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How do we heal Earth?

Is there a connection between the exploitation of Earth – in the guise of her so-called “resources” – and capitalism? And, given the age-old conception of Earth as female, or the “Great Mother” (associated with the Goddess of hunter-gatherer times), is there a link between the rise and dominance of patriarchy and this veritable “assault” (as Heidegger thought of technology’s impact on Earth) on Mother Nature?

The answer to both questions is a resounding “yes”. I was reminded of all this by a comment (by Hope Havemore) on my previous post concerning the demonstrably deleterious effects of capitalism (and of various socialisms at an earlier stage) on nature. She said: “What are the long-term implications of placing a glass ceiling over humankind’s aspiration, by making wealth and status the highest metrics of human achievement. There have been very few attempts to move beyond this and very little support given to endeavours to understand and promote it.”

I have some “good” news for Hope. There have been more attempts to move “beyond this” than she thinks, or that most people know about, mainly because they have happened and are happening in fields that are not conspicuous. In neurology/philosophy, for example, that marvellous writer, Leonard Shlain (who tragically died not too long ago), has worked wonders by revealing just how much the growth of patriarchy, from about 3500 BCE to a position of sustained cultural dominance today, has endeavoured to discredit the Earth-friendly affirmation of femininity.

This has been evident in, among other things, the rise of the three major, patriarchal monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and the social repression of women’s interests across a broad spectrum, from politics and religion through traditional philosophy to psychology and education, to mention only a few manifestations of it.

To be sure, there have been signs of an improvement of women’s position in society, but by and large, it is still pervasively patriarchal, as shown in, among many things, the prioritisation of masculine values and devaluation of feminine ones. The aggressive competitiveness that pervades our culture everywhere – from politics and military enterprises, to sport and professional life in general, to capitalist promotion of the “competitive edge”, our culture is not one of (“feminine”) compassion and sympathy (even less so empathy); it is one of unapologetic promotion of (“masculine” aggressiveness and bellicosity, so subtly and strikingly explored in Godfrey Reggio’s third Qatsi- film, Naqoyqatsi (“A World at War”).

One of the most memorable aspects of Shlain’s book, The Alphabet versus the Goddess (1998), is his exploration of the historical transition from a time when Earth was revered as the great Goddess among our hunter-gatherer ancestors – something that many (no doubt in the grip of patriarchal ideology) would probably derogate as “primitive” – to one where conceptions of the deity (singular) in exclusively masculine terms reigned supreme. Already noticeable here is the exclusive “singularity” of the monotheistic “God” of the three monotheisms, which contrasts sharply with the kind of equilibrium between masculinity and femininity that obtained in hunter-gatherer times – in addition to the Goddess, there were masculine gods (often in the guise of the Goddess’s son, an echo of which is to be found in the otherwise very patriarchal Roman Catholic Church’s focus on the relation between Mother Mary and her son, Jesus).

What does this have to do with eco-destructive capitalist practices today? It is impossible to do justice in a short blog to the extensiveness and intricacy of all the connections, so a brutally condensed account will have to suffice. In a nutshell, neither earth-destructive technologies (from mining-technology to polymer-manufacturing technologies), nor eco-destructive capitalist practices, (intimately tied to technology, of course), could conceivably have become rampant, if the kind of reverence for the Earth that existed during the time when the Goddess was revered and identified with Earth (and all her creatures, including humans) had not been replaced by patriarchal ideology. This ideology is one of domination – domination of women, and concomitantly of the traditionally “feminine” Earth.

It is no exaggeration to claim that this domination has been established through a shameful symbolic “murder” of the (feminine) Earth as something divine. Shlain (1998: 45-52) draws attention to a paradigmatic Akkadian myth in this regard, which records the deliberate murder of the Earth Mother goddess, Tiamat, by the young god, Marduk, who is then credited with creating the universe, along with all its living creatures.

Keeping in mind that myths are barometers of crucial events and developments in a culture’s history, this extremely misogynistic myth symbolically arrogates to the male sex the ability to take over from the female sex what had always been seen as their signature domain – their very ability to create life. Even worse than that, however, has been the incremental abuse of what this god supposedly created, namely the Earth – through technological and economic practices that show no respect for the integrity of planetary ecosystems at all. And this has gone hand in hand with a history of the most brutal abuse, in many forms, of women, ranging from the witch-hunts of the 16th century, through Chinese foot-binding, the definition of women in many legal systems as their husbands’ “property” (to be disposed of as their men saw fit), to the patriarchal control of women’s sexuality, and many more similar manifestations.

So I want to say to Hope – who bears an appropriate name, or pseudonym: “Hope” – that, unless human society can somehow find the will, and the persuasive means, to (re-)introduce on a much larger scale that afforded by esoteric intellectual sources, the feminine principle into the way we live – even to the point of rediscovering the “divine” in women, and the “feminine” in men – I believe that there is not much hope of moving beyond the “glass ceiling” she referred to. In Nietzschean terms, we have to transvaluate the values that govern our society, lest the pervasiveness of aggressive masculinity – as manifested in patriarchy and its embodiments everywhere, including Earth-destructive capitalism – destroy Mother Earth and all her creatures.

Author

  • As an undergraduate student, Bert Olivier discovered Philosophy more or less by accident, but has never regretted it. Because Bert knew very little, Philosophy turned out to be right up his alley, as it were, because of Socrates's teaching, that the only thing we know with certainty, is how little we know. Armed with this 'docta ignorantia', Bert set out to teach students the value of questioning, and even found out that one could write cogently about it, which he did during the 1980s and '90s on a variety of subjects, including an opposition to apartheid. In addition to Philosophy, he has been teaching and writing on his other great loves, namely, nature, culture, the arts, architecture and literature. In the face of the many irrational actions on the part of people, and wanting to understand these, later on he branched out into Psychoanalysis and Social Theory as well, and because Philosophy cultivates in one a strong sense of justice, he has more recently been harnessing what little knowledge he has in intellectual opposition to the injustices brought about by the dominant economic system today, to wit, neoliberal capitalism. His motto is taken from Immanuel Kant's work: 'Sapere aude!' ('Dare to think for yourself!') In 2012 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University conferred a Distinguished Professorship on him. Bert is attached to the University of the Free State as Honorary Professor of Philosophy.

41 Comments

  1. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 15 September 2011

    Heal the earth by devolving back to an effeminate er hunger-gatherer society?

    This assumes several initial points:
    1. Matriarchal societies are less harmful to the environment
    2. There is a direct link between capitalism (humouring Marx’s definition) and patriarchy
    3. A matriarchal society would prevent the development of exchange
    4. Hunger-gatherer societies were matriarchal

    1. Matriarchal societies tend to be agrarian and not hunter-gatherers. Such societies do not get far due to a low division of labour and can only sustain a few hundred people on subsistence farming to devastating ecological effect. Matriarchal societies came after hunger-gatherers.

    2. Patriarchy has been receding since the rise of capitalism (roughly 18th century). Oops!

    3. How do hunger-gatherer societies exchange? According to anthropologist David Graeber, not with bartering goods for goods, but with credit (ie currency not connected to a commodity). As per Marx’s definition in part 2 of this gospel, they were capitalists.

    4. Hunger-gatherer societies are not considered to be matriarchal, but polytheistic. and animist. Both already had capitalism a la Marx.

  2. Maria Maria 15 September 2011

    As usual, gargoyle, you completely misconstrue Bert’s words – far from advocating a return to a hunter-gatherer existence (impossible today, given the hyper-growth of human population numbers), he is implicitly calling for a change in the attitude towards the earth, considered as something sacred, hence the metaphor of the Goddess. Such a change of attitude has nothing to to with an “effeminate” society, or with a matriarchal one, but with an egalitarian one – which those communities were (see the findings of Gimbutas and Stone, among others, re archaeological evidence to that effect). In Shlain’s book there is the argument that, restoring the feminine principle to its rightful place, would mean an equilibrium between masculine and feminine, as it existed in hunter-gatherer societies. there is nothing unthinkable about that, except to dyed-in-the-wool patriarchs. And sure, women’s position has, as Bert (and Shlain) admits, improved since the late 18th century, but society is still overwhelmingly patriarchal.

  3. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 15 September 2011

    @Maria:
    I’m almost convinced that you are truly a Philosopher, as you recognise the paradox that capitalism has lead to an improvement in the position of women in society, but then logic is fallible so you’d likely conveniently sweep that under the rug. Not just women, mind you, but children too, voluntarily flocked to cities to work in factories with the advent of the Industrial Revolution because subsistence agriculture is slightly less mirthful than running a herb garden in a convent. And not just then – in East Asia, currently some of the most impoverished people are doing the same thanks to capitalism, and there are more women in prominent positions there than anywhere else in the world.

    I agree that we should change our attitude towards the earth. It is after all good business to do so, if we can do more with less. I disagree that this conclusion follows from the above, which doesn’t give a clear indication that capitalism has in fact lead to our current predicament. Rather, the implications seem to be exactly the opposite.

    How can capitalism (defined as a system of private property and protecting individual rights) not be egalitarian (defined as the notion that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities? Is it unequal to have your land rights and your person protected?

  4. HD HD 16 September 2011

    I am not so sure about this link (patriarchy-capitalism), but it is interesting nevertheless. I remember reading a few occult/mysticism type books about 10 years ago, where the emphasis was very much along these lines…Ruper Sheldrake’s rebirth of nature being one of the more “scientific” ones, but a lot of the “jesus-mystery” stuff stressing this lost femininity in society and religion. I think religions role here should not be underestimated.

    Any way. I wonder how balanced hunter-gatherer societies really where? Some what instructive is the myth of the “Amazons”.

    Any tribe that consisted out of women warriors, no matter how good, would not have survived very long. You cannot have your reproductive resources fight on the battlefront. You would simply eventually be outnumbered by your foes. (you require relatively few healthy men but many healthy women). There are just some biological realities that seem to impact a lot of human behavior and culture.

    That being said I don’t disagree with your overall point that we need a more balanced world, although I am not so sure about the whole capitalism – patriarchy link – that seem in a way strange because “gathering” (peaceful collection and trading) sounds more like capitalism than “hunting”. But, then again Marxist notions of capitalism comes with the whole exploitation and alienation baggage so it makes sense that could be connected to power (patriarchy).

  5. HD HD 16 September 2011

    @Garg

    I agree that women benefited under capitalism more than ever before and escaped “domesticity”. The more you actually think about it, it makes sense that capitalism more than any system before it would have this impact. Efficiency, productiveness, peaceful exchange, specialisation etc. you could go on – all would have meant that it would have been stupid isolate women to a specific role or place in such a society.

    But if you come from a Marxist perspective and add in all the different forms of anxiety about modernity of Continental philosophy you can easily end up with such a narrative.

    There is some truth in it, but I am not sure if capitalism is a natural consequence of “patriarchy”? It seems rather something that women embraced to get many of the freedoms they have today…perhaps not ideal but i don’t think it entrenches “patriarch”…

    @Bert

    Perhaps a short follow up on this link? How did patriarchy create capitalism and how can this be isolated from the various other historical explanations (religion, culture, technology, geo-political etc)? How is capitalism eroding women’s rights and sustaining patriarchy as to the opposite? (assuming it was an outgrowth of the killing of the “mother gaia” concept of nature/earth). Aren’t you guilty of some gender stereotypes in such an explanation?

  6. HD HD 16 September 2011

    sorry, that should be “follow up on this blog post”

  7. peter peter 16 September 2011

    In plain language, for those like me, we need to change our ways and accept the fact that we have already damaged “mother earth”as much as we can, but not terminally. The suggestion that we need to find the will to repair or undo the damage is improbable, since we are both incapable of and unwilling to do so. We long age passed the stage where caring for our environment, which is the only means we have of survival has any meaning to us, or is any way a priority. Devastation and plunder in the name of accumulation and wealth is our only concern. I had the displeasure of reviewing the Exxon Valdez disaster on TV again and my horror at witnessing our total disdain and contempt for all things precious on our wonderful planet was both soul destroying and heart breaking. There is no hope of us “healing our planet”, we are incapable of that. Nature will do that herself ( the feminine again), and we shall be destroyed in the process. The saying goes……”good riddance”. Masters of the Universe indeed! Fools is a much more appropriate reference.

  8. Aragorn23 Aragorn23 16 September 2011

    @Garg: What Maria said :-)

    Also, I’m going to have to assume you’ve either not read Graeber’s book or you’ve willfully misunderstood it. Graeber is an anthropologist and an anarchist and his new book makes a very clear case that the kind of credit used in gatherer-hunter / early horticulturalist / semi-nomadic societies was usually a kind of indirect reciprocity (see the work of Barclay, Clastres and Sahlins for more on this); he would most definitely disagree with you that it could be construed as anything like capitalism.

    Here’s a good interview with him: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/08/what-is-debt-%E2%80%93-an-interview-with-economic-anthropologist-david-graeber.html

    It’s also worth reading his amusing engagement with Robert Murphy, an Austrian fundamentalist, on the mises and nakedcapitalism sites. In my opinion, Graeber gives the Austrian school a sound roasting ;-)

  9. X Cepting X Cepting 16 September 2011

    Sorry Prof, there are two much shorter answers to the leading question:

    Reduce human population to sustainable and ecologically balanced level. Anything else is just making excuse for human excess.

    Capitalism does not work because the market is not, and never will be free. To achieve a free market, hoarding across generations and the hierarchical elitist structure of most corporations have to change to cooperative principles. The fact that people can invest illutionary and very flexible worth in less fortunate people’s sweat and time is where it all goes wrong. Basically, we have to steer human evolution away from paracitism and towards cooperate competition.

  10. Bovril24 Bovril24 16 September 2011

    An extremely thought-provoking piece. In particular, it spotlights the destructive, testosterone-driven damage done by monotheistic religions to the feminine half of existence on human cultures, beliefs and behaviours, over the last 6000 years.

    Wasn’t it Feurebach who said (something like): “man is not made in the image of God; man makes God in the image of Man.” ?

  11. X Cepting X Cepting 16 September 2011

    @HD – “You cannot have your reproductive resources fight on the battlefront. ” That must be the most sexist comment I have seen this week. You see women as a resource? Gee dude, some soul searching might be appropriate.

  12. HD HD 16 September 2011

    @X Cepting. The whole population argument is interesting, because as far as technology and economic growth goes we probably have enough resources still available to sustain ourselves and the planet.

    A big factor in this perceived problem or imbalance is that we have strict immigration regulation across most of the globe. Imagine starving desperate workers in the developing world being able to move to the developed world – where they already have negative birth rates and actually want more labour. This will lead to better economic development for everyone, higher living standards and then eventually lower birth rates. (the things are all linked)

    But, then again these developed countries also tend to have big welfare states, which their “entitlement addicted” citizens want to protect and tend to make the political climate hostile to liberal immigration policies.

    We not only need freed markets but also free people! :) That is what being a consistent libertarian is really about – instead the very same people that argue for equality or all to happy to keep the poor out of their countries so they can keep their entitlements and instead moan about the breeding habbits of the poor!

  13. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 16 September 2011

    @Aragorn23:
    I used “capital” and “capitalism” as defined in part 2 (a society where use value is replaced by exchange value), as I’ve noted. This is not capitalism as I understand it.

    I understand that Graeber reasons credit is the historical mode of functioning for capital, whereas Marx’s given definition of use value corresponds with what economists understand as commodities.

    Graeber’s capital has always functioned in Marx’s exchange value mode (favours for favours, as credit and debt) and not in Marx’s use value mode (commodities for commodities). The corollary is that Graeber’s debt (exchange not connected to use value) is capitalism a la Marx (refer once again to the definition in part 2). Again, not my understanding of capitalism.

    Graeber claims it’s exactly the opposite: namely we mostly had a credit/debt economy (exchange value based, with no fixed notion of how much of x is worth how much of y) and moved towards fixed currencies based on commodities like gold, silver and wheat only in exceptional cases.

    Did I misunderstand Graeber?

  14. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 16 September 2011

    Meh. Didn’t close the tag properly.

  15. X Cepting X Cepting 16 September 2011

    @HD “We not only need freed markets but also free people!” I cannot agree more. Nation-induced exchange rates are another facet of this imbalance. An egg is an egg and produced the same the world over but I could probably not afford to eat one in Switzerland. Am with you on Libertarianism as well. Again, a cooperative business structure is the only market model that will work for Libertarianism. If everyone enjoyed the fruit of their own labour instead of some investor enjoying 90% of that fruit, the market will be freed, and so will individuals. I dare say less dross in the form of regulating bodies like government would be a natural spin-of. No unions, for instances, if there are no employees, only shareholders…. Ya, right like that is going to happen while the billionaires club is still alive and hanging onto their hoardings. Nice dream though.

  16. X Cepting X Cepting 16 September 2011

    Oh, needless to say free, equal education is the cornerstone of all of the above solutions. The poor would not overpopulate if they have access to world-class education. It always comes back to access to education.

  17. Aragorn23 Aragorn23 16 September 2011

    @Garg: Yes, I think you are misunderstanding Graeber; you’re really forcing square pegs into round holes by trying to assert that what he is discussing ito early societies is anything like capitalism / credit in way relevant to this discussion.

    @All: This article actually reminds me of a fantastic book by Silvia Federici about some of the connections between capitalism and women.

    PS: I do love this cheeky observation by Graeber about free market myopia:

    “…the Homo Oeconomicus which lies at the basis of all the theorems and equations that purports to render economics a science, is not only an almost impossibly boring person—basically, a monomaniacal sociopath who can wander through an orgy thinking only about marginal rates of return—but…what economists are basically doing in telling the myth of barter is taking a kind of behavior that is only really possible after the invention of money and markets and then projecting it backwards as the purported reason for the invention of money and markets themselves. Logically, this makes about as much sense as saying that the game of chess was invented to allow people to fulfill a pre-existing desire to checkmate their opponent’s king.”

    The market is true and always has been true. Mises says so!

  18. HD HD 17 September 2011

    @X Cepting

    Yes, my point really was only that you have to see population growth in its proper context. It is the same with a concept such as capitalism – you cannot discuss it in a vacuum and without looking at the assumptions and peculiarities that go with it in its specific historical context to determine if it is actually the root cause/driver or merely a symptom of other underlying forces.

    That is what Bert is trying to do, but I would argue his ideological perspective (Marxism) is making him look at very specific trees in his forrest.

  19. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 18 September 2011

    @Aragorn23:
    After reading your link (thanks) I still think Graeber’s debt/credit society is consistent with Marx’s definition of capitalism.

    This highlights some of the reasons why capitalism as Marx defined it, as well as use value as Marx defined it are not useful to economists and are mostly used by lefty academics who are ignorant of economics. They aren’t useful definitions as they do not help us to understand real-world phenomena, and (like the Austrian economists hammering on gold standard/commodity money, which is one area where I disagree with them) they do not agree with what we observe in history or in anthropology.

    I would appreciate it if you could explain how Graeber’s credit/debt differs from a society where exchange is not based on use value in the commodity sense.

    I would also appreciate links to the Graeber/Murphy debates. Robert Murphy wrote the Poltically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, which is not a bad introduction to economics.

    @HD and Xcepting:
    Human population growth is a red herring. World populations do not grow exponentially but follow an S-shape. This means that we do not have human populations spiralling out of control. What is problematic from an environmental perspective is that the third world keeps on growing while the first world has population shrinkage. More people with low technology means more strain on…

  20. Sean May s20658071 Sean May s20658071 18 September 2011

    As John Rushmere put it, society has always been a balance of the masculine and feminine. To illustrate this he used the example of Révolution française; 1789–1799, where society had become completely feminine. Men powdered there faces, wore high heels and wigs. The only solution to this imbalance was a complete revolution. There was a masculine dominated uprising and eventually the balance was restored. In a similar light we (society) can view the 20th Century as a Patriarchal masculine dominated, PROGRESS AT ALL COSTS and what better economic system than Capitalism. Take as much and what ever you want, exploiting the Earth to maintain ever more affluent lifestyles with no consideration for the cost. So what is the inevitable consequence ? A restoration of the balance ? The 21st century will usher in a more feminine perspective towards ‘mother earth’ and the balance will once again be restored. With this shifting social consciousness will come a new economic model, one not based on supply and demand or scarcity, but one based on resources. As a 24 year old student I can only hope that my children will be the midwives of this shift in consciousness, free from the insanity of the egoic mind. In conclusion I couldn’t find a better quote.

  21. Sean May s20658071 Sean May s20658071 18 September 2011

    1. “What is happening to our earth, do you seriously think we need to strip mine, deforest and de-populate this planet at the rate we are to maintain our lifestyles ? Look at the world beyond the class and race divisions we are all just people. All the perceived divisions that supposedly exist amongst us is an illusion a facade, its all just for show. All the flash and pizzazz is an illusion. We have been collectively taught as whole societies to ignore everything around us and concentrate on collecting as much paper as possible by either working for or profiting from another human being, and then to use this paper to buy as many trinkets and gimmicks we can, in order to gain more status in our society. We have become totally dependent on this temporary reality.”

  22. X Cepting X Cepting 19 September 2011

    @HD – the root cause would be survival? Perhaps easier to see from the bottom than from the proverbial ivory towers?

    @Garg – you can use any curve you like, net global population is steadily increasing. At some point something has to give. Historically wars have kept numbers under control. Is there honestly no other answer than killing for resources?

  23. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 19 September 2011

    @X Cepting:
    Net global population has increased, but the growth rate has been declining. At the current growth rates, we will not replace the global population. Human populations are expected to decrease in the future (see sub-replacement fertility). If these indicators are reliable, human population isn’t something to be concerned about.

    Wars do not impact as much on human populations as pandemics. The recent human population explosion is due to improved medical care (vaccination) and the Green Revolution (more efficient agriculture). At the same time, warfare has been continuing in parallel, with World War II claiming the most lives (72 million if you want the generous estimate, see list of war death toll and list of natural disasters death toll).

    Technological improvements do contribute to save mother earth. Access to medical services like family planning curbs human population much better than warfare or Gaia religions.

  24. X Cepting X Cepting 21 September 2011

    @Garg – Taking a stat pill to chill does not take the edge of the truth that is there for everyone to see who still know the evidence right in front of their face. Every month, new developments are built in Cape Town that already has a utility infrastructure stretched to the limit. I fully expect water restrictions later in the season since it was not that wet a winter. The Chinese are looking for new resources everywhere, even Brazil, where they were stopped from buying land. If their environment still had enough resources, would they go to these lengths? It is not just them either. The only way we can heal our planet from human inflicted damage is to grow up and learn to live with our environment, instead of viewing it as nasty, unsafe, dirty nature, out there. Those who really cannot and believe that having 5 kids are their right always have the option of looking into colonising Mars or the Moon where a sterile, man-made environment will be a given. I really cannot keep watching the whole-sale desctruction of for instance the Cape Peninsula environment any longer. Again, the evidence is right there for anyone who wish to stop reading stats and look. In some places next to the rail line the rubbish are approaching a metre deep. This is not numbers on paper but visible, tactile evidence of humans fouling the environment. I sometimes wonder how many genes humans have in common with pigs, our behaviour certainly make them appear to be our closest cousins, not apes

  25. X Cepting X Cepting 21 September 2011

    Oh and Garg, please stop with the Gaia nonsense already. I view the Earth as a complex system of input, process, output. Science, not religion which I have none, not even Atheism. So could we focus on the logic of diminshed input means diminished process which cause diminshed output. The more matter locked up in human bodies mean less matter to be used for food and things.

  26. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 21 September 2011

    @X Cepting:
    I agree with you completely. I do not think the Gaia/feminine balance religious nonsense is of any use. I merely pointed out that overpopulation is not necessarily a cause for concern, but as you say the fact that the third world is crawling with children with no means to support them while the first world has the means but is hardly breeding at all is a real cause for concern.

    The Chinese are in this predicament because they do not have free markets. They are coming from a centrally planned economy, so they do follow the linear input-process-output model. Markets are inherently emergent and unpredictable (not linear), so not surprisingly, this hasn’t worked that well and they have to free their markets to find more efficient processes – just like Cuba has had to do too. This is an economic calculation problem, and part of why the Austrian economists are so against the ‘mathematicisation’ of human behaviour.

    Technically, China has ample resources to support many more people, but it’s part of a larger ideological picture for them to settle elsewhere and use foreign resources before they utilise their own.

    Coincidentally, you highlight a problem of my quoted stats (and the original Malthusian argument): they model linear input-process-output whereas a more workable model would be fractal.

  27. X Cepting X Cepting 21 September 2011

    Garg – fractal? Iow we have more humans who produce more things to consume but it is all scaled down, I.e. contains less matter and use less energy to produce? I don’t see a problem there except the scaling down of the average human body and the resources needed to maintain it. As said before: there are levels of existence I am not prepared to accept in order to create trillionaires supported by hyper industries and manned by billions of pygmy slaves barely surviving on starvation rations. Or is it perhaps the turnover of slaves you wish to speed up? Aught to. Make the funeral industry a fast growing concern. Matter is a finite quantity unless you know oif a process to create same out of thin air?

  28. X Cepting X Cepting 21 September 2011

    Also Garg, the chinese economy, centrally planned and inefficient or not, seem to be the fastest growing one at the moment. Their secret? A very obedient population of pygmy slaves for the most part surviving on starvation rations and therefore able to undercut everyone’s prices on a free global market. Global recession that. And the winner is? Well, just check who got mega-rich in the last five years. Not those slaves, I bet. The free market is a myth maintained by the billionaires club and their lackeys, the politicians and other parasites. Argh! You actual made me foam at the mouth.

  29. HD HD 22 September 2011

    @X Cepting

    Actually go and look at the economic figures – Chinese labor wages have been rising. Yes, they had and still have an abundance of cheap labour, but as Chinese manufacturing became more competitive and entered new industries the wages also rose as workers’ skills became more important. In fact may Western corporation as moving their manufacturing to “cheaper” countries (that have caught onto the same trick).

    I don’t agree with the Chinese political system, but you cannot deny that economic liberalisation (far from perfect) in China have not lifted millions of people out of poverty and have increased their living standards. You might start out in a sweatshop, but save enough and your kids could get a proper education and eventually better wages. It is an escape from subsistence farming, serfdom or survival street corner vending!

    Your type of emotional nonsens makes me foam at the mouth! What else would you have a population as big a China do with a large rural peasant base – I don’t see how they could have done much better apart from even more reforms (political/economical). Really, if only people would take a minute to think about things and not just recite emotional nonsense from the like of Klein and other fashionable lefties.

  30. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 22 September 2011

    @X Cepting:
    Yes, if you assume the linear model (correctly criticised by Aragorn23 but erroneously prescribed to capitalist thinking) it does make sense superficially that x divided by more means less and eventually x runs out.

    The human population growth projections also rely on linear patterns so they aren’t reliable, yet current growth is not even sufficient to replace global populations, let alone grow beyond carrying capacity.

    Read up on the Malthusian argument and see why it isn’t sound. The same arguments have been used for peak oil. They repeatedly fail because they assume all things being equal. Human ingenuity in developing alternative technologies and improving existing ones are not quantifiable. However, it is demonstrably true that efficiency mean less strain on the environment (‘deterritorialisation’ is bad for the tribe but good for the hunting grounds).

    Wages and income are problematic to compare (Big Mac index is better) but China has low unemployment with only about 3% living below the poverty line (see China stats).

    You are right: the free market is something the Thatchers, Reagans and Mbekis pay lip service to, but none implemented capitalism in practice. They were mixed economies much like China currently has. Realistically, the question should be ‘Are planned economies destroying our…

  31. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 22 September 2011

    If anyone is interested I tracked down the Graeber vs Murphy debate on the origins of money. Graeber is an anthropologists, while Murphy is an economist in the Austrian tradition.

    (links to Graeber’s interview are in this article).

  32. X Cepting X Cepting 23 September 2011

    @HD – The fact that Chinese slaves have on average better lifestyles are correct, if their government is to be believed. I spoke to a youngster from there, studying here, who is one of the single children families. He speaks glowingly of duty to communism, being a success for the Chinese government (well-fed, better educated, etc.) and also said that it was all due to the sacrifice of his parents (blue collar workers) and others less fortunate. So good slaves on whom the indoctrination takes well, is rewarded. The few pictures that makes it past the censors tells another story. A train derailed because of mismanagement, an entire building collapsed because of theft of building material and mismanagement. Air so unbreathable in some centres that people are forced to wear masks. At what cost, this economic success? The Chinese economy is doing well because of price. My issue is not with them but with people living in so-called democratic countries, ready to spout volumes on democracy and rights, ad nauseam who buy goods made by slaves because it is cheaper. Call me a die-hard emotional, Libertarian if you must but what is the worth of all the wars fought in the name of freedom, equality, democracy if communism wins the war on price? The free market, like money, has no ethics, it is neither good, nor bad, it is up to people to make that distinction.

    To answer the profs question: is capitalism killing our planet?: no, it isn’t, people who are free to choose are.

  33. X Cepting X Cepting 23 September 2011

    Garg – I do not assume models when too little data is available.  That is the root cause of most man-made disasters.  When working with too many and unknown variables, one has to look at the evidence (effect) as well.  The evidence is compelling.  Look at the frequency of unnatural weather events and aberational species behaviour (whale beachings, increase in intensity of violent crimes, etc.) over the last 50 years and redo your calculations.  Try fuzzy logic, it seems to work for human and complex situations. Leave Malthus to his rest and peak oil to run out when it wills.  The human collective will design new ways to harvest energy, I do not doubt that.  I can’t wait.  Can global ecosystems?  The fact that all economists harp on Malthus (I did not mention him) tells me a thing or two: The lady protesteth way too much and where there is smoke….  You also cannot seriously trust statistics released by the Chinese government and call yourself a scientist, can you?  No-one really knows the facts about China, their govt makes very sure of that, by controlling the outflow of information.  I.O.W. they have something to hide. No-one hides actions they are proud of. I would be more interested in a debate between the villagers living (or starving) next to the Shell man-made disaster in Nigeria and the investors in Shell, than Graeber vs Murphy.  It seems more appropriate to the question.

  34. X Cepting X Cepting 23 September 2011

    @HD – BTW who is Klein? I do not have much time to read non-cause and effect pertinent matter.

  35. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 25 September 2011

    @XCepting:
    I mentioned Malthus because the argument in the blog posts is a Malthusian one (if we proceed on our present course at present rates of consumption, we’ll run out of resources). It seems to be a statement you agree with when it comes to human population growth.

    We have to differentiate between human population growth and current human population numbers. The data I linked to suggests that given our current population growth, we are not breeding enough to replace the current human population numbers.

    Certainly, current human numbers are placing strain on the environment, but thanks to technology a far lesser strain than would be placed on the environment by hunter-gatherer or agrarian lifestyles, or Gaia-embracing cultures. Nobody needs to be expendable.

    Graeber was mentioned because his debt is in tune with Marx’s capitalism. To Murphy, this does not negate the Mengerian story of currency origins (which does correspond with the origins of many currencies like the Spanish dollar, Thaler and Lira). I’m not convinced by Graeber when he says nobody has witnessed currency take hold in the wild, particularly since cattle plays such a role in African tribal societies like the Maasai (patriarchal, using cattle as a medium of exchange and as payments to settle disputes and debt).

    What are unusual weather patterns? Aren’t you using a linear measurement there?

  36. X Cepting X Cepting 26 September 2011

    @Garg – you are not serious are you? If I had the energy, I could make up a counterargument with lots of links to pretty pictures and quotes but that would defeat my point, which is that there is nothing wrong with the concept of capitalism, or money for that matter. Barter is barter, no matter the form it takes. What is wrong is that a few people are keeping the majority in shackles by monopolising the use of the land. Ultimately, the only real value is land. the American Dream of consumption and plenty proved to be just that, a dream, inspired by the few who seem to get richer the more people are born. Taking oil out of Nigeria makes a few people rich but starves the majority who can no longer feed themselves. Africa used to feed itself before the robber barons came and destroyed the environment, blinded the population with mirrors. Similarly in America, etc. etc. The craze to collect more than is needed in one lifetime using ever more people’s labour is what is wrong.

  37. X Cepting X Cepting 26 September 2011

    @Garg – Here is a link for you:

    http://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2F2007%2F03%2F07%2Fbillionaires-worlds-richest_07billionaires_cz_lk_af_0308billie_land.html&ei=iyKATs3AIIiPmQWIvdGiBQ&usg=AFQjCNGkZ-fW6zsbK_kWnfHGfoDYFDfbMQ

    From the link in case you cannot open it:

    “946 billionaires, including 178 newcomers and 17 people who climbed back into the ranks after being absent for a year or more. Two-thirds of last year’s billionaires are richer. Only 17% are poorer, including 32 who fell below the billion-dollar mark. The billionaires’ combined net worth climbed by $900 billion to $3.5 trillion.”

    You will note that the report slightly predates the economic recession in 2008….

  38. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 26 September 2011

    I don’t see how the world’s richest billionaires are relevant? Except if you care to note that many of those are newcomers, many got rich off media and services like software which are not that commodity intensive and do not require vast tracts of land.

    Number 10: Canadian billionaire David Thompson has an interesting story concerning the ‘generations of labour’ hypothesis. The unions effectively destroyed his family’s newspaper, so they sold it to Rupert Murdoch who re-started it without union labour. The Thompsons started a new media house from scratch and eventually it merged with Reuters, which made them stinking rich.

    How do we keep track of the majority he’s kept in shackles? Seems more like the majority bit the hand that fed it.

    Also, oil is one of the most regulated industries on the planet. There’s very little capitalism involved in there since governments broke up Standard Oil. OPEC is the classic example of a cartel and criticising it is not a criticism of capitalism. Monopolies are kept in place by governments, not by free markets.

  39. X Cepting X Cepting 26 September 2011

    Oh Garg, let’s just agree to disagree. Some of us know that all is not what it seems. One last thing, have you ever done the exercise of calculating global net worth versus global debt? An uncomfortable exercise, especially if one then calculate the worth of all reall assets in the world. The uncomfortable truth is that the value of paper money has become a mirage that can evaporate at will. You do not expect me to feel sorry for Thompson, do you? If he had run his paper as a cooperative, he would not have had workers or union troubles. Problem is, these guys don’t like to share, do they unless it is to share out the work.

  40. X Cepting X Cepting 26 September 2011

    @Garg again: I almost missed this: “Nobody needs to be expendable.” I suggest you explain this to the growing number of angry youths with no education, no capital and no job prospects and very little understanding of the technology that could help them live better.

  41. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 26 September 2011

    @X Cepting:
    Why would you feel sorry for Thompson? He’s survived the barbarians at the gate and he’s far more wealthy now than he would’ve been had he kept his newspaper. Murdoch on the other hand is in trouble. I’m not sure how you could possibly determine global net worth, but if you want to do it in dollar terms, or in terms of assets, Thompson is a big fish in the pond. He inherited rich too. He could’ve spent daddy’s money on hookers and crack and still have enough left to buy a banana republic by the time he passed on.

    Rather feel sorry for the angry youths who blame their ineptitude on external forces and who are so cocksure of the cause and effect of their situation that they do not have the imagination to come up with constructive solutions to their predicament.

    Regardless, the topic is: Is capitalism destroying our planet? The posts do not offer any evidence to support its conclusion (perhaps too close to logical positivism for comfort?).

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