Anonymizing the System

sweet_talk Americans are well and truly conditioned not just to hate and avoid politics, but also to fuck it up when they wander into it.

Take the rapidly growing “Growth Must End” trope among the technocrats and vaguely frustrated liberals who now serve as leaders of what passes for an environmental movement. It’s a case-in-point.

True enough: Growth must end. And the green activist world is certainly chock-a-block now with such calls. But have you noticed? The “no more growth” harangues almost never mention the c-word: capitalism. Instead, they muse about “our culture” and the supposedly all-powerful pre-suppositions of academic economists. As if we can avoid conflict with the powers that be, and sweet-talk our way to a decent future.

In my opinion, we do not have time for the purely tune-in, turn-on, drop-out strategy implied by the existing “let’s stop growth” crowd, even granting that one is even conceivably possible in this TV-mediated capitalist dictatorship.

If we don’t acknowledge that capitalists are far and away the main force behind growth, we will lose this race, or never even start it, IMHO. Stopping economic growth is a matter of high politics, not personal attitudes. It is not going to happen without the creation of a sharp and radical and honest social movement pushing for profound, collectively-managed social reforms.

lscap BTW, yesterday, I saw a very hip looking chap leaving a Starbucks for his car holding two beverages in paper cups with plastic lids. On his head? A cap with a cute whale logo saying “Live Simply.”

To my eye, the state of that common persona speaks volumes about the limits of waiting for the great drop-out.

Attack of the Feather Brigade

feather_attack Apparently, the National Wildlife Federation recently “called upon” the powers-that-be to stop using Gross Domestic Product as the main benchmark of human welfare.  (Not that you’d ever know it by looking at the NWF homepage, which makes no mention of the news or even the topic.)

NWF types provide this analysis of the situation:

The root cause of our environmental problems—our ecological crisis—is infinite planet economic theory, the rules and axioms of a discipline that tells us that it is possible to have infinite economic growth on a finite planet.

So, our problem is that economic theorists are tricking us all into doing the wrong things?

Poppycock.  GDP counts most because our main problem is the cold, hard, in-the-flesh dominion of corporate capitalists over the whole of modern life.  GDP is a mere expression of that actual, material dominance.  All the special pleading in the world isn’t going to change either capitalism or the way it gets described in the corporate media/corporate politics.  This isn’t tiddly-winks.

But such is the state of the greens:  So well-indoctrinated and craven, they think hopeless language games are going to flip us toward survival.

And, to add insult to injury, the NWF feather jousters are proposing to count what isn’t countable — particular qualitative states of matter, a.k.a. the remaining unspoiled bits of nature here on middle-aged Earth.  GDP counts human labor.  No amount of human labor is going to turn smoke, heat, and ashes — or a pack of Charmin Ultra asswipes — back into an old growth tree.  That “greens” don’t get this speaks volumes about how very far away we remain from having proper leadership.

Capitalism, we now know, is a pipe-dream, an ecological suicide mission.  But it is a suicidal pipe-dream backed by the richest and most ideologically and organizationally powerful overclass in human history.  These people are not going to agree to start counting and reporting their destruction.  Unless and until those who hope to leave our children a decent world get honest with ourselves and direct with others about what we’re up against, we are simply f—ed.  Circumlocution and feigned naivete are not going to cut it.  Not by a long shot.

The Secret of Green Shopperism

“Tune in, turn on, drop out.” Good advice, or terrible? Can we really imagine winning fundamental change in the status quo without using our democratic rights and powers to name and fight “the system,” a.k.a. corporate capitalism?

It’s a long-running question inside what passes for a left in the United States. And the navel-gazing, polito-phobic answer continues to win out, despite the times.

The latest form is what I call Green Shopperism, or the proposition that attempting to live a less harmful personal life is the core, rather than the inherently inadequate sidenote, of radical resistance. The call to Green Shopperism is everywhere among the so-called “transition movement,” for instance.

The great common denominator in such circles is their careful and consistent avoidance of the topics of capitalism and social class. Instead, Green Shopperists treat social power in America as if it is merely a simple sum of all citizens’ co-equal votes in the marketplace. In this entirely conventional (and fictional) view, “the average American way of life” is both the enemy and the co-equal responsibility of all Americans, regardless of wealth or access to institutional power. Overclass domination and manipulation — things like transportation dictatorship and big business marketing — are nowhere, treated as if they do not exist.

Among the Green Shopperists, the logical conclusion of such familiar premises is that personal guilt and pledges to be a smarter “consumer” are the way out of present reality:

Twelve Step programs, brought to the world first through Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s and now operating in hundreds of fellowships internationally, offer some guidelines for how to recover from destructive behavior….If nothing else, it may be helpful to remember the message behind the often-cited Serenity Prayer shared at the end of 12-Step Meetings: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

my_part_prius In the Green Shopperist world, of course, there isn’t the courage even to name what needs to be changed, let alone an effort to organize a movement in that direction. I mean, who wants to do yucky and unpopular and extremely difficult things like attacking capitalism, when you can drive or fly to a workshop or a meetup and congratulate yourself for buying (or planning to buy) a Prius or planting (or planning to plant) a backyard garden?