Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where do you look for an oracle?

I was going to post on the G20, but it bores me. The outcome is so predictable. The politicians will say whatever their frightened or angry constituents want to hear. Kruddy will sound reassuringly verbose and controlled, a kind of splendid clockwork toy, predictable and well groomed. Sarkosy will say "L'Anglais? Villeurs, pillards! Vive La France!" Mr Smooth Obama will make smooth conciliatory speeches, especially to the Chinese who now bankroll the USA. I say ignore these ephemera. They signify nothing but a distracting noise that appears to promise a return to Business-As-Usual but which is already yesterday's news. See past the immediate and focus on what lies beneath. The Archdruid nails it today with this…
…the high notes of economic crisis mingle with the basso-profundo of declining energy reserves, pushing us further and further away from the world of business-as-usual fantasy we have tried to inhabit for the last quarter century. We need to start talking about how we can hold onto our humanity in bitter times; about how we can find reasons for hope and sources of necessary joy as so many of our former certainties crumble to dust; about what stories we can use to bring meaning to the world when so many of our familiar meanings no longer make sense of anything.

I love Ran Prieur! Just dip in wherever you want and you'll catch a nugget of gold. On taxation…
One frequently hears the argument, "This is my money. I earned this money. The government has no right to take it away." But the government's right to take it away rests on exactly the same foundation as your right to have it in the first place: that's what the rules say. Our very concepts of "money" and "property" are social constructions -- and not very good ones. Money is power, and a well-functioning society will award power to those who prove their ability to use power wisely. Our rules award money for all kinds of things: greed, foresight, lack of empathy, frugality, corruption, self-discipline, luck, manic work habits... but not for the ability to spend that money effectively for the greater good. That's why taxation is necessary, but even taxation is only a patch for a system that's fundamentally unsound.
Just read the guy! He is sometimes way off: he has a tendency to see high level conspiracy where I see opportunism and incompetence. But I'll quote his post from today in full…
April 1. Continuing on yesterday's subject, we need to distinguish two completely different kinds of "negativity". One of them is about facing unpleasant facts and preparing for the worst case: the economy as we know it will never recover; more and more people will be unable to pay for housing; the dollar seems likely to hyperinflate; local disasters will be more frequent and severe; the electricity will go out more often; present agricultural methods cannot continue to feed everyone; there might be a giant disease epidemic, or a solar storm.

I would almost call this positive thinking, because you're talking about what we will have to face, instead of denying we'll have to face it. It's psychologically opposite to the kind of negative thinking I was talking about yesterday, which is about what we do: if we can't pay for housing, we'll die in the streets; if the police stop keeping order, we will wildly massacre each other; if we can't make chemical fertilizers, we'll all starve; if existing bicycle and shoe factories shut down, we'll walk around barefoot.

Put it together: the weakest position is, "All I can do is hope that nothing bad will happen, or that our leaders will take care of us, because otherwise we're all doomed." And the strongest position is, "We face tremendous challenges, no higher power will help us, and we will overcome them, even if we cannot yet see the way."

So we wont have new, pointy looking cars every couple of years and we wont spend most of our waking hours staring at screens. Big deal. Tomorrow and all the tomorrows after it for as long as we all shall live will have beautiful sunsets, cute children, good-looking young people, jokes, friends, memorable meals and music which gives you spiritual joy. We are all free to chose to be victims or actors in our own story, as we always have been. Let's get real and get on with it.

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