Sunday, November 11, 2007

Welcome Home, Mr. Orwell

Well, in the top 10 most Orwellian pieces of news of the year comes this lovely quote from our Deputy Director of National Intelligence:

"Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information."

Yup, that's right, we've got the official statement here - we're a fascist state. Perhaps we should more accurately say "corporatist." We've hired a new director of fascism, and he's doing the kindness of giving it to us straight. Businesses and governments will now relieve us of the inconvenience of having to be private, if we will only trust them to wisely govern us in our own interests. Fascism, by definition, is the integration of corporate power with state power - and that's what is being described here, quite explicitly. If we ever pretended that we were doing anything else, we've ceased to do so.

Richard Heinberg recently described three choices available to our society as "An Ecological New Deal" in which we put all our energies and money towards vast public works projects to enable us to live in a low energy society, "Fascism" and "Bottoms Up" in which society more or less falls apart and operations must occur at lower levels - city, state or local. During his Community Solutions presentation, Heinberg argued that he thought Feudal Fascism was pretty much the direction the US was headed in, and I can't say I disagree - the above, of course, being just one more bit of evidence.

While an ecological New Deal would obviously be the ideal option here, I admit to bluntly believing it is not possible to achieve it. The economic bad news we're getting now, is as even the most deeply invested admit, only the tip of the iceberg. The New Deal depended on the US's ability to borrow vast sums of money from nations who had reason to believe we'd repay them - but our current economy has depended far too long on vast borrowed sums, borrowed from people with no reason whatsoever to believe we might repay them. They are done loaning us money, and the whole creaking edifice is collapsing. Heinberg himself points out that other nations are fairly well placed to implement ecologicaly keynesianism, but the US is not.

So what's left? Fascism, or "bottoms up" - and I know which one looks better to me. I can't imagine anyone who prefers to live in the state described above - one where the cynical redefinition of terms transforms our right to privacy into one more privelege for the repressive, all-overseeing state. Bottoms up may be disruptive, but yet again, I find myself in agreement with Thomas Homer-Dixon's argument that collapse may actually be better than the alternative.

If there's hope here, I find it in Thomas Princen's book, _The Logic of Sufficiency_, one of the most hopeful and remarkable books I've read, where he says,

I discovered in my earlier research on international conflict resolution that however intractable an intersocial conflict may be, there are always people working on the solution. Pick the direst time in the Middle East conflict, for example, and you can find someone hidden away in a basement drawing up maps for the water and sewer lines, lines that will connect the two societies and that must be built when peace is reached, as inconceivable as that is at the time. Someone else is sketching the constitution for a new country, the one that is also inconceivable at the time. And someone else is outlining the terms of trade for the as yet unproduced goods that will traverse the two societies' border. We do not hear about these people because it is the nature of their work, including the dangers of their activities, that make it so. Surrounded by intense conflict, hatred adn violence, these people appear the food, idealists who do not know or can not accept the reality of their societies' situation. If they really knew that situation, others would say, they would be 'realists'; they would concentrate their efforts on hard bargaining, economic incentives and military force. But in practice, when a threshold is passed, when leaders shake hands or a jailed dissident is freed or families from the two sides join together, everyone casts about for new ways to organize.

My prognosis, foolish and idealistic as it may seem to some, is that the threshold, that day of biophysical reckoning, is near. And with it, serious questions about humans' patterns of material provisioning, their production, their consumption, their work and their play. Then the premises of modern industrial societies - capitalist, socialist, communist - will crumble. Efficiency will provide little guidance...A feedlot is still a feedlot, a conveyor belt still a conveyor belt. When it becomes obvious that efficiency-driven societies can no longer continue their excesses, displace their cotss, postpone their investments in natural capital, when it is obvious that they can no longer grow their way out of climate change and species extinctions and aquifer depletions and the bioaccumulation of persistent toxic substances, people eerywhere will indeed be casting about...Notions of moderation and prudence and stewardship will stand up, as if they were just waiting to be noticed, waiting for their time, even though, in many realms, they were always there."

Now, then, is the time for us to make up some alternate maps, to create some alternate structure to the fascist ones being built around us. And maybe it is time to get over our fear of collapse - there are worse things, after all.



Anonymous said...

Your posts are always so timely for me in my journey to understand and take action in this rapidly shifting world. Daniel Shorr pointed out a much overlooked opinion of Michael Mukasey that is quite disturbing:

Tina in Ohio

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sharon- he's already in. The caption of the picture you saw mentioned his confirmation hearings back in August.

He's now the Principle Deputy Director of National Intelligence.

Kate in CO

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post; both the beginning on fascism and the end with the Princen quote. I'm going to get his book; thanks for the referral. I was just talking about this with my husband YESTERDAY; the encroaching lack of privacy that we are encountering. I used the example of a 10% surcharge for cash users on the toll highways in NY state. Maybe on the surface this appears to be a good thing and may even reduce some traffic, although I highly doubt it, what it really points to is the outlawing of cash purchases which are by their very nature private. Major run-on sentence there...Once you can no longer use your cash because businesses won't accept it or because the "surcharge" is too high to stomach, you are tracked by the machine. Every plastic move you make will be observed, recorded and dealt with as the people in power see fit. I'm starting to be just a bit more nervous than I was last year.
Heidi in Schodack

jewishfarmer said...

Hi Kate - Thanks for pointing out that I'm an idiot ;-), and didn't read the article carefully enough. Sorry about that - I was so struck by the quotation that the rest of it just passed me by. Not surprised, though.


Anonymous said...

Eesh, Orwell or Atwood?

Check out this retired AF guy's take on what is happening to our Air Force and military.

I am particular struck by the last line

"As I look back at my 30 years as an active-duty officer, two combat tours in Vietnam, decorations including air medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross, I realize that not once was my service in support or defense of the Constitution. For the very first time, I am upholding my oath of office."

-Brian M

Anonymous said...

Sharon, thanks for good post and links. Richard Heinberg's article is a must-read.

The 2008 Defense Authorization Bill (HR 1585) authorizes use of US Military for domestic purposes. Another bit of evidence that the U.S. is heading towards what Richard Heinberg calls "Feudal Fascism" (linked from Sharon's post).

The following articles on HR 1585 tie in well with the Common Dreams article provided by Brian M.


Sure looks like Blackwater USA will be patrolling our streets!

~Vegan/Leaving So. FL

Rosa said...

More and more lately, for me, the question hasn't been "would you open your door to the stranger" - I think I can say yes, I've opened my door to neighbors in need in the past - but "Would the stranger knock on your door?" I've been so inactive politically lately, and I look so *normal* these days, I don't know that an AWOL soldier or a person in danger of deportation (our neighborhood is about 1/3 Hispanic) or an anarchist being prosecuted for attending a meeting at which news articles about ELF actions were discussed would even bother asking me for help, and I'm out of the loop with all the various political and poverty action networks that I don't know I would hear when help is needed.

And since part of the reason I stoped being active in those circles (aside from working-mother exhaustion) is that I stopped feeling like they were effective vehicles for change, I don't know of a way to get mroe hooked in without taking scarce time and resources away from the few efforts I am contributing to right now.

It's something I think about a lot, lately, since ICE raids local stores and apartment buildings, guns drawn, on a fairly regular basis. Like on a sunny Saturday afternoon when I'm riding my bike (child in trailer) home from the library.

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