NASA funded study warns of societal collapse-or, godspeed you bleak civilization!

NASA study

A trending article in The Guardian, along with a recent study funded by NASA written by Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas and Eugina Kalnay, warns of the imminent collapse of global civilization. In their paper they maintain that two major themes reoccur throughout history that contribute to the collapse of societies: “(1) Ecological Strain and (2) Economic Stratification.” They also say that technology will only solve so many issues before it becomes obsolete at preventing the collapse. It sounds alarmist, but in 2014 the precariousness of planet Earth and the fragile fabric holding it all together becomes more strained every day.

They point out that societal “collapse” often appears as trivial but is indeed backed up by historical data. “The rise-and-collapse” process has occurred many times over the centuries and for largely the same reasons. From ancient Babylon, Mesopotamia, Sumeria and Maya, civilizations rose to great heights only to precipitate eventual collapse and downfall. They observe that the rise-and-collapse of civilization is the norm rather than the exception to large agrarian based civilizations.

One would not be mistaken for feeling compelled to believe that modern society is prone to the same fate. In fact, not only does their study, along with the thousands of years of the historical record say so, but so does any observation of the current state of the global capitalist economy. Capitalism, from its very inception, is a system based on compound, exponential growth. This, of course, is a great problem on a planet with finite resources. The ecological strain that the planet is currently undergoing due to this phenomenon is one of hitherto unprecedented heights. From global warming to resource extraction and unimaginable pollution the Earth is under extreme duress at the same time the expanding middle class in China is being told that with market discipline they will be able to behave like consumers in the U.S. This obviously is not sustainable but the system is not built to effectively and critically think about this. With every country under the the spell of global capitalism the rapacious onslaught on the world’s natural resources will continue unabated for the foreseeable future in the name of GDP, “progress” and “modernity.” Something has to give, the question is when.

The second major theme, economic stratification, is also rampant throughout the world and growing more acute in the U.S. each day. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its highest point ever on March 5th, 2013. There are indicators all over that illustrate how the richest of the rich are doing better than ever while the poor and working class are suffering at near immeasurable levels. In 2012, the top 10 percent of  earners took home more than half of the country’s income– the highest recorded level ever.  Porsche reported its best year ever in 2012 and anyone living in NYC can simply walk down the street in Manhattan and see just how many high rise luxury rentals are being built, in fact, 2013 was the largest luxury real estate boom in NYC history. This explosion of wealth for the 1% is contrasted by the continued immiseration of the proletariat. Poverty has risen in the U.S. since the Great Recession despite the ostensible “recovery.” And perhaps the most condemning  report from Oxfam recently found that “Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.” This stratification is extremely dangerous to political systems, particularly in the democratic tradition, as the disparities pose serious threats to political inclusion, government stability and the general welfare of people.

The specters of the past are not haunting us, they are already here, waiting to usher in the end of civilization as we know it and from the way things are going we welcome it.

At least we will have a soundtrack for it. . .

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Occupy Wall Street and the Imperative to Question Capitalism

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is gaining traction and support throughout the broader segments of civil society each day. And with each day that passes its legitimacy grows as exponentially as the fear of the 1% that is responsible for creating the global crisis of capitalism. The movement is only a few weeks old and already the illegitimate forces of the powers that be are acting irresponsibly by pepper spraying peaceful protesters, willfully misguiding marchers one minute only to “kettle” them and arrest hundreds of them the next. Do the authorities not understand that actions such as these only help to garner more support for the movement? Most of the mainstream media tries to marginalize the activists by characterizing them as unorganized and frivolous, or as hippies and anarchists. The past 40 years of disenfranchisement of the working class and concentration of monopoly capitalism on a global scale is beginning to be directly challenged by the nexus of global activists from the streets of New York City to the picket lines of Athens, and it’s making some people in power nervous…

At the heart of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the general resistance to capitalist structural adjustment and austerity measures globally is the desire among activists to bring into question many aspects of not just corporate greed, fraudulently foreclosed homes, inequality, imperialism, political corruption, and unemployment, but a genuine desire to create more serious discourse about the very social and economic system that, up until now, so many people have taken for granted and accepted as something as natural as the air we breathe.

In 2011 many people are beginning to see for themselves that capitalism is indeed not as natural and eternal as the champions of the status quo like to make them think. And as their pensions dwindle, their debts accumulate, their jobs vaporize, and their wages are further repressed in order to restore profits for big business and “liquidity” in the global markets, they are beginning to see that capitalism is not as beneficial for them or for society as a whole, especially when recklessness is rewarded and avarice is celebrated. People are also beginning to understand more that the traditional political parties, both Democrats and Republicans alike, provide no real alternatives to the problems that the majority of working people are faced with. In fact, the feeble solutions offered do nothing that will qualitatively alter the conditions that created the crisis in the first place. Just to quickly illustrate how perverse the situation is, it should be known that not one architect of the global meltdown has been charged or jailed for any of their criminal behavior in defrauding homeowners, destroying retirements, waging war and then making billions of of it, etc., but somehow 700 peaceful protesters were arrested for walking on a bridge!

The anti-Wall Street atmosphere is brimming with inquisitive and passionate people that are asking many questions about the fundamental operation of the capitalist mode of production as a whole. A lot of young people are beginning to question if the system we have is indeed sustainable or even worth keeping around much longer. For example, we are told incessantly by cheerleaders of the capitalist system that in order to bring the US, and naturally, Western Europe, out of recession and for profits to be restored to business that the economy must expand at 3% per annum. This means that GDP has to be on the continual rise day after day, year after year,which also means that in order for that to happen more markets have to be exploited, more resources have to be extracted, and America’s twisted consumer culture has to keep growing. This seems paradoxical for a society that is vowing to implement meaningful reforms or to be more “sustainable.” Can you see the ridiculousness of it all? Capitalism cannot expand at a compound rate forever! There is only one Earth and that one Earth only has so many resources to exploit and extract.

Another issue that many activists are beginning to discuss deals with the fact that in order for society to truly be a democracy and for resources to be distributed more equitably there has to first and foremost be democracy in the work place. We hear political figures speak about having a free and open democratic society all the time, but how democratic can any society be when most people that work 40-50 hrs a week enter into definite relations of production in the workplace that are anything but democratic! The workplace is the perfect example of a tyranny. The boss is the tyrant while the worker is forced to accept any and every decision that is made from the top tier down. How is that democracy? Democracy in society can only express itself as a democratic principle when it correlates to democracy in the places of employment. If the 99% of people that are represented as those that are not corporate CEOs, bankers, and entrenched politicians had more say in the decisions and the distribution of the surplus that is created in the workplace then we would begin to see a more equitable society and social order emerge. Democracy in its evolved form will manifest itself in a workplace that is run by those that actually work there!

These are just a few of the many questions that the 99% should be addressing about capitalism in its current, extremely unequal and exploitative form. The crisis evolved not out of thin air, but out of specific historical conditions that have hitherto coalesced into a crisis of epidemic proportions, and it is our responsibility to ask questions and search for answers that are truly historic. Capitalism is only the “end of history” for those that feel there is no more history to create; no more justice to be brought about, and no progression and dignity for the human condition to fulfill.

Hasta la victoria!