Strip it. Strip it good. (With acknowledgement, and apology, to Devo.)
Talking in general metaphorical terms about stripping the planet runs into very real literal demonstrations, the most obvious being in the form of the activity of strip-mining. That’s probably the most plainly obvious manifestation of a mindset that is so pervasive in some cultures, particularly our own, that you are likely to be thought of as weird for even talking about it as being not perfectly normal, and the way things are and always should be. It’s a display of madness in action.
Consider a dead simple fact. Over the course of my lifetime so far, the estimated human population of the Earth has gone from somewhere around 3 billion people to a little over 7 billion.
Let that soak in. I’m not an old man yet, and while I have been alive, the estimated population of human beings has more than doubled.
It’s a tough subject. Raising the subject of this population increase, and what it implies, will get some people freaking out and talking about genocide, or eugenics, thinking that somebody could be cooking up some evil master plan, like the malevolent lunacy of Nazi Germany executing their programs of mass murder and attempts at genetic manipulation. Even worse, you have to wonder how many people would look at the population subject and start thinking that they would like to start playing God in some form, or have somebody else do it (as long as it doesn’t turn on them), much like the diseased evil of the reign of Nazi Germany. Here’s a lesson from history for you. Megalomania never works out well.
That horrible chapter of human history was just one broad example of how extremely badly humans can react to times of stress and trouble by going insane, and be oblivious to how far off the rails they’ve gone.
I’m not sitting here today thinking about the possibilities of people, whole cultures, turning into genocidal lunatics, although being very aware of that danger is something to keep in mind, especially in, shall we say, difficult times. More to the point right now, there’s the simple matter that with over seven billion people here on planet Earth, the habit of stripping the planet bare like locusts, and calling this “prosperity”, is not the way to go.
There are many things to face and get registered into clear consciousness for all of us of the human race here on planet Earth, and especially for those of us here in the United States. This has been clear to some people for many years, even as part of the picture here has also been the problem of too many people avoiding this kind of thing at all costs, even getting extraordinarily nasty any time somebody actually insists on nudging something into their view that they just don’t like. There’s some kind of wretched disease of narcissism and hubris holding too many people in its spell, and anything that brings in a little light on circumstances is likely to trigger ugly reactions in the people locked into that.
Even raising the subjects at hand is probably going to trigger ugly lashing and thrashing reactions. You can expect some truly spectacular twitching, as you poke into whatever cognitive dissonance they have going on, and there are many different themes they’ll probably pull out of the bag, justifying and rationalizing various things that they hold as unquestioned dogma about some sort of inherent rightness and superiority of this, that, and the other thing being examined.
It’s a bad scene, man.
It’s a sign of one area of the messes we have that if some discussion of “the economy” comes up, many people will immediately start up with something like “well, Willard Romney and Donald Trump have lots and lots of money, we should ask them what they think!”. That, despite the story of the games of Romney and his minions at Bain Capital and their activities of stripping wealth from elsewhere, playing games of creating massive debts, extracting all possible cash and assets from some business, and leaving a business with the debts. Trump is another story that shares the common trait with Romney of the sons of wealthy people who found themselves in very advantageous positions at the start because of family, and then thinking that their wealth was some sort of natural manifestation of their value and merit and general superiority.
Talking about any of this profoundly confuses some people, leading too often to some kind of stupid and clichéd suggestions about people being Marxist Communists or something because they seem to somehow be completely oblivious to understanding actual value. I think of an example I’ve mentioned before some months ago.
A particularly obnoxious pundit character wrote an opinion piece just after the death of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. One comment said that, in whatever mental process happens in their mind, there was, in their words, “perhaps no greater irony” than to see people involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City expressing their sadness and respect upon hearing of the death of Steve Jobs. In the pundit’s reality warp, they found this baffling, because they apparently had not a clue about what the protests were about.
In obnoxious pundit mind, these people were just lazy whining bums who didn’t want to work and wanted something for nothing. So, in the pundit’s mental process, Steve Jobs was a wealthy man, so their lazy envy and jealousy of success should mean that they hate Steve Jobs. It never occurred to this obnoxious fool that these people in the Occupy Wall Street protests respected Steve Jobs as a man who was enormously wealthy as a result of actual value and contributions to the world.
All this gets right to the core of ideas that are standard fare among much of the culture here in America, where too many people have notions of wealth and prosperity that are, when you get to the essence, too often about a nonstop and perpetually accelerating program of destruction, avarice, and gluttony.
This whole scene dominates American public consciousness, although on the good side, more people are waking up, with the common “conventional wisdom” revolving around an idea sold to people for decades about prosperity and happiness orbiting around consumers consuming, and on a constant increasing slope of consuming more, and more, and more.
At some point, we really need to address something that probably sounds like some baffling contradiction to some people, the need to break this mad spell of the idea of being a consumer society of consumers consuming, endlessly consuming the resources of the planet for shit we don’t need, and also reviving the activity of American manufacturing. People have lost or discarded the idea of making things here, close to home, made by us, things that are actually useful and good, and then, beyond that, the idea of maintaining and repairing good things, rather than blowing through a stream of crap and tossing it in landfills as waste material when the shit breaks after a year or two. Then they wonder why nothing seems to work right anymore.
(I should note that I’m typing this on a wireless HP keyboard that I will need to replace very soon. Why? Because the letters are already wearing off the keys, nine of them almost unreadable. How old is this? The original batteries are still in the thing.)
Meanwhile, the idea of investment as capital funding of useful good work still runs into problems that keep jabbing us with some really serious basic questions. One question is, how much money that could go into other things is diverted and soaked up by the increasing costs that are one consequence of the diminishing returns in petroleum, and natural gas, as well? It’s getting tiresome to repeat the points that are being ignored, or simply denied and avoided, in this subject.
Part of the saga is that the desperate scrounging represented in tar sands activities, extracting the gunk of bitumen from the tar sands to eventually turn into a kind of synthetic crude oil substitute, is only happening as a result of the restrictions of diminishing returns in “conventional” oil extraction, and the fact that the high financial costs involved can be dealt with as a business proposition while crude oil prices stay high, as they have been, hovering around the $100 to $110 per barrel range.
Another question is, how much “investment” activity now is not funding business enterprises in good useful work, but instead are being poured into games in speculative bubbles fueled by near zero interest financing of ever increasing debt, frantically borrowing from the future, arguably robbing the future, played by people looking desperately for some new game of getting money for nothing.
Hanging over all this is arguably one of the biggest glaring issues in the United States for decades now. Astronomical amounts of the wealth of the nation has been squandered in the war machine of empire that have little to do with the defense and protection of the nation from outside hostile forces. Who can even begin to guess how the state of the nation would be faring now if we had spent the years since World War II focusing the US military on the necessity of maintaining the defense of the nation, and only that, rather than the ambitions of world dominance that have guided this part of the functions of national governance.
Moving on to elsewhere in the public realm, it’s been a running popular meme among many people of particular political persuasions that public schools educating all the citizenry, even the poor people, are a terrible thing, some form of evil socialism, even a conspiracy plot of indoctrination of our fine American youth with nasty Liberal Marxist propaganda. The “solutions” in that kind of mindset generally involve some privatization plan, but using tax money paid by the citizens to pay out money to private school owners using “voucher” systems. It’s not a new phenomenon: public payment, private profit, it’s not just schools, and the people selling any of that kind of scam always tell people that this is the way of Real Americans.
Look into this, and see who has what sort of political loyalties, and who actually collects money from ownership of private schools as business operations, with the bills paid by public taxes.
Add up all this, and more, left out to cut this down, and it forms a composite picture of a scene of time and place in history that’s not looking so good, and is not especially flattering to us. Much too much of what forms a public consensus of “normal”, and especially notions in some minds about what’s “the American way of life” (ref: Dick Cheney), is a picture of waste and destruction. Sometimes literally, as in ravaging the planet, and sometimes it’s more figurative, like “the economy”, with people struggling, and so much malfnctioning badly, while somehow, a small select portion of the population seems to have most of everything, and far too often, how that could be is a bit baffling.
All this is likely to register in some people’s minds as “more doom and gloom”, as is probably the case with many of the topics and items that get my attention in this space, and this is unfortunate, because the only doom is if we just ignore it all.
There is too much that is simply, here’s that word again, unsustainable. Avoiding this and burying themselves in deluded determination to sustain those things is making people nuts. That, it should be obvious, is making things worse.