Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Ends and Means

A frequent reaction to calls for a dramatic change in the status quo is that the status quo is simply too massive to change, or that it has acquired too much momentum for us to be able to make any meaningful course correction at this point.  Yes, our civilization is killing the planet, but there is nothing that we can do to stop it now.  We have no choice but to let the corporate industrial snowball continue to smash its way downhill at an ever-accelerating rate, assimilating everything in its path, until it eventually explodes against the base of the mountain.

The omnipresence and complexity of the current global system, however, may actually prove to be an advantage.  Taking their cue from nonlinear dynamics, some have speculated that the emergence and proliferation of networks of small self-reliant communities, once they exceed a certain critical mass and level of interconnectivity, may lead to a rapid and dramatic global reorganization, ushering in a completely new kind of global economic configuration (e.g., see Carson here).  There may be some merit to this speculation.  However, it is important to note that nonlinear systems can reconfigure in unpredictable ways; the structure of the new global system may bear little or no resemblance to the pattern of changes that led to the dynamic reconfiguration.  A totalitarian global police state is as likely an outcome as any other.  We need to work to eliminate the system, not replace it.

The snowball metaphor is informative, because it is the snowball’s speed and mass that make it vulnerable to centripetal force; relatively minor structural instability can cause the snowball to fly apart.  Likewise, the sheer mass and velocity of our civilization makes it vulnerable to even very minor internal structural weakness.

Change can occur through both violent and non violent means, although the former are frequenlty the most effective—and too often the only ones available.  Non violent means do not ensure a peaceful result.  By the same token we should not shy away from using force where necessary to knock loose the linchpins.

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