Finding and Sharing Our New Future
by Mike Meyer
I have said that we have lost our future. At least for people in the failing capitalist world the future has disappeared or become something frightening. In either case there is no future that we can say is ours. Without a future we are anxious and depressed.
That is the general feeling across the population repeated endlessly by those who write or talk about that is happening. The trauma of an insane person in the White House and the shock of what appear to be traitors in Congress all supported by a predominantly racist minority, is a monumental disaster . How can there be a future with these are blocking the way?
But these things, while intensely doleful, are just the veneer on a far more complex package of problems. We know the score for a large orchestra. The bass line of the climate crisis is building with growing disasters and the whole thing ends when the heat exceeds human planetary capacity.
Meanwhile the economic section is off key and discordant with the political section that has been abandoned and turned over to people who wandered in off of the street. The fact that these people are either criminals or simply have no idea what they are doing is adding to the confusion as they destroy the instruments that were left behind.
The spreading chaos, carrying the high screeching sounds of dementia in America, is beginning to cause break down across the planetary economy. There are many who seem intent on replacing the lost future with a particularly ugly hell under the control of the twisted, Caucasian seed of the once great Western Civilization. But even the majority of Caucasians want nothing to do with this.
It is becoming clear that this assemblage of forms, processes, and events may well be our species suicidal finale. But many people cannot see this as they have been blinded by one form of very addictive success. That success is the single minded rationalization of everything as unrelated objects of production and profit. We work like beavers to make everything scalable and completely interchangeable only realizing, perhaps too late, that the end product of scalability is the barrenness of death. Everything has become like every other thing and we are confused.
Our future is gone. We have destroyed our planet’s climate. We are incredibly wealthy by the standards we have come to use and we are frightened. Even with so much more we have so much less. We are told everyday that the reason we don’t have more is because other people are taking what we should have. But all the objects are the same and we can’t tell ours from the others.
Wherever we look we see what we are supposed to see. But is that all there is? No. It is time to open or eyes and see.
What might that be? Perhaps a way to get our future back?
We have lost much more than our future. We lost sight of our future because of all the other things that we have lost. The rise of capitalism was a great success but it has left us destitute and in danger of a final death. That’s not fair when we have done everything and believed everything that we were told to do.
Odd and plainly insane people have taken over and keep telling us to do more of the same but that has barely done anything for us over the last forty or fifty years. It makes the tiny elite rich but they are the top of the scale and we are at the bottom. Why?
The unkown missing pieces of our world that allowed us to have a future are time, sharing, and assemblages.
We think we know about time but that has become a difficult item in the emerging quantum mechanical universe. At the level of physical reality we know that time has no required direction. We live with time as an arrow to the future but time can go either way with no change to our base understanding.
The bigger missing piece is time in economics. This is now being corrected, time rediscovered, in a completely new way of defining economics as Ergodicity Economics. Our economic models isolate options as separate worlds with weighting of results averaged over all identified worlds. This is a base assumption that the average across these worlds is the most correct way to identify risk management.
The ergodicity model averages across time, a much more complex process, but one that considers the real world reality of sequential choices. Depending on each choice subsequent choices change. This is a different axis on which to weight the sum of all choices. The results of this seem to point to higher values coming from cooperative action and sharing rather than the optimization of outcomes based on individual averaging outside of time.
Sharing is not something that we accept. In last stage capitalism only individual greed has value. As we see daily in the late capitalist countries the obvious benefits of managed sharing across populations makes for greater value and happiness but not greater production. So democratic socialist must be declared evil to keep endless production in capitalist societies with almost all benefits to the tiny elite of owners. The emotions come fast. The traditional ways are being challenged.
But what is an assemblage?
Ecological communities are associations of species that co-occur in the same location at the same time. Community ecology is a field that examines the effects of abiotic and biotic features on community or assemblage structure. Nature Education.
We are so committed to scalability as a virtue with the standardization of objects that exist in isolation that have difficulty imagining everything in overlapping assemblages. We don’t see ourselves as part of these assemblages.
There is an even deeper and more important characteristic here that we are missing. The Western culture allows only our species to be active, sentient agents in the world. But all life forms and non life components of an assemblage interact and affect all other components.
These are not necessarily communities in the human sense or even in the human and animal pet sense, but coexistent members of a time based assemblage. Even beginning to think this way raises very challenging questions. We see things differently when we are part of a constantly shifting and changing matrix with value coming from transporting things across the boundaries between assemblages.
That is how scavenged and salvaged natural objects become valued as assets for capital acquisition. It is a very different world when we look at creation of human defined value from natural objects with cooperative or competitive actions of other people, animals, plants and environments.
Chance, change, and destruction are both problems and opportunities but this happening around us whether we see it or not. An excellent example something that was missed in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s during the battles of ecologists and timber businesses. National media was focuses on the ‘tree huggers’ who supported the preservation of the small spotted owl versus the angry loggers who were being denied their living. That was capitalism versus ecology or socialism. It was actually irrelevant and not what was important for us now.
The destruction of the great, old growth, forests in the Pacific Northwest was already almost complete. The jobs of the lumbermen through the 20th century were already gone but that is not the point. The destruction of old growth forests means that other trees replace the great aspens and spruces. These are fast growing, spingly lodgepole pines. A completely different assemblage comes into existence and play.
This loss of ancient, old growth forests have happened many times in history from natural disasters and human destruction. It happened fourteen hundred years ago in the mountains around Kyoto and Nara, Japan. A branch of elite Korean clans had moved to Japan and began to build a new kingdom in their new home. This would become Imperial Japan. Estates and temples and warehouses were built leading to the elimination of old growth forests around that region.
An interesting mushroom was a valuable and cherished tradition in Korea that was harvested in the fall. The very strong smell of this mushroom became the smell of autumn but it has very specific requirements and must grow among the roots of certain types of trees.The Korean immigrant groups brought in these mushrooms and spread them around the bases of the red pines, similar to the lodgepole pines of the American Northwest. These became the famous matsutake mushrooms of Japan.
By the 1990s Japan had built over the hills and mountains where Matsutake had been hunted but Japanese industrialization and produced a capitalist success story. Matsutake mushrooms are high value gifts and bribes. What to do?
The devastated, old growth ranges in Oregon with lodgepole pines had a couple of species of matsutake mushrooms growing as they had in Japan centuries before. They were ignored as Caucasian people tend to not like the smell or taste.
But at the same time a population of Southeast Asians had been brought in the US through the loss of the war in Vietnam. Mountain tribal people and lowland Lao people, who fought that war for the US, were given residency but with little or no support. These people were mountain hunters in Laos and Vietnam. Japanese American exporters were starting to find matsutake mushrooms in Oregon that could be sold at very high prices in Tokyo.
While America was totally focuses on massively scaled timber production that was ending the destruction of a small, unique owl, Hmong, Mien, and lowland Lao people began spending weekends and time in the devastated mountains finding matsutake mushrooms and selling them to other Lao people who were working at agents for Japanese exporters in Vancouver. A new assemblage evolved quickly with money being made in classic capitalist fashion.
These people were all poor, newly arrived, Asian families camping in mountain wastelands and hunting mushrooms. But it was very much like home and they could understand, in general, both the other groups there and the Native Americans who took part in this also. This is studied in detail in a very important book for the post capitalist age: The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing.
We have now gone through very briefly some of the lost things, the rediscovery of which, may help us find our future again. Not the old future because that is gone and will never return just as the ancient, old growth forests can be cut down but will not grow back. Something very new replaces them and creates assemblages sentients, life forms, and objects in new dynamics that are as life giving and successful as the old capitalist world that can no longer be supported.
We have a new concept of how time must be understood, sharing as both a new time based economic virtue, and assemblages that give us place with both community and competition all in conjunction with our evolving planetary environment. These were all around us but couldn’t be seen because we were blinded by an old and very limited perspective.