Friday, November 9, 2012

S. Invictus

Before I start up, I was just want to say I told you so. I called the Karl Rove meltdown. It may not have played out quite the way I thought, but, I, like many, many others, was completely confident that he had jumped the shark.

In fact, I can't help but be a little appalled at how the Republican leadership sampled their own drugs. Romney looked completely gut-punched on election night. Paul Ryan's toothless ugly old dead-eyed gump face could not have been more contorted in disbelief.

If this is the standard reaction these two leaders have to reality, this paradoxically rigid and brittle deflation of their inelastic gas bag egos, then it's a very good thing indeed for the country that they are not in a position to fuck things up further.

The fact that the entire campaign was utterly gob-smacked at their defeat suggests that perhaps two new circles should be added to the current swarm of so-called conservative's D-K Venn diagram.

 How about "Dangerously stupid", or perhaps within that circle "That fable about spinning straw into gold? You knew that was a fable, right? And the joke? That was straw from the stable floor, which is, like, 90%manure! You didn't you get that either? Jesus!"

So, aside from the rather amusing bleatings about how "my country died tonight/the traitor moochers have taken over", which provides me with no end of amusement, now the the Republican's and their handler's narrative is to figure out how to get the Women/Black/Latino/etc. block to vote for them.

Here's a clue, assholes. Two clues.

1) Try not to be so fucking smarmy and sarcastic when you talk about these people you are trying to court.     - and -
2) If all you can think about is how to revive your party so you can get back into power, then, shit, maybe your version of the country should die!

And good riddance! Me, I'd like to move into the 22nd century now, if you don't mind, because tha'ts where all the real problems are, not the most powerful empire in history worrying about whether God wants babies to be murdered in the womb, or how men managed to ride those dinosaurs. Okay?

Speaking of the 22nd century, Charles C. Mann has an essay wondering if we as a species will get there. For those of you who don't know Charles C. Mann, he wrote the books "1491", and "1493".

The essay is in Orion magazine, entitled "State of the Species".

Basically, what with climate change, the current mass extinction, the population trend towards 10 billion by 2050, and resource depletion, there's every indication that humanity, as a successful invasive species, will wipe itself out. There are portions of the essay I disagree with, mainly the optimistic ones. He points out that humans, being behaviorally plastic, can change their collective behavior. We've done it in the past. So maybe we can do it in the future to save ourselves. The ghost of Lynn Margulis laughs at this. Probably.

Mann points to the end of slavery, the feminist movement (more broadly universal suffrage), and Pinker's shaky theory on the decrease of violence.

I'm not going to argue against the fact that these behavioral changes occurred. I do feel that Mann is too ready to accept simplistic versions of the circumstances (and in the case of Pinker, bad scholarship). I would have hoped for a more cynically optimistic examination of the origin, causes, and circumstances enveloping these changes. In the case of slavery, the industrial age, and the rise of power sources beyond wind, wave, and muscle, simply made slavery economically unfeasible. Not to mention slaves behaving badly. There can be no doubt there was a noble effort behind abolition, but the fact remains that the slavery remained in effect long after it was declared gone. In the case of African-Americans, you must move at least a century beyond the supposed end. And for little brown illegals from south of the border? Why, serfdom continues to this day in America.

Or consider the suppression of women. Improved standard of living, control over reproduction, improved technological labor-saving advances, diminished the traditional role of woman as breeder and domestic slave. I certainly do not discount the awesome efforts of women to change their condition, but I also feel that circumstances had a lot to do with this trend.

Pinker's theory? Ah, fuck it. I don't see it. Perhaps individual instances of violence have decreased, but you can't convince me that the bloodiest past five centuries in the history of civilization are somehow better than ancient Egypt, or the wholse-sale slaughter found in the Old Testament. But let's say it's true, that we individually are behaving better. Again, isn't this circumstantial, in that, being packed more closely together than ever before we display a tolerance not found in chimps?

Okay, I'm picking nits now, probably, and in any case my continued criticisms are keeping me from one thing that struck me the fullest. E.O.Wilson's story of the fire ant. Here's the relevant quote:
"In the 1930s, Solenopsis invicta was transported to the United States, probably in ship ballast, which often consists of haphazardly loaded soil and gravel. As a teenaged bug enthusiast, Edward O. Wilson, the famed biologist, spotted the first colonies in the port of Mobile, Alabama. He saw some very happy fire ants. From the ant’s point of view, it had been dumped into an empty, recently flooded expanse. S. invicta took off, never looking back.
The initial incursion watched by Wilson was likely just a few thousand individuals—a number small enough to suggest that random, bottleneck-style genetic change played a role in the species’ subsequent history in this country. In their Argentine birthplace, fire-ant colonies constantly fight each other, reducing their numbers and creating space for other types of ant. In the United States, by contrast, the species forms cooperative supercolonies, linked clusters of nests that can spread for hundreds of miles. Systematically exploiting the landscape, these supercolonies monopolize every useful resource, wiping out other ant species along the way—models of zeal and rapacity. Transformed by chance and opportunity, new-model S. invictus needed just a few decades to conquer most of the southern United States.
Homo sapiens did something similar in the wake of Toba. For hundreds of thousands of years, our species had been restricted to East Africa (and, possibly, a similar area in the south). Now, abruptly, new-model Homo sapiens were racing across the continents like so many imported fire ants. The difference between humans and fire ants is that fire ants specialize in disturbed habitats. Humans, too, specialize in disturbed habitats—but we do the disturbing."
Now, what struck me was not the comparison of H. Sapiens to S. Invictus, but rather how our current model of capitalism looks a lot like the fire ant.

Perhaps the original open source formation of capitalism, Capitalism v 1.0, found back in the Netherlands and jolly olde England, through its own tendency to disrupt itself with self-inflicted crises and disturb both its own formation and its environs through creative destruction, has become increasingly successful and virulent. An invading species all on its own, doubling down on its own bad behavior, until now - State Sanctioned Crony Capitalism v 8.9 - we have something that truly can destroy the planet on the next business cycle.

Something to think about. My suspicion is, aside from some revisions in behavioral ethics, a return to neighborliness and stewardship, and a mature, adult responsibility towards not just the shareholders, but the community at large, we may need to seriously rethink the concept of ownership.

And I honestly can't see any useful ideas coming from the Right. Not with them only able to see out to the end of their short dicks.

1 comment:

  1. 1. seeing those looks on their stupid smug faces made me feel so good.

    2. that's been my position for about 20 years. humans will prove to be one of the least successful life forms this planet has ever produced in terms of longevity (of the species). what other species destroys and poisons the very environment they need to survive? not to mention our proclivity for killing each other.