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The Forum > Article Comments > Asleep at the wheel, accelerating towards the precipice > Comments

Asleep at the wheel, accelerating towards the precipice : Comments

By Geoff Davies, published 29/11/2011

Both the Australian and US Governments are largely captives of the wealthy. They govern mainly for the big corporations.

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Very true , particularly regarding the visits by foreign dignitaries , to which might be added visits by pop stars and large ships . Apparently , State traffic laws are to be waived to allow Dolly Parton to bring a supersized motor vehicle when she comes .

Also add the solicitation of international sports events , at great expense to the taxpayers [ with the unsubstantiated claims that these will raise Australia 's image and bring a lot of tourists and investors ] and the never ending war commemorations and search for and reinterment of war skeletons .
Posted by jaylex, Tuesday, 29 November 2011 8:05:11 AM
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I agree all the way, Geoff.

We really do seem to be utterly hooked into an acceleration towards the precipice.

I can see no way out of it. The touted solution to any woes that we might have is to increase growth even further.

We so desperately need to do just the opposite wind population growth right back in Australia, and hence have some hope of slowing the rate of economic growth, especially the absolutely manic rate of primary resource exploitation.

But of course, this is just totally outside of any consideration within our political system, especially given that our government really is a puppet of big business.

The only hope we might have is to suffer a series of relatively minor upheavals, which are big enough to sting us into some substantial changes without destroying the lives of too many people. But what is the likelihood of this? Just about nil.
Posted by Ludwig, Tuesday, 29 November 2011 8:11:40 AM
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Geoff, mate, if you want to be taken seriously you cannot quote Diamond. His stuff on collapse has been comprehensively exploded by myself, Mark Lawson, and other writers. See the article..
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=12403
Note that there was no serious disagreement with the article.

This is not to say that the man's academic work is wrong, but his popular writing is too loose with the facts, if not nutty, to be taken seriously. For example, Diamond's stuff on Greenland sort-of accorded with the orthodoxy at one point, but the othodoxy had shifted even before he wrote that chapter in Collapse. Now scholars suspect that the Greenlanders did adapt to conditions but the black death opened up areas in the easy-living (by comparison) Iceland so they upped and went there. Diamond does not mention this, one suspects, because it does not fit with the message he wants to convey.

That is just one of the many, many problems with Collapse. The book cannot be cited by anoone who wants to be taken seriously
Posted by Curmudgeon, Tuesday, 29 November 2011 10:27:59 AM
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Curmudgeon -

I am aware of the rat story for Easter Island and do not have the simplistic view you parody in your article. I have not thought it likely the islanders would have actually cut down their last trees, rather that they triggered irreversible changes. Whether by directly degrading the ecosystem or via rats, the lesson is the same. Were they better off continuing to build huge stone effigies, or would it have been better to give up that obsession and try to save their home?

Are we better off trying to build an ever-greater GDP (that doesn't make us any more fulfilled), or might we be wise to try to save our home?

You raise questions about Diamond, and point out contemporaneous contrary work, but your commentary is far from "comprehensively exploding" his work. A bit of hyperbole there. And try writing a huge synthesis like that yourself, and see if you can get everything absolutely watertight and up-to-date. I think you're too ready to condemn. Most people, I think, read such syntheses as stimulating ideas, rather than received truth. You don't seem to have mentioned the Mayans, whose collapse apparently did follow closely the building of their grandest temples.

I would recommend Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" to anyone open to a stimulating take on the development of civilisation. Ditto "Collapse" for anyone open to a stimulating account of how and perhaps why some societies collapsed and others didn't.
Posted by Geoff Davies, Tuesday, 29 November 2011 11:37:28 AM
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Geoff

Look, pound this into your head. Diamond's work is full of howlers and cannot be taken seriously. If any of the major errors in the chapter on Australian been made in a book by someone defending the status quo, there would have been whole web site dedicated to attacking the man.

Instead of simply dropping him and quietly walking away - the obvious response - when teh vast problems noted for the Easter Island, Greenland and Australian chapters are pointed out, you come up with an extraordinarily feeble defence.

The point about the Easter Islanders is that, as far as anyone knows, they found an equilibrium with their environment such as it was. The bit about them building statues instead of saving their environment is little more than speculation by Diamond - speculation that hasn't quite been discarded by scholars. Its not as nutty as von Daniken, but its on the fringe, particularly considering his other errors.

Knowing the problems with his Collapse, to suggest that anyone should read Guns Germs and Steel is clearly absurd. There is some excellent material on the rise and fall of civilisations - Diamond is by no means the only one in the field - which I am happy to recommend. But to use Diamond is to chuck away your academic credentials.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Tuesday, 29 November 2011 12:44:14 PM
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Your article's a bit disappointing Geoff, indeed you seem to be asleep at the wheel yourself. I agree with everything you say to a point, but then you don't go the extra mile and condemn the juggernaut that is the real problem, that neither Julia nor anyone else can "adjust" to be more efficient.
May I ask for a follow-up article; in plain terms can you tell us what you would do if you were in Gillard's or, more to the point, Obama's position? What would you do? And why don't they do it, their intelligent people? The human race isn't completely degenerate, it still produces special people who can think critically across the spectrum, so why don't the political genius's act? It's simplistic to say they're in the pay or under the influence of the wealthy. This is a democracy for crying out loud!
There are two main reasons why our political messiahs don't stand up. One is hegemony; our vaunted democracies amount to bovine populism and the cattle are fed whatever keeps them producing milk. A politician can't do anything unless she's in power, and she can't win or stay in power unless she's brimming with carrots and turnips. Political messiahs are untenable and for the most part rejected in the filtering process.
The other reason is political realism. It is a peculiar delusion of the human being that s/he imagines solutions are unencumbered--ideal--that they may be introduced like a powerful new wonder-drug and lay waste to the worldly corruption that simply needs an antigen. When our messiahs come to office they do so under the provisor that they will find a way to maintain the status quo, more or less, and all their idealism is suddenly realised as juvenilia--they have to get with the program! the only game in town!
All our problems are systemic and there's no way to fix it--to sit on the carburettor and monitor emissions. It's the engine that's the problem! It's a bad engine! and we need politicians who will stand up and say so, not fixers!
Posted by Squeers, Tuesday, 29 November 2011 7:00:19 PM
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