[Fwd: Collapse of the petroleum delusion / Rise of the DIY movement]
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Subject: Collapse of the petroleum delusion / Rise of the DIY movement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 22:48:33 -0800 (PST)
Culture Change Letter #80
Collapse of the petroleum delusion / Rise of the DIY movement
by Jan Lundberg
"This is what chaos looks like." I can see ahead glimpses of
socioeconomic collapse and break-down of the political and even military
order. Looting, starvation, die-off, and no one minding the store at
pollution facilities, will probably be among the main results of the
extreme energy shortage on tap for petroleum-guzzling nations. However,
there's also a positive side to this historic development (which I will
get to shortly).
To see ahead, we have to understand what we are in the midst of. I
pronounce this pre-collapse phase as the beginning of the grand nightmare.
Mind you, there will be a dawn, but an unrecognizable one to myopic
dwellers of consumer civilization.
The grand nightmare, or whatever you want to call it, has been building
steadily, with power-grabs, oppression, wars, poverty, social upheaval,
environment degradation, species extinction, climate distortion, and -- as
a consequence of this massive dose of reality -- an awakening in
consciousness and resistance to be followed by social reconstruction. As
to both the negative and positive aspects of this pivotal period of
history, we have barely seen anything yet.
An historic change in social relations, as a deep, cultural
transformation, is foreseeable if humanity is to return to sustainability.
Western civilization is largely the result of turning our backs on mutual
aid and sustainability, pretending we can devour the world as if it is
endless, for individual gain.
Rather than promising you a green Utopia of technofixes and empty hope for
a semblance of the status quo, I offer logic that leads from acknowledging
resource depletion and associated strife that have begun irreversibly.
Following today’s trends, signs and the laws of nature, we can anticipate
the unraveling of the dominant, overextended system of corporatist order
that modern folk presently take for granted as normal.
Interestingly, work as we know it is on the chopping block as soon as
petroleum supplies fail us -- as they will shortly, as global production
peaks --: Working for bosses and institutions is largely unnecessary,
just as slavery has no justification. Working for ourselves and the
community are millennia-proven, dating from our early evolution. To adjust
to the imminent post-petroleum future, physical work must return massively
to today’s mechanized societies to mostly make up for the permanent
depletion and virtual disappearance of cheap, abundant energy from
What people really need from employment is what the paycheck and money are
supposed to buy: food, housing, clothing, etc. How to go about getting
these and other essentials -- without the middle man or the boss or the
taxman -- is the real revolution. When people get together to collect or
grow food, barter, and help one another with housing, no one needs to be
paid on the basis of abstract symbols of wealth – especially something
like the dollar or Euro which are tied to the world oil market.
But if you are a refrigerator manufacturer, you want from masses of people
their wealth in the form of their pay from labor. As a manufacturer,
capitalist or corporatist or government spender, you want money -- lots of
it -- and not the kindness or help from people in general, for how can
those “outmoded values” make you rich? So, one of the things you do is
promote the myth, through the educational system and Hollywood
entertainment and other propaganda, that "Progress" has dictated we all
must have fancy appliances and unlimited energy so as to be comfortable
Our industrial rulers have found it necessary to suppress alternative
forms of refrigeration such as cold boxes (e.g., openings in buildings on
the shady side where food is placed to keep cool, or
underground/below-floor storage space to keep root crops and other
perishables). Little does it matter to the manufacturing and financial
elite that the mining, manufacture, shipping, use and disposal of
energy-sucking gadgets such as home appliances, and all the packaging, add
up to environmental catastrophe.
On November 13, 2004, People's Park in Berkeley, California was the scene
of a Do It Yourself (DIY) Fest. Skill sharing, publications, and
human-to-human networking were in abundance, along with music and a vegan
lunch supplied by Food Not Bombs. The event was free, and it was easy to
participate. Bartering and education occurred with reckless abandon -- a
veritable descent into anarchy in contradiction of the holy free market's
prerogative to convert all common space into privatized, fenced
production-zones for private gain.
There was Berkeley Liberation Radio (a pirate station), workshops on
identifying local plants (cultivated and wild), as well as zine binding.
Information from women on how to control their bodies, in this
mass-merchandized, industrial-medicine society, and tracts on enlightened
and liberated loving, abounded. There was no hooliganism or violence, nor
police (in uniform, anyway). Hundreds of people came and exchanged
information and saw old friends and made new ones. There was no boozing
or pot smoking. After all, this was serious business!
But there was something gravely wrong here. Subversive would be the way
to describe it: there was almost no money changing hands! Oh no, shades
of induced recession or depression! Of course, no mainstream media outlet
is going to allow any coverage of the need for cutting back consumption,
if this would see the global economy/house of cards fall -- even if it
means we can build lasting peace and justice.
Activists such as these DIYers, who don't have any illusions of the
Bush/Kerry establishment's offering real solutions to the community's or
the world's problems, are up on issues such as peak oil. They know the
world cannot go on using unlimited petroleum. Many of these DIY folk use
as little petroleum as possible, and are often car-free by choice. There
was a table for teaching car-repair, but the idea is to fix the old car
instead of buying a new one. As any sustainable-living activist knows,
buying a new car sends unwarranted amounts of wealth to corporations
outside the community.
Many know that when enough people do not purchase big-ticket items,
especially new cars, this will bring down the entire Waste Economy of the
American Dream. Indeed, the collapse of the world’s foremost greed-based,
sexist, racist Earth-unfriendly system, the U.S.A., is hoped for soon “as
a way to begin managing our lives ourselves,” said one DIYer.
If anything, the DIY Fest was subdued. Despite a goodly sharing of
anarchist tracts, there was no protesting or sign-ups for "bringing the
war home" in solidarity with the Iraqi Resistance. However, if the crowd
had been polled, almost every woman, man and child would have said that
the killing in Iraq for oil and "full spectrum dominance" must end
immediately. Political freedom in the form of "ideally no government" is
what most DIYers may agree on, but it all may come down to establishing
There are examples of industrial economies suddenly having to meet the
needs of millions of people after the loss of mega-trade and plentiful
petroleum, where consumption of corporate goods has plummeted. Cuba had
to deal with the loss of petroleum products from the disintegrating USSR,
so she adopted bicycling and organic gardening on a massive scale.
Argentina, after the financial collapse starting in the mid 1990s, became
a model of local-based do-it-yourself innovation by 2002: worker
assemblies and neighbors took community control over much of society,
showing that people don't need "a job" as much as they need to provide for
their own needs cooperatively -- which they proved in a multitude of ways.
For the DIY movement, which is active in many cities and rural areas in
the U.S and elsewhere, the incipient grand nightmare of massive
socioeconomic collapse is a proving ground for survival skills and a
prelude to a sustainable culture. The average wage slave does not yet
have a clue, but s/he may have a sneaking suspicion that corruption in
high places grows and grows and saps the strength of all people and our
land, air and water we hold in common. Cancer and disease of the heart
and lungs are automatic consequences of the quest for wealth represented
by toxic material things we do not need.
>From "Outer Space Blues":"Plutonium's kinda long
To want to have around
But there's some greedy cats
Dying to get more fat
Get on this tractor beam
Driving your SUV
What was your climate worth
Stay if you love the Earth"
[eco-rock by Depaver Jan (2000)]
Are you ready? Or should we forget it and zoom off in our separate cars
to shop at a big box store? I boycott those places and buy used 'n local
as much as possible. I’m bicycling and trying to minimize use of
plastics, for example. Join me in saying no to petroleum domination.
See you on the streets and in the fields.
- November 16, 2004, Oakland, California
Did you miss any of the preceding 79 essays and reports by Jan Lundberg?
The above essay will appear on the website soon.
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