Kiap nation builders do not need a memorial
The desperate & deadly streets of Moresby

The lone and level sands stretch far away


ADELAIDE – It seems indisputable that the ruling and business elites have given up on climate change.

By their calculus, the potential cure (massive decarbonisation and an associated massive restructuring of the economy) is much worse than the disease because it will necessarily restrict their ability to make a great deal of money.

Also, to be brutally honest, citizens in the developed world are not going to accept a conscious decision to embrace a life in which there is much less ‘stuff’.

Stuff includes almost everything you can buy and everyday convenience: whether it is the stuff you can buy in a department store, mass tourism in its various forms (cruising the seas in enormous ships, flying overseas for holidays, driving all over the country towing a caravan) or consuming water in plastic bottles.

The truth is that we can have very comfortable lives without most of the things the marketing industry works so hard to persuade us is ‘the stuff we need’.

We older folk mostly know this because, when we were young, our lives were simpler.

But the up and coming generations are committed to paying off idiotically high mortgages, shiny new cars and the latest smart phones.

They are unlikely to get off the economic treadmill for long enough to consider whether their ceaseless striving for ‘success’, however measured, is worth the effort.

Of course, the irony is that restrictions on much of this stuff are going to be mandated whatever we desire.

A 3ºC rise in average temperatures across the globe will kill many of us or, at the very least, make most of the planet so inhospitable as to be effectively uninhabitable.

As for Covid, we all know that a tradeoff has been made between the economy and death, disability and the costs associated with the disease.

There is tacit agreement across our society that the deaths of old fogies like us is a price that society is willing and able to pay to be able to get back to cruising, flying to Bali and going out to dinner in crowded restaurants free of pesky restrictions like masks.

The burden of this tradeoff falls disproportionately upon the elderly, those with chronic illnesses and the disabled. These people are not important economic units, either for production or consumption, so their demise is deemed to be of no great consequence.

So the great neo-liberal capitalist machine will thunder on for now until it reaches the true limits of sustainable growth and begins to self-destruct under the sheer weight of its inherent flaws and contradictions.

What is styled as ‘Western civilization’ will, just like the great civilizations that have gone before it, collapse in the face of a catastrophic failure to be able to support the vast edifice of human greed and folly it has created.

I am reminded of Percy Shelley’s famous poem ‘Ozymandias’:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Perhaps those who lead us today should reflect upon Shelley’s words.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

I think we can all agree that the condition of humanity in the world today can be very depressing.

Becoming depressed by the latest folly of our species is not only an intellectual response but a visceral one too.

The word visceral relates to deep inward feelings that happen automatically without the benefit of reasoning.

Whenever I see an image of Donald Trump these days I get a sickening feeling in my stomach and I have to turn away.

It used to be anger but now it’s just unthinking disgust.

A few other individuals invoke the same response. Scott Morrison does the same thing. I can’t stand to look at him or listen to him. Same thing with Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart.

It’s a curious reaction. I can’t recall experiencing it before. George Bush came close but he was just a clown. John Howard simply reminded me of an FJ Holden, round head with teeth.

Maybe it’s my age? Is tolerance an actual thing that wears out as one gets old? I suspect so.

Or maybe it’s an instinctive thing that’s been buried in my psyche and has only just surfaced because of the dire times.

I mean, we’ve had a never ending parade of stomach churning individuals passing in and out of the public sphere for years but I can’t remember any that have been able to evince such a severe reaction.

I can watch Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and all the other bogey men presented in the sensationalist media without the slightest feeling of nausea.

With them it’s actually morbid fascination. Even if they are as evil as we are led to believe they are still very interesting.

It’s the same with all those morbidly obese politicians in both Australia and Papua New Guinea. At worst their sweaty visages and bullshit only induce a slight feeling of dyspepsia.

With them it’s not the evil that’s interesting but the stupidity.

Some people are magnets for stupidity. Climate change deniers spring to mind. Anti-vaxxers too. Conspiracy theorists of all kinds. Tony Abbott. Pauline Hanson.

They all exude a mysterious perfume that is hard on the nostrils but nowhere near the stench that the images of Trump and his compatriots fart from their visages.

I hardly watch television these days, not only because of its banality but because I don’t particularly want to come across any of these characters.

Maybe I should give up social media too and just do my own thing until the day the flash on the horizon and the mushroom cloud signals an end to it all.

Before that happens it would be nice to just have a year or two of respite from all the corrupt charlatans of the world though.

And pigs might fly.

Paul Oates

Maybe there is a third option Phil. Reading and researching evolution material, it seems to indicate that using the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest and given the oncoming train wreck, maybe it is a pivot point for some of us who are nearing 10 billion mark to work out that we have to stop over breeding and keep within the available resources.

Many developed nations are now at that point but those in charge (read business leaders), are screaming that they don't have a work force and why don't we import more from the nations that continue to over populate?

I maintain we need to restructure our political system and reduce terms in office to no more then two terms. Stop all political donations and the giving free, subsidized funds to moribund political parties on the number of votes they receive in an election. This is graft by another name.

All it takes is for us to elect those who support this proposal to make their voices heard and the system will rectify itself. Why settle for another mass extinction?

Hello....where is everyone? Sorry, there's another bloody football match on. Bread and circuses win the day yet again.

Chris Overland

Thanks for your comment, Phil.

Caitlin Johnston's article should be compulsory reading for all Australians. It is clear, concise and eloquent. Above all, it reflects an absolutely correct understanding of the situation now confronting our species.

Sadly, I can't imagine our business and political elites either reading it or taking it seriously, hence my reference to Percy Shelley's poem.

Philip Fitzpatrick

This is an extract from an article written by Caitlin Johnston posted on John Menadue’s ‘Pearls and Irritations’ today. It’s an apt comment.

Caitlin is a reader-supported independent journalist from Melbourne, Australia who now lives in the US. Her political writings can be found on Medium.

“The claim that capitalism is the best system for generating profits is basically correct; it’s hard to beat greed and starvation as a carrot and stick to get the gears of industry whirring.

"The issue here is that merely generating profits won’t solve most of the world’s problems, and in fact many of our problems come from the fact that capitalism is too effective at turning the gears of industry.

"Our biosphere is dying largely because capitalism values making lots of things but not un-making things; we’re choking our ecosystem to death because it’s profitable.

"Capitalism has no real answers for problems like ecocide, inequality, exploitation and caring for the needful. Yes 'let the markets decide' will generate lots of profits for those set up to harvest them, but profit-seeking cannot address those very serious problems.

"The 'invisible hand of the market' gets treated as an actual deity that actually exists, with all the wisdom necessary to solve the world’s problems, but in reality the pursuit of money lacks any wisdom. It can’t solve our major problems, it can only make more stuff and generate more profit.

"Find me a capitalist business plan for leaving a forest untouched. Find me a capitalist business plan for keeping someone free of illness, for ensuring that someone with nothing gets what they need, for giving resources to a struggling parent. You can’t.

"Capitalism can’t do this. These are the most important things in the world, and no possible iteration of capitalism has any solutions for any of them whatsoever, apart from 'well hopefully rich people will feel very charitable and fix those problems'. And how is that solution working out? It’s a joke.

"The 'maybe the very rich will feel charitable and fix our problems for us' solution assumes that the very same people who are wired to do whatever it takes to claw their way to the top of the ladder will suddenly start caring deeply about everyone they stepped on to get there.

"Capitalism elevates sociopaths, because profit-seeking competition-based systems reward those who are willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead.

"That’s why we are ruled by sociopaths, and it’s why looking to 'philanthropy' as a solution to our problems is a ridiculous joke.

"When capitalism proponents tell socialists and communists 'you don’t understand economics', what they really mean is 'you don’t understand that capitalism is the best system for generating profits'.

"But socialists and communists do understand this; it’s just that generating profits, in and of itself, is not sufficient.

"If lack of wealth is your major problem, then capitalism can be a tool to address it; that’s what China is temporarily doing to keep up economically with the western forces who wish to enslave it.

"But such measures won’t solve ecocide, inequality, exploitation, and caring for the needful. For that other measures are needed.

"If you want to make more of something (money, material goods), then capitalism can be a good way to do that.

"But if you need to make less of something (pollution, inequality, exploitation, sickness, homelessness, etc.) it’s worthless, and other systems must be looked to.

"You can say, 'But communist regimes are authoritarian blah blah' all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that capitalism has zero answers for the most important problems facing our species. This still needs to be addressed, and moaning about Mao and Stalin isn’t an answer.

"Don’t like the iterations of socialism we’ve seen so far? Okay. Then find another answer, and remember we’ve already established that capitalism is not an answer; it cannot address the problems we’ve discussed here. So we need to find an actual answer that does actually work.

"Dismantling capitalism, if we ever achieve it, will be the most difficult thing that humanity has ever accomplished. As hard as everyone becoming a Buddha, and essentially not much different. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is existentially necessary for us to do so.

"We’ll either move from competition-based systems to collaboration-based ones, eliminating all the obstacles necessary for us to do so, or we will go extinct. We are at our adapt-or-die juncture as a species.”

Bernard Corden

"Society cares for the individual only so far as he is profitable" - Simone de Beauvoir

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