As I write this November of 2011 as our pie-in-the-sky economy crumbles, the tallest building yet constructed on our planet by human beings is the Burj Khalifa. It is a stunning achievement of human engineering, beauty, perseverance, collective international teamwork, and magnificent awesomeness. This skyscraper tower also reflects the ultimate distraction of egoic pride, shortsighted and archaic nationalism, and cooperative stupidity and waste. The crowning achievement of building such a giant is the perfect example of Finance Capitalism at its finest worse.
Finance Capitalism is known by less savory names including crony capitalism, predatory capitalism, and corporatism. The latter term as it has come to dominate politics and governments as well as marketplaces at all levels from global to local. Another name for corporatism, more wicked perhaps, yet just as accurate is fascism. Postmodern Finance Capitalism drives and in turn thrives upon the twin psycho-sociological forces of consumerism and materialism.
We have been so conditioned to massive debt at all levels to finally accept certain types of debt as “good debt” to be leveraged into illusory “sophisticated financial instruments” and then overleveraged into collapse. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” announced a fictitious master of arbitrage from the 1987 movie Wall Street.
Burj Khalifa currently holds multiple records. It rises more than 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) and over 160 stories tall. I’m going to pause and complain a little bit here: why, I wonder, didn’t “they” just going on and make it 830 or 850 meters, or 2,775 or 2,800 feet. This supertower is not only the tallest building, as in an enclosed, inhabitable tower, but is also the tallest structure and the tallest freestanding structure.
This object soars above the hot sands of the Arabian Desert close to the Persian, or Arabian Gulf in the city of Dubai, one of a collection of city-states forming the United Arab Emirates. The original financing collapsed as Dubai ran out of money and was forced to borrow additional funds. Apparently Sheikh Khalifa of the neighboring city state of Abu Dhabi bailed them out and thus the tower, initially named Burj Dubai, was renamed after him. The “owners” of the tower, Emaar Properties PJSC, also insisted the exact height of the tower remain a secret to generate “mystique.” It’s a company also intertwined in multiple businesses with ownership of large banks and other financial houses and with significant involvement in with a degree of control over municipal services and government politics. Plus members of the local monarchies, many of them with political power, are heavily invested.
The tower does represent an attempt to generate more urban density and less urban sprawl. Better to build high up and deep down than to spread the blight of urbanization all across the globe. Science fiction authors from time to time imagine entire planets paved over and built up into one giant supercity. Concentrating urban populations will better serve the whole planet.
So the height of the tower isn’t the issue – it’s the waste of resources building and maintaining a massive structure that is environmentally unstable and destructive. It is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible. Burj Khalifa is a highly inefficient consumer of finite resources including energy and fresh water. Out in a hot, arid, sandy desert near salty bodies of water was constructed a tower of glass and concrete that gobbles up precious finite resources in inefficient and unsustainable ways.
The tower consumes incredible amounts of energy to simply cool. The glass and steel exterior alone would “cover 17 football fields” if unfurled and laid out flat. It becomes hot as an oven, hotter, as all that glass and metal absorbs and amplifies radiation. The air conditioning systems used to cool the supertower sweats out enough condensation to fill at least “20 Olympic swimming pools” every twelve months. That’s a lot of dirty water! Packed with concentrated bacteria, other pathogens, and whatever chemicals those fluids come into contact with.
The tower is ultimately unsustainable. The UAE is also struggling with managing the waste generated by the humans using that tower as well as rapidly increasing numbers of foreign workers, businesspeople, and tourists flocking into the otherwise sparse country. While the UAE prides itself on its recycling program, it has a long ways to go. The effectiveness of the UAE gets swallowed up in a land-and-sea scape where our environment does not recognize nor even care for national boundaries and other imaginary borders.
Our entire planet and the biosphere it contains may be dominated by the human species as no other organism that we know of, yet the artificial borders we divide ourselves with and even war over amongst ourselves. A transparent, Democratic World Government is long overdue to address an increasingly integrated planetary civilization facing a convergence of serious global problems yet divided between less than squabbling, co-dependent 200 nation-states with tens of thousands of stateless-nations being exploited by a growing world empire dominated by an interlocking web of central banks, big banks, transnational corporations, tax regimes, national security regimes, and an internationalized military-industrial-intelligence/surveillance complex.
The mechanism driving this starship is Finance Capitalism, and it’s crashing. The only place it’s going to crash, however, is upon itself.
Humans as a species must learn to overcome their own myopia and learn to cooperate together to build a truly planetary civilization with a dynamic, integral capitalism in which people understand our economy must be rooted back into our environment and use real currency with standardized, set and determined fixed measure of value. As capitalism evolves and learns from the mistakes of classical capitalism, feudalism, communism, corporatism, and finance capitalism, it must encourage entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, individual initiatives as well as social responsibility, and be environmentally sustainable with efficient use of energy resources. Wise stewardship is preferable over greedy exploitation and it must be learned and taught.
The money power must be wrested away from the banksters and the Global Financial Elite and their Allies and brought under public control with full transparency and accountability. We must find a way to establish and insure public control of the money power similar to civilian control of the military power. Without this there can be no true democracy, no true republic, nor any true liberty. It would be all a façade, a quasi-dictatorship without the “d for dictator-word” all dressed up pretty as the other “d” word, “democracy.” Elections for limited terms will continue as the real Puppet Masters wheel and deal behind the curtains.
Our world economy is like that tower, beautiful and bleak. Burj Khalifa exemplifies the grandeur, the corruption, the emptiness, the waste, the hollowness, and the greed. We now see the results of this in the on-going destruction of our ecosystem from what this shortsighted exploitation and disregard for consequences spawned. The latest explosion of rage against this Empire of Money is the Occupy Wall Street uprising. Before September and October of 2011 we had the Tea Party ruckus, the Arab Spring, and the anti-austerity riots and revolts in Europe culminating in a bloody uprising throughout England. In the U.S.A. the people said enough in the State of Wisconsin and occupied the people’s buildings in the State Capitol. Then Wall Street erupted and the Occupy movement has spread worldwide including in places as remote as the Alaskan tundra and the icy expanse of Antarctica.
Revolution is in the air. Will the cold Winter weather kill it? The 1% continues to expand their wealth and play the rest of us against each other. We continue to go to work or run our businesses, at least those of us fortunate or savvy enough to still have jobs or own a company. But what is the point anymore? What is the point of continuing the inertia of going along with the whole legalized global pyramid scheme? Well, we still need to put food on the table and take care of what we must care for. We can still rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, too. Despite our clamor for change most of us dislike change. It’s hard work. Transformation is even harder. Revolution is uncertain and makes a bloody mess. And maintaining the current system will push us all into global Collapse even faster. Most of us seem stuck in going along with what amounts to a planet-size “Titanic” grinding into a giant iceberg.
Don’t stop working, however, and learn to work together to reoccupy our own economy. Take our money, politics, and markets back from domination by the Global Financial Elite and their Allies. Meanwhile, this past August Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, announced plans to build the Kingdom Tower in Jedda to dwarf Burj Khalifa. This super-skyscraper will rise over 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) over the desert by the Red Sea. Its cost, including the massive development at its base, is estimated to be about $20 billion. Compare those figures to the new World Trade Center replacement in New York City (1,776 feet tall and $3.1 billion). And guess what? Yes, another unsustainable glass tower to show off the pride of a kingdom running of oil. This is not just a Middle East thing; many countries have their own versions of destructive, self-perpetuating habits converging as we read this into a sort of slow-motion suicide.
What are you doing or what steps will you take to break free of this madness, this way of thinking? Or will you choose to live and work in a house of glass built upon a foundation of cards?
Bass, William. “Restructuring the Human Economy,” At the Brink with William Dudley Bass, 2008. <http://atthebrinkwithwilliamdudleybass.blogspot.com/2008/12/restructuring-human-economy.html>.
“Burj Khalifa: The Tower: Fact & Figures,” 2011. <http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/language/en-us/the-tower/fact-figures.aspx>.
“Category: Waste News” (re GCC & UAC), Waste and Recycling Middle East. 2011. <http://www.waste-recyclingme.ae/article-details.php?ArticleID=328>.
Ochai, Pita. “Burj Khalifa, The Tallest,” Newswatch: A Way of Life. <http://www.newswatchngr.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1700&Itemid=41>.
Said, Summer. “Saudis Plan World’s Tallest Tower,” The Wall Street Journal. 2011. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903341404576483540742054836.html>.
William Dudley Bass
November 6, 2011
Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.