Thursday, April 2, 2009

Closing Thoughts

by Armadillo Joe

So, I'll be handing the reigns back over the Mr. The Broadway Carl today, but I hope that I have done a fair job of maintaining yawl's interest and maybe highlighting a thing or two which helped someone to see something in a new way.

I know that the bulk of what I wrote about centered around trains and public transportation, but I want to leave you with a somewhat larger sense of how I see things.

Some time ago, I got in an friendly disagreement with a buddy of mine who had admonished me for having such a bleak image for mankind's near future. I had been describing to him what I thought to be the true measure of the converging disasters of Climate Change and Peak Oil and how that was going to bring the civilized world as we know it to a crashing halt. I had said that we can go easy or we can go hard and it seemed to me we were doing a fair job of collectively choosing to go hard into this looming, pervasive and ongoing global calamity.

He accused me of being pessimistic.

I naturally took exception and reminded him that the way in which we currently relate to the planet we live on and the other lifeforms on it is simply not a long-term solution in any sense of the word. What are we to do instead, I asked him, simply keep going ever onward, just doing what we're doing now until the planet is one enormous, trash-covered, used-up, overheated husk -- a burned-out cinder drifting lifeless and polluted through space? At some point, we have to choose to stop or we will be made to stop by forces beyond our control. I told him that I didn't think my vision was pessimistic at all, but rather the end of our current system of production and distribution and consumption would be a good thing for human life and the health of the planet. Sure, it would be enormously unpleasant for a great many people for perhaps a long time, but we have to pay the metaphorical piper at some point and to do it now when some hope of continued life is possible is much better than having some other, greater life-destroying disaster overtakes the whole of life on this planet.

But then I'm just a Dirty Fucking Hippie.

So, then, what is right? What ought we do?

Well, as many of you have guessed, trains are part of the solution. The energy-used/freight-moved ratio is better for rail than for any other means of transport -- by orders of magnitude -- but to take advantage of rail we must re-arrange how and where we construct our houses, change how we furnish them, re-consider the way we stock them with food. We've a great deal of work to do.

In the meantime, the problem of the current hegemony remains in place. Powerful people have become rich off of this system of ours and they have a vested interest in maintaining it, pollution, violence and injustice fully intact. But an ever-expanding economy is an illusion, the "money" we've made in the last 10, 20, 30 years or more is largely a mirage created by moving other money around. Measuring economic health by rate-of-growth is a formula for failure but is sadly the principle means for evaluating success in our current form of capitalism. We must invent and learn new ways to measure economic health as a function of sustainability. Sustainability is the watch-word of the emerging world.

To quote Maggie Jochild over at the Group News Blog (the re-constituted assembly of the great and sorely missed Steve Gilliard's old blog pals):

I'm sick to death of reading progressive blogs reporting on the drek coming from the liars and manipulators whom they damned well know are such -- it's not enough to know, you also need to stop giving them any attention whatsoever. No reinforcement at all.

What I already understand is enough to help me chart a new course:

  1. The system of growth at all costs has failed. Sustainability is now upon us.
  2. There was never as much money as they pretended there was in order to keep making profits from manipulating money. It ain't coming back.
  3. If we stop being the world's consumers, we have to come up with another reason why we are valuable. I vote for integrity, pluralism, and human liberation, how's that sound?
  4. If we give up the addictions of consumption and overstimulated attention spans, we have to choose recovery and work it instead of the Dubya method.
Obama is not FDR. He's doing some things well, others less well, and comparing him to Dubya is pointless because I have a used tampon which could do a better job than Dubya did. Obama and the folks he's choosing as administrators of his vision are not going to come up with a new way of doing things. He was crystal clear about that all along. He will find practical ways to keep things as they are, more functional but essentially unrevised. The good part of his methodology is that it will keep folks from starving and dying, a trend the Bush administration absolutely was not going to ever intervene to stop. This will buy some time for real visionaries to create and implement change. That's us, the Peanut Gallery. So don't get caught up in the minutiae of this period -- stoke your coals for the long haul and the big dreams.

Better than I could have said it.

Keep up the good fight, yaw'l. I'll be around, still, though. Thanks for reading this week.

2 comments:

Broadway Carl said...

Thank you, Mr. The Armadillo Joe for your inspring and inspired words this week. I hope you'll continue your contributions - don't think you're just a guest here. Mi casa es su casa.

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