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Bob Dylan’s song, All Along the Watchtower, contemplates a crisis approaching on the horizon, where rapid action is required, and most people are blind to the rapidly approaching peril. Global warming and man made climate change fit that pattern, so lets start a conversation using Dylan’s images and poetry as a backdrop.

"There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief"

When the joker seeks the council of the thief you know something important is at stake. The Joker in this story represents the human capacity to see what other people can’t. The joker in this social circumstance typically must resort to jokes and tricks to call attention to important issue that the powers within the walls of his or her culture do not want to see. This is particularly true when the culture is built around avoidance of the most obvious truths, the dependence of self on nature in the case of climate change, and can’t address their existence in an honest and straightforward way.

The joker, or fool, also fills a redemptive role in the inner life of men. There is a great little book about this, He, by Robert A. Johnson that describes the pivotal role of the fool. Johnson says, the inner fool is the part of a man who is able to locate the Holy Grail. The Grail is not to be found by conventional means because the conventional means have resulted in the mess we are stuck in today where the grail is always exploited but never truly found.

So where can a fool turn when he finds himself in a real jam where everyone denies the truth and can only take his observations in as a joke. Well, he turns to the thief, the crafty, devious, part of himself. He needs to effect the world around him in a big way and his fool strategy, while good at finding the grail, isn’t well equipped to move his king and court off the dime and get them to deal with what he sees approaching the kingdom. It is important to note that at this point the fool is being foolish, he has hope, "There must be some way out of here". For a fool anything is possible.

Al Gore is a cultural representation of the fool in the sense that he has hope and keeps making his points even when most people around him, our culture, think he is wrong, or making a lot of noise about something that doesn’t effect them. Any of us who say hold the presses, just stop what you are doing, can’t you see we need to turn around, we are putting the pedal to the metal and the edge of the cliff (climate tipping point) is about 10 years away, are typically passed off as alarmist fools.

"Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."

Now that he has the thief’s ear he tells lays out the problem. The fool identifies with the truth that is not seen and speaks directly for his larger identity, the earth. The earth is the outer manifestation of the grail and those who are using her don’t understand her worth. This is exactly what is happening today. Our economic system doesn’t value the earth, the plowmen and businessmen of our day value what they can make from the earth, but don’t value it for what it is. The earth is the foundation of everything we value and we need to treat it with the respect that it deserves, after all we are part of it, not something apart from it.

Capitalism has no way to properly value the finite resources that all life depends on. The construct of our economic system is intentionally limited to self-interest defined in the narrowest of terms. Managing the intense power of our collective economic activity since the industrial revolution using this model has already failed, the results are in the atmosphere. The costs of Global Climate change have been quantified by the Stern Report , which rightly characterizes the relationship between modern economics and climate change as follows, "Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen."

"So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

The thief is not excited, he sees the situation clearly but is not constrained by tacit acceptance of the power structure of his culture. The kingdom runs on general acceptance of the rule that those of lower socio-economic class don’t take power, property, or status, away from the elites. The thief knows how thin that barrier really is because he has to overcome it in order to steal for a living. He also understands the mentality of theft, which makes him a potentially helpful ally when going up against the deafness of the powers that hold the kingdom behind the watchtower.

Knowing the culture well the thief correctly identifies the glue that holds the empire, kingdom, together, it is the belief, or attitude, "that life is but a joke". This is the mood of cynicism and without having gone past this point in his development the fool and the thief would not have the energy to go on and they could not have an honest conversation.

The cynical denigration of human intention to create the greater good is woven into the heart of capitalism and goes back at least as far as Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, when he talks about the invisible hand. "By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. ... By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it."

What a relief for the wealthy and corporate elites, to know that they are unintentionally promoting the greater good by using their wealth to acquire more. The reassurance that the primary impulse of capitalism promotes the general welfare better than the intentional efforts of people is the height of cynicism. If we follow Smith’s logic, and it is clear that the U.S. corporate establishment does, redirecting resources consciously away from feeding the powers that be and toward creation of the general good will just make things worse.

The thief part of all of us recognizes this strategy for what it is and chooses to not talk falsely about it. That is part of the remedy, no more false talk, no more acting like the fattening of the current elites is the way to find a right relationship to our planet and to each other. It’s a flimsy, self serving, arbitrary construct that the powerful use to pick our pockets, smile, and walk away with the resources that rightly belong to us and should be used to intentionally build up the general welfare for the planet and all living things.

"Two riders were approaching"

The riders have important information. We are aware, we see the riders coming our way and hear the loud winds of a powerful storm. The consensus science on man made global climate change is overwhelming. But the rulers of the kingdom behind the walls of the watchtower are blind to the problem and slow to react. What are we to do, Dylan’s song and the myth of Parsifal and the Holy Grail don’t draw it out explicitly but point the way psychologically. Keep your foolish hope alive and don’t let others trash that hope, going for the grail is the right thing to do. The fool needs more than just his internal compass, he needs a strong ally, the thief, to go there with him and take back what is rightly his. Trust that crafty part of yourself that can take back what has been stolen from you.

I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir, but a kick ass choir, with a lot of allied thieves working the audience gives us a shot. Gaining momentum now is more about people and communication than it is about technology. We have the technology to turn this around but don’t have the political leverage. Fighting the climate change deniers where you find them is one thing each one of us can do and your inner thief can help. One way I have used the thief in confronting climate change deniers when they say global warming and climate change are fictional is to ask them if they want to bet on it and see where the conversation goes. One line that comes in handy is, you are saying bet on it, and you are betting our children’s future, on the slim odds that most of the scientists are wrong. Who’s the fool now?

Originally posted to Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 07:19 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  oops, tip jar, have been away for a while (15+ / 0-)

    Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

    by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 07:24:48 AM PST

  •  Watchtower (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle

    just sayin'...

  •  Points for the Dylan reference (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle, Autarkh

    All Along The Watchtower is one of my favorite songs, whether performed by Dylan, Hendrix, or the Dead.  

    The problem with the so-called skeptics and deniers of climate change is that they are characterologically defective.  They are not interested in the common good.  They cynically believe that they will have the resources to keep their family free from suffering any changes due to global warming.  They are beyond reasoning with.

    (Psst.  Spelling error in title)

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. - Aristotle

    by DWG on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 07:30:43 AM PST

    •  An amazing song (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      N in Seattle, Autarkh, eastmt

      I just couldn't get it out of my head and had to express my admiration of Dylan and talk about climate change. Not a new topic, but always worth writing and talking about.

      I think that the deniers are worth talking engaging. It might move someone, it is a good cultural communication of the strength with which you hold your own views, and it helps embolden people who would like to confront the deniers but need a little cultural support.

      Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

      by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 07:38:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  with the right tool, they are penetrable (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Autarkh

      You say:

      The problem with the so-called skeptics and deniers of climate change is that they are characterologically defective.  They are not interested in the common good.  They cynically believe that they will have the resources to keep their family free from suffering any changes due to global warming.  They are beyond reasoning with.

      I have met several who were just misinformed. Once properly informed they realized the peril their own families were in. You are right in saying that they are not interested in the common good, but luckily there's another way to get them to listen.

      These people often seem to be "beyond reasoning" and many of them are, but many are not. What you need is a powerful tool to use to penetrate their carefully constructed mental shields. I recommend buying a couple copies of AIT and lending them out to everyone you can. It really is an effective tool, and it's easy to try. Right now it's about $12 a copy used on Amazon.

      The deniers will never buy or even rent it, but they will borrow it if you hand it to them. They are generally curious enough to watch it. Once they do you have an opening and you will be surprised at the results. Video is a very powerful medium.

      Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo

      by racerx on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 08:20:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The fool in doesn't write anyone off (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Autarkh, Rippen Kitten

        That is what foolish hope is about. I don't really know  what anyone will think, or how a conversation will go once it is started. When I think I know, and think all is lost, that is when I need the fool in me.

        I also need the theif in me, particularly when I am talking to people who are spreading false information intentionally while knowing that it is wrong.

        Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

        by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 08:25:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Pardon me for quoting an earlier post: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sxwarren

          Though hope should never be abandoned, the project of changing unwilling minds is often one in which the rewards are not commensurate with the effort expended. Ultimately, transforming one’s worldview must be a voluntary process; the most relevant lessons are the ones we learn through its undertaking, and coerced outcomes can never emulate them.

          I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied: learn to swim! `Cause mom's gonna' fix it all soon. Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be! - MJK

          by Autarkh on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 03:42:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  indeed (0+ / 0-)

    Martin said to his man,"Fye, man, fye!"
    Martin said to his man, "Who's the fool now?"
    Martin said to his man," You have a cup, I'll have a can:
    Thou art well drunken, man, who's the fool now?"

    I saw the mouse chase the cat, fye, man, fye;
    Saw the mouse chase the cat, who’s the fool now?
    Saw the mouse chase the cat, and the cheese eat the rat.
    Thou art well drunken, man, who's the fool now?

    I saw a maid milk a bull, fye, man fye;
    Saw a maid milk a bull, who’s the fool now?
    Saw a maid milk a bull, every stroke a bucket full.
    Thou art well drunken, man, Who's the fool now?

    I saw the cock lay an egg,Fye, man, fye;
    Saw the cock lay an egg, who's the fool now?
    Saw the cock lay an egg and the milkmaid churn the keg
    With her granny's wooden leg, who's the fool now?

  •  Along those same lines (0+ / 0-)

    I would say that too many people have

    ...become, comfortably numb...

    on this issue.

    But then I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan..

  •  I had this whole Wagner thing going.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eastmt

    Cheney as Klingsor, Condi as Kundry....couldn't think where the Determinator would go as He's a fool but not a holy fool.

  •  Nice one! Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Autarkh, Bob Guyer, TexasTwister

    Food for thought all day.  Love a bit of crit/analysis.  

    One of the first songs I learned and (possibly) the only opera I really like (Wagner redeeming himself from a life spent being an asshole -- metaphor for our exploitive system finally looking at itself and growing wise through pity and seeing itself as guileless and foolish).

    Yeah, a wildcat is growling and the riders are coming.  I think they're going to tell us it's time to grow beyond capitalism.  16th century ideas aren't viable anymore as the wind begins to howl.

    •  Capitalism was OK when we weren't so powerfull, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, Autarkh

      but now that we are so powerfull we need a new systems approach that takes the effects of our power into account. When we can undermine the fabric of planetary life with our activity we have entered an era that is fundamentally different than the one in which Adam Smith lived.

      I have been working out ideas about what systems, that fit both our powerfullness and our existence as part of the biological process of this planet, would look like.   My website has a lot of my thinking and is an ongoing process. Drop by sometime and check it out, it has a lot of interactive components now as opposed to when I started.

      Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

      by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 09:44:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll do that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Autarkh, Bob Guyer

        With billions more of us now than when the system was thought up and billions more to come, the concept of basing life on ownership has outlived its usefulness.  There's nothing wrong with exchanging goods and services through a marketplace, but subjecting abstractions like the cleanness of water and air that way doesn't make sense and obviously isn't working (same thing applies to healthcare, education, and a number of other things).  When there weren't that many of us exploiting the natural world for gain didn't seem that harmful. but now we're getting crowded and it's beginning to kill us.

        Time to evolve, y'know?

    •  ummm (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Autarkh, Bob Guyer

      While mercantilism arose in the 16th century, it is generally considered somewhat pre-capitalistic. Capitalism arouse in the mid-18th to early 19th century. Socialist ideas appeared in a number of 17th century movements.

      Mercantilism included such concepts as "...the opening and well-balanacing of trade; the cherishing of manufacturers; the repressing of waste and excess by sumptuary laws; the improvement and husbanding of the soil; the regulation of prices..." (F Bacon)  A lot of that list sounds like something a progressive candidate might say.

      •  I won't quibble on dates (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Autarkh, Bob Guyer

        In the 16th c europe was colonizing (learning to exploit) the rest of the planet for trade, so I went with that.

        I don't think progressive capitalism is gonna be good enough to solve our current set of problems.  Just as all our other systems of doing things have outlasted their usefulness (colonialism, monarchy, theocracy, militarism), so has the property based one.  Not to sound too hippie, but we need a system under which we belong to the earth (and to our society), rather than the other way around.  The "I'll get whatever I can get" meme at the center of capitalism is far too shortsighted for our times.  Just like the internal combustion engine that drove it to dominance it's begun to show that its failings outweigh its benefits.

        •  Getting past Capitalism (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Urizen, zaraspooksthra, Bob Guyer

          In their inexorable drive for growth at all costs, Capitalist economies take without regard, routinely treating the ecological effects of economic activity—such as pollution, resource depletion, habitat destruction, and climate change—as factors outside the cost of production. Prices rarely reflect the expense of assuaging harmful consequences. Instead, these costs are typically socialized in the form of tax revenue diverted for cleanups, greater incidence of disease, decreased biodiversity and the looming reality of global warming. Naturally, any profits accrued remain private.

          From any sane angle, this pattern is deeply flawed and unsustainable: its metrics—GDP, inflation, unemployment—make no reference to what is consumed but not replenished; it styles investments in the biosphere’s long term capacity to support us "negative externalities" not "positive internalities"; its hierarchical centralization prioritizes homogeneity over nature’s web of interdependent variance; and its unrelenting thirst for "cheap" hydrocarbon-based energy sows the seeds of its own destruction.

          We need to devise an economic and social organization that is immanent in nature—that operates in congruence with its principles rather than trying to supplant them.

          I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied: learn to swim! `Cause mom's gonna' fix it all soon. Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be! - MJK

          by Autarkh on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 10:41:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

            •  Too many liberals are enamored with... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Urizen, Bob Guyer

              ...capitalism, or too timid to move from a criticism of corporate excess to a systemic one -- particularly in this country.

              I’m not convinced of our ability to plan long term and avoid foreseeable calamity. It’s probably more likely that a paradigm shift will be forced upon us by disastrous conditions..

              I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied: learn to swim! `Cause mom's gonna' fix it all soon. Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be! - MJK

              by Autarkh on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 11:20:18 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That sort of horrifies me (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Autarkh, eastmt, Bob Guyer

                The left hasn't done any creative or critical thinking in 30 years now.  Capitalism has to be examined and critiqued.  It's no wonder we've been going into eclipse.

                •  You paint "the left" with a broad brush... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Urizen, eastmt, Bob Guyer

                  ...but in general, I agree.

                  Take DailyKos: it’s a process oriented place, which is unsurprising given the ubiquity of JDs and political junkies. A studious understanding of procedure is extremely valuable in discerning between genuine possibilities, unlikelihoods, and self-indulgent fantasies. However, we should be mindful of an overemphasis on procedure, for it blinds us to the panorama.

                  We need more radicalism, more systematic critical thinking, and loftier goals.

                  Let me qualify that with a quote from one of my recent posts:

                  For the record, I consider myself a pragmatic left wing radical. At first glance, this seems oxymoronic. Radicalism is often used synonymously with extremism, sometimes carelessly, but more frequently to marginalize and dismiss. This is an erroneous conflation, for the word "radical" comes from radix, Latin for "root". The radical does not accept things as they are: she sees a disturbing anti-democratic reality in U.S. foreign policy that belies the rhetoric of liberation and freedom; he resents earning a fraction of the value he produces; and she cannot abide the myopic alacrity of those who exploit the biosphere without constraint. Above all, radicalism is willingness to examine and attack root causes of disease rather than just its symptoms. It is asking "why" when others can scarcely muster a "what", "how," "where" or "when". It is challenging unwarranted license and, in so doing, placing the burden of proof on authority.

                  Unless we confront the institutional, psychological, economic and cultural forces that underlie humanity’s problems, we are just nibbling around the edges. BushCo is a quintessential example. "Mainstream" Democrats and liberals, place too many focus on individual personalities, incompetence, and similar factors. Radical leftists contend, correctly, that Bush is an extreme example of arrogance, dogmatism, and amorality but, ultimately, a creature of the system. He is not a historical anomaly, so much as a historical consequence of a long, unchecked, unmitigated accretion of executive power. To ignore this and label him the personification of evil in an otherwise healthy system is naïve in the extreme.

                  I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied: learn to swim! `Cause mom's gonna' fix it all soon. Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be! - MJK

                  by Autarkh on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 11:46:27 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Really good (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Autarkh, Bob Guyer

                    I'm interested in the same way.  What I meant by the left's lack of creativity and critique is that those who get into the mechanics tend to ignore and even dismiss theory.  From reading about the 60s (when the left was dynamic and made enormous strides), I get the impression that the wonks were reading Marcuse et al as well as cranking out postion papers.  Very few of our politicians or their staffers seem to be able to articulate any viable structural critique.  They approach it like salemen saying, "my program will work better" and don't go any deeper than that.  Part of the reason we've been losing is that the right always does this, always connects its practical policy to some broader theme (like tax cuts to "free market').  In a cynical way, it's just adding phony gravitas, but rhetorically it always gives them a leg up.  It's no coincidence that they've been founding think tanks to develop the "thought" that goes behind their public speech and we haven't.  

                    •  Self-censorship is a HUGE problem. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Urizen, Bob Guyer

                      At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it [...] Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.  – George Orwell, preface to Animal Farm

                      People simply do not challenge certain institutions for fear of marginalization. It happens even on this site, and is a far more serious problem on the left than the right.

                      As for theory, I agree, but we need to insist on scientific/empirical rigor. We certainly have the tools at our disposal, and many -- like Bob Altemeyer -- are already doing important work.

                      I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied: learn to swim! `Cause mom's gonna' fix it all soon. Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be! - MJK

                      by Autarkh on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 12:49:23 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Ayup (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Autarkh, Bob Guyer

                        And the fear of being marginalized ends up leading to incremental marginalization, which is harder to get out of in a way.

                        Altemeyer looks interesting, I'll check it out.

                      •  Looks like one topic he hits is authority (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Urizen, Autarkh

                        I'll check it out, looks interesting. My take on authority is that it has been used by people seeking power in what Robert Fuller would call Rankist way throughout history. I read his first book on the subject, Sombodies and Nobidies, and really liked it. He proposes that the underlying structure in all the social ills that have been defined as an ism, is the abuse of rank for power over others.

                        New systems ideas should always address the issue of authority. Two major streams of authority in western civilization have been Christianity and science. Both, in different directions, but similar ways assert their authority by claiming the supremacy of something outside the phenomena of an individual's consciousness, God for Christianity, and Matter for Science. The attribution of authority outside of the consciousness of the authority perceiving individual seems to add standing to the assertion of authority. But it makes no sense when you start to take it apart because it can never rest on anything but its point of original assignment, the conscious self.

                        My assertion on authority is that authority has no standing independent of the attribution of a conscious individual. In other words, all authority is a chosen assignment of a conscious individual and therefore rests on the foundation of that individual, not on a universal something else. This levels the playing field and lets us start developing systems without having to ground them in an external, unknowable, abstract something.

                        Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

                        by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 03:31:08 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  There is such a thing as legitimate authority. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Urizen

                          But this legitimacy is not self-evident. The burden of proof should always be on authority, not the party subject to it.

                          I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied: learn to swim! `Cause mom's gonna' fix it all soon. Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be! - MJK

                          by Autarkh on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 03:35:15 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Bob Guyer

                          And authority shouldn't outlast its function.  We've shifted from the founder's concept that power was ephemeral and only for application when needed to the idea that it's entrenched and we need to serve it.  Our systems under this construct, impose themselves on all pheneomena rather than arising in response to whatever conditions spring up.  I suspect we've been stunting our evolution because of this, that we aren't able to see beyond capitalism (fr'instance), because capitalism constricts our field of vision and limits us to examining it only in terms of itself.  

                          •  Well said! (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Urizen

                            The overlay of authority on top of the authority of our direct experience is a core tennant of non-Gnostic Christianity, and has been a strong feature of the western marriage between church and state since a few hundered years AC. It is a very deep cultural under pinning of western culture.

                            Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

                            by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 05:26:34 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  The "free Market" tag is very cynical (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Urizen, sxwarren, Autarkh

                      They keep repeating the phrase, associating the word free, with the word market. So now they have a hammer to hit you with if you say the "Market" isn't the solution, or that it is the problem, anything other than the "market" must be something other than "freedom".

                      The markets they are advocating aren't the markets of the butcher and the baker that Adam Smith used when talking about how self interest produces good results. The markets of today are created by concentrated capital, for the purpose of further concentrating capital and the "consumer", as people are colorfully labeled, is but a means to an end. They talk a lot about the market being driven by "consumer" choice but that is only market fine tuning, the choice of market creation is at the service of capital concentration. The ongoing operation of markets is heavily weighted toward favoring the source of capital concentration, not the "consumer", the ballance of power dictates most of the dynamics of the interaction, not the fantasy of "free" choice of relatively equal market participants.

                      Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

                      by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 03:03:55 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  We need to reframe the debate with... (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Urizen, sxwarren

                        ...proper terminology. Rather than "free markets," we should call it what it is: corporate capitalism, or state capitalism.

                        That said, any just and sustainable future economic system will have to be, by necessity, decentralized. Markets, or at least market mechanisms, will probably play a role.

                        Markets are not inherently bad, it is concentrated and unaccountable private power that is bad.

                        As Gorbachev famously said:

                        The market is not an invention of capitalism. It has existed for centuries. It is an invention of civilization.

                        I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied: learn to swim! `Cause mom's gonna' fix it all soon. Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be! - MJK

                        by Autarkh on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 03:31:44 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  The idea of exchange as a market isn't a problem (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Urizen, sxwarren, Autarkh

                          it is the relative power of the participants, and their intentions, that give a healthy or unhealthy character to any exchange between individuals.

                          I agree whole heartedly that the more concentrated and unaccountable a system that structures exchange allows, or encourages, participants to become, the less healthy that system is. Lately I have been looking at systems  from a biological perspective and finding that it helps me get out of the abstract box that our modern approach to economic life has been promoting.

                          Exchange is an ongoing biological process that occurs across the semi-permiable boundaries of living entities, whether they are single or multi celled life forms. Any economic system simply directs existing and potential exchange for self conscious biological creatures (that's us) in the context of a living planet. One of the main issues is that we have harnessed so much more force than available directly through our biology that we need a new system to manage it at this level or our growth will be like cancer in the larger planetary body of life.

                          I would like us to invent, and then choose, a different path (or many different non cancerous paths) and think that is possible. That's the fool in me, thinking it is possible, the theif part of me is also thinking about how to make it happen.

                          Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

                          by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 04:16:07 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  A couple of random abstract thoughts. (0+ / 0-)

                            Wondering what you think and how these might fit into your analysis (or not!).

                            LIFE itself is a hierarchy of externalized costs.  Large animal eats smaller animal that eats yet smaller animal that eats plants, etc. Each "level" externalizes the cost of its continued existence to whatever it eats.  The "bottom" of this cost chain consists of those living things that continue their existence through the consumption of the waste products of other living things and/or by using energy directly from the sun (an external source that won't last forever).

                            Economic systems are essentially very high abstractions of energy management - energy at its most basic level: the "food" calorie.  An organism (living creature, organization, tribe, etc.) must acquire and store enough energy during a given period of time to enable it to find and acquire more energy during the next period of time.  If the next energy source is "out of reach" (i.e., if its gas tank is too small to store enough gas to get to the next filing station), it dies.  Evolution generally produces organisms that can "live within their means".

                            [There is further, disjointed development of the above rattling around in my brain - some of it dealing with the idea that "a chicken is merely an egg's way of making another egg" and how natural organisms appear to be simultaneously "capitalist" and "communist" in some senses.]

                            "Capitalism", as I might think of it, is not what corporations do, in spite of their claims. What corporations do is merely authoritarianism in another form.

                            The American colonists rebelled against two things: the suppression of social freedoms by a foreign government and the suppression of economic freedoms by a monopolistic corporation that was manipulating the "authority" of that foreign power.

                            A capitalist (thief, joker) thrives in a truly free market by adapting to the ever-changing environment of that market.  A capitalist's most valuable trait is a willingness to thoroughly understand the environment and to adapt to it.  Change/evolution is good. Change presents opportunity.  But only if the market environment remains healthy and vibrant. Of course, this is where the hypothesis of "enlightened self-interest comes in."  And as we all know, the "self-interest" part is easy, the "enlightened" part, well, not so much.

                            A corporation seeks only to control markets, to avoid change, to prevent change, and its primary goal is to acquire power to control a market and extract ever more resources from it without consideration of long term consequences.

                            Capitalism and Communism both appear to be able to "work" - that is to create and maintain relatively "fair" economic conditions - on a small, local scale.  But it may be that neither system ("abstraction") can ever "scale up" successfully.  Or it may be simply that all attempts thus far to scale up either  "system" (not mutually exclusive in the abstract or in practice) have been poor implementations.

                            Lastly - and then I REALLY need to go make breakfast and continue on with my weekend chores - there's a huge parallel between the authoritarian/exploitative philosophy/behavior of corporations and that of the "fundamentalist" leadership of highly organized "religions" (political ideologies by another name).  It has its roots in the view that Man is exceptional and apart and even exempt from natural laws "God's Laws" I might venture).  Both are all about control and anti-evolution and their behaviors and high-level abstractions are merely logical outcomes of their starting assumptions.

                            "You are coming to a sad realization. CANCEL or ALLOW?"

                            by sxwarren on Sat Mar 10, 2007 at 06:34:22 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I'll try to cover your main points (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            sxwarren

                            Economic systems are essentially very high abstractions of energy management - energy at its most basic level: the "food" calorie.  An organism (living creature, organization, tribe, etc.) must acquire and store enough energy during a given period of time to enable it to find and acquire more energy during the next period of time.

                            Partially true from the individual entities point of view. The additional truths are that the entity contributes to the overall system of life in a very complex interconnected way that adds up to something more than individual survival, I see evolution of species happening in that context. I think your comment gets at that when you say that evolution favors species that live within their means.

                            "Capitalism", as I might think of it, is not what corporations do, in spite of their claims. What corporations do is merely authoritarianism in another form.

                            I agree with you analysis that capitalism expressed as an ideal is not what modern corporate "free" market economics is about. This might be a tolerable limit on human freedom and dignity if there were not so much extra-biological power generated and directed via the operation of our modern economy. Putting that much energy into a system that accumulates and accelerates, and has lost its connection to the purpose of biological life in total and the human expression of biological life, is a species self defeating pattern. At lower levels of forcefullness it wasn't as big of a problem.

                            Your comment on communism and capitalism

                            Capitalism and Communism both appear to be able to "work" - that is to create and maintain relatively "fair" economic conditions - on a small, local scale.  But it may be that neither system ("abstraction") can ever "scale up" successfully.  Or it may be simply that all attempts thus far to scale up either  "system" (not mutually exclusive in the abstract or in practice) have been poor implementations.

                            is interesting. I have done a lot of thinking about this over the years and have come to the conclusion that the failure of both has been in the underlying assumptions of both systems. I see the major point of divergence being a focus on the collective and a focus on the individual. Each system choose a side and then behaved as if alergic to the other. As humans we are both individual and collective, both separate and non-separate relative to our environment and each other. I want to develop a system based on full acknowledgement of both truths of our existence. I haven't gotten as far as I would like on that project (I have chores too) but recently have made some progress and am in the middle of making a website where those ideas are out there and where other people can come and add their thought to the process. You are more than welcome to drop by and check it out and participate in it if you like.

                            I am pursuing a development model that is like open source software, so if anything comes of it, it will develop into a coherent form of something, will reflect the best of many people's interests and talents, and will have a very diverse and ever changing array of developments that attach and extend it.

                            Thanks for the great comment, wish I had more time to give a better response.

                            Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

                            by Bob Guyer on Sat Mar 10, 2007 at 09:28:48 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Your response is nice. Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

                            I'll check out your website in the pre-breakfast quiet tomorrow morning.

                            I think I understand what you mean about "the underlying assumptions of both systems."  The "capitalism" of the butcher, baker, candlestick maker and the "communism" of barn-raisings work in small communities where nearly all members have personal ties.  Both systems appear to abstract "principles" from these exemplary successes - enlightened self-interest and altruism - and extrapolate them.  But it's like looking at the physical construction of a bacterium and assuming that it will simply work just as well at elephant size.

                            The Capitalism v. Communism thing has made me grind my teeth since high school forty years ago.  Western corporations and oligopolies have set the terms of the debate for a century by claiming for themselves the mantle and definition of "capitalism", by conflating that with "democracy" and "freedom", and then by setting up whatever horrible, ham-handed, authoritarian thing it was that was happening in the Soviet Union as "Communism"[*] and forcing a choice between those two alternatives.

                            [* To paraphrase Field Marshal Pierre Bosquet: "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la Communism."]  

                            Anyway, I'm thinking that it my not be simply that human society hasn't discovered an economic system that scales well.  It may be that human society - or, more accurately, any society of the human species - does not and cannot scale well at our current state of psychological/emotional/intellectual evolution.

                            Perhaps still too many of us view the world/life as being always and forever a zero-sum game, like the predator guarding his hunting ground/mating territory, and the very structure of human society then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we don't, collectively, manage to use the technology we have (and soon!) to eliminate the zero-sum aspects of our economic (energy production and distribution), political and religious systems (all ideologies tending toward an authoritarianism that is simply the logical response when seeking to control and survive in a zero-sum environment) then we will likely lose, as a species, this opportunity to "graduate" to that next evolutionary level while maintaining our current level of technological development (either through devastating conflict or through fouling our own nest).

                            Personally, I don't think God give a shit.  I think God believes in Evolution and "free markets" and understands that, whatever the state of the planetary environment that humans leave behind, DNA (the egg) will manage to find a way to produce another form of chicken that may be able to produce a society that scales-up better.

                            Oh well, back to the chores!

                            "You are coming to a sad realization. CANCEL or ALLOW?"

                            by sxwarren on Sat Mar 10, 2007 at 12:00:17 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                  •  We are getting what our system produces (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Autarkh

                    We need a truely radical system change. I agree that radical means getting at the root of the issue. While there is value in nibbeling at the edges, taxation, short term political action to create a better ballance of power, we are at a fundamental crossroad in our human development and need new ideas and systems to manage our high level of power in a finite biological world. Most of the political discussion and process is what systems thinkers like Peter Senge would call event thinking. X happens, what are we going to do about it, y is our plan, and then the next thing happens so we do a slightly different version of the same process because it is a different  event we are responding to. A systems thinker sees the patterns behind the events and works on those.

                    If you put the logic of our economic system in a biological context it resembles the logic of cancer, some cells choose to grow as fast and as large as possible in a finite biological system and keep going until you destroy the health of the whole to the point it can no longer sustain life.

                    You, Urizen and I should create a new system. I have a website all set up to do just that as a colaborative process. Right now it is pretty much my writing on the subject, but what I want it to turn into is something like an open source software factory for developing radical alternatives to our current system and then finding ways to move those ideas forward into living social, political, and economic systems.

                    Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

                    by Bob Guyer on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 12:32:49 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

  •  great diary (0+ / 0-)

    frustrating though to see it late (thanks to meteor blades) I keep punching at the reccomend button!

    By the time the oceans take Manhattan it will be over with...

    by dotcommodity on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 09:46:34 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for the encouragement (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotcommodity

      This piece has been kicking around in my head for a while. I haven't been doing much at DKos since the election and have been focusing on devleoping ideas about alternatives to our political and economic system  that are based on a vision of human life as being both individual and collective.

      I am particularly concerned with our tendancy in the U.S. to see human life as separate from everything around it and in competition with everything. This is the height of stupidity and our systems are operating from this perspective. We are getting the results that reflect the assumptions our system is based on. we have to change the system.

      I had fun with trying a different form of expressing myself in this piece, using good art as a framework, it was a lot of fun to write this way and I think I will do more of it.

      Our economy sucks up our environment, people, and government. Redesign it at Beyond Political Center

      by Bob Guyer on Wed Mar 14, 2007 at 06:27:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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