Friday, December 18, 2009

Devolution: The Reality of Post-Peak Upheaval

There has been a lot of bantering in the blogosphere using the word "revolution" recently. The frequency and intensity with which I've seen the word "revolution" goes beyond the hysterical insanity from which it originated this year. It's no longer in the domain of Dominionist "Birthers" and "Deathers" prattling on at their "Tea Parties" as though waving a pack of tea bags that they bought on sale at Wal-Mart bears any relation to the wholesale destruction of the tea shipment at the original Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Not that the Christian Taliban were the only ones at those rallies. There was also a large contingent of Libertarians who hitched their wagons to that Silly Symphoney. I'm not talking about the gun nuts packing heat and cherrypicking "liberty" quotes from the Founding Fathers. Hell, even the Official Tea Party Pied Piper Glenn Beck calls himself a Libertarian. He also believes he's in complete agreement with Thomas Paine, which shows how little he actually reads from the books he promotes. I'm talking about those who are in ideological agreement with Ron Paul, who long before Beck twirled his teabags wrote a book called Revolution: A Manifesto. His followers think that abolishing the Federal Reserve without first changing the way money works is some sort of panacea to our problems. While I am not in ideological agreement, I can at least respect it as an ideology: "One Nation Under God" only qualifies as ideology if the goal is theocracy, which I can't respect.

But now in the wake of Health Care Reform watered down to the soggiest of waffles, revolution is no longer a right-wing rallying call. Within the last week, I've seen it trumpeted at dailykos and democraticunderground. These calls for revolution differ from the dispensationalist drooling at the town hall meetings this summer by focusing on the dynamic disparity of wealth exacerbated by a Corporatist State where both parties are bought and sold. While I am closer in ideological identification with this problem in the wake of the 2008 Meltdown, it still doesn't quite get to the source of what's ailing us. This quote is the closest it gets to really encapsulating the crossroads we stand at and the tools it will take to deal with it:

"You know, there's been a lot of talk about Abraham Lincoln. But the President we need today is not Abraham Lincoln. The President we need today is Thomas Jefferson. He said that we needed a revolution every generation. Thomas Jefferson said you have to be ready in order to preserve the vitality of your liberty and your freedom to defend it, not by overthrowing anything else except for what you've been holding in your head that may not be applicable anymore. We've gotten very lazy, we're many generations overdue for a revolution in our thinking. I'm not talking about blood and violence although I'm afraid that's already happening. I'm talking about a revolution that's probably the hardest kind, the kind that takes place inside the human soul and the human mind. To be able to tear everything down, throw everything out and start with a completely fresh piece of paper and say, 'OK, how do we solve this problem?'"
-Michael Ruppert, March 2009

This is the quote that starts the movie Collapse, which I reviewed previously. The problem he refers to is Peak Oil. That problem is not a question of if, but when. It is a problem because by and large, the civilized world has done nothing to prepare for that problem. Without preparing, future economic growth is not possible if there is increasing demand for a permanently declining supply of a product that is irreplaceable to the foundation of our economic infrastructure. As Ruppert , Catherine Austin Fitts and originally M. King Hubbert said, "Until you change the way money works, you change nothing". Something's got to give. Most people assume that "something" means revolution. But I believe we face devolution. There's two ways of understanding devolution: politically and metaphorically. I'll address the political definition first:

Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a Sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. It differs from federalism in that the powers devolved may be temporary and ultimately reside in central government, thus the state remains, de jure, unitary.
Any devolved parliaments or assemblies can be repealed by central government in the same way an ordinary statute can be. Federal systems, or federacies, differ in that state or provincial government is guaranteed in the constitution. Australia, Canada and the United States have federal systems, and have constitutions (as do some of their constituent states or provinces). They also have Territories, with less power and authority than a state or province.
The devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government. However, the power to make legislation relevant to the area may also be granted.

While wikipedia provides a nice overview of how devolution has occurred throughout history, including American history with the District of Columbia, I anticipate that there will be a much deeper devolution in post-peak society. Many researchers in the Peak Oil community have noted that relocalization is a necessary component of adapting. With increased local responsibilities will bring increased local power to whatever tenable form of government exists. What shape that takes remains to be seen. It could occur through a second Constitutional Convention. It could occur through violent force. But the bottom line is that relocalization necessitates restructuring our political and economic infrastructure in a devolutionary manner. Whether we will be successful in doing this or not depends upon whether we can reverse the devolution that has already been taking place metaphorically. Now for that definition:

In common parlance, "devolution", "de-evolution", or backward evolution is the notion that a species can generally evolve into more "primitive" forms by losing adaptations no longer necessary in a new environment. According to this view, changes from one biome to another may usher in pressures to weed out an obsolete function which is no longer useful for survival after the transition, and that the probability of losing a organic function in a new biome, via the conventional evolutionary pressures to "evolve", is more frequent and explainable than the synthesis of a new organic function. The scientific evidence for modern evolutionary synthesis has disproved the idea of "devolution".[1]
The popularized connotation of the word "evolution" leads many to misunderstand Darwin's theory of evolution in thinking that "evolution" requires some sort of "increasing complexity".[2] Yet the Darwinian theory of evolution does not reject the possibility of decreasing complexity (c.f. vestigiality) as the basis for some evolutionary change. Early scientific theories of the history of life on earth tried to account for species diversity as a result of acquisitions of various adaptations to the environment, and these included Lamarckism and orthogenesis. However, modern genetically-based biological evolution theory asserts that evolution occurs by non-teleological mechanisms such as natural selection, genetic drift, and mutation; hence "devolution", Larmarckism, and orthogenesis are rejected by modern evolutionary synthesis.

Again, I am being metaphorical, I am not propagating a biological fallacy. You see, whereas many people who read, listen to or watch Michael Ruppert and find an alarmist proclaiming doom and gloom, I read his above quote and I see an optimist. That he can go through life, experiencing all the drama he has and come out the other side of the rabbit hole believing it possible that there can be a revolution in our thinking "inside the human soul and the human mind" fills me with hope. But when I think about the devolution taking place metaphorically, well, I think I'll let George Carlin provide a more eloquent description to my wariness:

"Not too bright, folks. Not too fucking bright. But if you talk to one of them about this, if you isolate one of them, you sit 'em down rationally, you talk to 'em about the low IQ's and the dumb behavior and the bad decisions; right away they start talking about education. That's the big answer to everything: Education. They say, 'We need more money for education. We need more books, more teachers, more classrooms, more schools. We need more testing for the kids!' You say to 'em, 'Well, you know, we've tried all that and the kids still can't pass the tests'. They say, 'Aw, don't you worry about that, we're gonna lower the passing grades!' And that's what they do in a lot of these schools now, they lower the passing grades so more kids can pass. More kids pass, the school looks good, everybody's happy; the IQ of the country slips another two or three points and pretty soon, all you'll need to get into college is a fucking pencil! 'Gotta pencil? Get the fuck in there, it's physics!' Then everyone wonders why 17 other countries graduate more scientists than we do. Education!

Politicians know that word; they use it on you. Politicians have traditionally hidden behind three things: the flag, the Bible and children. 'No Child Left Behind! No Child Left Behind!' 'Oh really, well it wasn't long ago you were talking about giving kids a Head Start! Head Start, Left Behind, someone's losing fucking ground here!' But there's a reason. There's a reason. There's a reason for this. There's a reason education sucks and it's the same reason it will never, ever, ever be fixed. It's never going to get any better, don't look for it, be happy with what you got. Because the owners of this country don't want that.

I'm talking about the real owners now. The big, wealthy...The real owners, the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They've got you by the balls! They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying – lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.

But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking.
They're not interested in that! That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. That's right! You know something? They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don't want that! You know what they want? They want Obedient Workers – Obedient Workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security money. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club - and you ain't in it! You and I are not in the big club.

By the way, it's the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long and they tell you what to believe...All day long, beating you over the head in the media, what to believe, what to think and what to buy...The table is tilted, folks! The game is rigged! And nobody seems to notice, and nobody seems to care! Good honest, hard-working people! White collar, blue collar... Doesn't matter what color shirt you have on! Good honest, hard-working people continue...These are people of modest means!...continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don't give a fuck about them! They don't give a fuck about you! They don't give a fuck about you!They don't care about you! At all! At all! At all! Yeah! You know? And nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. That's what the owners count on. The fact that Americans probably will remain willfully ignorant of the big red white and blue dick that's being jammed up their assholes every day! Because the owners of this country know the truth - it's called the American Dream: because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Yes, devolution might be a solution politically for the future, but right now it is most definitely the metaphorical problem with our American culture.

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