Monday, November 30, 2015

Crisis of civilization

As the Paris talks open addressing the human family's response to climate change and as a record number of refugees seek safety from violence, poverty and injustice, and as demagogues aplenty ramp up fear-mongering of others it's hard for this soul not to want to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.

The more common approach in our culture is to look for diversion in denial - watch and be absorbed by the sporting contest du jour, the tv show, the blockbuster new film, or perhaps the latest new gadget or stylish apparel. I've written before on the whole 'bread and circus' phenomena if any of my three readers wants a little more of that fodder.

Climate Change: The Bigger Picture
The potential remedy to this is partially hinted at in a piece I shared some time back by Charles Eisenstein, Climate Change: The Bigger Picture. In it Eisenstein makes the linkage across these crises and more and why a narrow focus on any one of them perpetuates the underlying system that feeds all the crises.

What I think is missing from Eisenstein's sharp analysis is the collective action to change the system. We are approaching an election year in our country that I believe will truly be a turning point in the direction civilization moves in facing these multiple and accelerating crises. Who gets elected from the bottom to the top of the ticket will matter. It is why those with deep pockets who know this have been pouring money into the campaigns and shadow campaigns of those they favor. They have been funding the organizations that crank up the volume on the framing of issues,  most often in simplistic, black and white choices.They are polished, Madison Avenues  campaigns.

I received one in the mail just yesterday from an organization Citizen's for Michigan's Energy Future asking me to forward a pre-printed postcard to my state representative supporting a bill on creating a new energy future for Michigan. There is nothing describing who leads this front organization or who funds it.

 Image result for michigan campaign finance network
For those willing to dig a little deeper the Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Rich Robinson released a study earlier this month that showed that the state's two biggest public utilities, DTE and  CMS (Consumers) Energy have added more than $400,000 to the campaign kitties of select legislators and spent more than another $300,000 on lobbying.

There is nothing but empty platitudes in the mailing. Not a single specific fact from which to understand how the proposed legislation will actually work or who would benefit. It's my opinion that this has been sent to  tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of residents. A report from early in the year by the Sunlight Foundation, indicated this dark money group had made ad buy commitments of $120,000. No doubt they have likely magnified that amount in recent months. Too many residents will receive this mailing and fall unsuspectingly for it's false claims. They will have no understanding that the propaganda they are holding was created by the two largest public electric utilities in the state for legislation that really just frees them from any legal responsibility to address the energy challenges before us.

And so, many, thinking their civic responsibility to communicate with their representative will sign their name on the postcard and send it in. Of course, most who receive it, will ignore it and turn back to the football game or latest episode of a favorite tv show. Some very few of us will see the mailing for the fraudulent fluff it is. Some of these, even fewer, will contact our representative and let him know we think otherwise. We need many more of us to become citizens. To be more than those liberals or conservatives grousing about the state of affairs and to engage with the system. Questioning its failures, offering alternatives, bearing witness to the injustices, shining light on the hidden agendas and dark money is essential if we are to steer away from precipitous decline.

Bernie Sanders may be wrong on many things, but of one claim he makes I feel pretty certain - citizens need to get engaged to shape our future. If we leave it up to the others with the power and money to control and direct the issues, we will not live in a democracy. Some would say that's already the case. I'm not giving up the hope yet, but the tipping point is near. Time to get up folks. As Rebecca Solnit poignantly asserts, 

       Hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky.

 Hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency.


The emergency is upon us.