Bloggers may take a month off now and then, but the world has a less flexible work schedule, and keeps on churning out days and weeks at the same unremitting pace. The last month was no exception to that rule, and it so happens that the days and weeks in question were unusually well supplied with raw material for this blog’s project.
It was enticing to watch, for example, as Britain and the United States plunged into neck-and-neck competition over who could manage the most impressive state of total political gridlock. It’s worth noting, too, that what brought both governments to a standstill were disputes about national borders. That’s not at all surprising—the great struggles of the era ahead of us will pit populists who identify with their nations against elites that identify only with their class—but it’s a sign of the shape of things to come that the same conflict is building up so clearly at the same time on both sides of the Atlantic.
Then there’s the petulant tantrum among Democrats triggered by Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz’s announcement that he’s running for US president in 2020 on an independent ticket. I confess that until his announcement, I’d underestimated Schultz; among Seattle’s swaggering nouveaux-riches magnates, he’d always struck me as the dull one. Yet Schultz seems to be nearly the only figure in US public life who got the core lesson of the 2016 election, which is that a very large number of American voters will cast their ballots for anyone, absolutely anyone, who opposes the senile bipartisan oligarchy still clinging to power in Washington DC.
There are thus good reasons for the Democratic meltdown. As the conservative party in US politics these days—the party, that is, that supports the preservation of business as usual, which is after all what the word “conservative” used to mean—all they’re willing to offer the voters is yet another helping of the same failed policies that made Donald Trump inevitable. Their sole shot at victory in the 2020 election, as a result, is to present whatever hack politician their nomination process coughs up as the only alternative to four more years of MAGA, and hope that the voters will hold their noses and cast their ballots for the donkey they know.
That, in turn, is what Schultz threatens to take from them. So far, he seems to be positioning himself squarely in the abandoned center of US politics. If he can stay there, presenting himself as the sane alternative to the extremists on both sides of the aisle, his chances are by no means negligible. The best evidence for that, of course, is the way that the mainstream US media is so loudly insisting on the opposite. That the mainstream media said exactly the same thing about Trump in 2015 and 2016 is indicative. Now as then, it’s precisely because the US political class is scared pea-green that an outsider might win that their shills in the mass media are proclaiming to the skies in four-part harmony that he doesn’t have a chance.
There are plenty of news stories along the same lines, to be sure, but what struck me as the most significant omen of oncoming change is something that got much less attention: the first media stories I’ve seen criticizing billionaire environmentalists for lifestyles that make a mockery of the ecological values they claim to hold.
Late last year, for example, the mass media trumpeted yet another study proclaiming yet another low-meat diet that would supposedly save the planet. The study was funded by a Norwegian vegan billionaire named Gunhild Stordalen. For a change, reporters actually looked into the story, and turned up the fact that Stordalen’s commitment to the environment apparently begins and ends on her dining table. Diet aside, she’s got the same colossal carbon footprint as other members of her class; her idea of a modest wedding celebration, for example, included flying a private jet full of friends from Oslo to Marrakesh and back. (Math isn’t my strong suit, so one of my readers obligingly crunched the numbers, and showed that this little jaunt of Stordalen’s—one of many each year in her globehopping lifestyle, by the way—had a carbon footprint equal to no fewer than 10,491 of the bacon cheeseburgers she insists nobody ought to eat.)
The sort of straining at cheeseburgers and swallowing private jets is almost universal on the allegedly progressive end of modern plutocracy. It came as no surprise that the Guardian, which these days is basically the house journal of the privileged faux-environmentalist set, responded indirectly to criticism of Stordalen’s lifestyle with an article asking, “Well, what should environmentalists eat?”—as though that’s the only question that matters, and every other aspect of the extravagantly energy-squandering lifestyle of today’s rich ought to be tacitly exempted from any hint of criticism. Of course that’s exactly the point of the exercise, and that’s what got me thinking about Friar Tetzel.
Friar Tetzel? He’s a fine example of a historical phenomenon far from rare in the records, one of those utterly ordinary, undistinguished, inoffensive figures in whom the supreme absurdities of an era finally become impossible to ignore. Johann Tetzel, OP, was a seller of indulgences in early 16th-century Germany: his business, that is, was to collect donations for the Roman Catholic church, in exchange for which dead family members or friends of the donors were promised time off from Purgatory. “For every coin that in my little box rings, another soul from Purgatory springs:” that, freely translated from the German, was his sales pitch, and he had no shortage of customers as he roamed through Germany, scooping up cash and pardoning mortal sins right and left.
The only difficulty with his business model is that for a great many devout Germans, Tetzel’s jovial way of monetizing the church’s promise of salvation was the final straw; Jesus had driven the moneychangers from the Temple, sour jokes suggested, and the moneychangers had finally gotten around to returning the favor. Friar Tetzel was in no way solely responsible for the storm of the Protestant Reformation that broke over Germany in the mid-16th century and spread from there—plenty of forces drove the crisis that shattered Western Christendom—but his antics played a noticeable role in stripping the Roman Catholic church of what remained of its ancient dignity and exposing certain of its bad habits in a way many people could never again ignore.
Diets are our modern equivalent of Friar Tetzel’s indulgences, the token gesture that takes the place of an authentic engagement with the realities of our lives and the chasms that gape between the things we claim to believe and the habits we unthinkingly follow. In today’s society, you can put tens of thousands of miles of jet travel each year on your frequent flyer account, run casual errands in a SUV that gets fewer miles per gallon than the average monster truck, dine on the latest fashionably exotic foods flown in from the other side of the planet, and generally have a carbon footprint larger than the entire population of a midsized Mexican town, but so long as you refuse to eat meat and parade that fact in front of your friends, you can claim to be one of the Good People, saving the planet one overpriced serving of wasabi tofu at a time.
There’s nothing especially new about this. Diets have been a principal means of virtue signaling for a very long time. It’s only fair to say that I also know people who eat a vegan diet who don’t go around waving their personal dietary choices at all and sundry as an instrument of moral one-upsmanship, and who wince when they see others do so. One of the few things that’s new is that wealthy faux-environmentalists who engage in this sort of irrelevant virtue signaling are finally being called on it.
The timing’s no surprise, mind you. Back when the Right considered it mandatory to brandish a simulacrum of Christian virtue for political advantage, the hypocrisy scales were just as heavily loaded on their side of the aisle as on the Left’s, and so nobody on either side risked upsetting the applecart by pointing out whose walk had particularly little to do with their talk. It so happens, though, that a fair number of today’s insurgent populists don’t share that tendency to say one thing and do another; they have their share of ethical problems, certainly, but by and large they have a really quite refreshing habit of being up front about their lapses—and the inevitable result is that, to them, the environmental posturing of the privileged is the very model of a target-rich environment.
Yet there’s something else going on that reveals, I think, far more than meets a casual glance, and that’s an intriguing reaction that critics of environmental hypocrisy have fielded.
I had a good example of this a few weeks ago, when I posted something on my Dreamwidth journal about Ms. Stordalen and her 10,491-bacon-cheeseburger flight. (It suddenly occurs to me that a stordalen, equivalent to 4.15 lbs of CO2 — the carbon dioxide footprint of a single a bacon cheeseburger — would make a good measure of carbon footprint more generally. The flight just mentioned thus came in a little under 10.5 kilostordalens (ks); how many megastordalens (Ms) or even terastordalens (Ts) get churned out by the lifestyles of today’s privileged is a question I think few of them would want to answer.)
Ahem. In the post just mentioned, I noted that the fact that so few environmentalists these days actually walk their talk, and accept in their own lives the sharp restrictions on carbon use they insist should be imposed on everybody, explains why their pleas fall on so many deaf ears. “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Gandhi famously said, and of course he’s right: it’s one of the inescapable rules of effective leadership that those who don’t lead by example, don’t actually lead at all.
This is far from the first time I’ve pointed this out, and I’m far from the first person to mention what is, after all, a fairly obvious and straightforward point. One of my readers, though, was having none of this. She insisted with quite some heat that by pointing out the impressive hypocrisy of Stordalen and her ilk, and noting that the hypocrisy in question is a huge problem for climate change activism, I was just making excuses for people who don’t want to take climate change seriously, and she was sick of it.
This is also far from the first time I’ve encountered this sort of response. Still, I’ve been turning over that comment of hers in my mind ever since, and it seems to me that it leads by tolerably straight paths down to one of the deep and unnoticed roots of the great predicament of our age.
Let’s start with some basics. My comments presuppose that the debate over anthropogenic climate change takes place in something approximating a free marketplace of ideas, a setting in which participants are free to make a case for their beliefs to anyone who’s interested, and to convince anyone they can. That’s anything but a new concept, of course; the idea of the free marketplace of ideas is central to the entire logic of democracy, and it’s just as central to the logic of science—at the heart of the social process of fact-finding we call science is the publication of experimental results, so that any educated person can see which hypotheses have proven themselves by surviving the onslaught of data.
It’s not just beliefs that enter into the marketplace of ideas, though. People also participate in it, and they do so in terms of a certain necessary equality. As a participant in the marketplace of ideas, you’re free to try to convince others that your education, your experiences, and your hard work make you better informed about a given subject than most; you’re also free to try to convince others that your character is such that people should give you the benefit of the doubt. You cannot demand that anyone else has to accept these claims of yours. If you make a claim and other people refuse to believe what you’re saying, what’s more, you need to face the possibility that it’s not on them; you may well have failed to make an adequate case for the truth of your beliefs or the integrity of your character.
This, in turn, is what my reader was implicitly rejecting. I said, in effect, “Here are some of the reasons why people question the integrity of climate change activists, and therefore the truth of their claims.” My reader’s response was to dismiss these serious questions about integrity as mere excuses for not doing what she insists people ought to do. Notice the underlying logic here: my reader apparently thinks she has no responsibility to convince anyone else of the rightness of her views, and that others have no right to an opinion that differs from hers.
To be fair, this sort of thinking has appeared in far more extreme forms in our recent political culture. I’m thinking here, among other things, of those supporters of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign who insisted loudly that anyone who opposed Clinton could only have been motivated by sexism, since there could not have been any other possible reason for voting for anyone else. After Trump’s victory, in turn, a great many people on the losing side insisted in similarly absolute language that everyone who voted for Trump was a racist, and only voted for Trump because of their racism—no other reasons could possibly exist.
Neither of these claims are even remotely close to the truth. A few minutes of conversation with supporters of Bernie Sanders, on the one hand, or the great many Americans who held their nose and voted for Trump on the other, would have showed the people who made these claims that they were quite mistaken. What’s more, quite a few writers—I was one of them—who talked at length with people who voted for Trump, and had some sense of the concerns they brought to the polling booth, tried to explain those concerns. One and all, we got shouted down.
I’m far from the only person who commented on the sheer delusional bizarrerie of that reaction. If you want to know why someone did something, it’s normally a good idea to ask them, and at least consider the possibility that they might be telling the truth. Given that the upper midwestern states that went for Trump and gave him the presidency were the same upper midwestern states that went for Barack Obama in 2008 and gave him the presidency, it’s a little surreal to insist that racism, and racism alone, explained those states’ 2016 voting record. Yet that insistence has been repeated in a rising spiral of shrill indignation ever since.
Note the same logic here that was on display in my reader’s outburst. Those who voted against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump, according to the people just mentioned, don’t even have the right to have their own reasons for casting their votes. Their thoughts, their feelings, the complex lattices of human motivation that led them to vote as they did: those have been erased, and replaced by a hateful and simplistic caricature. Imagine for a moment that I were to insist that the only reason anyone voted for Hillary Clinton is that they love war and hate peace. The people who voted for her would doubtless assail my assertion with furious rage—and yet the reasoning is the same in both cases.
Now of course part of what’s going on here is simple propaganda. It’s a lot easier, for example, to shriek abuse at people who voted against your candidate than it is to talk about the systematic destruction of the US working class over the last forty years, say, or the way that free-trade policies and open borders have benefited the middle and upper middle classes at the expense of those further down the ladder. If you want to keep people from talking about issues like the ones I’ve just cited, what’s more, filling the air with shrieks of outrage is one way to go about it.
Part of it, too, has to do with the tangled realities of social class in the US. After all, when Madeline Albright, shilling for the Clinton campaign, insisted that “there’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women,” she certainly didn’t mean to suggest that women in her very privileged class had any obligation to help women in the working classes, or even treat them with a minimum of basic human decency. (Those of my readers who’ve worked retail, as I have, already know that white women from the upper middle and upper classes are more likely to abuse those they consider beneath them than any other demographic in this country.) She meant, rather, that she expected women of the classes below hers to shut up, fall into line, and support Clinton’s ambitions, or else.
There’s more going on here, though, than propaganda or class privilege. Neither of those issues, potent as they are, explains why the habits we’ve been discussing have remained fixed in place even though they’re so consistently self-defeating. If you want to convince people to vote for a presidential candidate, say, the first, utterly inescapable step is to find out why they don’t already want to vote for your candidate. The second, equally necessary step is to figure out what you can tell them that will change their minds. If you start instead by denouncing everyone who doesn’t already support your candidate, using the language of outraged moral superiority, and go on to insist that their objections to your candidate are just excuses and they should just shut up and do what they’re told, you know what? You’re going to lose.
That should be obvious to anyone who can thread three consecutive thoughts about political strategy into a single sequence. That it’s not obvious at all, to those who are doing the shouting, shows that what’s going on here has very deep roots. What does it mean that so many people these days literally can’t conceive of the possibility that others can honestly disagree with them? What does it mean when they respond with furious rage to the suggestion that others might have their own reasons for making decisions, which are not the reasons they choose to assign to them?
What it means is that a great many people in today’s industrial societies have lost track of the fact that others are subjects as well as objects: people, that is, and not just dolls to be posed or thrown aside as the mood strikes them. What’s more, this same weird distortion of consciousness affects not only relationships with other people but also their relationships with nature and with the basic conditions of existence. They roam a wilderness of mirrors, unable to see anything but their own reflections in the endlessly shifting corridors of silvered glass. We’ll talk more about that in two weeks, and in other essays to come.
In other news, I’m delighted to report that the third volume of The Weird of Hali, my epic fantasy with tentacles, is now available for preorder. The Weird of Hali: Chorazin sends Owen Merrill, the protagonist of the first volume of the series, on a harrowing quest to a town in upstate New York where forgotten magics are stirring. At the foot of Elk Hill lies the ruined house of the van der Heyl family, legendary sorcerers of colonial times — and somewhere beneath those ruins lies one of the keys to the tremendous and terrifying prophecy of the Weird of Hali…
The Weird of Hali: Chorazin will be released on February 20th, and can be preordered here. The two previous books in the series can be ordered in paperback or ebook formats here and here.
With your last paragraph reminds me forcefully of Walter Burkert’s discussion of the Delphic Oracle where he argues that “Know Thyself,” meant in essence, “know you are not a god.” Solipsism is a huge aspect of normative middle class philosophy, and so people so easily forget the very modest place that we as individuals hold in the cosmos, and imagine that like a coin-operated chrome-plated machine, the myriad universe is a mere reflection of their individual consciousness and obeys nothing but individual will.
I was just having this very conversation today with a friend, about environmentalist types who pollute so egregiously. I’m so very happy you’re back, and I hope the hiatus was restful and productive in turns, as you needed 🙂
I’ll have to digest this post further, although I think its theme is strongly aligned with one or more of the threads from the residual discussion in comments of the last post.
However, I would like to say that my copy of WoH #3 has already been ordered, as I saw the post on the publisher’s site earlier this morning. (Ok, I just might have been checking that site daily since the beginning of the year in anticipation of that announcement.) Very, very, very excited about this!
As I mentioned in that residual discussion, I’m looking over the leftward field of 2020 candidates that is forming and trying not to get too terribly depressed. Economics, class, borders, trade, sustainability, self-reliance, foreign interventions: these are the issues I’d like to see being discussed. On the other hand, Trump happened, which shows that change is indeed possible. This keeps a glimmer of hope alive for me.
Re the Other as object versus subject
I suspect that your coming posts will touch on this to some degree, but the artificiality of our interactions — online versus in-person (even here!), immersive augmented/virtual reality versus actual reality, ubiquitous gaming, etc. — are accelerating this trend. Our human relationships are increasingly treated as programmable interfaces (and this is even before we bring in a discussion of sex robots). It can truly be said: “This will not end well.”
Is this how industrial society goes down? With a clueless elite frantically pressing buttons, pulling levers, wondering why nothing is responding like it is supposed to?
I also found it interesting to observe the reactions to Howard Schultz announcing his interest in running for president as an independent, first from the cable news talking heads and again from the late night comics. Opinions from the cable news people ranged from negative to weakly positive, with the more right-leaning hosts and guests being the most supportive, while the comics were overwhelmingly negative, essentially saying “we already have one politically inexperienced billionaire in office, why replace him with another?”
As for Schultz occupying the empty center of American politics, I’m not so sure that’s entirely true. On the one hand, the socially liberal and economically conservative quadrant, in which Schultz policy positions reside, already has a party, the Libertarians, which has the best ballot access of any third party, 33 states and the District of Columbia. On the other hand, it is empty, as a small minority of American voters occupy it. That same article shows that the real underrepresented segment of American voters are socially conservative and economically liberal. That’s the real “abandoned center of U.S. politics” and Trump is the candidate who dominated there in 2016.
As for Gunhild Stordalen moralizing about diets, I consider that to be the liberal expression of one of Jonathon Haidt’s moral foundations, purity. Liberals tend to moralize food and eating, beyond its nutritive/material aspects, while the right moralizes sex. Trying to tie it into carbon footprint is really a scientific/materialistic excuse for something not really being done for scientific reasons. Conspicuous consumption of resources other than food or sex don’t seem to trigger that same moral instinct, even though a rational basis for concern about the planet says it should.
By the way, even supposedly objective measures of environmental impact seem to emphasize diet. When I calculated my ecological footprint for Earth Overshoot Day, it penalized me for eating meat every day, much more than for my driving. Speaking of which, that’s what I advertise on my blog, the effects of my driving, not my eating. I think showing that I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint by driving less will be more effective good example than moralizing about my diet.
Speaking of not walking the talk, I can’t help notice that the Green New Deal asks no sacrifice of anyone (well, oil companies but let’s leave that aside) We are just going to build Green infrastructure and bribe people to install solar panels, then just maintain our lifestyles.
Good refresher on the state of current faux environmentalism.
I was thinking along similar lines recently. I am in the middle of reading some climate change books, your old posts on the TAR and Guy McPherson. I know, it’s an eclectic mix.
One of the books I was reading (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/230998/the-whole-story-of-climate-by-e-kirsten-peters/9781616146726/) was depressingly similar to the story you present above (except from the perspective of a middle class scientist).
Basically the author starts by saying we don’t know if climate change is real and ends by suggesting that the best course of action is to stop coal mine fires – a very worthy goal but more importantly a goal that does not require her to change her lifestyle.
As for Guy, he is becoming more honest – he misses the job and the money and he basically accepts that as a boomer, he is spoiled. The subtext is very clear – just another boomer that wants the world to end with him.
Coming back to your old blog, I was surprised how right you were about some unexpected things – like the revival of marxism in US which you predicted sometimes in 2012 I think. That was really impressive.
Finally, one question: do you plan to expand any of your old stories into a book length? I am referring to “Nawida”, “How it could happen” and my favorite “Adam’s story”. I think a book length treatment of a collapsing USA (maybe written as a generational saga) would cover the space between the story collections that you edited and the in depth analyses of some of your other non-fantasy books.
Yeah that was me, and as it happens I’ve been thinking about it too, but I went down a different rabbit hole than you did. Some time back you wrote a post talking about the modern habit of categorizing as addiction what is really preference. I can’t find the piece but the gist was that people smoke because they want to smoke and drink because they want to drink. Setting aside the fact that it’s relatively simple to capture our biological reward system, which can make behavioral change more difficult, I agree with your observation. I emphatically do not agree that my argument implies that it isn’t my responsibility to walk my talk or engage honorably in the marketplace of ideas. I’ve just noticed that being polite and encouraging isn’t working very well. And, for the record, I voted for Jill Stein, entirely understand why my Trump voting friends chose as they did, and stopped making excuses for the Democratic Party a very long time ago.
Until recently I believed, as you do, that the public at large ignores environmentalists because some of them are hypocrites. However, if you look at it the other way, the same public is choosing to ignore environmentalists — of whom there are many — who do walk their talk. So I’m back to your observation that people do what they do because they want to do it. In other words, the hypocrisy of others is an excuse, not a reason. That leaves me asking myself what strategy will better serve my goal of convincing the people in my community to act more responsibly. I’ve been meditating on this since our conversation and here’s what I have so far.
I started by considering traditional techniques that work with people who behave destructively: intervention, shunning and outing. What they have in common is that they attaching a social cost to destructive behavior. When I think about what has made me change my behavior over the years it has been internal pressure, sometimes as a result of someone pointing out a bad habit, others as a result of my own visceral experience. Either way, I want to be able to access and use that pressure, and that involves not being polite. Politeness requires not making people uncomfortable, not confronting them with their bad behavior and respecting decisions that may destructive to others. Since a lot of this behavior is actually unconscious, that’s not a very robust approach. There’s a bit more that’s come up but I’m still cogitating. I’ll let you know what happens.
What is your take on Rep. Ocasio-Cortez?
The right wing is obsessed with her, Progressives love her, the democratic leadership seems to be afraid of her. And I think it is all for the same reason: She expects the democratic party to actually be the “peoples party” not the party of the privileged, and that has everyone freaked out.
Less may become more, at least more of a healthy planet?
This reminds me of the vicious denunciations of Jordan B. Peterson by the left who insist that he must be the leader of some satanic Hitlerian cult simply because he blows holes in their nonsensical solipsistic self-contradictory narrative. That they have no intellectual or academic ground to stand on simply terrifies them and anyone pointing this out is a good target for distracting attention away from this nasty and unsavory truth. I predict that when they run out of targets they will go after each other in turn. Isn’t that always how it goes?
John, if you decide to publish this comment, please remove my last name. Thanks! By the way, after neglecting your blog for the summer and fall to attend to life-related busy-ness I recently got caught up and want you to know that your Kek Wars series was utterly fascinating. I have been lately busy reading some of my brother Mark’s books including his recent Egregore book and together with your reflections on the use of magic I was stunned. It’s always been of great interest to me the extent to which mind-control and propoganda have influenced societies and history, but yours and Mark’s recent writings have afforded me a way to better conceptualise things like this and understand the ways in which they are interwoven with modern media. Additionally I have been reading The Mechanical Bride by McLuhan. Boy, was he right on the mark. I am also in the beginning chapters of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer and can hardly wait to read about the ways in which the Nazi propaganda machine influenced a defeated and roundly humiliated society. My mother gave me the Shirer book 27 years ago as a Christmas gift and it has been on my book shelves all these years waiting for the right time to read it. I am eager to relate it to the things I have read recently regarding magic, occultism and egregores. Thanks again for the intellectual food for thought. Have a prosperous new year. – Nick
Another thought: recently I read Austin Miles _Don’t Call me Brother_ and was astounded by the similarities between the current social justice left and the political, money-making Christianity in the 1980’s. It really does seem that the blatant hypocrisy and fraud he details set the stage for a lot of political Christianity being discredited in the eyes of the American public and I imagine the same is, sadly, afoot with Social Justice. I wonder if we’ll see another Jim Jones or Jim Bakker character emerge from this. I certainly hope not, but it seems like a real possibility.
Also congratulations on the new _Weird of Hali_ publication! I can’t wait to get a copy.
Chorazin drops on my Birthday! You planned this, didn’t you?
Can’t wait to get a copy!
I think that if someone is going to “beat” Trump in 2020, it has to be a tall, white, male, masculine combat veteran. In many ways, it is a distorted sense of what is masculine, that elected Trump. Allegedly, 53% of white women voted for Donald J. Trump – those same white women also support that distorted form of masculinity – obnoxious, belligerent, and violence prone, with a penchant for glorifying the military.
It sounds simplistic, but Schultz isn’t masculine enough to beat Trump, neither is Kamala Harris or the other assorted Dem wannabes. If the economy holds, and the Dems put up another ‘effeminate’ character, the Trump will have another 4 years.
“What it means is that a great many people in today’s industrial societies have lost track of the fact that others are subjects…”
And, in quite a few cases, lost track of the fact that they themselves are subjects, not objects. What motivates the frantic insistence among certain evangelic atheists that consciousness does not exist, if not this process taken to its logical extreme?
As another example: all those people waiting for someone else to solve their problems for them, are, in effect, saying they have no free will, no capacity for independent thought or action; in essence, that they are objects, not subjects.
Welcome back, JMG!
According to the Peoples’ Cube, by 2008, The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Cow Farts had defined a Billion Cow Farts = 1 Kyoto. There’s a nice poster summarizing their findings if you scroll down here:
I’m pretty sure that this is satire, but I’m not _entirely_ sure…The UN does a lot of things, and there could be trouble if they hear about
If the UN gets wind of this, they may publicly air their views, and you wouldn’t want to run afoul of them.
So to be safe, your intrepid team of mathematicians will probably want to work out how many stordalens equal 1 Kyoto, and confirm it with the UN IPCF so we are all on the same page.
To my short list of meditations on reasons for the current mass delusion,
I am adding ‘Making Objects of People’ to ‘Refusal to live within limits.’
Thanks so much for discussing these root concepts! They really do explain a lot.
As I was watching the state of the union address last night I was struck by the democrat’s stone faces when Trump talked of policies that would benefit the working and middle classes. It seemed plainly on display that they do not represent the interests of their constituents.
Regarding this – “What does it mean that so many people these days literally can’t conceive of the possibility that others can honestly disagree with them? What does it mean when they respond with furious rage to the suggestion that others might have their own reasons for making decisions, which are not the reasons they choose to assign to them?”
One of the things I’ve noticed with respect to this is that it often comes with accusations not only of hidden (but conscious) motivations, but also sometimes with accusations that others are actually so screwed up that they don’t even REALIZE just how awful their own (unconscious) motivations are.
What I mean is, this sort of thing doesn’t always even stop at, “You only think that because you’re racist/sexist/whatever, and are just saying it’s for some other innocent-seeming motivation because you don’t want to *admit out loud to other people* that your real reasons are despicable!”, but often goes further to accusations more along the line of, “You may THINK that your opinion is based on those innocent-seeming reasons, but in truth, your opinions are grounded in your deep-seated racism/sexism/whatever, and you just *delude yourself into thinking that* you have innocent motivations!”
The conclusion of course is that the “enemy” is so deeply flawed that they aren’t even aware of the deep moral depravity driving them. I used an example from the left (agree with me or you’re racist/sexist/whatever), but it happens on the other side too, often with a religious overtone (you don’t realize how in the grips of the devil you really are, etc.).
It’s a subtle distinction, but I’ve noticed it when I’ve been engaged in these sorts of arguments. It’s really weird (and kind of scary).
Great post, and I’m looking forward to reading more on this matter.
I haven’t watched any sort of sports 30 years, but in 1979 I was a basketball mad 12yo living in Gig Harbor, Washington and The Sonics were my team. I even looked a little like The Sonics center, Jack Sika. I was over the moon when my team won the championship. We were the World Champions!
Fast forward 40 years and not only do I not care about any pro sports, I think the world would probably be better off without them. But, I still couldn’t vote for the guy that sold my team to Oklahoma City.
Welcome back JMG
The Stordalen. The Roentgen. The Curie. Scales of measurement the render esoteric and invisible hazards real and concrete. Its whats been missing from the conversation. Now we just need badges to wear so we know when to say no.
Well, it would be nice if it were that easy to visualise- like how many insects did you crush with your carbon footprint.
one step at a time
I confess to have the people as machines mindset. Decades of scientific education and trying to be Mr. Spock took their toll.
Lately I am noticing it, I think in part because of my sloppy practice of ritual magic. But I am still unable to stop doing it. Only after damage is done, I notice that I was a jerk.
It’s harder to care when most people sneer at you for attempting to live frugally. The only thing I can do is to keep working to improve, but this is so tiresome. Paraphrasing the Christians, my feet are tired of stepping on thorns.
“I’m far from the only person who commented on the sheer delusional bizarrerie of that reaction. If you want to know why someone did something, it’s normally a good idea to ask them, and at least consider the possibility that they might be telling the truth. Given that the upper midwestern states that went for Trump and gave him the presidency were the same upper midwestern states that went for Barack Obama in 2008 and gave him the presidency, it’s a little surreal to insist that racism, and racism alone, explained those states’ 2016 voting record. Yet that insistence has been repeated in a rising spiral of shrill indignation ever since.”
The extra bizarre thing to me is that we’ve been here before, and recently.
9/11 occurred during my second week of college, and I quickly got involved in the anti-war movement. Yes, we were having protests before Bush II even began bombing Afghanistan. The anti-war or, to give it its proper name, the anti-Bush movement, was my introduction to politics. That is what makes the recent behavior of the Left so especially bizarre to me. After 9/11, George Bush told the nation that we were attacked because we were “the brightest beacon of freedom and opportunity on the planet.” And for years afterwards the refrain from the Right was that people in the Arab world “hate us for our freedoms.” Oh, and if you questioned the necessity of the PATRIOT Act or invading Iraq or anything else George Bush wanted to do, it was probably because you “hate America.” For years, we on the Left would point out that, no, actually, Osama bin Laden had written a fairly lengthy manifesto describing why al Qaeda had attacked us, and “We hate you for your freedom” was nowhere to be found. “In order to defeat terrorism,” we would say, “You have to understand what motivates the terrorists.” And we discussed the stationing of American troops in the Middle East, the reflexive support for Israel, the effects of the sanctions on the people of Iraq, and other aspects of American foreign policy that actually did contribute to actual Arabs hatred of the government of the United States.
Well, that was more than two news cycles ago, so it was probably naive of me to expect anyone to remember that. But still in 2016 I held out some faint hope that someone on the Left might remember how we had to ask ourselves why anyone would support Osama bin Laden and make the obvious leap in logic to asking ourselves why anyone would support Donald Trump. Of course I was wrong– “Because they’re racist” became the new “They hate us for our freedoms.” And “You’re a racist” became the new “You hate America.”
It wouldn’t even bother me as much as it does, except that it seems like nobody even notices it. Why was it important to understand that the 9/11 hijackers had other motivations besides “hating America,” and equally important to know that people in– say– Johnstown, Pennsylvania had no reasons other than racism for voting for Donald Trump, and how is it that the same standards can’t be applied to each of them?
I’ve been wondering for a while why and how people with otherwise sharp minds can suddenly turn off the critical thinking faculties when certain subjects are mentioned. Some of the more extreme examples I’ve observed have include proxy violence via social media and spurious calls to the gendarmerie. (The perpetrators still seem aware when they are physically outmatched.) Is this how the thinking of Delta Green in the RPG world or the Radiance in The Weird of Hali work? Or, stops working… Both real world and RPG-wise, I’m interested in both the origin of group hate and in countermeasures. Please tell us how to lead people out of the wilderness of mirrors.
Welcome back JMG! You are a most prolific author; it seems you release a new novel, mystical text, or anthology every two weeks. As one who aspires to write more, it is a bit intimidating 🙂
You’ve been making this point for a while now: that no amount of yelling at people about how bad they are is going to bring them to your side. While I fully agree with you, it also feels like you have been calling out folks on the left side of the spectrum a bit much. For some reason I think that if a Trump-like candidate had won as a democrat and spent just as much time intentional rubbing salt in the sore spots of the losers, the Republicans would be just as likely to tar the whole opposition as terrorist-apologists or Christ-haters or some such.
The 2020 candidate field is very large and still growing – I just gave my first-ever political donation to Tulsi Gabbard – and I’d be interested to read your take on which of these people, if any, represent a positive direction and/or a movement toward less divisiveness.
Hi JMG, I have been reading through your Cosmic Doctrine posts recently, and was struck by the example you gave early on of how Americans often find themselves drifting out of subcultures and becoming able to view them more holistically without the clouding of emotion — which you analogized to passing outside of a Ring-Pass-Not.
It strikes me that you yourself seem particularly good at this. I think your ability to talk to both Trump and Hillary supporters exemplifies that ability. Perhaps it is the work of an occultist, who is able to create a Ring-Cosmos of his own and support himself by his own star, that makes it easier to analyze such odd statements as Stordalen’s or Albright’s with an amused eye disinterested in the promises about the future being made by one tribe or the other.
Certainly, in the past few weeks, as I have started your Cosmic Doctrine meditations, I have also been discovering long-standing tribal affiliations in my own worldview. As I drift out of one subculture and take the claims of others more seriously, I begin to get a better sense of where I stand.
If your blog is an encouragement to readers to leave the Ring-Pass-Nots of their own personal comfort zones, I guess you should mark it a success!
I think if there’s one thing the Maga Kids debacle proved it’s that the hall of mirrors is cracking. The sloppy Democratic Party attacks against Tulsi Gabbard are another great example as well. Elitist leftists are spending so much energy trashing kids and veterans that they don’t notice everyone else in the room is slowly backing away from them.
You have no idea how much I’ve missed your blog. *I* had no idea how much I’ve missed your blog.
Among other things, many people are abusing the Ad Hominem Fallacy; i.e., the attitude that since what I say is true, my own character is irrelevant. For example: If I give you convincing evidence that smoking is harmful, but never the less continue to smoke, that is no reason for you to do so. My foolishness doesn’t excuse yours.
But what this reasoning ignores is that deciding the truth of an assertion independently of the asserter is often a luxury. (no longer the case with smoking.) There’s only so much time and energy we can devote to gaining independent expertise on the issues of importance to us. Moreover, experience teaches us that, when we need to rely on other’s judgement, the character of the judger is a good (if not perfect) proxy for the quality of their information. The ADF claims less than meets the eye: merely that you can’t claim with 100% certainty that bad character implies bad info. But for many of us, 90% certainty is more than adequate for decision making, and character is relevant for assessing any probability less than 100%.
But in the case of global warming, there’s another issue. What if we’re being asked to cut back on our lifestyle, merely to allow a privileged few to prolong theirs? It way be the case that a few million fortunate people can avoid sacrifice is a few billion people descend into hardship, with cameras and guns pointed at them if they’re tempted to resist.
But I suspect most people would rather the boat sink wilt all on board rather than be played for fools.
Welcome back JMG!
As someone who has lowered his fossil fuel use to 25 – 30% of what it was a decade ago, and as someone who raises his own meat In a Permaculture system I want to thank you for your post today. Using intensive rotational grazing correctly, one actually captures and stores carbon in the soil. We also use our livestock to do forest restoration work. The proper use of livestock is one of the simple tools available to combat the effects of your Norwegian Billionaire’s lifestyle. There is no more room on this crowded little planet for this lady’s hypocrisy.
I urge any of your readers who disdain the value of animals in sequestering carbon to view Alan Savory’s TED talk or read some of the work of Joel Sallatin.
At some time could you give us your thoughts on an environmental situation that has potential to be very disruptive? The magnetic poles are moving with increasing rapidity. The magnetic field around the earth is weakening at an accelerating rate while the sun is going through a phase that has scientists talking about cyclical dimming and solar minimums. This isn’t woo-woo. The numbers are there. I believe these phenomena will only add to climate disruption and cannot “cancel out” human caused climate change- but I would be fascinated to read your thoughts.
Please keep up the excellent work.
It occurs to me there may be those who genuinely would like to do something worthwhile for the environment but have let the perfect become the enemy of the good. It’s impossible to be a part of this moment in time in this physical world and not also be a part of the damage we are doing, and if your ideal of doing something worthwhile implies changing the world on your own then everything you could actually do will seem inadequate.
It seems likely those who feel this way would easily become defenders for the likes of Gunhild Stordalen, feeling that she was being attacked for being inadequate like them. It would be of practical benefit to try to break though that all-or-nothing mindset so common today and show people that small steps are OK, and that one need not save the world to make a difference.
Then they could also see the difference between themselves and the elites manipulating them.
Violet, good. Burkert, and the Greek philosophical tradition in which, like most old-fashioned classicists, he was so well versed, are good guides in time like these, when we’re about to be reminded yet again that hubris is simply the past tense of nemesis…
Michelle, I’m delighted to hear that you were having that conversation! Until environmentalists remember that leading starts with leading by example, we’re not going to begin getting out of the ecological hole we’ve dug for ourselves.
David, the Democrats are digging in to defend the status quo, and so of course none of the things that need to be talked about are going to be talked about. Have you considered sending Howard Schultz a well-reasoned letter asking him to consider discussing some of those things? He might be interested. As for the doom of industrial society coming as people frantically push buttons and get no response — well, that’s exactly what happened to Hillary Clinton, wasn’t it?
Vince, the Libertarians like to think they occupy the center, but they’re at least as far out on the fringes as the Democrats; a platform that amounts in practice to “let giant corporations do whatever they want” has very limited appeal these days. We’ll see about Schultz, of course. As for the whole fixation on food, that’s something Spengler talked about, and we’ll be getting to that in due time.
Christopher, yep. The “Green New Deal” is pure handwaving, of a kind we’ve seen in the alternative-energy scene far too often already.
NomadicBeer, thank you. I’m glad to hear that McPherson is getting a clue; now if he can simply accept that the universe never noticed him in the first place and won’t notice when he’s gone, he’ll have a much easier time of it! As for the stories, that’s an interesting question; just at the moment my fictional imagination is focused on finishing up The Weird of Hali, which has some echoes of that but is mostly about other themes; we’ll see what happens when that’s done and the shoggoths slither off to some other venue.
AuntLili, that is to say, you’re going to double down on exactly the behaviors that have left environmentalism dead in the water: refusing to lead by example, insisting that the hypocrisy of environmentalists can’t be brought up for discussion, and shrieking insults at people who disagree with you under the conviction that they’re deliberately evil. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s exactly what the environmental movement has been doing for the last forty years of continuous failure. Care to guess what happened back before environmentalists started doing that sort of self-defeating posturing? Why, they got the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a great deal more — all by doing exactly the opposite of what you plan on doing. The impressive pigheadedness with which today’s environmental movement refuses to learn any of the lessons of ongoing failure is one of the most fascinating things about our current situation, and will come in for extensive discussion as we proceed.
Jim, that strikes me as a good analysis. Ocasio-Cortez is what Europeans call a social democrat, thus far to the left of the current range of acceptable politics. I disagree with most of her stances but I’m glad to see her and her ilk getting into politics, because a good dose of political radicalism is one of the few things that reliably gets America’s kleptocratic rich to rein in their excesses enough to let the economy balance itself .
Dirk, funny. It amazes me how rigidly people insist on imposing linear models on cyclic phenomena. The global population is indeed close to peaking; once it peaks, it will decline, and drop a good long ways — and then, following the normal track of population cycles in every species, ours included, it’ll stabilize in a cascade of ever smaller curves until the next big perturbation hits. A little basic knowledge of population ecology would spare a lot of people a lot of embarrassment!
Nick, glad to hear from you. Yes, they’ll go after each other — in fact, they’re already doing so. (Cue the current media feeding frenzy in Virginia.) The circular firing squad is always the last stage of a moral crusade. As for Shirer, he’s a very good place to start.
Violet, delighted to hear it. That’s a book that deserves much more attention than it got — a look at the seamy underside of mass market fundamentalism. Does it echo a lot of what’s going on now in mass market social justice? You bet.
Dudley, happy birthday, and may Yog-Sothoth send you many eldritch returns. 😉
Chris, I think Trump has a very good chance of winning reelection, not least because the Dems seem to be gearing up for a fine fratricidal nomination campaign. I remember the 1972 presidential race, and this is starting to set off a definite sense of deja vu — we’ll see if, as happened then, the Dems end up fielding a candidate who’s already been fatally weakened by the primary campaign, and who then gets flattened by a well-prepared incumbent in the general campaign. But we’ll see.
Will, excellent. Yes, and we’ll be discussing that as well, It might be worth putting a post into discussing the embarrassing logical blunders at the heart of all those arguments against the existence of free will…
Emmanuel, funny. Somewhat odoriferous, but funny! No doubt I’ll have to ask my burger-munching math brigade to sink their teeth into it.
Misty, that’s sinking in on a lot of levels. Here in solidly blue Rhode Island, when I visited the public library earlier today, two of the brand new books on display were a pro-Trump piece titled The Working Class President , and a fine muckraking volume entitled The Russia Hoax: Inside the Conspiracy to Clear Clinton and Frame Trump, If books like that are hitting the shelves here, the Democrats are in more trouble than they can possibly imagine.
El, exactly. Everything must be forced — as AuntLili earlier was trying to force opposition to her environmentalist beliefs — into a rigid moral Puritanism in which the other guy is either deliberately evil, or so evil he doesn’t even know how evilly evil he is.
Michael, fair enough. When I last lived in Seattle, my favorite bumper sticker said “Go Mariners! (And Take The Seahawks With You.)” So Schultz’ sale of the Sonics is kind of a plus as far as I’m concerned!
Misterodwin, I’ll get someone working on that right away! 😉
Packshaud, it’s a long hard road to walk. I wish it were otherwise, but there it is.
Steve, wouldn’t be the first time the Democrats denounced the GOP, and then turned around and copied GOP policies to the letter…
Rusty, the one reliable rule I know of is that people’s brains shut down when they encounter a subject that touches on strong emotions they don’t want to admit they have. It’s purely a matter of figuring out what the unmentionable emotions are, and bringing them into the open. I have my suspicions, but we’ll see.
The Stordalen. Reminds me of the term “the Yergin.” Back when oil hit the (at the time) unprecedented price of $38 a barrel, one Daniel Yergin of the IEA claimed that the price of oil would never rise higher. When oil kept on rising and approached the $76 mark, some wag at the old Oil Drum site proposed using “38” at the base of a new unit of measurement, the Yergin. Oil at $76 would therefore cost 2 Yergins.
Likewise, a ready-reference chart could be created so people anticipating taking a flight could quickly determine the size of their carbon footprint for the flight. 10,491 Stordalens for a flight from Oslo to Marrakesh. 850 Stordalens ? for a flight from San Francisco to LA, etc. Somehow force the airlines to disclose, along with the price of a ticket, its cost in Stordalens so that people flying would see their carbon footprint up front.
Being married into a hispanic family I know their politics , they were democrats right up to the point that the new abortion laws were passed , the democrats have stepped beyond the pale they have lost my inlaws it literally turns their stomach to think about it , their Catholicism outweighs their loyalty to the democrats .
I have to say that my interpretation of Howard Schultz’s threatened presidential run is very different. I think he is acting as a spoiler in response to certain high profile democrats (notably Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez) proposing a 70% income tax rate.
i.e. I think that he is in the race until any Democrat running for President who might support such a tax rate (i.e. Bernie) is eliminated, and/or the winner of the nomination definitively rules it out . Once this threat has been removed, my guess is that Schultz will withdraw his candidacy.
Mark, duly noted! The reason I’ve been talking so much about the Left is simply that the rightward end of the “senile bipartisan oligarchy” I discussed in the post is in extreme disarray, having lost control of the GOP to the MAGA insurgency; there’s a lot of new thinking and a lot of rising political talent coming into the GOP in Trump’s wake, and good things may come of that. For what it’s worth, I’ve also been watching the cracking of the Democratic end of the oligarchy with pleasure; Tulsi Gabbard and Tammy Duckworth are two rising stars in the Democratic party who I think could go very far, with good results — and you’ll notice that I haven’t been potshotting them, or any of the other Dem insurgents.
Avery, I’ll have a new Cos.Doc post next week, and we’ll be moving ahead into what I hope is very interesting territory there.
Aloysius, got it in one. The pillars of the temple really are cracking at this point.
Jason, thank you!
Greg, got it in one. This is why the study of rhetoric is at least as important as the study of logic; rhetoricians figured out a long time ago (as in, when togas were standard evening wear) that the character and integrity of a speaker is as important in making a case as the strict logic of the case itself.
Marc, that’s one of the reasons I enjoy bacon cheeseburgers! As for the Earth’s magnetic field, that’s a subject I’ve been following for a while, but I need to do some serious research into it before making any kind of substantial comment.
Twilight, that’s an excellent point. It may be time to revisit that issue.
Antoinetta, I remember that! Brings back memories…
Daz, that doesn’t surprise me. The Democrats seem to have lost track of the fact that following an ideology out to its (il)logical extreme is not a way to win elections.
Phil, interesting. That’s also a possibility.
Glad you are back, excellent essay as always. It’s interesting that you didn’t mention the yellow vest movement in France, or is that just another passing fad like the occupy thing was in 2011?
I read a simply wonderful book on the topic of people seeking enlightenment, written by David Carse, who claims that he achieved enlightenment and it’s not what most people think it is. His book is free online, and at 49 chapters David does an excellent job at proving that the whole crop of online teachers, guru’s, seekers, and followers are all barking up the wrong tree. It’s a big book that offers an enjoyable read on cold winter days and nights ahead if you are interested:
How many yergins worth of oil does it take to generate one stordalen? 😉
@David by the Lake: when you asked “Is this how industrial society goes down? With a clueless elite frantically pressing buttons, pulling levers, wondering why nothing is responding like it is supposed to?” I immediately flashed on am s/f classic 110 years old! E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops.” (For which I would dearly love to get a standalone print copy for my library.) Talk about clairvoyant!
On the topic of rhetoric, I can think of a very, very good reason to take other’s character into account: given that flawed assumptions produce flawed outcomes, I wouldn’t want to trust anyone who’s character suggests they tend to make things up, or be misinformed, or naive, or any of the other factors that would lead to them presenting garbage assumptions.
There’s just not enough time to verify every assumption everyone makes about everything, so I listen to those who are trustworthy, and ignore those who are not. These days, this means I don’t listen to very many people, but this is what happens when you look for reasons to cling to something unsustainable: you twist yourself into knots that from a distance proves quite amusing.
I’m sitting at the Thirsty Mind Coffee shop in South Hadley Ma right now. Of all the articles you’ve written Mr. Greer, this one hits home to me. It’s a cliche to say I want to cry after reading it, but I can’t hold back the visceral emotion that immolates me every day. When you said the upper middle class sees the rest of the world as dolls, your so right.
Mr. Greer you stole an echo of the words right out of my heart, perhaps another verse of the same song. I once told my now X-girlfriend, “I want to know you as you are and not the phantasms I imagine you to be.” The first time I told her I loved her, and she said she loved me back, I also told her, “We are not dolls to be played with we are real people with real hearts.” I really did love her.
She went to Hampshire College and her mother paid the 65K tuition per year for her. (Hampshire College isn’t accepting a freshman class this year because of a budget fiasco.) Here on this blog last year, during the bitcoin fiasco, I mentioned my own families stoke market dealings. Her mother knew my mother was a McDonalds Executive who worked in the old Hartford Office – She dumped me about the time she found out my mother’s 250K of McDonalds stock (in 1990 dollars) was gone. My family has been stunted in our financial development since. My parents have two houses, but no way to get more. What’s hurt us the most since 1990 is my Dad’s refusal to “think like the little people.” The reason my relationship with my X got off the ground, and lasted as long as it did, was because I spoke the language of the elites.
You once said to me Mr. Greer people who constantly talk about the stoke market are snobs. I was having dinner with her family, and that was all the talk. I tried bring the conversation around to writing and asked, “what life is there in the stoke market?” That’s something you can’t tell the elites – There is a huge &#*#&&#ing disconnect there. No matter how much we had in common, we both wrote a book and edited each other’s work, liked the tiny house movement, no one will ever be good enough for her because she sees everyone as dolls. Watching her sell a Cherub on a stone bench was when I first realized something was deeply wrong in her heart. She lied to me, thinking she was telling the truth. That was the scariest thing about her in retrospect. She even said in her definition of love, that “people come into our lives for a purpose that when they can’t help us grow anymore they should leave.” That sounds like a definition of usury. Where is contentment and joy in that?
My take away from our relationship is that the upperclass is in so much denial, that when **#&#@ (excrement) starts coming down on their gravy train, they will start lashing out at the populace at large. Thereafter anything resembling classic European civilization will be a target.
Since the topic of climate change has come up: has anyone else considered that perhaps global warming has gone into overdrive because global industrial society is failing? I remember having read about global dimming, and it seems plausible it could’ve “hidden” some warming. I can’t help but note that global warming seems to have gone into overdrive at about the same time that conventional oil production seems to have peaked….
“my reader apparently thinks she has no responsibility to convince anyone else of the rightness of her views, and that others have no right to an opinion that differs from hers.”
I think you’re misinterpreting what’s going on a little. More likely, she just believes that “ideas should be viewed on their own merits”. This is a concept which was once quite uncommon, and has been slowly becoming more and more popular over thousands of years.
First, with the invention of writing (with words, for the first time, becoming separated from their speakers). Early mankind had a lot of trouble with this, which is why the earliest writings took pains to state who the words belonged to (“Hammurabi’s Code”, “Plato’s Dialogues” etc.).
The printing press and widespread literacy, in turn, caused more and more people to read words by either anonymous authors or those they didn’t personally know.
The scientific revolution came along and gave us the peer-review method, which built up a whole system of truth based on the ideal of judging ideas/words on their own merits, rather than the merits of the author who wrote them.
Double-blind studies, anonymous voting — all manifestations of the same ideal.
Then came the internet. 4chan one of the more extreme examples. Anonymity the predominant mode. “Identity” limited to a unique ID only in a particular discussion (and even then, easily spoofed), changing to something completely different in each new discussion (well, there are tripcodes too, for unique IDs across discussions, but those are little-used with some notable exceptions like ‘Q’). Much information & memes created anonymously and accepted or discarded on their own merits by the crowd. Even with all that, I’m noticing that users there have become hyper-sensitive to spotting inauthenticity, and will often ask for various proofs of real identity and expertise if a particular commenter makes any claim based on their own knowledge.
TLDR: A lot of people today have forgotten the principle of “before they care how much you know, they must know how much you care” (I first heard that from Scott Adams, I think, while he was describing Trump’s persuasion techniques). Or they know about this, but don’t like it at all.
But then… if “truth” is really to be something that’s separate from human beings, and “truth” is a higher ideal than human beings (as some believe), then of what use are human beings?
Therein lies one of the central paradoxes of our age. The most advanced fields of science are having trouble with the question of “the observer”, from quantum physics to the replicability crisis. There are even ideas being floated now that the “truth” is fundamentally rooted in consciousness (Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance”, which to me sounds like it overlaps with some of the things you believe, JMG, even if stated in different terms) even though such ideas are still being mightily resisted by mainstream science right now.
In the vein of many people’s divide-by-zero error when confronted with today’s political terrain, I’d say that I would likely vote for Gabbard or Sanders over Trump, but would just as likely vote for Trump over Biden or Harris or Booker (or any of the interchangeable establishment nominees). That is the sort of ranking that some simply can’t fathom.
Glad to have your weekly post back JMG! Honestly, I can’t thank you enough for these insights you’ve been sharing for the past decade. They’ve helped make sense of a lot of things happening in society and make it easier to deal with.
Politics are always a big thing to talk about in society today with all the so called “populist” risings. It’s been interesting to note the backlash to these risings, as you predicted, first with Ocasio-Cortez. Today I ran across a Politico article which sheds some light on this group, who have been named Justice Democrats. Looking at the Tea Party and how long after that movement rose, it seems likely the Democrats will be waiting awhile to more fully change their face but the beginning of change is more easily noticeable now.
Thanks, JMG and commenters. Agreed that the obsession with dietary purity echoes the right-wing and earlier Victorian obsession with sexual purity. (Pointed out nicely by vincelamb). One obsession ends up in a dark yet fragrant steak joint, the other down the street in the seedy bar. And yes, not all vegans are this way–it’s the insistent, virtue-signaling ones we have to watch out for. For this reason and others I nominate the word “vegangelist” as 2019 word of the year.
Welcome back JMG. Hope your break was refreshing and productive. I missed these blogs and the blogger.
Since the discussion seems to be about the failure of the environmental movement to win hearts and minds, I would like to recommend a new book by Charles Eisenstien, Climate – A New Story. In this book he points out how both sides of the climate debate are at fault and use the same poor tactics to put their failing arguments across. He also points out that focusing on this one problem sucks attention away from other environmental problems that are a contributing to climate problems and will probably create worse conditions for humans then climate change. Eisenstein is pointing to a third way between the polarities of the climate issue. His ideas seem to chime very nicely with ideas put forth on this blog and in the books and writings of our host.
My “Love in the Ruins” submission… https://troyjonesiii.blogspot.com/2019/01/a-ruinmans-villanelle.html
Interesting set of comments. I’ve got a few issues, though.
To start, let’s consider one of Vince Lamb’s comments about what’s her name’s comments about diet. He references Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundation’s purity/disgust axis. There’s something funny about that axis, though. It shows in both Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind and the Hidden Tribes report (table 4.11). People on the more liberal end of the spectrum are not particularly concerned with the purity/disgust foundation. Seriously. They’re much more concerned with the care/harm axis and the fairness/cheating axis than they are concerned with the other three. This gap is most pronounced with the Progressive Activists, but it’s quite noticeable with both the traditional liberals and the passive liberals as well.
Why does this matter to me? I would find it much more convincing if left-liberal positions were described in terms of what is more likely to actually motivate them than in what is less likely to motivate them.
As an example take the 2016 election results. To the liberal end of the spectrum, only the care/harm or fairness/cheating axes matter. Clinton won the popular vote: she ought to be President. That’s the fairness criterion in action. Winning because of an obscure constitutional provision that has never worked the way the framers of the Constitution intended is cheating. End of discussion. Arguments from the Authority/Subversion axis are not given as much weight, and attempts from the Right to make a convincing argument based on that, such as David BTL has done, simply fall on deaf ears. It’s not that people’s minds are made up, it’s that the argument simply does not resonate with the intended audience.
You can only have a reasoned discussion when both sides agree on the significance of the premises. If you want to understand the liberal stance on anything, the questions to ask have to do with care/harm and fairness/cheating. Attempt to bring any of the other moral foundations into it, and you’ll miss the point. If you want to understand the conservative viewpoint, look at the other three axes.
As a side comment, In the last couple of days I saw an article about some neuro-imaging studies on disgust. They showed that people had two very different brain activation patterns when shown disgusting pictures. That was interesting enough, but when they looked at the context is when their jaws hit the floor: one was much more likely to occur with political conservatives, the other with political liberals. And the finding does, in fact, replicate.
Personally, I would love for Howard Schultz to win. He’s a centrist on economic issues and progressive in social issues, but not in an aggressively in-your-face way that would scare away socially moderate voters. Which doesn’t sound that different from Hillary, except he’s also an anti-establishment candidate who realizes that we need a change and can’t keep doubling down on our mistakes. (Some people compared him to the Libertarians, but they tend to be far-right on economic issues, whereas Schultz is very much center-right. And I think that alone makes a huge difference, both in terms of what kind of policies you’d expect from him and how much support you could reasonably expect him to have.)
Unfortunately, I don’t think he has much of a chance. Firstly, because he’s not running as a Republican or Democrat, or even under the banner of one of the more popular third parties (Libertarians, Green, Reform). That gives him an enormous disadvantage right from the start, both because of the mechanics of the Electoral College and because of the ridiculous number of Americans who vote solely based on party affiliation. Second, he doesn’t have much in the way of name recognition, which is a huge factor. And as you noted, he seems rather bland and forgettable. Trump was able to make it as an outsider because he had a bombastic personality and had spent the past three decades building his name as well as his fortune, Schultz has neither of those things. And third, he doesn’t appeal to any particular group, but rather to some people in every group. Some centrists will like him, but not the die-hard establishment Democrats. Some social justice advocates will like him, but not the hardline identitarians (since he’s a straight old White man) or the economic far-leftists (since he’s a billionaire entrepeneur). Some libertarians will like him, but not the staunch minarchists/anarcho-capitalists. And so forth. That kind of broad but shallow appeal may sound like an advantage, but in practice, it would make it very difficult for him to rally support.
That puts me in a difficult position, because as much as I might personally prefer him, I’m absolutely terrified of the idea that Trump might win a second term, and I’m genuinely worried that he might cost the Democrats the election. In terms of the issues that personally matter to me, that affect my life and the lives of people I know, Trump’s legislative decisions and executive orders are a much bigger threat to our freedom and well-being than anything the Democrats could or would do (to say nothing of the prospect of having a socially conservative Supreme Court majority for the next few *decades*).
Then again, I don’t live in a swing state, so I suppose my personal vote doesn’t really matter anyway.
Two seemingly appropriate construction projects have pointed out the resurgence of those who really want things to continue as they have been in their lives so far. First there is the CCS project in Saskatchewan attached to a small coal fired power plant. At the cost of some $250 millions, it was touted as one of the future stars in lowering CO two emissions while continuing to supply our lives as they are. Two problems with this project though, other than the obscene cost: the apparatus seems to want to work at a 40% efficiency level; and what CO two is captured and liquified is shipped to an old legacy oil field to “enhance” the recovery of its ‘riches’.
The other recent project is the building of a very energy efficient car dealership building: only uses 20% of the heating and electricity of their older building. (They had to get the floor to ceiling glass from Germany at extra cost for transportation.) Of course, their business is selling machines with internal combustion engines with the concomitant emissions.
I cannot bring myself to write to the local “newspaper” about such contradictions inherent in these projects. The efforts made to lower emissions has to be applauded, but… The notion that we really need to use less is not really part of the arithmetic yet!
“That leaves me asking myself what strategy will better serve my goal of convincing the people in my community to act more responsibly.”
Lili, I’ve never found shunning or shaming an effective tool to get people to change their minds. People get defensive, then angry and then ignore you. Personally I don’t think you can change people’s minds by being negative.
What I have tried hard at the Green Wizards website is educate people about what we are going to face, years and decades where things will get worse and worse for people, economically, environmentally and just a general living life kind of way, as the Long Descent continues into Collapse. Its easy to talk to people how their own lives and their friends and family’s lives just aren’t getting any better.
At the same time we all on the site are discussing ways we try to make our own lives easier. How alternative tech can provide a way to keep the house warm, when you don’t have the money. How to eat a bit better with gardening, canning and just a general ignoring the Corporate messages on the TV to eat more and more junk foods. And we are quite often talking about how we fail or screw up too. You learn more I believe by making a mistake and learning from it, than always succeeding.
I think the best strategy for change is to let people realize that change doesn’t have to be about sacrifice and going without, but can be about living better and for less. People know that the shiny stuff that is pushed on them by Corporate Advertising is shoddy and cheap, but they don’t know that going without that crap means you are happier.
Come over an join the discussion – GreenWizards.com
We have a new website too, but please ignore the colors, we’re changing them soon.
I freely admit the absolute refusal of Clinton supporters to acknowledge that there could exist any possible reasons, outside of a few rather unsavory ones, for not voting for her left me somewhat baffled. To me it seemed the equivalent of standing In a Summer downpour while arguing vehemently that water simply WAS NOT wet.
I know full well that I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but seeing that level of self-delusion openly displayed by so many people was frankly stunning to me, and if I’m honest a little bit scary.
Aloysius Snuffleupagus: The MAGA kids debacle and the way the “official left” doubled down and went full-on “George Orwell” when it became clear that the story was complicated and nuanced at best, just made me reel with utter disgust. If I weren’t so strongly for marijuana legalization and the Wisconsin Democratic Party hadn’t adopted this into its platform, I would be low-key rooting for Trump right now. (At this point, I will vote for any presidential candidate who supports letting states go their own way with cannabis laws and isn’t horny for confrontation with Russia. Trump has no real moral center, so I don’t really trust him for either one of those.) So if the “official left” and their social-media supporters (mostly Hillary Clinton partisans) more or less alienated the likes of me, I shudder to imagine what the rest of the country thinks of them now.
JMG: If it’s not too off-topic, I would be curious to hear what you thought of the “MAGA-hat teen” kerfuffle, I was going to ask what you thought of this non-/fake news story for your next AMA post anyway.
Daz. I also married into a Hispanic family. My wife was overjoyed when Obama won. She thought he was really going to help out Mexican immigrants. By the time he left she couldn’t stand him. She felt he and by extension the Democrats just used immigrants for their votes with out doing anything else.
@AuntLili, have you considered the possibility that people, rather than ignoring environmentalists who “walk the talk”, may just not be aware of them? I can’t name a single environmentalist who behaves as described apart from JMG, our host. More awareness of this kind of environmentalist is not the whole solution, but it seems to me to be a necessary first step.
One other thing: I urge you to reconsider your chosen course of confrontation. Gandhi also supposedly said, “An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”
Although, leaving aside my tactical concerns about Schultz, I do think his campaign and this article both touch on something I’ve been thinking about for a while: There seems to be a false trichotomy where if you’re a centrist, you have to be pro-establishment, and if you’re anti-establishment, you have to be either a far-rightist or a far-leftist. This is frustrating, because it leaves no room for an anti-establishment center, which is exactly what we need right now (and what a lot of non-partisan Americans probably *want*).
I posted an article about that exact dilemma on my Medium page: https://medium.com/@farrah_jane/three-roads-to-dystopia-814c7cdb5090. I think there’s definitely room to appeal to the “exhausted majority” (see: https://hiddentribes.us/pdf/hidden_tribes_report.pdf) with an “alt-centrist” luminary , I’m just not sure if Schultz has the personal charisma, name recognition, or political resources to be that person.
Welcome back, Mr. Greer!
Funny you mention 16th-cenutry German Catholicism. As a card-carrying Catholic myself, I can’t help but notice that science – or shall I say, Science ™ – is losing prestige in the exact same manner that the Catholic church did. To start with, both institutions gained their prestige for pretty good reason, having contributed many things great and small to society and civilization, giving people hope and purpose.
Then, people start joining the ranks of “clergy” – priests and monks on the one hand, scientists and science “popularizers” on the other – for reasons other than the original mission. Mainly, other reasons have to do with using said institution’s social prestige to climb in power, wealth, and status.
The wheels keep turning and the institution as a whole goes through the motions, the clerical class continue doing stuff while wearing cassocks and lab coats, but it’s becoming less and less effective at saving souls, or making breakthrough discoveries (“innovating”). People notice, and quietly (at least initially) start to leave.
Then, someone points out that said priests/scientists are actually a bunch of hypocrites, who are just in it for the tax exempt church donations/government grant money, and the whole thing is a big scam.
The clerical class doubles down, says it doesn’t matter because Hell/Climate Change are For Real, that the job of Priest or Scientist is really important, nay, _sacred_! And their opponents are just a bunch of Satanists/Pseudoscience hacks!
This goes on for a while, and then the sex scandals start emerging.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and meaning to post a similar comment to your previous essays, but right now is perfect!
I’m not particularly happy about it, after all I am Catholic, and also a huge nerd and science enthusiast (I loved pop-science programs as a kid). I believe in (Death, Judgement, Heaven, and) Hell, and also in Climate Change. But, it is what it is, and best to live with integrity and try to preserve and pass on these values to the next generation, than to shout about trivialities on Twitter.
(replace “Catholicism” or “Science” with any other field… arts, literature, journalism, politics, and the patterns of decline are very interestingly similar)
There is another way to win elections, though: one can influence how many of the people who agree with you are allowed to vote, versus how many of those who disagree, among related methods (voter turnout, gerrymandering, etc.).
This seems to by why McConnell called HR1 (a bill to restore Voting Rights Act-style protections, among other things) a “power grab” by democrats (not certain whether he meant the proper noun, or not, so I’m leaving that one uncapitalized).
El: Reasoned disagreement! Sacrilege!
you are dealing with religious zealots, and if you disagree it can ONLY be because you are tainted with “Original Sin”. Prepare to be sacrificed to their gods.
JMG, I am saying almost the opposite. I don’t agree with your assertion that environmentalists have failed because some of them are hypocrites. Plenty of evangelicals are hypocrites but they’ve been a roaring success. I’ve put forward another theory based on your own observations of human behavior, viz. that people do what they want to do and what feels good. I’ve not objected to criticism of elite environmentalists. I agree with those criticisms, but why stop there? We are many and they are few, and we all made this ghastly mess together. Further, I can’t double down on what I’ve never tried. For 30 years I’ve set a good example and gently encouraged others to make positive changes. It hasn’t worked — I’m still the only person in my building who carries cloth bags, composts and keeps the thermostat low — so I’m taking another tack. My circle of acquaintance are not elites but they are comfortable in their lives and ossified in their habits. They admire and agree with environmentalists but continue to do what they think of as normal and natural if they think about it at all. If you want to continue setting a quiet example and you’re having success, then in the spirit of dissensus I applaud you. Between that approach and shrieking — which please notice I have not threatened to do — there is an immensity of possible action.
Finally, I’ve observed that when young people like Greta Thunberg voice blunt and unsparing criticism of their elders, people listen. Friends of mine who are generally indifferent have taken what she says to heart. I think that’s because shame over their participation in stealing the future from our children is just below the surface. Saying that directly and asking pointed questions is neither shrieking nor shouting, it’s being forthright, even at the risk of — or indeed in the interest of — causing discomfort. What I know as a witness to other destructive behaviors is that they are most apt to change when the person doing them “bottoms out,” as they say in 12 step programs. What is that if not shame? And if there is a skillful way to expose that shame to promote change, I think it’s worth a try.
Dear Chris Edward, I would like to suggest that over half of us white women voted against Hillary Clinton for the simple reason that we knew who and what she is, nothing special, just your basic overbearing, self-absorbed main street clubwoman. I have known dozens like her, on various smaller stages. I voted for Stein, BTW. It might also surprise you to learn how many of us women there are who do not like alpha men. I suggest that someone like Trump marries a series of trophies because no woman of sense will have him.
I doubt I would vote for Schultz because he makes lousy coffee. ( As a long time caffeine fiend, I take my mocha seriously.) In Portland, his product is known as charbucks.
Based on today’s post, and the comments from the previous post, morality, values, politics, and culture and how they interact are at the root of the conflicts we’re seeing. How to allow for peoples with different morals and values exist under the same political government and within the same culture will continue to be a huge challenge to deal with, especially when few want to have polite discourse. Accepting that there is not an immediate way to fix the problem, and also that there will never be a way to entirely fix the problem will be a needed step. Realizing that the spiral of life will continue moving, presenting new issues to deal with will be another reflection that people will need be aware of. Can our government and political climate allow for these things to happen is an important question, one we’ve all been delving into for some time. The only real answer we keep hearing, although not in these direct words, is how long can we continue putting bandages on a broken system until it falls apart. That is definitely indicative of a system and people who have severely disconnected with reality, and as David BTL pointed out, the common way of life just further disconnects us from reality, from interacting with others in ways which teach us what it means to be human. I was reminded a little of the Wizard of Oz, and the professor hidden behind his curtain, manipulating all those gadgets until Dorothy threw open the curtain and demanded his attention.
Welcome back! Your sane voice was missed.
No hardcover edition of your new “Weird of Hali” book?
It is good to have you back, JMG. When you shed the light on something, I recognize it. I see the “people as objects often these days. Thank you. Hope the break was good.
I keep having to engage with people who seem to be unable to understand that the people they interact with have interior lives which are independent of their own, and on whom their own actions have impacts which can’t be interpreted solely in reference to their own intentions, and it’s thoroughly exhausting. There doesn’t seem to be a single cause that I can see – a lot of them are white men who’ve never really had to consider the world from the PoV of anyone else, but I see it in lots of people I would expect to understand more intuitively that their experience isn’t universal. It does sometimes feel as though it’s partly caught up with how strongly people are walling out their Shadow and projecting it onto others.
Love the “Stordalen,” but it should be a very large unit, like the Farad. E.g., 1 Stordalen = 10,491 bacon cheeseburgers, and the average person produces milli- or micro-Stordalens worth of emissions…
What are people’s opinions on Trump as a whole? I live in liberal-land, edging over into radical-island in some places, and I’ve been quite divided on the man. On the one hand, as person of Jewish descent, I cannot and will not support or condone a man who has the support of white nationalists and Nazis. On the other hand, I have been simply appalled by the liberal hysteria and Orwell-esque mandated and uncomplex hate for him. Not that I unilaterally oppose hate for the man, just that anger and hate without a rigorous and complete mental effort is contemptible. As for policy, I have come around to the idea that while immigrants should be treated with utter respect and consideration, their effect on working class wages in the short, mid, and maybe even long term should be taken into account seriously and strongly. My family is strongly union, so we never supported any of that free market equals universal prosperity bunk. As a person of strongly left-radical leanings, my opinion is currently that the man and his more alarming followers should be defeated and marginalized ideologically, but that his presidency has been a boon largely despite himself, and that the new paradigms and splintering of the neoliberal stranglehold that he has presided over will be positive overall. That is, if the normal, beleaguered, working class folks he appealed to aren’t treated with the disdain they’ve gotten used to. What do other people think?
Still wondering when we’ll get back to “Ecosophia:Toward and Ecological Spirituality.”
@AuntLil You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”? What might that suggest?
@jmg I’ve noticed a considerable gap between libertarianism as a philosophy and Libertarianism as a political party. It’s akin to the gap between Christianity as a philosophy vs Christianity as an excuse. I’ve personally noticed that a lot of the most vocal Libertarians and Christians gravitate towards anti-social behavior and taking advantage. Socialism is like that, also.
By coincidence, I just ran across a good quote: “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.” -George Orwell
Speaking for everyone, I’m sure… I’m so excited that JMG is back! Hooray! The weirdest thing happened to me yesterday. I wrote a song when I was 14 that had no lyrics. It has bounced around my head for 31 years. I remember it from time to time and hum the tune aloud. The lyrics came to me in a flood yesterday, and they were in a radically different style from anything I have ever written. The song took on its own “opinion” as it were — the lyrics are about leftist hypocrisy and class war. I felt as if it was purposefully, magically timed on Tuesday, the day of war, but by what influence I may never know. I honestly have no idea if I’ll ever produce this song to my own satisfaction, but here is what I ended up with, the parentheses are the backing vocals:
I don’t know what your camp’s been smoking
But you clearly seem addicted
You know how to hate
Not how to discriminate (you don’t and you don’t think)
Throwing all those bad intentions
Never thinking of the blowback
But karma is real
It doesn’t care what you think or how you feel
You think you know the score (you think that you’re the chosen, that you’ll be safe)
How much did they buy you for?
Giving up the ghost
Breathing in the smell of your own gas
You march to claim the high ground
A conquest of screams
A contest of trolling, hats, and memes (oh learn to code)
Crying about fascists when you’ve never
Gained a pound on purpose
with persecution fantasies (you won’t grow up)
The news says war is peace (lies are truth and slavery is freedom)
But you’re not my thought police
Giving up the ghost
Oh, do you hear me,
Perhaps you fear me,
I’m here a knocking at your door
Oh, getting worse now,
There’s the hearse now,
You’re going to be the working poor
Quick let’s hide the signs of decline
(We don’t wanna become the deplorable ones
We don’t have to adapt, it will be fine)
Quick let’s call free speech a slur
(We can’t stand it when simpletons disagree
We destroy those who don’t concur)
It’s not just a problem for those
other people, you know what the problem is
You just won’t call it what it is
Fooling with the devil when you clearly
Don’t know what you’re into
When you throw a hex
You don’t seem to understand you’re next (blowback again)
Calling out the bigots when you should be
Looking in the mirror
The racist is you (look out, watch it)
Classist and hypocrite fit too (so check yourself)
You rule as the kings and queens (petty and triumphant, in gilded halls)
But here comes the guillotine
Giving up the ghost
Oh, there’s that feeling,
A sense of reeling,
A taste of losing control
Oh, we can see it
You’re throwing a fit
Because your life is a hole
What will you do when things aren’t easy?
(When you finally learn how the other half lives,
The thought makes you shudder queasily)
Money can’t take this one away
(You may think that you have all the cards,
But you don’t even know how to play)
I was also struck by the hysteria over Schultz. Part of it, I think, is that the corporate media acts like it’s on a twenty year cocaine binge, and so every little development sets the pundits hollering and screeching and jumping up and down. You have to draw the eyeballs, after all, Big Pharma isn’t paying for antidepressant ads that no one’s watching.
But I feel the Dems have been tremendously brittle about third party threats since at least 2000, when Nader supposedly helped Gore lose the election. If some schmuck billionaire spells certain doom for their 2020 presidential chances, two years before the actual election, then they’ve got some fairly dire problems.
As far as Aunt Lili’s comment goes, it seems to me that intervention, shunning, and outing depend on well-established social conventions. But we’re far from having a consensus on good environmental behavior. It’s difficult to even bring the subject up, in some circles, so entrenched is consumer culture.
I suppose a slightly better model would be the Hebrew prophets, who would wander in from the desert and throw a fit and declare that God would punish everyone and boy wouldn’t they be sorry. But then you have to wait for God to make everyone sorry, and you haven’t earned any friends in the meantime.
And I’m not going to live for the two centuries it’ll take before I can confidently declare “I told you so.”
“people’s brains shut down when they encounter a subject that touches on strong emotions they don’t want to admit they have”
I’ve seen this in action, with my dad and ex-girlfriend, among others. It’s something I’ve learned to look for when I encounter strong reactions I don’t understand.
But is there an echo here of a SJW declaring that a Trump voter can only be motivated by hidden racism? In other words, when is it legitimate to look for hidden motives, and when do you take a person at their word?
Or is it that the SJW knows what the real problem is, whereas a repressed emotion requires curiosity, subtlety and openness to unearth?
Workdove, I didn’t mention the Giletes Jaunes this time around because there’s only so much room in a given post! Whether they fade out like Occupy or turn into something far more serious remains to be seen. Thanks for the recommendation; I’ll consider it.
Will, I can see some complicated math here… 😉 As for rhetoric, exactly — as we’re social primates, and none of us has time or resources to check every detail, we look for people whose claims of fact we can trust, and ignore those who are pretty clearly shoveling smoke, like Ms. Stordalen.
Austin, what a wretched experience that must have been! Please accept my sympathy — but you’re better off as far from that kind of girlfriend as possible, as you’ve doubtless realized by now. If you have some spare time for reading, may I recommend The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham? You may find a character or two very, very familiar… But you’re right, of course; there’s nothing so shrill and nasty as the members of an elite class on the way down, and we’re likely to see that very well demonstrated in the years immediately ahead.
Will, interesting. My guess is that we’re simply getting the climatic effect of the surge in fossil fuel use that followed the 2009 crash in oil prices, but we’ll see.
Esn, I think there’s a good deal more to it than that. The attitude I’m criticizing uses the rhetoric of truth as its justification, but the shrill anger and the weird limitations in awareness I’ve discussed here, to my mind, point to something rather different at the root of it all. Stay tuned — we’ll talk about this in much more detail as the conversation proceeds.
David, of course not. When somebody’s forced the cosmos into the straitjacket of a more than Gnostic dualism, attitudes that respond to mere facts are incomprehensible.
Prizm, thanks for this. I expect the struggle among the Dems to be bitter, not least because for a change there are actual issues up for consideration.
Roberta, I won’t argue! I know quite a few vegans who recognize that their dietary choices are their business, and that my dietary choices are mine, full stop, end of sentence. I have zero problem with that and, if the issue comes up, make sure that dinner’s going to fit their dietary needs. (This is easy, since I learned to cook from my Japanese stepmother and know some exceptionally tasty things to do with tofu.) It’s the ones who think that their diet gives them the right to scream insults at those who don’t agree with them who I have no time for, and fortunately, they aren’t as common as they used to be.
Kay, thanks for this! I’ll definitely check it out — literally, as we have a very good public library system here in Rhode Island.
Troy, got it and thank you! I appreciate the use of a classic form, btw, and it’s a crisp well-written poem.
John, interesting. I wonder how that distinction relates to other social divisions.
Ashara, and those are exactly the sort of reasoned considerations that other people are making right now, including some who see the Democrats as the greater threat to their well-being. If both sides can remember that that’s what’s guiding political decisions — personal considerations relevant to the wildly diverse range of situations people face in this country at this time — we might be able eventually to work our way back to the point at which mutually satisfactory compromises between differing interests become, as they once were, the usual resolution of political disputes.
Bruce, thanks for these. Classic examples, both of them — it’s rather as though one were to get all one’s construction workers to pledge themselves to celibacy, and treat that as a triumph for abstinence, when they building they’re erecting is a whorehouse.
Disciple, I also found it very, very troubling and more than a little scary.
Mister N, I’m sitting back and watching the thing unfold. My understanding is that the kid who was the central target of the media hatefest has lawyered up, and a lot of media outlets are being slapped with serious lawsuits for libel. Since what many of them said was in fact libelous, it promises to be entertaining to see things proceed!
Ashara, good! Anything that pushes the narrative of anti-establishment centrism at this point can only help, so thank you.
Carlos, I ain’t arguing. Oswald Spengler argues that the rationalist science of each high culture is simply a reframing of its religious ideas, with abstract principles in place of gods and reasoned arguments in place of myths, so a case can be made that your parallel is not only accurate but inevitably so.
Joel, sure, and all sides have been doing that full tilt since 1800 (the first US election in which the presidency was contested). The Democrats are just as busy trying to gerrymander districts and pad the voting rolls with corpses et al. as their opponents.
AuntLili, of course you disagree with me. If you didn’t disagree, you wouldn’t be about to go charging out to make all the same mistakes that have made the environmental movement a total failure for the last forty years. Shaming and shunning — dear gods, have you been living under a rock, so you managed not to notice how much of that has been deployed by the self-proclaimed Good People for the last four decades? Still, do as you wish; I’m sure you’ll feel very good about yourself as you vent your anger at the people who just won’t do what you tell them to.
Prizm, good. Yes, and we’re going to have to take a hard look at the grimy underbelly of contemporary moral thought, and even more, of contemporary moral posturing.
John, thank you.
Chris, last I heard, the publisher of the hardcover editions was still planning on bringing the rest out, but I don’t have a time frame. You might contact them and express your interest.
Mac, thank you.
Liz, I ain’t arguing. Yes, it has a lot to do with the projection of the Shadow; more on this as we proceed.
S, I suppose you could set the stordalen equivalent to the carbon footprint of that flight!
WrongPassword, given your background and concerns, that seems like a very reasonable assessment.
Pteridomania, did you think we’ve been talking about anything else?
Gnat, fair enough. I tend to pay attention to how people behave rather than what abstractions would do if they somehow became real.
Kimberly, I can’t speak for anybody else, of course, but I’d like to hear that.
Cliff, the Democrats have very good reason to be brittle. The vast majority of the people who vote for them do so while holding their nose, and so the Dems have built their entire political strategy on being just a little less putrid than their rivals. That lasts only until someone more appealing comes along, and that’s what we’re seeing now.
As for hidden motives, exactly. If we’re going to talk about what’s going on under the surface, that’s something that needs to be done in a tentative, exploratory mode, and it also needs to be guided by compassion and a sense of the very hard human realities of our time — not by a dogmatic ideology motivated by secular Puritanism.
I’m a vegan for the animals first, the environment second, and my health dead last. What I have found in almost ten years of being vegan is that being polite, kind, and diplomatic works far better than shaming and chastising people, no matter what your cause tends to be. I have tried both approaches and made almost every mistake. It’s not rocket surgery. Honey, ahem excuse me, maple syrup, attracts more flies than vinegar. My family eats animal flesh and secretions. Nothing will convince them to stop. Nevertheless, I love them and I’m not going to get angry at them for eating animals, even though to me it sucks. They have reduced their animal intake a little bit, and my mom only drinks plant milks due to my influence and the fact that plant milks taste good. Never underestimate the power of pragmatism, maturity, diplomacy, and being the change when it comes to influencing others. Gunhild Stordalen (though her name sounds like it is from a beautiful epic) is one of those @33hole vegans who isn’t doing the animals any favors.
Also, the elephant in the room that almost never gets mentioned in the same sentence as environmentalism is remaining childfree by choice, or choosing to adopt rather than having a child the usual way. If we’re honest about carbon footprints, the most profound reductions come from conceiving one less child or no child at all.
While it’s been raised before, I haven’t seen it noted here recently; it’s worth remarking on it again. I’m somewhat amused, alternating with general dismay, to see many plot points of “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” playing out today. Understandably, the book is not intended as a prediction – but still… the extreme weather in America, the geopolitics (China, Russia, America, etc.), the need for oil, and the manufactured coup attempt, are interestingly similar. Finally, the parallel that strikes me most is the sheer rapidity and blatantness of the (US) state-sponsored coup. It’s proceeding at such a pace that you can figuratively, and sometimes literally, see them check the boxes on a daily basis. Also, while it’s not talked about much in NZ, those who I’ve talked to make it quite plain that they view it as a US coup, and would very much rather not look too closely…
No wonder I like your writing so much; an oasis of sanity in an increasingly insane world!
And yes, they don’t seem to get it. I knew Hillary was toast when she made her comment labeling anyone who’d vote for Trump a “deplorable “. Seriously Hillary? This is how you propose to woo the opposition?
And yes, I’ve heard far too many Democrats I know brand any Trump supporter as a racist. If as you suggested they were to actually inquire as to why people were voting for Trump, racism was not the reason for many voters.
I do love your lambasting of the virtue signaling wealthy though, flogging those who would dare to eat a hamburger while possessing a carbon footprint far larger than a whole horde of McDonalds fans.
I fear for this country. I don’t know how it will ever come back together again nor what it would take to do so(nor what it would resemble if it did).
JMG – excellent post, and I’m glad to see you took the Dreamwidth post and expanded the topic along the lines of moral philosophy. My take on this is that the fossil fuel age has promoted lifestyles of independence, but at the price of many of us not understanding all the inter-dependencies of our large carbon footprint lifestyles. We’re too far removed from it all to connect the dots. We’re also at the mercy of a deluge of propaganda often intended to promote a highly consumptive (and therefore more profitable) way of life.
I’m as guilty as Stordalen in some ways, with my love for travel AND bacon cheeseburgers. I’ve got a long way to go to extricate myself from the merry-go-round of modern life, and set an example more typical of how we’ll need to live in the years ahead. It’s going to take some serious effort. Much, much more effort than I had in mind 10 or even 5 years ago…
If a person’s integrity is essential to their argument, then why are there so many Trump supporters (not just anti-Hillary voters)? Even if you liked some of his policies, how could you trust him to follow through?
Is the environmental movement really about lowering your carbon footprint? Is that the main point? It used to be about protecting nature and all the non human animals that are threatened by industrial civilization. There is some overlap between the two ideas, but they aren’t identical. If you walk the talk and win the argument and everyone is convinced to lower their carbon footprints, then the economy collapses since it needs constant growth. Then what?
How low should an environmentalist’s carbon footprint be before they are no longer hypocritical?
What I am trying to say is that arguing about how much energy we should burn, how much stuff we should buy, and what we eat, does very little at all as long as we don’t address the worldwide economic system that we are trapped inside and depend on.
I personally don’t think there is a solution other than to let this system burn itself out. Earth First! had it right – save enough wilderness for the wild people to have a place to live in after the collapse is complete. But if anyone has any ideas for a steady state economy, I’d be interested. There are serous issues with entropy and population growth that seem insurmountable.
At the risk of beating the Left even more, this phenomenon seems like a variant on the Marxists’ “false consciousness” and feminism’s “internalised misogyny”. Both of them fundamentally say that people who disagree with them must have been brainwashed by the enemy. I’m sure there’s a right-wing equivalent.
1 Stordalen = 10491 Smådalen / Litendalen 🙂
(Stor means large, små & liten means small.)
Dear JMG, welcome back, I hope you had a good break!
About using less: a few days ago, in an article in the Guardian about why Dutch kids don’t march against climate change whereas Belgian kids do, a Belgian politician is quoted as tweeting this response to these young climate change protesters:
“Dad, where’s my cell phone? Gone! When are we going to ski? Never again. Where will we go this summer? Home. Is the power on? … Put on sweater. Are you taking me to football? Pack your bike. Dad, why are you doing this? Sorry kid, you convinced me that it should be different.”
The quote demonstrates that at least some of those in power actually get it – that effective climate action actually means walking your talk. And where those in power do admit it, they will present this type of action as a terrible sacrifice that no one with any sense will take part in.
Now if you had some Belgian kids say to that with an air of firm resolve “Yep, that’s exactly what I meant”, and who then proceed to enact just that lifestyle, we’d probably start to see the environmental movement there get some traction.
Aaaahhh, says I, what a refreshing draught of reality. In your absense the term “chattering classes” becomes so much more obvious. One might even begin to think that there is no opposition to their demented ranting. Thank the gods I live in red America and know better first-hand. And my respect for them grows in tandem with their patience and restraint in the face of such vitriol.
Still, it’s nice to have you back! Jess and I missed you terribly.
Thoughts from over here in Ireland.. Vegan groups had set up large billboards (which are rare in themselves here) promoting veganism as a way of treating animals better. As far as I can see though, broad adoption of veganism would require the killing of most domestic livestock who would have no commercial values, but no one seems to talk about that consequence. We had newspaper articles about the Stodalen’s report and the reaction in general was to tell them to feck off. I looked up the sponsors of the report and noted, as you and others have, the general hypocrisy involved. The other one to come up is that they want to tax diesel fuel even more to combat global warming. Since I live in rural Ireland, most of us (like those in rural France protesting) don’t really have a valid alternative as electric really isn’t a practical option. In the meantime they are approving the construction of large data centres for Google, Apple etc in Dublin which generate far more carbon emissions but give the free tax ride the multinationals get, they don’t pay the bill.
On a separate subject, I can’t even start to get my head around the switch from “Russians subverted our election by placing a couple of ads on Facebook” to there is nothing wrong with staging a coup in Venezuela (like the Ukraine) and pretending that’s not interfering in another countries elections. If you wrote a story like this, I would have said it wasn’t credible but rampant insanity seems to be the sign of the times!
JMG, can you please share some of your exceptionally tasty tofu recipes?
Congratulations on the new book!
I now need to balance my “quit spending money on things I don’t need” plan with “Hey, I want to read that!”
The practical portion of this plan involves actually knitting yarn that was purchased years ago…so that someone can actually wear it. This will get more and more interesting as I get further into the ‘archaeology’ of my yarn stash.
A friend of mine (marxist, atheist and of course very leftist) told me some “embarrasing” attitudes with his political “fellows/comrades” not very time ago. He went on the same like JMG has did in the “Stordalen-gate”. He thinks a lot of aninmalist/vegans/ecologist activist are crap: stupide preterncious middle-high class people with tons and tons of “moral superriority”…Oh, and he compares them with (sinchronicity?) with Catholic hypocrisy on purgatory donations…Ok, both we friends are living in a traditionally catholic country, but this is a coincidence that makes me grin…
If populist right-wing USA politicians are blamed for “racist”, Europeans business in left (or maybe identitarian-bigoted pseudo-left?), and of course in spanish politics is labelling our “mini-Trumps” with the horrible F word. I mean…”Fascists” from hell. OK, politics here are in some way different than USA business, but there are some likenesses; because local “right” are copying some Trumpian “ideas” and local “left” believes without no critics Democrat-clintonist narrative…So if we agreed in toxicitiy and uselesness in “liberal-leftist” USA narrative, do the math. We have some regional and local elections this year in Spain, and I’m afraid hard-right party and their “moderate” conservative fellows would win a lot of relevant seats and sink athetic “socialists” and lefty populists…
My friend is near to sure in this “pesmist” forecast.
so nice that you came back!
I for myself have a confession to make – I don’t think there is conclusive evidence that CO2 emissions have that much impact on climate change, and i have been following the subject for the last 20 years for professional reasons. The main effect of climate change rhetoric may well be the discredit of science – whenever anyone publishes anything disproving anthropogenic global warming, always insists that it is not doing so, otherwise it will not be published in a high ranked journal. So, this all global warming thing became some Orwellian thing where is mandatory to believe. Note that I strongly support, and do my best to use energy with parsimony , rather eat organic than buy new clothes, try to eat local, walk for 99% of my displacements (paying instead a ridiculous price to live in the centre) and vote with my money in products and companies not known for destroying natural habitats, and that are careful with packaging. I do all that because it doesn’t make me fill miserable and because I think fossil fuels are in fact finite, and I because I want other living beings – special those without immediate commercial value – to coexist with us in the planet. I also suspect that our diminishing natural resources are marginally more valuable for those who only now can afford to send their children to school with shoes or eat meat twice a week.
Frequent flyer environmentalists and global warming champion politicians are wrecking the environment and compromising the possibilities of future generations not only because of what they do, but also because of the example they set. There is certainly a special place in hell for them….
If there is an afterlife, I think Madeline Albright will discover that there’s a special place in Hell for women who says that mass killing of Iraki children was “worth it”.
With due respect to both of you JMG and AuntLili.
It is quite clear and beyond reasonable discussion that the hypocrisy of certain persons in diverse environmental movements actively helped in people ignoring these said movements.
However, there is more to it than that. I have been involved in the environmental movement in Mauritius for the past 20 years and in so doing I have tried to change a bit my lifestyle, composting, growing vegetables, recycling paper wastes, cutting down on single use plastic, introducing paper bags at work and a few more other things.
In my different writings and public interventions I never tried to tell people what to do, instead when prompted I told people what I did and how I did it and why. Trying at my level to lead by example, at least I think so.
I have never been accused of hypocrisy, but neither have I been able to convince a lot of people to take up composting for instance or even to use scrap paper to make shopping lists!!!
People are interested and agree such steps are valuable and not too difficult, but they fail to pick up these steps.
I think this is so because throwing away vegetable scraps is far easier that composting them, buying vegetables is easier than growing them. Using readily available plastic is easier than finding alternatives. There is no sense of urgency, so why bother.
People will act if (1) others lead by example and (2) there is a palpable sense of urgency. Indeed, environmental degradations in my country were acted upon if and only if a palpable sense of urgency was felt. For instance, the treatment of raw sewage, or the erosion of coastal, sandy beaches or saving a few endemic species on the brink of extinction.
When the sense of urgency is absent or subsides, action no longer follows or in non-existent.
For instance we have a problem of solid wastes here which currently is managed by using an already flowing landfill. As the land fill is out of sight, few bother with reducing or recycling or composting.
Energy is another good one, oil prices go up, everybody gets excited, oil prices go down everybody just dose off…
In summary I’d say that environmental hypocrisy helped destroy environmental movements, but I doubt that walking the talk could have saved them.
As one of my cynical friend once told me: people change only when they have a gun pointed to their heads, until then it’s business as usual.
I think this goes some way in explaining part of our predicament.
Re Trump as a whole
I can represent no one’s opinion’s but my own, but FWIW, my two cents:
I find Trump to be an arrogant, egotistical, insufferable blowhard whose approach to governance seems incoherent, scattershot, and contradictory. That said, he is not wrong with regard to several issues on which I place a high level of importance and manages to stumble in necessary directions in spite of it all, although he tends to choose (as SamauriArtGuy noted many posts ago) to do those needed things in the worst possible way available.
A few examples: national sovereignty over international trade (nixing TPP), control of the flow of goods and people across our borders (immigration, NAFTA), and possibly–just possibly–withdrawing from these foolish, wasteful, and endless wars.
In 2016, he was an unknown whose rhetoric was very much a mixed bag for me. I chose to vote for Stein. With regard to my list of priority issues, Trump has actually delivered on several items and pushed for movement on several more. I disagree with him on many, many things, but given the choice between him and Biden/Booker/Harris, I would be comfortable voting for Trump in 2020, though as noted above, I’d prefer someone like Gabbard or Sanders.
@Aloysius Snuffleupagus and Mister Nobody: This is more our host’s bailiwick than mine, but at least part of the “Maga Kids” debacle seems understandable in terms of magic. Elder Nathan Philips used a song and drumming that was designed as a peace ceremony, with the intention of shaming the white kids and supporting the extremists who had been yelling obscenities. (All of that is by Philips’ own admission.) The result so far has been an unnecessary elevation of conflict rather than peace, and a rather large helping of raspberry-flavored shame seems to have landed on Philips, including bringing to light his exaggerations of his military record.
One thing I’ve noticed an awful lot of: whenever someone starts insisting on claiming the worst possible interpretation of another’s motives, especially if they are also brittle and start shrieking at anyone who asks basic questions, it quite often means that that person is motivated by whatever they’re shrieking about.
When you say “the era ahead of us will pit populists who identify with their nations against elites that identify only with their class…” it got me thinking. Forgive my ignorance of history here, but did something similar happen with the Roman elite a couple millennia ago? I know they moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople, but your comment made me imagine what the “jet set” of the past may have looked like, and why they may not have cared about defending the honor of Rome as the capital. That was something that always puzzled me about the story. Thinking about today’s elites puts a new perspective on how the elites back then might have behaved.
JMG, here is the best information I can find on what the world actually believes about climate change:
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/18/what-the-world-thinks-about-climate-change-in-7-charts/ It shows that environmentalists have succeeded in convincing majorities in all 40 nations surveyed that climate change is real and a serious threat. So they’ve not been entirely unsuccessful. They’ve have less success getting people to change their behavior.
Social pressure works. It’s what keeps us observing taboos, cultural norms and most laws. It also works for your local electric company. A 2004 experiment in San Diego compared the effects of three postcards, one discussing the importance of saving energy to the environment, a second offering tips and tricks for saving money, and a third comparing the recipients energy use with that of his neighbors. Only the last one was found to make a difference in customers energy use, and it was a big one. Now, if someone came into your home and, unbidden, remarked that you and Sara had made a good effort towards reducing your energy consumption but that it paled in comparison with Fred and Wilma down the block, I suspect you would find that rude. Nevertheless, it works. Article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/31/science/earth/31compete.html
Finally, I would love to know who you have in mind when you talk about shouty environmentalists. Al Gore may be a hypocrite but he is also famously laconic. James Hansen? David Suzuki? David Attenborough? I’d just like to know who we’re talking about here.
Could JMG clarify his cheeseburger figures. Was the 10K cheeseburger figure equivalent to the billionaire lady’s flight, or hers plus all her friends in the plane? Can he point us to the calculation–otherwise, it’s just magic man pulling numbers from a hat.
I have found a strange phenomenon when I try to engage in reasoned discussion about, for example, the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet, with people who have perhaps never considered the possibility before. I get zero response – just blankness. If I put forward a carefully reasoned argument, backed up by calculations, people neither agree not disagree with me – they just treat the comment as though it was made in an incomprehensible foreign language, Chinese or Russian for example, completely fail to engage with it, and just carry on talking about whatever they were talking about before. So I’ve given up trying to explain / persuade people that there is an alternative point of view. I guess discussing politics is a bit like that these days. I just thought I’d share those thoughts with you.
Vegan for personal reasons (the ick factor of eating animals) and also wholly opposed to the mistreatment of farm animals. But I recognize that others can just as deeply feel they’re living ethically by slaughtering their own animals or purchasing locally slaughtered animals who were treated very well until their deaths. Then you have that I am currently considering doing a certification that would require me to drive two hours each way for 6 months. That’s a lot of driving and I’m uncomfortable with it but I’m still considering it. I think the truth is that it’s so hard for most of us to accept and really be at peace with limits, with hearing “no, this is not good.”
Great to have you back, John.
You were missed, but I did catch your podcast with J. H. Kunstler and enjoyed it very much. Although I have followed your blog for years, I had never heard (audio) of you speaking before!
Hi JMG. A few more notes on the Moral Foundations work, especially how it relates to other ways of analyzing culture.
There’s a very popular social-fiscal four quadrant analysis that has sectors like socially conservative and fiscally liberal. When I look at the social axis, I see the “conservative” end mostly motivated by the Authority/Subversion foundation, which includes respect for tradition. It’s also motivated by the Sanctity/Degradation foundation when religious ideals come into play. The liberal end looks like the Care/Harm foundation, at least to me.
I think the same distinctions play out in the fiscal conservative/Liberal axis, but I’m nowhere near as certain. There also seems to be a healthy dollop of Liberty/Oppression in there somewhere.
The following is from the home page of moralfoundations.org:
”Much of our present research involves applying the theory to political “cultures” such as those of liberals and conservatives. The current American culture war, we have found, can be seen as arising from the fact that liberals try to create a morality relying primarily on the Care/harm foundation, with additional support from the Fairness/cheating and Liberty/oppression foundations. Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, use all six foundations, including Loyatly/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation. The culture war in the 1990s and early 2000s centered on the legitimacy of these latter three foundations. In 2009, with the rise of the Tea Party, the culture war shifted away from social issues such as abortion and homosexuality, and became more about differing conceptions of fairness (equality vs. proportionality) and liberty (is government the oppressor or defender?). The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are both populist movements that talk a great deal about fairness and liberty, but in very different ways, as you can see here, for the Tea Party, and here, for OWS. You can find out your own moral foundations profile at http://www.YourMorals.org. “
Another analysis is that three of the foundations support cultural cohesion, that is, they tend to hold cultures, societies and sub-cultures together: Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion and Sanctity/degradation. The other two are more individual: Care/Harm and Fairness/cheating. A sixth foundation, Liberty/oppression, is also more individual. This latter explains many liberals disgust with Trump: he’s seen as using unfair tactics to oppress and cause harm. He rings all the bells. A lot of people who like Trump see him as challenging people they see as oppressors.
A couple of items before I close this post. First, the reason that liberals don’t see class as an issue is that they don’t see the three foundations that are related to social cohesion, that is, the separation into distinct classes, as very significant.
Finally, there are a boatload of academic papers discussing various aspects at moralfoundations.org .
If I believe that putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a bad thing (i.e. it’s making climate change worse) then it makes sense for me to do less of that bad thing (by turning down my thermostat, for example; I’ve done this and many other actions). The fact that some so-called environmentalists are frequent flyers or drive gas-guzzling SUVs etc. doesn’t change my belief or my behavior; it just confirms that hypocrites exist and some of them are environmentalists.
But if instead I say, “Seeing as Al Gore spews a lot more carbon than I do, that must mean carbon spewing is NOT a bad thing, so I won’t bother reducing my own carbon footprint” that sounds like a convenient excuse for me to do nothing. Is this the point that AuntLili was trying to make?
If so, it reminds me of Shooting The Messenger: I don’t like the message (spew less carbon) so I’ll attack the messenger (Al Gore) and ignore the message or claim it’s a lie (be a climate change denier). Is this what’s happening?
I haven’t been by Green Wizards in awhile, but the new site looks nice. I’ve bookmarked and plan on hanging out there. Thank you!
Great to have you back. You have identified a key root of our current dysfunction: the difficulty people have comprehending the reasons why others have opinions that differ from their own. If I try to keep tracing the root, it seems to grow out of the lack of coherent unifying ideologies that guide people’s thinking and action. We live in an era where attempts to craft coherent ways of thinking and living are dismissed as intolerant because they inevitably proscribe other ways of thinking and living as bad. And since it is much easier to deconstruct and point out inconsistencies than it is to build a coherent understanding of the world, there are many loud voices crushing any attempt to propose coherent ideas about how to live. But people still need to feel that they are “good” and “doing the right thing” so they fall back on visceral moral categories rather than ideas to prop up their self-esteem. Universities, churches, political parties, and other private associations have largely abandoned the task of crafting coherent viewpoints from which to live. Without these frameworks, the reasons people do things are often driven by emotional reactions to memes they encounter. Since trying to understand these is extremely difficult, people give up and shout at each other. In a certain way, I see the Trump phenomena as a nadir that might lead to improving this situation because he embodies the abandonment of attempts to craft coherent understandings of the truth. And it is so clear that it doesn’t work that he is debunking some of the the insane post-modern mantras that hypnotized so many on the left over the last 50 years. (Think “words are tools to exert power over others”) Of course, they still haven’t figured out how to actually engage the Trump phenomena with coherent ideas rather than visceral moral outrage. But at least fewer people are crafting sophisticated reasoning about why reasoning is irrational.
I don’t think you disagree as much as you think you do…
In order for us to change (and especially if the change requires personal sacrifice) we much first be made uncomfortable. That generally requires being told things that we don’t want to hear. But in order for us to hear those things – rather than simply react in anger or write them off – we must first feel like we have something in common with the speaker. That is what is largely missing in polarized America, and it also means that the most effective means of convincing one’s colleagues and family (through some degree of confrontation) differ from the most effective means of convincing one’s political adversaries (which must start with finding consensus and common ground).
Hypocrites hurt any cause, of course, but I’m far from convinced that hypocrisy is the primary reason climate change activism has failed. Those who speak out against climate change while continuing a carbon-intensive elite lifestyle are hypocrites but also gain prominence as their status gives them a microphone. Those who lead by example are rapidly written off as quaint, old-fashioned, or irrelevant as they have willingly given up much of their status by consuming less. Some of the most powerful voices, as AuntLili says, are the children of the elites who speak truth about the ways in which their parents’ choices have dimmed the outlook for their lives.
Glad to see that you are back and threw yourself right into the thick of the political wrestle mania beginning for 2020. One of my close friends just posted on her social media that “if you wear a MAGA hat in public, it’s the same as wearing a KKK hood in a Baptist church, and you deserve what is coming to you”.
That statement angered me so much that I now feel like I can’t be friends with her anymore. I’m angry that people feel justified in attacking others. I’m angry that a political campaign hat has been equated to a costume made to hide the identities of people so they could terrorize their victims. I’m angry that people who support Trump can be attacked and this will be considered “good” and “right”. I’m angry that someone I care about feels that publicly professing her righteous judgement of others is socially acceptable and should be supported.
If I took the argument that a MAGA hat = KKK hood to its logical next step, that would mean when someone orders a MAGA hat they get invited to secret white supremacy meetings where people decide who to attack next in the middle of the night while wearing their MAGA hats because the hat conceals their identity. Meanwhile we have Antifa wearing outfits to conceal their identities attacking people and there is total silence on comparing them to any terrorist group.
At the rate I’ve been trimming people out of my social circles during the Trump years, I’m going to be down to a dog, some chickens and my immediate family by the time he leaves office.
JMG : Happy you are back posting. In the meantime I enjoyed your interview with James Howard Kunstler.
Another angle to the discussion on veganism is provided in this interesting article Animals and Ecology : Towards a Better Integration
where the focus is on the animal human relationship rather than on the carbon footprint resulting from eating dead animals . In it ecological philosopher Val Plumwood explains why veganism belongs to the dualistic human-nature, nature-culture worldview that is behind the ecological and other crises of our time that we must overcome for a future livable planet. Eating meat is ethically ok and “natural”, she says, but depends on the attitude of the meat-eaters towards the animal that becomes their food. She herself nearly ended up entering the food web as a crocodile’s meal.
Why Mr. Greer, you sly dog….
Taking hiatus so as to let Father Time work his magic and thus provide you with the ultimate target rich environment? Well done Sir…
I find it most amusing watching the ever mounting hypocrisy of politicians be destroyed by the internet. I do think that while the internet may be cause for some of the people deciding to inhabit their own private bubble universe, it has also let light into many darker streets and alleys of the political and business processes, and thus exposing their hypocrisy and shenanigans. To be quite honest, the phrase I find myself using a great deal lately is; “You just can’t make this sh&t up!”
I am not on social media, but the excerpts I have been reading are most enlightening and very often comedy en extremis. The major media are being outed for fabrications almost daily, so one has to verify everything to even begin to separate fact from fiction. The internet made this possible, as before, we had no way to even discern something amiss until months or years later, when facts finally dribbled from old news media. What a time to be alive…
I too see cracks in the facades of the red and blue parties, and Miss Occasional Cortex rapidly proving the old slant that green parties are watermelons – green outside and pink in the middle. I am all for a free-for-all in 2020, and we may actually have that. It seems everyone with a pulse and a connection into DC is tossing their hat in the nearest convenient election ring.
The Meuller investigation ought to be winding down, as 3 attorneys have announced their leaving. It will be interesting to see if there is any meat in the meal they present, or merely some lightly oiled greens. The Trump MAGA party seems to have grown, splintering the GOP in a severe way, although they will hang on those coattails. The recent Roe vs Wade proposed legislation and the full term abortion legislation passed in NY and on table elsewhere may actually be very enlightening and entertaining. Assuredly, with inability to compromise being paramount among those involved, it will be vigorous and loud. And it is likely to split areas of the body politic and social media into camps of deranged stakeholders…
Anyway, there is grist aplenty for you! I am looking forward to some exploration in these directions in future, along with many others. Everywhere you look, that rough beast is making his way and rearing his head.
Dive in my friend – the water is quite deep and growing warmer since you left us…
Confused what news you’re reading: Trump is part of a Jewish family, with a Jewish cabinet, from a Jewish city, with Jewish lawyers and Jewish business associates, who is the 1st President to keep his word about moving the capital of Israel — for the few people who care and keep track of that stuff. That is, contraindicating being a White Supremacist OR Nazi. Also has black cabinet members and staff, was lauded by black charity groups for decades back in NYC, and hired the first woman executive to erect a skyscraper. Google for proof, it’s easy. If there are contradictions, then perhaps the NEWS has been the problem here?
P.S. Nazis are SOCIALISTS, as in “National Socialist German Worker’s Party”, so for this second reason Trump would neither be Socialist, NOR a party of unions and labor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism
Thus problems when people get very, VERY sloppy with words. People whose only job is to use words and describe things correctly: Once you can’t use words correctly, they all begin to contradict and logic itself dissolves into nonsense, which is called LYING. Find the facts and use firm definitions and things become clear.
This is why those of us outside of liberal-land have been astonished by the behavior: we lack the resources to live in any sort of bubble, barely surviving death counts higher than Vietnam against the coastal onslaught designed to drive us into the living standards of North Korea. It seems self-evident that everyone is lying and all facts need to be verified, even if only to watch a 2-hour video, because apparently the media won’t, and daily contradicts Webster, Britannica, and Barron’s AP History while asking why we’re so dumb.
I’m a little disappointed the direction this blog has been taking as of late. What we consume and what we eat does impact the environment and the science behind it is undisputed. It’s fine to point out the hypocrisy of the faux progressive/ faux environmental billionaires but making light of the connection between food production/consumption and the environment is harmful. Having done the extensive research on peak oil you of all people should understand this. And Howard Shultz???? I think you might have finally jumped the shark JMG. Thanks for allowing me to express my views.
I hadn’t thought about writing to Schultz re campaign issues, so thank you for that suggestion. To be sure, I don’t know how much influence such a communication would have, but there is both the incremental argument (my letter being one of a possible many) and the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” argument. So sure, why not.
This has also prompted me to consider, if for no other reason than just for the heck of it, to submit my application and resume to the new governor of Wisconsin expressing my interest in serving on the Public Utility Commission, should a vacancy arise during his term. There is a near-zero chance of me being ever considered/appointed/confirmed, but why not put my name in, just in case snow comes to the infernal regions?
Dear John Roth, I wonder if there is not also a competence/incompetence axis. I believe many of us who voted for Obama in 2008 did so because we saw him as refreshingly disciplined and competent, and a welcome change from the overgrown adolescent excesses of the previous two administrations. I can’t speak for others, but one of my reasons for never, nohow voting for Mme. C. is that I consider her to be flat incompetent. Give that woman a serious, adult level job, oversee a new health care bill, Presidential campaign, and she blows it every time, and don’t get me started on her tenure at State. Not to mention why can’t a Wellesley and Yale graduate write her own durn book?
The Electoral College is what we have, and me, I don’t want Presidents chosen by New York and Los Angeles. I remember wondering in 2015 if anyone among the Democrats was counting electoral votes and it turned out they weren’t.
I strongly suspect that possibly soon to be candidate Schultz is a neo-con front man. We shall see. He sells a product produced in tropical countries on which he makes a Yuge profit–he may be nice to his employees but how much does he pay coffee farmers? If he does announce, I for one will be reading his issues page very closely.
I hadn’t looked into the “free will is an illusion” crowd since high school, and I remembered being unimpressed then: I’m even less impressed now. By the gods, I didn’t think I could come across something worse than the award winning books “disproving” Stevenson’s research, but it is indeed there.
One of the funny things is that many of them seem absolutely determined to insist anyone who believes in free will is motivated solely by emotional needs. As I mentioned earlier, this is usually a red flag to me that shadow projection is happening, so what emotional need are they fulfilling by rejecting free will? The best I can think of right now is it’s a way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, although I could be wrong.
I think it’s not “shoot the messenger” so much as “Well, Al Gore is a hypocrite, and what he proposes will hurt us, but spare him.” I’ve been involved in municipal politics, and got to hear a debate over what to do about the fact that we subsidize airports within city limits. No one, not even the environmentalists, wanted to discuss it. Of course, it played a large role in causing the city to reach the debt levels we have, so there’s good reason to cut those subsidies, but “How will people get around?”
Until the environmental movement starts targeting things like airports, which provide an amenity to the rich, they will get nowhere.
People were saying that JMG had jumped the shark in 2016 when he predicted a Trump victory. As for diet, sure, it has an impact. But lots of things have worse impacts; the studies tend to look at modern industrial agriculture, when many traditional methods won’t work without animals; then there’s also the not insignificant fact that some people need meat in order to be healthy. Frankly, I will dismiss anyone who advocates I should be a vegan, since I become unhealthy on a vegetarian diet.
There are some who will be happy to sacrifice their health for the environment, but I can’t expect others to do so, since I’m not willing to do so.
At this rate then, you’ll have more friends left than I will…
@Post Peak Medicine Your comment jibes exactly with my own experiences. As an avid reader and lay-researcher, I’ve had extra time becoming comfortable with just how difficult our inevitable future will be (at the very least if we’re lucky). This means that I will mention the unmentionable in casual conversations. And it’s exactly as if I said a few phrases in a foreign language. I see the blankness and check myself and switch back to English. I guess I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything anymore.
Oh and welcome back @JMG Much missed!!!!
@ David btl
That’s the best description of Trump I’ve read yet, and it basically says what I would in much better language. The only difference for me is that I have a slightly different perspective on immigration and I place on a high value on the character of a president relative to their policy positions. I would only vote for Trump if his opponent were somehow more abrasive, antagonistic, intentionally divisive, and prone to ad hominem attacks – and for the good of our nation I hope that is unlikely.
“Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.” – Thomas Sowell from Every Wonder Why and Other Controversial Essays, 2006
I could not help but think what would befall Narcissus, if instead of a quiet pool, he found himself reflected in “a wilderness of mirrors”. Mirrors have sharp edges, and there is nothing beneath their surface.
Chris Edwards I must take exception to your use of “53% of white women”. When we use statistics out of their context, we promote false assumptions. The context is as follows; Trump won 53% of white women, out of a base of 24% of “eligible voters”. As somewhere around 130million +/- Americans voted, approx 53% of white women out of 31,200,000 voted for Trump.. I usually don’t
attend to such detail, but I couldn’t help myself today! 🙂
In your response to Cliff’s question about hidden motives, you said, “If we’re going to talk about what’s going on under the surface, that’s something that needs to be done in a tentative, exploratory mode, and it also needs to be guided by compassion and a sense of the very hard human realities of our time — not by a dogmatic ideology motivated by secular Puritanism.”
Sage advice, to which I would only like to add that before (or at the same time as) we analyze others for their hidden motives, we should probably also examine *our own* hidden motives. My half-arsed Buddhist faith and practice has really lead me to see how much of what I do, I am doing because of motivations that are different from what I telling myself they are. Usually those motivations aren’t just different, they’re also less savory than what I’d like to believe about myself.
So maybe I need to explore, tentatively and compassionately, with the recognition of our inherent frailties and fallibilities, my hidden motives before I go seeking them out in others.
Just a thought. 🙂
Re “shouty environmentalists:”
How about Bill McKibben?
@ Mark L
Re Trump, etc.
We all assess our political choices through our own particular lens of values, weightings, and priorities, most certainly! I ask no one to adopt my views, only that they understand that my actions are based on those values, weightings, and priorities. This is what I couldn’t seem to communicate during those 16-ish months I was fairly active on PoliticalWire. I *must* be a fascist/sexist/racist/idiot because only such a one would have helped Trump get elected. (Which I did as one of those 2000 or so Wisconsin voters for Stein who prevented HRC from winning the state.) I stand by what I said the morning after the election: I’m not ecstatic he won, but I am extremely relieved that she lost.
Now that Trump has shown that he isn’t *all* talk on some of those key issues of mine, I’m more comfortable with the notion of actually voting for him if the Dems nominate another establishment clone.
For me, its is all about policy and praxis. Moral character is nice, but an add-on. “Likeability” is fluff. A candidate may be the most moral person in the world, polite, nice, and personable, but if he or she is 180 degree out-of-phase with respect to my goals, why would I vote for them? On the flip side, a candidate may be an arrogant, egotistical blowhard, but if he or she is aligned with my goals and would take us in the direction I believe we need to go, why would I not vote for them?
Kimberly, thanks for this! Exactly. There are vegans for whom I’m always happy to serve up agedashi tofu with eggplant, and vegans at whom I smile while I bite into a bacon cheeseburger; you belong to the former category, and those vegans who think my diet is their business belong to the latter.
Kiwijon, I ain’t arguing. It does get kind of dismaying to watch my novel being followed so closely…
Ani, I get that. The one bit of hope I can offer is that we’ve been here before — in 1776, 1860, and 1932 — and managed to pull back together into a country again.
Drhooves, true enough. The thing I’d like to point out, and I’ll be doing a post on it at some point, is that perfection isn’t an option. The important thing is to be in motion, moving toward your goals at a meaningful pace.
Thor, you might ask some Trump supporters about that. They’ll point out that unlike the vast majority of our recent presidents, he’s kept a good many of his campaign promises. He said he’d impose tariffs — we’ve got tariffs. He said he’d take steps to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US — check out the stats on US manufacturing jobs in the last two years. He said he’d start enforcing the immigration laws — he’s done that. He said he’d appoint conservative judges to the Federal bench — well, I could go on. That’s the kind of integrity they care about. If he’d done an Obama, campaigned against the other party’s policies, and then adopted them wholesale the moment he was in office, they’d have dropped him like a hot rock. It’s the fact that he’s not backing down that has his supporters backing him to the hilt.
Kfish, yep, the traditional right-wing equivalent is human sinfulness — that’s what keeps people from understanding the obvious truth of whatever Godly doctrine Christ’s true church is preaching at them.
Sofie, thanks for this! I now know a great deal more Norwegian than I did a few moments ago. 😉
Jbucks, ding! We have a winner. Exactly.
Tripp, fortunately I’m far from the only person trying to talk sense in a wilderness of babble…
Dear David from Normandy, not to mention the time when SOS Albright asked the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, (I paraphrase) You keep telling us about this wonderful military we have, General Powell. Why can’t we take it out and use it?
About food, and purity and so forth: For those of us who can afford to pay for neither medical care nor health insurance, the quality of the food we eat becomes a matter of urgent concern. I am not willing to sacrifice my own health and chance of living an independent life (and not being a burden to my children) for the sake of someone’s else’s profit, Republicans, or someone else’s job, Democrats. I do think that this argument is about money, profit and jobs, not alleged “purity”.
About Trump: I think I mostly agree with his fan club, he is I think as bright, wily, and tough as they say, but, I would add, I think he is shallow, intellectually and emotionally. His great weakness as a politician is his attitude towards the female half of the electorate. He seems unable to comprehend that beauty is not brains and that his appointing of bimbos to important positions is an insult to American women and much resented by parents who gave up their own hope of a comfortable retirement to send promising daughters through college. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of very bright and capable women around who are also great looking by current standards, but Trump seems not to know any of them.
I would like to say, men, that if you marry a series of trophies, none of my business, just sayin’, your kids won’t have an effective Mom, such as a Mom who might have advised Ivanka, honey, don’t marry that gangster, have your fling if you must, but don’t marry him.
I also suggest that the ongoing coup in Venezuela, about which there is reason to believe it won’t succeed, let us hope, shows he is no better than his predecessors, and might cost him the 2020 election. I don’t care if he was conned by the neo-cons and MIC, he is the President and could have said no. Venezuela needs money, Trump could have made a deal to buy the oil and none of our business how Maduro spent it. The Democratic half of the two headed hydra is at pains to make sure there will be no viable anti-war and anti-intervention candidate, which is why the drumbeat of opposition to Gabbard. Notice how Woman of Color Harris was inserted into the campaign after Gabbard announced.
Dear Aunt Lili, I do all the things you do, walk not ride, take my own bag to stores, lower the thermostat, keep a garden, etc., and, since I live in a mostly conservative working class area, my doing so gets a point across; I do things my way and you live your life your way. Live and let live. You. my neighbor, don’t want me in your face about your lawn, then lay off me with the consumerist social pressure games, and, BTW, I don’t want your teenagers catcalling and snickering either. I have had, let us say, frank conversations with various parents, not about environment as such, but on the theme of I don’t let some high schooler tell me how to live my life. I would like to suggest for your consideration the principle, that contrary to what many of us were told growing up, boundaries, both national and personal, are real, even if we can’t exactly see them, and need to be respected.
Regarding animal slaughter for food: I am an unapologetic meat eater. For me, the relevant justifying authority is Judeo-Christian revelation, and the practice of eating meat is unequivocally permitted in that revelation. Our Lord Himself ate the Passover Lamb, ate fish, helped his disciples miraculously catch fish for food, etc., etc.
The whole question of factory farming, and the morality of eating meat that is inhumanely raised, is a bit more complicated. However, I would point out an important socio-economic class dimension here that is not to be overlooked in any serious moral analysis.
The fact is that paying premium prices for meat that is humanely raised (as opposed to factory-farmed) is a luxury for the wealthy. Those in a state of poverty or of limited means very often can legitimately not afford to pay that premium. However, they often CAN afford to pay the lesser prices for meat that is not humanely raised.
Somewhat in line with the ongoing discussion of environmentalist hypocrisy, I would stoutly maintain that those of abundant means who are able to afford humanely-raised meat have no moral standing whatsoever to deny those whose more limited means precludes them for affording it the moral and legal right to purchase and consume factory-farmed meat.
@AuntLilli First, I want to say much respect to you for bringing yourself back into a conversation that might have turned out to be ABOUT you, rather than WITH you.
But I’d like to “unpick” a wee bit myself, if you are willing to indulge me.
You said: “However, if you look at it the other way, the same public is choosing to ignore environmentalists — of whom there are many — who do walk their talk. So I’m back to your observation that people do what they do because they want to do it. In other words, the hypocrisy of others is an excuse, not a reason.”
So, let’s look at this a third way and ask whether the environmentalists “walking their walk” (and also being ignored by “the [undifferentiated] public”), are doing so primarily to influence the behaviour of others, or because it is actually what seems right and good behaviour for themselves to adopt?
If their primary aim is to preach, then, they face’ll the same problems moral preachers face everywhere, even when not hobbled by hypocrisy. Which is that not everyone is amenable or receptive to any given message, and people are often busy doing and thinking other things.
If their primary aim is to practice, well then, they have already achieved what they set out to achieve, and if others like what they see and decide to mimic them, then that is all to their credit.
So, then, my question to you is, what differentiates environmentalists (whether hypocritical or sincere) from anyone else, such that they should escape the fate life reserves for most of us, which is to be ignored? And also, why should anyone NOT do what they do because they want to do it?
Great article. The quote:
“That’s not at all surprising—the great struggles of the era ahead of us will pit populists who identify with their nations against elites that identify only with their class”
.. reminds me of what I tell people. I tell people “globalism” is a code word for “elitism.”
There’s nothing new about characterizations of opposing viewpoints that deny not only any possibility of their being correct, but any capability of the opponent to actually form or express a valid idea. (For instance: “hysteria” when said of a reform-minded 19th century woman; “bourgeois indoctrination” or simply “insanity” when said of a Soviet dissident; “Satanic” when said of religious dissenters in various Christian milieux from medieval times to the present day. I’ve personally been told that the only possible reasons I could have for finding certain conspiracy narratives unconvincing is either that I “believe everything on TV,” or I’m working for the conspirators.) “Racism” is becoming another entry on that list, having once meant something like “active support for segregationist or race-supremacist policies” but now in many quarters meaning something more like “any questioning of certain narratives of identity politics.”
What’s novel for us is having such characterizations be imminent and prevalent, rather than in some remote historical time or place or confined to some subculture.
I’ll be interested to see how you describe the Wilderness of Mirrors and its effects. I’ve been developing and using a similar metaphor for our cultural insanity in recent years, but it’s based on purely materialistic models of how the self, cognition, and consciousness arise from the interaction (and especially, the opposition) of our brains with (by) the external world. Quite simply, replace too much of the natural external world with echoes of what the self wishes or expects it to be, and you have a problem akin to the old brain-teaser of a chameleon on a mirror. A fully focused image of either self or world (the latter including other people) never develops. (Put differently: an unopposed Will isn’t an all-powerful god; it’s a feckless dreaming ghost. That alone would have done the Krell in, even without monsters from the Id!)
It seems to require some intermediate steps to connect that with the polarized politics or environmental policies, though. A chameleon on a mirror seems a better description of President Trump himself than of his supporters or opponents.
Hi Mr. Greer.
It’s a pleasure to have you back.
I think we’ll see more ‘better for the environment’ changes as costs rise.
There’s nothing like poverty to make someone cut back on their carbon footprint.
This is why it’s so important to ‘walk the walk’ even when it seems to be a waste of time since no one else lives this way. Then things change. So, when the people around us need an example of how to, say, dry laundry without a dryer, we have the answer handy.
In the meantime, use less, improve your skills, and bank the savings.
Teresa from Hershey
Seeing people as objects? It’s very common and very narcissistic. It this what happens in declining societies, made worse by our obsession with machines, the ultimate objects? How do you deal with a society full of entitled narcissists when people don’t even see that’s what they are? The shadow is a huge moral problem as Jung rightly said.
Hello JMG, I want to thank you for the meme: “populists who identify with their nations” vs “elites that identify only with their class”. This bears much thinking about.
In Ireland, our class-identified elites are welcoming “vulture funds” and “loan sharks” and all other manner of financial predators into the nationto prey on their own countrypeople, and it is not at all surprising that many of us identify with the nation that needs defending against predation and plundering more than with the class which profits from same.
As to Roberta’s coining of “vegangelism” I’d like to add the data point that, apparently, this movement has hit the catwalk. There are apparently clothing purveyors who have decided to ban all animal derived fibres (including silk and mohair) from their collections, and although cotton and hemp will still feature, much of the new and chic fashonable wear this year will be made of various shades of plastic.
I’d also like to mention a most interesting commenter on the Stordahlen story (or more precisely on the Harvard University and multinational corporate consortium that engineered the EAT Lancet diet that she is championing). This is a website from down under, made by the wife of a back country Australian doctor (Gary Fettke) who was disciplined and censured by his professional medical association for the crime of prescribing certain low carb and ketogenic diets to patients (who reportedly benefitted).
It turns out the fearsome Belinda Fettke, his wife, was not going to take this lying down, and her search for the rationale behind what was done to her husband has unearthed all sorts of interesting historical connections, including a 19th century American prophet, whose visions included a strong warning against the sexual sins that meat eaters could expect to be tempted into, and the strong inroads her followers have made into the science of nutrition, and into the confidence of corporate food producers, over the period since then.
I can recommend the site to anyone interested in the history of our nutrition wars, and in its vested interests, and the EATLancet (Stordahlen) article is as good a way in as any.
“If a person’s integrity is essential to their argument, then why are there so many Trump supporters (not just anti-Hillary voters)? Even if you liked some of his policies, how could you trust him to follow through?”
I think it’s the usual triumph of a desparate hope over bitter experience. When it feels as though one is doomed anyway (as it already does for many Trump voters), one clings to any hope one can muster.
@ESN (if I may):
Others have discussed the merits of judging the speaker’s character. I would just like to add that I disagree with some of the history in your comment. Words were quite anonymous for a long time – proverbs, lays, nursery rhymes and others would be repeated without anyone ever knowing their author. Several books of the Bible (both Hebrew and Christian) don’t even pretend to state their author (e.g. Judges to Kings, Job, parts of the Psalms, the Epistle to the Hebrews). The importance of the author of some thought began to rise with the printing press and the copyright.
And as a working scientist I have to tell you that the reputation of the lab means a great deal to the reader’s (or reviewer’s) judgment of a publication. Double-blind peer-review has not caught on. Sometimes that is unjust, other times it is simpy necessary, since readers cannot repeat every single experiment in every paper they read, even in their own field of expertise.
JMG, it was interesting to read the comment and your response regarding “Twilight’s Last Gleaming.” Had real scholarship survived in this country, it would be compared to 1984. I know it is not intended as prediction, but when I check off one of the “boxes,” I contemplate the current situation and the next box. I am wondering if Venezuela could be the oil reserve that gets a carrier harpooned.
Keep doing what you do, please?
Mark L. Thank you. I actually agree. We’re talking about different means to the same end. And this is an experiment for me, so I’m keeping an open mind.
Dear Nastarana, First, thank you for your comment, and thank you for all your efforts to conserve and better the world we share. As a general rule I leave people to make their own decisions, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, one person’s liberty to swing his fist ends right where another man’s nose begins. Few of us have the luxury of living on an island where we can do what we please without troubling our neighbors and the wider community. And as James points out, what we consume and what we eat does impact the environment. So how do I, as the fond aunt of five young people, deal with swings that will affect their darling noses? If the government swings at those kids, I’m getting out the yellow vest. If it’s a neighbor, I’m going to say something — as you’ve felt free to do in frank conversation with your neighbors.
Your Yoyo, thank you, that is exactly the point I am trying to make. And it has led me down a winding path to the question, why do very good people hold so fast to destructive habits? It may be that most of us automate our habitual behaviors so that they become like blinking. Ordinarily we’re not aware of them, but they feel normal and natural, which makes change feel awkward or even threatening. That is a different thing from being committed in principle to destructive habits. And for the reasons you point out, I don’t think most of us govern those habits in accordance with other people’s hypocrisy or integrity.
Post Peak Medicine wrote:
“I have found a strange phenomenon when I try to engage in reasoned discussion about, for example, the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet, with people who have perhaps never considered the possibility before. I get zero response – just blankness. If I put forward a carefully reasoned argument, backed up by calculations, people neither agree not disagree with me – they just treat the comment as though it was made in an incomprehensible foreign language, Chinese or Russian for example, completely fail to engage with it, and just carry on talking about whatever they were talking about before.”
Over the last few decades, I have noticed that a majority of the people with whom I talk pay very little attention to the exact meaning of what I say. Rather, they pick up on a few key words that caught their attention, and they respond to what they suppose someone might be saying, given those few words–not at all to what I actually said. Sometimes I reply that I wasn’t saying (and didn’t mean) what they thought I said (and meant), but something else instead. Then I, too, get the same blankness, as if I had switched into some incomprehensible language.
This wasn’t so when I was younger. People would listen more closely to my words and grasp my meaning far more easily. Now it seems as though many are simply incapable of listening with any care to another person’s words.
I don’t know why this change has happened. Maybe it’s that everyone is desparately trying to keep their heads above water while swimming in the constant torrent of words from TVs and other screens ..
Does anyone have any insights here? I’m truly perplexed.
It’s good to have you back after a month off, JMG. I hope you enjoyed the time away. This post hit a place I have been, and probably many of us have been, moving with a similar stride. That is, fully observing the hypocrisy of the liberal wing of the cultural world and their moral claim of superiority, and trying to wrestle my way to a more complete understanding of why….
I actually just wrote a piece that I believe moves in a very similar direction as this one, yet from a different angle. It focuses on the extreme preference which human beings have developed for sensual and emotional experience (or materialism). I think that is ultimately what is behind a great deal of the cultural elites inability to actually think – they can’t, because they have literally developed a way of being that favors certain emotional experiences to such a strong degree that they actually can’t even see the thinking occurring around the emotional experience. This way of being is obvious if you notice the abundance of people who now say “I feel” when they actually are declaring a thought, or an observation that has nothing to do with their capacities of feeling.
Of course thinking is still happening in these individuals, it has just been distorted, corrupted, and even inverted. And so, without clarity of thought, the ideas one expresses become distorted and lacking accuracy. I focused on the way the cultural elite is currently using the concepts of compassion and empathy to facilitate emotional buyins to their hollow doctrines. They do this, as you speak to, to dissuade (or force) individuals from actually engaging their independent thinking capacities. Because if individuals did actually think about what was being presented to them, they would so quickly recognize how inaccurate, silly, and self serving the ideas actually are.
Anyways, I really gained a lot from reading this piece and I especially like the conclusion you reach JMG about the objectification of subjects, which human beings are well underway with. That is a very succinct and easy to understand way of illustrating an observation that more of us should wake up to! I must recognize that every human being I come in contact with has a purpose of its own, which is not up to me to dictate. The collective level is something altogether different. But certainly I can begin by acknowledging the individual at the individual level, with freedom to be. And perhaps if we start to do that, we can move towards a scrap of harmony, to begin with, at the collective level.
here is the link to my article if anyone cares to read:
The people you are trying to “social pressure” into being environmentally responsible:
A) Do they consider you part of their social “tribe”? And if they changed their ways, but still didn’t agree with you on other key points, would you welcome them into your own social “tribe”?
B) IF they do think of you as part of the same social tribe, do you rank socially higher or lower than they do?
The problem with shunning and other forms of social pressure is that they only work on your social “in-group” and on people who *want* to become part of your social “in-group”. And even then, it only works if they perceive you as ranking higher in social status than they do. Otherwise, you’re trying to exert social pressure on people over whom you have zero social leverage. If you belong to an actively opposed social tribe, then opposing you may even win them social bonus points with their own tribe– which makes your actions actively counterproductive.
Excellent post John and welcome back!
Howard Schultz is an interesting one. I had put him down as a Bloomberg type figure – a dull establishment billionaire candidate but maybe there is greater depth to the man then I realized. Certainly one to watch.
My sense as an outsider is that people would like to vote for an alternative to Trump (his poll ratings are consistently below 50%) but the Democrats have a shallow and broad support which is concentrated within the bi-coastal bubbles. For many voters, its not a vote for the Democrats but against Trump.
As you have rightly said before, this is not a great strategy to win elections. The two candidates who could appeal to Republicans, particularly working class “Trump Democrats” from the Rust Belt/mid west are Sanders and Biden. Sanders has a strong record of trade and Biden’s foreign policy views are not dissimilar to Trump (Biden is against the interventionism of the neo-cons) and he seems reasonably sensible in other areas, if a little establishment-like.
I think the 2020 election is wide open and Trump is not guaranteed to win it by any stretch given his poll ratings but he should not be under-estimated.
The economy seems to be bumbling along and despite the fears I do not see a recession looming soon. My sense is that we have a few more years of recovery before the next recession, particularly as the Fed has given up the rate hiking cycle after the stock market tantrums in late 2018.
The oil market is a fascinating one and the on-going collapse of Venezuela is an early indication of how our industrial civilization will unravel.
I highly recommend reading this article.
In my FI blog I reviewed my forecasts for 2018 and explored my outlook for 2019 and beyond.
The triggers for widespread mass migration seems to be a heating up climate and it looks like the 2030s to 2040s could be a key period in our century.
I note the comment from Eurointelligence the other day which is worth republishing it full.
“We noted a disturbing report in the Guardian on what one expert called the climate crisis you have not heard of: melting glaciers in the Hindu Kush and the Himalaya ranges, with the potential for a mass dislocation of some 2bn people. Those glaciers constitute a water reservoir for much of central Asia reaching deep into China, which is dependent for its water supplies from rivers that flows from those mountains. The impact of the melting is catastrophic – floods, monsoon rains, and insufficient water pressure for the hydro-electric dams that provide much of China’s energy supply.
A massive report just published on this issues notes that, even if global warming were limited to a rise in average temperatures by 1.5 degrees celsius, 36% of the glaciers will have disappeared by the end of the decade. If temperatures go up by 2 degrees, that percentage rises to two thirds. It it is not hard to see that these foreseeable catastrophes could lead to mass migration and even war on the Eurasian continent this century. The geological effects will start kicking in by in the middle of the century (which is only 30 years away), but the political effects are likely to hit much earlier, as those dramatic changes are being anticipated.”
If you read the blog a bit longer you might understand better the reasons why JMG is criticising this approach.
1) The hypocrisy, the main focus of the article, IS toxic and counterproductive to the environmental movement.
2) The most outspoken vegans who promote ideas like “Veganism is the only accrptable response to climate change” are both counterproductive and wrong.
3) The general attitude of “You’re doing the one wrong thing and I’m doing the one right thing therefore you need to change and I don’t” is also counterproductive and wrong.
Veganism is the best diet choice for the environment *if and only if* you get all your food from the grocery store, and if you do, your food still has an atrocious ecological footprint. Gardening, fishing, hunting, growing your own meat, and developing relationships with local, sustainable (preferrably organic permaculture) farmers are all better choices than veganism, and they do allow people to eat meat. (They don’t allow people in Canada to eat oranges midwinter.. so there are other sacrifices.) JMG has shown support for all of these alternatives, partly because they are effective, and partly because their proponents don’t waste time by virtue signalling or shaming everyone else. There are many vegans who support these other options as legitimate, and JMG goes out of his way to not attack those vegans either.
The main point is don’t act like your poo doesn’t stink because you have chosen one or two methods of reducing your GHGs, instead keep looking for more alternatives and be supportive of many different ways of reducing GHGs… and if one is wildly unpopular, maybe focus on promoting some of the others instead, and most importantly, if your emissions are higher than the average middle class American, (which is atrociously high) you have NO RIGHT to tell anyone else how to reduce emissions, it’s like a kindergartener trying to teach a high school student algebra.
Concerning what you say at the end about people-as-objects being key to political intolerance, I partly agree, partly disagree: in fact, I could imagine that we become enraged at others’ disagreement with us even more when we view them as subjects than when we see them as objects.
From my own observation, the confrontation with a person-as-subject—the feeling of being faced with an independent being capable of judging and even striking back—is the part of any disagreement that actually inflames, that enervates, that allows the disagreement to be taken personally or even conceivably to become a threat to one’s moral universe. Above all, the person-as-subject raises the possibility of genuine **defiance**: it presents a real and living alternative to our dearest wishes, one that might just work its own will on us and even prove itself better or stronger. That threat is enough to make even a not-so-doctrinaire soul nervous, up to the point of seeking retribution and censorship. What’s more, given our age of extreme self-absorption, of hyper-focus on the atomized individual, I think this potential explosiveness of man-as-subject is becoming all the more parlous.
On the other hand, if we view those with whom we disagree as “objects”, just implements with no moral moment or will of their own, perhaps fulfilling a duty or a tradition, then dispiriting as that might be there is at least a certain coolness about the whole affair, an impersonality. If the other has no real will or self in the matter and so can mean no disrespect, after all, what cause for bile? It’s true one can still be frustrated at an object, as at a broken parking meter that swallows your change. But even this frustration is quite different from the rage that can be evoked by a full-fledged subject that faces us down and fully threatens and defies everything we believe. Anger at an object is neither moral nor personal in tone, and its aim is ultimately to repair something seen as objectively broken—instead of as villainous or evil, as we routinely do when faced with man-as-subject.
Something paradoxical is going on, then. I have no doubt that technological society is profoundly objectifying—to its inhabitants and to nature generally—yet I also sense an irascible and distended subjectiveness rising, taking hold of all discourse, hiding sneakily under the mask of objectification, waiting to lash out with new poison. In any event, many are the times when I would happily settle for a little more of the “object-directed” sort of anger in our debates, and less of the “subject-directed”.
On environmental problems and convincing others:
We have a related “commons” problem. We live on a private unpaved road, which means the residents are responsible for road maintenance. The road is in terrible condition. We’d all like it to be fixed, but we have an intractable political problem.
It is this: we live on a slope, with the uphill side and the downhill side divided by the road. Many neighbors have installed large paved driveways, which cause huge amounts of rain runoff. We have very little soil (our area was a ridge of coastal sand-dunes in ancient times), and the driveways cause considerable erosion, but only for the downhill residents. If the downhill folks put in a driveway, it’s their own problem. It erodes their own yard and nobody else’s. If the uphill people put in a driveway, it’s still the downhill folks who get the erosion. We have had to install and maintain an elaborate system of retaining walls, trenches, and other barriers to keep water from rushing in our front door when it rains. Others have resorted to different defensive measures. None of this was necessary when the uphill side was all woods, 25 years ago.
We all know the road is in bad shape, and we all want the road to be better. For the uphill neighbors, the preferred solution is to pave the road (with no provision for the current runoff, or the massive additional runoff caused by the paving). For the downhill folks, we’d still like to either pave the road, or maybe have it professionally graded and then put down gravel– but with the addition of a ditch and possibly a couple of retaining ponds on the uphill side to deal with the runoff, so that it’s not washing away our houses. We’d also like those uphill people who have already installed driveways to make their own provisions, on their own properties, for the runoff they’re already generating. You can see where the gridlock is: uphill people: “but we should all pay the same amount, and we don’t want the extra expense of putting in ditches or ponds…” So… they want the road fixed, and they want the downhill side to absorb all the negative consequences (in addition to continuing to offload their runoff on us). The downhill side is, naturally, resisting efforts to fix the road at all, as long as our concerns are being ignored.
So: WE ACTIVELY RESIST fixing the road, even though WE ALL WANT IT FIXED, because we do not want to pay wildly disproportionate costs for the repairs, compared to our neighbors.
IMO, this is pretty much how the environmentalist thing works. I’ve met very few people who claim we have no environmental problems (and most people I know are on the political right), or that those problems don’t need to be addressed. Nobody likes it when their fishing spot fills up with trash, or their drinking water is contaminated, or their neighborhood smells like farts and gives their kids asthma. But there’s a class issue there that environmental activists consistently fail to address.
Those on the lower-income side of the road already suffer disproportionately from environmental toxins, climate volatility, etc. The rich can afford to move into unsullied landscapes, import their drinking water from Fiji, vacation in the fresh mountain air, rebuild their houses after manmade “natural” disasters, etc. Most proposals for cleaning up the environment impose additional costs disproportionately on the people who can least afford it, and who are likely generating less of the problem to begin with.
As long as “save the earth” proposals look like “Let’s ban cars! We smart people can telecommute, and you slobs still have to live 30 miles from your job” the predictable response is going to be “Go to hell.”
So much for concise… I tried.
(JMG, this is getting a bit off-topic but this is the only place I manage to have these conversations. If you ever want to point us to some sort of chat-space to avoid cluttering up your comments section I would be in support.)
Character matters at least as much as policies to me for several reasons. Though I support some of Trump’s policy goals and accomplishments – and I could easily see myself voting for someone with all of his policies minus some of the social conservatism – I fear that he is doing serious damage to the fabric of American democracy by taking the rants, the ad hominem attacks, the reduction of serious issues to emotion-laden soundbite tweets all the way to the top and broadcasting it across all of the media networks. I feel embarrassed to be an American when among foreigners, knowing that this is what they see of our country on TV. I can only hope that the backlash against his style might be an intentional return to balanced consideration of the issues, agreement to disagree, respect for one’s opponents, and polite discourse.
@Jasper I am not pro-Israel or anti-Israel, so that means nothing to me, and is in fact sometimes a cause of concern depending on the imperialistic tendencies of the person involved. I do not care if someone is surrounded by rich Jews, I care that people of compassion take into account the full throated, white supremacist support for Trump in their reckoning of the man. (I do not think that he is a Nazi/fascist or whatever, just that enthusiastic support from those corners is something quite repulsive.) As someone who has gone to protest Nazi/white supremacist rallies in a town near mine, the fact that groups that loudly shout “Hitler was right” also wave Trump signs/wear MAGA hats is utterly chilling coming from someone with family members that have second-hand memories of the Holocaust.
I agree with the perfidy of the media. Something worth mentioning from my (biased) perspective, is that I am astonished that people think the media is “leftist” or “socialist.” In reality, it is a bland, center-corporate propaganda with a smattering of watered-down center-left social stuff. I think that you are quite right about the use of words poorly being tantamount to lying; this distortion of slight centrist concessions to social policy is interpreted as left wing, and that does tend to make people think that the left is nothing more than a bunch of Karl Marxs and Hillary Clintons, and nothing else.
Calling Nazis socialists is hewing to far-right propaganda, imo. I think that one should attempt to define words and concepts by looking at the people who believe in them; no socialist would look at a definition so different from their life and beliefs with anything other than shock, or perhaps anger.
As a left radical opposed to elites of all forms, and someone who tries to be an ally of the working class, I hope we can all work together to fight the rich elites and help the white working class while still maintaining respect and support for minorities of all kinds. As someone on a coast, I do not disagree with your statement about coastal dominance; that said, I think that the oppressed and downtrodden minorities and working classes who are used and abused by the selfsame elites are your and my allies. I think that we all need to integrate two different but essential interpretations of our political reality; one, the very real physical orientation of this country between coastal power center and exploited interior, and two, the fact that no matter the region, the elite are our enemies, and the working/poverty classes our potential allies. Good day.
@ Mark L
Re Trump and character and perception
That is fair. I certainly cannot fault you for having your own particular weighting of values. I see Trump as something of a modern day Andrew Jackson: crude, despised by elites, rather supported by the deplorable common man, and speaking bluntly. Given our choices thus far, I’d take haphazard, chaotic progress from one such as him over polished, methodical movement in the wrong direction, but others may very well disagree.
Methylethyl, really good question. Yes, I am seeking to change hearts and minds in my own community, among my own friends, relatives, neighbors and associates. I think that makes them my tribe. I don’t know how I rank in their minds; I think of them as my peers. The thing about social pressure that interests me, apart from it’s efficacy in other areas of life, is that what you’re leveraging is already there; you don’t have to sprinkle anyone with pressure dust. I don’t think you can shame or embarrass someone who genuinely feels excellent about their choices. On the other hand, if someone isn’t living in harmony with their own beliefs, you have to do very little to elicit discomfort, and I think discomfort can be constructive. It has been in my life.
Michael Wenisch. I’ve heard Bill McKibben speak a number of times. My impression is that he is passionate about his subject but I’ve never heard him raise his voice. Is there something about him you find shrill?
@ Robert Mathiesen, if I may, I really and truly think that most people are only able to think along the tracks their lives follow through space and time. I experience frequently when I say something people will not engage and simply say “I don’t know!” or “I don’t know anything about that,” with no follow up, curiosity, or thought. When people do as you describe in your comment and rephrase what I said based on a few words, they always bring it back to some sort of line of thinking they are familiar with, at least in my experience.
This leads me to conclude that for most people there thoughts are like their lives, their house, their car, their commute, their job and their time with the television. That is to say incredibly narrow. Outside of this narrow purview appears to be a vast conceptual wilderness that includes not just the trees, but the dandelions growing in the sidewalk cracks right outside of their house!
While you were off, I took the opportunity to look back at your Libra Ingress Chart and was, once again, struck by how very much events have unfolded match the general tenor of your predictions. Even though it’s still good for another couple of months, I’d say it was far better than any other predictions I’ve seen anyone make. Certainly no one in the mainstream predicted the shutdown over the Great Wall tantrum.
Now, to the point of this my comment, that is, that as I read your post, I couldn’t help but reflect the degree to which purity politics and — how did you put it? Piggybacking? — also play their parts in alienating potential supporters as well.
I, for one, cannot accept the claim that veganism is going to save the planet, except, if it were universally adopted, then the resulting malnutrition would probably cause the early death rate to rise sufficiently to cause the population do go down at a significant rate. That would definitely have an impact on the environment. Veganism has decided to piggy-back onto Environmentalism. I marvel the degree to which these two things have become conflated, kind of the way free-market industrialism became conflated with democratic electoral politics.
Jaznights, thanks for the view from Eire! It does always seem to be the case, doesn’t it, that “saving the planet” involves loading more burdens on the working classes, while the privileged classes get a free pass on their far more environmentally damaging habits.
Pogonip, I’ll see if I can put something together and stick it on my Dreamwidth journal.
Sylvia, maybe it’s synchronicity, but my wife is doing exactly the same sort of excavation of her yarn stash just now…
Ojete Calor, I’m glad to hear that your Marxist friend has noticed this. If more people on the left notice the same thing, maybe the left can get back to doing its job of defending the poor and the working classes from the rich, instead of spending so much time engaging in virtue signaling that benefits nobody but the rich.
Elodie, fair enough. I find the science behind anthropogenic global warming more convincing than you do, but I also recognize that it’s not the only environmental issue we’re (not) facing at the moment, and some of the ways the climate change narrative has been defended get my hackles up — the ongoing and frankly Orwellian erasure of the “new ice age” scare of the late 1970s being way up there. (Anyone who wants to argue that this didn’t happen is welcome to do so, so long as they’re willing to sit down and read some books that I can recommend…)
David, well, there’s that!
Karim, I never said that leading by example was the only thing that needs to be done. What I’m saying is that if you don’t do that, none of the rest will have any effect.
Will, that’s certainly proven to be true in some cases.
Blue Sun, ding! We have another winner. Yes, indeed; it’s a standard phenomenon of a society at a certain phase of the historical process that the elite classes stop identifying with anything but their own class. Normally, that’s followed by the process that Oswald Spengler calls “Caesarism” — that is, the rise of charismatic leaders who win power by appealing to those who’ve been shut outside the airtight circles of elite culture. If this sounds familiar, why, there’s good reason for it…
Auntlili, the polls also insisted that nobody would vote for Donald Trump and that the Brexit referendum was sure to go Remain. Check out the abundant literature on the hardwired biases of public opinion polls and you may be a little more cautious about generalizing from what a statistically nonrepresentative sample of people are willing to say on the phone to a complete stranger. As for your example, oddly enough, we get a form letter from our local power company four times a year insisting that we use more electricity than the average residence in our neighborhood. (In point of fact, our electricity use is a modest fraction of the US average and would be unexceptional in one of the poorer European countries.) As far as I can tell, every single address in East Providence gets the same form letter; as far as I can tell, everybody chucks it into the recycle bin, recognizing it as the cheap manipulative scam that it is.
The entire logic that guides the strategy you want to use assumes that everyone knows that you’re right, and they just have to be bullied into doing whatever it is that they know they ought to do anyway. That, in turn, is why the environmental movement has failed so abjectly for so many years, because the people you most need to influence are precisely those who think you’re dead wrong. When they see Gunhild Stordalen wasting carbon like there’s no tomorrow, they don’t think, “Gosh, she shouldn’t be doing that.” They think, “If she really believed the planet was in trouble, she wouldn’t live like that, so clearly when she says the planet’s in trouble, she’s just telling the proles another pack of lies.” That’s why climate change skepticism has become so widespread, you know. They’re not just pretending to disagree with you; they really do think that you’re just mouthing propaganda that’s meant to guarantee the rich disproportionate access to fossil fuels.
When most Americans look at people who live environmentally conscious lifestyles like the ones you and I lead, in turn, they don’t think of us as brave pioneers who are doing what they ought to be doing; they think of us as cranks. They may, if you keep this in mind, think of you as AuntLili the interesting eccentric who seems to have a much happier life than they do, and has much lower bills, and some of them will end up learning from you — that’s certainly happened over and over again with me. If you try to bully them into doing what you think they ought to do, though, they’re going to think of you as AuntLili the loudmouthed crackpot who gets ignored by everyone, and you might just end up being thought of as AuntLili the hilarious freak — hey, guys, let’s go see if we can get her going on one of her tirades, so we can point and laugh!
The moral to this story is that you don’t get to decide how other people see you. They decide that. It’s all very well to watch a movie in your mind where you play the role of Greta Thunberg, Speaking Truth To Power(tm), but it’s precisely the inability to recognize that other people don’t see your actions the way you see them that I’ll be discussing at rather some length in this series of posts. Stay tuned…
There has been much buzz of late regarding the newly-minted “Green New Deal”, recently proposed by a gaggle of legislators on the Left. I decided to mosey on over to the FAQ-pdf to get a grasp on what’s in store for us and, well, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Obviously there are lots of environmental ideas in there, but also lots and lots of progressive social engineering and free stuff for everyone, or at least everyone who can qualify as an Intersectional Victim of Oppression.
Here’s a small part of what the Green New Deal promises to do:
“Build on FDR’s second bill of rights by guaranteeing:
-A job with a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security
-High-quality education, including higher education and trade schools
-Clean air and water and access to nature
-High-quality health care
-Safe, affordable, adequate housing
-Economic environment free of monopolies
-Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work”
Wow! Even for people who are ‘unwilling to work’! What could possibly go wrong with that? There’s also a requirement to, “Upgrade or replace every building in US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency”. Really? In ten years?
The Green New Deal is clearly a wondrous thing, all Tinkerbell and unicorns and rainbows, but I have some doubts about the implementation. For one, all of the proposals appear to be top-down: this stuff will be done for people, no major personal effort seems to be involved. Well, except for the confiscatory tax rates that will inevitably be required to fund all this – despite the GND assurance that this will be paid for, ‘The same way we paid for World War II and all our current wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit. There is also space for the government to take an equity stake in projects to get a return on investment. At the end of the day, this is an investment in our economy that should grow our wealth as a nation, so the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity.’
Shared prosperity, indeed.
Here’s a link to the pdf: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5729035/Green-New-Deal-FAQ.pdf
I just want to add that I am not an anti-environmentalism; I think the Green New Deal attempts to address a very, very serious issue, but proposes to do it in an unrealistic, ineffective way. If it fails – and I suspect that it will – this failure may damage future large-scale environmental endeavors and that would be a dreadful legacy.
“Anyone who wants to argue that this didn’t happen is welcome to do so, so long as they’re willing to sit down and read some books that I can recommend”
Do I have to argue to get the book recommendations? I’m prepared to do so if need be 😉
@KiwiJon re Twilight’s Last Gleaming – And everybody else, for what it’s worth:
the latest issue of The Atlantic has a cover story about the possibility of impeaching Trump, with historical parallels. The author’s argument isn’t the usual one about collusion with Russia, which the author rightly notes fails to meet the legal definition of Treason, but rather, Trump putting his *personal* interests above the good of the nation to the detriment of the nation. His political policies are not at issue here, nor are his manners. The author defines the personal issues very carefully – both financial, and insisting on personal loyalty above every other consideration in his appointees. (Didn’t something like that nearly bring down Henry II of England? While making a martyr and a saint out of his to man in office?)
In the same issue was – finally, after all these years – a nice analysis of how the plundering of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union corrupted the American elite.
I also got and filled out my party’s annual questionnaire about the issues we cared most about. To my dismay, all the ones that had loomed so large in better times had to give way to Voting Rights and fair elections, and as a close second, workers’ rights.
Here endeth my own much dismayed SOTU message.
Aunt Lili, I am afraid I have to ask you to please not recharacterize what I typed. I have had conversations with neighbors about behavior of their young people–teens and almost teens, old enough to know how to mind their own business–not about the neighbor’s lifestyle choices and spending habits, both of which I regard as none of my business, and I do expect and mostly receive a similar forbearance from them. This does go two ways. If I don’t make remarks about someone’s riding mower than I expect to hear no catcalls from them OR their offspring about my push mower. And I think my point still stands, boundaries matter. The two things which occur to me that add significantly to global warming are our expensive, oil guzzling overseas military involvements, and, as our host pointed out some time ago, passenger air travel. Those are two areas in which to put our protest energies, rather than into harassing our neighbors. One thing which could be being done right now with minimal public investment is to simply extend existing mass transit, for example, bus or trolley lines extended a few more miles, buses running oftener, starting earlier and ending later.
I agree with our host and others who have posted here that I ought not to be badgering my neighbors about their lives and spending, BUT I also am entitled, I believe, not to be subjected to what I privately call the Conservative Cultural Conformity Brigade.
Re the form letter pertaining to electricity use
I’m surprised a utility would do something so readily disprovable. I don’t know how different the RI regulatory environment is, but here in WI every electric and water utility files annual reports with the state commission chock full of data, including usage by rate class. It is the simplest thing in the world to calculate the average residential usage and compare that value to one’s own bills.
To all who said their reasoned comments on climate change are “treated as if they were in Russian or Chinese,” I have had decades and decades of having many of my own opinions which seemed reasonable to me, treated as if (my phrase) I was babbling nonsense in Martian. Since rephrasing it rarely worked, though very occasionally someone else, usually a man, would say the same thing and be listened to, I decided to forget the entire thing, live my life, speak once, and remember the many proverbs about wasting my time and annoying the pig. Anyway, I’m sorry to have to welcome you all to the club of those trying to teach the pig to sing.
To Yaj, re: “I feel.” A professor of mine in grad school pointed this out to me about ten years ago. Since then it has irritated me every time I hear it. I have four teenagers, and every time they start off with “I feel,” I interrupt them to say, “That’s nice. Now what do you THINK?” It annoys them, but it’s meant to, and it gets their attention.
To Sylvia R, re: yarn stash. Oh, sister, I hear you! I have reached SABLE (stash accumulated beyond life expectancy) and have been choosing projects for their stash-busting potential. I’ve also handed off quite a bit of yarn to my mother, who has been knitting chemo caps for Cancer Connection, and to a friend who makes wrist warmers as a fund-raiser for her local animal shelter. At least yarn (stored properly) has no expiration date, so my children could use it after I’m gone if they choose!
To JMG, re: form letters from utilities. I get these from my natural gas utility. In summer, they chasten me that I use more than my ‘most efficient neighbors,’ but in winter, I use waaaaaaaaaaaaaay less than my ‘most efficient neighbors.’ Fact is, we are all plumbed for our water to be heated by gas. I have the same number of bodies showering and generating dishes to be washed, year-round, but I choose not to use my gas-fired boiler for heat in the winter and heat with wood instead. I also look at those, snigger, pitch, and wonder why they insist on killing trees to send them to me.
Scotlyn, excellent point. Practice versus preach: for me the answer is both. I live the way I live because I think it’s right and that makes me happy. And if it were just me here, that would be all that mattered. But I’m stuck with the fact that we seem to be aboard a sinking ship, and well-meaning people are bailing water into the boat. That has very real consequences for ourselves and future generations. Our host has often spoken about making changes in consciousness in accordance with will. He has also pointed out that the consciousness in question need not be your own, although I think we’d all agree that your own is the best place to start. Well, that’s activism. Sneaky activism maybe, but activism. It’s developing an intention to change something (hearts and minds) and then changing it. We are social primates who influence each other for better or worse both by deed and by word. So here we all are in the marketplace of ideas. One way to characterize our interaction is preaching, but I think that’s just a way to trivialize an exchange of ideas that challenge our assumptions. Another is sincere dialogue or debate.
I don’t expect everyone to be receptive to what I do or say, but the least pragmatic thing I can think of is to do nothing in the face of crisis. As I write this, the yellow vests in France have achieved a rise in the minimum wage, a rollback of cuts to social programs, taxes on the rich and an elimination of the fuel tax that threw the burden of rationing onto the poor. It’s taken them ten weeks to turn entrenched government policy on its head. They didn’t do it by setting a good example and offering President Macron gentle encouragement; they did it by embarrassing him. They did it by getting good and shrill.
So, to your questions: “What differentiates environmentalists (whether hypocritical or sincere) from anyone else, such that they should escape the fate life reserves for most of us, which is to be ignored?” Environmentalists are no different than anyone else and if they’re like me they expect to be ignored much of the time. That’s no excuse for not trying. Imagine if Dr. King had decided not to try, or the suffragettes, or the abolitionists. They were all preachy, but for better or worse, preachers make a difference. And finally: “Why should anyone NOT do what they do because they want to do it?” Would that include stealing? Assault? Relieving yourself in a public place? I’m going to assume that you’re asking me where we draw the line between personal freedom and responsibility to the greater community. I think people have a perfect right to do as they wish if the consequences fall squarely on themselves. If someone is generating suffering and hardship for others, and if there is no real necessity to do so, do you think they have the right?
The frustrating part is that, by and large, the elites are empirically correct more often than not, but they’re still lying propagandists. Unfortunately, virtually all of the alternative news out there is being put out by even worse propagandists telling even bigger lies!
I’m reminded of Asimov’s maxim: “When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” It’s wrong to think that CNN and The New York Times are reliable news sources. But it’s a lot more wrong to think that Breitbart and InfoWars (or their far-left equivalents) are reliable news sources, or to dismiss them all as equally bad.
JMG wrote: “What I’m saying is that if you don’t do that, none of the rest will have any effect. ”
Quite so, alas even when leading by example the rest is no longer having any effect any more!!!
Only a sense of immediate and imminent danger seem to have any (very modest) effect at this stage. May be this lack of effect shows how far down the slope we have gone…..
JMG, I look forward to your series of posts. I understand your concern that the view others take of me may constrain any influence I might otherwise bring to bear, and that’s perfectly logical, but it flies in the face of my experience. People absolutely think I’m a crank, but they also want to please me. I really don’t know why, but it’s palpable and it’s constant. Because of that, I’ve always been careful to be pleased, which keeps them comfortable when perhaps they shouldn’t be. It’s diplomatic, but it’s also completely insincere. I’m not pleased with them. It isn’t a question of bullying but of honesty. I recognize that exchanging diplomacy for sincerity carries risks, but so does staying stuck.
In rereading your comment it occurs to me that we may be working different crowds. No one I know cares about Gunhild Stordalen and her hypocrisy; their habits were set in stone long before the clock struck on her fifteen minutes of fame. There is complete segregation between what they espouse and what they do. Really, Gunhild could be their mascot. That’s what I’m dealing with, that’s why I haven’t been successful, and that’s why I have to change.
Pan, sure. You’ll find several sets of calculations in the comment thread here.
Post Peak, I’ve had the same experience. That’s one of the reasons I tend to focus my efforts to communicate in books and blogs, where the people who read them are usually at least willing to try to follow a reasoned argument.
Jess, of course it’s hard. In a society that puts so much emphasis on doing whatever you want to do, and then floods your mind with advertising to make sure you have far more wants than you otherwise would, saying “No, I’m not going to do what I want” is a real challenge. It’s also one of the basic foundations of human freedom. We’ll get to that in an upcoming post.
Fred, glad you enjoyed it. If you’d like to hear more, put the following search string into your favorite search engine:
John Michael Greer podcast
You’ll find a few!
John, thanks for this.
Yoyo, no, it’s more serious than that. Here is a person trying to tell you that eating eggplant is a bad thing — it’s bad for you, it harms the planet, nobody should do it. You then see that same person chowing down on eggplant Parmesan — not just once, but over and over again, three hefty meals of it a day. Does this affect your assessment of the person’s claims about the evils of eating eggplant? Of course it does.
Ganv, interesting. I’m reminded quite a bit of Vico’s discussion of the barbarism of reflection. Hmm…
Mark, I think you’re missing my point. We live at a time when people very often tell lies in order to manipulate other people. In order to convince someone of anything, you have to start by demonstrating that you’re not just lying to them in order to manipulate them. If your actions don’t match your words, people will assume that you’re a liar and should not be trusted. They would be fools to do anything else. That’s the issue with the privileged environmentalists who don’t walk their talk; it’s not that people think they’re hypocrites, it’s that people think they’re liars who have some dishonest motive for claiming that the planet is in trouble and that everyone (except them) has to cut back on fossil fuel use.
Denys, remember that one of the things that’s driving all this is the desire of people to shake off the tyranny of mandatory niceness and find some way to hate while still feeling good about themselves. I’ve come to see that as one of the major driving forces behind the Two Minutes Hate being directed, a la Orwell’s 1984, at Trump et al.
Dominique, thank you for this. All of us will eventually end up back in the food web, of course; just as I eat cows and pigs and chickens, I will eventually be eaten by insects and worms and bacteria, and I hope they enjoy their meal as much as I enjoy mine. When Druids talk about the circle of life, that’s an important part of it!
Oilman2, one of the enticing features of blogging these days, if you have any sort of taste for the absurd, is that it’s such a target-rich environment. I expect the 2020 campaign to be one for the record books.
James, people started insisting that I’d jumped the shark within a year of the time I started blogging. In every case, it was because I’d hit a nerve, and the further I pursued the issue about which that comment was made, the more people started reading my blog, Ergo, thank you — you’ve convinced me to write even more about the subject of this week’s post.
David, delighted to hear both of these!
Will, yep. Let me toss you a tidbit from my argument. If we have no free will, then we have no choice to believe whatever we happen to believe. Reasoned argument would therefore have no force, since it would require the existence of free will for us to consider a reasoned argument, decide that it’s correct, and change our minds. Yet those who deny the existence of free will present reasoned arguments to defend their claim. They are therefore covertly assuming the existence of free will while overtly denying it…
Denys, oof — but I’m not sure I can find reasons to dispute that.
Dana, a finely honed metaphor. Thank you.
Jasonmierek, of course. As I’ll be explaining in later posts, what we’re talking about is a set of attitudes hardwired into the basic structure of Western cultures, which have gone metastatic over the last century or so, and from which none of us in those cultures is exempt.
Beekeeper, JMG, and all
I’m glad you got to posting that. I’d spent a good portion of the day reading about the Green New Deal and the group behind it, the Justice Democrats. They’ve taken some great pages out of history, especially FDRs New Deal, and tied it up with the emotional concern du jour, environmentalism and climate change, in an effort to further their agenda. This tied in so perfectly with JMGs post. There are mirrors preventing people from seeing things clearly. There are people of a class acting as concerned about the environment, signaling for change, and using those charged emotions to further along another agenda. Examples such as these are exactly why it is hard to take so called environmentalists seriously. The Washington Examiner had a great article about the Green New Deal, the title of which sums up the deal: Green New Deal is just a Red Trojan Horse
@Beekeeper: I have to say, I like it! I don’t think any of the things you listed are bad — I paid trillions along with the rest of America for the bank bailouts, so I’m certainly willing to pay for clean air and water and access to nature. I don’t see any particular reason to water down an opening shot like this. I expect it will cause plenty of debate and shift the Overton window.
I also like that the ultimate plan is to get rid of airplanes. My personal plan this year involves at least six trans-Pacific plane flights, but if planes were abolished tomorrow and replaced with trains and boats, I wouldn’t mind at all. (There are currently no passenger ships that stop in my intended destinations; I check regularly.) I’m glad the topic is being raised, so soon after this blog post went up — even if you don’t like the specific goals AOC lists, to say something like this in the halls of Congress takes courage, and I hope more are following in her footsteps.
I’d like to complete a bit what has been said about environmental movements and the public at large.
For the public to initiate change we all agree that (1) environmental movements must lead by example but (2) there also be a clear sense of urgency and (3) any action undertaken must yield clear benefits to those undertaking change.
Climate change movements failed because (1) they did not lead by example, (2) there was never a clear sense of urgency as climate change is diffuse across the planet, delayed in time and mostly difficult to perceive, but just as important, (3) to lower one’s carbon footprint does not necessarily yield clear benefits to those doing it.
Hence people turned their backs on climate change and environmental movements as a whole.
However, the treatment of raw sewage easily fulfills all 3 conditions insofar as (1) everybody wants to have proper toilets as I am led to believe that even politicians use them routinely, (2) raw sewage is a direct and well perceived hazard, (3) the benefits of having sewage works is clearly visible. Hence authorities acted (at least they did in Mauritius!).
We can summarise the above in one sentence: lead, avoid harm, deliver benefits.
Nestorian, that strikes me as a consistent and sensible stance. It’s not mine, since I don’t accept the validity of your religion’s revelations, but I can certainly see that someone who does accept your faith as true would logically reach your conclusions. Your point about the immorality of demanding that poor people abide by dietary rules they cannot afford is more broadly applicable, and I would balance it by suggesting that, along the lines of noblesse oblige, those of us who can afford meat raised in ecologically sound ways have an obligation to buy that and not factory farmed meat, to help provide a market for farmers who choose more ecologically sound practices. Once again, it comes down to doing the right thing yourself, rather than telling other people what to do…
Mike, a nice cogent summary! Thank you.
Walt, excellent! Yes, and we’ll be talking about the effect of various feedback loops that mirror human thinking back at itself and deprive it of the stabilizing effect of contact with something human beings didn’t think of. You’re right, too, that the pro- and anti-Trumpist movements aren’t chameleons on mirrors; quite the contrary, they’ve got something firm to hold onto — their opinions of Donald Trump. One of the reasons I expect him to win reelection is that he has become so profound an emotional necessity to his opponents — they need his example to tell them what they aren’t.
Teresa, that is to say, “collapse now and avoid the rush.” I won’t argue!
Bridge, got it in one. Stay tuned!
Scotlyn, fascinating. Thank you for this.
Mac, I’ve been watching Venezuela with that in mind, There’ll be a new edition of the novel out later this year — I’m going to try to talk the publisher into sending review copies to Tulsi Gabbard, Vladimir Putin, and a galaxy of alternative media venues, in the hope of getting it some notoriety before it becomes history!
Yaj, thanks for this! I’ll click through to your article shortly and put it on the get-to list.
Forecastingintelligence, thanks for this. I think you’re right about the economy — the next big crisis (probably due to another spike in oil prices) is still a couple of years off — and the 2020 election here is going to be worth quite a bit of popcorn! I’ve also been watching the water thing shaping up in central Asia. That could turn into a really spectacular driver of global instability, especially with three nuclear powers dependent on the water from those rapidly waning glaciers…
Sevensec, good. It’s precisely when the “objects” start acting annoyingly like subjects that we see disproportionate explosions of rage — and I’ll be discussing that in some detail as we proceed.
Methylethyl, excellent; you get tonight’s gold star. If the well-to-do (very much including the middle classes) would simply remember that there’s such a thing as noblesse oblige, and recognize that their disproportionate access to wealth means that they ought to voluntarily pay a disproportionate amount of the costs, we’d be fine — but yeah, that’s going to happen when pigs sprout wings and go soaring into the sky.
Bruce, that’s also an important point, and one of the ways by which the left is cutting its own throat just now. For a couple of years now, gay white men are being told that they’re Bad People because they don’t have “enough axes of oppression;” a significant number of them are crossing over to the MAGAsphere, where they’re discovering that a great many Trump fans don’t care in the least about who does what in bed and will welcome them enthusiastically. That white gay men did a vast amount of the heavy lifting in the campaign for same-sex marriage, and generally have been much more active than other demographics in a wide range of leftward causes, never seems to have occurred to those who are chasing them out of the left.
Right now, in the same way, a great many women are being told by feminists to sit down and shut up so that the experiences of (for example) transgender women of color can be “centered” (i.e., given a gold medal in the Oppression Olympics). To say that this isn’t going over well is an understatement of no small scale. If they keep it up, it’s not impossible that Trump will get an even larger share of white women voters in 2020…
Welcome back JMG! Is it fair to say a “Tetzel moment” is the point at which thoughtstoppers lose their effectiveness, leaving society open to momentous changes? I’m not positive how reassured I am by your reply to Ani that the country pulled back together after 1776, 1860, and 1932. Momentous change hardly begins to describe the immediate aftermath of those years. If history is cyclical though, the timing seems just about right for major changes.
Beekeeper, for some reason, whenever I read puff pieces about the “Green New Deal,” I hear a voice bellowing, “Come the revolution, comrades, we will all eat strawberries and cream!”
Will, nah, here’s my usual list. You need to pick up the following nonfiction books: The Weather Machine by Nigel Calder (1975), After the Ice Age by E.C. Pielou (1991), and the Time-Life Planet Earth series book titled Ice Ages (1983). Calder was a well-respected science journalist, Pielou the doyenne of Canadian ecologists, and the Planet Earth series was state of the art earth science in the early 1980s; all three of these books treat the arrival of a new ice age in the near future as an inevitability. Then pick up the following two science fiction novels; The Winter of the World by Poul Anderson (1976) and The Time of the Great Freeze by Robert Silverberg. Both Anderson and Silverberg are top-notch SF authors, always careful to use the latest science for their stories — and both these novels, again, treat an imminent ice age as a reality.
That doesn’t mean that every scientist at that time accepted that theory, to be sure, but it does mean that it was a widely accepted hypothesis — and the attempt to insist that it never happened has done untold damage to the climate change movement, by convincing a lot of people that climate change activists have something to hide.
David, well, this is Rhode Island, and things are kind of strange here.
Michelle, I bet. I wonder if you talked to everyone else on your block, if you’d find that everyone else gets those same letters.
Ashara, who’s the worst depends, of course, on who’s being hit with the consequences. If you’re a working class person in the flyover states, and Breitbart’s willing to talk about the consequences of unlimited illegal immigration on your chances of getting a job while CNN isn’t, the arrow points the other way…
Karim, well, as I noted some years ago, we’re past the point at which anything can stop the Long Descent from playing out…
AuntLili, it’s quite possible that we’re talking to different crowds. I know a fair number of people who took climate change seriously until Al Gore’s frequent flyer miles and air-conditioned mansion convinced them otherwise, and I also know a lot of people who were cool with vegan diets, and even considered eating vegan, until they got screamed at by one too many diet cranks and decided that they didn’t want to be vegan if that’s how being vegan made you behave. I gather you haven’t encountered such people.
Prizm, that seems like a reasonable analysis to me.
Karim, fair enough! That strikes me as a useful frame for further discussion. Here’s a question for all and sundry: how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?
Ryan, I like “Tetzel moment”! As for momentous change, yeah, we’re in for that one way or another. It’s just that there’s something on the other side of it to look towards.
At some point it comes down to a game not of Show and Tell, but of Show OR Tell. I can either TELL people how respecting animals in the form of refusing to eat them is a moral paradigm, blah dee blah blah blah, or I can shut up and SHOW them. I can show them easy vegan recipes and adapt their non-vegan recipes for the sheer joy of it and because my cooking ain’t half bad. I can gather a crowd in a restaurant and we can order all of the vegan options, creating demand for more. I can help them start a compost pile. I can radiate the closeness and deep camaraderie I have with the non-human animals, which cannot be explained by words, at any rate, and maybe if they haven’t been completely transfixed by biophobic, addictive, triumphalist urges to dominate and destroy anything that moves in the forest, they’ll get it, if not in this lifetime, perhaps the next. What won’t help is impatience, petulance, and denigration, for instance, the DXE morons who jump in people’s faces at Whole Foods and Chipotle. If it was my world to rule, those people would be pilloried.
As for the precocious adolescent standing in front of an environmental conference shaming adults, it’s been done before by Severn Suzuki, back in 1992 when she was 12. What was cringeworthy back then — a jet-setting rich kid “environmentalist” kid who was one of five siblings and went on to have two more hyper-consuming, resource-hungry, first world children of her own — rings even falser now. David Suzuki used his kid’s need for attention to virtue signal by proxy. Gross.
I’m one of “all and sundry”!!
The most obvious advantage is the money savings, though I have to admit sometimes that does cost more time.
However, there is a great satisfaction that comes with producing something of value, even if it takes more time than say, buying something at the store.
For example, it certainly takes longer to grow a tomato than it does to buy a tomato, but it is a lot cheaper to grow a garden, and it’s much better for both your physical health and your emotional wellbeing. You get lots of fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity, and then, instead of getting a tomato that was picked green, shipped in a truck a thousand miles, and possibly exposed to a gas to force it to ripen, you get a tomato picked and eaten at the peak of freshness. (How much would you have to pay to buy THAT tomato?) It might even be a custom tomato, a breed you specifically chose based on your idea of the perfect tomato. If it’s organic, you know it was never exposed to any pesticide or herbicide, it was never dipped in a petroleum-based wax to preserve color, and you can show off its superior qualities to friends, family and neighbors, while saying “I grew that.” (That organic tomato at the store can be sprayed with any of 200 different pesticides or herbicides and still be certified organic, by the way… that’s the consequence of letting the agricultural industry grow “organic” things.)
This is the fundamental difference between what it means to be a producer or a consumer. Producers create things of value, and consumers use up things of value. In many ways, learning to live with less fossil fuels is learning how to produce more and consume less, and learning how to identify a real value and distinguish it from a fake, manufactured desire (usually created by advertising).
If you are lucky, along the way, you can find long lost things like community, the beauty and power of nature, and the interconnectedness of life. But really, the tomato is nice all by itself. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when you have to learn to can tomatoes because you can’t eat them all, and your biggest problem will be deciding whether to make a bunch of jars of marinara or salsa 🙂 Oh no, now I have to eat all this salsa…. 😉
PS You can show off your garden produce and trade with other gardeners, and convince other people to start gardening all without ever mentioning climate change, peak oil, pesticide contamination of the water supply, or limits to growth, and the added bonus is nobody thinks gardening is weird. Plus, if you ARE a little weird, the contacts you make gardening will lead you to the hobbyist beekeepers and the urban homesteaders and the backyard chickens people. Start small though, I, like many people, have had some major disasters occur from biting off more than I can chew. I wouldn’t trade my mistakes for anything, but I’m more stubborn than most. Start small and don’t let yourself get discouraged when setbacks happen. The greater adversity you face on the way to success, the more ecstatic you will feel when you get there.
David, by the Lake, re ” expressing my interest in serving on the Public Utility Commission”, that sounds like an excellent intention, and I’d be happy to add it to my wishing tree, if you would like me to.
In my experience there is, besides of that sphere of reason and logic an emotional universe, were our connection may better be rather sympathetically too.
I had a talk with a friend of mine yesterday which ended in a terrifying experience. Even this time the talk did not touch on even the collapse topic I compulsory bring up frequently. Yet the content of the talk was so compulsive, that at one point he was choking fit. Ghastly that was.
So I am reflecting on how distressing certain topics are for my friend and everybody. These inner forces of shock, anxiety and disgust can be so repulsive, there is less a strategy been carried out. Like with those manipulative schemers who just use false emotions and fake facts to lure one into accepting those agitators ideas and start supporting them.
So I say, that in that inner fear room we are least susceptible for reason and logic, but rather some empathetic exchange. Our emotions are universe of its own.
Thank you, JMG, I will look for the tofu recipes.
JMG wrote: “how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?”
Your question has reframed the debate in a very interesting way. One way a lower carbon footprint can be a source of benefits is when less consumption means less money spent thus more savings!
For instance, home composting and home grown vegetables also translate in less money spent on food purchases (though I must admit the effect can be modest at times!). But interestingly enough, more home cooking can also mean less spending as one buys less processed foods which cost more, per unit volume or unit mass than basic ingredients.
On a more general note, I have personally noted that as one does more with one’s own hands to produce things of value instead of buying ready-made stuff, one gets an immediate sense of satisfaction and empowerment that actually lift up one’s spirits. Thats a source of enduring benefits.
Hi John Michael,
Hmm. The last person I spoke to from Greenpeace who was suggesting to me that I give them a donation towards saving the Great Barrier Reef told me that they ‘felt sorry for me’. I’d made the error of pointing at the many wonderful things around them and asking them the awful question: ‘How much of this stuff is sustainable’. I walked off from the conversation, what else do you?
Nice to see you back. And many thanks for the ‘one drop’ essay recommendation – and also for the two nice folks in training who also replied.
Mate, I just get on with things as I find them. We’re copping some serious climate – body blows down this way. And I only expect things to get worse as we progress!
Is anyone else LOL’ing till their sides hurt that Jeff Bezo took photos of his junk and the National Enquirer has them? The man who has collected data and installed surveillance devices (Alexa) in so many homes in America can’t keep his data private. I love 2019!
@ Beekeeper, et al.
Re the Green New Deal
Id argue that any such proposal which fails to acknowledge our fundamental limits and asserts that we can maintain our current modern Industrial lifestyles is doomed from the get-go. First and foremost, we need to approach these problems from a perspective of recognizing our limited resources and deciding how to best allocate them for the long haul.
I’d also suggest that while the feds might have a coordinating role, the majority of the action ought to be at the state and local levels.
Finally, what is being missed in this kind of proposal is the fact that an empire on the way down doesn’t have the options it had on the way up. Replicating FDR and the effort behind WWII, for example. We are *already* near the debt-to-GDP ratio we had during WWII (currently over 105%, I believe, and we maxed out in 1946 at 122%). I suspect that we, like the Elder Things preparing to battle the Spawn of Cthulhu, will go through all the ritual preparations of old only to find that the magic don’t work no more.
A couple of data points….
My parents live east of Orlando and said that the building boom going on now is bigger than it was pre-2008 housing crash. There are homes and strip malls going in everywhere. Not one school district is building anything, so my parents expect it will all be small charter schools going in.
I like the idea of charters – smaller, more involvement from parents, flexible curriculum – but in reality its a way to funnel that endless government money into private hands.
The number of people with $1 million or more in their 401k is less than 150,000 in America. Retirement planners estimate that if you want to live on a very middle class yearly allotment from age 65 – 85 or 90, you need to have $1 million to draw down on.
There really won’t be a middle-class as those who have pensions die off. Or maybe only those who have pensions, such as government worker, police and school teachers, will be our elite in retirement.
So the people who have monitored and semi-tortured us our whole lives, get to live in comfort during their retirement years while the rest of us work to support them. Ugh.
Welcome back John, missed the blog.
Time to discard the “Man-Mad” climate change with a scientific study and then move on.
This study I found on the web page of the Technical University of Berlin/Germany
I give it to everyone, who asks.
There are some nice diagrams (also in English) that show warm and cold periods coming and going without us driving cars.
However I think it is important to protect the Environment and to bring the discussion there.
Strangely this topic of protecting the environment is always narrowed down to “Climate Change”. Since it implies to consume less, it will hurt the economy.
This is likely the reason for everybody jumping on the “Climate Change” topic and even inviting Greta to Davos, but the same people shy away from protecting the environment as a whole.
Time to broaden the discussion as you do here.
@ John Roth
Re the Electoral College, the various axes, etc.
With respect, I must take exception to that characterization of the EC. I do not see how a mechanism which has elected every single president this nation has had, has remained unchanged since the adoption of the 12th Amendment, features prominently in news and political conversation every four years, and is readily understandable by anyone who remained conscious during high school civics class can be labelled “obscure.” One may not like the mechanism, but don’t label it as an unknown.
I understand what you were trying to get at with re to the various axes, but I would have to say there are certain points where communication is simply not possible. In order for two people to effectively communicate, there has to be some common ground on which to meet, some acceptance of a common reality. In absence of that, the other person is simply not reachable. For me, one who stomps their foot, in effect, and proclaims “I don’t care what the rules are, I should have won!” falls squarely in that category. I will write that person off as beyond my ability to convince and not worth my time just as quickly as NIMBYs (not in my backyard) who wish to impose their aesthetics on their neighbor’s property or that man who came before city council the other night insisting that his water bill was a tax. There are those who are worth talking to and those who will never be open to your points; it is important to distinguish between those groups so as to not waste your time and energy.
Great post John, and I can see the little shimmer of your new project emerging; the need for people to feel part of earth once more, rather than masters. An interesting resignation took place the other day, a man called Andrew Medhurst who had worked for HSBC, Loyds etc over 30 years. He resigned on the grounds of climate breakdown and pending social collapse I believe. I am unable to check this because google keeps tinkering with my search terms, but I saw his Tweet on a facebook post. If its true, then some of the elite are beginning to realise whats happening, and questioning their priorities.
Some background information about Gunhild Stordalen might be of interest. She is a medical doctor and Ph.D. and possibly a fashion model (she certainly has the looks for it) who married Norwegian billionaire Petter Stordalen. If she seems like flying like there is no tomorrow, it may be because until recently there didn’t seem to be any for her. Some years ago she became sick with some terminal disease (diffuse cutane systemic sclerosis according to Swedish wikipedia) but miraculously recovered.
Not that this changes anything, but this is well-known throughout the Scandinavian countries.
I was thinking about GHG emissions and its interesting, Wikipedia lists the US total emissions as 6673 MtC02e. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhouse_gas_emissions
If you go the EPA website, http://ctsedwweb.ee.doe.gov/Annual/Report/ComprehensiveGreenhouseGasGHGInventoriesByAgencyAndFiscalYear.aspx, you will see the GHG emissions for the Dept of Defense alone as 79,513,741 MtC02e.
So either I am misinterpreting the data (the units are the same) or they are not counting military emissions which dwarf everything else….
“deciding the truth of an assertion independently of the asserter is often a luxury.”
you raise a valuable philosophical point there.
” There’s only so much time and energy we can devote…. ”
indeed, again we must accept the limits of reality, thus also the limits of time, energy, language and shared imagination.
This reminds me a bit of the example of “plums” and “lemons” in economics, which is good and broken cars from the vendor, how to know,
or signal, which is which.
If you for example know some mechanics of a car and need a good experienced mechanic, you’ll have your check list of questions that
show how much you trust this guy depending on the answers you get.
And of course, same goes for political opinion or what, you’ll have your metrics and bullshit detectors on, because time and information will always be limited.
so endlessly further inquiry in impossible. It would cost to much energy to try all the time proving right the informations you trust and putting up with characters
who give a strong indication of the same old tiring sermons you have heard before and disagree with conviction.
With medicine and doctors, where your own opinion can have consequences too, the risk of being wrong is often higher than the risk of believing what a doctor
says, when you know nothing about medicine. Consequentially you’ll rely on the best guess in many cases even if you’re wrong, because it is the best guess you have.
Since we can only approximate to something wholesome, the art is to balance things in the Aristotelian way that says every virtue is in between two vices.
Best wildcard risk breaker that has a good record with me is decidedly to just occasionally take your time, and try to listen to something randomly different than what
your own experience and opinion is. Might be a dud, might be a change of perspective. But the latter is i.m.e. rare and the first frequent, so that’s why people may be
inclined to believe that it is not good that once in a while…it pays to experimentally steer another way from your casual directions.
“But I suspect most people would rather the boat sink wilt all on board rather than be played for fools.”
-> yes, I think especially game theory is an invaluable model to this.
Hillary clinton calling a whole electoral demographic “deplorable”?
Well that leaves those people with “comply and with the highest level of reassurance win nothing” or “do not comply, when believing things might tighten towards the unbearable as usual”,
as the two main options. Complying would be like willingly surrendering the king in a game of chess to the others queen. What’s the point of playing then?
….and as a last idea of mine or this blog in general, we cannot know the real “truth” outside, but viably get to know ourselves. I guess the closer you come to that goal
with out being carelessly deceived into an ego-projection, the better your judgement (and patience) with other people will become.
I, too, am willing to pay for clean air and clean water – it’s certainly a more worthy use of my tax money than many other things I’m already paying for. My objection to the Green New Deal is that it is social engineering clad in a veneer of environmentalism. Sure, there are lots of societal issues wrapped up in environmental degradation – I don’t think anyone denies that – but is it genuinely possible (or wise) to tackle all of this at the same time and within a ten-year time frame? The Green New Deal as written proposes to tear apart and rebuild not only our energy infrastructure, but our entire society, with absolutely no regard for the large number of citizens who are desperate to see serious environmental issues addressed, but have little or no interest in living in a progressive paradise. Count me in that group. I think that it would have been far more prudent to deal with the pressing environmental problems first before even thinking about upending American society. I believe that this will end up being the fatal flaw – and including stuff like handouts for people ‘unwilling to work’ will sink it. It’s hard to believe that the authors can’t see this, it’s almost as if they wrote into their bill the key to its destruction.
‘Shared prosperity’ is the new strawberries and cream.
Has anyone else noticed the Green New Deal looks an awful lot like a revitalization movement?
With regards to the book list, excellent! All three of them have been added to my list of books to track down. I’m young enough to have missed the global cooling phase, but I’ve heard from enough people that it was a thing I want to look into it.
The thing that gets me is that I just can’t think of any good reason why the climate change activists would decide to hide it.
Nastarana, I agree with quite a lot of what you say, but I do not agree that any of us entitled to be left in peace if we’re behaving in a manner that harms others. Consider what happens if your neighbor is a farmer and that farmer is spraying sludge on his fields. The sludge is making you ill. It’s his land and he’s within his rights to spray anything he wants on his property, but is he right to do it if it causes you harm? Should you just suffer or respect his lifestyle and say nothing? I think no. You talk about boundaries without defining what them — other than catcalls about your push mower, for which you have my complete sympathy — so I can’t address them directly, but here’s are some examples. There are people from other countries living here who observe other traditions, like genital mutilation and child marriage. Should we, as their neighbors, respect those traditions? Should we respect them as long as they’ve not been declared illegal? Should we respect industries that pollute our rivers and streams because, at the moment, it’s legal or the law is not enforced? Should we respect businesses that produces toxic products that we have no way to recycle or dispose of responsibly? And if not, how do we handle the people who buy and use those products, possibly exposing others to harm? Do we say nothing? At what point, in your view, does the damage done justify a frank response?
Throwing a blanket labeled “lifestyle” over things doesn’t change their impact. You talk to your neighbors about their rude kids; I talk to mine about their use of Roundup. Is criticizing parenting somehow better than criticizing lifestyle if both have a negative impact on the neighbors? In each case, we’ve been offended and said something. I see a distinction here, but not a difference.
“how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?”
1) Karmic implications of fossil fuel use. Harming others through sheer indifference is an action and actions have consequences outside of human moral evaluation. Would I like it if someone harmed me through callous indifference. No! So if my fossil fuel use does the same I am most likely karmically culpable to a real extent. To lower my use then would be to that extent yo rectify my actions.
2) As you’ve pointed out, many if not most of the fossil fuel technologies used are prosthetic in nature. That is, they replace and atrophy human capacities. By cutting back on fossil fuels I force myself to develop human capacity. That strikes me as something of obvious human value!
3) What’s more fun, everyone sitting by a phone or a really rollicking party? Obviously a party! Fossil fuel use often gets in the way of meeting human social needs. So the best parties I’ve gone to, perhaps in my entire life, have been farm parties where people made similar choices around employment they felt contributed to a world they wanted to live in. One could say alternatively; “more drinking and less driving!”
4) Cutting back on fossil fuels also helps to foster community. I’ve made friends carpooling that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Hitchhiking likewise. Sneaking on to freight trains is likewise a big adventure party.
5) There’s also the issue of romantic self-image. Some people imagine being jetset bloggers or something, but what about wandering guitarists, running away to join the circus, becoming a fortune teller, or what have you? Most people, when I hitchhiked, expressed regret that they had never had the courage to do so, that is, that they choose to use fossil fuel technology to replace their capacity for self-discovery and adventure.
6) Growing one’s own food leads to tastier meals then otherwise! It’s also a great hobby and helps you connect with other gardeners who if nothing else tend to be great cooks. It also allows one’s food to be close at hand and cuts down on transportation costs.
7) DIY skills save money; having basic or more than basic carpentry, tayloring, food preservation, herbal healing, wine making, soap making, candle crafting, or butchering skills can save one hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you have what you need at hand you don’t need to pay a professional to do it for you.
8) The above skills can also make the person doing it money! Often people are happy to know someone with a skill and will hire that person simply to encourage a more resilient community! People want to live in a world where they know amazing skilled people who will help them when disaster strikes.
9) Fossil fuels also of course contain hefty pollutants and toxins. To use them less is to be less poisoned. After throwing a fit about the number of potent poisons that were kept in my family’s kitchen they were taken out. Some long term coughs went away over a few months, and chronic sores the dog had likewise disappeared. Now these nasty products are replaced by more eco-friendly ones and increasingly cleaning supplies that I formulate with both aesthetic considerations and herbs that bring blessing and protection to the home.
10) You can get better products when you DIY then is possible on the market. The cleaning supply mentioned above is made through a proprietary mixture of herbal vinegars and essential oils. No company makes this specific formulation, but it is very effective and my whole family likes it.
11) Using the fossil fuel machines takes time, so much time! Spengler discussed this at the end of his second volume of TDOTW. The less time I devote to fossil fuels the more I can devote to more constructive uses.
12) All in all to use fewer fossil fuels allows for more personal agency, higher quality, better relationships, more fun and more time! The trade off is less convenience and the need to create and foster different narratives.
There is one type of ongoing change in habits that I think should be encouraged. People cutting the cable TV cord. I am encouraging people to give up their cable TV and just get a streaming service or two.
It cuts your cost (a little), but the main benefits are that you (and your family) are not subjected to commercials for 1 out of every 3 minutes like on cable TV nor will you be subjected to the corporate TV “news”.
But to be clear, I am not saying steaming TV is ecologically better than cable TV, just that switching allows people to avoid some unwanted “programming” in the form of commercials and corporate “news”. Not as good as giving up the TV and reading more and interacting more with people and other living beings but a step away from something worse.
JMG, to be honest I have not encountered anyone who worries about either Al Gore or mean vegans. I encounter a lot of people who drink Starbucks iced coffee in plastic cups with plastic straws and believe that because they are good people, this will have no impact on the environment and or come back to haunt their children. There’s a lot of magical thinking going on around here, and it crosses boundaries of income, class, education, race, gender, religion, and any others you care to name.
I largely reject the notion of a ‘free market of ideas’ that I read as central to your argument here.
What of the work of media critics (both on the Left and the Right), people such as Chomsky, Parenti, Medialens, Paul Craig Roberts, Scott Noble, Project Censored, Caitlin Johnstone, John Pilger, et al ?
The argument is that the essential power in an ostensibly ‘open and democratic’ society is the control of narrative and that this is the true ‘logic of democracy’ as so clearly laid out by characters like Lipman and Bernays in the early 20th century.
I have done my own bit of doorstep campaigning for electioneering purposes. Over and again what I was confronted with was not conflicting sets of values and opinions based upon different life experiences or the individual characters of the people I was out to try and ‘win over’; rather it was conflicting narratives and perceptions formed by newspapers, broadcast media, advertising and the cultural output of society in general. Most people just do not read books, ponder different political philosophies, pitch them against their own experience or inner search for meaning in life and then come to a conclusion about which compromised position to take. Most people read the same news sources everyday, from corporations owned and structured by billionaires which merely recycle the outputs of the public relations industry and government spooks in various disguises, then ‘think’ how they are told to think.
There is no marketplace of ideas. Instead there are manufactured desires, manufactured narratives and a false sense of choice.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
― Edward Bernays, Propaganda
“One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business. Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men.”
– Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
I happened to read this just last night, before reading your post. Substitute “contemplative” for environmentally conscious or any initiative and I think you have something of value here, consistent with Gandhi’s exhortation.
A follow-up thought: I think that discussions of values relative to the environmental crises of our times tend to be pretty counter-productive since there does not exist a broad consensus concerning normative values. As you’ve mentioned JMG, Nietzsche pointed out that we act as if we’ve already arrived at the knowledge of how to behave morally, and so morality is little more than inherited prejudices propped up by bad logic. Nietzsche brings up a very sharp and impossible to argue point. So saying anyone thing is a moral imperative for everyone morally is ludicrous and invites ridicule since there are many different inherited prejudices! Facts though are easier to universalize than values: “this is cheaper, easier to tailor to individual needs, and tends to structurally promote communities, etc.” are statements of fact, not value. Thus they don’t get stuck in the swamp of modern ethical thinking.
I had been thinking about this same issue and observing some people I know argue. They shared very similar views and yet, were clearly quite angry that the other person differed from them on some minor points, and kept trying to “convince” each other i.e. argue loudly and interrupt. It made me think of ‘Faustian’ man i.e. an individual, like Friedrich’s Wanderer in the Sea of Fog, ‘wandering through strange seas of thought alone’ – in a way it seems like for Faustian man they are the only person that *really* exists, so its frustrating if someone disagrees with you; after you, you are the shaper of thought (maybe, the creator of the world?). I also think there’s a very Protestant feel about it – Luther had invincible certainty that his interpretations of the Bible, which he basically made up on the fly, were completely correct, and Protestantism of course fissured infinitely more than traditional Christianity in terms of denominations. That also seems related to why this seems worse in America than anywhere else, since America is the Protestant individual country par excellence.
I know I personally suffer from this, in both senses of “suffer”. It’s hard not to overrate your own thoughts, and it’s hard to find people to talk to who aren’t quite convinced that they are right.
Aha! Are we about to get into Philosophy of Freedom territory? I’m currently reading Goethe’s Theory of Knowledge as preparation for that one.
Hello AuntLilli – again, if I may continue to riff on your metaphors?
You say: “I’m stuck with the fact that we seem to be aboard a sinking ship, and well-meaning people are bailing water into the boat.”
I have no doubt that, if this is the world your consciousness is painting for you, the sense of the ship sinking underneath you gives you a compelling sense of the type of urgency that can only be assuaged if others around you begin to manifest the same sense of urgency in their actions.
So, let us consider that actual situation. Presuming, for the sake of argument, we were on a sinking ship – say the Titanic – and some people [we really have no way of knowing if they are well-meaning or what their state of mind is] are bailing water into the boat, would the boat stop sinking if we could persuade them (or socially pressure them, to stop bailing water into the boat? Is there, in fact, anything that lies within the power of the people on this sinking ship, including amplifying one another’s sense of urgency, that can stop it sinking?
Maybe we are on a sinking ship.
Maybe (also worth considering) we are NOT on a sinking ship.
The world does not owe it to us to be what we think it is. Nor does anybody owe it to us to see the world as we do. And even for those who see the world as we do, there is nobody who owes it to us to act as we do in response.
If we want the company of others, so that we are not alone in our perceptions, our intentions, our actions, then we need to send out invitations that elicit the interest of free people in joining us in the place where we are, and in partaking with us in the activities we want to undertake.
But, since you mention magic – “the change of consciousness in accordance with will” – a line of meditation I’d consider fruitful would be to consider whether the sinking ship your consciousness currently paints the world as being, might be amenable to transformation in accordance with will, to a different, kind of place – one that has a potential future existence, for example – that would be more likely to persuade congenial people to be interested in sharing.
Re: the discussion about spruiking the benefits of cutting your carbon footprint
Primary benefit I spruik is – early retirement/financial freedom/getting out of debt (as relevant to the person’s situation). Almost no one likes their job above all the other things they could be doing. Probably 90% of the things which save money also cut your carbon footprint. The Early Retirement Extreme and Mr Money Moustache blogs and the Tightwad Gazette are inspirational for this.
Eg. My fellow cheapskate/frugal co-workers and I sit in our work kitchen and eat our homemade lunches together while swapping tips and brainstorming ways to cut our grocery costs (while still eating delicious food within the bounds of our various vegan, paleo, halal, Bengali, etc diets). There may be light social pressure towards more effort with the cooking in order to win the subtle social competition but no one preaches or judges, everyone learns.
Secondary benefit: fitting in fitness and relaxation time. I commute with a kick scooter, people always ask me about it as it’s incongruous with my professional persona. I just say it makes it super easy to reach the shops and fast bus routes which are too far away to walk to. I have a slight disability so if I can do it in my suit, most people realise they could do the same. Also fun! And cheap – gave up my car! And once on the bus – the perfect spot to relax and meditate rather than stressing about traffic like car drivers do. Then the bike riders chime in with their experiences.
Third benefit (only on the non-biophobic, works well with aspirational middle-class greenies): how wonderful local holidays are in helping my family connect to nature. Also, no need to stress about meeting plane timetables/cancellations/security etc – we just pack backpacks and walk off. If it rains too hard, we can come home and go the next weekend. And cheap! (see-it always comes back to cheap).
For those who feel the need for overseas holidays I’ve started suggesting that cargo freighter cruises seem interesting – relatively cheap (for a cruise) and maybe 6 or 7 passengers, perfect for people who like a unique experience/introverts/avoiding proles, some even have swimming pools. And cheap! Potentially connected with long distance railway travel for that ‘authentic’ meet-the-locals experience.
The preppers/bushies/maker types I know, we talk about self-reliance by self-building off-grid energy systems and cooking/cooling/heating/cleaning methods. This is fun, but often not cheap.
Rich people – I share my experiences about the financial benefits (and feel good factor!) of investing in local businesses/charities/neighbourhoods rather than entrusting your families’ future to corrupt banks and money managers. Current banking scandals definitely support this argument. Though, I’m more along the lines of a micro-investor so I stay just a bit vague about exactly how much I invest. Surprisingly, many of these people are also interested in ‘cheap!’ (provided it’s tasteful and not lower class).
In summary, I NEVER talk about the benefits of cutting my carbon footprint, at most I might say ‘of course uses fewer resources too, so probably better for the environment, too.’ But similar to what others have said, no one wants to engage with the reality of our environmental predicaments, they’re too big and scary so people prefer to switch off. Or they’re actively hostile to the whole idea, for whatever reason. I read a sales book once which said to sell someone on a product or idea you have to give them a reason to buy that satisfies their head and one that satisfies their heart (emotional side), on the person’s own terms. That seems to work for me.
Read JMG’s response to your question. Those are the precise reasons that turned me from a cynical leftist that lost friends because of Hillary’s campaign (I voted Green) to a definite voter for Trump in 2020, unless he really messes something up.
Even the worst parts of his presidency (the escalation of environmental destruction) is not worse than Obama’s which I know is not saying much.
I kinda hope the next economic crash comes on his watch – he might be crazy enough to do the right thing and turn into Roosevelt.
“Will, yep. Let me toss you a tidbit from my argument. If we have no free will, then we have no choice to believe whatever we happen to believe. Reasoned argument would therefore have no force, since it would require the existence of free will for us to consider a reasoned argument, decide that it’s correct, and change our minds. ”
I am sorry but that is a fallacy. Let me be the devil’s advocate here:
– We don’t have free will because the laws of nature are deterministic and we follow them, just like the river water follows the riverbed.
– That does not mean that we are not changeable! Just like the water goes in a new channel that is opened, our minds will follow whatever input is presented and sometimes change because of it. That does not mean that we have a choice to change our minds – just that the combinations of circumstances add up to a different mental state.
– In conclusion, we don’t need to have free will to consider an argument, decide that it’s correct and change our minds*.
– Even more, both people that offer the arguments as well as people that listen have no choice to do that. Water cannot decide to go uphill.
* Note: I don’t believe that we decide to change our minds. On the contrary, most of our reasoning is just post-facto rationalizations. The brain changes due to factors outside our control (instincts, environment, other people etc) and then we come with a “reasonable” explanation why that happens. This is well documented in neurobiology studies.
I’m surprised to see you buy in so heavily to and echo the Both Siderist narrative that has so dominated the mainstream US media. I follow a lot of US politics from Canada and from what I can see you have 2 choices if you don’t want to throw your vote away:
1) A problematic Democratic Party that is deeply imperfect but represents a broad coalition, including a very large number of progressives, loosely gathered under the same banner. The national DNC leadership are largely conservative corporatist shills but a lot dems in local races are quite progressive depending on the state. They largely believe in the concept of having a government that can be used to help people. Basic democracy, more or less.
2) A Republican party that has gone stark, raving mad. Run by Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter and Trump. Dedicated to destroying the ability of the US to govern itself.
Not much of a choice there from what I can see. Of course, the media dominates the conversation with lies about “both sides” being extreme and awful and can’t we all get along and it’s a lie.
You say there are other reasons people had for voting for Trump other than racism. I’ll grant that that’s probably true so what are those other reasons? Economic anxiety? The fact that their town has been destroyed by opioid painkillers? Whatever it is, the idea that Trump would have been a reasonable, well-thought-out choice of candidate who would work hard to fix any of those things is laughable. He’s a 3rd rate Noew York real estate scam artist and that’s how he’s trying to operate as president. Surely you would recognize that, no? Or you think that he’s a preferable choice than Hillary? Really?
Also, a lot of the criticism of Schultz that I have seen has focused on the fact that we don’t need more billionaires swooping in to con people into thinking they will save us all. We need competent public servants who use common sense.
@AuntLili RE: comparing energy use
Here in San Diego the electric company (SDG&E) sends out regular letters comparing your energy use to average and also your “most efficient” neighbors. The major problem with this effort is that use of electricity and nat gas is weighted to cost. Nat gas is much cheaper than electric here so somebody who uses say 50kWh worth of nat gas is going to show as using quite a bit less energy than the other guy who uses 50kWh of electricity.
California utilities are downright draconian about forcing you to use as little electricity as possible through the use of tiered pricing and high usage penalties. But they sell you nat gas for pennies in comparison and look the other way if you use a bunch of it.
The latest here in San Diego is SDG&E saying they want to get out of the electricity generation business completely, turning this over to Community Choice programs or other third-parties.
When I was in kindergarten my smart big sister came home from second grade in tears every day- the dumb girls had formed a hen party to ban and shun her. Isn’t it too bad when ONE girl ruins things for EVERYONE because she has to be DIFFERENT? Well okay. That’s how little girls socialize each other. No worse than little boys getting in fist fights, and both are much better than teachers micromanaging things. She grew up successful and well socialized.
As the college admission standards have gone down, and colleges have become more heavily female, the Joe or Jane College style of political argument has shifted to banning and shunning. When I look at Trump Derangement Syndrome, I see the D party forming a Hen Party.
Healthy for little girls. But for deciding public policy, it has the same problems as fist fights. Or dueling. Just as the 1850s Southrons took every political point as a point of personal privilege, so today’s D party takes Trump fighting the bipartisan agreement to get lower wages through higher immigration as a personal insult. No 1850 Southron proud of liberty could have a good conscience about owning slaves, and it made them touchy. The left built up a lot of moral authority fighting for higher wages. MLK went to one dangerous strike after another till he was killed at one, fighting for higher wages. No lefty has a good conscience about using that moral authority to fight for lower wages.
I read your comments and I am baffled what you mean by character. I always thought that our actions define us, not the words that we preach (and don’t follow).
That is something that I never understood about protestantism (saved by words, not actions) and I honestly consider it evil. Basically a serial murderer goes to heaven if he confess (or whatever) before the electric chair, while his innocent victims burn in hell forever because they were not baptized.
Sorry for the detour in religion but your argument is basically the same. I don’t care if Trump swears, drinks and *gasp* even looks down on women. What are his actions as a president?
To me, Trump has some character while Obama, Hillary and all the other neolib nice talking democrats have none.
I guess there is some cultural difference at work as I am coming from Europe where propaganda does not work so well.
Why do you feel personal responsibility is so important for this particular issue and not for others? I support more funding for public schools. Am I a hypocrite because I don’t choose to donate my salary? Trump is all about America-first.. is he a hypocrite because he invests overseas, or buys his hotel towels from Vietnam or whatever? Sure his opponents will say yes, but based on my reading of your essays you would say no. Or perhaps you would say it doesn’t matter. So why do people on the Left, on this particular issue, have to be saints and why does it matter so much?
There is a less complex description of the Stordalen effect. People like to travel. People don’t like to pay taxes. Setup environmental foundation travel all over the world tax free or less if you can convince people to donate to said foundation. If after a number of years all you have done is travel tax agencies start to get suspicious so you fund some kind of study, back in business.
The environmental movement is not a failure it has produced the intended effect. It has liberated billions of dollars from the greedy poor to the elite so we can all enjoy happiness though their Instagram accounts.
@ Josh Fuhrman (if I may)
Re Trump and your (rhetorical) question: “Or you think that he’s a preferable choice than Hillary? Really?”
Yes. Unequivocally yes.
Trump represents and embodies the possibility of change. Not the best change or my preferred change-agent (I would have vastly preferred Sanders), but a definitive and absolutely necessary change-agent. HRC was nothing more than the status-quo establishment candidate: wars, imperialism, free-trade, neo-liberalism, globalist endeavors, foreign interventionism, and all the rest.
Trump deep-sixed TPP. He’s imposed tariffs. He’s taken a stand on controlling the flow of goods and people over our borders. He represents an economic nationalism that I very much favor (and which Sanders, too, supported), an economic nationalism we very much need to adopt if we are going to transition to a post-American world effectively. And he has at least begun to talk about the withdrawal from our frankly stupid wars.
There is much (and I do mean much) Trump has done with which I disagree. But he is a crack in the facade of the old bipartisan consensus and if nothing else, he has shown that alternatives do indeed exist. I am hopeful that there will be leftward versions to follow, but if he is the only viable alternative to the old Democratic standard establishment candidate, then I will likely be voting for him in 2020.
The recent debate debacle (Micheal Moreno – HS debaters lose round for quoting Ben Shapiro & Jordan Peterson – youtube) was a good example of how rotten discourse has become. The sad thing is that it wasn’t surprising at all.
Personally, I have significantly reduced my attempts of convincing anyone of my opinions, and it’s been a relief. I think social media did not bring out the best in me, I have eliminated it as much as possible from my life. There is some unwholesome desire to change the world to conform to my preference that should be contained.
I have read about how alcoholism damages the frontal lobe, giving mental dominance to more primitive parts of the brain, leading to inflated ego. I think there is some connection between epidemic poor health of westernized people and social decay.
The most successful way I have found to change someone’s mind about something is to tell them a short interesting story that makes a specific point about the topic. But without mentioning political buzzwords, so they don’t realize you are disagreeing with their opinion or lifestyle choice. Sometimes years later, they will tell me the story, not remembering that I told it to them.
I would never go into a Starbucks by choice but I was gifted a Starbucks gift card, and because we’re poor AF, I’m using it. I stopped in today in the “attached to my grocery store” location, before buying food. They have apparently decided not to list the various drink sizes on the menu, only the “Grande” was listed, along with the required calories therein. I asked why, and the cashier said “to save space on the menu”.
Brilliant idea Mr Schultz!
Kimberly, well put. I’ll be talking in an upcoming post of the way that the sociology of dissidence explains the DXE brigade and their virtue-signaling equivalents. As for Severn Suzuki, oh dear gods, yes — a fine example of the useless photo ops that pass for activism these days among the absurdly privileged.
Jessi, thank you. If the environmental movement were to push positive things like the ones you’ve mentioned, it would get much more traction — the way it did back in the day, when it did exactly that. I suspect that’s why it dropped that approach like a hot rock.
Hubertus, that’s an excellent point, and bears on Jessi’s comment. If everything the environmental movement says is focused on spreading fear and horror and depression, is it any wonder that nobody wants to hear what it has to say?
Karim, those are solid points — thank you. I’m beginning to think that this is a place where we — meaning here me and the readers of this blog — can start putting some pressure on the existing narrative, and get some traction. Hmm…
Chris, the last time somebody from Greenpeace asked me for a donation, I brought up the way they’d engaged in union-busting tactics to keep their telephone boiler room employees from earning a living wage. That conversation ended very quickly!
Denys, it’s shaping up to be quite a year… 😉
“On a more general note, I have personally noted that as one does more with one’s own hands to produce things of value instead of buying ready-made stuff, one gets an immediate sense of satisfaction and empowerment that actually lift up one’s spirits. Thats a source of enduring benefits.”
Another benefit: when I produce more for myself: I *want* less. I think we are programmed to produce things, build things, make things. It’s the kind of animal we are. Service jobs and cheap manufactured goods are slicing that out of our lives, and leaving us *wanting*: I think this is a big part of how we end up owning so much crap we don’t need.
@ David by the Lake
Ok, your opinion on the matter seems to be in line with the majority of the population of the Ecosophia commentariat. Please allow me to point out a couple of details: It’s a fallacy to think that Trump’s tariffs are an unalloyed good for the entire country. The thing about provoking a trade war with other countries is that the other countries fight back with tariffs of their own. Canada did it, other countries are as well. Trump likes to tout his welfare-for-farmers solution but farmers want the markets. They want to sell their products on the global market, regardless of whatever nationalist rhetoric is popular just now.
Immigration? I’ll remind you it was Reagan who really removed all the stops in illegal immigration to help his buddies in the California Ag industry and flood the market with cheap labour.What about the fact that most of the immigration that threatens jobs is in the H1-B Visa program which flies in tech workers from southeast asia and elsewhere to work in the IT industry. Trump’s not touching that is he? The US is perfectly within it rights to seal off their borders completely. I’m sure that many overweight, out of shape unemployed Americans will be chomping at the bit to work all day in the hot sun 7 days a week picking strawberries for $2 an hour. It’s that or raise wages a bit and everyone pays way more for their produce. Your choice, and welcome to it!
The connection to Vico’s discussion of the barbarism of reflection is indeed very relevant. I wasn’t aware of that work. It is a good way to frame the problem: is the current fragmentation of thought and communication (so that people have a hard time doing more than yell at each other) a typical consequence of a culture aging or is it a consequence of more particular features of human thought, history, and technology in the past century. Maybe both, but the question of how much it can reasonably be reversed is a key question for the next decades. I fear the problem is deeper than people dismissing Trump’s supporters as irrational when they in fact have fairly good reasons for their positions. I fear that the vocal left has no good reasons for many of its positions and it is projecting onto the right the very thing they fear most about themselves. There is a reasonable discussion to be had, but the main actors on both sides have abandoned reason as an effective tactic.
Mulling it over, I have to agree with Nomdicbeer. Your argument does not hold: it is consistent to deny free will and then argue that reasoned argument still works. You just have to assume that the outcome is predetermined: it either will work, or it won’t work, and this is already fixed.
I have another good counter to the idea free will is an illusion though: in order to refute free-will, there’s a need to explain why nearly everyone believes in it, in nearly every culture. The only answer I’ve seen thus far is to argue that it’s a false belief hardwired into the human psyche. This means we might as well give up trying to reason about anything though, since having such hardwired, and patently wrong, beliefs in the human mind makes being able to trust the human mind to identify anything impossible.
Ergo, by postulating the idea of hardwired errors in the human mind on such a fundamental level, they erase the capacity to use such a clearly defective tool to know anything. This means that there is no reason to accept any argument as being any better than any other, which makes it meaningless to present reasoned arguments about the non-existence of free-will.
This is actually worse than postulating the idea of systematic defects in the human psyche, since putting an idea means that in order to break free of the falsehoods, we must identify the ideas, not merely look at the process.
If you say “I support funding for public school”, and don’t donate your salary, no, you’re not a hypocrite. A better example would be someone discussing the benefits of charity who, as it turns out, donates not a single penny. They are hypocrites, at best, and frankly, people are right to dismiss what they say.
The problem with the climate change movement is that so many of its members are the people most responsible for CO2 emissions. If they can’t be bothered to do anything, why should anyone else? No one here is asking for saints. We are asking people do what they are asking other people to do.
“If the environmental movement were to push positive things like the ones you’ve mentioned, it would get much more traction — the way it did back in the day, when it did exactly that. I suspect that’s why it dropped that approach like a hot rock.”
Are you saying you think the enviornemtal movement wants to lose?
You said “in order to refute free-will, there’s a need to explain why nearly everyone believes in it, in nearly every culture.”
The belief in free-will confers an evolutionary advantage. Humans who believe they can save themselves will, humans who don’t consider themselves to have any serious agency will be finished off in short order. The recognition of a lack of free-will short circuits the instinctive drives that aid in survival and comprise human ambition.
Free will is a useful conceit but that doesn’t make it true.
Scotlyn, hello again and absolutely, let’s have a cogitate. I’m a Buddhist and thus aware that the phenomenal world is a construct that I experience in my mind, and therefore liable to distortion. On the other hand, I also have a body that is subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and needs food, water, shelter and air. The Buddha brought himself close to starvation before deciding that you can’t really ignore physical reality on the road to enlightenment. Let us then take the middle way and be pragmatic.
If both of us head to the North Pole, or to Greenland, or to Antarctica, we are likely to experience mutually a certain melting that has also been observed by scientists who spend their days studying these things. Now and again I’m am lucky enough to meet one of them at our Academy of Natural Sciences, a local research institution. They estimate that 2 to 3 degrees of warming will melt the entire Greenland ice sheet, which unlike much of the Arctic is sitting on land and thus not a displacement of ocean water, but an addition to it. I choose to believe that they are competent and acting in good faith, and that the consequences of sea level rise will be very bad. The consequences of heeding their warnings seems less onerous than those of ignoring them.
To pursue the sinking analogy, if we’re on the Titanic, we’re sunk. Break out the booze and we’ll party like it’s 1912. But what if instead we are on the Norwegian frigate Aegis, which collided with an oil tanker late last year and was run aground to prevent sinking. Suppose we are on a ship that as you put it “has a potential future existence?” At this juncture, we have no way to know which ship we are on, only that it’s listing. But if we are on the happily named Aegis (guidance, direction, control) then I would answer yes, it makes sense to amplify the sense of urgency, get everyone to bail water out of the boat, and head for the nearest dry land.
I agree with your assertion that “we need to send out invitations that elicit the interest of free people in joining us in the place where we are.” In my world, honeyed invitations are not working. Which brings me to the most important word in that sentence, “free.” If someone is sleepwalking, is he free? If someone is paralytic with fear, is she free? If someone is so distracted that they don’t notice the ship sinking, are they free?
If someone has their eyes tight shut, for whatever reason, there is not a strip tease in the world that will elicit their interest. So let me ask you, at what point, if any, would you consider applying a short, sharp shock?
@ Josh Fuhrman
I never said Trump represents my desired program, I said he incrementally moves us in a direction in which we need to go and which no one else is willing to take us.
I’m not advocating a trade war. I’m advocating that we not trade to any great extent at all, that we develop an economy which employs our own labor at living wages to produce our own goods and services for our own use from our own resources in a sustainable manner while promoting the well-being of our own citizens. In order to do this, we need to disengage from the broader global economy, which subsidizes automation, slave-labor, and environmental degradation (by exporting production to countries with low environmental and labor standards). I’m advocating that we make ourselves independent of global trade networks and resource supply lines which are going to become the focal points of conflict in coming years and decades as resource constraints continue to bite.
I’m advocating that our military be withdrawn from its garrisoning of the globe and reduced in size and scope for the sole purpose of protecting the territorial integrity of this nation. I’m advocating for carbon taxes at the border and/or the point of extraction, for automation taxes in order to favor human labor over robotic labor, and generally for a layered resiliency of largely localized production and consumption. Local, family based farming producing our own food for local and regional consumption, for example, rather than industrialized corporate agro-business producing massive quantities for export.
I’m advocating for preserving our national sovereignty by satisfying our own needs ourselves and charting our own course based on our own assessment of our long-term interests. If the rest of the world wants to follow that example, it can; if not, then it can go its own way and we will go ours.
None of this presumes that we will keep our industrialized lifestyles. Of course, in the end, no one will keep their industrialized lifestyles because those lifestyles are not sustainable. Change is coming, regardless of what we choose. But we can, to some degree, control the form which that change takes. And, to quote one of my own characters: “I say that is better to control one’s destiny than to have it dictated by circumstances.”
This is not Trump’s platform. It is, frankly, no politician’s platform that I know of. But it is *my* platform and my vote will go to the candidates who best advance it.
I’m a member of my local environmental action committee and as such, I often attend farmers markets and such to talk to people about their trash bill, composting, trees, and such.
I NEVER talk about ‘reducing your carbon footprint’.
I talk about saving money and eating better.
When I talk about planting more trees and hedges I point out that properly placed trees and hedges save cooling dollars.
The other thing to say about trees and hedges is this:
Trees help you hide your property from Google Earth.
Hedges let you hide your property from Google Street view.
Plant more hedges! Plant more trees! And stop raking obsessively under them so you get more fireflies!
I think these statements work better. Certainly, they make my listener laugh instead of turning him off in a huff.
Teresa from Hershey
I’ve been following Philip Jenkins for a long time. He’s a very astute observer of trends in American history and culture, and especially non-mainstream religious history. His newest column of his is exceptional, IMHO. He predicts that, having won the war against showing any respect for dead Confederate generals and statesmen, the same fighters will now turn their attention to the Founding Fathers, and demonize the entire body of politicians and warriors who fought and won the War of Independence.
Denys, thanks for these.
B3rnhard, and thanks for this; I’ll have to exercise my shaky German on it, You’re right, though, that flattening out the intricacies of the environment to the one question of climate change is a serious mistake.
Averagejoe, interesting. Have you tried putting the search terms in quotes? That’ll stop some search engines from messing with the terms.
Thomas, thanks for this. If she wasn’t funding a study telling people what to eat, I doubt anyone would care.
Jaznights, much of the emissions of the Defense Department are outside US territory — and yes, it does dwarf everything else.
Beekeeper, true enough!
Will, it’s quite simple. The rhetoric of climate change activism depends entirely on the claim that scientists are always right. (They didn’t have to make that central to their rhetoric, but that’s what they did.) Climate change skeptics promptly brought up the global cooling scare as evidence that this isn’t the case. Climate change activists promptly started insisting that the global cooling scare never happened, even though it’s easy to document that it did, and thus scored an ongoing own goal. Dumb, but people do that kind of thing.
Violet, nicely done. Now to see how to broaden the appeal of those things…
Jim, I’d suggest throwing out your TV altogether and having a life instead. I did that almost forty years ago and it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
AuntLili, interesting. I’ll be interested in hearing how your experiment turns out.
Mog, yes, I’ve heard those claims too. When the Left started pushing that narrative, two things happened; the first was that the Left also embraced elitism (as often as not veiled by “consensus” schemes that were rigged to allow an unacknowledged elite to control group process, and the second was that the Left stopped winning and started consistently losing. Thus I suggest there may be something wrong with those theories…
Matthew, hmm! Fascinating, and in my experience, true.
Violet, good. You’re moving along trails we’re going to be exploring in future posts.
Monk, excellent! Yes, exactly, and the Faustian notion of one active being in a wholly passive environment is something we’ll be discussing at length down the road a bit.
Jess, hmm! That’s possible; we’ll see.
TamHob, thanks for this. Much grist for the mill.
NomadicBeer, any argument based on determinism is by definition fallacious, since determinism as a scientific theory was comprehensively debunked more than a century ago. We do not live in a deterministic universe; we live in a stochastic one, in which there’s only a statistical tendency for a given cause to produce a given effect, and in which entirely random, uncaused actions happen constantly — this was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt by early 20th century quantum physics. Any argument that tries to claim the reality of a deterministic universe is merely rehashing discarded 19th century scientific beliefs.
The broader problem with your argument is going to take much more discussion than I have room to give it here; please note, though, that I’m not saying that the denial of free will implies that minds don’t change — just that there’s a contradiction between the act of presenting an argument in the hope that it will be considered and accepted on its merits, and a set of beliefs that insists that human minds adopt beliefs for some reason other than the free consideration of arguments on their merits. I suppose I could simply respond to your argument by saying, “Of course, since you don’t have free will, you have no choice but to repeat that fallacy, and — since you don’t have free will — there’s no point trying to discuss it with you.”
Josh, I’ve always found it amusing that people like you seem to think that it’s somehow a convincing argument against alternative view to just repeat the standard mass media narrative in a louder and angrier key. Yes, I’ve heard those claims too — the official party line is blared just as incessantly from the media in my country as in yours. That doesn’t make it true.
With that in mind, let me fix your comments for you. First of all, the Democratic Party doesn’t represent a broad coalition; it exploits a broad coalition, to the interests of which it gives lip service at election time and then completely ignores for the next three years. It capitulated to corporate neoliberalism under Bill Clinton and has never gotten around to representing anybody else since that time. The way the party silenced dissent during the 2016 election is a good measure of just how “representative” it is — and the end result, of course, was that it gave its nomination to the only politician in the US who could lose to Donald Trump.
As for the GOP, when you say it’s “gone stark raving mad,” what you’re saying is simply that it’s been taken over by populists who reject the neoliberal “There Is No Alternative” policies that have destroyed the working classes across most of the English-speaking world. The policies the Trump administration has put into place — regaining control over our national borders, establishing sensible tariffs, and pruning back the metastatic growth of federal regulations that choke out small businesses for the benefit of big corporations and their shareholders — have caused a dramatic boom in manufacturing jobs in the US — you know, those jobs Obama insisted could never come back
That is to say, Trump has actually done things that have benefited the working classes of this country. Clinton was the candidate of business as usual. Thus the people who benefited from business as usual, who happen to be the ones who own most of the media, rallied around her and continue to jump up and down shrieking at the first president we’ve had in decades who’s done something helpful for the majority.
“a lot dems in local races are quite progressive depending on the state.”
What does “progressive” mean as a terminology?
“hey largely believe in the concept of having a government that can be used to help people. ”
Such points can be contested in a Democracy.
“A Republican party that has gone stark, raving mad. Run by Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter and Trump”
And, may there be examples on the other side that could be considered stark raving mad by any standards?
“so what are those other reasons? Economic anxiety? The fact that their town has been destroyed by opioid painkillers?”
What does “anxiety” mean? A baseless, paranoid fear, or a fear that has a base? This is worthy of discussion.
“He’s a 3rd rate Noew York real estate scam artist and that’s how he’s trying to operate as president”
That’s an opinion. One of many.
“we don’t need more billionaires swooping in to con people”
Is Hillary not a billionaire and also supported by billionaires and capital?
” The thing about provoking a trade war with other countries is that the other countries fight back with tariffs of their own.”
Has this blog and its predecessor not talked at length about the growth of structures (empires, global economy), how endless growth is impossible, and how a predictable fall will lead to disseparation into smaller parts in one way or another, inevitably?
” it was Reagan who really removed all the stops in illegal immigration”
“the H1-B Visa program which flies in tech workers from southeast asia and elsewhere to work in the IT industry.”
Also a point that is debatable. Does that invalidate any other debate about other matters?
” It’s that or raise wages a bit and everyone pays way more for their produce.”
And fast food and big industrial agriculture receive heavy subsidies. Debatable.
Henry Ford’s assertion of workers and wages was, that in a national economy workers must also earn enough to buy the same products they manufacture. Cost and wages have to be at a balance, at least if that is the target.
In a globalized economy where capital is mobile and can look for the cheapest wages and lowest standards to put up with, a company must follow these rules. If the element of globalization is taken out, potentially not. It will be seen.
“Or you think that he’s a preferable choice than Hillary? Really? ”
Obviously, the debates about this can be endless, and the reasons as many as there are people, as in every political process.
What would make Trump voters believe that Hillary is a better choice (topic of this weeks and others entries to this blog)?
As mentioned, this or that maybe, but certainly not calling their demographic “deplorable”.
And if their claim that the proposed policies will NOT throw them under the bus are viable, they must be explained.
Also, as mentioned on so many occasions, an empire in decline like the US (see Johan Galtung, Joseph Tainter) can try to keep expanding in military terms, or recede. The way I see it, many Trump voters seemed to favor the latter, and given the recent events, the latter seems to be the policy now.
Also, is the question whether further military expansion is viable a question that deserves attention, in your mind?
Or is the promise to make a decision on that a viable reason to vote one or the other way?
As the author of the burger calculations, I should say I didn’t factor in the methane produced by the cow who ultimately became the cheeseburger. As this is a major aspect of anti-beef discussion, I want to point out why I did so before people try to use this to discredit other points made.
Firstly, I wanted to keep the comparison more apples to apples, simply comparing CO2 produced burning jet fuel versus CO2 from fossil fuels used to raise the cow. I also am not quite sure I agree with The Cheeseburger Footprint*’s calculation of the methane amount produced (484 pounds of methane) as I would expect a cow to produce less methane when it is growing for most of their life. Also while methane is a more potent greenhouse gas, it also only lasts twelve years compared to CO2’s dozens to hundreds to thousands of years. Any methane made by a cow you ate in 2006 or earlier has broken down whereas the CO2 in the car you drove then is still floating about for at least a little while longer.
If you do factor in methane, it does more than double the carbon footprint of a cheeseburger to about 10.67 pounds of CO2. The Cheeseburger Footprint then adds some rounding for transport, restaurant operations, and the like to get their 5.18kg or 11.4 pound number. If you use those numbers, Stordalen’s round trip fight is 3,819-4,080 cheeseburgers. That’s still a decades’ worth of daily cheeseburgers, and a year’s worth for all if she has nine others with her.
@Pan the Green Man
Here’s the math of the calculation JMG is using.
The article JMG linked says that Stordalen owns a Bombardier Challenger 350. From the Bombardier Challenger 350 website**, the maximum fuel weight is 14,150lbs. The density of jet fuel is 6.5lb/gal so that’s roughly a 2,177 gallons fuel tank. I saw numbers between 19 and 21.1 pounds CO2 per gallon jet fuel burned*** and went with 20 pounds per gallon. I then assumed half a full tank is used per trip for a full tank round trip. That works out to 43,540 lbs of CO2 total for the round trip.
The CO2 cost of a cheeseburger I got from openthefuture.com’s estimates of CO2 from fossil fuel use in raising a meat cow. They gave a range of 766-3000g of CO2. I averaged it and converted to pounds and got 4.14 pounds of CO2.
***- https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091210130723AAT8MyR & https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.php
Dear Josh Furman, about the support of the two-headed beast for immigration: low wages is the excuse, not the reason. Low wages is gravy for billionaires and their followers, who could easily afford to pay a higher minimum. I assert that the real benefit they receive comes from forcing up the prices of real estate, housing in particular, and utilities. those being two of the areas where the elites make real money.
Dear Mr. Greer, in addition to the reasons you have given for the failures of environmentalist groups, I would like to add that many, famously the Sierra Club, were in fact bribed and bought off, and persuaded to not mention certain issues. SC and other high profile environmentalists were not at all hard to convince to put class interests before saving the earth.
Will J I can’t answer for our host, but me, I am saying, that the environmental movement, or at least its’ privileged leadership were and perhaps still are paid to lose.
If our host will allow, here is a good exposition of what is going down in Venezuela.
Yay! JMG is back. A reason to get up on Thursday mornings. In response to Robert Mathieson (7th Feb 4.52pm)finding that people do not really listen I absolutely agree. If you say anything with a different twist it is like talking to a brick wall. I am seriously considering not talking anymore, perhaps to select people.
JMG – I just ran across this old quote, which seems surprisingly timely:
In a 2008 interview with PRI The World, I suggested that the term “denier” was counter-productive. Resorting to extreme language and name calling in the climate debate not only inflames tensions among opponents, I argued, but for decision-makers on the center-right struggling to come to terms with climate change as a societal priority, resorting to “denier” rhetoric misses the opportunity to more persuasively connect the issue to commonly shared values, or to fashion compromise around policy approaches.
“A perennial topic with no end in sight, the debate over such language can quickly turn into name-calling over name-calling,” observed journalist John Wihbey in 2012, creating “an inward-gazing meta-discourse changing no one’s views or practices, and perhaps only solidifying them.”
Research indicates that Republicans who privately support solutions to climate change refrain from publicly doing so out of an exaggerated fear of retaliation from their peers, a fear that has been magnified by some scholars efforts to socially stigmatize the supposedly mass number of deniers among their ranks.
He’s talking about the labeling those who dissent on climate-change action proposals as “deniers”, but it fits right in with the counterproductive strategy of insulting those whom you wish to persuade on any topic. And that last paragraph is REALLY insightful (IMHO): by asserting that your opponents are evil, you risk suppressing dissent WITHIN your opponents’ camp that might bring them closer to your position!
In another part of the article, the author seems to realize that it will take more than a political decision to create a carbon-neutral economy. Speeches, marches, conferences, and rallies do not create either thermodynamically-impossible energy technologies, nor the will to live on a sustainable energy budget.
Why would people not vote for Hillary? I had a few:
1) NAFTA, GATT, China. Free trade, set up to disemploy lots of the working class all over the world for the sake of WalMart.
2) Three Strikes, 10x penalties for Crack, “Sperpredators.” A whole generation of blacks set aside.
3) The End Of Welfare As We Know It – aka goodbye safely nets.
4) Tellecommunications Act Of 1996, aka the end of good local radio stations.
5) the repeal of Glass Stegel, aka the birth of the “Too Big To Fail” banks.
Know that Hillary was there by Bill, guiding and helping him in all this.
6) Doing everything – both legal and illegal – to insure the 2016 Democratic ticket was hers.
7) Her Confederate Running Mate. Trump also had one, but with him it made sense.
8) Russia Russia Russia – Hillary had the easiest election in the world, don’t blame a third rate group of troll-wannabes for your loss.
And those are MY reasons. Other people have other reasons – and there are plenty other reasons.
@Will J – Maybe we need to focus on adding friends with similar values? I recently joined the private local gun club, and even though I don’t consider myself a “gun enthusiast”, I suspect I can find folks of similar thinking there. If nothing else they serve reasonably priced beer.
I’m thinking about your more recent comment to JMG on environmentalism being designed to fail. I was pondering the same thing this morning. This proposal and roll-out of the Green New Deal is the most childish thing I’ve ever seen. Fifth grade science projects are better.
If environmental leaders wanted people to live a life-style conducive to low-carbon, they would use some of the known marketing techniques to have it work. It’s not like its a big secret how to market to Americans. What if living low-carbon was positioned as a lifestyle bringing one status and peace of mind? Imagine the photos and accompanying words! The bragging rights people would have showing off how much “less” they use and how much they don’t travel. There would be high-status communities of people who live together.
There’s been some attempts at these ways of living, but I swear it’s like they get infiltrated by moles who sabotage their efforts. Or its just Americans being Americans with their endless complaining and shouting from the cheap seats. Hard to tell.
If you say “I support funding for public school”, and don’t donate your salary, no, you’re not a hypocrite. A better example would be someone discussing the benefits of charity who, as it turns out, donates not a single penny. They are hypocrites, at best, and frankly, people are right to dismiss what they say.
The problem with the climate change movement is that so many of its members are the people most responsible for CO2 emissions. If they can’t be bothered to do anything, why should anyone else? No one here is asking for saints. We are asking people do what they are asking other people to do.”
I don’t understand the distinction. You are asking people to do (voluntarily) what they are asking other people to do. I support funding for public schools, but I don’t voluntarily donate my salary. I support limiting CO2 emissions (or discouraging waste through some taxation scheme) but I don’t voluntarily limit my own travel.
We could turn this around and say: so many of the climate change movement members are the people most responsible for CO2 emissions, so the proposed legislation would have the greatest impact on them. If they are willing to fight for this, why would anyone doubt their sincerity?
@Robert Mathiesen: I don’t think so. As one of those liberals who’s all too happy to condemn Confederate generals, Christopher Columbus, and other unsavory figures from American history, I would be vehemently opposed to any attempt to erase or tarnish the legacies of the Founding Fathers. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of them should be criticized for their role in perpetuating slavery, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore all they did to further the cause of human freedom overall, and to create the world’s first modern representative democracy. You can respect the accomplishments and successes of figures like Washington and Jefferson while still acknowledging that they were wrong on matters of race, class, gender, and so forth. And I know plenty of other liberals and progressives who feel the same way.
It may be a regional issue. In his otherwise excellent essay on America’s Red Tribe and Blue Tribe, Scott Alexander said that both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe agree that the Red Tribe is more fundamentally American, but that doesn’t ring true in my experience at all. It may be different for progressives out on the West Coast (where Scott Alexander lives), or for Blue Tribers living in isolated liberal enclaves deep in Red Tribe territory… but here in the Northeast, Blue Tribers very much see themselves as the real Americans. They consider themselves to be the inheritors of the American Dream, the ones who are actually following the ideals of the Founding Fathers, while they view the Red Tribe as heretics following a bastardized version of the American civil religion that overemphasizes the most shallow elements (things like veneration of the flag) while completely ignoring the spirit of American idealism. So I can’t imagine a lot of NYC or New England progressives calling for the erasure of the Founding Fathers’ legacy.
In your first comment of this thread, you made the statement; “Vince, the Libertarians like to think they occupy the center, but they’re at least as far out on the fringes as the Democrats; a platform that amounts in practice to “let giant corporations do whatever they want” has very limited appeal these days.”
With all respect, I think that you are grossly mischaracterizing the position of many if not most libertarians (note that I do not write “Libertarians”, i.e. “large-L libertarians”, meaning members of the US LIbertarian Party). While I am not much in contact with anyone in the LP since I left that party after it was suborned by the neocons in the mid-2000s, I think that is it fair to say that many libertarians, as do I, see the ever-growing corporatism as a mockery and a perversion of the free market, not as an natural extension or product of it.
Corporations as we know them today are NOT in fact a natural outgrowth of the free market system, but are the product of a toxic combination of pro-oligarchical legislation and judicial rulings, over the past 150 years in particular, that gave birth and fostered them. In fact, one can well argue — and many, even many libertarians such as Karl Hess, have done exactly that — that corporations are the natural outgrowth of statism, elitism and oligarchy, and not only have inherently NOTHING to do with the ‘natural’ free market system, but are actually antithetical to it.
But I believe that this belief is THE key ‘third rail’ of Western politics: the acknowledgment of the inherently anti-democratic, anti-social, neo-feudalistic and generally pernicious nature of corporations, and of the creeping corporatism under which we are increasingly forced to live. Just try getting the corporate-controlled ‘maintstream’ (sic) media to even propagate THAT message!
I just got what you did with this post title – we are wandering into territory unknown to us, and everywhere we look, we see ourselves reflected back to us. No clear line of sight to find our way out so we just keep covering the same space over and over again.
@JMG But the standard media narrative is what you yourself are subscribing to, that the problem is the extremes on “both sides” that is just not true based on all evidence. It’s lazy thinking. As for the Republican party being taken over by populists, you really think the situation can be summed up that way? Is Mitch McConnell a populist? You know your history, what have Republicans been all about since at least Reagan? Tax cuts for billionaires above all else, screw the poor. I mean, how can you argue with that, it’s right out there in the open. You think Republicans and Trump care about the working class? If so I don’t really know what to say except that you have to understand that a lot of people who have a problem with Trump are arguing in good faith because there are legitimate reasons to oppose him. It’s not all what you call “Trump derangement disorder.” I think your blanket dismissal of anyone who might have an opposing opinion than you or your legions of loyal, lockstep commenters shows that you’re not willing to extend any reasonable generosity to a dissenting opinion. For someone who claims to value honest analysis it’s disappointing. Do you just want slavish fans on your blog who mindlessly agree with and run with your take on things?
@Will, just wanted to highlight your comment: “Has anyone else noticed the Green New Deal looks an awful lot like a revitalization movement?” Indeed it does. That could be a good subject for meditating on. JMG had a post on Archdruid Report where he asked, “what if the eco-revitalization movement came to your door and asked you to join up?” My reply to them would probably depend totally on the overall shape I saw the movement taking.
@Beekeeper, you wrote: “I think that it would have been far more prudent to deal with the pressing environmental problems first before even thinking about upending American society.”
Unfortunately environmental devastation is tied into the structure of our society. Take the people “unwilling to work”— why does our society demand that they become productive? Especially when that productivity is so often unsustainable and destructive in ecological terms. I take it the proponents are thinking of something like UBI, which seems like a good idea to me.
I do think the wording of the document you linked to is a bit foolish and I’ve read on Twitter that environmental experts feel betrayed by the clumsy wording. I also have seen a consistent cluelessness by GND proponents about how to work with the existing infrastructure we have.
But seeing the conservatives erupt over “cow farts” reminded me that I have been through this before: like much of the literati, I underestimated Trump when he arrived on the scene with his poor handling of factual details and constant clumsy phrasing. Maybe there are people out there in America for whom anything would be an improvement on the existing infrastructure. We will have to see how the country reacts.
For those in the Northeast US who are interested in J.R.R. Tolkien (even if he is a past love) – an exhibit at the Morgan Library in Manhattan: Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. The library is a short walk from Penn Station or Grand Central Station.
Hi John Michael,
Many thanks for that tidy explanation and I intend to use that line on the next chugger I am confronted by.
“how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?”
It is pretty obvious to me that cutting your carbon footprint, directly reduces your financial outgoings. For some reason I find that people have become disproportionately fixated upon the income side of the equation, as if somehow costs don’t matter. I feel that this reflects a larger story playing out in society – and it is wrong. If you can get by on less then you’re ahead of the game.
To put it in very simple terms: If everyone is buying large SUV’s – do something different, like maybe walking or buying as small and efficient a vehicle as possible.
I suspect such thinking offends deeply held beliefs.
Surprise surprise, you have got me thinking again, JMG.
I am a middle class guy who for some time has be so disenchanted with US politics that I thought a nationwide shake up and possible restructuring might do the country some good. Maybe splitting up into different sections that could actually work together internally would do everyone some good. The Lakeland Republic comes to mind…
So does that opinion mean my allegiance does not fall with my country any more? I certainly see that I can work with local folks, but does that make my allegiance more to my class than my country? Am I part of the problem?
You posed the following:”…how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?”
Having taken the dive into simpler living here at the farm, as a way to drop dependence – the entire carbon footprint thing is fallacious in my experience. As an example, let’s take solar power. We opted for panels with expected 25 yr lifespan – about 1/4 lifespan of the tin roof under them. 6 years in, we have replaced batteries 3 times, inverters 5 times and we must do monthly cleaning of the panels to maintain efficiency – a chore to be up on a tin roof like a chimney sweep 30 feet off the soil. The necessity to run the freezers (to keep meat and frozen produce), fridge and A/C (Texas) means that we have a tough time with battery drain and life in the dog days of summer.
The batteries are just not something you can toss in their closet and let alone – have to check them every 2 weeks or install a high-cost monitor system. Even then, it is difficult to keep them from draining overmuch and thus causing havoc the next day. The only solution was more battery.
By the time you figure in the cost of everything, it is MORE expensive than just paying the electric coop. Almost 2 times as much.
So, we let the solar panels drive everything but the A/C, putting that on electric coop circuit – works ok and hoping the batteries make it to 4-5 years before replacing them (around $2400). But the economics are just not there in a practical way IMO. And what the heck is the carbon footprint of these batteries, which are not made in USA? We are using panels to drive small pumps with battery clusters in the field (water well, water moving, etc.) and for greenhouse fans; those applications work.
There is no using horses to take anything. anywhere, to market. It has to be by truck, as there are no rail stops to pickup anything any longer. So even if we grew a few tons of potatoes, it is still trucking to market.
We were going to buy a percheron and go for some old school farm working – only to discover that horse driven implements were nigh on to impossible to buy, other than as rusty yard art. Even plows were so rusted that they broke at the first stump when we were practicing with a neighbor using his horse.
If we were subsistence only, and didn’t have to pay property, income, sales and other taxation – maybe it could work. Yet it seems, at least to me, that the best way to ride into descent is to do so using what is available while it is available, and preparing for the first stages – such as unavailability of parts and fuel. If everyone is on the same footing, I have no worries. But during parts of this descent, it seems likely that this will be an unequal proposition.
Summary: well, it seems like a great idea on paper to reduce your carbon footprint, yet the reality is you will be paying more and spending time maintaining where you do not with line electricity; you cannot shuck your tractor because there is no alternative even available; if you have to smoke and preserve meats without refrigeration, you are talking days per month to do that.
Slavery seems quite an attractive concept, looking at it from this POV – because even a large family will be full time just trying to get veggies to market! (hoping your readers do not melt down over that sentence)
Where we can, we will use solar as long as it is available. We are looking at a dam to run a wheel as well – so energy can be 24/7. But it seems greenhouses are the way to grow where things can be managed most effectively and yields maximized relative to work input. But trying to play carbon footprint footsie is decidedly not the way to go – it heaps time and expense on one quickly, and the alternatives of 1800 are simply not around any longer.
Just a glimpse for you into what we experienced trying to “go green”. I prefer to try and go with returning to the old ways, but one cannot compete at all in the modern world and make a living doing that, TBH. So until the collapse gets more intense, it does not make economic sense to lower carbon footprint and the tools to actually do so (according to modern ‘common sense’) are just not available or too unreliable for their cost.
You are dismissing out of hand deterministic theories of quantum action such as the pilot-wave theory. Although the theory held by most is the non-deterministic Copenhagen theory, science has yet to settle on this.
Determinism has definitely not been debunked. The last time I saw someone insist that quantum mechanics disproved determinism was reading a Christian philosopher arguing against evolution. Before that it was Deepak Chopra. If you go far enough with the idea that quantum mechanics disproves determinism and you get way far into woo-woo land.
@ David, by the lake…
I can get behind those propositions, but they will likely require a much deeper set of problems than we are currently experiencing to gain traction.
But I like ’em!
“What it means is that a great many people in today’s industrial societies have lost track of the fact that others are subjects as well as objects: people, that is, and not just dolls to be posed or thrown aside as the mood strikes them.”
I have to disagree.
The level of aggression (no longer even marginally camouflaged) behind these behaviors would not be exhibited against a doll or a mirror.
A view from the trenches:
I am 61, have worked full time since I was 21, live in suburbia, but still have chickens, farm my backyard organically (not the front yard because it would make the neighbors mad), drive as little as possible, etc. I am really trying. But you know, my husband and I had to renovate the kitchen in our 50 year old house because it was a leaky, unhealthy mess. I did the renovation mostly myself to greatly simplify the kitchen.
I thought a long time about a dishwasher. We had not had a working dishwasher for many years, so I knew I could live without it. However, my 80 year old husband used to “wash” the dishes when I was at work and he just can’t see the dirt anymore. We ended up with a lot of dirty dishes in the cupboards that I had to re-wash and I am tired! Long story short, I got a dishwasher installed. It is wonderful. Really wonderful. I come home from work or in from the garden with my back aching and there are CLEAN DISHES. I know I can live without it. But it makes me very happy to have the dishwasher. Also the clothes washer. Neither are good for the environment. I don’t care, I love them.
Then, just last month, my 29 year old son took a job with a company that only works for Billionaires. Yes, with a “B” not an “M.” You know what he does? He installs blinds controlled by a computer in the Billionaire homes in the Hamptons and South Florida and on their yachts. Blinds. Controlled by computers. For which they pay obscene amounts of money and use obscene amounts of energy. So if you are asking me to give up my dishwasher or clothes washer while billionaires use massive amounts of energy to have their blinds automatically raised and lowered, well you know, F you.
Life is hard. Then you die. And I will fight you for every scrap of comfort I can get.
> If someone is sleepwalking, is he free? If someone is paralytic with fear, is she free? If someone is so distracted that they don’t notice the ship sinking, are they free?
That’s to say, you deny agency of any human being that do not happen to agree with your assessment of reality. You kind of remind me of the character in the Prince Bride movie, the balding short one that kept saying “unconceivable”. Not that this is preciselly your case, but from that character point of view it is like reality got broken because it kept throwing at him situations he was unable to imagine. I’d say he would have done better by trying to improve at imagining things.
>So let me ask you, at what point, if any, would you consider applying a short, sharp shock?
Sure. Feel free to poke the big hairy ill-tempered sleeping beast with your paleo/low-tech ellongated sharp-shocking device. But, would you mind counting down from 300s first? It is getting rather hot around here and there’s a nice shaded spot a few hundred feet upwind from here. I’d prefer to get there before performing the experiment if you don’t mind…
John, good to have you back.
Treating people as object not subjects is hitting home in the employment side of things more and more, as the working class Millennials are waking up to something their grandparents and great grand parents, who formed unions and marched on strike lines knew quite well. The Capitalist Elite considers you just replaceable assets. Like the saw blades that run on the machines I work on, run them hard until they break and then replace them.
Why are millennials burned out? Capitalism
Malcolm Harris, interviewed for the article on the subject sees Millennials turning either to revolution or fascism, to rewrite the social contract to even the playing field some between the exploitative elites and themselves
Re: re-framing cutting your carbon footprint. This might be a stretch for many, but I find that making things with my hands, myself is much more satisfying than buying things. Ultimately not sure how much this habit has cut my carbon footprint, but it sure has saved me money and a lot more skills. I started by just refusing to buy a new thing when the old broke. I tried as hard as I could to fix it, and when I couldn’t, figured out how to live without it.
Along those lines, a book I read recently that reminded me in a way of your work, which I think you and perhaps others here might enjoy is Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head.
I have to add my 2 cents to the claims that the Trumpist wing of the GOP is stark raving mad:
Trump has said some ridiculous things and is bigly ‘unpresidential’. He is also orange (man bad). Obama passed ‘Obamacare’, which although a good deal for the poor, was a massive wealth transfer to the rich, with a bit trickling down to the poor to get their votes. Bush Two started two wars on sketchy pretenses, killing hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions depending on where you draw the boundaries. Clinton did NAFTA, which had disastrous consequences for the American, Canadian AND Mexican working class. Bush One invaded Iraq based on blood libels about Kuwaiti babies thrown out of incubators and something about democracy.
I could go on. Is Trump a crude huckster and an avatar of greed and tasteless wealth? Sure – but who cares? He is doing a decent enough job as president, especially with respect to his accomplishments with North Korea, and the democrats seem poised to hand him 2020 despite his failures to deliver on some key promises. I’m almost done converting part of my apartment into a giant schadenfreude storage silo – it’s gonna be YUGE.
For those interested in populist goverments arising around the world, may I offer the case of AMLO, the Mexican president. He’s been in office for about two months and has not lost time to implement policies that cannot be regarded as anything but *disruptive* (His solution for widespread corruption in Pemex and thieft of millions of barrels of gas was… to shut down the oleoduct and try to babyfeed the gas stations with trucks, to the chagrin of millions of car drivers in at least a dozen states).
The most remarkable thing is that nobody seems to actually think about the technical feasibility, or any other objective quality, of these programs. It is all about the rethoric of a crazened despot in power in one side, and a mesiah struggling against impossible odds at the other.
This week’s most contreversial idea (well, hard to say, he has a daily press conference at 7am, so I may have lost the very latest) is to shut down subsidies for day care facilities, under the premise that it is “impossible to audit them all”. The same money will go directly to working parents, or to parents that demonstrate to be “actively seeking for a job”, so they can pay day care out of pocket, or just pocket the money and leave their kids with a reliable friend or relative.
Leaving aside the feasibility of how to actually implement all this, the public discussion is all about how parents will just drink the money away, or how the children will now be deprived of the very best care our experts are sure to offer… while a few older voices chime in and say “we did not need any day cares to raise *you*, and you came out just fine”.
But the weird thing is that nobody seems to notice how this is a Econ-101 (candidate) solution to the problem. “I don’t really know which daycares are good and which aren’t, but the parents sure know. Let ’em figure it out on their own”. This from a far Left politician (not the kind of “Left” you are familiar with in the US, or even in West Europe).
“NomadicBeer, any argument based on determinism is by definition fallacious, since determinism as a scientific theory was comprehensively debunked more than a century ago.”
First, can you point me to a good book/article on this?
Based on my readings, QM is perfectly deterministic in the sense that the universe Schrodinger’s function will evolve according to the equation. From the perspective of the observers (us) the collapse of the state function is unpredictable. That does not mean that “uncaused actions happen constantly” just that we don’t know when and where they happen.
Moving away from physics though, I don’t think my argument depends on strict determinism anyway. Just like a river flow is too chaotic to be perfectly describable in an equation, so our brains can and will behave chaotically. Does that mean that free will is just chaos? I can accept that but I doubt most people would agree.
Finally, about your point of accepting arguments on their merit – I think our brains make decisions based on instincts and who knows what else and then we justify them using rationalizations. That is the reason propaganda, manipulation and advertising work so well. But evolution created the neocortex for a reason and the input from it does sometimes make a difference for some people. The metaphor of “riding on the elephant” applies here. Most of the time the elephant does what he wants but there are times when the rider can convince him to change direction.
So to me, a reasoned argument is nothing special to our brains – just another input that can be ignored or not. Actually looking around me I guess it is mostly ignored. But there is a chance it goes past the barriers and actually changes the mental state (note I don’t mention any self control or decision here, just interactions between the self and the world). If that is the case, your assertion “Reasoned argument would therefore have no force” is not correct.
Thanks and I am waiting for the future post on this topic!
I just got back from a week long trip to India.
I’m in the unfortunate position where travel is sometimes necessary. I have a huge portion of my family in India, but I managed to avoid travel back for a five years. The last time I went was for my brothers wedding. This time I had to go because my father’s health is deteriorating sharply and I really wanted him to meet my partner. The trip was exhausting both physically and financially, but I’m glad my extended family got to meet my partner.
The trip did highlight a problem that I have, which perhaps readers on your blog could help me with. My partner has a taste for travel, and wants to see more of India and the world. I don’t have a particularly keen interest in seeing the rest of the world, I would much rather contemplate the world my feet walk upon daily. Fortunately, financial constraints haven’t made her desires and mine a point of major contention in our relationship, but I know that’s a thing I’ll have to deal with eventually. That isn’t to say that frequent visits to India aren’t appealing, I feel as spiritually bound to that place as I do to the Great Lakes regions (I wonder upon the occult dimensions of that…), but I understand a man can’t live in two places at once. I dread the day when my partner has the financial means to travel frequently, because I know that’s going to be a day of conflict.
I don’t understand the emotional experience of seeing new things. I do however understand the need to be SEEN seeing new things, which seems hardwired into my monkey brain. We’re a social species and if we’re discussing the benefits of a low carbon lifestyle, then being SEEN as virtuous is psychologically as important as being virtuous.
Adam, you’re dodging the point. If you were loudly insisting that nobody should ever eat meat, and it came out that you dine every single evening on steak, does that have an impact on whether people should listen to your claim that nobody should ever eat meat? Of course it does.
Matt, I suppose that’s one way to frame it!
Smetana, well, now you know one of the reasons why I write fiction!
Copeland, I doubt he has any idea that some clueless executive six levels down in the hierarchy came up with that.
Ganv, exactly. We’ve gotten into the situation Spengler talks about, where the ideas trickle out of politics and what’s left are unthinking tribal loyalties decked out in the cast-off rags of ideologies long since dead.
Will, my point is actually rather more complex than that. If an argument is being made by person A, and person A has no free will, then person A is not making that argument on the basis of its merits — he’s making it mechanically, because he has no choice not to make it. He’s comparable to a random-speech generator that, due to its internal circuitry, happens to produce the words “I believe in determinism.” Since no act of reasoned choice has taken place in the random-speech generator, there is no reason why any other person should treat those words as though they did express an act of reasoned choice. In the same way, if NomadicBeer has no free will, the words he’s generating cannot be treated as any indication that he’s assessed the evidence for free will and determinism and chosen between them; they’re simply the output of a deterministic process that imitates that assessment, and therefore should be treated as being no more meaningful than the utterance of the random-speech generator.
With regard to your argument, I’d like to suggest that the point can be taken a little further. Human beings don’t simply believe in free will; they experience it directly — that is, they experience themselves assessing options and choosing between them, and this is apparently common to every member of the species capable of verbal communication. The determinist viewpoint insists that this experience is an illusion, and builds laborious arguments to try to prove that this experience isn’t what it seems to be. Yet all those arguments, as I propose to show, presuppose basic rules of discourse that are meaningful only if free will exists — and as you’ve quite sensibly argued, would also make it impossible to trust the human mind to know anything at all. More on this as we proceed!
As for the environmental movement, like most of the movements of the privileged, it seeks to prevent change. Thus the systematic avoidance of anything that might actually change things…
Teresa, thanks for this! These are good points.
Robert, that seems perfectly plausible to me. Since the people in question hate the United States and are actively hostile to those freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution — watch the way they denounce freedom of speech for anyone who doesn’t agree with them! — it’s quite logical that they should begin going after the founders of our nation.
I became vegetarian 25 years ago. It was a dramatic life change for me, and I couldn’t help but talk about what I was learning. I definitely preached a little in the first year or two. It did not go over well, so I stopped. Now I rarely, if ever, mention it. Since then, just about everyone one I know eats less meat, I run into far more vegans and vegetarians, and almost every restaurant has options for me. This is a big change, but it was gradual.
At the time, I thought it was the morally superior choice. That was before I learned about industrial food processing, manufacturing, logistics, energy, and resource consumption in general and realized what a hypocrite I was. I still think it has a moral dimension, but it’s certainly not clear-cut and it’s only one issue of many.
I support the Green Wizard message that we should learn so that the knowledge does not die, and that possibly others can see examples of an alternative way to live. I’ve made a few other changes (buying most things used; learning how to garden and cook; threw away tv), but not nearly enough. I don’t believe these changes will make a difference to the various crises we face. Quite the opposite, I think my bad habits far outweigh my good ones (driving, a/c in the south, for example) . While hopefully these efforts contribute in some small way to preserving alternative lifestyles, I certainly don’t think I’ve earned the right criticize others.
I don’t think people will make big changes until they face a crisis. I do think people gradually make small changes when the options become available and don’t seem so weird anymore. That has been my experience with vegetarian meals. My hope is the same thing happens with consumption in general.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about the “Kondo” effect on thrift stores. People are dumping their stuff and thrift stores are drowning in product. There are downsides to this – much of it is junk and needs to be disposed of; and people might just go out and buy new things that “spark joy”. For someone like me, though, who buys everything used, it’s great. I also love estate sales. There is a generation of older people passing away who leave households full of great quality furniture, tools, clothing, books, luggage, kitchen supplies. Maybe it will catch on – scoring a great used item as some sort of social capital, or at the very least an option to buying new. Small changes, sure, but they can add up.
I would argue that the modern environmental movement (in its mainstream form) is not entirely designed to prevent change – it is designed to impoverish the North American and European middle class so that the rich can keep partying like its 1990 for a few more decades.
Nastarana, and of course that’s also a crucial point.
Lathechuck, thanks for this. Excellent points.
Alan, as I explained in response to that original comment, I’m talking about what the political party (the big-L Libertarians) stand for. One of the basic principles of political history is that an abstract movement can mean whatever individuals in it want it to mean, and that amounts to rather less than two farts in a windstorm. When an organization agrees on a platform, that means something rather more definite, and that’s what I’ve been discussing — again, as I mentioned.
Denys, good. If you’re lost in a labyrinth of mirrors, how do you find the way out?
Josh, funny. You come charging on here rehashing the conventional wisdom straight out of the mass media, then insist that I’m the one who’s doing so — I’m not sure which media you’re listening to, but everything on the mainstream on this side of the border is basically yelling “Orange Man Bad!” at the top of its lungs, as you are — and claim that I’m repressing you (cue a certain anarcho-syndicalist peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) because I don’t immediately crumple and start parroting the mainstream media’s party line. Mind you, that’s standard behavior in quite a few circles these days, but it’s still amusing to watch…
Oh, and that awkward label “Both Siderism”? There’s a much less clunky word for it, you know — fairness. I know that’s not fashionable these days, but there it is!
Chris, it certainly offends those who want to practice conspicuous consumption to show off their affluence and prove they don’t belong to those awful working-class people!
Matt, well, where are your loyalties? How do they relate to people who are wealthier than you are, and poorer than you are? What about people in other communities, and other parts of the country? Where does “us” become “them”? Those might be questions worth asking.
Oilman2, thanks for this. Those are issues that need to be confronted.
DT, you’re getting dangerously close to ad hominem argument in those last few lines, you know. As for the disproof of determinism, my understanding — and I’ll happily accept correction if it’s backed with sources — is that such basic quantum processes as radioactive decay and electron-positron generation and decay have been shown mathematically to have the character of random processes, not pseudorandom processes controlled by hidden variables. Given that result, the entire structure of determinism crashes to the ground.
Razumov, if a doll refuses to act like a doll, and behaves like a subject, the explosive rage from those who insist that it must be a doll makes a certain amount of sense…
David, thank you! Yes, and that’s another important point. It’s indicative that the term “Human Resources” is now standard for what used to be “Personnel.” What do you do with a resource? You exploit it…
Sng, thanks for this.
CR, fascinating. Thanks for the data points from your side of the Rio Grande!
NomadicBeer, chaos is half of the equation. Are you at all familiar with David Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science? What I’ll be proposing, using arguments partly based on his, is that free will is a natural and, as far as I can tell, inevitable consequence any time you pair a stochastic process that generates genuine novelty with a selection process that tests the fit of novel responses to an environment of limits. One of the consequences of that proposal is that free will exists in complex systems generally — for example, biological evolution can best be understood as a learning process whereby life continually attempts to explore the range of possible niches, and displays what can best be understood as willed behavior in expanding into them.
Of course this involves some reframing of the concept of free will, but then we’re overdue for that anyway. To say that will can be free does not mean that it’s inevitably free, or that it’s entirely free in any case; mystics have been pointing out for centuries that most people lurch through their lives in a mostly mechanical fashion, and even among those who have learned to will freely, there’s always an interplay between freedom and constraint — as usual, one of the things that makes the entire argument so uselessly heated is that so many people act as though the only possible options are 100% free will and 100% determinism, ignoring the immense and intricate landscape that lies between these two extremes. More on this as we proceed!
Varun, that’s a challenge. I know how I’ve chosen to deal with it, but I’ll be interested to hear what others think.
JMG: But my comment was about CO2 and climate, not eating eggplant. I don’t think anyone has ever seriously said that eating eggplant harms the planet, so that’s not analagous to spewing CO2 into the atmosphere, which scientists say is affecting climate.
I’ve heard people claim that the climate change narrative is just an excuse for governments to rip people off via carbon taxes, and for corporations to fraudulently make money through carbon trading schemes, but these are straw men created due to dislike of governments and corporations, not due to disbelief in climate science.
Loon, thank you for this. To my mind, it’s precisely those individuals who quietly go about doing their best, knowing that perfection isn’t an option, who are leading the way.
Justin, I ain’t arguing. Preventing change for the rich means throwing everyone else under the bus, and now that the working class has been screwed, it’s the middle class’s turn…
Yoyo, the logic works the same in either case. If Stordalen thinks that dumping vast amounts of carbon into the biosphere is a bad thing, why does she do so much of it? That’s why a lot of people no longer believe the scientists — they watch the huge gap between what Stordalen et al. want everyone else to do and how they live their own lives, and come to the conclusion that Stordalen et al. are lying. You’re the one who’s assuming that these beliefs are just straw men — in my repeated experience, that simply isn’t true.
JMG, yeah, the resources needed for another decade of suburban living by the global middle class could keep the 1% jetting around until 2100 pretty easily. The yellow vest protests in France are an incredible response – and it is worth noting that if France were a Middle Eastern country that the neocons wanted regime change in there would be two carrier groups launching billions of dollars a month worth of air raids on Paris right now – to secure democracy and dethrone the Macron regime of course.
“how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?”
Well, I am a serious gardener and I am making every effort to grow as much of my own fruit and vegetables as possible and I think the best thing I could do to be of benefit would be to nurture the soil of my garden as if it was a beloved child nursing at my breast. Also to treat the use of water as a sacred offering both given to me by my watershed and given by me to my garden. I plan to share the bounty of my garden with friends and family for the shear joy of eating a good meal together.
The garden part will probably be easier then learning to treat people as esteemed fellow voyagers in the journey of learning how to live in harmony with each other and all the other beings in this world. Scotlyn, I admire your deftness. You set a good example.
Inequality is definitely a barrier to the environmental movement. When you don’t feel like you have your piece of the pie to begin with, any request to reduce your footprint is a non starter. Hell yeah I want my dishwasher and clothes washer and clothes dryer and double cheeseburgers. Makes my life sorta nice as I ponder whether I’ll be able to retire properly or afford the next big home repair or worry about the existential crisis that would be a missed paycheck.
The phenomena in our universe operate on the basis of laws fixed in place in the immediate aftermath of the big bang. To that end the actions of things are anything but random, although they may appear that way, given that the string of causes is mostly hidden and hideously complex. This is why I say sufficiently complex determinism is indistinguishable from indeterminism. Randomness is an illusion based on our limited mental capabilities, the human mind tends to be allergic to the unexplained, so we prefer to buy into one of two opposite illusions- randomness or agency.
The illusion of agency happens to get some false confirmation through the natural balancing of systems in our universe. The fact that dependant variables affect each other seems to betray a sentient logic where the system in question is large or complex enough.
This leads into my final point here, that what we consider as agency is really nothing more than the appearance of logical action. But we fail to understand that our very concept of logic is rooted in millions of years of evolution training the mind of animals and man to think in patterns approximating the physical realities of laws of the universe. So it is no wonder that we often confuse the complex determinism of our universe with agency.
@ Josh Furhman
I take it you know little about the strawberry picking industry. Pickers, at least locally in Ventura County California, are paid by the flat, not hour. An efficient picker can earn well over $30/hr based on the flat rate. That said, the work is very hard and your average overweight American can’t do it, but the pay is hardly minimal. I have in-laws with a strawberry farm, so I’m pretty familiar with the industry. Minimum wage also applies, so why assert the $2 per hour 7 day a week nonsense?
@Jean I could be wrong, but I have heard dishwashers use far less water than washing dishes by hand.
Thanks for the reply JMG.
When the Left started pushing that narrative, two things happened; the first was that the Left also embraced elitism (as often as not veiled by “consensus” schemes that were rigged to allow an unacknowledged elite to control group process, and the second was that the Left stopped winning and started consistently losing. Thus I suggest there may be something wrong with those theories…
I wonder if you would clarify? I am interested. I often stumble in transatlantic differences in the interpretation of ‘the Left’, and wonder if this is the case here.
The vast resources of the public relations industry, the psychological operations of the pentagon, advertising, ‘think tanks’ and the rest, all speak to me of the validity of the theory that elites focus lots of time and money on managing public perceptions. What else is the spending for?
There are numerous accounts from journalists from accross the political spectrum which support this theory : that news is ‘manufactured’, that journalism is basically dead, that the propaganda model is borne out by their experiences of working in the industry, and that it is basically taboo if you want to keep your position.
This understanding challenges deeply held beliefs about democracy, and so is often rejected without a reasoned argument, so I would love to read a more detailed criticism of the case made by the aforementioned thinkers.
And for anyone reading this, I recommend a free documentary (‘Psywar’ by Scott Noble, at Metanoia Films) which details the emergence of these industries a century ago (when the ‘Left’ started losing): Or read Bernays’ book ‘Propaganda’.
Seems genuine enough John
I think this is an interesting window on the future of the wealthy:
In 2011 there were 115 billionaires in China. Since then, 72 have died, with 15 murders, 17 suicides, 7 accidental deaths, and 19 from illness. Another 14 were executed.
“If you’re lost in a labyrinth of mirrors, how do you find the way out?”
My initial thought was “break them, of course”. But upon more thought, the way out would be found by looking up for some sort of visual to navigate – stars, trees, mountains.
I’d still break a few first though 😉
Off-topic – is the picnic still being planned for June?
@Robert Mathesian They’ve already knocked America’s founders down a few pegs – Washington’s tours at his home talk about how he grew hemp and smoked it, Jefferson is now know as sleeping with his slaves and denying it, Adams was a belligerent angry fool whose son was a drunk.
You know, they weren’t people of “good character” as is the argument made these days about Trump.
I’ve been thinking a lot about oligarchs lately, having just gotten a new job at a large family-run business and watched the mandatory video about its quietly charismatic founder. I wonder how much of the disconnect between ordinary folks and people like Stordalen is down to the fact that she’ll probably catch a lot of flak from the public at large no matter what she does. I remember when Bill Gates first shifted his focus from selling software to preventing easily preventable diseases – people were so used to thinking of him as a ruthless businessman that there was a whole lot of criticism about how he was going about it. I think that sort of criticism, whether directed at him or any oligarch who tries to make a positive difference, misses the point. There are all sorts of nefarious motives ascribed to Bill Gate’s attempt to take on Malaria. One that’s rarely brought up is the possibility that he might want to be loved and accepted by his community, and that if more love and acceptance were forthcoming when someone in such a position takes a real step, more steps might be forthcoming also.
It seems many people are unwilling to give that sort of praise because they see the world as a conflict zone between the Elites and the Common folk. But I think Buckminster Fuller was on to something when he said that the better model is to view the real conflict as elite versus elite, with the common folk as either a resource or an impediment to their designs. That is of course the exact attitude we saw in the Clinton campaign, probably everyone except the candidate’s husband saw voters as a resource that had to be extracted faster by them than by their opponents. I don’t think the idea that these were people much like themselves, with whom they could and in fact had to build a relationship, really occurred to many of the elites that year. In fairness to them, most of them also couldn’t.
Nastarana & JMG,
Okay, it certainly explains a lot of otherwise weird things if the environmental movement actually wants to lose. It’s rather frustrating, but it explains a lot. On plenty of other issues, the disconnect between what people say they want and actually want seems to be one of the most important forces in the horrid political dysfunction we have right now.
My issues is quite simple: I can’t stand Trump. I think he’s a terrible president, but I view him as slightly better than the alternatives. As someone else noted, he seems to be doing what needs to be done in the worst possible way. This is a wildly unpopular viewpoint. I’m also fairly involved in politics, so a lot of people I know have strong political opinions: I think it’ll be okay in the long run though. 🙂
People doubt them because they seem unwilling to take the actions they advocate for. Then there’s also the fact the targets of their tirades don’t usually include things like air travel. There are exceptions, but most of the time if I bring up air travel around environmentalists, I get a response somewhere between blank stare and furious denunciation. That helps explain why people don’t take them seriously.
With regards to free will, I agree with your more subtle point. This is something that needs to be developed in far more depth than I think comments on a completely unrelated post can do justice. As such, I think I’ll save my other thoughts on the matter for the post on it, which it’s fairly clear is coming. Eventually 😉
It seems to me that the arguments against free will find their emotional fount in the desire to claim that the path to Truth has already been constructed. Krishnamurti said “Truth is a pathless land,” but if everything is already determined than indeed the land of Truth is replete with rail lines and other fixed paths. One can just wait at the station for one’s entire life, knowing full well that the trains always run on time! By claiming the absence of free will one then can avoid the terror inherent in free will; the ability to make the wrong choice, to mess up, to have regrets, to sin, etc. Indeed, the deterministic model really does support a passively resigned approach to life. This may be good for crowd control, but it isn’t good for the cultivation of agency, ability or power. The people I’ve known who believe the most fervently in fate appear to me to live in profound ruts in which they have surrendered up their own capacities for creating or defining their experiences. I wonder how much the desire for a deterministic universe comes from the old trap of quietism.
“However, according to current understanding in theoretical computer science, even if the seed was only a few thousand bits long, and the output was thousands of terabytes, telling the output apart from a truly random string could require astronomical amounts of computation. Indeed, even if the entire observable universe were converted into supercomputers working on telling the output from random, those supercomputers would probably have degenerated into black holes and radiation before they’d made a dent in the problem. Assuming that’s true, it would seem fair to say that the pseudorandom string is “random- looking enough,” and that the only true randomness we needed was that in the initial seed.”
It doesn’t seem like we can separate the random from the pseudorandom with certainty. It’s always possible we are dealing with pseudorandomness.
Hi JMG & all:
welcome back. I hope your break was restful, or productive, or both!
“Here’s a question for all and sundry: how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue singling?”
I can chime in on a small scale – As I see it, for most of the 20th C. the public has been sold and advertised to any and every device or modification to make one’s life easier, less work, less stress, less to worry or think about – yet in reality many of these ‘improvements’, new products and services only serve to change one kind of work or stress to another. I work now as a cashier in our local grocery store and just to keep this from becoming novel-length, I’ll use 2 examples –
1) free plastic bags v. reusable cloth bags. Plastic seems so much easier because shoppers have become accustomed to not having to remember to bring their cloth bags. You just walk in with nothing in your mind or in your purse or pocket other than your Apple watch on your wrist and voila! You can walk out with a cart of groceries. BUT, (and I tell any of my customers that will listen, which are many) the bags are weak, they break easily , they are uncomfortable to carry, you end up with a mountain of them at home that you don’t know what to do with – then you have to schlepp them out to the trash. None of these draw-backs have anything to do with saving the oceans or planet – yet I and they ARE aware of that facet as well, (so THEY say). Cloth bags – it takes about 2 trips to the store before it’s in your memory and you don’t forget them. It’s easier than ya think. They hold a LOT of stuff, even the heavy stuff. Nothing to throw away when you get home. So much easier to carry, some of them are made to keep your cold stuff cold. They are CUTE! / nice looking, some are really attractive so you don’t walk around looking like a bag person, they can be used as totes for other things, (e.g. bringing a present to a party) We sell them for $1 per bag. I’ve successfully flogged only about oh, 30 bags thus far, but I do see more and more people bringing in their own, and that number seems to grow week by week.
2) cooking at home – buying real food as opposed to pre-made processed junk. This is not hard at my store as we have a deli and full restaurant kitchen in store and host wine & cheese and jazz trio every Thursday night to promote those foods services. Just like the bags – it takes a short amount of time to get in the groove of taking the time and effort to cook for yourself, but once you do – it’s like crack, you’ll never go back. It TASTES better, the meal is so much more enjoyable than anything pre-made. & IMHO The secret is that there is actually something really satisfying in simple WORK like cooking, accomplishing something. It’s a tiny thing, but mentally super relaxing and satisfying. Oh yeah, and It is cheaper, especially for a family. I still live in an apartment, so I cannot testify to growing much of my own food, but I suspect that the satisfaction is 10-fold in that. Enjoying a meal is a mental pleasure – it just tastes better if you’ve done it yourself – you feel you deserve it. LOL And note again – it does not even touch on saving the planet or eating vegetarian or vegan or whatever ghastly-tasting fad the jet-set flog today and will discard tomorrow.
I don’t know if I’m the one who has convinced some customers to change, but maybe my chatting with them, simply thanking them for bringing their own bags was the straw that broke the camel’s back of their resistance to change -but they are changing. One bag at a time!!
Most importantly – the trick of “chatting with customers” as we are encouraged to do at our store is that they actually don’t want to hear about MY day or MY life, unless it intersects with or can inform theirs. Seriously, people like to talk about themselves, and sadly, this goes well beyond an interchange with a grocery cashier. Maybe this could be helpful to Auntlili in convincing her neighbours to change. It’s not about you – it’s about them. Modelling good behaviour is all well and good – but helping them find little changes in THEIR lives that makes them better/more satisfying. “Work-Makes Free” is a horrible recognisable phrase because it was plastered all over the entrances to the Nazi concentration camps, such a cruel irony. But if it is possible to set that horrific connection aside – Simple daily ‘work’ of doing things for oneself actually IS satisfying and calming, even connective to other people. It is something advertisers have striven to lead us to believe is to be avoided at all cost. But they’re wrong. That’s the mental hump we, (collectively, the public) need to get over.
Lastly – “Virtue signalling” by the Global Elites: Hmmmm, I dunno…. The Elites and moreso the ‘wannabe Elites’ I’ve brushed elbows with in our heady expat days… It was the reverse. They were not Virtue-signalling and being hypocritical in that only they could afford such crazy diets – they were actually WEALTH-signalling. The fact that only their economic their could afford something was in fact the point.
As, I think it was methylethyl above who said, To change people’s minds through social pressure – they have to want to be like you, you have to (I’m paraphrasing here) be the cool kid on the block they look up to and want to emulate. True of middle schoolers and all of us – it’s human nature.
The Elites I’ve encountered underwent these insane and insanely expensive diets, cleanses, exercise regimens, (everything gearing toward living and looking young forever) and bragged about them not to signal ‘virtue’ to a broader public, but to the people who’s opinions mattered to them – other wealthy and influential Elites. To do it publicly, as on a blog or in an interview, signified their importance and influence, (“look at me, I am an important public figure”), taking on such a diet that the Hoi-Poloi could never afford was signalling to their peers / the cool kids on THEIR block their own wealth. The more inaccessible and exotic the ingredients the better. They could not care one jot what the ‘Great Unwashed, our ilk thought of them. (Objects / Extras in their play, certainly not Subjects or Lead Actors in our own plays).
AuntLili – Thanks again for the conversation. You ask “So let me ask you, at what point, if any, would you consider applying a short, sharp shock?” And I would answer, I honestly don’t know.
Right now, I see myself as inhabiting a self-navigating and self-trimming ship that can and will survive everything that I or my shipmates can do. Not seeing the navigating of the ship as within either my, or even our, power, is, I suppose a way of avoiding that sense of urgency. Things are changing, some/much of it is karma, consequences incurred by behaviour that has already taken place, but things have changed before, and things will change again, and this is how the world is (or so it seems to me).
I do hold myself responsible for doing all that is within my small power to act on the side of feeding and nourishing and restoring the living beings that lie within my neighbourhood and my reach, than on the side of consuming and taking from and destroying of the same.
The full cycle of life, though, means that I will, in my turn be fed and nourished and restored by the same living beings that lie within my neighbourhood and my reach, and as long as these cycles and exchanges continue, and as long as I am still here, I will be chopping wood and drawing water. Oh… and also having conversations, like this one, to develop and exchange views and ideas.
I thank you very much for yours.
@Denys – interesting comment “I just got what you did with this post title – we are wandering into territory unknown to us, and everywhere we look, we see ourselves reflected back to us. No clear line of sight to find our way out so we just keep covering the same space over and over again.”
The ground is shifting under our feet, and old alliances and rivalries no longer serve their original purpose, and another person who has written thoughtfully on this shifting ground phenomenon is David Graeber, in this essay which I found enlightening and useful: http://criticallegalthinking.com/2018/12/09/the-yellow-vests-show-how-much-the-ground-moves-under-our-feet/
@ Josh Fuhrman
Re our host’s legions of lockstep commenters
If that is your perspective of this blog, then you obviously haven’t been reading these discussions. I can’t even begin to count the number of debates over issues we’ve had over the years here. What we do have, however, that most other platforms do not (*cough* PoliticalWire *cough*) is a host who rigidly enforces respectful and relevant discourse even while disagreeing.
Also, to step back to your earlier comment, I’d also point out that you did not ask if any of us thought Trump was a good president. I would certainly say “no” to that and if you want my unvarnished opinion of him, scroll up-thread a bit to my reply to @Wrong Password. What you asked was: is he a better choice than HRC? Those are two completely different questions.
Re that policy platform
I’m making this stuff up as I go, but it seems to be coalescing into a coherent platform now. And I agree that, unfortunately, we will do what we have always done and wait until the emergency is kicking us in the teeth before we get off our collective hind ends. Still, some action is better than none!
Can we all agree that IF Peak Oil is true and that we are at/near/past Hubbert’s peak, then the most dire predictions in the IPCC report cannot happen due to fossil fuel CO2 emissions?
You write, “Unfortunately environmental devastation is tied into the structure of our society. Take the people “unwilling to work”— why does our society demand that they become productive? Especially when that productivity is so often unsustainable and destructive in ecological terms. I take it the proponents are thinking of something like UBI, which seems like a good idea to me.”
Yes, environmental devastation is tied into the structure of our society, I’ve never heard anyone deny that. However, I am of the mind that effectively and strenuously tackling the devastation will not only clean up the environment, but will also dramatically improve the lives of the people living in these areas – including mental health issues tied to exposures to toxins. Often, it is these health/mental health problems that hinder people’s employment opportunities and negatively impact children’s performance in school. Giving these same people a small monthly stipend might or might not improve their individual lot, but it will do nothing to solve the environmental mess at the core of the problems.
As for your support of Universal Basic Income, I hope you are not suggesting that ‘people having jobs’ inevitably leads to ‘ecologically destructive productivity’. That’s a bit of a stretch. I agree that all jobs have varying degrees of environmental impact, but is that a reason not to work? Should we all then not work in order to improve the environment? Not convinced that’s a useful solution. We have a small farm, raise bees and other livestock as carefully as we can, grow a good deal of our food, drive only when necessary, use as few nifty devices as we can, buy used and make for ourselves everything our skills permit, but I’m still not under any illusion that we live an environmentally neutral life.
I don’t know if I read it on this blog or some other, but the concept ‘what you pay for, you’ll get more of’ comes to mind when I think about UBI. Do we want or need more people who choose to be ‘unwilling to work’? What does that mean for society at large? Do we even know? We’d like to think that having a dependable safety net would encourage creativity and risk-taking in employment choices, but that seems not to be the case. Finland, which instituted a basic income for unemployed people with the idea that a small amount of monthly back-up income would encourage more of them to find jobs they liked, discovered that giving people money did not result in any change in their employment status. And I haven’t seen any evidence that giving people a small, guaranteed income each month causes them to desire fewer goods, many of which are produced in environmentally damaging facilities and shipped everywhere via environmentally damaging transport.
Dealing with widespread environmental clean-up and conversion to clean(er) energy is a huge, massively complicated job, but I would think it still less complicated than restructuring an entire society of individual humans with their individual ideas and problems. I cannot believe that the authors of the Green New Deal genuinely think it’s possible to do both concurrently. In ten years, no less.
I agree with you, and Jenkins, about the Founding Fathers. Among them, it is Tom Paine whom I most cherish, and after him, James Madison. Jenkins was clearly sounding a warning against a trend that he saw coming, and that worried him. (Time will tell whether he was saw rightly.)
I am no liberal (nor am I a conservative), but a radical moderate, the sort of alt-center person whom you mentioned in an earlier post. Impure, workable compromises, in my view, are the very soul and life-blood of every good government; ideologies that value virtue and justice to the point of excluding any compromise are lethal toxins in any body politic.
As Tom Paine — the most radical of all the Founding Fathers — put it so eloquently:
“Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one. ….. Were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least.”
Note that Paine explicitly denies the possibility that we, or our descendents, could ever create any such thing as a truly good government, much less any sort of close approximation to a utopia.
“From the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made” (Immanuel Kant).
Hubertus Hauger: YES! I fully agree. I’ve talked to friends and family about collapse and the things we discuss on this (and the old ADR) and terror sets in. I have to couch it with “possibly not in our lifetime” before they are able to take any of it in. With that abstraction, they can see the logic. Baby steps, baby steps, I guess.
@Josh Fuhrman: I agree somewhat, but maybe you forgot, “and WHEN are those troops coming home?” and also regime change in Venezuela – right out of John Perkins’ ‘Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man’. And the beat goes on……
Although, I’m not sure Hillary would have been better I think, better in some small ways, worse in some possibly big ways. (I voted for Bernie). Having lived in NYC during Trump’s ‘hey-day’ there, as a developer – I agree with your description of him as do most New Yorkers of that time. So while our dear host and most of the commentariat here do support and seem to trust Trump, I can’t trust him and don’t think he’s moved us very much in the right direction. (Baby steps, baby steps?) I’m not totally convinced that another isolationist movement is what is most fruitful – although it is 100% a deeply embedded American trait! It just hasn’t proven the best policy in a global world in the past.
I can live with the ambiguity of seeing good and bad in both sides. Easily in fact, as that is how most of life is.
If you don’t know where you rank in the social hierarchies of your “friends, relatives, neighbors and associates”, odds are about 100% you rank very low, or completely outside, those hierarchies. People who rank high absolutely know where they stand. Have fun bashing your head against that brick wall. Unless you’re being coy about your social status, social pressure just isn’t a tool you have available to you. That crowbar you think you’re using is a cooked lasagna noodle, and your friends, relatives, etc. can’t figure out why you keep waving it around.
Best case scenario: your efforts earn you the status of “crazy but mostly harmless,” people tolerate you, and they still feel sorry for you and help you out when life gives you a good whack (as it does to all of us). None of us is so independent we can get by without the good will of others.
Worst case: your efforts are making you a pariah, or even an enemy. And when life comes knocking, and you need to dip into your well of social capital, you will find it dry.
I am rather like your partner. Sad to admit, it’s a sort of greed. I am greedy for the experiences of travel, cultures, scenery of other places. I love learning about their histories, food, dress, architecture, customs. I like seeing their palaces, but I REALLY like seeing their commons, “How do the real people live?”…. I have learned a long time ago that ‘being seen’, spending your whole trip snapping pictures or selfies obliterates too much of the experience of being there. It has to be a choice and mine, (maybe your partner’s too) is of ‘seeing’, not ‘being seen’. I can’t preach to anyone about their environmental footprint because I have in my lifetime, been blessed to see and experience far more of this glorious planet than I have ever deserved to. It really is magnificent. I’m OK & resigned now to stay put, (sort of), although there are still many many places I’d love to go.
It may be most fruitful for you to determine whether your partner’s real goal is to see or be seen? If to see – I have found it can best be indulged with road trips and ‘slow-boat’, as those modes of transportation allow EVEN MORE seeing! It can also be satisfied with books, movies, the internet, local finds, although not such a great ‘high’ as actual travel. They might even be better selfie opportunities, if her true desire is to ‘be seen’. 😉 Best of luck to both of you.
Re: free will, determinism, QM
I’m with JMG on this: Roderick T. Long’s paper “Free Minds and Future Contingents” convinced me that disbelieving in my own free will would be pragmatically incoherent. Denying my free will would make all decision-making as absurd as trying to decide where to take the car when I’m in the trunk.
Probabilism doesn’t help this either: when I attack a goblin in D&D, I decide to to attack and hope to roll well; I don’t decide to roll well since I don’t control that. But in a probabilistic-but-non-free universe, whether or not I decide to attack is itself a kind of dice roll, and thus I can’t coherently decide its outcome.
On to QM…
Whether QM is deterministic or not depends on which interpretation you subscribe to. There are deterministic interpretations and non-deterministic ones. Copenhagen is non-deterministic, De Broglie-Bohm is deterministic, and many-worlds is if anything hyper-deterministic, and there are others. The important thing is that they’re all consistent with the available evidence, and if they make any predictions they are all currently untestable.
Many-worlds is an interesting one since its followers claim that it is the most parsimonious and basically everyone else thinks it’s least parsimonious. That’s because it has the fewest starting assumptions but it implies the existence of a near-infinite number of parallel universes we cannot observe.
I call it hyper-deterministic because it would mean that every possible timeline is real. For example, there’s a timeline in which JMG is arguing for determinism and NomadicBeer is arguing for free will. There’s a timeline in which Richard Dawkins is a devout Christian and JMG is a Scientologist known for his role in blockbuster films. There’s a timeline in which instead of making this comment I went out and robbed a bank.
That last part is why I find many-worlds impossible to believe. Even in a classically-deterministic universe, there’s still a sense in which my actions follow from my character. In many-worlds, if it is at all possible, one of my future timelines will do it. And they all have some claim to be me.
I’ve never seen this problem discussed exactly like this, but there is one special case that has gotten some attention: quantum immortality. That one makes me shudder.
It seems to me that until one of the interpretations proves to have testable consequences, the most rational thing for non-researchers to do is to shrug.
And lastly: As El and some others have noted in the earlier comments about being seen or heard as subject or objects / saying something that someone catches a few key words of that misrepresents what you are saying, even distorts it completely, but into something the other person is already familiar with, inside their comfort zone “a talking point”, a “canned argument”, “parroting the media”…..
Yes, that has happened to me, even on these pages. I’m sure I do it too at times, but I do try my best to read and then reread to catch someone’s true meaning and intent before responding. It takes time.
I think we can agree that it is kind of hard to do when discussing current politics, as they do seem to illicit strong emotions on all sides. I’m actually not sure it hasn’t always been this way, we just talk about it more now.
O Readers, and esteemed Host, I beg thee to indulge these Ruminations, pertaining as they are to the Topic of this Post, and which I, for Reasons known only to the Muses, and while bolstered by the Effects of a bracing Coffee, have chosen to present in this ornamented Style. Thou shalt no doubt recognise the Matters presented forthwith for your Consideration and Entertainment (admittedly with some Trepidation), for the Ideas raised by this Blog and its Commentary throughout the Years have sat and digested patiently in my Mind.
With this introductory Note aside, I shall proceed to introduce to thee a Monster most apalling: the Three-Headed Hydra of Environmental Inactivism!
Watch well for the Hydra during thine Quest for Effective Thought about the Matter of the woeful State of Activism in our current Era, for if thou should slip under the influence of the differing Qualities represented by each of its devious Three Heads, thou shalt encounter great Difficulty to clamber back onto a Path more productive. Falter not, fellow Travellers!
Beware the First: The shimmering Eyes of the Hydra’s Head of Foul Definition!
I submit to thee, O Readers, that this is a most insidious Danger, for it seeks to affect thine very Perception of the Living World. Would thou not agree that if One were so inclined to the continued Justification of Wastefulness that it should be convenient to create the Idea of a Place removed from the Consequences of Human Behaviour? And to call this Place Nature, or the Environment, the latter a Term so cold and lifeless that it fails not to incline even the most sympathetic Mind against it? Such a Act of Definition is profound in its Utility to shape the Behaviour of Those who lean on it for Support.
For who would seem more threatening to Those who benefit from our contemporary Treatment of the Living World: He who would crusade against the fouling of our Environment, a beautiful yet remote Place far removed from those Systems which govern our Societies and the Concerns of People praised for their effective Management? Or She who would confront the Hydra’s Head of Foul Definition, who seeks to disguise that Humanity and the Living World are in Essence the same Entity, and that harm to one is harm to both?
Beware the Second: The fierce Glare of the Hydra’s Head of the Furious Binary!
Woe to Those who befall the attention of the Hydra’s Head of the Furious Binary, for here is a Tale of well-intentioned Energies twisted into Ends most wasteful! The Actions of this Head serve to misdirect the indignant Energies of those motivated by some Injustice, for these Energies are oft motivated by Anger. But in the Heat of Anger all subtlety is burnt away, until all that is left is the Cause: white hot with Conviction but brittle in its Simplicity, and any Inkling of Doubt at the latter is swept away by the Devotion of Followers drawn like Moths to the Flame. Within the red Haze of Anger, they fail to see the Hydra’s Head at work, for any Cause draws Opponents, swept up equally in righteous Fury, and it takes the Hydra’s Head but a well-placed Nudge of its scaled Snout to spin the Opposing Sides against each other in a Maelstrom of expended Energy. Off they go, in a lockstep Dance which peters out into Exhaustion, and the deep-rooted Fear which begat the Anger is left unconfronted.
Beware the Third: The reassuring Gaze of the Hydra’s Head of Misbegotten Comfort!
Where the Second Head shows Passion, the Third seeks to placate, but this is no less of an effective Trap. This Head, smiling with apparent Love, says to Us: Life is Comfort, Life is Convenience. Thou shalt, O Reader, spend thy Days in Gentle Comfort, for thine Death draws ever near, and why should thou spend thy Days on Tasks most menial? The World is there for thine Taking, whispers the Hydra’s Head of Misbegotten Comfort, as it draws a Veil over the Blood of the Earth spilled in great Violence to provide thee with this Comfort. For it is sobering indeed to face grimly the Cost of one’s daily Choices.
O Reader, though thou may tremble after this Introduction to the Hydra of Environmental Inactivism’s three terrible Heads, steel thyself! It is left to us to confront the Body, for the Qualities that each of its Heads represent are derived from the same Source: they are but three aspects of a new Virtue that our modern Era seeks with Urgency to instill: the modern Virtue of Independence! Independence, we are told, gives Power through the Act of Separation while flattering us with the Idea that we ourselves are the Entities of the Greatest Importance, cut off and therefore liberated from the Rest of the Living World.
Humanity in this Day and Age seeks to cleave the Living World into Parts, with a Spear forged of Abstraction as its Spearhead and Technology as its Shaft. Through Abstraction can Humanity separate all the World into Concepts and Ideas and through Technology can it control them, and it aims to build anew what was wrought asunder, piling Brick upon Brick on its magnificent Construction into Infinity. Yet it fails to see that the Foundation has been built upon Quicksand. Tragedy, tragedy! For Infinity awaits, lurking within the very Quicksand we aim to hide away.
Thus is the Nature of the Monster revealed: it stalks all those who sense this flawed Vision of Humanity’s Place atop the Universe, and through the Actions of one or another of its three deceitful Heads, renders them inactive.
Armed thus with this knowledge, O Activist, go forth! And slay thee a Hydra!
@ JMG & ALL
Sir, these are issues that cannot be avoided. I live in reality, not on some website calculating this stuff and singing its praises – and the truth is that solar panels don’t last forever, batteries certainly don’t either. We owned a Prius years ago, and the battery pack lasted to 124k miles – then it had to be replaced at a cost of $4700 – that is simply NOT economical when compared to the FJ Cruiser I currently own, which has 345K miles on it and has never required any major mechanical work while being used as a farm implement to pull trees out of the ground and winch rocks out of creeks, in places no EV can even drive in and out of.
My personal experience in actually using solar has shown me it has inherent economical issues when compared to centrally generated line AC. An additional thought is that while “going simpler” has advantages, it also has a time cost associated with doing so – the very reason that electricity and the combustion engine roared into existence as a force multiplier in the 1900’s. We need to be looking back at the 1700’s if we want to get a true glimpse of what happens when oil becomes seriously expensive and coal scarce.
My play, regardless of carbon footprint, is going to be using what is available now to build what will be useful in the next 80 years (my children’s lives) and maybe beyond. As a family centered man, my goals line up with helping my offspring as much as I can before I go back into the dirt from whence I rose.
If we all KNOW we are headed into this long descent, my logic tells me that cities will require food, which means farming. And a 1-acre plot may bring veggies galore for 1 or 2 people – not much more than that. So suburban “farming” is basically a hobby, not a solution.
I know your blog deals more with psychological and social issues – but the reality of “going green” is a fallacy of the highest order when one tries to implement it outside of a mental exercise. “Carbon footprint” seems to me to be yet another way that centralizing socialists are using to control people or tax them further – because it simply does not compute when it hits the ground.
My question to all here is: why was this term and associated ideology even coined in the first place? Cui bono…
Robert M wrote: ” I’ve been following Philip Jenkins for a long time. He’s a very astute observer of trends in American and culture, and especially non-mainstream religious history…http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2019/02/remember-lord-dunmore/”
Americans at the time couldn’t accept an alternative between full spectrum equality and slavery. Emancipation lay in a middle ground of a stochastic process which would have ended chattel racial slavery and the horrible possible abuses attendant on that arrangement, and lead to social arrangements in that middle ground of less than full equality. I am wondering if the democratic ideology of the time played a role: the Southern aristocracy could have lead the way, but they (like the neoliberals of today) were making way too much money on the existing arrangements. Poor
whites were afraid of full equality, and the aristocracy made too much money off the slave trade. An alliance of convenience was worked out to import more and more of people not wanted there, and placing them in a context or box they could have no reasonable hope of escape from, all for money. Sound familiar?
Speaking as a flyover person, and a human being, and hopefully, a just observer, I can tell you that the Democratic party and mass media has squandered all of their moral capital here. Ignoring us would be fine actually preferable. Even hypocrisy is normal. That’s a source of amusement. What we have now is a rancor, hatred, and exploitation on a mass scale that will leave no stone unturned, no backwater untouched, and no village unblighted in a quest to eradicate any possible manifestation of difference, alternative, or autochthony from the reigning manias of the day, and to make a maximum amount of mammon as a reward for their “righteousness”. If you are a legacy American, particularly a European one, your accent, culture, outlook, etc. is a curiosity at best, and at worst, an original sin from which no redemption is possible. Even burning a pinch of incense to Caesar won’t protect you, if you are outside “the Party”. Going forward, it will be interesting to see the alliances forged that will be needed to protect ourselves from the inevitable consequences of deliberately engineered hatred.
JMG You write: ” biological evolution can best be understood as a learning process whereby life continually attempts to explore the range of possible niches, and displays what can best be understood as willed behavior in expanding into them.”
An expression of Ecosophia that is very close to what ecological philosopher Val Plumwood (an author I’m exploring these days) writes in “Nature in the Active Voice”:
“Why can’t we see evolution, for example, as a form of experimentation, of testing and learning, like trial and error, a form of wisdom? Why can we not consider evolution as a demonstration of mind in nature, of the intelligence involved in species differentiation and elaboration, the intelligence of forms…”
If I may, based on my experience discussing free will in online forums, most determinists who don’t dismiss true randomness as unproven are unimpressed with it as an argument for free will, and seem content with retreating to “adequate” determinism. They argue that whether your actions are decided by a set of laws or by a roll of the metaphysical dice makes no difference for the existence of free will; since the responsibility for the decision still lies outside of yourself, it’s still not your own free decision.
You’re making a number of common assumptions that I’ve run into in arguments for hard determinism. Here, for instance:
“We don’t have free will because the laws of nature are deterministic and we follow them, just like the river water follows the riverbed.”
You’re assuming nomological realism–that the laws of nature are something real, separate from us, that we have to follow. While this is certainly a possibility, it’s not the only one, and it’s something you have to argue for.
(Since I don’t know your religious beliefs I’ll leave this here as a side note: That most hard determinists seem to be atheists makes their acceptance of nomological realism extremely ironic. They understand the Laws as really-existing things that are non-physical in nature and nonetheless have causal power over the physical in that they make physical things behave a certain way, but the Laws under this interpretation are supernatural by definition, and so the idea of their existence falls prey to many of the objections that those same atheists giddily apply to gods, ghosts, and goblins.)
The laws of nature can alternatively be understood as descriptions of how natural things behave instead of rules that they have to follow. Under this interpretation of the laws of nature, saying that something follows the laws of nature is the same as saying that it behaves as it does, not because of some external necessity but because of its own nature.
“I think our brains make decisions based on instincts and who knows what else and then we justify them using rationalizations.”
Here you’re making the assumption that our brains are something separate from ourselves. The way you talk about how “our brains” do this and then “we” do that implies a separation. This distinction between ourselves and our brains is dualism, as it implies that there exists a “me” which is separate from “my” physical body. (That most hard determinists are self-proclaimed physicalists yet still go on to advance this argument is another great irony.)
Hard determinists are eager to take everything that plays a role in the decision-making process and throw it into a box labelled “not you”, so that they can then point to that box as proof that you don’t make your own decisions–see, it says so right on the box! What isn’t understood here is that many of those things aren’t actually “not you”. Your brain, your likes and dislikes, your life experiences, and many other things to which your decisions are attributed aren’t separate from you, they’re a part of you, so saying that they determine your choices is the same as saying that you determine your choices.
Re: Dishwashers and water/energy usage. I looked into this (as I said, I thought about it a long time). Hand washing uses less water if you wash and then put the dishes in a sink or bowl of water to rinse, i.e., if you don’t run the water the whole time you are washing. And of course the dishwasher uses electricity in addition to all that hot water whereas hand washing uses only the hot water. But for me, even if it uses more energy and water, the dishwasher is worth it — so long as I am still able to pay the electricity and water bills. Thanks for the thought though!
@ Kimberly S and @ Jean
Re automatic dishwashers and water use
We (meaning I) also hand-wash our dishes, choosing not having a dishwasher installed when we redid the (very 1940s) kitchen of our 1929-vintage house almost a decade ago. An automatic washer may or may not use less water than I do, but I can absolutely guarantee that it uses more electricity 😉
And I find hand-washing an excellent meditation exercise, to boot.
JMG: How is it that you and I believe anthropogenic climate change is happening, based on what climate scientists say, in spite of the actions of hypocritical environmentalists, etc.?
I think you and I also believe that the effects of climate change will hit the poor harder/sooner than it hits the wealthy. Within the remaining lifetime of today’s multi-millionaires (say, 50 years) it might not hit them at all, due to the options their extreme wealth provides.
It’s like the resident of a house on a hilltop telling all the valley folk to either not let the river be dammed or move somewhere else. If all the valley folk reply: “But YOU aren’t moving, so you must be lying — and the dam engineers are lying too! Therefore we’ll allow the dam and we’ll stay put!” …how smart is that?
The Second Annual Ecosophia Midsummer Potluck will be June 22, 2019 at 148 Congdon Street, Providence, RI (AKA: the house behind the Charles Dexter Ward Mansion) . To sign up, please go to this Google form. Remember, not everyone may bring potato salad!
Back to the wilderness of mirrors: back in August, a friend posted that he was one of “2000 people here in LA for Climate Reality Leadership Corps training.”. The idea that each one of those trainees are responsible for 1,000s of times the carbon footprint of the average person on earth doesn’t seem to have occurred to a single one. I don’t know how many Stordalens that works out to, but they bought carbon offsets, so it was OK (/snark).
On the topic of trying to convince friends and acquaintances (@Auntlili & alia). I’ve had no success trying with earnest facts and reasonableness, so now I just treat it all as a joke, which we all know is being played on us. IE: “Where did the Russians hide my keys?”, & c.
Jbucks: Stupendous and wonderfully written!
For people living paycheck to paycheck, there are great benefits to reducing your environmental impact, too. You can start with weather stripping to reduce your heating and cooling bills, insulating your hot water pipes and the turning down your hot water heater, and start strategically planning to combine your driving trips to save money on gas. Reducing time spent in front of the TV also greatly reduces the amount of social pressure to spend money on things you don’t need. You can save a lot of money by getting rid of the thing entirely, or just using an antenna for free. I haven’t had a cable package for years now. I don’t miss it.
Conversely, if you emphasize saving more money, your environmental impact goes down on its own.
Scotlyn, I envy your equanimity. Maybe one day I’ll settle down and share it. Meanwhile, this conversation has been rewarding and delightful. Fair winds and safe passage.
Brother Greer, good to have your essays back. I always look forward to them mid-week.
David, by the lake; I am intrigued by your proto-platform and wish to know more. If I recall correctly, you and I are quite far apart on some social issues, but I am surely across the Rockies from you, and thus in a different future country/vast howling wilderness where there be dragons, so if we can leave those matters to be locally handled, there seems a good deal which I could get behind in your platform.
AuntLili, I watched one family member attempt to shame/shun her kids/grandkids into conformity. If there is one thing we grandkids can agree on-spanning religions, politics, and continents as we now do (a total of six of us, mind you, some really fled), it is that she deserves whatever afterlife punishment she gets. She broke her children’s relationships with each other beyond repair. I’d like to not see others face this. I do see your frustration: you feel like you have demonstrated what is best in life, and they just stubbornly refuse to pay attention.
Do you fish? If the fish aren’t biting, we try a different lure.
Perhaps your neighbors, friends, and family are missing some key aspect that you know how to make work, and they don’t even know that they don’t know. “Oh, that AuntLili, she must have a house full of flies, you know she composts!” Well, of course you don’t, but they don’t know and didn’t do it right when they tried.
If you can, with all good will, at a time and place where they are not rushed, simply ask about it,
“I know you value the environment, BoysMom, and I notice you don’t use reusable bags. May I ask why?”
“Well, AuntLili, first of all, the reusable bags tore after just three or four uses. I kept meaning to make some myself but never had time. Then I started using paper bags as fire starters since I don’t take the local paper anymore. And of course, I need plastic bags when we take the dog out on the trails and she does what dogs do in the trail.”
At that point, of course, you have not changed my mind, nor have I changed yours, but at least you understand why I do what I do, and if you’d like this stack of old jeans I had saved up to make reusable bags from . . . why, you might just find yourself gifted with them!
The first step in selling something is to find out what others value enough to buy. When selling a lifestyle change-surely the hardest sales job-one must know what one’s prospective customer values most, not just long term, but also right this moment, or the purchase becomes just another broken New Year’s fitness resolution.
@ Josh Fuhrman
I think what you’re seeing is mostly a self-selection effect. Basically, I think most people who comment on blogs (and I frequently include myself in this category) are insecure and looking for either validation by the blog author or commentariat, or for a fight, which gives an indirect kind of validation.
JMG does two things differently than most other blogs: (a) he tries to respond to every comment directed at him, and (b) he has to approve every comment and has a low tolerance for incivility. The second effectively weeds out the people who would otherwise be trying to get their kicks having knock-down-drag-out fights in the comments.
The first point, though, also has a significant effect: I think a lot of people comment on blogs looking for validation, but since JMG tries to respond to every comment, there’s a good chance he will disagree with you. And since he’ll cut off anyone who tries to then escalate very far, and get your endorphin rush that way, it’s just emotionally easier to move on.
(There is another issue, if I’m honest: a lot of us have found that JMG’s writings have helped us make sense of our lives. That can lead to some unfortunate guru-worship. JMG’s has dealt with this by simply not treating us like disciples, but fellow adults. Eventually you realize that he’s not going to be your guru and have to deal with that. Some people storm off when they get offended by something he says, some people leave in frustration when he doesn’t keep harping on their favorite subject, and some people get over it.)
On a side note, the funniest Internet fight I’ve ever seen started with the top-level comment “Who’s Akon?” and rapidly descended into an all-out brawl over religion and politics that pulled in just about every hot-button issue imaginable. What I remember most was one guy who got told (a) he looked like Jesus, (b) he looked like Satan, and (c) he must be Mormon because he’s so arrogant. Clearly no one was looking to genuiney enlighten anyone else.
My experience in that year and half I was active on PoliticalWire revealed a similar phenomenon. Whenever it was pointed out the the Dem establishment behaved in ways very similar to those of the Rep establishment, the person was invariable shouted down with cries of “ false equivalency!” because, of course, anything done by a Republican was by definition worse than by a Democrat.
@JMG, you have made a very succinct analysis of how most people view those who actually want to keep their carbon footprint low no matter the outward appearance. It doesn’t look any different from poverty or a touch of the kind of eccentricity that is medicalized today.
I am glad that Stordalen and her ilk are getting more scrutiny, fixating on one particular lifestyle change while ignoring all the other ways her lifestyle is affecting the planet won’t amount to anything good. I would also say the same about those who focus on the carbon footprint as the only measure of environmental impact.
I spent part of my formative years in a medium sized town in the corn belt. You didn’t have to go too far in any direction to get to a landscape dominated by just two plants, corn and soybeans, on vast scales. Most of the environmental impacts in the area were from unsustainable agricultural practices, decimated ecosystems, eroded topsoil, polluted waters. One moment of realization I remember was during a time when there was flooding and everything from the smallest creek to the larger river was flowing high and muddy, and gullies were appearing on fields on hillsides. The exception was in a nearby state park that had a modest sized area of relatively intact natural landscape, and a small creek with a watershed within the park. That creek was higher than normal, but the water was still clear, unlike the muddy waters in every other watercourse that I could see. Things like that made me focus my attention on environmental matters toward the impacts of our food system on the land. This may change in the future as climate change becomes more severe, but I’d say that as of now, the detrimental ecological impact of agricultural systems in the corn belt and many other agricultural regions has been considerably greater than the impact of climate change has been. Thus I think there’s good reason to focus both on food and fossil fuel burning in the context of what our lifestyles are doing to the planet.
In the long run, long after fossil fuels and the disruption they caused are history, humans will still be faced with the challenge of how to get our sustenance sustainably, including food, water, fuel, fiber and building materials. Food and water are tied closely together as more water is needed to grow food than to be used directly by people. I don’t buy the simplistic vegan arguments that going vegan is the best diet for the environment. Simon Fairlie thoroughly dissected the vegan environmental claims in his book “Meat: A Benign Extravagance” and found them sorely lacking. Not to mention that many people don’t thrive on a vegan diet. The work of Allan Savory and others have shown that managed wisely, grazing animals can help to restore land and build soil. I don’t see an excuse for not looking at the environmental impact of food though, considering that from the statistics I can find, almost half of Earth’s land is used for agriculture, and people’s food choices do have an impact on what goes on there. It’s not productive to place all the blame on farmers, as farmers in America have been struggling just to stay afloat and many policies supported by well-meaning environmentalists have increased the hardships on farmers and in many cases not even succeeded in their goals. It’s also not productive to expect those with lower income to afford foods that are out of their budget. Choices that are both ecologically responsible and frugal can be emphasized. Environmentalists of the upper and middle classes should be the ones to be called out the most for hypocrisy.
There are changes that could be made on the political level too. Eliminating subsidies to industrial agriculture would be a big one (New Zealand eliminated all agricultural subsidies in the 1980s and its farmers have done better overall than most other developed countries) and so would removing barriers to small-scale farmers and producers like the laws against raw milk sales. Just like with climate activism, isn’t food activism more likely to be successful if its proponents aren’t hypocrites?
If a vegan tries to convince me not to eat meat, I don’t take it as an insult or offense, as long as they’re willing to have an honest discussion about it I’ll take it as an opportunity to discuss why I disagree with them.
“If you’re lost in a labyrinth of mirrors, how do you find the way out?”
Look around for where you are not. Go there.
Re my platform or whatever one might call it
Thank you. I am a leftward libertarian, so I’m not sure how far apart we might actually be on social issues personally (I’d support not only same-sex marriage, but also plural marriage, for example, on the basis that the civil institution of marriage is a contract between consenting adults that is no one else’s business) but I am certainly in favor of a localism and regionalism as our best bet to keep what we can of this nation together!
The role of the federal government, as I would see it, would be to administer the tariffs and taxes which supported the broad policy goals of sustainability, independence, and employment of human labor at living wages, plus of course defending our nation from those who would plunder our resource base as theirs runs dry or try to force us into the global economy so that we might be exploited as others have been. Aside from that, localities and regions can do a lot for themselves.
However much I think a platform like this would be a good path for us to take, I have few illusions that any politician would advocate for such a thing anytime soon.
But I do appreciate the support 🙂
Here’s a question for all and sundry: how can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?
In addition to all the excellent reasons already mentioned, I’ve been trying to come up with a reason that appeals to the “average Faustian”, not just those of us who have hobbies and spiritual inclination that line up that way anyway (let’s be honest: those of us who garden and like to make would do it regardless of our ecological peril and declining energy status:-))
That leaves me with the financial benefits, which others have described amply, and another thing described but I think not quite named : control.
As a Faustian, I’m basically obsessed with controlling my circumstances, and that resonates with others. Part of the social panic is that people don’t understand the rules anymore – the American fiction that had work and paying your taxes = a stable, prosperous life was true for *just* enough people for *just * long enough that people believed it, and thought all they had to do was follow the rules and they’d be fine. Knowing the rules to follow – and the rules others are following – is a feeling of control of your circumstance. Now all the lies beneath that stability are being pulled to light, and even what the rules weren’t fictional (rains generally come in November) they are now breaking down.
The less I need to rely on a job supplied by a vast impersonal global economy, I don’t need to worry about layoffs. For food purists – I know what’s in my bread (etc.) because I make it. I don’t have to worry about whether my pilot has slept or the guy in the car next to me is drunk, when I don’t have to put myself in their hands. There’s always a parking spot out front for my bike, I don’t sweat traffic making me late. Fuel or hydro costs went up? Meh, I use so little, we can absorb the cost. We’re resilient to the changes around us (kinda, sorta, comparatively speaking), and that feels like control. (I know it’s an illusion, but Faustian needs are what they are).
I like to joke that I take the cargo bike, not the car “because I’m too much of a control freak” and that makes people double take – surprise opens them up – because in actuality, I look homeless. Then I explain I want to get there and drive right up to the damn entrance, when I want to get there, and I want in and out of that store before the toddler goes ballistic. Compare that to when I’m forced to circle for parking, needing to buy everything for the week because i can’t make it when i run out – I have no patience for that anymore. Freedom and control baby, how to make a Faustian love thrift and low carbon living (Mr Money Mustache I think hits this note really well on his blog).
Justin, bingo. My guess is that, as the middle class finds itself thrown under the bus, a lot of people who are currently proclaiming their undying allegiance to the values of the Good People, once the Good People demonstrate their lack of interest in reciprocating, will go pick up a bright red baseball cap…
Kay, thanks for this.
DT, that is to say, you’ve got a complex set of arguments you use to explain away your everyday experience of assessing options and deciding freely among them. I’ve heard those same arguments, of course, but all of it amounts to circular reasoning, because you haven’t done anything to prove that the universe is actually deterministic in nature — you’ve simply offered some arguments to make it difficult to disprove that claim, which is far from the same thing, of course. I would argue, by contrast, that a belief in determinism fills certain deep emotional needs common to many people in our society, and that people cling to a belief in determinism in exactly the same way that determinists claim people cling to a belief in free will. If the determinists are right, after all, people do not believe arguments because they’ve assessed them and decided that the arguments are correct — it would take free will to do that; people believe arguments for wholly mechanical reasons, and therefore the fact that people believe in something is no evidence for its being true…
Mog, I’m not disputing that elites pump vast amounts of money into trying to shape public opinion. I’m disputing the claim that the results are as omnipotent as current rhetoric on th Left likes to claim. To bring up an obvious counterexample, Hillary Clinton in 2016 had the entire US mainstream media cheering her on, and a vastly greater budget than Trump’s, much of which went into attempts to manipulate public opinion in her favor. The results were not what Bernays insisted it should be; millions of Americans read the articles, saw the ads, rolled their eyes, and kept on disliking and distrusting her.
Instead of seeing current ad budgets and efforts at manipulating the news as evidence that elites successfully control the marketplace of information, I’d suggest you consider these as evidence that elites are frantically, and not too successfully, trying to inject their own ideas into a freewheeling and largely unmanageable collective conversation. The New Left in the 1960s and 1970s also tried to make their voices dominate the marketplace of ideas, with essentially no success; I’ve often thought that the Left’s rejection of the idea of a free marketplace of ideas was largely a case of sour grapes, caused by their own inability to convince more than a very modest number of people of the value of their ideas.
Averagejoe, glad to hear it!
Phil K.,. yep. The notion that the economic elite inevitably dominates the political elite lasts only until the political elite picks up the phone and calls in the guys with guns.
Denys, you break the mirrors, or otherwise mark them, so you can tell the difference between a reflection and a reality. We’ll talk techniques as things proceed!
Christopher, true, but there’s a flip side. The reason Gates got treated with suspicion when he started donating money to prevent diseases is that his earlier “charitable” acts were very lightly disguised marketing. For example, he donated computers and software to schools — on the condition that the students could only ever be taught to use Microsoft programs, thus attempting to guarantee his corporation a permanent stranglehold on market share no matter how bad their programs got. That wasn’t generous, it was crassly self-serving — and it was far from the only example of the kind. Thus when Gates got involved in disease prevention, people quite reasonably thought, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” and tried to figure out how he was exploiting that to make an even more absurdly extravagant fortune than the one he’s already got.
Will, we’ll be talking about that two weeks from now.
Violet, I think it’s partly that, but there’s another factor: determinism means that nothing is ever your fault. Since you had no choice in the matter, whatever you did, it wasn’t you that did it. That’s why determinism becomes so popular in societies that either have, or have had, monotheist religions that teach eternal damnatio. The notion that God is always scowling down at you, blaming you personally for even the slightest straying from His pettiest commandment, ends up making a lot of people (even those who think they’ve stopped believing in the religion in question) looking for philosophies that prove that they aren’t actually responsible for anything at all.
DT, that is to say, you can’t prove that things are actually determined. Got it.
Caryn, a lot of good points there, so thank you. One comment — I certainly don’t mean to suggest that the elites are aiming their virtue signaling at the rabble. Quite the contrary, they’re signaling to each other “I’m not one of the rabble.” The middle classes do a vast amount of the same thing, and there, too, it’s aimed at each other. We’ll talk more about that two weeks from now.
Matt, I’ve been saying that all along.
James, thanks for the reference to Long’s paper! I’ll definitely want to read that; I’ve been trying to formulate for some time the argument sketched out here, which is that claiming that free will doesn’t exist (or that consciousness doesn’t exist) is incoherent, not in terms of the ideas themselves, but in terms of the context in which the act of claiming something about the universe takes place.
Jbucks, nicely done. May I suggest taking the exercise one step further, and putting the whole thing in poetic form — perhaps in Spenserian stanzas? 😉
As to your points — good. Very good.
Oilman2, oh, for the gods’ sakes. I’ve been saying for fracking decades that running off to a place in the country is not a viable option for most people. That’s why I live in a modest apartment in a low-rent urban neighborhood and concentrate on reducing my impact on the planet on other ways. I understand that this realization is new to you, but, ahem, it’s not new to me — if you’ll take the time to page back through the collected Archdruid Report, you’ll find that I pointed this out again, and again, and again. Some people can do it, but they’re not trying to run air conditioners off solar panels, you know.
Dominique, exactly! Evolution is the process by which the biosphere learns.
Valenzuela, it strikes me that a very odd definition of “you” would be necessary to make that argument work. Still, I’ll be interested to see what you think when I have a chance to lay out my argument for free will as the usual result of a stochastic process generating novelty plus a selection process relating to the environment — both of these processes, you understand, being part of that thing we call “the self.”
Yoyo, I don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change because I trust whatever scientists say. I believe in anthropogenic climate change because I understand the thermodynamic and environmental factors involved, and they make sense. I assume as a matter of course that the scientists are probably wrong in terms of their detailed predictions — as indeed they’ve so consistently proven to be.
Your metaphor of the peasants in the valley misses a crucial point, which is that the peasants in the valley have been lied to over and over again by the same people who are trying to convince them of the oncoming flood. The challenge they face is in deciding whether this once, the cry of “Wolf! Wolf!” is accurate or not.
David, I’ve always thought that “false equivalency!” is shorthand for “How dare you point out that I’m behaving exactly like the people I hate!”
Aron, I know. It’s going to take some interesting changes to get back to the point where being poorer than you have to be can be cool, as it was from the 1930s through the 1970s.
Kashtan, I ain’t arguing.
Yves, excellent! Concisely phrased.
SaraDee, hmm! Thank you for this. Yes, that would be another potent angle.
JMG, not to jump the gun, but I’ve been reading Pierre Teilhard Chardin recently, and his theological-mystical reconciliation with science, his ideas about what “Evolution” really means, are more than fairly compatible to what you are calling a “stochastic” process. Put in theological terms, the exoteric image of God is evolving up from matter-spirit, towards the inner, esoteric image. That’s an amateur way of putting it, and he rejects automatic Progress, as well by the way. What’s really interesting is that he goes after reductionistic determinism, and teaches that the Universe is still being created. It’s been eye-opening to me, and seems to be harmonizing with some ideas you are kicking around here.
“As for the environmental movement, like most of the movements of the privileged, it seeks to prevent change. Thus the systematic avoidance of anything that might actually change things”
Hmm. I’m throwing partially formed thoughts here, so I’d love feedback from people here.
I wonder now if this may be the root of the dysfunction on the political left. They want to pursue “change” in such a way as to prevent change from happening. The net result is a mess of contradictions; since these require simultaneously adopting contradictory positions, the result is a brittle, fragile intellect. This is especially true because the left still, by and large, believes in progress. Which defines change as a moral imperative.
They also think of themselves as the “smart people” (or did until recently. I think redefining themselves as the “good people” is partially a response to being called on intellectual errors too many times), which makes cognitive dissonance threatening to them in a way it isn’t for other people: it directly threatens their egos.
Thus the frantic lashing out at anything that threatens change at all: it reminds them that they too have the chance to cause change but actively fight against it.
Someone above mentioned being unwilling to sacrifice their health for the environment. Luckily, that idea is rather incoherent. It cannot be the case that a species who eats its own diet is harmful for the ecosystem as a whole. Most people understand that you cannot feed a cat a vegan diet and expect it to thrive. Why then are some willing to consider sacrificing their species in a way that they would not do to another species?
Even a very nonviolent person would probably acknowledge and want to have the right to self defense. Likewise, every species has the right to live and eat in the way which is needed by it.
Of course factory farming is harmful to the environment! As are so many industrial practices. Trawling the ocean floor for fish is harmful. Dumping industrial poisons into the rivers is harmful.
Nestorian, I hear what you say about the elites being able to afford humane meat, but I cannot quite agree, as mistreatment of animals and the environment is a sin against the Holy Spirit. In the context of our entire entangled modern system, you have a point, but the real point is that a lot of changes need to be made and a lot of wrong things have gone into creating the current dilemma. It seems to me that veganism is probably elitist as well, and likely not sustainable outside of a modern global economy.
JMG: Back in the 60’s in college we studied the psychology of B.F. Skinner who was tall in the saddle in those days. As I recall, in “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” he tried strenuously to convince all and sundry that determinism was gospel. In other words, free choice was an illusion and would everyone please choose to live their lives in accordance with this great truth.
I just had to say that.
To everyone posting “benefits to doing things that promote the well-being of living things on this planet [including ourselves]” thank you.
To Caryn, ref your number 2 “home cooking”, I am remembering that the ability to cook for themselves when they first left home to go to college was a thing both my sons thanked me for ensuring, especially when they cottoned on to how much money they were saving compared to their housemates who were buying takeaways or ready meals, and who often had no idea how to prepare anything for themselves at all.
Teaching them to cook and clean was not even very difficult as I recall. The pattern usually began with me asking them “do you think you’d be ready to start taking charge of X?” and when they inevitably proudly said “of course” (in my experience they were ALWAYS proud to be perceived to have grown up another bit and to have become capable of taking charge of one more responsibility) I’d explain the deal, explain the workings, tell them they were now in charge and free to ask me anything at any time, but otherwise leave them to it with resolute definitiveness. (They wouldn’t be in charge if I was in their faces nagging, of course! But leaving them to it meant me accepting the learning curve element and resisting the temptation to point out that initial efforts might not be up to scratch). “X” might be “washing your own clothes, if I stay in charge of towels and sheets” or “cooking a dinner once a week” or some such responsible project.
For myself, I have found that while I had to think long and hard BEFORE giving up my car, in the two and a half years since I did, I have never regretted it once. I still have more money in my pocket than I ever imagined that one act would liberate, and as a bonus, I have eliminated a large swathe of bureaucratic entanglement from my life, too. And in conversations with others stressing these points I can see people’s eyes taking an interest. One family I know has found similar benefits in giving up their second car and setting up a sharing schedule for the remaining one.
I found myself in a discussion this week about the “population problem” and its purported contribution to climate change. The poster of an article making this argument was calling it a “complex” problem and I suddenly realised that the “complexity” arises mostly from the fact that the people depicted as being busy “overpopulating” are poor and by and large not actually consuming very much, and, yes, it is somewhat morally complex to tell such people that they must set limits on the size of their families so that you don’t have to (which emerged within the conversation when I contributed my “car story” – per above) stop driving a car. Yes, very complex. So I erupted with “I reject the idea that we have a population problem, Some of us (the wealthiest 10% or so of humans) have an overconsumption problem. The other 90% or so are actually doing very little to damage the environment, whether their families are large or small.” Not sure where that came from. Possibly the conversations here shaped that thought, which seemed to emerge within my own mind at the moment I was writing it.
Hi John Michael,
Ah, of course, there ain’t nothing wrong with working. 😉 It may surprise you to know that I believe at this stage of the game that the various alternatives to working are not such great paths to follow.
Hey, I was reading all of the many comments here over dinner (I’m meant to be writing, but one must break for food), when the chilling thought entered my awareness that: perhaps Gunhild Stordalen understands the predicament all too well, but has additionally realised that her good self may not be able to enjoy hamburgers if a whole bunch of other folks don’t change their diets – and soon. A sort of perverted ‘make room so that I can breathe’ belief?
By sheer chance I had a conversation yesterday with a bloke who worked at the coal face for “big ag” fertilisers, and he said to me that the stuff flies out the door as fast as they can bring it in, in its various guises. I’m unsure that is a good thing, and it is not lost on me that such large producers currently don’t favour the sort of fertilisers I prefer.
Since current events in Venezuela (the nation currently sitting on the world’s largest known fossil fuel reserves) have been mentioned a number of times in the comment thread, I’m posting a link to a video (if our host, who declines to watch videos, will indulge me).
The video was made in 2002 by a documentary crew working for RTE, which is Ireland’s state television broadcaster, who had planned to do a piece on the controversial Chavez government, but instead, through propitious (or unpropitious) timing, snagged an unscripted ringside seat at an attempted coup, which temporarily removed Chavez to an unknown place of detention, and temporarily attempted to depose the country’s parliament, courts, ombudsman and central bank governance.
The most amazing reveal takes place at minute 34:34. We have seen how a clash between two sets of protesters/marchers was first orchestrated, then peppered with shots into the crowds, which the reporters quickly determine are coming from snipers. We then see how some of the people begin to pull out personal weapons (one in four Venezuelans at the time were gun carriers) to return fire to the snipers, in a shot that later became famous as the main proof for the meme “Chavez’s supporters shoot at unarmed marchers”. (They are seen shooting, but their target is not shown). The “reveal” is when Irish filmmakers use a different camera angle to show that the street below the bridge where men are seen to be shooting handguns is completely empty and devoid of any marchers. The “proof” that was the pretext for the coup, and even called a “popular mandate” by the coup leaders, is thereby shown to be completely made up. (Although I’d hazard it is STILL to this day believed to be gospel).
The film then follows events of the following two days, during which, through a series of extraordinary events, the coup itself is resisted by Venezuelan people coming out onto the streets and by lower ranks of the Venezuelan army re-taking the National Palace, and over the course of 48 hours or so, defeated.
The Irish fly on the wall documentary of an attempted Venezuelan coup in 2002, is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id–ZFtjR5c
@methylethyl: While reading your post about the problem you have with your neighbours with the shared dirt road and excessive rainwater runoff, I was reminded of an example in which those sorts of problems seem to have been resolved: in Bali, Indonesia, there is a mountainous region in which the rice farmers who live there have to share water, which of course flows downward through the valleys and across many farmers’ land. The people living there developed (over centuries) a system called Subak, which is a way of sharing water, ensuring that no one takes more than they need. The system is apparently both practical and spiritual, Subaks are managed through a system of temples. Particularly interesting to me is how they see the nature of time itself as cyclical, how this is expressed in their gamelan music, and how their nature-based art and religion is linked to their management of resources. But the system, despite taking a whole systems perspective, is apparently still very fragile.
Anyway, I’ve never been there, and I know only a little about it, only what I’ve read about Subak from an author named Stephen Lansing. Although this in no way helps you with your road problem, it does speak to the general issue about environmentalism you raised at the end of your comment.
If one imagines the amount of angry discussions, neighbourly tension, probably bloody disputes, and general skepticism involved in arriving at a system as complex as the Subak, it’s no wonder if took centuries to emerge! It’s likely that any concrete and long lasting solutions to ‘environmental’ problems will arise from slowly resolving situations like the one you are stuck in.
@Caryn: Thank you!
@JMG: I’ve never before tried writing poetry, nor anything like what I posted, and I know this is totally obvious to anyone who has, but it was quite a discovery for me to see how a poetic style is so effective for conveying complex ideas in a shorter, more symbolic type of language, and in something resembling oratory. Obviously I’ve been missing out on all the fun that poets seem to have been having! 🙂
Stopped in the Starbucks at Broad and Lombard in Philadelphia yesterday and they were removing and replacing all the chairs and literally had men cleaning the floor with toothbrushes. Why? The store has a steady group of 3-4 homeless, and Howard Schultz is stopping in there Sunday night on his book tour and they think he could make an announcement for his presidential run.
The store is in clear view of City Hall so if he stood on the street that would be in the background. His handlers, like most people, probably think City Hall is Independence Hall where the founding documents were passed. Independence Hall is 8 blocks away. Bahahahaha
Thanks again for the reply John, that is the clearest insight that I have yet read into your political worldview (and I have read a lot of your writing over several years).
It has been widely discussed that Trump’s win, and the surge in fringe politics accross the world has been facilitated by online incursions into the information sphere. This brief window of relatively free discourse between citizens (now closing) allowed a challenge to the monoculture of narratives which have long dominated the ‘establishment media’. Of course Bernays is credited with being the founder of a system that is now firmly on the wane, but I would suggest that the literature on media criticism fully substantiates the case that the century from the Creel Commission through to the 2010s was one of ‘manufactured consent’ (to quote Walter Lippman). The ‘revolutions’ of the1960s and 1970s were limited by several things, but notably, the Left never ‘got their voices to dominate the marketplace of ideas’ because the Left (by definition) do not dominate any marketplace. What the Left need is an exchange of ideas not dictated by the rules of the market.
Democracy demands a free exchange of ideas, and when the main conduit for that exchange has been owned by highly concentrated wealth (and regulated by a capitalist state), then it is just plain sense that these facts have shaped the boundaries and focus of political discourse.
[note the absence of any mention of the yellow vests in the british media for several weeks, as an example]
The emergent labyrinth of online information exchange is decreasingly free of interference (-bordering on outright control). Those who follow these issues will know of Propornot, Bellingcat, The Integrity Initiative, New Knowledge and The Atlantic Council’s work with Facebook etc. The creeping censorship of the internet, with arbitrary banning, de-listing and the rest, show that although the platform has changed, the principle remains the same : concentrated wealth and power effectively controlling the limits of acceptable debate.
As I mentioned before, this is not just a critique from the Left, indeed the libertarian right have long held this position in your country and increasingly do here in the UK. Also conservatives like Paul Craig Roberts, Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens broadly agree with the assessment that the ‘free marketplace of ideas’ is one of the myths of modern society.
Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. I understand where you are coming from now.
Re: Dish washing by machine vs. by hand. As Jean says, if you rinse in a bowl of water and don’t run the faucet the whole time, hand washing uses less water. My wife grew up on a farm in SE Asia with no running water. This is her method: Fill a small bowl with water and a couple drops of dish detergent. Dip your scouring pad into the bowl and then use it to wash a dish or two. Repeat as necessary. Rinse the dishes in a large bowl (mixing bowl) Change the rinse water as necessary. You could alternatively fill a sink with rinse water, but no need to fill it all the way – be sparing. (They didn’t have a sink) This method uses very little water. There is no need to use hot water – additional savings.
If you had to haul all your water from a well located 20 yards from the house, you’d use a lot less water.
@JMG a data point (in reference to some of the ideas you’ve been working out here becoming more generally current).
An interesting essay called
“Failing States, Collapsing Systems” by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, contains the following within its opening remarks:
“Contrary to widely reported claims across mainstream media of a new era of prosperity heralded by the US-led shale oil and gas boom, the proliferation of contemporary climate, food and economic crises have at their root a single common denominator: the fundamental and permanent disruption in the energy basis of industrial civilization.
“This inevitable energy transition away from high quality fossil fuels to lower quality, more expensive energy forms—which will be completed well before the close of this century, and quite possibly much earlier—will force a paradigm shift in the organization of civilization…
“Yet for this shift to result in a viable new way of life will require a fundamental epistemological shift recognizing humanity’s embeddedness in the natural world.
“This, in turn, cannot be achieved without breaking the stranglehold of conventional models achieved through the hegemony of establishment narratives—dominated by fossil fuel interests and the banality of the mainstream media news cycle.”
Essay found here:
Not to wander too far afield but with re to social and cultural relations
My wife and I ditched our TV some years ago now, having let go of cable some years before that. I walked away from Facebook something like seven or eight years ago, too. And, of course, I deleted my Disqus account after my stint on PoliticalWire almost two years ago now, though I still browse through the posts on occasion. The last movie I went to see was “The Force Awakens” (which I found quite disappointing) and it had been over a year since the movie before that.
I’m finding that I am becoming gradually more and more separate from this frenetic, swirling mass of our popular culture. I catch glimpses of story headlines when I log on to check my email—this person has been accused of cultural appropriation because of a hairstyle, that person is friends with this other person who doesn’t believe in gay marriage, these people are now dating and here’s everything we know about it—and I think to myself, “who are these people and what has happened to the world?”
Of course, it isn’t the world that has changed, as it has largely been like this for a long time; I’m the one whose awareness has altered.
I find it increasingly difficult to relate to the mass-market world around me, even while I’m living in the midst of it, and I wonder where all of this is heading. Is our culture becoming more shallow and vapid as our decline progresses? Is this focus on pointless minutiae standard fare for this portion of the trajectory? Are others of our community here experiencing something similar?
Regarding “my argument for free will as the usual result of a stochastic process generating novelty plus a selection process relating to the environment — both of these processes, you understand, being part of that thing we call “the self.” ” which I look forward to reading when you put it together.
I am put in mind of the “biological philosophy” work “Autopoeisis and Cognition” by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela.
Which can be read here: http://topologicalmedialab.net/xinwei/classes/readings/Maturana/autopoesis_and_cognition.pdf
As best I grasp the argument with my untutored understanding, they contend that cognition is inherent to the living cell, and that later developments as nervous systems which help organise the cognitive faculties of large multicellular beings, are extensions of forms and capacities that existed within the very first living cells. And one of the central aspects of the “coming to be” of this cognition (I can’t say one of the central causes, because their argument is deliberately non-deterministic in structure, so that habitual deterministic ways of describing an argument may let me down in conveying the nature of their thinking) is coincidentally, also our new-found political obsession – the border!
That is to say a living cell is a peculiar place which contains within a membrane-bounded interior a fierce determination to MAINTAIN a preferred set of conditions in a steady state, while requiring continual renewal of those conditions by receiving nutrients from outside its boundary, transforming them into the necessary supports for the desired steady state conditions, and excreting waste products to back outside its boundary. The difficulty being the boundary itself obscures the direct reception of information about the conditions outside the boundary. It order to find the necessary nutrients and to remove itself from wastes, etc, it must build an inside picture of conditions outside (representations?) in order to help itself guide its movements, and that inside picture can only be composed of information received from disturbances received AT the boundary and creatively interwoven conjectures as to the conditions that actually exist outside the boundary. And so, any cell, to continue maintaining its preferred interior conditions (which we might term its health), must be continually painting for itself an inner picture of an outside world it cannot detect except by the manner in which its boundary is perturbed, and decide how it will behave, in accordance with what it perceives and its ongoing interests.
Actually, this is probably NOT a terribly good rendition of their challenging, but fascinating argument. Also, cognition is not necessarily the same as free will. And yet, when I read it, it seemed to me to be an argument FOR the fundamental agency of every living thing. And because it bears so strongly on the issue of a boundary, the way it limits and defines the “self” and the consequences of this, it seems to me that it may be relevant, not only to your free will argument, but also to other themes of interest.
Off topic, but I’ve found a few articles in the news about Venezuela. What’s interesting about all of them is that they are in the mainstream media and directly undermine the war cries.
First up: https://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/17/world/abrams-denies-wrongdoing-in-shipping-arms-to-contras.html
This is a New York Times article from 1987. I haven’t read the full thing but I plan to do so when I get the chance, but the first paragraph explains why Venezuela wouldn’t want aid from the US right now, given this is the guy who’s the Special Envoy to Venezuela. I wouldn’t want to let humanitarian aid in from someone who considers giving weapons to rebels “humanitarian aid”.
The next two are articles discussing how the UN and Red Cross are telling the US not to pull stunts like the one they just did with the aid shipments. What is mentioned in passing in both articles, but I think is important, is that both organizations have humanitarian aid in the country already.
So, because Venezuela is blocking aid organized by someone who has defended sending weapons to rebels as part of humanitarian aid, he needs to go. This entire thing feels rushed, and poorly thought out, and I think there’s a fairly high chance we will witness a Twilight’s Last Gleaming occur over this.
The challenge of making frugality ‘cool’ again to induce people to reduce/reuse/recycle, etc. is two-fold.
1) that as the economy relies on endless growth, it relies on consumerist culture. Advertisers, media outlets, politicians are consistently advocating the public to buy MORE useless stuff. If you already have too much, chuck the old and buy new. Companies even make products now with planned obsolescence so that a consumer can’t re-use for very long.
2) saving money is a hard sell just at this time with Walmart offering new toasters, clothes etc. made in Asia for a fraction of what a consumer used to have to spend and now consumers are pretty used to those low low prices. Even more frugality does indeed look like poverty which has limited appeal.
I do love Sara d’s point that it allows one control that being a passive consumer does not. That reminds me of my teen and early 20’s punk-rock days in L.A.. I’m sure it also harkens back to the Hippies in the 1960’s. “Sticking-it-to-The-Man” was an awesome motivator, and made poverty actually cool. A huge part of punk culture was anti-consumerism. Is there such an equivalent amongst the young today?
In the past two years, I have gotten into refurbishing and artfully painting/re-purposing furniture and in researching methods and inspirations – I have come across a very large subculture of Crafters and craft products. I think they’ve always been there, but their numbers have grown exponentially in recent years. I suspect it’s due to Youtube tutorials, social media, (sharing ideas and showing off our finished pieces to like minded artists and crafters), and easy-to-use-chalk-paint, which has spurred a plethora of other crafting products and interest in crafts.
I’ve not yet fleshed out HOW exactly to fuel this phenomenon to promote more of it, but I think there may be something there.
Humans are innately creative, albeit in differing ways. I guess I keep circling back to the first entry I stumbled across in the old Arch Druid Report of ‘The Butlerian Carnival’ that got me so hooked! Maybe this is one avenue to work with?
What say ye, fellow commenters? Ideas?
Archdruid and Gang,
So we’ve established two legs of what it’s going to take to make a low carbon lifestyle appealing to the masses – wealth (created in savings) and power (control over ones circumstances), but we’re missing the third part. Humans as social animals crave prestige, the recognition of ones own accomplishments from the community is as addictive to us as wealth and power. That’s why the current plutocrats and those who aspire to be plutocrats virtue signal so endlessly.
These people aren’t the aristocracy, which are those best suited to lead, but the plutocracy parading as the aristocracy. They accomplish nothing of substance, can only inspire others to consume more, and cannot deliver to the masses the things that they need. In other words they are a faction on their way into history’s garbage heap. However, the fact is that we still don’t have a real aristocracy to replace the the plutocracy. Until such a faction emerges there isn’t anything to serve as the mimetic focus of the general public, except the plutocracy.
Those are the three legs, or rays, if you prefer. Wealth-Power-Prestige.
Here’s another point to meditate upon. What would a rising aristocracy need to earn their place as the mimetic focus of a society?
One thing you could do to help people out of the wilderness is publish your six-part series on education as a book. I’ve re-read it a number of times and I think it could do a lot of good, and reach a different audience from your usual.
Like most people I think my partner has a little of both sides – the need to see and be seen. Her need to be seen doesn’t take the form of selfies or pictures, but of stories shared with friends and acquiescences. That story telling is pretty normal form of social signaling among some crowds. Like you, her story’s will probably be about how people live, rather than the more surface aspects of tourism. I understand the nature of this greed since I experience emotional surges from both seeing and being seen, just not for the particular sector of foreign tourism. Mine comes more from intellectual pursuits. However, it’s the same emotional high.
Determinism is not incompatible with truth, far from it. Deterministic processes are based on the laws of the universe which are truth.
Determinism is the reason humans understand truth. Through millions of years of evolution the survival of the fittest demanded that those who would survive be most attuned to truth and reality. If our ancestors mistook a sabre toothed tiger for a pussy cat, they wouldn’t survive. Those that understood truth had a much greater chance of survival than those that didn’t. Through this process the human mind has been trained to understand types of reasoning and logic that lead to truth. Determinism through evolution gave us this, and determinism guides our application of it, through its relentless enforcement of laws upon the universe.
If you allow that humans are indeterministic, you must also allow that the universe is indeterministic. However you call the indeterminism of humans, “free will”, while calling the indeterminism of the universe, “randomness”, and this just won’t do. If humans have free will, then the universe must also have free will, operating at a quantum level. This is how many theists argue for god. If you are going to say that the universe is random, then we are random too, and what use is indeterminism if it produces meaningless randomness?
I don’t see how indeterminism can be separated from theism, and that’s one my big rubs.
When I see people seriously considering the negative impact of cow methane on the environment, it surely helps cement my already low opinion of the whole climate change belief system. Our bountiful earth is full to bursting with life forms. Were the millions of buffalo that preceded modern factory farms harmful to the environment? Before the catastrophe of some 11,000 years ago, north America was teeming with even larger animals in their millions, elephants, mammoths, sabre tooth tigers, horses and camels.
And yet I have read that if you find the largest biomass of any species by adding them all up in weight, ants would come out on top. I hope they don’t fart.
So…is it then better for the environment if there are simply fewer living things?
wow – ok – did NOT mean to irritate you. And while I have only been commenting for a few years, I have been reading. I apologize if I seem obtuse to you.
My point is that while it is smart and economical to drop your personal footprint, as you have done, when one begins to move this footprint shrinking into businesses, there are some monumental issues. I hit several of them personally.
Civilization is basically businesses in one form or another. And we all know what draws people into cities. So how do you think this works out? Especially with rural America continuing to hollow out? I am interested in your view, but if you would rather not that is fine.
@ Oilman2, BoysMom, et. al.
Re the economics of that proto-platform
To put some (admittedly arbitrary) numbers to the framework, I’d suggest that the policy goal would be to have economies roughly 1/2 local, 1/3 regional, and 1/6 inter-regional or national. This would create a kind of layered resilience within the national economy, as most needs would be met by nearby resources. Lower transport, tighter communities, more direct production-to-consumption connectivity. International trade would have to be at a minimum, both for national security reasons (e.g. reduced dependency on far-flung resources and a dying industrial system) but also to protect workers from being undercut by cheap/subsidized foreign labor and production. Hence strong tariff walls to shield the national economy from international pressures.
Re spreading the gospel of frugality, etc.
For me, all lot of it derives simply by talking with people. The woes of modern living are frequently on folks’ minds and often come up in casual conversation. When I mention our mortgage, for example, or our average electric use, it usually sparks interest. Especially the electricity: “ do you just sit around in the dark?” is a not -infrequently asked question. The irony is, my wife and I live a fairly normal, small town kind of life. We just don’t spend money on many things that others assume as standard (TV, cable, a dishwasher, eating out 3 times a week, etc.)
Now, I will be the first to admit we have a good income as a household, but we ruthlessly leverage that with our lifestyle. One of the points I try to make in those conversations is how one can have more simply by needing less.
Re escape from the wilderness of mirrors
Ironically, I find that one means of escape is to engage in reflection (ha!).
Take my day today, for example. This morning I awoke feeling slightly off, ruminating a bit about a few poor decisions of the day before, checked in here and checked my email, caught glimpses of the idiocy going on in the world on the Yahoo front page in the process, and was generally feeling antsy and disquieted.
Then I turned to my Sunday activities: a loaf of sourdough, laundry, my usual things. I decided to make a soup, as I still had a pair of butternut squash in the basement and my potatoes were starting to look a bit like aliens, so I used them up, the last of my onions from last season, and have spent most of the day working with food and washing up the dishes. All that disquiet disappeared once I started slicing carrots. In fact, I realized that it had begun to disappear when I made the decision to make the soup, even before I’d begun to do anything.
Whomever She May Be has frequently told me, in various ways: “Just focus on growing potatoes.” And leave to world to itself.
There is something to be said for finding that inner stillness in the midst of a world that is quite frankly losing all touch with reality.
If climate change scientists all drove to their conferences in coal-powered limousines, it wouldnt undermine the truth of their claims one jot- as you know John, being aware of the flaws in any ad hominem argument.
So acknowledging this discussion is purely on the level of whats persuasive, rather than what’s true, why havent many Republican voters accepted climate science?
You say a key reason is because the hypocrisy of wealthy environentalists makes them doubt the truth of their claims. But what makes the right-wing media cover the <1% of environmentalists who fly private jets, and not interview in good faith the 99% who dont? Because they want to discredit environmentalism of course.
Also your framing of working class people as climate skeptics is very US-specific- most countries in the world. as well as being poorer than US, also have large majorities who accept climate science.
@Caryn I think you answered your own question!
A huge part of punk culture was anti-consumerism. Is there such an equivalent amongst the young today?
In the past two years… I have come across a very large subculture of Crafters and craft products.
Though, maybe not quite as young as the Punks were, it is the Millennial thing, and refurbishing or using sustainably sourced stating products is all the rage even among those who don’t think they’re environmentalists. I think… Though I’m not sure… It has something to do with the joy of limits. It does for me, though, so I may just be projecting…
But when your can go to Walmart or Michael’s and get a trillion paints, glues, fabrics, 3-D printed things to your specification, you can be overwhelmed by what you will make – and your limit is what someone else decided to provide for you. But if you are starting with an existing piece of rummage fabric, you start with a boundary condition. “What can I make with THIS?” is so much sexier – it shows off my ingenuity and creativity, not Michael’s stock selection.
I got a couple hundred Tshirts from a charity that had them printed for a marathon and can’t unload them to the op shops – I estimate I can make five types of repurposed new useful things with that material. 1)crocheted rag rug out of t-shirt yarn from the lower halves 2)woven rag rug from the back halves too short to yarn 3) rag towels for the local mechanics and bike shop from sleeves 4) plant ties with the sleeve and hem seams 5) stuffing for a “hay box” cooker insulation sleeve from shreds of the printed fronts. So satisfying! Each of these items is dead easy to make, requiring no talent at all (fortunately for me), and common and utilitarian as hell – but the fact that I repurposed it makes people think I’m a wizard of uncommon genius and gifts. (which actually looking at it Cabalistically… May be onto something 😉)
I’m thinking… People also like to feel they have options. To choose freely… But our world of too many options creates decision paralysis and paradoxically relinquishment of exercise of will. That’s why we will gravitate to dictators now, to take us through the World Where Anything Is Possible! ™. And the obsession with boundaries and origins to tell us who we are (the urge to ascribe something fundamental and changeless to Whiteness or Gender in a backlash against the equal incorrectness of colourblindness and no gender boundaries). We want to be able to cut down to a finite number of variables (in our identity, our beliefs and lives) to choose from again. It’s again still familiar for a Faustian – popculture is obsessed with Minimalism and Konmari because of the desire for Space it opens up in your life.
I’ll call it: Abundance within Limits 😉
Regarding this blogfamily of sycophants, I have not found that to be true. Funnily enough, I made my way here from some other blog in which someone mentioned Greer, the archdruid, and that he didn’t tolerate disagreement. That piqued my curiosity so I came in with that bias. To be sure, sometimes I think JMG is a bit too harsh on someone or other (and he occasionally apologizes) but he absolutely does tolerate disagreement. It’s also true that a majority do agree on much of what he writes. I disagree about a couple of quite important things, like God and climate change, yet I love his reading his take on many things, and the commentariat.
My ballet dancing son and I are briefly in Las Vegas for a ballet scholarship competition.
We have been amused by what we have finally decided ought to be considered to serve the same role to Consumerism as Jerusalem did to earlier Christians and to Jews and that Mecca does to Muslims. The city is a huge shrine to Progress and Consumption. You can make sacrifices of money anywhere you like. Even my local friends could not point to any place to eat that was uniquely local, just chain after chain.
I love deserts, but would never want to live here. Give me a tiny town built around an oasis or at a small stream, not this absurdity of lights and noise!
My menfolk have big hands. Either I make pot holders or they burn themselves accidentally. I also just had to make my eldest son a costume: XLT height, L shoulders, S waist. Couldn’t be bought-so in the line of one-size-fits-none, have it your way, make it fit right, there might be something to consider. (I believe one of the fast food chains has a trademark on have it your way, though.)
Finally, I thought this position deserved an example to make it relevant to current events. Consider the stories about aid shipments to Venezuala.
Right across the mainstream media of the US and its close allies we read that,
‘Maduro was blocking aid from the US “out of refusal to relinquish power,” preferring to starve “his own people” rather than feed them. It’s a simple case of good and evil—of a tyrannical, paranoid dictator not letting in aid to feed a starving population.
Except three pieces of key context are missing. Context that, when presented to a neutral observer, would severely undermine the cartoonish narrative being advanced by US media.
Both the Red Cross and UN warned the US not to engage in this aid PR stunt.
The bridge in question is a visual metaphor contrived by the Trump administration of little practical relevance.
The person in charge of US operations in Venezuela has a history of using aid as a cover to deliver weapons to right-wing mercenaries’
If that is not narrative control and perception management of whole swathes of the population, then what is? It is only the small independent online media (and media critics) who offer a corrective to such blatant and consequential propaganda.
Can you expand or clarify what you are referring to when you say, “I wonder now if this may be the root of the dysfunction on the political left. They want to pursue “change” in such a way as to prevent change from happening.”
Do you mean the older establishment Dems opposing change at their gates brought by Trump supporters on the one side and young Dems like Ocasio-Cortez et al on the other? I would think that one is obvious – They don’t want to give up power, right?
I’m thinking you must be referring to something else. To the embrace of “progress” as opposed to changing course completely? “Change is always good” IS a weird mantra I’ve heard before, while working in education and It does confound me that anyone cannot laugh at it. It’s so obviously not necessarily true. My school’s Headmaster used to say and try this all the time. He obviously never heard the contradicting phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
But is that what you’re referring to?
To the extent that intersectionality is a component of this wilderness of mirrors
As one who leans leftward generally, I must admit that I’m struggling with how harshly to criticize myself for secretly delighting in the Democrats’ Virginia identity-politics meltdown. Toss in the story about the Yale newspaper editor urging fellow students to keep notes on their white males peers’ activities for future career destruction and one begins to wonder what planet some of these folks live on.
I can only shake my head in bewilderment.
JMG – re Weird of Hali #3 – will preorder as soon as my Social Security check comes in. I find that giving up the car does not diminish my errands in a sprawling Southwestern city; it just increases my need to pay a driver. However, I do try very hard to keep the extraneous driving to a minimum and nest my errands. To paraphrase Evita, “Green living…. the Art of the Possible.”
Hello JMG and all.
Anyone remember the Steampunk movement? I recall back in the ADR days when JMG voiced a hope that they might expand their scope from fashion, manners and art to include more craft and DIY technology. I haven’t been following the movement, but I have not heard of them in quite a while. It looks like they fizzled out. Sad if true.
A note on the Giletes Jaunes phenomenon.
It’s well-known that one of the major triggers of the protest is the proposed tax increase on diesel fuel. One thing that needs to be pointed out is that for several decades, European policymakers have been promoting the development and use of diesel engines as a “clean” technology. Diesel is actually pretty good with CO2, being more thermally efficient than any other practical combustion engine technology. However, it produces way more in terms of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and respiratory diseases.
In other words, the ordinary folk, are now being saddled with the cost and being painted as the bad guys. This, after they responded (correctly!) to incentives engineered by the ruling class and being hailed as little heroes for buying diesel vehicles thirty years ago! Turns out, regular people don’t like being saddled with the financial, legal, and moral burdens of past elite mistakes, while said elites get do nothing other than to proclaim themselves as the better ones.
Of course, just like the 70s cooling scare, the technocrats denied that they ever did such a thing. But of course they did; one example that sticks to my mind is a 1995 BBC TV series by the British presenter Jeremy Clarkson called Motorworld. In the India episode, busy streets with smoke-belching taxis and buses were shown; Clarkson wryly narrating “For all you environmentalists out there who think diesel is the fuel of the future, come here and grab a whiff of Calcutta.”
(Diesel vehicles are very common in developing countries for straightforward economic reasons: thermal efficiency -> better fuel economy -> cheaper running costs.)
Several years ago I read a book that discussed possible ways to end, among other things, honor killings in Muslim communities. The author examined three instances of a long standing custom being discarded within a relatively short time span, a generation or less in two cases. The customs discussed were slavery, dueling and foot binding. Fans of Jane Austen will recall that in _Pride and Prejudice_ Mrs. Bennett is in a panic at the thought that her husband might be killed in a duel with the villain who has seduced his daughter. The novel was written at the beginning of the 19th century. Dueling had been illegal for some time, but was still engaged in by some and seen as a necessary prop to morality in cases that the law provided inadequate response to. Yet by mid-century the idea of gentlemen risking their lives to defend their honor or that of a woman was nearly unthinkable (at least in England). Similarly, foot-binding was an established custom in China. Parents who hoped for an advantageous marriage for a daughter felt compelled to follow the custom. But when upper class Chinese began to travel to the West for education they learned that the custom was regarded as barbaric and primitive and the pressure to eliminate it took hold rapidly. The practice was made illegal in 1911, although it did persist in secret for some years after. The book is _The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen_ by Kwane Appiah. I recommend it for insight into how very emotional and economic (in the case of slavery) customs can changes.
In any case I think it is clear that it is impossible to argue for abolition while owning slaves, for the end of dueling while practicing one’s aim, or the end of foot binding while your daughters totter around on newly bound feet.
Someone earlier raised the question of what Western nations can do about counties with what we regard as abhorrent customs–female genital mutilation, etc. I think it is clear that we cannot bully or pressure them into compliance with our moral code. Citizens should be free to promote private boycotts-_Don’t Buy Thai_ appears to have pressured the Thai government to shut down child sex tourism, for example. And we should make it clear to all immigrants that certain customs are not welcome in our nations–FMG, child marriage, eating dogs, honor killings, etc. But I think national governments should stay out of the cultural change business. It is likely to make people cling to customs that they might have been ready to give up–or has anyone not noticed that the more we mess with Muslim countries the worse things seem to get for the women as soon as our backs are turned? India has even seen a small scale revival of the Hindu custom of suttee, which the British had supposedly eliminated long ago.
I would add that many Americans are in situations that they cannot easily afford to change. There are many areas that are virtually impossible to navigate without a private car. I have a friend who teaches in a small liberal arts college about 30 miles from the only community in which she could afford to buy a house. There is no bus. My ex could only afford housing in a suburb of Phoenix, once again, no public transport. I am in a suburb of Sacramento. The last time I had to commute by bus I was leaving the house at 6 and returning at 6, two hour commute at each end of the day and frequently having to call home for a ride when I missed the last bus on the last leg of the commute. And I can’t afford a Prius or a Tesla or other virtue signaling transportation. For those with children who have to be transported to day care before they head for work the situation is even more complicated. And the only town I have lived in that had reliable buses late into the evening was Reno–the casinos want their workers to be able to get to work.
The Feb 4 issue of the New Yorker has an article about the young Dutchman who is trying to design a device to clean plastic trash out of the ocean. In addition to addressing the engineering problem the article gives some attention to the question of keeping the plastic out of the ocean in the first place. A fairly good look at the problem.
David btl –
I heard a recent explanation for the overwhelming focus on Donald Trump in the media lately, and I think it applies more generally, to the “headline news” that you lament. It was claimed that Internet media, by counting “clicks” and “dwell time”, quantifies the audience in a way that nothing prior has. Writers get immediate feedback, and a story about Trump gets the audience. When a writer tries to write about anything else, they find that they get less attention. People like you and I, who don’t click on any headlines, have no voice in selecting the content. Maybe we should start a movement to “click on the least of the evil headlines”, and see if we can steer the content away from the vapid and banal.
As in so many other things, our individual efforts are insignificant, but no less significant than the efforts of a hundred million other people. I’m trying to be insignificantly better, rather than insignificantly worse, for the world.
Everyone, all together –
It’s been a struggle to keep up with the conversations here, but I just have to say that I’ve been loving it, with a special shout-out to AuntLili, who’s demonstrating dissensus with persistent civility.
On Krista Tippett’s program this morning, I heard her guest say (IIRC) “Critical thinking without hope is cynicism; hope without critical thinking is naivete. We need both to make our way in the world.” Mentally exhausting the space of two binary variables on my own, I realized that it is also possible to live with neither critical thinking nor hope, and I guess that’s sleepwalking through life (at best) or nihilism (Dylan Roof – style, at worst).
A final footnote here… the NYT described, with no irony, a self-appointed activist back in 2008: “…he spends much of his time flying around the world lecturing on climate change…”
One wonders if the NYT would let through such utterly blind sentences today.
By the way, this Twitter account has found many funny things about the science or lack thereof behind the Stordalen diet.
For Scotlyn and AuntLili –
Consider a variation on “the boat” predicament. We don’t know that the boat is doomed to sink (like the Titanic), but we have evidence that it’s taking on water. The elites assert that if a great many of us follow directions and work the pumps, we can all continue the voyage. The first-class passengers recommend working-class passengers go below to do that. Word from below decks is that it’s a dark and dangerous operation with many fatalities, and though much water is leaving the hull, the level continues to rise. The situation is not improving. The elites assert that better pumps are on the way, so keep at it. The non-elites wonder, if the situation is really so dire, why the elites aren’t taking their turns at the pump-handles, too, or perhaps jettisoning some heavy baggage to lighten the ship.
“If humans have free will, then the universe must also have free will,” Why, yes! Whatever we are, the universe of which we are, also is. And, why not? Everything you’d written on this to now sounded to me like special pleading, relying on unexamined and unquestioned assumptions, but your dislike of this possibility sounds honest and deeply felt. At least now you’ve put it down in black and white, why not try to find out what it is about this prospect that you hate. A thought experiment never goes astray. 🙂
@David, by the lake:
You asked about pop culture’s influence: I’ve always been a bit careful about what pop culture influences I take in, but the issue came to a head last year when I took a new job. Many, in fact most, of my colleagues are thickly embroiled in pop culture: the latest video games, whatever is new on Netflix, interviews with celebrities, the latest gadgets, whatever talking points are present in the news, etc. Netflix shows are such an important conversation topic to people, quite a bit of time is expended in discussions about the latest shows (for example, there is currently some show on Netflix about tidying up which seems to be very popular with my colleagues). Always these conversations start with “did you see the new…?” or “Did you hear about…?”
After not being around people so influenced by pop culture for a long time, seeing this influence was startling to me, and made me realize just how powerful it is. The thought patterns and the topics one thinks about are, through pop culture, driven by someone else’s agenda. I don’t mean that in a conspiracy theory kind of way, but the pattern in what happens during these discussions is that usually conversations are prompted by whatever item of pop culture happens to be being discussed.
The news story or TV show being discussed is the launching point for these discussions, and everyone involved in them will have opinions which agree or disagree on the topic, and will fail to see that that this topic has come up for discussion in the first place is the result of a decision of which comes from elsewhere. Less often will people discuss topics of their own choosing, on their own terms.
Obviously we are all doing the same here on this blog’s comment thread, of course, 🙂 so I guess one cannot avoid it, and while there is some pop culture that I choose to partake in, I’m trying to be more aware of topics in which I get swept into thinking about, versus topics I choose to think about myself.
@Onething: Thank you!
Hi John Michael,
Thought you might appreciate this article about the chugger situation down here: ‘Charity muggers’ win first round in Appco class action over alleged exploitation.
Who’d have thunk it?
Dear JMG, I’ve been informed by a reliable source that Brexit will be delayed to 2020.
That will have dire political consequencies on the parties that will avail this delay.
Do your astrological charts predict something similar to this result?
It was wonderful to read AuntLili and Scotlyn’s exchange. And educational.
@James M Jensen II
Quite agree re QM. A sole but important nitpick would be that the existence of many-worlds is not an interpretation and def not a theory, but a prediction of the existing theory and equations.
Manyworlds arise as a matter of doing the math of QM (which math No One argues with cos it works like magic to a couple dozen decimal points!).
Thus, epistemically, manyworlds does not require evidence to the level that copenhagen does. It is a bonus part of the predictive package and deserves heavy weight given the many other validated predictions from the math of QM.
Copenhagen otoh requires Major evidence since it violates other proven bedrock theories of physics.
The collapse add-on (and thus indeterministic ‘interpretation’) was humans imposing their intuition on a phenomenon for which evolution did not give us the relevant mental intuition. Cos it was not useful at any point for apes to intuit decoherence… it is now though and quantum immortality is a serious and staggering thought 🙂
Re ‘free will’, using the phrase in the sense in which people use it, it seems a fairly incoherent concept, whether the universe is random or deterministic 🙂
We (including our neurons) are a collection of atoms and atoms move across ticking time based on the laws of physics. Sensory data (atoms, photons, etc) interacts with our atoms based on same laws of physics.
In comp sci terms, we are an algorithm or state machine and sensory data are inputs.
Either way, the gaggle of atoms Or the algo progresses through time based on the inputs, all the while ‘feeling’ that there is free will.
It boils down to determining how and why we experience consciousness and noting the fact that evolution found it a useful tool to give apes the ‘free will’ illusion.
Yes, this means that apes that progress enough down the path of neuroscience and physics will find it mindboggling that they Know there is no actual freedom to their will while being Convinced subjectively that there is.
That is our wonderful reality. And we have to live with it. It is easy enough to do so actually cos another feature of the human mind is that non-emotionally resonant facts lose salience quickly and must be forced into conscious thought when required… One effortfully thinks of the absence of free will to note the futility of non-deterrent punishment. But one effortlessly gets angry and calls for punishment even when it would Only add to the sum of pain in the world.
@Peter – thank you for the pot luck date – got it penciled in. Let’s see how many family members I can rope in to join me.
Dear JMG, I saw that you are aware of Greta Thunberg. Personally I can’t rule out the possibility that she is being exploited and slowly consumed, but has nowhere to escape due to the wilderness of mirrors. What do you think? And what would be a wise life-advise for her?
The comments have started to touch on the problem of plastic in the environment. This is a particular issue with me and I’ve already done a lot of the obvious things to reduce our household’s use of the stuff, but it didn’t make the dent I hoped for – plastic is absolutely everywhere. I came across a website some time ago, ‘My Plastic Free Life’, which has made me think a lot harder about the plastic our family brings in. The site’s host, who has reduced her family’s plastic use to virtually nothing, suggests ways to reduce or eliminate it altogether, along with excellent comments and tips from readers, too. There’s something here that everyone can do: https://myplasticfreelife.com/
How can cutting your carbon footprint be approached as a source of benefits, rather than a mode of virtue signaling?
What draws people to alternative ways of doing things usually isn’t “stop doing wrong,” it’s “stop being a sucker.”
Though it’s been hinted at in the examples in many of the comments responding to this question, I don’t think anyone has said this directly: cutting your carbon footprint can be approached as subversion. By which I mean, the bypassing of systems that have become exploitative, helping to build alternative systems in the process. When you cook a meal for yourself or your family and friends, no “sale” or “income” has occurred, and thus no taxation. When you repair something instead of buying a new replacement, no revenue appears on corporate balance sheets to boost share prices or some CEO’s bonus. When you entertain yourself or educate yourself, you disconnect yourself from levers of influence and avoid inflated college education costs. When you accept that it’s cold in winter and hot in summer, you don’t need to pay for flights to different latitudes to try to alter that, no matter how many ads or astroturf tweets of “kickin’ it here in Aruba” suggest you should. And when you accumulate the tools and skills to do those things better, it makes those “subversive” alternatives more accessible and sustainable for the future.
This only works in areas where people perceive they’re getting a bad deal, and where adequate alternative systems exist. So it could work for the examples above. It won’t work for e.g. the housing-price/commuting-distance dilemma until necessity forces better subversive alternatives into being, and it won’t work for alternative food sourcing in the U.S. until the low food prices we see, a government priority since the 1970s, are forced significantly higher.
@ Scotlyn, AuntLili, & Lathechuck
Re the Titanic metaphor
To apply that metaphor to my proto-platform, the ship (modern industrialism) is doomed but most other people think it can be saved if we could bail the water out fast enough (e.g. deploy green technology, nuclear fusion, and the like). Our best choice as a family of passengers (nation) is to cast off in one of the lifeboats and row as far away as possible so that the sinking hulk won’t take us down (i.e. create our own self-reliant haven against the coming storm of resource conflicts and the dissolution of the global economy in general over the next century or so). We won’t be able to convince everyone to abandon ship together, as too many are convinced that their precious belongings and luggage can be salvaged if only the ship could be righted. At a certain point you have to stop trying to convince others what needs to be done and simply do it for yourself. If they wish to follow, they can; if not, that is their own choice.
The sinking ship isn’t the planet, merely our modern, resource-intensive way of life. Gaia will be fine. She is far more powerful than we allow and operates on time-frames that we cannot understand. Life will survive. Humanity will even survive. Modern industrial civilization will not.
John, et al.
Obviously, I strongly disagree with the premise of the legislation, as I would argue that both contract law on the one hand (consenting adults willingly entering into a compact with a specific bundle of rights and obligations) and the 1st Amendment on the other (distinguishing between civil law and religious law) would prohibit this sort of thing in our republic. However, it is interesting from a systemic standpoint to see states directly confronting federal authority in this manner. Given the downward trajectory of our empire and of centralized authority in our nation generally, I’m wondering if this is an early sign of things to come as states begin to push back against federal power more openly.
Just a wee data point, for the record. Like everyone else, I’ve been watching Trump Derangement Syndrome in action for the last two years on the liberal progressive side of the house. Which has two negative political side effects, as I see it:
1) you’ve stopped talking about your policies, or about why your policies should interest anyone, and 2) you’ve ceded people who you should be seeing as “voters [to be won over]” to Trump, calling them “[Trump] voters” and fatally leaving them and their concerns completely out of your canvassing (or even persuasion) strategy.
Well, I’m starting to see a new Derangement Syndrome in action on the fundamentalist, libertarian, conservative side of the house now, and it is Ocasio-Cortez Derangement Syndrome. Her hair, her clothes, her “stupidity”, her “airheadedness”, her complete unfitness to be listened to, are beginning to form an ad nauseum chorus from some quarters, who have effectively: 1) stopped talking about their policies, and why their policies should interest anyone, and 2) ceded “[Ocasio-Cortez voters} to the opposition, fatally leaving them and their concerns out of any canvassing (or even persuasion) strategy. No other Democrat is featuring nearly as obsessively in my feeds and mentions (from the conservative side) as she is.
As far as I can tell, she is among the Democrats who are NOT following the “vote for us, cause we’re not HIM” strategy, and is developing and speaking to policies instead. With the [negative] attention she is getting at this early stage of the game from the opposition, together with some pretty astute things that she has herself said (her 5 minute “let’s play a game” speech on corporate political funding got 6 million views within hours), I can see her going very, very far. Whether the Democratic party machine will break because of it, remains to be seen.
Lathechuck – nice!
This is absolutely consistent, with my experience. People who I consider capable of critical thinking have simply descended into screaming – on both sides, instead of even allowing entertaining the faintest possibility that the other side might have legitimate opinions and grievances – or are even deserving respect and human treatment as fellow citizens.
While it is clearly pretty likely that Trump hoovered up most of the nations’ racists, misogynists, bigots, authoritarians and proto-fascists – and given the tight margin, it yeah, made a difference. But in the absolute, these folk are not a majority. There’s just not enough of them. And certainly not enough of them to condemn ALL Trump voters with that black brush. It absolutely does not account for the legions of northern and mid-western Obama Voters who switched for Trump – after being abandoned by BOTH parties. How about the discouraged, disillusioned, disgusted, and disenfranchised voters that stayed home? More the voted for EITHER Candidate in 2016. These are people who have largely given up on the system and the republic, or been suppressed from participating.
On my Facebook page I was treated my two TAOISTS descending into a screaming match that swiftly devolved into insults and ad hominem attacks. Two good men who should have both, intellectually and through philosophical temperament, known better. It was profoundly discouraging. Similar on environmental, sustainability and climate issues. We are in an age where these have become political and cultural issues, versus scientific and public preparedness policy.
But I am somewhat encourages by the occasional glimpse in the mediasphere of some clearer thinking, that is at least outside the usual zero-sum box of permitted engagement. Nick Hanauer, a self-professed plutocrat has been trying to get certain points across about inequality and market forces for years. He recently tossed another cautionary opinion out there on Politico. It included this perceptive thought –
“Many smug, wealthy, highly educated liberals like myself (and let’s be honest, like many of you who have been blowing up my phone since the election) have taken to soothing ourselves with the notion that Trump was elected by stupid, racist people. And to some degree, this may be true. But like it or not, in America, even stupid racists have an equal claim to the prosperity, dignity, status and happiness that we urban economic elites hold so dear. Also, they vote. So while we should never pander to their racism, we must face the fact that if our greed prevents them from having their fair shot at happiness, they will most certainly take it from us by force. Parenthetically, I want to make clear that I am not so naïve as to believe that prosperity eliminates racism. It does not. But, it is one hell of a distraction. People who are thriving and hopeful may still be filled with hate, but they don’t have nearly as much reason to act on it.” – Nick Hanuaer
To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism
“One of the consequences of that proposal is that free will exists in complex systems generally — for example, biological evolution can best be understood as a learning process whereby life continually attempts to explore the range of possible niches, and displays what can best be understood as willed behavior in expanding into them.”
Thank you for that! I cannot express my thinking so well but I totally agree and I cannot wait for the post on this. My previous arguments are just against the simplistic supernatural explanations for free will.
I go even farther than you – I don’t think we need QM to create new behavior (I read the New Kind of Science and there are many good examples there). I think just having a system with powerful feedback loops under external pressure is enough to create novelty and complexity.
A simplistic example is predicting the future – if I believe in the prediction I can change my behavior to avoid or deal with an unpleasant future. There is no magic required – just a negative feedback loop in the brain.
The reason I avoid introducing QM in the discussion is because is as close to magic as it gets. If a particle explores all possible routes at the same time and can even interact with itself in the past – that is a whole new field of inquiry that is way over my head.
Here is a good example (search for “quantum mechanical interaction-free measurements” for more):
Great reply that helps me clarify my thinking. No, I don’t believe any of the things you mentioned but I understand your reaction since I sounded close to the mainstream scientism points.
I don’t have the right vocabulary to explain my ideas but the main point is that yes I make a very clear dualistic separation but is not between body/mind or self/universe. My distinction is between our models and the reality. JMG has a couple of posts about this where he explains much better than I could.
When I say “our brains make a decision” I am just guessing that we can ignore philosophy and focus on the physics and biology.
I agree that this leads to another infinite recursion since I use models to explain what I think it’s physical etc. That is the same recursion that JMG mentioned referring to free will (why listen to people that believe they are deterministic machines? But the opposite works the same.)
As it happens I believe that the infinite recursion is actually the solution to these problems. For example, in QM all particles are in an infinite loop of endlessly interacting with themselves (and the math requires ridiculous assumptions that things eventually sum up to a finite value – look up renormalization). Despite that the predictions of QM are the best in all of science.
And no, I don’t know the solution – just guessing how it might work.
just one last note about free will. Going back to your original argument that you can dismiss deterministic arguments because they are made by a machine.
I still think this particular argument is fallacious. I have seen it before usually framed as “you have to believe in free will otherwise you cannot punish criminals”.
The truth is that people should and do behave like they have free will. After all not many people believe lightning has free will but we still “punish” it with lightning rods. Same with serial killers that psychologists say were created by childhood trauma – I still don’t want them roaming free.
I think the conversation about what is should be separate from the conversation about what we should do because our behavior should be/is the same either way.
Not to get into philosophy but you know there are people out there debating the reality of “zombies” – people that act and talk just like humans but have no soul. To me that argument sounds exactly like some general during Vietnam war excusing atrocities because “they don’t feel like us” (sorry, can’t find the quote).
@David by the lake, I have had similar thoughts. It’s worth remembering that for most of the totality of our two hundred thousand year history, we have had almost non-existently low population densities. It is entirely possibly that we are going back to something like that. To further the sinking ship analogy, it would be a good idea to take the ship’s log book (a chronicle of the achievements of industrial civilization so that future post-petroleum civilizations can learn and remember.)
@ Beekeeper: Thanks for the link! Plastics are a huge personal peeve, and I’m always looking for ways to reduce the amount we bring home!
If my memory hasn’t failed me, the Brexit referendum was purely advisory, not binding. But it appears that most British voters have either forgotten this, or not understood its implications, or feel that it should have been binding, and therefore actually IS binding.
If this is so, then the referendum has opened a real can or works for the British elite and the governing class, most of whom will benefit from not brexiting the EU. The probem for them is how not to implement Brexit at all, but also how not to anger the voters who want Brexit badly.
It needs no astrological chart (IMHO) to see how the elites will play this out: delay after endless procedural delay, but never a clear public refusal to exit the EU. After 5 or 10 or 15 years, Brexit will have become such an old dead issue to the voting masses that they will focus their emotional energy on some other issue, and Brexit will quietly be dropped from public view without any fuss.
No need to post if too OT, but this (https://theelectricagora.com/2019/02/08/course-notes-susan-wolf-moral-saints/) seems to tie in nicely with some of the themes on morality touched on here, namely how puritanical moralism has led to very toxic and unproductive discourse.
I haven’t yet read the Wolf essay, but the tl;dr version is that: “moral considerations should not always be overriding and that moral sainthood is neither a reasonable nor a compelling ideal. Her argument is simple: In always elevating moral considerations above all others, one will fail to cultivate other virtues, interests and talents and this not only is not a reasonable or desirable aim for oneself, it is not something we would (or should) want to see in others either.”
Certainly lots of themes for meditation 😉
On the topic of class, I was watching a late night talk show the other night (I know, I know) and the host was eviscerating the recent Fox News interview with Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson. I realized right away that even though interviewer Neil Cavuto and Robertson were both Conservative and both millionaires, that Robertson was definitely not in the same class as Cavuto. Watching Cavuto amend Robertson’s assertion that “God gives me healthcare” with “but people get sick on Earth in human form” was what confirmed it for me. Cavuto’s intellectual class doesn’t mention spiritual matters in polite company, me thinks, so he’s not used to dealing with it. Meanwhile Robertson probably talks about it all the time as it’s a big part of his working class life. And that’s not even touching on the cultural differences between the two. Class is a big blind spot here in America and I wonder how the national dynamic will change as that aspect gets dragged into the light.
Regarding evolution as a learning process: In the Darwinian model, secondary sex characteristics such as the tail of a peacock or guppy are the product of runaway sexual selection – males who can survive long enough to breed despite their ostentatious ornamentation obviously have the right stuff – although there is some research which shows this to be not entirely invalid (1), there’s another explanation. However, there is an emerging science of beauty that suggests that the ability to perceive beauty is not the sole province of humans – and it may not be a coincidence that both humans and female peacocks find male peacocks beautiful.
(1) There is peer-reviewed research that shows that the amount of ornamentation that guppies in the wild have depends on the predator load in their body of water and that selection will fairly rapidly correct for changes in the predator load. For instance in big bodies of water with lots of bigger predators the males will be almost entirely gray like the females, but in tiny bodies of water where the only real threat is hunger, the males have large, colourful tails. This is interesting – it is a species that has evolved to evolve.
I’m thinking of the activists I know. It’s still something I need to think through: I suspect I’ll have more defined thoughts for the next open post. As for “change is good”, that also seems likely to play a major role.
Samurai Art guy,
Even though yours was a nice and reasonable post, I take exception where you said Trump hoovered up ‘most of the nations’ racists, misogynists, bigots, authoritarians and proto-fascists –’
What I am actually seeing in the real world, is that the left or liberals have become dangerously authoritarian. It matters not that they talk in terms of tolerance and inclusion. They do not mean a word of it. Their behavior is shocking. As for racism, it is almost entirely fantasy anyway, but again, I find it nearly preposterous that people would vote for Trump on whatever leftover bits of racist feelings they might harbor. Nor do I see the type of people who voted for Trump as being particularly racist. I see them as being rather more relaxed, whereas the white collar liberals are using the shadow to project their nervous feelings about other races onto the lower classes.
I have been pondering whether I ought to say to the many people in my world that I have not spoken honestly to about any of this because they are too reactive to handle it – Do you realize that your cohort are being talked about behind your backs in hushed tones to the effect of “What has happened to these people? How or when did they lose their minds? You cannot reason with them.”
Talked about behind their backs just like several of my friends and neighbors talked about a certain person in our community who looked like she might die from starvation and had some odd ideas about what was wrong with her. It certainly appeared that she had some sort of mental illness that included an eating disorder. And one of the hallmarks of the mentally ill is that you can’t convince them of their delusion. If you try, they get very defensive or angry.
What sort of issues have you encountered recently?
If all a person knows is an urban environment, then mate, I reckon they wouldn’t do so well in a rural area. I would not suggest attempting the move to a rural area unless you and your family were committed to the project.
It has taken me over a decade now to be just OK, at living in a rural area. Gardening for edibles on a long term sustainable basis is one of the most complicated tasks I’ve ever put my brain towards.
Incidentally, in your own country during the Great Depression, the population began to increase in rural areas, before being hollowed out again due to WWII. The thinking behind that was that at least farm families could eat well.
I have off grid solar power here, and it is good, but it isn’t good enough to power modern expectations. And seriously, don’t believe what people say about producing more power than what they use (and I hear that rubbish a lot – It is like trying to tell me that the sun shines at night, and the last time I checked it didn’t – so where did they get the electricity from?) Often people don’t talk about the deepest darkest days around the winter solstice, because they’re pulling power from the grid or a generator. I set my system up to provide power from the sun for every single day of the year, and it makes absolutely no economic sense whatsoever. And it is an extraordinarily complicated system.
So I know some of the reason for discussing whether or not humans have free will has to do with legal/social dimensions, the example of punishment for crimes mentioned by Ben. But it seems to me that if there is no free will then maybe we should increase our use of the death penalty if you can’t help being a rapist then shouldn’t society put you out of our and your own misery? And shouldn’t we be able to have pre-crime screening? So we know and can remove the criminals from society even before they commit a crime?
That’s the part that I don’t understand when people talk about it.
Personally I would prefer a legal system that takes steps to bring people back into the community; so if there is no free will can someone choose to be reformed?
I suspect it’s just too abstract for me to get a handle on 🙁
“I don’t see how indeterminism can be separated from theism, and that’s one my big rubs.”
And what exactly is wrong with theism? You seem to have a fundamental hostility towards it.