As Americans dutifully coast, zombie-like, into their cathedrals of consumption, our warming climate is resulting in seas rising at a more accelerated rate than recently understood. According to the Washington Post,
In at least the third such study published in the past year, scientists have confirmed seas are rising, and the rate of sea level rise is increasing as time passes — a sobering punchline for coastal communities that are only now beginning to prepare for a troubling future.
What was a 2.2 millimeter per year rise in 1993 was a 3.3 millimeter rise in 2014, based on estimates of the mass changes of a number of key components of sea level rise, such as the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the study in Nature Climate Change found. That’s the difference between 0.86 and 1.29 inches per decade — and the researchers suggest further sea level acceleration could be in store.
The chief cause of the acceleration was the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which went from contributing under 5 percent of all sea level rise in 1993 to contributing over 25 percent in 2014, the study found. The loss of ice in Antarctica and smaller glaciers over the same time period also contributed to quicker sea level rise.
While I tend to avoid stepping foot in Walmart stores, I found myself doing just that the other day, as my wife was on the hunt for a certain epoxy to affix her latest sculptures to their bases. Despite this being a Sunday morning, traditionally when faithful Americans would be in church worshipping the Lord, the parking lot and store were flooded with zombie-like shoppers faithfully exalting in their religious consumerism.
There’s been a lot of talk lately from official press-politco-dom about the violation of American democracy by Putin-Russia in the 2016 election. One look at American society, however, and the denotation of democracy becomes questionable, at best. More accurately, America is a shopocracy, where citizens function primarily and patriotically as consumers, buying crap that no one really needs, often with money most don’t have, thanks to easy and endless consumer credit. While modern American consumerism took flight after World War II, the history reaches back a century earlier, as told in an essay found in the Maryland State Archives,
By the 1880s, advertisement seemed to take on a driving aspect of its own, and focused on the creation of “wants” and “needs” in the growing consumer population. In order to create a market for certain items, clever businessmen would advertise products in careful language, designed to influence potential buyers into seeing the necessity of owning particular products. Evidence of this is seen in the growing number of appliances such as cooking stoves, washing machines, and sewing machines produced at this time, and found within “modern” households…
In creating wants and needs in a population of consumers, advertisement was instrumental in paving the way for successful capitalism in America.
And certainly the post-war consumer boom set in motion shifts and expansion in our economy setting American shopaholic behavior in motion, as noted by Roger Waters in his recent Broken Bones,
When World War II was over
Though the slate was never wiped clean
We could have picked over them broken bones
We could have been free
But we chose to adhere to abundance
We chose the American Dream
So ingrained is consumerism in the American psyche and economy, whereby consumer spending today represents over 70% of the gross domestic product (GDP). It’s no wonder, with the common American mind religiously and addictively acculturated to shopping that the holiest deity of worship would be found in money. Money, as the song goes, makes the world go ’round.
God of money
If money is the accepted God of all gods, a doctrine is required to organize principles of behavior and attitudes around its worship. That doctrine is found in the in the pseudo-science commonly known as economics. In a very worthwhile extract from the new book Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong, by John Rapley, as published in the Guardian offers,
At the end of the 20th century, amid an economic boom that saw the western economies become richer than humanity had ever known, economics seemed to have conquered the globe. With nearly every country on the planet adhering to the same free-market playbook, and with university students flocking to do degrees in the subject, economics seemed to be attaining the goal that had eluded every other religious doctrine in history: converting the entire planet to its creed.
Yet if history teaches anything, it’s that whenever economists feel certain that they have found the holy grail of endless peace and prosperity, the end of the present regime is nigh. On the eve of the 1929 Wall Street crash, the American economist Irving Fisher advised people to go out and buy shares; in the 1960s, Keynesian economists said there would never be another recession because they had perfected the tools of demand management.
Remember, too, that in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, market-worshiping, former Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan admitted his flawed ideological, economic view regarding the self-correcting nature of free markets.
Yeah, the world economy nearly crashed, with millions losing millions. No big deal. At least Greenspan discovered a flaw in his thinking. Economics, despite the reverence from on high, is not a science, and it’s certainly not a religion. In actuality, it’s as reliable a predictor as tarot cards, and maybe worse. Still, while crushing large swaths of our economy, whereby today roughly half the nation has no savings, the cult of economics has served the elite ruling class like a charm.
Night of the living dead
The zombification I noticed at my local Walmart is not to be understood as a class issue or distinction. The same sleepwalking goes on at Bloomingdale’s, albeit in a different style. Rich and poor have been fully inculcated into the same theology: more.
With the recent passing of Night of the Living Dead director, George Romero, we’re reminded through a useful remembrance in the NY Times of what he was really up to with his zombie classic,
For Mr. Romero, these effects were incidental to his broader theme: how mutual contempt and tribal self-interest so often prevent people from banding together in the face of a mortal threat. The flesh-eating dead, at least, come together in mindless self-interest. But the embattled residents of the farmhouse bicker and betray one another even as the darkness closes in. Mr. Romero viewed them as a metaphor for a society so deeply invested in petty enmities that it failed to see it was being swallowed alive.
And that mindless self interest and consumer self-identification was only amplified as a result of the neoliberal era that soon followed the release of Romero’s film, as pointed out by Martin Lukacs in the Guardian,
Studies show that people who have grown up under this [neoliberal] era have indeed become more individualistic and consumerist. Steeped in a culture telling us to think of ourselves as consumers instead of citizens, as self-reliant instead of interdependent, is it any wonder we deal with a systemic issue by turning in droves to ineffectual, individual efforts?
The “ineffectual, individual efforts” Lukacs talks about are in response to fighting climate change, in that the responsibility for action has been shifted from corporations causing the crisis to individual consumers, whose purchase of a Prius, while ego inflating, offers little or no meaningful response to the climate crisis. This has been propagated on the citizenry by design.
I’ve been making the case for years – decades, even – that the zombification of America is the result of three impulse forces:
- processed food (including industrialized farming)
- overuse of pharmaceuticals (particularly psycho-pharmaceuticals)
- television (the most effective inculcating tool ever devised)
While my observational impression is more intuited than analytical, I’m happy to debate its validity.
With the carbon levels in the atmosphere increasing, and seas rising unabated in response, we’re running out of time to rescue the ecosystems and life forms that depend on its natural harmony. So what’s the takeaway? It’s that capitalist-driven industrialization and exploitation has nearly destroyed the earth’s life-giving and sustaining balance by transforming citizens into hapless and mindless consumers, whereby the only joy is in the next purchase. We’d better cast-off our zombiness and focus our attention and wrath on the corporate state before walk mindlessly into the rising seas.
This ain’t no love-in
This ain’t no happening
This ain’t no feeling in my arm