Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, August 23, 2007

GWOT Against Green

It seems to me that an enormous amount of the cultural and rhetorical energy that drives the so-called Global War on Terror (and GWOT Consciousness) here and now is that it functions as a direct counterweight to contemporary planetary Green Consciousness.

The Global War on Terror mimes the contours and rhetorical figures of planetary peer-to-peer Green consciousness: GWOT offers itself up as a response to a presumably "global existential threat," imagery that derives its intuitive plausibility in no small part from the disseminated consciousness of the threat of extractive industrial toxicity and catastrophic climate change. What is extraordinary in this is not just that the GWOTs would substitute for the urgent threats that invigorate Greens what seems to me to be a less urgent threat in fact (which is obviously not to deny the reality of some of the threats GWOT clumsily addresses itself to), but that GWOT relies in substance, as it were parasitically, on the Green awareness of the very threat it would then displace from our attention. And all the while, GWOT False Consciousness appropriates and diverts the energies of Green consciousness into precisely contrary political movements.

GWOT always only bolsters incumbent corporate-military interests where Green consciousness, properly speaking, always only threatens them instead. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the threat to incumbent interests of emerging planetary Green consciousness can only be compared in its scope to the palpable threat of Revolutionary Socialism to such interests over a century ago. (And, of course, for the rest of us, the promise!)

Planetary Green consciousness undermines at the deepest level, and effectively for the first time in generations, the classical assumptions of liberal and neoliberal political economy. The false (neo)liberal characterization of personal rationality as that of an endlessly avaricious "maximizer" cannot long withstand the demand of Green rationality for sustainable and resilient commonwealth. The false (neo)liberal model of the person as a rugged individual torn from the fabric of shared and inherited worldly life cannot long withstand the awareness of a Green rationality alert to long-term and systemic risks and costs facilitated by short-term and parochial profit-seeking.

Planetary Green consciousness encourages global co-operation to solve actually shared problems with responsible consensus science where GWOT False Consciousness encourages interminable international military and multinational corporate competitiveness, with all their attendant secrecies, cynicisms, confiscatory proprieties, and anti-democratizing hierarchies in tow. It is, to be sure, the furthest thing from an accident that the concept of commons is definitive to both Green politics and peer-to-peer politics.

Planetary Green consciousness is inspired by proposals for renewable and resilient decentralized forms of energy provision -- from proliferating rooftop solar panels and backyard windmills to mass-transit systems -- where GWOT is still devoted to heavy centralized extractive petrochemical resources obtained through military conquest as well as to unclean coal (clean coal is a corporatist lie) and Big Nuclear (there is nothing utopian about radioactive waste) always captured and distributed through vastly expensive hierarchical infrastructures owned and operated by incumbent corporate elites.

Planetary Green consciousness is completely hostile to the (bio)piratical impulse to propertize and commoditize personal morphology, genetic idiosyncrasy, and multicultural archives in an effort to ramp up confiscatory wealth concentration for incumbent elites, while GWOT is all-too-eager to assimilate every imaginable individual and indigenous resistance to such appropriation to the ranks of "terrorist sympathy" and hence, potentially, to the status of "enemy combatant" bereft of legible rights and protections.

GWOT Against Green is nothing short of the contemporary face of revolutionary struggle.

And be assured, this is a profoundly technodevelopmental social struggle. It is a struggle not only over the ownership of the means but also over the mode of production. It is a struggle for which the parallel and at once inter-implicated struggle of democratizing peer-to-peer formations as against hierarchical broadcast formations cannot possibly dismissed as "merely cultural" but is quite palpably at the heart of its revolutionary ethos and energy (and, I will add, of its unprecedented hope).

To the extent that p2p/a2k (peer-to-peer/open access to knowledge) formations of education, agitation, and organizing are the ones that actually articulate popular planetary Green movement in this struggle against corporate-military GWOT elites notice that this is cause for extraordinary hopefulness, since this means that there is no easy rationale this time around for revolutionary avant-gardism with all its attendant authoritarian paraphernalia, no strong structural inducement for the poisonous and anti-democratizing division of educational from agitational labor that has seized and subverted democratic revolutionary energies so many times before now.

I maintain that planetary Green consciousness -- in its current form -- was inaugurated through the mass-mediated image of the earth as seen from space, in all its wholeness and fragility, and that it continues to be invigorated especially through the people-powered education, agitation, and organization of planetary peer-to-peer networked formations, most forcefully by those movements devoted to the intimate connection of environmental with social justice struggles. This is so, because (among other things), the concrete situational testimony of the people themselves to health problems, infrastructural stresses, externalized environmental costs and risks of corporate profiteering, and so on that are facilitated by peer-to-peer networks and practices (which, taken together, constitute what I call p2p formations) are uniquely able to circumvent the fraudulent manipulations of data and barriers to research of corporate and state-military agencies (consider, for example, the excellent climate science blog Real Climate), meanwhile the dispersed critical, practical, and imaginative intelligence of differently interested and invested people themselves can be co-ordinated and directed in unprecedented ways by means of the same peer-to-peer formations as an incomparable resource to which we might make recourse in our efforts to solve hitherto intractable shared environmental problems on a planetary scale (consider, for example, the extraordinary policy proposals of the online p2p "think tank" Energize America).

1 comment:

Jonathan Pfeiffer said...

Minor question, Dale:

The commonality of the concept of the commons to Green and p2p politics is, according to you, non-accidental. But why? Why not accept that it might be a happy coincidence?

By raising this question, by the way, I don't mean to imply that it deserves a great deal of attention. (For one thing, it doesn't seem to be too crucial to your argument.)

Also, what is the source of the means-versus-mode distinction? Marx? I feel illiterate here.

And what do you mean when you call a picture of Earth "mass-mediated"?

Any effort to correct my ignorance would be appreciated.