earthThe election of Trump presents very challenging times ahead for those of us who care about the planet, human rights, equality and peace. He represents the raw face of corporate power over people and the environment, the veneer of civil democracy has been torn away and in its place we are seeing an aggressive oligarchy of corporate interests gain control of the very formal institutions designed to restrain them. 

There’s no doubt that western power (US, UK, Europe) is in decline and has been for some time, and that of itself has not been a bad thing, at a minimum it would have simply required the US to share power with other nations rather than assume a role of unilateral global policeman. The decline of western power could have been a steady and graceful senescence but it won’t be now. My studies of complexity theory tell me that we are hurtling toward abrupt collapse. I see Trump as the US equivalent of Boris Yelstin, a dangerous populist who will oversee collapse into chaos. But Trump is more dangerous by far, because the very chaos he is promoting is a free-for-all for globalised corporations. 

Conservatism is a maladaptive virus. At the very moment when a nation or culture needs to see the challenges facing it, and its own potential decline and respond in an intelligent adaptive way, conservatives start trying to run backwards up the pipe. It never works and it always accelerates the very collapse they are trying to delay. Those people in middle America who felt so much anger at their declining living standards and voted for Trump are going to be some of the ones most hurt by the new corporate oligarchy they have unleashed. Buying into meaningless reactionary chants like “Make America Great Again or “Deutschland Uber Alles” or “Rise up Australia” is a road to violence and suffering. This kind of jingoistic fascism is one of history’s uglier diseases of civilisation. 

Enough of the gloom though, how can we best respond? Despair is a luxury that history doesn’t offer us, we need to accept our time and place and search always for positive adaptation. When societies move closer to the edge of chaos, they also enter a phase in which abrupt shifts (for better or worse) are not only possible but highly likely. 

climate-denialFirst we need to understand just why climate change denial is so prevalent and how fossil fuel corruption plays a part in this drama. The control of the supply of fuel has been the lynch pin of the American century, oil in particular. In an energy hungry world, whoever controlled the fuel supply controlled the world and this has been the US obsession since WW2. 

Climate change is the great disrupter. Climate change denial is driven entirely by the vested interests of the fossil fuel sector and their traditional embedded relationship with US military and political strategies. Renewable energy doesn’t only offer us a chance to have a cleaner atmosphere and a more sustainable world, it also threatens to make fuel much less important. This is why there’s a multi-billion dollar denial industry, some corporations and political constituencies simply don’t want to transition at all. 

The historic power of European societies owed much to scientific empiricism, but now we are seeing a retreat from rational thinking and a retreat from truth itself. With Trump and climate denial we are living in a post-truth world. We can’t know exactly how destructive the West’s flirtation with corporate fascism is going to become, but we do know that it has no answers for the people who voted for it. 

We need to consciously build new movements that can offer our societies empirically sound, adaptive and inclusive alternatives to denial. They will eventually come looking for answers and we had better have a diverse range of experiments on the go when they do. The climate change movement has the potential to become the lightening rod around which a very diverse social movement can emerge to offer sound, empiric and practical alternatives to a diseased political culture, but first we need to reflect on how we have all contributed to Trumpism, Brexit and One Nation. 

Social media has given us all the ability to select our news sources and to gravitate to social networks that support our personal biases. This is how climate deniers have become so deluded, but it has been happening to us all. When we hide in our greenie, leftie or feminist social media and information enclaves we start to also construct a political echo chamber for ourselves that not only makes us less open to others views and less engaging with difference but that actually excludes the vast majority that we should be trying to influence. Ask yourself what diversity in politics means to you? Does it simply mean including traditionally excluded minority groups (as it should) or does it also extend outwards to the mainstream of your society and build bridges with people who may not immediately share your perspective? 

We on the left aren’t even always kind and respectful to each other on social media, bashing each other over the latest artefact of political correctness and often engaging in pack mentality against those who challenge our foundational narratives. 

Our victory at Bentley was a great model for us all. Firstly and most importantly it was a victory against the very fossil fuel industry that threatens our planet and our democracies. But more importantly it was built on genuine social inclusiveness. Farmers, greenies, indigenous communities, meat-eaters, cis males and cis females as well as the gender diverse, office workers, national party voters, nurses and teachers, the unemployed, local businesses. We learned to put aside our differences to build community and protect what is dear to us. We built a vision of community and mobilised to defend it. 

good vibes open mindsWe can’t choose our time in history but we can choose to open our minds to new people, new information and new perspectives. We are facing a battle between people and global corporate power. It’s been coming for a long time but now it shows its teeth in full view. It is time to back off from choosing small targets from amongst our own communities to serve as our symbols of what we hate about the wider world, whether it’s racism, patriarchy, heteronormativity or any other battle line, our battles in the future are not primarily with our neighbours they are with the larger institutions of a very corrupt and truth denying version of capitalism.

We won’t win this by point scoring on our pet issues against our neighbours on social media. When we open our minds and hearts to diversity, including inviting the mainstream in, we will build new movements, attract new supporters and transform our politics like we did with the gasfield-free campaign. Even many pro- capitalists will join us as they too can see that fossil fuel industry protectionism and cronyism is destroying the innovative and competitive market that they value as much as it is destroying the planet.

So I’m sorry if the new year looks like a lot of work, but I think that it will be. Let’s learn from our successes and our unity in diversity at Bentley and build our communities towards resilience and let’s choose our battles, respect our neighbours, respect those that we have disagreements with and let’s embrace a new understanding of diversity that calls in as many people as we can from what we may have seen as the mainstream.

“You got to ask yourself, what’s the priority?
The change you wanna see or who you want to be seen to be?” (Urthboy “On your Shoulders”)


First published in The Nimbin Good Times, January, 2017.


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