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what might real change mean?

October 28, 2011

I am about halfway through A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. And it seems clear that in modern life there is always a ruling class, and they always hold most of the power, money, and influence, which they always use to try to keep what they have, while preventing everyone else from thinking they deserve more, or have any chance of getting more. They make sure you don’t learn about these culture classes and class wars that have occurred regularly throughout the entire history of the US: 130 years ago, it was sugar, not oil; but radicals, progressives, socialists, and anarchists were saying same things that OWS people are saying today.

“The mixed reactions of labor to the [Spanish-American] war — lured by economic advantage, yet repelled by capitalist expansion and violence — ensured that labor could not unite either to stop the war or to conduct class war against the system at home.” (pp. 317-318)

People of color vs. white people, working class people vs. middle class, women vs. men — we all say the ‘other guy’ doesn’t want to change the system enough; they are just maneuvering to get higher in the hierarchy. And yet, every one of us historically can be and has been paid off in the same way, because that’s what always happens. The ruling class reluctantly allows government to pass some legislation that creates or strengthens ‘the social safety net’, and everyone (outside of the ruling class) thinks, “this will change everything!”, except that it doesn’t of course, and it wasn’t designed to. It was actually designed to trick us into believing that stability is better for everyone, when in fact, stability is only really good for the people at the top, that pesky 1%. The rest of us would be a lot better off with a lot more upheaval, a lot more regularly. Because that’s the only way real change happens.

Stability is not normal, and it does not last, nor should we expect it to.

But if we give up the illusive promise of stability, we need to realize that we don’t know and can’t know what will happen in the future. So, things like more jobs or better jobs being made available (to some people), or the promise of pensions or Social Security or unemployment insurance, or the hope of making a fortune on the stock market … not only are none of these options truly available to everyone, but they are not signs of real change. They are sequels to something that already worked in the past, sort of, for some lucky people. There is nothing like a guarantee that they could work in the future. Because there are no guarantees, there are no ‘sure things’. We need to be looking for truly innovative solutions, that are decentralized, based locally, and nimble enough to change as needed.

If the modern world truly does change to a radically different system than we are all used to, even so-called experts will not be able to make predictions about what will, or could, happen. We will all have to learn as we go. It will be a steep learning curve. Most things won’t work. But some will. That’s what evolution means.

And we need to look beyond economics.  It’s the ruling class who frames everything so that considering economic issues first seems to make sense. Why are we supposed to care so much about the stock market? Why did President Bush encourage Americans to ‘go shopping’ after 9/11? When all of our lives revolve around money, and trying to get more of an ever smaller supply of it, who exactly is benefiting?

“… [T]he ‘Progressive Period’ [was] the start of the Age of Reform; but it was a reluctant reform, aimed at quieting the popular risings, not making fundamental changes. … It seems quite clear that much of this intense activity for Progressive reform was intended to head off socialism.” (pp. 349-350)

We need the equivalent of an asteroid hitting the Earth — that ended the Age of Dinosaurs, and began the Age of Mammals. If the asteroid hadn’t hit, perhaps birds would be ruling the world. (Maybe they would have done a better job.) Those of us who aren’t all about keeping the status quo, while it destroys the planet, need to think about, and try, new ways to do everything differently.

We are all interdependent now. How can we work together to create something new?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Skyknight permalink
    October 30, 2011 13:23

    And yet, change has a tendency to evoke SOMETHING’S ruin–and I’m not talking about economic ruin. The trouble is that life is…averse to being in ruin’s crosshairs. When sudden change transpires, those caught in the radius, whatever their social echelon, WILL be in panic, and from there, pain and desperation. Such I would not wish on anyone, not even the archons (frustration of schemes is where I draw the line).

    I don’t think any creature, however used they may be to it, actually likes being in the midst of chaos, not with its tendency to constantly imperil survival with its blind recklessness. But neither is Fate acceptable, with its inherent oppression–things may not get any worse, but nor will they get any better. We need to find a way to abolish Fate and Chaos alike, and make Volition the order of the day.

    In the short term, we need some way to evoke change that does not at all doom the weak to death, for what crime did they commit to deserve early death?

    • October 30, 2011 13:47

      Suffering hurts, but I don’t think I can agree with anything else you said. Nonlinear dynamics and complexity are what make life worth living, imo. If everything were run by humans, by the preferences of humans, it would be totally boring, or just horrible. I like change, I like uncertainty and unpredictability and wondering what’s going to happen.

      • Skyknight permalink
        October 30, 2011 15:32

        I was thinking in terms of interdicting ALL suffering, human or otherwise. In any case, my loyalty is not merely to the Earth, but to the cosmos as a whole. It does not deserve to be consigned to futility by dissolving back into an entropic mist. This much I’m certain of–existence is strictly superior to non-existence, substance strictly superior to void.

        Nonetheless, I sometimes wonder if organic life is, at ultimate essence, simply matter that developed a sense of fear and self-preservation, a determination to not suffer unsought erosion/reaction/displacement/etc. by tide, wind, quake, and/or current. And yet, its failsafe was to adsorb some surrounding matter (e.g. black chimney emissions) and turn that into more of itself. Further ensurance of its identity going on existing, but at the cost of the geyser water’s original identity…So frustrating…What could be so monstrous about a cosmos where pain is impossible, where creation is not required to entail destruction? Nothing but the most irredeemable sadism and malice ought ever know destruction…

        At the very least, there must be SOME way to forever prevent, if not a sixth, then at least a seventh mass extinction (and not because #6 destroyed absolutely everything). It seems that the Cretaceous extinction was a bit of an anomaly; at least the Permian, and perhaps the others as well, was incited BY global warming (and definitely not anthropogenic), along with anaerobic bacteria emitting a surplus of hydrogen sulfide (q.v. Ward’s “Under a Green Sky”). It doesn’t look like nature as a whole has yet figured out how to keep this ignoble disaster from ever repeating (certainly not in making it impossible for us to start doing it before the bacteria and volcanoes did). And that’s not taking solar expansion into account (i.e. Sun as red giant=engulfed Earth)…That it’s about five billion years in the future is of no consequence to me, for how can the single moment of the present outweigh the infinite moments of the future, certain to eventually manifest as they are? If we do nothing to interdict that, then the denizens of the future will be perfectly justified in cursing and vilifying us.

      • October 30, 2011 15:50

        I think disruption and upheaval are necessary for life. Life and death cycle, destruction begets creation. Nothing lasts forever. That’s all good, to my mind.

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