Sustainability and the defense of communities against centralised power

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ruanmalan's picture
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Sustainability and the defense of communities against centralised power

There is a competing vision of
a) Sustainable localized communities and
b) Centralized consumptive growing world economy where one needs to be one of the last men standing to get access to dwindling available resources (I use the work ‘men’ as this attitude is much less common amongst women).

The latter currently has far more military power and public relations success. It has destroyed many very sustainable local communities, many in the forms of indigenous peoples or peaceful nations. This process has been escalating over 7000 years of empire building. Hopefully the temporary oil glut has contributed to it overplaying its hand to the extent where 20 years from now many people will understand how destructive consumption based economies and empire building is and be able to follow an alternative without being coerced into empire anymore.

Highly centralized social organization is inherently imperial and consumptive and growth oriented and unsustainable and damaging to nature and suppressive of human liberty. This is a lesson people learn over and over. It was a founding principal of the US economy. And many leaders have warned about it.

Much of the current mainstream economical thinking is the result of the PR work and power of the consumptive empire since the 1970s in the form of think tanks. Much of what I have to say here will initially sound blasphemous to the unwitting disciples of Mammon. Unless it is understood by many the turning away from the current destructive trend cannot happen.

Society needs structure for humanity to survive, at least a family structure, at most a global one world economy and even government. On the small scale at least a tribe of 50 or so people is needed in order for basic security and helping struggling families out in hard times, having a support system. Historically it seems few have been able to survive without this level of grouping.

On the other extreme when the central power in society is focused in larger structures it gets dramatically more complex and eventually self-destructive. Centralisation of power inevitably leads to abuse of power and unsustainable development. This is destructive to social capital (the commons, social trust, charitable impulses, education systems) and to nature. The most destructive countries in the last century have tended to be the largest most centralised ones. The most constructive ones have been some of the smaller ones that are in defensive federation with other countries like Scandinavian ones or Australia or Canada.

A town community can restructure itself among Amish lines successfully. If it is controlled by a large central government they wont allow it as it disempowers the central government and also does not fit their mindset of growth. The Iroquois thrived in this federated tribal fashion for many thousands of years. If Scandinavian countries can remain connected to the EU well enough for security but independent enough to pursue realistic restructuring they might weather the coming changes.

Relocalisation is a critical part of establishing steady state economies. Consumption as a virtue is an inherently short sighted approach which is inevitably part of large scale social structures. Consumption based economies need growth, like the cancer cell they externalise the harm it does until they killed their own host. Only by localising and teaching people why it is needed to disconnect from the global consumption economy's dynamics can communities have a sustainable future.

There were many indigenous communities like this but the global consumption economy had the military power to destroy them one by one. They need to be capable of joint military and legal and PR defense to protect their sustainable communities from the attempts of the global consumption economy to take away their resources.

Once peak oils starts playing out and people are forced to live closer to nature in smaller groups they will start understanding this. At the same time peak oil will drastically reduce the capacity of centralised governments to enforce their will on people. We unfortunately have a long way to go before the balance of power will be in the hands of federated, aware, organised, sustainable local communities rather than in the hands of central bureaucrats. The central bureaucrats only understand the terminology of "the smartest guys in the room" who are merely the most adept at applying a destructive philosophy with minimal internal conflict aout it.

States like California might get organised enough to start addressing these issues, but only if they remain independent enough from the central government.
Meanwhile those in the central of the large structures - central governments and multinational corporations have the opposite approach:
a)    They see a need to be the last man standing
b)    The capacity to subdue populations as long as possible.
c)    The capacity to militarily get overseas resources as long as possible. While the majority of people buy into their centralised consumption and growth based problem solving they have overwhelming power.

In Africa we know the resource curse well: The more local resources you have the more corruption and foreign control you invite and the poorer and more suppressed and disenfranchised your local people will be. If you set up an independent local Amish like community try and do it where there is minimal natural resources that the central machines will want to take from you. Many communities with excellent survival skills were destroyed this way so it is a crucial balance between sustainable community and defensible sphere that is needed.

Centralised large governments and a global economy to the scale we now have are a function of the cheap energy age just as much as the consumption-based, growth-based, interest-based economy was. They will inevitably revert back to more devolved governments. Those who can do so with strong military defensive alliances have the best chance of an adjustment that is not traumatic.

In parts of the world the global consumptive economy will still rage on for a long time and cause tremendous damage. The best well positioned areas of the world can do about that is to set an alternate example. We need to think globally but act locally. "Global solutions" to these problems of the economy and ecology would be nice but for a long time will invariably be centralised consumptive reinforcements of the mindset that caused the problems.

For the survival of us city-based westerners we need to take the plights of indigenous peoples much more seriously. They have the skills that need to be preserved and the battle that needs to be won.
In the long run I am a technology optimist. As long as we can retain the levels of civilization needed to retain our current understanding and make it freely available (rather than increasingly controlled by central conglomerates and the corporotocracy) we will eventually find sustainable alternate sources if significant energy. Transport energy will take much longer than other energy to find alternatives for. This is a good thing in that it significantly increases our chances or relocalising into sustainable communities as an alternative to the inevitable global resource wars, which will rage for a long time.

One post raised a crucial comment on professional armies vs conscripts. Professional armies are eventuially applied on a different population than their hometown and end up having little understanding or sympathy of what they are doing.

Enough people need to understand the following in order to force political change:
-Increasingly move power back to state and county level
-Retain shared defensive power using conscripts and defensive pacts
-Make universities less commercially owned and driven and more community survival focused.
-Apply massive taxation incentives for small businesses and against larger ones, and to equalize wealth more
-Increase incentives to local economies and decrease incentives to global trade
If this sounds “protectionist”, then yes, you either protect a viable sustainable local community or you become part of the global wars for dwindling resource access and no winners. Invariably “protectionist” measures get abused at central government level and are too complex to administer. They need to be managed at state and community level. Let each community decide what is best for it.

For the average person to see the links between all these will happen only after some hardship. That hardship has caused some awakening already in South America. If someone like Chris applies his excellent skills to communicating the above concepts it will hasten the day that enough people stop believing in the centralized consumptive model in order to sway the balance of power where its masters can force their will on any community.

If those striving for sustainability do not see the power structures and mindset arrayed against them, and the need to get organized to resist it, they will become historical footnotes rather than a change of direction for humanity.

A sustainable economy is based on
-An ecologically sustainable community that is organized and federated enough to 
-Defend itself militarily against pillage in social collapse
-Defend itself against central government/corporatoracy power in the media and with weapons
-Have access to information that allows technological advance without the current university bias that currently drills consumptive short-sighted economic approaches into students.

I Hope this makes sense, I realise it is both long but also makes big jumps that are not explained :-)

Reading a book like David Korten's "Empire or Earth Community - the great turning" or thom Hartmann's works explains much of it.

ruanmalan's picture
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Re: Sustainability and the defense of communities

Apologies for all the typos above, the first posting in a thread cannot be edited afterwards.


joe2baba's picture
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there are many of us out here who know this but we have not yet achieved the critical mass needed to effect the changes needed. most americans are asleep they are hypnotized by tv they care more about paris britney and lindsey.

i am not too optimistic but i keep working in the ways i can to enlighten people . and certainly the current state of affairs has people at least starting to yawn. i just hope it is not too late

thanks for the post

switters's picture
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Re: sustainability
This is indeed the vision that people like Richard Heinberg (and myself) are promoting and hoping for.  However, it would require a massive change in consciousness on the part of both the public and the government, and a collective effort exceeding the scale and pace of the WWII reorganization.  I believe Americans are capable of such an effort, but if I am honest, I have to say that I am skeptical that it will happen for the reasons joe2baba points out.  Americans are in a huge trance of denial right now, and there hasn't yet been enough pain to break that trance.  It seems likely to me that the only way that will happen is with a major, cataclysmic event like a complete collapse of financial markets or the dollar.  But if that happens, where are we going to get the money to invest in renewable energies and relocalize our economies?
EndGamePlayer's picture
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Re: Sustainability and the defense of communities

Good Post ruanmalan-

Your vision is good and a universal principle. Universally, energy moves from the sun to the outer solar system and that energy turns back to the sun. This efficient flow of energy maintains the balance that that keeps our solar system comfortable. So it is with sustainable societies - there must be balance and we can see it falling away.

Societally speaking, energy (A.K.A. money, jobs, education, housing, security, opportunity and self determined destiny) must move from centralized to the masses as inbalanced energy creates chaos.

As the imbalance becomes more and more extreme - implosions and unpredictable out comes can emerge. Its just a simple fact of nature - self indulgent centralized governments are unsustainable. People will stop "feeding them" the energy by which they operate on every level. Of course, the "centralized" can (and does) expend huge amounts of energy trying to get more and more out of a people who have nothing left to give them - in which case "super control" becomes an illusion. Then the only true nature become that of community.

Bootstrapper's picture
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Re: . . . defense of communities against centralised power

There were many indigenous communities like this but the global consumption economy had the military power to destroy them one by one. They need to be capable of joint military and legal and PR defense to protect their sustainable communities from the attempts of the global consumption economy to take away their resources.


Times are changing.  Communities now have the power to defend themselves from the encroachments of larger powers.

On the economic side, local currencies.

On the military side, 4th-Generation warfare - systems disruption.

Regards,   Paul

georgedonnelly's picture
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Re: . . . defense of communities against centralised power
On this topic, may I recommend the free state wyoming project and the book Molon Labe (find it on Amazon).
Damnthematrix's picture
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Re: Sustainability and the defense of communities against ...

"The most constructive ones have been some of the smaller ones that are in defensive federation with other countries like Scandinavian ones or Australia or Canada."

Canada and Australia may have been less destructive than the empires they emerged from, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them constructive.

Mike. Australian.

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