Friday, 13 August 2010

The Evolution of the Church of Unlimited Growth

You know during the Middle ages or the Dark ages or whenever it was that we were draining blood from ourselves to kill the black death plague or leaving our parents' farms as teenagers to march across Europe and die or make people die by the sword in the holy lands or getting our balls ripped off and thrown into iron maidens by Spanish judges? Surely you have some inkling of these things occurring, because they sound so bloody awful, and they mainly occurred for one reason - the church. The Roman Catholic Church.

No, the church did not cause the black death itself nor is this an inquiry into whether it possessed scientific knowledge at the time to do more. What I want to talk about today is the amount of authority and devotion the church commanded in Europe at that time, and how that was a major factor in the events described above.

That authority was derived partly from rigourous and minute studies of ancient texts, languages, and tradition that was not available to the average person at that time, that allowed the clergy to claim to have the authority to tell regular people that they knew what was up so they better listen up.

It also gave them enormous amounts of influence - to interpret and analyze the phenomena of the day and explain them through the filter of their perspective and ideology. To prescribe solutions for better or for worse. And to use their influence with monarchs and parliaments to dictate what procedure and policy would be going forward.

Thankfully the enlightenment came, then the steam engine, then the TV, and today we're free and prosperous and don't have the big bad stupid vatican telling us to burn the local stripper at the stake when our stock portfolio crashes.

But we do have new authorities who propound new myths, which have reached medieval flat-earth levels of absurdity, and yet enjoy complete and unthreatened indisputability in the public and mainstream media discourses without ever having to answer for themselves.

I would like to present some economic-related news releases (edicts) that were released this weak by our politico-financial kleptocracy authority. They are about as logically sound as telling people that masturbation creates dark circles under their eyes and adulteresses will be swallowed by flames until the end of time. Ladies and gentleman, may I present exhibit A, who we will call for fun the modern incarnation of Pope Innocent V, I present to you the chief economist at BMO, Mr. Douglas Porter

So here we are told, by someone who has a lot of real authority in a first instance over the eighth of the country in hock to his employer, then in a second instance in his being quoted regularly on all matters economic, that the government better not stop going into to debt to finance the economic "recovery", and if it does it's at it's own peril. And no more raising rates, which his financial institution would then have to charge, because even though this sounds good it would ultimately threaten their interests too much, since they've allowed so many people to become house-poor serfs on the now culturally ingrained dubious idea that you haven't become "somebody" until you've achieved "home-owner status" (Similarly to how a "virtuous" person could not have ever foregone paying his tithe to the supreme authority of the lord on earth, rome)

Thus a bank, with private interests, gets its views aired for free on our public and private networks, and its advice a listen from our publicly elected officials who are paid with our money, and we take their word for it because the guy is an economist. And because we believe the advice is sound, it provides free advertising enhancing the bank's reputation, which it doesn't need because it's already part of an oligopoly. And we assume he thinks we're all in this together so he must be acting in all of our own best interests.

Am I railing against a big, evil "BMO conspiracy"? No, but seriously, what the fuck do they know? And why do we instinctively take them so seriously? No matter what, to get past the jargon and take their prognostications seriously, you have to believe in a magical endless growth light at the end of the tunnel. Is that really possible for people? It seems like it would take a least a jug or kool aid or two for me.

Let's move over here to exhibit two. We'll call Anne Golden of the conference board of Canada Cardinal Richelieu. She is a powerful and influential lady you've never heard of (but the conference board gets plenty of airtime on the same airwaves as Doug Porter, usually about the job market and manufacturing) with very enlightened ideals, as evidenced by her presence this week at the annual Couchiching "thinkers" conference that happens on the eponymous lake near Orillia, Ontario. This is where the best and the brightest get together to debate ideas and policy à la Council of Trent. And she does not represent a 300+ billion dollar juggarnaut like BMO. Listen to her bold, impassioned arguments that dare us Canadians to really grab life by the cahones and INNOVATE

Like Richelieu, who wanted to be "innovative" and create a civil society (his accomplishments include the founding of l'Académie Française and advocating for expansion of empire), Golden has big ambitions for our country. She thinks we're just so darn great and loveable, but our cautious and timid national psyche unfortunately prevents us from innovating as much as we should be able to. This is what causes economic growth clergy everywhere to drool all over each other and Thomas Friedman (I respect him a lot for his unique delivery, but pot shot coming up) to drool all over himself about how great America is, how that competitive and enterprising spirit that gave us Google and the ipod is the most noble thing that humanity has ever produced, the salt of the earth and the light of the world that will make us all Bill Gates if we just, if we just find a way to harness it and do it like the tech guys do, everyone one of us. It's hero worship mixed with half-assed appeals to cheap nationalism. After that, they fail to explain how a continent with myriad pockets of people living in dire poverty, a bankruptcy worth of entitlements promised to current and future generations, and a bunch of middle aged mediocre people who can't remember 5 different frickin' passwords and have to drive everywhere under 10 metres away and all have high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are going to turn this place into a giant labratory money machine episode of Weird Science other than saying "We need to be more innovative" "China and India are going to kick our ass in R & D" No shit they are, they got 10 times more people who are HUNGRY and want to get rich. Simple laws of physics, just like the ones 17th century home tried so hard, but was unsuccessful even with its deep pockets, to disprove.

Finally, rounding out the trio of bankrupt ideology growth cult leaders is Benedict XVI, played by...Benedict XVI. The current pontiff released a wide-ranging "Love in Truth" doctrine called Caritas in veritate
last April in which he paid homage to the "good economy". Matthew's Gospel's famous words - "No man can serve two masters, for he will always hate one and love the other" that provided the inspiration for the church's chaste values and claim that poverty is a virtue for 2000 years - have been revoked. Now, according to the heavenly father's representative on earth, growth, finance, capitalism, environmental degradation, resource pillaging colonialism, finance and offshore accounts are not wrong or evil - only their "excesses". (Just so you know, I'm paraphrasing from here for the benefit of my English speaking readership. It's an excellent article that I highly recommend you read yourself if you are able)

What this means is that, despite the gargantuan contradiction and hypocrisy inherent in the world's biggest real estate owner preaching ascetic and simple life is the way to go, we can no longer even count on it to do so. The fact that it only paid vague and limited lip service to environmental protection and social responsibility in a 129 page document but mentioned the words "growth" and "development" at least twice a page shows that the medieval authority I have been mocking (but which takes itself just as seriously today) has now submitted to a higher power. The Vatican, make no mistake, has done nothing left but traded in Aquinas and Augustine for The Economist, the World Bank, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's brilliant and eloquent master plan to save the economy.

"We've got to find a way to get this thing back to growth" he says, turning around and looking over the port at the New York skyline. "No, let me clarify" he says turning towards me "First, growth." (Vanity Fair, 2010)

Growth and Development are what are killing us. Contraction and paring down might give us relief. Unfortunately, the flawed orthodox has reached record high levels of followers. Including the self-described infallible Vatican itself whose monopoly on knowledge the modern economy so pluckily broke up 400 years ago.

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