“It’s The System, Stupid!” – US Ex-President, Bill Clinton
It is the system. The system is corrupt and bears us (you and me) no good will. The system must go.
Democracy is dead. Overpowered, overcome and taken over by Corporate lobbyists, Corporate greed and Corporate money.
Well, actually, democracy is not quite dead but has been zombyfied by corporate interests. They actually need it to retain at least a semblance of life in order to keep the people (you know the people I mean, it’s the same ones as in ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’, aka you and me) guessing at what is going on but never quite sure whether they need to be worried or get restless somehow. So democracy keeps staggering along, looking more dead than alive, arms dragging, face a grotesque mask and grunting incoherently about nothing that matters. Oh yes, and (just to complete the picture) eating its own brains (metaphorically) whenever it can.
This can not be allowed to continue and 2014 is shaping up to be the year that ‘we, the people’ bring it to a head.
I wrote the above on 7 January having been fired up by reading the latest piece called Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future, from David Holmgren, co-founder of the permaculture phenomenon and someone whose work I greatly respect.
2014, The Year Everything Changes
…Well, it would have been, but the angst has diminished.
It is now 17 January and I have calmed down somewhat, in the intervening week or so.
I don’t know if it was the intention of the author to bring out the same sort of reaction I had, at least initially, in the mind of the concerned reader, but it worked. I expect it will get more readers fired up one way or another. But sufficiently motivated to do something radical?
If I may bluntly precis and paraphrase David’s paper in my own words, what it boils down to is this:
There is a problem with the way we, the world’s people and our societal organisations, are handling the operational conduct of our civilisation.
The problem concerns the fact that we are impinging on the wellbeing of the planetary systems on which we rely for our existence, in ways that are going to blow up in our faces before too long.
There is a growing, though as yet low-level, awareness to those facts among the populace and its leaders but the concern is that this will never amount to a drive with sufficient impact to halt or change the current way of things. At least in time to prevent what could be a particularly unpleasant outcome for all concerned.
Perhaps we should take steps to avert such calamity by attempting to bring about an early end to the current system (which is going to crash all by itself anyway sooner or later) in order to minimise the damage that might be caused by letting things take the course of natural progression.
Such an effect could be achieved by sufficient numbers of participants from the most advanced areas of society withdrawing their support from the system, thus starving it of funding to maintain credit supply and causing it to crash. David provides what he thinks would be appropriate numbers to make that happen.
This proposal, or maybe it is just a line of thought intended to provoke discussion, has so far drawn attention from two other prominent names from the resilience arena in a three cornered kind of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ scenario. With no attempt or wish to attach any of those labels to any of these participants (they can’t be referred to as ‘combatants’ as they are all more or less friends), they are the very well credentialed Nicole Foss (aka Stoneleigh, of The Automatic Earth blogspot), Rob Hopkins, founder of The Transition Movement, and of course David Holmgren.
With David having metaphorically fired the first bullet, not generally aimed at anyone specifically, it didn’t take long for Nicole to reply with the first answering shot in her TAE article Crash on Demand? A Response to David Holmgren followed soon after by a blast from Rob delivered in his article Holmgren’s ‘Crash on Demand’: be careful what you wish for.
Now, this is not a battle royal, and I didn’t intend to make it sound like that. It is just a (mostly) friendly discussion between folk who are pretty much on the same side and who share many thoughts and points of view. Yet there are distinct differences between them in certain areas and each argues their position lucidly and politely. It is all worth reading.
The Transitioner View
Without intending to be over-critical, I think Rob Hopkins position, which basically hinges around the idea that we need the current system to continue as long as possible in order to reach a general state of readiness that would be considered adequate to meet the future with some assurance of success (a not unworthy goal), is the least defensible but then his organisation The Transition Movement perhaps has the most to lose in this regard being fairly closely (as I see it, and this is purely a personal view) tied in to that same system (working from within). Transitioners may well disagree with that.
The main thrust of Rob’s argument against ‘Crash on Demand’ lies in his view that what he envisages as a Post Growth Economy, David sees as an Economic Crash. Admittedly the two concepts are quite incompatible. Which is the most likely to be what we actually experience? Well, for me the idea of any sort of economy that looks in any way similar to the current one, except that it operates on some clean, green, renewable energy supply but at the same time enables much the same sort of activity and social complexity as we have now, is totally out of the question.
As I see it, there is no substitute, none at all, for the fossil fuel based energy that has powered our civilisation and its technology for the last century or so, and there is no way that we will be able to support such a system. There is no way also that a population anywhere near the current level will be supportable in the long term. To raise expectations of such an existence is in my view reprehensible. That is not to say that we could not have achieved at least the rudiments of such a society at some earlier stage, but we chose not to do so. The time for that solution to our situation has long passed.
The Financial Economist View
On the whole, and having gotten over my initial flush of rebellious revolutionary arousal, I tend to stand more in the corner of this triangle (before it becomes even more polygonal), occupied by Nicole.
Nicole comes from a position of concern that alignment or even perceived alignment with a move to bring down the system pro-actively, could react negatively on the good name of permaculture and all permaculturists by association. She suggests that such reaction would not assist permaculture to be the beneficial force that it could be in forming resilient post collapse communities.
Nicole also argues that the best way to deal with climate change is to stop talking about it. To me this initially appeared to be an astonishing statement but the more I thought about it, her reasons for making this claim made sense. There is currently great concern about climate change, rising overall global temperatures, increasing natural disasters and climate related upheavals, and that level of concern is rightly and entirely justified. In the short term. But as I have said elsewhere, while we may be making conditions on this planet uncomfortable for ourselves and likely to be unlivable for most of us, perhaps all of us, for many centuries and even millennia, The Earth will never become another Venus. Difficult as it is in times of stress, we need to look always at the big picture, the long term, and if we do that, we will see that climatic cycles always have and likely always will prevail despite local, temporal perturbences. We will, or rather The Earth will (we may well not be around to see it), eventually enter another periodic ice age. Like it or not, and past cycles do indicate that one is due shortly (in geological timescales).
Climate change, in Nicole’s view, and I have to mostly agree with her reasoning, is only one potential driver of possible societal collapse. It is not considered the primary driver although if those forces attempting to keep the struggling global economy staggering along for as long as they can, succeed in any meaningful way, then climate change will eventually and inevitably force a collapse situation. However, other factors are likely to intervene before that happens. The prime suspect for being the triggering event of collapse of our unworkable global society, according to Nicole, is financial system collapse. She, both at her current blogsite, The Automatic Earth, and previously at The Oil Drum, has been saying the same thing for a number of years now. Nothing I have read elsewhere has convinced me that she may be incorrect. In fact Nicole’s position is that the journey to collapse already started with what we identify as being the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, which she claims is still ongoing and actually only in its early stages. I find no reason to disagree with that.
Still, it is just a guessing game and there are a number of contenders for what the initial trigger for collapse might be. Hopefully they won’t all arrive at the same time but that scenario cannot be lightly dismissed.
So, What Does 2014 Hold For Us?
What? You think I am some sort of soothsayer? I have no crystal ball, no time machine, no other-worldly, outer-worldly or inner worldly access to future events.
I can however, use my intuition, my knowledge of history, science, humanity, my big picture view of things and my accumulated experience of the way the world works throughout a reasonably long life so far, to be convinced that sometime soon, for each of us and for all of us, things are going to change such that life in the way we have come to accept and know it, will be turned upside down and we will be thrust into situations where we will at best have only our own wits, knowledge and resources to rely on in order to make a go of it.
We may be given ample opportunity to prepare for this, giving us reasonable expectations of weathering the storm so to speak. We may only be given short notice, enough to make emergency preparations and therefore limited chances for a happy outcome. We may also be taken completely by surprise and have little or no prospects of making it through. One thing is for sure, we can expect little assistance from those directions to which many of us now look for help. Government, emergency services, volunteer services. Such help will be non-existent, having gone down in the ruins of collapse, disintegrated or dissipated as those who render such services look to their own safety. Alternatively, such friendly or benign services as we look to now may prove to be anything but that in the new circumstance, instead becoming openly hostile to those in need.
Those of us who have been keeping a watchful eye on how events transpire, will have been preparing as best we can for some years now. However, even we should admit to ourselves, if no-one else, that we may not be as prepared as we may think we are in the event that certain unforseen scenarios emerge.
Do I think 2014 will be the year this will become a reality? I have said elsewhere that I can’t see the current system going beyond 2020 and we are already seeing evidence of collapse all around us in increasing unrest, hardship, poverty, homelessness, violence, suicide, genocide, loss of respect (self, others, authority), decaying infrastructure, inability to repair damaged infrastructure, widening gap between haves and have-nots, government corruption, erosion of liberties, growing police state, etc. I can say with some certainty that we are on a downward track through troubled times and the journey is not going to be a smooth one. There may be places where the time track ends abruptly in a hole or at a precipice before continuing on its path and some parts of the descent may be steeper than others. At other points we may see some temporary hope by being directed upwards for a while. We also cannot expect that the track will follow the identical path in every nation around the globe but we are sufficiently economically connected in this age to know that we will all end up at the same point which is both an end point for our current civilisation and hopefully a reasonably happy start point for what comes after. If there is to be an after.
2014 will therefore unfold as it will. But you will at the very least be able to recognise that the system is further crumbling around us. If, that is, you are looking for it and not burying your head in the sand, hoping it is all a bad dream or the ravings of a madman.