It is a new year, my 64th, which when I reflect is amazing since there was a time when the chances were good that I might not make it to 21. I consider that the last 43 are a bonus, and for the most part, a pretty good one. When I look forward towards the next 43, most of which will not belong to me, but to my grandchildren, I do not see them being as good as the ones behind me.
Looking at the year past there are two things that dominate and show us where the future is most likely headed. Those things are the problems with the environment and the so-called War on Terror, or whatever they are renaming it now. Both are connected to our failing economic system, and the political will does not exist to fix them. Worse, the political will that dominates is driving them since both have become profit centers.
Consider the War on Terror. Historically for some war has been a profitable enterprise. The current terror war is no different. There is lots of money to be made servicing it. Defence contracts are a tool for transferring money from taxpayers to private investors, particularly now in the age where every conceivable public service is being privatized to facilitate that transfer. And note who pays in our current economic system as income taxes are held down while regressive consumption taxes like the HST go up. Over the past half century the tax laws have been and are still being rewritten to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the poor.
Do not expect a final victory in this war, just expect it to shift from one locale to another. Witness the recent bombing scare and all of the new focus on Yemen, now being pegged as another hot spot of terrorism that we have to do something about. Something, of course, will not come without a price and a tidy profit to be made for those with the right connections.
This fight with the terrorists is often framed as a conflict of religions and culture. A frame that is convenient to both sides who feed on one another. For those behind the scenes, however, this frame is a diversion to occupy the minds of the gullible. The real reason for wars is control of resources and the associated accumulation of wealth and power. This one is no different.
I am often amazed when I see and hear the extremists, whether they are Al Qaeda and associates blowing themselves to bits for the glory of some god, or the religious fanatics in the U.S., or India or a number of other places who think that such violence is justified. They all have more in common with the Taliban than they do with sensible people. They possess a shared insanity. Anyone prepared to make great sacrifices for a faith, or think it is right to force faith on others has a screw lose. It makes as much sense as sacrificing for Mickey Mouse or the Tooth Fairy.
Ridiculous beliefs in faith fantasies are a convenient instrument to motivate people to do any number of crazy things. They have been a stock item in the tool box of societies since the beginning of history, and no doubt in pre-history as well. Today they are still with us, as evidenced by Osama bin Laden, Pat Robertson and many more like them. Although not the underlying cause of our troubles, faith fantasies help to keep the trouble alive.
The environment is the other big problem that we face, probably much bigger than the war issue. Do not expect the situation there to get better, either, not unless we make radical changes in those who lead us, and in our social and economic system. Currently the deck is stacked against any serious progress towards repairing the eco-system that supports us.
Witness the flop at Copenhagen. Witness Stephen Harper who says that we must fix the economy before we tackle the environment. Witness Gordon Campbell and any number of politicians who mouth green speak, but then promise growth an expanding economy. Witness the once respected environmentalists who have sold out for whatever reason, even though they should know better.
The fact of the matter is that driven by a destructive economic system human over consumption of resources has expanded way beyond sustainable and is destroying our society as we know it. Most of us demand too much from the system, and if we want a world in the future that remotely reflects what we have in the more developed societies today, we have too many people.
Once there was the fallacious idea that society was balanced on three legs, the environment, economy and social needs. This is predicated on the belief that social and economic needs are equal to the environment. That is a lie, yet many are still clinging to this, despite how unreal it is.
Reality tells us that both the economy and social needs are built on a base which is the environment. If the environment is harmed, all eventually collapse. Yet, we continue to compromise the environment for jobs and profit, even though by doing so we are certainly killing the future of our descendants.
Until leaders like Harper and others recognize that our social and economic systems based on growth and an ever expanding economy are no longer viable, but a death warrant for society as we know it, and until they realize that the first thing that we have to do is fix the environment, and at whatever cost, we will not get out of the trap that we are in.
Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada’s West Coast.