I know a lot of other people who are sure that we will need much more than our present focus on indignation, to get through this angry and chaotic period of history, so I want to review a few things which are very important, and not always said clearly by any of us.
The most important is that first big point. I don’t oppose tribalism because I enjoy arguments (I do, to be clear, but I’d pick much more amusing things to joust over), I oppose it because it is a social malfunction. An error state which prevents normal metabolic functions from taking place in our collective institutions, for our general benefit.
The reason tribalism ALWAYS leads to error (no matter how well meaning we were when we entered the fray), is that almost everything we discuss in the modern world is conditional, rather than absolute, but tribalism drives us to make absolute claims all the time, while ignoring the fresh observations required, to keep any claims relevant.
My biggest political concern is the environment, but I have to say, almost everyone I know who agreed with me thirty years ago, now has their head very firmly posterior-based. Still working off our best guesses from way back then when we knew so little, with no observation for error, course correction or awareness of crucial new parameters.
Do you remember the introduction of recycling in your jurisdiction? Did you watch otherwise civil and sane friends of yours descend into a mania for it, then become outright scolds to others?
So – here’s the thing. If we did recycling perfectly, that would accomplish a bit less than two percent of the change required, in order for us to stop assaulting and destabilizing our own atmosphere. Of course you all know we don’t do it perfectly. But it’s actually way worse than that. For our worst materials, plastics, we hardly do it at all. For decades, the rich in the western world have instead sent literal shiploads of our waste to easily corruptible governments in poor countries, and just made it their problem instead.
Yes, sorry folks, I am saying that all of you recycling hero eco warriors were actually being grotesque poor-attacking and racist colonialists this whole time. Not because you wanted to be cruel, but because you thought yourself virtuous for obedience to an incompetent institution, let someone else drive, and took your eyes off the road altogether.
Should we recycle? Of course we should, but we would require excellent politicians who are not corrupted by industry, in order to make that work (or happen at all). Guess what folks – demanding that competence and integrity from government is OUR JOB.
A sound program would specify which kinds of plastics are allowed in the country, and that list would include only those which can be completely broken down, for which we have also built an adequate industrial capacity TO break down. That is, we would have to learn to wipe our own ass – for the very first time ever – instead of hurling our shit over the poor neighbour’s fence. Trust me, they’ve got enough of their own problems as it is (and we promote even angrier politics in many places around the world, as we all do and keep doing this to them).
The question of generation of power is even more frustrating. Renewables? Really folks? You still stuck all the way back there? Germany is a world leader in renewables, they work so beautifully that the supposedly green party is now building coal plants at breakneck speed. Not only that, but Siemens, one of the world leaders in windmill technology, is facing a profound financial crisis, because key gearboxes in their equipment are simply not as durable or as reliable as promised, meaning all of our amortization schedules for them were wildly over optimistic. Sometimes, the damn things don’t even pay themselves off, before they need replacing – and this on top of increasing high-wind hazards with extreme weather, and the all-along obvious problem of unreliability, especially on hot and still (heat dome) days, when we need the power the absolute most, to save the lives of the especially vulnerable.
Solar? Well, complicated – but I’ll get there (and it’s fun). First though, another conditional which is crucial, which tribalists make idiots of themselves, ignoring.
The point about introducing renewables was to DISPLACE other consumption. However, we haven’t all voluntarily adopted low energy lifestyles, nor insisted that that be a priority for our manufacturers, so in most areas what we have actually added is extra luxury boutique feel-good power, to support INCREASED consumption.
Honestly folks, check your own region – I know for sure that my country is pumping out all time record CO2 emissions this year, and if yours isn’t, you are an outlier (or else recovering from a recent disaster). And this, after a half century of pious righteous angst from self described environmentalists who casually describe the use of oil by others as murder and then drive home. Do they have mirrors? Do they use them? (our environmentalist environment minister even opened a massive brand new undersea oil drilling field – just in case the density of double-think wasn’t already crazy making enough for you).
Just no, people. If we were going to walk more gently on the earth without being prodded by bayonet, then we in the west, (still the richest large middle class population on earth, for all our setbacks) would have actually done that by now. Shown the world how to do it. Made it our priority and political demand, not just our dinner party gripe.
I’m not talking about living in huts and eating goat cheese all day long. I’m talking about the sort of thinking Buckminster Fuller recommended for so long. Using what we know about design science, to do things more efficiently, to create more general prosperity for all (that is, actually do something about poverty) with less.
Simple example? Canada just outlawed plastic bags – but of course plastic packaging is everywhere, so instead of really solving a problem they just made things much less convenient for many (try a bag with no handles, with arthritis), while outright mandating the destruction of more forests for polluting paper pulp per year. Nice (and yet so typical, right?)
The FREAKIN’ OBVIOUS solution? (again, retail teaches much). Use the durable and re-usable totes upon which all corporate distribution has been based for literally decades. I mean it, I unloaded totes at Boots Drugs when I was a pimple-faced seventeen year old stock clerk, and the guy who delivers our groceries to this day shows up with totes – and then pulls soggy useless paper bags out of them and hauls the totes away. Charge a deposit, leave the totes, save the trees, DONE
Honestly folks – things don’t have to just degrade and rot and fester, problems can actually be solved, but competence is required (and like I said, demanding that and integrity, is perhaps our single most important job, as citizens).
One of the biggest problems for leftists (and yes, I still live there) is that a leftist with a meticulous head for planning detail and business realism, is a very rare bird.
It is crude as heck, but there are two things which show up as differences between what we call left and right (way out into outer space, though both extremes have now drifted).
One of them is that creativity clusters on the one side, hard nosed realism and planning on the other. The fact that the left can’t plan for shit is proven again and again by the number who still seem eager to provoke a civil war – against the side which has all the guns, tactical discipline and prepper depots in networks right across the continent.
I mean sure, I know who I like better, but I also know who I’d bet on (speaking here as an already heartbroken student of history, revolutionary history in particular).
What drives me crazy is that we keep pretending we can wish our way to a practical plan. No folks, tried and failed and we are flat out of time for that nonsense. Like it or not, the kind of practical planning which is most easily found on the right, is absolutely required, if we are to dig our way out of this mess – together.
Problem is – we enjoy the sport of tribalism so much that when I say right, my friends on the left will think of the biggest right wing idiot they can, to justify their ignorant blanket contempt (and so they can maintain their proud ignorance long into the future) and my friends on the right will do exactly the same, when I say left (and both have plenty of horrible real examples of idiocy to point to, that really do suggest the other team has a whole lot of crazy in it).
Now let me tell you about how I came to have my favourite fight in so damn long, to give you a better idea about what I mean.
I have always had a problem with authority, and while I try as a more mature man to make sure my idealist petulance does not ever get in the way of the rights of others who might not be as good at speaking up, or disrupt things that they rely on, I don’t miss a lot of opportunities to question the stark fist of power, especially when I’m told I’m not supposed to.
So the more I heard people spouting angry contempt about the people who voted for Trump, the more I realized I needed to get to know a few more of them, and find out what they had to say from their side of things. I hold myself to this standard, because I remember very clearly what it has been like to cross so many thresholds of ignorance.
The difference between making up what we assume must have happened or be happening in a community we are not a part of and have not been welcomed into, and actually talking deeply to someone who saw it and felt it for themselves, is as big as the difference between a fantasizing virgin, and a sexually confident adult. Total.
I’ve been lucky to make friends from all around the world, often from countries I had studied from afar for many years. Not once did my assumptions survive first contact with their real witness (though study did help me ask better questions), and I am grateful to this day, for every way in which my international friends have proven my ignorance, and in doing so, pointed me toward especially productive growth.
But where to find Trump people to talk to? Well, being a caregiver under lockdown, I finally caved and stuck my toe into online gaming, and sure enough, that is one of the last places on earth where (discorporeal) people of all political stripes can and do meet and mix. I can’t say there is no conflict (in a world of super mutants and feral ghouls, you kind of need to keep your weapons about you) but I can say there are some truly wonderful mixed discussions, which would be highly unlikely in any other context.
One of my first new friends used most of his personal building budget to create a giant “Let’s Go Brandon” sign, of Hollywood scale. I laughed, he said, “I hate to tell you this man, but our president is senile, and he was an idiot anyway.” I said, “Yeah, no kidding,” he laughed, we had a fun chat.
My second new Trump supporter friend is one of my favourite new friends in ages. He’s a dedicated loving dad (fully supportive of his lesbian daughter, as is his wife) and he’s a determined skeptic, like me, but starting from a more rural conservative and fantastically self-reliant place.
He had a childhood much much crazier than mine (and I really don’t get to say that very often), and so, to me, has come an even further distance, to be able to base himself in love and dedication to others, instead of staying rooted in bitterness, as so many victims of protracted pain tragically do for their entire lives.
He calls me brother, I do the same, and we both get a huge boost whenever we find the same game server, and can hang for awhile. Also worth noting, his architectural creations (you can build the house your character lives in) have progressed from Mies Van Der Rohe, to Gropius, to Frank Lloyd Wright – all by pure iterative aesthetic instinct. (he laughs when I tell him that, never having heard of any of them, but then his wife has some fun new things to look for on the internet).
He introduced me to another fellow who he had been gaming with for ages, and this fellow, I’ll call him Jake for today’s purposes, was also rescued from a very hard early life by all-in love (which really is a superb thing to have in common).
The funny thing is, Jake reminds me of some of my favourite lefties, who are kind of conservative in temperament, but can thus bring the romantic motivation set, together with a far more realistic and numbers-based planning mentality.
That is to say, he is a Trump supporter (but also all-for gay marriage and opposed to racism) who really does not conform to the sneering elite stereotypes at all.
I knew this right away at the start of the argument I enjoyed so much.
I have spent decades opposing nuclear power with great (argumentative) determination – I feel very differently about it now, and I wanted to see how well my reasoning would go over with a skeptical resourceful and technically inclined sort of guy, who was not in any way a bleeding heart. Could it pass the workshop cynic test?
Right away he comes back with, “No way dude, it has GOT to be solar.”
And we were off and swinging – but with total respect the whole time, mind you.
The funny thing was, it soon became clear that we weren’t so opposed as we thought we were – that is, when he said Solar and I pushed back, I was thinking of the massive corporate scams which take huge areas of farmland or even desert ecosystems, and use taxpayer subsidies to transform this land in a hostile way, mostly to line the pockets of shareholders.
That is to say – doing more corporate damage to more of the surface of earth, just to add more power to support our increased luxury and device consumption, all for non-local benefit.
And then for his part, when I said nuclear he was thinking of the worst nuclear plants ever built by humans (based on scaled-up nuclear submarine power plants – because even though the government knew much safer ways to go, right at the inception of nuclear power, they also knew those true civil-grade reactors were going to be much more expensive to develop).
Where are we now? What kind of reactors are now being built? Small modular reactors which don’t take decades to build and absolutely cannot melt down. Simple as. Disconnect all power to the safety systems and they passively slow to a stop.
(and yes, this was part of several of the rejected proposals for the first generation of citizen-safe commercial power reactors – read Freeman Dyson for many more juicy details).
Have I forgotten about the fuel? No I have not. The question is – have you forgotten about Africa? No seriously, are you a racist imperialist or not? BE CLEAR.
Right now, almost every plan being pursued by western governments is based on subsidizing large corporations to do renewable things which we hoped would work forty years ago, but have not lived up to our hopes, when tested at scale. We have plans to transfer public money to corporations, but absolutely do not have plans adequate to close the gap from where we are, to stable survival.
Like I say – renewables working is CONDITIONAL on displacing other power. We’d know that was happening if our total outputs were going down. So, no, we’re just lying – still (so much for us finally being serious).
At the same time as we pursue grand plans which for sure won’t work (at great expense) we are deconstructing the power systems which for decades in the mid twentieth century, supported the raising of our own poor to a higher standard of living and dignity (sliding though it has been, for decades now), that is – we in the rich west are going anti-growth in a big way, long before everyone else in the world has even got a small piece of our basic dignity and opportunity. I’m not talking big screen TVs, I mean power and sanitation, folks. Is anyone actually for infant mortality?
More precisely, and I ask this honestly, is Environmentalism STILL a branch of Eugenics as it once was? And are we sure we’re sure? (we moderns definitely do think population in the abstract is an outright disgusting thing, which is a kind of casual racist contempt that really should shock, or at very least worry us).
Does the fast expanding African population deserve adequate infrastructure to support a healthy dignified standard of living? Or are we, who have proven we will not even sacrifice our convenience for the planet, going to keep using the force of our war institutions to completely deny prosperity and modernity to the black continent forever?
If we haven’t got a plan that guarantees they do better, at a rate faster than their population grows (which to me, can be achieved no other way but small modular nuclear) then we really are talking about a racist defence of our own established privilege, when we talk environment. We might say Eco, but we actually mean Ego.
So how did my new friend totally win the argument? (I not only conceded his point, but did so with outright glee).
He said, “Dude, I’m not talking about building wind farms on whale spawning grounds…” (which is actually in the works, because the slogan is now screw the whales, I guess) “…or putting up giant solar farms in untouched desserts. F@ck those big corporations sucking up all our taxpayer money.
What I’m talking about is the twenty grand and five years that I spent rigging up my whole damn house for solar, so that we used to have an energy bill of a couple hundred bucks a month, and now it’s less than five.”
So yeah. Can you imagine a left that would actually DO IT? Instead of pleading for the king to please do it for them? (yeah I know, sadly, me neither).
But you can’t tell me that we couldn’t all use a whole lot more of that can-do attitude, and a lot less assuming – someone else please just fix it on my dime, and just tell me later.
Yes I know you mean that, and are willing to pay more taxes for it. But haven’t you noticed? That isn’t what they do with our money. We have schmucks in charge. Not just idiots, but idiotic thieves.
They don’t want a future with a prosperous African middle class powered by safe small modular reactors, they’re using our money for a whole new cycle of violent war on the foreign poor for precious environmental materials overseas AND subsidizing union busting corporations trying to destroy worker dignity for everyone AND commissioning a whole new generation of what they assure us will be quite wonderful nuclear weapons. That ain’t left or right, it is both, it is BIG THEM.
Conditional folks. Our moral high ground most especially.
Whatever else may or may not be true, we definitely can’t save the world by handing the ones who have wrecked it, even more of our concentrated citizen power.
They can’t be trusted, and will not ever want any of the good things that we normal people want for everyone – because they honestly and sincerely believe that the best use for all of the good things of every last citizen on earth (even our most humane things like love, leisure, wisdom and fun), is to be ground up into dust and then turned into shareholder profit for them.
Both poles captured? The only way out is UP! (and together)
I should add a note here – I do have footnotes and multiple references for all of this stuff, but with social media craziness about Canadian news right now, I figured I’d just leave them off for today, to keep the piece standing on its own merits (nothing worse than getting persecuted by a paranoid bot over a freakin’ footnote, right?). Should you doubt my lifelong dedication to epistemology, multiple sources and clear understandings, I’ll do my best to catch you up!
And cheers, eh? Thanks for staying to the ever-lovin’ end!