I can’t point to a post I’ve done this year that would be my favorite, none of the ones I’ve looked back at would go without a major revision. None of them would be taken back in their entirety, a few flat jokes excepted.
Looking back, it seems hard to believe that some of those things were written less than a year ago. Memory falsely says that it was a lot longer ago than that. Odd thing, public writing. It’s so different from the writing that gets sent off and forgotten or stuck on a shelf, never to be seen again.
The various experiments testing the currently fashionable superstition of scientism and the limits of genuine science took up a lot of time. Maybe those were the theme of the year. Now they are giving way to the necessities of an important election year, one which could be the death of democracy in the United States. If any of the Republicans win the presidency or if Bush appoints one more member of the Supreme Court, democracy is over for the rest of our lives.
The intention of a lot of what I’ve written is to look at the unconsciously held assumptions that endanger the political success of the left, democracy, freedom, civil rights and the environment. Pretending that many of the most commonly accepted ideas are not either flawed in themselves, leading to dangerous situations, or that they consist of more than words that have had the reality hollowed out behind them is one of the most compelling problems of our very sick society and world. Many of these dangerous ideas are held to “go without saying”.
I’ll give an example. The supremacy and wisdom of The Market and the Anglo-American legal system which upholds it.
Where I live The Market, seeking, as always, the highest monetary return for a given thing, deems that subdividing farm land and wooded land to allow speculators to strip it of its natural vegetation and life, to put up tacky, superficially attractive houses is that land’s highest use. That the houses are shoddy, built to require constant patching, high energy consumption and are surrounded by America’s most abundant, most energy expensive and least useful agricultural product, a lawn, doesn’t signify to The Market or The Law.
By the time the predictable problems with these places spring up, assuming they sell to begin with, the developers, the builders and the real estate companies have taken the money and gone on to destroy more of the rapidly disappearing open land. That many of the people who “buy” these monstrosities are now finding that they can’t pay the usurious mortgages and are defaulting and being forced to abandon or move out of them is just beginning to really register the media’s attention. When banks lose money, you can depend on the establishment taking an interest. That the all wise Market didn’t see this coming this time, when we have the experience of an only slightly different variation fewer than twenty years ago, has done nothing to diminish the absurd repute in which The Market is held. Our media never made Neal Bush an issue in any subsequent election. The same people who robbed us blind then are still operating with complete impunity. McCain is once again on his way to becoming the great hope of the establishment as the rest of the empty suits are abandoned.
But beneath this disaster is the far worse disaster of the liquidation of the agricultural possibility of large parts of the United States. A housing development is the last crop that will ever be planted on a former farm field. In large parts of the Eastern United States the amount of land useful for growing crops is a very small fraction of what it once was when the population was far smaller. And as any marginally intelligent farm hand could tell you they aren’t making any more of it. Something that most of the most august members of our intelligentsia couldn’t tell you.
As energy becomes more expensive, as much of that energy consumes what was once food, as the population grows, the loss of farm land will become an increasingly obvious crisis. That crisis is directly attributable to the superstition of The Market, the Unseen Hand, the wisdom of finance and the entire REAL religion of the majority of people today. Our legal system is largely given over to the propagation of the religion of property and contracts, it serves the god Mammon and no other.
A friend of mine is a politician in one of the towns next to where I live. There was extensive flooding last spring and a number of expensive houses built on the watershed of the Salmon Falls River were heavily damaged. He told me of a meeting he went to in which FEMA representatives heard complaints from, among others, the largest real estate agent in town and a member of what is jokingly referred to as the Planning Board. Most small town planning boards could be replaced by a large rubber stamp. Why, they wanted to know, had their houses sustained extensive damage? Why were the floods coming more often and reaching farther onto the land, causing them great expense and discomfort. The FEMA specialist said that one of the reasons was that development had denuded the land and the problem of run off and so flooding was enhanced. Of course those with a financial interest in the deforestation couldn’t believe this was true, knowing one of them I’m sure they would blame it on immigrants before they would face reality. Money makes people stupid, that’s an idea that I’ve seen little to contradict.
We are well past the cusp of the problems predicted by environmental scientists over the past fifty years, problems that will result in famines and other horrors that won’t be ignored. There are a lot of things that will have to be faced up to, the population problem, the problems of depending on depleted sources of energy, energy that destroys the environment.... You know a lot of the catalog of coming disasters. We won’t have the option of pretending that The Market and the Anglo-American legal religion will be applicable, those have largely enhanced the problem, they won’t survive once the disasters they mandate have run their course. Increasingly those orthodoxies will be seen for what they are, man-made institutions set up largely to enhance the privilege of the wealthy, at their most enlightened to manage the rabble into acquiescence.
I wish I could be more optimistic but until we give up the superstitions of The Market and the absolute rights of those who hold property to profit from it at the expense of society in general and the environment we all depend on, optimism will be a phantom. Maybe optimism is in believing that it is possible to at least mitigate the disasters that our delusion has caused.