Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 09:29:57 AM EST
An elegant epigram of Serendib says that 'two elephants cannot be tied to one post.'
The glimmer in this gem is as obvious -- and subtle -- as he who hears it.
Lifelong sarong and sari wearers among you, who have actually seen two elephants tied to one post know damn well that they will soon wander off with that post. It's only a matter of time before they happen to pull together or happen to pull opposite -- the post survives neither event.
This lesson is portable.
Many see our world's rising tide of human woes, think it all through, and blame global capitalism.
Capital is widely respected and regarded; it is influential and omnipresent; it is slippery, solvent, and super sexy. Like water, it gets into everything. It can rinse away blood. It can feed millions. It can drown millions.
An Ism is most anything writ large, writ larger than life itself. Ideology is love of an idea. Ideology of every sort is Ism, is an idea taken to be larger than life itself.
An Ism will not blink or bend if polar bears are drowning, or babies are bleeding. That's merely life -- here is an eternal Idea. We must stay the course.
Capital is money. Money is debt. Usury on debt is the fuel of global capitalism. We extract compound interest from the beating hearts of human lives on every continent and island nowadays. Human sweat congeals into capital instruments that will burn reliably over measured fiscal periods.
Some of us have our lives. Some of us have basis points in other human lives.
When debt creation and servicing becomes our global culture and condition, we are pursuing Global Capital Ism. When that Idea of perpetually increasing debt service is larger than human life itself, when polar bears are drowning and babies are bleeding, we have tied two elephants to one post.
The post is civilization, the maypole, the base agreement between people that we will not kill each another on sight, that we will leave one another's daughters and property alone in exchange for the same treatment. The post is the promise that people from one valley will not raid the fields of people in the next valley.
The post is the sum of how far we have come since our ancestors drew buffaloes and birds on the cave walls of rural France.
We've come all the way to Consumer Man, whose idea larger than life is to get more, to live better than well, and to see that the kids all get even further along the Capital Highway, at any and all collateral damage. Why? Because it's all good. Because it's super sexy to have the best and be the best. Elvis is in the building, baby. Hoo-yah!
This is one elephant tugging at the post.
The billions of bug-eaten bastards digging in the dirt all over the world, the filthy and filched in the factories and fisheries and foundries, the various victims of capitalism's conquests who sometimes in death or crisis join the infinitesimally small percentage of human beings to ever have their picture taken -- this faceless multitude is the other elephant tugging at the post.
There are so many people without anything at all. Just the day, and hunger, and the children. So unbelievably many with nothing but that. Human minds do not really count as high as the number of people scratching for edible things around the globe. A billion -- is just a word to the human mind. Two billion -- is just two words.
But all those lowly lives, and billions more living scarcely above their level, are tugging opposite to Consumer Man, who wants to own everything and run everything. When he comes to collect sweat from them they know not his language or his trade or his tools but they do know they have less when he leaves than they had before. Because he bought basis points in their lives.
He bought their government, he bought their laws, he bought their resources, he bought their property, he bought their lives.
Their sweat builds empires in far off countries. Their sweat congeals into debt instruments and derivatives and Dow Jones daily averages. What gave Consumer Man possession of their sweat is as much a mystery to them as where their lives will go from here. Consumer Man neither knows nor cares. His world does not work that way.
Most of the human race will never -- ever -- under any circumstances enjoy a tenth of what Consumer Man takes for granted and throws away. There is not enough planet to supply that standard of living for all of us, and not enough environment to hold the garbage. We would need several more Earths to reach that level. Global consumer civilization isn't going to happen with these numbers. Ever.
So we have two elephants, and you cannot leave two elephants tied to one post. If you do, you must watch them all night and all day, keeping them from tugging together or tugging opposite, keeping them from wandering off with the maypole.
The rich and the poor could tug all together, and wander off with this civilization grounded in debt servicing. They could cease all usury of human lives, and everyone could have somewhat of the Earth's available bounty, but not at any and all collateral cost to human creatures living and yet to live. The American lifestyle could become, actually, negotiable.
The rich and the poor could tug opposites, wandering off with the maypole shattered and broken, with no one's daughters or harvest safe anymore. Start tossing nukes around, and Consumer Man will be drawing buffaloes and birds on the walls of caves. We'll try again. We'll start over. Maybe we'll share this time.
One planet spinning through space. One global civilization based on debt servicing, based on the few harvesting from the many. Two elephants tied to that maypole, that civilization.
The sun will come up in an hour. I'll be in my fields, getting the work done before the heat arrives. I can't think of a billion, but I can think of one mother or one father somewhere waking up to the day, and hunger, and the children. I can think about elephants.
I don't want this war, and I don't want this civilization.