There are many alternatives to our current form of capitalism. The Libertarian Left is one very important theory of social and economic organization. If you find yourself dissatisfied with mainstream politics and the major political parties, you owe it to yourself to investigate different ways of viewing the world.
As for myself, in particular, I have no hard-core allegiance to any particular theory. At this point, I think we simply need more people to start to investigate the alternatives. While many of the average middle-class citizens are cynical of mainstream politics, they nonetheless either end up getting caught up in conventional political debate or just check out of the process all together. What seems critical to me, at this point, is to bring to people’s attention the many alternative ways of viewing social and economic organization. With all of the intelligent ideas out there, with all of the challenges to capitalism, I believe with my whole heart that things really and truly don’t have to be the way they are. A better world is more possible and feasible than most of us can dare to believe.
Several years ago, I made a conscious decision to break away (as much as possible) from the American consumer culture. I felt like a cog in the machine, and I knew that the machine of our disposable culture doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s personal, subjective individuality. It’s brutal, but we are only valued to the extent that we are productive. It’s spiritually depressing.
I was intrigued to read this article in Slate about how so many of us actually value and exaggerate our busyness. This is one of those articles that surprised me at first, but on deeper reflection, it makes sense. In a culture where we are valued for our production capabilities, it is little wonder that we exaggerate how busy we are. This exaggeration is so complete that we even fool ourselves and stress out over being busier than we really are.
Symbols shape the way we view our culture. They mold our perceptions of our selves. We see so many images that we sometimes don’t realize that there are still defining cultural symbols.
What symbols define our collective American experience? Apple Pie? A Jesus fish? An assault rifle? Clearly a group of Americans believe that their story, their narrative, is given deeper meaning by the symbol of an assault rifle.
With solar becoming affordable, maybe it is time for you to start thinking about solar panels on your home, eh???…..Or time for me, perhaps, to start building that remote cabin in the middle of Alaska??? (After all, what more could a guy ask for than to be in the middle of the wild and still be able to Facebook?)
From the article:
The average price of a solar panel has declined an estimated 60 percent since the beginning of 2011, and this year the total photovoltaic capacity in the United States is projected to reach 10 gigawatts, the energy equivalent of several nuclear power plants. (By one estimate, photovoltaic costs crossed over to become cheaper than electricity generated by new nuclear plants about four years ago.)
An analysis of remodeling and construction permit data from 77 municipalities around the United States reveals that solar installations — primarily photovoltaic rather than solar thermal — grew by a third last year alone. With a relatively short payback period, these home-improvement investments are now within the reach of many middle-class families….
Also, I didn’t realize this, but Google and other tech companies are investing in solar:
Plenty of smart money has been moving into large-scale renewable energy projects, with significant investments by Google, Apple and Microsoft. Google is planning six new solar power plants in California and Arizona.
An interesting article by an old blogging buddy. He’s working on publishing some of his fiction writing, and in the process he contemplates the problems in the publishing industry that stem back to problems in our economic system:
I’m not just writing abstract economic musings here. Though I’ve been writing fiction for more than a decade, I’m a newcomer to the writing industry. Now, looking at the business side of things, I’m realizing that the publishing industry exemplifies many of the worst features of contemporary capitalism.
The designers of the product — the writers — are not employees of the manufacturer and distributor — the publishing company. The writers aren’t even paid short-term contractors. They are speculators, doing the work on their own time without compensation.
Really interesting article on the emotional and existential evolution of atheism (and by default religion).
From the article….These are the factors that have led to a more cheery outlook for atheism:
So evolutionary psychology, peace and prosperity, the removal of a glaring embarrassment to atheism’s pretensions and the emergence of new threats that made atheism look more progressive …
One of the things that holds us back from working toward a sustainable world is that it is so much easier to use our current infrastructure than to rebuild, recreate, and reimagine. We’ve also, in America, I’m afraid, become quite unimaginative and uncreative. (The decades of television finally taking their toll?) But what happens if your Midwest town gets leveled by a tornado? Well, if you are the salt-of-the-earth folk of Greensburg, Kansas, you roll up your sleeves, spit, and rebuild a sustainable community that draws in visitors from all over the world. And you do it all without wearing tie dye t-shirts or otherwise converting to Hippiedom.
One of my own (many) gripes against capitalism is that it breeds huge mutant monopoly companies who eat their families. When big industries are deregulated, the powerful tend to use their power to squash competition, or merge with other powerful companies. They then use this new strength to squeeze out even more competition until they remain, alone, at the top of the heap. (Think about the old days when princes would murder their brothers and any other familial rival…Hey, at least they were honest.)
This sad capitalistic story keeps replaying itself in American, and if you want, you can make a bag of popcorn and watch it unfold, as mega-bucks mutant freak corporation Comcast grows bigger and bigger….But be warned, watching it unfold may require shelling out big bucks to Comcast for an internet bundle plan.
A good summary of the opposition to Keystone XL pipeline….From the video….The odds are against us. We are up against the most profitable industry in human history…..This pipeline is a foreign company pumping foreign oil through the heart of the United States, to ship away to foreign buyers….We are caretakers of creation, and there is a responsible alternative to our current dependence on fossil fuels: creating local jobs and investing in alternative, renewable energy sources.
In the last few years, come sometime in mid-winter, I’ve started feeling the itch. The urge to get back to Alaska. It’s about that time now, and the urge is stronger than ever. So, I was intrigued, of course, to come across an article in Orion Magazine (my favorite magazine of all time) on rewilding. It’s a conversation with George Monbiot, a Brit and the author of a book on how we can work to reintroduce and cultivate wild spaces. The book has already lit a fire with many readers, and it is set to be released in a few months in the U.S.
Environmentalists or no, we are all intrigued by the incredible biodiversity of the past, and the large and magnificent predators that used to roam the earth. But, you may be surprised to know that this was widespread. For example, there were once elephants, rhinos, lions, and other large and impressive species in Europe. Says Monbiot, “Of course, in the Americas it was even more extraordinary. Read more
To confess, I’m becoming increasingly addicted to African novels, ever since Chinua Achebe’s magnificent Things Fall Apart, which is the African novel to top the canonical collection of them all. But Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible has me hooked. Kingsolver is easily one of my favorite novelists. She is a master storyteller, and in The Poisonwood Bible, she weaves the stories of four girls and a mother who are taken to the Congo, in 1959, by their Baptist preacher father, a driven, angry man intent on converting the natives to the salvation of Jesus Christ.
I’m amazed at Kingsolver’s ability to weave the stories of the family together, in the voices of each of the women of the family. The writing entertains, intrigues, then entertains some more. Then, when you are completely submerged in the narrative, Kingsolver nails you in the back of the head with a profound post-colonial insight.