Thursday, July 7, 2016
Mao was a shit, but he did have flashes of insight His essay on the resolution of contradictions is one of those insights. Granted, he stole freely from Marx, Hegel, and any number of philosophers, but he did nail down the role of contradiction in society.
Now, the society/kultur/zivilisation here in the US is currently aflutter. We are thrashing about, trying to figure out which way to go. Anyone with eyes open can come up with any number of thesis/antithesis statements which remain unresolved. The extent and range of these arguments is kind of amazing. We have more than our fair share of contradictions.
But to me, the core struggle appears to me to be the unresolved and hotly contested issue of whether (simply put) there is enough to go around.
In the Post-World-War Two era, prosperity in the US, exported to other countries in the form of the Marshall Plan and the Green Revolutions, had led many to believe that illiteracy, poverty, starvation and disease being eradicated by accelerated medical technologies, the spread of literacy, and the birth of widely distributed and connected computational power. This led to the cornucopian view that people had a right to demand a decent and upwardly mobile life for themselves and their children.
Beginning in the sixties with the likes of Rachel Carson, the Club of Rome, Ralph Nader, the antithesis position was created . The Doomer mentality the was based on the idea that there wasn't enough energy to provide for the rising expectations of the Cornucopians. The idea takes its most obvious form in the current "Peak Oil" movement. This states pretty clearly that the available energy from carbon fuels is going to decline in not-so-distant future and with that decline will come the return to the past, with all the attendant malaise and pain, for themselves and their children.
I can't really say that either one of these two poles is all that attractive to me. I am a slow-change kinda guy. All of these issues are being bandied about by a society which measures its attention span in 15 second blocks and whose idea of pondering a problem consists of sitting on a toilet between television programs.
I tend to believe the science behind the idea of peak oil theory. I had some serious hopes about the possibility of abiogenic oil in decades past, but the theory just didn't seem to hold up. It really does appear that the idea that the oil we are pissing away in our four-wheeled status symbols is in limited supply.
Now, what the Cornucopians want you to believe is that the energy flows will continue forever. The "free" energy of fission, fusion, cold-fusion, solar, wind, etc, etc. etc will come in and save the day. I kinda hope they are right. But truth be told, I am getting old, and have watched the hope that "this will be the breakthrough" run onto the rocks more than a few times. I think that I might be justified in being more than a little bit cynical about this.
But the Doomers are really annoying. I really think that, as a group, they are direct intellectual and moral descendants of those apocalyptic pukes (read here: the Pilgrims) that started the ethnic cleansing on this continent. Throughout the Doomer literature there is the underlying theme of the inherent "evil" of the masses and the current system and how a brave and noble few will survive to create a new Zion of asceticism, medievalism, and despair. Hell, if you change a couple of words here and there and replace "Jew" with whichever group disgusts that particular writer, I can't tell most of their diatribes from the founding documents of National Socialism.
We live in a complex society with a mature technological base. We have extensive controls on the system. We are using energy in a profligate manner. There is a limited amount of energy in the world. But I am certain that there are technical means to reduce the energy flows in the world to a more-sustainable level.
I will close this post with an example of where we are as a society. Grocery Outlet is one of my favorite places to shop. Funky and cheap is the name of the game. Anyway as I went up to the checkout yesterday, the young woman in front of me in the line (big boobs, thick, replete with the requisite west-coast tattoos was chatting on here i-Phone 5. She spoke of the partying at the bar (Dodge City, thank you) and the young man of her dreams. I was a little aghast when she paid for her purchases with a food-stamps credit card. I paid for my purchases and walked out the door as she drove off in her mid-2010's Ford Expedition.
at 6:00:00 AM