Roger Baker : Bad News and The Wall of Denial

Breaking down the wall. Photo from Andrew Alexander / Flickr.

Shock therapy:
Breaking down the wall of denial

By Roger Baker / The Rag Blog / June 27, 2010

I think that dramatic experiences like the oil spill, or some other bad news equivalent, are absolutely inevitable under a corporat-ocracy. But they are also necessary for progress.

Why? To break down the wall of denial that prevents us from seeing that our global survival depends on abandoning the maximizing of global profit, with weak regulation, as our primary global motivator.

The maximum-expansionist policy inherent to capitalism, unregulated, and blind to the future, ultimately reinforces population overshoot, famine, and maximum disruption and destruction of nature. But the current exploitation is like slowly boiling a frog, the entrenched status quo really needs some trigger event to alert the system to danger.

This is because political consciousness is not a linear process; it is raised in stages through psychological breakthroughs, through responding to specific crises like the oil spill. I think Naomi Klein has written about how the U.S. political system practically requires shock therapy to initiate change, which is often used to advantage by the bad guys, as with 9/11. On a personal level this could be a job loss, sufficient to cause a traumatic revaluation of one’s political fundamentals and outlook.

It took the hyper-inflation of the Weimar republic in Germany in the 1920s to more or less permanently make the Germans fear inflation, much more to this day than the USA. I imagine the great earthquake caused San Francisco to build stronger buildings — more effectively than could any possible warnings by multitudes of seismologists and scientists.

On many issues — like energy, water, global warming, food, and population increase — we ultimately need to run into various barriers for progress to occur. We don’t need band-aids to treat symptoms; we need situations that seriously interfere with our comfort, sufficient to shake up our cultural assumptions, and that cause us accept unpleasant solutions. Better a little pain today than a lot more pain later through lack of intelligent early action on predictable threats.

The public is currently fearful and angry about government due to personal pain, but this anger is not well-focused, except now almost universally against BP in the case of the oil spill. This crisis involving natural limits tends to raise both oil addiction awareness, and corporate domination awareness.

It is unpopular to say, but we do need more of certain kinds of problems that disturb our comfort enough to make it possible to take the actions that prepare us for the future. Problems that are serious enough to disturb us into appropriate action, but yet not so serious that they cause us to do crazy hysterical things, like electing hate candidates offering simple cultural and ethnic solutions.

Meanwhile, so long as the economic pain persists, but is treated symptom by symptom by an already overstressed system, I think the public will broadly demand some new political outlets in response, and the Tea Party supporters, however they might evolve, are still in the running. Whether the political result is based on a sensible long term vision, or a toxic brew of self-reinforcing political hostility similar to the current bipartisan gridlock in Congress is the real choice.

[Roger Baker is a long time transportation-oriented environmental activist, an amateur energy-oriented economist, an amateur scientist and science writer, and a founding member of and an advisor to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA. He is active in the Green Party and the ACLU, and is a director of the Save Our Springs Association and the Save Barton Creek Association. Mostly he enjoys being an irreverent policy wonk and writing irreverent wonkish articles for The Rag Blog.]

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10 Responses to Roger Baker : Bad News and The Wall of Denial

  1. TomD says:

    The first “comment” epitomizes the attitude Roger is talking about – blind simpletons, la-la-la-ing along. Bleah.

    OK; on to my comment. In zoology, the phenomenon Roger is talking about is called “overshoot and die-off.” A herd of … whatever moves in, finds the livin’ easy, and gens up a bunch of young whatevers.

    After a time, the increased population eats all there is to eat there, and they start starving. Why don’t they move? Well, it’s been good here up to now; why risk going someplace we don’t know anything about? And they die – often down to a level below even where they were when they first got there.

    Capitalism’s been good to us up to now – why try something different? Technology’s always been able to fix things up to now – it’ll be there to do it again. Meantime, I like driving a car I have room to move around in; I like not having to get out in the Texas heat and walk anywhere.

    I’m afraid it’s time for those of us who see the fit heading towards the shan to do all we can to protect ourselves and ours. The waddling diabetics, the couch potatoes, and the willfully ignorant (like the Tea Partiers) are just going to die.

    It’s sad; but there’s nothing any of us can do to break through their wall of self-imposed blindness. We have to let ’em go, and put our energies into learning … no, make that re-learning how to live in a powered-down world.

  2. Note: The first comment referred to by TomD was removed because it was spam.

  3. TeleBob says:

    My old Economics 360 professor, Dr. Robert Montgomery at UT used to say, “Humans are lazy, avaricious creatures of habit. Once a pattern is established there are only two things that will make them alter their economic behavior patterns. Technical change and disaster. Both are inevitable.”

  4. I wouldn’t bet on conservatives going the way of the “overshoot and die-off.” You might want to be careful how many barriers you wish for.

    Take one part pissed off “blind simpleton” conservative, one part federal spending spree, ten parts cultural/economic/political pain, one part nanny state liberals telling everyone else how to live, add in a couple hundred million guns, and a couple hundred billion rounds of ammo, then stir vigorously.

    This Revolution Stew serves tens of millions of lock-n-load, kick your butt then take your stuff, love it or leave it, God fearing, patriotic, capitalism loving, constitution revering, beer_babes_n_BBQ good times Average Joe revolutionaries who think San Fransicko would make a wonderful walled off prison camp for progressives and socialists.

  5. richard jehn says:

    Lance: This is the best evidence yet that you and yours truly are mindless fascists. But we knew that all along.

  6. C’mon Richard, why so sensitive? The author said we “need to run into various barriers for progress to occur … we need situations that seriously interfere with our comfort, sufficient to shake up our cultural assumptions” He suggested that such barriers would cause us to accept the unpleasant solutions such barriers would require of us.

    I pointed out that his perspective didn’t account for the fact that some may not wish to change their country, constitution, life, religion, etc for the sake of the lefts view of “intelligent early action”. Is it so hard to imagine that many in this country will simply choose to destroy the barriers rather than change their lives to accommodate them?

    The real problem is that the continued assault on capitalism, our sovereignty, our fiscal solvency and our constitutional liberties leaves those of us who just don’t give a damn about the socialist/communist/marxist agenda with less and less wiggle room.

    Richard, do you think I am impressed with a bunch of masked anarchists smashing windows in a fit of pubescent rage during this or that global summit? Ohhhh, wow, you guys torched some cars and burned some tires while recounting your stories of resisting the “man” back in “the day”. You called us mindles fascists. The truth is that Anarchists are the mindless ones. They just like to break shit and think it makes them bad ass. Instead you just come across as juvenile and pathetic acting out in anger.

    Those who fought a revolution to create America were violent to create something worth creating. If the new revolution is violent, it will be so in order to preserve something worth preserving.

  7. Anonymous says:

    DHS,
    Methinks, the recent (black shirt) anarchists you refer to are provocateurs; their goal? Not to impress folks like you but to push public opinion in(Canada) to the right. How do Canadian and American groups like The Edmund Burke Society (in Canada) and the Teabaggers(USA) differ in their views?
    mps

  8. MPS, I will take your word for it that the anarchists in Canada this past week are provocateurs. Its not beyond reason to think some group or agency planted them. I dont know enough to say one way or the other.

    As for your question about the Burkers and the TEA Party. I will answer this way. What is the difference between the collectivist society that Mr Baker and other Rag Bloggers envision and the collectivist societies that Mao and Stalin built? To explain or to understand the explanation requires knowledge of this group and the larger group of Progressives in the US. Without such knowledge, it would be easy to infer that anyone here who proposed a socialist or communist or other form of collectivist society favored the murder tens of millions of people, as Mao and Stalin did.

    In other words, the differences are both important and substantial and occasionally nuanced. The Burkers are actually far closer to the Weather Underground or the later SDS group in terms of actions and strategies, though certainly not goals. The Burkers bear little resemblence to either the strategies of the TEA parties which are primarly focused on fiscal, economic and constitutional issues.

    For more comprehensive information you will have to spend time learning about the TEA Party movements.

  9. The article posted by anon for Naomi Klein’s blog is a perfect example of why “spending our way out of a crisis” liberal policies are now laughing stocks on both sides of the Atlantic. Here is a message to Naomi: STFU and stop whining about fairness while you screw over the next generation or two.

    She decries the rising cost of education, the reduced pensions, etc that will result from reducing deficit spending. In fact she pointed out the “We won’t pay for your crisis” banner carried by protestors.

    This ditzy woman fails to recognize that deficits of today reduce the employment opportunities, raise the cost of education, and diminish social safety nets for future generations. Conservatives today are carrying the message for the next generation: “Pay for your own damn crisis”.

    So how about if Naomi and the rest of the Spending-Other-Peoples-Money liberal crowd figure out how to pay for your crap with your own money?

    I for one think just reducing the deficit is a sham. With any deficit the debt is still growing. I would require that deficit spending by stopped, and serious efforts to reduce the DEBT be enacted. And whatever pain that causes today, well at least it will be experienced by us, not by our children and grandchildren.

    Piss off Naomi.

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