The Old Future’s Gone: Progressive Strategy Amid Cascading Crises

“The old future’s gone,” John Gorka sings. “We can’t get to there from here.”1

That insight from Gorka,2 one of my favorite singer/songwriters chronicling the complexity of our times, deserves serious reflection. Tonight I want to argue that the way in which we humans have long imagined the future must be rethought, as the scope and depth of the cascading crises we face become painfully clearer day by day.

Put simply: We’re in trouble, on all fronts, and the trouble is wider and deeper than most of us have been willing to acknowledge. We should struggle to build a road on which we can walk through those troubles — if such a road is possible — but I doubt it’s going to look like any path we had previously envisioned, nor is it likely to lead anywhere close to where most of us thought we were going.

Whatever our individual conception of the future, we all should re-evaluate the assumptions on which those conceptions have been based. This is a moment in which we should abandon any political certainties to which we may want to cling. Given humans’ failure to predict the place we find ourselves today, I don’t think that’s such a radical statement. As we stand at the edge of the end of the ability of the ecosystem in which we live to sustain human life as we know it, what kind of hubris would it take to make claims that we can know the future?

It takes the hubris of folks such as biologist Richard Dawkins, who once wrote that “our brains … are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences.”3 Such a statement is a reminder that human egos are typically larger than brains, which emphasizes the dramatic need for a drastic humility.

I read that essay by Dawkins after hearing the sentence quoted by Wes Jackson, an important contemporary scientist and philosopher working at The Land Institute. Jackson’s work has most helped me recognize an obvious and important truth that is too often ignored: For all our cleverness, we human beings are far more ignorant than knowledgeable. Human accomplishments — skyscrapers, the internet, the mapping of the human genome — seduce us into believing the illusion that we can control a world that is complex beyond our ability to understand. Jackson suggests that we would be wise to recognize this and commit to “an ignorance-based worldview” that would anchor us in the intellectual humility we will need if we are to survive the often toxic effects of our own cleverness.4

Let’s review a few of the clever political and theological claims made about the future. Are there any folks here who accept the neoliberal claim that the triumph of so-called “free market” capitalism in electoral democracies is the “end of history”5 and that there is left for us only tweaking that system to solve any remaining problems? Would anyone like to defend the idea that “scientific socialism” not only explains history but can lay out before us the blueprint for a glorious future? Would someone like to offer an explanation of how the pending return of the messiah is going to secure for believers first-class tickets to the New Jerusalem?

To reject these desperate attempts to secure the future is not to suggest there is no value in any aspect of these schools of thought, nor is my argument that there’s nothing possible for us to know or that the knowledge shouldn’t guide our action. Instead, I simply want to emphasize the limits of human intelligence and suggest that we be realistic. By realistic, all I mean is that we should avoid the instinct to make plans based on the world we wish existed and instead pay attention to the world that exists. Such realistic thinking demands that we get radical.

Realistically radical

Imagine that you are riding comfortably on a sleek train. You look out the window and see that not too far ahead the tracks end abruptly and that the train will derail if it continues moving ahead. You suggest that the train stop immediately and that the passengers go forward on foot. This will require a major shift in everyone’s way of traveling, of course, but it appears to you to be the only realistic option; to continue barreling forward is to court catastrophic consequences. But when you propose this course of action, others who have grown comfortable riding on the train say, “Well we like the train and arguing that we should get off is not realistic.”

In the contemporary United States, we are trapped in a similar delusion. We are told that it is “realistic” to capitulate to the absurd idea that the systems in which we live are the only systems possible or acceptable because some people like them and wish them to continue. But what if our current level of First-World consumption is exhausting the ecological basis for life? Too bad; the only “realistic” options are those that take that lifestyle as non-negotiable. What if real democracy is not possible in a nation-state with 300 million people? Too bad; the only “realistic” options are those that take this way of organizing a polity as immutable. What if the hierarchies on which our lives are based are producing extreme material deprivation for the oppressed and a kind of dull misery among the privileged? Too bad; the only “realistic” options are those that accept hierarchy as inevitable.

Let me offer a different view of reality: (1) We live in a system that, taken as a whole, is unsustainable, not only over the long haul but in the near term, and (2) unsustainable systems can’t be sustained.

How’s that for a profound theoretical insight? Unsustainable systems can’t be sustained. It’s hard to argue with that; the important question is whether or not we live in a system that is truly unsustainable. There’s no way to prove definitively such a sweeping statement, but look around at what we’ve built and ask yourself whether you really believe this world can go forward indefinitely, or even for more than a few decades? Take a minute to ponder the end of the era of cheap fossil energy, the lack of viable large-scale replacements for that energy, and the ecological consequences of burning what remains of it. Consider the indicators of the health of the planet — groundwater contamination, topsoil loss, levels of toxicity. Factor in the widening inequality in the world, the intensity of the violence, and the desperation that so many feel at every level of society.

Based on what you know about these trends, do you think this is a sustainable system? When you take a moment to let all this wash over you, does it feel to you that this is a sustainable system? If you were to let go of your attachment to this world, is there any way to imagine that this is a sustainable system? Consider all the ways you have to understand the world: Is there anything in your field of perception that tells you that we’re on the right track?

To be radically realistic in the face of all this is to recognize the failure of basic systems and to abandon the notion that all we need do is recalibrate the institutions that structure our lives today. The old future — the way we thought things would work out — truly is gone. The nation-state and capitalism are at the core of this unsustainable system, giving rise to the high-energy/mass-consumption configuration of privileged societies that has left us saddled with what James Howard Kunstler calls “a living arrangement with no future.”6 The future we have been dreaming of was based on a dream, not on reality. Most of the world that doesn’t live with our privilege has no choice but to face this reality. It’s time for us to come to terms with it.

The revolutions of the past

To think about a new future, we need to understand the present. To do that, I want to suggest a way of thinking about the past that highlights the three major revolutions in human history — the agricultural, industrial, and delusional revolutions.

The agricultural revolution started about 10,000 years ago when a gathering-hunting species discovered how to cultivate plants for food. Two crucial things resulted from that, one ecological and one political. Ecologically, the invention of agriculture kicked off an intensive human assault on natural systems. By that I don’t mean that gathering-hunting humans never did damage to a local ecosystem, but only that the large-scale destruction we cope with today has its origins in agriculture, in the way humans have exhausted the energy-rich carbon of the soil, what Jackson would call the first step in the entrenchment of an extractive economy. Human agricultural practices vary from place to place but have never been sustainable over the long term. Politically, the ability to stockpile food made possible concentrations of power and resulting hierarchies that were foreign to gathering-hunting societies. Again, this is not to say that humans were not capable of doing bad things to each other prior to agriculture, but only that what we understand as large-scale institutionalized oppression has its roots in agriculture. We need not romanticize pre-agricultural life to recognize the ways in which agriculture made possible dramatically different levels of unsustainability and injustice.

The industrial revolution that began in the last half of the 18th century in Great Britain intensified the magnitude of the human assault on ecosystems and on each other. Unleashing the concentrated energy of coal, oil, and natural gas to run a machine-based world has produced unparalleled material comfort for some. Whatever one thinks of the effect of such comforts on human psychology (and, in my view, the effect has been mixed), the processes that produce the comfort are destroying the capacity of the ecosystem to sustain human life as we know it into the future, and in the present those comforts are not distributed in a fashion that is consistent with any meaningful conception of justice. In short, the way we live is in direct conflict with common sense and the ethical principles on which we claim to base our lives. How is that possible?

The delusional revolution is my term for the development of sophisticated propaganda techniques in the 20th century (especially a highly emotive, image-based advertising system) that have produced in the bulk of the population (especially in First World societies) a distinctly delusional state of being. Even those of us who try to resist it often can’t help but be drawn into parts of the delusion. As a culture, we collectively end up acting as if unsustainable systems can be sustained because we want them to be. Much of the culture’s story-telling — particularly through the dominant story-telling institutions, the mass media — remains committed to maintaining this delusional state. In such a culture, it becomes hard to extract oneself from that story.

So, in summary: The agricultural revolution set us on a road to destruction. The industrial revolution ramped up our speed. The delusional revolution has prevented us from coming to terms with the reality of where we are and where we are heading. That’s the bad news. The worse news is that there’s still overwhelming resistance in the dominant culture to acknowledging that these kinds of discussions are necessary. This should not be surprising because, to quote Wes Jackson, we are living as “a species out of context.” Jackson likes to remind audiences that the modern human — animals like us, with our brain capacity — have been on the planet about 200,000 years, which means these revolutions constitute only about 5 percent of human history. We are living today trapped by systems in which we did not evolve as a species over the long term and to which we are still struggling to adapt in the short term.

Realistically, we need to get on a new road if we want there to be a future. The old future, the road we imagined we could travel, is gone — it is part of the delusion. Unless one accepts an irrational technological fundamentalism (the idea that we will always be able to find high-energy/advanced-technology fixes for problems),7 there are no easy solutions to these ecological and human problems. The solutions, if there are to be any, will come through a significant shift in how we live and a dramatic down-scaling of the level at which we live. I say “if” because there is no guarantee that there are solutions. History does not owe us a chance to correct our mistakes just because we may want such a chance.

I think this argues for a joyful embrace of the truly awful place we find ourselves. That may seem counter-intuitive, perhaps even a bit psychotic. Invoking joy in response to awful circumstances? For me, this is simply to recognize who I am and where I live. I am part of that species out of context, saddled with the mistakes of human history and no small number of my own tragic errors, but still alive in the world. I am aware of my limits but eager to test them. I try to retain an intellectual humility, the awareness that I may be wrong, while knowing I must act in the world even though I can’t be certain. Whatever the case and whatever is possible, I want to be as fully alive as possible, which means struggling joyfully as part of movements that search for the road to a more just and sustainable world.

In this quest, I am often tired and afraid. To borrow a phrase from my friend Jim Koplin, I live daily with “a profound sense of grief.” And yet every day that I can remember in recent years — in the period during which I have come to this analysis — I have experienced some kind of joy. Often that joy comes with the awareness that I live in a Creation that I can never comprehend, that the complexity of the world dwarfs me. That does not lead me to fear my insignificance, but sends me off in an endlessly fascinating search for the significant.

To put it in a bumper-sticker phrase for contemporary pop culture, “The world sucks/it’s great to be alive.”

About these crises

I have been talking about multiple crises without naming them in detail. As I have been speaking I suspect you all have been cataloging them for yourself. For me, they are political (the absence of meaningful democracy in large-scale political units such as the modern nation-state), economic (the brutal inequalities that exist internal to all capitalist systems and between countries in a world dominated by that predatory capitalism), and ecological (the unsustainable nature of our systems and the lifestyles that arise from them). Beyond that, I am most disturbed by a cultural and spiritual crisis, a condition that goes to the core of how we understand what it means to be human.

For me, an understanding of this crisis is rooted in my feminist work on the contemporary pornography industry. Shaped by patriarchy, white supremacy, and that predatory corporate-capitalism, pornography provides a disturbing mirror on our collective soul. We live in a world in which large numbers of people (mostly men) derive sexual pleasure from images of cruelty toward and the degradation of women. A smaller number of people (again, mostly men) profit from this industry. And except for a few people rooted in feminism and other radical philosophies on the margins, there is no significant progressive critique of it in contemporary society. Pornography is a place where we can see what the death of empathy looks like; it offers a picture of a world bereft of the fundamental values of compassion and solidarity; it provides a narrative of a people with no sense of shared humanity. Many aspects of the modern world — this mass-mediated, mass-marketed, mass-medicated world — can easily strip us of our humanity in ways that slowly leave us incapable of responding to these crises. Along with fretting about the other crises, I worry about that.

Add all this up and it’s pretty clear: We’re in trouble. Based on my political activism and my general sense of the state of the world, I have come to the following conclusions about political and cultural change in my society:

  • It’s almost certain that no significant political change will happen in the coming year in the United States because the culture is not ready to face these questions. That suggests this is a time not to propose all-encompassing solutions but to sharpen our analysis in ongoing conversation about these crises. As activists we should continue to act, but there also is a time and place to analyze.
  • It’s probable that no mass movements will emerge in the next few years in the United States that will force leaders and institutions to face these questions. Many believe that until conditions in the First World get dramatically worse, most people will be stuck in the inertia created by privilege. That suggests that this is a time to expand our connections with like-minded people and create small-scale institutions and networks that can react quickly when political conditions change.
  • It’s plausible that the systems in place cannot be changed peacefully and that forces set in motion by patriarchy, white supremacy, nationalism, and capitalism cannot be reversed without serious ruptures. That suggests that as we plan political strategies for the best-case scenarios we not forget to prepare ourselves for something much worse.
  • Finally, it’s worth considering the possibility that our species — the human with the big brain — is an evolutionary dead-end. I say that not to be depressing but, again, to be realistic. If that’s the case, it doesn’t mean we should give up. No matter how much time we humans have left on the planet, we can do what is possible to make that time meaningful.

Globalized tribal animals

I want to end by celebrating human beings. That may sound odd, given the rather grim nature of my remarks. But I think there’s a way to put all this in a perspective that is heartening. I return to Wes Jackson, who doesn’t shy away from naming the problems we face and holding humans accountable for our mistakes, individual and collective. But Jackson also often says we also should go easy on ourselves, precisely because we are a species out of context, facing a unique challenge. He reminds us that we are the first species that will have to self-consciously impose limits on ourselves if we are to survive. This is no small task, and we are bound to fail often. I believe that our failures will be easier to accept and overcome if we recognize:

  • We are animals. For all our considerable rational capacities, we are driven by forces that cannot be fully understood rationally and cannot be completely controlled.
  • We are tribal animals. Whatever kind of political unit we live in, our evolutionary history is in tribes and we are designed to live in relatively small groups, some would say of no more than 150 persons.
  • We are tribal animals living in a global world. The consequences of the past 10,000 years of human history have left us dealing with human problems on a global scale, and we can’t retreat to gathering-hunting groups of 150 or smaller. Even if our future is going to return us to life at a more local level, as many think it will, at the moment we have a moral obligation to deal with injustice and unsustainability on a global level. That’s especially true for those of us living in imperial societies that over the past 500 years have extracted considerable wealth from others around the world.

What does this mean in practice? I think we should proceed along two basic tracks. First, we should commit some of our energy to movements that focus on the question of justice in this world, especially those of us with the privilege that is rooted in that injustice. As a middle-class American white man, I can see plenty of places to continue working, in movements dedicated to ending patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, economic domination by the First World, and U.S. wars of aggression.

I also think there is important work to be done in experiments to prepare for what will come in this new future we can’t yet describe in detail. Whatever the limits of our predictive capacity, we can be pretty sure we will need ways of organizing ourselves to help us live in a world with less energy and fewer material goods. We have to all develop the skills needed for that world (such as gardening with fewer inputs, food preparation and storage, and basic tinkering), and we will need to recover a deep sense of community that has disappeared from many of our lives. This means abandoning a sense of ourselves as consumption machines, which the contemporary culture promotes, and deepening our notions of what it means to be humans in search of meaning. We have to learn to tell different stories about our sense of self, our connection to others, and our place in nature. The stories we tell will matter, as will the skills we learn.

In my own life, I continue to work on those questions of justice in existing movements, but I have shifted a considerable amount of time to helping build local networks that can create a place for those experiments. Different people will move toward different efforts depending on talents and temperaments; we should all follow our hearts and minds to apply ourselves where it makes sense, given who we are and where we live. After starting with a warning about arrogance, I’m not about to suggest I know best what work people should do.

I am, however, reasonably confident that if we are to make a decent future for ourselves and our children, we have a lot of work to do. John Gorka also expresses that in his song: “The old future’s dead and gone/Never to return/There’s a new way through the hills ahead/This one we’ll have to earn/This one we’ll have to earn.”

We should not be afraid to face the death of the old future, nor should we be afraid to try to earn a new one. It is the work of all the ages, and it is our work today, more than ever. It is the work that allows one to live, joyously, while in a profound state of grief.

  • A version of this essay was delivered to the Interfaith Summer Institute for Justice, Peace, and Social Movements at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, August 11, 2008. Audio files of the talk and discussion are available online from the Radio Ecoshock Show at: Jensen Speech and Speech.
    1. John Gorka, “Old Future” from the CD “Old Futures Gone,” Red House Records, 2003. []
    2. John Gorka. []
    3. Richard Dawkins, “An Open Letter to Prince Charles,” May 21, 2000. []
    4. Wes Jackson, “Toward an Ignorance-Based Worldview,” The Land Report, Spring 2005, pp. 14-16. []
    5. Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992). []
    6. James Howard Kunstler, remarks at the meeting of The Second Vermont Republic, October 28, 2005. []
    7. Robert Jensen, “The four fundamentalisms and the threat to sustainable democracy,” May 30, 2006. []

    Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. His latest book is We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out (Monkey Wrench Books). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online. He can be reached at: rjensen@austin.utexas.edu. Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Read other articles by Robert, or visit Robert's website.

    15 comments on this article so far ...

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    1. Donald Hawkins said on August 15th, 2008 at 8:47am #

      Robert I would get off the train somehow. Nice stuff got me thinking.

    2. Giorgio said on August 15th, 2008 at 11:36am #

      An excellent, modern, 21st Century ‘Sermon on the Mount’ !

    3. Michael Kenny said on August 15th, 2008 at 12:18pm #

      The future is no longer what it used to be, goes an old French joke. Basically, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that a fair bit of this is specific to the US. The bad news is, well, that a fair bit of this is specific to the US. Good news because a lot of the problems will be solved by Americans coming down from cloudcuckooland and putting their feet back on planet Earth. The bad news is that (thankfully now collapsing) US power has meant that we have all been dragged, to some extent, at least, into the US quagmire.

      The American problem is that, like the Soviet Union, the system has become so rigid that it is no longer able to reform itself. The various political interests have just enough power to block each other but not enough to defeat each other. Worse yet, they have lost the will to compromise and the understanding that compromise is the essential feature of “tribal” existence. Like a huge, ailing dinosaur, therefore, the US is wobbling forward, smashing things and crushing things as it goes, as much out of clumsiness as with intent. All the other creatures around it are watching warily to see when, and it what direction, the monster is going to keel over, so that they can run for their lives if the thing starts to fall in their direction.

      Precisely for the above reason, I agree with Mr Jensen that little will change in the US in the immediate future. POTUS 44 will be the American Gorbachev, elected to fix the system but who will pull the thread which will unravel it. Six years (and an attempted communist coup) elapsed between Gorbachev’s appointment in 1985 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and right to the very end, few could believe that the miracle was actually going to happen. So don’t think that even Obama will be able to accomplish anything fast. Things may begin to move in the second half of his term, or he may be replaced by the current Republican nasty in 2012 and the rest of the world will just decide that it is not going back to the bad old days.

      Either way, I’m very optimistic about the future of my brain, be it big or small!

    4. cg said on August 15th, 2008 at 2:57pm #

      There were some people who saw/predicted this present/future. They were derided as cynics, negative thinkers and unhelpful problems. Bad influences. I’m sure you all know the type, know someone who qualifies. Who needs em?
      Most of the so-called progressives and liberal minded never did and never will want to hear what to these negative nellies was and is a very apparent and real horror movie in progress.
      You know what else? Oh, …. never mind.
      Come to think of it, not much has changed at all.

    5. hysperia said on August 15th, 2008 at 7:41pm #

      I think that Dawkins predicted quite accurately that human brains are able to predict consequences. Just because not everyone in the world is quite there doesn’t mean those predictions can’t be made, as you prove yourself in the writing of this article. Capitalism has proved quite resilient but democracy has not. Nevertheless, the human drive toward liberation, even relatively speaking, remains strong. The numbers of people in the First World who are experiencing ever decreasing “amounts” of privilege is rapidly expanding. I believe “we” will get there. I don’t believe that violence on a mass scale is inevitable. We may not make the changes we need fast enough; time is short. But these small groups of politically active people analysing the problems and possible solutions will certainly doom us to failure. We have analysed the problems TO DEATH. We need more people encouraging more and more people to join together and act.

      And hell, I’m damned if I’m going to go out grateful. I’m going kicking and screaming and fighting if I’m gonna go. If only a few humans are left, we will go on. If none are left and the sentient species of the earth are gone, who the hell gives a shit what has been in the past – there’ll be not a soul left to know that.

    6. Max Shields said on August 16th, 2008 at 7:47am #

      hysperia said on August 15th, 2008 at 7:41 pm #

      There seems to be a bit of confusion. Capitalism and democracy are human inventions. Both represent a non-natural example of human sub-systems.

      Absolute Predictability has NEVER been a human capacity. The very premise of science is uncertainty. Embrace it. It, with a dash of humility, will set you free!!

      As far as democracy not being resiliant and capitalism proving otherwise, I think both exist in name only. We can continue to call what we have “capitalism” and “democracy” but both are a long way from the mark as is socialism.

      But Robert has written one of the best pieces I’ve read here on DV. His understanding goes much deeper than isms. And for that I, for one, am grateful.

      I’ll post more on this when time permits.

    7. Donald Hawkins said on August 16th, 2008 at 8:21am #

      But skepticism breeds apathy. Unless the harmful, global-threatening effects of greenhouse gases are repeated over and over again, and finally sink home, the fate of our planet will be jeopardized by ignorance.

      This recent study by top Norwegian climate researcher Ola Johannessen is called Decreasing Arctic Sea Ice Mirrors Increasing C02 on Decadal Time Scale.

      For the first time, it draws a clear connection between rising global carbon pollution and erosion of sea ice. It concludes that Arctic ice is disappearing at an astonishing rate – far faster than what earlier studies determined. The Arctic regions, as we now know them, are creeping closer to experiencing a major change to an extremely sensitive ecosystem.

      The once inconceivable notion of immense ice barriers in the Northwest Passage being unlocked by sudden climate change is now a reality, Johannessen concludes in his study, which will be published in October by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

      He identifies a “strengthening linkage” between the increase in carbon dioxide emissions over the last 100 years and the shrinking ice cap.

      The presence of Arctic ice reached an historic minimum last year and predictions for this summer warn of similar decreases.

      Scientists said the extreme 2007 melt will leave the ice cap vulnerable to even greater losses during this year’s melt season.

      Last September, scientists recorded a decline of almost 50 per cent of normal ice cover in the Arctic.

      Johannessen challenges forecasts of disappearing ice compiled by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning international scientific panel (known as the IPGG) on climate change – claiming in his paper that they failed miserably in their studies.

      His studies describe the state of the Arctic Ocean as a “keystone indicator” of global climate change.

      “Ninety per cent of the decreasing sea-ice extent is empirically accounted for by the increasing C02 in the atmosphere,” he concludes.

      It’s time to get off that train people and the faster the better.

      It concludes that Arctic ice is disappearing at an astonishing rate – far faster than what earlier studies determined.

    8. Donald Hawkins said on August 16th, 2008 at 11:13am #

      Yes it is time to get off that train and walk with the knowledge. So far the policy makers Worldwide and still many business leaders if you can call them that seem to have not much imagination and very narrow minds and climate change seems to be to big a problem for them. There are many out there that don’t have these problems. Scientists most of them Worldwide will help James Hansen has done very well at connecting the dots and the scientists who’s funding has not been cut by big oil and gas are making good progress but more is needed much much more. This is not going to be easy as we need to get China and India on board sorry walking and walking fast with the knowledge. There is still time and how to do that I don’t know. I do know that the more people who know the truth on this the better off we will be. This is the hardest problem the human race has ever faced short of lighting a nuclear weapon. There are many people in this World right now with the knowledge many write on DV the IPCC and the people there have the knowledge MIT and on and on. Somehow we need to get these people working together. We are running out of time. We have to stop pretending this is not happening and it is going to be easy because it is not. Do you read DV Obama?

    9. cg said on August 16th, 2008 at 7:13pm #

      In the interests of at least offering a peek at a rebut.

      http://iceagenow.com/Arctic_ice_refuses_to_melt_as_ordered.htm

    10. cg said on August 16th, 2008 at 7:19pm #

      The same for CO2..

      http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=322

    11. Michael Collins said on August 16th, 2008 at 7:34pm #

      This is an excellent article, broad in scope, and, for some, startling. The notion of “progress” is inverted with the ‘delusional’ period’, the ratification of all that’s wrong with governance and our conditions, as an end point.

      Some will be surprised. I’m not and there are many others who are not. Society is structured so that those who control wealth control everything else. That’s why you get a Congress in 2006 that some expected would act on Iraq, but others knew would do nothing. Why? Because they’re owned and it’s not time for the owners to change things much. They have not worked out the next facilitating act to transfer even more wealth.

      It’s important to recognize this because it alters what we can expect with some changes that are reachable. The masses are not defective; it’s the elite who, at this time in history, are paranoid and incompetent. They don’t need or care about more money, they have enough. They need to salve their fears that somehow we will gather the means to unmask the filthy scheme of lies that accounts for our problems and do something about it.

      You said, “It’s probable that no mass movements will emerge in the next few years in the United States that will force leaders and institutions to face these questions.” You may be right but only if the “delusion” masters are able to keep their power. There is already a mass movement, the Internet. That along with the uses of information gathered there is the only reason, the single explanation, for the opposition to the Iraq war. There has been no media coverage that would have generated that. MSM has “disappeared” Iraq, but the people know it’s a sham. This is the first counter revolution against the masters of lies and deceit. There will be more.

      There has, to my knowledge, never been a major social change movement based on a medium of communication. So the Internet, while more than a vehicle, is not enough. But it’s sufficient as a basis. Every time the “rulers” try to rein in the Internet, they get slammed. And that’s just with the devoted on their backs.

      The task is to move people from reading and viewing information to acting on it. But that’s a lot better news than you’re offering, which is an acceptance of the enduring folly of our condition. It doesn’t need to be that way. The real task is an even broader analysis – from anti-Iraq to anti-war to anti-wealth based domination of the political process. It’s a task that we can’t avoid and one that will offer real dividends, by passing what people can reasonably predict is the end of the species in the next 20 or 30 years. It’s a great challenge and opportunity.

      One heartening example of change is the absolute failure of just about anybody to begin to take seriously the notion that “We’re all Georgians.” What a stupid notion. Hardly anybody has fallen for it, even with the very best efforts of the media. That’s what I call progress.

    12. Taffy (Robert) Seaborne said on August 16th, 2008 at 10:28pm #

      Thank you Robert, your way of storying our Earth human relationship/dilemma will be a valuable reference and source of inspiration for myself and hopefully a growing number of people coming to similar conclusions about the cause, effect and potential solutions. Wes Jackson’s quote “a species out of context” is similar Thomas Berry’s expression that the human has become “autistic” ie; as a species we have retreated into such a narrow world view that we are now unable to relate to let alone empathise with the other than human.

      There is another revolution worth considering and storying in this context, a religious revolution. “The world as it is – rather than as we might like it to be”, is in a seamless relationship with the cosmos as a whole and that it was probably the unfolding patterns of this relationship ie; the stars in the night sky, a waxing, peaking and waning moon, a sun that appeared and disappeared each day and moved to and fro across the horizon that eventually got our pre human ancestors contemplating more than their navels. I am suggesting here that it was the way our ancestors received the creativity that surrounded them each season that resulted in a religio-loci, in them regarding their place as sacred, their ritual celebration of it and eventually all the other revolutions and major inventions that flowed from this way of receiving cosmic creativity such as language, pottery, weaving and agriculture etc. The human has long since been a religious animal and it is this revolution more than any other that has for better and for worse set us apart from the other than human. From my PaGaian perspective I am convinced that for any “Progressive Strategy” to achieve sustainability and social justice for the human to be successful will require a contemporary scientific understanding and re-inventing of our planet as sacred.

      Thanks again, Taffy Seaborne

    13. cg said on August 16th, 2008 at 10:47pm #

      If only we could say the same thing for the notion “we’re all Israelis now.”
      It seems as though quite a few have fallen for that one or had it scared into them.
      And it sure didn’t take very long.
      I’m not sure but I don’t believe they’ve passed a law yet requiring us to all be Israelis now…

    14. Donald Hawkins said on August 17th, 2008 at 6:45am #

      Last night on the nightly news it showed Georgians in an old army camp because there houses were gone. An older man and his family were there and all he said was, “What did we do wrong”.

      His family was just in the way of the have and have more’s. Something I have thought about for years Robert put it well.

      The delusional revolution is my term for the development of sophisticated propaganda techniques in the 20th century (especially a highly emotive, image-based advertising system) that have produced in the bulk of the population (especially in First World societies) a distinctly delusional state of being. Even those of us who try to resist it often can’t help but be drawn into parts of the delusion. As a culture, we collectively end up acting as if unsustainable systems can be sustained because we want them to be. Much of the culture’s story-telling — particularly through the dominant story-telling institutions, the mass media — remains committed to maintaining this delusional state. In such a culture, it becomes hard to extract oneself from that story.

      Those sophisticated propaganda techniques keep people in a box with walls made of bullshit and all it takes is a thought to teardown those walls because they are not that sophisticated bullshit never is.

    15. michael said on August 18th, 2008 at 4:17am #

      so here’s the deal. where do we begin? I for one feel that solar arrays in the deserts are absolutely necessary. One day of sun spilling onto the earth can power the whole planet at the present rate for a year. No moving windmill parts to break either.The technology is here already according to MIT and Cal Tech. Storage for power at night has just been solved in the last few weeks by brilliant new fuel cell technology. The Tesla auto has solved the battery problem. Once again it is humans (primarily Americans in this case) who have come up with viable solutions. Problem? Yes. how do solar panels make consistent money for the rich energy barons? THAT’s the problem. Selling the electric auto idea to the masses is the easy part. Commercials showing the benefits and touting patriotism etc as well as emphasizing the cool factor will easily sell electric cars to a huge portion of the populace the way they sold the idea of big ungainly SUV’s to the same people. Think of the employment opportunities for people when the panels are being constructed. Work that can’t be off shored because they must be built HERE. New car companies popping up. The “Big 3″ saved from the precipice when folks start buying up electric vehicles. All possible within a decade. A quiet steady bloodless movement. We begin here on the net by educating the people about all of these ideas. We corner the Obamas of the world into listening and responding and shoot down any attempts at bullcrap studies and political rhetoric. We get it done now. Like the canals of old and the railroads and the telegraph and telephone it WILL catch on the way the NET caught on if we could just findt some intelligent people to get the message out there. It will help to solve the current jobless problems. stimulate the economy and when the technology is exported it will be bring profits back to the gool old USA. Contract employees could know ahead of time what they’ll be making and how many benefits they’ll receive. I even envision trailer cities like the ones in New Orleans where whole armies of workers will live while they build the solar arrays. Does it sound like the ramblings of a maniac? They called Robert Fulton a madman when he built “Fulton’s Folly” and changed the course of commerce forever. You stated that it will take new thinking. Thinking outside the box. Well that is what this is. Oh wait….the financial powers that be will not see enough profit in all of it and try to shoot it all down. They’ll buy congressman and presidents and ruin the idea for everyone. They’ll stick they’re filthy noses in it and destroy the entire process before it even begins. Perhaps a bloodless revolution to change their influence really is in order. where better to start than right here right now! M