Objective Crisis, Subjective Crisis

Every day the world moves closer to achieving the ruin of the human project. That is unfortunate but true, true because the earth is our ‘anchor’ and our source of life, and we are making it uninhabitable.

Uninhabitable? Yes, uninhabitable. Human beings, along with all life on this planet, are immersed in the material causality attributed to nature, core systems that are real and unsurpassable by humanity. But human beings are more than instances of a mere natural kind. Humans also have souls or psyches. We do not just live and breath, eat and move, we also think, emote, speak, marry, etc. We join groups and associations. We are citizens or not. We also produce and reproduce institutions that include macro systems like an economy and polity but also micro systems like this or that family, any given person, the local grocery store, etc. These institutions as well as any existing individual person strongly depends upon and thus emerges from that material stuff. It is because we are material beings, albeit beings with consciousness, that we as individuals and as a species have material enabling conditions which must be met if there is to be any human life at all.

Which leads us to the following questions: Are we destroying the planet? Are we making it uninhabitable?

To answer them: We might lack to capacity to destroy the ‘planet’ — to annihilate it — but we can make the global environment, the environment now available for all living beings, hostile to many if not all forms of life. We ought to but do not universally consider this a problem. That is astonishing because the state of the world today is undermining, interdicting or eliminating humanity’s enabling conditions. We, as human beings, have physical needs that must be met if humanity is to endure. We know from written history and through archeology that the premodern eras provided just the right fit for humanity to survive and even to thrive sometimes. The modern world, however, turned thriving into an art form. It gains this abundance because of the numerous technologies that were introduced and which consume these natural resources and replaces them with waste. Some of this garbage warms the earth’s temperature, kills plants and animals, befouls the water, replaces oxygen with carbon dioxide, etc. The upshot: We are now slowly cooking in our own shit, so to speak. And our struggle will worsen as time passes.

It thus has become clear to some humans that humanity as a species cannot act as it pleases, to act as if the consequences of its actions are irrelevant, manageable and even overstated. Humans do not exercise sovereign or supreme power over the earth and everything found there. Any appearance indicating that humans have this power is a delusion. The earth is not our property. No one gave it to us; we share it with countless other beings. We are, to use the choice language of a philosopher, of, for and in nature, but nature is not for us, an exploitable resource. Indeed, the effort to make nature for us is a key source of our current predicament.

Concerned individuals can experience this crisis as an objective possibility, as a situation produced when humanity creates dangerous problems it cannot solve. What we can see today with some degree of certainty is the eventual elimination of the animal world, the world to which humans belong. (The Earth will survive, as mentioned.) We can believe this prediction to be true because critical events and processes are not poised to resolve themselves favorably and humanity has failed to attend to the crisis with the respect and effort it deserves.

What establishes the ecological crisis as objective? The evidence: Today, speciescide is common, so too desertification, the loss of potable water, etc. Powerful weather events damage parts of the built environment that were not constructed with the expectation that they would need to withstand 100 mph winds, deep water or earthquakes caused by excessive mining, the draining of aquifers, the felling of forests. The resources we use are determined as such by human needs and practices. Some of those needs — e.g. for clean air — are elemental. These too are diminishing. And the problem will continue: Transnational firms and the countries which provide them homes are racing to control what is left of these resources (Klare, 2012). That’s a fool’s errand. It is not that some entity will win this race, the problem is humanity and the beings which share the planet with us will all lose. The forms of life we have now might and probably will not exist in the future. We know this because the global mean surface temperature rises continuously, moving past previously identified points of no return. The world today is marked by wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. Our planetary population, the practices of which drive these disasters, grows while our ability to manage this crisis is all but non-existent relative to the pressing tasks at hand. After all, war-making is always in season. The conditions which produced this situation remain active. The environmental crises, which include far more than a world too hot to inhabit, looks as if it will put down or destroy the human world, our Umwelt or surrounding world. Our situation is noticeably pregnant with this possibility or, better, with a collection of possibilities that include such a disastrous and deadly outcome. Thus perceived and the cause identified, the environmental crisis merely reveals the destructive potential inherent in the modern system of production, a carbon economy which is now living on borrowed time. It is, as some economists might state, an externality which humans are too limited or are unable to internalize. (If only we could transform CO2 into gold….) Since a modern economy uses the natural resources on the planet, which is to say that it uses our natural endowment, but transforms those resources into waste that can kill us. At sometime in future, given our wanton exploitation of first nature, we will ‘drown,’ so to speak, in this waste.

The environmental catastrophe which we experience as a crisis situation includes a general but also objective possibility: namely, the destruction of a world — effectively, the only world in which humans can live and thrive. (I bet the swells believe they will move to Mars or live in self-sustaining spaceships to live after the Earth dies at their hands!) We are, as the philosopher Heidegger once noted, thrown into the world. We find the world as a pregiven result of past human and non-human actions, of events which show the mark of a human author or authors. Of course, as single persons, we do not constitute the real world we experience. That would require the power of a God. The real world, in which our actions mostly have limited scope and effects.

This possibility makes hash of the neoliberal conceit which has afflicted modernity since the 1970s (and longer if we consider, say, Ordoliberalism and 19th Century liberalism as actual precursors of our disorder). There is little today which inspires confidence in the various governments of the world who use neoliberal concepts and practices to reform and manage their economies. But the true believers march on because what would they do otherwise? What would they do otherwise? Neoliberal theory makes sense to them, its adherents, because the theory in its variants inform current practices in much of the world. That said, neoliberalism includes rationality claims it cannot meet. Who today believes we can put into place ecologically sound practices of production and consumption?

The upshot: Actions meant to resolve this crisis will be, and can only be, radical.

The Iraq genocide

Barry Lando, at one time an investigative producer for 60 Minutes, made a succinct yet indirect case for identifying America’s efforts in Iraq as a genocide. About the United States’ post-9.11 war Lando wrote the following: “The military onslaught and the American rule that immediately followed, destroyed not just the people and infrastructure of Iraq, but the very fiber of the nation.”

Why genocide? When one couples the invasion and occupation with American long-term support for Saddam Hussein, with George H.W. Bush‘s inciting a rebellion in Iraq which he later would not support, with America’s attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure during and after the Gulf War, with the murderous sanctions regime of the 1990s, the United States has directly or indirectly killed or displaced millions of Iraqis. It has also provoked the peoples of Iraq to take up arms and use them in the struggle for power and advantage in their country. The United States destroyed a nation. This, indeed, is a genocide.

Quote of the day

Rob Urie, echoing Daniel Goldhagen, wrote:

Ten years after the invasion, occupation and widespread destruction of Iraq was set into motion the revisionist apologetics are flying fast and furious. These include the denial of culpability for crimes committed, the systematic undercounting of the innocents slaughtered and displaced and the conveniently forgotten hubris of empire in the high theater of technocratic carnage. They also wanly posit the historical epic is behind ‘us,’ the 75% of the populace reported in poll results to have supported the war before news began leaking that its murder and mayhem weren’t achieving their hypothesized results. So to this 75%, a/k/a the American people, is the problem that we murdered too many or not enough? Put another way, what number of murdered Iraqis would be too many if today there were a Starbucks on every corner in Baghdad and Payday Lenders to bridge the cash flow shortfalls of the citizenry that remains?

Those murdered cannot speak up in order to be counted as such. Nor can they retaliate, demand justice or ask for a do-over. They died in order to affirm the vanity of America’s Chicken-Hawks and to meet the national-security needs of Israel’s morally unhinged elite. There may be only outcome which could make their deaths meaningful as grand Historical facts — common American standing up to their ‘leaders’ and forcing them to make good on the demand, “Never Again.”

Deja vu


Quote of the day

This gem may be read on Haaretz (h/t Glenn Greenwald):

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”

Yishai, a reactionary and leader of the Shas Party, is lying, of course. Israel will never “be calm” as long as Palestinians and other Arabs live on land it covets. The quest to achieve a Greater Israel remains intact.

Zohan has owie


Turkey asserts itself

Ynet news reports:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of aggressively attacking the armed organization in the Gaza Strip. According to Erdogan, Israel’s strikes were motivated by the Knesset elections scheduled to take place in about two months.

Erdogan had already condemned Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

The IDF put this terrorist in his place

Zohan mad….