Friday, January 04, 2008

Not Anti-Americanism but American Nihilism

Slab wrote:
Grandpa Charlie wrote:
Better yet, I'd like to see a roll-back (in political consciousness) to where we would have been if the voters had never abandoned Carter in 1980.

Was the Carter Presidency good for the country?
I never thought so.

As I read it, Grandpa Charlie said: I'd like to see a roll-back (in political consciousness) to where we would have been if the voters had never abandoned Carter in 1980.

I therefore read that as he's talking about political consciousness, not Carter himself.

The political consciousness involved concepts like growing awareness of integral needs for:

1. environmental protection, managed by "us," not by the neoliberal magic marketplace that we now call the "Reagan Revolution," which has put us up against the edge of a cliff now, with a long fall and tremendous potential for social disruption in the short term (what's happening in the Middle East is the tip of it), since we abandoned any semblance of long term thinking as fast as possible once that consciousness itself was replaced by the smiling mask of the magic marketplace.

2. A societal "us" investing in a long term project to develop energy self sufficiency with increasing investment in renewable technologies like solar power, tidal hydrological power and a variety of other options, with investment incentives implemented through government oversights that at least have a potential to look long term, where the magic market tends to be by nature reactive and competitively short term instead of proactive, investing for the good of society, which would of course be for the good of the market, but that's not built into the dynamics.

That consciousness would have involved some major transformations over the next couple of decades in the way our present infrastructure looks today, had it played out. The transformation would probably have begun to look much more like what will eventually come to be, as the energy prices continue to soar, and as the reality of Peak Oil that is beginning to emerge finally sets in. The US could have been decades ahead of the rest of the world.

Where, in my opinion, Carter failed both the country and the political consciousness of the time, was after he listened to his National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was obsessively focused on the Cold War then, and who managed to convince Carter that the Middle East was the most important geostrategic region for the future of the United States, because of the interest the Soviets who were also directing their foreign policies to the region. With the overthrow of the US friendly Shah of Iran in 1979, and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets, in a years time an alarmed Carter went from an emphasis on the above progressive environmental and renewable energy oriented programs to a focus on the Middle East. The political disruption in the Democratic party itself came out when Kennedy challenged Carter for the nomination, and Brzezinski became a controversial figure.

I think political consciousness in the country was at a turning point during the Carter Administration. Carter failed in his last years to allow that consciousness develop to a fruition that could have taken the US to a very different energy independent place now, as I see it, and Brzezinski was a focal point for that failure. A major party rift developed over him during the primaries as I remember it.

I will concede that Brzezinski is a brilliant geostrategic political "realist" but his ideas are not compatible with mine.
Slab wrote:


I recall the consciousness after the early 70's oil fiasco resulting in gas shortages.
With that, I can understand the lure of easy supply from the middle east and our countries decisions to stop building oil refineries.
Not sure to what consciousness you are referring to. If it is the mandate of better fuel milage brought on by the oil shortage or any attempts to use alternate fuels.
I was reading about the auto industry and the new era cars (2000+) put out 97% less polutants than the cars from the 70's.
If that is part of the consciousness, it seems we are heading in the right direction.

I look at the mid 70's misery index and it's affect on our country.
Times are better now IMO.
We could free ourselves from mid eastern dependency by providing for ourselves and conservation.

I returned from Vietnam in 1970, and went back to college. I did what amounted to a second minor in ecology over an undergraduate career that I stretched out for five years, because I kept discovering nearly every day there was so much I wanted to study.

I don't think I could possibly recreate, especially here on this board, the level of awareness that those of us who were awakening to environmentalism in the early 70's were envisioning. The systemic implications we were seeing were mind boggling to us, and would still be so for many today, only now it's been marginalized and vilified with some of the most carefully designed and pernicious propaganda of the last century, and so the thinking has become entrenched, and codified in many ways that predetermines the directions of creativity. Maybe that was always inevitable. I look at the nature of this society and I'm inclined to believe that.

Better mileage and cleaner emmissions for cars was a triviality in comparison; We were seeing a decentralized energy grid that would have virtually redesigned the entire infrastructure of the US into smaller regional modules. Some of this is taking place in Europe now, Germany has been working hard to develop a secondary energy system that feeds from renewable locales back into their grid, where independent producers get paid for their energy production.

A centralized energy grid is possible and even necessary to maintain for the fossil fuel distribution network, simply because it will make it as efficient as possible, due to the resource extraction and refinement process itself, and its inevitable ontology of technological creation related to it. Fossil fuel efficiency, therefore, creates the the potential for the opposite type of network of the renewables, which are by the nature of the renewable source creation technologies, situations where the localities have control of energy production and remove their dependency on hierarchically organized, centralized systems.

It would have taken planning and some sort of financial incentive the market doesn't provide to make a long term transformation take place. We saw that back then, Carter listened to some of the top people in the field and was moving in that direction. That all ended so abruptly I almost thought one day when I woke up in early 1980 that I'd imagined it all.

We are light years from that now with our systemic commitments, and the consciousness that was budding then was commodified by what followed in the 80s. That consciousness can only be found in marginalized sectors at the moment. That will, of course, change as the budding catastrophe of this poorly designed, unsustainable system becomes suddenly apparent one day, perhaps sooner than anyone wants to really imagine now. We had time then so we felt free to imagine. People are less prone to imagine when they are terrified, and terrified people have less problems slaughtering others when they have the means to do so. I'm guessing that's probably our plight now.

The planning to change what needs to be changed will involve a lot of years and time now, time that was being recognized and being thought about in the mid to late seventies. We might have been ready now, if we had started then. It's hard to say.

That planning had nothing to do with being stimulated by the US peak oil gas shortage in the early seventies. That peak oil situation was already recognized because fossil fuel was already recognized as a finite source of energy. That stimulative connection is more to politics and to the Carter administration and what it recognized as a political pressure point it needed to react to.

What was going on in the sciences -- in the halls of academia where these issues were suddenly on the table and where none of the corporate interests had yet figured out the need to intervene -- was really something entirely different. It was a moment of timely possibility, and it was fragile. It passed.

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