Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Primal Forces of Nature vs. The Real Primal Forces of Nature

While I myself am sick to death of the way the word "revolution" is bandied about like a hip label at a boutique retail outlet, I realize that talking about it has become par for the zeitgeist. Even the New York Times feels it's important enough to weigh in on this sign of the times. I've gone on the record lamenting this misdirected anger in a previous blog entry that I believe correctly relabels this phenomenon as devolution. I think that Jenna Orkin, while commenting on the New York Times article, gives the best assessment of the cinematic genesis of this movement:


They say a radical is a conservative who's gotten arrested. These days, "laid off" or "foreclosed" will do just as well.

The Tea Party movement is Paddy Chayevsky's immortal scene in the movie Network projected onto the national screen; the one where everyone starts shouting out the window, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" It also evokes the early days of 9/11 Truth which was a ragtag militia of well-meaning, patriotic and even heroic souls finding their way among the misguided or psychotic. Ron Paul figures large but so do some other less reliable but all too familiar characters. (Read the article and figure out who's being referred to, dear reader.) They have even resurrected the phrase, "big tent."

The burgeoning doubts about the Federal Reserve are a good sign but when they're coupled with questions about Obama's citizenship, one is left with the queasy feeling that there's major disinfo going on here, like those websites that smear legitimate questions about 9/11 by juxtaposing them with doubts about the Holocaust. - Jenna Orkin


Sad comparison, but probably apt; no doubt four years from now Tea Partiers will be resigned to getting evicted from whatever show Bill Maher is hosting as a means of getting attention. Or they could take a far right turn and pull a McVeigh on the country they claim to love. Either way, their movement is doomed because the vast majority of their members remain locked in a "mad as hell" mentality without bothering to investigate the roots of their anger. Orkin is right that those questioning the Federal Reserve are getting close, but they're missing the big picture. An illustration of a larger portion of that big picture is given later in the movie Network, when Howard Beale, after rallying his supporters to demand the government stop the sale of a corporation to the Arabs, is called to a meeting with Arthur Jensen, the head of CCA-the Communication Corporation of America that owns Beale's network:

Arthur Jensen: [bellowing] You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU...WILL...ATONE!
Arthur Jensen: [calmly] Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those *are* the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that . . . perfect world . . . in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.
Howard Beale: Why me?
Arthur Jensen: Because you're on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.
Howard Beale: I have seen the face of God.
Arthur Jensen: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.


It is these self-proclaimed "primal forces of nature" that call the shots and are responsible for the way the world is today. The Federal Reserve is just one part of this; shut it down, put the dollar back on the gold standard, do everything on the Tea Party wish list and it still doesn't scratch the surface of what the "primal forces of nature" consists of. A quote worth repeating, "Until you change the way money works, you change nothing". While there is the temptation to identify the "primal forces of nature" as corporations, or the system of corporatism, I believe these are the symptoms and not the actual disease.

The disease is the Infinite Growth paradigm. This disease afflicts all operating economic systems in the world today; capitalism, socialism and communism all operate within this paradigm. Why do I consider it a disease? Well, let's take this "one holistic system of systems" at it's word. What do you call "primal forces of nature" that attempt to grow infinitely within a finite organic system? I call it cancer! The difference that makes this an imperfect analogy is that our planet is much stronger than the human body. Or as George Carlin put it, "The planet is fine! The people are fucked!" Whether we fuck ourselves through Peak Oil or Global Climate Change, it is the inevitable result of the Infinite Growth paradigm colliding with The Real Primal Forces of Nature: Earth!

The arrogance that fuels the mindset that we humans are the primal forces of nature is what must be addressed if we are going to have the revolution we need as opposed to the revolution that stimulates our ideological persuasion. We need genuine balance, not the ebb and flow from "one vast and ecumenical holding company". That means as people, we must live in harmony within the natural physical limits of our planet. That means our economy must be based on sustainability, not growth. That means our money is no longer tied to wealth creation but is representative of energy, both the human energy we produce and the planet's energy that we utilize. I'm not sure what that civilization will look like, but I think it will be a hell of lot more civilized than the one we have now where our Supreme Court takes what is satire in Network and makes it reality in this century.

"You say you want a revolution?... You better free your mind instead".


Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Excellent post, and I agree with all of your points, especially that money is energy. I'm also definitely going to rent Network!

Robert Paulsen said...

Thanks Tanya. Yeah, money=energy is a concept more people need to wrap their heads around if they want a functioning economy.

Definitely rent Network! It's a classic 70's satire that is strangely prophetic about reality TV. Great story, great performances and some classic dialogue.