Some of my critics like to insist that I never admit that I’m wrong. Those readers who have been following me for any length of time know that this isn’t true, but like so many of the fashionable distortions of our age, it points to a truth it doesn’t actually express. What offends those critics, of course, is that I refuse to accept the supposedly self-evident truth of whatever part of the conventional wisdom they defend most heatedly. The mere fact that the conventional wisdom of our time is so reliably wrong, and my predictions therefore turn out to be correct far more often than theirs, simply adds to the irritation.
Be that as it may, I’m going to start off this third and final part of our conversation about the flight from reason in our time by talking about a prediction of mine that was flat-out wrong. I made it repeatedly in my previous blog, The Archdruid Report, beginning in 2009 with a post titled “Strange Bright Banners.” In that post I spoke of the way that political discourse in the US has been twisted out of shape in order to avoid talking about the ways that American politics has been corrupted by economic interests to the point of absurdity, and the vast blind spot opened up by the misuse of the term “fascism” as rhetorical ammunition.
Back then the Obama administration was busy trying to deal with the fact that most Americans couldn’t afford health insurance by forcing them to buy it anyway, under penalty of law, at whatever prices the industry wanted to charge. Obama was loudly insisting that health costs would go down and consumers could keep the plans and doctors they had, and people hadn’t yet discovered the hard way that these statements of his were outright lies—though a lot of us already had well-justified suspicions. At the same time, everywhere outside the bubbles where the comfortable 20% or so of the population lived, working Americans were being driven deeper into poverty, misery, and despair by federal policies that actively encouraged the offshoring of working class jobs and the importation of millions of illegal immigrants who could be used, and of course were used, to drive down wages and benefits to Third World levels.
None of that was accidental. All those things were part of a bipartisan policy consensus that put the profits of big corporations and the convenience of the affluent middle and upper middle classes ahead of the survival of working Americans. Looking out at the political landscape at that time, I thought that the desperation of the tens of millions of people who were plunged into poverty and misery by policies like the one Obama was pushing would lead to an explosion: at the very least, a revitalization movement of the sort sketched out in last week’s post; more likely, the rise of a massive domestic insurgency based in the mountain West and the South; just possibly, if enough of the rank and file of the military sided with the insurgents, civil war.
I was wrong. The desperate working classes didn’t get a revitalization movement. Instead, they got a canny businessman named Donald Trump, who figured out that speaking to their concerns was his ticket to power, coined slogans and symbols that challenged the bipartisan consensus where it was most vulnerable, forged the desperate masses into a potent political force, and rode it into the White House in the teeth of the united resistance of the entire political class. Once his campaign began to gain traction, the people who might have joined a revitalization movement or a guerrilla war joined the Trump campaign instead, and had the dizzying experience of watching their dreams come true on the night of November 8, 2016. Visit pro-Trump sites today and you’ll still find people talking in stunned tones about “the miracle”—the moment that night when they suddenly realized that for once, after so many disappointments and betrayals, their hopes and dreams and needs actually had a chance of fulfillment this side of Heaven.
Thereafter, as if in perfect mathematical balance, their opponents proceeded to create a pretty fair facsimile of a revitalization movement themselves. That, I suggest, is what’s behind the flight into mythic thinking I discussed in the first part of this sequence of posts. The comfortable classes of today’s America, and their equivalents in much of the English-speaking world, have taken Don Quixote’s route out of an unbearable reality, engaging in abstract ritual activities that have about as much to do with effective political opposition to Donald Trump as the Ghost Dance had in common with effective military resistance to the US Army.
Look at the ways that the soi-disant Resistance has turned to what amount to magic spells in an attempt to banish the unwelcome reality of Trump’s presidency. (We can leave aside here the actual magic spells being wielded, as they’ve proven just as ineffective.) First there were the overheated claims that the Electoral College would ignore the voters and put Hillary Clinton into the White House in Trump’s place. Then there were the overheated claims that Robert Mueller’s investigation into the various—one can’t avoid the pun—trumped-up claims of Russian collusion would by definition turn up impeachable offenses. (T-shirts churned out by various Democrat-oriented firms saying “It’s Mueller Time” and the like are now, I’m told, a hot property among Trump supporters.) There have been others, and each of them has fallen flat on its nose, because all of the claims amounted to “Trump will be thrown out because we hate him so much.”
The current political theater around impeachment in the House of Representatives is cut from the same cloth. It’s all handwaving, because impeachment doesn’t remove a president; he has to be tried, convicted, and removed by a 2/3 vote of the Senate. When the Senate is controlled by the GOP and Trump has a 95% approval rating among Republican voters, that’s not going to happen—not least because the entire charade is based on the claim that it’s wrong for Trump to do something that the Democrats insist was perfectly fine for Obama to do to Trump: that is, to investigate one of the other party’s presidential candidates during the election campaign, on charges of colluding with a foreign government. Thus the Democrats are setting themselves up for yet another gourmet meal of crow, and in the process they’re alienating more swing voters and handing Trump yet more ammunition he can and will use against them in the 2020 election.
But at this point we’re back where this discussion started, with the flight from reason Alan Jacobs and “Jane” both discussed so cogently in the essays quoted in the first post in this sequence. At a time when only cold, dispassionate, objective thinking can give the Democrats the edge they need to overturn the results of the 2016 election and reestablish the policies Trump has discarded, they’ve gone rushing in the opposite direction, embracing extremist policies—for example, free health care for illegal immigrants—as though nobody but their own hardcore adherents were watching, and comforting themselves with exactly the sort of fake polls that claimed Hillary Clinton would certainly win in 2016. What’s more, if you try to point this out, you can count on the same blank stare and reiteration of canned talking points I mentioned earlier—the response, in fact, that Don Quixote gave to anyone who tried to remind him that he wasn’t living in the world of Amadis of Gaul and the rest of the pop fiction of his day.
The question that needs to be addressed is why this is happening now.
We could start in many places, but the best of the lot just now may be the failed state we call California. I imagine most of my readers have heard that PG&E, the huge California power conglomerate, has been shutting off power to a million customers at a time whenever there’s a significant fire hazard. The reason for that is quite simple. PG&E has done such a poor job of maintaining its infrastructure and keeping its right-of-ways free of dead brush that the power grid itself has become a major source of rural fires in California. This isn’t because PG&E doesn’t have the money. It’s because the money has been diverted from the humdrum but necessary labor of maintenance into other, more mediagenic projects, or into inflated salaries and consultancy fees for the overpaid managerial caste.
Go from the charred forests of rural California to the festering urban sprawl of the San Francisco and Los Angeles regions, and you’ll encounter different modes of dysfunction. If you’re going to San Francisco, despite the advice of the song, don’t bother with a flower in your hair; plastic wrappers on the outside of your shoes would be considerably more useful, because the streets of the city are spotted with human feces. California’s main cities have catastrophic problems with homelessness, to the point that health officials in LA are struggling to get on top of an epidemic of typhus—yes, that would be the louse-borne disease most industrial nations got rid of a century ago. The state government is demanding billions in federal aid to deal with its homelessness problem; the Trump administration is pointing out that previous administrations already gave California billions in federal aid for that, and things have gotten steadily worse.
A decade ago, when I last spent significant amounts of time in California, things weren’t that dismal. They weren’t good—San Francisco was a grimy, crumbling, crime-ridden mess more or less on a par with Cleveland or Baltimore, far northern California showed all the familiar signs of rural impoverishment and malign neglect, and crime was so bad throughout the state that every single house had iron bars on its windows and iron gates to keep its doors from being kicked in—but the recent news stories were as startling to me as they were to most people from elsewhere. Conditions in California have been getting steadily worse for years, and at this point they’re nearing the point where widespread systemic failures become a real possibility.
All in all, California is rapidly approaching Third World status. It’s got all the standard features: collapsing infrastructure, intermittent public services, a widening chasm between the kleptocratic rich and the desperate poor, and a dysfunctional government good at rhetoric and buck-passing, but rather less skilled at providing basic services to its population. Oh, and let’s not forget mass outmigration; like most Third World states, California has huge outflows of people heading for less dysfunctional regions. Donald Trump hasn’t yet proposed building a wall to keep them out of the US, but some of his followers have, and I’m far from sure they’re joking.
The thing to keep in mind here is that California didn’t land in that predicament by doing any of the things that the collective wisdom of our times labels “regressive.” It didn’t emulate Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, or any of the other states our comfortable classes like to insult as “backwards.” Quite the contrary, people in rural Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia still have power when the weather’s hot and the wind picks up, and nobody in Little Rock, Birmingham, or Wheeling has to worry about hosing human excrement off their sidewalks. No, California got where it is by following exactly those policies that have been most loudly praised by the cultural mainstream as forward-thinking. It has progressed into its present condition.
It’s been a truism of American public life for quite a while now that where California goes today, the rest of the US will go tomorrow. In a very real sense, the populist uprising that put Donald Trump into the White House was what happened when large parts of the US looked at that prospect, shuddered, and said “No, thank you!” That’s particularly relevant because the same broad trends that brought California to its present state of crisis have been at work across the country for decades. Get outside the tightly sealed bubbles where the comfortable classes live out their pampered and extravagant lives, and you’ll find decaying infrastructure, decrepit buildings, and a pervasive sense that the best days are long past. That was what gave Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” its potency: a sense that the country was progressing somewhere no sane person would want to go, and that any move toward better things had to start by stopping the forward momentum and returning to things that had been left behind.
That, in turn, was exactly what Trump’s opponents rejected most heatedly. “We’re not going back,” Hillary Clinton snapped during the campaign. “We’re going forward.” The sustained attempt to tar Trump and his followers with the brush of racism wasn’t just an attempt to hold onto the urban African-American vote, the keystone of Democratic electoral strategy, though that was certainly a core part of it. It was also an attempt to paint the past in the worst possible light, so that Democratic voters wouldn’t be tempted to compare the conditions they lived in to those that had existed a few decades earlier, and ask why things had deteriorated so far since then.
And there we can glimpse what’s at the heart of the flight from reason, the plunge into a wholly mythic world, that has seized so much of the American Left since the 2016 election. That election was supposed to be the next great step forward in the grand march of progress, the election of America’s first female president to follow on the heels of its first black president. From within the mythic worldview, it didn’t matter that Obama discarded most of his campaign promises the moment the polls closed in 2008, and proceeded to do a really inspired imitation of the third and fourth terms of George W. Bush, complete with the drone strikes and foreign wars Democrats claimed they hated so long as it was Republicans who were doing them. Nor did it matter that Clinton promised to double down on those same policies. Her party affiliation and her gender made all other issue superfluous in the eyes of the faithful.
Then she lost, Trump took office, and conditions started to improve for a great many of the people who’d been left twisting in the wind by the bipartisan policy consensus I mentioned earlier. It wasn’t just the white working class who benefited, either; joblessness in the African-American community has dropped to its lowest level since statistics were first kept, and figures for other ethnic minorities have kept pace.
That, I suggest, is the thing that drove the flight into fantasy we’ve seen since that time. In the wake of the failed social revolution of the 1960s, the American Left made a devil’s bargain with the corporate world, and agreed to support economic policies that benefited corporations and their shareholders at everyone else’s expense, in exchange for an agreement by corporations to support cultural policies of the kind the post-1960s Left wanted to see. All this was obscured, as such bargains are generally obscured, by a deliberate ignorance toward the effect the economic policies had on the minority communities the Left supposedly wanted to help. Pundits and politicians alike loudly insisted that offshoring jobs and flooding the job market with illegal immigrants couldn’t possibly drive down wages, as of course they did; meanwhile efforts to help ethnic minorities on a broad scale gave way to mass imprisonment on the one hand—Hillary Clinton’s talk about “superpredators” may come to mind here—and on the other, arrangements that allowed a trickle of nonwhite people to rise into the managerial classes, so long as they unswervingly embraced the values of the corporate establishment.
That’s the skeleton that’s come dancing out of the closet in the wake of the 2016 election. It’s become impossible to avoid the fact that the neoliberal economic policies embraced by both parties until then were a total disaster for most Americans. Even Paul Krugman, who made his reputation in the media as a sneering bully putting down anyone who didn’t fall into line with neoliberal orthodoxy, has been forced in recent months to concede that he was wrong. Millions of Americans of leftward political views are being forced to come to terms with the fact that the experts they believed and the media they trusted were either lying to them or just plain wrong, and that they not only supported, but also profited from, policies that plunged a vast number of Americans into poverty and despair. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, and it’s all the harder to choke down when the orange-faced doctor who’s prescribed it has gone out of his way to flaunt his lack of concern for the delicate feelings of the comfortable classes.
Thus it’s not at all surprising that Democratic politicians in the House of Representatives have launched themselves into one politically motivated investigation after another in exactly the same spirit that sent Don Quixote charging at a windmill, or that a great many people of leftward views have taken on the persona of heroic fighters against fascism in a way that invites comparison with the young man who adopted the personality of an anime character. One of the core beliefs on which they founded their lives—the fond conviction that the world is moving toward a brighter and better future, and the policies that profit them personally are also the policies that are helping to drive that great going-forward—has shattered irrevocably around them. That’s what has them imitating the Ghost Dance and its many equivalents, dancing at the end of time, waiting for a miraculous redemption the world will not provide them.
Meanwhile the policies that might spare the rest of this nation a descent into Californian conditions have some chance at this point of being enacted. Those policies are straightforward enough: a phased withdrawal from military commitments abroad we can no longer afford; trade barriers to rebuild domestic manufacturing so that we’re prepared when the dollar stops being the world’s reserve currency and we can no longer import whatever we want and pay for it with IOUs; a sustained and thoughtful national conversation about how many immigrants we can afford to accept each year without driving our existing working classes into misery; a new federalism which will return social legislation to the individual states, and thus end attempts to impose a single moral ideology of left or right on the entire nation; and a reorientation of politics toward the logic of compromise and coexistence, which alone can restore some degree of relative harmony to so vast, diverse, and opinionated a republic as this one.
Will these prevent the slow decline I’ve called the Long Descent, the downward trajectory that winds up the story of every civilization? Of course not. Trump may go ahead and fulfill his promise to put more bootprints on the Moon in 2024 or so, reenacting the events of 1969—it’s indicative, isn’t it, that while other civilizations left pyramids and temples that have endured for centures, our supreme achievement, the moon landings, used rockets that turned to scrap metal the moment they did their job?—but that’s another ritual action, when it comes right down to it.
Yet some declines are faster than others. Back in the heyday of the peak oil scene, plenty of people discussed the value of economic relocalization in cushioning the decline, and each of the other steps I’ve sketched out above will also further that goal. The great American poet Robinson Jeffers said it best:
You who make haste haste on decay; not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.
We may have succeeded in dodging the mortal splendor, at least for the moment, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. While the dancers at the end of time trudge through their ritual steps, waiting for an imaginary future that was never going to happen in the first place, the rest of us might consider rolling up our sleeves and seeing what we can accomplish.
Thank you John Michael
It is quite possible that if I had not found (or not have been lead to) your writing I too would be dancing the Ghost Dance. I was solidly in the progress camp back in the early Obama years. However I started to see things that didn’t fit the narrative. However with out your insights I wouldn’t have been able to put two and two together. Now I have come to terms with our situation and this long decline. It gives us opportunities for real work and real significance.
I’m not a foreign policy buff, so I may be way off base here, but I’d add to your policy proposals: “Find a new rising world power who’s willing to give us the sort of deal we gave the British Empire after World War II.” Just earlier this year I would have said Russia — despite my distaste for Putin and his more repugnant policies, he’s still preferable to China. Now I’m thinking India may become an option, and I see Trump’s saber-rattling at Pakistan early this year as being primarily an invitation to India to make friends.
I’d been wondering if you were going to mention the massive blackouts in California at some point. That looked like a fairly spectacular examples of decline to me.
I’ve been watching the Trump impeachment stuff erratically from over the border, and have a question: is it illegal or not for a president to ask another country’s government to investigate a political rival?
Something I find rather astounding about the political discourse here in the United States is the tendency towards moralization. It is very rarely simply, “we won, we get the loot!” No, it is “we won because we were right and good!”
This conflation is very puzzling, and must represent a strategic weakness of no small important in the American psyche. Politics are war. Obama carried out wartime policies on the working classes with his insurance mandate. He achieved economic objectives using trickery that would require many bloody battles to achieve. This is the standard aim for diplomacy, in the Spenglerian sense.
Class war is no simple Marxist slogan. Obama and Trump both carried out raids which would include physical conflict and burnt out towns if there weren’t a political process to formalize the proceedings.
This insistence that one side is right and the other wrong is patently absurd; in politics there are hardly “right” and “wrong” rather, in its place, are the far more robust “strong” and “weak” which can employ the language of morality to further their ends, but the moment that a side becomes enthralled to morality — *any* morality — than that side has decided to elevate truth over facts and has signed its death warrant.
This isn’t to say that wanton destructiveness and other vices are somehow noble and strong. Vices are sources of weakness, and of course, there is virtue and strength in ethics, the strength of one’s word, personal integrity, generosity, kindness, etc. But just as equally there is virtue and strength in trickery, guile, and sleight of hand. Martial virtues of grim determination, cold-bloodedness, and courage under fire, are just as potent as any other, and prove decisive on the battlefield.
And so the political left — with immense cant! — has decided to elevate truth over facts. This may be how one cultivates a certain sense of righteousness but it is no way to *win*.
It appears that the Left has capitulated to Progress. The ideology that the left has become obsessed with is a vice with regards to tactical maneuvering and larger strategic aims. The Left has forgotten that politics is simply the older sister to war — that is a blood sport played for keeps — and now pretends the politics comes down from on high as a a form of divine dispensation. This confusion is a blunder of epic proportions, and indeed, can only lose.
It’s okay to be wrong once in a while, John. Even I thought I was wrong once – but I was wrong.
But Trump’s opponents aren’t just wrong, they’re wrong in really suicidal way. All their efforts to have him impeached are founded on the mistaken belief that all they have to do to rid themselves of him is expose to the American voters just what sort of man they elected as their leader. Hello?? The American voters already know just what sort of man they elected as their leader – that’s why they elected him!
My expectation is therefore that not only will Trump win again in 2020, but he will do so by an even wider margin than in 2016.
I would just like to point out that there were those of us on the left that weren’t drinking the neo-liberal Kool-Aid, but continued to vote for Democrats for a while because that’s how we were raised and because the invasion of Iraq by the neo-cons appeared to make such a convincing case for doing so. And then the Obama years happened. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that “Obamacare” was what commenced the pounding of the final nails into the coffin of the party of FDR. We were the ones who would have made Bernie Sanders the Democratic nominee in 2016 were it not for the fact that the DNC puts up the candidate that they want to put up, the wishes of the party’s base be cussed.
It was very disorienting for so many of us that the neoliberal establishment in late 2016 did another cognitive back-flip and embraced the reincarnated version of the very Cold War that was used as a rhetorical bludgeon by neo-conservatives against anti-imperialist activists in the second half of the Twentieth Century. What we have been forced to realize is that neo-conservative and neo-liberal are two sides of the same morally-bankrupt coin. We have also been forced to realize that everybody pretty much decided “where they come down” in all of this in that half year between March and September 2016, and the karmic and psychic tsunami you describe that is engulfing our society is going to play itself out to its severe conclusion with or without us. It’s heart-breaking, really.
I appreciate how Trumpism provides his base with a sense of empowerment and the satisfaction of revenge, along with hopes of a possible redistribution of wealth. But it appears to me that the movement is just a poor man’s Ghost Dance. Feel good rallies, slinging mud on liberals, and de-constructing the State Department won’t make America great again, nor bring back the coal mine and rust belt jobs. Resources continue to decline, the national debt continues to explode, politicians continue dither. Neither party does a thing to address the deep causes of national and global descent. As you say, the long descent continues unabated.
As always, JMG, I appreciate your distinct perspective!
I would be (and have been for some decades) in full-throated support of a candidate offering these policies:
“a phased withdrawal from military commitments abroad we can no longer afford; trade barriers to rebuild domestic manufacturing so that we’re prepared when the dollar stops being the world’s reserve currency and we can no longer import whatever we want and pay for it with IOUs; a sustained and thoughtful national conversation about how many immigrants we can afford to accept each year without driving our existing working classes into misery; a new federalism which will return social legislation to the individual states, and thus end attempts to impose a single moral ideology of left or right on the entire nation; and a reorientation of politics toward the logic of compromise and coexistence, which alone can restore some degree of relative harmony to so vast, diverse, and opinionated a republic as this one.”
Sadly, I see nobody in politics today proposing them. Trump least of all (except for trade barriers, but even there I believe he’ll cave in the end).
Establishment Dems are progressive neoliberals,Trump a hyper-reactionary neoliberal, and the only other policies on offer are of the democratic-socialist form, some of which do seem to have potential for crossover appeal to the white working class.
Certainly ‘the logic of compromise and coexistence’ is inconceivable to Trump, as is participating in, let alone leading, a ‘sustained and thoughtful national conversation’ about anything, and so this fabled ‘relative harmony’ seems highly unlikely.
Speaking of Californian dysfunction, there’s more similariities to BC than I like, and it worries me. Things aren’t nearly as bad here, but there are too many echoes when I look around me. Way too many people at church getting evicted, food banks in trouble, seeing someone defecating in the street for the first time in my life – at least, I think that’s what was happening, I didn’t exactly stop and look. Wildfires out of control, though thankfully not this year so much. Sky-high housing prices that people can’t afford, tent cities, the opiate epidemic. There’s also a severe doctor shortage which has shut walk-in clinics and led to crazy wait times.
I am worried about my city and my province.
The recent federal election also showed some impressive regional differences, and Alberta and Saskatchewan made noises about wanting independence. I don’t think it’s really serious, but it could be one day. Given that their biggest complaint seems to be that they haven’t gotten pipelines east or west, I’m not all that sympathetic, though I agree that the SNC-Lavalin affair suggests a certain amount of regulatory capture by eastern corporations. Given the extent of the Albertan government’s regulatory capture by big oil, I really don’t think they have much room to talk. Basically, it adds up to Alberta complaining that the federal Canadian government has been captured by different corporate interests than theirs.
Anyway, that’s a view from north of the border on the state of dysfunction locally and nationally.
My husband and I counted the days to Wednesday on this series, JMG. You’ve tied together exactly what we’ve experienced but couldn’t find the words for. Thanks!
When we left Seattle for Boise nearly 20 years ago, some said “Ew!” and made a bit of a face at the idea. Fast forward to today, and the local rag runs regular features on newcomers vs the locals, with potentially helpful hints on acclimating for both.
Californians are advised to change their license plates ASAP, to avoid getting yelled at or keyed by people incensed at paying north of $1K for the apartment that cost $600 plus freebies not so long ago. Growing pains aplenty. Californians get a bad rap, but honestly, people are coming from all over the country. And we don’t blame them at all.
A few thoughts
What’s your opinion on Bernie Sanders?
I’ve seen a recent trend in leftist discourse that is distancing itself from neoliberals like Biden. People are realizing that the center of the political spectrum is just working to maintain the status quo.
What do you think on the rise of fascist ideologies? I recently saw a study that showed that the “intellectual dark web” (right leaning content creators centered mostly on youtube)’s influence was not as passive as many people thought (me included). This resonated with what you once told me when I asked you about it. People want this content. However, this study says that the alt right has been losing membership since 2017.
I remember you wrote some time ago about syndicalism. Worker-owned businesses. Since I read that I think it has become my own preferred political ideology. Especially since I have started watching a leftist streamer called Vaush. He’s a 25 year old sociologist that plays videogames live, while discussing politics with his chat. He’s debated Nazis many times before, and is becoming popular in what’s called the “dirtbag left”. Essentially, the left with their feet on the ground. Their goals are the same, namely, to minimize inequality and oppression in society, but they actually can counterargue their way through the rhetoric of Ben Shapiro and Dennis Prager. He’s even woke on the issue of peak oil.
It’d actually be kind of a dream come true to me to see you and him talk about politics some day. Knowing you don’t do video, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’d like to share the good kind of conservatism to a voice that can amplify it in leftist circles.
JMG, it seems there’s such contempt towards America’s working classes, especially towards those of the white colouration, that there’s actually been talk of their “replacement” with presumably more pliable immigrants. Some say that the communities ruined by offshoring have no more business existing, and besides, what ails this formerly prosperous working class was self-inflicted. This stuff sounds to me plenty incendiary, fightin’ words to some, IMO howlingly irresponsible at the very best. Maybe your prediction wasn’t wrong so much as a bit premature. Maybe Trump is the last hope before things really go off the rails or maybe he just delays insurgency, especially given the talk out there. Hard to see how it ends any way but ugly.
Thanks as usual JMG!
Long-time lurker here. While awaiting your post, found some “thou dos’t protest” over at HackerNews, may haps of wry amusement to fellow Ecosophians..
set down your beverages, because, well, this might result in merriment:
[title of article in top fold of HN today, cue angry technobabble:]
”The Future Is Not Retro”
Yeah. Thou dos’t protest… as one commenter points out:
The title of the article should be “I do not want the future to be retro” or, more honestly: “I do not want the future to be traditional.”
Given the authors biography, frequent relocation amongst expensive, elite international cities, this is not surprising. The fact that the author ended up settling in Paris, however, is very funny.
jeltz 2 hours ago [-]
Is this group really any significant amount of people? In my experience most people realize that progress and change are inevitable, the question is only how.
Which is in reply to:
“One faction of urbanists that I’ve sometimes found myself clashing with is people who assume that a greener, less auto-centric future will look something like the traditional small towns of the past.
A good post overall, and I agree with everything that you have to say about how the bipartisan establishment has failed working-class Americans, and how more and more people are realizing that actually, this ‘the future is always better’ ethic isn’t working out well in practice.
I still think that your portrayal of the Trump election as an overwhelming victory of the common man over the establishment is a flattening-over of a situation that’s much more nuanced. In all the discussion of Mr. Trump, I don’t think enough gets said about the fact that the 2016 election was a squeaker, and that a lot of the people who voted for Trump would have preferred literally any other Republican.
My own family’s experience with this election might be worth thinking about:
My father, a lifelong Republican, favored Ted Cruz on ideological grounds, but campaigned for Trump in the primary because he thought that Trump was more electable. At the time, I was a member of the College Republicans, and when I shared his beliefs with my companions – who were mostly the sons of experienced party operatives – they were utterly baffled by such a notion. Turns out, Trump did win in November….
My mother, also a lifelong Republican, voted for Trump mainly because of the open Supreme Court seat. She said many times that she would have preferred literally any other Republican, and, while she had made up her mind when Trump was nominated that she would pull the lever for him, she said that she found herself reconsidering that every time he opened his mouth.
My father’s father was a lifelong Republican, though not nearly as politically involved as my father was. He voted for Trump, though he also said he was bothered by his rudeness and incivility, and would have probably preferred an ordinary Republican along the lines of Reagan, Bush Sr. or Bush Jr.
My mother’s father was a lifelong Democrat and campaigned for Bernie Sanders. He was a machinist in the Rust Belt, and thus a prime candidate for crossing party lines in 2016, but even though many of his fellows went over to Trump, he never stopped believing everything that MSNBC had to say about how Trump is a fascist and Republicans are the party of the rich.
I personally agree with everything that you have to say about how the neoliberal consensus has failed the American working man, and how Trump offered the best change for a change of policies. I voted for him in 2016 and will do so again next year. Even so, I don’t share your optimism about Trumpism being backed by an overwhelming wave of working-class support, or about his opponents (who, despite their absurd antics, managed to win the most recent House elections) having been neutralized.
The holidays need some work. I see complaints about Christmas creep moving in head of Halloween, but afterwards there’s almost nothing between December and July. The rise of Cthulhu or some forgotten god could be our spring rebirth festival. The ritual unsealing of windows can let the nightgaunts in.
Wow! I’m afraid you hit the nail on the head. I note how good Gainesville, Florida, has been to me. And to my daughter and her husband, who are well out of the Bay Area Rat’s Nest – While I am (or was?) a lifelong (old FDR) Democrat (who keeps praying we’ll develop a sense of tactics and the will to use them instead of screaming “right-winger!” at anyone who suggests that) is appalled by the values and economic ignorance and actual habits of said daughter and her contemporaries. Gainesville, a clean and decent small city, stands a chance. California is a total write-off.
At this morning’s Episcopal Service, the priest added the impeachment hearings to the prayer list, “that justice be done and the…” I have totally forgotten his wording, but in short, that the functioning of our government, with its checks and balances, constitutional safeguards, etc, remain intact through this divisive event.” Roughly. And I found I was praying for justice to be done whether I liked the outcome or not. Some things are bigger than personal tastes and possibly fading convictions.
NYT, trying SO hard to fit the facts on the ground into standard progressive metrics – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/upshot/red-blue-diverging-economies.html
I was thinking about the failure of the 60s revolution, particularly the supposed psychedelic revolution. I read Albion Dreaming by Andy Roberts, a history of LSD in Britain. He points out that a significant proportion of people currently in senior positions in the police, military, government and corporate world, took LSD in the 60s and 70s. All I could think is that does not speak well of LSD.
But if you analyse the psychedelic revolution by the same rules that govern other revolutions, some of the problems become clear. For a revolution to succeed, its effects on society have to be total or nearly so, and it has to be fast. If it doesn’t permeate all through society, or takes too long, the old order can stay intact, adapt and reestablish itself. Like a newly drug-resistant bacterium.
So in order for the psychedelic revolution to succeed, everyone who was going to do it would need to do it very quickly. A couple of weeks, maybe a single summer at most. The other half of the equation is that nearly everyone, all across society would need to take part. There’d have to be as many hallucinogens taken in Coeur d’Alene and Talladega as in Woodstock and Golden Gate Park.
Only then would you get a critical mass of people all rapidly jolted into a new way of seeing the world and a new way of life. You’d also have the minimum number of squares who hadn’t had their minds blown, so few who could act as a reservoir of previous mindsets. I don’t know what the outcome would have been if something like that had been pulled off. But the fact it didn’t go down that way does suggest why the psychedelic revolution didn’t have the results some hoped for.
Will, I’m glad to hear that.
James, at this point I think we’ve flushed that option down the ol’ crapperoo. These days nobody trusts the US government any further than they could throw the Washington Monument, and for good reason. Our best bet, I suspect, is to establish the best relations we can with second-tier powers such as India, focus on defending our near abroad and helping Mexico stabilize itself economically and politically, and leave it at that.
Pygmycory, nope. That’s one of the things that makes the entire charade so pointless. Just as it was legal for Obama to ask the British and Italian governments to help investigate Trump, it was legal for Trump to ask the Ukranian government to help investigate Biden.
Violet, exactly. That’s one of the most obvious ways the Left has fallen into mythic thinking. Do you recall the debate I had with Michael Hughes, the guy who’s running the campaign to use magic spells to get rid of Trump? When I pointed out the vast technical flaws in his working, his response was to insist that the arc of history bends toward justice and that meant — since of course his cause was right and just and true — that he would win anyway. Of course he hasn’t and he won’t.
Steve, it’s really looking that way at this point. Trump’s approval ratings are rising in demographics that the Democrats can’t afford to lose, and he’s within easy reach of winning the crucial swing states even before his campaign has begun. I agree — that’s largely a function of the stunning incompetence of the Democrats in their attempts to oppose him.
Mister N, I get that. Before 2016 I tended to lean Democrat more often than not, and yeah, it was Obama who changed that — more precisely, it was the way that so many of the Democrats I knew bent over backward to praise Obama for exactly the same actions that had sent them into shrieking hysterics when Dubya did them. That kind of over-the-top hypocrisy was the last straw for me. You’re right, though, the whole thing has been painful to watch.
Jim, the Long Descent was going to continue whoever won in 2016, and it’ll continue whoever wins in 2020. That doesn’t change the fact that millions of working class Americans who were being driven to the wall are doing better now — have you taken a look at the increase in manufacturing jobs since 2016, or the decline in working class joblessness more generally? (If not, I’ll let you Google those yourself.) The question was not whether the Long Descent was going to continue — as I noted in my post, it was whether it would be steeply accelerated by a domestic insurgency or outright civil war. That’s the bullet we’ve dodged for the time being, and having dodged it, we have many options that would have been permanently closed if the US (rather than just California) had descended into failed-state conditions over the last three years.
While I agree with your comments about the Hillary Donald show, President Trump absolutely should be impeached, although not for the reasons that Nancy Pelosi is pushing. While lots of people did vote for Trump, it was faith based voting machines and blocking black people from voting in swing states that resulted in his reported win. This sort of malfeasance is a high crime deserving impeachment, but addressing that would have the additional focus on the Congressmembers who confirmed the rigged electors from some of the many states.
Earlier efforts to impeach Reagan (for Iran-Contra), Bush I (for preparing for “Desert Storm” without Congressional approval), Bush the Lesser (many reasons) and de facto President Cheney got exactly zero co-sponsors. http://www.oilempire.us/impeach.html
I had been looking forward to President Hillary, not for gender identity reasons, but because I maintain webpages that detail her environmental and money crimes from a non-right wing perspective and was hoping to get more web traffic during her presidency. http://www.oilempire.us/hillary.html.
My view is the Democratic Party died in Dallas on November 22, 1963. In most countries, when the generals and spies kill the head of state and reverse all of his policies, that is usually called a coup d’etat. What would the USA be today if the legacy of the 1960s had been withdrawal from Vietnam (ordered Oct. 1963), a different view toward the Third World in general, the end of the Cold War (publicly called for throughout 1963)?
As for Trump sending anything or anyone to the Moon, forgetaboutit. Maybe the Chinese might do that, but more likely robots with sampling devices. Although I do like JFK’s offer on Sept. 20, 1963 to convert the Moon race to a joint mission with the Soviets. He made this offer at the UN General Assembly but almost no one in our information age society has ever heard of this. http://www.jfkmoon.org has the text and audio.
None of the above is an honorable choice.
I hope the broad policy directions you outline come to substantial fruition in the coming decade and that you won’t be acknowledging a failed forecast in 2029! The Great Mutation Conjunction in Aquarius seems a very promising sign of these possibilities for the next round of the roaring twenties. The phrase Power to the People! emerged from the Black Panthers in the 60s and is ripe revival in the coming era.
Our soft, sheltered, ludicrously overprivileged elites appear to be in for a rough stretch as they Ghost Dance their way into irrelevance. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On might be an appropriate up tempo anthem. The vast majority of that cohort don’t have a clue how to roll up their sleeves.
Thanks for the Jeffers. This has been a fine series…reminiscent of TADR days.
In our neck of the woods, we’re working on economic relocalization, but the “devil’s bargain” that the Left made with the corporate Right is really getting in the way. I’m involved with a rural food co-op startup. We’re doing it, but it’s hard to get people to show up for meetings, etc. Yeah, there’s the whole bread-and-circuses thing, a world of apparently compelling distractions. The bigger problem though is that most of us work multiple jobs with crazy schedules. It’s good for the company’s bottom line, and we’re getting paid, but there’s very little time or energy left over for anything else.
Two points that I have that are only tangentially related, but are things that I have had on my mind for quite some time now:
1.) If Obama had used his political capital to pass card check (Not that, in retrospect, he would have) things may well have gone differently. A major reason why the Midwest has gone Republican, aside from the reasons listed on this blog, is that labor unions were a key supplier of votes, volunteers, and money in that part of the country. The shot in the arm to labor unions that card check would’ve provided could’ve given the wage class a way to advance their interests without Trump. Of course, outsourcing, and illegal immigration may have proven too large of a hurdle for labor unions to overcome.
Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve, Didn’t.
2.) New York State seems to be traveling down the same road as California is. The reasons why it’s not as far along the road as California is because Blue Collar Democrats remained a viable political force into the 1990s, and because it is the capital of the Investment Class in the United States. Hopefully, the Investment Class in New York can keep things in check, before New York ends up like California.
On the subject of the potential for fascism today, I suspect it will have a lot less elite support than previously. In the 1920 and 30s the ruling class used fascism as a battering ram against an organised and powerful working class. But this is the age of private military companies. Why bother with something as dangerous and unpredictable as fascism when you can hire mercenaries as easily as you can hire a firm of accountants?
I remember that conversation, yes. And I remember Mr. Hughes eerie claim that he was “rolling around on the ground laughing,” imagining a domestic insurgency of well-armed Trump supporters with military training.
That entire exchange was, to my mind, extremely creepy. Who laughs about the thought of troops better prepared than you and yours going to war?
It beggars my imagination that folks don’t grasp that peoples go to war all the time, that many people crave the battlefield, that many young men love war and the passions that it allows them to indulge in. Only some men go to war reluctantly, others scent opportunity, and yet others go eagerly, even hungrily.
The image of him hysterically laughing on the floor about this, rolling about is…unspeakable Perhaps what gives revitalization movements their fangs is that they are stocked mostly by people with a barely repressed doom-eagerness?
JMG, interesting conclusion to the series. Your description of the problems at PG&E is dead on. Your reasoning certainly helps explain why the democrats refuse to come to terms with the loss in 2016 and grapple with why it was their policies led to the loss. I also agree with your overall prescription of what needs to be done to right the ship in the United States and hope we’ve dodged the mortal splendor.
As a life-long Californian, though, I do want to come to the defense of the state to some degree. Much of what you describe in LA and SF is undoubtedly true. My wife was recently talking to a college friend and life-long Bay area resident, and she described how much things have changed in SF during the last 10 years. Our own trips to downtown LA offer an odd mix of homelessness and gentrification side-by-side (we frequent Little Tokyo, which borders skid row). I’m also sympathetic to outmigration because the cost of living here is extraordinarily high and the government as dysfunctional as one-party states usually are. However, California is a very large state and your description does not apply to many areas across the state. I live in Thousand Oaks, a city of 130,000 people, and don’t see any homes with bars and gates here (though I suspect a few may exist), much less every single one. The same can be said for the neighboring communities. The roads, schools, and services here and extending out to neighboring communities are actually quite good. I can point to many other communities throughout the state that fit this description. California has an immense number of problems, and it may become as bad as you describe, but it’s not there yet in many places.
JMG, I guess that explains why I’ve never seen that question asked and answered definitively before. I wish the democrats would turn their attention to building something worthwhile rather than harassing Trump over stuff that isn’t actually illegal.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that (at least according to people I follow on Twitter) the impeachment hearings have been long on bloviating mythos (“Cold War 2.0 ueber alles!) and short on the objective uncovering of facts such hearings are supposed to be. It really does seem as though we have gone from “Whither Democrat Party” to “Wither Democratic Party”.
a university of california instructor actually tweeted the following observation:
“I unironically embrace the bashing of rural Americans. They, as a group, are bad people who have made bad life decisions. Some, I assume are good people. But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid and we should shame people who aren’t pro-city,”
don’t be quite so quick to decide you were wrong about the possibility of something very much like a civil war in this country. sentiments such as these are, i believe, widespread among the leftward leaning and demean and marginalize those who have already reached a pit of despair.
on a related note, please allow me to recommend “the tyranny of virtue” by a skidmore college academic, robert boyers. one of the essays, “willing what cannot be willed” speaks directly to the sort of magical thinking (i hope that’s not a trigger for a druid!) you discuss here. ” it must be true because we want it to be true.” is not a valid political or economic program.
“…and crime was so bad throughout the state that every single house had iron bars on its windows and iron gates to keep its doors from being kicked in…”
That statement isn’t even close to being true. You do very well at identifying the problems of California, but including an out-and-out falsehood in the mix (along with garden-variety hyperbole) derailed my appreciation of this post. If you grossly exaggerated (I will be polite and not say “lied”) about something in an area I’m well acquainted with, how can I trust you when you make extreme assertions about things I have little knowledge about? I have to assume that you are cherry-picking and using hyperbole rather than attempting a rational analysis.
The opening of this essay hit very close to home for me.
I live in California, and have been struggling for some time now to figure out a way out. The state increasingly feels like a prison, and it’s getting worse, not better, all the time. Things here really are every bit as bad as they say. I live in a small city, not LA or San Francisco, thank the gods, but things are bad here too.
You mentioned the homelessness crisis. Yeah, it’s that bad. As in, I don’t want to take my child to the public library, because it’s functionally a daytime homeless shelter. For some reason, the city regularly fails to build an actual daytime homeless shelter, which it presumably could, since it has the money to fund the library. The city parks, meanwhile, serve as the alternate daytime shelter for the naturalistically inclined among the homeless and the fulltime overnight shelter. In the latter capacity they share responsibility with the county jail. It’s apparently common practice for the police to periodically raid the parks, handing out tickets for illegal camping which will, of course, never be paid. The result is that most of the homeless are also periodically treated to taxpayer-funded overnight accommodations in the jail. This is all to say that there is plenty of money for the homeless, provided that it’s routed through the parks, libraries, and prisons. And this is really all to say that there is plenty of California money to support the homeless population, provided that it is done so in the pettiest and most mean-spirited way possible, and the way most likely to negatively impact the regular population.
San Francisco with flowers in her hair, Calfornia dreamin’ on such a winter’s day, I wish they all could be California girls, and all the rest of that boomer pop garbage to the contrary, it’s that mean-spiritedness which I consider the state’s defining feature. Years ago I had a job which required me to make service calls to clients around the United States and Britain. These were not marketing calls, but they came across that way, because most of the clients did not understand the product they had purchased. It was therefore a struggle to get through to someone in charge of the business in question, and talk them through the complicated procedure we needed to go through. I found that, for every region I had to call, there were certain rules I had to follow in order to make the conversation work. When calling the northeast, one had to be straightforward, fast-talking and absolutely confident. If you did that they would work with you. Calling Britain was like the Northeast multiplied by the Northeast; you had to be that much faster, that much more direct– with the caveat that if you presented yourself as an authority figure, the average British person was quick to fall in line. (This does not work with Americans.) The Midwest and the South were easy; talk slowly, smile (they can hear it over the phone), and you half expected to be invited home for pie once the call was done. Appalachia was harder, as Appalachian people are intensely suspicious of authority.
But California was the hardest of all. Every other region had its rule. In California, there seemed to be no rule– the client was very likely to hang up on you for reasons that seemed completely arbitrary. Finally, I realized that this was, in fact, the rule. Californians love any opportunity to exert arbitrary power over other people. In the years I’ve been (stuck) here, I’ve found this to be the case over and over and over. It’s nearly impossible to make friends with Californians. The women are stuck up and entitled. The men are hyper-competitive wanna-be alpha males but with absolutely nothing to back it up. There was a period where I thought I was going crazy. I’d always had an easy time making friends, but now I simply couldn’t. Every interaction with other men felt like constantly battling for supremacy. I felt like there must be something wrong with me. Then I spent a couple of weeks visiting family in New Jersey and Maryland and I realized that, no, it really isn’t me. It’s them. It’s always been them.
And then there’s the “housing crisis.” Except it’s not really a crisis, is it? Because there are a lot of people making an obscene amount of money off of it, and there are no plans to do anything to change it. I work seven days a week, and my wife works part time also, in order to afford to rent a duplex. I have a brother in South Carolina. My rent is twice his mortgage. He has a three bedroom house on half an acre of land. I have another brother in Pennsylvania. He rents his townhouse for 1/4 what I pay here in the Golden State. And again, there are no plans to do anything about this. Well, except that’s not really true, is it? The plans are as follows: 1. Import more immigrants from Mexico to exacerbate the problem and provide the Sanctuary City of Malibu with the nannies and gardeners it needs. 2. Sell overpriced houses to wealthy members of the Chinese Communist Party.
And let’s talk about those Mexican immigrants. Yes, I know, it’s racist to say anything bad about anybody except white people. No, I don’t care. And look, I get it. The Mexican-American War was a monstrous crime. Not a very unusual sort of crime, of course; wars of conquest are quite common, and it’s not like the Indians of the Southwest just gave all that land to the Mexican government out of the goodness of their heart. But, still, a crime, and as an American of largely Irish descent I’ve always been proud of the Saint Patrick’s Batallion of Irish-American soldiers that switched sides during that war. So, yes, a bad thing– but it also happened. And once it happened, and California et al were part of the United States, it was the government of the United States and of the states in question’s responsibility to look after the welfare the citizens of those states. And it really seems to me that if you conquer a piece of land from another people, it’s probably a really bad idea to let those people back in. Especially when those peoples’ cultural roots include an 800 year-long Reconquista. As near as I can tell, Reconquista Round II is coming quickly, with someone like El Chapo taking the place of El Cid. I hope that I’ve found a way out of here for myself and my family by then, because ejercitos de la reconquista tend not to distinguish between one invader and another.
I’ve gone on for so long about this ghastly state that I forget where I was originally going with this. Oh, yes. One last thing, and I think it really does tie into this essay. My wife and I have mentioned to a few people that we are thinking of leaving. The reaction has been stunning. People, especially those who were raised here, simply refuse to believe that conditions might be better elsewhere. They actually become visibly angry at the suggestion that someone might want to get out. How could you leave paradise? Sure, houses and everything else are cheaper east of the Mississippi, but that’s probably because no one makes any money. And it’s always miserably cold and everyone is so backwards and you don’t have this horrid hot Sun blazing down on you like a very hot metaphor all day, every day.
The first time this happened I was very confused. I chalked it up to ignorance. But after some reflection, it’s not just that. It’s something more. It is, in fact, the reaction of a devoted member of a cult. Californians are cultists, the California Dream is their cult, and the idea that anyone might reject it is unimaginable and infuriating. And in that, they represent the essence of what remains of the American Left, shrieking like an abusive parent at a child who tries to create boundaries with them. “How dare you reject everything I’ve done for you!” And like that abusive parent, or that aggrieved cult member, the Californian, the progressive, goes on and on and on to anyone who will listen about how awful their child or their former co-cultist is. That they might pause for a bit of self-reflection and see whether any of their own actions led others to reject them never for a moment enters their minds.
My thought is that Madame Pelosi is if nothing, a pragmatist. Agreeing to move forward with the impeachment inquiry was either her falling on her sword – (it IS their job, whether it helps them win elections or not) or more likely, appearing to fall on her sword to appease the far lefties in the party onboard and keep control of the democratic party itself. Better to lose the presidency in 2020 than to lose control of the DNC forever. It will be interesting to see who gets the Dem nomination.
Your distillation into “what’s at the heart of the flight from reason, the plunge into a wholly mythic world” is most apt.
I wonder how much of this mythic world problem is due to the birth of an electronic matrix wherein most people now live a dream world based on corporate audio visual stimulation that is unmoored from reality but merely facilitates corporate profit. I dropped facebook, recently, and replaced my smart phone for a stupid flip phone that does not order me around. In my area, I see a heathy trend to go back a step in technology (vinyl records, stupid flip phones (we call them “Galapagos phones” because Japan is an island with separate customs) and wherein many of the really intelligent people are angling for how to move to the countryside. John Prine captured this emerging spirit in his song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BofvfVPFbiM: We welcome outsiders here who are willing to work, are humble and can live in a world without guns and drugs
You describe a San Francisco that I do not see. I never see human poop, and rarely dog poop. That’s because I live and work in places where the working class and the middle class live and work. Schools, shops, restaurants. I rarely visit where the extremes meet, like the tall glass towers, or the ****** Tenderloin right next to it.
I also rarely see the tourist traps. But when you ask for reports of San Francisco, you hear about the tourist traps, the tall glass towers and the shitty Tenderloin. Those, to me, a citizen of the City, are argued images, not lived reality.
The view from afar is not the view from within. Be advised.
The Trump haters that I know seem mostly bothered by what they perceive as his oafishness, coarseness and vulgarity, etc – he is clearly not one of the good people that they imagine themselves to be and they react viscerally to that. I rarely hear a detailed or cogent analysis of his policy prescriptions, although that is partly because I try to avoid talking politics with most people these days.
I understand your argument – that rejection of Trump is a symptom of a deeper fear of progress shuddering to a slow halt – but how do you see this fear working at different levels of people’s awareness? I am guessing most people would not be consciously aware of this bigger fear, but it is taking them along for the ride anyway? The original Ghost Dancers must have had a much more conscious understanding of the risk to their way of life. I wonder if this means that, as the realization of progress turning into de-progress becomes more undeniable and so more conscious, will people’s reaction to it become more intense or less? I suspect blame and anger, everyone’s favorite go-tos to avoid facing fear, will be a big part of of our future.
I also find that astounding, Violet, and I think your entire comment here has knocked the ball out of the ballpark. I agree entirely that politics and war are–and always have been–sisters, and by their very nature will always be pursued in one and the same manner.
As wise Tom Paine remarked at the beginning of his Common Sense, “Government even its best state is a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.” (He distinguishes between government and society here, saying “Society in every state is a blessing.”)
One of the stupidest decisions of the current democratic party is its myopic rejection and undermining of Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for president. They find themselves out of power in the executive branch and the cosmos hands them a nearly perfect candidate to defeat Donald Trump and they throw a hissy fit because Tulsi dared to cross queen Hillary and won’t support the bipartisan consensus on perpetual war. If they spent just 10% of the effort they have put in to the failed Russiagate Hoax and the unraveling Ukraingate fiasco backing Gabbard with party resources and honest polls they might actually have a chance of beating the Orange Man. But they seem to prefer tilting at windmills.
Thought you might all enjoy the essay linked below – the names will be familiar to readers of this blog!
You have been an exemplar of earlier traditions of learning and their determined application, not least the study of Classical traditions. Study, communal study, might again help defend minds from ‘flights from reason’ and inform both our mythic and pragmatic selves.
Britons share with Americans a similar past of educated working class solidarity.
In this essay by Edith Hill I found much that I recognise. It is the kind of ‘progress’ I would like to contribute to, ‘on the way down’ as well as ‘on the way up. I live not far from where a young miner was killed by a fall of coal in 1899 with a copy of Thucydides in his pocket. When young I worked with some ‘Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists’ in the original setting for the novel.
Quote (with gaps) Classical materials have been present in the identity construction and psychological experience of substantial groups of working-class Britons. Dissenting academies, Nonconformist Sunday schools and Methodist preacher-training initiatives […] Mutual Improvement Societies, adult schools, Mechanics’ Institutes, university extension schemes, the Workers’ Educational Association, trade unions and the early Labour Colleges. [ …] Museums in Britain were visited by a far wider class cross-section than their Continental equivalents, [ …] art and archaeology somehow belonged to the nation rather than exclusively to wealthy individuals; free admission was customary.
I’m not sure it is empty ritual though. The Left organizes effectively, and this mass hysteria creates the morale environment for sober actors to hobble key parts of Trump’s agenda.
Everyone assumes they are the logical ones, so the question is: how does one back away from crazy?
The social justice zeitgeist can’t die fast enough but I have to be prepared to deal with being The Great Satan until I die. Just not… looking forward to the rest of my life.
I just stumbled across a very interesting 1935 essay by Bertold Brecht entitled “Fascism is the True Face of Capitalism” which has some bearing on the themes of these last few weeks: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52530.htm
Brecht was a hardcore Marxist of course, and a very sharp fellow. His opening sentence grabbed me right away: “The truth must be spoken with a view to the results it will produce in the sphere of action.” And the potent closing: “If anyone wishes to describe Fascism and war, great disasters which are not natural catastrophes, he must do so in terms of a practical truth. He must show that these disasters are launched by the possessing classes to control the vast numbers of workers who do not own the means of production. If one wishes successfully to write the truth about evil conditions, one must write it so that its avertible causes can be identified. If the preventable causes can be identified, the evil conditions can be fought.
On another note, the same insistence that reality must conform to our ethical or moral sensibilities seems to be invading science as well. A very recent issue of Science News (11/9/2019) interviewed a plant biologist named Lincoln Taiz on the question of whether plants might have feelings or consciousness. He claims that they cannot because they lack the the sort of nervous system found in animals. So far, so good …
But he finishes up his argument by asking us to imagine a forest fire: “It’s unbearable to even consider the idea that plants would be sentient, conscious beings aware of the fact that they’re being burned to ashes, watching their saplings die in front of them.”
Since when should any hypothesis be ruled out in science because “it’s unbearable even to consider it”?
Thank you for another interesting post.
Your transition towards a more optimistic perspective as Trump has enacted a number of nationalistic policies aimed towards helping the working class has left me thinking about something that’s been gnawing at the back of my mind for a long time now.
I appreciate how you divide the secular theology of progress into two separate branches; an optimistic advancement into the stars and an all encompassing Apocalypse. I have always thought that liberals were inherently more prone to the former while conservatives leaned towards the latter. If you know a guy who has sixteen guns and ten years of spam odds are he votes red. Likewise, if you know a guy who thinks it is only a matter of time before we solve world hunger and everyone receive universal basic income so we can be artists and writers while robots do all the work for us, odds are he votes blue. If this general tendency is correct, do you think the more apocalyptic style of thinking is better able to handle the long descent? It seems like Republicans can have conversations about things deteriorating much more easily than Democrats. In my experience conservatives are just more comfortable with pessimism, since their ideology is based on the belief that progress is conditional on us staying true to past values, whereas liberals seem to think that progress is more a matter of destiny and any who stand in its way are evil and doomed to fail.
This seems to be playing out in real time with the way liberals and conservatives interact with the gun issue. We have a lot of people who hate Trump for refusing to disarm them, and consequently like to promote civil unrest. Conversely, we have a bunch of conservatives who believe that civil unrest is a growing danger and are consequently buying guns. So whereas the liberal side seems to think if they just declare the righteous truth long enough they are destined to win, the conservatives on the other hand seem to actually be preparing for a real confrontation… the kind of confrontation you would expect if you were a pessimist and would think impossible if you were an optimist.
If this is true, it seems like its only a matter of time before we have another Ghost Dance where once again one side thinks it cannot loose for some metaphysical reason, and the other side is armed to the teeth with very physical weapons. Its not hard to see who would win in that fight.
So to get to the point, you used to believe that America’s future consisted of domestic insurgency and possibly civil war. Given the way Trump has changed the situation, what do you think are the odds that we have a literal Ghost Dance re-enactment? What are the odds that this things gets really bloody with one side convinced it must win and utterly unarmed, and the other side armed to the teeth and out of patience (perhaps in the aftermath of the 2020 election)?
JMG, your prediction didn’t directly fail, because a second American Civil War was a possibility, but not a secure thing. Of course, at the time of that prediction, it wasn’t easy to imagine someone like Trump arriving, winning an election, and as one of his first actions in office, deep-sixing some free-trade agreements. That said, although for now, the possibility of armed conflict has been averted, but that depends what comes after Trump.
Ever-lucid and perceptive Archdruid, you have really skewered my home state. Ah, California, land of dreams, land of accomplishments, land of so many different species and biomes and ideas! As a 3rd/4th/5th generation Californian (depends on which branch of the family tree you look at; my paternal named ancestor gives me 4th-gen status), I am loathe to summarily dismiss California as a place to live, even though my brother and my sister and my parents all have/did. Adapting in place, with careful consideration to location and to lifestyle and to societal connections, seems to be working well enough, for now, for me in my first year of retirement. But the neighbors across the street are likely moving to Texas, and my wife and I, both fortunate beneficiaries of having had good salaried jobs towards the ends of our careers, are keeping our options open.
The incredible agricultural productivity of the Central Valley where I grew up is not going to quickly vanish. The intellectual ferment that gave us or attracted to us the aerospace industry, the entertainment industry, the computer & software industry, and a whole host of thinkers and artists and engineers from John Muir to Paramahansa Yogananda to Kelly Johnson to Alan Watts to Burt Rutan to Steve Jobs to, for gosh sakes, Robinson Jeffers, still resides here. Yet you are right about the decline. Great things and great delusions have come out of my home state, as well as many mundane and ordinary but still quite admirable things. A beautiful and flawed and inspiring and cruel place, California.
The recent resignation of my House of Representatives Congressperson Katie Hill is California at its wacky epitome. Proclaiming herself to be an openly-bisexual Democratic-party person who owns guns, she swept aside the previous moderate Republican Congressman only to have lurid photos scatter across the wide expanse of the internet showing, among many other incriminating things, her stoned grin, gesturing with a well-used bong, in full-frontal nudity (she obviously knew she was being photographed), displaying a tattoo in an intimate region that suggested affiliation with neo-Nazis. Wow, it’s hard to make stuff up that’s more lurid than what we often see here in Cali.
I think little microclimates (islands) of sanity will continue to survive here in my state for many decades to come, but the failed-state policies coming out of Sacramento and our county governments will make it increasingly difficult for the more-sane to survive or remain here. I might hope that those islands will retain enough reasonableness for long enough to repopulate the state with ideas that work once the tide of unreason ebbs, but I am not attached to nor convinced of that outcome. Ahh…
As always, my thanks for your gracious sharing of your thoughts and observations within this remarkable forum.
At the risk of being too snarky, I’d like to say that this series of posts has helped clear up my confusion on one point: why otherwise intelligent people have been so absolutely certain that a real-estate mogul with several decades of experience doesn’t know how to keep his hands clean.
Wow, I was surprised to learn that crime is so bad in California that every house has bars on all the windows and doors! Surprised because that is patently untrue, as a quick tour on GoogleEarth street view would show you.
In my little town in far northwest California, I leave my windows open all summer and often leave my door unlocked. I know there are places in the state that are high-crime areas, but California is a BIG state.
I was surprised by your hyperbole. Come visit sometime. It’s actually pretty nice!
Oz, I didn’t say that Trump supports all the policies I outlined. He does support trade barriers, which is a step in the right direction, and he’s made several attempts to try to get the US out of its Forever War in the Middle East, though of course he’s having to buck the entire US establishment and so hasn’t accomplished much. I’d argue, though, that the defeat of the bipartisan policy consensus he overturned has opened a window of opportunity in which a wide range of new possibilities can be considered — which is why it’s crucial to push for the ideas you and I both support, in order to try to build a constituency for them while that window remains open.
Pygmycory, thanks for this. That’s sad to hear.
Ottergirl, a very sensible move! Sara and I went to Boise once for an Odd Fellows convention back when I was active in that fraternal order, and it seemed like a very pleasant town — much more so, certainly, than Seattle.
Churrundo, I could spend an essay on each of those topics, you know, and I have a lot of other comments to respond to. Did you have anything in particular to say about this week’s post?
Roger, well, we’ll see. If the transfer of wealth away from the coastal bubbles continues, as it may well, the working classes will be able to roll their eyes and ignore the increasingly shrill diatribes of the downwardly mobile (former) managerial class.
E Hu, the link didn’t come through — could you post it as text? I’m delighted to see this — remember Gandhi’s famous comment? “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they argue with you, then you win.” If they’re already to the arguing stage, it’s practically time to break out the champagne. A good, old vintage… 😉
Wesley, of course it was more nuanced, but I remain convinced that what put Trump over the top and made a long-shot candidacy into an election win was the support of a great many working class people who saw Trump as their last hope short of picking up a gun and launching an insurgency. I may be wrong, but that’s my take on it.
Lunchbox, that’s one of the many reasons why it’s great to be a Druid. We’ve got the solstices and equinoxes, so there’s a holiday every three months.
Patricia M, delighted to hear it. That’s exactly the spirit we need more of — let justice be done no matter who ends up getting whacked the hardest. There’s plenty of blame to go around, after all.
Yorkshire, that was part of it, sure. The rest of it — well, you know, I dropped acid myself a number of times back in the day, and it’s overrated. People have this embarrassing habit of thinking that hallucinating about bright pink spiders tap-dancing on the Moon, or what have you, is going to change the world, and they’re always being caught short by the fact that it doesn’t do anything of the kind; it just means you have some colorful stories you can use to bore people younger than you are.
Regarding economic relocalization: I think this is a major point that my generation (I’m a Millennial) largely doesn’t get. I can’t help but think that if two boom generations had not given their money to the huge monopolies our time (Walmart, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Ikea, Uber, etc.) that these companies would not be giants that undercut unions and bribe politicians and everything else.
How do you suggest talking about this to friends, or is that still impossible at this point in the delusion? When I make comments like “I’d rather pay a neighborhood tailor to make clothes that actually fit me” or “I’d rather hire a carpenter or furniture maker than spend all day in a dystopian Ikea only to bring a box full of particle board and plastic nubs home and have to put it together myself (and watch it break next week)” I get the thousand-mile stare. If my friends reply, it’s usually along the lines of “Well, I’m not a fancy pants rich person like you, so I have to spend my money on a monopoly that treats its workers poorly, etc.” But as I understand it, one wouldn’t have to be rich to patronize their neighborhood small businesses.
Long-time reader, first time commenter.
Really love this blog and its predecessor, but one thing that does bother me is your consistent conflation of liberals and the left. They are not the same thing, and I suspect you know it. For those who don’t, here’s a pithy summary:
Liberals think in terms of the actions and identify of individuals (identity politics), while the Left thinks in terms of structures/institutions and class (class politics). Liberals are fine with high levels of income and wealth inequality, so long as (a) the economic strata reflects demographic strata (i.e. the ruling class is 50% female, 13% black, 7% latinx, 9% LGBTQ, etc.), (b) all play be “the rules” as determined more-or-less democratically, and (c) the masses aren’t *completely* impoverished. Leftists are not OK with high levels of inequality or a ruling class in general, regardless of the demographic makeup of that ruling class (though most, but not all, leftists have a problem with that, too), and whether or not they came to power following “the rules.” Rightists (or maybe “Big C” Conservatives) are fine with a largely white, male, cisgendered, heterosexual Ruling Class that lords it over the impoverished masses and makes the rules for them to follow.
Liberals used to be found in either party and differed by degree, rather than principle, on social and economic issues, often driven by the cultural proclivities of their cities/states/regions. Elizabeth Warren, for example, has always been a Liberal, but was until the 1990s a Republican–perfectly normal for a upper-middle class professional in the Northeast. Leftists, on the other hand, and to the extent they involved themselves in party politics at all, have almost always been Democrats, though the party elites have always been hostile to them. This is perhaps why Bernie Sanders is officially an Independent though he caucuses with, and runs for President as, a Democrat. Party elites and their allies (all Liberals) are doing their best to undermine that effort (and those of others like Bernie); because they recognize their class interests, which his election would expose and, presumably (hopefully?), undermine. But–they never talk about class interests, only about identity (i.e. Bernie is too old, white, male, etc.), because to do so would give up the divide-and-conquer game they play to keep the Left from power.
I would argue that the leadership of either party is increasingly not-Liberal; that is, they no longer place primacy on “the rules” (or “norms,” etc.) embodied in our government institutions, but instead view them solely as tools to further their own individual and class interests. I would also argue that the Republicans are further along on that trajectory (which is why almost all Liberals are now Democrats) but that the election of Trump [a Rightist, at least most of the time] has solidified and intensified Democrats along that same path. In other words, Trump is hastening the demise of Liberals everywhere, opening up space for both leftists and rightists in the political discourse.
Anyway, just a long-winded way of saying that liberals are not the left, I suspect you know it (heck, I probably learned this, at least in part, from reading your blogs), and wish you would acknowledge and deploy those terms accordingly. Perhaps you think otherwise, happy to learn why.
Re “rolling and the ground laughing” at the thought of armed Trump supporters
I think the reason may well be that Mr. Hughes thinks of Trump supporters the way many commenters on PoliticalWire seem to think of them: as uneducated, overweight, beergut-toting, redneck hillbillies with missing teeth and a trailer-home. The thought of such people fighting against the military in armed rebellion seems ridiculous.
Of course, the reality is far different, as such an insurgency would no doubt forcefully illustrate.
The class disdain of the Left is, for lack of a better word, deplorable. And idiotic.
Just a reminder that before Donald Trump was much more than a twinkle in the Republicans’ eye(s) I read that the Republicans would win the last election and also the next one because of a definite pattern to presidential wins over a long period of time. You can all stay home and see if it still comes true.
On another point the idea of making America great again seems to bring forth much froth. I wonder what about America’s past was great and if it is indeed worth replicating?
This is an interesting trifecta of posts, John. Thank you and I especially enjoyed Violet’s post.
pygmycory – From what I’ve heard (mostly NPR) the alleged “crime” committed by Trump re: Ukraine consists of using the power of his office to request help in getting elected from a foreign government. Having failed to establish that he colluded with Russians to get elected in 2016, they claim that pushing to have the Bidens investigated by Ukrainian authorities after the 2016 election was all about getting help to win the 2020 election! To turn your question inside out, “does being a plausible political candidate in a future election make one immune to investigation by a foreign country?” (I think not!)
The ironic thing about the whole affair is that I now know a lot more about Hunter Biden’s business, and Joe Biden’s “quid pro quo” re: getting a Ukrainain prosecutor fired, than I would have otherwise. As for the claim that “all of our European allies also wanted him fired”, well, he probably knew where a lot of closets hid skeletons, not just the Bidens’. And if the US government put forth a policy, I’m sure they had ways of encouraging the Euro allies to fall into line.
Mark, every president the US has had in the last two centuries could have been impeached for election fraud. Have you read Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot, with its frank discussion of the bidding war between the Kennedy machine and the Nixon campaign in 1960 to buy votes in swing states? As for “none of the above,” of course it’s an option, but it’s rarely the option that interests me.
Jim, it wasn’t a prediction, it was a proposal. I hope ideas like the ones I sketched out get some traction, but we’ll see.
Stacy, understood. These days, everybody I know who’s actually prospering is self-employed; working for someone else may not be viable in the Long Descent.
Waffles, two good points, I’ve only been in New York City twice, but both times what struck me more than anything else is how rundown it is — an aging, crumbling, decrepit city long past its best days. I’m not sure you can count on the investment class!
Yorkshire, true enough, which is why fascism remains a tiny fringe movement on the one hand, and an imaginary enemy for the left to scream at on the other.
Violet, I think it was just that a heavily armed insurgency has no place in Hughes’ mythic world. Whatever equivalent of Don Quixote has provided him with his imaginary reality is one where the Good Guys are guaranteed to win every round and the Bad Guys can do nothing but bluster and threaten, and then lose. The thought that he might someday be set upon by a band of right-wing thugs and beaten to death right there on the sidewalk — the kind of thing that happens all the time in societies shredded by the kind of partisan strife he’s trying to whip up — is literally inconceivable to him; it’s not in the story! Soubi doesn’t have to go through that!
Ryan, California is indeed a very big state, and I’m glad to hear that Thousand Oaks doesn’t have the same problems as so many other areas. The barred windows and gated doors thing was something I saw constantly in the places I’ve been — suburban Sacramento, the greater SF and LA areas, and San Diego; it was something I’d literally never seen elsewhere — and I spent most of two decades living in rough inner city neighborhoods in Seattle — and it rattled me to see that in so many places.
Pygmycory, the problem the Democrats face is that the only thing that holds them together at this point is hatred of Trump and everything he stands for. That’s why they haven’t been able to put forward any significant legislative program even with a substantial majority in the House; their party is riven into three or four quarreling fragments that agree on next to nothing other than “Orange Man Bad!”
Mister N, that’s what I’ve read. It’s been fun to watch the spin doctors on both sides frantically trying to claim a win.
Jaymo, the reason there won’t be a civil war at this point is that one side is for all practical purposes unarmed. To quote a rude but not entirely inaccurate comment from the right, “It’s not going to be much of a fight when one side owns a trillion rounds of ammunition and the other side can’t figure out which bathroom to use.” Thanks for the recommendation — I’ll take a look at it as time permits.
Eric, as I noted in response to Ryan above, I was commenting on what I’ve seen in four areas of California on repeated visit.. Obviously I haven’t walked down every street in the state — but I’ve seen a lot of suburban and urban areas where there are bars on every window and gates on every door, and they’re the kind of areas that wouldn’t have those anywhere else I’ve lived. I was rattled by the sight, I admit.
Anonymous, thanks for this. That sounds like the California I saw on repeated visits.
Caryn, that seems entirely possible to me. There was an article in The Hill a little while back arguing that she’d agreed to go ahead with the impeachment charade soley because that was the only way to get the people yelling about it to shut up, and once it’s failed, maybe they can pass a bill or two to deal with some of this country’s many problems.
Your Kittenship, thanks for this!
Mots, I’m convinced that that’s the wave of the future. We’ve taken technology long past the point of diminishing returns into the point of negative returns, and something like the setting of my novel Retrotopia appeals to a lot of people these days.
Paradoctor, well, here’s a convenient map of street feces in SF, from your local newspaper. Here’s what the SF Gate (in the link) has to say:
“Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s ever braved a San Francisco sidewalk, the city had the highest incidents of feces complaints in 2017 compared to New York and Chicago. Nearly 21,000 poop sightings were reported in San Francisco in 2017 — about 10 times New York City’s poop-sighting total and more than 20 times that of Chicago. On average, there are 455.89 complaints filed for each of San Francisco’s 47 square miles.”
456 human turds per square mile of San Francisco sidewalks — that’s what the local newspaper says. Are you sure you’re paying attention where you step?
Mark, good. I expect to see two things as we go further down the same road. The first is people bailing out of the religion of progress, and accepting a less delusional notion of history than the claim that the universe is set up to move toward whatever they favor. The second is people bailing out of reality into increasingly baroque belief systems that allow them to preserve the fantasy of progress at all costs. Yes, it could get very troubling.
Clay, as far as I know, Gabbard is a person of integrity. It’s becoming increasingly clear that government on both sides of the aisle has been an immensely profitable kleptocratic scam for some decades now. If Gabbard became president, not only would the gravy train end, but a lot of people might face prosecution for corrupt practices and racketeering. Mind you,. I think she’s doing a brilliant job of positioning herself to be the inevitable candidate in 2024, once the current Democratic elite crashes and burns.
Phil H, thanks for this!
Nothing Special, the rest of your life may be less unpleasant than you think. Based on historical parallels, I think we’re facing a cascade of major transformations over the next five to ten years that will leave little remaining of the current social justice industry. Still, we’ll see.
Jim, I confess that looks to me like a very convenient justification for propaganda…
Robert, oh dear gods. That’s priceless — and clueless. Thank you.
Stephen, during the long years of expansion from the beginning of the industrial revolution to its peak around the year 2000, liberals had the advantage over conservatives because progress, however heavily mythologized, was enough of a reality to make many people assume that it was a permanent reality. Now that we’ve tipped over from progress to decline, conservatives have a comparable advantage and it’s the liberals who keep getting blindsided. As for a revitalization movement, there’s a risk it could turn out that ugly, but I’m hoping that what we see instead is something like the 2012 prophecy of recent and embarrassing memory, or the Millerite “Great Disappointment” of 1844 — equally shattering but less bloody.
JMG wrote “the Long Descent was going to continue whoever won in 2016, and it’ll continue whoever wins in 2020. That doesn’t change the fact that millions of working class Americans who were being driven to the wall are doing better now.”
But is correlation equal to causation here? Presidents get blamed when the economy goes south on their watch, and they get credit when the economy does well on their watch, even though their policies often have little to do with it. I.e., President Clinton taking credit for the nineties tech boom, which had almost nothing to do with his economic policies.
So, what policies has Trump created to supposedly goose the manufacturing economy?
His big tax cut has goosed short term spending, but at the expense of medium term tax rate hikes for the average taxpayer, and a ballooning jump in the national debt.
His deregulation policies freed some businesses to make greater profits, but they do so by ignoring the long term social and environmental costs that much (certainly not all) deregulation brings. I think it’s fair to say that his most significant deregulation efforts are at the expense of the environment.
His tariff wars have boosted some areas of manufacturing, while slamming agriculture and some other industries. Was this a net gain?
The economy is nearing its eleventh year of growth, seven of which occurred before 2016. So does Trump get credit for the 3-year continuation, or would it have occurred anyway?
You may be right that Trump’s policies have eased the financial burden for the working class (excluding many farmers, for sure). But it’s far from a slam-dunk case, in my view.
Booklover, thank you, but I prefer to watch the people who insist I never admit I’m wrong as they squirm… 😉
Bryan, thanks for this. In the long run, I think California has a lot going for it, but it’s made many of the same mistakes that turned the economic heartland of the US into a Rust Belt, and so I expect California and the west coast generally to be the Rust Belt of the 21st century, a bleak landscape of severe economic contraction, half-depopulated cities, and pervasive decline. Just as some of the Rust Belt has begun to turn a corner in recent years, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if California becomes a really nice place to live again by 2080 or so.
Adam, I’ve spent time in Sacramento, the Bay area, Fresno, greater LA, and San Diego. As I noted to Ryan above, it’s a big state, and I don’t claim to have been to all of it — but based on what I’ve seen of it, no, it’s not a nice place. The great majority of the US is considerably more pleasant.
CS2, you can’t do it with words. Can you find at least some local businesses to patronize, and some regional or domestic producers to buy products from? Personal example is the best way to start. Doing things yourself is another good way to begin to get the word out.
SB, when the Left as you’ve defined it is willing to distance itself far enough from the liberals that they don’t simply run bleating after the current Democratic flunkey du jour in each general election, I’ll gladly start differentiating them. Until then, as a political force, the non-liberal Left in the US is an irrelevance.
JillN, interesting. Do you recall who wrote that?
Jim, er, did you notice that I specifically mentioned the increase in manufacturing jobs and the decline in unemployment in the working classes, particularly among people of color? That was specifically what I was talking about, you know — and if you Google those stats and compare how they were doing before Trump’s policies took effect and how they performed afterwards, the difference is pretty marked. If you want to argue with what I’m saying, by all means, but please do notice what I’m saying and don’t try to act as though I was talking about something else…
I was thinking of defending my native state, but on second thought–California is horrible in every way. Don’t even think of moving here. If you have moved here, leave soon. Don’t forget, the Big One could come any minute–not to mention the whole state sliding into the Pacific (Long ago prediction from someone on Art Bell radio show). The cities are bad enough, but don’t head for the hills. Bigfoot roams the woodlands and the only reason there are fewer homeless in the country is that coyotes eat them. Mountain lions too, and bears.
On a more serious note–I have noticed that some voices are suggesting approaches to the problems of homelessness that might fall into the dread category of “a step backwards.” There is talk of new involuntary commitment laws for the intractably mentally ill. A recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee suggested that a return to such accommodations as Single Room Occupancy hotels might be a way to house those who are not ready for or interested in houses or apartments. A SRO hotel would provide safe, clean bedrooms with shared kitchen and bathing facilities. Even if they were as bad as the old school ‘flop houses’ that were mostly torn down during the heyday of urban redevelopment, it would be better than camping under the freeway or along the river. Cities that are not in the throes of gentrification often have vacant hotels in the older part of town that are vacant and could be refitted at much less expense than new construction. But Mental hospitals and SROs are so old school–they can’t be advertised as “progress.”
JMG–I don’t suppose you have any comment on recent implosion of ADF? Details, such as they are, on The Wild Hunt.
Re: your recommendation of “Dark Side of Camelot,” I recommend this review:
The Posthumous Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Written by James DiEugenio
In summary, there is a lot of fiction pretending to be fact in that tome. The author’s career has mostly consisted of being a way for high ups with insecurity clearances (a common subspecies inside the Outer Beltway) to leak material of varying accuracy.
It wasn’t election fraud that motivated the generals and CIA to remove JFK from office. It was his refusal to go along with endless warfare.
My bigger point about impeachment is the sanctimonious Democrats refused to impeach Raygun, the Bushes, Cheney for a variety of war crimes. Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney each introduced impeachment resolutions against Bush the Lesser and the Democratic Party arranged their involuntary exits from Congress.
Perhaps Tulsi Gabbard is sincere in her peace advocacy, but there’s no power base behind her to get her into the White House. I’m also concerned about her background but have not looked deeply into the claims and counter claims. She’s young enough we will probably hear from her again in 2024, assuming (which I do) that the ritual of “election” remains useful to our overlords.
Meanwhile David Hughes has just released a new report on the current state of fracking for Post Carbon Institute. The EIA says that the Trump administration increased fracking for oil (TX, ND) and gas (PA, CO, other states) which has been the main thing, from my perspective, that has kept some of the illusion of economic growth going. Three years ago I said Trump would get to be in office for the fracking downslope. Now it looks unlikely unless he gets re-elected. Either way, if the next economic tsunami wave is sooner rather than later it will be easy to pin the blame on him. I haven’t heard any Democratic politicos hint at this in public but I suspect their brighter apparatchiks are thinking about it in private.
So would this be a fair, if rough, summary ?
The flight from reason, into mythic thinking, is a response to the cognitive dissonance experienced by glimpsing the fact that neoliberal policies have done a lot of damage and don’t live up to their billing. Embracing myth keeps people from having to face the reality that they were wrong, at least for a while.
If that was a reasonable summary, what event(s) might trigger a return to reason? Do we have to wait for them to figure it out? I expect if Trump wins reelection a lot of people will double down on the mythic thinking. This could be a long bumby journey.
this week’s essay leads me to raise a point with you that has puzzled me in your writing for about a year now. I agree with your analyses of how and why Trump was elected, starting with your predictions about a year before it happened. However, it seems to me that Trump:
(i) has accomplished less than nothing on immigration. Mass illegal immigration is a lot worse now than it was under Obama and the Wall is a such a joke that he resorted to trying to get Mexico to enforce the border, which they have no inclination to do other than to create sufficient photo-ops for Trump to con his base and back down on the tariff threats that he plainly never intended to implement.
Grade: zero (or negative)
(ii) has had only limited success in stopping the stupid wars, but admittedly he seems to have avoided starting any new ones
(iii) did a few early things on trade (eg. TPP) but the China policy is forcing US companies to move jobs to eg. Vietnam, not back to the States. However, I admit that unlike immigration, his heart seems to be in it (he rants about trade in interviews as far back as the ‘80s)
Benefits from (ii) and (iii) will have no staying power if he continues to fail utterly on (i). Since he is now raising huge $$$ from corporates and all the usual billionaires etc, I don’t think this failure is accidental. I read from an observer of the early days of his campaign that he originally hadn’t campaigned so hard on immigration but found that just the mention of it at rallies brought a huge response from crowds. So he adaptively tuned his message to what the crowd wanted, but unlike trade, he didn’t personally really care about immigration. This explains why, once elected, he forgot about the Wall entirely for 2 years and then, when the base started complaining, he adopted a series of empty gestures and blamed Congress for not letting him do anything when the plain fact is that as president he can simply order the military to close the border.
His total unwillingness to do anything at all that will actually work is the give-away here. Consider his recent tweet in which he claims that many DACA recipients are hardened criminals and then … promises to let them stay! This now-customary double-talk lead Ann Coulter to suggest that fine, they can stay but he must go https://twitter.com/AnnCoulter/status/1194330911321579524
Which brings me to your “sustained and thoughtful national conversation about how many immigrants we can afford”
This seems tentative in light of your trenchant observations of the catastrophic impact of immigration on, lets say, “the 80%” who don’t get the benefit of maids and pool boys but do get replaced en-mass by (e.g.) H1B Indians that Trump has been enthusiastically importing.
The phrasing “how many we can afford” correctly implies that immigrants are a net cost, which has been true for many decades in all Western countries. Western elites go to extreme lengths to avoid confronting this simple fact. In the UK, a tiny island with virtually no natural resources and widespread poverty, criticism of the ongoing flood of immigration is treated as a thought-crime. In Sweden, the government is in total denial about the tidal wave of bombings (100+ so far this year)
Since no country on the planet actually needs more people, Western elite justifications for immigration are necessarily a mishmash of bogus claims, non-sequiturs and mendacity.
But underlying the entire “conversation”, even amongst those arguing for an immigration moratorium, is a very strange notion that mass immigration is somehow a normal or natural state for a nation to be in. A useful conversation could start with the observation that massive flows of people are inherently destabilising and unsustainable.
@ David BTL
“The class disdain of the Left is, for lack of a better word, deplorable. And idiotic.” Now that’s something we can agree on completely. 😉
To pursue a side thread – is it time for the war bands from south of the border to start spreading more seriously into southern California as the state fails? As opportunities for a normal life fade there, along with opportunities for the poor to escape, it would seem likely more may choose other paths?
One thing about the upcoming elections is who runs and who wins. If the Democrats decide to make it a 2016 rematch, and Mrs. Clinton wins, it will be very, very hard to convince Mr. Trump’s voters that it wasn’t fraud.
Two root assumptions you should know, if a Democrat, are that any state that has all voting by mail is inherently fraudulent. Those states will never be accepted as accurate vote-counts. As you tally your EC vote counts, that’s well worth bearing in mind. Any state that does not require state issued photo id to vote has inherently fraudulent results. Those states will also not be accepted as accurate vote counts.
Given those two stipulations, Mr. Trump’s base will be more likely to accept a win from Ms. Gabbard, or from other candidates excepting Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden, as legitimate. They may even accept Mr. Sanders. (Mr. Biden is tarred with the Clinton/Bush/Obama brush.) However, those two groups of states are, and have been for a long time, considered to be hotbeds of Democratic vote fraud, and the risk of rejection of voting results by a significant portion of the country increases as the results rely on those states EC votes. If it’s at the point where their results being flipped would change the election results, a lot of folks will consider the results invalid.
What happens next of course depends on how well the winner respects the losing side of the population.
As far as I know, a great many Democrat voters believe that states which require state-issued photo id to vote are hotbeds of Republican vote defraudment, where likely D voters are turned away for improper identification, so this isn’t a “this side are angels and that demons” point. Just, be aware, you need to not only win, you need to win the numbers outside of those two groups of states, in order to be regarded as having actually won by the opposing party. If you don’t care about the appearance of legitimacy or the results of the appearance of lack of legitimacy, why then, disregard this.
However it goes, this will be an interesting year, and I’d recommend planning to be able to hunker down or bug out for a couple weeks in early November. Which does point out the wisdom of holding elections in late autumn, too cold to riot for long!
I’m having massive fun watching the greatest reality tv show on earth from the third party lines.
Ottergirl, if y’all are interested in third parties here in Idaho, let me know! We’re planning a debate in your hometown for our primary candidates.
As always, your writing is enjoyable and compelling, JMG, even if I don’t agree with everything 🙂 Others have made similar points to the one I’d like to share, but I want to add my voice—I agree with the basic premise of this series of posts, and the comparison of our culture’s loss of the ability to reason with Quixote is an apt one. I’m not sure, though, that you’ve quite connected the causal dots to Trump’s victory.
Perhaps it’s because of the line of work that I’m in, but the overwhelming number of Trump supporters I know personally are the very elites you’re describing. Some are self-made millionaires, some have last names that have many generations worth of wealth and status behind them… most of them own waterfront homes that cost more than I’ll make in three lifetimes. I bring this up to explain why I have a difficult time believing that the story of Trump is the story of working class folks who’d had enough of neoliberal economics (though I agree that the “bipartisan consensus” has been devastating to them). Economics plays a part here, no doubt, but there are other forces at work and other narratives in play. I don’t think we’ll be able to get a good grasp on just what happened/what is happening without some historical distance to give us perspective, but I don’t think the “Hillbilly Elegy” account gives us an accurate picture of the events of our times.
John, I don’t remember who wrote about the succession of presidents and nor do I remember where I read it. Normally I write these things down as I have so much trivia floating about in my head, however I have remembered it out of interest. Just as I remember someone in the 70s writing that Australia would have a terrible drought and it would break on 14th November, 2019. And for those doubting Thomases I would just like to say it is 14th November for another 13.5 hours yet.
Not much. Your predictions sound reasonable. I just feel that those loudest and most problematic expressions of the modern left, which you criticize quite well, are being critiziced and are being left trascended, at least in the circles I frequent. This is mostly due to the reality check that the Trump presidency meant, if you ask me.
Full disclosure, I am a very insecure person who based a lot of my ideology on your work, but I am growing increasingly distant on a number of points you make. Mainly, I find most of your takes on SJWs to be somewhat reactionary. I believe there is a distance between the core of the modern left and the core of your perception of it. Around 2014-16 I would agree fully, but I have found the culture to grow and mature into a ways more coherent and reasonable set of values.
This is me wishing you gave the left another chance (through this guy vaush and his content, seriously he’s totally against most of the issues you’ve pointed out), and regretting lacking the rhetoric to sway you myself. 🙆♂️🙆♂️🙆♂️
This is probably the most insightful take on the current situation I’ve come across. Thank you so much for stating the truth in such a powerful and eloquent way. Yes, progress is what has led us to disaster.
I was gonna write “left behind” but the pun was too bad and went with “trascended”, but I seem to have left the “left” in there, lol
Hi JMG I think you have a big blind spot when it comes to the left. Have you seen this article?: https://www.newsweek.com/bernie-bust-warningignore-it-trump-wins-opinion-1467225
My time among “dirtbag left” communities online has made it very clear to me that the working class are ready and willing to walk away from any liberal Democratic candidate. Younger and more alienated leftists view Bernie as their compromise candidate with their preferred candidate being the guillotine. I have also seen the idea of armed socialist militas being thrown about if the establishment machine turns against them in 2020. Your prediction of political violence may yet come to pass but not from the quater you were expecting.
“If you’re going to San Francisco, despite the advice of the song, don’t bother with a flower in your hair; plastic wrappers on the outside of your shoes would be considerably more useful” – That is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time. Thanks for the laugh!
I was fascinated by your observation that California has progressed into its current predicament. When I point out the numerous strategic disadvantages California is facing (excessive regulation, auto-oriented suburban development pattern, water depletion, state insolvency, and so on), the response I usually get is yes but it is the world’s fourth largest economy. Possibly due to the glamour of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, most people in my acquaintance don’t view California as any kind of a cautionary tale.
I personally found my last visit to California very depressing, not because of visible entropy, but because it seemed so profligate. Golf courses in the desert are profoundly doomed!
I have two comments to make: the first is to add a “plus one” to what Mister Nobody said earlier regarding the dilemma of former liberals. Second is to register my continuing cranky confusion over why Don Quixote is so often portrayed “tilting at windmills.” In Cervantes’ tale the windmill episode took up one brief paragraph in vol. 1 (of two) – yet it has become emblematic, so to speak, of the whole career of our “knight of doleful countenance.” Goodness gracious sakes alive! In my opinion the episode of the fulling mills, which took maybe a couple of paragraphs, was superior to the windmills. And, all-in-all, vol. 2 was better than vol. 1.
@ Lunchbox – no holidays earlier in the year? Easter. Memorial Day. After the Fourth of July, Labor Day. The U.S. Civil Religion wheel of the year has as many spokes as any other, and is just as seasonal. Of course, if you want to celebrate with a small fringe group, there’s Samhain (Hallowe’en, El Dia De Los Muertas), Yule, Imbolc (Groundhog Day, St. Bridget’s Day), Ostara (Spring Equinox, think bunnies and colored eggs), Beltane (May 1st, dance around the Maypole), Midsummer, Lughnassad (August 1st, the wine harvest, and in New Mexico, the green chili harvest), the Fall Equinox (the apple harvest)…. and most of them are days to party hearty.
As a British outsider, I can say that the conservative circle, of which I’m a member here in Arkansas, was certainly girding up its loins for a political fight during the last term of President Obama, before President Trump appeared on the scene. My darling husband was reading stuff like the Federalist papers into the night on his iPhone, and there were lots of debates with his friends, which I can recall as inevitably ending up with discussions about the rights of the States to secede, or call
assemblies of one kind or another (I am not sure of the details). No one actually mentioned physical fighting. There were also (and still are) many enthusiastic wishes being expressed about California and the New England States to well.. basically beetle off and do their own thing. My husband voted for the first time in over a decade in helping to elect President Trump.
I’m part way through reading “The Codevilla Tapes” (linked above), and I think the interviewer is not being entirely serious in his questions. When a statement like this: As a young person moving through American elite institutions, I was always struck by the marginal status of those other people you mention, Republicans. Clearly, they were not as bright as me and my friends were, …. All the cultural capital was on the Democratic side of the ledger. pops out, can the speaker really be so obtuse? Or is he speaking satirically, serving up a slow pitch to make for an exciting game?
Also, thanks for bringing up Robinson Jeffers. Perhaps after years and years of California exodus, the state might return to being a nice place to live as it was when Jeffers built his little stone castle down around Carmel. Has anyone read his “The Double Axe”? For what it’s worth, Jeffers’ wife Una grew up in the town I now call home.
Speaking of the failed state of California, I happened upon this video while I was in San Diego, supporting my love in the North American Tree Climbing Competion in Balboa Park. Homeless had effectively claimed a valley in the park. They were present throughout. Some of them deeply mentally ill. But kind of like a mirror reflecting back on California.
From Huell Howser, this thirty minute video on the California Water system is sobering. Hubris does not begin to describe the scale and extent of this. I thought, the more complex, the more energy intensive, the more fragile. America is deeply dependent on California agriculture. That does not bode well for an America that is now mostly a globalized corporate commodity-rich food desert.
David – does he know how many of those gun-toting hillbillies in their trailers have been in the service? Apparently not.
“what ails this formerly prosperous working class was self-inflicted.”
What you describe is Rod Dreher’s Law of Merited Impossibility which states, ‘It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.’
You may not have the funds or opportunity to hire a local craftsman to make your furniture, but you can learn to refinish old, but serviceable, solid wood furniture. Sure, something that’s genuinely an antique shouldn’t be messed with, but there’s an awful lot of quality stuff of lesser provenance available that a little fixing and a new finish would rehabilitate beautifully. Local second hand stores often have a good selection. It’s how we furnished our house and oh so many years later we’re still using all that furniture, because it really is nice stuff.
Re: Outmigrating Californians
“Wayne Richey, candidate for mayor in Boise, Idaho, wants to save his native city from an invasive species — Californians.
Get rid of West Coast amenities. No more bike paths. Deep-six a proposed $100 million library. Shred plans for a new minor league ballpark. And slap new buyers with higher property taxes.
Richey, a 59-year-old auto body mechanic, said he would go further but “I can’t build a $26 billion wall,” alluding to President Trump’s effort along the southern border. “Apparently, that’s been tried.”
I lived for San Francisco at the height of this most recent tech boom and the four driest years of its most recent drought. The writing was on the wall for anyone who cared to see and so I left for Pittsburgh where fresh water is plentiful, the rent it cheaper, and the power is almost always on.
I am extremely pessimistic about the future of California and agree with just about everything you said except for your depiction of San Francisco as crime-ridden. It simply isn’t – especially not when compared to citizens like Cleveland and Baltimore. The murder rate in Cleveland is 4x that of SF and the murder rate in Baltimore is nearly 6x! Rape, robbery, and assault rates are similar.
Links for the curious:
The beleagured city by the bay, for all its troubles is actually a pretty safe for an American metropolis. I know this not just from statistics but from having worked in social services in its roughest neighborhoods and being an inveterate night wanderer. The worst thing that happened to me was someone stole my bicycle, which I had left poorly secured.
With respect to the ritual steps of impeachment, the latest theory I’ve seen bandied about is that after the House impeaches, the Senate could conflict by secret ballot, which would allow Republican Senators to “do the right thing” to “save our democracy” without having to personally face the voters. Per this theory, it would only take a handful of Senators to change the rules to allow the secret ballot, thus enabling their fellows to convict and remove Trump.
Regarding working locally, doing what we can, where we can, I can say that it is difficulty to be proactive politically in terms of the Long Descent. I’ve done something, I suppose, in my term on city council, but certainly not enough to build a thriving local self-sufficient economy. It is hard to convince others for the need to change our dir cation when “growth” is still everyone’s primary goal. (Meanwhile, I’m trying—and failing—to get front yard tomato plants legalized.) It is frustrating to see what needs to be done, yet be unable to do it.
As far as 2020 goes, I keep waiting for the Democratic Party to pull its collective head out from a certain anatomically-impossible orifice, but I see little evidence of movement in that direction with the primary campaigns to this point. It is a shame, given what the party once stood for.
Finally, regarding Trump’s policies, I’m getting several fundraising emails a day now. Most get deleted, but every now and then, one will be a survey. Now this “survey” usually compares President Trump with Radical Democrats, but often there is that free-response question at the end where the survey asks “is there anything else you’d like to tell President Trump?” and I take those opportunities to summarize the policy platform I’d like to see (bringing the troops home, withdrawal from empire, trade barriers to protect workers, a self-reliant economy, etc.) Now whether or not anyone is reading those responses…well, who knows.
“It’s not going to be much of a fight when one side owns a trillion rounds of ammunition and the other side can’t figure out which bathroom to use.”
Currently I’m about half way through _Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee_. In it there are countless scenes of inexpressible pathos in which the First Nations leaders are essentially begging the United States government for munitions. And there are other scenes in which the First Nations troops could have routed the US Army position, but the soldiers had repeating rifles that make the attack a moot point. Still, at other points, there are the howitzers that make holding a position impossible.
The populist right doesn’t _need_ the government for their very survival. They have guns. The socialist left is utterly dependent on the government to protect them from what otherwise would be effective war bands. Sure, not every populist would join, but if you had 10,000 young men under a strong leader all well armed, they could more or less pillage to their hearts’ content in many of the blue states. How many young men would look around, see the different between the blazing glory, excitement and adventure of the life of a hero, and choose that over living in his mother’s basement? I couldn’t guess any exact figure, but I imagine it would be enough to utterly subjugate a large portion of the continent. The only real question is what hand other nations would have in the game, and what sort of “peace” would ultimately be achieved.
In a wartime situation there is no greater and more profound difference between the armed and unarmed. The First Nations troops had, by all accounts, command of magical forces, they knew the terrain, knew how to live off the land, they were brave and excellent soldiers, and they fought exceedingly well with then obsolete firearms, bows and arrows and lances. But they had no repeating rifles and, more to the point, no industrial base, and the rest is history. Magic, courage, sincerity, love, wisdom, “being on the right side of history,” every skill, every personal virtue and ethical stance, and every right, good choice made over the course of a long life, none of these come close to bridging the great gulf between he who has a loaded gun and the man with nothing but the clothes on his back and his hands on his head who is forced to his knees with the gun pointed at him. Quid est veritas?
It’s only the presence of more organized, better trained and better armed bands of men working for various national and local governments that prevent this sort of nightmare situation coming right to the front porch of the wealthy suburbs, so very filled with loot and with such meagre defense.
Want to say I really agree mostly with Mr. Greer’s post despite the one or two criticisms I’d like to contribute. (I’ve been a very big fan, by the way, since I found ADR way way back in 2010, and think Mr Greer’s political and social commentary some of the best available.)
I’m not convinced we are seeing an populist shift of serious endurance. I’d like to add my voice to those (like Wesley Stine) reminding us that 2016 was a close-run thing indeed. Many people voted Trump and then went home to wash the taste out of their mouths, and one of any number of breaks going the other way would have changed the outcome.
One of Mr. Greer’s larger points seems to be that, with the elite not serving the people, the people will increasingly shock and offend them until the elite change or the people get themselves a new elite.
All true. But I really think there is more to the story, and the slow degradation of material well being of working and middle classes might not be the biggest dynamic at work right now.
One major factor (though not the biggest) that has been under-addressed by most current critics of progressivism is the fact that the elite **will** have a response to all this. The shock of Trump’s victory started a lot of people thinking HARD on the question “how do we stop —it— from ever happening again.” We are going to see, but have not yet seen, all of the ways The Elite is going to respond.
Not all of those ways will be inept. Yes, many highly visible segments of the elite have gone bananas. But don’t make the mistake of underestimating the parts of the establishment you *can’t* see. The next time Progressives get the presidency, expect structural (even constitutional, formally or informally) changes pushed through…… For an example of *informal* constitutional changes, consider the House has commandeering Trump’s tax returns (news just out today). The House successfully claiming the right to vet a President’s tax returns is *new*, whatever you think of the justification for it.
Going forward, expect to see further new powers being discovered when Progressives need them—and the discovery that certain old powers are completely unjust and outrageous when the Right needs them. (Example: the FBI investigating political candidates. Anyone remember the Susan Rice “unmasking” scandal from waaaaaaay back, what was it, 2016? 2017? But none of that matters, naturally. That time, you see, the government was spying on proper and appropriate targets—traitorous colluders who were Republicans.)
Yes the people may not like their elite, and the feeling is mutual. But why should the elite allow the people to get itself a new elite? Why, as the saying goes, shouldn’t the elite just get itself a new people? Or at least make sure the wrong kind of people are safely quarantined, or are otherwise made into a minority. To those who don’t think that can be done, read more history. It can.
Holy Shillelagh, Batman! You’re hitting Cecil Fielder shots onto the roof. Yes, I wonder how the rest of the country feels about California policies at this point. If they let immigrants take sanctuary, and then fan out over the rest of the country, it means that there’s no point to state integrity: it would imply that all the other states are minor appendages of the big ones. This goes along with the electoral college nonsense, which would mean NY and CA would control federal politics in toto. Since these are the states where the de facto elite have the apex of their power, the message to the rest of us is clear. The area where I live has a lot of refugees, and they will argue with you to say that CA is worse than I politely make it out to be. My brother lives there on the seashore, and says that it is not any fun anymore.
Dear Robert, many thanks for the kind words!
Dear David, granted. I find that attitude hubristic in the extreme. Who cares if someone is missing teeth, hasn’t cracked a book open in their entire life, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and even has a potbelly if they’re the one who just shot you dead? I agree, this attitude is idiotic. And frankly, dangerous to those who hold it. Just because someone holds a crude stereotype of another, after all, puts no pressure on that person to behave according to script…
Thanks for this series; it helped me to make a bit more sense of what’s happening these days.
Re: California What surprises me is that people are still paying a million bucks for a modest house there (or $2500 for a basic apartment), despite the rising rates of outmigration and the many trends you mention. All it would take would be for ~5% of the population to leave, and suddenly there would be more dwellings than people and prices would drop precipitously. But the dream lives on for now, or so it seems.
Re: Tulsi Gabbard @JMG “Mind you,. I think she’s doing a brilliant job of positioning herself to be the inevitable candidate in 2024, once the current Democratic elite crashes and burns. ”
Some time I would like you to lay out a scenario in which this happens, since I dearly wish it to be true. As it is, I fear she has exposed her authenticity and her critique of the status quo too soon, before she had a large enough following and media presence. She can really only get coverage by criticizing someone who is a media darling (Harris, Hillary, etc.) – she doesn’t have Trump’s advantage of being a lifelong celebrity. That strategy is working for now, but it won’t work forever and already it feels like her beef with Hillary is entering petty territory in pursuit of more headlines.
She might just be able to pull it off from the grassroots – canvassing the entire nation with town halls, billboards, and yard signs as she is doing in Iowa and New Hampshire – but she’s fighting an uphill battle against the mainstream media. I’m afraid she might lose her platform after the 2020 election if enough people buy into the dominant “oddball also-ran” narrative, especially since she’s not planning to keep her seat in the House.
JMG – I have to say I am disappointed in the conclusion of this little trilogy.
Your basic premise of mythic vs pragmatic thinking is an interesting one and has stimulated some good conversations over the last two weeks when I bring the notion up. But today’s attempt to pillory California (which admittedly does have it’s problems, as any State with 40 million people and the 5th largest economy in the world might) and then to claim that the economic situation for the working class has improved under the inept, incompetent rule of the Orange Julius is just too much to let pass.
As far as I can see, this administration has accomplished only two things: 1) A gigantic tax giveaway to the 1% and 2) A trade war with China. (I actually support tariffs but not when they are weaponized and tariffs are notoriously easy tools to provide favors for your ‘friends’ and punishment for your ‘enemies’, especially when you consider entire regions of the country your enemy.)
Why no mention of mythic thinking regarding the genuinely insane number of lies tweeted out in between lines of Adderal? What about the unbuilt Great Wall? And “Mexico will pay for it!” Why no acknowledgment that 70,000 immigrant children have been forcibly taken from their families and placed in for-profit prisons, THIS YEAR? Why no mention of the endless attempts to reduce the already inadequate environmental protections some of which were signed into law by none other than Richard Nixon? Why no mention of the blatant giveaways to mining and other resource extraction multi-national corporations? Why not use these examples of mythic vs pragmatic thinking?
I say nothing of the sheer grossness of Donald Trump because I believe that THAT is what got him elected. Every PBR drinking, redneck sitting on a bar stool voted for him BECAUSE he is just as crass, ignorant, disgusting and rich as they would like to be, if only they could. But no, instead you compare California to a 3rd world country, call Trump “a canny businessman” and you state a clear preference for BOISE over Seattle. Seriously? Have you actually been to Boise in the last 20 years? It is a nauseating, McMansion of a strip mall where a small desert town once lived. Literally no one in Boise is from Idaho… they are all mega church refugees from the crappy parts of California. And before I am accused of being dismissive of the working class, I am a carpenter by trade. I was born and raised in North Idaho on a cattle ranch to a Father who was a gypo logger and I KNOW THESE GUYS. Hell, in some respects, I AM THESE GUYS. At any rate, I have worked alongside them for 40 years and know how their minds (don’t) work about 95% of the time. Who knows how, or even if, they will vote in 2020, but I assure you, rednecks did not make some group decision to throw a monkey wrench into the political process that had disappointed them. That might have been the effect but they are not capable of thinking, only emotionally reacting. And most of what they are reacting to is the Rush Limbaugh type radio that they listen to all day at their underpaid, back breaking jobs and the Fox propaganda channel at the bar all night; they were manipulated.
I have been reading your blogs and books for many years and consider you one of the most consistently interesting writers I know, which makes this weird one-sided view of the 2016 election and DT even more disturbing. I stopped reading Kunstler and Orlov, despite their former brilliance, when they both became so angry and bitter that I couldn’t wade through the vitriol any longer. My sincere hope is that you are not headed the same direction and that this divergence from your normally clear thinking is an attempt to illustrate your mythic vs pragmatic theme in some kind of backhanded way…
(2nd of 2; thanks JMG if you decide to put it through despite length)
Knowing about the *biggest* major factor is something I definitely owe to Mr Greer himself.
As Mencius Moldbug put it “Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left.” https://www.unqualified-reservations.org/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified/ The obvious questions is Why. (Yes, Mencius Moldbug has his take; worth a read.) There is currently as much or more of a reason “why” Cthulhu will continue swimming left as there has ever been. But creeks always have eddies and that’s what Trump is.
I am sticking hard to my prediction of coming left-wing supremacy. Maybe starting from 2020 or maybe not, but if not, then not long after. The left has the cultural and moral force behind it, and the right does not. And having lost a few battles recently, the progressive left can actually claim the high ground of fighting oppression from below.
And it has something else.
The progressive left is offering much more than a series of economic reform proposals or social reforms. For those of you who haven’t noticed (and Mr Greer has pointed this out over and over), the current political establishment is offering the people —-a religion—-. Yes, the religion sucks. Yes, it is a fair-weather, ponies and rainbows religion suited for a future of everlasting good things and no serious hardship.
But it *is* a religion. At this moment in the civilizational cycle when the old religions are so difficult to believe in, the masses (growing ranks of urban voters) will respond to something they *can* believe in, rational scrutiny be darned.
The center-right (and the center-left, which is identical to the center-right) offers an economic prescription and a “try to keep what used to work, don’t rock the boat” form of social policy. This is just a managerial outlook that is suited to a populace which ***already has a communal religious outlook giving individuals their meaning and sense of community in life. For those who haven’t noticed, conditions of communal religiousity and community in general have deteriorated sharply since our post-war civilizational high. Thus the center-right will, slowly and by degrees, fail.
The left offers a belief system, a sense of community, and a sense of fighting evil—all of which gives meaning to personal life at a time when there are few other (credible, believable) sources of meaning. And seriously. Who cares about rationality? It’s a tool of the devil, oops I mean DWM. (Sorry for getting peevish.)
No seriously, who cares about rationality? Values are the big fight now. Data point: even Mr Greer himself changed his blog from the highly rationalistic ADR to Ecosophia. This is not a criticism, please don’t take it that way Mr Greer, just an observation.
This is a HUGE reason for the left’s victories and a big part of the reason why the victories will continue… at least after a certain unmentionable person is seen off-stage. And why Progressivism is so very, very successful amidst urban populations: there, holding on to any traditional belief system is almost impossible for most, so when a new communal religion like Progressivism comes along with fewer ontological commitments (eg. no hell, maybe God if you want but not necessary) and a socially libertine and cosmopolitan orientation built directly into the foundation, it attracts huge masses of new believers.
I like the comparison with the Ghost Dance, but I think there is more going on than just the failure of the neoliberal/progressive narrative. The internet (social media specifically) has quite fundamentally broken the way people relate to information and reality. There is a very coherent and timely article in this month’s Atlantic about the history of social media development and how very subtle changes in the way “friction” has been removed from spreading “content” have removed safety checks. Checks that James Madison believed the “vastness” of the United States and difficulty of communication compared with Europe would keep in place to prevent strong factions that “inflamed [men] with mutual animosity.” https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/social-media-democracy/600763/
(In an age of unquestioning use of the newest shiny tech, the Atlantic has been continuously surprising me of late with it’s very dubious tone about whether the Digital Age is as good for us as Apple-Man and the Masters of the Universe would have us believe.)
I realized just this afternoon how unhinged a society ruled by virulent “memes” can become, as I received an email from a pen company whose products I like, telling about a special edition “Canary Yellow” pen emblazoned with “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself.” I have had my head so far above the fecal stream since deleting my social media accounts and news feeds over a year ago, that I had to google why a dead pedophile was suddenly on what I had thought was a product safe from T-shirt slogans. His dubiously-created corpse has come back to walk the halls of memedom, disconnected from the conspiracy theories that originated the meme, as the latest non-sequitur punchline. Gross.
I believe, from my perspective in the infrastructure world (buildings specifically), the average American was disconnected from reality a long time ago by being removed from direct contact with the water/shelter/food system. California’s troubles are no surprise to me…it was a goner the minute its population exceeded that of a distant rural mining colony. The history of LA’s water system/stealing water from farmers at gunpoint is a case study in metropolitan overshoot (a path Denver is merrily dancing down, as one of the biggest California population outflow destinations). It seems to me politics and the public in this country stopped being interested in seriously dealing with infrastructure after the West was settled and the frontier officially closed by the Census Bureau in 1890. It’s been Kulturkreig ever since.
What is worse is trying to walk a layperson through basic elements of building construction. Unfortunately, a good many of our historic public buildings are in dire need of attention, and years of “responsible spending” have led to repairs done incorrectly with modern materials that have accelerated decay. The political ramifications of this disconnect are pretty severe. Imagine stumbling across an online discourse asking why a masonry restoration project involving mortar replacement (“repointing”) doesn’t proceed quickly during the winter – why is the contractor being lazy, and city officials lax? “Professionals” have a corporate responsibility to stay removed from the fray and don’t comment, but then the public remains divorced from the reality that wet mortar freezes, fails, and cracks bricks and stone below 32 degrees…
If the public was able to get its hands dirty again and not spend their lives bean counting, paper pushing, and selling/buying trinkets we, and democracy, would all be better off (and I might not need anxiety medication to get my job done)!
I’ve really enjoyed this series of three posts, JMG, and your referral to the Ghost Dance really hit home, as it has pained me for decades to think about the agony of the Peoples of the Plains who saw their old way of life die in front of their eyes and thus put all their hopes in an absurd delusion during the late 19th century…
If indeed the Trump Derangement Syndrome is a current manifestation of the same phenomenon (and you’ve made a good argument in its favour), I pity the Group-mind (as Dion Fortune refers to it in her letters during the start of WWII) of present-day USA. Somehow in Canada faith in the Religion of Progress has not yet been shaken so thoroughly, but eventually that day will surely come here too. Perhaps we will need some uncouth Torontonian real estate mogul-turned-demagogue for Prime Minister to set it off!
Well, I can’t say I have ever enjoyed my time in the places in California that you have visited. I certainly have no desire to ever go back to Fresno. But again, California is a big state, and I’m sorry your understanding of it is based on arguably the worst places in the state. I’m sorry you haven’t been to all the really nice places that still exist, whether you want to admit it or not.
What troubles me is your saying that the crime rate is terrible in the entire state, and ALL the houses have bars on the windows. You of all people taught me that very few things are black or white. There’s usually lots of gray area. Lots of “third ways”. So to hear you lump the whole state together as forsaken, when that is clearly not true, seems out of character and disturbing.
Perhaps it was intentional hyperbole to make a point? But, I thought you were more careful/deliberate than that. I’m confused.
I wonder what will happen to the Hillary cult after she dies. Will the cult die too or will the white salary-class women switch their worship to Chelsea?
I have been saying it for a while now to some folk. For a lot of people in the industrial world, they live like the great depression only with internet access.
We certainly did “progress” into this.
Isn’t the blocking of large numbers of black people from voting just one more empty accusation?
Some people who may be well meaning keep infantilizing the black race. (Or whatever you want to call it.)
And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is time to give up on Bernie and the other 70+ candidates. He’s 78 I believe and has recently had a heart attack.
Not related to the current topic per se, but I am curious to hear your opinion about the coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia. My first impressions are that it was a justified action against a president who refused to abide by term limits, though I’m aware that some people are saying there was a lot of shady US influence involved. What do you think?
Anonymous Californian wrote, “Californians are cultists, the California Dream is their cult, and the idea that anyone might reject it is unimaginable and infuriating.”
Despite living in San Francisco for eight months in 1991, your conclusion is one that I had never thought about until I read Bob Colacello’s book Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House. Now, Ronald Reagan never interested me because I remember growing up in his mid-century-values reign of terror. Were my partner not helping Colacello edit the sequel to that book, I would never have picked it up. But that is where I discovered how Utopian and cultist SoCal always has been.
The Los Angeles region was initially settled by purity fanatics with a vision of creating a white haven based on Christian values (except inclusion.) They traveled west to get away from the multi-toned diversity they believed was ruining areas further east. The perfect weather every day played into their Utopian zeal, and they relentlessly marketed their newfound paradise™ to other white dreamers. As the city rapidly grew in size the diversity they found so intolerable overwhelmed their ability to suppress it. However, they kept the dream alive by relentlessly marketing the role-model perfection of the Hollywood star system. Perfectly coiffed celluloid beauties met, courted, married, and raised the requisite 2.5 children in rambler-style living with pool under the perpetually sunny skies that the rest of the world could only dream about. And they never divorced…
Obviously, that fragile mythology imploded in short order and devolved into the sordid celebrity knock-out fest that continues to entertain us all in supermarket check-out lines. But the cult of the California Dream lives on! Walt Disney’s ideals were marinated in the heady morally-pure, white paradise of the early years, so the company hasn’t in fact strayed far from its original saccharine revisionism. Bambi’s mother wouldn’t have died in the SoCal paradise™ either, dear. The odd vision of an idealized childhood embodied in Disneyland, with its ersatz versions of imagination and adventure, hearken to that lost dream of a drearily conformist paradise with obedient but overachieving children. Stepford living.
Since my partner grew up behind the Orange curtain (Orange County, CA) just a few miles down the super-highway from Leisure World retirement paradise, I have experienced the cult first hand. Stephen managed to escape early, but the rest of his family literally cannot imagine living anywhere less perfect than this congested, conformist echo-chamber. From Disneyland to Leisure World, all your needs were calculated and addressed before you were born, so you never have to live your own life. And woe betide you if you actually wanted an inner life – although that could easily be corrected with Valium.
The California Dream has been devolving into a nightmare since it was first conceived as a reassuring panacea for denying reality. With its roots in a purity cult, it is no surprise that the California Dream is ending its Utopian trajectory in utter defilement and depravity.
I thought of you when I read this blog post: https://selfishactivist.com/writing/
It’s from Tada Hozumi, who is a Canadian person of Japanese descent, and does fascinating work around racism and somatic therapy. I was a part of a group they were leading for a while, and it was by far the sanest approach to racism I have encountered. The blog post is essentially about the dynamic you have been exploring – the relationship between our perception of ourselves and others and the way other people perceive themselves and us. Just as you have been arguing, Tada is saying that when we act like our perceptions are synonymous with reality, we are very likely to get it wrong, and our actions likely to be counterproductive. It’s a pretty short read – I hope you and some other readers will have a chance to check it out!
It’s interesting how California looks so different depending on who is describing it. I grew up in the DFW area of Texas, lived in Denver for a decade, and then moved to San Francisco. I’ve traveled to most parts of the country as well. SF is the most beautiful city in the USA (my opinion, but shared by many), It has a lot of problems, but what American city doesn’t? When I think about moving back to Texas, I imagine eventually killing myself. (Good thing guns are so readily available there). Still, I am heartbroken that the cultural heart of SF is dead and the city is now a beautiful corpse.
I’ve been looking for someplace to escape to if I lose my place here in SF. But I have to disagree with our esteemed host – the rest of the country is not “considerably more pleasant”. Most of it is sprawling suburbs and strip malls with really crappy weather.
It’s interesting to read this in a commercial zoned loft in skid row Los Angeles, where I have landed for the winter – and of course remarkably accurate. It seems my appetite for dystopia has led me here to ground zero. Failing metropolitan areas provide a great deal of personal liberty, which has its pluses and minuses. The wild west.
Agreeing entirely that California’s bizarre governance has led us to this moment, I still think there are lessons to be learned from how the state and the major cities deal with this new reality. Personally, there’s also an opportunity to participate in next step decisions, as much as our fragile and ailing democracy will allow. Still, I can report that the buses and trains are safe and efficient, and there’s a feeling of a flourishing city here, for all its rampant poverty–a Bladerunner feel. Film and media are mighty sources of revenue.
Apologies for the tangent–please consider this a field report.
I also want to comment on two ideas from the essay that, at least for me, are very important and tied together:
“Donald Trump hasn’t yet proposed building a wall to keep them out of the US, but some of his followers have, and I’m far from sure they’re joking.”
“…a new federalism which will return social legislation to the individual states, and thus end attempts to impose a single moral ideology of left or right on the entire nation…”
I cringe whenever the California state government or some municipality decides to pontificate on the latest social issues by imposing travel bans on government employees to states that are not viewed as progressive enough. Certainly California has better things to do for its residents than pointless grandstanding. I cringe equally when people from other states joke (I assume) about how it would be great if California fell in the ocean during the next earthquake, or the similar sentiment about building a wall quoted above. I have several relatives in rural Minnesota and South Dakota who readily share these sentiments with me.
I’ve always thought one of the America’s greatest strengths is freedom of movement. Freedom to pursue not only economic opportunity but to go and live wherever you feel most comfortable. As states get in the business of taking pot shots at each other, and otherwise try to make other states conform to their viewpoint, I think it dilutes this strength and weakens the country. If the US can embrace a new federalism that allows states far greater latitude to go their own way, maybe California will finally shut up and the sentiment about building a wall around the state in the rest of the country will subside. Maybe I’m just California dreamin’.
@ Anonymous Californian
I’m very sorry to hear that’s been your experience with native Californians. I can assure you we’re not all like that and by all means stay or go as your circumstances permit. There are many great reasons to leave California, some of which you mentioned, and anyone suggesting otherwise is not being honest with themselves. I’m 49 and I’d estimate that somewhat over half the people I know who’ve left over the years are glad they made the move.
I’ve lived in San Francisco for many years. I don’t mean to contradict you, but I’m with paradoctor: your characterization doesn’t ring true. You must have spent your entire time here downtown or at tourist spots. The City as we call it is a mish-mash of different neighborhoods; most folks don’t have bars on windows or doors, and many of those who do are Chinese as in Chinese cities bars are a “thing.” We’re not sidestepping poop out in “the neighborhoods” away from downtown, or living in fear of crime, aside from car break-ins (never leave anything you value in your car, ever, even for a second). There are indeed many homeless; there’s also – still – a wonderful and diverse mix of interesting humans. I know California-bashing is a favorite pasttime: there’s recently been a run of 8 or 9 articles on how “California is becoming unlivable” (as the Atlantic puts it). I guess it all depends what you’re looking for.
As usual, more than a bit of hyperbole regarding California’s problems. I’ve lived here most of my life, from North to South and I’ve traveled widely throughout the U.S., including extended stints in the Pacific NW and the Rust Belt, where I have relatives. I’ve traveled abroad quite a bit. So, I think I have some nuance and context regarding CA that’s missing from your post. For example:
– To a certain extent, wildfires are natural in a Mediterranean climate: https://databasin.org/datasets/bf8db57ee6e0420c8ecce3c6395aceeb. The ones of recent years have been intense and have threatened sexy locales (Malibu, Wine Country) so they’ve received a lot of coverage. Paradise was a predictable tragedy. With regards to PG&E, yeah criminal negligence.
– Homeless is a very visible problem in CA as it’s concentrated in tourist areas like Santa Monica and Union Square. However, it’s a problem in many cities: https://www.statista.com/chart/6949/the-us-cities-with-the-most-homeless-people/. Mild climate, generous social services and/or walkability are indicators for large homeless populations.
– Yes, California’s infrastructure sucks, even by American standards. The only nice thing I can say about it is that it’s comprehensive and moves 40 million people daily, far more than it was designed for. For context, Oregon and Washington combined have about 11 million in roughly the same area. That being said, there’s a special ring of hell for CalTrans and BART, but most municipalities take care of their local streets against all odds. CA’s infrastructure problems aren’t unique BTW – https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/1/9/the-real-reason-your-city-has-no-money – it’s just that CA is ahead of the curve as it went all in on car culture relatively early (Detroit was first).
– Petty crime is a problem, especially in S.F. proper. Violent crime, not so much. With a few exceptions, it doesn’t even rank: https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/blog/top100dangerous. In turn, the most dangerous U.S. cities are child’s play compared to Latin America: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/10/mormon-victims-mexico-reportedly-shot-point-blank-range/
I could go on. My point is not to defend California but I think it’s a bit lazy on your part to make these sweeping correlations and throw around phrases like “3rd world”, “crime ridden”, “Baltimore” and “Rust Belt” without first hand knowledge or data. And then to roll into your critique of the left as if it’s a strictly linear connection. Come on, you’re better than that. Unless this post is speculative fiction?
Detroit shuts off water on poor people who cannot afford their water bills. I wonder what will happen in California as its economy continues to crater over the next few decades? Unlike Detroit, it’s not an area of the world where fresh water is flowing in a nearby river, creek, or lake when push comes to shove.
“It’s been a truism of American public life for quite a while now that where California goes today, the rest of the US will go tomorrow.”
It’s been a truism of German public life for quite a while now that where the United States go today, Germany will go tomorrow. It’s going to be interesting to see how the situation develops from here on, since the “Trumps” of Germany and whole Europe are clawing their way to power really fast and have overtaken the influx of whatever else come from the US. At the same time, the leaders of the remnants of the shrinking CDU for example dream of projecting (military) power in an all too familiar way and are advocating for EU-lead military interventions and aircraft carriers…
Rita, mental hospitals and SROs would be a major step in the right direction. As for ADF, that’s a different subject for a different day.
Mark, of course Kennedy wasn’t assassinated for vote fraud — you’d have to mow down the entire American political class if that were to be done. My point was simply that vote fraud is pandemic in US politics.
Christopher, it’s rough, but not unfair. The usual way this sort of thing ends is that people trickle away from it quietly, by ones and twos, until there’s just a handful of people in an otherwise empty room clinging to a belief system that everyone else has abandoned. It helps when, as in this case, there’s a large and enthusiastic community of people who’ve already walked away from the failing belief system and will welcome newcomers and give them positive validation. That’s already happening, and I expect to see a lot more of it as things continue to unfold.
EcoCat, I’d give him a higher grade on each of those, but that’s in comparison to the negative numbers scored by previous inmates of the White House. We’re still in the early phases of a long game, remember; first it’s necessary to break the failed consensus and make other options thinkable, then the other options can begin to be deployed.
Twilight, I think that’s still a little ways off, but I’m prepared to be surprised.
BoysMom, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time the GOP ends up with both houses of Congress, there’s a bill requiring voter ID in every US election and banning vote by mail. See my previous comments about vote fraud!
Ryan, it must be the work you’re in. The vast majority of the Trump supporters I’ve met are working class men and women who make a good deal less money than I do, and I don’t make all that much. I’ve noted before that when I lived in the Appalachians, during the 2016 election, the first neighborhood to sprout Trump signs was the poor mixed-race neighborhood south of Oldtown Road, the kind of neighborhood where every third house is abandoned, every third corner has an off-brand church on it, and you won’t find a porch where all the people sitting on it on a summer evening have the same skin color. They went for Trump early and hard, while it was the lily-white well-to-do neighborhood up on Fort Hill where the Hillary signs sprouted and people yelled about Trump’s supposed racism. I saw the same thing in many other places as the election heated up. Funny how the corporate media never talks about that…
Jill, fair enough. Good wishes for rain!
Churrundo, I’d be delighted to see the left behaving the way you’ve described, but as far as I can tell, that remains a very small fringe group, counterweighted by a very large number of people who are parroting whatever the TV tells them to think. By all means prove me wrong!
Peter, thank you for getting it.
Waffle, I’d be delighted to see a significant number of people on the left break away from corporate liberalism. Do you have any reliable measure of the size of this “dirtbag left” you’re discussing, though? What I’ve been able to find about it suggests that it’s very small, and has a huge amount of work to do if it wants to get its message out and start fielding candidates with a chance of victory.
Samurai, Pennsylvania and Ohio had huge economies before they turned into Rust Belt states, too, and people insisted that it couldn’t possibly happen there…
Phutatorius, of course it’s just one scene, but it’s highly memorable!
Naomi, I saw the same thing going on in far western Maryland, in country that would be a guerrilla fighter’s dream…
Lathechuck, no, it’s not satire. That’s the way these people have been taught to think.
Phutatorius, I hope so. I remember the Seattle area when it was still fit for human habitation, and I can imagine what it must have been like to see California precede it down the same slope.
William, thanks for this.
Cob, fair enough. What’s with the iron bars and gates, though? One of my most consistent memories of California is miles of streets in which every single house has those, and I’ve never seen them in other American cities. I find it hard to believe California has unusually enthusiastic iron bar salesmen or that widespread of a BDSM culture…
David, it’s all very reminiscent of the talk in late 2016 about how the Electoral College would refuse to follow the vote. It’s always possible to spin fantasies about how something could happen!
Violet, exactly. This is why I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Trump won. As long as their guy’s in the White House, the warbands won’t form.
Golocyte, I’ll simply point out that this is a repeating pattern in American history. In the wake of 1776, 1860, and 1932, the American people did in fact get themselves a new elite to replace one that had failed, and we’re in the midst of a similar process. Of course it was a close thing — it often is. Watch what happens in 2020 and 2024…
Arkansas, and those are among the reasons I expect to see the systematic de-Californication of a lot of the country in the years immediately ahead.
@ Ken Wood
“Why no acknowledgment that 70,000 immigrant children have been forcibly taken from their families and placed in for-profit prisons, THIS YEAR?”
I read this and thought that sounds absurd as it amounts to hundreds a day and the news would be flooded with stories. This report, from an immigration advocacy group puts the number at “up to five migrant children per day.”
Talking about your prediction and the electricity companies shut-downs in California.
There is the Oldivai theory, where its inventor said: “Beware of the black-outs!” because they were to him the warning signal, that collapse is imminent. Indeed in the recent years blackouts are increasing, like formerly did the progress of electrification.
This special black-outs in California are just a reminder to me, that our industrious global economy has reaches the limits of growth on all corners and is steadily disintegrating.
When did universal health care become an ‘extremist’ policy considering that the vast majority of ‘developed’ countries have chosen to have it for many years? And, the same for Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, and FDR’s general program? The Republican’s undying hatred for the ‘welfare state’ is (was) a bright dividing line in my (old) mind between the parties, while I see that the DNC and RNC are actually two sides of the same oligarchic coin, using the tried and true ‘divide and conquer’ strategy (whose current roots lie with Newt Gingrich, in the late 80’s) to successfully ‘play’ the masses.
BTW, it seems there’s enough various-colored kool-aid to go around….would that we could stick to plain old water. (Also, I’d recommend, again, ‘A Paradise Built in Hell’ by Solnit.)
November 13, 2019 at 10:43 pm
Isn’t the blocking of large numbers of black people from voting just one more empty accusation?
Some people who may be well meaning keep infantilizing the black race. (Or whatever you want to call it.)
I recommend the investigations of reporter Greg Palast for the gory details. http://www.gregpalast.com. It’s an old story, not at all limited to 2016 (or 2000 or 2004). No infantilization needed, other than dumbing down for the rest of the country the illusion of “democracy.” For details on that, I recommend Nineteen Eighty Four by G. Orwell, although the mechanics are far more sophisticated now.
First thing I learned in anthropology 101 is there is no such thing as “race.” Ethnicity, sure. Culture, of course. But denying people the right to vote based on skin color is as old as the USA. Now it’s done with computers, shifty tactics with ballot counters and other means that should have ended with the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Note the Democratic Party, nationally, has been mostly AWOL on this. I’m not being partisan at all.
Democrats and Republicans are two sides of a Mobius strip.
Mark, at this point California has steadily increasing outmigration; as the state economy sinks toward Rust Belt status I expect that to increase exponentially for a while. As for Gabbard, I expect her to aim for the grassroots, and also to be the obvious alternative to a failed status quo. But we’ll see.
Ken, the sort of thinking you’ve demonstrated here — especially your insistence that the sole reason Trump is in the White House is that all those horrible working class people you loathe so obsessively thought he was gross enough to represent them — is why your side is losing, and is going to keep on losing. Sometime you might want to sit down with some of the working class people you’ve shrieked at here in such hateful terms; you may just find out that they’re human beings, too, and that attitudes like yours are the reason they turned away from a Democratic Party that despises them and found a candidate who doesn’t. Your insistence that the people you disagree with are unable to think — presumably because in your opinion, everyone who thinks necessarily agrees with you! — makes my point about mythic thinking and the flight from reason more perfectly than anything I could write. (And that was the one reason I put your comment through; normally, when somebody tries to post the kind of hate speech you’ve used here, I delete it.)
Golocyte, I certainly don’t take offense — but I’m quite certain that you’ll turn out to be wrong. Any linear trend extrapolated far enough ends in absurdity. Past performance is no guide to future results, and the rising populist tide in the industrial world at this point is to my mind the first stirrings of the new shape of things. Mr. Moldbug is in for a shock; Cthulhu swims laps, as Oswald Spengler points out; having swum left to the edge of the pool, he turns and heads the other way. Do you disagree? Of course, and you have the right to do so; we’ll see over time who’s right.
Architrains, the “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” pen didn’t come your way at random. One of the advantages I get from hanging out in a very wide range of internet forums from far left to far right is that I can sometimes catch such things in the developing stage. There’s a systematic effort on the part of some of the same people who helped use the internet to put Trump in the White House to use Jeffrey Epstein’s curious death as a wrecking ball aimed at the corporate media; yes, meme magic (and memetics in general) are involved. There’s at least one first-rate mind behind this. ((And don’t be too surprised if in a little while you get a pen saying “Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?”)
Ron, no argument there. You may just get one of those, too.
Adam, if you tell me there are various corners of California that don’t match what I’ve seen of the state, I’m not going to argue. I thought I was drawing a reasonable conclusion based on repeated visits to several different regions of the state.
Your Kittenship, they’ll find someone else, but I doubt it’ll be Chelsea. The hard core of the Hillary cult seems to consist of female Boomers and Gen-Xers who identify with her so completely that they don’t seem to be able to hear criticism of her as anything but criticism of themselves. Chelsea’s too young to serve as that kind of focus of projection.
MichaelV, true, and they also don’t know how to be poor with style. It can be done; it’s just that most people now have forgotten how to do it.
Wesley, I don’t know yet. I’m still gathering information.
Curtis, thanks for this!
Thor, I suppose there’s no accounting for taste. I’ve lived in various parts of this country at various times, and traveled to a lot more, and “sprawling suburbs and strip malls with really crappy weather” is a pretty lame caricature, all things considered. (But then I don’t think SF is beautiful. Each time I went there, I was glad to escape; Obi-Wan Kenobi’s comment about “a wretched hive of scum and villainy” came to mind…)
Aronblue, thanks for the data points!
Ryan, that’s exactly my hope. The reason so many people want a wall to keep California out is that a lot of people in California seem to think that it’s their job to tell the rest of the nation how to live. Equally, a lot of people in the Bible Belt states have the same ambition! If we can admit that Californians gonna Californicate and Alabamans gonna do something very, very different, and return to a new federalism that allows for the difference, the culture war can go down to a slow simmer and those who want to live in a different way have a good chance of moving somewhere where that’s possible.
Foglight, did you read the article I linked to above, from the SF Gate, which admits that SF has to wash more human feces off its sidewalks — 21,000 turds a year — than any other city in the country? Here it is again in case you missed it. I’ve noticed that whenever I say something uncomplimentary about San Francisco, people come rushing to insist that it just ain’t so, even when your own newspaper says otherwise…
Brian, I’m combining what I get from a variety of information sources with my reflections on my own visits to California. It intrigues me that no other state gets so obsessive a defensive response from residents when I talk about its problems.
Kimberly, I’ve wondered that as well.
Nachtgurke, I hope you can avoid going where we’re going!
Hubertus, I knew Richard Duncan personally — he lived in Seattle when I was there, and we used to have lunch together and talk about the end of the industrial age. I remember what he said about blackouts.
Nancy, notice how you took two different comments of mine — a critique of Obamacare as a failed policy, and a critique of the Democratic candidates’ agreement that illegal immigrants should get free health care — and somehow cobbled that together into a denunciation of universal health care. If you want to disagree with what I’m saying, by all means, but it would be nice if you didn’t waste your efforts on a straw man of your own fabrication.
I haven’t looked too far into the “dirtbag left,” but they seem like they might represent a reawakening of the Old Left sensibilities of that got memory-holed pretty much across the Western world in the 70’s and 80’s, such as when May ’68 was reimagined as being primarily about cultural issues instead of the last serious attempt at a revolution.
Rita-You forgot to warn prospective newcomers about the rabid quail…
re: Olduvai Gorge theory. I never met Richard Duncan but I did meet his colleague Walter Youngquist in 2001. He was astonished that anyone half his age had heard of any of this stuff. It seems that fracking pushed back the timing a decade, maybe more.
As for California poop, the poop I’ve seen on San Francisco streets is from dogs, not humans (although the humans walk the dogs). But this is in the Sunset district, mostly residential, not downtown.
California has some of the most beautiful and most ugly places in the country. Redwoods and LA sprawl. I suspect a part of the resentment about California in the rest of the country is that California raises much of the fresh food used in the other states. It’s similar to urbanites resenting being dependent on rural farmers who they dislike, and the rural farmers returning that dislike to the urbanites they are feeding.
What’s ADF? I looked up the initials and got a variety of results, but nothing about something imploding, I hope it’s a building somewhere and that my dad can see it. He always got a big kick out of those planned building implosions.
Thank you JMG for this triptyk of essays I really appreciated. Progress and the myth of it is something I think a lot about. Even the late Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius who was, I think, the first to actually describe the greenhouse effect in the late 19:th century, had his visions on what the concept of “progress” could lead to with too much carbon to play around with. There is a one minute short film about that, “Svante Arrhenius’ breakdown”:
Sorry for shamelessly share a funny video I’ve made. But I hope it will give you a laugh. It is one of 50 one minute films which compete in a film festival in Paris sponsored by the UN to “fight climate change”. My aim was to make a film which see climate change in a somewhat broader perspective. It will be so interesting to see how it is received by main stream climate change fighters!
“Cthulhu swims laps, as Oswald Spengler points out; having swum left to the edge of the pool, he turns and heads the other way. ”
Yes indeed. But he has been swimming left from the Stuarts to Barack Obama. Claiming this is the very moment in 500 years he’s reached pool’s end and turns around…. is a big claim. A pinpoint, sell-the-top-tick of the stock market kind of claim. The counter-claim is the response from the establishment, tasting a little metalicy fear for the first time in quite a while, will be bigger and more effective than most realize, and more widely supported, too. Don’t get too distracted by the clown show; plans are being laid as we speak. Just as soon as the Ogre is out.
But as you say, we shall await future events to see who’s right. (Although the future has a way of making fools of everyone—though of course you were right about Trump and that’s a big one. Cred.)
In reference to the comment of Nachtgurke, I can confirm that fads originating in the United States indeed come to Germany, after a while, but in less extreme form. The desire to intervene militarily in other countries is something which Kramp-Karrenbauer, the designated successor of Angela Merkel, has proposed. Kramp-Karrenbauer is not very popular and it seems like that in the CDU, Merkel’s days are numbered. A possible candidate for the chancellor succession would also be Friedrich Merz, who is more right-wing than Merkel and Kramp-Karrenbauer.
I would like to add that the last elections in the state of Thuringia have shown the SPD (Social Democrats) to be imploding, the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland, Alternative for Germany) has won the second place, and the negotiations about a coalition government are quite difficult, because nobody wants a coalition with the AfD; one CDU politician who proposed negotiations with the AfD has drawn to him the wrath of other politicians who demand him to be expelled from the CDU.
By the way, Ar nDraíocht Féin seems to be in worse shape than I thought. The whole neopagan secene seems to have become toxic, so other Druid orders were probably very wise to distance themselves from the Neopagans. But that may be a subject for next Magic Monday.
“While the dancers at the end of time trudge through their ritual steps… the rest of us might consider rolling up our sleeves and seeing what we can accomplish.”
I assume you don’t mean yelling at people to change their lives, but instead changing our own habits so that we may live in harmony with the rest of nature? 😊
The election of Donald Trump has given, against all odds, another chance to the perishing republic of the United States. A chance to avoid much suffering, to adapt and survive or at the very least to end its existence through peaceful dissolution. It would be a real tragedy if this opportunity is discarded like the conservation and the appropriate technology movements of the 1970s or the chance the industrial society had in 2008 when so many people grasped the reality of oil supply limitations.
I argue that something has changed, however. It’s not just that the coddled Boomer generation is on its way out, reluctant as they may be to release the levers of control. The younger generations grew up in a different and often a significantly harsher world and as a result they have a less entitled attitude and more realistic expectations. The other thing is that for most people the living conditions deteriorated so much it’s impossible to continue to ignore the fact that the bright future has failed to arrive.
There’s a really popular saying on the Internet these days: “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”. It isn’t hard to see why this quote has such traction. Not only it manages to grasp the cyclical nature of time beautifully, it explains how we got to where we are and it also offers hope to those who live through harsh times. I’ve been told it’s a quote by an American novelist G. Michael Hopf which may also be a version of an earlier quote by an English writer and poet D. H. Lawrence: “Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves”.
So, there’s hope that this time something will be done right. Was it Winston Churchill who said: “Americans will always do the right thing, after exhausting all the alternatives”. I wish only the good things to the republic. It manages to produce many wonderful people, including our host, so there must be something good and right about it.
Thank you for these essays!
It seems to me that the critical element in elitist rule is the division of the plebeian majority. Democrats would need a populist campaign to handle Trump. The problem is that – as you suggest – they are unable to do the rational thing anymore. Not that it would be impossible to attack any insanely rich businessman from a populist stance… The hard left does this routinely in Europe. It is comical that even socialism turns out to be en elitist ideology in the hands of contemporary Democrats.
Still, this situation is somewhat similar to Hungary, my homeland, so I am not really surprised. Probably the main difference is that the Hungarian elite can (and possibly will) invite foreign troops if their power is broken. They did it more than once in the past… Though foreign invasion is unlikely in the US, I doubt that the current drama is the last resort of your elite.
By the way, in the Western European core, the division seems to work at the moment. Farage is played against Corbyn, Melenchon against Le Pen, Linke against AfD. The conflict is there but it is building more slowly to a brutal turning point.
Greetings to you and your wife , hope everything is well.
There’s been an argument among some in the alt right that what is going on in Cali is not catabolic collapse, there’s enough resources it only a lack of will that is keeping us from fixing the grid. I think that a symptom of catabolic collapse is that the political system goes “fubar”. While in theory we could devote enough resources to fix the grid, or put a person on mars, competing interests never allow that to happen. What do you think.
@JMG, re: iron bars, yes they are quite common. A pair of thoughts before I dash off to work:
-I can only speak to the reality of SF from 2010 – present. One of the virtues of iron is its durability. It is quite possible that crime rates were much higher in the past.
-The reality of crime and the FEAR of crime are distinct. People can feel unsafe while actually being quite safe, especially if they mistake signs of social distress (e.g. homelessness) for personal threats. For pop culture examples, see the film “Dirty Harry,” which was set in SF. For an excellent cultural of SF history from the hippies through Jim Jones, the Zebra Killers, and the Zodiac Killer all the way to the AIDS crisis, read David Talbot’s “Season of the Witch.”
I outmigrated from California in 1998. Before then I lived in Contra Costa County, a county of extremes between the poor and the wealthy. Bars and gates at that time were rare in San Ramon, Dansville, Alamo, Orinda (recently in the news) or Walnut Creek; not so rare in Concord (where I was nearly mugged at a car wash on a Sunday morning), and common in cities I saw little need to visit: Pittsburg, Antioch, Richmond. I can well imagine miles of houses with bars and gates in those latter cities. Rents back then were still affordable in the safer cities. “White privilege,” some of my old Quaker friends would have insisted.
@ Ryan S, Patricia M, Violet
Re class stereotypes
I have to admit it to be puzzling in the extreme. I’ve seen some very crude depictions over on PoliticalWire that have left me scratching my head and wondering if the folks posting these have ever met anyone from flyover country or rural regions. And as to military service, of course, these are *exactly* the people who have served…and have substantial experience as a consequence. I think that part of the issue is that the commenters see the military as part of the mechanism of the state and simply cannot envision anyone not doing what they are told–the soldiers are machines, not people.
Re stereotypes more broadly, it occurred to me that the comment made above about “these people cannot think, only react emotionally” seems very much in line with the standard tropes used to belittle/dehumanize a group: were not “lesser” races seen as being capable only of “emotional reaction,” whereas “thought” was for the “higher” races? Likewise, women were considered “emotional,” while men were “rational”? Again, it is puzzling to observe the persistence of these notions.
I know that some of my ideas are rather “out there” (just ask some of my fellow council-members!), but it’s nice to know there are areas we can agree 🙂
When I first visited rural Vietnam, in 2007, the electricity in the town we stayed in reliably went off for an hour or three every afternoon, and somewhat randomly at other times. I remember going with our host to a family gathering that lasted until after sunset. She’d forgotten to bring a flashlight, and the electricity went out as we started back home. And stayed out, as we stumbled half a mile down pitch-dark, uneven dirt roads.
When I visited again four years later, we only had a couple of short outages over a couple of weeks. Power had gotten reliable enough for people to start getting small fridges. My friends tell me things have continued to improve in the years since.
…and here we go in the other direction. Whee!
Anonymous Californian, et all:
((Sigh!)) As a California native, it pains me to read and ‘see’ what so much of my beloved home-state has become. I’ll personally probably never live there again for many different reasons, but still…. Incidentally, from the San Diego county – there have been wildfires every fall since I can remember, usually not huge, but frequently resulting in the loss of a home or two; and PG&E have always been “Bad Actors”, (remember the story ‘Erin Brokovitch’? Yeah, that was PG&E too). This is not to dismiss the current fires, especially in NorCal, but the climate and land itself has always been prone to fires – humans of course, should have taken that into consideration, right?
OTOH: The state is huge and diverse in so many ways, with natural resources and home industries. In the vein of some of our previous esoteric discussions on “land personality”, the specific directional pull of a place or land – CA has a strong pull of abundance and the sense of ‘freedom’. Too much so for it’s own good as I have said in last week’s comment – as a kid, always has been, IMHO. in the 60’s and 70’s – those fracking pop songs seemed to lure every freedom-seeking flower child and fruitcake from the rest of the country to live out their dreams, no matter how crazy, and even no matter how venal. I suppose it’s always been that way, starting for Europeans with the Gold Rush. It wasn’t truly the California Dream, it was their dreams that they brought to California. Maybe this mythmaking/dreamscape emanating from the land itself is WHY the myth and dream factories of the film industry found their expression in those Hollywood Hills. As I also said last week, CA and the far Wild Wild West have always been the place for immigrants to reinvent themselves and start afresh, (fake-it-till-you-make-it). Perhaps the mentality it takes to do that has informed the psyche, resulting in this disconnectedness that you,Anonymous Californian, talk about. In my experience, you are absolutely correct – there is a difficulty in making human connections there which then kind of redirects one back to the dream state.
Anyway- I suspect it’s a good thing for all involved that a lot of people move back or out. The land of California will certainly survive heal and thrive. Maybe a century from now, it’s siren song will beckon the dreamers again.
James M Jensen III: “… why otherwise intelligent people have been so absolutely certain that a real-estate mogul with several decades of experience doesn’t know how to keep his hands clean.”
If you’re talking about President Trump – I’d say, because those of us aware of his history in NY real estate (4 bankruptcies?) – his hands have never really been clean. His father’s hands have never been clean and his grandfather’s hands have never been clean. Their business model has always been to skip and skirt one step ahead of the law. That’s not a condemnation, BTW – that a certain business perspective, “If you’re not conning someone – you’re being conned” or “If you look around the room and you can’t figure out who is the mark….It’s you” is a real model that some cultures and people follow, and of course to a certain extent they’re right and to a certain extent it works. A quick research into the history of Frederick Trump easily shows that. (Incidentally – as one Chinese friend once told us – “Every family fortune was born in piracy. Look back far enough and all of them started with something illegal, illicit or at least unsavory”) 😉
1. Trump has already betrayed his base on immigration. They have yet to notice it. Point out to me anything, anything substantive he has yet to do to stop illegals. Anything. Anything at all. I would also point out that you also said that Trump represented the last attempt for a lot of people to work within the system for reform. And what I’ve concluded is the status quo doesn’t want reform, thinks it is perfect and treats all attempts at reform as existential threats. Maybe so.
2. So you noticed that now California, one of the most “superior” and wealthy states of the Union, is now worse run than Alabama, one of the most “inferior” and poorest states of the Union. And Alabama has real serious endemic problems. BUT IT IS BETTER RUN IN THIS ERA. That right there says it all. Who knew that the 21st century would belong to – Alabama.
3. It’s not just funds diverted from necessary tasks that are deliberately being neglected, there’s a real generational handoff going on. PG&E is being run by Millenials. Boeing, is now being run by Millenials. And we got the 737-Max. California is run by – Millenials. MILLENIALS ARE RUNNING THINGS NOW AND IT SHOWS. Oh boy does it show. You thought the Boomers were bad. One day you Boomers will be able to troll people by saying “Miss us yet?”
JMG and others have commented on Tulsi Gabbard as the Democratic nominee for President in 2024 (which I enthusiastically support). Nikki Haley resurfaced in the national media recently in defense of DJT and I’m having a recurring fantasy now that these two could be the major party candidates in 2024. Wouldn’t that be something? Two women of Indian descent. one Gen X, one Millennial! I know it’s farfetched, but I would hope for some accolades in this forum in 2024 should it come to pass😉
The economy does seem to be teetering on the edge of recession. The Fed has been cutting interest rates to keep things going a bit longer. Do you think Trump can survive a recession before the election? So far the Fed seems to be playing along to keep things going, do you think those in power might allow or encourage the recession to hit before the election to push Trump out? I think the only way Trump does not win in 2020, is the recession occurs before the election (or massive voter fraud).
I salvage, repair, repurpose, redesign, (re, re, re!) vintage and antique furniture as a small business. ((Shameless plug : The Orb Vintage Re-Design) There are a lot of other craftspeople/artists like me around the USA and beyond, and a lot of customers for us. The good news is more and more people ARE waking up to appreciate the quality of older made furniture, clothing and ‘stuff’ needed in their homes. If you are interested in helping out your friends and neighbors stuck in the rut of the “Ikea or bust” mindset: direct them to facebook marketplace or their nearest brick and mortar re-sale shops. The prices are comparable / usually less than Ikea or Wayfair for much better quality pieces, crafted locally.
OR you/they can grab an old piece from the thrift store, (or curbside), watch a few you-tube tutorials and start to learn to DIY. But beware – it’s fun. It’s more than fun, it’s really addictive. 😉
Re: Bernie Sanders
Bernie is one of my US senators. I really haven’t been following his policy proposals closely, but for what it’s worth I can say that as a Vermonter the constituent service I’ve gotten the few times I’ve called his office is really lousy. A harbinger of things to come? I don’t know.
Did you see this in the news? At a recent DACA prayer breakfast, Hawaii senator Maizie Hirono said that we need activists, “committed to human rights and environmental rights, climate change — believe in climate change as though it’s a religion (it’s not it’s science).” Some outlets have misquoted her, making her say that climate change “it’s not science”. That is inaccurate.
JMG and Ken:
Annnnd here is precisely why those folks in flyover country are going to vote for Trump again:
“UC Berkeley instructor Jackson Kernion claimed that farmers and rural Americans are ‘bad people’ who have made ‘bad decisions’ in life, a report says.
Kernion laughed at rural Americans and wished that life would be hard for those people in flyover country.
‘Rural Healthcare Should be expensive! And that expense should be borne by those who choose rural America!’ he said in one tweet.
He slammed those arguing for ‘affordable rural healthcare’ and said it is is equivalent to arguing for rural Americans ‘to be subsidized by those who choose a more efficient way of life.’
‘Same goes for rural broadband. And gas taxes,’ Kernion bloviated.
‘It should be uncomfortable to live in rural America. It should be uncomfortable to not move,’ he wrote.
‘I unironically embrace the bashing of rural Americans. They, as a group, are bad people who have made bad life decisions. Some, I assume are good people. But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid and we should shame people who aren’t pro-city,’ he wrote in another tweet.”
1. Who does he think grows his arugula?
2. I’m a proud rural American, college educated, multi-lingual. Previously I always voted for Dems, including Hillary (mea culpa). Come 2020, I will crawl over broken glass to vote for Trump, not because he’s wonderful (he’s not) or because he’s brilliant (he’s not) or because he’s thoughtful (he’s not) or because all of his policies are well considered (they’re not), but because he doesn’t actively hate and disparage rural people, religious people, and anyone who is unconvinced that the intersectional Green New Deal future is going to be amazing.
It’s interesting seeing people’s defensive reactions regarding California. I’m a 4th generation Californian. I’ve lived in various places in Orange County, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, in both San Francisco, and now the East Bay. I’ve traveled extensively in this state to many, many areas, and have had friends all over the state. I grew up very poor, experienced homelessness, and my father died on the streets of LA (as well as lived in several prisons, which I spent much of my childhood visiting). I’ve also, mainly because of my chosen sport (equestrian), as well as just having wealthy college friends, spent time with the ultra-wealthy, including weekends and vacations in multi-million-dollar homes with very powerful people. I’ve pretty much seen it all. None of it was good, or points to a better future.
And for various reasons, I’ve also lived in small towns in Kentucky, Northern Idaho and Scotland. I know what life is like away from here too.
Anyway JMG, you sure did strike some nerves this week, wow!
I’ll just say:
Most of California is worse than people realize, and for those who have lived here in the past, the last 5 years has seen a horrific decline, unless you stay safely in your bubble. I now live in the East Bay, and work for a certain well-known University. I see things DAILY that literally make me cry, the extremely mentally ill, people literally dying on the streets, people urinating and defecating on the sidewalks as people walk by. Streets lined with RVs and tents. Yesterday on my way home I drove by “People’s Park” and it was completely full of homeless, more than I have ever seen. The wealthy and police are now driving the thousands and thousands of homeless into smaller areas, and there are favelas forming in many cities. I had guests from England a couple weeks ago, and as I drove them around to the sights of the Bay Area, then up to Tahoe, I was depressed and embarrassed. Driving from small pocket of “nice”, through vast distances of decay, to another small pocket of “nice”. You can somewhat escape it as you drive into the forest or to more rural areas, unless you look closely. We went up to the Russian River to discover if you looked close, the forest is full of homeless people in camps.
This is all the more painful for me, as I spent most of my childhood witnessing how this happens, as my father went from a teenage heroin addict in the late 60s/early 70s, to the prison system due to the drug wars of the late 70s/80s, descending into madness, ultimately with nowhere to go except the streets. Until he died in 2018, every person I saw was him, now every person is a reminder of him, and what this state does to people.
What no one is talking about either, is how the sanctuary laws combined with changing the drug laws has basically opened this state up to a huge inflow of drug dealers and a rise of cartels here in the state (Mexican, Chinese, Russian, and others). Or the fact that we have plenty of houses, but after many years of prop 13 and foreign buyers basically laundering money through real estate, no working class or middle-class people can afford to buy anything. In some towns, like Richmond, there are hundreds of empty homes owned by “investors” that have no desire to have anyone live in them.
And for the person who said SF was “safe”. Not anymore. And things continue to deteriorate.
What I see as people (like me) try to flee the state is simply a further decent into third world status, leaving the ultra-rich behind their gates, with slums surrounding them. A giant Rio de Janeiro. A playground for the rich, surrounded (and served) by poverty and the poor. I suppose a happy ending for some.
I hope I’m not wandering to far off-topic with this comment, but I think it bears pointing out that a major reason President Trump has had such smooth-sailing economically is because the central banks that have been printing money to keep the financial economy from tanking, cranked up those printing-presses to full tilt the very afternoon following Trump’s very narrow victory. If you look at graphs for the performance of the three major stock-market indices in the USA, you can see that the recent hypertrophic increases in their numbers began exactly in mid-November of 2016. If Trump’s policies have indeed been bringing more of our economic production back to our shores, that’s all to the good, but without all the runaway central-bank money-printing, the history of the past four years certainly would have taken a very different trajectory.
I also think it’s not terribly difficult to find a corresponding amount of cultism among Trump’s most ardent supporters. However, the recent Ghost-Dancing cultism of the blue-state urban affluent classes is so bitterly disappointing exactly because they billed themselves during the George W Bush years as the reasonable ones, the enlightened ones, and the reality-based ones. And they turned out to be anything but. Case-in-point, it’s terribly embarrassing to admit that I once thought of Keith Olbermann as somebody to listen to.
@JMG, Waffle and the rest of you lot who may be interested:
In parallel news: a left, (right?) insurgency further on than California or the rest of the USA:
The pro-democracy protests/riots in Hong Kong continue and are escalating. The length of time now and level of disruption are at a point that no one can see ‘going back to normal’. No one knows what the outcome will be. Live ammunition has been sporadically used by police, one female protester filed a lawsuit for gang rape in a police precinct where she was brought in, An elderly man was set on fire by protesters,, the big Christmas tree in one of the main shopping malls was set on fire, as were many hub MTR stations. Barriers and barricades have been set up along most common road routes. Citizens get harassed or even beat up if they try to move the obstacles and clear the road. All schools are now on a daily “open or closed” notification basis, even the private and international ones. Students must do online learning at home, (same as in 2003 during SARS). Ditto for many workers, if they can work from a computer from home, they are advised not to come in. Thousands of small shops and businesses have closed. There is still majority/widespread support for the protesters and what they are fighting for, but the city is taking a huge hit of damages. As typical for China – there is a lot of suspicion, (well founded) that the ‘rioters’ and more violent members of the protesters, as well as the more aggressive police are plants from Beijing. A quick indicator is that they cannot speak Cantonese or have a thick Mandarin accent. The biggest, (or perhaps simply most vocal) opposition seems to be coming from wealthy expats who are inconvenienced by the road and school closures. “unconscionable!” a brick thrown through the window of a Tesla….. As a former expat, m’self – It sickens me to see these comments from my fellow expats, suffering the hardship of sticking to the private clubs on the Southside or being forced to take another holiday in Phukett to clink their champagne glasses, whining about inconveniences while the city burns, pining for the good old days when they not only lived like kings, but the locals lived like serfs uncomplainingly. But also as a former expat who did live there through SARS – closure of the schools is the point at which most of these will return ‘home’ to the USA, UK, Aus or wherever. Most of these – which means the international business hub will take a massive hit as it did during SARS only no end in sight this time.
I think Americans worried about potential insurgency or “what is to come” here, would do well to keep an eye on Hong Kong and how this will play out. The protesters have nothing to lose because they have nothing to go back to. Beijing clearly doesn’t want another Tianeman Square, because if the protesters/populace have nothing to go back to – even that won’t ultimately put out the fire. This a forefront of global populist uprising.
Beekeeper, I never heard of this Law of Merited Impossibility but it’s in line with trains of thought coming from modern-day bastions of enlightenment.
I’m pretty sure that JMG wrote about this, but there was a time not so long ago that leading thinkers assured everyone that globalization was an unmitigated good, that millions of new jobs for Americans would result, that we would have an era of unprecedented prosperity, that displaced workers would re-train for work further up the value chain as manufacturing moved to China and Mexico. And if you didn’t take advantage of the coming arrangements, you had no one to blame but yourself.
What a fairy-tale it all was. People brought low by this new economic dispensation were deemed too lazy, too stupid, too uneducated.
Never mind that the proposition was as unlikely as 45 year old Manhattan attorneys retraining for high-rise construction trades, or that the years required for retraining were unworkable for guys having to support young families. Nope, disaster was an extreme unlikelihood, but when it unfolded, the bigots and cretins had it coming.
Then they sneered: “learn to code”. What malarkey. As if everybody’s wired to code.
Fair enough. The CA defensiveness probably comes because people do care about the place and also have invested much of their identity into the California Is The Shiny Bright Future narrative. I’d like to think I’m more self aware but maybe not.
In that vein, I have a contrarian prediction for California: in 10 years everybody’s least favorite city – Los Angeles – will be having a moment. The thing is, it’s been in slow collapse for 20 years at least, draining companies and people, largely to places like Texas and Arizona.
LA never really caught the “knowledge economy” (tech/bio-tech/finance/edu) fever the way that SF, Seattle and Boston did. It just doesn’t appeal to nerds. So it’s been limping along, trying to hang on to Hollywood at least and making a pathetic attempt at grabbing some tech glamour with Space X and “Silicon Beach.”
The hidden strength there is an extremely diverse economy as well a working culture that long ago adapted to the harsh reality of the “multiple gig economy.” The actress/waitress is the cliche example. But when I was living there I also met the artist/mechanic, driver/dancer, designer/bouncer and so on.
What’s holding back all this creativity is basically a high COL. But when the tech bubble bursts and the foreign money stops pouring in, SF will be left holding the bag while LA will just shrug (like, whatever) and celebrate some semblance of sanity returning to property prices.
In the meantime, LA has made massive investments in public transit (http://calurbanist.com/los-angeles-rail-brt/). It’ll never be Paris but the core area is very car-free do-able and contrary to perception, it’s pretty dense, closer to Seattle than Atlanta. With the 2028 Olympics coming, LA will be able to wrangle more public funds to avoid national embarrassment.
But what about those corrupt politicians and public agencies? Well, my hope is that a good old harsh recession with smack inept agencies like CalPers and CTU back to financial reality. As for every conservative’s fear du jour – illegal immigration – that ship has sailed. CA already has a wall and they’re mostly going to Texas these days anyway.
Predicting a big LA comeback is something of a long shot prediction, I’ll admit. But don’t be surprised if it happens. You heard it here first 😉
Great Post JMG!
We are experiencing similar things in Mexico with AMLO’s opposition. His opposition does little more than insulting him and those who voted for him. They don’t really bring up any serious criticisms. It’s so obvious in their minds that you’d have to be an idiot to support AMLO, and pay no attention to what those who support him are actually saying.
I believe they’ve lost hope of beating him and his party in elections, so they’ve resorted to writing letters to international organizations and the US government requesting an intervention. They’ve even requested the Mexican military to organize a coup. The funny thing is that they justify these potential interventions arguing that democracy is in danger in Mexico, and at the same time they blame AMLO for brainwashing people with sophistry and populist policies to vote for him. I guess people need the tutelage of the enlightened when voting. The scary thing to me is that this has worked in the past: foreign powers have been known to side with minority oppositions in Mexico when they think they can advance their interests. I hope history doesn’t repeat this time.
The PG&E story is one of corruption, arrogance and incompetence. The utility, with winks and nods from California’s Public Utility Commission — and under Democratic and Republican governors alike — repeatedly raised rates on customers in the name of maintaining and upgrading infrastructure, only to shovel the cash to investors and executives and, um, maintenance? “Oops! We forgot. Our bad!” PG&E suffered no consequences for this essentially criminal behavior, but hundreds of their customers did. They died.
I highly recommend journalist Mark Arax’s article about the wildfire that destroyed Paradise, CA last year. It’s a scathing story of the idiotic and corrupt land use planning that characterized California’s boom years of the 1960s and 1970s, the equally idiotic forest “management” practices of the same years, and the third leg of PG&E all coming together with horrifying consequences.
IMO, corruption of the PG&E ilk is a hallmark of the current administration. Trump and his cronies are simply a lot more open about it, and in fact, seem surprised that anyone would think that it’s wrong. Read up on Betsy DeVos as a case in point.
Here’s the link to the Arax article. Worth the read, even if you live halfway across the planet:
One other observation about the PG&E blackouts of recent weeks. The Blue Lake Rancheria in Humboldt County, California, part of the Wiyot nation, built a microgrid some years ago that powers its reservation with a combination of PV battery storage and diesel generators. While the rest of the county was in the dark, Blue Lake was open for business. Their microgrid is not pure, I’m sure, in the eyes of some alternative energy advocates, but it could be a glimpse of a somewhat depopulated California’s future.
@ Darkest Yorkshire
Fascism is a system that combines corporations and the State power into one…according to Mussolini anyway. They are also pro-war and pro-propaganda, capturing the media first, so fascism ALWAYS has elite support. And it works because Fascism is National Democratic SOCIALISM, as demonstrated by the words in the acronym n.a.z.i.? That’s how total billionaire control is made palatable and sold to the people. Soooo…next problem: that being the case, with Alphabet, Facebook, Blackwater, Boeing, and Morgan protected, bailed out, and untouchable, we already HAVE a fascist system, we are already IN one, in Britain and here, for decades. And if that system hates The Donald like cancer, what does that say about him, and them?
The dreadful thing about Hughes laughing are people from coast to coast saying “I unironically embrace the bashing of rural Americans. They, as a group, are bad…” I saw it in 2016 with 300 back-to-back comments on Slate for instance, saying all rural Michiganites (and like such) were backward trolls who should be killed on sight for the good of mankind. A “final solution” if you will. “Slate” is not a fringe outlet, but it is an urban one. Hughes was unable to realize that those bad rural people are battered, hardened to stone, numb, daily practiced in violence to survive a constant privation they are well-used to, stand all day in the snow for the chance to shoot things, and are very, very well armed. They would be fighting gated community denizens who eat avocado toast and wilt at the use of common words like “you guys”, have never been punched in their lives, call mommy if someone doesn’t like them enough, and have never seen a weapon in person. They have no idea how grave and fatal their situation would be, but do understand that no war could possibly be fought without the GOVERNMENT fighting those bad trolls for them while they drink white tea and watch on their iPhones. …Even though those evil soldiers and policemen would presumably wear red hats??? Yet would slavishly obey the unarmed blue advisors and kill their own people anyway??? “We have a lot of people who hate Trump for refusing to disarm them.” Even now, the amazing attempt to disarm THEMSELVES in the face of Trump, they ADD to his military and secret state budget, and give to give HIM, the government, the power to censor free speech. …What are you thinking? I’m just lost and speechless at the sight of it all. What inspires such psychosis?
A “mean-spiritedness which I consider the state’s defining feature…. love [for] any opportunity to exert arbitrary power over other people.” Who are “in fact, the reaction of a devoted member of a cult. … shrieking like an abusive parent at a child who tries to create boundaries with them.”
The Michiganites with rusting cars who chop wood for collapsing houses and claim that objective reality and the laws of physics and finance are actual boundaries, are their sworn religious enemy who must be and are openly or universally discussed to be: destroyed. Utterly and unreservedly disenfranchised forever, by any means available. That was why they “saw Trump as their last hope short of picking up a gun and launching a [losing] insurgency” that would likely burn their towns and families to annihilation and yet still had no alternative. Can it go well from there? So RyanM, I disagree, having direct experience, however countintuitive electing a lifelong DNC, gun-controlling, gay-marriage-supporting, liberal NYC Billionaire may seem, it’s quite possible stupidhead just saved your, our, life there. Make the most of your time.
“Embracing myth keeps people from having to face the reality that they were wrong,” Humans will die before admit they are wrong. Sadly I expect, like scientists, the only way for a new paradigm is for the old one to die one funeral at a time. We can only hope less quickly, although that faster possibility remains.
@JMG, et all you lot….
Sorry, Hong Kong diatribe conclusion:
I see the protesters’ plea for democracy as misguided as they seem to think their troubles will be solved by instituting Western Style democracy, those of us in the USA would all probably give a raised eyebrow to that notion. I think at the root of it is the tremendous wealth gap, (largest in the developed world), borne of the corruption between billionaire property developers and local and Beijing Govt. that has a stranglehold on ordinary Hong Kongers’ socio-economic movement.
(* I can attest my 700 sq. ft. ‘luxury’ apt. cost $1600USD per month, (Take THAT San Francisco!). It’s all about the housing /property developers in HK).
If I am right in this – I don’t think Zhang can help but see the mirror in this to the origins and source of power to his very own Communist Party rule. He would have to know that you simply cannot keep a people down, squashed so flat or “break their rice-bowl”. They have no alternative to keep fighting. You will always lose. It may take decades of destruction but they can’t give up, you ‘can’, you will eventually. MAYBE this is why we have yet to see a Tianemen style crackdown. Thoughts?
Ken Wood and JMG, couldn’t help eavesdropping on your exchange. I too am a product of the working class, from a blue-collar town. As for myself and my wife and all my cousins, we’re all university educated professionals, the point being that we’ve seen both sides of the class and work divide.
And there really is a divide, with wide-spread contempt from the professional class, unapologetically expressed in the press, especially from people born and raised in large cities, who have professional parents, and who have limited exposure to those same people they despise.
Ken, no disrespect intended but what you’ve told us about your working class compadres sounds to me like a ludicrous caricature, unrecognizable in my experience, but much of which I’ve read in some of the more exalted big city and east-coast publications, many of which apparently have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s like David Brooks said of himself and his own peers, maybe we should mingle more. Yeah, maybe.
Anyway it makes me wonder why you say what you say. Could it be that the working people that you hang with are really like what you describe? I mean, there’s the issue of who you identify with, and that may be a factor in your perceptions and attitudes.
But there’s also the issue of objective reality. Misapprehending, deliberately or not, is a maladaptive trait, especially when it’s directed at an entire class of people, numbering in the tens of millions. And it’s especially maladaptive when it’s done by a political party whose ambition it is to govern.
I think it’s like JMG sez, the Democratic Party openly despises the working class, which wouldn’t be news. And I agree with JMG, this is not the ticket to power. It is the opposite. So, you and the Democrats have a choice, smell the coffee. Or not.
California becoming a failed state raises a question: When does it lose statehood and all of its 55 electoral votes? It will probably lose some by population loss of legal residents, and census workers may avoid hazardous areas of typhus, leprosy, etc. One metric to watch for is presidential candidates stop campaigning there.
The latest on the groyper vs. Conservatism Inc. war here:
Like bees at the end of summer – hungry, frantic, vaguely aware of some impending doom – our friends on the left are buzzing around in a suicidal stupor recklessly jabbing their stingers in any direction trying to get our attention. Meanwhile, all the most interesting people on the right just aren’t that into the left anymore. Don’t cry, liberals, we’ll always have 2016. It was heady, passionate, exciting, and high-stakes. The left may be enduringly powerful and corrupt, but after three years of refusing to let up on the gas of the same niggardly nonsense and failed coups, few see them as a real threat in 2020. We get it: they lie, cheat, steal, kill, can’t do basic math, failed biology, ritually defame and smear, and protect pedophiles and sex pests. Whoop-de-doo, we’re over it. Sorry, liberals, conservatives are moving on.
1. Lots of angry and scared Californians in these comments. The angry ones say “nothing bad is happening in my neighborhood, so everything you say about the state must be wrong”. The scared ones say “Oh God! Help me, the entire state of California is a hell-hole! I’m moving out!”. A peculiarly divided opinion.
2. Apparently signs like “Go back to California!” spring up around Boise, Idaho. I wonder why it is such a popular destination for fleeing Californians.
3. A picture is worth a thousand words, this one I found particularly telling, the hubris of the Left and its disdain for the working class:
4. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should watch this documentary “Seattle is dying”:
5. Regarding Epstein. “Epstein’s body lies a-mold’ring in the grave, but his soul goes marching on!”. 🙂 Sorry I couldn’t contain myself.
6. Also the magical mister Michael Hughes wouldn’t be rolling on the floor laughing if he was to confront an armed insurgency, he would’ve been swinging in the air, dangling from a lamp post. So it’s good for him that an armed insurgency is unlikely to happen.
JMG: re “Meanwhile the policies that might spare the rest of this nation a descent into Californian conditions have some chance at this point of being enacted. Those policies are straightforward enough: a phased withdrawal from military commitments abroad we can no longer afford; trade barriers to rebuild domestic manufacturing so that we’re prepared when the dollar stops being the world’s reserve currency and we can no longer import whatever we want and pay for it with IOUs; a sustained and thoughtful national conversation about how many immigrants we can afford to accept each year without driving our existing working classes into misery; a new federalism which will return social legislation to the individual states, and thus end attempts to impose a single moral ideology of left or right on the entire nation; and a reorientation of politics toward the logic of compromise and coexistence, which alone can restore some degree of relative harmony to so vast, diverse, and opinionated a republic as this one.”
I concur, and have seen things this way for a long time now. The thing that puzzles me is, given the sensibility of this platform, why has no serious candidate adopted it lo these many years?
Your set of straightforward policy proposals make a tremendous amount of sense. But they aren’t very progressive! I had a fascinating interaction a few days ago in which some on the left said I was impeding progress by insisting that interacting with people and with books was a more reliable educational method than interacting with videos on computers. They bring out their social science studies to prove the benefit of video education, ignoring the set of studies and common sense that point in different directions. You might consider exploring more the way in which data driven social science has been an important piece propping up bad policies and confirming belief in ritual resistance. It is so easy to collect your data in ways that prove the result you wanted to find, and if that doesn’t work, you can always cherry pick the correlations that appear to support your point. Along the way, data has come to replace good judgement as the primary factor determining what policies to pursue.
It is really too bad that Donald Trump with his abandonment of traditional norms of selfless leadership and truth telling was the one to first destabilize the cult of progress and the corporate driven politics of the 1990sk 2000s and early 2010s. It is driving the left in very problematic directions.
John Michael Greer
It seems as though your final post in this series of essays has caused a spark. Looks like some lines are being drawn. I don’t want to look into your intentions too deeply here however it is clear to me that your theory and vision of the future as laid out in The Long Descent is the clearest take on our future I have read. It is resilient and stays intact which are not only the qualities of a good warrior but also the quality of a good theory I guess. @Ken Wood pointed out that writers such as Orlov and Kunstler have become bitter and angry and I share this sentiment being a long time reader of a closed email group that diffuses alternative media (including your works). It seems that progressives lack a path, or a way, into the future unfortunately that makes any sense. The idea that socialist Scandinavian countries serve as an endpoint to progressive thinking, for example, i have heard variations of the phrase ” Well Canada can can be kind of like Sweden if we adopt this or that type of socialism” does start losing ground when you take a healthy does of reality therapy aka – look at what is actually going on there right now. I do not share the view that you have some how fallen off a bridge into hyperbole, strict right wing thinking patterns, or the support of the billionaire class… although i have no idea at the value of briefly appearing this way in order to test reactions, gauge sentiment in this group, which is an incredibly diverse sample of the North American population. I think my contribution is this then – In the interest of coming together around political lines perhaps it is prudent to point out that healers generally come out of (what i see) as the far left. I’m sure that many christian healers would argue this. Regardless – The term Healer can encompass many titles..homeopath, naturopath, cranial sacrum practitioner (among many other modalities), herbalist, counselor (if your any good) ect. However in these types of people I also see what can only be described as hard-line conservative values. That homeopath might be a stubborn farmer, that counselor might work 60 hour weeks, that herbalist doesn’t want to hear anymore identity politics nonsense. These are the people I assume in America that (I hope) are padding decline in places like California. People that are offering services free even if need be.
The far left are not all locked into their political affiliations, albeit seems their political power is perhaps fledgling and only used as ammunition for Liberals and Democrats. I can see the far left in fact becoming something else entirely as the world shapes into this new and coming age. Political affiliations are transient and perhaps your own transient nature in this respect is an example!
The past few days Ive been posting on my FB possible outcomes of the impeachment drama. The shrill push backs all insist that there is only ONE possible outcome, which is whatever that person wants, and they will not even entertain that there are multi possibilities. The ones that are most shrill against are those where we end up with a President Pence. “Pence isnt important!” “Pence is un electable” Ignoring the fact that if “Bad Orange Man” is convicted, and removed, then we WILL get Pence. Im not even bothering to discuss it with them. It seems so many believe that if “Bad Orange Man” is removed, then …what?? Everything will return to whatever it is they hope for? Oh well 🙂 *sips coffee*
I see some pushback in the comments about the CA descriptions – I’ll admit that was my first instinct too. On the face of it, it does seem like you could do a lot worse than California on many counts. When I did some quick googling to find out what those counts were exactly, I came across the US News rankings. Was surprised to see CA not even in the top 15. Upon digging, I found the state ranks amongst the highest in terms of the economy, but second to last in terms of opportunity. That dichotomy I think really drives home the point.
So, instead of an apologia, here’s a quote and an anecdote from my time in the Bay.
The unironic quote: “It’s so unfair how broke I am”. (The speaker made 200K a year and was wearing a $1000 coat).
The anecdote: I was entering the BART station at the Tenderloin at was horrified to find drops of blood beginning at the steps and ending in a pool downstairs. I ran to a BART employee to let them know, so they could see if there was a bleeding person around, and whether he/she was okay. They thought I was making a cleanliness complaint and assured me the janitor would be there soon!!
Dear Ryan M, It is my opinion, I label it opinion, that while working class voters might have elected Trump, his true base of support is people like those you described, along with the cohort of lesser self-styled “businesspersons”, the hustlers, con artists, the guys and gals that play the angles, real estate swindlers and so on. What I think a lot of folks don’t get is that, in 21st.C USA, business is every bit as corrupt and terminally incompetent as are the leftist apparatchiks who inhabit the halls of govt. and staff NGOs.
As for homelessness, the pachyderm fouling the carpet is something no faction wants to even mention, let alone call for, rent controls across the USA. Immigrant groups are as, but not more, guilty here as any one else. The way the scam works is get a member of your community working in a bank, then you have access to loans to buy up chicken coops and rent them out at inflated, “market” rates. Andrew Yang is a smart guy according to even his detractors; does he really not understand that $1000 UBI is merely a giveaway to property owners of all possible backgrounds who will immediately raise rents upon passage of such a bill. Please pardon my cynicism, but I strongly suspect that Yang’s Uncle Joe or friend James the slum landlords were griping about how they are losing tenants because no one can afford what are euphemistically and laughably called market rates.
Dear BoysMom, who besides you is assuming that mail in voting is automatically fraudulent? It might be or it might not be, which can be said of any other method of voting. Now, I have no problem at all with showing valid ID–do you really think that can’t be duplicated, bought or stolen?–in order to vote. Leftists love to complain about voter suppression, but seem constitutionally unable to understand that for the price of the conferences at expensive hotels, fancy pants restaurant meals, airplane and limousine travel and similar amenities which do seem to warm the hearts of lefty organizers, one could simply pay the fees needed for a poor man to be registered.
Thank you for another insightful essay. You wrote “one of the core beliefs on which they founded their lives—the fond conviction that the world is moving toward a brighter and better future, and the policies that profit them personally are also the policies that are helping to drive that great going-forward—has shattered irrevocably around them.” That’s an interesting idea that got me to thinking.
In the Book of Exodus, God says, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
The way I understand this statement, God represents the ‘true’ underlying nature of the world and the self. If my true self and the nature of the world were suddenly revealed in a divine vision, it would completely shatter all that I thought I knew – some of my deeply held core beliefs. As I tried to compare this divine vision to the little self I thought I was and the world I thought I knew, which clearly don’t measure up to the glory of God, a vast chasm between the two would suddenly open up, creating cognitive dissonance several orders of magnitude greater than my mind would be able to deal with.
(Luckily the path of traditional occultism seems to be slower, a gentle revealing and realization about the world and the self, so it’s not too shocking.)
Under the wrong circumstances drugs can also create this fatal schism between what one thought was reality, and the different reality accessed through a drug-induced state of consciousness. I had a friend, an old roommate that had a terrible experience with a drug trip gone wrong. He said it felt like he got ‘hit by lightning’ and suddenly ‘saw the truth.’ He ended up in the psych ward. His mind apparently couldn’t handle that much truth all at once.
At the moment, we have Donald Trump, who in this case represents a particular truth – as you’ve pointed out – that not everyone in America is actually happy with the results of the ‘progress’ that comes from business as usual. There’s a huge gulf between the reality of ‘progress’ that so many believe to be the real ‘truth’ and the reality of decay and poverty that so many others, likely the ones that voted for Trump, actually got handed. The cognitive dissonance he creates by his very presence makes the people that are still buying into progress squirm. Most people don’t like to feel as though their deeply held beliefs are up for dispute, but there’s not really a solution to this rupture, as the people that benefit from business as usual are complicit to the current state of affairs. Escaping into myth or otherwise resorting to hand waving to try to explain away the new reality they’re being presented with is the only option.
So depending on how you look at it, Trump is either like that drug trip gone bad, or we need to revisit that quote: “no one may see Trump’s face and live.”
The ‘truth’ that Trump represents, as far as it’s possible to define what is true, is that ‘progress’ has created a monstrous world, with industrialization and corporate profit valued above all else. Just for example, I’m reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, (which is not really news at this point but still worth reading), and in his quest to answer the age-old question, ‘what should I have for dinner,’ he learns that factory farming and industrial agriculture have been a total disaster for the health of the earth, the animals and the people. Monstrous Dead zones have been created in the Gulf of Mexico from synthetic fertilizer and manure runoff from CAFO’s. Cows get so sick from a diet of corn, which is not natural to them, that they have to be stuffed full of antibiotics just to stay alive long enough to get big enough to butcher. There are mountains of corn rotting in the fields, subsidized by the government to the profit of food-processing corporations but the detriment of the farmers who can no longer really afford to grow the stuff. Thousands of calories of fossil fuel energy are wasted to produce and transport just a few calories of food. Epidemics of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other lifestyle-induced diseases you just might say were caused by eating so much processed corn. Topsoil destruction, pollution of rural waterways, cancer-causing herbicides, and I’m sure you know the rest. How is that progress? It just isn’t better. As far as I’m concerned, seen from the rear-view mirror, progress is starting to look like a big fat lie that was just designed to sell us stuff. Would it really be so bad to let it go?
You make an excellent point that the future of once-prosperous places like Baltimore as a decrepit slum would have been unthinkable to many people during its heydays. What do you think is the best source of measuring this sort of relative economic decline?
I am a fan of Chuck Mahron at the Strong Towns blog, who has done a lot of great work on the reasons why municipalities are insolvent and why we are starting to see deterioration of the built environment on such a large scale in America. In a recent talk, he pointed to the incredible historical wealth of Detroit, which built an opera house that would be the envy of any European city, and how in light of its deterioration, “we are all Detroit…they are just further along in the process”
On The White Goddess:
I was never too impressed with that book. He bounced all over & never came to the point.
Helix – “The thing that puzzles me is, given the sensibility of this platform, why has no serious candidate adopted it lo these many years?”
I am guessing because said candidate, if they really meant it and made it to office, would run a high risk of being removed – one way or another.
Dear Caryn, I went to your website and I love your work. I especially like that you used clear colors, not in one’s face, but not sloppy, you avoided the Stupid Aesthetic, and from what I can tell in pictures, your craftspersonship is impeccable. Your company goes on my private list of good people doing good work, along with, for examples, the MIgardener Seed Co., the Red Pig garden tool co., and employee owned King Arthur Flour.
Dear Mr. Greer, Poor with style is it? Really??? It isn’t enough to pay the rent and get food on the table, now I have to have style as well? No way. Plain and simple works just fine for me.
Well it is 15th November and no rain. How disappointing yet unsurprising. This is for those of you who were sitting on the edge of your seats wondering what would happen.
Another interesting part of the Ghost dance idea is that it applies not just to the protestors in the streets/the examples given, but more subtly, to those in the middle/upper classes that are practically silent.
The ones that are desperately trying to continue living the comfortable life style in the hope that it will set the world into a desired form and continue their ideals of the future. I mean this somewhat outside of the direct political arena (although it is relevant) but more in the aspirations of lifestyles. Buy the house, buy the car, have the holiday – rack up monsterous debt and pray to saint Delia that all the possitive posturing will come back to them in a fashion that will save them from the future they deeply fear but don’t want to acknowledge.
An example from my home state’s political theater amplifies your point. Not long ago, an unholy alliance of kleptocracts, both left and right, passed right-to-work legislation over the objection of a robust majority of the citizenry*. In response, voters in this state lobbied the public and essentially overturned that legislation through a popular referendum. Then, at the behest of their donors, the legislature tried to do an end run and nullify the referendum. What happened? Voters figured out that these legislators were bought and paid for maintaining their power through anti-competitive gerrymandering and naked graft. So, the voters put that on the ballot for the next election and passed one of the most comprehensive gerrymandering reforms in the history of the Republic. In other words, the supposedly moronic peons that choose to dwell in the middle part of the country were able to pass legislation that has been DOA at the federal level for years.
It seemed like it would be a model for liberals in other states, but I haven’t seen any inquiries made. I wager that is probably because this state’s precinct map in ’16 was an angry shade of crimson. But I digress…
To the DNC, this should have been proof positive that voters in the mid-west are listening if they have any compelling reason to believe that any candidate, or policy, is worth their time (or money). But, no. We remain to bubble-denizens irrelevant deplorables who need to get with the program. Meanwhile, of course, it’s not like we don’t have friends and family in New York, LA, SF, and Chicago. We see the politicians there (more often than not Democrats in the urban centers) pandering to their voters while they strip their states and cities for parts–literally in the case of Mayor Emanuel and Chicago’s parking meters. Not a road we want to go down.
For my part, largely as a result of religious considerations, I am not a close friend of any candidate or party– nor especially President Trump. Nonetheless, on balance, I think you’re right that Trump’s success has much less to do with nativism or some such other anachronistic bogeyman than just basic attention paid to people outside the bubble.
*I’m not saying that large labor unions don’t have their own problems.
Refernecing an earlier post in thisseries, I want to say thank you on behalf of a dear friend of mine who has recently suffered a concussion (from falling from a horse). A whole slew of unpleasant symptoms has arisen, and all that ontop of some longstanding complex PTSD issues. She is an extraordinarily strong-willed person- prior to her fall she was working as a surgical technician, assiting with trauma cases in the OR. Prior to that she was a classically trained full-time actor and dancer.
We were having a good, long conversation on Monday for the first time since her fall and talked about pragmatic and mythic thought as discussed in your post. She had an “aha!” moment and seized upon that as a potential tool to help her in her healing process. The physical healing is well supported, but the emotional and psychic healing has been tricky due to other issues in those realms. Contemplating her thoughts and emotions in terms of mythic and pragmatic orientation may be a tool that helps her navigate this difficult injury. She wrote it down and plans on bringing it to the next session she has with her therapist.
Thanks again for your generosity! May it return to you increased.
This series of posts has been quite thought-provoking and explains the behavior of many I know who are emotionally attached to the idea of progress, thank you. As a native Californian who left the state a year ago, I think that your observation that California has “progressed into its present condition” is spot on. The news of the PG&E blackouts last month served as an excellent reminder of why my husband and I chose to leave the state with our young children to move to my husband’s home state in New England. The cost of living here is lower and the government is less dysfunctional, although California sets a low bar in that regard. Plus, my parents and siblings had all already left the state as had several former co-workers. I expect the rate of out-migration to accelerate.
Psst, Caryn – check your twitter handle on the second line of you website for a missing letter R. Lovely work, by the way. 🙂
Fascinating and compelling read as always, JMG.
One little quibble though:
The return of manufacturing jobs to the US, imo, is pretty much like watching the last desperate throes of the dying industrial revolution. It’s sad to witness but totally inevitable.
The elephant in the room that most are ignoring, or hoping will go away, is the massive automation of swathes of blue collar jobs across the world. DT attributed the loss of manufacturing jobs to illegal immigration and bad trade policies, however I think you’ll find that those factories, particularly in the swing states, are populated not by hordes of illegal immigrants but by wall to wall robots. I have worked in these places and seen the future.
Incidentally I have a $100 bet with a fervent democrat, made just over a year ago, that DT will be reelected. There is only one variable that would make me reconsider my viewpoint here, and that is the exploding popularity – at least online – and ideas of Andrew Yang.
I have a soft spot for grumpy Bernie but realistically his health counts against him. Tulsi, you’ve got to like someone who courageously calls BS on the establishment but I believe also that she’s setting her stall for 2024 rather than 2020. All the others, bar MW, are establishment shills touting the same feel good moonshine and would be clobbered in the GE by the same “anyone but a career politician”.
That leaves Andrew Yang. Honestly, I would gladly lose the bet in order to have an intelligent president who would begin to address the real issues of a changing economy. Also, what’s not to like about $1000 per month free and clear?
Very unlikely, I know….but I can dream!!
David by the Lake: Women get all teary and hysterical, poor little dears, because of all that estrogen running around in our systems; men get all touchy and furious when dissed, given to rages and taking insane risks (hold my beer and watch this), poor unstable fellows, because of all that testosterone running around in their systems. Luckily there comes a time when the hormones fade away and give way to the completely rational compulsion to tell our juniors how they should live their lives….
@ David BDL I’m surprised you find these persistent notions puzzling. I know plenty of people in both sets of deplorables who fit the description “these people cannot think, only react emotionally”. Don’t you? Seems to me these tropes exist because there are some grains of truth in some of them.
Re: The rural vs. urban divide.
It has always been there. I remember back in the early 90s, the divide was already there. I remember posting some slightly naughty trollish things on USENET back in the day from a relatively rural southern Uni and getting quite the bit of finger wagging and moral posturing in response. I guess back then though, the economy was still strong enough and there was still enough money to go around that it was more grumbling and snark than anything else back then. Sure nobody saw eye to eye but bills were getting paid and work was getting done.
Now it’s just out and out hatred. I dunno, here’s the thing. Those farmers and ranchers? They sell y’all food. You depend on them to eat. Why would you decide to hate someone you depend on to the point where you wish they’d go away? Without expressing even the slightest interest in doing their work for yourself if they were to actually disappear? Are you mad?
I would understand it more if the farmers were doing a poor job and it was a case of doing it better yourself. TBH, raising your own livestock or shooting your own game is probably 10x better in quality than anything grown commercially but you’ll never hear me saying all farmers must die because they’re Bad People.
I go back and forth over whether California will become a Mexican state or a province of China. If the U.S follows the trajectory of the USSR, it’s probably going to lose a few states on the periphery and CA would be one of those.
Probably not going to happen right away, I’m guessing late this century after some disastrous war that the U.S. loses and CA gets lost in the ensuing treaty that gets signed.
And BTW, if you were a German peasant at the end of WW2, strip out ALL the ideology, strip out all the reasons that people were fighting, the ONLY thing that mattered at the end was this for you – surrender to the Americans OR surrender to the Russians. That’s it. The rest might have been sound and fury and nothing more. This time around, here’s my advice (if you’re a Murican peasant) – flee the Chinese, surrender to the Russians.
Nothing’s going to happen right away though. Just file it away for the future.
James, I hope so. It would be good to see some old-fashioned leftists for a change. As I’ve noted before, I don’t favor the left’s economic agenda, but having an active socialist or social democrat party is one of the few things that will panic capitalists out of their usual kleptocratic frenzy.
Mark, er, here again, you might want to talk to some of the people who object to Californians. There are reasons having nothing to do with vegetables!
Your Kittenship, no, it’s a Druid organization. I’ll be posting something over on Dreamwidth in a bit to start a conversation on that.
Antroposcen, thanks for this.
Golocyte, er, I think you need to review your history, because it simply isn’t true that there’s been a constant leftward movement since the Stuarts.The late 19th and early 20th century, for example, saw a major rightward movement which wasn’t reversed until the 1940s. Look at the shifts in sexual mores and you’ll find the same back and forth movement, from libertine attitudes in the 18th century, to prudishness in the 19th, to libertine in the 20th, and now the pendulum is starting to swing back toward prudishness. Thus I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to suggest that what’s now in process shows another swing of the pendulum.
Booklover, I’m watching the situation in Germany with great interest, though that’s partly because once the EU comes apart — as I’m pretty sure it will — I expect to see Europe to return to its usual ways, and the US has been drawn into your wars rather too often. As for ADF, as noted above, I’ll be posting something on Dreamwidth shortly to make room for that discussion.
Polytropos, here’s hoping.
Sleiszadam, as I see it, the reason the Democrats can’t field a populist candidate is that you can’t just invent one of those and have him/her/whatever push the same old policies; you have to figure out what the masses want and give them at least some of it. That’s not something the Dems can do just now, because what the masses want is the abandonment of those very policies. The Dems have been trying to field faux-populists for years, and it worked tolerably well until Trump showed up. Now? Tulsi Gabbard is the closest to a populist they’ve got, and they can’t stand her, because she wants to end the Forever Wars.
Dashui, it’s not full-on catabolic collapse. As the mismatch between maintenance costs and available resources rises, you get situations where mismanagement causes crucial maintenance not to get done, resulting in localized bursts of collapse — that’s what’s going on in California. The fact that it’s happening, though, shows that the mismatch is widening and that a real catabolic crisis is getting closer.
Cob, fair enough — but you’d think that would apply elsewhere in the country, and so far as I know, it doesn’t. I’m sitting right now in a working class neighborhood, multiethnic, multilingual, densely populated, and with your typically corrupt East Coast city government; we had what I think was a drug bust on this block an hour ago — certainly one of the cops had a jacket that said DEA on the back! — and crime is certainly a reality…but nobody has those iron bars and gates on their houses. Not here, not in the rich neighborhoods across the river, not in the really poor neighborhoods north and south. The miles of houses huddled behind iron bars I’ve seen every time I’ve done much traveling in California says to me that there’s something going on that the state’s cheerleaders aren’t talking about.
Phutatorius, thanks for this.
Methylethyl, whee indeed…
Owen, it’s always a source of wry amusement to me when people insist that Trump has betrayed his base. It never seems to occur to such people that he may know his actual base better than they do.
Jim, it’s by no means impossible.
Investingwithnature, one of the challenges in responding to that is that “recession” is a very vague term. I expect to see continued serious contraction in upper-end retail and a range of other industries, while other economic sectors such as manufacturing continue their expansion. What’s going on is a significant shift in wealth distribution as the flyover states regain some of what they lost due to offshoring, mass immigration, and a regulatory state that served to stifle business creation for the benefit of existing big corporations, and that’s going to look like a recession in some areas and economic sectors, and an expansion in others.
Beekeeper, yes, I read about that. I wonder if Kernion realizes that he may have just given Trump an extra 20 electoral votes or so, because his words are going to be converted into GOP advertising and splashed all over the rural US. Honestly, it’s as though they don’t believe that anyone else can hear them!
Tude, thank you for this. That matches what I’ve seen and read.
Mister N, I’d noticed that. One way to look at the 2016 election is as a face-off between two factions of the elite, with the faction associated with the State Department and CIA backing Clinton and the faction associated with the Pentagon backing Trump. For whatever reason, the central bankers seem to be backing the Pentagon faction just now.
Caryn, thanks for this. I’m seriously worried about what the PRC will do; their treatment of the Uighurs doesn’t exactly promise a happy ending. I wonder how many people from Hong Kong will end up in camps in Xinjiang — or in unmarked mass graves.
Brian, I’ve long thought of California as the home of the put-on, the place where “fake it ’til you make it” long ago turned to “just keep faking it” — thus the insistence that California must be wonderful even when it clearly isn’t. As for LA, though, I suspect you’re right. It has some rough sledding ahead of it, and a fair amount of depopulation — amogn many other things, I expect to see CGI reach the point in the not too distant future that nobody needs a studio any more, much less actors and actresses, and the new wave of visual media will be centered in Birmingham, Alabama or some similar place with the low rents and low taxes that made Los Angeles attractive to the early movie industry. But once it bottoms out, LA has room to recover, and I suspect it’ll do fairly well. (Of all the places I’ve visited in California, absurdly, LA was the one where I almost felt comfortable; make of that what you will.)
I think your comments about San Francisco are a little unfair. I think the feces on the street gets overplayed in the media because:
A. The homeless tend to congregate in high tourist areas where there is lots of foot traffic, which means it’s much more salient to visitors.
B. Many of the techies that moved to the city did not move here to BE in San Francisco, but for the money. They expected a different experience and a different quality of life for the amount of money they’re paying for rent, so they tend to complain loudly.
I think people who moved to San Francisco to be in San Francisco tend to view the homeless as part of the total package, i.e. a little art, a little poo, cool bistros, and some needles.
I’ve lived here since 1998 and I don’t think feces in the streets and crumbling infrastructure is part of the daily experience of most San Franciscans. Since I’ve lived here we’ve:
built the Transbay Terminal
rebuilt City Hall
built a light rail line into the Bayview
rebuilt the Bay Bridge
rebuilt a big chunk of the freeway in the Civic Center area
I also think you’re being unfair to PGE. They had to pay $11 billion after the wildfires in 2017 and 2018, which resulted in them declaring bankruptcy. In the face of that precedent, turning off the power in vulnerable areas during the wildfire season is optimally rational. I think it was a little hypocritical of California residents to hold PGE responsible for wildfires, with multiple exacerbating causes like climate change, and then not expect them to respond in some way.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t liked it here for a long time, and would like to leave, just not because of poo or crumbling infrastructure.
@Nastarana and TemporaryReality:
Thank You! (found that runaway ‘R’ thx for that too) 😉
@ Booklover & JMG regarding German politics:
Kramp-Karrenbauer promotes interventionism in a very plump way which (among many other things) makes her an easy target (you might know the joke… Germans are really good in building airports (BER) and ships (Gorch Fock), so building a swimming airport follows logically). I am still wondering if the choice of hers was made on purpose and messing up things is part of a larger strategy – but I suspect most likely not and they are just messing up things. But who knows? Chances are high that the CDU will follow a similar trajectory like the SPD. The SPD has spewed out its soul in the form of the party Die LINKE which has in succession has chosen the path to meaninglessness by burning up and eliminating all their former flagships who had something to say (and made some rather accurate predictions for today roughly 20 years ago, by the way). I suspect the decay of the CDU will be less disruptive, the party will – if no significant changes are made – slowly bleed out to AfD and GRÜNE.
And regarding the relationship of Germany to the US and geostrategy in general: The period of (roughly) 1989 to (roughly) 2001 is very interesting. After the FRG swallowed the GDR a lot of momentum was build up by social democrats and greens. Gerhard Schröder was in a very powerful position as he had won the 1998 general election. There was open talking about the end of the NATO, the construction of an European structure to maintain peace with the full participation of Russia, not to mention ambitious ecological goals which were worth to be called that way. In retrospective, 2001 marked the year where it became obvious that all of this would not happen (possibly an interesting project to correlate those events to astrological events…).
All of my Republican and third party friends. If you haven’t seen that said, I suggest you check your bubble! It would be so easy to find another bag of votes that hadn’t been counted to add in the back of the mail room, after all, or in the trunk of someone’s car where it had been conveniently ‘left’ in transport. The risk of being caught is low, the benefits of success high, so fraud will happen.
I disliked mailed votes first on the principle that there is no way to ensure one voter one vote. Don’t tell me there aren’t folks out there who would make sure their households voted the ‘correct’ way under threat of violence! Only any domestic abuser ever would be willing to.
ADF = Another Druid Fracas? 😄
I read much the same on a once halfway-decent liberal site that is now peopled entirely by psychotics—and I mean that in the clinical sense, when I gave up they were entirely detached from reality. They all hated white people. The site would hold reader meet-ups, and post pictures of those meet-ups that were whiter than the South Pole in June. 🙄. Fortunately I didn’t get the impression that any of them were dangerous; I don’t think anybody there was functional enough to plan and carry out an attack, thank goodness.
About that very offensive cartoon: the Left would tell you, *in all sincerity* that they’re not mocking the working classes at all; just the low-end ne’er-do-wells who were (insert pejoratives here) enough to vote for Trump, and of whom the good right-thinking (i.e. Left-thinking) working folks are probably deeply ashamed of. Because in their view, only someone totally stupid, depraved, racist, etc. could possibly have voted for Trump, Q.E.D. Which of course is circular reasoning. But if anyone should insist otherwise and claim the cartoon was aimed at them, the Left would scratch its collective head and say “Weeeellll, if the shoe fits….”
They hate Trump so much you can’t get a sliver of a wedge into that sort of mindset. And are totally convinced that (1) Getting rid of Trump is an absolute prerequisite to any sort of reforms at all and/or (2) will solve *everything* miraculously.
I’m serious. That’s the milieu I’ve lived in for years, and I saw it explode one Tuesday in November, 2016, and from then on, that’s all I’ve heard! And when you raise the economic issue, as one article in the latest Atlantic did, it’s the same old “They don’t do high tech and the cities do and that’s why they’re hurting and we’re not.”
I dont think there is an equivalence between yourself and the working class just because your dad was working class.
Also i dont think that Orlov and Kunstler have become embittered, but they have become more conservative as time has gone on, while JMG has always been conservative, which obviously doesnt fit your mental projection of how a wizard should be.
All the aforementioned have in the course of discussing decline had to distance themselves from the radical neoliberal ideology which has brought society and the entire planet to the brink while simultaneously holding massive debates over who should use what batnroom.
Conservatism is an appropriate emotional and ideological response in these circumstances when the Progress Fairy has failed everyone so badly , with her Katie Hill porno Bongs and Swastikas where Tinkerbell used to be.
Just sayin !
Dang it–the rabid quail were a secret weapon. Once had a neighbor mistake a flock of peahens for giant quail. That was pretty funny–they do share body shape and little topknot feathers. California does have flocks of aggressive wild turkeys. The complaints about California emigres go back a long time. In the 70s there were Oregon bumper stickers intended to scare them away “In Oregon, you don’t tan, you rust.” and “Don’t Californicate Oregon.”
As for the origins of family fortunes; you should have heard the howls of dismay in my New Yorker magazine discussion group when I pointed out the unsavory origins of the Kennedy fortune (rum-runners during Prohibition). “You can’t compare the Kennedy’s to Trump!” The conversation had started with comments about the shady business deals of Trump and his father. I think Raymond Chandler made one of the definitive comments about big money. ““There ain’t no clean way to make a hundred million bucks…. Somewhere along the line guys got pushed to the wall, nice little businesses got the ground cut out from under them… Decent people lost their jobs…. Big money is big power and big power gets used wrong. It’s the system.” Up that to a hundred billion for inflation, but it is still true.
I have used the transit system in Los Angeles–much better than Sacramento. Seems to have more frequent schedules and lower cost–especially for seniors and handicapped. I haven’t used the new rail system as much as my main trips have been between Greyhound bus station and Santa Monica (for visits to the Getty Villa). I have walked through parts of the homeless encampments in east LA. Blocks of tent cities in the former warehouse and light manufacturing area. Didn’t feel particularly unsafe, just people trying to get along, some even sweeping the area around their tents. No one even tried to panhandle me–suitcase probably clued them that I was headed for the Greyhound and not a good prospect.
@ Jim W
Re the tropes
That there are *people* who fit that description, I’d agree. What I don’t see is that those traditional belittling descriptors accurately reflect *groups*.
Mijas, fascinating! Thank you for the update; I don’t read Spanish so my access to news from Mexico is very limited. (As you’re doubtless aware, the media in the US are stunningly parochial and basically don’t report on international news outside of a narrow range of stories and issues.)
Frictionshift, that was what I recalled reading about PG&E also; thanks for the link.
Caryn, thanks for this. I admit to wondering whether China is keeping its troubled economy afloat withhard currency raked off from HK’s financial sector, and they’re worried about losing that income stream if they crack down too hard.
Lunchbox, Congress could pass legislation making it a territory rather than a state — or, better still, several different territories — each of which would have a territorial legislature but no seats in Congress and thus no electoral votes. Alternatively, legislation dating back to the Civil War would have to be revived to deprive it of its seats in Congress, and thus its electoral votes, until it was reconquered and underwent Reconstruction, doubtless with a due share of carpetbaggers, after which it would be readmitted as one or more states. (Virginia was divided into Virginia and West Virginia, so there’s a precedent.)
Phil K, thanks for this.
Polytropos, I’m not sure I’d call the first category angry so much as engaging in that common California sport of make-believe: say it’s wonderful often enough and you might be able to believe it yourself. It seems awfully indicative that the animal on the California state flag is a bear that doesn’t exist any more!
Helix, any policy that’s going to have a chance of being enacted has to gather a certain critical mass of support from the voters. I’ve tried to further that by talking about this set of ideas here; perhaps you can pick up the baton and discuss the same ideas elsewhere on the internet and in the real world as well.
Regressive, why, of course my policy proposals aren’t progressive; that’s why they would work. “You making haste hasten on decay,” to cite Robinson Jeffers again; at this point the natural endpoint of further progress is decline and fall, and so a regression to things that work is the best strategy. Yes, I’m aware of the role played by social “science” in all this; if you’re not familiar with the phrase “replicability crisis,” feed it into a search engine sometime.
Ian, I know as many healers who came out of the far right as I do healers that came out of the far left, and far more still who came out of points in between, so I’m not seeing a justification for your argument. You’re right, of course, that people can change their minds, and I expect that some will; indeed, one of the points of this series of posts is to offer a critical view of some of the common thoughtways of current corporate liberalism, in the hope that at least some people will stop and say, “What was I thinking?”
Marlena13, thank you for this — that’s a great example of the mythic thinking I’ve been discussing. From a pragmatic stance, if you remove one president you get the next in line, which in this case is Mike Pence. From a mythic stance, if you remove The Bad Orange Man then, I guess, Hillary comes descending from the sky in a cloud of glitter and makes everything sparkle again.
Ruth, thanks for these.
Stefania, I don’t think it’s quite fair to dismiss progress as a marketing gimmick through and through, although I freely grant that much of it is nothing more. There have been real improvements made to human life over the last three hundred years or so through the use of science and engineering; I’m very much in favor of refrigeration and running hot water, for example! The problem as I see it is that the real gains of progress have long since been overwhelmed by the useless, the toxic, and the damaging aspects of it. Until we get out from under the delusional mythology that claims that progress is inevitable and always for the best, and own our own agency in choosing what we do and don’t make part of our lives, we can’t get to work on the sorting process that will weed out the garbage and still leave us with at least some of the good stuff.
Samurai, I don’t have a good quantitative measure. Any suggestions would be welcome.
Your Kittenship, it makes great bathroom reading for exactly that reason!
Nastarana, that’s one very effective way to be poor with style!
MichaelV, an excellent point.
Millennial, thanks for this. It’s precisely because of that angry shade of red that nobody wants to touch the example in question yet. Give it another decade and you may just see similar things elsewhere.
Bonnie, good heavens. I’m delighted to hear this. May your friend have a complete recovery and go on to do even more fascinating things with her life.
Lauren, congratulations on your escape. As another Left Coast refugee now in New England, I understand! 😉
Evan, one of the features of the populist revolt is precisely that it rejects the notion that economic factors should be exempt from political supervision. If it becomes politically advantageous to slap legal limits on the rate of automation, and use trade barriers to prevent automation in other countries from crashing the working class here, that can happen, you know. I’m also far from sure that automated manufacturing will hold up well as energy and raw materials shortages bite harder, but we’ll see. As for Andrew Yang’s bribe-the-voters gimmick, er, I can easily see a problem with a “free” $1000 a month. Have you by any chance heard of an obscure thing called the law of supply and demand? If income goes up, prices will rise accordingly. I’d encourage you to read Terry Pratchett’s funny fantasy The Colour of Magic, which makes this point rather well!
Owen, it’s a commonplace of human nature that people like to hate and vilify the people they hurt; it makes it much easier to keep on causing harm, and justifying the harm to yourself and others. I see that as the driving force at work in the urban middle class hatred of the rural poor.
Geraldo, duly noted. I think you’re living in a dream world, but California seems to do that to people. If you scroll up a ways, you’ll find a link to a fine piece of investigative reporting that shows just how PG&E raised rates to do maintenance and then pocketed the money and didn’t do the maintenance; if you scroll up a little further, you’ll find a link to an article in the SF Gate that confirms that SF has more human feces on its streets and sidewalks than any other city in the nation.
Nachtgurke, thank you for this! Most interesting.
Your Kittenship, basically, yeah.
“it simply isn’t true that there’s been a constant leftward movement since the Stuarts.”
True, not totally continuous. But deep, encompassing, and sustained, and absolutely clear over any time period longer than about 30 years.
Here is the thought experiment. Pick a moment in history and a center-right, establishment thinker of the day. Then find a similar voice a generation earlier, or a century earlier, and compare.
Ben Shapiro is far to the left of, say, William Taft—-Shapiro supports legalized gay marriage, just as long as he and his group don’t have to touch it; Shapiro supports centralized banking; Shapiro has stated support for environmental legislation. Taft opposed employing Negros in any position in the federal government; if “homosexual marriage” ever occurred to Taft even once in his life, it was probably as some kind of bawdy joke.
Taft was far, far to the left of, say, Andrew Jackson or Martin van Buren. Eg, a big debate then was, do we force natives onto reservations, for agriculture, Christianization, and eventual civilization, or is it wars of extermination? Jackson favored extermination….though he was willing to compromise on this issue. Though a certainly a populist, he was also an anti-abolitionist (yes people were racist, but slavery was never very popular with the common people). Buggery and pederasty were known vices, but homosexuality did not exist yet (by which I mean “homosexuality” as an identity or some form of marker of a kind of person you were, didn’t exist; it was an invention of the Victorians). Some kind of idea like “gay marriage” would have been pretty close to an unthinkable thought to Jackson.
True, on the Continent at this time was a massive reactionary retrenchment: Metternich’s post-Napoleonic European order (which lasted about 30 years, until 1848). But then compare Metternich to right-wingers a century later, say Clemenceau (a left-wing radical most of his life who ended up leading the post-war Conservative bloc), and to earlier right-wingers, say James II or maybe Ferdinand II and you see Metternich is far to the left of the earlier men (eg Metternich, though arch-royalist and anti-constitutionalist, favored civil rights for religious minorities) and far, far, far to the right of any prominent European conservative of 1919.
Yes there was a conservative retrenchment in the USA in the late 19th c. But this same era produced William Jennings Bryan (populist, religious hard left) and Margaret Sanger, and was home to Emma Goldman. The ideas of either woman in 1895 or 1905 were radical in their day, would have been more-or-less unthinkable 50 years prior, and are basically commonplace today (minus the eugenics) and in a few ways even conservative.
Ebb and flow of religiousity and libertinism? Certainly. One of my favorite examples of late 17th and 18th c sexual libertinism is the selling of wives, quite popular in the English midlands for example. Much despised by the respectable classes and quite popular with the commoners, wife auctions were raucous, bawdy, vegetable-throwing, carnival affairs, where the women on the block reportedly weren’t too shy about returning insults, and didn’t always seem too upset to be away from their current man. It was finally stamped out by the Victorians.
I stick to my contention that history has moved consistently left over civilizational time scales. My contention is this will continue for a while (again, over any time scale longer than about 30 years—yes we’ll get a Reagan or a Trump. But consider that Reagan’s program, except for military expenditures, is even now more-or-less out of reach. Ted Cruz is a Reagan wannabe, but his government, should it ever come about, would never even get so far as unwinding Medicare part D.)
@Owen. The Trump administration is enforcing immigration law and deporting illegal immigrants. I live some 200 miles from the Canadian border. We have border patrol van’s casing my town. Seven or eight people have been picked up. You can think this is good or bad but it is in fact happening
Regarding PG&E, you’ve got the order reversed: PG&E declared bankruptcy in January 2019, then agreed to pay $11 billion in September…not “They had to pay $11 billion after the wildfires in 2017 and 2018, which resulted in them declaring bankruptcy”.
“Since I’ve lived here we’ve:
built the Transbay Terminal ”
To be clear, the Transbay Terminal is a $2.2 billion bus depot. Six weeks after opening, it was closed for nine months after small cracks in two steel support beams became gaping fissures and it was closed to the public. It was opened again nine months later.
Which policies are the one that have helped California become so much worse in terms of rich vs. poor, failing infrastructure etc than most places in the USA?Trade and immigration policy are set federally. Why is housing so insanely expensive there compared to most places in the USA? Are California’s climate and slightly less bad social provision attracting poor folk from across the country? I’m trying to understand what is going on because there are too many commonalities with BC, and I’d like to learn from their mistakes.
Voter fraud–My county uses paper ballots counted by computer (think test score sheets). Mail in ballots are available on request and some of the off year elections are now being done completely by mail-in or drop-off ballots with collection boxes in libraries and polling places. As far as boxes of ballots being ‘found” or lost this could also occur with polling place ballots as they are usually transported to a central location for counting. I seem to recall allegations of mysterious boxes of ballots in a long ago city election in San Francisco. I am concerned by electronic voting machines that do not provide a paper trail. It seems obvious that such machines would be subject to hacking. If my county ever switches to such machines I will switch to mail in ballot. I agree with whoever pointed out that concerned Democrats could spend some money to help the rural poor get their identification papers instead of complaining about the requirements. It seems counter-intuitive that you need a reliable form of identification to cash a check, but not to vote. Yes, it is possible to get fake ID. There is no fool proof system once your democracy grows beyond the point at which poll workers recognize their neighbors.
OK, point taken.
I do think it’s a little unfair though to classify UBI as a gimmick.The idea has been around the block for over two hundred years.MLK was probably assassinated because of his vocal support for it and plenty of economists (perhaps not the greatest argument in hindsight!), who one would imagine are thoroughly conversant with the law of supply and demand, have given their support to various forms of non- welfare guaranteed minimum income.
Personally I just think it’s a matter of time before some form of opt in UBI is introduced and the arguments against it are laid to rest.
Thanks for the series…
Regarding the “mail only” vote. That’s what we have in Washington and I’ve never liked it. Why there’s a hue and cry about requiring people to go to a voting place and provide proper identification, well, I don’t understand. That ‘s what I had to do for years. And yes, the chance of one person in a family getting all ballots in that household to be identical is just too easy…
When I was a graduate student in Las Cruces, NM in 1985-1986, many newspapers throughout the southwest ran ads from a Texan begging for money so he “could build a brick wall to keep the $^!^@ Yankees out.” Someone form Oklahoma began running ads to help fund the same brick wall to “keep the $#@^ Texans in.” Nobody took this seriously. But today, IMHO, California almost deserves a wall to keep them in. Or the rest of us deserve a wall to keep them out.
I moved from Orange County, CA to Spokane at age 7 in 1967. We drove through San Francisco, my first time there. It felt “different” then. I’ve not been there since 1983 and have no desire to return.
But, that is true of Socal as well. I’ve detested visiting there since the 1970s. Now that my aunt and uncle are dead, I will not go back. The cousins have all drunk the California Fantasy Drink and we have NOTHING in common. In fact, my sister and I made a surprise visit in 2004 to see our uncle: the cousins brought banners and balloons saying “Welcome Home!” To me, that explains the bad side of California attitudes, as the relatives couldn’t fathom living anywhere else, and we had been in Spokane for 37 years by that time!
And a voting data point. I voted Green in 2016, typically leaned Democrat, but have never voted for a Clinton, voting 3rd party whenever a Clinton was on the ballot. If Hillary squirms her way into the nomination in 2020, I’ll vote Trump. Bush the Elder in 1988 is the last Republican presidential candidate I voted for.
I’m looking forward to your comments on the other forum regarding ADF. I read the RDNA records a few months ago, which included the letters and discussion of the “Isaac Affair” that eventually led to the formation of ADF.
How about something a little more accessible than recommending 1984 or a large website?
My question is, how are they denying blacks the vote in fairly large numbers?
Why are they helplessly allowing it?
Are we talking of how horrible it is to expect voters to have valid ID?
Don’t the vast majority of people have ID?
The 4 states which conduct all elections by mail are Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Hawaii. I have not heard that elections in those four states are more or less corrupt than other states. As I understand, ballots are mailed to all registered voters, so one would have to have an address. I suppose an argument could be made that this effectively disenfranchises homeless voters.
Ballots are not indiscriminately mailed en mass, you still have to register, and I imagine that would involve being able to establish your identity with verifiable ID documents.
The mere assertion that this method is more corrupt than others, or naturally, but of course, is part of some plot to stuff ballot boxes is just that, assertion, and neither I nor anyone else is required to believe it.
I will repeat that I have no problem with showing ID documents at the voting booth. The last time I voted, I was literally screamed at by two election officials who I guess wanted to display their personalities. Use of signage, as in, people waiting to vote please go to the left, was apparently beyond the comprehension of our election board. So, for me, mail in voting seems like a good idea.
I read the passage you linked to about Cthulhu only swimming left, and rankly, I don’t buy it. He can only defend that conclusion by stretching American history to the point that the winning side of every controversy is defined as the Left. But to use only one of his examples: World War I, which is included in a list of wars in which the Left came out on top, doesn’t fit the theory at all. In America, at least, most of the opponents of joining in on the British side – men like William Jennings Bryan, Eugene V. Debs, and Woodrow Wilson before the Zimmermann Telegram – were leftists. And from an ideological standpoint, even though they all got the label of ‘leftist,s’ those men didn’t align much with each other, let alone with the Democratic party of today.
So what Mencius Moldbug has done is just go back to every conflict in our history, find the winning side, and mark it as “the Left” – and then rail about how bad the Left is. His ideology is just another example of what our host has repeatedly identified as a common habit of flawed thinking – to believing that you are rebelling against the prevailing worldview, when really what you’ve just done is copied that worldview with the moral judgments reversed.
I think JMG is right that history doesn’t have a direction. And I also think that most of the movements that one finds throughout history project very poorly onto the left-right axis as understood today.
I think that there’s more to the Epstein thing than people just people online being disgusting for its own sake. Making “Jeffrey Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” into the biggest meme on the internet is the masses’ goofy but effective way of telling the elites that they have no credibility left.
The responses here from Californians remind me, a reluctant Baltimorean, of the similarly ferocious defenses of that city from white Baltimoreans. Interestingly, I think the defenses tend to come from people who haven’t traveled enough to other non-coastal places (so much for progressive worldliness!) with stronger social capital to see how better off the latter really are, even if the non-coastal places may appear to be more physically destitute or decrepit. Things may seem fine in most given San Francisco neighborhoods, but when that daily routine is interrupted with a few visits to a rural inland town or small city, the brittleness of the coastal enclaves becomes obvious.
Once you’re out of the globalized coastal enclaves, you can’t help but realize how they’re running on fumes: the preponderance of wealthy transplants means there is little social capital, little cohesion, and little civic purpose (an “all are welcome here” sign is a poor substitute and cannot bring true community back). The thorough atomization of individuals in the coastal metroplexes bodes very poorly for their future, even if there is still a veneer of normality propped up by ephemeral tech wealth for now.
To any indignant San Franciscans, I really do recommend visiting more places outside the globalized metroplexes to see how they function. You might be surprised at how much social disorder and decay you’ve internalized as fine or tolerable once you discover how many people off the coasts don’t have to live with anything near with what the coasts put up with. I don’t say this to be preachy, but merely to point out that I went through such an awakening myself: thinking things were more or less fine in the “good” parts of Baltimore, until I discovered that “good” in Baltimore would be considered abysmal in Lancaster or Pittsburgh or Scranton.
And the comparison of San Francisco to rust belt cities wasn’t even far-fetched: Baltimore may outstrip San Francisco in violent crime per capita, but amazingly the latter outstrips the former in the nonviolent property crime that eventually becomes a drag and a weight on the shoulders of every overburdened cosmopolitan not quite wealthy enough to retreat behind literal gates.
Finally, in response to an earlier comment on the Bay Area’s purported recent infrastructure triumphs, I thought this essay by Californian Victor Davis Hanson is a helpful dose of reality:
Dear Mr. Wood,
In response to your, “But no, instead you compare California to a 3rd world country, call Trump “a canny businessman” and you state a clear preference for BOISE over Seattle. Seriously? Have you actually been to Boise in the last 20 years? It is a nauseating, McMansion of a strip mall where a small desert town once lived. Literally no one in Boise is from Idaho… they are all mega church refugees from the crappy parts of California,” I call bullshale.
I was born and raised in California and lived there for the first 40+ years of my life. I can assure you that, having moved from a very good neighborhood in San Francisco (Forest Hill), to Silicon Valley, to Boise (after a short stint in Portland, Oregon), I neither come from a “crappy” part of California, nor have I ever attended a “megachurch.” But really, what if both of those things were true of me? Are people who attend megachurches and live in less-than-desirable geographical locales not deserving of respect and a dignified way of life? You say, “…but they are not capable of thinking, only emotionally reacting. And most of what they are reacting to is the Rush Limbaugh type radio that they listen to all day at their underpaid, back breaking jobs and the Fox propaganda channel at the bar all night; they were manipulated.” You might not know this, but some people “are not capable of thinking” because they lack the requisite aptitude or ability or IQ — or whatever you choose to call it — to critically construct, deconstruct, or otherwise analyze a concept, but they do know when they’ve been manipulated, marginalized, and downright despised by an elite class; I argue that’s what they “reacted to” in 2016, not “Rush Limbaugh-type radio” and “Fox propaganda.” Please do not attempt to strip the working class of its agency – they are the people from whence I came, and only by way of some completely undeserved intellectual gifts, a bit of hard work, and a tremendous amount of luck and encouragement, do I no longer find myself of the working class. But I have not forgotten the people who brought me to the dance. Perhaps, Mr. Wood, you might consider holding up a mirror, taking a good look at yourself, and saying, “I am an elitist bully.” You attempt to cloak yourself in an “Aw shucks, I’m a logger’s son” persona, but perhaps you should explore the possibility that the only person you’re fooling with this assumed veneer is yourself.
Boise is a lovely city. A few weekends ago, my husband and I attended a live musical performance. Boise Philharmonic, Boise Baroque, and Opera Idaho offer very fine performances in downtown Boise. We had a lovely – and reasonably priced — dinner before the concert, walked four blocks to the venue, and stopped for a drink during our walk back to where our car was parked. Not once did we encounter poop on the sidewalk, smell urine, or have to step around a sleeping homeless person. You know, the whole evening was “civilized,” and that’s something I most certainly cannot say of my last foray to Davies Hall in San Francisco – yes, it is San Francisco that has become “nauseating,” along with Seattle and Portland and their dysfunctional, filthy, and hideously ugly tent cities that have ruined many a public space. We frequently walk on the gorgeous Boise Greenbelt, and never see used syringes or comatose addicts sprawled on the grass – what a breath of fresh air as compared to our increasingly dispiriting experiences in Golden Gate Park! We have several friends here in Boise who are California “refugees” whose cities of origin are similar to ours and see Boise as we do.
I appreciated your bars-on-the-windows observation. Many of our SF neighbors had them on their first-floor, non-street-facing windows. We felt it would have been idiotic not to have them – the Blanche DuBois “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers” type of idiocy. But I do have to ask a question, in that I believe you’ve previously indicated that we should stop the War on Drugs; however, my take on that is that once you stop enforcing drug laws, you get – quelle-surprise – more habitual drug users = an increasingly dysfunctional society. In San Francisco, shoot up heroin or meth on the street or in the park and the police look the other way. In Boise, you’re charged with a felony and, basically, rehabilitative (and often, secondarily, punitive) attempts are made to discourage the behavior; in any event, the idea seems to be that one’s personal dysfunction should not impact the quality of community life. Just wondering if you might comment on this topic.
POC in ID
JMG, this one resonates with me in a number of ways–
My son currently lives in an RV in Palo Alto. He can’t afford even the cheapest rent in that area. He works for a large tech firm that enables his RV lifestyle– The plant is open 24/7, provides him with kitchen facilities and bathrooms including showers, and allows him to park his RV in the company parking lot. Many of his fellow employees also live in RVs on the lot.
He became more and more depressed in college about his prospects for a job, but found one in Palo Alto, so to him, California is a place of hope compared to the rest of the country, which tells ya something,,,, His Mom and I are trying to get him to move somewhere a bit more rural.
As for Baltimore– I worked there for many years, and lived in its nearby suburbs. It has really gone down hill, particularly in the last 10-15 years. My wife and I left Balto for rural Canada and have been able to settle there due to a quirk in her family’s history. We have been venturing into barter by canning jam from our own fruit trees, and we are trying to help our coworkers and neighbors with their own personal plans to make a living. After some initial suspicion, I think we are finding acceptance within the local community.
This week, we were called back to the Baltimore Area, as my mother-in-law is actively dying. The atmosphere in Balto feels like a mixture of craziness and panic pushed below the surface. It kind of smacks you in the face if you haven’t been there for a while. By contrast, our town in rural Canada has a feel more like ‘if you respect me, I’ll respect you. How can we make things work, eh?’
The time to be a refugee, I was once told, is about 10 years before you really need to be one. I am hoping for an orderly election in 2020 with a clear winner. Failing that, IMHO we could be in for interesting times, very interesting times indeed.
John Michael Greer says:
November 14, 2019 at 4:02 pm
Mark, er, here again, you might want to talk to some of the people who object to Californians. There are reasons having nothing to do with vegetables!
As others have said, California is a diverse place. LA is only a part of it (my least favorite). When I finally visited there the tap water (pumped from sources a thousand km. away) tasted weird, perhaps there is a correlation between the severe unsustainability of the place and the presence of the fantasy industry (Hollywood). Of course, these problems are on a continuum, it’s not like there is a place elsewhere in the United States of Amnesia where people are actively creating Transition Towns (for real, not as a virtue signaling exercise), relocalizing most of their food, seeing clearly through the divides and distractions. I live in Ore-is-gone (the way I spell it) and we have lots of Californians moving here to escape obscene prices.
California megacities are experiencing one form of collapse. Rust belt cities are experiencing another kind. Just as collapse is not evenly distributed, there are also variations on the theme. In some ways, if you have lots of money, San Francisco is wonderful, but woe to those without wealth. In other ways, has been industrial cities have more social capital than their declined financial status would suggest, but they experience other problems. (A friend who’s lived in West Virginia recently lost his son to opiates, an all too common story.). Neither SF nor Appalachia are prepared to mitigate the long emergency, but for different reasons.
JMG: Mark, of course Kennedy wasn’t assassinated for vote fraud — you’d have to mow down the entire American political class if that were to be done. My point was simply that vote fraud is pandemic in US politics.
reply: The main reason JFK was extrajudicially removed from office 56 years ago next Friday was blocking Pentagon plans for nuclear war. Part of the reason to falsely accuse Castro for the crime was to use the shock as an excuse to invade Cuba (and trigger a resumption of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but without JFK at the helm to prevent nuclear war). Wiser heads prevailed, and this was a motive for the “lone nut” hoax promotion. Of course, the biggest motive for the cover up was to distract from the obvious fact that it was a coup d’etat.
Also, “vote fraud” is voters committing the fraud (multiple votes, sometimes in multiple places, or not being a citizen and voting anyway). “Election fraud” is when ballot counting is tampered with.
The bigger question is the psychology that provides plausible deniability. The illusion of democracy is at least as strong as the coercion of the most abusive religious cults, and at least as difficult to question. Trump was, for some of his voters, a reaction to recognition that the illusion is breaking down (although not a smart answer to that understanding). It was also fascinating to watch my liberal friends get addicted to the “hopium” of the Obama campaign and then get hangovers once he had been in office for a while.
Evan Davies says:
November 14, 2019 at 8:45 pm
OK, point taken.
I do think it’s a little unfair though to classify UBI as a gimmick.The idea has been around the block for over two hundred years.MLK was probably assassinated because of his vocal support for it
reply: The King family has long said MLK was killed for connecting the dots between civil rights, war and imperialism. His later speeches called this the “triple evil.”
http://www.jfkmoon.org/dexter.html has comments from Dexter King (son) about this.
MLK day is a federal holiday for a victim of the federal government.
November 14, 2019 at 9:25 pm
How about something a little more accessible than recommending 1984 or a large website?
My question is, how are they denying blacks the vote in fairly large numbers?
Why are they helplessly allowing it?
Are we talking of how horrible it is to expect voters to have valid ID?
Don’t the vast majority of people have ID?
One tactic is to quietly remove blacks from the voting rolls. If they show up and complain they can vote on “provisional ballots” which are rarely included in the count. Palast is one of the few reporters who investigates how this is done.
Another tactic is removing voting machines from majority black districts to ensure excessively long lines at polling stations. Most people can’t wait for several hours to cast a vote (employment, kids get home from school, etc). This has been a rampant problem in Ohio inner city districts but not in suburban white districts.
The real question for me about “allowing” it is why the Democratic Party has been acquiescent. It’s likely the D’s use election fraud in some cases, but the three national election flips of recent times (2000, 2004, 2016) involved Republican connected “faith based voting machines” to tilt the outcome in swing states. Perhaps they’re threatened. Perhaps they’re in denial. Perhaps they fear the media would ridicule them for suggesting we’re not an authentic democracy.
Very well. That was a broad assumption and my small circle does not represent the healer demographic.
I see the same process you describe in my hometown of Haliburton Ontario. The population of the county is poor conservative people mostly. Haliburton is also the name of the county and it is the poorest county in the province. The lake I grew up on is now inhabited by people with tens of millions of dollars. There is a campaign currently on the lake to ‘save the shoreline’. The Billionaire that owns the surrounding forest is a German national. He is lauded as a champion of ecological forest management. He recently cut up and sold 6 lots to millionaires who built ski chalet sized cottages meters from each other. These lots were wild nature under his ownership previously. There were also the equivalent of public beaches on these lots that the locals used. The locals are basically of the same culture of the fly over states you write about. They can no longer use the beaches. Their population in the towns are dwindling and crime is up. The ‘save the shoreline’ campaign is run by the cottagers association and is headquarted on the billionaire’s property. Bi laws that were supposed to prevent developments like this from happening have been stepped over somehow.
Your supposed to ignore the developments and plant native species on the shoreline, never use retaining walls, and not touch anything, don’t pour dishsoap down your drain ect. New bi laws and septic inspectors are coming in to ensure all this happens. Lots of news articles on the lakes warming but nothing on this situation regarding overdevelopment. Meanwhile I watched animals relocate after six feet of backfill filled in over a kilometer of what was previously wetlands and shoreline to hold these cottage monstrosities . Cottagers from Toronto can spend two weeks a year by the lake now at the expense of all this. Similar processes have already taken place in surrounding lakes. My childhood friend still living there with his family wants to move his family East nowdays. I have received strange looks when I say “why save the shoreline when it’s being destroyed right in front of us.”. There is more concern among the cottagers association concerning the few logging trucks that trundle along the roads and that their driver’s should be fired for driving too fast.
This is a small example of how a community and an ecosystem are destroyed while a campaign is run to save it by the same people destroying it. A little Tsk tsk to the locals and their dirty ways helps grease the wheels.
These same people, seasonal cottagers, are now recently allowed to vote in municipal elections. The processes you describe are happening as well in Canada.
@JMG & All – to all of you here who grant agency and purposes of their own to working class people, and grant that their interests are not the same as the interests of the wealthy or the powerful, but grant their right to advance them, nevertheless, I include you all, in the privacy of my mind, as honorary members of what I’d call the “old left”…
There isn’t much left of that “Left” and it hasn’t much political influence just now, but to me, this non-bureaucratic and humanising view of working people (who David Graeber interestingly calls calls the “caring classes”) is what “left” has always meant to me, from the time I encountered it as a child in the form of Liberation Theology in the Latin American church.
Many of you here, JMG very much included, feel “comfortable” to me in that sense of being “comfortable” with the prospect of working class people and poor people generally, existing, and having personal interests and agendas and values of their very own.
To me, that’s “left”… The rest is folk losing the run of themselves & forgetting that other people are people.
JMG: re your comment :” they also don’t know how to be poor with style. It can be done; it’s just that most people now have forgotten how to do it.”
I would very much like to know more about this art of being poor with style.
@POC in ID
I know the question about the War on Drugs was for our host, and I’m sure he’ll reply. But his comment on this topic a couple of weeks ago was in response to me, so if you don’t mind, I’ll reply as well.
The main effect of drug prohibition is the creation of a black market. And the harder you fight it, the more violent it gets. That’s the expected effect of banning any good that is in sufficiently high demand. The same thing happened when the US banned alcohol a centry ago. That, too, was a disaster, and for essentially identical reasons.
As I see it, drugs (almost all of them) should be legalized and regulated. Some (such as marijuana) can be regulated pretty much the same way as tobacco, while others (such as heroin) perhaps call for tougher regulation. Perhaps some drugs should only be allowed in specially licensed clubs. I don’t know. The main point is to eliminate the black market, without resorting to enormous amounts of state-sponsored violence (think mass summary executions of suspected drug dealers), and while trying to minimize the negative effects of drug use. No, it’s not going to be perfect (it never is with addictive substances; think alcohol), but it could be a whole lot better than it currently is.
I’m more concerned to hear that Cthulhu has woken up than which way he swims.
That said, it seems to me that left and right do not correspond to stable principles or policies. Witness the Democrats and Republicans have flipped on issue after issue: wiretapping, war, free speech, immigration, the working class. The most consistent factor seems to be which group (“tribe”) they represent, but even that isn’t stable.
I think of left and right as a couple of boxers in a ring. One dances left, so the other dances right. Each is defined as the other’s opponent. Beyond that, there’s no content. People identify with them, but that doesn’t make them stable.
Terms like conservative, liberal, socialist and radical do have actual meaning, but have been appropriated again and again so that which meaning has to be nailed down. Is a conservative in favour of tradition or the radical effects of laissez-faire markets?
If one thinks of conservatives as skeptical of change, particularly radical change, then you will perceive Cthulhu to be swimming left: because in this case conservatism is like friction. Conservatives slow Cthulhu down, but that says nothing about where that movement is headed. If “left” means change and “right” means stasis, then of course on some scales history will appear to have a leftward bias. Whether it does on a long scale, or whether it ultimately repeats, remains to be seen.
For the sake of argument, say that the right is conservative in this sense, while the left is progressive. It’s all very well to say that life has become more liberal and tolerant, but a focus on identity issues ignores that it has also become more constrained and dependent (on instiutions and technology). I suppose that’s progress if one characterizes progress as increasing complexity, but as Joseph Tainter explains that’s not a good thing: it is a deficit incurred in solving problems, accumulating a debt that is never paid down.
We tend to be blind to the huts of the workers as we look up to the pyramids. Civilization seems to be a succession of greater glories. Often such glories are the product of wealth extraction that heightens inequality. They are the face of dysfunction. True progress, progress that you can rely on, is boring. I think that Robert Kaplan is correct when he suggests that that maintenance is the sign of a wealthy society. If one thinks of the left as being about the democratic majority (as opposed to elites), yet institutions for the median or majority are crumbling, then how can the left be winning if it fails to deliver?
For many working poor, perhaps for majorities in many Western countries, progress has reversed. As one should expect if a windfall of fossil fuels and nonrenewable resources is the source of (apparent) increased wealth. Fancy phones don’t make up for high housing and food costs, no matter how inflation is manipulated.
Back to my first argument, I don’t think that left and right mean much at all. They are teams, not principles, policies, or ideas. We might as well call cheer the Blues and the Greens in the Hippodrome.
Australia has an independent Electoral Commission responsible for maintaining the rolls and (re)drawing electorate boundaries, compulsory voting and no voter ID requirements. You go to vote, telling them your name and address, your name is scratched off, they give you your voting papers – and nobody can stop you leaving at that point, but typically you go to the voting booth, cast your vote, fold your paper up and put it in the right box.
After the election they go through to see if anyone failed to vote (a fine is payable) or voted multiple times. The vast majority of multiple votes are elderly people from non-English speaking backgrounds, for example a mobile booth comes to the nursing home, they vote, then the family comes to visit and take them out and gets them to vote again.
Because it’s compulsory, every effort is made to help people vote. Elections are held on Saturdays, and prepolling postal votes can be made by people unable to get to the place on voting day for whatever reason (you don’t have to give a specific reason, we voted early in the last election). The High Court acts as the Court of Disputed Returns, scrutinising ballot papers for the tiniest nonsense, like if the person draws a penis on it or something. In the second last federal election, Western Australia lost 1,500 of some 2 million Senate votes off the back of a truck, and they had to hold the whole state’s election again.
Yang’s particular proposal, his website says, is, “Current welfare and social program beneficiaries would be given a choice between their current benefits or $1,000 cash unconditionally – most would prefer cash with no restriction.” That is, it would replace welfare rather than be on top of it. I’m not interested enough to look into US numbers, but in Australia social welfare spending is about $192 billion, which works out to AUD11,600 per adult citizen. I can’t find exactly who Yang proposes to give it to, but most UBI proposals don’t include children and non-citizens.
Which is to say, in Australia we already toss out $1,000 per citizen each month, it’s just spread out unevenly, and comes in the form of unemployment benefit, aged pension, childcare subsidies, and so on. If UBI replaced those many and various welfare payments, the total money given out to the population would be the same, and more of it would reach the needy since less administration would be necessary.
If the UBI were given only to registered voters, this would have the useful effect of encouraging people to register to vote. If you were really ballsy, you could tie the payments to the person voting, which would encourage voter participation. As any reader of the Dictator’s Handbook will know, expanding the participation of people in politics tends to lead to greater freedom and prosperity, because the government has to please more people.
On mail-in ballots: they’re a blessing to people who can’t get to the polls, or who have physical trouble standing in lines. As for who doesn’t have ID? Some old people born on reservations or in other remote areas before the days of universal identification, or whose parents lived off the grid. And people living in remote areas whose states provide polls in the nearest big city have problems getting to the polls. It’s been a recurring theme on Native America Calling as long as I’ve been listening to it.
The land started out as ugly desert scrub and nobody saw fit to improve it much, the way I saw it when I was there. I did like sleeping with the window open and no covers on the bed – in January. Try doing that up north or even in the deep south. I guess you could say something about how the land has an aura that molds and shapes the people who live there too? SoCal is what you get when people choose to live there 😛
@will oberton I guess something is better than nothing. Although the flood of Mexicans hasn’t stopped.
I think that this is relevant. From the New York Times
@Onething: If I may jump in here. Specific explanations of how certain voters are effectively blocked with local changes in rules/laws/availability to registration and actual voting booths – Well, if you are actually interested, this article has a number of links embedded in it that describe these road-blocks in a number of different places.
Most people have some type of ID, but each locality can determine which types of ID are acceptable to register and which are not.
A detailed analysis of Cali’s problems:
An interesting and timely review of Turchin’s historical dynamics in the Guardian today. Applying math to the concept of historical cycles. More books to read!
What has become of our friend of the Michael teachings?
@POC in ID thanks for your post. I confess I didn’t particularly love Boise when I was last there (in September), but for me it was mainly because it seemed to be a weird combination of Portland, OR, Walnut Creek, CA and Fort Lauderdale, FL! (Basically trying to be cool, mostly “nice” chain restaurants/stores, and large groups of college age partiers loudly roaming the streets!). Not sure, but I think it was after some game.. We did have a lovely walk by the river, and I loved the Idaho museum!
I do however love most of the rest of Idaho, and have not met any of the stereotypical “deplorables”. In the 1980s I was sent to spend time in a very small logging town in Northern Idaho…as a runaway, punk rock kid from Los Angeles who had experienced much trauma and no love from the majority of the “community” in LA (or from my family). What happened was I was embraced by the wonderful people of the community in Idaho, partially adopted by an older couple there who mentored me and gave me horses to ride in 4-H, I became a Jr board member of the local riding club, an instructor for the dog training 4-H group, got an internship at the local extension office and was mentored by the people there, was supported in getting my GED, and ultimately went of to college. I still have friends there today.
If I had stayed in LA I’d likely be dead or in jail, or best case scenario living in complete poverty, like the majority of the people I grew up with.
For 98% of the people of the working class or poor in California, this state either crushes them, or chews them up and spits them out.
Hi JMG & all ecosophians,
I was curious if you or anyone else here has read the book Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe and what you think of it if you have. My wife read it twice and really liked the history aspect of it. I’m less certain of what they predict about the future generations (as they seem to be part of the cult of progress in general)… However their historical lens seems to show various oscillations that you too write about -swings of the pendulum, etc., in history. All I know about it is from conversations with Audrey. I was thinking about it in terms of the conversation on generations that has taken shape last week and also some in this thread.
RE: California. I visited twice in my life. Once in Kintergartent, a second time when I was 11, so those visits are very hazy. What I do know is related to the opioid epidemic. The reason we visited before was due to an aunt and her family being there. Later they moved back to Cincinnati and I became very close with my three cousins during highschool. A history of drug abuse caused us to grow apart during my twenties, though I still love them all. One of them is back in California now where he has been living homeless in San Francisco for a number of years addicted to drugs. My aunt fears for him all the time. I hope he would come home and get sober. Reading the description of the state here, and in @Tude’s comments especially, makes me grateful I’ve chosen to remain in my home town as a Midwesterner. I know with all the drugs out there, so many people have family members who are affected.
Having read Dan Simmon’s excellent novel Flashback… I’m also glad I don’t live there, or in California. (A lot of readers here would like the deindustrial elements in Flashback, as well as its portrayal of Asian ascendancy on the global economic scene, and its portrayal of fundamentalist religion… It’s excellent book.)
Drama queen much?
I just can’t even. 😉
I can’t get in to the article you posted, for some reason; can you summarize it?
I just want to make a quick comment to you about the legalization of drugs and drug use. As I mentioned I watched heroin addiction destroy someone I loved more than anyone (my father), and yes, it was the criminalization of his drug use that ultimately destroyed his life. The happiest times I remember with him was when he was either self-medicating or on methadone, and working a job part time watering trees in Trabuco Canyon. Had he been given support for whatever mental health issues was causing him to medicate, and given something to keep him busy that suited him (being in nature) I believe he could have been an asset to this world.
Interestingly, as I watch the fires burn, he was also happy the years he was a prison firefighter. But I don’t want to get on that tangent!
But…legalization the way it’s been done has NOT destroyed the black market, quite the opposite. In many areas we now have foreign cartels buying up land via American citizens who create front companies, and setting up enormous grow operations for illegal export, because that’s where the money is. We also have “immigrant” members of cartels coming in and selling locally on the streets. It’s literally destroying many rural and farming communities, and made our cities much less safe. Yes, the middle class can now legally consume pot via local stores. Yes, we are no longer filling our prisons with drug users, but now leaving them on the streets to be assaulted, preyed upon and exploited via the “black market” that still exists on the streets, but the predators no longer worry about being either arrested or deported.
Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion the legalization of marijuana, while it should be done and should be done globally IMO, was purposefully done in a way to keep all the same people getting rich at the expense of the same people getting poorer. And sadly, the way it was done is now creating even more harm for even more people. Simply legalizing something does not just get rid of the problems, and in this case has made many much worse.
Before I start responding, two general comments. First, I gather some of my readers either don’t know or have forgotten that concern trolling and tone policing aren’t welcome here. I write what I write, the way I want to write it; if you don’t like what I say or how I say it, there are millions of other blogs on the internet, and no doubt you can find something there that’s more to your taste. I have Aspergers syndrome, remember? That means among other things that I don’t read social cues — my brain doesn’t have the mirror neurons that do that — and life is too short for me to spend hours trying to figure out which of you have valid reasons to be upset and which of you are just trying to be manipulative or nasty.
Second, if I seem a little bewildered from time to time, it’s because this post has fielded some of the most giddy pieces of paralogic I’ve encountered in my blogging career — the kind of thing you expect to hear in an encounter with a disheveled person who stares intently at your left ear while talking very fast about something you can’t quite make out. Even though these comments would make great examples of the kind of mythic thinking I’ve tried to talk about, it seems more useful to me to delete them so the rest of us can have a reasoned conversation, without (to cite one example of many) having to contend with someone who insists that my mentioning California’s problems with human feces on the streets and LA’s typhus epidemic proves that I’m a horrible brute who doesn’t care about the homeless. Say what?
Okay, with that out of the way…
Golocyte, that ony works if you cherry-pick your definition of center-right, and the same game can be played the other way around. For example, from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, the center-right was strongly in favor of environmental protection — how many center-right figures would you describe in those terms today? As for William Jennings Bryan, calling him “left” in today’s terms erases the fact that he was a hardcore fundamentalist Christian who was, among other things, the prosecutor at the Scopes monkey trial — do you consider that a left-wing cause? In his day it was, but can you imagine the leftists of Jefferson’s time supporting it? But we’re getting very far afield, and it would require an extended essay to present a detailed argument against the progressivist underpinnings of your claim; another time, maybe.
JMG, you wrote “I don’t think it’s quite fair to dismiss progress as a marketing gimmick through and through, although I freely grant that much of it is nothing more. There have been real improvements made to human life over the last three hundred years or so through the use of science and engineering; I’m very much in favor of refrigeration and running hot water, for example! The problem as I see it is that the real gains of progress have long since been overwhelmed by the useless, the toxic, and the damaging aspects of it. Until we get out from under the delusional mythology that claims that progress is inevitable and always for the best, and own our own agency in choosing what we do and don’t make part of our lives, we can’t get to work on the sorting process that will weed out the garbage and still leave us with at least some of the good stuff.”
So you’re saying that my approach of looking at progress from the mythologically opposite viewpoint is not exactly helpful either? I can see your point there, and aim instead for the middle ground, where we actually use our minds to choose what we keep and what we discard from progress, instead of just reacting to it one way or another in a mythological way. I am not going to argue with you about the merits of hot water.
If you’re reading my comment as a diatribe, though, maybe you wouldn’t be that far off the mark. I was trying to criticize the dark side of progress, although not humanity’s innate drive for innovation which has always been there. The part of progress that has taken the products of that innovation and exploited them for profit – Big Pharma, Big Ag – has hurt many people I know and love (not to mention many people I don’t know) and as a result, I mentally checked out of believing in it a while back and got to work as best as I could on doing some things differently. If, upon hearing of the untimely demise of progress, I am less than depressed, that would be the reason why.
It’s not lost on me, though, that for the many people whom still hold progress as their central belief system, the prospect of letting it go is going to make for some very rough going in the years ahead, which I think was part of the point of your essay. Perhaps I need to remember to have compassion for the progress refugees of the future and remember that I was once like them, and in many ways am still completely dependent on the fruits of progress and industrialization.
Fairly recent reader here (six months or so, plus a bit of the back log); I enjoy your perspectives very much. This is a really refreshing place for a millennial starved for good sense-making in this completely insane media and social media landscape. I’m curious about your thoughts on Andrew Yang’s policy platform, since I haven’t seen it mentioned in this post or in the comments, and I think it will be of interest to many here.
His campaign is picking up steam and seems poised to break more deeply into the mainstream. It seems to me his ideas and qualifications run much deeper than his UBI PR line. He’s talking a lot about “human centered capitalism” in a tone which isn’t hyperbolic or divisive. He seems to have a fairly realistic perspective on the economic woes of the average American, tempered by the understanding that “progress” will march on whether we want it or not, and we must harness it to create a livable world instead of allowing inequality to ramp up forever. This quote is characteristic:
“We need to make the markets serve us rather than the other way around. Profit-seeking companies are organized to maximize their bottom line at every turn which will naturally lead to extreme policies and outcomes. We need government leaders who are truly laser-focused on the public interest above all else and will lead companies to act accordingly.”
Thanks for your faithful postings, they’re excellent food for a hungry mind!
Nastarana, I spent my life in the bowels of large companies in various capacities and so I have got direct experience with what you just said about corruption and incompetence, but in my own personal experience, more incompetence than corruption.
I have a young relative that works for one of the large and highly successful consulting companies. I once remarked to him that it seems that, given his own educational and work background, his employer looks for a business education ie MBA grads for sure, but something else besides. And he confirmed that they look for a wide variety of experience and accomplishment, one colleague being a champion gamer.
The point I’m making is that too many people of a similar social or educational background ie with business degrees, narrows the field of view. If group-think is a danger in those high-rise meeting rooms, it becomes doubly a hazard when everyone brings the same intellectual tool-kit. Institutional incompetence becomes almost unavoidable.
The solution? Maybe not so many college grads, or, if they’re college educated, hire more philosophy and English majors for example. In my day they told us that businesses look to hire people with degrees in science, engineering, law, economics, and naturally, business. Which I guess is fine. But the educational repertoire needs to be expanded.
I’ve seen a company get so wedded to a world-view and particular courses of action that taking contrary positions, no matter how well-reasoned, was unthinkable, earning scorn and derision, and possibly worse. And this even with the business in obvious trouble and in dire need of re-direction. They execs literally group-thought the firm into bankruptcy.
All of the above applies to government, particularly departments like State, whose incompetence is not only renowned, but in direct proportion to their own self-assurance. More outsider voices needed IOW to challenge entrenched orthodoxy and for necessary course corrections.
But, as we’ve recently seen play out on the national stage, fresh voices with divergent messages, proclaiming the status-quo to be unhealthy and unworkable, are unwelcome.
Yes, the “replication crisis” is not disappearing anytime soon. It is usually the psychologists and life science researchers who are most worried about it. Physical science research is often reproducible (if sometimes irrelevant), life science work is mostly reproducible, but it is so competitive that the highest profile work is often selected as the surprising and breakthrough results that turn out not to be reproducible. But when you get into sociology and political science research about what policies have what results, they often don’t even expect reproducibility.
I went and looked at some of those articles on California wildfires and PG and E’s role, and I really have to shake my head. That level of criminal negligence by the largest power provider is probably a big part of why the fires have been so much deadlier in California than in BC.
Oddly enough, BC has had lots of big wildfires, but no official deaths in the in 2017 and 2018. Lots of evacuations, lots of area burnt, lots of preexisting medical conditions worsened, big evacuations, but fewer structures burnt and no being burned alive/smoke inhalation deaths. I suspect that some combinations of preexisting medical conditions and smoke did in fact kill people, but that isn’t reflected in official statistics.
To my knowledge, the BC wildfires main causes are: drought/climate change, stupid forestry practices similar to California, mountain pine beetle infestations leaving lots of stands of dead trees, and too much new building into the forest without sufficient safeguards. Small communities in the backcountry have been worst affected, especially First Nations communities, but some larger communities like William’s Lake (pop approx 10,000) required evacuation as well. And if you go a little earlier and jump provincial boundaries you get the Fort McMurray wildfire, which burnt part of and required evacuation of all of a fairly major city.
Dear Evan Davie, about UBI, or Guaranteed Basic Income, as it was once known: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a conservative Irish Catholic from NY, persuaded Pres. Richard Nixon to submit legislation establishing GBI to Congress. The idea then was that the basic income would replace the various Great Society programs, including welfare. So, for example, no extra money for having extra children, your monthly check would arrive in the mail and there would be no need for applying for various programs like welfare. Richard Nixon had himself grown up in poverty and understood in a visceral way the humiliations and inconveniences involved in having to ask for aid, he also saw the proposal as a way to begin dismantling GS programs. The reason the legislation never got anywhere in Congress is because the Democrats, very much including the Democratic left, opposed it. New Lefties were leaving college and moving into employment in govt. and the proposal was a direct threat to their job prospects. The various welfare programs mainly function as jobs programs for incompetent members of the upper middle and upper classes. If you can’t make it through law or medical school, lets not even mention engineering, there is always social work. Benefit to the actual poor is incidental, one might almost say accidental.
Back then, the population was smaller and costs of living were lower in relation to prevailing wages. It maybe could have worked. The Yang proposal, sorry, in my view is a cynical gimmick. Yang has noting to say about replacing expansive govt. beaurocracies, I suppose because some at least of his support comes from people employed in same, and he appears to be blissfully unaware of the ongoing inflation in housing and utility costs, not to mention healthcare.
BTW, about President Nixon, I regard his life as a uniquely American tragedy.
BTW, no apology will be forthcoming from me to anyone who chooses to take offense at my characterization of welfare programs.
Dominique, if I may, about being poor with style… now I’m not poor, just more dash than cash lower-middle class, having fallen from the upper-middle class I was raised in. Some points:
Attitude: Being poor with style means being as generous as you can possibly be. There is such a thing as giving too much and of course a balance must be struck, however, most people, including the rich, are far too stingy. If you find $20 on the sidewalk, give it to the homeless guy (unless you are yourself homeless or at extreme risk of becoming so) and you will find that the money will come back to you somehow, with dividends. There’s an odd formula at work in the Universe that seems to reward the generous.
Tolerance: “Poor” and lower middle class people generally have a better sense of getting along with others, from community to family, than rich people. Accepting people and saying “You do you, warts and all, and I’ll do me,” instead of trying to influence or manipulate them to your way of thinking should be a no-brainer, but the upper classes cannot seem to leave well enough alone.
Collapse: Don’t buy new if you can avoid it: clothes, appliances, furniture, houses. Downsize. Go minimalist (except for books! NEVER go minimalist on books!). Stop traveling by airplane. Eat more vegetables and try to grow some of them yourself. Step out of the rat race even if you believe you can afford it. The truth is nobody can afford the rat race, they just don’t know it yet.
Gratitude: Taking blessings for granted is not a good look. People these days seem all too content to complain about their Starbucks latte not being quite right and altogether missing the concept of being thankful for the clean water and imported coffee it took to make said latte. You don’t have to thank any God/gods specifically to be grateful for what you have. Gratitude is partly the avoidance of the idea the world owes you a living.
You said, “I’ve seen a company get so wedded to a world-view and particular courses of action that taking contrary positions, no matter how well-reasoned, was unthinkable, earning scorn and derision, and possibly worse. And this even with the business in obvious trouble and in dire need of re-direction. They execs literally group-thought the firm into bankruptcy. ”
Hahaha…not just companies, that’s absolutely the best description I have ever heard of the University of California!
OK, I promise to stop commenting now. I guess this post and comments struck nerves with me too. Plus I’m just in a mood from reading the Weird of Hali series. Again, JMG, Thank you! On to book 2 today…
Jumping in late-ish with a couple of different thoughts…
One, I think you are absolutely right about the madness coming out of the left being a result of the shattering of one of the core beliefs on which they founded their lives. This succinctly explains so much!
In a somewhat related vein, it also reminds me of a brief article posted shortly after the 2016 election, making the argument that Clinton supporters were angry about the loss of their simplistic virtue-signaling via passive support of the “morally superior” Democratic party:
In sum: “The conclusion I’ve reached is that they are in the throes of a pathological fit due to the loss of their virtue signals….For a long time liberal Democrats have relied on the virtue signal of merely supporting the Democrat candidate in any given election to let everyone know how ‘tolerant’ or socially, politically, and intellectually enlightened they are. And while outliers in American politics have long poked holes in this virtue signaling, not until now has it been so widespread and mainstream among people ostensibly on the ‘left’ side of the political spectrum to call into question just how ‘virtuous’ these [expletive]bag Democrat politicians really are.”
If the above is true, it fits in just fine with your main thesis, but also lends some credence to arguments made by others that the older “FDR” economic left, while no longer in charge of the Democratic Party, is now nonetheless at least resurgent enough to be seriously pissing off establishment liberals. Whether or not they can take it to the next step remains to be seen, of course.
Two, with respect to the “Devil’s bargain” of the American Left – I can’t recall if someone has mentioned Walter Benn Michaels’ “The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality” before, but if not, let me say that I think the book makes a relevant point about said Devil’s bargain. And of course, Michaels was utterly vilified by the liberal establishment for it.
Back around the time the book was published, I attended a talk about it, presented at a big-city East-coast university, featuring Michaels and a group of panelists. I can still remember the barely-constrained fury of all of the female and/or POC panelists – all highly successful, well-paid, well-respected academics – at having to indulge Michaels’ presence on their campus. The audience was fairly quiet – I suspect in no small part because most of them were students, and any students who were not the beneficiaries of race-based affirmative action would have called opprobrium down upon themselves by being too supportive of Michaels’ point that affirmative-actions policies work only to slightly change the color makeup of the elite, while doing nothing to address underlying inequality. Heresy, that! And yet…I know a professor who taught the book as part of a freshman social-science class at a state-funded university in a small, post-industrial northeast city, that served mostly poor and working class students of a wide range of ethnicities – and, by and large, these less financially-privileged students very much agreed with Michaels’ thesis. So, a data point, for what that’s worth.
Three, as to this: “paint[ing] the past in the worst possible light, so that Democratic voters wouldn’t be tempted to compare the conditions they lived in to those that had existed a few decades earlier, and ask why things had deteriorated so far since then.” Something I had noticed long before the 2016 election was that any attempt to point out how something was better in the past is very often met with two distinct knee-jerk reactions, depending on whether one is talking to members of “team red” or “team blue.” Mention that “X” was better in the past to a conservative Republican, and often as not, get treated to a thinly-veiled racist screed about how “those people” ruined everything. But mention the same thing about how “X” was better in the past to a liberal Democrat, and, often as not, get treated to an equally-unhinged rant about how racist and misogynistic the past was, and if you miss “X” then you clearly miss sexism and segregation.The simple concept that “some things were better in the past (although that doesn’t mean everything was, obviously; do I really have to spell that out?)” seems to be lost on people on both sides of the political rage-spectrum – although from my perspective, it’s definitely been getting worse on the left in recent years.
And finally, with all the talk about homelessness, several underlying causes have already been mentioned: deinstitutionalization (traceable to the Reagan administration); addiction; lack of mental health care, poverty, and unaffordable housing (the last several of which, at least, are traceable to broad-consensus neo-liberal economic policy). The one other big contributor to homelessness that wasn’t mentioned is the creation of more members of the demographic that’s over-represented among the homeless: namely, veterans. Creation of more veterans – specifically, those who have seen active duty and are more likely to suffer from mental health problems like ptsd and addiction, and, in turn, more likely to wind up homeless – is traceable to more oversees wars, continued involvement in which would seem to be another point of bi-partisan establishment agreement.
Sorry for the rather long comment – although I think that fact that the post sent me off mulling in so many different directions speaks to the fact that it does distill a lot of points into one thesis.
I know JMG doesn’t do video but to honor today’s essay about the Liberal Revitalization Movement has gotten with regard to Women’s Sports I give the Eco readership this short clip of South Park humor.
Dear pygmycory, I have lived in CA, central valley, not the big cities. I was never more grateful to leave anywhere.
I would suggest for you in BC, it is absolutely essential for local voters and govts. to gain control of real estate prices and land use decisions. In other words, local inhabitants get to decide who buys land in their jurisdiction and for what purposes. That is difficult because officials can be bribed, voters can be bamboozled by promises of “development” and “jobs” and immigrant groups, very much including wealthy Californians, want space for more like themselves…”but my family”. Someone of some faction sometime, preferably with the authority of voters and the power of law enforcement and maybe even the military behind it, is going to have to stand up and tell the infernal alliance of real estate salesmen and developers, car dealers, and insurance companies enough already, you already made your fortunes.
I have been reading Erich Fromm’s “To Have or To Be” from 1976. I find it interesting that he clearly identifies the religion of progress in this work from the early 1970’s.
“The great promise of unlimited progress – the promise of domination of nature, of material abundance, of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and unimpeded personal freedom – has sustained the hopes and faith of the generations since the beginning of the industrial age.” …
“Social character must fulfill any human being’s inherent religious needs. To clarify, “religion” as I use it here does not refer to a system that has necessarily to do with a concept of God or with idols or even to a system perceived as religion, but to any group-shared system of thought and action that offers the individual a frame of orientation and an object of devotion.” …
“A specific religion, provided it is effective in motivating conduct, is not a sum total of doctrines and beliefs; it is rooted in a specific character structure of the individual and, inasmuch as it is th religion of a group, in the social character.” …
“If, for instance, a man worships power while professing a religion of love, the religion of power is his secret religion, while his so-called official religion, for example Christianity, is only an ideology.” …
“However the concepts may differ, one belief defines any branch of Christianity: the belief of Jesus Christ as the Savior who gave his life out of love for his fellow creatures. He as the hero of love, a hero without power, who did not use force, who did not want to rule, who did not want to have anything. He was a hero of being, of giving, of sharing.” …
“The Christian hero was the martyr, for as in the Jewish tradition, the highest achievement was to give one’s life for God or for one’s fellow beings. The martyr is the exact opposite of the pagan hero personified in the Greek and Germanic heroes. The heroes’ aim was to conquer, to be victorious, to destroy, to rob; their fulfillment of life was pride, power, fame, and superior skill in killing.”…
“European-North American history, in spite of the conversion to the church, is a history of conquest, pride, greed; our highest values are: to be stronger than others, to be victorious, to conquer others and exploit them.” …
“The change that prepared the first basis for the development of the “industrial religion” was the elimination, by Luther, of the motherly element in the church.” …
“Behind the Christian façade arose a new secret religion, “industrial religion,” that is rooted in the character structure of modern society, but is not recognized as “religion.” The industrial religion is incompatible with genuine Christianity. It reduces people to servants of the economy and the machinery that their own hands build.” …
Fromm goes on to develop in detail how our individual sense of self has been affected by this addiction to having and this “religion” of progress. It is a very interesting dig into what JMG has often talked about. What got me was that this was written in the early 1970’s. He then gets into the effects he expects this to have on individual’s sense of self and ability to function.
“But since success depends largely on how one sells one’s personality, one experiences oneself as a commodity or, rather, simultaneously as the seller and the commodity to be sold. A person is not concerned with his or her life and happiness, but with becoming salable.” …
“The “identity crisis” of modern society is actually the crisis produced by the fact that its members have become selfless instrument, whose identity rests upon their participation in the corporations. Where there is no authentic self, there can be no identity.” …
“The marketing character goal, “Proper functioning” under the given circumstances, makes them respond to the world mainly cerebrally.” …
“The more we are caught in our isolation, in our lack of emotional response to the world, and at the same time the more unavoidable a catastrophic end seems to be, the more malignant becomes the new religion.”
There are a lot of interesting problems, for the identify of self, projected by Fromm in his writing in the mid 1970’s and to read this provides some interesting background for our situation 40 years later. Clearly there were well reasoned thinkers pointing out that industrial culture needed to take a different path in the 1970’s and the boomers did not take it. Fromm does provide very interesting thinking for where we headed wrong and where it came from. All in all a very interesting read.
JMG are you familiar with Fromm’s writing?
I’m new to your blog and wanted to just tell you how much your writing impresses me and gives me a great deal to think about. You are obviously very intelligent, not to mention thoughtful and fair minded. I’m so glad to have “found” you and I look forward to your posts. Both my daughters are looking to colleges in Providence so maybe one day I’ll have the pleasure of crossing paths with you.
There will never be a UBI. It will have C’s attached to it. The state will use it to make you dance like a puppet. Because they can. So they will. Reminds me of that line from Breaking Bad – you are familiar with the concept of leverage? YOU HAVE NONE. And that’s what they’ll tell you every single time you object to another condition they add onto your Basic Bux.
In fact, I’ve noticed they’ve gone away from calling it unconditional in favor of universal. It won’t even be that either, you watch. Anyone who says the least little wrong thing on the internet? No more Basic Bux for you.
I think it’ll be too appealing for it not to be implemented – but you won’t like it when they start ratcheting that collar and start jerking your leash around. Are you a good boy? Who’s a good boy?
@ Antroposcen – Thanks for this! But one little question – why is ‘Progress’ green?
RE: is it possible that at least some of the failure of the Boomer generation can be attributed to television? And what of later generations? With all that techo-progress?
I was in a conversation recently in which the idea of a “National Identity,” came up, and the person I was talking to became very offended–understandably so, since identity is so very fraught these days, and a national identity is a complete mine field. But I was thinking, that as a collective, there is something there, in a national identity. For instance, I am apt to grieve for California and it’s failings, because my idea of California is a part of my idea of the national identity. But no one takes pride in this anymore, or wants to admit to being part of it, perhaps, because we feel it has been a failed utopian project for everyone.
I was very proud of America when it elected Obama, and then of course when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, which possibly turned out to be precipitous, but his victory ignited something in us, that “hopey changey” thing, I guess, some evolutionary impulse.
For what it’s worth, Richard Henry Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast” contains great material about the California coast just before the gold rush got started; an era of Spanish missions, cattle ranches, “bums” living on the beach in San Diego before there was surfing and Russian sailors who ate tallow. It’s really more of a California story than it is a sea story. Quite enjoyable also. (Dana was taking a summer off from law school, as I recall, but ended up getting stuck in California until some strings back home were pulled.)
“the real gains of progress have long since been overwhelmed by the useless, the toxic, and the damaging aspects of it.” Thanks Stefania for quoting this comment from JMG….. I would like to see this made as a specific topic, JMG, because this appreciation (and our specific responses to it) should play a key in creating a better life….
As a patent attorney for more than 25 years, I have spent many hours each day surveying the “advances” of technology (only the most prominent “advances” result in large legal fees and appeals etc. which rise to shared legal analyses). It is very clear to me that “useless, the toxic, and the damaging aspects” dominate so-called “progress.” This is abundantly seen from reviewing the pharmaceutical, computer, internet, business etc. patents over the years, which in most cases merely embody trickery and word games to further enslave and steal from average people as just another legal tool used by the elite to confiscate wealth from the people and create the new feudalism….. I wonder if there are any other patent attorneys out there with this same observation, and I wonder if anyone has written a book on this. As I mentioned early on in this forum, I got so fed up that I had to walk away from my own successful K street law firm (and now work on community building on a small Pacific Island and also resilient energy technology), despite my love for that intellectual work experience.
We need to focus on separating the wheat from the chaff in regards to “progress” (ie. decide what technologies we really want and cast away others) and not be surprised if we take a step back in some areas to recapture freedom and personal/local community wealth creation. Example: most of us are better off without “advances!” in big data collection. Life for me is much better with out smartphone and facebook, although some aspects of these could be reformulated to benefic community building and wealth creation and use at the local level.
This is not our topic but it is so interesting I beg our host’s indulgence:
Americans, next time you feel despair, ask: “What would John Smith do?” Although if the answer is “Cut off 3 guys’s heads,” maybe try “What would [Jesus, Buddha, etc] do?” as the modern legal system frowns on head-chopping. 😄
I don’t think Andrew Yang’s UBI would change much, unfortunately; prices on everything would just be raised accordingly and the mad caucus race would end up back where it started. I like Andrew Yang but I don’t think he has a prayer of being president.
Rude and nutty comments HERE? Well, do so at your own risk, folks; this guy’s a Druid. He can open the Elder Gates and sic the fooftawoos on you in a New York minute! Not to mention the shoggoths. 😳
Here’s an unusual view of the current mess:
I think we are far beyond needing the type of character John Wayne played. He usually played a loner. We need someone like Genghis Khan, who can build a government, who can tear down and then build up. And we probably need a new Constitution too, since, as John Adams noted, the one we have now was drawn up for a “moral and religious people” and isn’t suited to the immoral and irreligious. (The immoral and irreligious would include our current president, who was well known for stiffing his contractors when he was in real estate.). I’m not sure which religions share with Christianity the concept of capital sin, but I’m pretty sure that NO religion, with the exception of Ayn Rand-ism, would approve of a society built on greed. I can remember thinking “Okay, that’s it, there’s no fixing this,” when a member of the Rand cult was made Federal Reserve chairman, a position he held a long time, with predictable results.
John (& Shaun @ Founders House)—
Totally off-topic but, I would argue, still worthy of report, I can say that I have made some small headway in getting Weird of Hali into my local library. I’ve recommended some books from Founders House before, but it had been explained to me that their protocols make it difficult to purchase from small presses. (And I do understand, to some degree: small-town library, limited budget, etc.) Still, with the completion of the series, I made another attempt, with a *cough* enthusiastic recommendation and links to each of the books.
Well, they decided to purchase Innsmouth and then “see how it goes.” Better than a poke in eye! (Both of the librarians I spoke with just now knew of Lovecraft and were intrigued with the twist, which I summarized as “the monsters are the good guys.”)
Hopefully, the whole series will get brought in. But this was a pleasant surprise.
[feel free to post or not/ just wanted to get back to you, as you asked..]
Re: “the link didn’t come through — could you post it as text” – pardon the omission. As you likely are aware, HN, like any good techno-fascist regime, makes unwelcome data disappear. So, links suddenly lead nowhere – or to an ummm updated situation. Also, minimizing HN traffic, yes?
IMHO, your patient, communicative and discerning commentariat handling is far too slightly appreciated. Also, looking forward to next open post – been meaning to chime in on one of those for a while now 😉
Thanks for the link to the article about California’s travails.
The graphic comparing California to hell made me laugh out loud – thanks for that, too.
Pygmycory, I’m going to leave that one to my Californian readers, who probably have a much better idea of the specific policy failures involved than I do.
Evan, my guess is quite the opposite. The entire notion of UBI only makes sense if you assume that progress is linear and wealth will continue to increase forever. As the Long Descent bites deeper, industrial societies are going to have less and less wealth to throw around, and human labor is going to become a crucial economic factor again — meaning that people will be paid to work, not paid to exist.
DJSpo, to say nothing of the ease with which mail-in ballots can be faked en masse — if no one even has to show up at the polling place, the graveyard vote is much easier to turn out.
Marc, thanks for this. That’s certainly my take.
POC in ID, the San Francisco approach to drug legalization is, as you’d expect, the worst possible way to go about it. Are you familiar with the way that drug abuse is handled in the Netherlands? It’s a medical issue, not a criminal one, and as far as I know, nobody’s shooting up in Amsterdam parks; there are clinics, with extensive rehabilitation programs, and the focus is to keep addicts functional so that they can still contribute to society. It seems to work quite well — and my approach, here and more generally, is to find something that works and go with it.
E. Goldstein, I really wanted to like Baltimore; when I lived in Maryland I was down there quite often for Masonic events, and I’ve generally enjoyed large cities since the days when taking a bus up to Seattle was my escape from the pervasive boredom of suburbia. You’re right, though; it’s sliding fast, and the sense of panic and craziness right below the surface is hard to miss.
Mark, of course there’s a lot of variation in California, and in Californians. When I lived in Ashland, we mostly saw people coming up from the Bay area, and it was their attitudes and behaviors that inspired what became the most popular tee shirt locally: “Why do they call it tourist season when you can’t shoot any?”
Ian, that’s a great example. Many thanks!
Scotlyn, funny, that’s very nearly my take on Burkean conservatism. 😉 It’s a good reminder that “left” and “right” are empty containers into which a great many different things can fit.
The “American Partisan” article linked to above is rife with inaccuracies that lead me to wonder if it’s attempting humor.
Related to just the first few paragraphs, I can tell you that the majority of what burns is NOT suited to forestry (yes, the area around Paradise should’ve been managed – as a forest – better than it was. The other burned areas like Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and eastern Mendocino counties or any of southern CA are completely different ecosystems, not timber producing. They never will be.).
The Spanish did not import annual grasses to benefit livestock (the perennials are weeds that outcompete the native perennials). Grass fires are of limited destructiveness anyway.
“Without logging the *only other alternative* is to gather brush and trees into big piles and burn it”. Well… no. Controlled or prescribed burns are ancient practices for much of California that ARE being put to use in some places (rightfully though late) – but to this day, nobody is making “big piles” and burning them (maybe that’s why the author’s friends can’t get burn permits?).
“Little grazing…since sheep and goats have become unprofitable for a variety of reasons including that mountain lions will eat a herd in a matter of weeks.” What is this guy smoking? We’ve got a fair number of cows on hllsides throughout the state, rather than “sheep and goats” because most people still eat more beef than mutton. Also, sheep are hard on the land here given steep hillsides and erosion. You do see them in flatlands, which aren’t the regions that are burning. Mountain lions are not the threat the author seems to think they are (since when are there mountain lions devouring entire herds of anything? There aren’t that many of them in the places that’ve been burning (but, you know, CA bad!))
I lost patience with the rest of it. Ugh. If you’re going to actually talk about the decline of California, don’t get your facts wrong in favor of your truthiness. It’s a good enough story with just the facts.
“Now that we’ve tipped over from progress to decline, conservatives have a comparable advantage and it’s the liberals who keep getting blindsided”.
JMG–this is exactly what I have concluded as well; it’s good to hear it from another person.
We are obsessively taught that the “conservative” or “right wing”—or, above all, “traditional”—is “backward”, even wicked, destined forever to inhabit the “dustbin of history” etc.
But this is in fact merely the product of a narrow view, the propaganda of an age that is already losing steam (so to speak).
The winds are already turning, but there’s almost no one even minding the tiller.
All this talk about the rage-fit that liberals go into when you suggest that some aspect of the past was better than the present makes me recall a rather amusing story:
I published my first letter-to-the-editor in my town’s paper in August of 2016. I wrote in defense of Donald Trump’s claim that the 1950s were a good time for America, and cited statistics about how crime was lower, and employment was much higher. (I explicitly said I was not in favor of bringing back every aspect of the ’50s).
In the online version of the paper, dozens of commentators posted outraged assertions about how baby boomers such as myself are ignorant, selfish, and want to return the country to the bad old days of their mis-remembered childhoods. I even had one say he was glad that people like me are “gracing the obituary pages more and more frequently.”
The irony? I was 19 years old when I wrote that.
A few thoughts on the California theme.
Let none of us forget that what rises eventually falls– the entity known as California included– no matter what one’s current personal experience might be.
An outsider may have a view with a clearer line of sight to where trends are headed than a viewer in the thick of things, even if he thinks most houses have bars on their windows.
Nonetheless, when one is skilled at making a home that keeps negative forces at bay, it may be hard to accept that those forces are hard at work and that the surrounding environs are NOT reflective of the well-protected/well-provided space one has made and gathered around one. It is a useful thing to be reminded that one might very well be attached to a sense of security-in-familiarity and an illusion of prosperity-for-all.
(Pity that I’ve made a little paradise in the middle of an unpleasant place – I’ve protected my loved ones from the ravages outside our door and they’re loathe to leave while the figurative fires creep nearer.)
Our Archdruid’s assessment in no way diminishes the beauty of California’s coastlines, its diversity of species and their ecosystems, the fertility of its soils, the bright sunshine, or the dream of living with those things. It does suggest that we look very closely to ascertain reality and myth and their overlap and mutual exclusion.
The land will be here until it’s not. That, at least, is solace, no?
The most important part of M. Moldbug’s work (besides the humor, which is an acquired taste, for many), was identifying Puritanism and its descendants not merely generally, but in a very concrete way, and tracing that intellectual “progress” down to the present day. Puritanism generally, but not always concretely, correlates with “the Left”, and this was as true in the days of Cromwell as it is today. It’s a method, not a position. But the Left in America derives its emotional legitimacy, religious trappings, and intellectual antecedents from the people who settled Bay Colony area. INterestingly enough, they were even genetically distinct from other areas of England, coming mostly from the Fen country, which was the old Danelaw (David Hackett Fischer).
JMG, without trivializing in the slightest, could we sum up the Progressive Party in its current form with the old quote from Dostoevsky: “We never forgive those whom we’ve sinned against”? That is, it seems to me, that like what we saw at times in the Old South, the current hubris and denial is largely a function of the spot of real guilt lost in the ocean of false guilt: that of assailing the lower classes, their “neighbors” and kith and kin.
Dominique, I’ll consider a post on it.
Geof, thanks for this. That seems like a very reasonable approach.
Whispers, thanks for this.
Dashui and Andy, thanks for these also!
Onething, good question. John Roth, are you still here?
Justin, I have a very mixed take on Strauss and Howe. I think they’ve got hold of something but I think they’ve developed an overly rigid theory on the basis of it.
Your Kittenship, privileged intellectuals have to posture like that, since it’s the only way they can pretend to be oppressed.
Stefania, no, I didn’t think it was a diatribe, just an understandable but partial view.
Aaron, well, we’ll see. He has a passionate following but it’s fairly small; to my mind, he needs to make a much better case for himself if he’s going to get out of fringe-candidate status.
Regressive, exactly. That’s why the “social sciences” aren’t actually sciences — if you can’t repilcate your results it’s not a science.
El, thanks for this — long but thoughtful. Thanks for the reference.
Happypandatao, thanks for this.
Tomxyza, it’s been a while, but yes, I read quite a bit of Fromm back in the day.
Dana, thank you!
Jade, that’s a crucial point, of course.
Phutatorius, it’s a wonderful book!
Mots, I’ll certainly consider it.
David BTL, thank you!
E Hu, many thanks.
I was born towards the end of 1959 so I missed the ‘50’s. One time the topic of how-much-I-hate-the-‘50’s came up on some blog so I wrote in and asked why. Not one of the hundred or so replies gave a concrete answer. Shrug.
I was wondering, judging from comments let through, how much of a nerve you struck. Looks like an artery. Everyone wishes California well, it’s just too bad they’ve decided to make themselves the canary in the coal mine of a movement that is doomed and will have human casualties on a massive scale. It’s not the first time a nation or region has done this. Even New York seems to have dodged that bullet. I’m sure if R Jeffers was alive today, in Big Sur, he would say much worse in scathing poetry than our host has scraped the surface of, and yet still hit arterial flow. Usually that means cancer doesn’t it?
I am sure everyone remembers George Lucas changing Star Wars so that Greedo, not Solo, fired first.
NOW Disney is taking the “Siamese Cat Song” out of Lady And The Tramp. This is an outrage! What have they got against Feline-Americans?
Smithers! Release the hounds!
Oh. Wait. I guess the hounds aren’t really appropriate here.
Smithers! Release the tomcats and point them at the uncleanable furniture! And give them extra water first!
I swear every time I see entertainment news I feel more and more like that guy in 1984 who’s seen so much altered history he finds it difficult to remember which version actually happened. And they won’t stop with entertainment. Keep diaries, folks.
I have something I thought was off topic, but which I’ve realized is very much on topic: YouTube is changing their terms and conditions.* There’s one section in particular which has me thinking things are about to change quite a bit:
“YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.”
There is no legal requirement Google allow anyone access to their service. They have legal authority to block particular people, for nearly any reason. The law is thus on Google’s side here. Tech companies already have horrendous PR, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping people from using their services, so I doubt this will be bad enough to cause much damage.** Building an alternative to YouTube is not as easy as a lot of these people seem to think, and so this very likely won’t happen either. In particular, no one seems to be willing to discuss how or why this new service can make money without the very actions which are making YouTube increasingly unusable. While it’s true Google saying they can kill services that aren’t commercially viable is nothing new: saying they can kill individuals’ access to services if that is not commercially viable is very new, thus saying this is already is in their ToS is pure excrement.
What’s fascinating about this is how few people are doing the sensible thing and starting to transition away from YouTube and Goggle more generally: even if you believe the internet is economically viable, the fact of the matter is that Google is about to make it easier for them to start kicking people off of their services, and thus either people need to be prepared to start paying for it, or they need alternatives.
Instead, much of the conversation is about why that can’t happen. The first objection is the most telling: “But, I have a RIGHT to use YouTube!” So many people are getting caught by the reality that the internet is going to continue to shed all the free services we have now, and continue to get more expensive and less convenient year after year. It’s striking how much has already happened in the last decade, but this is too much for a lot of people to face.
Instead, they flee into mythic thinking, insisting that for some reason or other, what is clearly happening, can’t be happening. I wonder what will happen when YouTube does start discontinuing accounts access to YouTube, or when the site finally moves completely behind a paywall.
**This may very well be one of the enduring legacies of the Cambridge Analytica scandal: the tech companies dropping the pretense of being moral, since if that scandal didn’t damage Facebook much, if at all, then it’s fairly clear that people will use the tech companies services no matter what.
Let’s all hope goodness and decency triumph in this suit, which must still be ongoing. I’ve been saying for years that it’s flagrantly illegal to make you pay for something you’re NOT buying. McDonald’s is hardly the only offender, but a victory here may start the ball rolling.
I was around in 1975 and I remember the Quarter Pounder did NOT come with cheese; you had to ask specifically for the Quarter Pounder With Cheese and you’d receive same for an extra dime. They used actual Kraft cheese slices, too.
It would be ironic if something like this finally pushed long-suffering Americans over the edge and into the streets to protest.
We beg to differ but it’s your club so I respect your viewpoint and appreciate your willingness to freely share your wisdom here. I guess though that when push comes to shove, I’m not really a fully paid up member of the long descent tribe but a perennial optimist – maybe even a pollyanna – pushing the ball up the hill when almost everyone else seems to be running headlong down it.
Au contraire. Both parties would support UBI but for different reasons. An interesting side benefit of UBI, for example, would likely be a much slimmer and more efficient welfare system with way less bureaucracy, not more. It’s just a game of chicken then as to which party will be the first to introduce some version of it.
I don’t understand your objection. UBI is by definition universal, meaning that it would be unconditional. It’s simply an opt in federal dividend paid to all legal US citizens, irrespective of location.
The DNC is essentially a members only club and AY is obviously not a member, not even a dishwasher! That’s his first bridge to cross and probably the toughest. Then there’s the MSM who are no friends of new ideas.
Will he win? Probably not….although I’m still sitting on a 40-1 bet that he does overcome the odds!
However, I believe that UBI is a game changer and is the most important step we must take as a society to begin the process of restoring some measure of dignity to our fellow human beings.
I may have reposted this article here before, though anyone in favour of Legalising Cannibis (and other currently illegal drugs’ should read this artice (Below I will also quote a few passages of Text):
“What did ‘Prohibition’ really involve?”
“It would also be extremely difficult to prosecute. US alcohol ‘prohibition’ is often wrongly regarded as a model for this It is not a good example. Millions of recent immigrants (wine drinkers from Italy and beer-drinkers from Germany and Bohemia) viewed the prohibition law (mainly the result of lobbying by feminists) as a political attack on their heritage and culture.”
“Very small resources were devoted to enforcing it. The USA has long, unpatrollable coastlines and borders. It shares its borders with countries which do not prohibit alcohol. It has vast unpoliced internal spaces where smuggled goods can be hidden and illegal brewing and distillation can take place. . Perhaps most significant of all, the USA’s law did not punish possession (and therefore use) of alcoholic drinks.”
“This enfeebled it from the start, as if you do not interdict demand you are wasting your time interdicting supply. This is the basic flaw in our cannabis laws, where the supposedly severe penalties for possession are seldom if ever invoked . The police avoid arresting, the CPS avoids charging and the courts avoid punishing offenders. Where they do act at all, it is generally because it is a repeat offence and linked with another crime, or has been used as an easily proven charge (thanks to unquestionable forensics) against someone the authorities want to punish for something else which they cannot easily prove in court.”
“A better example of failed alcohol prohibition is modern-day Iran, where a country which formerly permitted drinking now seeks to suppress it. Any visitor to Iran is quickly aware that this law is not effectively enforced, and has utterly failed. And this failure takes place in a police state without any of the safeguards and restraints on authority in the USA.”
“Imagine, were marijuana to be legal and in mass use, as the Billionaire Big Dope lobby …
(yes, it exists, see the links below)
want it to be in the Western world, advertised (as permitted in the recent California Proposition 64) and in mass use, instead of (as it still is now) restricted to a comparatively small part of the population – comparatively small set beside the huge alcohol and cigarette markets”.
“‘WHY ALLOW CRIMINALS TO CONTROL THE TRADE? MAKING IT LEGAL WOULD DRIVE THEM OUT’
“This is demonstrably untrue. Alcohol and tobacco (see above) are legal. Yet in Britain, HM Revenue and Customs use huge resources trying to combat the criminal gangs which smuggle illicit cigarettes into the country, or who manufacture and distribute illicit alcohol. This is because they are very heavily taxed, just as legal marijuana would be very heavily taxed if it were on open sale. In fact it is already being taxed in Colorado, one of the US states which has legalised it. Illegal sellers still operate there, trading successfully, at well under the taxed price in legal outlets. Illegal sellers also prosper in Uruguay, another place where marijuana has been decriminalised, and where attempts have been made to limit strengths of marijuana on sale. In Colorado, fear of the illegal market is one of the reasons why high-strength THC products are on legal sale. The same is true in Canada, where criminal gangs, sellng at higher strengths and lower prices, still dominate the trade. Legal sellers fear the competition from the black market. We can safely assume this would all be be the case under general legalisation, as has now been shown in Canada. ”
“Why are cynical businessmen so much better than criminal gangs?
Why exactly are cynical businessmen better than criminal gangs? Dope legalisers back Billionaire Big Dope, while condemning cynical cartels of the same kind – Big Pharma, Fast Food and soft drinks behemoths, the alcohol giants, Big Oil and the arms trade. Such businessmen, following the example of Big Tobacco, can wrap their dangerous products in pretty packets and sell them in shops and on the internet, they can in some cases get health services to prescribe their products to millions, and advertise them on TV and in cinemas. Or they can lobby states into fighting wars for them and helping them sell their dangerous products in unstable places. Why are they so much more desirable than criminals? Criminals cannot do these things, and can reach many fewer people than cynical businessmen.”
“Just because it’s regulated, doesn’t mean it’s safe.”
“Does the fact that cigarettes and alcohol are sold openly and ‘regulated’ mean they are safe to use and will not harm you? Don’t. Be. Silly.
“Why then would ‘regulation’ of drugs, mean that legalised drugs were safe to use and would not harm you? By ‘regulating’ them, society and the state would be offering a reassurance they were not entitled to give. They would be looking the other way while something inherently dangerous was put on open sale. I can see why a greed merchant might accept this argument. But most marijuana legalisers regard themselves as being opposed to corporate cynicism. Why, I ask again, are they outraged at the sale of sugary drinks and greasy burgers to innocent children, but happy to ally themselves with the mighty lobby of Big Dope?”
“Oh, and we’re told that handing over a lucrative substance to legitimate business means the end of violence. In practice that isn’t true, and couldn’t be unless the much-touted promise by legalisers of big tax revenues from legal marijuana was abandoned, which it won’t be. Western governments cannot make ends meet. they will not ignore any opportunity to raise taxes on pleasures. Could it also mean the state getting (violently?) involved in securing supplies, as it has done over oil. Is this inconceivable? History says no.”
I should probably add I am not necessarily endorsing his views, though I think the author asks some good questions.
Stefania, and JMG, the idea that the desire to explore and innovte is innate in human beings is one of the red herrings which came to my mind lately, Believers in progress often believe in this idea and build them into their arguments about prehistoric people and the fact that the species Homo Sapiens, formerly restricted to Africa, setled the whole world with the exception of Antarcitca. But these belief systems make it more difficult to understand certain events or, better, on-events of the past, which could be better understood if the peoples concerned were not interested at all in exploring or progress. Additionally, there is a tendency to take migrations of human people for granted and as the normal condition, implicitly stating that staying put or newcomer-averse behavior is somehow unusual.
I have mulled about some aspects of prehistory as we know it, especially the fact that different human populations were isolated from each other for times so long that they could develop into different species. and the answer that came to me that, in these far-off times, maybe, things have been quite different from today’s attitudes.
About California I can’t say anything, because I never was there, but what I’ve read about California made it clear at a very early time that California is unique and has an uniquely crazy way to relating to the world. It will be interesting how its fate turns out, among others, there are no clear parallels to such a culture in pre-industrial times.
As for Universal Basic Income, I have the suspicion that it wouldn’t work as advertised, but I don’t exactly know why. There, too, are no real historic precedences known to me which could provide guidance, except, maybe, the North Korean rationing system for essential goods, which collapsed mostly during the famine of the 1990s and mostly hasn’t been reestablished since then.
If I may, about being poor with grace: That depends very much on individual circumstances. Buying used, for example, is an option where people regularly throw or give away even slightly used goods. But in regions or countries where that is not so widespread, it is more difficult to find an item to buy used. Likewise, the hollowing-out of brick-and-mortar stores brings problems, because to buy good-quality items, one would then need mail-order, and then there is the issue of shipping costs and packaging, which can produce quite a bit of waste.
“It beggars my imagination that folks don’t grasp that peoples go to war all the time, that many people crave the battlefield, that many young men love war and the passions that it allows them to indulge in.”
You’re absolutely correct. Anybody who thinks otherwise needs to watch the movie Patton. As a kid in the late 70s and early 80s it was my favorite movie and I watched it every year when the local station had KTLA goes to war week. I still remember Patton after a particularly brutal battle with the dead all around saying: “I love it. God help me, I do love it so.” I know it’s a movie, but suspect the sentiment is accurate.
Have you by any chance heard about David brin’s new book “polemical judo”?
It’s apparently a Ebook full of his ideas for helping the democrats win the The election and be more effective in general.
The good thing about brin is he does admit that the democrats have very poor political strategy although his exact reasons for this are different from yours.
What little I’ve heard of his suggestions does suggest that he does have a few good ideas.
@JMG Yes, ok, another time; having expressed my opinion I’ll leave it alone.
Only to defend myself against cherry picking, I’ll say the thought experiment was about prominent conservatives, and, in the context of his time, TR was pretty hard to place. One might call his political programme “Right Wing Progressive” or “Right Wing Labor,” a political designation that effectively ceased to exist with the man himself (though I guess Herbert Hoover’s 1928 platform drew from it). Similarly W. J. Bryan was an interesting player—and the “religious left wing” category still exists to some degree—but, I agree, the defense in the Scopes Trial was indeed conservative. The left-wing, at that moment, was tied up with eugenics and race science, which was a huge part of what the Scopes Monkey Trial was actually about.
Those were the days when public figures were still capable of a degree of independent thought, so you’d get players who could be hard to characterize.
I must disagree. On very long time scales history might have no direction, but civilizations follow the playing out of a metaphysical idea. As the room within a civilizational metaphysic is filled in, civilizations *absolutely* show a direction of motion. Simple example: Rome followed a clear, sustained, irreversible path toward greater and greater autarky, a path that continued straight to the very end, without sustained reversal, until the candle was snuffed out. (I’m not saying “autarky” was Rome’s metaphysical idea, only that the direction in Rome’s history on this matter was clear.)
The thing about left-wing victories is this. You could never tell ahead of time who would win. But you ***could*** tell ahead of time which side the left was on. In February 1848 you couldn’t tell if Louis Phillipe would retain the throne or not. But you ***could*** tell the left that wanted him out, the right wanted him in. (And the winners were……… the Bonapartists! Temporarily anyway, until the 1870’s when the liberals finally obtained their sustained victory. Although honestly I’m not very sure where to place the Bonapartists—-despised by conservatives and liberals, they drew strongly on ideological elements from both).
Similarly in 1912 you couldn’t tell whether abortion rights would ever be won (and would probably guess they wouldn’t). But if someone was for abortion rights (yes there were some in 1912), then you knew whether they were on the left or right. Same for gay marriage: in 1996 you didn’t know who would eventually win, but you knew which side was on the left.
In my reading, in American history, there were only 2 serious issues on which the left lost in any kind of sustained fashion: alcohol prohibition and eugenics. Maybe you could name another? I’m curious, I would like another example. (Communism was never a serious fight in America; socialism was and is. Admitted slow movement and some setbacks notwithstanding, ask yourself if we have become more or less socialist in the past century, since 1919, and then ask yourself if, in 1919, you could tell if socialism was to the left or the right.)
Another thought experiment: List in order of least to most conservative the following prominent conservatives: Bush II, Reagan, Barry Goldwater, Wendell Wilkie, Calvin Coolidge, Grover Cleveland.
Correct, it’s reverse chronological. I’ll admit you could argue on one or two (maybe Goldwater to Wilkie is my weakest link); but then we are only talking 20-25 year increments. Try skipping by 50 years instead: compare Bush II to Goldwater, or Wendell Wilkie to Grover Cleveland. Absolutely no comparison.
WWI was opposed my many in the USA, very strongly, on the left and on the right (though on balance opposition came more from the right and the left was more pro-war, at that time). But the victory itself was strongly, absolutely, an imposition of the progressive managerial ideals of the day. If you feel that that was the only available option, note the opposite happened after the Napoleonic wars: a reactionary, right-wing European order was imposed, which succeeded in its aims (including European peace, a Metternichian ideal) for a long time: just over 30 years, or roughly the maximum, I claim, of any serious right-wing resurgence.
Hi John Michael,
I can’t really offer a lot given I’m an outsider to the oddness that is your political scene. Magic as you and I understand it to be is good, it is just not an appropriate tool for every use it can be put to.
Interestingly I can offer you an insight into some of our politics. Apparently our Prime Minister was recently quoted as offering “Thoughts and Prayers” for the folks affected by the recent bushfires up in the north east of our continent. As a bit of background I believe he is some sort of Pentecostal Christian. It was not lost on many parts of the community that “thoughts and prayers” are useful techniques for when one wants to deal or commune with a deity, however in the practical world of matter, it might not work out so well and perhaps resources and physical assistance for the people affected might work better.
Anyway a cartoonist drew an amusing (and dark) cartoon which starkly depicts the lack of efficacy of the strategy: thoughts & prayers.
Thanks to whoever posted the Atlantic link. There’s much more in the current issue (“How to stop a civil war”), e.g. this interview. The following snippet caught my attention, not least because of the word “ecosystem”:
“When Trump first won the nomination, it was generally thought that his populism was fueled by economic disparities, but for some reason, after he was elected, that view went out of fashion. I don’t know why, because it is quite obviously the case—although to see it you need to think in terms of ecosystems, rather than individual incomes. Democratic strongholds are thriving. There’s this abundance of tech and professional jobs, and an educated population to fill them. Many Republican districts are experiencing negative growth, left behind by a changing economy. There is no place for them in this future we are making.”
My personal opinion? If JMG is right or not about Trump improving the “wage class'” lives can be decided when the average life expectancy for 2018, 2019 and 2020 comes in. 2015, 2016 and 2017 were all lower than 2014, an unprecedented cluster of decline in peacetime.
@Arkansas Yeah there’s a lot in Moldbug that’s very cool, but I disagree often, too. (And Moldbug isn’t always too worried about self-consistency so it’s sometimes hard to say what exactly his ideas are). The Progressivism=Puritanism idea is interesting but I think he’s wrong.
Better is his contention that the modern progressive left is the fusion of New England upper-crust Protestant moralism with the left-radical ideas streaming in from the European continent with late 19th c immigration waves, the merger starting in roughly the 1890s. Better still is his idea that The Left = Antinomianism, an idea that has a great deal of explanatory power (though really that idea is not original to him; it goes back to at least the French counter-enlightenment).
His big-brain solution, neocameralism (for those who don’t know, a kind of anarcho-syndicalism meets corporate autarky, if you can stretch yourself to put that together), is an idea that’s going absolutely nowhere.
JMG – I really enjoyed reading these 3 ‘Dancer’ essays – as we say here in the south, “You done good”.
California – having been to many places across the planet, I can state with complete confidence that the beauty of a land has zero to do with politics or government. The maintenance and use of these same lands is another story. It is quite possible to live in a physically beautiful place, but be walking over the bones of thousands murdered people (Cambodia comes to mind). Our Earth recycles everything, so the evidence of mankind will always be temporary.
These articles seem to have triggered cognitive dissonance in many readers – I find that very enlightening. Yes, the left has lost it’s mind and been taken over by TDS. At the same time, the right has sailed into a reef of resignations and declines to run for office again, largely due to Trump? Both sides are complicit in the fleecing of our tax monies; both are complicit in their support of the MIC; both are fed by lobbyists and their big money supporters, so choosing red or blue is choosing from the same pot of rancid stew.
It is also the point of turnover of the government at many levels from the Boomer generation – what will come next is anyone’s guess, based on what we are seeing in politics. As you point out in several recent essays, the future is resolving itself while we watch.
For the first time in history, due to the advance of the internet, we are not receiving our news from the same trusted sources which lied to us in the past. Government has almost got the populace to their desired goal, of us not knowing what our reality truly is. MSM reports and articles are rife with BS – as in how did the alleged helicopter special ops group that cornered Al Bagdadi fly unseen by the Syrian and Russian air defenses, or the Syrian population? Nobody saw or heard anything on radar or with their eyes – it was totally unremarked and unreported until the MSM outlets made their announcements.
What do I believe? Well, having spent years flying helicopters – they are the most difficult to conceal of aircraft, especially the big ones.. Huge radar cross section, God-awful noisy, stir up dust and debris from a hundred feet up, etc. Yet we supposedly snuck in unseen by anyone in the country with arguably the most heavily monitored airspace on the planet. Hmmm…
It is terribly difficult to train yourself to sort through BS delivered via every source on a daily basis – far easier to step into one the the ready-made camps of followers and accept their joint reality. But this is truly awesome, as when I was growing up, we were delivered our daily dose of BS and believed it unless we had a source we trusted more than Walter Cronkite. Most of us only had that source via word of mouth. Today it is like a “choose your own reality” existence in terms of what is available. I think we are in the process of adapting – we are a most adaptive species….
I enjoyed your attempt to peel the wool from eyes, and hope to read more in the coming years. I appreciate your letting some really nasty and ill conceived comments through as well – the level of dissonance is mind boggling in comments here and many other places I read. But again – Thanks!
I’m going to use fashion as a metaphor for a sec: there’s that old aphorism that says ‘it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it’. I’ve known people who have gone to thrift stores and from well-chosen used clothing they’ve made themselves look far better, and more like themselves, than the many who buy expensive clothes and end up looking somehow flat and lifeless. In the latter case, people buy clothes which fit with whatever the style of the day is, therefore, they are conforming to whatever other people deem to be in style, with all the value judgements about success and normality that come with them. Whereas in the former case, people are making conscious choices themselves about what they are going to wear, and that has, to me, both power and style!
The word ‘poor’ is a relative term (it is defined by the lack of whatever the rich or middle class have) and when one removes the value judgement that comes from this definition and embraces the things, the situation and the lifestyle that one already has with serenity and even gusto, then one really can live ‘poorly in style’.
This is in no way meant to demean the real hardships and practical difficulties in being poor as we commonly understand it to be, I come from a middle class background so it’s easy and perhaps insensitive of me to wax theoretical about this issue, but my partner and I are trying more and more to choose to do this whereever we can. We are lucky enough to have the choice, of course.
Dear Mr Greer
It seems to me that you’ve made two controversial propositions in this piece
(1) That if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, America could have had an insurgency which could have descended into a civil war
(2) That California is crap.
I come from over the other side of the pond and have never been to America. So the question of whether California is crap is a matter of subjective opinion and is of no interest to me. Some of the people who seem to be offended by this proposition remind me of the faded film star in Sunset Boulevard declaring “ I am big, it’s the pictures that got small”.
What I don’t understand is why your proposition that America was close to a possible civil war didn’t cause a lot more controversy, debate and self examination. If you would excuse a bad pun, I would have thought that this is something people would be up in arms about. It seems to me as an outsider that this is a hundred time more important than the question of whether California is crap. The prospect fo a civil war in such a well armed country as America, that seems to have such an obsession with guns should be scaring the living daylights out of people who live there. We’ve had a small scale civil war over here in Northern Ireland, but the army and the security forces were able to keep the lid on that. I am not sure they would be able to do that in America. Back in the days when I had a TV I’ve seen programs about gun ownership in America and some of the families seemed to have enough weapons to keep the IRA going for several years.
I have to admit that I don’t think that America was any where near a civil war in 2016. However the only knowledge I have about your country comes from the mass media. You actually live there, so I am not in any position to refute your claim
Sevensec, exactly. Progressivism worked when we were still progressing, but that was a temporary phenomenon — driven mostly, as per White’s Law, by increasing energy per capita — and it’s over. Now? Your metaphor’s a good one; the ship is floundering about, with sails being driven back into the masts and the tiller swinging wildly, because most people are insisting that the wind can’t change even though it has.
Wesley, ha! Thanks for this.
Temporaryreality, Robinson Jeffers had something to say about that, in his poem “Carmel Point”:
“The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses —
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads —
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.– As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.”
Arkansas, that seems like a very cogent summary to me. As for Moldbug, I find his work intriguing, as much for the places where he slips up as for the things he gets right — but the equation between the current American left and Puritanism is spot on, of course. They’re guided by the same oh-so-tempting escape from the complexities of life into an abstract morality that allows you to see the evil in everybody but yourself.
@Nastarana, thanks for that.
Since the last provincial election, some steps have been taken in that sort of directionin BC. The restrictions on taking land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve ALR, has been beefed up, which has been controversial, since it restricts use of farmland for development, and also what farmers can do with it. There’s been a tax implemented called the Foreign Buyer’s Tax, which is exacted on people who own property but the bulk of their income taxes are from out of province. There’s also a tax on empty homes, and. This latter only falls on high demand parts of the province, son on cities like Vancouver and Victoria, but not on cottages in the back of beyond.Of course, if you buy there, your cottage might just get burned down, so that constitues a disincentive all its own. There’s a surcharge on properities worth over $3million, supposed to be used for schools. If you’re somebody who bought decades ago in what is now an expensive area, you can defer paying this and have it paid out of your estate when you die. People with expensive homes really hated that tax.
One problem often seen is regulatory capture of municipalities by real estate developers. Another is money laundering. The latter only really got uncovered in the past coule of years, and has resulted in a complete lack of effective prosecution for money laundering, and a lot of public anger. It has also resulted in benificial owners now being required to be named by trusts, so you can actual tell who owns what and this is supposed to act as a disincentive for money laundering.
Much of this has now been in place for a year or two. There is supposed to be some new purpose built low income rental being built, plus modular housing to get homeless people out of the tent cities, but the tent cities just spring right back up again somewhere else.
Vancouver’s housing prices seem to have stopped rising the past two years, and have dropped, then gone back up to their prior peak, and dow dropped back to the previous dip. Victoria is still rising.
Apologies if this stuff has been posted in the preceding comments:
Anyway, I’ve got to get to work, so everyone have a pleasant day!
I think your view that American history consistently moves left is true in two narrow ways:
1) From the New Deal to the mid-1970s, liberals succeeded in putting through a lot of reforms which conservatives are still hating on but haven’t managed to repeal.
2) From 1789 to the present, federal power has steadily and irreversible expanded no matter which party was in power.
The problem is that your conclusion that every major change in American politics is a triumph of the Left involves retroactively painting the “Left” label on causes that weren’t seen that way at the time – for example, the decision to enter World War I on the British side, which was opposed, unsuccesfully, by a coaliition consisting mostly of leftists.
Attempts to impose the left/right axis on past American politics break down once you go earlier than 1912 or so. For instance, William Jenings Bryan, a (leftish?) Democratic populist, repeatedly ran for president on a free-silver, anti-imperialist platform. Both of those causes lost in the end, along with Bryan.
You can go and say that really those were right-wing causes, but then you’re just retconning things – no one at the time thought of them that way, just like no one at the time thought that it was out of place for the same party that created the Federal Reserve to also revive the Ku Klux Klan – they didn’t see one of those as a progressive cause and the other as a regressive one, they just saw both as things the Democratic party stood for.
Your point about conservative politicians becoming more conservative the further you go into the past is true, but trivial. The reason it is trivial is that a politician gets the conservative label by trying to hold onto some aspect of a vanishing past. So you can say that the further in the past you go the more conservative the people were, but that’s just like saying that the further in the past you go, the further away you are from the present – a complete truism.
The fact that conservatives – people who, by definition, are opposed to the way that history is presently unfolding – are constantly having their ideas rejected does not mean that history is moving in any consistent direction.
The Left has done a very good job of appropriating the ideology of progress by framing every struggle in our political history as a triumph for the Left. It’s a clever way to get people to support you when they have a deeply ingrained belief that going backwards is the worst thing a society can do.
But as effective as this may be as propaganda, it isn’t an accurate description of history, because most of our struggles were not experienced, by the people involved in them, as contests between the “Right” and “Left.” This dichotomy was, for the most part, retconned onto them much later.
Dear Evan Davie, I don’t see either party supporting UBI right now. Do you mean to imply that both will sign on once the AY campaign gains momentum? As for leaner, more efficient welfare system, allow me to refer you to the works of Francis Fox Pivens, among others about managing the poor. The DNC will never agree to a smaller, etc. welfare system, although they are fine with benefit cuts, because welfare jobs–sit behind a desk and look pretty kids of jobs–are an important part of their patronage machine, As I said in my earlier post, most of such jobs are workfare for the upper middles and lower uppers, but a (very) few are reserved for members of various minority communities as rewards and bribes for continuing political support. I agree the idea has attractions, your share of the wealth created by your forbears, but needs to be combined with such even more politically unpalatable notions as rent and price controls, not to mention a genuine commitment to full employment of American citizens.
I would rather see a requirement for national service from all citizens and maybe even residents, 2 yrs. when young, and maybe 2 wks a year afterwards, no exceptions for my culture won’t allow women outside the home, or my delicate sensibilities won’t allow me to use X offensive product–straws, for example. One would be paid, of course, the service would not need to be military; there is plenty of work that needs doing which our wonderful Free Enterprise System refuses to bother with.
Arkansas, for the last couple of decades Californians have been very, very brittle whenever the problems with their state are mentioned, and of course it’s gotten worse as those problems have become more pervasive and intractable. I wasn’t at all surprised by the pushback I got — in fact, I’d have been equally unfazed if it had been much more vitriolic. The cognitive dissonance between the Californian myth of sunshine and endless opportunity and the California reality of kleptocracy and filth is arguably getting close to the breaking point, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the state politics convulsed by it in the years immediately ahead.
Will, yes, I’ve been watching this with a good deal of interest. I note that a lot of people who have had their videos suppressed for political reasons have already shifted to alternative sites such as Bitchute — but you’re right that mythical thinking, and the whining that seems to result from it so reliably these days, is very well represented just now.
Your Kittenship, it would be just like this country to have something that small and silly finally push things over the edge!
Evan, and of course that’s the dividing line that matters. If you put your faith in progress, very little of what I say is going to make sense to you; it’s those who have left that secular religion behind and are facing the far less comfortable world revealed by its absence who find my perspectives useful. Of course your mileage may vary…
BB, of course there are arguments on both sides. Cannabis prohibition in the US has been a total disaster, however; it’s been no more successful in restricting access to cannabis than alcohol prohibition was in restricting access to alcohol — there’s literally no corner of the US where you can’t find a cannabis dealer in short order — and it’s put millions of people in prison for the victimless crimes of possession and small-scale dealing. Thus it makes sense to admit that it’s failed, legalize cannabis, and concentrate the limited resources of law enforcement on more serious issues.
Booklover, that’s an excellent point. The notion that there’s some kind of innate human drive to innovate is a classic bit of cultural ideology which doesn’t happen to be true. Watch the people you know and you’ll find that by and large, an interest in innovation is probably less common than, oh, foot fetishism, or an obsessive interest in football statistics. It’s just that one of these is useful to industry and marketing, and the others aren’t.
J.L.Mc12, no, I hadn’t. I don’t follow Brin closely these days; he used to be a very capable writer but his recent works have been too shrill for my taste.
Golocyte, we’ll pick this up in a future post. For now I’ll just point out that the reason figures in the past seem “hard to characterize” is that the labels “left” and “right” have changed meaning repeatedly over time. Since the left by and large wants to keep going in whatever direction social change seems to be going at the time, and the right by and large wants to resist that movement, it’s easy in retrospect not to notice how many causes that now belong to the left used to belong to the right, and vice versa. Are you aware, for example, that prohibition of alcohol and opposition to immigration were core left-wing causes in the US for more than a century? But we’ll take this up down the road a bit.
Chris, funny. Do you happen to know if your government’s doing something other than sending thoughts and prayers?
Matthias, thanks for this. It will indeed be interesting to see what the death rate shows!
Oilman2, glad you liked it. I’d compare the current situation to the era just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the official media was babbling about how wonderful everything was but nobody believed it, and got the real news by way of samizdat sources. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the game plays out.
Dear pygmycory, If I may, I would also like to add that I think it essential for states, counties and municipalities to seize control of public utilities, basically any way they can. Privatization merely added extra layers of office fauna, all supported by ratepayers. With the example of PGE in the news lately, this might be politically doable. I have never understood why alleged “moral and ethical” conservatives who howl with outrage about municipal workers getting pensions have no problem with layer upon layer of incompetent office fauna being supported by the public. PGE was the genius company which built a nuclear power plant within, let us say, hailing distance, geologically speaking, of an active volcano which then…erupted. Just as geologists had been predicting it would for a few decades or so. So, John Q Public in Portland or Vancouver, WA, looking out his window at a half inch of volcanic ash and wondering if his car would start, was not edified by the soothing voice of the PGE spokesperson saying that Trojan had been shut down in an excess of caution but there was nothing to worry about.
It’s a crying shame, but to get to the real news, we have to go to other countries for it. The coup in Bolivia was a soundbite here, as example. I run through AlMasdar, RT and many others scanning for international events that do not even make it to the news here. As I have never seen the word samizdat (thanks for the vocab expansion), it seems to me this is exactly what we are doing daily, albeit via internet. Thank God (of your choice) for that, as the USAMSM is steadily singing a singular tune, Orange Man Bad.
I hope some perceptive, altruistic billionaire begets a real news service in the next few years. It honestly would not take much to knock these talking heads on parade into the unemployment lines. True news could be covered for the entire world in an hour or two each evening if the propaganda and spoon feeding of the distracted was ditched in favor of truth and truth alone. I just don’t know if the planet has anyone with the desire and resources to accomplish this.
Right now, I am waiting to see how truly corrupt the DOJ, FBI, CIA and State Dept are – the ongoing slimefest is driving Redenbacher stock waay up. My question for you is:
What do you imagine might precipitate some serious social disobedience within the country? We have some already with the TDS infected far left, but it is at federal levels. What event can you imagine that would result in large chunks of populace giving the finger to the Feds?
I am just curious and wondering what you imagine might unify rather than divide?
Jasmine, it’s really not a contraversial claim that the US has the propensity to erupt into a civil war, thus there’s not much to argue about it. If there’s anyone who believes it couldn’t happen here they might want to turn on the mainstream news and note how different populations in the country are talked about or not talked about at all!
We’ve had a member of the House of Representatives talk about using nuclear weapons on rural America, after all. (Representative Swalwell from California, at that, if you wondered if California needed to earn any more animosity.)
A lot of us were watching the Bundy Ranch to see if it would be another Ruby Ridge or Waco. At least two-thirds of us are well aware that we’re sitting on a powder keg, and just wondering if someone’s going to start playing with matches.
If it’s any help in picturing the scale of the situation, I live roughly the same distance from DC as London is from Moscow. I suspect you’d appreciate folks in Moscow telling you how to live in Ireland, did you say?, about the same as we appreciate DC.
I must differ with the idea of the McDonald’s suit being small and silly. Companies are getting away with forcing customers to pay for products they explicitly do not want. I don’t think even the robber barons went that far. And as I mentioned, McDonald’s is hardly the only offender.
If we can’t get Genghis Khan, we need Teddy Roosevelt. That’s if the presidency survives. We squeaked through when the attempt to remove Bill Clinton for being a crass jerk failed. The attempt to remove Donald Trump for being a crass jerk may yet succeed and if that precedent is set, no president will get much of anything done other than trying to hold onto his office. This has been going on for decades, beginning with Nixon. Republicans took revenge by going after Clinton, and now Democrats are taking revenge by going after Trump. It’s ridiculous. Even Michael Corleone and the Five Families made peace eventually.
I don’t understand your objection. UBI is by definition universal, meaning that it would be unconditional.
Search for what “Universal Credit” is in the United Kingdom. It isn’t universal, being means-tested in a very similar way to the benefits it replace and doesn’t necessarily leave recipients in credit compared with where they would be under the previous benefits. In many ways it is just the same system but repackaged with a new name, the main difference being the payment schedule being monthly in arrears rather than weekly/fortnightly as with the previous benefits. This creates a wait of up to 6 weeks before the money arrives.
There is actually an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine which is relevant here:
memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Past_Tense,_Part_I_(episode), youtube review of the episode which is set in San Francisco in 2024 which the USS Defiant travelled back to.
Andrew Yang vs. the tech lords:
Some good ideas here, but the evil tech overlords would fight this very hard…
Thank you for that, I’m gonna have to look me up some more Robinson Jeffers!
>Robinson Jeffers had something to say about that, in his poem “Carmel Point”
I prefer R. Crumb’s statement of the same thing in pictures. Lemme see if I can find a link to it – http://thefoxisblack.com/blogimages//robert-crumb-hoistory-of-america.jpg
There was mention of SROs. Vancouver still has some, but they seem to be dying.
“The USA has long, unpatrollable coastlines and borders. It shares its borders with countries which do not prohibit alcohol. It has vast unpoliced internal spaces where smuggled goods can be hidden and illegal brewing and distillation can take place.”
Perhaps one of the most famous – and oddest – examples of this is the Haskell Free Library and Opera House in Derby, Vermont, which sits directly on the border of Canada and the US. “A thick black line runs beneath the seats of the opera house and diagonally across the center of the library’s reading room to mark the Canada–United States border. The stage and half of the seats are in Canada, the remainder of the opera hall is in the US.”
More: “Besides the library, five inhabited structures are divided by the border. Most residents use the US entrances to avoid problems with the border patrol; crossing the border within buildings does not require official permission. A tool-and-die factory, once operated by the Butterfield division of Litton Industries, is also divided.”
As you can imagine, this was exploited during Prohibition given that it was not illegal to purchase alcohol in Canada and who’s going to stop you from carrying the booze from one side of your home to the other?
All quoted passages are from Wikipedia articles.
Reading the exchange about California over the past few days really hammered home the difference between mythic thinking and pragmatic thinking.
When I was a kid I read a book about a group of friends, the whole plot escapes me, but I distinctly remember that baseball was a very prominent part of the plot.
In one particular sub-plot a new boy arrives in the neighborhood and joins the regular baseball game with the original group of friends from the book. The new boy, the narrator tells us, is a very sickly looking kid with an overprotective mother. However, the new boy integrates easily because he is passionate about baseball and discovers that he has a powerful throwing arm.
After some time, the new boy’s mother stops him from joining the game because she fears the other boys are simply stringing her son along and secretly making fun of him. Eventually the new boy’s family has to move, due in part, to the boy’s father getting another job in a different part of the country.
The narrator lays out the last scene where the new boy sees his friends one last time. The new boy arrives at the baseball field with tears in his eyes; he scoops up the baseball and kneads it in his hands, and tells his friends about his imminent departure. His friends, the narrator included, are heart broken. The new boy angrily yells about the unfairness of life, and with one final “its not fair!” launches the ball in the air with all his might and runs off.
The narrator and his friends don’t watch the new boy go, following instead the impossible trajectory of the ball. Each of the remaining boys argue over whether they believe the ball made it into space or landed off in the fields somewhere. The narrator ends the chapter with the words “the others were arguing what they believed, but me? Well I just believed.”
The ball took on a mythic trajectory; never quiet reaching the earth again. That, to me, sums up mythic thinking; a thing is perceived to achieve fantastic velocity and its trajectory, unbound by the strings of reality, stretches past the horizon to infinity. A pragmatic thinker would look more closely and try to determine where the ball will land, but a mythic thinker would fin every reason to just believe.
Those who disagree with your description of California all missed that you were describing the strings that are determining the balls trajectory. Their responses were various iterations of “yes, but look at it fly.” Sure, the ball is flying, but where will it land?
Myth Describes the flight of the ball and can be a great source of inspiration. Studied properly a myth can become the foundation of pragmatism, and this properly studied and study-able myth is what we call Itihasa. How do we know when a myth has failed to become Itihasa? Well when the whole length of a story becomes summed up into a thought stopper:
“We’re the 7th largest economy in the world.”
“The poop is only in the tourist areas.”
“California is a big state.”
“Its not that bad everywhere.”
This is when we know that mythic thinking is not turning into Itihasa, because Itihasa allows us to work with the narrative to navigate a dangerous and difficult reality. California may not be a third world country, but the fact that it exhibits symptoms associated with third world countries is cause for worry, not defensiveness.
The first chapter of the book Overshoot has this quote preceding it: “Attention…the mental attitude which takes note of the outside world and manipulates it…is associated with habit on the one hand and with crisis on the other. When the habits are running smoothly the attention is relaxed; it is not at work. But when something happens to disturb the run of habit the attention is called into play and…establishes new and adequate habits, or it is its function to do so.” – William Issac Thomas, Sourcebook of Social Origins, p.17
If myth fixes your attention on the habit instead of the crisis, then it is a threat because you are not changing your habit when it desperately needs change.
Oilman2, I basically don’t follow US media at all now, it’s so bad. I get all my news from overseas sources. As for what might unify us, it’s a familiar pattern — the conflict between the failing elite and the populist insurgency goes through its changes, until the populist side wins; the former elite and its hangers-on withdraw into an assortment of enclaves, snarling insults all the while; everyone else forgets all about them and gets to work redefining the next seventy years or so, and the wheel keeps turning.
Your Kittenship, if the GOP wins big at the next election, I expect a constitutional amendment to impose specific legal limits on the impeachment process, requiring a 2/3 majority vote of the House to begin an impeachment inquiry and making it mandatory to specify one or more federal crimes the president has allegedly broken. That would prevent the abuses we’ve seen with the Clinton and Trump impeachment circuses.
Owen, did you miss the fact that R. Crumb only told half the story? That’s the thing that makes Jeffers so powerful — he’s willing to talk about what most others evade, which is that the human presence on the land is temporary, and the presence of our peculiarly ugly settlement pattern is far more temporary still.
I don’t know if you’ve seen this. It’s from the Guardian 2 years ago. Apparently things are just getting better and better!!
This fatuous piece is a globalists wet dream. It doesn’t matter if you lost your job, (apparently) someone in India has just got a promotion. Yayyy!!
Does someone from the Trump administration read your posts? The President’s Twitter account has just referred to Speaker Pelosi’s district in San Francisco as a ‘dangerous and disgusting slum’, while the House is conducting impeachment proceedings. It looks like a replay of the ‘rat-infested’ Baltimore / Elijah Cummings attack, which appeared to pay off for him.
Re: California… I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I think that any discussion of the state (not “State”) of California has to recognize the following facts: in 2012, California produced 8.3% of US crude oil. That’s a lot of wealth just spewing up out of the ground, into relatively few pockets. However, California production peaked in 1985, and has declined 60% since then (while national production has increased by %140). California imports 70% of the oil it consumes, %60 from foreign sources. So, maybe California is leading the US into the post-carbon future, and it isn’t much fun.
We shouldn’t be surprised that a site like “rigzone” would like to see more oil & gas development in California, but I think their facts are probably trustworthy (until proven otherwise).
On the other hand, this site breaks down the California economy by sectors:
This chart shows that oil, gas, and other minerals only add about $16 billion, while FIRE (finance, insurance, real-estate, etc.) adds $546 billion! Professional and business services are in 2nd place, with $372 billion. I’m not sure which category “Hollywood” falls into; “arts, entertainment, recreation, accomodation, and food services”? That’s only $108 billion (the 9th ranked category). Agriculture? That’s a mere $46 billion, the 12th category.
JMG, you were right about Mercury retrograde periods being good for revising: I was able to tighten up my story quite a bit over the last couple of weeks, though it still looks to be pretty long, there will be more bang for the buck. Thank you! With luck Fastleft will even get his new puppy housebroken by THE END.
I think I’m breaking new ground. This is, as far as I know, the only book in history where you see what happens in the stage BEFORE the stout-hero-and-his-noble-dog show up, and it ain’t pretty. It’s hard enough for the average person to housebreak a poop—er, a pup—and it’s ten times harder if you’re a hero. (*slash* *chop* *crash* *yowl* “Excuse me, slavering fiend, may we pause for ten minutes? It’s time to take the puppy out.”)
How are things in Wales going? I look forward to Helen vanquishing the vile villains. If she really wants to make their lives tough, she can give each one a 6-week-old puppy. 😈
JMG and Oilman 2, the Spanish-language news in the U.S. used to be pretty good, then the oligarchs bought Telemundo and, more recently, Univision, and, well, that pretty much dumped a bucket of diarrhea on Spanish-language news. I too get my news from English- or Spanish-language foreign sources. The only thing national U.S. news is good for is telling you when a public figure has died.
Local news, on the other hand, can be pretty good.
Here’s a series of paintings on the same general theme as Crumb’s comic-strip. It is over a vaster time-scale, and it tells the second half of the story as well.
Hope this link works!
JMG said – “Owen, did you miss the fact that R. Crumb only told half the story? That’s the thing that makes Jeffers so powerful — he’s willing to talk about what most others evade, which is that the human presence on the land is temporary, and the presence of our peculiarly ugly settlement pattern is far more temporary still.” I know you don’t do videos, but some of your readers might enjoy the sweet little German short animation called Das Rad about two rock beings who watch humans develop and recede in the valley below them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOPwXNFU7oU
I noticed even Obama didn’t dare warn them to stop being so open about their hatred of whites. And I think that’s what’ll sink them; I don’t think there are enough crazy-white-women-who-hate-whites to overturn the rest of the white vote. (Granted, betting on not-enough-crazy-people is riskier than it used to be.). Whites are still somewhere between 65-75% of the population, depending on which source you read, so, unless EVERY single solitary white woman is a crazy racist and EVERY single one of those crazy racists votes, the math is against the Democrats.
This analysis assumes an honest election. As for what will really happen, I predict widespread vote fraud, President Warren, and further slippage into 3rd world status. Enjoy the decline!
I’m going back to Reality. Fastleft is busy locked in mortal combat with the forces of evil, and it’s about time to take the puppy out. (As Teddy Roosevelt used to say, never bring home a lost puppy if every page of your calendar has “Combat forces of evil” penciled in on each square.)
Golocyte, I haven’t read all of Moldbug, certainly, and I mostly read him when in a certain mood for dark humor (as he gives Progressivism its colonoscopy), and I have always been skeptical of any “solution” involving ones and zeroes. He’s on the soundest and sanest ground when he claims to be a Jacobite monarchist. Still, in this country, monarchy hasn’t the ghost of a chance. ANd that’s largely due to the kind of hyper-Protestantism or even mundane Protestantism that dominates everywhere, even when it is formally rejected. I’ve read de Maistre and Veuillot and some of the Counter-Revolutionary thinkers, and find them a breath of fresh air, generally, as they bring up some points that simply don’t register on our radar. But I remain skeptical of anyone who thinks computers or block-chain is going to save us, or politics in general, for that matter. It mainly seems to be an art of the possible, and almost always is pragmatically “the lesser of two evils”. That said, I could see a situation develop that was so bad, I’d be willing to overlook a more or less benevolent tyrant, provided he or she managed to ensure that the relatively normal and sane people could sleep at night, and the criminals had to sleep with one eye open. Baron Khuenhelt-Ledhin (who wrote a lot on Leftism, particularly his magnum opus, Liberty or Equality) called himself a liberal of the far Right. I tend to keep coming back to that.
Booklover and JMG,
When I mentioned ‘humanity’s innate drive for innovation which has always been there,’ I more had in mind the tendency to design and build things to make life more comfortable and work more efficient: the inclined plane, the screw, the pulley, the hot water tank. I was thinking historically of things like the indoor plumbing and sewage drains of the ancient Indus Valley city of Mohenjo-daro, the aqueducts of Rome. Perhaps ‘innovate’ is not the best choice of word for that tendency. I don’t think humans have an innate drive for the next generation of iPhone, although marketers of Progress would have us believe that we’re missing out if we don’t run out and buy every new thing.
Booklover, I agree with your idea that we would do well to remember that not everyone has always had the same ideas around progress as our society does.
I came across this passage yesterday and it really stood out to me, from Wendell Berry’s ‘Bringing it to the Table’: “For a long time now we have understood ourselves as traveling toward some sort of industrial paradise, some new Eden conceived and constructed entirely by human ingenuity. And we have thought ourselves free to use and abuse nature in any way that might further this enterprise. Now we face overwhelming evidence that we are not smart enough to recover Eden by assault, and that nature does not tolerate or excuse our abuses. If, in spite of the evidence against us, we are finding it hard to relinquish our old ambition, we are also seeing more clearly every day how that ambition has reduced and enslaved us. We see how everything – the whole world – is belittled by the idea that all creation is moving or ought to move toward an end that some body, some human body, has thought up. To be free of that end and that ambition would be a delightful and precious thing. Once free of it, we might again go about our work and our lives with a seriousness and pleasure denied to us when we merely submit to a fate already determined by gigantic politics, economics and technology.”
@Owen, there’s an eight-minute animated short film called “Das Rad” (“Rocks”) that restates the themes and whole story of Robinson Jeffers’s “Carmel Point” in a bit more whimsical way. Most likely I learned about it from a comment in one of JMG’s earlier blogs. Look for “Das Rad (Animation)” in YouTube for a clear digitization with subtitles.
@JMG, thank you for that poem! Just perfect.
In re: San Francisco and SROs
I not only live in San Francisco, but for the last 28 years in an SRO on Sixth Street, less than a block South of Market. I am at one of several epicenters of the poo and pee on the street issue, and can easily believe the statistics put out by the city. On the other hand this is not evenly distributed; there are four or five areas where this is endemic, but there are vast areas of the city where it is nonexistant. Also, I would say that of all the poo-piles, probably about three-quarters of these are Dog while the remaining quarter is Human. The same goes for window bars and grates, in the same few areas they are ubiquitus, in most of the rest of the city, relatively rare.
Here in San Francisco, the city houses several thousand formerly homeless people in the SROs. However, the passer-by on the street sees no real difference in the visible presence of homelessness. You will see groups of people sitting on the sidewalk, some of them drinking their 40 oz. beers out of brown paper bags. Most of these people have been homeless for months, if not years. At night, they try to get space in one of the shelters, then in the day they return to their street location.
Now, if while in the shelter someone makes contact with a social worker there, they can sign up for housing in an SRO. Once they get in, for the homeless person it’s all positive, they have a room where they can lock the door, and sleep amd keep their stuff safe. But when the day-time rolls around, what’s the newly housed person going to do? More likely than not, they’ll head down to their usual street location and continue hanging out with the same group that they were previous to coming into an SRO. The street, in essence, is their living room.
Then, you have the issue that SROs are only appropriate for a relatively narrow segment of the homeless population. To live successfully in an SRO, one basically needs to be capable of “Independent Living,” that is, capable of taking basic care of onesself. People who are homeless for purely economic reasons should do fine.
It is when you start including the heavily alcoholic, drug addicted and more seriously mentally ill that you start to run into problems. People whose drug and mental health issues are not too intense can be accommodated provided some kind of oversight, in the form of Case Management workers is present.
But there is a fair-sized segment who are more deeply troubled, who are frequently disruptive in one way or another, who leave dope-needles scattered about the public areas, who vandalize the public toilets and showers, etc. We even have had the TV in the lobby smashed several times. Many of these people are prescribed medications, but quite frequently a large number of these go “off their meds” and revert to destructive ways. These people really need to be institutionalized, whether they like it or not; their issues are beyond the ability of Case Management to deal with.
As Rita above notes, involuntary institutionalization is so “Politically Incorrect” that this hasn’t actually happened. This presence of these “inappropriately housed” individuals has been a fact of life in the SROs for longer than the 28 years I have been here. Only recently has re-institutionalization come up for discussion in a few places on the political level, but so far I haven’t seen any actual legislative changes made.
On a final note, over the years I have heard the blame for homelessness blamed on Ronald Reagan who, as Governor of California, is said to have “closed the mental health hospitals.” Now, while I think Reagan was a disaster as Governor, and an even bigger disaster as President of the US, I don’t think that the lion’s share of the blame can be laid at his door.
At this time (late ’60s) there were roughly 650 mental health institutions in the United States. Over the previous decades there had bee several scandals of truly horrific treatment of a few patients in a handful of these institutions. A small but loud group of “advocates” appeared who, instead of demanding that the perpetrators of experiments on patients and other abusive activities be prosecuted and sent to jail, their demand was simply “Close the Instution.” Unfortunately, California Democrats bought into this, and legislated a new criteria to institutionalize someone. This was that someone had to “Present an immediate threat to themselves or others.” This new criteria, of course meant a drastic decrease in the number of patients in the hospitals. Napa, California’s flagship mental instution now has between 200-300 patients, back in the ’60’s the figure was between 2,000 and 3,000. So of course this meant that facilities could be closed or downsized, and some thousands of hospital staff laid off. Had Reagan vetoed that bill, as he should have, the homelessness problem would, if it ever happened, been far smaller than it is now, And of course the advocacy for this became what we would to-day call a “social justice” movement and what happened in California went nationwide.
Antoinetta III Posted at Archdruid II on 11-16-19 at 8:04 P.M.
A series of thoughts inspired by this post:
The moment I realized we were well and truly on the downslope was when it was logical for a friend who lives in the suburbs to install a natural gas powered generator. He had enough of multiple power outings, so he decided to spend a lot of money to make up for the money the “local” utility wasn’t spending on maintenance. Of course, our local utility is National Grid, a N. American subsidiary of the privatized English power company, and their primary duty is to send dividends to London. It’s not just California.
I drive a tour boat on the river downtown. This summer, a young man in the throes of an overdose threw himself into the river as we drove by. With the help of two of my guests, we pulled him from the river, and brought him to where the EMTs could help him. The tourists were more compassionate than I expected: I think the overdose problem is so pervasive that we’ve all seen it or had knowledge of a victim.
I spent 10 years in a large corporation, a franchisor of donut and coffee shops. I watched the smiler with the knife under the cloak get ahead, while ramming one bad idea after another down the throats of our customers (the franchisees).
Being poor with style: I’m slowly easing down the slope. I love to shop at my local private school’s annual sale: cashmere sports jacket for $10! Italian shoes that can be resoled for $5!
I keep singles in my car and in the pockets of my coats to pass out whenever someone asks. When a friend commented that they would probably spend it on liquor or drugs, I responded that I do it for myself, not for them.
Lady Cutekitten of LOLcat: “And they won’t stop with entertainment. Keep diaries, folks.” All the media keep repeating the mantra:”Russian election hacking” as if it’s proven. They certainly haven’t stopped with entertainment.
Dana: If you’re in Providence at midsummer, I host the Ecosophia Annual Midsummer Potluck on the East Side of Providence.
Interesting article today on Quillette about what the author calls the ‘luxury beliefs’ of the elites and how they have replaced material-based ‘conspicuous consumption’ as the marker of membership in the uppermost of upper classes. Some of the author’s observations will sound very familiar to the commentariat here.
To the Archdruid:
Since this site doesn’t seem to have an “Edit” feature, could you do me a favour and delete the last phrase “Posted at….” that follows my sign-off; it got left on by mistake.
Angry Californians: “nothing bad is happening in my neighborhood, so everything you say about the state must be wrong”
That’s not it at all. The push back JMG received was because he said “crime was so bad throughout the state that every single house had iron bars on its windows and iron gates to keep its doors from being kicked in…” Crime isn’t that bad in the vast majority of the state and since probably less than 10% of homes in California actually have bars, it’s fair, and in no way angry, to point out all of the areas that do not fit his “every single house” description. Pointing out this misperception does not imply everything else JMG says about California is also wrong.
Grizzly bears still exist, just not in California. 😉
We must be talking past each other.
“From the New Deal to the mid-1970s, liberals succeeded in putting through a lot of reforms which conservatives are still hating on but haven’t managed to repeal.”
But this is ***precisely*** the point. They haven’t repealed the New Deal or succeeding reforms, they won’t, and they can’t. Some alterations might occur (some tweak to social security or other) but in broad content these things are completely irreversible, barring some severe extrinsic factor like hyperinflation or a breakup of the USA.
You must have missed what I said about being able to pick the left-side of an argument ahead of time— a persistent feature of the last few centuries of history. (Sorry my comment was long and boring; maybe you didn’t get to it.)
I’ll give you a present-day example. I don’t know if marriage between more than 2 people will ever become law, or if federal money will ever be earmarked for transition surgery, or if religious hospitals will ever be forced to perform abortions. But I know these are not conservative issues; I know the pressure comes from the left. I can’t tell who will win. But I can tell, right now, whether these are left-wing or right-wing. (BTW I think probabilities are that, in 20 years, 2 of the three things I just mentioned will come to pass, though I couldn’t claim to know which 2.)
This is the story now for hundreds of years. In 1955 I would not have known if free medical care for the poor would ever become available or not. But I could tell if it was a left or right issue in 1955. Look, I can go on and on in exactly this way. In each major political change in several centuries of history you can nearly always pick the left side ahead of time.
True, bimetallism did not win the day, but the issue was made irrelevant by other, more potent, Progressive-era pathways to expanding and managing the money supply (see Federal Reserve, Act Of, 1913)—combined with the economic reality of European financiers moving base money into the USA as New York became a center of speculative finance following the (relatively) greater suffering of London after 1873—and especially after we trounced the Spanish ~1898 when the USA became the doorway to speculative finance in South America (which by the 1920s was actually a bigger bubble that either real estate or the stock market—look it up; the data is freely available—and that wasn’t even the biggest financial bubble; the biggest bubble was…drum roll…war loans).
You said “Your point about conservative politicians becoming more conservative the further you go into the past is true, but trivial.”
But this is not trivial. This is precisely the point. In fact this is so precisely my point that I think we might actually be in agreement over everything except maybe what is meant by “left” and “right”.
To that point I’ll say that it’s false that all change is “left.” Right-wing forms of change ARE possible, and just like left-wing change, is almost always identifiable ahead of time. It’s just the case that ***right-wing change rarely happens sustainably*** within the current dispensation. The very fact that we have experienced 2.5 centuries of nearly persistent left-wing victories is basically the reason that we currently think All Change = Left Change. This itself is a symptom of left-wing domination.
Here are 3 examples of significant right-wing change. One is Russia; currently the most reactionary force in the European world, and pretty big beyond Europe, too. Another, that I’ve mentioned twice now, is Metternich’s post-Napoleonic European order. It was an openly reactionary, right-wing system that was not some simplistic replication of the previous order—it was definite, deliberate change, but of a kind the right found comfortable, and the left hated.
The last is the arc of German unification about 1848-1914. No, not “conservative,” in the sense that old systems were preserved. But the driving energy was German counter-enlightenment thought, and its architects were nationalists seeking endogenous, particularist cultural forms. (Their spectacular failure, as the usual thinking goes, was a major impetus behind the continued leftward motion in succeeding decades.)
Thanks for posting that Carmel Point poem by Jeffers, it’s wonderful, I wasn’t familiar with it. It did raise some questions, which I hope aren’t too off-topic.
Why are populists in general, including Trump, usually so hostile to environmental regulations? Is it because they sense the message that Jeffers conveys with Carmel Point? And in light of Jeffers’ poem, is there any point to worrying about the environment at all?
If a populist leader, for example, reverses a regulation to prevent harmful chemicals from a factory from going into a nearby river, thus for the sake of argument poisoning the river but creating jobs for the working class, does that matter if the river in the scale of geological time will clean itself once humans have dwindled away? If so, does it matter if humans downriver aren’t affected, but the animals and plants along the river are?
Hi Mr Greer; I think I disagree that “left” and “right” have been as unstable as, perhaps, many here may think. I am not so sure the immigration issue has ever been clearly left or right. Very serious immigration restrictions began after WWI, and started with extra-judicial expulsions of left-wing radicals; at least some of it was in response to Lenin’s declaration that Russia was going to be exporting radicals to western countries deliberately, and more was due to the bombings and other disturbances of 1919, as well as society’s general martial attitudes immediately following the war.
In other words, even though these extra-judicial expulsions were undertaken by the Wilson administration (which was left-progressive), they were undertaken for conservative reasons.
I did mention alcohol prohibition and eugenics as the only two major failures of the left I could think of. Other than that—-the immigration issue I am extremely dubious on—-the only big issue I can see that changed from right to left was the environmental issue.
Think of the long list of positions that were left-radical in 1912 that are simply commonplace today—-birth control, legalization of sexual images in media, no-fault divorce, what they called free love (but today we call normal sexual relationships, for example cohabitation), free health care—-I could make a long, long list.
Is there a single right-wing position (excepting environmental care) that was radical in its day but commonplace now? Seems to have gone the opposite way: commonplace conservative positions then are dangerously radical now.
@JMG said: “The notion that there’s some kind of innate human drive to innovate is a classic bit of cultural ideology which doesn’t happen to be true. Watch the people you know and you’ll find that, by and large, an interest in innovation is probably less conmon than, oh, foot fetishism or an obsessive interest in football statistics. It’s just that one of these is useful to industry and marketing, and the others aren’t.”
I’m not sure what to make of all this: if the idea you’re trying to get at is simply that most of the drive to innovative is concentrated in a small minority of the population, then you’re probably right. If you’re suggesting that innovation isn’t a central factor in the human experience, then I think you’re blithely ignoring some key facts of human existence.
The main things that make human beings different from all the other animals are probably 1) Language, and 2) Tool Use. Each of these is the product of hundreds of generations of cummulative innovation.
Granted, not all societies are equally innovative, a lasting society has got to be aware of the fact that new technologies often do more harm than good, and a good innovator is one who mixes a few new developments with a very large amount of the old, tried and proven. But even with these caveats, I think it’s quite the whopper to go and say that people only make a big deal out of the human drive to innovate because of cultural mythology fostered by industry and marketing.
Eliminate the obsessive collection of football statistics, and human history plays out in mostly the same way. Eliminate the drive to innovate, and you don’t have any human history at all – or really any humans, since without tools and language, we’re just an ape that has the odd habit of sometimes hunting its prey by throwing rocks.
To all who have been discussing the legal status of cannabis and other substances, it strikes me that there is a fruitful meditation to be had on the subtly different meanings of “legalisation” and “decriminalisation”.
To my mind the first is a wholescale transfer of ownership and control of the raw materials, processes, product, and markets from whatever unofficial entities currently have them to the official state entity that legislates.
The second simply removes legal/criminal sanctions, and in so doing, removes the kind of individual barriers of access to raw materials, processes, product, and markets that incentivises criminal bids for control
Which of these states of affairs is better in any given case depends on the substance and circumstances and is a debate to argue case by case. But one should be clear about WHICH option one is describing and advocating for.
About TR my claim is that he didn’t fit into the boxes of ***his own time and culture*** not that he doesn’t fit into the boxes of ***ours***. He even started his own political party, as everyone knows, which of course did not survive the man’s personal withdrawal from politics. Taft was a conservative. Grover Cleveland was a conservative. TR was not a conservative. (Yes he had many conservative positions, but his vision for governance was much more radical. Right-wing progressive.)
I just don’t think we produce people like TR in public life just now. If you can find a prominent figure like that, please let me know (Ok I guess Trump is an analogy to TR, though without any of the thinking capability, or the imaginative or visionary aspect). Outliers were not as ruthlessly culled just then (after all TR came up through the Republican political machine of his day, unlike Trump).
Dear Boys Mum & Mr Greer
Boys Mum: Thank you for your response. JMG has stated before that he thought there could have been a civil war if Hillary had been elected in 2016 and I had thought that this was just a minority opinion. But when I saw everyone making a fuss about California and virtually no one disputing the claim that America could have been close a civil war in 2016, it did begin to worry me. Either this was some sort of peculiarity of the American temperament, or everyone pretty much agreed with JMG and what he said was not controversial. Thats why I put this question out there.
I had thought that given peak oil, imperial decline etc that civil war in America was a possibility. But I always thought that it would be at least 10 or 20 years in the future and not now. I had thought it would require a significant crisis like a “Twilights last Gleaming” or another economic crisis to bring that about. The idea that electing Hillary in 2016 could cause a civil war seemed unlikely, unless she really screwed up and brought about a significant crisis. You have to understand that I have never been to America and my only knowledge of the country comes from the main stream media. The idea that electing Hillary could cause an insurgency is not something I recall seeing anywhere on the main stream media. In some parts of the media she was portrayed as almost saint like. Obviously living in London the media I get does have a UK focus. It might be different where you are. From what you are saying the situation is even more serous than I thought it was. This is why I wanted to put that question out there, so `I could get answers from American’s who are on the ground and know what they’re talking about.
Mr Greer: I always thought that Trump was pretty vile. However if his election stopped a potential insurgency and civil war then I understand why you are relaxed about him getting into power. There is a good article from https://www.traditionalright.com from 4th November 2019 looking at this very question. He makes the point that electing Trump gave many of his supporters a voice in Washington and convinced them that their votes made a difference and that they could get their man in power. Therefore they could put their guns away. The fact that they could do this means that they still supported the legitimacy of the state. If Trump got kicked out in the 2020 election they might see the new democrat president as not legitimate, but they would still believe in the legitimacy of the state, so they wouldn’t reach for their guns. However if Trump gets kicked out of office because he is impeached, then they will feel as if they have no power and that the state is no longer legitimate. Then they might start reaching for their guns.
I fundamentally disagree with many of William Lind’s Attitudes and opinions. I am way to the left of him. However on some questions like 4th generation war, American foreign policy etc he does have ideas worth thinking about.
Yang is just another con artist politician, promising relative morons something for nothing if they’ll cast their vote for him. Vote for me and I’ll put money in your pocket. Simple proposition really. Well tested political strategy. The third world really loves it and they fall for it over and over and over again. Is Murica now third world enough to fall for something this crass? We’ll see.
As far as “fixing” what passes for capitalism in this economy goes – I don’t think there’s much that can be done from the state sector to fix it and I think every time you get some state sector initiative to “fix” things, it turns out to make things even worse. Also see: Obamacare. It does need fixing.
Someone once remarked that economics is the study of games and I think that’s where the fix has to come from. Too many people are losing at this game and the rules need to change to let more people win. Easy enough to say, harder to implement. Designing balanced games that are engaging and fun is a very hard problem. However, like I said before, the status quo thinks it is flawless and perfect and treats any idea that it might be flawed and in need of reform or change as a deep existential threat. And it is responding more and more harshly to these perceived threats too.
So what we’re most likely going to get is enough people grabbing the economic gameboard by one edge and flipping it up so that all the pieces slide off and nobody can play on that board again. Did I mention it’s a good idea to do as much for yourself as you are able to?
I tend to agree with you on privatization, as it too of en ends up acting as a giveaway to private individuals with money and political connections at the expense of the taxpayers and general public who payed to build the infrasturcture in the first place, and who need to use the service now. So I’m not a fan of privatization in most circumstances. There was a rash of privatization under the previous government of BC, and I tend to think it made things worse rather than better. The current government doesn’t have the privatization mania, but it isn’t nationalizing much, either.
Regarding the drive to innovate, I would like to elaborate that innovations happen from time to time; but in pre-industrial societies there were long timespans where technologies remained as they were, and then there is the cycle of the rise and fall of civilizations. Canalisation and the like already existed in the Indus Valley Civilization for example; later civilizations weren’t necessarily cleaner than the Indus Valley Civilization, and so on. Fast progress and fundamantal technological change is most typical for modern Industrial Civilization; for other civilizations, not so much. But innovation wasn’t totally absent, either.
@Jasmine and others in the UK
Hopefully not too much off topic, what is the reaction in the UK to the Prince Andrew interview with the BBC about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and his various underage victims? Is this just Prince Andrew business as usual (I still remember his “Randy Andy” nickname) or is this getting close to the British version of “Let them eat cake…”? It seemed like a really desperate move on the part of the Royal Family. I didn’t watch the interview, but was amused by the Twitter storm after. Just wondering what the reaction there was like.
Re buying old stuff: Look for old stuff FIRST, it’s made better. In fact, an outfit called the Vermont Country Store is doing quite well copying old stuff and selling it at inflated prices, which people will pay just to get an item that won’t break in 6 months. Lehman’s does the same thing, although they’ve been doing it longer since the Amish order from them a lot. Whatever their other failings, the Amish are great customers since they usually have money and are willing to pay for quality.
If you can’t find what you need at the thrift shop, the Vermont Country Store or Lehman’s will most likely have what you need. The quality surcharge may shock you, but you won’t be buying another one in 6 months.
If you order from Lehman’s, try the Amish Wedding Salsa if it happens to be on sale, it has virtually no sugar. (Unless you like your salsa sup sugary, in which case, America’s the place for you!)
> it was logical for a friend who lives in the suburbs to install a natural gas powered generator
When the gov’t is obsessed with electronic surveillance on one hand but can’t be bothered to keep the power on on the other, you know that collapse isn’t coming – IT’S HERE, NOW.
I am agreed with you about left-dominance in the past 80 years. I think our point of divergence comes in whether it’s possible to map events from before the 1910s or so onto the left/right axis. You asked me to give an example of any time in the last two centuries that the right has prevailed: I don’t know if you’ll accept the foregoing as right-wing causes, but I’ll give it a try.
1) Racial equality. The Republican party was founded to abolish slavery, and was historically the party most favorable to the rights of black people. Ever since the 1960s, the liberals have done a pretty good job painting this as a left-right issue where the Republican party of the past just happened to be on the left, but back in the day, people didn’t think about it as right vs. left, they thought about it as Republican vs. Democrat, and the Democrats were the party of slavery and Jim Crow.
2) American Imperialism. William Jennings Bryan ran for President as a (leftish) populist Democrat on a platform that included getting out of the Philippines. He lost. Most of the (unsuccesful) resistance to Anerica’s increasing foreign engagements in that era also came from leftists. The right wing position won out and has prevailed to the present day. Leftist anti-interventionist activism in the 1960s also failed.
Also, I don’t see Free Silver as a step in the same direction as the Fsderal Reserve. It was a revanchist cause which attempted to restore the monetary system that existed at the founding. And it was championed by a left-leaning populist.
Owen, you are absolutely right!
This has been a very enlightening sequence of essays. I greatly appreciated reading your writing and especially the articles to which you linked in the first essay. Co-incidently, at this exact moment, I’ve been engaged in discussions on wholly unrelated topics with a couple of friends, who pointed me to some other essays which turn out to be complementary to the ideas you explore, here,
I loved reading the articles on Honor at The Art of Manliness that Darkest Yorkshire provided.
With this information, I finally understand many things about people that have always baffled me, since as long as I can remember, things which have caused me no small amount of grief, and a few scars. Now I have a much deeper appreciation of the events unfolding as the U.S. Empire collapses and why the social chaos into which we are slowly descending and why so very many have so much trouble adapting.
@jean Prince Andrew – who my mother has occasionally told me, is named after me – (I’m pretty sure that’s what she said), has not done himself any favours. Reaction has been pretty uniformly negative.
In the UK, the Queen is much loved, Charles is regarded as something of an nuisance but his eldest son William still has some leverage with the public. His younger brother Harry has recently lost a considerable amount of respect as he’s rather blatantly started lecturing us on on our impact on the environment while making regular trips by private plane. Another case of demanding that all must give up their lifestyle so he can continue with his. This hypocrisy has been noticed.
Charles is getting on a bit and if Willam gets to the throne quickly the Royal Family will perhaps flourish, however the path before them is both steep and narrow.
A return to real Federalism is a nice dream and would be a great solution in a time of decreasing energy availability and the need for localization combined with political divides that are becoming unbridgeable, but it seems like the kind of fantasy you’re referring too as a flight into the mythic. No elite would ever allow this to happen, and the elite being unseated in any fashion is more likely to lead to balkanization than federalism.
Antoinetta: I copied the Reddit link and was sent to Home Improvement-dot-com.
Re news, the contents of same on the day this guy posted his list is instructive:
I am in no position at all to opine about the future of California, though the number of (well-organized, courteous) homeless on the streets of downtown San Diego surprised me on my only visit. I do have a comment on the de-institutionalization of the mentally troubled, especially in response to Antoinetta’s comment. De-institutionalization of the great majority seems to have worked quite well in Brazil, where they were placed in supervised home living arrangements. I can attest more firmly that it has been a great success in Québec, because I used to work in a gigantic building that had once housed thousands of mentally troubled people and now only houses a few hundred permanently (the most dangerous ones). The formerly institutionalized now live throughout the city, but seem to be especially concentrated in the buses to and from the hospital, probably because they still receive ambulant treatment. This means there are many people with somewhat disconcerting behavior on the buses and at the bus stops, sometimes asking for money, often striking up conversations or making inarticulate noises. I have never witnessed any even slightly tense situation, and the rest of the passengers and passers-by treats them like acquaintances. There are also quite few homeless people in Québec City, though the climate is probably the main cause.
Which is to say, it does seem possible to deinstitutionalize the great majority of patients without prejudice for them nor for the general population. Probably it doesn’t pay off to reduce expenses for treatment too much – just about every alternative treatment will be less expensive than high-security institutions, but the cost can’t go too far towards zero or there will be the effects described in so many comments above.
Lady Cutekitten: THANKS! for the tip about Lehman’s. I am a long-time customer of the Vermont Country Store, and yes, they are pricey. The windup watch I tried to unload here was from the VCS.
Also – I got my wonderful 8″ Wagner cast iron skillet from an Albuquerque antique store and whatever I paid for it, it was a massive bargain.
@ Varun, your comment helped me understand pieces of the discussion that were confusing me. thank you.
@ JMG, Thank you as always for thought provoking essays and hosting a place for thought provoking, civil discussions.
Jasmine, I seem to have missed responding to your post earlier, which is unfortunate — you make a valid point. It interests me that so few people here, at least, quarrel with the idea that the US was nearing the brink of civil war. I’d point out, though, that the only people who seem to be quarreling with my comments on California were Californians. Everywhere else in the country, it’s no secret that California has become a hot mess.
Varun, yes, exactly. One of the virtues of literature is precisely that it allows us to work with the mythic mode of thinking, and imagine a baseball soaring off to infinity. You’re right, though, that a lot of the Californian rhetoric we’ve seen here has been a loud insistence that the baseball can too zoom off into orbit!
Bridge, there’s been a sustained effort to produce that kind of cotton candy for public distribution of late — Stephen Pinker has been spinning it at top speed in particular. I get the impression that most people aren’t buying it.
Kfish, if they do they haven’t told me — but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. The Trump administration is infinitely more internet-savvy than its opponents.
Lathechuck, thanks for this. The thing I’d point out that the FIRE sector is wholly parasitic — it circulates wealth rather than creating it — and so is “professional and business services.” There has to be some source of wealth production to support that — and yes, petroleum is a big part of that.
Your Kittenship, funny. As for Helen et al., that’s on hold for the moment — some other projects have had to take precedence for the time being.
Antoinetta, unfortunately not, but this link ought to do it.
KayeOh, thanks for this.
Your Kittenship, I’m waiting to see whether any of the candidates listen to Obama’s good advice…
Stefania, that’s certainly something some people do from time to time. I’m just trying to suggest that it’s not as essential to human identity as some people in our present culture want to make it.
Peter, many thanks for these dispatches from the front.
Beekeeper, fascinating. Quillette these days has some of the best journalism out there.
Antoinetta, will do.
Ryan, the California golden bear, the subspecies of grizzly on the flag, has been extinct for a good long time. (IIRC, it wasn’t identified as a grizzly subspecies until fairly recently…)
Jbucks, the right’s hostility toward conservation issues baffles me. Environmental conservation used to be a conservative issue — it was the left that insisted that economic expansion took precedence over everything else!
Golocyte, you’re getting kind of long-winded, you know, and I asked you to hold this until a future post. Please respect that.
Wesley, I’m suggesting that innovation is much less central to the human experience than our culture likes to think. It’s one of the things that human beings do, sure, but it’s no more central than a great many other things that human beings do, and it’s been rather fetishized by believers in the religion of progress.
Jasmine, Trump is what he is; I suspect that anyone lacking his 40-story ego and serene disregard for social pressure would have been unable to do what he’s doing. With any luck, the next year or so will see the conventional wisdom crack deeply and permanently enough that there’s no way back — but we’ll see.
I’ll second your recommendation of The Vermont Country Store and the Orton family’s decision to sell stuff that doesn’t fall apart the second time you use it. They’re a little more expensive, but I’ve never gotten anything there that didn’t last and last, plus if you live really nearby as we do or make a trip to irresistibly charming Weston, Vermont (worth the drive!), you can get what’s left of last season’s stuff at a good discount in their upstairs sales room. Lehman’s is also excellent, we’ve never been disappointed with anything we’ve bought from them. Both places have outstanding customer service too. I would expect that all of these things combined explain their success in this time of massive store chains selling mostly crap.
@PatriciaT The answer is simple. La fée verte, the green fairy, is the embodiment of getting drunk on absinth. The drink of the early 20:th century. I never thought of it as green as in “green party”-green. Green is also the colour of islam. But in this case. it’s just the absinth.
Renaissance, glad to hear it.
Halfvard, it’s a long shot, no question. Still, I don’t think it’s impossible that federalism could be accepted as an alternative to balkanization.
Candace, you’re welcome and thank you.
I think I can agree with you that the way innovation is portrayed in Western pop culture is problematic, I’m still under the impression that you’ve gone into uncharacteristic hyperbole by portraying it as a fringe activity along the lines of collecting sports statistics.
I still hold to my believe that innovation is a central part of being human simply by virtue of the fact that the entire milieu we live in is the result of the cumulative technical and social innovations of countless human beings over thousands of year. Granted, for most people, their experience and choices regarding innovation aren’t so much whether to pursue innovation themselves as how to respond to the innovation of others: will they hold onto traditional forms, or will they adopt whatever newfangled changes are afoot in their society?
As for me, I tend to prefer old-fashioned ways of doing things: plaintext over multimedia, bicycles over automobiles, whole foods over dietary supplements, a pen-and-paper journal over electronic files. I read the King James Bible, use archaic grammatical constructions like “the United States are,” and one of my hobbies is composing music in a squarely late classical style.
Even so, I don’t see any of this in terms of banishing innovation from my life so much as keeping it in proper perspective: realizing that the new way of doing things is often worse, and that a balanced approach to anything usually involves a lot more of the old and proven than the novel and modern.
Perhaps the problem is simply that the true believers in Progress, in their anthropolatrous zeal, have taken a basic piece of the human condition – our tendency to innovate and change our environment in ways that no other animal does – and viewed it in an excessively rosy light. That is to say, they fail to acknowledge the imperfectibility inherent in human endeavors, innovation included, and they have an excessive faith in the ability of an idealistic inventor, or intellectual movement, to understand the world well enough to dramatically improve on what’s already there without releasing a barrage of unintended consequences.
That, I suppose, is how I see the innovative drive: definitely an important part of the human experience, but if you project your fantasies of perpetual progress onto it, you’ll just end up seeing the blunt facts of human imperfectibility staring back at you.
“Jbucks, the right’s hostility toward conservation issues baffles me. Environmental conservation used to be a conservative issue — it was the left that insisted that economic expansion took precedence over everything else!”
A little cognitive dissonance can be a good thing! The right’s idea of conservation seems to be embodied in the so-called “Wise Use Movement.” Among its supporters, 25 years ago when I did an undergrad research paper on the Movement, were off-road vehicle manufactures and their lobbyists. Also logging interests. All too often, in the view of “the right,” conservation translates to government regulation. I guess it’s quite unnecessary to point to Trump’s environmental record. (His use of the EPA reminds me of the fire department’s revised role in the novel “Farenheit 451.”) The “all-knowing” free market is unlikely to be much help so long as everything must have a quantifiable price to be valued. I would point to Rene Guenon’s book “The Reign of Quantity” except everyone knows that Guenon was a crackpot. I disagree that it was “the left” who elevated economic expansion above all else. Ronald Coase was hardly a man of the left. Reference here to his influential article, “The Problem of Social Cost.” Nor was Richard Posner, federal judge in Chicago. Book recommendations: anything by Notre Dame Univ. economics professor Philip Mirowski, who ought to be better-known as a dissenting voice,
Interesting, I didn’t know the grizzly bear depicted on the California flag is classified as its own extinct subspecies. I was always taught the bear on the flag was a grizzly bear and it was referred to as the “California Grizzly Bear” in the legislation naming it the state animal in 1953. More recently, perhaps DNA test have confirmed its genetic links to other populations of grizzly bears.
“Yang is just another con artist politician, promising relative morons something for nothing if they’ll cast their vote for him.”
Owen: Wow, not one for nuance are you 😉
AY is clearly not a politician – as evidenced by his irritating ability to succinctly respond to questions with reason and logic as opposed to emotion and finger pointing – and his campaign appears to be supported by an impressive array of very successful leaders and highly intelligent “relative morons.”
Odd, isn’t it?
Hi Patricia and Beekeeper,
VCS has the best bedsheets, even better than Lehman’s. Even as I type, I have my elbow propped on a pillow that’s wearing a dancing-Snoopy pillowcase. Their sheets are made by a company in Portugal, proving that imported goods do NOT have to be junk. As Genghis Khan always said, when people can’t even walk into a store and buy decent bedsheets, their society is on its way out, and how right he was. He and his descendants proved their point by conquering China.. Although since then, things have gone downhill once again, so it is once again impossible to buy a decent Chinese-made bedsheet.
I inherited some sheets so old they were made in the U.S. by the Dan River Co, but unfortunately they’re ugly so we don’t use them too often. If the Vasco da Gama Sheet Manufacturing Company ever goes out of business, I’ll go to the trouble of dyeing the Dan Rivers. I also have a couple of nice, unpilled, unfaded top sheets I bought at Sears Outlet when Sonkitten, now 40, was a toddler. And don’t get me started on what that [several unDruidly words] Ayn Rand worshipper did to Sears and K-mart. You could get cute, REASONABLY PRICED Xmas and Halloween shirts at our K-mart till that [yet more unDruidly words] trashed the chain. I hope he’s the first one jailed when people finally rebel.
Raving from the Encephalopath
innovation is the utilization of surplus for the solution of perceived need
I keep seeing ‘humans are innovators’ or similar.
In the history of humans we were really rather conservative until around 12 or so thousand years ago. It is easy to date a stone tool by its design.
The big early innovations were fire and cooking. Only some humans figured out how to ‘make’ fire. Others had to have a portable ember. When the ember ‘went out’ it was either get another from neighbors or do without cooking and heat until a ‘wild fire’ could be tamed.
Tool manufacture could be very conservative. Stone tools such as arrowheads are easy to date by the method of manufacture. It could also be sophisticated. A researcher flint knapper took months to understand how Neanderthals made edged tools.
Energy sources were very slow to come into utilization. I suspect the idea of riding a horse or using an animal to pull came rather late. In the Americas the horse went extinct. Once the euros reintroduced the horse with the idea the natives in suitable locations changed how they lived, became affluent and changed their way of war to something far more deadly. Inventions like a geared differential or steam turbine or vehicles with wheels did not become utilized as they were either unsuitable or there was no perceived need. Pump innovation became important because of irrigation and that need arrived with agriculture. Explosives, a very human thing, advanced.
In short innovation is the utilization of surplus for the solution of perceived need. If there is little surplus or if life is seen to be good enough there isn’t going to be much innovation. Happiness and safety are more important. As energy and food and ‘goods’ become important because of shortages we will need to relearn the old ways of doing.
There really hasn’t been as much recent innovation as we are trained to believe. Lots of iteration* but little really new. It was the mid 1800s to whenever solid state electronics became usable that real innovation happened, about 100 years. The cotton gin, sewing machine, milling machine were sought after by many and not achieved until success in several crafts fed one another. The lathe had been around since long time but not for cutting threads and shaping big metal. Interchangeable parts were not really previously possible, a nut and a bolt came in a matched pair with no standardization. The light bulb was obvious, inventors tried everything until something good enough to sell arrived and then that was improved and improved again but it all comes from the inefficient process of attaining white heat which was also done with kerosene lamp mantles. Telegraph, telephone, radio, radar, automobiles, iron ships, railroad all started to function in that time. About the only thing not tried in automobiles before about 1935 was solid state components.
The current perceived need seems to be money. Without that method of storing (perceived) value would there be a draw to “advance”? Is life better?
*a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result
I expect it would be likely that at first we could get a federalization era, say for 50-100 years and then continuing down the backsides of Hubbert’s Curve, balkanization could occur.
“Golocyte, you’re getting kind of long-winded, you know, and I asked you to hold this until a future post. Please respect that. ”
I know; my apologies. I think I’ll duck out now actually. I used to comment now and then in ADR days, but have mostly been unable to follow you down the Ecosophia path. To each his own. Maybe after the 2020 elections I’ll dip in again for a moment, and see how the water is.
@Arkansas; thanks for the tip about Baron Khuenhelt-Ledhin; I’ll be looking him up. For French counter-enlightenment, my own preference is Chateaubriand over de Maistre, but that could be just because I’m a less religious person (or maybe reason is my religious and I *am* a revolutionary after all). For Moldbug, even though I think he’s wrong, I really do have to give him credit for ****actually attempting to come up with a solution****, and even putting it into action with Urbit, which is very tough and extremely courageous to do in a public where the spotlight can be so unforgiving. Right or wrong I have to admire him a lot for that.
Sadly I, too, can see a possible future where I’d beg for an autocrat to please come and make things normal again.
@Wesley; We could continue this debate and I like debating in case you couldn’t tell. But having made my point—-at some length—-I will take this moment to bow out.
Sounds good, JMG. Thank you for sharing your insights!
With regard to your comments regarding a resurgent federalism,I forgot to mention something I have noticed amongst the *much* younger and more curious students I encounter in the university. Not a few are picking up and seriously wrestling with the works of the modern republican thinkers (e.g. Madison, Jefferson, Montesquieu, Machiavelli, etc.) and their contemporary devotees. In an otherwise wearying place, it is a real treat to interact with these kids.
Granted, I suspect for some they are mainly acting in natural youthful rebellion to the post-structuralist, vulgar materialist claptrap that is de riguer in their intro to politics classes. Nonetheless, I have been approached by a couple of peculiarly energetic minds. Intuitively, they seem to grasp that there is a lot of thinking to be done about how (if it is even possible) to preserve republican government with a lower tech future on the horizon. Hopefully, amongst them are a few nascent leaders who can help ease the journey along the Long Decline. So, for what it’s worth, I think there is some, albeit tiny, hope for a resurgence of federalism over balkanization.
I like Quillette too! They’re a lot better than Longreads. Longreads has too many of those All About Glorious, Fascinating, Yet Inexplicably Miserable Me stories. Quillette runs some of those too, but they do a much better job of balancing them with more interesting stuff.
I believe Miserable Me stories should not be published unless the writer’s problem can be explained in one sentence. Wrong: “My boss hates me and my last 12 boyfriends all dumped me. I was so depressed about this that I went to Spain. In Spain I met a hot fisherman one afternoon and jumped into bed with him that evening. He said we had a relationship bit he never called back and I’ve been checking my phone every 12 seconds and blah blah blah blah…”. Right: “I am the ugliest hunchback in town and I’m in love with a beautiful gypsy.” See how much more interesting that is? I think if the One-Sentence Rule could be enforced most web sites would become a lot more interesting in a week.
Proposed addendum to Rule: Your one sentence may not be used to complain about your hair, unless you are writing for a site devoted to hair styling.
the neoliberal consensus bailed out the financial sector in 2008. if there is another crash on trump’s watch, what will he do differently?
JMG, I’m glad Fastleft’s poopy—er, puppy—predicament entertained you. It occurred to me when I wrote the actual scene that I can probably never have another puppy, because I have a bad hip so I’d be too slow to get it outside in time when it starts sniffing, and Sonkitten tends to freeze up in these urgent situations. (I’ve often wondered what dogs think about housebreaking. It must seem pretty strange to have everybody get all excited when you start sniffing, and then grab you and race you out the door.)
Can I ask what pets everyone has, or should I save that for the end of the month? I like a good pet story, especially if it allows me to live vicariously through someone else’s dog!
Regarding the Guardian article about the New Optimists, I’m always struck by the claim that humanity has a hardwired cognitive bias for pessimism. It wasn’t all that long ago that scientists were insisting that humanity has a hardwired bias for optimism – just do a Google search for “optimism bias humanity” and loads of articles touting this idea pop up.
So what is it, scientists? Am I hardwired for irrational positivity, or for irrational negativity? Or do all these studies produce just so many mountains of rubbish, to be sifted through by the next TED Talker looking for his glib new theory of everything?
…But now I suppose the question becomes: where and when will we find conservatives who are willing to actually take advantage of these changing winds? For really, Trump (or the “Golden Golem of Greatness”, as Kunstler calls him) is almost the only one I see standing tall in this respect. Yet Trump himself is hardly much of a conservative or traditionalist; he is able to pass as such only in a relative sense, by contrast with the deluded received wisdom of the day. (He rates even worse as a deep ecologist, I daresay.)
On another note, I took a gander at that FP article, concerning Krugman’s contrition over the devastation wrought by economic globalization. Yes, he admits he was badly wrong, as does most of the economics profession. But one doesn’t have to go much further in to see these same people proudly learning nothing whatsoever from it: there they are, chastising the current administration for engaging in protectionism with China; grumbling about Trump’s “ignorance of basic economics”; accusing him for having “discarded modern economics”; moaning at how he “erased any reasonable discussion”; and on and on. In an eyeblink, having duly displayed their noble-hearted contrition, they’re right back in their old dogmatic grooves.
It’s a gutsy move, at least: apologize basically for being wrong about everything in your own field over the last 30 years… and then immediately pivot to castigating Trump for rejecting the very policies you just apologized for. What high-flying sophistical loop-de-loops will these *fabulously smart* people attempt next?
I’d say Trump’s refusal to follow modern economics is a point in his favor, since modern economics was a big factor in the destruction of the American empire.
Economics always seemed like all sizzle and no steak to me, anyway. It assumes people will make rational decisions about money. Sounds good but ain’t so. Most of us make more irrational decisions than the other kind.
Anonymous Millennial, that’s wonderful news! I hope many more people start to think for themselves.
I have three Cats. Lion is the mama Cat, and Ocelot (an extremely talkative Tortoiseshell) and Panther are her two kids. I found Lion trapped in our building’s basement about 16 years ago; the Catkids are about nine.
@Cliff: Whenever you hear the phrase “Humanity has a built-in cognitive bias for…”, grab a bucket and a shovel; they’re peddling stuff you could feed your garden with.
I don’t think that the US was – or will be in at least the next couple of decades – close to the sort of civil war that was fought in the 1860s. Among other factors, the value currently placed on human life – and the armies of lawyers on both sides ready to sue over wrongful death – make everyone reluctant to shoot to kill. Not to mention that in this age of modern comforts, conditions would have to get substantially worse for a significant number of Americans to truly decide to put their lives on the line.
What was beginning instead was an armed insurgency, where a group of citizens with plenty of guns (and sometimes the backing of the local sheriff) simply declares that this or that federal edict will be summarily ignored. I can certainly believe that that trend would have continued and accelerated if Hillary had been elected, though I’m far from convinced that a war – with battle lines and firefights and civilian casualties and refugees – would have been the ultimate outcome. More likely to my mind would be a situation like in parts of Mexico, where the government ostensibly has control but the real power belongs to the cartels, and the only firefights happen when the government dares to challenge that arrangement. Except that I wouldn’t expect the American militias to be quite as violent or threatening to the local populace as the cartels, seeing that they are motivated more by a desire for self-determination than profit and power.
@Evan and Owen
My step-grandpa worked as a carnival sharper and con-artist in his youth. One of the things I learned growing up was that the more highly educated the mark is, the easier it is to con him. That’s because he thinks he’s far too smart and too highly educated to fall for any con-job. (The hardest marks to con are the folk who grew up as tough, street-smart kids. They learned early on that almost everyone who pays them any attention is out to get them.)
Whether Yang is a con-artist or not I do not pretend to know. But any candidate for office who comes out of nowhere and rapidly develops a following among the well-educated and well-connected is very, very suspect in my eyes. When the best ands brightest support a candidate or a policy, I tend to run the other way as fast as I can.
Hi John Michael,
Mate, I dunno. I wrote about the story this week. Part of the story is the psychology of previous investment in environmental policies. But then I also suspect that another part of the story is that things were measurably better for the environment before us folks of European descent arrived on the scene and pretended we knew better than the indigenous folks. What we actually wanted was pillage.
Having read about half of the comments, I get the feeling that the term ‘working class’ and whoever that refers to, reminds folks that they are only one step away from joining them if they stuff things up royally. Fear is a brutal motivator and I see it getting pushed relentlessly so it hardly surprises me that people respond strongly to it. What do you reckon about that?
To me it isn’t painful at all to live with less, it just takes a heck of a lot of practice to get right. I don’t always get it right either as sometimes I stuff things up, but then I have to fix them, learn from the experience and move on.
You mean the only grizzly bear survivors were the ones smart enough to leave California? 😉
Mr. Obama used the “circular firing squad” phrase in his recent speech. But I think you coined the phrase or at least you put it back in wide circulation.
Got me thinking, maybe JMG is Obama’s secret adviser? A court wizard? A gray cardinal? A shadowy puppet master? Who knows!
Yes, I live in California (SoCal to be exact).
You say people who live in CA have a problem with your characterization while people outside would agree. Doesn’t that tell you something? Or are you saying that all of us here in California can be assumed that we have an irrational need to defend the state?
More to your overarching worldview, I think it highly unlikely that CA is so much further along the long descent than other states. Consider Illinois, for one. Crime in Chicago is much worse, pension system is much worse, people are leaving the state in higher percentages. I personally know TWO people who left the Chicagoland area for SoCal.
Can we agree that a proxy for how poorly a state is doing is domestic net outmigration per capita? See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_net_migration
California is only 11th. Illinois is 3rd. Even red states like Wyoming, Louisiana, and Kansas are worse than CA.
There were bars on the windows in poorer parts of town when I was a kid in 80s and those bars have not become more commonplace.
The homelessness issue is a combined function of inequality and a lack of public institutionalization/housing. West Coast is going to have this in spades; Seattle, WA has the same issues, you’ll agree.
Now for some criticism of CA. The single biggest flaw are the people. At least in SoCal, people are characterized by selfishness/self-centeredness.
Another huge issue is inequality. You’ve got a state where the elites live alongside the commoners. Plus you have Chinese nationals hiding their fortunes in real estate (that they may never live in). The point is there are forces that make inequality in CA (and other West Coast metros) worse than other places. As I mentioned above this makes the homelessness problem worse.
CA has tried to address the inequality through social programs. Of course these social programs are only available to those who pass the requisite means tests. Meaning that only the lower classes get them. This leaves the average (lower/semi-lower) middle class in the lurch. CA has been losing a lot of these families. CA is hollowing out. Our family would be gone except I have a really good job. Our house is crap but I have a really good job. But we have lost a lot of family and friends to other states, and this fact alone makes us want to move. But I can’t find a similarly good paying job near family.
Is CA a bad state? No. But it has problems. CA is a part of the grand American experiment. Some things work, some don’t. We are better than other states in some ways and worse than other states in other ways.
In the meantime, you fan the flames. Much of America hates CA and the people that live in it. They are willing to buy into the idea that CA is crap. This is similar to liberals thinking Alabama, WV, or Mississippi are crap. But this is less an indictment of these states as it is a symptom of our national polarization.
Your criticisms are valid but please step back a bit.
Dear Anonymous Millennial, your comment about young students is one of the most hopeful signs I have seen or heard of in quite some time. I find it especially encouraging that these young folks are not parroting the latest intellectual fad from Europe, and do not despise American sources, such as Madison. The formula “thank you for sharing” has become so overused as to seem ridiculous, but here I think it is appropriate. Might you be able gently to mention, as if by chance perhaps, the American System, and such later thinkers as Henry George, Thorstein Veblen, and W E B DuBois? DuBois is arguably the greatest man of letters we have yet produced.
Lady Cutekitten, what are Quillette and Longreads? As for the poor little me stance, folks will keep on doing it as long as significant parts of our culture, like, say, newspaper editors, book publishers and reviewers keep on rewarding it.
I have to disagree with your definition that “innovation is the utilization of surplus for the solution of perceived need.”
That really only applies to innovations that use more resources than the old way of doing things. But lots of innovations use less resources; and, in fact, innovations that used less resources were the norm until the beginning of the industrial age.
Almost every development in agriculture from the neolithic to the early twentieth century had to do with increasing crop yield – or in other words, reducing the amount of land needed to feed each person. That includes the invention of agriculture in the first place, the invention of the plough, crop rotation, breeding higher-yield grains, and onward to composting or starting plants indoors or putting a bat house on a pole above your garden so that bats will come and live there and eat insects. They all have the effect of reducing the per-capita need for the most constrained resource – arable land.
And then there are numerous innovations that have reduced the need for other resources: for instance, numerous improvements in thermal science over the last three centuries have improved the efficiency of heating stoves, steam engines, and internal combustion engines, allowing each to do more with the same amount of fuel. Granted, fossil fuel consumption went way up over that timespan as people found more and more uses for cheap energy, but the actual engine science works just as well when the goal is to reduce your resource use in the era of contracting energy supplies, and I expect to see plenty of innovations in the way that people use and fuel their engines during the coming downslope.
And then you have got to remember that the drive to innovate doesn’t just apply to the economic/technological side of life: people also innovate in the arts, literature, politics, language, and religion. For instance, when classical composers started writing sonatas in four movements rather than three, that was an innovation, and it was likely done by the same sorts of personalities that might have invented a new piece of machinery if they had belonged to the mechanical professions.
Like I said in a previous commend on this subject, not every society is equally innovative, and there are plenty of examples of human cultures that have used the same technology for hundreds of years. Even these cultures, though, will still innovate when their environment changes, as in the example you cited of the plains Indians adopting a very different way of life after the Spaniards introduced horses.
Dear sevensec, you asked “But now I suppose the question becomes: where and when will we find conservatives who are willing to actually take advantage of these changing winds?” The source of the moral authority which the left used to enjoy, many moons ago, came from the fact that lefties, who were often but not exclusively children of privilege, routinely risked their own lives and spent their own money in the service of their causes. Read any good history of the Spanish Civil War, and notice the casualty rates in the International Brigades, and that is just one example. One could mention the Communist partisans in Yugoslavia during WWII for another example. You might deplore the causes for which leftists fought, but you cannot deny their courage and commitment. Today, in the USA, ask any proud patriot, advocate for traditional values etc. etc. what are you personally willing to give up in order to establish liberty and justice for all, and the answer, if they understand the question at all, is some variant on We conservatives are the Good People, We worked for what we have, We should not have to sacrifice anything. Someone worked for what they have, but it wasn’t necessarily them.
I, too, am saddened by the demise of the once-great Sears Roebuck. I bought most of the baby stuff for my firstborn through the Sears catalogue, even the cloth diapers. There was a time, all you youngsters here, when you could order anything imaginable from Sears including (during the 19th century) drugs that are now illegal, clothing, a carriage to hitch to your horse, a cast iron cookstove, hunting equipment, fine furniture made of real wood and lots more. And it would be delivered right to your door, a boon to those hardy frontier folk. The selection was more modest in the 1970’s and ’80’s, but it was still a great place to shop.
My husband has a modest plaid shirt which he bought from Sears in the early 1980’s. We can no longer determine what it’s made of because the label is long gone, but he still wears that shirt and, although somewhat faded, it is still in excellent shape. Too bad nobody seems to make clothing like that any more. I’ve sewn up many a fine men’s shirt and could pick up the slack there, but finding quality fabric worth all the effort is very difficult these days.
I read this article from CNN yesterday- https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/16/us/flat-earth-conference-conspiracy-theories-scli-intl/index.html
I had entirely dismissed Flat-Earth proponents previously, but this article brought to light some features of their argument that make it sound less crazy and more paranoid. It ties into some of your previous writings about how “science” has lost credibility. Their theory seems to state that we live in some sort of Trueman like simulation that the ‘powers that be’ are aware of but for their own reason are keeping secret. This allows them to ignore scientific evidence as hearsay, and insist on creating their own experiments to prove the world is not what it appears. Any failure of their experiments just demonstrates how comprehensive the simulation is.
So the point is that, if the world is a simulation, then all limitations are illusions and there is someone to blame for them. To me this is a dysfunctional way of looking at the world but it answers the emotions of a group of people. If they can prove the earth flat then all their problems may be solved. I think this directly reflects the “Dancers” theme.
I see Andrew Yang is being discussed again, and I must say I find it strange he doesn’t have a larger chunk of the environmentalist vote. As far as I can tell, his platform would be a godsend for managing the long descent, for three major reasons:
-he wants to pay for the freedom dividend with a VAT, which is essentially a sales tax – making it less attractive to buy unnecessary junk.
-Allowing ‘survival levels’ of income for all citizens regardless of employment status would make it much harder to justify perpetuating useless economic activity – so the dividend and its funding source would be a double whammy for reducing consumption.
-switching away from GDP to something more like a happiness and development index as the key metric would make it acceptable to enact other policies that curb economic activity for its own sake.
I understand why he’s not popular here, but I’d be interested to see anyone critical of his platform name policies that would be more effective for muddling through the coming era.
This is a worthwhile essay on the “luxury beliefs” of the ruling class:
@ladycutekitten, It’s a small faction, but it is something. Even more interesting is that they seem to be cropping up sui generis. I cannot identify any authority figures telling them to do x or y. I knew something was up when I saw a first year lugging around Paul Rahe’s tome on Republics.
@Nastarana, embarrassingly, that thought had not occurred to me other than mentioning the transcendentalists to a young lady who seems to enjoy the woods. Admittedly my own educational background (Jesuit, great books etc.) is, as you might imagine, hopelessly baroque and eurocentric. I have, however, had some success encouraging them to dig into the early Greek thinkers and really get a sense of what the framers were trying to rediscover– and, implicitly, how the American riff on it went off the rails. I was gobsmacked to learn that they had only touched Plato in excerpts, and ignored Aristotle entirely, during their secondary educations. But, such is the state of things.
Hi people discussing Yang,
I didn’t know Yang was popular with the rich and eddicated, I thought they were all Hillary worshippers! He caught my attention because he had concrete positions on real issues (by now he has quite a long list), which was refreshing.
“I have to disagree with your definition that “innovation is the utilization of surplus for the solution of perceived need.”
“That really only applies to innovations that use more resources than the old way of doing things.”
No it does not.
If people are just barely getting by they don’t have the opportunity or resources to innovate. Experimentation involves potential loss. There was nothing in what I said that mandated more use of energy or less efficiency.
“people also innovate in the arts, literature, politics, language, and religion.”
Yeah, I’ve noticed. “Innovation” in these fields are not necessarily improvements.
Calling in-aesthetic or even anti-aesthetic products art does not make them appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong, Joan Miro is one of my favs. There is also something very appealing to me in Odd Nerdrum’s work. I’m just not pedantic.
Call me anti-social if you need to. I’ve heard that many times. Something about emporers and clothing or lack thereof I just can’t ‘get’.
Run as fast as you can the other way, yes, by all means…but listen to what the guy is saying first! 😉
AY has flat out stated that the horse has already bolted out of the gate (re climate change) and it’s fantasy to pretend otherwise. His policies are designed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change – and the worst affected.
OK, last post from me. I’m sorry to have taken up bandwidth on an unpopular subject. To win myself back into your graces allow me to tell a terribly politically incorrect joke. Apols to blondes in advance.
The ventriloquist with a dummy sitting on his knees is telling a dumb blonde joke. Suddenly this beautiful blonde lady in the audience stands up and says,” That is so demeaning. I feel insulted and I demand an apology. How on earth can you expect anyone to believe that the color of a woman’s hair determines her level of intelligence? It’s absolutely preposterous, outrageous”.
The ventriloquist starts to stammer an apology but the lady bellows,” You keep out of it….I was talking to that little jerk on your knee”
I don’t know if most of the country’s cracking up, but Hollyweird is certainly justifying its nickname:
For those who weren’t born yet, Charlie’s Angels was about 3 beautiful female detectives who battled evil while they were in various states of undress. It was silly fun for men. Farrah Fawcett was an Angel, and if I remember right her famous red-bathing-suit poster was released while she was an Angel. I distinctly remember it being on the wall of the boss’s office when I had a summer job with the Feds after graduating high school in 1977.
The target audience for this movie was females ages 13-39. ???? The advertising must have been pretty good, 66% of the audience was female, but it seems the movie wasn’t.
The article blames the movie’s flop on get-woke-go-broke, and that probably does figure into it, grrrl power being a cliche by now, but I wonder if people aren’t tired of rehashes of old stuff as well. The target audience for this movie was not yet born when the series was airing, for Heaven’s sake. At any rate, you’d think people contemplating basing a movie on an old TV show would call the grandparents, who might have seen the original, and run the idea past them. “Grandpa, do you remember ‘Charlie’s Angels? We’re thinking of making a movie. Our target audience is females 13-39, and—“. Grandpa erupts into laughter, killing the idea and saving the potential investors a pile of money.
Re: civil war
I wouldn’t use the 1860 version as the only template. We could have something like the USSR collapse (stays somewhat together, new government, peripheral provinces lost). We could have something like the decline of the Ottoman Empire (slow calving off of peripheral provinces over a long period of time during a persistent state of fecklessness and gormlessness). Or – we could have something like what the Qing had to deal with in the 19th century, during the Taiping Rebellion – a really goofy uprising brutally put down but which made them helplessly weak to outside forces shortly afterwards. And then they proceeded to get bent over with a bunch of treaties and some periphery lost to those outside forces too.
In fact it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Chinese were to annex California sometime later this century in a treaty after a war was lost. If they were to do that – flee them, do not stay. You won’t like it if you do.
Think I’m nuts? I’m just making guesses based on what history I know.
Re: happiness index
Cynically, what’s to stop the state from gaming that number like they do all the other headline numbers? They have gotten very very good at making the number go up. By hook or by crook. To some extent, they use the headline numbers as the happiness index right now. See, everyone is HAPPY by 28000 points! If YOU’RE not happy, it’s YOUR problem.
You are not dealing with all that nice or savory people here. Something to be said about foxes and henhouses I think.
I guess American news is also good for keeping up with military advances. I give you…
…the assault guinea pig! 🥺
Glad the little guy wasn’t hurt (the guinea pig, I mean).
I can’t figure out why anyone would steal guinea pigs to begin with. Go on any classified ad site and you’ll probably find people who’d pay you to take one.
Thanks for this series, JMG. It’s certainly helped me make sense of the apparent madness that’s gripped so many since 2016. As for whether it’ll get better anytime soon, well, I hope you’re right.
LOL! Yes, they led the way in outmigration.
A major problem in labeling different periods of history, political parties, or even individuals as “liberal” or “conservative” etc. is a bewildering lack of agreement on what these terms mean. I meet weekly with a group that discusses the New Yorker magazine. Last week’s issue had an article about the British magazine “The Economist.” It was described having been founded as a voice for liberal policies, which in the late 1800s meant free trade and removal of government monopolies and mercantilism. The author noted that many liberals of the time held positions that we would regard as very illiberal–support for colonialism, opposition to abolition, opposition to the extension of suffrage and so forth. Most people now, I think, would define liberal as favoring votes for all, opposing slavery and imperialism and supporting government protections for individuals and the environment. Having read the article the group acknowledged continued confusion over what exactly was meant by liberal in the sense used by The Economist.
I would note that revolution does not always move in what we now would define as a liberal direction. Remember that some of the American Revolutionaries wanted separation from Great Britain because they feared that public opinion was turning against slavery. Witness Dr. Johnson’s scornful remark: ” how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” As other have pointed out, liberal thought even in an individual, is not unified. Theodore Roosevelt was an imperialist, welcoming the idea that the US should take its rightful role as a world power–yet on the domestic front he was persuaded of the importance of maintaining public lands and scenic wonders under government control.
One more comment on the closing of mental hospitals. There was a segment of mental health professionals in the 1970s arguing that mental illness was a societal construct and means of oppression. This may have been a minor contributor to the decisions made, but it was an influence.
@Patricia Mathews: Oh, I know it. I’ve started to suspect that many scientists, at least the loudest ones, are historically illiterate, partly d