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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

With Godspeed!

As I set out to write this I realize it will appear that I just listen to the CBC and wait until there is something worth reacting to for my blog content... It’s true that a pattern is emerging, but really it’s just a coincidence that I happened to learn of this story as I woke up to Daybreak this morning. As it turns out, I heard it all again later this on CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi: Aparently the Montreal-based band Godspeed! You Black Emperror ruffled some feathers by accepting the annual Polaris Award in an unconventional manner. But the content I am reacting to is not actually stemming from the CBC, rather it can all be found on the website of Constellation Records (here: Which delivers the following at its heart: 
3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=
-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

What’s more, I am not writing in order to respond to some form of disinformation (for once!)
Rather, I have this to say:
It’s damn refreshing that these guys found a way to raise a controversy on their own terms, in such a succinct manner. It’s easy to get caught up in the prevailing myth of growth and prosperity (propaganda) and forget that we are reaping the consequences of some pretty bad ideas and choices of recent history…
Godspeed! closes by saying,

apologies for being such bores,
we love you so much / our country is fucked,”

Far be it from me to put words in Godspeed!’s mouths, but I will go out on a limb to say that their statement deserves some Kyotomotors styled elaboration in solidarity – at risk of boring you some more…

Addressing the second bullet point first, as a painter, I am familiar with similar prizes, awards and contests where multi-billion-dollar corporations dole out a paltry 20 to 50 thousand dollars or so a year to artists in my milieu, and then reap the benefits of the marketing that the whole charade represents, placing a big fat corporate seal of approval on contemporary art for all to see. It’s at least a tad disingenuous to say the least…
Would I say no to the $50 K Sobey award? Probably not.  But if the day ever came to pass, I may refer back to Godspeed!’s statement here for some inspiration on how to accept it.
But for the purposes of this blog, I will refrain from any digression on the subject.

The first and third points above, in my view, go hand in hand, and pertain in large measure to the central theme of this blog, which is to say: to the consequences of industrial society’s attempt to pursue exponential economic growth through the rapid consumption and squandering of the fossil fuels that have enabled global civilization to get to where it is now.

(Chew on that one for a while, if you will…)

The consequences are many; not the least of which is the spectre of climate change. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this most pressing issue is our collective inability to have a level-headed dialogue about it, thus guaranteeing that we remain incapable of taking real action as a society. This ties in with the “bribe” mentioned in my previous post here: we are heavily invested (physically, psychologically) in a way of doing things, and we are hokked on the so called benefits that ensue. We are full of expectations that more of the same will bring better results. We feel entitled. After all, progress is inevitable, right?

And so, gone are the notions of sacrifice that had their place in the collective consciousness of our grandparents; yet we are faced with the cognitive dissonance that reverberates over the gap between our myth of prosperity and the real austerity on the ground.

Our country, in turn, is indeed fucked, since the man at the helm has delusions of petro-state grandeur. The tarsands will be exploited at all costs, because apart from the boom/bubble in shale oil fracking south of the border, our prospects for growing the oil supply are less than dim.

While this post is admittedly something of a rant, I assure you, I am not making this shit up. The consensus on climate change is a fait accompli, and the reality of peak oil is that it is literally undeniable, since petroleum is a finite resource. I have pointed out more than once that rather than discredit the peak oil story, the tarsands and shale oil projects confirm it, pushing back the day of reckoning just a little, perhaps, while ultimately amplifying its ramifications.

If you have some doubts about this, maybe you should look up a more “reputable” source in the likes of former CIBC economist Jeff Rubin, who foretold of $100 per barrel oil over a decade ago, and was practically tarred and feathered for it. Rubin has quite a lot of the facts together, and I recommend that anyone interested in understanding the economics of peak oil check him out. His first book on the subject(“Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller”) has now been followed by recent publication called “The End of Growth”, which gives you an idea of where he’s coming from…

Now, before I wax too enthusiastic about Rubin, I will say that I disagree strongly with some of his interpretations, particularly where he suggests that the market, and supply limits will take care of climate change. But this dangerous assertion I will have to leave for the subject of a future post.

What I will say for now is that he appears to be bang-on when he says that energy (especially tarsands) is what’s going to define our future as a country, which is to say fault-lines are already appearing over the matter, and the bribe it represents hangs over our heads like an novelty-sized cheque.

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