activism, sustainability
Comments 8

People power killed the TPP – not politicians

Progressives, liberals, left-wing, independents. I don’t care what we call ourselves. Those are just labels for easy consumption. Humans are endlessly more complicated than that.

This election week has been something else.

I’ve never seen such outpouring of grief and fear on my Facebook feed and the media in general. It should not be dismissed. But I’ve also seen otherwise calm and rational individuals react with superiority and indignation, which, up until Tuesday, was reserved for the “other” side. Those religious-based conservatives who just don’t “get it”, no matter how much we liberal-splain it. This is a mess, but at least we have finally established that trying to force the moral upper hand is rarely effective and tend to just deepen the divide.

But I’m not here to talk about that. The internet is drowning in articles trying to understand what the hell happened this past week. I’m here to remind us of our environmental, anti-war, and freedom of speech victories that people on both side of the aisle accomplished despite corporate corruption of government and career politicians.

I’ve been an activist for about five years. As I was pursuing my masters degree in sustainability, which I chose because I enjoy nature and I wanted to learn about the true state of the world, I quickly realized that the most important concept in sustainability is systems thinking, or thinking about the world in terms of systems. And each system is deeply interconnected and there is no way to tear them apart, except in the human mind. If I want to save the environment so that forests will thrive and snow leopards can roam, I need to understand everything about the global economy, which is only possible through intense study of history and how we maneuvered the industrial revolution and beyond. If I want to influence the economy to better support the environment, I need to understand and participate in politics. It’s been a long fall through the rabbit’s hole, to say the least, and I’m still tumbling.

In 2013 president Obama gave a speech that was essentially a green light for a boots-on-the-ground war in Syria, claiming the Assad regime had crossed the ever-important “red line” on use of chemical weapons. The media reported this with little editorial input. The internet buckled. Protests sprung up locally all over the country. The pressure on congress and senate grew so strong, through online and grassroots movements, their office phones and email accounts blew up. In less than a week the ‘war’ was called off. Drone strikes and secret missions continue to this day but a new American war was averted.

In 2015 we were fighting for the future of the internet and free speech. All (corporate) systems were a-go to pass a two-tier, pay-to-play internet law. It would mean that all commercial and corporate owned internet sites would get priority access and lightening fast speed, and all non-profit, independent and activist sites would be slowed way down unless they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for fast access. It would have been the biggest restriction of free speech in modern age. And it would have been permanent, with some ironclad intellectual property rights thrown in for good measure. Post a picture of Mickey Mouse on your website or Facebook profile? Disney could easily sue. It was so close to pass. But we beat it – with relentless petition signings, emails and telephone calls, marches in the streets. We didn’t get a lot of media attention (all the major media conglomerates wanted the bill to pass) but as it turns out, badgering your elected representatives does actually work. They are just people. Your vote got them their cushy position. They don’t want you to hate them. The internet is still an even playground, but don’t get too comfy. The next battle on net neutrality is sure to come.

And finally, the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership. The latest and greatest in trade deals that would ensure total corporate control over the pacific region (US and Asia minus China) and 42% of world trade. It’s been called NAFTA on steroids. It has been negotiated in secret by 12 states and the world’s 600 largest corporations. It included 24 charters in which only 6 deals with trade. The rest has to do with intellectual property (again, ironclad, which not only disrupts your Facebook profile and online presence, but also would set scientific research back decades.) The scariest part of the TPP allows for a supernational corporate court which would, funded by billion-dollar corporations, allow them to hire the best lawyers on the planet who would then sue anyone that came in the way of those corporations ability to profit. If Coca-Cola wanted to drain your small town of its drinking water to make more coke there would be nothing, legally, that could stop them. Your local government would never be able to fight Coca-Cola in court and now, they would even own the court that decide the outcome. Forget about stopping climate change.

But guess what? Global mass protests and constant civic pressure has convinced politicians from both parties in both congress and senate that the people do not want more corrupt insider deals, and now the Obama administration is officially declaring the TPP dead, today, days after the 2016 election.

Dead! Can you imagine the millions of dollars spent on meetings all over the world for eight years trying to patch this thing together? The thousands of hours spent by some of the smartest people on the planet? Even Obama, who seems to care about the climate, has been peddling this for years. And now it’s just dead. Because the people are waking up and realizing what truly matters.

just-as-the-constant-increase-of-entropy-is-the-basic-law-of-the-universe-so-it-is-the-basic-law-of-quote-1It doesn’t matter who is president. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself. Progress tends to triumph, but the road there is long and bumpy. I find it helpful to remember that the natural state of the universe is entropy. That means as time, as we know it, progresses the universe goes from order to disorder. Everything from molecules to galaxies start out stable and good, then come apart. Except human progress. We are the exception that proves the rule. We have empathy and we can visualize the kind of future we want. This is real power.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Joey, thanks very much for your insightful and interesting article. I enjoyed reading it and it resonated with me on many levels . . . until the final paragraph where my understanding / perspective diverges from yours. The definition that you used for entropy is the standard Cartesian mechanistic (scientific) understanding of everything flying apart . . . but in many spiritual traditions such a definition is not recognised. Rather they contend that everything in existence is stable and coherent but our limited awareness introduces the illusion of entropy. I think it’s an important point because, at least for me, believing that everything is fundamentally unravelling is a disturbing thought and suggests that humanity should comply with such a general trend; I prefer to think (perhaps naively or idealistically) that somewhere deep in the human psyche we fundamentally want harmony and coherence – peace, in other words. Also, I’m a little confused – are you suggesting that human progress is somehow a positive that challenges the accepted rule of entropy? If so, I’d disagree with that because what we’ve chosen to label as progress is the very thing that’s lead to the state of the world – vanishing ecosystems and up to several hundred species slipping off radar daily! To me progress is an illusionary tactic build into the capitalist model. Yes, we’ve made ”progress” in some ways but at what cost and for what purpose? I think the most striking point about the recent US presidential election (I’m British by the way!) was how it was pitched as a race to be ”the leader of the free world” – free world?! Is that a joke? Where in a capitalist society is the freedom – almost everyone is a slave on so many levels whether they see it or not! If we want to truly progress we must move beyond these accepted illusions that we’re currently operating under – that the western model of living is in any way free and that things are fundamentally designed to fall apart; there’s an answer in us somewhere but it’s buried very very deep! I’m grateful for your activism and the time you’ve taken to share your thoughts with us – thank you :)

  2. Thank you for this post and the reminder that we DO have a lot of power as citizens. However, it takes being informed and having accurate information (sometimes that’s hard to come by) and then making the decision to act because you believe that your voice can affect change. I am hoping that this election has mobilized millions of people who stand for environmental and human rights and that their attention span will last long enough to continue staying informed and to continue making their voices heard.

  3. I am Australian not American, but I too have been donating and signing petitions against the TPP and what they had planned for the Internet and free speech, because we were affected too. It was a good day when the TPP died. And you are so right – it doesn’t matter who is President because we live in a democracy 365 days a year, not just once every four years.

  4. I recently worked on (as a proofreader) an encyclopedia of geography which led me to think geographers have the most clear view of where the world is (which should not be surprising) – they see how economics and politics are part of the larger ecosystem. It’s a shame the economists have managed to persuade us that they are the go-to experts.
    And on TTP (and its fellows TTIP and CETA – the first seems to be defunct but CETA is not), another book I am working on deals with the increasing role of private contracts in international governance – governments are giving more power to corporations; these agreements are just the tip of the iceberg.
    My feeling of late is that ‘progress’ is probably a myth, but we can only try and fight back – which means in part fighting against the consumerism which is implied by the idea of endless ‘growth’ on which our current system depends. Stop buying stuff we don’t need! Seek genuine sustainability.
    (Sorry – this is turning into a draft of a post, not a comment.)

  5. This is interesting, and what is interesting here is that all of these point made here are equally shared by conservatives, barring neo conservatives who are defined as being advocates for a military industrial complex. At least there is some common ground on which all are able to come together in agreement, however there is still allot that people disagree on. In terms of a sustainable population, no nation can ever be taking in immigrants without controlling their numbers and giving them free stuff and benefits they have not earned because someone else pays for them and so this practice is not sustainable. Just like ever spending a nation into debt it can not pay back which is an unsustainable practice that leads to bankruptcy and hence economic collapse, rioting, chaos and mass civil unrest, revolutions, coups etc. There is yet a long ways to go to coming to agreement and hence a mass consensus. Yet what both sides can agree on ought to be the starting point since both sides have like concerns on these issues and hence are not issues specific to a certain political party or paradigm. Stigmatizing an issue as being strictly the concern of one party over another does not help the issue since it can make those on the other side of the isle perceive the issue as being that of the opposing party and so that does not work for bipartisan cooperation. Issues of which both sides share equally can be issues that both agree upon and hence want to work together on and hence provide a platform from which to begin to address and do something about in a bipartisan way.

    • Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment! I think you hit on something very important. I think we find ourselves in a time where we are pushing up against the limits of what traditional capitalism and politics can solve, especially with climate change looming that says we need to restrict our resource use instead of expanding, as all business blindly wants to do. These are brand new frontiers and it’s understandable that people are breaking away and retreating into tribes again because the unknown is very scary. I work very hard to be compassionate towards those I don’t agree with. In their place, with those particular circumstances, I might feel the same way. I try to image what that would be like, and how hurtful it is when people try to make me feel as though my entire worldview is plain wrong. It doesn’t feel wrong to me. I think imagination, communication and technology are some of the big components to chart a path forward. And I think we will get there eventually, but at what cost? This is a strange, exhilarating time to be alive.

      • I agree, I was just thinking that if you have not seen Atlas Shrugged you should watch it, I watched all three of the movies here recently and it got me to thinking. We definately need to hold on to our visions and do what we can to plant the seeds of those visions while we have time. I will look forwards to more of your post.

  6. Daniel Jackson says

    This is interesting, and what is interesting here is that all of these point made here are equally shared by conservatives, barring neo conservatives who are defined as being advocates for a military industrial complex. At least there is some common ground on which all are able to come together in agreement, however there is still allot that people disagree on. In terms of a sustainable population, no nation can ever be taking in immigrants without controlling their numbers and giving them free stuff and benefits they have not earned because someone else pays for them and so this practice is not sustainable. Just like ever spending a nation into debt it can not pay back which is an unsustainable practice that leads to bankruptcy and hence economic collapse, rioting, chaos and mass civil unrest, revolutions, coups etc. There is yet a long ways to go to coming to agreement and hence a mass consensus. Yet what both sides can agree on ought to be the starting point since both sides have like concerns on these issues and hence are not issues specific to a certain political party or paradigm. Stigmatizing an issue as being strictly the concern of one party over another does not help the issue since it can make those on the other side of the isle perceive the issue as being that of the opposing party and so that does not work for bipartisan cooperation. Issues of which both sides share equally can be issues that both agree upon and hence want to work together on and hence provide a platform from which to begin to address and do something about in a bipartisan way.

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