Yes, I know that bullets are flying and bombs falling in Ukraine as I type these words. Plenty of people are catching the latest variants of Covid-19; curiously enough, people who got vaccinated for that virus are catching it at a much higher rate than those that didn’t get the jab, but we don’t have to talk about that now. Shortages of food, fertilizer, and a hundred other things are putting lives and livelihoods at risk, drought tightens its grip on the western half of North America, and equally unwelcome climate shifts hit other parts of the world. We live in interesting times and there’s no reason to think that they’ll get less interesting any time soon.
Under the circumstances, it may seem pointless to return to the theme I’ve developed in recent posts here and talk more about the care and feeding of the imagination. Appearances deceive, however, and rarely as much as here. It’s precisely because so many people these days have lost the ability to reflect on why they’re doing the things they’re doing that we lurch so reliably from one crisis to another. Einstein’s famous dictum is relevant here: we cannot solve our problems using the same kind of thinking that created them. Nor, it might be added, does it help any to insist, in angry or plaintive tones, that the problems shouldn’t exist in the first place.
I was thinking of this a few days ago while reading comments on the Russo-Ukraine war on a British site. Most of the comments insisted heatedly that Vladimir Putin or the Russian people as a whole must be insane. None of the people who wrote this were clinical psychologists; the basis for their diagnosis, if we can call it that, was simply that they didn’t want to think about the reasons for the war. It’s an odd sort of logic. Politicians and pundits in the NATO countries make no secret of the fact that they want to see Russia disarmed, dismembered, and “integrated into the global economy”—that is, stripped to the bare walls to prop up the sclerotic economies of the Eurozone and line the pockets of Western oligarchs. It really isn’t hard to see that Russians might reasonably object to that project, even to the extent of seizing the opportunity to fight a proxy war with NATO they think they have a good chance of winning.
Now of course the comments I mentioned above are far from unique. A century and a half ago, you’d find the identical rhetoric directed by British politicians and pundits at the Irish, who surely could have no valid reason to object to Britain’s fair and enlightened rule over Ireland. The mere fact that Ireland was being plundered so rapaciously by British landowners that most of its people lived in desperate poverty never made it into these discussions. Fast forward a little, and you’d find the same language being directed against the nascent movement for Indian independence. England seems to be unusually prone to this sort of harrumphing, but you can see the same thing elsewhere: I’m thinking here especially of the white Southern physicians before the Civil War who claimed that black slaves suffered from a mental illness called drapetomania, which made them run away from plantations for no reason at all.
If you want to understand why something is happening, insisting angrily that there can be no possible reason for it to happen is not a useful way to start. This is why the catastrophic failure of imagination among the Western world’s comfortable classes I’ve discussed in earlier posts has to be addressed if we are to have any hope of extracting ourselves from the present mess. It’s because so many of the people tasked with making decisions in today’s world literally can’t imagine the possibility that they might be wrong, that people might reasonably disagree with them, and that events might not go the way they want, that they’ve blundered from one self-inflicted disaster to the next, without learning the obvious lessons of their failures or even noticing that there are lessons to be learned.
With this in mind, I want to circle back to the post three months ago in which I started talking about the role of imagination in the creation of the future. I noted then that the imagination is one mode of the basic human mental activity of figuration, the process we use to assemble a world out of the fragmentary messages of the senses. When we figurate based on what the senses are telling us right now, that’s called perception. When we figurate based on what the senses told us at some earlier time, that’s memory, and when we figurate by taking remembered sensations and putting them together in a new pattern, that’s imagination.
We all use imagination all the time, and by “we” here I don’t mean human beings alone. When your cat stands on top of you at five in the morning, exhaling fetid breath into your face and jabbing you with an improbably hard paw, her walnut-sized brain is working overtime imagining a full food dish. Every life form with a central nervous system seems to be able to do the same thing; it’s one of the things that distinguishes us from insects, with their diffuse neural net and their (to us) weirdly mechanical way of doing things. Parasitic wasps, for example, have hardwired instinctive routines for finding, stunning, and stashing away the insects on which they lay their eggs; interrupt the routine partway through, and all they can do is go back to the beginning and start over again. Vertebrates can adapt more flexibly, because they can picture the goal they’re seeking and use imagination to envision alternate routes to the same goal.
The people who insist that Putin and the large majority of Russians who support him can’t have a reason to refuse the future NATO has in mind for their country are using their imaginations, too. They’re just using them dysfunctionally. Instead of imagining themselves in the same situation—facing, let’s say, a hostile foreign alliance that wants to strip their nation of its independence and wealth, cratering their standards of living in the process—all they can imagine is that everyone in the world who isn’t clinically insane must share their values and support policies that benefit the well-to-do of a few Western countries at everyone else’s expense. That’s a spectacular leap of the imagination, and it lands them in a fantasy world as unique as anything Lewis Carroll could have envisioned. The only problem with this mighty creative effort is that they forget that most other people notice the difference between their fantasy world and the place the rest of us live.
That is to say, imagination has its pitfalls. What I want to talk about now is how to make constructive use of imagination and avoid falling into the usual traps.
There’s a mordant twofold irony in the guiding lamp I intend to use here, though you have to know your way around German intellectual culture to really savor it. The German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe explained how to avoid the downsides of the human imagination in a brilliant 1793 essay, “The Experiment as Mediator between Object and Subject.” The first irony is that Goethe himself didn’t realize that he was talking about the imagination in this essay; he had no capacity for philosophical abstraction—his considerable genius was always rooted in concrete experience, and derived its strength and vividness from sensory details—and when poor Friedrich Schiller tried to point out to him just how much of a contribution his own imagination was making to his research, Goethe’s response wasn’t much more than a blank look. The second irony is that the followers of Rudolf Steiner, who have done more than anyone else to draw attention to this essay in recent times, consistently refuse to put it into practice when they’re dealing with the products of Steiner’s imagination.
Goethe’s supreme achievement as a scientist was the recognition of the power of comparative morphology. He’s the one who pointed out that every bone in a mammal’s skeleton corresponds to an equivalent bone in the skeletons of other mammals—that a whale’s flipper, a bat’s wing, the feline paw that jabs you awake at five in the morning, and the hand you use to open the can of cat food and stop the owner of the paw from meowing at you, all have the same structure. He showed that every part of a plant is a mutated leaf and the bones of your skull are mutated vertebrae. He laid the foundations of Darwin’s theory of evolution by making it impossible not to see the traces of ancient life forms in the bodies of their current descendants.
He did all this by using the method set out in the essay cited above. The first and most crucial step in that method was to assemble as many variations on the subject of your inquiry as you possibly can. If an experiment is called for, ring as many changes on the experiment as you can think of, taking each variable through its whole range while holding the others steady, and then varying more than one at a time to watch for synergisms; if you’re studying existing phenomena, leaves or stars or civilizations, gather the data and line them up side by side—and do all of this without an initial hypothesis.
This last point is crucial. Nothing is easier than to devise some hypothesis and come up with an experiment that you think will prove it. If the experiment turns out the way you want it, you can then claim that you’ve proved the hypothesis and go from there. That’s the way science was too often done in Goethe’s time, and that’s the way it’s too often done today, which is why so much of science has become a brittle conventional wisdom of jerry-rigged hypotheses and ad hoc assumptions, waiting for the Copernican shove that will send the whole mess toppling into the dumpster of discarded ideas. The awkward fact few scientists let themselves think about is that any given set of experimental results can be used to “prove” an infinite number of competing hypotheses. Only a sufficiently large and varied body of initial data can place a check on the inveterate human tendency to interpret the inkblot patterns of existence in overfamiliar ways.
So the Goethean investigator starts by gathering examples of the phenomena to be studied, and pays close attention to how they vary, without imposing any preconception on them. If his name is Oswald Spengler, he gathers as much data as he can on every known civilization and lines the details up side by side, and by careful study of the variations, he comes to understand the underlying patterns of rise and fall, as well as the factors that make the rise and fall of each civilization subtly different from any other. If his name is Stephen Wolfram, he tinkers with the odd and interesting computer programs called “cellular automata,” seeing what differences result from subtle changes in their programming, until he realizes that he’s just invented a system of models for understanding nature that’s as powerful and flexible as mathematics itself. There are plenty of other names and plenty of other discoveries along these same lines.
This, in turn, is what has to be done with the products of the imagination in order to keep them from leading you into stupidity. There are at least three ways to use Goethe’s method on the world of the imagination, and all three of them are crucial. The first of these is to make sure that you can imagine the world in more than one way. Here as elsewhere, starting from a hypothesis and looking for ways to test it guarantees that you’ll be chasing your own tail. Start by observing whatever it is you want to observe, and imagining it in as many ways as you can. Let’s say two countries have just gone to war. If you only let yourself imagine the causes and consequences of that event in one way, you’ve just commited mental suicide. What might be motivating the two sides of the conflict? What might be motivating your government and the media to spin the conflict in one particular way? Let yourself explore the possibilities.
While you’re at it, you can add the second way, keeping in mind that your imagination is just as insistent on being fed regularly as the cat we discussed earlier. How do you feed your imagination? By giving it fresh raw material to use in its figurations. In the case of the two countries at war, you might start by finding out what’s been happening between them for the last decade or so. Have there been agreements between the countries? Have they been kept, and if not, who broke them? If there are ethnic groups with roots in one country living in the other, how have they been treated? Has one side been lobbing cannon fire across the border, unnoted by your country’s official media? The two countries doubtless have allies; how have those behaved toward the other country? All this is food for your imagination, and will help keep you from being suddenly prodded awake by something far more unwelcome than a hungry cat.
Of course you can also start looking for parallel events elsewhere in history, and this is where we pass to the third way. Just as Goethe lined up plants side by side and learned to recognize the underlying patterns, you can line up wars side by side and do the same thing. Nothing is more common, or more self-defeating, than insisting that one and only one historical parallel can be applied to whatever events are under discussion. If your country’s media insists on always comparing the war in question to the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and references nothing else in all of human history, that has the same effect on your understanding as picking a hypothesis in advance and looking for an experiment to prove it.
Instead, look into a dozen other wars. Start with the last half dozen times when your nation attacked someone, just to add spice. Get a sense of how and why wars start, and see what this does to your sense of how and why the current one started. Examine the recent wars (and other military actions) of both combatants, and of their allies, and see how this shapes your sense of what is happening in the war right now. Line up wars like leaves, grasp the underlying patterns that determine their shapes, and your attempts to imagine the future will be much more likely to pan out—and much less likely to leave you blinking in dismay as the world goes whizzing past you at an angle you never anticipated.
That is to say, the imagination isn’t self-correcting. You can imagine a future as vividly as all get-out, and still have it flop—ask anyone who expected the world to end on December 21, 2012, or for that matter anyone who used to insist that by now we’d certainly have fusion power, sentient supercomputers, and cities on the Moon.
That doesn’t mean the imagination is useless—far from it. To begin with, the imagination is our one reliable source of new ideas. Every invention, every story or painting or sculpture, every new business or nation or grand collective dream started out in someone’s imagination and went from there. There are also stranger dimensions to the imagination, for it’s sometimes possible to use it to catch glimpses of things at a distance or events that haven’t happened yet. In his cryptic Red Book, Carl Jung described the harrowing visions that warned him of the coming of the First World War, and it was his sensitivity to the movements of the collective imagination that made him warn the world of the implications of German National Socialism in 1936, and get most of the details right, at a time when reasonable people insisted that Hitler was a third-rate Mussolini imitator who couldn’t possibly hold onto power for more than another year or two.
Yet Jung could gauge the meaning of his visions precisely because he used Goethe’s trick and lined up the products of his own imagination alongside those of many other people, his patients among them. Most visionaries won’t do that, and their followers are by and large even less fond of that exercise. Rudolf Steiner, whom I mentioned earlier in this post, is a case in point. He saw the “imaginative consciousness” toward which human beings were supposedly evolving as a way to get past the limits of human awareness and gain direct access to objective truth. His own imaginative experiences, however, were a mix of geniune insights and embarrassing failures.
His visions, for example, convinced him that the Earth had come into being as a mass of matter flung out of the Sun, and the Moon was later flung out of the Earth in the same way. That was a popular scientific theory in his time, but it turned out to be wrong. The elaborate cosmology he built up around that claim thus bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a family tree beginning with Piltdown Man. I’m sorry to say that most of Steiner’s followers these days respond to this and Steiner’s other mistakes with a fundamentalism of the “Steiner said it, I believe it, that settles it” type: another dysfunctional use of imagination, another mode of mental suicide.
The constructive response to this kind of misstep is the one Goethe pointed out: line up all the examples you can find and see what patterns emerge as you study them. In Steiner’s case, the first step would require looking over his achievements, his failures, and everything in between with an eye toward shared patterns. The second step would require comparing his teachings to other sources of information about the world, and see what kind of sense emerges from the relationships thus revealed. The third step would require comparing his visions to those of other visionaries of the same era—Annie Besant, C.W. Leadbeater, Geoffrey Hodson, Max Heindel, and more, each of whom had their own successes and failures—and then to a wider range of visionaries across space and time. Out of that might come a clearer sense not only of Steiner’s contributions but of the strengths, weaknesses, powers, and uses of the visionary imagination.
The imagination, again, is not self-correcting. It falls all too easily into the rigor mortis that William Blake called “single vision,” in which the world is obsessively interpreted according to a single narrative and all other possibilities are ruled out in advance. It’s crucial to stretch beyond those suffocating limits, to recognize that there are many different ways to imagine the world, and that the ones we may not want to think about can still guide the actions of other people and reflect realities from which too many people these days are trying to hide.
That’s important at any point in history, but it’s especially important right now. It’s five o’clock in the morning of the long dark night of the soul, and the future is standing on top of us, exhaling its fetid breath into our faces, jabbing us with a very hard paw and making increasingly loud noises to wake us up. It’s not going to let us roll over and go back to sleep, either, because there’s much more than an empty food dish at stake.
Excellent food for thought. Thank you.
I’ve been binge reading and watching about logistics. These are some very interesting examples:
That crystallised a couple of thoughts I’d had swirling around the back of my mind.
One is that some high-platform electric trains and possibly trams have a lot of empty space under the carriage between the bogies. That space could be filled with a small cargo hold. While the train is stopped and passengers are getting on and off, below them doors could open in platform side and small pallets be loaded and removed.
The other was some combination of a cargo trike, manual forklift, and pallet trailer. That could create multiple new possibilities in human-powered material handling.
The cellular automata stuff Wolfram is working on is incredible. Who knows if anything useful will come of it, but well, the time to study that stuff is now while computation is cheap. If I may, do any of the commenters here have a good source on just what the Zelenskyy government and his Western backers were up to in Ukraine? I’ve been working on a way to explain it to people using the analogy of a China-backed puppet regime in Ottawa putting missile installations aimed at New York and DC in New Brunswick, and the US responding by annexing New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but I’m not sure how accurate that really is.
Thank you for that JMG. I imagine only a small percentage of the global population would care to comprehend the lesson. But, I will lay some examples side by side, and look for patterns, to be sure. ; )
I think this is an exercise I have done repeatedly when considering “the state of things” vis-a-vis what the 6 media outlets allow us to think…
In short, I agree.
The other variable is, of course, humans and their various different societies. The usual incorrect assumption made is that when considering these things, the people themselves under consideration are like us (observers), with similar feelings and concerns. This is pointedly fallacious IMO – the concerns for most of humanity are immediately surrounding us – family, friends, local conditions and norms. We eat with forks and knives, Japanese with chopsticks and Malaysians with their hands and fingers. Which is impacted by Chinese flatware becoming scarce?
The best exercise I have seen to explain the actions of Russia is an exercise in imagination, and to recall what the US response was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the encroachments are very similar in nature. The failure to flip the scenario around (Russian ICBM missiles 1100 miles from Washington DC versus NATO cruise missiles 500 miles from Moscow) in the imagination is, for me, very telling.
Now, add to this NATO missiles in Poland and Romania and we begin to be able to imagine that Russians are a tad tense about the possibilities for some very bad things. It does not take a genius to set this as the backdrop, and then to read things uttered by Ukraine, NATO and assorted American diplomats to begin to get a sense of what Russians feel.
Another failure is Americans who have ZERO sense of geography, particularly of the EU and Central Asia. Most Americans have no idea where Vilnius is, or what country it belongs to these days. How many Americans know where Mount Rushmore actually is? The truth of that ought to trigger some reflexive adjustments to ANY model of potential imaginings. This type of geographical ignorance is amazingly common among humans across the planet. Get out of your immediate country or zone and many folks simple lose their perspective and their bearings. I say this because most people on the eastern seaboard have no idea that driving across Texas takes 12 hours non-stop – the equivalent for them driving NYC to Chicago.
While these may seem small, petty quibbles – how can one imagine without some basic context? How does one line up facts and look for similarities or differences in the face of ignorance of geography? Ignorance of history is perhaps even worse these days…
The world is big and complex and changes over time. Imaginative failure is likely to turn up in most any root cause analysis. So the key here is to imagine more, and get the basic assumptions squared away so the imaginings are more prone to contain some reasonable accuracy.
Thanks JMG –
Wow! I wrote my thoughts and then this story hits…
The similarities are …
One thing that I have found very disturbing is how many of the folks in my age group (I was a teenager when 9/11 happened) are falling for the mainstream propaganda about the Russo-Ukraine War. I can see parallels to that, and our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, playing out. This is most especially true with the “good vs. evil” mentality that many have adopted. Quite the failure of the imagination, and also of memory.
It actually make me despair about the future. It seems the masses are content to accept the official version of the truth, until they pay too much at the gas pump and the check out counter, and then do not imagine much past temporary solutions to those problems. Is there hope that critical use of the imagination, as you’ve described here, can become the mainstream norm? I suppose I can use the methodology you’ve just described to consider the answer(s) to that.
JMG, as a student of The Red Book and years ago Steiner I found this piece particularly stimulating. I had not associated the Red Book to Jung’s clinical experience, shame on me, but as I read your post my work with it deepened my experience of the creative imagination. Thank-you for continually disrupting my patterns. I am using your break down of The Cosmic Doctrine to help me unpack it for myself as I could not just read it without serious contemplation. It is taking some time and I am willing to put the time and work into it as I age.
Thank you, JMG, for another excellent post!
As a professional analyst whose anticipated Russian war happened right on schedule, I find myself continually baffled not only by the general ignorance of Russia’s motives and the reasons for the war, but also the incalcitrant disinterest in remedying it. It takes a decent chunk of time to explain the relevant factors of the war, but even if I do get someone who seems interested and sits through an explanation, the conversation ends with a blank rejection and a retreat to a variation of “War is bad and invaders can’t have any justification.” It couldn’t be because non-war would mean death!
The real failure of imagination is that I can’t imagine a solution to allowing the former Warsaw pact nations freedom from the Russian subjugation they suffered under in the past couple centuries while leaving Russia satisfied with losing dominion over them.
Another sentiment might be familiar to others on this blog: if explaining Russian geopolitics to the uninitiated is daunting, explaining even a portion of the weird winding road that led both my wife and me via different paths to ‘Astrology works,’ among other realizations familiar to my fellow ecosophians but rare in daily life. I can’t even approach vague intimations with any given acquaintance. At least I am fortunate that I and my wife share the stange road together.
Thanks for this important reminder. A couple of thoughts. First, this could be termed as good old fashion inductive research. Historically isn’t that the way new sciences often emerge? Then they get refined down over time and the quest to rebuild them on deductive grounds, with their hallowed assumptions and axioms, ends up with diminishing returns. The inductive success gets turned into a straight jacket.
Second, just because a field of knowledge has degenerated into an abstract dead end seldom invalidates the useful insights from its early days when knowledge progressed in leaps and bounds. I suspect trotting out some old ways would prompt just as many blank stares from the audience as some unique new insight. Most academics don’t entertain that there is a reason to study the formative thinkers of their fields.
So we need to imagine some new ways forward but also work hard to relearn practical ways that have been forgotten. Wonder if some of us are better predisposed to working on one or the other.
I love the blank stares that I get when I say to Americans that in many aspects America looks like Charles II (aka the cursed Habsburg goblin) Spain. The woke inquisitions are like the hysterical Spanish Inquisition, the foolish wars squandering the last of wealth, a deadly court in a power struggle to control the wet noodle that sits on the throne, the gathering storm of external enemies and internal contradictions, the rotten economical system…
Of course America isn’t exacly Late Habsburg Spain, it has elections that can, at least in theory, save the country from being run by a wet noodle for long (but then while Biden is incapable the ones that will succeed him are imbeciles and clowns so you aren’t that much better). It is dependent upon a non renewable resource on it’s way down towards rarity, while Spain relied upon wheat, wood and iron to craft galleons.
Which brings me to one of the points of your post – malnourished imaginations.
I thought this was quite a good example of a failure to imagine that batteries big enough to power a bus actually store a lot of energy. It’s short and no voiceover, but definitely got my attention!
Batteries are “safer” than petroleum, after all, right?
Good thoughts, thank you. Enjoyed your dig at us Brits – sadly its not just in website comments that we see the failure of imagination in most of the people around us, but also in the real world. And, as you point out, throughout our sorry history – too much rationalism infecting this once magical isle perhaps.
Moving on I am guessing, having failed consistently over the years to follow up on your hints that there is something interesting about magic, that there is a particular relationship between the productive use of the imagination and magical practice?
There’s alot to work through in this timely essay, thank you. You’re attribution of memory to a form of imagination hadn’t occurred to me. I recall a few inspired moments scattered over many years that felt like a deep memory, not much different than deja vu. The fickle nature nature of the average memory, mine foremost of all, seems like “an opportunity for improvement” , low hanging fruit so to speak, in the quest to imagine a brighter future.
I could imagine that memory is an organ that can be exercised. I’ll be interested see where this leads.
Another irony here is that Steiner edited Goethe’s scientific writings.
Excellent essay, thank you! Which long night of the soul?
I would encourage readers of yours who aren’t familiar with it to consider your older post on knowing only one story.
I’m also reminded of old Laozi’s 76th chapter, which applies just as well to mental patterns as it does to physical ones:
Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.
Dear Mr Greer,
Imagination is a muscle. Thanks for coming back to this topic! There are alternatives(TM)!
I love the work of Graeber and Wengrow, whetting the imagination about political organizational structures. The invitations to re-think the holiness of Property and the sacrament of the State. Book tip of the day: The Dawn of Everything.
I have many friends in Russia, and I lived there in the 1990s. It is a beautiful land that is ripped clean by the current swath of aristocracy around the court of the Tsar.
The first eight years with Putin were fantastic for people in Russia. The public sector was reshaped and salaries were paid again, after a ten year long hiatus and mess under Yeltsin et al. Then came eight years of stagnation, starting with the pointless war in Georgia. Now we are in the eight years of debilitating destruction, where fear and cleptocracy and violence destroys the remains of the open society. It is painful to watch and I feel the pain of many of the people who are stuck in the mess.
The war only brings to the surface the festering mess that has been going on with increased militarization and buildup the last decade.
In times of catabolic collapse, it is always tempting to find an external enemy who is the cause of the dropping wealth and receding welfare. Whenever a “leader” talks about someone else’s fault, it is a sign of panic.
I am glad that there was no No-fly-zone implemented by NATO. The last time they did that (on UN mandate, in Libya 2011), they bombed the **** out of a struggling nation that has not yet recovered. From a rich Arabic country with free schools and healthcare to a medieval massacring mess, in less than a year.
Every war is mainly enjoyed by the ones who sells the guns. And these days that includes smartphone trackers, satellite imagery, guided bombs and financial blockades.
Let the imagination invigorate us all to grow great foods and celebrate the spring instead of bombing our neighbours.
Thank you for another interesting post, I am enjoying this series on the imagination tied in to the world at large and the greater themes of this blog.
I have to take slight exception that Popper and the concept of falsification didn’t get a look-in. The portrayal of science-as-it-is done is unfortunately accurate in too many cases (confession: I’m a working scientist) but what you are describing is not the scientific method and the hypothesis-falsification cycle, but a corruption of it.
I’d also council reserving a portion of the available data to test (i.e., attempt to falsify) the hypotheses that you generate with your first analysis. Post-hoc rationalisation is at least as bad a vice as the tendancy toward confirmation bias that you are describing (IMO).
Patricia, you’re most welcome.
Yorkshire, using your imagination, I see!
Justin, I’ve been a fan of Wolfram’s work since the first time I read A New Kind of Science. I’m convinced that he’s quite correct, and has invented an entirely new and very productive way of modeling nature, potentially as valuable as mathematics; in philosophical terms, he’s also offered a workable answer to the old question of what relation mathematics has to reality, by showing that it’s a convenient source of models — and only one such convenient source. Potent stuff! As for the roots of the Ukraine mess, I’ll let the commentariat field that, I think.
Mac, well, of course! “It was ever thus.” Somehow we manage to scrape by anyway.
Oilman2, oh, granted. If more people in the comfortable classes were to think of the rest of humanity as actual human beings with their own needs and wants and opinions, and not just abstract tokens to be moved around for their convenience, that would be a step in the right direction. As for geography, dear gods, yes. We used to teach geography in the US schools, and people more or less knew where other countries were. That got discarded as “insufficiently relevant,” as a result of which most Americans can’t find their rumps in the dark with both hands and a good flashlight.
Brenainn, it’s a source of wry amusement to me to watch all the supposed “rebels” and “iconoclasts” falling into lockstep with the conventional wisdom these days, and not just over Ukraine. Did you notice how many people ditched their supposed trust in alternative medicines and their supposed suspiciousness toward Big Pharma and corporate agendas, and suddenly started spouting press releases from Pfizer and its wholly owned subsidiaries in the federal government, the moment the vaccine marketing kicked into gear? The secret, of course, is that they weren’t actually rebels and iconoclasts; they were meek little conformists who followed the fashion of rebelling against everything the corporate media told them to rebel against. As for critical imagination becoming a majority habit, I’m far from sure that’s an option, but it can certainly become a little more widespread than it is now.
Jerry, you’re welcome and thank you!
Sirustalcelion, there’s a great Upton Sinclair quote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” That’s even more true when his, her, or xer lifestyle and aspirations depend on not understanding it — and that’s the case at present, of course. If Russia maintains its economic and political autonomy and continues its rapprochements with the rising powers of Asia, what’s left of European prosperity and privilege is going straight down the ol’ crapperoo as US global hegemony continues to break down. As for “astrology works” et al., trust me, I know — and I’m just as grateful to have a wife as interested in those improbable things as I am…
Daniel, two excellent points. Very often, in fact, the products of early inductive research remain valid long after the deductive superstructure built atop them comes crashing down — consider the persistence of Greek logic long after the excesses of Greek philosophy went into the dustbin. Doubtless the same thing will happen with science over the next millennium or so — the scientific method and many of its products will remain in common use long after the current attempts at unified theories have been completely forgotten.
Luciano, that’s an excellent comparison! I could certainly imagine Charles II as an American president, too…
Oilman2, ha! Definitely outperforming a Tesla…
Roger, trust me, the dig at you Brits was a sidelong dig at us Yanks — we’re just as clueless, but louder about it. As for magic and the imagination, yes — the development of the imagination is a central part of any form of magical training.
Gawain, it can indeed! Look up the Art of Memory sometime…
Asdf, not an irony at all — Steiner was the perfect person to do so. He shared Goethe’s strengths and weaknesses, and did a better job than any more abstract thinker could have done.
Njura, a fine theme for meditation. 😉
SDI, thanks for this. Laozi is always worth reading in this contest.
Gorancson, thanks for the data points. Er, you may have missed my point about the war, however.
SMC, I didn’t discuss Popper here because this is a blog post, not a book! Of course Popperian falsification is relevant, and so are a lot of other factors — but I try to keep my posts from running any deeper into teal-deer territory than they already do.
The popular narrative at the moment seems to be that “the world” has financially cut Russia off and the brave Ukrainians have only to hold off the Russian army long enough for Russia to collapse in on itself. It is perhaps not an accident that, “just be patient and intransigent and the ‘enemy’ will die off, or otherwise disappear into a puff of foul smelling smoke” is the American Liberal response to internal political conflict as well. More to the point, so far the Russian economy is surviving quite well. The banks are functional and the currency is stabilized. The Russian people, accustomed to generations of economic hardship, are not going to revolt at the first sight of an empty store shelf. As difficult as it is for too many Liberals to believe, other people, right or wrong, cling to their beliefs and ideologies just as tightly as anybody “on the right side of history does,” however repulsive that fact may be. Most importantly, China and India, two of the largest economies on the planet, as well as a host of smaller ones, have not cut Russia off and, however inescapably necessary it may be, the billions that Western Europe is paying Russia for natural gas *does* count. Even if ordinary people can’t/wont see that, surely the leaders in charge do. Or maybe not. Whatever their strategy is, I hope it includes an answer to what happens if the West loses this war.
“The imagination, again, is not self-correcting. It falls all too easily into the rigor mortis that William Blake called “single vision,” in which the world is obsessively interpreted according to a single narrative and all other possibilities are ruled out in advance.”
And now I understand why a leading British newspaper can refer to the 30% or so of French electorate who voted for either Le Pen or Zemmour as ‘far right’, and do it with a straight face without ever noticing that a position supported by a third of a society is rather close to becoming that society’s mainstream. It reminded me, rather forcefully, of this joke describing the communist Poland’s government response to the meteoric rise of the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s:
“20 people is an illegal gathering. 50 people is an illegal organisation. 10 million people is a bunch of extremists.”
As you stated a long time ago, ‘When the current reality doesn’t conform to the actual reality, people have two choices; accept the change or yell louder’. You could tell the West was screaming when it became apparent that they were no longer the world’s hegemone, controlling the show. A FOX News hosts stated at the beginning of the ‘special oOperation’, “I thought we were a Superpower?!”.
When Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister Boris Johnson both state that the West can not let Russia “win” and only the West is sanctioning Russia, it is that the West simply can’t imagine that the world has changed and their place in it. I see only a “win” by Russia being able to force the West to accept the new reality. It’s going to take awhile.
One thing seems clear to me – if you’re not willing to expend some mental energy and work on improving your imagination, there’s plenty of folks that will be pleased to hijack your imagination for you.
@Oilman2 #12 – whoa! Got marshmellows?
Good stuff, JMG. Not the first time you’ve posted on a subject that happens to be on top of the mind. Currently coming out of a long Buffalo winter of both physical and imagination hibernation and making a concerted effort to bring that part of my mind back online…
Somewhat as an aside – have you posted yet about the so-called “vaccines”? I know you mentioned a while back that it deserved a post or an open discussion; definitely still interested in hearing as to what a man of science in the vein of Goethe such as yourself has to say. My stance (which got me labeled an extremist amongst my well to do ivy-educated New York cohort) stems from that of Michael Crichton’s (or his alter ego, Ian Malcolm from the original JP book): you cannot “control” a complex system and any attempt to do so by messing with its integral parts is guaranteed to cause chaos, perhaps sufficient enough to destroy the underlying system itself. Hijacking the immune system’s memory and forcing it to produce spike protein B’s in perpetuity (or until molecular decay of the cell, same difference) seemed on its face like a disastrous idea. It’s not that I think any one potentially adverse effect can be ruinous, it’s that I can imagine a gazillion and one ways in which it can be… slightly ruinous. And I’m just a learned amateur whose formal bio studies ended with the college equivalent of “Biodiversity for Dummies” way back in the year 2006.
Great essay and something that I have been thinking about recently.
One of my guilty pleasures is to review once a year the latest TV shows in the anglo world.
I was doing that some days ago and I had a strong sense of deja-vu. Most of the new TV shows out there are copying exactly the communist youth movies/TV at the end of that era.
Instead of the clean, polite, upstanding young people belonging to the majority ethnic group now we have clean, polite, upstanding young people belonging to the favority minority of the day (female, muslim, black for example).
Other than that, the stories and even the atmosphere are identical. Everybody lives upper middle class lives (independent on supposedly being poor) and all the conflicts and problems they encounter are always superficial and cartoonish.
Part of the attraction (for both communist shows and their modern equivalents) is the complete detachment from real life. They take place in a fantasy world where people don’t work (or just sit around in an office doing nothing) and they have everything they need, leaving all their energy focusing on rich people’s problems, like travelling or love affairs or music. There is never any talk about the future and most people are teenagers trapped in adults bodies.
One thing that I am trying to figure out is what this portends for the future. This could be either the equivalent of the “roaring twenties” and the depression so we should expect deflation, economic collapse and wars OR this is the last gasp of a failing social structure in which case we should expect hyperinflation, economic collapse and wars…
Thank you again JMG!
On the subject of war, I’ve read quite a bit on it in my 65 years and have some personal experience in the military, here a few observations that I keep in mind:
– all war is deception, everyone lies to suit their own situation
– no plan survives first contact with the enemy
– atrocities are the norm
– no country benefits from prolonged warfare
Brenainn mentioned that a lot of people have not only a failure of the imagination but also a failure of memory (he mentions 9/11).
I would add also a failure of perception – how many people are ignoring their own senses and insist that the fox is good for them despite their own bodies complaining loudly?
So JMG I wonder if there is something ominous to the fact that so many people don’t do figuration or do it so wrong. Is this a triumph of abstraction over reason?
Something I have been surprised to see shown so clearly during the pandemic, is that many people seem so certain about a particular line of explanation for events as they are occurring. For me I always just somewhat hold a bunch of contradictory viewpoints in my imagination, and compare how they seem to describe (and don’t) the reality I see. I was OK with the virus, to see it as a very serious illness, making the lockdowns a reasonable response, but also to see it as a non-serious illness that didn’t require such measures, and also even an elaborate hoax (especially due to the timing after non-conventional oil seemed to peak). Also that it might be a man made plague that is deadly in some way we aren’t yet expecting, that it might be an act of biological warfare by actors still hidden, the product of an accidental lab leak (perhaps ownership of this mistake forcing countries into excessive steps to minimize fallout), something intentionally developed and released for obscure purposes, but also as a naturally occurring illness, a fluke of nature (etc, etc).
I don’t feel I have the info to tell, basically, so don’t have a problem hearing about theories and just holding on to them in my mind. I like learning about them because they might help me figure out what is going on. Almost like containers that you can pile observations into, and having the different ones makes you notice different things. Obviously some of them are wrong (in fact, by definition most of them are wrong), and many of them blatantly cannot be simultaneously true, but whatever I think most at any given time is just the one that seems most full (obviously influenced by emotion too, though), and what I’ll operate based on. Weighed against what I can make of the risks too. It’s also possible that all of them are wrong, and the truth is a container that had never occurred to me or anyone I listened to discuss the matter.
I try to remember when I have been just wrong too – where my “most full container” as far as I “felt” was just straight incorrect (so far, with Russia and the Ukraine, I didn’t think that they would actually send their army in, and I was simply wrong there). Right now I also think (hope) that this doesn’t turn into an outright open conflict with NATO, but as that starts to seem more likely, then I am just more willing to accept that my understanding of events is incorrect. It’s also not impossible that Putin is “evil”, although it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, so I tend attribute that to how things appear from inside/outside (is it aligned to my Ring Cosmos or not?) and also the great likely hood of misinformation/distortions (etc) from the news media.
Thank you for this very interesting essay! I’d like to say, regarding comparative studies, that mathematical models are very useful in this regard. Sure, there is never one complete model, rather, there are a host of different useful models of low to intermediate complexity reflecting different aspects of the problem in question, which are then tested against data and accordingly verified.
Also, an interesting tidbit regarding music – Alain Danielou did with music what Spengler did with historical theory. I’m currently reading his A Study of Musical Scales’, and while I haven’t finished it, what I’ve read so far has been impressive and a great learning experience. I don’t subscribe to some of his observations about certain ragas in Hindustani Classical Music, but just the depth of his study is amazing.
There’s an all out war against imagination that has ramped up in 2022. The Good People have decided that their control of The Narrative must be absolute. I guess they can’t imagine why anyone would dare access or save any information different than what They know is right.
•Google changed their Terms of Service in January to make it easier to shut down accounts (email, drive, etc) that has what they consider to be disinformation or misinformation.
•Many tech firms have shut down their services in Russia. People lost access to what they assumed what theirs, even services they paid for. Businesses lost their entire business records.
•Marc Andreessen who founded several tech firms tweeted out 3 days ago “I predict essentially identical censorship/deplatoforming prolixities across all layers of the legacy internet stack. Client-side & server-side ISPs, cloud platforms, CDNs, payment networks, client OSs, browsers, email clients. With only rare exceptions. The pressure is intense.” Followed by “I should state clearly, I don’t expect the current censorship/deplatforming trend to reverse, I expect it to intensify. Again, with a very few exceptions. The current trend is a tsunami with enormous force and pressure behind it. And It’s working.”
What I take away from this is the majority of the country will fall under compliance with The Narrative (which seems to be an endless generation of The Current Thing) and it will be much smaller number of people who are outside of it and suddenly disconnected from each other.
I’m imagining a return to 1970’s level of communication with Zines and letters. Unless they take the post office away too?
It’s not only individuals that lack imagination: institutions do so too. The crisis in Ukraine is essentially the result of the most spectacular failure of imagination in modern history. This was the failure to imagine what Russian interests and objectives would be after the end of the Cold War, and to find a way of dealing with them. I know, because I was there. Even though there were people (like me but I wasn’t important enough) who argued for an entirely fresh start, and a new security order in Europe, there were two fundamental problems. (1) Even those who favoured such a structure couldn’t agree what they wanted and (2) Most of the decision-makers, buried under a pile of insistent daily crises, simply didn’t have the time and energy to use the imagination they did have. So it was kick the ball down the road, look at it again in a few years time, we’ll get round to it, All of this went on for decades in fits and starts, with short-term fixes and endless squabbling within and between nations.You can have the most gifted and far-seeing visionaries on the planet, but if institutional rigidities mean that nobody pays any attention to them then they might as well exist. Now, of course, a massive effort of imagination is required, to imagine a world in which the West no longer predominates, where Russia is the major military power in Europe, and the US just has to stand and watch. The degree of cognitive dissonance will be such that it’ll be quite a challenge for the decision-makers of the West to remain sane, never mind to make imaginative plans for the future.
I’d add, though, the there’s a very important distinction between imagination and fantasy, and most western PMCs have been living in various sorts of fantasy worlds for years. We’re now hitting the buffers. You can say “men can have babies” or “Covid has gone away”, but you can’t force reality to bend to your will. In the case of Ukraine, we are seeing what is essentially a fantasy war – that portrayed in the Western media – contrasted with the reality on the ground. Within the western echo-chamber, you get marks not for imaginative solutions, which are not required, because We Are Winning, but through joining in the collective fantasy, and making more and more fantastic stories up. This is how I would interpret the “single vision” you ended your essay by discussing.
Re mental straightjackets and unimodal thinking
It is almost as if the author read this post and decided to draft an article examplifying your points.
Was Charles II’s weird collar a fashion trend, was it meant to catch drool, or both?
Rationing has returned to the local supermarkets. Not that it ever left — since March 2020, they have *always* had stickers somewhere telling us when deliveries are expected, and far more gaps in the shelves — but it’s notable that this time it’s because of actual shortages (sunflower oil) rather than to manage panic buying.
I’ve been thinking about the need for small containerisation for quite a while. Originally as a way to bring our canal network back into use — autonomous canal boats should be far easier to build than cars, and the lack of people in the canals themselves and the low speed makes errors a lot more forgiving. But having quick un/loading would also allow passenger trains to have cargo cars added. Offload whilst they’re in the station and roll them onto vans for the short distance delivery.
Another option for Britain is intracoastal shipping and our rivers. Birmingham might be far from the sea, but it’s not so far from the Severn. Things could be brought up from Gloucester by boat with far less energy than by truck. Keep the trucks for the short haul. Leeds is already doing this with the Aire & Calder.
In the long run though I have to give America the better chances for success. Low population density, abundance of resources, and most importantly a massive navigation system right through the country provided free of charge. A walkable city on a tributary of the Mississippi, somewhere with good farmland? In the short term however Britain has the advantage of infrastructure — almost everyone is within a few miles of a railway line, so if we arrange things so they can safely bike/scoot to a local station we can quickly return to the pre-car way of travelling…
This evening, a friend and I agreed to meet at an upscale sushi house on the edge of downtown Moscow, near Gorky Park. But we didn’t make reservations and upon arriving were told that the only available seating was at the bar. We joked, “when is the economic collapse the West is promising going to happen, so that we can get a seat at a restaurant?” If I didn’t read the news, I would see few signs that anything has changed in Moscow. I guess there are a few if you know where to look: I noticed recently that about every sixth store (the Western brands) is shuttered at the Atrium, a ritzy shopping center on the Garden Ring. But the restaurants and coffee shops are well patronized; the roads are clogged with cars; commerce is everywhere; the buzz in the city feels about the same to me.
The promises of economic destruction aren’t new: we all recall Obama’s famous — but unfortunately not last — words in January 2015, after the imposition of the first round of relatively harmless Crimea-related sanctions, that Russia’s economy was “isolated” and “in tatters.” Now to strike a less defiant pose, I do think these sanctions are going to end up biting. Notwithstanding Russia’s turn toward self-sufficiency in recent years, much of what is made here still depends on imported components, and those supplies will soon start running low. There is some high-tech stuff that will be hard to replace quickly and a bit painful to do without. Aviation is definitely going to suffer. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says there could be up to 200,000 job losses in the capital city alone in the upcoming months. But if this is the price to pay for true national sovereignty, then I think it’s a price many of us are willing to pay. And I also get the sense that the cost in the West might end up being even higher. And it remains an open question to me whether Westerners will cope with the sort of grim perseverance that has been cultivated here over the last few centuries.
But what I really wanted to say in this comment is that I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately about the West’s hysterical and, in my view, quite infantile reaction to the special operation in Ukraine. I don’t think I can articulate it coherently yet, so this might be a bit of a fumbling attempt. I think what the West is really reacting to is a direct challenge of one of the basic tenets of faith upholding the globalized “history-is-over” worldview that elevates progress as its most cherished creed. And this creed demands that conventional wars simply cannot exist anymore. They existed for all of recorded history and were seen as part of the order of things, but not once the progressive manager class took the helm. Of course war defies the modern ethos in every way: it is earthy, tribal, real; it requires traditional masculine qualities of strength and courage; war cannot be won by IT startups or smart-phone apps but rather blood and iron; war evokes deep and authentic feeling. Meanwhile, the wars undertaken by the United States are seen quite differently — not as wars in the traditional sense but as policing exercises in defense of the rules-based order.
Of course everybody understands the gauntlet that Russia laid down at the level of geopolitics, but I think this is reaching into the subterranean emotional fabric of modern Western man, and that is what I am interested in exploring. This a challenge not to a worldview but to a faith system. There is something archetypal about this. We saw an almost identical reaction to Covid. I wonder if this is now the mode of reacting to each crisis — not seeing them as specific problems to be solved but exaggerating them into crises of unprecedented proportions.
I imagine I’m Russian. Russia is the last superpower, no matter what China or the decadent USA might say. Russia is IT. I’ve been hearing so for years.
After a glorious victory against terrorists in Syria, my poor leader Putin has been mocked by the so-called leaders of various other nations. Terrorists have long flooded out of Crimea and Ukraine, as well as other places, usually funded by the CIA.
Victory in Ukraine will come fairly easily if Zelensky is rational. Too bad he’s become a cause celebre for the rest of the world. A media darling in a way his weird twin Trump never was.
Still, we Russians love a long slog. We may not be rich but we’re great at math, especially subtraction and division.
And why invade Ukraine? Well, they may never again elect such a clown as Zelensky. Besides, with so much methane in the air, it’s a great decade to get more land and outlaw exports of food. Sit back, and watch the rest of the world argue about oil and natural gas, but it’s really all about wheat.
This might be a tangent, but maybe we are seeing some acutely worrisome consequences of a failure of imagination: On Sunday, it appears there was a massive explosion at an ammunition depot at Welford air base (both RAF and USAF) in the UK.
There isn’t much reporting of this blast in the MSM, but there is some British commentary-
“Did Russia take revenge for targeting of the Moscva? RAF Welford Depot explodes.”
I’ve also seen unconfirmed claims that an incoming missile was witnessed, or that it’s a false flag. I think it’s interesting that this explosion is not being headlined. Any thoughts?
Another really excellent post, John Michael. Thank you!
~ Michael and Connie
Re: Russian Perspective
“Politicians and pundits in the NATO countries make no secret of the fact that they want to see Russia disarmed, dismembered, and “integrated into the global economy”—that is, stripped to the bare walls to prop up the sclerotic economies of the Eurozone and line the pockets of Western oligarchs.”
That sums up Russia’s reasons to go to war pretty well, JMG.
In this spirit of full disclosure – I was born in Russia in the 1980s, and I lived the first 30 years of my life there, so I have a pretty good grasp of the Russian mentality as well as the events that happen there so that I can offer a perspective on current events from the Russian side of things. Coming out as a Russian is a little scary at this time when everything Russian is getting canceled in the West, including Russian cats.
Firstly, let’s talk about Ukraine. Ukraine in its present-day borders is an artificial construct, much like Iraq and Iran, a product of the XX century politics, as can be seen, for example, on this map:
Often the people in the annexed territories were not Ukrainians ethnically and culturally, as can be seen on this map:
Where there’s an ethnic or a cultural difference between people, there is always a potential for conflict. In that sense, Ukraine was a powder keg waiting to go off, and the Balkanization of Ukraine was only a matter of time. The Great Recession lit the fuse and led to the rise in ethnic tensions and nationalism, and the Western-engineered coup of 2014 that overthrew the elected president of Ukraine only made things worse.
Now, Putin made his position on American (and NATO) hegemony abundantly clear back in 2007 in this speech in Munich: “Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, a force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result, we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.”, he warned, but nobody listened to him.
Full speech transcript:
But the source of tensions between Russia and NATO is summarized more succinctly by this map:
In February of 2022, the current president of Ukraine, Zelensky, suggested that Ukraine might acquire nuclear weapons, either creating tactical nukes themselves or hosting NATO missiles.
A missile with a nuclear warhead can reach Moscow from Ukrainian territory in about 3 minutes, not giving Russia any time to retaliate (besides the Dead Hand system). In a way, this is very similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Putin took this threat seriously (“this is not just bragging.”), and on February 24th, war broke out.
So that’s the view from the Russian side of things. As you can see, every decision that Putin made was rational from that point of view, and many Russians agreed with him. I’m not saying that I personally like Putin very much, but his position is understandable.
@ Denis #31
I have talked about this until I am about done, but in a low energy, collapsing economy – the internet as we know it cannot survive.
Look around and witness how many news regurgitators exist, surviving on ‘clicks’ and advertising for things most of us do not actually need. In collapsing, shrinking economies, people make choices between what they really need to exist and what is extraneous. Take away the porn market and internet capacity would be likely to double; remove big streaming outfits delivering woke pap (Netflix) and repackaging others and more available bandwidth. The truth is, the entire internet and phone networks are overbuilt enough already – 5G is made for IoT, and it simply doesn’t exist and appears unlikely to fully blossom as things tighten on the energy and commodity sides. As people make choices (we cut Netflix years back due to their content being juvenile and excessively ‘pushy’ – appears others are seeing this too), where every major network is streaming their wares, why pay for duplicate offerings? Is there truly a market for watching HD movies on a 3″ screen, or is it just latest greatest technophiles?
6 billion phones and 1.5 billion computers…not counting data centers and cloud hardware and other such massive things. As electricity becomes more expensive, these are the things that will become less ubiquitous. Globalism’s death will also make them ever more expensive, from chips to batteries. Whether by inflation or deflation, people will simply be unable to buy the latest whiz-bang tech – their choices will be limited by pocketbooks and the offerings will decline as companies merge and die off.
That combined with people simply walking away from an environment where 100% of things are monetized and censored will slowly wind things down from where we are today. Not saying this will be overnight, but as with all things in a shrinking energy environment, it will cascade from one crisis to the next, devolving until what it delivers is worth the cost.
When the internet becomes billed by time, just like old long distance phone calls once were, then you will know it has begun to decline in earnest. Compliance with onerous rules and regulations will hasten that, as there are many people who have already had enough of those.
I’ve been following developments in Eastern Europe, the Ukraine in particular, since 2014, and the major problem that’s developed in recent years – and more so in 2022 – is the lack of honesty among the purveyors of our news media. Were people told about the circumstances leading up to the current situation they would know more. Instead, it serves the purposes of the wealthy and powerful to keep us in ignorance because to do otherwise might encourage us to question their motives.
To make matters worse and all the more dangerous to the wellbeing of all of us who aren’t among the elite, websites and journals that provide information from an alternative perspective have been actively suppressed. It’s much more difficult to find those sources and in many cases impossible.
Strategic Culture is a good one, but American writers were banned from posting articles to it this year under threats of federal government fines and prosecution. Today the site is down so I’m unable to post a link – hopefully, this is just an internet hiccup and not something worse. They host an international group of excellent analysts.
I’m still able to read RT but their videos have been banned in a number of countries including Canada where I reside. The Saker is a good general source of news and commentary. Another excellent news aggregator is The Automatic Earth that features news and thoughtful commentary.
It’s very true that a society used to comfort and safety becomes lazy and complacent.
I’m glad of your work in helping to keep us awake, JMG.
This entire sanctions thing is very personal for me, as my business was centered around the Caspian, and it has disappeared entirely. I am looking at retirement in earnest now, where before I imagined it down the road a bit. The sanctions and Covidian madness has ended my oilfield business, and I am far from the only old guy taking a walk.
As Cloven Kingdom intimates in his post, there is some archetype destruction ongoing in the west, along with the myth of invincibility of market forces and many other things. American exceptionalism has been exposed just as Toto exposed the Wizard in Oz – the curtain is being pulled back. Once the SMO ends, I expect things to become even more exposed for those with an eye to see.
The last frontier on the planet is eastern Russia – do archetypes simply shift around?
JMG – Yes, I did take notice of that. Not only that but also how many who previously claimed to champion free speech were now suddenly supporting censorship. Even demanding more of it, seemingly trusting of the Big Tech billionaires that they had previously denounced as greedy, capitalist pigs. All in the name of stopping “disinformation” and “saving lives.” IOW, in the name of safety, which doesn’t seem all that different from arguments in favor of increased government power and mass surveillance after 9/11: for our security! Homeland security! Secret courts to hear national security cases! What could possibly go wrong?
I will admit, with much shame, that during the days after 9/11, I got on board with the masses and did the whole “support the war effort, defeat the Axis of Evil, spread ‘freedom’,” etc. A total George W. Bush neocon moron. At least now I know that I am no longer such a dupe. I feel like I should do some kind of penance for my past stupidity, and also continue speaking out against the nonsense that is drowning our society. But it feels like I’m speaking to a brick wall, when it comes to most folks. They’re just not willing to disbelieve what they heard on CNN, or Fox News, or their favorite “independent” content creator on YouTube or wherever.
Out of curiosity how likely is it that if Russia wins in Ukraine that it proceeds to attack and invade the next country like Finland, Poland, Moldova or Romania? If not soon then maybe an attack in 5-10 years. I think Central and Western Europe have feelings and interests too and I am not sure Russia is any more aware of theirs as they are of Russia’s.
While war is a pretty normal human activity throughout history, I appreciate the impulse to gang up on Russia quickly and check them now based on history of World War II and Cold War. Nuclear arms definitely raise the seriousness too. Also Russia’s deception surrounding the beginning of invasion is not winning it much trust.
Can you think of anything Russia can do to burnish its image with rest of Europe, and to convincingly demonstrate it is not embarking on a grand plan of conquest? If they succeed a bit here then NATO may back off on putting arms next to Russia. If they do little on this front, can’t imagine America and rest of Europe reducing their fear, listening to Russia more and giving benefit of doubt.
This series of posts is inspiring for me. For that reason, I’m going to bore you again with some quantum mechanics analogy… if you have a quantum system (atom, ion, crystal, etc.) that has many states, say |1>, |2>, …. |n> (leaves lined up), then if you know how to do it, you can “mix” the states which (slightly simplified) means, that the system is in all states at once (imagination at work). Decoherence might collapse this construct in just one state, say |2> which then might decay into some other state or wobble between states, depending on the temperature of the systems surroundings (imagination narrowing down and eventually failing).
The decoherence part here is crucial, I think. Decoherence will most likely happen if your system isn’t properly isolated from its environment. In QM experiments this usually means super low temperatures, ultra high vacuum, super narrowband single mode lasers, etc. In human reality this means time to rest, time alone in nature, a sharp intellect, etc. Ah, and no TV, obviously.
So that seems to be “just” it… a good working intellect, enough states for it to work on and a calm mind.
What I’m experiencing at the moment is an ugly feedback loop, though. Over the last two years (I think) I did exactly what you are describing in your essay. This had many beneficial results. But it also cast on the light on the society and the people that surround me. I always guessed that I might not like what I would see once I could see it. Now I have seen it in clear daylight and I admit that’s frightening, frustrating and it also makes me angry and bitter. It’s not that easy to keep my “insulation” working under those circumstances, though I guess that’s the challenge to overcome right now. But anyhow, sometimes it’s hard not to get drawn away by negative feelings.
Wonderful and very learned essay JMG!…Perhaps the complete lack of geography in public education is the explanation for the American public’s complete lack of interest in the horrors perpetrated by Uncle Sam in distant lands..I’ve been shocked in recent years by the complete indifference of seemingly reasonable people to America’s mass slaughters in places like Viet Nam and Iraq, and its ruthless “color revolutions” in at least 50 countries over the postwar years, of which the Ukrainian Maidan Coup was one of the most blatant…Somehow, if it’s far away we don’t care…Of course, another explanation would be that in our secular society, where only money counts for a majority. we have simply become totally amoral, in which case there is little hope for what used to be a great nation of good people….
I suspect one source of the current failure of the imagination is that finding a nuanced understanding of just about anything these days immediately lowers your social status.
I blame the current state of media control. Speaking of which… Now for something really scary:
“Where did the internet go?”
Apparently the powers that be have scrubbed and sanitized the entire internet. Don’t just watch the video, check it for yourself. I did. Google and bing and duck duck go and brave were all affected. I found metacrawler still gives some “unclean” results, though. Anyone else know of any good search engines?
If you throw away any link between magical techniques and supernatural powers, and just focus solely on magic in a rational-materialist universe, magic still works as a powerful way to use imagination to convince the subconscious mind to pursue the same goal your conscious mind wants to pursue.
However, I don’t recommend doing this unless you are prepared to discover there actually is a supernatural undercurrent as well, because it is most definitely there and practicing magic will almost certainly reveal that to you.
the instructions in the video:
Search something (they used “climate change” and then “superbowl” in their examples). Google will say millions of results. First page is all NASA, UN, NOAA, etc. Official sources. Go to the last page of the search (occasionally check through the results as you go, all you will find are mainstream official sources). You reach the end after maybe 40-50 pages, definitely less than a hundred and DEFINITELY not a million results. And even the last entries are official sources. No “joes blog” talking about climate change, no grandma complaining climate change ruined her vacation, no deniers, etc. To find those things you have to basically already know they exist or use much more specific search terms. And they did “superbowl” to show it’s not just controversial or political topics. I’m sharing it because 1. That’s scary!!! And 2. It’s very easy to test for yourself.
This is my first comment in the time I’ve been reading the blog, this may be off topic (delete it if you think so)
My question is if anyone has old electronic books and also books on “appropriate technology” in pdf version, I know they have been published here, but I have lost them.
This is because I want to preserve that knowledge, it seems that most people (not from this blog) have not yet realized what they are missing today, and it is very likely that they will be caught off guard.
Much of your article describes the same process that Frank Herbert described for Mentats in his Dune series. Don’t look for answers, ask questions. The questions will reveal more questions; the answers are a byproduct of this process. Be like a net cast into a river: what have I caught today? Very Zensunni-like. Don’t rely on data and logic too much; those can lead one straight into a blind alley. Compare and contrast; these reveal patterns for more questions.
I still think you and Norma Cenva are in cahoots. We’ll know when you finally tire of all this, activate your Holtzmann engines and jump back to Caladan. The people there are sane, or so I’m told.
Consider that the Western sanctions on Russia may, to put it very roughly, cut the wealth of some fabulously wealthy Russians in half, and the coincidental loss of Russian natural gas imports to Europe will, to put it very roughly, cut the winter temperatures of the majority of ordinary people’s homes in half. (I’m sure that the rich will find ways to cope, just as they managed to hold parties during lock-down.)
Which would you expect to have a greater impact on the society around them? I mean, when the oligarch owner of a super-yacht can’t take it out for a cruise, does he actually suffer? Does he keep the thick curtains drawn, wrap up in extra clothes and blankets, and eat cold ramen noodles for dinner? Does it push him to the point of “nothing left to lose” desperation? (I don’t think so.) I imagine that he just shrugs and says “It was fun while it lasted, and I’m still a big fish, even though the pond is smaller.”
@JMG – Njura #15 asked “Which long night of the soul?” I’m wondering if you mean our species’ “Long, dark night of the soul,” from The Twilight of Pluto?
For the rest of the commentariat, http://www.turleytalks.com/blog-summary/priests-kidnapped-and-civilians-massacres-in-democratic-ukraine
@Cloven Kingdom (#36):
Your observations seem quite astute to me about Russia, and especially also about the West. Here in the USA it does seem to me as though most people are taking Russia’s special military operation as an unthinkable challenge to their secular faith, and reacting quite hysterically. I can only hope that the more intelligent people in the US government don’t launch a nuclear holocaust; such things have been known to happen when there is a fundamental challenge to a country’s faith.
That said, I agree that Russia’s measure response to NATO expansion is sound policy. I do not think, however, that there can ever again be any sort of brotherly relations between Russia and Ukraine, despite the Russian view of their history that Putin has articulated so clearly. He has overlooked several key events in history that, to Ukrainians, feel like serious abuse within a family.
Your point about having other issues for the war is right on the mark. Gonzalo Lira, a Californian person of Mexican decent, who until recently was living in the Ukraine during the fighting. He had the misfortune of saying things unpopular to the Ukrainian secret police, he is currently missing. Here’s a sample video of his incredible mind:
One of his main points before he was taken is that there are numerous videos circulating in unofficial media of the Ukrainian army torturing and killing Russian prisoners of war. I could only stomach one viewing of them (not shown) taking handcuffed Russian prisoners out of a mini-van and then shooting these unarmed men, and then torturing the injured men while they withered in pain on the ground. Many of them young men in their late teens or early twenties. These videos are circulating far an wide in the Russian sphere and there are many Russians who want these people gone and who support the actions of Putin.
I personally think both sides are at fault and a quick ceasefire would be the best outcome for all; but you are right, there are many sides to each issue.
As a regular reader (with skepticism) of the Washington Post, I noticed today a full-page graphic explaining why urban warfare is so hard for invaders to cope with. Defenders can fire down into the streets from any number of apartment windows. Barricades can block side-streets, trapping infantry after the armor is hit. Small holes can be broken through ground-floor walls to fire from concealment. Etc. And then, in another article, they lament the Russian practice of leveling those urban areas with artillery, before the ground troops arrive. Do ya think there might be a connection? You wouldn’t find it in the Post.
CNN showed Ukrainian civilians executing military drills, training to valiantly defend their homeland. A few days later, CNN shows the atrocities of “civilians” killed in the fighting. Do ya think there might be a connection?
I have read your essays with interest over the years via Resilience.org. This one is excellent and resonated in profound ways with me. It is also timely in that it is Easter, a time to reflect on the nature of true hope and this essay truly reminds us in the power of imagination. It reminds us in compassion and its qualities of inclusiveness, inquiry, honesty and trust, openness, tolerance and generosity. It reminds us in true science, which is a state of being, not an ego-driven deductive process.
Perhaps it is valuable to contemplate the physics of Confucius in the context of your essay on imagination. Basically he said we are our language and it is the prime civic duty of a man (human being) to continually rectify (correct) our language.
To cut a long story short, my life evolved in accord with your template for sustaining imagination whereby the onset of diplopia caused me to identify key words in our contemporary dialect of the English language and evaluate their sustainability. It occurred to me to use the principles of physics, especially the Conservation of Energy Principle, as the base measure.
My essential discovery was we are our language and it simultaneously generates and reflects our state of being. The gift is to be able transcend this paradox and, to the extent we can, we are sustained in far greater imagination and wonderful insight into existence. This state of being is beyond the power of deduction.
Recently I wrote an introductory essay on Medium and gained 1 follower.
I submitted it to the editors of Resilience, who acknowledged receipt with much gratitude and I have heard nothing since. Today a Resilience article indirectly linked me to
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 69
“My words are easy to understand and easy to perform,
Yet no one under heaven knows them or practices them.
My words have ancient beginnings.
My actions are disciplined.
Because men do not understand, they have no knowledge of me.
Those that know me are few;
Those that abuse me are honoured.
Therefore the sage wears rough clothing and holds the jewel in his heart.”
This pretty much sums the response to my Medium offering on the need to care for our language. People say they cannot fault my research and then persist driving cars, flying jets, wasting, polluting and, in general, chasing their delusions of “renewable energy” and fossilized biomass being “energy”.
PS re cat image.
We once cared for our niece’s cat for several months and I asked a cat expert why does the cat chose to sit on my face at dawn so that I awoke to find it pummeling my face with its paws. She replied, “Oh no, its not pummeling your face. Its just kneading your head like it kneaded its mother’s udder to get it to excrete milk.” My head was the only one in the household that the cat “kneaded” and so it seems my face looks like a cat’s udder. Perhaps that is why no one takes the essay seriously?
Thank you for the article – astute as always.
I would like to share my Silicon Valley observations regarding the latest upheaval. I see it all around me. Day after day, Silicon Valley engineers working from home are putting in honest 8 hours of being a corporate drone, then they swallow their DoorDash dinner, and get glued to the computer screen again. This time, their attention is captured by Evil Evilovich Putin. They are completely transfixed. The complexity of the situation escapes them. Many of my friends have ordered iodine tablets and are considering buying a nuclear shelter that can be dug into the ground in the backyard. In their imagination they are dealing with a mad lunatic void of any rational or analytical thought. It’s fascinating to watch. Often in a polite company I get this unpleasant and very lonely feeling of being the only person in the room who is not under a spell.
The present animosity does not turn on whether present-day Ukraine is a modern construct, but rather which of the two states–if either of them–can be regarded the sole legitimate heir of Kievan Rus as it was before the Mongols fragmented it in the 1200s. As those territories coalesced into larger states after Mongol power began to decline, there were two competing Grand Dukes of Kiev and All Rus, and two competing Metropolitans of Kiev and All Rus. One Grand Duke and Metropolitan ended up in what is now Russia proper, the other in what is now Lithuania and the East Slavic lands subject to its rule: Moscow versus Vilnius. Neither state was wholly Slavic (let alone East Slavic) at the time; each included many non-Slavic subjects. Standard textbooks of Russian history for Russians play down the claims of the Grand Duchy in Vilnius to be the legitimate heir of Kievan Rus, and play up the claims of the Grand Duchy in Moscow. Treatment of that same history for Ukrainians tip the balance in the other direction. A true history, IMHO, would speak of two equally legitimate multi-ethnic successor states, with very different histories over the ensuing centuries.
Hi John Michael,
Your Kittenship will be most pleased with all this talk of cats! 🙂
Oh man, where to start. A pivotal moment for me came years ago when I was standing at a busy street corner and getting harassed by a chugger (charity mugger). He was trying to shake me down for mad cash for the very large environmental organisation he represented. As an amusing side story, he was probably an independent contractor arranged by a third party business, but that’s another story.
“Don’t you care about the Great Barrier Reef” – chugger
“Sure, I care. And here is what I’m doing about it (insert boring list of stuff I’m doing)” – Chris
“We care too and are collecting money for the reef” – chugger
Inwardly I’m thinking to myself that the reef probably has little use for, or any ready way to handle mad cash.
With a sweep of the hand and arm I take in the scene around us of the busy city street. “Mate, none of this stuff is sustainable.” – Chris
“I feel sorry for you.” – chugger
And then I walked off and did something else with my time.
In an interesting side note, I’d be almost certain that the busy city street is now less busy than in those days. Isn’t that an odd occurrence? 🙂
Far out John Michael, if that were the only incident, it would be an amusing anecdote, but alas. And here we are today. Crazy stuff huh?
The fertiliser supply issue is no small thing.
I have heard a number of explanations for Russia’s decision to invade, among them:
1. The “chessboard” theory–to resist NATO encroachment / build new Russian empire
2. Clash between Western vs. Orthodox civilization (which must include Ukraine)
3. To shore up Putin’s popularity
4. Pipelines, oil and gas reserves
5. Azov regiment / “de-Nazification”
6. Fear of democratic Ukraine as attractive rival model
7. To defend Russians abroad
And I am probably forgetting some. Of course, multiple answers are possible, and some of these could fairly be described as pretexts.
SDI (no 17) But some body parts evolve in the opposite direction!
@Lunar Apprentice re: #38
My thoughts on the possibilities, giving my imagination a workout 🙂 —
1. False-flag attack by the West makes very little sense. The entire point of a false flag is that people are supposed to know about it so that they can rally against whoever’s flag you’re falsifying.
2. “True-flag” attack actually by Russia. Possible and risks immediate escalation to WW3, but then why not headline the explosion? Unless you don’t want to go to actual war with Russia, at least not yet. Would match the unconfirmed reports of a missile being witnessed.
3. False-flag attack by a third party. Which third party? For what purpose? They risk war or police action (i.e. war) if identified.
4. Accident. Given the current geopolitical situation, would make sense to downplay as it creates/highlights a weekness on the West’s end and Russia/China can watch and read Western news.
5. Sabotage. The least likely possibility, but also the one that would probably provide the most incentive NOT to report on it.
6. Act of espionage from an as-yet unidentified party (i.e., either 1, 2, or 3 with ties into 5, but we don’t know which yet). Would make sense to withhold reporting until more information is obtained, but doesn’t fit with the ethos of “if it bleeds, it leads.”
The whole point of school is to kill imagination. TV “programming” was meant to take its place. Seems to have worked quite well.
I don’t know the Ukraine, I only know some people from there. That’s it.
So take this for what it’s worth which isn’t much. And I know that anecdotes are just that but sometimes they can illuminate.
A while back the American corporation I worked for had a contract in the Ukraine to provide services at a plant owned and run by another American company.
Now, when a company does business in a country, the company has to file a tax return there. And so a Ukrainian tax return was filed with the aid of one of the big four accounting firms with a local office. So far so good.
The problem is that the Ukrainian government lost the tax return. They apparently had no record of having received it.
What governments in civilized countries then do is to make a phone call or send a letter asking about the missing return.
But no, what the Ukrainians did was to send out a van-load of cops with submachine guns to the plant in question looking to arrest our employees.
As it happened on that particular day none of our employees were on site at the plant and so nobody was dragged off. But the plant manager sent word up the line that our company seems to have neglected to file a local tax return and that the police raid scared the daylights out of his workers. And it hit the fan at our head office when they heard what happened. We in Toronto found out about the affair and had a laugh.
In the end a copy of the return was produced with proof of delivery and so peace was restored. Like I said, it’s just a story, but maybe it sheds a bit of light on that place over yonder.
If, on the basis of that account, we think that the Ukraine is inordinately nasty, let’s just remember that there’s a southern European country, a member of NATO and the EU, famed for its howling corruption and financial mismanagement, where tax evasion is a national sport. In that place when tax auditors descend on a business, they arrive with no advance notice, accompanied by armed cops who seal off the place as if it’s a crime scene, which it likely is. I heard this from a fellow employee who lives there and who knows all about these things.
So different from this genteel place where the local tax regime sends polite letters asking when it would be convenient to drop in.
But here the police shudder at the thought of investigating white-collar crime. Several years ago there was news of a 60 million dollar mortgage scam. The fraud wasn’t all that surprising, but what caused a furor was that the cops declined to investigate because of a lack of resources. Imagine that.
When the Ukraine story made the rounds at the office and at HQ it caused a lot of amazement and consternation. And hilarity, I think mostly because we weren’t the ones facing machine-gun toting cops with no sense of humour.
I guess the point of these stories is that we, in this allegedly cosmopolitan PMC, have this misbegotten notion about being ‘anywhere’ people. We think we know all about the world. We can’t imagine that we don’t. We think that, aside from some quaint customs and maybe the odd superstition, foreign people are much like us. Or want to be.
I would submit that we, the anointed, know beans. We have the university connections, we travel, we read the eastern and east coast magazines and newspapers, and yet we remain ignoramuses. But we can’t imagine the depth of our ignorance.
So, pass judgment on what’s happening in the Ukraine? Maybe we should take a pass. Maybe sit this one out. Russians and Ukrainians and who ever else lives in those environs are moral actors in their own right. They have a full set of intellectual faculties. Let them sort it out.
@Oilman2 #12 it looked more like an LPG fire than a battery fire to me, and a bit of a search brought up a few articles indicating that it was indeed a CNG/LPG fire: https://www.carscoops.com/2022/04/cng-powered-bus-catches-fire-looks-like-a-scene-from-a-hollywood-movie/ Some video of the aftermath with the gas cylinders visible on the roof of the bus: https://www.rainews.it/tgr/umbria/video/2022/04/bus-in-fiamme-le-immagini-dei-vigili-del-fuoco-dc654adf-049b-4f15-8153-cef19d25eb99.html
This post has me thinking about how the informational environment we inhabit influences our capacity for imagination. Does user-driven consumption of mass digital media make it more difficult for people to develop habits and create spaces that foster creative thinking. Could people engage in habits or create spaces/groups that make it easier? Might the cloistered spaces of modern cults be a space to watch for the emergence of new outlooks during the unfolding age of chaos?
JMG, a master of suspense!
I’m sure I’m not alone. I love the comments, but I don’t want to read them until I can open up a second window and read your reply.
That’s okay. It will make good reading tomorrow.
I’m aware that there are a lot of problems with the conventional western narrative on Ukraine. It leaves so much about the background and the causes of the war out, and glosses over some stuff happening in the war. It was like that since 2014 to some extent, but it has of course gone into giant overdrive in the past couple of months. I mostly tend to just say nothing, because people just don’t want to hear what I think. So I talk about gardening or music or almost anything else.
The people going ‘oh poor Ukraine, evil Russia’ don’t seem to ask questions like:
-who are the sanctions hurting, and how much pain to our own populations is reasonable to help Ukraine
-does prolonging a war by providing weapons and money but not enough help to win it actually help Ukraine’s population or simply cause more people to die?
-what happens if Russia loses its temper at the West and goes for open war with NATO?
-can NATO win a hot war with Russia? What happens if NATO loses?
-Can the west actually win an economic war with Russia if China, India etc. aren’t playing, or play for Russia rather than the west?
-if the price of the economic war gets too high, does NATO have an exit strategy, and what is it?
-are we going to have a major economic crash ala 2008 this fall as a result of the war?
-is this war going to cause food riots through much of the developing world that dwarf the arab spring?
-is this an acceptable byproduct of the war, or should we be making food production a priority and trying to get agreements with Russia to protect it?
-do the russian sanctions on agricultural and fertilizer exports constitute using food as a weapon?
-if so, who are they aiming at?
-is famine in countries not a party to the war (like Yemen) acceptable collateral damage?
-should we be trying to do something about this?
-just how much inflation can european populations stand before you get inflation riots and revolution there too?
-or in the USA?
-is increasing the allowable proportion of ethanol in gasoline over the summer, thus helping raise the price of corn, a good idea in a time of extreme food price inflation and growing global food insecurity?
-okay, who in the US government has major money or personal reputation tied up with Ukraine going into the war?
Is supporting Ukraine really worth these kinds of risks?
Hello Mr. Greer,
Speaking of morphology, I wanted to put this on your radar screen (as well as the various readers). I recently starting listening to the fall of civilizations podcast, which as the name implies gives a 2 to 3 hour lecture describing the rise and fall of a great people. Its a much more accessible way to the kind of thinking one would find in Toynbee’s 12 volume work. I highly recommend people check it out.
More to the point, I was listening to the lecture on the rise and fall of Byzantium earlier today. The narrator dedicated a large chunk of time describing just how traumatic the fall of Rome was for the people of Byzantium. It shattered their feelings of invisibility and encouraged them to behave in much more conservative ways, for instance they started building a tremendous amount of fortifications which shortly after their completion saved their people. Stated otherwise, a challenging situation forced them to reimagine their world in a much more realistic and gritty way.
That got me thinking about what is happening right now. So many people all over the world are becoming disillusioned with the status quo. As you have noted before huge numbers of people here in the states have been turning to homeschooling, alternative media, and alternative health care over the last couple years, and from what I have been reading similar sentiments exist elsewhere. In other words, a lot of people are reimagining their lives in increasingly helpful and constructive ways. With that said, do you think industrial civilization could have a fall of Rome style wake up call while the internet is still widely available? By that I mean a crisis large enough to shatter our old ideas but not so heavy handed it crushes us in the process. If so, could huge numbers of people pull a Byzantium and fortify their lives? Or are we largely past the collapse now and avoid the rush stage?
Btidwell, exactly. Most of the world has not joined the EU and the United States in its boycott of Russia — quite the contrary, most countries are still importing Russian oil, gas, wheat, and other products, and Russia’s balance of trade globally remains favorable. If anything, it’s the West that risks running serious economic trouble from the boycotts.
Migrant Worker, a good example.
Douglas, we were a superpower. We’re not one any more. It’s just that the memo hasn’t gotten to DC yet.
Drhooves, well. there’s that!
Chris, I haven’t discussed the Covid vaccines here, as the people who decided that blind faith in the pharmaceutical industry was a wonderful idea by and large still haven’t yet gotten to the point that they can grapple with the downsides of that decision. I’ve discussed my take over on my Dreamwidth journal, where I’ve been hosting weekly open discussion posts for covax-skeptical but non-conspirary-minded readers.
NomadicBeer, that does not surprise me at all. Dmitry Orlov’s comments a decade and a half ago about how the US could go down the same way the Soviet Union did are looking more and more prescient just now…
Raymond, thanks for this. I have no personal experience of warfare — in this incarnation, at least — but everything I’ve read on the subject agrees with your maxims.
NomadicBeer, this is a classic example of the barbarism of reflection — the state Vico talks about in which reason is divorced from reality and the mind spins empty webs in the void.
Johnny, the ability to say “I don’t know” is one of the most important mental skills there is, and very few people recognize its power or make the least use of it. That’s especially true in a case like the present one, where the one thing we can safely assume is that all sides are lying like dogs.
Viduraawakened, of course mathematical models are useful — and they’re especially useful when you’ve got more than one, and can recognize that the reality doesn’t fit any of them exactly. Thanks for the heads up on the Danielou book — that’s a subject I’m beginning to study seriously just now, so your timing is good.
Denis, that’s a sign of sheer panic on the part of the official narrative-mongerers. The only reason they’re having to pursue such drastic steps is that people are beginning to dissent en masse from the official narrative — and censorship won’t stop that, any more than it did so in the Eastern Bloc just before the Iron Curtain fell.
Aurelien, an excellent point!
David BTL, thanks for this. That’s just sad.
Kimberly, probably both, though I think it was a fashionable collar shape in his time.
Alice, thanks for the data point!
Cloven, thanks for the data point about the Russian economy; since smuggling is a major commercial sector these days and Russia can import freely from most of the world, my guess is that the components may find their way to those factories in Moscow one way or another! As for war and the emotional factor of the West, that’s a very good point. Pandemics aren’t supposed to happen any more, either — in the US, certainly, they’re among the Bad Things About The Past that true believers in progress like to brandish around. So faith in progress is taking quite a beating.
Pesci, funny. Thanks for this.
Lunar, the British media is currently claiming that it wasn’t the RAF base, but a barn used for fireworks storage nearby. I admit that latter story sounds a little improbable to me…
Michael, just one of the services I offer!
Ecosophian, I ain’t arguing.
Susan C., no argument there, either.
Oilman2, congratulations on your retirement. 😉 For every old frontier that closes, a new frontier opens up, and the archetypes are always present…
Brenainn, would it help if an archdruid offered you absolution?
DanR, I see no reason why Russia should concern itself with what Europe and the US thinks. The Ukraine invasion shows pretty clearly that they have stopped caring, and are throwing in their lot with the rising powers of Asia. Expect a hard border with Europe in the near future, and an end to energy exports to Europe as soon as they’ve completed the new pipelines to points east.
Nachtgurke, I know. It’s one of the more difficult stages in our journey, and yes, that anger and bitterness is the next challenge to overcome.
Pyrrhus, it takes a lot of effort for people who are relatively kindly in their personal lives to turn a blind eye toward the horrors abroad that prop up their lifestyle. The blindness to geography is an effect of that, not a cause. People hide from the awareness of what’s being done to keep the 5% of the world’s population that lives in the United States supplied with around a quarter of its energy resources and manufactured products. They’ll keep doing that, too, because the alternative is to face what has been done in their name.
Jessi, I just checked with both the search engines I use, Brave and Presearch, and had no trouble finding reports on deaths caused by the Covid vaccines, Ukrainian atrocities against ethnic Russians, proven cases of vote fraud in the United States, and arguments that climate change is a myth. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Google has gone full KGB in its censorship, but the video you cite is exaggerating if it claims the whole internet has been scrubbed of alternative views. By the way, I also had zero trouble finding links to this blog!
Darkbarzun, most of them are not yet out of copyright, and since I depend on my copyrights to pay my bills, I’m not too comfortable with encouraging people to steal other people’s work. All those books can still be purchased on the used book market, and most of them are very cheap.
Bird, a) Frank Herbert was a very smart man, and b) I read Dune for the first time when I was eleven years old. As for Caladan, er, I’m not a great fan of pundi rice.
Lathechuck, I’m pretty sure it’s never occurred to the rulers of the EU that it matters that ordinary Europeans will freeze in the dark. They’re thinking about how anguished they would feel if someone cut their net worth in half, and thing, “That’ll show those Russian oligarchs who’s boss!”
Patricia M, that’s certainly one way to read it… 😉
Workdove, yes, I’ve heard about those. Not a good move.
Lathechuck, well, what do you expect from Pravda on the Potomac?
Dave, it took me six months of weekly blog posts before I got even a few regular commenters, and several years of the same week in, week out labor before my ideas began to find any sort of significant audience. I’ve been at it now for almost sixteen years and I’m still way out on the fringes. One essay is not going to get you a hearing; you have to keep at it, build an audience, and keep building it if you want to have an impact on the collective mind. Drop by drop, the water wears away the stone: let that be your motto.
Kirsten, I’m not in the least surprised. Privileged corporate flacks working at a very high level of abstraction are prone to such delusions.
Chris, the fertilizer supply issue is a huge thing. Global shortages of grain are another huge thing, and we can go on down the list of huge things. The world is changing very rapidly, and the only thing that isn’t changing is the sort of attitude expressed by the chugger. (I love that word!)
Bei, good. That’s a good start, and of course some are pretexts — but which ones?
Dennis, yep. Chucking your television is the first step toward a free mind.
Roger, that sounds about right, based on what I’ve heard.
Zeroinput, those are all excellent questions for reflection — preferably in solitude, with no electronic media turned on at the time. 😉
Slink, they’re excellent comments. I hope you like the replies.
Pygmycory, that’s probably the wisest move for a lot of people. As for your questions, excellent — you’re paying attention, I see.
Stephen, Byzantium is a great example of the way that collapse unfolds in a stairstep fashion. When Rome fell, the eastern half of the Empire responded in ways that stabilized things for a while; further contractions happened, but each of them was followed by a respite and some degree of recovery. We can certainly hope for that. It’s quite possible that some regions of the industrial world could respond to the crisis of our age by retrenching, accepting a sharply lower level of energy use per capita, and stabilizing things at that level for a period of time. I doubt it’ll work for the majority, and it may only be possible in certain relatively secure areas, but it’s not impossible per se.
I noticed above that somebody compared the US to late Habsburg Spain under the bewitched king Charles II. When pondering the Russo-Ukrainian conflict I am also reminded of the demise of the Spanish empire, but rather with Russia in the role of Spain.
In the 1550s, the Habsburgs controlled most of Europe – Germany, Spain, the low countries (BeNeLux), most of Italy, England (Philip II was king of England until his wife, “Bloody” Mary Tudor, died and was replaced by her much bloodier half-sister), and after the victory at St Quentin they could easily have captured Paris. Then followed 150 years of military defeats – the 80/30-years wars and the war of Spanish succession – and in the 1700s Spain was an economic dwarf with little influence on European soil. However, it remained a major colonial power, and only after a second round of devasting defeats – the Spanish fleet was destroyed at Trafalgar and then Spain itself was occupied by Napoleon – it lost its colonies in South America.
Russia today is in a similar situation as Spain was in the 1700s. After the cold war it lost its European possessions and was reduced to an economic dwarf (that started before, of course), but it still has huge colonies in Siberia and Caucasia. If it now suffers a complete defeat against the Ukrainian military equipped with western weapons, which seems to be in the cards, those colonies may well liberate themselves. Putin and Lavrov will of course throw their usual tantrums, perhaps involving nukes, but in the end they have little to put behind their words. Today nobody cares about what the Spaniards thought about losing their empire.
One must remember that Russia is not the USSR with 280M people. Population-wise it is a large but not huge country with a GDP that is smaller than Italy and dismal demographics. It has some 145M people today, but since less than a third is under the age of 30, the population is set to decrease rapidly in coming decades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Russia
Thank you for your reply. I just wanted to say – I bungled up the name of Danielou’s book, the correct name is Introduction To The Study Of Musical Scales. You can download a PDF copy from archive.org.
Jessi Thompson@48: Have you considered the yandex.com search engine? It is (or at least was) Russian. It seems better than the baddies you mentioned.
An excellent source of information you might find helpful is Low Tech Magazine.
Darkbarzin @50: You may wish to consider finding old textbooks on vacuum tube technology, theory and circuits. They are quite easy to find on, say, alibris.com (note nearly anything published by Wiley is good). My personal library is packed away for the moment (personal situation is a mess), otherwise I’d give you some titles, though I do recall several: a textbook that covers DIY vacuum tubes, “Instruments of Amplification: Fun with Homemade Tubes, Transistors, and More”. If you have adequate math and physics background, “Electron Ballistics” is a must read, if you can find it (Good luck, and no, you can’t have my copy).
Vacuum tubes may be fabricated using technology that can be ginned up in a home lab; not trivial, but doable for the determined and able. I recall my 1981 ham radio handbook recounting how, in the 1930’s, a 12-year-old boy who could not afford to purchase vacuum tubes fabricated his own from scrap materials, and set up a working ham radio.
Here are some videos on DIY vacuum tube fabrication; the first 2 from a guy who has a very well equipped home lab; I think much of his equipment is home made:
A search on “DIY vacuum tubes”, on Yandex.com at least, yields some interesting results.
Oh dear; I’ve seriously nerded out just now. Sorry. I’m going to bed.
Alice #35, my Grandma’s side of the family were barge owners and coal merchants. I’ve got a book of canal photos that show barges delivering gravel and petrol to Leeds in the early 1980s. It’s good to see it come back.
Some options for lighter containers may be swap bodies https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swap_body and the MI-BOX https://getmibox.com/ (that link was working a day or two ago, maybe it’ll be back soon). Electrifying canals is also an option: https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/12/trolley-canal-boats.html.
I’ve been thinking about the best ways to integrate public transport with freight. Whether to mix passengers and goods on the same vehicles, on the same lines, or keep them separate. The idea of a freight metro is appealing and has precedent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Tunnel_Company and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Post_Office_Railway.
When it comes to Leeds, as well as getting heavy rail, bus, pedestrian and cycleways optimised, I have to admit a weakness for passenger and freight cable cars: https://www.doppelmayr.com/applications/urban/ and https://www.doppelmayr.com/applications/material/. Of course if you want to spend the real big money, automated metro is the maximal solution. 🙂
Why does the future begin at 5 AM?
As a person who wakes up by 4:30 AM each morning, it works. But most people sleep way past 5 AM everyday…..
Ahem. I encourage you to do an – experiment. Get an automatic cat feeder, set it for the usual morning time the cat expects food. Odds are very good you will find a well-fed cat with the morning paw and the morning nose and the morning tongue all working diligently to wake up teh hooman.
I theorize that it’s not really about the food. Cats just LOVE MORNINGS and they want you to LOVE MORNINGS TOO.
>So, pass judgment on what’s happening in the Ukraine? Maybe we should take a pass. Maybe sit this one out.
Something that doesn’t seem to have occurred to most normies – that a story may not have any heroes in it at all, only villains. Perhaps this, is that kind of story. Nope, that isn’t a good guy, nope that isn’t a good guy either, only bad guys running around.
Nothing is more dangerous – or shrill – than someone who thinks they’re a GOOD PERSON slowly coming to realize that they are bad bad BAD. You know, that could explain quite a bit about the mental breakdown of Murican society over the past decade and this one.
Funny how you never see someone who thinks they’re a bad person get shrill over the idea that they might actually be good, though.
re: Moar ethanol in the gasoline
It’s a false economy. Ethanol doesn’t have the same energy density, so your fuel economy goes down and you need to visit the fuel pump more often which negates or even pessimizes the price savings you were getting. The people doing this essentially think you’re stupid enough not to notice what they’re doing, they have zero respect for you.
Plus nobody wants to talk about when you put too much ethanol through a fuel system that isn’t meant to handle it, how it corrodes and degrades it, causing failures and expensive repairs later on. I encourage you to watch a video of a mechanic replacing a broken fuel pump on a modern car sometime and see all the time it takes and all the steps involved. And he bills by the hour.
But if your car can handle E85, oh man, the engine runs quieter and it makes noticeably more power. But it’ll cost you.
The one thing for which I currently have difficulty using my imagination is to imagine how a reasonalbly large part of the population of Western countries will come to terms with the profound failure of the West to deal with the coronavirus pandemic or with the geopolitical implications of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Currently, nearly everyone believes the official narrative; neither countervailing information nor personal experiences are able to convince them that the Western mass media are simply lying. I really cannot imagine how a mere energy crisis can convince them that something has gone terribly wrong; after all, in the history of the 20th century there have been people who, being sent to the Gulag, still believed in Stalin, or, who suffered from hunger and energy and electricity shortages, still believed in Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il.
Of course attitudes have changed in the course of time, but it is not easy to see in which way that could play out this time around. There are not even really convincing populists i the current West anymore; it looks like as if internal change has ceased to be possible because every imaginable avenue to political and societal change in the West is blocked by the missing of necessary circumstances for successful change of any kind, except change for the worse. Maybe the necessary conditions are there, but currently invisible, but I haven’t encountered them yet in my day-to-day life. People may criticize this or that government policy, but they are never actually doing anything effective about it.
>Out of curiosity how likely is it that if Russia wins in Ukraine that it proceeds to attack and invade the next country like Finland, Poland, Moldova or Romania?
Not likely. They seem to be smart enough to realize that invading a place where you aren’t welcome is a recipe for bleeding out. Also see: Vietnam. Or, if you do invade a place where you aren’t welcome, declare victory quickly and then leave just as quick. Also see: China in Vietnam.
But they could be dumb as Muricans were back in the 60s. Also see: Murica in Vietnam
My guess is they probably will eventually pull back to the ethnic Russian parts of the Ukraine and that’s where some treaty or armistice will formalize the new boundaries of a smaller Ukraine that’s 99% Russian-free.
Another excellent essay. So much food for thought! Thank you.
JMG, re your remarks on British exploitation of Ireland and India: you’re one hundred per cent spot on with regard to Ireland, but in line with your inductive approach I reckon one ought to take on board a fact which doesn’t fit smoothly with criticisms of the Raj, and that is, that bad though it was, in 1947-8 the Indians did a good job of proving that there was something even worse, namely: not having the Raj. Of course one can turn that round and say the massacres at Partition were the fault of the empire that was being partitioned, in the sense that the end of something is bound to be in some sense the fault of it having existed in the first place, but the fact remains that the half million dead died as an immediate consequence of independence.
JMG – Given my religious background, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt. : ) But I suppose that I can at least understand those who blindly follow the PMC’s narrative, having been there myself. Then, I see stuff like this: https://archive.ph/MMLmN. Just what does this majority imagine should be done so that we can get tougher on Russia?
But as I think about myself, I realize that during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, I was adamantly opposed to US intervention. I had seen enough scifi to imagine the horrors of nuclear war, if we decided to play Team America – World Police with the Russians. Maybe that was the first crack in the official narrative for me? I don’t know.
More on the topic of your piece here, I think I’m going to spend a lot of time reading Goethe’s essay, pondering it, and trying to sharpen my ability to critically imagine the world and the questions it poses. The current war gives me a chance to practice the methodology described here. Hopefully, I’m not a rube anymore, and can avoid being misled.
Justin #3 –
Oliver Stone produced an investigatory documentary a few years ago titled ‘Ukraine on Fire’ which elucidates much of the history of the conflict and the USA’s mischievous connections. Stone even interviews Putin directly in the film. I’d recommend it!
Hi JMG. As is my custom, I look up works you mention in the blogs. I am reading “Experiment as Mediator…..” Goethe wrote:
“True botanists should not be touched by the beauty or the utility of a plant. They should investigate the plant’s formation and its relation to the remaining plant kingdom. Just as the sun coaxes forth and shines on all plants, botanists should consider all plants with an even and quiet gaze and take the measure for knowledge — the data that form the basis for judgment — not out of themselves but out of the circle of what they observe.”
Sounds like a very early ecologist to me.
What are some of the ways the ability to say “I don’t know” are helpful in your view?
I think holding it helps a lot when I am talking to people. Since usually they seem to “know”, I let them inform me, and can ask questions along those lines. Also, since I collect information across different lines I am usually somewhat familiar with their arguments and can offer things that support their viewpoint, which greatly enhances the conversation.
Also I find that admitting I am genuinely ignorant of some concept allows me to ask somebody directly what it means (or some times what they mean) and honestly just learn from them. It also helps me to loose the “who’s smarter” contest that can run in the background
of interactions and cause problems.
Darkest Yorkshire #2.
The headline of one of the articles you referenced really gave me a chuckle. Of course, considering the source (The City Fix) it’s understandable.
The headline: 80% Of Goods Start And End In Cities.
0% of the trees harvested to make the corrugated paper packaging comes from cities.
0% of the crude oil that is the feedstock for all the plastic parts comes from cities.
0% of the mined minerals (iron, aluminum, sand, rare earth metals, etc.) comes from cities.
In reality, 0% of goods start in cities.
The only things that are sourced in cities are intellectual property and financial “products”, which may have some value, but without a physical manifestation, they are not “goods”.
JMG, great post. We all need to examine all aspects of every story.
@JMG, in your opinion, what would it take for Americans to give up their car-based lifestyle? (This is of course aside from the professions that need them: farmers, plumbers, etc.) Also low-density living.
I alternate between wanting to do something, because the environmental cost of designing one’s society in this way is so high, to thinking “good riddance” and leaving it, especially when I bring it up in conversation with someone and they get defensive. I wish I could poke the fast swaths of asphalt with a stick and urge them to crumble faster.
I read through the linked article from Goethe, and thought maybe I could go through each of the cities in the US in detail, outlining how they might return to their pre-car roots. That would take a lot of work, and I fear it would only be read by people who already agree with the premise.
Roger @ 65 You typed “But here the police shudder at the thought of investigating white-collar crime. Several years ago there was news of a 60 million dollar mortgage scam. The fraud wasn’t all that surprising, but what caused a furor was that the cops declined to investigate because of a lack of resources.”
That, of course, was the whole point of the meme ‘Defund the Police’ and why the private funders of BLM and the like were allowing (or insisting that) their beneficiaries push the idea. Reducing violence in inner city areas was never the point; it was and is all about enabling fraud and letting local guys in on the scams.
Bei Dawei #62: Good, yes! “Soft” Venus and “hard” Mars don’t have the associations they do for no reason!
An aside: one of my two cats had foul breath, lip swelling, and gum inflammation so I looked up herbal remedies for him on the internet. I was saddened but not surprised to see allopathic veterinarians recommending pre-emptive removal of his teeth, which is just about the dumbest and most barbaric thing I’ve read this year and we’re only in April. At any rate, I was able to find an herbal remedy with calendula (a relative of the marigold) and marshmallow. I’ve had him on it for two weeks. I put it in a bowl and squish some liquid cat treat in the center of it 2-3x a day so it ends up coating his mouth (it is oily). He loves it. His inflammation has decreased dramatically, his breath is much better, and he’s got more energy. I plan on growing calendula this year so I can start making a DIY home version — it is my belief that a homemade, handcrafted version will be even more potent in its magical healing effects.
After reading this it occurred to me that failing empires are very similar to failing business’s in the way they lack imagination. I have a machine shop that went through two big economic downturns ( dot com bust, 2008 bust) which us and most of our suppliers and customers back on our heels. The ones that survived or failed shared common characteristics. The ones that survived were able to cut back nonessential expenses with a vengeance, view their capabilities realistically, and get revenue in ways they thought were beneath them up until that point. The ones that failed usually tried to maintain their self image and sense of importance at the expense of productive work or cost control. It was not uncommon to visit a soon-to-fail company and find the headquarters office and management staff fully intact while the workforce had been gutted to a skeleton crew with layoffs. Commonly the ones that survived moved back the founders garage, with the owner taking over sales and accounting duties while all the key shop employees stayed employed. The survivors were always quick to cast off illusions of prestige and image in the face of reality while the losers tried to hold on to their image of success and importance no-matter want. I think the parallels to todays geopolitics are obvious.
@Oilman2 I participate in a couple of groups on the inter webs with a cover charge to gain entrance. I’d say your prediction is sort of here (unevenly distributed as its been referred to here before) and there’s been a quiet exodus from the regular social media sites to these places where there is much more freedom of expression.
Word on Silicon Valley Twitter is they are expecting a wave of tech start-up closures over the next 6-10 months as funding is drying up to keep these unprofitable beasts moving. We’ll have to think about what to do with all these unemployed tech bros.
@Jessie Thompson I concur with this insight 100% “I suspect one source of the current failure of the imagination is that finding a nuanced understanding of just about anything these days immediately lowers your social status.”
Last fall I joined a writer’s group where one of the women (from one of the upper crust areas of CA) was writing a book titled something like “What you can do about climate change from A-Z.” So I did the thing where I forget I’m talking to a very privileged person and just rattle on about how the IPCC said back in 2007 we all need to use 10% of the energy we use now to get carbon emissions down, and a group of us all worked to downgrade our lifestyles to see how close we could get to the 10%. I’d be glad to share some of what we did, but it did involve a lot of not driving and traveling, and not buying anything, not sure how useful it be!
She fell silent. And she never contacted me. Next thing I know a month later her book is now “How to integrate martial arts in your life from A-Z.” Ba-ha-ha-ha. I just saved the world from one more book from the managerial classes chattering about climate change and doing nothing about it. To her credit though, she must have seriously looked and realized yes, the only way to address the impact on the climate is to buy less, go less places, and live a lower status lifestyle. She knew she couldn’t tell people that though.
@Robert Mathiesen (#59)
This is very interesting. The Russians do consider themselves true heirs of Kievan Rus, and so, I imagine, do the Ukrainians. However, this is not the reason for the hostility between the Ukrainians and the Russians. At least not the one that I heard from the Ukrainians.
They see themselves as a people much maligned by Russian and Soviet rule. Specifically, they cite Holodomor, a famine in 1932-1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians, which they claim was a deliberate policy of genocide. The argument against that claim is that at that same time, there was a famine in other grain-producing regions of the Soviet Union, including the Northern Caucasus, Volga Region, Kazakhstan, the South Urals, and West Siberia. Still, Ukraine was hit hardest of them all.
The Ukrainians don’t have to go back to the 1200s to find reasons to hate Russia and everything related. Much like, I imagine, the Irish don’t have to go back hundreds of years to find reasons to hate the British.
Thomas, we’ll see. The fact remains that the US is in far worse shape just now than its leaders seem to realize.
Viduraawakened, thank you! It’s downloading as I type this.
Denis, ahem. It’s a metaphor… 😉
Owen, funny. I suspect the future is that way too!
Booklover, it’s quite simple. Most people in the Western world are still very prosperous by global standards, their prosperity depends on the maintenance of the status quo — and they know this. Only when the prosperity begins to fail for the comfortable classes will they be willing to reconsider. For now? Next to nobody wants to rock the boat.
Blue Sun, you’re welcome.
Robert, my Indian readers may disagree with you about that. A lot of people died in the Irish civil war also; England is very good at leaving a hot mess behind when it walks away from a former colony.
Brenainn, may the gods grant you their pardon and peace. (The archdruid makes the Awen symbol /|\ in your direction.) I declare you absolved from your sins.
Reading and studying Goethe’s essay strikes me as a very good idea!
Mac, good. Ecology as a science came out of the German Naturphilosophie movement, which was profoundly influenced by Goethe.
Johnny, a list would take up a lot of space! My response instead is to say, “give it a try and see what results you get.”
CS2, it would take crippling gas prices and a disastrous economic and political convulsion or two. Cars are so deeply interwoven with American culture that I don’t expect car culture to go away until it becomes completely unaffordable.
Kimberly, thanks for this.
Clay, that makes immense amounts of sense!
Johnny @ 90 There are a number of social situations in which some variant of ‘IDK’ is a good tactic. Some include: deflecting gossip mongers –So sorry, I can’t help you with that, news to me, I have a hard time believing that etc. Another is the soft answer which turneth away wrath–I simply don’t know what you are talking about, very effective against those who expect you to Take A Stand about their favorite obsessions. Or, well I really haven’t looked into (the latest war, primary election, ballot initiative) but I will certainly take your observations into consideration.
This is one area in which it is actually a good idea to use polite formulae, never mind seeming snobbish, because if you reply with courtesy the other person gets to look like a bully.
I think that in this Ukraine conflict the Western Media ( and its government handlers) have gotten way to far out on a limb. It is one thing to push a narrative describing the motivations or goodness of your opponents ( crazy jihadis, hate us for our freedom, they are evil etc.), but is entirely another to go whole hog on the ” Ukraine is winning” train. Anyone reads slightly beyond Pravda on the Potomac knows that the military balance in the Ukraine is not even close. The Ukrainian airforce, Navy and Command structure were wiped out in the first hour of the conflict. Russian has complete air and navel superiority and no amount of hand carried wonder weapons smuggled in from Nato will change this. Most of Ukraines regular forces are bottled up in Cauldrons awaiting surrender or destruction and most of the weapons and mercenaries that are sent in by Nato are blown up by standoff weapons as soon as they cross the border. At some point reality will become obvious to all and the media will face a Waterloo that will be hard to hide. Is the western audience so stupefied that they can be tricked with an Orwellian ” losing is winning” narrative or will this be a real Suez moment for the media industrial complex. I think that is the question.
You’re quite right to mention the Holodomor in this connection. And there were other, earlier ongoing forms of Russian anti-Ukrainianism as well. On the Daily Kos the contributor who styles themself EleventyOne has been putting up a series of posts on the subject under the title “The Racism That Underpins the War: A Brief History of Malorossicism” So far there have been four posts, and he’s only reached the early 1700s. See https://www.dailykos.com/blogs/EleventyOne
Great essay, John. I’ve been contemplating it since yesterday afternoon, and came across these Blake quotes in my other readings today.
“If Perceptive organs vary, Objects of Perception
seem to vary:
If the Perceptive Organs close, their Objects seem to
close also. ”
“The Spectre is the Reasoning Power in Man, & when separated
From Imagination and closing itself as in steel in a Ratio
Of the Things of Memory, It thence frames Laws & Moralities
To destroy Imagination, the Divine Body, by Martyrdoms & Wars”
–William Blake, Jerusalem
Juxtapose well with Goethe:
“The human beings knows himself only insofar as he knows the world; he perceives the
world only in himself, and himself only in the world. Every new object, clearly seen,
opens up a new organ of perception in us.”
‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.’-Blake
“Imagination is that ratio among the perceptions and faculties which exists when they are not embedded or outered in material technologies. When so outered, each sense and faculty becomes a closed system. Prior to such outering there is entire interplay among experiences. This interplay or synesthesia is a kind of tactility such as Blake sought in the bounding line of sculptural form and in engraving. When the perverse ingenuity of man has outered some part of his being in material technology, his entire sense ratio is altered. He is then compelled to behold this fragment of himself “closing itself as in steel.” In beholding this new thing, man is compelled to become it. Such was the origin of lineal, fragmented analysis with its remorseless power of homogenization.”– Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy
The proportions and ratios of imagination to machine have become maligned instead of aligned. It is like the reverse of the Cube emblem in the Sacred Geometry Oracle where we are told “when reversed, it warns you that you’ve gotten stuck in a rut and you need to get out of it or nothing will change.”
I’m sure there are other things at work as well, that have mired the imagination. What we need to do is cleanse our perception and start growing the new organs.
Failure of Imagination: Florida report.
Governor DeSantis, who used to have some interesting ideas, has turned into a clone of every other GOP governor who’s focused exclusively on the values issues. He’s put up the same laws as they are, *word for word*, and dropped everything other hot-button issue Florida voters are burning up the op-ed columns with. Infrastructure. Water issues. Development vs agriculture vs NIMBY. Economics in general.
Predictably, considering his presidential ambitions, but if we wanted to live in Texas, Georgia, or Mississippi, we’d move there.
What may not be included: DeSantis is revoking the decades-old special privilege of self-government for the House of Mouse lands. Predictably, The Gainesville Sun, which fancies itself (and largely is) a blue voice in a red state, is screaming that he’s holding up Disney as punishment for his culture warring or incentive to see things DeSantis’ way. (And who has the most power in Florida? Getcha tickets here, folks, popcorn only $5 a bag….)
I’m wondering if there’s more to his move than that, since he’s also been declaring war on local self-governments and any decisions that conflict with his for a lot longer than his attack of White House Fever. I do wonder what those special privileges are costing the rest of the state.
On a more cheerful note, the average price of gas is $4.01/gallon at the pump. Our governor is looking at reducing the gas tax to give his constituents some relief from those prices. So how will he pay for fixing the roads? (Or the toll roads to nowhere?) Raid all the special-project mill levy funds, just like always.
P.S. One of the commentariat asked “Why 5am?” I was wondering about 3:30am, when all the bogeymen come out and dance in the sleep-fogged brain. Or maybe 4am. Anyway, “the bowl of night.”
Goethe’s discoveries have always been favourites of mine. When I was younger, I was awed to learn that the giant wing bone of a pterodactyl was derived from the same bone that formed my pinky finger, or that a whale’s flipper and my hand had the same basic structure. On the other hand, I was also more than a little disgusted to learn that mammary glands were mutated sweat glands… Honestly, while reading this post, I suddenly thought of your earlier blog about the European Union which mentioned that it grew from a trade agreement between France and Germany. It makes sense in retrospect, considering that both mention the subject of gigantic, lumbering things evolving out of earlier smaller things.
Forgive my loose connection to the topic, but here’s a follow-up to my earlier comment about the reported explosion at an ammunition depot at the UK’s Welford air base (officially fireworks-in-a-barn explosion):
This morning, I saw this story:
“Massive fire breaks out at Research Institute of Russian Aerospace Forces”-
then a few hours later, there is this story:
“Russia’s Largest Chemical Plant Engulfed In Flames Hours After Mystery Fire At Military Research Facility”-
I wonder if that plant is involved with producing ammunition and rocket propellant…
The geopolitical context seems suspicious, so I wonder about covert, escalating tit-fot-tat strikes taking place. And of course there is Delaware’s Sen. Coones (Democrat stalwart and Biden ally) saying the US needs to have boots on the ground in Ukraine.
All this news is a perfect storm for the anxiety-prone. How does that saying go?… Belief in coincidences is the superstition of rationalists…
If you ask me, it feels as if a boil is about to burst…
Well here in Poland there is anew boggeyman trending (maddame Le Pen).
People are more angry at the EU where I live than on Russia. EU is responding on the shortages by claiming that the green revolution is going to save us. We heard that already for years, so far there are a few wind turbines where I live most of them are not working for the majority of time and 5 had dangerous fires and malfunctions in them (they cost millions of złoty each and so far the major of Czarnków a”Macron like idot” had recived a new Daimer benz as a thank you from a german wind turbine manufacturer I am not making this up)
here in Poland we are abandonig our international allies. Mr Orban went overnight from Kaczyński best friend to an Russian collusion agent to be removed from office (despite massive popular support he recieves from the Hungarian people) I don’t like to speculate but I think marie le Pen will win in the second round.
Let’s be honest Macron managed to destroy the French left (from which he recived a lot of support)
With uncontroled Muslim migration to the country, HIS OWN MILITARY BRASS warning that the French people had enough of muslim ghetto’s, attacks on french people by migrants, a crime wave sweaping once peacefull french villages, soaring prices of everything (long before Ukraine mess), shoting the Yellow Vest’s,
videos of migrant’s chasing christian couple throught Paris and knifing them,
DEMANDING THAT GREAT RESET MUST HAPPEN AT ALL COSTS, Scoffing at french farmers and their plight.
The only reason he can pull off a win is if the french voting comitte pulls off a Biden (blatant voter fraud) but in that way there will be a massive uprising of angry french citizen’s.
The best part of it, Macron managed to piss off his own military brass, the police chief (who was warning about rapid rise of violent crime), and the Christian comunities around his own country, and independent populist Trump wannabess like Zemour who are now popping up everywhere in that country.
24 April will be a crazy day I think and Russians are pushing in Donbass and amassing a force near Odessa as we speak…
I offered my prayers and thanks to the Good Lord that the Easter was relatively peacefull in my townk
Stay safe everyone Wer.
I have memories of watching things go to ruin going back much earlier, but beginning in earnest sometime around age 7 when I began reading the fairly challenging book: “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga” by Swami Vivekananda. The first 2/3rds were all pictures and I was lured in by them. But the last 1/3 was serious Raja Yoga stuff. Lots of theory and complicated stuff about chakras. Remember, I was 7 years old. Started in on Cayce and Theosophy about then, too.
From about then until now, I have not been “amused” by the waste and stupidity I have observed around me. Pictures from that age show a very innocent looking old boy. Perhaps, as tests show, I was Aspbergian from the start, as I have never gotten “with” the program, despite dligently trying to as a youth.
Point being that for some of us, the use of imagination as a tool was never optional. It was survival for me. With it, I could barely function in a society designed for what were to me aliens. Without it? I shudder to think what the bullies would have done had I not been able to out-think them. But I was.
Houses set in the center of quart-acre plots decorated by shrubs and grass as found in the suburbs I grew up in? As a boy I thought (and still do), what a waste of good, arable land and the possibility of fairly private entertainments that a few good 8 foot walls might have provided. And so on. As I’ve grown older, I have observed many of the predictions I made in youth materialize, and I’m STILL not amused. The monetization of everything such that in many parts of the world that got by nicely with subsistence agriculture and local crafts, they are now overpopulated with poor folks crammed into vast dystopian cityscapes.
Not to say I haven’t tried nearly as diligently as I tried in my youth to conform, but this time to distract myself from the unfolding of much that I have loved: learning, art & architecture designed for beauty, music designed for meaning as well as communal use and fun (classical and folk music), jokes, appropriate teasing among people who knew one another well enough for it, literature at least until the era of the ENDLESS RERUN, even French cinema. ‘Tis a sad thing to watch the tide go out. But alas, the distractions work less and less well as I have grown older, perhaps wiser(?). The, um, adventures the morally invulnerable U.S. has got up to have been (as many such things) dismaying. I appreciate this forum for understanding how folks from elsewhere might see them, and the almost (dare I say it) Chthulhu-ian vastness of JMG’s commentary to help put things into perspective.
My response, and I recommend it, is to write poems about it. Well, some wouldn’t call them poems, but what else would you call essays done up in 14-line almost-sonnet format? Oh, and to continue to study and practice those bits of lore that empower the inner life.
Comments from a codger who fancies he is relatively not insane…
Speaking of the failure of the imagination, if true, this story is appalling.
I’m left speechless that no solution could be found and no help given other than assisted suicide. Like putting her down like a dog.
OT, your post on Slack on March 30 is having an effect on the PMC media!
Today, Here & Now, a midday NPR talk program, featured an interview with Tricia Hersey. Ms Hersey is the founder of The Nap Ministry, “an organization that promotes the healing power of naps and the idea that rest is a form of resistance.” Naps are resistance to the corporate grind.
Ms Hersey is Africa American, so this snuck in under the rubric of reparations, and they neglected to mention Bob and the power of slack, but I could hear him lighting his pipe in the background.
That was a whole lot of culture in one essay, and German culture to top it off! I haven’t yet found Goethe’s essay in the original online. It would be a pity to read him translated…
I used to have opinions on what was going on in other countries. The foreign media’s treatment of Brazil in 2013-2016 cured me of that. If I had been living abroad and only reading English-language media, my idea of what was happening there would not even have been wrong (in the sense of the contrary of the truth), but rather completely untethered from what was actually going on.
That experience has cured me of having opinions. I don’t have an opinion on Venezuela, for example. Or rather I have multiple ones: Maduro might well be a sanguinarian dictator, who knows? Or Guaidó might be a comprador stooge, it’s possible! Or both of them might be evil. Or irrelevant, who knows? Until I have lived there for a while, which I don’t intend to do, I won’t decide between these (and other) hypotheses. Same thing for Ukraine and Russia.
Take France. Mainstream media, and commenters here on this site, have for months been talking about Macron (supposedly “left”) again Le Pen. Actually, the leftist candidate Mélenchon almost passed Le Pen in the first round. A second round between Macron and Mélenchon would look completely different, and it was entirely possible, but you would never have thought so from foreign coverage of the election. Who is Mélenchon? What do his voters wish for?
On science: one major reason why problems are not tackled from as many sides as possible is to rush the production of papers. Reviewers do often force additional experiments that serve to investigate an issue from additional angles. What I was taught as ideal was a rather more heroic way of thinking: one should plan the experiments that were most probable to disprove one’s favourite hypothesis. I am not sure how many people have ever done science that way, and today there surely are even less.
Clay, I’m far from sure things are as one-sided as all that, since the Russian army hasn’t simply swept straight across eastern Ukraine to the banks of the Dnieper. That said, Russia’s only committed a fairly minor share of its military force to the Ukraine war; it looks to me as though it’s keeping its best divisions in reserve in case NATO enters the fight directly, in which case it’s game on. But we’ll see.
Justin, excellent! I don’t happen to know whether they were reading the same things, but Blake and Goethe were contemporaries, of course, and they had very similar interests.
Patricia M, thanks for the data points.
Ethan, the EU is certainly a dinosaur at this point, so I think the comparison works.
Apprentice, thanks for this. Yes, I’ve been watching that apparent tit-for-tat. It’ll be interesting to see what goes up next.
Wer, and thanks for these data points as well.
Clarke, it wasn’t Vivekananda who did that for me, but I had a similar experience, and at this point wouldn’t live in suburbia if somebody paid me to do so. As codgerhood creeps closer, I mull over people I used to know who cashed in their dreams and became, as the song has it, just another brick in the wall. It’s been a long strange trip…
Myriam, I saw that. “Appalling” is an understatement.
Justin, er, okay…
Great Khan of Potlucks, well, praise “Bob” for that!
Aldarion, here you go.
It all makes me wonder what would have happened in WWI if Great Britain (and by extension the Commonwealth) had not put boots on the ground and just encouraged the French to fight to the death while they kept supplying them with munitions (and international propaganda). Germany’s preemptive strike in that war (hoping to knock out the French early so they could avoid having to fight on two fronts simultaneously) is possibly a more apt comparison for Russia’s entry into Ukraine than the later war which keeps being used as a reference point, though I quite like the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71 – Biden as Napoleon’s nephew – Ems telegram, anyone?
Wer here again, I have some time so I ve read some of your later posted posts and this one “Dancers at the end of time” struckme like a fist into my face. Social media platforms can be exactly described as this to boot.
Began as a free for all, then become increasingly money hungry and the censorship, many people compare twitter to Soviet Pravda, the reaction to the Russian attack on Ukraine remainds me of this ghost dance.
Like to you really hope to stop tanks with angry tweets??
Some independent experts in US openly claimed that the Russians are using completely different tactics this time (they want to spare large cassualties in their army, the are moving slowly and steadly through that nation)
If people expected a Soviet like charge with massive casualties they were disappointed and started spreading this nonsense.
Polish mass media is completely bogus when it comes to the coverage of this war (Russia is weak, then Russia is strong, Russia will be defeated in 2 weeks by the Ukrainian army then Russia will be defeated by sanctions in 2 weeks, Putin is hiding somewhere despite posting interviews in the Kremlin, Russians are massacring Maripol
Zelensky openly now claims that “tens of thousands are dead”- chaos complete chaos the narrative shifts faster than the wind)
The Polish economic Gazeta Prawna posted a gasp heresy by claiming “the most stable currency in the world is ruble”. The Russian currency not only is now higher than before the war (dollar and euro is falling and inflation is rising)
In 2014 massive sanctions that were never lifted were impossed on russia and it didn’t collapsed the economy and anything. But i tell you what collapsed THE PATIENCE OF PEOPLE IN MANY EUROPEAN STATES.
Inflation is out of control, taxes are rising, policy is backfiring, migrants are revolting on the street, the french intelligence officer openly said (before being court martialed by Macron) that the patience of people is running out. If the eurocrats respond by making sure Le Pen losses her and Zemour supporters will be livid and on the street.
Stay safe everyone Wer
It took me well over a day allowing the ideas from this essay to percolate until it dawned on me that we in the West are upset about Russia invading Ukraine because they haven’t followed the current rules that we in the West have setup, which boil down to all wars are unjust, unless we start them and slap on the name of a just reason. That’s basically what the Crusades were in a nutshell, right? The Faustian mentality again.
The reality is, over the course of human history, we’ve developed all kinds of reasons to get into battle and fight wars. They weren’t any less moral then as they are now. It depends a lot on the moral code, or value system, you’re using. Obviously, the Western value system is getting close, if it has not already, of hitting it’s expiration date.
It’s interesting what I’m seeing behind the war in Ukraine, and the tensions with China, two of the most likely to wield power in the coming twilight of our Western Empire. They’ve both used historical claims to regions as pretext. Those two areas have a lot of overlap historically which would make that very interesting, if they continue using historical claims. However, there has been a lot of groundwork laid. While I was living in China, I remember my attention being drawn towards the idea that China first discovered North America. My feeling then was that it was just propaganda and attempts at soft power, but now I can see it possibly leading to something more..
On a different topic, but related to imagination.. I took a first time home buyer course today, put on by some local government bureaucracy, for what I thought would amount to a way to get a down payment taken care of through that said local government bureaucracy. Since I was actually paying attention, and learned that for a typical mortgage loan transaction to occur, about 75 people have to get involved, I quickly realized why mortgage loans are so often deemed necessary. There seems to be all kinds of imagination involved in the real estate market, and all of it being how everyone can get a piece of the pie. It made me laugh when they insisted they really wanted to help us purchase a house. There’s certainly a lot of people in places where they’ve persuaded themselves to believe they are doing good, but the reality is quite different. I really hope I can find a way to ride things out so as to not feel forced to purchase while things are so unrealistically expensive.
@ Booklover – “People may criticize this or that government policy, but they are never actually doing anything effective about it.”
Much of what people actually DO (or fail to DO) about the unreasonable and impossible edicts of TPTB (which will always be with us)… will remain invisible, and importantly for booklovers everywhere, UNWRITTEN. Because it mainly consists of what James C Scott (a historian given to an “anarchist squint”) calls “infra-politics”, or the politics of the weak and unrepresented. Without organising, without agreeing, without formal structure, without writing anything down, individuals or small groups of friends and family carry out such acts as foot-dragging, working “to rule”, poaching, pilfering, sabotage, desertion, absenteeism, squatting and flight.
Scott explains: “For the peasantry and much of the early working class historically, we may look in vain for formal organizations and public manifestations. There is a whole realm of what I have called “infrapolitics” because it is practiced outside the visible spectrum of what usually passes for political activity. The state has historically thwarted lower-class organization, let alone public defiance. For subordinate groups, such politics is dangerous. They have, by and large, understood, as have guerrillas, that divisibility, small numbers, and dispersion help them avoid reprisal.”
The thing is that organised opposition tends to come from sectors of the society or polity which have a realistic prospect of taking over the reins of control. Most people either have no interest in taking over the reins of control, or do not see any realistic path for doing so, and therefore, for most of us, this kind of “ignore, disobey, fail to comply, move, be somewhere else” strategy is our way of dealing with what is, in essence, like every natural hazard – something you have to navigate around, protect yourself from, and survive, like any other natural hazard with powerful effects, and with which no negotiation is possible.
Lest this seem like small potatoes, though, consider the effects of passing edicts that just do not get complied with… Scott, again: “In many cases these forms of de facto self-help flourish and are sustained by deeply held collective opinions about conscription, unjust wars, and rights to land and nature that cannot safely be ventured openly. And yet the accumulation of thousands or even millions of such petty acts can have massive effects on warfare, land rights, taxes, and property relations. The large-mesh net political scientists and most historians use to troll for political activity utterly misses the fact that most subordinate classes have historically not had the luxury of open political organization. That has not prevented them from working microscopically, cooperatively, complicitly, and massively at political change from below.”
I suggest that this “from below” activity (or inactivity) is much more powerful than it appears, and, although hard to see, very much worth looking for…
If interested in more on this, the essay I have quoted from is here: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/james-c-scott-two-cheers-for-anarchism
Hi John Michael,
Well, that’s a surprise! After all these years you slip in a Pink Floyd reference. 🙂 I’m alert to these things you know. Hey, when I was a young kid, Dark Side of the Moon was heavily advertised for several years. But yes, who can forget the Wall? “You. Yes, you! Stand still laddie!” I wouldn’t speak to a dog that way.
Over the past few years I’ve been reading about Arthur, Merlin and their merry bunch of very lethal and skilled companions. What was not lost on me was that once the western Roman empire collapsed, Arthur and co. was what was leftover once the rubble stopped bouncing. And even the might of Arthur bought a stay of execution of a few generations. It was just enough to make a difference to the future.
Here’s the thing, clearly the eastern half of the Roman empire was wealthier, because that half of the empire lasted all that much longer. And the western half of Europe had to strip how much of the rest of the planets wealth through colonialism in order to lift itself out of barbarism? Clearly, there is not much inherent wealth there, and other than deploying an assertive military, with better technology, mate, they’ll revert to the average – and the underlying wealth there is, perhaps not so good.
To quote Robert E Howard (and I blame you for getting me to read the most excellent Conan adventures 😉 ): “Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars”
To revert to the mean is a hard thing for people to grasp.
@ Cloven Kingdom
By coincidence, I’ve just finished a blog post on the archetypal changes taking place in the world. You might find it interesting – https://simonsheridan.me/ideas/archetypes-and-geopolitics/
Would you say that the ego is the main thing inhibiting the understanding of other people and nation states?
It seems like every religion has a base message which is something like: you are not your ego, you are the self and the self is not unique to you but the same in everybody. What that amounts to is that we are all 99% the same but that just makes the remaining 1% all the more interesting. By contrast, if I am a special snowflake, almost by definition there’s no point in comparing myself to others. It seems as good as impossible to do comparative morphology on other people or nation states with that mindset.
It struck me a while ago how big the role of virtue signaling in the modern Western world has become as an ersatz action in place of more constructive action. Virtue signaling is something typical of the West – at least some other cultures don’t seem to practice it at all – and something especially typical of the Left, but the ubiquitousness of “standing with Ukraine” and similar, often woke, signaling, which is sometimes inserted perfunctorily, is really quite weird.
As for imagination, the problem in imagining a different world seems to become stronger the bigger the temporal gap between now and a future epoch is. One can imagine many things (that is one direction where delusions come from), but it is more difficult to imagine how to get from here to there, respecting the known laws of the material plane and of history on the material plane.
@Denis, here in Britain the governments, both national and local, have been declaring that we are in a “climate emergency”. A word which here appears to mean “carry on as usual, maybe add a few bike lanes and heat pumps”. The majority of Brits do not consider climate change to be a big deal, whatever they tell pollsters — the idea of drastically curtailing driving sparks outrage.
What they do consider to be a big deal, however, is energy costs. You can’t sell them on reducing energy use for altruistic reasons (who *can* you sell on this?), but staying warm next winter without going into debt, and getting around without having to buy petrol or diesel, is a whole different matter. The trouble here is that people don’t generally think more than a few days ahead. We have the lead time to build mist shower heads, get everyone electric blankets (heat the person not the air), buy wool socks… as long as we start now, rather than having a mad rush when the first cold weather comes. There are things we can do (like build kickbikes — far simpler than bicycles, and don’t require the expensive components of electric scooters), and good financial reasons to do them, but…
Failure of the imagination I suppose.
Unclear on the concept: a pop-up ad rfor orthopedic shoes reading “Celebrate the Earth with a sale!”
It’s a metaphor! I am laughing so hard at myself right now.
After reading the Levi chapter last week, I recognized my dependence on coffee and immediately cut back from 4 cups to 2 cups a day. I should be putting this next to everything I write *Cutting back on coffee. Views expressed may not be coherent.
Once I feel normal on 2 cups, I’ll down more so I’ll need **
Another interesting bit of logistics – combining a goods train, roller cages, and cargo bikes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9TCt8pMS4s.
I also remember a story of frozen fish being carried in the guard’s van of InterCity 125 passenger trains, and it looks like further possibilities have been recognised: https://www.railmagazine.com/news/network/rail-industry-urged-to-back-hsts-for-freight-plan
I can grok the concept of comparative morphology!
Some thoughts on the topic-
Other examples would be:
Al Ghahiz the arabian writer in the bloom of the islamic civilization in the middle ages, noticing how the geographic latitude correlates with warm weather,and also with the color of the complexion of the people.
Some greek philosopher, noticing how the icons of the various godheads between Africa and Europe always were a product of local circumstances.In logistics, there is the “space of possiblity”, an enumeration of all possibilities in a problem like an island hopping problem.Find the shortest route between points distributed in geographic space, passing by each point.
There are heuristics, that is methods to find a good route easily in short time, but probably not the optimal route.These heuristics as an abstraction let us navigate the network of possibilities in space and time, practically finding a workable solution to a transport and routing problem in a reasonable timeframe.
Such applications of heuristics I used are for example: explaining to a sjw oriented woman in her thirties why the conservative islamic religiosity has a different weight to me than remnants of catholicism in Austria. Initial point of the discussion was a little chapel we walked by, sprayed on with leftist “christian religion
evil, patriarchs, die!” stuff. She found it justified. I said I’d like too see the difference when they try doing that to a big mosque in the working class district. That predictably aroused her angry demand why I say so. I explained: the islamic community has a younger demographic, the islamic world has a younger demographic,
most of those are poor yet the islamic political institutions of the middle east are mighty and very active. I compared this to the witnesses of Jehova: another conservativ abrahamic sect, widespread yet without political leverage and accompanying institutions. Also globally less numerous. Our church is old and our Austrian rooted younger populace is very secular. The church has a lot of money but no good demographics here.
This answer was satisfying for her. She was basically an intelligent and socially attentive person.
Such as comparative analysis also helps when asking whether islam causes conservative sexual morality:
Where else exists strict religious sexual mores within a society that actually enforces those today and in the past? By then it would seem these sexual mores rule from sedentary, agricultural and often warfaring lifestyle.
I have always a visual in front of me when thinking about heated discussion about ubiquitous subjects: a “mask” as rhetorical trick, when you cut out many possiblities and data points to cherry pick for a topic.
People like to progressify: “Back then people didn’t believe we’d fly, and we’ve done it!” – therefore progress is infinite and so on. But then, you could make that reverse statement in the future “People did believe we’d fly forever, but then that didn’t happen” Also as our host has often elaborated on, there’s the dumping ground for the futures that once were, all the failed technological prototypes and earlier progress ideas.
Just because people didnt believe something in the past that turned out to be true, the possibility of people believing something that turns out to not be true in the future isn’t off the table.
It is difficult to talk to people about concepts like relative numbers: if I have society A and society B in a country, if I define the delimiting line between them (that also may or may not be permeable at certain points), then I have little dots of people in geographical space who belong together as societies with their internally defining attributes. Society A may be more conservative, but there are also not so conservative parts, partially conservative parts…and society B may have a different distribution of conservative-to-not-conserative variation.
Such concepts are difficult to bring into simple words, so that others who are not statistically and mathematically inclined may understand them, and correctly too!
Peter Van Erp:
Back when I was a middle manager at a public interest law firm, I recommended that everyone on my team take a nap during the workday. I also set the tone from the top by doing this myself. A great way to reclaim some slack!
A change of imagination:
The “Kurier” is one the old major newspapers. Few Days ago the entry columnist wrote:
People criticise our pm Nehammer for visiting Putin, yet it is to consider that, if Russia delivers no gas anymore chief industrialists have predicted a collapse of our national Industry as well as potential permanent damage to industrial devices… If the lights go out, the solidarity of our people with Ukraine will be overseeable(“überschaubar”). And that at least in Austrian German literally says: “negligible”.
Our pm sure looked spooked in his first press appearances after the visit to Moscow. Some Alternative blogs even derisively ask whether that may not have been a visit, but a summoning in reality.
That certainly is a shift in imagination, but it is not too widespread still; I am at work, people talk about in 2 years, 3 years, career, goals…in 10 to 20 years my parents will need help a very friendly coworker today told me. When I look at this ominous “Deagel.com” prediction of a third-to-half population loss in Western countries until 2025, I cannot help but to think: “This is a well founded scenario”. If public healthcare goes done alone, many many of our aging demographic will die quickly. If no winter heating happens, oh my. If that is combined
with a food shortage and collapse of pension and social funds… Seriously, a two to three years from now is really not far off. The last years have been far too dry in Austria, weather events are adverse for many farmers.
Ships are blocked in Shanghais harbor, look at those satellite trackings…a global force.
I have two friends also believing in rapidly dramatic times. One believes in progress and fusion power, but he is also a working class man with technical skills and understanding, and he understands the implications of a sudden shock of loss of raw materials and energy resources. He also has a good financial understanding.
The other is an ever unemployed musician who looks, acts and thinks like a court jester. He says he has always loved nature and him being the individualist he is he always noticed something around him was slowly going “down”. Other than that, people are certainly worried and somewhat cynical at times…but I don’t think many imagine all too drastic changes in their lives forthcoming. I out great ambition in my job, not because I believe in its future (software testing for the banking sector), but because they grant me 30hr/week and I have a short commute.
I always dreamed to program in Java when I studied, but I didnt study informatics. Now I do;
It sounds like fate is joking. Apart from my work, I do the “real” stuff, basically preparing myself, exercising, tending to me social relations, observing the economic reports coming out of the opaque global reality. My life is more harmonic than it has ever been, I am more stable than I have ever been…yet going through my everyday experience at work or otherwise, and people’s musings about the upcoming years as if nothing could change…
I cannot call this experience anything but surreal.
@Daniel #10 & @JMG #20: Abduction
Again, in my reading today, I came across something that may be useful to the discussion here. [Of course I’ll have to do more reading. A heavy bookload is always waiting in the wings…]
I came across the term “abduction” from Gregory Bateson, and he got it from philosopher Charles Pierce. Also known as abductive inference, and I was delighted to learn, retroduction 😉 By including induction and deduction, with abduction we reach a ternary.
“Abduction is defined as a method of constructing knowledge from consistencies in the evidence from multiple perspectives. The perception of differences is also key to a later concern with recursive patterns.”
Anyway, I haven’t read enough on the subject to say more, but it seems a promising avenue. Studying Bateson’s work will I believe be useful to what I have read so far about information theory, via Claude Shannon, and cybernetics, via the work of Norbert Wiener.
I’m wondering how influence Bateson was by the likes of Goethe? If Goethe helped kickstart the science of ecology with Naturalphilosophie, than it seems like Bateson would be one of the heirs. Seeing how ideas move through history is endlessly fascinating…
Hope everyone here is well! I’m grateful for this forum as a place to communicate and share ideas… This is a wonderful node of information ecology, and one not polluted with the excess noise common elsewhere on the net, where signals get buried as propaganda and lies are thrown into the semiotic feedback loop.
“Abduction” is that sense is new to me. I’ve generally heard the term as a synonym for “kidnapping.” Can anyone explain the connection? Linguistically curious me.
It was also noted by one author that Sherlock Holmes used inductive reasoning to deduce the solution to his cases.
> England is very good at leaving a hot mess behind when it walks away from a former colony.
Looking back over the last 100 years or so, I’ve noticed in the past that this has happened so frequently that the obvious conclusion was that it was a matter of deliberate policy, I’m sorry to say. I It normally seems to have been accomplished by drawing a border that ignored the local situation.
I’ve certainly wondered about it in the past and until a few days ago I simply couldn’t work out why there might have been such a policy. Then a horrible thought struck. Surely they were not looking after the interests of the UK defence industries? Planning to sell arms to one or even both sides?
Perhaps I’m being too cynical. I think it was Louis Mountbatten who was ultimately responsible for the Indian/Pakistan border location. His contemporaries certainly did not think highly of his intellectual grip on complicated matters.
Curt, about big changes coming in the next three years.
While I happen to agree with you and consider the last two year a huge step down and not just a bump in the road, I would keep in mind the possibility that we are wrong.
I went through this experience before. Around 2005 I was deep in the peak oil reading so I was able to predict the crash of 2008. But I also believed the downturn will be followed by an economic crash and hyperinflation. So it looks like I was wrong by about 15 years 🙂
The point is that none of us here know the future so we should keep our minds open and our spirits up. If the worst happen, the best we can do is to be prepared – feeling depressed won’t help.
So I am trying to enjoy the present while knowing that I am doing my best to prepare for the future. If we get a better future than expected, that’s just another reason to enjoy our lives! If not, isn’t it amazing to live through this incredible transformation?
Another fine example of major powers unable to conceive of the “little people” making their own decisions:
Some “buying agents” have compiled a list of best places to live, including environmental impact. And a nearby village made it high on the list.
The village lost its railway station over half a century ago, is poorly frequented by buses as bus times go (2hr headways I think?), and to meet your daily needs you have to drive to somewhere that has what you need.
And yet, they made the list, whilst my own town (go north-northwest for about six kilometres from there) did not, despite the fact that we have a railway station, fairly frequent buses (the town is on a crossroads, so the lines split and merge here), three supermarkets, two doctors surgeries, three primary schools and a high school… and you can safely walk from any point to the centre in maybe 15 minutes. Because their list is based on cycle paths (annoyingly, it used to be a railway line) and electric charging points. You can actually live without a car here..!
I shouldn’t complain, really. When you discover a treasure in a field you wait to reveal it until you have bought the field. If people learn about my town, the current relative affordability may disappear quite quickly.
Of course, they could make Caton an environmentally friendly place to live if they get rid of the cycle path. Turn it back into a tramline, fund it by land value capture from dense development around the stations… alas, for our city council is led by the Greens.
Former fusion scientist on why we won’t have fusion power by 2040:
This video has almost a million views and 33K likes. It gives me hope that people are waking up from the delusions of the industrial age.
If I had the money, I would do a Reverse Randi challenge: I would promise a million dollars to anyone who would prove to my satisfaction that fusion is a commercially viable source of power for the future. The same goes for space travel. And I would be very loud and obnoxious about people failing to do so and call them liars: it would cause a world-class meltdown among the PMCs and other believers in Progress.
If any of the commenters here have a million dollars, feel free to use this idea.
Kerry, curiously enough, I was also thinking about the Franco-Prussian war in this context…
Wer, thanks for this. You’re not the only European reader I have who’s noted that Europe’s a powderkeg right now, and plenty of sparks are flying.
Prizm, good. Yes, I’ve also been watching China’s expansive claims to the west coast of North America — there’s a reason I made the Pacific Northwest a Chinese protectorate in Retrotopia. As for buying a home, any time there’s a concerted effort to get people to buy homes, run the other direction. This is what’s called a pump-and-dump scheme in stock market lingo: they’re looking for suckers onto whom they can offload assets before those assets plunge in value.
Chris, excellent! Yes, exactly; Europe has very little natural wealth, all things considered, which is why it took conquering the world to make it look prosperous for a while. Reversion to the mean is a welcome change for those who’ve been held down, not so much for those who’ve been propped up.
Simon, in a certain sense, yes. It’s not so much the ego directly, as it is the ego’s penchant for projecting other contents of the psyche onto everyone else in sight — this nation becomes a stand-in for the shadow, this one for the anima, and so on down the line. Thinking about what you have in common with others makes that sort of thing much too awkward, and then you have to deal with your own psychic contents directly.
Booklover, good. Virtue signaling is quite common in weak societies. I think of the way that so many people in India, during the waning days of the Raj, embraced elements of Indian culture as a mode of virtue signaling — they weren’t yet able to win their independence, but they could rehabilitate yoga and patronize classical Indian music! Now that India’s a rising power, that’s become less of an issue. The fact that virtue signaling has become so pervasive in the West shows you just how feeble the West has become.
Patricia M, funny. Bleakly funny, but funny.
Denis, so noted!
Yorkshire, glad to see this.
Curt, excellent. It’s a crucial concept to have in hand. As for the article in the Kurier, fascinating — it’ll be interesting to see if that shift in the wind continues.
Justin, I read an article some years ago, I forget the author, which talked about “abductive reasoning” using Sherlock Holmes’ famous adage as the model: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” As for Bateson, he was a very capable ecologist, and thus studied a science that took Goethe’s ideas for its foundation; he may also have read Goethe directly, but I have no knowledge of that.
Andy, of course it was deliberate. The British Empire’s standard gimmick for keeping control over its colonial possessions was to maximize ethnic quarrels within each colony. If necessary — as in Northern Ireland and Palestine — they would encourage immigration from some other country that had a different ethnicity and religion, and then play games setting the immigrants against the indigenous people, so that both of them were too busy fighting each other to recognize that they had much more in common with each other than either one had with the English. Elsewhere, as in India, they simply played the same games to pit different ethnic and religious groups against one another. That’s why British colonies reliably blew up when Britain walked away from them — all those years of egging on internal rivalries blew up as soon as the British left.
David BTL, yes, I’ve been watching that. It’ll be interesting to see just how far the US and Australia go in their attempt to grab the Solomons back.
Alice, be glad! Do you really want a horde of clueless privilege bunnies swooping in to drive up prices and treat the locals like serfs?
Ecosophian, excellent! I’m very glad to see this — and yes, the reverse Randi challenge would be fun.
“People who got vaccinated for that virus are catching it at a much higher rate than those that didn’t get the jab”. JMG, I know you’ve said you don’t discuss the vaccine issue much here, but I was just curious if this statement was based on a study (perhaps you could provide a link) or was just your anecdotal experience? Thanks.
Thank you for the video, it’s very interesting to know why there won’t be fusion popwer in 2040!
> of course it was deliberate.
…then the obvious questions are, is it still happening? Is it happening elsewhere?
“The British Empire’s standard gimmick for keeping control over its colonial possessions was to maximize ethnic quarrels within each colony. If necessary — as in Northern Ireland and Palestine — they would encourage immigration from some other country that had a different ethnicity and religion, and then play games setting the immigrants against the indigenous people, so that both of them were too busy fighting each other to recognize that they had much more in common with each other than either one had with the English. Elsewhere, as in India, they simply played the same games to pit different ethnic and religious groups against one another. That’s why British colonies reliably blew up when Britain walked away from them — all those years of egging on internal rivalries blew up as soon as the British left. ”
Makes me think of modern day America. Anybody else get that vibe?
Chris at Fernglade Farm: You asked for a Pink Floyd reference. Here’s a recent one:
Check this out – both the column, which makes a lot of sense, and the comment from the guy who posted it. Tarl Neustaedter writes:
“I could almost think this is parody.”
“He’s missing a declaration of “Peace for our time”.”
@ Oilman2 #41
A lot of people that actually entertain the idea of a world without smart phones or internet still cling to the idea that they’ll still be there for the rich. Most modern tech simply isn’t viable without hundreds of millions of consumers.
@Justin Patrick Moore #130
Synchronicity strikes! I’m reading a book that explores the unfolding ramifications of Peirce’s ideas, including abduction. You may enjoy Sensing Corporeally by Floyd Merrell.
It’s quite dense with abstraction at times, but there are a lot of valuable insights into Peirce and how we construct our worlds. And ultimately the author, following Peirce, promotes a non-Cartesian split, in which mind and body are one bodymind, the universe is full of options, and fundamentally interconnected.
His breakdown of Peirce’s signs alone is worth the read, and has clarified a lot for me with regards to how I think and experience, where people go awry and even insane, and a tentative notion of how to maintain imagination and health by working to abduct the world from basic signs of firstness up through thirdness, hitting all stops, instead of.preferencing some mode of perception (e.g. thinking over feeling) or making too much of a world by going from the abstract word-driven rationality of thirdness and then forming the more basic signs of emotion and pure sense to align with our Procrustean notions.
@Simon S #121- Wow. That is extremely powerful. Here in the States, people used to call refer to Democrats “The Mommy Party” back in the day, in contrast to the Republicans, who represented the old-fashioned Father. That Mommy has aged into the Devouring Mother in her senility makes a whole lot of sense to me! And your characterization of Australia – well, in fact, the entire Anglosphere is essentially first-circle vassal states, but I’d really only seen Britain in that light. Thank you.
@Booklover #122: Virtue Signaling certainly existed in 1st Century Judea. A certain rabbi from the backwoods of Galilee had plenty to say about the practitioners of it, to their faces, complete with “And [this member of the riffraff] is closer to the Kingdom of God than you are, because you don’t think you need any help.” Likewise, he was walking in a path well-trodden before him by gadflies called Amos, Isaiah, et. al.
Scotlyn, you have made some quite interesting observations. But because the actions of ordinary people regarding existing power structures are invisible, it is not possible to predict the kind of sudden change that sometimes happens. Instead, it is easier to get a coherent narrative about historical events from hindsight. A good example are the Easter marches in Germany, which began in the early 1980 and, with the Russo-Ukrainian war as background, are still happening. These Easterly peace marches never achieved anything.
Re mental constraints and monofutures
“City of the Future!” One shudders to think what it might look like:
Whenever someone appends “of the future” to anything these days, it sets off all kinds of alarms in my head.
On the other hand, there’s also the adage about never letting a crisis go to waste. If we do get a (non)working example of futuristic crap to observe, perhaps it would help wake some folks up.
“Andy, of course it was deliberate. The British Empire’s standard gimmick for keeping control over its colonial possessions was to maximize ethnic quarrels within each colony. If necessary — as in Northern Ireland and Palestine — they would encourage immigration from some other country that had a different ethnicity and religion, and then play games setting the immigrants against the indigenous people, so that both of them were too busy fighting each other to recognize that they had much more in common with each other than either one had with the English. Elsewhere, as in India, they simply played the same games to pit different ethnic and religious groups against one another. That’s why British colonies reliably blew up when Britain walked away from them — all those years of egging on internal rivalries blew up as soon as the British left.”
One other area where I’d expect this to become a problem in the near future is Canada. In many ways, Canada is one of the most conservative areas of the former British Empire, and the way that our elite classes have governed has retained the classic elements of British Colonial Policy: a host of idiotic policies have kept English and French Canadians feuding, feeding mutual resentments that were created after the Brits took over; and of course the Natives have been drawing the short end of the stick for long enough that they have a host of issues with Canadians; but now they’re getting serious preferential treatment in just enough ways to irritate people, but not enough to address their real issues. As long as the largess keeps flowing, everything looks fine, but there’s enough of an undercurrent of hatred and tension that it would not surprise me in the least if Canada collapses into a brutal civil war in the years ahead.
I was right there with you in 2005. Reading The Oil Drum really helped me predict the housing bubble. My Mom made me co-sign on a house I couldn’t afford, and then died in 2007. Had to get rid of it. The realtor thought I was crazy when I said I would take any reasonable offer as long as it was NOW. I managed to get out with two weeks to spare. Close one!
But things did kind of settle down. I might still have some provisions stashed away from 2008. How’s it go? It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future?
As to your last question, I’m not so sure how to answer that. I’m thinking more and more that I must have asked to be incarnated at this time. I remember learning about climate change and resource depletion and over-population back in the 80’s and thinking, “Ooh, I wonder how it will all work out! That will be something to see!” Now that it’s happening, it’s not so fun. Reading/thinking about it in a clinical way is fascinating. Living it… not so much.
But hey, chin up, life IS good today, whatever tomorrow brings. I’m at a good age now where I could maybe see the tail end of things, but if it all goes to hell and I die, I’ve already lived a full life. Good timing on my part. Or something…
@ Patricia Mathews #131
Like this: The person was going from point A to point B; then the kidnapper swoops in, and takes the person off in a third direction entirely…
K, it’s been discussed at great length among the biomedical researchers who aren’t simply taking Pfizer’s money and saying what they’re told, because it’s visible in official data from countries that keep detailed records of the vaccination status of patients. Here’s one summary, here’s a more recent one from the same blog, and here’s a third from a different source.
Andy, England’s not doing it to any great extent because it doesn’t have much of an empire any more. The US is trying to do it, and has been since we took over the empire business in 1945, but we’re not very good at it.
Mr. House, well, of course. The US ruling elite is nothing if not slavishly unoriginal.
Patricia M, thanks for this. The author makes a lot of sense, yes, but at this point it’s way too late. The Russians have no reason to trust the US to keep a treaty if one were signed.
David BTL, oh, I hope they build it, for the same reason I hope Elon Musk goes to Mars: watching the total failure of the narrative would be a useful way to help at least some people get over it. A “City of the Future” built in Ukraine, which is gaudily corrupt even by Eastern European standards, would turn into a world-class flop — not as colorful as watching Musk and his fellow colonists die slowly of radiation poisoning and starvation on Mars, no doubt, but still a spectacle to behold.
Anonymous, interesting. Yes, I could see that.
Re: the etymology of abduction:
Induction, deduction, and abduction all come from the Latin ducere “to lead” with various prepositions added.
Induction = lead in. I am going from Point A to Point B, and Point B – the example I’m using – leads me into it.
Deduction = lead out. I am going from Point A to Point B, and Point A – the premises I start with – leads me out to my conclusion.
Abduction = lead away. I am going from Point A to Point B, and as Mother Balance said, my kidnapper takes me to Point C instead, I can still reach Point B (assuming someone ransoms me, anyway); it’s just that I’ve had to take a detour through Point C.
“Elsewhere, as in India, they simply played the same games to pit different ethnic and religious groups against one another. That’s why British colonies reliably blew up when Britain walked away from them — all those years of egging on internal rivalries blew up as soon as the British left.”
The long game of that of course is that the so called obvious solution to those squabbles is Global Government to keep the peace.
A perfect role for future Empires to step in.
If ethnic/religious differences pits people against each other in a Hobbesian War of All against All. Then they obviously need to be unified and their differences erased.
And everything standardized into a common culture, single measurement, single language imposed top-down of course.
“The bloodshed and misery of the Warring States period goes a long way in explaining China’s traditional and current preference for a united throne.”
In fact the more bloodier and intense the Wars. The more there is pressure to unify under one Empire.
I certainly see the similarities with modern day America. We are so focused on our differences – race, culture, that we miss what is really occurring in this land. I have long thought that we are being enticed by “shiny objects” here – designed to keep us from paying attention to the real issues (the corruption and corporate greed) that is rampant. I have long been convinced that those in positions of power know only too well that the basic nature of Americans will never be to rise up against the power structure. Thus, they maintain a stranglehold on the entire population. Powerful entities will only allow a certain amount of rebellion before offering us “cake” – stimulus crumbs.
> England’s not doing it to any great extent because it doesn’t have much of an empire any more.
Heh. That’s the trouble with an empire. Put it down for a moment, turn your back and before you know it someone else has strolled off with it. It will be decades before you notice! However, a certain absence of a world spanning power, and a distinct lack of huddled masses for my lords and masters to grind beneath their heels had come to my attention.
Actually I was thinking it about domestic policy since that’s all they have left, certainly in the UK, soon in the US. I confess to not thinking about Canada, but it is a very good example of this. However in the 90s much of the PMC there was drawn from the minority Quebecois side. During the referendum in the 90s I pointed out to one rather enthusiastic separatist that if they won, they would have to take Brian Mulroney (from Quebec despite the name) with them. There was a distinct pause while she processed this and I could see that she was re-evaluating her opinions.
For what it’s worth, it strikes me that it’s a good example of factionalism in the PMC and UK establishment. Not exactly equivalent I know, although in my brushes with the latter I’ve been struck by the obvious crossover of both people and memes. It looks to me as if it actually has been some attempt at this in the last 20 years by one faction, and quite a lot of effort is now being expended by another to deal with the unexpected consequences.
Indeed, I forgot to respond to your question about the causal patterns of war.
The strongest commonality I found that is relevant for the current conflict is to boost domestic popularity. Every time Putin’s popularity dropped, he invaded a neighbouring country. Georgia 2008, Krym 2014, Ukraine 2022. Even his ascent to the presidential chair was connected to the Chechnya wars, formally a secession/union war.
This is by no means unique for Russia. The Clinton-Lewinsky-Kosovo debacle of course comes to mind. Even Tiberius seems to have used the same tactics back in the day. (Scholarly research by Jack Levy looks into this pattern: https://www.jstor.org/stable/204819)
Nothing galvanizes a nation better than a proper war with a diabolic enemy. So, whenever we hear “leaders” talk about some other nation as inferior or evil or cockroaches (or deplorables or rapists??), the drones are soon to be deployed.
Peace is much harder than war, and much more interesting. I would very much like to hear your take on how to build resilient peace and conflict resolution in our troubling times of the catabolic collapse!
Patricia M., thanks for the reminder! As JMG said, virtue signaling is something which one finds in weak nations; in strong nations, not so much.
@ Booklover – Thank you for engaging with this. 🙂
“But because the actions of ordinary people regarding existing power structures are invisible, it is not possible to predict the kind of sudden change that sometimes happens.”
Precisely. The sticky, perennially persistent, non-cooperativeness of people with the projects of the powerful continually confound the powerful in what they are attempting to achieve. It is not that the powerful cannot make the kind of royal mess that the rest of us will have to clean up or live with or suffer from. But the problem with both conspiratorial thinking AND with conventional thinking, is that both depend on the idea that the powerful are the only players worth watching or considering. And they never are.
“Instead, it is easier to get a coherent narrative about historical events from hindsight.”
But even then, much of what has happened will remain “dark” to historians, because ordinary people do not write histories – not leaving much even in the way of primary sources.
“A good example are the Easter marches in Germany, which began in the early 1980 and, with the Russo-Ukrainian war as background, are still happening. These Easterly peace marches never achieved anything.”
Marches do not achieve anything, because they are theatre. (Apart from being good opportunities for people to meet with other like-minded people). What has an impact is non-cooperation, non-compliance, and non-reliability in the matter of the advancement of whatever project the powerful have in mind.
To give a local example. There was an attempt to privatise the Irish water resources a few years back. What would have made the resource “saleable” to investors would have been a country full of already compliant bill-payers. For complicated historical reasons, Irish people had not paid personal domestic water charges for decades – these were paid out of other tax budgets as part of a political deal struck back in the 1970’s. As a result, the project of converting domestic non-payers of water charges into domestic payers of water charges in the 2010’s was an essential component of the project to make the whole resource, together with compliant bill-payers, saleable to a private entity. And it failed. If failed, not because of the enormous marches which developed, nor because of the political candidacy movement that spun off of it with the twin effects of getting candidates elected and dissipating the energy of the movement, but simply because one by one, people refused to sign up or to pay. That massive, yet one-by-one, refusal to co-operate was the main reason that the powerful interests circling around the sale and the purchase of Irish water resources, had to abandon that particular project.
I doubt that much of the personal non-cooperation of so many individual people is what will show up in the history books, though. You have to “squint” to see that kind of thing… as James C Scott recognised.
@ Patricia Mathews
Here in Australia we have what’s known as The Nanny State. As I’m fond of pointing out to Americans, Bernie Sanders would be considered a centre-right politician here. Maybe the Democrats should rebrand to “The Nanny Party”. That would seem fitting given the age of many high profile Democrats.
JMG – Thanks be to the gods! Now, I’m off to work on developing my imagination. Thanks, JMG.
Dear JMG – Thank you for adding important new insights to the origins of why the Empire of the Narcissists seek to destroy Russia. Russia is doing the heavy lifting but, now largely free of foreign ideology, should win this struggle.
Humanity is entering a new awareness. Hope I’m around long enough to see how it takes shape.
Scotlyn, another factor, when it comes to losing information about historical processes, is, that even after short times, it can happen that the aren’t any documents anymore about decisions made by members of governments and power centers. This is, for example, pertinent to some of the decisions made during the 20th century.
One big failure of the imagination I’m seeing in the field is stubborn refusal to acknowledge the Chinese are winning not just the economic but the cultural war. Every time I bring this up, I hear that Chinese culture can only imitate, not innovate — an argument last heard in the 1950s concerning the Japanese, and equally silly on its face.
The Chinese government is an odd combination of a MINO (Marxist in Name Only) bureaucracy propping up and being propped up by wealthy oligarchs. The Chinese created “social credit” scores, and are quick to censor any information they deem threatening to the social order. From where I stand, that model is at least as influential in the West as the old “Soviet Communism” and “American Democracy” were in the Cold War world.
Today no major Hollywood studio would dare produce a movie about the plight of the Uighurs, or a movie about the founding of Taiwan. No smaller studio that created such a movie would be able to distribute it in any theater chain or on any video distributor like Netflix or Hulu, and the stars would have enormous difficulty getting work afterwards. No major filmmaker in China or anywhere else in the world has to worry about the American government.
Before we proceed, a brief note: I’ve started fielding rants from pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian trolls, both sides of which are incensed that I and the others here aren’t sticking to their preferred narrative. I got called quite a colorful name for referring to Russia’s (ahem) “Special Military Operation” as the Russo-Ukrainian war, which of course is what it is, and I’ve gotten equally saliva-flecked comments from people who are irate that I don’t believe everything the Western media says about the evilly evil evilness of all things Russian. I find these rants encouraging, as they tell me that what I’m doing is having traction. (Of course I’ve still deleted them, but they did cheer me.)
Info, that certainly seems to be the EU’s long game. Just at the moment, however, it doesn’t seem to be working very well.
Patricia L, most people in the United States are still very prosperous by global standards, and don’t want to shut off the gravy train before it goes away by itself. Once it goes away — and it’s going — I think you may be surprised.
Andy, oh, practically every nation on the planet maintains the status quo by keeping the population divided over petty issues. The two-party system is founded on that gimmick. I sympathize with your Quebecois friend, and can name a long list of presidents I wouldn’t take as a gift…
Goran, to my mind that’s one factor out of a very, very large number. War is always an extension of politics — one could equally truly say that politics is an extension of war — but domestic politics isn’t always as simple as you seem to think, and then there’s international politics to take into account. As for building resilient peace and conflict resolution in these times, er, I thought you’d been reading me longer than that. Human beings are predatory beasts; much of the time, they prey on one another; that can take the form of war or of tyranny, take your pick, because the old saying’s true: you can have peace or you can have freedom, don’t ever count on having both at once.
Brenainn, go for it. You’re most welcome.
Observer, humanity is always entering a new awareness, and it always ends up looking a lot like the old one. I hope you aren’t too disappointed.
Kenaz, I ain’t arguing. A hundred years ago the United States was a nation of imitators and intellectual-property thieves — it wasn’t until the 1980s, for example, that foreign copyrights were automatically safe here, which is why those famous pirate editions of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saw print. Now we’re the ones frantically trying to guard our intellectual property against theft from China. Give it a century and the Chinese will be struggling to maintain their copyrights against thieves from the East African Union…
@ Booklover – that is, sadly, very true. Especially from the perspective of we booklovers everywhere… 😉
Boy, does imagination (and the lack thereof) loom large in the current global situation! When I look at the “leadership” of virtually every Western nation, I see nothing but a bunch of children in a boat which used to be headed in a particular direction, but the engine conked out a long time ago and now they are drifting aimlessly. They are clueless about where they are and have no idea how to either use the oars or hoist sail. Meanwhile, Russia’s Putin and India’s Modi appear to me to be adults who have been adroitly navigating their vessels through stormy seas in order to reach the safe harbour of a strong, unified nation that is not under anybody’s boot. In other words, Putin and Modi can imagine a different future from the “monofuture” dictated by the West in which they would be the obedient serfs of the USA. Sadly, most of the peoples of the West seem to have the same utter lack of imagination that their “leaders” have – and are therefore doomed to clueless surprise when their economies and societies unravel around them. In general, I am even more suspicious of “strong leaders” than leaders in general, but in times like these, I believe that Russia and India are far more fortunate than Canada, the US, or any European country (other than Hungary and maybe Serbia) these days because of their former two counties’ “strong” leaders also seem to be imaginative, independent thinkers who truly love their respective countries.
Workdove (#55) and any others who care about free speech: it seems that Gonzalo Lira (the Chilean-American who talked a lot about the whole Ukraine situation and background from an undisclosed location in Kharkov for weeks – and then disappeared without a trace) is alive. He re-emerged on April 22 (Friday), after one full week of silence. He says that he was picked up by the SBU (Ukrainian version of the KGB) but instead of liquidating him, they decided to spare his life and released him under numerous strict conditions. Some people surmise that when the SBU saw that Lira’s large and very vocal audience made a huge stink about his disappearance on social media, they may have realized that he is more valuable alive than dead. There’s also the fact that the newspaper The Daily Beast pretty much “outed” him, by name, to attract the “baddies” to Kharkov: Lira said in one of his videos in March that if he is killed during this conflict, The Daily Beast is to blame. I’m not sure if that was also a factor that contributed to his not-so-nasty fate. Anyway – here he is: https://www.unz.com/aanglin/coach-red-pill-lives-appears-on-stream-says-he-was-picked-up-and-detained-for-a-week/
Thank you for your reply!
I’ve certainly been too doomerish in my predicitions often, as a regular on Gail Tverberg’s blog.
Still it was before and after 2010 that (a minority of) professors at my University pointed out to the audience that food safety and our infrastructure
may not be guaranteed.
It’s true, we see the effects much later than 2008. Except for those who lost their livelihoods back then already and increasingly from there plus the new waves of migrants living a life even worse than their predecessors. To us middle class people however, nothing changed for a long while and still nothing has changed all too drastically.
Enjoying the moment is certainly a good deal. I for one like to go hiking, where I feel rather unified with the world. I also think that witnessing our era as a western intellectual with good access to all kinds of info is just amazing. I am excited.
What I wish is that I may have enough time and opportunity to tell my story. We’ll see; other than that I realize that any wish for life-long stability and security is moot by historic standards.
Also I hope to get enough opportunity to turn my bad karma from the past around; much has been successfull in that respect for me, but I am far from finished there.
Taken as a journey of the soul, my life and your life and that of the other commenters here is certainly a bit in a special place: to witness these grand events and to have time and access to a variety of information!
To Kenaz, I will have a friendly argument with you, as someone who was a fan of Hong Kong films in the 90’s and looked forward to China becoming a cultural superpower, I’m not seeing it in the near future. I hoped for China to the be cultural equivalent of Japan times 5 – yes should be Japan times 10, but I’m moderate in my expectations – but top down control is better at controlling consumption rather than creation. Perhaps I just need to wait for the next century.
I was just going to ask you what, if any, pushback you’ve been receiving lately in your continuing efforts to provide alternatives to the standard narratives. And here you go with the note at the head of your last set of responses. Please do continue to post those periodically: I’m sure I’m not the only one here who’s curious about the comments that don’t get posted…
Hi John Michael,
Good shot ol’ chap! Spit flecked invective is rather tiresome to encounter. 🙂
Our former foreign minister pointed out the obvious as to why this action over in Europe is occurring, and suggested how it could be ended. It’s not a complicated story.
I must add that the media’s optics are amusing me. Most of the photography is presented so as to produce an emotional response, and they all follow similar themes: Very attractive females (possibly suggesting that they’re in need of saving). Mothers fleeing with distraught and dishevelled looking children. Grandmothers. Destruction of buildings. It’s so transparent a tactic, that I’m in a mild state of awe.
The thing is, I haven’t yet seen one photo of the neo-nazi’s in the media brandishing weapons. I guess that would make for poor optics, and I do wonder why the same media who had been banging on for years about the dangers of ‘far right’ folks have suddenly decided to turn a blind eye. Extreme anything is a bad thing. Including extreme stupidity.
@Chris & JMG about the inherent wealth of Europe – Hmm. I was thinking along these lines for quite some time, too. But I’m asking what do you count as “wealth”? If you mean coal, ore, oil, and other natural supplies, well, we have that or at least we had. The coal mining in the Ruhrgebiet, for example, started early on and propped up a huge industry which was at least partly responsible for some well known military “achievements” on and of our continent.
If you mean climate and soil, well, that’s not too bad, either. Large parts of western and southern Europe have very fortunate climate and there’s rich soil to be found in many parts of the continent. Long and rich coastlines stretching from the far north (which obviously has some disadvantage for being far north, but obviously has some advantage provided by the gulf stream). Yes, there are cold winters and in past times there have been periods with many very cold winters in a row. But does that undo everything else?
So, what do you define as wealth or how do you define wealth? What is it that makes India inherently wealthy and Great Britain not?
Isn’t there a certain amount of inherent wealth needed for a country as small as Great Britain to be able to subdue the huge subcontinent of India?
As far as my limited perspective on things goes I think there is (or at least was) enough inherent wealth in this continent to be able to live in some kind of paradise. A very different paradise than on other parts of the planet for sure, but still paradise. But we’ve wasted so much of our wealth for so many useless wars and other projects and our probably most “successful” and most European former colony is even better to waste everything in an even shorter time.
Well, as I see it there’s no lack of inherent wealth of nature. But there seems to be a huge lack of wealth of mind. Quotes by native American chiefs have been very popular among the green scene for some time. And there was one quote – unfortunately I don’t remember who said it and can’t find it anymore – the guy was asked abut the differences between the Europeans and the native societies of America and he basically said that he does not think the average European is more or less evil than the average native. But the shape and structure of our society will be our doom. And I think he has a point there.
My Russian is a lital rusty but I’m pretty sure “Special Military Operation” is the Russian term for “police action.” As someone who had family members drafted for the US police action in Vietnam I would be equally outraged to hear you referring to said event as a war.
There a very clear rules in these matters as a cursory check of the UN votes in favor of special actions or opposing wars and invasions will show. I’m sure you will find that if the US and Europe were in favor it was a legitimate action and if they were opposed it was an illegitimate war of aggression. I’m sure the west is only upset about the Special Military Operation because the Russians made a mistake filling out the forms.
Globalists re-imagined a world where decision-making was taken out of town-squares and legislatures and government offices and put it into corporate boardrooms and C-suites.
They imagined national boundaries as irrelevancies allowing money and people to move unimpeded.
Seems to me that some pretty important things were left unimagined by these big-picture thinkers. These dazzling conceptualists needed some detail-oriented types to colour in some of the canvas.
If their efforts were bent towards disassembling nation states, what they seemingly failed to imagine is what would take their place given the role of national institutions in protecting rights and privileges, especially their own.
Do civil rights exist outside the context of the nation state? We’re talking about such things as the right to live and work and own property and remain unmolested without due process and rule of law.
What about money? If nation-states become geographic ornaments, what of the currencies they manage, like the USD? This is where some of the smaller-picture people could have lent a hand.
It seems that the re-imaginers also failed to imagine powerful people in age-old societies with resources and bases of political power of their own, who don’t share the glorious vision of a borderless world unbounded by Little Englanders, whether Brexiteers or ambitious, hard-eyed fellows in Moscow or Beijing or Teheran. The re-imaginers failed to imagine that these guys wouldn’t do what college theoreticians imagined they would, that is, fall into line.
Maybe this isn’t world-shaking, but in this place the Hudson’s Bay Company is closing one of its flagship stores, this one in downtown Toronto. Eaton’s is gone as is Sears and Simpson’s and Woodward’s, all large department store chains once supported by a prosperous middle-class. It looks to me that The Bay is shortly to follow them into the sands of time. All these dinosaurs replaced by Amazons and Walmarts and dollar stores. Is all this creative destruction, or just ordinary destruction?
Found this on another feed.
Also, Russia did not invade Japan in the 1904-05 war as stated by one of our senile PMC members
Ron, don’t assume that the people of the western countries are all down there at the same level as the current political elite. My interactions with people across quite a few countries suggest otherwise.
David BTL, your timing’s good. I just fielded a post by a bona fide concern troll, who insisted that people would be driven away from my blog by the fact that I mentioned that people who got the Covid vaccines are catching Covid at a higher rate than people who didn’t! (To the concern troll: I hate to spoil your day, but people read me precisely because I don’t follow the canned narratives of the corporate media. Deal.)
Chris, the media optics are funny in the extreme if you pay attention. I noted the following meme on a site I visit now and then…
Nachtgurke, for complicated reasons based in history and culture, the industrial revolution happened in England, not in India. If it had been the other way around, history would have been very different. In 1500, once again, England was a backwater known mostly for codfish and wool, and India was the richest country on the planet. That’s what I was talking about when I noted that Europe didn’t have much inherent wealth; only the series of technological innovations that gave European nations a temporary military advantage over the rest of the planet made the conquest and wholesale looting of the rest of the planet by Europe possible. (And the looting was essential because, again, compared to the rest of the world, Europe doesn’t have a lot of natural wealth.)
Tim, funny. I’m trying to remember the last time anybody referred to the Vietnam Police Action.
Roger, exactly. Dreams of an allegedly wonderful future where everything was planned and managed by experts for the benefit of the comfortable classes are having a hard time dealing with a rising tide of awkward realities. I didn’t know that the Bay was closing down in Toronto — definitely a sign of the times.
Marlena, I managed to miss that claim about the Russo-Japanese war. Even for our leaders, that’s stupid.
Thank you for the link to Goethe’s original essay! I had been led astray by always searching for Experiment instead of Versuch. It is very much worth reading, though in a slightly stuffier style than I had expected from such a vivid poet. I will keep in mind his comparison between sound scientific and juridical arguments, and his metaphor of the despotical court.
Speaking of which, thank you also for the vaccine links, which I carefully read. Boriquagato’s calculations are well argued and unquieting. I do want to add that when there is any discussion of COVID on this blog, where all opinions are allowed, some of the commenters sceptical of the COVID vaccines seem to be the most intolerant of dissent. They seem to have taken your hypothesis to be the full and undiluted truth.
The early Totalitarian Theorists have come up with a way to deal with passive non-compliance as you noted in your comment:
“Even under circumstances of extreme domination in which active resistance is guaranteed to face suppression, disgruntled populations may engage in “disguised, undeclared resistance.” For example, peasants may resort to “weapons of the weak” by delivering inferior crops in paying land tax, shirking labor in performing corvée, and fighting halfheartedly on the battlefield. If enough peasants take part in such foot-dragging activities,
“the aggregation of thousands upon thousands of such ‘petty’ acts of resistance [has] dramatic economic and political effects.” Thus, no matter how weighty the Qin legal code was as written, one should expect serious
limits to its implementation”
So the Totalitarian solution is atomizing the social networks that form the basis of passive resistance. By making every person more and more alone when facing the State:
In addition even the most passive non-compliance was dealt with this way:
“But Shang Yang was not content with the mere absence of active resistance. In the passage “Weakening the People,” the Shang jun shu argues that “a country which has the right way is concerned with weakening the people” because “a weak people means a strong state and a strong state means a weak people.” Shang Yang wanted to create “a condition of complete good government” in which “husband and wife and friends cannot abandon each other’s evil, cover up wrongdoing and not cause harm to relatives, nor can…the people mutually conceal each other from their superiors and government servants.”
To achieve this goal, the Qin state introduced mutual surveillance so that “those whose businesses
were connected should have different interests.” Based on the household registration system, the Qin state held households of five collectively responsible for any member’s transgressions; at the same time, the state
offered handsome rewards for family members and neighbors to report on one another. Shang Yang applied the same technique to state officials who were in charge of overseeing the people.”
“While the stated goal of linked liability was to create a condition in which “deserters from the ranks[had] no resort and stragglers [had] nowhere to go,” the actual consequence was far more penetrating. By instilling mutual mistrust in the most basic social ties – between husband and wife in the family, between neighbors in the local community, and between colleagues in the workplace – even the mildest dissent could be nipped in the bud. ”
“By fashioning “a people who would of their own accord enforce the legal dictates of their masters,” the Qin court could simultaneously maximize surveillance, minimize resistance, and lower the costs of domination. In short, Shang Yang achieved “the ultimate dream of domination: to have the dominated exploit each other.”
-pp 184-186, War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe by Victoria Tin-Bor-Hui
What are your thoughts? And what countermeasures do you think is good against such an arrangement?
Hey hey JMG,
I know, but I googled Vietnam police action to check and the first 20 articles were all about reunions and memorials. Including special military operation in the search and changing it to news only brought up 3 in the last month in google and a handful more in duckduckgo, mostly from fringe sites.
Which, quite frankly, is weird because the parallels are fairly exact. The Truman containment policy to keep nations from falling like dominos to a hostile military alliance is obviously equivalent from Russia’s perspective to European countries leaving its orbit and joining NATO. Or, I would have thought it obvious but I can’t find anything online to confirm…
I am getting concerned not with conflict with Russia here but an internal war with the EU.
Polish goverment announced recently that they are sending an “operational force” to Hungary and Moldavia.
It is obvious that they are not going to fight Russia (the best Polish divisions that are worth anything at all are watching Kalingrad) but to occupy the Hungary and Moldavia.
To thoose who did not know Hungary recently re elected Orban ( anti migration, anti ue and very popular inn his nation to the anger of upper class leftists in Brussels) and Moldavia is going against the UE (because they see the disaster that the euro economy is becoming).
Thoose idiots are goping to send a NATO force not to fight Russia but to watch what anti UE people are doing
(spoilers Orban is not an idiot and sees what is happening, we was threatened before when G.Soros said that “this man cannot remain in power in Hungary”) watching UE policy is like watching a circus with clowns shouting.
If “auntie Ursula” as she is mocked here in Poland decides for a “regime change ” in Budaphest we can see Orban asking Putin for help ( the Russian army is closing on Odessa – next to Moldavia border).
I want to ask a question to JMG ( in one of your essays “Dancers at the end of time” you showed how a series of societies are going literaly insane, which looks really dangerously close to what is happening in Europe, are you afraid that this mess will end up in a provocation agains Russia and spiral out of control in Europe?)
Does anybody in the commentariat has any signs on astrology and (I am not asking for details, don’t have money for a visit there situation in poland is tough) are there signs pointing towards disaster ?
Just getting concerned maybe the fearmongering and madness in the MSM is starting to get to people here and me as well
Info and JMG,
This exchange, if I may intrude into it:
“In fact the more bloodier and intense the Wars. The more there is pressure to unify under one Empire.”
“(…) that certainly seems to be the EU’s long game. Just at the moment, however, it doesn’t seem to be working very well.”
– comes with an unstated implication that the EU’s unification efforts would really benefit from a properly bloody and intense war. That is worrying, especially since the current war in Ukraine makes both a prime candidate for escalation, and creates an obvious enemy in the form of Russia. The inflammatory rhetoric on both sides (Russia’s ‘get your troops out of former Warsaw Pact countries’ vs the EU’s ‘punish Putin by all means necessary’) does little to make it less likely, while at the same time boxing in the leaders on both sides.
When that war started and the sanctions began rolling in, I assumed that the collective West’s reaction would be similar to how it reacted to Covid: i.e. it will go from engineering a unified front against Russia and burying all sings of dissent, to the dissent quietly organising itself in the background, to cracks appearing in the official narrative that will in due course become impossible to ignore even for the ruling class lest they are pushed out of power, to ruling class eventually declaring victory and pretending that the war as previously understood doesn’t exist any more. In view of your comments, perhaps I should now see this as a best-case scenario. Do you think it is still likely, or (hopefully) likelier than an all-out escalation? What would you say could be the signs of the likelihood tipping over in favor of a continental war?
In a forest a few minutes walk from here, a hundred lovely Eastern White Pine seedlings about three feet tall are growing in a small clearing that has space and light sufficient for one, or maybe two, mature trees. It’s not difficult to imagine the general shape of their futures, even if one fails to notice the lingering debris of such past outcomes in other patches of forest a few steps away.
It’s not appropriate, we’re often told, to apply such simplistic Malthusian thinking to anything human, because it’s forgetting that cooperation is just as prevalent in nature as competition. But how do the pine seedlings cooperate? It’s not in their nature to agree to stop growing lest they overgrow their resources—and even if they did, the end result of that would be some other tree, an oak most likely, overshadowing them all. They cooperate by striving as best they can, holding the soil, taking the light, growing tall but thin and weak, until ice storms or insects or nor’easter winds do most of them in, and one or two surviving siblings inherit the former clearing.
Amidst the rise and fall of civilizations, I’m not sure I’d regret, in some other lifetime, being the dweller in that 10th century English hut (from the April 6th post), rather than one of the six hundred elaborately dressed courtiers prostrate in perfect formation across the expansive floor of the grand palace of some great empire of the same time period. Both have their obvious downsides, despite both likely being considered among the elites of their respective milieux.
So, hmm, I guess the obscurely oblique point in all this is that imagination is required to surmount the single vision and respond to the cat at five AM, but add some more imagination onto that and it brings into view the question, just what are the stakes really, and why are they important?
During the last discussion of the lack of “the imagination in the West” I said the division of labor created a populace who can’t imagine things beyond their skills and training. What I should have added is that this requires a belief system with a moral code, otherwise the lack of imagination would be a noticable problem as reality imposes one painful lesson after another.
So the belief system is “success is virtue and failure is vice”. Success is “any accomplishment in your specific field” and failure is “any loss in your specific field”. Of course the Vices are frequently forgiven or redefined as lesser Vices to allow for things to continue. But the main point is what most people define as good or evil aren’t relevant.
I spend a lot of time with the white collar crowd (and their leadership) and the vast majority are amoral, driven by success/failure within their own domain. They only invoke mainline religions when interacting with outsiders.
. . .humanity is always entering a new awareness, and it always ends up looking a lot like the old one. I hope you aren’t too disappointed.
Not conflating progress with new awareness. Just as life have changed over time, so does awareness. Will stick with what my dreams and feelings are telling me. Thanks.
@ info – are you referring to the “Legalist” school whose teachings and aims the Qin dynasty succeeded in putting in place when unifying the Warring States in 221BC, and which subsequently brought the Qin dynasty into such disfavour that it was overthrown in 207BC?
Well, that one’s a puzzler… for sure! 😉
Also, thank you for pointing out the pattern of how Goethe’s approach is also shared by e.g. Spengler and Wolfram. I’m most directly acquainted with Wolfram’s work (enough of a “fan” to wonder why the image in the post lays out rule 86 but follows rule 30; they’re mirror images), and appreciate Spengler primarily through your commentaries, and Goethe’s as part of the bedrock of biological science. Anyhow, that’s a really powerful and useful concept.
I could say I’ve been trying to apply a similar method to myths/narratives/systems of thought in general, while recognizing that’s far too large a catalog for a lifetime. The fourth principle is important there, because many people are invested in one or another such system, and easily offended. Of course Spengler and Wolfram, and probably Goethe too in his time, have come under intense criticism for coloring outside the lines of the fields of study they were synthesizing. That’s the catch, isn’t it? “If you haven’t spent your life specializing in this one particular thing, you’re not qualified to compare it with anything else.”
Re: pro-Russian trolls
Congratulations, JMG. Kremlin now considers you a credible threat! That’s something you could put on your resume. In Russia, the opposition calls these trolls Kremlin Bots; they get paid per comment they make, about 15 Russian rubles, which is not much, but a 1000 comments per month, and you can scrape a living out of it.
China also has a similar troll factory called the 50 Cent Party. Guess how much they are paid for a comment.
Now some news, Japan has declared the southernmost Kuril Islands, which Russia has occupied since WW2, Japanese sovereign territory.
Things could get interesting!
Aldarion, Goethe was enough of a polymath to embrace a very precise style in his scientific writings — I find them well worth reading for the prose alone, though I grant they’re not poetry. As for the Covid vaccines, it’s been my repeated experience that those people who are intolerant on the pro-Covid vaccine side seem to be unable to post something without profanity and personal attacks, and so you’re getting a skewed sample.
Tim, fair enough. Of course they’re the same thing, which is why I consistently refer to the Vietnam war and the Russo-Ukrainian war.
Wer, that’s fascinating — I can’t find any trace of that in English language news. Can you point me to a news story I can feed through a translator?
Migrant Worker, I still don’t think the chances of a war between the EU and Russia are high at all, because the EU is militarily very weak, and the US is perfectly willing to fight such a war to the last European but has no interest in sending its own troops into that sort of meatgrinder — nor does it have anything like an adequate arsenal for a peer-to-peer war on that scale. I could see the EU trying to trap the US into intervening, but it would be far smarter of Russia to respond to any EU provocations by turning off the natural gas, rather than by saying it with missiles.
Walt, excellent. From a certain point of view, it’s all irrelevant, since human life varies within fairly narrow parameters irrespective of civilizational cycles — the guy living in that Anglo-Saxon hut had more days off each year and kept a larger share of the proceeds of his labor than any American employee can count on, and his job security was also much better! Not everyone shares that point of view, however, and there’s also a point to knowing what your society is doing so you can avoid some of the gaudier downsides of decline and fall.
GlassHammer, yes, and that’s quite common. The lack of a meaningful spiritual perspective is one of the things that leads complex societies straight to collapse.
Patient Observer, you could always apply the Goethean test to your dreams and feelings, and find out what happened the last hundred times or so that people convinced themselves that a new awareness was about to dawn. (2012 isn’t that long ago, after all.) That said, if you want to learn that ancient lesson the hard way, don’t let me stop you.
Walt, okay, you get today’s Geek Medal! I just pulled a nice diagram from the internet. I’ve read Wolfram’s tome several times but I don’t have the rules by heart.
Ecosophian, I’ve been on paid troll lists for a good long time, to judge by some of the comments I get, but these are new ones. As for Japan, wow. I’m astonished that they were that stupid.
I’d argue that much of what you describe as a lack of inherent wealth is due to the extreme mismanagement of resources that comes along when everybody is after each others throats all the time. Of course, if I compare India to Great Britain, I see more color, more spices, more diversity, larger trees, etc. etc (on the other hand I see more deadly animals, insects and diseases, too). You could count that as inherent wealth, of course.
Just 150 years ago, large parts of Europe were bare of forest. In the part of Germany where I live, for example, you can still see the traces of this in aerial photographs where you can observe the positions of former charcoal piles. Trees older than 150 years you usually only find in former royal forests were the past elites went for hunting and ordinary men were barred entry under threat of harsh punishment. Buildings 300 years old or older (I live in one and have seen many more) on the other hand show traces of large wealth, both human wealth and wealth in the environment, even for the ordinary farmer.
So let’s just assume we can agree on how “inherent wealth” can be defined or measured – does less inherent wealth mean not enough wealth so you have to loot it somewhere else? At some point in history, this statement might have become true (and I fear it is very much true today, as Europeans unfortunately might soon find out…) but I claim that this was not always the case. Europe (and later the US) looted the world because they looted themselves in the first place and wasted and spoiled almost everything.
I might be wrong with my assessment and of I’m not that well read on history that I could bolster my claims with more robust historical evidence than what I have provided here. But if I just gaze at history and “the ordinary European” I get the feeling that it’s less a lack of wealth, but a society that for some reason caught in this frantic desire for more and more, trapped in the sad condition of being always hungry no matter how well fed one is. Well, maybe the European world is this realm of the “hungry ghosts”, the Buddhists talk about?
I see no way that any side in this conflict can claim any sort of victory and depart the battlefield satisfied. Maybe the best one can hope for is some sort of stalemate with West Ukraine and Russia scrapping over the Donbas region, much like India and Pakistan scrap over Kashmir.
Note that India and Pakistan were one country not that long ago, as were Russia and Ukraine.
Kaiser is cogent:
@Ron M #168: Plato made the same analogy in post-Pellopenesian-Wars Greece. History does sometimes rhyme.
Meanwhile, the passengers have been handed the sheet music to “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
@Info #179 re: the Qin Legalists: Wasn’t it their regime under which, the story goes, the leader of some reluctant draftees asked them “What’s the penalty for mutiny?” They answered “Death.” He then asked “And what’s the penalty for being late?” They looked at each other, the light dawning, and said “Death.” And he said “And, men, we’re late.” Oops!
As Lao Tzu – or was it Sun Tzu – or both pointed out, when people are so backed into a corner, they have nothing left to lose, you’re likeliest to end up as dead meat.
I am amazed that our second-rate elites seem to have thought that Russia would just sit and do nothing effective about NATO expansion, our Ukrainian policy, color revolutions, etc. I agree that lack of imagination is the big piece of it, but the apparent level of ignorance is also astonishing (Russia attacked Japan in 1904??!). I also think that the West has forgotten how to deal with a large power, and lack of experience and imagination is causing our “leaders” and “elites” an attack of stupid.
How in heaven is the Ukraine of critical importance to the US?? It wasn’t until 1993.
Regarding our wonderful sanctions, if one looks at a map, most of the world isn’t playing (including Israel which I think is interesting). Maybe our foreign policy is to drive everyone else into an alliance of self-defense. How we can be making Russia and China; India and Pakistan; and China and India all closer together is amazing (never mind Russia and Turkey!!!).
Well we most certainly live in Interesting Times!
It was not in an article, Kaczyński and Morawiecki said that in one of their speeches. I might be inffering too much but the fact is that lately relations between Poland and Hungary are sour. And G.Soros did not said that officialy, but it is clear to me that he wants Orban gone (just like every pro nation politician he doesn’t like).
I am sorry but i don’t have time to read internet blogs and articles all day, I might be inffering too much especialy that the information we are reciving from the MSM is “horse manure”
About “auntie Ursula” she is really disliked here in Poland (she is nothing than a stooge I think) just one of the privilleged EU officials, divorced from ordinary peoples realities.
France will be soon in bad shape, Macron apparently won by a small margin, but a lot of the French people will be very unhappy (unless there will be a course corection- very unlikely) at least the muslim migrants are happy in France their job of colonising Western Europe just became so much easier with anti populist Macron in power.
I am afraid about this conflict spilling over and the livelhood of my familly (I am a part of a extended familly and we are not rich, something happens in the wider world we are affected, recent months had been changelling)
There are so many thing flying around it is hard to understand.
If the european nation were in a middle of an economic boom with a larger younger population than maybe we might have gone together to this war, but with the demographic situation, 2 years of the scamdemic crippling the economy and with a bad internal situation I don’t know how are they going to do this, ordinary folks like me are concerned because I wonder what job I can get in a high inflation enviroment and the whole globalisation is winding down. I wish everybody who is listening from Europe luck and let’s hope that a stupid escalation of this conflict would not lead to something really bad.
Plus apparently the name of that high ranking officer in general Trevor Kadier from Canada (the one In Maripol)
Zelensky head of staff officialy said that and the media is talking about it so there must be something about this (not just russian claims).
If I may, I suspect, suspect only, hat Japan might not be foolish at all. I wonder if the Japanese are looking ahead to a time when they will have to get oil from Alaska, and not via the South China Sea. The reports sound to me like opening of negotiation, not declaring war..
#149 it does seem rather ambulance-chasing to be pitching one’s architectural designs for the rebuilding while the shooting war is still ongoing. However what Norman Foster is doing is not anything like as bad as the various politicians seeking to exploit the crisis for their own ends.
The start of the Russia-Ukraine war this year led me to distance myself from social media again, I get the impression that the mass signalling of solidarity with Ukraine, in the form of Ukrainian flag emoji next to names on Twitter, a blue and yellow ribbon on a fakebook profile image, is OK if it is well-intentioned and sincere, but it seems to me more like the latest bandwagon to jump aboard.
It feels very much like a kind of Pied Piper effect, something which will be used to lead people where someone else wants them to go.
I am particularly uncomfortable when such humanitarian displays of solidarity, are used not to argue for peace, but for more militarism and war. So this is why I’ve deactivated fakebook again, and have kept off Twitter since early March.
Hi John Michael,
That’s funny. An eerie little whisper suggested that this was less of an explosion and more the work of a riot.
Nachtgurke, that is to say, you disagree with me. Duly noted, and I’m not especially interested in going around and around in a quibblefest on the subject.
Martin, it depends on what victory conditions Russia has in mind. It probably can’t get a neutral and demilitarized Ukraine, but seizing a chunk of Ukrainian territory as a buffer zone and humiliating NATO is quite another matter.
Patricia M, thanks for these. Lao Tsu had a comment along those lines: “The people do not fear death when the rulers demand too much of life.”
Cugel, as I’ve noted in previous posts, the weirdest thing about our comfortable classes these days is that they literally can’t imagine that anyone or anything in the world can do something they don’t want. I think it’s too much “power of positive thinking” drivel via the corporate end of the New Age movement; they’re so convinced that the universe is set up to give them anything they want that they can’t conceive of the possibility that it won’t. That way lies annihilation, but don’t try telling them that!
Wer, fair enough. Thanks for the data points.
Mary, if so, they don’t understand the Russian mind. In Moscow, that’s going to sound like a pretext for war.
Chris, hmm! Yes, that does follow…
I agree. I think that we are at the beginning of another protracted engagement, the end of which is only the enrichment of the military industrial complex. The continual buildup of weapons and military hardware can enrich contractors and anyone with a stake in a protracted engagement. I have been alive since post – WW2 – a mere baby boomer. Have seen a lifetime of wars and rumors of wars. Is this what my life will be till the end? I would hope not – but, alas, I see no way out of this debacle. It is certain, in my opinion, that a vote will not make any difference.
@Patricia #193: thanks for the informative “rhyming lesson” (the only Plato that I’ve ever read, BTW, is The Symposium). Love your addition to the analogy! 😊
Do you by chance currently hail from Rhode Island .. or New Hampshire??
Seems that R.I. has passed a lawwww! Gulp!! .. whereby, if you no get jabed,you pay extra state income tax. May the God’s protect you&yourn should you reside in craycray R.I.!!!
Talk about a lack of imagination. Bob would no doubt blow toxic pipesmoke Rhode Island’s legislature’s way, I’m sure of it!
A aliva-flecked rant might be a fair description of my initial reaction to your column. I would argue that my strong feelings are not a based on a blind acceptance of the media narrative, but on my personal lived experience. But I would like to set that aside. Maybe it is better not to engage with this post. But I would like to ask “sirustalcelion” for a bit of help, if he can.
Years ago I went to visit my Russian teacher in Moscow in January of 2005. She has rekindled a relationship with an old boyfriend from her college days at Moscow University. I would say he looked more German than Slavic, and he did carry himself with an air that made me believe that his (and Evgenia, my Russian teacher’s) claims that he had held an important position in the (I think) Gorbachev era government. I have tried to independantly verify anyone by his name in the Gorbachev government, but unfortunaely his name was (is?) Vladamir Kusnetsov, which is a bit like being named John Smith in the UK, but worse. We had to talk through my teacher, since despite trying to learn Russian, it really never took, so I am not quite sure my information is perfectly correct. My Russian teacher’s translation of his position in government was “Minister of Lapbor and Payroll”. I was not able to find anything that sounded like that position in the Soviet government. I did like the man. And I do think he liked me, though I do think he likely saw me (with legitimate justification) as hopelessly naive. He mentioned being at the conference where the new Russian constitution was created. He apparently had a daughter that played the violin (or viola?) in the Bolshoi. He and Evgenia had a falling out shortly after our meeting, so I never saw him again. I had asked her to put me in contact, but she had deep misgivings about him, which might not have been realistic. She was starting to exhibit some paranoia that would get progressive works over the next few years. I still remember this man and this meeting because of his warm attitude and suprising generosity to me. I would like to try to put my memory of him in context, espcecially if there is some photograph of him somewhere, or some lost youtube record. If he is still alive I might even try to reach out to him to tell him of Evgenia’s last months. Do you know of any resources? Are there any contacts from your diplomacy days that might be able to describe something about him? Maybe some academic expert that could shed some light on this guy? If so, it would be a kindness to me. I don’t know how to contact you without exposing my email to the entire world. Our host has been known to be generous; maybe he would pass my personal email on to you if you have anything that cannot be posted here.
As an aside, the guy on wikipedia that worked at the UN was born too late. The V.K. I knew would have been of an age with Evgenia, or maybe a bit older, who was born in 1945.
JMG, about 25 years ago a newspaper columnist up here said that you know who an economist works for as soon as they open their mouth. It struck me at the time because I was thinking much the same thing as I’m sure were many others.
This unworthy thought soon gave rise to more of the same. I couldn’t help thinking back to my university days where I studied the subject and I remember thinking that so much of this subject matter is in practical terms garbage. You can’t even test it.
Not to say that some of it wasn’t interesting like the history of economic thought and economic history. In any case I look to the uses to which the field has been put and I’m wondering if its practitioners aren’t doing more harm than good.
There’s one guy that writes for the NY Times that makes me laugh, not as much as does the Fed, but he sometimes is pretty funny. Makes me think, geez, how hard can it be to get one of those high-falutin prizes?
That guy aside most of them are entirely unamusing given that so many just sound like shills and touts, barking for whoever holds their leash.
Is it just me? Should I be more appreciative of the strenuous efforts and ingenuity in giving academic cover for policies that demolished my home town and a multitude like it all over the US and southern Canada? How many times have I heard one of them say, ‘as an economist I believe in free trade’? How many outrages has this simple phrase justified?
See, the ultimate unworthy thought is to abolish this field for being fraudulent and disreputable and to put the facilities and monies devoted to it to other uses. In the last resort to take away accreditation from each school that persists in teaching this swill, or in the last, last resort, to throw them brick by brick into the nearest body of water.
Yes, I know, perilously close to book-burning, or maybe just cut to the chase and call it that, or cancellation or whatever. But what is the point of propagating nonsense?
I mean, cancelling people is all the rage, so why not think big and cancel an entire field of study? Not forever, maybe just for 75 years, send economists into academic exile and then maybe start over when the last one is gone. You know, a fresh start.
But if I’m not going overboard, the damage done by these people is enormous. Western civilization is to my eyes dying and economists are the undertakers. Where is the failure? Is it in my fevered imaginings? Or is the failure in the inability to imagine that economics is utterly dishonest and deserving of abolition?
Polecat, no, that law has not been passed. It’s a bill that was introduced by a very small number of state senators into the Senate. No equivalent bill has been introduced in the state House, and even the pro-vaccine media is admitting that the public response is furiously negative. We’ll see, but given the way Rhode Island usually does things, it’ll probably die unmourned in committee.
Roger, I think it was John Kenneth Galbraith who said that the function of economists was to make astrologers look respectable. There’s also the fine joke that did the rounds in 2008: “What do you call an economist who makes a prediction? Wrong.”
It certainly did. But it seems the Legalist Government stayed around. Including lots of its Totalitarian features:
Almost none of Legalism actually got rolled back during subsequent dynasties because the System was basis for Imperial Rule.
What is interesting is a few of those Totalitarian Theorists got themselves destroyed by their own Laws:
“Several authors of the Legalist system ended their lives as its victims. These include Han Feizi, who was poisoned by Li Si, in turn executed by the Second Emperor. Shang Yang also died a victim of his own principle of unbending application of the law. He had antagonized the Heir Apparent by having his Tutor’s nose cut off for a minor infraction. When Shang Yang’s patron, the Duke of Xiao, died, Shang Yang fled. He attempted to take refuge in an inn, but the innkeeper told him, “Anyone who attempts to stay in an inn without proper credentials is a criminal.” The innkeeper was merely quoting the statutes of Qin as seen in The Book of Lord Shang. Shang Yang tried to flee to the safety of his own fiefdom, but was captured, then torn to pieces by four horses in 338 B.C.”
“Wasn’t it their regime under which, the story goes, the leader of some reluctant draftees asked them “What’s the penalty for mutiny?” They answered “Death.” He then asked “And what’s the penalty for being late?” They looked at each other, the light dawning, and said “Death.” And he said “And, men, we’re late.” Oops!
As Lao Tzu – or was it Sun Tzu – or both pointed out, when people are so backed into a corner, they have nothing left to lose, you’re likeliest to end up as dead meat.”
Indeed. I think the harshness was rolled back at least in regards to this situation. But they retained everything else about the Qin Totalitarianism like all the various forms of mass murder and collective punishment.
The Tang was great improvement but even then they didn’t really roll back on the Legalism.
And the Ming:
Qing and Modern Communist China are just resurgences of Legalism in its Totalitarianism.
The Founders of such an evil system themselves suffered gruesome fates at its hands. But the evil continued for some time.
David by the Lake at #149:
Apparently, Foster hasn’t taken into account that it will be a different and Russia supportive government that will be in charge in Kharkov, not the people he is talking to now.
Wer here it seems that maron is staying (a lot violence in France’s streets will result in the coming years)
But his margin of victory shrank like something ( In the last elections he had a solid margin now it is less than 8%). I’ve read the reports that a lot of left wing people in France that hate him but voted for him just to stop Le Pen. (some long term communist voter even said “joyless vote and that he didn’t agree with him at all)
So to summarize we have a population that is now deeply divided with clear lines (there are cities in France where the overhelming majority is Le Pen, they are not going to be happy).
The Polarisation of France is now in effect, Macron can no longer be calm about the future I think that a few blunders here and there (including more violent muslim riots like thoose in Sweden not that long ago) and
Le Pen and Zemmour supporters will want to publicly get rid of him. A weak, divided France and Germany with massive economic problems, (and with a burgeoing Muslim insurgency inside) that does not look like a good advertisment of the EU.
And the main problem Europe is dependent on the outside for resorces, say no to Russian gas is one thing but proclaim that you will get natural gas from “somewhere” is another.
I want to ask an another question, to the folks in the commentariat and you JMG what do you think about the chances of a hyperinflation in the dollar (because folks here are getting nervous, and my second removed cousin is in the US working in cleaning and the stuff he is talking about makes folks in Ujście concerned)
There is meme in the Polish internet going around “Nic się nie zmieniło” on the left a Soviet era shop with empty shelves and on the right a group of pictures from US, German, Polish supermarkets also showing empty shelves. Father Time has a strange sense of humor it seems.
And “auntie Ursula” is there again droning about virtues of “democracy”, “freedom”, “voice of people” etc. People are just laughing at this point.
Stay safe everyone Wer
jjggbb (no. 204), here is a list of Soviet ministries, along with the dates that they existed and the names of their ministers:
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs was a short-lived (1991) ministry that existed during the Gorbachev era, and was headed by Valery Paulman. The Vladimir Kuznetzov you met may have worked in this ministry, but could not have been the minister.
Professional baseball has just jumped the shark, if today’s sports page story is correct. “Colorado Rockies All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon became the first active Major League baseball player to endorse a bookmaker.” Baseball’s long-term exile, Pete Rose, said “I was 30 years too early.” The story notes that Major League baseball now openly embraces the gambling industry…. and goes on to note the many rule changes in the past few years that simplify things for viewers and bettors. R.I.P. Scratch one more “sport.”
Rome’s gladiatorial fights were often more or less fixed, I believe….
@JMG #189, Responding to MigrantWorker
Funnily enough, there has been a number of Mexican Memes regarding the US willingness “to fight such a war to the last European”. Here a sample, I know it is video, but just two minutes of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cIbHNW-X8Y
The audio is in Spanish, though I think it is more funny if you don’t understand what they are precisely saying, like a Chaplin movie.
Re. natural resource wealth… a lot depends on your technology. To a primitive agricultural society, a mountainous area with lots and lots of fast flowing streams down steep hillsides would be a terrible place to live, but ecotechnic societies would fight wars over such a treasure. If you have a means to utilise solar power, deserts become far more valuable (iow, they are now actually worth something).
The wealth JMG appears to be thinking of is I think soil and climate that is well suited to grain and grain-like (e.g. rice) crops. These can be subdivided, stored, taxed, used as currency… and if you have high yields and long growing seasons, you can free up some number of people for non-agricultural work. It’s no surprise to see that the most ancient civilisations emerged in these locations. A society of milk drinkers is a lot harder to organise into an empire — they can conquer one of course, and did (Mongols), but aren’t well suited to being the conquered. I *suppose* you could have one based on cheese…
The question for the future is whether or not this pattern holds for technic civilisations, and what (very) long term effects the Columbian exchange will turn out to have. New crops (well, new for the old world) open up new possibilities. Unless you expect collapse to be so extreme as to send us back to before the 12th century in technology, I don’t think the past can be extrapolated into the future that easily.
Re. covid vaccines, it’s noteworthy that the large majority of severe side effects from the mRNA vaccines happen on the second dose. When you consider that some fraction of the population already had been infected when they were rolled out, this fits with them being a lot worse in people with prior immunity. Which is what I expected from the mechanism of action (the spike protein levels in the body should remain roughly constant until the mRNA is used or degraded, unlike a virus where the levels can actually be affected by the immune response) — I think a lot of the problems are caused by it overstimulating the immune system. So a point to me I guess… I actually was going to get a single dose of Pfizer back in October (I had verified I had no antibodies, and I have a heart condition, so a single dose was the most I would risk) because they were and are being funny about the one I wanted (Novavax). But then I got covid that week. And when my brother had it a few weeks ago and was stuck in the house with me for ten days (I took zero precautions) I kept testing negative, so the immunity I have now is pretty good.
I love the memes about the French elections.
The essence of Macarons:
Macaron vs. Le Pen:
@Info #208 – so there really was a Ming the Merciless! Several of them, it seems. Writing style: tabloid; loved the ads; pass the popcorn!
Patricia Mathews (212) alas that I read that and thought, Oh great! Publishing! Independent writers might have a chance! *sighs*
Related to a failure to conceive of alternative framings.
I think this author approaches the core issue, but still doesn’t quite grasp the difference between “anti-science” and “anti-official institution of science.” To be fair, there is some mention toward the end of “distrust of officials,” but she doesn’t take the needed step to ask why.
@Info – yes… if you focus exclusively on what the powerful do, you will certainly see them putting all sorts of schemes for various kinds of domination and extraction into place. That is what powerful people do.
I am suggesting that there are always OTHER actors at play, who are (by definition) not powerful, not dominant, not organised. Who remain under the radar, who prefer to stay in the shadows, and who publish no manifestos. And yet, the individual, unwritten, covert and surreptitious, acts and omissions that such people commit/omit can add up to large, and sometimes, insurmountable, impediments to the success of the plans of the mighty.
You will not see these people at work if you focus only on what the mighty do. You have to “squint” a bit, and peer out of the corners of your eyes half sideways.
But ask yourself this. Qin Shi Huang’s “warring states” unifying rule, with its Legalist opposition to such “parasites on the state” as “Odes and Rites” “virtue” and “filial piety”, culminated in a famous book burning campaign in 213BC. And yet, Confucian thought, with its enthusiastic dedication to these selfsame “Odes and Rites” “virtue” and “filial piety” remains, to this day, a strong strand in Chinese culture and thought. Likewise, Daoism, with its strong critique of statesmanship, and law, and its view that individuals may be “strengthened” (not weakened) by close study of the Dao. Did the state simply fail to burn enough books to stamp out these Legalism-subversive philosophies? Or could it be that there were enough non-state actors around to take private, non-state action, so as to keep alive these and other cogent arguments with the Legalists about how strong the state should be (vs, say, the family, and or, the individual?)?
Tim Garton Ash – one of our Host’s favourite Guardian comedians – is showing rather too much imagination than too little in his latest article. He conjures a scenario five years from now at the end of Macron’s second term where the French President has guided the EU to the status of a superpower equal to the US and China and is no longer dependent on Russian gas, Chinese technology or US military power. He does at least admit that there are immense obstacles in the way – I’d say reality is the biggest one. He also says it’s time Macron and Scholz gave Orban a jolly good clip around the ear to make him Get With The Programme.
Meanwhile back in the real world, prices for basic foods in the UK are set to rocket by the end of the year due to the effects of the Russo-Ukraine war – both directly and knock-on to gas and fertiliser prices. Farm gate prices of eggs, wheat and milk are likely to double as feed prices for chickens and cattle increase by over 100%. Moving back to fantasy land, UK agriculture minister George Eustace suggests farmers use more manure instead of nitrogen fertiliser. Someone at Farmer’s Weekly has done the math and calculates providing animal manure to replace all the nitrogen fertiliser used in the UK would need an extra 2.5 billion hens and 10 million diary cows. That’s more than a hundred chickens for every household and would have the interesting side effect of each person in the UK having to consume each morning, an 18-egg omelette washed down with five pints of milk.
A data point from Germany, which I mention here, because Wer alluded to it: in German supermarkets some thigs have begun to gk missjng from time to time; sometimes there are low amounts of some good, or some part of a shelf bare. Prices there have risen perceptibly.
The conflict around almost any topic (Ukraine, Covid vaccines, economic policy, woke issues, crime, electric cars, etc) involves problems with binary thinking, lack of understanding (real) science and math, bias confirmation and lack/surplus of imagination.
Many of these issues I’m far less emotional than I was 25 years ago, when I was near a state of “peak know it all…”.
But one thing I’ve noticed lately becoming more frequent are the claims of the vast pools of abiotic oil waiting to be tapped, and thus no need to worry about our energy needs. Peak oil is just more fear tactics. Ugh.
There are many who don’t want to see oil or the dollar disappear.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Long Descent would include this kind of warped thinking, but how much imagination is needed to realize huge deposits of fossil fuels don’t resolve pollution and potentially climate change side effects? It reminds of the “witch swimming test” popular several hundred years ago, where innocent people would sink (and sometimes drown), and the apparent guilty would float. Bizzaro land logic.
Hi John Michael,
Mate, you have been proven correct to not have made your usual predictions at the commencement of this year.
Who knew events would be moving this fast? I only learned today that as of this week Indonesia is placing an immediate export ban on palm oil. Now I can’t stand the stuff, but plenty of people consume it without knowing anything about it. Holy carp!
Global oilseed shortages push canola prices up, bringing good tidings for Australian growers
You did make an off hand comment about Afghanistan being a place that empires go to die, and I did mention that there were going to be consequences for losing that war, but wow – the vultures were waiting on the sidelines for a moment of weakness to swoop in and pluck fleshy morsels from the ailing body. Yikes.
And is your title this week a reference to the old adage that it is always darkest before the dawn? I wonder what the morning in America folks of the 1980’s would make of the goings on? Maybe it wasn’t the morning then, but rather the late afternoon?
Some personal good news that I think you’ll all enjoy….my almost dead apple tree has hundreds of flower buds on it this spring. Last fall I read the Johnny Appleseed poem out loud and talked with the tree. I did a soil test, provided nutrients and homemade compost in September. Last few years it maybe had a dozen buds on the whole tree. This year it’s bursting with them. Every time I look at it it makes me so happy. It’s given me a lot of hope too.
Well alright then! Yay, here’s one for sanity!
Frankly, I wouldn’t put is past our clueless Olympian pols to serve up something similar … which our vaunted wefian alumni of a governor would sign in an arrhythmic blackheart beat.
I’m sure you’ve seen this, but wow:
The tide, it be a-turnin’.
‘The wealth JMG appears to be thinking of is I think soil and climate that is well suited to grain and grain-like (e.g. rice) crops.’
I don’t know how familiar you are with Europe, but let’s just say grain grows here, and has for quite some time now. I don’t know who the society of milk-drinkers having trouble organizing themselves into an Empire is either. The Masai maybe?
This effort to redefine natural wealth as whatever it is Europe happens not to have is getting ever more bizarre, or maybe I should say imaginative. Let’s just reimagine it as tea, or maybe cinnamon, and be done with it.
@ drhooves re #222
The notion that there is abiotic oil just waiting to be tapped into and put an end to all (or most) of our problems gets resurrected so often that it qualifies as one of the undead. I don’t think Christopher Lee’s Dracula got revived that often.
Richard Heinberg published an article about this nearly 20 years ago which I think is just as relevant now as when he originally wrote it. I fully expect to be reading about abiotic oil 20 years from now while I’m relaxing next to a crackling warm wood stove in whatever nursing home I wind up on.
I can definitely get behind switching Britain to a dairy-based diet (heh, the milk drinker empire I mentioned?). Five pints is roughly 2000kcal, so we won’t even need the grain the manure would be fertilising…
I think the numbers for subsisting off sheep milk came to 1000 m^2 a person, when I did some boe calculations. That’s modern yields of course. But I still think dairy has a big part to play in feeding Britain in the future (we already produce enough milk to feed ~20% of the population).
Alice (@Cererean) and Robert Morgan,
When I hear ‘5 pints of milk’, I think ‘over half a pound of cheese’. A cheap cheese at that, since the milk used to produce it would basically be a byproduct of producing fertiliser. Now that’s a crisis I could actually live with… 😉
Wer, at this point hyperinflation in the dollar is a real possibility; we already have robust inflation, far above the official numbers, and the meme in the Polish internet is quite correct — I have to assume when I go shopping that some of the products I want will be out of stock every single time. That is to say, we’re moving deeper into crisis over here.
Patricia M, and so are ours. It didn’t surprise anyone back when I still lived in Seattle that the Seattle Mariners, after a long string of lousy seasons, suddenly up and had a winning season just in time to head off a strong citizen’s movement to get rid of them.
CR, I’ll pass on the video, but I’m glad to know Mexican memesters are hard at work having fun with that target-rich environment.
Alice, of course. Coal was just a rock until it became, for a couple of centuries, the key to global power. That mountainous area may be more useful than you suggest for anybody, even on a relatively primitive technological level, since those fast flowing streams at least guarantee that your crops will get water!
David BTL, hey, at least they’ve begun to notice. The next step is realizing that all the lies told by official authorities might have something to do with it — but of course that’s a huge step.
Robert, oh my. That’s a true masterpiece of comedy — thank you. I’d like to suggest that if England’s farmers need a good abundant source of manure to replace all that natural gas the Russians are apparently shutting off, the Grauniad is a great source — and maybe they can compost a few spare agriculture ministers while they’re at it.
HD179949b, thanks for this! That’s a data point I was expecting, and it’s very useful to have it confirmed.
Drhooves, abiotic oil? Again? Okay, that belongs right up there along with the Guardian article Robert Morgan cited. Can you post a couple of links so I can make fun of them publicly? It would be very useful for an upcoming post.
Chris, once we started into the penumbra of the crisis, I figured all bets were off and it was time to set aside predictions until things calm down a bit. Hang on — it’s going to be a wild ride down the slope.
Denis, huzzah! Delighted to hear it.
Polecat, oh, I expect it to be tried in other states. We’re not out of this yet.
David BTL, well, of course! The US is potentially facing, for the first time in its history, the awkward discovery of what it’s like to be on the losing side.
IDK when comments will be stopping here, but I’ll keep going as long as they do 🙂
Dot, we’ve always been able to grow grain here, yes. But AFAIK not at the same yields as other locations, not before artificial fertiliser came into play. Which means that we’ve had to have more land under the plough (another thing that underwent massive improvements after the middle ages) and more people to work it, leaving less people to do other things and less surplus for the elites to steal to build their monuments. TBH though I’m not sure that the peasants in the latter societies had it any better than the peasants in dark age Europe. Arguably, if your land is better suited to pasture than grain, your life may well be better because you’ll have more meat than the gruel eaters. The Mongols did manage to conquer sedentary societies fairly easy after all.
Re. my comment about an empire of milk drinkers, I meant in the sense that they’re harder to conquer and extract tribute from. It’s easy to take 20% of the grain harvest. Not so much 20% of the milk yield from someone’s herd.
Unless you turn it into cheese of course 🙂 And I would not mind at all if Britain does go far heavier on dairy — most of our land is suitable for pasture, not arables. But we should also go back to being a major wool producer — as water shortages bite and supply chains falter cotton will start disappearing again, and wool is a far superior material anyway. At least, now that we have Merino sheep it is. Agriculturally I want Britain to be primarily producing wool, cheese, wood, and hazelnuts (which actually seem to have a per hectare calorific yield comparable to modern corn?). I think our island is suited to that. Throw in potatoes of course for bulk calories, we don’t have *that* much land…
Hi John Michael,
I’m hanging on. Hope you are too!
I have no idea what is meant by abiotic oil. It sounds weird. Mid last decade there was a bit of loose talk about obtaining fuel for airlines derived from plant oils. The numbers are bonkers. Here is an article about the process and thoughts at the time: Qantas flight to show biofuel cuts the mustard. It was actually quite difficult to find the reference nowadays to the original thought experiment.
Just in case you are unable to read the link for any reason, the salient lines were: “Qantas International chief executive Alison Webster said the long-term goal was to grow 400,000 hectares of the seed using contracts with Australian farmers.
That sized crop should produce over 200 million litres of bio-jetfuel every year. The airline used 4.8 billion litres of conventional jet fuel last year.”
There’s 2.5 acres to the hectare, so that is a million acres and it produces 4.16% of the fuel requirements.
That story makes no sense to me, but then right now a lot of things are making very little sense.
team10tim – I looked around a bit for use of “police action” to describe warfare, and found that Pres. Truman used it to describe the UN defense of South Korea. I haven’t found it used to describe US participation in the Vietnamese civil war, so maybe this is what you remember.
RE: Lathechuck #234
Police action refers to military action without a formal declaration of war, so it would apply to most of the military campaigns in in US history as few of them had formal declarations. The last time the US formally declared war was WWII so all military action since then has been either covert or police action.
I very much doubt that I misremembered the events of the time because my Vietnam vet father didn’t sire me until after the wars conclusion. But the congressional reports from the time usually refer to either the “conflict” or “police action.”
As for Truman, I brought him up because of the “Truman doctrine” of containment which is tied up with the “domino theory” which basically means that the advance of communism had to be held in check and stopped in every country that fell under its sway or the rest would fall like dominos.
No one at the time actually cared about the fate of Korea or Vietnam in much the same way that no one now actually cares about the fate of Ukraine except as proxies that must not be allowed to fall to the opposite team lest some place important fall next.
I’ve recently started making simple cheeses in the UK, largely out of curiosity since I’m not a big cheese eater. Right now it does seem to be a fairly high tech process – not the milk but temp control and adding in rennet and freeze dried cultures.
Obviously there were low tech ways of doing this in the past, just as there were for beer, but at the moment I don’t know how it was done absent quite a lot of modern equipment and consumables.
Overall I find the process oddly similar to brewing beer.
“I am suggesting that there are always OTHER actors at play, who are (by definition) not powerful, not dominant, not organised. Who remain under the radar, who prefer to stay in the shadows, and who publish no manifestos. And yet, the individual, unwritten, covert and surreptitious, acts and omissions that such people commit/omit can add up to large, and sometimes, insurmountable, impediments to the success of the plans of the mighty.
You will not see these people at work if you focus only on what the mighty do. You have to “squint” a bit, and peer out of the corners of your eyes half sideways.
But ask yourself this. Qin Shi Huang’s “warring states” unifying rule, with its Legalist opposition to such “parasites on the state” as “Odes and Rites” “virtue” and “filial piety”, culminated in a famous book burning campaign in 213BC. And yet, Confucian thought, with its enthusiastic dedication to these selfsame “Odes and Rites” “virtue” and “filial piety” remains, to this day, a strong strand in Chinese culture and thought. Likewise, Daoism, with its strong critique of statesmanship, and law, and its view that individuals may be “strengthened” (not weakened) by close study of the Dao. Did the state simply fail to burn enough books to stamp out these Legalism-subversive philosophies? Or could it be that there were enough non-state actors around to take private, non-state action, so as to keep alive these and other cogent arguments with the Legalists about how strong the state should be (vs, say, the family, and or, the individual?)?”
I agree. Although its a shame that such a Despotic system didn’t truly go away as I pointed out before. Unlike when the Western Roman Empire collapsed and never came back. Which ended up reforming as the non-despotic and Free States of Europe. This video on Early European Monarchy. Being the King being the First Knight among Equals of other Knights of the Round Table is very informative:
Which comes down to Germanic heritage of relative egalitarianism. Which also makes democracy as we know it possible in the West at least. And that Christian influence with its notion of Dignity for Human beings as being made in God’s Image really limited the despotism of the rulers there. And also set in motion the elevation of the rights of the previously disadvantaged like slaves.
In China Its a little nibble here and there but no further.
I think a huge contributor to the European System of Governments before the rise of “Divine Right” was the fact that European Kings aren’t worshipped as Gods. As this Pastor pointed out:
The Worship of Power itself as Divine. The Emperor as “Son of Heaven” equivalent to the title of “Son of God”. Worship of the God-Kings. And also that the State itself is God and Divine. Which started by the Qin Dynasty and continued until the Communist Party.
The cult of Christ which won’t tolerate any other God really caused any Human King to be stripped of that Divine Aura himself along with the worship of the State
Having to make do with a “Divine Right of Kings” as Absolutism came into being but that was a departure from earlier Germanic customs of the King being a Knight who is a First among Equals.
Andy at 236
A short vid on cheese making in early 19th century
Punky Little Kid
Before reading your article I actually considered what we could’ve learned from history but didn’t. I realized several things:
1. The last great deed of Kaiser Wilhelm II. was to capitulate when the war was lost. Instead of fighting to the last man which would have prolonged the first world war for years and had cost additional millions of lives he did the right thing by ending it when the chances of military victory vanished. Compare that to the death and destruction Germany faced in the Second World War, with Millions of dead and entire cities destroyed in the last phase of the war. Ukraine could have learned that lesson.
2. World War I started with a single man dying. Then everybody rushed in to help his friends and soon the continent went up in flames. It would have been better to help the friends not by escalating the war, but by keeping calm and rational and avoiding escalation. The escalation that finally became the war in Ukraine started in 2008 when NATO invited Ukraine and was obvious for everyone in 2009 when Putin defined this as a red line in his speech at the munich security conference. Especially the European Nations France and Germany helped the US and Ukraine to further escalate the conflict (they still do) instead of moderating a peaceful solution.
3. Some German politicians claim that finally Germany is on the right side of the war. History teaches us that in every world war the Germans thought to be on the right side and felt morally obliged to fight the war they fought. One has to wonder how these same politicians who condemn every trace of nationalism in Germany can not see the obvious rise of neo-nazism in Ukraine. Maybe histories lesson is, if you are on Germanys side it is the wrong side, especially if swastikas are involved.
Hey hey JMG,
I’m sure you saw this already:
‘Blue-Checks’ Furious After Henry Kissinger Says Ukraine Should Cede Territory For Peace With Russia
It’s almost like you even commented on it a week ago:
If you want to understand why something is happening, insisting angrily that there can be no possible reason for it to happen is not a useful way to start.
I have to say that I am a little bit surprised to see Kissinger arguing against US manipulating the geopolitical board in eurasia, but his reasoning is entirely sound and consistent with his doctrines.
His forecast that we have to come to our senses in the next two months or we might have to contend with a wider conflict in a whole new era of more destructive weaponry is honestly quite terrifying.
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