Saturday, August 27, 2011

Welcome to the Anthropocene Age; A Monument to MLK Now Stands on the Mall, Like Kubrick's Obelisk, Mysterious & Otherworldly

King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word - revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens." Cornel West, Dr. King Weeps From His Grave, NYT, 8-26-11

Welcome to the Anthropocene Age; A Monument to MLK Now Stands on the Mall, Like Kubrick's Obelisk, Mysterious & Otherworldly

By Richard Power

Ponder this moment.

I suggest that it is a turning point in American history.

Not because of any great deed we have marshaled our collective will to accomplish (we haven't and it is unlikely we will), but because of what we have collectively chosen to lie about, even to ourselves.

This week had promised to be a strange one from the beginning, two events were unfolding in stark contrast to the debilitating, amoral kulchur of our political establishment: one was the opening of the Dr. Martin Luther King Monument on the National Mall, and the other was a sustained and significant campaign of civil disobedience in front of the White House (meant to encourage POTUS to decide against the tars sands XL pipeline). But then it got even stranger.

First, on Tuesday, there was an earthquake, a shallow 5.9 that had its epicenter near Richmond, but was felt from Chapel Hill to Martha's Vineyard. The White House was temporarily evacuated. The National Cathedral suffered damage to three of the four pinnacles of its main tower. And perhaps most poignantly, the Washington Memorial was closed indefinitely.

The earthquake that rattled much of the East Coast last week is sparking angry calls from elected officials seeking an immediate reevaluation of seismic risks at two dozen or so commercial nuclear plants around the country, including two in California. Los Angeles Times, 8-27-11

Remember friend, this is the Anthropocene Age, and although we apparently choose to lie to ourselves, the human race now has a hand in the generation of earthquakes.

1. Human activity can cause earthquakes ... 2. Seismic activity has been linked to the injection of waste water from the unconventional production of natural gas using hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) ... 3. The petroleum industry is resistant to taking into account scientific and historical data ... 4. Nuclear plants which lie on fault lines intensify the risks of earthquakes ... 5. Industry often seeks to keep information and historical data private ... Nora Eisenberg, Raw Story, 5 things the media isn’t telling you about human activity and earthquakes, 8-24-11

As I write this post, on Saturday night, MSNBC and CNN are offering wall to wall coverage of Hurricane Irene, as it moves into the densely populated metropolises of the Northeast, including New York City, the financial capital of the nation and arguably of the world.

The cable news network coverage has gone on hour after hour, without any mention of the actual context in which this potential disaster is unfolding; that's right, not one word about the Climate Crisis, i.e., the greatest existential threat of our age.

I would dismiss them as fools, but their foolishness is willful, which makes them cowards at best, and quite literally complicit in crimes against nature and humanity.

Hurricane Irene is only a category 1 as it enters New York City, it will not destroy New York, it may not even cause extensive damage there, but that is not the point; the point is this is not going to be the last hurricane that hits New York City head on in the next few years, it is only the first of many, there will be one after another, year after year, as the oceans heat up, and one day probably sooner than later, it will be a category 3 or worse ...

More than a dozen nuclear reactors along the U.S. East Coast are being prepared for potential loss of power and damage from high winds and storm surges as Hurricane Irene bears down on the region. San Francisco Chronicle, Nuclear Reactors on East Coast Brace for Hurricane Irene's Wrath, 8-26-11

... in a city like New York, hurricane-force winds could break windows en masse, especially in the taller buildings ... If the subways were flooded with salt water rather than just rainwater, the salt "would corrode the switches and cripple the system for months or years, and disable much of the communications infrastructure in Lower Manhattan ... The Financial District ... could be inundated ... not only is it full of people who could be killed by a storm surge, but it is also the epicenter of the city, national, and international financial systems ... International Business Times, Hurricane Irene New York: Top 5 Dangers of a Hurricane in the City, 8-24-11

Meanwhile, the official ceremony for the opening of the MLK Monument was postponed; and it is probably just as well.

The message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has no resonance in Beltwayistan; it is as alien to the current political establishment as the obelisk was to the apes in the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: Space Odyssey. I am excluding, of course, those who remember and choose not to lie to themselves or their fellow citizens, e.g., the Progressive Caucus, the Black Caucus, and a very few Senators, and a handful of others.

And yes, I exclude POTUS too. He remembers. No matter how ferverently he pretends that he has just as much in common with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as he has with us, he doesn't.

He still belongs down here, with the garbage men of Memphis, and those four little girls in Birmingham, and the Kennedy family that gave him a leg up, and the Solidarity movement in Wisconsin, and FDR, who said of the reactionaries and the corporatists, "I welcome their hatred," and ACORN, and Planned Parenthood, and Van Jones and Elizabeth Warren. Yes, he belongs with us. Whether he ever comes to grips with it or not.

I don't know what to say about him anymore, except that I will defend him to the end against the shameless racism of the reactionaries; while at the same time, excoriating him for his tragic choice not to lead.

I keep asking myself what Ralph Ellison, the author of The invisible Man might say about the psychological mystery of Barack Obama's White House years; I keep asking myself what James Baldwin or Nina Simone might say. Surely, they would have a profound insight into where he lives inside himself.

POTUS may be morphing into the Invisible Man, but beloved brother Cornel West has published a powerful OP-ED piece in the NYT, Dr. King Weeps From His Grave, New York Times, 8-26-11:

Militarism is an imperial catastrophe that has produced a military-industrial complex and national security state and warped the country’s priorities and stature ... Materialism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists ... Cornel West, Dr. King Weeps From His Grave, NYT, 8-26-11

Meanwhile, back at the White House, a throbbing, dynamic, flesh and blood embodiment of Dr. King's message: protester after protester submitted to arrest, in acts of non-violent civil disobedience. They are hoping to raise the stakes high enough that POTUS might be forced into the right decision -- for a change.

Bill McKibben: ... this is one place where President Obama has no obstacles to acting. Congress isn’t in the way. He has no obstacles to acting and no excuse for not acting. It will be the biggest test for him, environmentally, between now and the next election. It’s emerged as the single, premier environmental issue right now, that people from every organization and every group are coming to Washington to help with. Amy Goodman Interviews Bill McKibben, Over 160 Arrested in Ongoing Civil Disobedience Against Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline, Democracy Now, 8-23-11

But even before Hurricane Irene started hurtling toward NYC, the U.S. State Department (Hillary, hello?) issued its recommendation to POTUS that there was "no evidence the pipeline will significantly impact the six U.S. states in its path." Ah. Another brazen self-deceit. The pipeline will "significantly impact" not only the "six U.S. states in its path" but the entire planet. POTUS is yet to make (or at least to announce his decision). Of course, we could only be pleasantly surprised at this point.

As a child, I laid in the dark, and clutched a little transistor radio, and wept as I listened to Dr. King's words of power; I wept with tears of JOY. And I tell you, as surely as night follows day, just as Dr. King added economic injustice to his portfolio, and also added the Vietnam war (and the profit-driven militarism it epitomized), if he had survived the black ops of 1968, he would have added crimes against nature to his portfolio too. He would not have viewed the Climate Crisis as an inconvenient truth; he would have understood it as an unavoidable moral challenge, inextricably bound together with the others that were so sacred to him.

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power's seventh book, Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself, is now available. Here are links to purchase it from, or from CreateSpace.