Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don Henry Ford's Blog

I follow a blog called Unrepentant Cowboy from time to time. Here is his blog entry for January 15th called This Will not End Well. It reminds me of a song I learned as a child called "There Is A Hole In The Bucket". Don's writing is spot on even though America isn't ready for his message quite yet.

This will not end well

Sabbath morn, too damned early.

I’ve watched the scenario play over and over again. Almost without fail, one of the first things a Mexican migrant wants is a car. If not, then a pickup truck. He arrives penniless and takes a job doing hard manual labor. He sends money home. Over time he learns skills and begins earning more money than his family needs at home. So he buys a cheap very used vehicle. Then the problems begin.

He probably had to borrow a bit of money to pay for the vehicle, which eats into the weekly check. The cost of gas eats more money than he anticipated. Then something breaks. Something always breaks. Parts are expensive, the labor of skilled mechanics even worse. But he manages, just barely, between used junkyard parts and the pooled efforts of friends and a shared assortment of tools.

He gets caught driving without a license. Maybe he surpasses the speed limit, or fails to use a turn signal. A deer rushes out in front of the vehicle or the inspection sticker expires. The vehicle isn’t in his name. He may or may not have insurance, but if he does, it’s not in his name and he has no drivers license. If he’s lucky, the cop writes a ticket and lets him go. If not, the vehicle gets impounded and it’s off to jail.

By now, there’s no money left to send home, but rather than get rid of the car, he tries to make things right. He pays the fine, drives more carefully. The car breaks down again. Got to keep the car. Got to fix the car. Can’t get to work without the car; the car, before he eats, before he sends the money home, he’s got to feed the goddamned car…

The syndrome applies elsewhere.

Take the traveling musician. He may start out playing near home, earning a hundred bucks in tips in a night, but he soon saturates the local market with his medicine and decides to expand his market. Which means travel. Not only for his body, but also his instruments and perhaps a couple of friends and their instruments too. So he buys an old used van. After fixing this van and dumping all the extra hundred dollar bills he can muster on parts, fuel and mechanics, the plan dictates something more modern. More modern comes with larger payments, perhaps less frequent breakdowns, but the breakdowns suffered—and breakdowns will be suffered—are more costly on an exponential scale. There’s the wreck, the roadside bust. New tires. The band gets tired of sleeping in a van and doing without showers so there’s motel bills and restaurants. If successful the van turns into a quarter or half million dollar tour bus, or maybe two busses. And these eat all the money. No matter how big the act, they eat all the money. When the bus is too slow, plane rides fill the void. Faster and farther in less time, more gigs, less road time. Got to feed the fucking airlines, don’t we?

On the farm, we had mules, then tractors. Then bigger tractors, combines, and huge arrays of specialized equipment. Always something bigger, more modern with greater capacity but always dependent on abundant supplies of cheap fossil fuel. Now they come with radios and air conditioners, satellite navigation equipment. Fuel became cost prohibitive so chemicals and genetically modified plants became the thing, limiting the amount of passes over the fields. But the chemicals are made from fossil fuel as well and any increase in productivity is soon factored into the price of the product derived. And the seeds are expensive as hell. They require a new breed of planting and harvesting equipment. A farmer has to farm more and more acres with larger and more costly machines. They all suck oil. They all displace human laborers. They have displaced virtually all animal power.

Perhaps the factory is your domain. It’s the same story there. Produce more and more with less and less in the way of manpower. Bigger factories, farther apart, making more product in one place and moving this product more miles to the final point of consumption. All on the back of energy derived from fossil fuels.

Even warmongers get in on the act. The bad guys shoot back so we need to wrap troops in big hulking chunks of movable iron. Better yet, why send in troops when I can sit in my goddamned cubicle and kill the bad guys with predator drones? But someone has to man the drone on the ground, in a military base, on foreign soil. Who needs a military base when we have aircraft carriers? But the enemy has missles. So the base it is. And the aircraft carriers stocked with planes also for those little countries without the bad ass missles.

We end up with cities full of unemployed humans surrounded by high tech gadgets in perpetual motion. Perpetual stinking, polluting, goddamned, senseless planet-killing motion.

We are on a suicidal trajectory.

I know this sounds ridiculous to most of you. That technology will save the day, once again.

You say we can’t live without all this shit.

Well, we can live without all this shit. In fact we did fine without all this shit until some one hundred years ago. I’m not saying all technology is bad. Just that along the way we have developed some very bad and unnecessary habits.

The entire human race can’t drive fossil fuel powered vehicles. And we all can’t fly around in fossil fuel powered planes. This is not a hypothesis, not even a theory.

It’s a fact.

Right now, many of you are being priced out of these luxuries.

Fences are being erected, ground razed, wars fought, animals slaughtered, and humans starved to maintain the right to drive and fly between climate controlled havens stocked with food and assorted luxuries for an ever-shrinking chosen number of humans on this planet. All the while, the world's population continues to grow. The only way this contracting community can maintain these rights is by denying these same rights to others.

Well, guess what? The others want to drive and fly too.

This will not end well.

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