This is an astonishing moment in history. The human species has been around for about 200,000 years. Up until this point, people have made decisions about their lives, their immediate futures, but we’ve now reached the point that we have to make a decision about whether or not the species is going to survive in anything like its current form of organization of social systems.
We’re facing two fundamental questions: Nuclear war, which we know that if there were one, everything would be destroyed, and climate change. If we don’t make decisive steps right now, there will be irreversible catastrophic consequences. We’ve already inadvertently made the decision for a huge number of species. Anthropogenic climate warming is on the order of an extinction. We are playing the role of the asteroid this time.
In the primaries, nuclear war hasn’t been mentioned, not the issue of a rising crisis nor our miraculous escape for the past 70 years. Climate change is only mentioned in a fit of denial by almost all Republicans. The recently signed Paris agreement isn’t a treaty because the republican congress wouldn’t accept it. So the Paris agreement had to be a voluntary agreement. There are more focused cases to look at. Scientists at ExxonMobile made it clear that use of fossil fuels will have catastrophic effects, but then they just concealed it. The short term desire for immediate profit-making overwhelms concerns for whether your grandchildren will have a chance for a decent existence.
We’re capable of rationality, but it’s not always a driving force in our existence. There are huge efforts made to undermine rationality. Every time you turn on the TV, you’re being bombarded with massive efforts to undermine your rationality. That’s what advertising is. Markets are based on informed consumers making rational choices, but advertising creates uninformed consumers making irrational choices. A huge amount of effort and money goes towards creating illusions of famous sports heroes driving a car in order to turn normal people into consumers. A lot of deceit and distortion are efforts to prevent people from being informed. It’s an effort to make the citizenry uninformed. The US describe Iran as the greatest threat to world peace, so we think we need controls to make sure they don’t do anything. But around the world, the country seen as the greatest threat to world peace is the U.S. But American citizens are largely unaware of this.
It is possible to deal with climate change within the current state capitalist system by carrying out measures like a carbon tax, which would at least internalize costs imposed by the use of carbon and impose a greater burden of people who use fossil fuels. It would be a major step forward.
There’s a conflict in the democratic party between environmental and labour constituencies: labour wants support for gas lines, but environmentalists are against it. This is why the working class is drifting to the republicans, because the environmentalists in the democratic party are opposed to the XL pipeline. But there’s a solution that’s not discussed. This country needs massive construction work on decaying infrastructure that needs enormous amounts of labour, but it’s not even raised. All we can talk about is building pipelines. This is a sign of a social and political system that is so sick that it cannot face obvious issues and deal with them sensibly. There is plenty of demand for labour. We need labour to weatherize homes which works for environmentalists and labour both. Instead of investing in automobiles, we can use that sector to make high-speed rail. We should hand the industry over to the workforce. These issues literally aren’t part of the discussion, but they should be a critical part.
NECESSARY VALUES OF A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY:
We live in plutocracy right now. A democracy means every functioning institution would be under popular democratic control. Industrial installations should be run by their workforce. Look at John Dewey - he points out that unless this is done, politics will be just the shadow cast on society by big business, which is pretty accurate. It’s usually called libertarian socialism, but it’s basically democracy.
We need solidarity. Go back to David Hume and Adam Smith, and other pre-capitalists. They took it for granted that solidarity, sympathy, mutualism are core driving forces of human nature. Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ has been interpreted diametrically opposite to how he used it. He was thinking in terms of an agricultural economy: if a landowner accumulates all the land and everyone has to be his servant, it won’t matter because the landowner, by virtue of his sympathy to others, will ensure his property is divided equally like by an invisible hand. This shows the driving concept that underlies classical liberalism. This all ended with capitalism: Get what you can for yourself and kick everyone else in the face. And now it’s claimed that that's human nature. It’s highly deceitful. That’s what’s causing us to race over the precipice environmentally. This is a distorting ideology imposed on us that undermines normal human emotions and interactions. It's highly deceitful.
ExxonMobile is pursuing what Adam Smith denounce as the vile maxim of the masters of mankind: All for ourselves and nothing for anyone else. Sometimes that's made explicit like from the economist James Buchanan who said the ideal situation for any person is to be the owner of everything and have everyone else be his slave. But can you imagine the non-pathological person who could even dream of that idea? From the point of view of the right-wing, that's ideal. It's Ayn Rand, basically.
There's plenty of grounds for hope. Even with almost no public support, half the American population is in favour of the carbon tax. In every county in the US, polls indicate, people are in favour of more regulation of emissions. This is latent attitudes, and the hope is that they can become a powerful force to influence or replace the leadership. It can be done. There are alternatives. It's the way to put a brake on this race to disaster. We should simply continue to keep in mind the slogan that Antonio Gramsci made famous: We can have pessimistic of the intellect, but we should have optimism of the will, and if there's grounds for it, then we should grasp the opportunities that do exist and make sure they become implemented and operated.
On that note, Chris Hedges suggested we need an "American Spring" in his latest video, and it might start at the rally in Philadelphia on July 25th.