The Politics of the Future

I read a very interesting article today, called a politics of crisis: low-energy cosmopolitanism; I suggest you read it first, because my summary is rather poor. Broadly, this article discusses the implication of the series of global crises we’ve enjoyed in the last year, or the opportunities it provides to radicals both in the left and in the right ends of the political spectrum. It speaks of the “transition towns” movement in England as an example of the kind of localizing trend rising energy prices foster, and warns that this trend towards localization could cause a return to the days when we were all clannish and xenophobic. The authors and commentators ask pleadingly for an answer to their question: is it possible to have our liberal cosmopolitanism as well as our dream of a low-energy society? Can we retain our interconnected, multicultural world even when we can’t hop on a plane to Tokyo?

The answer probably lies in the fact that, although we will certainly have to reduce the amount of energy we use and replace our way of life with something completely different, the most important things that opened up our world are certainly here to stay; I find it hard to believe that even the complete collapse of our civilization will prevent Shortwave radio nuts from hooking their transmitters up to a solar panel, or the determined traveller from getting on a boat. Hell’s bells, even if we end up going back to covered wagons, didn’t they get the old pioneers all the way to Oregon? And those guys didn’t have radios, water filters, propane burners, GORE-TEX, or the Internet, all of which I am certain Humanity will retain.

The social innovation that we should be searching for is one that will finally reconcile the useful aspects of our modern technology and thought (and boy, there are a lot of them) with traditional, down-to-earth ways of life; that kind of world is not hard to imagine — think about a bunch of hippies in a teepee with a solar panel and satellite linkup (or digital shortwave radio if satellites aren’t available), surrounded by native prairie. They’ll be chatting with their buds in Tunisia while downloading a good book from Project Gutenberg, when a wildfire alert comes up, whereupon they will collapse the carbon-fiber frame of their tent, stick it on their bikes, and follow the bison away from danger.

Agrarian and urban societies are just as easy: useful, relevant technology and ways of thinking will remain, while those that have no use outside of this house of cards we live in will go the way of the Dodo — and good riddance. The important thing as far as our cosmopolitan liberalism is concerned is that those with the curiosity will certainly have the means to connect with like-minded individuals around the world through whatever decentralized, peer-to-peer version of the internet will exist, and those in cities will, as always, have the opportunity to meet and mingle with people of all shapes and colors.

In fact, I would argue that such a future world, while it would certainly have pockets of isolation, will be radically more diverse and than it is today: one of the main problems that we have today, in my opinion, is that there only appears to be room on this planet for one way of life: get a job, have an address, have a number. The urban, civilized way of life has completely taken over those parts of the world where you’re not likely to get killed on a daily basis. That is the direct result of unbelievable levels of centralization enforced by energy-intensive technology (I realize that this statement would need a lot of defence, but bear with me). My point is, that the traditional division of humanity into the urban, agrarian, and nomadic spaces is in for a comeback: the coexistence of those spaces is the kind of sustainable solution that worked for thousands of years, that encourages diversity in ways of thinking and living, that gives people the freedom to live the kind of life they are suited to. Although liberal values are not as useful in all those spaces equally, I think that it is safe to say that the world in which the urban, agrarian, and nomadic spaces variously combine with modern technology and thought is as worth looking forward to as it is inevitable.

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Published in: on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 at 10:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Exceptional

I don’t like American exceptionalism; while America is indeed a very special place, it’s not healthy for a society, or a person, to believe that his way is the best way and he is always right. That kind of attitude kills not only freedom, but entrepreneurship as well: when things are just fine as they are, well, that’s when you stop reaching for the stars. Stop reaching for the Stars… Ain’t that such a mournful phrase? It holds such despair and finality in so few words; it’s almost like a eulogy: “He just gave it up. He always tried to Reach for the Stars, but then he couldn’t take it anymore.” Well, The Stars in this context mean something that never can be reached — you can reach for them, but you cannot reach them. If you think you’ve reached them, then first of all you can’t, because they’re Stars, and second, you stop trying. Now if that’s not un-American, I don’t know what is.

Published in: on Saturday, October 18th, 2008 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cursed Apathy

Some things are worthy of a curse; that, for example, which will not lift a finger till it itself needs to be saved by the collective will or sense of justice; that, which wills to leave rule and execution to some other agency of import (or almost worse, the ragged monster of the headless mob); do that and look away till some injustice would descend on its unguilty head, whereupon it will indignantly be stunned by it.

Those ones, they have it coming: they could not care less what plagues another, so they should taste themselves the fruit of their uncaring zeal — that I say because sometimes it takes an effort to remain aloof; to insulate oneself from gray responsibility, and by a force of grotesque will remain an indistinguishable cog.

Perhaps the fools imagine themselves humble before the wisdom of some great; they are instead so proud as to suppose the hand of God can’t touch them by the virtue of some fallacious concept of neutrality. For, there is no neutrality but self-interest (while action serves sometimes another cause), and there’s no virtue in fence-sitting; to do nothing may sometimes be expedient and wise, but, as a rule to live by, inaction’s cowardly and selfish; for that there may be no reward, and punishment might richly be deserved.

Published in: on Monday, September 15th, 2008 at 5:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Lost Chances

Wings of fate carry in currents. It is strange how things go in a blink, to leave one gaping in the wind; perchance to catch a fly. Yet while flies in the mouth may be forgotten, a special place in the heart is set for every chance that’s lost. An elegant dance is danced; though roads may diverge in woods diversely colored, only one may be taken at a time; unless, that is, you are an electron. Strange beings, perhaps they are too small for the Universe to follow, so through the cracks they fall and can be in several places at once; or else, they are simply so diffuse as for a location to have no meaning.

But I digress; blinking is at issue here. One may blink once, and see the time is ripe. Twice may be cool as well; but a third, however wonted blink may bring a bullet list of questions answered. Such is the danger of a regimented life, that blinks sometimes are forced to follow in an unfortunate succession; and, sadly, no manner of frantically pulling the bell ever seems to restore time. Oh! Opportunity missed, a little untaken turn or shortcut that may have lasted all day and a lifetime… For each there is a time of mourning sadness that will invariably pass; although sometimes, if we look, then we may find it on the long way.

Published in: on Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anger

Anger courses with the blood; it slowly permeates the entire being; it lends strength. The best anger is patient; it has time to hone itself into an effective weapon. Failure is something that can fuel such anger, if used correctly. Failure is a grind stone, it sharpens wits and lends a wicked edge; that is, when the angle is right; otherwise it breaks the spine at its most sensitive spot.

Anger can manifest in all forms; it can bludgeon, or slash, or stab; it can strike from afar, or from point blank; it can also, in the manner of all swords, be double edged, and become the wielder as well as the wield.

Feel the anger, let it reinforce your wits and be vicious when you need to be; but become not angry: do not hate; let your anger be fueled with love.

Love and fail, fail and love; then arise again, and let the weapon of your righteous anger be the sharper each time. This way the weak triumph, and yet we are all weak, like gnats circling a tree in the greatest forest there ever was; sometimes a gnat can change the forest, in an age of gnat years; and though no gnat will see, the forest knows.

Published in: on Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hope

The tuft of an unidentified weed, picked in imitation, can testify to a peculiar turn of emotion, particularly in the context of a hat full of flowers on top of a pretty girl. As the innocent grin turns to reflection and memory, one may be drawn to paint a charming scene: across a calm river from near shores full of fear, a blade is picked as a native gesture in the face of full-blown charm; did these more gentle shores have not the concrete and violence of the nether world that awaits just past the next turning of the road, or across the river. The little bubble floats an inch above the jagged rocks; the world is perfect, if only for a little while.

And yet, a thin film of rainbow can be stronger than a rampart of steel: Let the clubs fall; sticks and stones may break our bones, but it would take a greater deal than that to break our spirit, infused as it is with the strength of a tuft of degenerated prairie grass. A bell note plays in the silence; the note sustains, while the silence is transformed.

Published in: on Friday, September 5th, 2008 at 1:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Pain

The hot blood of music courses through my veins and I receive an epiphany; irregular beats strike in time with my red heart. I know not where I go, but I know where I come from, and that’s what matters; the road ahead will show itself in due time. Nails break and hair falls off, but eyes, as dim as they might become, see the future and the past. Pain! Life is pain; there is nothing to save us from it but a small infusion of joy that might come from time to time to lift the darkness for an instant, like a stroke of lightning. How distance desensitizes! As though as nothing has ever happened to cause shed tears; but each tear frets a small channel in the cheek, and the channels irrigate imperceptible fields of wisdom, if I may be so bold. Tears shed and, even more so, hidden tears unshed, breed the flame of life. Oh! for those who I have ever loved are now divorced forever from me, and as the past snaps off, more swiftly than ever I have they would imagined, a song breaks out of a complaining throat to change a world; I pray, pray, pray to God and Nature to let me make beauty as awesome as my distant pains; the world I knew is gone forever, and a sort of emerald city shrouded in the mist of imperfect memory propels me forward to my destiny. My bleeding knees are evidence to my devotion better than any rehearsed prayer; may cruel Justice collect its due.

Published in: on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Love and Fear

When Cupid rears his handsome head: what a mess of a merry hell! A spark– and it is done; feathers are displayed, shadows move behind a handy screen; what of it?

How does passion turn to guilt, and guilt to fear?

Some things are hidden; secrets are a scourge upon the soul, for it wants not to hide a thing from whom it loves; lying taught us to imagine, whereupon we imagined a fable called Truth, and that made some, at any rate, detest deceit. Yet, lying is a social invention and a trusty tool; so hidden things put curtains in between, and that which aimed to strike the heart might ricochet into the striker’s kidney; whose pain the mystic scholars once called guilt.

Guilt is an admission of a breach of trust, that there is more afoot than meets the eye; it expects to be found out or met with falsehood in return; once guilt acquires hold and shoves its nails into the living flesh, it takes the aspect of a bloody bat, which rends the soul with fear.

Fear! It wracks nerves, refuses to give rest; fears and not-so-secret shames; oh! what it is that’s made of noble things. Pursuit of beauty, joy, and dreams, can, with some dull Chimeran malice well applied, be also made to be a thing of fear: what is considered wrong, pray tell? What is the object of this fear?

An image strange I conjure: All the world is darkness full of shadows cast around a multitude of flames; but to each flame the others sometimes seem a bit like shadows too, touching only fleetingly to be assured of one another’s incandescence. In such a world the choice is either seek the light and heat of fellow lives, or shiver else among the shadows; and as I reel with poison in my mind I shrink, immobile, and become a shadow, scared of light and scalding heat, whose tortured soul is secret. But it dreams–

A lonely flame is trembling in a black, red and orange field; it sways among the shifting shadows drunkenly, and burns the brighter, like a beacon. The shadows cringe away in prudish indignation to reveal…

Splashing naked in the stream, oblivious to furrowed banks or storm clouds bringing bitter sleet; in any case, who fears an insubstantial shadow in the ample bosom of companionship and love, in league with fantasies who live in airy castles?

Let not your well-loved castles in the air decline and be replaced by insubstantial atmospheric real-estate to box you off all nice and neat; and don’t forget that clouds make not good fences, nor do fences clouds.

Dance, happy dream flame, and be a pillar of fire at night; by your light the shadows don’t cast fear.

Published in: on Friday, August 29th, 2008 at 2:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Cassandra

Cassandra, Cassandra, why dost thy spirit walk to haunt the living still? Cruel Apollo (in the troubling guise of Fate) did have vengeance for his unrequited love; now thy ghost, Cassandra, stars in the dusty back rooms of the weird tragedies of the repeated falls of Troy (and others); just ask that damn peeping-tom, Schliemann, just how many times it fell.

How beautiful is thy symmetrical catharsis, O Cruel Apollo’s curse; how simple and pure and deadly thou art – O curse, indeed, begotten by bright Phoebus, god of Truth — thou, thou stark shadow, that turned bright Beauty mad.

What a bitch that Cassandra was, anyway, saddling us with this big whole damn original sin! Why didn’t she just Go with the damn god? I mean, he WAS a god, wasn’t he? She took advantage of him – she could have said no when he offered her prescience, couldn’t she? – and then went and dumped the poor guy without even having the decency to give him some Action first! Sure He got mad. Wouldn’t you? I would. It’s not like he wouldn’t’ve gotten tired of her soon enough and let her go – sans curse. So he said, better gimme back that diamond, baby, if you don’t want to work for it. Truth ain’t cheap… And if a girl ain’t fast enough says Apollo, and he ain’t the kind to play games, she might lose to someone else, like the Greeks or a bunch of donkeys in suits causing her brains to implode by sheer exuberant stupidity.

And that’s why children and politicians never listen to the warnings of their betters.

Published in: on Thursday, July 24th, 2008 at 4:47 am  Leave a Comment