We Can’t Go Back to the “Normal” That Is Killing Us

A look at a Resilience piece about why we can’t return to the “normal” that is killing us and the planet. We also examine the outrage over Michael Moore’s controversial film, “Planet of the Humans.”

First, a few other announcements:

The Story of Plastic: Last Chance to View is Today
& It Is Worth Your Time

The Story of Plastic. Today is the last day you can stream this extraordinary film for free, and at 3 pm MT there will be a free online conversation. Watch The Story of Plastic at this link at your convenience any time today.

“It’s hard to choose which scene in The Story of Plastic most sent a chill down my spine, so startling is the hour and a half-long documentary…. The Story of Plastic, directed by Deia Schlosberg and produced by Stiv Wilson, is a relentless pile-on of images and factoids that build on each other, slowly forming the contours of the full scope of havoc wreaked by a single 60-year-old industry. It is the best and clearest guide through the plastic supply chain I’ve seen yet, which also means it’s the best tool to understand the full life cycle of a material we touch and use every day. ” — Zoe Schlessinger, Quartz

Once you’re done watching The Story of Plastic, come talk about it with us! TODAY, Thurs., April 30, 5 pm ET, we will host a panel discussion and answer your questions, with guests from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): CIEL President Carroll Muffett, CIEL’s Louisiana-based campaigner Jane Patton, and two activists featured in the film, Yvette Arellano from Houston, Texas, and Froilan Grate from the Philippines. Register for the live panel discussion here.

Retake On KSFR, 101.1 FM, Saturday, May 2, 8:30 am with Cylvia Hayes, author of “Normal Was Killing Us,” an article discussed in today’s post below. We will discuss the issues she raises about the “normal” we are told is waiting for us and that we should be eager to embrace, and also what a different “new normal” might look like.

To listen to and watch last week’s interview with Philip Shepherd, click here. It was a fascinating interview and very germane to today’s post and this coming Saturday’s show.

Retake Zoominars Future and Past

Tues., May 5, 6:30 – 8 p.m., Conversation with Dahr Jamail and Greg Rogers: Could COVID-19 Kill Fracking in NM? If so, what do we do? We’ll have internationally known author Dahr Jamail, the author of The End of Ice, which was named one of the Ten Best Science Books of 2019 by Smithsonian and is a finalist for the 2020 Pen/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Joining Dahr will be attorney, author, and CPA Greg Rogers who wrote the seminal book, Financial Reporting of Environmental Liabilities and Risks. We will discuss Dahr’s March 30, 2020 article from Truthout, “Could COVID-19 Spell the End of the Fracking Industry As We Know It?” Read the article in advance at this link. His article analyzes the recent precipitous drop in oil prices and the impact of that collapse on the New Mexico state economy. To secure a “seat” in the zoom room, you must register at this link.

Click here to watch our recent Zoom events: the PRC Commission District 3 Democratic Candidates Forum; and our Conversation with Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard.

Environmental Movement Irate Over Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans”

I love Michael Moore. He has consistently been on the right side and in his films has put human faces on the consequences of failed neo-liberal policies, while also making entertaining films with a broader appeal than most documentaries. So I was excited when Moore announced that his newest film “Planet of the Humans” was available free on YouTube.

Roxanne and I tried to watch it, but shut it down after 30 minutes, as we found it to be just boring and pointless. We then heard from several folks that we should give it another chance, as he had made some very important points about the renewable industry. I was intrigued. And then the emails from one credible friend after another began, each with links to scathing reviews. Most all made the same points, that “Planet of the Humans:”

  • Made claims that renewable energy was more expensive, inefficient, and could never meet the energy needs of the nation, but made these assertions based upon very antiquated information, in some cases over a decade old;
  • Made inaccurate claims about the useful life of typical wind and solar installations, again based upon very old information;
  • Claimed that because the manufacturing of solar and wind installations currently requires use of power that is mostly derived from coal or natural gas, it is not really as “green” as advertised, missing the point that as more and more renewables become part of the grid, less and less carbon-based energy will be required to construct wind and solar installations;
  • Missed the point that while the manufacturing of wind and solar equipment requires mining of scarce minerals, once developed, the solar and wind installations have useful lives of 20-30 years and do not require continued mining…as opposed to natural gas which requires sustained extraction and processing that releases methane and CO2 into the atmosphere, cooking the planet;
  • Attacked Bill McKibben and 350.org for being influenced by donations from gas and oil industry, with their primary charge being 350.org funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, ignoring that while the Rockefeller fortune that fueled the Foundation had come largely from gas and oil, Standard Oil in particular, the Foundation and the Rockefellers have long since divorced themselves from the industry and have even led shareholder attempts to challenge gas and oil.

In short, it is important to raise concerns when a movie maker of such credibility among the left produces a film that offers a false narrative that undermines the work of the entire environmental movement. See below for a selection of reviews. The first one is quite good, as is the one from Ketan Joshi.

I’d be interested in other people’s views on this film. See for yourself and let us know what you think.

Tremendous Analysis of the “Normal” Our Leaders Desperately Want to Restore

I am in the midst of reading Joanna Macy’s Active Hope. One of its premises is that to achieve a transition, or “Great Turning,” we need to understand what we’re turning from. We can find motivation and courage in understanding that what we reject is intolerable.

Right now, all of us are yearning for some form of normalcy. And political leadership, especially among the GOP, are panting at the prospect of returning the workforce to their jobs so that their lost stock values and earnings can return to “normal.” Certainly, it is understandable that most people with an eye on a diminishing checking account are also eager to return to “normal.”

But in “Normal Was Killing Us,” originally published in 3E Strategies and reprinted by Resilience, Cylvia Hayes, the former Oregon First Lady, outlines why we should not be yearning for a return to “normal,” describing clearly why “normal” was killing us. From Hayes:

“Before the onset of the pandemic more than fifty percent of all Americans were living paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings. In other words more than half of us were already living below or near the poverty line – half! Most at that marginal level were working long hours and multiple jobs just to pay monthly expenses, stay slightly above water and do their part to keep the economy growing. You could certainly make the argument the economy wasn’t really working for them; rather they were working their hearts out to feed the status quo economy.”

Resilience: “Normal Was Killing Us” by Cylvia Hayes

Hayes goes on to describe how half of the US population lives precariously close to poverty, and she points out how the entire economic system is founded on mounting debt and was doomed to collapse before Covid-19, as the level of debt required to prop up Wall St. is unsustainable.

Of course, the corporate sector has long been able to make their growth sustainable by sucking on teet of Congressional largesse, and with its laser-like focus on quarterly profits, not on long term sustainability, it merrily proceeded without care. We saw it when Wall St. ignored how the real estate boom was unsustainable, and then when the bubble burst Congress and Obama came to the rescue, restoring us to the “normal” that has persisted until now.

“After the great recession of 2008, for the most part, we did just go back to normal; we got the economic engine churning again and through hard labor, escalating environmental destruction, propping up Wall Street and the finance industry, blowing open oil and gas drilling, and mushrooming the chasm between the ultra-wealthy and all the rest of us. And, well, that led us to where we are today.”

Hayes then zeroes in on the pharma industry to illustrate how the priorities of industry may serve their profit motives, but not the public:

“The U.S. pharmaceutical industry stopped manufacturing antibiotics because they don’t turn as much profit as other, less universally necessary drugs; we now get 97 of our antibiotics from China. Meanwhile Big Pharma artificially hikes rates of certain life-saving drugs and, like big Oil, gobbles up millions in federal subsidies each year. “

Resilience: “Normal Was Killing Us” by Cylvia Hayes

Clearly the rush to return to normal will benefit Wall St. and its corporate allies, but will it benefit us? Hayes’ overall premise is that just because something is viewed as “normal” doesn’t mean it is good. Certainly, it is “normal” and good for the corporatocracy and the 1%, but is it good for the rest of us who live in increasingly vulnerable economic conditions, at risk of bankruptcy with the onset of any health crisis or income disruption? And this gets worse every year.

But our political leaders, at the beck and call of their corporate benefactors, are eager to push us all back into the work grind that benefits them enormously while leaving us working non-stop to keep pace. And while it is normal after suffering from this extreme crisis to be eager to embrace anything that looks and feels like a normal life, maybe it is best for us to use this pause to question this “normal” and to initiate a process of exploring a new normal. Hayes makes precisely that suggestion, asking that before we accept the “normal” that has been created for us, perhaps we should envision a new “normal” organized around our priorities and values. She poses the following questions to stimulate that thinking:

  • What kind of work would we like to do?
  • How much would we like to work?
  • Do we really need to drive to work everyday?
  • What kind of businesses would we like to see in our community?
  • How and how much would we like to travel?
  • Are we really OK with so much wealth in the hands of so few?
  • Are we really OK with the ecological destruction that has been normalized?
  • What actually makes us happy?

Read “Normal Was Killing Us” at this link.

I think this is an excellent starting point and I am eager to speak with Cylvia Hayes this week. Our discussion will be aired this Saturday, May 2, at 8:30 am on KSFR, 101.1 FM or via audio-visual podcast, posted at this link by Saturday afternoon. In the meantime, what other questions do you feel we should be asking?

A Comment from Eduardo Krasilovsky, a
Longtime Retake Subscriber

The discussion above focuses upon the suffering of Americans, as did yesterday’s post. But one of our longtime subscribers, Eduardo Krasilovsky, made two important comments about yesterday’s post. The first comment was that we shouldn’t focus exclusively on Trump and his immorality, as there is a long litany of others who may not be as ill but are just as wedded to the priorities Trump advances. From Eduardo:

“The ‘subhuman beast’ in the White House acts the way he acts, together with many of his class, only because they consider us subhuman. Expendable animals like the rest of life. To be enslaved and/or worked to death just like the owners of the meet packing plants are doing today. But this elite, the plutocrats, or American aristocrats, mostly men creating and sustaining dynasties, passed from father to son for centuries, always existed in the midst of humanity.

And we do have to name them, the Doles, the Tysons, the Bezos of America. They always existed in plain view but also hidden behind the likes of City Bank. The Republicans in Congress and in many states agree with them.

So, do not just blame the insane one at the head of our Empire. Blame all his friends and family because to them we are also subhumans.

Eduardo then went on to quote Smedley Butler, author of War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier. The quote illustrates how our “normal” has been dependent upon the enslavement of the populaces of countries throughout the world, suggesting the need to add a few more questions to Hayes’ list.

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Smedley Butler

That’s it for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home. This ain’t over by a long shot. Please weigh in on the Moore film, and add more questions we should be asking before accepting a return to our unsustainable “normal.”

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne



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7 replies

  1. It was obvious to me that Moore’s main point was that, specifically, our quest to turn the beast to renewable is just another way to substitute one addiction for another.

    The end result is still addiction. And I can tell you from personal experience, addiction is so nefarious, so subtle, so disingenuous, so seductive, so moralizing, so shaming, that by the time you are through just one session of self-reflection about your addiction, you are ashamed you are not concerned to want another fix.

    I have been a member and contributor to almost every major and many minor E groups, reading their newsletters, following their programs, buying into their yeahs and nays.

    But most of these have monumentally morphed over the years into self-sustaining NGOs more intent on continuous play on the chessboard without ever understanding that the game is all about repetition, not completion, because to fix something would actually mean suicide.

    Capitalism and exceptionalism subsume everything, leaving both form and content a big pile of goo. Eduardo’s insights, like mine, dive into the core energy of the addiction of humanity, its lust for forgiveness from sins it will not yet admit to committing. I say committing because no matter the advocacy, there are always a few thousand ‘buts.’

    With the exception of Greenpeace, FOE, Cousteau and EWG, and a few small others, the entire group of social and environmental justice advocates, including the Retake darling Wild Earth Guardians, are nothing more than elitist, neo-liberal, self-perpetuating vampires intent on the ‘normal’ human hierarchy of top-down, influence-based, classist, academically snobbish and Range Rover environmentalist-driven status quo that fuel their bitter rivals in the neo-conservative nihilist crowd.

    And Moore was correct to use older data because much of what is still operating is OLD, and yet we pride ourselves on those ancient victories as if this was a war we are winning.

    Last week I posted a list of first attempts to do something positive to get us out of the 13th level of the Inferno, out of the land of the Pharaohs. Those things, those attitudes, those actions or non-actions, were EASY, no-brainers that would, like staying mostly home for six weeks, noticeably clear the air and the water around us.

    The root attitudes and behaviors, as Eduardo posited, go to the very heart and soul of a beast, man, that is so confused that it will not look connectively at its own genetic pathway. We see the human genome, as well as the C19 genome, as artifacts for study, ‘other’ things out there that we must master, dominate, control, eliminate, archive and historify. Yup, making history an artifact, historifying it.

    I do not know about any of the rest of you, but I refuse to die as a caricature, an artifact, a blip on some submarine weapons tech’s sonar screen, some knight, or bishop, or rook, or god help me, some frivolous pawn working at Sprouts, wiping down the carts and smiling pleasantly at those who think masks and gloves and Clorox will move the needle forward.

    Normal is an ancient addiction, a ploy invented by the Titans, who passed it stupidly down to their godly children, who deemed their toys, humans, to be little children to be played with, toyed with, and tortured.

    Funny how the genome passes along all potentials, leaving it up to the proteins and animas to get more from less.

    Mick Nickel

  2. My husband and I watched “Planet of the Humans” last Friday night, and we are likely to watch it again. There is a lot of information to take in.

    We trust Michael Moore in the main. If people are outraged by his film, it is probably because it bursts their bubble, upends their fantasy that the environmental movement and addressing climate change through “renewable energy” are the answer to the world’s problems.

    What MM shows in the film is that the same 1% that controls our government and our lives has also taken over and made the environmental movement and renewables their own. For example, the Sierra Club and 350.org are specifically mentioned as having sold out to monied interests. And for those who drive electric cars made by Elon Musk and others, they may want to take a look at the fact that charging stations use dirty energy. I’d also like to learn a lot more about the composition of solar panels, which Moore shows are made from pure quartz and coal! On several fronts, the film concludes that we’re trading one form of dirty energy for an even dirtier one.

    If Michael Moore may be somewhat biased or inaccurate in terms of individual points – and we don’t know this yet – I believe that he is spot on in concluding that the movement and renewable energy have been co-opted by Big Business. The ubiquitous Koch brothers appear behind the scenes in connection with several businesses behind environmental concerns/climate change. And I have lost all respect for Bill McKibben of 350.org, who appears to be a hypocrite and a fraud.

    The film concludes on a mildly optimistic note. I have been saying here and will continue to say that it is up to us. Paul and Roxanne have been pursuing both practical means by which we can change the NM legislature and the influence of oil and gas in NM, and the need for transformation on the individual and collective level. Many people think that they only need to vote people in and out of office. However, I believe that each of us must be much more active in advocating for the change we must have in the world. We cannot simply leave it to elected officials or someone else to make that happen. Each of us can and must play a role, and only millions of us waking up spiritually and practically can provide the solutions.

    • Did you read the post I wrote about the movie? There are serious problems with it and our post provided links to 5 scathing reviews from very credible sources.

  3. Woah! I have not checked in for a while! Nickels post was Right On! I suspect a lot of those people wiping down carts are on medication or told that mindfulness would help. They rest just don’t know any better!

    Today is May Day! Workers are striking around the world, but not a peep in the local media! It is almost as if the virus never happened. One AP articles about “concerns.”

    I haven’t seen Moore’s movie, yet but I am sure there is a method to his madness! If he is wrong about something I will blame right wing operatives, and targeted disinformation.

    Gaah!

  4. I haven’t seen the movie either. I do feel strongly that there are deep problems with our environmental-salvation beliefs. Manufacturing solar panels and windmills, I understand, requires highly toxic, non-renewable mined & manufactured compounds.
    We will have to move toward much lower per-capita energy use in the developed world.
    What remains true and essential is your occasional comments on a new consciousness for all of us.

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