Thursday, April 7, 2016

Welcome, Glomart Shoppers

The following is a two-part satiric fantasy I wrote back in the mid-Nineties, and recently updated. It provides two alternative looks at the future. The speaker in the first is the tour guide to the new planet-sized mall called "Glomart"  (This is where I originated the term, which I have used ever since).

Welcome, Glomart shoppers!

Glomart (short for Global Market) is our new planet-sized Mall, formerly known as “Earth,” where you can buy anything you want from anywhere you want, and (with some exceptions) go anywhere you want to go--on credit!
Whereas the old world was divided into thousands of different languages, making communication all but impossible, here in Glomart, everyone speaks English--everyone who is someone, that is.

Let me tell you a bit about the population of Glomart, currently about 8 billion and growing fast. We are divided into four categories: the Owners, the Consumers, the Help, and the others.

The Owners--about the top .1 percent--own everything. They live in well-fortified, domed, super-affluent neighborhoods, well out of sight of everyone, except when they occasionally appear on television. They are fabulously wealthy, and in constant competition with each other to get even wealthier. You know very little about them, and they will see to it that you know as little as possible, since they all sit on each other's Boards of Directors. They are our bosses, and we love them because they pay our salaries. We used to have governments that nobody liked, but the Owners now take care of all that.

The Consumers--that's me and you, folks--the next 30-40 percent of the population (estimates vary, depending on the country and region). We’re happy. We live in the Suburbs, work hard at the mall or the office, and all have computers, cars, and televisions. We are free go out after work and on weekends to the local branch of our Glomart Mall. For entertainment, we have TV, movies, cell phones, or video games. What we know, by and large, is what the Owners want us to know—we can have it all at our fingertips on the Web, on Fox News, CNN, and an endless proliferation of "local" newspapers and magazines (all of which, likewise, are owned by the Owners). For exercise, we go to the local Spa or the golf course (if we're rich enough for the latter, as we all hope to be some day). For those interested in Nature, we have parks with paved walking paths, and zoos where we can see actual wild animals up close. (No, Miss, there aren't any left outside the zoos; that would be a waste of real-estate).

Yes, sir. You want to know something about the Help? Why? They do what they’re told, stay out of sight, and most don’t even speak English. Yes, of course they get paid, as long as they do a good job and stay out of the way. Unions? No need. We take care of our Help. They have a Right to Work—unless they’re fired.

The others?--well, the less said about them the better. They live in the Inner Cities and the Third World; there are far too many of them, they are often homeless, they have too many babies, and they fill our prisons. Bleeding Heart Liberals tend to fuss whenever we propose simply to exterminate them, but sooner or later we will prevail. It's a matter of overcoming all these obsolete 18th Century ideas about "human rights" that keep getting in the way, but old ideas die hard.

Oh yes--then there are those pests called "environmentalists" who keep scaring everybody by talking about global warming, deforestation, desertification, topsoil loss, toxic pollutants in the land, air, and water, the fact that birds have disappeared outside of zoos, and that rats are the only wild animals left (but only in the Third World and Inner Cities).
Don't worry, folks; it's all tree-hugger nonsense. We have replaced the so-called "woodlands" that these folks used to pine for with fast-growing, genetically engineered tree farms, that are much more efficient for producing wood pulp. Global warming is irrelevant since we all have air-conditioning (except in the Third World and Inner Cities, and they are used to hot weather anyway). And all that useless ex-tundra in the north is being drained for new corporate farms. Those former neighborhoods along the coast that are now underwater are creating new opportunities for waterfront real estate.
Despite what these alarmists squeal about topsoil loss--(90% in the last 50 years), we have wonderful Hydroponic methods for growing genetically engineered fast-growing vegetables as well, and we're even learning how to synthesize the nutrients. So there'll be plenty of food from all over the world to fill the shelves at your local Walmart.
Tropical Rainforests? Well, to be sure, they're long gone, but who needed them anyway? Now that they're gone, the price of mahogany and other rare woods is skyrocketing. A good stock option.

What was that, Sir? Something the rising cancer rate, especially among children? Of course we are concerned, but everybody dies sooner or later. And with modern medicine, a cure is just around the corner--for those who can afford it.

You are quite right, however, ma’am.  Glomart is far from perfect. We need more police, more prisons, less welfare, fewer cumbersome regulations. We plan to relieve the endless traffic jams by building even more highways. And because the oil at the former Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge is running out, we are drilling new fields recently discovered in Siberia, the Arctic Ocean, Antarctica, and the ocean floor (since there are no longer any fish to worry about). And new deposits of natural gas, now opened up by Fracking, promise us abundant energy well into the future. Overall, leading economic indicators suggest that prospects are excellent for continued positive, dynamic, economic GROWTH.
Even the steady decline in fresh water and free oxygen is no big problem, folks. Bottled water is for sale everywhere, and soon you'll be able to buy your own portable liquid-oxygen tank, lifetime guaranteed--on credit. For those who can't afford water and oxygen...well, that's one reason we need more police. In a true Market economy, nothing is free.
Oh--and those Gaian eco-terrorists who sneak messages to you, telling you to join their insidious "quiet revolution"--to renounce consumerism, stop watching television, cultivate mindfulness and solidarity with the poor, restore a sense of community, work with each other rather than for the Owners, plant your own organic gardens, stop using pesticides, preserve and restore forests and wetlands, and assume responsibility for the social and ecological consequences of every dollar you earn, spend, and invest--pay them no mind. Our Security Task Force is in the process of hunting them down.

Another Future
Historians trace the origin of the Gaia Movement, also known as the Quiet Revolution, to the tumultuous years at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st Centuries, but its roots go back further, to include Gandhi's Satyagraha Movement in India, early in the century, and Martin Luther King's Civil Rights Movement in the Sixties, along with the blossoming of the "Hippies," the "New Age," and the Environmental Movement in the Seventies.  The crucially important Gaia theory of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis-- scorned and largely ignored by Big Science and the corporate- controlled mass media at the time--provided a cultural catalyst for a gradual but irreversible epistemological shift from dualistic reductionism--the dominant ideology of industrialism and consumerism--toward the holistic or systemic Gaian paradigm that we now all take for granted. Many people are surprised to learn that as late as the early 2000s, the vast majority of people in the industrialized world still believed that "man" was separate from, and sovereign over, "nature"--despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The Quiet Revolution arose out of the largely suppressed despair and discontent among the middle classes, just at the time that the corporate "New World Order"--later known as Glomart (for Global Market)--consolidated its grasp on the world economy, through GATT, NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The billionaire-funded Tea Party movement, fueled ironically by popular discontent with big government, signaled the complete take-over of the United States Government by Glomart, and other governments soon fell in line, slashing social programs, eliminating environmental regulations, liberating "free-market" forces, and creating a socially segregated 4-tier society--the Owners (top 1%), the Consumers (30% and dwindling), the Working Poor (known as the “Help”) (30% and growing) and the Marginalized Others (39% and growing). But Glomart failed to realize that through creating the Internet and World Wide Web, connecting people all over the world, ostensibly to facilitate the marketing of consumer goods and entertainment services, they were also sowing the seeds of their own demise, by creating a conduit by which the ideas of the Quiet Revolution could quickly find a receptive audience among the middle classes (the Consumers) all over the world.

Despite the success of the Glomart-dominated mass media in marginalizing environmentalism by using demagogues of denial like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to turn public opinion against the public interest, the brute fact of rapid environmental degradation became harder and harder to hide, or to gloss over with marketing hype or Rush Limbaugh's sneering contempt. Denial, as a psychological strategy for dealing with growing anxiety, can never last. The anxiety about the future was still there, expressing itself in the rapidly expanding use of alcohol and drugs, the escalating crime rate, and the violent cynicism and nihilistic popular culture of youth. Something had to give, sooner or later.
Meanwhile, violence and chaos escalated rapidly throughout the world, as feedback loops arose between economic, social, and environmental collapse--as food prices rose due to topsoil degradation, as new and unpredictable epidemics swept through the population, as fresh water--no longer freely available--became more and more expensive, and as food shortages spread from the inner cities and third world into the supermarkets of the middle class. Soon, open class warfare arose, as affluent neighborhoods barricaded themselves and hired armed guards, while less affluent neighborhoods fell prey to the marauding of the desperate poor. In response, resurgent militia groups in rural areas took control of whole communities, rounding up and shooting anyone who opposed them, and the greatly weakened Federal Government was powerless to stop them. Only in the Malls were people safe (due to the heavy police guard placed around their periphery), but even here, acts of terrorism and sabotage became commonplace.

Amidst this maelstrom of social disintegration, just in time to avert a complete collapse of social order, the Gaia Movement arose, disseminated over the Internet, and deriving its strength from its luminous simplicity.

At its heart was the Gaia concept--the view of the living Earth as a single, self-organizing, and interdependent system embracing humanity and the rest of nature alike. It was symbolized by the famous NASA photo of the shimmering blue-and-white living Earth, which started to appear on flags, posters, and decals all over the world, as the movement grew. The Gaia concept was also embodied in the now-famous quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, which became the central slogan of the movement:
"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

The Gaia Movement differed from the earlier Environmental Movement in that its emphasis was not on protest or on calls for regulation per se, but rather, on social transformation from the ground up; not on prescriptions for policy, but on personal and community empowerment. It focused its efforts on the very life-blood of Glomart--the Money System--by encouraging its followers to assume responsibility for the social and ecological consequences of the money they earned, spent, and invested. This was accomplished through the "Quiet Revolution"--a nonviolent grassroots campaign based on three themes: Good Buy, Good Work, and Good Will.

GOOD BUY: The first theme, a deliberate pun, emphasized the fact that spending money is a political act--that every dollar people spend is a "vote" for the processes of manufacture and distribution by which the product came into the consumer's hands, and for the effects of that purchase on the community. Prior to this, most people believed (as Glomart-style economics insisted) that personal short- term self-interest was the only relevant criterion for spending money. But when people began to deliberately and mindfully cultivate an "ecological self" under the influence of Gaian theory, they became more willing to link their own self-interest with the larger interests of their community and the shimmering blue planet, whose iconography dominated the movement. And so, in increasing numbers, they said "Good Buy" to Glomart, choosing instead to spend their money on locally produced, ecologically responsible merchandise and services whenever possible. As a consequence, local cooperatives and local economic diversity flourished, while the megamalls and vast parking lots closed down, disintegrated, or were transformed into low-cost housing cooperatives and vegetable gardens for the poor.

GOOD WORK: This theme took longer to implement, but cut even deeper, by encouraging people to re-examine the concept of "work", upon which Glomart relied for its employees. Gaians drew a clear distinction between "Slavery"--working for others' vested interests, whether as a sales clerk or as a corporate attorney--and "Work" or working with people on tasks that serve the best interests of the community and the planet. In Gaian theory, Good Work consisted of learning, teaching, healing, and creating. At first, the doctrine of "Good Work" appealed only to those who were well-educated and affluent enough to make a go of self-employment, community- building, and cooperative enterprise. But then, as they created new opportunities for the "working poor" in these cooperatives, the working poor began--in droves--to abandon their dead-end jobs in the factories and malls, and join cooperatives instead, where they had more respect and greater outlets for their creativity. As more people began to consciously distinguish between "good work" and "slavery", Glomart found it harder and harder to attract even the most talented people, who chose instead to form cooperative enterprises, and to work--not just for a fat paycheck--but rather in service to their larger, expanded "self"--their community and the planet.

GOOD WILL--This theme formed the inner core of the Gaia Movement, based on the luminous examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Gaians drew no distinction between means and ends; therefore (among other reasons) they completely eschewed violence, and sought to teach by example. They posed no enemies, claiming instead that even the CEOs of Glomart and their Republican servants in Congress were Gaians as well--breathing the same air and dependent upon the same ecosystem--who needed only to wake up to their own higher self-interest in serving life, rather than the abstraction called "money."
Gaians cultivated good will by practicing mindfulness and compassion, following the teachings and example of great teachers like the Dalai Lama and the venerated Vietnamese buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (whom many likewise regard as a founder of the Gaia Movement). They did not try to "convert" people; rather, they sought to serve them--to share their wealth and time, and to heal them emotionally by teaching them how to restore equanimity by following their breath, and then, for those who were receptive to it, to impart the Five Precepts which originated in Buddhism, but are the foundation of every other system of ethics as well: Reverence for All Life (Nonviolence); Generosity and Loving Kindness; Sexual Responsibility; Mindful Speaking; and Mindful Consumption.
As a consequence of the Gaians' quiet and unobtrusive dedication, the Gaia Movement spread far and wide--in neighborhoods, in schools and churches, and over the Internet--long before the Glomart-dominated mass media even took notice of it. By the time they caught on, it was too late to stop it, and--quick to jump on any bandwagon where money is to be made--they attempted to co-opt it by marketing Gaian Flags, Quiet Revolution Posters, and Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and MLK posters. But the Gaians went their quiet and incorruptible way, buying only those flags and posters that were printed on low-impact unbleached cotton or recycled paper. The Gaia movement was here to stay.

And so today, while the healing of the planet has a long way to go, we are off to a good start. Gaianity--the identification of self with the sacred web of all life--was such an obvious psychological improvement over the grasping and alienated mentality of Glomart consumerism that the Glomart system had no choice but to adapt to it, in order to survive: to decentralize ownership, and to re-invest money into community development and ecological healing. As a consequence, people no longer even use the word "environment" since they no longer think of Gaia--of the natural world--as something outside of themselves. Instead, ecology and systemic thinking have become the core curriculum in every school and college in the world, poverty is decreasing, and we are well on the way to a diverse, healthy, and sustainable planet.