Sunday, November 6, 2011

1970s Redux

The Real is rupturing. Soon a new paradigm will be in place. Until then, it is high time for radically reconceiving the possible.

If we stay on the path of the Capitalist Death Trip, we will soon be ruled by HAL and his manservant Lloyd "God's Work" Blankfein while subsisting in an unnatural world reduced to kudzu, jellyfish, and dust. Or we can take a different trail.

We've been at this crossroads before. From resource depletion, ecological devastation, economic stagnation, and political deterioration, our current host of problems plagued us in the 1970s. And now the decade that gave us Ecotopia, The Monkeywrench Gang, the Golden Horde, Network, the Rainbow Warrior, the Club of Rome, Gerald Ford, Land Art, Pet Rocks, stagflation, and the rise of right-wing populism has been staging a comeback.

Take the cinema for example. Is there any doubt that with the release of In Time and the resurgence of the Planet of the Apes series that Hollywood is "jamming its blood funnel" into 70s-era cinema of socioecological breakdown?

Or consider renewed interest in the environment. Concern over limited resources, first piqued by the Club of Rome, has settled like a fever on the global consciousness, from to Appalachia Rising to Tim DeChristopher. Solar power has seen a resurgence unwitnessed since Reagan took the solar panels off the white house. The Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior has given way to the Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker.

Yet that era differed from ours in significant ways. Last time Travis Bickle drew a pistol at a wall-length mirror, the face that was talkin' to him belonged to the hippie-beating, GE-shilling, Commie-hating Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately for the plutocrats and for the right wing, this time around won't end in the same way. No shining Gipper in jean jacket and open collar shall swoop down to rescue the ailing country through supply-side economics and satanic military funding. The best they've got is the Secessionist Who Seceded From His Own Dignity, the Black Guy Who Proves They're Not Racist But Who Better Keep His Mitts Off Their White Women (aka the "some of my favorite candidates are black" candidate), the Job-Killing Haircut, the Devil-Eyed Paladinette in Jesus' Army, the Frothy Mix of Lube and Fecal Matter, the Douche Who Lost Relevance Slightly After New Jack Swing Did, the Straightshooter Who Named His Kid After a Social-Security-Lovin' Objectivist, and the rest of the Cast of Cretins competing to win the "tallest leprechaun contest."

Nor will we discover a new store of oil in Alaska or in the North Sea, as happened in the mid-1970s that permitted, in James Howard Kunstler's words, "the West to postpone its reckoning over finite oil reserves by at least a decade." And anybody who claims that fracking will solve our energy problems would do good to read Forbes, not known for its sympathy to deep ecology, which snarkily admits "[f]racking causes minor earthquakes." And when not tempting the tectonic plates to tremble, our Faustian bargain with fossil fuels has caused confusion in the alchemical elements—flammable water, anyone?
What do we have, then? We have tents in the centers of every city. We have the people's mic. We have a leaderless congregation charting its course through consensus. We have children, adolescents, teens, students, thirty-somethings, over-the-hillers, and honored citizens, all bracing for the coming cold. We have veterans and folksingers, hippies and hardhats, crazies and carpenters. shamans and muzhiks.

And we have the chance radically to reconceive our relation to the planet and to each other.

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