The Rallying Cry

This post will go off-topic and perhaps set the tone for subsequent posts on this blog. I would like to admit that the issues I talk about here, have so far been ignored by me in favor of remaining within standard, conventional boundaries of academic blog writing–something that is worth criticizing knowing what I know from my own research.

In earlier posts on this blog, I endeavored to mention the relevance of consumer vigilance when it comes to local energy transitions, the problem we face with framing our sciences the way we do, and our self-defeating fascination with technological solutions as a global society, irrespective of the nature of the problems we face. These posts in general represent some of the topics that have led me to hold deep contempt for the world we live in. As I read more, I grow more contemptuous of some scholarly work that clearly seeks to preserve the status quo–pertaining to social, political, economic, technological and environmental aspects of our life on Earth. Simultaneously, I’ve grown more and more in favor of alternative arguments, scholarly and otherwise, that acknowledge that things are not  ‘going right’, and that we are reaching a point, until inaction persists, where our natural and societal Earth systems will flip into total chaos. The kind of chaos that none of the movies in Hollywood have been able to capture.

Crises in Earth systems are articulated in the latter scholarship that I am in favor of as “windows of opportunity” to create meaningful change. But knowing what we know from history and our own experience, not only are efforts to bring such radical change inherently uncertain in terms of their eventualities, they are also exposed to vehement subversion by those who seek to preserve the status-quo. The crises of our time include some of the most pressing issues, issues that we see erupting on social media championed by some of those who are, more often than not, single issue activists and social justice seekers. Generalists, like me, have a hard time articulating recommendations for such issues knowing that the change being sought, praiseworthy in and of itself, will create little to no radical outcome in the directions being desired. Almost all the issues we’ve spent our time and effort on, from economic inequality, to police brutalization, to corporate hubris and exploitation across public and private spheres, while extremely important, are being engaged with within the paradigms or frames of reference that created them. It is no wonder that, as a society, we are far away from grasping at the elixir of radical transformation in every single issue which asymmetrically favors the minority over the majority–across race, income, and gender, and other issues which haven’t yet permeated our social justice dictionaries but are just as important.

I argue that we are operating in an ontological culture of reductionist tendencies. To put that more simply, we have factionalized ourselves, dividing among ourselves the issues we care about, not because we care less about things beyond the purview of our radar, but because of reductionist tendencies all around us. Let’s take for example a highway infrastructure project, which seems to have been a flavor in DFW metroplex in perpetuity. There is an environmental assessment which invariably gets passed. But the intensity of energy or water consumed by the project is seldom ever considered, not during project implementation, and certainly not thereafter. In fact, the lack of cross-sector communication and the need to synergize across water, energy and transport sectors was an important closing remark made at the end of the 13th Annual Buildings Science Expo held in February at UT Arlington. It follows that we have been conditioned at the very least to have a distaste, and at the very best, contempt for complexity. Ironically, this is despite the fact we are as a species biologically, neurologically and psychologically most complex. We have effectively forgotten that we are designed to work through complex issues, allowing those who have set the hegemonic power structures in place to manage us, more easily than one would think is possible. The tactics employed by our overlords to make this possible are best described by keywords which have permeated alternative media; indoctrination, manipulation, white-,pink-,green-washing et al.

In a time when almost all of us are aware of the pseudo-dichotomy of the political process in every country on Earth, particularly those which claim to be “democratic”, we have to realize that our efforts will remain unsustainable, and more likely to be cracked-down upon without immediate or subsequent gains to be had, if we do not find a common ground; a common rallying cry that unites our siloed issues in an integrated, cogent and coherent manner, that is able to reflect the complexity of our collective convictions without washing over our individual issue areas. To borrow words from former anarchist socialist Gavin Mendel-Gleeson, only at least an equal amount of complexity can ever have a chance of securing radical change against power structures that are themselves complex. Its only that we have been taught to reduce them and embrace pieces of it, not the whole, and the sooner we realize this the better.

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About Ali

Ali is a PhD candidate in the Urban Planning and Public Policy program at University of Texas at Arlington. His research focuses on examining the emergence, persistence and stability of community-scale grassroots energy transitions across the US.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Problem of Modernist Legacies in Urban Planning | Journaling my PhD

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