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 had to go full Nazi right away didn't you? Never go full Nazi. Everybody knows that. 200 species go extinct. This is interesting because a prominent conservationist admitted in Science magazine that "the lack of data does worry me." (He wanted to remain anonymous because that doesn't fit with the other Biologists' doomsday dogma.) They simply don't know - a senior biologist assumes some doomsday measure of extinction, and then literally says "Believe me, species become extinct" (Mann 1991: 737). In Brazil's Atlantic rainforest - where there is only a very fragmented 12% of the original forest still standing, the Brazilian Society of Zoology "could not find a single known animal species which could be properly declared as extinct..." (Brown and Brown 1991: 126). Primary forest in Puerto Rico was reduced by 99% and they ended up with more species of birds than before (Lugo 1988:66). The stance of the IUCN (the World Conservation Union) is that "actual extinction rates remain low" (Heywood and Stewart 1992: 201). In fact there are more species on Mother Earth at present than at any time in the planet's history (UNEP 1995: 204-5). Doomsday liberals would have us believe that our Capitalist ways have wrought death and destruction on our Earth. Loonies like Paul Ehrlich predicted that 50% of all species would die by 2000 and that Earth would be bereft of life by 2010 (Stork 1997: 62) and yet the misinformed eco-lemmings still listen to these charlatans. How's that for a train conductor. 50,000 humans perish every day from "deliberate policies." Any policies in particular? From the idiotic, deliberate ban of DDT alone, we're leaving roughly a million to die from Malaria each year - despite it's nearly imperceptible effect on cancer/death rates or bird populations (Doll and Peto 1981: 1,250). The largest, deliberate impact on human population, however will be the cash vacuum that is the Global Warmening movement. The billions of dollars that are currently wasted (to be trillions in the near future) on research, carbon trading schemes and tax "incentives" in a futile attempt to control mother nature could go toward worthy causes that would actually avert human suffering. As proven over and over throughout history - the best way to improve the standard of living for the masses is to embrace capitalism and allow it to flourish, providing income and security for the people.

Anonymous

You had to go full Nazi right away didn't you? Never go full Nazi. Everybody knows that. 200 species go extinct. This is interesting because a prominent conservationist admitted in Science magazine that "the lack of data does worry me." (He wanted to remain anonymous because that doesn't fit with the other Biologists' doomsday dogma.) They simply don't know - a senior biologist assumes some doomsday measure of extinction, and then literally says "Believe me, species become extinct" (Mann 1991: 737). In Brazil's Atlantic rainforest - where there is only a very fragmented 12% of the original forest still standing, the Brazilian Society of Zoology "could not find a single known animal species which could be properly declared as extinct..." (Brown and Brown 1991: 126). Primary forest in Puerto Rico was reduced by 99% and they ended up with more species of birds than before (Lugo 1988:66). The stance of the IUCN (the World Conservation Union) is that "actual extinction rates remain low" (Heywood and Stewart 1992: 201). In fact there are more species on Mother Earth at present than at any time in the planet's history (UNEP 1995: 204-5). Doomsday liberals would have us believe that our Capitalist ways have wrought death and destruction on our Earth. Loonies like Paul Ehrlich predicted that 50% of all species would die by 2000 and that Earth would be bereft of life by 2010 (Stork 1997: 62) and yet the misinformed eco-lemmings still listen to these charlatans. How's that for a train conductor. 50,000 humans perish every day from "deliberate policies." Any policies in particular? From the idiotic, deliberate ban of DDT alone, we're leaving roughly a million to die from Malaria each year - despite it's nearly imperceptible effect on cancer/death rates or bird populations (Doll and Peto 1981: 1,250). The largest, deliberate impact on human population, however will be the cash vacuum that is the Global Warmening movement. The billions of dollars that are currently wasted (to be trillions in the near future) on research, carbon trading schemes and tax "incentives" in a futile attempt to control mother nature could go toward worthy causes that would actually avert human suffering. As proven over and over throughout history - the best way to improve the standard of living for the masses is to embrace capitalism and allow it to flourish, providing income and security for the people.

Anonymous

Spoken like a true mammon worshiper who thinks the status quo, capitalistic liberal economics and centralized statist euphemistic 'democracy' are the best of all possible worlds, and there is no other sliced bread train worth riding, thereby deriding any who dare suggest the king is unfashionably butt naked. democracynow.org/2006/4/21/overthrow_americas_century_of_regime_change , democracynow.org/2006/5/8/part_ii_overthrow_americas_century_of

Anonymous

Spoken like a true mammon worshiper who thinks the status quo, capitalistic liberal economics and centralized statist euphemistic 'democracy' are the best of all possible worlds, and there is no other sliced bread train worth riding, thereby deriding any who dare suggest the king is unfashionably butt naked. democracynow.org/2006/4/21/overthrow_americas_century_of_regime_change , democracynow.org/2006/5/8/part_ii_overthrow_americas_century_of

Anonymous

Again, it is not progressive to whine. Why not suggest something. If you are to challenge the status quo then why not make an argument rather than simply complain.

Anonymous

Again, it is not progressive to whine. Why not suggest something. If you are to challenge the status quo then why not make an argument rather than simply complain.

Anonymous

I love the lack of perspective, self-awareness and balance in this crowd. We have a group of self-loathing, anti-capitalist liberals talking trash about western society in an attempt to self-flagellate themselves out from under their urban, white-burden conscience. This group is obsessed with any shortcomings of capitalism and modern democracies and attempts to use those issues as a bearing point for promoting radical, fantasy leftist agendas - as if the "worst crimes " of both systems are in any sense equal. If the vanguard of the capitalist society leaves you behind, at worst, you can make the choice to pick yourself back up and progress. If you're disaffected in a "socialist" state, you're one of millions that are purged, displaced, cleansed or otherwise erased because you're an enemy of the collective/people. So your approach is to attempt to push Western civilization as close as possible to Stalinism (which is the ONLY logical progression of socialism - both in theory and history) but back it off a bit? Tens of millions dying because they don't agree with one guy CAN be somewhat unconscionable - even for a hardcore liberal. I discuss these issues with my wife - who is from the former USSR - and she laughs at the prospect; socialism cannot exist without suspending people's rights. Sacrificing the individual at the altar of the collective.

Anonymous

I love the lack of perspective, self-awareness and balance in this crowd. We have a group of self-loathing, anti-capitalist liberals talking trash about western society in an attempt to self-flagellate themselves out from under their urban, white-burden conscience. This group is obsessed with any shortcomings of capitalism and modern democracies and attempts to use those issues as a bearing point for promoting radical, fantasy leftist agendas - as if the "worst crimes " of both systems are in any sense equal. If the vanguard of the capitalist society leaves you behind, at worst, you can make the choice to pick yourself back up and progress. If you're disaffected in a "socialist" state, you're one of millions that are purged, displaced, cleansed or otherwise erased because you're an enemy of the collective/people. So your approach is to attempt to push Western civilization as close as possible to Stalinism (which is the ONLY logical progression of socialism - both in theory and history) but back it off a bit? Tens of millions dying because they don't agree with one guy CAN be somewhat unconscionable - even for a hardcore liberal. I discuss these issues with my wife - who is from the former USSR - and she laughs at the prospect; socialism cannot exist without suspending people's rights. Sacrificing the individual at the altar of the collective.

Anonymous

We're given a wide latitude to express our opinions and beliefs in this country. But maybe we should revisit the Constitution. I'm not advocating censorship or Stalinism but the truth is, humans cannot be trusted to act rationally and logically.

Anonymous

We're given a wide latitude to express our opinions and beliefs in this country. But maybe we should revisit the Constitution. I'm not advocating censorship or Stalinism but the truth is, humans cannot be trusted to act rationally and logically.

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