What if we progressives got our way? Suppose Bush was impeached or forced to resign for his wrongdoings, or suppose he so discredited the Republicans that they lost the presidency and both houses in 2008. Suppose the new leaders immediately ratified Kyoto, and radically reformed campaign finance, gerrymandering, voting machine and corporation law. Suppose environmental laws were restored to their strongest, and social and environmental travesties like NAFTA were scrapped. Suppose even that corporate subsidies were scrapped worldwide and government pork became unacceptable and impossible. Suppose Europe and Canada elected Green governments and ushered in bold plans to eliminate the use of non-renewable energy through a combination of alternative energy and serious conservation.
The ten most intractable problems: Unaffordable health care, dysfunctional education systems, unsustainable energy and food systems, corporate psychopathy, lack of viable self-managed communities, the tragedy of the commons, overcrowding and overpopulation, poverty and violence, lack of innovation and loss of wilderness and biodiversity, would all still be with us. The oil that we conserve would be gobbled up by China and India, enabling them to prolong their reckless imitation of American profligacy a little longer. Corporation law reform would be bucked by addicts to the current overconsumption and overspending economy: corporate thieves would have to become cleverer (and they have more money to perpetrate their crimes than regulatory authorities have to fight them, so it is an unfair fight). Consumers who can’t get their fix of cheap, wasteful products would buy them on the black market, and finance them through usurers. Organized crime would start offering the things that the government tells us are no longer ethical or sustainable. “Pssst,,,wanna buy a Hummer, used only once by a little old lady, and I can get you gas for it at the ration price”. You thought the “war on drugs” was futile, wait ’til you see the “war on unsustainable consumption”. Governments, already pretty unpopular for telling people what they should and shouldn’t do, don’t stand a chance.
Because, you see, there is no superpower. There is not, and never has been, a government that has been able to push the world to do what it wants to do, to make people behave. From the Romans to the British to the Soviets, those that have had the most power have faltered and collapsed like overinflated balloons when they simply got too big to sustain the illusion that they were somehow in control. The people just said no. Sometimes it was the colonized who started the revolution, sometimes it started right at the centre, sometimes nature lent a hand, using plagues or disasters to tear a hole in the thin veneer of ubiquitous might.
There is no superpower in business, either. The mightiest coalitions of oligopolies have always fallen to upstarts who have exploited the complacency and arrogance of industrial dynasts and robber barons with disruptive innovations that met human needs that the giants no longer found profitable, and used them to infiltrate and then cannibalize the markets once thought unassailable. Even corporatists (like Mussolini and Salazar) who tried to merge governments and business leaders into insuperable bastions of power were toppled by those who realized the truth of Adam Smith’s famous saying “”the real purpose of government is to protect those who run the economy from the outrage of injured citizens”.
And of course, as all but the most gullible know, there is no superpower watching over us from above, either. Those that are sure that the Rhapsody is going to happen just when things look at their worst, resemble no one so much as the broken gamblers who are sure that they just need one more bet, one more roll before their horse will come in, their number will come up, and they will be saved.
I’m not trying to depress you (really!) — the fact that there is no superpower is good news. It means that there is a chance that we, the people, can take back our world from the political and corporate and religious czars and tyrants and megalomaniacs and psychopaths who seem to run and control and be in charge of everything, and it means we can break their hold on their deluded and addicted followers. All we need to do is to refuse to recognize their power over us — no, to recognize that they have no power over us.
That means refusing to fight in their bloody and unjust wars, not for any side or any leader. That means refusing to obey their unjust laws. They can’t put us all in jail, and they can’t afford to kill many of us, since that just makes the resistance stronger.
That means refusing to pay outrageous prices for shoddy crap (file-sharers are just the first wave of this rebellion) and refusing to pay blackmail prices for essential goods (like healthy food, and medicines, and houses that last, and land and water and air that is not full of waste and poisons).
That means refusing to get into debt with them, refusing to become addicted to their products, refusing to fall into the trap of equating possessions with self-worth.
That means demanding that the common good come before private interest, that those who have obscene wealth share it with the destitute and needy, that decisions be made in the interest of the well-being of all, not the wealth of a few, and that bads be taxed instead of goods.
That means publicly repudiating and shouting down despicable and manipulative religious leaders of all denominations who prey on fear and ignorance and steal people’s money and bully the weak and the foolish and conspire with brutal governments.
The bloated, overstretched, scarcity-based power structure of our world is teetering. It is no match for our own community-based, consensus-driven self-governments, no match for sustainable, community-based generosity economies, economies of abundance and egalitarianism and conservation, no match for a society and a spiritualism based on caring for each other and for our world, and on collective well-being.
We have the weapon that brings all empires to their knees, the great equalizer. Knowledge, the truth. Listen to the words of the tyrants — the political bullies, the oligopolists, the preachers who claim to talk to the only guy even more powerful than they are. Listen carefully. You will hear the denials. “We are not losing the war on X. We are not to blame. Everything is not falling apart. We’re not failing. Things are not out of control. Things have never been better, and soon they will be better still. It’s just an isolated, a temporary setback. There is no choice but to stay the course.” Look closely, listen closely. See the doubt in their eyes. See the twitch, the fear that it is all unraveling.
We have them on the run already. They know that their power is all illusion, that there is no one in control. Their great fear is that you will find out.
That fear is about to be realized.
Illustration from The Emperor’s New Clothes by Margaret Tarrant
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 145 Posts, by category, from newest to oldest ---
Dying of Despair
Notes From the Rising Dark
What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
Our Culture / Ourselves:
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
The Process of Self-Organization
The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
Ask Yourself This
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
Several Short Sentences About Sharks
How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
How Long We've Been Around (graphic)
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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