Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can.
At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must - namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena.
The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.
Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future."3001: The Final Odyssey"
If you look at the countries of the world and ask how are they dealing with climate change — probably our biggest challenge as a species — one of the worst records is in the US, the richest country, and one of the best, maybe the best, is in Bolivia, the second-poorest country of South America. It’s striking that countries that have large indigenous populations are at the forefront of this battle. They are pressing very hard for what is often called ‘rights of nature’ but should be called ‘right to survival’.
As citizens, we must prevent wrongdoing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong sufferer and spectator, is at stake."The Life of the Mind"
They smell your breath lest you have said: I love you. They smell your heart; These are strange times, my dear. They flog love at the roadblock. Let's hide love in the larder. In this crooked blind alley, as the chill descends they feed fires with logs of song and poetry Hazard not a thought: These are strange times, my dear. The man who knocks at your door in the noon of the night has come to kill the light. Let's hide light in the larder. There, butchers are posted in passageways with bloody chopping blocks and cleavers: These are strange times, my dear. They chop smiles off lips, and songs off the mouth: Let's hide joy in the larder."In This Blind Alley"
As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.
The neoliberal era of the last generation is dedicated, in principle, to destroying the only means we have to defend ourselves from destruction. It's not called that, what it's called is shifting decision-making from public institutions, which at least in principle are under public influence, to private institutions which are immune from public control, in principle. That's called "shifting to the market", it's under the rhetoric of freedom, but it just means servitude. It means servitude to unaccountable private institutions.
The only justification for repressive institutions is material and cultural deficit. But such institutions, at certain stages of history, perpetuate and produce such a deficit, and even threaten human survival.