Suppose we were planning to impose a dictatorial regime upon the American people — the following preparations would be essential:
1. Concentrate the populace in megalopolitan masses so that they can be kept under close surveillance and where, in case of trouble, they can be bombed, burned, gassed, or machine-gunned with a minimum of expense and waste.
2. Mechanize agriculture to the highest degree of refinement, thus forcing most of the scattered farm and ranching population into the cities. Such a policy is desirable because farmers, woodsmen, cowboys, Indians, fishermen and other relatively self-sufficient types are difficult to manage unless displaced from their natural environment.
3. Restrict the possession of firearms to the police and the regular military organizations.
4. Encourage or at least fail to discourage population growth. Large masses of people are more easily manipulated and dominated than scattered individuals.
5. Continue military conscription. Nothing excels military training for creating in young men an attitude of prompt, cheerful obedience to officially constituted authority.
6. Divert attention away from deep conflicts within society by engaging in foreign wars; make support of these wars a test of loyalty, thereby exposing and isolating potential opposition to the new order.
7. Overlay the nation with a finely reticulated network of communications, airlines and interstate autobahns.
8. Raze the wilderness. Dam the rivers, flood the canyons, drain the swamps, log the forests, strip-mine the hills, bulldoze the mountains, irrigate the deserts and improve the national parks into national parking lots.
The preceding words appeared in Edward Abbey’s classic 1968 tome, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. Some 46 years later, I would change a few phrases to enhance their political correctness, although I doubt Abbey would do the same. In general, however, it’s difficult for me to disagree with the sentiments expressed by Cactus Ed in his break-out book.
Abbey referred to “a dictatorial regime.” It’s a minor quibble, but I’d call if fascism. Below, I include an essay I penned and posted in this space in May 2012. It was titled, “When All is Said and Done.”
Fascism has come to the industrialized world, and the evidence is particularly clear in the United States. As I wrote in a book published in 2004 regarding the executive branch of the U.S. government:
[The administration] is characterized by powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism, identification of enemies as a unifying cause, obsession with militaristic national security and military supremacy, interlinking of religion and the ruling elite, obsession with crime and punishment, disdain for the importance of human rights and intellectuals who support them, cronyism, corruption, sexism, protection of corporate power, suppression of labor, control over mass media, and fraudulent elections. These are the defining elements of fascism.
The situation has progressed, and not in a suitable manner from the perspective of the typical self-proclaimed progressive. Along with fascism, we’re firmly ensconced in a totalitarian, surveillance-obsessed police state. We’ve been in this state for many years and the situation grows worse every year, but most people prefer to look away and then claim ignorance while politicians claim we’re not the people indicated by our actions. As long as you’re not in jail (yet) or declared a terrorist (yet) and subsequently killed outright (yet), you’re unlikely to bring attention to yourself, regardless what you know and feel about the morality of the people
running ruining the show.
But why? Is fear such a great motivator that we allow complete destruction of the living planet to give ourselves a few more years to enable and further the destruction? Is the grip of culture so strong we cannot break free in defense of planetary habitat for our children? Have we moved so far away from the notion of resistance that we can’t organize a potluck dinner without seeking permission from the Department of Homeland Security?
I know many parents who claim they can’t take action because they want a better world for their children. Their version of a “better world” is my version of a worse world, as they long for growth of the industrial economy at the expense of clean air, clean water, healthy food, the living planet, runaway greenhouse, and human-population overshoot. I’ve come to call this response “the parent trap.” Trapped by the culture of make believe, these parents cannot bring themselves to imagine a different world. A better world. A world without the boot of the police state on the necks of their children. A world with more carnivores every year, instead of fewer. A world with less pollution, less garbage, and less lying — to ourselves and others — each and every year.
All evidence indicates we prefer Fukushima forever, if it means we can have electric toys. We prefer near-term extinction by climate chaos, if it means we can cool the house to 68 F in the summer. We prefer genocide, if it comes with a milkshake and an order of fries. Henry Ford was wrong when he pointed out, “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” On the other hand, General Omar Bradley’s sentiments from 1948 ring true: “The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”
Even though we’re willingly tapping six scary extreme energy sources to fuel the post-peak oil industrial economy, power outages have become exponential within the last decade, as indicated in the figure below. We clearly don’t care about the environmental consequences of our greed, so we keep soldiering on, wishing for a miracle and ignoring the evidence for imperial decline, human-population overshoot, runaway climate change, and a profound extinction crisis. Will the final power outage come in time to save us from our unrepentant selves?
Ultimately and sadly, I suspect it comes down to this: When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. We simply can’t be bothered to contemplate a single issue of importance when the television calls or the shopping mall beckons. Political “activists” spend hours every day elaborating the many insignificant differences between the two dominant political parties in this country, but they cannot bring themselves to throw a wrench into the gears of industry. They continue to ignore the prescient words of Desmond Tutu long after the consequences of inaction are obvious: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
The only reason I can imagine wanting to retain this horrific system for a few more years is to safely shut down the nuclear reactors that are poised to kill us. But increasing the number of these uber-expensive sources of electricity, as President Obama desires, means shoving more ammunition into the Gatling gun pointed at our heads. One bullet does the trick. In classic American style, we prefer more. Always more.
How much of this is too much? When have you had enough?
I interviewed Alan Weisman for this week’s episode of Extinction Radio.