Power over Nature is an old cultural ideal in the Western world. It seemed largely achieved by the exploding rate of industrial invention in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This core western value continues unabated today. A major downside of the unprecedented successes of the industrial age is the growth of a deep institutionalized hubris.
This entails major risks, especially for Americans. That’s not surprising, given our short history of western conquest, our experience as the world’s most powerful economic force, and our well practiced cultural amnesia. The power of expanding industrial and military might is nothing if not seductive and has become the norm for our economic and imperial expectations.
The web of institutional relations between Big Banks, Big Government, Big Corporations, Big Media, and Big Military assures a certain cultural uniformity. This giant institutional complex shapes the framework for public discourse, thereby controlling the focus of any debate. Unfortunately, this powerful establishment also assures that little of the critical problems we now face become the subject of much serious public discussion. The cult of “American Exceptionalism” exacerbates the failure to recognize, no less deal with, political, economic, social, or environmental problems — even as they reach crisis levels.
Even so, many Americans do recognize that something is amiss. Scientifically confirmed and increasingly urgent problems are steadfastly ignored or denied by the power elites. Corporate management of both information and media controls the content and flow of mass communications. That is why “net neutrality” is so important.
Consider this. As a culture, our problems with Nature are due to our core imaginary separation from and dominion over the natural world. Modern Western Man — gender reference intentional — in both religious tradition and philosophical attitude expects and believes himself meant to control nature. The intellectual and power elites believe themselves to be rightfully and inherently in charge of the outcomes of their projects in the natural world. Harmonizing with nature is not part of that equation.
Currently, disastrous results of the unjustified U.S. war on Iraq are coming to a head. The radical Sunni insurgency, ISIS, is taking over major Iraqi cities as the U.S. installed Shiite sectarian government and army falter. The U.S. trained and equipped Iraqi army has largely failed to defend the repressive regime the U.S. created. Yet, who do the Sunday talk shows invite back to explain what we should do next about the crisis that American Hubris caused? Why, the very neo-conservative war mongers whose imperious hubris got us into that mess in the first place, that’s who. Just how much hubris can we take?
Where are all the analysts who warned of the folly and had it right? Oh, they’re just “isolationists,” so should have no standing, and besides, there are the ratings to consider. And who do the talking heads invite to explain the consequences and offer solutions for the economic crash caused by the Big Banks? Why, the Biggest Banksters, of course! The corporate media are not interested in a Joseph Stiglitz or a Nomi Prins. Opposition to hubris is not allowed.
Necessities of Now
But the cycle of the industrial era operates on a trajectory, a time line with a launch point and an unavoidable landing. The history of the great transformation to a capital-growth driven industrial society is well documented. But as the transition to its decline and fall begins, it is excluded from public discussion, at least by ‘the usual suspects.’ Mainstream economics is the ideology of corporate capitalism and does not accept an end point for its growth. That is one reason it is imaginary.
The American imaginary has little memory and its likely fate remains unrecognized. It is folly is to project past trends into an indefinite future. But that is the core of the corporate economic ideology. At a certain point, it was understandable that the industrial elites would see no end to their growing enterprises. But now the evidence is in, and the jig is up. End point indicators proliferate all around us. The real issue, the choice of a hard or soft landing is up to us.
Imperious imaginaries have no useful place in the strategic planning that is now necessary to carve out a smooth transition to survival in the coming decades. In fact, they are downright dangerous. How to achieve a broad recognition of the necessities of now is our biggest immediate problem. What is necessary now, beyond general needs for energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions, is neither taken seriously nor widely discussed.
The most urgent necessity of now is to develop and immediately implement a strategy to radically reduce carbon emissions. In order to restrain the rapid acceleration of global warming, we need to target the most extreme and easiest to mitigate sources of carbon emissions first. Many of these are interconnected, so a coordinated plan is called for but not discussed among all the political finger pointing and denials. Well, that compounds the other imperious imaginary: the sovereign right of each individual to do whatever the (corporate) “person” damn well pleases, regardless of the consequences for the rest of us, and for the planet. Catch-22 is in full force, and time is not on our side.