Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Perched on the Wheel of Time

There's a curious predictability in the comments I field in response to posts here that talk about the likely shape of the future. The conventional wisdom of our era insists that modern industrial society can’t possibly undergo the same life cycle of rise and fall as every other civilization in history; no, no, there’s got to be some unique future awaiting us—uniquely splendid or uniquely horrible, it doesn’t even seem to matter that much, so long as it’s unique. Since I reject that conventional wisdom, my dissent routinely fields pushback from those of my readers who embrace it.

That’s not surprising in the least, of course. What’s surprising is that the pushback doesn’t surface when the conventional wisdom seems to be producing accurate predictions, as it does now and then. Rather, it shows up like clockwork whenever the conventional wisdom fails.

The present situation is as good an example as any. The basis of my dissident views is the theory of cyclical history—the theory, first proposed in the early 18th century by the Italian historian Giambattista Vico and later refined and developed by such scholars as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, that civilizations rise and fall in a predictable life cycle, regardless of scale or technological level. That theory’s not just a vague generalization, either; each of the major writers on the subject set out specific stages that appear in order, showed that these have occurred in all past civilizations, and made detailed, falsifiable predictions about how those stages can be expected to occur in our civilization. Have those panned out? So far, a good deal more often than not.

In the final chapters of his second volume, for example, Spengler noted that civilizations in the stage ours was about to reach always end up racked by conflicts that pit established hierarchies against upstart demagogues who rally the disaffected and transform them into a power base. Looking at the trends visible in his own time, he sketched out the most likely form those conflicts would take in the Winter phase of our civilization. Modern representative democracy, he pointed out, has no effective defenses against corruption by wealth, and so could be expected to evolve into corporate-bureaucratic plutocracies that benefit the affluent at the expense of everyone else. Those left out in the cold by these transformations, in turn, end up backing what Spengler called Caesarism—the rise of charismatic demagogues who challenge and eventually overturn the corporate-bureaucratic order.

These demagogues needn’t come from within the excluded classes, by the way. Julius Caesar, the obvious example, came from an old upper-class Roman family and parlayed his family connections into a successful political career. Watchers of the current political scene may be interested to know that Caesar during his lifetime wasn’t the imposing figure he became in retrospect; he had a high shrill voice, his morals were remarkably flexible even by Roman standards—the scurrilous gossip of his time called him “every man’s wife and every woman’s husband”—and he spent much of his career piling up huge debts and then wriggling out from under them. Yet he became the political standardbearer for the plebeian classes, and his assassination by a conspiracy of rich Senators launched the era of civil wars that ended the rule of the old elite once and for all.

Thus those people watching the political scene last year who knew their way around Spengler, and noticed that a rich guy had suddenly broken with the corporate-bureaucratic consensus and called for changes that would benefit the excluded classes at the expense of the affluent, wouldn’t have had to wonder what was happening, or what the likely outcome would be. It was those who insisted on linear models of history—for example, the claim that the recent ascendancy of modern liberalism counted as the onward march of progress, and therefore was by definition irreversible—who found themselves flailing wildly as history took a turn they considered unthinkable.

The rise of Caesarism, by the way, has other features I haven’t mentioned. As Spengler sketches out the process, it also represents the exhaustion of ideology and its replacement by personality. Those of my readers who watched the political scene over the last few years may have noticed the way that the issues have been sidelined by sweeping claims about the supposed personal qualities of candidates. The practically content-free campaign that swept Barack Obama into the presidency in 2008—“Hope,” “Change,” and “Yes We Can” aren’t statements about issues, you know—was typical of this stage, as was the emergence of competing personality cults around the candidates in the 2016 election.  In the ordinary way of things, we can expect even more of this in elections to come, with messianic hopes clustering around competing politicians until the point of absurdity is well past. These will then implode, and the political process collapse into a raw scramble for power at any cost.

There’s plenty more in Spengler’s characterization of the politics of the Winter phase, and all of it’s well represented in today’s headlines, but the rest can be left to those of my readers interested enough to turn the pages of The Decline of the West for themselves. What I’d like to discuss here is the nature of the pushback I tend to field when I point out that yet again, predictions offered by Spengler and other students of cyclic history turned out to be correct and those who dismissed them turned out to be smoking their shorts. The responses I field are as predictable as—well, the arrival of charismatic demagogues at a certain point in the Winter phase, for example—and they reveal some useful flimpses into the value, or lack of it, of our society’s thinking about the future in this turn of the wheel.

Probably the most common response I get can best be characterized as simple incantation: that is to say, the repetition of some brief summary of the conventional wisdom, usually without a shred of evidence or argument backing it up, as though the mere utterance is enough to disprove all other ideas.   It’s a rare week when I don’t get at least one comment along these lines, and they divide up roughly evenly between those that insist that progress will inevitably triumph over all its obstacles, on the one hand, and those that insist that modern industrial civilization will inevitably crash to ruin in a sudden cataclysmic downfall on the other. I tend to think of this as a sort of futurological fundamentalism along the lines of “pop culture said it, I believe it, that settles it,” and it’s no more useful, or for that matter interesting, than fundamentalism of any other sort.

A little less common and a little more interesting are a second class of arguments, which insist that I can’t dismiss the possibility that something might pop up out of the blue to make things different this time around. As I pointed out very early on in the history of this blog, these are examples of the classic logical fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam, the argument from ignorance. They bring in some factor whose existence and relevance is unknown, and use that claim to insist that since the conventional wisdom can’t be disproved, it must be true.

Arguments from ignorance are astonishingly common these days. My readers may have noticed, for example, that every few years some new version of nuclear power gets trotted out as the answer to our species’ energy needs. From thorium fission plants to Bussard fusion reactors to helium-3 from the Moon, they all have one thing in common: nobody’s actually built a working example, and so it’s possible for their proponents to insist that their pet technology will lack the galaxy of technical and economic problems that have made every existing form of nuclear power uneconomical without gargantuan government subsidies. That’s an argument from ignorance: since we haven’t built one yet, it’s impossible to be absolutely certain that they’ll have the usual cascading cost overruns and the rest of it, and therefore their proponents can insist that those won’t happen this time. Prove them wrong!

More generally, it’s impressive how many people can look at the landscape of dysfunctional technology and failed promises that surrounds us today and still insist that the future won’t be like that. Most of us have learned already that upgrades on average have fewer benefits and more bugs than the programs they replace, and that products labeled “new and improved” may be new but they’re rarely improved; it’s starting to sink in that most new technologies are simply more complicated and less satisfactory ways of doing things that older technologies did at least as well at a lower cost.  Try suggesting this as a general principle, though, and I promise you that plenty of people will twist themselves mentally into pretzel shapes trying to avoid the implication that progress has passed its pull date.

Even so, there’s a very simple answer to all such arguments, though in the nature of such things it’s an answer that only speaks to those who aren’t too obsessively wedded to the conventional wisdom. None of the arguments from ignorance I’ve mentioned are new; all of them have been tested repeatedly by events, and they’ve failed. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been told, for example, that the economic crisis du jour could lead to the sudden collapse of the global economy, or that the fashionable energy technology du jour could lead to a new era of abundant energy. No doubt they could, at least in theory, but the fact remains that they don’t. 

It so happens that there are good reasons why they don’t, varying from case to case, but that’s actually beside the point I want to make here. This particular version of the argument from ignorance is also an example of the fallacy the old logicians called petitio principii, better known as “begging the question.” Imagine, by way of counterexample, that someone were to post a comment saying, “Nobody knows what the future will be like, so the future you’ve predicted is as likely as any other.” That would be open to debate, since there’s some reason to think we can in fact predict some things about the future, but at least it would follow logically from the premise.  Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone make that claim. Nor have I ever seen anybody claim that since nobody knows what the future will be like, say, we can’t assume that progress is going to continue.

In practice, rather, the argument from ignorance is applied to discussions of the future in a distinctly one-sided manner. Predictions based on any point of view other than the conventional wisdom of modern popular culture are dismissed with claims that it might possibly be different this time, while predictions based on the conventional wisdom of modern popular culture are spared that treatment. That’s begging the question: covertly assuming that one side of an argument must be true unless it’s disproved, and that the other side can’t be true unless it’s proved.

Now in fact, a case can be made that we can in fact know quite a bit about the shape of the future, at least in its broad outlines. The heart of that case, as already noted, is the fact that certain theories about the future do in fact make accurate predictions, while others don’t. This in itself shows that history isn’t random—that there’s some structure to the flow of historical events that can be figured out by learning from the past, and that similar causes at work in similar situations will have similar outcomes. Apply that reasoning to any other set of phenomena, and you’ve got the ordinary, uncontroversial basis for the sciences. It’s only when it’s applied to the future that people balk, because it doesn’t promise them the kind of future they want.

The argument by incantation and the argument from ignorance make up most of the pushback I get. I’m pleased to say, though, that every so often I get an argument that’s considerably more original than these. One of those came in last week—tip of the archdruidical hat to DoubtingThomas—and it’s interesting enough that it deserves a detailed discussion.

DoubtingThomas began with the standard argument from ignorance, claiming that it’s always possible that something might possibly happen to disrupt the cyclic patterns of history in any given case, and therefore the cyclic theory should be dismissed no matter how many accurate predictions it scored. As we’ve already seen, this is handwaving, but let’s move on.  He went on from there to argue that much of the shape of history is defined by the actions of unique individuals such as Isaac Newton, whose work sends the world careening along entirely new and unpredicted paths. Such individuals have appeared over and over again in history, he pointed out, and was kind enough to suggest that my activities here on The Archdruid Report were, in a small way, another example of the influence of an individual on history. Given that reality, he insisted, a theory of history that didn’t take the actions of unique individuals into account was invalid.

Fair enough; let’s consider that argument. Does the cyclic theory of history fail to take the actions of unique individuals into account?

Here again, Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West is the go-to source, because he’s dealt with the sciences and arts to a much greater extent than other researchers into historical cycles. What he shows, with a wealth of examples drawn from the rise and fall of many different civilizations, is that the phenomenon DoubtingThomas describes is a predictable part of the cycles of history. In every generation, in effect, a certain number of geniuses will be born, but their upbringing, the problems that confront them, and the resources they will have available to solve those problems, are not theirs to choose. All these things are produced by the labors of other creative minds of the past and present, and are profoundly influenced by the cycles of history.

Let’s take Isaac Newton as an example. He happened to be born just as the scientific revolution was beginning to hit its stride, but before it had found its paradigm, the set of accomplishments on which all future scientific efforts would be directly or indirectly modeled. His impressive mathematical and scientific gifts thus fastened onto the biggest unsolved problem of the time—the relationship between the physics of moving bodies sketched out by Galileo and the laws of planetary motion discovered by Kepler—and resulted in the Principia Mathematica, which became the paradigm for the next three hundred years or so of scientific endeavor.

Had he been born a hundred years earlier, none of those preparations would have been in place, and the Principia Mathematica wouldn’t have been possible. Given the different cultural attitudes of the century before Newton’s time, in fact, he would almost certainly become a theologian rather than a mathematician and physicist—as it was, he spent much of his career engaged in theology, a detail usually left out by the more hagiographical of his biographers—and he would be remembered today only by students of theological history. Had he been born a century later, equally, some other great scientific achievement would have provided the paradigm for emerging science—my guess is that it would have been Edmund Halley’s successful prediction of the return of the comet that bears his name—and Newton would have had the same sort of reputation that Karl Friedrich Gauss has today: famous in his field, sure, but a household name? Not a chance.

What makes the point even more precise is that every other civilization from which adequate records survive had its own paradigmatic thinker, the figure whose achievements provided a model for the dawning age of reason and for whatever form of rational thought became that age’s principal cultural expression. In the classical world, for example, it was Pythagoras, who invented the word “philosophy” and whose mathematical discoveries gave classical rationalism its central theme, the idea of an ideal mathematical order to which the hurly-burly of the world of appearances must somehow be reduced. (Like Newton, by the way, Pythagoras was more than half a theologian; it’s a common feature of figures who fill that role.)

To take the same argument to a far more modest level, what about DoubtingThomas’ claim that The Archdruid Report represents the act of a unique individual influencing the course of history? Here again, a glance at history shows otherwise. I’m a figure of an easily recognizable type, which shows up reliably as each civilization’s Age of Reason wanes and it begins moving toward what Spengler called the Second Religiosity, the resurgence of religion that inevitably happens in the wake of rationalism’s failure to deliver on its promises. At such times you get intellectuals who can communicate fluently on both sides of the chasm between rationalism and religion, and who put together syntheses of various kinds that reframe the legacies of the Age of Reason so that they can be taken up by emergent religious movements and preserved for the future.

In the classical world, for example, you got Iamblichus of Chalcis, who stepped into the gap between Greek philosophical rationalism and the burgeoning Second Religiosity of late classical times, and figured out how to make philosophy, logic, and mathematics appealing to the increasingly religious temper of his time. He was one of many such figures, and it was largely because of their efforts that the religious traditions that ended up taking over the classical world—Christianity to the north of the Mediterranean, and Islam to the south—got over their early anti-intellectual streak so readily and ended up preserving so much of the intellectual heritage of the past.

That sort of thing is a worthwhile task, and if I can contribute to it I’ll consider this life well spent. That said, there’s nothing unique about it. What’s more, it’s only possible and meaningful because I happen to be perched on this particular arc of the wheel of time, when our civilization’s Age of Reason is visibly crumbling and the Second Religiosity is only beginning to build up a head of steam. A century earlier or a century later, I’d have faced some different tasks.

All of this presupposes a relationship between the individual and human society that fits very poorly with the unthinking prejudices of our time. That’s something that Spengler grappled with in his book, too;  it’s going to take a long sojourn in some very unfamiliar realms of thought to make sense of what he had to say, but that can’t be helped.

We really are going to have to talk about philosophy, aren’t we? We’ll begin that stunningly unfashionable discussion next week.

351 comments:

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dltrammel said...

I came across this article today about presidential adviser Steve Bannon

"What Steve Bannon Wants"

Bannon is a lightning rod of controversy right now and I didn't know much about him. The article is a bit long but goes into quite a bit of depth based on Bannon's own words and the films he has made.

I was surprised that the article's writer claims Bannon is a Burkean conservative.

I was also surprised how many of Bannon's own ideas I agreed with.

John Michael Greer said...

Scotlyn, it's hard to say at this point. It's entirely possible that the demonization of Islam on the right will lead to significant conversions to Islam from the left, but whether that becomes self-sustaining or is a flash in the pan depends on too many variables to predict.

Crow, not so. It took centuries for the fragile topsoils of the Yucatan to recover from the impact of Mayan overpopulation and agricultural overproduction, and ecological damage on the same or even more extreme scales followed many other nonindustrial civilizations. I'd encourage you to read Clive Ponting's A Green History of the World or one of the other, more recent surveys of the role of environmental degradation in the fall of civilizations, to get a sense of just how normal our stupidity is.

Tony, the abandonment of efforts toward sustainability in the early 1980s is one of several significant turning points in the history of modern industrial civilization, sure. I've cited others -- for example, 1914 as the beginning of the end of European global dominance -- and we quite possibly have another coming up in the next decade or so, depending on just how far the current populist wave gets before it breaks and flows back out to sea. The fact remains that we're talking about one turning point in the history of one civilization, not "the turning point of all human history" -- and the difference between those is not a small one, you know. That's why I was objecting to Seaweed Shark's rhetorical distortion.

Crow Hill, only in terms of total body count.

LunarApprentice, that's a huge question, of course, and one that would take a couple of posts at least to sort out! I hope to get into those issues as we proceed. The core issue, though, is simple enough to state. The core claim of rationalism is that this ramshackle set of mental activities we call "reasoning" provides the only valid key to the real nature of things -- and that claim can't be proved. If you try to use reasoning to prove it, after all, you're assuming the validity of reasoning, which is what you're claiming to prove...

Gabriela, I'm certainly not going to argue against the idea of dismantling the globalized economy and downshifting to less technologically and organizationally complex social and economic forms! That's been a central theme of this blog from the start, and for good reason. My only quibble was with your earlier argument's focus on catastrophe. May I offer a constructive suggestion? People have been proclaiming the imminent end of the world for so long that it no longer gets the reaction it once did; if you want to encourage people to support relocalization, talk about the positive benefits that would bring them -- there's no shortage of those, after all.

I do have to challenge your comments about the ancient Egyptians and Romans, though -- those were extremely complex and creative societies, as much so as medieval Europe, though they expressed their creativity in different ways. I'd encourage you to read some good books about both societies and broaden your awareness of their achievements.

Vedant, you're certainly right that I need to talk about systems theory! As I see it, though, it'll actually be more useful to start from philosophy and move to the study of whole systems from there -- since systems theory itself can trace its philosophical roots to some of the ideas I'll be discussing.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

Sorry, I haven't read the comments yet, but I had a thought that I wanted to post, that I was going to label as off topic, but to my surprise it is timely and relevant.

I've been thinking about the cyclic nature of civilizations lately while reading Overshoot. Specifically that, paraphrased from memory, 'the organisms in a sere modify their environment that prepares the way for the next sere' In some cases this results in a climax community, where the organisms are ideally adapted for the environment that they help to create, but not often.

I think with humans there are two modes. Long term stable tribal mode, and inherently unstable civilization mode. Inherently unstable mode could be called rock-paper-scissors mode or anacyclosis mode, where each sere of civilization creates an environment that it is less well adapted to than its successor sere is.

This raises the intriguing possibility that there could be an adaptation that results in a climax community sere of civilization that is stable. Alas, this isn't it though. This hypothetical adaptation wouldn't look like one of the phases of civilization that we know and today's world looks very much like the winter that Spengler describes. I imagine that if it ever happens we will only be able to recognize it in hindsight.

Thanks,
Tim

sandy said...

I for one am looking forward to a new Hyborean Age. Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,’ the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. ‘Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.

@scotlyn. I think lobsters may skip senescence. Researchers accidently killed one estimated to be 500 yrs old.
Delicious with drawn garlic butter, heh.

@Iuval said- So if we really understood the nature of Empire and had the desire to not repeat it, why would we be doomed to repeat it?

Well, coming out of 500 yrs of dark age and struggling to organize society for survival, the Empire structure has a strong appeal. And no one has any data, recollection, or myth to stop it.

@Iuval said- It is important to try to understand the mechanisms involved in cycles. I don't think modular integer arithmetic is it though.

Au contraire. The Game of Life by Conway in 1970 showed complex behavior from simple rules and integers. Wolfram investigated this in 1983, cellular automata. This strongly influenced his great work A New Kind of Science. Welcome back Bill.

@Ray Wharton- I don't think technology will distort the wave of civilization too much. There are too many humans involved in this process haha. What will distort the wave is the declining resources and increasing pollution we are adding the mix. What is coming is a stair stepping down via the catabolic collapse process outlined earlier by John Michael.

Regards,
Pearce M. Schaudies.
Minister of Future
x

team10tim said...

RE Les and JMG:

"I'm still trying to think of a way to talk about what I suppose should be called iFailure, the way that technologies that supposedly fill human needs actually fill abstract representations of human needs and leave the needs themselves untouched"

The metaphor that you are looking for is pornography, replacing actual sex with images of sex. All organic entities have two ultimate requirements, survival and reproduction. Imagine replacing nutrition with an image of food or respiration with a photograph of oxygen. Reproduction with appealing images of reproduction.

Take Maslow's hierarchy of needs and replace each with the appearance of said need and see what you get.

iFailure

Thanks,
Tim

Candace said...

Hi JMG,
I'm currently listening to the book as aliens by Yuval Noah Harari. In the present section he's talking about capitalism and that the credit that can be extended by banks is dependent on people believing that the future will be better than the present - an important component to the myth of progress. So I'm wondering if some of the push back on your statements that our society is in decline comes from a fear that people not believing in progress will mean that capitalists will no longer be able to "grow"
Businesses or be able to maintain what we think of as "Capitalism".

Ok I'm worried that this is a "well, duh" statement. I have actually read "wealth of nature" and know you talked about finance as the tertiary economy. But I can't remember if there was any discussion of whether that sector will "seize up" if people well and truly loose faith in progress. I've tended to think of progress in terms of social justice discussions, technology, medicine. And the ability to feed billions of people, but did really from the idea that when people don't have faith in the future they don't lend money.

Barrabas said...

Geez Phil W, if i tried to write a few paragraphs that encapsulate every delusion that this blog has been aimed at debunking over the last 10 years i couldnt have done it better ( complete with all the non sequiteur, false comparison and post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies ).
Take a look out the window mate ! Or better yet , have a read through the archive ).

I think you took a wrong turn at the " delusional neoliberal utopian transhuman futures " roadsign !

sunseekernv said...

Robert Carran - re: PV sustainability depending on batteries, etc.

What comes to my mind is the old Jacobs wind turbines.
These came out in the early 1920's, for farms/ranches in remote areas to have a few lights, some simple appliances, and that new fangled thing: radio broadcasts via battery powered radios.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antique_radio#Farm_radios
The early Jacobs were only about 1kW machines, and most used battery banks (good old lead acid mostly),
in the range of tens to hundreds of amp-hours (i.e. 1 to about 10 car battery-like setups).

n.b. Jacobs ended up closing in the 1950's, because of the Rural Electrification Administration subsidized expansion
of the grid out into the countryside - a subsidy to the fossil fuel industry, and anti-subsidy to renewables.

Some history:
http://www.windcharger.org/Wind_Charger/Welcome.html

My point is that people were using batteries a fairly long time ago - horse and buggy era still.
Volta invented his primary battery in 1800 - things were pretty low tech then.
Lead-acid rechargeable were invented in 1859, Nickel-Cadmium and Nickel-Iron around 1900.

Now, most people have a view of "got-to-have-it-24x7x365", yet the old farmers/ranchers were fine with running lights and radio off the battery, and doing ironing/washing/water pumping... while the wind was blowing (and with PV, "while the sun is shining").
A little behavioral change can save a lot of battery.

Lead-acid and Nickel-Iron are both sturdy chemistries, Nickel-Iron in particular.
The early wind battery chargers were very simple electromagnetic relay things,
(people were talking about early autos - same thing there)
PV charging has been done just by hooking up panels to the battery!
This is in contrast to Lithium chemistries, which require fairly sophisticated electronics to avoid overcharge.

Small scale pumped hydro could work in certain locations, but in general it needs massive scale to be economic.
1 cubic meter of water at 100 m elevation is only something like .27 kWh potential energy, and that's before the penstock and turbine take a loss.
A 12 volt battery only needs to hold 22.5 amp-hrs to match that, most small deep cycle batteries are several times that, in a nice little package one can keep locked up inside.
Efficiency at small scales for pumps/turbines is also an issue.

There are other ways to store useful energy.
You want hot water? Pump it while the sun is shining (or wind is blowing) to a low-tech tank type water heater, such as the Climax, popular in California and Florida around 1900 (before natural gas and cheap electricity).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_water_heating#History
Pump cold water up high for gravity flow.

You want cold? Make ice in heavily insulated freezers/refrigerators (Jacobs sold these too) while the sun shines/wind blows.

Grind your grain, saw your wood, etc. these tasks were all historically done with wind/water mills, which are intermittant.

It depends on the scale of industry in general that ends up being supported, if people only know bits of iron and copper, then you can forget about solar heating too. If float or rolled plate or trough/fusion glass become unknown, PV gets a bit problematic - still works, but is much more fragile.

JMG has used the analogy of the Roman pottery industry, they had mass-produced, well made pottery that found its way to the farthest reaches of the empire. But after collapse, even kings were lucky to have crude pottery. Perhaps that is how it will be with PV, kings and leading "monasteries" will have PV for electric lights and such, but commoners will have candles/oil lamps/nothing.

So, we'll see.

Have you read one of JMG's recommendations: John Perlin's Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy
Except for the confusion or name dropping of Einstein and the photoELECTRIC effect which discussing photoVOLTAICS,
I highly recommend the book as a great compendium of the long history of solar energy use.


patriciaormsby said...

@tom, Bill Pulliam's back!!! Lots of us here are happy about that.

MichaelK said...

Here's slightly different and disturbing observation about the 'wheel of history' concept and coming from a person, Steve Bannon, who has the ear of the emperor, Donald Trump. How seriously one should take this worldview and inflamatory rhetoric is another matter. The extreme right have had this strong dose of apolyptical thinking running through them for a long time, only usually, our system has been strong enough to keep them away from the real levers of power in society and government. Our luck may be running out.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46367.htm

MichaelK said...

Steve Bannon is an interesting character. I don't think he's really a conservative at all, but something else. I'd define his politics as vague and evolving, a form of 'social nationalism' which, arguably, is something rather new in a US context, but has always existed in Europe, one way or another.

This means one has a 'social' side to ultra-nationalism. Where one appeals, at least in ones rhetoric, to the 'ordinary' or 'working man', promising all sorts of things, like jobs and social investments in infrastructure, in return for support.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

It is interesting that you wrote that, and I did use those words about the books, but not as they related to myself. I didn't find the book to be so much as a "bummer" but more of a shock to realise where we are actually at, especially when compared to the time that it was written - which was 37 years ago now. The shock has taken a little time to be absorbed into my worldview, and I have to say that I am looking at some things a little bit differently now and that is a mild concern.

Anyway, as to the "bummer", I've never really been one to feel those sorts of feelings as I have not ever indulged them in the first place. The thing is and I thought that you may be interested to know that when I was a very young kid I used to amuse myself for a short period of time as a passenger in a vehicle by tapping my foot in time with the little white posts that are on the side of the roads. After only a couple of weeks of that activity (I didn't get to be a passenger in a vehicle much because we never drove anywhere much!) I thought to myself that this was a very bad thing to do as it could lead to mildly obsessive behaviour. And so I just stopped doing that tapping with my foot and never did it again. Wherever I got the warning in my head that such dysfunctional, but mostly harmless behaviour, could lead to serious mental health issues is well beyond me, but I did indeed heed the warning and have avoided such behaviours that can lead to many addictions and other mental health issues ever since. For example, all of my mates smoked and I never took it up in any way shape or form.

But the thing is, the greater insight that repetitive behaviour (or some may call that by another name: ritual) can be a very powerful force in peoples lives and that was not lost on me as a small kid. In fact, I see that all over the place and people rely really heavily on ritual to ensure that tomorrow is much like today, even when their rituals are dysfunctional and putting their futures in peril. They just don't see it and so they keep on tapping their feet and hoping for the best and I for one don't know at what point people can turn their backs on dysfunctional rituals, and to be brutally honest the book Overshoot said just how far out of whack things were then. And that was 37 years ago…

Far out! Sometimes the world as it is today looks very strange to me.

Chris

Bob said...

I'm unconcerned about predictions that play out over the course of hundreds of years. I don't see any practical use for it. To explore such outcomes is academic.

When I consider shorter term predictions that can affect me (say up to 20 years), my level of concern is dependent on my level of belief. Without a certain level of belief I'm not motivated to change my habits. I fail to gain a new outlook on life.

One measure of gradual or abrupt change is whether such change is plausible. When someone talks about climate induced crop failure resulting in mass starvation, is such an outcome plausible?

If a given outcome is plausible, is it dire?

A decline in industrial civilization is not as dire as sudden crop failure.

I suppose the belief in a perpetually brighter future explains the lack of contingency planning (outside of the military). As individuals and as part of groups, we can prepare for the future. As a species, we are indifferent to it.

Mojoglo said...

JMG:

Along with your series on philosophy, I'm also very interested in an elaboration on your response to Varun: "The real source of power at this point in the game is the ability to shape thinking, to dynamite unquestioned presuppositions, to walk away from a losing game and do something less useless -- and all these are things each of us can do, and model for others."

I'm in a season of life that I could describe as a "turning point"; I'm doing an inventory of my life and deciding which habits and commitments I need to let go of and what practices and world views would be more useful. I've been quite vexed by the national and global political situation (Trump troubles me a great deal). On the one hand, a lot of people I associate with are convinced we are headed into a period of fascism and authoritarianism and if you are not actively resisting it, "you are part of the problem" or "on the wrong side of history." And so I feel a lot of pressure to attend rallies, call legislators, support efforts at churches to provide sanctuary to immigrants, etc. And on the other hand, I feel called to deepen my practice of nature-based spirituality, learn my bioregion, "collapse before the rush" and so on. So I'm finding timely and relevant guidance crucial to my discernment process!

Tidlösa said...

Interesting essay, but aren´t there also times when the wheel can spin in different directions? World War II was such a situation - if Hitler had been smarter, or Stalin even more stupid, Hitler could have won the war, creating a *very* unpleasant post-war world. Other examples might be Napoleon´s decision to attack Russia, or Alexander´s decision to conquer Persia. Of course, individuals still play the role they do in your scenario - given other circumstances, Hitler would have been a modestly succesful painter, Napoleon would have been an ordinary officer, and Stalin, well, I suppose he could have been a very vile and succesful Orthodox patriarch!

There are also some situations in which it doesn´t matter who "wins", the wheels of time can´t be changed. It may be controversial, but I suspect that the American Revolution was such a situation. Britain was a parliamentary democracy and was on track to abolish slavery at the time of the Revolution. The Federalists were moderates. What would have happened if the Revolution had been defeated? After a brief period of Tory reaction, the Thirteen colonies would probably have continued evolving pretty much as before, although perhaps with a slightly more "Canadian" and Federalist tint. Eventually, the United States would have been formed anyway, and here we are...

I believe it was Marx who said that men make their own history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing.

As for sudden mutations of the kind you´re polemicizing against, I think they "only" happen on the level of ideas, and take centuries or millennia to work themselves out, or "work themselves down" into the crude material matrix of history. For instance, Zoroaster´s monotheism seems to have been a genuine mutation. I also think Christianity might have been another one. However, their *immidiate* impact on the consciousness of their times was probably close to zero! Today is another matter -yes, I´ve read "Apocalypse Not". Of course, I also believe that Christianity had positive effects, but these too were slow in coming.

I haven´t read the entire thread, so pardon if I repeat points already made by others...



latheChuck said...

Last night, my church hosted a public showing of the old Bill Murray film "Groundhog Day" (with following group discussion), and it seemed relevant to this week's post with its theme of both cycles and progress in life. In particular, Murray's character "Phil" finds himself trapped in some inexplicable way to awaken every morning to the same world he awoke in the previous day: the same music and banter on the radio, the same weather, the same agenda for his day. He soon concludes that this is his "new normal" and that nothing he does during that day will have lasting consequences. Thrown in jail at the end of one day, he awakens (as always) back in his hotel room. Even his suicides are temporary.

So, he is trapped and free. Each day starts with the same conditions as the previous day, but he is free to keep the changes he makes to himself from the previous day's experiences. He progresses from hedonism through nihilism, but ends up only satisfied with altruism. The main relevance for this blog post, in my opinion, is that he eventually discovers and learns to live within his constraints yet plan and act out each day with greater humanitarianism.

(One aspect of the story that troubles me, though, is that Phil is uniquely able to make progress, while everyone around him is reliving the same script day after day, except for the changes Phil makes during his iteration of the day. Phil's universe has room for only one of him. Maybe that says something about Hollywood, too.)

Avery said...

JMG, in case you haven't spotted the story yet, Steve Bannon is apparently very interested in the Fourth Turning theory of cyclical history.

I am glad for the turn to more long term philosophy, though. I don't think the Fourth Turning will be hitting the most crucial stage for another 6 months at least.

August Johnson said...

dltrammel - While I may find that I agree with some of Steve Bannon's and Trumps desires and statements with what's wrong now, I most assuredly DO NOT agree with many of them and NOT AT ALL with their methods for getting where they want to go. I'm finding that there's a huge amount of "The ends justifies the means" embodied in politics today and I find this extremely troubling. It's even showing up here on the ADR comments.

I'm trying very hard to pull together a community of very diverse people here in my local county and get working towards some common goals, and if this is where we are now, there's big trouble in the near future. This scares me big time.

latheChuck said...

On the nature of cycles... I think it's worth considering the different forms of cyclic phenomena.
Some cycles are purely geometric, like the rotation of the earth: perfectly predictable.
Others depend on outside factors for their period, like the rotation of a wheel, which depends on the speed of a vehicle.
Even less predictable is a "relaxation oscillator" (see Wikipedia for details), in which some quantity accumulates over time until a threshold is crossed, at which time the accumulation is reset and begins again. Both the rate of accumulation and the threshold affect the behavior of the system.
We also see cyclic phenomena in predator/prey models, described by the Lotka-Volterra equations (Wikipedia, again), in which increases in prey population eventually lead to increases in predator populations, which reduce the population of prey by hunting, which reduces the population of predators by hunger, and so it repeats.
The least predictable (that comes to my mind) is the behavior of a sand pile. As a small amount of sand is added at the summit, the pile may simply build higher, or it may slump in greater or lesser amounts. Even if you know the rate at which sand is added, the likelihood and magnitude of sand-slides is a matter of probability. You know that it's going to happen, eventually, but not when, where, or how much.
Which model applies to life? All of them, of course.

Donald Hargraves said...

My offerings to the "Are Cars Better" debate:

I remember in the early seventies when, in response to the Arab Oil Embargo, Shell put out their booklets on how to take better care of your cars. I especially remember their ""The One Hundred Thousand Mile Book," a book about making your car last one hundred thousand miles. Consider today, when the only way a dedicated person can't put 100,000 miles is to either be dedicated to letting the car fall apart or to total the car in an accident. Further back (into the fifties), it was accepted that cars had a limited lifespan and that you had to be darn sure the vehicle could last a long trip if you decided to drive to Florida for your yearly vacation. So I'd say that vehicles are better built today than historically, even with all the doodads that threaten to short-circuit them things.

That doesn't make them any easier to fix up. Heck, nowadays I feel the need to specifically take my car to the dealer whenever I need an oil change, partly because everything's so tightly packed that to replace the front lights requires disassembling the front end. Add to it all the sensors, computers and various creature comforts (does anyone have a manual window crank anymore? and how much you want to bet that all the newest vehicles have stealth self-driving capabilities within them, waiting for a signal from a centralized point to suddenly become self-driving?) and you're edging into the realm of vehicles that, once something is broke, you're stuck with replacing the whole thing.

Never mind the cost. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that one could build a mid-seventies car today with the same specs as back then and make it at half the price as today's cars...and make them with today's quality of build without the extra stuff, computers or other items that push up costs.

(and yes, I know there are cars from the fifties still running, especially in Cuba. I'm talking generally, complete with personal experience.)

Caryn said...

I feel like every time I get here to post I get too sidetracked by some minor detail or some off-topic comment or other to respond and reflect on the actual essay. I agree with gwizard, I think the tenor and tone in the comments has changed - for me - a most negative aspect of this is that reflection and further elucidation of the essay issue gets drowned out; So in spite of feeling a lot of retorts to certain comments, I'm ignoring. Hand up as in - "talk to the hand, 'cause the face ain't listenin'".

Ahem -

Thank You, JMG, great essay, although not earth shatteringly revelatory for me, only because I am a fairly long term follower of your blog, thoughts and theories. I think I'm too much a part of the choir. I agree. As some other on-topic commenters have said: I do think this time it IS or WILL BE different, if only because of the sheer scale and size of current civilization. I think I see - you are saying there are two collapses happening in concurrence: 1) The collapse of the American 'Empire', which is following a well worn path; and 2) the slower, more on-going collapse of industrial fossil-fuel driven global civilization which is and will increasingly affect all Earthlings, No - OK - 3) Climate change which will also upset the global apple cart for centuries to come, making a 'normal' dark-age recovery period erratic and less on track. Yes, it will be cyclical, but a big chink on the wheel. The 3 are hard to separate because they affect each other, (fossil-fuel global collapse & climate change being the biggest biggies in the long run. And then of course there's, (as a few other on-topic commenters have also said): nuclear warheads to throw more monkey wrenches into the works!

For example, in one reply you said, no doubt certain peoples will go back to being hunter-gatherers, but what will be left of the game? Of the healthy forests, flora and fauna such societies need to survive? Will that be possible?

No wonder people have gone utterly bat-shakes crazy.

I look forward to next week's discussion on philosophy, although I will probably stick to being a fly on the wall, unschooled in that discipline. It should be fascinating to read with one tab open to googling definitions, one tab here!

AND, for a purely selfish need, I'm still eager to read your and my fellow commenters thoughts on Education and the education system. I'm neck deep in this fray right now with one graduating HS Senior who doesn't want any college education, one HS Junior who is working like crazy to get to an Ivy, and as a preschool teacher blindly groping my way through an obviously very broken pedagogic system. UGH! I need some sound philosophy on THAT!

Lastly: Welcome back Bill Pulliam - I too always value your input;

and heartfelt best wishes to Violet. I also enjoy and value your 'Winter's Trickter' blog and details. I hope you find relief and comfort from the chemical assault you've been suffering. I've not experienced such debilitation, but after living outside the USA for 2 decades, (I have no idea why, there are fewer regulations in China...) but upon returning, I have gotten sick and am experiencing much more sensitivity to the strong chemicals around a 'normal', USA household. Wow! The chemicals we use here are really strong! And we do use SO MANY!! Weird. I hope yo find a way to feel better very soon.

Roy Smith said...

Slightly off-topic perhaps, but relevant in that we are certainly entering the kind of historical era when revitalization movements sprout up. I am re-reading The Blood of the Earth, and it occurred to me that the response of the liberal wing of the American political establishment seems to be enacting a program which has the features of a revitalization movement. They offer a thorough critique of the existing order of the political establishment (in which they are completely out of power at the moment); a vision of the Utopian future which will arrive immediately after Trump is ejected from office and they are restored to power, preferably this week or next week at the latest; and a straightforward plan of action to get to this goal: massive protests, general strikes, civil disobedience, etc.

This straightforward plan seems highly unlikely to be successful, in no small part because pretty much none of the people who voted for Trump are on board, so all this action is political theater that only appeals to those already convinced. Parenthetically, many of the proponents of this plan are exhibiting an appalling disregard for the Constitution, so if it is successful, it will likely be because Trump was removed via extra-Constitutional means, and the ramifications of that are pretty dire.

The painful irony is that this is using up all the energy that could be directed towards quite useful tasks that could be done, such as forming a leftist program that would actually appeal to Trump's base (not a hard thing to do, in my mind, if the political will existed to do so) and winning the next few elections. But this would require accepting that the Republicans control all of Congress for the next two years and the Presidency for the next four years, and this possibility seems to be quite literally unthinkable to the liberal world.

Chris Houston said...

Isaac Newton was an astrologer, so am I.
I know how this ends.
It will be Christian Nationalism that saves the west. Church and State will blend into each other.
That's what's coming folks.
And the reason why is Western culture has been destroyed slowly, which is why Islam is a threat to clean it up.

Scotlyn said...

@JMG I wasn't thinking of new converts so much as the old, established American Muslim communities of the Midwest. For example, Cedar Rapids, Iowa boasts the longest surviving American mosque, established in 1934. And of course African Americans, many of whose American antecedents go back 400 years, represent a third of the American Muslim population. (That's why I said "homegrown").

I do think it's ironic that a Whitehouse proposal that would reverse much anti discrimination law is being billed as a " religious freedom" bill, while the Whitehouse does not appear to recognise that such religious freedoms may then be claimed by non-Christian religions, including Muslims and of course Pagans of various sorts.

Bryant said...

@doomerdoc I completely agree about the notion of aging of governments and societies, although the actual timescale may diverge from our expectations. But its not difficult to see that as governments get older, they tend to get larger, and become increasingly incapable of removing parasitical institutions within them. Huge portions of energy are wasted struggling within itself too, and I imagine that the entropy can only build up to a certain extent before the structure remodulates itself into something that's more hospitable for the realities of the situation.

Scotlyn said...

@JMG I am certainly looking forward to the philosophy posts, though I have to say philosophy has often left me floundering is a sea of abstraction without a compass or any way to take bearings. I never seem to know what (in the day-to-day world of experience) it is supposed to illuminate. I suspect I may be missing a philosophy gene somehow. Maybe your posts will help me get a clue.

On the other hand, I cannot wait for your post on medicine. I do k know the Irish health service is more and more of a mess. I speculate as to whether pharmaceuticals have become a hidden tax on health*care* (in something like the way you describe energy as a hidden tax in the rest of the economy).

Thanks for keeping the brain alive & ticking!

mgalimba said...

To what degree are we enthralled body and soul to a doomed machine? That is the late question that we all are wrestling with. Blaming others doesn’t help. Doubling down on our worst impulses won’t help. Being honest about the impact that our civilizations (they are still multiple civilizations at play, the American model being only one) are having on the stability and viability of the environment might help. In fact, I’m pretty sure that will be an essential skill if our civilization does fall. Which really might not be such a bad thing overall. Still, one does worry about such degenerate phenomenon as the Neo-nazi war-bands mentioned here lately. But in my experience there are a lot of good, decent, courageous, responsible people - who are not ideologically intoxicated in either direction and who take the measure of a person’s heart, first and foremost - who won’t stand for such nonsense. That’s the civilization that really matters.

Rita said...

In reference to the need of warlords to keep their followers satisfied I recall that the defunct Loompanics Press used to publish a booklet on how to run a motorcycle gang.

Nastarana - re open borders. I notice that Facebook is full of memes about immigrants who have done great things. Steve Jobs show up in few. Nobel prize winners and so forth. Clearly implying that if those particular immigrants had not been admitted we would not have ____ fill in technical or scientific advance of your choice. The unstated conclusion is that we must admit all immigrants just in case the next Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein is among them The flip side, of course, are the pathetic cases of families separated, mothers dying before seeing their sons, children seeking medical care, and so forth. But I cannot seem to pin anyone down on the question of how many immigrants they believe the US and admit in practical terms and how they should be selected.

Mallow -- Trump, unsurprisingly, completely misunderstood or misrepresented the actual events at US Berkeley. Milo, sponsored by a campus organization, was given a venue. The leftist groups protesting his appearance were peaceful, but then black masked agitators appeared and started fires, broke windows, etc. At that point the administration cancelled the event over quite reasonable concerns for the safety of all concerned. There have, I believe, been some universities which denied Milo a right to appear at all, but UCB was not one. What puzzles me is that Milo's rhetoric doesn't seem any more hateful than that of Ann Coulter, who is IMO, a despicable intellectual toady of the extreme right. However I don't recall her being criticized as much. Is Milo considered worse just because he is a white male (note lack of usual 'straight' modifier, as he is gay). If so, it seems to me evidence that he is correct in feeling that white males are uniquely targeted as responsible for all the worst ills of our culture.

sunseekernv said...

JMG - thanks for the pointer to Clive Ponting.

There is a revised edition from the original A Green History of the World (1991) to
A New Green History of the World (2007).

A very long synopsis of the old and new versions written in stages over the period 2005 - 2010 is freely available at:
https://www.populationmatters.org/wp-content/uploads/green_history.pdf

He has several other books that seem interesting.
I've got his "Gunpowder" on my list as well.

Have you read his: Progress and Barbarism: The World in the Twentieth Century (1998)
which was published in the US as: The Twentieth Century: A World History (1999) ?

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG,

The notion that the phases of the rise and fall of a given civilization can be predicted to any degree suggests a corresponding degree of determinism.

In comments long ago, I have likened this predictability/determinism to what is commonly observed in statistical phenomenon. Given large enough numbers, you can predict things such as the number of traffic deaths in the USA in 2017 with reasonable accuracy. You can't predict a specific death nor does the certainty of some fixed number of deaths relieve individuals from moral responsibility for their actions. Still, the likely range is fairly determined.

Lower or raise the speed limit and one can predict with fair accuracy the change in the number of deaths. Nonetheless, one can also factor (with less accuracy) the likelihood of such changes and one is back to a pretty well determined number/range.

The behaviour and life of civilizations follow a reasonably predictable trajectory given such are the consequence of uncountable individual human decisions and humans haven't changed much over the centuries. Each arc is a large number statistical phenomena and so predetermined within broad ranges.

The same idea holds for say matter. Given a large enough assembly of elemental particles, it doesn't matter that their individual existence is not determined. On the macro scale, the object in one's hand is still very determined. It exists.

Though I understand your sources based their historical analysis mostly on morphology (i.e. "this is the observed form these changes take") as opposed to root reasons such as resource deletion; this doesn't invalidate their findings.

Nonetheless, adding in the issue of resource depletion fine tunes the timing and gives strength to the argument that the overall arc is in fact largely predetermined.

And as you have taken pains to stress in you responses to me and others. None of this lets us, individually, off the hook morally for "bad driving". Nor does it mitigate the likely consequence of individual "bad driving". This moral issue and the issue of personal consequences though, I believe, are very separate from the fact that we can know, in broad terms, what is going to happen pretty much from the start. Indeed the first two issues may well be separate from each other. I expect you will address such in future posts involving philosophy.

Candace said...

Edit:Sorry the name of the book is "Sapiens".

Pinku-Sensei said...

@Armata: You were right to point to American popular culture for evidence that people are afraid that progress may be coming to a halt and soon, but the way you used your examples works against you with people who know television. In particular, your statement that "The most popular TV show right now is Game of Thrones, based on George RR Martin’s 'A Song of Fire and Ice' novels" requires closer examination. "Game of Thrones" may be the most award-winning drama on American television today with a record 39 Emmy Awards over its run, but if by "most popular" you meant "most watched," it most assuredly is not. According to Indiewire, it came in 38th among viewers of all ages and sixth among TV watchers aged 18-49 during the 2015-2016 season, the most recent in which the series aired. The more popular show exemplifying Americans' anxiety about the end of progress is "The Walking Dead," which came in fourth among all viewers and first among those aged 18-49, making it, not "Game of Thrones," the most watched show on cable with nearly twice as many viewers. That's a fast-collapse show, but the series is now in its seventh season and has finally reached the stage where most of the rubble has stopped bouncing, so the conflict driving the drama has become a struggle for power among groups of survivors, including a barbarian warband that ironically (or maybe not) sees itself as the "Saviors of Civilization," instead of a fight for survival against the undead. That written, "Game of Thrones" makes your point that "Winter is coming" and people are aware it may be approaching in the real world as well. It's just not as salient an example as you made it out to be.

On another note, I'm a member of several "liberal prepper" groups on Facebook. I'll ask the members if any of them participate in the SCA and, if so, whether their historical reenacting has given them any survival skills. Coincidentally enough, one of the communities of survivors in "The Walking Dead" grew up around a park where Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century crafts were recreated for visitors. In the series, that was an intentional choice for those survivors, not an accident.

Hubertus Hauger said...

@ to JMG: “… The guy's 70 years old, and he's just been elected to one of the most unforgiving jobs on the planet. My working guess for the most likely option at the moment is that he'll either die in office of natural causes sometime in his second term, or retire from sheer exhaustion at the end of that term…“

I might add the most obvious too; The new emperors fate! Like it happened to Cesar. Guess he pisses off plenty of elite Drones. They may gather and backstab him. Literally spoken they already do.

In real I mean! Happened to many presidents.

But if so it will take some time. Which I would be glad about. Because then there is more time for the transition into a new age. Which now obviously has started. So lets whish him some steadfastness.

Myriad said...

I haven't had much chance to post comments recently. I'm looking forward to the series on philosophy, though.

The longer I stay around in the world, the more philosophy reminds me of that old riddle about a coffin. "The person who makes me doesn't want me; the person who buys me doesn't need me; the person who uses me doesn't appreciate me."

DeVaul said...

This might be off topic, but I think that the Archdruid's fictional account of a massive American defeat in a war over Kenya is about to come true, only he chose the wrong country. It is Iran that Trump and his gang are preparing to invade.

It seems surreal, but every statement he has made is a threat of all out war. Iran has done nothing to us, but for some reason, we must attack it and destroy it if at all possible. To think that people actually voted for him because he promised to end the wars and foreign interventions while having a track record of no integrity leads me to believe that most sane people will never learn how to deal with sociopaths until is way too late. I suppose it can only be done on a village size level, as Dmitry Orlov has pointed out.

Nations and empires cannot deal with or control sociopaths and psychopaths. That is our unfortunate history.

I don't know where the barbarian hordes will come from while our legions fight in Persia again, just as Rome's legions were fighting there when Rome was sacked. They could come from the inner cities, from the Mexican border, from the unemployed countryside, or perhaps from all of the above. I don't know.

I guess only a catastrophe will finally lift the veil of stupidity from the American people's eyes. What a shame. We had so much we could have shared while also keeping enough for ourselves.

econojames said...

I get as much food for thought from all of the comments here as I do from your posts, JMG. You have made a real treasure out of this blog, and I have spent two evenings this week lying in front of my woodstove catching up on the comments (and drinking stout, as is only fitting).

A comment from Bill (I'm glad you came back, Bill, but I didn't think you could stay away :)) has had me thinking this week about the parallels between our societies and our own individual consciousnesses. We are all born and live and die, and we react to what happens to us, and experience both good fortune and tragedy, but eventually we are extinguished. Some of us may pass on bits of ourselves - both good and bad bits - to offspring who can then lead lives that are delicately connected to our own.

In the same way, our society reacts to what happens to it, on a much longer scale, and is indifferent to who or what causes those things to happen. It is not a stretch, to me, to think that any human endeavor, such as a society, would, consciously or unconsciously, follow the "rise and fall" pattern of our own lives, complete with poor choices on some days (eras/periods) and dwindling of health (resources) in later years. Death, and a rebirth of something related, is, well, pretty normal-seeming.

Our planet is even a larger, and slower, example of this same thing, with societies having the same relation to it as individuals do to societies. And on to the universe, which is made of matter that...dies.

These are just thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head, but they seem relevant, and I find them somewhat comforting. Maybe anthropomorphizing the society and planet like this gives me empathy toward their predicaments so that I try to be gentle toward them.

JMG, you also said something in a response that reminded me of an idea I read in a book by Keith Farnish, whose title I cannot recall. He was talking about the hubris of science and how, unless you speak in the language of science, you are dismissed from the conversation, as if there is nothing that science does not know. I have spent far too little time on your other blog, but I doubt that "science" would discuss anything there. That does not make it "unreal", just "not officially sanctioned".

As an aside: I do a lot of my thinking (at least that's what I call it) while walking around on errands or just for the walking. That seems to me to be the pace of the human mind. It happened again today: a friend stopped while driving by me and asked if I needed a ride somewhere. I know you walk almost exclusively, and I wondered if you, too, had lost count of the number of times this has happened. :)

Hubertus Hauger said...

@ to JMG: “…I've discussed some of the sustainable technologies of our time that might help the next cycle of civilization … “

While you number seven is the technical and engineerical skill and knowledge, I just want to mention on thing, that was to me a highlight on recognizing, how lost skill are felt. I remember one history book, where illustrated there was a scene depicted, of a royal gathering in the Franconia capital in the 8th or 9th century. The gathering took place in the second store of an kept roman building, obviously suited for the royal representation. The scene drawn at the moment, when the nobility, standing on a fine carpet underneath in front of the king. Thus, suddenly the floor under them collapsed, to everyone’s horror.

Even the emperor of a whole country was hardly able to have master-builder in their service, to overlook and service the huge remains, left over from the roman empire. It gave me quite some shrill and experience of what the problems of a dark age society does feel like.

So keeping practical mastery of science will be quite necessary, if circumstances and resources permit. As you see in this example, it may not. Even there was no lack of will, but obviously lack of circumstances and resources.

Justin said...

Pinku-Sensei, agreed about The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. I watched the first episode of the current season of the walking dead, and wow, that was some brutal stuff. If sufficient transcripts survive, no doubt that future historians will study that show. Game of Thrones is interesting too. "Winter is coming" is certainly appropriate. Of course, the whole theme was thought up by GRRM in the 90's - although who knows what GRRM thinks about industrial civilization. He's certainly a smart fellow.

Kevin Warner, your post makes me think back to high school (a decade now...) and remember my very mixed feelings, which I couldn't understand at the time, reading The Day of the Triffids. I will have to read that book again - even as a teenage know-it-all liberal I found the rather traditional society portrayed in The Day of the Triffids appealing.

Hubertus Hauger said...

@ to JMG: „...Anonymous Millennial, many years ago I worked as an orderly in nursing homes, and I got to see the same thing many times over. Yes, it's exactly parallel to the way people are trying to deny the reality of decline …”

My actual notion is amusement. It’s because of that wide gap between reality on the one side and the answering wishful thinking on the other. That contradiction is a life theme of mine.

Speaking of temper tantrum; One pastor told me of one incident, he observed while working as a hospital chaplain. An old woman was lying in the hospital. Family members came to visit her. On their visit they regularly quarrelled a lot. Then she died. The family gathered. To the pastors horror they stood around her corpse, shouting at her and beating the death body.

That inevitably of the inevitables, death … even that one we would rather like to deny. Its so hard, to cope with reality. What ridiculous despair!

Unfortunately I am not a wise man. Getting in such situations, I must admit, my reaction is similar to that family with their awkward mourning habit. I get so much unnerved.

Not like Jesus did, visualising him on the Sermon on the Mount like so provokingly been visualized by Monty Python here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP2KDUiBI-E
We people are so annoyingly, we are like JMG states; cantankerous, error-prone, and idiosyncratic. And still Jesus reaction I imagine, like described here: “Then Jesus called his disciples to him
and said, "I have compassion on the crowd …”

onething said...

Are we in the early stages of a color revolution?

John Michael Greer said...

Sandy, self-destruction does seem to be hardwired into economic systems in general, doesn't it? That being the case, I don't see any reason why capitalism should be exempt. ;-)

Blue Sun, I could see that all too easily.

Iuval, I'd say that not all human cultures choose what you're calling "Empire," but all civilizations do -- if you want to have big urban centers and the resource flows needed to support them, you basically have to play the empire game. The thing is, you do choose whether or not you support the empire game; every day you rely on your share of benefits from it, you support it and encourage the people who run it to keep on playing.

Nastarana, er, I like Copeland's music, and I've been a Wagner fan since my teens. Both composers were wildly popular in their day, too.

Nati, that's actually quite common. In the last century or so of the Roman Empire, for example, it was all the rage for kids and 20-somethings in the Roman upper classes to dress like barbarians and imitate bits of barbarian culture, and of course you also had the steady drain of talented people turning their backs on society to go become Christian hermits for the sake of their souls. So what we're seeing is a standard phenomenon of decline.

Donald, that may be part of it.

Stu, thanks for this! Yes, those are about the figures I remember.

Jim, it's profoundly simplistic to claim that warming climate equals improved conditions for mammals; you really ought to read up on paleoclimatology before making claims like that. As for the anthropogenic nature of the current round of climate change, I have yet to see any convincing argument that dumping gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere isn't going to have the effects we're seeing right now -- and the evidence for the anthropogenic nature of climate change seems very convincing to me.

William, hmm! That's a good point.

Brent, can you point me to a readily accessible book on the subject?

Wbricex, thank you.

MichaelK, I wasn't offended. I was simply explaining why I write the way I do.

Fred, well, you could pick up a copy of my book Green Wizardry, which has a lot of material in one place, you know! ;-)

Bryant, I don't mention Kek as such in that book, but it does have a lot to say about polytheist spirituality that you may find useful.

Varun, that's part of it. The leaders aren't just managing masses, they're being managed by them -- the masses choose to respond to this slogan and not to that one, to rally around one cause and not another, and that sharply constrains the options for leaders, who after all want people to follow them. Those of us who don't care whether people follow us or not don't suffer from the same constraint, and so can lay the groundwork for the slogans and causes of the future.

Caelan MacIntyre said...

Hi John, Thanks for responding.
I did post, upthread, the link with your quote here, but should have reposted it for you/your blog. I guess Fred Magyar did not avail himself of its context, via the link, which would not surprise me.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi gwizard43 and Armata,

I read both of your comments and as an independent person to your discussions, I do not believe either of you have violated the blogs moderation policies. Of course either of you could always ask for the moderation policies to be amended – but be prepared to justify your request.

My understanding of the matter and please either of you correct me if I am wrong in my understanding is that Armata represents an alt-right ideology, whilst gwizard43 represents the leftward end of ideology.

gwizard43, I sympathise with you, however Armata took a swipe at the "activist Left" whoever they are and at no point in his (and he writes like a guy) did he take a swipe at any individual commenter on the blog.

Now before you go crazy at me and shoot off an unpleasant reply, I have to inform you that I have stood in the killing fields in Cambodia and seen firsthand what a left leaning ideology can do. It was only a few years after the Vietnamese ousted Pol Pots gang of ideologues and I have absolutely no idea what I was doing there other than something whispered to me that this was something important that I should see firsthand. It was a repugnant thing to see and I have to inform you that left leaning ideologies don't get a free pass from me and neither can they claim the high moral ground as that isn't the only outrage I could point to.

On the other hand, Armata, your crew has some dark little secrets too don't they? And we all know what they are which is why you lot spend so much effort trying to deny them. I reckon that is pretty pathetic and something is whispering into my mind telling me that your lot would do far better to understand and embrace the ecological reasons for why your lot did what they did. Pol Pot wanted guns in exchange for rice, so what did your lot want? Don't even think of trying your practiced lies on me either.

The core problem as I see it is that neither of you are prepared to co-exist and/or engage with the other and you know, from what I see that is a large part of the problems and I promise you that if you don't or can't get your acts together then it will only ever escalate from here.

Chris

Crow Hill said...

JMG to Crow Hill re the Mayans and resource depletion: I have read Clive Ponting and do remember what he wrote about the fall of the Maya/Mesoamerican (and other) civilisations.

I was basing my comment on a more recent inspiring BBC programme with Mayanists including Elizabeth Graham, a Mayan archaeologist, who has worked for decades in Belize, and who put forward the controversial thesis that some Mayans at least had used land in a different way, had not deforested because they did not keep livestock needing grass for pasture, and used multi-cropping in the cultivation of maize since it can grow in the shade of other plants.She mentioned also that there were impressive Mayan coastal cities which the Spanish conquistadors had commented on when they first sailed past.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072n5x3http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072n5x3

Further, in the introduction to an article, "Maya cities and the character of a tropical urbanism", Graham writes:

"In Forest, the Shadow of Civilization, Robert Pogue Harrison vividly conjures up the fear and wonderment of the forest that prefigure Western civilization's urban imperative--an experience that has been confrontational, in which the terms are all-or-nothing: we win, the forest goes=city; it wins, we go=wilderness. In the paragraphs that follow I suggest that alternative historical and environmental relationships developed between trees and people in the humid tropics, and these relationships constitute the conditions for an ecology of urbanism in humid tropical regions around the globe."




Matt said...

Off-topic but there's a Guardian article today about the UK's reliance on the F-35: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/04/f-35-stealth-jet-fighter-uk-faces-billions-extra-cost?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Best bit: allocating funding for a "follow-on modernisation program"!

Matt

Iuval Clejan said...

Dear sandy, I meant the kind of cycles that civilizations go through. I don't see the connection between those and the ones that Bill pointed out, or the ones possible in Conway's Game of Life. The only connection I see is that they are all cycles. In both these toy models, there are other possible behaviors such as chaos and equilibria, but you wouldn't say that civilizations must reach equilibria because these models have them as possible behaviors. The underlying mechanisms are not the same.

JMG, I agree that if we want something different, we must figure it out, it won't happen while we are supporting the fruits of empire. However, there is no logical fallacy in using those fruits as tools to figure something else out. Or in the words of some black panthers, we can use the tools of the prison to get out of it (diverging from Gandhi and the Possibility Alliance). The interesting thing to me, from a game theoretic perspective, is how to play a different game while being confronted by empire? I think you would claim that we can't, we have to wait till it dies and only in that time interval between the last empire and the next one do we have any chance to do something different? I would say the Jesus figured out another game and a strategy to play that game while within Empire, and had Christianity not chosen to align itself with the Roman empire, it might have worked. Maybe other strategies and games are possible.

What does history have to teach us about cultures that did not choose Empire?

pg said...

Some time back, when trying to decide whether to repair my ancient Subaru I, too, wondered about manual crank windows. In Canada, the Nissan Micra still has them. And in the US,
https://www.cars.com/articles/yes-you-can-still-buy-manual-windows-1420682584259
in the name of "reducing complexity"--imagine that!
BTW, I, too, am glad Bill Pulliam has relented; every time I drive past the trucking school on I-25 I think of him.... (isn't there a song in there somewhere?). Cheers!

Scotlyn said...

@Rita, thanks for the clarification on the Berkeley situation.

For what its worth Milo stands accused of something that, as far as I know, Anne Coulter never was.

That is to say, he is alleged to have doxxed certain transgender people and, using the "pile on" effect that can be mobilised on social media, to have threatened their personal security.

This allegations has not, as far as I know, been tested in a court of law. But in any case, it is this personal endangering of vulnerable individuals that I've most commonly heard cited as the reason he should not be given a platform.

Fred the First said...

@William Twice I did a one year read through the whole Bible and participated in weekly three hour discussions. I want to add on to what you shared about the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures. In books of Kings the authors spent a lot time detailing out where their leaders went wrong and what they did right. That sounded to me like any current history book! And it was clear to the Jewish people that were all going to survive and triumph together when everyone followed the Lord.

Then Jesus comes along and says, all someone has to do is believe in him, and that person individually will be saved. Doesn't matter what you're neighbors or your kings do. Jesus saved people one at a time and all it required was belief, not actions. Simple believe Jesus is Lord and Son of God, and all is forgiven and heaven is guaranteed. The Jewish people had books and books of rituals, festivals and activities to do and everyone had to do them or they were doomed.

Its clear which religious belief "won" up to present day. And it seems like we'll need a new belief to get us through the next part of human history.

latefall said...

Re Wheel of time, cliodynamics, and sequences of numbers

I've thought about the issue a little, and for me following thought experiment helped:

Imagine you just happened to wake up between 1 hour earlier and 1 hour later yesterday.

You'll see that a lot of things are affected by this. Some to a smaller degree some to a larger degree. Think of it as a standard deviation around your activities if you are mathematically inclined. Sure there can be a few "butterfly effects" (like some authors use for time travel stories), but not everything is susceptible to same degree to such a reduction in certainty.

To me is appears plausible (of course does not mean it needs to be true) that especially things people feel strongly about and are ready to act on will be more stable - particularly as you move away from the day-to-day perspective. In fact it is likely that such issues generate structures, which are intended to stabilize support for activities (educational systems, proud parents, religions, songs, steering committees, retirements, ritualized prestige, etc.). Barring certain events such as major military defeat, or a drastically out of alignment representative, such support systems work nicely compared to what is in collective memory and "progress" is made.

As time goes on, the fraction of support systems that are at odds with one another (or are largely parasitic) increases. Their overall power of mimesis wanes, and you start to get fracturing and in-fighting. I would assume this typically comes in waves, which initially leave the system stronger than before and can continue for quite some time in that way fending off internal and external contestants. At the same time careerism and other internal dynamics tend to slowly dissolve their original substance, and people become a tad less willing to go the extra mile, or get out of bed that extra hour earlier. The standard deviation around actions that are relevant for their continuation widens and the social mores allow for that (creeping reduction of mimesis). Much of this determines the acceptable degrees of efficiency and effectiveness in society. The US military spending and procurement system is perhaps instructive in this regard. If you are bored of the F35 bashing have a look at the ZBD2000 in comparison to the AAV-P7.

Once such precarious convictions are faced even with even a partial (moral) defeat (e.g. Clintons & Trump saying similar things re Mexicans, flag burning or crookedness) they cannot marshal the will of their believers to nearly the same degree. A military defeat in comparison is much less damaging for ideologies that do not rely on "might is right" rhetoric.
Such developments quickly take the dominant narrative into self reinforcing decline, particularly if collective memory does not serve as a backstop (Brexit: How bad can it get?!, Alt-right: We have the guns.).
External influences become more relevant Can a transition to an existing stable or vigorous school of thought be made? Can outside belief systems stabilize themselves by attacking the weakened narrative?

Interestingly the prominent factors in this function are: time, will, collective memory, social dynamics - with very little direct influence of resources or technology. Perhaps the most influential of these are through demographics (unusually many old people), which seems to be a factor in Trump and Brexit.

lordberia3@gmail.com said...

Excellent article John.

Don't have too much to add really, as your thoughts are very much in line with my own thinking on the subject.

Fascinating to watch the Democrats flounder in the face of the populist onslaught by the Trump administration... they appeared to assume that Trump would turn into Mitt Romney Mark II and instead you have a right-wing populist delivering the promises made to his electoral base.

Nastarana said...

Well, Mr. Greer, there is no accounting for another person's tastes. With respect to Copeland, however, I tend to think he was wildly popular with critics, and with that portion of audiences who take their opinions from the pages of major metropolitan newspapers and of conductors who take care to program works which are in fashion with audiences and critics. They and musicians do have to make a living, after all. For a truly great mid-century American composer, allow me to recommend the music of William Grant Still.

I have read both the Saga of the Volsungs and the Neibelungenleid, granted it was a few decades ago, and, IMHO, for my money, Wagner's retelling is no improvement. Literary epics have been a fertile source for opera librettists; my own favorite is Berlioz' Les Troyens, which was performed, recorded and filmed at the Met in the early 80s, featuring the much anticipated Met debut of a young, and phenomenal as she then was in voice and presence, Jessye Norman, and the incomparable Tatiana Troyanos singing the role of Dido. The young Norman and Troyanos in the same recording with Levine at the height of his powers conducting the Met orchestra. Opera recoding doesn't get much better than that.

Iuval Clejan said...

Dear sandy,

Part of the appeal I think is that urban centers provide relatively reliable big markets for rural products. But I don't think there are no myths about the downsides of Empire and if there are books and an oral tradition of stories, people remember. I think the new Testament has plenty of stories about the evils of Empire, for example.

. said...

@Rita

I don't know what Trump understands but I don't see it as a misrepresentation to say that the university bears responsibility for events - which I what I understand him to be saying.

You see the thing is, the peaceful leftist groups never take responsibility for the appearance of the balaclava'd antifascists. Even though they know perfectly well that they're going to turn up and do what they always do. That's because many of the peaceful types have sympathy for the violent ones and have no intention of doing anything effective to stop them from engaging in violence in front of them. This is a pattern that has existed for a long time.

The university, in turn, knows all this perfectly well too because this is quite normal. They fail to prevent the perfectly predictable violence not because they're incapable of it or don't know it's going to happen but because many of them are sympathetic to the violent types in their fight 'against fascism'. So they ban the event on the basis of the 'health and safety' issue that they themselves knowingly permitted to develop.

This kind of bait and switch game goes back a long, long way. Frederick Douglass actually described an event he was due to speak at, at which white supremacists appeared and threatened violence. So the public authorities cancelled his talk - again ostensibly to protect the public. Preventing riot and affray is another way they used to describe it. I think the English used to use that to ban suffragetes and Irish nationalists from meeting.

Anyway Douglass wrote a blistering piece condemning the cowardice of the public authorities - whose job it should have been to simply ensure his safety while exercising his right to freedom of speech. Because otherwise what you're actually doing in practice is permitting anyone who can create a sufficiently serious 'public safety issue' to determine the limits of freedom of speech.

I don't know why Milo is particularly hated. I have seen far right women get the same treatment so I don't think it's particularly a gender thing. Women at the pro-Milo protest were assaulted equally by the 'antifascists'.

And yes, the reason no one will talk about where the appropriate limits on immigration should be is because they can't bring themselves to say no to anyone who wants to migrate from a poorer part of the world to the rich world. It makes them feel vaguely guilty...

Mallow.

Justin said...

@Mallow agreed. It's an old game. If anything, what Trump represents is a newer, more dynamic right (no, not the alt-right) that is not afraid to do the same things the left has done for decades. Something to watch for will be Trump-aligned elements shutting down a leftist event because of the possibility of alt-right protesters.

Phil Harris said...

JMG
A lot of informative comments this week.
I particularly like your advice to avoid the abridged Spengler.
I got nowhere with the abridged version I acquired.

I much appreciated Violet's thought about the value of the individual (and of sheer chance) during the 'winter phase' of civilisation - the steep decline - when much is lost. The more copies of 'seeds' and a geater number of seed bearers has a much better 'chance' to secure value. I have always appreciated the analogy with refugia in glacial times.

Regarding EROI I also value Stu's link http://energyskeptic.com/2016/lambert-hall-energy-eroi-and-quality-of-life/ I will keep a copy for reference, likewise a copy of the Royal Sciety study at the link within. I try to keep a paper copy of some key papers across a number of fields. In that regard I see Odum's 1966 paper is available via the same links. I wonder, however, what is going to be kept in the second century of decline from now? It is going to be a long and ragged time with its own priorities.

I regard it as a 'given' that 'our' existing knowledge base (and databases) will be impossible to maintain. We will only keep a fraction. And even then it will be a hard if not impossible task to retrieve later the real import. So future generations are going to require all their wits to select value. I would argue, though, in hope, that they might actually make a nuch better job of it than our civilisation in areas we have neglected or failed in.

best
Phil H

Brother Kornhoer said...

Another data point, fallout from the crash in oil prices:

http://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/oil-discoveries-seen-recovering-after-crashing-to-a-65-year-low

Doc Tim said...

My specific thought was from watching gremlins. I had a jeep wrangler and put in a new radiator myself despite not being a car guy. It was not a good car but it was easy to fix on your own. It needed a new engine and transmission before 50k. I have a Prius now and am over 100k with little more than oil changes and some new spark plugs and it gets 3x the gas mileage. I'll accept that our current dishwasher is worse than our old one that was made about 20 years ago. We fixed it a few times but paying 50$ for parts hit the pint of diminishing returns.

Liam Jackson said...

Mr Greer, re: 'iFailure', if i understand you, its not just tech, of course.
I use 'symbolic relief' to denote the habit of using symbols/tokens/words to substitute for real goods, action or change. Examples can include clicktivism, idle exercise equipment, porn onanism, igadget competitiveness. A friend helped me see it in my own life, & now i can see it going all around me, used by pretty much everyone in one way or another.
My question - do you think the popularity of symbolic relief is due to declining material wealth (symbols generally being cheaper/easier than real), or is it just routine use of a bug/feature of human conciousness (like eg. denial)?

Also, thanks for your generousity in blogging weekly, suppose i'd better finish After Progress before you get into the heavy philosophy!

onething said...

DeVaul,

"To think that people actually voted for him because he promised to end the wars and foreign interventions while having a track record of no integrity leads me to believe that most sane people will never learn how to deal with sociopaths until is way too late."

Whom should we have voted for?

John Michael Greer said...

Gwizard43, fair enough. I think a case can be made that commentary on this blog has gotten somewhat harsher than it used to be, and with the embarrassingly overheated rhetoric coming out of all sides of the ongoing tantrum that used to be the US political system, I could see a point to asking everyone to tone things down here, in the hope that the habit might spread. My question for you, though, is this -- are you willing to accept the same limits you're asking me to place on my alt-right readers? The comments page here has also seen denunciations of Trump and his supporters, you know, just as heated as the denunciations of liberals you've quoted. If I ask for, and enforce, a stricter level of civility than before, that'll fall on all sides, not just on the alt-right. Are you prepared to tolerate that?

Joel, interesting. Thanks for the link.

Daddy Hardup, your tickets are waiting for you at the station, and we'll be boarding all seats Wednesday afternoon, with the Vorspiel from Parsifal played by our station orchestra. ;-)

Armata, er, a comparison to the Red Guards is a bit of an overstatement, don't you think, given the lack of a significant body count so far? If what I've read is correct, Mao's bullies racked up a very impressive death toll even by the standards of the twentieth century. Could things go that way here? No doubt, but they're not there yet.

111DFC, I enjoy "The Birth of Tragedy" as a work of literature, but Socrates as the turning point of world history? Only from a very narrowly Hellenocentric perspective. You're right, though, that the language is gorgeous.

Hhawhee, no doubt! "The 18th Brumaire" is to my mind Marx at his best: crisp, irreverent, and interesting. He didn't always, or often, achieve that.

Sylvia, that's a very difficult question to answer, and of course there's a huge personal factor. Myself, when I'm reading something that claims to predict the future, I want to see how its previous predictions have played out, but that's a personal choice, of course.

August, so noted, and I'll look forward to its arrival. I'll ask you the same thing I asked Gwizard, though. You've had some harsh things to say about Trump et al., and that's been fine because it's been in keeping with the way things have been handled here. Are you willing to tone down your comments as part of a general tightening of courtesy standards?

James, so noted!

Doomerdoc, you know, there's something very enticing in the idea that the Nazis and the Bolsheviks were the civilizational equivalent of fifty-year-old guys who are doing combovers and stuffing themselves into corsets to try to hit on twenty-year-old women at the corner bar...

Kevin, nicely put. Thank you.

DeVaul said...

@ Onething

It is not for me to tell you who to vote for, but may I ask you if someone clapped a pistol to your head and frog marched you to the voting booth?

Unlike in the USSR, we have the right NOT to vote, especially if the election is set up to only give us choices that are all bad. People in the Soviet Union who did not vote were often sent to Siberia. Perhaps you could exercise a right that they did not have, like I did.

It's a small action, but when these actions become collective acts on the part of a majority of the population, they can lead to changes we cannot achieve if we don't change our individual decisions.

Don't vote for known criminals, and persuade others not to vote for criminals, and in this manner we can take away their delusion that they have a "mandate" to do... well, whatever. Delegitimize them in the eyes of the people.

sandy said...

@Iuval. Cycles.

Dear sandy, I meant the kind of cycles that civilizations go through. I don't see the connection between those and the ones that Bill pointed out, or the ones possible in Conway's Game of Life. The only connection I see is that they are all cycles.

*cycles of civilization start simple and add layers of complexity to solve emergent problems. Collections of cellular automata start simple but can demonstrate rather complex Behavior.

In both these toy models, there are other possible behaviors such as chaos and equilibria, but you wouldn't say that civilizations must reach equilibria because these models have them as possible behaviors. The underlying mechanisms are not the same.

* I would claim a state of chaos is merely very complex Behavior where we cannot discover the underlying equation. If a complex Empires supporting institutions fail close together in time the result might well appear chaotic. We may be unfortunate enough to witness this in the next 10 years haha.

I think a civilization might reach equilibrium if that is what it chose to do. For example the (Most Serene) Republic of Venice existed from 697–1797, 1100 yrs. by not trying to expand but maintain.

These analogies while not exact have helped me to get a handle on the idea of civilization Cycles. Your mileage may vary haha.

Regards,
Pearce M. Schaudies.
Minister of Future

sandy said...

@Iuval. Empires.

But I don't think there are no myths about the downsides of Empire and if there are books and an oral tradition of stories, people remember.

* for this to happen somebody will have to establish the tradition of preserving books in the first or second generation after the downfall. Perhaps they could set up a monastery, such as
The Servata Order of Monks, preserving for the future, heh.The acolytes could copy text onto leather. Mabe chants could recite formula - the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squaws on the other two hides, amen.

Regards,
Pearce M. Schaudies.
Minister of Future

Quos Ego said...

Dear JMG,

as often, I'm posting not to react about the issue at hand, but rather about some overarching matter. For once, this might be a bit long.

I have to say I completely agree with Gwizard943: I feel the comments section of this blog has degenerated to a point where it is no longer pleasant to read. It has become a mere extension of the overly divisive playground that is politics.
Let me elaborate: I've been reading this blog since 2009, when, after the subprime crash, I realized the traditional media couldn't provide me with a satisfactory answer as to what was going on. They simply had no explanation.

So I went looking for answers, and extremes had plenty in store for me. For a few months, I read far-left thinkers and zealots, but also proponents of the Austrian school of economics who mixed their creed with a profoundly deep-rooted hatred of everything that wasn't white. I learned a lot, realized that it was necessary for one's intellectual well-being to tackle ideologies which are at odds with one's personal beliefs, but was ultimately unconvinced: in the end, the far right and the far left, despite having more thought-provoking things to say than the mainstream media, were only interested in pointing fingers and professing, in a religious manner, the absolute nature of their dogma.

Then I learned about The Oil Drum, Hubbert's Peak, and, eventually, this stellar blog. I had found a place where most of my questions would be answered in a provocative but always courteous way, where partisan bickering would be discarded in favor of tactful debate.
And, I believe this blog maintained such amazing standards until Donal Trump and the amazingly powerful reactions he triggers came into play. I've watched other contributors of the Peakosphere I used to respect devolve into parodies of themselves : Gail Tverberg now hoping for divine intervention, Dmitry Orlov now a pro-Russian zealot and conspiracy theorist, Guy McPherson having created a Doomsday Cult claiming human extinction would take place in 2026...

I feel sanity has left the building. People bicker and point fingers, feel smug about themselves, hold absolutist views they rub in each other's faces. They no longer engage in conversation, but shout, and not even at each other. It doesn't matter if the other party listens to them or not: only their views count, and reaching consensus it not even a distant possibility.
Nothing good can come out of this.

This blog always was about advocating constructive action for the not-so-bright future ahead. Please let it be the case again.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Hey, I just wanted to alert you to a rather funny incident involving our Prime Minister and your President.

So earlier last week, our Prime Minister (PM) who I believe used to have a paying gig at Goldman Sachs, apparently said at the Canberra Press Club: "“We must compete aggressively to export our services in education, health, engineering, tourism and more — and we must pursue even greater access for our agriculture and our manufacturers,” Mr Turnbull said. “We cannot retreat into the bleak dead-end of protectionism.”

Malcolm Turnbull warns against protectionism during National Press Club speech

Then a few days later our PM has a phone conversation with your President and apparently it did not go well at all (what a surprise) with your President tweeting afterwards that the refugee deal was a "dumb deal".

Donald Trump thanks Malcolm Turnbull for 'telling the truth' about 'fake news'

So, you have a President that is a straight talking kind of guy and he seems to get rather annoyed at people and he also seems to be rather well informed. He is not a guy that I would annoy and so many people just don't seem to understand that. Anyway, I did notice another minor matter - and it is always the minor stories that tell the much larger stories that: PM staffer suspended over Trump post.

I'm always genuinely surprised that nobody seems to realise that the interweb is a public domain! My thinking is don't go poking sleeping dogs as they may wake up and bite you, unless you know that you can deal to them! :-)! Hashtag: just sayin...

Cheers

Chris

SMJ said...

Hello JMG

Regarding gwizard43's observation of comments from your alt-right commenters - I for one am very grateful that you allow the alt-right to so freely express their opinions on your blog. Dammerung's comments in your post of 18 Jan were particularly enlightening. I disagree with the solutions they come up with, but I think it is important that they express their views. Apart from helping me complete Homework Assignment #2 (to read something that offends me and then think about what circumstance would drive me to agree), these airings are a vital component of finding ways to avoid bloodshed.

The tone of the comments gwizard quotes is perhaps harsh, but I think some desensitization is beneficial. If one can keep the discussion going despite harsh tones, that would help prevent the discussion breaking down. But of course it is your blog so the rules are set by you.

Cherokee Organics, many thanks for the knocking of heads.

SMJ

Scotlyn said...

As Frederick Douglass has been quoted, I'd like to place on record some quotes of his that are equally apt:

"There are such things in the world as human rights... Among these is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs [to] all alike...

If the white race may exclude all other races from this continent, it may rightfully do the same in respect to all other lands and continents, thus have all the world to itself, & thus what would seem to belong to the whole would become the property of only a part.

I hold that a liberal and brotherly welcome to all who are likely to come to the U.S. is the only wise policy which this nation can adopt..."

Frederick Douglass, 1869

Apparently some Suberbowl fans are outraged by a Budweiser ad reminding Americans that, by and large, we are all immigrants who arrived by a process of "locomotion" from elsewhere.

Granted, our history would be very different if Native Americans had presented us with walls, and guns and border checks, giving us no option but to remain crowded and impoverished in our teeming European backwaters.

I do understand, Archdruid, that there are sound and just arguments to be made in favor of good border controls at this point in time.

But there are none that can, with justice, deny their rightful place to all the diverse people who already live, work and love within them.

What I see a lot of is the broadening of the category "foreigner" to include African Americans whose pedigree in America has more antiquity than most European Americans. I see it being used to include those outside the "Judeo-Christian" cultural mindset (including - ironically - some Jews and some Catholics, as well as Muslims, pagans, Buddhists and others), even (in some quarters) anyone urban & college educated.

Once "foreigner" comes to mean all those things, where do you draw your border, and who can you call on to defend it with you?

Saying "diversity doesn't work" to my mind, is like saying "ecology doesn't work". It is what it is, and one's opinion has very little to do with that.





Patricia Mathews said...

David Brin (scroll down one post)suggests dealing with the new president - pr diverting him - by providing people willint to flatter him personally while disagreein with him on policy/

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/

And if my first comment of the morning didn't go through, Charlie Stross tosses out a chilling Ad Hitlerum argument based on a dying industry's plan to grab while the grabbing is good and ease the strains of peak oil by starving out a chunk of the population via travel restrictions etc. He's a science fiction writer, so of course, playing with such scenarios is his trade.

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/



August Johnson said...

JMG - It's taking me a while to write, as I'm making sure I can fully explain myself. I'll be working on something outside and a thought will come to me. I highly respect your opinions and viewpoints and want to make clear where I'm coming from.

If you look back at my comments, you'll find I have not made one nasty comment about Trump, or Clinton, voters. Only about the total unsuitability of both candidates. And yes, I do have strong opinions there. No collectively calling the voters the names others have. No directed comments about a particular voter. But others have made some rather nasty comments and name calling about the other side, both sides, both collectively and individually. At most I've said things like "I think that these Trump supporters/excusers are going to find things don't turn out like they expected." And there has been a lot of people making excuses for what Trump has done. A lot of "The ends justify the means."

If Clinton had been elected, I'd be saying the same about her voters. But she wasn't... It's amazing to see how, even this far past the election, the standard excuse for any Trump statement/action is "But, Clinton..." Excusing an inappropriate/bad action by saying that your opponent did it is like a little kid saying "But Mommy, Johnny did it!"

I am working here with mostly Trump supporters, a couple very vocal, I have nothing but respect for them. They are by no means stupid. I keep my mouth shut about my opinion of their political preferences. We are all working together. We spent yesterday, in the rain, working on what will be our Ham Radio clubhouse/workshop. We're planning a big Field Day event this year.

August Johnson said...

And JMG - I will ask people to be honest. Do they really support someone who says this?

Donald J Trump @realDonaldTrump

Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.

4:07 AM - 6 Feb 2017

So, if it isn't in full agreement with him, it's fake? What would the reaction be from the other side if a Democrat president had said that? Again, I have to say that this resembles the rantings of my late Father-in-Law who suffered from dementia. I'm not making a diagnosis here, but this makes me feel more that a bit uneasy. Do you really feel that these are appropriate statements from the President of the USA?

Eric S. said...

I was moving over the weekend so am fairly late to the conversation, but hopefully not too late to contribute. One thought that I have looking at the cyclical arcs of history and perceptions of its shape is the degree to which one’s perception of it can be determined by both individual circumstances, and by the place along that arc that one lives. To someone who was born in a certain social class in Rome in the early years of the first century CE, it may be very easy to go through one’s whole life believing in something very like progress. The old men would have told stories about the civil wars following the reign of Nero, they would have been coming to an awareness of broader political and social issues during Hadrian’s abandonment of the outer territories, and their adulthood would have been marked by the relative stability and prosperity of the Antonine dynasty, the last of their old age in the early years of Marcus Aurelius’ reign offering a hope of the outer barbarian tribes coming under the order of Roman law once and for all. They wouldn’t live to see the political assassinations and civil wars of the coming years. Meanwhile, to someone of that same social class watching Attila’s oncoming hoards centuries later, it might as well be the unique and complete end of the world regardless of what may be happening in some distant future or in some other far off place. The same can be applied to our own time and our own region of the world. For many people living in the West, especially among the privileged social classes, the number of people who remember a time when there has been anything but continuous progress is steadily decreasing… meanwhile, to someone who was elderly or middle aged during the first half of the twentieth century, especially if they were living in Europe, it once more may as well have been apocalypse, to those who don’t survive, the possibility of an eventual recovery is a temporal version of the nearby campsite in To Build a Fire, it may be close, but that isn’t going to help them much. This is why in so much late Roman and early Medieval Christianity, it made perfect sense to believe that those were the end times, because functionally they were and were going to continue to be for the lifetimes of anyone involved, and the only way to get out of that eternal tribulation was to die. I think for many people the question isn’t even so much “is progress going to continue forever,” so much as “is progress going to continue long enough that I can die safe and content,” to people looking towards a future cataclysm, it’s a similar thought. To someone with certain health problems, in certain areas vulnerable to particularly high levels of violence or environmental catastrophe, or of a certain age, the question of recovery doesn’t matter too much… and if a period of unrest lasts decades rather than a few years or months before something resembling a “new normal” is restored, then even a person who has youth, health, and skill on their side may be spending the rest of their lives in a world that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to apocalyptic fiction they may have read or seen in cinema (there are some places in the world that look that way already and have for a while now). If they’re not likely to see the period of recovery, then the existence of the recovery is something of an irrelevance to them, and to someone preparing for such an interruption, the reality of an interruption that includes a slight recovery and a descent into a dark age, an interruption that continues forever as humanity gaps one long dying breath, and an interruption that is followed by a recovery and a resumption of onward, upward progress is going to look much the same. It takes a special type of mind to be able to detach oneself from the way history feels and take a long view of it, and even when a mind can do that, it is even more difficult to transform that abstraction into something useful (which is, of course, something that is this blog’s central goal).

August Johnson said...

JMG - This may seem off topic at first, bear with me.

An example of the limited world-view of those of us living in the USA. I learned as a teenager that the country we lived in was the United States of America, not just the United States. This was when I was living in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. The people there were proud to live in a country known as the Estados Unidos Mexicanos, or the Mexican United States. It was not polite for me to refer to the USA as the United States.

I saw people living in poverty that those of us in the USA have a very hard time even imagining, yet these people were proud of their country and kept their dignity. We knew several who were employed at the institutes where my father worked who lived in 1 or 2 room Adobe homes with dirt floors and no plumbing. These were wonderful people and something that really gripes me about Trump is his constant insulting and degrading of Mexico. When someone insults my friends, I can't help but take it personally. I'm still in contact today with some of the people I met in Mexico in the mid-1970's.

Raymond Duckling said...

On the ongoing debate about the right vs left.

First, I want to applaud and support Chris/Cherokee's position. Those hard words were much needed. Both sides are equally capable of the most horrific acts of violence. The alt right seems to me more capable of throwing the first punch, mostly due to their cultivated cynism and sense of detachment... but the other side would response with even greater ferocity when they feel their backs agains the wall.

@Scotly, please don't expell Dammerung and his kind just yet. Some of us have interest to hear what they have to say. I have learned about both my and their strenghts and weaknesses during our first exchange a couple of weeks ago.

@Gwizard43, August, I miss the cozier atmosphere too, but it does not mean the current tone of discurse is inherently bad. I will repeat what I said before, you need to hear this words so that you are prepared. The kekist are not going to just quit talking like that because you censor them, they will just go back and keep doing their thing behind closed doors.

I am going to share something personal. I suffered an extortion attempt about a year ago. Someone claiming to be from the Cartels, said that they had aprehended a low brow criminal who had information about my family. He claimed that the Cartel do not have any business in messing with the lives of people of good will like myself, and that this vermin needed to be put down. He offered to have the criminal "go away" in exchange for protection money. I hang up and disconnected the phone.

This is routine this side of the border. The Cartels are too busy making cash hand over fist to even bother with small fish like me. What happens is that there is a swarm of con artist that have learned to take advantage of the state of insecurity to prey on the people. There are fake kidnappings and real kidnappings, extortions by organized crime and extortions by convicted criminals that smugle mobile phones and go threatening people, just to have their wives and children collect the ransom money.

This is common knowledge this side of the border. Many friends and family have been targeted by one of these attempts. And even knowing that, it was a very hard decision to hang up. But at the end, I decided that I would not panic unless and until I see armed men knocking on my door. The gamble payed off, no one has come after me or my family, yet.

The thing is, if you are going to break if some meanacing guy comes and tell you horrible things, you are not going to survive the ordeal ahead. Dammerung has been unknowingly providing a valuable service here. You need to hear this things in the relative security of the Internet, because later you are going to hear them directly spoken to you, and even later you may get to see some of those things carried out in real life. You must know beforehand, so that you will not freeze.

So, please JMG, do not make this a "safe space" to be. Your readership may not appreciate the tone, but they need to hear it nonetheless.

onething said...

DeVaul, fair enough, and I intended to utilize that very option, until near the end. I have not voted for the two party system in over 20 years and nonetheless was scared enough by Hillary's warmongering rhetoric that I thought it safer to do my small bit to prevent what I saw as a near definite war with Russia as opposed to a possibility of at least not that.

Sven Eriksen said...

@JMG

Re: iFailure. We really do need to grapple with the whole simulacrum consciousness thing one of these days, as the point you made applies to a whole galaxy of things and not just technology in particular. That said, I'm looking forward to delving into philosophy this Wednesday.

Happy Panda said...

I have a request of JMG should he be so inclined. I'd like to see him write or at least mention in a paragraph or two of why he doesn't find Peter Turchin's cliodynamics theory (methodology?) of history to be convincing. I gather perhaps its due to excessive reliance on quantification but I'm not certain if that's the only or even primary objection.

Maybe it could be included in one or two of the upcoming philosophy essays? Anyway...it's something I'm hoping Mr. Greer will consider.

Bill Pulliam said...

The issue for me about the tone is not strong talk about hard things. It is personal insults directly at other commentors. This used to be verboten. It is not anymore. I do not mean telling someone that their ideas are totally wrongheaded. I mean telling someone that they are a clueless elitist or a hateful racist. I don't know if the second has been said, but the first has been said to me on multiple occasions in the last year, usually late in the comment cycle when JMG might not be paying as much attention

Justin said...

@ Scotlyn,

I often wonder what would happen, if say, a wayward bunch of explorers in say, 1300, ended up transmitting the worst of the European diseases to the Native Americans. The dieoff and the associated natural selection for tolerances for European diseases (and maybe some American clades of those diseases would form and be nasty for Europeans). In 300 years, the disease resistant genes would still have a much higher frequency than they did before the initial pandemic event (10% of Europeans still have genes that protect them from plague today, for example) and because the Indians would be pushing up against ecological limits and competing with each other they would likely be more territorial and militant. Ultimately there is no escaping the logic that violence is the ultimate authority - invasion is never off the table, it's just often not a great idea. Which is why we use violence to establish more humane systems of hierarchy and authority.

As far as 'natural locomotion', well, it's a mess. For instance global inequality is such that a welfare recipient in northern Europe gets many times the wages of an African worker, for doing essentially nothing. So it makes sense that given the opportunity, Africans try to go to northern Europe to collect welfare. I don't blame the African, I blame the idiotic northern Europeans (and the subversive elements in those societies) for allowing this. Of course, one can't say anything about these problems in northern Europe and expect to keep ones job or even avoid a visit to jail these days.

Of course, I'm required to lie about a lot of things (at least by omission). Until recently I worked for a company which is developing an unnecessary and unsustainable product (the new job isn't much better, but it's natural-resource related so at least it's actually useful). In all the various meetings etc about the utterly pointless product we were making, at no point was I permitted to point out the basic reality of the situation - I'd lose my job - and then, in a while, when my chequing account ran out - I'd lose my privilege to live indoors. So I lied, and probably so did others. It really is something.

Douglass was speaking and writing in the context of an America that had a frontier. When there is no more frontier, then people who have settled in a place have just as much right to natural defense as would-be immigrants do to attempt a forcible invasion. To quote the Australians, "frack off, we're full". Pentti Linkola certainly would agree:

"What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and only one lifeboat, with room for only ten people, has been launched? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides of the boat"

Justin said...

Chris/Cherokee, regarding the alt-right, good post. Regarding the alt right, well, I went there, believed in literal "Hitler did nothing wrong" Nazism for a little while, but ultimately I came back with some useful ideas without retaining the various essential bigotries of the alt-right. Of course, people still would call me a Nazi, but that's par for the course these days - lots of serious alt-righters would call me a Marxist or a cuckservative or something. You're either with us or you're a National Boshlevist or something. Oh well.

I'm happy to sit on the authoritarian socialist side of the alt-center or whatever comes out of the wreckage of 2017.

Justin said...

One final thought on the alt-right:

The thing that must be understood about the alt-right is that the alt-right is the mainstream (meaning most people know it exists and think it matters one way or another) political alignment which most closely matches my views, even though I disagree with the bigotry and much of the revisionist history. I don't think I'm alone in this. That's because the choices are neoliberalism, neoconservativism (which is basically just 10-year old neoliberalism plus more invasions), libertarianism, anarchism or the alt-right. That's why we desperately need an alt-center.

Bruno B. L. said...

I've had that one at the back of my mind for quite a while now, but never got to express it articulately. The great civil religions of Western Civ as a tentative of reinvigorating it. Followed by the nihilism of post-modernity, just like middle age crisis are often followed by depression over the proximity of death in old age. Thank you!

Varun Bhaskar said...

Archdruid,

I am against an increase in censorship. No one is being specifically rude to anyone else, no one is swearing. We are all engaging each other across vast political divides, and that often means realizing that the political views someone else holds can be offensive or threatening just by the fact that they stand in opposition to ones own views. Let the alt-right and activist left have their say. I stand in opposition to both sides.

Regards,

Varun

August Johnson said...

OK JMG, I'm going to shut up on here while I take the time to write you a well thought-out letter.

August

Fred the First said...

On the Chris Martenson podcast one of his guests was talking about the market crashing 70-90% in the next three years. So listen and its the same old, same old - too much private and public debt, the money printing, etc. Then he said something I hadn't heard - labor productivity has been going down ever since the Baby Boomers starting retiring and each year as they leave the workforce, productivity gets worse. Huh? I'm intrigued.

I googled the BLS and found this report which doesn't show the stair step down he is referring to, but it show a 1% productivity growth the last nine years. https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-6/below-trend-the-us-productivity-slowdown-since-the-great-recession.htm One percent growth to me looks like a rounding error.

The funny part about that chart btw is that is violates the first rule of chart making - make sure your measures are equal across the axis. Notice they did some funny business to make the numbers say something different than what is actually so.

Anyway, why would productivity go down every year a boomer retires? We have technology! And robots! Progress is happening!

Putting on my Archdruid Hat - is that a thing? It should totally be a thing - I realized it's because we are fooled into thinking that work in office places happens because of the tools we use, not the people. People who began working before computers became ubiquitous know that to get anything done requires a conversation one-on-one with a person using your influence or negotiation skills. Now when people go to work in office buildings they spend all day in group meetings and sending email back and forth. No one gets work done based on emails. Emails just spur more questions. And no one works when they are sitting around a table talking about what to do. The emails and meetings are all about cya (cover your a**) so people can hide from responsibility and real work.

The Podesta emails shocked me not only for the content, but the for the sheer volume. A campaign writing that volume of email couldn't have been working effectively on the work of campaigning. Its like each person typed 5,000 words a day into the void.

Interesting times, interesting times.....

Armata said...

Interesting article from Newsmax, suggesting that the most opinion polls may be understating Donald Trump's level of popular support.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Myself, I am not interested in having a "cozier" comment section on this blog. I want to read people whose values are different from mine, and even those who occasionally outrage and enrage me. I don't come here either for community or for support through hard times, but to have my own ideas challenged and threatened, and to be made to think in ways I otherwise would not. The commenters here excel at that! Dissensus in action!

I particularly value Dammerung's comments, although we are very far apart in our respective values and politics. He is quite intelligent, and appears to have been very frank about his aims and his strategy. If ever we are on opposite sides of a no-holds-barred conflict -- and it might come to this within my own remaining years --, I believe that my chances of winning that conflict have been greatly increased by what he has revealed in his comments on this blog. "Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer" is a wise old saying.

Needless to say, I do recognize that some -- perhaps most -- of the commenters do come here for support and to find a community of the like-minded. They, too, can find what they need here, though recently at greater cost than before. A certain subset of those commenters may even need, desparately need, a safe space for that support and community. I hope that subset is small, for my own sake. What I need and value here is the relatively "unsafe space" that our host has provided for major dissensus. If this space were to become completely safe, I would likely lose some of my interest in it.

Christophe said...

John Michael, I wholeheartedly agree with several other commenters that, not only your modeling of, but also your limitation to polite discourse has been profoundly inspiring and educational for many of us. Your uncompromising standards have proven against all odds that, even in the blogosphere, consistently worthwhile discourse can be achieved through the rigorous and universal application of limits. These past few weeks have clearly given many of your longtime commenters a jarring appreciation of the work you do to maintain the integrity of this symposium. Long overdue thanks on that count.

Recent comment threads have also provided a vivid case study for how a fairly self-restraining community can rapidly descend into bickering gridlock in times of stress, leading it to beg a benevolent dictator to reassert control. Hail, Archdruid! Spengler seems to have hit another home run.

Please do re-impose upon all of us the standards of courtesy that so noticeably distinguish this blog from its peers. Please also continue to post and to respond to polite comments containing all sorts of divergent opinions. The quality of the dialogue in this comment section is cultured by exposing each essay to analysis from as many viewpoints as you have civil commenters. In a world of assiduously purged echo-chambers, that is rare indeed.

Reading the thoughtful and extensive deliberation you had with DoubtingThomas last month gave me a glimpse into the unusual level of respect necessary on both sides if any rapprochement is to occur. I certainly hope that DoubtingThomas took your responding to his comment publicly in this post as an honoring, not ridiculing of his considerable contribution -- few have stood so unflinchingly in the Archdruid's gaze.

The acrid tauntings that Gwizard43 highlighted in an earlier comment do seem to fall quite short of civility or common courtesy. Their contribution to the conversation could surely be increased by requiring more thoughtful composition. I imagine demanding more polite discourse will lead to a higher signal to noise ratio and fewer weekly comments to respond to -- a deserved break for our esteemed host.

John Michael Greer said...

Dltrammel, Bannon seems to be an interesting cat. The thing that I find fascinating, though, is that someone with ideas so far from the bipartisan consensus is now advising the most powerful human being on the planet. Strange days!

Tim, excellent! That bit of ecological comparison earns you tonight's gold star. It's entirely possible, as I suggested back a ways in The Ecotechnic Future, that industrial civilization is the first, most wasteful, and most short-lived sere in the process of succession that will eventually lead to technic civilizations capable of very long term stability; your suggestion that this might be true of civilizations more generally deserves, I think, serious consideration.

As for the pornographization of the hierarchy of needs -- hmm. That may indeed be the metaphor I need. Hmm again...

Candace, that's a complex and hugely important issue. I discussed it to some extent in the sequence of posts that turned into The Wealth of Nature, but it could use considerable expansion; I'll consider further posts on the subject down the road a bit.

MichaelK, er, I take it you don't remember the days when the Reagan administration was packed with fundamentalist Christians who insisted, among other things, that we didn't have to protect the environment because Jesus was coming soon and would fix everything for us. Apocalyptic fantasists have been getting access to political power here in the US for a very long time.

Cherokee, and that same ability to turn your back on dysfunctional behavior is probably a good bit of why you're comfortably ensconced in an off-grid homestead, too! It's a good thing to cultivate.

Bob, if the far future doesn't concern you, this blog is going to bore you fairly often. The far future interests me, even though I won't be around to see it, and so we'll be talking about it at length here.

Mojoglo, I'd encourage you to be suspicious when anyone tries to use buzzwords like "fascism" and "the wrong side of history" to goad you into political activity. Those are demagogues' tactics, and very often conceal unstated agendas. If you feel that politics are relevant to your life right now, I'd encourage you to choose your own style of involvement and activity -- and in any case, deepening your spiritual roots and changing the way you relate to the biosphere and your bioregion is to my mind some of the most useful things anybody can do right now.

Tidlösa, no matter how the Second World War ended, there was going to be a totalitarian state ruling eastern Europe for a while thereafter -- and it's a matter of historical record that Stalin was responsible for significantly more mass killings than Hitler, so I'm not even sure how great the difference would have been. (Robert Harris' novel Fatherland, to my mind, scored a direct hit by portraying life in a victorious German Reich in 1964 in terms very closely modeled on life in the Soviet Union in that same year. So the wheels keep turning round...

Myriad said...

I report, in my occasional role as a video media spy (that is to say, a sometime TV watcher): there was a Super Bowl ad for oil.

Not the Of Olay variety, but the stuff from the ground that (as phrases flashed during the ad reminds us) is struck, tapped, gushed, and pumped. The American Petroleum Institute apparently felt it worth five million dollars plus video production costs to inform the public that oil is great stuff, especially for non-fuel uses such as paints, makeup, and plastics. (The latter are represented in the ad by advanced-looking artificial hands and hearts rather than, say, piles of discarded soda bottles or the inventory of a dollar store.)

I'm usually pretty good at figuring out the industry motivations behind such "whole industry" ads. Usually they has far more to do with investor perceptions (and thus, ultimately, stock prices) than motivating consumer purchases. I haven't worked this one out fully, though. Is the American Petroleum Institute worried that investors will mistakenly perceive a few electric cars on the road as a sign that petroleum is passé? Are they trying to muddle understanding of oil's role in climate change by pointing to the small percentage of it that isn't burned as fuel? Are they actually afraid the public will, against all plausibility, deliberately reduce their use of petroleum products any time soon? Does the ad relate to some proposed or pending change in government policies? Or are they positioning (way too early, it would seem to me) for oil's eventual role as a feedstock for luxury products once it's no longer affordable as fuel?

The 30-second ad can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EaUkZdrvvw

John Michael Greer said...

LatheChuck, interesting. The thing that makes historical cycles endlessly intriguing, at least to me, is that it's always different music playing, and a different hotel room, and a different person waking up -- but the same broad set of events follows step by step anyway. Certainly, the progression from hedonism through nihilism to altruism is one option in response...

Avery, yes, I'd read that.

LatheChuck, and it would be an intriguing project, for those sufficiently familiar with the various models, to compare them to historical cycles and see which one(s) produce the best fit.

Caryn, it's always different each time, and the differences don't change the fact that the same cycle repeats itself. As for the hunter-gatherers, they're not going to emerge until the biosphere recovers, of course. I thought I'd made it adequately clear that we're not talking about overnight transformations...

Roy, if someone were to start preaching a bona fide messianic revitalization movement right now in terms that appealed to the anti-Trump coalition, I'm quite convinced that it would become a huge mass movement in no time flat. The strategy of bringing down constitutional government in order to overturn Trump's election, on the other hand, strikes me as rather too familiar -- we've seen this one play out how many times in foreign countries? Follow the money, and my guess is some familiar names will turn out to be behind it.

Chris, I'm also an astrologer, and I think you're being profoundly simplistic in your analysis.

Scotlyn, thanks for the correction. I really don't know how they'll fare. As for philosophy and medicine, duly noted -- I'm doing research right now into the current state of antibiotic resistance among pathogens, which bids fair to have an immense impact on health care everywhere.

Mgalimba, I certainly hope you're right.

Sunseekernv, nope -- thanks for the pointer!

Agent, exactly. It's possible to predict the trajectory of a civilization for much the same reason that it's possible to predict the behavior of a gas under specific conditions of temperature and pressure: the unpredictable behavior of individuals is more or less cancelled out in mass quantities.

Hubertus, yes, but that's not something we're going to discuss here. The people out there who are calling for that to happen have apparently forgotten that advocating the commission of a crime is a crime under federal law, and in this particular case, there may be hard time involved.

Myriad, hah! I buy books on philosophy, use them, and appreciate them, though. ;-)

Jbarber said...

History can't be predicted because the prediction fails to account for extraordinary individuals? Sounds like someone has been reading Asimov's "Foundation" series again.

Armata said...

Check out the latest incarnation of Kek - Pepe Le Pen!

John Michael Greer said...

DeVaul, er, I think you're overstating things considerably. Statements of the same kind have been made about Iran repeatedly by the last two US presidential administrations, you know.

Econojames, they're very much relevant -- and yes, I also find it comforting to reflect on the broader context of deep time. As for science and what's real, why, we'll be talking about that shortly!

Hubertus, that's why I've said over and over again that if we're going to keep some of those technologies going through the coming dark age, people here and now are going to have to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Hubertus, yeah, I got to see the same sort of thing now and again, too. Those are the times I wonder if "sapiens" really ought to be the name of our species.

Onething, I think it's quite possible that an attempt is under way to organize one.

Caelan, that's pretty typical, all things considered.

Crow Hill, the difficulties with that thesis are that, first, there's extensive evidence for deforestation in the Lowland Maya heartland from the terminal classic period, and second, there's also extensive evidence for severe malnutrition and a 95% population decline during the terminal classic period. I'd want to see any alternative theory explain that body of evidence.

Matt, the Lardbucket really is the gift that just keeps on giving!

Iuval, in every generation there are people who claim they can use the fruits of the system without being coopted by it. In every generation, they end up faced with a choice between letting themselves be coopted or being deprived of the fruits of the system. That is to say, if you think you can remain dependent on empire and still oppose it, you're kidding yourself.

Latefall, good. As a summary, that works quite well.

Lordberia3, that's one of the problems with political groupthink: when somebody does something genuinely different, the response involves a lot of screeching and waving of hands, and not always much else.

Nastarana, I don't read critics or major newspapers, but I play Copeland pieces quite often and enjoy them; so do other people I know. As for Wagner, who said an opera has to be an improvement over an epic poem? I've also read the source material, and enjoy those, Wagner's operas, and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, another creative project drawing on much of the same material. If you don't -- why, then, you don't, and that's no concern of mine.

patriciaormsby said...

I agree with Robert Mathiesen and hope you will continue to allow a voice here to all parts of the political spectrum in a polite conversation. I don't read comments sections anywhere else, because they are typically either completely unmoderated flame wars or moderated to reflect a bias of a majority that only supports preconceptions. If we are to retain any form of democracy, these are not the times to be cozy.

In other words, I love the dissensus you foster so well.

Bill Pulliam said...

Let's not slander lardbuckets, please. What they yield can produce some of the finest pastries and most savory dishes known to humankind. And if we can believe "The Last Kingdom" (historical fiction set in the reign of Alfred the Great) when properly deployed as weapons they can decimate an entire Viking flotilla.

All hail lard! Save us from the wicked abomination called "vegetable shortening!"

Quos Ego said...

To Robert, Raymond, etc.:

No ones here wants a cozier or safer place. No one wants censorship.

We're just asking dissensus here to be civil again.

Nancy Sutton said...

"...how much of it is really worth saving? " Has our Western Civilization given women more rights? acknowledged the illegality (if not the persistence) of slavery? given lip service, at least, to environmental protection? given lip service, at least, to equality? considered child protection, along with animal protection, a possibility? produdced the notion of religious tolerance? (OK Genghis Khan did also, but he was an anomaly)... ?
I realize these are delicate flowers that will be blasted.... but the seeds have been planted... I think.

onething said...

Dear August,

On this: Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.

I think you misunderstood. He is not saying that anytime there is a negative about him it's always fake. He is saying that on this issue, he thinks people want border control and vetting, and that if it is reported otherwise, he suspects a skewed poll.

I worry about Trump quite a bit, but I find it a breath of fresh air that he can simply come out and say things that are true, like that our media are all in lockstep and don't report accurately because of their agenda.

There really is an agenda and it can be very, very hard to break through it. Of course that is worrying in a democracy. Someone above said Trump provokes a lot of insanity. But I think that agenda exists and they are deliberately provoking these extreme reactions to him. I'd say they're pretty successful at it. I'm pretty sure if the media had a different take, so would most people.

JMG, If the tone here has deteriorated I hadn't really noticed. Maybe it has.

Kevin Warner said...

"Robert Mathiesen said...
What I need and value here is the relatively "unsafe space" that our host has provided for major dissensus. If this space were to become completely safe, I would likely lose some of my interest in it."

I'll second that comment. Personally, if I wanted a safe space that was self-referential, I would get a Facebook account. On second thought, I'd rather be assimilated by the Borg first.

"John Michael Greer said..
but I play Copeland pieces quite often and enjoy them"

I've heard some of his work so I guess that would include Appalachian spring, would it? For what it is worth, might I suggest other works worth trying such as Holst's "The Planets", Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" (Baroque is nearly always great), some Fleetwood Mac and a bit of classic Beatles for variety? Good music seems to be good for the soul.

Fred the First said...

In regards to the comments, I've noticed the name-calling and the hurt feelings. As my grandmother always said, "it takes two to fight". If you are in a disagreement with someone, you are the cause of it and have an opportunity to stop. I'm not saying to agree with the other person. I'm saying you must look beyond the right/wrong dynamic you find yourself in and find a way to get along with the other.

A suggestion I have is that JMG put through the best 5-10 comments that support what his post is about, each time he scans through what was submitted. It would shorten what we all were reading and put the onus on us as commenters to write more thoughtful comments, rather than on JMG to moderate us more.

We could take the conversations and back and forth over to greenwizards.com. We can have more of the emotional processing talk over there that seems to be needed these days.

Nancy Shirley said...

At Naked Capitalism, the facilitator Yves Smith wrote a post about comments that is similar to what is being said here about left vs right comments:
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/on-comments.html

"I see Naked Capitalism as beyond the stupid virtue signalling of Left/Right labelling. I see it as concerned with a conception of social justice that actuallly connects with life conditions of decent people – and a justifiable faith that, all things being equal, pretty much all people ARE decent people.

For some commenters, it turned out that the real bone of contention was that we now have a few Trump supporters who comment regularly. They have not broken any house rules and we are not about to run them off.

If the site actually does anything, then presumably its effect on people is to push them to consider views that they would not have looked at previously, and to force them to defend their own views. In other words, far from being seen as a sort of “contamination,” if there are “non-left” people on the site, it should be seen as an opportunity. (If they’re organic, of course – but over time we do a pretty good job of eliminating the true trolls.)

People complaining about having to debunk newcomers’ arguments are ultimately complaining about being given an opportunity to do effective politics. Politics isn’t an academic seminar where only the smartest people are allowed to speak. Nor is it a salon of uniformly right-thinking people who congratulate each other on their virtue while disagreeing on minor tactical points. It’s about trying to persuade other people, even including those who start out with views that are in some ways problematic or misinformed. Yes, it can be somewhat repetitive. So what? If making the same argument more than once drives you crazy, find another hobby."

August Johnson said...

Onething - This isn't the first time Trump has used the "Fake News" theme. He's been using it anytime something negative is reported about him for quite some time. Anytime... It's disgusting that the president calls me fake because I disagree with him. But I guess it's where we've deteriorated to.

And yes, the tone here has deteriorated. JMG used to seriously call someone out for name-calling. Now he doesn't even give them a slap on the wrist, just continues the conversation with them.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...


Re public discourse in the context of this forum

Long ago, when my dad was a Republican business executive and I a pacifist, anti-war teenager prone to ditching school to participate in demonstrations, I learned a valuable lesson from him: that it was possible to sit at the dinner table (our family ate dinner together every night) and debate ideas and politics without stopping loving one another or endangering the family structure. The rules were that we kids—and he—had to refrain from insults, keep our tempers, and put forth sound reasons for our views. “’Cause I think so, so I know it’s true” was derided as simple opinion, not worth spending time on unless backed up with some kind of thoughtful analysis, evidence, or provable facts. Over time we each moderated. When he retired, he devoted his life to helping those less fortunate than himself in a variety of hands-on ways, while I turned to finding productive, life and ecosystem enhancing things to work for, rather than only standing in opposition.

Thus from this background do I say: It is one thing to insult the other side within the safety of a group of the likeminded. However, in a public forum in which radically different views are being put forth, the talk, in my opinion, should center on the ideas and the discussion of same. There is a huge difference between ideas and viewpoints on the one hand, and the language used to express them, on the other. Language used to intimidate--whether from left, right, alt-right, or any other ideological or religious perspective—is not being used to actually advance discussion, persuade or examine ideas. It is being used to express hostility, in varying shades and intensities.

This is clearly not helpful to anyone, not even the speakers, though they may gain some kind of pleasure from it. So, to all, please make an argument; do not use short-hand jargon or slurs, call names or fling insults. Put ideas out there and explain why you think that way, don’t just use a variant of the sentence “those x?%$s are wrong because they’re &#@?*s.” There are plenty of forums—mostly not worth the bother of visiting-- where that is the norm already.

This forum is unique, remarkable, precious—and precarious. I would hate to see it devolve into simply another place on the internet where people express hostility and conflicting views in an unproductive manner, without coming to terms, finding solutions, learning from one another, or any of the other valuable things to be gained from a truly productive exchange of opinions—backed by thoughtful analysis, evidence, or provable facts.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Quos Ego wrote:

"No ones here wants a cozier or safer place. No one wants censorship. We're just asking dissensus here to be civil again."

You can't possibly know that for a fact, Quos Ego: "No one[s] here" and "No one."

. said...

Justin, the idea of applying limits to human migrations is a very emotive one for people. I don't think it's just the product of the US frontier mentality. It's part of the bigger issue of the religion of Progress and Man conquering nature. Limits are satanic in that belief system.

So using analogies that involve people drowning and getting their hands axed off is possibly not the best way to talk about it! Everyone needs a calm rational discussion about those limits to happen so please consider being more careful not to trigger unhelpful emotional reactions. That's my unasked for advice for the day done...

Mallow.

Bill Pulliam said...

Things always seem to snap back to short term partisan politics. So let's snap that the other way again. Pretty much everyone who actually has thought about this stuff has agreed that, as resource scarcity gradually grows, suburbia is doomed. It is way too dependent on expensive infrastructure, and produces next to nothing.

Our current overhyped "red blue divide" is really a suburban urban divide. People like to characterize the red voters as rural, but they really are on average suburban. True rural residents remain as voiceless and powerless as ever. Nor are the "Reds" mostly poor; they still as of the 2016 election had incomes that were on average solidly middle class. The growth of Red America has mostly been a story of the growth of Suburban America. No point in countering with "well, *I* am not like that!" You read and comment on The Archdruid Report. This means you are not an average American voter on any spectrum.

So what happens over the coming century as suburbia slowly crumbles? The illusion of the self-reliant nuclear family collapses under the weight of unmaintained roads, decaying schools, and expensive energy for all that transportation, heating, lawn care, etc. I am not even going to hazard a guess at what the political movement is that will grow out of this, other than to say I am pretty sure it does not look very much like either of the major parties right now, nor like any of the "alt" versions of them presently in vogue.

The internet may be overwhelmed now with talk of Trumpistas and SJW Snowflakes, but I expect few will even remember those terms in another generation or two. And those across the landscape who are ferociously arguing the merits and demerits of the current political entities are not the voices of the future. They are echoes of the past that have not yet faded.

Quos Ego said...

@Robert Mathiesen:

Sorry for my poorly worded comment (and full of typos!).
I meant I haven't seen anyone here ask for a cozier and safer place: what's been asked is simply the return of/to good old-fashioned civility. The "blood libel" comment posted two weeks ago, for instance (I'm quoting one of the most obvious ones, but there are plenty of those these days), would never have been allowed here until the 2016 election rampage.

August Johnson said...

Onething, here's the statement, direct from the White House, that "Fake News" applies to any negative reporting about Trump, not just the immigration ban.

-----

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, said Monday that the administration will continue using the term "fake news" until the media understands that their "monumental desire" to attack the President is wrong.

"There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media, not just the pollsters, the majority of the media to attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term," Gorka, a former Breitbart editor who also holds a PhD in political science, told syndicated conservative radio host Michael Medved.

"That's how unhealthy the situation is and until the media understands how wrong that attitude is, and how it hurts their credibility, we are going to continue to say, 'fake news.' I'm sorry, Michael. That's the reality," he added

---

If you don't bow down to whatever Trump says, you're Fake... I guess I'm Fake...

Jen said...

@ Bill Pulliam, regarding suburbia

While the current suburban culture is dysfunctional and frankly repellent (to me at least) I think there is more potential there than people acknowledge. Most suburban households have plenty of space for extended families due to excessive home size, and more growing space than is available to most city dwellers--a suburban lot managed with intensive organic gardening and/or permaculture can be very productive. Lack of proximity to necessities is an issue, but honestly about all one needs is a grocery and general store, the addition of which does not strike me as prohibitive if circumstances began trending against commuter culture. Lack of proximity to jobs is more intractable, but many rural communities have few jobs and manage to hobble along with a combination of cottage economy, subsistence activity, and seasonal or sporadic work, plus maybe a person or two in the family with a "real" job, and I don't see any real reason that sort of retrenchment is out of the question for suburbanites.

Ed-M said...

Hi JMG!

Crikey! Looks like Blogger ate my comments.

"... there's got to be some unique future awaiting us--uniquely splendid or uniquely horrible,..."

And of course that more interesting "second class of arguments, which insist that I can’t dismiss the possibility that something might pop up out of the blue to make things different this time around."

Well industrial civilisation will definitely go througth the whole life cycle that all civilisations, stars and living things go through, but we already are going through something different this time. The uniquely splendid part is the Happy Mortoring![TM] lifestyle of American suburbanity which has spread far and wide across almost all the nations of the Earth as economically and culturally possible. It's quite the testament to its splendidness that only Cuba--so far--and North Korea and scattered indigenous peoples seem to be able to resist it. It's also a testament to its uniqueness that humanity has never seen anything quite like it before.

Oh, I know, I know, Rome had something similar: the Augustan History of Septimus Severus makes mentions of highways leading to suburban estates from the city. But Rome at its largest contained only somewhat over a million people and occupied a space of about twenty square miles, both small by today's standards, the highways were only narrow though superbly-engineered country ways, and the suburbs were open only to the top 1% of the day: the equestrians and senators. What's the difference and what makes today's industrial civilisation automotive lifestyle unique?

The extraction and burning of fossil fuels, that's what. The resultant rate of increase of Carbon Dioxide in Earth's Atmossphere is utterly unprecedented in all of Earth's [human and deep] history. This same extraction is going to make the coming bad years uniquely horrible and different from everything else in the course of human history: global warming of at least 6 degrees C in the course of a thousand years, above the heights of the present interglacial. To find something similar you have to go back to the Permian ExSTINKtion which was caused by the burning of way too much Coal by vulacanism during the icy depths or interglacial heights of the glaciation of its time. And from that "uttah disastuh" which made the planet "smell like New Joisey," it'll probably pan out to be no different this time.

n.b. when I was a little kid, my family went by car between Maryland and Massachusetts a few times, and we always went by the Jersey Turnpike. The Clean Air Act was not yet in force, and both the Secaucus Marshes and Refinery Row smelled like rotten eggs! The Donald knows what I'm talking about.

RE: your reply 2/2/17 12:30 AM to Geographist: but we don't have time for several more rounds of Caesarism! Global Weirding will put the kibosh on Human Civilisation long before then, possibly as soon as 2100 or even 2050. Go find the latest research on what happened to the weather at the end of the Eemian which was about 2 deg C warmer than today (ca 1950). It's not pretty -- so it appears we'll be looking at business as usual to the bitter end unless the fossil fuel reserves' extractability problems fully manifest themselves first.

lordberia3@gmail.com said...

On the subject of the tone of the forum, I welcome the broad range of opinions and commentators on this forum, and don't think the tone has deteriorated over the past few years. What has changed is that a broader non-left influx of readers have discovered John's blog and that appears to have upset some of the older readership who come from the left-wing end of politics.

There are lots of forums that remain a safe space for left-liberal thinking, however John has kindly allowed a unique space that allows folks from across the board to participate in discussing our future. Long may it continue!

Regarding Steve Bannon, he is a fascinating figure. The legacy liberal media have painted him as a white nationalist but this is not my reading at all. Bannon is certainly a nationalist and subscribes to a cyclical view of history, which makes him unique within the American elite. I would place him in a populist-nationalist wing of politics who subscribes to traditional values, the primacy of the nation-state and the threat posed by radical Islam. This article is rather interesting on this subject - http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/steve-bannon-books-reading-list-214745

I also note that a new poll has come out which has caused some shock in Europe. A majority of Europeans back a ban on any further Muslim migration into Europe! It has been commissioned by the prestigious Chatham House (https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/what-do-europeans-think-about-muslim-immigration). Interestingly, nearly 60% of the French back a ban on Muslim migration, suggesting that the possibility of a Le Pen win is stronger than the surface polling indicates.

I have written on my blog that the most likely outcome in the coming decades will be the rise of populist and nationalist forces to power across Europe and the end of further Muslim migration into the Continent.

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

Iuval Clejan said...

Dear JMG, therefore since you are also dependent on the fruits of empire (as are we all), you must not oppose it. I suspected as much, although there were times when you seemed to be opposing it. I think the argument makes no sense actually, unless you say that what we use are not the fruits of empire, but the fruits of people and land that go through the middleman of empire. And if you think that by not having a car you are not dependent on empire, you are kidding yourself.

latefall said...

@Bill re suburbia

I would expect the fate of suburbia to depend strongly on local conditions. If the metropolis still produces a good or service that bring in money - I assume many of the urban areas will consume their suburban population readily. I think that is one of the defining features of urban areas: they are population sinks.

If the metropolis is not viable, I assume the question becomes what the next best option is. Probably in many cases it will remain drawing in population with (unrealistic) opportunities, and then keeping the people docile with minimal expenses. A look at Russian monotowns is perhaps worthwhile: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monotown#Problems

Urban centers that remain viable and have trade would likely see their suburban belt converge around the connecting trade routes. Also former communist countries actually saw moderate population density areas being fairly resilient due to gardening, though I can't say how much that will be paralleled in the USA. I'd say unless there is (and perhaps even with) drastic change in what kind of future people plan and strive for drugs will play a major role. Depending on the drug there are a significant variation in the details of the outcome.

The other big factor is probably going to be sanitation infrastructure, diseases, and (more relevant towards the end of that century) child mortality.

If cities can't eat people fast enough, I assume the violent conflicts are another option. If there still is a government, those conflicts can probably be arranged to happen outside the USA, but ideally in regions that are not too inhospitable to make recruitment difficult, are easy to get to, and not particularly threatening (or covered by serious alliances).

Phil Knight said...

I've been musing about seeing the current political divides in terms of energy. It's clear that liberal progressives seem to have a lot more energy than traditional conservatives, and even the populists. For example, they're much more motivated to hold demonstrations, proselytise, climb their way to the top of the bureaucratic/academic/media career ladder etc. I think this is really why they have conquered almost the entire cultural arena.

In turn, I think their energy derives from the religious nature of progressivism. It is clearly a creed which holds certain ideas as sacred.

What Trump/Bannon/Miller etc. appear to be doing is not attempting to counter the progressives' energy by reducing it, or matching it with their own, but instead they are encouraging the progressives to expend their energy at an excessive rate. Their method of doing this is basically by trolling the progressives by simultaneously attacking a number of their sacred values. The rights of refugees (who are living angels in progressive thought) and womens' reproductive rights (considered to be a non-negotiable done deal) are useful targets precisely because they generate such an incendiary response.

In energy conservation terms, think how little energy Trump expends in a five-second Tweet. And then consider the vast reserves of energy that liberals expend in their outraged responses. He's basically encouraging them to burn themselves out.

M Smith said...

Scotlyn,

"Apparently some Suberbowl fans are outraged by a Budweiser ad reminding Americans that, by and large, we are all immigrants who arrived by a process of "locomotion" from elsewhere.


I don't know about you, but I was born here. I am not an immigrant. The overwhelming majority of the people I know are not immigrants. Stop spreading the feel-good falsehood that there are no Americans. Would you smile sweetly and accept it if I said that you were not born in your country of origin, and that your nationality does not exist - merely because some refugees want to live where you do?

M Smith said...

Bill Pulliam commented in part,

"I do not mean telling someone that their ideas are totally wrongheaded. I mean telling someone that they are a clueless elitist or a hateful racist."

Does "raving lunatic racist" count? Because one of the commenters here posted that about me (or some combo platter of those 3 words, don't have time to search each comment on each post and gave up looking for it)late last year but before the election even took place. And what despicable, darkminded, horrid proclamation did I make that triggered the attack? It was that in running a business, my purpose is to make a profit and provide goods and services, not conduct a jobs program for single "moms". Not one person objected to his language - not talking about his opinion - maybe because he's quick to attack and ridicule others here, your posts included, and they didn't want his venom turned on them. The poster continues to comment here and I no longer read his posts.

Glad you're back. Non carborundum illegitimati.

Justin said...

Mallow, sure, and it's a good thing that Linkola quote doesn't play in politics!

But of course, limits also don't play in politics and the Linkola quote is fundamentally about limits. It's entirely possible that war is wired into us - chimpanzees do it after all - when resources get scarce, and what are both the Trump and Clinton camps doing but aligning themselves into two screeching tribes howling about the evils of the Other?

Phil Knight, an idea that's popular in paleocon circles is that when liberals protest or demonstrate, it is more of a victory celebration than actual conflict. Remember that nobody loses their job for putting on a vagina hat and protesting the President.

M Smith said...

jessi Thompson - wanted to let you know I finally installed Linux on my laptop alongside W8.1. As an unsought bonus, Libre reads MS Works files, unlike Open Office. So now I don't need a separate program to do that, or trust one of the sketchy online sites to convert my personal docs.

I used to write Unix scripts and loved it! This will be fun, and as I'm unable to rid my machine of the virus that uses my PC to send out multiple MB of data to unknown destinations, even after two reinstallations of W8.1, it's also an urgent project.

Anyway, wanted to thank you for reminding me about Linux a few months ago. It's leaner, less ubiquitous, and it doesn't feed either of the Big E-Toys players.

Bryant said...

@Phil Knight Its kind of intentional. I've used to work against more liberal organizations, and yes, that's a classic weakness of theirs. Its basically a lot of people with a lot of anger, but it all kind of melds together, so one of the best ways to prevent them from any effective action is to bombard them with so much stimulus that it exhausts them.

On the Right back then, I learned that we were always outnumbered - often vastly, and basically with fewer resources, but with a strong sense of genuine tribal unity and the feel of having the force of tradition behind you.

In a way, it became inspiring as the underdog. When it feels like the world is against you, all that's left is the choice to either: fight and die, or surrender and basically die inside. Of course, our ethos is to fight with a long romance toward last stands, so it continues to drive us.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Thank you for the clarification, Quos Ego. Though I don't remember every comment over the past ten years (who could?), I think you're likely right that the blood libel post was symptomatic of a new development here.

Andrew Roth said...

Calexit worries me a bit, to the small extent that it's viable under current conditions.

First, I was born in California and I vote there. I would consider it a significant hardship to be forced to choose between Californian and US citizenship, both for civic and for bureaucratic reasons. I consider both renunciation of citizenship and naturalization solemn acts that should be taken cautiously and after full discernment, not under duress. For these reasons alone, I'm pretty confident that a Calexit referendum would be defeated; it will be very easy to convince voters of the bureaucratic nightmare of secession, not to mention questions of American patriotism and what the federal government would do to militarily suppress a secession.

Second, I agree with the argument that Calexit is an attempt to keep California's slaves, i.e., its shadow workforce of illegal immigrants and other exploitable foreigners. H-1B and L-1 visa abuse is a huge problem in high tech, and the exploitation of farm workers has been an intractable problem for California's entire history as a polity, going back to the early Spanish missions. Comparisons to Antebellum slavery are hyperbolic, but barely so: there's a glaring racial and cultural angle divide distracting from an underlying class problem that no one has the courage to address, exacerbated by a linuistic divide that didn't exist in most parts of the Antebellum South. If the feds can force a humane, equitable solution to this mess, more power to them. A federal system that licentiously allowed states to make their own laws on chattel slavery by racial attainder set the stage for the Civil War, and a federalism that allows states to make their own decisions about the toleration of a peasant underclass living in the shadows with limited civil rights and liberties isn't all that much better. I really wish affluent Americans weren't so smug about this, and so willfully ignorant of our own national history.

I have similar, but less strenuous, objections to the State of Jefferson and Six Californias. The latter is a revolt of a few shady Silicon Valley elites who are offended that they're expected to contribute to public services in rural parts of the state that send them food, water, oil, and other necessities. The former annoys me because it provides a rallying point for whiny rural grandstanding, much of it by back-to-the-land types who try too hard to be country good old boys and girls. For better and (mostly) worse, I have Ashland connections, and SoJ agitprop is inescapable in the Rogue Valley. I can't stand listening to country bumpkins and city slickers acrimoniously compete for victimhood points while simultaneously trying to divert entire state and federal treasuries into their own troughs. I'm tempted to silence State of Jefferson liberals with reminders that Jefferson had slaves, but I don't want to come away feeling sleazy.

We lost a whole lot of fellow feeling somewhere along the way.

Ray Wharton said...

@Bryant

Thank you for your response to Phil Knight. Right now I am trying to encourage my liberal friends to take more productive tacts. My hope is that with the current patterns disrupted that a more useful alternative to the elitist left might emerge in the near future. Though I know you are a conservative, I hope that you too can see the value of improving the level of dialogue from the other side.

Your insights into the weaknesses of the psychology of left wing mass movements, as currently deployed, rings true to me, and gives me a lot to think about in terms of how the wheat and chafe of leftist movements might, given a lot of time and work, be separated, and that then the best of the left might be able to ally with the best of the right and oppose some right wing extremes which go too far for me.

If I remember your other comments correctly I think that your politics is well right of where I would aim, but regardless of such details, we can hope to raise the dialogue; and your perspective into counter tactics to leftist protest I believe could be turned to that end.

Quos Ego said...

@Lordberia

You haven't been paying attention to what we've been saying. And your broad-brush characterization of the "old readership" of this space does disrespect to the people it wishes to so describe. What's upsetting about the current developments of this space (at least to me) isn't the ideas (God, I've been exposed to hundreds times worse), it is the utter lack of civility with which said ideas are conveyed. And this comment applies to left-wing and right-wing commenters alike.

. said...

@August, you're clearly a very intelligent guy. So why would it bother you what Caesar thinks of you. Why should his opinion of you arouse a feeling as strong as disgust? It's not like you respect his opinion on any other subject so why would his opinion on you raise more than an eyebrow? The Stoics were really good on this kind of subject I think.

Truth is that Caesar doesn't even know you exist and you don't literally have to bow down to him. The political deadlock and oligarchy that caused Caesar is the problem and will be the problem after he's gone. It's his supporters that you American anti-Trumpers have still got to live with when this is over. Those underlying conflicts about free trade, movement, Empire, cultural conflicts etc are going nowhere soon. And you can't negotiate successfully with them if you're distracted by your disgust with someone many of them support.

Mallow.

Scotlyn said...

@Raymond Duckling "expel"? What an idea!! Not at all! I, too, am delighted to have Dammerung here being honest. I simply am offering my honest responses in return, tho, from my end, I hold the possibility of two-way dialogue firmly open.

I found your own exchange with him particularly enlightening, too.

As to the nature of these comments, I continue to commend JMG for a policy that serves the cause of dialogue all very well.

Unknown said...

OT, but I just found this and its a goody. Those interested in an energy based economic interpretation of our predicament might enjoy this site:

https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/

cheers

eagle eye

ps, for what it is worth from an antipodean tradesman, among whose mates a favored greeting is "bastard", the comments here are about as tame and well mannered as is possible while still allowing dissenting views to be expressed. Perhaps cups of wet cement for the more delicate snowflakes might be in order. (my boss's (60 something yo)wife's favourite retort to us males is "have a cup of wet cement and harden the cluck up)

Keep doing what you do, JMG. You are doing a great job.

. said...

@Justin - what does 'doesn't play in politics' mean? Maybe it's an American expression. And what are you saying about the link between limits and conflict? Do you understand limits as just those imposed by non human nature? Because I was mostly talking about the limits that humans impose on each other.

Mallow.

Scotlyn said...

@Justin
I have developed a huge interest in your journey and in the way you express yourself here. I have a feeling that if we spoke in person we would find much common ground, despite having outwardly different political priorities.

Of course violence is unavoidable, because conflict is unavoidable. But violence is also stupid, in the following sense.

If you have a goal that requires another's labour, stuff, compliance or absence, it takes study and attention and time to elicit their co-operation. (Also, you will probably have to reciprocate with a contribution in return).

Violence requires no study, no attention, no time - threaten it, or actually demonstrate it, and co-operation will be instant.

How do these differ? Well, study, time and attention are costly, violence is cheap. But on the other side of the balance sheet, the cooperation you obtain in the first way may last a lifetime (or even longer), whereas the cooperation you achieve the second way lasts as long as you can stay awake and never have to turn your back.

The difficulty I have with Dammerung's proposal is not the prospect that there will be violence or conflict. Conflict is already rife and violence is sometimes the only remaining way to settle unavoidable conflict.

But, among other things, he proposes a long-term controlled human breeding project (in order that his descendents may enjoy the gift of his blue eyes and white skin). Such breeding projects always turn on the control of daughters and their mate choices, and daughters naturally always object to having their mates chosen for them. Therefore, a determined long term human controlled breeding program ultimately requires the locking up of daughters, and the severe punishment of those who resist or escape, embedding chronic and continuous relations of violence into the heart of every family.

Is that the best use of violence you can think of?

Scotlyn said...

@M Smith,
I am an immigrant. I was born in one country (the USA), raised in another (Costa Rica) and settled in a third (Ireland). This history embeds me in webs of family relationships in all three places, and a history of frequent border crossings in order to be present at different times at important family gatherings in all three places.

I have no complaint at all with the existence of these borders, nor with the enforcement of the controls selected by the citizens within each country for their control. But my complicated history is not uncommon.

I am entitled to work and pay taxes in the US and in Ireland, but not in Costa Rica. My closest blood relatives (parents and siblings) live in Costa Rica and (sons) in Ireland. I have invested labour and love in the growth of gardens and the making of soil in Costa Rica and in Ireland. I feel strongly connected to family networks in the US extend into liberal academia in California, urban working class in Boston, and rural southern small townsfolk in Alabama.

Am I a foreigner? Yes. Everywhere I have mentioned, I am in some way connected, and also, in some different way, a foreigner.

Will a border ultimately sever me from important people in my personal life or from places in which I paid a tax, built a garden or raised a family? Very possibly. It has happened to people before. Sometimes a person stays in one place and a border moves, changing everything.

You are living in the place you were born, and are therefore "all of a piece". I salute you. Enjoy it, protect it, be happy in it.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@M. Smith and Scotlyn,

M.Smith, you said, "I don't know about you, but I was born here. I am not an immigrant. The overwhelming majority of the people I know are not immigrants. Stop spreading the feel-good falsehood that there are no Americans. Would you smile sweetly and accept it if I said that you were not born in your country of origin, and that your nationality does not exist - merely because some refugees want to live where you do?"

i can't help feeling perhaps you've misunderstood what Scotlyn is saying. If one is born in America, one is American, ipso facto. I think the point is that for 99% of us, our ancestors came from somewhere else--they immigrated here at some point in the last roughly 400 years, some more recently than others, and together have made our country what it is. That process is continuing.

In the very diverse part of America where I live, plenty of people were born here, but many were not. Many of the native-born are the children and grandchildren of immigrants, including my husband. Ask the people you know about their ancestors and their countries of origin. Where did your own ancestors come from and how recently?

BTW, I didn't happen to se the ad in question because I don't watch tv and don't follow football.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@Bryant,

Re working on the Right, and working against liberal organizations:

What does being on the Right mean to you? What beliefs do you hold that mean you are on the Right? Besides working against liberal organizations, what were you working for? What values? What beliefs? And, while I'm asking, what does liberal mean to you?

I'm asking seriously, not sarcastically or ironically. I really would like to know.

Also, you say you used to do this. What changed? (Perhaps I missed one of your other comments that would explain more.)

Bill Pulliam said...

M Smith -- If the poster described your statements as something that a raving lunatic racist might say, that is a legitimate argument to my mind, though expressed forcefully (FYI I am speaking abstractly, not about the specifics here; I did not dig through the archives to find the case in point). Virtually anyone can find themselves having a racist thought or expressing a racist view; racism and xenophobia are clearly part of the human constitution otherwise they would hardly be so ubiquitous in society. That does not make the person "A Racist" as a fundamental defining part of their character and decision making. But even if you are a raving lunatic racist, that does not mean that any argument you put forward is by default wrong. Raving lunatic racists can still make logical and consistent statements. And someone who is staunchly anti-racist in their beliefs can also make a coherent argument from the point of view of a raving lunatic racist. So it is irrelevant to the discussion and serves only as a personal insult. If someone wants to attack a "raving lunatic racist" statement they believe you made or an action you say you have taken, that is done by disecting and debunking the logic and morality of what you said or did, not by criticising your personal character.

Kind of amusing that argumentum ad hominem is simultaneously one of the easiest of logical falacies to spot and debunk, AND one of the most common (ubiquitous) logical fallacies in day to day dialogue.

Nancy Shirley said...

Bryant: I live in a very rural area in western North Carolina. The majority of people here voted for Trump. Most people here are Republican and right wing.

So it depends on where you live whether the majority is left or right.

People in rural areas understand basic survival better than people in big cities. Rural people know how to grow their own food, many have farm animals, know how to repair many things, have more community, most own guns and know how to use them, extended family usually lives nearby, are more practical, many have been in the military, etc.

In the long run I place my bets with rural people.

inohuri said...

Cthulhu invades Estonia!

https://www.rt.com/in-motion/376608-us-military-equipment-estonia/

@ 1:12

onething said...

The blood libel quote was regarding his circumcision and I am not exactly sure what he meant by it.

Raymond Duckling said...

For the sake of keeping accurate records.

The post M.Smith was talking about was "The Free Trade Falacy", from Nov 23rd. I did not comb it throughly, but my browser was unable to find any occurrences of the words 'raving' or 'lunatic' in it. There is indeed one comment directed to M.Smith which uses the phrase "I'm sorry, but your racist observations just don't wash w/me". This is not the kindest thing to say in polite company, but it is a long way from the "severed hands" and "cut throats" that have been flying around this forum of late. I won't comment on whether the label of "racist observations" was well earned or not, but the tone of that comment was assertive, IMHO.

Until our host says otherwise, you are all entitled to come and play the cry baby card here, if you wish. Just don't be surprised if someone comes and checks the veracity of your story.

inohuri said...

Came to realize that what I want to see here is common sense.

Then came the realization that common sense is uncommon.

Bryant said...

@Ray Wharton I'm not very hopeful as I see this as a zero sum game. However, I know that I probably would care less if I could have been left alone to live a more conservative life. That such has been denied to me, and basically that my dreams have been severely disrupted due to new liberal mores is extremely upsetting. In short, I was raised and followed traditional mores and expectations, I also was hoping to participate in a "societal game" that made sense to me. When the world changed, as far as I'm concerned, I felt betrayed and couldn't even seem to escape to where I could still fit in.

I do not believe that leftist movements can avoid the weakness which I mentioned. I believe its fundamental to it - any movement that seeks inclusion, by definition, will largely drift toward including a large number of hanger-ons and toxic elements. The same philosophy for inclusion usually makes it difficult for such elements to ever be removed.

@Adrian Ayres Fisher

I'm careful not to dox myself. In short, though, I was working for a much more reactionary organization that was organized against hierarchial lines. Times have changed, but recently I've gained an advisory role in another one as well. I hope to bring my experience to leverage for the cause.

As for what I believe in and wanted to work for - it meant living in a world where the ancient mores of social conduct, honor and tribe could still be honored. I grew up reading of great men: of Robert E. Lee and Hannibal, of amibition sought and desperate bloody struggles, of beauty and ideals and sacrifice. I fell in love.

Atomized individuality destroyed so much of them. For example, I would want to take pride in my identity as a man, with the implicit assumptions of being a warrior, a protector, and provider. Naturally, this would boundary that women wouldn't be able to do what I was doing. I'm quite happy with set roles. It provides me with a sense of safety, allows me to focus only on what I am best at and few things give me more serenity than a steady hierarchy.

Liberalism denies me that. I equate liberalism with maddening, insane individuality with an added slice of carebear. From a perspective of self-interest, it serves to either make it either more difficult, or to deny me of what I want. From the perspective of beauty, it choses to insult the entire tradition that I had come to love for its own modern intreptations. And from the perspective of my community, liberalism not only insults the notion of a tribe, but wants to deny that there are any tribes, boundaries, or identity except that which is self-created.

I, of course, cannot exist in such a world. Thus I would rather work with people who may even want to kill me later, than to "live" in the ugliness of a world that liberals would want to bring about. A vapid, inspid world of self-defined units where nothing is sacred, and everyone is as inoffensive, harmless, and medicated animal as your average domesticated cow.

Justin said...

@Scotlyn,

Yeah, seriously, human breeding projects are pretty insane, and um, look at the results of breeding projects at your local pet store sometime. I mean obviously it's hypothetically possible to breed humans to improve fitness (for a particular definition of fitness) and for some particular appearance (which is just a type of fitness anyway). Of course, people, especially women who can choose their mates, practice eugenics all the time anyway. I don't think the 1930's eugenicists did anything wrong anyway, maybe some of the things they wanted to eliminate didn't need eliminating, but if we had an ever increasing resource base forever it would stand to reason that there would be no natural check on human quality.

Regarding violence, no, violence isn't easy although guns make it much simpler. You have to have the equipment and skill and willingness to risk injury and death to do violence. And there's two sides to violence: You can be violent on behalf of a community of generally non-violent people or you can be violent against a community of generally non-violent people. If order collapses, the criminal element will likely play the role of the police, for better or for worse. And of course, what is government, really, but an exquisitely sophisticated and (usually) gentle protection racket? You don't pay your taxes and the government takes away your livelihood. You don't pay the mob every Friday, your windows get smashed. But you don't need to be capable of or ready for violence at all times. It's often a good deal.

Justin said...

Mallow, what I mean by "doesn't play in politics" is that no politician who talked about limits would be given much of a chance these days - although maybe after the next oil shock, a politician with the right approach might succeed.

Regarding Linkola, well, another word for that that used to get bandied about a lot in 2008-9 was lifeboat ethics.

Justin said...

@Scotlyn,

You can reach me at nfcan1989 at google mail

Justin said...

@Bryant:

Completely agreed. I've frequently thought (and posted about) the fact that Peak Everything has a silver lining, and that's the physical impossibility of modernity. If modernity continued unabated, we would end up in a pharmacological-surveillance state that would make Orwell and Huxley burn their manuscripts because their visions of hell were so inadequate.

So I'm pretty sanguine about all this - it will be horrible and will probably kill me before my 'allotted' 75 years are up, but on the other hand I'll never be forcibly administered drugs to make me love Big Brother.

Unknown said...

So does it all come down to consciousness in the end? And, does it really matter that one does not go "there". What I mean is, is it possible to live a perfectly useful and fulfilling life without ever engaging the philosophy subject in all its depth and complexity? What is the purpose of life, anyway?

The fun on offer is endless, is it not?

off topic, you might like to take a look at the last two posts on this blog. The author bases his approach to economics on energy not finance.

A sample:
"Although I’ve committed myself to publishing a “rescue plan” for the British economy, I’m hoping that readers will accept, for now at least, a broader reading of the economic and political situation. Recent developments have yielded a specific point worth of discussion, and a general one as well.

The specific point is that extremely wealthy people, mainly from the United States, have been buying-up “survival properties” in New Zealand. Though billionaires as such are a small group, the number of American inquiries about emigration to New Zealand is running at 13,000 a month, which is six times the year-earlier level, and property prices in favoured parts of New Zealand are soaring. The most desirable properties are said to be those self-sufficient in food, water and energy, and the country is, of course, a long way from the places where nuclear war is likeliest to break out. The implication, not missed by observers such as The Financial Times, is that the rich are buying bolt-holes.

The general point is that the self-styled “liberal” elites are still in deep denial over what is happening politically. One reason for this is that the economic data available to decision-makers is disconnected from reality as it is experienced by the general public."

latheChuck said...

inohuri- "common sense"? Why, just yesterday my carpool mate and I were lamenting the over-use of the phrase "common sense". We both take it's appearance to mean: I've run out of logical arguments for my position, so I'll just assert that you're too lacking in "common sense" to understand my wisdom.

In slightly more detail, common sense seems to mean "I believe in only first-order effects, which are benefits under my plan." For example, it's "common sense" that if people suffering a mental illness may use guns to hurt/kill others, then we should take their guns away. And the second-order effect? Anyone who already has a gun, and intends to keep it, will never submit to a mental-health evaluation. And so some number of people who could have been treated, will not be.

It's common sense that young people are better off with more education, rather than less, so we create policies that encourage them to study. 2rd-order effect? "Financial aid" comes in the form of crippling debt. 3rd-order effect? Costs of education rise.

It's the 2nd and 3rd-order effects that make the hard problems of the world so hard.

latheChuck said...

re: lifeboat ethics. I remember discussing the topic as a teen, in the mid-1970s. (See Wikipedia entry on the topic.) One way to sidestep the predicament is to arrange your circumstances so as to not find yourself on a ship with a totally inadequate number of lifeboats for the number of passengers. The scenario (too many swimmers for the lifeboat capacity) is merely the end-stage of a disaster that began when the ship sailed with too many passengers for the lifeboat(s).

If we have the foresight not to get on the boat, then the ethical problems will be someone else's. However, if Earth itself is the lifeboat, then this isn't an option. On the other hand, a metropolitan area or island might be considered a lifeboat, and then we do have choices.

If we have the foresight to build more lifeboat capacity, or take on fewer passengers, then there may be no crisis.

Kronosaurus said...

I'm not buying it. For every "civilization" going through a cycle there are dozens of others going through cycles as well. So what? If America were to collapse tomorrow or slowly decay something else would take its place and that would be fine. As an individual, I will adapt just as Germans who were born in the 30s and survived the war simply changed their identity. It just isn't interesting to say that a particular institution or government has a finite lifespan. It's almost too mundane and obvious to be of interest. The reason we don't make a bigger deal about it is because nobody wants to live life as a complete pessimist. We know the country will die some day. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in 400 years, but if we dwell on it we speed up its happening. And btw, after Caesar the average Roman citizen probably did not think his country was in decline. Oh sure, from one year to the next he would think it was falling a part or was the best thing ever. It would have depended on where he lived in the empire and what his station was. And after the fall, if he lived in Constantinople vs Rome his belief would have differed as well. Meanwhile, while Rome was dying the folks on the steps, or in India, or in China or in the Americas would have had a completely different outlook. People all over the world simultaneously believed that the world was both on the upswing and falling apart. Heck, even in the US at this moment people hold widely differing views. In October some people thought we sucked and we needed to m"make America Great again". Then in November they thought it was all great and on the upswing. The other half had the mirror opposite beliefs.

Scotlyn said...

Not post topical, but of interest to the blog's overall concern with histories of decline - archaeological research has thrown up an interesting suggestion here that women in post-Roman Britain lived longer than their own female ancestors in Roman Britain. This despite (as the evidence also suggests) the influx of a numerically small, primarily male, group of warrior types, who had an outsize influence on the cultural and linguistic transformations this population underwent subsequently.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/englands-ancient-growth-spurt-gxfr7wwtf?shareToken=881a23d2f48ca482ce78d8275acf78b7

As a proto-barbarian of the female persuasion, I consider this to be a reason for mild optimism.

Alfredo Vespucci said...

It's all representation, which makes ourselves, or what we think of as ourselves, a representation. So then we have representations looking for meaning ,which is something more than mere representation.Maybe just being representations was what the existentialist were getting at when they asked whether they exist or not. Deep inside they felt something was missing and so they began scratching the existential itch.Their discourse began and ended with the idea, yes idea, that they are the body and that they are the intellect. That whatever is going on around this construct of body/intellect out there, will be conceived from this perspective.
The eastern philosophies delve more into answering the question ;" what is it that we are a representation of?" When they ask this question they put everything on the philosophical chopping block: the ego, the intellect, the everyday mundane mind, in fact even the body.The only reason they were able to do this is because thay had unraveled the body/intellect/ego knot. Here in the west , in most cases , the philosophies seem to hold the intellect up as the pillar upon which reality will be revealed. Maybe it would behoove us to familiarize ourselves with some of the philosophical texts; this way we will hold more than one philosophical context.This way we won't fall into the trap that Goethe was pointing out, that you need to know more than one language to know language at all.
I suggest, ,"The Pratyabhijna-hrdayam", which translates to "The Splendor of Recognition". It is one of the main texts of Kashmir Shaivism , written in the 11th century. Swami Shantananda does a great job at interpretation.It organizes reality into 36 levels ensconced within each other like Russian dolls. Also ,'The Yoga Vasistha", which through short stories presents the make up of reality from the Vedantic perspective.There are others, these are two of my favorites.

Lorenzo - said...

JMG,

re. the theory of cyclical history,it just seems like you may have published, or commentated at length, about your views on it's validity, told about it's development, or perhaps even gone down deeper into the rabbit hole and produced your on conclusions on the basis laid out by Vico, Spengler, Toynbee and others...

but I'm pretty sure you haven't.

alas, I wish to be wrong.

Paul Stephenson said...

Kalachakra
Relationship of inner and outer, nonduality - interdependent arising of mind and world

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