13 November 2020

Feels fail as policy

 Without a positive future to describe, we will lose, and with that loss comes a true, grinding horror of mass extinction, degradation, and suffering. Please, please, please make room for hope.

That's the generally clever Nick Harkaway, falling prey to the assumptions of Christian eschatology.

There will be no redemption; there will be no salvation.  Those happen in the afterlife, which doesn't exist.

The folks getting rich off of open-loop extractive capitalism -- that would be everyone who is in any sense rich -- don't think a future in which they're not doing that is positive.  They've been making that decision for forty-odd years now, and it behoves us to listen.  (There was totally, is totally, the option of a decision to get rich some other way.  It's been actively disdained.)

If we want a future with a smaller mass extinction, there are a number of thing we must do.  Cease fossil carbon extraction; cease outdoor illumination at night (yes, really; it's at least as lethal to insects as pesticides, and it's much harder to evolve around); acknowledge that if what makes you middle class is owning your house your house is still worthless.  Stop using synthetic materials that do not either rot nor get recycled.  Recognise that going on a binge with capital is not income, no matter how long or how much or how habituated the carbon binge has become.

The current oligarchy isn't going to do that for the sake of a positive future; they're mammonites, and the only requirement for a positive future is having all the money.  Having all the money in a complex, healthy ecosystem and having all the money in an underground bunker dependent on filtered air and mushroom-farming based on a steadily decreasing supply of frozen corpses is much of a muchness to a mammonite.

The current oligarchy probably wouldn't do that if the certain alternative was public unanesthetized auto-orchidectomy with a charity shop cheesegrater.

So the hope, if you must descend into the weakness of hope, is not for a less damaged world than there might have been; the hope is not for a quiet passing of extractive capitalism, that supreme engine of war; the hope is the hope of victory.

Victory is having the leisure above survival to fix stuff; victory is having no more oligarchy.  Victory is the prospect of a human population who does not regret their precarious existence.

You don't get that through hope, or wrath, or righteousness; you get that through planning.  You get that through not flinching away from the purpose of the system is what you observe it to do. (The government of Ontario exists to kill as many people as necessary to ensure the cash flow of the existing rich.)


arborman said...

"The government of Ontario exists to kill as many people as necessary to ensure the cash flow of the existing rich."

Strong words, hard to argue with in any practical sense.

I work in housing and shelters on the west coast. We deal with regular death as a result of policy in the housing/drug/mental health/poverty nexus. I experience a lot of resistance when I state that the current number of people dying involves some policy intent - i.e. these people we know have died because it is worth it for the purpose of current policy, which is to preserve the value of capital.

I find myself straddling the divide as well, being a property owner. I like having a home, I have no delusions that I have any kind of 'dominion' as my best before date is at most 50 years out, and there is enough madness in the world to suspect it will come much sooner. But the appeal of some housing security is strong and attractive to many of us, and hard to overcome.

Graydon said...

I am all for people having stable, secure homes!

The problem is that the current housing stock was not built for the time of angry weather (drainage, how readily the roof gets blown off, how close it is to something flammable...), and it wasn't (in statistically all cases) built to be habitable without being able to light something on fire, generally fossil carbon something. Tying that housing stock -- in dire and immediate need of replacement -- to both "you're only middle class if you own your house" (a clever trick related to the political maneuvers around separating wages from productivity) AND to separated single family dwellings you can only inhabit if you have one car per adult family member remains a false promise; wildly sub-optimal as policy and not representing a real source of value over the approaching historical discontinuity. (and then there's lawns.)

Plus all the folks who just can't manage a down payment because minimum wage job.

It'd like to see that all addressed; it'd be good for everyone and everything except capital.

Absolutely the number of people dying involves policy intent. Same with pedestrians hit by cars and the air pollution excess deaths (which is a much larger number than generally recognised) and the "you're worthless" suicide rate. The purpose of the system really is what it does.