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Rated: E · Essay · Religious · #2108076
How we can or won't respond to the end of business-as-usual
This essay started life as a response to Keith Antonysen’s excellent article on ‘Abrupt Climate Change’ in the Tasmanian Times: http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/Abrupt-Climate-Change-A-Shal... It made riveting reading as to just how perilous our collective future is becoming.

But the stark facts of life that he brings to us are really only the beginning of what is most likely going to be a post modern analogue of the difficult sixteenth and seventeenth century Reformational pilgrimage in search of both personal and collective salvation, as the modern period starts to break up, like Christendom did at the beginning of the modern era.

But we need to have enough clarity about what has happened and why, to make sense of how we came to this and what we need to change to even get started on that journey, unless we wait for events to shoot us out of the barrel of history.

There are precedents that might give us a little guidance and perspective. The challenges we face are very similar to the ones confronted by societies that had to deal with the aggressive global expansion of modern technology and institutions in the nineteenth century.

The reason for this was that the modern suite beset its pre-modern nineteenth century interlocutors (parties who take part in a dialogue) with an existential crisis that could not be dealt with partially, and would punish those those who prevaricated (acted in an evasive way) or worse, went into denial.

The choice was to fully embrace it or be ‘embraced’, ride the wave or get dumped by it, be its collaborator or victim, partner or slave. It wasn’t offering each way bets or the discretion to opt out. Plenty tried that, but always disastrously, and in ways that compounded downstream adaption failure and cost.

Modernity would only allow customary cultural hand baggage on this immense journey. If the pilgrims were too weighed down by the past and slowed by reluctance to leave much behind, they just wouldn’t make the pace, get caught by the furies and be helplessly swept up in their violent turbulence.

It took the Japanese 13-14 years to sort out their collective decision to properly engage the very disruptive modern paradigm (pattern or model). There was some ‘vigorous’ inter-samurai clan ‘aggravation’ between traditionalists and modernizers that was resolved in favor of those with the more modern weaponry and training.

The Chinese on the other hand failed in this and suffered collapse of their Confucian institutions, warlordism, foreign invasion and then a terrible socialist autocracy, before they really got a handle on it, a hundred and thirty something years after they got their first brutal lessons in the potency of modern power.

The Japanese understood that to repel the European barbarians required nothing less than a thoroughgoing and simultaneous (contemporaneous would be better) revolution across the entire means of production. They understood that the power they needed wasn’t just military or naval, but a whole-of-country industrial/capital market/trade/education/administrative/legal ecosystem. And after nearly 40 years of very hard and disciplined learning, work, and immense sacrifice, the job was done.

On the other hand, the Chinese kept being forced to grudgingly give way at the margins, until there were no more margins to give away, and then they got really 'done'.

We are currently wobbling between the two, but biasing down the Chinese path. And like the Chinese, there are far more powerful elements of obstruction and obfuscation at play than just greed, sectional interest and wilful ideological blindness. And if we do not pin point this, there is little chance of even ameliorating {make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better} what is coming at us. If we can unpack why the Japanese 'got it' and the Chinese didn't, it might give us some clues to ourselves.

Both were equally ‘arrogant’ (confident), ‘conservative’ (traditionalist), ‘xenophobic’ (critical and/or contemptuous of outsiders) and at some point in their past, had consciously rejected the modernizing path towards capitalism.

However, faced with military defeat, the most powerful wings of the samurai establishment were able to see that they could weld a modern industrial infrastructure around an intact Japanese samurai class dominated culture; an amalgam samurai bourgeoisie who would run the Zaibatsu (samurai clan industrial conglomerates) with close connections to the army (led by Mitsui) and navy (led by Mitsubishi).

They would re-invent themselves at the head of a very cool 'winner' military-industrial base, armed not just with all the latest war making goodies, but the entire modern suite of instruments to finance, build, deploy and support them effectively within the framework of a modern state.

For Samurai, it was glorious to die in battle, but ingloriously unthinkable for the still living to lose one.

Full suite modernization was more persuasive for them, especially if the traditional culture could be used to mobilize the whole exercise, so that people would not be paralyzed between loss of the past and fear of the future. For them, modernizing was not even remotely culturally or temperamentally ‘westernizing’, as Europeans who had the misfortune to get in the way of the Japanese Imperial Army found, in 1942.

For the Chinese Confucian mandarins, it was much harder because until the industrial revolution, China was by far the largest scale, most civilized and sophisticated place on the planet. Its intellectual administrative class had no peers.

It was axiomatic (self-evident and/or unquestionable) to them that all foreigners were barbarians because compared with them, they were barbarians.

Top officials were known to have a written vocabulary in excess of sixty thousand characters, which enabled them to nuance (subtle difference in or shade of meaning) meaning at a level that had no peer. And their beautiful calligraphy (the art of producing decorative handwriting or lettering with a pen/brush) was an art in its own right and closely related to their equally exquisite painting.

For them to admit that the barbarian foreigners were not just far more powerful, but cleverer than them, was unimaginable. By definition, the mandarins had nothing to learn from anyone else, because they already knew everything worth knowing about.

Only one in 300 candidates for the lowest level imperial examinations passed.

Even in military defeat at say the hands of the Mongols, the Confucian elite absorbed them, not the other way round. For them, admitting any kind of intellectual inferiority would be not just humiliating, but an admission of regime weakness and that that whole class of vastly schooled and well read literary savants (people of such vast and sacrificial learning that they would almost necessarily have to be autistic to do it), whose institutions went back millennia, were not up to the task of dealing with...well...hairy, uncultured and chalky faced barbarians.

So when military defeat was forced on them, it was quarantined as ‘just’ a military problem which the 'superior' mandarins could deal with by merely importing modern weapons, or even setting up the odd arsenal. And as events went against them as the nineteenth century proceeded, they retreated always with a view to preserve the status of an ever shrinking core of traditional mandarin rulership and its literary cultural values.

And build railways into the interior of China to modernize its transport infrastructure? Perish the thought! The goats and pigs would miscarry from the noise, the smoke would dirty the crops, and above all, they would disturb the tranquil repose of venerated ancestors, whose ubiquitous (found everywhere) and pristinely maintained graves/memorials they would inevitably desecrate (treat a sacred place or thing with violent disrespect)! And the local Confucian mandarin officials feared the much wider disruptive changes and new social forces that rail would bring in its wake, that would disturb the tranquility of their repose.

(For those who have had to fight off anti wind farm NotInMyBackYarders and fossil fuel interests, the above should be all too familiar)

Unlike the samurai, the mandarin literary knowledge base was a sacrosanct basis of their identity, system of law and administration, and social custom, whereas for the dominant samurai cliques, knowledge was just a means to an end of protecting and transforming samurai class interests, and their view of their own military invincibility. The difference between bureaucratic/literary intellectuals and military ones could not be more pronounced.

The Japanese were prepared to dress like westerners and run all the appurtenances (accessories or other items associated with a particular activity or style of living) of a western style economic system. But inside it, all the corporate/industrial relationships were traditional Japanese. More, as soon as the office worker returned home, the moment he walked through the door and changed into traditional Japanese dress, everything was as it had been, as if the intrusion of the westerners had never happened.

The traditional Japanese cultural ‘hand luggage’ was not a dead weight of the past to be carried around like a mourned over coffin or defiant fortress. It was used as a dynamic motivator that put its stamp on everything they did, as they radically transformed their economy.

For the mandarins, any admission of European ways and ideas was a defeat of a Chinese center-of-the-world narrative that went back nearly 4000 years.

It wasn’t that the samurai didn’t have to eat a lot of humble pie by importing and becoming students of western knowledge, and allowing themselves to be told what to do by western experts. It was just that their need to have whatever it was they were having that gave them so much power, overrode all other considerations. And they swallowed their very considerable pride because they knew that in the longer term, they would have their teachers’ measure...and then some.

In 1904-5, fifty years after the US navy forced open Japanese ports that started the cascade of foreign imposed unequal treaties on the medieval Shogunate (the traditional Japanese military dictatorship), the Ever Victorious Japanese Imperial Army systematically removed Russian land forces from most of Manchuria, and the Glorious Imperial Navy blew to bits most of the main squadron (which included 11 of its 13 battleships) of the Russian Baltic Fleet, and forced what was left of the expedition to surrender.

In 1911, the Hanlin Academy in Beijing, that had trained the cream of the Confucian elite since the beginning of the eighth century of the modern era, closed its doors for the last time, as China descended into chaos.

The unsustainability of modern capitalism poses a similarly uncompromising threat to the late modern ‘traditionalist’ corporate mandarins as modernization did to their Chinese forebears. Their power is similarly knowledge based, only this time it is built around their long held historic domination of science, technology and economic managerialism. And like their mandarin forebears, they are possessed of an equally powerful belief in the infallibly of their system to respond to any challenge, because it always has.

Like the threat of barbarian Europeans in the nineteenth century, the environment question sits on the edge of business-as-usual as a scientific ‘anomaly,’ for science has always existed to empower, legitimize and, where necessary, repair the regime rather than reveal a fatal flaw in its basic architecture and assumption of an indefinitely expanding industrial economy and population, in a limited planetary ecosystem.

The perceived ‘job’ of science is not to say why things can’t be done, but how they can be. And if there is a problem, then the role of science is to fix it, to maintain the status quo. If there is a food crisis, bring on the green revolution. If there is an ozone hole, change the gases used for spray propellants and refrigeration. They were relatively painless regime bolstering operations and indicated how science is used to deal with issues in a limited and piecemeal fashion, that does not affect the overall operations of the system.

Even the CO2 global warming crisis, which is a much larger problem than either of the above, is to some extent amenable to the traditional problem solving model, by electrifying the world’s energy/transport systems using renewables plus storage and energy design efficiency. As we speak, vast amounts of research, capital and infrastructure building are going into this project.

But this time it has been anything but painless, for the renewables based electrification project is not just an enormous one, but has existential implications, that has meant that the science of climatology has found itself under sustained political and media attack as a ‘post normal science scam/hoax’. This is leading in some places to pseudo scientific rebuttal by murky lobbyists, disinformative science mercenaries, crank media critics, news network spin doctors, and/or politically driven climate research project defunding/shutdown.

The ‘existential’ difficulty is that although renewables electrification is profitable and very rapidly gaining in efficiency, reliability, convenience and cost, the roll out is not driven by the overwhelmingly decisive economy wide productivity/cost gains the railways offered over canals in the early nineteenth century. Perhaps the biggest restructure in the history of capitalism since the introduction of steam driven machines, is being driven by absolute limits defined by the environment, not the needs or convenience of capital.

This one is not just a piecemeal fix.

At a more subtle level, the move to renewables is a bit like ‘going back’ to the world before steam, no matter how sophisticated the new technology seems. As the nineteenth century progressed, sails and water wheels gave way to fossil fuelled engines that were more reliable, powerful, faster, productive and economical. The narrative myths of ‘variability/unreliability’ of wind and sun has extremely deep roots in the collective psyche and historical narrative of industrialism.

Hydrocarbons have been in the DNA of industrialism since its beginnings, and decisively marked it out from its ancient and medieval predecessors. Every nook and cranny of the modern age is filled with its products and by-products.

Unlike the protracted, dynamic, competitive and complementary relationships of canal, horse drawn transport, steam rail and internal combustion automobiles on land, sail and steam at sea and flight in the atmosphere, the new environment/renewable energy agenda demands the rapid and immediate elimination of its fossil fuel competitors…yesterday; industries that do not just produce energy, but almost all modern industrial chemical and synthetic materials technology. Less than half of a barrel of oil goes to making gasoline. The rest goes into thousands of other products that are in almost everything we all use, all the time. What happens when the energy components can no longer be used?

Capital has always restructured the environment, not the other way round, and doing it on an ever increasingly gigantic scale. Whether it be private or state capitalism, huge belching chimneys have been a status symbols of industrial power, development and progress. In China, they still are, pea soup smogs notwithstanding. And unfortunately for climatology boffins, normally ‘good news’ science has had the unenviable task of being the unpopular messenger boy with the bad news, made worse by the warnings that capital has to scramble on this to save its and our environmental bacon.

The corporate bigwigs don’t like being told by non market forces that they are on a highly disruptive technology timeline they don’t control, being put on asset amortization deadlines that immediately and severely reduce the value of their multi trillion dollar asset portfolios, and to some extent threaten disruption of industrial chemical and synthetic materials production central to the functioning of modern societies.

It took over a hundred years for the British canal system to go from dominance to abandonment.

It is as if the competition between railways and canals had been a bit more even, with canals being significantly widened and introducing faster steam tugs and much larger cargoes. Likely this would have taken on political dimensions with the Tories (conservatives) supporting canals (and their old aristocratic mates) and the Whigs (liberals) supporting the innovative newby rail and ‘speedy’ technological ‘progressivism’. It would have been the mother and father of all ideological, political, social and economic brawls, but still nowhere near as far reaching as the environment issue is now.

In some ways the confrontation between environmentalism/renewables and hydrocarbons are also a bit like the-rock-’n-hard-place between slave plantationism and mechanized industrial manufacturing that the US civil war had to sort out.

Slave emancipation was going to be unavoidably ruinous for the slave owners, for slaves were not cheap, and after the civil war, emancipation without compensation was ruinous.

Cotton growing was extremely labor intensive and could not afford the wages paid for high productivity mechanized labor production in the north, which was why the large and relatively efficient plantations had to be broken up and replaced after the civil war with lower productivity, small holder share cropping that traded slaves for debt bonded and impoverished black and white tenant farmers. That couldn’t change until large scale farm mechanization became possible after WW2, which increased returns on capital, the value of rural labor and the interest of large holding agribusiness corporations. But even that was to some extent stymied by the rapid rise of cheap synthetics...

In part, this is why the South fought so hard, for so long and with such stupendous losses (one in three families lost someone) against the more powerful North, even when it was obvious they were losing the war, because they knew they would all be a lot poorer at the end of it (and the ex slaves no richer), for the long haul.

On the other hand, mechanized energy intensive industrialism couldn’t afford to tolerate the slave system drain on capital by way of the asset cost of slaves and housing them, if the US was to ever become the world’s leading industrial power.

It was not interested in meeting the costs of unavoidable slave welfare, health and safety. If the slave got sick, injured, old, surplus to requirements in an industry downturn, or died, it was a large cost/loss/write off that would come out of the hide of the owner. There was no such thing as ‘letting them go’ when they were of little or no use. No one wants to buy in a downturn or purchase the maimed, old or sick. The owner would be stuck with looking after them.

And they had to be fed and clothed sufficiently to get a decent day’s work out of them, for contrary to popular mythology, the threat of the whip was not nearly as efficacious or cost effective as looking after them properly.

There was no way these two economic systems were going to live side by side, once mechanized industrialism became the dominant means of production.

Thus having Donald Trump in the presidency is bit like having Jefferson Davis (the president of the southern Confederacy) elected to that office, instead of Abe Lincoln in 1861. Can you imagine? The Trump presidency may well be the biggest test of American unity since the civil war.

Worse still, behind global warming is a slew of separate and collateral ecological and social issues waiting in the wings to demonstrate that not only are non monetized assets and labour resources not ‘free’ to be raided and pillaged indefinitely by the economic system, but nor are the social/reproductive commons and its ideological software.

Global forests and rivers do not have monetized market value as high grade suppliers of critical ecological services. The conversion of forests into palm plantations producing edible oil, or rivers into agricultural irrigation, does. Thus ecological asset stripping is invisible on the balance sheets, which means we can go on doing it until ecologically bankruptcy, which will take down the whole economic system.

But try telling that to palm oil and irrigation producers...who stolidly believe the myth that science will find a smart and efficient way to keep on extracting ever more, indefinitely.

This has been compounded and muddied by an internal challenge by competing elements within the regime’s social administrative arm.

The environmental commons issue becomes not just a moral/political leverage point, as in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ and the abolitionist anti-slavery movement; not just a Church (Humanist ‘Wets’) v Crown (Corporate ‘Dries’) medieval style internal struggle for regime power, but a buttress for The liberal 'Wet’s' own crumbling influence and legitimacy, as the social commons over which they have considerable influence, collapses underneath them.

The ‘Wets’ have helped remove all the ‘rigid’, ‘repressive’, ‘abusive’ and ‘authoritarian’ obligation/responsibility intensive underpins (discipline, training, accountability and mentorship) that actually hold up their libertarian social platform, revealing a vacuum that is swallowing down the last of the non market social infrastructure as we speak, in favour of life-without-boundaries and a consumer ethos that eats absolutely everything, including both its top and bottom feeding servants.

Not only is the liberal ‘Wet’ accusation of corporate ecological ‘unsustainability’ a bit like the kettle calling the pot black, but it creates an atmosphere where the corporates would rather consume strychnine than admit anything was wrong with market forces. And it obscures their tandem regime relationship that has collaborated in the construction of an indulgent culture for indulgence capitalism.

Liberty (licence), rights (entitlement), individualism (egoism) and compassion/toleration (indulgence) conflate and then corrosively damage the integrity of the human social material coming out of the reproductive system, until there is nothing left of it, except helplessly vulnerable consumer egoists. These wretches cannot tell the difference between fantasies, wants, needs and rights and are completely at the mercy of the masters of business administration, the marketed consciousness and the constant avalanches of messages from the proud sponsors.

Female domestic familial labour does not have market value as a supplier of high grade reproductive social infrastructure services. Siphoning labour value out out of that sector into paid labour does, because both domestic infrastructure value adding and asset stripping are invisible on the balance sheets.

Then we subtract unrealized male domestic participation (which was supposed to plug the holes while the girls were away ‘working’), a horrific divorce rate (see ‘unrealized male domestic participation’) and degraded downstream composite family re-formation, laissez-faire parenting in the absence of extant operating templates, adolescent rather than adult behaviour modelling in the absence of adult control, and deletion of sociophilic (opposite of sociopathic/alienated/egoistic) values, disciplines and enforcement from the system, because they are delegitimized as repressive, uncool and ‘old fashioned’.

Then surprise surprise, existentially and socially feral behaviour becomes ‘normal’ and the ‘Establishment’ representatives of all sides of the status quo (dry corporates as well as wet humanists) justify it as either ‘inevitable’ and ‘necessary’ or the product of ‘disadvantage’ and/or it is no one’s fault and/or everyone else’s fault, except the perpetrators.

And whether this applies to fraudulent banksters whose cannibalism almost destroyed the global financial system in 2008, or out-of-control convicted young criminals who wrecked their detention quarters and assault/threaten/spit at their wardens in Melbourne and/or Darwin (Australia), blame shifting, denial and fatalistic inevitablism reign supreme.

The banksters lost none of their entitlements, nor were they held legally accountable because...well...shit happens. And very likely ditto for the criminal young buccaneers, because they are ‘poor things’ who are ‘the helpless victims’ of external forces over which they have no control….

Either way, it is execrable (appalling, atrocious and lamentable) drivel.

The libertarian corporate mandarin response to ecological unsustainability has been to try and ‘manage the science’ and public awareness of it, and blame the messengers, rather than respond to the threat, except at the margins and only conceding minimalist retreat as larger environmental damage intensifies.

The corporate totalitarians do not need to control 100% of the information media like their autocratic predecessors did. 70% is quite enough to effectively manage mainstream social and political sentiment, and Newscorp does that very nicely.

David Atten-bro will keep bringing us the decline and fall of the natural world, but in such a way that the entertainment trumps the content and the on-the-ground species rescue attempts obscure the reality of the biological endgame, much in the same way as Joseph Goebbels promoted glorious tactical victories over obscured strategic losses in the last two years of World War 2.

The humanist ‘Churchy’ libertarian civil management antagonists will keep up a systematically marginalised, but ever more pressing biological environment agenda pressure, even as the unsustainable and equally damaged social environment they are supposed to be bureaucratically administering, educationally elaborating and ideologically justifying, disintegrates around them, in tandem with the sagging larger planetary scale life force.

And these ideological ‘Wets’ are every bit into denial and blame shifting as their corporate regime partners; you know, it is everyone else whose deficits of character, ‘ignorant’ thinking and lack of theoretical understanding that are the problem, not them. They have a plethora of ideological assault words and bleeding hearts’ empathy narratives to maintain the impression they are benign force for good, that should not be crossed...if you don’t want to end up in the heresy corner, being pilloried with some very nasty stereotypes.

‘The environment’ isn’t just the ecosphere. It isn’t just about the hardware of life that we depend on to get a feed and the biological resources we need to resource our industries. It is also the cultural/existential software that enables us to live robust, secure and stable lives within well templated, coherently organized and authoritative communities, capable of reproducing that reliably and indefinitely.

Half our net worth lies inside that software and social practice. The by far most important ‘industry’ we have reproduces the product of that software into the next generation. And we have turned it into a degovernanced and privatized free for all that if it were any other industry, would be shut down and reconstructed...yesterday, just like the unsustainable planetary environmental practices of the economic system.

And our liberal 'wet' humanist ‘Wet’ brothers and sisters are no more interested in hearing that than their corporate cousins, for exactly the same reasons.

The ‘environmental' crisis is proving to be so intractably problematic because all arms of the administration of late ‘indulgence’ capitalism are equally deeply implicated. ‘The environment’ isn’t just the planetary natural biological environment, but the human economic, social and existential hardware and software ones as well. This larger ‘environment’ is becoming so trashed and undermined and the consequences of that so diabolically compromising, no one can afford to ‘own up’ and take responsibility for their piece of the action in this terrible state of affairs.

So the finger pointing is inevitably going to be about ‘the-other-guy-not-moi’, which is a recipe for paralysed inaction and means that internal reform will be limited. Thus it will be up to conscious external forces and/or the consequential forces created by inaction, that will propel us into a very difficult future, much as it did for the Chinese.

The successful ‘samurai’ de-modernizers of the coming post-modern period will likely be the militant Muslim hard liners who will shut down large tranches of the grossly inflated consumer society. They may well replace it with a more decentralised, lower impact ‘medieval’ style economy that delivers only the absolute basics, and which will be dominated by a theocracy, where the only corporate offices, social administration and security that matter, are mosques.

They could win because they will have the belief, focus, discipline and willingness to take the necessarily enormous casualties to do so. Their corporate and social libertarian adversaries will both sink under the welter of their unsustainable economic and social practices and the rising fury of their increasingly physically and existentially impoverished and desperate late modern constituencies.

And above all, these post-modern adversaries, like the Vikings of the eight and ninth centuries, will have discovered just how ridiculously vulnerable and impossible to defend large urban concentrations really are.

Tiny groups of fanatics, with very small resources and primitive techniques can spectacularly sow terror and disruption at will, anywhere, any time. There is almost nothing that security systems can do to interdict (intercept and prevent) more than a percentage of such attacks, at an enormous cost and only if these urban concentrations are eventually broken up into networks of fortified cantons (small administrative sub-divisions) that make movement across boundaries much more difficult.

Like the Chinese ‘centre-of-the-world’ Confucian regime that was the victim of the global expansion phase of the modern period, our unwillingness to sense and engage a major historical paradigm shift means we are collectively inviting a post-modern denouement (the outcome of a situation, when something is decided or made clear). And it will likely be run by the sort of people and belief structures that are tough enough to break with the past completely, robust enough to withstand the pressure and ruthless enough to bring some order out of a really nasty mess; a bit like the secular Maoism and Bolshevism of an earlier age.

And if we really want a necessarily equally demanding secular version of Islam, we will need to be pulling magical rabbits out of hats…very soon...by discarding indulgence economics and social theory, doing the necessary dirty work to get it done and getting back to the basics of what wealth and a good life really mean, how they are constructed, maintained and handed down as a legacy to our offspring.

Islam is a tried and tested off-the-shelf product that is immediately available. Its only secular alternative, socialism, is on the rubbish dump of history, and I am sorry to say, deservedly so, being a victim not just of consumerist ‘false consciousness’, the collapse of the class struggle and a terrible litany of mass murder, bureaucratism and brain draining/capital starving taxation, but of its own fanciful pseudo scientific pretension to being the historically ‘inevitable’ wave of the future and the path towards the one and only true version of ‘progress’ (whatever that is supposed to be).

Whatever it is that isn’t Islam, it will be a likeness of it with hopefully a few nods in the direction of a more recent past than the seventh century, to get us through a very straightened and tumultuous period.

Perhaps someone can steal a march on Mohammed (Peace be upon him) by doing unto him what he did to the Jewish canon, by getting the help of the Archangel Gabriel to rewrite it, and editing out ‘their mistakes’. Who says we cannot bring Gabriel out of retirement and get him to dictate a new testament that revises ‘the errors’ of the Koran; a brand new free download on how to live your life properly, or else….?

What is missing all round is a consciousness of just how compromised modern institutions really are, across the board. All (not just some) of it is sinking as new and quite unexpected forces start to make their run, as they sense the power and legitimacy vacuum in front of them, and the opportunities that that will create, and is creating for them, as we speak.

Religious fundamentalism is not a bizarre anomaly, but an increasingly threatening fixture that shows absolutely no signs of going away anytime soon, much like Marxism-Leninism was in an earlier time.

The modern equivalent of a Jacquerrie {a medieval rebellion by peasant ‘Jacques’ (Jacks) against their feudal rulers} is replicated by the equally ‘uneducated’, ‘ignorant’, ‘prejudiced’ ‘redneck’, ‘homophobe’, ‘sexist’, ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobic social elements who are ground swelling the likes of Trump, Brexit and the ‘far right’ (whatever that means) anti immigration forces in Europe. They cannot adequately articulate their discontents, uncertainties and fears, but they know that their ideologically ‘sophisticated betters’ are full of s**t.

And the dreadful problem is….they are.

Of course their populist heroes and causes will likely meet the same inglorious fate as the ‘uncouth’ and rustic Jacqueries in the fourteenth century. They only reflect the underlying symptoms of regime decay. They are not history makers in the sense of a leadership armed with a vision and an organizational template to realize it, as the Protestant Reformationists were in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and as the Bolsheviks and the Maoists were in the twentieth.

Fundamentalism is a signal that we need to re-anchor our beliefs and recompass our visions of the future, because the ones from the past are no longer compelling, up to the task, or even legitimate any more.

Fundamentalism produces people who are prepared to abandon their past and die for what they believe. And however quaint their cosmological beliefs may seem to a more ‘sophisticated’ demographic, the fact is eighty percent of what fundamentalism delivers on the ground isn’t about the cosmology at all.

It is order out of chaos, certainty out of mystification, bottom lines instead of fudge, sociophilism (love of society) instead of sociopathology (alienation), social character building instead of ego fluffing, rules instead of a world without boundaries, accountability instead of licence, obligations and disciplines rather that entitlements and what I can do for you rather than what’s in it for me.

Religious fundamentalism captures all that, no matter how ‘old fashioned’ it might be in some ways. It won’t have any problem taking down the consumer society and its increasingly grotesque rituals and excesses. It will divert social and economic effort to the basics that securely sustain us and make life worth living,

It will do what it should to make sure there is something left for our descendants, who will be worth saving because it has set, trained, mentored and enforced some standards, that it will adhere to and pass on to them, in perpetuity, to prevent them from ever again being turned into the sort of existentially denuded human trash that is currently being spewed out by latter day modern societies.

And it will vigorously clean up the leftover picaresque scum (opportunists, rogues and cheats who live by their wits in a corrupt society) that inhabit the stinking garbage heaps that lie at the bottom of the valley of the shadow of existential and ecological annihilation…….

Watch this space.
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