Saturday, May 16, 2009


What if the Wal-Mart Dies, Too?

Interesting thoughts on economic de-evolution here.

Of course, these fine men from Akron saw Devolution coming a long time ago:

In my opinion, the death of Wal-Mart would be a good thing. They've destroyed thousands of small town downtowns, fought unions, become addicted to cheap Chinese labor and products, become the largest financial supporter of a host of far-right wing causes, and generally scarred the American landscape. Capitalism unbound. Now, if somebody would only take out Clear Channel Communications at the same time ...
How many allusions can you pack into one blog post? Holy Freyja.

Not to be an echo chamber for Bob, but this is sort of the "end result" of a pure capitalist society. It's been predicted.

One of the reasons I love science fiction so much is that it's very easy to ask what the logical conclusion of a given thing is and follow through. I think, without a doubt in my mind, the future that we are hurtling toward is the future envisioned in the novels of John Brunner. You probably haven't heard of him as an author, but I'd say he ranks up there with the most significant writers of the 20th century.

His worlds are familiar, because they're just "Earth Plus." Whereas most golden-age SF focused on the happy optimism of space conquest and the unified front humanity would show to the inevitably-met alien races, Brunner dispensed with that. His future wasn't populated by robots and grimy world-cities and vast spaceships. He filled his worlds with genetic science, computers, omnipresent pop culture, the death of literacy and the twin problems of overpopulation and pollution. "Stand on Zanzibar" and "The Sheep Look Up" should be on anyone's required reading.

Culture and society are made things. They have a logic to them. They follow immutable laws of human psychology and sociology, the same as comets do the law of gravity. The culture the industrialized world has developed (and conveniently exported to its colonies) isn't one of balance or peaceful coexistence, but one of domination, rape and manifest destiny.

'S gotta change.

Another sci-fi series I've found interesting on this topic is S.M. Stirling's "Emberverse" series, beginning with "Dies the Fire." He asks, "what would happen if the laws of physics that make high-energy machines possible were tweaked so that nothing more elegant than a simple machine worked?"

In other words, what would happen if every mechanical advance since the Renaissance went out the door?

His world is indeed strange... weeds and trees have grown to reclaim the ruins of suburbia. The great interstates have been swallowed up by the great prairies. The air is clear, the waters sweet... but man remains the same. He asks how people, greedy, selfish, scared, and barbaric people, would react to having their toys taken away.

This highlights the fundamental problem. We know our culture isn't sustainable, economically or ecologically. We know it has to change, but it can't, not without a catastrophic shift in the very makeup of society that would end in violence and ruin.
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