Perestroika 2.0 Beta

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Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
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Perestroika 2.0 Beta

and for a different point of view, of an (ex)-Russian - Dmitry Orlov
he compares Obama to Gorbachev!
http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/

Perestroika
2.0 Beta

Congratulations, everyone, we have a new president: a fresh new face, a
capable, optimistic, inspiring figure, ushering in a new era of
responsibility, ready to confront the many serious challenges that face
the nation; in short, we have us a Gorbachev. I don't know about you,
but I find the parallel rather obvious.

Obama
wishes to save the economy, and to inspire us with words such as "We
will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and
run our factories." [Inauguration speech] At the same time, he cautions
us that "We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we
waver in its defense" -- an echo of Dick Cheney's "The American way of
life is non-negotiable." And so we descend from the nonexistent but
wonderfully evocative "clean coal" to the more pedestrian "Put a little
dirt in your gas tank!"

But these are all euphemisms: the
reality is that it is either fossil fuels, which are running out while
simultaneously destabilizing the planet's climate and poisoning the
biosphere, or the end of industrial civilization, or (most likely)
both, happening in that order. According to the latest International
Energy Agency projections, the half-life of industrial civilization can
be capped at about 17 years: it's all downhill from here. All
industrial countries will be forced to rapidly deindustrialize on this
time scale, but the one that has spent the last century building an
infrastructure that has no future -- based on little houses
interconnected by cars, with all of its associated moribund,
unmaintainable systems -- is virtually guaranteed to fall the hardest.
An American's two greatest enemies are his house and his car. But try
telling that to most Americans, and you will get ridicule,
consternation, and disbelief. Thus, the problem has no political
solution. Tragically, Obama happens to be a politician.

"Whenever
we confront a problem for which no political solution exists, the
inevitable result is an uncomfortable impasse filled with awkward,
self-censored chatter. During the Soviet establishment’s fast slide
toward dissolution, Gorbachev’s glasnost campaign unleashed a torrent
of words. In a sort of nation-wide talking cure, many previously taboo
subjects could be broached in public, and many important problems could
suddenly be discussed. An important caveat still applied: the problems
always had to be cast as “specific difficulties,” or “singular
problems” and never as a small piece within the larger mosaic of
obvious system-wide failure. The spell was really only broken by
Yeltsin, when, in the aftermath of the failed putsch, he forcefully
affixed the prefix “former” to the term “Soviet Union.” At that point,
old, pro-Soviet, now irrelevant standards of patriotic thought and
behavior suddenly became ridiculous — the domain of half-crazed,
destitute pensioners, parading with portraits of Lenin and Stalin. By
then, fear of political reprisals had already faded into history, but
old habits die hard, and it took years for people’s thinking to catch
up with the new, post-imperial reality. It was not an easy transition,
and many remained embittered for life.

"In today’s America, it
is also quite possible to talk about separate difficulties and singular
problems, provided they are kept separate and singular and served up
under a patriotic sauce with a dash of optimism on top. It is quite
possible to refer to depressed areas, to the growing underclass and
even to human rights abuses. It is, however, not allowable to refer to
America as a chronically depressed country, an increasingly lower-class
and impoverished country or a country that fails to take care of its
citizens and often abuses them. Yes, there are prisons where heroin
addicts are strapped to a chair while they go through withdrawal, a
treatment so effective that some of them have to be carried out in body
bags later, but that, you see, is a specific difficulty, a singular
problem, if you will. But, no no no, we are a decent, freedom-loving
country in spite of such little problems. We just have a slight problem
with the way we all treat each other... and others. We did recently
invade a country that had posed no threat to us and caused about a half
a million civilian deaths there, but no no no, we are a freedom-loving
country! That is just a specific difficulty with our foreign policy,
not a true reflection of our national character (which is to squirm
when presented with unpleasant facts and to roll our eyes when someone
draws general conclusions from them based on a preponderance of
evidence).

"When it comes to collapse mitigation, there is no
one who will undertake an organized effort to make the collapse
survivable, to save what can be saved and to avert the catastrophes
that can still be averted. We will all do our best to delay or avert
the collapse, possibly bringing it on sooner and making it worse.
Constitutionally incapable of conceiving of a future that does not
include the system that sustains our public personae, we will prattle
on about a bright future for the country for as long as there is enough
electricity to power the video camera that is pointed at us.
Gorbachev’s perestroika is an example of just such an effort at
self-delusion: he gave speeches that ran to several hours, devoted to
mystical entities such as the “socialist marketplace.” He only paused
to drink water — copious amounts of it, it seemed — causing people to
wonder whether there was a chamber pot inside his podium.

"There
are few grounds for optimism when it comes to organizing a timely and
successful effort at collapse mitigation. Nevertheless, miracles do
happen. For instance, in spite of inadequate preparation, in the
aftermath of the Soviet collapse, none of the high-grade nuclear
fissile material has ended up in the hands of terrorists, and although
there were a few reports of radiation leaks, nothing happened that
approached the scale of the Chernobyl catastrophe. In other ways, the
miserable experience had by all was mitigated by the very nature of the
Soviet system, as I described in Chapter 3. No such automatic windfalls
are due the United States; here, collapse preparation, if any, is
likely to be the result of an overdue, haphazardly organized and hasty
effort." [Reinventing Collapse, pp. 108-110]

I sincerely hope
that Obama manages to do better for himself than Gorbachev. History can
be mean to do-gooders. On that fateful day when Gorbachev lost his job,
his wife suffered a stroke, and he, since that day, hasn't been able to
wipe that deer-in-the-headlights look off his face. Trying to solve
problems that have no solution is a fine thing to try to do. Even if it
is utterly futile, it makes for great drama. But I hope, for his sake,
that Obama doesn't give up any of his hobbies. should he still have
any.

switters's picture
switters
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Re: Perestroika 2.0 Beta

I saw this on Dmitri's blog, which I am subscribed to and read regularly.  I often laugh out loud reading his posts, and this was no exception.  His experience with the Soviet collapse gives him a unique perspective on what is happening in the US and abroad today.

mainecooncat's picture
mainecooncat
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Re: Perestroika 2.0 Beta

I agree about Orlov: he's hilarious and, like many writers, is particularly good at skewering the various inherent absurdities of America 2009. I'm glad he pointed out the echo of Cheney that Obama channeled. As soon as those words passed his lips (I didn't watch the coronation live as I can't stomach the self-referential love fest that is now built-in to any American "ritual") I felt like falling to my knees and crying. At that moment any scintilla of hope I had that Obama could remotely mimic his rhetoric died. Though I have to admit it was never much more than a scintilla. Just as a disclaimer here, I don't support McCain or the Republicans either and what I've said is simply a criticism of Obama, which is not by nature an endorsement of "the other side."

The scariest part of Obama's rhetoric for me has always been his use of the words cynical and/or pessimist, which he uses to describe anyone who isn't on board with the artificial-hope-despite-the-facts meme. So if you don't think that America will be saved by wind or solar power in the near future or if you believe that our lifestyle is negotiable (which it has to be because of our orgiastic levels of irresponsibility in almost every imaginable category) than your "cynical." Sorry Big-O but your just plain wrong.

I know I'm ranting now, but I'll proffer that Obama's popularity drops like a pallet of blue stone in the North Atlantic. I can't tell you the number of people on the left side of the political spectrum (including one's who voted for him) who I meet every day who are now saying, "The guy's losin' it."

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Linda K
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Re: Perestroika 2.0 Beta

FYI - Orlov's speaking at the Long Now Foundation Feb. 13th. This talk and video's of previous speakers are available online to LN members ($8 mo. and up). Many worth watching. Saul Griffith on climate change was mentioned in an earlier post but I don't see an MP3 for his talk posted on their site yet.

http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/

Orlov will be doing a couple other events for those that live close by

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2009/01/upcoming-events.html

 

Linda K's picture
Linda K
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Re: Perestroika 2.0 Beta

One more note -

If you just want the audio podcasts of Long Now lectures (no video) they're free.

switters's picture
switters
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Re: Perestroika 2.0 Beta
mainecooncat wrote:

I agree about Orlov: he's hilarious and, like many writers, is particularly good at skewering the various inherent absurdities of America 2009. I'm glad he pointed out the echo of Cheney that Obama channeled. As soon as those words passed his lips (I didn't watch the coronation live as I can't stomach the self-referential love fest that is now built-in to any American "ritual") I felt like falling to my knees and crying. At that moment any scintilla of hope I had that Obama could remotely mimic his rhetoric died. Though I have to admit it was never much more than a scintilla. Just as a disclaimer here, I don't support McCain or the Republicans either and what I've said is simply a criticism of Obama, which is not by nature an endorsement of "the other side."

The scariest part of Obama's rhetoric for me has always been his use of the words cynical and/or pessimist, which he uses to describe anyone who isn't on board with the artificial-hope-despite-the-facts meme. So if you don't think that America will be saved by wind or solar power in the near future or if you believe that our lifestyle is negotiable (which it has to be because of our orgiastic levels of irresponsibility in almost every imaginable category) than your "cynical." Sorry Big-O but your just plain wrong.

I know I'm ranting now, but I'll proffer that Obama's popularity drops like a pallet of blue stone in the North Atlantic. I can't tell you the number of people on the left side of the political spectrum (including one's who voted for him) who I meet every day who are now saying, "The guy's losin' it."

Very well said, MCC.  I couldn't stomach the inaguration either.  Another $170 million down the drain.  I deeply appreciate the historical significance of Obama's election from a civil rights perspective, and I certainly preferred him to McCain, but I didn't ever believe he would bring real change to Washington.

What I wonder is if that is even possible at this stage in the game.  Would such a figure get elected?  Even if they did, how long would they last if they started telling the truth and making the decisions that really need to be made?  Most people don't want to hear the truth and aren't ready to make those changes, so they'll do just about anything (including electing leaders who will tell them what they want to hear and do everything they can to preserve the status quo) to avoid reality.

What is particularly irritating to me is how anyone who tells it like it is gets branded as "cynical", "pessimistic" or "negative".  Orlov nailed it with this sentence:

Quote:

In today’s America, it
is also quite possible to talk about separate difficulties and singular
problems, provided they are kept separate and singular and served up
under a patriotic sauce with a dash of optimism on top.

and the paragraph that followed.  Of course it's possible to be a realist, acknowledging the full brunt of what we're headed into, and remain optimistic for the long run.  I guess it really depends upon your level of attachment to civilization as it exists; if you can't imagine a different way of life, and think our current configuration is the pinnacle of human achievement, well... you probably don't have much to be hopeful for.  But if you believe that it's still possible to be happy and fulfilled in a smaller, more local, and less-energy dense world, then the future might not be all gloom and doom after all.

But there's no allowance for this perspective in the collective American psyche, because apparently our unsustainable and morally bankrupt way of life is "non-negotiable" and "nothing to apologize for".

Let's see Obama or anyone else "negotiate" with peak oil, a crashing dollar, widespread natural resource depletion or a rising sea level.  We'll soon see find out how negotiable our way of life really is.

machinehead's picture
machinehead
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Re: Perestroika 2.0 Beta

To carry the Soviet comparison a little farther, an early indication
of its collapse occurred in 1989, when citizens of its eastern European
satellites began simply walking away, or downing tools and standing in
the street. Russia could not afford its far-flung military empire, and
proceeded to lose it.

Neither can the U.S. Yet there is ZERO discussion in Congress,
the MSM, or among professional economists about dismantling NATO and
the U.S. 'nuclear umbrella' over Europe and Asia. Indeed, the
only contemporary discussion is about extending it farther, to Israel.

Any
freshman economics student could demonstrate that NATO protection of
rich countries such as Japan and Germany provides them with a costly
service at U.S. expense, thus representing a large, long-standing,
negative rate-of-return investment. Throw good money after bad for
enough decades, so as to engage the baleful effect of compounding, and
pretty soon you're indebted and broke. Oh wait, that sounds just like
us!

No analogies are needed in the case of the Afghan occupation,
since the U.S. is literally following in the footsteps of the Soviet
defeat there. The main difference is that being on the other side of
the planet, the U.S. faces far more horrendous logistics than the
Soviets did. Indeed, the U.S. just cut a deal to move materiel through
the former Soviet 'stans to the north of Afghanistan. The necessary
bribes will doubtless breed some new millionaires in the 'stans, as Joe
and Jane Sixpack get mugged again by their kleptocratic uncle, Sam.

For all of his intelligence and academic training, Obama has
failed to see that Afghanistan is a microcosm of the obsolete,
self-perpetuating World War II military empire which hangs like a
millstone round our necks. The brutal fact is that this empire is
unaffordable and is going to go soon, either in an orderly planned
withdrawal, or in the chaotic wake of a dollar collapse. [Have you seen the ruble lately?] As the defense
industry and various foreign lobbies keep an iron grip on the U.S.
corpgov political system, all signs point toward the latter resolution.

So I say ...

Money mouthDEATH TO THE DOLLAR! Money mouth

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Perestroika 2.0 Beta

What if America goes TKO so fast, your troops end up stranded in Iraq and Afghanistan...?

Mike 

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