Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ignorant of the true cost of wealth

Via the Western Confucian:

Religion and Peak Oil: The City of Progress (EB)
by John Michael Greer

It’s one thing to anchor your hopes for a better world in the unknowable territory on the far side of death, to trust so completely in the evidence of things not seen. It’s quite another to reimagine the world you know in the light of technological and social changes going on right in front of you, trace the trajectory of those changes right on out to the stars, and embrace the changes themselves as vehicles of redemption and proofs of the approaching millennium.

What the mythic power of the vision made it all but impossible to grasp, though, was that the progress of the last three hundred years, while very real, was the product of two temporary and self-limiting sets of circumstances. One of these unfolded from the wars of conquest and colonization that gave European nations control of most of the planet in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and enabled them to prosper mightily at the expense of the world’s other peoples, just as previous empires did in their time. The second and far greater was the discovery that fossil fuels could be used in place of wind, water and muscle to power human technologies. From the perspective of the myth of progress, these things were simply side effects of the Western world’s embrace of a true doctrine of nature; the possibility that they were the causes of progress, not its effects, was literally unthinkable.

And if the cry for free trade and free markets is a convenient excuse to continue the exploitation that was begun through imperialism? What then? Sure, there are some true believers who think that economic liberalism is what best suits the "dignity" of men, but would they be so zealous if they were on the receiving end of the oligarchic juggernaut?

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