Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Peak Oil And The Suburbanites

One of the fears generated by the coming Peak Oil crisis is that the suburbanites, those stereotypically SUV-driving MacMansion dwellers will go fashy, attacking scapegoats like immigrants and environmentalists and demand wars to steal other folks remaining oil.

I suspect that some of this would be true in the US context, but I don't think this will be quite as likely for the citizens of Canuckistan. I checked the election results for the major suburban areas of the province of British Columbia where I reside. The findings are interesting. While most burbs go right, some chose the social democratic NDP. In at least two suburban ridings (electoral districts) the NDP and the Greens are a majority, yet lose to a right-whiner because of the split vote. In all others, where the NDP loses, the Green-NDP minority is significantly large. Even the most knuckle dragging, evolution-denying, First Nations-hating burb, 37% of the electorate vote left.

This means that in the worst case scenario, four out of ten people will have some sort of awareness and thus able to confront fascist ideology as it arises and help lead their lost, bewildered and frightened conservative neighbors.

Another factor is that the authoritarian personality - the psychological basis of the right-winger - leads in most cases to passivity – the famous "silent majority." We see evidence for this constantly. Tens of thousands of peace and environmental demonstrators – and yet a pathetic handful of counter-demonstrators. Other factors are cultural. We live in a culture of solipsism and narcissism, and thus many people reduce social and economic problems to personal ones. Add to this the guilt which accompanies authoritarianism, and you have people who think in terms of personal failure if things go wrong and look for personal, not social solutions to these problems. The education system and the media constantly preach a reified world-view. That which is man-made, by the conscious choice of powerful hierarchies, is made to look natural, like an unalterable, overwhelming force of nature. (Think of the "inevitability" of so-called free trade, of the need to destroy living standards "in order to compete" – all hogwash, yet sold as though it was a basic law of physics.) Our conservative neighbors swallow this propagada whole.

There are also the examples from recent history when neo-liberal policies have laid waste to large sections of the well-paid work force. Millions have lost their jobs, thousands of lives destroyed by deliberate government policies creating recessions, cut-backs, piratizations, job-exportation and down-sizing. The results? Some resistance, indeed spectacular resistance like the Great Coal Strike in the UK, but in the main, far less than you might hope. As for the seig-heilers, yes, there has been some support among poor white youth, but hardly a threatening mass movement.

Passivity has been the main response to the neo-liberal attacks, the misery and poverty of which give us a fore-taste of the Peak Oil crisis. (Passivity was also the response during the first five years of the Great Depression.)

Nevertheless it is up to us, the more aware section of the populace, to make Peak Oil an issue among our neighbors and start right away to make the changes necessary to move to a post-petroleum, post-internal combustion world.

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Blogger Renegade Eye said...

A rightist in BC, is to the left of a rightist in the US.

I like that analysis of the silent majority concept. Keep them silent, and pass them by.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if peak oil comes along (I don't believe it will for a few million years) we'll see rightists topping themselves because they've been taught that all crises are personal crises?

Gee whiz.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

That is one tendency. The other is to seek scapegoats and attack them, in the way US right-whiners attack Latin American immigrants.But as far as I can see from examples of recent history, passivity outweighs activism. As for Peak oil not happening for a million years, it is nice to have someone write in that knows more than the people who have studied this issue for years.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Zhu said...

Seeking scapegoats... yeah, I can totally see that pretty much everywhere in the Western world these day. France has this new motto for lazy people, "work more to make more money" (duh! People would love do if they could actually get a job!), Québec wonders if their immigrants are threatening their rights (and the ugly Muslim stoning women in remote villages in Northern Québec of course), Canada...

Well, Canada. Not sure where it stands these days. I don't like the current government but I have a lot of faith in Canadians, who ultimately seem more open-minded and more willing to try for a better world than most citizens these days.

Or maybe I'm just a dreamer.

7:10 AM  
Blogger The Mound of Sound said...

"If peak oil comes along"? According to the chairman and CEO of General Motors, peak oil got here in 2006.

6:45 PM  

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