Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fight Back the Crisis!

Welcome to 2012. The last year ended with a fight, and this year will begin with one.

Please check out the new video I shot, produced and edited for Ayesha Adhami and MC Mohammad Ali. It’s called Fight Back the Crisis, and it calls us out to the demonstration against the social services cuts being held at Toronto City Hall tomorrow on Tuesday January 17th at 5:30 PM, and also more broadly to fight back against our ruling class enemies more broadly.

The class war is heating up, and our side scored some nice punches in 2011. Let’s make it our 2012 resolution to deliver a knockout.

The moral economy of Canadian imperialism

From XRay # 35,

Noam Chomsky argues that, in western liberal “democracies”, a radical critique of the openly pro-capitalist, political right reveals little in comparison with an examination of the limits of acceptable, mainstream political discourse on the liberal left.

Liberal left scholarship and political discourse serve to protect the “left flank” of imperialism and ensure the uninterrupted accumulation of capital by the parasitic American investor class, the 1% as they have recently come to be known.

A few Canadian liberals, and many in the NDP especially, accept Chomsky’s assertions about the significance of these limits—when they are talking about the United States. But when the axiom is applied to Canadian politics, the majority shrinks from looking into the mirror, and those who attempt to hold it up are shunned.

But this mirror gives a true reflection of the monstrous moral economy of Canadian imperialism. Consider our role in the war against Libya.

The NDP, along with that dearly departed saint and my former MP Jack Layton, and all those fresh faced NDP MPs voted unanimously to support Canadian military participation in the NATO bombing of a sovereign, UN member state.

They did so under the cover of UN Resolution 1973, that gave NATO a very limited mandate to protect civilians from attack by the government of Libya by imposing a “no fly zone” for the rather meager Libyan air force over its own territory.

Even the Pentagon admitted that they “had no confirmation whatsoever” that the previous Libyan government was bombing their own people:

“Q: Do you see any evidence that he actually has fired on his own people from the air?  There were reports of it, but do you have independent confirmation?  If so, to what extent?

SEC. GATES:  We’ve seen the press reports, but we have no confirmation of that.

ADM. MULLEN:  That’s correct.  We’ve seen no confirmation whatsoever.”

The UN resolution ignored the fact that what was going on in Libya was really a civil war fought along the old colonial and ethnic divisions between Tripolitania in the west, and Cyrenaica in the east.

The west used the resolution to take the side of the western Libyans who sold future oil concessions in exchange for arms, something completely forbidden under the resolution. Never mind that. What mattered was that the resolution gave legal cover to our radical act of violent penetration—the rape of Libya.

The western media amplified claims of “genocide” in the spring, claims it rapidly forgot once it became clear that they were supported by no facts whatsoever.  In fact, the Libyan government was defending itself from the armed insurrection waged against it by the National Transition Council, with weapons supplied by western states.

The same goes for claims that Libyan armed forces were committing mass rape as a method of warfare.  It was reported with almost zero investigation in the Guardian, that bastion of liberalism and human rights.

Actual UN investigators on the ground described the claims as “massive hysteria”, and Amnesty International found no evidence of mass rape.

If such claims were real, then we would be seeing the evidence for them in big type on the front pages of our newspapers and on TV. Western governments love to rub our faces in propaganda or any facts that support their aims.

Real, bona fide evidence of mass rape committed by the previous Libyan government would constitute a massive propaganda coup for “our side.” But we’re not seeing the evidence, because it doesn’t exist.

The false claims of genocide and mass rape loudly voiced in the spring and early summer of 2011, served their intended purpose.

A “war pretext incident” was created, and western liberal outrage mobilized against the target de jour of the western far-right, (nice trick that) and a mandate given to “protect civilians” by means of the power of western air forces, one of the most effective means of killing them.

Never mind that there was a very real type of ethnic cleansing going on, of black African migrant workers, viciously attacked and massacred en masse for the colour of their skin. This was done by the western-backed mercenaries of the National Transition Council, which now rules the country.

None of these contradictions bothered a single NDP MP enough to stand up in the House and declare her or his principled opposition to a war waged by their own government.

None of the great hopes of the NDP left, not Libby Davies, not Peggy Nash, none stood up and said no to these lies. Instead, the NDP chose to condemn atrocities that were not really happening, and which if they had happened in Palestine or Kashmir or Colombia or Sri Lanka or Bahrain or Yemen, would not have elicited a NATO call to arms.

Davies did not ask the Prime Minister whether or not the war was wrong, only if his government had the best “exit strategy.”

The NDP played the role assigned to them by the Canadian state system, providing a useful left cover for Canadian imperialism, for a radical violence that bloodies the truth as much is it shoots the faces off of little girls. (Warning! This video is very difficult to watch.)

The NDP, as I detailed in X-Ray #28, has accepted the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. On the face of it, the doctrine would be a tremendous moral and ethical achievement, were it to be applied universally. The doctrine would have it that it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak.

In practice, it’s the greatest bullshit story going. It is only ever applied when western business interests want to overthrow the leader of a developing nation that resists western penetration—rape.

It is never applied to western allied states, those who cooperate with our corporate financial interests, with those who allow us to penetrate and dominate their markets. The verbs used to describe our “foreign policy” smack of rape because our foreign policy is one of generalized rape.

Libya is a very rich country. At least it was until we got there. Libya possesses the largest oil resources in Africa, larger even than Nigeria. We wouldn’t care what the old Libyan government did if Libya was not rich, or if the riches of Libya were flowing into our hands.

The real problem in Libya was that the riches were staying in Libya. Capital is actually flowing out of Africa into the west, despite western misconceptions that we subsidize Africa with development aid. Libya was an exception to this general rule.

Structural adjustment programs imposed upon African states by the IMF and World Bank saddle African governments with unpayable debts, in the same manner being introduced to the people of Greece today, with predictable results. The wealthy of Africa, just like the wealthy few in Greece export their capital to western investment banks, instead of investing it in local production.

The previous Libyan government had attempted to reverse those relationships, though with a very spotty record. It used oil revenues to create a system of universal healthcare and education. Most Libyans were decently housed.

The country had the highest Human Development Index in Africa. In comparison Nigeria, with the second largest oil reserves, and with a pliant government dependent upon western support, ranked at number 25 out of 50. Tanzania, a country where Canadian mining companies are heavily invested, ranks 30th.

The previous Libyan government was also attempting to establish an African Development Bank to provided funds to African countries. This was an obvious threat to the IMF and World Bank, which are geared not towards development but rather opening up developing markets to penetration. That’s what I call rape.

And the rapists? Western corporations, including Canadians, whose investments in Libya I have described previously here.

That penetration this time around included the total destruction of Sirte, and the very real anal rape committed against Muammar Gaddafi, the head of a UN member state, committed with a knife and caught on camera.

He was then murdered, and his body displayed like a trophy in a meat locker. With Gaddafi dead, western firms are lining up to get at the oil. And that’s your tax dollar at work.

Despite its dovish, “humanitarian” stand, the NDP isn’t overly concerned with the very real rape of an entire nation, and its legal head of state, committed by the Canadian government and its allies. They rather aspire to take command of that government.

They have cast themselves as the “government in waiting” and so their first priority is to convince its current managers—those on Bay Street and within the murky, permanent quasi-government which is constituted by the highest ranks of the state bureaucracy, that the NDP constitutes a “safe pair of hands,” a “responsible” organization that can manage the Canadian sate in the interests of its owners – that’s not you, gentle reader.

And so, rising in the House of Commons on September 26th, NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan chose not to condemn the very real and then ongoing rape of a whole nation by the government she is sworn to hold to account (this was of course before the rape and murder of Gaddafi).

Instead, she endorsed the stated policy of her party to support that act of rape, while condemning the concocted rapes that formed the war pretext incidents, thus validating the war. It’s worth quoting her at length.

“The New Democrats supported the Canadian military mission and its extension in June in order to ensure that civilians were protected from the Gaddafi regime.

 Members have heard a bit of my story before. I fled a war-torn country myself. I wanted to see international support go into my homeland but we did not see any of that. When we in the House were able to provide Canadian support with other international forces, I was happy to know that the Libyan people would get some support.

 I and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party sincerely thank our military personnel and diplomats for their hard work in accomplishing the job that they did so well in Libya.

 The regime was using rape as a weapon of war. Through our support for the extension of the mission in June this year, the New Democrats were successful in adding a number of amendments to address the atrocities that were being committed, including rape.

 The acknowledgment that rape was being used as a weapon of war in that amended motion was quite groundbreaking. I really commend every member in the House for acknowledging that and for finally recognizing that rape was being used as a weapon of war.”

Except that it wasn’t in Libya. Sitsabaiesan’s speech pandered to common ignorance about the facts in Libya, and to the commonplace that “rape is bad.” If you’re against rape—who isn’t, except rapists—then you are on the side the angels. That’s the best the NDP Parliamentary Caucus has to offer.

The truth that dare not speak its name is that the “angels” in our government are the real rapists. The other, more interesting, more challenging truth is that their political enablers are some of the most outspoken and “progressive” members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Toronto should start a bank

Today the National Post has published a very important story on its website. I urge you to read it and share it. Now of course I would say that, because City Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam and I co-wrote it.

Please read the story, share it, and send Councilor Wong-Tam some encouragement.

What is democracy?

I made this short film at the Occupy Toronto protest march and sit-in this past weekend. The film is based on the responses to three questions:

What is democracy?

Do we have a democracy here in Canada?

How can we make democracy better?

The answers expose some fundamental disconnects between the ideas of democracy held by the public, and especially by this section of the public, and the kind of “democracy” we have. We have an allegedly representative system where the representatives don’t really listen to the public, but to interested parties. They make promises they don’t keep. There’s a sense of betrayal out there. The public’s notion of democracy has evolved beyond the limits set by western liberalism. They seem unwilling to give a lot of latitude to their representatives, preferring them to act more like delegates with only provisional authority, who require permission from the people before acting. Many people expressed a desire for a more participatory democracy. We have evolved, but our institutions have not. There’s a big collision coming.

 

Is a Better World Really Possible? Questions for Occupy Toronto, its critics and its false friends

 

The Occupation movement has inspired love letters, hate mail, paranoid rants from the usual suspects, police mischief, pepper spray, ham handed right wing smear attempts,  damnation by means of faint praisederision and warnings. This story is none of the above.

 

I don’t want to give anybody advice. Life has taught me that nobody takes advice they’re not ready to act on. More precisely, dispensing advice has taught me that. I just have some questions I want to put out there. Make what you will out of them.

 

What is democracy? Does it mean elections? Why didn’t Aristotle think so, and why do we? Why didn’t the men who founded our liberal democratic states think so? Again, why do we? Why have we conflated one thing, constitutional, “mixed” government, for democracy?

 

Is it a democracy when 1 percent of the population can monopolize 14 percent of all the income, and 3.8 percent of the population controls 67 percent of the financial wealth? Is it a democracy when we are ruled by political parties with a membership of less than 2 percent of the population?

 

Is it a democracy when less than 50 percent of registered electors actually vote? Is it a democracy when a minority, representing a minority, chosen by a minority gets to rule as if it were a majority? This isn’t a questionDalton McGuinty won the election with the support of 18 percent of all eligible Ontario electors.

 

Are we for reform, or revolution? Or some combination of both? If we’re for a democratic revolution, and I think we might be, how can we transcend the dead end of the western liberal system of political parties, professional politicians and the dishonest personality and pissing contests we dignify overmuch with the term “democratic” elections? It’s a loaded question. Mea culpa.

 

What is our idea of citizenship? Can we imagine, as the ancient Greeks could, an idealized “citizen”? What does she do with her day? Is she shopping for status-branded consumer items? Is hers a lot of incessant toil for wages that do not keep up with real inflation?

 

Does she pay attention to the latest political developments? If so, where does she get her information? Does she get it from the CBC? From the business press, which never met a corporate press release it didn’t have the urge to print as if it were factual news?

 

Is she reading independent media? If so, what is she doing about the glaring contradiction between the picture of the world pieced together by independent journalists, and the one spun by official journalists?

 

Why do journalists who are most often paid nothing or its closest dollar equivalent, who do their work out of the love for truth, out of a commitment to justice, come up with such a radically different picture of the world than those paid six figure salaries by corporations? Why does the work of independent journalists stand up to factual and logical scrutiny more readily than that produced by people paid infinitely more?

 

Are we not all called upon, as citizens of an allegedly democratic society, to seek and to know the truth? What is the best method for finding that truth? How is a citizen to act upon the truth she discovers? What if the truth is so monstrous, that it demands immediate action?

 

Is her citizenship to be confined by voting every four or five years, to writing letters to MPs whose secretaries will respond with preconceived nostrums, the true faith of the party, cited chapter and verse? How far is she to go, in righting wrongs, in setting society upon the course demanded by her human conscience?

 

Should she always act within the bounds set by the law, even unjust law? If she has only ever known the authority of received “wisdom,” if she has never asked a question that threatens power, (including the authority inside her head) if she has never disobeyed authority, and so discovered her “self”, can she be said to have a human conscience at all?

 

Is she free? Does she even want to be? If she does not desire freedom, if she is afraid of it, if she is afraid of the accuser who would label her a heretic, an apostate, just for speaking her mind, just for being herself, if she is afraid of being arrested for the act of being free, how can she have the inner strength to be a citizen? Can automatons be citizens? Can slaves?

 

Could there be other, perhaps better ways to live? Might there be new ways to have a democratic society together? Might there be ways we have not yet considered? Ways that have not been tried, but which should be? Does our history have anything to teach us? Has there been a successful democracy? Has there been a disastrous one? If so, for whom was it successful, and for whom disastrous?

 

Why were the men who founded western liberal systemsmen like John A. MacDonald, Benjamin Disraeli, Lords Durham and Russell, James Madisonso afraid of democracy? Why have we forgotten that these men didn’t like democracy? Or rather, why did they like democracy when it did what they wanted it to do, but hated and feared it the rest of the time?

 

Would they be afraid of an electorate that was too afraid of losing their creature comforts to rebel? Would they be afraid of an electorate that chose to stay home and watch the hockey game on voting night? Would they be more afraid if we had stayed home on election night sharpening pitchforks?

 

Would they be afraid of the Icelandic constitution, which was written on the Internet by the ordinary citizens of the country? Would they not be even more afraid of our democratic General Assembly? Should we not structure a new society so as to send chills down the spines of authoritarians everywhere?

 

Could otherswho fancy themselves our friendsalso be afraid of democracy? Why do some people think only they and their sect hold the key to “the revolution,” to the democratic future? If they do, why do so many of their new recruits bleed away in disenchantment and disillusionment?

 

What right do they have to lead any movement, other than their claim to ownership of the “true faith” and their ability to suddenly get out in front of a parade? Why does the world continue to get worse, while their solutions to fix the world never seem to change? Why do we listen to the priests of politics while we ignore the prophets?

 

How could we remake democratic society to prevent, structurally, vested interests of whatever sort from ever gaining power over our minds and bodies? How could we structure democratic government to put the power directly in the hands of ordinary people, all the time?

 

How could we short-circuit the ideological dead-ends into which the western liberal debate has descended? How could we put all political decisions into the hands of ordinary citizens, free to use the power of their human conscience, independent of all ideology, to act on behalf of all, for the good of all?

 

How could we make this politics incorruptible, by its very structure? Is there any future for liberal, parliamentary, electoral, party “democracy” if such a system is our goal? What can we do right now to make a new, more democratic society a reality, and not just a dream?

 

Perhaps we could start occupying our public squares, and asking each other questions. I hope you’re asking questions too, because our immediate future depends not upon answers, but upon questions.

 

If there are answers, we will either find them together, or not at all.

 

 

it takes a riot

from X-Ray Magazine….

I knew David Starkey from his ponderous history series “Monarchy” which played late nights on TVO. I’ve watched the whole thing, and it’s fair to say that Mr. Starkey is an expert on the evolution of the Royal power in Britain.

When it comes to the contemporary forces that might challenge, and (soon I hope) overthrow that power, Mr. Starkey is considerably less expert. His decision to prove this point to the entire world live on BBC television on August 13th 2011 may have proven a “career ending move” according to Owen Jones, author of Chavs, The Demonization of the Working Class who was interviewed in the same segment.

Starkey, Jones, and British novelist Dreda Say Mitchel were in the BBC studio to offer their insights into the cause of the riots that had spread virally from London to Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, five cities that have historically been centers of English working class radicalism.

For David Starkey, the problem is that the “whites have become black.” And he just didn’t blurt this statement out. He really thinks that, and spent the entire segment arguing the point, from the bottom of the giant hole he had dug of his own free will. He later defended his statements. The whole segment can be seen here.

Mr. Starkey began the interview with what Americans would call the “home advantage.” Silver haired and conservatively dressed in a dark blue suit which is today’s mantle of authority, the “expert” on British history could have turned down his tortoise shell glasses and reminded the BBC viewers of the rich tradition of working class riot and insurrection that has been written in blood for hundreds of years on the streets of London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

He could have explained how it was to these riots, not to favours bestowed by any Lord, that Britons owed their freedoms. He would then be today’s hero instead of yesterday’s pariah.

Starkey could have reminded the audience that one of the members of the Cato Street Conspiracy of 1820, which planned to assassinate the British Cabinet over the issue of the right to vote, William Davidson, was a black man from Jamaica.

He could have reminded viewers of the famous Bristol Riots of 1831. Workers basically took over the city for a whole week, and forced the local magistrate, the “Recorder of Bristol” Sir Charles Wetherell to flee in his nightclothes over the rooftops.

All of Bristol’s prisons were burnt to the ground. The workers were angry at the defeat of a Reform Bill in the House of Lords. The bill would have allowed the richest of them to vote. The insurgent population of Bristol was then attacked by British soldiers armed with cutlasses. Seventy workers were cut down, four were hanged, and several soldiers died to defend the monarchy Starkey admires.

He could have told BBC viewers that it was the threat of such an insurrection in London that finally forced the House of Commons and the Lords to concede the vote; that the upper house had to be “stacked” with 60 new peers to ensure passage of the Bill, much to the objections of King William.

He could have reminded viewers that in 1839 the recently formed London Metropolitan Police had to be exported to Birmingham to fight running battles with rebellious workers (some of them black!) in Birmingham’s Bull Ring, and were repelled by those workers.

Why? The British government of the day, along with the monarchy didn’t want to grant the universal male suffrage demanded by the Chartist movement. To this day, at least one of the demands of the Peoples’ Charter, the demand for annual parliamentary elections as a check on corruption, has still not been met.

He could have reminded Britons that Sir Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police for the purpose of the political and economic repression of the working classes—not that they need reminding.

Perhaps Starkey could have told us a bit about William Cuffey. Born in St. Kitts, he was the leader of the militant wing of the London Chartists in the late 1840s and early 1850s. The Times of the day dismissively referred to Cuffey as “the black man and his party.”

A footnote to history? Whose history? It is to Cuffey and his party, in no small part, that British workers owe their voting rights, not the monarchy. Cuffy was “transported” to Tasmania for his efforts.

Does the gentle reader see a theme emerging here? Whites and blacks, trying to overthrow the British government together and set up a democracy: a proud tradition, going back at least 200 years. Mr. Starkey the history buff could have reminded the viewers at home…

But he didn’t. He chose not to talk about the history of English working class resistance to the powers that be. That’s because for his whole academic career, Starkey has been one of the most ardent defenders of and apologists for those powers.

He made his name rationalizing the obscenity that is the British Monarchy. So he was simply incapable of explaining the working class riots of 21st Century England to the working class. Yet this was what everyone expected of him, so he was set up to fail.

The BBC should have known what they were going to get. After all, at the beginning of Episode 2 of the series Monarchy, he tells us that these days “thuggish disorder tends to come from the bottom of the social pile…” Such are his long-standing views.

Ergo, some of the criticism leveled upon Mr. Starkey has been manifestly unfair. For Mr. Starkey wasn’t in studio to explain the riots to the hoi polloi, in their own terms.

Rather, Mr. Starkey was present on the BBC that night to explain to the working class, the attitude of their betters (their term, not mine) towards them. And yes, everything that came of his mouth was a load of racist tosh. But we should be clear about what was going on, the better to understand it.

Starkey was conveying the POV of the British ruling class (Inbred Gentry Section).

A great deal of attention has been focused on Starkey’s mimicry of the “Jamaican patois” as he put it, in which some of the dispossessed of neo-liberal Britain communicate with each other by text. He theatrically pulled from his suit pocket a transcript of a text he had somehow culled and did a little mocking impression of it.

Starkey should know as an historian the power of a shared language to bind together a rebellious underclass. Certainly the tension between the tongue of 11th Century Saxon England and the lingua franca of the Norman French conquerors is a subject upon which the learned scholar has previously declaimed. Surely a man who speaks in such a posh accent is aware of the relationship between social class, power and language, which can be used to exclude or include.

Starkey’s bias in the matter shows him to be firmly on the side of the inheritors of the Norman French, who are now (history is a fickle mistress) actually Germans living under an alias, (where have we seen that before?) the “Windsor” family, but really the inheritors of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. They only changed their name in WWI for the sake of “convenience.” OK, they did it to save their skins from the same kind of revolution their ancestors feared in 1832. And it worked.

So if you’re white and rich you are permitted to blur your ethnic or national identity. In fact, today the rich can transcend that identity through globalized capitalism. The profits of their corporations can be shifted to the lowest tax area, so they pay little or no tax at all. They can become “trans-national,” jetting about from Dubai and Hong Kong to the City of London and back.

No such courtesy is extended to working class youth. They are expected to be contained by the British ruling class’s false notions of their race, and by the way in which they speak English.  This is why Starkey says during the interview that MP David Lammy doesn’t “sound black” because he speaks the way Starkey expects a “white” person to speak.

Workers likewise must accept the dominance of the nation state and its government and police. Stepping outside these boundaries, asserting the revolutionary power of one’s language is not permitted. And so Starkey mocked it.

But working class youth in Britain and elsewhere have had enough. They understand that a parliamentary “democracy” that can impoverish the voters for 40 years while Members of Parliament claim fraudulent expenses and alternatively schmooze with and cower before Rupert Murdoch and his staff is no democracy at all.

A new democracy is coming. History will say it started with a riot.

after industrialism

From X-Ray Magazine, #26

If one had predicted the collapse of capitalism a few short years ago, one would have been marked as either a communist or else clinically insane, perhaps a bit of both.

Today, the act of reading capitalism’s last rights is a kind of ticket-of-entry into “serious debate” about the economy, even for the system’s ex-partisans.

Marketwatch’s Paul B. Farrell regularly sprinkles holy water on the corpse, perhaps in the hopes of raising Lazarus, while former US Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts has been publicly bereaved for the better part of a decade. Count in Gerald Celente and the ever-entertaining Max Keiser, and perhaps the Globe and Mail.

They may confuse appearance with essence. The system isn’t dead. The system is death. Monopolies are becoming more monopolistic. Prices are being fixed higher, wages slashed.

Liberties are being stripped, governments hijacked. These are all necessaries to the further development of capitalism, not contraries. But it doesn’t matter.

The real question is however not “Wither capitalism?” but rather “Wither industrial civilization?” As one wag famously put it, things that can’t go on forever, don’t. Our civilization is one of those things.

The reason, in a word, is limits. In a few more words, it’s that industrialism needs an infinite amount of stuff to process, and an infinite amount of space to absorb our waste, while stuff and space are finite. So is time.

Thus we are living in that special moment in history when a global civilization does a slow-mo car crash into those limits. Buckle up. The car we’re driving is out of gas, the brakes are shot, and the driver is insane.

What we face is the collapse of industrial civilization worldwide, as a number of irreconcilable contradictions attempt to reconcile themselves:

The exponential growth curve of the human population since pre-history will revert to the mean, as do the exponential growth curves of every other animal population facing resource constraints. That implies a human population of less than one billion. Currently we’re at six plus. Most people don’t really understand exponential functions.

Global fossil fuel extraction likely peaked in 2006, according to IEA data, neatly confirming Marion King Hubbert’s prediction from 1976, plus ten years, due to the frantic effort to produce oil from marginal fields. It won’t save us.

This just might be the world’s most consequential “Told ya so!” Everything Homo Industrialensis does is dependent upon fossil fuels. Without natural gas, coal and oil, no industrially grown food reaches our plates.

Without fossil fueled pumps, no municipal water will flow out of our taps, or flush our toilets, or purify our shit. No more cars, iPads, vanilla soy lattes, summers at the cottage… no weekend getaways to Bahamas, no office, no factory.

Even if world oil production were to increase, the quality of the oil we’re finding is declining in terms of its net energy yield, or EROI—energy return on investment. When it takes a BTU to extract a BTU, best not.

The quality of world metal ores has also been in decline for decades. This trend can be seen in detail in the USA, the world’s most intensely explored and documented region for natural resource availability and production.

No, we’re not about to suddenly “run out” of iron ore, bauxite or copper ore. However, declining ore quality increases the energy-cost to produce a given amount of metal.

It also increases the environmental impact of mining, as a greater volume of earth needs to be destroyed, and more poisonous chemicals used to extract a given amount of metal from a larger volume of ore. It’s a big concern to global mining companies.

And no Virginia, there are no solar powered aluminum smelters or 50 ton CAT dump trucks coming to the rescue.

The world’s stock of arable land and water resources are all in serious decline. The world looses approximately 100,000 km/sq of farmland each year.

Cultivation of marginal lands is highly dependent upon irrigation (pumping water with fossil fuel power), fertilizers (from natural gas) and mechanization (more oil please). As global average temperatures increase, many “developing” countries will likely suffer catastrophic declines in agricultural productivity.

Yet western nations have been encouraging the industrialization of Third World agriculture, and the abandonment of traditional subsistence systems over which local people had some control.

Food industrialization will prove a death sentence for farmers and eaters.

The Indian journalist P. Sainath has been documenting the process in India, where farmers are responding to forced industrialization by preemptively killing themselves though the ingestion of pesticide.

World grain stocks remain close to historic lows, at 78 days of consumption as nations dip into their reserves to prevent local shortages, which lead straight to insurrections.

And there’s the collapse of world fish stocks. Most of the world relies on fish protein. Switching to beef is a non-starter. Cows eat grain fertilized with… you guessed it.

In short, the way of life we have known is ending, and the future that most of us expect: a solar-powered post-industrial hipster-heaven of super-fast information technology, ironic pop songs, dirigibles, Maglevs and Mars missions is never going to happen. Sorry.

The mind balks, contemplating its own demise. We imagine we have always been, always will be. Our incapacity to imagine the death of our own civilization is a morbid symptom of our own naiveté.

I’m afraid it’s terminal.

And so we go through the stages of grief. We deny. “They’re discovering more oil all the time!”, I have heard this one countless times, and it’s the easiest to refute. “Well, no actually. Oil discovery peaked in—wait for it—1965, before you were born.”

It follows that the peak of production must follow the peak of discovery after a time lag. Time’s up!

We bargain. “Solar and wind and geothermal and zero-point energy and an infinite number of propellers spinning atop an infinite number of monkey heads…”

OK, let’s take this apart. First of all, technology is not a source of energy. High tech devices use ever more energy. The answer “Technology and innovation will save us!” gets an F.

What about solar panels? Solar energy (photovoltaic electricity generation) currently accounts for less than 1 percent of the global energy supply. At this rate of production, we will soon come close to exhausting the world supply of rare earth elements that are necessary to their production.

What about Ontario’s “Feed-in Tariff” which pays solar power producers a premium for solar generated electricity fed into the grid? Well, Ontario is about to ratchet down the price paid to generators in the fall of 2011. It’s a global trend.

German rates are going down. Spain radically cut its program. The UK just cut their FIT rates by 42 percent. And then there’s the fact that Ontario’s electricity grid is “full.”

The whole electricity grid is dependent upon the constant production of “base load power” from nuclear generating stations, coal or gas fired stations, or hydro-electric generation. Base load power has to be on all the time, even if the lights are off.

Beyond a certain threshold, fluctuating inputs of energy from wind turbines and solar PV will destabilize the electricity grid, leading to blackouts.

The Ontario Power Authority has recently set a threshold for renewable electricity input—7 percent of the total. Behold your 7 percent salvation!

The Ontario government’s solar program has simply created a bubble, which is already bursting, as some solar energy companies are actually laying off staff, while others are going under.

They are burning through cash while they wait for government approvals on projects that may never happen. The author has begged several members of the Canadian Solar Industries Association to go public about the secret solar industry crisis, but was told that “decisions are made behind closed doors.”

Corporate solar is afraid of upsetting the touchy regulators they have worked so hard to cozy up to in the backrooms of Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

Conclusion: there isn’t going to be a techno-fix.

We cannot create ex nihilo resources which industrialism has destroyed. We can’t make more fish, which might regenerate their populations and environments in the long term, if only fishermen would go away. We can’t create more oil and gas.

They’re a “one shot deal” and we’ve blown our load on history’s biggest all-nighter. We can’t create more farmland. As they say in the Real Estate business, “they’re not making it anymore.” The past is the past. Our problem is that we’re living in it.

The final stage of the grieving process is acceptance. I’ve left out anger and depression. For more on those, click here. This is a bitter pill to swallow.

But when we “take the red pill” and when “we see just how far the rabbit hole goes” we find that it comes back to the place where the grand adventure started – down on the farm.

Industrialism began with the “enclosure” of common lands. Private landowners in England began to claim the common lands of the medieval peasants for themselves. They turfed the peasants, who either starved or else migrated to the cities.

The lords turned the enclosed lands to pasture. They invented laws of trespass, which created crimes such as “vagrancy”, lawyer-speak for hanging around, which is what free people used to do a lot of the time. Workers were herded into cities and domesticated much like the sheep that quietly munched the formerly populated dales.

Yes, the sheeple must rise up. But our target cannot be confined to capitalism. We need to reverse industrialism itself, and the social, political and economic relationships which industrialism enabled. We need to do it before industrialism destroys the world.

Accepting the inevitable end of industrial civilization can allow us to see clearly the task before us. We need to establish the basis of a new civilization; one that will look radically different from industrialism, and only somewhat like the pastoral civilization, which birthed industrialism.

We must struggle for independence from the old civilization. We need to create our own alternative democratic economies that are truly local and truly sustainable.

I almost hesitate to use these terms, as they have been adopted as marketing slogans by industries determined to paint green as “the new black.” We need to build a revolutionary economy beyond government and corporate control, and be prepared to resist.

Going “off grid” is not an option for the vast majority in the industrialized west. The country farm property powered by solar and wind is a middle class escape fantasy. Off grid life will come to us, whether we want it or not.

So we need to find alternative and radically democratic ways of organizing society that take this inevitable reality into full account. That means combining an “Arab Spring” in the streets with the development of a new economy in the shops which front them.

Backyards and parking lots and residential streets need to be repurposed for local food production. The city square needs to be repurposed for self-government.

Both processes will take time, as the people are not used to governing themselves, and the pavement has smothered what could be productive land.

Neighborhoods will eventually need to form their own democratic councils, and take charge of the provision of local needs as centralized governments exit the field via cutbacks, and eventually become incapable of functioning because of their immense scale, which can only function when subsidized by cheap fossil fuels. Food production will be the central concern of all.

The masses of unemployed will need to be retrained to use a garden hoe and a shovel, and to mind chickens. The same thing happened in Cuba when Soviet oil supplies were cut off.

No doubt armies of ex-desk jockeys will grumble. Many will not be able to manage the mental and physical transition, and will shed their mortal and mental coils.

The world will find itself suddenly full of useless paperweights in the form of computers and cars for which there is no longer enough power, and in the form of people for whom there is no longer a reason or a way to live.

If the gentle reader has come this far, congratulations. You have my sympathies. My own journey in dealing with this information has closely followed the stages of grief.

I wouldn’t work in the solar energy business if I hadn’t engaged in some bargaining with the fact of our industrial dead-end. I still work in the business because, well, it’s a paycheque, and I can look myself in the mirror when I go home to cultivate my garden. But it’s not an easy row to hoe.

I’ve fallen out with some of the “cornucopian” fellow travelers in the movement, who imagine, in full-flight into fantasy, that materials constraints are some conspiracy dreamed up by big business.A number of orthodox Marxists fall into this category. They need the “industrial working class” to fullfill their own end of history fantasy. Without industrialism, the whole narrative falls apart. So they assert that “we’ll figure something out” – just like big business does.

I’m afraid the science says it’s just not so. Being “collapse aware” does tend to make one the odd man out at every sort of dinner party, and I think even though many people may be able to accept the information I have presented, the social pressure to conform to group expectations prevents most of us from acting rationally on this information.

That’s also why many of the wealthy passengers on the Titanic refused to proceed to the lifeboats. “Nonsense! This ship is unsinkable!” Fish made a meal of their certainty.