Ross Jackson’s book Occupy World Street: A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform is really two books, one very good and the other very bad. The first half of his tome is the good book, in which Mr Jackson analyzes and chronicles the ecological, economic,and imperial collapse that we are witnessing. Some may think “collapse” too strong a word; Mr Jackson notes that when people hear the word they think of a swift catastrophe, but societal and environmental collapse can take decades. He makes a good case for his thesis, and the book has ample documentation. He is particularly apt at writing of economics and what he calls “The Neoliberal Project”, by which he means the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a wealthy elite over the last three decades by means of economic manipulation and the spread of free market ideology. (Neoconservatives and Neoliberals are one in their enthusiasm for imperial war and capitalism, differing only on the social and cultural issues that keep the populace divided and distracted and at each others’ throats.)
So far, so good, and I can find little to argue about with what he writes.
But then comes the second half of the book, wherein he proposes an alternative to the “corporatocracy” that rules the planet in this age. Not content to suggest broad-based ideas that might appeal to the diverse crowd that composes the Occupy movement and its offshoots, he instead gets very specific: what is needed is for the world to convert to Gaiaism, the belief that the earth is a conscious, living being. Not only that, but he spends most of the second half elaborately constructing the outline for the bureaucratic structures that will govern this new pantheocracy: there is the Gaian Trade Organization, The Gaian Clearing Union, The Gaian Development Bank, The Gaian Congress, The Gaian Commission, The Gaian Court of Justice, The Gaian Resource Board, The Gaian Council (a small elected council of “wise elders” who could overrule any Congressional rule or law that they deem not in the planet’s best interest) and, finally, the Gaian League.
Now, it may strike you, as it did me, that for someone to be so preoccupied designing a bureaucracy for a social order that does not exist, and is unlikely to exist, is pretty funny. But it is also chilling.
While I have no doubt that a Gaian society would be more benign to most of the ecosystem than the imperial corporate regime, there are alarming hints that it would not be so kind to the human elements of that system. In a brief passage called “Population Control” the red lights really start blinking, and the alarms blare.
Mr Jackson writes: “There are many ways to reduce population, and it is time this hitherto taboo subject rose to the top of the international agenda. All other species seem able to do it. Why is it so difficult for the most intelligent of all- Homo sapiens sapiens? One reason is the widespread attitude that having children is a basic human right and not a subject for government interference. ….The right to have children is backed by a UN resolution at the Cairo Population Summit in 1994 signed by 179 nations. This will be a difficult nut to crack, and will require widespread debate and dialogue to resolve. Barring any change, this means that any plan will have to be voluntary…Sovereign states in a Gaian society will be free to choose whatever methods thy prefer, but they will have to satisfy the Gaian Development Bank if they wish to access the bank’s funds for development. …Some countries may opt for a more heavy-handed approach such as China’s one-child policy, which includes financial penalties, social pressure, and forced sterilization in some cases (he does not mention forced abortion –DN) Although the policy only applies to urban Han Chinese, the birth rate has decreased over twenty five years to just 1.7 births per woman, below the replacement rate of 2.1. The policy has had many negative consequences, from the murder of female children to stealing other people’s children in broad daylight.”
I will leave aside the arguments about overpopulation; obviously a finite planet cannot support an infinite population, but it is highly arguable that we have reached that breaking point, whatever local problems may exist. But even if one grants that there is such a global problem Mr Jackson’s tone is frightening. He clearly has no objection to the State taking a “heavy-handed” approach, even if he grants some “negative consequences”.
So in the end, his cure may be worse than the disease.
The last time we had starry-eyed idealists with blueprints for a brave new world in their hands we ended up with death camps and gulags. If the bloody 20th century taught us anything, it is to be very wary of bureaucratic utopians and authoritarian idealists who are out to remake the universe.