Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A tale of two futures

As the name implies, socialism is based on what is social. More particularly, it is based on democratic social interaction of people collectively creating the kind of world they envision. It is the antithesis of the anti-social economic system of capitalism based solely on the cold acquisition of profits. Social needs that are met under capitalism are either highly profitable or incidental by-products. Unfortunately, the quest for the almighty dollar knows no bounds and is seriously taxing our ecological systems. Capitalism puts the cart before the horse, making everything subservient to profit acquisition. With respect to our community green-space, from an aesthetic as well as a biological perspective, this has taken on absurdly rapacious proportions.

Silt, Spaniards & Mosquitoes

The Texas Gulf Coast, where I grew up, does not rest on the continental shelf along with about half of the state itself. Rather, the land mass is the result of billions of years of oceanic inundations of silt. When the Spaniards first explored the Texas Gulf Coast, it was inhabited by the Karankawa Indians, who were known to be semi-cannibalistic and to smear their bodies down with alligator brains as a method of mosquito repellant. Anyone who has ever spent the night in Galveston during one of those rare times when there was no wind would wholly understand the Karankawa's resort to such drastic mosquito repellants.

I grew up in Houston, but spent a considerable part of my youth as a beach bum in Galveston, Freeport, and Matagorda. Texas beaches have always held a special charm for this writer. They have a special uniqueness in comparison to other beaches I've visited. As a hippie youth in the 70's, a group of us would frequently camp out all night on the coast, build bonfires at night and enjoy the wind, sun, and warm surf during the day. The few trinket shops, stores, and eating establishments were ancient Mom 'n Pop businesses or seafood restaurants with historical associations. The beaches remained fairly free of commercialization. As well, the drive between Houston and Galveston's beautiful skyline was once a trek fairly bereft of commercial clutter or palpable habitation of any sort, save the wildlife in the region.

Texas Chain Store Massacre

Sadly, this is no longer so. Most of the once pristine and free beaches are now filled with chain stores and commercial establishments, beaches that require payment for use, and the ever-present police. In short, the beaches have become commodified and regulated, no longer the free-access areas they once were. If driving between Houston and Galveston was once a trip through the country, it is now barely discernible where Houston ends and Galveston begins. Endless miles of asphalt, strip-malls, service stations and Wal-Marts make for monotonous eye-space. In other parts of Texas, capitalist developers have ruined age-old parks and community spaces, including many of the wooded areas near Austin. Expensive condos and housing subdivisions are now commonplace. Even within cities such as Houston where old neighborhoods once had beautiful old houses at modest rent rates, and huge oak trees canopied the streets, now stand only monstrous condominiums. Obliterated are the unique old homes, the ancient live oaks and the tangible charm of the neighborhood: all sacrificed to the profit initiative.

From an aesthetic standpoint, this trend sucks blatantly. Add to this the impact on biological species other than our own. Growing up on the outskirts of Houston, there were still cow pastures, huge open fields in which we flew kites and played ball. There was a ubiquitous species of frog that was found nowhere in the world except that part of Texas. Now, due to mindless capitalist expansion, few open fields or cow-pastures exist. Even sadder, the species of frog indigenous to that region is almost extinct. I recall seeing hundreds of them hopping around after a fresh rain.

It saddens this writer to know such wonders are falling to the unfeeling blade of profiteering. To ruin a beautiful patch of land, that took billions of years of oceanic inundations to create, with the construction of a Wal-Mart or a McDonald's is symptomatic of Capitalist values. No reverence is paid to nature's wonders: the magic of a sunrise on the beach, the sound of the wind and the waves, nor the discovery of sand dollars and starfish strewn along the shores. Its vision is limited to the quest for profit.

Only the social organization of the world based on true human values can protect and preserve these ecological treasures. Capitalism can never preserve the natural state of the earth when doing so would stand in the way of profit. We must create a social system that will stem the capitalist trajectory toward ecocide. The establishment of socialism is the only solution to this critical problem.

— KG

No comments: