans are outcompeting other species.  Cancers do that for awhile… until they kill their host.  Then the cancer also dies. 

The result of this human cancer-like process is now globally a tremendous loss of biodiversity, seriously threatening effects on life biological processes that are key elements in sustaining much life, including the lives human beings.  But that’s been, in terms of human life spans over the past hundred and fifty years, a long term effect that has been able to be put off thanks to the discovery of this potent energy source and the development of key technologies based on it.  What a few of us have always recognized, and what occasionally comes out at broader levels of understanding in periods where the energy supply becomes strained, is this is not an infinite game the human species is playing.  It’s a finite game with an ending somewhere, potentially a catostrophic one if not recognized and ameliorated.  Since I am one of those Cassandra’s, what I’m concerned about is achieving a balance of life for humans and the environment on the planet as a whole.  Admittedly that’s a very complex problem, and one we can probably not discuss without disconnecting from many of the terms and concepts we take for granted as defining the imagined world we share conceptually in many ways. 

However, putting that problem aside for the moment, and to answer the question, my optimism about people comes after actually observing them disconnect from ideologies and start
looking practically at what they can do for themselves. It’s a daunting
task to see through one’s own self created illusions, and generally the first reaction will be some form of denial, with a refusal to face the necessity of abandoning a suicidal and socially lethal lifestyle.  But I do see people doing it.  It therefore can be done.

Another person notes the problem of addressing this notion of sustainability in the present context:

"Our cultural values are shaped in great part by the economic
functioning of our society…by the way we’ve structured economic

If you follow out all the implications in that statement in detail you
can come up with something very similar to Jacques Ellul’s critique of
a modern culture as a critique de la société technicienne et de la modernité, Historien et Sociologue
or for short, technological tyranny and its threat to human freedom,
which is embedded in his "sociological propaganda" descriptions. An
admitted difficulty with that term is translating his meaning of propaganda. So I go
to enculturation, a more generic term, and one that has a rich meaning in a field I have studied, cultural anthropology.

Again, rather than dwelling on the global problems beyond our scope of
action — I’m not suggesting ignoring them — look at what people are
doing with their awareness of global issues. And once more I recommend
exploring such networking efforts as "Transition Towns" and
other rhizome-like communities.

Here’s what some are doing, not just in the US, but elsewhere in the global economic empire.

Transition Towns… embody creative responses by ordinary people

networking site for those interested in exploring and/or implementing
the Transition model in their community. This site is being created
through grassroots participation, and is continually evolving. It is a
spontaneously arising effort to connect ‘transitioners’ with each other
and to encourage and support the development of local Transition

Transition model

Search: Transition Towns

People are finding ways to de-institutionalize themselves, and those
ways must go beyond mere concepts or ideas, or one remains trapped in
the ontology of institutional existence.

One must start with at least a fundamental curiosity of how to get out
of this trap. Of course, the notion that it’s a trap must emerge
somewhere in the consciousness. I suggest the sense of depression about
the future of humanity as a whole is a sign that one senses entrapment
of some king. Look into it rather than find the nearest escape.

In real life, when people aren’t huddled in their suburban rat traps,
watching the spoon fed culture of techno-propaganda of MSM, they can
rediscover their humanity in interactions with each other. I’ve
discovered that permaculture or other types of gardening groups can be
a very grounding place to start. People who love to see things grow,
also tend to be able to love other things, like each other. It was the
permaculture groups that moved on to developing the transition town
network as they began to imagine the effects of Peak Oil on modern
industrial agriculture.

Human beings’ unique survival capability is that they are actually very
good a copying from each other any invented forms that work. Often they will apply
them in new and creative ways. When humans are pro active instead of
managed within institutions for the purpose of any given institution, I
believe they can do marvelous things.


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