OK, now that you’re back, the worst part is, of course, that some number of the wannabe Ruling Class has known since the late 1950’s that this was going to happen, as well as they’ve known about climate change as a real thing since at least the 1970’s. I’m fairly certain all this domestic political struggle we’re all suffering now is just a small part of a much wider global race to make sure the right people are positioned in the right places when the resource wars really begin to consume industrial society. Vietnam was truly our last ideological conflict, a shambling zombie beast driven by old generals fighting the last war with old ideas, whereas the first (and second) Iraq War was all about the oil. It’s why we’re still there and it is why #45 will most likely go to war with ISIS, somehow, if he hasn’t already. Radical Islam is just a made-up name for a bunch of people who are pissed to the point of violence about being brutalized and lied to by their rulers and using oil money to do it, because modern industrial society has an insatiable thirst for oil and we cannot survive without it. Hence, brutal dictators control the oil and we’re OK with it because we don’t want to be uncomfortable. Thank you, Winston Churchill (google it).
Plus, don’t even get me started on the wars for water that will dominate the second half of this century. Remember Darfur? The genocide was reported as a sectarian conflict between settled Christian farmers and nomadic Muslim herders, which is what the western media wanted in that post-9/11 environment, but the key is not Christian and Muslim, but farmer and herder. For centuries, the nomadic herders would move seasonally through the lands of the farmers, their herds helping to clear the fields and fertilizing the soil with their manure. Until the rain stopped falling, the crops failed and the herds died. You can reason out the rest. It is a sort of blueprint for what much of the world will endure in the coming years.
But industrial society has also been grinding towards the robot apocalypse, and while I exaggerate the name for comic effect, I don’t exaggerate by much. Robots are coming for our jobs and they have been for a long time and while some Pollyanas will crow that people have been saying that for decades and it hasn’t happened yet, I say unto them: really? Are you sure about that? Because ask any once-unionized auto worker how many robots have replaced his co-workers over the years. All these marvelous predictions about the advent of autonomous vehicles sounds, to the ears of a truck driver or cab driver, like something that will rob him of his ability to feed his family. Economists will tell you that such changes in technology always work out for the better in the long run – at which point they make some smart-ass crack about how no one bemoans the long-gone buggy whip industry – they do nothing for the people being ground down and discarded RIGHT NOW. Take away their jobs and their hope and no amount of education or re-training or shifts as a WalMart greeter is going to lift a 55-year-old back to the standard of living his union wage once afforded him. But, by all means you heroic Silicon Valley disruptors, feel free to snark at how he failed to have the good sense to learn how to type computer code or, closer to the truth, to be born rich and then wonder how in the hell he could vote for the human stick of dynamite.
Because yet another historic stream that seems to be converging on the here and now to great disastrous effect is the increasing isolation and dislocation of global capitalism, even apart from the dehumanizing effects of automation, and that is a result of transnational global capital sloshing from country to country, in search of market to inflate and pump dry. To the investor class, everything is just a resource to be exploited and to them there is no substantive difference between a thriving manufacturing company or a strip mine or a whole nation full of consumers with home equity to burn, all are simply markets to be squeezed for maximum quarterly return. The problem arises of late because of the failing relationship between the three economies: the primary economy (anything tied directly to the natural resources of the planet, such as mining or farming or ranching or fishing), the secondary economy (anything derived from the products of the primary economy, such as manufacturing, food production, construction, transportation, even medicine or entertainment or government services that directly help people) and the tertiary economy (anything that is too esoteric or abstract to tie directly to the primary or secondary, such as the financial industry or law or information technology, but nevertheless has a profound impact upon it). The three economies are not interconnected in a circle, but exist as a pyramid (implied by the names) and no higher-level economies can exist without the lower-level economy undergirding it. Put another way, as long as humans exist, the primary economy will exist because we will always farm and hunt and ranch and extract resources from the natural world. But no one will open a factory without some level of resource extraction, otherwise they have nothing to process into goods. Law and finance and information technology are useful to human civilization, but resource extraction and manufacturing could and would still exist without any of them (and have, historically). Large national economies are not possible without them, true, but not basic human life and human community.
The problem of late has been that the tertiary economy has grown to devour the other two, to the detriment of all except the most well-connected. The massive economy of New York City is mostly from finance and law, law being defined as the bureaucratic expression of the multi-national corporation, which is a legal entity not found anywhere in nature nor three-dimensional space, but which nevertheless generates lots and lots of income for certain groups of people. Because finance is now the 800-lb gorilla of the American economy, it facelessly dictates the very real and usually dire fates of communities and whole regions, without regard to human impact or local consequence, shareholder value being the only metric. Every clear-cut forest, every shuttered factory with jobs shipped to China, every mountaintop strip mine and coal-ash polluted stream is dictated by the primacy of the tertiary economy. Remember this phrase: disposable. The tertiary economy determines what places are disposable to attain the goal of maintaining the wealth and comfort of other places. The people who live in these places are deemed equally disposable, undeserving of health care or clean air.
Ruined lives, ruined environments, ruined communities, all fall before the almighty demands of the hedge fund managers.
And still the Democrats seem perplexed why Hillary hanging out in the Hamptons in the weeks before the election should bother anyone? Or that anyone might be pissed that Obama’s DOJ failed to prosecute a single banker?