There is a gathering storm of American voter unrest from citizens tired of having to chose between the party of blither, Republicans, and the party of dither, Democrats. The former jabber endlessly, making no sense, spouting nonsense and being outraged when sensible people point out these failings. On the other hand, the ditherers believe they have a winning strategy in simply not being the other guy. Who can blame them? President Obama was awarded what had previously been the most prestigious prize on the planet, the Nobel Peace Prize, for the achievement of not being George W. Bush. It was not lost on the ditherers that, under this criterion, almost everyone qualifies. Anybody could have done it. Unfortunately, this occurred very early in the President’s first term and set the tone for all Democratic Party strategy from that point on. “Don’t be a Republican, just hold on and the voters will reward you,” became the official party line.
For several decades now, at least since Reagan, maybe since Ford, the formerly great American electoral process has been reduced to Republicans blithering and Democrats dithering. Neither side has any real notion of principal, beyond the imperative that the election be won. Republicans have determined there is a working majority of morons who are anti-science, dedicated to superstition and magical thinking and far more interested in the certainty “belief” affords than they are in actual facts. This workable majority, until very recently, was content to follow the leadership of preternaturally cynical wealthy folk. Blither leadership believed, and still believes, voting constituents consist of a large majority of citizens who are arrogantly and aggressively ignorant and this is a very good thing. The blither elite also believed, until very recently, they could control the rabble with a constant avalanche of bombastic BS. Unfortunately, control by the blither elite is weakening, as a growing percentage of the aggressively ignorant still fervently believe the BS but are beginning to understand and to resent the fact that their “leaders” really do not. What does it tell us about the body politic when House Speaker John Boehner isn’t trusted by a majority of sitting Republican Congressmen because he is considered to be too rational and intelligent?
The party of dithering sees all this as a whole new set of wedge issues. Issues that can be used to split the blithering party along fissures between the sane and insane and the guys who still value reality and those who favor magical thinking.
The ditherers can clearly see the massive structural problems facing the national and world’s economies and cultures. The ditherer elite, deliberately useless tools, can even see and articulate what could be done to begin “solving” these problems. Regrettably, even knowing where “here” is and where “there” is, they lack both the will and the imagination to lead us from here to there. The ditherers, having learned the great lesson taught them by the Nobel Committee, are content with the short term gains they receive from not being Republicans. The ditherers lack the ambition to expand the party platform much beyond announcing what they are not.
In fairness to the leadership of both parties, these strategies have been solid performers over the decades following the Viet Nam War and the social upheavals of the sixties and seventies, on down to the present day. However, there are signs the old way is not working. Fractures within both parties are growing and, like movement along a tectonic plate, political earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are happening with increased frequency.
There are two seriously awful structural failings creating the greatest pressure along the political fault lines of both parties. These societal design flaws are not exclusive to the United States political system. They are a worldwide phenomenon. The first is the growing tension between the increasingly liberal, almost libertarian movement toward personal freedom in society versus the ever growing conservatism and government interference in people’s personal lives being written into the law. The second is the continuing and increasing subsidy of the hydrocarbon industry by taxpayers and governments worldwide.
Popular culture in the west, particularly in the west, but also all around the world, is calling like a siren to youth and other free minded persons of all cultures. This siren song is deeply embedded in every popular song, every commercial ad, whether print, video, audio or human sales pitch. In all cultures and all nations, maybe excepting North Korea, the popular culture is at odds with the laws and purposes of the state. You can see it in the United States, Western Europe, Iran, Egypt, Russia, China, India, Singapore, Nigeria, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, everywhere there are people with internet connections. This great divide between the bullies, like those who own Hobby Lobby and their employees who believe they are free men and women and not subjects of a theocracy, replicates itself in every corner of the world in every society. It is the tension between bullies who are not content to live their lives by their own light but must also force their beliefs on others. Believing themselves entitled by some divine right accruing from ownership, money, inherited political power, deeply ingrained cultural prejudice and all the other engines of oppression and control, elites use these to justify and enforce the loss of freedom of others.
The invention of modern communication, not simply the world wide web, but television, radio, international news agencies and other more prosaic means of cross cultural communication, has made it impossible to maintain cultural isolation. Cross fertilization of political, economic and cultural opinion and belief isolates the elites in a society from the common people of that society. In so doing, the elites face increased ambiguity in the binding certainties of old cultural norms and they become increasingly uncertain, frightened and reactionary.
As old certainties in a society begin to lose their hold on the populace, elites invariably try to embed the old norms into law, resulting in idiocies like the Defense of Marriage Act. These never work but in societies where the means of peaceful change are not common, these reactionary laws can take hold for some time, allowing serious political tensions to escalate to revolutionary levels. As the tensions increase, elites tend to double down and make matters even worse by putting off, by the use of deadly force, the inevitable. It is at this point you encounter serious explosions of civil war as we see going on in Syria and Iraq, though it must be admitted that the elites in both nations were, and are, more modern in dress and behavior than many of the people rebelling against subjugation. Once the dictatorships holding all this modern versus medieval warfare in check were destroyed or weakened by the collective work of the two biggest bone heads ever to grace the Oval Office, a global war that may have been coming all along has been unleashed. It is a dog that will run free for quite a long time before anybody gets it back on the lead.
One reason this war will be so hard to control is that it really isn’t a localized conflict. The madmen of ISIS are extreme examples of those who would happily kill, or aid and abed their murder, health clinic workers by publishing the names and addresses of the doctors and workers at Planned Parenthood clinics. To be fair, as far as I know, no anti-abortion protestors have beheaded anyone and posted the video on You Tube, but who can doubt the future possibility? No, the war unleashed by George Bush the lesser and his faithful sidekick, the AntiChrist, and continued with remarkable incompetence by President Obama is, in truth, a global war between, on the one hand, modern people who believe in and trust freedom and rational thought and medieval people who fear the ambiguity of a free society and crave the philosophical certainty of structure. This divide exists in every country and culture on Earth.
The second political, social and economic horror story is the world’s dependence on the hydrocarbon industry. To speak plain, the hydrocarbon industry, whether coal, oil, or natural gas, is dirty, dangerous and destructive of all it touches. It is a complicated business that cannot be conducted safely. In its entire one hundred and fifty or so year history, the people and companies who run the industry have never been able to avoid horrific accidents that are immediately dangerous to life and property in which the area the accident occurs and destructive to environments and life far beyond the immediate location. It has always been so. It will always be so. If such accidents could be avoided, given the extremely valuable nature of the stuff being spilled, blown up or otherwise subjected to destruction, the industry would have long ago figured out how to eliminate accidents. The industry hasn’t because it has found it impossible to do so.
Not so widely known or discussed is the fact that the hydrocarbon industry, no component of it or any individual company or the thing as a whole, is not truly profitable. Yes, that’s right, Exxon Mobile, consistently one of the most “profitable” companies on Earth, isn’t. Not really, and it never has been. If the hydrocarbon industry had to pay the true costs associated with production, cracking, manufacturing, blending,storing, distributing and retailing its products, including Exxon Mobile’s products, it would lose massive amounts of money each year. The loses, if accounted for accurately, would be so great the industry would make Amazon look like the greatest capitalist success story of all time.
Every year the world’s governments directly subsidize the industry with low cost leases to drill on government land and in government sea bottoms. Every year, governments directly subsidize the industries with highly specialized and targeted tax incentives, breaks, rebates and such. Every year governments directly subsidize the industry by patrolling and enforcing sea lanes primarily used by the hydrocarbon industry. Almost every year since the spread of the industry around the world, governments have spent untold billions, often trillions, for wars and police actions to maintain peace in nations whose populations resent the industry and the rape of their nations and communities by the industry. Every year the world simply absorbs the billions of dollars of unaccommodated costs caused by the destruction wrought from spills of hydrocarbon raw material and finished products, not to mention the accidental explosions, dumps and inappropriate disposal of the same. Every year the world simply absorbs the trillions of dollars of unaccommodated costs from the highly dangerous and polluting waste products of the industry and its consumers (that’s us).
The unaccommodated costs of and the cost of direct subsidies to the hydrocarbon industry are not unknown or unknowable costs. These costs are real, quantitative, cumulative, and highly destructive to human society and the environment. By simply passing these costs along to the taxpayers of the world and to the environment, the hydrocarbon industry is the biggest deadbeat, welfare recipient in all history.
Every year, if the hydrocarbon industry were made to pay the actual cost of its operations, the industry, and every company in it, would lose trillions of dollars. This is a fact, easily demonstrated and, generally, undenied, sometimes even admitted. Knowing this, it is maddening to hear the poo bahs of the industry and their political lackeys in government strut about the public stage telling everyone how great they are and how much they deserve the enormous portion of the world’s wealth they possess. We have to listen to them tell us how lucky we are to have the oil and natural gas and so forth so easily to hand, as if the option to their continued rape and plunder of the Earth was a stone age existence.
What absolute crap! There is almost no current problem facing the world today that is not either caused by or exacerbated by the existence of the hydrocarbon industry. If existing renewable energy production technology was deployed with even a one hundredth of the annual real cost subsidy the hydrocarbon industry is bilking from the world, true energy costs would drop and world tensions would decrease because all most all energy used in a given society would be produced locally. This isn’t science fiction. This is true, right now, using current technology.
Because we have allowed the hydrocarbon industry to lie to us about true costs associated with the use of their products, and to get away with it throughout the entire history of the industry, renewable energy sources have gone unexploited. As a result, there is so much legacy capital invested in hydrocarbon resources that is not needed, if proper accounting were brought to bear upon the industry. All this legacy capital would be a dead loss if the world quit subsidizing the hydrocarbon industry. This is one of the primary obstacles to making the industry pay its own way. The financial elites of the world would be poor over night.
Other wise, there is little downside (assuming impoverishing the arrogant bastards who are currently destroying the Earth for their own selfish ends can be considered a downside) to beginning a deliberate migration from a world economy based upon hydrocarbon energy to one based upon renewable energy. Renewable technologies, if fully employed, would create far more jobs than the highly concentrated hydrocarbon industry does. Not only would there be more jobs, they would be widely dispersed, since the creation and generation of renewable energy will, by comparison, be much more diversified and localized than the existing hydrocarbon industry.
Would renewable energy cost more? Not if governments subsidized the new energy source to a fraction of the degree they currently subsidize the hydrocarbon industry. Indeed, if governments simply started charging the hydrocarbon industry the true cost of its production and operations, the industry would go out of business overnight. The immediate cession of hydrocarbon dependency is not, no matter how delightful it might be to see the arrogance fade from the industry’s eyes, anything anyone should want. To avoid catastrophic economic dislocations, the world must be weaned off hydrocarbons. But, it must be done, it can be done and only the lack of courage on the part of the blitherers and the ditherers stand in the way. Of course, that is like saying it would be an easy walk from Atlanta to California except for the mountains, rivers and distance involved.
That said, listening to some abominable gasbag, like Dick Cheney, lecture us on energy policy, knowing every word from his mouth is false, is soul sucking. It is as bad as listening to some Wall Street CEO explain how grateful we should be that his company engineered the greatest looting of the middle class by the greedy banksters and their customers, the international oligarchy of influence (George Bush the Greater’s “New World Order”), in all history. In both cases, these assertions are simply false.
Neither of our political parties is capable of addressing either issue, though the ramifications of either issue is capable of destroying our society. From this deliberate impasse rises the voter unrest that began this essay. Third parties, petition candidates, increasing demand for constitutional amendments to allow citizen plebiscites on specific issues, bypassing both the legislative and judicial branches of state and federal government, all these are symptoms of the fracturing body politic. Failure to act is an act.
There’s an earthquake coming.
Image: Democratic Donkey & Republican Elephant - Caricatures by DonkeyHotey via his flickr photo stream and used a Creative Commons license.