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"Establishing Fossil-fuel Free (FFF) Communities” (Global Research)

Global Research

“Establishing Fossil-fuel Free (FFF) Communities”

November 27, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

The response to the increasing awareness of the threat of continuing a fossil-fuel driven growth and consumption economic model is a ruthless effort to block out serious reporting on climate change in the media and to downplay is seriousness in education and in the policy debate.

It is inspiring to see youth take leadership roles in the struggle to address climate change, but we have not even started to transform our economy, let alone our civilization.

Sadly, even the most committed climate activists, even those willing to risk prison time, or bodily injury, still find themselves washing with warm water heated by coal or natural gas, eating vegetables that were shipped on diesel-powered cargo ships, transported on trucks powered by diesel fuel, and wrapped in plastics derived from petroleum.

The components in the computers and cell phones that activists use to coordinate their protests, or to write articles about climate change, were produced using coal and other noxious chemicals at factories in India, China or Thailand. The electricity that powers the internet connecting them with fellow activists is equally unclean.

For that matter, the academics who conduct research on the climate change’s impact on our future have their retirement funds tied up in the stocks of companies with direct, or indirect, ties to fossil fuel profits (links that are often not disclosed).

We face the contradiction, of using disposable felt pens made of plastic in factories powered by coal in Malaysia, and transported by petroleum-fueled trucks and airplanes, to write protest signs condemning the fossil fuel industry.

Protest draw attention to hidden truths, but when the marches are over, we return home to a nightmare world that offers no escape from the fossil fuels. We have the choice to eat meat, or not, but there is no option to reject this industrial economy run in accord with the bankrupt ideology of consumption and growth.

But if there were a choice, even if the scale was small at the beginning, the nature of the protest could be expanded so that all our actions, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, became a part of it.

If citizens of the Earth had the opportunity to be a member of an economic system that had absolutely no ties to fossil fuels, or to the money generated by them, then every single action of ethical citizens, from brushing their teeth in the morning to turning out the light in bed at night, would be a form of protest.

Such communities would open the gate to an alternative economy, as opposed to a bit of greenery in the middle of an extractive and predatory economic order.

The next step of our protest must be the creation of local communities, linked together as part of global networks, whose economies are in word and deed 100% fossil-fuel free (FFF). Creating such economic, social and political units at the local level, even if they can only support 100 people, or 500 people at first, will offer the public a viable alternative. Those fossil-fuel free FFF communities will make it possible for those with a deep ethical sense to fully commit to a fossil fuel free Earth in word and in deed—not just “recycling” plastic at the supermarket, but never touching plastic again.

Moreover, the first steps towards FFF (fossil fuel free) communities can be taken immediately. There is no need to wait for some cynical politician to implement a carbon-neutral economy twenty or thirty years in the future.

Creating FFF Communities

Creating FFF (fossil fuel free) communities will require considerable bravery and sacrifice at first, and the number willing to commit will be limited. But we have that critical mass already. Remember, because 100% FFF (fossil-fuel free) communities will not be dependent for food, for energy or for finance on corporations, or banks tied to fossil fuels in any way, they will be able to speak freely in a manner that communities cannot today. Their power will be far greater than their initial scale would suggest.

Such will be a model for other communities around the world, and they will produce journalism and educational systems that others cannot because their dependency on funding linked to fossil fuels compromises their efforts from the start.

It will not be long before small-scale FFF communities will become powerful economic and political players capable of taking on multinational investment banks and oil companies and can offer a vision for an immediate and unconditional end to the use of fossil fuels-rather of a vague and open-ended plan to phase out fossil fuels in a manner that does not impact profits.

Scientific data shows that the date given in reports of governments and corporations of 2050 for the creation of a carbon-neutral economy is laughably late. Many experts write that we have only a matter of years, or months, to avoid a scenario in which billions of humans (and other species) will die, whether from floods and storms, from rising seas, spreading deserts, from starvation, and unbearable heat, or from hybrid wars waged for control of remaining scarce resources.

Although the main-stream media covers protests and declarations by governments of a climate emergency, there has been zero change for the majority. You may see a solar panel go up on an occasional house, but there are few laws even being considered (let alone being enforced) that require all food be locally and organically produced, all buildings be fully insulated and equipped with solar and wind power, and all transportation to powered by 100% renewable energy.

We must gather together a small group of people who will pledge to support the community, and each other, for the long term, and to rely for their needs exclusively on the FFF products produced by the community at the local level (until 100% FFF transportation systems are established). If we have activists who are willing to be arrested, we can find among them those who are willing to make a commitment to a FFF community.

Such a commitment must be a serious one. There must be a binding contract that commits new members to the community and commits the community to those members. FFF communities cannot operate in accord with the superficial culture of consumption, distraction and short-term thinking that got us in this trouble in the first place.

Perhaps new members of the community will commit their assets to the FFF community in return for a commitment from the community to care for them for a lifetime. Or some other form of deep social and ethical commitment is possible.

he fossil-fuel free community will provide a model, first on a small scale, for what human society could be if we embrace a consistently sustainable approach. We have few models now—and that is no accident.

The core of the economy of the FFF community will be organic farms that produce 100% organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels. At the beginning, citizens of the communities will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet, but through their efforts and sacrifices, they will lay the foundations for a truly fossil fuel free economy. The food will be grown at home, on roofs and in empty lots in the neighborhood, or be brought in from local farms.

A revolution in thinking is essential: we must recognize that working together with neighbors to create a society free of fossil fuels is at least as important as writing articles for newspapers, lobbying the rich and powerful or giving (fossil-fuel tainted) money to environmental NGOs. The struggle to create a community free of fossil fuels in the full sense (no plastics, no products produced using fossil fuels, no products transported using fossil fuels) can be the defining effort for those who are involved.

Food should be sold (or exchanged through barter) in communal markets that encourage collaboration between farmer and citizen (rather than a transaction between a corporation and consumer). Those markets can serve as the foundation for new patterns of economic exchange entirely detached from fossil fuels and they can be expanded across the region, and then around the world. There is nothing radical about such organic farming communities. They are how humans managed to survive for thousands of years without destroying the climate.

We can find models in the communities of the Amish and the Mennonites. Although we grew up considering these groups who far, without machinery or artificial fertilizers as odd, they alone have pursued a sustainable economy while the rest of the United States embraced an insane system of industrialized agricultural production tied to global trade.

Organic farming for the immediate community will provide youth real jobs in agriculture and distribution that will be both paid and morally dignified. The ability to create food which is not contributing to the destruction of our Earth is a moral action that can inspire many to join in the effort.

The creation of fossil-fuel free (FFF) transportation for food and other goods is the other critical condition for such communities. Our citizens must understand that vowing to use only FFF transportation offered, even if it is profoundly limited at first, must not be viewed as unpleasant inconvenience, but rather as a pledge of moral bravery. We cannot wait for politicians to provide such “clean” energy (as politicians are easily persuaded to consider natural gas, electricity and even nuclear power to be clean).

Another critical part of the FFF community will be manufacturing. We must completely rethink manufacturing: the production of, and the use of, the necessary items for life. We must ask first how we will produce all the items we use without ever employing fossil fuels or plastic. At the same time, we must definitively end the promotion of, and consumption of, frivolous and status-related products.

Manufacturing for the FFF community should start out 100% local (until we have 100% FFF transportation we can use to link communities in the region, and across the world).

Eliminating fossil fuels means that we must cut back on how we use daily and we must manufacture items that will last for a long time. We need desks and chairs, bookshelves and chopping boards, shirts and sweaters, cups and pots that will last for 20-50 years, or longer. That shift in our economy means both an end to a commercial, consumption-driven culture and a focus on well-made products that are built to last, and that are valued for what they are, not what images they are associated with. No IKEA or GAP will be found in FFF communities.

The production and the distribution of 100% fossil fuel free products will create long-term jobs for our children and for our neighbors’ children. Manufacturing must be local and the return of crafts that produce durable goods will contribute much to our environment. We must move away from the dangerous concepts of competitiveness, free trade and industrialization. The misguided concept of growth must go also.

Changing culture, concepts, and attitudes

Fossil-Fuel Free Communities must be free of fossil fuel propaganda and the ideological assumptions planted by corporations that we cannot live meaningful lives without consuming large amounts of energy, seen or unseen. The response to climate change starts with an attitudinal revolution, not with progressive innovations in technology and governance. The FFF community must be a space wherein such a cultural transformation can take place without commercials that promote automobiles and the thoughtless consumption of food.

Not only must all citizens comprehend that climate change is an immediate and overwhelming threat in the community, we must create a culture wherein the practices required to respond, whether shoveling mulch, recycling glass and scrap metal, collecting human feces for use as fertilizer transporting food by cart, or generating electricity on an exercise bike (which is also good exercise) are perceived as an ethical imperative, as the valuable contribution to society. The cult of the self and immediate gratification promoted by a commercialized economy must be replaced by a culture based on moral philosophy, frugality, humility and the simple virtue of participation in society.

This shift is not entirely “progressive.” In a sense it is also a return to conservative values like modesty, frugality, and the importance of intellectual and spiritual engagement. The larger these communities become the more powerful will be this alternative to the commercial culture that dominates globally. We must unmask the false assumptions promoted by the insidious ideology of modernity that the human condition is improved by electrification, consumption, a vast increase in possessions, urbanization and transportation via private automobiles and airplanes. Unless we challenge the larger ideological framework, we cannot bring about the fundamental shift we require for survival.

Going green must not be limited to cosmetic changes in an economy that is based on the consumption of goods and services and that is rooted in the production and distribution of those fossil fuels.

We must make visible the hidden hierarchy behind the myth of modernity, one that is hammered home for all citizens in the movies (and in the commercials that come before and after them) and in news reports that we watch. The insidious assumption is that those who employ I Phones and who work multinational corporations, those who are shuttled around from capital to capital around the world in expensive automobiles, or luxurious planes, those who live in spacious homes and eat fine meals, are somehow doing more important work than those who transport goods, who clean our public spaces, who grow our food and cook our meals.

The criminal waste of resources, the pollution of our environment by fossil fuels and the concentration of wealth in a tiny handful of people is presented in the commercial media as a moral good.

The FFF community also must undertake a complete reform of the misleading concepts of real estate, private property and ownership that have done so much damage. Our society is controlled by contract law and corporate law which citizens are made completely ignorant of by the media. But we have no binding contracts between members of our community to help each other, or to preserve the ecosystem. The FFF community will be the complete opposite.

A pledge of loyalty by those joining the FFF community to end their ties to fossil fuels should be central to membership. We need the equivalent of a village contract, once central to agricultural communities in Europe, Asia, the Americas before the promulgation of the concept of real estate and the concentration of capital in the hands of the few. Such a village contract should spell out in a binding, rather than symbolic, the manner the responsibilities that each individual has to contribute to the production of food, tools, furniture, transportation and governance, and the commitment of the community to provide for the members of the community for a lifetime.

Reviving the Constitution of the Iroquois Nations, which made the relationship of human settlements with the environment central to governance, can be help us to overcome the legal distortions born of a focus on finance, property rights and real estate.

Currently, it is perfectly acceptable for progressives to participate in protests about climate change while investing their assets in companies making profits related to fossil fuels. We must demand zero tolerance and make sure all investment is tied of the community’s activities and tied to the creation of a FFF economy.

Membership in a fossil-fuel free community must be open to everyone and not segregated in accord with assets, level of education or cultural sensitivities. We must abandon the delusion that somehow a green economy focused on the upper middle class, those who can afford Teslas or big layouts for solar panels, will save humanity. Everyone should have access to information about the climate crisis as part of their education and of the media which surrounds them.

It is as critical that we explain the climate crisis to the poor and to the working class in terms that they can understand and to make a commitment to help them obtain quality educations, and economic opportunities, in return for their participation in the response. Addressing climate change by gala dinners, handouts from billionaires, and other stunts cannot effect a transformation of our society.

The establishment of our own FFF currency can be immensely helpful in this process. Our currency will represent the contribution of the individual to society and be backed by agricultural products, and other manufactured goods, produced in the community. That currency, even if extremely limited in its use at first, will have tremendous value for us in that it will not be linked to fossil fuels at any level. That means that as that FFF currency expands its use across the local economy, and eventually extends to the global economy, it can serve as currency without any links to fossil fuels, and the core of a similarly independent financial system.

The greatest travesty of our age is the silence about the link between global trade and climate change. Shipping goods across the Earth in the search of financial advantages for investment banks does tremendous damage to the environment because of pointless carbon emissions and the destruction of forests and jungles to produce factory farms and just plain factories in the eternal search for profit at the expense of nature. The inhuman mass production of foodstuffs (especially of meat) that is pushed in global trade does long-term damage to soil, forests and rivers and oceans. Moreover, the industrial approach to production and distribution of food and products has destroyed local economies and encouraged an unprecedented concentration of wealth. Fossil-fuel free communities offer the citizen a way to opt out of this destructive nightmare for the first time.


We witness a battle in the media, and in discussion groups, between those who argue that we must focus on changing our habits and our thinking first as a means of saving our Earth and those who hold that because most emissions can be traced back to a handful of multinational corporations we must first deal with them first, rather than allowing us to naively assume that because our own lives have less of a carbon footprint we are saving the world.

Although there is a danger that we can be distracted from the deep contradictions in our economy if we become overly myopic in our pursuit of personal sustainability that should not lead us to underestimate the importance of changing how we act daily. As the number of people out there increase who will not compromise on certain principles, we will start to shift the global culture and that culture will radiate up even to the most protected elites deeply imbedded in the fossil fuel economy.

That said, the best route is to combine the two strategies: to make personal choices into community choices and to make that community into an economic unit which will serve as the building block for an alternative economy from the ground up.

“Creating Fossil-Fuel-Free Communities Globally” Foreign Policy in Focus

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Creating Fossil-Fuel-Free Communities Globally”

November 18, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

Now that the movement to address climate change at the systemic and cultural level has gained unprecedented momentum, it is critical for us to establish a viable alternative economy that committed citizens around the world can join. The basic unit of that economy should be fossil-fuel-free (FFF) communities.

In these FFF (fossil-fuel-free) communities, to be built from the ground up, nothing eaten or consumed, no form of transformation or communication employed, and no aspect of housing, furniture or utensils will contain fossil fuels (including plastics or fertilizers). Nor will any of these items be produced, transported, or manufactured using fossil fuels.

Such FFF communities can serve as uncompromised building blocks of a truly carbon-zero economy, polity, and culture. Although small at first, such communities will not be dependent for food, energy, or finance on corporations or banks tied to fossil fuels.

Creating such communities will require considerable bravery and sacrifice, and the number of people willing to commit will be limited at first. But recent demonstrations around the world suggest that a critical mass is in place. It will not be long before small-scale FFF communities can become powerful economic and political players that can take on investment banks and oil companies and demand an immediate end to all use of fossil fuels in the place of a vague and open-ended plan to phase out fossil fuels in a manner that does not affect profits.

Such FFF communities make for their small size with their complete independence.

Growing Food

The core of FFF economics will be organic farms that produce 100 percent organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels to its citizens. At the beginning, citizens of these communities will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet because the food will be grown at home, or in the neighborhood, or it will be brought in from local farms without the use of fossil fuels.

Food will be sold (or exchanged through barter) in communal markets that encourage collaboration between farmer and citizen, rather than a transaction between a corporation and a consumer. Such markets will serve as the foundation for new patterns of economic exchange that are entirely detached from fossil fuels. We do not have such communities these days, but they were the dominant paradigm for hundreds of thousands of years.

Partial models for self-supporting fossil-fuel-free economies exist today among the Amish (currently the fastest-growing farming communities in the United States). Although the media often portray communities who engage in organic agriculture without the use of machinery as odd, they alone have embraced a sustainable economy while the rest of the United States embraced an unsustainable system of industrialized agricultural production tied to global trade.

Such food production will give young people paying jobs in agriculture and distribution that will be morally dignified—and without the deep alienation created by most modern work. To produce and deliver food in a manner that does not contribute to the destruction of our Earth is a noble act that can inspire many to join the effort. The use of carbon-free transportation, even if profoundly limiting at first, will eventually be seen as acts of moral bravery not merely unpleasant inconvenience.

Making Things

Another critical part of the FFF community will be manufacturing. Production must not involve fossil fuels or plastic in the manufacture, the transportation, or the disposal of products. Moreover, manufacturing for the FFF community must start out 100% local, at least until 100% FFF transportation systems are in place to link communities in the region and across the world.

Local manufacture without the use of fossil fuels will require producing items that will last: desks and chairs, bookshelves and chopping boards, shirts and sweaters, cups and pots that can be used for 20 to 50 years, or longer. That shift means both an end to a commercial, consumption-driven culture and a focus on well-made products. Such manufacture will also guarantee long-term jobs for the next generation.

The greater challenge is how to make integrated circuits and supercomputers without employing fossil fuels. A massive effort will be required to find new technologies that deliver the advanced technologies without falling back on petroleum or coal.

New mechanisms of finance will also be necessary to support this transition. A sturdy sweater that can last for 30 years might cost $400. The current economic system produces cheaper products that don’t last as long and are produced in a manner that destroys the environment. By contrast, if financing were readily available on a small scale, that sweater could be paid off over 10 years and the real cost would be less than a less durable version. Similarly, solar panels financed at zero interest over 30 years are cheaper than using natural gas or coal immediately, even for those with no assets.

The establishment of an FFF currency can be immensely helpful in this process. This currency would represent the contribution of the individual to society and would be backed by agricultural products and other manufactured goods that are produced in the community. As the use of this currency expands across the local economy, and eventually extends to the global economy, it can help support a parallel financial system.

Finally, global trade contributes a great deal to climate change. Shipping goods across the Earth in the search of financial advantage does tremendous damage to the environment through carbon emissions and the destruction of forests and jungles to produce factories and factory farms. Displacing the ecological costs of cheap production to India or China allows people the world over to enjoy cheap products whose sticker prices do not reflect their true cost. FFF communities, whether in Nebraska or New Delhi, offer a meaningful alternative to this destructive cycle.

Changing Culture

At the deepest level, the response to climate change must start with a revolution in people’s attitudes and perspectives, not with innovations in technology and governance. The FFF community can be a space where such a cultural transformation can take place without being interrupted by commercials promoting automobiles or the thoughtless consumption of food. The cult of the self and glorification of immediate gratification promoted in a commercialized economy must be replaced by a culture based on moral philosophy, frugality, humility, and the simple virtue of participation in society. These communities, because of this intellectual and moral independence, can create a culture that offers the earth’s citizens a true alternative to the dominant commercial culture.

Such FFF communities can start to undermine the false assumptions promoted by the ideology of modernity which holds that human condition is improved by excessive consumption, a vast increase in possessions, urbanization, and transportation via private automobiles and airplanes. Without challenging this larger ideological framework, a fundamental social shift cannot take place. Without such a transformation, “going green” will be limited to cosmetic changes within an economy built on fossil fuels (green lipstick on a filthy pig).

FFF communities can introduce a new set of values such that citizens feel that the tasks required to create a society without fossil fuels have greater value than activities destructive to the environment.

The FFF community can also help dethrone the misleading concepts of real estate and private property. For example, a pledge by those joining the FFF community to end their ties to fossil fuels could be central to membership. This action parallels the village contract that was so central to agricultural communities in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and elsewhere up until the establishment of enclosure acts that ended the commons and the promulgation of the concept of real estate. The modern village contract should spell out in a binding, rather than symbolic, manner the responsibilities that each individual has to contribute to the production of food, tools, furniture, transportation, and governance as well as the commitment of the community to provide for the members of the community for a lifetime.

Membership in the fossil-fuel-free community must be open to everyone, not just those with the assets the education or the cultural sensitivities necessary to act green. It’s a dangerous delusion to think that the upper middle class can create a green economy by driving Teslas and installing overpriced solar panels. Everyone should have access to information about the climate crisis, and be qualified for membership in a FFF community. The climate crisis disproportionately affects the poor and the working classes. Their participation in FFF communities, accompanied by access to quality education and other opportunities, will be essential.

At first glance, it seems mysterious that those who risk everything in demonstrations about climate change return home by automobile to eat food produced and cooked with fossil fuels. For all their spiritual commitment, they have not been able to break out of the carbon cycle. But there is no mystery. Breaking away from fossil fuels is not a matter of progressive policies, but of revolutionary politics.

Establishing fossil-fuel free (FFF) Communities

Establishing fossil-fuel free (FFF) Communities

Emanuel Pastreich

October 14, 2019

We came away from the climate march, the climate strike and the enormous swell of political commitment among ordinary citizens in the week leading up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit with a new mandate for action.  Even the commercial media which had previously ignored this climate catastrophe was forced to face the music. Whether it is the strikes at high schools or the declaration of a climate emergency by local governments, we are witnessing a fundamental shift in consciousness in all corners.

But even the positive turn cannot erase the dread of impending catastrophe adumbrated by forest fires in Siberia and the Amazon, the heat waves sweeping India and Europe and the complete failure of the central governments of any major country to make a fundamental commitment to the elimination of fossil fuels even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of impending doom.    

The emphasis so far has been on appealing to top government officials to recognize climate change as a crisis and change policy. Perhaps that was the appropriate first step. But the time has come to move to the next stage.

Sadly, the most committed climate activists, after they are dragged away to prison for their civil disobedience, find themselves washing with warm water heated with coal or natural gas, or even nuclear power and eating vegetables that were shipped on cargo ships and trucks powered by fossil fuels, and wrapped in plastic produced from petroleum. The components in the computers and cell phones they used to coordinate the protests, or write moving articles, were produced using coal and other noxious chemicals in India, in China or in Thailand and the power that drives most internet networks is similarly unclean.

The specialists who conduct research on the impact of climate change have retirement funds tied up in companies with direct, or indirect, ties to fossil fuel profits (often links that are not disclosed to them).

That is to say that protestors may raise attention about climate change to the highest levels, but they return home to a nightmare world wherein there is no escape from the fossil fuels. The individual may have the choice of whether to eat meat, or whether to protest, but he or she has no choice about whether to participate in an industrial economy run according to a bankrupt ideology of consumption and growth. 

Activists can block traffic, or lie down on train tracks, to force politicians to pay attention to their demands, but the vast majority of their actions, from the moment they turn on the lights in the morning and check their email to the last plastic wrapped snack they eat from refrigerator before bed, are tied to fossil fuels. Moreover, they can fight to get articles about climate change in the existing corporate media, or in public textbooks, but there is no broadly circulated newspaper or television news that focuses on climate change.

But if there were a choice, even if the scale was small at first, it would be possible to make every aspect of one’s life into protest action by participating in a global economy, a global intellectual network, which is from start to finish 100% fossil fuel free (FFF). Although bravery and sacrifice are required, such FFF communities are entirely possible. But we are rather told that we must put up with the existing system of dependency on petroleum and coal until such moment as the entire country is net zero.

But if we create large parts of local economies that are 100% fossil-fuel free (FFF), those communities themselves will become powerful economic players that can go toe-to-toe with investment banks and oil companies. Imagine if you had people knocking on your door regularly asking you to become a part of a FFF community which would guarantee that all the energy you use, all the food you eat and all the items in your home are produced without fossil fuels? When that starts to happen, we will have started the real revolution.

Establishing a fossil fuels free (FFF) Community

The general assumption among the vast majority of citizens who are even aware of the threat of climate change is that we will all wait until 2050 and then the government, which has been entirely gutted and privatized) will determine through laws that the entire economy of each nation is transformed into a sustainable. The amount of reporting in the commercial media proposing such a solution is so overwhelming that most people, awash in the half-truths that flow through the smart phone, take this proclamation at face value.

The scientific data shows overwhelmingly that 2050 is far, far, too late. But equally importantly, the current power structure is such that although there are media events about climate change from time to time, there is zero change in your neighborhood. There is no option to select 100% renewable energy, no option to purchase food wrapped in plastic and no meetings of the local citizens to discuss climate change, dependency on petroleum or the other serious problems that we face.

Freedom will start when we have a choice and that choice will only exist if we establish 100% fossil fuel free (FFF) communities around the world on a small scale that will permit committed citizens to opt out of the corrupt system that forces us to use fossil fuels, whether we want to or not. Once there are small communities which are literally 100% FFF (no fossil fuels used in the production or transportation of fabrication of anything employed), there will be the choice for those of conscience to choose (at an initial sacrifice) to join these communities. Without any doubt, many will join. And over time these communities will expand until they become a substantial part of the domestic, and international economy.

Currently, it is possible to participate in protests about climate change. But when the protest is over, for most it is back to normal life in an industrialized society. If we have fossil fuel communities, however, the protest can go on 24 hours a day and a real positive step can be made to stop destroying our Earth now, and not when some politician decides so. We do not need the approval of business leaders or politicians to start that process at the local level. All we need is the will, the vision, the motivation and the tenacity. Such FFF communities give us more than just a good feeling. They bring with them economic independence from a corrupt fossil fuel economy which influences every aspect of the political economy. Those FFF communities can serve as the base for numerous other political, social and educational movements.

The first step for creating FFF (fossil-fuel free) communities at the local level is to gather together a small group of people who pledge to support the community, and each other, for the long term, and to support themselves exclusively on the FFF products produced by this community. There are now, among those willing to be arrested at protests, those who are deeply committed to being vegan. If we have a critical mass of them willing to commit to these FFF communities, and to sink what assets they have into the community in the understanding that those communities will pledge to support them going forward.

There are a few basics for a fossil fuel free community, and they may not be perfect at first, but can be made 100% in a short period of time. The core for our new economy is the establishment of organic farms that produce 100% organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels to those who will eat it. At the beginning, those who join these groups will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet, but they can be certain that they have established the foundations for a truly fossil fuel free economy. The food may be grown locally, or brought in from local farms, or grown at home. The point is that fossil fuels do not intrude at any point in the process.

Food can be sold at communal markets in which the collaboration between producer and consumer is a core feature. That is to say that the markets are jointly owned and that the act of buying is linked to a cultural and political act of stepping out of the fossil fuel economy. We can start with one such communal market and then expand them out around the world—what is important is that people are invited to join.

The model of the Amish or the Mennonites is worth considering here. Although we do not have to accept every aspect of their production systems for food without fossil fuels, they offer us best practices that we can use. What we need to make sure is that our communities are expansive and invite in all those who take an interest.

We can create FFF gardens in every corner of the city, like victory gardens in our struggle to win back our economy from the agricultural and transportation corporations who want to make us slaves to petroleum and petroleum byproducts. Give the youth who create this food jobs and pay them in food and currency for their efforts (like the growing of food during WW II but even more extensive). Within a month, we can get a significant chunk of the UK economy made of FFF communities.

It will be critical to come up with fossil fuel free transportation for food and other goods immediately, rather than waiting for corrupt politicians to provide it and to make it clear that making do with limited FFF transportation is not an unpleasant inconvenience for the citizen, but a form of moral bravery, the front line of the battle against climate change. The first step is not technological, but rather attitudinal. If working all day shoveling mulch, or transporting food by cart, or generating electricity on an exercise bike (which is good exercise) is seen as an ethical imperative, much will become possible. If these actions are treated as secondary, something to be left to others, and the narcissism of posting on Instagram dominates our culture, we will not get very far at all.

Transportation reform means reform of the concept of real estate and of community. That we must become social beings again who can share everything and we must give up our private land in order to support ourselves and our community through local food production.

Another critical part of the FFF community must be manufacturing. Establishing FFF manufacturing is an enormous challenge. First you must start making everything yourself, in your community, make it without using fossil fuels. Products, whether desks and bookshelves, or shirts and sweaters, or cups and pots must be made to last for 20-50 years. That means that they must be well-made, that the culture of consumption and constant replacement must be replaced with a culture of sustainability within the FFF community, and we return to local production for most everything.

Starting our own stores that sell only products produced without any fossil fuels and offering jobs to our children and the children of our neighbors in those stores, which we patronize because we are in part owners of them, it is key to creating FFF communities.

It goes without saying that this move is the end of the global trade that we have staked our economy on for the last hundred years. Shipping goods across the Earth does tremendous damage to the environment and also to encourage the inhuman mass production of foodstuffs and other products in certain regions to supply the world. That approach to production and distribution has destroyed local economies and distorted the global economy. It is possible to have trade using entirely renewable energy in the future, but there is no need for it ever to be on this scale.

Some might take this statement as an anti-internationalist, or even anti-Chinese, statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is essential that local communities work in an international manner to address climate change long-term. That will be an internationalist project, but it will have nothing to do with global capital investments by the wealthy. It is not anti-Chinese to suggest that China must reinvigorate its local economy and stop the large scale exports that damage the environment by switching back to local, non-polluting manufacturing and agriculture. New technologies can make this process far easier and more effective than was true in the 19th century. Moreover, the shift will make China more independent and more self-sufficient. The same hold true for other nations who have staked their futures on global trade. We must recognize, quickly, that this system is finished.

Finance and Currency

The end of a consumption culture driven forward by corporate advertising must be coupled with a drive to restructure finance and lending to meet the needs of this new community. We must create local banks that lend out money to purchase these products by means of 30-year loans. That is to say that if you buy a shirt, or a desk, that will last for 50 years, it will take a lot of work to make and it will be expensive. But if there is a bank that will lend you money for the purchase immediately using a loan over twenty years to purchase that product, then the product becomes affordable immediately. The same is true for solar or wind power.

It is a tremendous burden to suddenly go out and buy solar panels and have them installed. But if the whole package is funded using a 30-year, or 50-year loan, then it is immediately competitive with paying your monthly bill from the very start. Most people would start using renewable energy immediately.

We need to completely restructure banks, starting with local banks and the banks established by FFF communities. The primary function of banks will be to make rapid conversation to 100% renewable possible. That means that finance must be focused on the small item, not the big infrastructure programs that investment banks love. For example, if a pair of pants that will last for 40 years (and can be passed on and on to the next generation, and is made locally, ends up costing $150, the bank should offer microloans that will make that product cheaper than a pair of pants imported from Vietnam that will last for six months. The bank will serve, starting from the FFF community, to reshape the nature of economics so that loans are primarily concerned with distributing cost for critical investments for sustainability so that those investments are never avoided because they are too expensive. The bank will be cooperative in nature, owned by the members of the community and will not have profit as a goal.

Moreover, the very nature of the economy, whether at the bank of in the newspapers circulated at the FFF community, must fall on long-term development (50-100 years) so that the true cost of petroleum, coal and consumption is manifest. That requires that we transform the study of economics, policy, security and welfare so that all disciplines focus on the long term. We can start this transformation of education from elementary school in the FFF community and quickly expand it around the world.

Part of the process can be the establishment of an eco-currency, a form of money that is completely detached from the fossil fuel banking-industrial-military complex and that ties the state of the environment directly to the value of money. Such a currency can start at the local level, and be expanded in its use at a later date (See “Ecocurrency”).


More often than not, the solution to the climate catastrophe is presented to us as a matter of technology. Although there are certainly critical new materials that can help us to create energy more cheaply from wind and sun, and that satellites allow us to study the state of the biosphere, it will be the humanities that will be decisive in the response to climate change.

The much-neglected field of philosophy will be central. We need to make study of philosophy central to all of our plans for the future and to recognize that it was the war on metaphysics, epistmelogy and moral philosophy which has brought on the current intellectual crisis that has permitted climate change to reach this stage without any response.

The privileged feel entirely at peace with themselves consuming goods that are produced using fossil fuels in other countries while living in comfortable home with minimal pollution. They are happy to have cheap energy produced by coal power plants as long as those power plants are far away. The ability to conceive of that which is not immediately visible as atrophied for the vast majority of the population. Discussions about philosophy, philosophic topics and scientific discussions about the nature of our human experience should be expanded to be a central part of our lives, replacing the commercial consumption dominated media that takes up most of our lives.

Only strong foundations in philosophy will allow our citizens to step back from the drive to make a profit right now, to satisfy their desires immediately, and think about the long-term. Philosophy does not mean, however, that we must bury ourselves in the abstract writings of Hegel and Heidegger. Rather the essential questions about human existence and the meaning of our experience must be made central in all discourse and the consumer culture aimed at stimulating the amygdala must be ended.

The consumption culture that is destroying us creates profits because it encourages, stimulates, the individual to desire more and bigger, to create an imbalance in the individuals self-perception so that some exterior object must be purchased in order to obtain wholeness. Whether it is the worship of growth or the praise of consumption, the blindness towards how our economic assumptions feed climate change must be overcome.

One critical part of that transformation consists of the discovery of the infinite within. As Leo Tolstoy noted in his masterpiece on this subject “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” there is infinite spiritual depth, infinite intellectual and artistic potential within us, within a blade of grass. Such a spiritual and philosophical understanding of human experience is essential to moving beyond our self-destructive current culture and learning how to control technologies, rather than have technology control us.  

The importance of the humanities goes beyond philosophy. We must create a community in which all citizens can fully express themselves and live deep, meaningful and fulfilling lives without ever feeling a need to do something that requires fossil fuels. Humans did it four tens of thousands of years before. They may have suffered as a result of the lack of modern medicine and they may have been malnourished, but we should not assume their experiences were less spiritually and intellectually.

Odd though it may seem to people whose brains have been rewired by computers and the internet to respond to instant messages, it is possible for you to spend months reading books, writing letters, painting and sketching, exercising, playing music or dancing without employing a single drop of petroleum. Moreover, your memory will improve and you will find it easier to keep track of complex issues in your head as a result. Making things with your hands from clay or wood gives a concrete quality to experience that is effective in addressing the alienation in our society.

 The return of art, literature, and the public debate will greatly improve the state of our society and make us better equipped to respond to climate change. It is hard to imagine such a shift, but within FFF communities we can start the revolution.


These fossil fuel free communities require a deep personal commitment. Like members of alcoholics anonymous, we must pledge never to use fossil fuels and support each other so that we do not fall back to our old habit. We must feel a sense of shame, and we should spread that sense of shame broadly. Every time you use fossil fuels to warm your water, you should think that you are killing off children in Chad. Every time you throw away a plastic spoon, you should feel as if you are dumping raw crude oil in the ocean.


Restoring the culture of modesty and frugality that has made up much of human history is critical for our future. That will be part of our education programs, our media programs and our approach to evaluating human progress. We must reject the standards by which we have analyzed the world for over a hundred years.

Shame must be a part of that education. Every citizen must think about all the energy and the suffering that went into every drop of petroleum, the pollution and contamination that is behind every bite of processed food, and also the damage done by every little piece of plastic we through away, every piece of fish we waste.

Education about climate change should begin today, not for those who are reading this article, but for those who live in blissful ignorance, or who have been denied educations altogether. We must work outside of our FFF communities to tell every single citizen what is happening to the climate and what needs to be done. We need to think that we are competing against the commercial media that seeks to lull citizens to sleep and render them as harmless consumers. We must, by contrast, must meet them on the street with posters and other readily understood materials to tell them what is going on in terms they can understand. We must go door to door in every neighborhood and tell them the truth and invite them to join us.

We must not make the mistake of assuming that climate change is an issue for the upper middle class, or for progressives. We must seek out working class people, conservative Christians, everyone, and tell them how climate change impacts them.

More importantly, we must make it clear that those who commit to join the campaign against climate change are our friends. We do not want people to just show up for an event, just vote for a candidate. If they are willing to walk with us, and work with us, we will help them for a lifetime. If we have better educations, better connections, we will commit to helping their families, to looking out for their interests, if they join us. It is that sense of community, of a true contract, that is at the core of a political movement that will last for decades.



“重新考虑东北亚的真正危机” 多维新闻



2019年 10月 8日











世界正在深受气候危机的困扰——瑞典女孩葛莉塔·桑博格(Greta Thunberg)感人至深的演讲将这一问题推到了风口浪尖。无数心怀热忱的年轻人都曾呼吁为了让人类免遭气候灾难之害而彻底改变全世界的经济、政治和文化模式。他们知道,倘若坐视不理,承受可怕后果的将是他们自己。









Strike DC for Climate Justice (Sept. 23, 2019)

It was no simple matter dragging myself to McPherson Square at 7:30 AM today to participate in the Extinction Rebellion part of today’s STrike DC for Climate Justice. But when I saw the eighty or so dedicated people who were there, I was inspired. One really needs people around one who are committed in order to feel the real confidence to set out on a difficult task. We blocked several intersections and distributed leaflets to the drivers who were forced to wait. The police were relatively understanding and helpful and there were plenty of people who went out of their way to help us.

But it was an incredibly hot day for September and I felt as if our doom had already set it. The activities were more impressive than those in SEoul, but not anywhere near enough.

We are so late and the crowd are still not nearly large enough.

“香港真正的地缘政治意义” 斯·维尔克森 Lawrence Wilkerson 采访录


劳伦斯·维尔克森 Lawrence Wilkerson 采访录





































America’s Rush Back to Nuclear Weapons” (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Foreign Policy in Focus

Interview with Lawrence Wilkerson

“America’s Rush Back to Nuclear Weapons”

September 5, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

Interview with Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and current Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy in the Government Department of the College of William and Mary.

Emanuel Pastreich: What is the current status of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on nuclear weapons?

Lawrence Wilkerson: As you know, the United States pulled out of the INF medium-range nuclear weapons treaty with Russia in August and it plans a substantial buildup of these destabilizing weapons, above all in East Asia. This move is dangerous.

The INF Treaty was far from perfect, but it had a broad appeal, including an appeal to many in the military, because it simply made sense.

That treaty between the United States and Russia encompassed all missiles, nuclear or conventional, ballistic or cruise, that had a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. When the INF Treaty was signed in 1987, it helped to slow down a dangerous arms race. For the first time since the Cold War started, an entire class of nuclear weapons was eliminated.

Pastreich: Why do you think the United States withdrew?

Wilkerson: We no longer live in a rational world  in which policy makers take a scientific approach to risk.  Rather, policy making is dominated by irrational figures like John Bolton, the president’s national security advisor, a man who hates arms control with a passion, who spends his days trying to find ways to undo the few restrictions that remain, and who would plunge the world into a completely new nuclear arms race.

This time, however, the competition won’t be bilateral, just between the United States and the USSR. This time the race will be global, and we will see a nightmare world of instability, with a renewed risk of a nuclear holocaust as a result.

Pastreich: What’s the background behind this drastic shift in American policy?

Wilkerson: Right now there are a huge number of intermediate range missiles stationed in Fujian Province, and elsewhere in southern China, which are aimed at Taiwan. We’re talking about a missile for just about every square meter of every viable target in Taiwan. China was never a signatory to the INF Treaty because at the time its missile capacity was minimal and its nuclear weapons policy, which was set by Mao Zedong, was one of sufficiency to deter.

If there was a valid reason for the United States to withdraw from the current INF Treaty, it was this change in China’s missile arsenal. China is most likely contemplating a new doctrine with regard to the use of nuclear weapons. That change has little to do with Russia and everything to do with the pressing need for a new nuclear weapons arms control regime.

Pastreich: You mean that China’s actions were a reason for the United States to withdraw?

Wilkerson: In part, the changes in China were a factor. And Russia has been “cheating” with respect to the INF Treaty. Even more dangerous is Russia’s publication of a military doctrine calling for blunting NATO’s advantage in PGMs [precision guided munitions] by using short-range nuclear strikes. Russia has been building a missile inventory necessary to accomplish this doctrine.

There are of course other aspects of the problem. We find a mutual abuse of the INF Treaty, such as the United States putting ABM defenses and troops in former Warsaw Pact countries, thus moving the borders of NATO so that they are smack up against Russia’s “near abroad.” And now the United States refuses to talk about almost anything with Russia.

We see the proliferation of medium-range missiles among non-signatory countries (China, DPRK, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) and also violations of the INF Treaty by both the original treaty signatories, who also happen to be the owners of the vast preponderance of nuclear weapons.

Pastreich: What do you think that should the United States have done then?

Wilkerson: Sadly, the United States kept complaining about what was imperfect about the treaty, but it made no effort to create something better, to fashion and gain support for an entirely new and more comprehensive nuclear arms control regime.

Instead, what the United States is accomplishing is the launch of a far more virulent arms race, one that could lead, some would argue inevitably, to the use of nuclear weapons in war.

It would have made better sense to maintain the treaty, or to declare it obsolete, in a bipartisan manner, and, in either case, to open negotiations to expand the treaty so as to include all nations that possess extensive stockpiles of intermediate range missiles—particularly those that also possessing nuclear weapon capability. From the point of view of smart arms control, of our children’s future, and of the security of the United States and of the world, such an expanded and modernized, treaty would make perfect sense.

But Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, doesn’t do arms control.  Moreover, Trump himself seems to disdain multilateral arrangements, sensible negotiations, and the type of astute diplomacy required to accomplish either. He seems to more-or-less follow Bolton and his desire for “a little nuclear war.” While campaigning, Trump even suggested he believed the world would be better off if there were more, not fewer, nuclear weapons, and states that possessed them.

Pastreich: What can be done now to correct this mistake?

Wilkerson: I think you mean, given these clear realities what can be done to modify the behavior of an administration that has been opposed to arms control from the very start and that has done more and will do more to damage arms control efforts than any previous administration? How will we convince John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, who made their careers by opposing rational arms control treaties, that they don’t need to abandon treaties but should rather expand them, multi-lateralize them, and seek new ones that do even more than the old ones did?

If we are talking about these individuals alone, the task is hopeless. They are beyond redemption. But democratic politics is not simply about individuals, whether it be presidents, national security advisors, or otherwise. There are cases in American history where extremist politicians have been brought into line by a shift in the mood and in the culture and by a weigh-in by the demos in accordance with such shifts.

What we need is to create again in Washington DC a nuclear arms control environment, a culture in which responsibility and strict regulation of nuclear weapons—and other weapons, as in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty—is accepted as a necessity. We need to ensure that such a development is a natural occurrence, that it is something that is not disdained, but rather anticipated.

At the end of the day, we need to negotiate a series of treaties that form a global overlapping system that includes all classes of nuclear weapons. We need to bring into this process pariah states like Israel and North Korea. Achieving that goal requires us to be tough at times. We must be ready to take a strong stand to insist that all nuclear weapon states must join the regime that will be established.

Pastreich: What is the thinking about nonproliferation and disarmament in the U.S. military?

Wilkerson: The military makes the challenge even greater because there are large factions in the military who are hankering for a new nuclear arms race. Those generals and admirals want more money, and they want to build more missiles. Doing so will allow them to get their hands on some of the trillion-plus dollars allotted for new nuclear weapons by former President Obama.

Those officers want all sorts of nuclear and non-nuclear missiles, but the diversity in their demands does not mean that they are strategically imaginative. They are not.

All they want is more, more, and a little more. But we should also remember that there are some clear thinkers and some brave people devoted to the common good mixed in with them. They see the handwriting on the wall and they wish to avert nuclear war.

President Trump is highly susceptible to the military’s siren call. The president has painted himself into multiple corners, and he seems to feel that he desperately needs the military to be president of the United States. Since he now faces opposition at almost every level of government and increasingly within the country, loyalty has become his first priority. He perceives the military to be overwhelmingly loyal to him and he wants to reward them.

This relationship between Trump and the military is dangerous because Trump is so ignorant about diplomacy and security, and at the same time he is increasingly desperate in his search for support. He does not care about global warming or nuclear war, but he is obsessed with his political standing. He desires above all to have people who will gather around him and listen to him speak. He is ultimately concerned with holding on to power.

Moreover, nuclear missiles, in particular, offer big juicy contracts that are not subject to much external review, and they empower the president—who is the one who can decide on his own whether or not to use them. So these weapons also feed Trump’s ego.

But anyone with any understanding of nuclear weapons knows how close we have come to nuclear war in the past—even with treaties in place. Sadly, most educated citizens have no idea how different a world we will be living in once the nuclear weapon genie escapes from its bottle, especially as there is a whole new group of nations like Germany, Turkey, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and so on, that have either in the past shown a desire for nuclear weapons or who could join in a future nuclear arms race.

Pastreich: The decision to withdraw from the INF treaty, and other agreements like the ABM Treaty, while simultaneously increasing the number of short-range nuclear missiles, seems as if it was made in meetings among Bolton, Pompeo and Trump, with some input from the military. There were few, if any, congressional committees who debated the new policies, or summoned experts on nonproliferation for testimony.  

Wilkerson: This unhealthy policy-making process seems to be intrinsic to the Trump administration. But the shift has been taking place for some time. The cause is not necessarily Trump.

H.L. Mencken wrote back in 1920 that one day, “…the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” Although that prediction was uncanny, it was not a matter of chance.

The current crescendo of incompetence is the product of a long-term structural and statutory shift that has encouraged a dysfunctional decision-making process.

We can see Trump’s arbitrary use of power as the logical conclusion of the centralization of national security decision-making in the White House that dates back to the 1947 National Security Act. This concentration of power in the White House, and the decline of the power of the president’s cabinet, as well as of the powerful congressional committees run by highly educated and focused political leaders like Jacob Javits or James Fulbright, have profoundly altered the process by which policy is formulated and decisions are made.

The next step came after Ronald Reagan both consolidated power in the executive and stripped other parts of the federal government of budgets and authority. He created a new policy landscape that was readily made use of by H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, with some slight variations. So, the original balance of powers among Congress, the judiciary, and the executive described in the constitution existed only by dint of institutional inertia. That balance was ready to be torn down—and was torn down like a rotten tree—by Trump’s people.  

Pastreich: How does this institutional shift relate to the seemingly endless wars the United States is involved in?

Wilkerson: Many members of Congress—and particularly powerful committee chairmen—are backed to the hilt by Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, BAE, Grumman, General Dynamics, and other military contractors who are pursuing big-budget contracts with the government. This trend is true for both parties, but the Republicans practice it with greater abandonment. The coffers of these Congress members are essentially filled up by lobbyists who represent these merchants of war.

Pastreich: Although it seems irrelevant to lobbyists and influence peddlers, the constitution is supposed to be the manual that determines how the Federal government is run.

Wilkerson: The three branches of government are co-equal, but the legislative branch was clearly meant to be primus inter pares, and James Madison was quite adamant on that point.

The executive has become the overwhelmingly dominant branch. And now you have a specially selected Supreme Court and a court system that basically approves all of the executive branch’s actions, domestic and foreign. The Congress, especially the Republican-dominated Senate, is incapable of overriding the president. At this very moment, the Republicans in the Senate and the White House are conspiring to keep the House of Representatives from reclaiming the war powers that the constitution grants to Congress.

That battle is but the small end of the sword, if you will. The big end is that if we do go to war with Iran, for example, it will be without any congressional input, whatsoever. The latest disaster for the United States will be perpetrated by the executive branch alone, without any accountability. That is the degree to which the decision-making process with regard to war has been usurped by the president.

Of course, saying that decision-making is centralized in the White House is not the entire story. That White House we see today was created by, and takes its marching orders from, a predatory and transnational capitalist state where defense contractors, investment bankers, and hedge fund billionaires call the shots. Then there is big oil, big food, and big energy. Needless to say, having the decision-making so centralized makes it much easier for the big money from these groups to have impact than would be the case if decision-making were spread across the cabinet or across the government. Also, there is no moment in the process when anyone asks what the national interest is, what the long-term implications are.

Pastreich: Let’s come back to China for a moment. What are the risks for America here?

Wilkerson: First, let’s consider what the role of the United States should be—and, not just about juicy military budgets resulting from the China threat.

These days the United States is just a disruptor in Asia, and an unintelligent disruptor at that. We swing from cooing “I love you, Kim Jong Un” to imposing vicious tariffs on Chinese goods to creating a major embarrassment for Japanese Prime Minister Abe when he tried to help out with Iran.

And most of us were shocked to see Trump mocking how Japanese speak and how Koreans speak. That was the president of the United States! He was not speaking to Prime Minister Abe or to President Moon, but to a racist audience at home and for strictly domestic political purposes.

But to a certain degree the future role of the United States in East Asia will be determined by power dynamics in the region as much as by U.S. policy. Some Americans might want to stay, to be a hegemon in Northeast Asia forever. But that is not a sustainable policy. There is a desperate need for the United States to find a middle ground, a course that preserves some essential American influence within a cooperative framework. The competition with China, and other powers, is going to be substantial at all levels, and simply painting China as a bogeyman is not going to do the trick.

First, we need to go back to good old-fashioned diplomacy. That is more important than any fighter plane or missile. No state is going to fare well in a hot war, or even in a new cold war. We need to use our creativity to shape a culture that supports arms treaties, disarmament, and peace in general—peaceful competition, if you will. And we must build an off-ramp that allows America to dismount the imperial train and steer away from global hegemony and towards global cooperation.

Oddly enough, I think Trump is – very inexpertly, imperfectly, and probably unknowingly – digging out the foundations for such a new collaborative order through his destructive fits. He calls into question the value of NATO, and the so-called deep state is immediately up in arms. So, although Trump may be doing many destructive things, he is also drawing attention to the anachronism that NATO has become post-Cold War. The alliance no longer has any purpose except to seek out trouble “out of area” to justify itself.

We need to have the courage to discuss how we will bring back U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, and under what circumstances. We cannot consider that discussion a taboo topic. We also need to use our imagination, and our commitment, to create a regional order that assures the continued security of the Korean Peninsula without that U.S. troop presence.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. If the United States wants to maintain its influence in East Asia, its needs plans to bring its troops back from other parts of East Asia, including Japan and particularly Okinawa. We will be much better off if we take the initiative than if we are pushed out by some disaster or another.

And in terms of policy change, I am not just talking about security issues. The United States today is flat-out bankrupt, with a $22 trillion debt. Annual interest payments on that debt added to the annual military budget will zero-out all other discretionary federal spending in less than a decade. We just did something unprecedented: we printed billions of dollars under the Quantitative Easing program with absolutely nothing behind those dollars except the paper and ink on which they were printed. We have no earthly idea what such profligacy will produce in the future. We have new security challenges like a changing climate and we had better start saving money, and learning to respond to new security challenges, in a manner that does not require such an expensive military instrument.

Pastreich: How can the United States fashion a different strategy for engaging with the world?

Wilkerson: Ambassador Richard Haass threw out the concept of “integration” back in 2001 in his discussions with his Policy Planning staff. He thought that “integration” was the best one-word substitution for “containment.” For Haass, integration was a concept that offered an alternative to globalization and its demand for unending expansion and extraction. Haass did not like the concept of globalization, and I think he was right.

Globalization has happened before, in the 1890s, for example. But globalization brings contradictions and tensions that are dangerous. What is going on today goes beyond globalization. What we see happening today is integration: integration of trade, integration of society, integration of culture. That integration is at times mean, disruptive, hateful, and dangerous, but it’s happening.

Trade is where we observe the most profound integration. For example, the United States cannot make a sophisticated piece of military equipment any longer without employing foreign components.

But Trump is heading in the opposite direction. He wants to take apart trade agreements and institutions, to disintegrate, not to integrate, trade. And he thinks that somehow the destruction of global institutions will save “white America.”

「エ マ ニ ュ エ ル ・ パ ス ト リ ッ チ さ ん   民 間 シ ン ク タ ン ク 所 長   米 国 と 東 ア ジ ア を つ な げ る 」Daily NNA (共同通信グループ)

Daily NNA (共同通信グループ)


2019年 7月 22日

エ マ ニ ュ エ ル パ ス ト リ ッ チ さ ん   民 間 シ ン ク タ ン ク 所 長   米 と 東 ア ジ ア を つ な げ る

2 6 1

えまにゅえる・ぱすとりっち 1964 年米国テネシー 州生まれ。民間シンクタンク、アジアインスティテュ ート所長。東京大学で修士号、ハーバード大学で博士 号をそれぞれ取得。専門は東アジアの古典文学など。 韓国在住 12 年。著書に「韓国人だけが知らない別の大 韓民国:ハーバード大学の博士が見た韓国の可能性)」 (21 世紀ブックス)などがある。このほど、初の日本語 書籍となる 「武器よさらば:地球温暖化の危機と憲法 九条」(東方出版社)を上梓した。

日本語と韓国語、中国語に堪能なパストリッチさん。南部ナ ッシュビルで生まれ、中部ミズーリ州セントルイスで幼少を過 ごした。中学卒業後、サンフランシスコにある高校に通った。 そこでのアジア系学生との出会いがパストリッチさんの人生を 方向付けた。 中国文学を専攻したイエール時代  83年に入学したイエール大学では中国文学を専攻。明・清時 代に書かれた「水滸伝」「三国志演義」などの白話小説の勉強 に打ち込んだ。  

日本語は4年生になって本格的に学習始めたという。「アジ アの2言語をマスターすれば、将来活躍できる場が一層広がる と思った」と同時を振り返る。ところが「本業」の中国語より も相性が良かったのか、卒業後、日本留学を決意。東京大学の 修士課程に進み、江戸時代後期の南画家として知られる田能村 竹田などが書いた漢詩や漢文を研究した。  

修士取得後は東大博士課程に進むも、「母国で活躍したい」 と米ハーバード大学の博士課程に方向転換。98年に博士号取得。 イリノイ大学で日本文学の助教授として教鞭を執り始めた。


パストリッチさんは05年、ジョージワシントン大学で教授の 職を得る。大学で教鞭を執る傍ら、近くにある在米韓国大使館 で韓国の外交官や学者、記者を相手に米国政治に関してブリー フィングする仕事も始めた。当時、韓国は盧武鉉(ノ・ムヒョン)政権で、ブッシュ政権との関係は決して良好とは言えない 状況だった。ワシントンにはアジアの専門家と呼べる人材が少 ない。ハーバード時代に1年間、ソウル大学に留学した経験が 買われた。  

韓国大使館では、政治経済や社会などを学ぶゼミ「Koru s House」も月2~3回のペースで主催した。大学での 仕事よりも魅力を感じたのか、パストリッチさんは、水を得た 魚のように活動した。しかし、活動場所は韓国大使館内だった ため、次第に限界を感じるようになる。  そこでパストリッチさんの人生に転機が訪れる。知人を通じ て出会った李完九(イ・ワング)忠清南道知事(当時)から補 佐官として招請を受けたのだ。パストリッチさんは悩んだ末、 「大使館での仕事より面白そう」と韓国行きを決意。ジョージ タウン大学を辞し、07年から南部大田市で生活を始めた。

アジアインスティテュート設立  大田市は韓国を代表する科学技術都市。パストリッチさんは、 名門韓国科学技術院(KAIST)などさまざまな研究機関で 行われる共同研究といった各種プロジェクトに参加。筑波大学 の研究機関にも訪問したという。環境問題に目覚めたのもその 頃だ。知事を補佐する傍ら、「Korus House」を発 展させる形で、民間シンクタンク、アジアインスティテュート を設立。自ら所長に就任した。自由な発言の空間を得たパスト リッチさんはこれまで、米政治学者フランシス・フクヤマ氏や ジョセフ・ナイ氏など世界の碩学たちと対話を重ねてきた。  

2011年からソウル市に活動の拠点を移し、慶熙大学で教鞭を執 り始める。執筆活動にも力が入った。これまで韓国語で5冊の 本を上梓。うち3冊がベストセラー。中でも、「韓国人だけが 知らない別の大韓民国」は朴槿恵(パク・クネ)元大統領が高 く評価し、講演やテレビ出演も多くこなした。  今年7月には、待望の日本語書籍「武器よさらば:地球温暖 化の危機と憲法九条」を上梓した。

ニュースサイト「ハフィン トンポスト」に寄稿した文章などをまとめた上で加筆したもの で、これまでの執筆活動の集大成という位置付けだ。パストリ ッチさんは本の中で、今後の日本の安全保障について「環境問 題の解決なしにあり得ない」と指摘。大田市時代に日本の科学 技術力を知った経験を基に、「日本は『新安全保障』でイニシ アチブを取る能力と資格が十分にある」と訴える。

東アジアと米国をつなげる  パストリッチさんは来月、12年間の韓国生活を整理し、母国 に戻る予定だ。拠点は政治の中心ワシントン。「韓国と米国だ けでなく、東アジア全体と米国をつなげる役割を果たしたかっ た」と話す。その基盤となるのがアジアインスティテュートだ。 ワシントンとソウルの他に、日本にも法人を設立。ベトナム・ ハノイにはオフィスを開設した。  

「米国では海外生活を通じて大きく成長した姿を見せたい」 と話すパストリッチさん。活動の舞台は整った。アジアインス ティテュートを世界的なシンクタンクとして育成すべく、一歩 を大きく踏み出そうとしている。


“How to put an end to America’s peculiar institution of death: fossil fuels” The Korea Times

The Korea Times

“How to put an end to America’s peculiar institution of death: fossil fuels”

April 27, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich (with Jonathan Mintram)

One senses palpable excitement among progressives in the United States now that a group of Democrats, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is pressing for a “Green New Deal” that will “transform” the economy and lead the country and the Earth in an environmentally sound direction.

Their ideas are certainly better than the full-throttle push for fossil fuels of the Trump administration, or the fracking rampage of the Obama administration. But if we assess the economic and security issues for the U.S. today in a scientific manner, we must come to the distasteful conclusion that this “Green New Deal” has been overinflated and is sadly insufficient for the task at hand. 

Of course, the progressive media have highlighted for educated upper-middle class readers the corruption of politics and of media by big oil, but it has not even started to scratch the surface of the twisted economic system we live in that forces us to use plastic, gasoline or coal at every turn in our daily lives, while we are fed vague tales of foreboding, and polar bears, that offer no options for action other than waiting for the next election or carrying a tumbler around. 

Something is so deeply wrong in the U.S. that we can no longer ignore it. It is like feeling sick after eating spoiled food. You can try to ignore the pain in your stomach, but eventually you are going to have to throw up if you want to get it out of your system. 

We must face the truth, and recognize that despite the impressive photo ops for the “Green New Deal,” its content is not aimed at immediately ending the use of fossil fuels, or even at giving citizens the means to move their communities to renewable energy on their own. To date, we have not seen a serious effort to refute Naomi Wolf’s questions about the gaping holes in the Green New Deal, big enough to guide a supertanker through. If we adhere to the current system, it will be massive corporations and investment banks that will make best use of such legislation, if it is ever passed, to fund pet projects, or even to promote dangerous geo-engineering.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Democrats friends remain dependent on corporate money (if not directly, then through foundations and NGOs) and they refuse to work with more aggressive organizations because they are not loyal to the Democratic Party. 

But there is another political response out there. We have seen in the protests of Extinction Rebellion, taking place in London and around the world, the emergence of an honest political stance about climate change that addresses the issue head-on and that assumes that unless politics is grounded in action and in the pursuit of truth, it is not politics at all. 

Extinction Rebellion focuses on the climate catastrophe, the massive crisis of our age, and makes human extinction the central issue for its global campaign. Extinction Rebellion is not about flattering politicians, or about schmoozing with corporate CEOs and lobbyists. This political movement is not concerned about hurting people’s feelings and it is not trying to tone down its message to meet requirements for coverage in the corporate media. 

The priority for Extinction Rebellion is shutting down the carbon-based economy immediately and bringing major cities around the world to a standstill in order to do so. 

Extinction rebellion demands that carbon emissions be reduced to zero within six years through a complete remaking of the global economy, and through the creation of a new culture in which consumption is dramatically reduced and basic economic and social values redefined. It would be accurate to describe such policy demands as revolutionary. 

Unlike the feckless Democratic Party, Extinction Rebellion features a section on its webpage “The Truth” that pulls no punches regarding the likelihood of extinction for our children and the destruction of oceans, forests, the Arctic and Antarctic, and humanity itself, that lies before us in the decades ahead

Although Extinction Rebellion’s approach is dismissed by many as extreme, it is, in fact, the only rational political movement out there, the only major one that promotes policies on the basis of scientific evidence, not hopeful thinking. Its legitimacy is increased by the abject failure since the Kyoto Protocols of politicians, intellectuals, and that pathetic institution known as the media, to tell the bitter truth about the mushrooming catastrophe best known by the understatement “climate change.” 

In effect, Extinction Rebellion is saying what should have been said 20 years ago: this entire culture, seeped in petroleum from the beginnings of the consumption economy in the 1950s, must end. 

All of us are guilty. Every time we check our email, every time we take a hot shower, every time we drive to the market or fly to see relatives, we are hammering another nail into the coffin of humanity, into the coffins of our children and grandchildren, not to mention into the innumerable unmarked coffins of other species.

The Peculiar Institution
We are struggling to come to terms with the need for radical action, as opposed to the “progressive” approach that we have been brainwashed to embrace by media sources like “Common Dreams” or “Truthout,” or dishonest intellectuals like Robert Reich, who refuse to acknowledge the scale of the crisis, or its dire implications for humanity. 

We are struggling to acknowledge that the Paris Accords, commonly held up by the progressives as a breakthrough ― from which Trump foolishly walked away ― was never intended as a solution to the impending crisis, but rather as a face-saving political ploy.

Survival demands that we reduce fossil fuels to zero, starting tomorrow, not that we slowly increase renewables to 40 percent by 2030. At this point in the game, donating to progressive causes and waiting for the next election would be a suicidal. 

Nothing less is required than ending this culture of consumption, overturning the assumption that production, consumption and growth are necessities, and asserting that every aspect of our consumption has a direct impact on our planet. 

Equally important, we must make sure that our youth are not misled into accepting dangerous half-measures and bad policies that are being promoted by the very banks and corporations that benefit from the fossil-fuel economy, whether carbon trading, hybrid cars, geo-engineering or next-generation nuclear energy. 

The response of citizens to the inaction of all institutions in the U.S. on climate change (local and central government, corporations, NGOs and educational organizations) must be massive and immediate. We recognize, painfully, that the watchdogs we counted on have become lapdogs in search of ample funding, and are incapable of taking on the fossil fuel powers, no matter how green their rhetoric may sound. 

We must engage in governance ourselves.

350.ORG is a major NGO that provides critical information for the policy debate on climate change. It sent out an email to members on April 23, 2019 that states, 

“On Friday, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced a bold climate commitment: if elected, she would sign an executive order on Day One halting all fossil fuel drilling on our public lands.”

350.ORG praised Warren’s words as an “incredible step,” but although Warren may be a step ahead of the other candidates running for president, from the perspective of a species facing extinction her call sounds hopelessly weak. 

Halt all drilling on public lands? That step is so obvious that we should demand that a candidate who does not support such a policy pull out of the race immediately. A real demand would be a permanent halt to all drilling for oil in the U.S. and in the world. A more substantial, and more convincing, demand would be to make the use of petroleum illegal within a year. 

There is a helpful precedent for such an action (nationally and internationally) in the 1987 Montreal Protocol which banned internationally the use of chlorofluorocarbons that were destroying the ozone layer. We need a “London Protocol” that bans the use of petroleum, coal and natural gas because of the damage to the atmosphere caused by their production and their consumption. Such an international agreement with parallel national bans makes perfect sense and it would be the first step towards forcing a rapid end to their use globally for the generation of energy. 

The political mythology employed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is that we are confronting conservatives with different values, men who are greedy and whose limited perspective must be overcome gradually through a political process. 

But the reality is that we are confronting not “conservatives” but rather a massive criminal enterprise that has seized control of our economy, and our culture, and that is destroying, using illegal and immortal tactics, what few institutions remain to regulate its actions. 

The apt analogy for how vested interests have made us addicted to fossil fuels, and encourage us to remain addicted to them, can be found in the morally corrupt use of slavery to drive the American economy in the 19th century.

Slavery exploited unpaid labor without limit to power the economy and to increase profits for southern planters and for the northern banks that financed them. In a sense, slavery provided seemingly cheap energy to power manufacturing and agriculture at a horrendous price that was hidden from view. 

The human qualities of the African Americans who served as “slaves” were denied by a false legal system reinforced by fraudulent science that “proved” racial inferiority. Altogether, slavery debased the politics and the culture of the U.S., creating a society in which criminality was set on a pedestal and worshipped as a unique culture. But the genteel families of the southern states leaned over backwards to avoid seeing this reality. 

The term coined to describe this horrific system was the “peculiar institution,” an expression that suggested the south had some distinctive habits that set it apart. But the “peculiar institution” was only a dishonest manner of referring to a criminal system of exploitation that no healthy society could support.

The response of many progressives (abolitionists) in the 1850s was to fight tooth and nail to keep slavery from spreading to newly admitted states, and to try, through reform, to reduce the cruelty shown to slaves in the south ― and to permit them freedom if they escaped to the free states. But the basic assumption among most reformist “abolitionists” was that slavery was a bad policy that should be slowly reformed.

Similarly, the political debate today in the U.S. is about how to increase the use of wind and solar power, how to make renewable energy financially attractive to corporations, and how to end the extreme policies of the Trump administration of subsidizing coal while taxing renewable energy. 

But this political argument only makes sense if one closes one’s eyes to the fact that fossil-fuel companies are engaging in a massive criminal effort to make us dependent on fossil fuels, a source of energy that not only creates enormous profits, but that is destroying the environment and condemning much of humanity to death. In other words, one must first deceive oneself for the argument to make sense. 

We do not find different perspectives or philosophies among the lobbyists and the politicians who support fossil fuels, or the CEOs and billionaires who derive their wealth from them. We simply are looking at a morally bankrupt drive for profit, a massive criminal conspiracy that seeks to destroy our planet for the sake of profits. 

Extinction Rebellion wants to seize control of the economic system itself and to leave behind the middlemen, the class of educated people who make their living writing articles describing long-term progressive responses, lobbying congressmen with softball proposals that appeal to corporate profits, suggesting that wind power can be “competitive” with coal, and playing down the threat of ecological collapse in the United Nations reports so as to be sure that their research institutes continue to receive funding from organizations dependent on corporations and banks that have an interest in fossil fuels. 

Our John Brown moment
If we are looking for a moment in the battle against slavery that parallels Extinction Rebellion’s decision to mobilize on a massive scale against fossil fuels, the most apposite example is the actions of John Brown and his followers to rebel against slavery. Just as Extinction Rebellion decided to move beyond “progressive” arguments for the elimination of fossil fuels in light of the threat of human extinction, John Brown and his followers declared that because the government promoted the immoral practice of slavery it had no legitimacy. 

John Brown was dismissed by most as the leader of a rebellion and vilified as a rebel and a lunatic by southerners for a century afterwards. But one need only read Brown’s writings to see that his actions were impeccably supported by logic and informed by moral insight. When Brown launched his raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859, the intention was to end the institution of slavery by establishing a new government that would forsake the entire corrupt economic system. Brown’s forces were quickly overwhelmed. He was then tried, found guilty of treason (the first such conviction in American history) and hanged. 

Those who derived their wealth from slavery (the Democratic Party) condemned Brown’s action as a dastardly attack on their way of life. Most progressives in the North (the Republican Party) distanced themselves from the incident, stating they would not interfere in the affairs of slave states.

But let us look at the opening of the “Provisional Constitution and Ordinances” that Brown drafted:

“Whereas slavery, throughout its entire existence in the United States, is none other than the most barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of one portion of its citizens against another portion, the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment and hopeless servitude, or absolute extermination, in utter disregard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of Independence. Therefore, we, citizens of the United States, and the oppressed people who, by a recent decision of the Supreme Court, are declared to have no rights which the white man is bound to respect, together with all other people degraded by the laws thereof, do, for the time being, ordain and establish for ourselves the following Provisional Constitution and Ordinances, the better to protect our persons, property, lives, and liberties, and to govern our actions.”

Let us revise this text so that it describes the current crisis and our addiction to petroleum and coal:
“Whereas forcing on us the use of fossil fuels is none other than the most barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of a small portion of citizens against the great majority, creating conditions of perpetual imprisonment in a catastrophic system that will render the Earth uninhabitable, leading to extinction, in utter disregard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of Independence.

Therefore, we, citizens of the United States, as an oppressed people who have been declared by the Supreme Court to have no rights to resist that the fossil-fuel industry come together with others degraded by the laws thereof, do, for the time being, ordain and establish for ourselves the following Provisional Constitution and Ordinances, the better to protect our persons, property, lives, and liberties, and to govern our actions so as free ourselves from the death march of a fossil-fuel-driven economy.”

The moral authority is the same.

Extinction Rebellion takes a non-violent position, which Brown did not. Yet the analogy still holds for Extinction Rebellion in that its members take actions that entail the risk of imprisonment, violence and death.

Turning the tables on institutionalized criminality

Extinction Rebellion makes a demand for a solution, as opposed to the weak reform proposals floated by Democrats that assume from the start that we must compromise with a powerful “conservative” element as part of the democratic process. 

In a sense, Extinction Rebellion harkens back to Frederick Douglass’s warning in the struggle against slavery: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue until they are resisted with either words, or blows, or both.”

Douglass’s words suggest that is not enough to make abstract suggestions about the long-term negative impact of fossil fuels. Rather we must make demands that are uncompromising and concrete about what must be done now. We must insist that this entire criminal and lethal energy system be dismantled immediately. 

John Brown changed the rules of the game when he referred to slavery not as a “peculiar institution” but rather as a criminal action, a “war” on the population. We too must take control of the discourse on energy and start to define the terms of discourse. Carbon emissions are not little inconveniences to be traded away, but rather a direct threat to our survival. 

In other words, rather than responding quickly to the latest atrocity committed by the right wing, we must proactively present to as many people as possible of an entirely new culture and economy that must be implemented in toto now. We cannot support a piecemeal attempt to achieve change while depending on billionaires like Bill Gates and others who are deeply invested in the current economic system, or on Democratic politicians who have a long history of supporting fossil-fuel interests.

There are numerous “conservative” politicians in the U.S. Congress who make statements in committee that dismiss the threat of climate change and even assert that climate change is a fraud. They are funded by the fossil-fuel industry and they frequently call in expert witnesses who have been cultivated by fossil-fuel conglomerates like Koch Industries to provide evidence in support of the claim that fossil fuels are safe. Their research is largely fraudulent and their claims fly in the face of scientific evidence.

The current response of progressive politicians is to bemoan the ignorance, the selfishness, and the short-sightedness of these “conservative” politicians, their “foolish” experts and their “stupid” followers. This attitude is similar to that of Republicans who wanted to limit the use of slavery to the southern states in the 1850s, rather than abolish it.

The issue of climate change is not one of opinions, or of interests, but of law and scientifically verified truth. 

What does the law say?

The law is quite explicit. If a congressman gives testimony in committee, or brings in an expert to give testimony, that suggests that climate change is a fiction or that is not a serious threat, that act is not the expression of a conservative perspective, but is rather the presentation of false testimony. Such actions, according to the law, form a felony offense. At the minimum, the congressman should be forced to resign from his or her office for doing so, and he or she should face jail time. Any expert presenting such false evidence should face similar charges.

And yet there is not a single Democrat with the guts to bring such an entirely logical and perfectly legal charge against the congressmen and expert witnesses who engage in such blatantly criminal activity on Capitol Hill. The fact that this criminal practice has gone on for decades is not an excuse, just as the fact that slavery was practiced for hundreds of years was not an excuse for its immorality. 

If no one in the Congress, if no one among the insider lawyers, lobbyists, consultants and staff who run it, is willing to take such a moral and legal stance, the people must rise up and demand that such criminal activities be punished and the perpetrators should be banned. If enough people protest, politicians will feel the pressure and change their behavior.

Some might say that taking such a hard line would be the equivalent of demanding that hundreds of congressmen, thousands of staffers and lobbyists, resign from office and face prison for their actions. If we want to survive as a species, we should not shy away from such a scenario. We should be ready to embrace it. If the process requires us to press criminal charges against numerous Democrats as well, so be it. 

For that matter, if we find that all the members of Congress are engaged in such criminal actions, at some level or another, it is not only our right, but our moral responsibility, to demand that they all step down and that we be allowed to hold elections that are free from the interference of any organizations linked to these immoral fossil fuel interests.

It is currently accepted practice for congressmen to take contributions from fossil-fuel corporations, and from investment banks that promote fossil fuels. But the promotion of fossil fuels over the last 70 years, often with federal subsidies for refineries and highway systems, was a criminal conspiracy from the start, not a democratic process that represented the will of the people. Whether it was the purchase and destruction of public transport by General Motors, Standard Oil and Phillips Petroleum (operating through front organizations) to increase the dependence of our citizens on the dangerous chemical compound petroleum, or the restructuring of the U.S. military so as to be deeply dependent on petroleum and to be employed primarily to secure supplies of petroleum, there has been a series of policy decisions made that must be recognized as criminal in nature. 

We now know that corporations like Exxon and Shell that provide petroleum were fully aware of the phenomenon of global warming, and of the dangerous impact of their toxic product on the environment, from at least the 1980s, if not earlier. They hid such scientific results and instead hired experts and public relations firms to present misleading and dishonest information to the public through advertising, through doctored academic research and through lobbying while they were fully aware of the scale of the threat. Yet the best that progressive Democrats can do is to grumble about the selfishness of these corporations, and ask struggling citizens for contributions to their campaigns for the next election, or for the election after that.

Ask yourself, what would happen to you if you sold a product that was extremely dangerous to the environment and that killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people globally, and that was likely to lead to the deaths of billions due to global warming? What if you had known since the 1980s about the dangers of your product and had hidden that information, using your tainted wealth to bribe politicians and to promote fake science experts who lied to Congress in order to defend your illegal activities?

Your fate would be quite certain. You would be jailed immediately on conspiracy charges and your entire assets would be seized. You would be criminally liable to pay for the cost of paying for the clean-up of the damage you had wrought far beyond what assets you possessed. 

So what should we do to the fossil-fuel companies that have behaved in precisely this manner and the investment banks and other financial institutions that support them in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of the danger of this product? The situation is absolutely identical. Citizens must demand that these corporations be treated as criminal organizations and that they be stripped of the right to use those ill-gotten funds to defend themselves. Those responsible must be jailed immediately and prosecuted for their crimes over the last four decades. The politicians and lobbyists who assisted them should be subject to the same treatment. 

The assets of corporations like Exxon and Koch Industries, and those of individuals who own those corporations, should be seized in total for the purpose of cleaning up the damage and compensating victims around the world.

There is no need to mope about how much money fossil-fuel companies have to contribute to the election of “conservative” candidates, or how much harder “progressives” must work to win elections in this unfair political environment. Once the assets of these fossil-fuel companies have been seized, once all lobbyists and experts who worked for those companies in their criminal campaigns are blocked from participation in politics (like the disenfranchisement of former Confederate leaders during Reconstruction), we will be in a position to determine what is appropriate policy for the response to climate change based on scientific consensus and in accord with the Constitution. 

We have the right, and the obligation, to demand that politicians who have been bought off by fossil-fuel companies, or by banks and by billionaires linked to fossil-fuel companies, be blocked from testimony to Congress and from participation in the political process. In many cases, we should demand that they resign from their positions immediately. The same applies to think-tank researchers, professors, lawyers, lobbyists and other public personalities who have been involved in this massive fraud. 

The debate in politics must be grounded in unbiased scientific findings, not in opinions. We have allowed corporations to be treated as people and we have allowed fraudulent arguments about the climate to be treated as worthy of attention because they were backed by money. That must all end now. If a small group of citizens effectively articulates a logical position, that can start to transform opinion in the U.S. Without the pursuit of truth as a fundamental principle for politics, however, democracy will be reduced to a farce.

But there is more that we must do. We must condemn advertising in general as a criminal effort to mislead Americans about the dangers of industrial society, specifically about the impact of cars, planes and coal and natural gas dependent industrial production on the environment and on our citizens. 

Advertising is employed as a means of bribing the media, and of undermining its critical role: presenting citizens with the truth. Advertising, and the public relations industry, has rendered journalism a farcical sideshow that distracts us at the very moment citizens must mobilize. As long as the commercial media feeds citizens doctored and distorted information so they cannot make objective decisions, democratic politics is impossible.

We must actively counter this advertising complex that tries to convince us that everything is fine, that suggests that ownership of cars is essential for freedom and that promotes selfishness and self-indulgence, rather than cooperation. We must do so through direct actions such as creating our own citizens’ newspapers, holding teach-ins in public spaces where we explain to citizens exactly how climate catastrophe will destroy our world, and what we must do. 

We must also recognize that the underfunding of public education is not the result of philosophical differences between “liberals” and “conservatives” but rather an intentional effort to dumb down the people so they cannot comprehend the scale of the economic and political?crisis, or find the means to respond.

We must demand that academic research (and journalism as well) be funded by transparent government grants supported by taxes and that other self-interested “research” with hidden agendas be eliminated from the debate on policy in government and among citizens. This is essential for the response to climate change. 

Above all, young people must be trained to think scientifically for themselves and to understand the hidden forces that threaten humanity ― we must make sure that they are not seduced by video games, Youtube videos and pornography into overlooking the danger signs that are all around.

Taking on the false ideologies of free trade and military security
If we want to launch a nationwide campaign to address the terrible truth, rather than the limited messages that the “progressive” media feels comfortable with, we will need to take on the two big monsters that politicians tiptoe around: free trade and military security.

The myth that the international trade of goods is a positive for the citizens of the U.S., and for the world, and that trade should be constantly increased to help us prosper, has been embraced by both political parties, and by most intellectuals in the U.S. since World War II. 

But the massive promotion of trade means not only that corporations can move factories abroad ― and threaten workers and communities with the closure of local factories as a means of obtaining government subsidies, they can offer cheap products to Americans that made abroad and thereby hide the horrific impact that such manufacturing has on the local environment and our shared climate. Every Styrofoam box, every nylon sweater, every plastic toy is not only poisoning our soil, our rivers and our oceans when it is disposed of, but its manufacture did tremendous damage to our climate that has been hidden from us because the manufacturing is in India or Thailand. 

Free trade has seized control of our economy, forcing us to buy products that were made far away, and shipped using tremendous amounts of fossil fuels (often at a cost of local jobs). The pollution created in the manufacture of throwaway products has the exact same impact on the climate over there than it would if the factories were in Kansas or Mississippi. Moreover, transporting goods over oceans for thousands of kilometers produces tremendous emissions. Yet a discussion of this terrible consequence of free trade is avoided even by leftist organizations. 

Moreover, progressive and leftist journals readily accept the deeply flawed systems of measurement for economics like GDP (gross domestic product), “consumption,” “growth” and “development.” The fact that these measurements leave out ecological, social and cultural impact of economic policies and practices, that they make no account for long-term degradation of the soil, water and air are rarely pointed out by intellectuals. Although there have been proposals for alternative systems of measurement, they are hardly discussed, let alone adopted. 

The military has emerged as the massive part of the U.S. domestic economy that is linked at every level to the exploration for, the production of and the consumption of fossil fuels. It is also the world’s greatest polluter and a far larger contributor to climate change than many countries.

The U.S. military is grossly overextended, with hundreds of bases around the world. More often than not, its primary role has become promoting the extraction of fossil fuels and other minerals to power the consumption economy that is destroying our climate. This military has nothing to do with “defense” or “security.”

The U.S. cannot start to adapt serious climate policy until it undertakes a revolutionary change in the military’s role. That change must be grounded in a shift in the definition of security to make mitigation of climate change the highest security concern. Such a shift will not be easy, but it is theoretically possible, and, granted the scale of the crisis, it is absolutely critical. 

Ironically, even as we move away from weapons, we will need the bravery and the discipline of warriors as we go forward to confront the fossil fuel powers. With inspired imagination and steely courage, we can transform the role and the nature of the military from within and from without so that it focuses exclusively on climate change. 

Ultimately, the Department of Defense must be transformed into a “Department of Human Security” or even into a “Department of Climate Change.”All of its corrupt spending on weapons must be eliminated following a carefully organized plan. Whether that is achieved by an institutional transformation, or by shutting down the existing system completely and starting anew, will be decided in the process. 

The word “revolution” comes up in the speeches of Democratic and Republican candidates so frequently these days that it draws nothing but yawns. 

But the abject failure of American lawmakers to postulate a long-term national policy for the response to climate change suggests that U.S politics is mired in mythology and delusions.

The scientific predictions about how climate change will unfold suggest that we will not have any money left for fighter planes, or aircraft carriers, or even for highways and stadiums. We will have to make a greater commitment of resources to surviving climate change than even the Green Party’s presidential candidate Jill Stein thought necessary when she proposed a mobilization on the scale of that for World War II. 

Sadly, there is a revolution is taking place right now in the U.S., but it is happening in all the wrong places. The government is undergoing revolutionary change as the Trump administration strips departments of expertise, punishes those with a sense of responsibility and quickly privatizes functions so that government serves only to increase the wealth of the elite and can no longer serve our citizens. 

We have no time to debate the merits of revolutionary transformations. They are being undertaken right now by the Trump administration. Revolutionary shifts like taxation of renewable energy, subsidization for coal and oil and the removal of science from the policy formation process are taking place right now.

To suggest that we must wait until the next election, or that we must compromise our goals and support Democratic candidates who make lukewarm statements about climate change is to miss the whole point. A reactionary revolution is already taking place. The only question is what we will do in response. 

“미국의 사이코 민주주의” 다른 백년

다른 백년

“미국의 사이코 민주주의”

2019년  4월 8일 

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬

미국 보스톤 정신분석 연구소(Boston Psychoanalytic Society)의 랜스 도즈 (Lance Dodes) 박사는 MSNBC에 출연해 도널드 트럼프(Donald Trump)를 다음과 같이 묘사했다. “그는 스스로도 통제가 안 된다. 이런 사람을 두고 우리는 정신이 이상해지고 있다 내지는 간단히 정신병환자라고 한다.” 일리 있는 말이다.

트럼프는 하루는 북한과 중국을 전쟁으로 위협하다가 갑자기 다음날 그 지도자들에게 애정을 퍼붓는 중이다. 그는 기후변화로 인류의 생존이 경각에 달렸다는 과학적 증거가 차고 넘치는데도 기후변화 연구를 중단시켰다. 측근들과 함께 미국이 모든 군축 협정을 탈퇴하도록 종용했고, (사전 논의도 없이) 우주 군사화 프로그램을 성공적으로 발족시킴으로써 재앙을 우리 턱 밑까지, 1950년대보다도 가까이, 어쩌면 세계사상 가장 가까이 불러왔다.

지난 2월 5일 연두교서에서는 지금의 “경제번영”은 전임 대통령 그 누구도 이루지 못한 것이라며 자화자찬하기 바빴다. 그런데 지금의 이 호황은 고삐 풀린 투자은행들을 등에 업은 기업들이 주식을 환매하며 탄생했을 뿐, 진짜는 아니다. 그러면서도 수많은 파산 직전 인구, 홈리스, 재소자 등은 못 본 채 했다. 정색하고 누구에게든 아무 말이나 하는 탁월한 능력을 다시금 선보인 것이다. 다시 말해 트럼프는 교과서 상 사이코패스의 모든 특징을 몸소 보여줬다.

아무리 트럼프라도 조력자가 없었다면 여기까지는 오지 못했을 것이다. 최악질 사이코패스 존 볼턴(John Bolton)의 도움이 있었다. 볼턴은 이 세상에 핵전쟁을 불러올 생각만으로 신이 나는 사람으로 그동안 시리아, 우크라이나, 베네수엘라, 중국, 러시아와의 전쟁을 동시에 지지해왔다. 미래의 전망이 어두워질수록, 그의 열정은 뜨거워진다.

시인 윌리엄 버틀러 예이츠(William Butler Yeats)는 “재림 (The Second Coming)”을 쓰며 볼턴같은 사람을 생각했던 게 틀림없다. 볼턴은 “피로 어두워진 파도(blood-dimmed tide)”의 “빗장을 열어(loosed)”, “선한 자는 모든 신념을 잃고 악한 자는 격정으로 가득한 (the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity)” 대혼란을 가져왔다. 여전히 양심이 남은 또는 전두엽 피질 기능이라도 가능한 자들이 마치 난파선을 탈출하는 쥐떼처럼 미 국무부와 국방부를 떠나자, 볼턴은 정책과정의 공백을 독차지한 것이다.

그렇다면 나머지 워싱턴 정가의 모습은 어떠한가?

요즘의 “민주당”을 한번 살펴보자. 낸시 펠로시(Nancy Pelosi, 민주당, 캘리포니아) 하원의장은 트럼프가 “파병부대 격려”를 위한 그녀의 아프가니스탄 방문계획을 공개하자, 자신의 안전을 위협할 것으로 추정, 이를 강력하게 비판했다. 하지만 그렇게 진보적인 펠로시도 애초에 미국이 왜 아프가니스탄에 들어가게 되었으며 왜 아직도 아프간에 머무르고 있는지에 대해서는 물론, 아프가니스탄에서 희생된 (아프간 시민은 차치하고) 미국 노동자의 수치에 대해서는, 왜 미디어에서 더 이상 미국 군대 이야기를 보도하지 않는지에 대해서는 말이 없다.

대신 중국이 위구르의 수백만 무슬림을 탄압한 소식을 알리기 바빴다. 구체적인 증거를 찾으려는 노력은 없었다. 지난 20여 년간 미국 군대에 희생된 수백만 무슬림에 대해서는 역시 아무런 말이 없었다. 정작 군국주의에 대한 논의는 무시하면서 정의로운 세상을 지지하고 있는 것이다. 엄밀히 말하면 펠로시는 열성(劣性)사이코패스이다.

버락 오마바(Barack Obama)는 어떤가? 오바마 이름만 들어도 눈가가 촉촉해지는 사람들이 있는데, 혹시 오바마 특유의 그 유쾌한 태도 때문에 그가 자신의 자아실현을 위해 보통 사람들을 이용한 사실을 간과한 것은 아닌가? 진정한 개혁가에게 명예훈장처럼 따라붙는 개인적 공격을 피하기 위해 오바마가 어떻게 Goldman Sachs와 JP Morgan에 영혼을 팔았는지 잊은 것은 아닌가? 거저 얻은 존경은 훨씬 더 달콤한 법이다.

그의 아내 미셸 오바마(Michelle Obama)는 최근 “비커밍 (Becoming)”이라는 책을 냈다. 정식 출간 전부터 베스트셀러가 된 이 책은 오늘날의 정치적 디스토피아를 상징한다. 그녀는 베일에 가려졌던 개인사를 능수능란하게 풀어내며 미국 내 거버넌스의 몰락과 문명사회의 야만적인 타락은 완전히 가려버렸다. 힐러리 클린턴(Hillary Clinton)처럼 미셸도 자신이 권력을 가질 자격이 있다고 생각하는 것이리라. 그녀는 책에서 작금의 이 악몽이 시작된 첫 8년을 이끈 조지 W. 부시(George W. Bush)를 자신의 “공범”이라고 칭했는데, 이는 단순 말실수가 아니다. 정신병 말기에 접어든 진보진영의 몰락을 보여주고 있다.

오바마 부부는 애초에 진정한 “반전” 진보주의자는 아니라고 하는 사람도 있을 것이다. 결국 남는 것은 “사회주의” 진보주의자, 버니 샌더스 (Bernie Sanders) 뿐이다. 그리고 그는 실제로 트럼프의 연두교서에 그답게 대응했다.

공화당, 민주당 할 것 없이 트럼프의 연설에 담긴 무의미한 제스처와 거짓 주장에 박수를 친 것만으로도 최악인데, 샌더스의 근시안적 시각도 비판받아야 한다. 그는 노동자의 임금과 사회 전반의 “불공정”에만 주목하느라 군비의 엄청난 증가나 러시아 및 중국과의 전쟁 위협, 심각한 부의 집중 등 그의 친구 오바마 정권에서 발생한 여러 문제는 무시했다. 투표자 억압이 있었다는 점이 유감스럽다고 했을 뿐, 그러한 행위가 흉악범죄라는 점은 “대체 무엇 때문인지” 언급을 잊었다.

어쩔 수 없이 샌더스를 지지했더라도 그가 지난 선거에서 한 일을 꼭 기억하자. 그는 유세에 운집한 수만 명 노동자의 고통어린 삶에 대한 연설을 했다. 이 절절한 연설에서 “혁명”을 이야기하며, 한 달 집세도 내기 어려운 사람들에게 자신이 “부자들”과 싸울 수 있도록 현금을 보내달라고 청했다. 그리고 지지자들은 그의 요청에 응답했다. 그들은 목표를 위해 단결했고, 샌더스를 승리의 길로 이끌었다.

그런데 경선 표를 조작했든, 샌더스에 대해 가짜뉴스를 퍼뜨렸든, 클린턴이 앞서나가자 샌더스는 침묵했다. 그는 마치 자신을 지지한 보통 사람들의 표가 무너지는 것이 그들 모두의 문제가 아닌, 자신의 개인적 문제인 듯 굴었다.

샌더스는 민주당 전당대회에서 너무나 빠르게 클린턴에 굴복했고, 그의 선거운동을 위해 희생한 모든 이들은 빈손으로 그저 어리둥절할 수밖에 없었다. 여러분은 어떤지 모르겠지만 필자는 연설에서 공정한 사회를 역설하고, 노동자의 돈으로 선거운동을 하다가 권력에서 발을 빼지 않으려 그 지지자들을 배신하는 것 역시 숨길 수 없는 사이코패스의 신호라고 생각한다.

하지만 우리에게는 알렉산드리아 오카시오-코르테즈(Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)가 있지 않은가. “민주사회주의자”를 자처하며 혼란에 빠진 미국 청년들의 상상력을 사로잡은 그녀다. 그런데 그녀의 말에서는 진심이 느껴질지 몰라도, NATO와 러시아 제재를 찬성하는 점, 민주당에 묶여있다는 점 등을 보면 딱히 낙관적이지 않다.

지난 마틴 루터 킹의 날, 오카시오-코르테즈가 “소수의 부자들을 존재하게 하는 제도는 부도덕하다”라고 한 발언은 많은 이들의 마음을 울렸을 것이다. 다만, 의회에서의 발언은 로비스트의 마음을 사기에 충분했다. 아마도 그 때문에 그녀는 부자들이 전쟁도발, 시세조작, 전 세계를 좀먹는 화석연료 등을 통해 부정으로 축적된 재산의 몰수는커녕, 해외 조세피난처의 폐쇄를 위한 법안도 제안하지 않았을 것이다.

“진보주의” 카말라 해리스(Kamala Harris)도 있다. 해리스는 자녀가 초등학교에 무단결석하는 경우, 그 부모에게 징역을 포함한 형사 처분을 적용하는 법안을 지지했고, 피고에게 증인의 신뢰도에 대한 정보를 제공하지 않도록 했으며, 경찰관을 보호하기 위해 노력했다. 말하자면 그녀는 자해방지용 정신병동에 머무르는 진보주의자다.

미국 사이코 민주주의의 기원

이런 정치판 사이코패스들이 갑자기 하늘에서 우주선을 타고 떨어진 것은 아니다. 행동은 외계인만큼 이상하지만, 이들은 어느 미친 나라의 산물, 100% 미제다. 여전히 금문교와 헐리우드, 자유의 여신상, 그랜드캐년은 건재하지만, 그 이면의 미국은 변해도 너무 변했다.

가족, 이웃, 동포 사이의 사회적 유대는 상업과 소비 열풍 속에 닳아 없어졌다. 정치와 시민사회가 있던 곳에 이제 황량한 사막만이 남았다.

오늘의 이 악몽을 모두 사회 최고위층의 탓으로만 돌릴 수는 없다. 그동안 이들의 병적인 자기중심주의를 독려하고, 심지어 보상까지 하지 않았다면 결코 이 지경까지는 오지 못했을 것이다. 그런데 이 보상을 제공한 것은 부자들 뿐 아니라, 대부분 상위 중산층이었다. 한 때는 중산층이었다가 몰락한 주변의 홈리스를 돌보기보다는 제2의 스티브 잡스, 제2의 빌 게이츠가 되는 것에 집중하는 이들이었다.

이런 사이코적 행태는 사회 모든 계층으로 퍼져나갔다. 변호사, 의사, 교수, 언론인, 기업인, 정부기관장, 그리고 물론 노동조합의 “노조간부”도 예외는 아니다. 기득권을 누리는 자에게 이 무자비한 정부와 기업정책의 목적이 무엇인지, 이러한 정책과 그들의 부와의 관계가 무엇인지 물어봐야 소용없다는 것은 이제 상식이다.

Exxon의 주주가 되는 것과 기후변화 또는 민영교도소의 부상과 투자은행의 수익 간의 관계 등은 총명하고 젊은 하버드 대학생조차 떠올릴 수 없는 금기 주제가 되어버리고 말았다.

이러한 사고방식 덕분에 부자 동네에서 “진보주의적” 삶을 추구하는 것이 가능해졌다. 스타벅스에서 창의적인 생각을 하고, 대형마트에서 채식 쇼핑을 하면서, 핵전쟁의 위협과 생태계의 붕괴에는 무뎌지는 것이다. 대형마트에서는 어떤 제품을 미국 포로(노예) 또는 전 세계 공장에 갇혀 반 노예 생활을 하는 노동자가 만들었을지 생각하지 않고, 그저 저렴한 물건을 구입하기 쉽다. 이게 바로 그 유명한 “좌파처럼 생각하고 우파처럼 사는” 태도다.

좋은 교육을 받고, 무엇이 옳고 그른지 판단할 정보에 접근할 수 있는 이들은 그 생각을 타인들과 나눌 필요를 별로 느끼지 못한다. 이들은 오히려 아무것도 모르는 척, 가족들과의 휴가, 멋진 레스토랑에서 먹은 맛있는 음식 같은 지루한 대화만 계속할 뿐이다.

이들 상위 중산층이 트럼프 지지자들을 “멍청하다”고 치부하는 모습은 더더욱 이상하다. 이들은 인상파 작품과 아방가르드 무용의 가치는 알지만, 제대로 된 교육이 불가능한 학교 밖에 없는 동네에 사는 건 어떨지, 그런 동네에 살면 온통 가짜뉴스만 쏟아내는 미디어 밖에는 볼 수 없고, 인생의 의미를 찾는 절박함에 응답해주는 것은 오직 우파 대형교회 뿐이라는 사실은 상상조차 못한다.

조지 W. 부시(George W. Bush) 정부가 정권을 잡은 이후, 다수의 “선량한 미국인들”은 이 가련한 부정의 문화에 빠졌고 사이코 민주주의로 가는 첫걸음을 떼고 말았다. 그리고 이제는 부끄러운 줄도 모르고 트럼프가 보여주는 천박함이 자신에게는 무해할 것이라고 믿게 된 것이다. 그러나 소설가 토마스 만(Thomas Mann)이 독일 정치가 잔혹한 광란으로 타락한 1930년대를 묘사한 것처럼 “지루함은 무해함의 동의어가 아니다.”

병리학적 특성

정확히 무엇이 잘못된 것인가? 우리는 이제 민주당이 무엇을 잘하는지 알고 있다. 정책논의에서 제3자는 배제하고, 반대해야 마땅한 여당과 시시덕거리면서, 뒤로는 퇴직수당을 모으는 게 바로 민주당의 리더들이다. 이들은 단 한 발자국도 트럼프의 범죄에 맞설 수 없다.

혹자는 부자 몇 명의 배를 불리느라 지난 2년간 경제 파탄을 겪었으니, 교육을 받은 미국인이라면 하나 둘 모여, 부자들과 군국주의, 백인 민족주의가 만드는 작금의 도당을 뒤집을 강력한 시민운동을 조성할 것이라 생각할지도 모르겠다.

그러나 틀렸다.

이 나라의 제도가 아무리 망가져도 고등교육을 받은 미국인들의 “진보” 민주당 그리고 “보수” 공화당에 대한 환상을 깨지 못할 것이다. 선택할 수 있는 정당이 모두 거기서 거기라는 사실을 인정하고 싶지 않기 때문이다. 좀 더 간단히 말하면, “결국 미국에 정당은 하나”라는 사실이다.

침묵의 , 여름, 가을, 겨울

1960년대 수백만 시민이 거리로 나와 반체제 시위에 나서게 한 경고신호는 지나친 지 오래다. 현재의 상황은 당시보다 심각하다. 인류 멸망도 가능한 핵전쟁과 기후변화, 불합리한 부의 축적 등이 산재해있다. 자리를 박차고 행동에 나서지는 못할망정, 이런 문제를 주변 친구나 이웃과 논할 수 있는 사람도 없다.

어쩌면 우리는 로마제국 말년과 같은 데카당스 시대를 지나고 있는 게 아닌가 한다. 도널드 트럼프는 네로 황제의 리얼리티 쇼 버전 내지는 칼리굴라 황제의 모조품 정도 되지 않을까? 트럼프가 세계은행 차기 총재 후보로 자신의 딸 이방카(Invanka)를 거론하는 것을 보면, 로마제국 후기와 확실히 잘 맞아떨어지는 듯하다.

네덜란드 디자이너 빅터 호스팅 (Viktor Horsting) 그리고 롤프 스노에론(Rolf Snoeren)이 만든 패션회사 빅터앤롤프(Viktor and Rolf)는 참신한 오트쿠띄르를 위해 자극적인 이미지를 찾고자 했고, 실제 그들의 패션쇼 포스터 중 하나는 특히 크게 눈길을 끌어 이들의 회고전에 선택되기도 했다.

Viktor and Rolf Fashion Artists 25주년 기념

그런데 이 포스터는 보는 입장에서는 참 혼란스럽다. 화려한 붉은색 담요를 몸에 두르고 침대에 누운 부유해 보이는 백인여성이 등장하는데, 머리카락은 제멋대로 구겨진 베개 위에 흩어져있다. 그녀는 수평의 풍경과 달리 수직으로 그려졌고, 르네상스 성모 마리아와 아기 예수처럼 오른 팔에 금발의 아이를 살포시 안고 있다.

그런데 부를 상징하는 이 이미지는 배경의 불편한 상황과 배치된다. 엄마와 아이는 폐허가 된 집, 아마도 허리케인 카트리나 또는 허리케인 마이클의 잔해 앞에 서있다.

인프라의 붕괴, 기후변화, 긴축재정 등으로 고생하는 보통 사람들의 삶과 이 여성이 대조되면서 그녀의 부와 특권이 더욱 매력적으로, 흥미롭게 그려지는 것이다. 이 이미지가 더욱 재미있는 점은 부자들 그리고 이들을 부러워하는 자들이 보통 사람들의 고통을 간접적으로 경험하게 한다는 것이다. 마리 앙투아네트가 베르사유 궁전 뜰에 작은 농장을 지어 평범한 소작농의 삶을 즐겁게 경험한 것과 비슷하다.

이 이미지에서 미적 쾌감을 느낀다면 사이코패스 같은 행동일 것이다. 결국 부자들은 분기별로 수익을 내려면 채굴산업과 화석연료에 의존할 수밖에 없다. 이들의 이윤추구는 재앙을 부르는 기후변화를 야기했고, 시민들이 스스로 힘을 키울 수 없게 만들었다.

이들은 거대한 벙커와 땅을 사서 기후변화를 이겨낼 수 있을 것이라는 믿음으로 자신도 속이고 있다. New Yorker에 실린 에반 오스노스(Evan Osnos)의 기사, “슈퍼리치가 최후의 심판을 준비하는 방법 (Doomsday Prep for the Superrich)”에 이와 같은 부자들의 움직임이 생생히 묘사되었다.

이러한 병든 문화가 우리 사회 전반으로 번지고 있다. 청년들은 (원하든 원하지 않든) 부유한 아이들이 자기도취에 빠져 노닥거리는 광고를 봐야만 한다. 광고계는 아이들에게 이런 이미지를 롤 모델로 제시하며, 사회적 불평등을 벗어나기 위한 유일한 방법은 많이 가진 자를 찬양하는 것뿐이라는 메시지를 전한다.

구글과 페이스북은 어떻게 미국의 정신을 멈췄나

이 사이코 민주주의는 주기적인 데카당스 시대의 산물일 뿐일까 아니면 다른 원인이 있는 것일까? 고등교육을 받은 자들이 기후변화와 핵전쟁 위험을 가볍게 무시하는 극단적인 인지부조화를 보면 분명 다른 요인이 있는 것 같다.

아마도 빠른 기술발전으로 주변에서 일어나고 있는 변화를 파악하는 능력이 크게 저하되면서, 우리는 게임과 소셜 미디어, 포르노, 위기대응능력을 망가뜨리는 그 밖의 오락 활동의 수동적 소비자로 전락한 것이 아닐까.

스마트 폰이 우리의 두뇌 속 프로그램을 재구성한 것은 아닐까? 그래서 생을 마감할 즈음에서야 뭔가 잘못되었다는 어렴풋한 느낌을 가지게 되는 것은 아닐까? 카툰 작가 스티브 커츠(Steve Cutts)는 “아 유 로스트 인 더 월드 라이크 미? (Are you lost in the world like me”라는 애니메이션을 통해 이 악몽과도 같은 세상을 그려냈다. 이렇게 체득된 수동성은 사회계층과 시대를 아울러 모두에게 영향을 끼친다.

작가 니콜라스 카(Nicholas Carr)는 “생각하지 않는 사람들 : 인터넷이 우리의 뇌 구조를 바꾸고 있다 (What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows)”라는 책에서 어떻게 인터넷이 즉각적인 자극에 반응하여 복잡한 사고를 하는 두뇌의 능력을 마비시키다시피 하는지 광범위한 과학적 증거를 제시한다. 이러한 부정적인 영향은 우리가 글로벌하게 서로 소통하는 바로 지금 이 순간, 바로 그 기술에 의해 교묘하고 모순된 방식으로 진행되고 있다.

우리는 정보의 망망대해 위에서, 스스로 생각할 물 한 방울이 없어 갈증을 느끼는 것이다.

니콜라스 카는 인간 두뇌의 신경가소성이 오히려 경직된 행동을 독려하는 등, 부정적인 방식으로 작용할 수 있다고 말한다. 인간의 뉴런은 인터넷 서핑을 통해 생성한 회로가 매혹적인 자극을 주기 때문에 계속 이 회로를 사용하려고 한다는 것이다. 구글 검색이나 페이스북 포스팅이 주는 빠른 응답은 뉴런을 자극하고, 쾌락의 흥분제를 분비한다.

오래 전 복잡하고 입체적인 사고, 즉 개인의 오랜 경험이나 사회, 문화적 변화의 경험 등을 위해 사용되었으나, 더 이상 사용되지 않는 신경 회로는 보이지 않는 신경의 자연도태에 의해 가차 없이 제거된다.

신경학자 노만 도이지(Norman Doidge)는 다음과 같이 썼다. “만약 우리가 정신적 능력의 활용을 멈춘다면, 그 능력을 그냥 망각하는 게 아니다. 두뇌 안에 그러한 능력을 위해 배정된 공간이 다른 기능에 넘어가는 것이다.” 니콜라스 카는 이를 더 명료하게 표현했다. “우리의 뉴런과 시냅스는 생각의 질에는 전혀 관심이 없다. 두뇌에 내재된 유연성 때문에 지적인 쇠퇴가 가능하다.”

다시 말해 우리는 몇 시간씩 스마트 폰을 들여다보며 SNS나 메신저를 하느라 기후변화로 인한 리스크 또는 트럼프 행정부가 2월 7일, 중거리핵전력 (INF) 조약 탈퇴를 결정한 후 따르는 군비경쟁의 리스크를 판단할 능력을 잃은 것이다. 이런 재앙을 알고 있는 사람도 드문데다가 종말을 불러올 이런 문제들을 친구나 가족과 이야기하는 사람은 더더욱 드물다.

니콜라스 카는 그 이유를 다음과 같이 설명한다. “여러 심리학, 신경생리학, 교육학, 그리고 웹 디자인 연구가 같은 결론에 도달했다. 온라인에서 우리는 글을 훑어 읽고, 서둘러 여러 생각을 하며, 피상적인 학습을 장려하는 환경에 노출된다. 책을 읽으면서 가볍게 무엇인가를 생각할 수 있는 것처럼 인터넷을 하면서도 깊은 생각을 할 수는 있다. 다만 이를 기술이 독려하거나 보상을 제공하는 것은 아니다.”

뉴런의 빠른 자극을 위한 정보 프로세싱 때문에 인류 전체가 “피상적” 사고에 사로잡히는 경우, 직면한 위기를 타개하기 위한 대책을 세우거나 옹호하기는커녕, 그 위기를 이해할 수 있는 사람이 있기는 할까?

사이코패스 뒤의 사이코패스

아직 퍼즐 한 조각이 남았다. 현재의 상황이 모두 인류애 따위는 없는 탐욕스러운 부자 몇 명의 책임이라고 하기엔 뭔가 석연치 않다.

이들의 가면을 벗기고, 장막 뒤를 가만히 들여다보면 기술이 모든 제도를 대체하였음을 알게 되는 것은 아닐까?

그렇다. 우리를 파멸로 몰고 온 이 부자들을 위해 판을 깔아준 궁극의 사이코패스는 무시무시한 괴물이 아니라 네트워크로 연결된 전 세계의 슈퍼컴퓨터 수만 대다. 매일, 매 분, 매 초마다 이들은 이윤을 극대화하는 소수점 아래 열 번째 자리까지 계산해내며 제 갈 길을 가고 있다.

바로 이 슈퍼컴퓨터가 JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Bank of America의 최종 결정을 내리는 것이다. 이들 컴퓨터는 인간이 할 수 없는 일, 즉 윤리적 거리낌 없이 지구 전체의 금전적 가치를 평가하고 철저히 알고리즘에 기초하여 이윤을 추출할 수 있기 때문이다.

투자은행의 뒤를 버티고 있는 이 슈퍼컴퓨터들에게 빌 게이츠(Bill Gates)와 제프 베조스(Jeff Bezos)는 즉각적인 궁극의 이윤을 추구하기 위해 떠나는 길에서 만나는 재미없는 부록 같은 것이다.

슈퍼컴퓨터가 마침내 인간 문명을 제어할 수 없는 수준이 될 때까지 기다릴 필요는 없다. 당장 컴퓨터에 생태계가 무엇을 필요로 하는지, 아니면 인간성이 무엇인지 생각하지 않고, 이윤만을 근거로 사회의 우선순위를 설정하면 그만이다. 눈, 비디오, 게임 등이 인간 두뇌의 신경 네트워크를 재구성해서 도파민에 의한 단기적 사고만을 장려하더라도 컴퓨터가 인간을 대신하면 그만이다. 슈퍼컴퓨터가 스스로 의식을 갖기 한참 전에 인간을 대신하게 될 것이다.

우리 인간은 아직 완전히 정신을 놓지는 않았다. 다만 알아차리지 못하는 사이, 불편한 일들을 많이도 슈퍼컴퓨터에게 맡기고 있다. 다중병렬 슈퍼컴퓨터라는 눈먼 자들이 인류라는 애꾸눈을 벼랑 끝으로 몰고 있는 형국인 것이다.