Sunday, November 29, 2015

Call me a pessimist, but... (On Sustainable Development)

The idea of "sustainable development" is not radical, crazy or hard to understand. Most anybody would have a hard time arguing against it, in theory. It just means economic development today that doesn't happen at the expense of future economic growth. Some people have called unsustainable development a "tax on the future" because it's indeed stealing prosperity from the young and generations that haven't been born yet. 

The obstacle to sustainable development is not a lack of know-how or technology. By and large, we know what to do. But it does require trade-offs and sacrifices; and the pain won't be equally distributed. And that's the rub. 

The obstacle to sustainable development is politics -- to be more precise, power. Those with power don't like it. (As an aside: I posit that those in power, among them some very "smart" and "visionary" thinkers, rarely think seriously about the future, alas.) 

The people seriously concerned with sustainable development are by and large powerless: scientists, professionals in the "biz," activists, mid-level bureaucrats and such. They say and do and write enough to force those in power to pay lip service to their arrived at consensus. But that's about as far as it goes. 

No, I'm not talking about an opposing global conspiracy. Real conspiracies are rare, and they're usually stupid, for stupid, shortsighted aims.... 

The real obstacle to change is that power is concentrated in a few hands, yet separated by nations, cultures and geographies, with few formal nodes of interdependence, where common aims can be realized.... 

An attendant obstacle is certainly capitalism. More broadly, the obstacle is our global political economy, with its capitalistic innovations tacked on to feudalistic holdovers and narrow nationalistic structures. 

"There is a lack of global leadership," we hear again and again. True. But from where are the necessary global leaders supposed to emerge? It's asking too much from our global political economic systems. 

Ideally, democracy should save us. The good ideas should convince the majority of what is needed, and republican leaders should pay heed to their wishes. Ideally, yes. But that's naive.

First, we don't have real republican democracy in most countries, either by force of regimes or by failed states of many stripes. Second, even where there is formal democracy, concentrated power (read: wealth) still trumps democracy by various well-understood technical means. (Again: there is no conspiracy here; secrecy is not at all necessary for concentrated power to subvert democracy; the facts are are all well-documented for those who take the time to pay attention.)

So where does that leave us? Up the proverbial creek, I'm afraid. 

The richest nations do tend to be democratic. And democratic polities can exercise their power -- when dramatic events move them. But unfortunately, the world -- and sustainable development -- cannot wait for dramatic events to awaken the confused and slumbering giant of democratic public opinion. By the time the giant comes to, it will be too late.

Yes, I'm talking about global warming. And the death of our oceans and fisheries. And water shortages. And new global pandemics. And massive extinctions. And die-offs of millions if not billions of people. -- And for those ensconced in the relative safety of the developed, democratic world, something beyond mere discomfort and inconvenience, but drastic cuts in standards of living and overall well-being. 

By nature I'm not a pessimist. But I simply do not see how our current political economic system can react -- or should I say, fail to react -- otherwise. Everyone is to blame -- and hence no one. I hope I'm wrong and that smarter, more visionary and leadership-worthy individuals will prove it.

This post was inspired by this book review :

Friday, November 27, 2015


Americans, I'm sad to say, are afraid. They're chicken shits. Because there was an attack on Paris. Over 100 people were killed.

Yet every year, over 10,000 Americans are killed by guns. We don't care. It's not that Americans die, it's HOW they die. Jealous husband -- that's life. Crazy guy -- it happens. Kid playing with dad's gun -- it's a tragedy. Depressed teen -- it was hormones. Black people -- take your pick of reasons that we write off.

The truth is, we're not afraid of killing. It's all around us. We're afraid of whatever the media and some fear-monger tells us to be afraid of. Because if we were objective about it, we'd do something reasonable. But fear isn't reasonable; it's the wrong stimulus to elicit a reasonable response.

Same with our compatriots in the armed services. If they die from an IED -- that's war. If they die from friendly fire -- that's war. If they drink themselves to death at home after PTSD -- that doesn't count.

Americans are afraid of the wrong things.

No, Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees aren't going to storm our borders like is happening now in Europe.

No, they're not going to "infiltrate" us through our southern border either. Not when ISIS or Al Qaeda could just send hundreds of jihadists with European passports to the U.S., without a visa, to wreak havoc.  Jihadists who can buy guns without a background check, and, in many states, openly carry firearms legally.  Why would terrorists take the former route, which takes at least 18 months, and may ferret out a real terrorist?  Why take the time and risk?  It defies reason and logic.

And yet we're afraid of them nevertheless, these refugees.

Americans are pussies. Especially the right-wing ones who say they want to defend America. They're the biggest fraidy cats of them all.  They'd rather upend the Constitution to defend against a lightning strike than take commonsense steps to defend themselves against much more likely causes of death.

But why?

It's the media. The same "lib'rul media" or "mainstream media" or "biased media" that they despise making them so afraid. They all -- we all -- get our information from SOMEWHERE.  So where are they getting information that's telling them that Syrian women and children are a threat to their very lives, to the American way? They didn't think of it themselves, that's for damn sure.

They are just as manipulable by the media as any liberal, as any other person... nay, more so, because they think their ideology gives them special perspicacity. And yet their fear blinds them.

And so I say, CHILL THE F--K OUT.  Stop being such f---ing pussies. If we're the strongest nation in the history of mankind -- and we are -- then that comes with some responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to serve. And serve we do -- at least some of us. Our men and women of the armed services go where we tell them, train whom we say to, kill whom we say to, and come home if they're lucky. But we civilians also have responsibility to NOT BE SUCH F---ING PUSSIES, and out of our fear, our ignorance and idiocy, send our brothers and sisters into harm's way halfway across the world to fight some bearded loonies in their caves, unless it really means something, unless it really protects us at home, or defends our interests as enumerated in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

The latter responsibility is where we're falling flat. Oh yes, we "honor" our troops with ribbons and FB posts... as we send them into one unsolvable mess, one quagmire after another.  As we ignore them when they return home and try to live in our great American society. Have we no shame? Have we no compassion? Have we no honor, to send these men & women of honor into stupid, dishonorable battles for nothing?

Swallow your Stars & Stripes and choke on them if you use them to justify your fear, to cover up you inadequacy, your latent racism, xenophobia, or religious vision of apocalypse.

Don't use our United States of America for your own stupid, selfish, fearful, short-sighted aims.

Don't buttress your own pathetic shortfalls with the might and resolve of the U.S. Military.

Don't ask our diplomats to say bullshit they don't believe.

Don't deceive yourselves, your family and your neighbors that you're in this fight when you're really not. You know nothing of war, or risk, or death or bloodshed or loss.

Just STOP. Just f---ing quit it. Just STOP.

Fuck Trump. Fuck Carson. Fuck Cruz. And yes, fuck Hillary. Fuck anybody who thinks we can solve civil wars or terrorism with "balls" or "bigger balls" or "brass balls" or salty balls or any kind of balls you can think of.  All that "balls" means is, some guy in a suit in a mansion with body guards sends thousands of Americans in uniform to die. Is that what you want?  Is that what you really need to feel safe, to go about your day?

If you really, truly need that, then I pity you. I despise you, yes. But I pity you.

You're not a worthy inheritor of America's greatness.  You're a scared little girl cowering under her sweaty bed sheets.