One of the twentieth century's most prophetic
writers, George Orwell, warned us that if we weren't vigilant, the future of
our species could best be portrayed by a boot stamping a human face. Josh Fox's
latest film, Gasland 2, warns us that
the entire United States is becoming a resource-extraction colony for the
global fossil-fuel industry.
Only renewables mean liberty. by eranderson428
Only renewables mean liberty. by eranderson428
A titanium logic unites these two warnings, and thereby hangs the tale I mean to tell.
See, the aims of any fascist regime are, from a moral viewpoint, insane. The average human person, on the contrary, is presumably sane, at least enough to keep society functioning. So it follows by implacable logic that fascists in power must regard their subject populations--in other words, most people under their control--as potential enemies to their aims, who must be kept in check by any means, fair or foul.
Now, it's doubtful that true fascists, like Nazi top brass--or oil-and-gas industry executives--nurture many scruples about using the foulest means available, up to and including extermination camps. Lest you think that linking oil-and-gas execs to Nazi top brass is extreme, consider that the very premise of their industry, if our best climate science merits credence, is to turn our entire planet into one vast extermination camp. But like the psychopaths they frequently are, both fascist leaders and oil-and-gas execs understand that whatever their own comfort zones with outright force, their subject populations ordinarily dislike it and tend to see it as delegitimizing any government that uses it on its own. Fortunately for ruling psychopaths, part of the moral "headgear" of ordinary human beings is not to mind force against those perceived as Others.
For those who think this human tolerance for force against perceived Others--especially after they've been demonized or scapegoated--is a vice we've overcome or something that doesn't apply to us good Americans, I hasten to recall some sadly (and deliberately) buried recent history. The sanctions against Saddam Hussein under good Democrat Bill Clinton provably killed about half a million innocent Iraqi Others; "Operation Iraqi Freedom" under more visibly fascist George W. Bush likely killed at least as many more. Now, our apathy to Others' fate in Clinton's case is probably more excusable, because our servile mainstream press made every effort not to let us know. But in the Iraq war--because wars kill by intention--we HAD to know innocent Iraqis would die, at least as "collateral damage." Granted, our government made every propaganda effort to assure us civilian casualties would be minimal, but my point in both cases--Clinton's and Bush's--is that where the welfare of perceived "Others" is concerned, the tendency of ordinary human beings is to not much care and to not get too inquisitive. This particular vice--and it is indeed a vice--is no special American fault but is universally human.
Now my previous examples merely illustrate the ordinary person's indifference to the fate of Others who HAVEN'T been demonized. When the Others in question HAVE been successfully demonized, the armchair blood-lust of the average person knows no bounds. Which brings us back to Orwell.
I used the phrase "armchair blood-lust" for a reason. See, the armchair sits a safe distance from the action--above all, from any interaction-- and hence make a perfect tool for "Othering," the turning of distant people into Others. It's also the ideal piece of furniture for watching television, perhaps the ideal medium for absorbing propaganda. It's because Orwell so incisively grasped the lurking lethal linkage between our natural human penchant for Othering and our invention of ideal technologies of mass propaganda that he and Aldous Huxley became our two great prophets of modern totalitarianism. But Huxley's day--the day of controlling the masses by cozy, infantile consumerism--is over. Orwell reigns in grim, splendid solitude as prophet of these times when consumer Eden lies in ruins.
Now, besides greedy overreach by our rich, the real story that's anointed Orwell rather than Huxley as America's new Prophet-in-Chief is the decline of fossil fuels. It's even arguable--I'm by no means sure it's a conspiracy theory--that the rich began their greedy power grab precisely because the handwriting for our rapid decline in fossil-fuel production was already on the wall. Or, it may be simple coincidence that the rich became anxiously--and reactively--aware that We the People, as reflected in social movements from the 1950s through the 1970s, were getting too uppity in assuming we had human rights just when the theory of Peak Oil was being empirically confirmed. Whatever the case, the simple facts are that prospects of broadly shared prosperity were based on abundant fossil fuels, and the rich got a lot more aggressive in demanding a bigger share of the economic pie just as folks realized that the fuels used to bake that pie were in steep decline.
But what's this talk of decline--aren't new reserves constantly being discovered, and isn't America the Saudi Arabia of natural gas? The answers is a seismic, earth-shaking NO, though the theory of Peak Oil (now better described as Peak Fossil Fuels) requires one significant qualification. To wit: fossil fuels ARE in substantial decline--indeed, have largely disappeared--provided you're talking about the ones it's SANE to extract. Which allows us, at long last, to link Fox and Orwell's twin warnings.
As I said earlier, the aims of fascist regimes--like the Nazi's endless territorial expansion and eugenic cleansing--are insane. And so is the continued extraction of fossil fuels. Sure, we can still have them in VAST abundance, and all the consumer goodies that go with them, provided we pay the price of a livable planet and the survival of human civilization. On the one hand, modern methods of fossil fuel extraction are necessarily increasingly dangerous, intrusive, and destructive, since all the easy-access fossil fuels--the so-called "low-hanging fruit"--are already gone. On the other hand, while the short-term effects of fossil-fuel extraction are unlivable only for those in the "sacrifice zones," the guaranteed long-term effect--the destruction of a humanly livable climate--will affect everyone. If most people knew the truth, they would almost certainly be screaming for the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. So the survival of the fossil-fuel industry, like that of any fascist regime, depends on most people not knowing the truth. Or smashing a jackboot in the face of those who do.
All of which makes the incestuous marriage of a government committed to serving only the rich (many, notably, fossil-fuel tycoons) and an industry whose survival DEPENDS on fascist methods, a particularly lethal "dynamic duo." For since both are of one mind in imposing insane policies on a reasonably sane population, inevitably they'll meet resistance--and maximal resistance from the sanest and best informed. The logic of this--the same logic that forced a massive exodus of top intellectuals and artists from Nazi Germany--is inescapable. It's simply a matter of lying as shamelessly and frequently as possible to the majority of the population, and making demonized Others of those who feel morally obligated to resist the destructive lies. And since expanding fossil-fuel extraction is arguably the worst of the many bad things our government's now doing in the name of its subservience to the corporate rich, enforcing it will surely be the leading edge of outright American fascism.
That's undoubtedly why those who've already faced down the fossil-fuel industry at close range have the keenest awareness of how unfree our nation has become. We "grok" more deeply than anyone else the need for the relentless (and lying) pro-fracking ads, the need to propagandize children with Terry the Friendly Frackosaurus coloring books, and to throw public-relations picnics guarded by virtual SWAT teams. We grasp with our very nerve endings that after 9/11 the ideal term for "Othering" us--terrorist--is in place. Many of us have already been libeled in pro-fracking newspapers, or spied on by Homeland Security as potential "ecoterrorists." Josh Fox himself was anonymously accused in a pro-fracking blog, Nazi brownshirt style, of burning down a barn on Cabot Oil and Gas property; he was more recently handcuffed and arrested, after properly obtaining press credentials, for exercising his First Amendment right to film a Congressional public hearing on fracking.
With approval of the environmentally catastrophic Keystone XL pipeline looming, none of this bodes well for democracy--or the survival of our species. Those of us who resist will first be "Othered" as ecoterrorists by propaganda campaigns in the servile mainstream media, as heroic whistleblower Ed Snowden is being Othered as I write, and later indefinitely detained without due process in government internment camps. Or, if leaders, gunned down by sniper fire, as was proposed (per FBI documents released under FOIA) for the leaders of Occupy Houston. All with the approving "armchair blood-lust" of the propagandized pro-government mainstream. Meanwhile, their environment and climate, under the fascist insanity of modern fossil fools, will die the slow "death of a thousand paper cuts." Or, as better fits fracking, of a trillion methane leaks.
Anyone who perceives the looming perils to our democracy, from fossil fuels or otherwise, is encouraged to join the discussion at the Time to Restore Democracy Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/WhoseVoiceOurVoice?fref=ts.).