After all, it could be argued that centuries of Western political/economic systems from colonialism to globalization were/are no less destructive, if not always overtly, then at least in their impact on the lives in other parts of the world. I happen to be painfully familiar with that pattern. In the 1960s, I played a minor role in moving a mountain of iron ore from West Africa to a steel mill in Baltimore under the guise of “economic development” and “trade”. In reality, it was more to subsidize American cars and washing machines with 5 cents/hour labor and next to nothing for the commodity to a conveniently corrupt government. A generation later, that “exchange” helped trigger one of the ugliest wars in Africa, killing 300,000 people. Because all the people killed were black, Westerners conveniently call it a “civil war”. Which is asinine to put it mildly.

1. There is nothing civil about any war.
2. The weapons had been supplied earlier by one American President’s zeal to keep the Soviets out, hardly a local, African issue.
3. The mountain would not have moved, had it not been for Western ideas about “the market” and “consumer demand”.

In a more bizarre twist of irony, a good chunk of that mountain ended up in the steel structure of the Twin Towers in NYC, crushing 3000 people to death on 9/11. It turns out, the main reason for those 3000 people to be in those towers was the business of moving mountains of stuff someplace else, mostly to subsidize more consumer goods for Western shoppers. You go figure how it all works.

Unfortunately, most Americans have no clue that their lifestyle actually kills people elsewhere. Yet some of them cheer, when one vice president declares that their lifestyle is “not negotiable” and another president says, he “won’t apologize” for it.

As far as I can tell, it’s not easy to tread lightly on the earth without nasty side effects. Maybe the coming shortages will teach us to be more mindful. I am concerned, it may do the opposite. If so, the side effects may end up right on our doorsteps.

I recently read a quote, forgot who said it: “The hallmark of a civilized society is the ability to care for others”. Maybe that’s what we are trying to learn. Do I dare hope that we will?


from rumpelstilzken’s comment in The Oil Drum.

Advertisements