Monday, April 14, 2014

A Guest Post From The Mound Of Sound

I have missed reading the Mound of Sound since he put his blog, The Disaffected Lib, on hiatus about five weeks ago. A man of wide-ranging interests and passions, his posts on climate change and politics never failed to catch my attention and stimulate my own reading and research.

Yesterday I received an email from Mound; while he is not interested at this point in restarting his own blog, he asked if I would be open to hosting the occasional guest post from him. I responded with both alacrity and pleasure. What follows is the first of what I hope will be a regular guest feature of my blog. Mound's essay might best be described as a unified theory of our collective, global malaise, with corresponding suggested cures.


For a number of years I posed a challenge to my blog readers. I asked them to think about various woes that afflicted mankind today, among them: warming, including severe storm events of increasing frequency and intensity; droughts (both cyclical and persistent); floods; sea level rise including storm surge inundation, erosion and salination of coastal freshwater resources; ocean acidification; deforestation; desertification; air, soil and water contamination of all varieties; resource depletion, particularly the freshwater crisis; species extinction, especially the collapse of global fisheries; species migration and loss of biodiversity; overpopulation and population migration; pest and disease migration; and a host of entirely man-made security challenges including food insecurity; the collapse of social cohesion resulting in political instability, upheaval and civil war; politically engineered inequality; nuclear proliferation; and both superpower and regional arms races.

Then I challenged my readers to identify the common threads that ran through all of these challenges and existential threats. I asserted that these problems shared a common feature - if we were to solve any of them, we must solve them all and, to have much hope of achieving that, we had to understand how they were connected.

At first I had only the vaguest ideas of what the answers to the questions I posed might be. Yet, gradually and with a great deal of time pondering the puzzle, the common threads and the answers began to emerge. It became evident to me that our society, our global society, was created, run and maintained on dysfunctional organization. We were organized dysfunctionally - socially, politically and economically. In the course of this, to keep the party going, we had taken on the characteristics of addiction, final or late stage addiction at that. We were bloated, covered in our own filth, our organs were failing and yet we remained completely powerless to confront our underlying addiction.

There were three lethal processes underway - over-population, over-consumption, and our obsessive compulsion to pursue infinite, exponential growth. We were constantly expanding all of these processes, trying to find new ways, often gimmicks, by which we could temporarily compress them within the very finite boundaries of our planet, our one and only biosphere.

Peter was not only robbing Paul, he was raping him in the process. Anthropogenic global warming? That's a by-product of these three processes. Without cheap, abundant fossil fuels we could not have grown to 7+ billion people en route to 9-billion or more while, at the same time, steadily increasing our per capita ecological footprint. We could not have plundered the world's resources, easily pillaging even our resource reserves, until we are now dependent - to use the junkie's term "hooked" - on devouring 1.5 times Earth's replenishment rate of natural resources every year, a rate that is steadily increasing to propel us to the inevitable day of reckoning.

Like junkies, we fall victim to the powerful and their predatory brutality. Their growth restrained by the realities of a finite world, America's most privileged turned on their own, their once robust middle class, sucking the life out of them in perhaps the greatest unearned transfer of wealth in western history. To achieve this they subverted and overcame democracy, quietly supplanting that with oligarchy and rule by technocrats.

Between an ill-informed electorate, voter suppression, engineered voter apathy, legislated inequality, mass surveillance, gerrymandering, the corruption of elections by tainted money, a 'bought and paid for' Congress and a corporatist Supreme Court, it is obvious that oligarchy has now decisively routed democracy in the United States.

If you think Canada is far behind, think again. Think the Orwellian named, Fair Elections Act. Think CSIS and CSEC. Think of every rotten incident attendant upon petro-statehood. Think of the rise of corporatism and the corporate state, its path greased by today's corporate media cartel.

Above all else, think 'incrementalism'. Our prime minister's former BFF, Tom Flanagan, years ago described incrementalism as the foundation of Harper's approach to government. Radical transformations can be effected if implemented through baby steps over time, small increments that go unnoticed until they accumulate into a mass too great to be undone. This is the very tactic so instrumental in America's transformation from democracy to oligarchy. Twenty, thirty years is all it takes and the deed is done.

I perceive this subversion of democracy and the associated wholesale transfer of economic and political power to a new oligarchy, a modern feudal-corporatist aristocracy, as an entirely foreseeable, perhaps inevitable end product of over-population, over-consumption and endless, exponential growth.

This is bound to end badly. The plutocrats are themselves slavishly addicted to the conditions that underlie our three lethal processes. When growth becomes restrained, disaster capitalism beckons as a means to continue accumulating the residual wealth, however meager, of others. Water can be transformed into a commodity to be supplied to the highest, often the most desperate bidder. The food supply can likewise be commodified unnaturally by the global agri-business and the monopolizing of the best farmlands throughout the world. They're locking up especially productive swathes of farmland even in countries already plagued by chronic food insecurity such as Somalia. Not for nothing is Goldman Sachs' biggest trading desk that dealing with food futures. Vulture capitalism is drawn to global food insecurity like jackals to a rotting corpse. These people are squarely and quite wilfully at odds with humanity itself. They're gaming the market of survival of the most vulnerable and we tolerate that. What have we allowed ourselves to become?

We stand at the edge of abyss and it would be dishonest to claim with any confidence that we still have time to step back. That's not clear but we may have time to act, even if not much. The path back begins with the first step - restoration of democracy. This, for Canada, means the dissolution of the corporate media cartel through forced divestiture of closely held and clustered media outlets. To nurture an informed electorate we need far more voices in the media offering the widest range of opinion. We need to restore an information-based media to remedy the messaging-based, corporate-dominated media. We need a media that is again the watchdog of government rather than its lapdog.

Our leaders need to address the real consequences to the country and our democracy of petro-statehood. Petro-states exhibit fairly uniform behaviours and they're rarely democratic. We need to pattern ourselves more on Norway and far less on Nigeria. We also need to transition, as quickly as the rest of the world, to a decarbonized society and a decarbonized economy. That entails understanding that "because we can" is not synonymous with "because we should."

We need to rehabilitate the heart and lungs of our once healthy, robust middle class - health care and education. These are not expenses but investments and, like all prudent investments, they deliver their return not in short-term profits but in long-term dividends. We have, for too long, sacrificed the safety and security of our future generations for our short-term benefit and we have amassed a huge debt to them and the country that must be honoured. This is a small price to pay.

We must arrest and reverse the scourge of inequality already becoming established in Canada. That entails recognition that most inequality is engineered, the handiwork of legislatures. Very little of it is either market-driven or merit-based. It is the end result of tax policy, subsidies and grants, deferrals and the transfer of natural capital, resources, belonging to the public at far below market value. It is sometimes the result of corruption but more often it results from the fear of our leaders that failure to prostrate the country at the feet of the powerful will diminish us. Bollocks.

We need laws to defend our democratic process against subversion. Those who practice voter manipulation and voter suppression must be stripped of the freedom they would deny to others. Heavy fines and lengthy prison terms are required to reverse this malignancy being introduced by today's Conservatives. These are the acts of individuals wilfully intent on subverting our democracy.

Yes this is a tall order but mainly because these challenges have grown gradually over an extended period of time while we looked the other way. Malignancies are rarely discovered early. What matters is that they are here now, exposed, and we are nearing the point where we have to either find solutions, remedy these excesses, or submit to them. A 3-pack a day smoker can not restore his health by going on a gluten-free diet.


  1. I understand where we need to go, but I don't understand how we get from here to there. What's the first step? How do we begin? Letter-writing does squat. In the last couple years, my students, who have sent copious letters, have stopped receiving any replies of even basic acknowledgement. Do we take to the streets? When and where? Or do we ready the populous for the next election?

    1. I have invited Mound to reply to all responses, Marie, but I'll put in my own two cents here in the interim. I would say none of those activities is a waste if they raise awareness and engage interest. The potential power of the letter, in my view, is great, but only if enough people do so. But even if only a few write, it keeps the spirit of resistance alive, In terms of readying the populous for the next election, I think that is what we are always trying to do, be it through blogs, the progressive media, etc.

      I know that our governments want to quell the spirit of protest by inculcating the idea that resistance is futile, but that is a notion we have to resist, in every way possible.

    2. It's good to see the Mound getting back on the bike, even if he has to use Lorne's training wheels. We all know that Mound has not forgotten how to ride the bike. Having a wonderful time, Mound, wish you were here.

    3. .. Yes.. Write .. ! Marie .. Let them write .. ! The Medium is the Message ..

  2. Succinct and truthful article. Would he submit it to the Tyee? More and more people read the Tyee and more and more people subscribe to the Tyee. Something in the air, the other side of the mountains, that we should all start breathing.

    1. I agree completely, Anon. When I read Mound's piece, my immediate thought was that this deserves as wide an audience as possible.

  3. I don't think there is some roadmap for action, Marie. Surely that requires a movement formed around leadership to democratically advance needed policies of fundamental change. For a heavy smoker, going 'cold turkey' is a radical and difficult step yet no one would dispute that it is worthwhile and essential.

    Let us stop supporting parties that we suppose uphold progressivism yet do nothing of the sort. To build public awareness and support our country needs a truly free press, relieved of the yoke of corporate control. The Americans are proof enough of what results when you lose a free press. Internet, citizen journalism is helpful but it's not nearly enough.

    Reject any would-be leader who will not pledge to break up the corporate media cartel and encourage others to do the same. Speak out against them and that includes Trudeau and Mulcair. I mentioned over-cautious, even fearful leadership in this essay. We don't have time for more of that because we always wind up slipping further behind.

    Everyone needs to find their own ways to resist based on their own circumstances and opportunities. For some of us out here that will be in physical opposition to pipelines. Be prepared to join the next Occupy movement (there assuredly will be more). Support Anonymous.

  4. .. How bizarre, to discover evidence based thesis level dissertation of the highest realistic, useful & patriotic level.. comes not from the so called Harper Government and its unelected PMO 'consultants' or 'Ministries'.. but from unpaid, mobile and astute observers or artists.. such as the Mound of Sound ..

    Mainstream Media, to a great extent (but not all).. to an extreme extent should stick their heads further into the sand, or further up their arses.. for all their dull strident sellout opines are worth to concerned or caring Canadians

    I can count the real mainstream journos on almost 10 fingers.. while the similarly informed Indy journos are becoming uncountable.. and mebbe that's 'natural selection at work..

  5. Orwell wrote that the first step towards political regeneration was reclaiming our language, Marie. Letter writing still has power -- if it calls out the propagandists who debase it..

  6. I thought I should add something to my essay comment that oligarchy has truly displaced democracy in the US and is well on its way to doing the same here. A study from Princeton has reached the same conclusion:

    1. This is a sad vindication of something many of us have suspected for a long time, Mound.

  7. I cannot grasp, Lorne, how we have become so complacent to this corruption of our fundamental place in our state and society? Our American cousins have always lauded themselves as citizens of the land of the free and home of the brave and yet they have allowed their prosperity, security and democracy to be taken from them with barely a whimper. What does this hold for Canada and for our grandchildren?

    1. The longer I live, Mound, the more perplexed i become about human nature. Incrementalism, coupled with the myriad diversions fed to us, seem to have made us soft and uncritical. There are indeed times when I could almost despair, but I refuse to do so, largely because I won't yield to the corporate agenda and the governments that aid and abet it.