Explorers into unknown territory face plenty of risks. One that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves is the possibility that they know less about the country ahead than they think. Inaccurate maps, jumbled records, travelers’ tales that got garbled in transmission or were made up in the first place: all these and more have laid their share of traps at the feet of adventurers on their way to new places and accounted for an abundance of disasters. As we make our way willy-nilly into that undiscovered country called the future, a similar rule applies.
Christopher Columbus, when he set sail on the first of his voyages across the Atlantic, brought with him a copy of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a fraudulent medieval travelogue that claimed to recount a journey east to the Earthly Paradise across a wholly imaginary Asia, packed full of places and peoples that never existed. Columbus’ eager attention to that volume seems to have played a significant role in keeping him hopelessly confused about the difference between the Asia of his dreams and the place where he’d actually arrived. It’s a story more than usually relevant today, because most people nowadays are equipped with comparable misinformation for their journey into the future, and are going to end up just as disoriented as Columbus.
I’ve written at some length already about some of the stage properties with which the Sir John Mandevilles of science fiction and the mass media have stocked the Earthly Paradises of their technofetishistic dreams: flying cars, space colonies, nuclear reactors that really, truly will churn out electricity too cheap to meter, and the rest of it. (It occurs to me that we could rework a term coined by the late Alvin Toffler and refer to the whole gaudy mess as Future Schlock.) Yet there’s another delusion, subtler but even more misleading, that pervades current notions about the future and promises an even more awkward collision with unwelcome realities.
That delusion? The notion that we can decide what future we’re going to get, and get it.
It’s hard to think of a belief more thoroughly hardwired into the collective imagination of our time. Politicians and pundits are always confidently predicting this or that future, while think tanks earnestly churn out reports on how to get to one future or how to avoid another. It’s not just Klaus Schwab and his well-paid flunkeys at the World Economic Forum, chattering away about their Orwellian plans for a Great Reset; with embarrassingly few exceptions, from the far left to the far right, everyone’s got a plan for the future, and acts as though all we have to do is adopt the plan and work hard, and everything will fall into place.
What’s missing in this picture is any willingness to compare that rhetoric to reality and see how well it performs. Over the last century or so we’ve had plenty of grand plans that set out to define the future, you know. We’ve had a War on Poverty, a War on Drugs, a War on Cancer, and a War on Terror, just for starters—how are those working out for you? War was outlawed by the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, the United States committed itself to provide a good job for every American in the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, and of course we all know that Obamacare was going to lower health insurance prices and guarantee that you could keep your existing plan and physician. Here again, how did those work out for you?
This isn’t simply an exercise in sarcasm, though I freely admit that political antics of the kind just surveyed have earned their share of ridicule. The managerial aristocracy that came to power in the early twentieth century across the industrial world defined its historical mission as taking charge of humanity’s future through science and reason. Rational planning carried out by experts guided by the latest research, once it replaced the do-it-yourself version of social change that had applied before that point, was expected to usher in Utopia in short order. That was the premise, and the promise, under which the managerial class took power. With a century of hindsight, it’s increasingly clear that the premise was quite simply wrong and the promise was not kept.
Could it have been kept? Very few people seem to doubt that. The driving force behind the popularity of conspiracy culture these days is the conviction that we really could have the glossy high-tech Tomorrowland promised us by the media for all these years, if only some sinister cabal hadn’t gotten in the way. Exactly which sinister cabal might be frustrating the arrival of Utopia is of course a matter of ongoing dispute in the conspiracy scene; all the familiar contenders have their partisans, and new candidates get proposed all the time. Now that socialism is back in vogue in some corners of the internet, for that matter, the capitalist class has been dusted off and restored to its time-honored place in the rogues’ gallery.
There’s a fine irony in that last point, because socialist management was no more successful at bringing on the millennium than the capitalist version. Socialism, after all, is the extreme form of rule by the managerial aristocracy. It takes power claiming to place the means of production in the hands of the people, but in practice “the people” inevitably morphs into the government, and that amounts to cadres drawn from the managerial class, with their heads full of the latest fashionable ideology and not a single clue about how things work outside the rarefied realm of Hegelian dialectic. Out come the Five-Year Plans and all the other impedimenta of central planning…and the failures begin to mount up. Fast forward a lifetime or so and the Workers’ Paradise is coming apart at the seams.
A strong case can be made, in fact, that managerial socialism is one of the few systems of political economy that is even less successful at meeting human needs than the managerial corporatism currently staggering to its end here in the United States. (That’s why it folded first.) The differences between the two systems are admittedly not great: under managerial socialism, the people who control the political system also control the means of production, while under managerial corporatism, why, it’s the other way around. Thus I suggest it’s time to go deeper, and take a hard look at the core claim of both systems—the notion that some set of experts or other, whether the experts in question are corporate flacks or Party apparatchiks, can make society work better if only they have enough power and the rest of us shut up and do what we’re told.
That claim is more subtle and more problematic than it looks at first glance. To make sense of it, we’re going to have to talk about the kinds of knowledge we can have about the world.
The English language is unusually handicapped in understanding the point I want to make, because most languages have two distinct words for the kinds of knowledge we’ll be talking about, and English has only one word—“knowledge”—that has to do double duty for both of them. In French, for example, if you want to say that you know something, you have to ask yourself what kind of knowledge it is. Is it abstract knowledge based on an intellectual grasp of principles? Then the verb you use is connaître. Is it concrete knowledge based on experience? Then the verb you use is savoir. Colloquial English has tried to fill the gap by coining the phrases “book learning” and “know-how,” and we’ll use these for now.
The first point that needs to be made here is that these kinds of knowledge are anything but interchangeable. If you know about cooking, say, because you’ve read lots of books on the subject and can easily rattle off facts at the drop of a hat, you have book learning. If you know about cooking because you’ve done a lot of it and can whip up a tasty meal from just about anything, you have know-how. Those are both useful kinds of knowledge, but they’re useful in different contexts, and one doesn’t convert readily into the other. You can know lots of facts about cooking and still be unable to produce an edible meal, for example, and you can be good at cooking and still be unable to say a meaningful word about how you do it.
We can sum up the two kinds of knowledge we’re discussing in a simple way: book learning is abstract knowledge, and know-how is concrete knowledge.
Let’s take a moment to make sense of this. Each of us, in earliest infancy, encounters the world as a “buzzing, blooming confusion” of disconnected sensations, and our first and most demanding intellectual challenge is the process that Owen Barfield has termed “figuration”—the task of assembling those sensations into distinct, enduring objects. We take an oddly shaped spot of bright color, a smooth texture, a kinesthetic awareness of gripping and of a certain resistance to movement, a taste, and a sense of satisfaction, and assemble them into an object. It’s the object we will later call “bottle,” but we don’t have that connection between word and experience at first. That comes later, after we’ve mastered the challenge of figuration.
So the infant who can’t yet speak has already amassed a substantial body of know-how. It knows that this set of sensations corresponds to this object, which can be sucked on and will produce a stream of tasty milk; this other set corresponds to a different object, which can be shaken to produce an entertaining noise, and so on. When you see an infant looking out with that odd distracted look so many of them have, as though it’s thinking for all it’s worth, you’re not mistaken—that’s exactly what it’s doing. Only when it has mastered the art of figuration, and gotten a good basic body of know-how about its surroundings, can it get to work on the even more demanding task of learning how to handle abstractions.
That process inevitably starts from the top down, with very broad abstractions covering vast numbers of different things. That’s why, at a certain stage in a baby’s growth, all four-legged animals are “goggie” or something of the same sort; later on, the broad abstractions break up, first into big chunks and then into smaller ones, until finally you’ve got a child with a good general vocabulary of abstractions. The process of figuration continues; in fact, it goes on throughout life. Most of us are good enough at it by the time of our earliest memories that we don’t even notice how quickly we do it. Only in special cases do we catch ourselves at it—certain optical illusions, for example, can be figurated in two competing ways, and consciously flipping back and forth between them lets us see the process at work.
All this makes the relationship between figurations and abstractions far more complex than it seems. Since each abstraction is a loosely defined category marked by a word, there are always gray areas and borderline cases, like those plants that are right on the line between trees and shrubs. The situation gets much more challenging, however, because abstractions aren’t objective realities. We don’t get handed them by the universe. We invent them to make sense of the figurations we experience, and that means our habits, biases, and individual and collective self-interest inevitably flow into them. That would be problematic even if figurations and abstractions stayed safely distinct from one another, but they don’t.
Once a child learns to think in abstractions, the abstractions they learn begin to shape their figurations, so that the world they experience ends up defined by the categories they learn to think with. That’s one of the consequences of language—and it’s also one of the reasons why book learning, which consists entirely of abstractions, is at once so powerful and so dangerous: your ideology ends up imprinting itself on your experience of the world. There’s a further mental operation that can help you past that; it’s called reflection, and involves thinking about your thinking, but it’s hard work and very few people do much of it, and the only kind that’s popular in an abstraction-heavy society — the kind where you check your own abstractions against an approved set to make sure you don’t think any unapproved thoughts — just digs you in deeper. As a result, most people go through their lives never noticing that their worlds are being defined by an arbitrary set of categories with which they’ve been taught to think.
Here are some examples. Many languages have no word for “orange.” People who grow up speaking those languages see the lighter shades of what we call “orange” as shades of yellow, and the darker shades as shades of red. They don’t see the same world we do, since the abstractions they’ve learned to think with sort out their figurations in different ways. In some Native American languages, some colors are “wet” and others are “dry,” and people who grow up speaking those languages experience colors as being more or less humid; the rest of us don’t. Then there’s Chinook jargon, the old trade language of the Pacific Northwest, which was spoken by native peoples and immigrants alike until a century ago. In that language, there are only four colors: tkope, which means “white;” klale, which means “dark;” pil, which means red or orange or yellow or brightly colored; and spooh, which means “faded,” like sun-bleached wood or a pair of old blue jeans. Can you see a cherry and a lemon as being shades of the same color? If you’d grown up speaking Tsinuk wawa from earliest childhood, you would.
Those examples are harmless. Many other abstractions are not, because privilege and power are among the things that guide the shaping of abstract knowledge, and when education is controlled by a ruling class or a governmental bureaucracy, the abstractions people learn veer so far from experience that not even heroic efforts at figuration can bridge the gap. In the latter days of the Soviet Union, to return to an earlier example, the abstractions flew thick and fast, painting the glories of the Workers’ Paradise in gaudy colors, and insisting that any delays in the onward march of Soviet prosperity would soon be fixed by the skilled central planning of managerial cadres. Meanwhile, for the vast majority of Soviet citizens, life became a constant struggle with hopelessly dysfunctional bureaucratic systems, and waiting in long lines for basic necessities was an everyday fact of life.
None of that was accidental. The more tightly you focus your educational system on a set of approved abstractions, and the more inflexibly you assume that your ideology is more accurate than the facts, the more certain you can be that you will slam headfirst into one self-inflicted failure after another. The Soviet managerial aristocracy never grasped that, and so the burden of dealing with the gap between rhetoric and reality fell entirely on the rest of the population. That was why, when the final crisis came, the descendants of the people who stormed the Winter Palace in 1917, and rallied around the newborn Soviet state in the bitter civil war that followed, simply shrugged and let the whole thing come crashing down.
We’re arguably not far from similar scenes here in the United States, for the same reasons: the gap between rhetoric and reality gapes just as wide in Biden’s America as it did in Chernenko’s Soviet Union. When a ruling class puts more stress on using the right abstractions than on getting the right results, those who have to put up with the failures—i.e., the rest of us—withdraw their loyalty and their labor from the system, and sooner or later, down it comes.
In the meantime, as we all listen to the cracking noises coming up from the foundations of American society, I’d like to propose that we consider the possibility that the future cannot be managed, and that all those plans and programs and grand agendas are by definition on their way to the same dumpster as the Five-Year Plans of the Soviet Union and the various Wars on Abstract Nouns proclaimed by the United States. Coming up with a plan is easy; getting people to do anything about it is hard; getting future events to cooperate—well, you can do the math as well as I can. It’s already clear to anyone who’s paying attention that we’re not going to get the Tomorrowland future bandied about for so many years by the pundits and marketing flacks of the corporate state: the flying cars, spaceships, nuclear power plants, and the rest of it have all been tried and all turned out to be white elephants, hopelessly overpriced for the limited value they provide. Maybe it’s time to consider the possibility that no other grand plan will work any better.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t prepare for the future? Au contraire, it means that we can do a much better job of preparing for the futures. There’s not just one of them, you see. There never is. The same habit of bad science fiction writers that editors used to lampoon with the phrase “It was raining on Mongo that Monday”—really? The same weather, all over an entire planet?—pervades current notions of “the” future. Choose any year in the past and look at what happened over the next decare or two to different cities and countries and continents, and you’ll find that their futures were unevenly distributed: some got war and some got peace, growth in one place was matched by contraction in another, and the experience of any decade you care to name was radically different depending on where you experienced it. That’s one of the things that the managerial aristocracy, with its fixation on abstract knowledge, reliably misses.
We know some things about the range of possible futures ahead of us. We know that fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources are going to be increasingly expensive and hard to get by historic standards; we know that the impact of decades of unrestricted atmospheric pollution will continue to destabilize the climate and drive unpredictable changes in rainfall and growing seasons; we know that the infrastructure of the industrial nations, which was built under the mistaken belief that there would always be plenty of cheap energy and resources, will keep on decaying into uselessness; we know that habits and lifestyles dependent on the extravagant energy and resource usage that was briefly possible in the late twentieth century are already past their pull date. These things are certain—but they don’t tell us that much. What technologies and social forms will replace the clanking anachronism of industrial society over the decades immediately ahead? We don’t know that, and indeed we can’t know it.
We can’t know it because the future is not an abstraction. It’s not something neat and manageable that can be plotted in advance by corporate functionaries and ordered for just-in-time delivery. It’s an unknown region, and our preconceptions about it are the most important obstacle in the way of seeing it for what it is. That is to say, if you’re setting out to explore unfamiliar territory, deciding in advance what you’re going to find there and marching off in a predetermined direction to find it is a great way to end up neck-deep in a swamp as the crocodiles close in.
If you want a less awkward end to your great adventure, try heading into the unknown with eyes and ears open wide, pay attention to what’s happening around you even (or especially) when it contradicts your beliefs and presuppositions, and choose your path based on what you find rather than what you think has to be there. Choose your tools and traveling gear so that it can cope with as many things as possible, and when you pick your companions, remember that know-how is much more useful than book learning. That way you can travel light, meet the unexpected with some degree of grace, and have a better chance of finding a destination that’s worth reaching.
I think were coming to the acceptance phase.
@ JMG – Wonderful essay, and quite timely. While there’s a longer version to this question, let me put the short version to you, and we can proceed from there; once the Tamanous culture really starts to take off, do you think there will still be people longing for a return to industrial civilization, or will the attractiveness of the new culture, finally put Tomorrowland-nostalgia to bed?
In this week’s Torah Portion Jews learn about Jethro, the Midianite high priest who explores every deity in the universe before he commits to follow God. In a negative sense, this could be seen as the ultimate accession to order, but it might also be understood as a metaphor for what you seem to be saying, Jethro gives up his marriage to any particular path and commits to embracing the unknowable greatness of the universe. “Isms” have been passe’ for about three thousand years, I guess.
Brilliant essay….thanks so much
I’ve recently read The Retro Future and The King in Orange. The question of the future often comes to mind. The answers are always an unsatisfactory “be prepared”.
Another forum I frequent has started studying Gurdjieff. Do you know his work?
What do you think of the types of organisation and management used by libertarian socialists and anarchists, to some extent early on in Russia, but especially in the Spanish Revolution?
That was a brilliant essay. I am so glad my family has had the benefit of TDAR. Indeed, I bought the collected essays and read a bit every day. I feel we are very well placed for whatever future is coming, thanks to you and J.H. Kunstler.
We have a snug little farm that we work, mostly, by hand. The sheep are bred and will be milked over the summer and fall and I will make cheese from their delicious milk as I have done for years now. Our huge vegetable garden is at the mature stage with good soil and the rabbits have never bred so well. We have tons of compost and manure. I have got the Garden Club members here growing their own seeds and pooling them for years now. The seed is usually excellent.
We have great friends who are also pretty well prepared for the future with a broad range of skills and a firm sense of facing the future with mutual support.
I just had the Survival Medicine Handbook by Joseph Alton MD and Amy Alton APRN sent to me. It looks quite useful. Things are going distinctly odd in Canada.
Much love and hugs from Maxine
It’s also important for those of us aware of and expecting collapse to remember we don’t know details, especially timing and location of downturns. Things can still take you by surprise.
And occasionally you get darkly hilarious situations like the following: walking along talking to my lone collapse aware family member, I complained that sometimes it was really hard to keep walking the path of less, and putting all that energy in, and choosing to forego things I could have had or done, when everyone around me wasn’t even trying and it felt like the future was being very much delayed. Part of me kind of wished it would just get on with it.
That was late December 2019. As of next march, I wasn’t complaining about the work I’d put into making myself more collapse-resilient!
How i personally differentiate knowledge in the two categories by refering matters as matters of intelligence or wisdom.
Honestly the biggest failures in society and a common train if thought through our bloody history is the idea that one can measure people using a universal objective standard. Ive literally just saw some fall out of someone who believed that ones IQ or stricter survalence and data mining could be used to determine people’s needs better…but what are people’s needs if those needs, people, and situations are unpredictable?
Its frustraiting, almost infuriating, because everywhere I go, that micromanagement of my actions, my beliefs, even my identity, is being utilized not just against myself but against other people. Like Socrates in Plato’s Apology, people are being pushed into this corner where nothing could be done but try and defend ourselves against public opinion and despite our efforts and despite truth coming out, we are condemned to death.
A great essay. It reminds me of a book I recently read, “The Cubans”. The story of Cuba since Castro took over is a complex one. The state still relentlessly pushes that ‘the revolution’ will continue and bring the workers paradise of the future. Very few Cubans believe it anymore, and most of the world is in some level of disbelief that the current post Castro regime has managed to hold on. We, on the outside see a governing body past it’s pull date and are watching with curiosity; what will happen now?
Yet we(in general) are blind to the inevitable change coming our way. Given the current political climate in the United States, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cuban way of life shined up for importation and used as a political plank for the left. They are green and ecologically sustainable, if you define eco friendly to include occasional starvation and farm animals in the family bathroom.
I wonder how long it is going to take for industrial civilization to get the arrogance knocked out of it. And what we’ll be left with after people admit that tomorrowland will never come.
That duck-rabbit must be swimming and hopping around in the collective unconscious lately. I used the same example in an essay I wrote a few days ago, that I still haven’t published, to make a similar point.
It seems like figuration is something we do when we understand that we know very little, while we tend to Tlonify things when we’re sure we know a lot. If Borges’ Orbis Tertius exists, it’s a gaggle of unconscious participants who initiated into the society by having first convinced themselves.
The good news is that a few PMC folks in my circle are beginning to notice the abstractions failing to line up with the territory, and though it frightens and confuses them, at least they are starting to wonder. Your advice to collapse now and avoid the rush could apply equally well to our worn out abstractions. Those who give them up and begin the painful work of refiguring the way they think about the world will fare better in the long run.
The uncertainty certainly bodes problematic for those of us in search of new careers amidst The Great Resignation. JMG, if you were 25 years old abandoning a career inappropriate for the times ahead, what would you consider as an alternative? (Can’t pick writing!) I’m struggling with this exploration especially taking into account the importance of the ‘Parallel Polis’—an enigmatic collective abstraction!—and our new careers within that society. Would love to know your (or any fellow tribesman’s) thoughts! Thank you.
We need to plan for chaos. We need to design to design for flexibility and anti-fragility (thank you, Nassim Taleb).
Being a child raised by a blue collar tech worker and a biologist turned librarian, I remember well my first few lessons in economics, and their more practical application to business and supply chains. Everything needed to be super specialized, everything needed to be ‘just in time’.
In my mind I could already see the ecosystem equivalent of the thing: a rainforest, running riot with complexity, all calories accounted for, with nothing to spare. I could see the technological equivalent, an ultra complicated machine, running full tilt without backups or redundancy.
Naively, I would question my esteemed tutors: “What happens if this breaks? What about having backup?”
The patronizing response?: “We call that waste.”
Lesson learned, I guess. This is the type of foolish thinking you get when you let the abstractions (useful things though they are) start to blind you to reality.
Reflecting on the process of formation, I was trying to figure out the value of breaking down the structures we’ve developed to give meaning to the universe. The thought popped in my head: “Without these abstractions, all would be formless and void.” And I suddenly saw Gen 1 in a very different light!
The things I’m most concerned about for the next year or so for society at large are:
-food price rises, food shortages, and food supply chain snafus
-other shortages and supply chain issues especially energy and metals
-assorted things related to covid, the response to covid, and the response to the response
-housing price rises or crashes
-insurgency, civil and inter-state war
-climate-change driven extreme weather events
-very high/hyperinflation, financial crash etc
-something out of the blue I haven’t considered that will slap us upside the head when we least expect it
It feels like there are a lot of serious downside risks this year.
What is your view on india , jmg ?
A sailor trims the sheets for the wind that is, not the wind he wishes it would be!
I just had a conversation yesterday about the relationship between resilience and expectations.I think those are also closely related to this search for and identification of the future. What we can interact with is perhaps determined by what we can acknowledge and allow to be possible. Remember the dwarves at the very end of C. S. Lewis’s “Final Battle”? So if you can’t make room in your imagination for decline, then all the signs of decline must be outliers… anomalies… not reliable data points.
Easily one of your best posts. Thank you.
I feel there’s a metaphor in here somewhere about empty promises and abstract bureacracy, in the Wreck of the English Bay Barge (riffing Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald)
“The bay, so they say, is a peril to sail
When the winds of November start whooshin’
If fully weighed down, might have sailed through Howe Sound
But the English Bay Barge, it was empty
Before the uproar, it was anchored offshore
When the gales of November came early
As the big barges go, it was bigger than most
With no crew when the northwinds were blowin’
The weather reports warned the cities and ports
Of a big bad atmospheric river
The floodgates of heaven turned up to eleven
And the northwinds are going to give ‘er”
And the people made an official joke of it: https://bc.ctvnews.ca/mobile/barge-chilling-beach-sign-erected-as-vessel-remains-resting-on-vancouver-shoreline-1.5708961
Left it rave reviews: https://bc.ctvnews.ca/mobile/barge-chilling-park-vancouverites-posting-online-reviews-of-the-grounded-barge-on-sunset-beach-1.5693585
“”Much more than we could have ever asked for, just stunning,” one user writes. “We visited the Barge the other evening and regret not doing so sooner. The whole experience was beyond majestic, you walk around the seawall corner, and boom, there she is in her full glory.””
And it is still there, as the company that owns it tried to move it twice by simply tugging it out, couldn’t, and now have no idea what to do. The longer it sits, the more people have opinions on how it must be done:
“”Many problems like this, Chan argued, comes down to a lack of transparency with environmental data.
“We’re just left completely in the dark,” said Chan, adding that Transport Canada has a lot of problems to solve in B.C. “It’s amazing how long governments can let crap like this go on. If it’s not killing anybody, it’s the kind of thing they can ignore for years and years.””
(this guy is full of crap, there is no fuel on a barge, this one was empty, and rust isn’t toxic)
And of course :
“On Twitter, members of the Indigenous community explained why the park board’s sign isn’t amusing for everyone.
“This barge sign was a fun joke but the work of decolonizing isn’t fun, it’s been harmful to be Indigenous to Vancouver yet utterly erased,” Ginger Gosnell-Myers, a fellow with SFU’s Urban Indigenous Policy/Planning, wrote after the first graffiti incident.”
(there was no sign there before, so no one was erased, they could have just requested an addition now that the is one)
It has fallen on the government regulator to give them new criteria of what plans are required to move it:
“The removal is a complex issue, with several factors to consider in addition to tide levels, including safety, security and environmental protection,” Transport Canada’s Sau Sau Liu wrote in an email to CTV News.”
And my favourite is, if you look at the pictures, there is a tiny chain attached to a tiny rock to anchor it. People thought it was another joke, but it’s actually the legally Transport Canada required anchor (to make sure it won’t drift away again, naturally).
Thinking about what you know at a young age, I’ve got a couple of unusual ones.
They say it’s impossible to catch yourself falling asleep, but I did it once spontaneously happen when I was about five years old. I was laying in bed and recognised a certain sensation and thought “I’m about to fall asleep.” I actually did and the next thing I knew I was waking up. It’s never happened since and I’ve never tried to make it happen again, but that one time was a very interesting experience.
When I was six I was walking along the road to infant school with my grandma. I thought “I’ve walked along here a lot of times.” And somehow realised “I have memory now!” Obviously I’d had memory before but somehow becoming aware of it in that way was a radical change in my sense of self.
Off topic, but I’d like to ask everyone for prayers and positve energy for my mum. She’s had a series of health issues over a short time. Including a fall into the sharp edge of a greenhouse that was minor but if it had been slightly different could have cut an artery, a really nasty and persistent cold, a severe stomach and gut upset, and now hip/knee pain. I think I may be at least partially responsible because of how badly I responded to my own recent health problems. I’m trying to undo the destructive thoughts but anyone who wants to help may have to get through some of my negative influence first.
Thanks JMG for the important messages in your post. I especially tend towards practicing being present to what is around me, and what is happening locally. It is a practice because I have a very good abstract sensibility that is seldom accurate. Like I estimate that that project of fixing up the greenhouse will cost “X” and will take “Y” time. Many times it takes much more of both. I’ve been concentrating on building up our infrastructure [garden beds, hand tools, sheep flock, wood burning appliances for examples] using what fossil fuel I have at my disposal, as well as the paid and donated physical help of others. One future is that we will be self sufficient enough to survive the ups and downs of the supply chain by growing our own vegges and either freezing them or putting them up in mason jars that do not require refrigeration. The possible scenarios you depict in your writings of the slow decline and the reality of what that means on the ground as concerns socety and my family, resonate. I’m blessed with a big family, lots of know how, and also lots of book learning both practical and through others, spiritual. Those plans and efforts do not ensure that my futures are secure. I get that, and hope that others do likewise. I am along for the ride! Ah, Lakeland Territory, where art thou?
Such a fantastic essay (as always). These days, so many things (such as this essay), trigger my recollection of the astute (and droll) observation of the late American sage, yogi Berra: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Thank you for all your wonderful posts both here and on your dreamwidth site.
Thank you Mr. Greer for another great article. I would like to run two things by you.
First, you probably are already aware of this, but for whatever its worth when you get the chance look at the impact that Scottish common sense moral epistemology had on the formation of America. The basic idea behind Thomas Reid and other thinkers from his school of thought is that knowledge is spread out across the common people and that they often know better than the abstract intellectual. This produces a political system where the experts have to justify themselves to the masses, not the other way around. I think when America has been successful it has stayed true to this kind of Declaration of Independence style epistemology rather than the elitism that is now failing. At some point in your life read Mark Noll’s “America’s God”, which is the best book on how this style of philosophy shaped our unique take on religious expression. I’m sure you’d get a lot out of it.
Second, I have to tell you the material you cover here is basically the story of my life. I am a trained academic philosopher who could not find work in the academy, and almost certainly never will. So now I work bending steel in a factory. The transition to blue collar work over the last several years has been humbling, because I had to learn the hard way that so called “unskilled” labor is actually quite skilled. The ability to stand on concrete for 40 to 50 hours a week requires your body to adjust and you to learn how to pace yourself. The ability to remain focused on what is directly in front of you is essential in a factory; if I get distracted while running one of my machines I could easily loose a finger or even a hand. Others are just flat out better at learning this material than I am. They learn it faster and retain it longer. I have to force myself to conform to a new state of affairs’ and all my years of abstract training is of little value in the moment to moment progression of things. I hope that when all is said and done I can have a foot in either door and be skilled at both types of thinking.
One of the things that used to drive me crazy when I was young was my mother cooking and when answering a question from me about preparation, the usual response was ‘until it looks right’. She couldn’t verbalize much about the process, only demonstrate it. Now that’s how I cook. Until it ‘looks right’.
How will we know when we have a workable future? Well, when it ‘looks right’. And there’s no way to put that into words really.
What, Jeff’s cockrocket isn’t going to save us?! I want my money back!
The only thing I can be certain about is that the future is going to be a bit more s***. I guess it is like walking across a frozen lake: what appears solid might not be, so best test each step and the way across sure ain’t a straight line.
What to actually do, though? The conclusion of The Black Swan said it for me: spread your bets, play around with different ideas, don’t hold too tightly.
just a note about conspiracies.
There are people (I, for example) that believe that conspiracies are much more common than people expect.
At the same time, ALL the conspiracies I looked into have no grand plan, they are all done for the basest of reasons: money, eliminating a competitor for power or simply coverup a previous mistake (or conspiracy).
It’s just depressing – it reminds me of the long series of struggles, civil wars and assassinations that accompanied the final years of the Western Roman empire. People conspired, killed and died just so they can get the last scraps at the imperial table.
Dr. Malone was puzzled. They were the most educated people, those Germans and they went barking mad. Perhaps they went barking mad BECAUSE they were most educated to begin with? Such a thought never seemed to have crossed his mind but it definitely seems to have crossed yours. Perhaps people are going barking mad now, because they are so edumacated?
>Choose your tools and traveling gear so that it can cope with as many things as possible
In most eras, being THE BEST at one thing was the way to go. Do one thing, do it better, do it the best. I would claim in this era, that’s a recipe for failure. You want to be just good enough at many different things as you can, because you will probably be the only one around who can do something about it. This is the era of the jack-of-all-trades.
On futures and trees
Futures are open – and that is very good in more than one way, in my opinion.
I can imagine future like a living tree; some growing movements of the trunk, branches, twigs, unfolding of leaves can be – to a degree – predicted, based on some knowledge of growing trees. But they cannot be planned – except, perhaps, by the tree itself – to a degree, though. Not even the tree itself can predict all of the external influences of wind, changing temperature, insects…
However, people sometimes want to interpret things in the way they were taught in the childhood and one of the problems is, of course, when they forget what interpretation is and confuse it with the only possible truth. “Look at the tree,” they say “it’s green!” “Why,” say others “it’s brown!” (And they are all looking from a similar perspective, use the same language, at the same daytime…only at different angles: some see the leaves, others see the bark.) In the case of a tree the conflict might sadly end in cutting down the tree to explore what colour, texture, etc. it really is. But all this longing for the only possible and certain truth is probably driven by the human need for safety and unity and certainty – only wrongly and also badly translated from the psychological realm to the outer world!
I think that the openness of futures, even if they thus inevitably bring a lot of unpredictability and uncertainty is a good thing; it is good, too, that we cannot hew down futures as we can trees…or, can’t we? Cutting down a tree is hewing down one particular future for our world, so we should be very careful there, too….
Thank you, JMG, for a very inspirational essay!
With deep regards,
Great post John. The last paragraph is gold. Especially, choosing who you travel with.
Dashui, I’m delighted to see this. When you hit middle age and realize that your youth is over with, if you accept that and adjust your habits to prioritize staying healthy, fit, and mentally flexible, you can count on a much better old age than if you plunge into denial and go around pretending that you’re still 18. (You also get laughed at less.) If the American people have the same sort of realization about their country, recognize that its age of empire is over and done with, and get to work fixing as many as possible of the problems that have gone unaddressed while our government’s been busy playing global policeman, this nation could also have a healthy old age.
Ben, if the traditional prediction is correct, we’re five centuries or so from the dawning of the future American great culture, and quite a bit further than that from the point at which it becomes self-aware enough to think of itself as something different from other cultures. What attitude people then will have toward the failed industrial societies of the distant past is anyone’s guess.
Geoff, interesting! I hadn’t encountered that tradition about Jethro before. Yes, it makes a workable metaphor.
Kristin, you’re welcome and thank you.
Piper, oh, it can be a little more detailed than that. I’d say focus on resilience, don’t clutch your own ideas too tightly, and remember that the corporate media is telling you one set of blatant lies and the people who insist they’re trying to change the system are telling you another set. As for Gurdjieff, yes, I’ve read some of his books (and more of Ouspensky’s) — it’s not my path, but I know people who seem to have gotten a lot out of it.
Yorkshire, there are a wide range of alternative options, and those are among them. Myself, I’m impressed by democratic syndicalism — I’ve done business with a lot of worker co-ops in which the people who do the job collectively make the decisions, and found them reliably better run than management-heavy corporations — but there’s plenty of room for experimentation.
Maxine, thank you for this. I’m very glad whenever I hear from anyone who’s listened and made appropriate preparations.
Pygmycory, oof! The universe does have a mordant sense of humor…
Copper, exactly. That’s the fatal flaw in the managerial vision: the conviction that people can be reduced to some simple quantitative measurement, and treated accordingly. The results are not good.
Dave T., there was already a sustained attempt to market the Cuban model in the US — did you see the frankly bootlicking video The Power of Community, which praised the Cuban response to the fall of the Soviet Union as a great model for dealing with peak oil? If you mentioned that there was a factor the video didn’t discuss — that Cuba is, ahem, a dictatorship — you got a very frosty response from the folks who were pushing it. It was pretty clear to me that they fancied themselves as members of a future US Politburo, handing down edicts to everyone else, and rounding up those who didn’t cooperate for internment in labor camps.
Pygmycory, it may take a good long time. My working guess is that a couple of hundred years from now you’ll still have people insisting we could have gone to the stars, blah blah blah.
Kyle, excellent! Yes, collapsing now begins with the collapse of failed abstractions. It’s painful, but it hurts less than having the floor drop out from under you without warning.
Ryan, I’d sort through my skills and interests, and find one that creates goods and/or services that actual human beings need or want. The careers that are going to implode most messily are those that feed the corporate machine, while people will find ways to pay for the things they themselves use.
Andrew001, that’s a great example. “We call that waste” means “in our abstraction, which is hopelessly detached from reality, we’re going to pretend that nothing ever goes wrong and therefore no backup is needed.” Such people should probably be condemned to fly in airplanes that are designed so that they are only strong enough to withstand the average amount of turbulence.
David BTL, good! “And God said, let there be abstractions.”
Pygmycory, I’m not going to argue with that at all.
Aaron, er, I have no idea how to answer this question. (Remember that I have Aspergers syndrome and thus have no notion what nonverbal signals you think you’re sending.) My view about India in what context? Politics? Economics? Geology? Demographic trends? History of philosophy? The differences between Indian and Western classical music, with special attention to the distinction between tonality and dronal harmony? Please tell me in so many words what you’re asking, or I have no choice but to shrug and go on.
Woods Hippie, an excellent summary!
Michelle, that’s a very important point, and one I plan on addressing in a post soon. The neglect of the imagination is one of the major blind spots in our current notions of education.
Bruno, you’re welcome and thank you.
Pixelated, I heard about the barge, and also the beach that’s been named after it. You seem to have started a trend up there in BC; Florence, OR just officially named Exploding Whale Memorial Beach, after one of the great incidents in the city’s history.
Yorkshire, thanks for these! Positive energy en route for your mum.
Lawrence, the Lakeland Republic is a little like Plato’s republic, in that it exists wholly in the realm of the imagination. Could something of the sort come into being down the road? Depends on how many people buckle down to do something constructive about the challenges facing them.
John, thanks for this.
Stephen, thanks for this; I’ll definitely check that out. As for your current situation, it’s heartening that you rose to the challenge and outgrew the less helpful aspects of your training! Have you considered writing a book about your experience? You’d have to unlearn everything you were taught about writing as an academic — the whole point of academic prose, after all, is to make information inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have a Ph.D. in the relevant field — but if you can do that, I think the results would be well worth reading.
Jeanne, that’s a great example. Here’s to a future that looks right!
Benn, good luck getting your money back. The whole point of Bezos’ phallorocket — well, other than displaying just how obsessed he appears to be about his own masculine inadequacy — is to con you into forking over money to his various sleazy gimmicks under the delusion that they have anything at all to do with the future.
NomadicBeer, of course conspiracies exist. I’ve written a book about them, you know! What most people still don’t get is that conspiracies are a tactic of weakness; you organize in secret when you don’t have the option of doing things right out in the open. The fact that there are things going on in secret is a very good sign that the people involved know just how little real power they actually have.
Owen, exactly. Education is a two-edged sword, and when it turns into ideological indoctrination — no matter what ideology we’re talking about — the result is an acquired stupidity far more resistant to learning than the natural kind. Combine that with a system that shelters elites from the consequences of their mistakes, like the one we have in the US today, and you can count on having a system stumbling from one disaster to another, making the kind of mistakes that an ordinary moron would reject as just plain dumb.
Markéta, thanks for this — that’s an extremely useful metaphor.
DenG, thank you.
It seems we have already had a good lesson about how unpredictable the future can be. Over the past year and a half, I’ve experienced several times talking to someone, and they say, with a look of bewilderment and sadness on their face, “I never thought I’d see something like this in my lifetime”, or, “I never thought I’d be worried about tyranny in the USA in my lifetime”, or “Who would have thought, just a year ago, that our government would be forcing people to take experimental vaccines, and threatening them if they didn’t?”etc. Yet here we are, and quite quickly. Do you think that this experience will help people be more flexible in their expectations of the future? Or will most people just cling to their preferred outcome?
I made the mistake a couple of months ago telling a woman about the Riot for Austerity project I participated in back in 2008-2010. She had dumped into the conversation “we are all going to die in 5 years from climate change unless the government does something.” I decided to mess with her NPC script and share what the project was about and how we each came up creative solutions to lose less energy, grow food, etc. When I stopped, she looked at me with a totally straight face and said, “It’s not what we do as individuals, it what the government does that matters.”
What clicked into place for me then is that the majority of people are waiting for an expert or authority figure to direct everyone to The One Right Answer.™ It will be communicated and metrics put in place to assess compliance to TORA. Of course The Good People™ will be leaders and show their utmost support. It sounds a lot like a school classroom, doesn’t it? I think its no mistake schools are designed the way they are to support the habitual thinking needed to support the managerial class.
In this awful world this woman wants, we all suffer our lot together and no one can deviate from the plan. Its no wonder people brag about their drinking and governments want more legalized pot everywhere. It makes living more bearable for them.
This essay is a good reminder to just get cracking on breaking down that terrible narrative created by the media and do useful things. Ignore the haters and the losers. They will wail and whine at people while waiting for The One Right Answer™ to come so they can follow it.
It seems to me that as global techno-industrial society breaks down, in addition to creating or expanding local networks and organizations, it may be helpful and important to join or start a local chapter of an existing traditional fraternal organizations like the Freemasons, Oddfellows, etc. Most of these organizations are very secretive, with information being revealed only after joining and as a member gets promoted up the chain, making it extremely difficult to know what the organization’s true nature or purpose actually is. Many of them have affiliations, branches and related orders that may or may not still be interested in the common good.
My wife’s grandfather was a Freemason, and her grandmother was in the Eastern Star (both have passed). That is the extent of any familial relation I have to these organizations, as my own family had no affiliation with any. I have done some research and am confused by all of the conflicting information and opinions out there about them (and internet research on just any topic is growing increasingly unreliable). I am not even sure what other organizations – besides the Masonic lodges I sometimes pass by – still exist in northern New England. It appears that some of these organizations started out with benevolent intentions, and either still remain so or have slipped to the dark side (so to speak), while some were set up for nefarious purposes altogether.
I guess my questions are: Do you expect membership in such organizations to grow in the near future?
Which of the organizations are still in existence and viable in the USA? How does one discern which existing fraternal organizations (or their branches/orders) still have a positive focus and intention, and which have been coopted by people with evil intent? Do you have any recommendations of which organizations and orders are benevolent and beneficial to explore, and which have been taken over by dark forces or should be avoided altogether? Maybe this topic is the stuff of a future JMG essay. Thank you again for all of your great work.
Continue to be amazed how to bring such clarity and useful commentary to us every week. i share it a lot, with the hope of course that at least a few will pay attention
The whole abstraction thing was always summarised so wonderfully in Zen
“Talk does not Cook the rice.”
I hadn’t noticed the anchor and chain, though I was familiar with the rest of the story. The whole thing is a little farcical, and a legally-required mini anchor for a stuck barge is just icing.
LOUD APPLAUSE for your rundown of our predicament and the historical failures to do better. I wish that I could write as well!
But I believe that I see a logical and effective remedy for the historical problems you describe. All of the failures you cite are based on mental defects long since built into us by social leaders. Which we now have evidence can be avoided. Actions that I have personally experienced due to loving parents plus odd coincidences. For immediately checkable facts, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Sidis and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Sidis. And other writings by Boris that are available online, such as https://web.archive.org/web/20070909192551/http://www.sidis.net/philistine_and_genius_appendix.htm
Over a century ago, Sidis, a professional psychologist (and jailed by his native Russia for violating their “keep-em-stupid” rules and teaching commoners to read), emphasized that we crippled our children by misusing their early years. Evolution has naturally made swift early learning vital for all organisms with brains, so both physical brain growth and its organization are at their peak in the earliest times. So I say forget the “preschool age” idea that has long forced us to think that kids need to be past those best years before being handed over to professionals to “learn” – really to be indoctrinated.
Instead, I learned to read well by age 3, just from my mother pointing to the words as she read them in the usual kid stories and books that I loved then, and also explaining about letters and how their sounds worked to form the words and sentences. There’s much more to be said, but the other BIG point I see as highest priority is that systems thinking came naturally, decades before I ever heard the term. Connecting the scenes and facts in everything I read and/or experienced was a natural drive, producing a unique pleasure as I formed a worldview. Which gave me a 160 IQ when entering 1st grade and being skipped into 2nd. One unified worldview, unlike the brain-wasting several we are usually forced into. With zero coaching, I saw the difference between National Geographic articles and the kid (and adult) stories I used to value too highly. So here I am at age 76, still learning from excellent sources like Ecosophia, and trying to spread the best idea I have to offer.
It may be of interest here what Professor Mattias Desmet (the one Dr. Robert Malone recommended because of his theory about mass formation) mentioned in
between 22:00 and 26:00:
Since more than 20 years we do have serious problems with the quality of science and the connection between the results measured and the conclusions drawn from this. It is estimated that at least 73 % of all published papers in medicine are completely wrong.
He mentions especially the following articles Reproducibility: A tragedy of errors in Nature, 2016 ( https://www.nature.com/articles/530027a ) and Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, John P. A. Ioannidis, in Plos Medicine 2005.
Thus the managerial class based its management of the corona crisis and the vaccination program on the conclusions of “studies” from which at least 73 % are completely wrong.
Another point is that Professor Joseph Tainter mentioned in “The Collapse of Complex Societies” and in “Drilling down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma” that the Eastern Roman Empires evades a collapse in the 7th century by dramatically reducing its complexity. It seems they fired most of their bureaucrats and managerial class. The pandemic demonstrated the uselessness of many institutions and of large parts of our complexity. Thus we learned that we can reduce our complexity and can close down some institutions without regret.
An article about how neoclassical economics is hopelessly detached from reality.
An interesting article about Autism
(I also have Asperger’s syndrome)
The insight, when it came, was almost blinding. The third stone from the sun, Earth, belonged to the state of Uqbar. But, the state of governance, which was Uqbar, had been usurped by the Echthroi.
Uqbar is the harmonic state of planetary governance. Uqbar is a state of mind
That English Bay Barge song is great. If filthy Americans are allowed in, I’ll go look at it sometime soon.
Dig this article from RESCUE. https://rescue.substack.com/p/chilling-pandemic-data-from-the-insurance
“A major Indiana-based insurance company reports unprecedented 40 percent death rate increases industry-wide among working-age Americans in 2021 compared to to pre-pandemic data.” The insurance data is for people who are employed and thus have decent access to health care. CDC data also shows a sharp rise in death rate in the 18-64 age group far beyond what is accounted for directly by Covid. 252,000 deaths overall, including 50,600 where Covid was the cause or contributing factor.
The article does not speculate on causes. Clearly, the US working class is facing stresses. That “future” we should have prepared for is here.
Of course, as you say, 20th century style corporate capitalism, and communism (as implemented in Eastern Europe rather the ideal Communism, i.e. basically the same as the first but all owned by the state) exhibit flaws where abstractions diverge from reality.
Contemporary neo-liberal capitalism, where instead of everyone working for the Corporation, the workers on the ground are actually working for an outsourced subcontractor, and only a few managers actually work for the Corporation, could turn this into overdrive, because the people in management don’t even work for the same organisation as those who will actually do the work. Therefore the managers can be tempted to only deal with abstractions, and obscure their thinking by talking in management-speak peppered with buzzwords, so that it is very hard to connect their pronouncements to actual reality.
Dear John Michael,
I realize that it was not the main thrust of your essay here, but I couldn’t help but smile to myself when you explained the difference between the two different forms of the verb “to know” in languages other than English, which we English speakers roll into one.
This reminds me of the similar difference in words, and concepts, of the English verb “can” (as in “to be able”), and of a humorous incident I had years ago with a shop keeper in La Paz, Bolivia.
Looking at some musical instruments in her shop which intrigued me (being that they, “charangos”, were made with the shell of an armadillo), the shopkeeper encouraged me to pick one up and try it out. However, I had no experience playing any musical instrument but the piano, and not wanting to look like an idiot, I politely told her “Lo siento, pero no puedo tocarlo” (literally, “I’m sorry, but I cannot play it”). She immediately looked down at my hands in surprise, at which point I realized that what I had said in Spanish came out not as “I can’t play it”, as we would commonly say it in English, but as “I am UNABLE to play it”. I then realized that I should have used one of the two forms of the verb “to know”, conocer, meaning “to know how to”, or “to be familiar with”, instead.
Even so, it was not as embarrassing an episode as when I accidentally asked our guide on a Bolivian jungle trip, as a particularly beautiful butterfly (“mariposa”) went by, “What kind of homosexual (“maricon”) is that?”, instead.
JMG, thanks for a refreshing dose of reality as usual!
I have a friend with a small farm whose (rather new and otherwise reliable) tractor has been out of commission for nearly a year because a computer chip has failed in the instrument panel. There is still no date for when a replacement will be available. The future will have a great demand for folks who are able to creatively make things work, by fabricating parts, bypassing unnecessary complexity, repurposing salvage components, etc. No idea of that’s your cup of tea but it’s what is on my mind today.
Sort of relevant, re: rule of “experts.” Vague memory here: read about LBJ bringing in a bunch of “the best and the brightest”. Or maybe one of LBJ’s lieutenants. LBJ or lieutenant was very excited about the project. A savvy politico sighed and said something like, “I wish one of them had at least run for sheriff once.”
Ryan Tiefen @ 13 My thoughts on the question you asked, for what they might be worth.
First, are you sure the career you planned or might be abandoning is useless? There is a crying need for virtuous, honest, diligent professionals at every level. Be the engineer who can design a functioning for the next 300 years sewer system instead of the glamour projects. If law is your passion, be the capable and diligent, (and trusted!) public defender. Be the MD who does house calls and doesn’t disdain herbal medications. How you go about finding useful training, there I can’t help you.
Hands on occupations for which there is need right now today include: sharpening of scissors, garden tools, knives etc. If you can sharpen my sewing scissors, I am your new best friend for life. In fact honest handymen of all kinds are making good livings as their own bosses. Revitalize and refurbish just about anything from small engines to houses to old cars. I love the old style toasters in which the sides open, but they need rewired. As do the excellent mid 20thC irons, and the mixers from that era could use a good over hall as well. I would far rather buy my grandkid a midcentury Sunbeam, cleaned and rewired by a professional restorer than shell out for one of those overpriced monsters that go for $200. and up.
If you are into gardening in any way, two low upfront investment business opportunities might be 1. all natural yard care–no blow dryers, compost piles maintained for the customer, no avocado theft from the client’s trees, hire college students and make sure they do their bathrooming before they go to work. This would be upscale for people willing to pay. and 2. heirloom and organic nursery stock. There is ever increasing interest in vegetable gardening, but not everyone wants to start seeds themselves. I have seen many times that heirloom and unusual varieties sell out at farmer’s markets at once. Set yourself apart by doing research and being able to answer questions. I once asked the variety name of a potted rose at a flea market. “What do you care what the name is? It’s a rose.” growled the seller. Sure, there are likely 5-10 nurseries near where you live, and they all buy from the same wholesale distributor and offer the same selection.
I believe the impacts of the future going forward will increasingly resemble that of a series of natural disasters with cumulative and lasting damage. Or more pessimistically, like continual warfare of people, places and things blown to smithereens. Having got a minor taste of real-life disaster response (most notably the Nothridge earthquake back in ’94), I’m willing to hang my hat on three general guidelines:
1) “No battle plan survives its first contact with the enemy.”–Clausewitz (I think) And here the “enemy” includes not only the things unexpectedly destroyed, but the unexpected reactions of people. The fall of Western Rome was jumping off a ladder compared to the fall of modernity, which is looking more like jumping of a cliff.
2) “The Plan is nothing; planning is everything.”–Dwight D. Eisenhower. The ability to quickly revise your response to actual events depends on detailed knowledge of your surroundings: terrain, people, resources, etc. Crafting a plan(s) is just a means to that end.
3) “Not every problem can be solved, but every problem can be decided.”–(author unknown) For example, you have the fire fighting resources (what’s left of them) to rescue group A on the west side of town, or group B on the east side of town, but not both. Something tells me the future will have a lot more deciding than solving.
One more general comment: The more complex, interdependent and specialized a society becomes, the greater the level of trust needed to make it work. (Oppressive oligarchies ultimately depend on regions of the world where there’s sufficient trust to produce the goodies.) But the high level of affluence that results from earlier eras of discipline and resource abundance, makes it easy for later generations to think that pace Kunstler, “anything goes and nothing matters.” But this attitude slowly at first, then quickly, erodes trust at the very time (resource shortages) that trust would be most needed. And so one faces a shortage of societal capital at the same time as the shortage of physical capital.
Lydia, I don’t think that’s settled yet. It depends partly on how much further the current mess proceeds, and partly on how many of us make a point of keeping the memory alive.
Denis, yes, that’s an important part of it. Another part is that people in the comfortable classes assume that if the government does something, they’ll be sheltered and the working classes and the poor will get to bear the pain — that’s been the guiding theme of US policy for decades now, after all.
John, that’s something I’ve been advocating for quite some time now, and it remains an important possibility — if enough people get off their rumps and join a lodge. (Full disclosure — I’m a 32° Freemason, past Noble Grand of an Odd Fellows lodge, and past Worthy Master of a Grange.) I’ve done a number of posts on lodges already; here’s one from a little over a year ago, and if you have a copy of the collected Archdruid Report essays you’ll find more in there. As for which orders are still going, the three I mentioned earlier are active in most parts of the country, but your best bet is to check out what exists in your own area — a lodge doesn’t have to have a national organization to be worth joining.
Jerry, thanks for this.
Michael, true enough! Unfortunately none of the old Zen masters took it the next step and pointed out that university degrees don’t cook the rice, either — burning the diploma doesn’t generate anything like enough heat… 😉
Tom, there are various schemes for improving education. I’d encourage readers who are interested to check out the one you favor, as well as any of the others that interest them.
Christophe, the British Medical Journal — that hotbed of anti-science crackpots! — published an article not long ago pointing out that at this point, it’s wisest to assume that all health research is fraudulent unless proven otherwise. If one of the world’s premier medical journals is saying that, why, I think it’s time to listen.
Stellarwind, thank you for both of these.
Coboarts, the prospects of a mashup of Jorge Luis Borges and Madeleine L’Engle are — well, dizzying.
BeckyZ, yes, I’ve been watching the elevated death rates. It’ll be interesting to see which way the curve goes from here.
MawKernewek, a very good point. Maybe the managerial corporatists were embarrassed to find that the socialists were even better at failing than they were, and decided to up their game in order to compete!
Alan, funny! Stories like that are good reminders of the way that our languages shape our thinking and our experiences.
Mark, just one of the services I offer. 😉
Nemo, yep. David Halberstam’s book The Best and the Brightest is about their total failure in Vietnam — it’s a good object lesson.
Greg, four good points.
Possibly, a society that has has focused so strongly on gaining book-knowledge or I’d call it theory and that has focused so strongly on analyzing things and pulling them apart has to flight into abstraction in order to not become mad.
To give an example, the health subject that shall not be named had led me to investigate a lot about the immune system and how it works and there I found this magnificent image of a T-cell, captured by an electron microscope:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/89/SEM_Lymphocyte.jpg/1024px-SEM_Lymphocyte.jpg (I unfortunately don’t know how to embed images here…)
Now, if we assume that this is this and that kind of cell and that it interacts by certain chemical processes with other cells in the body and that you can learn to manipulate it in the way you want it and so on – that’s one thing. You’re in charge and eventually, in some more or less distant (but ever distant) future, you’re going to have it all figured out and with that certainty, you can feel great, for a while.
But then imagine somebody who approaches from this direction realizes this thing he captured with his SEM is conscious. A conscious, living creature of its own, with it’s own perceptions and it’s own, hidden life. Imagine discovering that every cell in your body is such a living, conscious entity.
They’re talking about the laws of nature as if this was something you could understand. There is possibly no law, but just life. The crawling chaos, if you like. What we call “laws” are clumsy attempts to formulate some observations we have made in a language called mathematics. It answers a few “how?” but not a single “why?” or “what?” Once you really understand this from deep within, you realize that you don’t know anything, that you don’t even know who or what you are, nothing. And you have nothing in store to deal with that experience. I once came along that road and I made the realization. It took me more than a year to pull me out of the pits I fell into and be able to fully participate in “normal” life again.
But despite all its flaws and limitations, I hold science (not Science) in great praise. It has shown me a way to perceive nature in much more depth and detail and has played it’s part in opening the gates to look beyond. Isn’t that image of the T-lymphocyte an absolutely great object for meditation?
It’s a journey beyond words, though I fear most will not take it as remarkable easy as Owen Merril did… For many of them, the road might first lead through the suburbs of hell, before it turns to some better place. But at some point you probably have to leave the land of abstraction.
Hi John Michael,
Yes, I encounter this story all of the time. People dismiss my lived experience and so I dismiss their abstractions. It’s probably not an optimal response, but how much energy can I personally chuck at the problem? Dare I mention thirteen years of experience with relying upon renewable energy systems (and you’ve heard me over these long years constantly tinkering and modifying them so they’ll work at least better than they did) versus encountering a strongly held belief system on the subject? It’s utterly bonkers.
And um, err, dirt under fingernails. With a tiny fraction of the population involved in agriculture down here (around 1% I believe) it is little wonder that nobody seems even remotely concerned that imports of phosphate minerals have dried up because of the land of stuffs decision to ban exports. That’s your health concern you’ve been worrying about there, that is. It’s not going to end well. Oh well.
I’m coming around to the idea that we are currently reaching the opposite end of the economic continuum from the Great Depression. It’s an intriguing idea because it kind of fits the facts on the ground. We’ve got the flip side of the economic story, but with the same outcome. Take for example employment. Right now there are plenty of jobs that can’t be filled for all sorts of reasons, and unemployment (like sitting at home doing nothing on orders isn’t exactly that!). But back then, there was mass unemployment and few if any available jobs. Back then there was stuff on the shelves but finding consumers with money was not so easy. Nowadays, people have plenty of money, but the stuff on the shelves is in short supply. I dunno, I’m cogitating upon this story – there’s something in it. And I’m hearing some intriguing stories of backlash with employment issues and mandates. Interesting.
Looks like the weather is finally warming up here – your mention of growing seasons has been part of my life this past few months. And that Tongan volcano might cool the next growing season. Oh well, this growing stuff gets easier with time and experience.
Greetings Mr. Greer,
I’m the main ‘chef’ in our domicile. As is often the case, I’ll parse through several recipes, either cookbooks we own, or via the internet (u-toob demos, online recipes, or what have you..). Then, after soaking up such in my brainsack .. whilst taking stock of the larder as well as of a treasure chest of spices, I chart my immediate epicurean journey, hoping to sail into a good and delicious harbor of sensation. Admittedly, I sometimes hit a reef of non-palatable destruction .. but survive to chance another meal with whatever the home galley can provide..
So, on the one hand I take in what measure I can glean from abstractions, and combine them with experiance plus a couple dashes of serendipity to reach my goal.
It isn’t quite the same thing, but you could use the terms “theory” for the intellectual knowledge, and “craft” for the practice. Some people have both, most people these days only have one or the other, and those that master something outside of rarified managerial or academic circles have the craft skills.
Masterful essay, JMG – and I like where this series is going. Keep it coming!
Way back in the previous century when I was pursuing a degree in environmental studies, the extremely eclectic faculty was ideologically split between the ‘planners’ and the ‘deep ecologists’. Being a big fan of Aldo Leopold and Walt Whitman, I simply could not fit in with the ‘planners’ group; nor could I understand them — so boringly predictably rational! Planning seemed to squeeze the soul out of life. And a cursory study of the environmental mess that we had made for ourselves, I figured that we would not be able to ‘plan’ our ways out of this.
I suppose that we cannot live without abstractions, but we should choose our abstractions wisely and keep them to a healthy minimum. We certainly should not live in a house made out of abstractions – which is exactly what our ‘illustrious’ planners seem to have created. A house of cards in my eyes. I trust ‘know-how’ a lot more than ‘book learning’ and I am hoping that my grounding in the former will help me fumble my way through whatever future I may find myself in.
As for the immediate future .. where the unimaginable clueless elite are concerned, both here in the states and around the planet.. well, let my just say that they are as a scow heaped with stinking, putrid offal, stuck in the doldrums, situated right over a series of seamounts, comprised of a seething public anger, that are about ready to blow.. bigtime!
I”t’s raining on Mongo…” Not only do many sci-ri planets have the same weather, but the same beings planet wide. Klingons live on one planet, Feregis on another, Vulcans on yet another. Makes you wonder how they ever lerned to get along with other beings.
Great essay JMG…thanks.
Reading yours and the comments, it needs to be emphasized that the backside of the energy curve is not a cliff. I warned about oil prices rising – they are beginning to do so, but the economies of most countries are still hobbling along due to the lockdowns. Once the air clears of those pesky Covidian germs (amazing to watch BoJo today, btw,,,he was enjoying himself!), and economies attempt to grow – that’s when we hit the next step down. And this could all be seen in international exploration data for the last 5-6 years and thus shouldn’t be a surprise – yet it will be ballyhooed as such.
I believe that people need to be cognizant of the moments as they form from present into history – trying to scry over the bow wave of quantum foam that is the present is really difficult due to information overload, disinformation and blatant lies. I have had and enjoyed much more success looking farther afield, as we discuss here – so might be a good thing to mention often that the decline we are at the edge of is not going to be a cliff, except in certain areas where it will be. And by areas, I do not necessarily speak of geography – yet that too plays. The fall of Rome had zero effect on the entire western hemisphere after all, and the Chinese were otherwise occupied…
I think perhaps once globalism chokes on things a bit more, and people refocus towards their immediate regions and neighbors, then things ought to achieve a bit more equilibrium. That would likely be a good indicator of our actual reality settling in as well.
Live in the moments you are granted and take joy in them. I just had a 30 year friend die in his sleep at age 48, leaving a widow and 2 children. One never knows the end of the skein until you are there…smell those daisies and roses and lilacs!
@JMG ROFL I remember reading about that whale. What a grand time to be alive.
I’m really enjoying this series of posts about the future we are actually likely to get. Thanks for what you are doing here–it is an important message.
I am still making my way through the Deindustrial Reading List and have moved on to Where the Wasteland Ends by Theodore Roszak. This quote seems to resonate with your essay:
“I suspect that what the suave technocracy may finally have to settle for will be (to borrow a phrase from Henry Miller) “an air-conditioned nightmare” of endemic malfunction and slapdash improvisation. Glowing advertisements of undiminished progress will continue to rain down on us from official quarters…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 scene will be indefinably sad and shoddy despite the veneer of optimism. It will be rather like the end of a world’s fair in it’s final days when things start to sag and disintegrate behind the futuristic facades…
“But let us make no mistake. Such a precarious state of affairs by no means implies the end of the artificial environment or the technocracy. As I have suggested, in and of itself technological breakdown only strengthens the social power of expertise…”
So if he is right, as things are increasingly dysfunctional, there will be a doubling-down on technocratic interventions and expertise, and when that doesn’t work, a doubling down again. After the insanity of the last couple of years, it is hard to imagine things getting crazier, but unfortunately there is a case to be made that they will.
I really appreciate your perspective that the future is essentially unknowable, and staying flexible and adaptable will be the key. Things might get even weirder!
A part of what I see happening with society losing itself in abstractions is what Jacques Rancière’s translator calls explicatory stultification. My French copy hasn’t arrived yet, but I think Rancière uses the French word “abrutir” which means to make stupid. Essentially what explicatory stultification means is that when experts and authority figures explain something to a student they are making them stupid. When a student thinks that they need an expert to explain something to them, they subordinate their intellect to that of the expert. No reflection takes place and nonsense ideas are passed down over time. Nowadays, people get a useless degree, inflate their egos, and think they know something about something. No one attempts to teach themselves or with the aid of what Rancière calls an “Ignorant Schoolmaster”. The ignorant schoolmaster teaches with the Will and not the Intellect. The main example Rancière describes in the book is that of Joseph Jacotot, a French professor who “teaches” French ignorant Flemish speakers to write in French by telling them to read a French and Flemish copy of a book at the same time. The students end up being able to write well in French at the end of the experiment. The students use Barfield’s, process of forming figurations to learn the abstraction of the French language! And if this is reminding anyone of JMG inspiring people to read and meditate on things, then we’re on the same page :). JMG, I have to ask – have you read The Ignorant Schoolmaster? If not, you are definitely putting the ideas into practice. I’m only the third of the way through, but loving it so far.
In the very, very short run, some things are as predictable as sunrise. From today’s paper:
Light, sweet crude oil $85.43/bbl.
US will try to stop Russia from invading Ukraine.
I note that most thoughtful discussions of the Gift of Multiple Futures in s/f points out that the more distant the futures, the harder it is to read any of them.
BeckyZ – I’ve looked carefully at the “40% increase in working-age deaths” story, and offer a somewhat calming perspective. Very few people of working age die. Before the pandemic, it was about 0.3%. Now, if the rate increased by 40%, that “soars” not to 40.3%, but 0.42%. So, now we’re talking about 4.2 people per thousand dying. That’s a Big Problem for a life insurance company, which would need to raise premiums by 40% to compensate, but it’s not the sort of thing that the rest of us are likely to notice. (My first wife, as it happens, died of cancer while within that age range, so I don’t dismiss the grief that follows even statistically rare events. But they are rare.) A 40% increase is worth investigation, but not panic.
@pygmycory – I feel like there is also a potential here also to name the chain and barge; let us look to the Mother Country for inspiration!
“”The controversy over the naming of a new polar research vessel [Boaty McBoatface] was an ‘astoundingly good outcome for public interest in science'”, and “the row had ‘put a smile’ on people’s faces” after attracting huge public interest.
Observers of contemporary culture coined the term “McBoatfacing”, defined as “making the critical mistake of letting the internet decide things”. In one such observation, Jennifer Finney Boylan of The New York Times wrote that to be “McBoatfaced” was to allow people to “deliberately make their choices not in order to foster the greatest societal good, but, instead, to mess with you”. The results of the poll inspired numerous similar spoofs in other naming polls.””
JMG – The conundrum that I can’t seem to grapple with is: if I have tradable skills, tools, and even some materials stockpiled, what are the chances that any of my suburban neighbors will have skills, tools, or material goods that would be valuable to ME? There’s no way that I can be self-sufficient, but I can’t even get my neighbors interested in growing a few fine summer tomatoes! (Their response, that no amount of effort could grow a financially-significant amount of produce in the available space is, unfortunately, persuasive.)
Mary Bennett – Suppose we lived close enough together that I could sharpen your scissors. Would you sew patches on my blue jeans in return? That would be fine, but what if I’m just hungry? How many pairs of dull scissors would I need to sharpen to put food on the table? Who will have excess food to trade for my scissor-sharpening services?
Michael Gray #37: the Zen saying you shared reminds me of a popular First Nations saying: I don’t want to hear your philosophy if it doesn’t grow corn.
How do we differentiate between abstractions we construct and perception (albeit imperfect perceptions) of higher (e.g. mental) plane “objects”, the latter which presumably exist in a manner that the former do not?
Regarding our ruling managerial class, I would like to share a blog post that makes very similar considerations https://tinkzorg.wordpress.com/2021/08/16/farewell-to-bourgeois-kings/, written a few months ago, after the Afghan debacle. I will quote from it if it entices people to read it:
In very real terms, Afghanistan turned into a testbed for every single innovation in technocratic PMC governance, and each innovation was sold as the next big thing that would make previous, profane understandings of politics obsolete. In Afghanistan ”big data” and the utilization of ever expanding sets of technical and statistical metrics was allowed to topple old stodgy ideas of dead white thinkers such as Sun Tzu or Machiavelli, as ”modern” or ”scientific” approaches to war could have little to learn from the primitive insights of a pre-rational order. In Afghanistan, military sociology in the form of Human Terrain Teams and other innovative creations were unleashed to bring order to chaos. Here, the full force of the entire NGO world, the brightest minds of that international government-in-waiting without a people to be beholden to, were given a playground with nearly infinite resources at their disposal. There was so much money sloshing around at the fingertips of these educated technocrats that it became nearly impossible to spend it all fast enough; they simply took all of those countless billions of dollars straight from the hands of ordinary americans, because they believed they had a right to do so.
Their spectacular failure on every conceivable level now brings us to the true heart of the matter. Western society today is openly ruled by a managerial class. Where kings once claimed a divine right to rule, and the bolsheviks of old claimed a right to rule as messiahs of a future kingdom on this earth (bearing a conspicuously strong resemblance to a very old tradition of messianic christianity with the serial numbers filed off, by the way) the technocrats of today base their claims to lordship not necessarily on the idea of the democratic will of the people, but on the historical inevitability of technocracy as such.
I just happened to find this quote by Fulton Sheen and it sadly, seems very apropos:
It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times.
JMG – A fresh update on the non-reproducibility of scientific research, this time, regarding cancer. From Science News, 2022/Jan/15. “Many cancer studies can’t be replicated”. The goal was to replicate 193 experiments from 53 “top cancer papers” from 2010 to 2012. Only 1/4 were able to be reproduced. That’s not to say that only 1/4 produced the same result. No, only 1/4 could be attempted, because the original research wasn’t described in enough detail, or required unobtainable materials (such as genetically-specific mice). Then, from the 50 experiments from 23 papers that were reproduced, the effect sizes were 85% lower than reported in the original research. When the research team contacted the original authors for assistance in reproducing their work, only 41% we helpful, and some were outright hostile. [Well, naturally! Nothing good (for the author) can come of reviewing previously accepted research.]
Note that it took 10 years to do this study. That’s a big fraction of a career in science.
@Ryan #13. If I may offer some advice, any of the traditional “trades” are going to do well in the future, too many have gone to college and never learned how to turn a wrench of any kind. For a depression proof career, think about plumbing, carpentry, electrician or mechanic. All of them are in high demand now, and will continue to be no matter what future we wind up with and you will also acquire other useful skills as you go.
@Mary Bennett #40. To sharpen your scissors, use the stainless steel rod for kitchen knives unless they have been abused and the edge is damaged. The rod makes a great tune up and will restore your factory edge good as new. I have hunting knives that have never seen a stone, just steel and the work as good as they did new despite heavy use. No need to outsource it.
JMG, I hear you on that and agree that the corporate machine cogs will implode soonest. However, I can’t help but wonder if it makes more sense to work within the machine, for now, in order to cash out any capital that I can while there is still any left. This would at least give me a shot at paying off debt and affording up-front costs like farm land and equipment.
Mark L, I appreciate the insight. I have indeed heard that many farmers actually prefer older tractors from the 60’s and 70’s, since they’re much less complex. The trend seems to be any vehicle without a computer or microchips is preferred!
Mary Bennett, thank you for the helpful info! Yes, I’m quite certain my past career must go by the wayside. I do agree that a hands-on profession is a safe bet, though to be completely honest, I’m just a bit trepidatious to begin a vocation that requires such extensive training (as opposed to a remote laptop-based job, for example) when it seriously feels as though things could get ugly sooner than later.
Nachtgurke, thank you for understanding what I was trying to say in those books!
Chris, the idea that this might be the inverse of the Great Depression — would that make it the Noisserped Tearg? — is worth brooding over.
Polecat, and that’s certainly one way to work the relationship between them!
Peter, yes, those would also do.
Ron, we certainly can’t live without abstractions — being human means that we have to deal with them — but we can make sure our abstractions are housebroken and trained to the leash, rather than letting them run all over the place gnawing on every sofa cushion in the house!
Polecat, that’s one theory. We’ll see what actually happens.
Christopher, it’s indicative of the stunning failure of imagination in modern SF that the entire universe known to Star Trek has less cultural diversity than the island of New Guinea.
Oilman, you’re welcome! Yes, I’ve been watching the price of oil climb — with WTI upwards of $86 a barrel at a time when the global economy is still running at half speed, I think you’re quite correct that the next energy crisis is not far off. Please accept my condolences, btw, for your loss of a friend!
Pixelated, true indeed. Those who have no idea what we’re talking about should visit the whale’s very own fan site at theexplodingwhale.com .
Samurai_47, we’ve already seen a whole flurry of doublings down. The question at this point is at what point the whole absurd spectacle falls to pieces, the way its Soviet equivalent did in 1991.
Youngelephant, I haven’t read The Ignorant Schoolteacher, but I’m fascinated to hear that it cites Jacotot — the Sâr Péladan wrote about Jacotot’s language-learning methods in The Supreme Vice, which is where I encountered it. The concept of explicatory stultification is a keeper!
Patricia M, yes on both counts.
Lathechuck, remember we’re not talking about a sudden shift. We’re talking about a long road down, one that’s already been ongoing for a while; your neighbors will have to keep scrambling to deal with the changes, just as you are doing, and if you’re busy coming up with skills that they can use, some of them may have the good sense to do the same thing. Nobody in the suburbs will ever be self-sufficient — the suburbs were designed to make their inmates dependent on as many corporate systems as possible, you know — so that’s not at issue; the question is simply whether you can supplement whatever work you do, and the household economy, with exchanges with those of your neighbors who have, or can get, a clue.
David, first we have to make figurations from our perceptions of the inner planes. Then we relate those figurations to sensory figurations using abstractions, of which occult literature is a good source. The crucial point is to recognize inner perceptions as perceptions and learn to figurate them, rather than immediately assimilating them to some abstraction or other.
Jean-Baptiste, Malcom Kyeyune is always square on target, and that’s one of his better posts.
Jon, good heavens. Okay, clearly I need to take a look at Fulton Sheen someday.
Lathechuck, wow. Once again, it’s less that this is true than that so prestigious a journal admitted it.
Ryan, don’t try to farm unless you have a passion for it and an opportunity to learn how. It’s a very challenging craft and a more than full-time job. If you can find a functional niche within the system, by all means — just don’t forget to use the resources to get training, which is worth much more than capital or land. (Lots of people have money and land — far too few know what to do with it.)
BobInOk, a trade is something I’m heavily considering as it’s just the re-invention I’m in need of. Ideally, though, I can begin with the apprenticeship and learn on the job, rather than go back to school for training. Time is of the essence!
I’m looking at the job market and my own situation and mulling things over.
My health is better than a year or two ago, and I think I might be able to hold down a few hours a week joblet, and there are a lot of jobs out there advertising flexible hours… then I’m thinking that what I have enough money to get by, and what I really want to do is grow food in the garden (I’d love to have a real homestead but I’m not strong enough physically (due to health issues not fitness that I could fix I’ve been working out carefully every day for years) it works better with two people than one, and I don’t have the start up capital for land), and try to find some sort of micro business that I could run. Or trying to make writing pay.
I can’t assume disability money will last forever, or that I’ll always have access to it, or that hyperinflation won’t turn it into about enough for a loaf of bread a week. Having another source of income would be really good… but past attempts suggest I likely can’t do enough work to support myself without driving myself face first into a brick wall of health and losing the job within a month.
But I also have a history of not managing to make worthwhile money when working for myself, and I don’t think I can physically handle much more gardening than I’m doing. It’s hard on my body. So I’m torn.
At least I actually have a choice this year. In 2019, I couldn’t do either option!
Thank you for your encouragement! I think about writing a great deal (although my opportunities to do so are currently limited by my time in the factory). Still, one of these years I am going to start a Blue Collar Philosophy blog or something along those lines. I will let you know if/when such a project begins.
Ryan, about that remote laptop, do you know how to do research, as in serious, honest research, not just the talking points de jure? For example, in the USA, every state has an appointed board which regulates utilities. I am not kidding. A group of nameless appointees gets to decide if your utility company can raise rates this year. And you, like me, were so proud of how well you were doing at conserving your usage. Can you find out who those appointees in your state are, what are their er qualifications, who appointed them and in general, what are their loyalties and allegiances? Can you find out who, exactly, owns the building in your town that just burned down? Can you follow a chain of ownerships to find the actual owner of a property or company? Can you find out which companies paid, that is, lobbied, which legislators to get the bills they wanted passed. So called journalists never bother anymore about such things. Please don’t disdain your current skill set, but while you are picking up some practical skills, and your former or present hobbies would be the place to start for that, can you also be figuring out different ways to use what you already know how to do?
Can you do the kind of organizing that is actually needed? Not petition city council about intersectional appointments, but group of folks spend a Saturday morning picking up trash and then have a potluck, all comers welcome.
Citizen groups in the PNW are having successes preventing industrial installations all up and down the coast. The tool they are using effectively is research. They find out, for example, that the company promising Jobs! in fact hires only low paid migrants or hardly anybody at all.
John #35–In addition to the three worthy organizations JMG mentioned, look into the ones that are named after animals, like the Elks, the Moose, the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Some of them have chapters in cities, but they tend to be more active in towns and rural areas, and are often a significant influence in the community.
In the last seven or eight years, there have been several devastating wildfires which swept through multiple California counties, burning towns to the ground and leaving thousands of people homeless. I remember that during and after one of these fires, it may have been the Camp Fire of 2018, an Elks lodge (unless I’m mistaken and it was Moose) located in a small town in that area simply threw open its doors to all the people who had been burned out. They camped in the parking lot, they were fed hot meals, they had a place to use a bathroom and get the news, without any charge, for weeks on end. There were not motels or relatives or government shelters enough for most of those people. The lodge gave them a temporary home for free.
If I lived anywhere near that area, I would have joined that lodge and helped with their fundraising.
I’ve been a few times to the Moose lodge in Pacifica, a small seaside city south of San Francisco. Some of my relatives are in a bluegrass band that plays there sometimes (or did before the pandemic). All I’ve seen of the place is the social hall, which is big, has a bar on one side and a cafeteria-style kitchen that serves good food, plus a stage and tables and chairs.
You can find out from the websites of these groups or from local weekly newspapers what kind of public service projects they are doing. To get their social vibe, I guess you have to meet them. You could do that by going to one of their public events that’s a fundraiser, like a pancake breakfast for the fire fighters or crab feed to support school programs. Some organizations have national programs–the Lions Club collects and distributes eyeglasses–others seem to have more local variation.
Many of them rent out parts of their facilities to other local groups for meetings or events.
Your essay made me think of this image. Even if we all have the same abstractions by living in the same culture, just how the other abstractions make you look at it can mean a world of a difference…
Apparently there is an interesting philosophical concept (an abstraction that is!) that tries to grapple with how we perceive these abstractions and then make sense of them. It’s called “aspect perception”. The author of the essay provides some useful examples. One of them, for the sake of the discussion argues that there is a change in aspect perception once the sensory inputs that we receive “make sense” and we identify them. For example, as the essay goes, there is a similar change in perception to the one that goes from duck to rabbit when we make sense of the set of numbers 2,4,6 … etc and realize that is is an infinite series of even numbers. As well as when there is a change in aspect perception from the noises we listen to then figuring out they are the opening notes of ‘Ode to Joy’.
What makes this change possible? I would argue, that it is the mental dimension of our minds as you’ve said several times. We connect the images to its “meaning” and that gives that sensation of clicking. However, what does this imply? Is that meaningful moment also an abstraction that we use to make sense of the world every bit as dependant to the categories we have learn to think with? Or is it possible to start thinking all the way up into thoughts that do not arise from sensory perception? Would those thoughts be closer to “real”?
“Dr. Malone was puzzled. They were the most educated people, those Germans and they went barking mad. Perhaps they went barking mad BECAUSE they were most educated to begin with? Such a thought never seemed to have crossed his mind but it definitely seems to have crossed yours. Perhaps people are going barking mad now, because they are so edumacated?”
Those who are better able to comprehend abstractions are more vulnerable to be driven mad by abstractions.
Hence the Midwit Meme that people have been propagating around. The 120+ IQ people are able to overcome the madness that comes with comprehension.
But the Midwit from 100-115-119 IQ are less able to overcome this.
They are like minds open to memetic parasites/viruses that hijack them to propagate itself and destroy the person in question in myriad of ways.
@ JMG “Unfortunately none of the old Zen masters took it the next step and pointed out that university degrees don’t cook the rice, either”
While Zen doesn’t go that far due to its near lack of doctrine, standard Buddhism does. Sorry about hte length.
I have only heard this story verbally but it is a great example of a similar principal. Of note – In many Buddhist stories, when ever a professor is mentioned, they are someone to be looked down on as being misguided.
The sailor and the professor.
There was a long term professor that was on a ship crossing the ocean.
One night he had a great meal and was in a good mood. He went up to the deck and saw an old sailor looking out at the stars. Looking for a conversation and to learn from this sailors experience he figure to start a conversation.
The professors – “I assume that you are a long time sailor, am I right?”
Sailor – “Yes that is true. I have been on ships for the last 50 years”
Professors – “I see that you are looking at the stars. With all the years on the water and navigating – did you learned a thing or two about the stars and constellations?”
Sailor – “Well not really, I don’t know much about that”
The professor taken a back starts into the sailor – “You fool! What a Waste of a life! You stupid fool!” and then storms off back to his quarters.
The next day, the professor has another meal, even better than before and was in a very good mood. Going up onto the deck he sees the sailor again looking at some birds on the deck.
The professor thinks, “Ah that is it. He doesn’t know about the stars but surely he knows about the wild life.”
Professor to the sailor – “Tell me, with all the years on the sea, did you ever learn about the wild life around?”
Sailor – “Nothing really.”
Professor “Nothing!? How could you, 50 years out here and you know nothing. You fool! What a Waste of a life!” and then storms off back to his quarters.
The next day, the professor has another meal, the best he has ever had and is in a wonderful mood. Going up onto the deck he sees the sailor again looking at the clouds.
The professor thinks, “Ah that is it. He doesn’t know about the stars or about the wild life but surely he knows about the weather.”
Professor to the sailor – “Tell me, with all the years on the sea, did you ever learn about the weather”
Sailor – “Nothing really. Just never interested me.”
Professor “Nothing!? How could you?! 50 years out here and you know nothing about the stars, nothing about the wild life and nothing about the weather? You fool! You stupid fool! What a Waste of a life!” and then storms off back to his quarters.
Early in the morning, the professor wakes up to the ship lurking around wildly in a storm. That is when the sailor opens the door to the professor.
Sailor – “Tell me professor, in all your years of learning, did you ever learn to swim?”
Professor – “No I never did!”
Sailor – “You fool. What a waste of a life”
I do not speak or read French. Which sense of the verb “to know” does Éliphas Lévi use in his observation / advice / adage:
“To know, to will, to dare, to be silent.”
I have always felt that the idea was fundamentally sound, but that they really just should have used more explosives. A LOT more explosives. We really need to revisit the exploding whale concept.
@jmg On different cities and different futures – What are your intuitions about the comparative futures of urban/rural costal/inland northern/southern over the transition decades? Inquiring for urban homesteader near an inland southern rail city…
I loved your essay, but was your reply to Nomadic Beer about conspiracies that really opened my eyes this time. It’s nuggets like these that make reading through the comments here worthwhile.
I’m not sure it’s that “conspiracy theorists” (whoever they are) think there would be a utopia without the evil cabal – for one they tend toward being libertarians and aren’t going to have a unified utopia, or a belief it would be singular or knowable. Rather, their worldview says there are MULTIPLE cabals, many conflicting power groups all over the world, each with different plans and goals, in addition to the known power blocks and the aggregated people of each nation, or each area of each nation. And is that what you’re saying? He problem with the UniFuture Utopia is that everyone disagrees and wants something different?
There’s no ONE group in the way, then, secret or otherwise; EVERYONE is in the way. Everyone but me of course, because my way is the best and only way to true Utopia, you fool. Now do exactly what I say…we’ll start a PAC and club!
The concept of “explicatory stultification” is a bit like an idea I have entertained myself for a while which I call the ontological stupidity of the well educated. This notion is basically that with every increment of education an individual receives, an equal amount of practical ability, or nous, is deleted. I’m not quite sure how this process works, but it seems to have something to do with not using the hands. I think the natural balanced learning process for humans is instruction followed by application; these being interspersed so that each increment of knowledge is followed by a demonstration of how that knowledge can be used to interact with the outside world. However, education as it currently stands is simply, instruction, instruction, instruction with no interface with reality, this producing an iatrogenic effect.
@JMG, on your comment to Lathechuck: “Nobody in the suburbs will ever be self-sufficient — the suburbs were designed to make their inmates dependent on as many corporate systems as possible.”
That, along with your comment a couple weeks ago about how half the US population lives within a hundred miles of the Atlantic, and thus tram infrastructure would do quite well there, is again a statement I would want to shout from the rooftops in the US if I were there.
These two enormous and major aspects of American life are built on a myth of progress that is not true anymore, and are sailing into the Ring-Pass-Not.
My response was at least to get out of the way and let momentum take over. If no one does anything, then car infrastructure will continue to rot, and regular folks will continue to be priced out of the suburbs.
It certainly seems like it would be better for the environment if car infrastructure and suburbs go the way of the dodo, but holding that sentiment feels cruel, since there is the potential for quite a bit of human suffering in this process. One reason poor people rely on dumpy, cash-drain cars is because they cannot afford rent near where the jobs are in their area, for example.
I don’t claim to know the answers, but these are two of the plates spinning in the air right now.
Re: “no amount of effort could grow a financially-significant”
I’ve saw this turn a minor corner last summer, many of my neighbors were interested in the vegetable garden and when they saw it; they didn’t run off the usual list of excuses like that. They asked serious questions about where they could start their own.
Financial return on investment for the labor involved is a very tough sell to suburbanites; but last week our local grocery had half its produce section wiped out. Imagine no spinach on the shelves when spinach is something locally in season. Have a beverage of choice with a neighbor enough times and they’ll start to express some concerns about inflation and the supply chain shortages. The illusion that the things you need will always be waiting for you on a shelf has been shattered. The point of a victory garden was never to turn a tidy profit; it was to ensure you didn’t suffer nutritional deficiency and sucumb to illness while living off of lifeless shelf stables.
Will those same neighbors be producing a bumper crop this year? I doubt it, but the red pill is swallowed. One of my neighbors owns a civil engineering firm, big equipment, big know how; Another is a nurse; Another an AC Contractor/Landscaper/Welder. They all love my peaches, and when a big storm rolls in the men are outside helping each other. Even with zero skill and know how; it doesn’t hurt to have some buddies help move a heavy thing from here to there.
If you’ve been prepping solo up till now don’t talk yourself out of community building. Humble yourself a bit and you might find that your neighbors have way more to offer then you would think after witnessing them pick their nose while taking out the garbage :).
TL;DR; The prepper “useless suburbanite” self-loathing internet talking point doesn’t track the experience of people active in their community. People are the MOST valuable asset, and the well-stocked loners are less well situated then a well-connected asset to the community.
“In French, for example, if you want to say that you know something, you have to ask yourself what kind of knowledge it is. Is it abstract knowledge based on an intellectual grasp of principles? Then the verb you use is connaître. Is it concrete knowledge based on experience? Then the verb you use is savoir. Colloquial English has tried to fill the gap by coining the phrases “book learning” and “know-how,” and we’ll use these for now.”
It seems to me that in Spanish, which I know much better than French, the words are almost completely opposite, where “saber” is more the choice you’d use for the kinds of things you find out through “book-learning” whereas “conocer” is the word you’d use for the kinds of people and things you become acquainted with through experience, giving you “know-how”.
However, in saying that, I realise that I answer the question I posed to you at the end of the last thread (and for which your answer stressing “love” I thank you greatly!). That is to say, “saber” does not have room for knowing, connecting to, or loving people, whereas “conocer” is all about knowing, connecting to, or loving people – and also about all other kinds of knowledge that can be obtained in that (analogous) way.
Which means that I do not want, nor need to “saber” the world, but I do want and need to “conocer” at least this small bit of it on which I stand.
Great essay. Polyglots are Cassandras that have a unique insight into things that they cannot explain to people who are constrained by a single language, which is the overwhelming majority of Americans. Understanding only one language is like doing only push-ups (mentally) and calling it a workout. As a speaker of five languages, I can attest that, ironically, the more languages you learn, the more difficult it becomes to talk to other people. And you ratcheted up my respect a lot with “travel light.” My origins during my youth included the belief in “end times” and faith in the military. Church and state were two very common institutions in the 1940s. I served in the Army Special Forces in the late 60s in the mountains of Greece where “travel light and freeze at night” was a mantra that you felt, often painfully, but learned to appreciate. At mid-seventy, I appreciate traveling light even more. In preperation for the future, I have positionied myself and my wife where there is an abundance of food, survivable weather and relative seclusion, great beauty, a frugal but comfortable home, and people around me that have similar social beliefs and interests. With those problems solved, I am free to help my broader family who only speak one language and are charging headlong, blindly into the future. I suspect that at this point, little time remains for others to try to do the same.
The future cannot be planned… but it can be contributed to… 😉
About the cooking and the abstract vs hands-on knowledge; I remember since I was a child that my mom had a small cooking recipes notebook where she had jotted down various prescriptions caught from friends, neighbors and so on. Before the major holidays she would take it out and shuffle around what we had in house in order to bake the sweet stuff that accompanied the (almost ritual) celebration dinners. What baffled me at that time (I was maybe 5 or 6) was that in some of the recipes the quantity of flour necessary was expressed in terms like “as much as it takes” (rough translation) – and I would read the recipes, as I had nothing better to do – and keep asking her what that meant, as it was not expressed in clear, measurable amounts, as opposed to sugar, salt et. co. She would usually try to explain but it didn’t really make sense for me at the time – basically you add flour until you reach a certain consistency/texture ot the dough.
Now I see lots of university grads that have plenty of theoretical knowledge coupled with an overinflated conviction of selfrighteousness but zero practical experience, and this leads to conflicts when trying to apply standard prethought recipes in social settings. And I’m talking Eastern Europe here, not some overdeveloped first world country, mind you. I guess their mom didn’t have a cookbook nearby when they were kids…
I keep forgetting about the insidious need of the upper economic classes to support their lifestyle and to do it no matter what the cost. No one speaks it outright but it is always there, isn’t it?
I’m wondering though given the continuing mess of the supply chain and push back on forced vaccination in the workplace, why the corporate overlords who insist on sucking up all the wealth for themselves haven’t pushed out the Biden regime yet? I know they were all ready for their Great Reset and DC clearly promised and gave them trillions in give aways, but that will run out if it hasn’t already.
It seems like the powerful thing individuals can do is to turn their back on corporations as much as possible these days.
Mark L. and those posting about farming – at the PA Farm Show last week on of the items for raffle was a 1950’s era John Deere tractor restored. Needless to say it was very popular!
@Darkest Yorkshire, @JMG
co-op’s… I just sent a note to a friend of mine who I’ve been trading herbs & spices stuff with. He tends to buy a lot in bulk. I was reminded of when my dad belonged to two different food co-op’s. This was in the early 80’s. I don’t know if there are any in our area anymore. Later my mom & dad were part of “whole foods” type mail order thing, I think the company was called Harvest Day. They’d collect the order and money from friends and members of their church, and once a month or so people would come and pick everything up.
I think co-operatives and other arrangements definitely have a future in our futures.
Another thought – sorry for a separate post – but its a magical one and thought maybe its better for MM post or Open Post so feel free to delete.
I listened to an Auron McIntyre video the other day about the managerial classes and he made a point that their energy is no longer one of power but one of impotence. It got me thinking – They are so numerous and threaded through everything that nothing can move through them effectively to do actual things. They can issue orders (like CDC guidance) and be very controlling but when it comes to effective solutions in reality (like building temporary hospital capacity or coming with a suite of possible solutions to test in real time for an unknown virus) they go limp. No one has real power because no one takes responsibility. The system removes responsibility and therefore true power. There’s lots of followers but its empty motions with little effect.
People are quick to assume there is a conspiracy or cabal coordinating things because their actions are so bad that its inexplicable otherwise. Its easier to believe the only goal of the mess we are in is pharma company profits rather than a managerial class that does not hold actual power and doesn’t know how to.
I think the pharma companies just took advantage of the situation because no one stopped them.
I though about how power flows from Kether to Chokmah to Binah and both are needed to keep it going down the tree. If it gets stops at Chokmah by not recognizing its existence and what it can do then Binah is left responding to something like power that isn’t power. What flows is like a reflection of power. Its decaf coffee all the way down.
So maybe our managerial elite is the way it is because the individuals within it for the most part have been raised a couple of generations now in this powerless yet all controlling environment. It seems like people who have been raised farming or auto mechanics or home building etc have more of sense of real power and how to wield it. Its why local politics and local companies where one sees the people and their work isn’t at all like DC or state capital politics and those should have different vocabulary words too.
Not sure what sense this makes to you or anyone reading it. But it gives me more a sense of personal power and a way forward to think of the managerial elite as impotent. Doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous or evil or vindictive. But it does mean they can’t solve anything. Maybe there is a little blue pill they can take and maybe that’s what all the wars of the 20th century have been, but its not enough to keep them in actual power.
>Many cancer studies can’t be replicated
Ahem. I have a Modset Proposal. There’s a journal out there. It’s called the Journal of Irreproducible Results. I wonder what would happen if you tried submitting some of these papers that were not able to be reproduced? I wonder who would get offended and start spluttering and how unfunny and serious the people running the JIR would suddenly get?
Talk about having your head stuck in the past!
Now playing world’s smallest violin. He read too much Robert Heinlein in his youth and never had a new thought after that, if you ask me.
@Christopher Hope#58 – “And Terrans live on Terra.” It’s really no surprise that each of the Star Trek worlds has one single intelligent species, just as we do; and that one major space-going culture predominates. (Looking around me at all the nations whose second language is English, whose leaders wear European-style uniforms, etc, etc..and who would be the ones to contact outsiders, if such were possible.)
Have you ever met a Klingon peasant? Outside of Star Trek fanfic, published or otherwise. Wondered how the children are raised or what schools they attend? What about members of Vulcan’s laboring classes? A sheepherder deep in one of Vulcan’s deserts won’t be riding any rockets. One nice Trek novel’s viewpoint characters was a Romulan housekeeper for a minor, grumpy, elderly member of, was it the Senatorial class? No, that particular part is an actual reflection of the world we have today. Which was, of course, the entire point.
Ryan – the trouble with a remote, laptop-based job is precisely that it can be done remotely. Therefore it can be done by someone far away for much less money that you would need to make. I would recommend learning to do something useful with your hands that can’t be outsourced.
Re: farming – I’m seven years in and just finally figuring out how to make a bit of money. There’s no way I could be doing this without a spouse who works a well-paid technical job and supports the farm because he believes in the need for local food production. Everything is harder and more expensive than you expect, and it requires the equivalent of about six or eight apprentice-level trades because if you “call someone to fix it” all the time, you will be bankrupt very shortly.
Partly this is because food systems here in Canada at least have all been rigged by big industry to make it hard as possible for a small producer to compete. For example, it is illegal for me to keep a cow and sell milk to my neighbours without buying into our supply-management quota system, which is so expensive you could only justify it for a huge operation’s economy of scale. It’s not a health-safety issue. Even if I were to build a commercial kitchen separate from my house, pasteurize every drop and have a health inspector thru regularly, it is still illegal and I could go to jail for selling milk to my neighbours. Supposedly this system protects our consumers from wild price swings and market fluctuations, but all I see is a steady increase in prices at the grocery store.
I think a related concept is complexity. Our society is excellent at dealing with simple problems (you have a virus. get rid of that virus, problem solved!) and buries its head in the sand when faced with complex problems (wait you’re saying you still have covid symptoms two months later? go to a psychiatrist you must be making that up!)
I had a (surprisingly!) right leaning university education in economics in the early 2000s. In one particular class the neoliberal consensus was summed up as “if you follow our prescriptions everyone in society will be better off. Assuming the societal winners compensate the societal losers.”
In other words: “If you assume we’re working with a simple problem, this will work!”
What? How exactly will the societal winners compensate the losers? Has that ever happened peacefully in history? I dunno! not my department. Why aren’t you asking whether my math is right?
Sometimes I wonder. Is planetary evolutions part of a script. Set in a relative order of operations. At some point a planet similar to Earth goes through a process that leads to a large stash of fuel (oil). In which an intelligent species has a small window of opportunity to evolve to physically explore space, set up colonies, build space stations around the sun. All those things promised by the Jetsons and the Star Treks…
However it is simultaneously a test of cosmic worthiness. Which, fortunately or unfortunately, we as an intelligent, somewhat, self aware species have failed; using our fuel supply instead for war, and the production of unsustainable and unnecessary, even much superfluous, nonsense.
Alas. Ho hum. Here we remain. Let’s plant some trees 🌲
I’ve also found success dealing with worker-owned manufacturers, family businesses, and customer-owned co-ops. A customer owned phone company, VTCI laid fiber optic cables to its entire service area, including a remote town of 250 people back in the 1990s, because what else were they going to do with all their profits? All their customers love them and their annual dividend checks… and high speed internet since the 90s… when corporate ISPs still won’t provide service to some remote areas… plus they do a scholarship program and host an annual banquet for their customers. I miss them since I moved!!!
Now I live near Scot Forge, an employee-owned steel mill. It’s very hard work, so most of their workers retire at 20 years and use their hefty savings and cushy retirement to go into a second career. Though a few fully retire in their 40s or 50s. It’s very difficult to get a job there. I heard the original owner had a falling out with his son (who would have inherited it) so he left it to his workers instead of giving it to a “lazy hippie.” I feel like there’s some sort of irony there… I mean, starting an employee-owned business is a “hippie” activity…
I have worked at a lot of family-owned businesses, which I think are also viable, but they tend to be pretty hit-or-miss, depending, obviously, on how healthy the family dynamic is.
I think it’s also important to have lots of smaller businesses with healthy competition between them. I wouldn’t care if there were corporations, wealthy capitalist ventures, and government-controlled businesses if there were also family-owned, worker-owned and customer-owned options available, as well as sole-proprietorships… I probably wouldn’t even choose a product based on their organizational model but instead on their product and environmental impact, because in a diverse, healthy economy, there’s room for all kinds.
My best to your mom. I’m concerned though, you seem to be afraid your negative energy is affecting her. I’m much more worried that your dark thoughts might be troubling you. You sound like you’re blaming yourself for things outside of your control. Please fon’t do that. Please treat yourself with the kindness you deserve, or, if it’s too hard to do that, at least treat yourself with the level of kindness you give others.
info @ 81 I just read an article by a writer whose name I don’t care to remember complaining and explaining about how “midwits” in government agencies and their ingrained conservatism and blocking of innovation, making the entire PMC class look bad, or something like that. I couldn’t help thinking that in any business or organization I have ever seen, it is the derisively termed “plodders” and “lifers” who do the work that keeps the enterprise going while fancy pants showboats are playing their destructive games.
I am late to the discussion, but to complement what JMG already responded…
The bottom of the bucket is going to fall at different times for different people. If the Anglosphere’s immediate future will be anything like the Mexican recent past, you will continue to have a more or less functioning Industrial Economy, but the growing number of losers in the musical chairs game will join a parallel Informal Economy. Last time I checked in our case, it was about one third of the workforce whose livelihood depends on this kind of hustle.
These people do not barter, but for the most part they just charge for their goods and services in hard cash. The ones that are semi-formal even have two sets of prices/paying options. They advertise one price and accept electronic payments, but if you ask – “how much is the least [you could charge]?”, – they are likely to respond with another question: “do you need an invoice or not?”.
This is of course illegal, but in a country with tens of millions of people doing it anyways what is the government to do? Hire hundreds of thousands of inspectors? With what money? And how do you make sure the inspectors will not just take kickbacks? This is why they are putting lot of effort and money into easy electronic payments. The ultimate goal is a cashless, monitorable society.
The problem with these sorts of arguments is that they lead to conclusions that are ultimately self-defeating. The fact that the future cannot be predicted precisely, and that things never work out entirely as planned, is not an argument against planning, it’s an argument for redundancy and resilience, which all good plans have. After all, when you go shopping, you don’t stick a random amount of money in your pocket and then wander around the store throwing anything and everything into your basket, only to find at the end you haven’t got enough money. You make a shopping list and go to the store: if you spend a bit more than you expect, or if some things you want are not available, you don’t give up making shopping lists, you just accept it.
Similarly, history is full of examples of successful planning, based on a clear set of objectives mixed with flexibility of means. The industrialisation of Japan, the foundation of the Taiwanese and Chinese electronics industries, the recovery of France and Germany after WW2, were not just random series of events, but the result of a carefully thought-out series of objectives arranged in a rational order: a plan. When I was young, Japan meant cameras and motor-bikes. Then they added small cars and stereo equipment. Then they added larger cars, televisions and computers, and so on. As they progressed, they learnt, adjusted, looked at failures and tried again. With their country devastated after WW2, the French said, well, where are we going to start? They realised quite quickly that to produce anything they needed steel, and for that they needed iron ore and coal, so they had better start getting the mines working again, and then rebuilding the steel plants. Only after that could they rebuild the national railway system. By contrast, if you want to see a counter-example, look at Bosnia. Nearly thirty years after the end of the war the country is still an economic disaster area. The international community has collective prayer sessions waiting for the magic of the market to spontaneously produce recovery, but it hasn’t and isn’t going to.
But Bosnia also shows one other thing: there is a Plan for the country, but it’s a rentier one, dreamt up by bankers and criminals, to make the country an entrepôt for drugs and human trafficking, a holiday destination for the middle class from the Gulf and a corrupt consumer of international aid. Just because you can’t see someone in a government office doing the planning doesn’t mean it isn’t going on. And the mafia isn’t great on political accountability.
I’d add finally (sorry) that successful planning is about knowing what you want and being able to plan to get it, as well as knowing what your progress is. If you want to build an electronics industry, develop a satellite launcher capability, double the number of people at university or ensure that nobody is without a house, these are tangible goals against which you can measure progress. By contrast, almost everything that passes for ‘planning’ these days is psychobabble: the unquantifiable in pursuit of the unimportant. There, I agree with you.
@Chris at Fernglade Farm
You wrote, “I’m coming around to the idea that we are currently reaching the opposite end of the economic continuum from the Great Depression.”
The old-timers say “We had everything but money.”
Our children will say “We had nothing but money.”
“That is to say, if you’re setting out to explore unfamiliar territory, deciding in advance what you’re going to find there and marching off in a predetermined direction to find it is a great way to end up neck-deep in a swamp as the crocodiles close in.”
As I read this, I couldn’t help but think about the guy who moved from his home, I think in eastern Virginia, during the first year of the American Civil War to get out of the way of the fighting. He moved to the quiet town of Appomattox Court House and owned the land on which Lee surrendered.
Pygmycory, it’s probably very wise to be doing that sort of thinking just now. I have no useful advice to offer — I’ve managed to create a niche market for my work, but it’s a very, very odd niche and I doubt anyone else could copy it.
Stephen, please do let me know! That sounds worth reading.
Augusto, that’s great:
Thank you for the link to the article — aspect perception sounds like a useful concept to help explain how figuration works.
Michael, a fun story. Thank you!
Bfp, it’s “savoir.” The four magical virtues in his original text are “savoir, vouloir, oser, se taire.”
BCV, maybe you should apply for a position with the Oregon State Department of Whale Removal!
Void, that’s a subject for a post all by itself. The very short form is that it depends on a galaxy of variables, most of which are local and regional in nature.
Patricia O, glad to hear it.
Jasper, interesting. Most of what I’ve seen in conspiracy culture — a term I find much more useful than “conspiracy theorists,” btw — has tended to involve focusing on One Big Conspiracy, and then getting into online fights with people who prefer to blame some other candidate for that role.
Phil K, are you sure that it’s ontological in nature? I’ve tended to think of it as essentially epistemological, because it messes with the ability of the educated to notice anything that isn’t in accord with their preferred set of abstractions.
CS2, no argument there. The fascinating thing is that the suburbs used to be where the well-to-do people lived, and the poor were in the cities, close to the jobs. Now it’s increasingly the other way around. My working guess is that the next phase — already under way, as the flurry of help wanted signs everywhere in the US demonstrate — is that the working poor decide that the miserably inadequate wages they’re being offered aren’t enough to make them put up with the petty tyranny of management and the constant abuse they get from well-to-do customers, and find ways to get by that don’t involve a paycheck from some corporation or other. Over the decades that follow, they filter out to the half-abandoned rural regions and begin the first drafts of new, local peasant cultures, while the cities wind down in the usual way and the suburbs turn into overgrown ruins.
Scotlyn, excellent! One of the complexities we face in dealing with the world as human beings is that we have various modes of cognition, and each of them — including the two we’re discussing — have their own limits and potentials. It’s precisely because abstract knowing (saber in your taxonomy) has been so overemphasized in our society that the very different kind of knowing one gets from direct contact so often gets forgotten. A metaphor I’ve used before seems apt: if you have a passionate year-long relationship with someone who is in a government witness protection program, everything you know (in an abstract sense) about that person may be wrong, but you still know them (in another sense) very, very well! Hmm — the abstract intellect functions by perceiving divisions, while another function of the mind — the one you’re expressing with the verb conocer — functions by perceiving unities and connections. This needs more reflection…
Derrick, no argument there! I only speak one language but I read three fairly fluently and know the basics of several more, and the challenges of communicating with monoglots — well, that’s basically how I make my living. As for traveling light, while I don’t have the same kind of experience with that as you, I’ve also had to jettison a lot of baggage — material or otherwise — at various points in the past. And you’re right, of course, that there isn’t a lot of time to dawdle. We’re already in the crisis period.
Scotlyn, fixed it for you. (And it’s worth fixing.)
Dan, thanks for this! Everyone I know who’s good at cooking cooks at least partly by eye, without fixed measurements, so it’s a useful metaphor.
Denis, the difficulty they face is that they don’t have a replacement for Biden. If he dies or gets removed, Kamala Harris takes the presidency, and she’s got all the charisma of a dead cockroach. The geriatric kleptocracy at the helm of the Democratic Party has done too good a job of eliminating their own internal competition; they don’t have anyone who can pick up the banner for them, and the GOP is being taken over by enthusiastic populists whose main criticism of Trump is that he didn’t go far enough. So the current ruling class is screwed. Some of them can make deals with the rising populist movement — that’s what happened in the wake of Roosevelt’s 1936 victory — but I suspect most of the current kleptocrats are planning on fleeing the country with suitcases of cash, and the reason they’re so apopleptic about the failure of Biden’s legislative agenda is that they were going to pocket a lot of the proceeds to line the suitcases in question.
Justin, there’s a book called the Food Conspiracy Cookbook which is all about how to start a neighborhood buying club — the first step in the direction of a food co-op. You might see if you can locate a copy…
Denis, that makes an enormous amount of sense. It might be worth examining the failed elites of the past to see how many of them landed in the same trap.
Owen, hah! I like it.
Patricia M, oh, that’s funny. That’s seriously funny. Thank you.
Jack, and since no problem in the real world is actually simple, what we get is one catastrophic failure after another.
Travis, alternatively, here’s a stash of unearned energy. Will you be smart enough to use it slowly and sparingly to give yourself a good future for the long term, or will you waste it on Jetsons fantasies, and then have your civilization crash and burn? The script may not be written the way the mythology of progress likes to imagine…
Jessi, thanks for these very good examples.
Aurelien, yes, I thought that straw man would put in an appearance sooner or later. It simply isn’t true that the only alternative to planning is chaos — have you ever encountered the concept of free improvisation on a theme? When I go shopping, to borrow your metaphor, I don’t have a fixed plan for what I’m going to get. I have a list with some things on it, and I know how much money I have, so I pay attention to what’s new, what’s had its price marked down, and also to what’s missing from the shelves or what’s been marked up in price to the point that it’s not worthwhile. What we’re going to eat for the next week depends on the result of that improvisatory process, and the results are considerably better — and, btw, cheaper — than they would be if I planned everything out in advance.
As for the unquantifiable in pursuit of the unimportant, granted, but you’re missing the essence of it. The whole point of today’s obsession with planning is to manufacture jobs for more university graduates to do the planning. That’s the plan! The whole wokester business these days, for example, has nothing to do with justice or any of those other loudly promoted ideals; it’s an attempt to pressure corporations into hiring otherwise unemployable college graduates from critical-theory departments for newly founded bureaucratic positions in the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” racket. On a broader scale, of course, that’s the mess we’re in — the point of planning is to maximize the employment of planners.
Drake, ha! That’s a great story. Thank you.
@JMG you speak about emergent reality vs the managerial class and I couldn’t help but think of my local council member, an aspiring young member of this class.
He’s a 23 year old, bi-racial bi-sexual democratic socialist with pronouns he/they. I’m not making this up or making an ad-hominem attack but it’s how he starts every sentence, “As a bi-racial queer man…” Anyway his platform proposals are: defund the police, tax the rich, tax “underused” homes, “social housing”, and last but not least race based UBI.
As we all know social justice policing is an ongoing disaster so, to his credit, he shut up about it. But he got the UBI passed, so yeah, my tax dollars at work. My question is how much harsh reality does the managerial class need before their illusions are shattered? Do we really have to go Venezuela lite before these people realize that one cannot simply impose Scandinavian policies on the hot mess that is the United States and expect results?
I think we can repurpose some verbs here to correct the English language. I’ll stick with the cooking metaphor.
To be able to cook is obviously to know how to prepare food that people enjoy eating. There are a LOT of subcategories here, by type (Mexican food), amount (cooking for one, running the line of a kitchen, making a Thanksgiving feast for 20, etc.) to practical knowledge (meal planning, cooking on a budget), etc.
To study cooking is to understand the history of food, or the chemistry of food, or its cultural significance, etc. There are lots of subcategories here, too.
Wisdom is different. That’s knowing how cooking can improve lives and souls. Some examples on the “ability” side: preparing foods that teach kids not to be picky eaters, knowing what to feed the sick, the elderly, those with food allergies. Knowing how to make the favorite foods of those you love.
Wisdom on the “theoretical” side: knowing old family recipes and your family history of food, knowing how to avoid chemical additives, knowing what people ate during the Great Depression.
We now live in a society where the cooking theorists and the able cooks don’t share information. We all suffer because of that. It’s natural to want to reject the theorists because of their disdain for the ones doing the work, but that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, their theories are drifting away from useful toward blatantly wrong. We do need to discard a lot of impractical theories. But we shouldn’t discard the act of studying, we should reclaim it.
We also live in a society of hyperspecialization, where line cooks don’t talk to banquet planners and food chemists don’t talk to food historians. I think the jack of all trades (or Renaissance man) also offers some valuable lessons here.
Not every scholar needs to actually cook, and not every cook needs to study, but we do need dialogue between the two groups, and that’s the critical piece we have lost.
On language learning:
I’ve been attempting to learn Ancient Greek in various ways, and my favourite so far has been listening to an audio recording of the New Testament while following along with an
interlinear translation. (Pro tip: YouTube lets you adjust the playback speed to make the audio slower and easier to follow.)
It works! It feels really weird, being used to the usual school methods: it never feels like I’m learning anything at all (where are the quizzes?!), and that can be frustrating and make it hard to stay motivated, but over time I keep finding that I mysteriously just understand Greek texts that I couldn’t make head or tail of before. It’s pretty cool.
I think things are worse than you say:
If a lifetime of work leads to dying in debt for 71% of Americans, and the other 29% probably break even what’s the point of playing the game?
I’m planning on continuing the thinking.
One thing that occurred to me is that someone with a disability pension who can still do some homesteading type stuff might be very useful on a homestead that doesn’t bring in much income.
Also that there are big holes in my skillset that I could fix right where I am. I just baked my first solo loaf of bread – I’m now waiting for it to cool so I can find out how it worked. It’s soda bread, so I didn’t need to do lots of kneading.
I’m not sure exactly what I’ll end up doing this year, but I have a feeling it may be an interesting one. It may be a year to push myself a little and find out exactly where my limits currently are. They change.
I’d like to point out that the human brain evolved to be adaptive, not correct. That is to say, that the human brain’s perception and thought have been developed towards producing optimally adaptive outcomes for evolutionary survival. Now, given that false thinking typically is not adaptive, and thinking that comports with reality tends to be more adaptive, the human brain tends to be reliable and correct in it’s perception and thinking, at least on a basic, concrete level.
That being said, false perception and thinking can be adaptive in some cases. Usually successful adaptation due to false thinking is self limiting because the adaptation has no staying power as different facets of reality intrude over time. However such adaptation based on falsehood, to the extent that it works, engenders more false thinking, based upon the reasoning that truth has been arrived at, when in reality truth is being confused with adaptiveness. Whether all adaptive false thinking crumbles with time, I am not sure. But I am of the opinion that most of it does. That being said, there are some long-lived adaptions based on falsehoods. I believe one of these is theism.
Nonetheless it is important to remember that our barest perceptions of reality only exist as our brain applies interpretations to raw sensory input, and only make sense among societies of humans as common languages or social norms supply the mental categories necessary to agree on what is perceived.
To give an example: The building of complex, energy intensive societies tends to be a bit of adaptive false thinking that works so long as the core resources in question are easily obtainable. What has made it worse is that the apparent success of this base adaptation has engendered further false thinking, which involves all of the economic and social changes engendered by the availability of cheap energy. We are getting to the self-limiting point of this adaptation, and as such we will adapt again, away from complex, energy intensive society to society and economy that is slower, local, uses far less energy, with simple localized economic markets that offer far fewer options in the way of food, goods, and entertainment.
We can know this much because we know what kinds of biophysical limitations our planet is placing upon us. What we don’t know is how we’ll get there – what string of events and adaptations will occur and what the end game will actually look like. I tend to agree that the “crappening” will continue. We’ll maintain our society at ever decreasing levels of upkeep and quality until it just isn’t worth it anymore. But it is also likely that this gradual deterioration will be punctuated with sharp legs down: COVID, smallpox, COVID 2, war, massive flooding, massive fires, or some other catastrophe or major event that applies stress to global or national systems in a way that forces change faster than it would be otherwise.
But this end isn’t here yet. There is a saying along the lines of, live as if you will die tomorrow, plan as if you won’t die until a ripe old age. For the current situation, I say, live as if things will continue the way they are, but plan as if they won’t. Because really what we are talking about here is the “long emergency” and things that are medium to long term at this point.
Speaking of Kamala Harris, did anyone see her recent TV news interview? She was given the unenviable task of batting cleanup after Biden’s train wreck of a presser the other day. Needless to say, it didn’t go much better.
It is becoming abundantly clear that as classic children of privilege who have been living in a bubble for too long, Biden, Harris, Pelosi, Schumer and the rest of the geriatric kleptocracy running the Democratic Part literally has no idea what to do now that things have gone completely off-script. With any luck, the Democrats will be swept out of power over the next few years without too much violence. Otherwise, we could very well be looking at the North American counterpart of 1789, 1917 or 1933…
Scotlyn – re: planting flowers. I love that cartoon! Horticulture is one inexpensive response to the threat of despair.
In my case, I’m sowing the seeds of edible plants (arugula and spinach, so far), but I found joy this afternoon in the discovery of new flower buds on a windowsill plant. If I wasn’t already busy at least two nights a week with ham radio-activity, I might be trying to start a neighborhood garden club, rather than just talking about horticultural events on the Thursday night ham radio net.
Great essay. I’m always inspired to see what more I can do to collapse and become more resilient when I read your thoughts on the future that’s actually coming. Thank you for the clarity of vision you always provide.
Regarding suburbia in the long descent. David Holmgren’s book RetroSuburbia is an excellent resource for turning your suburban lot into a micro farm and Sharon Astyk has a chapter in her book Depletion and Abundance that details a suburban ‘makeover’. Both are great resources if suburbia is where you find yourself and these strategies are a good way to try things out and develop your skills if you’re thinking of farming in the future.
Since recent housing market trends in the era of cov-idiocy have seen many formerly rural areas turned into exurban/suburban type enclaves this information may be even more widely applicable than when it was first written. I fully expect that places where people reclaim their small holdings for food production will form the nucleus of the villages and hamlets of the future.
Something that came across my newsfeed that seems on topic:
I think the author reflects my own view pretty well. I would offer that it still might be worth proving this conclusion out with some actual builds of smaller reactors, but I don’t expect any big change.
I would say that I agree with JMG on most issues, but I am more optimistic about the future performance of the power grid with increased renewables — at least in my 30 year (or maybe even 50 year) planning horizon. I don’t think vehicle electrification will be as extensive as a lot of folks think. But as fossil fuels decline, I think that there is a lot of room for some kind of electrified personal transport — I am thinking bicycles or lightweight, slow electric vehicles — maybe with some limited hauling — that are built on a platform similar to a bicycle. Cheaper and slower but still a lot more convenient than walking, requiring a lot less battery, and quite efficient. I would expect decreased reliability of the grid — meaning more loss of load events — going forward, but I still expect most folks would have very few interruptions. At least in my planning horizon.
I will add that vegetation management on the grid, maintenance of equipment, and road maintenance are big unknowns that could change my opinion pretty drastically if they cannot be kept up.
@JMG #111 – On your response to Scotlyn
As for the two kinds of knowing being about divisions/boundaries versus unity/connections, Jordan Peterson goes pretty deep into these ideas as aspects of the Order/Chaos/Mediating Factor framework he uses for analyzing myth – saying that order is about making/maintaining boundaries, and chaos is about dissolving them. Interestingly, he’s linked these concepts to personality and politics as well – it’s fairly well documented that folks who identify as conservative tend to score higher on “Conscientiousness” on the Big 5 personality test, while liberals score higher on “Openness to Experience” (roughly a measure of interest in intellectual abstraction, creativity, and aesthetics).
His way of making sense of this finding is that Conscientious conservatives see the value in defining things and keeping those divisions intact, and don’t so much value breaking down boundaries. Open liberals, on the other hand, are the flipside of this – they see the good things you get when you mix and experiment, and don’t so much value keeping things in their neat little boxes.
Obviously, as an abstraction, it has plenty of things it glosses over, but it’s one I’ve found interesting and helpful.
Thank you JMG for an enlightening post! As with many of your posts, you’ve illuminated a lot of experiences and thoughts over many years for me.
In the Tagalog language, there are *three* words that map to “to know” in English:
“dunong”, which means skill, capacity, competence, know-how
“alam”, which means abstract knowledge or fact-knowledge, book-learning
“kilala”, which means has a relationship with a person (i.e. “Kilala ko si John” -> “I know John”)
I’m literally an overeducated person (as in, I have a Masters degree). Over the years it has struck me just how many “lesser-educated” people I’ve met were actually quite smart, and how many “highly-educated” people I’ve met were actually rather dumb. I mean, obviously, you can’t be a doctor let’s say without having some kind of smarts (although that demographic has a pandemic of that disease where you think you’re way smarter than you actually are), but the correlation is much, much looser than a lot of people think it is.
In my country, “uneducated” is a slur roughly meaning dumb, low-class, rube, yokel. As part of atoning for the sins of my socioeconomic class, I’ve excised that word from my vocabulary to the furthest extent possible, and I now cringe every time I hear it (likewise when I hear the word “educated” as a signal of approval).
This actually got me thinking as to how the Professional Managerial Class actually _accelerated_ its own decline by creating a brain-drain in the working classes, by selecting the best and brightest among the “less fortunate” and, well, making them into managers and administrators. All in the name of egalitarianism, meritocracy, and “upward-mobility” of course. Now there are too many managers working a bunch of useless (or actively harmful) jobs, and too few “workers” for them to boss around… err I mean in order to implement their plans. And those that are left got smart (heh) to the scam and decided, “screw it, I’m not paid well enough for any of this.” This might well be one factor why the PMC _appeared_ to be so effective and productive in the past, but are no longer anything close to that nowadays.
Its a new week and there are new posts to check out on Green Wizards.
Our main blog post this week discusses something we should all be doing in our lives. “The What, How And When Of Eating Better” looks at the Mediterranean Diet, on eating mindfully and practicing intermittent fasting. Taken together, these three can help you stay healthy and lower your stress. Being prepared means preparing not just stuff but also your most important resource, your body.
Active topics this past week on the Green Wizards forum include “Sea level mapping” which looks at this helpful interactive website that shows the possible sea level rises as climate change continues. We did note that there is a glitch with lakes, that is unless the Great Lakes are going to dry out.
Second, in a post from two weeks ago on “Backyard Chickens”, we took a detour to talk about garden pests, deer and raccoon which include a definitely not safe for work image. This then began a good question, how should pictures of butchered animals be displayed on the Forums?
As the Long Descent progresses more and more of us will begin raising small animals and chickens for food. That process will of course include how to humanely kill them and to render them into storable meat. To do that you will have to learn the mess details.
Log in and give your opinion please, how should these graphic images be handled?
As always, reading the posts and comments on the Green Wizard website is open to the public, though to comment on a post you will need a free account. Contact me by email (green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot com) or on Facebook Messenger.
Scotlyn, thanks for that image, I really like it and need to keep it present.
@Ryan #75. Should be pretty easy to get an apprenticeship, no matter what part of the country you’re in. Biggest qualifications are on time, interested, willing to work and the toughest qualifications…..sober/drug free. Trades are full of substance abuse depending on the foreman’s attitude towards it and part of the country. Union shops are hard to get into, but the eventual salaries and opportunities definitely make it worthwhile if you have some connections to get in the door.
My son in law is a master electrician who is getting his contractors license and going into business for himself. About 90% of his 3 crews are former drug felons. He gives them a second chance and they work their tails off for him, even though he’s full of nothing but tough love and fairness. Most have already spent time in rehab so drug use isn’t an issue and they look out for each other if someone looks like they are going to fall off the wagon. Some of those guys have been with him for over 10 years now.
Outdoor plumbing isn’t near as technically challenging and may also be easier to get into since there seems to be a high turnover. It’s certainly not a glamorous job but pays very well. Depending on the part of the country, you can make a PMC salary quite easly since the demand is recession proof. Just don’t expect any holidays off because that’s when you can essentially name your price.
FYI, I’ve been an electrical engineer for almost 20 years and a technician of various sorts for 12 years before that. It about 15 years of night school to finish my BS. Wasn’t worth it!! Laptop jobs of all types are too easily outsourced as others have noted. H1b visas have just killed white collar salaries outside of the financial industry. If I had to do it over again, I would have worked on HVAC instead and probably made a ton more money.
My $0.02, good luck!
This focus on the way abstract (“book”) knowledge can become disconnected from reality and be a major impediment to society is a good one. I too am fascinated by the way humans can create whole social movements around abstractions that have become far removed from how things work. In some ways movies and video games reveal the human desire to move into a virtual space where imagination and not reality have the last word. It is a surprisingly strong temptation in education to teach clean abstractions that are easy for students to learn and make everyone feel good. You can even make impressive assessment tools that prove that the system helps students learn the abstractions. All while carefully avoiding the hard work of helping students engage reality. That requires wisdom and judgement on the part of the teacher which are not easily measured and therefore often banished from the system. But there are many trends resisting abstraction and teaching for the real world as well…usually where teachers are free to connect with their students as people rather than data points. If video and virtual education really take over as some are predicting, it will be a sure sign of the educational system approaching a collapse.
Maybe the switch to “managing” the future isn’t so clear to me. I see how abstractions can obscure the real future. And it is clear that the future is far beyond mastering and controlling. But humans are interesting precisely because they can conceive of the consequences of certain actions today and choose actions that affect the future. I would refine your title. All people create abstractions to simplify the world into something they can understand, predict, and control. Wise people know the limits of the usefulness of their abstractions and the uncertainties in their predictions. To be concrete, we really want people with good book knowledge that allows them to create weather models to allow us to predict the future. Just don’t use them beyond a few days because the atmosphere is too chaotic for long term prediction. For the longer term, we manage the future by using cultural traditions and knowledge of history. But we do have an irrational expectation that is dominant right now that political, business, and technology leaders will create the future people want. And there indeed will be an amplification of the global temper tantrum as the future manages us instead.
” The geriatric kleptocracy at the helm of the Democratic Party has done too good a job of eliminating their own internal competition; they don’t have anyone who can pick up the banner for them, and the GOP is being taken over by enthusiastic populists whose main criticism of Trump is that he didn’t go far enough. So the current ruling class is screwed. ”
We are all screwed.
Dr John Day’s blog, Austin TX, links to this post. https://www.johndayblog.com/
In the prepper communities, I’ve heard people say:
“If you’re ready for zombies, you’re ready for anything.”
Anything is a broad category but you see how useful it is to focus on disaster preparedness in general and not fixate on the volcano under Yellowstone erupting and ignoring everything else that could go wrong.
Extended job loss or terrible weather leading to weeks-long power-outages or catastrophic illness are so much more likely!
JMG – You’ve just put your finger on what I think is the big problem with home grocery delivery. It’s fine for those who make a plan, put in the order, and wait for it to be delivered. Not so fine for those of us who want to see what’s available, select the better produce, pick up some 2nd-quality discount clearance items, consider what’s on sale, what else might be going on in the neighborhood between home and the store, etc.
Indeed. Although its just as often true that they become victims of abstraction that doesn’t survive contact with reality.
Because they cannot overcome the absurdity of said abstraction very often. And end up with poor judgment.
Brian, your local council member has no reason to lay off the cant. He’s got a gimmick that works for him — it feeds his ego and, well, let’s just say that it’s not exactly unheard of for politicians who support cash giveaways to expect, and get, kickbacks from the recipients. He’ll stop when supporting such policies has costs he doesn’t want to live with. The Democrats in Virginia found out how that works in last year’s election…
Jessi, that’ll work.
Alexandra, good. Anything that gets you away from the incompetent methods of the modern academy, and learning languages the way the human brain evolved to learn them — you know, by being exposed to them — is a step in the right direction.
Dashui, that’s why so many of them are abandoning the game. Ageai dum!
Pygmycory, good! That might be a viable option. I hope the bread’s tasty.
DT, excellent! You underestimate the value of false thinking, though. As Erasmus pointed out a long time ago, folly is far more adaptive for most people than wisdom. The glorification of reason is a great example; human beings aren’t that smart, and our sciences have the prestige they do because they flaunt their successes and sweep their many failures under the rug, but in an age of abundant fossil fuels, energy is cheap enough that it was advantageous to convince scientists and societies that they could do anything, so that they’d push the boundaries of what they actually can do. Now that conditions are changing, that folly has outlived its usefulness…
Sardaukar, I avoid TV, of course, but I’m not at all surprised. Harris is astoundingly inept even by the very low standards of the current kleptocracy. If she gets into the White House, go long on popcorn.
Claire, I got sent a copy of RetroSuburbia but haven’t made time to read it. I may give it a glance one of these days.
BCV, I’m glad to see this. One of the universal truths about nuclear power is that every new nuclear technology is clean, safe, and affordable until it gets built. As for grid power, it really depends on where you are. Where there’s adequate hydropower to provide backup for the more intermittent renewables, grids may survive for a while. Elsewhere? A grid that goes on and off at random intervals, depending on the availability of wind and sun, isn’t worth much.
Jeff, interesting. Yes, a case could be made.
Late, you’re welcome and thank you.
Carlos, that’s fascinating about Tagalog. Greek also has a word for “knowledge” in the sense of personal acquaintance — that’s what gnosis literally means. A Gnostic isn’t someone who has book knowledge about spiritual things, he’s someone who has personal, face to face encounters with the spiritual world, who knows it as you know a friend. As for your theory about the self-inflicted decline of the PMC, that makes sense…
David T, thanks for this.
Ganv, the title’s a little more subtle than you give it credit for. I’m not saying the future can’t be predicted — I’m saying it can’t be managed. Management implies prediction plus control. Good meteorologists can gauge tomorrow’s weather and get it right more often than not, but when they start insisting that they can give us sunny days forever, it’s time for them to be hauled away to a padded cell. Our managerial aristocracy isn’t trying to predict the future — they think they can have the future they want. I’d be perfectly happy if people settled for the idea that maybe we can figure out some of the future in advance and adapt our expectations to it, rather than expecting it to cater to our sense of entitlement!
Sgage, that seems unnecessarily defeatist to me. When the dinosaurs are doomed, that’s not necessarily bad news for the mammals…
DenG, glad to see this.
Teresa, if you’re ready for zombies, you’re ready for zombies. As you note, extended job loss is more likely, and your zombie kit won’t do you much good!
Lathechuck, I think of home grocery delivery as groceries for people who treat food as an abstraction.
@JMG, Sardaukar #118
The democrats had the chance to elect Bernie Sanders, but both times the party elites made sure he didn’t win the nomination.
Also, how do you post images in the comments?
Is Elon musk this clueless about the situation, or is he just a Grifter?
Having a 7 month old, the baby analogy was very fitting. I appreciated the metaphor using a bottle, instead of a breast. In our modern world, trying to manage everything through technology, of course the natural way of connecting with the world must be forgotten. Few must have imagined the consequences of providing processed milk through a bottle. My gut tells me you may not have done that on purpose, but either way, you hit a home run.
Thanks JMG for another thoughtful post! I see two main reasons for this recurring trap. For one, many comfortable people simply are too lazy to do anything and putting somebody with a plan in charge absolves a lot of responsibility. Complaining that the current management is inadequate or bickering about who the management should be is far easier (and earns much more dopamine on social media) than looking at your own circumstances, contemplating possible futures, and making material changes that will set you up for a more resilient future. One of my favourite examples is the breed of environmentalist who insists that what any individual does is irrelevant because “corporations” do the bulk of polluting. It’s a useful sleight of hand in two ways – not only are you fully off the hook for your individual indulgences but obviously an _individual_ couldn’t do anything against a _corporation_ so bickering about the management is elevated to a useful activity.
For those less lazy, the other reason is learned helplessness, an ingrained acceptance of specialisation promoted by capitalist society. If you’re a middle manager at an advertising firm why should you take the reins on anything to do with food production or water availability? There are experts for that, in government! It’s basically your duty to step back and let those with the book learning take the shots. Never mind whether the resulting policy makes sense.
Grocery delivery is for people who treat food as an abstraction – or for those under the 2021 lockdown – or for the physically disabled who have no other access to food, as well.
Yours from from one of the Hans Castorp gang of Friends (calling Seinfeld and Elaine!) in one of Florida’s many Magic Mountains.
Somebody’s as mad as a hatter …. or, “are we living in the same world here?”
Just for the record, I do agree, and should have mentioned, that my opinion is biased by geography. I know an awful lot more about the Western Interconnect than the rest of the nation, and I am pretty much unfamiliar with power systems outside the US/Canada in any more than a general way.
“It might be worth examining the failed elites of the past to see how many of them landed in the same trap.”
Will the managerial class asleep at the wheel, a person really could anything they wanted these days. What’s holding them back is a desire to return to normal, inertia, or fear of failure or social ostracism. But truly whatever weirdo idea someone always wanted to try, this is the time to do it. Who knows, it just might work.
“Phil K, are you sure that it’s ontological in nature? I’ve tended to think of it as essentially epistemological, because it messes with the ability of the educated to notice anything that isn’t in accord with their preferred set of abstractions.”
I suggested ontology because it’s not just that the managerial class are lost in a web of intellectual abstractions, but it’s also because, for example, they wouldn’t know how to change a spark plug or replace an oil filter. So they tend to be inept at the most basic level of interaction with the world, in terms of properties and relations.
@Stephen D – A blue collar philosophy project sounds like fun.
And I wonder if you have run across a very well read (a library card for every town), and well travelled (often by hitching lifts on cargo trains), and hard working (cargo handling and stevedoring and other odd jobs) blue collar philosopher called Eric Hoffer?
Thanks again for a thoughtful essay. I’ve heard stories from the former Soviet Union where when the train came to pick up the grain harvest, they sent flat bed rail cars, and the locals were expected to put the grain on those flat bed cars even though everyone knew the grain would all fall off before the train got to its destination. I’ll keep my eyes open for that kind of stuff here.
What’s an intellectual to do? Balance their book learning with practical skills. Go from speculative to operative. Some theory can become practice.
I came across this last week:
“Conspicuous among the symbols of Freemasonry are the seven liberal arts and sciences. By Grammar man is taught to express in noble and adequate language his thoughts and ideals; by Rhetoric he is enable to conceal his ideals under protecting cover of ambiguous language and figures of speech; by Logic he is trained in the organization of the intellectual faculties with which he has been endowed; by Arithemetic he is not only instructed in the mystery of universal order but also gains the key to multitude, magnitude, and proportion; by Geometry he is inducted into the mathematics of form, the harmony and rhythm of angles, and the philosophy of organization; by Music he is reminded that the universe is founded upon the laws of celestial harmonics and that harmony and rhythm are all-pervading; by Astronomy he gains an understanding of the immensities of time and space, of the proper relationship between himself and the universe, and of the awesomeness of that unknown power which is driving the countless stars of the firmament through illimitable space. Equipped with the knowledge conferred by familiarity with the liberal arts and sciences the studious Freemason therefore finds himself confronted with few problems with which he cannot cope.”– Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, chapter on Freemasonic Symbolism.
Imagine if you will the kind of person who becomes a guitar or piano teacher. What if they were also equipped with these other forms of knowledge and able to instruct in those as well. It seems to me there would be parents and others willing to pay for such instruction.
I think such independent tutors and teachers have a future in our futures. As more people take their kids out of the child babysitting prison camps, I mean, er, schools, they will be looking for alternatives.
I was talking with an auntie the other day, and my cousin is taking her son out of school to homeschool him. He has taken a lot of music lessons in the past, and I was thinking of the opportunity someone might have to expand on that kind of one on one teaching.
@Jean-Baptiste M. “… dead white thinkers such as Sun Tzu …”
@Scotlyn. Thanks for that picture. Perfect.
To all discussing aspects of “no measurement” cooking.
JMG says: “Everyone I know who’s good at cooking cooks at least partly by eye”… to which I would add …and by ear and by nose and by taste and by feel… 😉
I will also add that some of the classics of Chinese medicine, to which I devote some study as often as I can, are sometimes a bit like those kitchen notes – “until it feels right”… The gap between what is written and what would have been transmitted is very likely bridged by apprenticeship and dialogue. To be shown and then do and to learn by experience what (just for example) a needling sensation tells you, or a pulse simply cannot be told in words. And yet, lacking that bridge, or trying to make up for it through “feeling my way” in the clinic, those sketchy words still contain lessons. Whole depths of lessons!
About the bloating bureaucracy and the cost of academization:
A friend is in nursing school now. It is now a three years academic course with a diploma.
Those without this diploma have the status of “assistant” now and are subordinate.
Friend heard from someone working in an institution first hand: there was the case that long serving nursing staff aren’t allowed to give medication anymore, when they have no diploma. They did so anyways and were fired (they had done so for decades ofc). After they were fired, the instution bid them to return: there’s a shortage of staff!
If that were a joke.
I’ve noticed a long time ago that emergency units debate on an eye level with the emergency doc which medication to give. One is licensed to medicate, the other isn’t.
The firefighters used to employ experienced technicians of various kinds. Now that is out-sourced; real world competence is diminishing.
As far as I know, only two times a passanger jet has been landed on water successfully with failing turbines: in both cases the pilot was an experienced former military jet pilot.
One commenter here in the forum some time ago recounted how establishing the cycles in a chemical plant is a matter of experience, and needs a thorough time of balancing before everything is set. Nothing is standard, in reality! That was within a discussion where many commenters noticed how standard produced goods like a boat paddly still sometimes have an individual handling,
as if a will of their own.
There used to be a constant complaint in Austria that our academic quota is too low! That was because unlike other OECD countries, many professions (like nurses) weren’t academized yet. And why so we need endless academical diplomas..?
In economics at Uni, I learned that certification may help to weed out rotten apples in a profession, HOWEVER it burdens additional costs on the market. Written right there.
Until the beginning of the 2000s, there was a constant debate about the bloating bureaucracy in Austria. Much of that was simply outsourced since;
Now we hear nothing about it since a long time already.
I hear that in the banking sector, banks used to develop monolithic big applications that would conduct business transactions and check legal financial constraints.
Now everything is endlessly outsourced, great confusion ensues. Complexity hits back with Fragility
The tomes on financial law and regulations are only ever growing.
A guy I know has been a law consultant, now retired. He wrote contracts for big company business.
His firm hasn’t trained any successors. The young graduates from Uni lack the experience to do it.
His former boss is in trouble now.
On Austria’s mandatory vaccination law:
The bill is passed- however, the government doesn’t really want to execute it. The newspapers are already openly criticizing it. The police forces are entirely unhappy about it. They have enough to do with rising domestic violence and crimes of all sorts, including violent crimes.
It would be a massive effort to execute it, and at potentially a massive social, political and economic costs.
So the government finds excuses to delay execution.
There’s now a state lottery for the unvaccinated: every 10th participant will gain 500€ if willing to vaccinate. (Yes, that’s really true)
Allegedly, Spain has already declared to end most covid measures: the battle against omicron cannot be won, and it is mild in its consequence.
Israel reports the 4th jab does not really help against Omicron.
I read comic books. What I have noticed since 2016 (i.e. Donald Trump) is more and more distopian comics or comics about monsters. Even the superhero comics have become darker and darker, with the characters struggling with reality. Very few sunny books are being published. The manga is getting weirder as well.
I believe that people have already given up on the future, or at least the shiny future of flying cars.
I remember the progression of the Star Wars movies from hopeful rebels overthrowing an evil empire to a muck mired replacement of said empire. Star Trek has gone through the same progression. We are now with the bleak despair of Picard and a shattered civilization. They decided to implode all the novels into the Picard story line, which is bleak beyond indigo.
So no one except maybe the usual suspects are expecting any kind of future.
as for box delivery — I have four companies I use, and so far in the shortages, they have delivered what I asked for. Meanwhile, the local grocery store shelves are empty. I found with a brain injury, that the box deliveries with the meals to cook have been helpful to keeping my executive brain function working.
@Patricia Mathews (#139) that is a brilliant mashup, right there. Which, in light of this week’s essay and your previous link to Musk, puts me in mind of that Seinfeld episode with Fragile Frankie.
The guy who, as a kid, would run into the woods and dig a hole and sit in it whenever he got upset. So they spend all episode on tenterhooks trying not to upset him, because he was still doing that as an adult. Being the Seinfeld gang, it’s a foregone conclusion they will upset him (Seinfeld does not want the van he gives him from his own car lot, and despite everyone trying to lie about it, Kramer blows it). He runs off to Central Park while Seinfeld calls helplessly after him “No Frankie! No woods!” When they find Frankie, they also find the van, and George’s parents in the van “expressing their love for each other”. Frankie happily agrees that no one now has to keep the van, and abandons his hole.
I think it’s clear what we have to do for Musk. And by we, I mean, someone else. I’m just supplying the plan. I don’t have a van.
What came to mind as I read this was when I learned different languages, as I immersed myself, I found, at some point, I stopped thinking in English and started actually thinking in that second/third language. After that point I would– and still do — come across the peculiar sensation of understanding a concept which is easily expressed in that other language, but which I have no way of expressing in my native English. I can *explain* it in English, but cannot *express* it: there are no words. The well-known “Schadenfreude” comes to mind.
Concomitantly, I also find that there are words which express similar — but not exact and therefore subtly different — meanings in different languages which leads to some bad translations.
I also keep coming up against words in English that lack the nuance we really need, for example, “pride” for which we refer to both a vile and justly denounced sin and also a justifiable sense of accomplishment and laudable self-satisfaction.
While I disagree with much of the extreme conclusions that language deconstructionists and Neuro-Linguistic Programming enthusiasts insist on, it is quite true that, to a limited extent, language does guide our unconscious thoughts on how we perceive the world and our ability to function in it, as Orwell explored in “1984”.
Another thought is that we just do not use the word “limit” enough in our society. Just like Hooke’s Law, many things work splendidly WITHIN LIMITS. Planning, for one, is the only way to accomplish certain limited tasks within limited frameworks. Proper and sufficient planning can achieve splendid results. Extrapolating that idea beyond a certain limit is what produces failure, and so very much of what the Managerial Class has done in the past 50 years is to extrapolate the power of planning well beyond what can be reasonably accomplished, hence the spectacular failure of so many grand plans and social schemes since they took over circa 1970. Unfortunately, the belief that there are ‘no limits to what we can accomplish’ is one of the key tenets of the Civil Religion of Progress and so here we are.
Zombie preparation does cover some extended job loss issues: you have a really deep pantry, meaning you can still eat even when no salary is coming in. You’ve got a garden. You’ve got close relationships with other people in the real world. That sort of thing.
Basic common sense stuff that everyone used to do, really, but it’s not common anymore.
I would like to second Claire’s recommendation of Retro Suburbia. I found it really interesting and definitely a way to think about the suburbs as a resource base for those with the skills to put those resources to use. I was particularly please with the section on growing food in that the author did not religiously promote “permaculture” as the only way to grow food (as well he might have) but rather recommended that you grow food any way you can that makes sense for your area.
Granted Holmgrin matches the sections of his book to his permacultural principles, but it doesn’t come across preachy to me but illustrative with many practical examples. it also seemed an example of how to work with your neighbors to make the best use of available resources for everyone. Certainly it is idealistic, but I think there is useful stuff in this book for a declining country.
Stellarwind, you have to use standard html code — img src and all that, in angle brackets — referencing the URL of the image. Yes, it has to be online, and accessible.
Prizm, oh, it was entirely on purpose.
Treefrog, two good points.
Patricia M, oh, granted — but it’s one thing when delivery’s a necessity, and quite another when people are doing it when they could just as well go to the store. As for Blankenhorn, well, you know, cultists gonna cult… 😉
BCV, so noted.
Denis, excellent! We’ll be talking about that very point in the not too distant future.
Phil K, fair enough!
Bradley, that’s a great example. The current handwaving about masks as a preventive for Covid-19 infection is another good example of the same logic: places that have strict mask requirements and places that have no mask requirements at all have comparable curved for Covid infection, but the true believers still keep on insisting that everyone has to wear masks.
Justin, excellent! The number of homeschooled kids has more than tripled in the United States over the last two years, as online schooling has revealed to a great many parents just what sort of vacuous garbage their kids are being taught, and so any line of work that provides support for homeschooling parents is a growth industry right now. Music lessons for kids? Sounds worth trying. (And Hall, of course, is great reading under any circumstances.)
Scotlyn, interesting. Not at all surprising, but interesting. That’s also true of a lot of Asian spiritual practices; Western occultism has had to make a lot of changes to come up with practices that you really can learn from a book or a set of lessons!
Curt, those are great examples of what I think needs to be called “toxic credentialism” — the harmful belief that having a piece of paper matters, while having the skills does not.
Neptunesdolphins, fascinating. That’s well worth knowing — and it’s precisely in such times that a new vision of the future can have enormous impact. Again, we’ll be talking about this soon.
Renaissance, I had the same experience in another context while learning Latin. Latin grammar is far more precise than English grammar — you have to know exactly what role a noun or adjective plays in a sentence, for example, to give it the right ending — and the process of learning, reading, and translating Latin forced me to learn how to think much more clearly, in English as well as in Latin. (It may not be accidental that before I did two years of university Latin, my attempts to get published fielded rejection slips; afterwards, they fielded contracts and checks.) So I’ve come to believe in the power of language as a force shaping thought!
Teresa, so noted.
Kay, and also, so noted. I’ll glance at it as time permits.
It was a really nice touch. Not only because it resonated with my personal experiences, but broader speaking cultures so often develop narratives and symbols based on their experiences and knowledge. I’m thinking of all the creation myths using the bodies to create our world. They have the benefit of something we each know personally being depicted as that which we also live in. A person probably thinks more about how their actions relate to the environment. Todays common understanding probably comes from the idea of the body of Christ, a wholly spiritual idea not relating much to the physical world, entirely espousing the virtues of management, to the point that parts which don’t act as desired should be removed. That evolved into our current idea of management. Knowing that the stories and symbols we tell ourselves will morph, is there a good guide as to predicting how they’ll morph?
pygmycory: Maybe consider growing microgreens to scratch your gardening itch and it could possibly become a source of income as well. Set ups can be built rather cheaply and in small space. There are plenty of resources online about growing and marketing microgreens. If you live in an area with higher end restaurants and farmers markets you can make some decent money. Just avoid the resources that hawk it as a get rich quick scheme. I grow a lot of microgreens for my families consumption since I have little desire to look for restaurant clients or hawk at farmers markets.
@JMG: That is helpful. We can make limited predictions, but it is very hard to manage the future. It is the illusion of control that is often the worst problem. The “Centers for Disease Control” seem not to be very much in control at the moment. There is a lot more there in the sequence predict -> control -> manage . Much of the historical wisdom literature explores building knowledge and wisdom so you know what you can and can not control and manage. I would say we need to have predictions and knowledge of the uncertainties in our predictions in order to manage the best we can since we only have control of a minuscule portion of the factors that determine the future. Predictions based on experience are humanity’s best tool. But predictions based on widely applicable abstractions are also extremely useful. The ability of science to obtain abstractions that allow accurate predictions greatly expanded the usefulness of book knowledge over the past 200 years. We are now in overshoot of that expansion with far too much optimism about our ability to control and manage given the limited range of systems we can accurately predict based on science.
Spot on with this essay. I’m the sort of office fauna of which you speak here, and the metastasizing of bureaucracy has grown obvious even in that environment. How many people in one organization can have “director” in their title? How many administrators need to hire assistants before they can address ongoing staff shortages? Working for medical benefits and to pay student loans in perpetuity. Living for the REAL stuff… life.
@JMG, English does have the kennen/wissen distinction, if you don’t mind sounding absurdly country: the old verbs “ken” and “wit.”
Thanks for mentioning that book on conspiracies; ordering now!
But I wish you hadn’t mentioned New Guinea. 🙂 I’m working on a fictional setting about the size of Europe (11-12 Belgiums across); it has four major ethnicities and four or five noteworthy sub-populations, but I’m keenly aware that I’d be working forever if I wanted to match the real world!
My undergraduate college recently announced a new capital campaign in November that they call “Boundless.” The claim is that graduates have a boundless future in front of them (but only if we build new buildings, add more named professorships, offer more scholarships because few families can afford the tuition needed to pay for all the buildings we have already built, and in general spend more money on more stuff than we already have because that’s the only way to get as many students as we need to pay for everything). They actually rolled out the public version of the campaign with a video that Hollywood would have been proud of, complete with sets, matching costuming, dancing and music, and confetti!
@ Teresa (#153)
Truly, common sense itself is not common anymore. Otherwise, many more people would notice how the current mainstream narrative on The Disease That Shall Not Be Named could so easily be sung to the tune of ‘An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly’. While I’m no advocate of skipping ahead to the horse stanza, it’s pretty clear that’s where western society is headed now so – whether there’s zombies there or not – that’s the future we need to prepare for.
@JMG, regarding Tamanous culture, you said:
> Ben, if the traditional prediction is correct, we’re five centuries or so from the dawning of the future American great culture, and quite a bit further than that from the point at which it becomes self-aware enough to think of itself as something different from other cultures.
What traditional prediction are you referring to here, please?
The bread is tasty 🙂
I also just got permission from the landlady to add a fifth garden bed. So I spent some of this morning laying down cardboard, collecting half-decomposed leaves from local boulevards and piling them into the start of a new bed. I need more leaves, but I can do that, and I’ll need to wait for the next recycling day so I can get more cardboard, but that’s fine.
I think I’m going to need to get another method of preserving food than just freezing it.
In response to Neptune’sDolphin (post #150),
I do not read comic books, but I have also noticed the dark and dystopian tenor of much science fiction, and also movies, over the past few years. And speaking of movies, I find that so many if not most of them made over the past decade are not just dark in a metaphorical sense, but literally dark, as in a large portion of the movie having such a physically dark setting as to make it very difficult to see what is happening on the screen.
Earlier this week I went to see the recently released movie “Dune” in a local theater. And while I thought the movie was fairly good, and loyal to the book (as much as any movie could be), I was once again struck by the physical darkness if not downright obscurity in so many of the scenes, whether representing nighttime episodes or not. And I know that many others in the theater noticed this as well, as at one point in the movie, during a particularly dark and hard-to-see scene, somebody in the audience shouted out, to general laughter, “Doesn’t anyone in the future know how to make LIGHTS?!”
@JMG… Thanks for the tip about The Food Conspiracy Cookbook. My library has it. I just put it on hold.
I mean no offense by stating this ..truly, but what is the ol’ scowler doing for our own good now, might one ask?? Why, demanding that every murican receive, and wear – invariable all day long – one N95 mask .. till they turn Blu in the face! Talk about Party affiliation..
Yeah Bernie, THAT’S the ticket!
Lowly Pleb:”Hey, Why are my fingers turning a dark cyan? — “ahhhh ..Hands down Can’t breath!!”
Hello JMG and fellow commenters,
Another thoughtful essay as I like to take in the face once every month. How clear things are being said in these words.
Abstraction, “savoir-faire” and reflection are, to me, the actual trinity of my day-to-day professional trade which is roughly put threefold: snaking my way in and out of the corporate bowels of an IT services company, learning how to put my model maker’s skills and engineering into prototyping (and make a living out of that), getting back on how to convince France IRS equivalent to give subsidiaries to small companies that “may” deserve it for their own research and ingenuity.
For what it’s worth, I intend to make a living out of that by becoming a freelancer software engineer / game prototyper.
Why? Because I not only know how these things are made but I make them myself.
The reflection part’s kicked in when I realized I could do that on my own without being fed up by corporate management shenanigans like “planning” 🙂
Prizm, I wish there was! The history of ideas offers some guidelines, but there isn’t really a good overall survey of that — just useful case studies here and there. The mutations of symbols, narratives, and myths — well, there you’re talking about one of the two mainsprings of human history (the other being environmental change), and of the two, it’s the least well understood.
Ganv, no question, it’s crucial to know what you can control and manage and what you can’t, but it’s just as important to know what you can predict and what you can’t!
Monster, I’ve seen it in action throughout my life. It’s as though our society decided to find out just how many layers of useless bureaucracy you can pile onto a system before it crumples under the weight.
ExOttoyuhr, granted, but that’s one of the bits of our Germanic linguistic heritage that next to nobody knows how to parse any more. As for New Guinea, if your region doesn’t have too many mountain ranges, and was conquered and settled by at least two of those major ethnicities in the last five hundred years or so, you can probably get away with avoiding New Guinea. You can also just mark off a bunch of areas your characters won’t visit as [other ethnic group] and drop a few names that don’t sound like your other languages — Tolkien’s level of detail is admirable but unnecessary in fiction. (How many planets did Frank Herbert actually work out in detail in Dune? He still did a brilliant job of creating the image of a crowded, busy interstellar empire.)
SLClaire, I give them five years before they announce bankruptcy proceedings.
N0rway, sorry — I should have clarified, shouldn’t I? Among occultists, starting in the late 19th century, there’s been a prediction that North America would see the birth of a great culture (more or less in Spengler’s sense of the term) sometime in the 26th century. My book The King in Orange expands on that, and includes some speculation about what its basic themes might be.
Pygmycory, congratulations on both counts! You might consider pickling, if you like pickles — it’s relatively easy and you can make some very, very tasty things quite easily.
Sébastien, you’re riding the wave of the future. At this point, as decline begins in earnest, the people who thrive will be those who are first to bail out of the failing bureaucratic megastructures and find ways to make their livings themselves, by dealing directly with other people. Go ye forth and do that thing!
Alan, on darkness in contemporary cinematography:
I have definitely noticed this trend. There is something disturbingly unnatural about the lighting in much of contemporary cinema.
My theory is that this may be because nothing is filmed in nature, under natural light. It’s all done in indoor studios using digital techniques. It feels like a simulacrum of the real world.
“Digital cinematography is the process of capturing (recording) a motion picture using digital image sensors rather than through film stock. As digital technology has improved in recent years, this practice has become dominant. Since the mid-2010s, most movies across the world are captured as well as distributed digitally.” Wikipedia
pygmycory # 116 and everyone else.
I also am on disability and cannot stand and knead, so I use the method in the book Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day which is $8 right now at thrift books. I usually only use the basic recipe. You can cut the recipe in half or some other portion if you are low on space. You can stir it together well with only most of the flour to make it easier and then stir in the rest of the flour, or use a stand mixer, but you dont have to have a stand mixer. It stores well in the refrigerator, the raw dough, if you have room. I also love their Naan bread recipe, which is just this same dough and you pinch off a piece, roll it flat and cook on a hot cast iron pan with a lid on it, their instructions work well. So, if you make dough once a week you can have a loaf of bread, another day make the Naan/flat bread, another day use dough for pizza ( during a power outage I have even made a single serving flat bread pizza with the lidded cast iron pan, but you must have everything set up to put toppings on very quickly once you turn the dough over) , a final day may be dinner rolls or sweet rolls for breakfast. I have also of course subbed in sour dough starter or whole wheat flour, etc… and it all works well.
@ExOttoYurh: Thanks for the reminder! I actually took 2 semesters of Old English and should have remembered that.
@everyone, About Latin – I had a vintage hardback Latin Grammar that went to the used book store in the move from an 1100 sq foot house to a 500 sq foot apartment, with the daughter-in-charge-of-moving insisting “Only what can fit into my UHaul.” Which included the minimal furniture. And several books of Old English Poetry – want any, Otto?
So – if anybody here has a good Latin grammar they’re not using, I’ll pay for the book and postage. Email me at mathews55 at msn dot com. Thanks in advance
Latin grammar has more inflection than English grammar but is simpler in other ways.
For example, unlike the modern romance languages Latin does not have articles. The Slavic languages are quite similar to Latin this regard.
BobinOK #127 – “FYI, I’ve been an electrical engineer for almost 20 years and a technician of various sorts for 12 years before that. It about 15 years of night school to finish my BS. Wasn’t worth it!! Laptop jobs of all types are too easily outsourced as others have noted…. If I had to do it over again, I would have worked on HVAC instead and probably made a ton more money.”
My brother-in-law was a union electrician that went to Northeastern University for a deans list electrical engineering degree. Super smart. Works for Merck. Regrets across the board. Time. Frustration. Money. Hours…. Happier and better paid for his time in the union. Always says he wouldn’t do it over.
Everyone should hear this.
The replies from Augusto (#80) and Scotlyn (#91) made me pause and think. Thank you!
Firstly, the rabbit/duck image can be seen in (at least) two ways, but never simultaneously. The opening tones of the Ode to Joy can be assigned to other compositions in the same way as 2, 4, 6 sequence can be grasped in several ways (the even numbers line is only one of possibly infinitely many other logical sequences starting with these numbers). Which way we see them at a time depends on the context – say, certain opening tones will usually remind me of the song with these tones which I have heard most recently, or most often. The contexts can be from different areas – if I learn the name of the composer of a piece I am about to listen to, my context field can change and I may assign the opening tones to his compositions only.
For finite things there seems to be an infinite number of ways in which we can see them, but at one time we can see in one way only. We “conocer”; we love, understand, bring together into a unity and only thus we can perceive the other (within ourselves). Does that make sense?
With deep regards,
John and the Commentariat:
You might want to keep an eye on the situation in Ukraine. Initially, it appeared that the current crisis was just another round of sabre-rattling between the US and Russia, but it looks like something much more serious might be about to go down.
A large Russian naval force with ships from the Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets has been reported as converging on the Mediterranean, probably headed for the Black Sea:
Solomon over at SNAFU has been warning for weeks that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is likely and there is growing evidence he may be right:
As Sol put it
Ukraine current battle roster. Russian Airborne ready to jump? Check. Russian Air Assault ready to rope? Check. Russian mechanized forces primed and ready to move? Check. Russian Naval Infantry in route to make a dash to a beach? Check. Long range artillery/missiles ready? Check. Political measures to keep this from escalating? Total failure…Check. This thing will jump off shortly people.
I hope he’s wrong on this one. But given the threats coming from the Biden administration, I suspect that if the Russians do invade, it will be in full force, no pussy-footing around. They know the US government has promised harsh sanctions even for a minor incursion, so they may as well go for broke and try to attain all of their strategic objectives as quickly as possible if war it is to be. I would imagine the objective will be to secure control of Eastern and Southern Ukraine, which is the most strategically vital area and the part where the majority of the population is ethnic Russian, while leaving the rest of the country in ruins as an object lesson and to ensure it will be nothing but a burden to the American Empire and its European lackeys.
And if the Biden administration does follow through on its threats to cut Russia off from SWIFT and take other extreme retaliatory measures, there is plenty the Russians can do in response, from cyber attacks to hitting the rest of Europe with an energy embargo and at a time when the EU Is already facing a serious, largely self-inflicted energy crisis. Considering how dependent the EU is on Russian natural gas and other fossil fuels, that would be enough to trigger an economic and humanitarian crisis on a scale not seen in Europe since the 1940’s. A bear is never more dangerous than when it is wounded, provoked and backed into a corner.
Oh and one more from Sol, this time on the useless incompetent masquerading as Secretary of State. One must admit, he does fit right in with Biden, Harris, Buttigieg, Nuland and the rest of the mental midgets supposedly running the show these days.
I am far from an expert in body language. But I am a “people watcher” and can pick up on basic ques.
Our guys body language is all wrong. I wish I could get the video of the handshake, but it goes a little like this.
The Russian is smiling, happy, doesn’t appear flustered at all. He’s as cool and cold and calculating as all the cold war military technothrillers made them out to be.
Our guy. F**K! Our guy seems like a slick little lawyer that is dazed and confused on a big stage. He appears to be withdrawn and sullen.
WATCH THE VIDEO (trust me it explains it better than I can) but he seems almost like a spoiled little boy.
The imagery seems all wrong to me.
I think I’m right and why I say that? Even the news media says it wasn’t a good day for our SecState.
Never thought I’d say it, but I think Hillary would have done a better job than this guy did.
Great post. I have a comment and some questions.
For the comment, I wanted to point out that the optimism for the future you describe is not as ubiquitous as you describe in the younger generations – at least in contrast to the more generalized optimism of the boomers
For the younger generations it really depends on whether you have access to the economic pie. If you do, chances are you do buy the happy tomorrow myth – or rather, you are clinging on to it in ever-increasing anxiety. If you don’t – or had a period of your life where you didn’t – believing in the happy tomorrow myth is much less likely. In fact in the people who abandon this myth, a radical switch to the opposite of the happy tomorrow myth is really standard. I know of plenty of younger people on the margins who believe in some version of the “climate change will wipe us all out to the last man” myth. Which is closer to the truth than the happy tomorrow myth, but still inaccurate due to its totalistic insistence on total devastation.
For the questions, I have a couple:
1.) I have found that the best strategy for dealing with the uncertain tomorrow you describe is the gut feeling, which I understand as the sum total of the various hunches and subconscious opinions we have on the problems that we encounter. What do you think of this strategy?
2.) Tying into the last one, here is a fun question – is there any occult theory on the “gut feeling”? Or any other theory outside the mainstream narrative? You seem like the guy who would know.
3.) Unrelated to the last two thoughts – how do you know so much about the different categories of thought (i.e. reflection, abstraction, imagination etc.) Is there a branch of philosophy that categorizes thought like this? Or the occult? Or is it from many different sources?
Wastelander (formerly Sam)
Sebastien, nice! I am a software engineer and the thought has come to mind. I also have been training as a draftsman/painter for 2 years and really like concept art. Given that good, playable games that don’t require for you to sell your life to them stopped being made after the advent of always-internet-connected game consoles, we might have a chance of making money in that field…
Did you ever play the game called Braid? It was made basically by two persons and is considered one of the best puzzle games ever made.
Am I the only one who looked at the rabbit and then the duck and finally decided it looked most like a seagull? Anyway, wonderful post JMG and wonderful comments.
I’m amused by how frequently the calls come in to have the National Guard handle something, and I think that’s a symptom of that. It seems like a desperate attempt to manage that which management has already passed the diminishing returns threshold for.
Not enough health care workers? Bring in the Guard.
Not enough educators? Bring in the Guard.
I wonder when (or if) it will occur to them that the National Guard is not exactly a fully renewable resource, its troops are not 100% fungible, and that if you take them away from whatever it was they were doing, whatever it was they were doing loses those personnel indefinitely.
Sardaukar at 176, about a Russian invasion of the Ukraine:
What seems likely there does depend on which experts you read! The unconventional sources I look at, often found at unz.com, are highly confident the Russians are not going to invade, because they don’t want the Ukraine back in its present condition. They are preparing for a major Ukrainian false flag under American sponsorship, probably involving something traditional and stupid like Ukrainian soldiers in Russian uniforms going to the border, then turning around and invading their own country. The actual Russian partial mobilization and recent exercises were 150 to 300 miles back inside Russia, just in case somebody is foolish enough to invade, with the Black Sea naval buildup prepared to give US and UK naval combatants a warm reception if they decide to intervene. Most of the actual combat would involve missiles, combat aircraft, and artillery near the border, focusing on newer donated American hardware as well as supply dumps and lines of communication.
The Russian government seems to prefer that the Ukraine reel on as one country, but it may need to be several. Novorossiya (Donyets and Lugansk) prefers to be separately independent; they had a plebiscite on asking to join Russia, and that did not get a majority. The Russians said “OK, we will still guarantee your autonomy, because we have already reintegrated your industries into our economy.” West of there to past Kiev, there might be a viable rump Ukraine. Further west, an independent Ruthenia under Polish protection (mostly Catholic, speaking a dialect similar to Polish) might get reinvented. Nobody knows what to do about Galicia, which does not belong in the Ukraine at all. Maybe bring back a Hapsburg archduchy? It would be good for tourism, and they couldn’t be worse than the neo-Nazis who run the place now.
The American officials who are bumbling into this war still have serene confidence that they create their own reality, so it doesn’t matter that they don’t know the players or the territory, and they can’t control much of anything, so management is an exercise in barking orders into a phone with nobody on the other end. Just as De Nial is not just a river in Egypt, US foreign policy keeps reminding us that a Fiasco is not always a straw-covered Italian wine bottle.
Pygmycory–canning, drying, and for firm fruits and root vegetables, root cellar. Meat can also be preserved by cooking it and then storing it in layers in firm fat (such as lard or duck fat) in a cool, dry place. Look up confit. Of course all of this relies on storage space that can be maintained at proper temperatures, Open kettle canning is the easiest, but is only suitable for acidic foods. Many new varieties, even of tomatoes, are not acidic enough to be safe from botulism. Your state university may have free or low cost pamphlets giving the latest advice on these and other topics. Also on agricultural questions.
For a variety of non-geopolitical reasons, Ukraine is a “hill to die on” for a sizeable majority of Russians. (See my comment #134 to the entry for December 22, 2021, on this blog for a quick summnary of those reasons.) If the US will not back off, I fear that this conflict over Ukraine will quickly go to an all-out, no-holds-barred war between the US and Russia. If that war does start, IMHO Russia will keep on fighting it almost to the last soldier and the last civilian standing. Most likely it will eventually be the US that will be forced to concede defeat in the end, despite our very considerable present advantages in manpower and weaponry. The US is simply playing stupid geopolitical games here. Where Ukraine is concerned, specifically, Russia will never be playing any such game.
At present the “doomsday clock” on the cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is set at 100 seconds to midnight. After the last few days, I think that’s way too optimistic–more like 5 or 10 seconds to midnight strikes me as more realistic.
A direct link exists between the “over optimization” and “over specialization” of the individual and the inability for them to work with multiple futures.
One trick ponies are amazing at their given task but they have the most restrictive blinders.
Stellarwind, fair enough — are articles difficult for those who don’t grow up speaking languages with them? I tend to think of them as very simple specific (the) or general (a) markers.
Sardaukar, I’ve been watching that, to the extent that I can do so from many thousands of miles away. I’m still not sure whether the Russians really are preparing an invasion, or the US and EU governments are trying to whip up a war panic to distract attention from the accelerating failure of their Covid policies and the rising tide of economic crisis. Since we can safely assume that the mass media on all sides are utterly dishonest, and simply say whatever their respective governments tell them to say, I’m unable to tell which of those options is more likely to be correct. But we’ll see!
Wastelander, I just hope that some of them will realize that there’s a whole universe of options between progress and apocalypse, the Tweedledum and Tweedledumber of the modern imagination. Gut feelings are one of the standard modes of intuition — Carl Jung talks about that in some detail in several of his books, and yes, occult philosophy has a fair amount to say about intuitive knowledge: among other things, that it’s no more foolproof than reason, but very useful, especially in areas where reason falls flat on its nose. As for the categories of thought, partly those are discussed in occult philosophy, but in large part it’s something I’ve been studying in detail for quite a long time. Giambattista Vico and Oswald Spengler both had important things to say about those, and so did Rudolf Steiner and his followers, though he and they both got as much wrong as they did right. Still, you know that people with Aspergers syndrome tend to have their special subjects, about which they research obsessively? This is one of mine.
Courtinthenorth, funny! I like that.
Brendhelm, yes, I’ve been watching that. It’s what happens when control freaks who have almost completely lost touch with reality discover that their attempts to bribe and bully people into obedience aren’t working — they go scrabbling after anything they can think of, and the Guard is an easy option. I think we’re fairly close to the point at which our current ruling class will be like Hitler in the bunker, sending increasingly shrill orders to armies that don’t exist as the enemy closes in.
GlassHammer, that’s a very good point.
@JMG I don’t have a lot of experience with eating and liking pickled things. I do like pickled cucumbers, so if the cucumber plant and the cucamelon both produce lots I thought I might try refrigerator pickles. Or I could try pickling kale – sort of like kale saurkraut – I bet someone’s tried it and there’s a recipe somewhere. Not sure if I’d like it. I always seem to wind up with a lot of kale at a certain time in the spring. Or I could just make lots of kale chips. I know I like those.
@GP I may look into what that entails. It should be less less hard on me physically than growing large things in the soil, but I don’t have much space indoors and it’s already in use.
@atmospheric river – that does sound really good.
I think I’m going to have to start making a list of the ideas people here are suggesting. Thanks to everyone.
Hey! A planning study has come to my attention this very day. It appears to be a public document. It is possible that it was not intended for a general audience, but usually WECC is good about that, and there doesn’t seem to be anything sensitive in it:
I thought I would offer my interpretation, since this week’s post is about planning by profeesionals. I guess I fall into that category. It is important to recognize the limitations of the modelling. My coworker says “All models are wrong, but some models are useful.” Personally, I do think the results do have something useful to tell us.
The pdf appears to be a powerpoint presentation from a webinar. I didn’t go to the webinar, so I may have some details wrong.
Slide 3: Load growth makes hitting renewable targets harder, so I would say the study is appropriately conservative. By 2040, I would say significant growth in electric vehicles is likely. Beyond? I think battery economics may start to bite.
Slide 5: NREL gathers data on resource availability that includes weather variation for all 8760 hours in a year. This is processed by the modelling software to find a least cost solution that serves all load for every hour of the year. I don’t know much detail about the NREL data, but I think it captures variability pretty realistically.
Slide 7:They have run the study with and without some assumed technology that will produce clean power with the same cost and dispstchability as natural gas. From context, I dont think curtailment means load curtailment, but generator curtailment. If no magic technology is available, the model is selecting overbuilding renewables as the least cost solution, as opposed to more storage or nuclear or some other solution (my guess base on the shape of the curves)
Slide 8: I think batteries could reasonably be replaced with pumped hydro in the Western Interconnect. Costs would be higher, but not crushing. Pumped hydro is a pretty proven technology, with sufficient unexploited resource to replace battery capacity here. Costs would be higher due to transmission requirements, and higher financial risk.
Slide 10: I think this slide means that there are some non technical limits like market design and state regulations that may be causing some higher total costs.
Slide 12: New transmission projects were not allowed to be added to the model by the algorithm, likely to simplify things to get results more quickly. Arizona and California did not have enough resource available to meet all load requirements for every hour of the year given transmission limits. New transmission might resolve that issue.
Notice how no new nuclear was selected? It is possible they disallowed it, but other models I have seen where it is an available resource prefer to overbuild renewables. If solar costs increase substantially, then nukes start to be selected.
In general, Natural Gas is burdened with a limit or a cost, otherwise NG would be selected for most everything and decarbonization goals would not be met.
There is a certain quality that I cannot name that allow people to learn and change their mind while others just follow the in-group cultish behaviour. This cuts across education levels but I think correlates well with connection with nature.
Two examples from my family:
My mom lived through many crises. She was a kid when the communists took over but she was an adult (30s) when a variant of stalinism was implemented (including labor camps, torture prisons, closing churches and complete suppression of speech).
She actually mentioned this in a recent fight we had. We were fighting because she still does not believe that the govt behavior today is totalitarian. So I compared it to the communism, mentioning closing the churches, censorship and police brutality.
So she remembers what happened before but she refuses to make the connection, preferring the comfortable excuses on the TV. That being said, she is not a true believer, just trying to fit in.
Another example: Based on a lifetime of study, I can say that I am quite average intellectually. Yet I did great in school and work (when I was trying) by the simple expedient of assuming that everything we were thought is simple but wrapped up in layers of gobbledygook to confuse us. 90% of the time I was right – though I did not do well with quantum mechanics.
It’s incredible how much of what is considered super-technical abstract thinking is just simple rules of thumb with invented layers of abstraction on top. The best example is in IT where every year there are new technologies with fancy new (and confusing!) names that are exactly the same as 50 years ago – just taking advantage of the newer hardware.
How many times have server-client been rediscovered (aka cloud computing or the internet of things today)?
What would a good name be for this ability? It requires a certain openness and intellectual modesty but any kid can do it. Common sense cover part of it.
it’s always good to remind ourselves that we are not even in control of ourselves – at least not in a homunculus kind of way where we live inside our head like a pilot in a spaceship.
For example, read about the interaction of our two cerebral hemispheres and the weird problems that people can get when they don’t collaborate properly. For example, people that would swear that they cannot see but they never walk into walls.
Moving out from the brain, is good to remember that we actually have 3 control systems that deserve the name of “brain”.
Aside from our heads, we have a separate nervous system that controls digestion, with the same amount of neurons as a cat. So when people feel something in their gut, it might actually be true!
And finally, our immune system (so maligned recently) arguably is as complex as our brains. It has a genetic component but it also learns by trial and error and it can remember pathogens that it encountered before. And just like the brain, it will make a mountain out of a molehill if it’s too coddled (see allergies).
JMG, what you say is true. No surprise to me that the future that took shape and is taking shape isn’t that future envisioned in The Jetson’s. It’s no surprise because I’m a retired member of that much reviled professional managerial class and believe me the revulsion isn’t remotely adequate.
Besides revulsion I would say that a lot of ridicule and laughter and mockery are in order considering the appalling state of things, much of it engineered by people that vastly overestimate their own talents, the latest being the farce of the Afghanistan pullout and the lamentable and ongoing fiasco of the pandemic, which, had some common sense been applied, was entirely avoidable. As any half-wit could have told them, you do not bloody do viral gain of function research, you do not send money overseas to have the Chinese do it, offshoring science like so much else that’s been offshored.
If only this absurd PMC had started with two simple ideas 1) that they’re not nearly as smart as they think, and 2) the people outside their exclusive club aren’t nearly as dumb. Not nearly as dumb meaning they have agendas and motives of their own, which means that the whole lot of humanity like the Deplorables, the Chinese, the Russians, Muslims and a vast multitude of others are not chess pieces that can be moved at will. And in this huge population there exist realms of knowledge outside that of the PMC, experience and capabilities that people in the PMC have no idea about.
So we have the pronouncements about ‘resets’, the Fed doing its usual handwaving, various national banks printing money like there’s no tomorrow, economists pretending that they know what they’re talking about, university students standing tall and stern and canceling their teaching staff and one another, while events slip outside everyone’s grasp and assume a momentum of their own. It’s enough to tempt asteroids out of their orbits.
Perhaps the best example of believing you can manage all things to prevent adversity is thinking you can cheat death. I know our host doesn’t watch videos, but this may interest some-
it’s a programme where they freeze people – or just their brains – after legal death, hoping to bring them back later. They openly say that they can’t do this now, and they’re gambling that They Will Think Of Something.
“Why should we give up just because our body quits at some point?” the guy says, “Why don’t we get to choose that? I absolutely do believe that we’re going to beat death.”
His words are a succinct summary of what JMG’s been talking about for years now. I can’t really think of a better example of our religions of Science! and Progress! than people getting their brains frozen in a metal jar expecting to be somehow revived decades or centuries from now. Note that the guy’s words are a statement of faith: “I absolutely do believe.”
In this case, it’s a gamble where the person has nothing to lose. If I die and they try to revive me 50 years from now, I’m no worse off than I was. The gambles we take with economic systems, resources, the environment and so on are very different, and have serious consequences.
Marketa, JMG and all, context field is another great term to understanding figuration. It is a very interesting process isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about it since Wednesday and it had a very interesting effect on me –someone that is always nitpicking things frenetically in his mind, attempting to separate truth from untruth; right from wrong–. It turned me quiet and contemplative. If everything is made up in context to everything else and I cannot but only perceive the things that my mind creates, inevitably, tied to the time and culture I was brought up in. Why then do I take it so seriously? Isn’t it all just a game we play as humans and minds of our own time? Might as well play it joyfully and plant some flowers in the process –and watch the messes from afar. I think I’ll keep thinking about that and its implications.
We will shortly reach the moment when Russia has the maximum leverage. February and March are the coldest part of the year in Southern Germany. Overnight temperatures of -10C and lower were not uncommon in Munich when I lived there in the 1980s and the old system of masonry stoves that could keep a house liveable in that environment has mostly been replaced by central heating; much of it powered by Russian gas.
I wonder if Germany could easily cope if the supply was cut off? The implications for both the EU and NATO are not happy ones.
Well, at the risk of trying everyone’s patience, another recent news story that illustrates a planning failure that, in my opinion, should never have happened — the Vogtle nuclear power project:
The original cost estimate for about 2GW of nuclear capacity was $14 Billion. The cost overruns are now estimated at $16 Billion. Currently, commercial operation is scheduled for 2022 and 2023 (two units)
I have references below, but for the cost of the original unit budget, they could have built 14GW of solar nameplate capacity. For the cost of the overruns they could have built 160GW-Hr of pumped hydro storage. The solar would have been operating by now, generating power for the ratepayers.
Pumped Hydro runs about $100k/MW-hr but requires a large capital outlay.
Cost of electric storage technologies:
Best data I can find for solar in a brief internet search is $1 Million/MW nameplate capacity
resulting in a “levelized cost of energy’ of about $75 per MW-hr
Solar Costs (actual built experience, as near as I can tell):
Harder to find solid data on nuke costs. Levelized cost of energy seems to be about $150/MW-hr with a fairly wide variation ($100-180 per MW-hr)
JMG graciously tolerates dissenting viewpoints, so I will include some comments: Both solar and nuclear have subsidies of various forms. Nuclear’s subsidies are more hidden, but are there. Both technologies are burdened with storage costs. Most of our existing pumped storage, which is still the majority of the US installed grid-scale storage, was installed years ago due to the operational limitations of large steam turbines. A nuclear heavy scenario would show either increased costs due to ramping of the nuke assets to follow load, and/or added storage costs. Steam turbines really, really don’t like to ramp up and down in power level. I am skeptical of the claims that the smaller modular nukes have gotten around that limitation. We shall see after some of them have been actually built.
To the degree that the public at large is going to demand we build some kind of generation, I do think we have better or worse choices. My observations lead me to believe that solar doesn’t seem like that bad of a choice, at least in my 30 – 50 year planning horizon. Wind is likely even better. All forms of modern energy have their limitations, subsidies (hidden or overt), and environmental impacts. It makes it really hard to do an honest comparison. Also, one’s personal values very much color how the costs and benefits are weighed.
Retropia and the basement brigade – a hopeful sign
One aspect of societal decline is that people’s ability to find solutions for failing institutions also declines. Our current ignobility is a case in point. They churn out grand plans for the future that are the same old failed ideas–but harder, and increasingly with more coercion. I think we can safely predict that this trend will continue: double-down and paper over the growing cracks with psychological and physical coercion. The news media will continue to demonize anyone who objects to the doubling-down with even uglier language than they do today. A frightening prospect since their language is already quite ugly.
At the city level I think we can “collapse early” by re-embracing the principle of autarky. My ideal is livable, walkable cities (Kunstler style) composed entirely of family owned businesses. No Walmarts or “chain stores”–how aptly named these are–thank you very much. I suspect we will arrive at this destination via the hard road rather than by intention. I see little desire and even less will to reshape our current automobile-centric designs to the human friendly designs of the past. It’s odd because such cities would be extremely popular yet they aren’t being built. Europe is filled with beautiful cities and towns like this but ours are all gone.
As the conversation about different ways of knowing goes on here and develops, I keep thinking of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig. A good part of which was devoted to the difference between “artists” for who the form is the paramount consideration and “mechanics” for whom function is critical. The former are in love with the idea, the beautiful, the clear, whether it works well or not, the latter, concerned with whether it functions well, smoothly, however shoddy it may appear.
His conclusion is that, as one ascends the mountain of quality, the two forms meet at the highest point: where it functions beautifully and appears beautiful.
I also think of the sign in the Physics department during one of my abortive attempts to get a formal education:
“Theory is when you know why, but can’t make it work.
“Practice is when it works, but you don’t know why.
“Here we combine theory and practice: nothing works and no one knows why.”
Oh, I jinxed it.
“While the beloved stray barge remains anchored at English Bay, the Barge Chilling Beach sign that was a popular photo spot is gone.”
(I do hope someone makes it Barge Knitting Beach, though).
Future Schlock…you get a gold star for that one, JMG.
The link for the “ADR – complete bundle” doesn’t work. http://www.foundershousepublishing.com/2017/07/founders-house-exclusive-adr-bundle.html. Is there another place that is good for buying your books, that isn’t Amazon or B&N?
A contribution of words that mean the same thing sort of but not really –
Vocation vs. job
One is more like a calling, that is built on skills gained over years. Often done locally.
The other is defined by the employer and is done by interchangeable people.
Looking at where mandates when into effect – hospital staff (jobs) but not EMT’s (vocation). Office cubicle workers (jobs) but not truckers (vocation). Non-profits employees (jobs) but not ministers (vocation).
As always ymmv and this isn’t universal but people do seem to not mess with people in vocations like they do those in jobs.
Andy, winter temperatures in Germany are not what they once were. This winter, we had in Central Germany barely any days below freezing. But still, gas prices have already risen markedly, and with an embargo against Russia, they will rise through thr roof.
@ Sardaukar, JMG RE: invasion – nyet…
If we were to imagine border encroachment such as Russia is seeing next door to Texas, what would we do? We have a narcostate as a neighbor that also supplies a big chunk of food and autoparts…. and the DHS is supposedly shutting down unvaxxed drivers crossing the borders on Monday. Strange timing and quite the stupid move with a porous border.
I imagine that IF Russia invades, it is likely to be primarily with standoff weapons – they do not have the cannon fodder like China or India. They could do that without crossing the border at all, and it would be foolish to assume that they do not have agents within Ukraine to coordinate targeting, along with those unfriendly to the regime.
Then again, after what just happened in Kazakhstan, they may have other multi-national options in their kit bag as well. That changes the balance of things if other central Asia countries get involved, invited by Russia perhaps? Maybe not initially, but…
It would not take much to close off the Black Sea, which shuts down a huge vulnerability. With 30% accuracy in the face of Russian EW measures (remember Trumps attack on Syria), and their interception technology – they are far from helpless. And I agree that Russia does not need the perpetual headache Ukraine (playground of the Biden family) would be.
I am hoping for a western failure regardless of what actually occurs – something to force the neocon PMC bunch to reassess. It would require something severe in terms of failure – after all, the current regime in the US is still trying to declare victory in Afghanistan…
Starfish @ 196 walkable towns and cities, however small will not be built as long as local state and especially county and municipal govts. continue to be controlled by the alliance of real estate, car dealerships and insurance companies.
Pygmycory, fair enough!
BCV, do you have a link to the study?
NomadicBeer, hmm! I can’t think of a convenient label offhand. Anyone else? As for the threefold brain, that’s something more people knew about a century ago — in early 20th century occult works, certainly, the sympathetic nervous system and especially the solar plexus, its main coordinating center, receive a great deal of attention, and for good reason.
Roger, thank you for this. I wonder if there’s any way we can get a law passed, requiring anyone in a managerial position to have your two simple posts brutally burned into their backsides with a branding iron.
Hackenschmidt, that’s classic. Quite a few decades ago, a guy named Alan Harrington wrote a bestselling book titled The Immortalist which proclaimed, “Death is an imposition on the human race, and no longer acceptable.” When I first read that line, just over forty years ago, I knew that industrial civilization was doomed. That kind of monumental hubris inevitably comes before a cataclysmic fall.
Augusto, excellent! And of course that’s why true believers of all stripes flee from the realization you just had. If you adore melodrama, taking everything much too seriously is an essential part of the game.
Andy, that’s certainly a detail to be kept in mind. Well, we’ll see.
BCV, every nuclear technology is safe, clean, and affordable until it gets built! As pumped hydro storage, it’s a good gimmick where it’s workable, but locations with ample water and suitable geography aren’t all that common, you know. Do solar and wind have a role in the deindustrial future? Of course. Will they allow people to maintain current extravagant habits of energy use? Not a chance.
Patricia M, yes, I saw that! Promising stuff.
Starfish, when you say such cities would be very popular, what’s your evidence? People in the US have been moving away from walkable cities into suburbia for many years.
R, funny! I like it.
@polecat The N-95’s and wearing them in public (and I’m seeing a lot of double masking of N-95 with cloth mask) is to show who is following orders from the covid regime. The people wearing cloth masks are disloyal. Need to identify the loyal and obedient. The constant refrain the past two years is “anyone who is not following our directives is dangerous” and they needed a new way to identify the dangerous.
About Ukraine, the American public wants no more overseas military adventures and Biden knows this. Unfortunately for him and us, it would seem that part of the very high price he had to pay for being handed the Democratic nomination was maintaining a large neo-con presence at the State Department. Biden started well, with the announcement of no more support for the Saudi war in Yemen and actually withdrawing from Afghanistan. IDK what a “less messy” withdrawal would have looked like; are such events ever not messy? I am afraid I take a rather cynical view of the crowds at the airport. I think that essential Afghan allies had long since been evacuated and resettled, and that most of the crowds were chancers hoping for a ride to somewhere in Europe without having to pay a coyote. The amount of media hysteria over “messy withdrawal” is something I find highly suspicious, in view of the fact that most American media, far from being govt. controlled, is part of the neo-con third column.
So, Vlad the Boring–really, that guy just ain’t no fun at all with his good boy scout prating about international law, as if anyone important even cared–patiently has his show meetings with Biden, and lets the old guy repeat what he was told to say so that Neo-con Public Radio can breathlessly report the President’s tough demands.
I am embarrassed. I don’t know how I managed to forget to paste in the link to the long term grid planning study.
I thought this report on pumped hydro was informative:
I would call attention to slide 12. According to the slide, there is 22GW (power) of pumped hydro. I will ask for a bit of trust and say that will amount to something like 200-300GW-hr of energy capacity. I look at the proposed projects at 40 GW (power), likely 350-500GW-hr of capacity. The proposals I have examined are mostly credible. I would say that while getting the right combination of transmission access, environmental impact, and financial incentive is challenging, we do have enough unexploited resource to meet projected need. This is kind of a gut feeling based on seeing the current proposals, and because I weigh environmental costs of all options and think we are better of implementing more pumped hydro. I think the main limitations for pumped hydro right now are that batteries do not require 9-figure investments and can be dropped anywhere, reducing financial risk comparatively, and a clear financial incentive for storage is really only just emerging.
But yeah, I do not claim that we are on a path to continuing our current lifestyle forever. I do think we will see higher costs and lower reliability for all energy options going forward. I just think that these studies are useful, and that solar turns out to be an ok option for bulk power generation.
NomadicBeer #188 and #89:
“There is a certain quality that I cannot name that allow people to learn and change their mind while others just follow the in-group cultish behaviour. This cuts across education levels but I think correlates well with connection with nature.”
“What would a good name be for this ability? It requires a certain openness and intellectual modesty but any kid can do it. Common sense covers part of it.”
Definition of lucidity (Merriam-Webster’s):
1 : clearness of thought or style: the lucidity of the explanation
2 : a presumed capacity to perceive the truth directly and instantaneously; clairvoyance
“… is good to remember that we actually have 3 control systems that deserve the name of “brain”.
Hmmm, I suspect there must be a fourth. Could it be the heart?
@Starfish #196, JMG #205
Walkable cities are the only cities that have a future. Suburbia is predicated on cheap oil. James Howard Kunstler put it quite nicely “Suburbia is best understood as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world”.
You almost certainly correct. It’s probably illegal in most places to build such a city or town.
JMG @ 205
For evidence I would cite the following:
– The “New Urbanism” cities, approximations though they are, seem popular.
– Every walkable city in the US I’ve been to has been crowded with people and has high property values. Yes, many are tourists but that supports the point. People choose to go there on vacation.
– I accept Kunstler’s point in “The Geography of Nowhere” that Disneyland is popular, in no small part, because it replicates a small town with no cars. The absence of cars being the key factor.
I would argue that walkable with cars on the street is a very different experience from walkable without cars. Since there are so few examples of the latter in the US (perhaps none) we have very few data points to draw any solid conclusion. Many people are still attached to their automobile suburbs despite the now obvious and serious problems with them so a real city may not gain mass popularity-at least not yet. Suburbs have been with us for a century and people have gotten used to them. Still, I believe that whoever built a walkable, carless city would have no trouble gaining residents.
RE: Russia and Ukraine
It looks like the USA government believes it is going to happen.
I wonder if the essential staff will be evacuated from the embassy by helicopter again.
Dig this! Rebel academics who know they should be in the communications business!
Pixelated, that’s sad to hear. 😉
NBerinKS, I emailed the publisher and just heard back. He’s changing to a new sales platform, and the Archdruid Report bundle has been moved; it’s here. Thanks for asking!
Denis, interesting. Very interesting.
Oilman2, again, we’ll see. If the Russian government is sufficiently irritated with the US and EU playing games with Ukraine, they could use the standoff weapons and then go in — and if they do, the possibility that it’ll be a multinational force, as it was in Kazakhstan, is not small.
BCV, no prob — I’ve forgotten links myself, rather more than once! Thanks for this.
Starfish, oh, no doubt people like to vacation in such places. I’m far from convinced they actually want to live in them, and have to deal with neighbors on a day to day basis. Still, I’d be delighted to be proven wrong.
Patricia M, I hope academics are listening…
JMG, Starfish, I live in a fairly walkable, bikeable, transit-having area, and that’s one of the things I like about the area most. I wish it was more walkable, bikeable, and full of transit! But then I’m not American.
Once an old lady, a family friend really, told me concerning retirement and old age: “You are never prepared for the right thing”.
It really hit me as pessimistic but yet very sensible. Now it does not mean we should not get prepared at all, rather expect the unexpected. Be prepared to ditch whatever plans you came up with. Stay tuned to what actually happens.
My dear friend, thank you for your support. On the funny side, I’m barely able to ride anything but a bicycle, I do prefer standing on my feet and ju-jitsuing my way one day after another 🙂
I don’t do video games actually, I mean not anymore. I used to play turn-based strategy games when I was in the retro-gaming hobby. I’m more an avid fan of boardgames. I’ve designed a couple of them on my own and I’m considering selling prototyping services to other game designers. Prototyping mainly consists in bookbinding+scale modeling. I have that idea of making boardgames from bio-sourced or scavenged materials, I think there’s a market for that. For now, I’m still in the learning process and do with any materials and tools I can find, A3 color printer, punches & sharp cutters.
@starfish #212, stellarwind72 #211, JMG #215,
I live in such a city in Europe. Several factors make this better than the situation in the US. Our apartments have thick walls, so we don’t hear our neighbors except with our windows open in the summertime, and high ceilings. The standard wood beam is four meters rather than three meters (nine feet) in the US. This makes apartment living quite comfortable.
As for the cars, I wish they weren’t allowed in the inner city at all, but there are at least some legal differences that makes things better. The speed limit is much slower, the streets narrower, and pedestrians have the legal right to jaywalk anywhere that isn’t a highway. I can step into a street without a crosswalk and have the legal right of way. Still, people (especially children) are frequently struck by cars here, even on our block. Society as a whole gets to decide the extent to which rich people get to have their toys, including whether vehicles can drive into the inner city.
>they go scrabbling after anything they can think of, and the Guard is an easy option
I’ve seen something similar to this in my time inside MegaGovCorp, but it was more due to who was actually able to do the work and who wasn’t. Management tends to really hammer you if they perceive you’re able to get stuff done, usually to the benefit of everyone else and to your own detriment. I think that’s what’s primarily going on with “let’s call in the Guard”.
I think also, it’s a way of looking like you’re doing something while transferring the responsibility away from you as well. If something goes wrong, you can say “I did something about it and go talk to the Guard commander”. It’s almost like they view those people as “exception handlers”, if something strange and weird is happening, give it to them to handle, whether or not they’re trained or able.
Long term, they run the same risks – at some point either the people getting hammered modify their behavior so they’re no longer perceived as the people who get stuff done, or they get boiled off to go somewhere else where they aren’t getting hammered. And I suspect word will get around that signing up for Guard duty is a route to getting hammered and people will avoid it as long as they have other choices.
On the point on the unmanageable future would be interested in your thoughts on the following:
1) France: this article captures the growing range of shariah zones (over 750) across France where the rule of shariah is dominant. The polls show that among young Muslims (under 25), the clear majority are loyal to Islamism than the French Republic laws so clearly the trend is against the French state in the coming decades.
In the meantime France continues to absorb hundreds of thousands of illegal and mainly Muslim migrants every year from the Global South, which continues the process of a slow but gradual transformation of its major cities into becoming majority-Muslim within the next decade or so.
Where do you see this going? Some Russian analysts have recently predicted increasingly open Islamist city-state type fiefdoms emerging across western Europe. is a civil war coming or will these men become men of arms in the forthcoming European wars you are predicting (although they seem rather hostile to the French state right now!).
2) Recently watched an excellent TV series on the Indian Ocean and now piracy from Somalia is endangering the Seychelle islands where fisheries and tourism dominate. Pirates are attacking and kidnapping fishermen and ships that go through that area carrying goods. There is a growing risk that the pirates will start targeting the tourists in the Seychelles which would be a disaster for the Seychelles tourist industry.
When do you think the high-end tourist industry in the Indian Ocean will collapse and do you see the wider Indian Ocean becoming lawless as increasingly desperate people turn to piracy to make a living (fishing stocks are edging towards collapse across the Indian Ocean and will collapse within 10-15 years at current rates. Also, mass deforestation has destroyed biodiversity, impacting smallholding farming via floods etc and a population boom is putting ever more pressure on local populations.
Watching the series, I do not get much optimism about the future prospects of the region. At some point mass starvation will loom and what happens then? Presumably the few bubble economies that rely on high-end western tourism will collapse and become havens for piracy, terrorism and disorder.
Will we see mass migrations into Europe from these ruined parts of Africa within the next 20 years. The whole series is given me a sense of foreboding about the future – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00pqbfg.
3) Conservation: one of the striking things about the series is how the global conservation industry is literally propping up tiny little enclaves of forests in Madagascar which have been otherwise turned into plantation farms.
The conservation industry is expensive, relies on global supply chains and rich western donors to carry on. I can’t see it as a sustainable enterprise given everything we know that is coming. Do you think the global conservation industry will implode within the next 10 to 20 years and many of these endangered animals, if they survive, will be gone from the wild.
The driving force behind the popularity of conspiracy culture these days is the conviction that we really could have the glossy high-tech Tomorrowland promised us by the media for all these years, if only some sinister cabal hadn’t gotten in the way.
I am struggling with this view.
The conspiracy theorists that I encounter make the case (rightly or wrongly) that sans the control of cabal (a to z) the world could have less war, less military spending, less inequality, healthier food, more inclusive and more holistic healthcare, a better approach to teaching our children, scientific institutions less corrupted by political and economic forces, technology that was more humane and useful, a media system that actually informed the people rather than propagandised them…and so on.
I have read none that i can recall who have pined for Tomorrowland. Indeed, the Brave New World vision marketed through the media and in cultural industries is one of the things that seems to come under sceptical scrutiny, regarded regularly as the false utopia (actual dystopia) of the conspiracy theorist’s world view.
Excellent quote, thanks for sharing it. It is tragedy of such monumental proportions that most cannot admit the problem exists. These days I seek out those who are able to face such an enormity without blinking. This takes courage and is why I follow JMG’s writing.
As is so often the case, we were warned early. Lewis Mumford wrote this in 1961:
“On the fringe of mass Suburbia, even the advantages of the primary neighborhood group disappear. The cost of this detachment in space from other men is out of all proportion to its supposed benefits. The end product is an encapsulated life, spent more and more either in a motor car or within the cabin of darkness before a television set: soon, with a little more automation of traffic, mostly in a motor car, traveling even greater distances, under remote control, so that the one-time driver may occupy himself with a television set, having lost even the freedom of steering wheel. Every part of this life, indeed, will come through official channels and be under supervision. Untouched by human hand at one end: untouched by human spirit at the other. Those who accept this existence might as well be encased in a rocket hurtling through space, so narrow are their choices, so limited and deficient their permitted responses. Here indeed we find ‘The Lonely Crowd.'”
– The City in History
Fair point and I cannot disagree that we Americans have forgotten how to live in a real city. Or, put in other words, how to be citizens. I am perhaps a bit more optimistic than you on the chances for success but I am not optimistic that they will even be tried.
A standoff attack is a reasonable guess–something like “shock & awe” from Gulf War 1 with aerial and naval bombardment plus mass artillery. On the other hand, the UK appears to be considering a military alliance with Poland and Ukraine. If that actually happens then who knows?
“As we all know social justice policing is an ongoing disaster so, to his credit, he shut up about it. But he got the UBI passed, so yeah, my tax dollars at work. My question is how much harsh reality does the managerial class need before their illusions are shattered? Do we really have to go Venezuela lite before these people realize that one cannot simply impose Scandinavian policies on the hot mess that is the United States and expect results?”
When it comes to his own gated community. And his own house gets robbed. Or he himself gets mugged or nearly killed.
As long as they can insulate themselves. They have no reason to care. But even then they could be driven mad by abstraction.
“One aspect of societal decline is that people’s ability to find solutions for failing institutions also declines. Our current ignobility is a case in point. They churn out grand plans for the future that are the same old failed ideas–but harder, and increasingly with more coercion.
think we can safely predict that this trend will continue: double-down and paper over the growing cracks with psychological and physical coercion. The news media will continue to demonize anyone who objects to the doubling-down with even uglier language than they do today. A frightening prospect since their language is already quite ugly.”
Imagine that stereotypical nerd in high school who got shoved into lockers by the Jocks and he really resents his powerlessness against said bullies. Suddenly had access to a very strong robot or group of armed thugs to enforce his will.
Being formerly powerless he gets to exact his revenge on all who he perceives to be his tormentors.
Why else would there be such hysteria from the same people about the Orange Julius who acts publicly similarly to the stereotypical blowhard Jocks back in the day?
Like Biff Tannen:
Because of I think their instinctive inferiority complex they got back in High School.
Maybe my psychoanalysis falls short. But I suspect this is the case.
The Dutch street idea has been used various places to transform the character of residential neighborhoods. At its simplest, it is just blocking off one end of a residential street to traffic. The other end is left open. Some thought needs to be applied, so that clear streets through neighborhoods remain. The smallest streets are the candidates for partial blocking.
The Dutch used this residential street to cul de sac idea to create whole rows of cul de sacs opening onto a larger street. The blocked streets immediately calm down, because there is no through traffic. Kids play in the street and neighbors have outdoor picnics. Since Europeans are not addicted to Stupid Zoning Laws the way Americans are, the arterial develops micro businesses, especially at the corners with another arterial.
The next level of investment is amenities: planting along the edges, benches, bricking in the street to make it level with the sidewalk. Because it doesn’t have through traffic, it doesn’t need the bearing and wearing capacity. It works well where the streets are mainly laid out as a rectangular grid, Much of Seattle comes to mind. The streets are often interrupted by the geography and the street ends develop their own character.
I can see the Dutch Street idea being a stage in reclaiming neighborhoods from urban sprawl.
@info (#226) oh my god, you’re right… There’s only one solution:
“The nerds realize the only way to get the Council to help is to put one of their own in as president”
We’re going to need pies, some jumpsuits and a synthesizer to pull this one off. Also can anybody rap or play the violin?.
(Go Tri-Lambs! Go Omega Mus! And Betty, you turncoat.)
NomadicBeer #188, in Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men novels, that’s called the First Sight and Second Thoughts, and it’s the source of a witch’s power.
(“‘Don’t you mean second sight?’ Tiffany queried. ‘Like people who can see ghosts and stuff?’
‘Ach, no. That’s typical bigjob thinking. First Sight is when you can see what’s really there, not what your [head] tells you ought to be there.’”)
David Kaiser with another bull’s-eye. Boeing & decadence.
Pygmycory, I also live in a highly walkable town amply served by public transit, and I’m very happy with that. My preferences, however, are not shared by a majority of my countrypeople — or, I think it’s safe to say, a majority of yours.
Karim, an excellent point!
Sébastien, well, I don’t even ride a bicycle — anything faster than my own feet is not something I want to try to steer! — so I understand. 😉
CS2, many thanks for the data points.
Owen, I expect the same thing. I know there are already people quitting (or not joining) the Guard to avoid the Covid vaccines, and I’ve also read that military recruiters generally are having an increasingly hard time getting their quotas. I wonder what the flacks will do when the Guard doesn’t have enough people to fill the gap…
Forecasting, most of Europe is in a state of rapid demographic decline. That’s a standard event in the descending arc of a civilization — Spengler talks about it at some length — but it’s happening a good deal more quickly than usual. I don’t see any reason to think that it will reverse. That being the case, over the next century or two at most (and quite possibly much more quickly than that) Europe will turn into a northern extension of the Maghreb in every demographic, cultural, and political sense that matters. It’s a typically clueless conviction of the privileged left tht immigrants to Europe will infallibly recognize the alleged superiority of liberal European culture and assimilate, but we’ve all seen just how poorly that has worked out in practice. Au contraire, the historic cultures of Europe may survive here and there in exile in the European diaspora, but it seems most likely that they will cease to exist in their traditional homelands or, at most, remain in isolated enclaves, the way the Celtic cultures survived in Brittany, Wales, and the rest of the northwestern European fringe.
As for piracy, I remember with immense amusement how respectable pundits mocked Jim Kunstler for pointing out, in The Long Emergency, that piracy was due for a resurgence. It wasn’t too many years afterward that Somali pirates started getting into the news. At this point sea lanes are becoming increasingly unsafe worldwide as global order unravels, and that will accelerate over the decades ahead, helping to drive the return to local production. The conservation industry? Never anything more serious than a means of virtue signaling and high-end tourism for the well-to-do. Its implosion is a done deal. Keep in mind, though, that as global trade grinds to a halt, a lot of plantations in the undeveloped world will be abandoned, and some currently endangered species may find themselves in better conditions. That said, we’re going through a typical evolutionary bottleneck, and the flora and fauna of the coming Neocene epoch will be mostly the product of evolutionary radiation from generalist species that are good at handling the turmoil. If you were to visit Earth five million years from now, there will likely be a hundred species descended from rats — some of them large and quite unratlike! — and quite possibly even more descended from crows.
Mog, interesting. The ones I’ve seen have generally included space travel, life extension, et al. in their mix of supposed benefits if the current batch of scoundrels get thrown out. It would be nice if they realized that getting rid of one batch of scoundrels just opens the door to another batch, and that they themselves — if by some bizarre turn of events they happened to seize power — would find those pleasant ideas just as far out of reach…but I know that’s asking a lot.
Starfish, I think we’ll get there, but it’ll happen by way of economic contraction and a long age of turmoil.
Info, I don’t think you’re wrong.
Patricia M, thanks for this. On the bull’s-eye indeed.
I think the essential problem with suburbs, going forward into increasing resource scarcity and civil unrest, is that they are not easily defensible, or at least I doubt they are. Maybe someone with expertise in the subject could weigh in here. In theory, could a citizen militia defend a suburb?
An advantage the older suburbs have is plenty of space for gardens and maybe even small animal raising. Zoning laws, I suspect, will in time become unenforceable. They are already being flouted in many places.
Agree regarding the future of Europe. My baseline case is that only Scandinavia and eastern Europe under the tutelage of the Russian Empire will preserve its European heritage a century from now.
Thinking eastern Poland, Baltic States, Ukraine, parts of Romania and Bulgaria and of course Russia and Belarus.
Its a grim future. And if the worst case scenarios around the mass gene vaccination programme occur that future could become reality far sooner…
Piracy is a growing problem and should half of western Africa and South Africa take it up, global supply chains would totally unravel.
A bunch of Somalians have already caused a fair degree of havoc. Imagine if it spreads across Africa, Latin America and Asia in a decade or so.
You can kiss the global economy goodbye.
Also agree with you about conservation. It only hit me after watching the programme.
Potemkin villages come to mind…
A bit late in the comment cycle here, but is mental ill-health common during collapse? I don’t know a single person who is mentally healthy at the moment and several people who are close to me have tried to take ‘the final step’ in the last 12 months. I’ve been mentally unhealthy since a child, but even those who had stable families seem to be succumbing at the moment. It feels like everyone is drowning.
Should I expect it this to be a feature of the long descent?
@forecastingintelligence #221, @JMG #231
Most French believe white Christians risk ‘extinction’ from Muslim migration: Poll
@ JMG & Forecasting RE: PIRATES
I’m thinking that the current pilfering of trains in LA county is pretty much pirating. And it’s spreading to other big cities, and there are not nearly enough RR cops to even slow them down. Maybe not quite at gunpoint. but it’s only a matter of time before forklifts and bigger criminals get in on the game?
OT, but from Parade Magazine: I know you don’t watch TV, and neither do I, but here’s a straw in the wind indeed.
“Promised Land” a.k.a. “Dallas” and “Giant” with a Spanish accent. “John Ortiz stars as Joe Sandoval, who took a small (Sonoma Valley, CA) vineyard owned by a former rival and turned it into an empire.” As a former Californian later turned Southwesterner, I can only applaud. And remember the old radio serials like “The Goldbergs” and “Abie’s Irish Rose” that took the immigrants &minorities (well, the white ones) of the period (or earlier) seriously as people, with comedy, drama, and romance, and then faded away until the All In The Family spinoff, “The Jeffersons,” briefly revived the genre.
Speaking of which, Archie Bunker was supposed to be a wage class stuck-in-the-past bigoted foil for his liberal, educated so-on-law and daughter. Score: “myth of progress monomyth, 1. Dissing the wage classes as bigots, 0.” Because comment after comment from people in all walks of life and of all races said “He reminds me of my father.” At which I, with a college-educated, politically liberal father of the same period, had to nod and think “same song, just different lyrics.” (Apologies, Dad.) Now, my highly educated late father-in-law, well up in the PMC,he was Archie Bunker to the life, only in a more expensive suit and with a mean streak. Heh-heh-heh.
I’ll snail the whole page to you in the next bundle.
I’ve been reading the comments and have a couple of thoughts. Let me flag up that I have a lot going on just now and am very tired, so apologies if this is irrelevant and/or incoherent,
Re: consciousness. I’ve been reading a lot about this recently. An infant has no way to interpret its sensory inputs. This is provided by its parents and other adults, including its schooling during childhood. This means that an individual model of self, and perceptions of the world (as defined and restricted by language), come from the child’s social environment, not the other way round. It’s only later in life that individuals are able to begin developing their own interpretation of the world, but by that time the parameters have been set and it’s very difficult – though not impossible – to change them. This has deep implications going down to the way that culture forms brain structure, eg in Westerners 2+2=4 is performed in the part of the brain dealing with language, but in people from the Confucian cultural area it’s performed in the brain area dealing with motor activity.
Re: Ukraine. The discussion here is, and I beg your collective pardon, irrelevant, and is responding to a Western media narrative that is only tenuously connected to reality. Russia conducts its policy according to the letter and spirit of international law, in contrast to the US and its allies, who act arbitrarily and then make up justifications. In Ukraine, Russia will act to safeguard its essential national interests (eg the reunification of Crimea) and will protect the safety of the culturally Russian minority, but it doesn’t have any intention of invading Ukraine. If forced to, it will occupy the remaining Russian-speaking areas of Novorossiya (the Black Sea coast as far as Odessa and Transdnistria) but it won’t go to Kyiv or the Ukrainian heartland of Galicia. Even going to those areas would be the last resort. The reality is that Russia is playing a long game: in combination with China and Iran it is establishing a common economic and security area covering almost all of Eurasia, which the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan has finally made much easier. The US and the EU are being frozen out of this area; without access to its resources, their economies and societies will be be in deep, deep trouble. Hence the frenzied attempts to stir up a crisis in Ukraine (and failed attempts in Belarus and Kazakhstan). If a military crisis is forced, Russia will (as someone mentioned) resolve it using standoff weapons rather than ground troops.
One thing that concerns me a great deal about the current situation is that our currency is backed by the “full faith and credit of the United States government.” That “full faith and credit” rests on our role as guardian and protector of the Free World (TM).
If Putin takes Ukraine and we do nothing but hop up and down and make empty threats, it becomes clear that we are a paper tiger. This will almost certainly trigger a precipitous crash in the already-overextended dollar and leave much of our PMC anywhere from “out of a job” to “out on a scaffold.”
If Putin takes Ukraine and the war goes hot, I do not believe we have the capacity to drive Putin out of any land with Russian boots on the ground. But I also realize that the people who will be leading us into this war do not have a realistic vision of our military capacity, and may get us embroiled in a conflict nobody wants and that ends with the financial crash they were trying to avoid — along with, in an absolute worst case, multiple nuked cities on several continents.
Regarding the hypothetical ‘Neocene epoch’ of which you mention. It got me to wonder how any bottlenecked avians who managed to slip past extinction might evolve those 5+million years. We shmartypantsed apes look down at say, a humble chicken .. not gokking that in the immensity of time, we might become more diminutive in nature, while our feathered friends grow in size and stature .. regarding us rather fondly, as in a tasty snack..
As for cows?? I shudder to think what may come of them!
Mary, the defensibility of suburbs is entirely subject to issues of local geography. It’s the inability of so diffuse a settlement pattern to stay viable once automobile culture winds down due to energy shortfalls that really dooms the suburbs — but here and there, where local circumstances permit, it’s quite possible that villages will emerge where suburbs once were.
Forecasting, may I make a suggestion? Under the circumstances, if depopulation and cultural collapse really sets in while you’re still alive, you might consider northeastern North America. The Atlantic makes a better moat than the Channel.
Millennial, yes, but this is more extreme than usual. Right now, the implosion of the myth of progress — the monomyth of our culture and the foundation of most of our attitudes and ideas — is causing a culture-wide psychotic break. Be prepared for weirdness.
Stellarwind, it’s not the current population that’s the issue, it’s the result of demographic trends already well under way.
Oilman2, yep. Yet another reason to kiss off California.
Patricia M, interesting. I dimly remember All In The Family, for what it’s worth.
Bogatyr, er, do you have any idea how much this comment of yours sounds like a press release from the Russian Ministry of Defense?
Kenaz, that was the central theme of my novel Twilight’s Last Gleaming — the current US elite has never considered the possibility that it could get into a war and lose. If that happens, things will fall apart very quickly indeed — whether or not any cities get smoked.
Polecat, good. Earth’s megafauna tends to be furry and bear live young in periods of relative cold — say, the Permian and the Cenozoic — and to be feathered and lay eggs in periods of relative warmth — say, during the Mesozoic. Once the current cold period ends, I expect birds to take over and become dinosaurs again, while mammals run for cover!
“The differences between the two systems are admittedly not great: under managerial socialism, the people who control the political system also control the means of production, while under managerial corporatism, why, it’s the other way around.”
Reminds me of Willy Brandt’s and Leonid Brezhnev’s favourite shared joke: Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man, and socialism is the other way around. Brezhnev had been a communist in his youth, but lost his faith during the Collectivisation, in which he took part as one of the policy’s executors on the ground, allowing him to witness first-hand the gap between abstraction and reality. Naturally that did nothing to impair him from making a Party career. It’s not for nothing, though, that his stint in government has been the least hard on the rank and file, which many people remember to this day. He only hung on to socialism as the lesser of available evils, subtly tried to research alternatives, and waged a quiet war against his own government – it appears likely that if not for his efforts, the repressions in the 70s and the crackdown in Czechoslovakia would have been far worse. Sadly, he was just one man, with only one like-minded ally in a regime in which he was the first among equals.
A further thought is that the essential unpredictability of the future does pose a problem vis-a-vis knowhow. Acquiring practical skills isn’t easy, but we can also only guess at which ones would be actually in demand in whatever future we get. Although some guesses would be much more plausible than others, of course.
As for book learning, another quote comes to mind. I forget who said it right now, but it went something like: “The reason to learn economics isn’t to understand the economy, but to avoid being fooled by economists.” Abstractions are necessary, unavoidable and powerful, especially for people who grew up in a comparatively high-abstraction society (not that any society is without such, of course, but I’d agree the modern mainstream society is bigger on abstractions than many). As such, one of the main advantages of book learning would be the ability to spot bad book learning or misapplications of book learning… provided this ability is not neglected.
A prepper skill people living in colder regions might consider is bulk sauerkraut making.
I used to work for a German boss who told me he grew up in a tiny village in northern Germany. In winter the snow was so deep they were totally cut off and it was impossible to deliver fresh fruit or vegetables to them. To ensure sufficient vitamin C they relied on sauerkraut.
They rented a field from a farmer and planted their own cabbages. At harvest time the extended family gathered round and cut the cabbages, carried them inside, and sliced them on a special cabbage plane placed on top of the storage barrels. After everything was sliced, salted, sealed, and cleaned up, they had a big party because they knew they were safe for another winter.
My wife’s family is from eastern Poland, in a rural, conservative and largely unvaccinated countryside.
We will probably move there.
We have a family house to move into and I am trying to learn Polish. That’s my long term plan.
We do have some family around New Jersey on both sides so that could also be an option.
My main worry about eastern Poland is it might become a warzone again.
Any conflict in Ukraine will probably be preceded by a drone duel. For a scary look at just how deadly modern drones are, see BAYRAKTAR TB2 COMPILATION part-1 azerbaijan vs armenia [1920×1080]
Regarding your reply to Millennial:
“Right now, the implosion of the myth of progress — the monomyth of our culture and the foundation of most of our attitudes and ideas — is causing a culture-wide psychotic break. Be prepared for weirdness.”
This is something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately. Once you get a feel for how it works you really start seeing manifestations everywhere; in the narratives spun by the media, in public discourse, and – most disturbingly – among friends and family. It certainly does feel like the cracks are opening, deepening and widening. The most pertinent example is of course everything related to Covid. I find myself recoiling in horror when people I have known for decades display behaviour that is close to psychotic. It really helps, however, to have an overarching explanation for it all, although it’s still painful to behold.
I have started bringing up the concept of the myth of progress much more frequently than before in conversations in the (perhaps vain) hope that it might bring some clarity or at least serve as a nudge in a saner direction for some.
>Why else would there be such hysteria from the same people about the Orange Julius who acts publicly similarly to the stereotypical blowhard Jocks back in the day
I wonder when someone would pick up on that dynamic – that a lot of what’s going on had its roots in trauma that occured back in high school. Don’t do school. Really. Don’t do it. If there’s one guy I would love to hang swinging from a crane, it would be Cubberley, but he’s already dead, the bastard.
At some point, people will “shake hands across the bloody chasm” as a Civil War writer once called it, but I don’t think we’re ready yet to do that. I wish people would just get to wherever they’re going, but they move at their own sloooooooow pace.
>I’m thinking that the current pilfering of trains in LA county is pretty much pirating
In any case, the whole notion that you’ll slap a button and have a box show up at your door, that notion has an expiration date that’s probably sooner than you think.
Regarding the future of Europe, it should be pointed out that fertility rates are cratering in the Middle East and North Africa too:
The MENA countries are probably going to be more concerned with fending off sub-saharan Africans than occupying Europe.
Well Mr. Greer, I Do have an affinity for neodinos generally .. even if, given the chance, they’d ‘eat my eyes for jujubies’.
“Forecasting, may I make a suggestion? Under the circumstances, if depopulation and cultural collapse really sets in while you’re still alive, you might consider northeastern North America.”
1. What makes NORTHEASTERN North America especially appealing in your estimation?
2. What about southeastern North America (the US)?
I understand the western part of the US is going to be a desert. But I’d love to hear your thoughts about how different parts of the US East will compare.
An article from Bloomberg (ie mainstream press) that talks about troubles in French nuke power. France is frequently held up by nuke advocates as a role model for nuclear power. My brief take is that French nuke plants are having problems similar to the problems that shut down the Trojan plant and SONGS:
I thought JMG, especially, would like this article. My gut feeling is that the problems will turn out to be systemic.
Re: Martin Back @246
That is some seriously scary drone footage. Azeri drones blowing everything to bits, often using the laser guide on the drone for dropped bombs or larger missiles than the drone carries.
The Chinese were using drones to enforce quarantines. Two old guys and a grannie playing cards outside by the front door got an arial loudspeaker, “Stop! DIsperse! Go inside! Auntie, go inside now!”. That was from serpentza, a South African former resident of China, who posts documentaries on youttube.
Which brings up the thought that the drones are high tech themselves. Back in the day, radio controlled model airplanes were a thing. They were much lower tech, and shorter range. Steady improvement and embedded complexity allowed the radio controlled model plane to become a drone carrying a camera, mini-missiles, laser sight and long range comm link. The number of laser guided bombs in the video indicates that there were helicopters loitering overhead.
The comm link is the easiest vulnerability. Frequency hopping radios, spread spectrum and similar can reduce the vulnerability of the comm link, with an order of magnitude increase in complexity.
A slower, long term vulnerability is the supply chain for that much embedded tech, which wraps around the world multiple times.
Re: clueless managerial types, and being in a hole and digging it deeper, Jean Lamb keeps referring me to the column “Ask a Manager,” which keeps calling these bozos on their self-destructive stupidity. As well as advising those who write into them on how to spot a toxic workplace and what to do about it. The latest is an absolute gem, and the comments, priceless.
@ Steve #162 and common sense.
We don’t need common sense anymore. When every grocery store is packed with food, you don’t need to plan ahead. When you can heat your home in January without spending the entire summer cutting wood, you don’t have to plan ahead.
Winter, in ye olden days, meant planning ahead. Hard times always came. It’s why so many cultures have stories about the ant and the grasshopper. Nobody wants to support lazy grasshoppers when you’re barely keeping your ant family going during hard times.
Hard times are coming. For some people, they’re already here. The fallout and collateral damage won’t be pretty. The repercussions will last generations.
@JMG and @Millennial:
Regarding the mental health crisis of the collapse: with that in mind, what do you see happening to the therapeutic professions as the long descent intensifies? Naturally, most people will not have enough disposable income to afford such luxuries, but I’m wondering if these skills could be adapted and repurposed. I am particularly thinking that Jungian psychology, which you have (IIRC) predicted will complete its transition into an esoteric spiritual path at some point in the next few decades, might evolve into something quite well adapted for the coming dark ages.
@Millenial if I may about the abundance of mental health issues right now, I’m seeing it too. The times I have felt myself slipping out of what I consider to be my normal mental state is when I feel that people aren’t listening to my concerns. There’s a lot of not listening in general right now. Also a lot of people not expressing what they are genuinely feeling.
Layered on top of that is of course the continual change of covid guidance and definitions, worry of getting sick, threats of losing employment, empty grocery store shelves, and ever increasing prices. It’s a miracle people are holding on to sanity at all.
Hi John Michael,
Thanks for the encouragement, and an insight was gleaned which is relevant to your essay this week. Out of curiosity I decided to have a look at historical data for inflation – and that was when I noted that the last bout of inflation occurred down here in 1974. The official inflation number was running in the mid teens that year, but I’d be certain that things were more difficult at the street level, as it is today. And you know what was going on that year for sure!
Anyway, the insight gained was that perhaps given this is now almost 50 years ago, a good argument could be made that this is far enough outside of peoples memory that the lessons of that time were forgotten. The people with their hands on the policy levers nowadays may be aware of this as an abstract concept, but have no working knowledge of how to navigate the territory and this time there is no North Slope or North Sea fields. My gut feeling with this one is that the powers that be will utterly stuff it up. Based on what I’m observing of their actions and reactions, they’re just unused to thinking and acting with any sense of deeper time, cycles and currents. They sure know how to glue their brains to the media though.
Hi John Michael,
Just reading through the comments this morning and noted references to the media. If I was to offer them one bit of advice it would be that: The mage which falls for his own magic is an object of pity.
Hey, I noticed that car manufacturers are slowly letting go of the past (!) and appear to be releasing new models with less bells and whistles. That’s the future for manufacturing that is. And what a surprise the models are cheaper. The reviewers are whining… But as you once noted: Every automation is an amputation.
Another installment in obtuse reporting in the Washington Post. 2022-Jan-24, Education page, “Drop in college enrollment could have long-term impact”. “Experts” from academia lament such observations as “people with only high-school diplomas are nearly four times as likely to smoke as college graduates”, and “High school graduates who don’t go on to college are … four times as likely to need public housing, the College Board finds…” Less likely to vote, more likely to divorce, less consumer spending, die younger, and so on. It’s obvious that these experts are assuming causality from observed correlations. They should know better, but it’s not in their interest to know better.
Near the end of the half-page article, we read that the Fed. Reserve Bank of Phily finds “more listings for jobs that pay above the national median wage are accepting applicants with less than bachelor’s degrees”. There’s one voice that doesn’t have a personal interest in attracting students. But even that is regarded as “bad news for the sector that’s affected most immediately by the enrollment decline: the $632 billion higher education industry, with many campuses struggling to fill seats.” I think that should put a spotlight on the self-serving assertions that fill the bulk of the article.
This kind of article always glosses over the disparities between people who come out with, say, a BS in Chemical Engineering ($95,000), and those with a BS in elementary education ($39,000) or art ($40,000s).
or the zoning regulations get changed. There’s a lot of chickens in my neighborhood, and lots of food gardens, including on the boulevards. And this is all legal. The mayor has chickens.
The one thing I heard about that was a step too far was that someone had a pig, and it was apparently noisy and they made him get rid of it. I was sad. I’d met the pig once, out on a walk with its owner. It was friendly, well-behaved and the owner got it to demonstrated tricks for me.
You wrote ‘Quite a few decades ago, a guy named Alan Harrington wrote a bestselling book titled The Immortalist which proclaimed, “Death is an imposition on the human race, and no longer acceptable.” ‘
After your recent essay on Lemuria, it promptly occured to me there were TWO trees recorded in the Genesis story. Given the results of eating from the first, perhaps it’s inevitable that we would try to eat from the second. Humans will human, after all. Is there something else, something older and lower than demons, (or perhaps younger and higher but no better,) out there, that would encourage us to take that bite of fruit?
I write using the old symbolism, of course, not thinking we have a literal fruit of the tree of life and death to chow down on, but we have had the various fads of this fruit or that will give you better, longer life for a while, blueberries, acai, etc. An echo, perhaps?
bear in mind that the gulf states are heavily dependent on fossil fuels that are depleting fairly rapidly. I doubt they will be able to support their current populations when oil exports tank. They’re already importing food, because local water resources aren’t adequate for growing everything they need locally. I believe Yemen was importing about 90% of its food a few years back. I know Saudi Arabia imports a lot of its food, and is buying up farmland elsewhere. If the gulf states desalinate seawater, that is expensive and takes a lot of energy. Climate change is unlikely to improve water availability in the region, to the best of my knowledge, and it makes the amount of dangerous heat waves worse.
These things are likely to lead to poverty and political strife/potential civil wars like we’ve seen in Syria and Yemen. And large numbers of people wanting to leave. So even if the population is not growing or declining due to low birth rates, you could easily see mass migration from the area.
“Let’s take a moment to make sense of this. Each of us, in earliest infancy, encounters the world as a “buzzing, blooming confusion” of disconnected sensations, and our first and most demanding intellectual challenge is the process that Owen Barfield has termed “figuration”—the task of assembling those sensations into distinct, enduring objects. We take an oddly shaped spot of bright color, a smooth texture, a kinesthetic awareness of gripping and of a certain resistance to movement, a taste, and a sense of satisfaction, and assemble them into an object. It’s the object we will later call “bottle,” but we don’t have that connection between word and experience at first. That comes later, after we’ve mastered the challenge of figuration.”
I think it should be pointed out that this is not exactly Barfield’s view of “figuration”. As you probably know, Barfield’s view of the perception-cognition relation was the same as that of Steiner’s, as the latter conveyed it in the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Barfield was also an Anthroposophist, so he adhered to the underlying spiritual explanations of how the Ego-“I” descends into the child’s physical-etheric-astral bodies at a certain age. But, leaving all that aside, the basic view was that our Thinking (Spirit) is a sense-organ which perceives meaning in the world content, like our eyes perceive colors. The difference is that these meaningful perceptions appear to arise from ‘within’, while the sensations you mention appear to arrive from without. So our young mind is not assembling the outer sensations together to form the objects, but rather the latter stimulate the inner perception of meaning which naturally unites them into coherent experiences. The meaning is like the ‘glue’ which holds the fragmented perceptions together in a lawful way (according to the structure of Logic). This really changes our whole understanding of what the sense-world, with its objects (partial negative images of archetypal meaning), and how it relates to our logical reasoning faculty. I know you disagree with this view based on the previous posts re: Kant, but I just wanted to clarify Barfield’s concept of “figuration” as he meant it.
“Once the current cold period ends, I expect birds to take over and become dinosaurs again, while mammals run for cover!”
OK JMG; but don’t forget that insect like hot climates too!
A propos evolution and the “Neocene”, it just struck me that the Holocene is a weird concept. It´s really just an interglacial of the Pleistocene, yet has the status of a separate geological “epoch”! Somebody wants to feel special, methinks.
A propos evolution again, I think I mentioned this once before: Dougal Dixon wrote an entertaining book called “After Man: A Zoology of the Future” based on the concept that once humans go extinct, various “pest species” will radiate and after 50 million years become the new dominant life forms. Large predators will evolve from rats or the mongoose, neo-raptors from starlings, rabbits will become deer-like, and so on. Quite believable, actually! He also wrote “The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution”. Guess what *that* is about? 😉
Hi Mary (in response to post #232, I think JMG answered your question, but I’d like to add to this. I live in the Chicago suburbs. Suburbs like this are entirely dependent on natural resources. In particular 3 things:
2) Water in/out
3) Natural Gas
Most suburbs, if they don’t have the above, would not be worth defending. Modern houses, for example, if they have intermittent electricity, would be prone to flooding (sump pumps!). If a towns water works quit working people would leave en masse pronto.
I think older towns (that I see in Wisconsin) that were built before the great expansion could be defended as they are
2) the town came up for a reason — there was something worth settling for
3) most homes have alternatives (i.e. well and septic and propane tanks and such)
I think the smaller and knowing your neighbors would be key. In the mega suburbs I see in the Chicago area most people don’t know their neighbors (yikes).
@ecosophian #252 re: “What about the Southeastern US?” From Florida, I answer “The Confederacy?”
Danil, my comment was inspired by that joke! As for abstractions, of course they’re necessary — the power of abstraction is what gives us the capacity to have this conversation, for example. The problems come in only when abstractions are treated as being more real than the concrete realities they summarize.
Martin, true! For those who like something with a little more zing, kim chi is made in exactly the same way — just with more peppers.
Forecasting, Poland’s geography guarantees that it’ll become a war zone over and over again in the centuries to come: it’s the inevitable zone of conflict between whoever controls the core central European watersheds and whoever controls the core watersheds of European Russia. The sole question is whether that’ll happen in your remaining lifespan. New Jersey might be safer.
Martin, the Turks were very foolish to allow their capacities to go on display in the Armenian war. Now every military on Earth is busy cooking up countermeasures — and since drones are dependent on radio control, there are several easy fixes. No question, though, it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Tommy, belief in progress really is the established religion of our time, and it permeates our culture the same way that medieval Christianity pervaded the culture of twelfth-century Europe. Pushing against it at this point is helpful, but it’s a long hard job!
Logan, yes, but they’re still considerably higher than Europe’s — and as sub-saharan African populations continue to expand, that’s going to push more people from North Africa into Europe.
Polecat, well, there you are.
@ Daniil Adamov (# 242)
Thank you for telling us that about Brezhnev. We can’t know what was in his heart, but it is good practice to have compassion for a decent soul stuck in a failing system. A paraphrase/misquote here: “The men who ran the USSR were among the most brutal, disciplined, and unimaginative in history.” Pretty sure “brutal, disciplined, and unimaginative” is correct — it struck a chord.
Excellent article and what I find rather amazing or amusing is how the managerial class is totally clueless and it is global. Let’s take China for example. A recent article says that China built “27 Mega NYC size cities” to keep up the pretense that their eCONomy was growing. Supposedly, Evergrande was behind the development and those cities have been left to rot.
Ask yourself, how much energy was used to build those 27 Mega Cities that are now rotting? Meanwhile China has an energy problem and is going back to coal to make up the shortfall. You would think the “FINITE” energy that was used on those 27 Mega Cities could have come in handy.
So yes the Managerial Class is not as smart as they want us to believe. Sometimes they guess right but then again as the saying goes: “even a blind squirrel will find a nut”.
Jerry @ 269, I hadn’t thought about your three points or about the concept of what might be worth defending. About the sump pumps. There are smallish, mostly two story with basement working class houses all along the Mohawk River. I live in one, and all our basements flood in the large storms we have been having in recent years. These very well built, older houses will eventually have to be abandoned, which I consider a great shame.
pygmycory@262, If I may ask, how and when did the zoning get changed?
Ecosophian, keep in mind that this was a suggestion about where people from Europe might want to go. Northeastern North America was part of the European culture sphere beginning in the 15th century — that is, toward the end of the Middle Ages — and so it has a European imprint; there are quite a few towns up here in which I think European refugees would be quite comfortable. Meanwhile, the South and the Midwest — more precisely, a band extending southeast from the Great Lakes to the southern Appalachians, and including everything in between — is the seedbed for the next North American culture, and should be allowed to develop without undue Faustian influence.
BCV, many thanks for this! The French nuclear industry is one of the things that pro-nuke commenters love to wave around as an example, and this will provide a useful counterweight.
Patricia M, Sara reads Ask A Manager regularly, and yes, if you want a place to sample the sheer drooling idiocy of the managerial aristocracy, that’s the place to go.
Luke, I hope Jungian psychology does that — it would be worth keeping. I’d also like to see some other useful bits of psychological knowledge absorbed into other occult traditions. The therapeutic professions? They were always a luxury for the well-to-do, or those who could wangle government benefits. I doubt they’ll survive long.
Chris, I think you’re dead on target. Right now West Texas intermediate, one of the benchmark varieties of crude, is at US$85.30 a barrel — the kind of price that cripples economies — and there’s no particular reason why it shouldn’t go higher. I’m feeling a familiar sort of deja vu just now, as I was saying some years ago that I expected the next oil price spike to hit around, oh, 2022…
Lathechuck, in closely related news, Washington University in St. Louis has just announced a big seminar about how professionalism is a racist concept. No, this isn’t from The Onion — it’s an actual news story. Now shall we talk about why employers are starting to hire people who haven’t been to college?
Sister BoysMom, I ain’t arguing. Wasn’t that what the serpent was supposed to have said — “you shall not surely die”?
Ash, good. Of course it’s not exactly Barfield’s view of the nature of figuration. He did everyone interested in cognition a favor by coining the word — before then there was a lot of discussion about the results (think of R.M. Bucke’s taxonomy of “percepts,” “recepts,” and “concepts” in Cosmic Consciousness as one example of many), but Barfield redefined it very usefully as a process. Of course he framed it in terms of his own monist-idealist viewpoint, and I frame it in terms of my very different view; I’ve discussed elsewhere at quite some length the relations between figuration, abstraction, and reflection, in terms informed by Kant, and I may want to discuss them again in more detail in the light of several more readings of Schopenhauer’s Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason
Chuaquin, insects thrive no matter what!
Tidlösa, bingo. I’ve argued in a couple of articles that the “Holocene” is simply the latest Pleistocene, and the “Anthropocene” is an ordinary geological transition from one epoch, the Pleistocene, to another, the Neocene. Yes, I also thought of Dougal Dixon’s books!
Rod, that’s an excellent example.
Bogatyr (offlist), this is very disturbing. Not all that long ago you were commenting here quite a bit, and had interesting things to say about a lot of subjects. Now you only comment in order to defend whatever the current policy of the Russian government might be, and you do it in a glossy corporate language I don’t ever remember you using before. The Bogatyr whose comments I used to enjoy would never have started off a comment with “That’s disappointing; I’d hoped you might engage with..” and so on. I’m frankly wondering if your account has been taken over by a troll farm. All that aside, I’m not interested in claims that one side in the current clash of power blocs is always right while the other is always wrong, so any further comments you try to make about Russia will be deleted out of hand. You can still comment about other things if you want to.
With regards to Turkey showing off its drones and other high tech capabilities too soon in places like Armenia, Syria and Libya, check out the Turkish Navy’s latest toy.
While the concept of swarm attacks by unmanned missile boats might sound impressive, those datalinks are going to be obvious targets for enemy ECM and cyber attacks*, as well as providing a means for the other side to track the boats via passive radar and other forms of ESM.
* We know the Iranians managed to capture a top-of-the-line American RQ-170 stealth spy drone a while back by hacking into its satellite communications system and commanding it to land at an Iranian airfield. We also know Russian electronic warfare systems deployed in Syria have repeatedly defeated drone attacks against Khemeimim Air Base by hacking into their control systems. Many of the newer ECM systems have built-in hacking and cyber warfare capabilities.
PS – I remember someone posting here not too long ago about Scorpius, a new state of the art multi-role integrated electronic warfare system developed by the Israelis to deal with drone attacks, PGM’s and other high tech threats.
The Ukrainian government says the Biden administration is grossly exaggerating the threat of a Russian invasion for political reasons, making the situation worse than it otherwise would have been while playing right into the hands of the Russians.
Kinda sounds like Biden and his handlers are provoking a confrontation with Russia in order to distract attention away from their disastrous mishandling of matters here at home.
Two comments on that seminar. First, define “professionalism.” If it means doing a good job, that seminar’s topic is an extremely nasty piece of condescending racism its own self.
But if “professionalism” means conforming to corporate culture in every detail (as in, frex,5″ stiletto heels are ‘professional’ whereas business flats are the mark of the worker bee), yes, that concept does force minorities (and women) into a very narrow box of dress, hairdo, speech, demeanor, and acceptable opinions. I think we’ve all seen that!
In fact, the rigid, frightened conformism you described in such gory detail in The King In Orange is highly reminiscent of a similar outcry when I was the age my grandchildren are now. Remember “The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit?” Which was, of course, before your time, and a different set if things to which one must conform was in play. And how far it went? There was a movie called “The Apartment” which centered around one of the more outrageous demands of the corporate bossman – and nobody sixty (? fifty?) years ago found it improbable. Not fit for ladies and children, mind you, but not improbable. Yeah, that section of K in Orange So many bells!
Or why, on retiring (upon which the boss lady was probably singing the Hallelujah Chorus followed by “We hope the heck you never come back, we’re sorry to see you go….) I referred to myself as “a freedwoman” for the second time in my life. (The first being an unceremonious leavetaking from under the marital roof, now that our daughters were in college. “‘Tis a gift to be single, ’tis a gift to be free….”)
At any rate, it’s probably timeless, and like human folly, goes on forever.
Thanks, I look forward to your further commentary on this issue. I really can’t fault Kant for their epistemologies. I take the evolution of perception-cognition outlined by people such as Barfield, Steiner, Gebser, etc. to a very real and concrete process, microcosmically expressed during our individual lives and even our daily experience, so I don’t think Kant was in a position to observe and Think about their own thinking in the way that later thinkers were able to, including Hegel, early Fichte, and early Schelling. Schopenhauer, though, was a major setback on that path and has practically influenced all of analytic philosophy since.
It is in the observation of our own thinking where the activity and the product of that activity is united. It requires no assumption about what “thinking” is, in its essence, or what the objects of thinking are, in their essence. We simply observe that what we observe (thinking) and how we observe it (also thinking) is of the same essence, whatever it is. We continue observing and reasoning through observations without adding any assumptions along the way. If at any point in the process we say “but all of what I am doing here is just illusion or mere representation”, then we have added a metaphysical assumption. The concept of “illusion” or “representation” relies on an abstract metaphysical conception of what is “real” or “thing-in-itself”.
“The ‘I’ posits itself, and it is by virtue of this mere positing of itself; and conversely: The ‘I’ is, and posits its existence, by virtue of its mere existence. It is at the same time the one acting and the product of its action; the active one and what is brought forth by the activity; action and deed are one and the same; and therefore the ‘I am’ is the expression of an active deed.”
– Gottlieb Fichte, The Vocation of Man
“Insects thrive no matter what!”.. says the Archdruid
I’d want to see some genuine doublefoot-longs … sporting wings, of course! That would really make eon.
Sardaukar says: “Kinda sounds like Biden and his handlers are provoking a confrontation with Russia in order to distract attention away from their disastrous mishandling of matters here at home.”
I say it’s even simpler than that. When the managerial class is spending nearly $1 trillion each year on the military you need to constantly create a boogeyman to justify that budget.
Crimea gets most of its fresh water via a canal from Ukraine. The Ukrainians have built barriers across the canal to stop the flow. It might be that when Biden talked about a “limited incursion” he was thinking of a move to seize and clear only the canal, not any other Ukrainian assets, as an action that might not trigger a severe response.
That sounds like sensible advice.
Based on my last deep dive into this topic and likely timeframe, I concluded that I shouldn’t need to worry for another 15 years or so.
We have also considered Bulgaria. It is traditionally aligned with Russia, on the Black Sea and very cheap to live out there. The golden visa is also a good option. The challenge with Bulgaria, to me, remains that it is close to Turkey and therefore on the frontline of any future war with Turkey and/or any Islamic armies that may cross through Turkey into Europe.
Of course, this was before the mass gene vaccination programme.
Do you have any recommendations on where in New England would be best to live? I don’t want to live in the countryside or American style suburbs but ideally a liveable, walkable and historic small town/city which has a low crime rate and high quality of living?
Huh. Thanks for that “Ask A Manager” link. I’ve been looking for the beginnings of a bull market in labor. But that was just “well, this grinding bear market in labor has been going on for a while now, maybe it’s time for the worm to turn”. Wow. Moo. That’s all I have to say.
I guess Wall Street and what do some of you call them? The PMC? I guess they don’t like this at all. I suspect they’ll try to jam down labor, like they do with all other markets they don’t like. My guess is they’ll fail and make things moo even louder. They might cause quite a bit of chaos though.
The chickens were allowed when I got here over ten years ago. As for the boulevard gardens, that was pushed for by the current mayor (the one with the chickens) when she was a councilmember. I wrote to her in support of that, and she continued working on it, and the measure passed. There’s a significant number of gardens on boulevards in my neighborhood, and a lot of them have vegetables, so it was something people wanted and are using.
”The future cannot be managed”
That’s am excellent quote to remember
It reminds me of George Soros. Like or hate the guy, with all the Davos agenda and conspiracies surrounding him, his theory of reflexivity is genius. It clearly states that economics, politics, finance etc. are ”just” social sciences, with thinking participants. Participants with their own needs, agenda, biases…beliefs…
Therefore, the powers there be, can make all the policies and plans they like for the world to follow…BUT Humans – aka the majority of the plebe – and especially Nature…
WILL always, always have a different path to follow.
Thanks for another great article,
Please make one on THE GREAT RESET. Isn’t it the great reset, the ”fight against the climate change” the EV fetish, and all the rest of futuristic BS, just the way the ”system” admits that the path to infinite growth is done and dead?
Re: the “Holocene”, I worked in much deeper time than this modern stuff, but FWIW I heard quaternary researchers refer to it as the “Recent” era far more than the Holocene. More amusingly, a geologist colleague of mine trashed the Anthropocene concept at an astrobiology colloquium, mocking the idea that these changes would persist for so long as to constitute an entire epoch: “We’re a [stratigraphic] stage, at best!”
“… dead white thinkers such as Sun Tzu …”
The author is just poking fun at the wokies.
You gave the missing practical knowledge of the managerial class as the main reason of failing, I would add two other reasons. One is the sheer complexity of the system the other the ignorance of other actors.
The misconception of the managerial class that the future can be planned and executed reminds me of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragility calls the soviet-Harvard-delusion. There he argues that both the central planning committee in the soviet union and the central banks in capitalist countries fall to the idea that a highly complex and interwoven system like an economy can be controlled by central command. The number of actors, roles, entitites and subsystems ist just to high. It is not possible to predict system behaviour correctly and therefore it is also not possible to predict changes in system behaviour based on policies correctly.
Another mistake ruling elites often do is that they assume that the people will passively accept every new rule without adapting their behaviour to new circumstances. In a society every person who has goals and makes conscious decisions. The managerial class is not just unable to predict how people will change their behaviour when confronted with new rules or circumstances, they are mostly not even aware that people will do so. They think they can control society like they control an engine with a throttle, while in reality life is a complex interactive game where every player can make a surprising moves.
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