SYDNEY – We had a nail-biting time in Oz watching the returns, but it looks like the ultimate political disaster has been avoided. This is a limited source of joy following an election where two plutocratic-theocratic ignoramuses damn near won, with more than 40 million Americans voting for them.
It all underlined the utter failure of the American education system and the bankruptcy of its corporate-controlled mainstream media. It was, because of those malign influences, an election where no significant issue was discussed.
Remember, the debt crisis is a crock: For every $1 of debt, someone has $1 of credit. The whole so-called “crisis” could be solved with renegotiation – pen and paper stuff – which would amount to a redistribution of wealth, a Republican specialty. It would cause much unhappiness, but not necessarily any deaths. In contrast, we can’t renegotiate with nature: Blowing thru 2 degrees Celsius worth of warming, as we appear to be doing, could result in billions of deaths.
The basic question now is whether Barack Obama bring himself to become the most important president – perhaps the most important national leader – in human history. Can he bring himself to use his bully pulpit to push for what’s desperately needed:
Off fossil fuels
First, an immediate, rapid transition away from the use of fossil fuels as the main way of mobilizing energy.
Making the U.S. more independent on fossil fuels would be like, if we were starving, trying to make our nation independent in cyanide. This would require disarming the fossil-fuel lobby and their army of intellectual prostitutes, who are determined to be allowed to burn all they have and can economically obtain.
That in turn means making ANY financial contributions to elections a felony – all elections obviously should be paid for by the government. It also means restructuring the Supreme Court and somehow disempowering the plutocratic tools who care only for the rich. Politically this is both nearly impossible but absolutely essential.
Yet we are in a national and international crisis of unprecedented proportions. We need to go on a full war setting, and Obama must make that clear, despite the Republican control of the House and the Court. The United States desperately needs to reexamine and revise its Constitution. How to restructure our government so it focusing on governance – as opposed to “hot-button” issues – needs to become part of a national dialogue.
Blowing up wedding parties
Second, Obama must acknowledge that, in international relations, the U.S. empire does not own the world and that a foreign policy based on control of oil supplies is insane. He needs to consider how Americans would feel if Pakistani drones were perpetually overhead, occasionally blowing up wedding parties and later apologizing.
The US should be leading the way in focusing world attention on helping the poor nations and the poor in nations. Revising international diplomacy is a major challenge. But power sharing among peoples – and figuring out how to do it – is a task that must involve all leaders. Obama could help show the way.
Growth as the disease
Third, Obama must persuade people that perpetual growth among the rich is the disease, not the cure, for human problems. He should push for much more control over Wall Street and the big banks, who are mostly involved in further enriching themselves and stealing from the poor and middle class. Even if they became honest and tried to do their putative duty, all they would accomplish is to stimulate economic growth – a lethal continuation of business-as-usual.
Prosecution and heavy jail penalties for crimes already committed might be part of the cure. Obama should move to solve the jobs problem by mobilizing the nation to revise the nation’s energy-mobilizing and water-handling infrastructure and, above all, pushing to reduce the work week, which would create many jobs.
A population policy
Finally, Obama should establish a population policy based primarily on empowerment of women at home and the availability of modern contraception and backup abortion to all sexually active people. Then Obama must use all his international prestige to accomplish this everywhere, despite the opposition of the sexually confused old men of the Vatican and their henchmen in other proponents of the endarkenment.
Somehow the trend toward a faith-based, rather than evidence-based, society must be reversed.
Any of this possible?
Is any of this possible in a world where mindless growth-mania prevails, the media is controlled by rich plutocrats like Rupert Murdoch, environmental ignorance pervades the population, and universities appear uninterested in focusing education on the human predicament or in taking leadership for a civilization facing the prospect of the first global collapse?
Maybe the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, our effort to take a big-picture look at problems facing the planet and to find strategies for a sustainable future, can help. Maybe Hurricane Sandy will serve as a wake-up call. Maybe miracles do happen. But as I listen to the post-election talking heads on CNN, the big issue still seems to be the “fiscal cliff.”
I’ll stick with my previous guess we have perhaps a 10 percent chance of avoiding a collapse, but I still think for the benefit of my grandchildren and great grandchildren I’ll keep struggling to make it 11 percent.
Paul Ehrlich, President of the Center for Conservation Biology and the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, is in Australia doing fieldwork.