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Life Arts    H4'ed 10/7/20

Power to the People: Right On!

By       (Page 1 of 5 pages)   1 comment, In Series: Book Reviews
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by John Kendall Hawkins

"I opened my eyes and saw the dark in all its original color."

- James Dickey, Deliverance (1970)

A few weeks ago I reviewed the recently released Michael Moore production, Planet of the Humans. Directed by Moore's long-time collaborator, Jeff Gibbs, the controversial film, ten years in the making, argued forcefully that the Green movement to save the planet from Climate Change catastrophe has stalled -- indeed, even more, has gone backwards, with leaders of the movement, such as Bill McKibben and Al Gore, having been co-opted by Big Capital, willing to lend a hand to the Cause, if there's a buck in it for them.

McKibben was irate and got a platform in Rolling Stone to disabuse Moore of his notions of righteousness and factuality; Gore just smirked like an a**hole, like he did after he lost his home state in the 2000 presidential election. Perhaps the main criticism of the film was that the data used for its propositions was out-of-date; things Green had moved forward since Gibbs began his project and, they argue, he hadn't properly factored that in. There was still time to effect change; it was too early to bury our heads in the sand like some kaput Madeleine Kahn version of Lady Liberty. Our Lady's got plenty left. F*ck off, Moore and Gibbs, their critics, who still held a torch, seemed to say.

The stoush within and amongst the Greens and so-called progressive bodes ill for the rest of us, as we expect leadership to rise up out of their ranks to posit the impetus for radical transformation from our current American middle class lifestyles to something decidedly more spartan and less attached to materialism. We think we understand what the McKibbenses and Greens are about, but sometimes they're caught with their good intentions down and their hypocritical butts hanging out. You wouldn't want to be a jury on this one, and yet, duty calls. A Boston Legal episode from Season 4, "Green Christmas," brought home the dilemmas associated with solving our global crisis. Here's a cross exam of a McKibben-like character from the episode.

In People's Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons, Ashley Dawson covers a lot of the same ground that Gibbs and Moore do in their later film, but avoids the fray with Greens and the caterwauling over End Days. He, too, sees us all on the brink of terrible things to come as a result of our willful ignorance and inability to confront the reality that our lifestyles will have to dramatically -- almost immediately -- simplify if the human race is to survive the almost unavoidable climate cataclysm ahead. As his title suggests, the way forward is to dump capitalism, and move to a democratic socialist model. Not like Bernie, but way to the left of Bernie, who is not a real Socialist but a tweaker of the status quo. What Dawson proposes is far more radical.

People's Power is a brief book and has chapters on Fossil Capitalism, A Brief History of Power, The Energy Commons, and People Power. And thus we learn what the problem is (fossil fuels), what to do about it (nationalize), and we are directed towards films and literature that will help us visualize the situation we're in. Dawson, a CUNY professor of English, has previously written along similar topical lines, such as in his recent delineation of the "co-evolution" of capitalism and the climate crisis in Extinction: A Radical History (OR Books, 2016). Like Gibbs and Moore, Dawson emphasizes that human ecological misbehavior has brought us to the point of ecocide.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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