Monday, July 18, 2005

No More Slopover: The Rich Want It All

I'm behind in posting. This is my Grassroote Press column, April-May 05 issue:

What we’re experiencing right now is the end of the slopover effect. Global resources are dwindling while the population continues to grow. The rich, as usual, want it all. Will we let them take it? Do we finally establish true democracy (and save what’s left of the planet), or do we become serfs to the insane masters of Armageddon? The choice is that stark.

To recap briefly: Since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, human societies have been dominated by tiny elites which have controlled most of the resources. This millennia-long equilibrium ended in the 1400s when Europeans with sailing vessels starting "discovering" – and exploiting – the rest of the world. So much new wealth was plundered that the elite couldn’t immediately assimilate it all. The trough slopped over. The wealthiest pigs could no longer hog all the wealth, and a new class – the middle class – was formed.

When the Europeans invaded North America – the richest continent on the planet – the slopover turned into a torrent. Incredible new exploitation opportunities created an exciting new economic mix – industrial tycoons, exploited immigrants living in squalid slums, farmers and artisans, and a relatively small middle class, all of them accumulating money just as fast as they possibly could.

The post World War II era was the final climax of this process. The entire planet was exploited as never before. Earth’s natural resources were used up as rapidly as possible, with no thought for the future. With unlimited natural resources – or so it seemed -- there was no need for conservation or efficiency. New technologies, coupled with a rapid draining of the resource base, allowed the creation, for the first time, of a large middle class. It would be a mistake to take this middle class for granted, because our new fascist overlords are starting to methodically destroy it. This process has just begun. Check back in 20 years and see how much progress they’ve made.

We need to remember that America has always been a no-nonsense oligarchy. It was set up that way from the beginning. Up until now, it hasn’t been deemed necessary, or cost-effective, to overtly oppress the working class too much. (It is really not necessary to oppress people, because they are naturally self-oppressing; their limited repertoire of behavior is automatically self-regulated by greed and fear.) It was deemed better to give America the trappings of democracy – there is no harm in giving common citizens a "vote" that enables the ruling class to always remain in power while receiving a gloss of legitimacy. Traditionally, Americans have been allowed to be "free" – which actually means "free to travel" and "free to shop." But free to set policy? You’ve got to be kidding! (As I tell my fellow peaceniks: "They make policy, we make puppets.")

But times change. Now, thanks to lucrative new private prisons, we are no longer limited to our traditional roles as consumers, workers, and soldiers; now we can also contribute to corporate profits by serving as prisoners. (One major contributing factor to fascism’s rise in this country has been the War on Drugs – specifically, the enactment of mandatory drug sentencing, and the confiscation of drug-related assets without due process.)

So here we are, 2005, counting down to Armageddon. What was once a relatively benign American oligarchy has now turned vicious. Since Chinese workers will work longer hours for far less pay, American workers are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The trend is toward a country consisting of service workers, consumers, soldiers, and prisoners, with a small financial and techno-elite to keep the wheels turning. The fascists are gathering power just as fast as they possibly can. We are very close to the Neocon dream of an authoritarian entertainment culture. (War is the ultimate entertainment.) Give them another 5 or 10 years, and we’ll be amazed at what they’ve accomplished. You can forget the Bill of Rights, but no worries – we’ll be free to watch any authorized channel, and we’ll be free to shop at any Wal-Mart in the country. They will still allow freedom of speech – as long as it doesn’t make any difference.

The reason all this is happening is because the trough is finally starting to run dry. There are already way too many people on this planet, and we are rapidly running out of resources. Oil will be first; food and water will follow. And the squeeze has barely begun. The rich are merely proactively protecting their share (which is, in their opinion, 100% of the pie).

Projecting present trends on a planetary level, there is nothing but utter devastation in store – a rapidly overheating planet without polar caps, without glaciers, without rain forests, without a Gulf Stream. On the human level we see war, pestilence, famine, and ever-increasing authoritarianism. Already, an increasing numbers of fundamentalists see it as their God-given mission to bring the Apocalypse to pass. (They are only 20% of the population, but they are disciplined and very well organized, and work at all times in lockstep unison.)

There are no silver linings that I can see. The fascists control the federal government (thanks in large measure to our archaic and profoundly undemocratic political system). The corporate press is criminally complicit. Hate radio blankets the country. Corporate television is a deadly joke. Fifty percent of Americans are so thoroughly brainwashed, they will follow their führer anywhere.

If progressives want to give logic and reason one final shot, they must create their own global satellite channel to even have the possibility of beginning a comeback. Fortunately, for the slim hope it offers, there is now some serious money currently in the process of creating a liberal answer to Fox News. But this will take at least a couple of years, maybe more, and in the meantime the fascists will be consolidating their power 24/7. (For a continuous supply of information on these and many other topics, I highly recommend Daily Kos,

I never liked the artificial dichotomy of "liberals vs. conservatives." More accurately, we should say, "preservers vs. destroyers". There is no doubt the destroyers are literally running out of gas, but will they be stopped soon enough? Demand for oil has reached unprecedented levels, and is increasing rapidly as resources dwindle. We are presently passing peak oil production, so it will be all downhill from here. According to the mad wisdom of capitalism, this means that we should use up the remaining reserves even faster. It won’t take much of a shortfall to bring down the whole house of cards.

The Almighty Dollar is on shaky ground. The major players (Japan, China, and Korea) are getting nervous by the Bush Administration’s irresponsible financial policies. The dollar is losing value relative to the Euro -- which is becoming the new de facto global reserve currency. The Orientals would bail immediately, but they are locked in a tricky karmic dance with us – they are tired of propping up our government deficit by buying 2 billion dollar’s worth of increasingly-worthless bonds each day, but they need America to keep buying their consumer goods. If America falls, they fall too.

Assuming the mother of all ecological disasters doesn’t happen first, the Global Economy is guaranteed to collapse, as the oil supply peters out. Ultimately, oil prices will reach a critical level and the economy we have always known will crash, and crash hard. It will crash like we have never seen before. Everything will be, as they say, "redefined." The question is: will we then be able to create the required sustainable civilization so that we and the rest of the biosphere can survive? Or will fascism retain its death grip as we continue our Astroglide into oblivion? This is where our saga will continue in some future issue.

P.S. Here are a couple more of my favorite blogs. When Digby nails it, is he ever good: And the Rude Pundit skewers the fascists with the crudity they deserve:

Gordon Solberg would have emigrated to another planet 30 years ago if he could have.


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