Published on Webdiary - Founded and Inspired by Margo Kingston (/cms)

The unconsidered life: Gunns' pulp mill edition

By Paul Walter
Created 23/01/2009 - 20:14

The unconsidered life: Gunns' pulp mill edition
by Paul Walter  [0]

In looking for a start to this contribution the writer has returned to an old quote attributed to Socrates, the fifth century BC Athenian philosopher:

The unconsidered life is hardly worth living.

Simon Farnham, writing for the China Daily, 17/3/06, observes:

His point has two meanings: the first is that to not consider one's actions leaves one too vulnerable to the actions of others, while his second is to live the best life possible within one's own agency.

Lest some be tempted to consider that Socrates was advocating a rootless opportunistic existence, bear in mind that he believed we were guided by an inner voice or nous. He had a conscious conception of "ethics" developed upon by his successors Plato and Aristotle. The comment he is said to have made about people requiring more effort to do wrong, than right gives an inkling of that aspect of his feeling and thought.

What would have Socrates made of the sort of mindlessness that Victoria LeNevez discusses in her thread? Methinks he would have concurred with LeNevez on the mindless consumerism that is the antithesis of Socrates. for both reasons given above. as well the almost Hinduistic thoughtlessness and fatalism of lazily leaving everything in one's life beyond the ephemeral as deterministically – formed beyond reversal, by "impersonal market forces".

Lest folk construe this as an attack on market theory or its proponents, let it be said that Smith and co's theories are in the same league as Marx's theories – wonderful as descriptive tools in allowing an understanding of human existence, and scaffolding to be employed in building a better life. Let's remember that free market and Marxist discourse seems itself a dialectic, with point and counterpoint returned as each new variation evolving out of previous conversations is tried out – but not necessarily teleologically – the persistence of corporatist reaction and fascism makes it clear that Utopia is not necessarily just 'round the corner.

Recently, the Age reported on large scale breakdowns again in the Victorian privatised rail system:

Connex announces whole sale cancellation as temperatures reach thirties

screamed the headlines. For a moment I thought I was in the wrong city. I thought I was in Sydney, where we hear of traffic problems and tunnel tolls aplenty and supposed, in an other area of infrastructure provision; water, refusals to consider water-harvesting for example, because this may cheapen the price of water for private operators operating on the basis of a rationed finite quantity of water available for social use at a given price per unit. ( Is water such a naturally rare commodity that some folk, theoretically at least, would need to die of thirst to enable its provision? Don't laugh! Think of "Darfur when you consider the humanity" as aspect of the global system!)

Now, market forces aficionados will argue that these deals were agreed to between private operators and state governments on the basis of government needing a quick capital fix for other requirements and operators being convinced there was a buck to made out of providing commodities to the public for the right entrance fee into the given market.

So, ok. I am not arguing that these processes do not conform to their own rationality.

But within a wider context, how rational is it not to obtain maximum and efficient use of scarce resources, rather than head toward an economy of excess, with artificially constructed market and situation "goods" and dislocated from need and actual capacity?

Why should we accept trillions of dollars wasted on defence against a couple of hundred million a year spent on humanitarian aid (to illustrate the point), simply because there is a demand from imperfect members of an imperfect species to butcher civilisations and ruin or dominate other people?

If we are conscious of market forces, are we not then failing in a duty as human beings if we do not think how to best accommodate needs, wants supply and demand from a detached, rational humanitarian viewpoint? Many Liberals as well as Social Democrats and Socialists have adopted the above attitude, which attempts to balance use value with consumerist exchange value more effectively and from a humanitarian point of view.

The compromise, a form of Keynesianism, did threaten to deteriorate to a form of corporatism, and free marketeers and opportunists were happy to undermine this system in favour of economic rationalism and neoliberalism with the first decade of this century bearing witness to both its, in turn, "fruits" (pretty well much summed up in the careers of GW Bush and John Howard ) – Iraq and the economic collapse.

A Market Theory amendment, like its predecessor Keynesian Social Democracy, in its working out in turn, has showed an unpredicted tendency back to – you guessed it – corporatism (an unadorned term is fascism).

Which finally brings us back to Gunns and its pulp mill and deforestation of carbon sinks.

I'd argue that Gunns since the 'nineties is a subspecies of the privatisation/ PPP's phenomena that occurred over the last generation, forced on communities by burgeoning globalisation coupled with a giant con perpetrated by politicians and corporate interests on apathetic Western publics.

Governments and big corporate interests like Macbank , Babcock and Brown (think I got that the right way 'round) and the US corporation Halliburton (in the background) have cosied up under FOI-restrictive laws, commercial-in-confidence and subversive of rational EPA processes whilst fanfared by opinion-makers like Murdoch and Packer, producing a system that has actually nothing to do with productivity and everything to do with the hiving off of money to corrupt interests and, where necessary, consciously lowering standards of living and opportunity for current and future generations.

As AQIS, the universities and the CSIRO were ringbarked to prevent scientific examination of projects involving vested interests, so the forests of Tasmania will be ruined and removed as a rapidly appreciating asset, not for the economic benefit of the world and humanity, but the short-sighted mad greed of a motley constellation of interests above (or below) politics – "consumers" every bit as mindless in the pursuit of their irrational fetish or fantasy as any consumer described by Victoria LeNevez.

It is great to allow for the individual her choices, even if choice itself is rationed to the favoured few, and eventually irrational in its basis as regards these people, when do the rest need to then make "choices" of their own in legitimate defence of their interests, and will we hear talk of "market forces" by those who fail to realised the skewed nature of what they understand to be "choice"?

Source URL: