Renewable Energy, or, If We Prefer, "Collapse"

TAG LINES

In these pages, I am always going off in many directions at once; my article on renewable energy networks (WNC-REI) is a good example. All of my writing tends toward such a decision to complicate matters for my readers, much to their chagrin in many cases.

I do this on purpose. My sense is that, now more than ever, simple approaches to the complex difficulties confronting us are almost pointless. I am therefore a practitioner of 'Depth Textuality,' in which I seek, as much as possible given limited time and resources, to investigate and present the multisidedness of whatever particular phenomenon or process is under scrutiny.

collapse-21So too today, readers will get a multitude of ideas and data that center around a distinct core. The center in this case is a recent film , "Collapse" (available here), in which the director, Chris Smith, may have set out to lampoon supposed 'nutcase' Michael Ruppert, only to have Ruppert steal the show, turning in a sober, gritty, emotionally devastating performance about what the seven billion cousins sharing this planet now face, apparently in the process converting Smith to Ruppert's POV.

Folks may notice that this section of my articles always involves 'outlier' ideas, or perhaps underlying ideas is a better phrasing. In the interrelated way of thinking that I espouse as essential, all such 'TAG LINES' are apropos to every article, though each has concepts especially noteworthy for the specific instance.

In any event, the underpinning points that I want to develop today start with the notion of 'conspiracy theories'. As a fairly observant student of certain events in the past, I can state--without equivocation, that certain of these happenings likely involved actionable or criminal activity carried out by connected people, which is the definition of a civil conspiracy, or a criminal conspiracy, respectively.

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the overthrow of Chile's elected President, Salvador Allende, are just two examples that happen to be important to me. I might discuss scores of others.

Does this make me "a conspiracy theorist?" I'll reply as Michael Ruppert does in the movie: "I don't deal in conspiracy theories; I deal in conspiracy facts."

But I want to go deeper (go figure). My perspective on this is that

emphasizing conspiracies is generally not only unimportant but also counterproductive in trying to understand social phenomena or trying to activate community power and social change.

Many reasons buttress my opinion in this. Diversion from the main purpose of learning, which is to act; discomfort in many listeners, readers, etc., who want to believe in the institutions and leaders almost always implicated in the conspiracy; and so on, all diminish the utility and applicability of information and learning about what is happening when the spotlight is on criminals, thugs, and other miscreants acting in congress.

But these are not my main reasons for avoiding discussion of conspiracy. The primary problem with conspiratorial analysis is that it prevents us from seeing, or allows us to overlook, the real relationships and factors and programs that account for the way that events unfold. This is similar to the belief that focusing on conspiracies diverts attention, but it is definitely broader than that idea.

The upshot is that, if we look mainly at conspiracies as the problem, then we are going to have an obvious solution. 'Let's get rid of the conspirators.' And this will never solve the problems that communities and societies and the collective cousins of the planet earth face.

We must engage transformation at the systemic level, at the paradigmatic level, at the operational level, at the community level where we eat and sleep and play and live. Ditching, jailing, killing, or otherwise eliminating what my mom calls "the bad actors" will not address our problems where our problems really lie.

Therefore, I tend not tot accentuate evil plots, even though they often exist. My advice in this regard? "If you can only solve your problems through understanding a conspiracy, then you need an equitable criminal system or a gun to solve your problems." In my estimation, the first is mostly unavailable, and the second is outside the scope of what we are trying to communicate here.

All of that said, I don't avoid acknowledgment of the fact that conspiracies often do play an important role in socio-economic and political economic matters. This includes all sorts of situations involving renewable energy. The last film that I reviewed pointed out that Prohibition started in part because Henry Ford had found a cheap way to make fuel out of grain alcohol, which caused oil companies and friends to espouse teetotalism.

riot-21This is important in the essay unfolding here now, because the multiple intersecting crises that we face--as individuals, families, communities, regions, etc., all pit one set of stakeholders--corporate, government, and expert--against communities and common folk and the occasional scholar who bypasses the lucre of the SOP pay-out. And the elite 'stakeholders' in this regimen have, very often, participated in actionable and criminal activities that they have orchestrated purposely in order to cover up, profit, and basically continue doing business as the rulers of the day.

Dick Cheney is a conspirator. George Bush, if he had the mental capacity, was a conspirator. Every fossil fuel energy corporation that worked with Cheney's energy policy group in the early part of this century testified before a Joint Senate Committee that no such relationship existed, at the very least misrepresenting facts to Congress and the citizens of the U.S.

Fraud, deception, and much worse are common business practice. leading some to quip that 'business ethics is an oxymoron.' In such a context, as we wrestle with the prospect of finding a way to do "business better" in regard to renewable energy and otherwise, we must show ourselves capable of admitting and dissecting common corporate ploys that countervail fairness and the public interest, and often violate the law.

Another rationale for countenancing conspiracy in this story, a film review, is inherent to the story that the film conveys. Essentially, examining this film is impossible without recognizing the ongoing conspiratorial elements, especially in regard to energy, that Ruppert presents; against the regular grain of my posts though the practice may be, emphasizing this perfidy here is to some extent inevitable.

One other underlying aspect of today's story bears mention. Folks must, like it or not, come to terms with the importance of political economy. Michael Ruppert makes the point in the movie that 'everything that concerns economics is political.' Intuitively, everybody appreciates this. Yet, we read and discuss and consider our options in the world without insisting that our assessments, conversations, and decisions take this connection of the political and the economic into account.

A University of Michigan resource offers a basic tripartite definition.

  1. 1. Early name for the discipline of economics.</LI
  2. 2. A field within economics encompassing several alternatives to neoclassical economics, including Marxist economics; (a)lso called radical political economy.
  3. 3. A field within economics that concerns the interactions between political processes and economic variables, especially economic policies."

I employ all three of these: the first because earlier use affects present-day understanding, often in hidden ways; the second because I am a Marxist and believe in the incision and utility of such approaches; the third because it stresses the primary point here, that no apparently economic practice--for example, investing in nuclear reactors vis a vis purchasing lots of windmills, is explicable in anything like 'purely' economic terms. And I would underscore that all such matters themselves rest on a social base.

For purposes of the film under review today, both of these points, about the importance of integrating political, economic, and social analysis, and about the import and meaning of plots and schemes against the popular will and interest, are critical to keep in perspective and have available. The core purpose of this work that I do, and of the movie we will soon hear more about, is determining how we are to live together in these troubled transitional times. Having a workable paradigm, a practical consciousness, is a key to success in all of this, and may be critical to survival more generally.

As a recent essay, "The Rocky Road to a Real Transition: The Transition Towns Movement and What It Means for Social Change," prefaces the matter, with a quotation by Murray Bookchin, "Any sound ecological perspective rests in great part on our social perspectives and interrelationships; hence to draw up an ecological agenda that has no room for social concerns is as obtuse as to draw up a social agenda that has no room for ecological concerns."

INTRODUCTION

Michael Ruppert's personal history is worth at least five or six films. If one has doubts, for example that he is overstating what has happened, or that he is self serving in leaving out material, one has no choice but to take note that Ruppert can produce documentation for every assertion that he makes. His training in evidence as a cop stood him in good stead in this regard. To doubt him, we must be willing to meet his evidence with our own data.

His bloodline flows through the CIA and intelligence agencies of the U.S. This led him to follow the path of a patriot: to see the carnage in Vietnam as a 'mistake,' to join the Los Angeles police to fight bad guys, especially drug dealers, and in all things to stick up for the American way.

Unfortunately, these attitudes collided with the seamy reality that the CIA was in large measure responsible for, or at least complicit in, most 'successful' illicit drug networks in the United States. This history, which is discernible in all sorts of sources--such as The Great Heroin Coup, among others, is indisputable, though, as I noted above, many people start to feel profound discomfiture at the realization that somebody credible is making this claim.

We needn't spend a lot of time of this: the point is that, in Michael Ruppert's case, facing this contradiction involved the break-up of his engagement, at least one clear-cut attempt on his life, and repeated threats against him. If anyone is dubious about such particulars, I can attest--having interviewed two former DEA agents personally over the years--that such promises as "a pellet in the brain-pan if you don't back off" fit with the testimony I've heard.

m-rupp-21For a time, he rejected this complete evisceration of innocence, seeking redress of his legitimate grievances and an accounting by the evil doers and those who cooperated with them. Eventually, however, he turned his quick mind and investigative magic to journalism, the beginning of three decades of 'speaking truth to power' and calling for a citizen uprising against injustice, corruption, and thuggery.

The most recent iteration of this long standing commitment, which, he says in the movie, he could no more abandon than he could wittingly give up his own life, follows an unexplained 'burglary' of his From-the-Wilderness (FTW) offices that had been his organizational domicile for the previous decade. In the aftermath of that catastrophe, he 'tried to walk away,' per an agreement of some sort that agents of the United States had approved, but which, in returning to the podium he is disavowing.

For those of us who digested his main intellectual product of the FTW, the massive volume Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil, which he intended as a formal criminal indictment of Dick Cheney, the repudiation of turning away is welcome. Whatever one's opinion as to that tome's assigning the reader a Grand Jury instruction to bring charges against a Vice President, the evidence and reasoning there that made real the complex intersections among oil and drugs and finance and empire were so valuable as to mandate all democrats to clamor for Ruppert's return.

The body of this review recaps the movie, first of all. It then suggests what Ruppert offers his audience outside the two hours that the DVD, including cut scenes and updates, offers each viewer. Finally, it gives a critical assessment of matters that Ruppert may misconstrue or that don't fit with what he says is her sole purpose in his labors, which is to save himself and assist like-minded people in saving themselves from the mayhem to come.

WHAT MICHAEL RUPPERT SAYS IN THE MOVIE

The fundamental premise that "Collapse" advances is that such ineluctable facts as the seven gallons of oil in every car tire doom the present productive operational standard, a revolutionary upheaval for which we have not prepared and about which the powers-that-be mislead and trick us. In this vein, Ruppert spits out, "people say that Bernie Madoff's a con, that he ran a Ponzi scheme; hell, the whole economy's a Ponzi scheme."

He advances the 'Peak Oil" position about which I will be writing next week. And he downplays that any possible combination of coal, renewables, or nukes can take the place of oil, particularly inasmuch as the financial system, predicated on 'limitless growth' that seemed plausible in the heyday of gushers and Seven Sisters, now has $700 trillion in various sorts of 'derivative' instruments that tie in to this soon-to-be fossilized fossil fuel system.

oil-21 He alludes consistently to his ability to document what he is saying, and no one who has plowed through Crossing the Rubicon and checked his work will doubt this ability to back up all of the specific facts that he alleges. And he concludes that sovereign default, and the metaphorical and actual 'lights out' of the infrastructure of our present lifestyle, will follow as certainly as Winter follows the falling of the last leaves of Autumn.

He points out the unreliability, and even the outright lies, of government and media, both about the specific energy issues that he raises, and about ancillary matters that concern his work: the scene in which he confronts then CIA director John Deutch, over the probative evidence that Ruppert had garnered about CIA responsibility for crack cocaine in California and elsewhere, will rivet anyone who knows anything about the war on drugs to her chair.

He notes that the chaos ahead will be tantamount to a fight for survival, and he repeats Clausewitz's nostrum that "War is but a continuation of politics by other means." Then he adds, quite reasonably, that "Politics is a continuation of economics by other means."

This leads him to deconstruct the three legs of contemporary fiscal and monetary policy. First come a fiat currency, the replacement of gold in the U.S. practice during the Nixon years the final major industrial power to do so. Then, in his delivery, though it dates back to the work of Marx in Capital, volume one for those who want to check, comes 'fractional reserve banking,' or the ability to lend a multiplier of deposits. Then comes the powerhouse of compound interest, the potency of which J.P. Morgan told us never to underestimate.

Urging us to stock up on gold and skills that work at the social level of candle light, he contends that all of this must crash because of the intertwining tentacles of oil's hegemony throughout the economy. As oil soars out of reach, all else must give way. Though some, Chris Smith implores, might hope that 'human ingenuity' might yield an out for our continued jet-setting, Ruppert counters that "no amount of human ingenuity can turn back the laws of physics."

Thankfully, at both the films' end and in the 'deleted scene's' bonus on the DVD, Ruppert caps this with a call to community, saying that 'rugged individualism' is a ticket to an early grave. I say thankfully, because a competing theme throughout the documentary is the trope of 'survival of the strong,' and the notion that as long as one is not the slowest in the hunt, one can survive the onslaught. His emotion at this juncture, if it is anything other than completely genuine, deserves an academy award.

I, for one, believe that Ruppert means well. But as I noted that my grandfather liked to say yesterday, 'the path to hell often flows from well-meaning steps. Still, especially in the materials that Ruppert laments as "being left on the cutting room floor," this poignant and potent thinker, who has witnessed so much of the venality and injustice of this system firsthand, lights a way forward that depends on the democratic and grassroots forms that are likely the only sources of surcease from which a human condition can emerge in the coming years.

Given that the initial position of the movie concerns the fading away of the fossil fuel era's twilight years, which is to say now, that the DVD ends with strong endorsements of renewable energies and truly sustainable technologies demonstrates the congruency of Ruppert's ideas and the collegiality of his attitude toward his audience.

Feed-in tarriffs, 'power that you can make yourself,' composting toilets, and community generated food are just a few useful specifics that Ruppert mentions and provides evidence to persuade a viewer to consider. He also gives credence to that old standard, which is to say a return to the gold standard, which Ruppert backs up by noting that 'fiat money' will soon be worthless.

One might ponder what the social implications of this view are. Either he is espousing a quasi-libertarian belief in some sort of 'natural' free market, or he foresees such carnage that 'upper-crust' medieval conditions would be the best for which one might hope. Neither of these predispose this viewer to buy into this position. I'd rather put my money, and sweat, and thought into community than into ingots or nuggets or coins.

WHAT MICHAEL RUPERT OFFERS OUTSIDE THE FILM

A recent DailyKos diary offers a salubrious balance in considering Michael Ruppert and "Collapse." The author recommends the movie without failing to see flaws in logic and a certain emotional manipulativeness--the latter of which I don't necessarily find present, though I can see how someone might see such.
collapsenet-21He is critical of how Ruppert has followed the film up, however. Collapsenet.com clearly wants money, albeit $10/month could be a very seemly charge if the result is further digging by Ruppert into the 'affairs of state' that he has so brilliantly unearthed in the past.

In any event, the orientation that collapsenet gives implies that what the 'premium' member can expect is day-to-day guidance, updates, and general involvement with others who also buy in. I'm not going to jump on board myself, but I'd love to hear from anyone who does.

What disposes me to see Michael Ruppert's work in basically a positive light has many components, a couple of which are worth mentioning here. The first is that the people whom I know to be lying and misleading folks despise him. One such commentator, basically tied to an ad hominem and guilt-by-association approach to argumentation, dismisses Rupert as insane and then continues, 'besides, Cynthia McKinney likes him,' another leader, whom I know to be a powerful grassroots presence here in the South, whom this snarky White boy labels "crazed."

c-mk-21Now I know former Representative McKinney, having interviewed and discussed things with her on a few occasions. And I disagree with a lot of what she does, since I am more radical, and probably more naive. But anyone who disrespects her work and its popularity shows themselves to be clueless. Anyone who expects to be able to do 'business better' in an America that is more than half minority communities had better take another look at the ideas and output of this powerful woman from Georgia.

In her letter about Ruppert, she said

"Hello! As many of you know, Mike Ruppert is singularly responsible for confirming from the inside what many of us on the outside knew: that the black community didn't have the infrastructure to import and distribute crack cocaine from which it still reels today, but the CIA did.

Mike was on it on September 11th! And explained it to us in his book, "Crossing the Rubicon."

Mike is on it in his film CoLLapse, and explains it to us in his new book, "A Presidential Energy Policy."

Mike has taken many bullets for us, so that we may know the truth. Now, several more have been fired at him, but we must deflect them and not allow them to (do what they want to do with all of us with targets on our foreheads and) put this warror down. Mike needs our help."

Yet another rationale for my being willing to plug Ruppert, for the most part anyway, is that when I managed to get somewhere from his often confusing and almost always money-grubbing website, what I discovered is a huge and awesome network. The hope for the future lies in many of the efforts to which Ruppert's work provided a portal.

Of especial note, at least from this humble correspondent's perspective, is a 'collective' that counts as its progenitor a thinker and activist whom I will be profiling soon in these pages, Paulo Freire (http://www.jacweb.org/Archived_volumes/Text_articles/V17_I3_Bizzell.htm). Pedagogy of the Oppressed is arguably one of the most important volumes of the last century. The work that it germinated is indisputably of critical importance for human survival. That Ruppert's efforts led me to these people leads me to believe that, as my dad would say, "He's got his head on straight after all."

Ongoing outreach is the final element of what Michael Ruppert proffers. Wrongheaded persistence is pointless at best. But such, in the context of the current moment, is highly likely to be severely punished, at the very least. That Ruppert continues to put himself out there for us to consider, that he continues to offer us tidbits, even if he also wants our money, that he leads us places where we need to go, means that his is a voice and his network is a tool that can provide at least parts of what we need in order to make this inevitable period of 'transition' before us.

WHAT MICHAEL RUPPERT MISSES OR MISCONSTRUES

Despite the arguably monumental importance of Crossing the Rubicon, in "Collapse" Ruppert insists that that is all behind him now. The focus now has to be on survival, because the sh** is going to hit the fan with such force that no amount of analysis can do more than justify the sorts of paralysis that are suicidal at this point in time.

I beg to differ. Unless we are certain that the actual parameters of 'collapse' will be precisely of the 'fallen-empire,' 'sacking-and-burning-of-Rome' variety, then we had better be willing to continue to hone our view of what the different parties in the plight of the world today are up to. In other words, leaving behind assessments of finance capital and the military industrial complex and the war on drugs, if the institutional arrangements that they represent are not fated for deposition, strikes me as malapropos to an alarming extent.

Underestimating one's opponents is never a good idea. Today, it could easily be a lethal error. The capacity of today's rulers is arguably as massive as that of any leading social group ever. Perhaps they will dissipate as does dust in the wind. But if not, then much of the advice of the movie, based on this prognostication of doom, must be dubious.

Almost equally mistaken as underrating the other side of a social brawl is underestimating the necessity for increasing one's own cohort's abilities and capacities. Everywhere that I look, I see communities that need a hearing, that are capable of participating, but for their lack of orientation to the landscape and the availability of tools with which to join the necessary contests of these interesting times.

fuzzy-cute-21If we take the view that 'all is lost,' and 'devil take the hind-most,' which Ruppert again and again and again pressed home on viewers, then we are basically signing on to some notion of being the victor in a survivalist death match. Ruppert was impish in his delight when he said, about the bear invading the campsite, To survive, he said, "You don't have to be faster than the bear; you just have to be faster than the slowest camper."

While much of Ruppert's presentation was full of heart and spirit, this tendency to affirm the predatory 'survival of the fittest' paradigm, without noting that 'fitness' arguably includes surrounding oneself with community, is at best a disservice to what people are capable of creating. To give up on collectivity, in one view, is to concede that survival is not an option.

Moreover, he overlooks or doesn't deal with central contradictions in his model--giving data rich video updates on web while predicting complete breakdown, for instance, is at least slightly disingenuous. Almost all that he has to give, at least on the surface, is of this dispossessed virtuality. Of course, who am I to diss the web, writing here to God knows who from God knows where? But I'm not the one saying that 'collapse' of all that is coming, so pay me to inform you about it in the model that is about to break down irrevocably.

Another important point that Ruppert at best glosses over is the huge differences that apply to different versions of the populist possibilities that he extols. He glosses over this by saying 'left' and 'right' don't matter any longer; only 'survival' matters. But to imply, as Ruppert's thinking must, that bigoted and viciously divisive and supremacist individuals are dandy allies--so long as they have the cash to buy gold and guns and live through the initial carnage, is tantamount to joining forces with David Duke and any other proponent of Hitler out their along the highways and byways.

Now I know that Ruppert would be the first to put the torch to such Klannish ideologues. But that doesn't discount the fashion in which his presentation in the movie called for a imaginary collective that would include such forces, instead of grounding himself in actual communities capable of allying together to create a bridge to a human future.

The distinction is lost on Ruppert, so far as I've been able to see, in this film, Cynthia McKinney's endorsement notwithstanding. Cynthia could have been there, after all, if he wanted to make the point clear.

Penultimately, he doesn't deal with capitalist roots of this crisis, even as he puts himself in the position of a bus'man, if not a profiteer. Here at JustMeans, we espouse doing 'business better,' and seek models of sustainable business and social capitalization. Part of building such potential, however, must involve acknowledging and detailing the political economic roots of this process, which are firmly part of modern finance capital.

Finally, and because of how I've come at this work--as an intellectual--most importantly, Ruppert is at best selective in his synthesis of contemporary and historical developments. Dozens of drawbacks in the message of the film are possible to recount in this regard. While I wouldn't expect Ruppert and Smith to address them all, or even most of them, an attitude and message that spoke of the nature of understanding the past, and that stated unequivocally that this understanding is critical, would have been welcome.

Two brief allusions to the sorts of difficulties that I'm discussing will have to serve at this juncture. The first is in relation to the Middle East and oil. Ruppert's comprehension of what U.S. rulers have promoted there, and elsewhere, is at best facile and ahistorical.

The work of Greg Palast is easily accessible and might quickly have integrated with Ruppert's seat-of-the-pants, and incorrect, analysis about all of this. Iraq's oil, for example, was never problematic because the oil companies needed to fondle it physically. On the contrary, it was precisely the ready availability of this oil, at below OPEC prices, that had historically alienated Saddam Hussein from his erstwhile backers in big oil and caused his destruction.

Juan Cole's overview of this aspect of contemporary history would be very helpful to Ruppert. He needs to keep studying instead of thinking that he already knows what is coming and the only way to deal with it.

The second point is in relation to Ruppert's fetishistic elevation of gold to an iconic position. He does, at least, promote seeds as an alternative. But his political economy in regard to precious metal, and how it might help salve the 'collapse' that he believes he understands so correctly, is at best speculative, ahistorical, and fraught with the potential for errors in the direction of resuscitating a 'free market' that has never existed and never will exist.

None of this takes away from several important facts. This film is a wake up call. Michael Ruppert's heart is, as they say, 'in the right place.' It depicts with a clarity and realism troubles not just a-brewing but unfolding around us as we read these words. We ought to take heed, albeit not blindly and not without recognitions of deficiency and error.

CONCLUSIONS

fr-rev-21Anyone who aspires to citizenship, in the largest sense of the term, ought to watch this movie tout suite! Whether one distances oneself from Michael Ruppert, whether one can stomach the conclusions that the likes of him and me are wont to suggest, whether one finds oneself inclined to rise up and shout, "to the ramparts!" the facts and reasoning, and heart, of this film command attention. It's available online or at one's local rental establishment.

The key points that emerge from the film are of three sorts. The first is about a consciousness of transition. Whether JustMeans readers are aware or not, flowing from Europe and Latin America, not to mention Vermont and elsewhere in the American Outback, the Transition-Town Movement (http://transitiontowns.org/Liverpool-South/RecentEvents) is just one exemplification that this deep-seated feeling of sea-change is upon us. "Everyone feels it," as Ruppert said often in the film.

The second item concerns the necessity of understanding without blaming or seeking revenge. This is true even if, as is the case with this author, one does not see the coming changes as inherently 'collapsian' in nature. The framing of the difficulties we face, inasmuch as we merely find scapegoats and string up effigies and real people, will only compound our problems. Consciousness and comprehension must yield responsibility, not a reflexive attack on 'the evil rich,' or immigrants, or other groups whom we seek to hold accountable for what we must do for ourselves.

As to the third conclusion from the movie itself, Ruppert is very specific: renewable energy and sustainable technology and policies to support them, such as feed-in tariffs, must become our standard daily fare. On the other hand, Ruppert also suggests that we all invest all our pennies in gold, which I would warn against. A huge 'adjustment' is coming in that market, is my guess, or such a social conflagration will occur otherwise that the presence or absence of gold in our stocking will be a very low priority indeed.

Moreover, Ruppert does not proffer solid foundations for understanding just how the current pass has, in fact, come to pass. So that must be something that we go out and dig up for ourselves. These essays have that grounding in history as one of their intentions.

Finally, a certain disconnect afflicts the follow-up to the film that collapsenet represents. This far flung, highly monetized, proprietary, and virtual operation (though it does refer to members' forming local collectives) stands in direct opposition to what Michael Ruppert begs us to believe is happening, right now. For my part, and as my advice to JustMeans readers, I would counsel first digging in where we are and forming the sorts of networks among ourselves that do not depend on gold or daily web reports or far flung correspondents, even if the occasional investment, regular reading, and linkages around the world are also a part of what we do.

AFTERWORD

On the one hand, to suggest that the entire edifice of modern existence manifests a conspiracy against common people is absurd, like saying that life represents God's conspiracy to kill us all. Wendell Berry's point is at once more humane and more accurate: Life is a Miracle.

Yet in reading the straight talk that Berry presents, or in listening to almost all of the frank and forthright correspondents whom I've had the honor to meet through these essays, the essence of Ruppert's message, of hypocritical betrayal and knowing exploitation on the part of the 'masters of the universe' whose pretense is planetary control, is undeniable. Dispositive accuracy characterizes the narrative elements, just as transparent volition characterizes those who lead us, or some would say, willfully mislead us.

But the only useful issue that this raises, once we accept that these are matters of profound importance, is what we should do. Complaint, finger-pointing, or calls for another attempt at politics-as-usual seem about as pertinent as complaining about rain in a hurricane, blaming one's kids for leaving the door open to a determined thief, or trying to fix one corrupt administrator by replacing him with another.

Thus, we come again to matters of 'Strong Democracy' and the prioritization of strengthened communities, matters repeatedly noted in these pages. As well, some of the links that Ruppert's Collapsenet yielded evince equivalent gravities to these points.

freire-21In particular a Popular Education site offered a volume, Do It Yourself: A Handbook for Changing Our World in the style of a toolkit for building community capacity. The volume did not 'sweeten' its message.

"This book is a call to get involved in practical action and reflection to create more sustainable and fairer ways of living. Part handbook, part critique, it is designed to inform, inspire and enable people – you, the person sitting next to you on the train, your neighbour, your mother, your children – to take part in a growing movement for social change. It is us that can make the changes and it is us that will have to. We believe that this social change is best understood through experiences and real human stories, not abstract ideas.

Nine different themes are explored in this book where people are struggling to wrestle back control and build more equitable and just societies – sustainable living, decision making, health, education, food, cultural activism, free spaces, media, and direct action. This is not a book about a grand unfolding of a new theory on social change or a way to sign up to membership of a political party or campaign group – ‘Give us £10 and we’ll save the world for you’. It is not a restatement of what is wrong with the world (there are many fantastic books out there that do that already) or about the need to overthrow governments or take the reigns of political power.

It’s about what we can all do about the challenges we face in the world and how we can make governments and corporations increasingly irrelevant. Although there is a sense of urgency about what we are saying, there are huge challenges that stand in the way of empowering people to take control collectively. The process won’t necessarily be easy and this book does not intend to glamorise what we know will be hard work."

The response to whatever confronts us, whether we choose to call it error or conspiracy or something else altogether, must therefore highlight our own responsibility, especially collectively, to empower ourselves and each other and our communities to care for and lead ourselves in the directions of sustainable business, renewable energy, and all of the other demonstrable technologies and knowledges which are necessary to promote in providing a future for our children.

This mutual support and uplift, however, arguably does call for the sorts of 'restatement of what is wrong with the world' that the Handbook above does not contain. Its parenthetical remarks are accurate, however. "Many fantastic books out there...do that already." These pages have been full of them: Benjamin Barber's volume, just above; the work of Howard Zinn; Noam Chomsky's and Edward Herman's Manufacturing Consent; and so on and so forth, the critique and analysis to provide the historical and analytical tools to, as Zinn would say, "make history a weapon" for our mutual self defense.

Furthermore, the necessary political-economic investigation, based in social history and as real as oil rig disasters and Chernobyl, must become a part of what we produce for and share with each other. As just a taste of what this kind of assessment might proffer, we can turn to another product of a member of the Trapese Collective on Popular Education, Dr. Paul Chatterton. In one of his papers , he opens as follows.

"This paper is about autonomous urban social centres and what I attempt to do is show how the everyday lives, values and practices of participants within them give shape and meaning to ... a politics of place where local space constitutes anti-capitalist practice, political identities based on impure, messy identities, social relationships which prioritise emotions and collective working, organizational practices based on self management and experimentation, and political strategies which stress the need to cross boundaries beyond the activist ghetto. Overall, social centre participants demonstrate that anti-capitalist practice is not just ‘anti-’, but also ‘post-’ and ‘despite-’ capitalist; simultaneously against, after and within."

Readers may note two points that are germane to doing "business better," to any plausible notion today of 'sustainable business.' The first is that the cost of doing business now must include acknowledging not just that 'errors' have occurred in the past but that much of the upper level corporate model has involved, at the least, fraud and deceit. Can we agree, that to whatever extent this is true, it must end, if we are to do 'business better?'

And second, the social, political, and economic comprehension of the transitional necessities that confront us include a substantial amount of anger, mistrust, and even disgust on the part of common folk for big business, and even for capitalism generally. Thus, any hope to practice business sustainably must nod to 'anti-capitalism' without freaking out and trying to finesse such ideation. It is present, and, some would say that its presence makes a lot of sense. Michael Ruppert would certainly agree, in and out of his performance in "Collapse," onstage or off, as the case may be.

Photo Credits:
Riot: debaird
Michael Ruppert: Nick Skitch
Oil: dana robinson
Cynthia McKinney: Codepink
French Revolution: Oldmaison
Freire: Agecom Bahia
Bear: xinem

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