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Humanity’s chances dimmed when many progressives love slave-jobs and cheap gasoline

Jan Lundberg, Culture Change
… When a recent headline is “Leaving Wall Street,” it is one of many indications that we are figuring things out: we want peace and community rather than riches in isolation. This is humanity’s top “we,” striving for survival and more equality. Consciousness is awakening, as it has been among modern consumers since the 1960s. It has lost much steam since around the early 1970s and yet has kept on. But this is despite progressives’ areas of confusion all along. When the “we” is a tiny portion of the intelligentsia, does it include or not include those compromised by the perceived need for no end of cellphones, unshared appliances, cars, etc. — and the “good jobs” required to buy them?

… politically, the progressives — a catch-all term for liberals and radicals today — are often confused. I don’t refer to their perennial question of whether to vote for the Democrat just because he or she is not a Republican. Instead let’s talk economics — and I don’t mean the usual railing about the 1%’s having astronomical wealth while the bottom 50% suffer.

When progressives don’t truly understand peak oil or energy, they sometimes figure that any talk of geological supply constraints or any upward pressure on petroleum prices just points to a rotten scam by Big Oil. True that the oil industry wants high prices, and does what it can to get them along with keeping lucrative subsidies. But that doesn’t mean that we can consume a finite resource forever. An instance of exceptionalism for many progressive Americans is that cheap gasoline is a right. A recent example of misguided rage is the recent article “How Wall Street Drives Up Gas Prices — Ripping Us Off and Killing Jobs” by Les Leopold on AlterNet.

… The progressives’ tendency to want the middle-class materialist dream for as many people as possible is not what the planet needs. Nor does it help people fix their broken lives in need of community. To be empowered is not to work for someone else’s profit — that’s what a job is usually about. Slaving for dollars — when direct barter and mutual aid can take care of basic needs — is a scam. And why should people have to pay for what nature freely provides? buys into the “jobs” culture with its article “The real job creators: Consumers, not the wealthy, are the key to an economic rebound, and GOP austerity is shackling them” [May 4, 2012].

Quoting pro-growth economists such as Paul Krugman may be dandy for criticizing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but this kind of weak critique solves nothing. A refreshing approach to the jobs question is in Alternet’s April 29 edition: “Is It Possible To Build An Economy Without Jobs?”
(6 May 2012)

Suicides have Greeks on edge

Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters
On Monday, a 38-year-old geology lecturer hanged himself from a lamp post in Athens and on the same day a 35-year-old priest jumped to his death off his balcony in northern Greece. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old student shot himself in the head.

In a country that has had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, a surge in the number of suicides in the wake of an economic crisis has shocked and gripped the Mediterranean nation – and its media – before a May 6 election.

The especially grisly death of pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head on a central Athens square because of poverty brought on by the crisis that has put millions out of work, was by far the most dramatic.

… Greek media have since reported similar suicides almost daily, worsening a sense of gloom going into next week’s election, called after Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s interim government completed its mandate to secure a new rescue deal from foreign creditors by cutting spending further.

Some medical experts say this form of political suicide is a reflection of the growing despair and sense of helplessness many feel. But others warn the media may be amplifying the crisis mood with its coverage and numbers may only be up slightly.
(28 April 2012)
Submitted by Jeffrey J. Brown who writes: “A preview of coming events in many other OECD countries?”

On the History of the US Economy in Decline

Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch
… The fact that the Occupy movement is unprecedented is quite appropriate. After all, it’s an unprecedented era and has been so since the 1970s, which marked a major turning point in American history. For centuries, since the country began, it had been a developing society, and not always in very pretty ways. That’s another story, but the general progress was toward wealth, industrialization, development, and hope. There was a pretty constant expectation that it was going to go on like this. That was true even in very dark times.

I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. After the first few years, by the mid-1930s — although the situation was objectively much harsher than it is today — nevertheless, the spirit was quite different. There was a sense that “we’re gonna get out of it,” even among unemployed people, including a lot of my relatives, a sense that “it will get better.”

… It’s quite different now. For many people in the United States, there’s a pervasive sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. I think it’s quite new in American history. And it has an objective basis.

In the 1930s, unemployed working people could anticipate that their jobs would come back. If you’re a worker in manufacturing today — the current level of unemployment there is approximately like the Depression — and current tendencies persist, those jobs aren’t going to come back.

The change took place in the 1970s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying factors, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Brenner, was the falling rate of profit in manufacturing.

… So the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat — in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1% and the 99%. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.

If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it’s going to be necessary to face the fact that it’s a long, hard struggle. You don’t win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories. And there are a lot of things that can be done.
(8 May 2012)

‘Hug the Monster’ for Realistic Hope in Global Warming (or How to Transform Your Fearful Inner Climate)

Bill Blakemore, ABC News
A Metaphor to Change Fear Into Action and Extinguish the Panic and Despair so Deadly in a Great Crisis

Sometimes, the right metaphor can save your life.

“Hug the monster” is a metaphor taught by U.S. Air Force trainers to those headed into harm’s way.

The monster is your fear in a sudden crisis — as when you find yourself trapped in a downed plane or a burning house.

If you freeze or panic — if you go into merely reactive “brainlock” — you’re lost.

But if your mind has been prepared in advance to recognize the psychological grip of fear, focus on it, and then transform its intense energy into action — sometimes even by changing it into anger — and by also engaging the thinking part of your brain to work the problem, your chances of survival go way up.

Around the world, a growing number of people are showing signs of hugging the monster of what the world’s experts have plainly shown to be a great crisis facing us all.

Established scientists, community and government leaders and journalists, as they describe the disruptions, suffering and destruction that manmade global warming is already producing, with far worse in the offing if humanity doesn’t somehow control it, are starting to allow themselves publicly to use terms like “calamity,” “catastrophe”, and “risk to the collective civilization.”

Sooner or later, everyone who learns about the rapid advance of manmade global warming must deal with the question of fear.
(6 May 2012)
Suggested by EB contributor Jim Barton.