Future? What Future?

These are two of the cheerful passages in the article. If you’ve never read the whole thing I’d recommend it…

The Delusion Revolution:
We’re on the Road to Extinction and in Denial

By Robert Jensen

Imagine that you are riding comfortably on a sleek train. You look out the window and see that not too far ahead the tracks end abruptly and that the train will derail if it continues moving ahead. You suggest that the train stop immediately and that the passengers go forward on foot. This will require a major shift in everyone’s way of traveling, of course, but it appears to you to be the only realistic option; to continue barreling forward is to court catastrophic consequences. But when you propose this course of action, others who have grown comfortable riding on the train say, “Well, we like the train, and arguing that we should get off is not realistic.”

In the contemporary United States, we are trapped in a similar delusion. We are told that it is “realistic” to capitulate to the absurd idea that the systems in which we live are the only systems possible or acceptable because some people like them and wish them to continue. But what if our current level of First World consumption is exhausting the ecological basis for life? Too bad — the only “realistic” options are those that take that lifestyle as non-negotiable. What if real democracy is not possible in a nation-state with 300 million people? Too bad — the only “realistic” options are those that take this way of organizing a polity as immutable. What if the hierarchies on which our lives are based are producing extreme material deprivation for the oppressed and a kind of dull misery among the privileged? Too bad — the only “realistic” options are those that accept hierarchy as inevitable.

Let me offer a different view of reality: (1) We live in a system that, taken as a whole, is unsustainable, not only over the long haul but in the near term, and (2) unsustainable systems can’t be sustained.

How’s that for a profound theoretical insight? Unsustainable systems can’t be sustained.

The delusional revolution is my term for the development of sophisticated propaganda techniques in the 20th century (especially a highly emotive, image-based advertising system) that have produced in the bulk of the population (especially in First World societies) a distinctly delusional state of being. Even those of us who try to resist it often can’t help but be drawn into parts of the delusion. As a culture, we collectively end up acting as if unsustainable systems can be sustained because we want them to be. Much of the culture’s storytelling — particularly through the dominant storytelling institution, the mass media — remains committed to maintaining this delusional state. In such a culture, it becomes hard to extract oneself from that story.

So, in summary: The agricultural revolution set us on a road to destruction. The industrial revolution ramped up our speed. The delusional revolution has prevented us from coming to terms with the reality of where we are and where we are heading. That’s the bad news. The worse news is that there’s still overwhelming resistance in the dominant culture to acknowledging that these kinds of discussions are necessary. This should not be surprising because, to quote Wes Jackson, we are living as “a species out of context.” Jackson likes to remind audiences that the modern human — animals like us, with our brain capacity — have been on the planet about 200,000 years, which means these revolutions constitute only about 5 percent of human history. We are living today trapped by systems in which we did not evolve as a species over the long term and to which we are still struggling to adapt in the short term.

Realistically, we need to get on a new road if we want there to be a future. The old future, the road we imagined we could travel, is gone — it is part of the delusion. Unless one accepts an irrational technological fundamentalism (the idea that we will always be able to find high-energy/advanced-technology fixes for problems), there are no easy solutions to these ecological and human problems. The solutions, if there are to be any, will come through a significant shift in how we live and a dramatic downscaling of the level at which we live. I say “if” because there is no guarantee that there are solutions. History does not owe us a chance to correct our mistakes just because we may want such a chance.

Just because BP sank the giant hundreds of millions of gallons oil blob below the surface with poison chemical dispersants and turned it into a giant hundreds of millions of gallons blob of invisible poison[1] doesn’t mean it’s not still there… and continuing to grow.

[1] Toxicologist: Oil/Corexit mix caused heart trouble, organ damage, rectal bleeding, Stephen C. Webster, July 2010


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    • Edger on July 29, 2010 at 17:56

    Ten thousand people, maybe more.

    People talking without speaking,

    People hearing without listening,

    People writing songs that voices never share

    And no one dare

    Disturb the sound of silence.

    “Fools” said I, “You do not know

    Silence like a cancer grows.

    Hear my words that I might teach you,

    Take my arms that I might reach to you.”

    But my words like silent raindrops fell,

    And echoed

    In the wells of silence

  1. Inspired by this quote –

    “The solutions, if there are to be any, will come through a significant shift in how we live and a dramatic downscaling of the level at which we live.”

    This morning, around 6:30am, before I left for my place of employment I needed to make a garbage run out to the dumpsters. As I approached the dumpster bunker I could here somebody else already in there … perhaps making the same garbage run as I.

    As I turned the corner and not to startle anyone I said “good morning” but was not heard by this gentleman. As I tossed my handful of waste into the nearby dumpster the man jumped in surprise.

    He was a black gentleman somewhere between 30 and 40 years old, wearing khaki’s pants and green shirt. (If you haven’t yet guessed he was rummaging through these two large trash bins for recycling.) Mind you this was at 6:30am …. at this point he didn’t have to say a thing as his actions were already understood and humbling. But what he said next made my heart drop.  

    In this brief encounter he told me how he was a manager at a company that closed its doors. How he was doing what he had to do to make ends meet and raise his family.  

    If we don’t take care of each other we will surely tear each other apart trying to survive. I reached into my pocket and slid him a $5 bill … he needed it more than I did.

    BTW – I appreciate the post.  

  2. My alien xml device is pumping code!  BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


    Not bad for all night coding jam after a pint of Jack …

  3. The Coming Insurrection:

    From whatever angle you approach it, the present offers no way out. This is not the least of its virtues. From those who seek hope above all, it tears away every firm ground. Those who claim to have solutions are contradicted almost immediately. Everyone agrees that things can only get worse. “The future has no future” is the wisdom of an age that, for all its appearance of perfect normalcy, has reached the level of consciousness of the first punks.

    we mean it man

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