Thought Control in Economics

The Delusion Revolution

The future we have been dreaming of is not based on reality.
The Delusion Revolution
Mike Mills, Let's Be Human Beings, 2003, Photo: Todd Cole

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Imagine you are riding comfortably on a sleek train. You look out the window and see that the tracks end abruptly not too far ahead ... The train will derail if it continues. You suggest the train stop immediately and the passengers go forward on foot. This will require a major shift in everyone’s way of traveling, of course, but you see it as the only realistic option. To continue barreling forward is to court catastrophic consequences. But when you propose this course of action, others – who have grown comfortable riding on the train – say, “We like the train, and arguing that we should get off is not realistic.”

In the contemporary United States, we are trapped in a similar delusion. We are told that it is “realistic” to yield to the absurd idea that the systems we live in are the only systems possible or acceptable based on the fact that some people like them and wish them to continue. But what if our current level of first world consumption is exhausting the ecological basis for life? Too bad. The only “realistic” options are those that view this lifestyle as nonnegotiable. What if real democracy is not possible in a nation-state with 300 million people? Too bad. The only “realistic” options are those that view this way of organizing a polity as immutable. What if the hierarchies our lives are based on are producing extreme material deprivation for the oppressed and dull misery among the privileged? Too bad. The only “realistic” options are those that view hierarchy as inevitable.

Let me offer a different view of reality:

(1) We live in a system that, taken as a whole, is unsustainable – not only over the long haul but in the short term.

(2) Unsustainable systems cannot be sustained.

How’s that for a profound theoretical insight? Unsustainable systems can’t be sustained. It’s hard to argue with that. The important question is whether or not we live in a system that is truly unsustainable. There’s no way to definitively prove such a sweeping statement, but look around at what we’ve built and ask yourself whether you really believe this world can go forward indefinitely … or even for more than a few decades. Take a minute to ponder the end of cheap fossil energy, the lack of viable large-scale replacements for that energy and the ecological consequences of burning what remains of it. Consider the indicators of the health of the planet: groundwater contamination, topsoil loss, levels of toxicity. Factor in the widening inequality in the world, the intensity of the violence and the desperation that so many feel at every level of society.

Based on what you know about these trends, do you think this is a sustainable system? If you were to let go of your attachment to this world, is there any way to imagine this as a sustainable system? Considering all the ways you understand the world, is there anything in your field of perception that tells you we’re on the right track?

The important question is whether or not we live in a system that is truly unsustainable.

To be radically realistic in the face of all this is to recognize the failure of basic systems and to abandon the notion that all we need to do is recalibrate the institutions that structure our lives. The old future – the way we thought things would work out – truly is gone. The nation-state and capitalism are at the core of this unsustainable system, giving rise to the high-energy/mass-consumption configuration of privileged societies that has left us saddled with what James Howard Kunstler calls “a living arrangement with no future.” The future we have been dreaming of is not based on reality. Most of the world’s population – who don’t live with our privilege – has no choice but to face this reality. It’s time for us to come to terms with it.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity and All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice.

150 comments on the article “The Delusion Revolution”

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Anonymous

you claim he knows nothing of modern agriculture and hasn't done any research on this issue, but you fail to cite any research of your own. You attack him as an individual by trying to undermine his expertise by supposing he has never "stepped foot on a farm". I don't think it matters what the author has stepped on. Why is it that our western capitalist society is one of the best places to live on the planet? Perhaps it is partly tied to our levels of consumption, which could not possibly be enjoyed by everyone on the planet regardless of how capitalistic we all become--there simply aren't enough resources. Please think ; your arguments aren't even arguments--"groundwater contamination" you make an unsubstantiated claim and fail to examine the issue to any satisfactory degree (simply because something is on the decline doesn't mean it isn't still a problem, and also what is the cause of the decline? legislation brought about by activism?)"Topsoil loss" you attack his expertise on the issue, but not his claim"Levels of toxicity" you offer no data, but cast doubt and move on, but not before you create the false dilemma of Norilsk or Philadelphia (it should be noted that another Russian city--Moscow--has more billionaires than any other city in the world...not that I think billionaires are a good thing). Then you really seal the argument by casting the author as a disaffected teeny-bopper--hard hitting stuff, I think that got down to the issues.

Anonymous

you claim he knows nothing of modern agriculture and hasn't done any research on this issue, but you fail to cite any research of your own. You attack him as an individual by trying to undermine his expertise by supposing he has never "stepped foot on a farm". I don't think it matters what the author has stepped on. Why is it that our western capitalist society is one of the best places to live on the planet? Perhaps it is partly tied to our levels of consumption, which could not possibly be enjoyed by everyone on the planet regardless of how capitalistic we all become--there simply aren't enough resources. Please think ; your arguments aren't even arguments--"groundwater contamination" you make an unsubstantiated claim and fail to examine the issue to any satisfactory degree (simply because something is on the decline doesn't mean it isn't still a problem, and also what is the cause of the decline? legislation brought about by activism?)"Topsoil loss" you attack his expertise on the issue, but not his claim"Levels of toxicity" you offer no data, but cast doubt and move on, but not before you create the false dilemma of Norilsk or Philadelphia (it should be noted that another Russian city--Moscow--has more billionaires than any other city in the world...not that I think billionaires are a good thing). Then you really seal the argument by casting the author as a disaffected teeny-bopper--hard hitting stuff, I think that got down to the issues.

ReasonRebel

The title of this article, "The Delusion Revolution", is probably more suiting than Robert Jensen intended. Only the deluded could possibly believe in such nonesense.

The train analogy only works should the "derailment" be certain. In this case it is not. Simply stating the world is coming to an end or that our economic model is doomed to failure is not enough. Let's see something other than "faith" based assumptions that would indicate internationally or domestically that our "system" is on its way to self destruction. The problem with "revolution" of this sort, much like global warming alarmism, is that it cannot stand up to analysis and instead relies on gimmicks, romanticism, and emotions to gain credibility among youth who are easily impressionable.

A far more realistic analogy might be:

Imagine yourself on a train that has been chugging along its route for decades when all of a sudden some lunatic on the train begins yelling about crashing and derailment. Should you rely on the lunatic's information, or instead look to the highly trained conductor of the train who is able to see more clearly the route ahead? ReasonRebel

ReasonRebel

The title of this article, "The Delusion Revolution", is probably more suiting than Robert Jensen intended. Only the deluded could possibly believe in such nonesense.

The train analogy only works should the "derailment" be certain. In this case it is not. Simply stating the world is coming to an end or that our economic model is doomed to failure is not enough. Let's see something other than "faith" based assumptions that would indicate internationally or domestically that our "system" is on its way to self destruction. The problem with "revolution" of this sort, much like global warming alarmism, is that it cannot stand up to analysis and instead relies on gimmicks, romanticism, and emotions to gain credibility among youth who are easily impressionable.

A far more realistic analogy might be:

Imagine yourself on a train that has been chugging along its route for decades when all of a sudden some lunatic on the train begins yelling about crashing and derailment. Should you rely on the lunatic's information, or instead look to the highly trained conductor of the train who is able to see more clearly the route ahead? ReasonRebel

Anonymous

Hey - it's nice to see there are some "others" out there. Us "non-believers" have an uphill battle ahead of us, but eventually reason will prevail.

Anonymous

Hey - it's nice to see there are some "others" out there. Us "non-believers" have an uphill battle ahead of us, but eventually reason will prevail.

Anonymous

Thanks for your superstitious "curse" on my eternity. I do not harbour such hatred for any person. It is my hope that you come to enlightenment while you still have enough of your life remaining to do something meaningful outside of "culture jamming." ...but given how shallow and inane your thought process must be (not being self-aware enough to realize that you are tolerant of everything except dissent) that isn't likely.

Anonymous

Thanks for your superstitious "curse" on my eternity. I do not harbour such hatred for any person. It is my hope that you come to enlightenment while you still have enough of your life remaining to do something meaningful outside of "culture jamming." ...but given how shallow and inane your thought process must be (not being self-aware enough to realize that you are tolerant of everything except dissent) that isn't likely.

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