Retrieved From The Future
The year is 2018. After repeated attempts to eradicate the Y2K millennium computer bug
– ‘mad megabyte disease’ – globalized consumer capitalism has finally crashed.
The NI sneaks a preview of how the wreckage will be recycled
and what some of the media will have to say about the new world order.
What a week for... Mato Grosso!
No, I’m not joking. Back in the last century, when the streets of Rio and Salvador regularly emptied for episodes of TV soaps, they claimed Pantanal was ‘the first green soap in the world’ simply because of the nude bathing scenes in the title sequence. Well, now we have the new cult-hit serial Mato Grosso, fed through local networks. It gives us a daily dose of life on one of those ‘sustainable settlements’ that are now, after land reform, so familiar throughout Brazil. I freely admit that what grabbed me first was the prospect of steamy romance between hunky Ronaldo – named, poor devil, after the footballer just before the disastrous 1998 World Cup – and clever Flor, the solar-energy engineer. Then I began to see how smart they really are. Old Man Denilson finally got me hooked, living as he seems to without undue fear for the future. Mato Grosso may not go on for ever, and sceptics are already anticipating the first homicide. But that’s just to tempt you into catching it while you can.
So the Iron Lady has rusted. Few people now choose to recall that bleak era when ‘Thatcherism’ meant as much to the world as someone called Princess Diana. Thatcher was, it is said, one of the first ‘world leaders’ to mention climate change – she had studied chemistry – or suggest that the earth is held in trust for future generations. But she took pride in never travelling by train, and so in her later years had no form of transport. Only limited blame can be attached to her for the catastrophic wave of ‘privatizations’ that led eventually to the floatation of the Government of New Zealand & Co Ltd. Her conviction that ‘society does not exist’ made for a lonely old age. The whereabouts of her son, Mark, remain unknown.
Question: You come from a political dynasty – you can even count Uruguay’s national hero among your distant ancestors. Aren’t you at all frustrated by the low profile your commitment to local politics gives you?
Miranda Artigas: Not at all. My father had great hopes, but when he actually got his hands on the levers of power he found they had been disconnected.
Question: What can you do locally that can’t be done nationally?
Miranda Artigas: We’ve got more options. All our businesses supply local markets and can’t move away. People don’t mind taxes if they can see where the money goes – spending on healthcare and the elderly is always popular. Taxes are paid in the district’s own currency, so wealth doesn’t leak out.
Question: You’re more fulfilled than your father?
Miranda Artigas: I don’t know about that. Working from home means I have fewer lovers.
The Health Revolution
by Joseph O'Connor
Why were we so stupid? We always knew we were talking about a sickness service, not a health service. Yet I, and thousands of my fellow ‘health professionals’, took no notice at all. We were, after all, responding to demand, which was what one was supposed to do in a market economy. O’Connor’s book explains how the change came about in South Africa. The medical establishment, strapped for cash, finally accepted it makes better sense to forestall sickness than to cure disease. Large numbers of ‘informal’ health workers were recruited and trained. Doctors invited people in for ‘road checks’. Ground-breaking research concentrated on the common causes of chronic ill-health. Much more care was taken with chemicals – including pharmaceuticals – and radiation. Good nutrition, based on local produce, became popular again after the notorious ‘McTrash Humbugger’ food-poisoning scandal. But the author’s claim that political rather than medical changes made the difference is one I feel professionally bound to to contest. - Dr Andrew Keene
The Negawatt Co-op
Results for this year are very encouraging. We have reduced the consumption of electricity by our existing members by a further 20 per cent. We have been able to redistribute the surplus to new members and promote energy-saving measures, thereby holding out the prospect of further reductions to come. Unit costs of solar-energy cells have fallen to the point where subsidy is no longer required. We expect to begin work on dismantling over-ground power lines – a disfiguring and wasteful legacy – in the near future. Our priority is to develop improved local energy-storage methods. Internationally, the Negawatt Co-op has been asked to address the ultimate challenge – solar power in Britain and Newfoundland, where fog has confused the locals into thinking that nothing can be done.
It’s been hard to avoid history at the first global gathering of Red Greens in Bandung. It was here, in 1955, that the Non-Aligned Movement first convened. Ten years later a million socialists – an entire generation of political engagement – were murdered or imprisoned in Indonesia following a US-backed military coup. The gathering began in silence out of respect for them, and for the thousands who died for the liberation of East Timor and West Papua. It was here too, after the ‘Asian Miracle’ turned to ashes, that the modern Red Green Movement really got going. Today’s Red Greens still operate with that special brand of non-organization that some say is the secret of their success. The alliance they’ve forged, which now dominates world politics, spends most of its time on shared projects – from democracy at work to the finer points of permaculture – or in the outer reaches of creative speculation.