by John Duffy
I want to start this with the written equivalent of a sigh. Not even a sigh, but a deep expulsion of exhaustion from the very core of my being. Usually I try to write with flowery prose, attempting to adorn logic and rationale with a tinge of poetry. Not today. My feeling as I sit here is that I shouldn’t have to be sitting here. What I’m writing shouldn’t need to be written, because it’s already been written. In fact, rather than writing this, I’d like to be able to look everyone in the eye, and say, “cut the shit.”
We are going to go extinct, and we are going to probably drag a large majority of the other species on this planet into that permanent abyss of nothingness with us if we don’t stop jerking off, and take some real action now. The die off has begun. It is not theoretical. It is not this ethereal “what if” that hovers over some distant tomorrow. Right now, it is estimated that over one hundred species are going extinct every day. Every god damn day. The Arctic sea ice is melting faster than was predicted, positive feedback loops have begun kicking in as methane is released from melting permafrost, and the oceans are rising in acidity killing off the phytoplankton which provide us with the majority of the oxygen that we breathe.
But this has all been said, and still, here we are. So the saying is not enough, because no one is believing it. Even the people who say they accept that climate change is real and that it poses a grave threat, don’t really believe it. Their actions prove that. They still get up and go to work and watch TV and upgrade their cell phones. I’ve been thinking about the economy lately. People seem to love this thing called “the economy.” No one knows why they love it or why they are so interested in preserving it or encouraging it to grow. It’s a self evident truth. One of those unquestioned premises slipped by us so early on that we kind of just assume “the economy” is a naturally occurring thing which must always be protected like some runt lamb weak from an illness at birth.
I’ve been thinking about the types of things conventional wisdom claims are good for the economy. Let’s list them, shall we? Prisons. Drug prohibition. Debt. Wall Street financial wizardry such as derivatives. Bank bailouts. Corporate welfare of many stripes. The pharmaceutical industry. The insurance industry. Unaffordable housing. The college loan racket. Mind boggling wealth disparity. Greed. Materialism. An advertising industry hell bent on making people, especially young women, hate themselves so they will buy a bunch of shit to make themselves feel better very temporarily. Environmental degradation of every kind, from deforestation to toxic waste storage, nuclear power to mountain top removal for coal, tar sands extraction and deep water drilling. Oh, and don’t forget war. Economists and politicians love telling us how good war is for the economy. You know, the mass murder of entire populations? Poisoning entire landscapes with depleted uranium. Yeah, this is all just a real shot in the arm for the “economy.”
So, reigning this all back in for a moment, let’s summarize; all of the worst shit is good for the “economy.” The “economy” seems to feed on the misery of the human species, while also eradicating every other species who is deemed “inconvenient” or “unnecessary.”
When I think about myself, and ask, “What are the things I need to survive and to be happy?” the list is much different. I need clean, drinkable water. I need clean, breathable air. I need clean, healthy soil capable of supporting plant life so I can eat. I need clean, viable wild spaces where animals and birds and fish and insects can thrive. I need community. I need love and laughter and song and spirit.
Notice anything about this second list? None of these things, not one of them, requires an “economy.” In fact, the “economy” is actually quite destructive to all of the things I need to live and to be happy. Looking at it plainly, the “economy” seems to be a giant, insatiably hungry monster that seeks to destroy everything human beings require. It’s a radioactive Godzilla that smashes and devours everything that is wonderful and holy, and instead of sending out the troops to make battle against this beast, we worship it. We feed it. We continually do all of the things that help this monster gain in strength and size, no matter what wonderful and beloved beings and places must be sacrificed on its altar.
This is fucked. Straight fucked. We should be working quickly and decisively to drive a massive stake through this bloodsucking, Earth raping, leviathan’s heart!
If we want to avoid extinction, if we have gotten used to this whole being alive, and living on the planet and like, having kids and stuff thing, then we must see the “economy” for the great evil that it is. All of our attention must turn toward its immediate destruction.
Of course, there are a bunch of people who will read this and feel the need to push up their glasses from the bridge of their snotty nose and then point out to me how “Actually, the economy is just a method by which resources are distributed to the people in a fair and…bla bla bla…” Save it! All the cleverer-than-thou, professional internet assholes can just fucking save it. The “economy” is not just this invisible sum total of our efforts to equitably distribute resources and make sure our needs are met. Look around. A vast, vast minority of the human race has access to wealth beyond measure, while an overwhelming majority has next to nothing. To make matters worse, what very little the global poor do have is stolen from them by the wealthy, as the wealthy claim these poverty stricken people owe them for debts. This is naked insanity. If the “economy” is the sum total of an honest attempt at equitable resource distribution, then it has failed. Game over. It isn’t working. What it is doing is immiserating the majority of the human population while simultaneously wiping out the Earth’s ability to harbor life at all. A quick glance even here in the wealthy west betrays to me that the “economy” is the sum total of our collective misery. Millions of us going to boring, mindless, meaningless, soul crushing jobs every day so we can pay for the luxury of getting to live on the land where we were born, and to pay off further debts that we apparently also owe to the wealthiest handful of humans. Where is a guillotine when you need one?
So let’s add it up, and cut the B.S. The climate is changing even more rapidly than the majority of climate scientists estimated. The land is drought stricken, the oceanic food chain is watching it’s foundation go extinct, methane hydrates are venting from the Arctic Ocean speeding up atmospheric warming, etc. etc. long story short, the shit is hitting the fan. The only reason ever proffered for delaying any meaningful action to mitigate our ultimate demise is some made up fart in the breeze called the “economy.” This false religion, this cannibalistic Wendigo of a deity invented by high priests with fancy degrees and expensive suits subsists on our collective humiliation and death. Now that we get this, let’s stop even discussing the issue within the parameters set by those who profit from our misery. When some schnook tells you that shutting down tar sand extraction or mountain top removal coal mining would be bad for the economy, don’t try to offset his concerns. Don’t try to play to his premise by offering that “green energy” will create X amount of new jobs. Stand tall, look him in his black, soulless eyes and emphatically state, “Good! Fuck the economy!”
While we’re on the topic, so called “progressives” need to get off this green energy kick, this eco-wise fantasy about some future where our lives are exactly the same, but everything we do is accomplished just a little differently with a sustainable twist. If we want to not die, then we need to stop doing the things that are going to kill us. We don’t need to spit shine the assault on life. We don’t need a new brand of exploitation. We need deindustrialization, and we need to wring the bloody neck of capitalism, before hanging it, drawing it, quartering it, and setting the remaining bits of its corpse on fire to make sure it can’t rise from the dead like the unholy zombie that it is. But then again, maybe I’m crazy for assuming avoiding extinction is something most people could get behind.
This is all to say, I can’t fight my enemies and my allies at the same time. Liberals, lefties, environmentalists and everyone else who purports to give a damn has to give up on being capitalism apologists who somehow think we can keep this gravy train of mass consumption going and that there will be joy, abundance, and a hydrogen powered car for all. Recognize that our culture, our habits, and our way of seeing the world and interacting with it are the root cause of the converging crises we face. Recognize it, or else be just as much of an obstruction to life as the “economy” and all those who grovel at it’s blood soaked feet.
John Duffy is an anti-civ writer and an activist who is currently working with the TarSands Blockade in East Texas.