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Can the Next President Deliver a New Social Contract for Our Survival?

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/10/25/can-next-president-deliver-new-social-contract-our-survival

There a number of wildfires raging across California again and shares in PGE drop as one fire appears to have started near a damaged PG&E tower.

Meanwhile the Pentagon acknowledges the risks posed by Climate change.

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When we’re backed into corners with seawater, fire, starvation, and refugees knocking on our doors, sure, we’ll be open to discussing that new social contract.

Until then, could you pass the remote?

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Yep. California is undertaking a major effort, really the first in the country, to reduce automobile use and shift transportation dollars to non-auto centric, lower GHG options to meet its climate goals. The newspapers and public are decidedly doubtful about it in many regions. It’s easy to blame corporations or politicians, but really, the bulk of the opposition is car-driving constituents, even in progressive areas.

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This is a great question, and I am very much in favor of its being asked. Sadly, though, the answer is almost certainly, “No”–and a thunderous, resounding No, not a half-hearted one.

Whyever not?

Well, the president and the states and the Congress and the military are all going to work with a lot of people in corporately and institutionally assured power to accomplish anything. And, as a group, those people are hell bent on destruction, drowning themselves between delusion and hopelessness. As a group, they will take that nonsense with them to their graves.

To cite at length “The Coming Collapse,” by Chris Hedges, this is what we must do:

We must invest our energy in building parallel, popular institutions to protect ourselves and to pit power against power. These parallel institutions, including unions, community development organizations, local currencies, alternative political parties and food cooperatives, will have to be constructed town by town. The elites in a time of distress will retreat to their gated compounds and leave us to fend for ourselves. Basic services, from garbage collection to public transportation, food distribution and health care, will collapse. Massive unemployment and underemployment, triggering social unrest, will be dealt with not through government job creation but the brutality of militarized police and a complete suspension of civil liberties. Critics of the system, already pushed to the margins, will be silenced and attacked as enemies of the state. The last vestiges of labor unions will be targeted for abolition, a process that will soon be accelerated given the expected ruling in a case before the Supreme Court that will cripple the ability of public-sector unions to represent workers. The dollar will stop being the world’s reserve currency, causing a steep devaluation. Banks will close. Global warming will extract heavier and heavier costs, especially on the coastal populations, farming and the infrastructure, costs that the depleted state will be unable to address. The corporate press, like the ruling elites, will go from burlesque to absurdism, its rhetoric so patently fictitious it will, as in all totalitarian states, be unmoored from reality. The media outlets will all sound as fatuous as Trump. And, to quote W.H. Auden, “the little children will die in the streets.”

A favorable president or legislation is certainly of advantage to this. But he or she cannot build parallel popular institutions. The population has to do it. As things get nastier, we are badly going to wish we had started earlier and more seriously than what is yet available and opportune to us.

Oh, I googled it again. Here it is, now, on CD: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/05/21/coming-collapse?gclid=CjwKCAjwusrtBRBmEiwAGBPgEweEtBFjihP3xMQpJnEXeWqDeR-1PMEvsSOhiaHku7rtZiur6djOYRoC7isQAvD_BwE

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I doubt it. People are senseless. They just to be comfortable, eat their pizzas, drink their beer, watch football, and take pills for all the resulting diseases.

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The Elysium Horizon.
Us. Now.
The infrastructure has been building for decades.
The institutionalization and codification into the separation by law of wealthy and powerful elites has been in process since the 80s.

Hedges suggestion is spot on, that regular people in community groups must marshall our collective intelligence and energies to make life work for us, to survive. We must withdraw any hope that some distant centralized authority will provide for us.

(* Because of fire dangers, millions Northern California communities, this month, were surprised with a days long power outage, for safety. After, they were told to expect such planned outages for the next 10 years! Southern California just had a similar days long outage, for safety, and fires as well.)

It appears that democracy cannot function when applied to large groups. Corruption is too easy when people we elect are too distant to know, or keep in touch with. Unless elected politicians see themselves and directly connected to a constituency of fellow community members they know, respect, and care about, money and power seep in and destroy any chance of representative democracy supporting regular people.

So we have to move the other way.

The point is not that something nearly perfect may or may not be accomplished, only that a clear direction is obvious–or no?

Insofar as the problems may involve a failure of empathy or mirror sense, we probably need federation, groups of groups, and interlacing rather than concentric federations.