Saturday, April 30, 2022

This blog brought to you by a special cookie.

 As I mentioned on Facebook, I use edibles to help me sleep. Most of the time they turn my thoughts into entertaining sludge, but occasionally they seem to bring a weird green clarity to my thinking (just before everything turns to entertaining sludge). Such an occasion chanced to happen the other night. 

What triggered it was my musing about The Big Sort.

Humans are a social species. As such, we are hardwired to seek out people like us, and to distrust people who aren't. Human history is a series of waxings and wanings of the size of the "like-us" group. At one point, it was our tribe of 100-150 people: everyone else was suspect. Gradually, over millennia and with time out for civilizational collapses, we've come to a point where we're provisionally able to accept the basic humanity of people on the other side of the planet, who speak a different language,  worship a different god, have a radically different culture and worldview. It's far from universal: hatred and war, obviously, still reign in places. But I'd argue the overall trend has been towards an integrated, connected world in which more and more people are considered "like us". Civil rights have especially proliferated in the last sixty years, leading this generation of people to imagine a skypie future where everyone is free to be who they are, marry who they love, and live as they wish. 

Neither history nor sociology nor ecology supports such a rosy prediction, I'm afraid.

I have little doubt the Romans thought themselves invincible -- the word does derive from Latin, after all -- and look how vinced they ended up. I'd like to propose a rough and ready equivalency: to be Roman in the late Empire was as being an American, or Westerner, is today. We're at the top of the global heap, which earns us envy and resentment in equal measure...and that heap is in the process of rearranging itself, as history shows it periodically does. 

Rome is fascinating to me for its similarities and its differences. "Racism" as such wasn't really a thing in Rome: "Nubians" from the deepest darkest heart of Africa could attain citizenship every bit as easily as any other come-from-away (which is to say, not overly easily, but skin colour wasn't the issue). But classism was very much a Roman thing, as it generally is in human societies "advanced" enough to develop classes. 

Our world is very different because we've handed all of our levers of power and communication to the people at the very tippy-top...who, aided by foreign agents seeking to destabilize our polity, have at every turn fomented a culture war to prevent us 'plebes' from launching a class war. And I can be reasonably certain everyone reading this is a plebe. Even if you're a multimillionaire, you are an ant as far as the real power is concerned. 

We are currently losing trust in our public institutions and media, because we've belatedly realized that the powers that be really don't have our best interests at heart or in mind.

 What do you do when the larger world around you seems hostile? You make your world smaller, that's what you do. And how do you do it? Do you include people who don't share your culture and values? Probably not. At its worst, this is some class of bigotry, but it must be acknowledged that it's inherent, to a certain degree, in humanity. It just doesn't make evolutionary sense to instinctively trust that strange person who's probably not trusting you. 

This process is accelerating in America. Consider just one example: abortion.

Some states are busily making it so that women who live in those states have fewer rights than corpses. (You can't take anything out of a corpse, even to save someone else's life, without express written consent from that corpse before it became a corpse). Oklahoma was alarmed at all the Texans flooding over their border to 'murder' 'babies' since in Texas now, you can rape your 12 year old daughter and collect ten grand if she dares to do something about it! Plus legal fees! Hey, get enough people to help her do something about and you can sue 'em all! So Oklahoma passed a version of Texas's law. Meanwhile, Connecticut has stated it will become a sanctuary state for women seeking abortion. I'm calling it Aunt Tam's Railway. 

Expect a lot more of this. Red states are getting redder, blue states are getting bluer, and at some point the "United" States will reorganize itself into a collection of smaller jurisdictions. This will happen in Canada, as well. It will, in fact, happen worldwide, higgledy piggledy. 

It will have to. Because globalism finally rests exposed as the sham it is.

Don't get me wrong. Globalism was sold to us as the way to increase living standards worldwide, and it has, by and large, done so. But it also adversely affected some people who were already lower class in the United States and Canada, and those people are raising a stink. That stink does have racist overtones, of course, but the reflexive instinct for those of us on the left is to dismiss the whole thing as racist, when it really, really isn't. Let's have an adult conversation about immigration, and what's coming, very shortly.

I'd like to ask four questions for your consideration. 

Here's one: does it make sense to encourage immigration -- documented or otherwise -- into an area such as California that is in a decades long drought, is already restricting water, and will soon have to ration it?

Here's another. Does it make sense to encourage immigration -- documented or otherwise -- into a country where housing is completely unaffordable to all but a fraction of a percentage of its native citizens? 

Question three. Does it make sense to encourage immigration -- documented or otherwise -- and simultaneously demand higher wages? Immigration drives down wages: it's not racist or bigoted to make that observation, it's supply and demand. And yes, I am fully aware we pay undocumented immigrants shit wages to do many jobs we outright refuse to do, but that's far from all immigrants. I'm also very much aware that "supply and demand" is a capitalistic concept that's easily overcome with legislation, but nobody will ever choose to make that legislation because they would lose money doing it. Such is the inevitable consequence of government infection with the hypercapitalist virus. 

Question four: What makes anyone think they're going to have a choice about immigration as the years unspool?

We're damned lucky here for the moment. War is elsewhere. That war is affecting us in terms of higher fuel prices, which means higher prices for everything...but shells and missiles are not landing our our homes. 

Many people far from Russia and Ukraine are going to be casualties of this war -- quite likely many more casualties elsewhere than in the actual areas fighting.  Why? Food scarcity. We have this globalist system that necessitates trading with less than savoury nations. Russia and Ukraine collectively supply slightly more grain to the world than the United States and Canada. Pretty much all of that is off the table, which leaves the table much barer for many people. Russia supplies 27% of the world's nitrogen-derived fertilizer. Good luck getting that even in the Midwestern U.S. at present. And so on and so on and so on...and this is only one war. China's about due to say enough is enough and appropriate Taiwan for good. Other nations are likely to look to war as their populations insulate and their prospects dim. 

The Russia/Ukraine war is the largest mass migration in Europe since World War Two. It's going to push other migrations in many parts of the Third World. And it's a tiny drop in the ocean when weighed against the coming climate migration. There are going to be an awful lot of people -- people who don't look a thing "like us" and don't think much "like us" -- invading "our space" because theirs has become uninhabitable for one or more very pressing reasons. I'd love to think we'd treat these people the way Poland is currently treating Ukrainians. I'm stupid, but I'm far from that stupid. Because at that point it's going to be abundantly clear to everyone: there is not enough. Sociology tells you what happens next. 

I hate to belabour the obvious, but it didn't have to be this way. There is ABUNDANT wealth on this planet, more than enough for eight billion people to live comfortably. Put pithily: there is room for billions. There is not room for billionaires. There is not room for any corporation to be worth a billion dollars, either. But we are so much products of this pervasive system we've created, there is a mass failure of imagination. Communism or company towns, take your pick. 

This binary thinking is somehow blinding us to current events.  Either we all perish next weekend or (a very few people still believe) we inherit our Destiny In The Stars (tm). The idea of decline is all but unthinkable, even as it occurs all around us.

Social media has hastened the Big Sort. We tend no longer to associate with people who see the world differently. Both sides believe the other to be evil and stupid. What I'm going to be exploring in the coming weeks and months: how the future might be bent positive, at least for those of us alive right now. I can't speak for anyone's unborn children: frankly, I think it's an act of striking optimism-slash-hubris to procreate at this point in human history. Your kids are not in for an easy ride even today.

This blog, which seems like the ramblings of a paranoiac but which I assure you is if anything understated, has been brought to you by a special cookie.  

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