There is little relation between what we were being offered in this election and what we need. But, I believe there is some considerable difference between what we will get of what we need from Mr. Obama compared to Mr. McCain; and while I have great respect for Mr. Nader and Ms. McKinney (some grudging respect for Mr. Barr), they would be eaten alive by the Washington bureaucracy. Neither candidate can speak the truth of the present human condition – even if they know it – and for this reason, among others, we will continue on as we are for a time. Obama, though, does seem to offer at least the possibility of being aware of some of the larger issues of concern. McCain appears to be no more than the advertising description on the paperwork for a new appliance: “Congratulations on your selection of the WonderModel 16. It has been carefully crafted to give you years of trouble free service….”
We, as a nation and as a species, are facing very real and daunting concerns.
We have heard nothing of the coming end of economic growth as both model and reality for the distribution of resources. Clearly the changes that we have seen over the last 20 years presage that end. The accumulations of wealth and political control, while always a powerful motive, are also well-designed preparation against the time when the world simply cannot support the ecological burden of the human billions. It is clear that humans will increase in total numbers for only a few more years, but what is not at all clear is how that change will manifest in economic design.
The present economy is actually a very simple thing: there must be more of everything everyday. We see this simple dictum in the stock market, in the company balance sheet, in our expectations for our paychecks. When I was actively in business my company had to grow 10, 20, 30 percent per year – and all my clients had to grow at those rates or they went out of business. I compared the previous year’s January with the current year’s January as a measure of business success and personal worth. The idea that the numbers should be the same or less as a goal was incomprehensible
Some things are so damned simple! And that’s what makes them so damned complicated. A metabolic system burns organic fuels in the presence of oxygen. If such a system is uninhibited in its growth it will burn organic fuels until they are all gone, or until they are effectively gone and the growth of the system has to stop. It depends on your role in this simplicity how you might feel about it: if you are the fuel or are damaged by the heat of the fire, then you would be thankful when the growth of the conflagration is ended. But, if you are the fire, if you are the system that has been growing and spreading without inhibition, then the end of growth is a catastrophe without precedent.
Most economists cannot even begin to think about this – it’s like a doctor talking to the Church of the First Born about a 7 year old with appendicitis. I think it is because they do not understand Reality – the economists or the doctors. Some enlightened economists, Herman Daly for example, have been trying this problem, but acceptable solutions are elusive. His ‘steady state’ economy and growth of quality but not quantity run into some of those nastily simple complications: whom do we throw out of the boat as we do the process of bringing it to balance? Because, frankly someone will have to go!
So, the end of our present growth based economy and the need for a new design that supports the world’s billions as we gently and responsibly (?) reduce our numbers over the next 50 to 100 years to about, a sustainable, 1 billion has not been addressed by the presidential campaigns. At least, I didn’t hear it. Will these things be accomplished by democratic process and appropriation of the vast stores of private wealth, by fascist totalitarianism or by neglectful failures of economies and ecologies? Inquiring minds would like to know.
Related to this omission is the failure to honestly present the ecological realities within which our various daily entertainments occur. There are newspaper articles and TV mentions of ‘global warming’ and those irresponsible disaster “documentaries” on the History Channel (sic), but these are more like litter on the street than an honest presentation of reality: “Sure, trash is real, but someone will pick it up if it blows in their yard.” The reality is that human activity on the earth must be rapidly and markedly reduced. Courageous political leadership will be required for this happen without corresponding devastation of human communities (and nations) cut off from new paradigms; like the Bates Motel was cut off from the Interstate.
Our present resource wars, for that is what they are, are but the beginning of whole new designs of conflict as we struggle to control our sources of oil, chocolate, aluminum, concrete, food, water and lebensraum. The wealthy will have to do with less and the marginal will have to do with none at all; but neither will accept this verdict willingly. An economic justification for one human living on one dollar a day and another living on a million dollars a day pales to insignificance if a million of those one-dollar-a-day people ask the question loudly enough. I didn’t hear this discussed in the debates.
Neither did I hear discussed, by these want-to-be national leaders, the deep distrust of the electoral system. All honest people of whatever political view have come to believe that the vote is compromised by the manipulation of electronic voting devices, dishonest registration procedures and a variety of dirty tricks. Only a true ‘landslide’ election would be believed to be a representation of the public will. If essentially half the nation rejects the legitimacy of its “elected” leaders and acts to delegitimize that government, then two things will happen: the government will be weakened for any actions requiring general acceptance and the government will isolate and insulate itself from the public. Both of these are deeply destructive of constitutional democracy. It quite frankly doesn’t matter whether the greater danger is voter suppression, electronic manipulation or registration bias; the integrity of the vote must be the primary concern.
Large numbers of the people of this nation will tune out if the election is close, believing that they are powerless to have their voices heard. Others will aggressively reject the “winner.” The nation will not long survive such disinterest and internal dissent. Just look at the damage done by the insular Bush Co. to our national self-trust and our standing in the world.
The truth has been largely missing from these proceedings, but it is the true and the real that ultimately rises up to demand action. Wish as we will, what we are ready to deal with is often not what arrives as requiring our response. There are these and more overwhelming issues lying in wait for us all as we step out of our doors on Nov. 5. It would be good to have people in government with at least some clue that they exist. To answer the title question: I expect very little and, as is the expression in my family, that is a cryin’ shame.