[Marxism] Nader and Peak Oil

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Thu Jun 5 17:30:43 MDT 2008


"So....JB...you getting like Obama, very flowery words, little
substance. So...'values'???
Care to elaborate? Besides adopting the terminology of the last
Republican primary battle
I'm sure you have something more in mind and relatively more
progressive. Care to share?"

I'm sure if I tried I could give tons of examples counterposing
"freedom from wanting" to "freedom from want." But I've been over this
ground a lot on the list, and anyways, it's not original, it's the
pretty standard Cuban critique of U.S. consumerism and how it messes
with you mind. The point is capitalism DRIVES people psychologically
to "want" all kinds of things that in no rational way it could be said
they "need," for example, being surrounded by several tons of metal to
transport a payload of a 50 or 70 or 100 kilo body, one person. A lot
of it is structural, but mostly it's about convincing you that your
half-empty 20 gig iPod is a piece of shit because now a 40 gig model
has come out, and it has a little green light or fleck and everyone
can see you're listening to last year's model.

It's rebelling against media-conglomerate-imposed faddism that tells
you the way to prove your individual worth is by accepting the latest

Becuaset this socially imposed consumerist bulimia ALSO crowds out all
sorts of other things, like the enjoyment of just associating with
others, and forces people into a mindset where they measure their
self-worth by what things they have. It's the ultimate expression of
commodity fetishism --your self-worth is measured by the things you
own-- and you accept the capitalist monopolies' definition of what
those things are "worth."

This is all rooted in the capitalist mode of production, and its need
to continually expand, which constantly creates new "needs," partly
rational on some level, but most often irrational. For example, given
how U.S. society is physically laid out and interconnected, a car is
mostly a "necessity" right now in a very real sense, at least in
places like Atlanta. But nobody "needs" a hummer, or one of these many
other models that are hyper-computerized and ultra-motorized so that
the window opens with the bat of an eyelash. Putting a few EXTRA tons
of steel, a couple of dozen motors and processors to control them,
etc. etc. etc., in a car is a use of resources that competes, among
other things, with getting a vehicle that can get, say, 100km/liter or
a couple hundred miles a gallon. When measured against the actual
energy and resources required to deliver the payload --the human
being-- to a destination at a distance of one, five, ten or 100 miles
from the starting point, a car is an absolutely insane misallocation
of resources, but even granting that, accepting that, U.S. cars are
insane misallocation of resources compared to the individual vehicular
transportation that could exist were production approached not from
the angle of maximizing profits but maximizing the yield from the
expenditure of labor and consumption of resources.

What people need to understand is that this waste of resources has all
sorts of negative "externalities" --to use the capitalist economists'
term of art-- from causing climate change to killing babies by the
thousands in the third world. Because the resources needed to build
their drinking water and to educate their parents on making water safe
are instead being used so that you don't have to operate a hand crank
to roll down a car window.

What I mean by "values," frankly, is something that I thought would be
easily understood. Like "live simply so that others may simply live."
But these projected as values for society as a whole, rather than
solely individual commitments, although I do believe also they should
find reflection even on an individual level, because I can't see
someone being very convincing about society needing to change in this
way if they jump into a hummer after giving a very rousing speech as a
green advocate.

And it means, yes, returning at least some to the counter-cultural,
"pirate" ethos of  the youth culture of the 60's. NOT buying CD's and
DVD's with all their wasteful packaging and merchandising when you can
download them. Sharing, not so much the latest teeny bopper sensation
but things like the Pilger documentaries which are impossible to get
(at a reasonable price) in the U.S., the "Eyes on the Prize" PBS
series on the Civil Rights Movement and similar works which can't be
legally distributed because of copyright issues or just because the
bourgeois media monopolies don't want you to have them.


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