Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pushing the Gurney

Every since the fall of the Soviet Union, Capitalism has been taking its victory lap so thrilled with itself that it doesn’t realize that it’s strapped to a gurney being pushed by Beltway and media denizens. It’s like the dying man who believes that the harder he parties the more death will be kept at bay.

Things aren’t much better at the other end of the political spectrum. The left’s gurney ran off the track decades ago and is lying on its side slowly rusting as it is ignored by passer-bys.

One wonders if the dialectic of history isn’t getting ready to make another turn with capitalism as the thesis and socialism as the antithesis. At this point in time, we have no way of knowing what the emerging synthesis will look like. For that matter, most of us are unaware of this dialectic even being in motion. No doubt a thirteenth-century lord of the manor believed feudalism would last forever.

As Tony Judt puts it, “We have entered an age of insecurity—economic insecurity, physical insecurity, physical insecurity, political insecurity. The fact that we are largely unaware of this is small comfort: few in 1914 predicted the utter collapse of their world and the economic and political catastrophes that followed.”

“Not so!” cry those pushing the gurney. “Capitalism is the end point of history; it will rise from its own ashes like the Phoenix bird of mythology.” It’s a poor analogy. The Phoenix bird was consumed by an external fire; capitalism is dying from the internal rot of its own contradictions. Advanced capitalist countries have reached the limits of economic growth and are now turning inward and devouring themselves in a doomed effort to preserve the appearance of prosperity and health.

Capitalism rode to power on the wings of a geological fluke, abundant fossil fuel. At $2 a barrel, anything is possible. At $85 a barrel our options become limited. Economic growth has reached a tipping point where every increase in our GDP is another step closer to the destruction of the natural world that supports us.

Don’t bother telling that to the man on the gurney. He suffers from a terminal case of dementia in which he believes he is still an energetic young man who will never age or decay.

That’s the way it is with the dying.

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