The suite of problems facing American politics is starting to remind me of climate change. A few bad actors with vast resources have screwed everybody over with the silent consent of a majority of the country. To be sure, it’s not like we had managed to unscrew the country the way most of White America seemed to think, but we have been moving slowly in that direction, and had a glimpse of what it might be like to live up to our high-minded ideals. The 21st century could have been a monument to human rights and human ingenuity. At the moment, I don’t think that’s a possibility anymore.
It seems likely, with Trump on the verge of appointing another “Justice” to the supreme court, that we’re over the edge. Just as we have no realistic chance of avoiding catastrophic warming based on where we’re at right now, we may not have any realistic chance at preventing an American slide into full-on authoritarianism.
I suppose November will show us just how screwed we are, but in the meantime I think it’s time to really delve into how to keep working for justice under an oligarchy or something like that.
It’s hard not to see the parallels between this century and the last, and that’s probably a good comparison, but there’s at least one major difference, and it’s not in our favor. Our version of the Dust Bowl isn’t going to go away – it’s going to keep getting worse as the century progresses, and we can’t afford to ignore that. At some point, food and water will be harder to come by at an international level. As the Republicans continue dismantling our environmental protections, the odds of being unable to drink tap water without treating it ourselves are going to increase. Nestle, among other companies, is gearing up to be THE source of water for the public, and the current power structure will protect their access to water the way it protected corporate access to oil in the 20th century. The obscene wealth and power of fossil fuel barons could well end up being dwarfed by what’s coming for the people who control access to water.
The more our access to the necessities of life is controlled by centralized interests, the less we will be able to wage a real campaign for freedom and justice. An army – literal or otherwise – that cannot eat, cannot fight.
Part of our work toward a more just and equitable world has to include provision for ourselves and our communities. The better prepared we are to make sure that people don’t run out of food or water, the more likely it is that we will be able to avoid chaos when disaster strikes.
Watching Trump and the monsters who inspire him, it seems likely that Puerto Rico could end up being just a trial run. Starvation and disease have always been tools of genocide, and with a warming climate, the odds of a disaster striking any given area are going up. If there’s a part of the country that doesn’t actively support the regime, it’s not hard to see a similar bout of incompetence and delay occurring, combined with a propaganda surge about how the immoral, inferior, and evil city-dwellers are to blame for their own deaths, just as we’ve seen Puerto Ricans blamed for theirs.
If you have the ability to store food, water, and water purification tools, then you have the ability to remove some ammunition from the authoritarian arsenal. It’s hard to remember to work on that with so many other righteous demands on our attention, but this is one that can easily sneak up on us if we don’t make a deliberate effort when we do have times of plenty.
The Quaker peace testimony calls on members of the religion to live in a manner that “takes away the occasion of all wars”. In a world where access to food and water will increasingly be tools of war and oppression, storing them when you are able to do so is an essential part of any fight for liberation. This isn’t a new idea by any means, but it’s one that has not, in my opinion, gotten enough attention in the American discourse.
On the subject of better worlds, I’d like to conclude with the motto of a fictional utopia:
Breathe deep, seek peace.
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