Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whistling past the graveyard

The following is an Anglicised paraphrasing of parts of a recent post on Jim Kuntzler's US blog. With the US and UK practically joined at the hip on pretty well all areas of policy that really matter, it only required minor tweeking to make it an equally accurate description of our present condition and the stark realities we are faced with.

What's going on in the UK economy right now is a slow-motion convulsion from which we will emerge as a very different nation with a very different economy.  The wild irresponsibility of the media in pretending otherwise is only going to make the convulsion worse, more painful, more socially and politically destructive. The convulsion can be described with precision as one of compressive contraction. Historic circumstances are requiring us to change our behaviour, to make new arrangements for everyday life in all the major particulars: capital accumulation and deployment; food production; commerce; habitation; transport; education; and health care. These new arrangements must be organized at a smaller and finer scale, and on a much more local basis.

The main "historic circumstance" mandating these changes goes under the heading of "Peak Oil."  We've come to the end of our ability to increase energy inputs to the global economy.  The routine "growth" in industrial activity and production that has been the basis of our financial arrangements for 200-odd years is no longer possible.  Offsetting this decline in oil energy "input" with "alt.energy" is a dangerous fantasy because it distracts us from the urgent task of making new arrangements for trade, food production, etc - the very things that would provide jobs and social roles for our citizens in the future.

We are witnessing a comprehensive failure of leadership in every sector and every level of British life - in politics, business, banking, education, news media, medicine, and the clergy. All are determined to pretend that we can somehow continue the habits and behaviours of the pre peak oil era. All appear unwilling to face reality, and all are engaged in mutually supporting each other's dangerous fantasies.

If we don't start attending to the transformation of life in these islands soon, by downscaling our activities, changing the way they are carried out and re-localizing them, we will see society disintegrate - and I use the word "dis-integrate" with purposeful precision. Everything will come apart - our political arrangements, our households, our health and our well-being.

At the moment, banking is disintegrating.  It's happening because the end of regular, predictable, cyclical, industrial growth means the end of our ability to generate credit without limits, and in fact we passed this point by stealth some time ago leaving the banks in "Wile E. Coyote" suspension above an abyss, where they have lately been joined by government at all levels and the indebted citizens of the land. The profound nausea spreading through the offices of Britain is the somatic recognition of exactly where we are in all this: off the cliff.

We're now seeing worldwide a kind of race between the assertion of peak oil and the failures of capital management as to which will provoke a widespread convulsion first.  They are obviously related and whichever gets us in the most trouble fastest, the destination is the same: the absolute necessity to reorganize how we live.  Among the many elements of this is the fact that "globalisation," in the Thomas Friedman sense of the word, is over. The urgent need to re-localize economies makes this self-evident. As a practical matter for us, this means committing to import replacement - making the things we need here in the UK and Europe in other words.  "Globalisation" now joins the many other fantasies that we can no longer indulge.

But - as we approach the 2009 festive season, our entire political class, regardless of party, remains resolutely committed to GROWTH which, translated means 'sustaining the unsustainable'.  That is their 'for public consumption' refrain at least; whilst, under cover of the phoney manufactured GWOT, those who pull the strings forge ahead with building the Security State they know will be required to deal with the shit-storm we are faced with.

1 comment:

  1. MarkU3:42 pm

    I agree entirely, its refreshing to read a piece by someone who has a grasp of the actual plot.