Thursday, May 11, 2017

$urvival of the Fittest

By Jay - Ottawa

Stiff fingers tap out the first sentence on my keyboard, but the spell checker redlines the word 'dystopia.'  Hmm…it IS a word and I DID spell it correctly.  Was the Microsoft programmer who worked on this feature clueless about Orwell's "1984," or was the programmer directed to send unpleasant concepts and their exemplars down the memory hole?

Cormac McCarthy is the next to get redlined.  Well, OK.  His first name is rare this side of Dublin.  Despite the laurels placed on McCarthy's brow late in life, few people other than English majors read his troubling novels "Blood Meridian" and "The Road."

Actually, "The Road" is not dystopian literature.  It is more often categorized as post-apocalyptic realism, a giant step beyond dystopia to where the entire globe has been despoiled.  You might, if you behave, be allowed an ice-cream sundae in a dystopia.  The best you can hope for in a post-apocalyptic world is rancid ice cream under stale whipped cream and a rotting cherry on top.

Chris Hedges, a very serious man, also writes about dystopias but under the category of nonfiction.  He describes realities so dismal and hopeless you wish they were fiction.

As if we didn't have enough gloom from the Dark School of fiction and nonfiction, we now discover their disciples multiplying like bats out of a cave.  The newest dystopian writers obtain better material just by looking around.  The latest dark spirit to connect the available dots of politics, economics, climate change and human nature is a French philosopher, Bruno Latour.

Latour writes as though he was able to plumb the minds of the super rich.  Forget their supposed attraction to capitalism and avarice.  Something else is afoot, a plot, an altruistic conspiracy.  It goes like this.  Billions of people are accustomed to a standard of living the globe cannot support.  Recycling and cutbacks in carbon use are absurdist diversions for the masses.  The Greens are kidding themselves, not to mention the rest of us, with their solar panels and low-flush toilets.  The Paris Agreement of last year, signed by 195 nations, is an empty gesture to assure their populations that something is being done to push climate change out of sight.  However, the elites know better; the globe is long past the tipping point of climate apocalypse.

Something several orders more severe than alternate energy development is needed, and immediately, to pull back hard from the Sixth Extinction.  The elites are fully aware of the stakes.  They also know that the billions of people who make up the modern world cannot be encouraged, or even forced, to scale down sharply to a lifestyle from the Middle Ages.

What's the alternative for elites who appreciate these facts and exercise power?  It is twofold: to become billionaires and to head for the hills after amassing everything needed for survival.  Big money––not asceticism, virtue and fairness for all––will buy the few tickets available for survival of the few.  Here's Latour explaining why we must have deregulation, welfare cutbacks, climate denial and income disparity:

"If this plausible fiction is correct, it enables us to grasp the 'deregulation' and the 'dismantling of the welfare state' of the 1980s, the 'climate change denial' of the 2000s, and, above all, the dizzying increase in inequality over the past forty years.  All these things are part of the same phenomenon: the elites were so thoroughly enlightened that they realized there would be no future for the world and that they needed to get rid of all the burdens of solidarity as fast as possible …; to construct a kind of golden fortress for the tiny percent of people who would manage to get on in life …; and, to hide the crass selfishness of this flight from the common world, to completely deny the existence of the threat [of] climate change."

It is we, the billions of nobodies, who are the grasshoppers in Aesop's fable.  We plague the earth with our great numbers and boundless appetites.  The monied elites are the farsighted ants.  There is a noble purpose behind the surface chaos over which they preside.  For the sake of the human gene pool, lifeboat ethics must prevail.  The elites are laboring to cull our species as efficiently as possible.  They must act fast and remain steadfast in their purpose.  Ultimately, the preservation of humanity depends on the billionaires, "the tiny percent," in their "golden fortresses."  Think of that next time you are tempted by selfishness to protest against their deconstruction of society as we know it.

* Those of you under 70 years of age are advised not to read this essay.


DMC said...

Machiavelli for a new age. And of course its not really "the billions" that are causing the difficulty so much as the opulent few hundred million with first world lifestyles. And never mind the carbon age is winding to its close in spite of oligarchic subsidies with the inevitable progress of renewables. Mostly, I think the guy wants to sell books and a contrarian view that favors the rich and powerful is bound to be "controversial" and therefore, sell.

Jamie said...

One of the best dystonia pieces of literature is Anne Frank's diary. It is amazing that it really happened, when the existential absurdity and tragedy of it all matches novels like 1984 and Brave New World. Another book in this category would be the Gulag Archipelago.

Zee said...

I guess that I have been expecting the “end of the world as we know it” ever since: (1) We practiced “duck-and-cover” in grade school and were told to prepare to kiss our backsides goodbye; (2) We endured the Cuban Missile Crisis in middle-school; (3) I learned in high school from The Right Reverend Thomas Malthus that the world should have died in overpopulation, disease and famine long before I was even born; (4) I later learned, while prepping for college that the two choices for my future existence were between 1984 and Brave New World; (not to mention Lord of the Flies ) and (5) While at university, Professor Paul Erlich told me in his book, The Population Bomb, that we were all destined for “mass starvation…in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation.”

Well, it’s 2017 and, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “the report of my [extinction] was an exaggeration.”

So perhaps it can be expected that I take the conspiratorial prognostications of Monsieur le Professeur Latour with a generous serving of salt.

I suppose that I can’t say with absolute certainty that Prof. Latour’s theory of a coördinated
conspiracy among the global gazillionaire elite to eliminate the hoi polloi (Read: “us”) via a calculated program of “deregulation, welfare cutbacks, climate denial and income disparity” is impossible.

Certainly, there are reports of the ultra-wealthy elite hunkering down in their bunkers in preparation for some kind of societal collapse:

(Though in our complex, interconnected world, what does one do when the propane and the canned pork & beans run out?)

But in Latour’s book is there any real proof of this elaborate conspiracy theory? Or is it nothing more than a nice-looking, cleverly woven tapestry of speculation, à la Dan Brown?

Just asking, because I am unlikely to buy the book.


I did, BTW, read Cormac McCarthy’s book, The Road. Not a cheery “read,” to be sure—and a pretty grim overall view of humanity’s future following an apocalypse; but with something resembling an optimistic ending for “the boy” and some hope that goodness remains to be found in some people even post-apocalypse.

At age 66, I try to remain something of an optimist, even though the sad historical evidence of human nature often gives me pause.

Zee said...

In case you're unaware, there has been a worldwide cyberattack on Microsoft-type computers, assisted by the malware/software purloined from the NSA. What goes around comes around.

BE CAREFUL what e-mails and attachments you open.

Pearl said...

AP reports Trump's tax returns show no Russian money ... except none of that is true

By Mark Sumner

Friday May 12, 2017 · Daily Kos

171 Comments (165 New)

Jamie said...

Great article and research into the neoliberal lunch program. Michele's husband also pushed GMOs.