Top-Down and Bottom-Up

SUBHEAD: Before the snow starts flying in NYC Occupy Wall Street should think about Occupy Farmland.  

By Juan Wilson on 11 October 2011 for Island Breath -  

Image above: Detail of poster for movie version of John Steinbeck's "Lifeboat" directed by Alfred Hitchcock... perhaps his best film. From (

An interesting dynamic is at play as we slide further into environmental depletion in a crescendo of industrialization. In the developed world there is slowly rising a realization that further economic growth is not only unfeasible, but it is also undesirable. This is certainly not the case being made by those "still in charge" whose fingers are tight around the throat of mass media. Their mantra is still; "Jobs! Growth! Consumption!"

However, beyond the Beltway and Madison Avenue, that song is ringing a sour note. There is no fix for the industrialized world's financial woes. In reality the measure of industrial financial strength is the amount of energy returned on energy invested (ERoEI) - the higher the better. There never has been or will be a higher ERoEI than at the beginning of the era of liquid fossil fuel use.

Oil was literally oozing out of the ground. All you needed was a barrel. We've been coasting for quite a while on fumes. The engine of industrialization is wheezing between coughs. That said, how does this reality play against efforts from the Top-Down and Bottom-Up to "save the system"? - Not good.  

In America the Top-Down approach is reflected in the differences between the two major political parties.
  • The Republicans see economic health resulting from cutting out government services and regulations, while securing the wealthy and protecting corporate interests in a growing economy. 
  •  The Democrats see economic health requiring the maintenance of unaffordable social programs and entitlements while stimulating middle-class consumption in a growing economy. 
Both approaches require a growing economy and continued central authority. Both require a financial system that has become nothing more than a Ponzi scheme that devours the future. Needless to say the top-down way of doing things is quickly coming to an end: too complicated; too expensive; too unwieldy.  

America's Bottom-Up approach is reflected in the two renegade movements of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

  •  The Tea Party participants are generally older, less educated, less tolerant and nostalgic. That last bit is crucial; nostalgia means "a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time." The Tea Party is essentially looking back in time - a big mistake. The hangover from nostalgia is "fond memories, homesickness, longing, pining, reminiscence, remorse, schmaltz, sentimentality, tear-jerker, wistfulness". 
  • The Occupy Wall Street crowd is young, educated, more tolerant and utopian. The key here is utopian. Its synonyms are "visionary, chimerical, dream, fanciful, fantasy, grandiose, hopeful, idealist, idealistic, ideological, illusory, impossible, impractical, lofty, otherworldly, perfect, pie-in-the-sky, pretentious, quixotic, romantic, transcendental, unfeasible" (  

The Tea Party is already largely co-opted by the conservative right. The Christian social agenda is a throwback to the worst instincts in American society. We can only hope the Tea Party does not inspire a large segment of the young, and just dies the death of a toothless tiger and fades away... but it's not likely. 

The current system will be unable to satisfy the Occupy Wall Street participants. Even dogged prosecution of the financial/corporate/government "evildoers" will not put a dent in the real problems facing the young. 

Realizing the blame for those at the top is a step. The young will likely experience greater anger about inequality, racism, injustice, poverty, and elitism towards our system. 

Unfortunately, much of the energy of the OWS has been spent in blaming those at the helm when we drove the Titanic into the iceberg. As satisfying as that may feel there is little time to even have even a kangaroo court before a lynching.  

But blaming those who screwed-up isn't nearly as useful as heading away from the most dangerous aspects of the catabolic collapse of the industrial world that is underway already.  

Man the lifeboats! 
The top priority right now is getting into the lifeboats. I wouldn't mind if the OWS decide who gets a seat... but getting onboard with lifevests, oars and provisions is the business at hand. 

At some point before the snow starts flying on in New York City I hope the self-organizing Occupy Wall Street community decides the real target ought to be Occupy Farmland.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Here's the Deal 7/5/09 .

1 comment :

Suzanne said...

OccupyFarmlands and OccupyPublicLands, too!

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