Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Road to Ruin

I received another of those "America is on the Road to Ruin" e-mails today. These things are always circulating, each one explaining how some particular sociopolitical trend, demographic group, and/or leading figurehead is destroying our nation and our society. In this particular case, it laid out a bunch of twisted and mangled demographics from the 2008 election to basically "prove" that Obama was elected by the criminal foreign drug-addicted welfare-swilling underclasses and was destroying the nation built by the hard-working middle class tax-paying white christian True Americans. As a digression, I always find it curious that this particular brand of demagoguery almost always comes from people who would self-identify as Christians, yet they are demonizing the sort of people Jesus preferred to associate with and glorifying the classes that he preached against -- that whole "comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable" thing they find so damned inconvenient. But I've gotten the same e-mail in the other direction too; the common thread is usually that one particular political group or movement is leading America straight to Hell.

The thing is; America and the rest of our "Global Economy" ARE on the Road to Ruin, and nobody in any of the major political or media cohorts wants to even begin to address why. It's not about collapsing values or the failure of the social contract or the illegal immigrants or even the fiscal problems. It's not about anything that our elected government has shown any interest at all in addressing. It's far more fundamental than any of these issues. The global economy is unsustainable and cannot be tweaked, regulated, incentivized, or greenificated in to sustainability. Fossil fuels are hitting their limits; sure there are massive amounts left, but the remaining stores are more expensive and more destructive to get to. "Renewables" and all that "green/clean" junk cannot in the long run provide us, in a truly sustainable fashion, with anything even remotely approaching the luxurious flood of energy we have been basking in for the last century. Financial bubbles, unemployment, fiscal crises, these are all the myriad things that play out on top of this hard, inevitable reality: something that is unsustainable will not be sustained.

So who is leading us down The Road to Perdition? Don't go pointing fingers in politics or economics. It is you, me, us, each end every one, in our own lifestyle choices. Societies and economies are not built of thousands of elected and corporate leaders; they are built of millions and billions of individuals and each one of our individual choices and actions. It is our own lifestyle expectations and demands, not the votes cast by those ignoramouses for all the wrong people, that have put us where we are now. And, at this point, is it WAY to late to do anything to stop the long, slow, massive train wreck that has already been unfolding for years.

You have control over exactly one person: yourself. It is essentially impossible to disengage from the entire economic system in which we are all embedded; even if you wanted to cease your own individual contribution to the catastrophe-in-progress that is the global economy, you will quickly find that you cannot even come close. The one big thing you can do, though, is to become aware. I mean aware of the big picture, of the huge forces on the scale of entire societies and their thermodynamic, ecological, and geophysical realities that are the real underpinning of our place and trajectory on the arc of civilization. Stop viewing everything as the result of battling factions; let go of the fantasy that if we could just elect the right people and pass (or repeal) the right laws, we could Fix The World. Don't misunderstand; electoral politics and activist movements are definitely important. But the underlying forces are far bigger than they can fundamentally alter. What they can do is help improve (or undermine) realistic, appropriate, effective responses to these huge and inevitable changes that will be dominating the decades to come, for the rest of our lives and far beyond. And what you can do is cultivate the awareness in yourself, and let it guide your own choices and actions.


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Bear said...

Well stated! I agree 100%, it's up to each and every one of us.


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