Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous - or, Priorities of the Utterly Insane

Monday 29 September 2008

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
- Upton Sinclair

President Bush and his supporters can find $700 billion to spend on a war of choice. Almost overnight, they can stump up an equivalent amount to stop Adam Smith’s invisible hand from throttling their shonky cronies in the banking sector. Such extraordinary sums, if devoted to public transport or alternative energies or scores of other socially useful outlays, would go a long way to ending America’s dependence on carbon fuels.

Yet, when it comes to climate change -- which, like, only threatens the viability of the one planet we have -- there’s no option but to let market forces do their work.

Future generations (if indeed there are any) won’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Jeff Sparrow, editor of Overland, in


  1. do you really want to talk about this?

    well, you know me... i'm more of an existential anarchist. i don't really care about who did what to whom or how it could have been fixed years ago and by whom or how we got here. the fact is we're here. but let's not lose sight of the fact that this whole system (money) is imaginary.

    this is a perfect opportunity for us to start over. i want a bailout for everyone. i'm calling for a year of jubilee. god has great ideas, and i think it's time to revive this one.

  2. Well, I didn't write this post so much about Wall Street as I did about how it is that money can be found when it is considered important - for war, or to bail out the financial system - but to spend it on unsexy things like public rail ... well, nah, we can't do that.

    It also amazes me that anything that can be done to fix this environmental mess (which still has people disagreeing with it, even though the facts are so patently before our eyes, if drowning polar bears doesn't do it) is taking so long to catch on that we have pretty much run out of time anyway. How can you proceed forward when the labels are so well-fitting that there is no place to proceed? Anything cooperative that we could do as a people to reduce carbon emissions is communistic. Anything we do to help our planet is pagan and worshipping the created instead of the creator. How convenient that the only correct way to proceed is exactly as we have done before, driving our giant massive SUVs with the stickers on the back saying Jesus Loves You. Yeah. Um ...

    Sorry. I watched An Inconvenient Truth last night, and then to see the whole Wall Street stuff going on, it is just incongruous to me.

    I would like to hear more about your jubilee visions, Jon :)

  3. Yeah, I've really been wanting to watch An Inconvenient Truth since forever... this post explains your response to the movie : ) I heard it's so sobering, that things are environmentally much worse than most care to face. It's just sad.
    If it makes you any happier, Mike and I have shared a car for three years (although it's actually been for financial purposes...) But we do recycle religiously. I used to be OCD about it.( it wasn't good)
    Anyway... Washington makes no sense to me at all
    I'm sure the film will really disturb me too... hopefully into further action

  4. I actually think that we cannot conceive of empires falling. Perhaps the world as it is now is an empire of our own making? Maybe our attempts to "fix" or "save" the world are futile idolatries to prop up our own little empires? But they inevitably do fall, it seems. And when they do, it is usually seen as the end of life as an apopolyptic event... Anyone remember when Rome came down? That was the centre of the known world... ( the eternal city) its fall was inconceivable to generations of people but it did, what makes the west think its any different?

  5. let me gather my thoughts and i'll be back about jubilee visions.

    UM, i think about it all the time. in fact, i'm watching it happen before my eyes, and most people would prefer to not think about it.

    at the risk of being a youtube whore, george carlin had an interesting perspective on this subject. i think you might enjoy hearing it.

  6. Monk & Jon - I don't think we can conceive either. How do you conceive of something not being there that's been there all of your life? And yet like Jon, I think about it all the time. Even, some days, wish for it. Wish for it because we have been so Left Behinded in our view of apocalyptic events that we just see the crazy horrible stuff ... but the word apocalypse actually means 'unveiling', and I'm desperate and thirsty for that one :)

    Re George Carlin (you are a YouTube whore, Jon): "the planet isn't going anywhere - we are. And we won't leave much behind - maybe a little styrofoam" Haha :) He was one cool, smart dude, wasn't he? I love listening to smart people with balls to state their opinions talk. There's not too many of them around - not even George, now. Wonder what he's seeing these days? :D

    I laughed out loud at this one but still, it's still a bit too close to looking at all those graphs in An Inconvenient Truth and thinking about melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels, thinking about the animals that are becoming extinct because their natural food has started hatching a few weeks earlier and now they've got nothing to feed their babies ... it's the animals that freaks me out the most. They're the innocent ones. We are meant to be stewarding this earth and we're much too interested in fucking with it, using it and abusing it because that's what stupid fucks like us with big tractors do.

    But hey, I reckon it's all gonna be made new. All of it. Every last fucking thing. But in the meantime, seeing it all die because spoilt lazy fucks like us want to continue on in living in ways that make us unhappy AND fuck the planet up at the same time - well, it pisses me off. Have you noticed? Hehe :)

    We indeed have the capacity to totally fuck the planet and its biodiversity - it's happening - just because we're lazy fucks who want to drive everywhere, dry all our clothes in dryers on sunny windy days, and keep producing and eating and storing away in cupboards stuff to fill up the empty god-shaped holes. But having said all this, blathering on and on and on so that nobody is reading this far, I can say this - I reckon that as far as our capacity stretches to fuck with everything in one direction because we can't see straight, it stretches equally the other way, or even further the other way, in creatively working to make it all new when we get to see straighter than we ever thought possible. I don't think we have any idea about what's in store for us in the future. But man, I want the flipside so bad I can taste it. Bring it on, that's all I can say :)

  7. "But man, I want the flipside so bad I can taste it. Bring it on, that's all I can say..."

    do i need to say anything else after that? of course i will. i have this typing-diarrhea/word-vomit thing you know.

    i think UM is right. the average person can't conceive of falling empires. in fact, we're at the point now in the U.S. where kids have been raised with computers and television... electricity for crying out loud. they don't understand how faragile this all is. that it is not self-existent. it can and will fail someday and we are by no means preparing ourselves for it in any meaningful way.

    i almost become physically ill every time i hear one of the presidential candidates in this country talk. all of their talk, even though it sounds like they're disagreeing with each other, amounts to "here's my plan to keep this shit-factory running."

    not a single talk about how we're going to move away from over-crowded metropolitan centers and start disbursing people into smaller, more managable self-sustaining communities. and that's just one example.

    but could we even rid ourselves of things like cars at this moment? our entire society and way of life is built around them and dependant on them. shit, our entire cities, no matter how big or small are built around streets! fuck me!

    but down it will come. i sure as shit don't want to live through it. but i want it to come all the same. and, honestly, the sooner the better. i just wish we could work together for a smooth transition rather than giving suggestions about how to keep this wreckage afloat until at least we're dead and then our kids can deal with it.

    what were we talking about? ah yes, the planet. this is where mr carlin's comments struck me. in the big picture. we CAN and DO affect the environment. that is a given. i don't think he's saying we don't. i think he's saying after we have made this place inhospitable for ourselves and we completely die out, the planet will still be here and eventually right itself and recover. it has been through a lot worse and come out okay. once we all die off, or our civilization does, eventually the pollution will have to clear. who knows how long it will take? a million years? but it will.

    the planet, in the greater sense, is fine. we're the one's who are fucked. i think that's what he was saying. and i quite agree with him.

    AAAAAAGHHHH! i can't help it. i have to do it.

    the talking heads had a song called "nothing but flowers" in which they describe a post industrial world in which the planet has begun to reclaim itself. it is quite interesting. but please, don't feel like you have to... :-)

  8. but of course, having said all of that, NONE of it was about jubilatic visions. :-)

    i haven't encountered one person to whom i've laid out a return of jubilee who has said it is a bad idea. of course, i've only laid it out to the lower-middle and lower classes of people. i'm sure the upper eschalon fucks would have something to say about it, which is why it will most likely NOT happen. ever. unless people actually realize that the upper 1% only have lots of money and really don't control things. we simply give them the control over us, by engaging in their system, every day. but that's a whole 'nother subject entirely.

    as i see it, our whole system of money is imaginary. we can all agree on that, right? money is not anything. it is actually pieces of inked tree or formed metal. which makes it no different than a piece of notebook paper or a matchbox car. the only difference is the importance we give it in our minds.

    as such, it seems that as the gap between inflation and wages continues to widen, and people who have been duped into feeling like they need to "keep up" have gotten themselves in way over their heads, i don't see why we can't just wipe the slate clean and say, "lesson learned." i don't see why there can't be a bailout for everyone. why we can't erase all debts and start over. why we can't freeze all prices and institue ever-increasing wage increases until everyone learns the point that money is not necessary and is actually quite futile and imaginary.

    in fact, we could do away with money tomorrow and the world would have the possibility of continuing to function just like it does now. BUT, it would take an altruistic change of heart for the world. for people to realize that if we all work together and give it 110% we can sustain ourselves without having to over-exert and we can find an equilibrium of life and labor.

    but how can we do this in a fair and balanced manner when the world is filled with people who would only wish to take advantage of such a system and not pull their weight? and how would we make a transition from our current system (no matter what it is) to one that looks more like that?

    more thoughts later if you're interested in hearing them...

  9. Jon - LOL You are a word vomit machine :)

    "kids have been raised ... don't understand how fragile this all is. that it is not self-existent"

    Perhaps they will. I was just having a conversation yesterday with someone and we were talking about bloging, about the internet, about the pervasiveness of it all, and he was talking about people he knows - young adults, 20 year old people - who are makin the decision themselves to throw away their mobiles and stuff. I think that in some ways it will be maybe easier for younger generations to see the disconnect. They will have had guinea pigs to show them what a life lived dependent on things other than ourselves/each other can do.

    I sure as shit don't want to live through it all either, the downfall. In another way, still, I yearn for it. Some primal part of me wants to be forced to - what? cook by firelight? live in a tent? I don't know :) I sure as shit don't want to find out, probably to the same extent that I am curious. What I am curious about is to be able to watch a whole group of people learn to rely on each other again in some kind of cool harmonious way.


    Re jubilee - "i'm sure the upper eschalon fucks would have something to say about it, which is why it will most likely NOT happen. ever."

    Yeah, I agree. Maybe that's where God comes into it? I still can't dismiss the concept of a physical Jesus returning to a physical earth, as ridiculously ridiculous as that sounds to modern ears, to put things to right - in tandem with us.

    I am definitely interesting in hearing more of your thoughts. These are the kinds of things I ponder often. Isn't it amazing how much control all of these "secondary" things have over us - the things that we conceptualise that suddenly become beyond our control. We go from bartering (I love the idea of a bartering society :) to a more sophisticated version which is easier, flatter, and increasingly out of our own hands. It seems to be the lesson over and over again - we give away our power, like professional victims, over and over again. And then it comes back and bites us on the bum.

    If you have thoughts on how it can be done, talk away. I love the philosophising that goes on in my own head as a result of these kinds of surmisings. And I think it's important to do, too. Opens the vistas a little further.

  10. "It seems to be the lesson over and over again - we give away our power, like professional victims, over and over again. And then it comes back and bites us on the bum. "


    well, well, well. you can't imagine how hard it is to find good, thoughtful, calm, rational, lucid, non-partisan, apolitical conversation on this subject. so i appreciate the engagement. i really do. people look at me funny when i bring it up in the queue at the grocery store. "we don't have to live like this you know..." :-)

    i have other blogging places to be today, as well as have a full on family day with wife and children, but i shall return some day with more here.


  11. Hehe :) Maybe if you were lining up in the grocery store fighting for rationed loaves of bread they'd be more amenable to listen to why it is that depending on an economy built on illusions and greed must by design all came toppling down one day.

    Or maybe they'd just scratch your eyeballs out to get the loaf of bread ahead of you, heh :)

    Sure, Jon. I'll see you whenever you next have the time and inclination to drop past and chat some more about such things :)


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