mtv-switch-fuss-1_thumbJust as in a Mafia handshake and kiss on the neck “business agreement,” there are no escape clauses in the laws of physics. In either case the rules cannot be bent, though your ass may well end up worse than bent if you try to escape the debt you have racked up, be it in greenbacks or the green life supporting stuff of our planet. Both are finite and vital. Which means you get killed if you try to scam the game, and you certainly don’t get to write yourself an escape clause after the fact. But that doesn’t keep the high rolling carnie hucksters we call legislators from trying.

Naturally they like carbon trading. To my mind at least, making a profit off the fact that you did not piss into the community drinking gourd is the kind of logic only obsessive, property based western world governments and corporations could come up with. It assumes that (A) poisoning everyone else in the human fishbowl is a right to start with, and (B) that right is a property which can be bought and sold between corporate poisoners.

Traded or not, there will be plenty of carbon around, so don’t worry about not getting your fair share. In fact, we could park every car on the planet and be assured of a nice steady supply of carbon pollution for our great-great-great grandchildren. Turns out that, decades ahead of an already grim global warming schedule, biological repositories of carbon are beginning to release enough of the stuff to tide us over so our progeny can gasp for breath as they skateboard piggyback to and from their barracks at the Manpower gulag. Anyway, we can monetize pollution, and trade our commonly shared hemlock back and forth, and we can call it a “partial solution and a progressive step forward.” But it’s still hemlock. Yet, economists assure us that it makes good sense to propertize, then buy and sell catastrophe in the market of calamity.

SCREAMING MAN: LOOK HERE SPORT. THEY’RE POLISHING A TURD SO THEY CAN SHAKE DOWN THE YOKELS. AND THE DUMB MAMMY JAMMING PUBLIC BUYS IT! HELL, AN ECONOMIST SAID IT AND AN ECOLOGIST AGREED, SO IT MUST BE A GOOD IDEA, RIGHT? BUT WHEN ALL THOSE MOOKS WITHOUT ECONOMICS DEGREES FIGURE OUT THAT TURD IS NEVER GONNA SHINE, THE GAME WILL BE UP. ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY BEGIN TO ASSOCIATE POLLUTION WITH THE FACT THAT THEIR KIDS ARE BEING BORN WITH 177 TEETH AND AN I.Q. OF 33.

The Commons Shell Game

Civilization’s most fatal folly was monetization and propertizing of the natural world that is humanity’s great common. In fact, those two things – monetization and propertization – have come to mean civilization from the perspective of most ordinary people over the increasingly brutal centuries they have enabled. If modern cumulative civilization is not perceived as being very brutal by, say, the average hedge fund manager or Russian oligarch with a cell phone jacked into one ear, hurtling through the Earth’s commons in a new BMW, well, theirs is certainly a minority perspective. Ask any indigenous person.

“Commons” may be the current precious little term embraced by environmentally concerned American writers and activists, including me, but it rests on old European “ours together and my own private” concepts of the Earth. That green foliage stuff whizzing by our windshields is more than commonly shared space. It is our commonly shared oxygenic and chlorophylic blood. And the “dirt” scraped and hammered into sterility and smothered under the asphalt is the armature, the bones of our existence. It was never possible for anyone to “own” any part of this so-called common, a word that only exists so someone else – usually a less than nice fellow surrounded by thugs in armor and whatnot – could call a piece of it his private property. You dared kill and eat one of my grouse! Die peasant motherfucker!

But once the delusion set in, and the peasants were allowed to scratch out a living on “their own” miserable designated little square, there was no turning back. Especially if you were European or derivative thereof, and ultimately ended up on the winning side of the delusion, otherwise called empire. But there never was a “mine and theirs,” when it comes to breathing clean air or drinking clean water. It only appeared so to propertized minds and cultures busy conquering and killing and pillaging other people’s natural world. And thanks to feudalism’s greatest shape shifting trick of all, capitalism, there ain’t much left to pillage.

For Americans this is particularly ironic, especially in terms of politics. Just as we started ballyhooing the triumph of American consumer capitalism over communism, the world’s ecology started backing up like a redneck septic tank. And Castro’s Cuba, of all places, emerged as a beacon of relatively petroleum free eco-enlightenment, organic farming and clean air, thanks to our 45-year embargo and the Ruskies turning off cigarland’s oil spigot in 1990. And now, despite its toxic track record, we find China, the same goddamned anthill people who flat out starved 30 million (there’s population control for ya) to make weight for a great leap forward, are running the two largest eco-reclamation projects on earth – the Natural Forest Protection and the Sloping Land Conversion Programs. These are admirable efforts in the world’s eyes, even if the air over the cities is still so foul buzzards fly into it and drop dead. It certainly beats the U.S. refusing to stop in at the Kyoto Conference, not even for the hors d’oeuvres. Or going to the Bali Eco Summit just to pick fights with the French. George Bush might claim to be from Texas, but he plays global poker like a drunk. Meanwhile, the Chinese are still reaping the benefits of offing those 30 million because, voila! They never reproduced. Are those guys inscrutable or what?

So what’s an all-American guy to do but drive around the suburbs looking for fried chicken, watching the weeds grown up on the foreclosed lawns, and slobber into our cell phones regarding our geographic location, having lost all sense of historical and moral location. “I’m going down Shirley Drive. Where are you?” “Me? I’m eating a pizza and watching some hot blonde on Animal Planet smooch upon bonobo chimps. It’s educational. Kinda sexy too, in a weird way.” Now this folks, is called our “socio-economic environment.” It may be social, and it may be economic, but it sure as hell ain’t much of an environment – unless you happen to be a chimp. Of course like chimps, we are “prime apes.” And as such, we’re supposed to have big brains that account for our “success as a species.” We’re gonna have to rethink that one. I’m not seeing much success here, hoss. Are you?

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About the Author

Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting With Jesus and the master of www.joebageant.com, is one of America's most piercing social critics. He has been kind enough to allow La Cuadra to republish several of his essays and is threatening to come down and visit us at some point in the coming months. We plan to slay the fatted keg upon his arrival. We'll keep you posted.
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