This year 2014 is an election year in the United States and several other nations. In most of the world, electoral politics has reached a dead end because it is sidelined by the economically, politically, or culturally powerful into self-aggrandizement at the expense of citizens. This is a year in which there is an international call for a wave of action. This year is one of those times that the ancient Greeks called kairos and the ancient Chinese saw as the movement of Heaven. Like most times of this character, it will likely also satisfy the Urban Dictionary’s definition of kairotic moment in echo of the late 1960s.
The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (2500 pages long) indicates that this might be the last moment to think clearly before a widely experienced catastrophe strikes. And James Burke’s 1989 PBS series on climate change did say that 2015 was the moment of truth in which all doubt was removed. Moreover, the Christian apocalyptics are having twitchy blow-dries and good book sales. One does not take so many varied portents of imminent societal collapse lightly even if one is using quaint language to stay calm about the entire matter.
Resiliency is an eco-jargon word for surviving the catastrophe with some possibility of continuing a creative civilization. It is the equivalent of the economist’s deflation jargon “soft landing”. Can we just have this revolution without too much disruption to my own personal routines? Can we just ease into the new civilization? If we can’t hope, can we at least have some positive and realistic vision about the future? Something without requiring miracles or magical thinking or divine intervention or the spiritual transformation of every single last person on earth including the Koch Brothers and Robert Mugabe? This certainly is a moment for one last attempt at laying the groundwork for resiliency.
But how to do that? We are clear that our best survival tactic has to do with strong local economic networks for food, shelter, health care, and community support. At least those of us who are not buying guns wholesale to fend off the likes of us do.
And we understand that what collapses in a collapse is that which connects us to resources, to the labor of other people under a division of labor, and to the tools, equipment, and workspaces that provide goods, services, information, culture, and care. That is, the collapse of public and corporate goods and services means the collapse of infrastructure.
When institutions disappear and there are only individuals, infrastructure has to do with those goods and services that you want everyone to have either as a moral principle, as a matter of reciprocation, or as a matter of practical defense of what is required for the survival or yourself and your own most valuable personal network of people.
Infrastructure is a matter of moral philosophy, but not some specific moral philosophy although contradictory moral philosophies are excluded. And it is a universal standard.
In the experiments with citizen-created infrastructure in the Occupy Wall Street encampments, the basic infrastructure was available shelter (especially in rough weather), food, security, a voice in governance, a job to do, and a voice to the rest of the world. Those were provided even to those who were living on the street before Occupy Wall Street as fundamental human rights. There were long and serious debates about the scope of the infrastructure to provide and the practical matters of securing the material resources and expertise to support that infrastructure.