Wall Street and Speed Limit

Why is it that protests on Wall Street and elsewhere — denouncing corporate greed and perverse distribution of wealth, and the attendant corruption of our institutions — why don’t we recognize energy policies and energy’s absolute relevance to inequity? (Indeed, amassing capital essentially correlates to determining energy policy.)

But do you really think this is primarily about class struggle? When we toss the capitalists out, who exactly are we going to bring in to assist in managing this clusterfuck we call our society? Some good old anti-capitalist professionals? Maybe even some young ones?

Well, did you ever consider the inequity and degradation that necessarily result from a high-energy consumption economy? Forget capitalist or socialist. Think: society gorging itself on energy actually deprives and frustrates the hell out of us.

Significantly, in this mostly unacknowledged aspect of quanta of energy as it correlates to inequity, the actual source of energy is irrelevant; whether it be petroleum, nuke plants, the “clean” energies of wind and solar, the hoped-for magnificent new battery; maybe even cheap plentiful energy gushing from used kitty litter, or some other techno-splendorous future development.

This is about levels of energy (and by extension, technology).

Could it be? Could it be that beyond a certain threshold of energy consumption, that technical processes begin to dictate social relations? No way you say? And you’re going to put that on your Facebook friend wall — maybe even “dislike” it?

Well, friend, you’re not alone in being sort of troubled by such a notion. The fact is that if you begin to accept such an entirely rational line of reasoning, you’re probably going to run — more likely drive — into some other awakenings that just don’t sit well with that little gremlin that lives in your wilderness, as you hunt for legitimacy and authenticity as a good citizen trying your best.

So ya, greedy bastards, snarfing up all the resources of our planet is indeed part of what troubles us. However, it’d seem to be rather disingenuous to not observe that the high energy that is controlled and utilized by the affluent (that’d be us too) is what generates the inequity.

Beyond carrying a placard announcing “That asshole has too much money!”, how in the world do we possibly go about tweaking this reality?

Consider the energy inputs, and the industrial complex-energy outputs, and the reality of their costs to our society. A fairly obvious, and now rightly considered absurd, illustration would be something like the supersonic Concorde jet of decades ago. As the price of acceleration for a small affluent group of travelers, the majority of the people paid the societal cost; in pollution and otherwise. Now what is often overlooked in such scenarios is the disutility — the disabling — of those unable or unwilling to adopt the apparent technological sophistication. This leads us to what has been termed “radical monopoly”, whereby an industrial consumer-value, say our system of motorized transportation, is adopted to the extent of the exclusion of self-powered transit — and other appropriate use-value oriented technologies.  (Where I live, as I walk my sorry ass through the parking lot, trying to locate my motorized crutch — my car — I feel as though perhaps I’m just a hapless terrorist in the war on pedestrians.)

To summarize, and in looking at possible alternative approaches to fixing some crappy aspects of crumbling empire, I’d suggest that communities, in the historical sense, find ways to engage in the political process; to assess from an enlightened local perspective; what levels of energy and technology are in their interests and where limits might be appropriate.

(For more information regarding this, read the sociologist Ivan Illich’s Energy and Equity.)

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