“These summits [like Rio+20] have failed for the same reason that the banks have failed,” George Monbiot wrote recently in The Guardian/UK. “Political systems that were supposed to represent everyone now return governments of millionaires, financed by and acting on behalf of billionaires. The past 20 years have been a billionaires’ banquet.”
I add my voice to this frustration in order to raise a single question: What if the problem is deeper than greed, or the evil rich? Seldom does the analysis get beyond the concept of greed, whether corporate or individual. Instead, an obvious solution is advanced: Get the greedy ones out of power. And there the analysis tends to stop, because the path to doing so quickly gets incredibly vague.
Whatever the divide between the 1 percent, or the .0001 percent, and the rest of us, there’s enough general prosperity in the system to implicate almost everyone in the habitual consumption of corporate products, tying our self-interest to systematic environmental destruction. Half the population is in denial that this is happening and the other half feels mostly powerless despair. And even when we think we’ve won the election, the victors turn out to be beholden to the same hidden interests. The system continues unabated.
What generally remains unquestioned is the nature of money itself.
In his book Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein point out that our notion of spirit “is that of something separate and nonworldly, that yet can miraculously intervene in material affairs, and that even animates and directs them in some mysterious way.
“It is hugely ironic and hugely significant,” he continues, “that the one thing on the planet most closely resembling the forgoing conception of the divine is money. It is an invisible, immortal force that surrounds and steers all things, omnipotent and limitless, an ‘invisible hand’ that, it is said, makes the world go ’round.”
Or, if it so chooses, money can decide to make the world uninhabitable. It works in mysterious ways…
Eisenstein’s book is one of the few analyses I know of that attempts to explain money in terms larger than its own. I recommend it highly, and offer a brief synthesis of his analysis in an attempt to put Rio+20 into a context larger than “why bother?”
The destructive nature of our current monetary system, according to Eisenstein, is due to that which backs it, rendering helpless everyone who deals with money, because what backs it becomes what we are, in essence, forced to worship. If gold backs money, people worship gold. But some time ago, our monetary system evolved beyond the backing of material substances. Money, now an electronic notation on a computer screen, is backed by none other than growth itself—by the creation of more money.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010:
Not having to run for anything is obviously quite the truth serum. Check out this bit of electoral commentary from outgoing U.S. Senator Robert Bennett of Utah:
"As I look out at the political landscape now, I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas," Bennett told The Ripon Society.There, of course, is the natural urge to convict Bennett of sour grapes, given that his own party unceremoniously dumped him in the Utah state conventions in early May. However, it is worth noting that his condemnation came in the context of his predicting that Republicans will reclaim the House and quite possibly the Senate. His greater concern is that even if snappy sloganeering carries the day in November, the Republicans will not hold any newfound majority with their current "devoid of ideas" status.
"Indeed, if you raise specific ideas and solutions, as I’ve tried to do on health care with [Oregon Democratic Sen.] Ron Wyden, you are attacked with the same vigor as we’ve seen in American politics all the way back to slavery and polygamy; you are attacked as being a wimp, insufficiently pure, and unreliable."
Here's hoping that America's voters can see through the emptiness of the contemporary Republican Party, the way that Bob Bennett apparently has.