Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Latest Catastrophe....

From Tom Dispatch:

Common to sudden catastrophes is the shock of finding the world upside down. The water is suddenly on top instead of under; the rumbling earth swallows houses and spits out lava; the mud wall slides down from above; the flames roar up; the wind spins; the tower topples. In an instant, everything is broken and nothing works. What you relied upon is gone.

The destruction of the World Trade Center towers was that kind of deep disturbance, even if it was man-made. The shock of 9/11 was so profound that we thought it would define the twenty-first century, and even now it's hard for any event to match the immediacy, the drama, the sheer horror of that single autumn day. When the smoke cleared we learned that we had never really been quarantined from the epidemic of planetary violence that, until 9/11, was always "over there." Suddenly, the shocking violence most of us only witnessed on our television screens had blown back to our very doorstep. Our world shifted over night. Fear reigned. It became our ideology. It became their means of controlling us. It was called "homeland security."

In the second big shock of the young century, seven years later, Wall Street collapsed. Although a few wise voices had warned us it could happen, we didn't see that one coming either. If 9/11 put an American sense of physical safety to flight, the meltdown of casino capitalism took away our economic security.

The debris from economic earthquakes may appear less obvious -- being failed institutions rather than twisted beams -- but the damage couldn't be more real. All that wealth incinerated almost overnight translates into lost jobs, lost homes, lost businesses, lost retirements, lost health care, lost education, lost options, lost dreams. Shredded investments and failed businesses mean that struggle, diminishment, indignity, anxiety, anger, defeat, depression, stress, and hardship will stalk us for years to come. What we once counted on is just as gone as any house or community washed away or burned to the ground. Like 9/11, the economic disaster shook the ground we walked on. This time, stress joined fear.

On 9/11, towers crashed to the ground. In this recent crisis, an entire empire of belief went down.

What do you do when your system fails? Start over, sure; but look, we're stuck with a lot of it. The institutions and agencies that were the instruments of the debacle are still with us and we're hard pressed to invent new ones. Wal-Mart is still with us. So is Exxon. So is the Federal Reserve. So is the Department of Homeland Security. And the agencies we look to for rescue are populated with the incompetent and demoralized bureaucrats of George W. Bush's two terms.

There are termites in the walls. Much of the movement that elected Barack Obama will be devoted to reforming that given world. But remember that, when any mature system -- be it a forest loaded with fuel or an economy loaded with debt -- collapses, enormous amounts of energy are released. Capturing that energy and directing it in new ways is the opportunity that lurks in the midst of this crisis.

The future -- the sustainable future where we survive -- will not be created by those who invented the world we have just lost and are reluctantly giving it up, while salvaging as much of their privilege from the ruins as they can. It will be invented by people who have only each other to lose and understand that, in the coming era of chaos, collapse, and reconstruction, we will find support, security, comfort, and solutions within the context of communities -- on the ground, online, overlapping, and emerging. While Washington salvages the past, citizens in unlikely places like Detroit and Moab, Utah, are building the future. "Think globally, act locally" has never rung truer. "Think security, act locally" will also be true and real security will be homegrown, not "homeland." Chip Ward introducing a post by Chip Ward

After the Green Economy, Green Security
How to Build Resilient Communities in a Chaotic World
By Chip Ward

Now that we've decided to "green" the economy, why not green homeland security, too? I'm not talking about interrogators questioning suspects under the glow of compact fluorescent light bulbs, or cops wearing recycled Kevlar recharging their Tasers via solar panels. What I mean is: Shouldn't we finally start rethinking the very notion of homeland security on a sinking planet?

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