Thursday, April 15, 2010

What does an Unsustainable Society look like?

A segment of a social networkImage via Wikipedia

A long form comment inspired by:

Michael Tobis - "Only In It For The Gold": Still Bupkis

Quoting "watchingthedeniers":
> We should perhaps be looking at it in the context of other [successful] "PR" campaigns (in the sense the whole thing was manufactured).
Quoting "Steve Bloom"
> WtD, what gave the "scandal" media legs was the behavior of three journalists (Revkin, Pearce and Monbiot) at two outlets (the NYTimes and Guardian). In essence their coverage gave permission for the rest of the media to pile on. Revkin is most at fault IMHO.
> Actually it would be informative to re-examine Revkin's article in light of present information.
Hear, hear!

I wish I had a fraction of the gifts of John Mashey, to replicate the quality and thoroughness of his work on anti-science organizations and the few scientists they have been able to co-opt, but apply it to techniques and social structures.

What follows is a laughably bare outline, of dubious worth:

A society that is unsustainable in the long term, but stable in the short term, has this structure:

[The terms "vital few", "trivial many" are from Pareto]

"The vital few" - elites dedicated to maintaining their relative status in the short term, even to the detriment of their objective well-being in the long term.  Slavishly dedicated to seeking out short-term local maximums of their relative status.  They react badly and shut down discussion if anyone suggests their status be contingent on successful long term responsible leadership.  Stable because of all the energy these few disburse in maintaining the political structure and rules of decorum of the upper point of the pyramid.

"The trivial many" - common folk dedicated to shedding adult responsibility and shrinking the scope of their responsibility, even to the detriment of their objective well-being in the long term.  Slavishly dedicated to seeking out short-term local maximums of distractions and coping behaviors, with both distractions and coping behaviors preferred over enlarging the scope of their responsibility.  They react badly and shut down discussion if anyone suggests they enhance their responsibility and enlarge their scope of responsibility.  Stable because they have been promised plentiful distractions and pats on the head as a reward for laying prone in rough heaps - to be stepped upon by the vital few.

"The Insignificant" - everyone else who doesn't fall into the above two categories.  Too few to count.  The Internet allows these people an unprecedented ability to organize themselves.  But ultimately it is like two tiny bits of bacon in a massive bowl of split pea soup - the scarcity is so embarrassing it would almost be better to replace it with the complete absence.  And probably I am being too optimistic.  Stable because too few to count.

[Not all the members of "the insignificant" are responsible actors.  But all responsible actors, by exclusion, must be part of "the insignificant"]

The expected role of journalism: journalists are barely a part of the vital few, they have their noses pressed up the glass to better watch the waltzes and curtsies of the elites.  Journalist are under economic pressure, because neither the vital few or the trivial many are willing to pay for the type of corrective active journalism the US Founding Fathers imagined.  So really-existing contemporary journalists are attracted to an easy "he said/she said" narrative, and attracted to sources that can supply ample dumbed down copy.  Both play into the hands of well-funded PR sources, and since there is no financial mechanism to borrow dollars from a sustainable future, the money comes from the exploitation of historical unsustainable resources.

The techniques are all the old tools of the Art of Controversy.  Nothing is so easy to do as to shush down an idea nobody is comfortable with.  You would think with each error pointed out, the journalists would adopt disciplines to prevent that error from even happening again.  But everything is playing out as past anti-scientific obscurantism did, because no discipline is ever permanently retained.  [This explains why the punishment for plagiarism is so much greater and swifter than the punishment for lying and sloth and craven stenography for the purposes of the elites, in journalism.]

And, this form of journalism is socially stable because the vital few fear: (1) the responsibility of sustainability and (2) a society of plentiful human fulfilment, because they both pose a risk to their short-term relative status.  And, this form of journalism is socially stable because the trivial many fear the suggestion of enhancing their responsibility and enlarging their scope of responsibility, denying them their precious distractions and pats on the head.

The advantage of viewing all through the lens of this model is that time and energy can be saved by avoiding dialog with those who have no capability to remake themselves into responsible actors.  [Why argue with those who hold their opponents to a much higher standard of discourse than they do themselves and their friends?  Those who want a higher standard of discourse will lead by example.  This immediately paints all the alleged "reasonable skeptics/deniers" as bright red prats, you will notice.]

My preferred future: take actions to develop the pervasiveness of the morality of the sustainable long view, and the morality of plentiful human fulfilment.  Develop the pervasiveness of such morality *first*, and the programs of social and economic change *second*.  Any desire to short-cut the process will play into the hand of demagogues that simply want to change one set of worthless "vital few" with another set of worthless "vital few", to the cheers of the "trivial many".

Much like social activism of abolitionists in the late 1600's eventually led to the significant (but incomplete) eradication of slavery on December 10, 1948 (United Nations General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).  Unfortunately, the social change of human society is literally glacial, when it comes to acquiring higher standards of morality.  Even *with* immense levels of personal dedication on the level of John Brown, Bleeding Kansas, 1855.

I appreciate your criticism of the above, so I can replace the garbage of my poorly constructed thoughts with something better.

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