Monthly Post

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

These days I hear a lot of people talking about whether it’s possible to change the world, and if so, how to go about it. It’s understandable that this should be so, since the world around us is such a steaming mess.  Nor, despite the bleatings of true believers in progress, is it getting better.  Quite the contrary, for most people in the modern industrial world—and especially here in the United States—conditions have been getting worse for decades.

“Under the red, white, and blue” used to mean something else.

Yes, I know this is a controversial thing to say just now, at least in some circles. It’s not just that the Biden administration has been shouting at the top of its collective lungs that the economy is doing just fine—Biden’s rich friends are raking in big bucks, after all, so what’s your problem?—and brandishing carefully massaged statistics to suit.  It’s not even that corporate media flacks are mindlessly mouthing these same soundbites in a desperate attempt to get anyone to believe what their masters want the rest of us to believe. The reality of our accelerating decline flies in the face of some of the most deeply rooted habits of American thought.  Thus the worse it gets, the more frantically denial and handwaving become the order of the day.

The fact remains that there was a time not so long ago when most Americans, irrespective of sex, race, and the rest of the current round of hot-button categories, could readily find jobs that paid enough to cover the costs of food, clothing, shelter, and the other core necessities of life.  It was a time when inept medical care hadn’t become the third leading cause of death in the United States, and its wildly overinflated costs hadn’t become the single most common cause of bankruptcy; when starting a small business hadn’t yet turned into a labyrinthine nightmare of endless bureaucratic barriers meant to keep big corporations from facing competition; and when young people with good grades could go to college without mortgaging their entire future by way of predatory loans, and come out with a genuine education at the end of it.

The inevitable result of the last half century of US government policy. We progressed to this.

We don’t even have to get into the crumbling Dickensian hellscapes of modern American cities, where the budgets for necessary maintenance long ago got diverted into the pockets of the well-connected rich, rents have been artificially propped up to the point that buildings stand empty while the poor huddle in ragged tents at their feet, and the police are too busy arresting people for “hate speech,” whatever that remarkably flexible label means in any given week, to spare the time to keep the streets safe. Take a good look anywhere outside the well-guarded bubbles in which the well-to-do live, and you’ll see ample signs of precipitous decline.

The question that remains is what to do about it all. The politicians all have their canned answer—“vote for me!”—but after this many abject failures to follow through on the implied promise, I trust none of my readers are so naïve as to fall for it. Plenty of political groups have an equally facile answer—“donate to me!”—but here again, we’ve all seen just how little that accomplishes in practice. Off in various corners of the internet you can find people who insist that armed revolution is the only answer; how many of them are agents provocateurs paid by the FBI to entrap the clueless is an interesting question, but the number is unlikely to be small. It’s not surprising, all things considered, that so many people cope by filling their minds with daydreams about vast catastrophes that will flatten the current system and most of its inhabitants, or that so many others hunker down and try to ignore the world around them, with or without the assistance of drugs, alcohol, or a bullet to the brain.

I don’t claim to have the one true answer.  As a longtime student of the history of ideas—that’s what my degree is in, for whatever that may be worth—I do have something to suggest, however. Look at the way social changes have unfolded, whether in our time or further back in history, and an interesting set of patterns emerge. Those patterns can be summed up very simply. It’s been pointed out, and quite correctly, that politics is downstream from culture—but culture, in turn, is downstream from imagination.

This kind of thinking is becoming increasingly widespread in today’s America. I know of nothing more threatening to the status quo.

Thus the changes that matter, the deep changes that mark turning points in the life of a civilization, don’t begin in the realms of practical affairs, the worlds of politics, economics, and war. They begin, rather, with changes in the far more tenuous realms of ideas and attitudes. Nor do these changes follow the dictates of the rich and powerful. Quite the contrary, they begin on the fringes of society and work their way inward, and the rich and powerful tend to be the last ones to notice the forces that are shaping their future.

Examples?  Consider the dawn of the Space Age. That didn’t happen because some faction of wealthy and influential people decided to make it happen. It happened because of a genre of pulp literature mostly read, back in the day, by teenage boys who belonged to a disreputable fringe subculture. These days, science fiction is respectable stuff, which is a large part of why it’s gotten so boring, but the Golden Age of science fiction took place in an era when the notion of space travel was dismissed by authoritative voices as something close to crackpot pseudoscience.

A dream doesn’t have to be plausible to be powerful.

Quite a few of the teenage boys who drooled over scantily clad cuties on the covers of Amazing Stories, though, grew up to be scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, politicians.  The dream of space travel retained its hold on enough of them that when they came into power after the Second World War, satellites and space capsules followed promptly.  By 1969 fully 15% of the US federal budget was devoted to space technology. That’s the power that a dream can wield.

As it turned out, humanity’s future in space turned out to be a pipe dream.  Outside our planet’s protective magnetosphere, deep space is drenched with hard radiation from the Sun, and the other planets in our solar system are far more inhospitable to human life than the most lethal environments on Earth’s surface—it’s vastly more feasible to settle central Antarctica or build a city in the Marianas Trench than it is to colonize Mars, and all the other planets and moons are even worse. That’s why the US and the Soviet Union both gave up their manned interplanetary space projects after space probes in the 1970s brought back the bad news. Yes, I know plenty of people haven’t gotten the memo yet; that, too, shows the power that a dream can wield.

Another example?  Consider a flurry of equally cheap publications that saw print three hundred years earlier. The place was England right after the English Civil War; the disreputable fringe subculture was a gaggle of radical religious groups—Diggers, Levellers, Fifth Monarchy Men, Muggletonians, and more—who went zooming off past the conventional debate between Puritans and Royalists to embrace giddy visions of the complete transformation of society.

The hippies of seventeenth-century Britain. They had an impact.

In any practical sense these groups accomplished little. In a deeper sense, they had immense impact. Their cheaply printed pamphlets and broadsheets introduced a set of ideas most people at the time considered hopelessly impractical: freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, equality under the law, the separation of church and state, and more.  A hundred years after their time, those ideas had percolated all through Western societies and found an audience among earnest practical thinkers. In 1776 and 1789 they shook the world.

I was thinking of all this the other day when, like the seed crystal dropped into a saturated solution, the idea I needed found its way into my brain. The person who put it there was the highly respected occult historian Christopher McIntosh; I was in the middle of a podcast with him and another very capable scholar of occultism, Arthur Versluis, when McIntosh brought up a story by the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges.  The story’s name is “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” If you know Borges’s writing at all, you already know that the story is subtle, wry, historically and philosophically literate, and self-referential. It’s also, in its own sidelong way, profoundly relevant to the deepening crisis of the modern Western world.

Jorge Luis Borges. If you haven’t read him yet, find the time.

Without giving too many spoilers, the story refers to the weird emergence of another world in the midst of ours. First, hints about a mysterious country called Uqbar start appearing. An article here, a  reference there, and then a volume of an Uqbarian encyclopedia turn up. The world in which Uqbar is set, Tlön, catches the attention of scholars on the fringe, then of the general public. Then physical objects of Tlönese manufacture start to appear. People begin to treat the history and philosophy of Tlön as more real than the equivalents in our world. None of this is accidental; a secret society, laboring since the 17th century, has constructed a vision of another world so enticing and perplexing that it draws our world slowly but surely into its pattern.

It’s a fine story in its own subtle way, and it’s also a useful meditation on the way that cultural forces shape the collective perception of reality. There was, for example, a movement (though not quite a secret society) in seventeenth century Europe that changed the world in very much the way Borges sketched out. The founders of the scientific revolution cobbled together an imaginary Tomorrowland in vivid detail, and most of the Western world got caught up in the dream and did its level best for more than three centuries to make that dream a waking reality: yet again, that shows the power that a dream can wield.   That it never quite managed to live up to its promise—well, the same thing happened with space travel or the democratic institutions envisioned by the Diggers and Levellers, of course.

You can tell that this hit popular culture about the same time as LSD.

Among the most intriguing features of the story is its date. It first saw print in 1940.  In that year an eccentric Oxford don named J.R.R. Tolkien was busy writing a gargantuan adult fairy tale that did very nearly the same thing as the work of Borges’s secret society, but much more quickly. Middle-earth, Tolkien’s manufactured world, became so overwhelming a presence in the Western world in the second half of the twentieth century that it’s quite literally true that you can’t understand modern Western history if you ignore its influence. It’s not just that most of our countercultures of Left and Right alike are as full of the traces of Middle-earth as the world in Borges’s story was with those of Tlön; it’s also that the strident moral dualism that is the worst flaw of Tolkien’s work—as I noted in an earlier post, it’s a fine bit of Jungian synchronicity that the adversary in the story is called the Shadow—pervades our political and cultural discourse these days to an embarrassing extent.

In that same year, another writer was hard at work on an equally imaginary and far more subtle creation of the same kind. I’ve written in these essays about Hermann Hesse and his last and greatest novel, The Glass Bead Game, but that book is just as relevant here. Hesse was just as popular as Tolkien in the late Sixties counterculture—you saw paperback copies of Hesse novels about as often as you saw the weird Barbara Remington covers of Tolkien’s trilogy—but his work dropped out of fashion along with long hair and love beads, though he retains a quiet but passionate following. The Glass Bead Game’s vision of cloistered scholars pursuing a synthesis of all human culture in the form of an elaborate game hasn’t yet leaked far into our world, but then Hesse set his story in the twenty-fifth century, long after the era of convulsive wars and corruption of intellectual culture Hesse saw emerging in his own time. It may just be that Hesse played a long game and the time of his vision hasn’t yet arrived.

Hermann Hesse. The Glass Bead Game is arguably one of the great works of 20th century science fiction.

What all this suggests, of course, is the same point I brought up earlier in this essay:  the world of practical affairs can be shaped, through the intermediary of cultural patterns, by vivid creations of the imagination that seize the attention of the fringes and work their way in from there. That offers at least two implications for the present. The first is that close attention to the narratives that are catching fire on the fringes right now can offer helpful clues to what to expect later on. The second is that, like the secret society Borges portrayed, those who want to have an impact on the future just might have a way to do it that most people never get around to noticing.

The first option offers some unsettling news. These days the science fiction the media likes to talk about is the kind that gets bought and marketed by the big corporate publishing conglomerates, and endlessly rehashes the same approved clichés that have been dragging Hollywood down to irrelevance. You have to get in under the hood and look at sales figures, though, to find out that this sort of bland respectable stuff is a niche market at best.  By a hefty margin, it’s outsold by a subgenre the media doesn’t talk about at all and the corporate conglomerates won’t touch:  old-fashioned space opera pitting square-jawed heroes and mighty galactic fleets against alien monstrosities. There are whole galaxies of this stuff, self-published or issued by small presses, feeding a passionate international subculture.

Zoom in toward one of the central star systems of that subculture and you’ll find the spectacle of Warhammer 40,000—WH40K to its fans. Warhammer started out decades ago as a fantasy wargame influenced by Tolkien, with armies of elves, orcs, humans, and the like. Then some bright soul thought of transplanting the whole thing into space in the far future…and things got weird. The orcs became Orks (sic); the elves, Tolkien’s Eldar, became Aeldari (even sic-er); eldritch presences and Chaos Gods came sweeping in from rifts in the fabric of spacetime; and the whole thing took on a grim splendor that many young men find irresistible. Now the good guys are mutant Space Marines and legionaries in power armor serving under the double-headed eagle banner of the Imperium of Man, a galactic religious tyranny with a hierarchy modeled on medieval Catholicism and a theology borrowed from Japanese Imperial Shinto. The reason they’re the good guys is that the other sides are much, much worse.

Trump as God-Emperor, courtesy of an Italian parade float.

In the best Uqbarian fashion, the lore of WH40K is already seeping through into our timeline. During Trump’s presidency, many of his young male followers liked to call him not POTUS (President of the United States) but GEOTUS (God-Emperor of the United States), in a nod to the God-Emperor who rules the Imperium of Man. Right now, for that matter, there are units on both sides of the current Ukrainian war that have taken names and heraldry from the Warhammer 40,000 cosmos. That’s not surprising, because WH40K and the broader realm of space-war science fiction offers young men an imaginary cosmos in which their genetically hardwired cravings for adventure and achievement can be acted out in lurid detail, and they don’t have to spend their whole lives apologizing for the sin of having testosterone in their blood. Actual warfare takes that same possibility right through into the real world.

It made the news a little while back that something like three-quarters of Americans admit that they wouldn’t be willing to fight for their country. That’s not surprising, as the people who run this country have lost track of the first law of leadership:  you can only get loyalty from your subordinates if you give your loyalty to them. Decades of seeing our political classes treat ordinary Americans as chumps to be exploited and despised have worn down the once-potent patriotism that sent young Americans charging onto battlefields around the world, and replaced it with pervasive distrust and contempt toward those classes and the institutions they control. That doesn’t erase the genetically hardwired cravings in young men that I mentioned above.  It simply means that come crunch time, those cravings won’t be at the disposal of the people who think their grip on power is unbreakable.

Benito Mussolini. When failed democratic institutions stop listening to what the people want and need, the people turn to leaders like this.

That could spin out of control in any number of directions. Civil war, the obvious one, is not necessarily the most likely. Unfortunately the standard name for the one I consider much more likely—hint: it begins with “f”—has been so completely misunderstood and misinterpreted by all sides in today’s political discourse that it’s not even worth uttering the word. Let’s use a less easily garbled phrase, then, and talk about charismatic populist authoritarianism:  the rise of earnest (and usually young) political leaders who reject the corrupt and ineffectual status quo, organize movements capable of acting both within and outside of current political arrangements, occupy the abandoned middle ground between the squabbling parties, and brush aside the dysfunctional mechanisms of a failed democracy in order to fix the problems that the current system won’t even attempt to address.

That’s not an outcome I want to see, though I’m well aware that it may be inevitable by this point. My question is what will come afterwards, since charismatic populist authoritarianism is always a transitional phenomenon and gives way eventually to a new era of institutionalization and a return to some form of the rule of law. The visions that will shape that new era may not exist yet, and that leads us back to the second implication I mentioned earlier, the possibility of creating new narratives that might catch fire in the collective imagination in the years ahead.

A harbinger of our future? I hope not — but the current political class in the West is setting the stage for it by their own incompetence.

Those years will be shaped powerfully by forces most factions in today’s political debates haven’t yet begun to grapple with:  the ongoing depletion of nonrenewable resources, the rebalancing of global political and economic power away from Europe and the European diaspora toward south and east Asia, the aftermath of the current peak in global population and the implications of long-term population decline, and more.  It encourages me to see some people dealing with those concepts in fiction—especially but not only in the pages of New Maps, currently the only magazine I know of dedicated to deindustrial science fiction—and others sketching out first drafts of constructive responses in the world of everyday life.

I’ve written some things with the former goal in mind, most obviously in my novels Star’s Reach and Retrotopia (both currently between publishers but scheduled for reprint next year), less obviously in quite a bit of my other fiction. I have further ideas I want to develop along the same lines in the years ahead. Will any of these find the kind of passionate fringe audience that kickstarts collective change into motion? I have no idea.  But new visions—not, please note, the same old schlock decked out with a thin layer of the latest fashionable jargon like so much spraypaint, but genuinely new, different, unsettling visions—are desperately needed just now. I hope that at least a few of my readers will make the effort to craft them.


  1. “…those who want to have an impact on the future just might have a way to do it that most people never get around to noticing.” Um, with all due respect, sir, I think you just gave the game away.

  2. At least for now, I seem up to my eyebrows in studying music as intensely as I can. So my writing is likely to be restricted to fanfiction that I’m mostly using as stress relief and an opportunity to think about something else for now. In the future, who knows?

    I tend to dive into subjects very deeply, get bored and de-emphasize or stop doing them… and if they’re something with a strong hold on me they come back with a vengeance in a year or five. I’m trying to work it so I don’t burn out on the music and can keep going and turn it into something resembling a career, but managing my shifting obsessive/passionate interests and fluctuating health issues and the interactions between the two is actually really hard.

  3. “Loyalty must go both ways, or it becomes betrayal in the egg.” Lois McMaster Bujold, in “Paladin of Souls.” The person musing on that is a much-betrayed and formerly clinically depressed Dowager Queen who, slowly recovering her sanity, had finagled her way into a pilgrimage to get away from the stifling soft tyranny of her family and attendants. Her new, self-chosen attendants are a pack of youngsters to whom, she realized, she has the responsibility to do right by. As soon as I read it, I added it to my collection of sayings which have become my self-chosen moral compass. BTW, her works are still in print and have an avid readership. Forget the genre trimmings (spaceships and wormholes in her Barrayar series; alternate Renaissance Europe in this one.) They’re just off-the-rack scenery, though she also fleshes them out thoughtfully and well.

  4. ‘If fascism comes to America, it will come as anti-fascism’, said Huey Long before he was murdered. A single political party controlling federal patronage and mass media with youth wings of muscle in the streets backed by party courts, maybe some ceremonial remains of elective process as a beard.

  5. Much of the modern digiterati, particularly those enamored with the idea of spaceflight, are looking to “Star Trek” for their inspiration. It’s quite mainstream today but, back in the 1960s, it was definitely “fringe.”

    Try and tell me that a lot of the earlier, flip-phone-type cellphones didn’t remind you of a TOS communicator.

    Try and tell me that the iPad, and various other tablets, doesn’t remind you of a PADD from TNG / DS9 / VOY, etc. TNG didn’t invent that idea. Alan Kay’s Dynabook project is closer to an “origin story” for that concept; where do you think the prop makers at TNG got the idea? But it remained kinda “fringe” until it started showing up on TNG.

    The various consoles and displays on TNG are heavily dependent on a centralized “computer core.” Damage to same is a common plot trope. The “computer core” (originally more of a mainframe) is currently known as a “private cloud.” There are people today who don’t really have a PC at home; they may use a keyboard, mouse and TV as a graphical terminal into some cloud-based system, somewhere else. They can walk into any location with public-access, internet-connected PCs, fire up some type of terminal software (RDP being one choice) and access their “system” from wherever they happen to be, with no traces left in the proximate area. Much the same way Geordi can report to the bridge, “transfer main engineering” to some flat, touch-screen console on the bridge, and pick up where he left off, Sun Ray thin clients used to let you do something similar with your desktop at the office (pull a smart card from the console at your desk, walk into a conference room, slot the smart card into the system and … there’s your desktop, just like you left it).

    The ideas / terminology have, most definitely, infiltrated the mainstream.

    Yes, I realize “Star Trek” is the type of “marketed by the big corporate publishing conglomerates” stuff you deride. Not arguing with you. At least it tends to have a lot of “happy endings” to the sub-stories. Far too much sci-fi portends nothing but destruction. People do like happy endings. Lack of same is going to drive too many people to ignore, or pointedly avoid, a particular series.

    So … suggestions on sci-fi series which have happy endings (to which people might wish to aspire) but are closer to realistic?

  6. Fascinating post John, thanks! One set of fringe ideas that I been seeing, at least for the past 10 years, are those that completely reject the idea of human equality and lash out at the attempts to enforce equality through programs like affirmative action and DEI.

    I expect that any authoritarian populist who arises in the next few years to draw deeply from this well of racial resentment.

  7. JMG,
    Thank you, that is my favorite Borges story and I return to it often. What always gets me when I read that story is my own longing to go to Uqbar and Tlön. I get your point about imagination being upstream from everything. But there is this thing about longing. Your Retrotopia story does the same thing to me; I long to go live in the Lakeland Republic. It starts with a compelling story and we all want to go there.

    Our current leaders have no compelling stories. Every time they open their mouths it is blah, blah, blah, same old lies. We are one compelling story away from major change. We are (or at least I am) longing for it.

  8. “Charismatic populist authoritarianism.” “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before…”
    See also Gaius Marius. Catalina. Clodius and his sister Clodia (the brains of that outfit). And of course, the one who really made it stick, Julius Caesar. (Pompey, Crassus, and Sulla never pretended to be populist; Sulla, in fact, was what we used to call “hard right-wing,” back when that meant something more than what it does today. i.e. a fallen aristocrat with as much use for the populus as he had for a case of the hives. Today’s Faustian meme of “Oh, that was then, this is now,” has never been more destructive than when the garden fertilizer hits the sell-known fan.

    “I came and I saw that there is nothing new under the sun. Vanity, all is vanity….”
    And don’t worry. The highest office I intend to vote for is County Sheriff. A pox on all their houses.

  9. I quite agree with your analysis. Books, sometimes very bad ones that I didn’t even finish reading, have greatly influenced my life just by a phrase that caught my attention such as, “self-improvement,” or the concept of training myself to be capable in real time of the things I wanted to do in my fantasies.

    Terry Pratchett’s description of a witch’s garden in a Discworld novel was so enticing, I had to grow one of my own.

    I write weekly articles in our local paper to show people how easy and satisfying it can be to be more self-sufficient. Currently, my red-lentil bread recipe is sweeping our islands.

    I will have to think about writing down ideas of what would be practical after the, “F”, future we may well end up getting.
    I wish everyone a very happy winter solstice.

  10. Astonishing and fortuitous timing for me. I’ve spent the morning not writing my book but lamenting that the strange, dimension-weaving characteristics of the work might make it unpublishable. And along comes your post! And of course I feel it’s a cosmic confirmation: my book is a labyrinth.
    Great thanks, as ever, for being the messenger.

  11. I remember buying “Trout Fishing in America” by Richard Brautigan as a young teen thinking it was going to be about Trout fishing.
    Was I ever surprised.
    Whatever is on the horizon, I’m sure it has some surprises in store. Hopefully I shall not Blush so bad as reading Brautigan as the Pages Turn.

  12. Dear JMG and Friends
    Thank you all for your insights and wisdom this year, and tantalized by this post, looking forward to more in 2024👌

    For those who care to accept it: Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season, and a peaceful and healthy 2024.

    May I share my current mantra (“sound that protects the mind”)from one of the very great and big wise-ones?…

    “Ho, Ho, Ho!” 🙂

    With Love
    Jill C (yogaandthetarot)

  13. Your examples of how ideas can change the world show exactly the opposite: only the ideas that coincide with material realities can prosper. The space quest inspired by sci fi was a flop and was abandoned, precisely because it did not take into account the hard realities of space travel. And among the myriads of ideas launched by levellers and other fringe groups in the 17th century, such as abolishing private property, marriage etc – only the ones that coincided with the interests of the emerging capitalist class were implemented. Free speech, free markets etc.

  14. Mr. Greer,

    You might be interested to know that yesterday it was announced that Amazon MGM Studios just signed a deal with Games Workshop to produce Warhammer 40,000 movies and TV shows. Jeff Bezos apparently intends to use the WH40K franchise and his recent acquisition of MGM Studios to push Amazon into a position of dominance over the traditional Hollywood conglomerates like Disney and Warner. So WH40K might be moving soon from the fringes to mainstream.

    On the subject of deindustrial fiction about the only real mainstream movie I know of that tackled the subject was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Specifically, its depiction of the city-state of Bartertown with an economy centered on the production of biomethane from pig manure. I did read a novel about a year ago that did attempt to tackle the subject and what a future post-industrial Dark Age America might look like called Fitzpatrick’s War. Its vision of the future Dark Age American society was called the Yukon Confederacy and it was a neo-feudal, clan based society. The economy was based on feudal agriculture with some light industry devoted mostly to military production. A lot of the technology was steam-based, though more advanced then what was available the 19th century, and most of the remaining scientific development was focused on chemistry and biological engineering.

  15. It’s frustrating to see our collective imagination stuck in the rut it’s in when, even with the challenges we’re facing, there are less bad options out there. I’ll have to reread the story, but wonder how the secret society got past the initial hurdle of “but Tlon doesn’t exist.”

    This makes me think of the open source movement in tech. We live in a world of a centralized internet, but every service out there has a DIY option. Using social media as an example, this can exist as a decentralized network of sites that talk to each other (alternatively you could block a site if you don’t like the users.) Many people I know choose to leave a site based on which billionaire decided to buy it, not knowing that even if their new site is run by a “good person,” you’re still subject to their whims. We collectively have it in our power to control our social media.

    The challenge is open source doesn’t “just work.” You need to have certain engineering skills to stand up a server (I’ve done it, and assuming conservatively each site has ~1000 users, it’s feasible that 0.1% of the population could do it… this is after all similar to the internet as it existed in the 90s.)

    The only thing that makes it impossible are our collective expectations and imagination.

  16. Nice to read about Hermann Hesse. I read his book a long time ago liked very much, but he always seemed somewhat distant in relation to the current culture. I may reread his works in the future.

    About Tolkien, he seems to as popular and influential as ever. People both in real life and internet find his book significant for themselves. Other authors from his era were maybe more popular than Tolkien, but Tolkien has kept or even increase his popularity when others have been if not forgotten at least transformed historic relics.

  17. It’s been many years since I read “Foucault’s Pendulum” by Umberto Eco. More recently, I read “Tlon, Uqbar, etc.” It occurs to me now that they are the same story — of a fantasy that turns all too real. I can imagine analogous situations: for example a staged terror attack, using a sort of stage magic, giving rise later to the real thing.

    In his novel, “Antarctica,” Kim Stanley Robinson imagined a settlement at the south pole that even included a water slide! In his “Three Californias” trilogy (which got mentioned last week, and which we could discuss next week during the anticipated open post) KSR imagined a terror attack on the USA using nukes hidden in trucks parked in various cities. I guess one should be careful what one imagines.

  18. Excellent post JMG, but I come away with a feeling of detachment as I’m not quite clear on some of your thoughts. When you say “unsettling” visions, do you mean something well outside historical norms? I think socialism/communism is a huge influence today, and many are looking for some of those traits to be a part of the future, since the future is being so unfair. They want .gov to tell them what to do – as in a small group of “elites” decide how EVERYONE must behave, and individual liberties take the back seat to sacrifice for the greater good. We know how that’s always turned out in the past, but humans are slow learners.

    So I think of unsettling activities like controlled breeding, euthanasia, genocide, lifespan limits (like Logan’s Run), guaranteed minimum incomes, forced wealth redistribution, “sustainability” (which translates to very low fossil use, giving up meat), indoctrination vs education, assigned living quarters, assigned occupations, etc. Is that even close to your ideas?

  19. Yep, I was crafting the following comment a couple of days ago wondering how to fit it in.
    I turned 30 in 1983 and compared to the energetic America of my first three decades the present country is a shambling zombie. There was a creative and hopeful energy in the air and a continuity with the past and the original vision of “America the Beautiful”, yes a vision and dream the country fell short of as we all do in our personal visions, but a good one nonetheless. I realized over 20 years ago that the America I knew once had died and we were in new territory without most people realizing it. The realization is setting in now I think for most.

  20. Well, I never expected to see Borges and WH40K show up in the same essay, but that’s the sort of thing that keeps me coming back.

    I ran across this post by Simplicius, about the turmoil surrounding Sam Altman and the OpenAI project:

    It’s lead to two clouds of thought swirling around in my head:
    1) The hope seems to be that super-powerful AI will ensure America’s continued global dominance, but I simply cannot square this with stories of American aircraft carriers being severely understaffed, rampant drug overdoses and suicides, and an unsettling case of violent dementia among the ruling class. They may get their AI, but what good will it really do them?

    2) If some massive breakthrough in AI has been achieved, what prevents this AI from being functionally insane? We’re talking an ‘intelligence’ (for lack of a better word) that’s utterly divorced from the painstaking balancing act required for life on Earth, designed by people who are insane, to serve people who are insane.

    I worry about what kind of damage AI will do to our world, but I also keep thinking that we’re going to end up with a bunch of Eloi sitting around in a cyber-cult, chanting at a computer screen.

  21. Hi JMG,

    The timing of this article is rather uncanny, as there was a relevant data point I encountered recently that I thought you might appreciate. This tweet was made 10 days ago, as of today it has over 1 million views, 38 thousand likes, and about 1000 responses (transcribed here for those who would rather not dip a toe into that particular website):

    “Possibly hot take but I’m so sick of the post-apocalypse. Give me the post-post apocalypse: new societies clawing their way from the ash and struggling to rebuild, debates about the mistakes of the past and the way forward, “survivors” coalescing into tribes and states”

    While there are a number of people who only respond with confusion (it seems they are unable to understand the distinction between what this person is getting at and the standard post-apocalyptic narrative), there are also a wealth of responses from people (mostly Gen Z, from the looks of it) recommending various pieces of media that resonated with them along these lines (video games, TV shows, manga, cartoons, etc.) There are even a surprising number of responses that outright state that the standard post-apocalypse narrative is a false dichotomy meant to keep people from questioning the status quo (though the solutions they offer as alternatives are a bit all-over-the-place).

    What comes through is that while there is a distinct lack of consensus around any specific vision, the appetite for these kinds of ideas is quite real, and many are aware that this is something they would want to see more of. To me, it’s encouraging to see that young people are actively thinking about these things, and it’s an indicator that you are quite right in your analysis that these ideas are picking up pace in certain spaces of collective thought.

    While Warhammer seems to have captured the imagination of the hot-blooded young male audience, I do wonder what visions will take hold amongst other groups in our society, and if or how those ideas will interact to shape the future before us. It will be quite interesting to watch it all unfold.

  22. Your description of current conditions, with the corrupt and clueless elite that can’t imagine a time when the masses don’t obey them, could apply just as well to the Russian Empire in the decade or so before the 1917 revolutions, except that the elite was conservative. Would it be a fair generalization that conservative elites lay the groundwork for left-wing popular uprisings and leftist elites lay the groundwork for right-wing popular uprisings?

  23. Hi JMG.
    I like to give imagination free reign with no rules just to see where it goes. If this is nonsense, well you have a delete key and I will not take it personally.

    I have been putting together a number of seemingly disparate ideas to see what, if anything, emerges

    Back in the 60’s I was programming a computer using Fortran 2 at the University of Michigan. There was a joke going around: A programmer asks the computer “when are you computers going to start thinking like we humans do?” To which the computer replies: “That reminds me of a story.”

    We laughed.
    I’m not sure we realized the depth of that answer.

    Which reminds me of a story.
    In an attempt to get the computers to “wake up” we added vast amounts of memory thinking that when a critical point was reached it would open up its eyes and say hello.
    It didn’t.
    Something about doing the same thing over again expecting a different outcome…

    Which reminds me of…
    The big flap over Open AI.
    It seems like the idea is to read to the computer all the books and ideas humanity has ever created and say: “here is the sum total of everything we humans have come up with, see what you can do with this.”

    Then on to your book The Retro Future where you talked about Wolfram’s concept of letting the system (computer or otherwise) devise it’s own rules free of human assumptions or control. Pg 139 and following.

    Add to this the Glass Bead Game…

    Not that I understand where all this musing is going…

  24. “These souls will then avail themselves of the systems of magnetic stresses of primitive types for the expression of their functions. […] When, however these souls, having outworn and destroyed the shells, and thereby impeded subsequent evolution, continue on their devolutionary path, they reach a point where there are no more shells for their ensouling, and they will then be unable to maintain form, […]”

    I found this to be a rather fitting description of the political systems that are currently ruining our societies. They have literally outworn their shells, the institutions, political parties, ministries, legislation, etc. to express their functions on a level and with aims more primitive than what the systems were build for. And if you observe many of the figureheads of our time, the term “devolution” seems to be a very good description, too, possibly only topped by another word also starting with “de…”.

    The dreamers on the fringe quite literally dream a new world into being that fills the darkness of the ruins which the old outworn world leaves behind. I would guess then, that if you want to find out which vision has the highest probability to significantly shape the future, one could try to understand the quality of the influences which are descending into manifestation, i.e. could undertake a very serious astrological project?

    On a side note, I have come to notice that the CosDoc presents things in a very serial manner. Maybe that was true for past evolutions when the cosmos was much simpler than it is now? The world we live in, however, seems to be in a multilayered state where all the processes happen simultaneously on different time scales. Maybe really big events happen when a number of these processes happen to find their peak at roughly the same moment and add up their energies?


  25. Interesting piece, thanks.
    You wrote,
    My question is what will come afterwards, since charismatic populist authoritarianism is always a transitional phenomenon and gives way eventually to a new era of institutionalization and a return to some form of the rule of law.
    I’m guessing it would take volumes to fully explain, but might you say a bit about how/why populist authoritarianism is always a transitional phenomenon.

  26. I’m going to write an essay about the meaning of WH40K in the near month. I think it’s no accident that it came of out England from the minds of men born around 1960 – who saw the UK as a once great nation reduced to being the pet poodle for the aggressive colossus of the USA. The USA was clearly bad, but the alternatives were even worse.

    Anyways, good essay.

  27. What a cracker!

    I recently listened to most of this near two hour Jeff Bezos’ interview (1). He talks in detail about his space ambitions. He says that to save this planet we must advance into space. Is this a billionaire fever dream? I’m not in a position to say, but recognise Bezos vast power in driving huge resources – not just his own – into this project. _”Human kind cannot bear very much reality, so we retreat into dreams. The powerful are just as prone to do this as anybody else. The problem is that they get to inflict their dreams onto the rest of us”._

    I found a lot more sense in this three-way discussion of the psychological drivers of the meta crisis (2) which I think would add to thinking and be of interest to the community here. At 3.5 hours it’s quite an investment of time, but one I could not recommend highly enough. Ian McGilchrist, an All Soul’s scholar, doctor, neuroscientist and philosopher, makes the case for the reconstructing of reality in human perception at the end of the debate. That’s a project I see you, JMG, as being at the sharp end of…and as you explain, using story to that end.

    Finally, to the writers who understand the power of ideas, this video essay (3) by Alan Moore is very powerful. I’d be intrigued to know your thoughts on Moore and the reality-altering quality of his writing.

    1. Bezos Interview:
    2. Psychological drivers of the meta crisis:
    3. Alan Moore on language, writing and magic:

  28. In light of the probability that authoritarian/totalitarian trends in the USA will continue to increase as industrial civilization erratically unravels, I am reminded of the many good ideas presented by Dimitri Orlov in his “Communities that Abide”. In particular I like “The XIII Commandments of Communities That Abide” (beginning pg 47) even though they are presented as negatives by Orlov; “You Probably Shouldn’t … ” I suspect that rephrasing those precepts as positives would go a long way toward increasing their effectiveness.

    If there is to be anything on the other side of “charismatic populist authoritarianism” it will need to survive through the difficult times ahead. Orlov has some worthwhile ideas about how that might be managed.

    And, yes, for a number of reasons, I no longer follow Orlov either. But that doesn’t negate the quality of some of his earlier ideas. One of the besetting sins of the totalitarian ‘woke’ ideology is the wholesale erasure of worthwhile ideas simply because the source fails to meet some ill-defined “new standard” of social correctness. When social progressives began trashing Thomas Jefferson more than 20 years ago, I could see where their inanity was heading; straight to an authoritarian backlash.

  29. @Karl Grant #15:

    “You might be interested to know that yesterday it was announced that Amazon MGM Studios just signed a deal with Games Workshop to produce Warhammer 40,000 movies and TV shows.”

    We’ll see if they’ve got the stones to make it as bleak as the source material.

  30. Young people, well lots of people but young people have more energy, want a cause that’s worth believing in. They want to fight for it. Political movements in the style of WH40K offer an easy package for those who are incurious and not a member of the intended scapegoats. They may indeed be the harbingers of the collapse, but I agree anything they build will be transitional, the violent spasms of a dying system.

    I think what a lot of people want, especially those from marginalized groups that will be the inevitable scapegoats of the Imperium LARP-ers, is respite. They yearn not for progress, but for the rhythms of a life and community that is very different from what we have. @Untitled-1 found a huge pocket of it. People who know the system is collapsing. People who really don’t have a love for it or it’s iconography. People who just want some measure of peace. And that too is a powerful vision, one that can inspire acts of heroism, bravery, and wonder to sate even the most eager young hero.

    People who still have to live in the empire as it squeezes and canabalizes and inevitably collapses. As it demands more and gives less back.

  31. May everybody have a blessed solstice season. Here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. A printable version of the entire prayer list current as of 12/21 may be downloaded here. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    ***LAST CALL***At the end of this year I will pruning all prayer requests which were made before July 1st, 2023 from the list entirely, with a very few exception for cases that my own intuition tells me ought to be kept on the list. If your entry is older than that, and you would definitely like it to remain on the prayer list, please send a note updating your request.

    * * *
    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    May Quin’s two year old daughter have sustained no permanent brain injury during her recent convulsive episode, and may she be blessed, protected, and continue to develop in the way that benefits her most, iin the manner most in keeping with her nature and those of the deity you pray to.

    Tyler A’s pregnant wife Monika is at high rish for an ectopic pregnancy. May it turn out that the fetus has implanted in the right place, and may mother and child enjoy good health going forward.

    May Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    May the mass which upon which Yuccaglauca’s mother Monica is having a biopsy performed turn out to be entirely benign and safe; may she experience healing and improvement in her situation and overall health.

    May the brain surgery that Erika’s partner James underwent for his cancer on October 16th have gone successfully; and may he be blessed, healed and protected, and successfully treated for all of his cancer.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.
    * * *
    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are now to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  32. I wonder if many (but not all) of those stories work in the same way as magical battle. Most of those stories put their ideas and symbols out there without reference to enemies or alternatives, thus generating deep and powerful currents that happily spin away without connection to things that might degrade them or oppose them. So they can lie dormant for centuries.

  33. One of the few truly positive ideas to gain any traction in the past few years is the “30 by 30” global conservation initiative (30% of the Earth’s land and sea protected by 2030). If that then becomes “50 by 50”, our descendants might actually have a chance at something more pleasant than desperately scrabbling a bare existence out of an ecologically impoverished and depleted planet.

    The biggest shocker of 30 by 30 is that it might actually (mostly) happen! Combine a falling human population with this idea and it starts to seem even more possible. Setting aside half of the Earth for protection from the worst of our human proclivities is my pick for “A good idea whose time has come.”

  34. “like the secret society Borges portrayed, those who want to have an impact on the future just might have a way to do it that most people never get around to noticing.”

    Well, doesn’t that line ever so eloquently describe what you have deftly managed to do with your blogs and books over the past couple of decades? Your long beard and funny hats must have helped immeasurably in entrancing the gatekeeping “respectable” critics from ever taking you seriously enough to notice the culture-shaking and -shaping work you’ve been doing. All things considered, I will gladly take living through the unfolding impacts resulting from whatever inspiring dreams your ideas are slowly kindling in the sphere of future political alignments, over any garbage that Hollywood’s corporate moguls are hoping to subliminally inflict on us, in their hopes of keeping themselves precariously propped up on their decaying trash heap.

    Should we live long enough, it will be very interesting to witness what will follow promptly as soon as a new generation finds itself in power, one whose pubescent dreams were inspired not so much by Tolkien, Borges, or Hesse’s thinking, but by The Hunger Games or The Weird of Hali. Magically revolutionary cultural patterns have once again been imagined into existence. How long will it take before those sparks can catch fire to ignite and lay waste to the fragile political arrangements we’ve now come to know and regret? More importantly, will the arrangements that get dreamt up to replace them be any more preferable, or perhaps simply more regrettable? Or will we all just go on trying to diagnose our myriad problems by using our magic tricorders, which somehow never properly materialized in our magic transporters? That question then leaves me wondering what false promises and imaginary solutions subsequent generations will desperately try to cling to, as everything around them inexorably continues to degrade. Tlönese glass beads? Mi-Goan mockingjays? GEOTUS fetishes? The human subconscious is such an amazingly fertile place for things to go quite horribly, inexplicably awry!

  35. Degringolade, yep — they still have a Comparative History of Ideas program, which is the one I took.

    Roldy, that’s the delightful thing about it. You can explain exactly what you’re doing and most people will look blank or guffaw, and miss the point entirely.

    Pygmycory, a future that makes ample room for recorder music is not exactly on most people’s radar screens just now, so you’re already doing your part.

    Patricia M, I haven’t read Bujold in decades. Clearly I should fix that at some point.

    Bruce, that’s why I made that comment about how most people don’t understand fascism. Everyone thinks of it as the establishment, just more so, when in actual historical fact it was always a rejection of the establishment.

    Meower69, the Star Trek industry was one of the things I had in mind when I mentioned how dull science fiction has gotten of late, and also when I talked about “the same old schlock decked out with a thin layer of the latest fashionable jargon like so much spraypaint”. Star Trek isn’t the future; it’s a mummified relic of the past. As for what science fiction people might turn to, why, I’ll leave that up to them — and you.

    RaymondR, I’m sorry to say that you’re probably right.

    Jean, that’s exactly the issue, of course. The current system no longer has a compelling story. That’s why Hollywood’s producing more bombs these days than the US defense industry, and it’s also why so many people share your longing for a story that makes sense.

    Patricia M, oh, I don’t see anything wrong with voting — just don’t expect it to change anything that matters.

    Maxine, those weekly articles are important. I plan on trying the lentil bread recipe myself sometime soon!

    Kajsa, finish that book and get it into print! Strangeness is one of the things we most need at this point.

    McGarrity, funny. Here’s hoping.

    Jill C, thank you and likewise.

    Per, you might want to work on your reading comprehension — that, or read this week’s essay again, and this time pay attention. Nowhere did I say that ideas can change the laws of nature. That complex gallimaufry we call “the world” includes just a few more things than the laws of nature.

    Karl, I’m sorry to hear that; once the corporate kleptocracy gets its claws into WH40K, all the life will bleed out of it. I haven’t read Fitzpatrick’s War yet, but it sounds worth a look — thank you.

    Jack, by not pretending that it exists. Think of Middle-earth; only a few people in padded cells think that it exists, but it’s shaped the thoughts and actions of the Western world for more than half a century. As for the internet, there’s a reason why my blog isn’t hosted by one of the big boys…

    Roger, of course. To my mind Tolkien’s influence is a very mixed bag at best — have you noticed, for example, how consistently NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine has been messed over by the assumption that the Russians (“orcs” in Ukrainian slang!) will surely break and run once the outnumbered but virtuous forces of the West draw the latest iteration of Anduril and leap into the fray? But unquestionably the influence is still there.

    Phutatorius, I’ve thought for years that Eco deliberately modeled his story on Borges’s as a homage.

    Drhooves, no, not at all. Those are among the “same old schlock decked out with a thin layer of the latest fashionable jargon like so much spraypaint” I dismissed as pointless. They’ve been standard elements of certain kinds of canned future for more than two centuries now, and it’s long past time they were put out to pasture — or sent to the glue factory.

    Moose, I know the feeling. What will happen when that realization becomes general is an intriguing question.

    Cliff, AI at this point is a cargo cult. “If only we had a superhuman intelligence to give us all the answers, we’d be able to avoid the consequences of our bad decisions!” It’s worth pointing out that most of the laws of nature can be summed up as “you can’t do that,” and one very likely consequence even if somebody did come up with a hyperintelligent AI is that the AI would explain all sorts of hard limits and inescapable costs that nobody knew about yet. So, yes, Eloi sitting around chanting to their cyber-god — until the Morlocks show up for dinner.

    Untitled-1, I’m delighted to see this. The apocalypse schtick started out as “this is the ooga-booga that will gobble you up if you don’t do what your corporate masters tell you to do!” It then mutated into “this is the one thing that will squash our corporate masters like cockroaches, and we’re ready for it.” Now it’s turning into “this is an opportunity to think about what alternatives to the current system we can imagine” — and that’s a threat to the status quo of immense power.

    Joan, of course. In pre-1917 Russia, conservative radicals could always be co-opted and used to support the status quo; liberal radicals who couldn’t be absorbed that way. In pre-202? America, liberal radicals have been systematically co-opted and used to support the status quo, and so it’s conservative radicalism that poses a genuine threat to the system.

    Michael, good. If you already know where a train of thought is going, it can’t take you anywhere genuinely new.

    Nachtgurke, the Cos.Doc. is a set of metaphors, and putting things in nice serial terms is one way to make a metaphor simple enough for human minds to understand it. As for the predictive project, sure — Fortune talked about that as a form of astrology. It’s very demanding stuff, though!

  36. Hi JMG, Thanks for the post. Do you happen to know where I can find the podcast you mentioned? I’ve tried a whole slew of search terms in various places and can’t find it.

  37. Solstice Greetings and prayers for a richly imagined future for our benighted, but ever-so-gradually-awakening, species.

    Slightly off the topic of imagining the future, but in keeping with the seasonal story of the three Magi from the East, here is a fascinating astro-archaeologicall re-imagining of the past from The Ethical Skeptic.

    “Perhaps there is a deeper mystery here – one handed down through the ages, hidden in plain sight, and one to which most of mankind is no longer privy.”

    Thank you JMG for your inspiratioon, wisdom and clarity in these interesting times.

  38. I liked the Borges reference – he’s long been a favourite of mine.
    One of your other statements I found profoundly puzzling: how on Earth (or, more to the point, off Earth) can one maintain that all the other Warhammer 40K factions are worse than the Empire of Man?
    In my home, support for the Tau has been unwavering ever since my oldest bought his first miniature.
    For the Greater Good!

    (this is not intended as a facetious question, by the way, for reasons fully decked out in your essay)

  39. Interesting thoughtful essay. Definitely need to reread some Borges! Are you aware of Norman Spinrad’s 1960s novel ‘The Iron Dream’, which touches on some of the same themes you’re addressing? The conceit is that it’s a not very good fantasy novel written by Adolph Hitler in an alterntive reality where, instead of remaining in Germany, he migrated to the US as a young man and ended up as a third rate pulp novelist. The story itself is (intentionally) a bit of a slog since it’s a satire on bad fantasy writing but the main interest comes from trying to figure out how the reality differs from our own from the contents of a bit of pulp fiction.
    Also, on a related note, are you aware of the new book ‘The Mysteries’, by Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes? It’s a very short, beautifully illustrated adult parable. I thought it was wonderful but I’d also be interested in hearing your opinions on it

  40. Hi John Michael,

    Dude, when small groups of Hooti (Sorry, couldn’t help myself!) with cheap weapons don’t fear reprisals from the most expensive military on the planet, that’s a problem. And the response has been very telling: Hey, play nice fella’s. We’ll just go take our ships elsewhere. Far out, this is not good, and frankly speaking sends a very bad message.

    Hang onto your hats!

    The erstwhile leaders of the west want us males to be nice little consumers, all tied up in debt and smothered by family. No thanks, I’m a caveman, bound for adventure.



  41. Many thanks for helping me git-ta-rasslin’ with a realistic view of the future. Collapsing now and avoiding the rush is less painful and occasionally fun with your tutelage. For instance, your words have started me on a path to the publication of two of my stories in New Maps… you know, the ones that began as an attempt to write a supplement for your WoH RPG. Nathanael Bonnell is an absolute prince of an editor, and I can recommend submitting a story to New Maps to anyone who is a serious student of de-industrial fiction.

  42. Jacques @ 27. I wonder if what comes after the fever dreams of populist authoritarianism might be called the revenge of the goody two-shoes? People do have to be fed, clothed, sheltered, crops need to be planted and gathered, stuff needs to be built and maintained. Do the people who know how to do those, and many other civilization building things simply stop participating in Our Leader’s fever dream? You can kill me but you can’t make me cook for you.

  43. JMG,
    Perhaps the current outposts of declining western civilization are not the correct places to be looking for new stories and narratives that will shape the future. Maybe it will come from places now on the ragged and violent end of the empirical change stick. Instead of looking for the next Tolkien or Hesse from the litter strewn streets of San Francisco or Liverpool it may come in translations of literature from Lebanon , Yemen or Venezuela. Those are places where the clutter of the past has been stripped away and perhaps a clearer vision of the future might take place.

  44. James, this is excellent news! Recall Gandhi’s useful summary: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Japanese culture has its own problems, but it’s so much better than the manufactured corporate pseudoculture being ladled out into the swill troughs of the US mass media that it’s not surprising the overlords of the latter would find it a threat. I haven’t delved at all deeply into manga culture but it’s clear to me that that’s where real innovation in graphic stories is happening; expect important influences to unfold from that source as we proceed.

    Jacques, “why” is always an interesting question in historical matters but it’s rarely one that can be settled. What we know from historical examples is that it always is a transitional phenomenon; either the populist authoritarian state is destroyed by its enemies or the process that sociologists call “the routinization of charisma” takes over and what was once a tumultuous populist movement turns into a relatively ordinary bureaucratic state.

    Colin, hmm! That makes a great deal of sense; of course, not being British, it didn’t occur to me.

    Boy, thank you, but I don’t do video; little jerky blobs of color on glass screens just irritate me these days. If you can point me toward essays that cover the same ground, I’ll put ’em on the to-read list.

    Ken, I remain a fan of much of Dmitry’s earlier work, though I lost interest a while ago in his more recent stuff. But it’s not a matter of things from the present surviving through the transitional phases to pop up again in the future. At most, stray ideas, narratives, and bodies of useful knowledge will get to the people on the far side of the change, who will then do what they want — not what we want! — with those things.

    Allie-001, I think you’re correct here, and it’s not just the potential scapegoats who want respite. I expect the would-be God-Emperors of the near future to appeal to that desire, potentially very strongly.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Peter, excellent! I see you’re paying attention.

    Ken, it’s an old idea — I read about it in science fiction stories more than half a century ago — and it’s based on an even older one: the notion that human beings are inherently separate from and inimical to nature. Sometime in the early part of the new year I hope to level a critique at that entire body of thought, and suggest more useful and hopeful ways of thinking about the human relationship with the biosphere.

    Christophe, ssshhhh! 😉 As for GEOTUS fetishes, you’re already behind the times:

    These have been for sale all over Asia since 2018 or so.

  45. Luke, it’s just gone up:

    Goldenhawk, thanks for this; I’ll give it a read when time permits.

    Thijs, I based that purely on what I’ve heard from WH40K players. Thanks for a differing point of view! (I wonder if support for the Tau is more common in Europe than on this side of the water.)

    Guilliam, I read The Iron Dream when it first came out in the American market, and chuckled at its spot-on parody of mid-20th century pulp fantasy. I hadn’t heard of the Watterson book, though — I’ll see if my local library has it.

    Chris, I suspect half the reason why a certain strong-thewed Cimmerian has such a following these days is precisely that so many of us are cavemen.

    Rhydlyd, delighted to hear it. I second the comment about New Maps — I’ve heard similar things from everyone who’s placed stories there.

    Clay, oh, granted. But people in those places aren’t reading me — and it’s happened more than once that a falling empire spawned crucial new ideas within its own populace.

    Cozy, interesting. I’ll put it on the to-read list.

  46. Of all the ideas you’ve exposed me to over the years, I think “culture is downstream from imagination” is probably my favorite. So much to chew on in one simple phrase. -Croatoan

  47. Another compelling thing about WH40K: The ideas of Rudolf Steiner form the foundation of the primary religious conflict of the setting.

    Specifically, the “Chaos Gods” are, all four of them, as diametrically opposed to each other as they are to “The Emperor” – forming a fairly exact comparison to “Lucifer vs. Ahriman” in Steiner’s cosmology.

    What I find fascinating is that:

    A) the traits of each of the “Ruinous Powers” (as the devout agents of the Imperium of man like to call them) actually *do* manage to form genuine opposition to each other three, which is a considerably adroit work of worldbuilding! Khorne is Rage, Slaanesh is Lust, Nurgle is Despair, and Tzeentch is Ambition- but all of them are also embodied by *resisting*, and therefore being defined by those things, very much like Dion Fortune’s “Block” – Perhaps someone read the Cosmic Doctrine? In any case, the only way to fight them, any of them, is to stand *for* something else- even if it turns out to be one of the other “chaos gods.”

    It’s also very rare in the setting for there to even be an *individual* who can manage to represent all of them, let alone an event or faction, which is why the “Black Crusades” are always self-terminating phenomena: as soon as any chaos character representing any one of the gods has any sort of success, the other gods turn on that character’s patron deity, begin fighting again in the warp, that is then reflected in “realspace”, and the followers of The Emperor can claw back a little of what they lost. Much like a great many self-terminating phenomena in real life!

    B) The lore of the setting borrows liberally from actual mythology- for example the Chaos God “Nurgle”, god of decay, despair, disease is quite obviously Nergal of Mesopotamian mythology. Even, fascinatingly, to the point of having a captive/pet/wife Aeldari goddess of life and love “Isha” imprisoned in his realm, in imitation of Ereshkigal/Ishtar- to the point of multiple characters currently journeying through the Warp(underworld) to pass through the Seven Gardens of Nurgle(Seven Gates of Nergal) to save her.

    The Fall of the Eldar/Birth of Slaanesh is also obviously the Fall of Atlantis- complete with rampant debauchery and a fall from grace/abandonment of the old Aeldari Gods by the Servants of the Dark Face-er, Dark Prince- culminating in a Great Deluge- I mean, Great Warp Storm, which wipes all the old civilizations off the galactic map, leaving only The Emperor and his Space Marines as a last hope to bring the light of civilization into a world of darkness.

    There are many, many threads of interesting lore that indicate to me that at least someone at some point in the writing of these books must have been paying attention! Or at the very least participating in the grand pulp-sci-fi tradition of stealing every idea that wasn’t nailed down. Either way, it’s easy to see why young men find this compelling stuff!

    C) In keeping with the “GrimDark” setting, The Emperor/Imperial Cult is explicitly portrayed as no less evil than the “Gods” – which is to say, it not only preserves Steiner’s central point of “The opposite of a bad idea is another bad idea”, it also adds another layer to that: The Chaos Gods are all, respectively, equal and opposite bad ideas/excesses of Chaos- while the Emperor represents excess Order/Authority. And is unequivocally presented as being just as bad as the rest of them.

    The fact that it does this by lifting it entirely from the tired old “Good vs Evil” trap is honestly why most people I know who are into it found it compelling in the first place; I forgot which one of my friends said this, but the quote that jumped out at me was “If there ARE no Good Guys, then it’s all up to you.”

    Seeing as how “We’re the Good Guys! Do as we say or you’re one of the Bad Guys!” has been used for a while now as a cudgel to browbeat everyone into compliance with their own exploitation, it’s easy to see how it’s a liberating idea- and seeing that as a fun sci-fi concept, then seeing it as a eye-opening truth of how the world operates, is not that far of a jump…

  48. I’m always glad to see Borges referenced. He’s one of my favorite writers and I’ve long considered asking your opinion of his work, and privately hoped that one day I’d convince you to write a piece similar to your one about Hesse, describing your favorite works of his. Borges was a fan of Hesse as well and highly regarded The Glass Bead Game.

    His habit of listing seemingly unrelated things together reminds me of the process you’ve described (in reference to Goethe) of placing different concepts side by side to see how they relate, but in a literary context. The manifestation of thoughts into our material reality is one of his favorite themes and in some ways his writings were my introduction and gateway into occultism.

    Borges aside, this perspective on the fringe is both exciting and frightening. Any tips on identifying which fringe movements will take hold or is it just wait and see? I’m picturing the world of ideas as a colosseum into which different people unleash their visions to do battle. The visions step into the ring and try to arm themselves with the attention of the audience members to gain mass and obscure or defeat their opposing visions, or at times merge symbiotically with similar visions to become a grander and more nuanced thing altogether.

    Now I’m off to consider the implications of the broadening influence of the Furry Subculture Fringe and how it relates to your earlier musings on werewolf rituals.

    Thanks another thought provoking essay, JMG – this was truly a great one.

  49. Of course, most men in the 40k universe cannot become Space Marines and many of those who do die trying. As much as I find the 40k universe appealing, one could view it as a nerdy version of the “get rich or die trying” media that appeals to some low income black men. A man who fights for the Imperium is far more likely to be a conscript wielding a lasgun in the Astra Militarum, a faction that is laden with first world war references, especially the part where lots of poorly equipped men get turned into hamburger, than a genetically enhanced space marine wearing 2 tons of power armor.

  50. Dear JMG,

    Now I think about it, I’d noticed your podcasts which appear on YouTube are never video. May I ask if there’s another reason for this beyond the annoying blobs of colour you mention? The reason I ask is that I’ve come to suspect that visual imagery somehow seems to slip under my BS radar in a way the written or spoken word does not. For example, in the Bezos interview there was an illustration of a giant space colony which looked very enticing. And possibly made me suspend disbelief to a degree.

    With regards to write-ups: I think all can be treated as radio and the video ignored on an unused tab. I believe Ian McGilchrist’s ideas are otherwise presented in his book: The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. Wikipedia link here:

    Best wishes,

  51. Just to add one more data point…

    What do you make of “The Hunger Games”. My children, both of them Gen Z, and their friends seem to be captivated by this story as much as my own generation was caught up with Starwars. The setting is a world in decay, that after having fought a horrifying war 75 years ago, keeps staving off the inevitable backslash for the unfair political arrangement that followed by sending (a select few) teen-aged boys and girls to fight to the death as a lurid entertainment for the masses. The protagonist, an Arthemis incarnation by the name of Katniss Everdeen, defies certain death alongside her “Apollo” (not a dignified brother, but a blond beta-orbiter tag-along called Peetha) and inspires such masses into revolt. The main antagonist, President Snow, makes for a pretty credible Father Saturn to my eye.

    This is of course, heavily marketed by Hollywood; but there’s an ironic reallity follows fiction detail. Katniss is also propped up to insane proportions by the official media of her world (Panem). Other obvious references, covered by a fig leave of pseudonym are: the capital city of Panem, a nation originally composed of 13 Districts, is named The Capitol. District 12, the protagonist’s homeland, is an idealized Appalachia. There’s also Districts 1 and 2 (Texas and Utah) where all soldiers come from, District 3 (California) where all tech comes from, etc.

  52. Re: @untitled-1 and “new societies clawing their way from the ash”, @allie_001 and ‘respite’ as capable of inspiring ‘bravery and wonder to sate even the most eager young hero’, and @strangeland ‘only the ideas that coincide with material realities can prosper.’ And of course @JMG re: the discussion space we are in with the imagination upstream of our future material realities in the complex matrix between and within here and the future. I had a conversation today with an old hand in agricultural economics John Ikerd who wrote a lot of essays gathered in ‘small farms are real farms’ and who carries the idea of a local food system set up as a public utility rural-electric-coop style. We are doing a talk at a farming conference in February that I named ‘Channeling cultural change-energy toward a small farm future’ and it was for the reason you say here: a desire in these turbulent times to use imagination to amplify a ripple into an impactful wave which leads towards agrarian localism which allows for ‘a world of many worlds’ rather than this bland all-consuming strip mall. During the call John kept saying something like, ‘back in the 80s we started talking about return to sustainable family-scale farms. The corporate industrialized model got policy behind it and they tried to squash us. And we haven’t made the progress we wanted to, but we haven’t been squashed out of existence either (bygod!) And now the industrial model has demonstrated: that policy creates risk that can’t be borne without govt subsidies propping the system up. And here we are with practice at a different way.’ It’s the ideas lying around at the crucial juncture in history moment. One tricky part is that the industrial model tries to impersonate the rural smallholder imaginary BUT a la Strangeland’s comment and work like Chris Smaje ‘towards a small farm future’ — the material constraints are on our side this time, as the fossil fueled feeding frenzy and overshoot takes its course. Allie and untitled ones, hopefully this can be part of the heroically won respite of the new civilization we claw out of the ashes 🙂 So grateful for the space as always to have some community around these thoughts.

  53. “Let it rot” continues to be an issue in China. It’s been commented on for a year, so it has staying power.

    But hey, Bitcoin is up!

    On the other hand,

    “Dear Customer:

    Thank you for your business and for your continued support of American jobs and
    manufacturing. Due to world events our suppliers have notified us of unprecedented demand for and an anticipated global shortage of gunpowder, and thus has increased our prices substantially. We must therefore raise our pricing to help offset those increases. ”

    This even applies to black powder, as that is still used extensively as initiator charges in artillery shell detonators, as well as in ejection seats. And we know where artillery shells are zipping about, at least for a little while yet.

  54. JMG…I’ve been searching through your Dreamwidth site looking for a hint about links to the podcasts are that started this piece. If it isn’t too much a bother, could you please give us some links (and please forgive me if I missed the links you have already put up).
    Reference this piece. I might allow for discussions sake that the pulpers of the 20’s and 30’s led to the Space Program (Mercury/Gemini/Apollo), but I am going to write a longer piece concerning the/your claim that the broadsheets produced by the phanatiques of the 17th century led to the rights of man. In the vernacular of an old hillbilly, that dog don’t hunt.
    But, as usual, arguing out of both sides of my mouth, the phanatique emphasis on education, even among the lower and trade classes probably did have an effect.
    Good piece. Good work. It got me thinking.

  55. I’ve run into warhammer 20,000, but I never got around to reading the books and I don’t really do video/tabletop gaming. I didn’t like how dark everything appeared to be – in particular, I just don’t find a fascist state ruled by an emperor who thinks he’s a deity and relies on blood magic very appealing as the ‘good’ faction. They sound like they’d make better villains. I’d want a faction that was trying reform things somehow.

    And the art always looked over the top silly. The armor and weapons are so oversized you couldn’t actually use them for the intended purposes. You couldn’t lift some of those swords, let alone swing them repeatedly. And how would you move in armor that looks like it weighs substantially more than the wearer? I suppose they could be super-special metals that weigh very little, but still… And there are pointy bits in stupid places that are more likely to injure the wearer/wielder than their foes. And the elf-expy’s ears looked excessively pointy. Is the last a dumb reason to avoid reading something? Yes. Guilty as charged, but I think some of the others are valid, and they’ve been enough that I haven’t bothered with it.

  56. Mr. Greer, James,

    It is also kind of telling that two Japanese movies – The Boy and The Heron, Godzilla Minus One – have been in the top 5 spot for theaters in the US for the last couple of weeks. They managed to beat out both the latest Marvel movie and Disney’s latest animated movie, Wish. That is a pretty good indicator of how popular Japanese media is starting to get in North America and of how poor Hollywood is doing in comparison.

    Also a lot of establishment figures and Progressives really don’t like a lot of the more popular Japanese manga/anime and video games. The manga/anime series Attack on Titan is a pretty good example of this, a lot of corporate outlets went out of their way to label it as fascist propaganda.

  57. JMG,
    I find it interesting that in 1894, a full quarter century before magazine editor Hugo Gernsback introduced the term “science fiction” to the American public, the Russians had a magazine “Nature And People which published “nauchnaia fantastika” or “scientific fantasy” stories. This new genre was at first considered a novelty, but it never really became pulpish in the sense that early American science fiction did – in fact the Russian intelligencia, perhaps because of their fascination with modernity, hailed it, considered scientific fantasy fiction as an important part of 20th c. Russian cultural development.

    Of course the Russians have a long list of firsts in space: first satellite, first dog, first man, first woman, first lander on the moon, first and only lander on Venus, just about first everything except for the obvious. But until Neil Armstrong, we were constantly playing catch up with the Russians.

    For better or worse, the Russians never really seemed to have a true fringe, pulpy science fiction to stimulate young imaginations. Those young imaginations were stimulated directly by the Russian scientific establishment and its engagement and encouragement of scientific fantasy. (as far as I know, they had no pre-science fiction occult-fantasy magazines, such as we did, eg., Lovecraft and others)

  58. @JMG and @Thijs Goverde #40 and #48, re: the Empire of Man being the least worst option in 40k:

    Some of this is a historical question. The Tau are a relatively late addition (relatively late meaning almost 23 years ago. Sheesh), being introduced to introduce some “sleeker” sci-fi into the setting, especially big robots, which were part of the then just-getting-going fad for anime and manga in the Anglosphere. A lot of the deeper lore of the setting got established in the late 80s and early 90s, with later stuff being more fit in around it, rather than going right down to the foundations. When the first version of the game launched, the Space Marines were not the genetically modified super monk soldiers they are now, they were more like the squad from Aliens with better hardware. So, in a game of “space humans against space orks/chaos demons/bug-like aliens,” the space humans got to be the default good guys. In the first several years of the game, the hyper-gothic grimdark religious stuff got woven in and led to the very distinctive and funky world we know today. And then the Tau got added, and yeah, I think part of the appeal was to have a side that seemed less nightmarish than almost everything else on offer (as an aside, the Eldar were never all that bad, they just made some mistakes in the past, birthing one of the Chaos gods through their decadence, and now they’re a dying race, but they’re not bad).

    The last point I’d add is that the Tau are an expansionist collectivist empire (“The Greater Good!”) with biologically-defined castes that determine your role and influence in their society, and that uses its high technology to bring other species into their empire, first with promises of good treatment and prosperity, but by force if needed. The idea that not everyone today would view a society with the above characteristics as “obviously good” fits right in the theme of today’s essay.


  59. JMG, any thoughts on how fringe ideas might percolate differently depending on the local culture? A vague question, granted; it popped into my head since I live in (but do not hail from) New England, and am increasingly struck by how this region’s culture – if thinner than those of many non-American regions – is still thicker and more distinctive than you find in most of this country. Some of that culture traces back to utopian movements that were probably very fringe themselves at the start.

  60. >The reason they’re the good guys is that the other sides are much, much worse.

    Again, the hyperpresent. Maybe there are no heroes in this story? Maybe everyone is the bad guy?

  61. This is easily one of the weirdest essays I have ever read by you. I loved it!

    p.s. I love the grimdark setting of WH40k

  62. >an anticipated global shortage of gunpowder, and thus has increased our prices substantially

    Well, we now know that line of work has pricing power. People are going to discover that not every economic activity has the same power to raise prices.

  63. @JMG #46 re: Alan Moore on magic and writing/creative endeavors

    This isn’t exactly the talk he gives in the video linked by @Boy in #29, but I found this written interview with Moore where he talks about some of the same ideas, in case you wanted to check them out:

    Among other things, in it he offers a view you might find interesting in the wider “Disenchantment” series: he argues that all experience of consciousness was once thought of, treated as, and handled using the tools of magic, but that cultures have carved off different bits of the experience of consciousness into different fields, like religion, art, science, medicine, and psychology.


  64. Here’s my extremely cynical take on WH40k. It’s nerd craps. If you distill it down, instead of money, the various players place their miniatures on a table. Things get shuffled around on the table. Then some dice are rolled and there are winners and losers. Tell me what the difference is (at a gaming mechanics level) from this and craps?

    It says something that the lore (as derivative and smooshed together as it is) has caught the imagination the way it has. I suspect the game designers never expected the lore part of their game to take off like it has.

    Well, if pulp sci-fi inspired a generation of younguns to become engineers and scientists – what is WH40K inspiring them to be? Space marines? Cultists? Something else? Well, there goes Teh Future.

  65. Re: the video you asked for a written alternative… I suggest reading Iain’s most recent books if you have the time. The Master and His Emissary is Iain’s take on the cycles of history you have written about in the disenchantment series. The Matter With Things is his philosophical magnum opus.

  66. @pygmycory #58 re: 40k Aesthetics

    Now, I’m not going to try to sell you on the 40k aesthetic, if it doesn’t speak to you, it doesn’t speak to you (much of it doesn’t speak to me, either, at least not as something “positive” rather than “interesting”). And you’re absolutely right that the grimdark aesthetic is kind of the main thing going on (I’m reasonably certain the term “grimdark” came from the intro text to 40k about “in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”) So, it sounds like you have plenty to genuinely not much like about the game, its art, or various spinoff media.

    The one thing I will say is that much of the ridiculous proportionality in the 40k look comes from the fact that it originated as (and is still very much centered on) a tabletop miniature wargame with figures at a particular scale. It turns out that making toy soldiers at a particular size, and the fact that they are meant to be used in a game, seen from behind and above about 3 feet away, tends to push toward certain distortions in size, especially of the most interesting or important characteristics like helmets and weapons. Here’s a blog post that makes some very interesting points about why cool backpacks are so important from this standpoint (and uses that as an excuse to talk about some of the nature of sculpture and some other deeper matters):

    I’ve got nothing for you on too-pointy space elf ears, though!


  67. James, Karl, & JMG,

    Attack on Titan, the Japanese manga, is one of the most anti-pacifist stories one can possibly read, which, in my opinion, is a good thing for Japanese society. Culturally, they’re a militaristic people, and I say this as someone looking from the outside in who taught at Japanese schools, lives with my Japanese wife, and speaks the language at home with my family.

    I felt bad for the kids I taught because, for a lot of the boys in the countryside, the military was the obvious place they belonged, but instead society doesn’t have much of a place for them outside of low paying construction jobs cementing the shoreline. Through allegory, the message Attack on Titan sends is that the Japanese people have forgotten who they are, that the American-imposed Constitution and is a curse that chains who they are, that pacifism is nihilism and self-annihilation, and that they can be free once again.

  68. I’m just going to leave this here if I may? My damaged brain keeps seeing “WH40K” as “WD40” Then I realized “WD40” dissolves rust, loosens and frees stuck things ,while lubing them, and giving them a protective coating.

  69. Croatoan, glad to hear it. It’s of critical importance.

    Matthew, fascinating. Do you know if the creators of the game had that in mind?

    Reggie, it’s not a matter of waiting and seeing which fringe movements will catch fire. It’s a matter of choosing which, if any, of them you will embrace and help ignite! That’s what makes all this so fascinating.

    Justin, I suspect that’s part of the appeal — most of us are well aware that we’re Astra Militarum fodder, facing the same fate as those poor devils being rounded up right now by Ukrainian enlistment officers and flung into the trenches with two weeks of inadequate training. The jolt of realism helps.

    Boy, it’s partly a practical issue. One of the ways I cut into the burden I place on nature is that my computers are always very old. I get old machines that would otherwise go into the waste stream, and use them until they drop dead; one result is that they’re much too slow to handle current software of the Skype variety. My podcasts are done on a landline phone. But there’s also the fact that I haven’t owned a television in my adult life, have never used Netflix or any of its rivals, and generally don’t enjoy visual media. I’ll pass on the audio, too — I can read at something like ten times the speed that people talk, and so I find audio lectures painfully slow and therefore dull. Printed text is much more my style!

    CR, it was when The Hunger Games hit the big time that I became sure that the current system was doomed. It’s so transparently a discussion of today’s America. A horrifying war 75 years ago? That was the Second World War. The wildly unfair political system, propped up by circenses in Panem? An exaggeration of the bureaucratic kleptocracy we live under today. Young people being rounded up to compete and die for everyone else’s entertainment? An exaggeration of our professional sports industry. None of these parallels will be lost on the beady-eyed kids who are reading these books.

    AliceEm, delighted to hear this. Get the word out — a lot of people will be receptive to this.

    Siliconguy, I started paying attention to the Japanese version of that, hikikomori, as soon as it hit English language media. Once tang ping, “lying flat,” became a common Chinese phrase, I knew things were in motion. What’s happened in both cases is the misbegotten fusion of Confucian social norms with Western industrial economics, producing a cultural setting that pressures men to quite literally work themselves to death for no reward worth speaking of. In response, young men in Japan and now China are refusing to play the game. Now that tang ping has given rise to bailan, “let it rot,” major changes will follow.

    Degringolade, it’s linked in the first part of my comment #48. Interesting about the Ranters and Muggletonians; that differs from what I picked up in my readings on the subject, but those were admittedly a while ago.

    Pygmycory, let’s just say that you’re not the target audience for WH40K!

    Karl, exactly. The establishment has finally begun to wake up to the fact that their pasty, lifeless pseudoculture no longer catches anybody’s eye, because there are better alternatives available. Why would anyone bother watching Disney when there’s Studio Ghibli? So, inevitably, they’re trotting out the usual woke snarl words, since it hasn’t occurred to them yet that nobody cares what they think any more…

    Your Kittenship, thank you and likewise.

    Will, it’s a fascinating difference. I’ve long suspected that what launched it was Jules Verne and similar figures in French literature, since French culture had such a potent impact on pre-Soviet Russian culture.

    Jeff, thanks for this. I don’t pretend to be able to follow the whole sweep of WH40K lore, so such comments are very helpful.

  70. I have been in a long-term discussion with an optimistic, technophile friend of mine about the eventual fate of our civilization. He thinks we’re going to Mars and his Bitcoin is going to 1 million.

    When I tell him I think things are going to just get gradually worse, his response is always, “What are we supposed to DO, then?!” This never fails to puzzle me. It assumes so much: that there is always a solution, that we are the main characters of some heroic narrative, that a gradual decline and a world without smartphones is a tragic hellscape which future generations should not have to endure.

    His inability to imagine anything other than heaven or hell for humanity always reminds me of your writings.

  71. JMG, on the Astra Militarum – agreed. And on the Hunger Games? I was a little old for the books when they came out, but read them anyway, and have never really gotten over the fact that big budget, relatively faithful movies got made out of them. I suppose that might really have been the height of American empire, where there was so much rot and self-confidence that decent movies about kicking in the rotten doors of empire were treated as bonum panem et circenses…

  72. Isaac, that’s an excellent point. Re-regionalization is going to be a significant factor going forward, and those regions (such as New England and the South) that still have some elements of their old culture will have an advantage as that picks up. Exactly how that will play out — well, I haven’t lived in New England long enough to hazard a guess.

    Other Owen, and what a relief that is, after the endless parade of people insisting that they’re virtue incarnate and anyone who opposes them must be the evilest evil that ever eviled!

    AV, delighted to hear it. I’ll have to aim higher next time. 😉

    Jeff, many thanks for this.

    Other Owen, well, of course! The game aspects are the least important thing about the phenomenon.

    Matthew, duly noted and thank you.

    Kevin, I’m tempted to quote Roger Zelazny and ask if it has taken you seventeen incarnations to arrive at this truth. 😉

    Dennis, maybe so, but that’s rather unfortunate for the rest of east Asia…

    Marlena13, funny! My wife, looking over my shoulder at the essay, misread WH40K as WTF…

    Zachary, oh, I know. I used to field that sort of thing by the bushel basket during my time as a peak oil blogger. It’s somewhere in the vast gray area between the old American can-do attitude and a wildly overinflated sense of entitlement.

    Justin, it still astonishes me that the corporate media picked those books up.

  73. Thanks for this. While I still hope to avoid some of the worst aspects of, uh, charismatic populist authoritarianism, it does seem quite likely at this point. Certainly the increasingly desperate efforts to keep Trump from a second term are not likely to end well for the nation or its citizens.

    I hope this is not too far off-topic (if it is I’ll bring it up next week on the open post), but what do you make of the for-the-moment-stalled plans to remove the Reconciliation memorial from Arlington? A number of prominent voices on the online Right seem to have drawn the obvious symbolic implications: that the establishment is rejecting the post-war reconciliation itself. Even if they don’t consciously admit or recognize it, the idea of “guess it’s back on” has got to be percolating through the minds of conservative leaders in the South.

    @RaymondR: As I’ve said in a past comment, I’m still hopeful that the racial resentments will have a minimal role in the backlash to the current regime; the racism one encounters online seems mostly performative — though I’m getting the sense that the hostility to Jewish people is increasingly genuine. Unfortunately, I think a backlash against women is now inevitable and could get very bad indeed.

  74. I’m so glad that you periodically return to the subject of creative fiction from the fringes influencing the course of society. The message is certainly worth repeating. I think that one of the wonderful things about outlandish (for the time) concepts is that one cannot know which concepts will be caught up in the whirling eddies of the sea of society’s collective unconscious or which tide will cause it to bloom. Hence the need for as much diversity in imagination as possible.

    I have heeded your call for such writing in the past and hope to do so again in the future. I still have an unpublished novella set in northwestern Europe in what would be the equivalent of an early medieval period of the next cycle of civilization; hopefully I will one day find a willing publisher. However, over the past couple of years virtually all my free time has been spent using my imagination, creativity and energy to help build in the world of the here-and-now alternatives to some of the most dysfunctional features of our present shambling mess of a civilization, as well as absorbing as much as I can regarding the major shifts that are happening in the world and how the collective West steadfastly refuses to clue into it. I think of it as storing a lot of lumber in a shed; at some point (no knowing when) I will be inspired to transform the ‘raw lumber’ into some ‘creative woodworks’.

    Speaking of fantasy fiction’s influence on popular culture, I sometimes seem to perceive motions (like the wake of a giant sandworm below the surface) of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Lately, I have been noting the techniques of the Hamas fighters: very fremen-like. Maybe it’s a circular case of life imitating art imitating life… And I do not discount the possibility of some kind of jihad (be it Butlerian or Muad’dibian in character) under some charismatic or messianic figure in coming decades. I do sense that while the ‘energy’ of Middle Earth has been largely ‘harnessed’ by our society, most of the ‘energy’ of Arrakis has yet to be tapped – it has been conserved like a coiled spring or like a motherload of ‘spice’ so far covered by the sands of time perhaps waiting until some storm blows the sand away.

  75. Thank you for your wit and wisdom and the calmness that you bring to the very troubling news in our world. I wish you and all those you love a great Christmas and a happy New Year.

  76. Reading through this post and subsequent comments, I began thinking of things involving imagination floating about out there in the broad, popular culture, both what’s in and what’s on the outs. The kinds of things that came to mind were zombies, dystopian young adult fiction, a hidden magical underground aka Harry Potter, a variety of survivalist fare, kaiju movies, never-ending yet ever lamer superhero movie series, FPS video games (that largely rehash old power armor sci-fi).

    The overall undercurrent seems to be that things are dropping into the sewer, there’s some hidden strength/tech/magic that’ll save the plucky few, and we’d better get going on making sure that we’re in that select group. This is quite different than 1930’s thru 1950’s stories presenting themes of groups working together, or the hero’s journey of, say, the early Star Wars movies. I fear that it does not bode well for actual solutions either, but given the dearth of leadership, it is probably the only way forward.

  77. ArchDruid, Grant, & Dennis,

    A couple of other points that just hit me. Japanese is the most studied second language in the US being studied because people want to speak it, now because they have to in order to graduate or get into college or to talk to immigrants that refuse to learn English. I’ve noticed it’s getting easier and easier to learn because of all the resources and of course those tracks that you talk about ArchDruid.

    Also see Shinto growing outside of Japan although the PMC are trying to turn it into the latest big of PMC magic/whatever you want it be religion but that is a story in itself.

    On a side note got some Japanese stuff to share come Frugal Friday.

  78. About the 30 by 30 comment and your response that it leaves us humans out of nature instead of acknowledging that we are nature doing human things: I have recently become a member of the Endangered Wolf Center and received one of their communications to members. In it they described the care they take to make human contact with the wolves they are preparing for release to be as little and as mechanical (my word) as possible. On one level I get this; they want wolves to be wolves, and wolves who habituate to humans can be in serious danger of being killed by humans. But on another level it speaks of that divide between humans and nature that you critiqued. By that ethic, my making friends with the tree frog, on the frog’s own terms, this past summer was a serious error. The fact that the frog willingly, on its own initiative following my offer to it, hopped onto my hand in September to be transported to a safe location in a nearby shrub rather than remaining on the barbeque pit that was about to be lit shows, by this ethic, that the frog is no longer wild, no longer part of nature. How profoundly sad this is; it leaves us humans alone in a cold, uncaring world. I suppose one of my tiny contributions to new stories at the margin is making friends with the frog and talking about it, to show that it’s possible and to encourage other people to make friends with the other beings in nature in a way that reflects the best of all involved.

  79. Slithy, that whole business astonishes me. It really looks as though they want a civil war — and it’s never occurred to them, apparently, that such a conflict will turn out about as successfully as the proxy war they launched against Russia in Ukraine.

    Ron M, funny you should mention that. I’m rereading Dune right now, for about the 30th time, and you’re quite right. It’s not waiting for a sandstorm, though. Remember the ecology of melange! There’s a big rich pre-spice mass down below the surface, building pressure bit by bit, until eventually it vents to the surface in a vast chaotic whirlpool of sand and dust that sends whatever’s on the surface into the depths and splashes the spice in the depths all over the sand…

    Bill, thank you, and a happy winter solstice to you and yours!

    Dr. Coyote, and that was appropriate in the recent past, as it’s helped people get their minds around the downward plunge now under way. But we need new visions, new stories, and new dreams now, because the plunge is a transitional phase, and it’s time to start shaping the narratives that will create new realities on the other side of it.

    James, interesting. That may be why the elites are panicking about all things Japanese. All this is even more fascinating to me than it might be, because I’ve got a SF novel out next year which draws very heavily on Japanese culture, Shinto, and Japanese new religions. (And I’d be a very, very happy man if somebody opened a Shinto shrine, even a little one, in Rhode Island…)

    SLClaire, exactly! The biosphere is not going to benefit any if we treat it as a forever-alien Other and maximize our lack of contact with it. It’s by working out ways that humans and other living things can interact for their mutual benefit, and live together in the same ecosystems, that things will improve. More on this in an upcoming post.

  80. JMG et al,
    Upon reading and then seeing The Hunger Games ( perhaps I saw them first), I was impressed by the fact that they were portraying a dystopian world that was declined in environment and resources, but not completely collapsed. It seemed to avoid the utopia/appocalypse polarity that you so often mention ,JMG. I was really more impressed by the background than the story itself. It is pretty much how i have always seen the world, especially after some stints in the environmental movement.I was surprised they got to make the big ticket films for that reason. I remember your saying, JMG, that they wouldn’t make a movie of Star’s reach unless you added a return to space ending
    My favorite Borges story has always been The Biography Of Tadeo Isodoro Cruz. Sgt Cruz’s decision to change sides in the middle of a battle to support a man he respects, as opposed to the side he has always been conditioned to be on has always influenced, and perhaps to some extent reflected my life. Emotionally and mentally it certainly does in today’s world situation. It perhaps also explains that one of my very few military heroes is the San Patricio battalion who changed sides in the middle of the Mexican American war. There is a monument to them in the town next to mine in Mexico, which is the only thing I have saluted in a very long time.

  81. A while back somebody asked ‘what’s the matter with Kansas?’ meaning why are they such chumps? Why would they vote for people inimical to themselves? Why vote for a philosophy that demands that patriotic Americans accept their own destitution because that’s what an allegedly free market dishes out and, if you really are a rock-ribbed American, a free market is what you believe in.

    Well, phooey to all that, I’m pretty sure that Kansas figured out what’s what and stopped listening to those peddlers of stuff from equine hindquarters.

    For Americans of the non- liberal, non-progressive persuasion, I think that their ire is directed at traditional Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan Republicans for selling them out. Hence Trump, maybe for a lack of anything better. And if they’re smart enough to know that they’ve been conned, if they finally realized that the fix is in, then maybe there is some hope. A fool’s hope maybe. Ok, call me and them naive.

    And I’ve been reading that more and more people belonging to racial minorities, those being traditional Democrat voters, are waking up to the fact that the Democrats played them too. I mean, does anyone think that Democrat elites really and truly give a damn about the plight of Blacks?

    And so, as you say, a majority of Americans would decline to take the oath. Call me crazy but I believe in the common sense of the common man above all else and so that’s a good thing because it means that people believe what their lyin’ eyes are telling them. It’s not just the madness of the crowds but the collective wisdom too. It also means that it’s not just small-c conservatives that figured out the game is rigged.

    So does it mean a majority of fighting-age American men would refuse? That would be something and an even better sign. It would also be a clear signal to everyone but especially to the ruling clerisy and their Oligarch masters that the bell tolls, if they were smart enough to pay attention (which I’m pretty sure they’re not).

  82. “…the world of practical affairs can be shaped, through the intermediary of cultural patterns, by vivid creations of the imagination that seize the attention of the fringes and work their way in from there”
    – JMG

    “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses”
    – Karl Marx

    I just couldn’t help, but notice the similarity. You will need a very big megaphone to reach enough people to make a difference, JMG.

  83. I wouldn’t say that hikikomori is the same as lie flat/let it rot, though there are similarities. Hikikomori are people alienated by Japanese society that withdraw from it as much as they can. They may retreat to their rooms full-time with the begrudging support of parents, work remotely or leave the home only to do menial work and buy groceries. There can be economic motivators for this condition but it appears to primarily be a social issue – they perceive modern Japanese society as making tremendous demands of people while offering very little in return so they retreat from their ordained social roles. Their society pressures them to “be” something that they can’t stand so they instead decide to “be” nothing and die to the world.

    Meanwhile the lie flat/let it rot trends appear to be primarily economically-driven. The youth following this path often have active social lives, doing things like host free musical gatherings in public places, and they have tended to congregate in certain cities in poor regions that are gaining a reputation as a haunt of nonconformists – kind of like Asheville, NC or Ashland, Oregon before they were subsumed by waves of yuppie immigration. So the people this way are not responding to pressure to “be” a certain way so much as pressure to “do” certain things, like work 9-9-6 and buy an expensive apartment to move into as newlyweds. They are responding to the current economic decline and weren’t nearly as much a presence in years before, while hikikomori-type individuals have been apparent since the end of WWII and the huge resultant shifts in Japanese culture.

    Also, from the article:

    “the rebalancing of global political and economic power away from Europe and the European diaspora toward south and east Asia”

    What are you basing this on? If any country appears to be in the best position going forward it’s Russia since they are demonstrating the ability to successfully apply military force against the preeminent world powers and to be self-sufficient while doing so. If you know about “lie flat” and “let it rot” you know why China has colossal structural problems; look up “rotten tail” and “tofu dreg” for more. Chinese culture historically reviles the military and Xi has been purging military staff in classic paranoid fashion. It’s not exactly the right gameplan for an emerging imperial power.

    India also has no history of projecting power internationally, indeed it was a mass of squabbling states before the British conquest. Also see: It’s telling that the list of India’s top technology companies contains only consulting firms. Despite supposedly being software specialists, Indian companies haven’t produced any household name technologies, instead just hiring out to help build things designed by others. Compare them to China, who have produced some amazing examples of software and computer infrastructure such as WeChat, Weibo and Douyin/Tiktok, despite software not even being considered their specialty. As much as they may be Orwellian population control tools the engineering of these systems is impressive. Indian culture also has some serious military dysfunction; I’ve heard the reasons boiled down to baggage from the caste system.

  84. JMG,

    Cannot wait to read it, also got some interesting ideas of the SOP I’ll be posting on next Magic Monday if I don’t forget.

  85. I think something may be happening in the realm of music. I’m not naturally very hip to the scene, but as a music teacher of voice, piano, and guitar, I tend to be exposed to trends I would otherwise miss. One big trend that caught my attention is a Gotcha! movement designed to expose influencer singers who use autotune on their supposedly live performances. Autotune, for those not in the know, is pitch-correction software that debuted in the 1990s with Cher’s Believe and has come to infiltrate almost every recording in every style except for chamber music and Jazz. Personally, I hate the buzz-saw sound of autotune so much that I may never use it in a recording again… despite the fact I am an expert at using the manual autotune software known as Melodyne. When people question autotune, it alerts my spidey sense. I speculate to my vocal students that a larger backlash against autotune may be coming: I think it is entirely possible that musicians who use autotune in the future will be shamed for autotune just as awfully as Milli Vanilli were shamed for lip syncing in the late 80s.

    Another trend that is a great deal more vague on my astral horizon is the demise of American R&B singing. I was in a store where they were playing some vile, generic Christmas warbling by what sounded like Ariana Grande. I usually don’t have any revulsion for that stuff; I nearly cringed. I’m a jaded veteran of the style and I usually just co-exist with it. Ever since Mariah Carey had her 1994 moment with All I Want For Christmas is You, every other pop singer tried to be her. At long last, the “riffer” and the tea kettle whistle (Mariah actually faked it; her whistle tone stuff was sung by other sopranos) style may be passing out of the realm of irony and into the realm of derision. I would be interested to hear what other people, including non-musicians, are observing where this stuff is concerned.

  86. JMG, do you have a porch or patio or balcony on which you could place a small shrine? If so, maybe you could inquire with Shinto Internet groups to see if there’s a cleric in your area to bless it or set it up or both, whatever Shinto clergy do to make a shrine official.

  87. WH40K is definitely not the pioneer of cultural memes. In fact, as early as the 1990s, WH40K tried to launch several attacks on the public domain (and then failed spectacularly). As a classic, WH40K is not as good as Dune or Star Wars, and it is even inferior to the plot continuity. Many rising entertainment IPs. In fact, according to discussions in nerd circles on the Internet, this is mainly because WH40K has not yet been infected by Wookiees, but this will not last long…

    Of course, there is another main reason for the sudden rise in popularity of wh40k. This is the same as the rise in popularity of Cthulhu. Many WH40K believers are former supporters of progressivism, just because reality forces them to take their progressivism ideas seriously. , which led them to conclude that “40k” is right, a fundamentally flawed proposition. In their fantasy, moving closer to tradition can only lead to the end of the human empire (which is of course wrong), but their mentality remains There is no escape from materialist utopia or human supremacy. The former has been destroyed in their hearts, and the latter will also be destroyed in a long time.

    Of course, my prediction is that WH40K will die out again in the next few years, because this IP is controlled by big corporate capitalism, and they will always use the correct legal methods to deal with those “politically incorrect” consumers and creators , and nerds will be forced to write other stories to satisfy themselves.

  88. @Slithy Toves (#79) and JMG (#85) on the Reconciliation Monument:

    One of the things that has most startled me over the last two and a half decades of talking with undergraduates and recent graduates at my university is that “compromise” has become a very dirty word. The very idea of any compromise with different viewpoints is sometimes seen by them as the evilest of evils. You shouldn’t try to talk with your adversaries; you should only try to destroy them.

    This has even extended to arguing that the US Constitution is a very evil document, since it compromised on the issue of slavery. When I have pointed out that without that particular compromise there would have been no United States, but each former colony would eventually have been reconquered by Britain, they sometimes reply that that would have been a much better outcome for us anyway, since the US has always been an evil nation.

    This does not bode well for any foreseeable future for the country.

    And on a similar note:

    My wife is a primatologist, and used to go to primatological congresses before she retired, so she knows a lot about our closest biological relatives, the chimpanzees. For chimpanzees, the natural form of self government is a dominance hierarchy under the control of an alpha male, until he ages and is replaced by a younger alpha. From this one might argue that the form of human government that most conforms to our hard-wiring is submission to an alpha male, the head of state, who has (nearly) absolute power — call him a king, a tyrant or a dictator as you will.. This may be part of what underlies the current horror of compromises.

  89. Hello,

    “charismatic populist authoritarianism leader”

    Over the COVID years their are 3 I have seen….Jacinda Ardern in NZ, Macron in France and Trudeau in Canada….

    all very charismatic, all populists initially and all have turned very authoritarian…..all are now not very popular and Jacinda was forced to tuck tail and run in NZ…

    All where WEF accolytes….I cant help but feel some of the corporate leadership represented by the WEF are thinking they could train and implant such leaders into periphery countrys thinking they have some basic understanding of history and its patterns…I think they have been trying to ‘hijack’ the cycle so to speak…..and so capture National Govts….

    Do you see this in the same way?? if not how do you explain 3 similar leaders all with a common pedigree??? all 3 leaders of periphery western nations….(maybe France isnt so Periphery… and you could add Rutte in as well)

  90. Dear JMG,

    Thanks for the elaborated response. An admirable position. And one for reflection on over the break.

    Best wishes,

  91. Another eye-opening contribution from you.

    I recently read your post on the archdruid report about civil religion and how it tends to form anti-religions just as much as “normal” religions.

    I would add that the more intrusive and aggressive a religion is and the more caught up in dualism it is, the more likely it is that an anti-religion will emerge. With this in mind, it was only a matter of time before an anti-religion emerged from Christianity (= Satanism), whereas I am not aware of any anti-religion in Buddhism.

    I therefore think that we won’t have to wait long before we see a full-blown anti-religion to modern Western liberalism/wokeism, because after all it is a very annoying and dualistic ideology. However, the antagonist will not necessarily be any more pleasant than the original.

  92. hey JMG

    I knew this essay was going to be good when its title was a Borges story. And funnily enough said story is one I have developed an interesting bunch of insights on, on account of meditating on it a couple of times a few months ago.
    I won’t mention all of them, only one which is somewhat relevant to the theme of your essay, and which I have never seen discussed before, which is the significance of the 2nd chapter of the story beginning with a discussion of the Duodecimal/Base-12 number system.
    In the second chapter the narrator is having a conversation with a friend of his called Herbert Ashe about the Duodecimal number system, since the later had been asked to convert some Base-16 number tables into Base-12. It just so happens that both these number systems have been championed by various idealistic intellectuals as superior to the usual decimal system, and have made various attempt to convince the world to convert to their use, the most well-known being the Dozenalists of America, who to this day try and convince Americans to use base-12. All have of course been unsuccessful, which in the context of the story is interesting since they are a group of fringe intellectuals with a vision that they have shared with the world in order to change it…and they failed repeatedly.
    Thus the presence of Base-12 in the story could be both a kind of very obscure foreshadowing, and also an ironic joke. it also is referenced in some more sly ways, by the presence of 11, which is the last numeral in the Base-12 number system. you notice it most obviously in the fact that it is the 11th edition of the encyclopedia that is found first, but also in the name of Herbert Ashe itself, as it’s composed of 11 letters.

  93. Hi John Michael,

    It’s true, and you know what? I even enjoyed the crazy and remarkably predictable antics of the Sailor Steve Costigan character. Such a fun author, and far out he could recount a rollicking good tale. The Conan collection book is also a beautiful book. Leather bound. Low acid paper. And because there are so many stories, the book has heft and substance, so would make a handy weapon in a bar fight. 😉 Thanks for getting me reading those two collections.

    Ooo. Claire raised a very interesting matter and it is a subject which is of interest to me. After over a decade at this sort of work, I’m still learning. My perspective is that we must quit the passivity which is hard-wired into the culture, and become more active participants – but that may be too much to hope for. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the matter. You’re perfecting the teaser! 🙂



  94. Hi JMG – thank you for the clarification on unsettling visions. I figured I was off course, partly because your examples often focus around fantasy fiction, which is a genre I gravitate to with the same level of interest as yours in visual media. So while I do understand the idea of imagination influencing culture and then politics, I’ll have to study and read up some more on some of your references to identify more examples to help my understanding of that concept. And get caught up in some more of the deindustrial fiction side of things.

    In the meantime, enjoy and have a happy winter solstice this evening at 10:27 PM EST!

  95. JMG, I took the liberty of writing about your latest blog in my OSS Diary, as follows:


    Before we say goodbye to 2023, the 50th anniversary year of the death of J R R Tolkien (1892-1973), I feel moved to say something about him despite the fact that, not being an sf writer, he might be viewed as irrelevant to this site.

    What particularly moved me to say what I’m about to say is a comment by John Greer in his Ecosophia blog this week. John is my fellow-editor of the Vintage Worlds anthologies. His blog is something unique, a refreshment for the mind which I look forward to reading every Wednesday. The occultist stuff is usually over my head but the social, historical and philosophical comment is profound and fascinating, and I’m in agreement with 99% of it.

    Now for an instance of the 1%…

    This week’s Ecosophia blog is well up to par, but what I’m focusing on here is what (to me) is a lapse: it’s where John refers to what he calls “the strident moral dualism that is the worst flaw of Tolkien’s work”.

    It’s not clear whether he is saying (a) that each character in the story is either wholly good or wholly bad, with no shades in between, or (b) that this dualism applies to the societies in the story, or (c) both.

    Point (a) is dealt with by C S Lewis in his review [], much more deftly than I could do. I propose here to deal with point (b): the idea that the societies or cultures in The Lord of the Rings are entirely and simplistically either good or evil.

    First let me point out that, since a society is made up of individuals, to some degree it cannot be free of flaws if the individuals have flaws. But I concede that such flaws arising purely from individuals are not “systemic”, so what about the lack of systemic evil in (say) The Shire or Gondor?

    I would argue that if this is what John is criticising, he’s right about the fact but he’s wrong to call it a flaw. If it were a flaw, it would mean that the book is as boring as the phrase “strident moral dualism” suggests it must be. On the contrary, part of its special fascination lies in what it demonstrates can work in literary terms – and if it works in literature (suggests the whisper in the soul) might it perhaps work in practice? At least, it’s worth bearing in mind! And what is this “it”?

    Ah, that’s the thing that amazes me most, about Tolkien’s popularity.

    He actually succeeded in a work published in the second half of the twentieth century in portraying – believably – a wholesome culture.

    A culture that isn’t putrid with sex-addition, slobbish vulgarity and pervy yuck.

    Believably portrayed: for the story internally coheres; it’s true to itself. Here I am, it says, and you must face the fact of my real-in-my-own-terms existence.

    Literature doesn’t just amuse us, it can be an instrument of detection, a sort of sensor that indicates truths about ourselves and our moral natures despite the fact that the objects in the story may have no existence in the real world. Just as in a good vampire story we learn – we cannot help learning, if the story works – that good and evil are not simply matters of the will, that involuntary evil is a terrible possibility, so in reading The Lord of the Rings we must take the hint that we DON’T NEED to regard our quotidian cesspit as “normal” and Middle Earth as unrealistic.

    It could be the other way round.

    And perhaps these comments aren’t so inappropriate on an sf website after all – or at any rate on this one, if we view the classic, yuck-free Old Solar System as a kind of Middle Universe…

  96. I owe JMG a lot for the prompt to imagination back in the days of the After Oil stories. I hope more can catch on. The Borges story even then (and the reference to joke clandestine brotherhoods) was in my mind. Thanks JMG. For this I also owe a h/t to my old pal Robbie, sadly long gone, who circa 1975 passed me the book flagged for that tale.
    Talking of rockets and the USA, I suppose we have to include the inaccuracy of the guidance systems, and thereby the case for hydrogen bombs that gendered the big rockets that could go to the moon. The old days lived on in the later Star Trek fairy stories , military model and all. Remember those instant old fashioned comm phones? A bit like, ‘Houston do you hear me?’ Even the big engines at the back remenisced the very early design for atomic flight. (The US had actually built a bomber I think?).
    I note the reference to proxy wars. I am not sure how many fingers I need to count civil wars past or mostly ongoing resulting from ‘proxy wars’, but they seem to have been a pattern. Things might have changed geopolitically with these new very fast rockets that can take out conventional air-superiority. I don’t like wars. I was born in an air raid and my first memory a couple of years later is the family being bombed out. I can imagine Gaza.
    I have not commented in a while. The Solstice seems a good time to wish everyone well/


  97. Slithy, Mr. Greer,

    I can tell you for a fact that there is some severe anger boiling in the South what has been done to those monuments. A lot of people down here are also really pissed about the entire Trump situation. Yesterday, Texas’s Lieutenant Governor said they might remove Joe Biden from the ballot in Texas in retaliation for the Democrats removing him from the ballot in Colorado. The last time states played the game of removing a major party’s nominee from the ballot was the 1860 election, by the way. Lincoln wasn’t on the ballots in most Southern states.

    Dr. Coyote,

    If you want to see a theme that is running just below the surface in a lot of popular culture- especially media from Japan, video gaming and table top gaming – that a lot of people haven’t picked up on yet look up dieselpunk and steampunk. A list of examples include: Warhammer 40,000; a lot of Studio Ghibli films (Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Howl’s Moving Castle); Final Fantasy game series (series favorites VI, VII, XII, and XIV in particular); Attack on Titan; Fullmetal Alchemist; BioShock; Factorio; Fallout series; Wolfenstein; League of Legends; One Piece; etc… You can go for quite some time listing examples and this is not counting works set in the late 19th and early 20th century that lack the fictional technology or supernatural elements of steampunk/dieselpunk proper like Red Dead Redemption and its sequel.

    There has been an increasing trend over the last 30 years of works either set directly in that very time period of 1860-1960 or in a fictional setting whose technology and aesthetics are based on that time period. What is kind of interesting is that as establishment academia in the West has gotten more shrill about denouncing that time period and the historical figures and events in it the more popular they have gotten.


    Yeah, I remember having to take Japanese language classes along with Spanish in high school and this was in rural South Carolina in the early 2000s.

  98. >The game aspects are the least important thing about the phenomenon.

    I would point out that if this lore was presented (solely) as a novel or as some radio play or (god forbid) as a netflix show, nobody would care about it and you’d be exasperatedly going “God-Emperor what? Blood for the Blood God? Stop derailing.”

    The gaming part of it, is key to why it has gained traction. Although thinking about it, the picture of a bunch of Ukrainian soldiers hunched over a workbench, carefully painting their miniatures, fills me with a bit a laughter and disbelief. But it is what it is, I guess. Then again, you see WW2 movies and they show soldiers at the command post, moving miniatures around on a real map, and maybe it’s not too farfetched at all.

    So maybe that’s what it’s inspiring? War. I mean, it’s right in the name of the game. What was it that Sgt Hartman said in Full Metal Jacket? Minster of death, praying for war?


  99. This blog has definitely inspired me to write some fiction – my webcomic Etherwood ( is about 80% inspired by my time on both Ecosophia pages. It’s a challenging task to translate these ideas into a coherent visual aesthetic, but I think image-based media can carry the idea more subconsciously. I’m still working at it!

  100. “Slithy, that whole business astonishes me.”

    Me too. They continue to be their own worst enemy.

    I was thinking about composing a post on X regarding how I was (ironically) grateful for Biden this Christmas since he’s personally and permanently discrediting/dismembering everything they hold dear.

    The destruction of the dollar alone should significantly defund the far left and relegate them to an annoying irrelevancy, slowly declining in numbers due to jabbing away their health and fertility.

  101. JMG, my immediate prior comment isn’t displaying correctly on “awaiting moderation” — missing html italics and close quote on the first sentence.

  102. Thanks very much for this essay. A lot of things are going on behind the scenes here in my imaginal laboratory, and more to share in 2024.

    In the meantime on the radio front, consider the following as a potential sound track for flights of the imagination and cultural synthesis.

    On Trash Flow Radio on Sat Dec 16, Dr. Jacques Cocteau returned for a second installment of “Glass Bead Games For Guitar,” a special episode focused on ambient guitar, drone guitar, American Primitive guitar, electronic guitar, prepared guitar and more. Including: all- (or mostly) instrumental guitar tracks from John Fahey, James Blackshaw, Suss, Jules Reidy, Thurston Moore, Emma Ruth Rundle, Bardo Pond, Luke Schneider, Zimoun, Steve Roach & Roger King, Jessica Ackerley & Patrick Shiroishi, Steve Tibbetts, William Eaton, Jim Ohlschmidt, Mogwai, Jesse Sparhawk, and Mason Lindahl. And so much more!

    This was a great show! As always, you can stream or download it all, ad-free, in ONE part, from:

    Stream: Trash Flow Radio Dec 16, 2023 (Dr Jacques Cocteau Plays Glass Bead Games For Guitar) (118 mins):

    Download: Trash Flow Radio Dec 16, 2023 (Dr Jacques Cocteau Plays Glass Bead Games For Guitar) (118 mins | 162 MB):

    Playlist for Trash Flow Radio — Dec 16, 2023 (Dr Jacques Cocteau Plays Glass Bead Games For Guitar):

  103. >The Hunger Games hit the big time that I became sure that the current system was doomed. It’s so transparently a discussion of today’s America.

    Again, the hyperpresent. As an aside, Idiocracy wasn’t really about 2505 either.

  104. One big reason that most modern movies stink on ice: we’ve begun downplaying the classic Greek theatrical structures of drama in favor of psychoanalytic structures of therapy and Neo-Marxist theories of oppression. It’s less about individuals tested to their limits and how they fail or succeed and more about how a Strong Plus-Size Woman of Color/Muslim in a Wheelchair/Gay Deaf Asian/etc. Smashes the Patriarchy and Moves Beyond Their Abusive Past.

    When you use the old Greek structures, you can create incredibly powerful works. O’Neill’s *Long Days’ Journey into Night* and *The Iceman Cometh* are both written using exactly the same rules Aeschylus and Sophocles used, and they’re an absolute punch in the gut. Those formats lasted for over 2,000 years because they are effective. Neo-Marxist propaganda can’t match those works for subtlety or complexity. And if therapeutic confessions were entertaining, you wouldn’t have to pay your therapist to listen to you.

    Two things I’ve noticed in modern comics and comic book movies. Originally Bruce Banner was a brilliant scientist who became the Hulk after a massive gamma ray exposure. The comic books revolved around a lonely, despairing Banner wandering in search of peace only to find himself transformed into the big green guy who saves the day despite himself.

    In the latest iteration, the Hulk’s rage is rooted in Banner’s abusive childhood. Ultimately Banner manages to integrate his psyche and become Dr. Hulk, who has the strength of the Hulk but the intelligence of Bruce Banner. The Hulk is no longer a force of nature, he’s an aberrant behavioral pattern brought under control.

    The other one has more to do with the rise of the F-word. When I was reading The Fantastic Four in the 1970s, Doctor Doom was a megalomaniacal Eastern European tyrant who was capable of destroying the world and who posed an ever-present threat to the forces of liberty and democracy as represented by the FF. Today Doom is more a Byronic antihero — and there have been a number of stories where Doom comes in and saves the day when everyone else has been beaten. Instead of being Stalin in Armor, Dr. Doom is now the leader who makes the trains run on time.

  105. In science fiction there’s the near future and the far future, and there’s also fantasy. In the near future you have to stick fairly close to today’s world. Projecting current trends, I see that the US Navy is already complaining about the expense of sending missiles costing $2,000,000 against Houthi drones costing $2,000.

    Someday soon the US will run out of money and and have to sell off assets like any common bankrupt. Their biggest asset is the military. I can foresee big industrial combines getting together and bidding for the choicest units like the Navy Seals and the 101st Airborne, and using them to seize and hold the most valuable of the vanishing fuels, ores, and arable lands around the world.

    A return to the days of the East India Company or Cecil John Rhodes, commanding entire nations with their private armies.

  106. This seems to me one of the most crucially important essays ever on this site. It ties together a lot of seemingly loose ends.

    It seems the connection between the magic and sociological history sides of JMG’s work is the imagination.
    Both magic and history of ideas show that a clearly focused intent on visualized outcomes can attract and align with other people, to reshape the world.
    And, magical tradition says, also to open a connection with non-physical forces and entities. Including the energy and attention other people have contributed to build up those images over time.

    A specific outcome goal can be overridden by an emotionally more intense belief. Including psychological issues that might be less than fully conscious, wrapped up in childhood pain or past trauma that hasn’t healed. The demands of the emotional plane overrule the action plans on the physical level.
    Emotions in turn can be corralled by the higher plane of a unifying mental concept. As with a soldier who has an emotional urge to save his own self at the expense of his assigned mission, but that fear in turn is overriden by his commitment to what service and honor means to him. And by the principle of seeing things through for his buddies, since they depend on each other.

    If we let other people define the contents of our imagination, that also lets them dictate, expand or limit our range of behaviors we’ll even think about. These are predefined walkways and chutes leading us in a given path. Predefined blinders and handcuffs constraining our options.
    Directions and limits that don’t have to be built around us physically by would-be directors and controllers, if we can be led to build them for ourselves, inside our own minds.

    Military doctrine emphasizes training to build a shared culture. This means not everything has to be spelled out from scratch each time in a crisis.
    In a society that works, shared ideals guide individual ideas, applying a feeling of esprit and belonging into collaboration. Society holds together when this works out well for most people, most of the time, economically and interpersonally.
    A collapsing society has people extracting what they can at the expense of everyone else. Since it’s all burning anyway, grab whatever you can run away with, before the roof falls in.

    I was originally interested in personal computers and networking because of the humanistic, creative, socially uplifiting, idealistic element they overlapped with in the 1980s and 90s.
    Lately, the fact that computers are involved has been used to justify “inevitable,” enormous antisocial self-dealing power grabs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Excuses having nothing to do with actual innovations that apply technology for mutual humane benefit.
    As other commenters pointed out, there is nothing about the nature of transistors or data switches that requires a dozen billionaires to own the connections for most of the world’s increasingly partisan and hostile conversations. Nothing about packet networking insists that a few mega wheeler-dealers put local bookstores and taxis and hotels out of business. And Real Soon, we’re told anyone who uses thinking or creativity for a living. Go Learn to Code is useless if the machine can out-code you.

    So we should be very careful about whose vision we are living within.
    Maybe some long overlooked visions are valuable to us now. Maybe some widespread and hyped visions are to our detriment now. Maybe more people should know about magic as tools to comprehend the spiritual as well as physical paths we’re choosing, so that choice isn’t just a conditioned default we picked up from our schooling, society, current social circle and favorite sources of hot news and tech tips.

    When we participate in someone else’s guidance for how to think about and visualize our lives and societies and their meanings, there could be a lot of accumulated energy in that package. So we should be informed, to consider what we’re signing up for.

    Although he made up a lot of self-aggrandizing B.S., I’ve come to believe Napoleon Hill was right when he said that once “the spirit of perfect unity” no longer describes a group, the members lose their access to a shared higher mind. The master mind of the harmonious alliance that can be collectively smarter and wiser than the sum of the individuals. This could help explain accelerating stupidity in government and institutions.

    I’d love to be part of a movement finding, curating, combining, offering up more inspiring memes and visions, of a future that’s a worthy shared path now.

    P.S. I agree with Degringolade # 1. If I’d have ever known there was such a thing as a degree in the history of ideas, I’d have likely wanted to pursue that myself!

  107. This is an interesting little artifact from WH40K.

    This video (and the story) are FAN MADE. Apparently the creators of the video have been hired by WH40K and the short story the video tells – is now cannon in that universe. I find the video to be very well done but the response to it by the parent entity is fascinating and the exact opposite of how fans are usually treated.

    StarWars/ Disney and the rest of the “corporate science fiction” are notorious for ripping off fan art and creations – especially in the world of cosplay. This is a major, although often ignored, reason for its declining popularity and relevance. “Don’t steal from your biggest fans and most influential customers” must have fallen off the list of what constitutes good corporate governance.

    So its not just that WH40K might be the upstream prelude to wider political changes in the real world. From a fractal POV that exact dynamic is already playing out INSIDE the world of broader Sci-Fi. Corporate Sci-Fi is creating its own “neglected middle” of fans. It seems that WH40K is, through actual patronage and elevation of fan creators, scooping up that neglected middle

    Its fascinating to see the F-word dynamic evolve, in real time, INSIDE the world of Science Fiction and it seems to prove JMG’s thesis that it is being lead by an apologetically F-word based creative vision. Because as JMG said “The reason they’re the good guys is that the other sides are much, much worse.”

    An interesting follow up question – What does it take for the neglected middle to realize (on a gut, not just intellectual level) that the other sides are “much, much worse?”

    For the Sci-Fi fans it took; the most recent Star Wars movies, the most recent Indiana Jones, The Rings of Power, Dr Who, The Wheel of Time, The most recent Marvel Phase 4, and countless others.

  108. Blessed Yule on this Solstice Day; Blessed Alban Arthuan to the Druids among us. And a happy Midwinter feast to all.

  109. Hi John, I’ve also been enjoying your articles in Unherd. If not in the works already, this post would make a great article in that venue as well. May I suggest a title: “No Country For Young Men.” For there are indeed parallels between the movie of nearly the same title : ) and what is stirring today.

  110. The cultural politics of WH40K is a fascinating topic. My exposure to the setting has been pretty haphazard, but I did go through a phase of reading everything about it and I have seen and participated in many discussions. I didn’t play the wargame, but did play some of the related roleplaying games. This left me with some impressions that may be relevant. When I saw the discussion a couple of weeks back, I thought it was a pity I missed it, but it seems I have an opportunity to weigh in.

    I get the strong impression that much of the setting was originally intended as over-the-top satire of authoritarianism. It’s fair to point out the Catholic and Shinto elements in the Imperium of Man, but it is really a hodgepodge of various famous authoritarian regimes. Yes, there is a God-Emperor with Gothic cathedrals and an Inquisition, but you can also find Soviet, German, Ottoman, Roman, medieval European and British colonial elements and inspirations without too much difficulty, sometimes kept apart as local colour and sometimes blended together into a colourful mishmash that mocks the originals’ individual ideological pretensions while emphasising their similarities. The Imperium is gratuitously inefficient, corrupt and brutal. It has entire planets dedicated to bureaucracy, and other planets that are forgotten due to filing errors. Exterminatus – i.e. wiping out all life on a planet – is its answer to a remarkable amount of problems. Even when it doesn’t go this far, life in the Imperium is ridiculously cheap. The poor in its world-sized planet cities are largely left to fend for themselves except when needed as cheap manpower. Meanwhile, the rich can be grotesquely decadent in ways that only a vast space empire can support.

    In other words, it certainly was not intended as authoritarian propaganda (“join us and we will sacrifice your life for no good reason!”). I’d say it was mostly meant to be darkly hilarious with a satirical edge. However… it was also supposed to be a setting for a wargame. The Imperium needed credible enemies, as there is only so much fun most people can derive from a comically overdesigned powered armour boot being stomped into a poor mutant’s face forever. Yet authoritarianism is ridiculous and easy to reject intellectually when you think your society faces no credible threats. On the other hand, if the universe really is full of danger, matters become more complicated. It becomes much easier to justify a concentration of power and resources for defence. Perhaps more importantly, rebellion begins to seem less like the obvious thing to do and more of an extremely fraught decision. The logic of sacrificing liberty and justice for the sake of unity and survival becomes much easier to accept – it’s not like you or your neighbours would enjoy much of either if you are all enslaved by aliens a few weeks after you chase off the Imperial garrison. That doesn’t mean there are no problems with this logic, of course – there are many. It’s just that “fighting for freedom and/or justice” in such a universe is not such an uncomplicated and simple choice as it may have been otherwise and is in many other settings.

    Incidentally, while I won’t speak for all of my countrymen, as a Russian I certainly find all of this very familiar and relatable. It’s certainly not just because the Imperium has some aesthetic Soviet and Romanov trappings. It is because having to tolerate injustice and restriction of freedom for the sake of collective survival in the face of persistent threats has been a huge and unarguable part of our history for a very long time. WW2 is only the most glaring and well-known example.

    Furthermore, over time, much of WH40K’s community and authors became more immersed and invested in the setting. They began to take it more seriously (to varying degree). This led to increasingly in-depth worldbuilding that introduced nuance at odds with what I take to be the initial design. Some, though not all, of the authoritarian enforcer figures changed from caricatures to complicated, morally ambiguous, human figures trying to do their best in an unjust but substantially necessary society and a universe with no simple answers. It is easy to mishandle this sort of thing, but when done well, it’s not surprising that some found the result compelling.

    I think this is a case of a fictional creation getting out of hand as more thought and effort was put into it. Again, I sincerely doubt anyone ever intended to use it to make a credible argument for authoritarianism. But it became a vividly detailed universe in which a form of authoritarianism (though not all of its excesses) is an eminently sensible adaptation to the circumstances. Of course, its fans are extremely varied in what they think of it. I don’t think many of them consciously embrace this vision as a justification for something similar in the real world, but then again some undoubtedly do. Some others are appalled that such people share their hobby. Most, I suspect, prefer it as a fictional setting or indeed a wargame, and would like to avoid the crossfire altogether. While that is absolutely understandable, I don’t think WH40K ended up as a culture war frontline by accident. It really does contain a serious challenge, how ever accidental, to many progressive assumptions of the cultural mainstream.

    I apologise for the length, but hope you find some of this interesting.

  111. If my oversize comment on WH40K does show up, I hope it doesn’t show up as the one huge paragraph I see in the preview. Not sure why it got bunched together like that once I pressed Post Comment.

  112. Robert Gibson @ 103. You typed about Tolkein that:
    He actually succeeded in a work published in the second half of the twentieth century in portraying – believably – a wholesome culture.

    A culture that isn’t putrid with sex-addition, slobbish vulgarity and pervy yuck.

    I think the same is true of the films of Mayazaki and his Studio Ghibli, to the delight of parents and their children. I recall a conversation with a fellow parent about TV. We both agreed we censored offensive content at home, but I went farther. I said that I also didn’t allow stupid. I can remember searching for entertainment for my girls that was not either vapid “princesses”, or designed to appeal to a jr. high boy’s locker room.

    Thank you for your post. “slobbish vulgarity and pervy yuck” are exactly the words I have been looking for for years to describe what wo-called “popular” has been feeding our kids.

  113. As I heard one person put it,

    “Many people today are torn between a political discourse demanding either democratic socialism or hardline protectionist nationalism and, unfortunately, history offers us a compromise.”

    The next few decades will probably be very interesting, if more than a little scary.

  114. Christopher from California @ 113, You mentioned local hotels and bookstores being put out of business. That happens because bought and paid for local govt. allow it. If ordinary citizens don’t pay attention to local government, this sort of thing is what they get. I lived in a Central Valley town which declined to host a Wallyworld because of citizen opposition. As for taxis, there is a reason why Lyft and Uber are popular with their customers. You get a ride in a clean, well-maintained car with a driver who goes where you ask and doesn’t demand attention and doesn’t have an attitude about women travelling alone and is not a resettled CIA asset.

  115. Reminds me of a beautiful quote by the singer Björk: “after tragedies one has to invent a new world, knit it or embroider, make it up … you have to imagine something that doesn’t exist and dig a cave into the future and demand space”

  116. I’d like to put in another good word for Lois M Bujold. I went tearing through her fantasy fiction a few years ago. I much enjoy the way she includes gods and religion, as well as magic, in her fiction.
    Her Sharing Knife series is her response to Tolkien (she said as much). It answers the burning question, what would happen if a hobbit married a Dunedain? I loved those books so much I wrote her a letter about them, and she graciously responded. I thought she might be a pagan. Turns out she’s a hard-core materialist rationalist who sees consciousness, and all the things that might proceed from it, such as magic, as an “emergent property” of matter. Yet she has a great feel for reverence and the numinous. And she’s a terrific writer.

  117. JMG, listened to the Hieros Institute podcast you linked to in #48. I am familiar with your thought so nothing especially new, though worth listening to. A theme was how to fix Christianity. IMO the fixing will be the continued creative fissuring of Christianity (competition of the fittest?), let freedom ring! as the Biblical verse on the Liberty Bell says – “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land” Time to Tamanous! and keep away from state power. Even Taoism when it got its hands on state power in China systematically persecuted the “foreign” religion of Buddhism at one time.. Ditto for state Buddhism in Japan and Tibet persecuting “heretical” Buddhist sects. Present day Hindus going after Christians and Moslems in India. Roger Williams in Rhode Island and William Penn in Pennsylvania knew what they were doing by making religious freedom central to society.

  118. @Jeff Russel, interesting point on the proportionality. It was something that seemed pretty weird to me.

  119. Blood for the blood god – Khorne! Everytime I do a project around the house I seem to nick myself and need a band aid. Not sure that’s the sacrifice Khorne is looking for?

    Any rate, think it’s rather amusing that Warhammer 40k made it to this blog. Love the Inquisition, Sisters Sororitas, awesomely bad universe.

    Warhammer 40k > Star Wars > Star Trek

    Have a great winters solstice all!

  120. Blessed Solstice and happy Holidays to all. Hope my best wishes find you in good health and merry company.

    Now, on other matters…

    @JMG, @Justin and others commenting on the Hunger Games. “Failure of self preservation instinct” is what comes to mind when I think of Holywood picking up the series. I have not found the franchise enticing enough to read the books, but my kids seem to like both formats. I never made the connection with the varsity/university sports funnel before, but it makes huge sense. The same chagrin I perceived in my high school students (and now in my youngest and his peers) on the competitive-academic side of things. At least in the PMC classes, we are now trying to force feed children with materials that most adults cannot grasp (STEM, computer/IT, premed, etc).

    @Christopher from California, #115. I attribute our current technological mess to the something for nothing business model that took hold in the late 90s. Our host has discussed how that scheme usually plays in the practice of magic, so that was anything but unexpected. As prophet RMS said: “If the users don’t control the program, the program controls the users”.

  121. On the topic of the Hunger Games: my working hypothesis at this point is that what’s driving this, and a great many other weird cultural phenomena, is a subconscious effort on the part of the elite Baby Boomers to make sure that the younger generations despise their generation. The Baby Boomer generation had a choice to make back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and chose to cash out on their ideals for the perks and benefits of a system they had claimed, up until that point, to despise. I think, further, based on just how abrupt and drastic the shift was, that whether or not it was actually possible, a good many of that generation thought that this system could come undone, and be replaced with something else. Having spent a great deal of time immersing myself in the culture and current events of this era, I think it’s possible they were right. It would have meant giving up a good many of the perks and privileges which members of the Baby Boom generation took for granted, though, and when push came to shove, they chose to keep the benefits from the system. They betrayed their ideals, in other words, for material pleasures. This is an understandable mistake to make: many of us have made it at some point or other, but few people have made it on the scale the Baby Boomers did; and few of us have been tested every day after that decision. I think it would be enough to drive most people mad.

    Subconsciously, I think a lot of the boomers, especially the ones who did what it took to rise to the top, despise themselves, and so they are subconsciously egging on generational conflict as a way to ensure they are remembered the way they think they deserve, not at a conscious level where they have never processed the betrayal of their ideals, but at a deep subconscious level, the level where they remember their ideals, and remember betraying them and then doubling down on this betrayal every chance they got since.

    Notice, to provide on example from the Hunger Games, it is only ever the young who get sent to fight in the Hunger Games: and that a surprisingly large number of the people too old to be forced to participate accept the hunger games, unless it is their children being sent to fight. That is a clear case of generational conflict; and it is one in which it is hard to feel sympathy for the older generation.

  122. Stephen, I haven’t read The Hunger Games series, so thanks for this — I wasn’t aware of some of the details. As for Borges, that’s not one I’ve read either, so it’s on the list.

    Smith, that’s exactly it. I read the book What’s the Matter with Kansas? with a great deal of bleak amusement — either it never occurred to the author that the people of Kansas had even fewer reasons to support the Democrats than they did to support the GOP, or he went out of his way not to mention that fact. People rallied around Trump because they rejected the entire two-headed beast of American politics, and he was the one figure who showed any sign of listening to their concerns and addressing the problems that mattered to them. That’s a good part of why the entire political class hates him so passionately.

    Ecosophian, Marx didn’t have a big megaphone, nor did his ideas catch fire among the masses. Marxist revolutions are always carried out by a fringe group among the intelligentsia, who harness inchoate popular rage and resentment and direct it toward the goals of Marxist theory. Replace a few adjectives and exactly the same thing is true about fascist putsches.

    Patricia M, thanks for these.

    Logo Dau, of course they’re not the same. As I see it, they’re parallel responses to similar predicaments, but Japanese and Chinese cultures differ drastically enough that the responses work out differently in practice. As for the rebalancing, for most of human history the arc of southern and eastern Asia from Iran to Japan has had half the population and half the wealth of humanity, and political clout to match. It’s still got half the population, and the global economy is shifting back to normal now that the last vestiges of European and European-diaspora wealth extraction are shutting down. It may well be a couple of centuries before the rebalancing completes itself, and odds are that neither India nor China will have the same systems of government when the process is over; nor are they necessarily the only players that matter.

    James, glad to hear it.

    Kimberly, gods, I hope so.

    Your Kittenship, alas, no, and I also don’t have the spare time to do the regular service that a shrine requires. I’d just like to be able to go to one for the usual festivals and other visits as occasion presents itself.

    林龜儒, um, where did I say that it was pioneering? It’s simply a bellwether — as I noted in my post, one cluster in a much broader system of narratives and imagery.

    Robert, that’s an important point, and one I plan on addressing in an upcoming post.

    Kiwigaz, nope. Not one of them was populist in anything like the sense I mean, and not one of them was an authentic authoritarian — just a mildly charismatic bureaucrat coughed up like a hairball from the political establishment and used by that establishment to push forward certain very dubious economic and political policies. The closest we’ve seen so far to what I have in mind is Donald Trump, though Viktor Orban runs a very close second.

  123. Palladium mag has just released an interesting article on the whole industrial decline thing at
    “As technologies would be retired and replaced with more expensive alternatives, this would be perceptible to the common population as a decades-long, somewhat mysterious drop in life spans, quality of goods, and convenience. The products wouldn’t vanish, but rather be replaced by dubious substitutes. This might be explained, if it is remarked on at all, as driven by environmental measures, changing consumer preferences, or the malevolent schemes of rival great powers.”

  124. @Kimberley Steele,
    I’ve run into the complaints about autotune both on youtube and in one case in real life. That latter person also disliked the way recording music tends to change the sound as well, and was fairly old, so he may not be very representative of new trends.

    I’ve never knowingly used autotune, and don’t know how. I’m used to almost everything I do being live and often unamplified as well, so the idea of using software to fix poor intonation seems like cheating to me. It also feels like a dangerous crutch if you use autotune as an excuse to not learn how to sing or play in tune. What happens when you face a live audience with no autotune? Ouch.

    Since we’re on the subject of electronics in music, can I say how much I prefer performing without amplification wherever possible? Setting up the electronics for a group can take forever, and it has resulted in my sitting around waiting for the techs to fix it too often, and for too long. The feedback screams are a menace, too.

    One of the things I like about about studying classical voice is that its unamplified – you learn to project your voice so you don’t need a microphone. Which is awesome and super useful.

    Sometimes amplification is essential – if you’re one person playing a quiet instrument outdoors to a big crowd, yes, obviously you need it. And there are many more circumstances where amplification is useful. But it’s so much more pleasant to make music without it. Nicer to listen to, too, so long as it isn’t too quiet for the space and circumstances.

  125. Re: “Replace a few adjectives and exactly the same thing is true about fascist putsches.”
    This reminds me of the bit from Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts where he is travelling through late 30s Germany and is in a young German’s room which is papered with Nazi posters and pictures of Hitler etc, and the young German tells him that he should have seen it a year before when it was all communist posters and pictures of Lenin or Marx

  126. WH40K was there since my childhood. Many schoolpeers had models, and we used to discuss it’s lore at lunch. There was a Games Workshop store at a 10 min walk from my home, they used to run free battles once a week, and my 8 year old self loved attending!

    Although i ‘ve never was a very commited player, i ended up knowing quite a bit about it. Ever since, i’ve always kept track of how GW was evolving

    I wanted to share some observations i’ve made over the years, that may be relevant now:

    So many of GW lore revolves around corruption. The old Warhammer Fantasy world ended in that way, in fact: Corruption just reached it’s core, in the form of a Chaos Champion, and the World imploded.

    WH40K is no exception. True, The Empire has extended across uncountable systems and is mighty and powerfull. Yet, it is almost always depicted on the defensive against horrible forces that can’t be never fully defeated, only resisted. Despite being defeated one an a hundred times, they only seem to get stronger and stronger. Worse, some of those forces are old allies corrupted (Chaos space marines) The emperor itself is openly corrupted in a sense, because he is half alive and half dead, reduced to a pasive state, and he consumes several psychics every day, who sacrifice themselves to keep him alive.

    Corruption is also inside the empire, and there are entire playable factions devoted to hunt for heretics and deviationists.

    The foes of the empire are also corrupted beings themselves: The Necrons where a wise race who folishly asked a god for inmortality and where turned into a sort of lifeless robots.
    Orks are now supposed to be the creation of another god, to fight those same Necrons. As milleniums went by, they degenerated into their current feral form.

    Only the Tau show the healthy signs of a young and vibrant civilization, but they are supposed to hold a very small empire.

    So, maybe WH40K as a fantasy reflects the gargantuan corruption our world holds.

  127. Stephen Pearson is spot on about the Hunger Games world being an exquisite metaphor for our current world. And as time goes on it becomes even more so, as the reality portrayed is spookily similar to how the world developed since the books were written.

    I remember when I first encountered that world with the serene obliviousness of the fantastically opulent inner (higher) classes to the grinding poverty of the outer districts it seemed to me tortured and excessive. The same with the over the top silly fashions, and the sycophantic adulation of the middle classes towards the upper ones. – it all appeared at the time to be verging on farce. And then covid happened and so much of it came to life in the attitudes and behaviours of western society that I somethings wonder if the author wrote the entire thing as a premonition.

    The Hunger Games world is like 1984 in that respect – life imitates art to such an extent it is difficult to see in hindsight the foresight of the artist.

  128. Boy, you’re most welcome and thank you.

    Executed, the anti-religion of late Woke liberalism already exists. It flourished all over central Europe and several other parts of the world in the second quarter of the twentieth century, and has been a constant presence under the radar since then. Yes, you can spell that “charismatic populist authoritarianism” if you like.

    Richard, oh, it’s far too late for that. The question is what share of the things we currently have can be saved by any means at all.

    J.L.Mc12, good heavens. Not only have I never heard of the Dozenalists, I missed that implication in the story — and of course you’re quite right. Thank you!

    Chris, it has occurred to me more than once that Howard’s stories might make it through the next dark age due to the simple fact that bards could recite Conan’s exploits around a campfire and have a crowd of neo-barbarians cheering for more.

    Drhooves, so noted, and a happy solstice to you and yours as well.

    Robert, delighted to hear it. Of course I disagree, but my reference to the strident moral dualism in Tolkien’s work was too brief and cryptic to clarify what I meant. I’ll be discussing the issues around the disastrous consequences of our culture’s Tolkienomania in much more length in an upcoming post here, to which I’ve given the tentative title “The Three Stigmata of J.R.R. Tolkien.” Stay tuned…

    Phil, good to hear from you. Best solstice wishes to you and yours!

    Karl, good heavens. That was a clever move; since there are more red states than blue states just now, anything that would throw the election into the House guarantees a GOP victory, so I expect the Supreme Court to scotch Colorado’s move in short order.

    Other Owen, neither Tolkien nor Hesse nor Borges wrote games, and I don’t consider references to them derailing. I also brought up WH40K in this post as an example of a broader genre, most of which is fiction unconnected from games.

    Sirustalcelion, I’m delighted to hear this.

    TJ, it’s astonishing to me that the entire political class whose collective hand is up the Biden sock puppet is handling this as cluelessly as they are. If they’d set out to ruin themselves I don’t know that they’d do a better job. It’s as though someone put a curse on them

    (As you see, by the way, your post came through just fine. There’s a software glitch that makes the preview look awful on some browsers, but it doesn’t affect what reaches me.)

    Justin, thanks for this.

    Other Owen, of course. All science fiction and all fantasy is about the present.

    Kenaz, I hadn’t heard that the redoubtable Victor von Doom had been turned into yet another dreary antihero. Sad. You’re right, though, that the obsessive fixation on Freud/Marx intellectual slash fiction — F/M, maybe? — is a huge issue here. It hasn’t just squeezed out the Greek theatrical structures of classic tragedy and comedy; it’s squeezed out every other kind of story without exception, resulting in LD100 levels of dullness.

    Martin, except that trained, competent personnel are bailing out of those units, and every other military unit, as quickly as they can these days. By the time the 101st is put up for sale it will consist solely of pudgy 50-year-old otherkin in sparkle wigs.

    Christopher, good — you’re paying attention. Remember that you don’t need a university to study something — these days, in fact, you’re better off as an autodidact.

    Donnie, thanks for the data point. Science fiction was like that in the Golden Age — most of the great SF writers started out as fans whose stories became publishable, and publishers, editors and established authors alike were happy to help. As for your question — why, the other side just has to get bad enough that nobody can ignore the stench any longer.

    Greg, I don’t decide which of my posts get onto Unherd — the managing editor does. I hope he likes this one enough to repost, but that really is up to him.

    Daniil, many thanks for this! Much to reflect on. (As you see, it came through just fine. The preview function is borked for some people.)

    Moose, nicely phrased!

    Saša, hmm! Very good advice.

    Anonymous, so noted. I may see what the local library has to offer, when I’m finished with Dune (and then a reread of a certain Philip K. Dick novel).

    Moose, one of the reasons I was glad to settle in Rhode Island is the extent to which Roger Williams’ legacy remains active here. “Forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God!” was one of his famous sayings.

    Sultanoslack, I try to keep my posts entertaining. 😉

    CR, thanks for this. The comparison with sports came to my mind instantly, but that’s because I know people who got chewed up and spat out by that industry; not all of them are still alive.

    Anonymous, that’s a fascinating supposition, and potentially a very useful one.

    KAN, thanks for this. I’ve added it to my to-read list.

    John, and thank you for this.

    Moose, he’s always worth reading.

    KAN, that was a switch that a lot of people made. One of the things the Marxist left doesn’t like to talk about, or even think about, was the extent to which National Socialism was in fact a variety of socialism, an attempt to do the same thing in Germany that Stalin did in Russia, but without the wholesale expropriations and famines.

    Guillem, interesting. Thank you for this.

    Daniel, thanks for these data points.

  129. Hey John, as I’ve said in a comment on one of your posts last month, I’m currently at work making a deindustrial roguelike game titled “Garden of Rust.” (I’ve made a lot of progress since last time!) I’m hoping that I can manage to create an interesting vision of the future, but I’m definitely not a writer.

    I would love if I could post some of the ideas for the game here and hopefully get critiques and suggestions from you and the commentariat. Right now I am mainly working on core game mechanics, but I do have a lore writeup.

  130. @JMG
    F/M=Freud/Marx= Freud and Marx in a gay relationship if you use standard fanfic story description conventions… oh dear. LOL. Did you do that intentionally?

  131. @ A. Nony Moose #122 from A Nony Moose # 126 and #134 (the one without the period after the A) We are different people so I will change my Ecosophia moniker to BeardTree from now on and you can keep A. Nony Moose as your label. The past couple of times I have had to costume up for my workplace Halloween event I have been BeardTree the Green, the wizard Tolkien neglected to write in his books. Yes, I was Tolkienized back in 1962 when I came across The Hobbit in the local public library and became deeply enchanted.

  132. Guillem, a good observation. I was going to say that part of the popularity of Japanese media in the West may be that it sometimes expresses some socially conservative themes which are absolutely verboten in Western media but your comment touches on something deeper.

    Japanese creators expressing “social conservatism” is an oversimplification, to be more specific they tend to express concepts from the Japanese culture like loyalty, self-sacrifice, ritual purity, filial piety and reverence. These concepts of course exist in Western cultures too but they are only depicted in Western media for the purpose of mockery. TV dads are all bumbling idiots, family and tradition are things to be cast off when you move to the big city and come out of the closet. Purity is something that only laughable prudes believe in and loyalty is for suckers. All ideas from the past must be erased to make way for the perpetual revolution.

    By the same token, WH40K is one of the only Western media franchises to express some of the concepts that have sustained human societies for thousands of years, like the idea that civilization is a fragile circle of firelight holding a chaotic world at bay. Like the Hunger Games, the Imperium of Man seemed cartoonishly extreme when it was first imagined but seeing the modern fruits of leftist ideology it starts to make sense.

    The uptake of Japanese media in the West may have been approved at the beginning by cultural gatekeepers because it was seen as foreign material contributing to the erosion of “toxic” Western values but it’s becoming clear that people are drawn to it because it offers a counterpoint to ideas that are relentlessly pushed in Western media.

    As an added note, the attitudes encountered in Japanese and Western fiction carry over to the public behavior of the creators. Japanese artists, even those who are rich and famous, often express gratitude to their fans and a desire to do right by their audience in the work they create. Meanwhile, American comics artists have gone on Twitter tirades cursing their audiences for not giving them the respect they deserve. There’s an attitude that “my name has appeared on the cover of a Marvel comic book so I am owed adulation from everyone.”

    There was a Youtuber who made a series of videos mocking some of the particularly woke content published by Marvel and DC comics. These videos were made on a $0 production budget with the creator’s phone camera while he sat in his car reading comics. He triggered explosive rage among many big names in the comics industry, and their denunciations of him boosted his profile to the point where he was able to crowdfund hundreds of thousands of dollars to publish his own non-woke comics and help many other creators do the same. He was mocked by industry insiders telling him “you’ll never get a job at Marvel now.” Marvel pays its artists something like $25k a year at most (and requires you to live in NYC) while this critic received more money than they’ll ever make to release his own comics with total creative control.

  133. I’d take issue with “don’t expect voting to change anything that matters.” It’s true voting alone won’t change our overall corrupt system, but it can change many things within the confines of that system that still matter.

    A few examples: voting in prog DA’s who don’t believe in prosecuting theft or violence (at least against certain groups) can and does make a difference in local crime rates, a president’s Supreme court picks do make decisions on issues like abortion and affirmative action that do affect many people’s lives, the regulations an administration adopts regarding pollution can cost thousands of lives or jobs annually, etc.

    It’s easy to get so disgusted with the system that we accept voting doesn’t change anything that matters, but the truth is more complex.

  134. JMG # 139 thanks for the encouragement!
    & # 46 statue “Man, our eightfold path is the greatest. Suffering & reincarnation? Last thing we need, you can count on it! Livelihood? You won’t believe how tremendous! You know, let’s make your karma great again. It’s four noble – the toughest – these truths, they say everybody’s taking refuge these days. It’s because nobody concentrates like I do!”

    Marlena13 # 74 If it’s not moving but it should, apply WD40. If it’s moving but it shouldn’t, apply duct tape. Done!

    Zachary Braverman # 76 “It’s not that I like the Empire. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right now. It’s such a long way from here.” – Luke Skywalker, teenage moisture farmer stuck on this rock

    sirustalcelion # 107 Your beautifully colored, whimsical, delightful watercolor art brings a smile to my face! My favorite is the waterfall face on page 7. The story moves along briskly! Is that a Sphere of Protection on her sunset cliff time? P. 21 I’m confused about who’s talking, and p. 22 is this some kind of way to prevent the meteor-delivered parasites from attacking people?? Chapter 2 page 3 tucked-in fox, Aaaaaawwww cute!!

    Kimberly Steele # 92 and pygmycory # 135, here’s another vote against the grainy weird ear-scraping hash of Autotune.

    Mary Bennet # 123 with all of those, seems the shared issue is the flawed narrative: “leave the government alone to do its work, and it’ll take care of everyone just fine.”

    CR Patiño # 129 I agree. Silicon Valley venture capital investment funded early work like Intel’s to develop chips, and Apple’s to develop computers. Of course you need to do engineering, manufacturing, and initial marketing, before you can manufacture and sell your engineered products. That’s why investors provided money up front.
    I’m trying to figure out when VC mainly switched to funding operating at a loss forever, so all competitors could be driven out of an unstainable business until winner-take-all rolls up the monopoly. While leaving in place the “technical innovation” narrative that no longer applied.
    For example, there was no reason for WeWork to have investment multiples comparable to breakthrough technologies. Or for a “we’ll dump commodity scooters downtown” business to be worth billions.

    The switch occurred some time between Perot’s investment in NeXT in 1987 to build a computer, which required a lot of real innovation, and Thiel’s investment in Facebook in 2004 to build a monopoly, which required promoting the hell out of rather ordinary, limited software and user lock-in. I’d like to try to narrow it down further.
    How in the world did those involved get away with holding up a now-false mask of pretense? How did society get brainwashed to accept “we’ll data-mine you, keep the profits to ourselves, and it’s your own damn fault if your identity is stolen,” with “oh sure, that’s the only way we could ever communicate online?”

  135. JMG,
    I am not sure if these questions are relevant in your opinion, but I’ll ask them anyway since this post seems more appropriate than last weeks.

    In a recent post, you mentioned that:” We’re going down now, and east and south Asia will go down a little later — say, a century or so further down the road.” referring to India and China, and that ” we get to take the hit now, and avoid the bigger impact later on.”, which i Kind of agree with, but in a more recent post you stated :”India is rising toward great power status and will become one of the richest nations of the world in another century or so — just as it was before the European conquest. ”
    So now I am confused. You mentioned that in a century, South Asia, which India is in, would “go down”, so to speak, but then you talk about its ascension to a great global power in exactly the same timeframe. Am I missing something?

    Secondly, do you think China could possible survive and thrive, or rise again as a new empire?

    Lastly, should i move out of Singapore, or am i ok to wait out the collapse here? If i remember correctly you recently stated that asia had at least a hundred years before it went the way of the States

  136. I’ve been reading The Ten Percent Thief by Lavanya Lakshminarayan recently, which is a sci-fi dystopia, set in a city-state in the location of today’s Bangalore, probably somewhere in the 22nd century after the existing nation states collapsed in the wake of ecological collapse, which is run by a corporation, and society is divided into the elite 20%, middle 70% and a 10% underclass, where there is advanced technology including holographic projectors etc., except for the 10% who are known as Analogs because they are not permitted to use computers and live in poverty outside the city. The world seems a bit like Brave New World, except that society is very competitive because if you are ‘unproductive’ you can be relegated to the Analog world. It’s an interesting book, because its told from the point of view of a range of different characters, showing the complexity and contradictions in that world.

    #130 I wonder how much of the apparent change in the attitudes of Baby Boomers is actually individuals ‘selling-out’ and losing their radical ideas in the interest of climbing the corporate ladder, wealth etc. or whether what’s actually being seen is simply different members of the generation coming to the fore politically at different times of their lives. Perhaps later on, more of the more conservative members of the generation became politically aware and active. It could also be that the actual number of people who were really committed to the ideals of the ‘counterculture’ was always relatively small, with only a small core number of people really being into it, and a somewhat larger number going along with it for a while, but that era gets somewhat mythologized into a narrative that doesn’t actually reflect the majority.

  137. The four-panel meme you illustrated this article with reminded me of the simpler, perhaps more powerful message I’ve been seeing a lot of the past couple years in fashwave/tradwave-type memes : “Remember what they took from you”.
    (example: )

    This one, pointedly, includes a photo of an astronaut on the moon. That’s not by accident– space flight is the dream that refuses to die. On the dissident right, they say we could have had Heinlein’s future, or Clarke’s, at least– cities on the moon? Missions to Jupiter? By 2001? No problem, they say. If only we’d hadn’t fired the Nazi rocket scientists and handed NASA the trillions that went missing as foreign aid, that’s the future we’d be living in. Honestly it’s hard to refute, as a counterfactual. A lot of the problems with spaceflight CAN be brute-forced away with sheer mass. Mass that will never cost less than 1000$/lb to LEO. (Zero G? BIG ships that spin. Hard radiation? A few meters of water shielding will do for that. That’s only several tonnes per habitable cubic meter on the ship. We figured all this out in the 60s; we just weren’t willing to foot the bill.)

    You and I may differ on how plausible we find that scenario, but I think we’d both differ from the dissident right in thinking it’s not too late to reverse course. The way I see it, we had one shot, at the peak of cheap oil, to become a spacefaring civilization. We failed to, because the effort required would have needed a civilization of space cadets, by space cadets, for space cadets. (Even then, I don’t know if the laws of nature would have allowed it. I hope not, for I think that missed opportunity, had it existed, would be the greatest tragedy in the history of life, because it means we were as the cosmists thought Gaia’s reproductive organs and we _failed_. For my sanity, I try not to dwell on this counterfactual idea. I just can’t bare the thought of it.)

    Still, I would not count the old dream out quite yet. WH40k is set in Space, after all. Not to say we’ll end up with cities on the moon; not at all. As I said, I think it’s too late for that. I just don’t think Faust is done dreaming his dream of infinite space quite yet.

    And to circle back to the main discussion, I don’t think there is a man amongst those who share the “remember what they took from you” memes who wouldn’t gladly die under the banner of the double-headed eagle. It is easier by far to die for something than to live for nothing. I myself would charge into the Eye of Terror with nothing but a lasgun if it would restore meaning and enchantment to the world for my grandchildren. Better the Imperium than nihilism and a cosmos of dead matter.

  138. I would like to wish everyone a blessed solstice, and to share a tidbit of WH40k lore.

    At the heart of the Imperium of Man sits the God Emperor on the Golden Throne that keeps him from death. (“Alive” is too strong a word to use here, I think.)
    The God Emperor on his throne is the psychic beacon that holds the Imperium together– literally. Without him, demons from the Warp would lead spacers astray and devour interstellar commerce (again, literally). So he has sat for thousands of years… and it is all a great tragic mistake.

    The Emperor never meant to be a God. In fact, and this is the bleak irony that pervades the grimdark setting, Big E was more like a Reddit Atheist in life than any kind of holy man. He wanted to banish religion from his imperium; wanted a golden age of reason in the stars for mankind. It didn’t work out that way, of course. Chaos, corruption, and evil awaited in the stars. When he was struck down by his beloved son Horus (who had fallen under the corruption of the Chaos gods) and locked into the life support of his Golden Throne… well. Things got a bit out of hand after that. The worst part is that he is supposed to be such a powerful psycher (sic) that his soul would immediately reincarnate, and he could return to his people that way. The hellish half-life of the golden throne, and the whole religious structure (including human sacrifice) was imposed upon the prostrate Emperor by servants with good intentions… but tragically misguided ones.

    So the old lore went; it may have changed in the last 20 years. (I understand there’s an epic series that would fill a bookshelf on the Horus Heresy that fleshed out this story by millions of words. I have not read it.) I, too, remember when the Tau were new; it was towards the end of my interaction with the franchise.

    (As an aside, I never liked those Commie Tau xenos, myself. I figured that (a) for all the pretensions of goodness, they only looked good from the outside, like the Soviet Union , and (b) Just like the Imperium of Man, once they got out into the WH40K universe and ran into the true horrors of it, they’d loose their idealism and their polish. All the races of WH40K have tragic backstories that explain the horror of what have become in the 41st millennium. The Tau are still at the prologue of theirs, or they were when the first Codex was published.)

  139. Kimberly #92 Before Autotune there were several generations of Eventide digital
    processors. First used live by Led Zeppelin. Ozzy relied on them big time and took some flack from Ronnie James Dio for doing so. That was less “buzz saw” sounding though, partly because engineers used some restraint-a little bit goes a long way, especially live where there is a very fine line between hearing the effect, and the effect sounding stupid. A good example of this technology, which was expensive at the time and did not run on computers, is the classic Ozzy albums from the early 80s. -Berserker

  140. @ JMG – I hope you had a sunnier Solstice in RI than we did in OK today.

    I loved reading Borges! I need to unearth my collection of Sr. Luis-Borges short stories, or buy a new copy. I read him in Spanish in high school and college.

    Gold star for the Diggers and Levellers, too. They hardly get any love outside of history podcast circles, yet their ideas were as foundational to modern political theory and Locke, Rousseau and Montesquieu.

    Abbreviating a very long story, I woke up at about 4 o’clock this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. Instead of counting sheep, my mind went wandering through the striking similarities between a set of scientific ideas which contend that humans have no free will, and Calvinism. As noted in last weeks comments, it’s not much of a stretch to go from ‘anyone can interpret scripture’ to the Enlightenment. Letting the imagination run wild, would it be too much of a stretch to suggest that sometime in the Late American Imperial Period (as I’m sure dry, 31st century historians will term it), a state religion emerged that synthesized Protestant Christian determinism with bio-chemical determinism?

  141. “Kiwigaz, nope. Not one of them was populist in anything like the sense I mean, and not one of them was an authentic authoritarian — just a mildly charismatic bureaucrat coughed up like a hairball from the political establishment and used by that establishment to push forward certain very dubious economic and political policies. The closest we’ve seen so far to what I have in mind is Donald Trump, though Viktor Orban runs a very close second.”

    That makes me feel somewhat better about the tosspots becasue the stink of rank incompetence….You didnt mention Putin and personally I see him more of a loyal Nationalist to a degree….I get the impression he refused to sell out and appears to be loyal to Russia as a civilisational idea…..

  142. Enjoyer, can you post them to a blog or a Dreamwidth journal or something, and then post a link on next week’s open post? I’d rather not host the entire discussion here, but a link is fine.

    Pygmycory, oh, it was quite deliberate. I knew people who were into K/S back when that was nearly the only slash around.

    WinterIsland, in many jurisdictions DAs are handpicked by the party machine and the other party hasn’t been able to get a candidate in for decades. (Vote fraud has been extremely common in American elections since the days of George Washington; look up Tammany Hall sometime.) Nor are presidential elections much more responsive to the will of the voters — here I’d recommend Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot with its no-holds-barred discussion of vote fraud on both sides of the 1960 election. I consider voting an important civic ritual, but it’s only in very unusual situations where you can hope to get any significant change to the status quo.

    Jeffrey, becoming a superpower is a quick ticket to decline and fall. That’s especially true in a world that’s moving into ever more serious crisis over resource depletion and climate instability. Thus there’s nothing contradictory in the statements “India and China are rising to superpower status” and “India and China will undergo decline and fall about a century after we do.” That is to say, I expect them to rise as the US and Europe slide down the chute of the Long Descent, and then they’ll begin their trip down that chute about the time we hit bottom, a century or so from now. Whether China will rise again depends on factors I talked about in my last post last month. As for Singapore, I have no idea. You’ll have to judge that for yourself.

    Mawkernewek, interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Tyler, I confidently expect that a couple of centuries from now there will still be people clinging to the old dream of space travel. That doesn’t make it feasible. As I’ve noted many, many times before, the problem with space travel isn’t technical, it’s economic. Sure, you can use mass to soak up radiation; sure, you can manage the other factors — but it’s going to cost you. It’s not just that we decided not to foot the bill — it’s that paying the bill would have bankrupted whole countries, without any particular benefit aside from bragging rights about who put what scrap of cloth on what godforsaken airless desert. As for your comment about the double-headed eagle, though — yes, I’m well aware of that, and it gives me the occasional sleepless hour or two. That sort of passion, badly directed, can lead to places worse than the one we’re in now.

    Ben, we did indeed! Clear, cool, and bright. You’re right that scientific determinism is just Calvinism with the serial numbers filed off, and just as loathsome.

    Kiwigaz, Putin’s a fascinating figure: a cold, cautious, methodical bureaucrat who found himself unexpectedly plopped into a position where he could save his country from dismemberment and despoliation, and in his cold, cautious, methodical way, proceeded to do exactly that. Of all the great figures of Russia’s history he’s one of the least characteristic, but he’s unquestionably the right man at the right time.

  143. @Phutatorius: FWIW my favorite of the Three Californias was the middle one, as far as character and story go. It was also the closest to what we have now… I liked the ladt one quite a bit as well and I thought it was a good example of fiction that is utopian without being a utopia per se, i.e., people still had problems and issues…

    @JMG: I’m curious what PKD you will be rereading? I understand if you dont want to share now. Its hard to pick a favorite PKD for me, but I do love the Valis trilogy.
    Maybe Ubik and Clans of the Alphane Moon. Good thing I dont have to actuly pick.

    I’m most of the way through Ian M. Banks “The Player of Games” just now. Its the first boom with his middle initial that i have read, and Im enjoying it.

    I get your mixed feelings about Tolkien. I love him so much on the one hand, but the goodies against the baddies story, and the vast all seeing shadowy eye watching over it all… that does seem to have infected us a bit.

    Hobbit Holes and potatoes, I am good with, however.

    For some reason the links in my post didnt come through… here is a place to stream Glass Bead Games for Guitar. Lets try that again…

    I can post direct download later if anyone wants it.

  144. @Robert Mathiessen: Our relationship to chimpanzees is exactly the same as our relationship with bonobos – it’s like my relationships with each of my cousins. Bonobos, as far as I know (not being a primatologist myself, but having had primatologist colleagues and having watched captive ones) don’t have male domination at all and only rather fluid hierarchies. So I think the conclusion is that humans aren’t hardwired for any particular social arrangement, though we carry tendencies into certain directions.

    Not entirely unrelated, I find the whole Warhammer culture abhorrent and would dearly love avoiding any fetishization of the military, if that is possible. From the little I know of Quebec history, they had a rather mild form of populist authoritarianism in the 1930s and 1940s, held in check by Canadian federalism. Their Quiet Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s was as remarkable for its speed and thoroughness as for the relative lack of violence. Unfortunately, the public school system instituted at that time is breaking down right now.

  145. “The Baby Boomer generation had a choice to make back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and chose to cash out on their ideals for the perks and benefits of a system they had claimed, up until that point, to despise.”

    As a second-half boomer ( you are not wrong in applying that to part of the group, but those of us who entered adulthood after the first oil shock in ’73 had a very different experience than those who locked up a job before then.

    Even socially things were different. As one example women typically want a husband a couple years older. So a woman born in 1956 wants a man born in 1954. But since birth rates were still increasing at that time there are more 1956 women than 1954 men. There is a shortage of suitable men.

    But a few years later the situation has reversed. A 1962 woman is looking for a 1960 man. There are a lot more 1960 men than 1962 women, so the ladies become much pickier. And unattached men can be notable social problems. Fortunately for me the Navy was short handed and had an opening.

  146. I know how the ruling sclerisy see the J6 event. To them it was an assault on their democracy. We all know because they’ve told us exactly that over and over.

    But to me it looked as farcical as the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 must have looked to Germans at the time. That said, in 1933 I’ll bet it looked a whole lot less funny. I’ll make a wild wager that in 2031 it’ll be the same for the J6 fiasco, but I think for vastly different reasons.

    Not that Trump and his MAGA outfit have many parallels with the NSDAP. I have family that lived under fascism and who served in fascist armed services and also relatives in the US military that fought against them. By all accounts it was a miserable time. The butchers bill for those 20th C follies was very steep including for our clan.

    If you were to tell those eyewitnesses and participants that Trump is akin to Hitler they’d howl. My dad in his youth lived through all that and also lived to see Trump elected. He mustered the strength to scoff at the dark mutterings and comparisons being made. I was born post-war but based on what I’ve read and what I’ve heard from people who were there to see it, I had to agree.

    Our intelligentsia discredit themselves. Trump has uttered many absurdities, yet compared to the enormity of the nonsense coming from our purported betters he’s the paragon of knowledge and reason.

  147. One of the most interesting things about Warhammer 40K lore to me is that the Emperor himself is a Dawkins-Lenin died in the wool hardline materialist type. The Imperial Creed (as the cult that venerates the Emperor is so named) grew up after he was entombed in the psychic amplifier that makes interstellar travel through chaos possible. The Imperial Truth was the ideology promulgated by the Emperor himself and it was a Soviet style state-atheism system with bullets awaiting anyone found “backsliding into non-materialism”. It accepted things like psychic powers and the forces of chaos but viewed them as another force that could be unpacked and defeated by rationalism. I always thought that was an interesting twist and it first put the idea in my head that modern scientific rationalist dogma could develop theological elements over time. The next work of fiction I read that explored a similar theme was our host’s own Retrotopia where the “atheist assembly” had suspiciously religious like rituals. I remember thinking of 40K when I read it and the theme has always been rattling around in my head. Now I feel inspired me to write a little story.

    A good essay as always JMG, a happy belated solstice to you!

  148. JMG,

    Happy Winter Solstice to you!

    You are right about Marx not having to use a megaphone himself. The intelligentsia serves as a megaphone, or as a transformer, which turns high ideas into forms suitable to capture people’s emotions. Thank you for correcting me on that.

    I’m finally going to read Herman Hesse these holidays. I’ve been delaying it for a while.

  149. Robert Mathiesen,

    I think your point about young people no longer accepting compromise is almost certainly a result of the mental diet we’ve been served for a couple of generations now. When every conflict is between the Good Guys and the Dark Lord, what options are there? And unfortunately I don’t see an easy way out of it at this point given the stakes that are now involved.


    I saw that. Between that and the incident with the Satan statue in Iowa, it seems to me that the Right is increasingly done with worrying about upholding norms that clearly don’t mean anything to the other side anymore. The Satan statue in particular seems to have been a major breaking point for a lot of right-wingers, and there’s a growing attitude that if the Constitution requires the Right to sit back while the Left has its way with the culture, well, so much the worse for the Constitution.

    As frightening as the possibilities are that this opens up, I can’t say that I blame them.

    (Incidentally, this is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind a while back when I suggested a 5th Wednesday post on the future of freedom of religion. I’ll probably bring this up again on the next open post..)

  150. Interesting idea, although it occurs to me that if our future culture and subsequent political/social systems can be or are influenced by the imaginations of today, the same could be said for our current political/social systems. Given that these appear to be on the brink of disaster, on whose historical imaginations would you lay primary responsibility? And doesn’t it appear likely, if history is a guide, that current imaginations and future systems will fare no better?

  151. JMG#131, I’m sorry I was a little too emotional and didn’t express my meaning clearly. I’m not blaming you but some toxic fans of WH40k. They know that a materialist utopia is not feasible on a practical level, but they try to build that world anyway, viewing all resistance as unkind and fundamentally preventable. This is also the reason why Trump has become a GEOUSA meme. Trump represents a more materialistic era, and Trump is the most secular and Godless American president in the past century. This is in line with their fantasy, that is, the world is So unreasonable that one must believe in an atheistic god in order for a materialist utopia to become true.

    This is also the reason why I think WH40k will not last as a cultural phenomenon. As moldbug said, Trump and his supporters are echoes of the past (20th century), and like the New Atheists, as people realize The idea that old times are no longer possible, or that old times are inherently worse, naturally dies.

  152. Siliconguy #56
    re: „letting it rot“

    In 1960s Germany, right around the peak of the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle), disillusioned youth who found social expectations too intense yet pointless started to loiter in the streets, just hang around and be willfully unproductive.
    They called themselves Gammler, literally „rotters“.
    Gammeln (to rot), or rumgammeln (to rot around) still retain their place in colloquial vocabulary, nowadays mostly referring to what people do on weekends or vacations.

    Strange parallel in choice of words, isn’t it?
    The gammler scene provided the seed bed for beatnik and hippie culture here, if I‘m not mistaken.
    It will be interesting to see if something similar happens in China.

  153. Here’s one for you: a social fusion project in the form of an album called Nike Trump by a band called Your Marginally Talented Photographer Girlfriend.

    There’s an online listening party for the album at 7pm today (2023 December 22). The album can also be downloaded for free and of course the cover art can be taken and done with what one pleases.

  154. I have this increasing urge to go “What would fantasy look like if it were futuristic and forward looking instead of backward looking?” and the only example I can think of is Frank Herbert’s Dune Saga. I recently read the first 3 Earthsea novels by Ursula Leguin and really enjoyed those. Something which had the elegant simplicity of Ursula’s novels combined with the sweeping Saturnian vision of Herbert’s novels is what I’d really like to see.

  155. “… it’s squeezed out every other kind of story without exception, resulting in LD100 levels of dullness.” — JMG

    Slightly off topic, but referencing the creation of interesting stories, I was struggling through Stephen Wolfram’s deep dive into the innards of ChatGPT.

    One bit I managed to understand was that ChatGPT functions by finding the most likely next word. For instance, it might start off with “The cat sat on the__”. What’s the most likely next word? Thanks to its training and some multidimensional mathematics, ChatGPT will generate a list of probable next words in order of likelihood, for instance [mat, bed, sofa, chair, etc].

    What they discovered is that if it always chooses the first word in the list, it ends up with “LD100 levels of dullness”, to use JMG’s terminology. To avoid this, they gave it a factor of 0.8, i.e. it will choose the most likely word only 80% of the time.

    If several different people ask ChatGPT “What did the cat sit on?”, most will get the mat, some the bed, others the sofa, and one or two lucky people will discover that the cat sat on the hot stove.

    How did they choose a factor of 0.8? By trial and error. They tried various factors and 0.8 seemed to give the best compromise between boringly predictable and too dissimilar to be believable. There is no theoretical reason why it should be 0.8. (Presumably if they made it 0.4 you would end up in a surreal Dali-esque universe.)

    This suggests that any future scenarios should be 80% familiar to denizens of the current universe, or, having sampled ChatGPT’s efforts myself, maybe 70%.

  156. La transformación profunda es un cambio de la “estructura” del relato más que un nuevo relato.

    El viaje del héroe (Joseph Campbell) es el esquema base para cualquier historia que tenga “sentido” en la “cultura autodestructiva de la competencia” y esa “estructura” del relato funciona, entonces, como una “propaganda subliminal” de la dinámica detrás del “auge y caída de civilizaciones”

    Así, para una transformación profunda de la cultura sería necesario, además de la marginalidad del relato (que asegura moverse cerca de las fronteras, del limite, del “sentido” cultural, facilitando su desplazamiento, transformación), es necesario que esas historias sean escritas, relatadas, de una forma diferente.

    Probablemente entre los antiguos nativos americanos hay “sociedades del respeto” que entreguen algunas pistas de la “nueva estructura” en los relatos ancestrales.


    Automatic translation.

    Deep transformation is a change in the “structure” of the story rather than a new story.

    The hero’s journey (Joseph Campbell) is the basic outline for any story that makes “meaning” in the “self-destructive culture of competition” and that “structure” of the story functions, then, as a “subliminal propaganda” of the dynamics behind of the “rise and fall of civilizations”.

    Thus, for a profound transformation of culture it would be necessary, in addition to the marginality of the story (which ensures moving close to the borders, the limit, the cultural “meaning” facilitating its displacement, transformation), it is necessary that these stories be written, told, in a different way.

    Probably among the ancient Native Americans there are “respect societies” that provide some clues of the “new structure” in the ancestral stories.

  157. >I consider voting an important civic ritual

    Why? It’s pointless. In my experience, either you’re urinating into a gale force wind or you’re urinating with the gale force wind. Granted the second option is much more pleasant but it still doesn’t alleviate the pointlessness of it all.

  158. JMG,

    There was a time when people had a competent and trusted “family doctor” and it didn’t cost you and arm and a leg. But now you have a “medical organization” that treats you like an item on an assembly line.

    I think the moment we can no longer imagine a system getting any “better” (either because it’s current form is very good or because it’s current form is absolutely terrible) we immediately bureaucratize it and remove the human element (including human mastery).

    So more imagination please before we lose more nice things to yet another cold buracracy.

  159. JMG If Mr. Putin is a “cold, cautious, methodical” sort of man, as you typed, that might go some way to explain why our own leadership, you should excuse the expression, can’t understand what they are dealing with. He just doesn’t look, sound or behave like what our own mass media tells a Great leader of His People is supposed to resemble, being neither handsome or charismatic. I begin to wonder if the fundamental flaw in our own ruling class is not corruption but diseased imagination.

  160. re: Militarism in Japanese Culture.

    I grew up thinking that the Japanese were pacifistic now, that WW2 changed them, but over time I’ve come to think that any such feeling is skin deep.

    A surprising amount of their manga and anime– Fullmetal Alchemist, Attack on Titan, Evangelion, Space Battleship Yamato, Mobile Suit Gundam– are military fiction. Miyazaki invented a war subplot when he adapted Howl’s Moving Castle, and the Nausicaa manga goes very heavy into military topics, to the point where commanders reflect at length about the problems of light and heavy artillery and whether or not dead soldiers represent a reconnaissance or main thrust. You would not have expected that from the movie.

    Attack on Titan, in particular, is a beyond strident (though entertaining) screed against Japanese pacifism. Dennis (#73) called it the most anti-pacifist thing you can get, and even that feels like an understatement. The heroes live in an island country, beset by monsters. It turns out the monsters were sent by the mainland who hate all islanders and want them to live in ghettos with yellow stars. There is no justified reason for the mainlander’s evil, but they pretend they only want the island to atone for its ancient massacres, even though no one knows if they ever happened. The heroes also have to fight the island’s monarchy who think everyone needs to shut up and suffer forever, and an islander who wants to sterilize the island out because they can never REALLY REALLY atone. I never picked up the Cold War allegory in Star Trek until you mentioned it, but the one in AoT is so unsubtle I don’t see how any person could have missed it. The massacres (that totally never happened) probably took place at Anking-Nay.

    Although I sympathize with Japan’s former victims, I think it is for the best that Japan is like this. Given our probable future, I think they’re better off with that national outlook, then Germany’s.

    As a side note, I don’t know how deep the JMG to-read pile is, but I think you’d like the Nausicaa manga. Both anime and manga are about a post-apocalyptic world where (essentially) a princess lives in an ecologically fragile valley next to a poisoned forest. The cartoon is fine, but the comic goes very deep into themes of ecology, adaptation, and what forcing adaptation would mean for humanity. And, of course, lots of war happens.

  161. Consortium News has up an article by Scott Ritter about the Western collective (and deliberate, I would say) failure to understand Mr. Putin. IMO, those who are not blinded by irrational and atavistic Russia hatred are deluded by the thought of money to be made and resources to be plundered, if only we could get that KGB guy out of the way. That same approach worked in South America for over a century so naturally it should work in Asia, right?

  162. Hello Mr. Geer,

    There is one additional component to the whole 40k craze sweeping the nerd world right now that I have yet to hear anyone talk about; namely, 40k is largely an asexual setting. There are many factions in the universe as you mentioned, but the one that gets virtually all the attention (literally space marine models make up about 70% of company sales, everything else just gives them interesting stuff to shoot at or save) has no interest in sex. Space marines through genetic engineering and pscho indoctrination have no desire, let alone ability, to procreate. When women stare at their tall, muscular bodies they literally do not understand why. This strikes me as why young men love these guys. If they were super heroes or star wars characters or what have you by now they would have been presented as struggling with their identity and self confidence. Games Workshop is a very woke company and has issued multiple woke press releases saying things like “the imperium of man is based on hate, but we are not”. They also felt it necessary to ask racists to not play their games or buy their products about three years ago. But there is simply no way given their lore that they can make gay space marines, or effeminate ones, or cross dressing ones, or even space marines who could be upstaged by a strong female character who seduces them. Thus, they are the one nerd story arch that remains after Disney and the rest of the woke movement burned everything else to the ground. Considering how many young men are embracing chastity right now the rise of monastic asexual heroes is not surprising.

    It is also worth noting that 40k used to sell much more in the U.S. and the fantasy version of the game did better in Europe. That was until the company blew up the fantasy world with an in lore apocalypse and rebuilt the setting in the image of the science fiction game (which is ironic considering the origins). In other words, the Americans wanted to buy space men fighting in the future and the Europeans wanted to buy middle age fantasy men fighting in the past.

    One final point, you should check out the game Kings of War. Its a spin off from Warhammer Fantasy that became popular when they blew up the old world and replaced Tolkien fantasy with fantasy 40k. The game is set in a world coming out of an apocalypse and is based around the Byzantium empire, not western Europe/Rome. If you want to find a game set in a world rebuilding from a dark age this is a good example of it. The story arch is no where near as fleshed out as Warhammer but it is getting there, and has a fantasy flavor much closer to the kind of stories reminiscent of a world just starting a renascence rather than on its way to the glorious, progressive future. The writing quality in my view still needs to develop further, but I really want to see where it goes in another ten years or so.

  163. >I grew up thinking that the Japanese were pacifistic now, that WW2 changed them

    Their culture cycles from art to war and back. Right now they are in the “art” part of their cycle.

  164. Karalan, Mr. Greer,

    I think H. G. Wells is probably one of the main culprits. You look at his writings and you see the themes of a liberal/progressive world government, advocacy for atheism, a fascination with technological ‘wonder weapons’, the idea that Humanity can be perfected or that modern Humanity can be replaced with a superior humanoid species, etc…. His work The Shape of Things to Come is a good example. A bunch of technocrats use airpower to conquer the world and rescue it from a new Dark Age; destroying the remnants of the old nation states in the process. A benevolent technocratic dictatorship is set up that eliminates all languages except for English, promotes scientific materialism and outlaws religion. The people then go on to create a new race of super-humans and create a permanent utopia.

    Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, is another one of the main culprits. The idea of a universal liberal state espousing secular humanism and scientific materialism creating a post-scarcity society and conquering the stars has had a pretty big impact on a lot of imaginations in the west over the last 60 years.

  165. @Joshua #173
    “Miyazaki invented a war subplot when he adapted Howl’s Moving Castle”
    Miyazaki is an avowed pacifist and included a war subplot to deliver an anti-war message, apropos of the Iraq war.

  166. @Kimberly Steele #92 Can Autotune do extended meantone or extended just tuning? My current reading is showing me how problematic the notion of “in tune” is, especially with 3rds: These are things violin teachers don’t want you to know about or think about. Back in the day, when the harpsichord was common, and pianos hadn’t been invented, there were harpsichords with split “black-keys” so that you could choose to play, for example, either E-flat or D-sharp. Enharmonic notes? Bah!

  167. And regarding my previous post, maybe I’ll rant a little more about musical temperaments on the next open post; it probably is about as interesting to most people as the base-12 number system.

  168. @JMG,
    The counterargument is “what was the ROI of all those trillions in social spending?” (I’m relaying that, not presenting it. It’s what you’d hear from someone like John Carter on the “Postcards From Barsoom” substack, though.)
    And I know you think the economics are slam-dunk no-good, but… I’m not so sure. I talked myself _out_ of believing in man’s future in the stars by running those numbers, and while I convinced myself it can’t ever happen… they were still pretty marginal, those numbers. As in, a few better assumptions, a higher-resource starting point, and the margins work out. As I said, you would need a civilization of space cadets, for space cadets– and, yes, willing to gut the national wealth of non-space-cadets– but if said civilization made the effort, I think they could potentially had a weakly positive ROI on space solar power and asteroid metals. Maybe. As I said, it’s marginal… and not worth arguing about, because we’re too far into resource constraints to even try. There’s no chance we could build out such hideously expensive new infrastructure when we’re already having to catabolize what we have. Functionally, we agree that the Space Age is a dying beast. The dream, though…

    That dream could be deep trouble. Think of those young men who are ready to die under the Double Headed Eagle. Imagine an iron-pumping, pale-skinned basement-dweller. Maybe he can’t get into a good college, or he did and make use of his degree because of DEI. He sees his identity and ancestral culture vilified on the daily. Those could perhaps have been born, except… except his dream has been killed, as well. It’s a toxic headspace to get into, but just imagine for a moment that you’re stuck in life, vilified, and that you really did believe that we could have had that glorious future in the stars, but that we sold it for social spending on a the endlessly replicating horde of [redacted]s. Can you imagine the resentment that would breed? Could you imagine the horrors that that young man could unleash, in his resentment? Trump barely scratched the surface of it and they hailed him as God Emperor. A REAL authoritarian populist could unleash hell on earth with men like that. You’re right to lose sleep. I do.

    While I understand the toxic headspace of the frustrated space cadet all-too-well… I haven’t come up with an alternative to offer those men. I have no other story to tell. (Retrotopia is the best alternative I’ve ever seen, and I thank you for it.)

    I just hope that “racist incel space cadet” is a tiny enough minority even amongst resentful young men that they won’t set the tone for the authoritarian populism ahead. On the other hand, there weren’t very many Bolsheviks in terms of raw numbers and look how they made out…

    (Apologies if this turns out to be a double-post. Had a computer hiccup that seemed to have ‘eaten’ my first response so I rewrote it. This version is probably better anyway.)

  169. Other Owen asks a fair question, why vote in a rigged system? The best answer I can think of is that it notifies the ruling class that their policies are not working. Even though they have rigged the system, they do know the real vote counts. If you don’t vote then they think their policies are at least tolerable.

    If you vote against them there is a chance of a 2016 election upset. There is also a risk that if they push too hard with the rigging they will get caught. The conspiracy theory was that the voting machines only added to the D side votes if the margin was within a half a percent. They have not dared to create a 90% victory margin even with a lapdog media.

    If there is no feedback to the ruling class at all the alternative is that armed revolution becomes inevitable. The collapse of the Soviet Union was remarkable for the lack of bloodshed, it’s not the usual case.

  170. @Logo Dau, Another favorite during my school years was dragon ball, and i think it matches your assertions , because along all it’s violence, the values of Sacrifice and Redemption run through the core of it’s narrative. Doubtless the soul of many kids were attracted to those values, that were lacking in the rest of our fiction.

    I reviewed some chapters of Dragon ball some years ago, and i realized that one of the unmentioned powers of Son Goku is that of turning his enemies first into rivals, and then into friends or at the very least allies. It’s a very diferent view from their western counterpart of the unredeemable, all-evil dark lord.

  171. Mr. House, I’ll put it on the rather large stack of things I have to make time to read…

    Justin, I’m about to reread The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, with an eye toward an upcoming post. There’s a metaphor involving Perky Pat that needs fleshing out.

    Smith, Marx said that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. As usual, he got it wrong; sometimes the farce comes first.

    John, the Atheist Assemblies in Retrotopia were inspired partly by the better end of Unitarian Universalism and partly by the way that so many atheists have made a civil religion out of their beliefs. Glad to hear you’ll be writing a story on a similar theme — it has ample room for exploration.

    Ecosophian, that’s the secret weapon of the fringe thinker. It’s not even the mainstream of the intelligentsia that matters — it’s little groups out on the margins that embrace things first, and amplify them throughout society.

    Karalan, I’ll be talking in an upcoming post about whose imaginative creations have driven us to the brink. As for the future, it’s only in the delusions of true believers in progress that humanity learns from its mistakes, so of course the future will have its own mistakes to make and its own declines and collapses to experience.

  172. @JPM #155: I’ll try to hold my comments about “Three Californias” for open post. But as far as the intriguing, “which PKD novels does JMG like to re-read” guessing game, I’d guess “Valis,” “Ubik,” or “The Man in the HIgh Castle.” Even though I thought he’d made it clear in the past that he didn’t like PKD at all.

  173. Several commenters remarked on technology and business issues. It seems “industrial” is too small a word for what we’re moving past, according to the current essay. What’s breaking apart, what’s soon “post,” is not just technology. It’s the agreements for groups to make up a cohesive society. Not just industry, but the level of interpersonal cooperation that makes industry possible.

    It seems to me the current split of the United Methodist Church is an example of this social fragmentation process, even though they don’t own factories or AI data centers. It feels like a preview in some ways of the national breakup described in “Retrotopia.”

    (@JMG this immediately came to my mind as a current, dramatic, big example of your fragmenting conflict of visions theme, as I read your essay. I can repost snippet size if required, but hope this is a coherent sized telling.)

    John Wesley founded Methodism in the mid 1700s as a reform movement in the Church of England. He wanted to reform, rather than split. He taught that schisms are destructive. Christian theology and social justice were both very important to him.
    In 1968, Methodist groups merged to form the United Methodist Church. Recently UMC was the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., with 30,000 churches all around the country. With five million members in the U.S., most Americans know a Methodist. There might be one reading this blog right now!

    Individual local churches affiliate with the denomination through contracts and a shared rule book. A cycle of conventions provides opportunities to revise the rules every few years. The pandemic interrupted the normal timeline.

    In a process both sides agree has been contentious and heartbreaking, over 6,000 congregations have paid a substantial amount of money to get out of UMC, before a controversial exit window closes at the end of 2023. The payments reimbursed or bought out denominational ownership of church real estate and pension funds. In some cases it took a lawsuit to reach an expensive settlement.
    The split was very different across the country. Only two churches in Vermont left, but about half the 750 churches in western North Carolina left.

    Other denominations have been shaken or even torn apart by the same core issues – Quakers, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, United Church of Christ – with some denominational splits, but none on this big a scale.

    Of all the people I always expected since childhood to stay within the big tent and work things out, Methodists were right up there.
    This seems like a perfect example of how the classic American attitude, “we’re all in this together, so we’ll make it work,” has fragmented in my lifetime to “I can’t take your craziness anymore, we’re out of here!”
    It seems the peak of the former attitude was WWII. The counterculture and the establishment of the 1960s both thought in terms of the big unified society, they just disagreed about what it should be.
    It seems this fragmentation got underway in the early 1970s, and had huge acceleration into the last couple of decades, when it’s been so damaging in most of mainline Protestantism.

    I’d like to say a bit more about why the split happened, and what seems next for both sides.

  174. Phew, there’s a lot of interesting conversation emerging in this week’s comments. I’ve had to go through them rather too quickly to absorb & properly digest everything but here are a few thoughts. JMG & commentariat feel free to respond.

    – re: WH40K. Hehehehe, in terms of Games Workshop, I was an early-adopter of AD&D in the 80s, and in my very early teens was the first person ever to place an order for GW’s magazine ‘White Dwarf’ at my local newsagents. They’d never heard of it, and it wasn’t in their distributor’s catalogue. There was, however, a porn mag of the same name, it turned out. Discussions ensued, shall I say. I’m going to call that on-topic, because for over a decade now we seem to have been living in a society where moral perfection is both expected and demanded, not just now but always. Those that can be shown to once have been less than morally perfect are to be cancelled, deplatformed, and publicly shamed, presumably to further the emergence of a more perfect future which is never defined lest it serve to disqualify any of its prophets. Perhaps the appeal of WH40K is that it permits one to be flawed while defending an imperfect vision, because that’s just the best that can be done?

    – In the past week, two trips I embarked on (to Owain Glyndŵr’s estate of Sycharth, and to St Winifrede’s Well, where I had intended to take the waters) were prevented by failures of public transport due to weather.. Discussing these events with strangers, several people said openly that it feels like things are falling apart. This seems to be an incredibly widespread sentiment, as if people are now increasingly daring to say out loud something that previously has only been said within trusted circles. As the US is shown on the world stage – particularly publicly in the Red Sea, I feel – to be all hat and no cattle, as I believe the idiom goes (the British equivalent is, I think, ‘all fur coat and no knickers’) then belief in the system could shatter very quickly indeed. I don’t know what might replace it, at least here in the UK.

    – Speaking of which, I see that the US, UK and the EU are still talking up the transfer of Russia’s frozen assets to Ukraine.. Our leaders are still living in a dream world, one in which they are the masters of the universe. The Russians are making it clear that this would be a monumentally bad idea. I shudder to think what would happen to western economies if Russia simply announced “That’s it. As of tonight, there will be no more trade of any kind between us”.

    – On which note, I don’t think there’s any way, short of the west launching a nuclear war, in which Putin does not go down in history as ‘the Great’, following Peter and Catherine.

  175. @Christopher from California, #145
    Please, let me help you move the goal post a few yards to the left… Google playbook seemed to have already been “market grab” by the time the Dot Com bubble popped. This may have to do with their taking in VC money in 1998-1999; this was used for “growth”, since the core algorithm was developed as the PhD thesis of the founders and they already had incorporated the company using seed money from family, friends and a few SV insider investors. (as recounted in
    You should probably also check the browser wars of the 90s, between Microsoft and a now defunct company called Netscape.

    And, to make this not 100% off-topic. Please let me share how the hacker culture was hijacked to the service of corporate America. After reading this essay, and the comments so far, it finally clicked into place: we were sleepwalking into a LOTR fantasy world. Microsoft was Mordor, with Bill Gates its Dark Lord and Windows the One OS to rule them all. I was a bit to young to join into the fray, but I bet those hackers saw themselves as Rohirrim riding after King Theoden’s banner into the Fields of Pelennor. Then, when the Ring was cast into the fires of Mounth Doom, it is as if Sauron decided to cut his loses and go back to his 2nd Age Numenor persona, each Nazgul grabbing a piece of Mordor, devolving the whole into a bunch of warring Ork Stateletts… and then fracking Gandalf pulling a Saruman, put Aragorn into a spell and grabbed the Throne of Gondor for himself. It was inconceivable that there was not a One Dark Lord, but a Myriad of Darkish Lords-with-Little-L. And we were doing their binding all along!!!

  176. I want to put up the poor whitetrash, not racist but contending with being in spaces where black men are having real power, outlaws linked to illicit trade against the WD40 racist incel space cadets any day. Championed by Eminem in the urban north and say yela wolf in the rural Deep South, Prof in the rural lakes region. I mean I guess every action has the seed of its reaction implicit and obviously the incel space cadets would prefer the team they pick but I don’t buy that the not-the-imperial-team can only be chaos itself.

    Slumerican means
    Slum American breed
    Gutter raised with worldwide dreams, yeah
    Put your hands to the sky
    I’m a bullet in the barrel with a hair pin trigger now
    Yeah I’m a landslide
    I’m a head case train wreck avalanche comin’ down
    Put your hands to the sky
    I’m a ready made party
    I’m whiskey in a bottle now

  177. Mr. Greer, et alia ..

    Off topic:

    1.) Hope everyone had a pleasant solstice. May you all grow great things as the days lengthen – spiritually.. metaphorically.. or just plain horticulturally.
    2.) Looks like the Supremes just gave s. p. Jack@$$ Smith, and by association the Biden admin A. G., a big phat smackdown!

    Obi Don de Orange, you’re our only hope. ‘;]

  178. @Tyler A: The “the trillions that went missing as foreign aid” seem very underwhelming as an explanation of why the space age has come to an end. As JMG pointed out above, up to 15% of the US federal government’s budget went towards putting men on the moon. Putting them on Mars would have taken even more. Foreign aid, as has been frequently deplored, has always been less than 1% of that same budget. The numbers just don’t add up. This is just one aspect of JMG’s more general point that space exploration would have bankrupted any country.

    Note that I don’t make any claim about the desirability or effectiveness of government-funded foreign aid.

  179. >The best answer I can think of is that it notifies the ruling class

    They know what you think. They don’t care. Well, that’s not accurate. They do care. They hate you.

    You, me, all of us little people. Hillary said the quiet part out loud in 2016.

    I’ll say this. First candidate that survives a credible attempt on his life, gets my vote. I’ll get up and vote for him. Must be credible, not theatrics. They do love their punch and judy shows.

  180. >we were sleepwalking into a LOTR fantasy world. Microsoft was Mordor, with Bill Gates its Dark Lord and Windows the One OS to rule them all.

    There was some sort of afterword where Tolkien commented about WW2 and whether LOTR was an allegory or not. He said something to the effect of “WW2 inspired me but LOTR wasn’t about WW2. If it was, Saruman would’ve discovered the secret to Ringmaking, forged his own Ring of Power and between Sauron and Saruman fighting each other, all the hobbits in MIddle Earth would’ve been obliterated into extinction” I guess he had strong opinions of WW2. Can’t blame him really.

    To that end, I’d modestly propose that if Microsoft is making SauronOS, then Apple is making SarumanOS and Google is busy with SharkyOS. And what hobbits are out there are having a hard time of it.

  181. @Logo Dau #143: I do not consider myself a conservative, but I agree with you that American and Western media tend to depict fathers as bumbling idiots (or as remote egotists). In fact, I get the impression that married men and women in general are depicted as clueless and pathetic compared to singles. In “literary” books, they will rather come off as dull and uninspiring compared to singles. The exception are sugary “famiiy movies” and “cozy” romances that nobody risks confounding with reality.

    Now of course marriage and parenthood is not perpetual bliss. The question is about showing also examples of dignified efforts, not only the less noble exemplars.

  182. The EU are desperate to come up with a narrative that will save them. Brexit has rattled them as the sky didn’t fall in on the UK. They are spending a lot of money on posters promoting themselves, ie, faceless bureaucrats in Ireland and maybe elsewhere? The message is “Freedom, Peace & Energy Independence. You are Europe” with a kid touching a solar panel.

    Firstly, the EU doesn’t offer freedom, it offers obedience and conformity or else! It also doesn’t offer peace, as the Russians discovered when the EU deliberately sabotaged peace talks but strung them out long enough for Ukraine to be armed by both them and the USA. Also, see Gaza. It also doesn’t offer Energy Independence either as they have turned a blind eye to the US blowing up the Nordsteam pipeline. The Germans are now paying 4 times as much for energy (and so it everyone else in the EU probably) because of that and the Americans are only too happy to sell fracked fuel at an exorbitant cost.

    The poster seems a bit desperate to me. Here it is.

    The masses in Ireland believe this nonsense though but there’s clearly a fear that the fictional ‘far right’ that the establishment hates might be gaining ground. My vision would be for sovereignty but without warmongering. The EU schtick is that without it, WW3 would break out again. I suppose what is needed is more countries to leave the EU, without any WW3 breaking out and then people finally get the memo?

  183. 林龜儒, well, we’ll have to wait and see, now won’t we? 😉

    Eike, many thanks for the data point. Interesting that the same metaphor should occur in such very different cultures.

    Joe, funny.

    Beige, have you read Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun series? To my mind that’s up there with Dune as an example of future fantasy. There used to be an entire genre of science fantasy, which combined fantastic elements with futuristic settings — mostly forgotten now that fantasy inevitably means capes and broadswords, and science fiction inevitably means gizmocentric space empires.

    JustMe, glad to hear both of these.

    Martin, so it’s simply the addition of some game theory to a prediction engine. Got it.

    xDiablo, I’d argue that you’re mistaken. It’s worth noting, for example, that the epic of Gilgamesh still makes sense as a story to readers after five thousand years and extraordinary cultural changes, and follows narrative patterns that many writers still use today; it’s equally worth noting that a gringo like me can read the Tale of Genji or the Popol Vuh and appreciate them as robust, interesting, appealing stories. I’d argue, in fact, that many of the core structures of storytelling are hardwired into our brains. That being the case, the structural elements are extremely flexible, and can be used to carry whatever content one is capable of crafting. (Thank you for the translation, btw — I appreciate being able to read and respond to your comment.)

    Other Owen, now reread that word “ritual” and think about what it means.

    GlassHammer, the next step is to imagine alternatives to bureaucracy!

    Mary, that’s exactly it, and it’s not just our leadership that has the problem. It’s not just that he’s not our notion of a leader, either. Most Americans literally can’t imagine the leader of an opposing nation, or even a candidate of the rival party in their own nation, without seeing him as Blorg the Bad, Evil Lord of Evilness. That someone like Putin might have valid reasons for opposing us — not “he’s evil for the sake of evil,” not even “he must have had a horrible childhood that warped him,” but calm, reasonable, appropriate reasons to draw a hard line against the global ambitions of a rival nation — is unthinkable to most of us. That ghastly disease of the imagination may well lead this country to its doom.

    Stephen, thanks for this. Yes, that makes enormous sense.

    Forecasting, thanks for this! I’ve bookmarked it for a prompt and close reading.

    Karl Grant, I’d agree with both of those — but of course it was also the fact that both Wells and Roddenberry attracted a great many fans, and quite a few of these turned into fanatic true believers.

    Phutatorius, I’ll look forward to it. Did you know that I own a monochord — the old-fashioned kind that Pythagoras used, not the modern misnamed instrument — and I’m not afraid to use it?

    Tyler, of course it can never actually be settled one way or another. You’re right, though, that one of the core requirements right now is a different set of dreams. Hmm…

    Christopher, I expect to see a lot more of this as things continue to unfold. There’s an economic subtext to the move toward division. It makes sense to all work together if it means that everyone’s going to get a share of a bigger pie; once the pie begins to shrink, it makes more sense to force a hard division so that you don’t face constant forkful-by-forkful squabbles about who gets what.

    Bogatyr, I hope the icons a thousand years from now have him riding on a bear. 😉

    Polecat, the real struggle is going on in school boards and state legislatures, and the populist right is winning. Trump’s a fine distraction, keeping the political class obsessed about the Orange Julius while the foundations of their power are cut away from beneath a little at a time.

    Bridge, somebody might consider putting up posters in exactly the same font saying WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. You’re right that the fact that these posters are going up shows that the establishment is running scared.

  184. A year ago I decamped from the USA to a life in South East Asia. Upon being back for the holidays, I am still stunned by the material abundance present in the USA. However, one thing I want to note is that your characterization of poverty being primarily a “material condition” is, I think, false.
    The biggest factor in perceived poverty in my eyes is “how insane” you are (or those around you are). That is why when we look back at the Great Depression when people were surely thrust into material hardship, it doesn’t “feel” like the kind of drug addled, theivery and street assault that we think of as poverty today. We can make excuses that these are connected to material hardship, but then would we accept most of the developing world to be such a mess, or hope that they hold themselves to higher standards?

    In poor countries and poor conditions a population with a strong culture can “keep things together” and turn whatever patch of land they are on into a thriving, attractive place to live. In South East Asia in particular this is evidenced by the Chinese communities that even in the face of pogroms by the locals built up wealth and stability in areas where they settled. (Albeit, with their own non-Western aspects that I find to be slightly dehumanizing toward their fellow man.)

    As you say, politics is downstream of culture, and upon my return to the West Coast, I feel that the culture is indeed slipping. The lack of a strong culture of “responsibility and authority” has led to the proliferation of “no one being in charge” which causes things to go to the dogs, and many people to be frazzled, with no one to count on or no reason to care about upholding society.

    As you say, culture is downstream from imagination, and oddly enough WH40k has been one of the few models for me the past couple years to regain sanity in my own personal life. It has even led me to being conversion to my ancestors’ religion of Catholicism as a bulwark against the rising tide of techno-societal Chaos (although I still incorporate Golden-Dawn / Druidic practices syncretically). While there are many paradoxes and seeming inconsistencies involved in the Church, I do enjoy it as a restabilizing force. Sure, you can call it the “Second Religiosity”, but if we are going to have a template for re-civilizing the West, we could do worse than finding a fusion of what worked in the past and shaming/pointedly-ignoring the idiots of today.

  185. JMG # 198 The United Methodist Church split wasn’t about not enough turkey to go around the table. It was a lot about who was family at the table and how to say grace. The split is basically from the “conservative,” theology focused side of the denomination feeling that UMC was taken over by the “liberal,” social justice focused side.

    Conservatives felt liberals were abandoning the fundamental tenets of Christian faith to accept weird heresies, while turning the UMC into a Social Justice club of “woke” ideology. If congregations can’t agree about the meaning of Christ, why even call it a united, Christian church?
    Conservatives thought the social issues shouldn’t be made the denominational platform, but up to individual churches or members. Or, worse, that the liberal faction tried to bring on board arrogant sins and hubris, with no rightful place within Methodism’s doctrinal integrity going back to John Wesley.

    Liberals felt they were upholding Methodism’s renowned social justice concerns going back to John Wesley. If the denomination could unite on loving others and doing good to their neighbors as Jesus taught, isn’t there plenty of room for a variety of minor doctrinal variations on the theology side?

    The flashpoint was same-sex marriage and openly homosexual ministers. The rule book disallows these. Liberals wanted to open a conversation about updating the rules. Meanwhile some liberal churches offered same-sex weddings and had queer ministers, and got away with it without having the rulebook thrown at them.

    A few years ago, I participated in (but didn’t get around to joining) a Methodist church where the worship music director was a lesbian, openly devoted to her wife. Since denominational politics isn’t my thing, I didn’t realize at the time she was flaunting the rules, with full awareness of the local senior pastor and board, and of the denomination.

    Most of the conservative one-third or so of UMC paid to get out of UMC. Half of the leaving congregations have joined a newly created Global Methodist Church, which is basically a copy and paste of UMC’s structure and rules, with a few changes. GMC has very clearly conservative stands supporting traditional Christian theology creeds, and disapproving of homosexuality.
    Some reforms to the structure of the GMC’s denominational beauracracy include making it easy for churches to leave GMC if they wish. There are also term limits on some governance positions, and a few other changes.

    The same issues drove the other splits I mentioned in the largest 20th century mainline denominations. In some cases with people on both sides so sad, now that those intolerant extremists tore apart the beloved religious community. And now half of them have to find a new building on the next block. If it was about the money, they’d have all done much better to stay together.

  186. @JMG,
    “I own a monochord and I’m not afraid to use it”?
    Thanks for the laugh. I like the comment section here.

  187. Hey JMG

    I am glad and surprised that you thought so highly of my insight into Borges, one of many actually. As regards the failure of the Dozenalist society to remake the world, compared with the success of Tolkien and WH40K, I think we can all agree that the former failed due to focusing on the one subject most people generally avoid thinking and caring too much about, Math.
    That being said, the obsession with Base-12 does seem to endure in sparse populations of intellectuals, in fact I’m sure that the Elvish language of Tolkien uses Base-12 numerals, and Olaf Stapledon mentions his Third race using it also. I myself was briefly obsessed with it in my youth, and I still count on my fingers in the Base-12 way, using the phalange of each finger as the Tibetans apparently do.
    If you and others are interested you can look at the Dozenalist website here;

  188. A bit off-topic for today, but I ran into a data point I thought people might want to see:

    So malnourished children and children with legs bowed from rickets are showing up in UK schools now. Also some severely malnourished kids, a lot of sick kids, teeth falling out, a lot of undersized children, and there are concerns about stunting.

    I mentally associate rickets with the Victorian era. Severe Vitamin D deficiency causing bowed legs, soft bones and fragile bones that break easily.

    Poverty does tend to cause hunger and ill-health even in wealthy countries, but it sounds to me like poverty may have hit some sort of inflection point in the UK with regard to poor children, food intake and malnutrition.

  189. I have to say my opinion of Putin is vastly different from just about anyone I know…

    In NZ where the majority of NZers have little understanding of Russia or Putin, if you ever bring up Russia you will instantly be hit with; I hate Putin, Putin is evil…..In my sons school I heard a group of 9-12yr olds going on about how they want to kill Russians….it was scary…I actually challenged the boys and said why would you want to kill Russians??? do you know any???

    youll get this or a less visceral response from even so called educated professionals….who are really have no knowledge of Russia or Russians….I was in the British Army for 10yrs or so….and being based in the UK I was always amazed at the vitriol towards Putin….their was a space in this hatred- It was when Putin was on time Magazine…this was prior to the Georgian War in 2008…I think in 2007….

    The way I look at it all the quantitative metrics for Russia, personal wealth,levels of national debt, reduction in mortality, levels of corruption (Id term regulatory capture as corruption by the way…)stabilization of the downwards demographic trend (maybe this is contentious but Id wager its improved over Putins time in office….)…all the same metrics if applied honestly to western countrys are getting worse….

    But people just will not listen….they are thoroughly brainwashed…..its very similar to COVID and the mandates…what suprises me even more is even those few I know who did see thru the mandates at the time (say 5-10% then but larger now…) still retain this warped view of Putin and Russia…..even though they know they where fed BS about COVID and mandates they will believe what they hear about Russia and other subjects…I really cant understand it……

  190. Phutatorius, I’ll look forward to it. Did you know that I own a monochord — the old-fashioned kind that Pythagoras used, not the modern misnamed instrument — and I’m not afraid to use it?

    Very cool. Yes, but you can’t do harmony on a monochord. A fretless mountain dulcimer would allow greater experimentation. Here’s a little preview for those who are interested:

  191. Mr. Greer,
    Yeah, I’m with ya there.. however, in my little speck of the world, all things still have that woke(ish) vibe we….. at least where the our local um ‘corpserate’ snooze rag is CONserned. Our district HouseRep (D Idiot) has decided to call it quitso – ‘the need to spend neede moarrrr time with family’ is mentioned. Note: this guy vote on entirely partisan lines.. at least where demoncrat ‘social issues stand (me thinks he sees the writing on the wall) – so, to me that is an indication that cracks within the neoliberal sphere are showing, however slightly the fissures appear presently. It’s rather interesting to see who’$ throwing Their hat into that vacated ring.

    All of this reminds me of a supposed utterance made by the Emperor Clavdius, shortly before his death (with noted license via the BBC mini series from back in the day) “Let all of the things that lurk in the mud .. Hatch Out”.

  192. @Aldarion,
    I admit, not being American, I don’t know what your government spends where, so thank you for the correction. I wasn’t stating that as a factual claim; I wanted to relay the meme.

    Personally, I think the only way to pull it off would be with (as I said) a “civilization of space cadets, by space cadets, for space cadets”. Full court press, the economy dedicated to the Holy Cause of Space Exploration. You had 15% of the federal budget one year? Try 40 or 50% for another decade or more. Would that bankrupt the nation? Why, quite possibly! Or possibly not. It certainly would not be possible in our civilization, cutting everything else that would need to be cut to support the Holy Cause. And it’s not about cities on the moon or mars– those were always going to have to be secondary. (Costly boondoggles, most likely!) What could have (potentially) paid for the effort (as was established by the end of the 1960s) was space solar power and asteroid minerals. (We had high hopes for zero-G material processing, too, but it turns out you can figure out how to bypass almost all of those early guessed-at advantages and do it on Earth instead. Of course a civilization who went straight up Space Cadet wouldn’t _know_ that and would credit said materials processing on the balance sheet of the Holy Cause, not knowing you could do most of it on Earth.)

    Still. Your gonads don’t pay for themselves either, you know. See, this all goes back to the Gaia hypothesis and the idea that if there is such a superorganism, one can assume that by analogy it should have a reproductive drive. How could a biosphere reproduce? By seeding another elsewhere in the cosmos.

    Ultimately what we are discussing is a dream, not a business plan. You’re not going to talk people out of it, not many anyway. The (in)famous quote “the facts don’t care about your feelings” is equally true in the inverse: “your feelings don’t care about the facts.”

    So I cannot help but grieve for a future that never was, and very likely never could have been. I’ve done the math. My feelings don’t care about the facts, so I grieve.

    Spare not a thought for my grief, though; it is immaterial. The worry should be about those who do not grieve, but rage. You cannot reason with their rage. I hope they are a tiny minority that I only notice because of the bubble effect. My fear is that there may be just enough of them to kindle the fires of hell on earth.

    (and if not them, what other currents of resentment and rage are outside of my bubble and yours that may just bubble over one of these days?)

    WH40K has little to do with the racist incel space cadets, except that they might be drawn to the imagery like many young men who are neither racist nor involuntarily celibate. Indeed, I played WH40K with wannabe Eminems, back in the day. (Our adolescent attempts at rap do not bear repeating.) The fashy types love the Imperium of Man, sure, but it’s not the only game in town; I think the energy of the multiracial urban youth is captured very well by the Orks.

  193. Sounds great, John, will do. I wouldn’t want to throw a wrench into this conversation.

    On a more on-topic matter, I’ve certainly noticed the phenomenon of how fringe culture can catch on and eventually penetrate the mainstream. I’ve found that at that critical point, the ideas promoted by the formerly fringe culture either transform society, or are co-opted by society and transmuted into a form that is inoffensive to the dominant paradigm.

    One example is how Marxism began as a fringe idea, but went mainstream in some societies, leading to transformations. (we all know how that went) In other societies such as in academia in the west, Marxism has been absorbed and transmuted into a form that is mostly inoffensive to the liberal hegemony.

  194. “Kevin, I’m tempted to quote Roger Zelazny and ask if it has taken you seventeen incarnations to arrive at this truth. 😉”

    Far more than that I fancy, and that’s just at the human level of evolution.

    The tricky bit, it seems to me, is to create one’s Tlön without attempting to manipulate or dominate the audience in the way that Tolkien attributed to and disliked in allegory, and in a manner consistent with artistic integrity, with one’s own vision. It seems to me that to set oneself this task might be about simple as saying, “I will take the ring to Mordor, though I do not know the way,” and then attempting to do that. The necessary follow-up may prove to be a significant challenge.

  195. JMG, I hear you on Tolkiens influence, but am not convinced he is understood so well in pop culture. He would be horrified at the Ukraine war, although perhaps, like the dwarves of thorins company, he’s strictly speaking liable for the whole Laketown sequel. However he can be understood in terms of deep time and also, universal redemption, or reread in such terms. I’ve been trying to do that actually, weed out Piscean literal tropes and all, or at least reframe them. His letters make it clear he saw the dividing line of evil run through the heart. I think it’s there, but you’re right he went with Piscean trappings that lend themselves to misunderstanding

  196. JMG, I am looking forward eagerly to your “three stigmata of J R R Tolkien”. Now I can’t get the image of Frodo with a mechanical eye and robotic claw out of my head… At least it isn’t Valis – poor Frodo as Horselover Fat would be quite a mashup.

    I have always been puzzled by the popularity of LotR – I thought The Hobbit was a solid, entertaining, and amusing story, but LotR got increasingly turgid and self-important.

    I am bemused to see you bring up 40K. My experience with it was quite negative, on two fronts – as a historical wargamer I found the mechanics of the game to bear no relation to actual tactics of any period I could discern, and the proprietary nature of the game (use our minis or else! and we will feel free to make your existing armies obsolete with our next release (see: the Squats, 40K’s long lost dwarf analogues)). The proprietary bit really bothered me – historical gamers happily mix figures from many manufacturers, and many sci-fi games like Stargrunt encouraged the same. The cruft never appealed to me either but to each their own.

  197. @Bogatyr

    Yes, I hope Putin is remembered larger in life than he really was – a shirtless hero riding into town on a bear, ready to hear the lamentations of the oligarchs.

  198. Regarding the Hunger Games: I read that serious right around the time that I discovered JMG’s writing and had learned all about peak oil and all the resource depletion and such. Always found it interesting that a story like that blew up as much as it did, cause it definitely struck a chord as the 20 year old I was at the time.

    Something about it has definitely lodged in the unconscious parts of my mind. I can’t help but look at how US politics has progressed since it came out and trying to view everything from a “Coin” vs “Snow” standpoint. Which is to say “everyone is crooked but beware the ones that aren’t rubbing their crookedness in your face”. *Especially* during the 2020 election and watching the inauguration of the current administration, the “shiny, beautiful, peaceful, look how much better things are now” imagery very specifically brought that duality to mind. I asked my wife if she was thinking the same thing and she said “…oh my god you’re right!”.

    If we have an entire generation of people, at least in this country (cause I can’t speak for the others) who has read this series and immediately looks at American politics and views our major parties as reflective of Coin and Snow?! We’re doomed! Or at least our current social arrangement…

  199. I confess I’m not up to re-imagining the world the way that political philosophers or sci-fi writers have done. I read a few blurbs about the Levellers and it seems to me that some of their thinking was based in material needs and wants. So do we all want a vote in the conduct of public affairs? Surely. Do we want to be treated equally under the law? Of course. Without regard to wealth and office and position? You bet.

    I remember reading that one of the innovations of the ancient Jews was to regard individual human life as invaluable and irreplaceable such that the life of a king or aristocrat had no more worth in God’s eyes than the life of a leper or beggar. Pie in the sky? No doubt. But maybe the thinking of the Levellers drew on this ancient religious belief.

    Where I’m going with this is that maybe the reimagining that could be right now taking shape in the misery of an Asian shantytown or a west coast homeless encampment will be based on a pre-existing tradition.

    What is readily apparent is that we are neck deep in trouble. The DOJ seems more committed to the obstruction of justice than in it’s administration, edu-crats are busily and expensively not educating, Wall Street flenses wealth from the rest of us like blubber from a whale, court systems are so ludicrously ponderous and expensive as to put basic justice out of reach for just about everyone. Does a maximum price and minimum wage economy have a hope in Hades of functioning? Of course not.

    So maybe never mind pre-existing and age-old ways of thinking. Maybe the reimagining will have at its core the here-and-now of simple practicality ie do what actually works for a change.

    The issue of course is sheer scale. Where do you lay your hands? Well, you have to start somewhere. So maybe start with something simple like giving kids homework and making sure they do it. In this, ignore the teachers. Leave them out of it. They will fight you tooth-and-nail. Do it yourself.

  200. @JMG: I hope this is not way off topic. You say that you’re baffled at how Hunger Games movies were greenlit. For me, the bafflement comes from the approval of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. The original book was a thinly veiled satire about The British Empire, and Spielberg’s movie is set on the United States…

  201. Griff, you’re conflating poverty with social decay. I’m referring to Great Depression-variety poverty — you know, simple lack of material resources. Yes, I do indeed call what you’re doing an expression of the Second Religiosity, but that’s not a putdown — it’s the normal response of people in a crumbling society who turn to what worked in the past to try to shore up their worlds.

    Christopher, well, I don’t follow the internal politics of Methodists, but I think you’ve misunderstood my point. It’s a matter of historical record that in times when societies are expanding in wealth and power, the One Big Tent approach is popular, while when contraction sets in, so does fragmentation. Make of that what you will.

    Pygmycory, just one of the services I offer.

    J.L.Mc12, well, of course — you’re not J.L.Mc10, after all. 😉

    Pygmycory, ouch! That’s really unwelcome to hear. Inevitable, no doubt, but unwelcome.

    Kiwigaz, I’ll be discussing that in an upcoming post, but yeah, I’ve seen the same Two Minutes Hate, and it’s a reflection of a spectacularly counterproductive habit of thought.

    Phutatorius, of course not. You use the monochord to tune a zither — one of which I also have.

    Polecat, Claudius was underrated!

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Enjoyer, of course! Every idea has a shelf life, and every idea eventually decays. That’s why it’s so important to keep new notions flowing.

    Kevin, yes, exactly.

    Celadon, oh, good heavens, none of this is Tolkien’s fault. He set out to write a particular kind of story, and had no idea that it would become a central metaphor among people who loathed everything he actually stood for. More on this in a later post.

    Isaac, I’ll be interested to see what you think of the post. As for Warhammer, oh, granted — it’s the social impact of the thing, not the franchise itself, that interests me.

    Deathcap, fascinating. Yes, that makes sense.

    Smith, and that’s also a necessary approach. Me, I like to write and a chapter of accidents put me in a situation where the things I write can occasionally have an impact on some people’s thinking, so I focus on the things that I can so.

    Anonymous, I’m not familiar with the Spielberg movie — I never found his films interesting — but that’s an intriguing point.

  202. JMG, thanks for that. I look forward to the posts. Tolkien has many faults, but it’s his poetic power that chiefly interests me. Since he already has a potent following and is turning into something of an archetype himself, I have been doing my best to point out some potentialities in that. I always took his “I’m on the side of the trees” as the most literal thing I’ve read from him. And he had not, I think, totally forgotten the “Secret Fire” teachings, which harmonize pretty nicely with St. Maximos (and his doctrine of the logoi/Logos). Anyway, I’ve put some of it online, here:! Since Tolkien is going to be passed on, an esoteric dive into his works (admittedly theologically framed), might not go amiss. Thank you for all you do.

  203. Tyler A.,

    Even if the economics worked out for a base on the moon or Mars, that would still not be a future among the stars. It would be the more expensive and useless version of a base in Antarctica.
    Since there is no faster-than-light travel, and no place in the solar system except Earth is habitable, you might as well accept that space-based sci-fi is as realistic as Harry Potter or the X—men, and on top of that, it’s incredibly anthropocentric and hubristic.
    Sorry to sound a bit hostile, but deep space travel is such a 20th century idea, and wholly founded on mistaken assumptions, that I‘ve come to find it flat-earth-level absurd. Ever since the space probes have disproved early sci-fi‘s ideas about the solar system, and spaceship stories had to be set in deep space for believability’s sake, it has been fueled 100% by fiction and 0% by actual knowledge about space and engineering.

    Regarding the idea of Gaia‘s seeds: If those exist, the likeliest candidates would be fungal spores and bacteria. That is, life forms that actually have something resembling adaptions for deep space conditions.

    Guillem, JMG

    Dragon Ball brings another manga to mind: One Piece is incredibly popular in its comic book and cartoon form, and recently, Netflix did the unlikely and produced a live action adaptation of it that fans liked (they achieved that by involving the author and hiring people who like the source material) and that even spoke to newcomers to the extent that it’s their most successful show yet.

    I mention that because, while the world it is set in is very corrupt and unjust, the main character Monkey D. Luffy defies that darkness and brings about a revolution for the better through his virtues of truthfulness, loyalty, and, most of all, faith in his own dream (and lots of fights, naturally). The whole story is a joyful, positive, exciting ode to the power of individual integrity.
    Seeing the Netflix adaptation and reading about its success, I got some hope that this story might inspire people as well. The world could surely need a few Luffys.

  204. @Bogatyr #189

    >In the past week, two trips I embarked on (to Owain Glyndŵr’s estate of Sycharth, and to St Winifrede’s Well, where I had intended to take the waters) were prevented by failures of public transport…

    My recent train trip across South Germany and Austria showed a similar deterioration. Public infrastructure in Munich, particularly the metro system (U-Bahn) and suburban rail (S-Bahn) was unexpectedly shabby with panels missing from walls and electronic indicators broken. This in one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest nation in the EU. If anything the cross country trains were worse with multiple delays and cancellations on every leg of the journey.
    It’s a stark contrast from the situation in the 80s when I lived in the area. I don’t think it’s mere nostalgia but my recollection is that trains were rarely off timetable by more than 30 seconds. The U-Bahn looked like it came from the future!

  205. @JMG, yes, Gene Wolf’s novels were the only ones I could think of other than Dune in terms of future fantasy. My wife was also of the opinion that the Skullduggery Pleasant novels were ones I should check out, so I will look into them as well.

    Sounds like the concept of Future Fantasy is an under exploited niche and I need to start writing down some of the thoughts I’ve been having. With Saturn in Pisces, this is a ripe time for fantasy and best to make hay while the sun shines. My idea was a post industrial world but instead of some nu-medieval post apocalyptic kind of thing but instead one where instead the process of creation went from fabricating things in a workshop or factory to instead growing things. If you wanted to be hard-SF about it, I suppose it would be wet-nanotech biofabrication.

    Technology based on natural processes, such as screens which worked by similar means to how a butterfly’s wings create vibrant colour. There’s a lot of very elegant natural processes we leave on the table and I’d like to think of what a society which integrated nature into their technology and were interested in it as a means of human flourishing instead of profit and control, would look like.

    I kinda have a suspicion that in such a setting, honey would almost be like oil. A convenient, dense liquid energy source. Well, now I know what people would fight over: The flower wars!

  206. You bet Claudius was underrated, and the movie didn’t do him justice. Neither did the Robert Graves book it was based on. His reign was one of those brief recovery periods after the misrule and downright insanity of Caligula and the free-for-all during Tiberius’ reign. However, what in the world possessed him to marry the women he did? But I’m thinking his cerebral palsy was a blessing in disguise. It saved his life during the preceding bloodbaths because everybody thought he was a joke. (And a very scholarly joke at that. If you can’t do the Course of Honor, books are your friend. It’s a pity so much of his work on the Etruscans was lost.) And – unlike Tiberius – he didn’t have the army behind him, really.

    Just my $0.02 – I do have my historical favorites – don’t get me started on Richard III. (Waves the white rose of York flag). Another good ruler who couldn’t stand up to the forces against him. In times of turmoil, nice guys not only finish last, but are eaten alive. And this was a king who was also a strong military man – in an age of knives-in-the-back.

    something about both periods rings so many bells in my head. Or is this just history as usual?

  207. @Aldarion (#156):

    According to my wife, bonobos were identified as a separate species relatively recently, and there hasn’t been as much research on their social behavior as on that of chimpanzees. But as a first impression, it does seem that dominance plays a much smaller role for them than it does for chimpanzees and for humans.

    But I don’t see how that can lead to the conclusion that “humans aren’t hardwired for any particular social arrangement, though we carry tendencies into certain directions.”

    First, hard-wiring can arise at any point in the evolution of any species, and is not entirely determined by the hard-wiring of its ancestral species. So hard-wiring for dominance could have developed independently in the evolution of humans.

    And second, given three descendant species (bonobos, chimpanzees and us) from a common ancestor, two of which agree in a detail of their hard-wiring while the third does not, it is far more parsimonious to suppose that the ancestral species had the hard-wiring of the two descendant species, rather than that of the one descendant species.

    And third, after 80-odd years of dealing with my fellow humans, it seems clear to me that most of our behavior is hard-wired, though we think it the result of our free choice. Like our host, I am not neurotypical (though I am on what seems to be another spectrum), and almost all of the behavior of almost every one of my fellow humans is counter-intuitive ot me — I can make absolutely no sense of it as anything remotely like the result of our species’ free choice and free will. Yes, humans do appear to have free will, but they also seem to hardly ever use it; it’s so much easier (and lazier) to go with their hard-wiring, or to choose randomly.

  208. Mr. Greer, that photo above of God Emperor de O’julius is a hoot!
    Were I the orange-coffed one, I’d sub-out those same Italians .. or even some Germans (They excel in good float stuff too) to replicate the above along with whomever sidekick he has picked for VP, having them ready to mount atop not the White Haus … but the Capitol Dome! Can you imagine?! After the swearing in, the cover is pulled down, whereby just the sight of such a visage causes all of the pesky blu-demoncrat orcses throughout the Realm to collapse into puffs of smoke and piles of charred bone!
    A deplorable hobbit can dream anyway..

    No worse than the current clownshow now in, urm .. ‘progress’.

  209. After reading this fabulous article (de te fabula narratur), am wondering if the fastest, safest, & most powerful way to transcend Piscean influence is to become conscious of it fully, assimilate what is good, appreciate the unique contribution, and then transform the water into wine and put in new wineskins. I think that’s what I’ve been working on, with Tolkien…that might make an interesting meditation – Tolkien as the fulfillment-end of Pisces and the emergence-dawn of Aquarius. BTW, this article is fantastic – you don’t just tell, you show, how one moves from one grand narrative, to the next, not through hatred, but the reconciliation that leads to letting go, and moving on to the new Life that is always springing. Sometimes, there are large shifts! Hence, the “new world”…

  210. Try to ignore evil rather than actively combat it.

    Book idea:

    A fantasy novel where the dark lord gets to do what he / she / they/them want, and nobody pays any fracking attention. Slowly there sorceries wither them away, like a lonely incel whose etheric charge has been sapped by fap.

    Like a parent who warns his child about a lecherous priest, the adults give a reminder to the kids to not go near the scorched tower deep in the woods.

    “Hey kids, stay away from that geezer.”

    But generally tgey arent too worried because his strength has dissipated building tricorder death beams, that always serm to blow up and backfire.

    Bored with this, the story moves along to explore other themes…

  211. JMG,
    I want to bring to your attention another gaming franchise that greatly influences young people’s imagination. It’s a series of video games, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you never heard of it, but nonetheless it is very popular, right there with the Warhammer franchise. It even has its own Psykers.
    Here’s a quote from TV Tropes:
    “Fallout is a series of pulp Science Fiction Western RPGs, originally owned and published by Interplay and Black Isle and currently owned by Bethesda…with over 50 million game copies sold since the series began in 1997. The games involve adventures in the post-apocalyptic United States of a retro-futuristic Alternate History — a Crapsaccharine World that never quite got over The ’50s, powered by Atomic Energy and filled with Moral Myopia.
    After World War II, the United States became an okay place to live. The shift towards nuclear energy gave way to technological wonders previously relegated to science fiction, from robot butlers to wrist-mounted computers. Unfortunately, the good times would not last: this inefficient technology depleted fossil fuels … causing massive “resource wars” in the early-mid 21st century. In 2066, China and the United States clashed over the Alaskan oil fields, leading to an 11 year military conflict between the two superpowers… then, on October 23, 2077, somebody – nobody is entirely sure who – ordered a nuclear launch. And once one missile was fired, everyone else responded in kind.
    The resulting “Great War” lasted a mere two hours, but the atomic fire that burned the world was so incredibly destructive that it caused the total collapse of global civilization. Across the United States, pockets of humanity survived the bombs, either on the surface, in personal shelters, or by hiding in the Vaults: massive underground bunkers built by the Vault-Tec Corporation. But while the Vaults were ostensibly meant to protect America’s people from nuclear armageddon, in reality, the project doubled as an unethical, government-sponsored research program, with most Vaults’ inhabitants living in conditions ranging anywhere from “somewhat unusual” to “outright torturous”, all as part of a demented “social experiment” of unknown purpose.”
    And, of course, they have their own evil remnants of the evil American government, called the Enclave, that our modern-day leaders seem to want to emulate to the best of their ability. In fact, I’ve recently heard the current federal government referred to as “The Enclave”.
    “Originating as a secretive deep state within the pre-War federal government, the Enclave’s original leadership consisted of high-ranking political, military, and corporate figures, with rank-and-file members drawn from the military and federal law enforcement. Through careful planning, they subverted the nation’s continuity of government…to ensure their survival over that of others.”
    For more information, see:

  212. Patricia Matthews @ 226, can you recommend a good book in English about Emperor Claudius?

    Agree about the last Plantagenet. Maybe we should be growing Planta genista in his honor. I recall one amateur but learned historian, name escapes me, alas, stating that Henry VII had set back the English Rennaissance a good 50 years. More recently, and far more important, I have read in several places that closing of monasteries, and suppression of nuns especially, meant the English poor had no effective health care for at least a century.

  213. Justin Patrick Moore @ 230, I agree about ignoring evil, but sooner or later, evil will come calling and then how does a person defend themselves? I do insist that we all have a right to defend ourselves against real and actual threats to our lives and wellbeing as well as the responsibility accurately to assess those. Differences of opinion and buying habits are not a threat. Spraying chemicals across your own property line onto someone’s else’s organic garden is.

  214. Andy, you are right about the freuqnt delays at the Deutsche Bahn. But unexpectedly early winter weather has surely contributed to this. Due to bad weather, I had more than once djfficulties tk get from or to my workplace in a neighboring village. Sometimes (infrequently) the regional rail could not drive at all, e. g. when there was too much snow dumped on the landscape.

  215. How did Santa recover from surgery? They gave him a holly and an I.V.

    JMG # 218 “when societies are expanding in wealth and power, the One Big Tent approach is popular, while when contraction sets in, so does fragmentation.”
    You’re right that I didn’t quite catch your point on first try. Does this mean that regardless of the stated reasons used to justify it anew in each era, this kind of split is more likely anywhere, anytime, once the tent no longer needs additions to hold ever-growing crowds? That the general economic slowdown will make any current excuse for fragmentation seem more appealing?

    It looks like I also failed to fully express my point. Which was that theological and social conservatives, opposing liberals wanting the denomination to adopt wider society’s acceptance of both homosexuality and a non-literal spirituality separating from Bible and tradition, is not unique to UMC.
    Exactly the same bundled up wedge has made splits in virtually all branches of U.S. protestantism. All across what were the nation’s predominant centers of mainstream religion and social life in the 20th century. UMC is only the biggest example of an enormous sea change. One that sociologists of the 1950s would have considered wacky fantastic science fiction, not a prediction of the real future.

    “You use the monochord to tune a zither.” I came here for the egregores of sociological decline, stayed for the vintage instrumentation! 🙂

    Andy # 223 So much for losing the “unpleasant little man” who, some say, at least made the trains run on time. If our host is right, maybe Germans will want a trade-off like that again in our lifetimes?

    Beige Sheiba # 224 “With Saturn in Pisces, this is a ripe time for fantasy and best to make hay while the sun shines.” It might be that in the popular imagination, magic moves away from 12th house Pisces associations of the mysterious, subconscious, hidden, literally occult, dangerously dreary, opposed to society. Then into new Aquarian associations as an open, sunlit thing for individuals and groups to enjoy, fun for the whole self-chosen family.
    I’ve not seen anyone else mention this as an Age of Aquarius possibility with the big astro changes in coming years. Maybe a leading indicator would be that if superhero stories continue to be popular at all, they join Tony Stark to throw away secret identities.
    I’d enjoy your tales with “worker bees,” literally those working with bees, now at the top of society’s most prized form of wealth.

    Robert Matheison # 227 “After 80-odd years of dealing with my fellow humans, it seems clear to me that most of our behavior is hard-wired, though we think it the result of our free choice.” I’ve heard that college students should take anthropology first, then sociology, before psychology. That way, they’re less likely to fall into the trap of thinking everything they do is their own idea.

    CR Patiño # 190 I’ll take that extra few yards and run with it! I was working in IT at the time, and followed all of that closely as it happened.
    There was a lot of misplaced idealism among many young Gen-X age tech workers such as myself, who bought into a lot of mythology designed to get us to more willingly serve The Man. As though it was a Great Cause, rather than at best only an Okay Early-Years Job.
    I was a mere worker bee. I was only once in line for some stock options, with a company that imploded long before Generational Wealth Payday. If the price had gone to the moon, I’d have been able to buy a nice truck, but not a McMansion to park it in.
    For example, we were totally brainwashed into believing that in this groovy new world where smart enough techies didn’t need to wear a tie to work, collective bargaining was also fuddy-duddy irrelevant old nonsense to ignore. As meaningless and obsolete as a folded, spindled & mutilated punch card.
    Meanwhile, whether in suits, polo shirts, or T’s and hoodies, the management class’s dislike and opposition of the drearily necessary workers continued as it ever had. Scrooge wouldn’t have needed to learn to code, to find his place in that world. My next to last tech job was with a company that paid a billion dollars in fines, to settle class-action lawsuits of screwing over workers on their timesheets.

  216. As to hard-wired behavior, remember when taking tests your first impression is usually right. Your unconscious is really good at getting an “this seems about right” conclusion. Any of your distant ancestors who were not good at this became lunch for some other predator.

    As to the general theme, from another blog I quote this response to something The NY Times supposedly wrote, ” Why is New York Time’s editor Gay going on about an imagined civil war and confederates, confederates she tells you! ? There’s no civil war; there’s a class war brewing between the PMC elite class trying desperately to hold on to their elite status and everyone else whose lives they’ve managed to make worse. That’s my opinion. Falling life expectancy, increasing homelessness, increase in suicides, more inflation, open border bringing in cheap labor to undercut US wages on the bottom of the scale. The PMC elite class only cares about itself, and it shows.”

    The sun is out for the first time in weeks and just in time, the battery on the water tank level sensor was getting low. If anyone is interested the solar panel that puts out over 1400 ma in July puts out 1100 ma on a sunny day at noon the day after the winter solstice.

  217. @Robert Mathiesen: I wouldn’t want to argue about primatology with a primatologist nor with her husband, but my thinking has been shaped by Christoph Boehm’s theory of the “egalitarian ape” (I used to work next to his department). In short, each of our nearest relatives follows a different dominance and sexuality paradigm: chimpanzees are promiscuous, and males within one band struggle violently for dominance, as you said; bonobos are promiscuous and rather peaceful; silverback gorillas (only slightly less distant from us) have a harem and therefore avoid frequent violence within the group; orang-utans (slightly more distant still) are solitary; finally, gibbons (even more distant) form lifelong pairs. None of these species alone is a particularly good model of human behaviour. Boehm suggests that humans, in contrast to all these species, evolved the capacity to live in egalitarian groups by uniting to keep down the strongest individual, though we have subsequently often abandoned that capacity.

    When I wrote that we aren’t hardwired for one scheme, such as a hierarchy with an alpha male, but do have strong behavioural tendencies, I had something similar in mind as when you wrote that humans have free will, but rarely use it. It is very hard for humans to resist jockeying for prestige and admiration within one’s group, or not to feel envy and jealousy.

  218. The video Niall Ferguson: How Civilizations Collapse looked interesting and on point.

    Briefly, Ferguson doesn’t believe civilizations follow cycles. There is too much randomness in their histories. Things look bad in America now, but they looked just as bad in 1973, then improved. Potential dark clouds for the US are the burden of debt, and the rise of China. Not to mention Generation Z, which is being taught a very different history from what the older generation learned. No longer kings and queens and presidents, but white supremacists, slavers and despoilers. They claim to be pro-Palestinan and pro-socialism. They have no idea of what it was like to live in an unfree world under people like Hitler and Stalin. They don’t pursue their own economic interests. They value the ecology more. They need to be wary of charismatic leaders like Hitler who promise to lead the nation out of trouble.

    FERGUSON: [1:01:30] I think coming back to our doleful start if there’s one thing that worries me about Western Civilization it’s the possibility that its most important component today, the United States, commits a sort of political suicide. it certainly would be in line with much of classical and Renaissance and Enlightenment political theory that that would happen. And here I think I agree with with Peter Turchin. I think we are approaching a crisis in the United States, but I think it’s more a crisis of Republican constitutional order and its legitimacy than a crisis of the overproduction of Elites or demography or any of that kind of stuff. I just think this is the classical problem that that republics run into after a certain point, when the legitimacy of the Constitution is no longer Sacrosanct

    INTERVIEWER: before we go there what’s the one thing we’re not talking about that we should be?

    FERGUSON: I think China’s nuclear program. The fact that China is building a vast nuclear Arsenal is a much bigger deal, and it gets very little coverage.

    For those that prefer reading, here is the whole YouTube transcript, somewhat edited to make it more readable. Warning: it’s 19 pages long.

  219. It seems very simple to me of how the future will unfold: people will find and copy other people who are happy (and possibly steal their means), or people who have better ideas will displace people who are unhappy and illiterate.

    People really underestimate how rapidly a group of people in one area can be displaced, killed or invaded (young men replace other young men in the sexual crowd of the subjected population), especially after they lose a war and are subjugated to the other’s means.

    Germany was a horror story at the end of war 2, along with the post war situation of being a occupied state. How many current German citizens are actually descended from and hold Germanic ancestry? The USA made plans to ethnic cleanse the Germanic people after the war. The main things I know about our current elitists is:

    1) They like to make ‘prophecies’ that they then use their own power positions to full-fill, so they can call themselves prophets. This also acts as a form of subconscious propaganda to the masses, lowering the ability of the masses to react with sovereignty once the idea sets in before it takes place.
    2) They like to blame their past enemies for the worst wet-dream scenarios that come to their own wicked minds. This may be a bad example, but watching ‘captain America the winter soldier’, made that very clear to me. The organization Hydra is nothing more than a creation of America’s holly-hood dream land, in which flying aircraft carriers target anyone who has the brains to challenge the system’s quotas.

    The USSR and our dying empire both endorsed their own invasion near the end, by the same outside actors. Russia fought back, secured borders/national interests, and is now prospering away from the western system. They may not have the brightest future, but at least they have a future. Compare that to this den of a hydra gone self-cannibal.

    People like to imply that young American men, (such as myself) are important to the nation. I doubt it.
    England was a island nation using a banking system to enslave the entire empire under it’s grip. USA is version 2.0

    Anyone want to tell my lazy self what happened to all those self-righteous young brats that evacuated once the English empire imploded and was swallowed up by America’s bigger n’ brighter banks and corporations?
    Did they seek higher ground, or where they displaced or selectively ‘euthanized’ for the purposes of the state?

    Certainly they are not a nationalistic people of a defined nation state any longer within what remains of England today. I thought our US politicians were bad until I saw the English parliament in action.

    Imagine a giant flock of hens scattering in all directions as soon as a car horn goes off. Made me realize the good’ol Brandon and Trumpist, are the more successful alpha projects based on some very peculiar, off the rail beta’s being produced in Europe.

    Young men want nothing to do with our current system, it is the exodus or the invasion. Take your pick.

    Creative ideas cannot fix a avalanche in motion, they just add the particular flavor to the way people remember it, after it happens.

  220. Celadon, thanks for this. I expect Tolkien’s trilogy to be one of the very few books from the 20th century that will still be read a thousand years from now; the defective thinking he seems to have loaded onto an entire generation is another matter. I’ll put your post on my to-read list, and look forward to your response to my upcoming post.

    Jason, thanks for this.

    Eike, interesting. Thanks for the data point.

    D., you’re jumping to conclusions, you know. Of course Tolkien was a man of his time — though I’m not sure you’re aware that the poster you linked to was US rather than British propaganda art. (The British stuff was by and large not quite so tacky.) I’ll be talking, in fact, about some of the ways that Tolkien’s background shaped his fiction, and how that got massively misinterpreted by naive American readers.

    Beige, now that’s a story I’d like to see in print!

    Patricia M, somehow I just knew you were a Ricardian!

    Polecat, thank you. That image gave me a good hearty laugh.

    Celadon, glad to hear it. I hope you’re right.

    Justin, I look forward to seeing it in print. Get writing!

    Ecosophian, so noted and thank you.

    Christopher, exactly. Whatever the ostensible reasons are, there seem to be deeper pressures at work. As for the general fragmentation of Christianity, yes, I’ve watched that — it strikes me as a broad sorting-out between people who believe in the religion of progress in Christian drag, on the one hand, and people who believe in traditional Christianity on the other — thus inevitable now that the religion of progress is in such deep trouble.

    Siliconguy, exactly. The managerial class desperately doesn’t want the rest of us to realize that the real conflict isn’t between races, or between genders, or between regions, but between the managerial class and everyone else — as the only way the managerial class can hold onto its power and perks is if it’s monopolization of both remains unstated.

    Martin, Ferguson’s made his prediction and I’ve made mine. Now we’ll see who’s right.

    False Eruption, it’s always the fond conceit of the practically minded that creative ideas don’t influence them. Then they dance to the tune of some fringe intellectual who’s been dead for a century or two. The people who have better ideas? They generally didn’t come up with those themselves. Again, somebody on the fringes came up with those, and got them into circulation.

  221. False Eruption @ 239 Of course young men are important; whom else do you imagine is going to be designated cannon fodder in the Incompetent Elite’s next war? Certainly not elites nor their progeny.

    Please, if you will, allow an old woman gently to suggest that young men, and woman, who are making, building and doing things are of crucial importance. If you break a leg, it ain’t gonna be any alpha guy or gal who sets it, makes the cast, and writes out your prescriptions so as you can stand the pain. Alphas don’t have that kind of patience. A good-looking, fast-talking alpha might sell you a house, but it is the capable betas whom you will have to call on to make that house livable. When society itself is irredeemably corrupt, the opinion of the generality of one’s peers is not to be believed, and the good opinion of the virtuous minority is even more to be valued.

  222. I’m writing… but not that particular story. Maybe I’ll incorporate this kind of dreary overlord into something I’m working on, or maybe they’ll turn up in some other place down the road as my subcon sees fit.

    @Mary Bennett: I agree that sometimes you have to take action against what might as well be called enemy incursions. The prompt for this came from a book of daily readings, and it got me thinking about how the principle is employed in magical practice. When someone curses you, if you curse them back, you just get tied into a knot with them even further. One way to unravel the knot they are trying to tie you in with malicious astral bindings, is cleaning off their muck (banishing, etc.) and then getting on with your life. This eventually wears the opponent down.

  223. C. from Ca wrote: ““You use the monochord to tune a zither.” I came here for the egregores of sociological decline, stayed for the vintage instrumentation! 🙂”
    But if you get the Pythagorean tuning just exactly right, you can get the ghost of Orson Welles to materialize out of the fog by playing “The Third Man” theme.

  224. JMG, your writing leaves the rest of us bozos in the dust. IMO there’s no such thing as a surplus of that kind of skill particularly for a civilization in decline and especially when we’ve seen the effects of a loss of literacy ie in the post Roman collapse in Europe.

    But everyone has something to contribute. I had two classmates in industrial arts class in 7th, 8th and 9th grades, neither of which was academically inclined, one of which was as inarticulate as they come. I thought that my work in drafting class was pretty good until I saw Larry’s drawings which were marvels of finesse and precision. Roy was a master in the machine shop. The objects he produced were something. I would never have thought that a kid that age would have such an intuitive feel for machinery and metal and how to shape it. It was as if these two kids had fingers with brains of their own.

    I read a piece in a newspaper a while back by a woman lauding her daughter; young, strong, confident, and a graduate in actuarial science who doesn’t know her multiplication tables. I wondered how this could possibly be until I thought back about some young people I had had reporting to me in the workplace, who were allegedly graduates from reputable universities but who couldn’t write a coherent sentence to save their lives. One asked me whether Europe is a country. These are just two examples of many which I could give of a jaw-dropping lack of basic knowledge.

    So, w.r.t. making kids do homework, I would start with memorization of times tables the way we used to in primary school, with flash cards. Given the torrents of money burned in education, there’s no excuse for not teaching these basic skills, nor any excuse for not knowing such stuff. And anybody that has this ability has a leg up on anybody that doesn’t.

  225. How complete do you think the version of Lord of the Rings available in the year 3023 will be? Although the sheer number of physical copies that exist helps, its length does not. Without movable type, that is an awful lot of woodblocks. The trilogy plus the Hobbit are 575,000 words long, in comparison the Old and New Testament are 185,000 words long.

  226. Alice Em 186
    Thank you for the song. It is a great one.
    The town next to mine in Mexico, San Patricio Melaque, is where some of the survivors ended up. One still sees some Irish looking people there. St Patrick’s day is a huge celebration there.

  227. Justin, duly noted. Just a thought!

    Smith, of course! No two people have exactly the same talent. I write because, among other things, I’m not that good at most other things.

    Justin, the Mahabharata, the longer of the two great Indian epics, clocks in at 1.8 million words, and it was preserved by illiterate storytellers for many centuries. The Taoist canon, which was printed from woodblocks for quite a few centuries, contains 1476 separate texts and amounts to 60 volumes in the most common modern printed edition. I think Tolkien’s well within reach of a printing press-enabled future!

  228. JMG, (off list if you wish). That’s mighty kind of you, and not necessary in the slightest, although of course also quite welcome. I link to you a lot, and regard you as a fellow laborer in the vineyard (although much my better and senior), as well as a teacher of sorts. I took some lessons of my own, and thought I would try to use Tolkien’s forms (faithfully and lovingly I hope) to help start myself and others in positive veins that might be useful. Your comments or thoughts are always deeply appreciated, but don’t feel like you have to add to the reading schedule! A couple of the posts are chapters on their own for a book (maybe) about Tolkien, I got through Chapter Two so far. I agree with you that he is not going anywhere anytime soon, so thought it would be wise to “work with the grain”. And I hope even he approves! It’s for an obviously Christian audience, but I strive to be ecumenical about it.

  229. @ John Michael Greer

    >you’re jumping to conclusions, you know. Of course Tolkien was a man of his time — though I’m not sure you’re aware that the poster you linked to was US rather than British propaganda art. (The British stuff was by and large not quite so tacky.) I’ll be talking, in fact, about some of the ways that Tolkien’s background shaped his fiction, and how that got massively misinterpreted by naive American readers.

    I’m sure I am jumping to conclusions, possibly even naive ones! Though my main jump is still that it’s strange to point to LoTR as the source of lumpen ‘us vs. them’ thinking when such attitudes predate Tolkien’s works. That said, it was beyond strange to see orcs wheeled out as a slur in the Russia/Ukraine war.

    Also odd is that statistic of how few American’s would fight for their country. As a non-American, that takes me by surprise, and shows some of my views on your guy’s culture are a little outdated. Myself, I think I would only willingly fight if there were a clear and present danger to my community. Being the wrong side of forty, and judging by recent evidence, this ‘fighting’ would most likely involve not much more than sitting in a trench and waiting to get shelled, a scenario that seems to leave little room for adventure or achievement.

    Have a good one!

  230. Hey JMG

    Well, of course! That is why there is a 12 in my username, you are the 1st to mention it.
    Moving back to the theme of Borges, I think a long time ago during a Magic Monday I suggested the idea of creating a Borges-themed occultism. It seems to me that it would be a relatively easy thing to do since his philosophy and stories are already heavily influenced by Neoplatonism and the Kabbalah, and his stories are full of meditation-fodder. In fact, a long time ago I had another insight concerning a different story, “The God’s script,” which suggested to me a divination system that a Borgesian occultism could use. In this story the captive Aztec discovers that the secret words of his god are written withing the fur of a jaguar in 14 “letters” made from its spots. It quickly occurred to me that this sounded a lot like geomancy, and if you were to assign 1 symbol for the sun, and 1 for the moon instead of 2 for the sun and moon as in traditional geomancy you would have a pattern of 14 dot-patterns with which to create a novel method of divination.

  231. @false eruption

    A Google request gives me this quote:
    „ The book GIs and Fräuleins, by Maria Hohn, documents 66,000 German children born to fathers who were soldiers of Allied forces in the period 1945–55: American parent: 36,334. French parent: 10,188. British parent: 8,397.“

    36,334 over ten years in a country of 70,000,000 – that‘s not much. I had to look it up because I‘m German and grew up there, and people with allied soldiers in their family line are so few and far between that they‘re basically a curiosity.
    Maybe the GIs’ kids are a bit more present in the south, but there’s really no truth at all to the idea that occupation troops fathering kids in Germany changed the demography to any extent. So I Wonder: Where did you get that idea?

  232. Hello JMG, I noticed your comment about the streets being kept safe. I had a violent interaction with a lunatic road-rager in board daylight on a busy street here in Ottawa. Nobody stopped to offer to be a witness. Regardless I dutifully and somewhat foolishly (in retrospect) reported the incident to the police. They asked me what I wanted to happen in such a manner that implied that just enforcing laws against assault and battery was a bridge far too far for them to be able to cross. I do not speak to willingness but ability.

    What is even more surprising than the punch to the face was the reaction of the few people I discussed it with. They all instantly replied that the police were not going to do anything and were essentially useless at what 40 years ago was considered basic law enforcement duties. These are not Pink haired ACAB types nor are they edgy Libertarians, they are 40-50 year old men who are conservative and even work in public safety related roles themselves. Several of them are related to police officers and consider that the only way they would ever get a basic criminal complaint dealt with. Only me, the PMC dork, thought that the police would punish this sort of crime! Seemingly not even the police officers themselves!

    So my takeaway is that the justice system may collapse very quickly w.r.t. to other parts of our civilization that are collapsing as every potential interaction with the Police and Courts could leave both parties (victim and perpetrator) with a total lack of respect for said system of justice making.

    Glad I am not those two officers who responded, they were young enough to have a long go for a pension that is likely to be vaporized by inflation in a job that is losing social status fast.

    Thanks for your time, Stuart Cram

  233. Speaking of monochords:

    This piece by Fabien Maman is for a 77 stringed monochord IIRC. Great acoustic healing drone piece from his collaborative album with Steve Halpern. This is the best track from album because it omits the annoying new age piano and you get to hear the wonderful resonant overtones of the monochord.

    I want one as well…

    @Phutatorius: I wrote an article that was in part about the similarities between the dipole antenna and the monochord.

  234. Greetings JMG, I just want to thank you for this essay and your suggestion of reading Gene Wolfe’s “Shadows of the Torturer” (I think I got that right). I had run out of reading material and never stumbled onto this series, likely rejecting it because of its unappealing title. I’m about thirty pages into the first volume and completely understand why you spoke highly of the series. Aside of course, from the very dry and academic introduction I found in my Kindle edition, of which I read a few pages before deciding to skip it. The kinds of endurance in the face of overwhelming sadness and generalized misery, are incredibly powerful.

    As an aside, I have learned from the examples of very learned and legendary Jewish scholars that dipping here and there into volumes you have little inclination to read completely is an accepted and even much respected form of study. I recommend it (although not to the exclusion of reading start-to-finish ordinarily). With regard to fiction read this way, I’ve saved myself an awful lot of suffering from authorial betrayal by, for instance, reading the last chapter of novels I have begun and had doubts about. Many is the book I’ve set aside or given away (or in a very few cases, thrown away after throwing against the wall) as a result, as the betrayal is so evident. Like supernatural stories that are written off as “mere dreams” at the end since no mystery is allowed to stand on its own in some folks’ worldviews. Even if, literarily, the writing is highly praised. I have no patience for such stuff. If the characters are NOT betrayed by their portrayal in the last chapter, I usually go back and read the rest, including (again) the last chapter.

  235. Why is Santa a successful farmer? He doesn’t mind a long row to ho, ho, ho.

    Gerald O’Neil #150 The screeching doubled upper notes in the guitar solo of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes is another Eventide classic. This example and yours weren’t to cover up for musicians who couldn’t actually hit a note. (For that matter, “Believe” wasn’t either, since Cher really can sing in tune. Her producers at the time just wanted to be first to zap everyone with the sound of the newest shiny thing in the toybox.)

    Phutatorius, I’m up for that discussion!
    Tuning algorithms don’t have to be locked to equal temperament. There are products and protocols that can handle microtonality, altered tuning, just intonation, stretch tuning, other than 12 notes per octave, etc.
    Some systems can split apart pitch, overtones, and timing and let them be changed independently.
    It’s easier to process a guitar if a pickup is used that puts each string on its own channel.
    Not all systems can go this deep. Those that can may require a geeky deep dive to set it all up. Some are more experimental or academic toolkits, where you’re on your own.
    If you know enough math and programming, you could write a plug-in to an open source audio workstation that will give you a fresh batch of samples on a timely basis. What you do with them to analyze and reconstruct pitch is then totally up to you, as long as you return the buffer within a few milliseconds. Some tuning systems do an offline pass (takes a while) to build the analysis, and then can use that information to make higher quality realtime changes in playback.
    Tuning systems generally do have some obvious parameters about how aggressive the changes should be. The user can lock frequencies tightly to a grid, or let it subtly slide a note towards a desired direction. Changes can gradually fade in and out, or hit instantly. Whether vibrato stays, and if so how wide, can also be dialed in.
    “One shouldn’t assume that musicians on a record are doing what they appear to be doing.” – Sir George Martin

    In today’s world of music production, if you hear a pitch, it was either made by a musician. Or, maybe, a production & engineering team had a different pitch they preferred to paste in to the recording.

  236. Doug Binkley, my condolences over your road rage incident. Bystanders may not have wanted to become involved, but some might have taken pix or videos. With a name–did anyone get the offender’s license plate number?–and pix, you can sue for medical expenses. Also, this kind of incident is one thing social media is good for, naming and shaming. Bystanders who might themselves have had what they considered good reason to avoid police attention might chime in where they could remain anonymous.

    Apologies to all who might disagree, but it is my opinion that “just be nice” doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did. Also, it is a good idea to approach police WITH supporting documentation, in the form of medical reports and pix from the scene if available. Please don’t feel like a fool for making a report. Police might not be able to do much about your incident, but the perp is now “on their radar” as not a good citizen. When I was visiting my daughter in NYC over Thanksgiving, she left her phone in a Lyft car. It was old and needed replacing, which she did, and she was able to have it shut off immediately. She had to spend some time changing passwords to certain accounts. When we went to make a police report, she was able to supply an identifying number for that particular phone, as well as tracking data. The cop told us that if they find someone in possession of said phone, they now have legal reason to hold that person for being in possession of stolen goods, presumably while they investigate other misdeeds.

  237. Borges and WH40k in the same piece! Fantastic. In one sense, I’m amazed that WH40k is thriving so much these days, because as a millennial Brit, it seems like such a product of the UK circa the mid-1980s/early-1990s. That’s not derogatory at all – I was born during that time, and I view it now with a huge amount of wistful nostalgia – but it seems to me to be a bit like the gaming equivalent of the Young Ones or something like that. The Orks, in particular, are heavily drawn from 1980s English football-hooligans (the Orkish chant “ere we go, ere we go, ere we go” was a stereotypical chant one might hear on the terraces of a stadium during a match).

    J.L.mc12 (if I may), I wrote my Masters thesis on the Kabbalistic themes of Borges’s work – take a gander if you’re interested.

  238. Some comments about stories. It seems to me, that The Lord of the Rings and the following boom in the fantasy genre have had an big influence on the rise of Neopaganism; the interesting point here is the particular set of weaknesses which the Neopagan scene had (a lack of competence in magic and a lack of understanding of the ethics of occult practice), and the switchover into full demonolatry around 2016. Since Wicca was around already before the Seventies, the influences of Neopaganism and fantasy stories were probably mutual.

  239. Hi John Michael,

    Gee, you’re getting some push back on your notes and observations of Professor Tolkien’s most popular work. Given that state of affairs, I’d say you hit the target dead-on right in the bullseye! Jolly good shot, ol’ chap! 🙂 Personally, I’m rather fond of the professors line by line interpretation of the Beowulf epic – which I believe you may have recommended. The subtler aspects of the epic would have been utterly lost to me without his guiding hand. I blame society for the poor education most of us seem to receive these days! 😉 Can be rectified though.

    There was a rumour that down here at the bottom of the planet: we were in summer. You hear such loose talk. Three inches of rain has fallen since last night, and it shows no sign of letting up this morning – you can hear the stuff pounding on the roof and there is a lot of insulation in the roof cavity which absorbs the sound. A completely nuts growing season, although some parts of the continent are scoring record grain harvests – you’d just hope they’d gotten the harvest in before this monster of a storm hit.

    The mountain here drains into rivers which run into the big smoke of Melbourne. Last time such a rain fell here, the low lying areas of the city flooded. Haven’t read any reports of such things happening, but it takes a while for the water to move from here to there. I tell you truly, the ferns and trees are loving this growing season.

    Happy Solstice and Christmas to everyone!

    Oh, and I’m not naive enough to believe that the hippies and shows of my youth such as “The Good Life” didn’t influence my thoughts and actions. Those who believe they’re above such influences are the most naive of all.



  240. It seems to me that some people, particularly in the Middle East, have a preference for monotheism but it seems to me that elsewhere the idea doesn’t go down as well. As a result, Christianity has got a three-in-one God plus Mary plus a panoply of saints that people can pray to for intercession. Oh, and an anti-god and his supernatural followers.

    And maybe it’s just an overheated imagination but it appears that spirits (for lack of a better term) are attracted to landforms like hills and mountains and caves just like fish are attracted to coral reefs or sunken ships. Not to mention houses, like the haunted variety.

    So perhaps people long ago clued into this and so you had a long period all over the world of pyramid and mound building and cathedral building. And don’t some cathedral interiors with all their artwork remind you of those deep caverns that sapiens decorated tens of thousands of years ago with depictions of animals?

    Anyway, in the next reimagining maybe w.r.t. religion, people revert to previous forms of behavior. So, instead of enforced belief and conformity, maybe a fragmentation? Maybe family gods or household gods with shrines in the kitchen?

    And, given that it’s been done before, it’s pretty evident that you don’t need earth-moving equipment to build pyramids, nor tower cranes to build towering structures. Or maybe people dispense with monumentalism and keep it small and local. Maybe people will think it’s just as easy to attract a spirit with a home-made altar and an offering of food.

  241. @smith 216 chapter 2 in this Surviving the Future (an adaptation of the ‘dictionary’ (more like choose your own adventure non-fiction) ‘Lean Logic’ which takes its title from Japanese car manufacturing plant protocols to have less management and more effective work places ) is free audio here below. It is about how to build/ protect long descent healthy communities and the economic and social conventions that will make it easier for one to find where to grab on and pull to move our society towards something that can serve us better in the next age. You might like it.

    Re: ignoring evil dudes in towers and whether they actually stay in their towers. @Mary Bennett #233 and @justin Patrick Moore #230 someone here posted the interview between mcgilchrist of master and emissary and vervanke and schmactenburger (sp?) the Psychological Drivers of the Metacrisis and I watched it tho it was 3 hours in bits while I was cooking or out w dogs. And they have a great section (and the discussion sections are labeled on the youtube) on the topic of’those who don’t wish to take power to dominate others need to be more power literate as sociopaths rise to control big levers.’

    @tyler a 207 thanks for catching me up a little on the internal politics of warhammer. Duly noted! Still, Eminem wannabes are not eminems and may not inspire the same rebel following. Will the real slim shady please stand up? And I wasn’t talking about an urban phenomenon, I was talking about a whitetrash phenomenon, both rural and urban. In the world of people (with martial energy let’s say, as I understand that it’s a war game) whose teams I wish to be represented in this game world which I may never have any knowledge of beyond this post add Drezus – warpath to the list

    @joe Quinn 225
    Thanks for trading music! Watch the drezus video! Phantom of hip hopera line is a gem

  242. Eike, probably False Eruption meant the consequences of mass immigration, but that began long after the Second World War, in the sixties and seventies.

  243. JMG, on your earlier answer-
    What is your definition of India and China becoming “superpowers”, exactly? Will they command the same power and have the same amount(or similar) of influence as the current USA? Would the living standards of these countries be similar to current USA; or at least not deteriorate between what it is now?

    On your answer on the fall though, does India beginning the “chute” of downfall cause the “outward migration as opportunities dry up in a few centuries” that you previously mentioned?

  244. @ Phutatorius #180
    Back in the day, when the harpsichord was common, and pianos hadn’t been invented, there were harpsichords with split “black-keys” so that you could choose to play, for example, either E-flat or D-sharp.
    Interesting, didn’t know that, although I agree they are different, since the context (key) involved dictates a different note function.
    Feel free to expound further on note temperaments, our gracious host willing.

  245. @Booklover, false eruption

    Mass immigration in peace times is a different matter for sure, that’s already very visible without taking the coming generation into account. I think it was something around 3 or 4 million young immigrants in the last decade alone, mostly from cultures that tend to have bigger families than Germans.

  246. @John
    > Per, you might want to work on your reading comprehension — that, or read this week’s essay again, and this time pay attention. Nowhere did I say that ideas can change the laws of nature. That complex gallimaufry we call “the world” includes just a few more things than the laws of nature.

    To be fair though, Per didn’t imply that you said that “ideas can change the laws of nature” and try to argue against that.

    When he says “ideas tha coincide with material realities” he doesn’t exclusively mean “laws of nature” (that’s a given), but things like available technology, resources, demographic changes, declines or rise of certain classes, private interests of the powerful, and so on. Of this “laws of nature” is the least interesting subset.

  247. >The managerial class desperately doesn’t want the rest of us to realize that the real conflict isn’t between races, or between genders, or between regions, but between the managerial class and everyone else

    Don’t forget, they hate you. All of you. If you think they’re your friends, they’re only using you.

  248. AliceEm, thanks for this. I’ve listened to 18 minutes of Ch 2 so far and will get back at it as soon as I type out this reply. And it’s just this, from what I’ve heard thus far, I think that what he’s saying can be done because it sounds like my parents’ circumstances during the pre-war and immediate post-war era back in the old country in Europe.

  249. Tyler A #148

    “(Even then, I don’t know if the laws of nature would have allowed it. I hope not, for I think that missed opportunity, had it existed, would be the greatest tragedy in the history of life, because it means we were as the cosmists thought Gaia’s reproductive organs and we _failed_. For my sanity, I try not to dwell on this counterfactual idea. I just can’t bare the thought of it.)”

    I have heard a different proposition, the success of which must remain (to us) unknown:

    In this proposition, humans played the “launching” role for Gaia’s “spores” – which are not human at all, but unicellular bacteria and protozoa which may (as we speak) have evolved in unknown directions on their rides on Voyager I and II which are only just traversing the edges of the solar system *possibly* to seed somewhere in the next cosmic “lawn” over from ours… should the wind and the “soil” conditions they eventually find favour them.

    If the thought of failing to carry out Gaia’s reproductive designs depresses you, perhaps this possibiity might encourage you a bit. (Depending, of course, on whether Gaia’s spawn, whereever it reaches, turns out to be something useful or an invasive pest… 😉 )

  250. Why did Santa give up on the Firefox browser? Because it blocks third party cookies.

    karalan # 265, I don’t know if this is what Phutatorius #180 had in mind, but here are illustrations from the description of a 53 note per octave keyboard layout where C-sharp and D-flat are different keys. You can also get the book as a pdf from here.
    These keyboards were incredibly complicated, when they had to connect to strings or pipes. But if they are just digital switches now, in today’s world it seems they would be easy to experiment with for today’s generation. For only a couple dozen bucks, a Raspberry Pi running Dexed easily simulates a DX7 synthesizer, or a large range of other sound sources, and you’re on your way. MIDI 2 or OSC protocols unlock any fixed mapping between key numbers and note frequencies. You could have a software patch bay to swap out microtunings with a click.

    AliceEm #262, I was exposed to the Lean mindset at work, with one of my best bosses ever, and have then studied it more on my own. I see it as extremely relevant to any kind of gracious soft landing amid industrial decline.
    I had some excerpts from Henry Ford, and Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno. These passages were more than JMG was willing to put through, as I hadn’t yet got the hang of the comments section being for personal perspectives rather than extended quotes. Perhaps the podcast here sets those ideas in context, in a way that will help more people get intrigued.

  251. About books about Claudius – I can’t remember any name. I pieced my opinions together from books about Roman history, either modern or among his contemporaries, and from what I picked up when I started studying Latin. Sorry to disappoint you.

    I also can’t remember the many modern books I read about Richard III. Everybody had their own opinion, and everybody had their ideas of who killed the Princes in the Tower. I thought one of them made out a pretty good case for the duke of Buckingham.

  252. Gaia does have the perfect life seeds: tardigrades! They’re able to withstand the cold and radiation of deep space in their ‘spore’ form without any problems, and they’re also so cute!

    As for seeding new ideas into our culture via fiction, I just say, Beware of Issuefic, which is what we fanfiction writers call ‘stories’ that are paper-thin treatments of whatever (usually social-justice) Issue the author thinks they need to educate their audience about. Story comes always first; without a strong story and believable characters (not mouthpieces), you have nothing. I must say, though, that I read Bujold’s Barrayar books in my youth, too, but never bought her progressive message. I was just here for Miles’ space adventures. Over time, though, the smugness in the telling of how Cordelia brought the enlightened culture of Colony California, I mean Beta, to the backwards Barrayarans, uterine replicators, gender reassignment surgery, women’s liberation et al, killed my interest in the space adventures, too. Which is to say that in order to ignite a new idea in your audience, the fuel must already be there, and the longing for such a spark. If there is no resonance with your message, your idea, that spark will fall on cold stone and go out.

    So I think that it’s not even the author who plucks an idea out of the ether to bring it to the masses like Prometheus brought us fire. It’s more like being sensitive to the mass dream(s) that are currently stirring in the collective soul, and giving them a form that the collective mind can recognize and latch onto. I’m reading a book by William C. Martell, Your Idea Machine, and he says, “We [authors] are dream makers.” I’d say we’re not dream makers, we’re dream catchers…

  253. Pretty late to the game and off topic to boot, but I’d like to say “Merry Christmas” to all who did celebrate that holiday yesterday. May the Blessings brought by the Passover of Nativity find you and yours in good health and joyful hearth!

  254. Huh. A vision of a world so enticing that people want to live there. Is that what the people at Grist were trying to do with their cli-fi contest? If so, I guess points for effort…
    It is very illustrative of JMG’s point that the scrumptious futures they envisioned were so limited and vague and, er, unappetizing.

  255. AliceEm, I finished listening to Ch 2. It was fascinating. Some of the things he talked about were present in the farming community that my parents and other relatives came from in deepest darkest Europe.

    But you also had dishonest neighbors who stole from others, you had an exploitative landowning class that abused tenant farmers like my grandparents, and as a result, you had fascism and communism whose proponents all promised to do something about it.

    And they surely did and it wasn’t pretty. There was a lot of head-busting going on before, during and after WW2 as factions contended for power. You were on one side or you were on the other and everyone knew whose side you were on. There was no hiding, no neutrality. Communism may nowadays be in bad odor given the depredations of their officialdom but back then most people in my parents’ rural locale were communist sympathizers.

    Anyway, that was then. What that commentary is dead right about is that the world will re-localize whether our globalist ‘masters’ like it or not. They may think of themselves as ‘anywhere people’. Sorry, but ‘anywhere’ only applies to a few urban enclaves where people speak English and observe some common cultural and business practices. “Anywhere’ does not mean ‘anywhere’.

    What the glitterati cannot get through their thick heads his how tribal the world really is. They may have money and maybe can pay the locals for goods and services but an outsider is an outsider and in much of the world the first thing the local cutthroats will do if given half a chance is to strip said outsider to his very bones via means such as kidnapping, threats, extortion and violence and mayhem. And as long as they share the proceeds with local potentates, the cutthroats will have every likelihood of getting away with it. Western oligarchs, especially those of the American variety, may think they run the world. They most certainly do not.

    That’s my .02. Many thanks for this.

  256. Dear Archdruid–
    I have been a reader of yours for many years, and your views have shaped my ideas. In this recent post, you said: “…new visions—not, please note, the same old schlock… but genuinely new, different, unsettling visions—are desperately needed just now. I hope that at least a few of my readers will make the effort to craft them.” I have done my version of this, a book called “Project F,” just published by Random House, audience age 10 and up. It seems to me that the most important readers right now are the young ones, who will be inhabiting whatever world we leave them and will need to think about these matters. I would be honored to send you a book, if you will tell me the address to send it to.
    Thank you for all your writings, past and to come!

  257. D., one of the conclusions you’re jumping to is precisely that you think I’m talking about something as broad as “us vs. them” thinking. Stay tuned; two weeks from now I’ll be posting something that will, I think, make what I’m saying a little clearer.

    J.L.Mc12, jaguar geomancy! I like it.

    Doug/Stuart, that sort of thing is becoming more and more common all over Europe and the European diaspora. I’m sorry to hear that you had to deal with it in person!

    Justin, it makes me shake my head that they call that instrument a monochord. A monochord, as the name indicates, has one string:

    But a 77 string polychord is also a lovely instrument.

    Clarke, delighted to hear it. As for dipping into books, I do that with nonfiction quite a bit but I’ve never gotten into the habit of doing it with novels. That said, if it works for you, by all means.

    Luke, I try to keep it entertaining. Thank you for the dissertation — I’ve downloaded a copy.

    Booklover, fantasy fiction was also around before the Seventies; that said, Tolkien’s trilogy saw print right about the time that Gerald Gardner did, so you definitely have a point.

    Reality Check, the source didn’t say, and there are plenty of scenes like that in the US.

    Chris, you’ve got to watch those rumors. There was a similar rumor here about winter; on December 25 it was 56°F and sunny.

    Smith, that’s certainly what I’m expecting.

    Jeffrey, if you want to know the meaning of a word, look it up in a dictionary. I don’t play definition games.

    European, fair enough — but the world also isn’t limited to the things you’ve cited. It is powerfully shaped by mental and emotional patterns, individual and collective.

    Other Owen, I doubt they notice your existence, or mine, for that matter. It’s always a temptation to project your own emotions onto the people you dislike…

    Kfish, I saw that! About time they noticed.

    StarNinja, that was the thing that astonished me. Their would-be utopian fiction was so supremely dreary!

    Jeanne, thank you! I’m sorry to say that I have a stack of more than 36 books waiting for me to read them, so I will have to decline your generous offer, but I’ve heard some good things about Project F already and I hope it finds a large and enthusiastic audience.

  258. attn JMG, I must report this post to the FBI for disinformation. The Biden economy is booming, this is proven by my cherry-picked, misleading lies-by-omission! What’s that you say? $200 grocery trips? De facto debt peonage? Unaffordable housing? Nonsense! A bunch of malarkey! There is a scientific consensus among the experts that your problems don’t exist, and if they do, it’s all Trump and Putin’s fault! Everything is great and getting better, and anything you hear about debt & inflation, dangerous polarization, or cultural malaise is a nazi conspiracy theory cooked up by online trolls who are waging a targeted harassment campaign against Our Democracy!

    Just kidding, and I have to emphasize that I’m kidding, because the line between parody and reality has become blurred recently. It really is refreshing to read a sober analysis of the current straits we’re in — as you said, the amount of hysterical propaganda is directly proportionate to the decay. As for the rest, I’ve always thought that dreams and ideas could manifest and have lasting cultural influence downstream, but this really articulates it in a way that I wasn’t able to. It’s safe to say that the American Dream of prosperity is dead, as is the Rainbow Dream of diversity & democracy. When the Greco-Roman world was crumbling, Christianity offered a radical new alternative: egalitarianism & humility instead of conquest & slavery, otherworldliness instead of the here & now. It was a drastically different vision than that offered by the dominant but declining civilization, and that played no small part of Christianity’s resounding success and profound, lasting influence as a major world religion and as the unifying ideology of Medieval Europe. Maybe that’s a bit much to ask for, but perhaps the declining world of Western Liberalism also needs a radical doctrine to seed the next society. Whatever it may be, it will likely reject the Enlightenment to some extent, as do the most influential, subversive thinkers of these times, eg neo-monarchists.

    Please excuse my tardy posting, the holidays have been busy. I also hope this comment isn’t too long-winded, I ended up having alot to say. Merry xmas (or w/e else you celebrate) and Happy New Year!

  259. I hadn’t heard about Uqbar, yet it reminds me of a very real phenomenon here, in the Czech Republic:
    Jara Cimrman ( )
    A completely fictional historical figure that dabbled in everything. Originally created to poke fun at ourselves and our the Soviet leadership, he is still one of the most popular figures around here. Even more so than the world known Svejk.

    Make way great kings and presidents of past, Cimrman takes the crown.

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