Saturday, March 11, 2006

Do We Need the "Current State of Affairs" to have what we have?

Once and for all I want to know if all the "bad" of industrial society is really necessary to have all the "good things" (such as medicine, shelter, food, books, and even our technology of convenience, such as cars, elevators, trains, planes, telephones, internet)? It is often assumed, even stated, that the modern world, its luxuries and conveniences and life-enhancements, both in quality and quantity, could not exist without industrial capitalism and the way it currently operates. Is this true? This is a fundamental question that our societies must address (should already have addressed by now, actually). Ignoring the very notion for the time being that our "improvements and betterments" to living may actually lead to worse and meaningless modes of existence, ie the benefits we enjoy pale in comparison to the quality of a perhaps shorter but more meaningful existence that could exist in a world that had less convenience, less medicine, fewer all-consuming machines and minds, is there not a way to keep all these improvements but in such a way that the world and humanity actually sustain themselves indefinitely, and even repair the damage done? Is there not a way capitalism, or a system like it, could work more sustainably ? Has anyone read anything along these lines? An analysis of aspects of the current state of affairs and whether or not a change in it is possible and if so what might be sacrificed that we currently think we cannot live without? It is a forgone conclusion that even if the answer is "YES", that we can change the way our societies function but still keep the machines, keep money, etc (ie is the true problem shortsighted leaders and spineless, greedy corporate kings using a system to their advantage alone at the expense of the future?), that I would like to think we can still consider other options. But my sneaking suspicion is that we can do all we do currently and more and for longer, more sustainably and more fairly with a tweaked, better-guided, farther-looking approach that would only upset the minority that currently benefit in a massively disproportionate way. Anyone read any good books on this subject?

9 Comments:

Blogger Keyframer said...

I guess that if you open any recent sociology book you can find a lot of stuff about this actual topic. (Sorry... no titles for your right now). For what I've read, when I went back to school few years ago... setting the whole machine on reverse would mostly result in total chaos in the short term.

It is true what you say, at the same time the society improves; we enter a state of total social regression. Also this is source to the massive number of depressions nowadays. People are slowly realizing the dead end us, as a society, are entering. It’s the sad dichotomy of industrialised country evolution.

Back a few hundred years, life was a lot shorter... but I bet that those years had a lot more meaning to them. Today, we are more in a survival state… Keep the pace or be left behind in your own damn misery. The only way any changes are ever going to occur will be to have more open minded and conscious leaders... and still.

If I remember any good book on the subject I'll get back to you

5:31 p.m.  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

Thanks! Yeah, another interesting tidbit that came from a fiction book I read recently: Ronald Wright's A Scientific Romance (I had recommended it in a previous post). He basically speculates that if society collapses before some new form of energy is discovered (and perhaps even if it is), that we can never have another "industrial boom" because the resources for it, oil etc, are pretty much gone. If we lose the infrastructure and go back to a dark age, the best we can hope for, in terms of technological recovery would be something like an Aztec or ancient Chinese empire, and something he calls the "Scrap Iron Age" because we could scavenge off all the shit we've made but never make it again (especially with massive loss of specialists).

11:37 a.m.  
Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

With so many people in the world specializing in trends, I don't think we'd have to worry about energy. New solar cells have been invented that can run of inrared, biodeisel is easy to make, veggie oil can go into deisel engines... people would adapt like they always do. Many think they would like to live in a less indusrial society, but most of us won't give up what we think we need. Your book, our computers, the energy that run them... it's all part of it. Conspicuous consumption should be less, but I didn't think most of us are willing to walk from it all... Hope you have a great weekend.

12:36 p.m.  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

So what you are saying is that there is some hope. Thing is, from what I've read, that unless we smarten up before the last minute, we actually need current technology to be able to get alternatives up and running and self-sustaining. If everything starts to fall to pieces before we do this (from war, environmental catastrophes, massive infectous disease, general societal collapse, attack of the mole-peoples, etc), then we're screwed.

9:20 p.m.  
Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

The technology is there. If enough money (it's all about money) was invested, we could all be gasoline independent fairly soon. If as individuals we all decided to run on biodiesel or veggie oil, we could all be gasoline independent fairly soon. I've read diesel engines were originally designed to run on veggie oil, not petroleum. It's all about money... and personal choice.

11:40 a.m.  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

no hope.

honestly, i think we're at a state we can slow down a bit and concentrate on refinement in quality rather than quantity of life, which has driven the pace for some time now.

life happens in spurts in nature, it is a violent thing, then the organism settles in for a while until the need is there for change yet again.

we should settle into one of those moments now, unless we truly are too stupid to realize it. instead of making a car more friendly and functional, we seem to be trying to add everything and the kitchen sink to it. what's next, espresso machines on an 8-wheel behemoth that gets .4 mpg?

am i on a tangent?

4:58 p.m.  
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