December 15th, 2009

breaking bad

The angry men

Jared Diamond may have gone a bit silly, sucking up to Walmart and Coca-Cola, but his book Collapse is probably my book of the decade, because it brought into focus where the world is going. This article by George Monbiot today expresses it very well.
humankind decides what it is and what it will become. It chooses whether to continue living as it has done, until it must make a wasteland of its home, or to stop and redefine itself...No longer may we live without restraint. No longer may we swing our fists regardless of whose nose might be in the way. In everything we do we must now be mindful of the lives of others, cautious, constrained, meticulous

That is what I got from Collapse. Not that societies can not survive the closing down of their resources, but that they survive by changing into something more formal, constrained and orderly. This happened for instance in China about the time of the Roman Empire. It's not what I want to happen - far from it - but I think it may be the only way to survive.
The angry men who seek to derail this agreement, and all such limits on their self-fulfilment, have understood this better than we have. A new movement, most visible in North America and Australia, but now apparent everywhere, demands to trample on the lives of others as if this were a human right. It will not be constrained by taxes, gun laws, regulations, health and safety, especially by environmental restraints....The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate.

I think this is true. The people who are angry bullies, making stupid arguments and wars, are wrong and reprehensible, but they Get It emotionally. Their anger is proof that deep down they understand that their style of life is passing away. The very comments on Monbiot's article include hundreds of exemplars.

William Blake said in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: 'Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained'. I think we have to face that. The angry men are at least people with strong feelings, and accurate instincts, even if they are also ignorant bulles.

For myself, I would like an orderly dismantling of capitalism. I would like to retain things like anaesthetics and books, and for that I am prepared to give up foreign travel and bottled water - ha ha as if you can make a bargain with fate.