313: Peak Oil & the White “We”

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KMO welcomes Jay Smith and Jeff Wilburn to the C-Realm to reflect upon the Age of Limits conference. Jay and Jeff, along with their girlfriends, accounted for most of the African-American conference-goers, and this leads to a discussion of how the on-going Peak Oil conversation is one carried out primarily by whites and, to some extent, aims to preserve white privilege and assumes that whites must take the leadership role in deciding how best to address the challenges of the coming long emergency. Both Jay and Jeff initially found the work of James Howard Kunstler to be valuable but later came to chafe at Jim’s seemingly dismissive attitude about black culture and the supposed failure of African-Americans to assimilate into mainstream society.

Music by Monstah Black.

 

 

 

 

Rock Star

Written by: Reginald Ellis Crump a.k.a Monstah Black

I’ve woken up every morning with a new breed attitude, Stuck like glue
Running through the dark corridors in my head
Seen the fire in my eyes, Wonder why I’m such a voodoo chile
And people hate as I walk by
I’m rubber your glue, What you say to me bounces off and it sticks to you
I’m fire and your ice
I don’t give a damn what you think I am, Your nightmare, A pretty Man

A
NEWROMANTICAFROGYPSYPUNKFUNKDISCOGLAMROCKSTAR

I’ve seen the look of evil, staring down the alley
I’ve felt the hatred from the high school sweethearts of yesterday
I’ve got the look from prom queens, Aching just to look this way
Hungry football stars, Without the balls to admit they like my sway.

A
NEWROMANTICAFROGYPSYPUNKFUNKDISCOGLAMROCKSTAR

I fell in love with a new threshold today, reached beyond the super power
Intake breath until it fades away, eternal wilting flower
I crossed my legs and batted my eyes, in hope to defeat the norm
I painted my skull scarlet red to invoke a punk rock storm

A
NEWROMANTICAFROGYPSYPUNKFUNKDISCOGLAMROCKSTAR

There’s a tiny man squatting in my corner, named Spectacle
Deep in the doldrums of my Vanity
Laughing as he cast his spells, sipping Champagne and living Glamorously
Ripping things to piece and pretending he lives in Madagascar
He smells like Hendrix riffs in a dark abandoned punk rock bar

A
NEWROMANTICAFROGYPSYPUNKFUNKDISCOGLAMROCKSTAR

  • Nebulapspit

    finally … a relevant podcast coming from u … bout time.

  • Nebulaspit

    and who is the woman speaking in the interview ? why isnt she mentioned?

    • tejanojim

      Pretty sure that was Olga K, KMO’s girlfriend and frequent guest on the podcast.

      • Olga K

        Tis I, yes. I recall being introduced at the beginning of the conversation. I’m often in the room during a live recording. Many if not most of the live guests in NYC are friends of mine and are on the show at my insistence. Thanks!

        Olga

  • Blow_In

    Good show.
    Great guests.
    Important subject.
    Too short.
    Looking forward to next weeks podcast.

  • Monster

    So.. I feel that an actual answer as to how “we” get non middle-class “white” people into the discussion was never given. It was as though the answer is obvious, but I personally do not know where to find a non-white perspective on the subject. Who are the non-white contemporaries of the major contributors in this discussion (Dmitri, JMG, JHK, Heinberg)? I want other perspectives. Where are they? I’m not being critical, I am asking for the answer to be spelled out in specifics so I can educated myself.

    • Jay Smith

       When Jeff and I pointed out that James Howard Kunstler’s passage in the “Long Emergency”
      was dismissive and paternalistic, we were pointing to a disposition of
      euro-supremacist conditioning which regards anything having to do with
      people of color as not worthy of the same degree of intellectual rigor,
      scholarship, interest, as those topics concerning “whites.”  The
      standard of rigor, scholarship, analysis that Mr. Kunstler brings to the
      peak oil discussion was not applied to his understanding of
      African-American history, or he could not have asserted what he did
      about “black” people in the Long Emergency. The very act
      of paying attention to people of ethnicities other than European or
      Euro-American–what they are thinking and expressing–disposes you to an
      open-mindedness in which your awareness of the world outside the
      “white” frame allows you to at least hear other perspectives, and by
      that very intellectual process become aware of where and how you might
      interact with others who are quite different.  How did KMO know about
      and invite Jeff and I to speak with him?  His disposition to inquire
      from and listen to a wide variety of sources of knowledge has allowed
      him to connect with many people, including Jeff and I.   If he merely
      thought that African-Americans have nothing worthy to say, or listen to,
      that very thought would have precluded his ability to engage us in
      discussion.  True enough, that may be easier in a large, urban
      metropolis like New York City than a predominantly white town or
      village.  (But from your comment, it appears you are in NYC.)  The
      Internet, as one resource, is full of African-American thought about
      many things.  If you make it your intention to harvest knowledge widely,
      then you will find the websites, blogs, youtube videos, etc. which
      feature the thought of African American people with unique
      perspectives–some of which you will not always agree with, as I do
      not.  There are many African-American thinkers, journalists, professors,
      writers, like Dr. Cornel West, Tavis Smiley,  Dr. Boyce Watkins, Dr.
      Michael Erik Dyson, Dr. Tricia Brown, Melissa Harris Perry, Neil
      DeGrasse Tyson, Van Jones, Majora Carter among the better known
      personalities on major media, and lesser known persons like Dr. Clarence
      “Skip” Ellis, computer scientist, Dr. James Gates, physicist, Charles
      Mills, philosopher, et. al. Of those named, Van Jones and Majora Carter
      might be the only ones who would have pronouncements on peak oil.  
      Sadly, like most other Americans, the African American population is
      largely indifferent to the peak oil/collapse narrative.  So currently it
      is difficult to find any blacks, besides Jeff and myself, (we know of
      only one other) knowledgeable and willing to engage in conversation
      about  this. But there are people of color from around the world to
      learn from, like Vandana Shiva and Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, of India,
      Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, Nnimmo Bassey of
      Nigeria, and a number of indigenous people throughout the Americas, from
      Alaska to Patagonia. While there may not be many African-Americans to
      discuss peak oil issues, national black organizations like the
      Congressional Black Caucus, the National Urban League, the NAACP have
      all addressed and are addressing environmental racism, and have amassed a
      body of compelling data to show how people of color are rendered more
      vulnerable to the ravages of ecological despoliation in the U.S.A. 
      There is alternative media, like prn.fm, where Glen Ford hosts Black
      Agenda Radio.  Or democracynow.org, or againstthegrain.org.  or the
      pacifica stations like kpfa.org, or wbai.org.  The key is this:  Keep
      your eyes, ears, mind and heart open and sooner or later you’ll discover
      people of color with  whom you can engage.

      Jay Smith

    • Jay Smith

       When Jeff and I pointed out that James Howard Kunstler’s passage in the “Long Emergency”
      was dismissive and paternalistic, we were pointing to a disposition of
      euro-supremacist conditioning which regards anything having to do with
      people of color as not worthy of the same degree of intellectual rigor,
      scholarship, interest, as those topics concerning “whites.”  The
      standard of rigor, scholarship, analysis that Mr. Kunstler brings to the
      peak oil discussion was not applied to his understanding of
      African-American history, or he could not have asserted what he did
      about “black” people in the Long Emergency. The very act
      of paying attention to people of ethnicities other than European or
      Euro-American–what they are thinking and expressing–disposes you to an
      open-mindedness in which your awareness of the world outside the
      “white” frame allows you to at least hear other perspectives, and by
      that very intellectual process become aware of where and how you might
      interact with others who are quite different.  How did KMO know about
      and invite Jeff and I to speak with him?  His disposition to inquire
      from and listen to a wide variety of sources of knowledge has allowed
      him to connect with many people, including Jeff and I.   If he merely
      thought that African-Americans have nothing worthy to say, or listen to,
      that very thought would have precluded his ability to engage us in
      discussion.  True enough, that may be easier in a large, urban
      metropolis like New York City than a predominantly white town or
      village.  (But from your comment, it appears you are in NYC.)  The
      Internet, as one resource, is full of African-American thought about
      many things.  If you make it your intention to harvest knowledge widely,
      then you will find the websites, blogs, youtube videos, etc. which
      feature the thought of African American people with unique
      perspectives–some of which you will not always agree with, as I do
      not.  There are many African-American thinkers, journalists, professors,
      writers, like Dr. Cornel West, Tavis Smiley,  Dr. Boyce Watkins, Dr.
      Michael Erik Dyson, Dr. Tricia Brown, Melissa Harris Perry, Neil
      DeGrasse Tyson, Van Jones, Majora Carter among the better known
      personalities on major media, and lesser known persons like Dr. Clarence
      “Skip” Ellis, computer scientist, Dr. James Gates, physicist, Charles
      Mills, philosopher, et. al. Of those named, Van Jones and Majora Carter
      might be the only ones who would have pronouncements on peak oil.  
      Sadly, like most other Americans, the African American population is
      largely indifferent to the peak oil/collapse narrative.  So currently it
      is difficult to find any blacks, besides Jeff and myself, (we know of
      only one other) knowledgeable and willing to engage in conversation
      about  this. But there are people of color from around the world to
      learn from, like Vandana Shiva and Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, of India,
      Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, Nnimmo Bassey of
      Nigeria, and a number of indigenous people throughout the Americas, from
      Alaska to Patagonia. While there may not be many African-Americans to
      discuss peak oil issues, national black organizations like the
      Congressional Black Caucus, the National Urban League, the NAACP have
      all addressed and are addressing environmental racism, and have amassed a
      body of compelling data to show how people of color are rendered more
      vulnerable to the ravages of ecological despoliation in the U.S.A. 
      There is alternative media, like prn.fm, where Glen Ford hosts Black
      Agenda Radio.  Or democracynow.org, or againstthegrain.org.  or the
      pacifica stations like kpfa.org, or wbai.org.  The key is this:  Keep
      your eyes, ears, mind and heart open and sooner or later you’ll discover
      people of color with  whom you can engage.

      Jay Smith

    • amethysta

      Im Here ! UK London working hard non stop. Contact me we facebook C-Realm or via private mail and I fill you in on what is going on

  • Gippslander

    This program did not enlighten me at all. I have no idea what is distinct about Afro-American culture, but as far as I can tell it is the fact that groups of people who are ethnically/racially/religiously similar mix with each other. So Afro-Americans mix with each other and less so with white people. I don’t know what is culturally distinct about them, the guests sounded like any other educated middle-class person would, i.e. these guys where completely assimilated into the mainstream culture.

    John Michael Greer and others have gone on before about how when people come across the peak-oil idea it takes a while to absorb and assimilate. Everyone has their own journey of understanding. It cannot be thrust on anyone. This naturally leaves the floor to people who are trying to understand the impacts of Peak-Oil and what to do about it to those who actually have made sense of it, which of course happens to be white educated middle-class people. I felt very uncomfortable with JMG’s reply to the question about people of color. It sounded like a very PC response. I don’t know why JMG referred to himself as a “clueless white guy” as far as people I admire he is an extremely deep thinker with a great breadth of understanding of the issues we are facing and will face. I don’t see the discussions of the response to peak-oil about the sense of losing privileges that white people have. It’s about maintaining some sort of functional  existence (both physical and cultural) in a radically changing world that doesn’t lead to catastrophe for ourselves, the people around us and the communities we live in.

    I found the reading of an extract of Kunstler’s ‘Long Emergency’ book very interesting it was a coherent and sensible argument, but we weren’t offered any logical criticisms of it, just a rehash of history and explanations for victim-hood. I got the feeling that the 2 guests didn’t like it but that explained nothing. To me it hit a sore spot in them but maybe some truths they refuse to recognize.

    • http://www.facebook.com/missy.morose Missy Morose

      { I have no idea what is distinct about Afro-American culture, but as far as I can tell it is the fact that groups of people who are ethnically/racially/religiously similar mix with each other. So Afro-Americans mix with each other and less so with white people. I don’t know what is culturally distinct about them, the guests sounded like any other educated middle-class person would, i.e. these guys where completely assimilated into the mainstream culture.}

      You see this goes to the very heart of the attitude of White -American society . Don’t know don’t want to know. Do you not think that if you live in a society that has a large African-American society that it is a bit odd that very little has been done to highlights the achievements of Afro-Americans? As far as I know although not being an American, there are loads of very distinct things that are afro-american. A look around New-Orleans should highlight things. How could you possibly find nothing wrong with Kunstler’s excerpt? It was biased and extremely generalized. First of all when talking about a group of people you can not make sweeping statements such as “all black people” “most black areas” and so on. That is a clear lack of research skills and pseudo-sociology. He did nothing to address demographics, the general income of the area and so on. Instead we find yet again a white enlightened man not even covering the basics of investigative journalism. The two guest that you refer to where trying to be polite. Yet I can ensure you that if this was in London the show would have taken on a different tone. You also complain that they explained nothing. They don’t need to explain anything go and read some basic afro-american history yourself. Why should two distinguished gentlemen like them have to spoon freed the so call educated white middle class? If you can research peak-oil and other various topics why not research African diaspora faiths?

  • FBH

    Definitions are critical. Is ‘black (color) culture’ synonymous with Tavis Smiley, Van Jones, etc. or is it more connected with such intellectual icons as JayZ, Beyonce and KI Wayans? Likewise, Justin Beiber, Joe Biden, Lindsay Lohan and similarly vapid white people generally reflect ‘white culture.’ The whole issue is subjective, irrelevant and a little pathetic.

    Culture–cult. Why defend these subdivisions? There is smart-gonna-survive and stupid-gonna-die. Factor in luck somewhere and you got the best prediction you’re gonna get.

    As well, it’s a known fact Kunstler can be an insufferable ass but did he actually say ‘assimilate’ or is it an implication which was read in? Was he simply pointing out the fact that so called ‘black culture’ –insofar as it reflects actual attitudes/beliefs leading to actual behaviors/survival strategies in a new scenario such as the long emergency– is going to lead to suffering? I think so. Just as he would point out that white people showing up to Walmart to find empty shelves will behave like monsters almost immediately?

    If we BlackSwan tomorrow no one is going to care about color other than those who already do and won’t be swayed—black or white, they probably aren’t people you want to be around anyway. If this discussion is about saving people who are a step behind in ability to prepare based on congenital circumstances then the unspoken fact is that the sheer number of white people on the chopping block in America vastly outweighs the number of colored people.

  • tejanojim

    I agree with the guests, at least in that blacks have typically been “last in, first out” of the labor pool, going back to before America was independent. The gains of the civil rights era took place during a period of sustained economic expansion unlikely to be seen in this country in the forseeable future.
    Since we are now clearly in the “peak oil is happening” era, I note the stop-and-frisk policies of the NYPD, as well as the “stand your ground” laws of various US states. These would seem to be legislative efforts to marginalize, threaten and disenfranchise people of color. Most people, of any color, prefer emotional, scapegoating arguments rather than pore over data about decline rates and net exports. I therefore expect increasing racial animosity as people fight over shares of a shrinking pie, and politicians to encourage that strife because it distracts from their inability to identify and address real underlying issues. Look at Arizona, a state that essentially has no future in an oil constrained, climate shocked future. Their elected officials would rather scream about illegal Mexicans than do the hard work of mitigation and adaptation.
    Thanks for a good podcast this week, KMO.

    • http://c-realm.com KMO

      The Stop-and-Frisk policy here in NYC is surreal. It boggles me that anyone sees the arrests it generates (many for displaying marijuana in public – something the person arrested would not have done had a police officer not ordered them to empty their pockets) as a good which outweighs the harm it inflicts in the form of exacerbated racial animosity. The situation seems to make more sense if we see the heightened racial animosity as the intended outcome.

  • Liz McLellan

    That was a great discussion…I hope it’s ongoing….

    • Olga K

      Liz,

      There was a raging discussion on Facebook at the Friends of the C-Realm group https://m.facebook.com/groups/137746311776. Unfortunately, Jay is not on fb and the discussion tended towards one-sidedness, as is usually the case when trying to speak about the experience of others in a larger context. I believe this site is now better optimized for comments and discussions and I encourage all. I will forward this page to Jay and Jeff to encourage their participation.

      Thanks for listening, gardening mama! ;)

  • staticwarp

    if there is any place in which the issues of race culture in the united states can be discussed thoughtfully, the c-realm podcast is it. for the first time in my 28 years of life i was exposed to some ideas about a culture i live with daily that helped me to understand just a bit more about them. jay smith’s response to monster also brings up a very relevant point: that if we open our minds, hearts, and ears, we will find ways to engage with other races and cultures; whether the subject is peak oil or the unending racial tension in the united states. i feel like the most important thing about the way this was discussed is that although the subject matter was contentious and the questions hard, no one’s blood pressure rose and neither did anyone’s voice. this is the type of discussion that will at the very least allow whites to understand blacks better, and at most bring people as close to reconciliation as is humanly possible. thank you again for an incredibly enlightening episode with such compelling guests.

    and to monster and gippslander, if you feel unenlightened or that the questions werent answered, try listening again. i listened to this podcast three times to make sure i didnt miss a thing. its quite possible that the answer you are looking for is there, just not in such a way that jumps out and slaps you upside the head. sometimes answers are unexpected, and many times they arent the ones you want to hear, or in a syntax you are used to. i would urge you to listen again. its entirely possible that the answers were not the problem.

  • dangerdeadnettlez

    James Howard Kuntzler does not mention the aspects of white supremest culture that transcend even skin color and enter the cultural conversation even in organizations that have predominately non-white stake holders.

    They include,Perfectionism, Sense of Urgency, Defensiveness, Quantity over Quality, Worship of the Written Word, Paternalism, Either/or Thinking, Power Hoarding, Fear of Open Conflict, Individualism, Progress is bigger, More, Objectivity, Right to Comfort.

    vector:
    http://cwsworkshop.org/PARC_site_B/dr-culture.html