Reaching a critical mass, and why democracy is not working anymore

Posted October 14th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Ecological tipping points, economic tipping points, political tipping points – all converging on each other in multiple interrelated crises in our forests, oceans, atmosphere and biosphere, our governance (or lack thereof), into the streets of cities all around the world, a sense that ‘this’ cannot go on as it has any longer – and then the task of articulating exactly what ‘this’ is.

What ‘this’ is is a trajectory at work in our world for centuries as the mechanistic, capitalistic, imperialistic, rationalistic, positivistic mode of Western thought driving the engines of industrial growth spread across the globe. This era brought about some of the greatest achievements in human history in terms of technology, scientific discoveries, creativity, and innovation in how we live and organize our world.

It also brought about some of the greatest devastation of the planet and the human community- ecological devastation almost beyond imagining and now wreaking disruptive changes virtually everywhere, wars and a capacity for violence that seemingly has no limits, unsustainable population growth driving increasingly unsustainable human extraction and consumption, hate-filled violence against people of other nations and cultures that has created mass graves and massacre sites all across the planet, a scale of misery and human suffering from exploitation, severe poverty and hunger, theft of cultural lands and local economies by corporations and rich countries, that ought to shock the conscience but hardly ever does, especially if we’re the nation doing it or we are the people benefiting from it.

We sense it, we know it – it’s all collapsing – ecosystems and economies, dictatorships and democracies. The way this world has worked for the past couple of centuries is no longer working, if it ever did for most people in the planet. It brought about the collapses, so it can’t stop them. Every solution sought within the logic of this overarching ‘system’ – of thought and praxis – is coming up short, and the consequences are becoming apparent.

A few sources to patch together for this reflection:

“‘Sixty-two percent of young fathers in the United States earned less than $20,000 in 2002,’ according to Timothy Smeeding, a professor at the University of Wisconsin…” (NYTimes, Sept 26)

You know it has only gotten much worse since then. And this: Working-age adults the new face of poverty.

Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in income inequality, called the outlook for younger adults in the U.S. especially troubling. He pointed to youth discontent in other parts of the world, such as England, where he says high unemployment and widening inequality contributed to recent rioting.

“We risk a new underclass who are not able to support their children, form stable families, buy houses and reach the middle class,” Smeeding said.

Or this, again from the NY Times, looking at the crisis of democracy around the world:  As Scorn for Votes Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe. Does that headline have a familiar ring to it these days?

Meanwhile, a NY Times editorial from last month: Climate Change and the Exodus of Species. And this: Scientists Report Ozone Hole Over the Arctic. Or this: because climate change and the aridification of Texas, and then mono-cropping and spraying herbicides across vast acres of cropland, impacts the whole, monarch butterflies making their annual migration to Mexico face mass death. Read this story to get an idea of the magnificence, the innate knowledge and genius of this species, in order to appreciate the magnitude of the harm we are doing by the way we live on the planet.

Dam projects in South America, massive oil and gas projects being planned by Brazil, Colombia, and elsewhere in Latin America, the Obama administration’s nod to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, its approval of drilling in the melting Arctic Ocean, and this shocker – that Obama’s people will allow BP to bid on new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, and did you know that the Gulf shrimp industry has collapsed? Funny coincidence, coming in the wake of the BP oil spill.

You know I could go on. Now here’s the part that is really funny: the powers that be, the cable news pundits, newspaper editorial writers, business leaders, financiers, GOP politicians, etc., are scratching their heads with disdain and dismissiveness, wondering why thousands of people are pouring into the streets and parks of our cities in a brilliant organizing tactic of ‘occupation,’ targeting Wall Street, the corporate rich, the 1% who are not being hurt by any of these trends, but are actually enriching themselves from them!

Ha ha!! Yes, look at all these crazy people – union workers and pensioners losing all their security, victims of bank fraud and gimmicks who have lost their homes to foreclosure even as millions of them face unemployment as the private sector and now the public sector shed workers from the economy, college graduates with no hope of a job in their chosen fields but student loans that will keep them indebted for the rest of their lives, working people becoming part of the working poor because good wages and benefits are fast disappearing from the economy, threatened by escalating health care costs as they are dumped into the growing masses of the uninsured, escalating food prices because big corporations are benefiting from looming shortages, result of climate change, overuse, human development schemes, and foreign investors throwing people off their land.

You know I could go on. You know I could. You could. We could spend the weekend adding to the list.

Climate change and vast exploitation of and tearing away at the intricate interconnections of our biosphere and atmosphere are manifesting now in sharp, sudden disruptions of ecosystems across the planet. Dictatorships that grew out of European colonialism and the post-colonial order as nations were carved up and created by old empires are breaking apart, unleashing a whirlwind of political upheaval ‘from below.’ Supposedly ‘limitless’ economic growth is resulting in economic collapses multiplying across the planet as growth reaches absolute limits. And as wealth generation also reaches limits, the rich are concentrating more and more of it into their hands.

As multinational corporations tear out their roots and connections from national economies and governments, they are seizing control of the ‘democratic’ process itself and manipulating it to their benefit, both nationally and in international institutions like the World Trade Organization, more powerful now than any government body.

Ha! yes, all those crazy people Occupying Wall Street and parks and streets in scores of cities in the US, Canada, and elsewhere. Just discovered an Occupy Phillippines on Facebook this morning! (Check out these photos at MSNBC.)

Well, as we all know – if these actions had not hit the proverbial nail on the head, they would not be growing and spreading so rapidly into an international movement.

This social upheaval, to me, is exactly connected to the great upheaval of a planet writhing with wrenching change and disruption. It is our healthy biology expressing the threat we all feel. And it is a pscyho-spiritual response to that threat.

Good idea

Right now, part of the beauty of it is that we have not a clue where this is headed. It is unfolding. I think it would be wrong to articulate what it is too soon, to form an agenda and political platform. Its genius right now is the way in which it is gathering up the fear and anger and giving it positive, creative expression.

We are approaching a critical mass. Democracy as we have known it is not working anymore. It has been bought, sold, manipulated for other ends than the common good and the good of the commons. Will something new emerge from this new uprising? Stay tuned – and stay engaged. Its future will be determined by who participates and how open this space becomes to the emergence of a new form of democratic engagement.

Exhilarating, isn’ t it?


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One Response

  1. D.Bheemeswar

    Since demons are ruling the world for their creed and greed and only for their self satisfaction and the people who finance them and not fore the people who vote them to power. All these rulers are arrogant, egoistic and crooked employ all the dubious methods. But all they are [a word we don’t use here] their own motherlands and cultures. We need not bother about those culture-less scrupulous people who are in power. All these people are well supported by most incompetent governmental machinery whether it is civil or military or police.