The whole peaknik, collapsitarian and transition community is awash in a tsunami of verbiage that repeats a pattern that has begun to push my “disturbed” button. This is how the game is played: ‘We affirm that we need to do things differently, and describe what those things are. Then we throw in a juicy bit about our favorite solution, all shiny and wonderful. Then we exhort.’ I will refer to repeaters of this pattern as “Plan B” people (after Lester Brown who has turned this game into a publishing machine).
Just for a taste, let’s look at some recent sage advice from the Solutions Journal, telling us what must urgently be done to fix our world. “Five key steps must be taken: getting off fossil fuels, taking money out of politics, shifting values, changing the structure of the corporation, and moving to a full-cost accounting system.” Well! Is that all? [banging my head against the wall] But these good folks do not stop there, they actually tell us how to do this: to take money out of politics, for example, voters must insist. That’s a load off my mind! It’s as good as solved, right? Voters of the past apparently failed to insist. It boggles the mind.
Do you figure that if we repeat the same refrain about all the clever, wise, and eminently rational things that could be done to improve our odds and bring sanity to human lives the world over, suddenly a miracle will happen and those in power will just go… well gosh, what were we thinking?! Of course we will let homeless people into empty mcmansions, dump the Fed and give money creation back to the people, take subsidies away from agribiz, provide funding for appropriate tech, create a steady-state economy, and … and … and … yeah, right.
I did not use to foam at the mouth over such musings. Once, so long ago that it seems like another lifetime, it fascinated me, those dreams and lists of potential solutions. Now I see them as sticky plaque clogging up the arteries of the transition shift unfolding around us. Creating the illusion that solutions to our problems are round the corner allows people to dither in comfort. The Plan B folk are right about one thing, though: there are plenty of good ideas, gadgets, and intentions out there that could create a massively better human world. But then, this is nothing new. There have always been wonderful ideas, gadgets and intentions around that could have been used to better human lives. Occasionally, it even happened. But overall, the execution of these ideas has been largely wasted on status and power games. As we speak, a huge chunk of the U.S. budget goes to support the military. Could these resources and capable people be utilized for creative, beneficial things? Of course they could! Is it going to happen by repeating how wonderful it would be, affirming over and over the desirability of such a world and exhorting people to make it happen? No. No bloody no. Why? Because those who want that to happen do not hold the power, and those who hold the power do not want it to happen. Unless we transitioners tackle this “catch 22” [you need A to get B, but you need B to get A], we’ll get more of the same crap that got us into this mess.
We already know how to spew out wonderful ideas and gadgets. Our human world is not lacking in these things, it’s overflowing with them. So let us take that as a starting point and say, ‘ok, what do we need to do to be able to actually implement them in ways that serve life rather than power?’ How do we git’er done? What, for example, do we need to do to make it possible to get from under the yoke of the bankers and their web of debt? How do we implement a sane economy in the face of intransigence from the financial elites?
Into the new year, I have resolved to stop spending my time on the study of “good ideas” whose proponents ignore the problem of implementation. Apparently, they hope that some day, the masses will arise and carry their pet idea to fruition, and so they need not trouble themselves with the challenges of political “how.” I could call it the Karl Marx fallacy. But then, “pie in the sky fallacy” sounds catchier.
The other day, I noticed Hazel Henderson committing the pie-in-the-sky fallacy when she wrote:
“To finally correct our money-creation ceded to private banks by Congress in 1913 through the Federal Reserve system, Congress could enact the Monetary Reform Act long proposed and vetted by seasoned market veterans of the American Monetary Institute. This would entail a rolling readjustment in money issuance – now obviously dysfunctional under the Fed and private banks and return it to a public function as in the US Constitution.”
To which I retorted: ‘They theoretically could. But they won’t. Because they are owned lock stock and barrel by those they should be regulating. So what’s the point of suggesting this as though it were a real option?’
I am banging my shoe on the table like Khruschev, loudly demanding of all you idea wizards out there that you tell us both whether the idea is sound and feasible in, for example, the economic sense, and whether it is feasible in the political sense. If it isn’t the latter, as is patently the case here, I would like to know what you propose should be done first in the political sense before such far-reaching change becomes possible. If both are not provided by idea creators and disseminators, I’ll assume that they are just offering another helping of skypie, and will politely decline. ‘Nuff already!
For skypie with an extra helping of corn syrup meringue, I invite folks to visit the website of the Venus Project, showcased in the Zeitgeist films. Never mind its “let’s pave over the earth,” futurist-beehive visuals. Never mind the bad faith of its utopian founder. What apparently draws many acolytes to this vision is the so-called “resource based economy.” What is it, you may well ask? It turns out to be a leftover serving of Marxist skypie: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. Oh, it’s dumbed down a bit. Prettified. But I swear, there is nothing else there than dreamy babble! Yet people eat it up. They dismiss concerns regarding implementation as someone else’s bailiwick. The problem of power does not exist in their minds, all that is needed is an inspiring dream and a devoted following. Crazymaking, nah?
Don’t get me wrong. I adore some of the clever ideas showcased by many bright, thoughtful people nowadays. (Did you know that Einstein invented a fridge that has no moving parts and needs no electricity? The patent was bought by Electrolux and shelved.) They make it clear for anyone who looks, that human creativity is not lacking, and much could readily be done to give humanity and the planet a better chance. But unless we skip pie for awhile, and focus on the more difficult task of cooking up the main course – real world “doingness” — all we’ll have to show for our effort is chronic indigestion. Isn’t it high time to invent a whole new way to do politics that favors life-serving ways and disadvantages power-serving ways? JM Greer recently encouraged his readers to try daring, even unlikely things. But he is not peddling skypie. ‘Go and find a way to do it,’ he prompts. ‘You may find out it cannot be done, which will be useful to those coming after. Or you may be surprised by success. Don’t let its unlikelihood deter you from trying.’ And I think the same can be said of tackling the problem of power with all the smarts and courage we can muster.
May we find a way, in the coming New Year 2011. Wishing you health, kindness and beauty in the days ahead.