Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Guest Op Ed from Dani Rubin

The following was originally part of an on-going discussion an email list discussion that is (gently) moderated by the author, Dani Rubin. LandWatch is a private listserve used by its participants for educational/informational purposes. It is not a “newsletter” or “publication.”

The title of the thread is “US Population Policy?” but the range of what Dani wrote is beyond that.  It is one of the few things that I have read recently that instantly provoked the thought “I wish I had written that.” So I asked Dani if I could reproduce it, and I am delighted that he gave me permission to do so.


Please put aside any interpretations of pretentiousness when reading the following – actually I am deeply saddened and terrified by what I am describing below.

Underlying and facilitating the global Capitalist economy lays the world’s vast digital accounting system (as you recall from recent posts, the shear physicality of paper currency makes its usage for large global transactions utterly unworkable – base metals such as gold and silver are even less suitable as planetary mediums/markers of exchange).  While Capital reproduces and enlarges itself, it remains, via the global digital accounting system, anchored/rooted in particular legalistic notions of ownership acquired from the long dead Roman Empire (e.g., ‘ownership’ is the right to use and abuse). The tenacity/appeal of notions of ownership can never be overstated.  Nor can the reach/efficacy and durability of global systems of digital credit/debt transaction.

Often it is said that the value of any particular national currency is a direct function of that nation’s net ability to produce. The industrial metaphor for is characterized by the image of a number of productive factory facilities delivering their surplus outputs (a model of ‘wealth’ for all). We as environmentalists have challenged this metaphor by introducing notions of ‘limits’/’irreplacability,’ ‘biological consequence’ and ‘aesthetics’.

However, in post-industrial/digital societies the anchoring ownership that underpins Capital also lays largely upon human indentureship (contractual slavery of the Willing).

While the flim-flam narratives that we are embedded within use digital communications to inject idealized notions of democracy and individualism into our civil life, the on-the-ground realities betray the truth. I note that America has been at war for seven years – without invoking the draft. There can be no greater demonstration of the Hegelian master/slave relationship than endless waves of young men and women eagerly marching to their deaths while their parents urge them onwards, for the greater good.

To conclude, I am suggesting that the downfall of the Republic does not mark the end of the Empire. Personally, my heart goes out to  all of the well-intended folks that embrace the devolution of industrial capitalism (Orlov-styled collapse) and a return to a stable biospheric dynamic.

But the primary motivating forces in human history have shown themselves to be dark, deceitful and insanely ambitious and we are nowhere near the End Game.

Speaking as one who, years ago, endured several long face-to-face conversations with survivors of the camps (WWII) I do not look forward to approaching instability with hope in my heart.  I am old and my time to die approaches soon enough – I am ready – it is the onslaught of misery for others that frightens me.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Posted in personal thoughts

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