Some people have been calling for “transformation” of our economic and political systems; I saw another such call this morning. I will not name those people, because their intentions are good and I do not wish to bring an attack upon them. But they are understating our problem, and by doing so they are misleading people and doing more harm than good.
“Transformation” is not big enough or fast enough. It suggests big, bold reforms, but it falls short of the revolution we really need. It suggests retaining a continuity with the current system, as though that were somehow advantageous, but what we really need is a break with the current system. The current system is poisonous in its root, its most fundamental principles. That’s not obvious, because our current system disguises its most fundamental principles. It pretends to be rooted in “freedom” and “democracy,” when it is actually rooted in conquest and domination. It is both monstrous and unsustainable.
Our “freedom” is just a slogan, for most of our workplaces are little dictatorships. And our “democracy” is just a delusion: Gilens and Page proved statistically in 2014 that, regardless of elections, our public policies are those preferred by the rich. That’s called plutocracy. It’s not recent: We have been ruled by the rich ever since our constitution was written by the biggest landowners in this stolen country. In fact, we have been ruled by the rich for 12,000 years, ever since we switched from sharing to hoarding.
If we don’t share, we must trade. Trade brings greater profit to whichever trader was already in the stronger bargaining position. Thus trade increases inequality, creating poverty and plutocracy. Wealth is power. Power is corruption; that goes both ways:
- On the one hand, those who are already corrupt move into positions of power, because they want power and because they are good at climbing the “ladder of success.” They win the competition of the climb, not by merit, but by ruthlessness.
- On the other hand, after someone acquires power, that power tends to corrupt them. That’s because power insulates them from the feelings and actions of the powerless. It’s also because they begin to believe the stories they invent to justify their privilege.
Whatever good our society has accomplished, has been in spite of the establishment, not because of it. There is a good essence in human nature, but everything else must go. Aside from the Post Office, there is nothing worth preserving in our current institutions. Except maybe the stories. If we could create a society that actually lives up to the noble-sounding lies that our present society claims about itself, that would be good.
Don’t bother appealing to the consciences of the powerful, for they haven’t any. That is proven by all our many wars, which are mass murders based on lies to make the rich richer.
The foundations of our current society actually are not freedom and democracy, but selfishness, separate property, private profit. And those actual foundations are the source of all our problems. Poverty, war, ecocide, global warming, our race to extinction, all happen because they are profitable to someone.
If we want to end poverty, war, ecocide, global warming, and our race to extinction, we’ll have to end what causes them. If we want cooperation, we have to be friends, but friends don’t let friends starve to death. We must switch from hoarding back to sharing. We must expropriate the rich.
And the rich won’t like that, and so they will fight us. The rich have a lot of power, so to defeat them we’ll have to get on our side all or nearly all of the 99%. And the 99% will need a lot of convincing, because for centuries they’ve been brainwashed to believe that “sharing is bad.”
And we have little time to make the change. In fact, we have virtually no time at all. That’s because climate change is coming bigger and faster than the corporate press says, because the corporate press is owned by the same 1% that owns the fossil fuel companies.
The feedback loops of global warming are already in operation. A feedback loop is a process whose consequences are also causes. Here are a couple of examples, which now continue regardless of human activity:
- The ice that covers the Arctic Ocean is melting. Thus white ice is replaced by dark water. Sunlight is reflected less and absorbed more. So the Arctic warms more. But what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.
- In some places the warming causes drought, resulting in more forest fires. The fires warm the planet directly. They also generate soot, which darkens Earth’s surface wherever it lands, thus reflecting less sunlight etc.
Feedback loops cause exponential growth. Here is the graph of the exponential curve. At the left end the curve starts off hugging the horizontal axis so closely that the phenomenon is easy to overlook or deny. Seeing it requires special equipment and special training; you have to know where to look. But the system gradually grows. And the bigger it gets, the faster it grows, because the consequences are also causes. Thus the curve not only rises higher and higher, but rises faster and faster – that is, the hill becomes more steep. After a while the rising is visible to everyone regardless of equipment or training. (Global warming became visible to many people with “Superhurricane” Sandy in 2012.) It can no longer be overlooked or denied. And soon after that the system is enormous and growing explosively. The right end of the curve exits, not at the right side of the diagram, but at the top of the diagram.
And in addition to the feedback loops, we’re also heading toward tipping points. These are harder to predict, but they may be enormous. For instance, when the Arctic warms enough, it may suddenly release all its frozen methane. That would be a sudden enormous increase in greenhouse gases.
Global warming won’t level off after destroying civilization and killing most humans. The feedback process will keep growing until all its causes are gone. Global warming will continue until all the trees and all the Arctic ice are gone. By then we humans will all be dead, along with most other species. Our only chance to fix this problem is now, before civilization is destroyed.
The plutocrats, throwing gasoline on the fire, are insane, for the warming will kill them too. The experts have known that for 50 years, but the plutocrats are not listening. Why won’t they listen? Following are two explanations; perhaps they both contain some truth.
- Generally the plutocrats equate wealth with intelligence. The climatologists are not rich, so the plutocrats conclude that the climatologists are not smart and not worth listening to. Moreover, in the past the plutocrats’ wealth has always protected them from the consequences of their actions, and they assume that this pattern will continue. Of course, that’s a mistake. Some crop failures have already begun. When all the food is gone, then piles of money become worthless.
- Another theory is that the plutocrats themselves are not in really charge. The market forces them to compete against each other for short-term profits and to disregard long-term consequences. Any plutocrat who loses that competition will cease to be a plutocrat.
At any rate, it doesn’t much matter why the plutocrats aren’t listening. The fact is that they aren’t listening, and they haven’t listened for 50 years, and there’s no reason to believe they’re about to start listening. We can no longer afford their wars, and we certainly can no longer afford their warming. We must rid ourselves of the plutocrats, and quickly.
The first step is to spread the awareness of all that I’ve just said. We must spread it quickly. Do good ideas ever spread quickly? That’s not prevented by some known immutable law like gravity, but still the rapid spreading of good ideas rarely happens. It would be something like a miracle. Okay, I’m hoping for a miracle, but I don’t see any other hope, and if you do then I think you’re fooling yourself. I’m doing the little I can, with social media and sign-carrying, to help the miracle along. Indeed, my Twitter name – which I change often – currently is “Trying to help the miracle.” I urge you to join that effort.
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2022 Aug 18, version 1.05.