Oil and money

Still finding myself spending an inordinate amount of time cruising around a circuit of websites, seeking news on the war, the unfolding story of falling oil reserves (or not?), global warming stories like the melting Arctic and glaciers, and finally the impending decline of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency. How many years (months?) will it be before we see something approaching an Argentinian collapse that leads to bank closures and the amazing disappearing savings accounts? And if this is a reasonable expectation, what can anyone do to “prepare” for such a widepsread catastrophe? The even odder question is if you are like me, and thus in favor of the abolition of money as the organizing institution of daily life, how do we promote awareness and self-organization to cope with this “other” way of abolishing the money system, i.e. by internal contradiction and collapse?

Posh, you say, of course the system won’t collapse. Maybe not, but there are so many reasons why it should be unraveling already, and it’s rather difficult to explain how it manages to totter along. One word captures it: confidence. You’ve all heard of that crime known as a “confidence game,” in which some kind of pyramid or investment scheme tricks dozens or hundreds of people into throwing their money into a dark place from which it never emerges. Hmmm, sounds like the banking system to me. I’ve held for years that when the U.S. finally loses militarily again, the dollar and the world system it underpins will rather quickly disintegrate. What do I know? Maybe sheer bluster, brute force, and fear will be enough to keep it together for much longer than I can imagine. No one who has followed even cursorily the steady gutting of manufacturing and industrial production in the U.S., the precipitous decline in living standards that has accompanied the elimination of stable work and communities, can imagine that there’s much holding up this system other than militarism and empty bravado.

Will Iraq be the U.S. empire’s Chernobyl? Catastrophic collapse of ice sheets leading to coastal flooding? Dollar implosion due to pullout of China’s central bank? Urban riots following oil price rises? following food shortages? following collapse of fresh water supplies in a metropolitan area?

It’s incredibly easy to play the Sky Is Falling game. What’s really hard is to cope with the painfully slow pace of history (yes, even when it’s whipping along at 21st century speed) and how the big changes we can imagine mostly take longer than our puny individual lives to fully unfold. Reading Immanuel Wallerstein’s After Liberalism which puts our current moment into a world-system historical view. He’s arguing that it was Liberalism that collapsed in 1989, not the pseudo-communism which was central to U.S. world hegemoney. Given our recent political developments that basic notion would seem to be confirmed in spades. So after liberalism, and refusing today’s crony capitalism that reproduces the Gilded Era of the late 19th century robber barons, where do we go, how do we take steps right now in our daily lives to get there? Old-style leftism and worker organizing seem appropriately dead. Community organizing around liberal reformism is certainly stymied, and lacking a deeper long-term vision, has little hope of overcoming the systemic obstacles it confronts.

Check back another time for more thoughts on the shape of an agenda worth fighting for. Of course I’ve been writing about it indirectly and directly for years. You can access the whole list of my shit at my website. Just click the “resume” and scroll away…

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