Over 282,700 French people, many clad in yellow vests, protested on foot while drivers blocked roads at about 2,000 places, causing miles of traffic jams and a death. Meanwhile, copycat protests in Belgium, the Netherlands and Egypt brew. Many stories portray the unrest as a populist revolt against carbon taxes, while socialists point out those were regressive taxes that avoided responsibility by the rich and fossil fuel industry.
Tim Watkins cautions that so far climate...
...“solutions” (wind turbines and solar panels, electric cars, closing selective industries, etc.) all involve taking money off the working poor and handing it over to members of the affluent class in the forms of subsidies, grants and tax-breaks.
And working people are
… unlikely to take kindly to being told that they will have to pay more to have some energy for cooking and heating by some billionaire failed politician, movie star or documentary maker who insists on flying around the planet producing more greenhouse gas in a year than many of them will generate in a lifetime.
… as the political left abandoned the working class, the political right has stepped in to fill the void. And reversing the prevailing climate change policy is just one of the promises that bolster their popularity. [italics changed to bold]
As John Michael Greer says,
Why should anyone else take the problem seriously and stop using carbon if climate change activists themselves aren't willing to accept even modest cuts to their own carbon-fueled lifestyles?
Imagine … that instead of talking about stopping climate change, we were talking about stopping rape. Imagine that there were big organizations dedicated to stopping rape, and curiously enough, most of their membership consisted of serial rapists. Imagine, then, that people pointed out to the serial rapists that if they really wanted to stop rape, they ought to start by not committing any more rapes themselves -- and every time, the serial rapists responded by insisting that you can't stop rape by just having the members of anti-rape organizations give up raping people, that the problem's much bigger than that, and how can they find a way to communicate to everyone in the world that rape is wrong? The answer, of course, is that they can't, because nobody will take them seriously until they themselves stop committing rape.
Climate change activism these days is almost entirely a concern of middle- and upper middle-class people in the industrial world: people, that is, whose lifestyles are disproportionately responsible for the dumping of greenhouse gases; people who use much more fossil fuel energy, and many more of the products of fossil fuel energy, than the average human being. This fact isn't lost on anybody outside the climate change movement -- and the fact that climate change activists by and large insist on leading carbon-intensive lifestyles, while insisting that everyone else has to do something about climate change, has done more to scuttle the movement to stop climate change than any other factor I can think of.
Kevin Anderson (who no longer uses planes) makes a related point.
…the idea that 10 percent of the global population are responsible for 50 percent of global emissions … tells us that we need to be tailoring our policies towards that small group, rather than trying to squeeze the emissions out of the majority of the world’s population, who are hardly emitting anything at all.
… if that 10 percent of high emitters reduce their carbon footprint, their individual carbon footprint, to the level of the average European citizen, that would be equivalent of a one-third cut in global emissions, even if the other 90 percent did nothing.
… very approximately, ... the U.S. is twice the emissions of the average European.
Meanwhile, I’ve completely lost faith in the Democratic Party, despite Bernie Sanders participation. Paul Street sums up:
While the Republicans make no serious pretense of being anything but an oligarchic organization, [Nick] Brana says, the Democrats play a more “insidious” and disingenuous part. Their “counterrevolutionary” role is to masquerade as the people’s voice and function as a great “black hole for progressive energies and passions.”
… Noam Chomsky, whose description of the U.S. as “a one-party state with two right-wing parties” (Brana’s words) resonated with his own experience.
Corporate forces have … solidified and enhanced the power of anti-democratic superdelegates, many of them corporate lobbyists, while moving to eliminate party caucuses, seen as too friendly to progressive insurgents in the Sanders mode. They have also imposed a neo-McCarthyite “loyalty test” that empowers the DNC to advance-veto any presidential nominee deemed insufficiently faithful to the Democratic Party. All of these steps and more aim to further insulate the party from another dreaded populist insurgency.
So there's our mess.
Good for you, Ruth. I hope you will now take up non-partisan reform.
Cynicism is merely one form of powerlessness. Idealism is another form.
To people who ask me which party I support, I have for decades said Dems and Repubs are about equally capable of corruption, and that I’m a pragmatist.
It’s why I have for decades favored the direct initiative and referendum, along with recall.
Yet, I vote Democratic. I prefer Dem corruption to Repub/religious corruption.
Direct initiative and referendum seems to me a necessary but not sufficient step. It does shift the battleground significantly. Whoever can persuade a majority of the engaged electorate -- even with propaganda, attractive lies, misinformation, or precisely targeted psychological warfare -- holds the keys to power.
And as TheraminTrees points out, we can all be manipulated -- even, and especially, those of us who consider ourselves intelligent, open-minded critical thinkers -- and knowing how authoritarian groups exploit our brains' drive for consistency to do this can make us more resistant to being manipulated.
True, GC. We all, including you and I, can be manipulated.
We will not all be similarly manipulated.
Communication and other devices of democracy will follow.
Compromise will follow. Violence, some of it lethal, may follow.
Natural selection will continue doing what it has long done.
Are you making a case for something other than democracy?
Theramin Trees is long-winded, and seems confused.
Because perfection is not possible, will you do nothing?
No, if anything I'm making the case for a well-informed, well-equipped citizenry.
Another quote to consider:
No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
—Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (11 November 1947)
BTW, GC, my drive for consistency went where my youthful authoritarianism went.
Also, after a majority have decided, minorities may do what minorities have always done. One of them may win enough allies to become a new majority.
I agree that cynicism is a form of shirking responsibility, accepting powerlessness. But idealism? I don't buy that. Perhaps someone who fails to learn and keeps repeatedly doing behaviors which failed could be said to be powerless because their efforts are ineffective. But I don't see that in the same ballpark as cynicism.
Ruth, idealism and cynicism may seem in two ball parks but I like the sound of “On my travels between idealism and cynicism, I try to spend some time in realism.”
Nothing wrong with idealism!
"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
--Henry David Thoreau, in Walden
GC, Thoreau’s words contradict yours.
Castles in the air are not merely lost; without foundations they fall and crush people who had no part in building them.
Much is wrong with idealism.
Tom, I think we have a slightly different understanding of idealism, or perhaps differing personal histories.
There’s youthful idealism, which according to a long ago teacher educ course, peaks at about twelve and gradually declines in the teens to realism
The idealism I had did not gradually decline in my teens. With violent parents, I was grumpy and idealism gave me an escape. A war and time in the Navy gave me veterans benefits and I went to college. In my forties my idealism crashed in the competition of hardball politics. Idealism didn’t suddenly go away; it and cynicism alternated until I quit poltics and retired. Not yet fifty, I had the leisure to heal and to see realism.
In my experience, idealism and cynicism are powerless conditions.
Like many concepts, idealism means different things to different people. The dictionary says it means the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, etc. In philosophy, it means the notion that there is a higher world than the physical world of nature that we all see, hear, feel, etc. Gregory Bateson gave one of the best definitions of this:
We commonly think that a dinner plate is “real,” but that it’s circularity is “only an idea.” But Plato noted, first, that the plate is not truly circular, and second, that the world can be perceived to contain a very large number of objects which approximate, or strive after, “circularity.” He therefore asserted that “circularity” is ideal (the adjective derived from idea) and that such ideal components of the universe are the real explanatory basis for its forms and structure.
This should sound familiar, since the Christian notion of heaven, the afterlife, and all that crap is really just warmed-over Platonism with all the interest and subtlety stripped away. So Tom, you can argue that idealism is powerlessness, but if you ask me the religionists have had and are continuing to have a pretty damn good run with it.
I’ll give the final word to Oscar Wilde: We in our madness have separated body and soul, and have invented a realism that is vulgar, an idealism that is void.