[A-List] The Beginning of the End of Capitalism, 2008
shimogamo at ashisuto.co.jp
Wed Apr 15 20:00:13 MDT 2009
by Jan Lundberg
Culture Change Letter #244 (March 25 2009)
Barack Obama is saying, "Rally around me, we can grow again - let's
just borrow some more and spend anew with less greed". It won't work. He
knows no other way, ostensibly. But what's that White House food garden
about? Not a help to the GDP, which is such a flawed measurement of what
Until the new local self-sufficiency paradigm takes hold, we seem hell
bent on allowing remaining wealth and resources from the old paradigm to
be squandered and handed to the super rich. Speaking of which, the
"Defense" budget is still sacrosanct. Obama can't change that, but he
wants to spread around the money more nicely and be "greener" as the
If we can see the pointlessness of propping up an inequitable system
that depends on exploitation, devastation, overconsumption and endless
growth, we can fondly look forward to the end of capitalism. It seems
like it could be on its last legs right now, as never before. 2008 was
peak money, peak cars, peak petroleum cost, and peak unaccountability.
Ending capitalism has to come from serious feelings that go beyond
daydreaming of a sweeter world. One feeling can be anger over being told
your choice is to either work meaninglessly your whole life or to
starve. Or tasting the advantages of cooperative living and seeing, in
stark contrast, a greedy manipulator trying to exploit others. Or
sensing that our ecological fate, common to all of us, is of no concern
to materialistic fools who act like they're not from this planet.
How can capitalism be questioned so easily today? Obviously, the fat
cats fucked up. This total mess is where things were heading for many
years, but we were too kowtowed to question the national and global system.
The biggest feeling of all will be from hunger in the belly. When people
feel the urgent motivation to take care of their stomachs and to assure
the survival of their families, when patience and faith run out, that's
when defense in the form of an insurgency takes place. However, such a
revolution - even if successful - may not address the problem of
opportunism by a new elite that may or may not be capitalist.
Although some of us are most interested in culture change for meaningful
change toward sustainability, it is today's astronomical debt and wealth
of capitalism - and the capitalist governments' budgets - that are
at issue in the public's mind. To try to figure out just how huge the
bubble is that's now popping is to play a numbers game. It's easier to
do that than to act like a revolutionary and start living without
capitalism. For now, it's still necessary to show people that the system
is out of control and crashing. President Obama is a great change from
Bush and the over two hundred years of white men occupying the White
House. But the phenomenon is a distraction from the greater story of
Numerically we can see that there's not enough real money to rescue the
inflated financial sector. The fact that the debt that's out there,
connected to toxic assets, is several times larger than the amount of
capital available is ignored in the hope that future growth will remove
the red ink and deficit.
Before that can happen and economic growth could resume, there would
have to be a number of impossibilities. Cheap and abundant energy,
particularly liquid fuels, would have to be found as never before in
order to create and distribute the endless amount of goods for
consumption. Easy credit would have to return, meaning that the risk of
lending would have to be deemed low once again. The stimulus budget
would have to work wonders, but the kind of economic activity it would
have to create is more of the same: expansion of the infrastructure for
more urban sprawl, and turnover of endless manufactured gadgets and
appliances (by green consumers, it is hoped).
Today's system of capitalism running completely amok, typified by
trillions of dollars never going to the workers supporting the whole
house of cards, is failing fast. As the attempt to put band-aids on a
metastasized cancer finally shows itself to be an illusion created by
those trying to desperately prop up and then pull out their wealth,
that's when the final, accelerated collapse will be completed. Due to
interdependence of markets, other nations' economies will be brought
down along with their regimes. The grand Ponzi scheme ends - wherever
growth schemes were perpetrated. The US government will attempt to
retain order at home via martial law and suspension of rights and
environmental protection. Overseas military adventures will be unaffordable.
This is the real Plan B when the sham of the growth stimulus becomes
obvious. This Depression will make the 1930s Great Depression seem like
a walk in the park. At the end of the tunnel, however, will not be the
growth of the post-war economy but rather, when the chaotic desperation
dies down, the getting back to basics that the back-to-the-landers and
city collectivists have been practicing since the 1960s counterculture.
Plan B is when the bottom really drops out and the population freaks out
in a national Katrina fiasco - despite the kinder, gentler Obama flavor.
For more people than ever will have begun to suffer from hunger due to
job loss and lack of access to good land and fisheries.
And especially in the event of massive droughts or petrocollapse they
will march on the rich and try to take whatever they can. When order
cannot be restored within a few days, police and military personnel will
head for their own homes to protect their families and meager food supplies.
Meanwhile, some people will have already started organizing local
systems for food production and distribution, as well as other services
and roles to replace the global supermarket that has by then utterly
failed and disappeared.
The suffering and confusion will be so great that in the aftermath of
reorganizing there will be strong resistance to any attempts to repeat
the discredited ways that brought so much pain. As the dust settles and
die-off plays out, stability will return, albeit in a new world. Climate
destruction and loss of cheap, abundant energy will mean that almost
everyone will be lucky to have a subsistence lifestyle.
However, there will come an almost unprecedented level of equality and
sharing in order to maximize efficiency. Kropotkin made clear over one
hundred years ago conclusively that mutual aid is more productive, easy,
and natural compared to competition.
So the days of being lucky to have a job, to work for someone else's
gain - when that someone else is not even visible or accountable -
is on the way out. President Obama is still defending the old system. He
probably knows better. But those who have the greatest stake in the
existing set-up are his whole team of advisers, if not his bosses or
Regardless, Obama's "job one" is to avoid mass panic and thereby steer
the masses toward constructive patience via confidence building. That's
working to some degree now, but the momentum of job loss and factory
production cuts are too powerful a force to turn around with smoke and
mirrors - resource depletion and overpopulation are everything, and not
just topics for debate like abortion or stem-cell research are.
Obama was just what the establishment needed at the right time. He makes
us believe change is possible. But his own hope as presently defined is
too narrow to fit the times or the challenge.
Where we are headed is a question that the flag-waving blow-hards don't
have a clue on. Obama should convene a series of public Alternative
Futures discussions such as on the town-hall level. Unfortunately, the
many unimaginative citizens of US entitlement and exceptionalism will
continue to dominate the debate, and this plays into the hands of the
corporate media. Yet, ideas will come out, if only for a resumption of
Victory Gardens that the White House is, indeed, reviving at a
Activists are a threatened species, but there's safety in numbers. If
you can't be active, please $upport your local Earth activist.
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