When a system malfunctions, or becomes dysfunctional under new evolutionary circumstances and environments, it goes bump in the night and makes a lot of noise. The accumulation of noise helps to draw the system from one basin of attraction to another. We are now in this period of shift. An “out of the blue” attractor is emerging and drawing the noise of the old system toward a new basin—sort of like a black hole beginning to form a new galaxy. This will take time, so continue to breathe.
Our national crisis is all about the cultural evolution of Money. Barter was a symbolic system in which one concrete object stood for another concrete object. Coinage was a symbolic system in which metal stood for all concrete objects. Paper was a symbolic system that stood for metal; and now we are evolving a new system in which X stands for money. X may be an unknown, but we do know it is not the old industrial nation-state. Hitherto, the Chinese et alia bought nation-state futures in the form of U.S. Treasury bills; now fear is making them lose their confidence, so rich folks everywhere are looking for other currencies in which to park their fortunes, but are finding all monies in crisis: Euros, Pounds, Yen, Yuan, even Swiss Francs.
So liquidity is turning into a volatile gas and not back to a solid. As a gas, or atmosphere, it is both local and global, so some larger emergence is probably invisibly in front of us as well as the return of local currencies. Great Barrington, Mass.–where the Schumacher Society is located–already has a local currency to protect local businesses from the threat of Wal-Mart. Interestingly, Big Box stores are closing in this crisis.
In the evolution of the cell, when poisonous oxygen began to accumulate, mitochondria were incorporated as endosymbiotic organelles because they could consume the poison and generate ATP as the new energy that made larger cells with nuclei possible. By packing our genes into a nucleus and dividing genomes through meiosis, generations became different from one another in diploid reproduction, and so sex served to accelerate the rate of evolutionary change and the emergence of even greater complexity and diversity. So the little made the large possible, and mitochondria with their ancient DNA remain in charge of the health of multicellular organisms through their role in cell death (apoptosis).
So the question for our new “out of the blue” attractor of this Gaia Politique is how do we turn the poisons of all that bad debt into energy for evolutionary transformation? (Republicans, close your ears now!) Yes, government needs to get larger. But society will also get smaller at the same time in micro economies and local currencies. We shouldn’t give money to banks hoping that they will extend loans to businesses in the hope that they will hire rather than fire workers. We need to integrate the toxic banks in the new cell by taking them over with a Federal Board of Governors, while letting solvent banks continue as free agents, much in the same way that UPS and Fed EX compete with the U.S. Postal Service. And instead of just giving money to the executives of GM and Chrysler, the government should buy their stock, vote on their board of directors, compel them to make greener vehicles, and place its stock in a U.S. Citizens Mutual Fund in which all taxpayers have a share. This mutual fund would exist alongside other private funds, and would be an asset for citizens along with their Social Security.
Now just as the cell is a messy conglomeration of molecules, amino acids, and cytoplasmic organelles, and not an empire run from the capital of the nucleus, so would this Gaian cell not be a linear socialist system run exclusively by the government. The large and the little would be in a mutually energizing complex dynamical system, for local currencies would be springing up in “dependent co-origination” with the national currency.
Just as eukaryotic cells did not outgrow their need for mitochondria, with their ancient DNA and conservative ways, so we never outgrow our need for Republicans. Without Republicans, governments would become bureaucratic and Kafkaesque. Without liberals, business would be what it became under Bush and the neocons: a Wild West of tax cut libertarians, deregulating outlaws, opportunists like Thain, and sociopaths like Madoff.
The old attractor was the heat of greed and the Brownian motion of random agents called individuals. The new attractor would appear to be community and self-organizing, autopoietic cells: subscription farming, local farmers’ markets, the greening of towns and small cities, and local noetic institutions energizing new community enterprises of bakeries, restaurants, micro-breweries, and artisanal productions—communities like Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Ithaca, New York, or Burlington, Vermont.
Thinking of retiring? Forget about Republican condos with golf courses in Fort Lauderdale or Scottsdale; think college town.
Cultural Historian William Irwin Thompson writes regularly for Wild River Review