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Archive for Setembro, 2012

“The only way forward for the EU and the Eurozone is to let the weaker members leave, and to let them do that with grace, respect and dignity. Anything else is not just doomed to fail, it’s doomed to incite violence”, diz Raul Ilargi Meijer, do The Automatic Earth, e eu acredito.

O que significa que qualquer político português que defenda a permanência de Portugal no euro e o pagamento da alegada “dívida”, está simplesmente a promover os interesses da banca e a condenar os seus votantes a uma pena de endividamento perpétuo. O que por sua vez significa… que nas Legislativas de 2013… a melhor opção do votante informado e bem formado é… PCTP-MRPP !?!?!  (Ai ai…)

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by MORRIS BERMAN, Counterpunch

La longue durée —the long run—was an expression made popular by the Annales School of French historians led by Fernand Braudel, who coined the phrase in 1958. The basic argument of this school is that the proper concern of historians should be the analysis of structures that lie at the base of contemporary events. Underneath short-term events such as individual cycles of economic boom and bust, said Braudel, we can discern the persistence of “old attitudes of thought and action, resistant frameworks dying hard, at times against all logic.” An important derivative of the Annales research is the work of the World Systems Analysis school, including Immanuel Wallerstein and Christopher Chase-Dunn, which similarly focuses on long-term structures: capitalism, in particular.

The “arc” of capitalism, according to this school, is about 600 years long, from 1500 to 2100. It is our particular (mis)fortune to be living through the beginning of the end, the disintegration of capitalism as a world system. It was mostly commercial capital in the sixteenth century, evolving into industrial capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then moving on to financial capital—money created by money itself, and by speculation in currency—in the twentieth and twenty-first. In dialectical fashion, it will be the very success of the system that eventually does it in.

The last time a change of this magnitude occurred was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, during which time the medieval world began to come apart and be replaced by the modern one. In his classic study of the period, The Waning of the Middle Ages, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga depicted the time as one of depression and cultural exhaustion—like our own age, not much fun to live through.  One reason for this is that the world is literally perched over an abyss. What lies ahead is largely unknown, and to have to hover over an abyss for a long time is, to put it colloquially, a bit of a drag. The same thing was true at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire as well, on the ruins of which the feudal system slowly arose.

I was musing on these issues some time ago when I happened to run across a remarkable essay by Naomi Klein, the author of The Shock Doctrine. It was called “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” and was published last November in The Nation.  In what appears to be something of a radical shift for her, she chastises the Left for not understanding what the Right does correctly perceive: that the whole climate change debate is a serious threat to capitalism. The Left, she says, wants to soft-pedal the implications; it wants to say that environmental protection is compatible with economic growth, that it is not a threat to capital or labor. It wants to get everyone to buy a hybrid car, for example (which I have personally compared to diet cheesecake), or use more efficient light bulbs, or recycle, as if these things were adequate to the crisis at hand. But the Right is not fooled: it sees Green as a Trojan horse for Red, the attempt “to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism.” It believes—correctly—that the politics of global warming is inevitably an attack on the American Dream, on the whole capitalist structure. Thus Larry Bell, in Climate of Corruption, argues that environmental politics is essentially about “transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth distribution”; and British writer James Delinpole notes that “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, [and] regulation.”

What Ms. Klein is saying to the Left, in effect, is: Why fight it? These nervous nellies on the Right are—right! Those of us on the Left can’t keep talking about compatibility of limits-to-growth and unrestrained greed, or claiming that climate change is “just one issue on a laundry list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention,” or urging everyone to buy a Prius.  Commentators like Thomas Friedman or Al Gore, who “assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying ‘green’ products and creating clever markets in pollution”—corporate green capitalism, in a word—are simply living in denial. “The real solutions to the climate crisis,” she writes, “are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system—one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work, and radically reins in corporate power.”

In one of the essays in my book A Question of Values (“conspiracy vs. Conspiracy in American History”), I lay out some of the “unconscious programs” buried in the American psyche from our earliest days, programs that account for most of America’s so-called conscious behavior. These include the notion of an endless frontier—a world without limits—and the ideal of extreme individualism—you do not need, and should not need, anyone’s help to “make it” in the world. Combined, the two of these provide a formula for enormous capitalist power and inevitable capitalist collapse (hence, the dialectical dimension of it all).  Of this, Naomi Klein writes:

“The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits….These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress.”

(This is exactly what I argued 31 years ago in The Reenchantment of the World; it’s nice to see it all coming around again.) “Real climate solutions,” she continues, “are ones that steer [government] interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.” Hence, she concludes, the powers that be have reason to be afraid, and to deny the data on global warming, because what is really required at this point is the end of the free-market ideology. And, I would add, the end of the arc of capitalism referred to earlier. It’s going to be (is) a colossal fight, not only because the powers that be want to hang on to their power, but because the arc and all its ramifications have given their class Meaning with a capital M for 500+ years. This is what the Occupy Wall Street protesters—if there are any left at this point; I’m not sure—need to tell the 1%: Your lives are a mistake. This is what “a new civilizational paradigm” finally means. It also has to be said that almost everyone in the United States, not just the upper 1%, buys into this. John Steinbeck pointed this out many years ago when he wrote that in the U.S., the poor regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The Occupy movement, as far as I could make out, wanted to restore the American Dream, when in fact the Dream needs to be abolished once and for all.

Naomi then provides us with a list of six changes that must occur for this new paradigm to come into being, including Reining in Corporations, Ending the Cult of Shopping, and Taxing the Rich. I found myself writing “good luck” in the margins of much of this discussion. These things are not going to happen, and what we probably need instead is a series of major conferences on why they won’t happen. But note that part of the answer is already embedded in her essay: vested interests, in both the economic and psychological sense, have every reason to maintain the status quo. And as I said, so does the man or woman in the street. What would our lives be without shopping, without the latest technological toy? Pretty empty, at least in the U.S.  How awful, that capitalism has reduced human beings to this.

In terms of recommendations, then, Klein’s essay is rather weak. But it offers something very important by way of analysis, and also by implication: Everything is related to everything else. Psychology, the economy, the environmental crisis, our daily mode of living, the dumbing down of America, the pathetic fetish over cell phones and electronic gadgets, the crushing debt of student loans, the farce of electoral politics, Mr. Obama’s rather rapid conversion from liberal hero to war criminal and shredder of the Bill of Rights, the huge popularity of violent movies, the attempt of the rich to impose austerity measures on the poor, the well-documented epidemics of mental illness and obesity—these are ultimately not separate spheres of human activity. They are interconnected, and this means that things will not get fixed piecemeal. “New civilizational paradigm” means it’s all or nothing; there really is no in-between, no diet cheesecake to be had. As Ms. Klein says, it’s not about single “issues” anymore.

What then, can we expect, as the arc of capitalism comes to a close? This is where Naomi shifts from unlikely recommendations to hard-nosed reality. She writes:

“The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations.  Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. ‘Free-market climate solutions,’ as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets.  And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks….As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, and that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed.”

To put it bluntly, the scale of change required cannot happen without a massive implosion of the current system. This was true at the end of the Roman Empire, it was true at the end of the Middle Ages, and it is true today. In the case of the Roman Empire, as I discuss in The Twilight of American Culture, there was the emergence of  monastic orders that began to preserve the treasures of Graeco-Roman civilization. My question in that book was: Can something similar happen today? Naomi writes:

“The only wild card is whether some countervailing popular movement will step up to provide a viable alternative to this grim future. That means not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—this time, embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.” She believes that the Occupy Wall Street movement—remember, it was quite vigorous last November—embodies this; that they have taken “aim at the underlying values of rampant greed and individualism that created the economic crisis, while embodying…radically different ways to treat one another and relate to the natural world.”

Is this true? Four things to consider at this point:

1. I personally never visited Zuccotti Park, but most of what I saw on the Web, including very favorable reportage of the Occupy movement, seemed to suggest that the goal was a more equitable American Dream, not the abolition of the American Dream, as I indicated above. In other words, the basic demand was that the pie be cut up more fairly. I never had the impression that the protesters were saying that the pie, in toto, was rotten. This reminds me of an anecdote about Martin Luther King, who apparently said to Harry Belafonte, just before he (i.e., King) was assassinated, that he thought he might have been making a big mistake; that he sometimes felt like he was herding people into a burning church. This is a very different insight, quite obviously, than the notion that black people should be getting a larger share of the pie. After all, who wants a larger share of a rotten pie, or to live in a church that is burning down?

2. The Annales historians, along with the World Systems Analysis thinkers, have been accused of projecting an image of “history without people.” In other words, these schools tend to see individuals as somewhat irrelevant to the historical process, which they analyze in terms of “historical forces.” There is some truth to this, but “historical forces” can become a bit mystical. Just as it is forces that motivate people, so it is people that enact or manifest those forces. I mean, someone has to do something for history to occur, and at least the Occupy crowd was trying to throw sand on the wheels of the machine, so to speak, as have their counterparts in Europe.  But I confess that for a number of reasons, I was never very optimistic about the movement; at least, not as it existed in the United States. As many sociologists have pointed out, America has no real socialist tradition, and it is no surprise that the serious maldistribution of wealth that exists in the U.S. is no issue whatsoever in the forthcoming presidential election.  In fact, a recent poll by the Pew Charitable Trust revealed that most Americans have no problem at all with the existence of a small wealthy class; they just want to be able to join it—which takes us back to the quote from John Steinbeck. My own prediction, several months ago, was that OWS would turn into a kind of permanent teach-in, where the disaffected could go to learn about a “new civilizational paradigm,” if that would indeed be taught. This is basically the “new monastic option” I wrote about in the Twilight book. On one level, it’s probably innocuous; it hardly threatens the power elite. But that may not be the whole story, especially in the long run—la longue durée.  After all, as the system collapses, alternatives are going to become increasingly attractive; and you can be sure that 2008 is not the last crash we are going to live through. The two sides go hand in hand, and ultimately—I’m talking thirty to forty years, but maybe less—the weight of the arc of capitalism will be too onerous to sustain itself. In la longue durée, one is far smarter betting on the alternative worldview than on capitalism. Thus the biologist David Ehrenfeld writes: “Our first task is to create a shadow economic, social, and even technological structure that will be ready to take over as the existing system fails.”

3. What, then, is that alternative worldview, that “new civilizational paradigm”? In Why America Failed I lay out, unsurprisingly enough, the reasons for why America failed, and I say that it was primarily because throughout our history we marginalized or ignored the voices that argued against the dominant culture, which is based on hustling, aggrandizement, and economic and technological expansion. This alternative tradition can be traced from John Smith in 1616 to Jimmy Carter in 1979, and included folks such as Emerson, Thoreau, Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, Vance Packard, and John Kenneth Galbraith, among many others. In England it is particularly associated with John Ruskin and William Morris, who argued for the need for organic communities with a spiritual purpose, for work that was meaningful rather than mind-numbing, and who did manage to acquire a large number of American disciples. In a forthcoming book by a colleague of mine, Joel Magnuson, entitled The Approaching Great Transformation, the author states that we need concrete models of a post-carbon economy, ones that break with the profit model of capitalism—and not in cosmetic or rhetorical ways. He gives a number of examples of experiments in this vein, ones that I would term elements of a steady-state or homeostatic economy: no-growth, in other words. After all, writes Magnuson, “permanent growth means permanent crisis.” Or as I have put it elsewhere, our job is to dismantle capitalism before it dismantles us. Again, this does not mean taking on Wall Street, which I don’t believe can succeed. But it does mean leaving the field: for example, seceding. (Movements for secession do exist at this point, Vermont being a prominent example.) And if that’s not quite viable right now, there is at least the possibility of living in a different way, as David Ehrenfeld suggests. My guess is that “dual process”—the disintegration of capitalism and the concomitant emergence of an alternative socioeconomic formation—is going to be the central story of the rest of this century. And I suspect that austerity will be part of this, because as capitalism collapses and we run out of resources—petroleum in particular—what choice will we have?

4. This does not, it seems to me, necessarily mean a return to some type of feudalism; although that could well happen, for all I know. But we are finally talking about the passing not only of capitalism, but of modernity in general—the waning of the modern ages, in effect. In her interesting biography of the Hegelian scholar, Alexandre Kojève, Shadia Drury writes: “Every political order, no matter how grand, is doomed to decay and degenerate.” As for modernity in particular, she goes on:

“[M]odernity’s inception and its decline are like those of any other set of political and cultural ideals. In its early inception, modernity contained something good and beguiling. It was a revolution against the authority of the Church, its taboos, repressions, inquisitions, and witch burning. It was a new dawn of the human spirit—celebrating life, knowledge, individuality, freedom, and human rights. It bequeathed to man a sunny disposition on the world, and on himself….The new spirit fueled scientific discovery, inventiveness, trade, commerce, and an artistic explosion of great splendor. But as with every new spirit, modernity has gone foul….Modernity lost the freshness and innocence of its early promise because its goals became inflated, impossible, and even pernicious. Instead of being the symbol of freedom, independence, justice, and human rights, it has become the sign of conquest, colonialism, exploitation, and the destruction of the earth.”

In a word, its number is up, and it is our fortune or misfortune, as I said before, to be living during a time of very large, and very difficult, transition. An old way of life dies, a new one eventually comes into being. Of this, the poet Mark Strand remarks: “No need to rush; the end of the world is only the end of the world as you know it.” For some odd reason, I find that thought rather comforting.

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Retrato de uma Princesa Desconhecida

Para que ela tivesse um pescoço tão fino
Para que os seus pulsos tivessem um quebrar de caule
Para que os seus olhos fossem tão frontais e limpos
Para que a sua espinha fosse tão direita
E ela usasse a cabeça tão erguida
Com uma tão simples claridade sobre a testa
Foram necessárias sucessivas gerações de escravos
De corpo dobrado e grossas mãos pacientes
Servindo sucessivas gerações de príncipes
Ainda um pouco toscos e grosseiros
Ávidos cruéis e fraudulentos

Foi um imenso desperdiçar de gente
Para que ela fosse aquela perfeição
Solitária exilada sem destino

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, Dual

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4

 

Apressado, ele caminha com uma pasta negra

onde oculta a matéria ignóbil da sua vida.

O seu domínio abrange um compêndio sombrio:

a opressão do controlo, as cotações da bolsa,

o suplício do cálculo e da usura.

 

Teve ele infância, nem que somente um campo

como um berço profundo em que lançasse raízes,

onde hoje recupere o vislumbre de um riso,

o jorrar de uma aurora que outros olhos irisem?

 

Contemplou os rios onde a luz e o sonho

geram súbitas lâminas – anunciação de áugures –,

irradiantes até declinar na sombra

que modula a palavra levitante na espuma?

 

Conhecerá as horas em que as mãos são para dar-se

como o pão, como a boca, sem a noção do lucro?

E os pastores que se deitam sobre a erva tosada

sem que o sono lhes fuja quando a ceia é escura

e ninguém os promove senão a neve e a urze?

 

Eis que ele se apaga numa porta de trevas,

onde se entesouram os dejectos que cuida

como o alimento da tarefa em que fulge.

 

Aí ele perscruta diagramas e cifras,

apura índices de ouro, investiga resíduos,

decompõe os preceitos no seu avesso ambíguo

e com sua rubrica neutraliza a abjecção,

como se não convocasse e dissecasse corpos.

 

Que o atroz, a voragem que vai elaborar

se exibam e se neguem a ser apenas seus.

Para que, só, descubra que a repulsa que espira

é quanto substitui sua pele, suas unhas.

 

Que essa recusa o force a perder-se no início,

a exumar a fonte onde a noite é sempre nula,

e a sorva como um álcool excessivo, incendiário,

que o encerre por dentro no vórtice de um túnel.

 

Onde reconheça ter sido aqui chamado

para, no orvalho e na pedra, neste rio e na chuva

nos rostos que perpassam como livros secretos

e nos braços alheios ao labor que executam,

ler que transpôs o extremo do seu fermentar podre

e ascenda pelo nome que o desperte do túmulo.

 

E nesse alvor tão amplo que não poderá conter

e repartirá com os que, de instrumento sangrento,

o talharam em voz inquieta e translúcida,

cante com a profundeza de quem jamais cantou,

com o silêncio que adensa o cântico no pulsos.

 

José Bento, Sequência de Bilbau

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Houve um período, entre meados do século XVIII e fins do século XIX, em que os escritores tinham o poder de influenciar as leis ou os costumes. Poetas, philosophes, romancistas, dramaturgos eram escutados e discutidos, as suas obras geravam interesse, podiam chocar ou deliciar a nascente Opinião Pública. Um artigo de jornal podia abrasar parlamentos, um livro podia ser censurado e apreendido, um autor podia ser adulado ou chantageado, condenado a comendas ou calabouços. Porque se lhe reconhecia poder de influência, a literatura era levada a sério (ou seja, temida) pelas autoridades políticas, económicas, militares, eclesiásticas.

Depois surgiram os meios de comunicação de massa, democratizou-se a arte, liberalizaram-se os costumes, o autoritarismo e o moralismo caíram de moda na imprensa burguesa, a consciência livrou-se dos velhos constrangimentos das eras metafísicas ou religiosas, e a espécie humana entrou num processo de juvenilização. A seguir à Primeira Guerra Mundial, bengalas e chapéus perderam estatuto, subiram os salários e as bainhas das saias, o povo das igrejas passou às danceterias e aos grandes armazéns, o chicote foi substituído pelo volante.

Aos poucos, um escritor que aspirasse a ser perseguido por delito de opinião não tinha outro remédio senão mudar-se para um regime ditatorial. É certo que nas democracias parlamentares um livro podia ainda ser banido por ofensa às instituições ou à moral burguesas, mas essa criminalização já não passava dum reflexo atávico e dum anacronismo; um anacronismo político, ao atribuir ao literato uma influência que ele já deixara de ter, mas também económico, ao não perceber o potencial escravizador da chamada “libertação sexual”, que a singela geração dos baby-boomers julgava intrinsecamente revolucionária. O tempo de Zola, e de D. H. Lawrence, havia passado irremediavelmente. E, com a possibilidade de controlo do espaço comunicacional pelos equalizadores publicitários e propagandísticos, dos intelectuais já nada havia a temer; pela primeira vez na história, um escritor tinha toda a liberdade para dizer o que quisesse, porque se havia tornado invisível, isto é, irrelevante.

O primeiro género literário a desaparecer do radar cultural foi a poesia, ainda no século XIX, quando os poetas viraram costas às expectativas burguesas para seguirem uma via de especialização que os deixaria a falar apenas uns com os outros, à maneira dos físicos ou dos matemáticos; com isso, inevitavelmente, a poesia ganhou em intensidade expressiva o que perdeu em leitores. Quanto ao romance e ao teatro, puderam conservar por mais algumas décadas, se não a influência, pelo menos um certo prestígio. E um indício desse remanescente de prestígio da cultura letrada e humanista em geral era que, ao contrário do que hoje sucede, nenhum membro do escol confessaria de bom grado a sua ignorância dos Grandes Vultos da Literatura, clássicos ou modernos. Podia não os ler, mas, a menos que quisesse passar por bárbaro ou industrial norte-americano, sentia-se obrigado a fingir que sim.

Algo de semelhante ocorreu no palco da atenção popular, embora aí a literatura séria nunca tenha chegado verdadeiramente a assentar o pé; mas onde esteve mais perto de o conseguir (em certos círculos de ilustração proletária), foi apenas para se ver sucessivamente ultrapassada pelo cinema, a rádio e a televisão, num movimento geral da actividade leitora para a inércia espectadora, da literacia para o consumo de imagens, do maior para o menor esforço. Perdida a tribuna da atenção letrada, que durante duzentos anos ocupou quase sem competidores, e fracassada a emancipação do povo através da alfabetização, idealizada pelo Iluminismo, o intelectual ficou sem objecto para as suas comunicações depressivas ou exigentes.

Em seu lugar surgiram mestres da oralidade que, ao contrário dos seus homólogos antigos, como Sócrates ou Cristo, não pretendem exortar o seu auditório a qualquer esforço de auto-superação intelectual ou espiritual. Solidamente implantados nos púlpitos duma comunicação social cartelizada, e auxiliados por técnicas de excitação emocional descobertas pela psicologia de massas, estes novos comunicadores tiram partido da natureza acomodatícia da mente humana para degradarem qualquer impulso de individualidade num narcisismo consumista e numa passividade apolítica que servem perfeitamente os interesses do poder. Deste modo, o ruído impera incontestavelmente sobre a palavra nos sistemas de comunicação dominantes, e a sedução sobre a persuasão, a propaganda sobre a informação.

Que a mistificação se tornou absolutamente instrumental para os detentores do poder, é algo que se pode aquilatar pelo progresso do eufemismo nos meios de comunicação social. Assim, e a título de exemplo, não é por acaso que hoje se pretende chamar “colaborador” ao trabalhador, que ao corte de salários e à apropriação privada de bens públicos se chama “reforma estrutural”, que à resistência anti-colonialista se chama “terrorismo” e ao terrorismo de Estado “libertação”, que se chama “democracia” à oligarquia e “lobbying” ao tráfico de influências. Escusado é notar que este esvaziamento semântico de palavras ou conceitos, tidos como “problemáticos” para a rede de poder global, tem como propósito introduzir ruído no espaço comunicacional, para que os homens, privados dum vocabulário comum, deixem de poder comunicar entre si. Uma estratégia, diga-se, com provas dadas desde o Antigo Testamento, tal como nos conta a história da torre de Babel.

Ora, que futuro pode ter a forma de indagação e de expressão a que chamamos literatura num espaço comunicacional tomado por exércitos de entertainers empenhados em difundir a surdez, a poluição lexical e a desinteligência? Que a literatura teria um papel central em tão necessária despoluição da língua, parece ser inquestionável. Mas é mais do que evidente que a presente invisibilidade do escritor torna este desígnio tão irrealista como o de purificar um Atlântico de fezes com dois cálices de cloro. Neste contexto, é inevitável perguntar: estará a literatura séria condenada à extinção por falta de leitores, perdida na torrente de trivialidade que inunda e monopoliza o espaço da atenção pública?

[…]

Sejamos realistas: se o processo de infantilização e embrutecimento do homem que alimenta o dinamismo capitalista prosseguir ao ritmo dos últimos decénios, dificilmente se imagina um jovem de 2070 a ler Séneca ou Montaigne, Tolstoi ou Joyce, T. S. Eliot ou Jorge de Sena. Por outras palavras, se nada for feito para conter a massificação do indivíduo e a sua violação moral e intelectual por hordas de comunicadores bárbaros, o mais provável é que a literatura siga o rumo de extinção a que parecem já hoje condenadas a liberdade política, a água potável, a vida marinha ou a fauna selvagem, e que as catacumbas que acolhem ainda os refugiados da literatura se convertam em túmulos selados.

A única circunstância que tornaria talvez possível o ressurgimento da cultura letrada e humanista seria uma catástrofe energética que nos fizesse voltar às velocidades romanescas do século XIX. Será essa a condição e o preço da sobrevivência da literatura, uma catástrofezinha de proporções bíblicas ou homéricas? Visto de 2012, dir-se-ia que sim. Se for esse o caso, porém, podemos estar optimistas, já que o apocalipse ecológico/económico parece irrevogável, convocado pelas trombetas duma ideologia assente na estúpida ilusão de “crescimento” infinito num planeta de recursos limitados.

Sendo estas as perspectivas, o futuro das letras, tal como o da espécie humana, só poderá ser pós-apocalíptico. Significa isto que um escritor dos nossos dias só pode apostar nos incertos leitores do século XXII. Até lá, a existência da literatura está simplesmente condenada a uma longa agonia.

 

Publicado em Cão Celeste, nº 1, Abril de 2012

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Homem Médio

Um post roubado, inteirinho e sem espinhas, aqui.

Adenda

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aos especialistas da treta e aos ideólogos ignorantes (de esquerda ou direita) da Tugalândia, que se pretendem analistas políticos e económicos, mas que na verdade não sabem nada de nada, porque o seu campo de “estudos” é,  não a realidade biofísica que subjaz à economia, não a realidade histórica que subjaz à geo-política, mas simplesmente o teatrinho de bonifrates dos  media corporativos e a galeria de espelhos da História Oficial.

Em poucas palavras, não passam de reles comentadores do espectáculo da política e da política-espectáculo, que apenas se distinguem pela função (apupar ou aplaudir) que se (ou lhes) atribuem na plateia, e  a quem a verborreia comentarial confere a reconfortante ilusão de se julgarem influentes condutores de massas.

Mas deixemos esses gurus de pacotilha e prestemos antes atenção a quem sabe do que fala. Por exemplo, o autor de Economic Undertow

Disintegration

(Excerto)

Nobody will admit that Greece was undone by peak oil, nobody will even discuss it or entertain the possibility! This isn’t economists in 2004 missing a prediction about what might happen in 2008. This is an entire army of exceptionally well-paid, over-educated analysts, policy makers, business leaders, economists, university professors, pundits, finance- and energy bloggers, fiction writers, poets and bass fishermen not seeing what is taking place right under their noses!

Now it is Spain’s turn to be swept off the table by its automobile waste. The only issue is how long will the process take. Using Greece as a model, once the establishment is admittedly insolvent, the spasm of national ruin and follow-on decline is almost instantaneous.

Like Greeks, the Spanish bet the rent on the American Way waste-based consumer economy, not realizing it was a scam. Now that they ‘know’ (or are dimly aware) there is nothing they can do about it, there is nothing the Spanish want to do about it. Like the Greeks the Spanish want the euro, they want the cars they want the modernity and will continue to do so even when the Spanish economy completely collapses. The Spanish have spent centuries living off the soil in small villages and they have no desire to return.

Same with the Chinese and Japanese.*

(* e os portugueses, obviamente.)

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e cada vez mais perto.

Mas cá pelo terrunho também já não deve faltar tudo, a avaliar pelas actividades desta empresa na Av. dos Aliados, Porto, no sábado passado, e pela reacção deliciada dos pacóvios em volta, maravilhados com o brinquedinho. Não sei se isto de filmar manifestações com helicópterozinhos telecomandados (já)  é comum, ou se é novidade, porque não sou propriamente um habituée de manifes. Mas se eu fosse daquelas pessoas que se interessam por “direitos, liberdades e garantias”, ficaria preocupado.

Quanto a quem encomendou as filmagens e com que fim, é coisa que não se deve perguntar, obviamente, porque perguntar parece mal, e não há coisa que um bom tuguês mais deteste do que parecer mal.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation employs upwards of 15,000 undercover agents today, ten times what they had on the roster back in 1975.

If you think that’s a few spies too many — spies earning as much as $100,000 per assignment — one doesn’t have to go too deep into their track record to see their accomplishments. Those agents are responsible for an overwhelming amount of terrorist stings that have stopped major domestic catastrophes in the vein of 9/11 from happening on American soil.

Another thing those agents are responsible for, however, is plotting those very schemes.

The FBI has in recent years used trained informants not just to snitch on suspected terrorists, but to set them up from the get-go. A recent report put together by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkley analyses some striking statistics about the role of FBI informants in terrorism cases that the Bureau has targeted in the decade since the September 11 attacks.

The report reveals that the FBI regularly infiltrates communities where they suspect terrorist-minded individuals to be engaging with others. Regardless of their intentions, agents are sent in to converse within the community, find suspects that could potentially carry out “lone wolf” attacks and then, more or less, encourage them to do so. By providing weaponry, funds and a plan, FBI-directed agents will encourage otherwise-unwilling participants to plot out terrorist attacks, only to bust them before any events fully materialize.

Additionally, one former high-level FBI officials speaking to Mother Jones says that, for every informant officially employed by the bureau, up to three unofficial agents are working undercover.

The FBI has used those informants to set-up and thus shut-down several of the more high profile would-be attacks in recent years. The report reveals that the Washington DC Metro bombing plot, the New York City subway plot, the attempt to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower and dozens more were all orchestrated by FBI agents. In fact, reads the report, only three of the more well-known terror plots of the last decade weren’t orchestrated by FBI-involved agents.

The report reveals that in many of the stings, important meetings between informants and the unknowing participants are left purposely unrecorded, as to avoid any entrapment charges that could cause the case to be dismissed. Perhaps the most high-profile of the FBI-proposed plots was the case of the Newburgh 4. Around an hour outside of New York City, an informant infiltrated a Muslim community and engaged four local men to carry out a series of attacks. Those men may have never actually carried out an attack, but once the informant offered them a plot and a pair of missiles, they agreed. Defense attorneys cried “entrapment,” but the men still were sentenced to 25 years apiece.

“The problem with the cases we’re talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents,” Martin Stolar tells Mother Jones. Stolar represented the suspect involved in a New York City bombing plot that was set-up by FBI agents. “They’re creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror.” For their part, the FBI says this method is a plan for “preemption,” “prevention” and “disruption.”

Mais aqui

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Reichstag Fire (Alemanha, 1933)

Operation Susannah (Egipto, 1954)

Operation Boot (Irão, 1953)

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The ceaseless expansion of economic exploitation, the engine of global capitalism, has come to an end. The futile and myopic effort to resurrect this expansion—a fallacy embraced by most economists—means that we respond to illusion rather than reality. We invest our efforts into bringing back what is gone forever. This strange twilight moment, in which our experts and systems managers squander resources in attempting to re-create an expanding economic system that is moribund, will inevitably lead to systems collapse. The steady depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels, along with the accelerated pace of climate change, will combine with crippling levels of personal and national debt to thrust us into a global depression that will dwarf any in the history of capitalism. And very few of us are prepared.
“Our solution is our problem,” Richard Heinberg, the author of The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality,” told me when I reached him by phone in California. “Its name is growth. But growth has become uneconomic. We are worse off because of growth. To achieve growth now means mounting debt, more pollution, an accelerated loss of biodiversity and the continued destabilization of the climate. But we are addicted to growth. If there is no growth there are insufficient tax revenues and jobs. If there is no growth existing debt levels become unsustainable. The elites see the current economic crisis as a temporary impediment. They are desperately trying to fix it. But this crisis signals an irreversible change for civilization itself. We cannot prevent it. We can only decide whether we will adapt to it or not.”
Heinberg, a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, argues that we cannot grasp the real state of the global economy by the usual metrics—GDP, unemployment, housing, durable goods, national deficits, personal income and consumer spending—although even these measures point to severe and chronic problems. Rather, he says, we have to examine the structural flaws that sit like time bombs embedded within the economic edifice. U.S. household debt enabled the expansion of consumer spending during the boom years, he says, but consumer debt cannot continue to grow as house prices decline to realistic levels. Toxic assets litter the portfolios of the major banks, presaging another global financial meltdown. The Earth’s natural resources are being exhausted. And climate change, with its extreme weather conditions, is beginning to exact a heavy economic toll on countries, including the United States, through the destruction brought about by droughts, floods, wildfires and loss of crop yields.
Heinberg also highlights what he calls “the highly dysfunctional U.S. political system,” which is paralyzed and hostage to corporate power. It is unable to respond rationally to the crisis or solve “even the most trivial of problems.”

“The government at this point exacerbates nearly every crisis the nation faces,” he said. “Policy decisions do not emerge from deliberations between the public and elected leaders. They arise from unaccountable government agencies and private interest groups. The Republican Party has taken leave of reality. It exists in a hermetically sealed ideasphere where climate change is a hoax and economic problems can be solved by cutting spending and taxes. The Democrats, meanwhile, offer no realistic strategy for coping with the economic unraveling or climate change.”

The collision course is set. It is now only a matter of time and our personal response.“It could implode in a few weeks, in a few months or maybe in a few years,” Heinberg said, “but unless radical steps are taken to restructure the economy, it will implode. And when it does the financial system will seize up far more dramatically than in 2008. You will go to the bank or the ATM and there will be no money. Food will be scarce and expensive. Unemployment will be rampant. And government services will break down. Living standards will plummet. ‘Austerity’ programs will become more draconian. Economic inequality will widen to create massive gaps between a tiny, oligarchic global elite and the masses. The collapse will also inevitably trigger the kind of instability and unrest, including riots, that we have seen in countries such as Greece. The elites, who understand and deeply fear the possibility of an unraveling, have been pillaging state resources to save their corrupt, insolvent banks, militarize their police forces and rewrite legal codes to criminalize dissent.”

If nations were able to respond rationally to the crisis they could forestall social collapse by reconfiguring their economies away from ceaseless growth and exploitation. It remains possible, at least in the industrialized world, to provide to most citizens the basics—food, water, housing, medical care, employment, education and public safety. This, however, as Heinberg points out, would require a radical reversal of the structures of power. It would necessitate a massive cancellation of debt, along with the slashing of bloated militaries, heavy regulation and restraints placed on the financial sector and high taxes imposed on oligarchic elites and corporations in order to reduce unsustainable levels of inequality. While this economic reconfiguration would not mitigate the effects of climate change and the depletion of natural resources it would create the social stability needed to cope with a new post-growth regime. But Heinberg says he doubts a rational policy is forthcoming. He fears that as deterioration accelerates there will be a greater resolve on the part of the power elite to “cannibalize the resources of society in order to prop up megabanks and military establishments.”

Survival will be determined by localities. Communities will have to create collectives to grow their own food and provide for their security, education, financial systems and self-governance, efforts that Heinberg suspects will “be discouraged and perhaps criminalized by those in authority.” This process of decentralization will, he said, become “the signal economic and social trend of the 21st century.” It will be, in effect, a repudiation of classic economic models such as free enterprise versus the planned economy or Keynesian stimulus versus austerity. The reconfiguration will arise not through ideologies, but through the necessities of survival forced on the poor and former members of the working and middle class who have joined the poor. This will inevitably create conflicts as decentralization weakens the power of the elites and the corporate state.

Joseph Tainter, an archeologist, in his book “The Collapse of Complex Societies” provides a useful blueprint for how such societies unravel. All of history’s major 24 civilizations have collapsed and the patterns are strikingly similar, he writes. The difference this time around is that we will unravel as a planet. Tainter notes that as societies become more complex they inevitably invest greater and greater amounts of diminishing resources in expanding systems of complexity. This proves to be fatal.

“More complex societies are costlier to maintain than simpler ones and require higher support levels per capita,” Tainter writes. The investments required to maintain an overly complex system become too costly, and these investments yield declining returns. The elites, in a desperate effort to maintain their own levels of consumption and preserve the system that empowers them, through repression and austerity measures squeeze the masses harder and harder until the edifice collapses. This collapse leaves behind decentralized, autonomous pockets of human communities.

Heinberg says this is our fate. The quality of our lives will depend on the quality of our communities. If communal structures are strong we will be able to endure. If they are weak we will succumb to the bleakness. It is important that these structures be set in place before the onset of the crisis, he says. This means starting to “know your neighbors.” It means setting up food banks and farmers’ markets. It means establishing a local currency, carpooling, creating clothing exchanges, establishing cooperative housing, growing gardens, raising chickens and buying local. It is the matrix of neighbors, family and friends, Heinberg says, that will provide “our refuge and our opportunity to build anew.”

“The inevitable decline in resources to support societal complexity will generate a centrifugal force,” Heinberg said. “It will break up existing economic and governmental power structures. It will unleash a battle for diminishing resources. This battle will see conflicts erupt between nations and within nations. Localism will soon be our fate. It will also be our strategy for survival. Learning practical skills, becoming more self-sufficient, forming bonds of trust with our neighbors will determine the quality of our lives and the lives of our children.”

To see long excerpts from Richard Heinberg’s “The End of Growth” and Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” click here and here.

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O último a chegar à festa tem

como castigo varrer o lixo,

o subproduto da embriaguez

organizada. Não é justo nem

injusto, é a lei dos retardatários.

 

À essa hora já os gastos foliões

mergulham no sono que se segue

a toda a felicidade, cientes

de que irão acordar ressacados

mas contentes por terem feito tudo

o que era humanamente possível

para se divertirem uma última vez.

 

Sozinho no recinto, o retardatário

dança com a sua vassoura,

recolhe sobriamente os detritos

da exaltação – preservativos,

cartazes, garrafas vazias –

e consola-se com a mentira

de ter sido poupado à desilusão.

 

Findo o trabalho, tem ainda tempo

para se apiedar dos vindouros,

que da festa não terão sequer notícia,

que nunca poderão participar

sequer remotamente em algo

tão aparentado com a esperança.

 

(Publicado em Ladrador, Averno, 2012)

 

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Ashvin Pandurangi, The Automatic Earth

Looking around at those… around me – family, friends, acquaintances and random faces in the crowd of apathy – the level of complacency is so concentrated I can taste it, yet I can’t even describe how bad it tastes. I’m not really talking about the understanding people lack about the numerous predicaments we face as a species – that’s definitely there too… but what I’m talking about is even worse. It’s the assumption that we can just go about our day to day lives, doing our day to day work, having our day to day fun… and humanity will eventually heal itself, no matter how bad the injuries sustained.

This is a cultural phenomenon that has infested the Western world, and refuses to be eradicated. It is where many of us ultimately place our hope and stake our lives, sometimes without even realizing we are doing it. We previously discussed the entertainment enemas that have penetrated modern culture (and the lives of deluded teenagers) in Culturally Programmed Myths of Omnipotence. They have given us the vision that we can always become bigger, “better” and stronger as individuals and nations, evolving towards God-like glory, no matter what obstacles are in our way – all of the stories about superheroes, vampires, werewolves, wizards, robots and aliens – it’s all about the propaganda of pernicious power.

We even see this mentality taking root in academia and scientific research through the field of “transhumanism” (very well portrayed in the documentary, TechnoCalyps). As you can probably guess from the name, transhumanism tells us that we are on the way to becoming something more, something other, than human beings. Forget random mutation and natural selection, the transhumanist says – we can circumvent all of the slow evolutionary nonsense that we only theorized about a century ago. Now we can transform ourselves into a new species over the course of a few decades with the help of modern technology and “intelligent designers”. Just a little bit ironic, don’t you think?

Ironic, yet frighteningly appealing to the broader public. Yet another aspect of this cultural programming is the idea that all troubling stories have a happy ending – that all good things come to those who [sit on their ass and] wait. We have obviously been fed this diet of propaganda by movies and television on a consistent basis over the course of decades. You sit through one and a half hours of action-packed plots with drama, romance, suspense, twists and turns mixed in… and then the whole thing comes together and the heroes prevail in the last 20 minutes. That’s truly how many people view the world now – an epic movie that is approaching its glorious credits, just so the sequel can come out next year.This virulent mentality is not only quarantined to the mainstream materialistic culture, but is also evident in many alternative spheres of cultural milieu, even penetrating its way into the so-called “Doomer” crowds. Many people who are otherwise extremely pessimistic about the current world-system and its effects on human civilization have found refuge in the idea that we are entering a “New Age” of human existence. It may be initially characterized by pockets of chaos and upheavel, but it will end with a radical spiritual transformation that results from the natural evolution of human consciousness.

(mais…)

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