Our universal affliction: Shifting Baseline Syndrome
“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” – H.G. Wells, The Outline of History
Dawn or dusk, the choice is ours
I have to thank George Monbiot for giving a name to the phenomena I have been writing about for some time and one of the major themes of this blog. It is all about Shifting Base Syndrome (SBS). This is what he has to say about it in his book, Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis:
A useful way of understanding how people respond to political change is a concept coined by the biologist Daniel Pauly: ‘Shifting Baseline Syndrome’. It originally described our relationship to ecosystems, but it is just as relevant to politics. We perceive the situation that prevailed in our youth as normal and natural, and use it as the baseline against which we measure change. If ecosystems or political systems deteriorate, younger people, who know nothing else, regard that degraded state as normal and unexceptional – and so it continues. By this means, over the generations, we adjust to almost any degree of deprivation or oppression, imagining it to be natural and immutable.
People my age are well situated to be aware of SBS. We have been around enough decades to see the tumultuous changes the world has gone through on everything from the retreat of effective governance to the rise of militarism, the rise of neoliberalism, and critical climate change. We have seen the death of the peace movement. Our sordid compulsive love affair with nuclear arms is renewed again and again and threatens us all.
Humanity is addicted to recidivism, in large part our own doing, and our willingness to be led astray by invidious demagogues.
For the young, the gravest danger is that they accept the present world disorder as the norm, when it isn’t, and allow it to persist. The imminent danger is that we live in a unilateral world dominated by a very dangerous rogue super power, that is parasitic and led by insane megalomaniacs. This must be supplanted by a multilateral world where human decency and the rule of law prevail.
Multilateralism is also one of the main themes of this blog. It is not an airy-fairy option but an achievable essential. Where we have a degenerative and chaotic unilateralism progress and progressivism are blocked and intellectually assassinated by vested interests. Progressivism becomes the purview of demogogues as they promise real change but once elected turn their backs on it as they become no more than a catering service to a waning status quo.
The Assassins of Truth
Politicians and the Mainstream Media(MSM) share plaudits for being the major assassins of truth. In being so they become perpetrators of the present tyrannical unilateralism and agents of SBS.
Where populations are kept in the dark, fed endless streams of macerated bullshit, ignorant of our own history, and distracted by superfluous technology SDS is infectiously passed from generation to generation.
Close cousins of SDS are revisionist history and propaganda. Both abound in our not-so-brave dysfunctional world. These are chief among the grotesque pillars of tyranny: controlling people, ideas, and the values we live by.
It is rather pathetic we so willingly allow these to control our lives; one such is the myth of Russian aggression in the Ukraine. This naked propaganda is essential to justifying NATO war mongering and the build up of troops on Russian borders. We so conveniently ignore the fact the combined annual military spending of Russia and China is one sixth that of NATO, yet they are portrayed as aggressors. We also ignore the fact the US by itself accounts for over half of all global annual military spending.
What is most galling is the propagandist MSM continually ignores the presence of the Wolfowitz Doctrine and the PNAC. These explain the present chaotic world order. This is why the MSM so fittingly earns the nickname “prestitutes” grinding out their truths of convenience to a captive audience.
A favorite tactic of the truth assassins is to simply trash anything and everything that resembles progress. Their real purpose is to defend the dilapidated status quo. Terrence Corcoran of the National Post does an overly thorough job of trashing Jeremy Rifkin. Corcoran’s harangue betrays the fear in his heart that anything progressive might leak through to actuality and reveal the rigor mortis of his defunct ideology.
Vladimir Putin has been a target of the truth assassins for some time. He and his country have been America’s favorite scapegoat and target for destruction. Putin’s name has been suggested as a Noble Peace Prize nominee, a very worthy idea. Where Obama did nothing to receive the award, Putin is more than deserving of it.
Newly minted NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is on the eve of a rough, tough initiation. The truth assassins are poised to make sure the ConLib Clique that runs Canada in collaboration with our discredited MSM is not threatened. In a country, and on a continent, where socialism has been so thoroughly denigrated he is going to have to walk on water to be an agent of change and make a mere dent in SBS.
A new age of enlightenment
The bad news is that political landscapes of the Western world are generously peppered with dilettantes and demagogues bought and paid for, and those who see politics as a comfortable sinecure to pursue celebrity status. Where they should be serving their populations and the global community they cater to their neoliberal masters-the corporate/warfare state. Real leaders and progressives are few and far between.
The good news is there are real progressives out there with genuine and powerful narratives for change. The truth assassins will paint them as radical and impractical but this has more to do with their narrow-minded defense of the status quo than the merit of the ideas brought forward. Change only comes about if we are willing to pursue it. It is an act of political will-sadly lacking in an era when too many governments sacrifice their sovereignty, integrity and populations to America’s bloodsucking hegemony.
Monbiot is a powerful voice for progressive change. In his book he outlines where we have been, where we are, and follows Fuller’s advice by supplying new narratives for the future.
So too is British economist Kate Raworth in her book, Donut Economics, She makes compelling arguments for the complete overhaul of economics as it is now practiced. She provides important testimony on the absurdity of the economic ground rules we have been following to date. You owe it to yourself to watch this video.
We have allowed our political, economic and moral baselines to be shifted and warped into embarrassing contortions. These contortions must be mollified and never allowed to be considered immutable but seen for the abominations they are. SDS is a phenomena that must be addressed.
Part of the challenge is that Monbiot, Raworth, Rifkin, and yes, Putin, and so many others, are the progressives whose views and ideas exist on the margins, and are suppressed by the truth assassins.
The dilemma is how do we get their ideas into the mainstream where we can counteract SDS?
I invite your responses on this critical issue.
Silence is no longer affordable. Help spread the word.