Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who Needs a Rapture, When You've Got Reality?

Many of us don't really think too hard about how global problems can come home to roost in our localities. This might be a matter of just not being able to process the breadth and depth of issues that are happening around the world. We as a culture, perhaps even as a species seem to be unable to assess risk to the future from our present actions and inaction. We do not see the future consequences of action and inaction because we are not conditioned to project for the future based on available data. Before this year began, I wrote down some pretty general predictions. I will repost the essay here. It was entitled "Patterns for 2011" and was written on Tuesday, December 28th.

2011 will be a very interesting year. There are many patterns in flux internationally, nationally and locally and it will be a year of direct and intense change and challenge. We’ll go local first, then zoom out. Locally, we will have to become both more interdependent and self-reliant. With budget cuts looming, we will see a lot more of our state-run social services staggering from the impact. Since needs don’t just go away, there will be a lot more people pushed to the edge in terms of their mental, financial and emotional resources. The question locally is who will try to pick up the tab? Will we attempt to ignore our neighbors sliding into a hole and hope we’re not next, or will we attempt to bridge the gap and help to supply our assets and abilities to help each person in the community become more self-sufficient and honored? Each choice, each action or inaction literally oozes consequences.

It seems like Portland has the capability to come together to solve our issues, but if it doesn’t benefit each individual financially, will we have the will? This is also unclear, as the global financial unravelling continues to impact many in the community. No year more than this year when we see the real on the ground results of the budget cuts. It seems that the community could use some unity, and my belief is that this year, a lot of individuals are going to be coming to similar conclusions. Acting locally, working in collaboration with others, and moving quickly towards a more sustainable way of life will be huge keynotes for people in Portland this year. Expect to see a lot more Portland people planting gardens, and a lot more community involvement in general. The people will have a voice this year, and expect the more traditional Portland street protest culture to re-emerge, but in interesting ways. I see more protests symbolizing the world we want to create together. Protests of expression, music and good will.

Let’s zoom out to the national stage now. What’s going on there? Well, honestly things are not looking so good there. Two states might go bankrupt this year if not more, California and Illinois are teetering on the edge of an abyss. There is unlikely to be much accomplished in the next congress that benefits those states that are caught with their financial house in terminal disarray. We will see a very oppositional political system at the very time that quick reaction is necessary. This means that emergencies will come up, and be ignored for the sake of political points. Plus, even as our congress moves towards a deadlock, more and more information is coming out about the United States less than exemplary behavior on the world stage. So at a time when many around the world will be watching us closely, we’ll be caught up in intense infighting.

So, our power at a nation is slipping based in large part on our decisions as a nation, some that were made in secret and some that were not. Wikileaks is currently embarrassing the US on the world stage and the reaction of the US at the exposure of our secrets has been to attempt to suppress the whistle-blowers rather than admit it’s own moral and ethical failings. In the meantime we miss the fact that Wikileaks is a danger to all the world’s political leaders and could one day be instrumental in bringing real change to political practices in some of the more totalitarian places on the globe. If we can accept our own dirty laundry, acknowledge it and move on, that would be the best possible face that the US can show to the world. But my feeling is that the US government will probably try to shoot the messenger, maybe literally. Which would lead to total disintegration as a trustworthy player in global politics. Honestly, it might be too late to reverse that already.

Zoom out again. The world stage is fraught with tension, the weakening of the US on the world stage is bringing out some real intensity from the rest of the world. China is both ascending politically and weakening it’s grip on dissenting voices domestically. This will continue as more and more of the Chinese people break down the Great Firewall of China. Europe is crumbling, as whole nations are being forced to pay off bad bets on behalf of finance, and the people are none too happy about it. Expect pitched battles on the streets and the challenge of governments through both peaceful and violent means on the continent. In the Middle East something has got to give, and we’re likely to see some open hostility there especially as the price of oil goes up. Which it will. N. Korea is the joker in this deck of nations, a nuclear armed state that seems to be directly lifted from the pages of George Orwell’s 1984. We can only hope that the military there decides they don’t want to follow the fat child of Kim Jong Il.

But nations are nothing like the whole story, the global picture is a world of fixed material resources and the idea that we can expand and grow in our current industrial paradigm infinitely. 2010 was the approach to those limits, but we are more fully entrenched in them in 2011, which means that entirely new patterns of relating and consuming on the planet are about to become more and more necessary. If this coming year needs a name it’s the year of the wall. As we continue to slide on the peak of global oil production, we need to go to more and more intense places to slake the world’s thirst. We are finally at the point where the downward slide of the supply curve starts coming into the game.

So bringing this back to the here and now. This year is going to be intense and will demand action and participation. We as a people and as a community can’t wait for solutions to arrive, we’re all being called to be the solution and to do it in any way we can. Enjoy this time of crisis and remember that it is also a time of opportunity. You hold a piece of the puzzle in your hands, heart and head and you’re going to have to take it to the community and see where it fits. I predict a tremendous growing season in 2011 so plant your seeds well, and grow an exceptional garden.

I wrote this just based on observations made in 2010. What I still feel is important is coming together with some unity towards taking care of our local needs locally, but there's not much money in that, and this is a problem. There is a good chance of the bottom falling out this year as the much-touted "Economic Recovery" begins to unravel. It's just not based on a firm foundation, and therefore will not hold up as more pieces begin falling down. The big spark to social unrest will be food this year. Almost all the food commodities are going up and up, and there's been pretty spectacular failures of crops based on what used to be rare weather events around the world. In the developed world, we'll grin and bear the higher costs, but in places where people are making a dollar a day or less, we'll start seeing more and more massive social unrest. That's all for now.

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