To Survive: We Need A Global Awakening Much Bigger Than A “Revolution,” Much Deeper Than Just Ending Capitalism by Eric Schechter

Postapocalyptic

Image by Revan Jinn via Flickr

by Eric Schechter aka LeftyMathProf
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Eric’s Rants and Videos blog
June 9, 2019

Paradise or Extinction

leftymathprof on Jun 8, 2019

The climate apocalypse will soon kill all of us (including the plutocrats), if we don’t take drastic measures right away. But the plutocrats are blocking those measures, because they don’t want anything cutting into their short-term profits. In this video I discuss the crazy culture that has us headed toward extinction. To survive, we need an immense cultural change.

Transcript:

The climate apocalypse is coming bigger and faster than most people realize. It’s about to kill us all, as I’ll explain. We’re also threatened by poisons in our air, food, and water, and by the growing likelihood of nuclear war. But all these problems originate in the same malfunction of our culture; I’ll focus on the climate problem as it is most certain.

There are measures we could take to avert extinction, but we’re being stonewalled by our rulers, who are more concerned with short-term profits. Our governments and corporations can’t be reformed, and must be overthrown, because their idiocy is not superficial: It’s embedded in the fundamental design of our institutions. In fact, it’s in all of us, not just our rulers. It’s in our socioeconomic system, our culture, our way of seeing the world — as I’ll explain.

To survive, we need a global awakening and metamorphosis, our biggest cultural change in 10,000 years, much bigger than a “revolution,” much deeper than just ending capitalism.

That change, necessary to avert extinction, will also solve most of our other problems. We’ll awaken to a much better world than we had imagined was possible: a world where all are friends, everyone has enough, no one is on top, no one is left behind, and we plan the economy together for the best for everyone. I would describe that better world as paradise, but some religious people may interpret it as Rapture.

1. Our Imminent Doom

Global warming is a feedback loop: Some of its results are also causes. Consequently, the bigger it gets, the faster it grows and the harder it is to stop. That’s exponential acceleration, which I’ve graphed here in orange. It starts out small and slow; that’s the nearly horizontal portion at the left end of the curve. Eventually it grows large enough to be visible. Soon after that, it’s enormous and growing explosively; that’s the nearly vertical portion at the right end of the curve.

We’ve just entered the visible portion. Floods, droughts, crop failures, rising food prices, famines, mass migrations of refugees have already begun. If we continue on our present course, we’ll soon see the collapse of civilization, the end of any sort of organized human activity, I’d guess by 2030. At that point, most of humanity will die quickly (starting with the poor). Only a few preppers and billionaires will still survive. But it doesn’t stop at that point.

The few surviving humans might believe they can wait out the apocalypse. Preppers believe that Nature will heal herself once most humans are gone. Sorry, no such luck. Global warming was begun by human activities, but some of the feedback loops are now independent of human activities. For instance, the melting of ice lowers the planet’s reflectivity, and so speeds the warming.

Thus, even after civilization collapses, the planet will keep getting hotter, faster than plants and animals can adapt. Soon the entire ecosystem will collapse. Humans and nearly all other species will go extinct, I’d guess by 2040. The many headlines warning us of sea rise are missing the point.

2. Addressing the Climate Emergency

To avert extinction, we must try to halt global warming while that still might be possible, while we still have some organized capabilities, some civilization. We’d better hurry.

We’ll need to plant more trees, and build more solar panels and windmills. We’ll need to redesign all our products to be local, reusable, recyclable, organic, biodegradable, and carbon-neutral or carbon-negative. We’ll need to breed hardier phytoplankton and fund other kinds of climate-friendly research. We’ll need to ban industrial meat and other sources of methane. We’ll need to quickly phase out fossil fuels, long before we have enough renewable capacity to replace them; that means we’ll need rationing. We’ll need more telecommuting and more public transportation. We’ll need to retool all our infrastructure, all our industries; it will be a bigger change than the preparations for World War Two.

But all these changes are presently blocked by our socioeconomic system, so we’ll need to change that too. The obstruction is bipartisan, by the way: The Republicans say “never” but most of the Democrats say “later,” which amounts to the same thing.

Choose carefully among the climate rebellions: Some of them are promoting “Green Capitalism,” but that’s an oxymoron; any kind of capitalism is madness. And if Elon Musk escapes to Mars, he’ll bring the madness with him.

3. A History of Madness

For 300,000 years we lived as hunter-gatherers. The archaeological evidence suggests that we lived as equals, without hierarchy. We shared everything of importance, and claimed nothing as private property. That’s still who we are, genetically. Most of us like to cooperate whenever we can; that’s still basic human nature.

All our changes since then have been cultural. Our biggest cultural change was 10,000 years ago: We discovered agriculture, and we settled in villages and later in cities. And then we took a wrong turn: Urban life did not make hierarchy and property necessary, but it made them possible, and we unwisely adopted those institutions. And today most people still accept hierarchy and property, unaware of the great damage those institutions cause. It is difficult for people to see their own culture. It’s as invisible, unnoticed, unquestioned as the air we breathe.

Hierarchy concentrates power into a tiny ruling class, which corrupts. Property necessitates trade, which increases inequality and thus concentrates power too. The desire to acquire private wealth and power is incentive for all sorts of evils. Political and monetary power are to some degree interchangeable: Each can be used to acquire the other, and so business and government merge, despite any claims that they check each other. For 10,000 years we’ve had one plutocracy after another; that means “rule by the rich.” Money is influence, so the only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class; that requires a different economic system.

Trade also has externalities, unmeasured side effects that are enormously destructive. One side effect is ecocide, which is now killing the whole world. Thus markets and competition really are not efficient.

Despite rising productivity, most of us are experiencing hard times; the hardest hit can be seen begging on street corners. And property and competition separate us from one another, killing empathy, giving rise to racism, sexism, austerity, authoritarianism, war, bombings, shootings, and other cruelties.

Those evils are inherent in any system of ruling and owning; they cannot be cured through regulations or reforms. And moderation is no solution; a little bit of capitalism is like a little bit of cancer. But hierarchy and property are deeply embedded in our culture; it is hard for us to imagine life without them. Getting rid of them will be an enormous change.

This culture of ruling and owning may have begun in the middle east (see Genesis 1:26). It spread by the sword, to cover most of the eastern hemisphere. Then Columbus brought it to the western hemisphere as well. Native Americans had occasionally seen a similar disease in individuals, and so they had a name for it: wetiko.

The current manifestation of property is capitalism, which has additional problems of its own. It cannot exist in a steady state, and so it is constantly disrupting people’s lives. A capitalist system must grow at least 3% per year, or else it will collapse into recession or depression. But the planet is not getting any bigger, so “sustainable growth” is an oxymoron. Eventually the system will collapse; but will it take us all down with it?

Hierarchy and property could have continued tormenting us for millennia more, but around 300 years ago things got even worse: We invented modern science, and began developing modern technology. That magnifies all our capabilities for good or ill. It has been mostly ill because, steered by wetiko, we have used technology unwisely. Technology is now poisoning our planet, while arming madmen high and low with terrible weapons. The countdown clock is ticking: We must end this socioeconomic system soon, or it will end us.

A cultural change can’t be imposed by law or force. It only occurs voluntarily, when people see their old culture more clearly.

4. A World of Lies

We’re surrounded by lies, especially here in the USA. Nothing is as it appears. The 1999 film “The Matrix,” though depicting a different set of lies, dramatizes how extreme can be the disconnect between what we see and reality. But in that film, the lies are imposed on people physically. Here in our own world, the lies are only imposed culturally: People see what they are taught to see.

Some people have seen a little of the truth, and think they’ve seen it all. They glibly call themselves “woke,” and they may stop looking further. These people may be the hardest to awaken.

For instance, some activists blame all our problems on the Federal Reserve or other aspects of our monetary system, which makes a few rich men richer at everyone else’s expense. If only those activists would keep looking, they’d discover that every part of any market-based economy makes a few rich men richer at everyone else’s expense. Trade — for labor, food, rent, whatever — increases inequality, by giving greater benefit to whichever trader was already in the stronger bargaining position.

Corporate news is full of lies, supporting both major parties. And even our entertainment is full of lies, in the background assumptions implicit in every fiction. Television dramas show little of the desperation of our real lives, as we struggle to hold onto jobs we hate. Television and movies depict the military, police, FBI, CIA, etc., as our protectors, while in real life they are actually authoritarians protecting the rich and powerful.

Our history books depict the USA as a brave land of freedom, but really the USA has been a plutocracy thinly disguised as a democracy ever since its “founding” in land theft, genocide, and slavery. Statistics show that the rich get the public policies they want and the rest of us don’t, regardless of elections.

In the novel “1984,” the military branch of the totalitarian government is called the “Ministry of Peace.” Shortly after that book was published, the US War Department was renamed as the “Defense” Department, but it has nothing to do with defense. Rather, it is all about profitable weapons sales, the theft of resources, and the destruction of market rivals and political independents. The name change has fooled many Americans into believing that their military is on the right side of every war, but in fact our military has been routinely propping up dictatorships and overthrowing democracies that posed no threat to us, wherever this suited the owners of our government. Over half our federal budget is spent on wars, all based on lies, all making a few rich men richer at everyone else’s expense. Our honored statesmen of both major parties really are liars, thieves, and mass murderers.

5. Plutocrats and Climate Change

The ruling class is not on our side, and this is particularly evident regarding the climate apocalypse. For half a century oil companies have been lying about global warming. Thirty years ago President George H. W. Bush was concealing scientist James Hanson’s climate reports. A few years ago, when the Arctic started melting, that should have been a wake-up call to ban fossil fuels, but instead our rulers began planning to extract fossil fuels from the Arctic.

The attitude of the ruling class toward the climate apocalypse is puzzling. After all, they are destroying the world that makes them rich, and they are destroying the future of everyone including themselves and their own children. I’m not sure why they are doing that, but I can suggest a few possible explanations:

  1. First of all, you have to understand that a few of the plutocrats are making immense profits from fossil fuels.
  2. Maybe some of the plutocrats figure that they won’t live long enough to see the end anyway, and they don’t care about their own children. They are sociopaths who only care about enjoying fabulous wealth for themselves in the here and now.
  3. The plutocrats are not really united — they are in cutthroat competition against each other. Each of them is thinking, “I just want to make a quick buck for myself right now; I’ll let someone else worry about cleaning up the mess.
  4. Climate activist Bill McKibben explained that the oil companies need to leave most of their proven reserves in the ground. He may have overlooked the fact that in our current economic system, a corporation cannot simply walk away from most of its assets. We must distinguish between a corporation and its employees. If a corporate manager says “we shouldn’t be making a profit this way, it’s bad for the world,” he will just be fired.
  5. In the past, the plutocrats’ wealth has protected them from the consequences of their actions, and they believe that will happen again. They believe they can hide in a luxury underground bunker, wait out the climate apocalypse, and then come out again when all the fuss is over. (They’re mistaken.)
  6. Finally, politicians are a bit lacking in imagination. The changes we need for combating global warming are bigger than anything the politicians can imagine to be possible. And they don’t want the embarrassment of introducing impossible legislation.

6. A Better World

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can have a world where we’re all friends and no one is left behind, where everyone has enough, and we all plan for the future together. We just have to replace hierarchy and property with horizontalism and sharing, respectively.

The first step is to talk about all of this, and get more people to understand it. Feel free to write your own essay, or hand out copies of mine. My latest revision is at http://LeftyMathProf.org. You can find the transcript of this talk there, including links to related materials.

The second step is to “get organized” for some sort of “bigger-than-revolution.” I’m less clear on what that means, so this essay is still somewhat incomplete. I need to learn more about horizontal networking; I’m including a few links on that subject in the transcript for this talk:

Good luck to us all. Viva la revolución.

Shorter version:

Property is Ecocide

Feedback loops are SPEEDING UP global warming. If we don’t halt that, watch for famine, collapse of civilization, death of most humans, I’d estimate by around 2030.

But that collapse won’t halt the feedback, some of which is now independent of human activities. (For instance, the melting of polar ice reduces reflectivity and so increases the planet’s capture of sunlight.) Continued warming will collapse the ecosystem. Humans and most other species will go extinct, I’d estimate by around 2040. The billionaires in bunkers are fools: They’ll emerge to nothing but ashes.

It might not be too late to fix this. We know what changes to make in our technology. But we’re not making those changes; that’s a SOCIAL problem.

Most governments are doing too little, too late. That’s because they’re owned by plutocrats, especially oil companies, who make immense short-term profits from current arrangements. Recent wars are over the petrodollar; “humanitarian intervention” is a lie.

Part of the problem is that the plutocrats are NOT a united conspiracy like the fabled Illuminati. Each plutocrat is in this only for himself. Each says to himself, “I just want to make a quick buck right now; I’ll let someone else worry about saving life on Earth.” Yes, they’re selfish, but not a lot more than ordinary people in our society — each of whom says, “I just want to buy my own home; I’ll let someone else worry about that unlucky beggar on the street corner.”

Private property separates us, replacing cooperation with competition, which is NOT a good thing. Moderation and reform are not possible: Capitalism is devious like the Devil and grows like cancer. The only solution is sharing and caring. We need a worldwide ecosocialist revolution. The first step is to explain this to everyone.

from the archives:

Chris Hedges: Unless We Bring About A Transformational Change By Overthrowing Corporate Power and Establish A Socialist System, All Efforts To Create A Green New Deal Will Be Stillborn

We Need To Overthrow The Present Political System by Eric Schechter

David Swanson: We Can’t Save the Climate Without Ending War

Chris Hedges: The Issue Before Us is Death

What Price a Livable Planet? by Paul Street

I don’t like the phrase “Climate Change.” It’s too mild. Try Climate Catastrophe. by Paul Street

As the World Burns: Hurtling Towards an Unlivable Planet by Paul Street

Chris Hedges and Dahr Jamail: The End of Ice + The World Will End in Fire by David Swanson

Ending Capitalism Is Not Enough by Eric Schechter

Our Way Of Life Must Die — Another World Is Possible

Caleb Maupin: Socialism Will Save America!

The End Of The Road For Capitalism Or For Us All? by William Bowles

George Orwell’s 1984

16 thoughts on “To Survive: We Need A Global Awakening Much Bigger Than A “Revolution,” Much Deeper Than Just Ending Capitalism by Eric Schechter

  1. The NY-WashDC power system, composed of thousands of “people in high places”, will never reform itself. It has long ago achieved the ability to seat its own lawmaking body and judiciary, through all its means of control of obedient down chains, owning media, funding candidates etc.

  2. Pingback: Chris Hedges and Adam Frank: The Earth Is Just One Of Ten Billion Trillion Planets In The Universe – Dandelion Salad

  3. Pingback: Chris Hedges: The Radical Transformation of Jackson, MS – Dandelion Salad

  4. The plutocrats are addicted to wealth and power. Like all addicts they are in denial, hence blind to the terrible consequences of their actions for themselves as well as others.

  5. I read a quote that went something like this: When the bees go extinct, humans have 3 (5)? years to live before we go extinct. When humans go extinct, the world will flourish again….
    In that vein, I think the Powers-that-be might be trying to do away with us human so Earth can rebound. I’m perfectly happy to disappear and perhaps, we should all consider transforming back to Spirit Beings. There is no death per se, only new beginnings as Spiritual Entities on another plane. Why do we condemn death and dying as if it was something terrible? We have been given an opportunity to live with Nature on this Earth. When we can’t live with Nature, when we live against Her, then it’s time we start again. New beginnings mean getting rid of the old; means transforming what doesn’t work into something that does. Death is a re-newal. Having said all that, my time on this planet means I tread lightly and live respectfully by living with bobcats who need my chickens; honoring mosquitos because they feed lizards and toads; leaving the mice in my home alone because they live here, too; cherishing all the poop my animals make because they are the foundation of my compost, hence, my garden, my body.

    • The way I’ve heard it, only something like 1/2 of our food is pollinated by bees. So if the bees go extinct, we’re going to have a much less varied diet. But that in itself doesn’t guarantee our extinction. On the other hand, I can see plenty of other things heading us toward extinction.

      And I am not at all convinced that once the humans are gone, the rest of the world will be fine. We have set in motion certain self-perpetuating feedback loops that will =continue= destroying life on Earth after we are gone. Thus Earth will turn into something like Mars or Venus, which apparently do not support any life. The only chance of preventing that is to stop those feedback loops =before= the humans are gone.

  6. Thanks. Hard to argue with any of the discussion on the roots of the problem. But it breaks down when you say “if we don’t do XYZ we go extinct” (the “to survive we need…” part), because it’s likely now too late to avoid that outcome due to all the forcings already set into motion. Having said that, this is in there too, projecting collapse by 2030 and extinction by 2040, and while one might quibble about the dates (“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” -Yogi Berra) I’d guess the orders of magnitude are about right. Well, math prof, eh? At first I was put off a bit by the blunt tone, but then I thought, if you can’t yell Fire in a burning theater when can you? Bottom line – full marks.

  7. I believe the conditioned world view of hierarchy and private property is so embedded, the Virtual Reality so pervasive, attractive and soothing, that Human Nature so Hard Wired to seek comfort, avoid unpleasant ideas and distant danger AND the Prophets warnings so faint AND the Visionary’s plans for transformation so nebulous THAT ITS NEVER GONNA HAPPEN! But that doesn’t stop me from trying…

  8. “The first step is to explain this to everyone:” Hmm… I have found the opposite, that, in fact, explaining only creates cognitive resistance in those who won’t seek out the information for themselves, or even more fundamentally, who won’t SEE for themselves. There is no explanation needed, unless one asks, first. I am done with trying to explain this to people, unless they show an actual legitimate conscious ability and willingness to receive the information. There are forces at play here that are so infinitely more powerful than any rhetoric the most talented orator that has ever lived on Earth could ever even dream of being able to achieve. The thing with masterful essays like this is that they have that “mic drop” element, where, in fact, nothing more needs to be said, by anyone, ever again: it’s already there, free to access, available to all. No more explanation needed. If people want to wake up, they’ll wake up. If people want to change, they’ll change. The only reason to say anything is is one is forced or coerced into dialogue that they can’t escape, thus producing OPPORTUNITY to VOCALIZE, which is in essence SONIC ATTACK ON IGNORANCE.

    • I agree there is cognitive resistance by many people. I try not to force my perceptions on anyone; I just try to deliver them to people who might be ready to receive them.

      I’m sure you’ve heard “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” I think a more accurate version is, “when the student is ready, then he/she will finally notice the teacher, who has been there all along.” Or, maybe, the teacher’s message.

      I would partly agree that “it’s already there, free to access, available to all.” But I think that not everyone sees it with equal ease. Different people are hypnotized to different degrees by the Matrix of propaganda. I myself was asleep in the matrix until 2006 (when I was 56).

      And skillful oratory cannot completely solve the problem, but I think it can help a little. So I’ve been trying to understand better and trying to explain better, rewriting nearly the same ideas over and over for 13 years. I think I am improving a little.

      And the circumstances are changing. As the situation becomes more dire, more people will see it. Whether they will see it soon enough, I don’t know. All we can do is try and hope.

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