Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crisis of Civilization.2

Notice: This blogpost is a direct followup to my last post, so if you're lacking context, start there.

This book [Nafeez Ahmed's A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization] is still solid gold.

It argues (author Nafeez Ahmed argues), similarly to Jensen, and I quote:

  1. "Global crises [several of which mentions earlier and later in the book and which form the framework of the tome itself, and which can be found in my last post] are not aberrations from an optimized global system which require only minor adjustments to policy; they are integral to the ideology and logic of the global political economy.
  2. "Therefore, global crises cannot be solved solely by such minor or even major policy reforms - but only by drastic reconfiguration of the system itself. Failure to achieve this will mean we are unable to curtail the escalations of crises.
  3. "Conventional expert projections on the impact of global crises on the political, economic, and ecological continuity of our civilization are flawed due to their view of these crises as separate, distinctive processes. They must be understood holistically, intertwined in their causes and hence interrelated in their dynamics" (6).
So what's the problem? He'll defend it pretty handily through the book, but here's your thesis:

"neoliberal capitalism [has an] inability to recognize long-term human costs as opposed to short-term profits [and relies] on the coercive powers of the state to mobilize against resistance to neoliberal policies" (10). If any of these concepts are new to you, ask me about 'em.

Similarly, the global economic recession "took place in a global political economy whose structure is built not only on the systematic generation of massive global inequality through the exacerbation of Southern impoverishment and Northern overconsumption, but also on the creation of profit through the systematization of debt" (11). Here 'Southern' and 'Northern' refer to the earth's hemispheres generally and replace for him the progressive political/societal concepts of 'Eastern' and 'Western.' 

I'm excited and sad as Ahmed extraordinarily convincingly talks about the ideological causes and effects of and the deep interplay between i) climate change, ii) energy scarcity, iii) food insecurity, iv) economic instability, v) international terrorism, and the tendency of those in power to vi) militarize to keep their power. More to come.

In the meantime, I'm also reflective. My minister asked me over dinner the other night what I would do if I lived without fear. I answered something about living a radically different lifestyle (which I can expound upon for those who are interested) - all well and good. But today, while reading during my lunch break, I realized what my biggest fear actually is. I've lived through some emotional pain. I've never experienced terrible physical pain, but I get a taste now and then. My biggest fear, at least today, is not physical discomfort or losing my existing loved ones and never being loved again. It is instead that as I eventually discover my own voice and confidence and start to speak out about the truth as I understand it, that people will
     a. tell me they already know AND
     b. tell me that they've chosen to live without compassion, to live on top while they still can

Ostriches with our heads in the sand.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed's "A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization"

So begins another of my book reports in progress. Like live tweeting, but with more words and over a larger, denser subject?

I'm only seven pages into this book, but so far every word is gold. Every idea and argument is well considered, well-researched, convicted, intelligent, strong. It all gels with what my research and my soul both tell me. I'd urge folks to read the whole thing so far, but here are a few small quotes I've pulled out. Like I said, there are so many others, but these are the ones I was compelled to write down (in longhand in terrible chickenscratch):

"If global crises are symptoms of a period of civilizational transition, then the onus is on us to work actively toward developing a system that is more just, equitable and free than is currently even conceivable" (2).

Man, you can tell I love this guy because I respect his choice not to use the serial comma.

Ahmed calls the ideological and ethical (and other categories) system that characterize civilization as a whole "dysfunctional" (3).

"The real threat to civilization is not from outside. It is from itself" (3).

Harvard professor and former US government advisory Samuel Huntington said a long time ago that the global predominance of Western civilization is not a consequence of inherent ideological or moral superiority but rather of 'superiority in applying organized violence' (5).

Of course I agree with this. Starting with my observations as a child, my awakening realization of accelerating resource scarcity, and my study of Derrick Jensen and Howard Zinn (and Lester Brown and so many others), I have seen how Western Civilization has been built on the backs of the "other," peoples too 'stupid,' 'weak,' 'backwards,' poor 'savages,' 'beasts,' 'bastards' who live in ways we no longer value (as a society, though not necessarily as individuals) and sit on landbases that have all the goods we want.

So, I started this post backwards, assuming you have the context of my mind already in your own.

Here's kind of where I started (this part of the journey)...

Check this out. The visual part is a little hokey, but listen to the audio. See what resonates with you. Argue where you disagree but keep an open mind. If you know something I don't (and I guarantee you do), I want to hear about it.

This book "argues that financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, terrorism and food shortages need to be considered as different parts of the same ailing system," it offers a warning about the potential consequences of failing to view the system as a whole, and it "shows how catastrophe can be avoided" (the back cover).

And so it begins.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

On Gun Control

Here's my quick Facebook-post opinion on gun control. Hint: it's not as simple as gun control.

"I don't personally like guns, but I do like the Second Amendment. I think we should enforce the laws we have, make it more difficult for criminals and the mentally ill to acquire guns, promote a culture where more and more dangerous guns are not cool or necessary, and address the malaise and mental health that are escalating in this country and in the Western world. I believe our collective mental health is suffering because 1. of the way we institutionally, systematically, and a priori-ly equate Consuming with Moral Good and 2. we engage in flagrant theft, misuse, and waste of resources that are not renewing nearly as quickly as we can consume them (and we're becoming increasingly more aware, consciously or subconsciously, that this is wrong)."