No, I’m not going to put much time here into discussing the last few weeks of political gyrations in the US. I grant that it was highly entertaining to watch politicians who spent most of 2020 insisting that rioting is a perfectly acceptable form of political activity throwing a fine tantrum when the other side took them at their word. It was just as entertaining to watch the social-media barons shoot themselves through all four cheeks at once, by way of a frantic mass purge of dissidents that gave competing venues a boost no amount of advertising could have brought them—and then there was the enticing spectacle of Wall Street melting down right out there in public because a bunch of day traders on Reddit carried out the kind of market scheme that, according to the official narratives, only the obscenely rich are supposed to do. Still, there are plenty of other places online and off where those ironies can be savored, and plenty of other things we need to talk about as America’s ancien régime enters its twilight.
It’s been pointed out that politics is downstream from culture—in less gnomic terms, that changes in culture come first and shifts in politics echo them later on. This is true, but the same insight can be taken further. Culture, in exactly the same sense, is downstream from imagination. Trace out any of the convulsive political changes that have shaped history and you can follow them back through cultural shifts to the thoughts and dreams of visionaries on the fringe. It’s in this sense that, as Shelley claimed, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world: before the political turmoil comes the cultural shifts that make it inescapable; before the cultural shifts comes the whispering in the collective imagination that makes them thinkable.
The fact that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, though, doesn’t guarantee that they will pass good laws. Late last year we discussed the career of Charles Fourier, the giddy French visionary who invented socialism. For a century and a half after his time, his crackpot daydream of a perfect world where everyone labored joyfully out of sheer passional attraction spawned attempts to enact some comparable utopia in the real world, with results that ran the gamut from the thousand failed communes of the post-Sixties US counterculture to the gulags of the Soviet Union and the killing fields of Cambodia. In the same way, it’s possible to draw a direct line from the dreams of the Beat poets in the years immediately following the Second World War to the politics of the United States today. Read Allen Ginsberg’s Howl sometime and you’ll find that its incoherent mishmash of sentimentality and blind rage makes an astonishingly good foreshadowing of today’s political climate.
There are plenty of other examples. I’ve noted here before, for example, that J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy fiction has become a template for modern politics that is as pervasive these days as it is hopelessly dysfunctional. For decades now, people on all sides of the political landscape have reflexively defined their opposition as Sauron incarnate, and then tried to make some gimmick or other fill the place of throwing the Ring into Mount Doom. (In the distance, I hear the winsome voice of a constitutional peasant: “Effective political change derives from the participation of the masses, not from some farcical volcanic ceremony.” To which today’s political activists respond exactly like King Arthur: “Shut up! Shut up!”)
Those of us who are interested in navigating the very troubled future ahead of us thus need to keep shifts in the collective imagination in mind. An example, one that seems very much worth tracking just now, surfaced a little while back in the pages of Wired Magazine.
Yes, I read Wired from time to time. It’s one of those dull faux-alternative rags that pretends to be edgy and iconoclastic while groveling at the feet of the conventional wisdom and giving enthusiastic tongue baths to whatever vapid notions happen to be in vogue among today’s corporate aristocracy, but if you want to keep up with the latest fashionable technobabble, there’s no better place to look. Every so often, for that matter, there’s an article that’s actually interesting. The one I have in mind is an example of the latter species.
Back in 1995, Kirkpatrick Sale published a thoughtful book titled Rebels Against the Future, which took up the cause of the original Luddites and argued that they had been right after all. The Luddites, as some of my readers may remember, were working class people in late 18th and early 19th century Britain who rejected the industrial revolution in its early days, and tried to defend their livelihoods and their identities as skilled craftspeople by wrecking the machines that were putting them out of work and driving them into poverty and misery. Of course they were crushed. Their leaders were hanged and a great many of the rank and file were shipped to labor camps in Australia, Regency Britain’s equivalent of Siberia. Thereafter—well, anthropologists examining British skeletons have reliably found that signs of severe malnutrition and crippling poverty are more common in the remains of 19th-century working people than they are in bones from any earlier period, including the grimmest parts of the Middle Ages.
Inevitably, the Luddites have been favorite whipping boys for the progress-minded ever since. Sale rejected that easy contempt and made a solid case for their cause. That deviation from the officially approved dogmas of our time, in turn, was intolerable to Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired. The article describes him as the magazine’s “resident techno-optimist.” Given the credulousness with which Wired articles parrot even the most absurd Tomorrowland fantasies, that’s saying something, and if Sale had been prepared to exploit the resulting weaknesses, he would have come through the encounter in fine shape.
Unfortunately Sale had his own weak spot, and Kelly targeted it with a cold ruthlessness that might have been admirable in a better cause. Like many other critics of progress then and now, Sale was convinced that industrial society could not keep pursuing endless material expansion indefinitely. A strong case can be made that he was right, but he took the further, fatal step of convincing himself that this meant industrial society would crash to ruin sometime soon. That was the weakness Kelly targeted. With the tape recorder running, he whipped out a check for $1000 and insisted that Sale place a bet on when this collapse would happen. Sale fell for the trap and made the bet. The date he chose was 2020, and of course he lost.
One point worth noting here is that Sale didn’t lose by that much. He specified three markers of collapse: an implosion in the dollar, leading to a depression worse than the 1930s; a revolt of the poor against the rich; and an unprecedented number of environmental catastrophes. He got one and a half of those, but the bet specified all three, so he lost.
This kind of bet was a standard gimmick for a while among cheerleaders of infinite progress, serving much the same role in their rhetoric that the stunts of James “The Amazing” Randi played in the debating arsenal of rationalist pseudoskeptics during the same period. The thing that fascinates me most about the gimmick is that in every case I’ve ever heard of, such bets only went one way.
Imagine, by way of a counterexample, that Sale had turned the tables. “No,” he might have said, “let’s make a different bet. You tell me when you think we’re going to get the future your magazine babbles about—fusion power, space colonies, and the rest of it. You put a date on it, and then we’ll bet a thousand dollars each and see who’s right.” If Kelly had plumped for 2020, even if he’d specified some exceedingly modest version of that future—say, at least one commercial fusion power plant putting electricity into the grid, and at least 500 human beings living full time off the Earth’s surface—Sale would be a thousand bucks richer right now.
What puts teeth into this counterexample is that in 1995, if you tried to tell the readers of Wired that a quarter century in the future, fusion power would still be an unsolved problem, manned space travel would still be limited to old-fashioned capsules atop rockets going to low Earth orbit, and so on, you’d have been jeered off the letters page. The conventional wisdom in those days insisted that by 2020 we’d surely have gotten past those baby steps toward the stars. Had Sale demanded the bet I’ve suggested, Kelly would have landed in the same awkward position that, in our timeline, he inflicted on Sale. If he refused to bet, how could he keep on insisting in public that of course all these wonderful things would happen sometime soon?
Behind this awkwardness is the most unmentionable fact of our time, the failure of progress to live up to its promises. It’s worth going back a few decades to consult the solemn predictions of qualified experts and the mass media, and compare where we were supposed to be by 2021 with where we actually are. The differences are stunning. It’s not merely that we don’t have fusion power, space colonies, or a hundred other gizmocentric fantasies that were supposed to be sure things, right on down to the hoverboards in the imaginary 2014 of Back To The Future. It’s also worth noting that here in the United States we have rates of infant mortality comparable to those in Indonesia, a level of infrastructure decay reminiscent of the last years of the Soviet Union, and a political system in the kind of advanced rigor mortis that usually precedes cataclysmic change.
None of those things were supposed to happen. According to the last fifty years of officially approved utterances by supposedly qualified experts, there were only two options for our future—either a shiny technological wonderland complete with fusion reactors, space colonies, and affluence for all, or a quick plunge into cataclysmic annihilation, with or without a plucky band of survivors to stand around as the credits roll. In Bucky Fuller’s memorably dense phrase, the choice we suppsedly faced was between utopia and oblivion. (I’ve occasionally considered calling that particular rhetorical gimmick the Fuller Fallacy.) It may seem odd that the second, apocalyptic option has always been part of the approved narrative, but there’s a very good reason for it, and Kelly’s bet with Sale put that reason in a helpfully clear light.
The point to all those apocalyptic predictions, after all, is that they’re even more inaccurate than the failed narratives of progress. Promoters of progress need such things the way a boxer in training needs a punching bag. If you can constantly point to people who made inaccurate predictions of sudden catastrophe, and just as constantly repeat “Look how wrong they were!”—why, you might be able to distract attention from all the times that your predictions fell flat on their faces, and you might then be able to keep people believing that your latest promises of pie in the sky will turn out a little less inaccurate than all the others proved to be.
Apocalyptic fantasies thus play a central role in the rhetoric of progress. They’re part of the script, filling an important place among the canned speeches that are supposed to be mouthed by the losing side in the morality play of Progress Triumphant. If you happen to be an unbeliever in today’s industrial societies, unconvinced by the propaganda of progress, you can expect to face a remarkable amount of pressure to conform to the equal and opposite fallacy of apocalypticism. I’ve dealt with that pressure routinely since I first started blogging about the future of industrial society a little less than fourteen years ago. For all I know, if I didn’t have the very mixed advantages of Aspergers syndrome, which renders me more or less invulnerable to social pressure, I’d have fallen into the same trap long ago.
I expect to see the apocalypse narrative pushed even more stridently in the years immediately ahead, and for good reason: it’s becoming increasingly hard for people outside the coddled elites of our society to keep believing in the secular mythology of progress. I don’t expect many people to admit that outright—not yet, probably not for years to come—but brandishing over-the top apocalyptic predictions that are meant to fail so that predictions of progress can look a little less wrong? That’s going to be a growth industry.
It’s going to be a growth industry, in turn, because the alternative is facing the future that our choices have actually set in motion. It’s not as though predicting the future is all that difficult, after all, so long as you don’t wear either the rose-colored glasses of the cult of progress or the crap-colored glasses of the cult of apocalypse. As an example, here’s a prediction written fifty years ago. I’d like my readers to compare it to the world they live in today.
“Glowing advertisements of undiminished progress will continue to rain down upon us from official quarters; there will always be well-researched predictions of light at the end of every tunnel. There will be dazzling forecasts of limitless affluence; there will even be much real affluence. But nothing will ever quite work the way the salesmen promised; the abundance will be mired in organizational confusion and bureaucratic malaise, constant environmental emergency, off-schedule policy, a chaos of crossed circuits, clogged pipelines, breakdowns in communication, overburdened social services. The data banks will become a jungle of misinformation, the computers will suffer from chronic electropsychosis. The scene will be indefinably sad and shoddy despite the veneer of orthodox optimism. It will be rather like a world’s fair in its final days, when things start to sag and disintegrate behind the futuristic façades, when the rubble begins to accumulate in the corners, the chromium to grow tarnished, the neon lights to burn out, all the switches and buttons to stop working. Everything will take on that vile tackiness which only plastic can assume, the look of things decaying that were never supposed to grow old, or stop gleaming, never to cease being gay and sleek and perfect.”
That’s Theodore Roszak’s prediction of the future of technological society from his 1972 book Where the Wasteland Ends. Like several other thoughtful writers of that vanished era, he managed to step outside the fake dichotomy between perpetual progress and sudden collapse, took a good look at the world around him, and was able to get a clear sense of where that world was headed. Unlike the true believers in progress and apocalypse, of course, he was also right.
The same point can be made equally well, of course, by the most misunderstood prediction of the future made in those same years, 1973’s The Limits to Growth. So much nonsense is still being flung about concerning that much-maligned book that it’s worth looking yet again at the standard run, the authors’ best estimate of how industrial society would fare as its attempts at infinite growth try to plow through the hard limits of a finite planet.
Familiar as this graph will doubtless be to my readers, two points about it are worth repeating here. The first is that it isn’t a prediction of fast collapse—or of any other kind of collapse, for that matter. Rather, it’s a prediction of decline. Resources dwindle gradually, food supply and population rise and fall in long slow curves, and though industrial production worldwide drops more sharply than it rose, in 2050 it’s still significantly higher than it was in 1950. To borrow a turn of phrase from T.S. Eliot, this is the way that progress ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
If Kevin Kelly had ambushed the authors of The Limits of Growth with a demand that they put a date on the sudden collapse of everything, in other words, he would have gotten a tired look and a patient explanation which, to judge by other examples of the same conversation I’ve witnessed, would have gone zooming right over Kelly’s head. What’s more, that graph shows only one run of many in the book; it’s the one that reflected the best information the authors had at the time, but they also did runs in which the world’s resource supplies turn out to be twice as ample as the best 1972 estimates suggested, and so on. (Spoiler alert: the curves are the same, they just take a little longer, rise a little further, and fall a little more steeply.)
The second point is that this maligned and misunderstood map of our future has turned out to be much more accurate than either of the acceptable alternatives splashed around then and now. Despite an abundance of handwaving on the part of the prophets of perpetual progress, the brave new world of fusion power, space colonies, and all those other facile daydreams of human omnipotence is just as far away today as it was in the early 1970s. Despite an equal abundance of handwaving on the part of the prophets of imminent doom, for that matter, we’re still here. Meanwhile, the sad and shoddy world of chronic technological failure that Theodore Roszak predicted has arrived on schedule, exactly as advertised, and the remorseless curves of population, resource depletion, food availability, and the like have continued to track those marked out in the standard run of The Limits to Growth with a fair degree of exactness.
Thus the concept that needs to find a place in the imagination of our time is that instead of living on the brink of Tomorrowland or the brink of apocalypse, we are living in the last years of progress, well into the opening phases of the era I’ve called the Long Descent. The future that crouches in front of us, preparing to spring, has nothing to do with the paired fantasies of progress and apocalypse and everything to do with the long, slow, uneven decline that has filled the twilight of every other civilization. Venues such as Wired are still hawking the same old technofetishistic dreams as always, with the anxious enthusiasm you’d expect to see from true believers in any other failed prophetic religion, but it’s taking an increasingly strenuous effort to ignore the markers of decline and keep pretending that all those shopworn clichés out of 20th century sci-fi really will come true someday.
Meanwhile the pace of industrial civilization’s decline picks up a bit with each passing year, and those small but cumulative increases are adding up. Will there be new technologies hitting the market, a breakthrough here and there, maybe another set of human bootprints on the Moon? Of course, but those will take place against a backdrop of accelerating deterioration and contraction, in which the latest heavily ballyhooed technologies never quite manage to outweigh the slow but inexorable downside movements of an increasingly troubled age, notional economic booms coexist comfortably with spreading poverty and slowly failing infrastructure, and pundits and politicians insist gamely that progress is still chugging ahead while more and more of the population struggles for bare subsistence and the temporary triumphs of the recent past fade gradually into memory, and then into legend.
You won’t find any of that addressed in the pages of Wired, though, or in the other places where cheerleading about the inevitable triumph of the Great God Progress takes the place of serious reflection about where we’re headed and whether any sane person would want to go there. Nor, of course, will you find it addressed in the venues where apocalyptic claims are in fashion. It’s a sure sign of a society in extremis when the realities that are most obvious in people’s lives are precisely those that next to nobody is willing to discuss in public. That being the case, dear reader, you may want to brace yourself, because we’ve got a wild ride ahead of us.
There is so much that can be done to optimize our own lives, and those of our loved ones, as well as restoring/buttressing ecosystems as much as possible. All the time and emotional energy spent trying to predict exactly what will heppen beyond the “slow decline” that is so obvious at this point, is time and energy wasted.
Culture is downstream from Imagination! Excellent. I’ve been contemplating this quote, which I found as a Thought Gem in the course of my Essene studies with the Order of Essenes:
“Thinkers are the unseen priesthood of the Temple of Wisdom. Statesmen and politicians are but puppets dancing on the stage of our short life. They are moved by the thinkers, who hold the invisible threads, a priesthood that keepeth the holy fire of wisdom aglow from generation to generation. Few are its priests, but the Temple is open to all.”–Lang Sin.
Some primo-grade Lord of the Rings nerdery:
Part of the plot is Sauron has to rush his attack because the Ring is in play. What would his perfect strategy have looked like if he had more time?
Dear JMG, This is a big thank you note. I have been reading your writings on the long descent and similar themes since 10 years ago. This has been very helpful in crafting the life I have now which is reasonably good in the midst of the current chaos. I think my future has a probability of being good as well. I see people on social media, and some people in my network here who are fretting, having different kinds of negative emotions, and are unable to understand what is happening to them. It is somewhat frustrating to try and explain to them because they rarely listen to anything that does not fit their existing story that is currently crumbling. I think the ego only listens to anything other than its story once it sees there is no other choice. In any case there are other people who are adapting to the current difficult and interesting times in different parts of the world, which gives a glimmer of hope. PS: Please forgive English mistakes as it is my second language.
You’ve written about the progress vs. apocalypse (false) dichotomy repeatedly, and I’ve been trying to figure out how the COVID-induced mass hysteria fits into it. Is it simply a matter of it clearly not being progress, and so it must be apocalypse? Of course, you could argue with equal persuasiveness that it’s clearly not apocalypse, and so it must be progress, but somehow, no-one seems to be interpreting it that way. How come?
I am looking forward to reading this article–https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcosc.2020.615419/full
–in the light of this wonderful Ecosophia essay.
There have been several other studies retesting the original LTG model, one is:
And there is Ugo Bardi’s book: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Gj0RmQWGfXcC&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&dq=limits+to+growth+revisited&ots=qB_p3XEUlT&sig=-ttwACs92vEOcamHOlFsQlTy12s#v=onepage&q=limits%20to%20growth%20revisited&f=false
and some other minor ones which all say the Business as Usual model of the original model was pretty good.
As long as people look at the model as an global average, and remember these things are not evenly distributed across time and space, it gives you a pretty good idea that populations going up and resources going down are terrible trends that we will all end up feeling. In different ways, and at different speeds, but as you say, it will be a wild ride.
The mad max future may have arrived on schedule from a certain point of view. Due to severe budget constraints the original Mad Max movie was set in a sparse portion of Australia with a minimal cast. But if one imagines parts of Mad Max set in a rapidly declining city with order and sensibility in shorter supply than fossil fuels we could be there. This last week in Portland we had a tragic example of road rage carried out by a “max” driven mad by his place in the declining world. A 65 year fellow cruised the streets of inner SE Portland in a Honda Element for over an hour trying to run over every pedestrian and cyclist he came across. At one point He made a u-turn to run over a 75 year old woman twice and took to the sidewalks to run down others. In all 9 or 10 people were struck and injured with the unfortunate elderly woman being the only death. Eventually the guy hit a tree and was cornered by a mob before the cops finally arrived to subdue him after more than an hour of madness. This speaks to many aspects of decline from the sanity of the citizens to the loss or order and public safety. Maybe the gas does not run out first, but instead the people go mad while they can still drive.
One thing I find amusing is that five years ago I could kind of fit in the “accepted naratives”, with saying I expected an American Civil War within 10 years. That was considered apocalyptic enough that cheerleaders of Progress would consider that to be an apocalyptic prediction. I never placed bets on it, but it worked well enough. These days, the next question is whether I expect that to be the thing which leads to the end of human existence: a civil war is something that happens all the time, after all, so it need not be the end of Progress.
I’m also wondering now how much political force the Apocalypse Lobby will get before this is all over. I hope not much, but then again I’m constantly amazed at how many people buy into Progress…..
So good to read a new post! I love this idea of culture being downstream of imagination. I hadn’t put it together like that before. Given that premise, would publishing a blog with photos of how to ratchet down one’s modern lifestyle be something to contribute to society’s imagination?
I hate the word sustainable, and anything with eco in front of it. So none of that. More like a “stick it to the man” and here’s how to dump as much of the corporate lifestyle as possible (packaged foods, pre-fab furniture, Amazon anything). I’ve been de-corporatizing my life over the past several weeks, but I feel the pull of a punk-rock semi-rage just building inside and I think others have it too. The actions of the bureaucratic managerial class has just been unbelievably awful for the past year and there seems to be no stopping them.
I’d run it pseudonymously to protect my family and property of course.
I’d love any thoughts and feedback from you and the commentariat.
Dear Mr. Greer,
I have enjoyed your blog and your books for many years; I can look over at my shelf and see the spines of Green Wizard, Retromania, and After Oil, nos. 1, 2, and 3. I’ve been a fan of Dion Fortune since reading The Magical Battle for Britain and I may well purchase it when you gather and publish your work on the Cosmic Doctrine. I agree with your analysis of the myth of progress and the inevitable trajectory of industrial society towards obsolescence.
Nonetheless, I am tired of your attitude and approach to American politics at this time. Your analysis has become so deeply entrenched in right-wing ideology that you are normalizing a destructive culture of white entitlement. You often do this by simply refusing to address the nasty behaviour of your compatriots, from jailing babies and toddlers at the border to threatening elected officials. They get a pass from you, while you harshly critique and criticize anyone who works towards social justice or, horrors, benefits from a stable society.
The progressives at whom you sneer so regularly are largely focused on human rights for all, something that I would expect the thoughtful to support. We – and I count myself among this number – seek to erode and replace systems of oppression based on the colour of your skin or the junk between your legs, to name a few, or whether or not someone has the capacity to stand up out of a wheelchair, for example. We largely accept the findings of science. And these are a few of the attitudes I find among progressives.
How do I reconcile both my progressive views and the perspective that industrial civilization is dying? By understanding that human rights and human dignity do not rest on technological capacity. Too many egalitarian Indigenous, peasant, or otherwise non-industrial societies tell me that this notion of falling backwards to a noxiously white supremacist, sexist, hierarchical past is not the inevitable result of the end of industry. That this is as much a fantasy as returning to a medieval European society, even though we might find useful technologies from that period. Briefly, there are alternative futures available, thank goodness.
Since industrial society is crumbling, climate change is happening, and the world must change, why must it change into something that is not only technologically simpler but also sociologically more hierarchical? These early years of crisis offer us an opportunity to create or strengthen systems that lead to greater equality, in my humble opinion. Your long-time refusal to consider this possibility and your refusal to include a criticism of the behaviour and ideology of right-wing groups and activities alongside progressive groups and ideology mean that I find your analysis short-sighted and, these days, mistaken.
I don’t expect you to post this message, but I wanted to let you know why I am cancelling my subscription to your blog.
I wish you and your family all the best.
Excellent article. Yes. Decline not collapse. A classic example is to read OilPrice.com. The large oil company loses that were posted for 2020 (BP @ $5.7 billion, Exxon @ $20 billion, etc.) were supposedly the result of the pandemic (collapse) but now that technology has given us the Vaccine, everything will go back to the good old days. What decline? And the beat goes on.
Are there any particular realities you are thinking of? I look around and see such a disconnect amongst many people (perhaps as a response to dissonance) that navigating this with grace could be a challenging proposition.
As well as progress vs apocalypse doing good business, maybe religion or a new religiosity, as you call it, will seem like a potential haven as we ride the rollercoaster up and down the descending curve.
I wonder what flotsam and jetsam people will grab onto to give themselves some feeling of order and control and what might be fashioned out of it.
Truly a fascinating time to be alive.
Sorry – I was referring to this bit:
JMG: “It’s a sure sign of a society in extremis when the realities that are most obvious in people’s lives are precisely those that next to nobody is willing to discuss in public.”
This month the company I worked for, in their quest for ‘Continuous cost reduction’, saw it fit to modernize the office I worked in for the last ten years. They got a shiny high tech computer system that can do everything I could do ten times faster and with twice the accuracy, and I got a layoff notice.
This is happening everywhere as companies race to streamline costs and embrace automation. All the cashier jobs that vanished to self-checkouts, hotel maids to cleaning robots, forget about talking to a real person when you call for anything, and on and on. Yes we’re getting the robots and the AI, but at the cost that many people won’t have jobs.
Companies that depend on people having incomes so they can grow, can similarly expect not to have customers anymore. This part of the equation seems to be missed by those who are most aggressively rushing to the arms of automation, if people don’t have jobs then they don’t have incomes. If people don’t have incomes then they can’t buy the stuff they are producing, so you get decline not growth as a net result of ‘progress’
So it goes…
noun [ U ]
language specialized (UK usually nominalisation)
the process of making a noun from a verb or adjective
I’ve found it very helpful that people can’t see a process, and especially can’t see their own role in said process, when you’ve got them looking for a THING! Collapse is a nominalization. So are you and me, life and death, and nearly everything else.
That article in Wired was surprisingly good, and wasn’t as full of cheerleading against Sale and his ideas as I thought it would be. In fact, it just leaned a bit towards Kelly’s side. In reading that article, together with this weeks post, a question I am pondering now is why do we tend to err in our binary thought about situations. It is either progress or apocalypse, most people tend to say. The right way or the wrong way. So few look at the situation in terms such as The Limits to Growth lay out, as instead very complex with there being declines going on at various times of various things instead of outright falling off the cliff of everything. Neither narrative leave much fertile ground for the seeds of our future to fall into, and instead seem to seed more rehashing of the same mindless drivel, kicking the can down the road if you would. With all that constant commotion, it’s no wonder that the poets can only be heard as a whisper to the collective conscious. And even if it were something more than just a whisper, who would be able to believe the unicorn that is being spoken of, when there is the phoenix and dragon there in front of them Until the dust settles, few will be able to give thought to anything else.
Welcome back by the way JMG! I thought for sure we’d be talking about ways we could get your articles in newsletters in this first week upon your return!
It’s interesting how early modernist architects envisioned a world where technology and electrical devices would save time and labor. Freeing up time in daily life to spend in a park on top of a skyscraper with you family for example. Or time for your hobbies.
But in place of that, time saving devices made more time for people to work more and produce more for capitalists.
What would you extrapolate from today’s poets, in that event, in terms of the culture and politics to come?
Your mentions of Tomorrowland brings to mind a few items about that land within multiple Disney theme parks as well as EPCOT, a permanent world’s fair in Walt Disney World. The first is “the Tomorrowland problem,” which is that the future always arrives, so the attractions in Tomorrowland inevitably become obsolete if they actually try to predict the future. If they actually succeed, they become passé, just like the Autopia or Tomorrowland Speedway has; internal propulsion vehicles and an interstate highway system are a future that arrived 60 years ago. While they make a good kiddie ride, they also elicit calls from Disney theme park fans for Disney to pursue a sponsorship with Tesla to replace the gas- and diesel-powered cars with electric vehicles. That runs into practical considerations of how long an electric vehicle can go around a track and how long it takes to recharge the cars. If they fall out of fashion or fail, that’s worse; they become laughable. Disney’s solution is to go for futures that have perennial appeal but will never actually come true, such as the Jules Verne future in Disneyland Paris or Star Wars in other parks. In other words, convert the future into a myth, something that never happened but is always true.
While the Disney parks can’t give up on Tomorrowland in the various Magic Kingdoms across the globe, as the signs over the entrance tell visitors “here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy,” they have given up on Future World in EPCOT. The park has given up on that theming and in the process of renovating that part of the park, breaking it into World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Nature, theming the lands as educational areas about the science of today as much or more than tomorrow. World Showcase will remain intact.
Speaking of world’s fairs, I return to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom in Florida to discuss the plight of the Carousel of Progress, which Walt himself worked on for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York. That’s suffering from Theodore Roszak’s prediction about the future looking like a world’s fair in its final days. Not only has the last scene not been updated in decades, making it a museum piece of the progress of the 20th Century instead of a prediction of the technology of the future, but the animatronics regularly malfunction. The Disney theme park fans routinely laugh at that, making it a running joke in the community, but the ride’s plight doesn’t stop the ones with podcasts about the parks from unironically wishing their listeners “a great big beautiful tomorrow,” echoing the theme song for the attraction.
Welcome back, and I hope you had a good rest. Many years ago you encouraged us to consider the mantra “there is no better future”, or words to that effect, and those words have stayed with me. So I’m getting used to stumbling along a downward path, and trying to help others down as best I can, or at least to explain the terrain a bit.
One of the larger developments of the last few years, partly covered up by Trump’s presidency and now back in focus with the ending of that presidency, is the brokenness – I believe beyond repair – of the Republican Party. That represented an important weave in the myth of progress – the supposed ability of unregulated capitalism and American patriotism to power that voyage to Planet Progress. Although it’s probable the R’s can refloat an echo or two of Trump’s populism, it seems to me that the old standard bearer for Reagan’s sunny American optimism and shining city on a hill vision is down for the count now. Which seems likely to contribute to quite a loss of balance in the country. It also loads a whole lot of responsibility onto the Democratic Party, which is already stumbling and off balance itself. Eventually the cultural fallout from the troubles to come will lead to a new political settlement and set of politicians, but I’m wondering if, over the next few years, the continuing and very public struggles of the political class to keep up the act will serve to accelerate the unwind of some of the culture of the last few decades. So perhaps in the short-term culture will follow politics, at least until we all take our eyes of the politicians and get focused on our own backyards?
So happy to have you back! Hope you enjoyed your break. 🙂
You can actually see the global supply chain breaking down in real time, but you have to be paying attention.
1) Riot related enantiodromia gave me much amusement as well. Unfortunately it was rather disturbing seeing how unconscious it was to the outraged.
2) What do you think the best single, simple argument is against the myth of progress? I know this is like trying to distill a 4 course meal into a chicken nugget, but still thought I’d ask because I occasionally try to subtly poke at the beliefs surrounding progress of my family and friends, but it seems like they just choose to ignore most arguments. It’s not that they even have a rebuttal, they’ll just shrug or barely acknowledge what is said because they don’t want to think about it.
3) Relating to 2, the word “plastic” in your quoted prediction invokes in me the slightly related image that most people are incapable of reading anything longer than 300 characters. Then the next level above that are the people who are incapable of reading anything longer than a couple minute article. Then you break into a certain degree of clear mindedness in the people who still read books, but I don’t know anyone personally who does this :(. Anyway I say it’s related to two, because I know if my family actually read the arguments against the myth of progress they’d probably be convinced. But again, no one reads anymore
It always amazes me when people don’t notice the decline all around them. It takes real talent at obliviousness not to. Also, I notice that instead of progress, we get wokeness its trendy but useless poor relation. Many of the 20% PMC cohort will say, “What do you meant there is no progress? A disabled trans woman POC etc has just got this job / award” or “Offensive individual XYZ has just been deplatformed haha” blah blah blah.
I link to Wokeyleaks. Hopefully it will reveal much but I wonder if it will name names?
Looking at Sale’s published works, he looks like he is really worth reading.
According to the Wired article, Sale refuses to admit defeat and won’t pay up… so I guess that means Kevin Kelly is just another American who isn’t getting his $2000 this year!
Something else I expect to see in the years ahead is a rapid increase in the pressure to eliminate the Heresy of Technological Choice, and increasingly heavy handed efforts to force people to have whatever technologies are fashionable among the Progressives; as well as ever increasing pressure, cultural and legal, to force the options of the “Luddites” out of business.
This follows logically from the crisis: as people lose their faith in progress but frantically try to cling to it, they will have ever more extreme and destructive reactions to the possibility that others might not buy into the myth of progress. And the more people try to break free from it, the more evidence the people trying to cling to it will see that it is false.
John Michael — based on the first comment I think you just got cancelled??
As decline picks up speed, you have advised us, if I remember correctly, to get ready to transmit to the waiting arms of the future any aspects of human knowledge we might be interested in.
How would you advise we go about it, beyond hording a stash of books somewhere safe? Do you have other ideas in mind, like opening a book shop or a lending library, or setting up a lodge geared towards that?
We all know we need to do with LESS (less energy, stimulation and stuff), grow more garden food, try to keep healthy with less inputs from the medical industry and so on. I am sure a lot of us are attempting much of the above to a large extent.
But what can be done to transmit knowledge to the next generation when close to nobody around you sees any sort of decline? And hence nobody sees any interest in any kind of preparation.
Its a bit like shouting into the wilderness.
In my country I spent a lot of time and effort to raise awareness on energy and environmental issues and the decline of our civilisation with little to show for it. Well, I was criticised by a local economist in one of his books for daring to suggest during an interview for a local newspaper that modern industrial civilisation had begun its decline.
Any person here remotely interested in environmental and energy issues appear possessed by climate change dynamics only and appears incapable of comprehending that the decline of our civilisation is a major aspect now.
In that context I feel frightfully isolated and on the brink of passing off for a mildly entertaining nut case.
What ever links I had been able to forge with local citizen organisations (leftist, environmental or social activists) on the matter have dissolved away.
In that context I really do not know what is worth doing any longer. Every action appears now so futile…
Well, I can see my all-expenses paid trip to Mars isn’t going to happen any time soon.
SiteJabber.com rates the Wired Magazine a miserable 2.73 out of 5 stars. Popular
Mechanics is even worse with 2 stars out of five. The bloom is definitely off that
rose. That these two still manage to chug along shows there’s an audience for them
but for how much longer? What is it going to take to finally break the glamour of
futurism and progress? Doesn’t sound like any time soon. Yet, the audience does seem
to be dwindling more and more…..
Something just clicked after I submitted my last comment: one major flaw I see with the effort to deplatform certain views from the internet is that it ignores the fact there are other ways to communicate besides the internet. However, for people who are clinging to Progress, that has become unthinkable: the idea people could disseminate information by magazines sent by mail is something devout believers in Progress can no longer allow themselves to think.
So much of the self-defeating behaviour of the tech companies in recent years make a lot more sense now that I’m thinking through what the people who work there cannot allow themselves to think. Hmm…..
What has long been one of the biggest talking points of the globalist’s agenda has been to scare us to death about what will most likely happen — IF we don’t heed their advice, believe in their data and stats and do as we’re told by signing up for yet another of their monstrous economic coups — in this case, robbing us of trillions that will ostensibly be poured into a Green New Deal that will save us all… as we freeze to death in a mini-ice age that is (possibly) coming, crop failures due to reduced CO2, and with solar and wind energy completely ineffective. Does “eugenics” really require a synonym that will hit any closer to home?
Matthew Ehret has been diligently unpacking the various strands of what this elite has been up to over time. Interestingly, in a recent piece, he points to the Limits of Growth as a prime example of deception that realtes to the m.o. of some of the players associated with the Club of Rome. But as Patrick Moore (who left Greenpeace when its agenda was hijacked years ago by these elites) has pointed out, none of the various disasters that their datameisters predicted again and again publicly ever happened (the coasts flooded in 20 years time, or the polar ice caps melting by 2000, etc.) Like many others who have reached their own tipping point, I am much less impressed by data these days — since it’s become all to clear that it has been produced in a system which has been controlling and diminishing human life via statistics and numbers for too long.
Excerpt from Ehret’s piece…
“In 1968, an organization was formed known as the Club of Rome led by two misanthropes named Aurelio Peccei and Sir Alexander King. The organization quickly set up branches across the Anglo-Saxon world with members ranging from select ideologues from the political, business, and scientific community who all agreed that society’s best form of governance was a scientific dictatorship.
Sir Alexander wrote: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”
In order to finance this paradigm shift, the 1001 Trust was founded in 1970 by Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands. Bernhardt (card carrying Nazi and founder of the Bilderberger Group in 1954) had worked alongside his close misanthropic associates Prince Philip Mountbatten, and Sir Julian Huxley to create the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) just a few years earlier.
The plan was simple: each of the 1001 founding members simply put $10,000 into the trust which was then directed towards the green paradigm shift. Other prominent 1001 Club members included international royalty, billionaires, and technocratic sociopaths who wanted nothing more than to manage this promised Brave New World as “alphas”.
Many of these figures were also members of the Club of Rome, including Canada’s Maurice Strong, who later became Vice President of the WWF under Prince Philip’s presidency. Strong had replaced another WWF Vice President by the name of Louis Mortimer Bloomfield. Bloomfield was another 1001 Club member whom New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison discovered to be at the heart of the Montreal-based assassination of the anti-Malthusian President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
The document which became the bible and blueprint of this new anti-humanist movement that birthed today’s Green New Deal agenda was titled Limits to Growth (1972) and today holds the record as the most widely read book on ecology, having sold 30 million copies published into 32 languages.”
One fascinating thing that is happening lately is that class war has gone from unmentionable to mentionable. Wall Street Bets’s latest exploits put a fine point on it.
The cult of the mask seems to be one and the same as the cult of Progress. If someone is salary class or aspiring salary class, they accept the mask (which is and always was an empty symbol of hegemony and virtue) and the bright Progressian future it is supposed to usher in. Mask wearing and volunteering for the vaccine shows us those who would happily lick the boots of the politically correct lawmakers so that they may partake in the bounty of the imminent Tomorrowland utopia.
That said, do you think any humans will ever land on Mars? I can’t imagine that ending well.
@Jerry: “John Michael — based on the first comment I think you just got cancelled??”
What do you mean he got cancelled??
Have I missed something?
Denis – I think there is a hunger just now for practical suggestions – and if they are discussed in a place that includes the traditional ban on discussing politics or religion, all the better. (I am lucky enough to be on a facebook group dedicating to organic growing and nothing else which is a peculiar joy right now!).
You could call it the “Step Down Club” (which references the notion that instead of waiting to be wrongfooted or flattened by events, you can CHOOSE which steps you will take in the context of a general downward trend). 🙂
Would Dion Fortune’s Magical Battle of Britain strategy work in a guerrilla or civil war where all combatants were in the same country?
@Workdove – “This month the company I worked for, in their quest for ‘Continuous cost reduction’, saw it fit to modernize the office I worked in for the last ten years. They got a shiny high tech computer system that can do everything I could do ten times faster and with twice the accuracy, and I got a layoff notice.”
I am so sorry to hear of your layoff notice! It probably will not give you any comfort at all to know that your company has undoubtedly made a terrible bargain – their fancy tech is going to take a whole heap of expensive upkeeping before long, and may never acquire the specific type of human attention you were able to provide to your job.
I always have trouble understanding people who don’t see that we’re in a period of decline. In my 64 years I’ve watched decline for at least 40 years. Do people not see the empty store fronts? Don’t they see the vacant school buildings? The crumbling roads? Don’t they see the boarded up factories? Don’t they see the growing size of the homeless camps? Are we really that separated that the fortunate don’t really know what’s happening outside their new subdivisions? It’s not their apathy that bothers me (primarily) it’s the denial of decline when the evidence is so abundant.
Perhaps if people like B Gates and the attendees at Davos had more faith in Limits To Growth they would not find it necessary to jump the gun with their depopulation agendas.
As to apocalypse, I have noted in the past several months a huge uptick in the number of people in various venues who say that things indeed look like we are at the apocalypse and also the number of people who say that our current situation is becoming more and more clearly a war between good and evil.
I find it difficult to really disagree.
there is a destructive polygon of control; media (wind), technology (water), banking (earth), and governance (fire).
the Parler and Robinhood incident both lift the veil on how these 4 destructive elements control the individual. it’s a testament to their efficacy how this hasn’t been a redpill moment for the general population.
banishment showed up as organized and coordinated action to empower the individual in a productive cycle. many predict that the destructive cycle will devour itself. leaving us to produce life on our own terms.
freedom cells, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, crypto-currencies, and alternative media are all results from empowered individuals producing and banishing the imposition of control on their lives.
“Politics is yesterdays solutions to todays problems.” – I first read that in ‘The medium is the massage’. Definetly holds up to what is happening.
Over your blogging break I have been reading a lot of Stephen Buhmers works with plants and Gia theory. He summarised the problem of technology wonderfully.
“When it comes to any technology more advanced than a pencil remember the following two statements. 1) The Titanic is unsinkable. 2) Nuclear power to cheap to meter”. That is, these things can fail and they can be over promised.
Apart from my use of a laptop I usually tend to refer to myself as a neoluddite just to see how people react to it. Usually it is blank incomprehension.
Other than that I am taking great joy in watching the fans of futurism applaud everytime SpaceX blows up another of their rockets as “progress”. “Lots of good data will come from this!”, even though it is a catastrophic failure. I do wonder how long until the funding will dry up. A lot longer than one would consider reasonable.
When you wear rose tinted glassses, red flags just look like flags.
Goldenegg, though I understand your feelings here I’m far from sure that you’re entirely correct. If it’s autumn and the harvest is coming in, you know that you have a lot of work to do while the days get shorter and the weather gets worse, and of course that needs to be your main concern — but surely there’s a point in watching the weather to see when it’s likely to be a good day for haying, and a broader point in being aware that autumn leads to winter!
Justin, one of the reasons I keep returning to Burks Hamner’s Essene lessons is precisely that so many of his seed thoughts are worth thinking about, brooding over, and developing.
Yorkshire, thanks for this. I’ve seen a comparable analysis that argues that Sauron, as a general, was a complete nitwit — he chose exactly the kind of strategy that a clueless beginner tends to choose, and that’s why he lost.
Tony, you’re welcome and thank you! Your English is better than that of many native speakers I know, for what it’s worth.
Irena, my take is that people are interpreting the coronavirus as apocalypse precisely because they can’t fit it into the narrative of progress yet. Once it’s a thing of the past, you bet “humanity’s conquest of coronavirus” is going to be yet another story about progress, even though we fumbled it so badly!
George, I note that Paul Ehrlich is one of the authors, which is kind of a giveaway. Ehrlich is one of the grand old men of apocalyptic fantasy; he’s been wrong since before I was born.
Laurel, thanks for both of these!
Clay, I somehow managed not to hear about this. Can you post a link to a source I can cite?
Will, one of the reliable events in the twilight years of a civilization is that the goalposts that count as success keep being moved. The transition from “A civil war? Nonsense!” to “A civil war? Well, maybe, but we’ll recover” is a good example!
Denis, that strikes me as a very, very useful strategy. Go for it.
Linnea, a fine flounce! As I’ve said rather more than once, I write what I want to write for the people who want to read it; if you don’t, why, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Yes, I’m quite aware that some of my views outrage people who’ve bought into the conventional wisdom pushed by the corporate establishment and its tame media, and yes, I know they love to redefine those views in terms of their favorite buzzwords — “white entitlement” being one of those. If you took the time to pay attention you might notice that what I’m talking about has to do with class rather than race, and that working class people of all ethnicities have been being driven into poverty and misery for decades by policies promoted by those of you who insist that you want human rights for all. But of course that’s not what the talking heads tell you, and heaven forfend you should think for yourself!
Douglas, yes, I’ve been watching that. It’ll be interesting to see if total liquid fuel production ever quite exceeds its 2018-2019 peak.
Earthworm, every reality that suggests that our society is fifty years into a slowly accelerating decline.
Workdove, ouch. I hope you’re able to land on your feet. Your broader point, of course, is a good one; the economy is a commons, and eliminating wage-paying positions while expecting customers to show up is exactly the sort of destructive behavior that Garret Hardin discussed in his essay “The Tragedy of the Commons.”
Gnat, good. What do you think I’m trying to do with the verb “to decline”?
Prizm, thank you. One of the central themes of the whole progress vs. apocalypse schtick is precisely that neither side of it leaves any room for choosing one’s own future — in both cases, you’re supposed sit there passively and wait for the future to happen to you. There are other possibilities.
Blackoak, excellent! Yes, it’s one of the pervasive mistakes of modernism to assume that by definition new technologies will only have positive outcomes.
David, the poetry that matters today is rap. Literary poetry has by and large made the same mistakes as modern art, fleeing from the huge public that poetry had fifty years ago into deliberate irrelevance and impenetrability; Bellowing Ark is the French Academy of our day, and the works that appear in it will by and large vanish as completely as French Academic painting has. As for what kind of future rap is creating, my take is that it still hasn’t settled on a vision; when it does, things will be clearer.
Vince, fascinating! I’ll have to go digging for images of the Carousel of Progress. That sounds as though it will make a great starting point for an essay.
Tumpuslumpus, certainly the old GOP is as dead as a doornail. Whether the rising populist movement can finish its takeover of the GOP structure and pursue its goals through that framework is another question — and you’re right, of course, that the populist vision is emphatically not what Republicans of the Reagan era were talking about. We are entering a harsh new era.
TJ, thank you. You can indeed.
Youngelephant, that’s like asking for the best simple, single argument against any other religious faith. There’s no such animal, because human beings are not rational creatures; beliefs are rooted in emotion, not reason. That’s why the only people willing to question the religion of progress are those who have encountered the failure of progress personally often enough that the emotions they associate with progress are no longer warm and happy and hopeful.
Bridge, excellent. Yes, precisely — the whole point of wokeness is that it allows believers to insist that progress is still happening, by moving the goalposts.
Justin, he is indeed, though a grain of salt is useful from time to time.
Revere, funny! Thank you.
Will J, which means that now’s the time to push the Heresy of Technological Choice as hard as possible, so that it becomes a recognized way to rebel against the establishment!
Jerry, did I? One of the advantages of Aspergers syndrome is that the subtler forms of disapproval go winging right over my head.
Karim, everyone on our side of things feels like that from time to time. Make sure you take breaks when you need them, do things you enjoy, and otherwise take care of your emotional health. As for what to do about the approaching bottleneck of knowledge, there are many approaches; most of them start by choosing some specific technology or body of knowledge you want to preserve, becoming expert in it, and figuring out how to interest other people in it without mentioning decline at all.
Jeanne, be glad that you’re not going to Mars. If that happens, the people who do it will be sick with radiation poisoning by the time they get there — outside Earth’s magnetosphere, after all, space is full of hard radiation — and since Mars has no protective magnetosphere, their chances of surviving until Earth and Mars are in position to allow them to start the long flight home are not good. As for the magazines, thank you for this — that’s very good news.
Will J, excellent. Yes, exactly — and their actions also guarantee that as the internet becomes unreliable, the alternatives will already be in the hands of the deplatformed…
Petrus, that’s what makes it so fascinating to me that The Limits to Growth doesn’t show the kind of terrifying collapse that so many people claim it shows. The team of researchers who ran LTG acted in good faith and mapped out the future as they saw it; the Club of Rome picked up that and ran with it — you might be interested in the sequels to LTG, issued by the Club of Rome in the years immediately following, which quietly ignored what LTG predicted in order to push an agenda of elite management of the planet.
Kimberly, I’ve done my level best to make it mentionable, and increasingly it’s being mentioned. On to the next step! As for Mars, see my comment to Jeanne above. If it happens it will end very, very badly.
Yorkshire, if it was followed to the letter, yes, very much so.
Christopher, remember that if they see what’s in front of their faces they have to surrender their belief in the faith that gives their lives some semblance of meaning. People can deny almost anything in that situation.
Onething, I usually don’t put comments like yours through, but since you’re a longtime commenter I’ve made an exception this once. Please reconsider what you’re putting into your mind. You’ve already discovered, if you’re paying attention, that a lot of what you were told via Qanon was quite simply wrong — nothing happened, for example, to keep Biden from being inaugurated — and redefining the muddled mess of contemporary politics as a war of good versus evil is a really effective way to end up in a padded room or the equivalent. That’s the same mistake the people on the far left are making, you know — don’t fall into the same trap.
Blackoak, I don’t know about that — I watched it redpill quite a few people. Time to get to work!
Michael, thanks for this! That’s a fine Buhner quote, and your last epigram is equally fine.
Welcome back, JMG.
I was wondering what you thought of the conspiracy theories circulating around the election – not whether they are true or not, but why there was such an audience for them this time around, as opposed to any other election. How do movements like QAnon tie with the 4chan audience you researched for The King in Orange?
Also, what’s your next book project?
Good article JMG, you made good use of your time off from blogging
The descent into an Age of Shoddy seems to be the next stage in the drama of Western Civilization. I think that it will be marketed as progress.
First of all, welcome back JMG. I hope your vacation was as refreshing and relaxing as the discussion over here was interesting during January.
Now, I’d like to share a piece of news that I should have been expecting but took me by surprise. During the past week, the Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions (AMIS) has announced that they will not pay any complication derived from the use of the controversial remedy Chlorine-dioxide. https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/cartera/finanzas/aseguradoras-advierten-que-no-cubriran-consecuencias-de-ingerir-dioxido-de-cloro
I will not address the question of whether this remedy works or not. The subgroup of people marketing it as MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution) sounds shady enough to me to take their claims with a huge lot of salt, but I do not intend to go out of my way to either prove or refute them. What catches my attention, instead, is the establishment reaction to them.
The wording of the formal announcement I received from my own insurance company states that: “the expenses resulting from treatments, illnesses and/or diseases derived from the supply or intake of ‘chlorine dioxide’, will not be covered by [our] insurance policies”. That’s straightforward enough, but comparing notes with some friends it is not always the case. Of particular concern is this sample from a friend’s policy.
“during the last days there have been a raise in questions from our clients and agents on the use of chlorine dioxide or other alternative or experimental treatments to prevent of treat symptoms of COVID-19…. [for reasons explained above] we recommend:
* Not to self medicate.
* Not to use any alternative or experimental treatment.
* On any doubt, symptom or suspicion of COVID-19 or other ailment, consult with a specialist physician…”
This is not only about a single treatment, but about every treatment not formally endorsed by the medical establishment. Further down, responding to the question of whether the policy will be invalidated by the use of experimental or alternative treatments, the company responds: “[we] will analyze specifically and on a case by case basis each of the COVID-19 claims in order to determine, according to the terms and conditions of the policy, and the particularities of each case, if the treatment can be covered”.
That last one triggered a heated debate within my group of friends, which brought more heat than light as it is so usual these days. However, the opinion of the one lawyer in the group is that in those few lines, the company has turned the medical question “is such treatment appropriate?” into the legal question “is the claim valid?” which the insurance company has granted itself the right to answer “on a case by case basis”.
My interpretation of that opinion is that the mechanism is being set in place to deny insurance coverage to those that seek treatments other than the explicitly approved ones. In an environment where the prices of even mid-tier medical procedures are unaffordable out of pocket for the majority of population, this would be the equivalent of denying care to those who had used competing services. During the discussion, someone floated the idea that they are equating use of alternative treatments with suicide, though that was hyperbole and I could not find any such claim in paper.
The silver lining in all this, if there’s one is that famous phrase often misattributed to Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.
@ Douglas, JMG
Re 2018-19 peak
Not liquid fuels specifically, but the just-released EIA AEO2021 (Annual Energy Outlook) has its high-low-mid projections with cross-over points of total energy consumption (with re to the 2019 peak) of 2024, 2050, and 2029, respectively:
@irena — the first comment seemed intended for “online shaming” — it looked to be part of a cancel culture attack. It clearly won’t work 🙂
>if people don’t have jobs then they don’t have incomes. If people don’t have incomes then they can’t buy the stuff they are producing
Or the way I like to think about it, you have corporations constantly reducing their need for money (doing everything cheaper) and you have the bankers flooding the system with more money. What happens to the long term value of money? And how does it get deployed when there are no legitimate jobs to be had? Cough, r/WSB, cough. Not singling them out, just pointing out they’re a symptom of a deeper problem.
IMHO the more pressing problem is just how many bad economic decisions that have been made over the years, buildouts and buildups of stuff that nobody needs anymore and cost ever more to maintain and/or demolish. All the little rackets ringfenced with rules and regs that no longer make any sense at all. All the little exceptions carved out over the years.
@irena — sorry! comment #11 — I read it as comment #1. My bad
IMHO, every war between “good” and “evil” ends up as a pointless struggle between two incompetent belligerents. It is always one or another of the Machiavellis of the world who carry off the prize of victory from that sort of battlefield. Whenever I am invited to choose sides in such a war, I decline. If I had had a part to play in Tolkien’s epic, The Lord of the Rings, I hope I would have been wise enough to back Gollum over either Sauron or Aragorn any day.
I really think that this was a pretty well-timed excursion JMG. We will muddle along, but the decentralization Sale cheered will arrive. The first shoots of it are already greening with the disaster that is our federal government. They get nothing right, and so people are banding together without permission and doing what needs to be done.
Where I live in the country, most people are already collapsed. There are “go-to” guys we know about that can fix things and that do repairs or trade on used materials. People routinely trade items or trade work for items. One guy just had a fence put up in trade for an old truck – both parties happy. Of course this only works when people are open and honest – two things which I see making a comeback due to the ongoing disaster that is public media. I find it refreshing that people have already started to leave FB and engage in the local paper – because everything is monetized on the internet to the point it is hard to make money.
Personally, I just traded 6 bottles of pomegranate port wine for a small tiller that needs some TLC. I was scolded by the wife because she is worried about taxes and regulations – but my county cannot afford inspectors to enforce the existing regulations. The same thing will move up the chains, as people realize that there are many more of us than there are of the enforcers. The internet is the only thing that has allowed them to maintain their illusion of control, and it will likely devolve into some far less ‘retail-ish’ in the next decade.
“Collapse now and avoid the rush” was not only catchy but prescient. That was one thing that made me want to read what you had to say long ago.
Me and mine are as ready as we can be at this juncture, for whatever slouches our way. I hope your readers can swallow this, but having read Linnea’s comments, some are just too embedded in a political team or in that accursed religion with Elon as head prophet. If they cannot see that both teams play for their own, then they will never even be looking in the right direction to see changes.
Two links readers may find interesting:
Here are the links you requested with regard to the Portland, “Mad Max”.
Note, the first story says 5 hit and injured, but the tally jumped up to 9 later as the full extent became known.
I have now read the Wired piece and of course the techocornucopian Kelly is a broken record.
“Kelly is boosting his optimism to a higher gear. With tech’s help, he believes, the world’s woes will be resolved. “In 25 years, poverty will be rare, and middle-class lifestyle the norm,” he wrote in his submission to Patrick. “War between nations will also be rare. A bulk of our energy will be renewables, slowing down climate warming. Life spans continue to lengthen.” He’s working on a book he calls Protopia.
He is basically saying everyone will be like him, middle class and deluded. Why does no one ask him where the flying cars and the robot servants we were promised are? And I don’t mean Alexa, we were promised a life of luxury and pleasure as we would get robots who do all the dirty work not just spy on us and play music we don’t want! I also believe that these mRNA vaccines being promoted are another totem of the religion of progress. I work for a large government body and we are constantly being told how safe and effective these vaccines are, because, eh, progress. It’s not like they have long term data to back up this assertion.
I thought I would add my 2 cents. You talk about a “destructive culture of white entitlement”. By making this about race, not class you are (probably unwittingly) using a bait and switch technique. Class is the real issue here and JMG has said so many times. Race baiting is not the answer. A black truck driver has more in common with a white truck driver than he does with Barack Obama or Oprah Winfrey. The establishment wants them at each others’ throats instead of joining forces and taking back power and wealth from that elite, hence BLM handwaving, etc. by said elite.
You talk about the “benefits from a stable society”. Cui bono? You and the top 20% socio-economic group. For millions, it’s not stable, they’re circling the drain as their living standards diminish bit by bit. The “human dignity” you speak of is not that easily attained for these ‘deplorables’ and of course, they usually liked Trump as he was one of the few not to despise them. Yes, the past was hierarchical and so is the present, only more so, as people see worse futures for their kids, not better. Can you not see this hierarchy and your privileged place in it?
I would recommend you watch Jimmy Dore. Don’t worry, he is a lefty but he is also wise to the race baiting elitist agenda. Such as here
Denis- a blog to help share practical information regarding scaling back one’s lifestyle sounds great and I suspect a great many people would be drawn to it out of an intuitive recognition of just how things may be playing out in our world.
I agree with Scotlyn about keeping the title upbeat. Maybe The new Luddite Way?
Karim, don’t despair and don’t stop trying to connect with like minded souls. These are lonely times for folks who’ve lost their belief in the dominant narrative of our time. Apparently Linnea hasn’t had the scales fall from her eyes just yet.
My “retrotope” tip for today is: if you grow beans, pea, and green beans, seek varieties that throw purple pods. You will be amazed at how much more quickly you can harvest them when they are so very visible.
I’ve recently been studying Alan Savory’s Holistic Management (3rd edition), along with my partner, and I think it offers a very useful framework and some helpful tools and mental crutches for those trying to constructively manage their lives in a context of decline (or manage anything in any context, really—although it’s primarily a land management book, it’s very broadly applicable). And if you actually manage land or livestock, it’s a must-read. I wanted to mention it here for the edification of the commentariat, if I may.
That was a most apt description of Wired magazine I have seen.
I have a fun anecdote from about two years ago when one of my former friends was worrying about AI taking over and killing off all of us humans. I sent him some articles about the world running out of sand (no joke, google it!) and reminded him that semiconductors are made of sand (not to mention concrete, etc). Thus he had no worries – no sand no AI. I though he would have been relieved (naive, I know). Instead I got some bluster about not taking the future seriously and haven’t spoken with him since.
OK, maybe I shouldn’t have needled him with something like “haven’t heard back from you, got sand in your eyes or something” but so it goes.
Hi there JMG,
Good to see you back! This article reminded me of another one you wrote, years ago in the Archdruid Report days. One phrase from that article has always stuck with me, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately in these interesting times. I believe it went as so:
“To know many stories is wisdom. To know no stories is ignorance. To know one story is death.”
The mainstream culture and both sides of our political system are watching their one story die a miserable death, and can’t make sense of it. Like other commenters above me, I’ve also noted rather bemusedly how folks will still insist that things are getting better!…errr, right?
But, on the hand, and perhaps much more importantly, I’ve also noticed another trend. When I bring up the obvious signs of decline, and suggest that maybe we are a society following the norms of historical decline (avoiding the utopia/apocalypse binary), I actually have gotten some pretty positive responses from a wide variety of folks. It seems that some people, at least, are eager to shed the failed story that currently dominates our society, and the corresponding narrow range of options it gives them.
So, I guess the task now facing us, is how do we get alternatives out there, and what should they be?
What I’ve got so far, which seems to fit in well with both green wizardry and an active spiritual practice:
LESS can be BETTER!!!
curious to know where you got the child mortality data from. I went to check and, according to what I can find ( the UN’s Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation figures published by the World Bank), the child mortality rate in Indonesia is 2.54%, which compares not well at all with the US’s 0.66% rate. here’s the website I used https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/child-mortality-igme?country=ARG~BIH~BRA~CHN~Europe%20%26%20Central%20Asia%20(excluding%20high%20income)~USA®ion=World
I had a rather sad interaction with David Brin about making a bet
: if the Biden administration would live up to its commitments in the Paris Climate Accord.
(For those who don’t know, David Brin thinks betting is a great way to embarrass someone who claims something is true but is unwilling to bet on it. And the Paris Climate Accords call for a 50% reduction in fossil fuel use in 10 years.)
A 50% reduction in 10 years works out to slightly less than 7% reduction per year, so I asked if he would be willing to bet that under the Biden administration the US would achieve an average of 7% reduction in fossil fuel use per year?
He would not make that bet or any bet on an average reduction in fossil fuel use per year. (and he got really mad at me, when I said something to the effect So, you don’t actually believe that Biden will make actual progress on climate change because you are not willing to bet on it.)
He was willing to bet that the Biden administration would do thing like provide subsidies for electric cars, more regulations for the oil industry, money for more studies, but a bet on actually reducing our fossil fuel usage – not a chance.
Having spent too much time recently looking for clues of sanity in the media, its still startling to see that only those very few on the edges even acknowledge the possibility that decline of cheap petroleum is a major part of the economic picture. An entire industry devoted to dissecting economics and hardly a mention of the lifeblood of the modern economy, except of course as a commodity like any other.
Here’s some straight up decline porn, on the home page today of a popular, progressive and widely read financial site:
Although because it’s wrapped up as ageism it’s presented like its solvable if only the economy would stop being so ageist.
Welcome back, John. I missed your witty posts and commentary.
Well didn’t we agree that the last year of Progress was in 2008? That would take us 13 years into the Long Descent and it surely looks like it.
As of fiction I remember Johnny Mnemonic, the movie rather than the short story on which it is based. The action takes place in January 2021, transnational corporations more powerful than governments rule the world, there’s a deadly pandemic of “black shakes” going on. There’s also a group of rebels calling themselves the Lo-Teks who resist the corporate rule and only use high technology when they feel its warranted. In a way they are neo-Luddites living as outcasts on the fringes of society. In the movie (spoilers) they use high technology to uncover the recipe for the cure to the “black shakes” which an evil corporation have had for a while but refused to disclose in order to increase their profits later, by selling the cure to a larger number of affected people.
So, maybe an over-dramatization, but overall it turned out a to be an almost-accurate prediction. Because we sure have corporations running the world and a moderately deadly pandemic going on. And maybe we can take something away from this story. Like its time to start our own Lo-Tek resistance?
A lot of people are still making a lot money on belief in progress, a belief which, I suspect, they no longer hold themselves. I am certain that Wired has never lacked for financial backing and ad revenue, whether or not it had very many readers. Nor do I believe the story that Kelly came up with the idea to interview Sale all by himself. He may have pitched the idea, and the bet may have been his own inspiration, but he would surely have been told what else to ask and say.
Blackoak, how do you get banking being associated with earth? And, is not technology, needing energy, usually thought to be associated with fire?
Matthew Ehret is yet another LaRouchite, with the strengths and failings of that grouping. His articles about the American System of political economy are superb, and need to be read and disseminated. Those can be found at Strategic Culture and his own site, the Canadian Patriot. However, the LaRouchites tend to confuse development with high technology, and fondly to imagine that natural resources are inexhaustible. Arguably, what held the Roman Empire together was not the legions, but roads and aqueducts made at pre industrial levels of technology. There is a fascinating Utube video about Caesar building a wood bridge across the Rhine in double quick time so he could make a show of force on the east bank, and then dismantling it after marching his legions back across.
Welcome back. I hope your break time was beneficial. The chatter about, well everything, has gotten loud. I think I need a little hermit time of my own just about now.
Yup!! all this exactly my experience!
Though I stopped believing in progress years ago now (reading your work back in 2013 was more like the mortal blow to my belief in progress rather than a shocking revelation. I kinda didn’t believe that strongly in it anyway by then). I get the feeling everyone in my relatively affluent middle class social circles knows this too. There’s no enthusiasm for the techno utopia future that I used to see to see in people’s eyes. It s more a dull kind of, ‘I’m saying this because I don’t know what else to say’ reaction.
Put it this was, saying out loud that there’s is no techno future is like saying there are two biological sexes (in the wrong company that is). I sometimes wonder if its not an accident that both represent a denial of basic physical realities…
On a brighter note, I’ve read ‘The Secret of The Temple’ I got a copy for Christmas. I’m on the case 😉
One way in which you can avoid the utopia/apocalypse binary trap is to remember the importance of human agency. The link between agency and actual outcome is complicated (as Marx was probably not the first to notice), but it’s important to distinguish between things that don’t happen because they are impossible and things that don’t happen because they are prevented. In nearly 70 years in this incarnation, I have seen some of the former, but much more of the latter. The environmental, political, infrastructure, educational, health and happiness and social and economic security decline of the last fifty years was willed by human agents for reasons of power and money, and connived at by others who were bought off or were too intimated to intervene. I’m looking at you, most of the politicians of the western world, whatever notional part of the political spectrum you are from.
We could do much more with what we already have, if our leaders cared about such things. In your country, you could have a much better system of health care than you have for a lot less money – just pick an OECD country at random and introduce their system. The same general logic applies to many other issues in many other countries.
Some 30 months ago I added a comment to my collection: “‘America is in the same situation that, say, Roman Britain was in the classical world; a thin layer of civilization over a deep ocean of barbarism, which will win out in due time.”
As one who is a strong advocate of ‘human agency’, whether by individuals, but more importantly by groups of people who recognize that what is happening around us is not going to take us anywhere but toward “barbarism”, there is much to be said for those who are on the ‘way’ of working from the bottom up without the compromises demanded by “progress”.
Even the “degrowth” movement begun in Europe is a crusade of an elite, highly educated group who are not in a position of the precariat whom they wish to champion but not emulate. It would seem that this group of ‘scholars’ is proposing a way forward that includes the ‘niceties’ that they already enjoy, but without the hard work of growing their own food or heating the places where they live without fossil fuels.
Maybe, beyond the ‘barbarism’ so much more evident today, there are those from the precariat class in our increasingly ‘polarized’ countries (not politically so, but from an understanding of ‘class’) who can survive into the future so as to be an example of the ways in which the rest of us might live. This will take some doing as many on their way down to this class are into barbaric modes rather than acceptance of Retropia as a necessary way.
It sure can be fun getting caught up in all that schtick at times as well. Probably about 25 years ago, I sat down and wrote what I called at the time a science experiment, but in reality was my belief that living a more Paleo lifestyle was healthier and better for humanity. Reading over the Wired article, and seeing the dates that Sale and Quinn were active, I can see why those thoughts were so active in my subconscious (I’d never heard of either of those men at the time, and Sale is new as of today). The idea that living more primal is on the other end of the stick of hubris though, from faith in progress.
Today, the idea of exploring the frontiers is exciting. The current trajectory is forcing people to wade into new paths. I’m hoping to “cross the Appalachians” into that new “promised land” where the soil is fertile, and there is room for things to grow. The prospect of something unknown is scary, but recognizing that is what it will take to find a place to grow healthy seed is exciting as well.
Dear JMG and commentariat,
What I struggle to get is _why_ people believe in Progress and Apocalypse. The smallest amount of honest and disinterested inquiry shows that these are interpretations and delusions rather than actualities. So “Progress” is an interpretation of certain events, which others could very easily describe in different ways. Progress . Likewise “Apocalypse” is such a blatant wish-fulfillment fantasy which never ever comes, no matter how much people feverishly pray for it.
These beliefs differ from the existence of gods and other numina. Fairies can really mess a person up, and everyone I know who has prayed to St. Anthony to find something…finds that thing quickly! So it seems to me that the worship of Progress & Apocalypse strikes me as something closer to worshipping delusions and narrative frames than working with numina.
How can people believe this sort of bizarre and chimerical binary? I don’t mean that rhetorically — I’ve never had the faith, and it doesn’t make sense to me. Why do people get pressured into the apocalyptic mode if they critique Progress? It actually strikes me as very odd given that critiques of Progress tend to be cool and reasoned whereas the Apocalypse drive tends towards being hot and lusty. Reasoning out from events, it seems so crude and unrealistic to impute “now everyone dies!” which obviously people do, quite often the moment they question the Utopian wish-fulfillment fantasies that get tossed about. While I can see that they both relate through structural homology to Christianity and specifically Protestant Christianity, the sort of faith of the secular version seems so utterly absurd to my mind, whereas I can find plenty of common ground between the realities I experience and the realities that sincere Christians experience.
I’m seriously curious to read folk’s thoughts on the why of these strange, related visions, I’m especially curious to read the thoughts of people who believed in these visions and then grew to question them radically.
I stumbled into the apocalyptic scene about 10 years ago through a friend of mine that was (and continues to be) fixated on apocalyptic scenarios. It put me down a bad hole. I had two young daughters (3 and 4) and every time I’d look at them I’d feel this crushing misery, because the world was ending next week, if not even sooner(!).
The common thread in those groups, which you’ve pointed out before, is that they rarely DO anything. The apocalypse is just a convenient reason for them to kick up their feet and wait for whatever happens. That’s never suited me very well.
I can’t overstate the impact your writing had (and has) on me. Reading the Archdruid Report felt like a fever breaking. It was essential in helping me shake off depression and fix my way of thinking. Essays like this one are very helpful in giving some perspective that the world is rarely (probably never) all roses or all manure.
All of which is to say, I’m a fan. Thanks for offering your perspective on stuff like this. I wish I had more to offer than my fanboy nonsense, but this is it for today!
@ JMG – Glad to have you back. This may seem off topic, but, I will circle back to progress vs apocalypse. Without oversharing, my wife and I adopted three kids who will graduate high school (fingers crossed, for a variety of reasons) in 2036 and 2037. We garden in the back yard, grow fruits and veggies, we keep chickens, and the kids (who are still very young), really seem to enjoy being outdoors. I’ve even started a just before bedtime ritual in which I carry each one out to say goodnight to the chickens and trees, even the moon, if it is visible.
Assuming they live at least sixty years, they will almost certainly go through one of the serious, 1914-1945 style downward lurches of industrial civilization in their lifetimes (if we aren’t in the midst of one already). As they grow up, I would like them to remain receptive to the living world around them, and not fall for the secular Myth of Progress, while also not buying blindly into what I fear is an increasingly militant, fundamentalist form of Christianity emerging here in the bible belt.
In the past, you’ve fielded a few questions like this from readers, but I did not pay much attention, as I did not have kids at the time. I reached a place of nature worship through much fumbling in the dark (and digging in the dirt). In addition to simply going outside, what might be some additional techniques, to show them how to listen to the natural world?
So glad to have you back.
@ Karim. You do what you can to improve yourself, your social network of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances and maintain your mental health. You do it on faith and after that, it’s out of your hands.
Very hard, I know.
But I look out my window at the tiny rebuilt wilderness I turned our 1/4 acre property into and know that I made lives better for those birds and all the critters I can’t see.
Many people I know spend a tiny bit less and save a tiny bit more. They insulate. They might think twice instead of only once. I’ve help plant more trees. I picked up lots of trash.
I’ve got approaching 10,000 books stored away and some of them will survive.
Is that enough? It’s better than sinking into the slough of despond.
Have faith and keep trying.
This is, as usual, quite the interesting article. Your mention of the famous “Progress: Yes or No!” style bets being stacked in favor of the progress side (because the only acceptable alternative is apocalypse) does not, I think, apply to all of them. For instance, you have the famous Simon-Ehrlich wager where the question was whether the mean price of five metals would rise or fall between 1980 and 1990 – that sounds about as neutral as a bet can be, though I take it that you think “your” side could have done with a more level-headed representative than Paul Ehrlich.
But when you criticize Kirkpatrick Sale for “falling for the trap” and making the apocalypse bet, I suspect that the old proverb about people living in glass houses might be applicable. I’m quite aware that you make a big deal out of rejecting the progress/apocalypse duality, but at the same time, you have a long history of predicting that various milestones in America’s decline would come sooner and steeper than they actually did.
Perhaps my experience of having binge-read almost the whole of the archived Archdruid Report in a single month back in the summer of 2019 has made me a bit hyperaware of the predictions that fell flat; even so, I do recall quite clearly your predictions that the oil price spike of 2005-2008 and its economic effects would be permanent (they weren’t), that after retiring the Space Shuttles in 2011, the US would never get another man into orbit (it did), that every year for half a dozen years or so was the year that the fracking boom would finally collapse (none of them were), that the Saudi Arabian regime would fall sometime in 2016 (it didn’t) and that millions of right-wing Americans in the South and the Rocky Mountain West were on the verge of an armed uprising (they weren’t).
Maybe it’s just a natural human tendency to want to live in exciting times and not have to wait around too long to see our work coming to fruition (including “work” that consists of predicting and/or preparing for future events). I mean, whatever quirk of psychology causes students of biblical numerology to nearly always pick dates for the Second Coming that fall within their own lifetime can’t be entirely absent from environmentalists and peak oil writers.
Still, when it comes to overestimating how soon an unsustainable system will stop being sustained, I’m not that innocent either. I recall about a year ago looking at the insane electric vehicle bubble and thinking: if I had enough money for options trading, I would buy one-year Tesla puts. And now, I’m remembering that and thinking: I’m glad that I don’t have enough money for options trading.
This is DanielleThePermaculturist if wordpress doesn’t load.
JMG, I hope you had a refreshing break and glad to see you back! You’re comment about Aspergers cracked me up but I do think you are right. You’re ability to see past emotional manipulation has always astounded me. I am not able to withstand such pressure. I also appreciate the clarity of your thoughts. Its a good model for me to return to.
One thing I have been thinking of is that modern man has lost the ability to think of cycles. That’s why I think this techno optimism and apocalypse vision is so strong because it is put of a cycle. I myself noticed this tendency in me last year as I waited for the apocalypse. It was quite a relief when I realized it would neber happen as it returned my sense of agency.
Technology I think seemed to break the chain by giving a seemingly unlimited growth phase. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I mentioned casually thay even if my permaculture dream failed and I died in the striving for it I would die happy because of who it was shaping me to be. Be being the most important word. I was quite shocked at the negative reaction. Not death! Well…we all are going to die. Best to die standing on one’s own two feet than cowering. Though I understand the sentiment and there have been many times I have cowered myself.
This last year has been a time of great clarity. My spiritual and prayer life has become much more fundamental and daily and my social life much mpre honest and true even as much dies and decays as I separate the chaff from the wheat. It was hard at first until I realized it was just another cycle of decay from that which was not allowing me to develop for a new cycle lf growth which has.
I suspected that was the answer, but still had a slight hope there would be some simple argument to be made.
Thank you for pointing out the emotional nature of beliefs. I believe I’ve seen that before but it didn’t sink in till now. I suppose we can’t decouple beliefs from emotion until we’ve attained consciousness on the mental plane. Our decoupling of beliefs to emotion probably exists on a spectrum proportional to the development of our mental sheaths.
So glad to see you back, John! I got a chuckle from the title of this week’s essay. I’ve forgotten exactly which calumny I was hearing about, but it was some time last week when I realized that actually I was enjoying the gruesome news coming out of America. I do worry about my relatives in North America; specifically, over the short term, the ones that have prepped and been vocal about it, and over the long term, older rellies who’ve been convinced they need one of the experimental gene therapies being sold fraudulently as vaccines. Even the more conventional vaccines coming out may prove to be counterproductive. We just won’t know for a few years.
Speaking of punching bags, I recently found out how easy it is to become one if one doesn’t subscribe to either extreme view about the future.
By way of background, I grew up on a farm and have been interested in sustainable agriculture for many years. Several years ago, though, I was flying into Atlanta and had a “Eureka!” moment. In flying over mile after after mile of densely packed suburbs, I suddenly realized that sustainable agriculture, given the present physical infrastructure and population distribution in America, was not going to feed all those people. At some point, the growth curve was going to cross a declining resource curve, and at that point some very serious and perhaps painful adjustments will be forced upon us. I made my views known in the comments of a related video.
I was immediately pilloried for purveying doom and gloom, and needlessly so. A Dutch commentator chimed in the the Netherlands was perfectly capable of feeding itself and always would be. I responded that the internet is replete with pictures showing large stretches of peat bogs in Utrecht that had been excavated in pre-petroleum days, leaving large lakes interspersed with thin strips of land. Those pictures give some indication of the peoples’ energy requirements in an era when the population of that country was a small fraction of what it is today. What will happen when petroleum to power tractors and trucks becomes scarce? What will happen when natural gas is no longer available as a feedstock for chemical fertilizers? The commentator responded that nuclear power would come online long before any resource shortages arose, and that I was just an alarmist who was stuck in the “Limits of Growth” mindset. And in addition that the “Limits to Growth” was not only false but fraudulent.
In the very same thread, I was attacked because — was I so blind that I could not see that huge cities like Atlanta called for urgent action to avoid catastrophe?! I replied that we had been dealing with resource shortages since the 1970s, and that our experience since then suggested to me that exhaustion of energy resources would more likely take the form of a slow grinding descent than running headlong into a brick wall. And so, barring a nuclear war, we were probably just going to muddle through as usual. The lesson for sustainable agriculture practitioners is that we do for ourselves, the land we farm, and for our grandchildren who would inherit the land and the practices we had developed during our tenure on it. At that point, I was notified that I was either too stupid or too willfully blind to continue the conversation with.
I came away from the conversation with two thoughts: First, “muddling through” just doesn’t have the juice to stand up to prophesies of either infinite progress or imminent catastrophe. Second, it occurred to me that the comments revealed two distinctly different thought processes. In the first mode, people survey the available facts and attempt to formulate some general principles that explain them. Limited as we are by our senses, training, and past experiences, we’re far from perfect at this, but at least we have some well-established guidelines to help us out here.
The second thought process starts from a belief and works backwards to observable facts. This leads to the justly vilified “cherry picking” of facts to support preconceived notions, such as insisting the “Limits to Growth” must be fraudulent because it does not support one’s cherished beliefs. Or that the world is facing imminent disaster, and anyone who can’t see that must be either stupid or willfully blind. It also leads to the well-known preference of online readers to gravitate toward “echo-chamber” sites where their beliefs are shared by others in that site’s community. My main concern now is, how can people with different modes of thought communicate with one another?
Sorry to be so long-winded. Glad to see you back JMG. The online world is a poorer place without you!
Very much enjoyed your post. Perhaps the luckier of us are like immigrants from the “Old Country,” fleeing disaster to a strange new place where the people speak an unfamiliar language. We dream about the “good old days,” never really at home in this new land, though grateful that we avoided the horrors besetting the land of our birth. But here’s the important thing: the newer generations born into this world will have the acclimation and the instincts to be happy within it. Their sources of happiness may reside less in having than in being, less in things than in mastery, a much neglected component of positive psychology.
Another observation: When people believe that things are getting better, they’re more likely not to rock the boat. People will put up with a lot of present misery and injustice if they believe their children will have a significantly better life. But if that “better life” levels off or declines, as it has for most during this century, all bets are off. People still clinging to hope that advancing in the corporate world is still worthwhile will become even more ruthless in that pursuit. So, for example, a lot of harassment claims against, and cancelling of, this or that Boomer executive comes from 1) an unwillingness to tolerate bad behavior when there’s no longer a payoff for doing so, and 2) a socially acceptable way to eliminate an obstacle to one’s own advancement. (No one called out Weinstein as long as he could advance careers.)
And so the myth of progress no longer placates as it once did, and the elites know this. So they have a revised myth, one of progressively greater control over our lives, in which our nature can be so altered as to be content with whatever arrangements they have in mind for us. Better a belief that our children and their children are resilient enough to resist the machinations of beleaguered elites and make the actual future their own, a future in which they can be more fully human than they are now, a world where the truth is their friend.
Hello Mr. Greer,
I have a more practical question for you. You mentioned in Dark Age America that owning gold and silver in a dark age is a bad idea. It makes you a target for violence in a post rule of law world after the age of progress ends. I find these arguments to be quite powerful, but that leaves me wondering about the long descent. Rule of law is still functioning at the moment, but you can see it fraying at the edges. Presumably we have another 100 to 200 years before we end the long descent and enter the next dark age. So how do precious metals fare during this intern period?
With the Reedit army and Wall Street currently locked in a standstill over the price of silver and stimulus checks representing the next round of financial fighting this question has some immediate implications. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Brian, conspiracy theories flourish when there’s a great deal of cognitive dissonance between a culture’s official narratives and the reality most people encounter in their daily lives. The last few years have seen that become an immense factor in our society, so conspiracy theories flourish on all sides of the political spectrum. As for my next book project, do you mean my next book to be released, the book I’m currently writing, or the next one I expect to start?
Raymond, that’s an enticing idea. Shoddiness as progress! “Get rid of those dull, stable, functional, durable possessions and get cheap fragile substitutes — it’s the hottest new trend!” I could see it.
David BTL, fascinating. I wonder what happens if we never quite return to that level…
Owen, that’s a huge issue. One of the things I’m doing as I revise my catabolic-collapse model is that I’m taking into account the role of illth. That’s John Ruskin’s term for the opposite of wealth; it’s produced in the same way as wealth, and bad economic decisions are among the things that produce it in large quantities.
Jerry, okay, gotcha. Linnea was certainly trying to shame me, which is a waste of time; it startles me how many people seem to be under the delusion that I care what some random stranger thinks of me. Goldeneggpermaculture, who wrote comment #1, seems to have had something less silly in mind.
Oilman2, a lot of rural areas are collapsing quite productively at the moment, and I expect that to accelerate. I’m glad yours is well ahead of the rush!
Clay, many thanks for these. This is an important data point and I wanted to have access to as many of the facts as possible.
Bridge, I bet he was making exactly the same predictions in 1995, and they’ll be just as wrong this time around, too.
Jen, you may indeed.
Chris, funny. Yes, I’ve heard of the sand shortage! A useful reminder that there literally isn’t anything we can’t run out of…
Andrew, excellent. Yes, I’ve noticed the same thing — and “LESS can be better!” is a great slogan. (Or is BETTER an acronym?)
Lorenzo, thanks for this. It’s been a couple of years since I looked it up; I’ll see if I can find the source I used.
Jim, that’s really sad — though it shows that at some level Brin is finally coming to terms with reality.
Third Chimp, that normally happens right before peak oil surges back into prominence. For what it’s worth, I’m coming to think we’re going to see a serious price spike in petroleum within a couple of years.
Tumpuslumpus, fascinating — they came so close to noticing that things really are getting worse for most people.
Ecosophian, good — but don’t make it a resistance. As we’ve seen over the last four years — and as any electrician can tell you — all resistance does is convert energy into waste heat. Instead, choose a positive goal and turn the existing order of things into the resistance…that is to say, the thrust block against which you can push off.
Mary, maybe so, but don’t discount the existence of genuine, earnest true believers in the religion of progress, touchingly certain that if they just follow Tinkerbell’s advice and believe, they really will get their flying cars someday.
Aubrey, it’s worth doing. Always remember to start by throwing away your television and spending a lot of time off the internet.
BB, if people really are starting to drift away from the religion of progress, that’s very good to hear. As for The Secret of the Temple, I’m delighted to hear that; one of my next projects is the sequel.
1Wanderer, there I think you’re mistaken. Most of the forces shaping contemporary life have nothing to do with human agency and everything to do with hard ecological limits that no one is willing to deal with, or even talk about. Mind you, if you want to talk about health care in the US, there you have me — we have the worst and most expensive health care in the industrial world for reasons that are quite easy to document, and have nothing to do with ecological limits.
Bruce, I’m reminded rather forcefully of a bit of Robert E. Howard:
“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”
Prizm, pay close attention to that excitement, and then see whether it’s being influenced by collective forces. When the crowd is going one way, going a different way is very often smarter.
Violet, remember that until relatively recently progress really did seem to work, at least for people in the middle classes in the industrial world. It’s a delusion now, but between 1900 and 1970 it was a plausible description of what was going on. My grandfather was in his teens when he first saw an automobile come lurching down a dirt road in Grays Harbor County, Washington, scaring horses as it went; he also watched the first man step onto the surface of the Moon. That experience, shared by many millions of others, is what gave the myth of progress its plausibility, and it’s going to be a while before it finishes sinking in that the age of progress really is over.
Dudley, I’m glad I could help you out of that particular pit. It’s not a good place to be.
Ben, you might want to pick up Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, if you don’t have a copy already. It’s the best book on this subject I know.
Wesley, I’ve made quite a number of mistaken guesses over the years, and yes, more than half of them have been expecting that things would decline faster than in fact they have. I’ve discussed most of those mistakes at length in my blogging, however. If you care to point out to me someplace where I’ve claimed to be infallible, however, I’d like to see that.
Danielle, I wish I could say I was shocked that people reacted as they did to your comment. Sadly, it’s stunningly rare these days for people to actually display the courage of their convictions, as you did.
Youngelephant, exactly. Beliefs are astral by nature — that is to say, images charged with emotion. Understanding, which is what replaces belief on the mental plane, is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.
Patricia O, schadenfreude has its virtues!
Helix, keep in mind that the true believers in progress and apocalypse have a very important motive driving them to their beliefs: both beliefs mean that they don’t have to change their own lives. If progress is going to take care of everything, you don’t have to change, and if the apocalypse is looming over you, then it’s too big for changing your life to matter and you might as well keep on living the way you do. It’s in that middle ground of muddling through that doing something in your own life actually matters.
Greg, is the belief that the future must be better, in some sense or other, that important to you?
Stephen, good question. I don’t pretend to know enough about current precious metals markets to have an informed opinion.
Onething (offlist), oh, for the God’s sake. Enough.
Thanks for the links and the perspective. I always enjoy mulling over your comments here and on US.
Welcome back, JMG! I’m so glad you are available to assist us in our wild-eyed, white-knuckled, teeth-clenching, hair-flying ride on the roller coaster of modern society. At least, that’s what the past year has seemed like to me. And there’s more on the way; all the more reason to seek ways to get off and then stay off the ride, as hard as that seems. The older I get, the less appealing amusement rides are anyway…a quiet life with feet planted firmly on the ground is sounding better and better all the time.
Welcome back, JMG. I’m curious, how many of the decline problems we see in the US do you think are due to waning energy resources and how many are due to our own particular flawed economic system? Because there are some countries in the world (mainly northern European ones) that have been able to maintain significantly higher standards of living, quality of life, infrastructure, and economic equality that the US. Are these just outliers, or do you think that embracing similar models could lead to a significantly shallower US decline?
RE: Progress vs Apocalypse
I think it’s a matter of hubris, on the one end that we humans are better than nature, and on the other end that we are animals no better than any other animal and must choose to live that way, otherwise our alternative is apocalypse.
John, your comment made me laugh so hard. There are indeed televisions in my home, but I don’t know that I have ever turned them on. If I got rid of them I would have a mutiny on my hands. Having said that I can easily avoid watching, because I can’t stand them. The internet on my computer is much harder. I am in 2 schools at the moment, both online. I don’t have a smart phone either. I think I can manage a week off, but after my school work is really complete, I will be aiming for a month.
One thing that occurred to me recently was how pervasive The Narrative™ has become. I went to have a look at Reddit to check out the Gamestop thing. Reddit has ‘the news’ (aka The Narrative™) at the top of the page. Twitter gives you The Narrative™ on the right side of the page. My iPhone gives you The Narrative™ when you scroll up. I walked past a bus stop the other day. Apparently the bus stops here have had speakers installed. Those speakers give you The Narrative™. I had coffee with a friend. There was an advertising billboard nearby which had very little advertising but flashed, you guessed it, The Narrative™ in bright colours. It really was like something out of a dystopian sci-fi movie. And, of course, The Narrative™ becomes more and more divorced from reality such that the people who believe it really appear incredibly naive to me now.
@ Clay Denis
Mad Max was mostly shot on the outskirts of Melbourne which, at that time, were sparsely populated. I was driving through one of the filming locations the other day. It’s still like it was back then but suburbia is encroaching. I’d say the events of 2020 will save it. Would be a shame for Max to get gentrified.
By the way, we had a bloke who killed 7 people and wounded a heap more by driving his car through the Melbourne CBD in the middle of lunchtime a few years ago. There was another car incident in the suburbs of Melbourne earlier this year where a guy was just ramming parked cars in the street. I recall they had similar incidents in Europe in recent years. Sad to say, cars do make obvious weapons.
@ Chris Smith
I found out about the sand thing a couple of months ago when a family member told me of a mine opening up in Tasmania. I asked what kind of mine and he said sand. Huh? If they’re exporting sand from Tasmania there really must be a shortage.
Actually we don’t really need to go to Mars ourselves
regardless of what Mr. Musk thinks. Intrepid little robots
with high definition cameras have already done it for us.
Watching the video, I am struck by the terrible stark beauty
of Mars and the fact it is clearly not a place people should waste time
and trouble physically visiting themselves. There’s nothing wrong
with satisfying your curiosity but we need to be aware
of our limits. I rather be able to sniff the flowers
under a bright blue sky and let the robots undergo the
hazards of exploration while we still have the capability
of sending them.
I’ll delve into some meditation on why I feel excitement about the possibilities of the coming future. It’s not that I have any one particular vision of what is to come, but there is definitely the possibility I picked something up, like I picked up on the “primal lifestyle is better” ideas that were in the collective conscious, unbeknownst to me. Mostly, as I was typing the feeling of excitement, I was imagining crossing the Appalachians, as John Chapman and many frontiersmen had done, seeing an expansive vista of the land ahead, and imagining what may be.
JMG: “Earthworm, every reality that suggests that our society is fifty years into a slowly accelerating decline.”
Fair enough; a lot of people seem to think that they can define reality to be whatever they want and can force feed that to everyone else, and that anyone who has an alternative view of facts and reality is obviously mentally ill or some sort of supremacist (I read that the animal rights group PETA announced that people who eat meat are human supremacists). Having some other[s] to hate might help with their reality dysfunction but could put a lot of people in the cross-hairs of the crazy.
Your reply to #38
“Christopher, remember that if they see what’s in front of their faces they have to surrender their belief in the faith that gives their lives some semblance of meaning. People can deny almost anything in that situation.”
…would also help explain behaviour over the last year to diktats and proclamations that seem nonsensical – stay locked up at home works as a security blanket and fear of death by disease gives a potent draught of ‘something else to think about’.
So we could end up with an all you can eat buffet of people grasping for meaning in one thing or another (or just nihilism of some form) and all the potentialities around those.
While not a good old biblical battle of good and evil, it does look like serious polarisations on what passes as reality, and at some point people might need to take a stance one way or another.
In the last para of The Care of the Mind you said:
“Any time you run into someone or something who’s trying to convince you to become more stupid, you’re better off walking away.”
Walking away sounds great, but that may or may not turn out to be possible depending on how things play out…
JMG – Would you consider an extension of ‘The Care of the Mind’ https://www.ecosophia.net/the-care-of-the-mind/ ?
Maybe just me but it felt like the first post of a series!
Good afternoon all, I wrote another comment earlier today, but it seems to have been eaten by Mercury. Oh well, probably for the best.
Just wanted to say, welcome back JMG. Best wishes to you and yours.
Good post, as usual.
I tend to agree that a drawn out catabolic collapse is the most probable scenario. Taking a probabilities view though I would tend to think that a faster collapse is more probable than a techno-utopian set of break throughs pulling us out of our predicament and preventing collpase. At present the vast list of civilisation collapsing (taking to a less complex level) issues includes deforestation, soil erosion, ocean acidification, atmospheric warming, insect loss, massive species extinction, desertification, pollution, plastics, fresh water aquifer depletion, resource depletion, EROEI increasing relentlessly, sea ice loss, a blue water event which could create a phase change in climate very rapidly due to the loss of the albedo effect, infectious diseases getting more of a foothold, etc…. I could go on but you get the picture. The vast list of techological innovations coming on line do not for the most part address these issues and as you have many times written they make them worse by externalising costs.
I would like to see a slow collapse but it does feel like we are accelerating. I look forward to read your upcoming posts.
Historically, after the South Sea Bubble popped, society, everything more or less stagnated for 50 years or so. What if the world in 2070 looks very much like today, except more bent and dent and shabbier? The cars all look just like today, people wear more or less the same fashions, the music sounds the same, everything just stagnates for 50 years. The babies being born today get to live and die in a world frozen in time?
That’s definitely something that most people aren’t predicting and aren’t anticipating.
To Jen: Thank you so much for Alan Savory’s book suggestion! I am looking for it now
To Oilman: Thank you for those magazine subscriptions. I am seriously thinking of subscribing.
GregisMay and to other commenters talking about shifting ideas and mythologies. I have run across literature of the post-secular age which suggests that we are returning to more traditional forms of religion and most importantly no longer believe in the one size fits all of the dying modernist age. This shift supposedly has started taking place since the fall of the Berlin Wall. What do you all think?
Funny enough I would be interested in a collapse/Luddite blog haha. What a contradiction I know.
Linnea doesn’t seem to notice that there is no group of people that categorizes humans and assigns them value based on the ‘color of their skin and the junk between their legs’ these days as militantly as the SJW contingent.
Dear JMG, talking about the imagination, was it only me that noted the inauguration cerimony of your new president was so much alike some scenes of the ” hunger games” movie, based on the novels by Susan Collins? The blonde singer, even had a huge pin in the chest depicting a bird!
From where I am the USA seems to be engulfed in a cloud of insanity, whereas your main rivals advance with confidence to head a world looking for leadership…I do suspect you will be missed.
Maybe because I am probably not ”white”, and certainly not male, I am unable to understand the hate your progressives fill toward the ” white patriarchy”, as expressed here by Linnea . As a non white female I am very grateful for the culture and civilization white males and females developed and shared with those like myself, and I am very afraid that my grandaughters will not enjoy the rights and liberties I have because of the progressive ideas…
Glad you are back!
For those who were smarter than I was and tuned out of it, for the last couple of months QAnon was planting the idea that Trump had a secret plan (referred to as “The Plan”) to steal the presidency back. Obviously this did not happen.
The Plan was a transparent substitute for the Rapture my Evangelical Christian in-laws always thought was about to happen sometime next week. Belief in The Plan and other Apocalypses is convenient, because it means heaven is just around the corner and along with it, revenge upon the other side. Much of wanting to believe in raptures comes from the thirst for vengeance, I think. Linnea’s comment had more than a touch of that form of lust.
Ben, if you can teach your children discursive meditation, that seems to me like the gift that will always keep on giving, long after your time with them is over.
Ben and JMG,
for books about learning to see and appreciate the natural world, I highly recommend the works of Tristan Gooley. He does a wonderful job of pulling together a host of ways to “read” and better experience nature, from sources both contemporary and ancient. And he has a real love of nature and its mysteries that comes across, though his writing is very practical.
I might start with Wild Signs and Star Paths (also under the title The Nature Instinct) as it is less of the technical stuff and more intuitive. The book is written around “keys,” things you can spot simply and without calculation, that when mastered together, unlock the world in a surprising way. It’s practical poetry.
I can recommend all of his stuff, though. How to Read Water was fantastic, and I eagerly await his upcoming book on reading weather.
I want to tie in a discussion I saw on Magic Monday into this one about the relationship between materialism and solipsism because I think it is relevant to the idea of progress and its issues.
I would argue that the telos of materialism as a metaphysics is solipsism. If you make the argument that the only thing that “really” exists is matter out there somewhere behaving in an absurd (purposeless) mechanical fashion, then the only method of knowledge we have at all is our physical senses and the models of the cosmos we construct by them. Initially at least, the argument is that we can create accurate models of this mechanical universe (the process we call science) in order to manipulate it. You could define “progress” in this context as our increasing ability to manipulate physical matter. This has worked quite for a while, but, as JMG notes, it is starting to ferment.
The problem is, if you follow this line of reasoning, you can start to see there there is a component of will/intention that goes into model making. In a materialist cosmos, the brain creates its own reality since “you” ultimately never interact with anything beyond a simulacrum of the world created by your five senses. The model your senses and brain create in this metaphysics is an airtight filter between you and the outside world (ironic, isn’t it?). If the material cosmos is fundamentally absurd and silent on truth claims, then our models are functions of the human will and brain imposed upon an absurd cosmos, which is necessarily subject to cultural and personal bias (hence all the hullabaloo about “white heterosexual cisgendered males” – they were the ones that in many/most cases made the initial models Western society has been running off of).
The one and only hope for perfect freedom from suffering in a materialist cosmos is to manipulate our models and matter into any form we desire (see transhumanism, progressivism) to create a society of universal satisfaction. If anyone denies that human beings and matter are infinitely flexible in this way, then they deny the only soteriology of a materialist metaphysics. The progressives are not just defending a political position, but rather a ‘religious’ cosmology and eschatology. That is far harder to break out of. I know some progressives consider themselves spiritual, but if spirit is not enough of a reality to you to warrant being able to set politics aside in its pursuit, you might not be living in a spiritual cosmos.
The religion of progress is the religion of the human will and its ability to control its own destiny in an absurd, if not downright hostile, material world (think of the (over)reaction to That One Thing). There has never been metaphysics that offers as fertile ground to Totalitarianism.
I think Kant implied this line of reasoning and Nietzsche was fully conscious of it. If all that exists is dead matter and the human will that desires to shape it, you get a solipsistic view of the world where you should be able to “arrange” things in whatever way you like. This worldview promises infinite liberty of self creation, but ends up more often in Nietzche’s “last man,” who is concerned with personal comfort alone.
Great to have you back.
Did you say that QAnon looks to you like it was set up by the Democrats to spread misinformation?
Joy Marie, no argument there!
Kel, there’s a third factor that you’re not including in the mix: the global hegemony the US currently maintains over much of the world. Empires pay off abundantly to start with, but they end up costing much more than they’re worth, and we’re way past the point of negative returns on ours. That’s why our curve of decline has been steeper than those of most European nations. It looked for a while as though we were going to draw back from that, but the new administration seems to be committed to the same hold-on-at-any-costs policies as Obama’s was, and so we can expect the curve of decline to steepen steadily for at least the next four years.
Aubrey, so noted! I’m fortunate that my wife is no fonder than I am of the plug-in drug.
Simon, that shows how frantic they’ve become. A society that’s good at managing narratives doesn’t have to engage in that kind of over-the-top effors.
Jeanne, maybe it’s that I grew up in a western state, but Mars makes me think of Nevada, with less oxygen. We have comparable desert landscapes much closer to home.
Prizm, by all means meditate on it. You may be catching something new and interesting.
Earthworm, the image of an all-you-can-eat buffet of meaning is good! I’ll consider more posts on mental plane hygiene.
CR, I just found it in the trash file — no idea how it got there. (It’s #45 above.) I have no idea how it ended up there! Thanks for the heads up — I expect the same sort of thing on this side of the Rio Grande any day now.
Nik, all I can say is that people have been predicting the technological breakthroughs and the sudden collapses for my entire life, and every single time they’ve been dead wrong. Meanwhile, decline continues steadily…
Owen, fascinating. What an intriguing thought.
Elodie, a lot of people noticed that last month’s inauguration of President Coriolanus Snow very strongly resembled the fictional activities of that author’s imaginary President Joe Biden. Oh, wait… 😉 Thank you for the comments on the privileged left; I have similar concerns, though no granddaughters.
Kimberly, it was an easy trap to fall into. Glad to see you extracted yourself from it.
SMJ, no, it looked to me like the specific style of disinformation US military intelligence likes to use. In particular, it’s very similar to the one I discuss in my book The UFO Chronicles.
As far as stories of the apocalypse and progress go I believe a good case could be made that they are part of the collective hardwiring of our Ice Age brains, that surviving the long freezes and thriving after the thaws were part of the evolutionary history of our ancestors — human intelligence probably could not have developed in a static environment.
Now to make an analogy from my backpacking experience: you can not usually tell the grade of a mountain until you already walking on it. (This maybe surprising, but the lower and smaller Appalachians are more often steeper than the taller ranges in the Rockies) So yes, there is a decline in front of us, but we will not know whether the slope is gradual or a sheer drop until we reach the next valley.
My argument for the USA’s speedy(ier) demise is the counter example from Roman history. After Julius Caesar conquered Rome’s last outside threat, the Gauls, and secured the Empire, the first Civil War commenced and the Republic was soon over. Then Augustus and almost all of his successors were content to maintain the imperial status quo while tyrannizing over their own countrymen. The shadowy powers centered around Washington, in contrast, are on the cusp of beginning a domestic conflict/crackdown while simultaneously escalating tensions with all their most dangerous international foes. The recent Soviet example of a police state and expanding empire leading to impotence and insolvency seems to have made no impression on them.
I think one factor driving this hubris is a new notion of “progress” that is emerging within the inner circles of our elite: that with enough technology a society, if not made absolutely perfect, can at least be made forever malleable under the omnipresent, eternal control of artificial intelligence programmed by the very few — and this society must encompass the whole world, or nearly all of it, in order to work.
Second the Tristan Gooley recommendation! He passes on in a simple, comprehensible way the things my dad’s generation knew. I learned some of those things but not all; I suppose Dad thought nobody would be roughing it in what was once a First World country.
It was easy for me to believe in the myths of progress because they fit my experience growing up in Southern California in the 1950s — a golden time in the golden state.
In the early 1960s I went to Disneyland with a large group of Girl Scouts. We had the park to ourselves for one truly magical day. No waiting in long lines…we piled right in to the Matterhorn bobsleds and when the train pulled into the station after that exhilarating ride, we were allowed to ride again a few minutes later!
But Tomorrowland was my favorite… we rode the Monorail, the Submarine Voyage, and the Rocket to the Moon. The GE Carousel of Progress with its rotating stage and audioanimmatronic actors was fascinating. And Fantasyland: who could forget Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and the Mad Tea Party, with those marvelous spinning teacups?!
Apocalypse was also in the air as I was growing up. The cold war, the threat of nuclear annihilation, air raid drills at school, people building bomb shelters in their backyards…these were the dark side of life behind the Disneyland facade.
So for me the stories of progress and apocalypse were emotional experiences woven into my childhood. Now that I’m older, it’s easy to see how our technological culture is declining, but part of this is also, I think, related to coming to terms with my own aging and mortality. The hopes, dreams, and visions of youth always come up against the hard Saturnian limits, don’t they? But the threatened, unimaginable destruction never quite comes to pass either.
“So it seems to me that the worship of Progress & Apocalypse strikes me as something closer to worshipping delusions and narrative frames than working with numina.”
I think you’re right about that. As I came of age, I was drawn to astrology and later, poetry, philosophy, psychology, mysticism and mythology. I discovered the profound magic and beauty of the natural world. Thus the path to the numinous opened up to me, for which I am deeply grateful.
Stephen – I went looking for new stories about homes that had been robbed for their precious metals, and found mostly stories about massive commercial heists. Then, I ran across this: https://goldsilver.com/blog/robbed-for-my-gold-learn-from-my-mistakes/ It’s a fine little essay on why you should not keep your gold in your house, buried in you back yard, or in your bank safe deposit box. So, where SHOULD you keep it? Well, in THEIR private, non-bank, vault, of course! The absolutely promise to send it to you when you ask for it.
Have you noticed that the people who are most enthusiastic and optimistic about owning precious metals are the ones who want to take your money in exchange for their metals?
My idea of “precious metals” are cast iron, copper wire, and tool steel, fabricated into useful items for cooking, wood-working, metal-working, ham radio, and gardening. They’re too bulky to steal, and much more valuable in their current kitchen, workshop and garden context than if someone tried to fence them individually.
JMG and anyone else who wants to chime in:
John lucky duck that your wife is on the same wave length on television. Hope this isn’t too far off topic. I am concerned about the psychological damage for my friends and family who are attached to the screen too much going forward.
My family isn’t too far gone, I do manage to drag them away on a semi-regular basis. They help me in the garden and we do enjoy a good long hike together. My teens will play card and board games with me too. Not monopoly, they never win, lol. It is absolutely my hope though to help them get less dependent well before the technology becomes useless. Not forcefully, but gently. The “lock downs” have made things more difficult.
Has anyone here had success in helping family members do more and watch less? If so I would love some pointers! Thanks
On your recommendation, I had to (re)read Howl.
I’m not sure which part you think prefigures current politics, but I think it is pretty clear that the long rant about Moloch is a lament, not a prescription.
However I can think of few things more quintessentially American than confusing lament and prescription.
I am imagining Allen Ginsburg finding that both tragic and hilarious.
“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
Wow. That’s going to warrant a meditation or two.
Also, it’s astonishing how accurate Theodore Roszak’s prediction of the future of technological society was. His vivid description made me think of this powerful photograph from 2020: tinyurl.com/n938bm9s
Dear JMG, Many thanks for that historical perspective! I was born in 1988, so a few years after the 1980’s Recession. I can still remember pets.com advertisements from television, and the dotcom bubble burst when I was a freshman in high school. About 7 years later the housing bubble burst. About 70% of my peers have unpayable college loans, something I avoided largely thanks to some financial prudence I picked up reading magazines in my middle school’s library around the turn of the millennium. To my mind, Progress has always seemed like a bad joke and people’s hang-ups around Apocalypse have for a very long time struck me as absurd and creepy. I too remember the 2012 bonanza, which occurred when I was 24 years old and even then struck me as profoundly silly. Then, at 25, my peers got into a Revival tent frenzy for social justice under the banner of Progress which would eventually utterly destroy the communities I had spend the past 5 years involved in.
Given how brutally I’ve had to discard the received wisdom of my elders & peers repeatedly in these regards in order to maintain my economic and psychological well-being I see that I’ve gone a little too whole hog and have forgotten how plausible Progress must have seemed to many intelligent people between the years you mentioned. Again, many thanks for the salubrious corrective!
Dear Prizm, that may very well be! Certainly I classify a lot of what I’ve seen by devotees of Progress as ‘hubris’ in the classical, tragic sense.
@Kimberly, comment #33 you said – “Mask wearing and volunteering for the vaccine shows us those who would happily lick the boots of the politically correct lawmakers so that they may partake in the bounty of the imminent Tomorrowland utopia.”
I wear a mask, don’t care whether you do or not. I will most likely get vaccinated, but I most assuredly won’t be licking the boots of the politically correct or anyone else. I know of at least ten others who feel like I do. Please don’t generalize that just because I think that wearing a mask might reduce my risk of Corvid exposure by 10-15% makes me woke. (I’m an engineer and familiar with probabilities and statistics) Your desire to so quickly brand me with certain tribal identifiers is certainly not in the spirit of non-binary thinking that Mr. Greer has encouraged over the years.
re: “true believers in progress and apocalypse have a very important motive driving them to their beliefs: both beliefs mean that they don’t have to change their own lives.”
Good point. Another thought occurred to me as well. True believers in both progress and apocalypse can rest assured that they believe in something of vital importance. Crisis is of overwhelming importance because of the imminent emergency it implies. Progress is of overwhelming importance because of the glorious future it portends. Muddling through, well that’s pretty pedestrian, isn’t it? Not to mention irritating to the true believers because suggesting it as a likely future punctures their aura of importance. That might prove to be a tough one to let go of.
Don’t know if this is a real thing or not. Just thinking out loud.
@JMG, YoungElephant: Our host said that “…the only people willing to question the religion of progress are those who have encountered the failure of progress personally often enough that the emotions they associate with progress are no longer warm and happy and hopeful.”
This is pretty-much the way that losing faith in progress worked for me. Up until two years ago, I never really thought of either peak oil or climate change as being something that technological advancement couldn’t deal with in due time. While I believed the United States’ politico-economic system to be unsustainable and headed towards some sort of crash, I mainly blamed it on of central banking and overregulation. If we were all just free to pursue progress without those impediments, I figured, then the real economy wouldn’t be declining the way it had been since the late 20th century.
Then, back in February of 2019, I reconnected with a childhood friend with whom I hadn’t communicated for some years, and realized pretty quickly that he was mentally very unwell and had been engaging in a number of self-destructive acts that were baffling to anyone who had known only his former personality. I knew that apparent personality changes are sometimes a part of growing up, but I was also aware that this boy had been medicated for ADHD when he was younger, and I was vaguely aware of a controversy surrounding the long-term psychological effects of the drugs he was on.
So, being of a curious disposition, I researched the ADHD controversy in detail, and most of what I found seemed to affirm my guess that drug dependency was what had mentally broken my friend. There were a number of medical imaging studies showing that the drugs worked by increasing concentrations of the neurotransmitters dopamine and GABA+ in the brain, but that several years of dependency (and the effect was worse in childhood) would leave the brain permanently unable to produce those chemicals in the normal amounts.
There were also cases of ADHD drugs causing anomalous development and underdevelopment of certain brain regions, and these effects didn’t show up in unmedicated children, whether they had been diagnosed with ADHD or not. And there were numerous accounts by counselors who worked with troubled youth who had come to believe that dependency on ADHD drugs produces similar psychological effects to cocaine or meth addictions (and those drugs do, after all, target the same chemicals in the brain).
This raised a serious question: Given that this evidence exists, why do only a minority of doctors talk about it? Why aren’t these anomalies of brain development being researched more thoroughly by neurologists? And why do so many parents, when confronted with arguments against child-drugging, not find them convincing?
The two most common answers I heard were that either (a) Most parents these days are too lazy to deal with their children’s behavioral problems in any but the quickest, easiest, way, or (b) All of the doctors, researchers, pharmaceutical salesmen, etc. who are involved in this are motivated by naked greed.
I did not find these answers satisfactory – I knew, for instance, that my friend did not grow up with indifferent parents, and that many people who drug their children are quite anxious about said children and put a lot of effort into finding the right doctors, medications, etc. But I was still left wondering: Given that people have always known, without needing to think much about it, that children are more hyperactive and distractable than adults, and that half of them are more so than the average child, how did our society come to classify some 10 to 15 percent of its male children (plus a somewhat smaller number of girls) as being mentally disordered and in need of such damaging treatment?
Then I discovered the Archdruid Report and (as I remarked in an earlier comment) read through almost the whole of it in less than a month, and the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place. There was, to begin with, Hagbard’s Law, the failure of most elite professions, including medicine, to police themselves, and the corruption of institutional science by the monied interests who supply grant money in the tacit expectation that whatever research ends up getting published will reflect favorably on their products.
But there was also the Myth of Progress. The confidence that every problem must have a technological solution. The desire of child psychiatrists to conquer their little piece of nature by chemically suppressing emotions and behaviors that they found undesirable. The fear among parents that one’s child will start off on the wrong foot in life if he doesn’t benefit from the latest technology. The confidence that because a certain technology definitely works (i.e. putting a child on Ritalin really does help him focus) it can’t have any downsides that are worth worrying about. The belief, on the part of up and coming pharmacologists, that because the past greats in their field had improved the human condition by discovering drugs that could treat previously untreatable conditions like syphilis, the process must be repeatable indefinitely without running into diminishing or negative returns.
And once I saw the Myth of Progress for what it was – an irrational delusion that had led to millions of children, including one who was once my closest friend, being mentally destroyed by people who often didn’t mean them any harm – then I could see the same dynamic elsewhere. I soon became convinced that the Archdruid Report was right about a great many other things – how industrial civilization was fragile and self-limiting, how our culture’s clueless treatment of the environment that keeps us all alive was doing us in, how there really is no good reason to believe that whatever energy sources the world is using in 2100 will have all the benefits of the current ones without their drawbacks, and so forth.
So to sum it all up, that is how I became deconverted from the Cult of Progress: I saw its effects in the life of someone I cared about, and I became convinced that what was going on could only be explained by the same irrational faith in Progress which drives all the other delusions which are dissected in painstaking detail on the pages of this blog and Archdruid Report.
Thanks JMG. Just thought of an extension to this line of thought. Even if a human is fully conscious on the mental plane, any time they convert their Understanding into language, it has to flow down into the astral (concrete consciousness). Even if there’s a perfect channel between planes, the conversion is still being made, and the language cannot capture the Understanding. Furthermore, the language used is merely a symbol of the mental plane Understanding, and therefore the Understanding can not be perfectly transferred to the recipient of the language, even if they have developed mental plane consciousness as well. The recipient might be able to interpret the symbol back to the mental plane, but since I don’t think any mental bodies or sheaths are the same, the Understanding differs to the recipient. They could also interpret into lower astral plane emotions, and get “outraged” over the previously mentioned language. Hehe this is like taking Korbyzski’s ideas about words & the objective level of reality and pointing them in the opposite direction.
Does this sound right?
I wonder if one of the reasons that progress is failing, besides the ecological factors, is because different political factions who internalized the ideology of “progress” are visciously fighting against each other to prove their method correct. I mean I notice plenty of cheering for the likes of Elon Musks vision from the Trumpian right, the establishment right, the Bernie-AOC left, and the establishment left. The only difference between the factions seems to be how the grand future will be achieved.
It doesn’t feel like we, the long descent ideation, have really formed into a political faction of any significance. Rather, there seems to be smatterings of us all over the place with our ideas generally adopted by the two populist factions to varying degrees.
You’re a worshipper of the Greek gods right? Doesn’t surprise me at all that you pulled out of the Q maddness…
Nate, belief in progress is a very recent thing in human history; most historical societies didn’t have any such notion. Belief in apocalypse is somewhat older but, as I showed in my book Apocalypse Not, it can be traced to specific origins within recorded history. Don’t blame the Ice Ages for either one. As for your argument for a fast collapse, everyone has their own argument like that, and the only thing they have in common is that the fast collapse somehow never gets around to happening, while the slow decline is still continuing steadily on…
Aubrey, I wish I had something to suggest. I’m not especially good at that kind of thing.
Eric, I wasn’t suggesting that it was a prescription. As I noted in my post, the emotional tone — the blend of sentimentality and rage — is the detail I found very reminiscent of today’s politics.
Sam, it’s a great image:
One thing that fascinates me about it is the little Masonic sign hovering high above it. Take that as an omen…
Violet, I figured the difference in generations is a major factor here. I suspect a lot of people of my generation are going to be horrified to discover just how little of their blind faith in progress is preserved by your generation..
Helix, that’s a good point. People love to feel important — especially in situations where it’s painfully clear that we aren’t important at all, and the universe will not notice when we’re gone.
Wesley, interesting. Thanks for this.
Youngelephant, exactly. The lower the sub-plane of the astral somebody is used to functioning at, the less of the original content can be shared with them. Yes, Korzybski works in both directions!
Varun, a case could be made! Right now, though, forming a political faction is probably the least useful thing we can do. We start with the imagination…
” all I can say is that people have been predicting the technological breakthroughs and the sudden collapses for my entire life, and every single time they’ve been dead wrong. Meanwhile, decline continues steadily…”
My view on this, is that our lifetimes are a very short time period. Hardly long enough to get an accurate model of reality. History as a guide is only so useful as it has numerous examples of fast and slow collapses. Still I do think that going with the down hill middle road as it were is the most sensible. As you say collapse now and avoid the rush, which is what I am doing.
If an apocalypse awaits us there is very little prep we can do for it.
My wife and I are driving from Silicon Valley to Guatemala this week. We left on Sunday and will arrive on Saturday. Today we drove through northern Mexico and are staying in a city north of the capital. I would just like to comment that you can tell a lot about an area by the quality of their roads. One thing I noticed while living in Silicon Valley is that despite all their pretense of affluence, then cannot seem to pave their roads well. In fact, I noticed that they paved them so cheaply that potholes opened up weeks after paving a major road in Sunnyvale. And as we left California this week, we noticed that their highways were littered with potholes. I-10 through Arizona was pretty good….New Mexico not so much. Texas was good, but Mexico had the nicest highways of them all. This reminds me of comments that the US is becoming a 3rd world country. By their roads, I see some truth to that.
@KayeOh Count me as at least number 11. Most of the people I know that wear masks and get the vaccine do so because they want to reduce their chances of getting it, and reduce their chances of spreading it. Lots of people motivated by the simple desire to put this thing in the rear-view mirror. Q’Anon will tell you differently I’m sure.
Welcome back, JMG!
I have two connected things to mention that relate to this post and a thread within the comments.
First, for those who might not frequent our host’s dreamwidth blog, longtime ADR/ecosophia reader Linda Shekinah has an ongoing project to turn a patch of land into a plant refuge and outdoor forest school for kids. They’re running a fundraiser and with 8 days to go have reached 93% of their goal. JMG’s mention of it was here (https://ecosophia.dreamwidth.org/115090.html) and the fundraiser page is here (https://fundrazr.com/31kU57?ref=ab_3Fl9VHSBmh83Fl9VHSBmh8). It’d be nice to see them succeed.
This relates, then, to my question to all in reference to the ongoing talk about what to save for the future and how to go about it when those around us don’t think there’s a need:
What are you working to preserve? What technology or skill, what place or state of being, what teaching or art form? I’m such a generalist (meaning not great at anything in particular, but decent at assorted things), that finding something to hone in on has been hard. I suppose we need generalists, but it feels a bit like a life lived in a whack-a-mole game. I’m going to be meditating on this for a bit, for sure – though I do hope that the many skills and projects I engage in will help those things be carried forward.
So, what are some of the things you all are preserving in the ark of your life so that it can (fingers crossed) land somewhere safe and sprout?
Karim, have heart! I suspect that the approach to take has more to do with figuring out what you love, what you can offer generatively (what would you build, make, do, share?) in spite of what is to come, rather than trying to stand up like a little twig to stop the flow of change while staring it in the face. None of us know if what we do is going to “stick” – what would you do anyway and regardless? Obviously these are questions and thoughts directed at myself as well.
@JNG your second paragraph says – “It’s been pointed out that politics is downstream from culture—in less gnomic terms, that changes in culture come first and shifts in politics echo them later on. This is true, but the same insight can be taken further. Culture, in exactly the same sense, is downstream from imagination. Trace out any of the convulsive political changes that have shaped history, and you can follow them back through cultural shifts to the thoughts and dreams of visionaries on the fringe. It’s in this sense that, as Shelley claimed, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world: before the political turmoil comes the cultural shifts that make it inescapable; before the cultural shifts comes the whispering in the collective imagination that makes them thinkable.”
I have read very few things that have set me back on my heels as much as this comment. I’m the Karen (an actual Karen, not just in behaviour) who got into it with you about the big Abstract Painting Dog Barf thing in your Retrotopia entry around August of 2016. Anyway, if one thinks of what may lay downstream of abstract painting of the 50s and 60s, and again with the “Zombie” Abstraction of a few years ago, whew boy! As a side note, I have noticed that Nature is seeping back into the art world at all levels. Even at the blue-chip gallery level. I think that is probably a very good thing.
JMG, haha, too funny. About the time I was copying and pasting links and typing up my earlier message, you were over at dreamwidth posting an update on the project (https://ecosophia.dreamwidth.org/117259.html for the non-frequenters). My little astral feelers must’ve been momentarily very sensitive! 😀
KayeOh, I have no problem if you prefer to wear a mask— my objections begin when people who believe as you do attempt to enforce mass mandates that traumatize an entire generation of children, cancel almost every normal human rite of passage, take a wrecking ball to the economy, and act as if a flu that kills less than one percent of people under 60 is the Black Death. I would understand these measures if we were dealing with the new polio; we are not. The real binary being employed here is the perceived threat of the virus versus reality. I have done my homework on this subject, written plenty about it on my own blog, and I understand the psychology that drives it well. The short story is: I believe you’re painting yourself as a victim and you become very angry when anyone suggests you look at your own motivations for doing so.
I am unimpressed by your statistical knowledge, please reference the above paragraph as to why.
I won’t insult JMG by bickering with you any further on this thread, by the way, so don’t bother.
Raymond R, I think we’re already in the age of shoddy. There’s a lot of really badly-made junk out there.
Thank you for revisiting this essential central theme of much of your writing. I think I have moved forward psychologically to being a post-doomer (with no small thanks to your own influence). It makes living in this part of history much more exciting since relatively small actions today by individuals and groups could have an oversized impact on the distant future, like medieval monks deciding which mouldy manuscripts to copy and which to discard. I did a bit of an analysis recently pondering if both the biosphere and human civilisations are actually getting better at collapsing/declining and recovering over time and the results suggested that was the case. That isnt all that surprising for an adaptive system when you think about it. Isnt it funny to think that collapse itself is experiencing diminishing returns over time?
I never would have expected you to be familiar with Hunger Games, JMG! It didn’t seem like something you’d go in for…
And on a more serious note…this whole “white entitlement” myth that our esteemed fellow commenter above was pushing needs to die. Hard.
I happen to live in western Virginia, an area that has…not been treated well by the economic shifts JMG talked about. Fifty years ago, my city built rail cars and locomotives, to carry the coal mined west of us to the sea, or to the steel mills in Ohio. Now, both the coal and the locomotive factory are gone. The city center is still cut in two by the old rail yard-now mostly abandoned, and used as a parking lot for trains idled by the current slump in that industry. The children of the people who worked there…well, lets just say my city has the fourth highest murder rate per capita in the state. About ten years back, a freight car factory opened in part of the rail yard…only to close a couple years ago. I met two people who had worked there, and both had jobs that were much worse paying and more precarious than what they had lost. The city government has attempted to make up for all this by incentivizing the tourist industry and trying to attract medical and tech companies. They’ve somewhat succeeded-enough to give us a rather pleasant downtown full of ethnic restaurants and eclectic shops. Go anywhere else though-especially to the neighborhoods where the rail yard workers once lived-and the grinding poverty is very much in evidence.
And as for the former mining towns to the west of us…I distinctly remember going to one and seeing, in less than a mile, four giant billboards warning people not to do crystal meth. On main street in the same town, there was an old, stately brick Freemason’s lodge. The Masons still occupied the top floor, but the ground floor was a bail bonding company. (Main street had multiple bail bonding businesses, again in less than a mile, and all in buildings that had obviously once housed more savory enterprises.)
And I will add, by the way, that its not just coal. Another nearby town, that I once lived in and have family connections to, was, for most of the 20th century, dominated by rubber plant. At its height, this plant employed over 3,000 people, in a place that had around 6,000 living within city limits. The plant was unionized, and in the year 2000 the workers went on strike over a dispute about their pension plans. The company dragged out negotiations for over a year, then declared bankruptcy and was auctioned off. The equipment was stripped out of the factory and sent to Mexico, and today the decaying, empty shell still looms over downtown, employing nobody. When it was dominated by a union factory, this town was very much a Democratic stronghold. By contrast, on my last visit, a few weeks before the election, you could hardly throw a rock without hitting a Trump sign.
And I haven’t even talked about another city a couple hours away, where one of the biggest buildings is a giant textile mill-such a looming presence that its sillouette is on the town’s official logo. Its been empty since the early 1990’s, of course. Drive through the downtown, and the poverty and misery are even more apparent than in my home.
Much of the current “Social Justice” movement is founded on the idea that everyone in America has it made, that there’s never been a better time to be an American than now, and that anybody who disagrees, or wants to return to any aspect of our past, is obviously a racist. This is a lie. It is a giant, bald faced slander on the millions of working class Americans who have seen their previously stable, comfortable existences replaced by permanent unemployment or grueling, low-payed contract work for exploitive multinationals like Amazon. The intent of this lie-or at least, the intent of the exploitive multinationals who push it, is to erase these millions of working class Americans from existence.
Since this has already gone on a little long, I’ll close with a personal story. I, not too long ago, spent a year working (for about half of it as a contract worker) in a distribution center run by a major high-end clothing company that caters to the upper middle class. The place was run by blatantly unethical people who, among other things, assigned ten hour a day, six day a week schedules at a wage that was barely enough to get by-and this after the plant manager had stood up in front of everybody and explicitly promised us that this wouldn’t happen. The experience that stands out most, though, happened halfway through one of those ten hour shifts. I was picking clothes (200 pieces an hour, or you’re out of here!) and came upon a bin full of shirts with the logo of…a major gay rights organization you’ve probably heard of, and the words “Support Love” in rainbow letters. After scanning four or five of them, I glanced at the tag and noticed-again, in a state that’s lost thousands and thousands of textile jobs-the words “Made in Guatemala”.
Welcome to modern liberalism, folks.
When did you ask David brin to make that bet? I want to read it myself.
Simon S, How extraordinary. I thought Mad Max was filmed in Silverton! Maybe it was filmed in both places or it was something else at Silverton. Or maybe nothing was filmed at Silverton although I think something was.
-thanks for your one “My bad”. It was to my benefit to engage so much foggy grey matter in an attempt to solve the riddle of the Goldeneggs cancell contents. Good stuff.
As for Linnea, it would seem that in this case she in fact cancelled herself. Hopefully before too long she will bring back her good self and Tom down from under the ancient oaks and back to the commentariat before storm and lightning strikes. I believe that would be a welcome turn of events in the end.
Black Tuna & Hand
Some readers might not know your famous quote, “Collapse now and beat the rush!” ‘Still applies over a decade later.
The Rand Corporation, a very Establishment think tank, recently published a paper concluding that the Elites had siphoned off $50 trillion from the middle and working classes in the last few decades, leaving 3 billionaires with a total net worth of more than the combined wealth of 160 million Americans…And that has only increased in the last year, with much of the population impoverished by the Covid restrictions, which have not been applied to the Elites and their companies…No further proof is necessary that America is in a steep decline, and with Alzheimers Joe in charge, it can be expected to accelerate as he damages large parts of the energy business…
Please don’t generalize that just because I think that wearing a mask might reduce my risk of Corvid exposure by 10-15% makes me woke.
Soooo you have absolutely no problem venturing out with an 85-90% risk of exposure, which means you’re really not worried about COVID otherwise you’d not go out at all. Would you have sex if your chosen contraceptive was only 10-15% effective?
IMHO, then in the words of The Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade you would have “chose poorly”. In pseudo scientific terms Sméagol coped with dissociative identity disorder. A veteran of an internal war between “good” and “evil” that was rooted in being failed by his hobbit emotions and buoyed by his beliefs.
That said, my own human emotions would have led me to believe/place my bets on Sméagol as well… The poor creature, forever being run down by one hobbit or another. Legendary.
Black Tuna and Hand
Since you’ve mentioned fusion power, I thought of going the extra mile and assuming that one of those ‘free energy technologies’ that are so popular on the net become mainstream. What next? To believers in Progress, that would bring about a Golden Age, but a realistic scenario, IMO, would be something like this:
Suppose we get free energy. Naturally, energy consumption skyrockets, but let’s assume that it continues the kind of compounded growth both qualitatively and quantitatively that it has since the Industrial Revolution began. Energy being the resource that allows us to use other resources (as E F Schumacher pointed out), consumption of other resources goes up on a compounded basis as well. Now, logically speaking, the project should end here because material resources are finite, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that our access to free unlimited energy allows us to somehow circumvent around this. But what people generally miss is that as consumption of products goes up, so do the waste streams associated with them (both direct and indirect, in all the manufacturing, resource extraction, usage and end-of-life phases), and that too on a compounded basis. Also, the tendency of products to go in the direction of increasing complexity makes them even more difficult to recycle and requires more and more material and energy resources to recycle (which environmental activists almost always miss out). Also, recycling activities have a substantial pollution emission of their own, and it increases with the complexity of the input feed being recycled. To sum up, we would end up with a waste problem possibly a few orders of magnitude worse than what we have now, and the natural cycles which absorb our wastes would break down much sooner, thus leading to the extinction of the human race. Let us therefore be thankful, that free energy technologies/fusion power/LENR do not exist in reality.
Sorry for this rather long comment, but I find this to be a really effective antidote to the pet theories of the cornucopians.
I haven’t read JMG’s writings as much as you have, but I do agree to an extent about your point about those predictions of JMG which have flopped. That said, I’d like to say this: in a way, JMG and Spengler are alike, in the sense that both have made a few failed predictions, but the line of thinking initiated by them explains things far more clearly than the conventional wisdom does, and when used with a bit of caution, can yield extremely accurate predictions. In other words, their predictions are qualitatively true, but quantitatively, well, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.
I had actually rewatched the first Mad Max movie last year, and it struck me that in real life Australia we are considerably further along the curve of decline than the society depicted in the movie. In fact gay bikies as a criminal threat seems mighty quaint indeed.
Reacting to my post, you asked me if a belief that the future must be better (at least in some sense) was that important to me. The answer’s no; I don’t believe the future must be better. I do believe the future can be better, and agree with you and Fuller that there are more options than utopia or oblivion. This earthly plane may be a perpetual kindergarten, but some “school years” are gifted with outstanding classes, able to imagine an unexpectedly better future, however long or brief it may be.
I Help make propaganda for the Rat which is becoming more difficult as budgets are cut and the above the liners disappear into their Corona bubbles which have become reality bubbles. The karma was not great before but has gotten much worse now and even as a social chameleon (the opposite of aspergers) it is becoming difficult to hold my tongue at the dangerously stupid ideas we are spreading. Working on an alternative career path but in the meantime it is helpful to see your perspective that sits just outside of time. Will try and take a step back instead of simply burying my emotions and see if it helps get me through the coming weeks in a healthier way.
Short interlude on progress:
I will repeat this on an Open Post, but here I present the relationship of myopia with progress:
German Dr. Manfred Spitzer has made an excellent point on how digital time for children produces massive short-sightedness.
I have always argued I don’t think it is genetic or natural, and the progress priests have always argued that myopia is just fate, a flaw of nature that thankfully progress can cure.
But in the 2010s studies proved them wrong, although the earliest studies on myopia in combination with near-work (reading) are from the 1880s already, according to Dr. Spitzer.
It seems that an unprogress method of curing myopia is presented my Mirsakarim Norbekov, a man from Uzbekistan who was beaten to disability in his youth and then healed by a sufi practicioner.
At least on german amazon I have seen a review where someone presents his opticians examination of his myopia and says, it has actually diminished when doing the exercises Norbekov proposes on a regular basis.
Too late for me, I’ve been operated.
But I have a very good feeling about this.
Norbekov proposes visualizations in the body for healing many things; He writes about it in his books.
I thought I will place this here – might be useful for some of the esteemed commentariat!
If politics is downstream from culture and culture is downstream from imagination then what is imagination downstream from? I’ll leave that as a meditation for those who haven’t contemplated it.
I am a bit puzzled by the somewhat apocalyptical tone of this post although if one follows the “narrative” that is being pushed by our “betters” the circus would merely earn a tomato score of 60ish. The evil Sauron seems to be less and less ominous and more and more ridiculous. One could even say that he has turned invisible! At least the lack of imagination is not our affliction alone.
But we should not dismiss or even fear such apocalypses. Out of winter, comes spring. One cannot build a tower of freedom without first demolishing the towers of tyranny. And so on. Bad ideas have to be dismissed before good ones can be discovered. Perhaps one such idea is that we need an omnipotent government to keep us “safe.” The sad reality is quickly being realized is that the ones that need to be kept “safe” are our “betters” that like being the kings. It’s good to be the king, you know.
Like you have alluded, the real gift of all this theater is that people wake up to the reality they have been delivered, to the fantasy they were told to order. And it is perhaps the first step of the “awakening” that you have predicted in your astrological studies.
Perhaps the Age of Aquarius is not in actuality the Winter Solstice. Just maybe it’s Imbolc?
Ah! You’re right of course. Big, bad virus nearly killed us all until science (TM) rescued humanity with shiny new vaccines. But that’ll only work if these vaccines don’t end up harming a non-trivial number of people, and the jury is still out on that one.
Another question. A few months ago you said that the scenario from _Twilight’s Last Gleaming_ was quickly becoming obsolete. That was before the Donald lost the election. So… Is your novel becoming relevant again…? I don’t know if China will play China (maybe it’ll be Russia or, I don’t know, someone), but the US seems intent on playing itself. I must also admit I have no idea who’s running the US right now. I’m confused. It’s clearly not Joe (I mean, c’mon, you could use the man as a rather compelling argument for a mandatory retirement age). So – who??
A different take on barbarians and civilisation: https://acoup.blog/2020/01/17/collections-the-fremen-mirage-part-i-war-at-the-dawn-of-civilization/.
Scotlyn and CourtintheNorth – thank you for your support of my blog idea.
JMG – all these Biden executive orders undoing everything Trump did for the working classes, shoving critical race theory into every place, making 30% of ag land fallow, stopping the pipelines and fracking……is this the wild ride?
Last night I see the military is trying to root out “extremists” I am very worried that the US won’t make to the 2024 election at this rate. Biden seems to be working as fast as possible to punish any Trump supporters not just in DC but across the country. I expected a senile, blundering administration but it looks focused on running as fast as possible into a brick wall like Wile E. Coyote.
They more or less feed their audience their own words back to them. Like a politician, they tell you what you want to hear. Well, what a certain segment wants to hear. That’s part of the problem, one group wants to hear this, the other group wants to hear that and they are incompatible. Almost all political pundits are like that too, whether it’s left or right – they want to find the words you want to read. Or at least, they want to find the words their paymasters want to read. I guess the big difference is that like rest of the deep state, Q is hidden and his agenda is different from your usual pundit.
My ultimate criticism is your average pundit generally has to say something interesting at the end, they have to reach inside and produce original thoughts. Q doesn’t do that, they just feed their audience’s output back to them without saying anything at all. No imagination. The blank smooth face of the deep state.
JMG, yes, schadenfreude sure beats being dismayed, shocked and appalled day after day (in my household I’m forced to at least hear the TV about an hour a day). The extreme polarization has me deeply concerned. I do hope you and the rest of the Ecosophians in the States will be okay. Sensibility is a hallmark of the people here. I pray the gods will keep you all informed of when to hold and when to fold.
In Japan, so far so good, sort of.
@Simon S re The Narrative TM
Let me guess: “We’re all in this together.” Reminds me of the cartoon (Gary Larson if recall right) depicting Hell with a sign saying “This is the first day of the rest of your life.”
JMG – your conversation with Youngelephant (#23, #42, #75, #80, #113 & #116) provides excellent mental chewables regarding communication or the seeming lack/failure of it – thank you both.
Adds another layer to the aphorism: ‘A man who continues to offer a heedless man advice, is, in himself, in need of advice’
Something similar I have found with family and have been puzzling over why we can look at what superficially looks like the same set of facts or questions yet come to very different conclusions.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Eventually it got through even my thick hide that I seemed to be engaged in an exercise in futility; what I had not fathomed was what might explain it, even having long realised that language is an iffy way to share meaning and come to understanding.
One of the finest examples I can think of was a kitchen discussion with my mother where Operation Gladio came up as something to look into; her response was to quite literally put up both hands with palms facing us and repeat, ‘no, no’ while shaking her head.
Responding by saying articles and books had been written about it just caused a repeat – it was an idea too far and one she did not want to consider.
This has given me a lot to think about!
Your response to Karim #29 also ties in:
“As for what to do about the approaching bottleneck of knowledge, there are many approaches; most of them start by choosing some specific technology or body of knowledge you want to preserve, becoming expert in it, and figuring out how to interest other people in it without mentioning decline at all.”
…that the important thing is the ‘doing’ – manifesting from the higher planes onto the material could give a much more useful mechanism of [future] communication than the mere use of words?
Words can carry power, but if rhetoric stirs emotions, what principles/methods (beyond discursive meditation and other esoteric practices) might be useful to stir reason? Maybe the wrong question but something I shall meditate on. ; )
So many questions, apologies – as Helix said upthread – I’m just thinking aloud
uhm – I need to go away and think about this – thank you all once again.
It’s come to something when one of the few places to find sanity on the internet is out on the occult fringes.
The universe does seem to have a wry sense of humour!
Even in “apocalypse” life still goes on. The Late Bronze Age Collapse wan’t the end. In fact, the Bible was set right after it happened!
As for shoddiness as a business opportunity, this has already been done:
Welcome back! And thanks to both you and Kel for your comparison of the US and northern Europe. That finally clicked some things into place for me and explained why I was having so much trouble seeing where you are coming from. I’m very grateful to be in a small republic that tries to skirt around all the chaos and generally took Trump’s presidency with a sense of humor.
I wanted to update you on my efforts to completely localize my shopping, inspired by Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush. The various lockdowns completed the process for me: the large chains closed and the small businesses came out in force. I now shop completely locally. I just have to make sure I don’t mention wanting anything to my husband or else it shows up from Amzn the next day.
To both you, JMG, and LunarApprentice, who is embarking on his sewing machine repair journey: I live in a city that still has small-scale book binders, and that is a skilled craft I’ve been trying to support through the lockdowns. I’ve resolved to ask my favorite book binder whether I can pay her for lessons, once she’s allowed to open again. Thanks to you both for inspiration in this direction!
JMG thank you for support of my de-corporatize and re-localize yourself blog. Keep thinking that the focus needs to be on putting the screws to corporations and harnessing that energy. When the focus is on people lowering their living standards or having less, Americans seem to shrink away from it. You pointed out years ago how much the people love status in this country and gotta work with that.
@Owen What if the world in 2070 looks very much like today, except more bent and dent and shabbier?
I don’t know whether this is just me growing up (I was born mid-1980s) but this is exactly how I see the 21st century so far, nothing new since 2000 or so has been as fundamental as earlier waves of change.
I’m not really sure how the impact of the pandemic will affect this, but I expect some people doubling down on Progress, others having their faith in it shaken, but I don’t think it will change anything fundamentally that longer-term trends and issues aren’t already driving.
The one thing I would like to add is that Mad Max does exist! Unfortunately missing is the sexy s&m wear: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mexico-drug-cartel-video-jalisco-new-generation-weapons-military-cjng-a9626246.html%3famp
@Wesley thanks for sharing. I’m currently reflecting on why I don’t believe in progress, and bunch of small things in my personal life could be pointed to, but the main thing that comes to mind is that an occult teacher, even before I read JMG, pointed out the Qabalah could be used to map cycles in civilization. That seemed to click intuitively. And well, there’s the fact that all civilizations before us have declined. I think gold ole Geburah maps to decline pretty well. Then I found JMG’s corner of the internet which solidified this idea even more.
Hello JMG, like all the others I, too, welcome you back. These blogs have supplied me, over the years, with many thought gems, and fortifying cold showers and occasionally the kind of cattle prod up the jacksie that motivates action. 😉
“It’s been pointed out that politics is downstream from culture—in less gnomic terms, that changes in culture come first and shifts in politics echo them later on. This is true, but the same insight can be taken further. Culture, in exactly the same sense, is downstream from imagination. Trace out any of the convulsive political changes that have shaped history and you can follow them back through cultural shifts to the thoughts and dreams of visionaries on the fringe.”
I certainly am no visionary, although I am very much on the fringe, but perhaps the following will be a data point – a positive one. I have always found myself developing little homilies** that get delivered over and over again, as indicated, in my clinic. They often revolve around themes like “listen to your body” or “pain is (among other things) a signal, there may be a way of listening that can help decode what it is trying to say” etc.
In any case, a couple of my latest homilies (which certainly owe plenty to the sups I’ve taken at this table), are about “unifying the will” and also about “escaping the tormented hamsterwheel of the mind through action, and specifically, through remembering to exercise those small powers that do lie in our own hands.” And here is the data point – I have been finding that my patients, who for the most part are most incredibly tolerant of my homily-habit, are quite receptive to this last one. Especially those who are finding the times so stressful, and themselves so powerless to do anything to alter them. One woman who was watching way too many of the kind of video that explain all the ways in which we are being drecked around by ruthless elites, has stopped watching them and is taking her kids for more outdoor walks, and, phew! can sleep at night. And there are other small stories just like this.
So, I shall keep homilising in my wee small voice from the fringe, and hope to infuse something different into the culture around here. Thanks again for the thought-food.
** as they say in Ireland, “I did not lick this habit off the floor” (meaning it is an ancestral habit that can be detected in my parents and family members)… The fact is I am a preacher’s daughter, and it turns out that even though I *mostly* do my clinical work with my hands, the preacher is still a part of me that I have come by honestly. 😉
About Owen’s comment of society possibly becoming frozen in time I remember that Oswald Spengler wrote in his “Decline of the West” that a high culture, after it has run its course, settles into a kind of cultural stasis, where “history is again measured not in decades, but in centuries”. He wrote that the Europeans, when encountering China and the Orient, they found these societies in such a stasis, which gave to the explorers the impression of a “solemn longlastingness”. I’m not sure, if I’m right, but I have the same impression of Western culture becoming frozen in time, like an object that moves toward the event horizon of a black hole, viewed from outside the black hole, due to time dilatation.
I am several years older than both of you, and my experience of progress was influenced by other factors than you mentioned. In 1989, our sociology text book talked about how public debt had fueled the post-war boom, but how the high unemployment (and spending on unemployment benefits) that started in the 1970s and continued almost unabated through the 1980s (in Western Germany) needed to be brought back to “normal” levels, don’t ask me how. So on the economic side, progress was threatened, but not yet counted out. Then, in the second half of 1989 (on June 17th, 1989, I had stood at the “Iron Curtain” fence and thought it would take decades to come down), suddenly democracy and rule of law seemed to topple all dictatorships in a huge wave of improvement and happiness. It was almost impossible not to believe in progress.
After a brief honeymoon with dreams of perpetual peace, wealth and happiness, Germany (both East and West) came to its senses around 1992 and found unemployment, Neonazis (at home) and war (abroad) were there to stay and actually worse than before. When I entered university in 1994, there were only 10% of the chemistry students of former years because they very sensibly stayed away from a field that couldn’t guarantee them the old jobs anymore. The 1990s in Germany were a long-drawn out stagnation, economically, politically and socially, not Clinton boom years. In spite of the more recent partial booms, I don’t think any generation after mine has been true believers in progress anymore.
In Brazil, I saw a similar dynamic all over again. From about 2004 to 2010 there was a wave of optimism: hunger, underemployment, underinvestment, class (and race) segregation at universities, it seemed all were being overcome. Brasil was the eternal “nation of the future” (according to Stefan Zweig), but it seemed the future had arrived. From 2010 to 2013, there was some stagnation, but still reasons for hope. Since 2013, economics, politics and the thin layer of civilization that covers brute force have all come undone.
At this point, when a colleague here in Canada asked me about my plans for the future, I answered “staying alive until my daughter is of age” (which is more cynical than I actually feel). I guess (though I don’t hope so) Canadians might understand this emotional state better in some years or decades.
I don’t watch tv at my place but often visit my family who has it on non stop. Whenever it’s time for dinner I walk over and turn it off, and that seems to be an accepted rule. Makes for pretty good dinner conversation.
After a lifetime learning to build and remodel in the old ways, while learning to repurpose what others think is waste; learning about wild foods and growing food, hunting and fishing; a couple million words of juvenilia and online ranting/advocacy: my instinct to settle into poetry is a good one?
We named our new puppy after an old Japanese poem form called Tanka, similar to Haiku. Writing poems about raising a puppy turns out to be good practice, a different kind of writing than I thought would communicate meaning. It feels right. Thanks for the encouragement, as always.
@ Douglas, JMG
Re liquid fuel production
Another segment of the AEO2021 shows plateauing/declining futures for domestic crude oil production:
One can delve into the assumptions used in the (fairly complex) model used for the Annual Energy Outlook here:
Re TVs and their discontents
My wife and I got rid of ours, but that move was many years in the making. I had brought up the notion a couple of times, but we couldn’t commit to such a radical change. What ended up happening was a more gradual approach.
First, we moved the TV from its central location in the living room and put it off to one side. A person could still watch it, but it wasn’t the “shrine” that one usually finds in American houses.
Second, after a bit, we dropped cable (keeping our cable-based internet, however) and purchased a digital antenna. This gave us access to the broadcast shows and saved us close to $1000 a year. My wife could watch The Voice and I could watch Columbo reruns on the local classics channel, plus we had public television programming (WPT, in our case).
The third step is more passive than active. With the TV no longer the focus of the living space, we found ourselves watching less often. One evening, we were sitting in the living room (TV off) and my wife looks at me and asks, “When was the last time we had that thing on?” We thought for a minute and realized it had been something like six weeks. At that point, we decided to do an experiment: we took the TV out, put it up in the attic, and–this is very important–rearranged the living room to absorb the space where the TV once sat. There was no “blank space” to remind us of its absence.
The logic here is that you can always put the TV back, so it’s a less threatening step. We gave ourselves 90 days to see how it felt.
After thirty days, we gave the TV away. That something like five years ago.
@ JMG – thanks. Do you think it would better to simply BE out in nature first, and then slowly introduce bigger notions like ‘all living things have spiritual lives” later, as they start to ask the bigger questions about life?
@ Kimberly Steele – I would like to teach them discursive meditation, but I would need to have a firm grasp of how to do it well (key word). Any reading materials come to mind, that you would recommend?
@KayeOh – I feel the same way about masking, vaccines, and refusing to lick any boots!
Dear John Michael Greer,
Your post arrives like a waft of fresh air, thank you, and bless you.
Do you think a strong personal adherence to either the Tomorrowland or Mad Max future is related to the evident mass psychosis that has spawned, say, Qanon? I may just be fortunate but I don’t think I know anyone who has gone all on either of these fantasy scenarios as being a plausible vision of our real future. For what it’s worth, after a couple of decades of apocalyptic fiction on screens an in print that I think the genre might be played out for the next while. I can’t be the only one who’s sick of it by now.
It’s great to have you back blogging, JMG! I must say I have missed your thoughtful writing over the past month.
These days, I tend to view progress as an idea that started out with the best of intentions, but along the way got exploited and corrupted – much in the same way that I think vaccines started out as a good idea, but got taken over by business interests and more or less ruined.
Like Violet mentioned upstream, I am also very curious as to why so many people seem to be stuck in the kind of black and white thinking that only allows them to see the two options of progress and apocalypse. You could say they are actually not capable of conceiving of the entire middle ground which lies between them. I can’t really say I have an answer to that, though.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to share some of the story of this past year here on our little farmstead, which exists somewhere in the muck and mud between progress and apocalypse, and is my part of my response to the predicament of our current situation. I hope it isn’t too far off topic. Anyhow, for a number of years I’ve been raising animals and growing vegetables on a small scale for my family and friends. This year I think I felt as though I had gotten past the learning curve and decided to hang out a shingle to sell things to the public. This was partly motivated by me noticing that the stuff I produced was a lot better than what I could get at the store, and also by a desire to contribute to the local community in whatever small way I could. So we scaled up our operations and put up a little farm stand. I also put up a sign inviting our customers to wander around the back and check out our operation (as a firm believer in transparency especially where raising animals is concerned). The response we got was really great – having the advantage of being on a busy road, we sold loads, and people seemed to really appreciate the quality of what we produced. People would tell me how they came from far and wide to get our eggs in particular – best they’d ever had, they’d say. Lots of people did wander around the back to see how things were running, and I was really encouraged by the enthusiasm – there were lots of questions, and many folks who wanted to do similar things themselves. I don’t tend to think of myself as a teacher but I found myself in that role, and I noticed that over the years I really had built up a lot of knowledge about gardening organically and raising animals on pasture in a small, non-industrial way.
I think where food is concerned (and in many other areas too!) the trajectory of progress has resulted in a shoddy, plastic simulacrum of products which can be so much better when produced in less energy-intensive ways at the home and small farm scale. For example, at one point I had a craving for eggs, but wanted to save the ones we produced for sale, so I actually went to the store and paid around $7.00 for a dozen so-called organic eggs. They were miserable – thin, watery, strangely off-color and almost artificial somehow – so different from the amazing eggs we produced at the farm that calling them eggs seemed almost inaccurate, in somewhat the same way as calling an experimental gene therapy a vaccine is inaccurate. Progress, at least in terms of the industrialization and centralization of our food supply, seems to me to be not all it’s cracked up to be. But I think that’s okay – I think progress is just an idea that we had that worked for a while, but is now past its pull date, and it’s time for something else, which is not at all apocalypse by default. I try to remember that humans lived on this earth more or less successfully for many years without the idea of things always having to progress and grow off into infinity. If we look at the results of progress and are willing to admit that they are perhaps not great, I think it might be possible to become aware of the huge middle ground of opportunity to do things differently in ways which also make sense within the confines of a future of declining resources and a limited energy budget.
Newsflash! Forever-wars to continue.
Yet another standard in the usual trajectory imperial decline. One wonders if we will ever learn anything.
Ah Progress. In the disability community, it is called the medical model. Somehow we are all supposed to be cured if only we apply the latest in medical breakthroughs.
The Deaf Community has argued for years that it has its own culture, and language. But colear (sp) implants are pushed on everyone, and the result is ending the Deaf Culture (for their own good).
As for the brain injury folks, we get pushed at us that we need to be in perpetual recovery for one day, we will get our old brains back. Few if any of the “helpers” teach people how to live with a brain injury. We have to progress or else!
I do believe that being disabled is a slap in the face of all those folks yammering for Progress. But hey, I like my brain the way it is, it is the only brain I have, and I don’t want anyone monkeying around with it.
But as Linneas (sp) put out in their long flounce, they are doing social justice not for themselves, but for everyone else’s own good……. I do believe that underlying Progress theology is the drive for the believers to be safe from all bad things. Progress is a talisman against helplessness and impotence.
Perhaps you have mentioned it before, this “…downstream from imagination” concept. This strikes me as very fundamental. As vincelamb points out, Disney has an important role here. Perhaps far far more important than one might realize.
I grew up in a working class household where the Disney product line was very much suppressed. So I did not get much exposure to it as a child. Except for the intro to “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” on Sunday evening in the 1960s. Lacking any TV at home, I remember seeing the start of that show for the first time, in color, at a friends house. The new color TV technology. The impact was significant. (It’s on yootoob.)
But for me, Disney remained mostly off my radar — kids stuff — until I got married and got dragged to the Disney Florida complex by my wife around 1990 or so. As a new member of the PMC I had no idea it was “the thing to do”. As soon as I mentioned it at work — that we were going to DisneyWorld — the conversations immediately started. It was clear I “belonged” in a way I had not before.
JMG, it is possible you may not grasp the importance of Disney to the PMC.
Once you say imagination leads to culture leads to politics — well, I think Disney’s role in that process for the last 100 years could fill at least one large book!
Yes downstream of imagination and therefore downstream of archtypes – What do you think about the parallels of our ages mythological progress and the religious utopian and dystopian myths of days of yore? As an occultist have you been able to get your fingernail underneath the common drives that get people caught up replaying bad remakes of ancient mythology?
Can we imagine our way out of a constant striving for a fictional future (or a return to an equally factious past)? Any critiques you can offer to the Hindu notion that the world is a stage (and its western parallel in the Tarot’s fools journey)?
Heroically saving the world or heroically surviving rough odds both seem like a compelling escape from a hollow “work hard until your body breaks and you die” part in a timeless circular story. To borrow a computer gaming concept, I think a lot of people are just trying to rebel against being “non player characters” in somebody else’s story; A survival mechanism our soul uses to evade a local optimums in the game of life.
Dear JMG, the generational thing is huge, and I confess I wonder about the astrology regarding it, viz. a huge fraction of Baby Boomers were born with Neptune in Scorpio at a time in which Scorpio was more unambiguously ruled by Pluto. The early Boomers were mostly born with Neptune in Libra, but the late Boomers were mostly born with Neptune in Scorpio — Neptune entered Scorpio around the beginning of 1956 and then moved back and forth a little with retrograde motion. To a real extent ‘Progress’ maps well as a Plutonian phenomenon, and so from a religious standpoint and from a standpoint of the how the masses of the Baby Boomer generation would move, one would imagine a real Plutonian vibe in the main given that Pluto is the dispositor of that generation’s natal Neptune. Even the fantastic access to wealth fits well with Pluto’s symbolism!
Now, my generation has Neptune in Capricorn, ruled of course by Saturn. Of course, amongst Millennials there will be some Progress worship out of sheer conservatism, but also look at the fantastic resurgence of everything “trad”! The flavor of this differs of course based upon where the relatively swift moving Saturn resided in the time of the birth of smaller age cohorts, of course.
It seems to me that astrologically the Boomers were well positioned for the Progress worship that they show as a group; Millennials are well positioned for various shades and grade of conservative movements, and that includes a sort of echo Progress worship!
Most of the conflicts I’ve seen between Millennials and Boomers as classes boils down to these differences of perspective based on these epically long Neptune transits.
Dear Goldenhawk, that makes a great deal of sense — many thanks for your fascinating perspective!
Dear Matthias Gralle, many thanks for your perspective! It’s really enriching to see how events looked from other people’s perspectives.
JMG, thank you for pointing out the Wired article. I used to read the magazine for fun, mainly viewing it as a shiny tech catalog with a few nice articles thrown in here and there.
I think Linnea’s post is an unintentional bait-and-switch – or was it intentional – meant to distract people away from issues of class that cross racial lines. SNL, of all places, had a hilarious segment featuring Tom Hanks about the commonality of people in similar classes regardless of their race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7VaXlMvAvk
I still vote Democrat but long stopped believing that many of the self-identified progressives are idealistic and caring people who “are largely focused on human rights for all” and “seek to erode and replace systems of oppression based on the colour of your skin or the junk between your legs, to name a few, or whether or not someone has the capacity to stand up out of a wheelchair, for example.”
As long as you can distract people away from meaningful and practical discussions on issues like ecological decline, the spreading decay of formerly prosperous industrial cities, rampant poverty, and viable solutions (consume less and give people more actual power over resources instead of measly support with a lot of strings attached, gasp), you can try hard as you can to try to keep the current class system. When I start to think, “Maybe the so-called progressive leaders really do care,” I think of Chelsea Clinton’s $2 mil wedding or AOC’s refusal to disclose her own salary when she enforced a salary cap on her staff to provide a “living wage” for the lower-paid staff members.
I think it’s another case of “I support equality as long as I am not a part of it.”
PS. I am not white.
May not be adequately courteous or concise:
She waited a whole month to attack and excommunicate you for something you didn’t discuss in today’s essay? Diversity, tolerance, and unity indeed. I’m trying to consider someone who can let vengeance idle for 40 days and still find spite enough to fly. Perhaps she isn’t from the 90% of U.S. counties where being white is considered the lowest form of life, where mortality rates are rising faster than any group in decades. Perhaps the real myth of Progress, or Progressivism, is broken when all poor people are failing regardless of type, and all rich people are rising regardless of merit, i.e “Classism,” where fanning divisions between races and classes serve solely to advance the wealthy. So long as Progressivism plays to infinite divisions – at a time in history that has never been more tolerant — Progressivism is entirely neutered and entirely in service of the wealthy against the poor. As we see in Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Nike, and their slave-owning, environment-erasing ilk. So long as it’s “them”, a heretic in a collapsing house somewhere, I don’t have to change. I can be a professor’s assistant, post memes, and let my paycheck come from $100k in debt to each 17-year-old that enrolls from Knox, Indiana: average income, $17k.
Thankfully, the most prominent Progressive in America told them “white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor,” so I’m sure they feel much better now, while they and the 90% of U.S. counties they come from like his own state are crushed with rural poverty. Can we not unite like we did with GameStop against those who are extracting us all – black, white, and center — to support their weird, minority, fashionable, carbon-infinite, technofantasy lifestyle? What drives such perception? Have they never been outside a city? Attack the “use less, save more” environmentalists for differing on some unrelated cause? If that’s the way to join diverse people and gain allies, no wonder they can’t win. If like church ladies, we all had to agree on every point of seminary dogma before we took action, we’d never get anything done. …Besides crushing our unique individuality and diversity. That seems the last 50 years of environmentalism, or getting a practical engineering response done to any thing at all.
In other words: “Where I live in the country, most people are already collapsed.” With the hurtful addition, “And rich, entitled city people, who have access to…you know, hospitals…say that it’s my own fault, I’m the villain and oppressing the Teslas they won from stealing my mother’s pension fund and making it illegal to shingle my house without their paid permission.” Will everything be the same for 50 years? For the kids of Knox, Indiana, they already were. Why are you forecasting what happened to my grandma? Is it part of denying what your policies did to her and us? When we can’t afford paint or tires, we really do their environmentalism for them, don’t we?
You’re welcome. Sometimes collapsing ahead of time is pretty hard to take.
@neptunesdolphins How can anyone begrudge the loving touch of the nanny state puppets out to fix all those broken robots that are underutilized in the work force? Are you insinuating that there might be alternative (dare I say neurodiverse) opinions about what constitutes an ideal configuration? *sarcastic smile*
As a public service announcement, I wanted to share this news story with all of you, about a man who has been in quarantine for 103 year. Don’t let it happen to you, kiddos!
“John Cronley was just an infant when he and his family headed to their bunker in 1918. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong time to rejoin humanity.
“Holy katzenjammers’ kids!” Cronley said. “My timing is the pits!”
Cronley and his parents thought The Spanish Flu would be the end of humanity and went into hiding. For the last 100 years, he’s been in an underground, waterproof bunker in Bisbee, Arizona. They had stocked the bunker with everything they needed. It had enough recycled oxygen filters, non-perishable goods, and hydroponic fruits and vegetables to last 100 years.
Feeling like he missed out on life, and close to a natural death anyway, he decided to venture out. When he finally left his protective cocoon what he saw shocked him. The world is struggling with the exact same problems as it was in 1918.”
@JMG After almost a day, I’m still intellectually reeling from your second paragraph regarding potential impacts of what lays downstream of imagination through culture on through to politics. I’ve been thinking about that concept through our music, literature, and particularly, the visual arts. I have no idea if the following is true, but in my art school’s art history classes, we were taught that the less a culture’s style in the visual arts changed, the more stable that society was. For example, Egyptian art changed so very little over more than a thousand years, therefore we were to assume that that society was politically stable.
Other than Shelley, have you run across this idea in other art or non-art forms? I keep thinking that looking back through art history might be a kind of divination about our present, handed down to us from the past. I was verbally taken to the woodshed by one professor for commenting that when looking at the paintings of German and Scandinavian Expressionists like Emil Nolde and Edvard Munch, one could clearly imagine the coming Nordic Psychoses of WWI and WWII. Which brings up another question. Do you have any sense of generally how long of time passed before Shelley’s poet “legislators” influenced behaviour at the popular/political level? Years, decades, centuries? I’m going to drag out the art history books and take a look at the history of western European art from a new point of view. Thanks for sending me off on a new distraction!
@neptunesdolphins and JMG, I recently wrote an essay about progress and medical recovery for my print APA, based on my wife’s recent experience recovering from surgery. It stemmed from my noticing that she got demoralized or even angry every time I cheerfully told her how well she was doing at a rehab exercise. And it wasn’t because it was false encouragement; the improvements I was congratulating her on were real, noticeable, and often measurable (“your range of motion was 100 degrees last week, now it’s 120.”) She couldn’t explain why that angered her and neither could I, so I did what I sometimes do in such situations, put aside my mental model of what was going on and started over. (Perhaps there’s an occult analogue or name for that, within the context of discursive meditation; if not there should be.)
What I realized was the progress I (and the rehab therapists) were celebrating, better performance and increasing abilities and decreasing use of pain meds, from her point of view looked like this: As soon as something gets a little better, we cut down the pain meds and switch to harder exercises so the level of pain stays the same!
Now, in that specific situation, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing things that way, because the pain was still temporary in the long term and the long-term benefits were worthwhile and reasonably certain. But it did make me wonder about other medical situations in which high levels of “recovery” effort and pain might go on indefinitely for no or marginal long-term benefit. Which also got me thinking about how that might apply to progress in general.
When we encounter an appeal to progress as a justification for something, as often as not, what it’s justifying is some immediate present inconvenience, loss, or burden, for the sake of some future benefit. As in: “The software update will give you powerful new options, once you’ve re-learned how to find all the old ones.”
That’s tolerable so long as future benefits worth the present sacrifice really materialize. But the future benefits of present-day progress are more and more vague and uncertain. Diminishing returns are turning progress into “jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam today” and it should be no surprise there are plenty of vested interests in keeping people from noticing that.
I am still more than slightly boggled as to why anyone would believe Qanon was a singular person or group. All are anon on the chan, and anyone can type Q on their post. As my eldest borrowed from Gamergate: I am Q anon and so can you! (Everyone should have a teen explain 4chan to Grandma: it’s quite funny. Especially the “you must never go there” part.)
Temporary Reality, in reading history I note that most people were not specialists, but generalists. Survival demanded that you both farm and bake, herd and weave, and all the other myriad tasks of life. Preserving the generalist skills necessary against the fall of big ag and big industry as machines break down and parts become difficult to impossible to obtain, as we’ve seen this last year, is also a worthy goal, and a handful of folks doing it here and there as a specialty will not cut it: every community must have food, shelter, clothing, sanitation, etc.
Ten or a hundred people may preserve the knowledge of the printing press for the world, but someone in every future village and hamlet had better preserve the knowledge of how to go from piglet and sprout to soap, from lamb to socks, from seed to bread, or much unnecessary suffering and death will result. Generalists in those skills are going to be the keystone of a low-tech future we will like to live in.
You can harvest the wheat with the scythe, can you make the baskets to store it in? The straw hat to shade you while you harvest? There is so much we can do, no one need ever be bored with repetition! (It’s time to harvest willow for baskets, I should get on that.)
> Would you have sex if your chosen contraceptive was only 10-15% effective?
I am pretty sure I speak for most people present when I answer with a resounding YES!!!! After all, we did not made it to 7+ billion strong by thinking rationally and strategically about sex.
During the first years of marriage, my spouse and I used unreliable methods because those felt good, and having children would had been not life wrecking. Sure, we preferred to have that child later rather than sooner, but it would be welcome if it turned around earlier anyways. Only after we had our youngest and decided our family was OK the way it was, we switched to a more effective (and final) method.
Similarly, some of us are not terrified by the virus and continue to live our lives as normally as feasible, but would nonetheless prefer to not get infected. We consider the mask a good trade-off: weak protection in exchange of mild discomfort. We add other defensive measures,- such as avoiding crowds in closed spaces,- at reasonable (to us) costs, in the hope to raise the protection level from weak to moderate.
I do not appreciate that you are trying to make a caricature of us. You are reasoning in absolutes, and I am sure you will recall what Mr. Kenobi said about that. If you refrain from painting us in black and white, I will offer the same courtesy and avoid figuring you as a unidimensional mockery of the fine human being I am sure you are.
One of the lessons of the past year for me has been how much decline can happen without it actually feeling like we are In A Decline. The grimmest example, of course, is the fast approaching half-million COVID deaths, which most Americans not directly affected are simply integrating into background noise (as we have always done with such numbers coming from elsewhere in the world). Another that I’ve been thinking about recently is the post office. Due to some combination of bureaucratic incompetence, unprecedented volume, and what appears to be deliberate interference, many people I know received holiday cards and gifts weeks late this year, which is unheard of in my lifetime/experience. Of course the post office has its faults, but I find it to be a pretty remarkable institution given what it has to accomplish – once entropy gets a hold of it, though, it’s disturbing how fast that can change.
This has also highlighted another theme of your work: how much simply continuing on our current course of growth – or simply sustaining our lifestyles of presumed industrial abundance – would require unfathomable leaps in technology. To separate two of the examples in this post, even for those who aren’t really expecting a Jetsons lifestyle, there’s a powerful belief that something like fusion energy will come along (because surely “they” will think of something) to keep everything humming at least at its current level. An increasing Red Queen effect (combined with, as you’ve noted, the dawning realization among the Zoom classes that the lifestyle all this has allowed so far kind of…sucked) will provide more interesting times to come.
One would think it would become common knowledge how the extremes amplify each other and drown out voices with nuanced and more accurate thinking. But humans seem to have a very hard time learning this pattern from history.
I like the starting point of imagination. One blind spot that makes understanding the role of imagination particularly hard in our age is that we teach kids that imagination should be unbounded. Any new idea is a wonderful idea. The same thing often goes in the arts. The progress myth is in some ways just an extension of this “imagine the world you want” way of thinking about imagination. And apocalypse is it’s sign inversion. But that is an extremely shallow view of the essential mental role played by our ability to imagine things that are not actually in existence and evaluate what would happen if they occurred in the real world. A major value of education and expertise is precisely that it allows one to more accurately model what would happen in imagined scenarios because one knows history, literature, science, etc, so you don’t have to learn all lessons the hard way. Now imagination needs to relax the shackles of the familiar and flit out into strange and unrealistic views if it is to serve the role of giving us an outsiders viewpoint on what is possible. But if it becomes fully disconnected from how things actually work, it becomes worthless or worse. We need to stop celebrating unbounded imagination for children and increase the celebration of imagination whose accuracy can be checked against history, literature, science, etc. A great way to do this is to teach kids to imagine something and build it. The universe doesn’t let you build just whatever you want.
Welcome back, JMG – you were sorely missed!
“Culture… is downstream from imagination”: a point well worth meditating upon and certainly fits into the magical view of causality. Based on what you were primarily focused on in this essay, I anticipate a sequel which dwells more on the ‘imagination’ side of things…
Glad to see you occasionally refer back to the good old standard run from the LTG. It so well depicts what you keep on talking about and provides a visual alternative to the whole progress/apocalypse binary.
I’d like to put my two cents’ worth regarding Violet’s comment, “the worship of Progress & Apocalypse strikes me as something closer to worshipping delusions and narrative frames than working with numina”. As of late I have been meditating quite a bit and having numerous discussions with fellow vedic astrologers on the two “shadow planets” Rahu (Dragon’s Head) and Ketu (Dragon’s Tail) representing insatiable appetite and wholescale destruction, respectively (of course, I am terribly oversimplifying things, but I am trying to be succinct here) and are responsible for solar and lunar eclipses. I am starting to see progress as being a manifestation of Rahu and apocalypse as Ketu. Both planets have the power of delusion and can be controlled only by Jupiter. And they are always opposite each other. I am aware that Western astrology made use of the Dragon’s Head/Caput Draconis and Dragon’s Tail/Cauda Draconis during Renaissance times but am not sure when it fell out of fashion. I am openly pondering if in Western culture, the cult of Progress came into being at about the same time that Dragon’s Head & Tail stopped being used in astrology and therefore went “underground” into our collective unconscious. Just puttin’ it out there!
Whenever I think about the present as compared to the Tomorrowland future, what seems to be most conspicuously absent isn’t the flying cars or robot maids or space colonies. It’s all the happy productive cooperative people who populate the scene. Of all the technologies whose promised results have fallen short, I put psychotherapy, psychiatry, and other applications of psychology at the top of the list. Psychology was supposed to pave the way not only for treatment of mental disorders but also for successful marriages, effective schooling, rehabilitation of criminals, and harmonious workplaces. Of course it could also be misused. (Remember when, in spy movies, a few hours in a room with strange noises and flashing lights could turn an ordinary person into a weapon primed to kill a target at the hearing of a code phrase, without the person even knowing it? Or maybe future society would become too kind and happy and peaceful, creeping some visitor or time traveler out.) But even where the intentions were nefarious, applied psychology always worked as intended. Like analog TV sets, people would soon be “well-adjusted” by professional intervention. (If you were “maladjusted” instead, your vertical hold might start slipping.)
The cracks in that promise were already showing before I was born, as Officer Krupke in West Side Story can attest. But, through the 60s and 70s it was still assumed that psychology worked as advertised, even if there weren’t quite enough psychologists around to fix everything and everyone in this crazy mixed-up world. The obvious fact that despite scattered individual successes, methods derived from psychological theories are actually no help at all in the general case, and there has been no progress whatsoever in any of the arenas where the “new science of the mind” was supposed to solve everything, hasn’t quite sunk in to this day.
Tomorrowland always rested on a hidden foundation of happy cooperative well-adjusted people. You can’t have flying cars if drunks or terrorists are going to fly them into buildings. You can’t have robot maids if greedy elites hire the robot maids instead of hiring you, so you can’t afford one. You can’t have a civilian-style Mars colony if a suicidal teen can easily kill literally everyone on the planet. (You can’t have heaven on Earth because of all the sin…) In Tomorrowland’s heyday, applied psychology was the “…then a miracle occurs…” to change human nature enough to make all the rest possible, because the Rapture, the Space Brothers, the Cosmic Awakening and so forth didn’t quite fit the genre.
Thanks to JMG, Temporary Reality, Courtinthenorth and Teresa for your kind, interesting suggestions and comments. I’ll chew on them…or better still, meditate on them!
There is a lot of collective wisdom around here…
So basically we prepare for decline but don’t mention it!
@JMG (cf. Vidura)
Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that you had claimed to be infallible or were less than willing to admit that you’ve made a few wrong predictions (I recall an article on Ecosophia, about a year ago, in which you dissected your own inaccurate predictions from c. 2005 regarding the oil price spike back then). I was just struck by the irony of seeing you pick apart Kirkpatrick Sale for the same sort of pitfall that so commonly shows up in your own work.
The overall thrust of your article – that the skeptics of Progress have a lot more evidence going for them than the true believers – is of course correct. The sort of future you’ve been predicting has been showing up (albeit often less quickly than you thought it would) while the futures of Kevin Kelly, David Brin et al don’t show up at all.
As I remarked earlier in my post about being deconverted from the Myth of Progress, the advantage of your work is that – if one forgives the minor mistakes (which one is more likely to do if one already holds negative emotional attitudes toward Progress) – it does a much better job, from a holistic standpoint, of explaining the observed realities of the world than any competing vision of historical/future events of which I am aware.
And it is also a lot of fun to read. Sometimes I amuse myself with the game of using google searches with quote marks to find short, pithy phrases that appear on this blog or ADR but nowhere else: “Hallucinatory Paper Wealth,” “Divine Boot in the Face,” and the like.
The apocalypse/progress dichotomy has made the frankly baffling reaction to the new vaccines make a lot more sense: either they are perfect, the next step in Man’s Conquest of Nature, or they’re going to kill a sizable fraction of the people who get them. The fact we have no idea what the long term effects are doesn’t enter the equation. For all we know they could be safe for most people but cause adverse reactions in some; they may seem fine but cause infertility; they may have effects we won’t see for years.
All of this is obscured by our insistence on viewing things as either progress or apocalypse. Which means that we very likely won’t actually know what happened, for the simple reason no one is looking for the right things.
Nik, history’s more useful than that. It doesn’t just have an assortment of collapses at various speeds — it also has the symptoms that showed which was coming and a very good sense of the aftermath. While it’s still quite possible to use history as a basis and make mistakes — I’ve certainly done so — the mistakes tend to be quite a bit less drastic than the ones made by people who ignore history and insist that the future is obliged to cater to their fantasies.
Clark, many thanks for the data point. Can you post again as you continue your route? If the roads in Mexico are consistently better than the ones in the US — which would not surprise me a bit — that marks a very significant point along the arc of our decline.
Temporaryreality, thank you! I’m delighted to see that the Locust Creek fundraiser has reached its goal, and gotten a little past it — I hope they get more, as they’ve got a shopping list of other things they can do to improve their plant sanctuary and forest school. As for preservation — yes, exactly. I’ll be discussing this in more detail in upcoming posts.
Karen, thank you for this. I’ve been delighted to watch the resurgence in representational art in recent years, and it’s good to hear that it’s finally doing what nonrepresentational art did a century ago and finding its way back into the expensive galleries.
Temporaryreality, I suspect some tree spirits were murmuring hints to us both.
Zeroinput, that’s a fascinating point, and it makes a good deal of sense. I can give you another data point that supports your claim; by and large, the more recent a collapse of urban civilization, the more cultural heritage got through to the next civilization. The frightful Bronze Age collapse of 1300 BC was so severe that in many areas, even basic literacy went away. By the time the Roman empire went down, the losses were severe but quite a bit more got saved, while the collapses in India, China, and Japan more recently saw very large amounts of heritage survived. All this suggests that bit by bit, we’re getting the bugs worked out.
Tolkienguy, I’ve never read the books or watched the movies, but so many people were talking about the parallels that I noted a few details. As for the whole “white entitlement” business, it’s straightforward projection — most upper-middle-class people in the US have a gargantuan sense of entitlement, but don’t want to admit that and also don’t want to talk about their class privilege, so they’ve created this phantom of “white entitlement” onto which they project their own unacknowledged emotions. Since it’s a central claim of the upper 20% to be the Good People™, the people who are compassionate and caring, they put a lot of work into finding groups of people toward whom they can be compassionate and caring, without doing anything to interfere with the ruthless exploitation of working class people on which their privilege depends. Your experience in the distribution center is par for the course.
Karl, now, now, it was “Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush.” It’s one of the few catchphases of mine that has caught on, and so I’m fussy about people getting it right! 😉
Pyrrhus, good heavens. They admitted that? Can you post a link?
Viduraawakened, excellent. Have you by any chance read the original The Limits to Growth? One of their runs assumed, in conflict with all evidence, that the world has infinite resources — and the crash still happens.
Synthase, fair enough. I didn’t realize that.
Greg, okay, I misread your comment — nothing new about that. Thank you.
SmallWorld, ouch — that’s got to be a very difficult situation. I hope you can extract yourself and find something less miserable to do for a living.
Curt, interesting. Thanks for this.
Solus, now you have me curious. In what way did you find the tone of this post apocalyptic?
Irena, since the inauguration, Twilight’s Last Gleaming has gone from potentially obsolete to front page headlines. The new administration has announced that we won’t be withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan, and they’re rattling sabers at China, Myanmar, and Iran, just for starters. As for who is running the US just now, it’s basically running on autopilot, with all the top-level bureaucrats and their rich friends doing what they want, and Biden as a grinning sock puppet perched atop it all.
Yorkshire, thanks for this.
Denis, no, it’s not the wild ride, it’s just the tinny music being played over the loudspeakers as the ride starts up. The brick wall’s still some distance off.
Patricia O, sensibility isn’t a common American trait, but we’ll see…
Earthworm, it’s actually quite routine at a certain stage in the life cycle of a civilization for the conventional wisdom to end up completely batshale crazy, so that only those way out on the fringes — and not all of them! — are talking what in other eras would count as plain common sense. I plan on talking about that in upcoming posts.
Owen, and that’s really one of the crucial points. The apocalypse fantasy is all about “The End,” but in the real world, there’s no end, just a series of changes followed by more changes.
CS2, bookbinding is a marvelous craft and one that desperately needs to be preserved. A hint that may prove useful: these days, very small publishers in the occult field are making good money producing limited editions of occult texts, attractively printed and bound by hand. You may have a job waiting for you when you finish your lessons…
Denis, that strikes me as a very good idea.
Dashui, wasn’t it Bruce Sterling who said that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet?
To KimberlySteele and others who had increased paranoia and feelings of apocalypse.
I too went through extreme paranoia and feelings of impending doom and and apocalypse last year and at first I was gravely embarrassed but after talking about it with others and feeling it out I am glad I did. To take a Christian saying I feel as if I burned the sin out of me because those feelings were quite painful and I lived them out living and feeling the consequences which were painful! Now I have a deep understanding first of what paranoia is and how useless it is too! I don’t think I will be returning there anytime soon and it is much easier to stop myself from getting into an anxiety spiral. So now I am glad for the experience and I figure we are here to learn and experience these things in such a way otherwise we would not be here. I also have much more empathy for others stuck in the anxiety spiral though funny enough much less tolerance because I am tuckered out from it.
One other thing, I talked with my psychologist and he said paranoia and death focus are symptoms of isolation and alienation which most of us I can assume felt more of last year. I went from an extremely social schedule to near nothing and that was not easy. Now on the other side I forgive myself for I am only human.
Anyway, I don’t know if that is helpful and I did not intend to comment so often on this thread but I wanted to offer that paranoia and madness may have been our trial to face and I am glad I did. If any of my comments or suggestions are unwelcome or intrusive please discard them and understand it was not my intention
Oh, for sure. Way too early to form a political faction around this particular ideology. What am advising people is to be really cautious about which of the existing factions they choose to side with in current mess. Everyone out there has a load of baggage from their sect of the God of progress. They may just be bad actors using your belief to gain your support, and some of those actors can lead you down a very dark hole, as with this whole Q Anon thing.
Denis #10 wrote: “would publishing a blog with photos of how to ratchet down one’s modern lifestyle be something to contribute to society’s imagination?”
Dear God! What a splendid idea! Please press ahead and keep us informed!
I have begun to compile a handbook of sustainable living for Mauritius.Hopefully it just might get off the ground, one day…
So clearly America is in decline. But I wonder what you (or anyone here) thinks about the emerging narrative of the “Eurasian Century” and how that intersects with techno-optimism as well as apocalypse thinking. At this point, it’s still a figment of the imagination, but it’s a theme preached by poets and wonks alike as the “natural axis” of the human world. And certainly there’s reasons both historical (Silk Road) and contemporary (EU-China cooperation) to take the narrative seriously.
Papa Greer cannot be canceled!–he doesn’t want IN. / he’s actually a spark, a new BEGINNING. he’ll terrify some and excite others of us as we try to repopulate the Real World. thank you.
and thank you, Druish, if you’re here.
this place is like a 5D meeting place before we scatter new apple seeds.
Like Walt F., I have come to the conclusion that psychotherapy has had very mixed successes; a while ago I began wondering how it was that non-Western simply didn’t have psychotherapy and seemingly didn’t need it. It seems to be a specially Western obsession. Maybe non-Western cultures had pracrices (occult, religious and the like) which achieved similar aims more consistently, or there were other causes for the absence of psychotherapy. The only non-Western practice of psychological treatment about whose existence I know was in Tokugawa Japan.
Walt F, interestingly the biggest breakthroughs in understanding and improving how humans operate didn’t come directly from psychology. It came from people trying to operate extremely dangerous machinery and reliably getting blown up when they failed. It’s got various and overlapping names like human factors, crew resource management, human and organisational performance. Once a group is well trained in how it all works, it becomes amazingly effective. Very handily it also severely undercuts authoritarianism, bureaucracy, and conformism. Couldn’t really have asked for more. 🙂
Scotlyn, thank you. I’m delighted to hear that those latter homilies are getting good results.
Booklover, yes, exactly. In what I’ve elsewhere called the age of the dragon, the third phase of history, that’s standard — and with that age not far ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how a society that puts so extreme a value on change for its own sake deals with the necessary transformation to stability.
William, sounds like a good plan to me.
David BTL, many thanks for this.
Ben, one way or another, as much time in nature as possible is a good idea. Direct experience of the natural world is the reset button that restores human sanity.
Millicently, you’re welcome and thank you.
Jackoflava, that’s an interesting hypothesis and one that seems worth exploring. In all cases, there’s the notion that the world we experience is a façade that will fall down shortly, revealing something different that corresponds far more closely to some archetypal narrative or other.
Stefania, thank you for your account of the last year. I’m delighted that you’ve been able to make the transition to small-scale marketing! That’s how the food production system of the future is evolving, as I’m sure you know.
David BTL, and of course the vast majority of the people who voted for Biden will insist at the top of their lungs that they’re opposed to war. Sigh…
Neptunesdolphins, many thanks for this. I think you’re right about the roots of the progressive mentality: it’s motivated by a longing for omnipotence, and behind that is a pervasive sense of helplessness, which of course the technostructure created by progress simply feeds.
Cyclone, I don’t think it’s something I’ve mentioned before in so many words, though it’s a straightforward bit of magical lore. As for Disney, there was plenty of it to go around when I was a child in the 1960s — I went to Disneyland twice — but by the time I hit my early teens I found it repellent. It was too obviously a matter of cheap manipulation. So you’re doubtless right that I don’t have a good sense of its role in filling the otherwise empty heads of the salary class!
Void, ah, but the myths of progress and apocalypse don’t actually get you out of the “work until you die” trap — they just pretend to do so, and leave you sitting there waiting for the great event to happen. They’re distractions that keep people from noticing that there really are exits from the Cave.
Violet, good. Yes, that would make sense.
Bluewatersky, of course it was. The standard gimmick these days among defenders of salary class privilege is to claim that anyone who challenges it is a racist, or a sexist, or some other category of Awful Person™ — that way you can try to evade honest talk about class privilege. Did you know that some people are now claiming that using the term “Karen” for salary class women who abuse their privilege is racist?
Jasper, forty days? They’ll still be shrieking about this in forty years. The central mythos of the salary class is that they and they alone have agency, and everyone and everything else in the cosmos has no other role than playing whatever role they’ve been assigned in some self-glorifying salary class melodrama or other. The fact that people are increasingly refusing to play their assigned roles is causing total meltdowns at this point. I put Linnea’s tirade through because it managed to abide by the rules of this blog; I get plenty of others that are far more shrill — and far more asinine.
Similarly, some of us are not terrified by the virus and continue to live our lives as normally as feasible, but would nonetheless prefer to not get infected.
Viruses have been around your entire life… so why are you only wearing a mask now? COVID is here to stay and — as proven with the common flu — no vaccine will ever offer complete protection, so do you intend to wear a mask forever?
JMG wrote: As for The Secret of the Temple, I’m delighted to hear that; one of my next projects is the sequel.
Wow! Can we have a spoiler? Please!
I hope this is on-topic enough….for those frustrated by many things concerning Covid-19, I recently finished reading a book that gave me a new perspective. It is “The Moth in the Iron Lung”, by Forrest Maready, and is a rather unconventional story of polio from the early 1800s through the mid-20th century. It was published in 2018, well before Covid popped up, yet I was fascinated by how similar the polio pandemic was to Covid-19. Maready believes that polio was not one disease caused by a polio virus, but rather a number of similar diseases with somewhat similar symptoms caused by a variety of things, mostly environmental. Polio took people by surprise, as there had been nothing like it before. Cases began in a small area of the northeastern US (which at the time was beset by a plague of gypsy moths from Europe eating everything in sight,) but quickly expanded across the country. People were terrified of it, and there was no known cure. Quarantines were tried but seemed largely ineffective. Most scientists of the day were convinced it was caused by a virus, but a few wise observers noted that it followed in the path of the use of new, very effective, and very toxic pesticides that farmers loved: particularly lead-arsenic and later DDT as well as others. Scientists ignored the possibility that pesticides could cause paralysis in so many people, and focused on finding a vaccine instead. Experimental vaccines were rushed to development, but their effectiveness and safety were dubious. And iron lungs were created; hence the title. Gradually in the 1950s and 1960s more attention was drawn to the toxicity of the various pesticides being used (thank you Rachel Carson), and as they were gradually phased out, so polio gradually faded away too. Still, the two things were never acknowledged to be connected. it makes you wonder what we are missing today??? I highly recommend this book–it reads almost like a mystery novel, but with lots of information about that time and that disease I was unaware of previously. (I have always been interested in polio because my mother had it as a 12-year old girl, and was left with a slightly paralyzed arm.).
Speaking of Twilight’s Last Gleaming, I saw this article yesterday and immediately thought of the novel:
You’re thinking of Mad Max 2. Mad Max 3 was mostly filmed in Coober Pedy. Fun fact, they were going to film Mad Max: Fury Road around Broken Hill too but unseasonal rain made everything look too green and un-apocalyptic so they went to Namibia. Obviously the budget had increased by then.
@ Patricia Ormsby
I saw a weird social media post the other day, can’t remember the name of the company, but it was all about how ‘we love you’. I don’t know about you, but knowing that a multi-national corporation loves me really warms the cockels of my heart.
Speaking of Mad Max, I just wanted to share a small observation that I have made in the last few years, which is a growing number of big rig trucks with scary looking post-apocalyptic spikes sticking out of their tires. That, combined with the countless totenkopf, flaming *skull* images on everything, the post-apocalyptic fashion, the shaved heads, et cetera, gives me the impression that people are (unconsciously?) trying to *hasten* some apocalyptic existence, or lean into a state of socioeconomic and political decline. As you say, imagination is upstream of culture, which is upstream of politics. I wonder if this post-apocalyptic aesthetic will therefore flow more and more into our politics in the coming years, perhaps as a counter-current to the utopian politics of the Great Reset proponents.
“The standard gimmick these days among defenders of salary class privilege is to claim that anyone who challenges it is a racist, or a sexist, or some other category of Awful Person™ — that way you can try to evade honest talk about class privilege.”
My personal favourite example of the kind was when the salary class people I knew were melting down over the fact I was living in a poor neighbourhood, insisting everyone there was horribly racist, and trying to convince me I needed to leave. The kicker was that I saw more non-whites in a day there than I did in my parent’s neighbourhood in a year, and chose that spot because it was close to Mexican, Asian, Indian, and Middle-Eastern grocery stores…..
All this keeps me thinking about the question that was more or less put in the mouths of my parents and my generation in Germany: “Why haven’t you done anything?” It never occurred to me to ask my grandfather. He fought in WWII in France, Africa and Russia, was captured by the Russians, and as most did, lost a lot of relatives, among them his sister. When we made jokes, as kids sometimes do, about killing somebody for doing something stupid or if we said similar stupid things, he set us right very strictly and with great authority. He did a lot of good to me, by this. But, as far as I know, the question why things happened as they did was never asked.
Now, seeing things evolve the way they do, the answer came to me. I don’t know if that had been the answer my grandfather had given speaking for himself, but speaking for a generation and a society as a whole the answer was the same as it is today: “Why haven’t you done anything?” “Because we firmly believed it to be the right and necessary thing to do.”
So, basically it is a stupid question, completely missing the root of the cause. And as such it is part and symptom of our problems. The real, hard questions loom behind this one. And there waits anxiety and helplessness, terror and the fear of loosing oneself. When you’re through it, you are a bit more free (albeit a bit more lonely). But walking into this willingly? I certainly did not and had possibly never tried if I hadn’t been pushed and dragged by whoever or whatever. It was a very rough time, but it was absolutely necessary and I am grateful for this. Still I can totally see why people seem to be incapable of asking the questions that matter most. It’s a pity, for them and those who suffer the consequences of there unwillingness. But what can we do about this? You can ask a question without meaning it. And I don’t think any human being can force this meaning into any other human being that is not ready for it. So we possibly need a different approach than getting angry at one another. I admit I sometimes have a very hard time trying. Recently, I was reminded of a quote by Kafka that fits very well:
“We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours. And if I were to cast myself down before you and weep and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell.”
About the discussion of the hits and misses of JMG I would like to add that while it is possible to predict some historical events and trends qualitatively, it is much more difficult to predict when they will happen. So, on grounds of the exhaustion of the ample energy and material resources needed for the internet it is possible to predict the end of the internet as one way-station of the Long Descent, but it is nearly impossible to predict when the last internet servers will be taken off the grid.
If we had infinite free energy we could use it to recycle basically anything, but with too much energy we face an utterly inescapable problem that is rarely considered, waste heat. In Garrett Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons, Hardin cites J.H. Fremlin’s How Many People Can the World Support? New Scientist, No. 415, 285-287, 1964, where Fremlin calculates the energy/heat output from an infinite free energy source.
Fremlin extrapolated the population growth from his time forward. At 800 years in continued economic/population growth eventually boils the world’s oceans from waste heat. After boiling the oceans (last available heat sink) a hard upper limit of blackbody radiation of waste heat into space exists. Fremlin assumes that in the hypothetical scenario plenty of technical solutions are available, but he calls it quits after a solid metal shell around the surface of the earth is heated to 1,000 degrees as the most waste heat that can conceivably be dissipated from more free energy. That got us 890 years of continuous growth from 1964 so in the year 2854 growth has to stop even with magic free energy and just in time technology fairies.
Side note. I find it very odd that this was referenced in Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons in 1968 and I’ve never seen anyone bring it up as a limit to growth. It is a hard and fast thermodynamic limit for which the laws of physics do not provide any out and I’ve never seen it referenced anywhere (other than Hardin) by anyone. It’s curious that the there is a definitive answer to this question and it is ‘no’ yet no one seems know about it.
When I was a boy, in the ’40s and ’50s, hardly any schoolchildren were “in therapy/” The ones who were, were overwhelmingly from the highest-status families and/or Jewish, and I early on concluded that it was what we now call a vapid status marker (of class or of religion/ethnicity). By and large, we did quite all right without any therapy in our childhoods.
I think one of the biggest differences between then and now was that none of us silent-generation children expected to have any sort of a desirable future, or even any sort of a future at all. Nor did our parents expect to have much of future, either. Polio, y’know. Also The Bomb and all that. “Come away, Melinda; come in and close the door. Your father was a man like that before they had the War.” (That song still brings tears, every time I recall it, even now, after so many decades. You never escape your childhood, no matter how long you live.)
Somehow, we managed to dodge the end-of-our-world bullet, just barely … miraculously …
You might think that this certainty of our impending death would have made us all miserable. It didn’t. We were all in the same sinking boat together, and we would either all cope somehow, or all go down more or less together. So there’s no point to sorrow. Let’s just get on with whatever it will turn out to be, kids!
It’s the isolation and solitude, generally speaking, that makes dying so horrific. If you’re the only one of your friends and family who is dying at the moment, that’s very hard to bear. If all or most of you are going to die together, it’s noticeably easier to bear. (Or so it was for me.)
Where I’m going with this walk down memory lane is that high expectations for one’s future seem to produce extreme stresses of their own, and may even be a sort of psychological poison. Low expectations, or no expectations at all, seem to me to be somewhat easier to live with. Especially in a time of decline.
Regarding psychotherapy, we have gone astray and created a system that produces marginally effective shamans. Draping our shamans in white coats might be less effective than traditional professional feather headdresses and rattle anklets.
Traditional societies use a combination of ceremony, trance experiences, social pressure and community support to deal with imbalances of the mind or psyche. The imbalance is viewed as a problem of the wider society, not just the individual. In extreme cases, traditional societies resort to old methods of coping: pushing the offending individual off an ice floe, banishment, nasty bar fights or hanging.
Curiously, all healing of body, mind and soul, works by invoking a person’s own ability to heal. That is the secret of the placebo effect. If something cures you because you believe that it cures you, then the effort should go into researching ways to better invoke self-healing rather than disparaging the placebo effect.
Most of us have known psychotherapists with excellent skills and good track records (nothing works on everybody all the time.) They are in the minority, which makes me wonder what it is about our system of training and advancing shamans that makes most of them get it so very wrong.
Western psychotherapy works by invoking the exact same processes as traditional methods. The goal of the setting, ceremony and participants is to invoke healing in the subject. This is why hypnotherapy works, and is often a faster path to coming to terms with imbalance than talk therapy.
We just do a bad job with our sacred theater.
Linnea’s comment (#11) resonated with me, particularly since I’m slowly reading Rod Dreher’s new book, “Live Not By Lies”. Right after reading her comment, I reached chapter 3, >Progressivism as Religion<.
He opens with a lengthy quote from a Russian intellectual in 1905 welcoming the glorious revolution that was coming.
I'll quote Rod now:
"What Russia's young artists, intellectuals, and cultural elite hoped for and expected was the end of autocracy, class division, and religion, and the advent of a world of liberalism, equality, and secularism. What they got instead was dictatorship, gulags, and extermination of free speech and expression. Communists had sold their ideology to gullible optimists as the fullest version of the thing every modern person wanted: Progress."
The brave new world that Linnea wants is going to work out better? Really? Because it's different this time? Really?
Since we're dealing with people, I don't see how it could work out better but I can sure see how it will work out worse.
Think of that: worse than the Russian revolution. Ye Gods.
Justin, since it was the Weekly World News, was Batboy waiting to greet the guy when he came out of his bunker? 😉
Karen, excellent! The idea that imagination is upstream from culture is a commonplace in occult circles, and it shows up all through occult-influenced literature — I first encountered it, iirc, in my teens in Shea and Wilson’s Illuminatus! trilogy, and then in Where the Wasteland Ends by Theodore Roszak. Your professor was wrong, of course, and you were right. As for the time frame, why, I wouldn’t dream of depriving you of the fun of working it out, since you’ve already got the idea and some very good examples.
Walt, fascinating. Your wife’s attitude makes perfect sense to me. When I was a kid, with the label “gifted” affixed to me like a “kick me” sign on my backside, I always winced when my parents or teachers praised my work, because that inevitably meant that everything I did from then on would be measured against that as a new standard and found wanting, and I’d get it in the neck.
Evri, the thing that fascinates me is that more people are beginning to notice that decline feels like, well, decline. Bit by bit, the cold awakening comes…
Ganv, that’s an excellent point. Insisting that imagination should be boundless guarantees that it will be ineffectual — yeah, that makes sense.
Discussion of whisperings in the collective imagination, against the dual false narratives of Tomorrowland and apocalypse, sounds like an occasion to take a look backward and ahead for deindustrial fiction. As that is an ongoing effort (with e.g. New Maps in the works), is there some particular angle or shift in emphasis you have in mind?
I ask because I was thinking about forward-looking present-day or near-future settings and situations instead of the more retrospective post-collapse ones. Deindustrial fiction instead of deindustrial science fiction, you might say. But I’m hung up on a problem with that: if people can’t see present-day collapse for what it is, how will they see it in a present-day story, unless the author overtly editorializes about it (which I dislike)? It’s kind of the inverse of the challenge of deindustrial SF future stories, which is making a future story address something important in the reader’s own life; instead, it’s how to make a present-day story about things a reader is probably involved in or aware of address and challenge their imaginings about the future.
@JMG Nice to see you back – I’m looking forward to reading The King In Orange.
Regarding Dione Fortune’s strategy of building up your own side and refraining from aggressive action against the other side; I should think it would actually work better in a civil war as it has not only the ability to win the war, but also win the peace.
It’s also the strategy taught at the heart of aikido and as a result I can share an illustrative story that I’ve heard. It’s hearsay but it sounds right, and it concerns someone who studied aikido and a friend who got into an argument in a bar fuelled by alcohol. Eventually the guy who hadn’t studied aikido took a swing at the one who had and I think inevitably, ended up pinned to the floor. That’s a pretty vulnerable position, particularly when steel toed work boots are present but in fact all that happened is that the guy on the floor got monumentally tickled and then helped up. The story goes that they are still friends.
Every civil war ends, and suppose the side that won mostly concentrated on defence, refrained from massacres of non-combatants, avoided revenge attacks, treated prisoners of war with as much dignity and humanity as can be mustered. In short, if the side that wins has acted with restraint – then the peace that follows will be less uneasy.
The pity of it is, that it must be the hardest of all strategies to apply in a military situation and there’s always a difficult judgement to be made about what action is efficient and effective and what action is disproportionate. People who can do this are stone cold geniuses.
Hi John Michael
Your essay provoked an unusual idea
Obviously this last year of world-wide lockdown and fear is being driven by bio-phobia and the horror of blind and passive Nature revealed as neither.
However maybe it’s a rational response; maybe our “rulers” are more or less aware of the incredible fragility and lack of resilience built into the world- wide system. A fragility so deep that a universal death toll of -say- half of one percent may really be enough t obring it down.
As to belief in progress – I lived for a long time in a “third world” country and I’d say it’s hard NOT to believe in progress when children grow up taller than their parents! When that changes …
@David, by the lake: We don’t have the cable, haven’t in years, but that does give me some ideas. Thank you.
@youngelephant: It really is the little things! Thanks
Your wife’s attitude makes perfect sense to me, and it’s also a problem a lot of people have with exercising in general: if the goal is to keep the level of discomfort constant, then progress just means it’s time to up the intensity. Which works fine for some people, some of the time, but it’s a major problem for a lot of people, and I’m quite confident that the goal of keeping the level of intensity rising is a major reason so many people struggle with working out.
“Will J, which means that now’s the time to push the Heresy of Technological Choice as hard as possible, so that it becomes a recognized way to rebel against the establishment!”
I’m on it. I’m making a lot of adjustments to my life in that direction lately. While I’ve been doing it for years, I figure it’s an especially good time to go at it given the Grand Mutation: I can see which way the wind is blowing!
“Will J, excellent. Yes, exactly — and their actions also guarantee that as the internet becomes unreliable, the alternatives will already be in the hands of the deplatformed…”
This is one of the reasons the Parler thing actually made me happy: it means there will be a lot of people out there who are going to be doing everything in their power to build non-internet dependent forms of communication, who are not also frantically trying to adjust to losing it. My fear was that people would cling to the internet, only working towards alternatives once they lost access.
Having alternatives in place, even in rudimentary form, is going to make it far easier to cope once the internet starts to fail. I don’t think we’re very far from when that starts, so I think it’s very important people get to work on it.
“When I was a kid, with the label “gifted” affixed to me like a “kick me” sign on my backside, I always winced when my parents or teachers praised my work, because that inevitably meant that everything I did from then on would be measured against that as a new standard and found wanting, and I’d get it in the neck.”
Tell me about it! Did you also get that oh-so-reasonable-sounding parental admonition, “All we ask is that you do your best”? It took me until late in high school to think to answer, “No, some assignments are stupid and wastes of time, and they’re not worth the effort to do my best on.” By then I was too frustrated to avoid the pendulum swinging just as distressingly the opposite way.
Hmm, I didn’t connect that with my wife’s rehab reactions as quickly as you did. So it appears we both lived through analogues of jam-tomorrow progress fatigue, long before “the religion of progress” became a discussion topic.
Aubrey and David BTL
My family and I are in a situation about half way between David and yourself. Getting rid of the tv is something I have been advocating for a while now. But I there is resistance and I have a blended family so there is a fair bit of outside negative influences that I am struggling against.
Like David one of the things we have done is put the tv into the closet until a family movie night is declared. We also rearranged the living room so that the tv space was not the center of focus any more. It makes a serious difference in the feel of the room. The place I can put the tv on when we do bring it out is off to the side and relatively unobtrusive when it’s out.
As for when it comes out we have some known, hard, rigidly enforced limits for any tv time. Ie all school work done and your chores and playing outside for at least an hour gets you an hour of video game time. If you don’t get it done tough.
Honestly the biggest barrier doesn’t seem to be them. It’s everyone else. A friend comes over these days they inevitably have an infernal device on them and fights on again.
“I began wondering how it was that non-Western simply didn’t have psychotherapy and seemingly didn’t need it. It seems to be a specially Western obsession. Maybe non-Western cultures had practices (occult, religious and the like) which achieved similar aims more consistently…”
I’ve been reading The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life (translated by Richard Wilhelm.) C.G. Jung’s commentary on this ancient Chinese text attempts to “build a bridge of psychological understanding” between East and West. You might find it interesting.
A perfect example of decline is the bumbling attempt to role out the Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine was touted as our salvation by the media and political figures and it shipment to parts of the country was heralded with great fanfare by one and all. Then things gummed up in most places in the U.S. as things slowed to a crawl as questions of who gets it first, who pays to administer it, and clumsy mistakes with handling dominated. In contrast I remember in my childhood the German Measles Vaccine was developed and the health authorities made the decision that the most efficient way to head off a forcasted epidemic was to innoculate all kids between the age of 8 and 12 ( or something like that). I would guess you remember this John. In grade school we were marched to the Gym, stood in line and county health workers injected the vaccine with space-age injection guns ( which we no longer have). No paperwork, no reservations, no equity panels needed. How simple and effective that was compare to the circus we have now, plus we were also able to go to the moon about that time. No we are mostly just able to watch Elon blow up rockets on the pad that are little more advanced the those in the Gemini program which predated Apollo.
Ever-erudite and informative Archdruid, when you attributed in comment #183 the saying about the future already being here but not evenly distributed to Bruce Sterling, I said “Aha, nope, it was William Gibson!” But in checking before replying to you, I found that the provenance of said quote is murkier than I knew, nicely illustrating your idea that Imagination (and processes upstream of there) is where ideas first come forth. See: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/01/24/future-has-arrived/
finding a reasonable conversation is like, why do grey hairs have to be counted, maybe charles eisenstein would be a good conversation, his repetition must be becoming gloomy.
Are you aware of the paintings of Albert Robida? In 1882 he did painted “Leaving the Opera in the Year 2000” where everyone is in a flying car (but wearing Victorian outfits!).
I had to laugh when you said Linnea basically cancelled herself. It’s not called Cancel Culture for nothing!
@ tumpuslumpus (February 3, 2021 – 4:27 pm) – I noticed it mentioned the Affordable Care Act. Premiums increase – a lot – the older one gets, which means the employer has to shell out ever more – it gets down to the bottom line – and, yes, an employee’s experience/skills/knowledge may be much more valuable to the company, but it’s hard to put a dollar amount on experience/skills/knowledge. The ‘system’ is rigged against the worker (of whatever age) and often in a way that hurts the company it purportedly benefits (progress, you know). It’s just one more thing in addition to all the other factors that come into play whether or not age is a factor.
JMG – Glad you are back! I hope everything went well during your ‘break’. (I get the impression you were still very busy during this time, but at least it was a change of pace). Thank you for this latest essay. I am grateful that you look at the bigger picture – it is interesting to think about how some of the more recent events (the ones that MSM wishes the masses to know about) fit in. More importantly, you drew attention to issues and currents that MSM never or rarely discusses. I appreciate this forum where I can see a diversity of viewpoints presented and discussed.
I agree that masks should reduce the likelihood of Covid-19 exposure. Corvid exposure… how do wearing masks protect against crows, ravens and the like?
Though I have found I’m less likely to be dive-bombed by nesting-aggressive crows if I’m wearing a hat, so you never know.
>Denis, no, it’s not the wild ride, it’s just the tinny music being played over the loudspeakers as the ride starts up. The brick wall’s still some distance off.
Are you saying it first starts as simulation and then ends as reality?
@Booklover, that’s a good point. It seems to me that to have effective outcomes, transformational interventions have to be effective in themselves, but they also have to happen, which in practical terms sometimes means they have to be involuntary. In many societies religious rituals potentially meet both requirements, as do (in many cases) military training and the “school of hard knocks.” I prefer religious freedom, but I accept that there is probably a public mental health cost for that freedom.
Prison rehabilitation programs fell out of favor not because convicts opted out voluntarily, but because it turned out the easiest way to complete them was to learn to say what the instructors wanted to hear, undercutting their effectiveness. The degreed professional instructors couldn’t believe that criminals “dumb enough to get caught” could possibly be smart enough to do that.
@Darkest Yorkshire, yeah, there are a few things that do work well. Another example I have to acknowledge as often-effective is cognitive behavioral therapy. The catch-22 with using psychotherapy to change social conditions is that individuals often don’t want to change. For instance, bullies (of all types in all walks of life) enjoy being bullies, the psychobabble cliché that they’re secretly miserable and just waiting for someone to reach out a friendly hand to them notwithstanding. To change they’d have to want to change, but they don’t. To make them want to change you’d first have to make them want to want to change, and off into infinite regress.
The question I’d have about organizational performance et. al. is how much the success depends on selecting the participants, and/or on kicking out (or blowing up?) participants who resist the correct process. If it depends on those, then it’s great for getting a task done but not for applying to a general population (e.g. “at-risk” students). In any case, though, it would be nice if the basics of this were taught to everyone in school, even though, like geometry, not everyone would go on to use it.
you wrote: “Thereafter—well, anthropologists examining British skeletons have reliably found that signs of severe malnutrition and crippling poverty are more common in the remains of 19th-century working people than they are in bones from any earlier period, including the grimmest parts of the Middle Ages.”
As I see it, machines/technology did not reduce the wealth produced, because, if it were so, they would never have been used. The wealth of society in whole was increased. But the owning class appropriated not only the new surplus of wealth, but also what before they had to yield to the working class. Thus, severe malnutrition, crippling poverty and other stuff was not caused by technological advance but by class war. And that is why Luddism was dead at birth while communism became a big thing.
Well, the theme of the “Long Descent” doesn’t portend ending at any kind of place a reasonable person would want to end up. Maybe not exactly apocalyptical in the common sense of the term of war, famine and destruction, nevertheless a slow motion car crash is not exactly not a sort of apocalypse. Isn’t it strange though that the archaic meaning of apocalypse is the idea of God coming down and striking down the evil doers and rising up the righteous? You could say it’s the exact opposite of the common meaning today.
Anyway, I enjoyed reading “Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush” on Archdruid Report Mirror that you linked. Didn’t even know it existed. Thanks.
That’s a couple of very good questions, actually.
On cloth masks; I had this chat, some months ago, with a priest friend of mine. This fellow commented on how many of the grooming habits of today (daily bath/shower, short hair, shaving) originated in Europe as responses to the plague pandemic of the 19th century. Today, people shy away from skipping one daily shower because of the body odor, but a healthy person’s sweat does not smell that bad. We kept doing the thing our forefathers did as a matter of habit, and forgot why they started in the first place. For this reason, I find it plausible that 25 years from now, my not-yet-born grandchildren will go around town sporting scarfs or masks with their favorite soccer team colors in them, mainly out of a sense of fashion. Who knows, maybe burkas started like that some thousands of years ago…
As of why I did not think of wearing a mask before, when there were all these evil viruses through my all life, the answer is straightforward. Most exposures to most viruses (which have been around the human population for a long time) do not result in contagion, unlike Covid-19. For two viruses with similar fatality rate and concomitant diseases, the one with higher incidence rate (e.g. that spreads faster) is riskier.
I expect you will not agree with my risk assessment, which is fine by me. Miscalculation is always an option, and I will agree that if my numbers where off by one order of magnitude, mine would be an overreaction. Are you in for a friendly bet? I am eyeing that King in Orange since last Monday.
Decline Data Point News Item: The Canadian Special Forces just got rid of the latest-and-greatest new Sig-Sauer pistol, because one went off in a holster and injured a soldier in the leg. This handgun is popular among shooters, U.S. police forces, and the U.S. military even though it has had numerous instances of the safety failing.
Back in 1911, Colt developed a similar weapon which has never had that as a problem: the venerable .45 automatic. (In fact, this has never been a problem with any automatic pistol developed in the first half of the 20th Century.)
@JMG, that was my own lack of clarity! I was referring to the people of this blog, who benefit from your sensibility and bring their own.
For what it is worth, my New Year’s dreams were positive this time, after being unrelentingly negative last year. In essence, if they turn out to be accurate, nothing big will happen, which is good, because it will give time for cooler heads to prevail. The media will go on lying, say my dreams. But I note Matt Taibbi is said to have quit the propaganda mill, and dreams I had outside the designated time slot, but sleeping next to the waterfall where I practice misogi, suggested the younger generation will shrug off the corporate slave-makers.
@Danielle the Permaculturist,
That was very thoughtful of you to share that with us. When I was coming to grips with the concept of collapse, I would wake up from dreams with a sense of dread. Getting sufficient B vitamins seems to help relieve anxiety, but I credit my religion with saving me from much of it. Allow God to direct your feet, inform you and teach you the lessons of this world (as I see you have started doing).
JMG, Here is todays hard question. Do you think the recent election was the fairest and most well scrutinized in history as touted by the Democratic party, or something less than that?
Ben, children love playing in dirt and small children love having their own garden patches. You can grow runner beans up a trellis or teepee for their own hiding places–do NOT use morning glories, which are toxic when ingested. A caution, if you aim to encourage outdoor grazing of things like peas and strawberries do inform yourself about toxic plants and plant parts. The green berries produced by asparagus are not to be ingested, for example.
Bluewatersky, about Occasio-Cortez’s office salaries, it strikes me that capping the top salaries is a rather clever way of discouraging various entities from placing their (uninvited) moles in her office. AIPAC is famous for doing just that, and I doubt they are the only ones. Her own salary is a matter of public record, neither more nor less than that received by any other congressperson.
The first issue of New Maps is out, mine came in the mail today, and it has a story by Ms Violet in it.
To DaniellethePermaculturist: “To KimberlySteele and others who had increased paranoia and feelings of apocalypse.”
I think you may be confused — was your comment meant for someone else?
[I love this ‘blog — I just deleted a 4000 word rambling screed/discursive meditation inspired by your subject.]
I am so glad to have this blog as a place of rational expression. I was born into an era when “progress” was still a credible narrative: world child mortality was declining, death from various virulent and persistent diseases (e.g. polio) was dropping, a lot of drudgery around the house was being eliminated (like doing laundry by hand which took up an entire day before washing machines), fewer people were going hungry, longevity was increasing, long range travel was becoming available to more than just the ultra wealthy jet-set. The dark side hadn’t yet manifested.
As far back as I can recall my earliest memories, I somehow never got wholly inducted into the Church of Eternal Progress. Not sure why, but I never believed in progress (and I never use that word if I can avoid it). Your writing clarifies for me the ideas I’ve always had, but could never express.
Reading this particular post, I realized I could summarize that there are several fixed ideas in this culture, viz.:
– We are either going to rapidly collapse (via nuclear war in “The Road Warrior” and “Star Trek”) into a new barbarism but we are eventually, after a new dark age, going to recover technology and colonize space. Or we are going to go directly to space in the near future as in “Space 1999” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Or at least some of us are.
– The idea that anything prior to 20 years ago was a squalid existence of back-breaking misery. (e.g. any time Hollywood shows the middle ages, the unwashed peasants grub in the mud wearing drab-grey/brown clothes and live in leaky hovels.) By the 80’s, even the 50’s somehow managed to be portrayed as backward with primitive technology and brutally repressive social mores.
– Anyone who even questions technology is disparaged as a “Luddite” and is treated with the same sort of religious horror that would be heaped upon a heretic of the Middle Ages.
(FWIW, when I finally did learn more about the Luddites, I found myself heartily agreeing with them because they weren’t against technology, per se. They were against enslaving technology. Specifically, a Spinning Jenny could be run in a cottage, the original WFH, or a Spinning Mule could be run in a small water-powered workshop, both places being far more congenial than the horrific conditions in factories that used steam-powered equipment and paid less to produce more. A few violent incidents by radicals discredited the entire political movement, which should sound eerily familiar after this past year.)
– The only acceptable response to any problem is to throw lots of money at it in the expectation of developing some increasingly complex and expensive technology as the only possible solution. i.e. We recycle (some stuff… if, and only if, the technology is available) but are never encouraged to reduce or –gasp!– re-use.
– Places that have not modernized are “charming vacation destinations” and suburbanites flock there for temporary escapes from their daily existence, but wouldn’t for a moment consider actually living there, because they are horrified at the idea of doing “menial” jobs that people who actually live there have to do.
– Both the techno-utopia and the eco-utopias are always written about in the most romantic and glowing terms — by people who have never experienced either.
– Awkward logistical questions, such as how to supply and power either the techno-utopia or the eco-utopia, are papered over or just plain ignored.
– Style is curiously bland and mind numbingly boring in the futuristic worlds of the technophiles. (Why is that? Why is it the worlds of Star Trek or Star Wars are so devoid of style, whereas depictions of Hogwarts or the Elven kingdoms always exhibit so much and grace and elegance?)
– To save face, discount any failure as trivial and claim that wasn’t the objective anyway. (To be fair, this may actually be a general human trait, but it is very definitely characteristic of this society at this time.)
– Progress is an heroic endeavour, nobly saving humanity from some evil. e.g. Technology will save us from the evil of manual labour; “Progressive” attitudes will save us from the evil of racism; &c.
…all of which points I can find in the original article.
cyclone, what is PMC?
The discussion between Violet and JMG on generational differences, mixed with walking past a CNN thing my dad is watching on how the majority of people between 18 and 30 will not get any Covid vaccine made me realize something: this is how the Progressives will handle the end of Progress: they’ll justify it with the notion that it’s all the younger generation’s fault. In other words, the way that they’ll opt out of it is by blaming it on the decline of humanity……
On the blog “Ask a Korean,” the author proposes that Korea runs 10-20 years ahead of the U.S. on some social trends. He suggests that we can get some ideas about what we may see after Trump because they had their own Trump figure (Choi Soon) who left office in 2016.
“Why does Korean politics foretell the U.S. politics? Because in the last 30 years or so, Korea as a country has been running at the forefront of the two major trends that have been driving the changes in the world, and in the United States: economic liberalization and the internet. These two trends create societal changes, which in turn create political changes. And Korea experienced those changes earlier than just about any country in the world, including the United States.”
It’s an interesting read!
However, the part that stopped me short was:
“Korean government has done much to assist Korea’s rural areas, but it simply cannot reverse the tide of the times… The “young” people in those villages refer to people in their 50s, not in their 20s. The few remaining young men in those villages, bound to stay there to inherit the family farm, mail-order their wives from Southeast Asia because no young Korean woman wants to live there.
**Life there is a toil, and it is not sustainable in the long term.**”
How can it be possible for a society to make producing food an unsustainable occupation?? Does rural decline happen cyclically in history, or are these recent centuries a fluke?
Suddenly the way that the past is being reimagined in increasingly absurd ways as Hades on Earth makes so much more sense: if you want to continue to pretend the present is better than the past, then the worse the present gets the worse the past needs to be! It’s already getting totally surreal, so I wonder where it will end….
Dang it, no matter how many times I proof read one of my comments before I push submit, there is always a glaring mistake.
I agree masks probably won’t do much against Corvids and their kin. Thanks for the chuckle.
JMG – You drew a parallel between Qanon and the UFO phenomenon, explaining that the UFO myth is military disinformation. I’ll draw that out a little bit, and describe it as “providing an unlikely but entertaining explanation for real phenomena that can neither be hidden, nor truthfully acknowledged”. OK? So, with UFOs, it was a program of high-performance aircraft development and testing that had to be explained away. With Qanon, is it just rampant wealth inequality and elite lawlessness? If we’re afraid to say that “he who has the gold, makes the rules”, then we’re told “those who have the gold and/or make the rules are blood-sucking vampires”? Ha, hah. Of course not. Dismiss the truth by exaggerating it into dismissable fantasy?
I have not been directly exposed to any of the Qanon mythos, but to those who dismiss it as complete fantasy, I ask “Why was Jeffrey Epstein never prosecuted?” and “How often does a political staffer like Seth Rich get murdered on the way home from a bar in NW DC?” as well as “Was the shooting of Paul Joyal (as he returned from a social engagement with Oleg Kalugin, retired KGB officer, at the International Spy Museum) a bungled carjacking?” And no matter how you reply, I will follow up with “how do you know?”
A common thread through far too much of today’s political debate is the ignored difference between “false” and “unproven”.
By the way, if you don’t know the Paul Joyal story, just read the brief entry in Wikipedia.
Ron, many thanks for this. You’re of course quite correct that Rahu and Ketu — the north and south lunar nodes in modern Western astrology — have been seriously neglected by Western astrologers in recent centuries; one of my next bits of further astrological research will involve looking into how they influence mundane, natal, and progressed charts. That their erasure might be linked to the rise of the mythology of progress is an idea worth following up. BTW, I read your delineation of the inauguration using Vedic astrology, and I was struck by the fact that we both ended up predicting more or less the same things, despite the differences between the two systems. Different maps, same territory…
Walt, good heavens. You’re right, of course — and that’s a point of immense importance. It was, as I recall, the late 1960s when that conviction started to break down in science fiction; my high school library had a volume entitled Alone Against Tomorrow: Stories of Alienation in Science Fiction, which was iirc groundbreaking in its day. A Clockwork Orange also comes to mind in this context. Hmm…
Karim, exactly. It’s the same logic that mages follow: “to know, to dare, to will, and to be silent.”
Wesley, presumably it never occurred to you that I’m attentive to that mistake precisely because I’ve made it…
Will J, exactly. At this point the paired myths of progress and apocalypse have become a Procrustean bed, and all data must either be forced into it or excluded from public awareness.
KayeOh, doctors wore crow masks during the plague, so maybe we SHOULD try corvid masks against covid! 😄
My niece’s husband (nephew-in-law?) has covid and is miserable, poor guy.
Another thing the limit of today’s thinking to the progress/apocalypse dichotomy explains is the way so many people meltdown when I try to say Covid is serious, we ought to do things to address the risks, but we’re overreacting: if Progress is happening, Covid can’t be, since a disease like this hasn’t happened in a long time; which means, in order to keep within the bounds of views acceptable in our society, it must be the apocalypse.
I really hope this dynamic, of large parts of the population losing their minds over problems while another large part insists nothing’s there at all, isn’t the norm for the next few years. If it is, we’re going to lose a lot of things we take for granted very quickly…..
Varun, works for me. In an upcoming post I propose to talk about Vico’s concept of the barbarism of reflection, and that’ll lead into strategies for survival in crazy times — staying out of the grip of the two contending forces being high on that particular list.
Brian, as US global hegemony declines, other nations are contending to be the next global hegemon. China’s apparently in the lead but I have my doubts, and the EU reminds me of nothing so much as the Holy Roman Empire — what is it about Europe that causes every attempt at a multinational state there to turn into a clanking dysfunctional contraption that causes more problems than it solves? The “Eurasian century” is propaganda for one particular party in that race for power; there are other parties, and other narratives.
Erika, thank you! Do you recall Groucho Marx’s famous comment? “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” 😉
Booklover, in most societies psychotherapy is shared out between physicians and priests. The radical separation between body and mind, on the one hand, and mind and spirit, on the other, that pervades Western culture is found basically nowhere else.
Karim, the working title is The Ceremony of the Grail: Ancient Mysteries, Forgotten Heresies, and the Lost Rituals of Freemasonry, and it spans the distance from the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient Greece to the invention of fantasy fiction by William Morris. It’s entertaining stuff; it should be available sometime next year.
Lydia, that’s utterly fascinating. Thank you; I’ll see if my local library is willing to pick up a copy.
Justin, you’re not the only one who’s thinking of that.
Sam, fascinating. I’ll have to look into that.
Anonymous, as I point out in my forthcoming book The King in Orange, these days the word “racist” is a dog whistle meaning “working class.”
Nachtgurke, many thanks for this. Exactly; the realm of meaning is one that each of us has to access alone, and there’s no way to get another person to experience a meaning until that person is ready to experience it. That’s the rock on which all the projects for universal enlightenment have shattered: you can get people to mumble a set of words on command but you can’t make them understand the words they’re mumbling. Or as the schoolchild wrote when asked to use the word “horticulture” in a sentence, “you can lead a horticulture but you cannot make ’em think.”
Booklover, true enough. I’ve also been caught by surprise when something I expected happened much sooner than I’d guessed.
Team10tim, an excellent point! I’ve seen it in a few places since Hardin’s time, but not many.
Robert, a fascinating point. I suspect that high expectations for the future paired with a reality of decline are especially toxic.
Walt, that’s a very rich question to which I don’t have an immediate answer. Hmm.
Lurksalong, interesting. I don’t think so very mild a death toll would have such an effect, but it’s a possibility worth exploring.
Will J, a friend forwarded a link to the latest workaround on the internet front, the Micronetia project, which is setting things up so that people can host their own internet sites on cheap computers in their own homes, and are thus not at risk of being deplatformed by the social media barons. That’s a temporary expedient, since the internet as a whole won’t be sustainable indefinitely, but making the transition from that to (say) amateur radio-based chatrooms, and from there back to print, will be a much easier step.
Walt, of course. It took me a while to figure out that the only viable response to that chestnut was sullen silence and a deliberate decision to fail to meet expectations, since the lectures and the rest of the manipulative crap were less difficult to bear when I didn’t also have the bitter experience of actually doing my best and then being told that it wasn’t good enough.
Clay, I do indeed remember that. Here again, I’m remembering the Discordian theory of history, in which the fourth stage — called either Consternation or Bureaucracy — involves the endless elaboration of means until they prevent the achievement of ends.
Bryan, fascinating. I just recalled, more or less dimly, that it was one of the Cyberpunk authors. (Unrelated note — I just mistyped that “cyberbunk,” which strikes me as a useful concept…)
Uphill, er, would you like to translate that into English?
Bridge, I am indeed, but thank you for the reminder!
PatriciaT, thank you! Yes, it was a pleasant break, and I got a lot of reading done.
Owen, that’s one way to put it. Alternatively, the behavior of the current administration can be compared to the band on the Titanic playing ever more loudly as the ship took on water…
Goran, that’s broadly correct. The machines didn’t reduce the wealth that was produced, they simply guaranteed that nearly all of it went to the owners of the machines, leaving the workers to scrape by on starvation wages. Industrialism is as much a method of wealth concentration as it is a means of wealth production, and socialist methods of managing it simply guarantee that wealth is controlled indirectly by the ruling class (the people who run the state) rather than directly owned by them.
Solus, by that kind of logic a purple square is not exactly not an orange triangle. Come on.
Renaissance, of course. Progress isn’t just subject to the law of diminishing returns, it’s also subject to the law of negative returns, and the Sig-Sauer debacle is a good example.
Patricia O, may it be so!
Clay, American elections have been riddled with fraud from the early years of our republic on. Nations that are serious about honest elections have very straightforward ways of guaranteeing that: they have a strict chain of possession of every ballot from the moment it’s cast to the moment it’s counted, with local members of all parties constantly monitoring every box of ballots, and ballots are counted by hand in many local locations, under the same kind of strict observation, not fed into computerized counting machines with proprietary software that’s not subject to inspection by all parties! In the US we have none of those safeguards, because neither party wants them. I don’t think the 2020 election was much more fraudulent than usual, for what it’s worth.
Jon, delighted to hear it.
Renaissance, thanks for this. That’s a useful summary of the progressivist creed.
Will J, I could see it.
Naylor, rural decline happens quite reliably in history; it’s a normal marker of the decline of a civilization, and plays an important role in hollowing out declining societies before the final collapse. Korea and Japan are both deep into that condition at present, and Europe and large parts of the US are heading that way.
Will J, exactly. Since conditions are getting palpably worse for most people in today’s industrial societies, the past has to be redefined in more and more negative terms, in order to preserve the fantasy that we’re progressing. Talk about the realities of life in premodern times — for example, pointing out that medieval peasants on average worked fewer hours and had more days off than modern Americans — is incredibly subversive.
Lathechuck, have you read my book The UFO Chronicle? The point of that kind of disinformation is to hide something that is actually going on — in that case, US aerospace testing, ranging from high-altitude balloons through spyplanes and early spy satellites to the original Stealth planes — by diverting attention to something that is not going on, but looks enough like it to confuse the issue For another example, look into the Allied disinformation campaigns that were used to divert German attention away from the location of the Normandy landings in 1944.
Will, we’re going to lose a lot of things we take for granted very quickly.
After Obama’s election I lost hope for substantive change as soon as I read of his appointment of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. “Fox, meet chickens, do take good care of them.” I feel the same way now after two weeks of Biden’s appointments and executive orders. While I agree with some of his actions, others seem designed merely to rub it in that Orange Man lost and that his supporters were fools to have supported him. Is anyone out there following Matt Taibbi? He had an interesting column a few months back in which he pointed out that Trump could have done a lot more damage to the status quo if he had actually understood what the president’s powers are. I can’t recall the examples, but it was an interesting thesis.
A Facebook friend posted an article from The Federalist which claims that Chuck Schumer urged violence against the Supreme Court during a hearing on an abortion law in Louisiana. https://thefederalist.com/2021/02/03/chuck-schumer-used-violent-rhetoric-to-sic-a-mob-on-two-supreme-court-justices/?fbclid=IwAR2_C_4aMosT__fj7FW1KKdJwsFzIHOe0_PqR-EOtZ0-Fdkb0__DH3Yu-Rw The article also discusses the Kavanaugh hearings. Lots of hypocrisy re mob action. I had actually forgotten the incident of the mob having to be driven away from the Supreme Court building. Well, Orwell had it right–All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.
On an entirely different topic, those interested in US agriculture might enjoy _The Food Explorer: the True Adventure of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats_. David Fairchild traveled the world in late 19th cent. and into 20th looking for new varieties of fruits, vegetables and grains to give variety to the American diet and to give American farmers an economic advantage in having crops to fit the huge variety of soils and climates. He was involved in the importation of the Japanese cherry trees to Washington DC, the introduction of many varieties of mangos, avocados, date palms, etc.
From the same book I learned that Andrew Carnegie supported Philippine independence and actually offered to buy the Philippines from the US govt. for $20,000,000 and set them free. Needless to say the offer was not accepted. Now that would make an interesting alternate history story for anyone who knows the islands well.
“you might be interested in the sequels to LTG, issued by the Club of Rome in the years immediately following, which quietly ignored what LTG predicted in order to push an agenda of elite management of the planet.”
The technocratic dream of Plato’s Republic is still going strong among the elite class. I don’t know what else but this urge to micromanage humanity is pathological to the extreme.
And if 1984 is what they try to implement in their great reset. I am thankful that the sputtering Technological society will limit their ability to impose tyranny through the formation of cracks in their system of control.
To Ben, I did my best to explain discursive meditation in this essay. I hope it helps:
I expect you will not agree with my risk assessment
The Depths To Which We’ve Descended
Walt F / Will J
In weightlifting/powerlifting a distinction is made between exercise and training. Training implies a goal you are working towards. If you have no goal, you are ‘just’ exercising. When done properly, there is no pain in weightlifting training because it is understood that the physiological adaptation cannot be rushed. In fact, if you train too much, you start going backwards.
By contrast, the popular circuit training programs like crossfit or f45 seem explicitly designed to cause pain. They chop and change the exercises all the time which prohibit the body from adapting properly. Interestingly, the people who do those programs seem to revel in the pain. No pain, no gain seems to be the motto.
[Note: this is obviously very different from medical rehab where the patient has in no way chosen the pain and where there really is no gain without pain.]
John Michael wrote, “before the political turmoil comes the cultural shifts that make it inescapable; before the cultural shifts comes the whispering in the collective imagination that makes them thinkable.”
And before the whispering comes the surrender of control that makes the whisperer become audible again. So many things, both within and without, are spiraling out beyond our control now — what a gift!
You have certainly stormed out of your sepulchre alive and kicking with this post, haven’t you? Easter comes early this year! Are you rolling the stone away like Jesus or into place like Izanagi? Did you bring back wisdom like Gilgamesh and Odysseus? Did you bring back gifts, wanted or unwanted, like Hercules and Quetzalcoatl? Or have you returned to share the limits we must live with like Hermod and Orpheus? Or perhaps… all of the above?
@Lennea and @JMG in regards to you using your blog. The nick name I came up with is – Ecosophia : The John Michael Greer writes about whatever he pleases; An Occult and Decline blog.
For the Frank Zappa fans, this relates to a tour of a similar name that Dweezel Zappa did a few years back. 😉
@David BTL, in regards to the EIA AEO2021 (Annual Energy Outlook). A telling detail of that report is that it is based on economics. It looks like an economist has written it, not a geologist. I’m sure they would have a very different forecast.
Over the last few months, I have learned a lot about the specifics of oil drilling in terms of suspending and resuming supply. It does not look good. I’m about 80% sure that we will not exceed the 2018-2019 peak but don’t rule out a last ditched attempt to force it to a brief new peak for a few years. I suspect we will see in the next few years a squeeze on oil supply to force prices up and drive investment into the field. that may just be enough to get to this final peak.
But as they used to say ‘Seeing is believing’. Maybe more people should do that these days…
Thanks for sharing those observations about Taiwan and South Korea. The Korea one is especially interesting, not so much, I think, for what was said but for the tone of it – the author has a very obvious feeling of contempt for his country’s Deplorables. Whether you’re talking about Korea or the United States or Europe, the tune remains the same: If the masses are voting for a candidate I don’t like, then it means they have filled their minds with garbage and decided to reject democracy!
(Which reminds me of the irony of watching the international Left invent a new phrase, “illiberal democracy,” for the sort of government that Poland and Hungary have – i.e. one where the people elect representatives who then make laws that the western press disapproves of.)
But returning to the subject of Korea, and laying aside my criticisms of the “Ask a Korean” author’s attitude, I actually do find myself agreeing with some of his conclusions. In both Korea and the US, life is hard for rural people, with no improvements in site. Both populist candidates, Park and Trump, channeled a lot of pent-up rage only to fizzle once in office, and so forth.
It’s hard to imagine either South Korea or Taiwan having much of a future once the American Empire loses its hegemonial status. It’s not just that both countries are afflicted with strong neighbors that don’t acknowledge their right to exist, and that they’ve neglected their own militaries and grown soft under US protection. It’s also their low fertility rates – 0.98 for South Korea and 1.2 for Taiwan, the last I checked – which just seem to show a profound loss of the will to live.
Naylor’s comments about rural Koreans sparked a question for you regarding the present age of decline. Given that the end of the petroleum age will mean that a much larger fraction of each country’s population will have to grow its food, do you expect re-ruralization as people in the cities realize, at some point, that it’s easier to find steady work on a farm? Or will the change in the urban/rural balance be accomplished entirely by greater population shrinkage in the cities, plus the influx of foreign migrants (i.e. Latin Americans, for us in the US) into the countryside? What does the past history of decline in places like Rome have to say about this question?
Irena wrote, “You’ve written about the progress vs. apocalypse (false) dichotomy repeatedly, and I’ve been trying to figure out how the COVID-induced mass hysteria fits into it.”
Mass hysterias are not an unusual feature of declining worldviews. As progress slips from controlling influence, even the weakest of pretexts will be able to inspire massive frenzies in order to divert awareness from that loss of hypothesized control. Covid hysteria is a classic example of a bewildered elite turning something as ridiculous as a bad flu year into a reassuring distraction from staring at the bouncing rubble.
Since they are still desperately trying to keep their faith in progress from collapsing, they’ve even managed to turn their embarrassing, panicked overreaction into yet another vindication of progress, using “lifesaving” vaccines. This opportunity to applaud the great god progress (quite literally in the case of synchronized clapping for our newly-minted healthcare “heroes”) could easily end in tragedy given that the vaccines have been altogether thoroughly untested.
Our elites have hung so many of their desperate hopes for progress on rushed vaccines, that should any serious complications arise (or at least go public) the aftermath will be brutal to their preferred ideology. But don’t worry — denial is ever-so-resourceful a coping mechanism. They will limp out of this debacle with their faith at least somewhat intact and new myths of their golden superiority to spin from the straw of their befuddled incompetency and distress.
Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat fame, ensure that the poor miserable guy gets adequate rest. Trying to do too much too soon will drag it out. He’ll need to stay hydrated. It mostly turned off my thirst response for a couple of days; I would dehydrate and cramp from head to toe. I didn’t lose my sense of taste, but it was altered. Couldn’t stand anything with salt or processed sugar in it for a couple of days, but I could devour fruit and it never tasted so good. I wish I could have kept that symptom.
I used to love reading the print edition of Wired in our local library. With its square binding and glossy look it was Vogue for engineers.
That’s where I first read about Enron, which was then in its glory days. According to a laudatory article in Wiredthey had somehow found the holy grail to marketing anything and everything, even weather. Their techniques would revolutionize every market in the world. They certainly had me convinced that the Enron guys were uber-smart.
Well, we know how that turned out.
I wish I could give a link, but I’ve never been able to find that article on the internet. But it did teach me to be skeptical about even the most solid claims that are made for revolutionary advances. (Applicable these days to advances in medicine. The more you look behind the scenes, the more cynical you get.)
Karim Jaufeerally wrote “But what can be done to transmit knowledge to the next generation when close to nobody around you sees any sort of decline? And hence nobody sees any interest in any kind of preparation. Its a bit like shouting into the wilderness.”
It is very much like shouting into the wilderness. Don’t forget how exceptionally influential the locust-eater who practiced that technique in the early days of Rome’s decline eventually became! Some future Wilde and Beardsley may one day artistically depict our heads upon platters for daring to call out the establishment’s threadbare hypocrisy and proclaim a disregarded alternative. That may not sound particularly hopeful, but hope in an age of decline has a very different meaning than the one we’re used to.
Nobody seeing any interest in what you’re shouting is a sign of how truly important it is. Their distracted, ephemeral interests of today will be utterly forgotten when your cries in the wilderness have helped birth the unimaginable new age enticing us onwards. No butterfly ever guesses which hurricanes it helped to create.
Kimberley Steele wrote, “Mask wearing and volunteering for the vaccine shows us those who would happily lick the boots of the politically correct lawmakers so that they may partake in the bounty of the imminent Tomorrowland utopia.”
I agree that the obedient are definitely hoping to partake in a promised utopia, but I’m not so sure it’s particularly progressive or imminent any more. This overhyped pandemic looks to me like they have entered the bargaining phase of coming to terms with their denial. They’re no longer demanding all the bells and ringers of progress, just begging to be rescued from death — that’s the promised utopia they’re willing to settle for now. Coping with all the hell-in-a-handbasket that everything has turned into? Not a problem, as long as they can be rescued from d… de… dea… I just can’t write it; it’s too terrifying!
The obedient have also been reduced to bargaining politically. They’re not demanding a Kennedy or a Reagan anymore; they’ll settle for a corrupt, demented dullard and re-label that as the utopian Promised Land. Most of them might lick boots out of habit at this point, but its no longer for bounty. Now, it’s just to be rescued from the frightening boogeymen in their minds, like Covid and Trump, which are acting as stand-ins for their real terror that their god is dead. The current, affected death-panic is a rather peculiar and ineffective way of grieving over the death of the great god progress. “If I don’t die from Covid or get enslaved by Trump supporters, my god must still be alive and protecting me! Right? Right??? Please, only tell me what I want to hear or I’ll just shatter!” Was that a tiny crack I just heard?
Walt F, it sounds like you want to write an industrial version of ‘To Build a Fire’ https://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/to-build-a-fire.pdf. 🙂 I also know what you mean that a lot of peoples’ concept of challenging a gifted student is equivalent to making a strongman do a million bicep curls with pink dumbells. (Not necessarily to knock light dumbell work – there’s a couple of ways to make that very effective, just very few people know what they are.)
There are definitely personality types more receptive to human factors than others. But there are also a remarkable number of prominent advocates of the field who openly admit they used to be bullies or bureaucrats, or just went along with what everyone else was doing. It’s a lot like how Christians talk about their previous lives of sin and how they saw the light. 🙂 Even if someone is really not suited to it doesn’t nessessarily mean they need to be left out on a ice floe. 🙂 They may just be better suited to a job where they can work alone. When it comes to the worst people who are truly awful and enjoy it, if everyone else knew these methods (be still my beating heart…) 🙂 it would form a kind of herd immunity. Everyone would know how to deal with them, they’d be boxed in and have very little scope to do harm.
Adwelly, I knew using magic to attack opponents would go badly regardless of circumstances, I was more thinking about the geographical aspects. Fortune has angels patrolling around Britain and lightning clearing dark clouds over Germany. I suppose you could do both in the same country. But imagine a civil war in Britain where both sides were using Glastonbury Tor as their magic headquaters in the imaginal realm. That would get crowded and strange. 🙂
Also no matter how well you treat an opponent they’ll likely come up with some Myth of the Lost Cause and act like they’re the victims. Germany did it after both World Wars. There’d be a very strong temptation for a policy of ‘cry and we’ll give you something to cry about’. 🙂
Darkest Yorkshire wrote, “Would Dion Fortune’s Magical Battle of Britain strategy work in a guerrilla or civil war where all combatants were in the same country?”
Fortune’s technique of building up the strengthening resources of a besieged entity would work within one nation as well as they worked in one continent. Whenever some part of a larger equilibrium becomes imbalanced and begins attacking the other parts, strengthening the balance of the attacked parts is far more efficient than trying to weaken the imbalance of the raging psychotic part (which will eventually exhaust itself out anyway.) The cancel mobs currently raging about are completely clueless that they’re playing the imbalanced psychotic role today, while everyone else is just trying to bolster each other up until the crazed mobs exhaust themselves. Civil war would just be a more kinetic form of what western nations are currently enduring.
Fortune’s technique also works well within one personality at war with itself. If the ego begins running amuk, nurturing the gifts of the other parts of the self leaves one much better situated to then nurture the fragile ego, whenever it comes crashing down off its manic high. That works whether you are the personality inside of which the imbalance is occurring or someone outside who cares for them. Thank goodness, because, needless to say, it is awfully rare that any one of us manages to focus nurturance on other parts of ourself while our ego is actively raging! Maybe that’s why we’re a social species — we really do need each other when we go overboard.
Alas, western culture fetishizes attacking and disparages nurturing, so most of us end up resisting our imbalances, thereby locking them in place, personally, nationally, and otherwise. Christian, wokester, eco-warrior, and other purity cults end up strengthening imbalanced egos more often than not with their imposed moralities, hoping against hope to weaken and muzzle those same egos. Fortune knew that encouraging and exploring the under-used resources of the non-ego parts would lead to a rebalancing, complete with a discovery of one’s own personal morality through experience rather than prescription.
@ganv & jmg – it strikes me that getting solid work out of the imagination requires the following qualification:
Let’s imagine where this [scenario/ball of wax/whatever] could go, IF we were starting from HERE…
The unbounded imagination Ganv refers to, which can be so fruitless, is one pole, but its opposite pole is TINA, which forbids imagination altogether.
And somewhere in the middle is the not infinite, but still larger than zero, number of paths that can be taken that start here. Giving scope to fertile imaginations to begin bubbling up stories that will flow downstream….
Naylor – that is a fascinating quote about the young rural Korean women leaving the young rural Korean men with no option but mail-order if they want to marry.
This has also been a factor in the Irish countryside, and it is ironic, because, although I personally did not arrive on this Irish farm by mail-order, I do notice that my husband, together with the majority of married farmers from around here, went some distance from home to find a wife. I may be the “furthest fetched” local farm wife, and yet, maybe not. I do know of two other farmer’s wives in the vicinity who are American, along with several English women, and most of the other women who have married local farmers come from faraway Irish counties. I personally know only one single case of a local farmer marrying the girl next door.
The land “ties” a few of the men to place harder than it does the women, that may be a factor. But also, to remain on the farm, throughout this last couple of centuries of “progress” has been to wilfully commit to ongoing work, and little obvious prosperity. And young people, of both sexes, have continually hemorrhaged out of the countryside and into the cities. Neither of my own children believe there is a life for them here.
Wendell Berry is a very good documenter and student of these agrarian cycles, and you are quite right to point out that a civilisation that cannot keep its farm food bank in good order is, by definition, a failing civilisation, but of course, that is what we are all discussing here anyway.
But this is how it happens. The agrarian life disparaged and rendered impossible to make a living from. People seeing no future in the place where they grew up, and seeking their fortunes elsewhere… specifically in cities.
Several people asked what were the best examples or arguments to break people out of the spell cast by the myth of progress. I’ve found that the best examples or arguments are not defined by any particular content but rather by their effect. They’re the ones that get people laughing at noble Progress. The reasons why this is so influential are many, but probably the most important reason is that social primates are peculiarly averse to being laughed at (whereas cackling kookaburras don’t seem to mind it at all.)
Laughing at any cherished ideology probably ends up triggering ancient kinesthetic memories of being surrounded by circles of hooting, lip-smacking monkeys prior to banishment, status demotion, or attack. Whatever the mechanism, parody, satire, caricature, irony, farce, sarcasm and all the other ridiculous forms of wit end up puncturing through the false confidence of the self-important cheerleaders-for-progress more efficiently than anything else I have found. Actually, that would make for a pretty good mnemonic — think of any one of the myriad topics that would have shattered the brittle facade of the dreaded, in-crowd cheerleaders in high school, revealing their all-too-common insecurities. If only I had known at that tender age that the tools they used to bully compliance with their rigid hierarchy could simply be laughed at. Alas, I did not yet know that confidence could be practiced as easily as subservience.
So take all the earnest examples and arguments against progress that you have collected and turn them into hysterical jokes — it usually doesn’t take very much effort! If you need any inspiring examples, try Chris Smith’s “OK, maybe I shouldn’t have needled him with something like ‘haven’t heard back from you, got sand in your eyes or something,’” Black Tuna’s “As for Linnea, it would seem that in this case she in fact cancelled herself,” or Jeanne’s “Well, I can see my all-expenses paid trip to Mars isn’t going to happen any time soon.” John Michael pointed out that “human beings are not rational creatures; beliefs are rooted in emotion, not reason,” so awaken those emotions through humor. When progress worshipers find their insecurities about our laughter too intolerable to bear, perhaps they will finally lay those insecurities down. They might even learn to laugh at them!
There’s an interesting and amusing piece of nuclear safety equipment that also has metaphorical relevance to surviving decline. It’s essentially a miniskirt made of lead. It weighs 16kg and you have to wear suspenders over your shoulders to hold it up. The skirt gives you reassurance that your reproductive organs are covered, but it’s actually there to protect the bone marrow and stem cells in the pelvis.
Radiation is so dangerous because it destroys all of the body’s ability to protect and repair itself. With the largest store of bone marrow protected, you can survive while the body rebuilds. As I understand it, even remaining asymptomatic after a very large dose of radiation. Presumably as long as you don’t stride over the emitter, as that’s the only angle you’re not protected from. 🙂
So as long as part of the system stays intact, you can rebuild. It’s been discussed here about monks preserving libraries. Napoleon always tried to keep the Old Guard intact, so the army could be rebuilt around the core of elite troops. There’s probably a lot of situations where you could still keep something going somewhere, whether material things or social organisation. Of course that could also mean some bad habits sticking around longer than they otherwise would have.
Not just thinking about long term preservation, some protected areas would make things easier to endure on an ongoing basis. I don’t mind swinging a pickaxe in the driving rain, or working in sub-zero temperatures in a t-shirt, if I know there’s plentiful food, a hot bath, and a comfy bed waiting for me at the end of it. Or imagine soldiers fighting trench warfare who know after twelve days of battle, they could descend into a palace-like fortress for four days of comfort and ease before heading back out. There’s the stereotype that decadence makes people unable to endure hardship, but I think the promise of some decadence at some point in the future lets people accept currrent hardship far more positively.
That’s also a way to protect any redoubt from attack. If I was setting up a billionaire bunker I’d consider things like shower blocks, laundry, and bunkhouses outside the main perimeter. Outsiders can enjoy the facilities we will happily provide, then be on their way. But if they try to take more, they will face the machine guns with interlocking fields of fire. That presents a better equation than either being a pushover or jealously guarding everything you have.
JMG wrote: “Lathechuck, have you read my book The UFO Chronicle? The point of that kind of disinformation is to hide something that is actually going on — in that case, US aerospace testing, ranging from high-altitude balloons through spyplanes and early spy satellites to the original Stealth planes — by diverting attention to something that is not going on, but looks enough like it to confuse the issue For another example, look into the Allied disinformation campaigns that were used to divert German attention away from the location of the Normandy landings in 1944. ”
Granted, Q-anon is totally, utterly, shoe-eating nuts, but at the same time I’ve felt for a long time that there’s something-quite possibly something explosive-to the Jeffrey Epstein story that we don’t know, and that powerful people don’t want us to know. Now, reading your comment, I’m wondering if Q-anon, with its weird focus on pedophilia, was specifically created to lead people who might be inclined to look into the Jeffrey Epstein affair down a long rabbit hole and into a completely inane world of baroque conspiracies (seriously, I’ve read about some of the Q-anon claims, and they make the standard Illuminati stuff look downright boring). I imagine a major secondary goal was wasting Trump supporter’s energy and time, and making them (or at least, the ones who fell for the Q nonsense) look ridiculous to the public at large.
Is there necessarily going to be another global hegemon? There have probably only been two in all of human history, maybe three at a stretch if you include Spain.
Global hegemony might be another phenomenon that’s largely dependent on fossil fuels and other unique factors such as geographically limited industrialism.
I don’t see why there necessarily *has* to be a global hegemon, and I strongly doubt that another one will emerge.
From August 2020 – a discussion by letter particularly interesting for what was being said about progress, politics and medical experts; primarily about dysphoria but perhaps a sign of change in imagination (Imagination to culture to politics)?
“I was pleased to be a girl who was allowed to think about and do things that would have been prohibited to me in earlier times. That was progress. What we are seeing now is the opposite.”
“…If these experts had had callused hands, MAGA hats, or gold crosses about their necks—these parents would have presumed an agenda and been wary.”
“…Being the majority voice in the media and in education has made liberals—progressives, if you will — weaker than we ought to be. We have lost our ability to engage with careful arguments from the other side, because we are unaccustomed to hearing them. That, in turn, has made it easier to dehumanize those who have different opinions from us. If you’ve never met a conservative, it’s easier to imagine they’re the devil than if you had; the same logic goes for black people and gay people, Hindus and Afghans. In all cases, familiarity, normal human interaction, creates enough common ground that we are revealed to each other as human—both flawed and passionate, by turns despondent and full of joy.”
You noted, “Gradually in the 1950s and 1960s more attention was drawn to the toxicity of the various pesticides being used (thank you Rachel Carson), and as they were gradually phased out, so polio gradually faded away too. Still, the two things were never acknowledged to be connected. it makes you wonder what we are missing today???”
I am glad JMG is letting us discuss this.
There has been a movement against 5G starting several years ago, culminating with petition calling for a moratorium that garnered some 300,000 signatures worldwide the last I checked. One of the concerns was the possibility of a devastating flu-like illness as has happened in the past with major increases in man-made microwave and other non-ionizing radiation. COVID sprang up in places with 5G such as Wuhan and the cruise ships, but also in places pre-5G with very high 4G LTE levels such as Iran and Sweden. Vietnam with no 5G just across the border from China had very little trouble with this virus until they switched on their 5G, shortly after which they suffered an upsurge and their first fatality. Dr. Paul Doyon has documented a lot of this. Other scientists note that the symptoms COVID presents are similar to microwave-induced illnesses. A couple of years ago, Dr. Pall Martin of the University of Washington warned in particular that fertility could be impacted even at the then current levels of exposure, based on experiments with rats. Just this past week, there came reports that COVID is causing reproductive damage to men.
My biggest concern from this after watching pollinators disappear from our vegetable field directly after seven smart meters were installed on two sides of it, is the effects on flying creatures. We who have become aware of effects can shield our living quarters and take other steps, but they can’t. I’ve just now received the following link from Prof. Alfonso Balmori Martinez in Spain on the disappearance of insects and possible connection with the rampant wireless buildout: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720384461?dgcid=author
Note that international standards on microwave exposure are being set by a club of self-proclaimed experts, some in psychology, called “ICNIRP” with heavy conflicts of interest, and they put a lot of effort into trying to discredit anyone whose research results indicate a need for caution, and I’m pretty sure you and everyone else here have heard that concerns about 5G are a conspiracy theory. One of the people involved in efforts to discredit independent scientists was convicted in Europe last week of slandering one of his victims (I can dig up links for that if anyone wants.)
Several folks here have been discussing how they became disenchanted with Progress. In my case it’s been so long, it’s easy for me to forget that I ever had any faith. A couple years back the Japanese TV was reminiscing on this and that era of long ago, and they played “Age of Aquarius,” and it all came flooding back. The future was so bright and hopeful. We were going to vanquish all darkness and I was going to be one of the first astronauts to Jupiter! Yes, indeed. You find that there is this little problem with technology, and the science is clear, the evidence of a problem has been building up for decades. I naively assumed that if I got the word out, steps could be taken to address the problem. That’s what technology is supposed to be: solving all our problems, right? I keep seeing newcomers to this issue go forth to tell the world, and they make valiant, praiseworthy efforts and many have more talent than I.
Uh, have your ever heard that microwave energy at levels too low to cook you could have other effects on you?
It ia funny how faith leads to greater personal agency. I have been focusing on having a more balanced diet but I will be sure to zero in on Vitamin B. Thank you for that suggestion and for responding to my story.
I apologize for directing my comment to you. I thought you had discussed such feelings. I type on my phone and catch up on ecosophia only on breaks at my work otherwise I would spend too much time on my phone. That means I get distracted and I obviously mixed your name up with some one else’s. I do look forward to having a discussion with you in the future as tour comments are always thoughtful
There is a light of hope. A colleague of mine, who teaches students on environmental issues, said that more and more students are mentioning “low-tech” as a possible solution to problems to come. The number of students offering Green Technoutopias or the Apocalypse has shrunk. Several years ago, when I was studying environmental protection myself, nobody talked about “low-tech”. I remember that I gave a presentation myself that it is possible that in the future humanity will send solar energy from space using microwaves – nobody argued with me. Something has changed since then 🙂
Will said “the majority of people between 18 and 30 will not get any Covid vaccine made me realize something: this is how the Progressives will handle the end of Progress: they’ll justify it with the notion that it’s all the younger generation’s fault.”
I see this all the time in my social circle, attacking young people for being selfish and its their fault this plague has gone on as long as it has. If they just didn’t go to spring break last March, or date, or get together with their friends, or go to parties, grandma and grandpa wouldn’t have had to die.
Of course they leave out the part that grandma and grandpa have been attending bridal showers, baby showers, weddings, and funerals because they don’t want to miss those family events (and I would attend those too if I were in there position), and hug and interact with the young people. Its where a lot of them get exposed to the virus, and many don’t care that they could be exposed. The people I know in their 70’s and 80’s just want to live their life, see their grandkids, and enjoy what time they have left.
But no, living the life one has is not allowed. Progressives won’t have it. The corporate press and scientists have determined – with the accompanying shrieks of the social media Karens – who is to blame here and they must be punished. Hence college students get weekly tests, assigned social groups, continual mask wearing, and complete isolation on campus. Every infraction of the draconian measures imposed on this group is amplified in media.
Those measures should be assigned to those most at risk of getting ill from the virus and not the healthy and young.
JMG ” Since conditions are getting palpably worse for most people in today’s industrial societies, the past has to be redefined in more and more negative terms, in order to preserve the fantasy that we’re progressing.”
Ahhh….ding ding ding bells going off in my head….this is why the frantic rewriting of American history the last few years. There’s been a very loud insistence that every white person who stepped foot in North American is a racist and caused all the troubles we see now. Pay no attention to the various federal and state policies which until the 1980’s in some cases institutionalized division by skin color. Academic Einstein’s insist it’s clearly the white long haul truck driver’s fault that black inner-city teen has problems, not the government which set up the horrible housing, awful school, took all the employment opportunities away, and had decades of racial segregation imposed from above.
Academics, scientists, and the government have done more to cause racism in this country than any KKK member could have dreamed of. Probably why a lot of their members were in prominent positions for decades but somehow that never gets mentioned.
A few days in and it’s like ya never had a break from all this. 😉
What’s your take on negative interest rates? They appear to me to be indicative of all you’re saying in this week’s post and they’re just starting to quietly threaten here it seems: https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/news-analysis/negative-interest-rates-bank-of-england-b1797685.html
@JMG Agreed about the effectiveness of the strategy and possible exits to the cave but even in the allegory the shadow watchers aren’t ready to see the light outside the cave and will fight to protect their illusion. The culture war for and against Utopia seems like a protection mechanism the masses unconsciously use to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of progress precisely because a permanent lock in for stable and predictable environment would bore us to death and prevent us from ever actually evolving. The forests are renewed by fire, the boom and bust of the beech trees mast keep the mammal populations in check and ensure that some seeds survive to grow the next generation of the forest. Winter will come and then be renewed by spring, the children of creation are just as predictable as the seasons.
I saw this article on an interview given by long time Dem congresswoman Marcy Kaptur from Ohio.
When I read this, ““Several of my colleagues who are in the top ranks have said to me, ‘You know, we don’t understand your part of the country.’ And they’re very genuine,” Kaptur says. “You can’t understand what you haven’t been a part of.””, the words “Senility of the elites” flashed all over my mind.
The delusion is so pervasive that sanity is to be found only in fringes like this blog. Thank you JMG for that.
JMG said “Denis, no, it’s not the wild ride, it’s just the tinny music being played over the loudspeakers as the ride starts up. The brick wall’s still some distance off.” And in reply to Owen “…the behavior of the current administration can be compared to the band on the Titanic playing ever more loudly as the ship took on water…”
Thank you for this. Recalibrating what I see in “the news.” I’ve got to start a list of things to monitor and then go monitor them. Relying on what comes out is foolish.
Thank you for your reply. Yes, that’s an interesting and solid point, and one that one almost never sees anywhere or even thinks about, for that matter. I disagree with you on only one thing, and that is your comment that with infinite amounts of free energy, we can recycle anything. IIRC, many materials cannot be recycled at all, like products made from thermosetting polymers (eg. bakelite), and the only way of recycling these is to use chemical methods, but those would create their own toxic waste streams. Also, a general rule of thumb could say that the greater the complexity of the product, the lesser the efficiency of the recycling process. Lastly, even if you take simple products like a newspaper, paper can be recycled at most 7-8 times, with each turn of recycling being more inefficient than the previous one. The drive towards making things more ‘jazzy’, which is part and parcel of the religion of Progress, many times ends up reducing the recyclability of the product in question. For example, if you take the magazines published by the Times Of India (I don’t know about the situation in the US, but I guess it would be similar) today, and compare them with their equivalents in the 1960s and 1970s, you’ll see that today’s magazines are made of the typical glossy paper and a corresponding ink (if I’m not mistaken, it’s texture is similar to that of coloured construction paper), and while recycling them, it is a lot harder to separate the ink that is used for printing from the paper, than it was in the 60s/70s.
Thank you for your reply. I haven’t read the original LTG, but I will read it now. It’s interesting to note that they modelled this situation as well, and that too so long ago. No wonder their work is so bitterly vilified by believers in Progress. After all, the argument that Progress will solve the problem of energy resources and provide a supply of unlimited free energy, which will solve all other problems, is the argument that believers in Progress use when all else fails. This analysis by Meadows et al. punctures the cornucopians’ arguments.
Thanks for being honest about how access to fraudsters is built into the US electoral system by design. Many (even somewhat intelligent) Americans are saying that there is no way fraud happened in 2020 or they adopt the cynical position that even if it did happen, so what? Every country does it! (not true). Still there has definitely been progress when it comes to election fraud. Votes can now change very efficiently at the push of a button thanks to Dominion!
I was wondering where you think the GOP can go from here? The old guard like McConnell are undoubtedly glad to see the back of Trump and prefer business as usual. There are a lot of disenfranchised people in the US right now.
BTW for those who do video, at the start of this video with Roseanne, Patrick Byrne says that the 2016 was supposed to be rigged for Hillary Clinton via Dominion. However a foreign power (Russia?) hacked those machines back so that the result was actually fair and honest. Is that’s the Russian collusion they are talking about??
He also dropped the bombshell that Brennan (ex CIA Director) and Obama did a sting on Hillary where she was caught by the FBI/CIA taking a massive bribe from a foreign power before the 2016 election. They then had the means to control her presidency as they could go public with the bribe info anytime they wanted to. It was called Operation Snowglobe. Here’s the video.
I looked up the link to the car ramming in Portland. They didn’t reveal the identity of the killer, strangely. I was wondering if it was the usual Islamic terrorist or someone more home grown? We are used to those kind of attacks in the UK btw and bollards have been erected in many places to stop it happening.
Lots of thoughts from the post and the commentaries. Also some insights from what I’ve read so far. But I don’t want to clog this more than it already is, so I’d rather share what strikes me as more interesting.
The binary thinking is very economical. It does not require effort. Something IS or is NOT. Easy. We make up labels. If something fits into this label, it IS, otherwise, it ISN’T. But life is more complex, so if we base our decisions on this binary thinking we are doomed to fail.
Thus as we learn more, we might try gray tones. Between the YES and the NO, there’s a continous shadow. Labels become DEGREES, and things become more complex, but also more accurate. Problem is that it takes more effort to use these googles.
As we mature, we learn that there are also COLORS in every shape of grey. Seeing in colors is really hard, you can do it only for a few seconds at first, but it gives a whole better understanding. Not only there are colors, but they are also changing in TIME. When looking properly, labels are of no use for understanding the MOVING DEPTH complexity of every person.
When you think that you have the depth to understand everything in sight, then you discover that there are also PLANES, filled with images, whose understanding is too hard to grasp, but opens up paths to intuition.
Learning better modes of view apparently does not prevent us from using the cheap binary glasses when we are not paying attention.
So here we are stuck at the binary level, the easiest form of watching reality. We’ve put a on some persons. Their opposite forces have appeared using the and since they are opposites they have formed a ‘vortex’. This vortex is moving, changing topics, now racism, then masks, then vaccines, then eugenics, then back to racism, creating alliances with other vortices in each of its phases where these topics are meaningful, thus we are seeing the forming of an ‘atom’ in real time. That might explain why people who identify with an ideology usually have the same opinion on the same topics, they are just -taking sides- and letting binary thinking take reign of this aspect of their lifes.
I was on the bringe to fall into the same trap. (Though I have the feeling that in preventing this trap I have fallen into another).
But what I really wanted to say is that just as Mr Greer took his rest time in early January, I went through the passage of the “Nights and Days of God”, learning how useful was to let efforts come into fruition before attempting a new thing, how helpful it was to rest. And then he rested.
“That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream–a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information. They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying it. And they believe the public needs to understand the system’s fragility in order to ensure that democracy in America endures.”
Like every criminal, the chattering classes just can’t help themselves in bragging about what they did. They are so proud of themselves.
John, et al.–
Re alternative hegemonic narratives
What other contending powers and narratives do you see as significant alternatives to China or Euro-China as the next (and likely final of this industrial civilization) global hegemony?
I don’t claim any particular insight into European politics, but my take on the potential “Eurasian Century” is that of Europe trading up from being the chief vassal of a dying empire (US) to being the chief vassal of its replacement (China). Not that this can’t be prudent politics. And, should it come to pass, I wonder if the Chinese leadership might be self-aware enough to be more nuanced in its hegemony than the US has been.
Regardless of who our replacement is, the key thing we in the US need to be concerned about is figuring out how we’re going to navigate a world where we’re not the top dog, nor even in the top tier. Alas, this is not even on our radar screen right now, much less a priority.
Well that’s certainly a bit of synchronicity because my second essay(s) about India is(are) a lesson on mapping out terminology, and how to use those maps to navigate a political war zone. I’m using George Orwell’s essay on English since I haven’t gotten to Vico yet.
Team10tim and JMG There is a blog called Do the Math by Tom Murphy, a physics professor at the University of California at San Diego, that discusses the heat death problem of unlimited energy among other energy-related problems and does the math to prove it. It has been inactive lately, but his previous posts are still up and available for reading.
What I found the most impressive phenomenon in 2020 was the way decades if not centuries old institutions became dysfunctional. Science (as an institution) caved in, producing lots of ridiculous stuff and policy recommendations that clearly did not work (and worse: few of those involved seemed to be bothered by this).
The emergency vaccine stuff is a complete failure of a regulatory apparatus that is an important feature of our civilization. Commercial media became dislocated from reality, having been taken over by what looks more than a little like a sect. The rule of law also ceded as clearly unconstitutional measures failed to be stopped by the judges that should have done it (not just in the US, btw). And in so many places schools have been closed for so long it’s unbelievable.
It certainly looked a little like collapse to me.
Three of the most influential books I read in my life were The Limits to Growth, Small is Beautiful, and The One-Straw Revolution. So I was happy to watch the video “Limits to Growth After 45 Years – Dennis Meadows at Ulm University”.
Dennis Meadows maintained that his predictions were still pretty much on track 45 years later, and I must agree. As to whether technology could save us, he had this to say (my transcript):
15:25 At MIT my first degree is in chemistry. I have been a professor of engineering for probably 30 years of my life. So we do understand about technology, and we put into the model many different technological assumptions. What we found was, technology doesn’t eliminate limits to growth, it shifts the burden from one limit to another. And may push back a little bit the period until things start to go down.
16:00 But of course technology itself doesn’t change the problem. Technology is a tool. It’s used by people and institutions, and you can’t understand the future unless you understand the goals of those institutions. In order to get attractive results we had to go outside of technology and look at social and even economic changes.
16:28 And we came to understand that the problems we talk about today — climate change, pollution of the oceans and so forth — they are not problems, they are symptoms. They are symptoms that the globe is starting to mount pressure to stop growth. In one way or another, population and material and energy growth have to stop on a finite planet.
Incidentally, anyone interested in calculating limits and who isn’t afraid of graphs and a bit of math might enjoy Prof Tom Murphy’s discontinued blog, “Do The Math”. Here are some of his topics:
Galactic Scale Energy—absurdity of continued physical growth
Can Economic Growth Last?—impossibility of indefinite economic growth
100 MPG on Gasoline: Could We Really?—physical limits to arbitrary fuel economy
A Nation-Sized Battery—lead acid can’t scale to solely supply our nation
“Will J, exactly. Since conditions are getting palpably worse for most people in today’s industrial societies, the past has to be redefined in more and more negative terms, in order to preserve the fantasy that we’re progressing. Talk about the realities of life in premodern times — for example, pointing out that medieval peasants on average worked fewer hours and had more days off than modern Americans — is incredibly subversive.”
Or, another one is pointing out that people could get international news before the internet, or really could do anything before the internet. Really, mentioning anything which suggests standards of living have declined, or that the past isn’t as horrific as people like to pretend it is, has become very subversive. It’s really disturbing when just remembering your own life counts as deeply subversive….
As for people losing their minds over a problem while other people scream there isn’t one, since I came up with a dozen other examples where that same dynamic has occurred last night, it does look like it’s going to be normal for however long the Myth of Progress holds on for.
Dear John Michael Greer,
Your post is most refreshing and thought-provoking. Thank you.
As for Kevin Kelly, while I cannot say that I share all enthusiasms and assumptions about technology, I give him great credit for some of his insights about technology (for example, in in his book WHAT TECHNOLOGY WANTS) and for his publishing my two low-tech posts on his blog “Cool Tools,” one of which posts, in 2014, before he updated his site, registered an historic number of comments– I do believe the most ever! I had outraged his readers!! My post was “The Grandma’s Recipe Box Solution to Internet Password Management.”
My other post for “Cool Tools,” which did not generate so much outrage, since I took a little more trouble to orient it to the readership, was “Why I Am a Mega-Fan of the Filofax.” For those not in-the-know, the Filofax is an English paper-based personal organizer.
I hereby take the liberty to mention my own post about the Cool Tools post, “Grandma’s Recipe Box Method for Internet Password Management”:
This is just one of many examples of the benefits, for certain people in certain circumstances, of moving back to paper.
Walt: recovery is about asking people to do hard painful things to their bodies and minds. Somewhere along the way, the recovery people forget that it is not about them. Then they focus on how successful *they* are in overcoming. The client is forgotten.
JMG: when your brain works differently from others, there are plenty of people who want to fix that. Monothinking anyone. I do believe it has to with the industrial culture of treating people as machines. If your brain doesn’t fit, then it gets fixed rather than tolerated. Edison had the problem of being declared retarded and was taught by his mother. He just thought differently.
I have found that my brain as it is is a threat to others since along the way, I end up challenging their assumptions about whatever.
I have a joke I play on the white privilege folks. I state my unpopular opinion. They opine white privilege. I inform them – hey I have a traumatic brain injury. They leave the building…
I get all my exercising in from doing things by hand and martial arts training; so I never gave much thought to the possibility that the way most people exercise is designed to make people miserable and not work, but it does explain a lot of things. Thank you for this.
I’m fairly sure a lot of people will see health improve dramatically once wireless signals are no longer so ubiquitous. My dad, for example, shows loads of signs to reacting to wireless signals, including the fact that all of his symptoms improve when he goes somewhere with less radiation. He still insists on having tons of new toys, and it’s a lost cause to try to convince him it’s radiation.
He’s convinced it has to be food, and has tried tons of special diets, but nothing alleviates the symptoms. I know I personally get a headache around certain new routers, and I don’t want to find out how I’ll react to 5G once it starts coming in in a big way around here.
I laugh and roll my eyes whenever someone tries to blame my generation. The thing is, many of my peers are happier with these lockdowns: a lot of us grew up with the internet, and find it easier to use than to interact in person. So it’s not even just that a lot of the elderly are out doing things, but it’s also that a lot of us don’t want to go outside, with or without Covid. Which I think is a tragedy, but it makes a lot of the claims that young people are outside and killing people a lot harder for me to take seriously.
This may be OT: – but as a long-time member of the ACLU, I give you the refreshing sight of a woke veneer over timeless issues in the Winter 2021 issue. They state up-front they’ll be talking about racial matters, and then proceed to tackle gerrymandering and demanding fair maps (while noting the difficulties in creating such maps), militarization of the police, decriminalizing sex work, evictions, the war on drugs and marijuana reform, getting out the vote, and abortion. All good causes in their own right, though I’ll only give a tepid half-a-cheer for abortion – it’s the right to it that counts.
Having presented these good causes as fighting racial discrimination should appeal to their largely “woke” readership, and still get support for measures that affect all races (if not equally; let’s be honest about this.)
Linnea’s post reminds me … I am on my workplace’s Racial Equity Action Plan Committee. I hear a lot of this jargon. This jarogn forms a tight hermeneutic circle, where the terms are defined through each other and the speakers are unable to use the words to point to anything concrete. The exception seems to be ‘white supremacy culture’ which refers to anything the speaker does not like. In a particularly amusing pdf, the “9 to 5 work day” is listed as an element of “white supremacy culture” without further explanation. In usual talk, ‘white supremacy’ refers to the belief that white people are superior to all other people. I fail to see how a 9 to 5 workday squares with the notion that white people are superior. The other term that gets thrown around a lot is ‘the work’ which just makes me think of Byron Katie.
I suspect there was no consensus between the members of the committee about what these terms mean. It feels like a group of people manipulating formal symbols without understanding them like a committee of Searle machines (google it). It reminds me of the Department of Noology in JMG’s “Weird of Hali,” especially the part where Owen is reading the Department’s material and can’t figure out what they are talking about.
This committee is incapable of doing anything. Our last session – note, not our first – was supposed to start with forming a mission statement for the committee. We could not even manage that.
Racism is as American as apple pie and stupid wars. But it’s not going to be mitigated or corrected by playing vocabulary games. Just my two cents.
Early in the 1970s, socialists defined the Professional Managerial Class (PMC) as the caretakers of advanced capitalism. To that end, they are virtue monitors. Presently, some believe that they are virtue hoarders beating everyone to death who lacks their ideals.
LInnae and the commentators who take this blog to task for not having those ideas are a good example of this virtue hoarding. The belief in progress which is a religious virtue to the PMC is under siege. Every time someone points out the futility of progress such as smart phones not getting smarter, wham.
The bonking of people on the head with white privilege is virtue hoarding at its finest. I believe that it is code for we must move forward with the PMC protecting capitalism to the death. The PMC itself is race-neutral and culture neutral but not class neutral. Witness Biden’s cabinet – all races, cultures, etc – a woke example for us all. BUT a MONO-PHILOSOPHY (no diversity of thought in the cabinet).
An example of virtue hoarding would be the mask wearing. People of a certain class can stay home and occasionally leave their quad pod. Others cannot. My son who works in a warehouse away from others is required to wear a mask at all times. Meanwhile, my brain injury is worse when I wear mask. It messes up my sensory and balance, making me prone to falls. I am required to wear one in my area, so I have to take another person along to act as a helper. Also, for those of us who wear hearing aids…. behind the ears causes those bad boys to fall off. So we have to find masks which go around the head.
The upshot is that my son and I are in a class of people that the PMC has to enforce to comply. As for mask wearing, I have found staying six or more feet away from people to be just as effective. But… now we are told despite the vaccine, to wear TWO masks. hmmmm inquiring minds want to know what gives.
I had a thought about how in the past imagining digital computers lead to our very binary, culture today. It occurred to me that it wasn’t until computers started making inroads into modern life that we became so lacking in nuance and became so polarized. The more this technology, as imagined by a distant fringe of computer geeks from the past, intruded into everyday life, smartphones, social media, voice activated assistants, the more we seemed as a culture to think of everything in terms of on/off, yes/no, 1/0 and we seemed to loose the ability to see and deal with nuance or ambiguity or to even compromise.
It seems to me that now everything has to have a yes or no answer. Everything is presented as black and white and I think many of us are really fighting an interior battle to free ourselves from this digital mindset straight jacket to avoid being run over by those forces that are totally absorbed in the digital. I guess first we have to recognize it and that seems to be happening on a case by case bases. Maybe there is a tipping point as people free their minds that as a people, we can free up our politics, economy and culture. I suppose that will happen to all in due time, but early adopters of analog may fair better.
The other day I got out some old vinyl albums to listen to and I was really struck by how rich the sound was compared to a DVD or CD. In reading this essay and comments it seemed to me that what was once so distant and imaginative has now become such an all pervasive and often toxic culture backbone.
Speaking of losing things that we take for granted, long-distance bus services in much of BC has been having trouble for at least a few years. With the pandemic, long distance bus service on Vancouver Island basically vanished for months at a time. This worries me, since it is how my mom and I visit each other (not during the pandemic, obviously). Neither of us has a car, and we try to avoid airplanes whenever possible (I haven’t been on on in 12 years and don’t want to get on one for a tiny little trip like that, it is stupidly wasteful), and of course, those are being hit hard by the pandemic, too, especially on short routes to small places. There used to be a train, but that stopped ten years ago.
Makes it very difficult to go anywhere outside your hometown if you don’t have a car. It is messing people with specialist medical appointments about something fierce. I really hope this situation doesn’t continue long-term.
>Granted, Q-anon is totally, utterly, shoe-eating nuts
I present to you, the face of the Deep State, the face of the people who really run this country. Think about that for a while.
PS Oops I meant
“As for Kevin Kelly, while I cannot say that I share all OF HIS enthusiasms and assumptions about technology…”
John and all,
A report from the trenches – “The Vibe in North Houston”: A Report on Working Class Men Betrayed and in Angst. Since I grew up on the east side of Houston just a few miles west of the petrochemical and oil refining plants, this is very vivid for me.
For those who are interested:
Ugo Bardi’s Cassandra’s Legacy has been booted off Facebook and a number of its posts censored. One of mine that implies that the Modern West is following the path of 5th century Rome plus a number of his for various blasphemies against Progress.
Wesley Stine, the interesting facror about the situation on the Korean Peninsula is the decline of the US Empire, which isn’t factored in by any of the pundits writing about Korea. South Korea’s military is still strong, but it is not known what exactly will happen there in the following decades. A possibility is a situation where both North and South Korea are aligned with China.
David by the lake, it seems to me that China might go a similar way as the German Reich of Wilhelm II., which did not end well. There is, for example, the conflict about Taiwan.
Excellent essay, Mr. Greer. Classic ‘Archdruid Report’ faire.
A couple signs of the long decline here–
A university in my province (here in Canada) will not make payroll this month, if they aren’t bailed out by the Toronto government. They’re only the first, I suspect.
The second is more encouraging —
Our local managerial classes continue their slow attempt to assimilate into the local indigenous culture. (Or what’s left of it.) I’ve got mandatory cultural/spiritual training over Zoom, for example. Even amongst the upper 20% here, the faith is getting shaky, and I really do think we’re reaching out to these stone-age traditions to substitute for the Great God Progress. (Not that anyone admits to it.) It is very strange to watch, having come from a family that assimilated the other way, into white Canadian culture, but it might prove to be a good adaptation in the years ahead to help my country muddle through.
Rita, the central goal of the current political mainstream in the US is to prevent substantive change. That’s why Obama campaigned on a bunch of empty buzzwords like “Hope” and then maintained all Dubya’s policies as soon as he got in office, and of course Biden is trying to reinstate what I’ve called the Dubyobama consensus as quickly as he can. I didn’t know that about Andrew Carnegie — you’re right, that would have made a fascinating alternate history.
Info, it’s central to the self-image of the managerial class that they’re the smartest guys in the room, the only ones who can make the world work. The mere fact that their projects fail so reliably never gets past that…
Christophe, er, none of the above — I don’t rank up there with the archetypes! I’ve just taken a break, and then resumed my previous efforts to speak a little common sense in a time of universal hogwash.
Michael, I like that. Thank you.
Wesley, whether a nation in decline re-ruralizes by people returning to the farms, or whether it re-ruralizes by immigration, varies from case to case, and even within individual cases — for example, in some parts of the post-Roman west the peasant population was largely made up of the descendants of slaves, for whom serfdom was a decided step up; in others, it was largely made up of barbarian immigrants who settled down and started tilling the soil in the usual way. I suspect we’ll get a similar mix.
Martin, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that you can’t find that article on the internet. It would be fun to chase it down in a library that keeps print copies, and see if the author is willing to undergo the embarrassment of having it posted online…
Scotlyn, that is to say, the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea.
Yorkshire, that’s a fine metaphor. Thank you.
Tolkienguy, that’s entirely plausible. Just as there was something real behind all the hoopla and crackpottery of the UFO phenomenon — not alien spacecraft, but wholly terrestrial secret aircraft like the SR-71 and the early stealth planes — I see no reason to doubt that there’s something real behind all the hoopla and crackpottery of the Q-anon business. It’s not what the disinformation claims it is, but it’s something close enough to hide behind it.
Phil K, we’re not at the end of the industrial age yet. We’ve had three global hegemons so far — the Spanish Empire, the British Empire, and the slightly more informal US hegemony — and I figure we have time for one or maybe two more before the industrial age sunsets out and we go back to regional hegemons like the Roman and Ottoman Empires.
Earthworm, interesting. I hope that kind of thinking spreads.
Mieczysław, good heavens. That’s excellent news. Where does your colleague teach? (The name of the country would be fine if you’re not comfortable giving the name of the university.)
Denis, exactly! They’ve got to find some way to define the past as unspeakably awful so that they can continue to imagine themselves as the heroic banner-bearers of progress, striding boldly forward toward a glorious future.
Jay, that’s something I’ve been expecting for some time now. Positive interest rates quantify an expectation of economic growth — if you’ve got an interest rate of 2% per year, let’s say, that assumes that on average, economic activity will generate that much growth. Negative interest rates demonstrate that contraction has arrived, since they quantify the expectation that money loaned will not be able to be paid back in full by the products of economic activity. Negative interest rates, after all, mean that you’re literally paying someone to take a loan — and that only makes sense if on average, economic activity loses money, which is of course the case during contraction. So here we go…
Void, there I think you’re mistaken. The point of fantasizing about progress and apocalypse is precisely that it gives people something to do other than throw a monkey wrench into the gears. You’re supposed to sit back and wait for progress to save you or apocalypse to annihilate you; meanwhile, life goes on.
Brian, I saw that as well. I wonder if anybody on the Democratic side of things will pay the least attention.
Viduraawakened, now’s the moment to push that sort of thinking. We’re probably just a couple of years from another serious oil price spike — more on this in an upcoming post — and getting some long-suppressed common sense out there in advance of that can potentially do a lot of good.
Bridge, remember that the GOP is just as good at vote fraud as the Democrats; that’s why vote fraud only swings very tight elections. (It was only because the presidential race in 1960 was so close, for example, that those voting machines at the bottom of Lake Michigan gave the election to JFK.) My guess is that the level of fraud in GOP-controlled states will go off the charts in 2022, now that the courts have conveniently ruled that nobody has standing to challenge a fraudulent election. The Democrats have this persistent habit of shooting themselves in the foot that way…
Abraham, good. You’ve been paying very close attention to The Cosmic Doctrine, I see.
Denis, I wonder if they realize they’ve just handed their opponents a road map for how to proceed…
David BTL, keep an eye on India.
Varun, Orwell’s a great place to start.
Honyocker, I love that blog!
Mario, to me it looks a great deal like decline.
Martin, thanks for this. Meadows is always reliably spot on.
Will J, to me, that’s not disturbing — it’s exhilarating. If the status quo is so unsure of itself that mere memories can destablilize it, that opens an immense window of opportunity. Use it!
CM, so noted! I have nothing against Kelly as a person; his treatment of Kirkpatrick Sale was pretty shoddy, but I’m sure we all have our off days.
Neptunesdolphins, trust me, as somebody with Aspergers I’m well aware of that! I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to put your brain to good use. 😉
Patricia M, no surprises there. Any good salesman knows that you have to wrap the same old product in the latest fashionable veneer in order to sell it.
Anonymous, that’s very good to hear. If most such committees are involved in that kind of, er, circular self-stimulatory exercise, the amount of harm they can cause to the rest of us is limited.
Kay, that makes a great deal of sense. Getting out the vinyl is a good move in the right direction, and plenty of other similar moves are available.
John, many thanks for this.
MonSeulDesir, good gods. I hope Ugo has found another venue for his work; we disagree about a lot of things but he’s always worth reading. I trust you’ve got another venue for your posts as well — if you need a recommendation for a good small hosting company, let me know.
Dusk Shine, thank you for both these data points!
Thank you for an excellent post. Forgive me for posing a question which may be quite obvious. I find that a well-tailored spiritual practice satisfies all longings I might feel for “progress” in life and then some. We humans seem to have a natural requirement for progressive meaning on an internal, developmental, and spiritual level and it appears that in the absence of a coherent spiritual practice some of us project our longing for progress onto the material world and then complain because it isn’t fulfilling our inner needs. Isn’t true progress in fact very accessible to us, if we know where to look?
I’d second the “time in nature” advice above. As the parent of a similar-aged child, I’d also suggest, to the extent you’re comfortable, letting them see you listening to nature as much as possible. I do not mean having them near any natural magic rituals you may do (JMG has advice on what is age-appropriate for the young in that regard), but make sure they know why you prune the fruit trees when you do, sow seeds and compost the garden how and when you do, and the like with any other home ecology activities.
When you go for walks or play in other natural areas, make your own observations out loud, not just to them, but to other adults as well, so that they see these as important things in the minds of people who are important to them.
One other thing, about when to introduce the concept that “all beings have spiritual lives;” I’d suggest that the ages of your children are exactly when the foundation of their worldview is being constructed, so now is the time. No need to get too abstract about it, as they will ask plenty of questions on their own; but telling stories about the relationships of plants, animals, water, and the world around them that involve other beings on their own journeys helps us in our family.
There’s no knowing what will stay with them as they follow their own paths, but the seeds sown early and often have a good chance. Congratulations on your adoptions, and good luck to you and your family.
@Bridge re the identity of the Portland “Mad Max” driver:
That quote from Kafka is stunning. Which of his books did it come from?
@JMG Thanks for the Micronetia link. Would I like to make life difficult for big tech using only some IT bits and bobs I’ve got lying around in my shed? Why yes, yes I would. I spent a very happy 20 minutes at lunchtime today reading round the site.
@Darkest I wasn’t thinking about magic either and unfortunately I don’t have to imagine civil wars in the UK. We’ve had what, four? in the last 1000 years depending on how you count the events of the 1640s. Interesting thought – was either side using magic at that point? It’s hard to imagine the Puritans doing it and the Crown was recently held by the notoriously ant-witch James the first. Both sides using the Tor as headquarters would be very weird, but they would have had to have formed queues so at least they could have had some fun.
I’m afraid I disagree with you about WW1 and WW2 though. Once the two sides had beaten each other more or less to a standstill at the end of WW1 with the slight edge on the Ally side provided by the US, we made a huge mistake in the Treaty of Versailles in trying to gain revenge in the form of vast reparations. Post WW1 Germany was a miserable place and as you say, various legends such as the ‘stab in the back’ were widely believed. Twenty one years later and we were at each other’s throats again.
I’m convinced the lesson was learned because not only did the Ally side not attempt much in the way of active revenge after WW2, there was even the Marshall Plan to try and improve the German economy (and the UKs). Result – twenty one years later we were playing football. I’m sure there were a few die hards clinging to the past but they must have been few in number.
Regarding waste heat limits to growth. This argument has in fact been cited by Dmitry Orlov several years ago. I thought it was HIS idea; he is an engineer, so it’s not impossible he thought of it independently.
here is the link to Brin’s Blog
Thanks for the link. I think the author is correct to say the FLCCC doctors are acting strategically in sticking to the one trumpet they want to blow. Because, naturally, they want to gather a broad coalition of allies to advance a specific goal, and therefore, it makes perfect sense for them to tightly focus all of their arguments on advancing that goal, and not let their energies be scattered fruitlessly arguing on a number of different fronts and risking the alienation many potential allies.
And, personally, I admire them, because in the midst of everything, THEY of all people are all about making sick people well, and keeping well people well, and clearly wish to stay completely away from the kind of partisan point-scoring that helps no one at all.
The author is also clear that he accepts this reasoning, BUT…
He sounds like he is WISHING for more doctrinal purity in the matter from the FLCCC… but the danger there is that if you insist too strictly upon doctrinal purity, you will start down the path where it becomes easier and easier to dispense with allies in exchange for the pleasure of being “right” (“correct”?) and eventually end up in the circular firing squad situation. (The process we have been watching the progressive movement carrying out for quite a while)
The author of the post, wisely in my opinion, does draw back from the brink of insisting, though, and narrowly avoids taking that path himself. Thankfully.
TV control doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We were nothing for years and then finally succumbed but we keep the TV on a tight leash.
Start by not hooking it up to the outside world! No cable hookup or wifi or anything else.
Our TV is hooked up to play DVDs (which I select) and games (which I selected when the kids were little). The TV is also plugged into a power strip to prevent vampire energy usage.
The result is that it’s a lot of trouble to watch TV.
If someone wants to watch a movie or play a game, they can, but it becomes a choice involving action rather than the default.
Not paying a cable bill since 1995 has saved me thousands upon thousands of dollars that was better spent on insulating the house. Getting DVDs from the library is free. If the local library doesn’t have a particular golden age movie, the interlibrary loan awaits.
Also, go the old-fashioned route: one TV per household is plenty.
Well JMG, I went to work for a couple of days to finish taking down a drilling rig and fixing the land owners roads which get torn up by the trucks moving the rig out. So I reread your essay, and the comments.
Two things –
The Club of Rome graph, IMO, always seemed off to me without energy as an additional curve; and yes, I realize productivity is a function of that. But to me, Hubberts Curve or something similar pasted alongside in that timeline would be more illustrative.
In that vein, the real boom in oil production began immediately before WWII. We can call “Peak Oil” somewhere around 2010 and be reasonably accurate (that is accurate enough – drilling down further only makes for massive controversy). While the initial oil rush was around the turn of the century, it took the IC engine to really boost it. So let’s say for conversations sake that the uphill slope of the “petroleum curve” was a hundred years back, and the actual peak was a decade ago.
Our current reality runs on oil – from electrical power to wire insulation to plastic bags to polyester fibers, etc. Most of the things we utilize today, taken for granted by 99.999% of the living, were just not around in 1920. As example – electrical wiring was insulated with cloth fiber wrapping, not plastic coating. The current crop of petroleum based ‘stuff’ isn’t going away any time soon. The things developed and built using oil products are also going to be with the next generation or three – but they will become overly expensive most likely. That will lead us, perhaps, back to fiber wrapped wiring insulation from a century back, or else some other new ideas sans petroleum.
What I visualize happening is not Mad Max, but a dialing back of using plastic to reduce cost (unless microbes can make it, but then we are onto the genetic nightmare trail, so let’s hope not). A reduction in excess traveling has already been handed to us by the non-Pandemic, but it will be really evident when ships begin using wind again, even as an adjunct to oil. There is no reason we cannot return to glass pop bottles, paper sacks and many other things that are both renewable and reusable. There is no reason ships cannot take a week longer to cross an ocean, actually. But first we will need to hit some type of ‘Crisis Wall” – because that is how things seem to work out for really big societies. It’s this seminal event that is coming, although I know not what it will be. I do know that things will become slower paced – a good thing for us all.
Item Two is the entire ‘race thing’. This has always been a shifty deal. Having been raised in Louisiana, there is prejudice abundant everywhere. Yet when I moved to Montana, the same thing was applied to anyone living on ‘the Rez’ or who was obviously of Tribal ancestry. I saw similar things in my travels, from Africa to Brazil, where the lighter skinned folks seemed to bash their darker fellows.
In Louisiana, one does not just assume race from appearances – there were, and are, far too many shades of race for one to be at all certain of ancestry. Plus, nobody controls their ancestry – it is simply what you are born into,
What got me to even post this was one of your commenters saying “I am not white”. That made me laugh out loud, because I just don’t care. It seemed to me like a HUGE virtue signal when I read it. Maybe it’s because I am white by all accurate accounts, as is my family, yet genetic testing revealed the sickle cell gene in my kids. So, it may be that I am white, yet I am not. But knowing this one tiny factoid about my ancestry disallows me to ‘cheer’ for any team other than the human one, lest I betray myself!
Tying this together – the oil age has caused the most rapid and widespread miscegenation in human history. This is VERY good for the species as a whole, and I am yet hoping that in another century people will care less about racial heritage and more about what people are bringing to the party!
Just a couple thoughts for the stew pot…
@ Mary Bennett – Our boy will spend hours roaming around the back yard, and our girls love playing in dirt or mulch. I’ve had to re-arrange our back-yard garden, and I will be sure to incorporate space for the kids to make their own. I really like the idea of runner-bean teepees! They’re a little young for it this year, but in the next year or two, they should have fun with that. That’s a good point about asparagus, which was hit hard by the re-arrangements. I plan not to harvest anything off my surviving crown this year but will instead let it grow and spread all it likes. Thanks for input!
@ Kimberly Steele – Thanks for the link!
>Negative interest rates demonstrate that contraction has arrived
I’ve yet to see anyone without political connections be able to get that negative interest rate. I agree with your general thesis about it reflecting economic contraction rather than growth, but I would add that in a normal capitalist economy, entities would be made to declare bankruptcy and the interest rate might go low but not negative.
It takes a special kind of state run economy and a special desire to avoid any pain at all to be able to keep insolvent entities afloat and push interest rates below zero.
It’s not sustainable, that’s for sure, but then again you could’ve said that about the economic state of affairs for the past 20 years or so. When does it all break? I’ve not a clue. Definitely cracks are showing up *cough* r/WSB *cough*.
I always imagined QAnon was started by a bunch of social science students in a basement to generate material for a thesis on the spread of conspiracy theories. The one podcast of theirs I listened to, which came after a failed prediction, had phrases like, “delay was necessary… the time was not right… movement is taking place at deeper levels… blah blah blah…” It was obvious there was no substance to them; they were just people pretending to be ‘in the know’ and stringing their story out indefinitely.
@ David BTL…. RE: Hegemons
With our major energy source in decline for the coming century, and barring we actually succeed in fusion or free energy (never forget TANSTAAFL) – the mantle of ‘global hegemon’ might be one that simply fades away for a time. There will be quite a lot of reshuffling internally in countries and regions to accommodate a more sedate energy consumption. Similarly, being barbarous savages we are, there might be some of those oft imagined “resource wars”.
When the downturn hit in 2008, Belize had to simply stop producing electricity for everyone 24/7. They had to go to periodic blackouts due to their inability to afford oil to power their grid. This will become something other than unusual in the next 30-50 years, maybe sooner. At this point, Russia is best positioned to navigate this. Everyone else will have to make some painful adjustments to reality on the ground. This will likely have severe effects on the internet, as it is a ginormous energy sink.
I don’t think one need worry about the US losing their blue ribbon in hegemony – this is a commonality in human history for various reasons. The title is and always has been a temp position. What it may (hopefully) afford Americans with is some time for internalizing and dealing with our own fractious factions and the massive corruption we have been living with for most of the last century.
Take away the forever wars and suddenly there must be something new to be ‘news’. You can see this mad news shuffle going on right now, as the bad orange man takes a vacation. It’s been a month, and they are STILL talking about him…LOL
As ever, the majority of us will deal with it via a shrug of shoulders because it costs a lot to be the leader in anything – and hegemon requires leading in everything.
“Irena wrote, “You’ve written about the progress vs. apocalypse (false) dichotomy repeatedly, and I’ve been trying to figure out how the COVID-induced mass hysteria fits into it.”
…… Covid hysteria is a classic example of a bewildered elite turning something as ridiculous as a bad flu year into a reassuring distraction from staring at the bouncing rubble.”
Over the course of the past month, I had another though about the COVID over-reaction, and I think it meshes neatly with the progress/apocalypse binary.
I took the time to look us death rates for past years, and the predicted death rate for 2020. (Finding actual death-rate predictions for 2020 took a little poking around; all the info seems to focus on total NUMBERS of dead, not rates. Wonder why that is?)
Apparently there is some debate about data (even CDC data), but the most reliable numbers seem to show that the death rate per 1,000 people in the US has been hovering around the 8.0.-8.6 rate in the 21st century, and hasn’t cracked 9.0 in decades. But It’s predicted to jump to a whopping 9.7 per 1,000 for 2020 (based on preliminary data).
A significant jump, from decades of 8-point-something to 9.7 – and that’s just dreadful, right?!
Well, it depends on what you compare it to.
From the 1950s through to the early 1970s, the death rate was hovering in the 9.0-9.5 range; prior to 1950 (and after the skewed numbers from the WWII years), it was 9.7 in 1949, and 9.9 in 1948. In other words, 2020’s predicted death rate of 9.7 will take us al the way back to the dark, deadly years of….the late 1940s. And when you factor in an aging population, that basically means that in 2020 people were dying at around the same rate as in the late 1940s, but since COVID deaths skew older (and the population is older), we’re now seeing late 1940’s death rate, skewed more towards older rather than younger deaths,.
Is that evidence of a real pandemic? Sure. But 1949 wasn’t exactly a terrifyingly dangerous time to be alive in the US, was it? If someone told you that “people will die at annual rates similar to 1949, only skewed older, so we have to shut down the world!!!”, would you think that reasonable?
But we cannot have a mild regression to late 1940s death rates due to a novel virus; that would show a horrible lack of Progress (TM). So we have to have OMG APOCALYPSE!
>If I was setting up a billionaire bunker I’d consider things like shower blocks, laundry, and bunkhouses outside the main perimeter.
Why stop there? Why not recruit a whole town or village to surround a – castle? And then you could call yourself Earl of Doofus or something.
@ Naylor –
TY for the link – nice blog read.
Rural decline, in turn, leads to hollowing out huge cities. Cites require foodstuffs and the denser they are, the less they can do locally. Transporting these foodstuffs from the country isn’t free either, and relies on cheap transport for the cities to grow as big as we have today. It also relies on refrigeration – which relies on electricity. It’s all part of the picture of what oil really means, IMO.
It’s been helpful for me to picture the planet as passing through a “cheap energy” belt on our way across the cosmos. Nobody on the planet has been through this type of rise/fall before. Sure, the Mayans had something similar and lots of others, but they did not rise to the heights of “progress” we have at this point in time because they did not find petroleum, the magic elixir of pure energy.
This does NOT mean we will fall into gibbering savagery – but it will mean the death of excess to a large extent in the next century.
One other thing – the rural folks have always been drawn to the cities – that is why they exist. Yet the cities rely on rural folks for their survival to an unappreciated extent. The term “simple farmer” has a derogatory connotation in modern society. Remember the term ‘sodbusters’? Yet there has always been a certain contingent of people who have a love and appreciation for rural life. I am one.
It’s interesting to me that Japan has elevated farmers to a much higher social position than they traditionally held in the last half century…hmmmm….Europe has also seen similar changes in their opinion of farming and farmers.
I think it will always bee human nature to migrate to cities and their bright lights and feel of being ‘at the center’ of it all. Yet people grow tired of it, and like me, want it slower and simpler. Not all, but many do return. And it doesn’t have to be a hardscrabble existence if you own your land. Without that simple thing, it is serfdom.
Cities and farmers – inextricably tied to one another…
I haven’t made it through all the comments yet, so apologies if this repeats what someone else has said – I see someone else beat me to the Hunger Games reference that James Howard Kunstler was the one who put his finger on it for me. I saw it and thought “This is one of the more ominous things I’ve seen, but I can’t put my finger on it…” Good ol’ Kunstler. But I didn’t think it is the role of Snow that Biden/Harris exec is filling in the mythology of the Left – I would have thought Alma Coin. I don’t think this would be their fantasy in the desire sense, but rather the script that they could sleepwalk…
(It’s not a perfect reference, as Coin and Snow are substantially more patient and cunning than Biden or Trump, but I guess that’s the senility of the decline for ya. I think if it had been Clinton again, people would have instantly seen the parallel to the execution scene more readily!)
Coin was the one promising Unity and Justice, after capturing the Big Bad Guy who was literally tied to a stake to be publically executed after his overthrow. District 13 is the technologically advanced society; their communal living, with lack of spirituality or celebration and regimented days would be closer to the way that the majority of the PMC see as “where life is going” (who can stop Progress?).
The script of the Left is that they are the freedom fighters following Katniss – Lady Gaga, the symbol of LGBTQ2+ (man it would have been better with AOC wearing the bird) – who has joined forces with Coin to get their “freedom for all”.
But Katniss knows by the end that it is Coin who fans the flames of the class war between the Districts and the Capital as cover for her own ascent to power, in much the way the Democrats are attempting to garb themselves in Social Justice. Coin uses a horrific false flag in order to turn the Good People (in the book narrative) into a bloodthirsty mob willing to slaughter the population of the Capitol, and then offers up Snow and the children of the Capitol politicians as the sacrifice to appease their bloodthirst. The people of the Capitol are like “the 1%” in the Left Narrative – the flagrantly, ridiculously over the top wealthy that they joke about guillotining, never thinking that they ARE the 1% when humanity is the basis for comparison, and not just their own developed corner of it.
End game is, the anyone who was bamboozled into swallowing their misgivings and crawling into bed with Coin because they thought it was the route to ending the Hunger Games has a good shot of being disillusioned enough to turn coat and taking down Coin instead. What with the L’s and disappointment already, the Democrats must know like Coin did that they have an uneasy union, if any substantial number of the people who said they wanted justice actually meant it. It’s also notable that Katniss goes insane for a time after she realises it was “her side” that murdered her sister and all the children, a fate probably inching closer on a fair number of well-meaning people right now. Especially if they go all the way Katniss did, and realise that this may very well have been how the original Games started, and it was simply that last time, the Districts, lead by 13, lost to the Capitol…
And that tricky Snow, who explained human nature to Katniss, is the one who dies laughing.
Erica, of course, and that’s an excellent point. We all have the capacity for spiritual development if we choose to use it — the temptation in a materialistic age is always to try to change the world to suit our egos, rather than changing ourselves.
Adwelly, delighted to hear it. (Rubs hands together in glee…)
Oilman2, granted, the LTG calculations might have been improved by treating energy as a separate variable, but treating it as part of resources seems to have worked fairly well in practice. I’m less sanguine about the downside of the petroleum age than you are, largely because our entire economic system requires economic growth to function, and the transition to prolonged economic contraction is likely to be very difficult as a result.
Owen, of course. The point of negative interest rates is to prop up businesses and industries that would otherwise fail, not to help people in general. How long can the unsustainable be sustained? That’s the biggest of the big questions of our time.
Martin, funny. Not wholly improbable, either…
El, many thanks for this. Cold hard numbers have their uses.
Pixelated, I’ll take your word for it — I haven’t read the books or seen the movies. I simply heard a lot of people making the comparison.
“Deep Throat’s Nephew” (offlist), nice try. If you scroll up a little ways you’ll find that we were just discussing disinformation campaigns.
I’m curious – is there much you would have predicted about the Long Descent when you first started writing about it that has changed since then? E.g. would you say it’s about on par with what you expected back then or has it turned out to be quite a bit more rapid, or perhaps slower? I know there’s only a sample size of 15 or so years, but I’d be interested to know what you thought the early 2020s would be like back in the mid-2000s.
For all intents and purposes you are right about recycling in the world that we live in. However, in the absurd free energy scenario it would be practical to do things that are absurd in our world.
For recycling thermosetting polymers we could heat them up to a plasma, run the plasma through a cyclotron to separate the different atoms into bins of the same type. Then use the raw elements to make new polymer chains that are not cross linked. Then use the new polymer chains to make more Bakelite. All of the mass from the old Bakelite is now in new Bakelite. The material has been completely recycled at the cost of a huge amount of energy and infrastructure. This is what I mean when I say that with enough free energy we can recycle basically anything.
It is, of course, completely impractical for the world we live in. And in the world that we live in substances like Bakelite are essential non recyclable without huge energy costs. And even with the very large energy supplies provided by fossil fuels we don’t recycle a great many things that are easy to recycle, so I expect that your thought experiment is useful for a lot of people.
Thanks for this. I’ve read Do the Math by Tom Murphy but I must have missed the waste heat entry. I was mostly interested in Tom’s energy sources.
RE: Lunar Apprentice
Thanks for this. I have Orlov’s book Reinventing Collapse, but I stopped reading his blog years ago about the time he got really into boats as the way to survive the environmental collapse. I must have it there too.
@ JMG RE: sanguinity…
I have prepped my kids for this, and have put in a farm where we can fall back to zero electricity and still function and feed ourselves. I have all the appliances (manual washing machines, lamps, oil, wood stoves, DC attic fan and PV panels and the whole deal). I have mostly done all I can do to insure my chromosomes surviving forward. At this point, I am planting fruit trees all over to have some “gimme” every fall and spring.
I am not sanguine as much as I am hopeful for my offspring. My life is likely to end well before much of this comes to pass, as I got 30 years to get close to the century mark. There is not that much left for me to do other than imagine and watch what transpires. It has taken most of my life to get things as I have described so very briefly.
I do not expect it to be easy, but the truth of life is that you either pick yourself up and move forward best you can, or you lay down and give up. The oilfield, where boom and bust is as normal as the seasons, makes this my reality. We have been in contraction for decades, and I have been part of designing new tech to push the envelope in drilling for many years. Interesting that as we become more efficient, it takes less people – yet they have to be cognizant and conversant on ever more tech. Yet that all relies on hypercomplex systems, which is problematic for other reasons.
I think there will be a lot of opportunity ahead with the downsizing and hybridizing the old ways with newer tech can be done – as long as people keep the K.I.S.S. rule in the forefront.
Didn’t a semi-famous person say, “Culture, in exactly the same sense, is downstream from imagination”?
I have always fertilized the imaginations of my children, even as they are adults today. I have done things we imagined together and helped them do the same. “…before the cultural shifts comes the whispering in the collective imagination that makes them thinkable.” We routinely speak of the unspeakable and think the unthinkable at the farm, where there are no police of any sort. These conversations give me hope that mine will navigate the maelstrom.
It’s my duty to imagine as much as I can and speak the unspeakable – especially to my family and friends. Contrary to what many believe, most of my friends feel this ‘rough beast’ out there in the near future. Better to speak of it lest imagination make it bigger and rougher than it need be.
Tambora didn’t get us – this certainly will not.
In what feels like a prior lifetime, I was once interviewing to be the assistant of a famous Japanese documentary filmmaker in Tokyo. He was the strangest, most conspiratorial person I’ve ever met in my life, and I learned that a significant portion of the job was to help him build out and stock his apocalypse bunker, what appeared to be a sprawling, 1 story complex in the middle of the woods. Apparently, his entire team was involved in such endeavors every summer and had gradually grown out the complex, and there were smaller buildings for team members around the complex.
So, in a very real sense, he’s doing exactly what you’re suggesting. Earl of Doofus would be an appropriate title.
Since I have known you to debate intelligently and fairly about health issues, and you seem to be vouching for Mr. Bear here, I will give it a try. This drug Ivermectin was not a factor in my radar and I will want to correct that fact in the near future. Thanks for that.
Two can play that game –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npCnvxeivwc (it is in Spanish, but that’s irrelevant since the point is to show off how smart I am. TLDR: Vitamin D is a cheap generic treatment endorsed by science; therefore it is false that science suppresses cheap treatments)
I will also point out that you implicitly refused to put your money where your mouth is. That’s a blessing because I am pretty sure we would have been unable to agree on an objective success criteria. But hey, it was a merry joust!
I do not claim to be in the right, or to have a monopoly of the truth. May these semi-regular exchanges serve to illustrate the fact that (common) reality is broken. We are unable to grasp all information by direct experience, and doctrines are collectively betraying us. Partisan arguments are paramount, and the time and expertise needed to sort them out is hard to come by. Suggestions on standard tools to comb and sift perplexing information will be welcome.
The waste heat limit to growth has been fairly well known in Thermodynamics circles for quite some time. When I was a freshman in engineering school in 1979 my thermodynamics prof. fielded a question from a student. Our prof. was something of a limits to growth guy and did not own a car because he considered them to be horribly inefficient. We had just finished studying the black body radiation theory and were discussing some of the problems with Nuclear fission as an energy source. The student piped up, “but as soon as we get fusion working we will have limitless energy and can grow forever.” Our professor quickly did the calculations for the current growth rate of electricity generation in the world ( as of 1979) and converted this to waste heat and then fed this in to the black body radiation equation to show that by the year 2100 the earth would become too hot to support human life. This had nothing to do with climate based global warning, just the temperature the surface of the earth would need to be to radiate all the energy created by the nuclear fusion at that future point in time. Electricity growth has declined alot since then, but the principle applies. Any energy source besides harvesting energy from the sun ( which does not create a net gain) which grows over time will absolutely hit these thermodynamic limits.
@ JMG – “… but you can’t make them understand…” But what can you do then? What is it, that makes it click for someone? I wonder how much of what we see is caused by the structure of a click-preventing society and how much is caused by the structure of the persons individuality? I assume it will be a bit of both, although I have no idea in what proportions. I couldn’t even tell for myself. I recently talked to a friend who jumped from being a hardcore atheist head first and very deep into spirituality and underwent a profound transformation in the span of less than a year. I asked him what he thought would have changed in his life if he had found all this years earlier. He answered that he would have been unable to see it. He would have ridiculed and dismissed it since he would have had no access to the underlying meaning. So the Kafka quote is almost a conundrum. It seems impermeable for somebody who has never stood before the entrance of hell. But is it even anybodies business to do anything else than to work on himself and lend some tools if somebody discovers he could possibly use them?
@ Lunar Apprentice – Kafka seems to have written this in a letter to Oskar Pollak. I first read it on the back cover of the German edition of Alice Millers “Thou shall not know” where it is very fitting. Interestingly, they omitted the “lovingly” from the original quote.
People making do with what’s on hand and making $at it: from The Week.com:
Kenyan woman recycles plastic into bricks that are stronger than concrete
Using her ingenuity and engineering skills, Nzambi Matee found a way to help the environment by converting plastic waste into building materials. In 2017, Matee opened a factory in Nairobi called Gjenge Makers, where workers take plastic waste, mix it with sand, and heat it up, with the resulting brick being five to seven times stronger than concrete. The factory accepts waste that other facilities “cannot process anymore, they cannot recycle,” Matee told Reuters. The bricks are made of plastic that was originally used for milk bottles, sandwich bags, buckets, and rope. Matee is a materials engineer, and she designed the factory’s machines after becoming sick of waiting for government officials to do something about plastic pollution. “I was tired of being on the sidelines,” she told Reuters. Every day, Gjenge Makers produces about 1,500 bricks, and since opening, the factory has recycled 20 tons of plastic waste. [Reuters]
Hi John Michael,
Nice to read your words again, and hope that you devoured plenty of excellent books during your winter recluse. It’s nice to take time out, every now and then. 🙂
Incidentally, I really enjoyed the cheeky comment attached to the Mad Max image. Ah, crazy days of dying symbols.
Progress is toast, unfortunately it is the narrative dish which is continuing to be served up to us all. I took a look and the offerings, and then went off and did something else with my time. Interestingly I’m coming to the understanding that the culture does not appear to handle this option well and some of the responses are a bit over the top.
Recently a government department decided to charge me more for providing, I dunno what services they provide but I had to deal with their auspices all the same. In order to support their increased claim on my income, they now demand that I log onto their systems and provide proof that I have an insurance policy in place. Yeah, real nice, and that’s progress for you.
I’m a music tragic, and listen to the current tunes, and have never stopped doing so. The year just gone produced a number of melancholy tunes and that seems to have pervaded the vibe. When I was a kid, the tunes were angry, not that it did much good and plenty of people who felt anger then, now seem to feel fear. Oh well.
Oh yeah, rambling. Rap. Each country has its own distinct flavour for this variant of music. BIRDZ – Bagi-la-m Bargan ft. Fred Leone. We do things different like down here! 😉
Prior to Inauguration, my own guess as to the purpose of the QAnon psyop: to gauge acceptance, among the disempowered and disaffected sector of the population (the so-called populist Right), for the end-game scenario that Q outlines—a hard coup by Christian nationalists within the military.
The Deep State would certainly find it valuable to attain a rough account of just how ready the rabble are to depose them through violence. The Biden’s Administration’s furious response to this specter of “domestic terrorism” suggests, indeed, that the those running the psyop were startled by what they learned.
I might be way off though.
but it will mean the death of excess to a large extent in the next century.
“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money.” Margaret Thatcher
I will also point out that you implicitly refused to put your money where your mouth is.
I politely ignored your wager because you neatly sidestepped answering my questions (although you did commend them). Good debate nonetheless.
You’re only now learning about Ivermectin? I think the main disconnect between us is informational. I’ve been following this since it’s first days in Wuhan. Go back and read more from Denninger plus catch up on Chris Martenson’s videos and then we’ll talk.
Ive also toyed with the idea that Q was targeted against Trump and his supporters.
Then again it might just be some rando on the internet.
Either way, it’s one hell of a data catch.
(This may show up as a repeat of a comment that I had not quite finished making when my laptop glitched and I lost it. If so, please ignore or delete the previous attempt.)
EI points out that the projected 2020 death rate of around 9.7 is abvout the same as the death rate from the late 1940s. I am old enough to remember those years.
People died at about that rate, but there was one very important difference: in the 1940s and early 1950s most patients died at home, not in hospitals (as they do today). And while they were dying at home, they were attended (by and large) by family physicians, who made a lot of house-calls every day. These family physicians also saw many less ill patients at home. They usually has small individual practices of their own, by which they supported themselves. Generally they ran their practices out of their own homes, and had a small “physician’s office” somewhere in the same building in which they lived, where they could do certain simple surgeries more conveniently than in their patients’ own homes.
(On a personal note, I nearly died from double pneumonia when I was 7 or 8; it made me delerious as well as too weak to sit up or eat. Our family physician treated me at home, in my own bed, using sulfa drugs–penicillin could not be gotten for love or money at that time and place. There was no thought of taking me to a hospital, though there actually was a fairly good one not too far away.)
Since people died mostly at home, and they expected to die at home, a high death rate did not (as a rule) threaten the smooth operation of such hospitals as existed then. Even the polio epidemic did not overwhelm those hospitals in the long run. About 15 years ago I had a long talk with an old lady in her middle 90s who had been a nurse in a hospital back in the early years of the polio epidemic. Staffing was maintained at the level of one nurse on duty for every two iron lungs, and that duty might include manually operating her two iron lungs whenever the power went out, for however many hours it stayed out. (Each iron lung had an air pump that could be operated either by a motor or manually by means of a lever.)
Nurses had to be single back then, and they had to live in dormitories attached to the hospital, supervised by a matron who had absolute control of their comings and goings. (Generally they were forbidden to leave hospital grounds at all.) Wages were so low that the hospital could easily hire as many more nurses as might be required by increases in the number of iron lungs.
When I recounted this story to a working nurse much younger than me, she replied that of course no hospital today could afford that level of nursing care, but would simply allow patients to die when the cost of keeping them alive got too high. (This seemed perfectly normal to her, hardly worth comment or critique.)
Now, of course, people usually die in hospitals, not at home. Moreover, the expense of their high-tech medical care in that hospital, before they die, is much, much greater than it was in the 1940s, when one died at home. And that makes all the difference between the impact a death rate of 9.7 would have on a society then and now.
What this all means, IMHO, is that all the harsh Pandemic restrictions we live under now are aimed far more at keeping the modern high-tech health-care industry profitable at almost any cost, no matter how many lesser business are destroyed in the process. For the policy makers, keeping the death rate down is just a convenient means to that end.
@ EI February 5, 2021 at 3:35 pm,
Your comment reminded me of something I hope I can articulate well: It strikes me that people nowadays (North Americans at any rate) just don’t appreciate how fragile life is, and always has been.
I recall conversations with my aunt and mother (they were twins) about what it was like in school in Reno, Nevada, from the early 1930s to mid 1940’s. They mentioned how on the first day of the school year, the students would catch up to find out who died over the summer. There were always several it seemed, and it seemed a normal thing for kids to talk about. But now, a kid’s death would something truly exceptional, tragic, and must be explained.
During my medical training a couple experiences stand out. In my pediatrics rotation, a dad brought his 9 year-old daughter in for mastoiditis (bacterial infection of the skull prominence behind the ear). It was an easy diagnosis for a medical student, and I presented it to the Attending with a plan for antibiotics. The Attending told Dad the plan, and Dad said “No. We’re not going to do antibiotics. She’ll heal fine on her own.” My Attending was aghast; he was used to seeing parents refusing childhood vaccinations, but a dangerous bacterial infection was another matter. He explained that mastoiditis is life-threatening and was a common cause of child mortality before antibiotics. Dad disregarded the attending’s pleadings, and left. Before closing that afternoon, Dad and Daughter returned, Dad looking chastened; evidently he did his homework, or his wife chewed rightly him out, and he meekly accepted the Rx for the antibiotics.
In Sports Medicine Clinic as a resident, I saw a 15 year girl who came in with a painful toe that made her unable to play soccer. I took her history, got to examining her toe, and kept asking questions. She mentioned in passing that she had recently collided while playing soccer, and was knocked unconscious for 5 minutes. I put her foot down, looked at her and said “What? You were knocked unconscious? Really?” “Oh yeah, this was the second, or was it third?, time”. That was the first time these concussions were ever mentioned to a doctor. I told the Attending, she took over the case, and brought Dad into the exam room. It was confirmed there were at least two concussions that caused this girl loss-of-consciousness for 5 – 10 minutes. This history makes her a set-up for complications from even mild future head trauma; she could suffer learning, attention and cognition problems, and it was essential to go the extra mile to minimize risk of more injury. But Dad and Daughter were unconcerned. The girl was being tough, competitive, a real go-getter. The notion that a traumatic head-blow causing unconsciousness is brain injury, and that such injury is cumulative, fell on deaf ears.
We’ve had all this progress, and anything that might upset the apple-cart, such as new causes of death, or returning old causes; well that just can’t be. How else can we account for our meek submission to the obviously inflated threat from an old-fashioned respiratory virus, and the lockdown? Could it be a sign of denial? There’s some connection here I can’t quite put my finger on…
John Michael wrote, “Christophe, er, none of the above — I don’t rank up there with the archetypes! I’ve just taken a break, and then resumed my previous efforts to speak a little common sense in a time of universal hogwash.”
It’s not a question of ranking with the archetypes. It’s a question of embodying or manifesting different archetypes in our lives, which every single one of us is doing every day. I know you know precisely how the archetypes work, John Michael, so what are you doing here? What am I missing?
Let me try my questions in a less imaginative way: Do you realize how exceptionally strong this first post back from your sabbatical is? It is filled with so much hope! Over your recuperative break, did you feel more like you were opening up deadened places or closing off deadening routes? Did you uncover a deeper understanding of the unseen world over that turbulent month? Did you bring any forgotten gifts or talents back up into your awareness? During your time off, did you run up against any frustrating limitations to your visions and goals? Or maybe a little of each?
Some kind of archetypes have definitely been at work in you for this post to have magically fallen off your pen!
As someone who thinks the religion of Progress is approaching our own council of Nicea moment, and that the good guys could win this time if we have our house in order, I tend to appreciate your criticisms of the faith – some have given me a lot to think about that I think are necessary questions of doctrine if it is ever to be codified. Some criticisms however I wish you would unpack a bit more, and this one is one of those instances, particularly in your reference to child mortality.
If we go by official numbers it’s certainly true that Indonesia’s child mortality rate is closer to that of the US today than it was in 1995. But that is mostly because the Indonesian rate went down more dramatically, from about 8% to the 2.5% Lorenzo cited. The US simply didn’t have as far to fall, though it still managed a reduction all the same, down from 1.1% to ..66%. Which begs the question – is that kind of reduction in infant mortality Progress in your view? And if it’s not, what do you prefer to call it?
RE: clay dennis
I know that the physics is sound, but I am surprised that I had only seen the argument cited once, by Garrett Hardin. I read The Oil Drum from start to finish and never saw it. I took two years of grad level environmental economics and never saw it. You had a good thermodynamics and statistical mechanics teacher, mine never mentioned it. I read a great deal of peak oil literature and became a self taught energy maven and only saw it once.
I read Do The Math and ClubOrlov, but apparently I missed the posts where it was mentioned. I went back and searched both and found Tom Murphy’s (2012, after I had finished reading his energy production estimates from various sources) but not Orlov’s.
I’m not arguing that it is some closely guarded secret, but I am surprised that a simple, hard science, unequivocal arguement against infinite growth exists and is not well known.
Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons has over 44,000 citations making it one of the most referenced acedemic papers of all time and yet before today I only heard the waste heat limit to growth one time, by Hardin. I would have expected to hear it many times a year whenever an infinite growth argument got trotted out, but so far the commentariat has only referenced three instances.
Mr. White, I’ve adjusted my view of the Long Descent considerably since the days when I started blogging. That was inevitable, since when I first wrote about that in 1994 I hadn’t yet read Giambattista Vico or ibn Khaldun, my grasp of economics was frankly rather shallow, and even my core theory of catabolic collapse had a lot of development ahead of it. The overall pace has been about what I expected — I’ve been saying all along that it will take one to three centuries — but some milestones have happened earlier than I expected while others have been rather later. That’s to be expected; my blogging is an exploration, not a proclamation of absolute truths.
Oilman2, fair enough. I expect a dark age, though not until long after I’m gone, and of course I have no living children, so my plans are inevitably different.
Nachtgurke, all you can do is let them walk nose first into the brick wall, as many times as necessary, until they notice that it’s there.
Patricia M, thanks for this.
Chris, governments are like that. They insist that you need their services, and then charge you for the privilege of getting services you don’t want…
Balowulf, that’s certainly one plausible possibility.
Christophe, here again, no, I just sat down to write another post trying to point out a few useful facts about where we are and where we are and aren’t headed. I’m glad you felt hopeful after reading it — but you may have been projecting your own expanding consciousness onto the post, or its author.
Cleric, no, the Council of Nicea of the religion of progress happened in the late 1970s, with the founding of CSICOP and the hardening of the orthodoxies that excluded parapsychology et al. from the academy. What you’re heading for now is the equivalent of Wounded Knee.
JMG – I haven’t read your UFO book, but I’ve read various things about it that you’ve spilled on your blogs. I think we’re very nearly in agreement, but I want to clarify that the UFO story doesn’t “hide” anything. Things that can be hidden ARE simply hidden, and not talked about at all. (For example, the VENONA Project.) But some things can’t be hidden. Experimental aircraft, for example, show up on radar, and are visually observable. Unacknowledged spacecraft leave a vivid trail of sparks when the re-enter the atmosphere. So, the UFO project provided an alternative explanation for the observations, one that could be spun out to absurd limits, and thus to discredit the observable facts, too. So, what are the inconveniently observable facts that Qanon discredits?
The picture of that sleek, fashionably space-age-styled rocket-jet in your post brought back memories of your disconfirming argument about flying cars — that the differing qualities that yield useful cars and aeroplanes are mutually incompatible. Looking at the ever-so-convincing image of that adorable, Tomorrowland model (They did a great job masking the wires!), I was struck that no one had bothered to decide whether they were designing a jetplane or a rocket. Instead, some B-movie designer, or possibly a window-dresser for amusement-park rides, just came up with an hysterical mash-up of the two. It may not be air- or space-worthy, but it looks promisingly sea-worthy, at least as far as bathtub play goes.
One of the redeeming qualities of America’s late Space Shuttle was that it acknowledged that rockets and jetplanes are different beasts with different and incompatible features. The Shuttle was an ugly jetplane strapped to a couple of disposable rockets, and neither pretended to be the other. The rockets were only for ascent, a very strong rockety trait, so they fell away when that rockety goal was achieved. Since the ugly jetplane’s jobs were to navigate in low-earth orbit and descend back through the atmosphere, it never had to pretend to be an even uglier rocket. Thank goodness, because it would have made a terrible failure of a rocket, and not just in terms of aesthetics.
The pictured rockety jet, on the other hand, is a terrible failure as anything, except as a toy. Unlike the Shuttle, the rockety jet’s designers prioritized aesthetics over everything else — no ugly jetplane for Tomorrowland! Alas, fashion is so ephemeral that those prioritized aesthetics now conjure up nothing but an ugly jetplane. If I picture the exhaust tube as a glass-covered cockpit, I’d swear that hummingbird is meant to fly backwards.
My mom, born in 1929, had pneumonia at the age of 4 and it took her 4 MONTHS to recover completely. When she was too sick to walk, my uncle was a good brother and rode her back and forth to the bathroom with her standing on the back step of his tricycle. 😋
To expand upon Balowulf’s ideas about Q Anon, there are a couple of interesting coincidences:
1) The Soviet Union engaged in a program called “Operation Trust” where a narrative about a fake Monarchist insurrection was spread to see who bought into it and went along with it. One of the main Q Anon catchphrases is “Trust the plan”
2) Many Western militaries deploy Q-units as traps – for example, dressing a destroyer up as a merchant ship to kill submarines.
I notice a trend in JH.Kunstler’s blog which is starting here too.
1. Unknown long time reader comes in. Mentions how the blog host used to be a hero. Lists all his books she has bought. Now she is so ashamed and hopes the host changes his ways.
2. Anecdote about the covid19-25. Great unmentionable horror both for the infected and the poor “health” workers.
Maybe it is better not to respond to them?
(for your info you, my in-law has a clinic accredited with the govt for covid checking)
Please define the “science” in ” Vitamin D is a cheap generic treatment endorsed by science.” Where I live, vitamin D is not recognized as a treatment for anything but rickets, and the only folks I know that have anything like rickets are being told they have osteoporosis and given drugs with questionable efficacy. I distinguish between the body of evidence upon which individuals may base their own conclusions and actions and “science,” which I define as a set of beliefs presented in terms as arcane as Latin that work to the advantage of the powerful elite and which absolutely no one may question, regardless of the evidence at hand.
Why are people panicking over “a few excess deaths from COVID?”
Here’s a thought: one thing that’s been happening over the past 5 to 10 years is an increase in the mortality of various groups, mainly lower class men of various races. It started with white men in around 2010, it has spread out to men of various other races over the years and even started affecting lower class white women.
My guess is that people have started noticing SOMETHING, but various beliefs (progress, 3rd wave feminism, identity intersectionalism) blocks awareness of what’s happening. COVID (whether you believe it as real, overblown or a faked reality) allows the unwanted awareness of something wrong to be displaced onto something that can be acted on (through masks and hunkering down in isolation). Doesn’t do anything for what’s going on (the heightened lower class male mortality) but it allows for action.
(So you know, I consider it real. Three clients plus a driver at work dying from the disease plus a couple friends long-hauling from it leave me little wiggle room for denial of any sort.)
Lunar Apprentice wrote:
“I recall conversations with my aunt and mother (they were twins) about what it was like in school in Reno, Nevada, from the early 1930s to mid 1940’s. They mentioned how on the first day of the school year, the students would catch up to find out who died over the summer. There were always several it seemed, and it seemed a normal thing for kids to talk about.”
An older colleague of mine, who grew up on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, once told me exactly the same thing about the first day of school when she was a child: on the first day of school, you caught up on how many of your schoolmates had died over the summer, and which ones. Of course, they didn’t have such things as “trauma counsellors” in the schools in her day, nor in mine. And we kids hardly needed them.
Schoolmates dying was a normal part of life every year, not something rare and unusual.
@Varun, I thought the same thing about Q’Anon since last summer, that Trump and extremists were not their champion, but their target. Not from the beginning, but opportunity sometimes comes knocking. Blow the balloon enough and it will finally pop.
He teaches at Warsaw University, Poland.
Speaking of recycling, I have to share this with everyone here. One of the major international high tech corporations (that I may not reveal the name of or how I heard this) held a Zoom confabulation late last year to discuss dreams for the mid-term future of glorious technology, a sort of competition among several teams of their brightest and best. The runner up idea was rejuvenation machines, aaaand the grand winner was…(ready?) commuting to work in flying cars!!!
CR Patiño – Lol! if I am vouching for anything it is this:
1) making sick people well, and keeping well people well. (which I think characterises the aims of the doctors who have formed the FLCCC very well, as granted in the Bear’s post.)
2) stepping back from the temptations to seek doctrinal purity. It strikes me that this is a time when people from every part of the “argument” is turning both masks and vaccines into issues of doctrinal purity, (or maybe outward symbols of it) which they buttress (both ways) with appeals to science, but which are motivated (both ways) with a desire to control the behaviour of others.
I do not think science can answer questions of policy, which, in their choosing, demand consideration of values and interests and purposes as much, or more, than they demand evidence.
Therefore, when it comes to personal policies, such as mask-wearing, or vaccinations, or even showers (nice example!) and other such health matters – diet, supplements, exercise, sunshine, work habits, smoking, drinking, etc, etc. I am a strict pro-choicer. None of us will get off this planet alive, and (in my view) none of us owes it to anyone else to live this or that lifestyle. We do owe it to ourselves to navigate the risks of life in ways that seem coherent with who we personally are, and what we personally value, choosing which risks to face. I have an extreme antipathy for mandates, but I do not have any issue at all with what anyone individually chooses to do, once it seems good and sensible to THEM. I myself am using masks in my clinical and professional life, and will undoubtedly refuse any offers to become vaccinated. And these decisions on my part are no one else’s business!
However, I do also think that, as a member of a polity that spends money on my behalf, and makes public health choices on my behalf, that there are larger, public questions of great interest in which I want to have a say.
Such as – should this polity spend more money on a policy of waiting to vaccinate everyone when a vaccine becomes available, or seek cheaper and quicker alternatives from among what we already have and already know a great deal about (the FLCCC approach). Imagine, if you will, that by now, EVERY health professional at high risk, and EVERY nursing home resident or person with co-morbidities who is highly vulnerable, had been given the FLCCC prophyllaxis as a matter of course. How would our health systems and funding for health be set right now? These are public policies that affect many people and also either allow for, or impede, our continuing to have a viable health system into the future. Right now, what I see is every government, rushing to place ALL of its healthcare funds into one single bet, that one of the several competing corporate pharmaceutical products is going to “solve” health.
This does not seem to me to be a good bet, and if we lose it, we will be in so much poorer shape to face the next health problem, and the next one, and the next one.
Christophe, funny you should mention the individual psychology aspect. I’ve suspected for years I had some kind of sub-clinical version of complex post traumatic stress disorder, developmental trauma, or whatever you want to call it. Sub-clinical as in I recognise the symptoms but don’t think it was the full thing. I looked at treatments and it was bad. Compared to the state of the art stuff being done in the management consulting and human factors world, it was just embarrassing. Then it was almost like I heard a voice saying alright smart guy, how would you fix it? I thought this isn’t something that can be reformed, it’s more like this thought structure is an oppressive regieme that needs to be overthrown. So what would a revolution against it look like?
As soon as I thought that, my mind log-jammed. I couldn’t think about it and found myself thinking about anything else or even falling asleep to avoid it. This went on for a few days and I thought that was an ignominius failure. Then a few days later I realised that although my thought processes couldn’t be described as normal, most of the pathological stuff was gone. Clearly I primed my subconscious and it did…something. 🙂
Adwelly, at least according to Adam Tooze in Deluge, the Treaty of Versailles was reasonable for the time and some of the German negotiators thouht they’d got off lightly. Compared to what they did to Russia at Brest Litovsk, and that one of the alternate strategies the Allies considered was actually called ‘Hang the Kaiser’, they may have been right. 🙂 After WW2, Tom Bowyer’s book Blind Eye to Murder details how Nazi war criminals were allowed to go free. And not just scientists who could help with the space program. Brutal murderers were allowed to take up positions in government and the police.
If we assume culture and imagination is upstream of politics, what would allowing that do to a country? They may have democracy and shiny fast trains, but what’s going on beneath the surface?
I want to build on what Robert Mathiesen posted about death rates, people getting treated and cared for at home in the 1940-50’s, and our current predicament. PA has digitized and made public the state death certificates up to 1970 and can confirm what he says in my research through them. Of course it depended on community and people in cities were much more likely to take people to a hospital than rural areas. The hospitals were smaller then and run by various religious groups, and divided by race and class, so if you were poor more likely to die at home and the rich got the best care.
The 1940-50’s were also the peak of mental institutionalization in this country. State hospitals were full of people with mental illness and physical disabilities and those places would have their own hospitals to care for their residents.
23&Me recently announced a covid risk assessment tool. https://you.23andme.com/covid19/ It’s answer a few simple questions and you’ll find out how likely you are to wind up in the hospital with covid. For myself, I didn’t have any of the three conditions listed and it was 6%.
My county has a population of 400,000 and about 100 ICU beds. I’m at the average age for the county, but 6% of 400K is 24,000 people needing hospitalization. It blows way past capacity. And as everyone here knows people are in for weeks with Covid, not days.
So people whose brain is stuck in modern thinking and progress see this and can only imagine turning people away from hospitals and stacking bodies. We could have been setting up more places for varying levels of care over the past year and moved on as a society. But I guess it wasn’t progressive enough.
“Chris, governments are like that. They insist that you need their services, and then charge you for the privilege of getting services you don’t want…”
Governments is practically organized violence. Organized crime like Drug Cartels are more miniature versions of Governments fighting for the obedience of Farmers who cannot run away or be disobedient under the threat of being put in jail or killed.
They also require legitimacy and enough consent on enough people to function. And they often react against rebellion with massive killing as history shows.
And even more recently in Waco against branch Davidians with everyone in the compound being burned to death.
That seems fair. You’re right, a lot of things which would be absurd in our world would be viable in a scenario where we have unlimited free energy, including recycling, as you have explained. I really liked the waste heat point, that is THE definitive argument to support the answer ‘no’ to the question ‘Can we have infinite growth if we get a source of unlimited free energy’?
I’d say though, that there are a few fields of STEM where Progress would still be somewhat useful, even at this stage, like ecology, entomology, botany, etc., though even these will, at some point in the future, pass the point of diminishing returns. I strongly feel that if a government that is serious about actually serving people wants to decide which fields of STEM get research funding, diverting research funds from theoretical physics and computer science and channelling those funds into organic agriculture and the other fields of sciences which are useful and have not yet reached the point of diminishing returns would be a good bet (I guess putting funds into branches of mathematics that link pure mathematics to applied mathematics would also be useful). After all, computers are a temporary contribution of Faustian civilization, whereas organic agriculture is a vitally important contribution that, if preserved through the Dark Age to come, can actually be a lasting contribution of Faustian civilization.
I normally post under my real name, but I’ll post this one anonymously, in order to protect the person I’m about to talk about. (As I say below, the person is Russian, and I don’t know all that many Russians. Ergo, people who personally know me would have a pretty decent chance of guessing who I’m talking about. Or, worse, they might guess incorrectly, with unpleasant consequences for people who had nothing to do with this.)
First, a general comment. As the post-WWII world unravels (obviously, in some parts of the world, it’s already unraveled to quite a significant extent), we can expect to see the rise of all sorts of extreme ideologies. The SJW ideology would be one of those, but it’s hardly the most dangerous one (consider, for instance, the rise of bona fide neo-Nazism in a number of European countries). Now, my question is: how do you talk to people who are, with various degree of seriousness, flirting with such ideologies? Is there anything productive one could say to them?
The incident (if I may call it that) that prompted this reflection happened a few days ago when an otherwise sane and intelligent Russian, whom I’ve known for a number of years, nonchalantly told me that at the end of WWII, the Soviet Union should have razed Germany to the ground and killed 30 million Germans (“they killed our children, so we should have killed theirs”), partly to match the number of Soviets killed during the war, and partly to ensure that no-one would dare attack them (Soviets/Russians) again. (I realize that 30 million is probably a somewhat inflated figure, but not by all that much, and in any case, that’s beside the point.) I pointed out that this would have been genocide, but that produced no reaction. (Meanwhile, several days later, I still have a headache.)
A good article on the political-economy of the current decline, which also argues how “industrial” the current system really is:
P.S. When I share an article here, that does not mean that I agree with every single view of its author(s).
JMG, Wesley, Scotlyn, and Oliman,
Thank you for your thoughts and stories about rural areas. At an individual level, I absolutely understand why people would make decisions to leave (or not leave). But at a landscape level and national level, I find the pattern sad in a way that’s hard to explain. It’s like I’m nostalgic for a place I never lived in.
Thanks for the suggestion of Wendell Berry. He wrote “The Unsettling of America,” right? I read some of his work year ago but I think I should re-read it with fresh eyes. Joel Salatin also has a lot of interesting ideas about farms and what affects them.
@ clay dennis and team10tim, that thermodynamic calculation is a bit more complex because with unlimited energy, pumping and concentrating waste heat to a radiating layer such as the tops of buildings, domes, or in the extreme case a shell around the planet, becomes possible in principle. Of course it still reaches a limit eventually. (We don’t see small extrasolar planets that glow orange or hotter, so that’s probably not a common sustained practice… which just confirms that there isn’t unlimited energy available in the first place.)
@Robert Mathiesen, Lunar Apprentice (#331,332).
I made the mistake of making a similar comparison to colleagues – other politicians – a few weeks ago. That the collapse of the healthcare system, if it comes, will have been entirely by choice; when faced with a predicted epidemic (its in our legislated emergency plans after all, and our jurisdiction war gamed one just two years ago!), we knew we had to treat it otherwise, especially since we knew lack of staff or the ability to get it for love or money, inadequate hospital beds and high tech equipment were already so severe they had become political – in fact election! – issues all the way down to the local level. It has been widely reported that residents, and families of care home residents, would have preferred they be allowed to die in company than rot in solitary confinement – actually considered torture by the UN.
My colleagues opined that no matter what, anyone infected would have died alone, no one would be allowed to attend them to prevent transmission, so there was no alternative. That cessation of all transmission stopped being a problem if ‘treat at home unless hospital treatment required to prevent death in a patient who had at least say, a 50% chance of lasting another 5 years after treatment’ scenario were enacted did not enter anyone’s minds. To be infected by this at all is to fail at something we had control and therefore absolute moral imperative to stop.
It is a glorious transactional game of “now I’ve got you, you son of a b*****!” which can then become “look what you’ve made me do!” with great flair.
Re safety: my husband’s cousin sent us a Christmas card which included the hope that “by next year everyone will be vaccinated and the world will be a safe place again.”
I read that, on a day when a woman screamed at me for leaving my nearly five year old in the locked car so I could run across the street to get her brother from school. I was gone less than five minutes, it’s February in the PNW, so warm, it’s a small town so every third group of families walking by knew her at least by sight as to who she belongs to, and the car was at the end of a dead end street. The woman was convinced that men in vans drive around with slim jims and seat belt cutters waiting for just such an occurrence. Earlier this year, several mothers in my son’s class stopped talking to me (will indeed, cross the street to avoid it) because I let him walk home alone once a month when I have a meeting at pick up time. He is seven, the speed limit in the road adjacent to the entire no-turns-required route is 30 km/h, there are six friend’s homes on the route, and usually two or three other families he can walk with. If not, there are elderly dog walkers every block. The first time, three parents from class stopped to ask if he needed a ride, which he turned down. He liked the freedom, but also thought it was accepting a ride he shouldn’t because I didn’t know about it, thus demonstrating his own good instincts. The mothers used the fact that they and so many other people who knew him offered rides as the evidence it was unsafe. I said it was clearly just the opposite! Apparently their children them all begged to be allowed to walk with him and we’ve been branded dangerous influences.
To be fair, my freshman thermodynamics professor was no ordinary engineering teacher. He also taught the “ introduction to engineering” class which every student had to take. The required reading included, “small is beautiful” and “limits to growth.” He also taught us the idea that concentrated energy sources such as oil or nuclear create a concentrated economy and society, while diffuse energy sources such as wind and solar are only really useful in an economy and society that is equally diffuse. He believed that harvesting energy to be used directly ( by your household) was never easy and would mostly be done by “funky people.” May we all aspire to be “funky people.”
Your Russian friend is by no means a solitary outlier. I have known a number oif Russians who would agree with him. More broadly, our Western notion of fighting fairly and patching things up over companionable drinks afterwards … simply makes no sense at all to many Russians.
If you’re going to fight, they would say, you fight to the death, and then you salt your opponent’s earth so it will lie fallow forever. Only silly, coddled modern Westerners would think of showing mercy and exhibiting restraint in battle. Western values are for schmucks. Those values, they think, are why the West will perish and be lost to history, while Russia will last forever. All this goes back much further than the years of Soviet Union, further back even than the 1800s.
John, et alia–
Re the senility of the elites
“We can too have it both ways! Globalism for the Middle Class!”
Rather than accepting reality, we’re going to (once more) squander precious time and energy trying to hold onto what we think we need.
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
@Scotlyn: Yes, that middle road of creative imagination that is filtered to keep coming back to reality is what is needed. There is of course the “don’t think about anything new” crowd, but it is pretty small and widely avoided in our era. Our problems are often connected with some orthodoxy or other that declares that no one should imagine futures outside their usually unrealistically rosy but sometimes unrealistically gloomy set of allowed ideas. My insight is that this is a natural outcome of the false idea we promote to kids that their imagination should run unbounded. As they grow up, they realize that isn’t true, but they hold on to the rosy future they imagined before they learned how the universe actually works, or they dump it all and become doomers. You don’t have to teach them to be cynics to help them realize that what they imagine always needs ways to interact with reality if it is to serve them well in life.
@Robert, profitability of health care isn’t really a consideration in Europe, although the policy is similar.
@CR et all, regarding Ivermectin, my understanding is that there is currently no good evidence that it is effective – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivermectin#COVID-19 for example. It is one of the drugs touted by Jair Bolsonaro, so it has acquired a certain amount of traction on the political Right. One example of a cheap, generic drug which *has* been proven to be effective is Dexamethasone, which is now in routine use. Research in the UK has also quite recently turned up a couple of existing arthritis drugs with proven benefits. The Recovery Trial is currently investigating Aspirin, among other drugs. There haven’t, I believe, been any double blind trials on Vitamin D, however, it is recommended anyway in the UK as a supplement, especially for elderly people, and those with darker skin, and the Govt is having another look at it at the moment.
@patriciaormsby #347, Wow! I’d consider those concepts disappointingly unimaginative and childish (though, at least, understandable) had they come out of a third grade classroom. That’s where I’d expect one century-old futurism cliché, and one vague wish with the word “machine” stuck on the end, to be the top ideas. (How about a money machine? Or a Mommy-and-Daddy-get-back-together machine?) An international technology corporation, you say? Hmm… maybe the personnel who actually know technology were too busy working on technology (and/or were too low in the org chart for their ideas to be taken into consideration anyhow) weren’t invited to the Zoom session.
Lathechuck, I haven’t followed the Qanon business closely enough to have a sense of what might be concealed behind it. I simply noticed that the methods being use to deploy it were identical to the ones that the USAF Office of Special Investigations used over and over again to foist various modes of nonsense onto the UFO scene — if you know UFO literature at all well, compare Qanon to the Paul Bennewitz affair or the MJ-12 hoax and it’s kind of hard to miss a familiar set of sticky fingerprints.
Christophe, the funny thing about that spaceplane is that it was produced under the supervision of Arthur C. Clarke, who was relying on state-of-the-art NASA projections. If you watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, that’s the craft Dr. Floyd takes from Earth to Space Station 5, whence he catches a different kind of spacecraft, spherical in shape, to reach Clavius Base on the Moon. That was the standard assumption in those days — spaceplanes from Earth to low Earth orbit, non-aerodynamic craft once you’re in orbit.
Chola, Linnea wasn’t an unknown — she’s posted here before, though not often — and she had the grace to make her diatribe polite enough that it didn’t violate this blog’s rules. I put it through on the off chance that other people would find it interesting. As for me, I’m not the kind of person who is influenced by loud whining of that sort — and of course neither is Jim Kunstler! — so I wasn’t especially concerned.
Godozo, that makes a great deal of sense. I also consider it real; I simply notice that the Asian Flu of 1957 had a comparable death toll to the current virus at a time when the world’s population was a quarter of what it is now, and somehow we got through that without massive hysteria and a severe erosion of civil liberties.
Mieczysław, that bodes extremely well for Poland’s future. I hope the same kind of sensible thinking will catch on elsewhere in the less hubristic parts of Europe.
Patricia O, of course it was. Even our imaginary futures have stopped progressing!
Denis, thanks for this. I’m planning a future post on home health care in an age of decline, and this is worth knowing.
Info, of course. Government by consent of the governed is a historical anomaly, and it normally turns in fairly short order into government of, by, and for a privileged caste — as our current situation demonstrates.
Viduraawakened, of course — but governments don’t think that way. (Their main task is to prop up the wealth and power of the privileged class that runs them.) Thus figuring out some way to engage individuals outside government and the mainstream academy in such practices is a crucial need just now.
Someone, I’m not sure there’s much you can do. I’ll have some comments relevant to this next month.
Minervaphilos, thanks for this.
David BTL, by “the middle class,” of course, they mean the upper 20%, the overseer class who must be placated by the elites so the latter can maintain their position. It’s an ordinary behavior pattern on the part of failing elite groups.
“So people whose brain is stuck in modern thinking and progress see this and can only imagine turning people away from hospitals and stacking bodies. We could have been setting up more places for varying levels of care over the past year and moved on as a society. But I guess it wasn’t progressive enough.”
In stating that 2020 death rates are looking to be on par with circa 1949, I was in no way suggesting that we should have simply ignored this fairly serious and contagious virus. Certainly there were steps that could have been taken to protect the vulnerable – like special “places for varying levels of care” for covid patients rather than letting them infect others in hospital and nursing home settings, and perhaps some government support to help the vulnerable voluntarily self-isolate – that didn’t have to destroy the economy and people’s livelihoods and isolate young people and generate huge jumps in suicide, not to mention leaving non-covid medical problems untreated, leading to deaths of people who might have had more years of life ahead than a typical covid death.
But doing so would have required the unthinkable, namely, to admit that death rates can’t trend downward indefinitely, and that new viruses do emerge, and that some people will sadly die, but that you have to face the fact that the world is not a perfectly “safe place”, and do a cost-benefit analysis of how you decide to address the situation. Had we been facing a disease that could have resulted in medieval plague-year death rates, then of course the cost-benefit analysis would very different than covid. But with covid we are looking at US circa-1949 death rates – which, if you think about it in a larger time frame, is a level of relative health and relatively low disease rates that would have looked darn good to people at many, if not most, points in history. But we lost our collective minds, because the thought of going backwards (gasp!) to the still-pretty-good relative death rates of the late 1940s (and skewed older and sicker!) was unthinkable.
In another vein, it occurs to me that we used to have a very good system of low-tech recycling that greatly reduced waste and worked quite well: namely, the re-use of containers. Milk bottles used to be returned to be cleaned and re-used, and in years past people used to bring their own containers to be filled with products at stores, or re-use a container purchased from the store once and brought back for refills. I imagine that sort of “recycling” might help reduce waste, with minimal energy expended – but nobody does anything that old-fashioned and “unsanitary” any more. And of course, all the manufacturers of disposable packaging would lose business, and object mightily.
John Michael wrote, “Christophe, here again, no, I just sat down to write another post trying to point out a few useful facts about where we are and where we are and aren’t headed. I’m glad you felt hopeful after reading it — but you may have been projecting your own expanding consciousness onto the post, or its author.”
I don’t know, John Michael, I think we may just have to agree to disagree on this one. I still regard this post as a perfectly timed intervention. Part of that assessment is the amazing comment thread it has inspired. You surely notice how many of us quoted your second paragraph in our comments. You plainly touched on a mythic truth that many have been struggling to bring into clearer focus during the tumultuous events of the past few months. Your writing provided that focus. That truth chose you as its medium — that being an archetypal role it has cast you in. If you would prefer to call that “trying to point out a few useful facts,” alright, though there is more power in using true names.
I’ve been feeling surprisingly hopeful over the past year, and I wrote to you about readers looking for a firmer sense of hope back in December, when battles began breaking out in the comment threads. What I felt after reading your post this week was that its comment thread had turned hopeful in a new way. Either everyone was saving up jewels of hope and insight for the relaunch of your weekly posts (not impossible,) or your writing this week actually did inspire people in a new way. What has you so certain that this week’s post is just business as usual?
Events of the past month, year, decade are unleashing a flood of imagination that has been bottled up for far too long. Hence, the extraordinary timing of your intervention. My sense is that the archetypes within you are moving with a clarity of purpose that perhaps only they fully comprehend, but we can still witness the traces of their intention by listening to the impact your writing is having on readers through their comments. Thus far, this has been a magically inspired comment thread. If that’s projection, works by me — projecting wisdom onto everyone around sounds like a pretty pleasant way to muddle through life.
The question of the Biden foreign policy is a fascinating one.
Alarm bells went off after I read this article on Antony Blinken, Biden’s foreign policy right-hand man.
“In the piece, Blinken and Kagan argue that the Iraq War was not fundamentally misguided, pointing instead to the mistaken conclusions that were drawn from it, particularly when it comes to Syria. “Without bringing appropriate power to bear, no peace could be negotiated, much less imposed. Today, we see the consequences, in hundreds of thousands of civilians dead, in millions of refugees who have destabilized Europe and in the growing influence of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.”
“The new secretary of state was apparently incredibly frustrated by the fact that the EU completed a trade deal with China just before Biden’s inauguration. Biden’s people felt it was a “disgrace” that Europe had thus thwarted the attempt to find a common line on Beijing.”
What has changed is the world has moved on since 2016.
Europeans in general are highly unlikely to join America in any future interventionist war anywhere, and that includes the UK, traditionally the more reliable ally in these things.
As for China, I doubt anybody in Europe wishes to join a war against China.
The Biden team also seem quite desperate, for some reason, to get back in with Iran. The issue is that this upsets the Israeli and Gulf states who are now making peace deals across the region.
So, even if Biden and his foreign policy team want to go in kinetic, I’m struggling to think who would join them.
Who were the good guys at Nicaea? There were Patripassianists, Adoptists, followers of Marcion, of Origen and many others, but how are any of them better than the followers of the doctrine that won? Maybe more relevant to your metaphor, do you think the good position would have been to refuse the alliance that Constantine offered? I wholly agree, but unfortunately, I don’t know of any religious, political or social group at any time that refused participation in the government when offered…
Curious what JMG and the commentariat think of relocating to an area of more similar values? I live in a county that is split 40/40/20 between the major parties and independents. I like to think its fairly middle of the road but there were BLM protests of 200-400 here this summer for many weeks. Some of my neighbors who were (are?) Biden supporters got haughty about the Trump signs and made it known they are noting the non-believers.
I like where we live but I’m not sure if it would be better to live somewhere not split down the middle.
Is it worth running for local municipal office in 2021? Or stay outside of politics?
The Versailles Treaty was probably the worst outcome possible. If the Allies had insisted on unconditional surrender as in WWII, they would have prevented the “stab-in-the-back myth” (Dolchstosslegende) and could have removed the anti-democratic elements from the judicial system and the military. If they had offered a favorable peace towards the democratic government installed in October 1918, they might strengthened the new democracy. As it was, the democratic government had to shoulder the full responsibility for a relatively hard peace.
As to post-WWII integration of former Nazis into the German government, judiciary and armed forces, you are right. 1968 in Western Germany was fueled to a considerable degree by the revolt the young generation felt towards their Nazi parents and Nazi members of government such as Chancellor Kiesinger. I do think 1968 changed a lot of things, and in 1969 a former resistance fighter came to power.
@Patricia Ormsby – the lack of imagination there is breathtaking! OD-ing on 1930s Flash Gordon comix, were they?
@ Robert Mathiesen
Thanks for the story. I think it points to a very important cultural change in the post WW2 era which is that the average person simply doesn’t have as much lived experience of death. If people were dying in homes, that meant family members were watching them dying, perhaps over an extended period of time, and then seeing them dead. It would have been a normal thing to experience that and to have to deal with the associated thoughts about mortality both individually and as a a family. Now, we tuck the dying away in nursing homes and their final days and hours are spent in hospital. This gives a very different experience of death and one that, I think, has left many people unable to grieve properly.
Is anyone watching the Superb Owl this year? I used to watch the commercials and then switch to the Puppy Bowl during actual play. Then Sonkitten got attached to the Puppy Bowl and gets annoyed if I change the channel, so it’s a good thing the best commercials end up on the Internet.
Pygmycory, my bad. I should know better, since I am myself often annoyed by obscure acronyms.
PMC: Professional Management Class
Evri, we have also had some very delayed mail, including bills and payments. Hopefully the situation with the post office is temporary. We keep getting told “pay online”.
patriciaormsby & CR Patino – We need to be careful to distinguish between the science as published by scientists for scientists (or at least, for peer review), and science as reported by journalists for the public, and science as embedded in public policy. Regarding Vitamin D, which I have been following for many years, it’s easy to find solid science for scientists regarding the association of vitamin D and respiratory illness, and journalists proposing vitamins of all kinds for all kinds of maladies. However, when I tried to search the US government Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for anything on Vitamin D and COVID (or other respiratory illness), I came up empty handed.
The National Institutes of Health say this: ” Recommendation: There are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. … In a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials, vitamin D supplementation was shown to protect against acute respiratory tract infection.6 However, in two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, administering high doses of vitamin D to critically ill patients with vitamin D deficiency (but not COVID-19) did not reduce the length of the hospital stay or the mortality rate when compared to placebo.”
Let’s look at those double-blind studies: “Eligible patients received a single enteral dose of 540,000 IU of vitamin D3 or matched placebo.” At this point, I want to use language unsuitable for this blog. “540,000 IU“?!? I take 2,000 daily, so this is 270 times what my doctor recommended. Imagine if this were, say, water. “We got some critically ill patients suffering from dehydration, and we pumped 270 liters of water into their stomachs. They didn’t get better. Thus, water doesn’t help.” (The other double-blind study used the same 540,000 IU intake dose, followed by 90,000 IU/month. Their results (edited for clarity): Hospital mortality was significantly lower with 28 deaths among 98 patients for vitamin D3 compared with 47 deaths among 102 patients for placebo, but not 6-month mortality (34.7% for vitamin D3 vs 50.0% for placebo).”
Thanks to the Internet, we can all find and learn to read these scientific articles, consider the experiment design, and weigh the outcomes for relevance to our own lives. The NIH web site makes it very easy to follow the references from one paper to another. Still, we need to THINK about what we read. When research says “To date, the protective properties of vitamin D supplementation have indeed been supported by numerous observational studies, and by meta-analysis of clinical trials for the prevention of viral acute respiratory infection . In fact, insufficient vitamin D status has been suggested as a potential risk factor for non-communicable  and acute respiratory tract diseases [18,19], including viral infection .” It’s hard to understand why this is not part of the public-health message.
JMG: “Someone, I’m not sure there’s much you can do. I’ll have some comments relevant to this next month.”
Yeah, I was worried you might say there wasn’t much I could do. But I do look forward to reading your comments next month!
Thanks for your comments, too. Well, I guess I was naïve, but I really was profoundly shocked. I understand prosecuting the leadership, etc. But the idea that one should kill children to retaliate for – whatever – was rather bewildering.
I suspect one reason the limits of a finite planet get ignored is that people assume that if we have limitless energy we’ll go off to other planets and spread out our impact.
Since limitless free energy is a mirage anyway, I tend to ignore the thermodynamic limits of a finite planet.
Industrial civilization doesn’t have to worry about thermodynamic limits of a finite planet because we’re going to get stopped cold by limited energy, resources, food production capacity, changes to ecological systems we depend on etc, etc, long before we have to worry about that thermodynamic limit.
rabtter & Lady Cutekitten – Re: dehydration due to illness, my dear, clever, cancer-survivor wife urged my to pass on this tip: start the day with a big pitcher (or jug) of water, and watch the level go down as the patient drinks through the day. You can calibrate the container, if you like, but it’s much easier to track water intake when it’s not just an occasional sip from a cup from the tap.
JMG and others have mentioned over the course of this blog how the media is incredibly unwilling to discuss class – frequently trying to shoehorn these discussions into the framework of “race”.
Over the past few weeks they have taken this to the next level of mental gymnastics:
Opinion: To understand Trump’s support, we must think in terms of multiracial Whiteness:
White Supremacy Is Not Just for White People: Trumpism, the Proud Boys, and the Extremist Allure for People of Color
I bet a few of you will get a chuckle out of this.
>We can too have it both ways!
I must be careful here, to sanitize for JMG. But this right here, IMHO, touches on a root of the problem that besets the West in general. Maybe not the root but a root.
The idea that you can have it both ways, that you don’t need to make hard choices, the denial and repudiation of any sort of tradeoff. Having to give up something to get something else is so, so – WrongThink?
Does this thinking have a word attached to it? I could name it something but I’m pretty sure JMG would then delete this. I tell you what – you tell me what you think it should be called.
If you really do think you can have it all, you also really do think you can have absolutely nothing. And of the two, nothing is more likely what you’ll end up with. You’re already starting to see it with the bare shelves, shortages everywhere. But that’s just one facet of it.
>Why are people panicking over “a few excess deaths from COVID?”
Because the MSM told them to panic. I think there is quite a bit of distrust in the media now for some strange reason. If there really is a wolf at the door next time you can be sure that nobody will believe them until they hear the howling with their own ears.
>TV control doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
I would say in this era, it does. Most modern TVs have computers integrated into them. That have microphones and some sort of wireless communication. Some have cameras too.
Here’s something you need to take to heart – if it CAN be used for government surveillance it WILL be used for govt surveillance. Nothing about a modern TV is friendly to you or respects you as a customer or a person. Avoid them.
Jay Pine, JMG, Owen – The only institutions that I’ve heard of who can borrow money at negative nominal interest rates are governments with no (acknowledged) risk of default. Negative real interest rates happen all the time, when the rate of inflation is greater than the interest that you’re getting, and they’re much easier to overlook, since “inflation” is difficult to measure precisely in any way that people generally agree on. (Some talk about price inflation, others talk about money-supply inflation; they’re related, but not to more than one or two significant figures.)
I actually have a negative-interest-rate investment: a Treasury Inflation-Protected Security (TIPS) bond. I paid more than the face value, say $1100 for a $1000 bond. It does pay interest, but not enough to cover the extra that I paid to get it (0.125% annually). So, under current economic assumptions, I will have effectively paid interest to the government that borrowed the money from me. But I’ve been reading this blog for too long to have faith in “current economic assumptions”…
[This is not investment advice, and I might have got some of the details wrong. Do your own research or hire a professional advisor before making investment decisions.]
“I notice a trend in JH.Kunstler’s blog which is starting here too.
1. Unknown long time reader comes in. Mentions how the blog host used to be a hero. Lists all his books she has bought. Now she is so ashamed and hopes the host changes his ways.”
Yes, I noted the same thing. That’s why I have tried to recall if I had seen her name before.
“Unknown long time reader comes in. Mentions how the blog host used to be a hero. Lists all his books she has bought. Now she is so ashamed and hopes the host changes his ways.”
Milton Friedman, someone that I am not too fond of but could be persuasive, once said “The problem with the Left is that they want freedom – as they see it”. This is a great example of it in action. You are free to say whatever you want so long as they approve or trying to shame the author into a state of change. I love that JMG just writes what he pleases, it has exposed me to a far greater spectrum of ideas than I would have got from anywhere worried about how they will be perceived by the greater public. It is something I worry about in years to come when access to this kind of stuff goes dark as the internet goes behind ‘the great pay wall’.
More related to the original post, there are now ever growing shortages of computer chips. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55936011
The pandemic has had a small role in this but it has been a growing issue for the last decade. Simply put, chips are getting to complex to build, material resources are limited and now they cannot keep up with demand. It has seamed like there has been growing shortages of various components for a long time now. Very much a long decent from within the long decent.
I know fellow ecosohpians here will just make a cup of tea and sit back and laugh as this unfolds like a calm Nero.
Hey, lovely commentariat and most-esteemed host, I have news from the GameStop battle:
Summary: it’s still on. I have this straight from r/WallStreetBets themselves.
Today, Saturday the 6th, there is evidence that there are still a ton of GME short positions out there. This poster says the evidence implies that a bunch of them come due on March 21. So that is a big deadline for the hedgies.
First, the media told us that the game is over. “The short positions are gone, you can go home now.”
Then there was a big news media push that “r/WallStreetBets are going after silver now!” My antennae always go up when a bunch of different news outlets say the same thing. Sure enough, r/WallStreetBets themselves categorically deny that they are rotating to silver: Post 1, Post 2. Soooo… the whole silver thing looks like the rodeo clown trying to distract the bull and get him off the toreador. Which, of course, implies that there is still a toreador to gore.
Ahh, and r/WallStreetBets are getting trolled too! I misspoke. There are at least two rodeo clowns in play. It’s multi-spectrum clown warfare!
The Redditors are encouraging each other. “Don’t quail. Don’t sell. Don’t let loose your grip! Keep a hold on your GME stock with diamond hands!” And then someone explained this strategy with this hilarious animation.
Here is why the apes are doing this. It’s not about the money.
And so, seeing that the ball is still in play, and the game is still very much on, this little spider monkey decided to join the apes in their game. I logged onto my modest brokerage account and bought 20 shares of GameStop. $67/share right now; we will see what Monday brings.
[Full disclosure: This is not professional investment advice. I am not a licensed, bonded, James Bonded, or even remotely official investment advisor, nor do I play one on TV. Use your own judgment. If you decide to hop into this mosh pit, put in no more money than you are prepared to lose.]
Christophe, ssshhh! 😉
Forecasting, yes, I saw that. I was trying to think of suitable adjectives to describe the thinking Blinken puts on display there, but failed, “a fifty-fifty mix of smug cluelessness and pig-headed ignorance of the basic realities of history and international politics” was just too wishy-washy. It occurs to me, though, that there’s a nursery rhyme that’s relevant. We’ve got Blinken, and I think Biden does a very good imitation of Nod; who do you think qualifies as Winken? They certainly seem determined to sail off to dreamland in a wooden shoe…
Denis, I suspect relocation is going to end up being a necessity, but we’ll see.
Char, the phrase “multiracial whiteness” was what convinced me that we have arrived at the barbarism of reflection Giambattista Vico talked about. What a bizarre example of paralogic!
Owen, that’s a huge issue. Most people in America, at least, suffer from the florid delusion that the future ought to give them everything they want without tradeoffs. Do you recall how the Green New Deal was supposed to get rid of racism, sexism, and poverty as well as “solving” the climate issue? As for terminology, I’d like to suggest that psychological language ( for example, “florid delusion” above) is well suited to the subject, and also to this blog.
Cicada Grove, yes, I’ve been watching that too. It’s a source of quite some interest to me that the apes are still holding strong. Here’s Cornelius on r/WSB telling the mass media that they’re shoveling smoke:
(Yes, you can tell which generation I belong to…)
re: Q Anon . My assumption is its a targeted pacification op targeted at the Right especially the religious Right .
Don’t bother to organize, don’t bother to do do group stuff that works just trust the plan. This would nicely strengthen the establishments position by slowing the one group , even the herd of cats that they are, that at least in their mind, its the only alternative to them or enabling the establishment to fortify its position.
It prays nicely on that groups ideology and need to believe. Hopefully Q Anon will be gone for good and we won’t get too many believers lingering for long. I’m not counting on it, I’m getting a Millerite vibe from it.
Now as to collapse. I am glad of one thing the gradual decline in the style apocalyptic nonsense that is a product of Christian Eschatology mixed with fear of Unrestricted H-Bomb warfare.
It wasn’t entirely rubbish mind the USSR nearly nuked the US in 1983 do a a radar glitch but its a much smaller risk these days and the US won’t be starting it as our tritium supply is declining rapidly and rather soon we may not have many functional nukes.
If nukes get used it will probably be South Asia over water warfare with a lot of Chinese dams getting targeted by India. That will be an apocalypse sure but not the 80’s style.
If you want to see collapse right now just look at Portland Oregon, L.A. of which several important parts resemble a Hooverville with extra zombies or especially Detroit. The later is already reverting back to farming in places/
I’d guess in a few hundred years, maybe less most people will have died off and it will look somewhat like ,from a Progress Cult sense anyway, time ran backward.
The other possibility is a US civil war of course which is an ugly thought. That will probably happen in the 2030’s if at all though COVID and the perception of vast election fraud or government stupidity may have upped the timetable a bit .
Now as to why people are freaking out over COVID 19. well partially its because it genetically modified virus with unknown consequences in the long term but for many its because they’ve never experienced real sickness or hardship .
Also the US responded much the same way in 1976 with a dubious vaccine made in a rush that ended up hurting people.
This kind of makes sense to me, American society has been too enervated to even have babies since 1972 and cultures that don’t reproduce can’t handle losses, both literally in that that means one less citizen and figuratively because the psychological strength is just not there.
We’ve been in collapse almost as long as I’ve been alive .I’d chart it as 1973 do to the fertility drop below replacement though I can be persuaded it was sooner maybe even 1931 or so when we first dropped way below replacement and it took a decade to recover and only because most competition was destroyed.
I don’t run into progress nuts much anymore though I love the idea of challenging them to specific prediction timetable “When specially will there be a lasting Mars colony, plus or minus a few years.” “when will an entire city be powered by fusion.” When will Los Angeles traffic problems end or more modestly “when will the US achieve population growth do to high fertility without immigration ?”
The answer to these is probably “never” but the answers would be fun to hear from the cultists, that is if they don’t run away with tails between rhetorical legs of course.
A last bit. Thanks to our host for getting em back on the prepare for the collapse, i and get back to spiritual practices path I lapsed from. Its helping a great deal.
Re local politics
As one who’s done a stint in local politics–seven years on the planning/zoning commission (appointed) and three years on city council (elected)–I can offer you my two cents’ worth.
I found the three years on council incredibly rewarding (and the most thorough civics class ever) but I chose to not run for re-election for other reasons. The advantage to local politics is that the issues are less partisan, generally: roads don’t care about party affiliation, nor do sewer systems. I felt that I was able to do a small amount of good, even if my grand vision going in was disappointed (something not at all unusual, I suspect). I’d encourage you to give it a whirl, if you are so inclined. I ran, lost, ran again before getting on and I don’t regret the three years spent on council at all.
A word of advice from my own experience, however: politics isn’t math and it isn’t engineering. Getting support for an idea is as much about cultivating relationships as it is about building a logical argument. I learned that the hard way.
If you decide to run, I wish you the best of luck!
Char, I just took a look at that washington post article you mentioned. Thanks. It was really, really weird.
I think that’s what happens when you find substantial evidence that contradicts a hypothesis and you are totally unwilling to consider any other hypothesis of what is going on.
Has anyone else read this totally disgusting article from Time magazine, and if so, what do you think about it? Or did I miss some discussion of it higher up in the thread? Is it tyrannical hubris? Or is true panic setting in?
A quick follow up re local politics
My experience was in part due to the fact that here in WI, elections at the municipal and county levels are, technically speaking, non-partisan. This made the campaigns more issue-focused and less warm-fuzzy/cold-prickly. YMMV, of course.
All in all, I’d still say try it. You might win.
As someone somewhat involved in industrial civ, yeah, chips are becoming scarce in a big way. A lot of major distributors blame the shortage on COVID related staffing issues at silicon foundries and tantalum mines.