Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Great the Fall Can Be

While I type these words, an old Supertramp CD is playing in the next room. Those of my readers who belong to the same slice of an American generation I do will likely remember the words Roger Hodgson is singing just now, the opening line from “Fool’s Overture”:

“History recalls how great the fall can be...”

It’s an apposite quote for a troubled time.

Over the last year or so, in and among the other issues I’ve tried to discuss in this blog, the US presidential campaign has gotten a certain amount of air time. Some of the conversations that resulted generated a good deal more heat than light, but then that’s been true across the board since Donald Trump overturned the established certainties of American political life and launched himself and the nation on an improbable trajectory toward our current situation. Though the diatribes I fielded from various sides were more than occasionally tiresome, I don’t regret making the election a theme for discussion here, as it offered a close-up view of issues I’ve been covering for years now.

A while back on this blog, for example, I spent more than a year sketching out the process by which civilizations fall and dark ages begin, with an eye toward the next five centuries of North American history—a conversation that turned into my book Dark Age America. Among the historical constants I discussed in the posts and the book was the way that governing elites and their affluent supporters stop adapting their policies to changing political and economic conditions, and demand instead that political and economic conditions should conform to their preferred policies. That’s all over today’s headlines, as the governing elites of the industrial world cower before the furious backlash sparked by their rigid commitment to the failed neoliberal nostrums of global trade and open borders.

Another theme I discussed in the same posts and book was the way that science and culture in a civilization in decline become so closely identified with the interests of the governing elite that the backlash against the failed policies of the elite inevitably becomes a backlash against science and culture as well. We’ve got plenty of that in the headlines as well. According to recent news stories, for example, the Trump administration plans to scrap the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and get rid of all the federal offices that study anthropogenic climate change.

Their termination with extreme prejudice isn’t simply a matter of pruning the federal bureaucracy, though that’s a factor. All these organizations display various forms of the identification of science and culture with elite values just discussed, and their dismantling will be greeted by cheers from a great many people outside the circles of the affluent, who have had more than their fill of patronizing lectures from their self-proclaimed betters in recent years. Will many worthwhile programs be lost, along with a great deal that’s less than worthwhile?  Of course.  That’s a normal feature of the twilight years of a civilization.

A couple of years before the sequence of posts on dark age America, for that matter, I did another series on the end of US global hegemony and the rough road down from empire. That sequence also turned into a book, Decline and Fall. In the posts and the book, I pointed out that one of the constants of the history of democratic societies—actual democracies, warts and all, as distinct from the imaginary “real democracy” that exists solely in rhetoric—is a regular cycle of concentration and diffusion of power. The ancient Greek historian Polybius, who worked it out in detail, called it anacyclosis.

A lot can be said about anacyclosis, but the detail that’s relevant just now is the crisis phase, when power has become so gridlocked among competing power centers that it becomes impossible for the system to break out of even the most hopelessly counterproductive policies. That ends, according to Polybius, when a charismatic demagogue gets into power, overturns the existing political order, and sets in motion a general free-for-all in which old alliances shatter and improbable new ones take shape. Does that sound familiar? In a week when union leaders emerged beaming from a meeting with the new president, while Democrats are still stoutly defending the integrity of the CIA, it should.

For that matter, one of the central themes of the sequence of posts and the book was the necessity of stepping back from global commitments that the United States can no longer afford to maintain. That’s happening, too, though it’s being covered up just now by a great deal of Trumped-up bluster about a massive naval expansion. (If we do get a 350-ship navy in the next decade, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of those ships will turn out to be inexpensive corvettes, like the ones the Russians have been using so efficiently as cruise missile platforms on the Caspian Sea.)  European politicians are squawking at top volume about the importance of NATO, which means in practice the continuation of a scheme that allows most European countries to push most of the costs of their own defense onto the United States, but the new administration doesn’t seem to be buying it.

Mind you, I’m far from enthusiastic about the remilitarization of Europe. Outside the brief interval of enforced peace following the Second World War, Europe has been a boiling cauldron of warfare since its modern cultures began to emerge out of the chaos of the post-Roman dark ages. Most of the world’s most devastating wars have been European in origin, and of course it escapes no one’s attention in the rest of the world that it was from Europe that hordes of invaders and colonizers swept over the entire planet from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, as often as not leaving total devastation in their wake. In histories written a thousand years from now, Europeans will have the same sort of reputation that Huns and Mongols have today—and it’s only in the fond fantasies of those who think history has a direction that those days are definitely over.

It can’t be helped, though, for the fact of the matter is that the United States can no longer afford to foot the bill for the defense of other countries. Behind a facade of hallucinatory paper wealth, our nation is effectively bankrupt. The only thing that enables us to pay our debts now is the status of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency—this allows the Treasury to issue debt at a breakneck pace and never have to worry about the cost—and that status is trickling away as one country after another signs bilateral deals to facilitate trading in other currencies. Sooner or later, probably in the next two decades, the United States will be forced to default on its national debt, the way Russia did in 1998.  Before that happens, a great many currently overvalued corporations that support themselves by way of frantic borrowing will have done the same thing by way of the bankruptcy courts, and of course the vast majority of America’s immense consumer debt will have to be discharged the same way.

That means, among other things, that the extravagant lifestyles available to affluent Americans in recent decades will be going away forever in the not too distant future. That’s another point I made in Decline and Fall and the series of posts that became raw material for it. During the era of US global hegemony, the five per cent of our species who lived in the United States disposed of a third of the world’s raw materials and manufactured products and a quarter of its total energy production. That disproportionate share came to us via unbalanced patterns of exchange hardwired into the global economy, and enforced at gunpoint by the military garrisons we keep in more than a hundred countries worldwide. The ballooning US government, corporate, and consumer debt load of recent years was an attempt to keep those imbalances in place even as their basis in geopolitics trickled away. Now the dance is ending and the piper has to be paid.

There’s a certain bleak amusement to be had from the fact that one of the central themes of this blog not that many years back—“Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush”—has already passed its pull date. The rush, in case you haven’t noticed, is already under way. The fraction of US adults of working age who are permanently outside the work force is at an all-time high; so is the fraction of young adults who are living with their parents because they can’t afford to start households of their own. There’s good reason to think that the new administration’s trade and immigration policies may succeed in driving both those figures down, at least for a while, but of course there’ll a price to be paid for that—and those industries and social classes that have profited most from the policies of the last thirty years, and threw their political and financial weight behind the Clinton campaign, will be first in line to pay it. Vae victis!*

More generally, the broader landscape of ideas this blog has tried to explore since its early days remains what it is. The Earth’s economically accessible reserves of fossil carbon dwindle day by day; with each year that passes, on average, the amount of coal, oil, and natural gas burnt exceeds the amount that’s discovered by a wider margin; the current temporary glut in the oil markets is waning so fast that analysts are predicting the next price spike as soon as 2018. Talk of transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, on the one hand, or nuclear power on the other, remains talk—I encourage anyone who doubts this to look up the amount of fossil fuels burnt each year over the last two decades and see if they can find a noticeable decrease in global fossil fuel consumption to match the much-ballyhooed buildout of solar and wind power.

The industrial world remains shackled to fossil fuels for most of its energy and all of its transportation fuel, for the simple reason that no other energy source in this end of the known universe provides the abundant, concentrated, and fungible energy supply that’s needed to keep our current lifestyles going. There was always an alternative—deliberately downshifting out of the embarrassing extravagance that counts for normal lifestyles in the industrial world these days, accepting more restricted ways of living in order to leave a better world for our descendants—but not enough people were willing to accept that alternative to make a difference while there was still a chance.

Meanwhile the other jaw of the vise that’s tightening around the future is becoming increasingly visible just now. In the Arctic, freak weather systems has sucked warm air up from lower latitudes and brought the normal process of winter ice formation to a standstill. In the Antarctic, the Larsen C ice shelf, until a few years ago considered immovable by most glaciologists, is in the process of loosing an ice sheet the size of Delaware into the Antarctic Ocean. I look out my window and see warm rain falling; here in the north central Appalachians, in January, it’s been most of a month since the thermometer last dipped below freezing. The new administration has committed itself to do nothing about anthropogenic climate change, but then, despite plenty of talk, the Obama administration didn’t do anything about it either.

There’s good reason for that, too. The only way to stop anthropogenic climate change in its tracks is to stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and doing that would require the world to ground its airlines, turn its highways over to bicycles and oxcarts, and shut down every other technology that won’t be economically viable if it has to depend on the diffuse intermittent energy available from renewable sources. Does the political will to embrace such changes exist? Since I know of precisely three climate change scientists, out of thousands, who take their own data seriously enough to cut their carbon footprint by giving up air travel, it’s safe to say that the answer is “no.”

So, basically, we’re in for it.

The thing that fascinates me is that this is something I’ve been saying for the whole time this blog has been appearing. The window of opportunity for making a smooth transition to a renewable future slammed shut in the early 1980s, when majorities across the industrial world turned their backs on the previous decade’s promising initiatives toward sustainability, and bought into the triumphalist rhetoric of the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution instead. Since then, year after weary year, most of the green movement—with noble exceptions—has been long on talk and short on action.  Excuses for doing nothing and justifications for clinging to lifestyles the planet cannot support have proliferated like rabbits on Viagra, and most of the people who talked about sustainability at all took it for granted that the time to change course was still somewhere conveniently off in the future. That guaranteed that the chance to change course would slide steadily further back into the past.

There was another detail of the post-Seventies sustainability scene that deserves discussion, though, because it’s been displayed with an almost pornographic degree of nakedness in the weeks just past. From the early days of the peak oil movement in the late 1990s on, a remarkably large number of the people who talked eagerly about the looming crisis of our age seemed to think that its consequences would leave them and the people and things they cared about more or less intact. That wasn’t universal by any means; there were always some people who grappled with the hard realities that the end of the fossil fuel age was going to impose on their own lives; but all things considered, there weren’t that many, in comparison to all those who chattered amiably about how comfortable they’d be in their rural doomsteads, lifeboat communities, Transition Towns, et al.

Now, as discussed earlier in this post, we’ve gotten a very modest helping of decline and fall, and people who were enthusiastically discussing the end of the industrial age not that long ago are freaking out six ways from Sunday. If a relatively tame event like the election of an unpopular president can send people into this kind of tailspin, what are they going to do the day their paychecks suddenly turn out to be worth only half as much in terms of goods and services as before—a kind of event that’s already become tolerably common elsewhere, and could quite easily happen in this country as the dollar loses its reserve currency status?

What kinds of meltdowns are we going to get when internet service or modern health care get priced out of reach, or become unavailable at any price?  How are they going to cope if the accelerating crisis of legitimacy in this country causes the federal government to implode, the way the government of the Soviet Union did, and suddenly they’re living under cobbled-together regional governments that don’t have the money to pay for basic services? What sort of reaction are we going to see if the US blunders into a sustained domestic insurgency—suicide bombs going off in public places, firefights between insurgent forces and government troops, death squads from both sides rounding up potential opponents and leaving them in unmarked mass graves—or, heaven help us, all-out civil war?

This is what the decline and fall of a civilization looks like. It’s not about sitting in a cozy earth-sheltered home under a roof loaded with solar panels, living some close approximation of a modern industrial lifestyle, while the rest of the world slides meekly down the chute toward history’s compost bin, leaving you and yours untouched. It’s about political chaos—meaning that you won’t get the leaders you want, and you may not be able to count on the rule of law or even the most basic civil liberties. It’s about economic implosion—meaning that your salary will probably go away, your savings almost certainly won’t keep its value, and if you have gold bars hidden in your home, you’d better hope to Hannah that nobody ever finds out, or it’ll be a race between the local government and the local bandits to see which one gets to tie your family up and torture them to death, starting with the children, until somebody breaks and tells them where your stash is located.

It’s about environmental chaos—meaning that you and the people you care about may have many hungry days ahead as crazy weather messes with the harvests, and it’s by no means certain you won’t die early from some tropical microbe that’s been jarred loose from its native habitat to find a new and tasty home in you. It’s about rapid demographic contraction—meaning that you get to have the experience a lot of people in the Rust Belt have already, of walking past one abandoned house after another and remembering the people who used to live there, until they didn’t any more.

More than anything else, it’s about loss. Things that you value—things you think of as important, meaningful, even necessary—are going to go away forever in the years immediately ahead of us, and there will be nothing you can do about it.  It really is as simple as that. People who live in an age of decline and fall can’t afford to cultivate a sense of entitlement. Unfortunately, for reasons discussed at some length in one of last month’s posts, the notion that the universe is somehow obliged to give people what they think they deserve is very deeply engrained in American popular culture these days. That’s a very unwise notion to believe right now, and as we slide further down the slope, it could very readily become fatal—and no, by the way, I don’t mean that last adjective in a metaphorical sense.

History recalls how great the fall can be, Roger Hodgson sang. In our case, it’s shaping up to be one for the record books—and those of my readers who have worked themselves up to the screaming point about the comparatively mild events we’ve seen so far may want to save some of their breath for the times ahead when it’s going to get much, much worse.
_________________
*In colloquial English: “It sucks to lose.”

447 comments:

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John Michael Greer said...

Somewhatstunned, yes, that's one of them. Peter Kalmus and Judith Curry are the other two.

Cliff, understood. I think Trump could make the next downward lurch somewhat less wrenching than it would otherwise be, at least for those in the United States, but that's all -- and he could also mess things up good and proper. We'll see.

Alan, best wishes for the sudden transition! I'm glad you had some time to prepare.

M Smith, I'm glad to have been of help. I'm hoping to get the commentariat back to a proper condition of civility as we proceed, if that's any encouragement.

Nic, I hope I didn't disappoint too badly! ;-)

Sam, before Trump's election I was pretty sure we'd see domestic insurgency if not all-out civil war here by 2025 or so. At this point, the demographic groups that were most likely to have started such a war -- the well-armed rural working class, with their very large proportion of veterans -- are by and large cheering Trump on, and seem to feel once again that they have something to hope for from the American system. Thus we're in very unpredictable territory, and I'm going to wait until I have a better idea of how things shake out under the Trump administration before I try to second-guess this country's future.

Bob, thanks for this.

Shane, or the Ghost of America Yet To Come murmuring weird ideas in both our ears as we sleep... ;-)

Justin, interesting. I find the thought of that kind of consensus profoundly unappealing -- rather like eating Velveeta sandwiches on Wonder Bread for the rest of eternity. The diversity of opinion and worldview in today's society appeals to me, and helps make up for the less welcome features of modernity -- though I know it's on its way out in due time. As for Peterson, I'll probably wait for the book -- in fact, I may see if I can score a review copy in exchange for a blurb. i prefer the company of my own thoughts when I'm walking, exercising, etc.

Tom, delighted to hear it.

Canon fodder, granted, the end of the American empire and the end of industrial civilization are two very different things; it's just that here in the US we get to deal with both at the same time, which is highly inconvenient. Thanks for the details on the labor participation rate -- I was misinformed. As for greenhouse gases, granted, I used a figure of speech that suggested a faster response time than we'll get.

John Michael Greer said...

Kevin, I didn't have anything to do with it, I promise -- but it's a good solid analysis, so thank you. (I'm startled to find that at least one of my books sold more in its first week than Hillary Clinton's book Stronger Together, which had the whole publicity machine of the Democratic Party hawking it. Hmm!)

Carol said...

@Justin
Thanks for the link to Dr. Jordan Peterson. Definitely related to this week’s post. Watching this video I was struck by how often he seemed to end up inside dualism traps.
It was especially interesting to have read Epictetus’s Handbook (thanks @Daniel Najib) just before watching Dr. Peterson, whose impassioned New Year’s letter to the World seemed full of the kind of suffering that people such as Epictetus, Gautama Buddha, and Byron Katie have pointed out is caused by attaching to our own story, belief or interpretation of events. Comparing the peaceful, joyful and often compassionate humor of people who practice awareness of their thinking with the intense suffering Dr. Peterson is demonstrating about the current world situation, I myself prefer practices that lead to some measure of peaceful acceptance of reality as it is, with some acknowledgment of the range of our own human behavior and an reflection on our place in this universe.
From Dr. Peterson: Sex is either the impulsive short term gratification of a domineering biological instinct or the union of two conscious spirits taking responsibility for what they are doing.
What happened to the FUN part? Heck, even the Stoics had more humor. I was delighted with this great image below about sheep from Epictetus:
46. . . . So that if ever any talk should happen among the unlearned concerning philosophic theorems, be you, for the most part, silent. For there is great danger in immediately throwing out what you have not digested. And, if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have begun your business. For sheep don't throw up the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; but, inwardly digesting their food, they outwardly produce wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you likewise not show theorems to the unlearned, but the actions produced by them after they have been digested.
Granted, I this was the first time I have read Epictetus, so I am probably doing exactly what he cautions against, throwing up something I haven’t properly digested. ;)

Carol said...

Continued:
Another quote from Dr. Peterson: Great stories of the past insist that we are all sons and daughters of the divine logos, consciousness itself, bearers of its light, and that we must act in accordance with that great central fact lest all hell break loose.

Again, this seems like dualistic thinking of either some amazing divine utopia, OR all hell breaks loose. Not much room for all the other possible historical twists we have been discussing in this blog.
Thanks to reading this blog, and having created an impossible and magnificent reading list, I have come to be aware of many of the things our host has pointed out. If I recall, he posited that a chambermaid living during the French Terrors would have probably not been aware of the historical relevance or even many of the events of the time. Even during the 14th century, which had such notable events as the Black Death, nobility marching everywhere, trashing the countryside and either asking their peasants to destroy crops to prevent other armies from profiting, or taxing their peasants heavily to pay for endless wars (and even more luxurious silks for their horses and banners, and special commemorative dishes for their Crusades), even then families were raised, crops were harvested, and guilds and universities continued. For an interesting read about chaotic and calamitous times and relevant parallels to issues our host discusses, I recommend A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Century by Barbara Tuchman. I definitely got a feel for how ‘elites’ had no concern about the peasant class, how much turmoil mercenary armies cause, and how different factions constantly maneuver for their own interests.

Anselmo said...

In my opinion is more probable and desirable a future scenary of a strictely ruled society, similar to the Japan of the Edo Era (Collapse, Jared Diamond) , that the scenary of gradual and irreversible social disintegration that you proposes. It will be a simple stage of the arc of decadence that you propose, but it could last many years.

If would exist some paralelism between our present situation and the Roman Imperium decadence, the stage that I refer would be the Dioclecian period. This idea fits equaly with the Industrialism of Scarcity that you defined in an earlier post some years before now. And with the shift of the political paradigm that implies the Trump Presidency ,that reminds me to the New Deal of Roosevelt or with the fascist dictatures in Western Europe, in the aspect of to look for the welfare of their respective peoples by mean of public building, social programs, and restiction to the importations.


I hope that your wife will recover soon his health.

Ray Wharton said...

Concerning reading Jordan Peterson, for the non youtube inclined.

Here is where he posted a PDF of his 1999 book 'Maps of Meaning' I haven't read it yet... I gather though that it was largely inspired by the fall out from Nietzsche's death of God and that whole mess.

http://jordanbpeterson.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Peterson-JB-Maps-of-Meaning-Routledge-1999.pdf

Donald Hargraves said...

@Patricia Mathews

Dead stem? Let me translate it thusly: "without progeny, a dead end on the evolutionary ladder." My brother and sister have kids, so there's a future (whatever you think of it) for my family.

Now it's not like I didn't have any real chances, after all I did pay for an abortion (one that the woman would come to regret). However, for much of the past eighteen years I was helping a friend of mine get around. She suffered a stroke, and for much of that time I got her around to visit with friends and do stuff she would have otherwise not done – something which has gained me much good will I would likely never have gotten otherwise.

One year and a few months ago she suffered another stroke (under my watch, may I add) and is now bedridden and unable to speak. She can, however respond intelligently to the degree that she can (she knows when something's funny and when she's being talked or written about). However, with her being alive everything is held up in Limbo, and while your idea of giving away half of everything (although the saints you talk about gave everything and lived on donated crumbs...not a bad idea, and had I been born Catholic I would probably have taken on such a calling) is great, I can't give away what I don't have. And with a need to live in the here and now (I've done some harmless cutting, the harder stuff I see coming up soon enough), I'm stuck at the moment.

As for skills...driving (for which I get complements all the time), which is doomed in ten years either from the collapse of the economy (thanks to OIL being unavailable at any price) or from automation. I'm sure I can pick up some flute playing (flutes and drums tend to survive collapses, as they're easy to make and don't require much effort to keep up); indeed I picked up an Ocarina to practice on. But for now...things are on hold for the most part.

Vedant said...

JMG,
Yes , I do know that chaos is already underway , but till now system is atleast functioning(or limping). I am asking for your estimated time interval when system show starting signs of failure Or whether starting signs of failure are already here and I am missing them?

sunseekernv,
Thanks buddy. I originally found out about that discovery on a tech blog which said discovery was accidental and very optimistic tone of the blog made me suspicious. Now I am in under no illusion that we are going to find a silver bullet for our energy problem like that hence I asked about that on this blog. Essentially I wanted to know whether it would prove as viable as solar or wind energy because I believe that solar-wind energy will be accepted much faster in low energy consuming developing countries , so I thought that maybe this could be an addition. Though you have already refuted its viability and thanks for that.

latheChuck, thanks for help.

Scotlyn said...

@JMG - now here's the itch that I cannot scratch - the circle I cannot square just now.
What do you expect happens next if one commenter tells another commenter that, in effect, he cannot reason with her because he is fully on board with her extermination AND the other commenter DOES NOT COME BACK?

I refer to this exchange last week, since which Deborah Bender (one of the commenters I really, truly appreciate on here) has not commented! (And ps, I'm slow, but eventually this has finally reached the forefront of, precisely because Deborah has not been back). Some things are said with words. Sometimes more profound things are said with silence.

Deborah: "@Dammerung... Fair skin and some recessive traits like blue eyes get passed down even in families that have no interest in preserving them. My ancestors selected mates for intelligence, good character, and Jewishness. If your justification for your politics is preservation of a particular set of visual traits, maybe you can relax about that."

Dammerung: "@Unknown - I don't think we're going to be able to reason together effectively... I have come to believe that blood libel is real. As a matter of fact I know it's real."






Stuart Jeffery said...

Thank you for the slap across the chops!

Your comment that "precisely three climate change scientists, out of thousands, who take their own data seriously enough to cut their carbon footprint by giving up air travel" is one that has frustrated me over the 20 years since I discovered peak oil and climate change.

My first act was to stop flying. I now regard it as a climate crime. It is the quickest and easiest life change we can make yet apparently knowledgeable green people continue to try to justify it. Add to these the liberal middle classes who 'need' their 'mini-breaks' - something that I find particularity galling - and you have can see a society that is focused on self gratification rather than self preservation.

In an earlier comment Izzy suggested that it might be time to party. I'd welcome your view on this as it is certainly tempting!

Finally @Violet, my wife has suffered with this for many year and I feel much healthier since we cleansed our lives of chemicals (I can breath at night now). I also see friends and workmates struggling with their own breathing while their are stinking of deodorant and perfume (I have tried telling them!). I hope things improve for you and that people wake up to the problems it causes.

Vesta said...

For me, not an unpleasant post. Yes, most everything will become much less comfortable and more violent most of the time, for most all of us. But today we're so comfortable it's literally killing us, and although the fortunate may avoid acute injury, violence is truly everywhere, and from molecular to global scales. People are deeply unhappy with their lives, as most of the things that give life meaning have been abandoned in the rush for wealth.

I welcome a world in which all must again work with their hands and travel on their feet, in which we know how to feed, clothe, care for and and shelter ourselves, without intermediation, and which requires us to be good neighbors living in real communities to survive. Roof, fire, family, a dog, and hard work everyday if we're gonna get by sounds like a very good life to me. Especially if there's an occasional friend and beer. My kids clearly won't live in a better world than we do, but they may have better lives.

So while I know it will hurt, I'm relieved we've finally crested the peak and are clearly accelerating down to the future. Not happy exactly, but pleased to be alive here now to see it finally happening.

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: It's fortunate then I suppose that I am not lots of people and that I'm just one fallible man and I try not to be dismissive as it gets in the way of my ability to learn. Sure, people may well have senses of entitlement which causes them to come a cropper. Also, maybe "lots of people " do " like to insist that the laws of nature can't possibly apply to them if that means they don't get what they want". I would find that odd & childish behaviour.

I have done and seen things that the "laws of nature" as documented, generally known & understood might struggle to explain or accept but I don't believe I advocated anything anti-laws of nature - however incomplete/changeable our knowledge of such things can be - so I'm not sure where that comment fits in to this dialogue.

Physics being due a paradigm shift, well my read is that it probably is. The History of Science is populated with such things. If other people are commenting similarly then nice, I guess, good to know other people are seeing the possibilities. Just as some people saw clues that other's rejected of the 2008 financial collapse and positioned themselves accordingly.

I don't have the time to follow everything but there are interesting movements in gravity, quantum theory and the materials sciences. Recently, the Parallel Interacting Universes Theory (Phys. Rev. X 4, 041013 ) caught my eye, published a couple of years ago which might be a good candidate for being tested and may open up the possibility of our universe being open in some way although I wouldn't presume to state the implications of that if the theory is validated I'll leave that to my more interested acquaintances.

You asked me for examples of enlightened collectives. I gave them. You haven't responded to those points so I'll presume they were acceptable.

I'm sure there are people who insist there are ways out of cycles within the cycle. Some may have been reacting from fear. Others unable to see a way. Yet others maybe saw a way and took it. I agree with Adorno's criticism about Spengler missing the role of initiative. I'm not saying Spengler isn't useful but I think it would be a mistake for me to ignore his critics particularly given my own experience and understanding of systemic cycles at all sorts of levels and scales. I'm not saying everyone is able to or will break from a specific cycle they are caught up in but cycles are at some point broken and something new happens and that likely involves inspirational initiative. As you know, the worse prison is the one in our head and leads to self fulfilling prophecies.

Projections from Historical Simulations are an unreliable indicator of the future particularly as the time horizon increases. If that actually worked then investment banks would never lose money. It's funny one of your commenters on the previous post were trying to convince me that people don't change. Perspective is everything.

Crow Hill said...

What I find even more tragic than what we are doing to ourselves as a human species is what we are doing to the other forms of life and existents.

Wouldn't it have been better for humans to have tried to balance the welfare of both? When I heard from the overseas provinces that the Mexican wall was actually going up I felt sorrow that wildlife would have a further barrier to its movement.

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: "...normally a very good test of the sincerity of someone's beliefs to see if they walk their talk...." - that's fair comment although I can think of plenty of viable exceptions. I wasn't sure what the motivation was for your mention of it or the others so flagged it up. Thanks for clearing it up. In this day an age the idea of having a face to face conference is a bit outdated in that it could be done 'virtually' but that does lose some communication elements. I don't own a car either - haven't for 20 years - although I do make use of them as necessary. Car ownership in cities in Europe has been hideously expensive for decades and in London travel through parts of the city accrues a daily tax as well as any parking fees.

Phil Knight said...

One thing, though -- the next time you Europeans decide to fight a major war, could you please keep it at home? Ever since the wars between England and Spain in the 16th century, you've been all too likely to send fleets and armies to duke it out in other corners of the world, you know, and I suspect the rest of the world can do without that at this point!

Sadly, I think that half the point of European wars is to provide an excuse to visit exotic climes with spicy food and bare chested native women.

Also, it should be remembered that if there's one thing that Europeans enjoy even more than a war, it's a violent pogrom against a religious minority. Liberalism has bequeathed future Europeans a veritable feast in this sphere as well.

Larz (near San Jose, California, USA) said...

I am a woman in my mid-60s. Due to no fault of my own, for the last thirty-five years, I have suffered permanent ill health having been poisoned by a prescribed drug. (I don't speak of my trials.) In my studies preparing to become an Episcopalian/Anglican (Christianity, for those not knowing), I am trying to decide which saint to emulate. I am reading Julian of Norwich (1342-1416). Julian died in her 70s, likely relying on the Benedictine tradition.

When it came to loss, Julian saw half of the people of her town of Norwich die from The Plague. She witnessed those around her turn black and die, dozens if not hundreds of times. Nonetheless, she was able to carry on. She had a strong faith, and was an inspiration to those around her for another fifty years.

Due to my illness, I have died and come back to life, privately, hundreds of times. It is not something I would have chosen to spend my time doing. Dying is old hat. While putting on my underpants every morning, I ask in a Zen way: "Are these the underpants I will die in?" As what happened to Julian, I try to imagine one of every two people I ever knew die. Oh, I already have. It's called Old Age, and every one of the relatives I cared for has died, the last one in 2013. Not half, but ALL. I am the eldest standing.

I will die in turn, whether civilization crumbles simultaneously, or not. I am too old to respond to a declining civilization. There is no way to prepare for the Black Death before it happens. The point is to, no matter what life dishes out, when one falls, do one of two things: (1) get up—and smile; or (2) help someone else get up—and help them smile. I don't mean literally getting up. Merely holding a hand can be "a getting up." Sometimes it means "smiling while crying."

JMG, by writing your blog, you help me get me on my feet every week, and smile. Nobody can depress me because I already survived "half of a town dropping dead." I get up, put on my face, and smile. I will do that until Death "wipes the smile off my face."

-----
Reference: Black Death, Great Pestilence, Bubonic Plague.

Rolf, Veronica Mary. Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life and Revelations of Julian of Norwich. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2013. Print. ISBN 1626980365.

Walsh, James, and Edmund Colledge. Julian of Norwich: Showings (The Classics of Western Spirituality Series). New York: Paulist Press, 1978. Print. ISBN 080910234X.

Ursachi Alexandru said...

JMG,

In all fairness, your country never truly "stayed out of other nations business" since its very inception. From what I know, people in many parts Latin America look at your country with the same dread that we in Eastern Europe look at Russia, at this goes back way before 1945. It's a matter of "let's keep our influence over countries closest to us," sure, but that's far from "isolationism."

Also, Trump's main external ally, UK prime minister Theresa May, while recognizing that the other member states need to pay their fair share, seems to be less willing to abandon NATO or allow Eastern Europe to fall back into Russia's sphere of influence. It will be interesting to see how the US and UK work this out.

mh505 said...

@ Doug Manners
By paying for European defence it has been buying the loyalty of European governments.

Very much so, Doug; and I would add that it cannot be ruled out - in fact, it is highly likely in some cases - that this "loyalty" was bolstered by direct payments to certain politicians.
I know that I am not alone in my belief that it would be better for everyone involved - not least the Americans themselves - if the US military would withdraw entirely from European soil. Let the EU start their own NATO spin-off, if they really believe there is a threat from the East.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

That is quite a frightening prospect with Greenland and I also wonder whether the large land mass that is Greenland (and Antarctica) will shift considerably in all manner of directions once it is relieved of its weighty burden of ice? That will have significant shock waves.

I reckon I may just name our first proper barley beer (once the minor technical details are sorted out in he beer production process and the batches can be reproduced more or less consistently which is the state of our wine production now): Greer's Beard. How do you like that? That name has a nice ring to it, I reckon anyway. And people in the future may ask why is this beer given that name?

It is interesting at how variable - but within an expected range - the outputs of country wines can be. And the sake is superb - we're working on keeping the rice wine slightly sweet which I for one prefer.

Well Europe has to man up and get on with the task at hand of defending itself. What other option does it have at this stage? Their population is so great that they would have a great deal of difficulty feeding themselves - as would we without fossil fuel inputs. So few people are attempting to understand plants which are the only game in town that actually produces a surplus when not much else does.

Hi Les,

Thanks for the nod. Off grid is a tough path and I respect you for giving it a bash!

Hi Phil,

Thanks mate! Awesome words and I appreciate your regular comments too.

Cheers

Chris

YCS said...

Hi JMG,
Here is a (brace for it) analysis on how Trump basically flipped the tables on postmodernism: http://thefederalist.com/2017/01/23/donald-trump-first-president-turn-postmodernism/

Of course when our civilisation tried to create a vacuous narrative that truth and morality don't exist, while simultaneously preaching that everyone is sinful, they would make us all vulnerable to the naked terror of power.

YCS

Patricia Mathews said...

For me, Alfred Bester had the last word on the atmosphere today - from the ear worm the villain of The Demolished Man was using as a mind shield and infected all his readers with for the rest of our lives - which I haven't been able to shake this year - "Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begin."

Tyler August said...

@Cannon Fodder,

Workforce participation rates are all well and good, but look at the society in each case. In the 1950s, a prosperous, middle-class family could not only get by on one income, but could scarcely imagine doing otherwise. Since marriage ages were young, we can expect most adults were thus in two-person, single-income households -- and thus slash our workforce participation rate in half vs modern levels to reflect the stay-at-homes.

Today, the vast majority are in either in dual-income/two-person, or single-person/single-income households-- everybody wants to work-- we would need to (very)* roughly double the workforce participation rate vs 1950s levels to equal 1950s levels of employment relative to the actual labour pool.

*(Yes, I know I'm simplifying; an actual doubling would obviously be impossible since the 1950s rate was over 50% -- because the reactionary ideal and feminist bugbear 1950s are a myth, and some women were in the workforce even then. Still, even if you assume half of women were in the workforce, 2016 does not come off seeming the better time to look for work, or for labour's bargaining power.)

Patricia Mathews said...

And again, Kaiser has enough to say that is cogent, that I think following his blog weekly would be worthwhile for everyone now spinning in the wind and crying out "What happened?!?!?"

http://historyunfolding.blogspot.com/

Greg Belvedere said...

Regarding Jordan Peterson:

I enjoy his views on PC culture on college campuses and think he has a lot of important things to say on the subject. In particular, he actually has a similar view on the subject as Noam Chomsky; how it grew out of post-modernism and the marxists who finally figured out that the soviet union was not a great model in the 70s. However, he sounds like he thinks marxist ideas inevitably lead to gulags which seems a bit reactionary. I don't consider myself a marxist, but I think did a good job of diagnosing some of the major problems of capitalism even if it does not offer great solutions for these problems. I strongly agree with JMGs critique of marxists in last week's post. Most of the marxists I know are people you would not want to share an apartment with let alone work on commune with. As David Sedaris said, most of them thought when the revolution came they would be the ones holding the clip boards. But Peterson's of dismissal of marxist thought seems a bit antithetical to the open discourse he is calling for and the economics departments (arguably where such a bias matters more in this context) are certainly not hot beds of marxist thinkers. I still enjoy what he has to say, because I understand where he is coming from. College campuses have gotten out of control.

Anyone who enjoy Peterson should check out dissident feminist Camille Paglia. She has a lot of great criticisms of gender and women's studies programs as well as feminism and PC culture. She will have a new book out in a few months JMG which I hope will turn the conversation about feminism and gender issues in a more positive direction. She also sees history as cyclical and thinks our culture is in a late decadent phase. Here is an interview with her.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlYR1isM2o8

Jessie said...

Hi JMG,

Thanks for the cold water in my face! As others have suggested, I have found that I need to continually reassess my direction in life to see whether or not it aligns with where we should be heading in the years ahead. Like another commenter mentioned, I've had to take time away from TAR for months at a time for mental health reasons. Sometimes I wind up healing and becoming too optomistic and end up making plans that don't align with green wizard values. Then I come back and reassess. Unfortunately with a family, there's more people in the decision-making process and you can wind up in gridlock as well. We'll see. Also: I would be interested to see what you have to say about personal finance, as you mentioned savings vanishing or dropping drastically in value. If you have a book recommendation on the topic I'd love to hear it.

Jess

Eric S. said...

"My musings about an alt-center have that as a central theme." Unfortunately, that movement will probably need a different name. A quick search of the term alt-center shows that that that label has already been appropriated as a pejorative for the center-right neoliberalism plus veneer of identity politics... http://shetterly.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-atl-center-censorship-and.html, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/12/what_the_hell_is_wrong_with_america_s_establishment_liberals.html, http://alecshea.xyz/2016/08/28/the-rise-of-alt-center/, http://sjwar.blogspot.com/. Not sure what such a civility movement should be called, but with the "alt" prefix becoming such a big meme this year and carrying its own share of baggage, it may need to be something a bit different than that. (If I were going to be "alt" anything at this point, I'd probably be ctrl-alt-delete: the restart America in Safe Mode movement...)

n=ro said...

Hello John,

What a well written reminder of the dark horrors this world has hidden from us for the last couple decades.

I hope you're delighted to hear, that I have started to print your weekly essays, to be able to read them offline in a more pleasant atmosphere.
Maybe one day you can add a print button next to the posts, with a link to a nicely layouted (old fashioned, of course) pdf version or so!

sincerley,
nero

Morgenfrue said...

I wonder if the idea of a "fighting retreat" would broaden the appeal of collapse now and avoid the rush - and get a move on, apparently! It's been a year and a half since I've been in the US, and it looks like someone's taken the brakes off the roller coaster and loosened all the wheels.
After seeing pictures of the posters "A woman's place is in the resistance" from the woman's march, and now all the fawning over the rogue NASA and rogue National Parks Twitter accounts (which I am seeing via Facebook, which is enough brain damage for me, Twitter is over the edge of stupid) - I can't help but think that framing collapse and voluntary poverty as a way to fight the Evil Empire and stick it to the man would inspire more people. Personally I have a hard time with the green wizard thing. Being from 1978, it's entirely likely that I have seen Star Wars a few too many times, but I would much rather fight the retreat under the banner of a Resilience Underground or some such.
I too have no one to speak of these things with, my husband swings between tech/political fixes and "we're all gonna die; where should we go on vacation this summer?" Makes me nuts. He was outraged by my lack of surprise at Trump's election. I just wish I'd bet on it. Nonetheless we've moved out of the metropolis and to a merchant town founded in the 9th century, bought a house from the 30s with a big backyard and established fruit trees (and a root cellar!), and I've dropped hospital and intensive care nursing for district nursing. I'm honing my skills at caring for diabetic foot ulcers and amputations, among other things - things are gonna get ugly if kids don't start taking care of their elders here in Scandinavian welfare-land. I have a side job doing translations, I knit and I sew for myself and my kids - next up is upping my game in the garden, and I want to learn more about herbal medicine, it seems like a natural next step in terms of my established career. Fight on!

latefall said...

@JMG Re military spending & capability:

US perm. bases on foreign soil: 800, approx cost 80 bn + diplomatic cost
Rest of world ": 30

2012 spending (% of GDP):
USA 711 bn (4.7%)

Russia 72 bn (3.9%)

UK 63 bn (2.6%)
France 63 bn (2.3%)
Germany 47bn (1.3%)
Italy 35 bn (1.6%)
Spain 12 bn (0.8%)
Netherl. 10 bn (1.3%)
Poland 9.9 bn (1.9%)
Euro sum: 240 bn (vs 72 bn Russia)

Outspending the Russians by a factor of 3.3(+) and having a significant portion of the population with military training (e.g. 80% in Finland, 220k reserves of 1.3M Estonians + various paramilitary forces) really does NOT suggest the issue is lack of commitment. Coordination is another matter, but here I would stress that neither the UK nor the US has been helpful lately.

Euro cost of sanctions re Ukraine: 100 bn
Likelihood EU would threaten Russia via coup+base in Ukraine: low
Likelihood USA " : ask e.g. Nuland. Or Stratfor (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgvtMeC_7_o)

Re Mattis:
Did isolationist tendencies (e.g. bases) come up AT ANY TIME during Mattis' confirmation hearing? No.
Allies: Key strategic element, deterrent against challengers of "global order".
Global responsibilities: Yes.
F35? Mattis said F35 is important (also because allies put their faith in product).
Also: Navy important to SET rules of global commerce.

Some hardware fanboism:
Despite very high R&D spending USA sourced many heavily used weapon systems from Europe: M249 light machine gun & M240 mg (Belgian), likely replacement M27 (German), 1 mio M68 close combat optics (Swedish), MP5 (German), M320 grenade launch module (German), Stryker (Swiss), Abrams main gun (German), remote weapon station (Norwegian), AT4 and M3 bazooka (Swedish), Beretta M9 (Italian), 120 mm mortar (Finnish/Israeli), M252 81 mm mortar (UK).

This is in spite of European mfg being at a disadvantage due to lower domestic demand. Acceptable markets for sale are restricted (imagine Gotland or Dolphin class submarines for PRC) and sales to US are difficult (e.g. KC-45).

To me this suggests that:
1. Euro war fighting capability per se is sufficient
2. Where performance is needed Euro products can compete
3. Prestige projects (air force, some navy) are politically problematic, more wasteful
4. USA force structure is abnormal, procurement is extraordinarily wasteful
5. USA primary focus is China (USPACOM), Europe's internal military developments are irrelevant, trying to press Europe into action against China is a long shot.
6. NATO has issues not since last year, but last 18 years

Having briefly worked in US defense related R&D (advanced technology demonstrators) I have a hard time conveying the quality of work that is deemed sufficient for additional funding. I do wonder what happens once Trump makes the international brain drain stop or reverse.

The overall prioritization of certain military aspects (terrorism, counter A2/AD, expeditionary vs. weak organic AA, weak artillery) speak a clear language to me.

I'll look forward to Trump cutting military expenses by 50% which means the USA would still outspend its main strategic competitors (China + Russia) by a large margin.

Nancy Sutton said...

Sorry, I haven't read all the comments yet....hopefully someone already posted this... the plutocrats are apparently really worried about the pitchforks..
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich
(BTW, I found by hearing the author interviewed on the reviled NPR :)

Also, some might like to follow Justin Rhodes (check his daily YouTube vlog).. who will tour many of the backyard, small farm, organic, etc. food growers in the US (and Canada :) for 10 months. He'll roll it into a documentary (sorry, you missed the reduced Kickstarter price... my bad!) next year. It may be an eye-opener for many (he's has 100K subscribers) who care but are clueless.

Violet Cabra said...

Something that I meditate on quite a bit is the reality that darkness is closing in around us. Paths are narrowing, the narrow bridge we walk in life has missing planks and no safety rails. Most people are waiting for a future that will never come and don't appear to have the inner grit to face up to what is happening. The situation is all sorts of bad and will only get worse.

This puts issues meaning and choice into a stark relief. Questions like "why should I bother?" or "what can I do?" become more haunting. Are ethics more important than survival? Are there any safe choices? Is there any way out of this predicament?

The sense of personal responsibility is great with these sorts of questions, the outlook grim. There can be paralyzing indecision with the knowledge that one's very survival will entirely depend on unforeseen causality. This sort of thinking has tendency to short circuit reason.

In the beginning Plato's Republic he asks "is there anyway that one can play an instrument and become less musical?" to which his baffled foil responds "of course making music makes one more musical"

Currently I'm reading Bruce Catton's Centennial History of the Civil War. It is clear that the generals that took the initiative and made their will manifest did much better than those who waited for fate to intervene.

The point is that I want to make is two fold:

1) to become involved with something, to work one's hands in it, anything that one cares about will makes one better than having no engagement at all, in keeping a safe distance. anything worth doing well is worth doing badly, and the first attempt will quite likely be the worst.

2) if one takes the initiative the more likely they are to do well. to cling to the safety of inaction in dangerous times is to cling to utter ruin.

There are no good excuses for inaction in the face of overwhelming forces. The very fact the the forces are overwhelming demands more rigorous action.

Whitecloak said...

I've a feeling if the status quo ante-Trump uniparty consensus finds a way to rid themselves of our God Emperor we could have a real problem. Tensions are too high and I don't see them going anywhere but up in the near future.

I honestly think voluntary balkanization might be the only peaceable way forward. Calexit has my full support as a heartland nativist. We obviously disagree completely and totally on how society should be ordered, why should we be forced to live under policies anathema to one another?

We needs dismantle the empire, lest we be dismantled with its collapse.

The Big Rant said...

I'm starting a thing in my area (Chicagoland) called the Circle of Gratitude. It will consist of gathering in my office space, which is a music studio with a large waiting room, and having everybody write down what they are most grateful for on a small piece of paper. Then we will put them in a bowl and draw them out, one by one, and the person will be welcome to talk about what they wrote, or they can pass and let someone else speak. The first one will be in March and if it is successful, I'll do it on a regular basis. Others are welcome to steal this idea if they like it.

pygmycory said...

With insulin, it might be worth using already-existing yeasts that are bioengineered to make human insulin. The bioengineering has already been done, and human insulin is less likely to produce bad reactions. The main issue I can see is getting hold of the yeast or bacteria (both are used to produce insulin). I bet the bioengineered microbes are patented.

I hope we don't lose them, because this is something useful that probably wouldn't be too hard to keep.

latefall said...

Re Civil War scenario

There are a few aggravating factors due to US peculiarities:
1. Timber frame homes (combustible) > 90% of low rises in US/Canada
2. Few houses have basements (relevant for artillery)
3. Ammo likely more important than # of guns (500-50k rounds per kill)
4. Artillery generally beats small arms by a wide margin, USA has 8100 pieces
5. Disease often beats all others, particularly where infrastructure is fragile
6. US vets enjoyed a very low tooth-to-tail ratio**, in a civil war most combatants are part-timers, and doctrine will likely differ drastically.

Generally civil wars last longer and are more destructive than other conflicts. Particularly the "son of the soil" type partially ethnic wars that dammerung was considering last week fall into that category*. 1 mio people capable of "creative ways to inflict harm" (with small arms!?) hardly matter in that specific geopolitical context, in my opinion.

*http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022343304043770 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022343304043769

**The combatant vs support ratio is actually relatively high in some European armed forces. The USA has one of the lowest overall.

Erica said...

Hello @NomadicBeer, @Pygmycory et al

I am a climate scientist and have not been on a plane since 2008. Unfortunately I think those words alone might identify me uniquely. It has certainly harmed my career. But I have plenty of transferable skills.

I have long noted with disappointment the lack of will among climate scientists, who have the most knowledge about the coming physical changes to this planet, to make more than superficial changes in their own lives. To me this reiterates the clear conclusion that science, and facts, and mere knowledge of our situation, cannot bring the outcomes I hope to see. Climate scientists are human like everyone else, and information is only one of a wide range of factors in personal decisions. Thanks to JMG, and many others, for pursuing other avenues.

M Smith said...

Donald Hargraves,

I think I understand your point of view, as I'm a childless woman in her 60's who feels useless some days. But what I can still do, and do better than most, is provide care for babies and children so that their stronger, younger parents have the time and resources to do what needs to be done, like defend elders from the barbarian hordes. My resources are time, literacy, and (for now) a nest egg.

I realize that men are regarded with suspicion if they want to watch children, so that might not be an option for you. But how about being the right-hand man for the woman of the house? While she frees up the parents by watching their progeny, you can free her up by helping run the household. She will not want to take six toddlers to the grocery store.

It sounds frivolous now, but I always sarcastically thought to myself that if I created an agency to rent "husbands" to single women for chores like going to the mechanic or negotiating with contractors, I could make a fortune. So look around and see whether there's a niche for you that isn't necessarily being "large and in charge" but playing an essential role.

Nastarana,

That idea occurred to me, but if I don't tell and she doesn't tell, the authorities will not know. I would not be smart to re-sell those eggs, and I wouldn't jeopardize anyone's health and my freedom for $2 anyway. There are much more lucrative and enjoyable risks to take. ;-)

onething said...

"Thanks for the details on the labor participation rate -- I was misinformed."

But can the labor participation rate of 1954 be fairly compared to 2016? In 1954 the majority of married women stayed home by choice.

Tidlösa said...

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

I haven´t read the entire article (it´s very long), but it has some relevance for this week´s posting. The short story: the super-rich are turning "survivalist"!

Jerome Purtzer said...

JMG-Great Post, Thank You! The Supertramp album like Pink Floyd's Darkside of the Moon were the soundtrack for my youth. I don't know if you ever heard of a Hippie community in Southern Oregon called Selma. Several thousand following a different path completely misunderstood by the red necks and the established who surrounded them. At the current moment I live on a giant commercial strawberry farm in N. LA area. And on this farm there are 29 oil wells pumping away. I have no illusion that I could hold out for long eating Strawberries and Avocados when the starving hordes from LA start scavenging for food. Very few seem even slightly aware of the awesome momentum of industrial civilization taking us on a Lemming holiday.

Effra said...

It is a measure of the journey I have been on over the last three years or so that what you have written in this post seems to reflect many of my thoughts over the past week whilst when I first discovered your writings I would have thought parts of it too pessimistic even though I know that my grounded reasons for that reaction would have been non-existent and I was never able, even when I was young, idealistic and very naive, to believe in progress.

I find now that in being able to acknowledge the horror of what collectively lies ahead there comes a certain calm about present tense day-to-day anxieties even as controlling my fears about the geo-political situation I find more difficult. It is odd watching the liberal meltdown- and it does seem the rage of a faith crisis - whilst myself feeling relief that Hillary has not had the chance to kill us all with no fly zones over Syria and troubled as to what really has been going on with the Deep State - or whatever the power structure can be called - in first allowing Trump to win then seemingly trying to destroy him before the inauguration. Amidst the relative isolation these preoccupations breed it is a solace and a pleasure to come here and read you each week and hear about other people's journeys I recognise as similar in shape to my own.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Donald - bless you, you did good. I guess I misinterpreted "dead stem." And if "on hold" means "no real plan, just doing whatever comes to hand," I have been amazed in my own life what that can lead to. Hang in there.

Pat

Barrabas said...

Australias peak oil future has come into focus recently with repeated jet fuel shortages at melbourne international airport.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-26/melbourne-airport-jet-fuel-crisis-eases/8060332

Bass strait has dropped from 750000 barrels a day down to 350000 , while the country is using 1 million barrels per day.
With all its massive investment in plants, refining and transport , the chevron owned gas plants in w.a can only produce 100 000 barrels per day .
Even americas vast gas fracking apparatus only produces 1 million barrels per day equiv .

South australia with its heavy renewables grid is suffering repeated intermittency blackouts , giving ammunition to the neo con pro coal lobby , who are quite right in suggesting that coal is the way forward for australia if we are to avoid economic catastrophe .

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/8-options-to-fix-south-australias-unreliable-electricity-system/news-story/302ea00bc0405e61a0deecb41f4610ca

Meanwhile 50,0000 people protested against the nations "Australia Day " celebrations , burning flags and being themselves attacked by riot police m ostensibly because they are empathising with the day being an insult to indigenous minorities. Everyone seems shocked by these mostly young people refusing to identify with the concept of nation state after being brought up in the porn, drug and consumer soaked soup of neoliberal postmodernity. Being mostly losers within that system , it occurred to me that the indigenous issues are a figleaf ???

Finally , john pilger new film " the coming war on china " is almost out
http://thecomingwarmovie.com

Australia is embarking on its biggest military buildup since the Vietnam war to -- help the u.s and japan take on china as well as defend itself should the u.s and japan get a flogging in the south china sea .

Yes folks , it has well and truly begun . I have noticed a shift in my compadres who were formerly amused by my peak oul ramblings , they are now less inclined to even talk about it at all, and i can see many of them are becoming anxious and concerned , although in denial .

Barrabas said...

And for those that missed it , the latest very sobering peak oil report from the very mainstream HSBC bank
http://peakoil.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=1344783

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Just a quick note: I overheard an older couple with their young child this morning discussing American politics. The conversation went exactly like this: (Father) "Nobody voted for Trump" and (Son) "Trump voters are idiots".

Now I'm just saying that there are a lot of "Nobody's" out there, which may not have occurred to the dad, and the son was too young (being under about the age of ten) to have formed coherent and independent worldviews.

Those sorts of conversations make me very uncomfortable as I am all to sure of where they can lead. I once spoke with a sociopath who remarked that a particular group of people were not real people and did not lead real lives. It was a very scary thing to hear and I made sure that that person was not involved in my life in anyway.

Cheers

Chris

Bob said...

I must object to comparisons between lemmings and humans. Lemmings do not commit suicide!

Barrabas said...

The other interesting thing happening in australian politics is the eruption of reactionary marxism within the greens party who have 10 per cent of the national vote

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/hardleft-faction-forms-inside-greens-aiming-to-end-capitalism-20161222-gtghf9.html

And the stunning electoral rise of the queensland based anti immigration , climate denying One Nation party, whose leader pauline hanson did jail time twenty years ago but has returned to claim ten percent of the national vote .

When comparing australia to the u.s , remember the south there is the north and west here , and the bi coastal regions equate to sydney and melbourne ( south east ) !!!

Sylvia Rissell said...

Not related to this week's topic, I am looking forward to learning how a druid describes love and marriage.

In general, I am concerned about people who think food comes from the grocery store, clothes come from the mall, and entertainment comes from TV. I am much much less advanced than most of you!

My current feeble attempts to combat this are jokes while waiting for the work microwave: "In the old days, we would have had to chop the wood, split it, light the stove, and THEN wait for lunch to warm up."

latheChuck said...

Scotlyn - I understand your "itch", but in an environment like this, where the silent one is not literally standing mutely by your side, silence is just silence. It could be a technical glitch that leaves the conversation hanging, or some external event that keeps anyone away from their keyboard. I, for one, challenged Dammerung to do something more substantial with his hands than write (such as kneading bread), and he has no answer to me. Do I count that as a victory? Not at all. It's merely silence. Conversations, relationships, sometimes lives... just end, despite our hunger for resolution.

Shane W said...

Whitecloak beat me to the punch. For those of you left of center who live in ostensibly blue states, the most productive cause you can immerse yourself if and lend all your efforts is secession. Take a look at the red/blue map. Look very carefully at the blue islands in a sea of red. Look at what parts of the country are predominately blue: the West Coast and New England. Both have active secession movements--all the West Coast states, and Second Vermont Republic is seeing a renaissance. Take another close look at the map and politics and realize how futile it is to change minds in red America, and you're not really even trying at this point, either. Now, I know there are anomalies, like NM and Colo--that can't be helped. Yes, I know that all the talking heads pooh pooh the idea, but they also pooh poohed Trump as well. This is the one place where you can have as big an impact as the Trump presidency on the nation. Think how dramatic it would be if the secession prop passes in Calif, not to mention other states. Yes, I know it may not be recognized as legitimate this go around, but this is how ideas go from fringe to mainstream to inevitable. Secession is a way you can be on the right side of history, instead of fighting it. Also, as Whitecloak mentioned, this is something we can totally support you on. Most of us strongly believe in federalism and local control. For those of us in what was the Confederacy, we still have painful memories of being forced back into the Union during Reconstruction and being turned into an internal colony by the Feds. That's all the reminder we need to put us in a good mood about secession. Forget all the financial concerns, "giving" vs. "taking" states, population & sustainability--we won't really know until we divide just how the economic cookie crumbles, and any federal program, law, or constitutional provision can be recreated and any treaty can acknowledge trade, etc. Now is time for the liberal blues to give up on red America and withdraw and secede into their strongholds, and for the "big sort" to kick into overdrive. Dispense with the pussyhats and the aerobic exercise and work for something productive for a change: secession.
@Raymond Duckling,
I assume that there is still an active opposition to NAFTA in Mexico? Surely all the damage NAFTA did and the exodus is provoked hasn't been forgotten? How is the opposition to NAFTA in Mexico reacting to the changes in trade policy north of the border. Surely there must be some in Mexico who see an end to free trade as an opportunity to rebuild domestic industries and sectors...

canon fodder said...

@Tyler August

Agreed. The US in the 1950s was a much different economic prospect. Your point about one vs two wage earners is reinforced by the data. It shows a participation rate lower than today until about 1976, where it started climbing steadily until a peak around 2006. 1976 was about the time inflation (stagflation?) and foreign competition (Japanese cars, anyone?) took a real bite out of the blue-collar earning capability. Then again, if I asked my mother if she “worked” back in the 1960s she’d either roll her eyes and laugh, or smack me upside the head, depending on how annoying I was being that day.

A couple more interesting points to consider when looking at the data.

First, the current decline in the participation rate is matched by a concurrent increase in social welfare rates (SSDI, SNAP, etc.). In essence, a chunk of the population has found out that they can make as much from government transfer payments as they could from working the available part-time jobs. The various companies specializing in helping people apply for benefits also started popping up at this time. To me, this still means that families need two incomes to make ends meet, but some people have elected to navigate the bureaucracy to get transfer payments rather than slogging at some min-wage part-time job.

Second, the data sets I could find only went back to 1950, which I consider to be near the peak of the US manufacturing industry. I’d love to see data from the 1930s, an economic era arguably not too different than today. Go back even further to the era where a majority of Americans lived on family-owned farms, and I bet the true participation rate would be much higher than today. Everyone on the farm worked, not necessarily for a wage, but to survive. I doubt the government bean counters would say more than just the head of the household “worked,” but they all put in the hours.

Jen said...

On a positive note: I have begun, upon hearing my Democrat friends bewail Trump's ascension, to suggest that they actually, personally do something about some of the issues about which they are so concerned, such as reproductive rights and religious freedom or the environment, and have found them surprisingly receptive. His election seems to have galvanized them, and many have shot back that they've already begun volunteering at some community group or have organized a group of their own or taken a leadership position in a local organization.

Whereas before, suggestions that member- and citizen-funded organizations might be less beholden to the powers that be and less easily destabilized were usually sneered at as regressive, immoral (!), or unworkable, they now seem to be taking deep thought about more distributed funding possibilities and the merits of simply proceeding with positive change regardless of the current administration's stance. They seem to have been shaken out of the feeling that the changes they want to see are part of a moral progression to which they are entitled, and are grudgingly recognizing that those changes might be something they need to shell out time and/or money to accomplish.

This is not to say that there's not still a lot of overwrought moaning and wasting of energy on the more pointless forms of political action such as the recent protests and marches, but my liberal friends at least do seem to be buckling down. I have been singing the praises of social capital as a partial substitute for and attractant of human and financial capital at every opportunity. Hopefully soon they will begin seeing some positive local results!

Kfish said...

Dear Morgenfrue,

Self-sufficiency as a way of refusing to support a corrupt society has a very long history. From Thoreau to monastic traditions of varying religions, to Communists to the 70s back-to-the-landers, lots of people have decided to support themselves directly as a political or ethical statement.

My personal motto for self-sufficiency: "Every home-grown tomato is a tiny little 'F-You' to the world."

David, by the lake said...

John--

I happened upon a small bit of news this morning with my usual few minutes of NPR before work, confirming, if nothing else, a decline in coherent thought. The news story was discussing the protests outside the Republican strategy retreat and one of the protesters interviewed was going on about how the electoral college "rewarded people for living in the middle of nowhere" and how the system was "votist". I kid you not. Votist. I can only shake my head and wonder what has become of this world.

John Michael Greer said...

Anselmo, thank you. Which scenario happens will depend, I think, largely on where you are; I could easily see Europe settling into a relatively stable condition for some centuries, provided that it manages to cope with the end of the fossil fuel economy and can stave off the kind of mass immigration that, historically speaking, sweeps nations off the map. Here in North America, that might eventually happen in the northeast US and southeastern Canada, but elsewhere, the descent into barbarism is far more likely, for reasons I've discussed at length already.

Ray, many thanks.

Vedant, what I expect to happen is a slow unraveling, in which signs of failure won't be visible unless you stop and think back to conditions ten or twenty years back. Here in the US, for example, a growing number of rural counties no longer have the funds to keep their roads paved, but you have to go looking to find that out. That's the way the signs of failure will be -- hidden from obvious view, papered over by official statistics, easily dismissed as random fluctuations. So, yes, there are some signs of failure showing up now, and there will be more with each passing year, over the century or two that it'll take for industrial civilization to finish its decline and fall.

Scotlyn, it was when that got said that I asked the alt-right contingent to drop the overt Nazism, Holocaust revisionism, and so on, and I proceeded to enforce that by deleting several attempted posts. I leave my readers a great deal of latitude for discussion, and yes, some of them leave from time to time.

Stuart, you're most welcome. I agree, for what it's worth -- I could see flying if there was some valid reason for doing so, but "I need a mini-break in Mazatlan" does not cut it. And of course when climate scientists are insisting that everybody needs to cut their carbon footprint, the fact that they aren't willing to do so themselves raises valid questions about whether they themselves believe what they're saying.

Vesta, that's certainly a valid way to look at it. Are you taking steps in your own life to move in that direction right now, while there's time to get past the learning curve?

DoubtingThomas, ah, but from the perspective of history, you're just one member of a crowd -- one of the many voices insisting that there has to be some way out of the cycle of history, as people invariably do at this point in the cycle. I know it's awkward to come to terms with the fact that every one of us gets our ideas from our own cultural and historical setting, and that those ideas are therefore predictable to a great extent, but there it is.

As for paradigm shifts in physics, it interests me to notice how many people don't seem to realize that most paradigm shifts in physics end up proving that there's something else we can't do. The immense paradigm shift that gave rise to thermodynamics explained why you can't get more energy out of a process than you put into it; the paradigm shift that gave us relativity theory explained why you can't accelerate a material object to the speed of light, much less past it, and so on. Most of the laws of science amount to "you can't do that" -- and yet talk about paradigm shifts in physics these days almost always fixates on the notion of getting more energy, more resources, more goodies than the current version of physics permits. Myself, I suspect that the next big paradigm shift in physics will tell us why fusion power isn't a viable option and why we're not going to the stars, but we'll see...

John Michael Greer said...

DoubtingThomas (continued), oh, and by the way, don't assume that I agree with you just because I don't take the time to take issue with every detail in a long comment. I'm fielding upwards of 500 comments a week just now, and that means long comments tend to get short shrift.

Crow Hill, I won't argue.

DoubtingThomas, when I was in London in 2014, I had a very easy time getting around by train, underground, bus, and foot -- like most cities founded before the automobile age, it's well designed for pedestrians and public-transit passengers. I have no idea why anyone would bother using a car there.

Phil, oh, I know. Still, a being can dream.

Larz, I'm glad this blog helps you! I'd say, also, that choosing to take a saint as a role model may be one of the most useful things anybody can do just now.

Ursachi, the same is true of every nation large enough to have a significant impact on its neighbors. There have still been periods of relative disengagement and others of hardcore imperial expansion, and the former make a good role model just now.

Cherokee, I'd be honored! Thank you.

YCS, hmm! Many thanks for the link; that looks like an article to savor.

Patricia, now there's a blast from the past!

Greg, thanks for the heads up about the new Paglia book. I wonder if I can get a review copy in exchange for a blurb. ;-)

Jess, I don't know of anything in print that really talks about what to do as the economy of money gives way to an economy of (far more limited) concrete wealth. I'll see if I can find something, though.

Eric, so noted. I rather like alt-delete as a label!

Nero, glad to hear it. I'd have to have someone else do the print formatting, though, as I'm up against the limits of what I can do myself at this point.

John Michael Greer said...

Morgenfrue, hmm! That sort of reframing might be worth trying.

Latefall, thanks for the numbers. With regard to the Senate hearings, remember that that's pure political theater at this point; the Senate has not quite been reduced to the rubberstamping function of its Roman equivalent, but it's getting there. The thing to watch is what happens over the next six months or so.

Nancy, it's about time they started worrying about the pitchforks. With any luck, those worries will start taking more useful forms -- say, a nervous backing away from the culture of executive kleptocracy that's become so entrenched in the upper end of the US economy.

Violet, very good. I'd also add that getting off the sofa and doing something constructive is the most effective way I know of to deal with feelings of helplessness and despair.

Whitecloak, I'd be delighted if California were to secede. So would most of the people who've spent any time living in nearby states, for that matter. May I make a suggestion? The simplest legal way to make secession happen is a constitutional convention, which can be called by state legislatures, and can then draft a constitutional amendment giving states the legal right to secede and setting up a procedure for secession. Once that's ratified by the states, it's the law of the land -- neither Congress nor the president have anything to say about it. Get the word out: the escape hatch is right there in the Constitution.

Big Rant, fair enough. What do you hope to bring about by doing this? That's not a rhetorical question; I'm genuinely curious.

Pygmycory, interesting. I wonder what it would take to pry those loose.

Latefall, interesting. I see a diffuse domestic insurgency of the Iraq variety as more likely than an all-out civil war, for what it's worth -- and both of them have become a good deal less likely because of the outcome of the election.

Onething, a valid point. I'll want to look into that.

Tidlösa, maybe they'll get even more of a clue, and stop the self-defeating behaviors that are putting them at risk.

Jerome, that's another album I used to listen to by the hour. Pity neither group ever did a song titled "March of the Lemmings."

Effra, thank you. Agreed, it's a lot easier to deal with the confusions of the present when the shape of the future can be glimpsed...

Karl Ivanov said...

Well Mr. Greer, my interaction with your worldview has been a long strange road. Believe it or not, I first became well acquainted with your musings while living in the basement of a Goldman Sachs executive whose wife was on the board of a ballet company I danced with. I was familiar with concepts of peak oil and other environmental issues by then, already believing that Obama had made a huge mistake in not pursuing Van Jones' "Green New Deal" but instead going ahead with what turned out to be a very flawed health care program. Your framing of the myth of progress was not a part of any previous argument I had encountered, and, having been brought up in that faith, it shook me to confront its failings.
On a rational level, I followed your arguments. On a non-rational level, I really didn't want them to be true, especially since the career path I chose for myself depended on the relative stability of the status quo. When Hillary lost the election, my irrational brain was finally forced to relinquish its faith in progress. I had no great support for Hillary- like most of my generation I was a huge fan of Bernie Sanders, and was appalled and greatly disillusioned by the way the media treated him during the course of the campaign.
That said, it did feel inevitable that the first black president should be followed by the first female president, and things should just keep steadily muddling forward- some improvements to the health law, eventually universal healthcare, continuing progress on social issues- my subconscious liberal psyche, fueled by the religion of progress, held onto that belief.
That is over with now. I admit my vote for Hillary was largely selfish (And horribly gut wrenching- I left the booth praying I had not just voted for WWIII). That said, I did personally benefit from Obamacare, and from the economic status quo. That's going away now, and I will almost certainly have to choose a new life path. Could be a hell of a lot worse, though. I am from the privileged classes, and have a lot to fall back on.
Thank you for giving me a paradigm with which to make greater sense of the issues of the day. All though it is not perfect, it hangs together much better than most of our societies’ narratives. The despair you see in people about Hillary is, in my opinion, in large part because their narrative of progress cannot accept that a Trump could happen in their lifetime. That someone portrayed as so "backwards" could win the presidency has caused a crisis of faith in many.

Kevin Warner said...

"Barrabas said...
And the stunning electoral rise of the queensland based anti immigration , climate denying One Nation party, whose leader pauline hanson did jail time twenty years ago but has returned to claim ten percent of the national vote."

A bit of context here may be interesting. Pauline Hanson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_Hanson) is sort of like our Donald Trump and is also notable for her hair (Fun fact: she actually scored an invite to Trump's inaugeration). She came out of nowhere in the mid-nineties to eventually score about a million votes at one stage but, through our electoral system, did not get to translate it into many seats.

Her main claim to fame is being anti-immigrant, anti-multiculturalism, etc. which struck a chord as governments at the time were tone-deaf to people's concerns. People threw votes her way as they were not being allowed to express their concerns without being shouted down as racist, etc (sound familiar?). What surprised me at the time was that protesters felt themselves entitled to physically attack people going to attend her meetings and our press was totally OK with this (also sound familiar?) nor did the cops really intervene much. I am against her ideas but you have to listen to the other side, right?

Note that this was all about 20 years ago. Yeah they did throw her in the slammer in 2003 with a harsh sentence but a review quickly tossed the convictions a few months later. Here is where it gets interesting. It came out that Tony Abbott (future Prime Minister) and protege of the sitting Prime Minister of the John Howard, bankrolled the court cases against her. So it was a deliberate take-down. Why am I bothering with this quick run-down of a minor political figure? Because of what I believe the effect of her was.

In spite of having nearly 1-in-3 people here in Australia born overseas, we have a harsh, if not vile, illegal emigrant regime that counters international law and all this goes back to after Hanson came on the scene. I firmly believe the government at the time adopted much of her policies (after filing off the serial numbers) to bring back voters to themselves and these policies have become entrenched with us ever since. And now I can't shake this feeling that your conservatives in the US saw all this play out and said yeah, we could do the same. It could work here.

Jen said...

@Violet Cabra in response to everyone

"Structurally, to prepare is to attempt to exert control. Which is useful and essential up to a point, but alas our predicament is multi-variable, convergent, and chaotic. Even with the best preparations in the world there is a very, very limited amount of control that one person, family, or community can exert on the wild movements of contingency and exigency that are flowing into our lives."

Just wanted to note, I think this is why, in traditional networks of reciprocity, willingness to help is usually conditional upon being an upstanding member and practicing/having practiced (if one is now incapable) "personal responsibility" (a loaded phrase, I know) and having invested in the community.

Self-sufficiency/"rugged individualism" is a prerequisite for mutual aid, not in opposition to it. That way you have a network of useful individuals with pertinent skills, at least somewhat diversified, and of proven reliability, who are available to assist when circumstances strike beyond one's ability to foresee or prepare for--something that can happen to any community member--but the materially and morally parasitic tend to be sanctioned or excluded. This makes the community as a whole more efficient and adaptable than it would be as a collective of isolated individuals, without draining its initiative and encouraging dependence or rewarding gaming of the system.

So I think there is certainly value in a spiritual approach to chaos and contingency in troubled times, but there are valuable pragmatic responses as well that go beyond prepping into the realms of social organization and moral norms.

Les said...

JMG, Jessi & Chris,
Thank you. Sometimes I need a good smack upside of the head in order to see what we’ve done, rather than just the ever increasing list of “not done yet”.
We even set up a web site as a sort of scrapbook to keep us motivated – but haven’t managed to update it for about a year :-).
Oh well, chop wood, carry water…
Cheers,
Les

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

1/2I find myself at a loss as to how to respond to the continued wishing for California to secede. "Gee, thanks guys, love you too"?

I admit, I've found it easier for most of my life to identify as Californian (because of the visceral evocation of what it means to be from a land of oak savannah and salt-scrub coast, to understand seasons by proximity to rainfall rather than canned-images of mayflowers/maples/snow, because of coyotes yipyipping on a late summer's night, and the satisfaction of seeing waves of wind-tossed grasses on rolling hills as they ripen from winter's vibrant green toward spring's unspeakably beautiful green-to-gold ombre) than I have as "American."

Red white and blue are supposed to make me feel the same? Not even close.

And yet, I grew cross with Shane two weeks ago for the repetitive and dismissive insistence that you'd all be better off without us, that somehow the people here, myself included, are anathema to the American project you all are in charge of.

But maybe my attitude reveals the vestiges of an old way of thinking - that we're part of something (the once-United States), that (oh the irony) dissensus is okay and yeah we do things differently, but it's ok to be known as the kooky aunt. I didn't think, though, that it worked in this direction - with people outside a state deciding it best if that state seceded. If I said, "I think Alabama oughta secede, just 'cuz I dislike their attitude and way of doing things. They're not fit to be in my association," I'd probably hear accusations of classism/cultural-elitism or be accused of snobbery.

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

2/2
I guess it's all well and good to pooh-pooh California, though. Evilly evil as we are. Silly me, a long time coming around to my American-ness, I was looking forward to digging into my region's contribution to "An alt-center [that] could very easily unite around traditional American ideals -- with an acknowledgment that those ideals haven't always been lived up to, but a celebration of the many times and ways they have been -- and such a unifying force, given its historical depth, could have great power." Instead it seems you'd rather show us the door.

I'm not saying secession isn't a possible thing, isn't maybe even a decent thing. I just... well, feel put out, I guess. Rapidly-declining, collapsing-first-world problems and all that.

But let me put a few things into perspective and air my grievances:

The attitude is that California is something monolithic to be trotted out as an example of how not to do things, a useless waste of space, a pimple on the American backside. An irrelevance. Yet it's diverse. Its distance, north to south, is just slightly less (at ~770 miles) than the distance between Copenhagen, Denmark and Zagreb, Croatia (a route, which, by the way, could pass through approximately five European nations). It encompasses 10 degrees of latitude, hosts innumerable ecosystems (and varieties of flora/fauna that accompany them) and, due to terrain changes was home to the continent's most diverse mix of human linguistic groups prior to north America's colonization - undoubtedly that kind of variety would be fostered again in a non-standardized environment post your-dreamed-of-secession.

Keep in mind that California is made up of a majority of immigrants - not from Mexico, but from other parts of the US - many of whom left their places of origin not merely for the weather but because they felt stifled and pigeonholed or in need of a different canvas onto which to project their personal desires (for good and bad). And so now, having exported such a vast number of people, I will (only ironically, to make my point) suggest that you start your California secession campaign by recalling everyone back to where they started if they weren't born here. You can have them back, since some of those who are doing the Californicating are your region's castoffs. Note that they're giving others of us a bad name such that we have to accept it every time you spout off about what a blustered-fluckaroo this place is instead of calling you out on your gross overgeneralization and smug superiority.

Meanwhile, if you'd be so kind as to not hasten our tumble into failed-state/warband-incubator terrain, I would urge you to take a good, long, hard look at every bite of food you eat. A pox on BAU economic theories that promote the positive effects of California produce being shipped out of state to prop up our "GDP," and instead, how about you and the rest of (your) nation boycott us so that we can keep our lettuce, strawberries, almonds, oranges (good luck with Florida oranges and huanglongbing disease... ~80% infected?), milk, grapes (raisins, wine!), walnuts, tomatoes (canned ones too - they're probably from my county), beef and the hay that feeds your beef and milk cows.

Please do California a favor and let us feed our own people. We would have less of a water problem too, if we didn't have to provide two thirds of the the rest of (your) nation's fruits, nuts and some portion of your vegetables. And maybe, actually, asking you take your people back isn't such a bad idea...

John Michael Greer said...

Barrabas, thanks for the situation report from Down Under. Do you happen to know if the people who were protesting Australia Day do anything else to help your indigenous peoples? Knowing that would make an interesting comparison with the people who protest Columbus Day and the various patriotic holidays up here.

Cherokee, fascinating. It interests me that so many people elsewhere are so fixated on our politics. I promise you the vast majority of Americans have no idea who the prime minister of Australia is, much less what end of the political spectrum that dignitary inhabits!

Bob, funny. Neither do human nations -- like lemmings, they take off running in a direction that they think might lead to better things, and go splashing into the sea convinced that it's just another river they can swim across.

Barrabas, I've been saying for years now that the pseudoconservative habit of using "Communist!" and "Socialist!" as labels for any program that might actually help people is probably going to convince a lot of voters to give Marx a second chance. I wonder if this is another manifestation of that effect.

Sylvia, so noted, but you've noticed that it's a problem to believe that food sprouts on grocery store shelves, so you're already a big step ahead.

Jen, that's very promising to hear. Thank you.

David, "votist"? I assume that means a prejudice in favor of people who bother to vote. I'm fine with such a prejudice, as it happens!

Karl, thanks for this. Since I stopped believing in progress about the time I stopped believing in Santa Claus, I freely admit that I don't really understand what goes on in the minds of faithful believers, and this sort of window on the progressivist imagination helps.

Les, you're most welcome.

Wendy, I quite understand you're upset by the pro-secession comments, but please try to see how things look from the perspective of the other 49 states. I've lived in two places (Seattle and Ashland, OR) that got large numbers of immigrants from California, and in both places the Californians by and large made themselves hated by insisting that their way of doing things was the only right way and everyone who wasn't from California was by definition an ignorant boor. The Seattle Neopagan scene, similarly, used to get missionaries from San Francisco on a regular basis, who assumed as a matter of course that everybody in Seattle was doing things wrong and needed to be shown the right, i.e., Bay Area way. I could go on; there are countless other examples. California has its own culture; it's one in which the glorification of the ego has a very large part; and it's also one that clashes with the cultures of the other regions of this country. Thus it's not surprising that a great many people from elsewhere would respond to the idea of a California independence movement with enthusiastic cries of "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." We'd be perfectly willing to buy your vegetables, by the way, in exchange for the many things you can't grow or manufacture; that doesn't require you to share a nation with us, or vice versa.

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: I appreciate that you bother to respond at all Mr Greer - with/without agreement/congeniality. You do well in my book.

Yes I am but 1. Da Vinci, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein too were individuals and their theoretical contributions/inventions resulted in significant lasting impacts on their civilisations and others to this day.

Characterising most paradigm shifts in physics as 'something we cant do' strikes me as bit harsh. I see what you mean but the clarifications/changes in understanding had upsides too. Perhaps the reason people don't usually focus on "can't do that" characterisations is because they are looking at what the new paradigm shift in understanding allowed them to do next. We do choose our characterisations I guess.

As I recall the laws of thermodynamics carry an assumption of an isolated system. It would be interesting if parallel universes interacted and we ended up having to incorporate parallel universes into our concept of our universe. Heaven knows what the fallout would be if that came to pass.

"that every one of us gets our ideas from our own cultural and historical setting"
- Generally sure. Necessity (so setting) generally drives invention (ideas) but not always. Some people break free of their tribal/social conditioning and develop their own patterns frequently putting them at odds/risk with their tribes/peers. They also innovate just for fun and occasionally happy endings occur. Call them Free Thinkers or Fun-seeking Futurists.

"from the perspective of history, you're just one member of a crowd"
-- I am not history yet though :) and it only takes 1 person to trigger a change in some of a crowd.
-- You are 1 and yet you have been involved I believe in different attempts to spread messages that interested you. I don't know how successful your earlier efforts were but you have an audience now who pay attention and judging by the comments you attract a diverse crowd who are taking action in their own ways forming their own collectives.

"Myself, I suspect that the next big paradigm shift in physics will tell us why fusion power isn't a viable option and why we're not going to the stars, but we'll see..."
-- yup I remember reading that in an earlier post. I'd settle for resource focused in-system stuff for now. I'm still waiting for the fallout from China's new/working EM Drive tested in Orbit in December.

I don't disagree with most of the underlying premises of the developing situation you highlight and I find a lot of your contemporary analysis fascinating & clear. It doesn't scare or elate me. Death, mass deaths etc doesn't frighten me. My interests are only partially about the now - I'm more medium/long term systemic outlook planning outlook project is as close as I can come to discuss my practical interests.

As someone above else said, stories (can) have power so some of them I choose to keep at arms length. I can only point at innovation/inspiration/intuition as a chance to change outcomes whenever anyone tries to say we are stuck in cycles. Hunter gatherer cycles ended as we learned & innovated although some still exist I guess. Anyway, only time will settle the difference of opinion on whether this cycle will be any different :) - I'll have fun pushing my agenda forwards as I hope you will yours :)

I agree regarding London public transport. It's quite good. Same with most major EU cities as I recall. Roads are too crowded though in most of them. I'd love to see them ban all private vehicles from them during the day and only allow delivery vehicle early morning. Too much ego tied to vehicles :(

Understood about assuming. It is why I asked. You had specifically asked for examples so I thought perhaps it was something you wanted to focus on. No worries, appreciate you are busy. I think we have exhausted the topic :) Thank you

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

I'm glad that you liked the name of the future beer and I for one would be pretty chuffed with that. I scored an offer for a free hops plant at the Green Wizards meet up today and I will certainly take that offer up. Of course, I realise you appreciate a darker ale though and so will work towards that goal before using that particular naming. I'll get there, it will just take time.

You know, I have no idea why that couple were sitting at a table at the local cafe / general store / post office, on a cool and beautiful summers morning saying things like that. It sounds like hate speech to me and makes no sense whatsoever. I was doing my best to read a book in a public space, which is a decidedly quirky thing to do these days...

At the Green Wizards meetup today someone had a very thoughtful comment about learning skills from places like here. I responded that people will do that when it is a good option for them to do so. And then that started me thinking about what sort of price is applicable and reasonable for an apprentice or journeyman in that situation? And I have no idea whatsoever and was wondering if you had any thoughts on the matter?

Sorry, I realise that you are busy - and sometimes I also reach the upper limits of what I can achieve and so please no hurry on replying! :-)!

Cheers

Chris

Fred the First said...

Wanted to throw in a couple of comments about Philadelphia. I grew up in the Philly suburbs and live further out in a rural county now, and I was shocked that Trump made his first visit outside of DC to the Democratic Party stronghold of Philly. And not just a short visit, but a Republican retreat. That guy really doesn't back down from anything, does he?

The Philly police did a phenomenal job of handling the protestors again. As far as I could tell, they remained in their regular uniforms (again) and kept things calm and civil. That is the third major event they've handled (Dem Covention and Pope visit) and I'm impressed by their professionalism and calmness. This gives me hope for the short term.

Trump made a comment about the murder rate in Philly and he was echoing the opinion of everyone who knows Philly. It is atrocious and it is horrible. I remember as a teenager in the 1980's when it jumped to over 300 homicides a year and the nightly news covered it. They reported each night as it got closer to 300 and went over. It was like a rampage of death. The awful part is its never really gone down much from there. Its one of those things no Democratic administration in Philly has ever been able to fix. https://www.phillypolice.com/crime-maps-stats/ The poverty rate in Philly has also remained around 30% for the past three decades despite a complete revitalization and rebuilding of the entire core of the city, and repopulation of young professionals in center city.

The other thing people who grew up around Philly will always talk about is how crooked the voting is. Trump has called this out too, though certainly not just talking about Philly. It is a well-accepted truth that the dead voted early and often in Philadelphia precincts and the city could be counted on to reliably deliver Democratic party votes in a state-wide or national election. The Democratic Party has ruled the city since the 1950's. The crooked voting was one of those things talked about but never in polite company and never in public. You wouldn't want to anger the powers that controlled everything in the city! If Trump could prove that this type of voting fraud has been occurring in even one city, that would be amazing. And it would shut up his critics. Who is going to criticize someone who wants fair elections?

Ursachi Alexandru said...

JMG,

Well, Manifest Destiny was imperial expansion. So was taking the northern third of Mexican territory. Or the occupation of Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American war. And the list goes on. Times of "relative disengagement" seem to be the exception for you country, rather than the rule.

As a matter of fact, it seems that for countries like the USA or Russia, the only time when they become "relatively disengaged" from external expansion is when they are going through internal turmoil - in your country's case it was the American Civil War, in their case it was the Russian Revolution + Civil War and more recently the collapse of the USSR.

And I'd be very cautious to proclaim a new era of "American disengagement" considering your new president's hawkish remarks on Israel and Iran, just for starters. But we'll see.

Scotlyn said...

An emerging theme of this comment thread is the manner in which the care needed by the young, the old, the ill, especially the chronically ill, and the disabled will transition from industrial scale "care" institutions which are overloaded and imploding to some new (dissensus) way of creating family and community networks.

It strikes me we still have too many learned ways to be alone (even when we are "nuclear" married couples) and too few learned ways to be together with extended networks, of others.

As transitional forms of "family" emerge, I reckon the most enduring and practical will be those that most successfully attach and integrate the greatest number of industrial "waifs and strays" into closeknit networks centered (metaphorically at least) around a common hearth, a stewpot, a story.

Being useful and being interesting to specific "one anothers", even when not fully able of body or mind, are the building blocks of enduring networks. Also of personal satisfaction. And within such networks, knowing people who need us, depend uniquely upon us, is as motivating as any other purpose that can keep us putting one foot in front of the other into the future.

People want to care for one another more than we currently do, but the institutions who want us to trust their failing model, rather successfully robbed us of sound visions of alternative models, and of confidence in our capability.

Every act of directly caring (Donal, much respect) for one another, and of making family of disparate individual social " atoms" is an act of making a future.

I appreciate so many comments that have touched on this theme, Violet, Donal, Patricia, Morgenfrue, Jen, among others.

Barrabas said...

Nope , youve nailed it JMG , and this remote area Indigenous leader is on the same page as you , the whole thing seemed very fishy

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/nt-aboriginal-leader-defends-january-26-australia-day-20170126-gtzd74.html

Another of our dirty little secrets in Australia is that our National farmers party is essentially agrarian national socialist , owing to the sheer size and hostility of the place . Until the great coastal migration they held 25 of 78 lower house seats , though these days they are reduced to a rump of 10 owing to depopulation and latifundification of agriculture ... ( is that a word ??)
Their leader is a comcal hillbilly named Barnaby Joyce who self dscribes as a socialist agrarian conservative , and he is famous for deporting Johhny Depps pet dog , Boo

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-09/johnny-depp-mocks-pistol-and-boo-apology-video/7395102

There are many in Australia who think that if we married Barnaby Joyce to the Greens party we would have the ideal political system !!
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/sep/15/nationals-senators-cross-floor-to-back-greens-on-competition-law-changes

Fred the First said...

In PA state news the state needs to cuts another $600M out of the budget and the state employee and teacher retirement funds are only 50% funded. They expect taxpayers to make up the difference. This is going to get ugly.

PA is home to the largest mutual fund company in the world at this point, The Vanguard Group with $4.5 trillion under management. Their fund management style is index investing and anyone who has any retirement money probably has heard of this. Their theory has been that over the long-term an investor would do as well as the market and not pay high management fees to a portfolio manager or investment advisor if they invested in all the companies listed on an index, such as the S&P 500.

Does the PA state government follow this advice and use the resources of one of their largest employers? Nope. They hired investment professionals to manage the state and teacher pensions paying the PSERS (teacher pension) financial managers $450million a year. I didn't look up the what they paid the state pension managers because I am sick to my stomach. http://www.psers.state.pa.us/content/publications/financial/SAFR/SAFR%20FINAL.pdf

Rate of return from these financial geniuses over 10 years? 10%
S&P 500 increase past 10 years (this includes the crash) 61%

So if the state has just invested the pension money in an index fund and paid a 1% management fee for it, vs the 6% they paid god knows who, then pensions would be more than funded and taxpayers in PA wouldn't be having to see another tax increase.

Our property taxes have doubled in the last ten years to cover the costs of teacher pensions. Full pensions after 25 years of working, btw.

So in a time of huge stock market returns, our state screwed everything up. It doesn't give me much hope for a future where there are no stock market returns.

Scotlyn said...

@LatheChuck thanks. I found the response you made in that thread impressive. You offered life to a nihilist. Who knows what could come of that?

As for me I simply bear witness that it is possible to launch a direct attack upon someone's essential being in the most civil of tones.

And while I do not know what use it might be for me, as a bystander, to stand beside the person so attacked and bear witness to it, I somehow find I cannot do otherwise. I want it on record that politely expressing acquiescence with someone's extinction is (as the commenter himself rightly recognised),an end to any possibility of "reasoning together".

@JMG So noted. Thanks.

Rita Narayanan said...

JMG said ** Rita, watching the current crop of politicians occasionally makes me wistful for medieval warlords. They might slaughter every inhabitant of your village but at least they wouldn't spout moralizing cant while they're doing it. **

just jealousy on my part for all the opportunities brought to Westerners by industrialization & colonialism :) half the cackling intellectual crowd don't exist without easy access to the pillages of these times..so in relative terms the leaders get the **bad name of not being good but have built these systems.

the warlord comment is interesting ...have been doing reading over a few years on the Dalai Lama & Tibet. First the institution was established by the Mongols then found that warlords & braggarts(who raided caravens)could learn a lot from the politics & shenanigans of large monastries. So much for non violence & non materialism.

Thanks!

Justin said...

Regarding California, sure, it could probably go it alone - it's a net federal taxpayer, has a decent amount of fossil fuel reserves, until climate change bites too hard it will be able to grow and likely export food, probably increasingly to Asia by boat.

Greg Belvedere, Peterson's point is that it's not Marxism in particular that leads to gulags, it's atheistic materialism. Capitalism is certainly no exception, it's just more resilient than Marxism. Trust me, if you do anything to seriously threaten capitalism, you'll find yourself in a gulag. And of course, pure capitalism places no value on human life unless those humans happen to be useful. You can scream and shout all you want about Marxism, and capitalism doesn't care, because you've still got to buy food and shelter and that means you're going to find a way to be useful to capitalism. I agree that Marx's criticism of capitalism is mostly valid, but I find his ideas about the organization of society to be, um, ridiculous. And I've written before about my ideas about how because Pareto inequalities appear to be a natural consequence (rooted in mathematics) of any competitive field, I do not think there is a way to make life fair, only less unfair.

Second of all, I found it interesting that you said Peterson is "a bit reactionary" for criticizing Marxism. Think about that for a second. If you don't know, within Marxist discourse, "reactionary" means "thought-criminal", and of course within Marxist versions of history, the Nazis were of course reactionary (this is true, it's entirely possible there could have been a communist coup in 1920 or so in Germany, and there was also a small civil war fought that doesn't get talked about much for some reason), so "reactionary" can also mean "Nazi". The choice of the word "reactionary" is an interesting linguistic choice because it logically makes the Marxist/Marxism the primary actor.

I think the fundamental Marxist idea is not a theory about how labor and material goods should be distributed, but the idea that humans are perfectly rational and can therefore impose our reason on the world to improve the world.

I don't think it's entirely a surprise that Marxism was thought up during the industrial revolution. Of course, another point is that the labor unions, welfare systems, health and safety regulations, child labor laws, workman's compensation, limited working hours etc did not really exist in Marx's time. So naturally, a lot of people were unhappy with capitalism. And in some ways those conditions are coming back to bite in the developed world, so I'm not surprised that people are picking up on Marxism. Marxists don't like these reforms, because they see them as preserving capitalism and preventing the revolution (and the eternal worker's paradise which will of course follow). And yes I like Camille Paglia.

111DFC said...

Very interesting post

For an external observer, US, with 30.000 deaths/year by firearms (more than 1 Vietnam every 2 years) is in a situation of subtle war; if you include the amount of people dying by overdose or in anti-depresant treatment or addict to pain-killers etc..., I think you could conclude that US in the middle of a low-motion collapse from some decades ago. A few hundred millions firearms spreading around the population do not help to the stability of the country

I think there are two factors that aggravates this situation:

a) The "cult" to the violence so ingrained in the mythology of the US (I would say there ia a "fascination" with the violence & arms). The majority of the hollywood films' plots turn around the way the violence of the "good guys" solve all the problems, normally killing the "bad guys" (indians, nazis, russians, iraqis, etc...or other invented villains). In fact it was thanks to the violence (wars) the US became the current hegemon and take a good portion of the global wealth, on the cheap. It surprise me how in this and other blogs people know and discuss a lot of weapons, f.e. soviet ZSU, or chinese jets ? or some others own and foreign weapons, that are outside the conversation of knowledge of people from other countries, sound quite "strange" in fact for us
This make an more unstable country

b) I think in the US to be poor have psychological aggravating factors compare to others countries and cultures. This notion of "winners" and "losers" that build the aspiration of the people, destroy the mental health of a lot of people. If you compare the evolution of the life expectancy of the poor middle aged whites with other ethnics goups (hispanics or blacks) in the US, the life expectation of the white people is decreasing and the others ethnic groups is increasing, and the reasons, I think, are related to the "expectations" (who "should" you be, and the distance to who "really" you think you are, measured in abstract-market oriented terms, which is the real problem...). The "poors" in the US are rich compared to other countries´ poors, but what destroy people are not "objetives" situation (if that even exist) but the social built "own" feeling

You are making a good job lowering the expectations of the people, this is the way to try to better live with the combined crises we are suffering (and in any situation)




Justin said...

Carol,

I think that dualism is rooted very deeply in our psychology. Of course, that's not to say that dualism traps don't exist in terms of decisions about how we interact with the material world or organize the distribution of goods and labor. I'd also argue that a lot of the time when JMG talks about a third path, a Daoist response would be to say "no, you're just in balance between order and chaos, there is no third path" - of course it's a semantic difference because the material results of a balance of order and chaos is in fact third option. Regarding sex, er, I think our culture could do with a bit more order there. There's never been a functional culture that didn't have some rules. The current state of things is completely dependent on the pharmaceutical industry, effective antibiotics and of course condoms.

And regarding the "all hell breaks loose" - it has broken loose, repeatedly, multiple times in the 20th century. Relative wealth and isolation did keep things relatively sane in North America but you know, we still manufactured a bunch of killing machines which we sent to the Communists in Russia and nuked Japan twice. Then we built enough nuclear weapons to kill every species that doesn't live underwater or weighs more than 25 kg as an adult. We operate public schools where 1/6 of the kids have to be on drugs to function.

It's also worth pointing out that the murder rate in most Indigenous societies was astronomical - there were cultures in places like Papua New Guinea where people believed that men could live forever, because it was an extreme rarity for men to survive long enough to start to wither with age. Rousseau's ideas about the noble savage are wrong, without the sort of culture that comes with agriculture, we are unbelievably cruel featherless bipeds, especially when we are in conditions where nature doesn't kill us very often to regulate our population. And yes, women in those cultures did cruel things too. I think that for some reason Western people link indigenous societies mentally with the Garden of Eden - it isn't so. There's plenty of human behavior patterns that map very well onto chimpanzee behavior - we're not so different from them in the final analysis. We're monkeys who are smart enough to build nuclear weapons and vicious enough to torture each other for fun - there is a reason why, for instance, Mary and (baby) Jesus is such an important and powerful symbol - it reminds us of one of the few places in our psyche where empathy is absolutely hardwired into us (male and female). Empathy creates more empathy and vice versa.

We ALL are vicious, tribal monsters with a storytelling function on top. I think we're wired to separate ourselves when 'group size' becomes too large - but of course, the planet is full, we can't just split up and wander off in a different direction. And so we invent ideologies about why we're right and fight each other using our words for a time, but the two camps become separate and essentially start to develop completely separate ontological frameworks, at which point they can no longer talk, and then they fight. So yeah, I see why Peterson is horrified.

Peter said...

It's not going to be a "long descent". It's going to be sudden, hard, fast, and often violent.

peacegarden said...

Great post, as usual!

I like what Ray Wharton had to say about sinking into the relaxation of winter… something that has been with us for much of our specie’s time here. It is time to rest and restore, plan and reflect, and let the seeds of our hopes and dreams germinate.

Meditation, sitting with nature and delving deep into a good book, tending the fire, cooking soups and stews (with lots of leftovers!), and watching the birds flitting from shrub to tree are part of my routine this time of year. I am taking an herbal liver care tincture; this is helping me “detox” from all the political wrangling and nonsense that has been so prevalent this year.

Soon, it will be time to start seeds, prune the fruit trees, and all the other springtime chores, but for now, I am resting in the winter calm. Care to join me?

Peace,
Gail

Chris Larkin said...

Based on thiftwizard’s comment, I did some basic research into insulin production, it takes roughly 500 pounds of pig pancreases to make an ounce of insulin. That makes sense since hormones aren’t made in large amounts in animals, though it means extraction from pigs won’t work on a small scale. As pygmycory points out, insulin is made by genetically modified bacteria and baker’s yeast in what seems to be useful amounts . The yeast can be grow in a flask so growing the special yeast shouldn’t be hard, making ~1mg / Liter hour or 28.8 insulin units per liter an hour. I’m not sure how much post-processing is needed for proinsulin made by yeast as opposed to bacteria or how difficulty it’ll be to process it. The biggest difficulty would be acquiring the yeast and learning the skills of insulin yeast refining before you truly need it. https://microbialcellfactories.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12934-014-0141-0 has some information.

Justin, I also move in transhumanist / rationalist / scientism circles keeping a place in that group just as I do with this one. It makes me neither fish nor fowl, but it suits my eccentricities and prevents ideological rigidity. If you need discussion points that your coworkers might accept or at least acknowledge, I might be able to help craft some. At the very least, tell you where they’re coming from.

Taking some of your earlier comments as well, I’m reminded of the ascended economy, one of the many darker bits of futurology out there. Basically it’s a future where human control and decision making is handled over to AIs that out-compete the humans along with any trait humans value for improved efficiency. In its most extreme form, it leads to a world of marvels of beings who individually think more than all of humanity ever did single mindedly pursuing ever larger numbers. There’s a few shades of it in much of the criticism of modern financial markets and Big Data.

It wouldn’t surprise me that even in a declining world, we get a stronger taste of it. Algorithmic decision makers replacing human decision makers is already a stated goal in many technophilic circles. Even not among explicit supporters, there’s a common feeling that Science as embodied Reason must save us from ourselves which will only become stronger as things deteriorate. I don’t know how long such creations will be able to keep themselves going before starving, but they could have quite the impact before joining Diocletian’s edicts in history’s dustbin.

All of this does remind me that I would very much like to see JMG’s reaction to Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. Both come from such radically different places that I’m not sure what would stand out. It’s a powerful work on those who share Bostrom’s basic worldview showing up in many a rationalist’s canons, and has prompted people like Elon Musk and others to donate millions against existential AI risk.

onething said...

Hmm. I agree it is time for a paradigm shift in physics, but that is just because they are wrong about a couple of things and have been piling on the epicycles for a while now.

Donald Hargraves said...

@Patricia Mathews, M Smith:

Thanks for your understandings and suggestions. I will definitely consider some of this. (And also, if things don't get TOO off the rails, I could see being a support for the family. Like I said, my brother and sister DID have children...)

Violet Cabra said...

@ Jen, I couldn't agree more. Yesterday I traded a whole mess of tinctures for a goodly amount of venison and mutton. My friend and trading partner and are both "rugged individualist" types who have overlapping, though divergent skills that allow for excellent trades, not to mention great conversations. Another friend has gifted me so much food throughout our relationship and I've gifted them a small apothecary and help whenever they needed it. These relationships are some of the most rewarding I participate in.

This culture which I see as organically emerging does much to give me some guarded optimism. There are two issues that I see, which you touch on as well, are 1) lack of skills, 2) a culture or parasitism.

Many of my friends have good trade skills but many don't, and simply don't have the inner resources to sustain a gift economy. Most are open to learning.

the pervasive parasitism is a deeper problem. I believe that this is the spiritual backwash of our glut of energy slaves, perhaps a true "first world problem." people believe that they are entitled to free energy and that includes the labors of other people. Many of my friends, appearantly, don't think much of gaming me, and I often feel taken advantage of. There is, not yet at least, a cultural mechanism that has evolved for dealing with parasitic behavior, or at least not one known to me in the context of the communities I participate in. probably also an issue is that I've been living in a college town and I have unresolved issues with boundraries.

Donald Hargraves said...

Another pile-on for the anti-California crowd:

A friend of a friend talked about how a group of Californians moved to Boulder, CO and tried to take over the city. When the locals and the Buddhist communities united to tell the Californians "We run things our way," the Californians left, depressing house values for nearly twenty years(!).

Interesting note: There had been some tensions in Boulder, but the presence of the Californians seemed to unite the two groups to the point that things are peaceful to this day. The housing bubble has returned, but the city is otherwise fit and healthy in the way that, it seems, only Colorado is able to pull off.

Bob said...

Wendy, as far as this Canadian maritimer is concerned, California rocks :)

onething said...

"The despair you see in people about Hillary is, in my opinion, in large part because their narrative of progress cannot accept that a Trump could happen in their lifetime. That someone portrayed as so "backwards" could win the presidency has caused a crisis of faith in many."

The thing that irritates me about this, though, is that these people are blindly accepting a given narrative about Trump, and I don't think that narrative is particularly factual. It seems obvious to me, if one is not completely naïve, that there was a behind-the-scenes decision to provoke and massage any possible statements or life events of Trump into the most negative light. A little analysis about other people in public life reveals that he is not actually unusual, and he is certainly not particularly conservative in his views. I once decided I needed to look into some of the accusations and in googling came up with an article with a title something like "18 most offensive things Trump has said." Almost all of them were ho-hum or taken out of context. I did find one or two offensive.

It particularly irritates me that people I think ought to know better are carrying water for the super elite, much as they have accused the "dumb" working class of voting against their interests because the Republicans played the Christian card and family values card.

Finally, I have recently come to the understanding in the greater scheme of things, that is, the soul's development toward wisdom, that the interplay in this particular lesson is between nefarious types such as the lying, manipulative elite and the gullibility and downright silliness of mind in the groups that get taken advantage of. To be angry only at the elites for their evil is akin to wishing germs would go away rather than also making sure you've got a good immune system.

brokeboater said...

Dont' let the California thing get under your skin Wendy. Politics is not a thinking game, it's a team sport. California is a Democratic powerhouse so Conservatives have to loath anything to do with California. Texas, OTOH, is a Republican powerhouse hence they can do no wrong. We live in a black and white world with no shades of gray.

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...


I feel tremendously sad.

There's too much personal complexity (unrooted childhood, married an immigrant, can't afford to live here, despised elsewhere both for being Californian and unpopular/brown/immigrant) for me to sort this out logically or to not be upset.

Ah well, another one to chalk up to the universe having no requirement to please me.

Just... you know... think kindly of some of us. We don't all suck.

peacegarden said...

@Violet Cabra

Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, especially when I sit with the plants. I am hoping you will regain your vibrant health and will be thinking of you as I sow seeds and plant this year’s garden.

Peace,
Gail

Sven Williams said...

I've been meaning to ask this question for a while, but couldn't condense it down into something concise to be something other than applicable to only me. This is a request for advice from both you and your readership.

Years ago, I made the foolish decision of entering a grad program, got up to my proverbial eyeballs in debt, and upon graduation after years of below-minimum-wage toil, I landed a job in the Persian Gulf region making enough money to pay back my debts in full and accumulate substantial savings. 1.8 years to go, as of this writing. The only reason I'm out here is because I'm paying down federal student loans for a foolish hero's quest.

I could go back to the US this summer, but I worry that having that debt will be a liability on more than just paper: I keep having visions of the DoE sending Vinnie the Knee-Capper to extract his pound of flesh from my hide at some point in the future. Out here in Qatar, I have a plush VIP seat of the shit-storm that's unfolding in the Middle East, and am feeling increasingly uneasy about things (both out here and on the home front).

So, finally, my question: if you were in my shoes, would you chance a default on federal debts for an onrushing future where it likely won't matter? If you (collective "you", honored Archdruid and readership) were me, would you cease payments on student debts, stack as much cash as possible, and use it while it's still worth a tinker's damn? I could be debt-free, or I could buy a small plot of land. I can't have both with my income.

(Huh. Writing it all out, the decision seems blatantly obvious...)

Matt said...

Here's a scientist very engages with energy and climate - but not a climate scientist - who seemed to walk the walk. Without The Hot Air is a must read.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/04/15/professor-sir-david-mackay-physicist--obituary

Whitecloak said...

Wendy- it is simple. We don't hate you, I don't. I quite like the Californians I have known, I just don't think we want to share the same government with the same laws and norms. A decentralized federalism would work, but we have dismissed that in our modern age and if we must rule the whole of the country under uniform law? I would rather balkanize and let smaller chunks of the dis-United States experiment with their own laws that reflect their own cultures and values.

For instance- many Californians are quite keen on certain sexual mores that people from my neck of the woods find an imposition of foreign, hostile values. You would find the imposition of our values onto you and yours to be quite unwelcome as well, I wager. Or immigration- you and yours might be for open borders but us rust belters want an inward, protectionist focus.

Would it not be better for us to go our separate ways in this regard? We can each have what we want in our own places without imposing hostile values upon one another.

Unknown said...

Similar experiend, found I had esophageal thrush. Surprised all doctors. Once eliminated sensitivities returned to near normal. It was not visible and caused no other apparent symptoms. Might be worth checking into if you haven't already.

Bryant said...

@Anselmo, I don't actually think that it'll be a peaceful and structured retraction, but akin to any other system that accumulates too much entropy, basically a collapse. We humans tend to think of ourselves as rational, but we really are prey to a host of cognitive illusions - the important part is that we basically can use our own intellect against ourselves to further delude ourselves.

I feel our current situation is basically akin to a fractal structure that has accumulated far too many thin, unsupported branches of opinions. As they continue to build and grow, it can only end in overall collapse, which then rebuilds later on.

This kind of overswing - much like financial bubbles - is very common in a lot of natural systems. I doubt we will be any different.

canon fodder said...

re: California Secession

While it may assuage the conscience of coastal Californians and redneck alike, a successful California secession is unlikely to look like anything anyone is currently considering.

I say this because of the history behind the creation of West Virginia. Originally the territory of West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia. It was carved out in 1861 after Virginia seceded, but the northwestern counties wanted to remain in the Union. A state convention was held, status as a state applied for, and President Lincoln proclaimed the new state in 1863. Interestingly enough, Virginia and West Virginia fought over apportionment of the pre-split Virginia debt until a US Supreme Court ruling in 1915. They had a border dispute along a couple counties that ran until at least 1991.

All that said, if California succeeds in secession, I see a balkanized area, not a monolithic nation-state. West Virginia provides the precedence.

Northern California has tried to split off ever since the state was created, either to the state of Shasta or Jefferson. Other movements have proposed anywhere from three to six states from the California territory. The 2016 presidential election map reveals deep divides between the coastal cities and the more rural north and mountains.

I could definitely see the northern area, the Sierra mountains and everything east wanting to stay in the Union, leaving the secessionist state of California much reduced. The whole “we grow all of your vegetables” meme only works if the state remains intact.

Having lived and worked in LA for many years, I can say that I love the climate and beaches. But the politics of the place is just plain nuts. We moved.

M Smith said...

Cherokee/Chris:

The Deplorable Nobodies are opening for the Sloths of Entropy at the Sydney Opera House this week, for the Closed Head Injuries at Carnegie Hall next week, and for They're Wetting Your Bed at Boston Garden in March.

Sponsored by Cherokee Organics - try their latest offering, Greer's Beard!

Justin said...

Sven, a thought:

If Donald Trump, in the runup to the 2020 election, promised some serious student loan forgiveness at the expense of lenders, he could at once secure re-election and eviscerate the post-secondary sector, which to a large extent function as activist training centers and waste the time of 18-22 year olds who could be doing or learning something useful.

PatriciaT said...

@Sven Williams, I don't think there is any 'safe' place - I mean it's all relative. Maybe here in the States it's safer - for now. Certainly many places are more dangerous - some by several orders of magnitude. Many places are much safer - for instance, I recall a recent conversation with an American living & working in a Germany city - he says children frequently travel alone by bus there - not something you see in most places in the U.S. I also recall reading a story some years ago about a woman and her young son killed in a car crash by a drunk driver (in a small, rural community); her husband was released early from serving in Iraq to come home and bury his family. There are no guarantees. I'm also thinking if you buy that plot of land and still have student debt you will probably have a lien put on it and whatever wages you earn will be garnished. But who knows what is looming on the horizon either in the States or in Qatar where you are. What do you know or need to know that will help you to decide, rather than simply worrying 'what if'? What does your 'gut' tell you? Is there a third (fourth, fifth...) option? Maybe, somehow, fate will intervene and the decision will be made for you. I wish you the best of luck whatever you decide; my prayers are with you.

Brent Mills said...

A question I haven't seen asked here, or anywhere for that matter, is 'Why are you me and the readers of this blog fascinated by this subject of societal collapse?'. It may be plainly obvious to you or me that knowing where human society is headed is a pretty important subject, but it is clear we are in absolutely tiny minority. I've met precisely one person who was prepared to give my concerns a bit of thought and discussion, everyone else just looks uncomfortable and changes the topic. Then there are others (like my brother), who logically can't fault my argument and concede I'm very likely right, but would prefer to do an ostrich act and bury their head in the sand (he readily admits this).

For me the answer is quite simple, ever since I was a child (now 42) I have felt there is something deeply wrong with the world. One of my favourite things was to collect stickers for my animal sticker books and I would spend hours paging through and reading the descriptions of the weird and wonderful creatures inhabiting our amazing world. Then came the realisation of how disconnected we are with nature and deep trauma upon discovering the destruction people were/are doing to the plant and animal kingdom.

This generated a kind of hatred toward humankind in general and in some regards a desire to see revenge visited upon it. I've struggled with depression my whole life and I think in some regards this hatred for humankind extends to myself as well, after all how many trees or animals that were living in harmony have I indirectly killed just by being part of the system? I've also felt deeply dissatisfied with what it means to go about day to day existence in this modern world - to express it in the way i feel it would be 'It fucking sucks!'. I've had some deeply joyous moments communing with nature, normally on my surfboard but sadly those days are getting much fewer and further between owing to responsibilities that creep into ones life.

Whenever someone would ask me if I get reincarnated and it has to be a human, who would it be, the answer is always clear as day to me - an Amazonian Indian living as they always have for millennia that has never encountered civilisation. I can't begin to imagine the contentment that goes with community living like that, hunting for your food, living on the edge. Yes I know there would be hardships that I wouldn't be able to handle right now but that's because I've become accustomed to this luxurious yet utterly meaningless society. In your latest book, your term of society hitting 'peak meaningless' really struck a chord for me.

So for me, the answer to the question posed in the beginning is simple: 'I would like to the world wiped clean of this scourge not necessarily of humanity, but of civilisation. I am well aware this means I will likely not survive, but if it means that humanity gets shoved back down into living within an eco-system in a sustainable manner then I accept it.'

Sorry for what has ended up a bit of an essay, but it feels good to write down how I actually feel, which I've never done before.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, something I gathered from reading Spengler, is that he says, very very explicitly, that Western Civilization has nothing to worry about concerning running out of natural resources, as long as it has enough young men committed to the task of developing and maintaining ways of controlling the natural world - Spengler even go as far as saying that Western Civilization will only be at peril when these young men start to shift their interests towards detachment from the Faustian way (focusing their energies instead on religion, becoming monks, meditation, you name it). Maybe Spengler was a creature of his time just like any other man, but still, if he is right, we're not still in for it...maybe western civ has a few two or three more centuries to go before collapsing?

Jay Moses said...

has it occurred to any of the calexit fans that the end of california's status as a state is also the end of its participation in the colorado river compact? the agreement delivers 58% of the available water to southern california. good luck renegotiating that agreement as a foreign country.

sorry, folks, but california secession would be suicide.

pygmycory said...

The human insulin from bacteria or yeast project might be a good one for someone skilled with biology in a country like India, which I believe has much less stringent laws on patents on medecines. For those of us in either the USA or Canada, we'd likely have to wait quite a while...

unless someone is up for revamping the patent laws that give companies monopolies on medicines that they use to jack up the prices to crazy heights. That's gotten ludicrous in the USA over the part few years. Any chance Trump could be persuaded that patents are too long? Cheaper generics could do wonders for keeping Medicare and the like solvent. We could do with more in the way of genuinely cheaper generics in Canada too. We only look good relative to the USA. Compared to Europe or Britain our drug costs are a lot higher than they ought to be.

pygmycory said...

Violet, this week I suggested to one US friend who was very unhappy about Trump that she pick the policy she hated most, and concentrate on getting that stopped, since she might be able to stop that while removing Trump wasn't likely, and also that doing something concrete was the best way I knew to deal with fear and despair. I got a heart emoji back as a response, so at least she wasn't angry.

BoysMom said...

Wendy, my family moved from LA to Idaho when I was five. I'm married to an immigrant and my kids are half-black-ish half-white-ish. (I'm documentably 1/64th gypsy and my maternal uncle said once that DNA typing indicated some Jewish ancestry, while my father-in-law says his great-aunts were white, so there's a good deal of whoever-was-interested in there.)
This sort of casual bigotry, "I can't live anywhere other than urban because I have brown skin" really grates. My neighbors care about whether or not you pull your weight in the community, not what color your skin happens to be. Even the blondest of us (looking in the mirror) are probably not pure any-darn-thing-at-all, and bunches of us have Spanish surnames and everybody brags about their Native ancestors if they can make half a valid claim. Could be LDS influenced--the idea that some Israeli tribes became Native Americans--could be some other reason that's cool. Idahoans also like to adopt and don't really care about whether the kid looks like the parents or not--it's a pro-life state--so there are lots of families with kids of all different races.

Come to Idaho. All our infamous racists came from California.

That said, Water Rights. Calexit means we can ditch the agreements with California. We're looking at the possibility of more desertification, we're already a desert, it could get a lot worse. 11" of precipitation is not a lot. We'd love to keep more. Lost Wages can go with SoCal, and we'll all be delighted. Water's just about worth it's weight in gold already. Don't know if your veggies will make it, but we'd be delighted for any excuse to keep the water.

pygmycory said...

I'd be tempted to vote for BC secession if it meant Alberta and Mr. Trudeau would keep their expletive-deleted pipelines to themselves. I can't help but notice that in the recent town hall meetings over much of the country, Trudeau didn't make it out to BC.

Dennis D said...

From a Canadian perspective, it looked like both Bernie and Trump realized that the system was set up to only allow the two existing parties, and proceeded with hostile takeover attempts. Bernie failed due to the Democrat party not being democratic. Trump did win his takeover, and is very much at war with much of the former party.
On another note, my little hobby farm with solar house is doing well, but I need to replace my solar battery bank, as one of the batteries has developed a leak in the casing. It is otherwise a reasonable doomstead, with the mortgage about 75% paid off. I think though that the legal depredations of various levels of government are the biggest risk (tax burdens), so am building an escape vehicle (Dave Zeiger Triloboat) in case the need arises to become mobile. My biggest hope is that the pace of collapse remains slow enough that my escape boat is merely an eccentric RV, not a life boat.

The Big Rant said...

Thanks for asking why I am hosting a Circle of Gratitude. What I hope comes out of it: to help others to start clawing their way out of the despair of not appreciating what/who they have before it is too late. Cherish all that you see and you hear, for this moment will soon disappear.

Ruben said...

@Sven,

You might consider staying long enough to pay off the debt and save for your farm. Just don't go outside. Or at least, don't go hang out at any discotheques known to be the hangout of the expat community.

Hubertus Hauger said...


Most importantly for me with this post is considering the effect, the collapse is having on us commoners, as times goes by. JMG says: “… what are they going to do the day their pay checks suddenly turn out to be worth…” less. A progressing state we observe in Venezuela in the full, where we may end all in the not too long future.

How do I see and feel the creeping deterioration myself.

Truly mostly through the news from others it gets more vivid.
o When in Greece retirees were cut off from their health insurance benefit, couldn’t afford in the pharmacies medicine to suppress their actual disease, or get no place on the operation table.
o Now in Britain no beds in hospital. Therefore no surgery.
o With me myself I grasp it in tiny little bits here and there. Like twenty years of no substantial salary rise, while cost creeping up here and there, adding up bit by bit. Schedules for doctors getting prolonged year by year. Consumer products being advertised with more desperate promises of happiness and well-being, while the contents get suspicious to me more and more. Yet these are all rather small incidents. I see that I am split between my expectancy of catastrophe in Hollywood-style and the creeping deterioration I often only observe individually, without even being able to share them with others.

JMG says: “… meaning that your salary will probably go away, your savings almost certainly won’t keep its value…” I see it happens with me.

JMG says: “…up to the screaming point about the comparatively mild events we’ve seen so far may want to save some of their breath for the times ahead when it’s going to get much, much worse.”
Still we stick in an imaginary world of wealth or supposed riches within our reach. Until we are so totally engulfed in disaster. Like people in Detroit. Our emotions are aroused naturally only from outside disaster. Being entertained by explosions and fires, seeing shit blowing up und bodies flying around is in TV news. Hollywood knows how to use that quite to its advantage.

In reality we are engulfed by the collapse completely already. Only we do not observe what happens commonly already. Life is so mediocre, that it doesn’t catch the attention of our heated fantasy. Our daily life is too ordinary and the plain facts. presented to us by statistics. are too boring, for us to recognise the general pattern. Few of us are such pathetic guys, who are jazzed up by going trough the very essence of fact collection; Charts, number columns, etc..
We people cannot concentrate on these facts. Boring! We forget them easily. And if it is really brought on TV, we try with utter panic to change the channel to some “real stuff”, like a disaster-movie. Well, there we are. Reality needs to be sustained – by entertainment. Otherwise reality is unbearable boring.

In addition mainstream entertainment is drawing our attention away from the disturbing reality, either to mere illusions, or to the blaming habit. So many distracters are on work today. Cognitive dissonance is a mighty power trying to spare us the horror of the reality that we have reached the limits of growth, from where we just gradually engulfed in the down-sliding collapse and the a compulsory simplification of life.

We are headed to the non-fossil future. Most of us try to ignore the collapse yet, even it is already having an overwhelming effect on us commoners.

Fred the First said...

The PA Democrat Governor is heading to the Philadelphia airport with the our one Democrat Senator and the Philadelphia Mayor, also Democrat , "in support of those detained", whatever the heck that means. Standing around getting on camera and making statements?

Meanwhile our state is in its third year of budget crisis and the governor has to decide this week on a prison to close, education funding issues, and more state workers to keep or lay off. But by all means, don't worry about those who elected you to govern in their interests. Go and stick up for non-US citizens. Probably a bunch of H1B visa workers anyway who were out on a business trip for their corporation. Media is playing it like those detained are all refugees.

Its making me sick to see so blatantly how the left immediately runs together to support other countries and other people and not their fellow American citizens. When Trump says America first, he is showing he means it. I don't see anything wrong with a border and border controls and a lot of people who I know who don't fly anywhere feel the same way.

Fred the First said...

@Justin and everyone
Trump isn't going to forgive student loans. He is going to let those 20 somethings, who are the majority of the protestors on the streets, suffer. Trump will do something for his faithful base with manufacturing jobs or construction before he would ever save ungrateful college graduates.

I'm very interested to see what Trump does with education. The federal government historically provides about 1% of the funding for public schools and uses it like the carrot and stick. They pushed through Title 9 and disability education this way in the 70's and 80's. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top were used to push the use of standardized tests in the 2000's. Common Core came from the states, not the Feds.

The states collect and control all the education spending. The powers that be - honestly I think corporations who supply schools with textbooks and tests - managed to get Common Core passed through most of the state legislatures. Charter schools, even corporate ones, have never taken off like Common Core did and are still fighting to exist school district by district.

You'll notice the conversation around public schools is "how do we help disadvantaged students succeed?" or some variation of that. Its all the media talks about - inequality between poor and rich schools, low-income students, racial disparity. The focus is all on how we take those below average and make them average. How do we normalize kids? How do we make them equal each other? How do we make sure every school is the same?

Same-ifying schools and students has never worked for the history of public schools. People don't want to be the same, to be average, to be made into someone else. Especially when there are no jobs or opportunities for people who are the same as other people. This is why homeschooling is now 3% of school age kids and growing. This is why parents wait in line for days to sign their child up for a charter school with openings. This is why rich kids go to private schools which talk about their distinctiveness from other schools and how when you graduate you are a leader.

Schools are the great employment project this country has and we can't eliminate them without destroying local economies. Its teachers and staff make good salaries and benefits compared to most in their communities, and there are the school lunch food suppliers, desk makers, paper, etc. We need to keep those jobs so they can't just eliminate public schools and let people do it on their own because it would done cheaper with less supplies. Homeschoolers don't eat chicken nuggets and use Common Core textbooks.

Trumps education pick is a fan of charter schools and unleashing all that tax money to corporations running charter schools would be one thing he could influence. The stock market would love that. Trump keeps pointing at African American communities and how they have suffered under Democrats. To help them though he has to untangle the money and structure the state's provide. The education bureaucracy is as skilled at failing at its core mission as the military bureaucracy. Interesting times ahead.

Shane W said...

@Wendy,
maybe your response was directed more to JMG, but I didn't single California in particular out for secession. Seems that all the West Coast states have secession initiatives, and there's been a resurgence in interest in the Second Vermont Republic. So my comments were directed at the blue strongholds of the Northeast and West Coast in general, not just California. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the fighting, and no-one is even making an effort to bridge the divide, and secession/dissolution is the only way to stop the fighting. Soon as blue America comes to us with secession, then we can stop fighting and sit down at the negotiating table and work out all the hoary details (including trade and water rights) As Whitecloak has mention, many of us in red America are decentralists and sympathetic to secession, considering our history. Besides, if you don't secede from us, we will secede from you--JMG has already mentioned that the election of Hillary Clinton and continuation of BAU would have triggered an insurgency in red America. You're more peaceful and less gun loving, so it makes sense for you to go to the ballot box w/secession. As for me, I unequivocally do not support secession unless the border and trade is as open and the relationship as close as the current one with Canada. If I recall correctly, once the USSR was dissolved, the economies of the individual Republics were still very integrated, and are still very integrated to this day. It will be a long while, if ever, before the balkanized US new countries gain any semblance of economic independence, as it should be. Anything less would be a catastrophe for all sides.
As I mentioned, a successful secession initiative, in any of the states, not just California, would have the talking heads apoplectic and foaming at the mouth, which I much enjoy. I laughed until I cried this past election season at the talking heads reaction to Donald Trump. I don't see why the so-called right should have all the fun--it's about time that the so-called left does their part in upsetting the conventional wisdom. What better message than through a successful secession prop?
I'm not sure why people hear "secession" as "I hate you". I'm just tired of fighting, and after this most recent election, no one is trying to bridge the divide, and honestly, I just don't see how blue America will be able to force its way on red America since its ability to control the levers of the federal government has been sharply curtailed and shows no hope of being regained. I think the only possible justification for blue America in staying in is protecting the blue minority in red states from some horrible fate via the federal courts, but even that doesn't seem likely, at this point (protecting the blue minority, not the horrible fate).
As for diversity, we're a lot more diverse out here than you think. African-Americans have been coming home to the South from the North and West is numbers rivaling the Great Migration when they left. The South is arguably now the epicenter of black culture in America. Before the last wave of migration crested and Mexicans started going home, the South was home to the fastest growing migrant communities.

Shane W said...

As for internal migration, California has been a net exporter of population and one of the largest sources of outmigration for many years. There are TONS of "reverse Oakies" in my state, and if I had a dime for every California plate I see on the road, and ex-Californian I meet, I'd be a rich man. I left there, myself in 2012. Couldn't afford to stay.
Speaking of California, I kinda get Dammerung now. As detestable as the Neo Nazi thing is personally to me, if he does live in Southern California, he does have a bleak future ahead with a lot of fighting for scarce resources. California, and Southern California in particular, is mostly likely to see the kind of Mad Max/Hunger Games kind of Hobbesian future due to population pressures on scarce resources. I mean, I may detest the way he forms his identity, but the fact remains that there's going to be a lot of tribalism and fighting for a long time regardless of how people break themselves up into warring factions.

indus56 said...

JMG,
Thanks for the responses. I know it's a struggle to respond to so many earnest questioners, but you make two points. First that the slow-collapse approach better accounts for the historical record. Second that differences of scale are not differences in kind.

Regarding the first point, insofar as we are dealing with discontinuous / disruptive changes, the past may be a less reliable guide to the future than it would otherwise have been. I would at least want to see it argued that what is or appears to be novel (unlike past events) is nonetheless likely to revert to the historical pattern. Further, even stipulating to your methodology of using history as a guide to the future, I think if we looked to population collapses in nature, we would see a history of bottlenecks, mass die-backs and extinctions. On this view, we seem to be claiming that human history is a departure from this broader ecological history. Which is a claim we could plausibly defend, though not so plausibly from the principle that history is our predictor. Instead we end up arguing for our exceptionalism, which is a position you frequently and sardonically argue against.

As to the second point, arguably there are differences of scale that themselves become differences in kind, notably in complex, networked systems. You yourself have acknowledged (if implicitly) such a distinction in reference to suites of technology. That it takes a network of interlocking technologies to sustain a technological order. Networked supply chains would be another example. Local failures (crops, droughts, power outages, etc.) can be offset by wider trading networks. On a global scale, the help no longer arrives from elsewhere; moreover, certain local failures can disrupt entire global networks. A disruption of rare-earth extraction in China or Africa paralyzes global production of certain electronic components, etc. Furthermore, scale might not just be geographical extent but ecological "depth"--that is, when societies collapsed in the past, some survivors could move, some could live off viable soils, some could fish or hunt. Options relatively less available to the vast mass of humans after a rolling collapse of finance/credit, supply chains, energy production, industrial production...

For us, much of this depth, serving as a floor beneath our decline, is eaten away. In any event, it seems we may see such questions illuminated within the lifespans of those alive today.

Violet Cabra said...

@ Scotlyn, I'm touched by your comment, and think that it is true that how a culture cares for its more vulnerable members is profoundly important. A friend and I were talking recently about how we feel the household economy, if revived, could prove to be a haven for disabled folks. There are so many different ways of creating value, and if someone can pull their weight with household chores, that could provide value, dignity, meaning and participation to all involved. My friend also perceptively said that "also, sometimes people die." which is to say in the agrarian retro economy we imagined there would be less amenities and more mortality in all likelihood.

This dovetails nicely with the conversation that Jen and I are having about community and skills. As a New Englander I find the idea of small family farms emotional appealing, and know from personal experience that farms create a lot of opportunities for value to be added. Also there are auxiliary skills like cooking, cleaning, food preservation, herbalism, massage, hunting and bee keeping &c that allow for a variety of energy exchanges.

Your term "industrial waifs and strays" is endearing. As a squatter punk I feel that I've met many of these folks and believe that the waifs and strays that have found themselves on farms are living in the most context with others in community and fellowship. Also, there is a certain touching quality in returning to one's parent's house and being in energy exchange between their privlidged placement in society and our skills. I know several others who have done so and it speaks to me symbolically of the emergence of a new, photosynthetic based economy in its early ascendance. This is my two cents in the dissensus process you've outlined as an emergent conversation. I hope to see how this evolves in the future.

MawKernewek said...

@Cherokee - without the overburden of ice sheets, the core of Greenland would experience post-glacial rebound as the rock itself flows as a liquid. Conversely outlying areas would sink, as the rock at depth is flowing back into the previously overburdened area.

I am not sure how long this would take. I have a copy of ETOPO1 bedrock topography downloaded which tells me that at present sea levels, the centre of Greenland is below sea level, but that it would not be connected to the ocean at sea level.

With a few tens of metres of sea level rise, the connection is made - it looks like to me from the northwest first. Of course, the central basin may be occupied by a lake that has a level above global sea level. The connection could be broken again in the longer term (probably thousands of years) as perhaps without fossil-fuel derived forcing of CO2 emissions, there is a partial recovery of ice sheets in Antarctica and sea level drops back a certain amount, or post-glacial rebound raises the elevation of central Greenland.

The best available comparison is what happened when the Fennoscandian ice sheet melted out at the end of the last glacial epoch. The core of Scandinavia has undergone significant uplift for that reason, I believe there are ancient beaches in Sweden that are now 200m above sea level.

Prof. Kurt Lambeck has written papers on post-glacial rebound in British Isles and Scandinavia list of publications. I used this to make these maps of the coast of Cornwall to show the background to legends such as Lyonesse and Cantre'r Gwaelod.

Jen said...

Violet Cabra,

I agree with you that lack of skills and parasitism are major obtacles to functioning networks of reciprocity.

In my experience, the former is amenable to remedy. There are always unskilled tasks to be performed (although, in working with people of different backgrounds than my own, I have become humblingly aware of the degree to which "unskilled" is a matter of perception--ask me about the man who could only dig crooked post holes, or the job opportunities I have lost due to inability to drive in city traffic). And many people are willing to learn new skills--in the last year, I have been pleased to teach canning, meat processing, and sausage-making to a group of friends, neighbors, and relatives, who contributed their hunting and gardening efforts to provide the raw materials. Also, I am increasingly trying to recognize and bring non-subsistence-focused skills into our networks and my own skill set, for "finer living" without much money or energy--things like clothing alterations, haircutting, mechanics, home remodeling, tax and legal expertise, etc. I am also reading your blog posts on herbalism now (thank you for sharing!) to begin to add to my hard-won experience in the way of diet and physical therapy for rehabilitation and prevention of disfunction and disease.

Parasitism is another story. I do tend to think your location is working against you there. I am in a rural area where my family has lived since the 1800s, so everyone pretty well knows everyone else and their character and reputation--it is hard to get away with much for long, and social exclusion is a real threat--a person can't easily just avoid the people he's played and go find another group who knows nothing about him as he could in the city. Moreover, these sorts of networks are common and long-established, and the community norms are in place to enforce honorable participation, whereas in a college town people are more transient and probably younger than average (I think many people take a while to grow out of our sense of entitlement). But I do think with decent boundaries and preferably sustained participation of a core group who get along well and can cooperatively enforce some norms, it will be workable for you! I am interested to hear how it goes.

Best wishes for your recovery.

Shane W said...

I support secession/dissolution as a matter of principle, and I'm not really too concerned just who does the seceding, so long as it results in smaller, more culturally cohesive, more responsive nations and governments. Besides, at this point, the "United States" is an oxymoron, we're probably well into the Holy Roman Empire stage of things. "Yes, California" has a website where anyone can donate, or at least anyone living in the US, and considering that it costs a fortune to pass a prop in California, they'll need all the support they can get. (I haven't yet checked to see if the other West Coast states have sites where one can donate. Even though the costs are less, it will still be a minor fortune to pass those initiatives, as well.)
Empire destruction begins at home. I'm thinking of the example of Ireland and the Irish Free State in relation to the British Empire. Next door Ireland, which had been under the British thumb for centuries, was the first to break free of the British Empire, long before India or the British colonies in Africa. New England or West Coast secession could have the same effect here, in that it could show the weakness of the empire and redirect our energies inward, rather than outward. It would be a nice complement to Trump's inward focused foreign policy.

Shane W said...

Geez, JMG there sure are a lot of swear words flying under the radar lately. I thought one of the reasons for keeping it G rated was to not run afoul of internet filters so all ages would have access, or something like that...

Jbarber said...

I'm not sure if anyone has already brought these articles to your attention, JMG, but when I read them, I felt that I was better able to understand them due to your writings.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tobias-stone/history-tells-us-what-will-brexit-trump_b_11179774.html

http://freakonomics.com/podcast/china-eat-americas-jobs/

I don't totally agree with some of the things said at the very ends of both articles, but overall they made me wonder if the authors are starting to "get it".

lordyburd said...

@Brent Mills
Sir, for me, the answer to your initial question is; I have never felt at home in my own skin or the world around me. Sure, I took the basic assumptions and beliefs of the modern world for granted, but they never seemed to form an essential part of my identity. Thus, to find out that there is nothing self evidently true about Progress or Humanity’s Destiny was not jarring for me. It was far more disturbing to learn that whether or not I feel connected on a visceral level to the universe, I have not been granted a free pass from consequences of mine (and others’) actions, or non-actions.
Nevertheless, people interested in societal collapse are not that tiny a minority. Believers of the Abrahamic faiths, for instance, have diverse traditions of ‘End of Days’ theologies which deal with complete annihilation of this or that irredeemable aspect of humanity and/or the universe. Your own answer to your question, if reframed in suitable theological jargon, would ring true for many a Christian, Jew or Muslim.


Vesta said...

JMG, you ask what I do to make do with LESS in my own life-

Probably like many others, I've only come to understand decline after first becoming a fairly typical urban husband and father. So I do what I can, but only so far as it doesn't jeopardize my marriage and family.

If I could start again I might choose a different path. I admire and sometimes envy folks who've done so (hat tip to e.g. Cherokee Chris and other commenters here), but that's not how it worked out for me. In practical terms, my efforts come to this:

I voluntarily quit the academy, while a post-doc in the late 90's, as I was one of those flying environmental scientists. The hypocrisy was obvious and unbearable, even before I really understood it.

I started a small business in a trade I believe will survive decline and serve my family and customers well, and that better aligns with my values: physical labor, conserving resources measurably, for people who pay me and thank me face-to-face. I do OK, but my take home is probably less than half what it would have been, and no benefits. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do this at all, since without my wife's income it wouldn't have been possible.

I mostly don't fly, except for in-family marriages that I can't otherwise travel to, e.g. in Hawaii. I discourage the rest of my family from flying, with success mostly with the kids, as my partner flies several times a year for work. I still drive as part of my work, but mostly forgo driving otherwise: weekend trips to the mountains are no longer a regular part of my life. We bike and walk where we can, and choose to live where that is mostly practical. This translates into one 25 gallon tank of gasoline in the truck every 2- 3 weeks.

Our house is built mostly from salvaged material, almost entirely with my hands (and yes power tools). It is very efficient, very nice, moderate size, and has taken almost 20 years of late evenings and long weekends. Next year we'll begin the masonry heater, and when that's done we'll be able to heat it without petroleum or electricity.

Although we live in the city, I have made provisions so we can provide ourselves with decent ground water indefinitely, and I've made a large underground bunker/root cellar for refrigerator-free semi-perishable food storage.

But producing enough food on our own, no way. Our little garden is growing, and we have chickens and sometimes rabbits, but we will never, ever, cover even a fraction of our nutritional needs. That's alarming to me, and I don't see a practical way to change that in the time I've got left. My extended community does include a couple of small-holding farmers, but if things become violent or if motorized transport becomes difficult, they would be too far away to be any help.

I am raising my children (still young) with the skills, attitude and expectation that they will have to have to care for themselves.

As for fire, dog, beer, got that all covered since high school!

Tam Hob said...

For what it's worth, I've researched the insulin production thing as my sister is a type 1 diabetic. Yes, small scale insulin production from animal pancreas is doable, under very hostile conditions, as proved by Eva and Victor Saxl who produced enough to keep Eva and a few hundred diabetic Chinese alive during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai using a basement lab in the Jewish ghetto. The latest 'recipe' I've been able to find is from 1965 which should make much better quality insulin than what the Saxl's could make from much less pancreas (it looked like 10kg of pancreas would be enough for a couple hundred people).

Key is to minimise the need for insulin and reduce risk of mistakes in amount taken by minimising carbohydrate consumption and relying on energy from fat instead (rather than standard current medical practice which teaches people to eat what they want and then 'cover' it with insulin, which leads to insulin resistance and wild swings in blood sugars for many people). Insulin doesn't keep for long but each diabetic only needs a few drops daily so ideally you'd be located in a larger city or town with access to a slaughterhouse and you'd make a new batch twice a week or so, supplying lots of others to pay for the inputs.

The current real time blood tests would be very difficult to imitate but old style urine testing is possible, which tells you how well you are matching your insulin needs over the longer term. Rotating which animal species pancreas are used will reduce risk of allergic reactions. Obviously, nowhere near a perfect solution but many people survived decades using these types of insulin and urine testing so it seems like a worthwhile technology to pursue.

New diabetics should also look into the research into low carb diets, exercise and vitamin D as ways to induce remission (ie substantially extend the honeymoon period)

DoubtingThomas said...

@Brent Mills

'Why are you me and the readers of this blog fascinated by this subject of societal collapse?"
- I'm not fascinated by it to be honest but then I'm only a recent observer of its content. I got 'several layers' of 'the point' after consuming a random selection of 6months of the ~10years worth of posts in the last couple of weeks and will likely just focus on JMG's other blog shortly. Perhaps longer term observers become fascinated by its allure?
- I'm minded of an on point cartoon that had 2 panels. In the first panel was a drawing of a man watching TV and on the TV the impassioned presenter was asking the question "What can we do to lessen the grip of fear from terrorism/others/etc". In the next panel the Man watching the TV answered the question by turning off the TV.
- There is much on here that many people would no doubt find scary/repelling. Scary things excite some people. The answer to your question is possibly directly rooted in an individuals Fears (for some) but it lacks any nuance sufficient to target an individual.
- There is also some hopeful stuff to be sure but not having read everything I can't do a formal breakdown.
- Remember everyone has their critics though with the usual quality range from unfair to fair. I made sure to take a sampling while diving in.

" I can't begin to imagine the contentment that goes with community living like that, hunting for your food, living on the edge."
- Those communities have their own ego driven stresses provoking internecine conflicts. The scales may differ. Peace & Conflict in all their connotations are, I believe, useful/required for an individual's / tribes / societies expansions of consciousness / well-being.

The other Tom said...

@Brent Mills. I share your discomfort with the modern world, both socially and economically. I would like to point out that it is not necessary to be reincarnated to know the peace of living in an ecosystem. You are still young enough at 42 to become familiar with your local plants and animals. Unless you live deep within a metropolis there is probably a wild area nearby where you can practice stealth camping, making camouflaged shelters, foraging, and maybe some discreet hunting with a 22. All it takes is time and attention, and almost no money. I have never felt any attraction to farming but the movement and searching and intimately knowing a landscape that hunting and gathering requires is very satisfying to me. In addition to many excellent books and your own experience you will meet some others who are passionate about this life. But you have to get out there to meet them because they are unlikely to talk about living in the woods in a coffeeshop. Most of my friends are people I've met in the woods over the years. They are different because they say what they really think and tend to do whatever they want to do. Maybe we'll never be as native as an Amazonian but we can take this life as far as we choose. I think a good starting point is to become very familiar with a wild area near you, to know everything that lives there during the four seasons, and then practice camping there, with a small footprint, invisible to all but the most observant humans.
Somebody recently asked me whether I missed talking to people during long sojourns in the woods. I said no, I don't miss what passes for conversation in the modern world, with several video monitors and 20 other distractions going on, and the tendency people have to always have to rush off somewhere just as a real conversation gets started.

Shane W said...

Honestly, much as I'm glad I left California, I enjoyed time spent there, and I left for totally rational reasons. Even though I'm not from there, I still feel a kinship w/other "reverse Oakies" I meet here. I saw a Sport Chalet license plate frame on a California plate a while back, and I immediately hummed the Sport Chalet jingle in my head.

lordyburd said...

@Violet Cabra
I hope this is not too far down the comment thread to catch your eye. I am saddened and touched by your plight, as I am often touched by your commentary. I wish you recover well, through prayer and perseverance and the presence of loved-ones. I only know you through your comments and my imagination, but that is not a problem, since ‘imagination’ is not synonymous with ‘inauthentic’.
Upon your (surely) pre-ordained recovery, would you consider writing romance stories? I suspect you’d be quite good at it :)

DoubtingThomas said...

@Sven Williams: Often the way ;) Writing/Explaining things to others can be a brilliant tool to help us focus :)

-- As you asked - I can only give you my opinion. There is a sense of accomplishment gained with its ensuing positive benefits to self esteem if we work at something and achieve a goal. Being debt free is a useful state as it gives you one less thing to worry about. Does buying a plot of land mean defaulting on the loan or merely delaying its full repayment ? Always listen to your gut/heart though - if your getting the idea that your physical situation is becoming dire then your course is clear. I'd be less worried about future maybes regarding the situation in the USA.

DoubtingThomas said...

@Brent Mills: "This generated a kind of hatred toward humankind in general and in some regards a desire to see revenge visited upon it."
-- I've noticed that response, Hatred & Revenge, quite in the language used by a few other commenters over the 10 year timeline so I doubt you are alone in that.
-- If you are interested you may consider doing a net search for the causes/impacts of Hatred and Revenge. It might make for uncomfortable reading though. A couple of sources to get you started: http://drlwilson.com/ARTICLES/HATRED.htm - https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/let-their-words-do-the-talking/201103/the-seven-stage-hate-model-the-psychopathology-hate

Nancy Sutton said...

The 'DNA in Western civilization' ? I would assume it is greed for power/wealth, which went on steroids with 'capitalism'. According to 'The Empire of Cotton', the initial 'Western/European' 'wealth accumulation' was created by industrial slavery of various kinds. The trigger of 'capitalism' was the formation of the Bank of England (approx 1700), to fund the King's wars...and 'buy' government. Has anything changed, except for forms? Eisenhower warned of the def/con industries' subversion of 'democracy'.

It is the oldest story .... follow the money if you want to know what is really happening. Where does NATO military-, foreign 'investment-', etc spending. end up? In US/global corporate pockets. To put the spotlight on the 'intermediaries' is to miss the end point ... on purpose, perhaps, at least by our 'purchased' MSM.

Nancy Sutton said...

Oh, and btw, I've been 'collapsing' since reading the my first Whole Earth Catalogue ;) The question "how would I do this without electricity?"..is always at the back of my mind. I was doing the first round of DIY in the 70's ... just wish I had more company in my current locale :)

Shane W said...

"As goes California, so goes the (former) nation" Regarding "giving" and "taking" states, I'd refer back to JMG's The Wealth of Nations and the posts that inspired it. My guess is that a lot of the wealthy blue "giving" states wealth is actually notional wealth of the tertiary kind, exemplified by the financial hubs of the Northeast and the tech hubs of the West Coast. My guess is that a lot of the primary and secondary wealth lies in the "taking" red hinterlands of flyover country. We won't really know until we dissolve the union and each new nation has to balance the books and provide for the commonwealth on their own. I must say that KY (and states like it) are popular destinations for preppers due to low population density, lack of nukes, access to water, etc. Before the Civil War, the South was the nation's wealthiest region, which leads me to believe that the South has a lot of primary and secondary wealth, once it gets out from under the blue tertiary wealth regions' thumb.
As for imported food, you should know that we have a thriving and growing locavore/farming scene here in KY, and lots of people around here are committed to eating locally. Many other states in this area do, too. People are already demonstrating that we won't starve if we have to eat locally.
I just contributed to Yes, California...

Shane W said...

The idea that secession will inevitably lead to a Civil War because it did the last go around is based on a logical fallacy. The US and each of the 50 states are representative democracies with the power of electoral choice. The last Civil War was neither inevitable nor necessary, as was recognized at the time. Responding to secession with war this time around will be a choice, as well. If both sides commit to a peaceful resolution around the negotiating table, then war will be avoided. The only inevitability of war will be if either side becomes intractable with their demands and diplomacy does not resolve them. As long as both sides commit to diplomacy and negotiation, war is not inevitable.

Ray Wharton said...

@brokeboater - In Western Colorado we hold just as low an estimation of Texan's as of (Urban) Califronians; the folks from the Sierra Nevada of course being fellow hill billies. But worse than either of those states is America's 'Central Coast' down the Front Range of Colorado.

@ All.

Buy Lean Logic. I just got my copy, it is huge, and at least as information dense as any other writer on our predicament. For the practical and philosophic it is a treasure.

In a poker match between the West and Classical civilization we could raise it against Pliny the Elder's 'Natural History' with out batting an eye. Though the text is focused by the issue of our predicament it is filled with timeless observations about humanity and nature; a worth long term contribution to human wisdom. If you are short on the funds just go to a plasma bank, or the red light district, or what ever it takes. It is the gold standard encyclopedia of a Green Wizard.

After getting that, which is the correct book for you (as a Green Wizard) to purchase next,
I can also now speak favorably of the Into the Ruins magazines which are rip roaring good fiction holding even with the considerable After Oil series, the stories are a stretching routine for the imagination. In the same line, the Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind Manga was recently re-released as a two volume hard back, and that story is, to my mind, the gold standard of a Non-Western perspective on industrial civilizations meaning to the deep future.

Also recommended is Hot Earth Dreams. It doesn't quite match the magnitude of importance of the first two recommendations, but it is a wonderful guide to imagining how the climate might change and the varying degrees of certainty about different factors roll.

Yeah, I just had a good book order for my Seedbook bank. I also received Overshoot, but ain't far enough into it to give it its due.

Ray Wharton said...

Speaking of water and California, since I live in Western Colorado I am by no means sure I would want Calexit, as much as I love to lovingly tease Californians. In fact I adore Californians, and precisely to the degree that they remain Californians. And I bear no more ill will to Californians that might move to Colorado, than to any of the forty-eight other foreign States. To continue, this ill will is nothing more than a good will for the Culture that came to form here in the last Century... and I do temper in knowledge that it was born in blood.

In fact my closest allies in my communities are refugees from California, Texas, Maryland, and Connecticut, but they all have the good sense to imitate the culture that they have moved to, and to carry their own cultural quirks modestly. In rural areas it must be so, because the landscape has been shaped by the Pioneer culture such that it now shapes what culture might grow there. In urban areas things are more difficult, as with much money and expensive property value the place can be, and is, rebuilt to the standards of the Sea People (to use an Egyptism). Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and the I-70 region has fallen to these urban cultures. Even in the boonies of the South West corner Durango is mutating into such an impossible creature.

Should California withdraw the water treaties entitling them to Western Water would not come to an end. It would merely become a point of contention between different political powers, and I would be worried that violence would quickly boil to the surface. It is likely that such a dispute would destroy the irrigation infrastructure of Western Colorado. And together with Climate change accelerate its depopulation.

Colorado became a 'cool' state recently, and now has filled in with rapidly expanding cities which are built around the values of the Coastal Infrastructure. Our climate and means of sustenance in this area are especially brittle, and I think that moving to this area is foolish. Even staying here, as I intend to, is very dangerous and should only be attempted by those willing to incorporate into both the current hill billy culture, and open to the needed transformations to come. If I am very lucky I will be part of a culture that can adapt to living more harmoniously on this brittle land, but if that fails, if we are not up to the challenge of adaptation, this area will be all but unlivable.

I am grateful for the good people who have brought vigor here, but resentful of the ideologies that have come with.

Wendy, if you want to come here you are welcome, despite all said above, but know that if the politics of California were to follow that would make things a lot rougher. And skin color ain't no thing around here. But, as you can see it is complicated, and all over regional culture is sore from having disrupting elements forced on it from the outside.

latheChuck said...

Brent Mills-

Why are we here? In my case, it happened that I read Asimov's "Foundation" trilogy as a teen-ager, right about the time that I read "Limits To Growth", and my parents were subscribing to "Mother Earth News" and [the late] "Organic Gardening and Farming" (don't get me started on what a boutique waste of colorful ink THAT's devolved into). "Foundation" provided a sci-fi vision of local sustainment in the midst of global (well, actually, galactic) collapse; LTG showed that collapse was plausible within my lifetime, and MEN and OGF provided monthly suggestions for improving local resilience. This is just the latest phase of a lifetime of life in the shadow of collapse.

So, what did I actually DO? Got a degree in electrical engineering, figuring that if there IS a crisis, being able to improvise small-scale electrical and communication systems would be rewarded; and if there is NOT a crisis, it's a way to earn an income that allows for generous sharing. So far, so good.

Morfran Anónimo said...

@ JMG, Robert Mathieson, Onething, Eric and others:

As regards "Alt-Centre" or whatever it could be called I too would welcome this as a label I might finally be able to use with some sincerity.

Like others I am politically adrift of late, but I also think I have simply not ever had the language available (nor the philosophy, more of which I'd love to hear) to articulate my leanings. This is also just lack of confidence on my part to grow a political consciousness, but still.

A "principled rejection of extremism" and a hard commitment to civility work for me because they push back against the notion that being of the centre, for an ordinary person not a politician, means being without clear political conviction. Not so - as Robert Mathieson says one can feel genuinely like a "radical moderate" - I know what he means, but then the available language fails us as the centre isn't just about moderation.

For me Alt-Centre might mean giving conviction and a positive voice to the sort of political feeling that is normally obliged to stand silent, patient and apart while those far to either side shout at each other over one's head. It would also I hope provide the means to argue against the selective outrage of either side without them so easily being able to label you as one of those "over there" on the opposite, because one's commitment to a different place on the spectrum would be explicit.

I'm thinking personally of my growing distaste and impatience with the rump UK left; it's shallowness and self-regard. Its increasingly painful because that includes most of my family. I have an aunt and uncle of whom I'm otherwise fond but who do not seem to be gaining any political perspective with age (they're in their mid 50s and far more comfortable than my young family will ever be I think); they regularly post their passionate activism on social media. Some of it I have no issue with, but then there's their recent post about dutifully attending an anti-Trump "alternative inauguration". Yes, that's here in the UK - of which Trump has of course not been made president. If I had the gall I would tell them plainly that I find that arrogant, embarrassing and utterly pointless.

Morfran.

latheChuck said...

Scotlyn - Thanks for that succinct gist of my comment to Dammerung. I hope that he saw in it the same thing that you did.

latheChuck said...

In local news reflecting a wider trend, the Washington Post (Jan. 29) has "Pension costs plague Fairfax budget".

Fairfax County, a suburb of Washington DC, is the second wealthiest county in the country. (https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=wealthy+counties+in+usa)

"Since 2010, pension expenses ... have nearly doubled ... when the stubbornly lukewarm local economy has kept revenue down. Nationwide, government pension-fund costs have risen as well, the result of a growing population of retirees who are living longer, as well as weak investment returns on Wall Street after the 2008 Great Recession."

As Supervisor Penelope Gross said "Millions of dollars in interest income isn't there anymore, which has made our lives more difficult, ... it's not bad news. It's just the reality."

John Niemiec, president of the county's local union for firefighters and paramedics, said "There is no way our union is going to sit idle and let them start taking away our benefits... Enough is enough."

In my opinion, union members "sitting idle" is not an image that their president should conjure.

Shane W said...

Honestly, the only thing that could put me in stitches, I mean, to the point that I'm laughing so hard tears are coming out my eyes like during the election, is watching the talking heads go apoplectic over secession. The only other thing that could possibly come even close is the talking heads having a meltdown when Trump holds the debt ceiling hostage for a haircut/renegotiation of the national debt. Sigh, I really need a CSA share in an organic popcorn farm, don't I?

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

Thanks everyone, for the pats on the back while I pull myself together. It's not like I have any illusions about what a mess CA is and I could see it breaking into smaller units as well (the disdain north and south have for each other being one part of that). I fear though, that given our historically mobile population, the surging of growth/decline that's made its way around the state, and changing demographics, that there will be hotly contested notions of union vs secession, not to mention regionalistic partisanship - without clear (ie. neat, and unlikely to involve bloodshed or chaos), easily defined sections. (and, side note, the decimation by addiction and suicide isn't just a "flyover problem" unless you want to call the top 1/3 or CA "flyover county" too.)

I noted a few months ago, when I looked at the calexit website, that they were relying on "there'll be a tech fix in the form of desalination to deal with our water problems." ugh. please.

Interesting to hear y'all's comments about political notions and people's general attitudes. Just to clarify, it's not like I meant Californians are nicer than anyone else - but I'd simply put my observations of increasing selfishness and uncharitable behavior down to me being introverted - I just thought I was being sensitive or anti-social and that this was the new norm for all of America. Duh, maybe I'm not enamored of CA culture either!

I've mentioned previously my sense of floundering and ungroundedness since this recent election and its aftermath... you folks in the middle of the country might be surprised to find that some Californians agree with protectionist/isolationist turnings, but I sure as heck am not going to talk about that out loud. Yeah Hillary took CA and yeah a lot of people are raising a stink about Trump... but if a very average person like myself is left flying in the wind, it might be safe to say thatothers are questioning assumptions.

BoysMom, thanks for your comment and for pointing out the multi-directionality of "I'm afraid to leave my comfort zone." I'm not sure how to help my husband allay his fears but I'm sure he never really thought about what those fears say about his assumptions about people outside "blue" zones. Will work on that.

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

Also, fwiw, I could get behind other secessionist movements too. I mostly objected to "YOU should secede and leave us alone" vs "we want to secede."

Reading "The Coming Fury" (sooo slowly because, not complaining, but the ADR comment section is a huge time-sink!!) I keep finding myself thinking that those states had a right to secede and should've been let go.

DoubtingThomas said...

@scotlyn: appreciated your commentary earlier. I had to lookup Blood Libel last week when it was mentioned. People tend to reach for convenient historic stories to justify their poor behaviour or needs to demonise others usually while painting themselves as victims. The cult of victimhood is endemic.

Interestingly though, in the age old enmity of blood libel ( christians against jews ) accusation, a portion of the target grouping ( in the form of Israel ) are themselves guilty of using the same dynamic in their dealings with the Palestinians ( who in their turn are perpetuating the cycle of victimhood and abuse in reciprocal dealings ).

Such cycles tend to only break when individuals turn to forgiveness ( where there is true belief in the harm story ). Of course many, just use the harmful story/belief to mask more personal issues.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Dear Mr. Greer, et all. From the comments I read, it sounds like brewers and distillers are going to be a bit thick on the ground during the decline. Just an observation.

As far as "first contact" with the warlord culture, I think it could go something like this: You've noticed that the heavily fortified and well armed doom stead down the road has apparently fallen. Given the cloud of smoke, gunfire and small explosions. You send your young men, who may be impressed into service and young women into the woods. You wait, on your knees with your forehead to the ground, at your gate. A few well wrapped small packages are in front of you.

Up rides the warrior band. You are probably NOT dealing with the warlord, but with one of his lieutenants. There are many lieutenants, all vying for favor in their liege's eyes.

(Lieutenant) "What's this?"

(You) "Simple farmers, Sir. We have small offerings for you and your Liege."

"Like what? What would YOU have that we could possibly be interested in? On your feet man, and look me in the eye!"

"This Sir, is turmeric. Adds zest to meat and helps with some joint pain. This is honey candied ginger. Sweetens the breath to please your lady, cures all kinds of nausea and delights children. This is tea. You've probably heard of it. Invigorating drink. Helps a person stay alert. And, a bit of tobacco."

"Our Lord has banned the evil weed! (Leans over saddle) "But I haven't had a good smoke in three years."

You notice a couple of the riders are wounded. So, you say ...

"I notice a couple of your men have bad wounds. Granny up there on the porch has pretty good luck with healing bad wounds. Don't know how, she just does. Would you allow her to take a look at them?"

And, so it goes. Of course, they might just kill you all and call it good. But since you're going to die anyway, it's worth a shot. Lew


LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Mr. Greeer - Ever thought of putting together a book of a collection of rubbish comments that you bin? I think some of it might be humorous, some deeply sad. Some might be pretty obvious, some might need a bit of explanation as to why they are so wrong. Just a thought. Something to do in your spare time :-). Lew

Bryant said...

@Shane W

Amen, I've been in the South my entire life and I get furious every time that the blue tries to claim me that because I am a Person of Color that I have to take their life. Its ridiculous, along with the idea that I am uneducated or poor as I look at my degrees and my socioeconomic status.

Well, I sure ain't clutching to my guns and bibles, but I do have solid ideas on what's beautiful and what's right. All I want is to be left alone in communities that agree with the norms that I believe in; and so, secession sounds wonderful. But if they can't leave me alone, then I'll just have to fight. I'm not backing down.

Justin said...

Fred the First, fair enough - and also, agreed about African Americans.

This book is interesting:

https://www.amazon.ca/Battle-Room-314-Despair-School/dp/1455560618

PRiZM said...

Yesterday I was reading Jack London's "To Build A Fire and was struck by the number of parallels between that story and this week's post, the overall trajectory of this blog, and by any number of crises that humans go through. It's helped me even more to have some eye-opening moments from the human perspective. But it really impressed upon me the need for community. While I know you mentioned that we're reaching the end of time when we can do things to prepare for the Long Descent, what about reaching out to community? With a Second Religiosity, would that mean more groups will be seeking members? More communities coming together? More lodges and brotherhoods?

Chris Larkin said...

@Tam Hob- It is good to know that it is viable to extract insulin from pig pancreases on a small scale. I'll be curious to look at the recipe. What book is it from or is there a link I can use?

Rita said...

Sven Williams - a default on your student loans will follow you until the wheels come off the financial sector entirely. Or gross amounts of pressure get Congress to cancel the debts--do not hold your breath for this. However, depending on your income there are ways to lower your payments or even get the loan forgiven after a certain number of years. On one program, working ten years for certain types of non-profits (basically 501(3)c) will get loans cancelled. Beware of tax consequences however. There are a number of formulae based on your income, family size, etc. to determine a maximum payment that may be lower than what you are paying. This can be a disadvantage if you are getting good wages now as it stretched the loan out and you pay more interest. If you are paying through Edfinancial check their web site. Also, NOLO Press (the how to do your own divorce, bankruptcy, etc.people), have a book about managing student loan debt. I recommend it. In any financial emergency be sure to stay on top of the situation by requesting a forbearance. The people who end up in trouble are those who bury their heads in the sand and ignore the bills.

Rita said...

I wonder whether the CalExit people have considered that the state is not really united socially. For years N. Californians have been hostile to the demands of S. CA for more water. Some of us will cheerfully donate everything south of the Tehachapis to Mexico. But while the coastal cities, and Sacramento as capital, are fairly prosperous, the Central Valley has been depressed for some time. Cities such as Stockton and Modesto are staggering along and most rural counties, and the congressional districts gerrymandered to include large chunks of them, are red. A lot of the mountain areas are also poor or dependent on tourism. And much of the tourism is dependent on weather: no snow, no skiing, no money. Not a problem this year, but we know that it will be long term. There are miles and miles of "country" in the foothills that are really thinly spread suburbs. Houses on 5,10 or 15 acres, too small for profitable agriculture, even if the water is there. The residents commute to nearest or sometimes farther city for work. There is little actual agriculture because of soil, weather, etc. and much of this will be abandoned when it is no longer practical to get propane for heating and cooking and fuel to commute is too expensive. Not to mention that fighting the increasing forest fires is getting to be very expensive. There has already been talk of just containing fires rather than all out efforts to save isolated home.

onething said...

Wendy,

I wouldn't take all this too seriously. So far as I know, Californians are not the subjects of an unusual amount of dislike. More than, say, Wisconsin of course, being it is so much more famous and populated. Who even knows anyone from Wisconsin?

I wouldn't want to live south of about San Luis Obispo though.

Shane W said...

One thing I'm thinking about the tone-deafness of all the immigration protests at the airports--the class issue. If you can afford international airfare, you're members of an elite that most people can't even imagine. Most average people living paycheck-to-paycheck cannot imagine being able to afford international airfare. This plays right into Trump's base.

Birdie said...

Lathechuck-I have all the original Mother Earth News from the 1st edition through the 70s and the Organic Gardenings circa 1960-75. Still valuable I think. Also the Cloudburst editions and other alternative "how tos" of the era. I'm glad I've hung on to them.

JMG thankyou for providing your balanced historical perspective- it is the only blog that I follow now,and thoughtfully read the polite, civil discourse in the comments. Thankyou to all of you and especially a thanks to you JMG for providing this very sane place to read and reflect on events as they unfold in an increasingly challenging time.
Robyn

sunseekernv said...

Justin - re California fossil fuel

Numbers please! eia.gov says California produces about 16 million bbls/month -> 500 thousand bbls/day.
https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MCRFPCA1&f=M
(and notice that during the high oil prices of recent years, their decline merely flattened out).

They use 40 million gals/day of gasoline -> about 1 million bbls/day. (42 US gals/bbl of oil).
12 million gals/day of jet fuel -> 300 thousand bbls/day
10 million gals/day of diesel -> 240 thousand bbls/day

https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_sum_mkt_dcu_SCA_m.htm

So how are they going to run on their own, given 1.5 million bbls/day demand, and .5 million bbls/day supply?
demand : supply of 3:1

That is even worse than the US as a whole (19 to 20 million bbls/day demand, 8.5 million bbls/day supply).
demand : supply of 2.3 : 1

Did you see that the Monterrey Shale was a fantasy?
http://www.postcarbon.org/usgs-downgrade-of-recoverable-oil-in-the-monterey-shale-of-california/

John Michael Greer said...

DoubtingThomas, I hope you don't mind waiting a few days for a full discussion. I've fielded a lot of pushback in response to my challenge to the conventional wisdom -- which is what you're defending, you know -- but I think you're the first to base the pushback on the idea of the individual as historical free agent. That's interesting enough that it deserves a post of its own in response. One thing, though -- no, the laws of thermodynamics don't specify an isolated system. Systems that have energy flowing through them from an outside source to an outside sink -- dissipative systems, in the relevant jargon -- are very much part of the theory. More on this as we proceed.

Cherokee, the traditional wages for an apprentice were room and board, but I'm not sure whether that would work in your situation -- or whether anyone would take you up on such an offer!

Fred, I'd certainly celebrate if voting fraud were to be proved, but no, that won't shut up Trump's critics. One of the things we've seen over the last two decades or so is that the tribal hostilities that divide the US are so deeply entrenched that mere facts can't sway them.

Ursachi, Trump's a transitional figure at best, and I don't expect him to preside over more than the first steps toward disengagement. Still, I prefer that to Hillary Clinton's all-out neoconservatism.

Scotlyn, this touches on a family memory. One of my great-great-grandmothers had Down syndrome. These days she'd probably be institutionalized, but they didn't do that in rural Washington Territory when she was born. Instead, she grew up alongside all the other children, and took part in the ordinary life of what was then a frontier community. She never learned to read or write her own name, but she was an incredibly good cook and adored children, and my great-great-grandfather Greer, who married her, considered himself the luckiest man alive to have so sweet and capable a wife. My late grandfather knew her, and she taught him how to cook -- and in his firefighting days he was widely considered the best firehouse chef in Grays Harbor County. So making room for waifs and strays is much more productive than our current cultural prejudices make it look...

Barrabas, I've seen exactly the same thing with white activists here regarding our native peoples, so it wasn't hard to extrapolate!

Fred, have you noticed that across the board, those people who are supposed to understand money in this society really, truly don't have a clue?

Rita, oh, there's definitely something to be said for warlords!

111DFC, those are valid points. The US is unusually vulnerable to the downside of its own history, for the reasons you've mentioned among others.

John Michael Greer said...

Peter, were you going to offer any evidence for this claim of yours, or do you think that the fact that you have an opinion somehow obliges the rest of us to agree with you?

Peacegarden, a liver detox as a curative response to political wrangling is a new one for me, but hey, if it works... ;-)

Onething, remember that epicycles got piled on Ptolemaic astronomy for almost two thousand years before they finally went away!

Donald, okay, you've solved a minor mystery for me. I'd wondered why the Great Naropa Poetry Wars et al. seemed to have cooled off so suddenly; an invasion from California that had to be driven off by both sides in alliance would certainly have done it.

Wendy, it's not about who does or doesn't suck. It's simply a matter of major cultural differences. (For example, I can't think of another part of the US where the immediate reaction to a situation like this would be a reference to your own emotional state, e.g., "I feel tremendously sad.") Given those cultural differences, and the political, economic, and social differences that result, it would work better for everyone if California went its own way, did its own thing, and no longer tried to impose its model on other parts of this very culturally diverse country.

Sven, pay off your debts. You can't be sure of anything until that's out of the way, because anything you own is fair game to debt collectors -- and you can't be sure that (a) there'll be any sort of amnesty and (b) that your student debt will be included in it. Until and unless that happens, make getting out debt your top priority, and you'll be better off.

Matt, glad to see there's more than three of them. I'd be happier if there were more than three thousand of them, but apparently that's past hoping.

Canon Fodder, that's why I had California descend into civil war and failed-state status in my Retrotopia stories. Living 14 miles north of the CA border, and traveling extensively in the formerly Golden State, gave me a fair sense of the bitter rivalries within its borders.

Brent, that's a valid question, and not one a lot of people ask or answer! For me, it's actually fairly simple. I find history fascinating; I find the fact that I'm part of history, situated at a recognizable point along the normal cycle of rise and fall, even more fascinating; and since I know that what follows my time is the fall of civilization and the coming of a new dark age, with all the problems and possibilities that opens up, it's a bit like looking out the window on a day in late autumn and wondering what the winter is going to be like. I find some aspects of modern industrial society loathsome, and other aspects pleasant; I'd doubtless have the same reaction to any age I happened to be born in; but the unfolding of the story is the thing that holds my interest.

John Michael Greer said...

Bruno, that's one of the things Spengler got dead wrong. He didn't understand ecology -- to be fair, very few people did in his time -- and that lack of understanding blinded him to insights that would have filled in some of the gaps in his thinking.

Jay, Mexico's part of the Compact last I checked, and since the Compact is between governments, the fact that one of those governments changes status from a state to a nation-state wouldn't necessarily abrogate it.

Dennis, that seems about right. It'll be interesting to see if the Berniecrats manage their hostile takeover on the second try; I certainly hope they do.

Big Rant, fair enough. Thank you.

Hubertus, ding! We have a winner. Exactly; collapse is already happening all around us, but it's happening at history's pace, rather than Hollywood's.

Indus56, I addressed that sort of argument in an earlier post. It's easy to come up with hypothetical reasons why it might just possibly be different this time, and of course quite a few of my readers have done that. Over and over again, though, during the years this blog has been appearing, predictions made on the basis of such arguments have failed, and predictions made on the assumption that it's no different this time have turned out to be correct. Year after weary year, I've fielded claims that the collapse of industrial society will be sudden, irrevocable, and imminent; year after year, the predicted crash never comes -- and year after year, the Long Descent unfolds on schedule. Did you know that Donald Trump was predicted in the pages of Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West? Stay tuned; we'll be talking about that this week.

Shane, I've been floundering to keep up with comments, while getting some writing projects out of the way and dealing with other things. I gather some things slipped through that shouldn't. Hmm; clearly I need to find a more boring subject to talk about for a while. ;-)

Jbarber, hmm! Thank you; I hadn't seen those. It does indeed look as though repeated blows with a clue-by-four are beginning to have an impact.

Vesta, fair enough; thank you. I ask that because very often people who raise the points you did aren't following that up with changes to their own lives; it's good to see that you're not one of their number.

Morfran, I'm definitely seeing a need for a label that can be used by those who reject extremism and are willing to uphold and defend traditional democratic values. Alt-center will do for now -- but we'll see. Down the road a bit, it's going to get at least one post.

John Michael Greer said...

LatheChuck, nicely put. They may be sitting a good deal more idly than they want, if things proceed along their current trajectory...

Shane, go long on popcorn. I can't think of an investment more likely to pay off. ;-)

Wendy, delighted to hear that you're reading The Coming Fury! I'd like to see that made required reading for US voters.

Lewis, in premodern times, most households brewed their own beer as a matter of course, and stillrooms (for distillation) were common in houses of any size. I'm just helping things revert to the mean. As for warlord management, that's certainly a workable strategy.

As for a collection of rubbish comments, unfortunately they're protected by copyright law -- I couldn't publish them without the consent of their authors, and since I'd be poking fun at them, I doubt that would be forthcoming.

Prizm, the difficulty with community just now in the US is that the vast majority of Americans think that community ought to function for their benefit -- they don't get that community means you have to give up things for its benefit. Until more people grasp the hard fact that community is about shared sacrifice and shared suffering, attempts to establish community are going to keep on running onto the rocks of the culture of narcissistic entitlement that pervades today's America.

Graeme Bushell said...

Nice reference! One very poignant scene...

Graeme Bushell said...

Three yesses from me! Nicely put!

Graeme Bushell said...

Peakfuture, JMG and all, I like the idea of a subtle identifier! A green Wizards hat is probably too ostentatious for most, and connotations in Chinese culture not too nice...

What about wearing a pair of green rings? I'd have one on each thumb...

Cheers!
Graeme

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Many thanks for the reply and wisdom. I'm going to have to contemplate on your reply because you are no doubts correct, and also I will consult with others to get a different perspective. My original opinions on the matter were described as feudal and I appreciated that feedback because it is hard to see yourself as other people do - and I would be a benevolent dictator - but also consultive - if given the opportunity. I really appreciate being able to conduct a dialogue with you on such matters. I didn't mention that my copy of Retrotopia turned up in the mail at the Post Office on Saturday morning. Yay! Your links to the publishers website for ordering on this blog site is a great idea.

The news from your country today made me spit my chamomile tea out all over the keyboard, no less, with a massive belly laugh. So you now have a President who follows through on campaign promises. Well done, well done. A politician made a joke down here once about core and non core promises made during a campaign. Basically a non core promise during a campaign is by any other definition: a lie. What surprises me about the news from your country is that there is a level of outrage that you have a politician who does what he says he will do. That in and of itself is very telling about your culture and the sort of news that your country is fed. My wife and I were joking to each other this evening that your country may well get that wall. Honestly, your country needs the pressure relieved from the building tensions and your President looks like he understands how to get dissident groups wasting their time.

And incidentally, I would really like to understand why so many professional activist groups had joined together to protest the current ban on people from certain countries at airports in the US, do they not realise how easily they were dismissed as irrelevant because they were diluting their core message by taking that action? The whole protest mechanism thing seems weird to me. Perosnally I would group together and advise the airlines that we - as a group - will no longer fly using your service unless that carrier lobbied the politicians, and then actually do it.

Cheers

Chris

Morgenfrue said...

@Scotlyn Thanks for your kind words. I think about it a lot, as the public system here is very extensive. Everyone in Denmark has a right to home nursing, and the public sector also provides home help (personal hygiene, food prep and basic cleaning) free of charge. (One must be evaluated and be found in need of the services either temporarily or permanently.) What happens when the wheels go off the system... Those without a network nearby, or who refuse to move closer to their network may very well starve and freeze to death in filthy surroundings. There have been rumors that the poorer municipalities might need to cut back on the cleaning services they provide - in that case the person in question would need to rely on their family or hire a cleaner, if their pension can bear it.

@Violet I too wish you a thorough recovery. I've just printed your herbal guides from your blog, so thank you for that.

Re: Calexit
As someone raised in the Sierra Nevada foothills (I have lived abroad the past 15 years, I guess that makes me a calexpat), the idea of California seceding in its present form makes me scoff. Even after 15 years my visceral reaction to the idea of Southern California is "clueless, useless water thieves". When I went to university in the Bay Area it was like moving to a foreign country (I say this as someone who has in fact moved to a foreign country - twice!). Forget desalination plants and negotiations over the Colorado River. Y'all need to negotiate with NorCal. There are enough hillbillies and hippies up north to put SoCal over a barrel AND restore the Hetch Hetchy in one go.

Sven in the Middle East: I vote to pay off your student loan debts, and save up enough for a down payment on land. Better to default on a bank if you have to. The government will never let you go.

patriciaormsby said...

@Lewis Lucan Books, I was thinking along similar lines today. I suppose an overabundance of brewers would have to depend on degree of awareness of collapse in the community where you happen to reside. We've got a German fellow not far from us brewing beer and wine. I practice fermenting as one of the healthiest, most effective preservation techniques, but usually run my icky apple ciders through to vinegar, which is much more useful. It may be that our farm will help supply him raw materials in the future.

We're due to put in a couple rows of popcorn this year, otherwise we might run short. But it occurred to me that among the investments I've made during the past ten years, the only one I can think of that's grown in value are all the little fruit and nut trees that are sitting around in pots all over the place while I wait for my husband to find some land he feels okay about buying. To judge from the prices for similar trees at gardening centers, they've grown about ten times in value in five years. About twice a year you run over and give them a bit of sh*t (try doing that with your stock broker) and they show signs of joy. Show up a few days later and they're trying to impress you with their Popeye impersonation. Gosh they're fun.

Like any other investment, if you don't know what you're doing, you lose it. But with a little effort you can develop your skills and create nice gifts in the short term, an orchard in the medium term, and maybe an occupation with some demand in the long term.

@Violet, please keep us informed on how it goes for you. Lots of sympathetic people here. I take it you're new to hypersensitivity, but not new to alternative health care. We want to know what works for you. My own hypersensitivity impelled me to collapse early. I have no regrets. Like you, I limit my Internet time and usually only engage with people here at TADR. I log on once every two or three days, and don't manage to converse at that rate, but the comments section here is really valuable, and a big credit to JMG. I have to spend a lot of time on the computer because of my job, but all equipment is wired. If I am ill, I have to limit my time strictly, but I am mostly doing okay.

@Everyone, I keep hearing that you find most people don't want to think about collapse. I don't know about smartphone addicts--they seem to be in a world unto themselves--but my impression from my social contacts is they say they don't want to talk about it, but subconsciously they are fixated on it. You show up and the conversation springs to life again, with them ferociously questioning whatever hint you've thrown their way about "reality." They're feeling it in their bones. Look at how the comments here have swollen.

PRiZM said...

Thanks JMG.. that analysis helps me. One of my colleagues here in China is ex-military and ex-intel. He's given me his analysis, that the majority of American's won't help each other. Still, while we have to wait till people suffer enough before they are willing to help others, some have to develop ways for this to be done. There are plenty of organizations already existing which are community and help that can help teach how to community works. But for those of us outside of the US, they may have to find other ways to learn.

Happy Chinese New Year! May the rooster call upon you early in the year with insight and prosperity just as he announces the rising sun.

Brent Mills said...

@JMG, thanks for your and others response to my comment. Indeed the narrative other than the one peddled of 'Everything is awesome' is truly fascinating.

I feel I should add that on an emotional level I have this 'hatred' towards humankind, but on a logical level (when taking the view of an alien observing our planet) I don't blame humanity at all. My understanding of the natural world is that every organism's primary goal is to consume as much energy as it can in order to procreate. Fortunately they all have a a pushback that never allows them to go too far - except us.

Could I blame a herd of elephants confined in a fenced off areas that go ahead and knock down all the mopane trees to get to the tasty top leaves rather than settle for dried grass even though it means no more mopane in the area? Of course not and in the same way I can't blame our species for gorging on the tastiest things the world has on offer.

After all, in the words of Tim Minchin 'We're just f*&^%ing monkeys in shoes!'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bEGLbCNRqw

Tam Hob said...

@Chris Larkin,
I don't want to go in depth in an off-topic blog comment but I strongly recommend digging through the scientific journals since a lot of detail about alternative production methods is provided, as well as ancillary information about measuring purity, maxing insulin in your animal pancreases, testing urine and blood, dietary support of remaining pancreatic function etc. The Saxls reportedly used the original Banting and Best alcohol extraction method as detailed in a book called 'Beckman's Internal Medicine'. Personally, my first step is to replicate the purer and more concentrated Somogyi, Doisy and Shaffer method (minus the animal testing) as well as being able to produce all of the chemical and other inputs (like sterile filter medium): http://www.jbc.org/content/60/1/31.full.pdf.

A variation on Somogyi et al to give a powder but which probably requires more than a basement lab: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1259392/pdf/biochemj01163-0162.pdf. Discussion of the Hagedorn method of adding protamine from salmon or trout and/or zinc to make long lasting insulin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2076399/?page=1.

Jay Moses said...

not to nitpick too much, jmg, but mexico's rights to colorado river water are governed by the 1944 u.s.-mexico water utilization treaty as amended in 2012. mexico is not a member of the compact, only the seven "states" in the colorado basin. quite aside from the water issue, calexiteers should ponder the effects of closing all u.s. military bases, the end of all agriculture subsidies, the termination of all federal employment etc. the idea is another product of the left's current bout of wishful thinking.

Anthony Romano said...

Reading this weeks essay gave me an image of JMG, in full ceremonial regalia, dashing buckets of cold water over a screeching crowd.

As a long time reader, I've been on board with your premise of catabolic collapse, but I think it has been harder to internalize how this might actually affect my life in the near term. Sure, I may get shot to death in a second civil war, but I pictured that being 25 years out, and thus an abstraction.

I think for many readers, myself included, its harder to accept that this sort of thing might start happening this year. I subconsciously assumed that things getting real bad for me and mine was still a few decades out.

I could use that extra time to dig out from under student loans, but the universe isn't obliged to give it to me.

@Shane
Regarding your comment about airport protests. I think you may be bending things a bit to fit your class narrative. A lot of the protests are centered around stopping refugees fleeing a civil war from entering the country. These people are likely spending every last cent they have to escape a warzone, or (more likely) their flights are being paid for by an international relief organization.

Are you really implying that people fleeing ISIS, Predator Drone, barrel bombs, etc. are sitting atop a mountain of economic privilege?



Violet Cabra said...

@ pygmycory, if just a small fraction of the anti-Trump energy could be appropriately applied so much good could be potentially done. Thank you for redirecting some of that energy into something that may be effective.

@ peacegarden, I am deeply honored. Thank you.

@ Jen, there is one other main obstacle that your comment reminds me of, the issue of commitment, loyalty and having each other's backs. this is an impediment that is so ubiquitious in my communities that I sometimes am unable to see it. There is, it appears, a distrust of commitment and an avoidance of it, always keeping one another at arm's length, not getting too deep, not making plans together &c this then puts the foundation of community on ever shifting sand. part of my hope in moving back with my family and spending more time with my many towny friends is to participate more in committed community.

So glad you're reading about the herbs! Thank you for the well wishes too

@ lordyburd, thanks! - I've never written romance before, but reflecting on my lilting writing style I think you may have a point

Bryant said...

@JMG, would like your thoughts on this.

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-01-20/the-real-reason-your-city-has-no-money/

Seems to be a simple example of the tragedy of the commons, writ large.

inohuri said...

@Nic

See pages 2809 and 2817 in "Chemical Sensitivity"
Volume 4 by William Rea of Environmental Health Center. The hernia mesh and associated toxic sutures can be removed. In some cases this could involve taking some reinforcing tissue from somewhere else.

Hernias were repaired before the toxic and faulty repair products were introduced. Read the reviews on hernia repair and there seems only a choice between a weak cross stitch or a mesh that will probably fail (become inflexible) and springs that get loose and migrate while piercing other parts.

My choice is to avoid the madness and strengthen the muscles adjacent to the torn muscles that allows the break in peritoneum. Don't do sit ups because they increase lower abdomen pressure. Don't hold your breath or grunt when lifting because that also increases internal pressure which will enlarge the ugly skin bubble that forms as intercellular fluid gets pushed out.

There is more to this but that is enough for here.

inohuri said...

Comparing two eras of the labor participation rate seems incomplete as a bare number.

In the 1950's a single income could support a family. Moms could stay home, keep house, and raise kids. There was no pressing reason for most wives to work. When standards changed to more unnecessaries and effective income dropped then more women went to work.

So now the moms are more likely to prefer to work while paying others for child care and still doing all the unpaid labor they did before.

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

Fair enough - my initial reaction was certainly self-referential. Not having a wide sphere of influence, being a homemaker and introvert (and thereby having about four friends), I do tend to filter events through my experience and yes, I guess I was whining about my feelings. And yes, I'm grown up enough to know that they pretty much don't matter in the scheme of things and have nothing to do with the big picture. I still think they're useful perceptive tools.

The dismissal of my reaction to "I wish Californians would secede already" (sad inducing) as opposed to a more constructive, "I support some people's desire to secede" (dialogue inducing) with "I can't think of another part of the US where the immediate reaction to a situation like this would be a reference to your own emotional state, e.g., "I feel tremendously sad" is certainly yours to make. I don't need to be made to feel better about anything. I chose to reveal an emotional state on a public forum where I knew it would likely be criticized. Interesting that THIS reveals an intractable cultural difference. A response focusing on strategy or history or political theory might have been better regarded here, I just wasn't the one to do that.

Feelings ARE just feelings, they come and go -I probably I should've just kept them to myself, but I thought it relevant as a point of "data" that one average, middle-aged California housewife, raised to trust the Democratic party's trajectory and who identified as kind of socially liberal, found the possibility of losing her "American-ness" to be an actual loss that stirs grief in her BECAUSE she values her place in "this very culturally diverse country."

lordberia3@gmail.com said...

Hi John

Thanks. Looking forward to drinking my first home brewed ale!

I have posted a new article on my blog on the future of Europe which incorporates Toynbee's civilisation cycles, limits to growth and the rise of populist politics.

I would be interested in your feedback.

https://forecastingintelligence.org/2017/01/29/europes-coming-campi-flegrei-explosion/

Janet D said...

I don't have time to read the nearly 400 comments, so I apologize if this subject has already been covered....re: decline and fall of civilization and loss in general, is the recent appearance of a bacteria - with the NDM-1 gene -in the U.S. that is resistant to ALL antibiotics. (If you don't already know, bacteria communicate with each other, passing along resistance information, which is why this news made headlines). Another bacteria/gene combo - mcr-1 gene - is now spreading in China. It's another superbug, resistant to the last remaining antibiotic against it. Add that to climate change and dwi dling fossil fuel reserves....

Mother Nature has loaded the bases and is preparing a gigantic b#*#h slap for humanity.

nuku said...

@Kevin Warner,
"All those moments will be lost in time...like tears in rain."
Ah yes, “Blade Runner”. Thanks for the quote...

Nancy Shirley said...

The comment by Kfish about self-sufficiency made me remember this excellent 2011 article called "The Real Revolution".

"Believe it or not, growing your own food or visiting your local farmers market is more revolutionary and constructive than burning down your own city and killing security forces."
http://www.activistpost.com/2011/02/real-revolution.html

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: No problem, I wasn't expecting anything further.

I'm not sure why you would say that the laws on thermodynamics don't refer to isolated systems. Reaching for a few random pages on thermodynamics shows the laws frequently expressed in terms of isolated/closed systems.

Of course, "What is thermodynamics?" ( classical, modern, ... ) and "What is the 2nd law of thermodynamics?" is a topic rich for lasting argument to the many interested parties. [ I'm not one of them ] [ n.b. I'm not saying there are not forms that attempt to cover non-isolated systems. ]

1st Law: "is a version of the Law of Conservation of Energy, adapted for thermodynamic systems. .. CoE states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant." "The law is of great importance and generality ... Most careful textbook statements of the law express it for closed systems" (r1)

or "The increase in internal energy of a closed system is equal to total of the energy added to the system. In particular, if the energy entering the system is supplied as heat and energy leaves the system as work, the heat is accounted as positive and the work is accounted as negative.

2nd Law: Many ways of being expressed, here is one [ "Processes in which the entropy of an isolated system would decrease do not occur, or, in every process taking place in an isolated system, the entropy of the system either increases or remains constant" from the textbook 'An Introduction to Thermodynamics, the Kinetic Theory of Gases, and Statistical Mechanics (2nd edition)', by Francis Weston Sears, Addison-Wesley, 1950, 1953, page 111 (Chapter 7, "the Second Law of Thermodynamics"). The phrase isolated system means that neither energy nor matter may enter or leave the system; it is an embodiment of the word "unaided" as used by Maxwell & Clausius. If the system is not isolated, then energy can get in, and so can "aid". Hence, isolation is required to uphold the restriction "unaided". ]

or ".. applies only to isolated systems in thermodynamic equilibrium" taken from a discussion with using it in open systems." (r2)

or "total entropy of an isolated system always increases over time, or remains constant in ideal cases where the system is in a steady state or undergoing a reversible process." -- wikipedia

or a mathematical expression of the second law one ( of many ) allegedly widely accepted is:

Entropy increase principle for isolated (or adiabatic) macroscopic systems:
(dS) ≥0
iso
where dS = entropy change of a system, subscript “iso” means is applicable to isolated/adiabatic systems.

So, [ "with all the stress on ... isolated, how does one use the 2nd law in systems that don't measure up? .. Fake it. .. the "fake" is to take your non-equilibrium system, and carve it up ... into smaller subdomains." "real trick if your system is not isolated, have to keep track of all the entropy and energy that goes in or out, along with the strictly internal sources & sinks, for both entropy and energy." "If the outer boundary is impassable, and the system isolated, then you know that the aggregate change in entropy must be 0. If not, just replace 0 with the net entropy change across the system outer boundary, and you know that system as a whole can't go beyond those limits." "In this way, you can apply the essential spirit of the 2nd law, even in the case of a system that is neither in equilibrium, nor isolated." ] (r2)

The analysis I read regarding that new theory referenced in a prior comment about interacting parallel universes suggested that IF further testing of it was positive then it might mean having to redefine our concept of the Universe. I'll leave it to the theoretical physicists to argue the toss about the validity and implications of that. Still, I found it interesting.

(r1) wikipedia
(r2) http://www.tim-thompson.com/entropy3.html

pamouna said...

@ Terminal One:
Steven Harrod Buhner wrote 3 books on Lyme-desease and has a dedicated homepage:

http://buhnerhealinglyme.com/

Hopefully helpful to you!

pygmycory said...

There was a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec city on sunday night. 6 people dead, 5 injured. The suspect the police has found is reported on CBC to be an admirer of LePen.

I know mass shootings like this may be all too common globally, but it's still a shock and a grief to see it in my own country. Canada's not exactly known for terrorism. Yet, it can happen here... and it just did.

Kfish said...

Community's a funny thing. Since joining and now leading my local craft guild, I've learned several things about community the hard way over the last ten years:

1. It's possible to share a community with people that you respect but don't like.
2. It's possible to share community with people who have wildly differing political / philosophical views to you.
3. It's possible to share community with people you don't respect but can tolerate.
4. Lots of people overestimate their contribution to the common good, and underestimate the burden that their presence places on it.
5. Some people will complain about change because they fear that what they love will be lost; some people complain about change because they want everything to stay the same forever. Learn to tell the difference: reassure the first group and tune out the second.
6. There will always be complaints.
7. Praising people publicly for their contributions is the easiest and most effective way of encouraging future contributions.
8. You will screw up. Admit it publicly, apologise for it and move on.

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ patriciaormsby - I always look forward to your comments ... being an old Japanophile from way back. Never been, but most of my life have read widely and watched many films about Japanese life. Last night I watched "Sea of Trees" about the Aokigahara Forest. Last month it was "Sweet Bean." Cut my teeth on books by Lafcadio Hearn and movies by Kobayashi. Travel memoirs! Novels such as "Japanese Inn." I've always thought the print, "The Great Wave" perfectly pictures our current, global situation. Yes, I realize I romanticize.

I'm in a rental, but the only thing I've spent a bit of money on is having the very neglected fruit trees (mostly apple) pruned up and cared for. They have returned my investment, many times over. I find the "worm juice" from my worm box an outstanding tonic for any kind of plant. The tonic and a little conversation. :-). Lew

Shane W said...

@Jay,
there's nothing "sacred" about the Federal government, and there's no reason that any program, building, etc. could not be maintained under a new government, and even a transition period negotiated in the details/transfer of power. It's really just a logical fallacy. "Secede, and all the federal government and programs in your state go 'poof'" Why? How? There's really no logic to it. Not saying that it won't involve a lot of negotiation.
IDK, but I don't think Calif. is alone amongst populated blue states in having a large internal blue/red divide. In Ill., there's Chicagoland vs. downstate, in NY there's upstate vs NYC.
Violet,
I'm sorry to hear of your chemical issues, and I hope that you find relief soon. What a toxic world we live in.

Maxine Rogers said...

Hi Everyone,
I am seeing the value of money being inflated away very quickly now. I was expecting it but it still came as a bit of a surprise.

My family Collapsed Early to Avoid the Rush about 4 years ago. We gave up our car and that has been such a blessing. We only shop every 6 weeks and I have cut back on the number of sumptuous roast beast meals I prepare each week.

I find that making pottage, a medieval soup of meat, vegetables, grains and legumes in broth, costs almost nothing and is both filling and good. So my advice to all of our Arch Druid community is to learn to make pottage, buy good quality long underwear and cultivate the 3 unusual senses that Druids try to cultivate: a sense of humor, a sense of proportion and common sense.

Beyond that, I hope you all consider raising rabbits!

Yours under the red cedars
Max Rogers

DoubtingThomas said...

@JMG: To be honest I don't know what "conventional wisdom" is but then I don't know what "common sense" is either. I find that such things vary enormously depending on the situation specific to an individual. I understand what you mean when you refer to the idea of a conventional wisdom but I am uncertain of its validity and don't subscribe to it's existence per se.

"Conventional wisdom" is defined as "the body of ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the public and/or by experts in a field" but problem is the public encompasses billions of people each of whom have their own belief systems, perception filters and needs through which they choose to interpret knowledge and have their own resulting wisdom. Experts in a field tend to form cliques or camps that try to negate each other and attract believers but is one group more deserving of the conventional wisdom label ? I don't think so. The scientific method is itself built-upon the notion of falsifiability and peer review. There is no absolute 'truth' in it just changeable probabilities, it is a mistake made is to assume otherwise.

I have encountered many people who say things like "people never change" and that statement might possibly be put under a conventional wisdom umbrella. It is also verifiably false in individual cases and yet it is frequently trotted out in discussions and the disproving cases conveniently ignored.

I try to work from first principals relying on my direct experiences over and above: dogma, standard accepted norms, conventional wisdoms, others accepted wisdoms / opinions etc. According to medical wisdom I should be dead or suffering enormously given my behaviour and life choices but I'm not. People who know my circumstances for the last 5 years expect me to be depressed, sad, lonely, full of hatred or anger etc. I'm not. Quite the reverse actually.

What I have noticed quite a lot of is a pattern in my peers who get told they should be X because of Y [ and then they live up to X ] and others that seem to seek to avoid 'trying something new' and will look to their local "skepticsRus depository of reasons to think Z is wrong because the possibility makes them feel uncomfortable" rather than do their own research and if applicable experimentation.

You obviously do your own research and experimentation ;) and you form your own personal belief system as a result. So do others. Me too ;)

You may believe that civilisation history cycles are everlasting and IIRC you used birth/death as another example but wouldn't death eventually happen to those cycles themselves ?
I have my own experiences to guide me on the question without reference to others wisdom on it.

While I find it interesting to have discussions on such topics like this I'm not interested in attracting people to my beliefs. For me, beliefs only need to work for the believer and where they don't then they look to change them.

History is fascinating to study & learn from but it is arguably, with significant verifiability, a poor & unreliable indicator of the future. Yes, sometimes trends can be predicated but always ? no. And as time-windows widen the drop-off is significant. Examples of invalidated predictions abound. You or Spengler etc may well have highlighted patterns but I think it is a stretch to take those observations as perpetual absolutes. To me that 'wrongness' was clear before I researched others criticisms of Spengler.

You could be absolutely right, about the cycle completing in the way you expect it to for some percentage of those affected but to assume it for all? or in perpetuity?

That is a step to far for me because it is disproven by my personal experience. In that instance I prioritise my experience.

Bryant said...

@ inohuri, real income has been decreasing for some time and family expenses in particular have skyrocketed. Along with the debt explosion, the amount of actual income just to maintain the expected standard of living has been essentially a losing proposition.

http://www.mybudget360.com/two-income-trap-dual-income-trap-household-income-middle-class-two-income-trap/

One can only imagine how much harder this is upon resources and the environment, as well.

Shane W said...

@Anthony,
I was thinking more along the lines of people with green cards and people w/H1B visas, etc. that I've seen so many stories in the press. If they can afford to fly back and forth to their country of origin, their part of an elite that most people don't belong to. I wasn't thinking of refugees.

inohuri said...

@Shane W
" If you can afford international airfare, you're members of an elite that most people can't even imagine."

Not true.

One neighbor, a Kosavar refugee in Seattle, does our apartments' maintenance and happens to care about the job. He had been gone for 16 years and had sent his kids home for long visits several times. His report after a recent visit: life in Kosovo sucks now. He isn't going back to live.

Another neighbor has visited Ethiopia and done the Haj and other visits to Saudi.

These are not the rich elite. Perhaps by world standards they are doing as well as am on welfare but by USA standards we are poor.

Many people who travel save for a long time and find the lowest fares.

Scotlyn said...

@JMG, Robert Mathiesen and others contemplating an alt-center (or alt-centre on this side of the water). I've often called myself a "middlist" and think of it as a dynamic position - as in executing the essential function of "holding" the centre which Yeats saw as critically failing.

The function of civil discourse - and politics - such as is practiced and advocated here - is not so much so that we can convince one another (although that happens very occasionally) but so that we can keep negotiating the terms under which we may all continue to peacefully co-exist. As opposed to backing one another into corners which leave no way out other than violence & mutually assured destruction.

To "hold" the centre may be the most difficult task of all, as the extremists of all sides try to enclose or lay mines in the common/public square we believe is worth defending for the use of all comers.

Bill Pulliam said...

Wow, just like that there is only passing mention of the Great Cheetoh, and the blog has returned to what was its major theme in the early years... it seems like I might stick a toe back in. Unless I've been banned; having not continued reading the comments from previous posts I wouldn't know.

I only have one note on the main text -- I think the Great Cheetoh is a RESULT of the general increase of heat over light in public discourse, not so much a cause of this. This trend is long-term and pervasive, and has many causes (not the least of which is the internet itself, of course).

The comment thread is huge and interwoven, so I won't try to include names of individual commentors. Just thoughts about some of the ongoing threads...

The whole succession thing... in a time of declining resources and increasing scarcity, IS this the best approach, even for the resource rich regions? It takes interstate squabbles over resources, migration, etc., and makes them international. It does allow more control over what crosses the border, in theory... but maybe it just turns what was once legal commerce into smuggling and black market commerce?

The Federal Government will lose power over time, inevitably. It sits atop a heap of energy and structure. That means it is unsustainable. Its ability to tell States what to do will shrink and shrink. Which means States will be negotiating more within and amongst themselves anyway. But some Federal services, like common defense, might actually be better handled by the remaining Feds rather than by States individually...? The notion of succession to create a more homogeneous cultural and political climate within a State... that's a non-starter. The rifts within the States will just loom larger. Which will happen regardless of seccession, as Federal power wanes.

About the idea that a State can feed itself... not without massive fossil fuel subsidies. I think a good rule of thumb is that long term sustainable you can expect about a tenth the yield of food calories in a purely sunlight based system. Local agriculture is a boutique thing, still. It focuses on specialties and/or high end markets. Reason for this: it takes more labor, therefore is more expensive. And local agriculture does not even begin to replace the huge production of grains and legumes from fossil-fuel agriculture; rarely does it even try to be fossil-fuel-free. Only a few very small communities attempt to really do without the fossil fuels, and they are supporting families, not cities.

It is a long way down, and will take a very long time to get there. And most of the steps down will not be planned in advance. They will be forced upon us and we will improvise them one by one as they come.

Finally as for collapsing now... yay all in favor of investing the resources you have now in ways to be more resilient to the coming (ongoing) unpredictable winds of change. This is one of the major principles structuring our life here. But... ya know...

The collapse is happening, and there is no sign that any large-scale coordinated efforts to slow or ameliorate it will ever happen. Macroeconomics dictate energy and resource use on the macro scale, not policy. Right now the jets are flying, the gasoline is flowing, money is still useful. So... as you pre-collapse, think about doing some other stuff now, while you still can...

Go to DisneyLand. Take an international vacation. Splurge on a bit of entertainment and other useless wasteful luxuries. And forget entirely about neo-puritanical notions of this being planet-destroying sin. The masses won't stop doing these things until they can no longer afford them. Why shouldn't you indulge a little bit too? Live today, for tomorrow you die. Regardless of how you lived today!

inohuri said...

@patriciaormsby

Gasp. You dared to use the word hypersensitivity!

When I have tried to use this forbidden word around the "MCS" groups I get shouted down. This word belongs to the Allergists and because my minor cat allergies are the least of my problems I am not allowed to use it.

Personally I have not seen a useful term (of many) for my illness. Toxic Encephalopathy only seems to describe the neurology.

Holographic Reactivity is what I would like to call it. That still would only describe a symptom and not the underlying detoxication failure.

Iuval Clejan said...

Jen and Violet, I think there is major obstacle to communal planning in the US and it goes beyond rugged individualism to the protestant reformation and the replacement of God with either the Market or the Government. I elaborated on this here: http://culturalspeciation.blogspot.com/2016/03/god-socialism-evolution-and-invisible.html. Of course if democracy is not assumed and we allow for top-down hierarchies, then other cultures such as the ones in Asia should be able to plan on a local warlord scale.

But if planning is not going to happen in local groups in the US, there is still the possibility of just trading surplus, or planning among two families at a time. I find that so far that is working here in rural Missouri, though we are far from having a locally based livelihood. Most people eventually give up on making money from the local economy (unless they have been here for generations) and join the global economy. I haven't given up yet, hoping I can grow enough sunflowers to make oil with my home-made presses and be able to sell it locally, though most people use butter and lard as oils.

Armata said...

JMG Said

Did you know that Donald Trump was predicted in the pages of Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West? Stay tuned; we'll be talking about that this week.

Looking forward to this weeks post. I have been reading Spengler and Arnold Toynbee a lot lately. We are fast approaching the era of Caesarism in the West, even if Trump doesn't come up to the same level as Gaius Marius, much less his more famous nephew, Gaius Julius Caesar.

John Michael Greer said...

Graeme, now you've got me curious. What does a green wizard's hat connote in Chinese culture?

Cherokee, the ongoing political circus here really is quite the spectacle. On the one hand, yeah, we've got a president who's doing what he said he would do, and that's a sufficiently unusual spectacle that everyone's in shock; on the other hand, I'm quite convinced that he's pursuing the strategy of being deliberately outrageous that won him the election, because it plays well to his base, and because it keeps the other side flailing around in reactive mode rather than pursuing their own agenda. One way or another, popcorn is definitely called for.

Prizm, and a hearty gong hay fat choy to you and yours as well! Of course it's worth preserving such vestiges of community as we've got; that's one of the reasons I stay active in the Freemasons, for example. It's just not something you can rely on yet.

Brent, true enough. The thing is, there's a pushback; it's just taking its time, as so often happens when a species expands into a previously unreached ecosystem or finds a new and successful subsistence mode. We're just now beginning to feel the building pressure...

Jay, thanks for the correction on the water compact. Are you remembering, though, that if California secedes and its citizens are no longer paying Federal taxes, that the California government can then take up the slack, raise taxes to a comparable level, and have its own military bases, agriculture subsidies, etc.? Since California citizens currently pay out in federal taxes more than the state takes in from federal spending, there's quite a bit of room for maneuver there.

Anthony, that's an appealing image. In some Japanese spiritual traditions, pouring buckets of ice cold water over your head is a means of developing inner power, so maybe if I keep it up, some of my readers will attain enlightenment!

Bryant, many thanks for this! It's more welcome than you may realize, as it offers solid, quantitative real world confirmation of the theory of catabolic collapse (PDF downloadable here) that underlies my entire project.

Inohuri, I ain't arguing.

Wendy, did you think I was criticizing you? Nope -- again, I was simply pointing out a cultural difference between Californians and people in other parts of the country. (You'll notice I didn't use words such as "whining", as you did.) Again, from within your state's culture, your reaction makes sense; from an outside perspective, well, we don't need to get into that. Of course that's just it; there are aspects of California culture that rub a lot of other Americans very much the wrong way. That doesn't mean they're wrong, or bad, or what have you; it simply means that things would probably work better if there was a national border between us. (Just as some European countries reliably irritate each other -- another argument against the EU.)

pygmycory said...

@Bill Pulliam, I'm glad you came back. This week's comments has been much calmer and significantly more civil than last week's.

Shane W said...

@Wendy,
there's a few Californians I care about that I'm trying to cajole into leaving the Golden State. :)

John Michael Greer said...

Lordberia3, that seems reasonable enough. There are of course alternative scenarios, but none of them are particularly welcome -- and I wonder what wild cards an actual eruption of the Campo Flegrei caldera would throw into the mix!

Janet, that's an important thing to watch. I'm planning an upcoming post on the end of modern medicine, which will include that among other things.

Pygmycory, I was sorry to hear of that. Unfortunately that sort of thing is likely to be the shape of the future.

Kfish, very good advice. I've found it valid as an archdruid and a Mason, for whatever that's worth!

Maxine, pottage? Excellent! I trust that good old-fashioned pease porridge also has a place in your diet.

DoubtingThomas, trust me, I'll define my terms in the upcoming post. The short form is that the conventional wisdom of our society concerning its own future is the claim that our civilization cannot, must not, and will not follow the same trajectory as every other civilization in the known history of the planet. It's got to have a unique destiny -- and the thing that fascinates me is that many people don't seem to care whether it's uniquely wonderful or uniquely horrible, so long as it's unique. As for the predictive value of history and historical cycles, you might want to look into that before jumping to conclusions; I've been making predictions here based on history and cyclic theory, Spengler's in particular, and scoring far more hits than misses, while those who insist "it's different this time" reliably flop. More on this in a few days!

Scotlyn, exactly. This is very much along the lines of what I have in mind.

Bill, nah, if you want to get banned you're going to have to repeatedly break the list rules or go out of your way to annoy me in some other manner. Walking out for a while because you're irritated at a direction I've taken the blog doesn't cut it.

Armata, the thing is, Julius Caesar looks much more impressive now than he did in his time. Roman gossip called him "every man's wife and every woman's husband," among other scurrilous things, and he spent a lot of time deep in debt; he also had a high squeaky voice, though I don't think he had short fingers. It's in retrospect, and largely because his famous nephew used his deification as a political tool, that he became the towering figure of later legend and literature. I wish I could know how Trump's image will be folded, spindled, and repurposed by future generations!

Rebecca Zegstroo said...

And what a ray of sunshine you are! This morning I was feeling so happy to live in an age of so much info - particularly books, but also movies, TV, music, radio. It's heaven. Too bad it's all doomed. Fragile. Energy intensive. Of no use when life gets down to brass tacks.

Almost 400 comments before I can even have time to read the article. Your commentariat is verbose & worth reading. I'm hanging onto a full-time job by my fingernails, so not nearly enough time to read them all.

Thank you so much for the enlightenment, JMG. Reality is the best medicine.

Justin said...

Pygmycory, tragic indeed.

The shooter, however 'liked' a rather eclectic mix of things (this is where the media is getting their ideas about what he believed in), ranging from Le Pen, to Donald Trump, to various radical feminist organizations, to Zionist and other pro-Israel organizations. The reality is that even though 11 muslims, who belonged to a moderate sect were shot and 6 killed, that's not the worst thing that happened in Canada this year.

There have been roughly 300 deaths (extrapolating 2016 numbers) from alcohol in Canada, probably sold by government stores. Gigatons of carbon have gone into the atmosphere. People have committed suicide because of their economic situation, probably far more than 6.

It sucks, but let's not forget that we're told 'this happens' when it's muslims with vehicles or guns or bombs, and we're told that our rights need to be restricted in perpetuity when it's finally a white guy.

Lets not forget that whatever absurd bloviations the CBC and Ottawa produce in response to this incident will likely radicalize more white people.

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