Time to wake up

Bill Mahler makes a lot of good (and highly amusing!) points in this clip.

But one thing that he (understandably) gets wrong is assuming that ‘BP’ still stands for ‘British Petroleum’; it doesn’t. BP is now ‘just’ ‘BP’ – it’s a global corporation. It has not been owned, nor controlled, by Britain since the 1980s – Margaret Thatcher, in her infinite wisdom, sold it off (along with a great many other family jewels). When you have a debt problem, you don’t ensure long-term success by selling off the geese that lay the golden eggs, Mrs — my bad — Lady Thatcher. Thank you so much; we Brits are paying the price for your lack of foresight. And we no longer have control of the beast.

Who owns BP now? I’d say that’s the wrong question. What’s more important is who controls it: and, like so many other faceless and soulless global corporations, there’s very little doubt that it controls itself, and is answerable to nobody but itself. Worse: as with too much of big business these days, it’s another organisation that’s ‘too big to fail’ (so much for the argument that capitalism is good because it promotes competition!).

Manpollo|Sinimod pointed me to the following, which is particularly interesting in the light of what’s currently happening across the world (I refer to the ‘Occupy Wall Street‘ movement):

Eight-Step manifesto by Bodhisantra Paul Chefurka

  1. Modern industrial civilization is intrinsically unsustainable. This means that it will inevitably collapse.
  2. Any effort spent trying to prevent that collapse is pointless and misguided. It would serve only to prolong civilization’s death throes and the continued destruction of the natural world.
  3. Industrial civilization is created and supported by institutions that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, at virtually any cost.
  4. Any effort spent trying to bring it down is pointless and misguided. It will be met with massive resistance from civilization’s guardian institutions – our corporations, politicians, police, schools and mass media – and will foster unnecessary violence.
  5. Since collapse is inevitable, adapting to that change is the only sensible approach.
  6. We cannot count on the institutions of civilization to help us adapt to this change – it’s simply not in their interest to do that. Even worse, they can’t even comprehend the idea.
  7. That leaves individuals and small communities (aka tribes) as the only historically proven agents of adaptation.
  8. As individuals, the single most effective thing we can do to prepare and adapt is to awaken.

This is both poetic and, quite possibly, prophetic.

I agree completely with point 8: we all need to wake up. However, I think that the ‘manifesto’ as a whole is flawed, at steps 2 and 4. And I’m not alone.

If you follow the link to the Facebook post and read the (very interesting!) thread there, you will see that the author of the manifesto is, himself, not so sure that steps 2 and 4 are correct.

I have to admit that the question of working to bring down civilization is the one point on which I am not yet completely decided. My reaction is mainly against the sort of surreptitious sabotage advocated by the Edward Abbey-style monkey-wrenchers, including people like Derrick Jensen. Those sorts of operations, IMO, serve only to activate civilization’s antibodies to resist what they perceive as a dangerous infection.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is in danger of doing exactly this (‘activating civilization’s antibodies’). The BBC has just reported, via my idiotbox, on the activity against ‘alleged (sic) corporate greed’ (Me, I’d like to know who inserted the word ‘alleged’. Can there be any doubt that corporations are greedy? Accumulating wealth is not only what they do, it’s what they must do, by law! But I digress…) At St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday, there was a large police presence; today this is, fortunately, much reduced.

Interleaved with the reporting on the situation in London were scenes of insane violence in Italy, where (I don’t know for certain, but strongly suspect) the authorities have shown less restraint, and have — inevitably (and knowingly?) — provoked the mob.

If ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is to succeed, the movement must remain peaceful. If it is allowed to degenerate into mindless violence, this is counterproductive — and it plays straight into the hands of the corporations. Witnessing a peaceful demonstration can be a wake up call for those who have yet to realise the severity of our situation: contrariwise, seeing mob violence will, naturally, create knee-jerk response calls for more protection — and such ‘protection’ can only be provided by the institutions of civilization; i.e. the very things that must be forced to re-examine themselves, and change.

The ‘problem with steps 2 and 4’ is neatly summed up by a couple of other posters in the Eight-Step Manifesto Facebook thread (if you haven’t already, I urge you to go read it; it’s very insightful):

In my opinion, these institutions know the score, and are trying to amass wealth and privilege to help them prepare for the imminent collapse they have created, with an elite at the top. It’s completely a logical and predictable response, too. One who objectifies the earth will objectify their fellow humans, too.

My own ‘problem with steps 2 and 4’ is a combination of this view, together with the realisation that if one accepts this manifesto as it stands in its entirety, then it is, again, playing into the hands of the greedy corporations. The institutions of civilisation don’t want rebellious elements clogging up the spokes.

A possible solution may be a combination of the approaches by Occupy Wall Street and the Transition Network.

The question is, do we have time to make the transition before the lights go out permanently? To do that, there must be a sea change in thinking among all of humanity, governments and individuals alike, regarding the way we interact with our planet, and it needs to happen fast!

Paul recommends:

For a look at the background of my position, I highly recommend the book “The Ascent of Humanity” by Charles Eisenstein – it’s even available online for free. Also take a look at Paul Hawken’s book “Blessed Unrest” to see the social movement that I think is the key to the solution.

I have to read those.

When you find yourself in a hole too deep to climb out of,
switching to a more efficient shovel won’t help


About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, GCD: Global climate disruption, News and politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Time to wake up

  1. Gail says:

    Nice post! Thanks for the laugh with Bill, and the links. Speaking of monkey-wrenchers, I had no idea until recently that the Unabomber was a (completely whacked-out) environmentalist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unabomber

    In light of the increasingly obvious destruction of the earth, it’s a fascinating history. At the time he was in the news I never even read his manifesto, I thought he was just a random nutcase because of the bombings. Goes to show, you lose more support with violence than you gain attention.

    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for the ‘unabomber’ link; quite appropriate, I think, from many points of view. While not condoning his actions, having read that Wikipedia article it’s easy to see where he was coming from, and how it relates directly to the current mess. He is clearly a very clever man, with some highly relevant points to make. The Wikipedia article says that “Industrial Society and Its Future” begins with Kaczynski’s assertion that “the Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.” I couldn’t agree more. It also quotes him as saying

      “giving up your car, your television set, your electricity, is not the path of least resistance for most people. As I see it, I don’t think there is any controlled or planned way in which we can dismantle the industrial system. I think that the only way we will get rid of it is if it breaks down and collapses … The big problem is that people don’t believe a revolution is possible, and it is not possible precisely because they do not believe it is possible.”

      I didn’t read his manifesto at the time he was in the news, either. But then that’s really no surprise to me: his document was titled “Industrial Society and Its Future”; and according to that Wikipedia article the FBI chose to change that to “Unabomber Manifesto” — that seems to me to be more a cynical effort by the establishment to recast the work as that of a madman rather than a deep-thinker (and a genius); is it any surprise, then, that those of us being drip-fed choice information snippets at the time should conclude he was “just a random nutcase,” as you so succinctly put it?

      It’s ironic, I think — not to mention more than a little sad — that our Western ‘civilisation’ should classify Mr Kaczynski as a ‘terrorist’ for the (arguably relatively minimal) damage he caused, while at the same time we continue to condone wreaking far greater havoc (including mega-human deaths, not to mention extinctions of entire species and ecocide) in the pursuit of what we think of as a ‘normal’ way of life (which, as Kaczynski was trying to point out, is about as far from normal as it’s possible to get, when you step back and look at it). I’m reminded of my poem Fail big for the win.

  2. Martin_Lack says:

    To my great shame, I have not come across Bill Maher before, so it is nice to know that sceptics do not have an operating monopoly on sarcasm. David Mitchell’s Soapbox is equally good.

    The thing that enrages me most about BP is that it is not that long ago that they re-branded themselves as “Beyond Petroleum” only to repudiate this decision much more recently. Why did they do this? Was it because of Climategate? Did they feel they were no longer morally-obliged to pursue alternaitves to fossil fuels (i.e. as Bill would say “did they stop believing in the sun because it had gone dark?”). Whatever the precise reason, it was cynical, short-sighted, profiteering but, as in Chefurka’s #6 it is not in their interest to do anything else… In 1968, Garrett Hardin called this ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ (those who exercise self-restraint lose out unless unless everyone does so simultaneously) which, as Hardin implied, may mean that eventually all humans will be obese (due to evolution by means of natural selection)…

    As it happens, Hardin is one of the people I mention in my post today!

    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for your considered response, Martin.

      Yes… ‘Beyond Petroleum’… marketing hyperbole of the worst kind, as evidenced by the firm’s claim that it never intended the tagline to be an expansion of the initials. As though anyone could read the one without simultaneously recognising the other. And as for your question ‘why did they do it?’ — as with so many things, the answer is, I think, quite simply ‘because they could, and because nobody else can do a damn thing about it’.

      Thanks also for the David Mitchell ‘soapbox’ link. I think he puts it very well: despite their inversions of reality, the onus is on those who say we don’t have to change our ways to prove that we don’t. We should stop cutting down all the trees and burning all the fossoil, because all the evidence in to date proves that this is killing us. Surprise, surprise: pollution is bad. But the sceptics won’t listen, they’re locked in la-la-land. They win by default, as they have the inertia of our social systems on their side (strangely enough, that’s another thing the free-market fundamentalists deny, as evidenced by the Dvorak-vs-QWERTY debate some years back).

      • Martin_Lack says:

        I was not familiar with the Dvorak-vs-QWERTY keyboard saga but, I agree, it captures nicely the advantage of inertia in ensuring a victory to the establishment.

  3. Martin_Lack says:

    Check-out this Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change – How to secure our future wellbeing Conference, in London yesterday, organised by the British Medical Association and backed by the World Health Organization. Why the hell this did not make the news yesterday I don’t know – it is far more important than anything Dr Liam Fox ever did.

    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for the link, Martin. As for why it didn’t make the news (well, certainly not on the BBC) I firmly believe the answer to that is:

      • the chief policymakers at the BBC and other ‘news’ propogators are still in AGW denial, along with the heads of almost all our other social institutions
      • the owners of all the major news media are in it for the big bucks, not to actually provide useful information
      • there are simply too few ‘reporters’ (cf: ‘the economy’, ‘growth, growth, growth’ and ‘efficiency drives’), therefore they have too much to cover and can’t spare the time to do what the role once entailed (ie investigative reporting)
  4. Thanks for the very thoughtful treatment of my FB note!

    Yes, there’s certainly room to disagree with the opinions I expressed in points 2 and 4. A lot of whether you agree or disagree will depend on your assumptions and the context you’re considering. When I wrote that I was thinking in terms of the potential collapse of global industrial civilization, and my assumption was (and is) that such a devolution is quite startlingly imminent. In fact I think it has already begun, but the edifice of civilization as a whole is so big that people don’t understand the significance of the bits that are falling off.

    When seen in that context, inflicting damage and provoking conflict to try and hasten the process of collapse is counterproductive because it wouldn’t really make much difference to the timeline, and might exacerbate the death throes of an already dangerous organism. However, if the context is smaller (saving an old-growth forest, stopping Japanese whaling, or forcing a reassessment of financial practices in Europe and North America, for example) the cost/benefit ratio easily tilts toward direct action.

    Regarding OWS and the potential for violence, one thing that OWS has going for it is that it’s very hard for the “Guardians of Hierarchy” (corporations, politicians, legal institutions, the police and the media) to get a handle on them. They are leaderless, widely distributed, nonviolent and law abiding, That makes them very hard to repress without the repression becoming obvious – lessons that were evident from the Arab Spring.


    Paul Chefurka

    • pendantry says:

      Many thanks for your very thoughtful insights! Lets hope that ‘Occupy Wall Street’ continues to remain peaceful… and, indeed, that the end result, for all, is happier than current trends suggest. Time will tell.

  5. leavergirl says:

    A very needed discussion. I tend to think that the elites have already been sabotaging the system far more than any of us could manage by monkey-wrenching. And the quote about the antibodies is brilliant.

    I tend to think that when the Jensenites are advocating will simply brand more opponents of this system as terrorists, and serve the interests of the system, which is always looking for fresh enemies to justify its actions. But at the same time… eh… at the same time, maybe we should be helping the elites in bringing the system down? 🙂

    I root for the OWSers but what could they possibly succeed at? Forcing a few reforms? Surely that is really not at all addressing the roots of the problem, even if the roots are identified as “industrial civilization” (and I think those roots go much farther back).

  6. leavergirl says:

    Nah, sorry, don’t see it that way. There have been many minor victories in the environmental battles, while the Earth is overall progressively being killed off. We need a better strategy than that. Sometimes, when you win, you really lose.

    • pendantry says:

      You’re not wrong. But the only real way to win is to get those who lead on-side. Which would entail countering the wealth of the lobbyists — there’s no way to get them to switch allegiance. Is it feasible to recruit half of the 1% to bankroll the counter-offensive? I think not. Which would leave us back with Paul’s manifesto, waiting for the implosion, and hoping there’s enough remaining afterwards to begin again. Giving up entirely isn’t an option, not for me. Time to watch The Age of Stupid again, I think…

  7. leavergirl says:

    Giving up at all is not the intent.
    There’s got to be another option…

  8. leavergirl says:

    Well, I do, and I have been writing about them at my blog. Just scratched the surface, though.

    “Since collapse is inevitable, adapting to that change is the only sensible approach.”

    I myself disagree only with #5 above. It’s like saying, ok I see there is fire over the ridge, blowing this way, and it looks like this house will burn down too. The only thing to do is adapt to that. Well, no. There may be things to do that delay the burn… some guy padded his house with nonflammable sheetrock and made it through in fairly good shape. And the other thing to do is (since there will be another fire, and another) is to find another space to live, not prone to the fires.

    Evolving autonomous spaces where we do more and more of our living, and more and more of our co-governance…. under the radar. Forget about the Spectacle. Stop wasting your energies on fixing it… it’s a con. Put your energies into the new world being born.

    • pendantry says:

      Finding ‘a space not prone to the fires’ is really the issue, though, isn’t it? Globalisation has ensured that there’s no longer any place to run to.

      Clearly, I need to visit your blog (Leaving Babylon?). Might be best if I engage brain first, though 🙂

  9. leavergirl says:

    “Finding ‘a space not prone to the fires’ is really the issue, though, isn’t it?”

    “Globalisation has ensured that there’s no longer any place to run to.”
    That’s what they want us to think. 🙂

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