Reasons Not to Despair

To some extent we probably all share the frustration.

We’ve all been driven into the political wilderness by recent events, but it’s been coming a long time. At least since Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his most important and most famous speech on Jan. 17, 1961.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

We failed to heed Ike’s warning, fell into that rabbit hole and it’s been one horror show after another ever since. Today the MIC rules the world. It is perverse, horrific and the greatest impediment to anything like the actual advancement of civilization, bar none. It will either kill us or we will dismantle it and/or repurpose it. With it gone or transformed, we will be able to focus our attention, our treasure and our genius on things that matter – not the mindless slaughter of random people for corporate profit.

But the MIC’s not the whole story. There are parallel stories going on, many of which are much more cheerful and hopeful, stem cell therapies and solar roofs.

The world is big and complicated, paradoxical even, much like the larger universe (not to even get into the multiverse).

In terms of our biological evolution, we are cavemen in fancy new clothes. Much of what we’re evolved to do no longer has much value. When saber cats came sniffing around the cave at night, we learned to be specially attuned to anything that sounded or seemed the least bit alarming. Alarm was a thing to be taken very seriously.

Being scared shitless served us pretty well when we were prey for voracious beasts. We were slow, naked and crunchy. And we tasted delicious (presumably). Consequently, we are drawn like moths to the flame to anything alarming. ‘Terrorism’ is a fine example. The Powers That Be help create terrorism, and then use it to manipulate and control us. AQ, ISIS, all self-created to be a problem for us and a weapon for them (the horrific assholes who run the world, aka the Powers That Be, aka the global elite, aka, the 0.01%).

Our biological evolution (geologically slow) has been outpaced by our cultural evolution (hyper-fkn-fast). As a species, we have transformed our own reality in mind-blowing ways from our days in caves to men on the moon. We left biology in the dust, baby! But biology isn’t done with us yet. We’re still cave men at the deepest level. Just look around. Especially if you happen to be one of the unfortunates living in a war zone. Not hard to see the caveman in that context.

Surprisingly enough, the world’s a much less scary place now that we have shelter and are not often preyed upon, at least not by animals other than humans. Not that it’s not still scary, just not nearly as. Fear is still a useful adaptation in the right context. We still need it, just not so much of it, but our genes haven’t caught up with our new, generally safer realities. Our genetic disposition for fear is still based on saber cats, cave bears and the like.

Pathogens and diseases that would have killed us outright eons ago, are frequently handled with simple medicines of one sort or another or prevented via sanitation or whatever. We drive cars with crumple zones and air bags. And it looks like we’re headed to self-driving cars and no accidents. Safety, safety, safety. Even with all our fucked up wars (and I hate them with a passion) our chances of being slain in war are generally less than at most other times in history.

Of course we are (as cavemen) still prone to being scared shitless, and that unfortunate fact is used against us relentlessly by the Powers That Be (namely the MIC, or its owners in the 0.01%). The MSM, rank propaganda organs all, excel in ramping up fear for political purposes. It’s what they do. It makes it easy to push us around. You get people scared enough about anything and it’s easy to run right over them.

Though it often evades our attention because of our intense focus on all that’s alarming in the world, there are levels upon which things have gotten better and better over time. This doesn’t mean that other things haven’t gotten shittier because many of them totally have. We see the truth of this in the appalling daily spectacle in Washington D.C. The scary part there is that Trump is a symptom of a much larger disease that’s been decades in the making. Remember how fucked up things in Washington have been for decades, well before the Trump crazy train ever got there? Yeah, he’s a whole new level of crazy but things have been crazy in Washington for a long long time.

The evolution and dominance of the MIC has made a mockery of our highest principles and most fervent hopes. It has forced on us and the larger world unnecessary wars with all the attendant horrors and a government so corrupt as to be largely if not completely useless for it’s intended purpose.

The MIC and their phony wars for profit devour precious resources that could radically improve our lives. Without this immoral and unwarranted drain on our resources, we could have: universal healthcare, free education, a refurbished and modern infrastructure, a phenomenal public school system, an actual safety net worthy of the name, and Universal Basic Income for all.

And this last item is critical because most of our jobs are going away. Bill Gates says that entrepreneurs are going to have to create and invent new jobs to replace all the ones lost to automation. Yeah, no. The simple fact is that there are not going to be many jobs left and not many reasons to invent new ones. If they’re not needed they’re not needed. We face a future of very little work available. What to do?

UBI is the obvious solution and the only humane one.

People are often skeptical about technological fixes to climate change, and maybe they are right to be. No one really knows what the window for solutions may be, how much time we’ve got left in which to act. Certainly urgency is called for since the window may be tight. Some say it’s too late, and maybe it is, but do we give up fighting? I say no. Because we don’t know. There may be just enough time left to get our act together if we don’t give up or delay. Maybe if we bear down and do the right things, we can turn it all around.

There are technological solutions but they may or may not work, or even if they do they may or may not save us. It depends to a large degree on how much time we have left. But some tech solutions show great promise:

China Cancels 103 Coal Plants, Mindful of Smog and Wasted Capacity

The Philippines’ renewable energy sector is booming (and it could get bigger)

2016 was the year solar panels finally became cheaper than fossil fuels. Just wait for 2017

Elon Musk: Tesla’s Solar Roofs Will Be Cheaper Than Regular Roofs & Have “Infinity Warranty”

Unsubsidized wind and solar now the cheapest source for new electric power

The world is changing slowly, maybe too slowly, but who knows, maybe we’ll make it.

10 signs that climate change success is coming

1/ The first of recent rumblings comes from an unusual source. The Oil Minister of the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, Saudi Arabia’s Ali al-Naimi, spoke in mid-May about how he could see the phase-out of fossil fuels by mid-century and said his country planned to become a global leader in solar and wind energy.

2/ On 3 June, the world’s largest furniture retailer, IKEA, pledged $1 billion of climate finance, dwarfing amounts pledged by some entire countries.

The money would be split with $600 million in renewable energy investments putting the company on track to become energy independent. The other $400 million would go to help vulnerable communities affected by climate change, setting an example for national governments that they need to split their own finance contributions between mitigation-focused spending to reduce emissions, and adaptation to help at-risk countries.

3/ The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Norway’s $890-billion pension fund, has just agreed to divest $10 billion of coal stocks, joining a global divestment movement turning its back on the most polluting fossil fuel.

4/ On 8 June, a study by Lord Stern and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics revealed that Chinese emissions could peak by as early as 2025, 5 years ahead of a government-agreed deadline of 2030.

5/ On the same day, a poll by the International Trade Union Confederation showed that 9 out of 10 people around the world are demanding their elected leaders do more to tackle climate change.

6/ In what was clearly a busy day for climate news, 8 June concluded with front-page headlines around the world as the G7 called for the decarbonization of the global economy by the end of the century and announced reform of the national energy systems of G7 nations.

7 Even the UN climate negotiations are showing progress, aiming to peak at the first fully global pact to begin addressing climate change at the COP21 meeting in Paris in December. Countries are in the process of submitting their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’, or INDCs, which will make up the Paris deal.

8/ Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, said it would target a 64% reduction in its current emissions trajectory within 15 years. At the UN talks in Bonn, countries asked for the co-chairs of the negotiations for the Paris deal to provide a clearer agreement for ministers to work on, suggesting they are beginning to realize the need for more urgent progress.

9/ This momentum is expected to continue this week with the publication of Pope Francis’ Papal Encyclical on the Environment on Thursday, which will likely argue that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has pushed the world to breaking point and make the case for an ethical and economic revolution to address climate change.

10/ On Wednesday 17 June, people are urged to take part in the first mass lobby of Britain’s Parliament. Up to 10,000 people are expected outside Westminster in London to speak to MPs, urging them to make tackling climate change a government priority. The event is being organized by The Climate Coalition, consisting of more than 100 British organizations, from Christian Aid to Surfers Against Sewage, calling for a clean, safe and prosperous planet.

From oil-producing nations and furniture shops to economists and the Pope, the world is seemingly beginning to get on board the transition to a low-carbon world.

I’m not saying ‘hey, we got this,’ nothing to worry about, I’m just saying there’s more than one thing happening and some of them are hopeful. We aren’t attuned to things that are hopeful, we’re attuned to things that are harmful and threatening. So I think we have to make special effort to try and let some sunshine into the darkness of the day.

As for the left in the US, we have been so viciously and dishonestly attacked by the rightwing PTB, who dominate everything, including our entire political system (both sides of the duopoly), and the media, etc., that people who self-identify as leftists have shriveled on the vine to practically nothing. So, in that sense, yes, ‘the left’ is virtually nonexistent.

But there is reason to think that’s more about the semantics than the policy. Bernie’s astonishing success as a self-proclaimed socialist (democratic socialist to be precise) proved that vast swathes of Americans want socialist policies. Not even the dreaded ‘socialist’ label hurt Bernie. The only thing that hurt Bernie was the DNC and the cheating assholes in the establishment dems who are rabidly committed to the 0.01%, the PTB and the status quo.

Bernie supporters, by far the most enthusiastic I’ve ever seen, may or may not think of themselves as leftists or socialists or want to be so identified, but they sure loved Bernie’s socialist policies. So, in that sense, the not left (but left) are rising. It seems to me that leftist identification is not what’s most important, it’s the policy.

We saw the people rise up in the 60s, we saw it more recently with Occupy Wall Street, Food Not Bombs, the Bernie movement, etc. We saw the people rise only to see them narrowly defeated by trickery and skullduggery, and we may see it again even bigger and maybe even sooner. It seems to be coming in waves.

Each time the people rise it gets bigger and better. We may see the wave we’ve been waiting for, working toward, pining for. We may be closer than ever. It may at least be a solid step forward on the path to higher civilization. Will it manifest in a 2020 Bernie run or something else?

Yes, I know Bernie has problems, but his policies are popular, seen by a surprising number of Americans as just what the doctor ordered.

With or without Bernie, I think this is where we’re going: universal healthcare, universal education, universal basic income and all the rest – and precisely because the not left (but left) is growing and demanding sane and humane policies – or leftist policies, if you prefer. A leftist by any other name would smell as sweet.

We may look weak, we may feel weak, but I’m starting to think we may be stronger than we’ve ever been and getting stronger. We seem to be tipping, contrary to every effort by the PTB, and however unexpectedly, into at least single-payer healthcare. That ain’t everything but it ain’t nothin’.

I could be wrong of course, but I’m hopeful, which is a nice feeling. Am I hopelessly naive? Yeah, maybe. But I like to think that, no matter what, we’re going to pull through this shit and come out better. It’s not like there isn’t generous room for improvement.

The story of 2016 turned out to be a nightmare – but it almost turned out differently. What if Bernie had won? How much different would it have been? It’s impossible to say of course, but maybe significantly so. There would still be the PTB and the knuckle-draggers in Congress, etc. but it would at least be better fighting for free education and universal healthcare than fending off the insane clown posse – and don’t tell me our prospects for being sane and responsible regarding climate change wouldn’t be vastly superior to the outright lunacy with which we find ourselves saddled.

So yeah, I don’t think Bernie would usher in a socialist paradise, but he might represent a solid first step toward something approaching such an ideal. It would certainly legitimize socialists. It’s not about Bernie, it’s about those amazingly sane and responsible policies he constantly pushes. However sincere, honest, trustworthy or what have you, Bernie may or may not be, Bernie is beside the point. Those policies are leftist policies, they are what this country needs and they are wanted by vast swathes of the voters in this country. WE ALMOST BEAT THEM…with a socialist. That’s an astonishing fucking thing. Our next big push may do it.

We have been driven into the political wilderness for now, but remember, we almost beat them – and with little people money and a socialist candidate.

Would I rather have a total revolution, sweeping the status quo into the dust bin of history in one swell foop? Sure. It’s just hard to conjure a vision of how that would work. I just think we’re in a space where we are constrained by a series of inconvenient facts: they have the guns, they’re spying on us all, they own the government (which is supposed to be ours, remember that?) and they’re fully prepared to slaughter us if we get testy.

Of course we’re going to get testy, that’s already happening, but we also need to get crafty. No point in just baring our throats. A powerful civil uprising is preferable to a blood bath, in my opinion at least.

2016 knocked me for a loop and it’s taken me a while to sort out what I think I learned from it all (still workin’ on it).

From a political viewpoint, I think a Bernie-style ‘political revolution’ may be our only hope of avoiding a real blood ‘n guts revolution. I hope we manage to be wise enough to avoid that. I’m a humanitarian first and foremost and I believe the future belongs to humanitarians. I’m not particularly well schooled in socialist theory, but the humanitarian nature of it is what attracts me. My basic belief is that we should all take good care of each other and make everyone’s lives as much better as we possibly can.

From a broader perspective, I think our political system may become irrelevant before it can ever manage to do anything good.

This has been a hard thing for me to get my head around, but I think we may be witnessing two major dynamics working themselves out in the same time and space, that is to say simultaneously. On the one hand we see a bizarre and precipitous decline and fall of American civilization. It’s broken, kaput and circling the drain. It’s obvious if you’re looking and not inclined toward denial. Nowhere is it more apparent than in our political system. Even the good guys (democrats) suck now. The corruption is profound. And now we’ve descended into outright idiocracy. And the rich boys are cool with it…as long as they keep getting richer. It’s the ONLY thing they care about. Piss poor humans they are.

The other major dynamic I see is what may be the new higher civilization rising, like the Phoenix from the ashes but simultaneous to the decline and fall. All the crazy shit that is troubling us now (racism, greed culture, warmongering, political corruption) may be in the final phases of hanging on by the skin of its teeth. All these things, these ancient centers of power, all these ancient curses, may soon fall away as we emerge from our 20th century cocoons and fly into the future as 21st century butterflies. Ha! I’m sorry. I have a disease that causes me to lapse into silly purple prose. I’ll try an’ watch that.

I guess my main point is that things may look pretty grim, and they do, but there is reason for hope. Please don’t despair. March on.

Peace out.

Randall A. Shields is a well-known blogger posting as One Pissed Off Liberal or OPOL at DailyKos for over a decade, before leaving over their mistreatment of Bernie Sanders and the site’s inexplicable support for Hillary Clinton. He is a 60’s survivor, Woodstock alumnus, a human rights/anti-death penalty/anti-war/prison reform/anti-drug war activist, an artist/poet/writer, a dharma bum, a freedom-fighter and an original Southern hippie.