The sobering truth is when the oil is gone… the maximum energy we will ever be able to use is what the sun can photosynthetically give us in a day… There is no ‘next’ to cure our oil addiction. There is only the realization that eventually we will have to drastically change our energy consumption, and our way of life. We will have to abandon capitalist dictated expansion and opt for systems of locality with our primary focus on sustainable living.
Nothing grows forever.
To paraphrase philosopher Slavoj Žižek, paradoxically, consensus of the solution to the failures of capitalism seems to be more capitalism. Runaway grow-baby-grow consumption at all costs is exemplified in our drill-baby-drill environmental policies.
After British Petroleum plastered the Gulf of Mexico with pollution through an ill-maintained oil rig, a temporary moratorium was placed on some deepwater drilling. Shortly thereafter that restriction was lifted. This year more permits for new wells have been issued than since 2007. The Obama Administration has taken it further by approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a transnational oil line to transport the most toxic oil imaginable from Canada’s tar-sands back to the very ecosystem so recently assaulted, and directly over precious natural aquifers. To top it off, [politicians want] to expand harmful drilling in Alaska’s park reserves, as well as expand the already 4,000 ticking time bombs in the Gulf.
These are not solutions to our crisis; they are band-aids to a gushing wound. They are ecocidal mania perpetuated by a global culture which does not understand that living 300% beyond sustainability is going to kill us all. None of these self-proclaimed solutions put at the forefront of our efforts that nothing can grow in perpetuity. We have grown too accustomed to the benefits of petrochemical economies, on growth for the sake of growth.
It’s common… to claim that improving the quality of education in inner cities and impoverished rural areas is the answer to halting the growing gap between rich and poor. This view reflects not only illusions about the potential for substantially improving education for children from low- and moderate-income families without deeper economic and political shifts, but also a serious misunderstanding about the growth of inequality over the last three decades.
…[I]nequality is not a question of the more-educated gaining at the expense of the less-educated due to inevitable technological trends. Rather, it has been a story in which a small group of especially well-situated workers — for example, those in finance, doctors, and top-level corporate executives — have been able to gain at the expense of almost everyone else. This pattern of inequality will be little affected by improving the educational outcomes for the bottom quarter or even bottom half of income distribution.
…[I]t… is not the case that plausible increases in education quality and attainment will have a substantial impact on inequality. This will require much deeper structural changes in the economy. As a practical matter, given the dismal track record of the education reformers, substantial improvement in outcomes for children from low- and moderate-income families is likely to require deep structural change in society as well.
A Brief Definition for Activists
by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
"Neo-liberalism" is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.
"Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" — meaning the political type — have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.
"Neo" means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an Scottish economist, published a book in 1776 called THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s economy to develop. Such ideas were "liberal" in the sense of no controls. This application of individualism encouraged "free" enterprise," "free" competition — which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.
Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President Roosevelt’s New Deal — which did improve life for many people. The belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.
But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.
A memorable definition of this process came from Subcomandante Marcos at the Zapatista-sponsored Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neo-liberalismo (Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism) of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: “what the Right offers is to turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here, women there ….” and he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico.”
The main points of neo-liberalism include:
THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.
CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminsh profits, including protecting the environmentand safety on the job.
PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”
Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America. The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar said, “Neoliberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America.”
In the United States neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs; attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers); and cutbacking social programs. The Republican “Contract” on America is pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself — and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will “get government off my back.” The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.
Here’s a refrain you’ll hear a lot in conversations about gentrifications: “Well, it’s really a class issue.” Davidson’s piece manages to avoid any race analysis whatsoever. Of course economics plays a huge role in this. But race and class are inseparably entwined. Rising rents, along with institutionally racist policies like stop-and-frisk, have forced black people to leave New York and urban areas around the country at historic rates. And yes, there are many layers at play: When non-black people of color with class privilege, like myself, move into a historically black and lower-income neighborhood, the white imagination reads our presence as making the area a notch safer for them. The mythology of safety and racial coding regards our presence as a marker of change; the white imagination places higher value on anything it perceives as closer to itself, further from blackness. We become complicit in the scam; the cycle continues.
These power plays – cultural, political, economic, racial — are the mechanics of a city at war with itself. It is a slow, dirty war, steeped in American traditions of racism and capitalism. The participants are often wary, confused, doubtful. Macklemore summarized the attitudes of many young white wealthy newcomers in his fateful text to Kendrick Lamar on Grammy night: “It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you.” But as with Macklemore, being surprised about a system that has been in place for generations is useless. White supremacy is nothing if not predictable.
Gentrification is violence. Couched in white supremacy, it is a systemic, intentional process of uprooting communities… [Its] central act of violence is one of erasure.
…“Girls,” for example, reimagines today’s Brooklyn as an entirely white community. Here’s a show that places itself in the epicenter of a gentrifying city with gentrifiers for characters – it is essentially a show about gentrification that refuses to address gentrification. After critics lambasted Season 1 for its lack of diversity, the show brought in Donald Glover to play a black Republican and still managed to avoid the more pressing and relevant question of displacement and racial disparity that the characters are, despite their self-absorption, deeply complicit with. What’s especially frustrating about “Girls” not only dodging the topic entirely but pushing back – often with snark and defensiveness against calls for more diversity – is that it’s a show that seems to want to bring a more nuanced take on the complexities of modern life.
In an appallingly overwritten New York magazine article with the (I guess) provocative title “Is Gentrification All Bad?,” Justin Davidson imagines a first wave of gentrifiers much the way I’ve heard it described again and again: “A trickle of impecunious artists hungry for space and light.” This is the standard, “first it was the artists” narrative of gentrification, albeit a little spruced up, and the unspoken but the understood word here is “white.” Because, really, there have always been artists in the hood. They aren’t necessarily recognized by the academy or using trust funds supplementing coffee shop tips to fund their artistic careers, but they are still, in fact, artists. The presumptive, unspoken “white” in the first round of artists gentrification narrative is itself an erasure of these artists of color.
When did we become a country where the millionaires are jealous of the people on food stamps? A country that thinks teachers and fire fighters are soaking us dry? A country that thinks the richest who are paying the lowest taxes in 80 years are the ones being beaten up?
Today [six big banks] own 85 percent of deposits of all the commercial banks, 84 percent of assets of all the commercial banks, and control 96 percent of all of the derivatives that financial institutions that are backed by the government utilize today, and 45 percent of the world’s derivatives. Six banks control so much capital and have so much power as to the laws around that capital. And the administration—and this started in Reagan, through Bush, through Clinton, into Obama—this is not new—but the reaction of the administrations has been to allow this to happen, to allow the concentration of this capital, of this power, to do nothing in the face of the financial crisis of 2008, which… is still ongoing, just in a different manifestation, because this risk still exists and because these numbers are worse than they were before the crisis of 2008.
The days of capitalist and imperialist exploitation are numbered. The war neither began with us nor is it going to end with our lives.