Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is Change Impossible (Part 2)

A continuation of Sunday's post...

Mastery of — or at least the ability to master — the extant technologies by which the Ruling Class maintains its power: A little over ten years ago, I looked into applying for an LPFM license with a couple of friends under the aegis of Dreamstreets Press. The idea was to build a radio station that would showcase the wide range of Wilmington’s cultural offerings, with an emphasis on local under-served communities. We planned to feature the work of local musicians, have interviews with visual and literary artists, do in-depth local news reporting and generally be a clearing house for the city.

We had a bit of a head start. I basically already owned everything to start a radio station except a transmitter. Our little group had several members with both deep roots in the community and audio production experience. We might have even been able to wrangle a little money from somewhere since funding for non-profits was hardly as tight as it is today. But unfortunately, the lower end of the FM band is rather crowded in this area, so no frequencies were available. I think the closest available frequency was somewhere south of Dover.

Why was a radio station so important? Because consistent access to the media is important. It’s the way you get your message heard — and unfortunately, progressives have fallen way behind in this area.

I’ll confess I have no idea as to how we might remedy this situation. Blogs, zines, books, websites, and podcasts are all well and good, but what we need is a TV station, indeed a whole network, since TV is the medium that is most readily available and popular. It is also the most expensive to produce well. Cheap TV looks cheap and the people will not be fooled.

The support of a major foreign power: I learned when I was a teenager that if I wanted something kind of iffy, that my parents might not want to give, that it was better to ask for it when outsiders (company, extended family) were present. Since my parents tended to avoid public displays of conflict, they usually gave in to avoid an argument — and with very few exceptions I got what I wanted. I took advantage of their efforts to save face.

Bliss asserts the specter of the former Soviet Union served a similar function for America’s capitalist ruling class. Since there was a strong, viable alternative lurking somewhere on the planet (they beat us into space after all) the robber barons couldn’t put their ugly butts on full display. The USSR might have been imperfect; they might have been oppressive and cruel, but we always had to show we were better than they were. We at least needed to look like we had the moral upper hand.

Now, Bliss maintains, for all practical purposes, socialism is dead and the new globalism has initiated a planet-wide race to the bottom, at least for most of us. Even in nominally Communist China, to get rich is glorious. Who cares if you wind up with some of the most polluted cities on the planet, thousands of people die in your mines or occasionally you are tempted to taint your products to maximize your profits? (It’s been a long time since I’ve read Marx, but I think that’s enough to have him spinning in his grave.)

Maybe nation states are no longer the true power. Corporations are. They have the money; they have the equipment; they have the jobs; they transcend borders and they can write their own rules. This is starkly apparent in the case of the BP oil disaster. Everyone yearns for the government to “do something”, but in reality there is only a limited amount the government can do. BP has the money, the equipment and the expertise. The government is very much at their mercy.

The time to have done something was before the drilling began, with strong regulation, oversight and planning. Of course then there would be the risk of BP taking its toys to play elsewhere, where perhaps the “small people” wouldn’t try to meddle as much. Even as Bobby Jindal tries to advocate for Louisiana’s endangered ecosystems, he doesn’t want drilling to end forever. It’s hard to slap the hand that feeds you.

These new world powers have given rise to an enemy just as ruthless. Al Queda in all its permutations is globalism’s darkest reflection. Despite all pretenses to the contrary, I wouldn’t call it a legitimate revolutionary movement because as far as I can see, it is completely nihilistic; it seeks to build nothing, only to destroy. It is the last desperate shout of the damned.


Yes, I know. It’s almost the Platonic form of depressing. But like I said, I refuse to give up. I also don’t want to discount the progress we’ve made so far. Obama has accomplished far more in his 18 months of office than he’s given credit for. However, I increasingly get the sinking feeling we are trying to patch up something fundamentally broken and that radical, paradigm shifting changes are needed if the human race is to survive.

The Gulf of Mexico oil gusher is an excellent case in point. Thankfully, at this writing, there is reason to hope. The oil has finally stopped flowing, but what about the oil already released? How long will it take the ocean to recover and will it ever recover completely? What will it mean if it doesn’t? And why were we going around poking holes where no human could go in the first place? How close are we to running out of oil and how much of the earth are we willing to rape to get it? What does a clean energy, post-petroleum economy even mean? A Prius in every garage — or something far deeper? What does the end of the easy oil age mean for agriculture, manufacturing, city planning, or medical science? Oil is in everything, you know, from the fresh tar coating on my parents’ driveway to the rather ingenious contraptions that allow me to stand and walk again. What will happen when there simply is no more?

The questions are endless. How long can the United States afford to spend the bulk of its resources remaking the world in its image and dreaming up new and exciting ways to kill people while it lets its own infrastructure rot? What will happen when it gets too expensive and dangerous to import basic goods from 12,000 miles away? What will happen when all those people in the world’s cheap labor markets finally stand up and say, Show us the money! Give us our due!

Bliss compares global capitalism to the Borg and maintains not only is resistance futile, but “rebellion is suicide”. I disagree. The challenges ahead are daunting, but not impossible. If I can imagine the dangers ahead, I can also imagine ways to conquer them — and imagine I must. I have no choice but to walk towards the future. So I write as if it matters, dream as if it matters, live as if it matters.

Because, in the end, it really does.

1 comment:

  1. As I said before, that long arc of history that bends toward justice sometimes seems to arrive beyond our live's horizon, but bend it does and while we are here we can do some of the bending.
    Well put, Franetta.