28 Aug 2010
FORWARD TO UTOPIA
This is an excellent article from Ben in Australia.
A new urgency
The failings of economistic 20th century leftism have allowed capitalism and consumerism to run rampant to the extent that the biosphere of the planet is beginning to experience a catastrophic breakdown, best known in the form of climate change (although broader than that most pressing problem).
Climate change and the ecological crisis are demanding a reinvigoration of the left’s imagination. No longer can workers settle for demanding pay rises and economic advances. No more can the left settle for reactive campaigns calling to stop this or that crime, or to save this service from cutbacks. These are the defensive posturing of a movement that has put their visions of a better future off indefinitely as impractical or impossible just now.
Climate change demands action now. It demands solutions. They are feasible, and we can fight for them, but they are a radical departure from the consumerist life. This life is what the Western working class knows. It is largely what the third world masses aspire to. It is the dominant mass ideology. It’s a powerful ideology because it gives the appearance of having left behind the grim poverty of yesterday, and it gives the appearance of some return on the hours of workday drudgery that pay for it.
But at heart, consumerism is truly a hollow ideology. Even the commonplace sayings of the consumer era refute it. Consumerism says “you are what you buy” – but everyone knows, as the Beatles sang, “money can’t buy me love”. It can’t buy very much happiness either. There is an intrinsic gap in the ideological hegemony of the consumer ideal.
Forward to utopia!
Practical solutions to climate change open up vast arenas of possibilities for future social organisation. If we can’t afford to continue industrial agriculture, we will have to return to more localised, community based agriculture. How will it be run? Co-operative community gardens? Or individual plots? Will it be shared? Bartered? Food is a vital part of our inherited culture and recreation, as much as it is a simple necessity. A ration of bread or rice might go a long way to solving basic needs, but why would people settle for just that?