Monday, May 4, 2009

What's at Stake

One starts off fighting for some relatively small thing – to establish a pedestrian-oriented town square, to protect a watershed, to head off yet another sprawling subdivision and strip mall. Gradually one realizes that one is fighting battle after battle against politically-connected elites who have the money and time to press their agendas until they get what they want; fighting against an omnipotent, rabidly-defended belief in the Growth Economy; indeed, fighting a war against the main trajectory of one's society.

It may be useful to ask what animates the opposition. I would say that at root is the primary – if seldom acknowledged – end-product of the Growth Economy: fear of being useless, without purpose, bound and fettered to a Leviathan that remorselessly destroys our needs for one-another no less effectively than it dismantles self-reliance.

Let us remember that Development is not the final aim of the planners and architects and contractors – they want something meaningful and creative to do with their lives. Nor is Development the end goal of the carpenters and drywallers and plumbers – they want be needed by others so they can earn a living. Development is not even the ultimate objective of those who develop to amass great wealth – they are merely hell-bent on gaining respect in a society that has made virtues of the Seven Deadly Sins.

I am coming to the conclusion that we will inevitably loose on the small things if we do not win the war. Given the stranglehold of Growth-fed media on the public consciousness, however, chances are slim that advocates for a sustainable way of life will be widely heard above the stupefying clamor of Commerce. If humankind is lucky, the limits of energy, natural resources, and/or debt will – in relatively short order – collapse the Growth Economy without widespread suffering and loss of life. But will Man learn from the experience that we are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to our disposition to put moral chains upon our own appetites?