Friday, September 18, 2020

What Is the Role of Politics In an Increasingly Unstable World?

The Holocene has given way to the Anthropocene. Exactly when and how it happened is the subject of endless debate but it has happened. The economic paradigm of the past 40 years, neoliberalism, has proven - beyond doubt - that there is life after death. It has long since outlived its usefulness but 'the next great thing' is in no rush to take its place. Democracy as we know it is on the wane. Our modes of organization - political, social,  economic - have lost much of their utility. Over the past 50 years the population of one species, our own, has more than doubled while the population of all other species of animal life has plummeted an astonishing 68 per cent. All of these things are ongoing and no one has a clue how they end or when.

We're in the throes of climate breakdown, social and economic upheaval, even a pandemic to boot. We're warned of chaos, a dystopian future. More diseases, more severe storm events of increasing intensity, frequency and duration, more loss of biodiversity, more species falling extinct at rates wildly beyond anything we've known as normal, the prospect of mass migration not in millions or even hundreds of millions - far more than that, the collapse of social norms, conventions, perhaps even the rule of law and democracy itself, resource wars, wars of survival, subsistence.

All of those things should be on the political agenda today. Real and looming threats should be reflected in policy. Governments should be marshalling resources, building resilience, mustering the public to meet the challenges. Seen any sign of that. Ottawa? Washington, London, anywhere? No?

We were brought up believing that politics was "the art of the possible." It was an endless game of thrust and parry, accommodation and compromise. Second best was success. Only, this time, we're not even going for second best.

When the engines quit on your airplane, second best is some type of survivable crash landing with as few casualties as possible. You've got to think quick. You have to make some really hard choices in next to no time. You have to find resolve and you have to use every bit of experience you have to put that plane down on the Hudson and get everyone safely out on the wings.

This time the stakes are higher, much higher. Chesley Sullenberger had seconds to respond to his crisis. Our governments have had two decades, even more. Sullenberger took life-saving action. Our politicians haven't and that's true whether Conservative or Liberal. They won't even talk about what's coming except in the most vague, sanitized language. When it comes to climate and social breakdown they squirm like a worm on a hook and they want off.

They're confronted by challenges so huge, so severe, that the art of the possible is meaningless. It doesn't apply. As Churchill pointed out, doing "our best" isn't good enough. Sometimes we must do what is required. We don't have a party, a party leader in Canada who thinks that way. There is no Sullenberger in the cockpit. You're on your own. Happy landing.


Northern PoV said...

What crisis?

Climate/eco issues vying with nuclear armageddon for number one threat.

"Noam Chomsky: We are facing the most dangerous moment in human history
Chomsky believes that the “threat of nuclear war” is “probably more severe" now "than it was during the Cold War"

The Disaffected Lib said...

What could cause the next war is climate change. I'm referring to the perilous future of the Himalayan headwaters and the countries dependent upon them - China, India and Pakistan. It's easy to see how even a limited exchange involving any two, perhaps all three of these players could draw in Russia and the US.

With the world in such a precarious state environmentally, nuclear war could be devastating to many non-belligerents.