Jim Miles: Dazed And Confused
Jim Miles: Dazed And Confused
This week’s news leaves me dazed and confused
There are times when I must admit that to belong to the great group of uninformed people, or perhaps uncaring people, or unthinking people, would be a much easier way to get through life. The developed countries of the world have the wealth to create systems of distraction for the populace, systems generally called the media ranging from the old standard television through to the modern mind-trivia pursuits of Twitter and Facebook, controlled by the corporations that require a non-critical unthinking participation in the diversions that are there to keep the populace amused, distracted, entertained, pseudo-informed, patriotically biased, and generally blasé about the world around them. This cocoon of media hype provides a few glimpses of various man made and natural disasters around the world to provide conversational talking points, but seldom if ever with any context or depth of research, and always isolated one from another as if each incident exists entirely in its own sphere to be ‘ooh’ed and ’ahh’ed at and then forgotten in the daily drive to be the richest sexiest best-looking most consumptive pawn on the block.
Somehow I cannot do that, and it leaves me ‘dazed and confused’ when the mass of information that is available reveals quite transparently that all the major disaster news items are related and that the sum total of them all is that on our current course, we are all facing dramatic and perhaps traumatic changes to our lifestyles. Today’s news items that leave me dazed and confused run the full spectrum of scary items: Euro devaluation; massive oil pools in Gulf of Mexico heading towards Gulf Stream; Arctic long term ice rotting away; 145th Canadian and 1000th U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan; Israel continues occupying Palestine.
The global economy appears to be nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme that will fall apart as soon as a critical person, institute, or mass of investors stops believing they can reap more profits from it. Finance capitalism displays its fault lines all across Europe as the EU in conjunction with the IMF and World Bank - the Washington consensus - bailed out Greece. This imposes on Greece an austerity program that has long proven that it does more to impoverish the middle and lower classes offering more regressive taxation accompanied by a decline in social services and social benefits ranging from medical services, through education to pensions and income assistance.
The bailouts in Greece and the resulting market chaos from a frightened financial sector will take its toll, as usual with the masses absorbing most of the losses in the form of higher taxes and degraded services, public and private. With one big thump, neo-liberalism and its finance capitalism has arrived in Greece, soon perhaps to be followed by Spain, Portugal, Italy and who know what others to join Latvia, Estonia, and Iceland as failing Euro-states.
For all the rhetoric spewed out by global economists, it only goes to strengthen my long held belief that economists are essentially useless and the “science” of economics is an oxymoron as it is based on invented formulas from imagined markets. It also strengthens my fear that sometime soon, combined with all the other elements in the economic news concerning banks and mortgages and employment stats, something catastrophic will happen to make everyone’s savings and earnings next to worthless.
Oiling the Military
And then when it costs an estimated one million dollars a day to maintain one U.S. soldier in the Middle East, it only emphasizes how the military is very much involved with our current global economy, in more ways than one. Along with the cost of the war - in the hundreds of billions of dollars, leading into the trillions - are the costs to the occupied countries from a wide range of parameters including civilian infrastructure (housing, water, electricity, schools, and hospitals), chemical poisons (from various ordinances including depleted uranium and white phosphorous), internal refugees, and the destruction of local economies, increasing the chances of graft, oppression, and criminal activities.
Which still omits the purpose behind the wars in the first place, supposedly based on a global war on terror, and the spreading of democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East…while the reality of the wars is the opportunistic events of 9/11 enabling an excuse to become a global military hegemon trying to capture the oil, gas, and mineral wealth of the region at the same time containing the rising power of China and the re-assertiveness of Russia.
Of course the part of the military news reported this week is the 145th Canadian soldier and the 1000th U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan, most of them from IEDs buried at roadside or in car bombs, as with this incident in Kabul. Broadly suggested on the patriotic front is that we must all support our troops, something I find hard to do when Canadian troops are not much more than allies for the U.S.’s intent on military control of the world. Seldom is mention given to the thousands, hundreds of thousands, of the local populations killed directly from military action or indirectly from its many collateral consequences. An indigenous person who fights against foreign occupation immediately becomes a terrorist, yet the real terror being spread comes from the reported imminent assault by U.S./NATO forces against Kandahar, even though similar actions in the much less populated villages of Marjah has been an understated failure.
Another tie in militarily is of course Iran and Israel. With Israel thumbing their collective noses at the U.S. administration, unthreatened by U.S. military strength as it has its own finely tuned military - supported in a large part through U.S. ‘aid’ and supplies of high tech military equipment - the U.S./Israel/Iran triangle creates the fearful situation of another impending military action, perhaps leading into the use of nuclear weapons depending on the fierceness or not of Iranian resistance. That scenario is currently tempered by the news report of Brazil’s Lula reaching a limited agreement with Iran and Turkey on the transportation and servicing of enriched uranium, but it waits to be seen how the U.S. and Israel argue their way around this diplomatic action that bypasses their efforts at control.
And then on into Pakistan, ‘Obama’s war’ of choice, undeclared, fought through covert operations within the population and within the government agencies, while a large clear majority of the citizens see the U.S. as the biggest threat to the country. It is also fought through high tech warriors at computers well away from the actual situations, relying on nothing more than their own gut level despisal of the indigenous populations. The Pakistan situation goes to show that the main U.S. response to its declining global economic role, its reliance on oil for the vast majority of its economic demands, its only true method of resolving any situation it does not like, is to send in the military. Who’s next? Iran? Venezuela? Korea? As the U.S. empire becomes even more aggressive militarily, I can only think again, we’re all facing something quite dramatic and traumatic!
Totally unrelated to all this military and economic garbage, at least as presented by the media, are the two news items this week that supposedly have an impact on the environment. Which they do, but their impact and significance go far beyond the reporting of the actual information as narrowly presented in the news and most commentaries.
The biggest news is that of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It has had no real impact on the economy, other than the regional economy of tourism and fisheries along the Gulf Coast, but no earth shaking effect on the dollar or the overall economy, perhaps more significant if it reaches the Gulf Stream and on into the Atlantic…. Yet it is all too representative of the overall economy. The necessity for oil in our high energy, easy energy economy, the disdain for environmental safeguards, placing profits above the environment we live in, the ignoring of information concerning the drilling operations such as the partial failure of a rubberized protective pressure gasket signals that the corporate world, the supra-national corporations that have effectively superseded governments in many areas, could care less about anything but their own profits.
Our easy energy economy relies on oil and its derivative products. Everything we do, everything we have, is all related to the easy energy provided by oil, a resource that is at or very near its peak, with not a slow rundown on a bell curve at the end, but a roller coaster style drop off as extraction becomes more difficult for a variety of reasons. Our agriculture runs on oil, from the fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides through to its transportation thousands of miles away to the homes of those that can afford the luxury of thousand mile meals. Our health structures, medicines, tourism, our whole civic structure based on the automobile, the world of plastics, the energy needed to make and use all the consumptive demands of our society rely on oil.
All that consumption is expressed in the other news item concerning the Arctic ice cover. The climate change deniers will not go away, but there is irrefutable evidence that the climate is changing. That evidence comes in part from the Arctic ice, now with only twenty per cent of it remaining as long term multi-year ice, the rest is new annual ice. The surprise comes from the awareness that although the winter ice appeared to have regained its cover - as it had - the multi-year ice had diminished greatly and what was left was a conglomeration of rotten ice and new ice. More evidence comes from the indigenous people, the Inuit, who have lived there for millennia and now are unable to read the ice and weather patterns as they change rapidly from their long ancestral observations. The culture changes with it as new names for new phenomena of weather and flora and fauna are being introduced.
All that oil, coal, and natural gas, our natural heritage from millions of years ago when the climate created an enormous energy bounty harvested naturally from the sun, we have squandered on an easy fast paced uncaring life in the short term for a decidedly undetermined, uncertain, and freaky future. The developed countries bounty comes from the easy energy domination of oil and the corporate structures controlling global wealth and global finances. Our changing climate with its wider range of variability is very much still an unknown…but what is known is that the ice cover, which was forecast to be gone in a century or so from the Arctic ocean, is now possibly going to disappear completely (except for winter ice cover) within a decade or so.
There in the Arctic is the confluence of our oily greed, our uncaring effluent affluence, our military solutions to world problems. When I look at the responses to natural and man made disasters around the world I shudder to think what would be the consequence of another major military action that could result in the use of nuclear weapons. I shudder to think what the climate might throw at us as it continues along its unpredictable responses to the carbon energy we are pumping back into the atmosphere. The economy, which in the news is generally front and center, becomes a matter of worthlessness when faced with what could be large and sudden changes in the status of global energy and weather systems.
I sometimes wonder if there are any realistic solutions given human nature, its short term perspectives, its vanity, and its supposed intelligence that somehow always seems to create some form of blowback for its actions. There are solutions, ones that would still create dramatic change but hopefully soften the trauma for everyone. The changes need to be significant and not just the cosmetic panaceas that cover - and conceal - the symptoms but do little for the actual underlying problem of living in a militarized consumptive finance-oriented society
In no particular order, as they are all complementary actions, there are several ideas that need to be put into action, hopefully through a rapid evolution of common sense intelligence toward the planet and its inhabitants, as revolutionary ideas while founded on good ideas and great plans, often create a deterioration into violence that nullifies the intent of the actions in the first place.
Israel/Palestine/Iran and the rest of the Middle East
Israel/Palestine are the symbolic focus of the militarized activity in the Middle East and South Asia. The tie in between the Israeli and U.S. military in all its components (industry, politics, technology, finance) demonstrates the perversity of human nature in relation to a falsely created ‘other’. The ‘other’ for the Israelis occupying Palestinian lands are the Palestinian ‘terrorists’ conveniently supported by the U.S. designation of any thought or action against their occupying forces as being terroristic. The solution to any problem in for both countries has proven to be some kind of military violence, neither truly wishing to negotiate, with its implications of equal bargaining rights and acknowledgement of legitimate grievances on the part of the occupied and subjugated peoples.
This part of the solution is simple but I do not see it happening. The occupiers need to go home. The brief spate of democracy that went awry - with Hezbollah gaining recognition in Lebanon, Hamas defeating Fatah in Palestine, the Shia’s gaining power in Iraq with a challenge to U.S. occupation, and Egypt cracking down violently on its renewed opposition to autocratic rule - challenged the very theoretical philosophical rhetoric of democracy and freedom that these countries pretend to uphold. This part of the solution should happen, but it won’t, as the other imperial factors of resources and finances are slowly nibbling away at the security and wealth of the ‘homeland’. The empire will not go away peacefully.
Another solution not likely to happen due to the power structures involved and the political and military tie ins is that of controlling the corporations. The supranational corporations - many larger than governments, most having entitlements to sue, threaten, lobby and challenge national governments that even the local citizens do not have, all provided by agreements that were decided upon in thoroughly non-democratic fashion - need to be shut down. Perhaps not totally disbanded, but they need to have their political and legal powers greatly curtailed if not abolished.
Corporations are set up for one purpose - to create wealth for the owners and avoid legal responsibility for anything else while doing so. The big corporations need to be brought under national civilian control, meaning essentially under national law based on human rights, social rights, and environmental responsibility. Responsibilities for the environment, workers conditions and rights, product recycling should all be implemented at both the global and national level. The cost of doing business should include the real costs on the environment and the people that work and live in that environment. Failing that, they should simply be disbanded - nationalized and broken apart.
There would be of course much screeching and crying about the loss of wealth and the loss of employment and the crashing of the global GDP and all the other economic ills that our current finance capitalism and debt burdened financing are creating anyway. With the environment threatened and in return giving humanity a literal unexpected blowback, with the economy teetering on the edge of chaos, the main solution will come from taking away the power of the corporations over the legitimate concerns of a country’s citizens.
Many of these corporations rely on the ‘hidden fist’ of the military for their survival, both for capturing and harnessing resources and markets, but also as part and parcel of the militarily financed corporations that create so much havoc globally. To think they will go peacefully away when their very foundation is threatened by the shrinking energy resources of the world is illusory. Citizens and duly elected governments need to stand up for their integrity and get rid of the power of the corporations that truly rule our lives.
Think skeptically, act positively - live locally, think globally
The foundations of a soft-landing for the restructuring of our relationship with the environment and the decreasing ease of carbon based energy resources needs to start with information and education. With human intelligence and craftiness much could be done to alleviate any hard landings from environmental change, economic collapse, and the loss of easy energy. I have to question whether any government, whether any group really has the power to do this as the inertia within a society based on fast fuel and ease of transportation and manufacturing energy will be hard to transform.
The elites in society will wish to remain the elites and hoard as much wealth and power they can retain as events change around them. Very few people will be accepting of giving up their privileges, very few will be accepting of giving up their easy entertainment and comfortable thoughtless manners that lead us closer and closer to an ultimate need to change and restructure. Change is certain. The environment will dictate that to us very soon, denial or not. The loss of carbon energy will dictate that to us very soon, denial or not.
I expect the news not to change much. What I can hope for is that as many citizens as are able will read and inform themselves about all the global concerns by comparing and contrasting the words with the actions of the current powers, corporate, political, and military. They truly create a dissonant sound, confusing, obfuscating, lying and concealing. Read, be informed, think skeoyically, act positively (act actively - be an activist, let your voice be heard), live locally while thinking globally. In the meantime, I remain, still, dazed at the possible significance of it all for my future and current and future generations of my family, confused by the apparent inability of others to see that action and not complacence is needed to make real progress towards a successful future.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of
opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is
also presented globally through other alternative websites and news