Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Looking on the bright side of life

"When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle"
Eric Idle

David Seaton's News Links
Things are looking pretty dismal at the moment. The economic situation is the worst in my lifetime, and I was born at the end of WWII.

Even before our Friedmanite economy showed us its athlete's feet of clay, we could see that fossil fuels were a finite source and that their continued use might make it difficult for our species to survive. The nightmare oil spill in the Gulf reminds us of that inconvenient truth, while we watch the gyrations of the world economy.

And if the economy does pick up again, the Chinese and the Indians imitating the American Way of Life with its phenomenal waste of fossil fuel energy could lead to God knows what kind of terminal ecological collapse.

Of course the problem is that to sustain itself our economy must grow constantly, like a bicycle that will fall over if it ever stops. The fact is that we may "running out of road", reaching some sort of limit, a sort of musical chairs, where the few chairs left have already been taken by the rich while the great mass of the world's population mills around with nowhere to sit and little to eat after the music stops.

It would seem obvious to me that if we are not going to see the world entirely degenerated into some Hobbesian dystopia, we are going to have to create and run a very tightly organized, strictly regulated and equitable order of society. If the trends we see today continue, I believe that will be inevitable, so fast becoming inevitable, that even a person like me, in their mid 60s, might live to see it.

The question, will be how to preserve the republican trinity, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" in such a tightly ordered society.

These three things often don't go together or are mixed in very weighted proportions.

Lets look at Germany before the collapse of Communism:

In East Germany, for example, you had a very sinister secret police and steady repression of all dissent. You had very few consumer goods and no freedom to travel. However, you also had total job security, a good free school system (Angela Merkel is a product of that system) and subsidized housing and free health care.

That system was defeated because Western Germany had strong labor unions, good free schools and health and subsidies... and also freedom of speech, assembly, travel and abundant consumer goods... No contest. Obviously West Germany's "Social Market Society" came closer to "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" than "Real Existing Socialism" did.

However in the future we will probably find ourselves stripping out the abundant consumer goods from the mix and certainly mass tourism to the four corners of the earth will be a fairy tale that today's children will tell their grandchildren about.

If we are going to be moving toward a world of limited energy use, zero growth sustainability, less possibility to travel and fewer consumer goods and so forth, about the best we could hope for would be East Germany without the Stasi and with free speech, assembly and habeas corpus.

Right now the dynamic of our system seems to be to "Friedmanize" the world and break down social democracy wherever it is found, impoverish people and make their lives precarious.

This sort of society where the majority is impoverished, while a minority becomes amazingly rich, has been proven to only work with a military dictatorship and police state repression... and even then hunger and precariousness cannot go on beyond a certain point without engendering revolutionary movements.

Certainly if you increase the percentage of the poor and precarious beyond a certain level the word "freedom" begins to take on different nuances: freedom from what? freedom to do what? That is when some version of Equality, Fraternity, without Liberty, a version of East Germany "uncut" might seem very attractive to many desperately poor and insecure people.

If any young person is looking for something useful to do with their lives, helping to organize and build a world where free people live in brotherhood, sharing out the world's limited resources equitably, would certainly fill the bill. DS

3 comments:

Harry Haller said...

Yes, all the time in Calcutta I kept wondering why would any Bengali living in a slum care about free speech. No wonder the Chinese model seems so appealing in the Thirld World.

I landed 24 hours ago so I'll see you on Monday (:

Anonymous said...

He leído sus poemas. Realidades contadas sin adornos, expresión despojada de ropajes;
poemas, que hablan de cosas que sentimos, a veces continuadas sensaciones que de otra manera no verían la luz.

PD.también escribo poemas,me gustaría cambiar no el mundo. Siento un poco de pudor al decirlo, pero creo que un poco de nosotros significa tanto...

Espero volver a leerle.

Un saludo,

Anonymous said...

He leído sus poemas. Realidades contadas sin adornos, expresión despojada de ropajes;
poemas, que hablan de cosas que sentimos, a veces continuadas sensaciones que de otra manera no verían la luz.

PD.también escribo poemas,me gustaría cambiar no el mundo. Siento un poco de pudor al decirlo, pero creo que un poco de nosotros significa tanto...

Espero volver a leerle.

Un saludo,