Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Heresy of Technological Choice

Among the interesting benefits of writing a blog like this, focusing as it does on the end of industrial civilization, are the opportunities it routinely affords for a glimpse at the stranger side of the collective thinking of our time. The last few weeks have been an unusually good source of that experience, as a result of one detail of the Retrotopia narrative I’ve been developing in the posts here.

The detail in question is the system by which residents of my fictional Lakeland Republic choose how much infrastructure they want to have and, not incidentally, to pay for via their local tax revenues. It’s done on a county-by-county basis by majority vote. The more infrastructure you want, the higher your taxes are; the more infrastructure you can do without, the less of your income goes to the county to pay for it. There are five levels, called tiers, and each one has a notional date connected to it: thus tier five has the notional date of 1950, and corresponds to the infrastructure you’d expect to find in a county in the Midwestern states of the US in that year: countywide electrical, telephone, water, and sewer service; roads and related infrastructure throughout the county capable of handling heavy automobile use; and mass transit—specifically, streetcars—in the towns.

The other tiers have less infrastructure, and correspondingly lower taxes. Tier four has a notional date of 1920, tier three of 1890, tier two of 1860, and tier one of 1830. In each case, the infrastructure you’d find in such a county is roughly what you’d find in a midwestern American county in that year. With tier one, your county infrastructure consists of dirt roads and that’s about it. All the other functions of county government exist in tier one, tier five, and everything in between; there are courts, police, social welfare provisions for those who are unable to take care of themselves, and so forth—all the things you would expect to find in any midwestern county in the US at any point between 1830 and 1950. That’s the tier system:  one small detail of the imaginary future I’ve been sketching here.

Before we go on, I’d like my readers to stop and notice that the only things that are subject to the tier system are the elements of local infrastructure that are paid for by local tax revenues. If you live in a county that voted to adopt a certain tier level, that tells you what kind of  infrastructure will be funded by local tax revenues, and therefore what the tax bills are going to be like. That’s all it tells you. In particular, the tier system doesn’t apply to privately owned infrastructure—for example, railroads in the Lakeland Republic are privately owned, and so every county, whatever its tier, has train stations in any town where paying passengers and freight may be found in sufficient quantity to make it worth a railroad’s while to stop there.

The tier system also, and crucially, doesn’t determine what kind of technology the residents can use. If you live in a tier one county, you can use all the electrical appliances you can afford to buy, as long as you generate the electricity yourself. Some technologies that are completely dependent on public infrastructure aren’t going to work in a low tier county—for example, without paved roads, gas stations, huge government subsidies for petroleum production, military bases all over the Middle East, and a great deal more, cars aren’t much more than oversized paperweights—but that’s built into the technology in question, not any fault of the tier system. Furthermore, the tier system doesn’t determine social customs and mores.  If you live in a tier four county, for example, no law requires you to dress in a zoot suit or a flapper dress, drink bootleg liquor, and say things like “Hubba hubba” and “Twenty-three skidoo!” This may seem obvious, but trust me, it’s apparently far from obvious to a certain portion of my readers.

I can say this because, ever since the tier system first got mentioned in the narrative, I’ve fielded a steady stream of comments from people who wanted to object to the tier system because it forcibly deprives people of access to technology. I had one reader insist that the tier system would keep farmers in tier one counties from using plastic sheeting for hoop houses, for example, and another who compared the system to the arrangements in former Eastern Bloc nations, where the Communist Party imposed rigid restrictions on what technologies people could have. The mere facts that plastic sheeting for hoop houses isn’t infrastructure paid for by tax revenues, and that the tier system doesn’t impose rigid restrictions on anybody—on the contrary, it allows the voters in each county to choose for themselves how much infrastructure they’re going to pay for—somehow never found their way into the resulting diatribes.

What made all this even more fascinating to me is that no matter how often I addressed the points in question, and pointed out that the tier system just allows local voters to choose what infrastructure gets paid for their by tax money, a certain fraction of readers just kept rabbiting on endlessly along the same lines. It wasn’t that they were disagreeing with what I was saying. It’s that they were acting as though I had never said anything to address the subject at all, even when I addressed it to their faces, and nothing I or anyone else could say was able to break through their conviction that in imagining the tier system, I must be talking about some way to deprive people of technology by main force.

It was after the third or fourth round of comments along these lines, I think it was, that a sudden sense of deja vu reminded me that I’d seen this same sort of curiously detached paralogic before.

Longtime readers of this blog will remember how, some years ago, I pointed out in passing that the survival of the internet in the deindustrial age didn’t depend on whether there was some technically feasible way to run an internet in times of energy and resource limits, much less on how neat we think the internet is today. Rather, I suggested, its survival in the future would depend on whether it could make enough money to cover its operating and maintenance costs, and on whether it could successfully keep on outcompeting less complex and expensive ways of providing the same services to its users. That post got a flurry of responses from the geekoisie, all of whom wanted to talk exclusively about whether there was some technically feasible way to run the internet in a deindustrial world, and oh, yes, how incredibly neat the internet supposedly is.

What’s more, when I pointed out that they weren’t discussing the issues I had raised, they didn’t argue with me or try to make an opposing case.  They just kept on talking more and more loudly about the  technical feasibility of various gimmicks for a deindustrial internet, and by the way, did we mention yet how unbelievably neat the internet is? It was frankly rather weird, and I don’t mean that in a good way. It felt at times as though I’d somehow managed to hit the off switch on a dozen or so intellects, leaving their empty husks to lurch mindlessly through a series of animatronic talking points with all the persistence and irrelevance of broken records.

It took a while for me to realize that the people who were engaged in this bizarre sort of nonresponse understood perfectly well what I was talking about. They knew at least as well as I did that the internet is the most gargantuan technostructure in the history of our species, a vast, sprawling, unimaginably costly, and hopelessly unsustainable energy- and resource-devouring behemoth that survives only because a significant fraction of the world’s total economic activity goes directly and indirectly toward its upkeep. They knew about the slave-worked open pit mines, the vast grim factories run by sweatshop labor, and the countless belching smokestacks that feed its ravenous appetite for hardware and power; they also know about the constellations of data centers scattered across the world that keep it running, each of which uses as much energy as a small city, and each of which has to have one semi-truck after another pull up to the loading dock every single day to offload pallets of brand new hard drives and other hardware, in order to replace those that will burn out the next day.

They knew all this, and they knew, or at least suspected, just how little of it will be viable in a future of harsh energy and resource constraints.  They simply didn’t want to think about that, much less talk about it, and so they babbled endlessly about other things in a frantic attempt to drown out a subject they couldn’t bear to hear discussed openly.

I’m pretty sure that this is what’s going on in the present case, too, and an interesting set of news stories from earlier this year points up the unspoken logic behind it.

Port Townsend is a pleasant little town in Washington State, perched on a bluff above the western shores of Puget Sound. Due to the vagaries of the regional economy, it basically got bypassed by the twentieth century, and much of the housing stock dates from the Victorian era. It so happens that one couple who live there find Victorian technology, clothing, and personal habits more to their taste than the current fashions in these things, and they live, as thoroughly as they can, a Victorian lifestyle. The wife of the couple, Sarah Chrisman, recently wrote a book about her experiences, and got her canonical fifteen minutes of fame on the internet and the media as a result.

You might think, dear reader, that the people of Port Townsend would treat this as merely a harmless eccentricity, or even find it pleasantly amusing to have a couple in Victorian cycling clothes riding their penny-farthing bicycles on the city streets. To some extent, you’d be right, but it’s the exceptions that I want to discuss here. Ever since they adopted their Victorian lifestyle, the Chrismans have been on the receiving end of constant harassment by people who find their presence in the community intolerable. The shouted insults, the in-your-face confrontations, the death threats—they’ve seen it all. What’s more, the appearance of Sarah Chrisman’s book and various online articles related to it fielded, in response, an impressive flurry of spluttering online denunciations, which insisted among other things that the fact that she prefers to wear long skirts and corsets somehow makes her personally responsible for all the sins that have ever been imputed to the Victorian era.

Why? Why the fury, the brutality, and the frankly irrational denunciations directed at a couple whose lifestyle choices have got to count well up there among the world’s most harmless hobbies?

The reason’s actually very simple. Sarah Chrisman and her husband have transgressed one of the modern world’s most rigidly enforced taboos. They’ve shown in the most irrefutable way, by personal example, that the technologies each of us use in our own lives are a matter of individual choice.

You’re not supposed to say that in today’s world. You’re not even supposed to think it. You’re allowed, at most, to talk nostalgically about how much more pleasant it must have been not to be constantly harassed and annoyed by the current round of officially prescribed technologies, and squashed into the Procrustean bed of the narrow range of acceptable lifestyles that go with them. Even that’s risky in many circles these days, and risks fielding a diatribe from somebody who just has to tell you, at great length and with obvious irritation, all about the horrible things you’d supposedly suffer if you didn’t have the current round of officially prescribed technologies constantly harassing and annoying you.

The nostalgia in question doesn’t have to be oriented toward the past. I long ago lost track of the number of people I’ve heard talk nostalgically about what I tend to call the Ecotopian future, the default vision of a green tomorrow that infests most minds on the leftward end of things. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last forty years, you already know every detail of the Ecotopian future.  It’s the place where wind turbines and solar panels power everything, everyone commutes by bicycle from their earth-sheltered suburban homes to their LEED-certified urban workplaces, everything is recycled, and social problems have all been solved because everybody, without exception, has come to embrace the ideas and attitudes currently found among upper-middle-class San Francisco liberals.

It’s far from rare, at sustainability-oriented events, to hear well-to-do attendees waxing rhapsodically about how great life will be when the Ecotopian future arrives. If you encounter someone engaging in that sort of nostalgic exercise, and are minded to be cruel, ask the person who’s doing it whether he (it’s usually a man) bicycles to work, and if not, why not. Odds are you’ll get to hear any number of frantic excuses to explain why the lifestyle that everyone’s going to love in the Ecotopian future is one that he can’t possibly embrace today. If you want a look behind the excuses and evasions, ask him how he got to the sustainability-oriented event you’re attending. Odds are that he drove his SUV, in which there were no other passengers, and if you press him about that you can expect to see the dark heart of privilege and rage that underlies his enthusiastic praise of an imaginary lifestyle that he would never, not even for a moment, dream of adopting himself.

I wish I were joking about the rage. It so happens that I don’t have a car, a television, or a cell phone, and I have zero interest in ever having any of these things. My defection from the officially prescribed technologies and the lifestyles that go with them isn’t as immediately obvious as Sarah Chrisman’s, so I don’t take as much day to day harassment as she does. Still, it happens from time to time that somebody wants to know if I’ve seen this or that television program, and in the conversations that unfold from such questions it sometimes comes out that I don’t have a television at all.

Where I now live, in an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, that revelation rarely gets a hostile response, and it’s fairly common for someone else to say, “Good for you,” or something like that. A lot of people here are very poor, and thus have a certain detachment from technologies and lifestyles they know perfectly well they will never be able to afford. Back when I lived in prosperous Left Coast towns, on the other hand, mentioning that I didn’t own a television routinely meant that I’d get to hear a long and patronizing disquisition about how I really ought to run out and buy a TV so I could watch this or that or the other really really wonderful program, in the absence of which my life must be intolerably barren and incomplete.

Any lack of enthusiasm for that sort of disquisition very reliably brought out a variety of furiously angry responses that had precisely nothing to do with the issue at hand, which is that I simply don’t enjoy the activity of watching television. Oh, and it’s not the programming I find unenjoyable—it’s the technology itself; I get bored very quickly with the process of watching little colored images jerking about on a glass screen, no matter what the images happen to be. That’s another taboo, by the way. It’s acceptable in today’s America to grumble about what’s on television, but the technology itself is sacrosanct; you’re not allowed to criticize it, much less to talk about the biases, agendas, and simple annoyances hardwired into television as a technological system. If you try to bring any of that up, people will insist that you’re criticizing the programming; if you correct them, they’ll ignore the correction and keep on talking as though the programs on TV are the only thing under discussion.

A similar issue drives the bizarre paralogic surrounding the nonresponses to the tier system discussed above. The core premises behind the tier system in my narrative are, first, that people can choose the technological infrastructure they have, and have to pay for—and second, that some of them, when they consider the costs and benefits involved, might reasonably decide that an infrastructure of dirt roads and a landscape of self-sufficient farms and small towns is the best option. To a great many people today, that’s heresy of the most unthinkable sort.  The easiest way to deal with the heresy in question, for those who aren’t interested in thinking about it, is to pretend that nothing so shocking has been suggested at all, and force the discussion into some less threatening form as quickly as possible. Redefining it in ways that erase the unbearable idea that technologies can be chosen freely, and just as freely rejected, is quite probably the easiest way to do that.

I’d encourage those of my readers who aren’t blinded by the terror of intellectual heresy to think, and think hard, about the taboo against technological choice—the insistence that you cannot, may not, and must not make your own choices when it comes to whatever the latest technological fad happens to be, but must do as you’re told and accept whatever technology the consumer society hands you, no matter how dysfunctional, harmful, or boring it turns out to be. That taboo is very deeply ingrained, far more potent than the handful of relatively weak taboos our society still applies to such things as sexuality, and most of the people you know obey it so unthinkingly that they never even notice how it shapes their behavior. You may not notice how it shapes your behavior, for that matter; the best way to find out is to pick a technology that annoys, harms, or bores you, but that you use anyway, and get rid of it.

Those who take that unthinkable step, and embrace the heresy of technological choice, are part of the wave of the future. In a world of declining resource availability, unraveling economic systems, and destabilizing environments, Sarah Chrisman and the many other people who make similar choices—there are quite a few of them these days, and more of them with each year that passes—are making a wise choice. By taking up technologies and lifeways from less extravagant eras, they’re decreasing their environmental footprints and their vulnerability to faltering global technostructures, and they’re also contributing to one of the crucial tasks of our age: the rediscovery of ways of being human that don’t depend on hopelessly unsustainable levels of resource and energy consumption.

The heresy of technological choice is a door. Beyond it lies an unexplored landscape of possibilities for the future—possibilities that very few people have even begun to imagine yet. My Retrotopia narrative is meant to glance over a very small part of that landscape. If some of the terrain it’s examined so far has been threatening enough to send some of its readers fleeing into a familiar sort of paralogic, then I’m confident that it’s doing the job I hoped it would do.


I read your topic with amusement and a smile. I am a public school teacher, and any attempt to point out the limitations of technology when teaching basic literacy and math skills to 11 year-olds is met with shocked contempt. The money spent on technology is usually wasted, since there are insufficient funds for maintenance,updating, and replacement of computers, iPads, laptops, etc. Much of the technology becomes unused "junk" in a very short period of time. Despite this, the mantra of "more computers" is repeated with religious fervor. My students prefer paper and pencil math and reading tests, by the way, and Swedish research supports the observation that students score higher on physical, not virtual, tests. Thanks for the weekly posts.

11/18/15, 4:31 PM

Eric Backos said...
Dear Mr. Greer, Your Grace, &c.
Cleveland, Ohio: The weekly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 is posted on under the MeetUps forum. Splendorem Lucis Viridis! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. (Look for the table topper with the green wizard hat.)
Faithfully yours
Tower 440

11/18/15, 4:55 PM

Eric Backos said...
What a relief this week’s ADR is! I’ve been noticing increased hostility towards my paperbacks lately. A passing acquaintance examined my copy of Collapsing Consciously, handed it back like a dead chipmunk, and demanded, “Why are you reading that?”
It isn’t just me.
Is anyone else having similar encounters?

11/18/15, 5:05 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I wanted to share my own "me too" moments. I know of an Eco type who has a huge carbon footprint, always driving or jetting off to some sustainability conference/gathering, and another who dares to call herself an environmentalist who is always behind the wheel going somewhere, but I've never had the chutzpah to confront them on their hypocrisy. I've also experienced subtle rage/ passive aggression over cancelling Facebook and not using any social media, not to mention TV. I've had someone actually plop down a laptop running reruns of the Office in my lap so I could connect with his interest.

11/18/15, 5:13 PM

Leif Christensen said...
It hardly needs saying that our options for technology in the future will be much more limited than they are today. On one hand, it makes sense to use high-tech options to make the most of our relatively peaceful time now. Doing so allows us to do more preparation than we could do without technological help, and the more we can prepare ourselves the better. When things get sporty, we want our greenhouses to already be built.

On the other hand, it is wise to practice the song you want to play. If we don't practice being free from high-tech crutches now, the benefits we gain by using high-tech to prepare now would be lost by our inability to operate in a new environment. Both using high-tech options and living without them come with opportunity costs.

I would be very interested to know which side of the opportunity cost see-saw our gracious host prefers.

Thank you for your consistently fine writing,
Leif Christensen

11/18/15, 5:14 PM

Tony said...
I'm off topic here, JMG, but I saw something this week that I just HAD to point you in the direction of.

A while back you ran a series of posts about what you described the waning religious sensibility of our age, the notion that humans *deserve better* than this world and can escape it, and its connection to the mythology of progress and the notion of history as a one way march from the caves to the stars so we don't have to be forever 'stuck on this rock'. You also talked about science fiction authors who regard themseles as some kind of advanced scout for the March of Man's conquest of Nature.

At least one prominent science fiction author has seen this for what it is, and is no longer having it.

Kim Stanley Robinson, well known for a trilogy of books detailing the settlement and terraforming of Mars in Earth's image he wrote in the early nineties, has come out with a new novel, Aurora, detailing 200 years of a FAILED human colonization attempt of the Tau Ceti system. The vast colony ship's biosphere is horrifically unstable, a trillionth the size of the Earth's and lacking in homeostasis, and they fail their terraforming due to the sheer cussedness of the whole systems involved and the comparatively (on the scale of the cosmos) exacting requirements of human life. The survivors of the attempt desperately trek back to Earth in defeat, calling their ancestors who set out on this quest "criminally negligent narcissists." To quote a review (

“The problems that Robinson's characters experience in their interspatial adventures are contrived, of course. As with all lifeboat stories, the crisis of the lifeboat is created by the author's invisible hands, off-stage, arranging the scenery to contrive the emergency. But what Robinson's furtive scenery-arranging points out is that the easy times all our other science fiction stories have given to their colonists were every bit as contrived. By pointing out an alternative, in the same engineering/troubleshooting frame as those other stories, Robinson points out that what we'd taken for an obvious and natural axiom was actually a militant position about the universe's willingness to be colonized, despite the Fermi Paradox, a position so dominant in sf that it was nearly impossible to notice that it even was a position, as opposed to a law of nature.”

What's more, the author has gone and written a whole nonfiction article on this notion in which he tries to provide a reality check for those who take the scifi gospel too literally, calling the notion of interstellar colonization fantasy while arguing that there is still a place for these stories. What got me was the following quotes (from

“This conclusion, startling to some, obvious to others, has ramifications that are worth pondering. If it comes to be a generally agreed on view, it might change how we act as individuals and a civilization...”

“There is no Planet B! Earth is our only possible home! Oh no! But wait: why is that so bad? Here everyone has to answer for themselves. I’m saying it’s not bad at all; it just is, and it can be regarded as a good thing. And good or bad, it just is. That’s reality. We are not gods, and anyone who thinks of science as a magic wand, or even as a verb, is making a mistake”

-Tony B

11/18/15, 5:22 PM

Bruno Bolzon said...
JMG, every now and then I find myself thinking about how I used to do some things. I'm young (29), so there's not that much to remember, but I can see some differences already. I remember a time when I used to find my way in a city without a gps. Or a time when I did not had a smartphone. It's not viable for me to dump the car or the smartphone, not yet anyways, but the TV, well, I got rid of that a few years ago already. That was circumstantial, however;I haven't devised a way yet to rehab myself from technology. When it gets embedded in one's life, it's hard to get rid of it. I fear it might have to be pried from my cold, dead hands. May I ask you for advice on that matter?

11/18/15, 5:26 PM

Bruce E said...
So I'm sitting here reading and responding to your post on a tablet while a book I should be reading waits patiently on the table not two feet away.

On the surface I'm nodding my head in agreement, but of course someone in the background of my not so singular mind is starting to rabble-rouse the crowded and distracting chorus of thoughts with, "I wonder if something like a text-only blogosphere might persist in this post-industrial future of ours..." and I'm off to the races. The memory and processing power required is a pittance; surely that could survive in a resource constrained world... I could build an exercise bike generator to power my fair share of the electricity required. It would be grand!

Then Glaucon of Plato's Republic erupts with, "and what sort of fodder will you feed this city of pigs, Socrates?" "What would you have them eat?" "Oh, the usual. Text-only is nothing without the ability to post pictures to highlight your point..." And of course the pics become gifs, and the gifs become cat videos, and eventually of course we get to the absolute necessity and even sanctity of binge-watching the entirety of the Breaking Bad series streaming it on-demand as a way to spend a holiday weekend. Glaucon once again derails a promising internal discussion of what we might be able to build in a sustainable way and instead we get another lesson in the origins of injustice.

The internal conversation I had while reading your post was almost loud enough to drown out your observation that these technologies are a choice I keep making, and not something I need to embrace to keep my job or my wife or a roof over my head. So in that sense it was a success.

You can thank Glaucon for keeping my rage at bay. ;-)

11/18/15, 5:28 PM

Vesta said...
People are also decreasingly detached from real physical social groups, settling instead for TV and "social" media to satisfy their need for companionship. Foregoing the gateway gadgets that enable this feels like losing friends, which few people do by choice.

11/18/15, 5:30 PM

FiftyNiner said...
I haven't posted for some weeks, but I have been amused and perplexed at the confusion that the tier system created for so many. Your summary of the strains of "thinking?" and emotion that feed into this inability or unwillingness to understand helped me to see more clearly aspects of the societal forces that demand conformity in ways we are not always aware. I, too, have no cell phone and no television; but we have to have a vehicle because of where we live. (I've gotten it down to a single fill up per month for which I am pleased!)
Along this line of level of services provided in a particular county, I have noticed just this year that there seems to be a significant change in the offing for our unpaved road. Normally the road is graded at least every six weeks or so and the right-of-way is cleared of overgrowth at least by late winter or early spring. This year, however, the road has been graded only about half as much and the debris clearing is still undone here in late fall. Of course, this has been an exceptionally wet year and in heavy rains our sandy road will have four or five wash-outs between my house and the mile distance to the highway.
I have a neighbor who has a logging company and he sometimes takes his tractor with a blade and levels the washouts when he knows the county is not going to get around to it. My intention is to talk to the county engineer about the situation, but I know before I ask that the problem is money. The county can no longer afford to do what they did in the past with the funds they have. The voters here have resisted every attempt to raise revenue for at least the last quarter century.
I can see in the future my county having a return to the "corvee" system just to help maintain the infrastructure! But the question then becomes, will it be choice consciously made, or will circumstances dictate the outcome?

11/18/15, 5:32 PM

Shane Wilson said...
what if we WANT to wear zoot suits and drink bootleg liquor? :)
I remember when growing up in the late 70s-80s when not having/watching TV and reading was still considered a mark of intellectual superiority, and when teachers still had posters in their classrooms exhorting people to unplug or get rid of their television. Sigh

11/18/15, 5:36 PM

Repent said...
Excellent essay as always. In a comment I made to you last summer about the problem of 'authentic living', you responded back to me: 'what's keeping you from having authentic experiences yourself?' This was a reality check for me. Since then I've taken my kids out to the park just to toss a Frisbee around, started reading more, going to movies less, doing things I actually want to spend my time doing and life has changed for me. Thank you!

One of my hobbies is a recreational interest in non-violent video games. Just sitting a playing scrabble with a stranger over the internet can be more fun than one would think, and you can build social connections with regular players. One video game I rushed out to buy, Simcity 2015, was an example of just how awful the newest and latest technology can be. The video game is extremely difficult and complex to play, to the extent that they have 50, 30 minute tutorial videos on how to play the game. That's 25 hours of detailed, step by step explanations, just on how to play a supposedly recreational game. (I didn't have 25 hours to waste, so I've never watched the videos and I just jumped in)

The game is awful, the only way to win is to turn off essentially all public services, water, education, hospitals, ect and let the market run itself by fiddling with the marginal tax rates. I gave up on it, after much frustration, but not after going online and watching how other people have vented on it as well:

The fellow in the video above must weigh over 300 lbs, and although he says that he's just pretending, I've never seen anyone get this seething mad about a video game ever. This person has spent hours, and hours trying to coordinate the traffic lights in the video game to ensure smooth traffic flow, for the fictional cars, in the fictional city. Despite the claims in the tutorial videos that this is actually possible, he's been driven to rage by the programming. (It's an awful game, full of all of the fictional garbage atomizers, and wave powered vaporware, that you've spoken about in your essay) A quick view of any one of the tutorials and anyone can see the visual representation of the ecotopia that never arrived that you spoke about in detail.

If people can get this mad about a fictional video game, what happens when fresh food is no longer available during a famine year? My grandfather (passed) once told me they never plowed the out of town highways for snow during the winter until the mid-fifties, so when winter came you were in your town until spring arrived. Now people rage for a 12 hour delay to clear the highways of snow, wait till that service goes away. The video above has 770,000 views- this worries me.

11/18/15, 5:42 PM

Mark Hines said...
john, Thanks for this weeks post and explanation. I guess i was one of those who understood the tier system almost immediately. To me it wasnt strange that people could adopt a certain technology without adopting the cultural part.
Your comment about Sarah Chrisman and Port Townsend struck close to home. my family and I live in Sequim which is about 30 or 40 miles west of Port Townsend. I thought their lifestyle choice made sense and I was really angry when I heard her write about the abuses her and her husband got when they went out. I particulary remembere her saying that they went to a civil war renenactment that we have here every year, and she and her husband were sitting quietly in the shade of a tree by their bikes having lunch. People naturally came up and started asking questions which they dont mind at all. The one woman reached for Sarahs dress to lift it to see what she was wearing underneath. Of course this is inappropriate for any occasion, but Sarah slapped her hand away and said loudly "dont touch." The lady complained to the event organizer who came and questioned her as to why she didnt let the lady see her underwear. I guess they must have thought that they were part of the reenactment and thought nothing of the behaviour. I believe they were asked to leave.
So, people also can get rude with anyone who is different than them. When people hear that I dont have a cellphone they get a strange look on their face and ask, How do you keep in touch with other people. I say, land line phone, letters, face to face.
Keep up the good work, am enjoying the posts and the story.

11/18/15, 5:43 PM

Edward said...
You remind me of a debate I had many moons ago when crude was past the $120 mark where I opinionated to someone that if the price continued to rise, the other commenter may have to think about re-arranging his home/work scenario where he and his wife drive many kilometres each day in opposite directions.

The response was a very vicious ad-hominem where my opinion was entirely dismissed on the basis of my apparent age. The fact that he might not be able to afford it was not even addressed. Your post is a wonderful exposition of the phenomenon.

I suspect the running commentary about keeping the Internet alive has less to do with how wonderful it is, and various IT workers (myself included!) struggling with the cognitive dissonance of what to do if/when their job disappears.

11/18/15, 5:47 PM

Dean Smith said...

I recently saw something at work that I believe illustrates some of the points of this week’s post. About two weeks ago some of my coworkers were planning a “1960’s” party at one of their perspective apartments. Being one of the older people there, they were asking me for some advice. I was born in the 70s, but most of my coworkers are very young and see me as an old dude. I explained that even though I wasn’t even alive in the 60’s, I would give them a few tips. After suggesting some food items they might like from remembering some of my grandparents old cookbooks, I suggested they do away with all technology not around in that time frame. It got dead quite, and the look on everyone of their faces looked like someone had just had broke wind and they were getting the first whiff. After about five seconds of that I was asked, “What do you mean? putting our cell phones on vibrate? I told them, “No, like get a big bucket, put the cell phones of the attendees in it and throw it in a closet until every one leaves.” More deathly quiet. They then proceeded to ask how they were going to do several things (pictures, music, etc) without their cell phones. I described several ways it could be done. Such as for the music, I have an old AM/FM radio / record player they could borrow (with records!), and explained to them that even though disposable film cameras probably aren’t age appropriate, they are keeping in the spirit of the event, are still rather easy to get if you look a little, and waiting for the film to be developed to see the pictures makes seeing them that much more fun. After more silence, and now having a look on their faces like they were standing next to an open sewer, they all left to talk about it elsewhere.
I looked at pictures of their event the following week (on their cell phones) and quietly shook my head laughing to myself. I was puzzled by the absolute disgust and discomfort they felt, and absolute refusal to consider the ideas I was proposing.

11/18/15, 5:48 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
I haven't watched any TV at all since about 1985, and very little from 1960 to 1985. When I let people know this, I get the same responses you do, JMG. The most striking feature of their responses, to my eyes, is the enormous effort they make to persuade me to watch some particular favorite program of theirs, which they say I will surely like, even if I do not like any other programs.

Sometimes I try to explain my avoidance of TV a little more fully to them. I say that, after so many decades without TV, I find it almost physically painful to be within sight and sound of a working TV, even if I can't see any images on the screen or make out any words. I have become allergic, it seems, to the characteristic TV rhythms of brighter and dimmer light, of louder and softer sound: they make me feel queasy and vertiginous. I need to be far enough away from any working TV that I cannot sense these rhythms, or can at least shut them out of my sensorium. Airports, for instance, have become intolerable for me because of the TVs in the waiting areas. This explanation simply "does not compute" for these people. It is not that they doubt my own truthfulness. Rather, they seem literally unable to wrap their minds around the possibility: it "does not compute" for them. Occasionally they even become angry and break off all acquaintance with me. The last angry words hurled at me by one such person were, "If you don't watch TV, what do you do? Live in a dream world?"

All this most closely resembles, to my mind, the behavior of an addict pushing his favorite drug on everyone in his circle of friends. I have come to suspect that TV is itself a highly addictive electronic medium, quite apart from the content of its programs. And the same may well be true of on-line internet use as well, though the neurological mechanisms it relies on are somewhat different from those activated by TV. Electronic drugs, anyone?

11/18/15, 5:55 PM

Denis Landry said...
I used to work as maintenance technologist at a company called Devtek-heroux, makers of aircraft landing gear and of Lunar landing fame ,the Legs of the lunar lander.
I was caught in a conversation about which 'THE SPACE AGE' was not possible without 'THE COMPUTER'...
To which i beg to differ and point to the fact that, at the time digital calculators, their name at the time, where bulky tempermental type of affair. unsuitable to weight conscious space traveller. That in fact in the fifties, sixties even early in the seventies, Aerospace was the domain of the slide rule.
Everything major, in fact anything at all requiring calculation was done by hand aided by the slide rule, the trusty sidekick of engineer of the era.
That the Saturn, the soyuz even the Sr-71 the fastest manned aircraft to date were built to spec calculated by hand and slide rule...
Now, the long face i got is straight out of 'medieval paysan being told that god and its angel are not there anymore'.
I am a long time reader of your blog, and i find you are like a lighthouse keeper in the closing night.

11/18/15, 6:03 PM

TJ said...
Thank you JMG for another timely article. I've been putting a lot of consideration into my internet usage lately. Not just the mindless checking of news, sports, and gossip as well as watching TV shows - none of which can be rationally defended - but also my use of the internet for excessive research on topics (even ones on sustainability).

I'm not prepared to give up the internet as a whole, but I think I should probably get rid of my laptop and only have a desktop that stays at a desk so that I use it only when it makes sense, and not just as a time filler anytime I feel like sitting down on the couch. In reality, this is as easy as just taking a few minutes to list my precious Macbook on Craigslist, but yet I'm afraid of the life behind that decision (and this is from someone that hasn't a car in 5 years). After that, the smartphone needs to go.

"They’ve shown in the most irrefutable way, by personal example, that the technologies each of us use in our own lives are a matter of individual choice."

This is a quote I'm writing down, and I'm not removing it until I pull the trigger and get rid of my laptop.

11/18/15, 6:06 PM

Doctor Westchester said...

If I remember right, choosing what technologies one should use is a core tenement of Amish communities, with different communities making different choices. Not all such communities reject electricity completely for example. It all depends on how they feel a particular technology fits with their needs.

As you say in this essay, this is a concept that it would be wise for us all to consider.

11/18/15, 6:17 PM

9anda1f said...
Great post! I read Harlan Ellison's "The Glass Teat" back in the early 70's and have shunned the tv ever since. How much time and mental space have I "gained" by this choice?
I often found a different response when questioned by co-workers about the show they had watched the previous evening (each in their separate homes, mute and alone on the couch next to their spouses) and were discussing at length over coffee (or sodas!). In response to my, "well, I haven't had a tv for nearly 40 years", there arose a chorus of "oh, well we only watch *some* shows, mostly educational stuff" when in fact they had been discussing the latest sitcom or reality programming! Pure denial of the fact that they sat there day after day talking about the tv each had watched the evening prior (or what gadget was currently available at Costco). Their minds and social interactions were greatly guided by what they watched on the tube.

11/18/15, 6:22 PM

Mitzi said...
I made a comment to a dental hygienist once that I never drank soda. She paused a moment and said, "___ at the desk has been told she can't drink soda anymore for medical reasons. Can you imagine life without soda?"
You put this so well- life without soda or TV or a car is simply unimaginable to them. Taboo. But then someone they consider "smart" thinks it FUN to live this way. If we sit and talk, they start to realize that, as my husband says, there is a strange freedom in not driving, in not embracing a modern enslaving convenience, in not choosing the self-destructive addictions of the modern age.
Thank you. I wish I could move to Tier One.

11/18/15, 6:27 PM

Island Poet said...
One of the catch phrases I recall from the 70's was Voluntary Simplicity. It started out pretty much as what you describe; CHOOSING what technologies you use, with the understanding that when you choose to participate in any system, you are de facto supporting it. Unfortunately, Voluntary Simplicity became trivialized during the Greed-is-Good 80's to the point where it now means Dwell magazine, Ikea furniture and "cruelty-free" soap. There was a moment there, in the early 70's when we might have turned the course of culture around but we missed it and now the only option is damage control. What, if anything, can be saved of the genuinely worthy ideas and knowledge so laboriously gathered? I think in particular of books like Euclid's Elements and the rationality it can grow in fertile minds. I fear that rationality never did guide very many of this planet's humans and in the future, even those few will become suspect in the Great Rage to come. ISIS is just a taste of the insanity we can reasonably expect... The burning of the Great Library of Alexandria will be a bonfire in comparison. Much will undoubtedly be lost but perhaps, if we act now, something of this heritage can be saved?

11/18/15, 6:34 PM

sgage said...
The rage, the puzzlement, the confusion that one encounters when one freely and happily chooses NOT to buy into the techno-juggernaut is quite common. I encounter it in my own family regularly. You have caught the essence of the thing perfectly in this essay, as far as my experience goes.

11/18/15, 6:39 PM

dermot said...

"It felt at times as though I’d somehow managed to hit the off switch on a dozen or so intellects, leaving their empty husks to lurch mindlessly through a series of animatronic talking points with all the persistence and irrelevance of broken records." UNQUOTE

Reminded me of this wonderful passage in 'Coming up for Air', by Orwell, in which he describes an uncannily similar persona, the old public schoolboy 'Porteous'.

“Perhaps a man really dies when his brain stops, when he loses the power to take in a new idea. Old Porteous is like that. Wonderfully learned, wonderfully good taste - but he's not capable of change. Just says the same things and thinks the same thoughts over and over again. There are a lot of people like that. Dead minds, stopped inside. Just keep moving backwards and forwards on the same little track, getting fainter all the time, like ghosts.” UNQUOTE

Every time there's an article about the water crisis, you can count on a small cohort of techno-Porteouses to erupt, hammering on about 'Desalinization plants powered by Thorium Reactors', or similar drivel. If this particular brain-trust ever gets their utopia, they'll cover every last beach on Earth with reactors (with the rising oceans, what could possibly go wrong?)

I love the observation that people correlate a backwards move in tech with an equivalent backward move in social values. It's mind-boggling that intelligent people can believe this without question; a simple survey of other cultures is enough to falsify this (Irish brehon law, for example, in the Celtic period, had far greater rights for women than other cultures at a similar level, and there are hi-tech societies with very different gender roles, etc etc).

But pointing this out, it seems, amounts to Heresy against Progress.

Note also the similarity of the 'Porteus Society for Internet Preservation' (PSIP) to a certain stripe of commenter on, who could relied on to 'solve' the peak oil / energy crisis with we-power. "If we build X then our capacity will increase and we will be able to blah blah our blah blah we blah blah we our blah etc....."

Who this wonderful "we" is exactly, is never explained.

11/18/15, 6:43 PM

Nathan A said...
I think some of what drives people's criticism and denunciation might be unwelcome pangs of guilt, when someone who takes this sort of stand makes them feel hypocritical. I'm reminded of Terry Pratchett's words:
"You had to hope that when push came to shove you’d act the right way. But there was something slightly creepy about someone who didn’t just believe it, but lived their life by it. It was as unnerving as meeting a really poor priest."

For some, it may also be due to exposure to technology rejecters who, unfortunately, come across as judgemental and moralistic. Personally, I enjoy some TV programmes, though I respect others who choose not to have one. Once, at a gathering of people who would consider themselves progressive, I was so entertained by the antics of some young children that I made what I thought was a fun general statement, "Who needs TV when you have this to watch!" The immediate, rather terse response from one of the adult attendees was, "Who needs TV." This was followed by general noises of agreement. I was left feeling like the idiot.

11/18/15, 6:44 PM

Ozark Chinquapin said...
I think there are plenty of us who did understand the tier system once you explained it fully, as well as understanding your point about the economics of the internet, but the ones who misinterpret it tend to be louder about their opinions. What I've been thinking about with regards to the tier system is, if its about choice of infrastructure at the county level, why even have a tier system? Wouldn't just having the Lakeland constitution state that decisions about and funding for public infrastructure is paid on at the county level lead to having even more choice? That assumes that the culture has changed regarding technology enough so that many people would rather have a lower level of infrastructure and the lower taxes that go along with it, but acceptance of the tier system requires that too.

Under that system, all of the choices of the tier system would still be available, but there would also be the choice of mixing and matching things from different eras. For instance, a county could decide to have 1860s level of must things, but also maintain telephone service. Or, an otherwise higher tier county could choose not to maintein sewers because people have grown to prefer personal composting toilet and greywater systems. That would provide more choice and flexibility than setting tiers tying the levels of all the various infrastructure to particular days in the past.

In addition, I think this simpler relocalization would be more politically feasible. There's little chance of people interpreting it as an oppressive government forcing them into something. After your future civil wars, I'm thinking people will be pretty suspicious of anything like that. Since just keeping infrastructure decisions at the local level could bring about the same choices and greater flexibility, I just don't ase why the tiers are necessary.

11/18/15, 6:55 PM

Jason Fligger said...
I have been enjoying your posts for the past few weeks. I am often frustrated by not being able to live in such a rational place as the lakeland republic. I find myself wondering when we will make a transition to a more rational existence. I guess your point is that we can choose to create our own lakeland republic right now.

11/18/15, 6:58 PM

Alex said...
This is one of your best posts and that's saying something.

Modern internet makes cuneiform seem easy breezy. I won't shed a tear when, a decade from now, the internet is too expensive and too cumbersome for the average person to bother with.

I'm on the fence about a TV. I can buy a decent small flat screen for a coup!e hundred bux and put a wire dipole on the wall, and it can be entertaining to watch while practicing motor ski!!s, whether exercising or p!aying the sax or, I know a guy who trained for his Olympic gold medal in rifle by dry firing to gomer Pyle USMC and the life of Riley.

But I'm pretty big on not using any more electricity than I can avoid, so I'll probably never bother to get one. Radio is good enough for me. I wish radio dramas and comedy shows would come back!

11/18/15, 7:10 PM

M said...
I actually do commute by bicycle, and do not own a car. It is putting me in a precarious position regarding the type of custody and visitations I can have with my son, due to the fact that, because I can afford a car, it is irresponsible for me not to have one. So far I am making out okay, but I see it being a real issue if it ever gets before a judge.

I don't have a "smart" phone, and I never will. I have tried to figure out how to rid myself of my basic cell phone, but see above.

The one technology that I would like to give up is the internet. However, I have a website that I blog about my local economy on that I enjoy. And of course I read TAR and a few other worthwhile blogs. But I also watch some mindless crap (you don't have to have a tv any more to watch tv) and I would dearly love to give it up. A couple of friends recently bought a duplicator and I am talking with them about chipping in, so that I can publish my blog as a local broadsheet instead.

But I do wonder--if everyone is eventually headed this way, does it really confer an advantage upon those who voluntarily and today give up technology like, say, the automobile, or the internet, other than being a bit more used to the "hardship" of it? Not that this is why I do it--I find the technology of the automobile as distasteful as you find television. And the internet not far behind.

But still, once everyone is carless, or phoneless, or whateverless--I guess what I am trying to say is that I'm not sure how much of a strategy "Collapse Now and Beat the Rush" really is, in terms of a leg up on survival as we continue on the long descent, or helping my son with his life. To me I suppose it comes down to ethics and morality--how do I choose to think and act as a human being in the world, knowing what I know. But I'm not convinced if, like giving up cigarettes, it will potentially buy me a bit more time on this overheating globe.

11/18/15, 7:12 PM

Ozark Chinquapin said...
You briefly mentioned plastic for hoophouses in your post. Although I know it was just an example of someone's misinterpretation of the tier system, the sustainability of them is something that's been on my mind for a while now and I hope it's on topic enough to bring it up. Hoophouses and similar structures are being seen more and more now, everything from large high tunnels to small mini-tunnels and plastic cold frames and everything in between. There's no doubt with the current cheap prices of plastic that their return on investment can be quite high in present times. However the lifespan of the plastic tends to be only about eight years. It makes a difference how you treat the plastic, but the fact is that ultraviolet light breaks it down no matter what, and it is a very disposable technology. There's no doubt that plastic hoophouses have helped lots of growers compete in the markets where people want everything at all times, as well as a currently cheap way to extend the harvest for small gardeners. Row covers are a similar matter, not just used to protect plants from the cold but also often to keep bugs off. It also has a short lifespan, and it seems inevitable to me that a time will come when using plastic in these ways becomes expensive and increasingly uneconomical for most purposes. That's something few in the organic growing scene want to think about. I don't have a good idea of the timing of that relative to the general process of decline, as I don't know much about the process of making such plastic sheeting and the feasibility of making it from recycled materials. I'm wondering you're (or anyone else's) thoughts on this matter and hope for a discussion of plastics in general in your Retrotopia story.

11/18/15, 7:20 PM

Peter VE said...
This brings to mind Sarah York, whose story was recounted on the This American Life radio show. She began writing to Manuel Noriega when she was 10 and he was ruler of Panama. After about a year, he invited her to visit Panama in 1988, as the US government began the drumbeat of accusations regarding all the "evils" of Panama. Upon her return to the US, she was derided in the press for being a willing dupe of Noriega. A year later, we invaded Panama to depose Noriega, ( a longtime CIA asset) for his supposed involvement in the drug trade. After this up close view of the Empire, Sarah wisely decided on a course of retreat and at last report was living off grid in northern Wisconsin with her husband.

11/18/15, 7:25 PM

J.D. Smith said...
Pursuant to this week's post, a song of recent years I discovered only this week.

11/18/15, 7:36 PM

ratfink said...
Wow, just wow. I guess I just assiduously avoid those conversations when I have the feeling there would be that kind of reaction. As a counterpoint, one of my daughter's high school English teachers encouraged the class to go without their cell phones for a week and write about the experience. Those who took her up on the offer were generally happily surprised at the amount of interesting observations they were able to come up with. My daughter started looking at other technologies and repeating the same experiment, including other electronics, internal combustion engines, and (less successfully) electric light. Definitely started thinking differently about how the world gets mediated.

11/18/15, 7:39 PM

Misty Barber said...
During a recent camping trip I noticed my friend's campfire percolator made significantly better coffee than my counter top appliance did using the same grounds. Due, I believe, to a combination of all stainless steel components and having clean equipment for every pot. I replaced my coffee pot with it's simpler and easier to maintain stove top ancestor; out with the new and in with the old!

11/18/15, 7:40 PM

Bill Blondeau said...
Well, um... Goodness Gracious, to employ an exclamation that won't violate the standards of this community.

I was continually baffled to see week after week of comments that apparently came from a place of having not read any explanation of the tier system whatsoever. After a while it got annoying—The Lakeland Republic is much more interesting than weird disputes about the tier system, which had been well explained.

I nearly posted some WYFP ("What's Your Fracking Problem") responses, but I'm glad I left well enough alone. Partly it was that I had a lot on my plate, but partly I had a dim intuition about this. I felt that, somehow, the persistent refusal to comprehend the tier system was probably important, and that I shouldn't mess with whatever rough beast was slouching along.

I'm glad it went that way. When patently smart people refuse to engage their thought on a subject, it's usually significant. My exasperation, however prettily phrased, would have added nothing to the process of observation that gave rise to this week's post.

11/18/15, 7:51 PM

Ozark Chinquapin said...
Sarah Chrisman's article and the reactions to it were very interesting. One thing I noticed was that she describes her choices for living the Victorian lifestyle purely as a life that she prefers living to the modern one. I've noticed that going at things from that angle throws people off guard most of all. If someone who goes without technology emphasizing poverty or frugality, they're not questioning the taboo because people assume they would have the technology if they could. Even going without technology for political or religions reasons is breaking the taboo in a milder way. If they had said they were going without modern technology to save the planet or reduce their carbon footprint, even that wouldn't break the taboo as completely because that would not question the idea of modern technology as the only path to the most fulfilling life for everyone. They'd simply be seen as depriving themselves for a cause. The fact that they don't consider living the Victorian lifestyle as depriving themselves but rather as a more fulfilling life seems to be what's gotten all this anger directed at them.

There's a number of common technologies I prefer living without, but one that seems to bring the most incomprehension if it comes up is air conditioning. The fact that I prefer summers without air conditioning in a hot, humid climate seems hard for anyone to understand, including the carbon footprint types. My perspective is, living in the fresh air is more pleasant (as well as healthier) than being stuffed up in a climate controlled artificial atmosphere. The outside temperature doesn't feel nearly as extreme if you adjust to it. It also takes an adjustment in mindset for sure, and heat doesn't sffect everyone equally, but it still has always seemed strange the incomprehension that often results if I share that perspective. There's environmental and monetary benefits to not having A/C also, but emphasizing those will just make others assume I'm engaging in self-deprivation.

11/18/15, 8:04 PM

Liam B. said...
I've been reading "Antifragile" by Nassim Taleb and some of your points about the inherent fragility of ever more complex technological systems reminded me of the ideas put forward in this book. It is an interesting read so far and something I think others might find enlightening.

I also understand the sometimes hostile, sometimes curious reactions people have when they discover that I don't have certain technologies in my personal life such as a TV or cell phone. Often their initial shock (how can you get along without it?!) turns to wistful longing (I wish I could do the same!). It is even more of a shock to them because I am considered the "go to" person for tech questions and troubleshooting at work. This aptitude is not due to any inherent love for modern technology on my part; mostly this unnecessary complexity tends to irritate me.

Your suggestion to attempt a trial elimination of a given "must have" technology has peaked my interest; specifically my internet surfing habits/addiction. My goal is to use the internet primarily for utilitarian purposes (weather reports, driving directions, etc.) and to avoid using it as a time-waster/entertainment distraction. The challenge is finding that balance and not getting sucked in by the glowing screen.

11/18/15, 8:06 PM

Unknown said...
I have also noticed, I think more now than in years past, that people display a strange habit of screening out unconventional (that is, unapproved) perspectives from their consciousness and conversation, even when plainly stated and factually unassailable. The topics are innumerable: money is debt created, your tax dollars are killing brown people the world over, animated screens are damaging the brains of little children in profound ways, detaching from technology overload is a health issue..
The responses range from uncomprehending to obtuse or hostile. It's a bit like talking to a flatlander who cannot comprehend he lives on a sphere.

Something to do with authoritarian followers, conformism and inability to think for ones self. I think its getting worse.

11/18/15, 8:16 PM

Ien in the Kootenays said...
I hear your frustration with people who insist on misreading you, or who insist on misinterpreting a nuanced point of view. I love the idea of the tier system. Brilliant. I must admit I would feel quite at home in Ecotopia, though my hope for such a place is fading. Opting out of T.V. and/or internet is a common and honourable choice here in the Kootenays. I LOVE my internet. Made good friends in cyber space and spend too much time on it. You are right to remind us of its true costs. However, while I live a green and simple life otherwise I will continue to enjoy it while it lasts. Thanks for all you do!

11/18/15, 8:18 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Schoolteacher, you're welcome and thank you! The fact that your 11 year old students have more of a clue than the school district administration doesn't surprise me in the least.

Eric, thanks for the data point! I really need to write a post, soon, on the increasingly frantic chorus of voices insisting, at the top of their lungs, that everything is all right. It's a harbinger, and not of the imminent arrival of utopia...

Shane, I've seen that sort of thing too, though nobody's had the nerve to plop a laptop in my lap playing a TV program -- I suspect the people I know are well aware of my likely response!

Leif, I disagree that current high-tech options make it easier to prepare for much of anything. The only situations in which that's the case are when lower-tech options have been foreclosed. This blog is a good example; I'd publish it as a column in a weekly newspaper, of the kind that once existed by the thousands in the US, if that were still an option. Aside from that, you're much better off "practicing the song you want to play" -- a fine metaphor, that -- and getting through the learning curve of low-tech living while you still have the chance to do so gradually and relatively safely.

Tony, good heavens. That's really fascinating. I wonder, though, whether he's going to be yelled down by the science fiction community for saying that.

Bruno, the best advice I know of is not to treat "technology" as an all-or-nothing thing. Choose some technology that annoys you, and come up with some other, less energy- and resource-intensive way to do the same thing; then get rid of that specific technology, put the other option in its place, and go on with your life. Later, when the new option has become comfortable and familiar, repeat the process with some other technology, and go from there.

Bruce, good. There will indeed be a text-only blogosphere in the deindustrial future, if a certain relatively simple technology stays in place; it's called a newspaper with a large letters-to-the-editor column, and it can be kept viable if you've got hand-operated printing presses and the ability to make paper out of hemp fiber or some other renewable resource. You can even put in woodcuts of cute kittens if you really want them... ;-)

Vesta, and of course that's also a choice. There are plenty of opportunities to have real social interaction not mediated by glass screens, after all!

Fifty-Niner, I've been hearing that sort of thing more and more often of late. I wonder whether your car will still be of use to you when the road is a rutted dirt lane deeply gouged by unrepaired washouts -- because I suspect that, rather than a corvee system, is the most likely outcome.

Shane, if you want to put on a zoot suit and drink bootleg liquor, by all means! I'd be happier if more people made that choice, or Sarah Chrisman's, or anything at all other than mindless conformity to whatever the big chain stores decree you're supposed to have on your body and in your life this season.

Repent, you're welcome, and thank you -- every single person who turns off the screen and goes out to a park to toss a frisbee with the kids is helping to move things in a better direction. As for video games, I really wonder how long it'll take before the sort of thing you've described causes any significant number of people to shake themselves, turn off the screen, and go do something that actually matters...

Mark, glad to hear that somebody got the tier system on the first reading! I've been to Sequim many times, though it's been a while -- the walk out Dungeness Spit was a fave of mine back in the day.

Edward, that sort of instant fury can be taken as proof that the person you're talking with knows you're right and doesn't want to admit it. Familiar stuff in this line of work...

11/18/15, 8:51 PM

Sheila Grace said...
I find this post fascinating. When my personal crash happened, instead of staying stuck, I chose to start the journey of self-reflection, then turned an eye towards all that exists around me. It landed me in a very unpopulated area with another INT like-minded & aware person. The journey began with a sort of noise detox, then frenetic detox, followed by consumerism detox. Presently I am lucky enough to be 100% involved in understanding Natural systems & patterns.

As far as this particular culture I see this hidden thread (you describe) everywhere I look, now that I’ve changed perspective. I couldn’t see it before. I struggle to describe it; infantilism, unaccountability vs self-accountability, dependent entitlement, it’s actually incredibly deceptive until I tried it myself – extracting one’s self from the Monster – the Monster being the centralized system.

TV was jettisoned long ago, before we met and its absence has severely reduced the number of potential guests we are likely to get. There is a TV on the property. It sits across from an old recliner on the north end of the property exposed to the elements and seasons. Radio is absent as well. Once immersed in quietude, it didn’t take long to recognize the same message emanates from two different sides of the fence; outraged because we need more of something and outraged because we need less of something. One sells commercial time the other begs for your donations and support to continue ‘great programing’. Both are programming.

None of this is easy. A couple of years back when I opened my eyes and really saw what you’re talking about I noticed the Ithaca farmer’s market gets massive support from locals, the majority of attendees drive to the market, so many in fact there is not enough parking space. My suburban Seattle friends have green this and green that AND drive away from their homes multiple times each and every day either to get to work or to attend a green event or to run a small errand.

The most challenging part about electing to have this life style is the approach, decentralize as much as possible, every subset possible, looking at each and every subset, breaking it down to an energy audit as to what enters the property and what leaves and why – including us. Every item in each subset undergoes scrutiny, is it ‘garbage’ why? Can it be repurposed Why? How? What items are entering the property now that are not helpful? Only then can a person begin to get an inkling of how much ‘stuff’ around you is made by and from petroleum; or extracted, fabricated and delivered by the use of fossil fuels. People are stunned when after the first excitement of seeing the double solar array at the end of the driveway they exclaim ‘this is fantastic, wow how great, we would love solar too because of” (fill in the blank punch words) and our response is actually negative as we explain how much energy is consumed to produce these – so much so – that carbon neutrality is a joke, even in the long run.

It takes time to peel away the layers of so much indoctrination over so many years. Fascinating really and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For now I’m using the web technology and other presently available resources in a very different way; to set up low tech self-functioning systems. It allows me to imagine a very different future in which one day a person or group of persons will stumble on this property and will they find low tech systems set up that continue to provide water, food and shelter?

On a more present note we did a blasphemous thing; withdrew some of the money from the vaporous 401k, paid off the mortgage and acquired tangible objects for collecting water.

11/18/15, 8:51 PM

Shane Wilson said...
Others have already hit the nail on the head, which is that the thaumaturges behind modern screen technology, be it computer/internet or TV, DESIGN IT TO BE PSYCHOLOGICALLY ADDICTIVE. That's precisely why you get the same reaction you would if you were pointing out a smoker's unhealthy nicotine addiction. It's psychologically addictive, they know it's damaging them, but they can't quit.
Along those lines, does anyone ever notice how positively Stepfordian conversations are among screen addicts? You get the feeling when you're around them and they're engaged in conversation, they're just mouthing one pop culture soundbite after another. It's depressing. You want to shake them and yell, "WHERE IS YOUR SOUL/HUMANITY I KNOW THERE'S A HUMAN IN THERE SOMEWHERE?!?"
Regarding the internet, it's become such a cacophony to be anymore that I don't even think it can be used for much useful research much longer. Everything now online seems saturated with ads and poorly written material that wouldn't have even made it into the National Enquirer 30 years ago. It's getting even harder to wade through the muck online. I've pretty much given up.

11/18/15, 9:04 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Dean, that's so funny! I sometimes wonder if the rigid unwillingness to do without the phones et al., even for a few hours, comes from the fact that everybody knows they'll have a better time without them, and nobody wants to deal with the implications of that fact.

Robert, I trust when that person made his comment about "living in a dream world," you at least considered saying something along the lines of "No, I'm living in the real world." Of course, if my experience is anything to go by, once you said that, you could count on the person in question never speaking to you again. People are incredibly defensive about that particular addiction.

Denis, thank you. I routinely point out that most of the number crunching that put bootprints on the Moon was done with slide rules. This. Is. Rocket. Science!

TJ, it's challenging, isn't it? Still, it's worth pushing through the reflexive fear; on the other side lies freedom.

Doctor W., and not merely to consider -- to enact.

9anda1f, yes, I've seen the same thing more times than I can remember: people who literally have nothing in their heads that they didn't get from a TV screen, who bleat in chorus, "Oh, we only watch a little educational TV" like a flock of sheep.

Mitzi, you can move to tier one. All you have to do is create it in your own life and your own home, and there you are.

Island Poet, that's been a theme here since the beginning of the blog. You're quite right, of course: a lot is going to be lost in the years ahead. What gets saved depends almost entirely on how many people are willing to take action here and now.

Sgage, I've seen it many times.

Dermot, exactly. Thank you for the reminder about Brehon law; that's an excellent example, and one I'll use in future posts.

Nathan, you may well be right. It's a complex tangle, like most things human.

Ozark, good. Now, keeping in mind that Retrotopia is a work of fiction, and like all utopias, has an instructional agenda, perhaps you can tell me why I chose, in the story, to use something a little more edgy and in-your-face than what you've proposed.

Jason, exactly. That recognition earns you tonight's gold star.

11/18/15, 9:08 PM

Renaissance Man said...
I think the psychopathy goes deep. People in general place a premium on conformity. Perhaps because North American culture pretends it has no formally-defined boundaries within which people are free to move or press against, people are reluctant to explore, lest they inadvertently stray too far. People cling to the known and secretly despise themselves for their fear and thus angrily resent others who are obviously different.
When I first had to live in suburbia, I found it a very bizarre place. I quickly discovered that everyone is allowed one - but only one - personal quirk to differentiate them from everyone else (and thus 'prove' they are 'individuals'). Thus my uncle was into electronics, but was otherwise indistinguishable. His neighbour's hobby was sailing, so he had a boat. The guy across the street tinkered with his car and had a wall of tools. The guy down the street went camping. And so on. But none of them strayed very far from the normative neatly-mowed lawn, cars in the garage, a few tools, dress & deportment, similar jobs, and selfsame houses.
(I would be remiss if I failed to observe that typically buildings are very similar for any given geographical area and time, e.g. Switzerland, Bavaria, Normandy, or Flanders, but still each period and locality is distinct. 20th Century North America is noteworthy for its lack of local differentiation and general blandness.)
Advertisers harp about 'choice', implying individual preference as paramount, but the manifestly standardized offerings are very limited; politicians and economists abuse the word freedom, glorifying a sacred right to choose, yet permit almost no really distinct alternatives; our educational system is inordinately concerned with inculcating a sense of personal individuality in children, yet even when trying to be non-conformist, membership in any teenage sub-culture typically involves strict dress-codes and uniform attitudes.
I suspect the Chrismans would be perfectly acceptable if they merely collected Victorian artifacts and home décor, rather than live a genuinely alternate lifestyle. The fact that they do undermines the popular delusion of distinctive individuality.
Naturally, I didn't (don't) fit in. I have far too many interests and hobbies to focus on any one and was (am) therefore very much beyond the pale of general acceptability. I've a fascination with history and am always wondering, not whether there is a new (and therefore obviously better) way to do something, but rather, whether an older way of doing something wasn't actually better than the latest fad. Sometimes a new idea is an improvement. Usually, it isn't.
That simple attitude makes me a scarred heretic.

11/18/15, 9:19 PM

Marcu said...
Thank you for another thought provoking post. This particular issue has been a difficult path for me to navigate. On the one hand I grew up with all these technologies in place and don't know anything else, but on the other hand I know how unsustainable they are. I have undertaken to not replace my current technological trinkets once they finally give in. I had an interesting discussion with a friends the other day about why I still use my 8 year old laptop… Until that fateful day I will just endeavor to be mindful of where, when and how much I use these technologies.


The inaugural meeting of the Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne was a great success. All interested parties are invited to attend the next meeting of the Melbourne Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 1223, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 1223, (Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne for short, GWAM for shorter) which will be held on the 28th of November 2015 at 13:00.

The venue is Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

Please RSVP, or send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]
Just look for the green wizard's hat.

11/18/15, 9:22 PM

Zachary Braverman said...
Funny, when I was reading this I started imagining how nice life would be without a cell phone. I like the idea, but thought to myself that, given conditions put upon me by kids and work, it would have to wait. This impulse was automatic and not even very easily recognized.

Then I thought about it some more, and realized that my kids and work will be just fine without a smartphone in my pocket.

Ironic that even while I was consciously agreeing with you, my subconscious was busily subverting the idea that I have any choice in the matter, at least for the forseeable future....

11/18/15, 9:23 PM

Gary Shannon said...
I have seen that failure to grasp the essence of an argument before in response to my own posts in various forums. I think the reason might be simpler than what you propose. I truly believe that some people read only every third word of a post and fill in the missing 66% of what they "read" with words of their own choosing, and respond to that, rather than what you actually posted. At some, probably unconscious, level they think they already know what your post is going to say and spare themselves the trouble of actually reading all those tedious words.

11/18/15, 9:26 PM

jbucks said...
I work as a programmer, so I 'should' be someone to tout the benefits of the internet, but many things I've noticed over the years have made me aware of the broader point: that technology only appears cheap because of the energy and labour used to power it, and really the only way to solve the problems which we mistakenly call environmental problems is to stop using technology with high energy costs. It's as simple as that, but a lot of so-called environmentalists don't seem to get this.

11/18/15, 9:30 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Alex, have you considered getting into local low-power radio, and helping to bring them back? Someone has to make the first step, after all.

M, the advantage that comes from "collapse now and avoid the rush" is that living with less complex technology doesn't come naturally to any of us -- we all have to learn how to do it, and the early part of the learning curve can be very harsh. If you get that out of the way in a controlled fashion now, you'll be in much better shape to weather the inevitable crises ahead, because you won't be fumbling to make an unfamiliar technology work in the teeth of the storm. It's exactly the same reason why you patch your roof before the rains come!

Ozark, I'm pretty sure that plastic row covers will become prohibitively expensive for agricultural use in the decades immediately ahead. Glass cloches and cold frames are far more sustainable, and will likely replace them; I expect Carr to see those when he gets out into the countryside.

Peter, fascinating. I hadn't heard that.

J.D., many thanks for the musical accompaniment!

Ratfink, that teacher deserves a raise, and a medal. I hope your daughter continues to learn from the experience -- and I hope you do, too.

Misty, I very rarely give out two gold stars at a sitting, but I'm going to do that, because you did something that next to nobody in America ever does: you paid attention to your own lived experience when it contradicted the myth of progress, and took action accordingly. Congratulations. You've earned tonight's second gold star, which may be affixed to your new percolator.

Bill, that's a fine exclamation! For what it's worth, it took me a while to see past the irritation and notice the bizarre paralogic behind it.

Ozark, bingo. I suspect you're quite right; it's exactly the fact that they're choosing to use older technologies because they enjoy them more that makes the Chrismans so threatening to other people. As for air conditioning, agreed; I'm far from happy when the weather's hot and humid, but I prefer that to the stifling chilled pseudo-air that comes out of air conditioners.

Liam, one way to take back your time from a technology is to make it inconvenient. In our home we have one computer hooked up to the internet, and it's not the one I use for my writing -- that's an old PC running Windows XP, basically a glorified typewriter not connected to anything. (I'd use a typewriter, but publishers insist on getting manuscripts in Word format these days.) I use the internet computer when and only when I have something to do online, such as fielding comments for a blog post, and when I'm done, I go do something else. It does seem to work!

Unknown, interesting. I wonder if other readers have noticed a worsening.

Ien, I'd get along tolerably well in Ecotopia as well, but I don't see it happening. Retrotopia, on the other hand... ;-)

Sheila, good. That's certainly one option, and an honorable one.

Shane, I know. I listen to people talking these days, and it's brutally clear that in most cases there's not a thing in their heads that wasn't put there by a TV program. One of the reasons I enjoy Freemasonry is that Masons have other things in their heads -- memorizing 19th century rituals will do that for you!

11/18/15, 9:31 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Renaissance, you may be on to something. The lack of boundaries here in the US may lead people to be even more frightened of lack of conformity than they would be otherwise, because once you stray from the narrow circle of suburban blandness, you might end up anywhere! Hmm...

Marcu, may I make a suggestion? Replace your technologies before they die on you, so you have something else to fall back on. Start taking notes in a paper notebook instead of an electronic one. Start using your land line and an answering machine to field calls instead of automatically giving everyone your cell number. That way, you can make the transition smoothly, and when this or that machine finally dies, it won't be a trauma for you.

Zachary, good. That's how you've been taught to think, or more precisely, not to think. Now push through it and actually, seriously discard a technology, and watch the way your thoughts and emotions respond.

Gary, I suppose that could also be part of it!

Jbucks, you work as a programmer, so you know how computers and the internet actually function. Too many so-called environmentalists have never taken the time to learn a thing about the internet's ecological footprint, and many actively avoid doing so, so they can keep on pretending that it's basically a genie from a lamp.

11/18/15, 9:38 PM

Glenn said...

Here's a more recent, and slightly more detailed and nuanced article about our local Victorians (we live about 15 miles away). The part with the DeLorean is hilarious.

A bit of clarification. Most of the criticism they've received about not sticking _only_ to Victorian technology has been on line, and is aimed at the fact that they _choose_ which current technologies to use, and which Victorian ones; she expresses a desire for future allopathic medical tech at one point. The local hostility, mostly from women, has been due to precisely the inability to separate the clothing she wears from the mores of a hundred and twenty years ago. My brother has seen her riding a non-penny farthing safety bicycle as far afield as the Deception Pass bridge, in full panoply.

Despite your experiences with "left coast liberals" whom I would describe as middle class progress worshippers, and who exist all over the developed world, there are a fair amount of appropriate tech folks here in Jefferson County and Port Townsend walking their talk. We have plenty of good company.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

11/18/15, 9:39 PM

Mark Rice said...
So the yuppies on the left coast of are less open to someone -- Gasp -- not watching television than the working class people of Cumberland. This reminds me of me in the past.

A long long time ago I grew up in the somewhat more affluent and privileged suburbs of Baltimore. And I had some prejudices to go with a "liberal" upbringing. A friend of mine -- a lesbian was living with her lover in a blue collar neighbourhood of row houses in Baltimore city. It turns out they had very good relationships with their neighbours. I could not wrap my head around this. I thought tolerance was limited to "liberals" with education.

11/18/15, 9:48 PM

Rob Rhodes said...
I think you have violated the First Law of Progress: Thou Cannot Stop Progress.

A conversation similar to those you've described comes up when one challenges the assertion that all those people in the Third World all want all the cool stuff we have. Describe people in places that are aware of the temptations but are deliberately resisting them to preserve their simple life and the counter is either "They must not be able to afford it." or "Well the guy bringing my drinks at the all inclusive sure did". Point out that no, some are risking their lives to save their culture and/or declining resource revenues that would provide the means and a head is shaken, eyes rolled and the subject changed. Those poor uneducated people just don't understand, "You can't stop Progress".

Perhaps the anger, fear and denial arises because to suggest that progress is a human artifact within human control insinuates that someone has behaved as if helpless when they need not have.

11/18/15, 9:56 PM

Moondira Magia said...
First time poster. I've been enjoying your articles for ages.

I'm withdrawing from technology more and more, noticing that it's taking away something vital in my life.

I couldn't get a book I wanted on Kindle so had to order a hardcover and I started noticing how wonderful it felt and looked, like a wonderful treasure that I couldn't stop examining and touching for awhile before settling down to read.

Then I watched a series on PBS named Indian Summers that takes place in India during the 1930's, and I was just loving watching them shuffle the papers around and write all the secret and official notes to each other, and then hearing the crackling sound as they folded them neatly to nest in books or desk drawers. I felt like a kid in a chocolate shop longing to touch all that paper. Laughing*

I'm not sure most people I know would understand this, and think me a bit odd if I expressed it.

11/18/15, 9:59 PM

patriciaormsby said...
Lovely essay, this week, JMG! I'll prod a few more people into having a look, including an activist for the rights of the electrosensitive--people who are aware they are being physically harmed by modern technology. What I expect, though, is for her to ignore this as irrelevant, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I'm beginning to think you are really spot-on with your concept of "the civil religion of Progress." I'm still certain that addictions, both physiological and mental, play into this, but the electrosensitive have been forced to free themselves of any physiological addiction, or else they suffer severe consequences that they cannot ignore. Nevertheless, when I brought up the idea several years ago of a possible future collapse of industrial society, that would solve their biggest concerns overnight, they treated me as invisible. No amount of tugging on their sleeves would get them to acknowledge what I was saying. They would be perfectly right to tell me that we must take steps to combat the problem anyway, because between now and then a lot of mischief is apt to occur, smart meters for one, as the hysterical phase of Lobaczewski's "hysteroidal cycle" comes to visit (and I hope Jean Vivien in Paris is okay). When the electrosensitive speak up on forums that allow it, they usually preface their remarks with, "I'm not a Luddite, but..." I think most of them want a solution that addresses their particular problem, but allows technology to go forward. A large number, including myself, were very much enamored with technology to begin with, and they got burned in this way.

In any case, none of the other factors I've identified in the puzzling persecution of this growing minority really satisfies all of the observations, but merely add to it. So your hypothesis of a "civil religion of Progress" has plenty of evidence to support it from my perspective as well. The aluminum foil in my skullcap is covered with cloth and inserted into a stylish sort of hat, so I avoid most of the trouble suffered by more obvious iconoclasts. When I add a veil in heavily electropolluted places, then most people think I've converted to Islam, and they usually give me no trouble, but some of those who recognize the silver veil will go out of their way to make sure everyone knows I'm crazy. In other words, even the hysteria against Muslims these days is less severe than that against this one particular disabled minority, who have no choice about their condition, but are legally obliged to enter the same buildings and stand in the same lines as everyone else.

11/18/15, 10:03 PM

ed boyle said...
We have old mobile phones which we use rarely for when someone is on a trip and no smartphones. My wife garden veggies and berries. We never had a car. I have howeverrecently rediscovered popo music on radio. My kids listen to classical music cds, humming along to Mozart. No whatsapp and skype and popmusic and soccer for them. They are out of the loop. Internet means emails from teacher and wikipedia for school research. TV seies were not thei thing as when I grew up. We bought videos with favourite films which they watchedoften and they read dozens of books in 3 languages, from all family's basic attitude corresponds to what you are saying in wll senses. My kids are technofuturists but accept our practical hatred of screen zombiism and modernity in transport. They are atheist whereas I mistrust science, do yoga and tai chi and do horoscopes. PO is for them a red flag to a bull as I have said it since they were small and the world still exists. Generational problem here. My east bloc romanticism is of course due to the fact that in villages some live in a distant past without electricity, during soviet times in big cities cars were a luxury and in small towns in the north a lack of own potato patch meant near starvation in winter. They did not throw things away. A fridge lasted 30 years, radio, TV, car as well. So tech was for a lifetime. There was no cyclical seasonal replacement to please fads and investors. Tech was permanent, like in 19th century, a felt background. The pace of change now is financially forced by markets. Yearly i phone or car model update. People literally live in various such models you have discussed due to lack of roads and infrastructure in middle of nothing there. In Alaska eskimos use satellite tv, smart phones, suv, drugs. It is an American problem, tech obsessed. Russians would take to your idea of tiers like fish to water.

11/18/15, 10:12 PM

Maxine Rogers said...
Hi John Michael Greer,
We gave up owning a car two and a half years ago. At the time, we were surprised by the agitation of our friends and I, the female in our couple, was singled out as having deprived my husband of his right to a car. We got a lot of negative attention from an older couple who are living on a fixed income.

In the past few months, one of their cars had to be given to a relative. My husband patiently explained the financial benefits of having only one car to the other husband. Our friends are now sharing their car. The man sometimes walks a whole kilometer to the cafe whe he does not have the car!

Other friends of ours have a small truck. They loan it out to members of our informal group of friends. Presents are given and the truck is returned clean and full of fuel. This is all a good thing as everyone needs a truck sometimes but almost no one needs a truck every day.

My husband says it is a good thing we gave up our car because we also live on a fixed income but it would not now cover the expense of owning a vehicle. People have stopped bugging us about our lack of a car. All our friends want to loan us their vehicles. We use one for shopping once a month. They like the presents we give and feel good about helping us be car free. It is like the Russians say, "you can get used to anything."
Max Rogers

11/18/15, 10:13 PM

patriciaormsby said...
@Robert Mathiesen
Have you heard about electro-hypersensitivity (EHS)? It is an increasingly common condition, and the symptoms you have described fit it well. I have particular trouble at airports too. You have probably been sensitized to the frequencies and modulations of TV radiation, especially the most recent ones. You might also be affected by other forms of radiofrequency radiation.
There have been more than 20,000 studies published, many in peer-reviewed journals, that report on biological effects of non-ionizing radiation (electric fields, radiowaves). Google "Bioinitiative Report" for detailed information. The IARC (part of WHO) has classified radiofrequency radiation as a Type 2B possible carcinogen.
Lots of groups have formed in response to the problem. A huge concern is smart meters. I'll look for your response, and if you want, I'll try to post some links (don't have time now). If you haven't heard of EHS, it's because it is taboo. Never bring it up with your doctor. Always start from the 3rd person: "I have this friend who gets dizzy..." and see how they respond to that.

11/18/15, 10:43 PM

Tom Fitzpatrick said...
It is incredibly hard to be among friends in light of my aversion to TV and Cell phones as the conversation inevitably veers into TV land. As a struggling addict they seem to pull me back in. I've made a no-screens rule with some of them when we are together, but add anyone else to the equation and they are staring at there phones again and angry when I say anything. It is exhausting. As someone who is very insular it is difficult to have what little interpersonal time I be sabotaged and treated like I'm a neurotic zealot.

11/18/15, 10:46 PM

jbucks said...
I just read all the comments so far, and I appreciate the thoughts from people who have started to 'de-tech' and who are thinking of doing so. I'm working on this, too, and it is difficult.

The area where I've been most successful, aside from learning to grow vegetables, has been with music-making, which I do as a hobby. I used to use my computer, hardware synthesizers, microphones and loudspeakers to make music, but a couple of years ago I sold everything except the computer, and used the money to invest in piano and composition lessons in order to learn these things thoroughly.

The transition to a no-electricity music setup isn't totally complete: I have a digital piano which I use with headphones to avoid disturbing neighbours, and I use a kind of word-processor for music notation on the computer to do my composition 'homework'. But once my partner and I eventually move out of our flat, I will get an acoustic piano and soon I will only need empty notation paper and a pencil to do composition.

The idea of using money resulting from the sale of high-tech things to fund lessons in low-tech skills is something I will explore in other areas!

11/18/15, 10:48 PM

Trmist said...
Wonderful post

The part at the end of the essay where you say, "contributing to one of the crucial tasks of our age: the rediscovery of ways of being human that don’t depend on hopelessly unsustainable levels of resource and energy consumption.". Is perhaps one of the most succinct and elegant notions expressed. This sums up much of what I have learned reading you work in just a sentence. My complements.

BTW I'm enjoying your fiction series. It has prompted me to start reading more fiction. I am espially fond of the new cli-fi genera. Lots of interesting ideas on how our might look after progress.

11/18/15, 10:48 PM

mgalimba said...
But come now, Mr. Greer, was it not your intention (on some level) in devising the Tiers as a literary element of your utopia to elicit just such responses?
The Tier system would be highly unlikely to have much of a shelf life among actual restless, invidious, unreasonable human beings, but it is a wonderful device to pry apart social identity from current technology, as well as "de-couple" the hidden costs of public infrastructure from the technologies they make possible.
Is it any wonder that cognitive dissonance is the response when we are all becoming more or less parasitized by overly complex technologies, but don't know how to (or given the option to) live any other way?

11/18/15, 11:36 PM

Brian said...
Excellent post Mr. Greer, on a subject I have been pondering for a long time. I share your bewilderment at the common notion that you cannot pick and choose from the technologies you choose to adopt. In my own life, being very selective about what I use was a natural consequence of my basic habit of parsimony - realizing early on that I was unwilling to work at the kind of jobs most people consider normal, it followed that anything I purchased had better pull its weight and last, because I didn't have a lot of money to waste on things that would land in the trash within a year, because they broke, turned out to be a pain in the ass, or I got bored with them. Later, the environmental consequences of throwaway crap became more important to me, but it's still mostly about the fact that I'm really frugal - and proud of it.

On the subject of television, having only owned one for a few years a couple of decades ago, I've long been used to the reaction you describe of people who realize that not only have I not seen the fabulously interesting program they want to talk about, I've never even heard of it and couldn't care less. I personally don't have any trouble watching colored images jerking around on a screen; what drives me bonkers about television programming is the staccato, non-sequitur quality of it, and most annoyingly, the advertising. Apparently it seems normal to the average television-watcher that the same insultingly stupid ad will be shown four times in an hour - to me, were a person in my home to exhibit that same behaviour, if they weren't suffering from an advanced condition of dementia they would be politely but firmly asked to leave. If I wanted to hear the same thing repeated over and over, I'd buy myself a parrot.

11/18/15, 11:42 PM

kayr said...
Some few years ago I had a very startling epiphany about how some people thought they would save the world and make an "Ecotopia". I was at an event that was all about living green and local economy. A guy on a bike came up and after a little bit of talk it was clear he was a young, well off, "green entrepreneur". He rattled off all the "green" things he had done to improve his home (PV, insulation, bamboo flooring, ect.) and now he could be just sit back and know he had done his part in saving the world. All I could do was stare at him as it suddenly struck me that he was trying to buy salvation. Saving the planet was a consumer product as far as he was concerned. He wasn't changing his life in any meaningful way, just "green washing" it. The sad part was I realized I had been on the same track. I just couldn't afford it like this guy could.

I wish I could say that I have totally disconnected from cars, cellphones, internet, TV, etc., but I haven't. All have their annoying factors, but I still have a use for them. At least they still seem useful to me in many ways.

I guess you could say I have compensated for my sins with gardening, food preservation and other low-tech skills. I too don't have AC, I use a clothes line to dry my laundry and I make and sell my clothing items with a very vintage electric sewing machine I got from my Grandmother. I do my level best to not participate in corporate consumerism, but sometimes you just don't have a choice. Even though I have PV array on my roof, I didn't install it to save the planet, I did it to lower my personal expenses so that I might be able to afford to stay in my home through a good part of my elder years and I have very mixed feelings about it.

There doesn't seem to be anything easy about this "collapse now and avoid the rush" business, but increasing awareness of how we are embedded in our technology culture can't hurt. And of course practice, practice, practice.

Great essay this week.

11/19/15, 1:12 AM

Jen said...
While I have my differences of opinion and temperament with Sarah Chrisman, one thing she mentioned in the linked article caught my imagination: the idea of spending my days reading mostly books published during or before the Victorian era. I consistently find my time and attention monopolized by hot-off-the-press reading material, and I know it's intellectually stunting and a source of stress (trying to keep up with the latest bad news in geopolitics, etc).

So I decided to put together a little project in which I read works published before 1901 for the next year or so:

I know, I know, this is exactly the sort of gimmicky year-long challenge that lends itself so readily to mockery, but I think it will be refreshing and I would be glad if anyone here with similar interests would drop by to discuss the books, exchange recommendations, etc. If it ends up being just me typing into the void, I will be unsurprised, but I would welcome a bit of company.

I am thinking of either Charlotte Bronte's Villette or Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle (oft-mentioned by JMG but not yet read by yours truly) for the first book on my list.

11/19/15, 1:20 AM

averagejoe said...
Don’t know if anyone has seen this story.
What it does is hammer another nail in the coffin of the modern day ‘religion’, i.e. faith in progress. Oil and modern technology has bought us a 100 years reprieve thereabouts, from bacteria . But natures ability to use disease as a means of population control, will win the day again. Also its a great leveller. I note the UK prime minister, a man of great wealth, has been raising the issue for sometime. Unlike other issues, the rich can’t easily buy themselves a solution. If it only effected the poor it would be ignored.

11/19/15, 1:38 AM

Ben Iscatus said...
Bravo, Mr Greer, for forcing your poor readers to confront their own cognitive dissonance!

If I promise you I'll never buy an 1800 watt leafblower and will always use a broom, will you tell me I'm a good boy and can reduce my TDQ (Technology Dependency Quotient) from tier 7 to the maximum acceptable tier 5? Will you treat me as a special case if I tell you I get serious high-tech withdrawal symptoms?

I guess not!

Cold turkey is coming.

11/19/15, 2:04 AM

Ondra said...
Dear JMG,

thank you for your post.
It has been decided in my country that towns all the way down to 2000 inhabitants should not pollute water by their sewage. And you may guess that this sensible requirement has been translated into the directive that every such town must build its own sewer system.
Our village (which has about 2500) is built along a stream in a valley, which means that it is about 5 kilometers long, and on average only about 0,25 km wide. So we already had few years of annoying digging, damaged roads, geology is unfavorable (soft sediments and few meters later rock), there is only slight slope, so we even have a pump mid-way to lift the sewage to a higher level. All this cost already sums on the order of millions of US dollars (in official exchange rate). Characteristic is that there was never any discussion about other ways of treating - or even using for some benefit - sewage.


11/19/15, 2:04 AM

Manoj Samanta said...
I grew up in a different country, and that Victorian lifestyle was pretty much our childhood - out of necessity. During most of my school life (1980s), we filled our pens with ink. Our government could not provide us with steady electricity, and so we had to often use small oil-filled lamps.

Now I have computers in data center (and that too in Puget sound area), and I can see the other end of it as well. Given that I take care of those servers myself (including replacing disks), I can clearly see the costs and vulnerability of modern technology. This thing is not sustainable.

11/19/15, 2:13 AM

russell1200 said...
The nice thing with the low tech counties would be that you could pick just the exact technological features that you wanted without paying for the rest of them. Don't want any electricity except of refrigeration and some ac? Just go the solar (using ice cubes rather than batteries) or propane, or some combination thereof. If you look at the lifestyle the Amish live (rather than what we project on them) you could see that it wouldn't necessarily turn out bad at all.

If you figure that after 1900 (when it was discovered that mosquitos carry yellow fever) most of you prime preventive medical knowledge was in place, but very little in the way of utilities were available outside major urban areas, you could drop back quit a ways and still live reasonably.

But trying to do it on your own, as our neo-Victorians have, does tend to buck a certain amount of tribal/status instincts.

11/19/15, 2:14 AM

Karim said...
Greetings all!

I have a basic cell phone (10 yrs old!) and I refuse to have a smart one. And I say so. By and large people find this attitude incomprehensible, but thankfully I don't get any abuses!

It seems that rejecting advanced technology is like making an affront to the non-transcendental Gods of modernity and progress.

It is unacceptable. One transgresses a religious taboo. Therefore one must be punished.

11/19/15, 2:28 AM

Renaissance Man said...
As I posted late yesterday, the tier system is quite easy to grasp: if one county chooses a tier with a civic centre, a pool, and sports facilities for free public use, they pay taxes for it. If the next county over decides not to, then their denizens can go down to a privately-run health club & buy a membership. Nothing precludes such facilities from existing in any given tier. And all one has to do is show photo ID with your home address on it to see who belongs to which county, so no cheating. Ditto for libraries, schools, and any other service. Pretty simple, as far as I can tell.
The only caveat is there needs to be some economic arrangement to ensure that all people will be able to make a living, so that those in tier 1 can afford all the services they must pay for, the simplest arrangement being that advocated by Ricardo & expounded by Henry George, of taxing land and resources, and pollution, but not wages or profits, since history has shown repeatedly, from Denmark in the 1840s to Taiwan in the 1950s that this approach really works.

Apropos of TV...
Decades ago, it occurred to me that people on TV almost never watch TV... they are detectives out on a case, or they are spies dodging bullets, or flying spaceships, or they are busy doing something. The thought that came to my mind was: why am I sitting down, doing nothing, vicariously watching some fictional character having exciting adventures, when I could go out have my own real ones? (Obviously not the getting-shot-at kind and I don’t fly spacecraft...)
So way back when, I ditched the cable service & sallied forth.
For about a decade, I had no TV. But, eventually, I missed it.
Now I spend most of my time making things or working around horses, when not earning a living, which leaves very little time for watching screens, or reading books for that matter, but as I am a very visual person, I enjoy movies and shows; I like seeing the costumes and sets and imagery. I now watch online. There are two or three compelling shows that I enjoy, some stuff on YouTube, documentaries, the nightly news, but it’s no longer passive viewing. I find that I can no longer just sit still to watch anything that comes up. I must have something tedious and time-consuming to do, such as polishing boots, or washing horse-tack, or mending torn clothes: mindless, boring, but necessary activities. Conversely, if I don’t have something to entertain me, those mind-numbing jobs never get attended to.
If others don’t like looking at a screen of moving images, fine, but I’ll argue there is nothing particularly intellectually superior about books, per se. There is as much dross committed to ink and paper as there is dreck broadcast over the airwaves. There is also some excellent work in both genres. In about the same ratio of good to bad, I’d say.
As to attitudes, ironically, I work in I.T., and no longer believe that anything new is better – in fact, it probably isn’t. Most of my co-workers look like they’re bracing for a painful blow every time management saddles us with some new software package and laugh bitterly at my joke that ‘upgrade’ is a compound word composed of ‘up’ which implies something better with feelings of hope and expectation and ‘grade’ which means ‘to flatten out’ (as in grading a road-bed). A surprising number of us are quite aware that 'newer' does not mean 'better' and that a lot of things have not been improved by the inclusion of compuer chips.

11/19/15, 2:33 AM

Jason Heppenstall said...
You will no doubt be delighted to hear that eBooks have almost completely fallen out of favour in the UK. Whether it's the general substandard 'look' of the books, the fact that you always manage to lose the charger and run out of battery power when you are just getting to the exciting bit, or the various warnings about them affecting sleep patterns - whatever the reason, plummeting sales of eBooks are being offset by a corresponding rise in paperback sales.

I'm going to engage in some curious paralogic now and recommend a TV series (several, actually). Victorian Farm, a series made by the BBC, took three people and made them live on a farm in Victorian conditions for (I think) a year. They made other series too, set in different eras, but IMO the Victorian and Edwardian ones were best. Interestingly, at the end of each series, the participants seem somewhat unhappy to be going back to the 21st century. So, watch these before you throw your TV in the dumpster - you will learn many things that will be useful in the future. Oh, you can also see them all on YouTube.

Lastly, as a final point of interest, they have begun to teach mindfulness as my daughter's primary school (there's a link here). It has been recognised that the constant stimulation by computers and TV was having an adverse effect on the young minds to the extent that they were unable to think, and some were becoming depressed. Now, the kids sit and meditate for half an hour a day and the result of this has been greater concentration levels and more relaxed kids. Some of the parents were resistant to the idea as they had been conditioned to associate meditation with hippies and 'mind control', so the language surrounding the project is very careful. These same parents would no doubt be happy to sit their kids in front of a TV screen for six hours at a time ...

11/19/15, 2:38 AM

Timcognito said...
Ah JMG, this post sings to me for a number of reasons.

How do I keep this concise. I am from the UK, met my wife whilst living in the US and we now live in France. In no small part to taking your advise a number of years back and choosing to voluntarily collapse. We all clubbed together (extended family, brother, parents) and bought some extremely affordable land in Normandy. Why Normandy? Cost!

In order to make this "stick" we have had to continuously find ways of weaning ourselves off of the mainstream consensus, to remove ourselves form the over bearing pressure to conform to a western-approved method of living. So we have looked at means of reducing our need for money, to purchase stuff. Which is a challenge to a forty plus and thirty plus couple indoctrinated into the western lifestyle. BUT we continue to remove things from our lives. Things we thought were essential, but as it turns out, weren't!

We practice permaculture in order to better fit into our small haven. We host WWOOFers to gain and share knowledge about a more unconventional way of living. We try to use as little hydro-carbons as we can to maintain our small-holding, challenging, but HUGELY satisfying.

And all of this is done with my 1-year old and 5-year old living this way. They are ALL that matters.

Where your post sings to me is in the CONSTANT defending to family, friends and colleagues of our choices... "Why do you use an axe and cross-cut saw when you could use a chain saw?" "Why would you choose to live like an 18th Century person?" "What kind of future are you preparing your children for living this way?" "Your kids are going to be so sick living amongst so much dirt!"

The fact is, we do not live an exceptional life. We still have internet, mains electric and running water. We haven't turned our backs on the 21st century. We are simply trying to re-tool ourselves. My main lesson for my girls is that food and water are primary concerns, all else is gravy! Creativity, resourcefulness and an understanding of food and seasons is all you need to survive... I think.

Thank you for continuing to inspire us and encouraging us with your writing to be brave in the face of the coming interesting times.


11/19/15, 2:43 AM

Martin B said...
I don't have a car or a TV or a microwave oven or even a bicycle ;o) This morning I did my weekly chore of hand-washing my laundry and hanging it out to dry. (Not coincidentally, I don't have a wife or a girlfriend.) But I do have a hand-me-down cellphone; it's a lot cheaper than the landline I used to have. And fortunately, shops and public transport are a ten-minute walk away. Plus of course I have a laptop for reading ADR.

John, I think arguments on the tier system will continue until you tabulate what amenities are available in each tier, plus the population density and the general level of wages and taxation.

My impression is that most of us believe Lakeland's standard of living is similar to today's, but I suspect it will be much lower, and incomes will be much lower, and population densities much lower as well.

I was professionally involved with the design of township services for some years. Personally, I think five tiers is too many. There's not enough scope for cutting services in fine graduations. Urban and rural, yes, with maybe an in-between tier as well.

We have places here where people pay no taxes. Squatter camps. And they aren't nice. Garbage everywhere, frequent fires because of the use of candles and kerosene stoves, no roads for the fire brigade to get through because shack dwellers build where they like, expensive water sold by contractors, stinky bucket toilets, electricity controlled by gangs who steal it via illegal connections, it goes on and on.

To have a reasonably healthy and well-regulated community by modern standards, your minimum level of taxation is going to be quite high already. I don't think there will be enough differentiation between top and bottom to support five tiers. Not to mention common expenses for federal parliament and courts, armed forces, customs and immigration, teaching hospitals; and regional electricity, water and sewage disposal which will depend on local topography, trunk roads, etc etc, which will establish a lowest-bound tax burden between tiers.

11/19/15, 3:13 AM

flute said...
I recognise very well what you are talking about in this article. I haven't had a television for nearly 30 years, and always get that look of disbelief when I mention that fact.
I do have a mobile phone though, but one with buttons, not a smart phone. This of course is a source of great amusement to my colleagues in the computer business, as is the fact that I insist on using cash to pay, not a card. I've stopped counting the number of "stone age" comments I've received.

11/19/15, 3:35 AM

thriftwizard said...
Just a quick aside: lessening your dependence on cell-phones (and all microwave-related technology) may ultimately prove of benefit to your health, as well as your general happiness & resilience. Personal experience, including the early deaths (from brain tumours) of 3 friends & family members, all enthusiastic adopters of mobile phones & microwave cookery, leads me to wonder whether the widespread adoption of microwave technology is actually a potential "black swan" waiting to reveal itself. However, I know better than to wonder that out loud, now; the subject is clearly not open for debate!

11/19/15, 3:55 AM

The Constitutionalist said...

I've been reading your blog posts for some time now and since I am up every day at about 4:00 getting ready for work I integrate it into my morning "coffee with snack and bible reading routine" on Thursday. I'm only sorry you don't write everyday. I'm completely thrilled with most everything you write and I've really appreciated this retrotopia series particularly the tier structure ideas.

Fact is, this approach in local government is already germinating at the county level i.e. Gravel roads instead of asphalt in Michigan. Your tier structure is a simple and easy to describe systemic menu of options that is as refreshing in its clarity as it is practical in its realism. I would describe it as two steps into the future from where we are now. Very little in the collapse genre is as helpful to my thinking as your writing and none of it nearly as hopeful.

The end of this present era is very near, much closer than many imagine. I don't mean to be nasty but quite frankly if the people criticizing ideas like yours don't start engaging their brains more frequently than their thumbs life is going to get very ugly very fast for them. These techno addicts are going to suffer withdrawal symptoms more severe that crack fiends; I imagine that is what's driving some of the delusional behavior you're referencing.

A happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and keep up the good work of ideas, it is much needed!

11/19/15, 4:02 AM

Swimmer said...
Regarding weirdness at sustainability-oriented events:
Last week I attended a regional climate meeting where the co-president of the Club of Rome -- Anders Wijkman -- was speaking. On the meeting he represented the Swedish government, and its mission for a strategy to keep Sweden both wealthy and fossil-fuel independent in year 2050. What he said was among others that we need to be optimists in order to save the climate, and that the law of diminishing returns does not apply to the new smart-tech that are going to transform society in the near future, as fast as IT and internet technology has changed the last 10-20 years...

It's one thing to read about such statements, even from a president or what have you, in a forum where you have support. But to feel very alone among many persons in a big hall, and to really see the weirdness of the religion of progress, among leaders, speakers, friends, and journalist... I felt quite bad, and a bit paranoid, actually. The meetings' take-home message was that climate change might indeed become a VERY big problem in the future, but can be solved quite easy, if just everyone BELIEVE (in decoupling, high-tech and so on). And if someone dares to not believe, we will fail and LOSE (but that scenario is taboo to even speak of, since, well, it's not so funny, I suppose)

A last weird observation that not even the tough journalist-moderator opposed to: liberal think-tank leader Mattias Goldmann said that we CAN save the climate, but only if we continue to let us (the middle class) to continue to feel very good, and continue to go to the skiing resorts. Because if we allow us to continue doing that, we must also save the cold climate, and the snow in the skiing resorts.

11/19/15, 4:04 AM

Damaris Zehner said...
Mr. Greer,
You are as usual right on target, and the bafflement at different technological choices you describe is not a new thing. In 1984, I told the high school students I taught that I was quitting and joining the Peace Corps in West Africa. The first, horrified question was "How can you leave your TV?" When I told them I had never had a TV, I finally achieved that total class silence that was so hard to manage under other circumstances. Then, in the early years of this century, I was living with my husband and four young children in Central Asia, under relatively primitive (for us) circumstances. I was having lunch with a group of young Turkish women, wives of teachers at an evangelical Muslim school in town; I mentioned that we didn't own a TV. Again there was consternation. "What do you do with your children?" one mother asked.

However, the local Kyrgyz people I lived with illustrated your point that technology adoption is a choice. People with little food in the house had a TV; people with outhouses and no running water got internet connection first. Not the choices I would have made.

Finally, I couldn't help but read "Ecotopia" as "ectopic" every time I saw it in your post. Hmm -- perhaps I'm on to something!

Thank you for a brilliant article.

11/19/15, 4:20 AM

Dave Ruggiero said...
One of your commenters already mentioned the Amish this week, but your post reminded me of many conversations I've had with people about them. I can't count the number of times I've heard insinuations that the plain sects are "hypocritical" or "self-contradictory" because, for instance, some of them allow refrigeration in the milking parlor, or allow their kids to ride scooters, or even (in one case I encountered) use smart phones to keep track of their sawmill's inventory. "That's not how it was in 1850!" these people exclaim. It seems awfully hard to explain that the point of the Amish lifestyle is not to live as some sort of Civil War re-enactor, faithfully doing things exactly as they were 150 years ago, but to pick and choose those technologies that they want to include in their life based not just on economic productivity but on the effects they'll have on their family, community, and quality of life. It seems really difficult for people to accept, first of all, people would want to choose to use less technology in their lives, but then it seems even more difficult for a certain type of person to accept that you could pick and choose some technologies and leave others alone.

One other note, since it came up: I spent seven years as an organic vegetable farmer and the waste produced by greenhouse plastic, fabric row covers, plastic mulch, and drip tape are all well known and worried about in the field. I have no doubt that they'll drop out of use in the a less resource-rich future (and some of them would drop out of use sooner if the USDA was a little quicker to approve alternatives). For now, however, I'm inclined to give our farmers the benefit of the doubt on points like this as they're already struggling to make ends meet competing against various cheap foreign imports in the grocery store. While I'm sure the good agrarians of Retrotopia are now using glass cloches and acres of cold frames, the many years of sanctions on foreign produce have no doubt gone a long way to making that a viable alternative. In the meantime, I'll count every person who's able to make a living farming and selling locally, instead of working for a global multinational, as a step in the right direction.

11/19/15, 4:38 AM

Marc L Bernstein said...
I don't own a cell phone, an IPad or any other sort of small device that so many people carry around. I own a television but i's the same one that's been around for nearly 20 years. I have no plans to get a new one. I must admit to being addicted to the internet, but in all likelihood I'm too old to be around by the time the internet disappears. It might get somewhat more expensive though.

There is one anecdote that is similar to some of your experiences. One day a year or so ago I was talking to a Cox Communications technician about downgrading my television service because I was unhappy with their channel selection and decided that I only wanted the basic channels. The technician on the phone acted as if I had not said anything and started blathering rhapsodically about a variety of new channels and their new digital technology. I finally told him "I want less, not more!" He acted as if nobody else had ever said that to him.

11/19/15, 4:39 AM

Chloe said...
My mother keeps asking me if I want an iPhone. (I do have a mobile - it's approaching ten years old and I've resolved to keep it until it dies. After that, we'll see.) Every tenth time she asks or so, I reply with, "If I ever change my mind, I'll let you know." No improvement. But recently, in an attempt to make fun of me, she mentioned to her partner's (teenage) children that I have a really old phone, and isn't that silly? The kids weren't playing along: their response was "Wow! That's really cool!"

The one that particularly angers her, for some reason, is when I decide to wash up by hand instead of using the "perfectly good dishwasher". The joke? The dishwasher *never* gets things reliably clean. (I mostly get pitying/"knowing" looks if I mention that I don't ever plan to own a car.)

I do watch television, but I'm picky about it - I stick to the kind of shows whose creators would have been in theatre if they'd lived a hundred years ago, rather than those whose creators would have been in, say, war office propaganda. (And I tend to knit at the same time.) I do find it's a rare talent to be able to turn the television *off* even when it's clear to everybody that the programme is mindless drivel. If I am compelled to watch something, I try to view it as an anthropological exercise…

The strongest taboos are always those we don't recognise. It's not going to be easy: people will cling to precious technology and equally-precious psychological blindnesses for as long as possible, and there will be a lot more pain if they have to abandon the first before the second. But afterwards, well, people don't tend to miss what they don't have, however much they expect to.

On a side note: I sometimes do searches for "peak oil" and skim whatever news articles come up. Is it just me, or has there been an uptick (again) in the number that pronounce "Peak Oil is Dead!" then go on to describe a situation that reads - as any geologist or anybody who knows the first thing about deindustrialism will recognise - as precisely what we would expect to see at the start of the downslope?

11/19/15, 4:50 AM

Brian Romanchuk said...
You may have written about this elsewhere, but how do you think the voting for choosing the tiers would work? For example, imagine that 35% of the decided voters wanted tier 2, 20% tier 3, and 45% tier 4? Although it would be less interesting from a narrative standpoint, a two tier system seems easier to grasp. I guess that once the tier is chosen, the county could have a referendum to move one tier in either direction if there was a demand for it.

11/19/15, 4:55 AM

Robert Douglas Castle said...
Hello JMG,

New commenter here. I discovered your blog about a year ago and have been an avid reader ever since. I especially like your approach to the predicament of our time and I find it very sensible. You have helped me clarify my thinking in a number of areas and introduced me to many new subjects like the life cycle of civilizations and the alternative tech movement (which I somehow ignored when it was happening). I think that all of these things will prove very useful in the years ahead and I believe you've given me a better understanding of the situation we all face.

As for this weeks post: I still own 2 TVs although I almost never watch them. My TV viewing declined drastically after the late 70's and continues to decline today. When my friends tell me about some new show, I mention that I watch very little TV and usually they act almost as if I hadn't said anything. Sometimes one will ask me why I don't watch. I've found that if I tell them say, that I don't like commercials, they will helpfully suggest ways that I can acquire a whole season's worth of some show without the commercials. Since I'm not interested in watching said show, I now find it easier to tell them that I prefer to read instead. Usually they give me a look of disbelief as they shake their heads in pity at my ignorance.

Cheers, Robert Douglas Castle

11/19/15, 5:08 AM

ourgreattransition said...

What you mean you don't miss the permanent intrusion of the glowing screen faces from the corner of the room rudely interrupting your attempt at a conversation uninterrupted? My, im shocked! ; ) I just LOVE going around a family members house and being joined by the latest reality TV contestants...

This post brings up some interesting and uncomfortable feelings for me, which I thank you for. Being another who likes to highlight the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of our current age I can appreciate that. I am currently writing this comment from my lovely, dapper iPhone 6 knowing full well the torments by which this phone came into existence. To be frank, 12 months ago when I bought this phone I'd pushed those uncomfortable cognitive dissonances out of my mind. I mean who wants to admit to themselves that the very thing they wanted was only possible due to slavery and enormous amounts of energy and resources? Disproportionate to the benefit gained. Sadly 12 months ago I wasn't able to admit this. So this post slams everything into my face.

So what is it I actually use my 'smart phone' for? Well I read blogs like this, Google maps, keep up to date with email, listen to music or audiobooks occasionally (though of course with my phone now being 12 months old the audio jack is no longer working, planned senescence I've heard it called), and apart from a few very occasional other activities that's all I use it for. Oh and occasionally I get a message or speak to people. And I pay handsomely for the privilege. Appears that I've bought their marketing lies hook, line and sinker.

The reality is that while I am only in my late 20s I can still remember the days of having a street atlas, using pay phones, actually speaking to friends or shock horror visiting as opposed to texting and so on. And as far as I remember the sun still rose in the morning and set in the evening.

So what does that mean for me? I've been thinking for a few months I should just take a hammer to my pretty iphone (the drastic action of metal shattering my phone will be particularly pleasing, after all it will break during the next 12 months anyway...). I think my monkey mind has run out of arguments.

One other thing that comes to mind about the above post is a British journalist and broadcaster, Paul Mason, who has recently written a book called Post-Capitalism. I haven't and doubt I will read the book but I did watch a 3 minute clip with him introducing the ideas explored in the book. Seemed to hinge on the idea that the future economy will be based on 'free information,'citing wikipedia as his evidence for such a future. The idea that Wikipedia can be so omnipotent and yet remain free seems to be the basis of a new economy. Of course a fair economy. I actually tend to like his columns but he is of course a product of the modern left, that believes irrevocably in the power of progress, technology and the inmate good of the proletariat. I'm still none the wiser how Wikipedia can from the model for a new economy. He seems to buy into the idea that Wikipedia is actually free however.

That also reminds me of a couple of conversations recently where people have assumed as being obvious that renewables will pick up where oil left off. I lightly introduced some arguments to the contrary. Not sure if they quite got it though.

Finally, I started reading Star's Reach this week and thoroughly enjoying it. Really terrific writing. Thank you.


11/19/15, 5:13 AM said...
I have heard, from some friends of mine who have visited the Pennsic War in the last few years, that the number of mobile devices in public view is on the rise... that even among those for whom living in the middle ages for two weeks every August, it's getting harder and harder to shut out the modern technological "conveniences".

But I understood what you were getting at from the beginning — that the infrastructure is based on taxes in the Lakeland Republic. If you want more elaborate infrastructure, you pay for it. This seems to be a common problem in many parts of the US today, actually: on the East Coast, the infrastructure costs were staggered — water systems were built in the 1830s and 40s, steam heat systems in the 1870s and 1880s, gas systems in the late 1800s and early 1900s, electrical a little later, telephone a little later than that. In other parts of the country, those systems have been installed all at once — and some towns are still paying off the bonds that made it possible for them to have these systems in the first place... at eye-opening prices when paid for 'all at the same time', when the costs were assumed within a few years, as opposed to being spread over several decades. In large measure, the US is living on the infrastructure boom of about 1880-1920, with the superhighway system begun under Eisenhower being the one major infrastructure improvement since then. The country is living off of those investments in many ways. And the Lakeland Republic is making clear, through its county-infrastructure system, that you have to commit yourself, and your neighbors, and your children, to the costs of making those improvements (I imagine that the L.R. uses some sort of bond system to pay for these kinds of improvements, but if you have some ideas about how to move away from that kind of financial instrument, that would be interesting. Very interesting.)

One of the things that I think would be interesting, as well, is to see Lakeland democracy in action. The American Prospect ran a piece recently about the narrowing of American civic life ( which touched on issues raised in this blog some time ago — how Americans learned how to work in democracies through membership in unions, voluntary societies like the Freemasons, Oddfellows and Grange, and community organizations like the Italian-American club. I'd like to see Mr. Carr attend one such meeting as a guest, and then see how democracy is put into action. But of course, that might require initiation, and that would carry some challenges of its own...

11/19/15, 5:19 AM

Mitzi said...
The process of tiering down has already begun. I live in a rural town on the edge of the Appalachian foothills, teaching (pre-med) in a small college, gardening, and walking to work. A student, seeing my garden across the street from student housing, asked me to show her how to garden- she can grow flowers, but no food, and is concerned. I warned her that I do not own a motorized tiller- my beds involve shovels in the spring. I knew she might become a friend when she smiled and said she would be my "second shovel".

11/19/15, 5:38 AM

donalfagan said...
I think the unusual aspects of the Lakeland tier system are that it is acknowledged, democratic and granular. As I commented toward the end of the last post, we have a tier system in the US, but it results from wealth and ethnicity as much as a more rational determinant like density. The engine of our tier system is the developer.

In high school, we used to go to Georgetown DC to buy books at the Savile Book Shop, which was three row houses crammed with books. We didn't know that Georgetown had once been a slave port, that most black, working class people had been priced out after the New Deal attracted white government workers, and that the remaining blacks were forced out by the gentrification of the Old Georgetown Act. To us, Georgetown was an exciting mix of people and businesses. Along M Street and Wisconsin Ave, there were hippie shops like Commander Salamander alongside the preppy Britches of Georgetown, and all sorts of counterculture people walking around. It was a free show. Even though parking was always a nightmare, at night we went to great clubs like the Cellar Door, Clyde's and Bayou. There was even a low-key porn shop with windows painted yellow. For several blocks behind the storefronts there were a mix of historic showplaces and unrestored rowhouses along cobblestone streets. Young people could just about swing an English basement in Georgetown, or an apartment in nearby Cleveland Park.

We did notice when developers crammed an indoor mall and called it The Shops at Georgetown Park with A&F, Godiva and underground parking. Georgetown became too rich and genteel for the elements that made it fun, and was on its way to being as stuffy as Olde Towne Alexandria. In Lakeland terms, it had gone up several tiers.

In many cities gentrification has been accompanied by policing targeted against obviously poor people and minorities, and I remember going on a date, and seeing the cops beating the crap out of some wino on M Street in the 80s.

11/19/15, 5:48 AM

carol.b said...
So refreshing to read this. I have lived without a car (and, heresy of heresies, without a driver's license)for almost thirty year. I've raised two children without a car or a tv and they delight in telling their peers. Their generation seems to think it's fantastic or at least exotic, but even now I still have listen to endless excuses from friends and strangers alike about why they can't possibly live without a car and comments on how uncomfortable and inconvenient my life must be. Very irritating, but the hard part of it is that sometimes it really is uncomfortable and inconvenient, especially living as I do in a car-oriented northern city with less than stellar public transportation, and I often feel I can't be honest about that because even my friends leap on it as proof that living without a car is unrealistic. Can't things be difficult and realistic at the same time? I thought that adulthood was supposed to include an element of hard work and even struggle, but that seems to be the biggest heresy of them all.

11/19/15, 5:59 AM

Bill Blondeau said...
"What's more, the author has gone and written a whole nonfiction article on this notion in which he tries to provide a reality check for those who take the scifi gospel too literally, calling the notion of interstellar colonization fantasy while arguing that there is still a place for these stories."

"Tony, good heavens. That's really fascinating. I wonder, though, whether he's going to be yelled down by the science fiction community for saying that."

Probably he will. I like to remind people about Charlie Stross's heretical 2007 post, The High Frontier, Redux, in which he bluntly laid out the insuperable physical problems of interstellar travel. The enraged butthurt (if I may use the somewhat uncivil, but exceptionally apt, term) in the comments was and is entertaining, and will be very familiar in the context of this week's discussion. When SF fans accuse Charles Stross of not being a real science fiction writer, it's a definite pass-the-popcorn moment.

Still... the SF community has been evolving considerably since then. Rigid technophilic traditions notwithstanding, there are a lot of reasoning people in Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom, and they are beginning to question the tropes and norms of SF. This is a wide-ranging phenomenon, happily including the resurgence of ecological themes in SF (and in Fantasy!), but also involving things like the dethroning of Old White Guy predominance in the field, and a growing recognition that Alien Space Bats (as we call them here) are no longer satisfactory as unexamined worldbuilding elements. There is also a literary movement called New Space Opera that often embraces the old norms of planetary SF—the ones that got shot down when the landers and probes showed that the solar system was not a glamourous neighborhood of Venusian jungles, Martian dead cities, and forested Jovian moons—and simply treats those old dreams as the fantasy fiction settings that they truly are.

This points to a curious cultural phenomenon. Science Fiction, long a special-status, prescriptive thought leader in the kind of techno-worship described in this week's post, is being folded back into its more proper position as just another kind of general imaginative mythology.

If Kim Stanley Robinson's article generates a lot less fury than Charlie Stross's post did, that will be another sign that SF, and the SF community, are adapting to the realities.

Which would be healthy and helpful all around.

11/19/15, 6:15 AM

Leo Knight said...
My local library, Baltimore County, has drastically reduced its holdings of paper books. They only have a few of each title, maybe only one, and shuttle them around the county on request. The last time I went to my local library, I overheard the librarian say they were trying to get rid of books altogether, and go completely digital. For those of us without Nooks, Kindles, etc. that might end the library altogether.

The venerable Pratt library in Baltimore fares little better. Most of the central area is filled with computers. The stacks are horribly depleted. Very sad.

At least the citizens of thr Lakeland Republic get to choose how much infrastructure they want. Currently, those decisions are imposed from without, as in your essay "The Whisper of the Cutoff Valve."

11/19/15, 6:32 AM

jonathan said...
the one problem i see with the tier system is that it is likely to be a one way trip. if a county votes for a 1950's era infrastructure, it represents a huge investment, one that would be difficult to abandon/mothball once built. i can see a county in which opinion is closely divided bouncing back and forth between embracing a 1950's infrastructure and an earlier era from election to election. perhaps changing tiers should be subject to some sort of super majority vote.

11/19/15, 6:36 AM

Fred said...
The taxpayers don't get to vote on the level of infrastructure they want. Things could be better if they did, but they don't and I doubt that they ever will get to vote on it because too much of our infrastructure benefits the pocketbooks of the people who wield the political power (because of their financial muscle).
For example, here where I live, the local school district gets to have a 4.1% "raise" every year. I am very good at what I do and i have NEVER gotten a 4.1% raise. This is very clearly not sustainable, and I would never in a million years vote to continue with this, but…..I DON'T get to have any real say about it!

11/19/15, 6:51 AM

fudoshindotcom said...
It seems to me that the resistance towards, and attempts to re-orient, the conversation are motivated fundamentally by fear. We've spent decades allowing big budget advertising to tell us what is best for us in order to "improve" our lives without doing the due diligence to determine if there's any factual basis for their "advice". Anyone, an ArchDruid perhaps, who has the temerity to suggest that their sagely guidance might not be all that wise can well expect to be met with strong opposition. The alternative being that we consider the possibility that our faith has been horribly misplaced, and that the responsibility for this lies squarely at our own feet. Accepting responsibility for our actions is something we apparently aren't well equipped to do. We're quick to make the most tenuous claim to credit when something turns out a success, but extremely reluctant to stand up and proclaim, "Yup, it was me, I screwed the pooch!" when failure is the result.

It may not be off-topic to mention that in one of his lectures Manly P. Hall posits that "common sense" is one of our least common commodities.

11/19/15, 6:54 AM

Robert Tweedy said...
"And just when you thought television could not be made more toxic, we have created Reality Television. It is enough to make one weep with joy. When have two words ever been more inappropriately paired?"

Slashreap, a devil from Richard Platt's As One Devil to Another

11/19/15, 6:54 AM

Revelin said...
Another one here with no TV, no cell phone (smart or stupid), no internet at home (using library), no car (or driving permit even), and frankly couldn’t care less.

It’s a given to me now that you were so absolutely right to frame this whole belief in technology/progress some years ago in religious terms, it is so obviously very much a faith/belief thing, these cited reactions alone tell the tale; but while most people the world over follow a faith or religious belief usually openly & willingly (ok, also tradition, education, coercion, hypocrisy, whatever), here it’s amusing that we have so many worshiping at an altar and seemingly not realising it at all. Rather funny if you’re of a certain persuasion.

The Sarah Chrisman story and her opting for the ‘Victorian’ reminded me of something else – I grew up in the UK and witnessed firsthand Margaret Thatcher’s ‘revolution’ in the 1980s. One of her favourite dictums was ‘Victorian values’, as in social norms and mores; if I recall correctly, in the US at the time you had many looking back to Ike’s America as an ideal for living (interesting that it was that particular period of US history but that’s another subject).

Again, amusing when contrasted with all these adamant views that you can’t drop a technology without reverting to the social norms and values corresponding to the age of the older technologies you’d replace them with. Meaning, oh yes we can have techno ‘progress’ coupled with social ‘regress’ when it suits us politically, but somehow it’s impossible to have techno regress without social regress, go figure.

And you may be amused to learn that there was a big jazz & zoot suit revival in hip London precisely during Thatcher’s early reign. Didn’t last long though.

11/19/15, 7:05 AM

Odin's Raven said...
This extreme spiritual valuation of physical objects sounds like fetishism. Maybe on your other blog you could discuss whether it constitutes black magic, and how and by whom particular technologies are selected and positioned to zombify the public and who benefits from that.

11/19/15, 7:13 AM

redoak said...
I made a recent technology change that might be illustrative of the more general process a place like Lakeland Republic followed in its evolution. I’ve got a chunk of land in NH and clearing weeds and brush around the glacial wreckage (stones) is a regular chore. For years I battled ethanol decay in a Sthil weedwacker. The fall ritual of a few hours of parts acquisition, replacement, cleaning, etc. would put me on the end of smoking angry noisy weed thrasher to do a few hours of work. This fall I took down my father’s scythe, put a razor edge on it in 20 minutes of file work, and have been happily enjoying the fall birds, creek trickling, wind chimes, etc. Better yet, the scythe is infinitely more flexible and selective than the weedwacker. It cuts from grass to saplings with a mere shift of concept, sneaks out a briar grown into a blueberry or lays low eight foot swaths of golden rod. Granted, you might not want to work the scythe for 5-6 hours straight, but it is not a sprint, you know.

It seems to me that in many ways modern technologies allow us to do things faster, but to the detriment of the experience and product. The advantage in quantity always at the expense of quality.

11/19/15, 7:16 AM

Renovator said...
Another very annoying and prevalent example is the current sport culture that pervades every inch of modern life. Here in the NE United States, where I reside, there is an assumption that all living, breathing homosapiens with any sort of pulse, must have a strong affinity to modern sports culture and furthermore, must integrate this culture into not only their daily discourse but into a belief system that DIRECTLY INFORMS THEIR IDENTITY.

Casting aside, or simply ignoring, this "culture", is done with great social risk, as doing so seems to throw a wrench into the gears of said believer's psyche and cause bat-$h@# lunacy and much frothing of the mouth on their part. This can, and often does, cause frictions that, to me at least, seem incredibly frivolous, but to the mouth-foamer, seem perfectly well suited.

It would appear that at least some of the "paralogic" these people exhibit is because they can't or won't make a distinction between WHAT THEY BELIEVE AND WHO THEY IDENTIFY AS. Questioning their belief seems to question the very core of their existence. I'm not sure if this is simply "human-nature" unbridled and unchecked or if there is something else at play here. It surely is mind-boggling and a bit unsettling to say the least.

11/19/15, 7:19 AM

Odin's Raven said...
Maybe some 'environmentalists' could benefit from attempting to communicate with the actual beings in their environment, without technology.
Here's a short video of the work of Anna Breytenbach in that regard:

11/19/15, 7:19 AM

Glenn Murray said...
Thank you JMG. It is interesting how these unexpected tics in out psyche turn up to indicate you've hit a nerve.

The good news: Americans will ditch their cars, walk, bicycle and ride public transit to get around, live more local, get more food from their own gardens and prepare it themselves, compost, recycle, ditch their TVs and spend more time face to face with friends and family.

The bad news is we will do all this and more because [due to economic and environmental realities] we will have no choice.

11/19/15, 7:20 AM

Howard Skillington said...
About twenty five years ago I made the acquaintance of a college-educated couple who had purchased farmland along a river that included a one hundred fifty year old log cabin. They set out to master the skills required for the technology of the era in which their cabin was built. I had the opportunity to help my friend fell trees, buck them into manageable lengths with a venerable two-man crosscut saw, and direct his draft horses up the logging trail with gees and haws. A good night’s sleep was well-earned after that labor. On another occasion I was allowed to walk behind a plow pulled by those same horses – less difficult than I had supposed, in that rich bottomland.

One crisp fall night they invited me to join them for dinner. The cabin was cozy from the wood stove with which they had prepared good food from their garden and fresh-baked bread. The oil lamp twinkled and the night was exquisitely silent.

At one point in the evening I noticed a square mortise in a beam overhead and asked about it. They explained that the property’s previous owner had run a wire to the cabin and a single electrical box had been installed there. They had removed it.

By now I imagine that couple regard their labor-intensive lifestyle as completely normal. Their son, now a young adult, has grown up with that skillset. How ironic that their neighbors regarded them as inexplicably backward. How far ahead of the rest of us they were.

11/19/15, 7:29 AM

Dennis said...
For some reason, the discussions of television reminded me of listening to Kurt Vonnegut in college when he came to campus in 1996 or 1997. In the Q&A, someone asked him what he thought about the internet, and he derisively said something like, 'it's just jazzed up TV'.

Very small, but I just removed twitter and facebook apps from my phone. I had 'made them difficult' to use from the phone (by not having the icons on the main screen), but I always overcame this modest self-imposed imposition. Now they're gone! Freedom!! :-)

11/19/15, 7:33 AM

Greg Belvedere said...
A lot of people have suggested the TV show The Wire to you recently. While I agree that it is probably one of the few worthwhile shows to appear on TV in the last decade, I realize that you will never watch it and would like to suggest a book by the show's creator David Simon. He has both fiction and non-fiction works that take place in your home state. He has a background as a crime journalist and deals with the topics of crime and bureaucracy in all their complexity.

As for the heresy in my own life, when I tell people we plan to have midwives deliver our next child at home people loose all sense of propriety and tell me how I must be crazy. The fact that we have done our research on the matter and can articulate the safety and benefits of our choice does not sway them.

11/19/15, 7:41 AM

Luddene Perry said...
I’ve just finished reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer Prize winning work: A Midwife’s Tale. It is a discussion of Martha Ballard’s diary from 1785-1812. While I certainly wouldn’t want to return to that time, the level of small town cooperation was certainly praise-worthy. Ballard’s descriptions of barter, trade and the economy in general, were enlightening, and possibly, a guide for a way forward for our time. While I couldn’t imagine weaving yards of cloth today, it was a good example of a community coming together to get the job done. From Ballard I didn’t hear a lot of projections into the future. In her world, it was all about the here and now.
On a different note, I’ve just come back from a 2 week crave crawl on which I spent some time in Toledo. I was born there 60+ years ago, but I didn’t remember much. While driving through, Retrotopia kept creeping into my mind.

11/19/15, 7:41 AM

Zach said...
Dear JMG,

I assume you must be familiar already with Eric Brende's "Better OFF: Flipping the Switch on Technology"?

Brende was a graduate student at M.I.T. and documents that the taboo is in full force there, even (especially?) in the department dedicated to understanding the societal impacts of technology. One may consider anything there except the notion of saying "no" to it.


11/19/15, 7:44 AM

Shane Wilson said...
I just wanted to share my story to encourage others. I cancelled Facebook over 2 years ago. I just got a flip phone after being without a phone since Aug. Before that, I deleted all the meet up apps on my phone. I stopped using my computer for social purposes. The biggest thing for me was breaking the spell behind whatever technology is being pushed your way. For example, social media is marketed to "connect" people, but I found that I didn't feel any less connected having cancelled social media. Being connected via social media did not make me feel like I had a meaningful connection with another. Even more so with online porn. The biggest fear that these technologies are preying on is fear of being alone or being disconnected, but, here's the spell breaker: "you're just as much alone WITH these technologies as without, if not, more so, because you're ignoring the people right next to you." There you go, spell broken. For me, the recurring challenge has been about learning to be alone in the world, and to not let others snuff out my spirit when I insist on a different path. I read this blog, and know you people are out there somewhere, but I've yet to meet anyone like myself, or like a lot of you all, in person, yet.

11/19/15, 7:53 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
As for Sarah Chrisman and others like her - I think the problem goes much deeper than "how dare they reject Our Technology?!?!?"

Robert Heinlein, who I keep quoting because he was a major influence on me in my formative years, said (through several of his characters at different times) that to understand human beings, go to the monkey cages in the zoo. That if you take one of the monkeys out and paint it green, the others will tear it apart as an alien. (Was that experiment ever done? He must have seen it at one time; it surely made an impression on him.)

As a fat nerdy social inept teenager and young woman for a long time, I can testify to a lot of that, as well as many failed attempts at makeovers on the part of the well-meaning. The different are a target or a threat to the monkey-brains among us.

The Chrismans have chosen to be the green monkeys in the troop of brown monkeys and are getting just what Heinlein predicted. A sorry commentary on human nature, but there it is. The pure aboriginal ape at work.

11/19/15, 7:55 AM

Friction Shift said...

As a resident of a certain liberal West Coast town you know rather well, your post today has a familiar ring to me. I often describe this town to outsiders as a place that enthusiastically supports walking and bicycle commuting, as long as someone else is doing it. Some random observations:

I wonder if there is a correlation between the twilight of the New Age movement you detail in an essay on your Druidry blog and the rise of the so-called "sustainability" movement so warmly embraced by the people driving their new electric cars as they hunt for a parking spot at our local food co-op. I seem to recognize some of the same faces. They are rather proud of their electric cars, which in our part of the world are actually powered by a combination of coal, and hydro power from dams that have killed the ancient salmon runs. Yes, for those of you whose hypocrisy meters are pegging, I realize I am using the same power sources to write these words on my computer.

I was dished some pretty harsh and irrational comments this past summer when I had the cheek to enthusiastically share an article that described the horrendous ecological footprint of Burning Man. Most of them, failing to refute anything in the article, ran along the lines of "You've never been there. Burning Man is wonderful." Accompanied by a condescending tone, and the stink-eye meted to heretics.

From the comments already posted, it seems like a lot of your blog's readers are following the path of replacing complex, energy hog technologies with human-powered ones. I'll take coffee from a stovetop percolator over those Philip K. Dickian aluminum coffee pods any day. While I haven't returned all the way to Victorian technology, I have been spending a lot of time figuring out how my grandparents did things.

11/19/15, 8:00 AM

buddhabythelake said...

I am greatly encouraged by this week's post. You've pointed out (again) an underlying myth that persists largely b/c we are unaware (or refuse to be aware) of its existence -- we simply accept it as "how things are." In my journaling, I've taken to calling these cultural memes and lenses which color our perceptions of experience "the empire of the mind" in order to remind myself that the most pernicious form of imperialism is that which converts your very interpretive processes. The first step in overcoming this bondage is to recognize and name it for what it is. Only then can we act effectively.

11/19/15, 8:07 AM

Twilight said...
Mostly off topic but related to the issue of the internet and ever increasing technological complexity – I've been quite skeptical about stories concerning the elimination of cash transactions, but have recently come to think that this may in fact come to pass. The infrastructure appears to be mostly in place, with several nations already serving as test cases, and a large percentage of transactions already occur in this way. Imagine the insertion of a middle man into every transaction, and the massive increase in technological complexity required! Relevant to today's post, this would not really be a technology choice, as a cell phone and paid up account would be required for any use of the existing financial system.

I think that if this happens it will immediately stimulate an increase in barter and the adoption of something else as a cash substitute(s). Nonetheless it would greatly increase the impacts of failures of the various systems that keep the internet data system functioning.

11/19/15, 8:21 AM

Dammerung said...
I think perhaps a lot of people subconsciously feel - something which I feel rather more consciously - that humanity is simply going to ride the bomb. We're going to burn fossil fuels until it's no longer economically possible to do so, and forget the consequences. As a collective we're going to keep driving our cars until we literally can't afford to do so. We're going to run the rat race until the wheel comes off and it, us, and all the hamsters with us drive the wheel right into the wall, after which all the king's horses and all the king's men will despair of ever putting the world-that-was back together again.

So there is, I imagine, no small amount of partying in the Führerbunker while the forces of reality slowly encircle the city. People know what's going on. But what good does it do to say so out loud? It's not going to stop the "conservatives" from rolling coal and it's not going to stop the "liberals" from buying a new SUV. May as well have whatever you consider to be a good time while Rome burns, and pointing out the smell is a little bit impolite, considering that humanity isn't going to change its mind until it has its mind changed for it.

11/19/15, 8:24 AM

Shane Wilson said...
Regarding plastics, I had a question regarding tailpipe taxes--do they take into account the chemicals coming out the other end? Say we're in tier 1, farmhouse "A" is heated by conventional wood stoves, so they're spewing tars, particulates, and other toxins into the air even when they burn conventional wood, not to mention what comes out when they burn trash from the sinkhole on their farm. Farmhouse "B" has a rocket stove mass heater, so, with their insulated chimney, they can combust darn near anything thoroughly--the only thing coming out their chimney is water vapor and CO2. Indeed, they often burn styrofoam and other waste plastics that have been salvaged from the local landfill. Do the tailpipe taxes recognize the difference in the conventional stove and the rocket stove, or recognize that the rocket stove user is taking a liability off the hands of future generations by destroying the plastics and other waste?

11/19/15, 8:28 AM

Thor of Oakland, OR said...
"A Doric column is no more totalitarian than a tensile structure is democratic."

"Horizontal and vertical sprawl... are the dinosaurs of an ending fossil-fuel age of synthetic culture."

"Modernist architecture and town planning is inimical to human beings... based on the Darwinian concept that nature is open ended, that there must always be something new and better."

-Leon Krier

:) As always, JMG, blessings and thanks!

11/19/15, 8:34 AM

Crow Hill said...
Hello JMG:

Thank you for the post. The paragraph “the internet is the most gargantuan technostructure” is a good summary of the environmental and social cost of the internet which can easily be forgotten—will be copying it for future use.

I find the tier system makes sense. It could be applied mutatis mutandis to present-day countries, for instance I would describe the country I chose to live in as about two tiers lower than my country of origin.

Found these examples of issues you bring up in the post:

A book re the Ecotopian Future : Author Jonathan Porritt, former director of Friends of the Earth UK; chair of the Green Party; Title : Alex MacKay’s story from 2050 ; from the cover: “the book provides a unique opportunity to connect (Alex MacKay’s world) in 2050 with what we can do today to help make it a reality (My comment: hope it doesn’t materialize, but if you're right JMG it won't) ; a world in which standard IT devices are computing at the same rate as the human brain, and everyone loves their robots ; A world in which nanotechnology, 3D printing and biomimicry have transformed manufacturing ; a world in which personal genomics allow everyone to manage their own health, live longer and healthier , and die when they want to."

Sue Thomas author of Technobiophilia defending her technophilia : “ We’re caught in a battle for our digital well-being. We’re told to leave our phones at home and take a walk outdoors. Or get back to nature at a digital detox camp. Or turn off our internet and observe an electronic sabbath. But is all this frantic self-denial really necessary?"

11/19/15, 8:40 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
JMG, thanks for your illuminating remark that in Lakeland, railways are privately owned. I had rather sloppily been reading your narrative through a Canadian or European lens, and I had consequently been making, or had been verging on making, the assumption that Lakeland railways are government entities. With private ownership, it does become a little easier to imagine lines and stations even in your Tier One counties.

This much said, I do want to add, a little wistfully, that one might prefer monastic ownership of railways. One thinks of it thus: the monks run the trains with the meticulous attention to scheduling that they already bring to Terce, Sext, None, and the rest of the Hours; they apply the already customary Benedictine injunction of hospitality, making "Welcome on board" a natural extension of the normal "Welcome to the guesthouse"; they specialize, as monasteries do anyway, in keeping things tidily maintained on the smallest feasible budget; and they specialize, as monasteries do anyway, in making the enterprise pay its own way, cutting out superfluity. (Cutting out superfluity means, for instance, eschewing plastic cups for coffee, asking travellers either to bring their own mug or to rent a ceramic mug from the railway.) The monastic idea is that the railway is meant not to make a profit, but to serve.

Part of service might mean reviving the dreaded Third or Fourth Class of 19th-century Eastern Europe: if you are poor, you get to ride at a price you can afford, but your carriage is heated in winter only by a wood-burning stove, and your bench is wooden, and you share your space with awkward things like bicycles and freight parcels and goats.

One recalls here also the medieval tradition in which those key components of marine infrastructure, the lighthouses, were on occasion maintained by religious hermits.



just over 20 track miles north of Union Station in Toronto

11/19/15, 8:41 AM

GHung said...
JMG: Thanks for helping to sort out where I've been in my relationship to technology for a couple of decades (at least). Having never been a conformist, or a slave to trends and fashion (I still wear the same overalls I've worn, most days, for decades; comfortable, durable, and have huge pockets), I've developed a sort of resistance to being mesmerised by the latest technology. It could be that, having been in service of said technology, professionally, I understand the costs and limitations of these things. People get really upset when the things they think they depend on stop working, never considering that they could do quite well without many of these modern "miracles".

Going off grid from scratch was a good way to determine just how far down the rabbit hole of modernism one is willing to go; a bit of a tier-system vetting process. Just how much can the sun be expected to passively heat a structure, and how much additional technology is required to bring a home into a reasonable comfort zone; where costs begin to infringe, and where diminishing returns make going farther down that hole not worth the efforts involved. Turns out that, in many respects, that point is decades behind what our contemporaries consider normal, and far less costly in terms of money and resources.

Anyway, you brought up not having a cell phone, something I gave up years ago, though I've recently decided to make a concession on that front, due to an accident involving my brother where my having a cell phone may (or may not) have saved a couple of his fingers. As it turns out, an older cell phone (one I found refurbished) is also cheaper to purchase, and qualifies for a much cheaper plan. Newer cell phones, with their "4G" data capabilities don't qualify for the 50 dollar per year voice-only plan I'm looking at. The new "smart" phones force users into a higher tier and much more costly plan. Besides that, the older phone I'm purchasing is reputed to be virtually indestructible, a 'waterproof' tank of a phone that will likely last me for years, even if dropped, left in the rain, or lost in the compost pile for a time. It even looks a little steam-punkish. It's not going back to tier one, but going back a couple of tiers will suit my needs fine. If I get any scorn for being "old-fashioned", maybe I'll get a pot of water and throw my phone and my antagonists phone in and see who can still make that emergency call.

It was a tough decision, but family is insisting. My wife wasn't on board with the kerosene lantern thingy either, but loves the woodstove, the gravel driveway, and actually opening windows on warm days. Here's to finding balance, eh?

11/19/15, 8:46 AM

Dan Mollo said...
It's interesting how science and technology have become inseparable concepts. I remember once seeing a video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson complaining about people who didn't "believe" in science, like it's and ideology not just simply a method of observation, and saying something to the effect that if you want to go back to the caves where people only lived for 25 years (which isn't accurate), then by all means don't believe in science and all the technological benefits that come with it. Like its one or the other. Though I suppose this isn't surprising when your concept of humanity is a linear and ultimately inevitable progression of history from primitive (a value judgement) and advanced (whatever that means anymore). Last time I checked there were plenty of advanced civilizations with complicated technological practices that existed before our modern concept of science was developed.

It's seemingly intelligent people like this, without any concept of actual history, deep cultural memory, and no understanding of alternative life-ways the have been highly successful for different segments of humanity that have ultimately led to their failure to convince humanity of the benefits of science. They do not truly understand how to think in systems, cannot grasp the idea of diminishing returns of technology and externalization of costs, and how energy actual works in reality. You would think that a physicist would know better, but ultimately he and his ilk are nothing more than technocrats.

11/19/15, 8:57 AM

Rita Narayanan said...
Yup! it is Mendacino meets Bhutan w/ pumpkin patches, baskets and la, la las :) am amazed when I read well read ecological elites (who frequent Schumacher) constantly go on about Gross National Happiness and can one devise a formula for human development without looking at the socio-religious-political template.Bhutan is NOT an Oriental Berkeley.

*polite request to Mr John Michael Greer...please open a twitter account and post your talks & podcasts.Youtube may not have everything :)* Thoroughly enjoy the podcasts so thanks in advance.

11/19/15, 9:04 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
On aeroplanes: As the principal exponent of rail travel in my small social circle, I occasionally deal with friends or relations who use the airlines. My tactic is to praise aviation to the skies, while unsubtly hinting that this is an old-fashioned style of public conveyance: "Aeroplanes! So wonderful! So gloriously retro! Vera Lynn, the Battle of Britain, radar!"

So far, nobody has hit me with anything, or has even yelled at me.


PS: I have in private conversation done less ridiculing of television than of airlines.

**BUT** I do want here to remark, perhaps not for the first time, that the television enterprise is put into its rightfully silly place by the 1936 BBC promo material "Television Comes to London". This promo can be viewed at One cannot improve on perfection - the British sex-kitten (she in reality was caked in brown and green makeup, since the camera had poor pickup even under kilowatts of studio lighting; and the camera optics had to be run at such a low f-number that depth of field was minimal, as one can perhaps guess from the unnatural way the sex kitten keeps her hand in the focal plane when gesturing); the white-coated technicians; the mythical husband and wife brought closer together in their darkened sitting room as they contemplate their ever-so-expensive glowing phosphor; and, what is a master touch, the closing curtain at the performance's end (as in ancient Sunday School concerts).

This same material is retrievable by putting into the YouTube search box the phrase
"television song 1936". - I notice, btw, that that YouTube search today pulls up also a 1936 suspense-or-mystery film, with the promising title "Trapped by Television".

JMG, do Tier Five, 1950-level, counties have television, or have they figured out some way of not having it?


11/19/15, 9:05 AM

Bill Lehan said...
This is the only blog I know of that discusses such things; there is no one I know of in my family or limited sphere of acquaintances to whom it would occur that one's level of technological dependency is something one could, or should attempt to control. It has occurred to me since at least my junior year of high school that the endless refinement of the technology infrastructure has probably resulted in diminishing returns on some index of "happiness" since at least 1950? 1930, perhaps? ( I might be comfortable in tier 4).

11/19/15, 9:10 AM

Nastarana said...
I imagine many on this forum have been on the receiving end of post-war American demand for conformity and hatred of eccentricity. My reading of pre WWII fiction convinces me that there was arguably more acceptance of at least the milder forms of eccentricity at that time.

The mass consumption economy requires mass participation supported and encouraged by mass advertising. This worked for a while when products were durable and useful, remember the Maytag washing machines, and most folks could afford to participate. All of this depended, as the Archdruid has said many times, on easily accessed cheap energy. Then American oil reserves began to run out; what was left was increasingly expensive to extract. The American taxpayer was required to support the costs of a massive military whose one assignment is to keep the oil flowing. The price of energy increased dramatically, followed by the prices of housing and utilities. At the present time large and increasing numbers of people simply have no money left and are unable to shop even if they wanted to do so. What money one might have, whether from inheiritance, savings, public subsidy or patchworks of part-time and self employment, must be shoveled into the yawning maw
of Real Estate, Insurance and Finance, the infamous REFI.

This reality is being greeted with howls of outrage from various quarters, such as agribiz and its paid media lackeys. Note the articles about how local food production is actually MORE environmentally destructive than mass production. Then there are the various domestic and foreign interests who depend on US military spending and protection, such as it is. Note the angry neo-con insistence on the pages of the NYT, WSJ, etc. that America, but no one else, apparently, Has Responsibilities to drown the rest of the world in blood.

I have read that people are mesmerized into mass delusions en masse but awake from such delusions one at a time. More and more of us are waking up to the reality that if you need something done best do it yourself or find someone in your neighborhood you can trust and pay, in cash or kind, that person what their help is worth. A modest suggestion; I think all of us Americans should immediately start describing ourselves, online and in conversation, as citizens, not consumers.

11/19/15, 9:14 AM

Gavin Harris said...
Them: Have you seen "XYZ" on the TV?
Me: I don't watch TV
Them: Oh, what do you watch?
Me: Paper. I read.

I've lost count of the number of times that I've had conversations like that over the last few years. The wired in assumption that you MUST be watching something, somehow is incredibly insidious.

It reminds me of a set of evening classes I took several years ago on basic psychology. In this case stereotyping and the fact that people see what they expect because that's how their brain simply handles the flood of information being thrown at it. In this case its that their entire view point is framed by the technology they use, so that they only see the picture and are blind to the frame and the rest of the gallery.

I may be more generous than some in that I think that for most people its not a deliberate attempt on their part to ignore answers like that, its that the filters in their minds struggle to process that information and they fall back into asking the same question again hoping to get an answer that will pass the filter and make more sense. When the next answer also fails the filter, they get frustrated and, on the internet unfortunately the gap from frustration to flame war is all too brief.

Then, some people are just *insert expletive of choice here*. Or, for the Buddhists out there, a chance to practice compassion in a challenging environment :)

11/19/15, 9:19 AM

Robert Honeybourne said...
The Chrisman's place looks marvellous

When I win the lottery.... I would like to set up a small country house hotel. Again, Victorian, with electricity lacking. The guests would be spoilt - they can have fires warm their bedrooms and gas lighting. I think I'll run to a piano in the lounge

I think a chance to stay a few days 'without' would be a glimpse that some have never had of a world they might like more of

I have lived a few weeks that way and enjoyed it - it's a bit more work than I could manage all the time. I couldn't do rough in the woods eating grubs, but I think a step back us good

I like the tiered government. In the uk central government won't allow local government to raise local taxes or lower services - so why vote! The choice should be returned? I'd vote for higher spending on social amenity as I'm that way inclined but it would give folk a choice

I'm glad we have the Internet for this blog...

11/19/15, 9:24 AM

Laylah said...
Thank you for another thought-provoking post, and thank you also for curating one of the most worth-reading comment sections on the internet. So many people have had good experience and perspectives to share this week. I'm also in the no-TV camp -- it makes me agitated and restless just trying to be in the same room with it a lot of the time -- but all too dependent on the internet to provide me with stimulus, socializing, and if I'm completely honest anesthesia for the frustrations of life. TJ's plan to step back from the always-available laptop to desktop computing sounds like it might be a step I should consider.

On a related note, does anyone reading have any thoughts on the process of trying to collapse (or even just crumble a bit) in a shared living space with people who aren't interested? Working out compromises is tough business, and there are multiple reasons that "just stop living with them" isn't an answer.

11/19/15, 9:36 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
JMG: Sorry, I now realize that my question regarding television in the Tier Five counties was rather foolish. Television is not primarily a matter of public infrastructure. There is nothing to prevent Tier Five, or even Tier One, entrepreneurs from setting up a television broadcasting station, and of selling television receivers (with the associated cumbersome batteries, for those purchasers who lack grid electricity). Whether Lakeland market forces will render such an enterprise viable is a different question, with perhaps no easy answer.


11/19/15, 9:53 AM

Bob Patterson said...
Good points covered this week. Your tier system harks back to the "pure democracy" of the New England town meeting. But you might be surprised at the effect of pressure groups and incompetent petty tyrants can have.

Your discussion of individualism under attack, seems to be based in a fear of the attacker that they are mistaken, deluded, etc. Quite true, I think.

I am feeling quite optimistic today, as I have just finished the book "The Collapse of Globalism" by John Ralston Saul. A good exposition of facts about the subject.

11/19/15, 10:02 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
JMG, and readership more generally: I was shocked at one of JMG's facts this week, regarding the true cost of server farms. That the electricity consumption is high is predictable, given what one can see on the Internet regarding the problem of cooling the server racks. But that a server farm requires one or more daily truckloads of replacement hard drives is news, of a shocking kind. Perhaps JMG or others could direct me to some high-quality publications on what it takes to keep a server farm up and running, with some particular emphasis on the problem of hardware replacements?

I did touch briefly on the nasty side of hardware back on 2004, in my essay "No-Frills GNU/Linux:Philosophical Foundations" at www(dot)metascientia(dot)com, and I may as well here quote the most pertinent paragraph (based on some research of reasonable quality for 2004; my focus in this essay is admittedly on the scams prevalent in software, rather than on hardware):

Let's for a nanosecond belabour the obvious: we stress the biosphere by scrapping hardware, with its load of toxic residues, long before its lifetime is over. We all know, for instance from anecdotes in our local GNU/Linux User Group regarding long-lived hard drives, or again from our experience with keeping that valiant little early-nineties IBM PS/1 monitor running on a minor workstation in the Year of Grace 2004, that the natural lifetime for much hardware is on the order of fifteen years. We also all know, for instance from glancing at the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) report at, under what third-world working conditions shiny new hardware, so tempting as we gaze on it in the retailer's window, gets assembled. (In China, says CAFOD, you may be forced to wear a special red overcoat when the brigade leader finds a mistake in your soldering. Let's not even get started on the hours, the wages, the safety.)



PS: If anyone wants to e-mail me, privately, tips on researching the hardware replacement costs inherent in running a server farm, I can be reached at Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com.

11/19/15, 10:07 AM

S.Treimel said...

If you did want to publish this column in serial format on paper, and mail it to subscribers, have you calculated the costs to do so profitably? I'd be interested to find out.

At present, users of the internet have so much free content available, and we forget to compensate the writers. In former times, we had to subscribe to newspapers, magazines, and journals to fill our desires for quality writing on topics of interest.

It is also difficult to estimate the hidden costs of having an internet, as so many of the costs of mining resources, energy production, manufacturing, etc. are either subsidized, inflicted upon the environment, or passed on to future generations. I like the explanation of the tier system and the discussions of the political/environmental economy in the Lakeland Republic narrative, as it portrays a society that attempts to account for and pay all these costs up front.


11/19/15, 10:34 AM

Steve Thomas said...
This is a great post.

I've noticed the same sort of phenomenon in a few other areas.

Do you remember a couple of years ago when the Big Story that Everyone as talking about was that there was a kid lost in a hot air balloon, and then it turned out that there wasn't a kid lost in a hot air balloon, it was just his parents trying to get attention?

I remember when that was on the front page of every big American news site, I went and looked at a dozen or so foreign sites and, while the front page news varied, it always had to do with something consequential happening in the world. CNN, Fox, ABC, the New York times, all had this bit of not-just-fluff, meta-fluff.

I tried to talk to 2 different groups of people about this. In both cases, after I'd finished my spiel, they kind of stared at me uncomfortably and then turned to each other and started "talking about" the boy in the hot air balloon.

I put "talking about" in quotes because they weren't actually even talking about this "news story" which would have been irrelevant even if it wasn't fake. They were just repeating things that other people had said about it on TV or the internet.

After that I started listening for it, and I noticed that people do this constantly. That includes people that think they're very intelligent-- it's just that, instead of repeating what they heard on Fox News, they repeat what they read in Noam Chomsky.

I'm sure that I do this to, and I try not to. The exercise-- that I learned from you-- that has helped me in this regard is the practice of resolving binaries, as you described it in CGD. The only problem is that I've noticed that whenever you present a third option on any major issue on which there are only two options (Our Opinion and the Other Opinion, that only idiots that watch the Other TV Channel believe), people just react as if you'd presented The Other Opinion and attacking it by repeating Our Opinion over and over again!

11/19/15, 10:36 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
Well, I finally raised a question that got mentioned in one of your posts, though I'd have prefered it to be something we would agree on. :) Here are some explanations du rigueur on my behalf:

My disagreement with the feasibility of the tier system is not the technological triage itself, which I am perfectly aware that will be unavoidable as energy and resources become scarce. Nor am I ignoring the fact that it allows people to choose how much of their money goes into infrastructure. I disagree with it because, first of all, I think that people living within the same country would not be happy with a system which would allow the possibility of large differences in development between different parts of the country being legally endorsed, whether we're talking about counties or other types of administrative divisions. And even if it is by their own choice, as you say. Because "choices" in this case can depend on oh-so-many things.

I think that a system that would legally endorse such large differences in development between parts of the same country (counties, regions, etc.) would be rejected by most people. You talk about people being able to "choose" how much of their income goes into infrastructure. And you mentioned that you live in a less developed part of your own country. What you didn't mention is that some regions being more wealthy than others, it's not much of a "choice" when deciding how much of your own money goes into infrastructure, if you don't have enough to begin with. Those with the most advantages (geographical, economical, and so on) will get to have more infrastructure because they can pay for it. It happens anyway, and most people do not like it when they live in a less developed region of their own country. A legal system that would openly exacerbate such differences I think would be rejected by most people, and widely condemned if ever put in practice. And when I mentioned how hypocritical I think the elites of your fictional country would be in the real world, that is the condemnation that I had in mind. Not that "eew, I hate these backwards-thinking people who want to take away our internets!"

And then there's the fact that infrastructure is also critical for national security. Which is why I think that most countries faced with the reality of deindustrialism will handle critical questions about infrastructure/technology triage on a national level, and not delegate everything to local governments. You mentioned railroads, but I think that many others such as roads and electricity grids would be taken into account as well, depending on how much the country in question can afford. That personal cars or the internet magastructure will not survive no matter how much people want them, I never argued against.

I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself that I agree with your arguments for technological triage and its inevitability. It is your particular idea of putting it into practice that I didn't agree with, that's all. I don't have a car or TV either, I do have a cell phone but it is an old fashioned one without all the shiny toys (and a battery that lasts a lot longer) and I walk to work or use public transport. I don't know if you wanted to label me as one of those people with kneejerk reactions, but I suggest that it would be a bit of a stretch.

Sorry for the long message.

11/19/15, 10:40 AM

Eric S. said...
One thing this train of thought leaves me wondering about is where the possibility of an eventual print newsletter version of these blogs that would present the same information in a more analogue form currently stands. I've seen you mention the intent before, and I'm just curious about the circumstances and level of reader interest, subscription fees, etcetera, that would be required to eventually make such a thing worthwhile. Is that something you could see ever happening even while there's still a free internet to post on?

11/19/15, 10:45 AM

Regis Will said...
I've been reading this blog for years but this post as finally compelled me to comment. This kind of thing pervades our thoughts on technology at all levels. Even within groups of relatively simple technologies, say bicycles, there can quite a bit of animosity from some people if you choose say a steel frame over a carbon fiber one. This example doesn't even really change much about how the bicycle operates from the user perspective. I think responses get even more interesting if you choose a technology that requires more effort and or skill on the part of the user than the acceptable tech in that space. Take for example choosing an axe over a chainsaw for felling a tree. People start really wondering why you would ever want to do such a thing. This example also brings to mind your post on tools vs prosthetics, at least I think it was your post. Any choice that requires a person to use more physical effort, have more skill, or be more mindful is definitely one that will bring some angry responses to the fore.

Best to you,

11/19/15, 10:52 AM

blackwingsblackheart said...
If you all think people's reactions to you not having a smartphone or TV are hilarious, tell them you don't have a microwave. Ours finally broke down (it had belonged to my parents originally); at first we didn't have extra money for a replacement, but as the months wore on my roommate acknowledged that it wasn't really necessary. Then friends gave us a toaster oven, and any plans to someday replace the microwave were abandoned. There's vanishingly little you can do with a microwave that the stove can't do better (popcorn being a case in point). Reheating, which is the only thing they're good for, just takes a little longer in the toaster oven. People, however, comprehend the lack of microwave even less well than they do my veganism--at least they ask questions about veganism ("So do you eat fish, then?"), whereas the microwave issue receives stunned silence, pitying looks, or anxious comments that they're really cheap at Target and I could probably afford to get one now.

The same friends who were kind enough to give us the toaster oven were unkind enough to also give us their digital converter box. I'd almost gotten my roommate used to not having a TV that did anything but play DVDs, and then all my work was undone. I'm waiting for either the converter or the TV to die a natural death, and then we'll see.

11/19/15, 11:18 AM

Charles DeYoe said...
I always appreciate your perspective on technological choices. I'm definitely not so close to your level - I have a deep love of motion pictures, so I'm not too eager to give up the TV; though it is exceedingly rare to watch anything aside from movies on discs, which is already passe for a lot of folks. But for as much as I love a lot of modern, unsustainable technologies, I've long had at least one foot in the past: I still shoot photographs on film, if I'm working on making my own movie, I typically shoot it on Super 8 film as opposed to video, I like computers from the 1980s more than a lot of newer ones, and have zero desire for a smart phone. In some ways I feel torn between the types of folks who want to live exclusively off the land, forsaking computers and movies, and the types of folks who are obsessed with the latest Apple-branded gewgaw.
But I suppose that's not the worst place to be, all things considered. At least I can recognize that there are options and alternatives?

11/19/15, 11:36 AM

Shane Wilson said...
When did intellectuals go from reading and being "too good" for TV to watching TV? I distinctly remember the former in the 80s and ever 90s in school. My theory is that the internet, marketed as it was as the "information superhighway" AKA the "thinking man's TV" broke down the wall/divide between books and learning on one hand, and screens/TV on the other. Once you have one screen and are watching, say, videos on YouTube, the barrier between education & screens is effectively broken, and you might as well have a TV. Seems like this was about the same time that "high end" TV dramas started being marketed. I'd like to know others thoughts about when they think TV went from being something only working class people did to being an acceptable pastime for intellectuals.

11/19/15, 11:50 AM

Bill Lehan said...
I have similar feelings about television. I rarely watch it, and when I do it's what most people would call "appointment" television, a show I really want to see.This is increasingly rare. I can't remember when I last turned on the set just to "relax" or to "see what's on". Most of the other people in my household are TV watchers, and I find myself escaping into another room to avoid being distracted by it.

For me, and perhaps for others, I usually don't enjoy TV because the idea that I am spending significant time sitting still watching contrived characters deal with contrived situations really bothers me.

11/19/15, 11:55 AM

Phil Harris said...
Presumably its not just us anglo-phones develop herd opinions and become devotees of 'Progress'?

I think modernist rejection of both non-conformism and non-conformists pre-dates TV by a mile.

Take, for example, beards in late 19th and first half 20thC. "Beaver" I believe was the cat-call on the street in my dad's childhood before WWI in Britain. This was despite our two bearded kings, the son going on into the 30s. Looking at an old family wedding photo from 1890s, all the young guys had moustaches but no beards. These were reserved for the old men. (Enduring exceptions, seem to have been Naval officers and artists. Come to think of it, George Vth was a naval officer.)

I remember being called 'beardie-wierdie' in the 1960s, and my dad, though almost polite, was clearly disconcerted. He was very much a modernist, though heaven forbid not a social-progressive!

Very much the 'package deal', I'm afraid.


11/19/15, 12:00 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I think you may be on to something. Using the terms of addiction, one of the things recommended to friends and family of addicts is detachment, separating oneself from the destructive behavior of the addict. So if we see this contemporary insanity leading nowhere good, it is best for our own well being to detach to spare ourselves the pain and maintain our sanity.

11/19/15, 12:06 PM

aunteater said...
I had noticed this phenomenon, but had never been able to elucidate it before. Thank you. My parents opted out of television, and I never missed it. Sometime after college, I spent a couple of years "catching up" to see what I'd missed, culturally, and came to the conclusion that my parents were right: we were better off without it. I have almost no tolerance for fast-cut video editing (migraine trigger) and the insipid repetition that happens when an hour-long show must stretch out ten minutes of content by recapping all previous events after each commercial break. I'd rather take three minutes to read the transcript, if it's something I'm interested in.

The encounters I've had over the years with TV devotees have always left me baffled. There's a predictable pattern to them: once people find out I don't watch TV, and have never had one, they launch into full evangelization of their favorite show/s. When I try to make it clear that I'm not interested, and I'm not going to check out their favorite show-- it does not matter how I say it, sometimes I say flat out that it's a useless waste of time and I'd rather spend three hours a day shoveling manure, and sometimes I politely invoke my migraines and say "I can't" in an apologetic tone, it makes no difference-- the conversation goes all cold and hostile. It's like I've just insulted their kids. The best explanation I could come up with for it was that they know, deep in their hearts, what a horrific waste of their lives it is, and when they meet someone who doesn't partake, they feel judged.

The weird part was having this happen just last week, with my own sister-- who grew up in the same house, with the same parents...

11/19/15, 12:15 PM

Bill Lehan said...
What are we really talking about, when we talk about the types of technologies that make us uncomfortable?

For me, I have decided that, if I cannot explain at more than a very general level how some particular technology works, then I am potentially uncomfortable with it. I do not understand how computers and smartphones work. Not even a little bit. I don't understand how the circuits on a microchip manage to deliver text, pages, and graphics on a screen. I don't understand how wireless signals carry information. I couldn't build a computer, not even if I was given the parts.

A bicycle, however, I understand. I can see how the chain engages the gears, how the force rotating the crank turns the rear wheel. I can observe how releasing tension on a cable moves the derailleur to change the gear ratio. I have never built a bicycle, but I might be able to assemble one from the parts, since I can recognize them and know how they work.

We are not, of course, asked to understand the technology we use. The purveyors of mobile devices, of web software, of internet service, could not possibly care less if we understand it. That way, of course, we are dependent on them. The more dependent, the better.

11/19/15, 12:20 PM

nuku said...
@Zachary Braverman,
When you talked about giving up your cell phone,

"Then I thought about it some more, and realized that my kids and work will be just fine without a smart phone in my pocket".

I noticed you equated "cell phone" with "smart phone". They aren't the same at all. You could give up the smart phone, and drop back a notch to a simpler technology, a basic non-internet connected cell phone (which is really not much more than a cordless telephone). This is another example of how people imagine that giving up a particular technology means "going back to the Stone Age".
Giving up your automatic digitally enhanced "smart" washing machine doesn't mean you have to go back to pounding your laundry onto a rock in the stream with no soap. A simple old-fashioned wringer/single tub washer works fine, and dropping back a level from that is a non-electric hand-operated unit I used for years on my sailboat.

Re the smart phone: ask yourself is there anything inherent to the smart phone that is essential for my needs right now? Could a simple cell phone satisfy those needs? Maybe in the future your communication needs will change: your kids will leave home, you'll change/lose your job, and you won't need a cell phone of any kind...

The point is: you do have a choice in the level of your technology; its not "all or nothing" and its a shifting situation.

11/19/15, 12:22 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Glenn, oh, granted. I'm sure there are as many privileged liberal hypocrites on the right coast as the left one, and no shortage of them in between, just as there are also people who are actually doing something useful about the crisis of our time all over -- yes, even in Jefferson County, WA. ;-) I've simply had a lot of personal experience with the particular (and peculiar) species of privileged liberal hypocrite found in the coastal West.

Mark, exactly. It's an easy trap to fall into, until and unless you have the chance to get out of the bubble of privilege.

Rob, good. The role of evasion of responsibility in all this demands close attention.

Moondira, I understand! I love the physical presence of books -- the bindings, the paper, the scent, the heft of the object in my hand. I've never owned an e-book reader and never will -- from my perspective, e-books are to real books what pornography is to hot sex.

Patricia, no argument there. It fascinates me that so many of those people who are being harmed, obviously and personally, by the worship of progress still can't think their way out from under it.

Ed, one of the difficulties peak oil activism has faced is that so many people in the early days let themselves get sucked into apocalyptic thinking, and when the apocalypse didn't arrive, a lot of people decided that the entire subject of peak oil was discredited. I warned about that back in the early days of this blog, for whatever that's worth.

Maxine, I'm glad to hear that your friends have come around!

Tom, understood. I sometimes wonder if it would be a good idea to advertise a meeting for people who want to socialize without screens -- in any town or city of decent size, you ought to be able to attract a decent crowd.

Jbucks, good. Step by step is generally a more practical approach than cold turkey anyway.

Trmist, you're welcome and thank you!

Mgalimba, I expected that it would stir up conversation and allow certain points to be made. I didn't expect that it would cause brains to freeze up and people to basically go "Gah, gah, gah" on the subject!

11/19/15, 12:50 PM

Myriad said...
My experiences with this phenomenon vary. At my two most recent homes, in coastal New England and in southeastern PA, I've gotten "good for you" reactions for doing my yard work with a manual mower, a rake, and a snow shovel, from neighbors who take on the same tasks in storms of noise and exhaust fumes when they deign to do it themselves at all. I tell them I need the exercise, and I don't mention the noise, fumes, or vibration-numbed hands avoided. They already know the downsides, and maybe they wish they had the resolve or stamina to do it my way but they don't. So I pretend to admire or envy their fine hellish machines and we all stay friends.

People react poorly to their choices being challenged. If technology choices are particularly prone to this, it might be because people are actually somewhat embarrassed by their dependence on it, making it a sensitive area. Or maybe it's because of the role of technology as substitute achievement: "My parents at my age had a house already half paid off, but they never had a TV screen this big or a phone this smart or an Internet this pornucopian."

Human communication is a wonderful and sometimes frightening thing. It doesn't seem reasonable or fair that telling someone something innocuous about ones own preferences, like "I simply don't enjoy watching television," can be read by them as "I think less of you due to your wasting time watching TV." Yet, that unfair and logically invalid inference is nonetheless generally correct, is it not? If it's not in your case, it probably is in other similar conversations that person has had.

I admit I think less of people who seem excessively dependent on their cell phones. Especially the ones who appear to be negotiating life like an astronaut in constant communication with Mission Control. "Houston, sixteen ounce container of Miracle Whip acquired... Negative, Houston, 32-ounce is out of stock... Roger that, proceeding to the bread aisle..." What's wrong with them? My wife and I trust one another to handle errands, travel about, and react appropriately to unexpected events and even emergencies, in one another's physical and electronic absence. We don't need cell phones.

Yet, technological choices are rarely made in isolation. I can choose whether or not to carry a cell phone, but I can't choose whether or not the train station where I'm catching a connection will have pay phones available. So when my mother requests "call me from the station" on my way to a visit, I can choose to say, "Sorry, Mom, I can't do that," but that's no longer just a choice about technology. Not when a prepaid flip phone with 100 minutes costs way less than the train ticket and my mother offers to pay back even that cost. Do I care about her peace of mind or not?

As a result, my wife and I do own cheap cell phones (we didn't make my mother pay for them), that sit in a drawer most of the time but we bring them along to reassure relatives when we travel.

I have zero objection to anyone thinking less of me for giving in to family pressure or because, for instance, I do watch TV. That's completely justifiable. (If they knew me better, they might find even better reasons to think less of me!) But my reactions to such things don't seem to be typical, and are not the same now as they've been at other times in my life. It seems very likely to me that the people who push their own current favorite show as a mandatory exception to your dislike of TV are not really defending the programming or the technology, but their own tastes, choices, and self-worth.

11/19/15, 12:50 PM

pygmycory said...
Off topic data point I think people might want to know:

Resistance to an important 'last line of defense' antibiotic called Colistin is being passed between bacteria and turning up in human patients in China.


The Lancet

On another note, health inequality between rich and poor is increasing in Canada, not just the USA.

11/19/15, 1:11 PM

nuku said...
@Martin B,
Re squatter camps and how people live: I've been reading a book called "Shantaram" which is set in Bombay (Mumbai) in the 80's. The main character, like the author, is an Aussie prison escaper on the run who ends up living in an illegal slum next to a legal slum attached to a building site. Yes, the slum is dirty, smelly, very basic, on the surface chaotic, BUT it "works" for the very poor people in it. For them, the slum is a significant step UP from the most basic level of life on the street with no home at all but a doorway or a piece of pavement.
The very basic "municipal" services in the slum like water, garbage, and latrines are all that the slum dwellers can afford, and they all pay tax in the form of their own community organized labor such as latrine cleaning, water carrying, and garbage collection.
As described, its a fascinating self-regulating organism more like a living animal than the-down-organized, money mediated, machine-like structure of a "modern" town.
As described, there is a huge amount of suffering and inconvenience in the slum, but also a huge amount of joy and human kindness.
Maybe we could call this tier "0"?

11/19/15, 1:31 PM

Ruben said...

You said,

"I think that a system that would legally endorse such large differences in development between parts of the same country (counties, regions, etc.) would be rejected by most people."

And then you say, "It happens anyway, and most people do not like it when they live in a less developed region of their own country."

So that is a bit of a contradiction.

And I would offer that many people specifically move to less developed regions because they afford many benefits.

Probably few of those benefits are financial, for all the reasons discussed:

If you don't have paved roads, you may have to pay for 4WD vehicles.
If you don't have a sewer system, you will have to pay for septic fields, very few places allow outhouses anymore.
If you don't have water service, you will have to pay for home water treatment, as so many water sources are contaminated with agricultural or resource extraction effluents.

But, you can build whatever building you want. You can park car wrecks anywhere you want. You can shoot guns from your porch. You can shoot all sorts of illegal guns from your porch. You can rip around on dirt bikes and atvs. You can moonshine. You can raise animals and slaughter them. You can paint your house any colour you like, or not paint it all. You can choose to not even live in a house.

Basically, coping with fewer of the "benefits" of modernity frees us to enjoy fewer of the restrictions of modernity, and that is something that many people are very, very happy about.

11/19/15, 1:37 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Brian, by all means get a parrot. They're far more interesting than televisions are.

Kayr, no, it's not easy, just necessary and rewarding.

Jen, it sounds like a great idea -- and The Voyage of the Beagle really is a delightful read. One advantage of reading only 19th century books for a year, as you probably know already, is that time has had the chance to filter out much of the garbage -- an advantage that readers of current bestsellers don't have.

Averagejoe, I did indeed see it. As you probably remember, that's been discussed here repeatedly, too.

Ben, the only cold turkey I recommend is the kind that shows up the day after Thanksgiving, in sandwiches and the like. Take it a step at a time, and get a replacement in place before you ditch the latest piece of high-tech trash.

Ondra, that's really too bad. I have no idea who first came up with the idea that it makes sense to dump human wastes into clean drinking water, thus fouling the water and losing the fertilizer value of the waste!

Russell2000, exactly. I really need to do a post one of these days on the bizarre conviction that doing without "smart"-phones equates to living in caves.

Karim, welcome to the Heretics and Blasphemers Club!

Renaissance, if you like looking at little pictures on a screen while doing boring chores, by all means. The point of technological choice is, ahem, technological choice, not one more set of Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots!

Jason, that's really good to hear. I suspect the fact that people found out they don't actually own their e-book copies, they just lease them from the provider on a terminate-at-will basis, may have helped.

Tim, delighted to hear it. Your daughters are the wave of the future.

Martin, you might want to go back and read what I wrote in the post. The lower tiers don't have your supposed minimum -- countywide electricity, water and sewer service are tier five only, and dirt roads are standard in the two lowest tiers. The reason you don't see room for more than two tiers is that you're missing the actual diversity of options.

Flute, you might try making fun of the "stone age" comments sometimes. Sure, cave men used push-button cell phones!

11/19/15, 1:38 PM

aiastelamonides said...

This confirms my personal experience – a relative of mine, after hearing that my parents did not own or want a television, and after repeatedly failing to convince them that it was bad for the children not to have one (!), went ahead and gave them one as a Christmas present.

The outrage against Sarah Chrisman really is bizarre, and particularly the idea that she is trying to live in the past, or deluding herself in some way. It seems plain enough that Ms Chrisman is not trying to live in the past, but rather living quite successfully in the both the present and a corset (and an old house, relative peace and quiet, etc). Now, if the Chrismans read the 1875 New York Times over breakfast each day and earnestly discussed it as though it were current news, or were trying to revive the Temperance movement while pretending that Prohibition never happened, or followed only those laws that applied in the old Washington Territory, or refused to believe twentieth-century scientific discoveries, or tried to land-speculate in the old frontier style, that might be called trying to live in the past. You could legitmately call that a deluded approach to life, though completely harmless so long as not too many people try to live that way. (You might say, if you were of a certain disposition, that too many people do indeed do something comparable, though shifted forward a century or so, or even forward another century into an imagined future.)

(When I look at it out of the corner of one eye, as it were, I too find even an external attempt to recreate one specific past era full-time rather disconcerting, though not anything close to outraging. I haven't been able to find a good reason for this that holds up under two-eyed scrutiny, and in any case it is only a part-time personal preference.)


11/19/15, 2:03 PM

Nastarana said...
Dear Jen, you are in for a treat. Dickens, Balzac, Stendhal, Austen, Elliot, Hugo, and don't forget Gaskell who in her own way was just as good. The romantic poets, and some history from that era is not bad, even though archeologists' shovels have turned up much which was not then known.

I once spent a very happy summer reading through much of Balzac's Human Comedy which books I found in a community college library in Eastern Oregon! Gold is where you find it.

PatriciaOrmsby, thank you for the reference to Lobaczewski, of whose work I blush to say I had never heard. Local library system does not have his book, natch, money can't be spared from computer access and DVDs, but there is a website to which I am headed shortly. Our library does not do interlibrary loans. I know. I tried. One's request gets filled and forgotten.

11/19/15, 2:22 PM

Bruce Port Byron said...
Oh, the "ocean" we live in- not even knowing the "water" is there unless we swim against the current or see others doing so. How shocking it can be to those, that only then see themselves being swept in some direction they haven't, and don't want to, considered. Yes, and how easy it is for almost each of us to drift, momentarily comfortable, with that current.

11/19/15, 2:28 PM

Heather TB said...
I have been ruminating about the horrible reaction to Sarah Chrismas's lifestyle as posted on The Concourse. You are absolutely correct that there are some truly bizarre mental gymnastics going on there.

As you have pointed out, the idea held by some that "if you adopt one aspect of a time period, you must adopt all of it," as though there is an "All or Nothing Era Adoption Policy" that is an immutable law of the universe, is so arbitrary that it's ridiculous. Who made that rule? And by what authority?

However, the whole line of reasoning presupposes that the thinking of an era was one homogeneous worldview. Sure, there may be some over-arching themes, but the notion that one must adopt everything from an era or nothing is predicated on the assumption that there was a single set of thoughts and beliefs held by all during that era, which is false. I'm sure that there were many Victorian ladies who dreamed of a day when they could wear a dress and breathe at the same time.

There is also a weird disconnect with reality. Ms. Chrisman is being lambasted for her decision to use material goods that are authentic to the time period. Adam Prosk writes "Were she an actual inhabitant of 19-century Victorian culture, the cotton for those covers Chrisman writes about painstakingly stuffing would have been farmed on slave plantations and woven by fingerless children in sweatshops." This is all true except for the part where she ISN'T actually in the 19-century. In the year 2015, where she actually lives, her choices are more ecologically sound and less exploitative than most people's. It is also based on the assumption that the items we use today weren't made with human misery. The main difference between the pollution and human misery associated with Victorian lifestyle and our modern one is that our supply chains have allowed us to move the pain and suffering across the world and out of our sight.

I'm sure that your observation that the Chrismans have committed the heresy of demonstrating that a happy life can be lived without technology accounts for some of the vitriol, but I have to wonder if there isn't more to it than that. Could part of the issue be that the genteel and courtly comportment of some earlier eras is so antithetical to society's current way of being that their mere adoption is perceived as a judgement by those who enjoy being vulgar? I don't know, but the reaction is certainly disproportionate to the "offence" or non-offence, as the case may be.

11/19/15, 2:29 PM

Swimmer said...
Yesterday I would have said that I cannot work without Internet in my rural home-office, where I write reports, prepare lectures, and do all my critical academic work. Today, thanks to this post, I have very different feelings. Admittedly, my mind must have been badly blocked, since it was so easy when I set the mind free, to realize that I can probably work off Internet at least 4 days per week and still do the updates of home pages that I administrate, download the reports that I need, and communicate enough to still be attractive for my customers. In fact, I think that my results can be even better if I do like this. This also leads me to the conclusion that tier one might be an attractive location for some authors and researchers. Thank you John Michael for freeing my blocked mind! You're a Great wizard!

11/19/15, 2:31 PM

Urban Harvester said...
John, I admire your ability to engage with people tangled in such paralogic and to illuminate the underlying issues. The Chrisman's story struck home for me, and reminded me of how earlier this week a friend and I were bemoaning the lack of the vigorous counter-cultures we had amongst today's young people. We were also lamenting the loss of our local punk rock music scene. I was saved by being in a punk rock band. It introduced me to a whole world of people engaged in "lo-fi" and DIY audio technology. My bandmates and I spent much of our time scavenging at the thrift stores for the gems that people were casting off: reel-to-reel audio recorders, record players with integral tube-amps which made for the warmest electric guitar sound... our recording "studio" was entirely composed of paraphernalia dating from the 40's to the 60's.

However, perhaps because I've taken a certain amount of personal pride in that deliberately anti-high-tech-finger-to-the-man approach, I've taught myself to ignore the indignant objections of people who take issue with my unconventional ways, sometimes to the point of being oblivious to them. One of the things I've been really enjoying about reading your blog is your ability to engage the reality police and its influence in dialogue.

Your tiers struck me as brilliant off the bat, and I'd agree that this device of yours is looking to be very effective. I also appreciate that your writing is a reliable force in my life for curtailing the pervasive influence of distractive thaumaturgy (even if it is at the expense of another Retrotopia installment :). It's tendrils are always creeping in somewhere... like mice... you think you have all the holes stopped up when they gnaw through an old baseboard or eat their way through the lathe and plaster (how do they DO that?).

So I have a renewed gratitude to the gods of punk and retro-tech (whoever they are) for helping set me "off course". I have to wonder if whoever the entities were encouraging Baudelaire to dye his hair green and to try to make people face the coarse, unrefined, unpleasant aspects of life around them, weren't the same ones inspiring the New York Dolls to dress like dandies and make music that was rebelliously idiosyncratic and deliberately rough around the edges more than a century later. As to what entities favor the refined craft that goes into the older, durable technologies that even punk rockers salivate over (those tubes, the lines on those old amp cases)... I imagine they are different, but perhaps allied for the time being. As you're no stranger to encouraging us to either look at uncomfortable reality or to consider retro-tech I'd be curious about your take (although that might be a question for your other blog).

The issues surrounding the Chrisman's case strike home for another reason, they are analogous to developments here in Utah last week: where the hierarchy of the LDS church, in response to the prospect of having to interact with healthy, well adjusted, happy legally married same sex couples in their congregations, have instituted a slew of draconian policies that a) make same-sex marriage grounds for apostasy, b) require mandatory disciplinary (excommunication) councils for anybody that gets into one, and c) in an act of gratuitous and un-christian spite bar children of same sex couples from fellowship until they are 18 AND disavow their gay parents' life styles. This last is especially sticky as there are many children of previously "mixed-orientation" marriages, who now have to choose between their straight and gay sets of parents, or be second class citizens in their devout extended families and neighborhood church communities. All of this because the LDS hierarchy can't handle divergent lifestyles. The Chrisman's experience (especially the reaction to their happiness) demonstrates to me that the technology-lifestyle issue is in fact, as you have argued, a RELIGIOUS one.

11/19/15, 2:33 PM

will said...
Here's a story idea, one that's probably better suited for your Galabes Well, but .... an investigator of the supernatural uncovers a conspiracy of sorts - all of the soul-sucking tech glamour of 20-21st century - and by "glamour", I mean the literal casting of an illusion-inducing spell - and by "soul-sucking tech" I mostly refer to mass entertainment television - is actually engineered by the Fae in retaliation for having been pushed out of their natural habitats. It seems the Fae hope we'll all be reduced to dream-haunted, illusion-addicted shells and our civilization will fall apart, leaving them to reclaim their lands. 

The investigator attempts to rid himself of his flat screen ... and finds he can't.

11/19/15, 2:43 PM

Pentrus said...
Choosing what technology is appropriate spills over into our schools. I happen to be an older person (60s) teaching high school science. The push now days is to adopt more and more "technology" (read computer technology) to classroom activities. For a while I had an IPad cart to use because the administration wanted to go with ebooks and my, the students would have so much access to so many "gee whiz" websites and apps and, gosh, it would just make the whole learning experience "better" for the students. I tried to use the Ipads, but they were not compatible with a lot of things I used, they were often difficult to get connected to the school network, and even having blocked most inappropriate websites, these tech-savvy kids know how to get around such things. I found the Ipads to be an enormous time waster. I ended up doing a property transfer to get them out of my room and into a younger teacher's area giving the administration the logic of "I think a younger teacher might be able to better use this wonderful technology". One of the subjects I teach is chemistry. I find it much more satisfying to work with apparatus, pencil and paper. We have honest-to-god paper textbooks that the kids lug around, and some of them carry the books like a badge of honor. It is fun to see a student's eyes light up during a titration laboratory when they understand how knowing something about one reactant can be used to ascertain the properties of another using simple ratios determined during the the reaction. They seem to enjoy the very process of assembling apparatus and running a reaction to do chemical separations which allows them to identify the ratios of elements to each other in compounds. And on, and on... I tell folks that I am using technology, it is just of a different kind. And a decay curve generated on graphing paper is just as legitimate as one generated using a spreadsheet and computer. My other classes are in the Earth Sciences, where my kids go to the field to examine the nature of rock strata and their relationship to each other, make topographic or geological maps, or collect fossils that are brought back to the lab where reference books and pamphlets are used to decipher the kinds of environments the ancient organisms lived in as well as the age of the rocks in which the fossils are found. They use compasses and trigonometry to navigate. They visit observatories (Cincinnati) and peer at the wonderful star clusters and planets through a telescope built in the 1840s (it has a mahogany optical tube and was built by apprentices of Fraunhofer). I could go on but you get the picture. I am viewed as an old, backward guy who shuns technology because I am just not as "with it" as the younger crowd. But, my students return year after year to tell me about how successful they've been in first year chemistry classes at university or how they still look at geologic structures or fossils during trips with their families, and some have even gone into the study of geology at the college level. My technology is never down. When other classes are bemoaning network difficulties, we don't even notice since the students are working problems, asking questions, reading books, looking through microscopes, keying out rock and fossil samples, collecting biological specimens in the field during field studies, etc. However, guys like me are being quietly phased out through attrition (retirement) and I am sure future students will fare much better with a younger more technologically able teacher.

11/19/15, 2:45 PM

Jason Heppenstall said...
Last week I took delivery of my latest utilitarian toy. It's a trailer for my bicycle, and it can carry 40kg. Currently we live 12 miles away from the woodland we own, and the cost of petrol for getting there and back in my rusting Mitsubishi 4WD is not inconsiderate. Often I need to have heavy tools with me, and I also find myself pulling around heavy trailer-loads of firewood and soil. It's a problem.

But it's also a problem in terms of danger, if I want to cycle there and back. People drive their high-powered cars like maniacs around where I live, and more or less every day there is some terrible accident in the vicinity. However, I've figured out a route that's half off-road, following coastal paths, minimising the danger. Mind you, cycling 24 miles over hilly terrain, and doing a day's heavy work in the woods, is pushing the limits of my 44 year-old-body. I've done it a few times so far, and aim to do it more with time. I figured that traffic would be thinning out by 2016 as various supply problems take hold, but we'll just have to see.

One partial solution I've come up with is to only produce things that weigh very little. Bags of charcoal and woodland mushroom don't weigh very much and can be delivered easily by bicycle (in my new trailer!). Other woodland owners, I have noticed, love to boast about their heavy machinery and what it can do. They seem to relish dealing with very heavy items, such as milled lumber. Not many of them consider the amount of energy their machines need to operate, or where they will get replacement parts from if supply lines experience problems. A case in point: I needed a largeish pond on my land for irrigation and to add to the biodiversity. Everyone I spoke to told me I needed to get a mechanical digger in as such a task was considered herculean. However, I dug the pond by hand, using a pick axe and a shovel. Granted, it took me 18 months but I just did a half hour or so on every visit. Most big jobs are possible with time and patience.

Anyway, my point here is that I'm trying to do away with the need for anything high-tech or energy guzzling at the woodland. I've still got the chainsaw, but other than that it's just hand tools and a scythe. Slowly, slowly ...

11/19/15, 2:49 PM

nuku said...
Re confusion of sports with personal identity: Here in New Zealand, a small ex-colonial country, rugby is the "national game" enhanced by the all powerful world champion "All Black" team. A recent poll showed 33% of the respondents (don't remember the # of people polled) felt their peronal sense of identity and self-worth is tied to the fortunes of The Team. This is of course aided and abetted by the Media and the gambling lobby.
The other 67% couldn't give a toss (Kiwi for "don't give a sh_t") about rugby, but mostly kept that to themselves for fear of been seen as un-patriotic/non-conforming. A significant number of those even secretly wished The Team would loose the so-called World Cup to Australia so that the other 33% would stop all the boring talk about rugby.
The squeaky wheel often gets the grease, but the other wheels just keep on quietly turning.

11/19/15, 2:53 PM

Doctor Westchester said...
JMG and Eric Backos,

I have a dear friend who really get it. She teaches dance for a living and also arranges reskilling classes. These are classes that teach food preservation, wild plant identification, simple sewing skills and the like. She recently told me that when she first started offering these classes five years or so ago she could tell her students that these classes would be useful in the case of emergencies, or if something else more permanent happened. Today she can only promote these classes in terms of their cuteness or Martha Stewart-factor. To get some sense of her student's demographic I might mention that Martha Stewart herself resides in this county. I remember that I told her that this is likely to be a harbinger of something and as JMG said, it isn't likely to be utopia.

11/19/15, 3:08 PM

l33tminion said...
It seems obvious to me that some of the dislike (and probably a lot of the most intense dislike) of the Chrismans is just "they're weird, get em!" But I don't think it's all just dislike of difference. The article made them seem pretty smug about their lifestyle, going quite a bit beyond talk of mindfulness about technology to claim special insight into the lives of historical Victorians, while seeming oblivious of the differences between their lifestyle and that of actual Victorians (non-rich Victorians in particular). Overt non-conformity can also seem like rubbing it in to people who routinely feel they need to toe the line to maintain their safety and livelihood.

The reaction was similar to, I don't know, maybe polyamorists who claim some special insight into the lives of pre-agricultural humans and brag about how their subcultural relationship style makes them happier and more enlightened. Sure, some of the reaction that generates is just simple bigotry, but there are also some good reasons to find that sort of rhetoric snobby / oblivious / annoying.

11/19/15, 3:11 PM

Adrynian said...
The tier-system is interesting and has possibilities. I have two sticking points, however, which I'm hoping you haven't already addressed and that I missed.

1) The opportunity-cost of non-participation: I notice you said you don't have a cellphone. Presumably you still have a phone, however, and for good reason. When no one has a phone, the advantages to ownership are few, but when everyone has a phone, the costs of non-ownership are great (e.g. having a phone is generally considered necessary for job-hunting). I have some concern that the tier-system could impose opportunity costs similar to this on people in lower tiers.

For example, I happily avoided car ownership for years, but when I went into the trades to pay back my university student loans, I reluctantly made the switch. I need a car because on any given day I could be working anywhere in the greater metropolitan region where I live. Were I to forego a vehicle, I would lose access to much of this income. How would the tier-system affect labour mobility of this sort - and the economic opportunities it creates? If lower-tier-living negatively affects one's economic opportunities, it could reduce the relative per-capita state/federal tax base of lower-tier municipalities and I don't see that going over too well.

2) Natural monopolies: It's interesting to me that you assume railroads will appear anywhere there are enough people to ride them. But some forms of infrastructure - including railroads - have such large fixed costs that they deter competition and private investment. Typically, government has to step in to make the investment in these cases (or at the very least, to protect consumers from exploitation by monopoly power). If infrastructure of this sort needs to be funded by a higher level of government, it could generate hard feelings by lower-tier municipalities who don't want to pay for it, and thereby undermine state/federal efforts to make these sorts of investments. (This is also true of public goods, where people benefit whether they contributed to the investment or not - think security, parks, street-lighting, flood-controls, etc. - though in this case I suspect it is the higher tiers who will have a problem with 'free-riding' lower tiers.) I am curious whether you have considered how to address this, beyond mandating that all such infrastructure investments occur at a municipal level.


A natural monopoly is a distinct type of monopoly that may arise when there are extremely high fixed costs of distribution, such as exist when large-scale infrastructure is required to ensure supply. Examples of infrastructure include cables and grids for electricity supply, pipelines for gas and water supply, and networks for rail and underground. These costs are also sunk costs, and they deter entry and exit.

11/19/15, 3:20 PM

nuku said...
@Patricia Mathews,
If you want to read more on our ape-like nature, may I recommend "The Naked Ape" by Desmond Morris? This man spent a lifetime observing animals' and humans'behavior in and out of zoos (cities) all over the planet.
His "Bodywatching" is another classic analysis of human behavior seen from the perspective of humans as just another animal species, not some half-God-like transcendent beings.

11/19/15, 3:24 PM

jean-vivien said...
Regarding the comments on TV :

May I suggest that people, unconsciously, don't really want to watch TV, but just hear the ambient sound it creates ? Sort of, like, reinventing radio...
Stimulating music in your headphones might be enough stimulation, and one might not necessarily need the visual stimulation so much as the auditive.
Music gives a human being a certain perception of time, it structures our perception of reality into a coherent beat, upwards and downwards trends, and it can structure even the train of emotions we do experience - which is what lots of good music do.
Somehow, so many people have been hijacked into the culture of imagery. Much like a modern-day idolatry of the Golden Calf...

11/19/15, 3:40 PM

jean-vivien said...
Regarding this week's topic's on-topic topics :

The notion of technological choices is poignantly mordant at just this time in my country. I won't repeat what has already been said about Paris' attacks, but the very topics of the war against ISIL in the middle-East has everything to do with technological choices :
France, in alliance with the big powers currently on the loose in the region, is going for even more of the tired-out, endlessly re-hashed option of air strikes.
That kind of more-of-the-same novelty is not even worth our Pope-Cornes to watch on !!
Meanwhile, ISIL is parading on its magazine cover a handcrafted bomb that would allegedly have brought down the Russian airliner over the Sinaï. A bomb made in the crudest fashion one could imagine : a fire extinguisher's metal latch, a soda can, and a bit of wire.
My guess is that it is not articulated too loud in Western media, but ISIL is trying to play on young people's attraction to violence and power, for sure, but it does target more than that : it advertises in a positive light the sort of overpowering simplicity that would appeal to a large, long-neglected part of society that has grown up in poverty, and displays it as a mark of power.

Another notion that gets shoved aside by contemporary thought : technologies are just tools, and humans constantly and simultaneously use both social tools and technological tools.
Terrorism, for example, is a social technology being used not just since it makes sense in a practical concept (it's cheaper than air strikes, after all), but also because it makes sense in a social context (a significant part of the poor young population feeling that they have no future, and are being already sacrificed).
That's where most train of thoughts in the media prefer to stop : the notion that we have made technological choice at the same time as social choices, and that far from improving the social context, developping technology has only added technological problems and dependances to an existing set of social problems.
I am referring to the "spirit of the years 70" : the notion that the social context could be improved while ignoring the effects of the technological context upon the social sphere.
This breed of fanatism also feeds on ungratefulness, because poor people in suburbs still get a lot of public services and benefits from an affluent society. But probably not so much of a social role, a problem that is only exacerbated by choosing automation-slanted technologies.

Which brings me to what I am feeling right now : these attacks are a perfectly valid, essential opportunity to stop talking about the choices France did make as a society. Stop protecting its domestic commercial markets, shed too much of its industry, and import a lot of cheaper immigrant labor to do its blue-collar jobs.
The blue-collar jobs have been disappearing first, which has led to the suburbs' timebomb situation France has sat on for too many decades now. But even white-collar jobs have started to disappear over the last decade, as a result of rampant globalization. The consitutional changes on security come handy, as in a few years from now a lot of violence is bound to unfold over the country, and not just from religious fanatics but from an ever-increasing part of formerly -affluent new poors.

Of course the affluent part of the population cannot bear guilt for what just happened, and there is probably more social diversity in those areas of Paris than in your upper-middle-class US neighborhood.
But the fact is, noone is questionning how Paris has slowly been gentrifying, and how small-scale industry businesses have been replaced by office and service-sector jobs.

Despite one comment I read on David Brin's blog, of course ISIL is trying to divide the country with this strategy of terror, but it does not aim just at 'progressives', it aims directly at the gentrification of society, and the terror only compounds an existing, deeper set of social issue.

11/19/15, 3:51 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Thriftwizard, I certainly don't intend to open that can of worms here. It so happens that the few times I've used a cell phone, I've felt an uncomfortable sensation, like heat but not quite like heat, all through the bones in the side of the face on which I've held the thing; the license exams for my amateur radio license included a lot of questions about how to minimize the hazards of exposure to radio waves, which have substantial health risks, and pressing a microwave antenna against the side of my brain just somehow doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Still, by all means let's not discuss that! ;-)

Constitutionalist, if I rate time in there with your Bible study, I'm honored!

Swimmer, I've seen the same thing. I've wondered more than once whether the people at those events realize just how much they sound like a cult: "You have to believe..."

Damaris, I'm half tempted to write a parody titled "Ectopia," which is the place where you're never quite where you should be, or something like that!

Dave, I'm certainly not telling farmers today not to use this or that technology -- as long as it doesn't poison the land or the water, that is. My point is simply that plastic row covers aren't going to survive the end of the industrial age, so other options should be kept in mind.

Marc, that's a good story. I'll feel better about the future when more people start telling the cable guy that.

Chloe, it's not just you. We're getting quite an earful of "peak oil is dead" stories. The reason? Petroleum production in the Bakken shale has peaked and is dropping at this point, just as the peak oilers predicted -- so of course peak oil has to be booed off the stage.

Brian, I'm not at all sure how tiers were chosen originally -- I'll have to consider that as we proceed -- but once they're in place, you need a 2/3 supermajority to change to a different tier.

Robert, glad to hear it. Next time somebody starts blabbing about their favorite TV program and how you absolutely have to watch it, start blabbing in turn about some book you know they've never read and will never read -- Russian novels are a good choice here -- and how they just absolutely have to get it and read it. Keep on obsessively talking about it until they lose their temper and demand that you shut up about the book, and then smile and say, "Now you know how I feel when people babble incessantly about some TV show they think I have to watch." You may lose some friends, but after a few cycles of that, you'll be hassled less.

Ourgreattransition, get that hammer and swing it!

Andrew, I'll consider getting Carr into a town meeting -- that would be easier than getting him into a lodge meeting. It's a good idea.

Mitzi, thank you for the story! That's definitely cheering news.

11/19/15, 4:07 PM

Blueback said...
Here's a great example of the hate mail directed at the Chrisman's, a typical foul mouthed rant of the sort you would expect from post-modernist Left these days, demonstrating just how tolerant of real diversity these people really are. This sort of thing, by the trendy middle class liberal apostles of "tolerance" and "diversity", no less, makes me sick.

I share the deep sense of loathing that people like Oswald Spengler, Robert E Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien felt towards the era and civilization we live in. Like a growing number of people, I am thoroughly disgusted with the depravity, hypocrisy, degeneracy and sheer insanity of our "modern world". Good riddance when it falls. Perhaps some of the more worthy discoveries and inventions of our era can be saved and I know there are people working in that direction (including in the Green Wizards movement), but as for the rest, I will not miss it. You are quite right when you point out that the peoples of the future will see us as real-life Orcs and Nazgul.

PS I once read a review of Julius Evola's "Revolt Against the Modern World". The title of the review was "The Revolting Modern World", sentiments I couldn't agree more with...

11/19/15, 4:07 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Donalfagan, exactly -- one of the points of including the tier system in the narrative is that it forces consideration of the ways in which we already have, and enforce, involuntary tier systems.

Carol, good. By and large, if it's realistic, yes, it takes work.

Bill, it'll be interesting to see what happens. The thing is, it used to be very common for SF writers to write about futures in which humanity didn't go to the stars. It's really only been the last few decades that such things have been unwelcome in SF -- and it's probably not a coincidence that it's only been in the last few decades that science has really made it clear that we're not going to the stars, or even colonizing the solar system. I hope SF can get itself out of the done-to-death, utterly implausible space-travel rut and start writing about interesting futures again!

Leo, that's sad indeed. Half the books I request via interlibrary loan here in Cumberland, MD come from the Pratt library in Baltimore. We really do need to start thinking about private subscription libraries again...

Jonathan, keep in mind that a 1950s infrastructure requires constant, expensive maintenance and a variety of expensive inputs. If those become too much of a burden, abandoning the infrastructure can be the most cost-effective option. That's why many US counties right now are turning paved roads back into gravel and abandoning dilapidated bridges -- it's less of a burden than throwing money the counties don't have into the endless black hole of upkeep.

Fred, okay, now imagine that things can be different. That's the point of a narrative like the one I'm writing!

Fudoshin, oh, granted. And Hall was right, of course.

Robert, funny! A good point, too -- "reality television" is a fine contradiction in terms.

Revelin, that's a very useful point! Of course you're quite right -- if we can have technological "progress" and ethical "regress," a la the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution, then the entire notion of technological determinism goes out the window once and for all.

Raven, it does indeed sound like fetishism, though I'm thinking more along the lines of latex lingerie...

Redoak, exactly. There's an extent to which progress is a swindle, in which people are sold something "better" that, in objective terms, is quite simply worse.

Renovator, that issue leads very quickly into deep waters. People in today's America cling to the most bizarre notions of identity, because they have no idea whatsoever who and what they are, having been taught to avoid introspection and self-knowledge at all costs. I should do a post on that one of these days.

11/19/15, 4:25 PM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Dear ourgreattransition:

You write, "with my phone now being 12 months old the audio jack is no longer working". I have found from my own experience with an Apple iPhone 3 that the culprit can be dust or lint, in which case a remedy is available. The Web has quite a discussion on the cleaning of jacks. In my own case, what worked quickly was the construction of a tiny tool, from a plastic toothpick into which I made some short cuts, with scissors, parallel to the length of the pick. With those cuts made, the toothpick became in effect a thing with barbs at one end - a sort of broom, with rather sharp bristles well fitted to grabbing lint. By poking around in the jack, I was able to pull out quite a surprising amount of detritus, thereby restoring the signal.

I would urge here the use of wood or plastic, as opposed to metal, in making a grabbing tool. You want something which can snag lint and dust-bunnies and yet is not liable to scratch, or in other ways to injure, the metal portions of your jack walls.

Tom = Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)

11/19/15, 4:40 PM

jean-vivien said...
@nuku :

I heard that the New-Zealand rugby players were high on the same fear-suppressing drugs as the kamikaze human bombs, and I have seen the famous akka at the beginning of a rugby match, and the gestures are pretty explicit gestures of terror, like motionning the bethroatal of an enemy.
The chemical thing is probably a rumour. Yet these days yielding terror requires the existence a highly sophisticated infrastructure too : full-blown democratic political structures to terrorize, the Internet to release terror videos, TV to broadcast sports game...
Maybe the peak of communication technology would also coincide the peak of terror... Although that would sadly be a naive belief on my part.

Other than that, the terror crisis has been tackled politically, at least in the short-term phrasing of security and warfare. But noone is willing to assess how much of an impact our lifestyle can have on the rest of the world...
It will take an entirely distinct sort and scale of disasters to cause us to change that. Does not sound too promising. Apparently the taboo about technology choices is paralleled with the taboo about social choices.

11/19/15, 4:47 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Raven, thanks for the link.

Glenn, and the other piece of good news is that some of us are doing these things already. That's what this week's post is about, you know...

Howard, that couple is on the cutting edge of the future, and they and their kids are probably already doing better than the people who've committed everything to the continuation of the status quo.

Dennis, trust Vonnegut to get it right.

Greg, thanks for the recommendation. If I ever get a hankering to read that sort of thing, I'll certainly keep it in mind.

Luddene, er, what on earth is a "crave crawl"?

Zach, I've seen it but haven't read it -- it's on the get-to list.

Shane, I sometimes wonder if it might be a good idea to have some kind of a get-together for Green Wizards one of these days, perhaps in an old hotel in a town with regular train service and a range of old-fashioned amenities. I'm not in any position to organize one -- the time that would be needed is time I simply don't have -- but it could be entertaining, and I suspect a lot of people would end up feeling a good deal less isolated.

Patricia, of course that's part of it, but there's some importance in how any given group of apes chooses the kind of outsider that gets torn apart. There are always some kinds of deviance that are openly tolerated, some that are overtly rejected but covertly tolerated, and some kinds that get rejected across the board -- and which forms of deviance get assigned to which category is a complex process with deep roots in the collective thinking of the society in question.

Friction Shift, that seems, shall we say, utterly familiar!

Buddha, "the empire of the mind" is a good useful label. Thank you.

Twilight, I can certainly imagine the thing being attempted. The underground economy is already large enough that the result would simply be more people earning a living outside of the official economy, using something other than Federal Reserve notes for money, but that's just one of those things.

Dammerung, I think there's a lot of self-justification in that claim: it's not that people think that humanity's going to ride the bomb all the way down, and therefore decide to party until they drop; it's that people want to party until they drop, and use the insistence that humanity's going to ride the bomb all the way down as an excuse. Still, what about those of us -- and as this week's comments show, there's no shortage of us -- for whom using older and simpler technologies is simply more pleasant than buying the latest heavily marketed trash?

Shane, how you burn as well as what you burn influences your chimney tax, so yes, a more efficient rocket stove is going to involve a lot lower tax burden.

Thor, hmm! I'll have to look up Leon Krier.

Crow Hill, those are classic. Oh, the horrible, unspeakable, inhuman self-denial of ditching some noisy, irritating piece of cheap plastic and circuitry and having to put up with the quiet loveliness of a walk in the woods!

11/19/15, 4:51 PM

M Smith said...
I've never been one to conform, so I learned long ago not to let people pressure me into having the latest and the same as "everyone else" had. It made me a little grouchy but overall, probably much happier and healthier than "everyone else".

OT but I went to pump gas this week and as the tank filled, I heard a voice speaking above the roar of the passing traffic, and looked around for the source. Yep. There was a screen on the pump facing me and jabbering about some late night talk show or other. Shudder.

11/19/15, 5:12 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Toomas, I don't think that's likely in the Lakeland Republic, but it's not impossible -- and the thought of a monastic order dedicated to railroads, lovingly tending the great locomotives in the intervals between singing the monastic hours, belongs in a future Space Bats story!

Ghung, exactly -- and I want to stress that the point of this week's post, and of this blog generally, is not to cheerlead for a stone age lifestyle! The point is to find the technologies that are (a) sustainable, and (b) convivial, in Ivan Illich's sense of the term, rather than simply accepting whatever some gargantuan corporation wants to sell you, in the blind faith that it must be good because it's new.

Dan, for Neal DeGrasse Tyson, science is an ideology, not a set of tools for exploring nature. More to the point, it's a secular religion, and Tyson pretty clearly sees himself filling Carl Sagan's shoes as its current pope. Of course he's going to phrase things in terms of blind faith backed up by rigid dualisms!

Rita, I barely have enough time to keep up with this blog, my writing schedule, and my duties as an archdruid -- I certainly don't have time for Twitter! Sorry.

Toomas, too funny; thank you. I'm pretty sure that the Lakeland Republic has no television, because advertising is taxed fairly heavily, and so the only revenue stream that can support broadcast television isn't really viable.

Bill, understood. Me, I'd be happiest in Tier 3, I think -- I love trains and streetcars, loathe automobiles and canned music blaring all over the place, and enjoy having sidewalks to walk on in town.

Nastarana, I like that! "I'm not a consumer, I'm a citizen." Everyone, repeat that silently to yourself, and pay attention to the implications...

Gavin, oh, granted. It's a source of quite some amusement to me that so many people affect to despise Freud these days, at a time when the drowning of consciousness in erupting unconscious material may just be more common than ever before!

Robert, it's a standard bit of flaming irrationality on the part of progress worshippers to insist that anything other than the latest fashionable technotrash is tantamount to eating grubs in the woods. Congrats for seeing past that.

Laylah, that's a real challenge, and one with which I don't have any real experience -- I've been very fortunate in that my wife is just as clear on the need to downshift, just as uninterested in fashionable technotrash, and just as happy with older, simpler, and more human-scale technologies as I am.

Toomas, good -- but remember that television as we know it receives a range of direct and indirect subsidies from the rest of the economy. In the Lakeland Republic, those aren't present, and so entrepreneurs interested in launching a television industry have to face the prospect of doing so in a very unfavorable economic environment.

Bob, not at all. I've seen plenty of pressure groups and petty tyrants in my time! The advantage of the tier system is that it restricts any one petty tyrant to a single county, rather than letting one or more of them establish infrastructure rules for the entire nation.

Toomas, I got that data point from a friend and regular reader who helps manage a data center for one of the big you-know-the-name internet firms. If anybody's discussed that in print, I'd welcome hearing about it.

11/19/15, 5:14 PM

Shane Wilson said...
Well, I could dust off my organizing skills from years past and work on a Green Wizards Gathering. Maybe Cincy? Though I'm not sure I'm the person others on here would respond to, though I do have meticulous Southern manners in person.

11/19/15, 5:26 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I've noticed, JMG, that you seem to not flinch from confronting people on their hypocrisy, etc. and get your fair share of diatribes from others. I must admit, I'm not so courageous, in part because I'm way more collapsed and my situation is more precarious, and secondly, my Southern upbringing makes it painfully uncomfortable to confront people, however, waiting till they've left the room to say something isn't an issue.

11/19/15, 5:32 PM

MKA said...
I am struggling with this, mainly because I'm a "don't need tv, would rather read, and don't think we need two cars, would rather take the bus everywhere" type, while my husband is a "will die without cable and we need a second car for the mobility" type.

I am glad to see that I am not alone in my desire to limit technology in my home, so that I am not dependent on it.

11/19/15, 5:37 PM

John Michael Greer said...
S. Treimel, no, I haven't. Given the realities of how many hours there are in a day, I'd probably need to work with someone else who would run the publishing end of things and get the bulk of the income from it, paying me the usual writer's share.

Steve, I somehow managed to miss the story of the child and the balloon, but I've seen way too many times how anything but Our Opinion gets flattened out into The Other Opinion. I recall with great amusement how the same post here, in the early days of the Report, was decried as hopeless doomer porn by a techno-optimist and delusionally optimistic by a doomer.

Ursachi, I'm not talking about technological triage. I'm talking about the fact that these days, in the US, quite a few people are eager to make the choice that you insist nobody would actually make, and would gladly have less in the way of complex technological infrastructure if that meant they had to pay less in taxes. Read the comments to this week's post and you'll hear from a fair sample of them. As for national defense, we'll get to that in forthcoming posts; as you'll see, there are ways in which less infrastructure is a major advantage to a nation facing foreign invasion. More on this later.

Eric, as noted above, I'd have to have someone else do the publishing; on the one hand, there's only so many hours in a day, and on the other, I'm not very good at business, and publishing requires the kind of business sense I don't have.

Regis, exactly. The hidden commandment of the religion of progress is that human beings are forbidden to have any talents, abilities or strengths of their own -- all they can ever be is meatware peripherals to the Machine. All hail the Machine!

Blackwings, if you have a private moment, open up the converter box and snip a dozen or so wires, then close the thing up again. Oops! It just stopped working...;-)

Charles, if you love cinema, by all means enjoy it. The point is to choose what technologies you want to have in your life, rather than just doing as you're told!

Shane, good question. I wonder whether it happened right around 1980 -- a lot of things changed very suddenly at that time, as I remember rather too well.

Bill, that makes sense. Having a place where you can go where the TV isn't yelling at you is probably a good plan.

Phil, sure, but as I noted above, the question of which eccentricities get ignored and which get punished is a complex one.

Aunteater, sorry to hear about your sister. I've been in many of the same conversations, though, and I think you're right. When each of these people are on their deathbeds, waiting for that last moment, will they be thinking, "Gosh, I should have spent more time watching television"? I doubt it...

Bill, granted, and it's very much a personal thing. I do understand how televisions and cell phones work -- an Amateur Extra ham radio license will do that -- and I still don't like them.

11/19/15, 5:39 PM

Nick said...
I'll save the compliments - most of the time, compliments for a writer are usually intended to announce what good taste the reviewer thinks they have.

You are completely right about the 100% sacrosanct nature of the myth of progress and the powerful cultural forces that punish any public transgressions. I suspect it's because of two things: subconsciously, most people know that the present experiment in progress isn't working, but thinks they are alone in this thought and therefore keeps it to themselves. And also, to obtain the rewards that can be found in "collapsing now and avoiding the rush", there is substantial investment required - you need a community that is at least somewhat open to these ideas (or maybe just a few friends and maybe a significant other). You need to be out of debt. It seems like land ownership is necessary, but where I live, even land far from cities that has no particular use to industrial civilization (too hilly for mechanized farming, no natural resources other than pulpwood) is extremely expensive.

The problem is that participating in Western "culture" represents a local optima, and even if that optima is rapidly fading away, the valley in between a simpler life and the life that is sold to us is still dark and full of unknowns. There are still lots of ways not to conform within our culture though. In addition to eschewing smart phones, TV, the Internet, not buying a bunch of crap, not having a car, a big one is vegetarianism / veganism. It saves money, and likely reduces your impact on the planet more than not having a smartphone.

I think the most important part of the peak oil and climate change story is not rig counts, the keeling curve or the real or imagined unemployment numbers. It is clear that a vastly different story about who we are and what we are doing here is necessary. We are already seeing the rise of a set of seriously ugly explanations for why American reality is not matching expectations for most people. An intelligent, constructive explanation of what the situation is and what can realistically be done by individuals and small groups is needed, but it is not the full story. For example Chris Martenson's website/videos are great, but they really fall short in terms of storytelling. Rob Hopkins with his Transition Town story does much better but I don't think goes quite far enough.

Like most people, I don't have the answers. People that do not have anyone's but their own best interests at heart are working hard on making up answers that suit their needs.

11/19/15, 5:58 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Myriad, and that's a good point. As I noted in response to an earlier comment, people these days in America frantically clutch at anything that will provide them with a surrogate identity -- a sports team, a television program, you name it, no matter how meaningless or absurd -- because they've been systematically taught to avoid introspection and self-knowledge, and the empty space behind their own eyes terrifies them.

Pygmycory, yes, I saw that. The end of the antibiotic era is getting very close.

Aias, you might be amused, in a bleak sort of way, to know that several trolls have tried to post hate speech about the Chrismans here. The extent to which people will go to yell down something that makes them think...

Bruce, and it takes a certain amount of clarity to notice that the current is pulling us straight toward a net...

Heather, good. You've seen through two of the core irrationalities behind what's going on here -- the insistence that you can't pick and choose among the technologies of any given time (including ours) and the frankly bizarre claim that using the technologies of a past time makes you retrospectively guilty of everything blameworthy that happened in that time. Mind you, I wonder how many people who insist on that latter point are willing to take responsibility for what's happening around them today...

Swimmer, you're most welcome. Just doing my job... ;-)

Harvester, I'd tend to think that Dionysus is probably the god of punk rock, as of every wild, antinomian musical subculture. The god of retro tech? Old hoary Saturn, of course, who is the Lord of the Golden Age as well as the master of all that's tried and true.

Will, have you considered writing it?

Pentrus, your students are lucky to have you as a teacher. Of course they have a great time assembling the glassware and doing the experiments -- they're actually doing it themselves, not just sitting passively watching little colored pictures on a glass screen -- and by the same token, they actually learn something.

Jason, good. Have you considered moving closer to the woodland? That's probably the only workable long-term solution, given the realities of transport and middle age...

Doctor W., a harbinger indeed. I should talk about that sometime soon.

l33tminion, I've noticed that very often when people these days say words like "smug" and "arrogant," what they mean is "how dare you be happy?" Most Americans are frankly miserable these days -- by and large, they dislike their jobs and their lives, distrust their government and the institutions that shape their lives, and see no way out -- and I suspect that drives a lot of the rage against those who do something different and enjoy it.

Adrynian, welcome back! The opportunity cost of nonparticipation is one reason why the tier system is by county -- if everyone else in a county has the same infrastructure you do, it's close enough to a level playing field to keep this from being a problem. As far as natural monopolies, I'd addressed that early on -- in the Lakeland Republic, most natural monopolies are run by publicly owned utilities, and they take that to the extent of treating consumer banking as a utility. In the US, privately owned railways worked exceedingly well for a century, and that leads me to think that it's not necessary to have them as public utilities.

11/19/15, 6:08 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Jean-Vivien, I suppose the desire for music could be part of it. As for Daesh and the situation in France, I'll trust those such as yourself who are actually on the scene; your analysis makes an uncomfortable degree of sense. Still, we'll see.

Blueback, fair enough. How have you separated yourself from those aspects of the modern world you find revolting?

M Smith, well, it's always worked for me.

Shane, with regard to the gathering, let's see whether anyone else responds to the idea. As for my rudeness, you're quite right that I wasn't raised with the generally praiseworthy Southern sense of courtesy! Growing up in a town that was founded by drunkards and failures (that would be Seattle, WA) does tend to give one a certain useful brashness. ;-)

MKA, that's a real problem, and it's one I hear about fairly often. I wish I had an easy answer.

Nick, no, there you're wrong. Collapsing now and avoiding the rush is not about following the tired fantasy of running off to the country to homestead. It's about doing what you can with what you have, right now. If you have the chance, you might consider reading my book Green Wizardry, which tackles this issue in quite some detail.

11/19/15, 6:19 PM

Robert Suchanek said...
I like the tier system that you envision and would seriously consider moving to a suitable tier to live amidst a like minded population. Too many harsh words have been aimed at this bicyclist by car culture idiots in this suburban car culture paradise!

11/19/15, 6:24 PM

Ozark Chinquapin said...
You ask

" Now, keeping in mind that Retrotopia is a work of fiction, and like all utopias, has an instructional agenda, perhaps you can tell me why I chose, in the story, to use something a little more edgy and in-your-face than what you've proposed."

Hmm, that's one I think I'll have to wait until I've read more of the story to see if I have an answer then. I admit there's a lot about Retrotopia that I don't understand the reason behind as of yet. That's very different from Star's Reach, as I was reading that story I could see pretty clearly how it fit in with your nonfiction writing. I guess some of that is because there's a different intention behind writing Retrotopia than writing Star's Reach.

I'd also been noticing the references in Retrotopia to Lakeland being a complete oddity as compared to not just the Atlantic Republic but the rest of the world as well, which is still pretty much bumbling down the same path as now only with different imperial powers. That seems to me very different than what you proposed in your recent post,

I got from that post that the economic status quo was unraveling around the world, and other options would be replacing it in many different countries for better or for worse on a timescale well before 2065. In Retrotopia, Lakeland has made extreme changes to its path while the rest of the world has made very few (other than different global certers of power, that is). Am I misunderstanding the post I linked to above and do you think the vast majority of the world will remain in the mindset we see today with possibly a few exceptions, or is the resto of the world portrayed the was it is in the Lakeland story as a literary device to emphasize the difference between Lakeland's system and the present day's?

11/19/15, 6:28 PM

Bruno Bolzon said...
JMG, Nick, and others, "collapsing now and avoiding the rush", in practical terms, means simplifying your life and making it sustainable in the long run.

For example, in my case (I'm a physician) it means working close to home so I don't have to use a car; ditching expensive diagnose methods as much as I can, trying to substitute those for proven and reliable older and cheaper ones; getting rid of the smartphone, replacing it for a cellphone (so my patients can contact me in an emergency); throw out the TV; sell the iPad; slowly but steadly turn my laptop into a glorified typewriter, and then get rid of it, too; learn how to do simple house chores, such as fixing leaks and electrical wiring; etc. In sum, try to life as close as possible to the lifestyle my grandfather had, using the resources available to me today.

11/19/15, 6:37 PM

team10tim said...
Hey hey JMG,

A fun XKCD comic about turning off the gadgets:

And the surprisingly simple 'tech' he used to set up this 'system'

Also, idle curiosity, how much money would it take to set up the sort of private library that you are thinking about?


11/19/15, 6:37 PM

Thomas Prentice said...
A sure sign of the looming apocalypse: RE "The mere facts that plastic sheeting for hoop houses

>>>>>>>>>>> isn’t infrastructure paid for by tax revenues, and that the tier system

>>>>>>>>>>> doesn’t impose rigid restrictions on anybody—on the contrary, it allows the voters in each county to choose for themselves how much infrastructure they’re going to pay for—

>>>>>>>>>>> somehow never found their way into the resulting diatribes."

What in the world happened to reading comprehsnions skills? They USED to be taught in ALL the tier public schools lol but I guess they started being phased out in Tier 5? Sighhh.

11/19/15, 6:38 PM

beneaththesurface said...
Like you I've do not own a car or television. I rarely use a cell phone and primarily use a landline. (A few years ago, someone lent me a prepaid cell phone for a specific purpose, but then didn't want it back. I did keep it, but it sits turned off in a desk drawer. A few times a year I take it out to use for babysitting jobs I have -- many houses don't have landlines now and parents want me to be able to call in an emergency. I add the minimum amount of money -- $10 -- per year to it. I've contemplated getting rid of it entirely. Regardless, since I rarely use it, it feels like I don't have a cell phone 99+ % of the time.)

I distinctly remember a time that another woman, upon learning I didn't have a cell phone (when that was entirely true) lectured me how as a woman, "you must have a cell phone. It is a matter of safety. You really need to get one." Um, for 99.9999...% of human history no one had cell phones--how did anyone survive and feel safe? And the irony -- when I walk around the city, and see people unaware of their surroundings, glued to their phones, even texting while they cross streets. Rather unsafe!

For the most part I find it's not too hard to live without using a cell phone. I do have to make meeting plans in advance. I have to make more adjustments in traveling to work: At the library where I work it is expected that I notify my manager even if I'm running 10 minutes late. That's hard to do without a cell phone. So, I just leave earlier from home than when I would otherwise to provide some buffer in case a bus is late. I've only been late to work once in two years, where my co-workers are frequently late. So my lack of cell phone use actually makes me a more reliable employee. Luckily my work itself doesn't require a cell phone, though if I were a manager it would be required.

I also don't use social media, own a dryer, don't have air conditioning, rarely watch movies... The list could go on. Some people have mentioned they lose friends from these lifestyle choices. Perhaps that is not a bad thing though. If someone is turned off by my lack of cell phone or social media use, they're not the kind of person I want to be friends with anyhow! Nice to have an effective way to screen potential friends, I say.

11/19/15, 6:40 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
Thank you, Patricia, for your thoughts on electro-hypersensitivity. It is generous of you to offer to share the resources you have pulled togther, and I appreciate it.

However, I don't think that what I have is entirely the same thing as what you have described. My hypersensitivity seems to involve only the senses of sight and hearing, and only certain fairly well-defined kinds of stimuli received through those two senses. I seem to be untroubled by activity anywhere else on the electro-magnetic spectrum. So I deal with it well enough by avoiding TV as much as possible, and by carrying earplugs and a book when I cannot.

I think this hypersensitivity of mine to TVs was reinforced by two things: (1) I never saw a TV at all until about 1950, when I was nearly 10 years old; and I never spent much time at all in front of any TV after 1960. So I never got gradually used to the frenetic pacing and rhythms of modern TV -- which have, I think, become far more frenetic over half-century between 1960 and now. And (2), I am very much an introvert (the more so as I age), whereas following a TV series or channel is essentially an act of total social immersion in a community of viewers. Total social immersion in any sort of community is a viscerally unpleasant, "squicky" sort of thing for me. My "silver veil," if you will, is the difference between typing words at a distance and face-to-face spoken communication.

And then, too, I just plain don't like most new things. I never have liked them, even when I was a 'teen. And TV is definitely a "new thing" for people of the Silent Generation, like my wife and me. I still cut my firewood with a hand saw or an axe, and split it with steel wedges and a sledge-hammer, even now that I am in my 70s and getting creaky in the joints. We have always had just one automobile. Our current one, bought new, is now 23 years old and has not yet been driven quite 175,000 miles. (We have never lived more than two miles from where we worked.) My workshop, with three minor exceptions, has only hand tools, some of which we inherited from as far back as my wife's great-grandfather, a lumberjack in Maine in the later 1800s. We own one minimal mobile phone -- a "geezer phone" as I described what I wanted to the salesman -- and we keep it turned off in a drawer except when one of us takes along in case of some emergency while traveling somewhere. I still do my calculations in my head, or with a pencil and paper, or when that is not enough, with a slide rule. We use paper maps when we am driving somewhere new. We try never to buy anything if we can make do without it somehow, though -- like the Amish -- we allow a few exceptions for what seem to us to be very solid reasons. And so forth ... (But I'll stop ranting now. I have become a garulous old geezer.)

11/19/15, 7:03 PM

latheChuck said...
jean-vivien -

If you and I have seen the same photo of the "Schweppes bomb" by ISIL, it's rather more than just a can, a wire, and a switch. The can, of course, must be filled with an explosive compound. Professional explosives are carefully compound NOT to explode until just the right time (not when burned, or dropped, or zapped with static electricity). The "wire" is attached to a blasting cap, a fairly sophisticated electrical and chemical device designed to trigger the main charge. The switch module appeared large enough to contain a small battery and electronic timer, for those occasions when the bomb setter wants to be far away when the bomb goes off. The timer, in particular, requires a modern electronics infrastructure. (On the other hand, a mechanical clock could do the job in a somewhat larger package.)

I understand the "sense of power" that one gets from a well-designed explosion. When I was a teen (1970s), improvising an explosive device was a part of "boys being boys", not (as far as anyone told me at the time) a felony crime.

11/19/15, 7:05 PM

Shane Wilson said...
To prevent the kind of hypocrisy outlined in your post, we could ban solo driving to the Green Wizards conference. Anyone driving solo to the conference would be absolutely barred from attending. Yes, we would ask, yes, we would verify, and, no, we don't care if you throw a fit--our sergeant at arms will be more than glad to escort you away! Ticket pricing could be tiered based on mode of transport, with train being the lowest priced ticket. Carpool tickets would be proportionally priced based on the number of people per vehicle. Tailpipe/resource tax in action!

11/19/15, 7:05 PM

will said...
John, I consider writing every story/essay idea that burbles up, thanks for asking. Have to meditate on them for a time, see if they have real resonance for me or if they're just sensory tickles. The Fae hypno-tech idea, dunno as yet. I compose music mostly - and harking back to a previous essay of yours, I did come up with a song inspired by a concept you discussed, thanks for that. It's a trad-like, 3/4 time folkie. And I choose a tier where folk and classical music and pre-50's jazz are in the fore. Here's song's lyrics, as if you didn't have enough to read:


Once was a prairie, forever it rolled,
A ghost song was whispered out of its dreaming soul - 
Now the tall grass is broken and the herds have been thinned,
But the song still remains in the Buffalo Wind - 

Now come, says the Raven, remember your home,
They'll be no forsaking the night prairie song,
For the Buffalo Wind even sang as she cried
When her shaggy beast shuddered and laid down and died -

We people of tumbling cities and towns
With our spirits gone bleeding in the clash of our sounds,
We're bound to a battle, we're born into sin,
Still we live in the mystery of the Buffalo Wind -

The great mall is empty, they're closing the banks,
The stores by the river are covered in planks,
And the last one left standing is the first one to hear
The Buffalo Wind in the fall of the year -

11/19/15, 7:11 PM

latheChuck said...
On the psychology of divergent behaviors -- I was once married to a woman who, as it turned out, deeply believed that for me to make a different choice was to judge her choice as flawed. "After all," she reasoned, "you THINK about things. So, if you think that your way is RIGHT, then you must believe that my way is WRONG. And I resent that!" For example, if I wanted to go out for a stroll about the neighborhood after dinner, and she didn't, there was no negotiation. I had already decided, hadn't I? Not to take the walk would inevitably lead to frustration and resentment, wouldn't it? "You don't want to watch TV with your in-laws?" (Oh, that was a can of worms!) "I'd be happy to play Scrabble with my in-laws." "But they always watch TV after dinner. You should watch with them."

The simplest thing was divorce.

My second marriage has been a delight (for both of us, as far as I can tell), despite any number of external shocks.

11/19/15, 7:15 PM

beneaththesurface said...
On the subject of cell phones, I want to let people know of a YA novel that I got my library to order and recently finished reading:

Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart

In this novel, Elizabeth Stewart tells the intertwining stories of three very different teenage girls on three continents, whose lives are connected by the rare mineral coltan in cell phones: Sylvie lives in a Tanzanian refugee camp, where she survives on meager rations of food and supplies, her family having fled the Congo after her father was killed in the conflict over coltan. Soon to be forced to marry a warlord much older than her, she attempts a dangerous escape to freedom with her family. Laiping travels from her rural village to the city of Shenzhen, to work in a Chinese factory manufacturing components for cell phones, intent on sending money home to her financially-strapped parents. Work in the factory is not as it was advertised to her; it is exhausting, grossly unfair, pays much less than promised, with severe consequences for anyone who questions these harsh conditions. Fiona, a middle-class Canadian teenager, endures weeks of unwanted trouble after she thoughtlessly snaps a photo on her cell phone and sends it to her boyfriend.

JMG & Shane: I am definitely in favor of having a Green Wizards gathering. It seems that a number of people have started organizing local gatherings, including me (the DC area gathering in October was a success!), but something more regional might be nice. Face-to-face interactions with other Green Wizards are valuable and reduce the feeling of isolation; Internet communication has its limits. Plus, with no ASPO or Age of Limits gatherings for the foreseeable future, I've been missing "the gathering of the tribe," as I think you termed it in one of your older posts. It doesn't have to be a conference with any formal speakers, just a gathering for conversation--which was the most enriching part of those conferences anyhow. While I can't commit to taking the lead on organizing something of this nature, if there were a group of people interested, I at least would be willing to help out. I would love an excuse to take a train to some old hotel with old-fashioned amenities. : )

11/19/15, 7:20 PM

hcaparoso said...
Dear Mr. Archdruid, Sir, I very much enjoyed this week's blogpost, and obviously am not the only one, judging by all the thoughtful comments! I have also been on the receiving end of odd comments from people wondering why I spin yarn, " don't you know you can buy yarn"? Or weave cloth, blankets, shawls, etc. Or people wondering why I wouldn't bring a cell phone into the woods when I went on long, meditative walks. Or why would I used cloth diapers, when disposables were so available? I could go on, but everyone here gets the point. I am so glad that I am in my early 60s and can remember a time when there were no computers, cell phones, etc. And when clothes weren't " throwaway fashion".
I was reading all the comments this afternoon on my computer and had to go somewhere. I was thinking I wish this blog came out as a weekly newsletter with comments in it from the last weeks blog. I much prefer to read off of paper than a computer and it would be more portable for me, as I don't own a " smart phone" to read on when I'm out. I know you have plans to do just that when the Internet goes down, but how about before that point, to force people off their computers and make us Luddites happy? Just something I was thinking about, it's your blog, of course, and you can do with it as you wish! Just my 2 cents.

@Greg Belvedere, So glad you are going to have a home birth! My last three children were born at home with a lay midwife in
attendance and those births were definitely the high points of my life! I caught my son with my own hands as he was born on the night of a beautiful full moon. It is a most empowering experience for a couple, especially for the mother, I think. After my home births I always felt so strong and knew no matter what happened, poverty, unemployment, even being without a home, all of which I have faced at different times of my life, I knew I could endure, and that my kids would be fine. And I did, and so did my kids. More power to you and your wife, and don't listen to the naysaying eejits, though it sounds as if you are strong enoughg not to.

@Luddene Perry, I also enjoyed The Midwives Tale. I just wanted to say that weaving many yards of cloth at a time really isn't so difficult. Of course when you have to do it in a hurry to help pay some bills, it isn't as enjoyable, but it definitely can be done!

I so enjoy this blog and all the comments. Makes me feel as if we might have a future after all! A big "Thank you" to all of you!

11/19/15, 7:45 PM

234567 said...
I have a cell phone, but not a smart phone. I need it for business, but since cellular costs so much I dumped my landline. I would be quite comfy with a beeper, but there are no pay phones any longer. But here is the kicker: I have lost 3 customers due to my decision to not use a smartphone. I was informed that if they could not send me images and other non-SMS data IMMEDIATELY and get a response IMMEDIATELY, that I could not possibly service their needs.

I do 3D design work and farm and make wood bowls and mugs - these 3 things keep money coming in. Without internet, the wood goodies have no profitable market. No computers, and the design work is over. Farming goes on forever, but you cannot make a living at it if you have a mortgage without a lot of free help and a lot of really good weather.

Another thing I have noticed is people tend to gang up on anything remotely Ned Luddish, such as my flip phone. They make issue with me mowing my own lawn, and the relatively low frequency of my doing so. I do not like lawns per se, and do not want to fertilize or weed - unless it is with manure, which is not allowed here in my suburban digs. So I constantly have people 'suggesting' I do things which they want me to do - and I don't.

It feels like this is simply herd mentality, and goes to the current state of a people who have forgotten freedom and the art of polite discourse. I do not think anyone born after the western frontier was closed has a true idea of freedom. Rather they have an idea of entitlements which freedom is supposed to impart - incredibly fallacious.

Respect is also at an all-time low, where people routinely insult, castigate, defame and slander others in the anonymity of the internet. This is one reason why I do not comment often - in many venues, it is a complete waste of time.

But this is the same as it has been since biblical times - read your Bible and see how it all works. Or read Tacitus or other old tomes so you understand that "there is nothing new under the sun"...

11/19/15, 8:13 PM

Catoctin Mountain Mama said...
Dear JMG,

Thanks for the excellent post and for holding up a mirror that has forced me to see some uncomfortable truths about my life. Although, I gave up watching T.V. years ago, I have replaced it with an addiction to Social Media and the Internet. As a fairly self-aware and introspective person, I need to admit that after having had a smart-phone for two years my level of distractability has increased significantly. I used to hate being in social situations where everyone clutched at their phones. And, now, I am that person!

I held off from getting a smart-phone but finally caved when both my laptop and digital camera died around the same time. In May, my family participated in Screen-free Week and I was shocked by how much I struggled.

I love taking photos of my two children and have enjoyed using Instragram frequently. It hit me a few weeks ago. Why not just use an actual 35 mm camera and shoot black and white film? Head slap. I've been dragging my feet to make the change. Now, this timely post has convinced me to dig out an old flip phone and 35 mm camera. My Mother was just asking what I want for Christmas and she has (at least) 4 excellent 35 mm cameras in her basement from deceased family members.

Many thanks to you and this fantastic community for continuing to inspire me to make changes every week!

11/19/15, 8:29 PM

Unknown said...
Saw your post on ADR - An interesting idea; looking forward to seeing which book you pick first. I will attempt to get the same one and read it too. Kind of following the idea of figuring out what things will be like in the 'future' from the point of view of people living at that time, I'm just looking up Jules Verne at my local library right now.

11/19/15, 8:30 PM

The other Tom said...
I think fear of the unknown, or perhaps fear of the unfamiliar, plays a large role in the hostility we encounter when we question the status quo, whether it's technology or social mores or beliefs about the future.

Confronted with oncoming catastrophe, when one can a)continue what they are doing and hope "things work out somehow," or that "somebody will think of something," meaning they are doomed in a short time or b)go into a more difficult, uncertain, challenging search for longer and sustainable future, most people seem predisposed to Plan A. They would rather enjoy a short, untroubled time in their familiar, comfortable life than deal with the stress of thinking everything out. This, I believe, is why so many can see the writing on the wall, understand it, and act as though they didn't see it.

This morning on an NPR program they were discussing the Rube Goldberg solutions to "saving" Miami Beach from the Atlantic Ocean. Although I didn't hear the entire program, I didn't hear anyone say that it was absurd, that maybe it was time to move, that it will be as impractical as megacities in the desert or colonies on Mars.

I have to be cautious when speaking to anyone with young children, especially if they are planning a future for them with the same material and energy abundance as they've had, or more, going 80 or 90 years into the future. Maybe everyone thinks their kids will be in the one percent.

I've been reading "The Last Battle," by Cornelius Ryan, about the last few months of WW2 in Berlin. It is fascinating to me when he writes about comfortable, middle class civilians living in the suburbs. Some of these neighborhoods were still intact, not bombed, and these civilians were hoping to ride things out. But they knew the Red Army was only 50 miles away, and thousands of German refugees were streaming in from eastern Germany, with news of raping and mass murder on the way, and yet they stayed in place, hoping for the best. It was not a good idea.

I see this pattern of behavior everywhere. I wonder if there is a "conservative" behavior hard wired into us, a strong reluctance to change that takes a great effort to overcome. Perhaps this served us well for tens of thousands of years when our technology changed very slowly, but it really hinders us now that we have overshot our resources.

When confronted with unwelcome reality, our Default Position is to ignore it and carry on.

11/19/15, 9:05 PM

jbucks said...
@Steve Thomas and JMG:

"The exercise-- that I learned from you-- that has helped me in this regard is the practice of resolving binaries, as you described it in CGD."

What does 'CGD' stand for? I'm interested in further reading about this... thanks!

11/19/15, 10:01 PM

Dwig said...
197 comments the first day after the post (more than all comments on the last post)! Talk about touching a nerve...

It occurred to me that many of the reactions described here appear to fit in Kubler-Ross' 5 stage model of coming to terms with death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (in particular, the descriptions of "greenwashing" by self-described environmentalists strike me as a kind of bargaining). The apparent vehemence of the rejection, anger, etc. may be a sign of subconscious awareness of the breakdown of the civilization.

(A caution here: these stages don't necessarily occur in a rigid sequence. "Kübler-Ross noted later in life that the stages are not a linear and predictable progression and that she regretted writing them in a way that was misunderstood. Rather, these are a collation of five common experiences for the bereaved that can occur in any order, if at all." -- from the Wikipedia article.)

11/19/15, 10:08 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Robert, alas, that's the one detail I haven't worked out yet!

Ozark, bingo. In the Retrotopia narrative, the outside world is our world, a little further advanced down the same route but recognizably the same; that's pretty much hardwired into the utopian genre, which works by contrasting the author's invented society with the surroundings familiar to his readers.

Bruno, exactly. That's a good summary.

Tim, his computer reboots a lot faster than mine does! I honestly have no idea what it would cost to launch a private lending library; if one of my books ever makes me rich, I'll look into it.

Thomas, I don't think it's just reading comprehension. The people who do this sort of thing normally follow along with no apparent problem, until they hit an idea they can't process.

Beneath, well, there's certainly that! I get the impression from the very lively and almost entirely positive reaction to this post, though, that the number of people who are bored to tears with the latest fashionable technotrash may be getting fairly large, enough to justify beginning to talk about the emergence of a subculture. Time to get those old-fashioned duplicators rolling and start a newsletter... ;-)

Shane, that could be very entertaining indeed. Perhaps your badge should have a little indication telling everyone how you got there... ;-) There might be interest in trainpooling -- groups of people coming from the same end of North America arranging to take the same train, and talk Green Wizard shop en route!

Will, those are solid lyrics -- I'll look forward to hearing the song sometime.

LatheChuck, oog. I feel sorry for her; as long as she holds that belief, she's guaranteed to make a miserable mess out of her life and the lives of everyone she knows.

Beneath, okay, that's three votes in favor. Anyone else interested?

Hcaparoso, I'd be delighted to see that happen, but as I've noted above, I simply don't have the time. If somebody else feels up to the challenge of running the newsletter, in exchange for the great majority of whatever profits it makes, I'd certainly cooperate with the process.

234567, having read the Bible and Tacitus, among other things, I'm not inclined to disagree.

Mountain Mama, you're most welcome and thank you!

Other Tom, no doubt that's part of the picture -- and yet what an amazing adventure the future approaching us is going to be!

11/19/15, 10:12 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Jbucks, that's The Celtic Golden Dawn, a book I've written for my other readership. The first Knowledge Lecture has an exercise about learning how to see through binaries -- classic Druid Revival stuff.

Dwig, that's an excellent point. The phase of anger is certainly evident!

11/19/15, 10:15 PM

Dwig said...
There's an aspect of our technophilic society that I find particularly amusing: people buy all sorts of products that "free" them from having to exert themselves, then spend considerable amounts of money on gyms (excuse me, "fitness centers"), where they exert themselves for no particular gain, except to "feel fit". (I sometimes wonder when some smart gym owner will figure a way to hook up all those machines go generators that will make enough electric power to significantly reduce their utility bills.)

Hmm, maybe I'll start a community garden, and charge people to work in it, digging, hoeing, composting, etc. -- maybe calling it "double green fitness".

11/19/15, 10:23 PM

Jason Heppenstall said...
Jason, good. Have you considered moving closer to the woodland? That's probably the only workable long-term solution, given the realities of transport and middle age...

Yes - I intend to live there just as soon as the local council planning department has collapsed and is unable to enforce the punitive laws that prevent people from living on their own land. In the meantime there are several practical reasons why I have to live with the compromise.

11/19/15, 11:47 PM

Hubertus Hauger said...
@ Fifty-Niner´s corvee system I cannot imagine, but somewhat similar I see arousing already. Voluntary work, barter systems and compensatory labour. I myself take part in doing that and do see others doing it.

But it would need tyrannical effort, to switch such voluntary work into forced labour. Money does such things. But money is force plus compensation. Only force without compensation may result in frantically resistance.

However cooperative efforts on local level may well flourish and keep up part of the infrastucture, which the local administration is less and less able to maintain anymore.

11/19/15, 11:50 PM

trippticket said...
Hmmm! Such heresies you speak. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but, in effect, by choosing not to vaccinate our children, my wife and I have simply chosen to adopt an earlier technological form/norm, and opted out (inconceivably of course) of the current medical convention. Again, hmmm!

You're right, making these sorts of decisions can get even the most level-headed and thoughtful sorts bent out of shape enough to tap the considerable reach of their primary blog to denounce the "backward" technological decisions of others!

Great piece. It amazes me how you can keep bringing your A game to this forum week after week. Was expecting comments on Paris, and looking forward to them, but I'll take this any day...

Tripp out.

11/20/15, 12:11 AM

trippticket said...
By the way, seeing your comment above, I just bought "The Celtic Golden Dawn," among a handful of other related titles, that I'm excited to dive into soon. Probably after the winter holiday season, when it's just me and my ax for a couple months. Right now I'm working through Galbraith's "The Great Crash," and a reread of "The Wealth of Nature."

11/20/15, 12:18 AM

Matt Heins said...
Since the replies are so long already I will restrict mine to two points:

1. One of the great delights of reading the ADR is watching the Archdruid go "way too far out there" in his argument, and then watching the *flood* of replies that not only agree wholeheartedly with the argument, but are overloaded with a wealth of confirming data. Seriously refreshing and enjoying to see on this matter!

2. If anyone is incline to peruse the Archives, they will find a reply post of mine (I believe it was in response to the Solar Steampunk post) where I outlined the rudiments of a system in which - if we had radio telegraphy - we could nearly duplicate the ADR experience as most of us have it (i.e. reading, replying, daily rereading for JMG's courteous replies, which tapers off as the week goes by and we all look to the next post). Is this necessary? No. A weekly column and letters as discussed here would suffice nicely. But I *do so* love devising methods of robbing the Archdruid of any hopeful free time, even in the Lakeland Republic, that I thought I'd remind the company of the idea. ;-)

11/20/15, 12:36 AM

koen said...
Do computers, internet and mobile phones really save time and money?

You save time when you do banking online, when you buy airplane tickets; when you book a seat at the theater. Fine.
But how many hours do you have to work to buy that mobile phone, that iPad, that PC? How much time have you worked to buy that cheap printer and it's expensive ink cartridges? How many hours have you spent to pay that monthly bill for internet, landline and mobile phone? How many hours have you lost, reinstalling Windows, and updating apps on your phone?

In balance, how much time have you saved? I'd really like to hear from people on this.

11/20/15, 12:41 AM

Unknown said...
(Deborah Bender)

I've read roughly the first hundred comments. In addition to the people who have gone full on rural homestead, a lot of people report anxiety or blank incomprehension from relatives and coworkers as responses to their choice to opt out of some technology. I completely believe these reports, but that has not been my experience at all.

My social set for about forty years has consisted mostly of urban and suburban nerdy white neopagans. One thing I like is that they are not social climbers. We range from scraping by to upper middle/lower upper class. When we get together socially or for some organized activity, we try to set things up so the ones who are nearly broke can participate fully. On the occasions when we dress up, we show off costuming creativity and design sense, not labels.

Reading this week's essay made me aware that my peeps totally take for granted that we are making choices about technology. Each of us is makes different choices; our reasons may be economic, aesthetic, moral, political or practical and we rarely discuss them.

Some of us own cars: some can't afford a car or can't safely drive. Some of us watch a lot of TV and some none, but when we get together, the TV is turned off. Nearly all of us own a telephone and a means of receiving email. Most use a smart phone or some kind of PDA, but I don't get static for carrying an old flip phone and not giving the number out. Some of us are deeply involved with social media and some won't touch it. Nearly all of us practice at least one art, craft or hobby for the love of it, and many are active in some organization or club that shares that interest. When we get together, we talk about our organizations, politics, religion, animals and people we know. We don't discuss sports or celebrities.

I guess part of what keeps us together is shared values, and one of those values is live and let live.

11/20/15, 12:51 AM

AndyT said...
Your recommendation to "pick a technology that annoys, harms, or bores you, but that you use anyway, and get rid of it." could well be extended to "pick a technology that annoys, harms, or bores you or those around you, but that you use anyway, and get rid of it."

11/20/15, 2:13 AM

Phil Harris said...
@Robert Mathiesen
I enjoyed your rant about aversion to TV and am glad somebody other than me is still sawing & chopping his firewood 'at our age'.

Given that we seem hard-wired to recognise pictures / observations (just about everything leaves traces it seems) I have the notion that TV disturbs my relations with more 'normal'experience and memory.

Can you still hear voices of people long gone? We were read stories as children and we pulled-up any reader who missed out any text in a well-known story. The voices are not just of parents and older brothers; there were talented and imaginative readers and actors on BBC radio for children in those days. When as an adult apparently by chance I first visited some of the places envisaged in the old stories there was a vivid sense of close recognition. I knew those places.

And then there is music. And there are recurrent visits, at perforce longer intervals these days to our British National Galleries, and finding again pictures I made friends with when in my teens.

Nostalgia might be getting more and more informative? ;)


11/20/15, 2:24 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Hope you are well and oh man, you seem to have hit a nerve here!

It is going to take me a little while for me to catch up with the comments as I've only just come back online today with a new modem. Honestly, the whole Internet thing is so fragile it is just not funny.

Honestly, I didn't understand the push back that you were getting about the whole tier system either. It seemed like a perfectly acceptable idea to me, but then I do revel in a tier one existence and am completely unafraid of both responsibility and consequences. It strikes me that the people pushing back simply enjoy all of those technology benefits and push off the costs onto others and anyone deviating from that narrative is a total affront to them.

The local newspapers reported that during the recent and very close bushfires, the local councillors (whom I pay more than $2,500 a year towards in property rates) were in Japan on what appears to be a junket. Tell you what, I would vote tier one in a heartbeat and not think again on the matter. And they had the cheek to send me a letter saying that this year rates won’t increase by 5%, they’ll only increase by 4.9%. Well done them.

The Chrisman's made the mistake of presenting themselves as a viable alternative to the dominant narrative but they also made the mistake of living amongst that dominant narrative and thriving whilst displaying themselves as different. I always ensure that I look as unassuming and as normal as possible. I've said it to you before that I get a lot of push back from people about some of the life choices that we've made here and that is no joke as I have faced enormous social costs from some sectors of the community because of those choices and they're not even as quirky as the Chrisman's choices. Mate I feel for them.

I reckon that push back highlights to me just how brittle the dominant culture really is.

Oh, by the way, I'm almost finished reading the Conan Chronicles and it such a great read. The funny thing is that each day I have to check the status of the solar power system and one screen flashes by with the label "SET" on the display screen and I look at it completely differently nowadays. Nuff said really! Thought you might enjoy my little joke. :-)!

PS: I missed reading all of the fascinating comments here last week. Thanks for the work that you do!



PS: It's a bit late - but that's technology for you - there is a new blog post up: In Your Dreams where I discuss how projects are resourced here (note the use of a triad). Amusing stories are told. New pumps are connected along with taps and bush fire sprinklers. I look into the brand new experimental bee hive and the first of the seasons cherry fruit becomes ripe (and is quickly eaten). Yum!

11/20/15, 3:40 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Bruce E,

Be careful of watching Breaking Bad because it displays such poor decision making skills in practice - yet I don't believe that is what other people see in that series. I watched a little bit of it and then decided not to expose myself to such narratives. Nowadays I watch very little television at all (about an hour a week, if that).

Just sayin.


11/20/15, 3:47 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Fifty-Niner,

The road grading is about twice a year here. That's it. There is a reason my little Suzuki has a manual gearbox with low range gearing and high ground clearance and can be driven on roads that receive no grading at all and yes, they look exactly as JMG describes them.



11/20/15, 3:53 AM

samuraiartguy said...
"They knew all this, and they knew, or at least suspected, just how little of it will be viable in a future of harsh energy and resource constraints. They simply didn’t want to think about that, much less talk about it, and so they babbled endlessly about other things in a frantic attempt to drown out a subject they couldn’t bear to hear discussed openly."

I run into a fair amount of the same sort of thing discussing climate change and attached issues. For a LOT of people, it's just too scary, to outside their ability to imagine that they will clutch at ANY Climate Change Denial argument. Or if they concede that it's happening, it's all natural, we've got nothing to do with it. It's too big, to scary. And for many Americans, the notion that we as a species, would have to change he we go about JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, including giving up their privileged lifestyles of unmeasured consumption is unthinkable. So it's all got to be an elaborate Liberal hoax perpetrated by a global conspiracy of 97% of the world's scientists. If it's fake, or no big deal, they can go back to watching football, shutting down abortion clinics, and hating gay people and Muslims.

But the reality of the matter is that for the most part, scientists are disposed towards seeking some measure of the world as it actually is, or is changing, and being reasonably truthful. While Politicians have considerable motivation to lie, mistrepresent, and distort anything and everything for political advantage. I know which side I ought to trust a bit more.

11/20/15, 4:54 AM

Leo Knight said...
I have not owned a car for over ten years. My previous job had a delivery vehicle, which I could use for short trips. I didn't have my own phone, as my wife and I lived on the second floor above my workplace. I walked to the the library or local restaurants. Pleasant.

All that changed in February, when my employer sold his business. I was out of a place to work, and a place to live. I bought a "smart" phone, on which I now tap out this comment. I chose it because it was a cheap model, $30 at the time, now even less, and I could access the Internet, e-mail, etc.

We found a nice apartment for $100 more rent than I had payed, and I found a new job at a big box store. I take the bus a lot, although recently I have walked to work, about a 50 minute walk, to save money, and frustration, as bus service can be spotty.

At work, people think I'm nuts to walk that far. The break room has a flat screen TV, turned on all the time, usually to some "reality" tripe, with the sound turned up. I avoid the break room.

Or old, second hand TV bit the dust, as did our ancient window air conditioner. I would have been perfectly happy to never have one again, but my wife vetoed that. I bought a second hand laptop to write on, but since I can't afford an Internet connection, I save anything I write and take it to the library if I want to share it. That purchase seems to have been a waste.

If it was just me, I would keep very little, but my wife wanted the TV and AC. Otherwise though, she has adapted quite well to our new circumstances.

11/20/15, 5:25 AM

Greg Belvedere said...
I think a big regional Green Wizards get-together sounds great. I keep on missing the local one near me, most recently due to illness. A physical Butlerian Carnival might be interesting too.

11/20/15, 6:09 AM

Luddene Perry said...

Grave crawl = 52 ancestors' graves, 9 days, 5,000 miles, all now on Find a

11/20/15, 6:15 AM

Kevin Warner said...
The number of reports on this blog of people being unable to comprehend or cope with those who have decided to not take part in certain technologies or have even taken a step or two backward in their choices is now starting to verge on a statistical universe. It suggests a certain 'brittleness' in play. Why someone should be freaked out by a person choosing a 'dumb' phone over a 'smart' phone, for example, is something that needs answering so I hope that people will bear with me here while I make a stab at it.
As a kid I grew up with films and newsreels which would feature stories along the lines of 'Here is man conquering nature and bending her to his will' (yeah, we were that ignorant!). The whole direction of modern society is, when you think about it, forever onward and outward. To be against 'progress' is to be against society as featured time and again in our culture's films and stories and the signs of progress were the increase of our material wealth, education, health, etc. with each generation. In fact, it was each generation's expectation to be better than the previous one.
Well we all know how that is going lately. Life expectancy is now heading back down, wealth is being siphoned off the bulk of society and being directed to a small minority, education standards are now in serious decline - need I go on? Could it be that after generations of progress that people are now realizing that we are now in decline and that it is happening on our generation's watch?
Are people's reactions a result of the internal realization that we screwed up and that we are leaving the next generation with a worse society than we found it through our choices? People choosing earlier technologies or even no technology is maybe perceived as a reminder that we will all of us be eventually on this path which is intolerable being raised in a 'progress' society.
Yeah I realize that this may all be a stretch but I do believe that there is some basis of truth in all this. It need not have been this way but I blame the baby boomer generation for this as they now occupy the positions of power at the moment and I will state now that I am a member of this generation.
This is a generation that has climbed ladders put in place by previous generations and has then pulled up those same ladders with alacrity up so that following generations would not have the same opportunities. If you doubt the purposefulness of this I would remind readers that my generation is the one that came up with the concept of S.K.I. Clubs - Spending the Kid's Inheritance Clubs. We had our chance to change so many things from the seventies on and we blew it. To paraphrase Dilbert, our parent's generation was called the 'greatest generation' but when they name our generation it will probably have the word 'bag' in it.

11/20/15, 6:46 AM

David James Peterson said...
I just finished my own piece of retro-tech, I finally got the last piece for my hay box slow cooker. I’ve been slowly assembling the parts for three years (project need not take this long, I just took the slow route). Found a big cooler first (got it from a field of junk off of someone’s land), then got a smaller Styrofoam ice chest (from a friend for free). Last year, with a bit of adjustments I fit the smaller ice chest into the bigger one and insulated on either side of the smaller chest with some leftover XPS foam insulation board. The one thing I still lacked was a properly sized pot which would fix inside of the small Styrofoam ice chest. I finally found the properly sized pot three weeks ago and have been getting some steady use out of the hay box cooker for the last few weeks (very useful for items that need long cook times but for which I don’t want to stare at all night on the stove. Just heat to a boil on the stove, then put it into the insulated box to keep it cooking without additional heat). This definitely does illustrate the point of needing to prepare well in advance of when the skill/s are needed.

11/20/15, 7:11 AM

Martin B said...
@nuku: I've read Shantaram. Lovely book, but perhaps glosses over some of the more unpleasant sides of slum life.

Re the "huge amount of joy and human kindness" you mention, years ago when I still had a motor car I gave a young man a lift home. He was a well-educated chap from a good family who had dropped out into the druggie world and was now penniless and in rehab.

"You can drop me off here," he said in the middle of nowhere, and pointed to a big tree in the distance. "That's where I live."

He explained he had fallen in with a crowd of homeless people, and they all lived under the tree. During the day they went out scavenging for food and at night shared all they had gleaned with the group.

He said he had never known such love and concern for each other. No one ever cheated. This was the true spirit of communism, he believed.

I said nothing. I'm damn sure as soon as he got the money together he moved to an apartment in the city. As would any slum dweller who could afford to move out of the slum.

11/20/15, 7:29 AM

margfh said...
I've been wavering about giving up the smart phone for some time but you certainly have nudged me to admit that the reasons I keep it are only rationalizations. I'm not a big user but still find myself drawn to it numerous times a day usually to check email. Like Catoctin Mountain Mama I find myself more distracted and less drawn to reading actual books after two years of having the phone.

@MKA I hear you about the spouse and TV. He has some reading issues that were never addressed and reads very slowly so really doesn't enjoy reading too much especially anything very long. TV is on every night along with the flipping of channels. In the interest of spending time together I stay with him and try to read but it has to be something pretty light. He used to have it on much more just in the background so I guess we both have compromised. On the other hand he's not a big user of the internet and is very skilled building and repairing all kinds of things. He's more of a visual learner so uses You Tube quite a bit though he's fine with written instructions as well. He grew up with the TV on a lot though his parents were avid readers as well. We celebrate our 36th anniversary next week and have adjusted to our differences. Luckily we agree on much as well.

I think a Green Wizards Gathering would be great!! I'm on the train line to Chicago so could get many places by train. Chicago is kind of central though.

11/20/15, 7:46 AM

Nastarana said...
latheChuck, greetings. The pathology exhibited by your former spouse is more common than you might think.

Take a delicious home baked cake to the company picnic and some little darling is wounded because she thinks you intended your offering as a criticism of her personally.

Express an innocent (you thought!) preference for blue and the lovers of red immediately assume you were criticizing them. And so it goes. One learns to deal with this. "Choice", remember is sacred. One says, I like all the offered colors, but I am going to select blue.

I do believe the behavior you described is a pathology and one which something in contemporary American life fosters and encourages. I also think it infects both men and women. The men are more likely to react aggressively, the women with passive aggression. Talk with pride about your organically maintained yard and the guy next door is likely to accidently on purpose spray RU over the property line. His wife, meanwhile is complaining to all the neighbors about how "messy" your yard is, how they had to take their cat to the vet because you spread cayenne powder around your vegetables and darling Fluffy got his eye infected etc. etc.

11/20/15, 8:10 AM

Rita Narayanan said...
JMG replied " Rita, I barely have enough time to keep up with this blog, my writing schedule, and my duties as an archdruid -- I certainly don't have time for Twitter! Sorry " thanks :)

11/20/15, 8:22 AM

M Smith said...
If I may, I'd like to offer a PSA to all the Technology Heretics.

I have a friend I correspond with 2 - 3 times a week. She'd starting being online more than was good for her and she knew it, so she cut back. Now, she never, ever misses a chance to tell me, if I so much as mention the web - and I go out of my way not to, just as I didn't talk about my famous chocolate mint cheesecake when she was fighting a losing battle with her weight - how superior her use of time is and by inference, how wretched mine is because I am online a lot more than she is.

Techno Heretics, don't be that person. Flies, honey, vinegar.

11/20/15, 8:24 AM

Daergi said...
When my wife and I gave up our TV some years ago we didn't get any negative comments, some mystified looks for sure, lots of 'good for you, I bet you have more time now' and a smattering of 'I wish I had the resolve.' Deep down, even though distracted by the noise and images, I think everyone feels imprisoned by television. Maybe our uneasy attachment to TV has something to do with the Stockholm Syndrome (identifying -in collusion- with our captors). Or is it more nefarious?... "You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves." - Orwell

The Internet is another story, though. When we had it disconnected at home the response, when we told others what we had done, was more negative and people could generally not fathom it. Lots of suspicious, sidelong glances like maybe what we had was contagious. To stave off criticism I placatingly explained that we still have access at work. (We enjoy our evenings and weekends much more now.) The Internet is a hive mind collective. To be unplugged is to be 'other'; an enemy against the common 'good,' whose existence challenges the safety and viability of the hive. Think "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Or the Daleks from Dr. Who.

Your examples in this weeks post point out the sad fact that being different is no longer allowable in the US. Many papers coming out of the universities these days often state the one way that is 'correct' to be or to think, and that other ways of being should be treated as a disease. The DSM of mental disorders gets thicker and thicker with each new publication. Very scary stuff. Our freedoms have been reduced to the freedom to consume. Non-consumers are anti-American. This topic reminded me of Brian Fawcett's most awesome work, "Cambodia, a Book for People Who Find Television Too Slow." In it he makes a case that TV destroys memory and imagination. (The Internet wasn't around when the book was written back in the eighties.). He considered TV an anti-memory machine where we surrender the rights to our past and our future.

I guess, ultimately, everyone of us reading and responding here has at least some connection to the hive-mind. Is it possible that, at least in part, those who look wistfully towards an apocalyptic future are hoping that events/fate will save them from the industrial world we have created but that we are not strong enough in our resolve to disconnect ourselves from?

11/20/15, 8:26 AM

Myriad said...
As I noted in response to an earlier comment, people these days in America frantically clutch at anything that will provide them with a surrogate identity -- a sports team, a television program, you name it, no matter how meaningless or absurd -- because they've been systematically taught to avoid introspection and self-knowledge, and the empty space behind their own eyes terrifies them.

That sounds like a very interesting topic, to put it mildly. (I'll leave it at that. I wrote a more thorough reply, but perhaps it's best not to try to continue that discussion in this already busy thread.)

11/20/15, 8:29 AM

Michael Lemberger said...
Having advocated for better bicycle transportation infrastructure in a medium-sized US city for the last 25 years, I know exactly the irrational disdain to which you're referring. Most opposition makes the claim that any money spent making cycling safer and more accessible to the average transportation cyclist is money wasted. The most common reasoning is that bicycles are toys (and to be fair, strictly utilitarian bikes are not common in the US market), but the more advanced haters label cyclists as people who who need to express various anti-social behaviors, such as masochism, self-righteousness, and risk-taking.

It's unfortunate for a number of reasons, but the biggest two for me are these: first, a substantial fraction of automobile trips in the US, somewhere between a third and a half, are between two and five miles. A little to far to walk, but not ideal for car travel. The second is that there are a number of western industrialized nations that have chosen to build infrastructure for bikes and made them a larger part of their transportation infrastructure. It isn't that we don't know how to make bike transportation practical, we just choose not to.

This is not to argue that bicycles can save the world, or that they are the absolute best form of transportation (nothing, for example, beats the simplicity of walking); but they are a technology that could find an appropriate place if they were not the heretical choice.

11/20/15, 8:31 AM

onething said...

"The last time I went to my local library, I overheard the librarian say they were trying to get rid of books altogether, and go completely digital."

Wow, what a travesty. What good is a library if you can't check things out and take them home? I guess you do a timed download onto your device? I have no idea as I don't have one and don't want one as my eyes much prefer paper and print to screens. But, as with many things, the libraries are surely responding to customer behavior. If most people want to come in and use computers, download to kindle and take out DVDs, then why let a bunch of unused books sit there?

11/20/15, 8:37 AM

Shane Wilson said...
BTW, direct dial, automated exchange service dates to 1891, so it could be a part of tier 4, 5, and possibly 3 infrastructure. It was developed by Strowger, "the Strowger switch" and manufactured by Automatic Electric, the independent telco's equipment manufacturer. In the early years, it was widely deployed by the independent, non-Bell telcos, but resisted by the Bell system, because their Western Electric hadn't invented it and did not hold the patent for it. An operator strike forced Bell's hand, and in 1919, they finally began to "go dial". Automatic Electric's dial, though, was considered superior to Western Electric's. (I was "raised on GTE, and my grandmother retired from General Telephone, so you could say I'm partial.) Tier 3 is the sketchy part, the dial wasn't developed until 1891, and the original dial didn't resemble the standard one in common use, so i'm not sure if, literally speaking, 1890 infrastructure would support direct dial phone service. As far as getting rid of all those excessive area codes once they're no longer needed, the original NANPA map of area codes could be used, and exchange naming would be easy enough to restart.

11/20/15, 8:39 AM

Eric S. said...
"I'll consider getting Carr into a town meeting -- that would be easier than getting him into a lodge meeting. It's a good idea."

Now you have me wondering about the situation with lodges in 2065. I expect that in Lakeland, existing ones have been revitalized and plenty of new ones have formed and a good many of the characters we've met so far are brothers in one or more of them. I'm curious about what things look like back in Carr's country, though, how would he react to the idea if the subject came up. Would his thought be on an existing subculture of stubborn, eccentric people trying to hold onto a semblance of community life or of something completely unfamiliar or of an extinct relic from a distant past nobody thinks much about anymore? Doubt the topic will serve the story, but definitely something I'll be thinking about as he begins to learn more about community life in Lakeland.

11/20/15, 8:49 AM

James Gemmill said...
Beneath,...Time to get those old-fashioned duplicators rolling and start a newsletter... ;-)

The Archdruid Report Newsletter?!?! Printed on an old-fashioned mimeograph or spirit duplicator machine?!?! With the lovely Purple Haze-style printing I remember so vividly from my sentence in the public (mis)education system?!

Are stencils, chemicals and other supplies still readily available? Here's hoping.

When can we subscribe?

11/20/15, 9:01 AM

Picador said...

I'm 99% with you on this issue, but I also think that your position would be even stronger if you admitted up front that a lot of the details of your imaginary setting are shaped by your own personal, idiosyncratic preferences. It's a romance, and it's shaped by the things that you find pleasant: you happen to like reading books, wearing old-fashioned clothes, travelling by train etc. The fact that some of these things align with more sustainable practices isn't exactly a coincidence, but it isn't exactly a 1:1 mapping, either. People who like certain aspects of the Internet are entitled to try to imagine how a suitable stand-in could be engineered for a post-industrial future; just because you don't have a use for something doesn't mean it has no value.

On a related note, when you talk about "the rediscovery of ways of being human that don’t depend on hopelessly unsustainable levels of resource and energy consumption", it might be worth pointing out that the much-maligned arrow of "technological progress" doesn't ALWAYS result in an increase in complexity in every domain, nor does it always result in less sustainable practices. 150 years ago the western economies encompassed a number of supply chains that were highly unsustainable and that have arguably been improved upon: we no longer wear hats made out of mercury-treated pressed beaver fur, and the whaling industry is no longer quite as central to our consumer economies as it once was. Arguably those two supply chains have been replaced by more sustainable ones, even if they have their own problems. Your general point still stands, of course, but this could be a little clearer in the stories and in your related commentary.

Keep up the great work,

11/20/15, 9:39 AM

Roger said...
JMG, I'm an older guy, with grey hair, so what I get is condescension, especially from banks, when I tell the tellers that I don't do on-line banking because, for one thing, I have no mobile device nor home computer (I use library computers) and even if I did have such devices, I STILL wouldn't do on-line banking.

From the whippersnappers it's "there, there old fella, there's nothing to be afraid of". Makes me laugh.

They think that, being older, I "fear" technology. Well, for some very good reasons, I do. No need to re-iterate, all the reasons are well attested in various media, never mind personal accounts of people we all know. You know, in summary, cyber and identity theft, steadily encroaching state surveillance. The latter, especially, is not a good thing but with every ISIS shoot-em-up the justifiers become more insistent.

To make a long story short, I made a choice about what to use and how to use it. And it doesn't square with the general consensus.

To the youngsters behind the counter I'm batty, my attitude incomprehensible. To me, their blithe unconcern is equally incomprehensible.

So I tell the tellers there's nothing wrong with my legs, all I have to do is walk for five minutes to the local branch. I ask them, why give bad guys one more electronic door to walk through?

The tellers tell me it's "safe", it's a "secure" site. Makes me laugh even harder. Hah, "safe", no it ain't, not given that the aim of business is profit maximization. No, sadly, your distress at finding your identity or money stolen is yours alone.

As time passes, the eyeball rolling gets worse. No cell-phone? It's like telling someone we have no running water.

One thing though, I heard that the average Canadian household bill for internet and cell-phone is 2,400 bucks per year. Standards of living being roughly equivalent, I assume that the average yearly bill in the U.S. is about the same. And this is not a trivial sum.

You're correct, resource depletion will choke off internet spread and use. The internet will shrivel because resource and economic underpinnings will no longer be there.

In the meantime, what we have up here is the same as in the U.S, a year-by-year impoverishment as industry packs up and moves overseas. As more and more people lose their family income, minimizing expense, including computing devices, becomes unavoidable. Bye-bye iPhones, bye-bye internet connection. You can't spend money you don't have.

11/20/15, 9:48 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
JMG, very good if a growing number of US citizens want to consume less in the way of energy and resources. Your country consumes more than any other, after all. My country is way behind in that regard, even considering the recent attempts to copy the hyper-consumerist aspects of the Western lifestyle - which, of course, I don't agree with. And if Americans would be fine with some or other variant of your tier system, very good for them.

I was just judging by my own country and region's experiences. Moldavia (in NE Romania) is the poorest region in the country and in the entire EU. There is a lingering sense among the local population that we are being "left behind," as most infrastructure projects (useful/sustainable or otherwise) go mostly to Bucharest/Vallachia and Transylvania. And it's not a new issue. Just yesterday I came across a newspaper article from 1937 lamenting this region's underdevelopement when compared to others in the country.

Romania is split into 41 of its own counties called "județe." The poorest județe are here in my region. They would obviously be getting the short end of the stick in your tier system, considering how they're faring now. Of course, we would be fooling ourselves if we would hope to reach Western levels of prosperity in this country, considering the challenges of this century with regard to energy and resources. But whatever level would be sustainable, I think most people here would prefer a system that minimizes regional and local inequalities rather than the opposite.

Again: we're a country that consumes far less energy and resources than yours. Whether you agree or not with my opinions, consider that fact first.

11/20/15, 10:06 AM

Bob said...

Long time lurker - thank you for the invariably interesting posts, and giving the time and patience to maintain such a civilised and constructive discussion space.

On the specific topic of railways, I would suggest that although railway operation has often been a succesful private enterprise, from the very earliest days new construction has usually involved significant government involvment simply because of the difficulties of obtaining the necessary rights of way without it. Here in the UK, where almost all significant lines were built with private capital, private negotiation to obtain wayleaves for their rights of way soon proved completely impracticable. Acts of Parliament giving compulsory purchase powers were by far the most usual procedure despite the huge costs, and during the process projects were often held to legal ransom by individual landowners maximising their compensation.
Although the tier system makes perfect sense to me, I can see it might be an additional factor when such issues came up. How do such things work in the LR?


11/20/15, 10:06 AM

onething said...
I know several people who don't watch television. It is pretty funny when someone asks if I have seen an episode and not only have I not, I haven't even heard of the program. I don't care a fig for cell phones, although I have an old one that I use when I travel. We don't have much reception here, although for a lot more money I think I could get one that works. I do believe, though, that a new tower is being planned.

It has begun to bother me the amount of time I spend on the internet, and more for physical reasons than the quality of what I read. I waste almost no time on it for the same reason I rarely read fiction. It's not that I dislike fiction but I am constantly seeking information. For that reason I have many books and go to the library and sometimes purchase books, but I have to admit that on the internet there is a whole world of good information as well. I probably read less than half the number of books I used to. If I could clone myself I would do nothing but read with one of the persons. But the internet is slowly ruining my eyesight and my back. When I read a book I am able to get into a more comfortable position. Chair sitting is not good. And then there's the electromagnetic exposure. And it keeps me up later at night; it seems more stimulating and does not lead to sleepiness like books can.

Sometimes I think I should try an internet holiday, but what stops me is the Archdruid Report!
When you had your hiatus a couple years ago, I was just starting my first garden and pretty much took that holiday, which didn't bother me a bit.

11/20/15, 10:14 AM

onething said...

The tier level is voted upon, so presumably at least 51% of the people will get what they want. They might also move to another county. In your post I see the assumption that all the people will always want the most infrastructure. I would rather the new cell tower nearby not be built, and would be even more peeved if I had to pay for it out of my taxes.

Also, are you really taking into account that Retropia does not take place in 2015, but in a time after much collapse has occurred? Our world now works with displacement of costs onto invisible others. In Lakeland, the actual costs are up front and talked about. That would make a huge difference. Most people now are completely unaware of the true cost of things. I've seen the statistic that big agriculture spends 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of (nutritionally poor) food. This is obviously completely unsustainable in the long run, and by 2065 many of these long runs have begun to play out. In the Atlantic Republic, they have resisted making reforms that conform to reality of resources, and thus have a huge underclass of very poor people who live difficult lives. How do you think the people like that?

You keep insisting that the elite will live like hypocrites, but I think you should give an example of how they will do that.

It is true that the rich always exploit the poor, but some systems are much better at controlling that than others.

11/20/15, 10:41 AM

peacegarden said...

That is the issue here: adulthood=hard work and taking responsibility for ones actions…being “gown-up”, however, means having the trappings of adulthood without the responsibilities. Even worse, it seems eternal babyhood or adolescence is popular now.



11/20/15, 10:51 AM

Bruno Bolzon said...
JMG, one more thing concerning "collapse now and avoid the rush": avoiding the rush is optional, collapsing is not. If you live long enough - say, one or two more decades - you WILL face the consequences of some form of collapse, whether you want it your not. It may be that you tech-dependent job evaporates, or it may be that the gimmick you used to be dependent of gets too expensive to keep; it doesn't matter, that's all part of the same process of collapse. It will come to you sooner than you think. "Avoiding the rush", though, is entirely under your control: you can use the surplus resources available today to prepare for the future in which they will no longer be available or will be too expensive. For example, you can start to ditch the laptop for a typewriter or a notebook right now, while you still can switch between them at your will. You can also find a new method of transportation other than your car, while you still have it. Whatever we are considering, the point is that the current, modern option will be converted into a last recourse, to be used only in situations you haven't mastered yet.

11/20/15, 10:52 AM

Aron Blue said...
Last Sunday, my friend and I (reacquainted through your blog) were making the exact same observation about the way people react when you say that you don't watch TV. And so many people in the comment section experience the same thing! Should there be a sociological study? Has anyone done anything about this in academia?

I've found it really enjoyable to read everyone's considered lifestyle choices, because it's all such a spectrum. Some people are flip phone users and some people are living in log cabins, but the common thread is that everyone has thought long and hard about their choices and made them independently. So many trained thinkers and meditators in this comment section. It's no easy thing to isolate the taboo voice from the still, small one.

Me, I'm flip phone, no car (easy in NYC), no cable but a TV in the common area of my house, internet. Next month, I'm going to go landline and give up my cell phone. As a working musician in New York, this is the kind of decision you could base a sitcom on. Talk about reality television LOL.

11/20/15, 10:55 AM

Denys said...
There is this training we have from the time of about 5 years old to about 18 years old requiring us during most of our waking hours to:

conform with what those around us are doing and saying,
follow the directions of any superior who walks into a room,
memorize information presented in small chunks and unattached to anything in reality and having little practical purpose,
require your family's 100% support evenings and weekends with additional assignments,
and be sorted by the end of the training into groups so you know your status in society and capabilities.

We consider this training period to be one in which our American democracy and individualism truly shines. We are proud of it and can not fathom why people don't comply with the training.

So no, I'm not surprised that people argue with you about the things they do.

11/20/15, 11:58 AM

Swimmer said...

Your work in the woodland was very inspiring to read about. Thank you for sharing. Regarding the chain saw, maybe you can replace it with a Swedish for-one-person "timmersvans" ( With correct sharpening and some practice even large logs can be cut quite fast (I have tried, with the help of an expert on hand tools for forestry).

11/20/15, 12:27 PM

Yucca Glauca said...
I'm also interested in the gathering and the newsletter.

Before I found the ADR, I was always annoyed that no matter how much people I knew talked about Environmentalism, or Primitivism, or connecting to nature, or rejecting mainstream culture, no one seemed to be willing to take the step of not watching television (in the broad sense including Netflix and the like). I had started to get pretty disillusioned, feeling that NO ONE was really serious about it all. Of course they weren't serious--I was just hanging around the wrong crowds. Green Wizardry, the book, was pretty shocking when I realized that the author was actually serious about what he was talking about. That by itself opened a lot of doors, not to mention the fact that I had hung around avowed Environmentalists for years and had never really heard of peak oil before.

@Beneath, thanks for the recommendation! I've been hoping for a book like Blue Gold for a while, and I'm going to buy a copy right now.

11/20/15, 12:38 PM

Ploughboy said...
My kids (ages 11 & 12) are no better than most when it comes to the early adoption of whatever gizmo we are told we should have. I find you can't win that fight by direct confrontation, but only through redirection. On those occasions when we find ourselves seated in a restaurant, waiting on our meal, I can get them to put down the i(diot) device if I challenge them to a game of "What Do You Notice?" It goes like this: I tell them to take a good look around the room, and try to retain as many details about it as possible. They then have to cover their eyes and tell me things I ask. For instance, "How many hanging lights?", "What does the sign over the door say?", "What color is the back wall?", etc. They absolutely eat it up. It tells me that some children have grown tired of the ersatz world, and hunger for something deeper. So maybe they are smarter than we give them credit for.

11/20/15, 1:02 PM

Swimmer said...
For all small scale sheep-owners out there, here is one important citation from the book "Shearing Day" by Kevin Ford (1999)(It is THE book about sheep shearing with hand-blades): "Tallies [number of sheep per unit of time] are 30% higher in machine shearing compared to blade shearing". Please note: just 30% higher, which means about 6 instead of 4 minutes per sheep, when you are fully educated in the craft. Compared to the machine, the hand tool is much lighter to carry, easier to sharpen, easier to produce etc etc.

I have started to learn from Fords book and can say that with my small flock of sheep the hand blades are superior in every aspect from cost to time consumption and personal comfort. My speed is about 15 minutes per sheep now, which is so good that the farmers who laughed at me at first, now have stopped laughing (although they continue to insist that a machine must be better, in some way...). The best thing with hand shears is that I can shear my sheep and still listen to birds and the wind, and the subtle signals of the sheep (which is important since one of the major tricks in sheep shearing is to always let the sheep feel comfortable). Not to mention that I do not need to be near any source of electricity, and therefore can shear almost everywhere.

According to Ford (cited above) machines were slower in the early days, and the only reason for the introduction of the machines was that "The introduction of machines in the shearing work put more power in the hands of the owners, and less in the hands of the workers."
That is probably the case in many more areas, maybe even the Internet...

11/20/15, 1:17 PM

Raymond Duckling said...

I see where you are coming from. For me, it all fell into place when you said something about "your town getting the short stick in the tier system".

If I may point this out, JMG's Retrotopia is, after all, an utopia. Things are allowed to play fair there. The tier choice is that of receiving relatively luxurious public services and being heavily taxed for the privilege, or barely receiving any public services at all but being taxed a minimum amount to support a very lean federal government.

What you see in real life is that your town would, if lucky, receive about 10% resources (per capita) than what the capital of Romania gets, but you still have to pay at least half as many taxes as a similarly employed person living in the capital. The problem is not the tiers, it is the wealth pump. Of course nobody wants to be at the receiving end of a wealth pump!

A couple of years ago, I went to a vacation on Mexico City (so that my kids would know the pyramids before something stupid happens and access gets restricted). I had been there in transit or for work reasons, but never on leisure. I was marveled at the overabundance and diversity of services there, and I come from one of the top 5 cities in the country. I found myself thinking "so, here is where my taxes come to die" over and over again.

Everything was expensive there too, but even shabby people do not seem to lack monies in their pocket. My gut found hard to believe that people would be able to get by there, but of course, your paycheck is arbitrary. Companies that need to have corporate headquarters in the capital will pay you extra to sustain a lifestyle according to your state in life, regardless to you being the janitor or Vice-president of Sales.

On the other hand, when I go to my grandfather's town everything is downtrodden, and everything is very cheap. And the locals see me (justly) as one of the fat cats who come from abroad to leave their money there. Most fat cats are working illegally in the US and just come to visit family, but it matters little if you bring dollars or pesos, as long as you help keep the lights on at city hall.

11/20/15, 1:40 PM

Hubertus Hauger said...
@ Tony mentiones author Robinson and his recent turn to techno-sceptic scifi. JMG also frequently speaks out, how he despises the technomagic attitute. Looking at it with the perspective of technomagic being a dead end, it´s logical to criticise that forward driving ambition. And many here applaude.

What I give you to consider, is, that I see the ambitious drive as an integral part of the force of lives evolution. Live itself commands us allways higher, faster, forward!!! Its compulsory! In that competitive race each of us is forced to participate. Naturally there will be people, reaching for the stars. Unavoidably! Impossible to shut that urge down in any living being.
One might have heard before that ancient 2500 year old story of people trying to reach heaven trough a tower, in order to become God-alike. Not a new attidude so, one can say.

Yet even down on earth, each of us is enwinded in that competition for awarness and attractivness by others, simply with making your hair beautiful.

Higher, faster, forward! In every aspect of our life we are in need for attention, respect and status.

It´s not "them" being stupid going on the wrong path of hybris, while fortunately "we" being enlightened having the right consciousness. I see no difference between "we" and "them". I see us all connected. For better and worse.

11/20/15, 1:57 PM

wormholelesstraveled said...
My take on it is that this seems to be a collective Narcissistic injury. We live in a culture that puts freedom to choose on its highest pedestal. What kind of car do you want to drive? What kind of clothes do you want to wear? Catsup or Ketchup? Try our hundred different flavors. Now comes in gluten free too! Pick and choose anything you want. Have your cake and eat it. Go ahead! It’s practically your civic duty! And yet. YET. Here’s a couple who appear ostensibly to be doing the same thing that everyone else is encouraged to do, just in terms of technology. And suddenly there are pitchforks. Why? Because the Chrismans reveal the hidden truth, the open secret, that the rest of us don’t really have a choice. Therefore, when people see the real deal, a Port Townsend couple actually picking and choosing how they want to live their lives, everyone else’s lives look starkly fake by comparison. And we can’t have that. We, Americans in particular, pride ourselves on our authenticity. Our media bombards us every day with the message that we have to be true to ourselves and make our own way and follow our own dreams and be unique and individual and here are some things you can buy to get you on your way. Don’t forget to share on Facebook!
Thus, you get Narcissistic injury. Thus you get a full blown collective existential crisis. An entire nation just had their identities poked full of holes and revealed to be two dimensional by these two. It’s not enough to write them off. “Oh, they’re crazy people. Got it.” No, they have to be burned at the stake. “Who do these people think they are? Where do they get off picking and choosing their chronological dispositions like that? If they want an antiquated hobby why don’t they build model ships or collect baseball cards like normal people?” etc. ad infinitum.
What the Chrisman haters don’t get is that hating the Chrismans amounts to nothing more than a display of frantic energy as a defense against impotence. We don’t have real choice because the choices are meaningless. This is the truth that the taboo is meant to cover up. This is the truth that sends people reeling; that gets frothing at the mouth insane rants. Impotence. “Oh, you want to wear a corset? Bet you’re looking forward to the Cholera I’m sending you in the mail because you love 1890 so much! You can’t have your cake and eat it too!” they say as huge chunks of chocolate filling and vanilla frosting come tumbling out of their overstuffed mouths. “I can drive an SUV and buy a new IPhone every month and still call myself an environmentalist because I buy carbon credits and donate to wildlife funds and Like Earth Day on Facebook and dang it I recycle, but it’s not the same thing as what these losers are doing. I work my butt off so I can afford “green” tech and “organic food” and hybrid cars. I’m being true to myself. These people are hypocrites and fakers, living life like an anachronistic buffet. They’re fake hypocrites!” etc. ad nauseam.
And it is hate. Make no mistake. The kind of hate that only those chained to their work bench have for those who decide they want to take their ankle chain and just leave the factory. Anyone who doubts this have only to ask the others here who’ve seen it first hand or try it out yourself with your own friends. Personal example, I’ve suggested downgrading my current smartphone to a phone that only makes calls to my close family. No apps, no texts, just phone calls. Every time I get the same reaction. “Don’t be silly. You need your phone.” Yes, but do I need one that connects to YouTube and sends selfies straight to Facebook? “You NEED your PHONE. What if something happens to you and you need to get in touch with us?” Then I’ll call you on my phone. I’m not even suggesting getting rid of the darn thing altogether. Just something less flashy that doesn’t have a touch screen. Nope. Can’t have that.
Anyway, sorry for the rambling screed. Looking forward to next week’s post!

11/20/15, 2:20 PM

Janet D said...
Coupla quick points:

@ the rural road person (Fifty-Niner?): Might want to check out this article: "To Save Money, States Give Up on Repairing Rural Roads" (don't remember how to link - sorry)

To random people reading these comments: one of the issues I monitor (pretty closely) is the rising resistance to antibiotics (call me weird). It's getting BAD...we seem to be hitting the 'hockey-stick' curve with some of these threatening bugs increasing their resistance very rapidly. If you aren't already studying herbalism and natural antibiotics, ya might want to step up the pace. My favorite online source: & associated add-on classes (note: I'm not affiliated with them in anyway) & Stephen Buhner's books. (I recognize this info is better suited to the forum, but I just don't have the time to make it there...sorry).

Love the idea of Tiers, BTW!

11/20/15, 2:34 PM

ordoliberat said...
I was assisting someone at work with a computer problem and the particular scenario made me think that there might be such a thing as a tipping point of diminishing returns. With regard to computers, some new technology makes us "more productive," then it gets "enhanced" and "improved" to the point where it become so complex that it becomes hard to get anything done with it.

I do have a cell phone, but currently I have stopped at the flip-phone because it's waterproof and shock resistant and I actually can take a call from my spouse or children in the rain, which, believe it or not, is more common than the need to access the internet while I am biking home from work.

Computers are so handy for communication that I hope we would be able to choose some tier that included something of the sort, a low-tech high-tech internet. Although, I would put it at a lower priority than single-payer medical insurance.

11/20/15, 2:36 PM

sgage said...
James Gemmill said...

"The Archdruid Report Newsletter?!?! Printed on an old-fashioned mimeograph or spirit duplicator machine?!?! With the lovely Purple Haze-style printing I remember so vividly from my sentence in the public (mis)education system?!"

Some 50 years later, I can still remember the smell of the purple-haze spirit duplicator. And in the late 60's I ran my summer camp's weekly 'newspaper' from a good ol' stencily mimeograph. What a craft to get that beast to behave!

11/20/15, 2:49 PM

Admin said...
I thoroughly enjoyed this weeks blog post. I was even more amused by all comments that came pouring in this week. Especially commenters like Liam B. and others, who are "tech" people, yet they realize that there is more to life than the latest smartphone apps and other gizmos.

I am in my late 30's and I earn my living as a full time software developer. I am quite good at my job (although my opinion is admittedly biased). That being said people are continually amazed that I don't use facebook, twitter, instagram etc. To me, it just seems like a huge waste of my time and energy, and a very detached way to communicate with people. I'd rather have three close friends than a thousand twitter followers.

What amazes me in the software industry is the vast numbers of people who don't understand that there is an inherent cost to complexity. Even software has to be maintained for it to not become obsolete. Yet so many people believe that more complex equals better. I often find myself asking other software developers "What problem is this added complexity supposed to solve?" And if they can't come up with an answer the follow up question is "Then why are we introducing unnecessary complexity?". Eventually quite a few of them do realize the wisdom of this line of inquiry. But it begs the questions:

Are engineers no longer being taught the KISS (Keep-It-Simple-Stupid) principle? Do people believe this time tested principle should not apply to modern technology?

Regarding TV, sadly I do watch quite a lot of TV (it can be quite addicting), although several of my close relatives don't watch any TV. Some things I find strikingly different about TV in the modern era include:

1) they are ubiquitous -- I have seen screens in the strangest places; One example being the checkout line at the grocery store. Can't I just buy some orange juice without being bombarded by video advertisements? No wonder farmer's markets are making a comeback. Gas pumps are another example where it is not unusual to find a screen blasting you with unwanted visual and auditory stimuli.

2) Much like cars, it is assumed that every member of the family has to have one. My entire life growing up we had one TV, and if we couldn't agree on what to watch then no one got watch TV. My wife and I still live that way today. But for most families that is not the case. If the wife wants to watch soap operas and the husband wants to play video games instead, they go off to separate rooms to do separate activities. And then we wonder how it is that our kids grow up lacking the ability to interact in the real world...

On a final note, the reason they call them Cell phones is because you are enslaved in a prison "Cell" of your own deliberate making. For anyone concerned about privacy issues it is worth noting that the NSA and others would have a difficult time tracking your every activity if you weren't on your cell phone and facebook telling them exactly what you are doing. For anyone who is NOT concerned about privacy issues, I recommend reading the book IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black.

@JMG - Thank you for your insightful and thought provoking blog posts, sorry if I hijacked it with this long and rambling comment.

11/20/15, 3:22 PM

Monica said...
I am currently studying astrology, specifically the current paper is on how to draw up an astrological chart. During this process, we are using log tables to ascertain correct movements, however I asked my teacher whether there is a course on how to draw a chart without the aid of log tables - in other words, by using proportions. She answered no, there isn't to her knowledge (though if anyone knows of this obscure art being taught somewhere from scratch I would love to know!).

In other words, the best I can do is make sure I always have my book on log tables - otherwise I'm lost!! Granted, currently there is no need to know how to draw up a chart by hand, and even less need to do so using such laborious methods as proportions - but that is only because a) we have computer software that easily does this for us, and b) we have the resources and technology to print enough log table books and ship them anywhere in the world.

Of course, a software generated chart does not give one anywhere near the level of understanding of what actually goes on in the chart, that doing it by hand does (nor does it use the brain and thinking facility, which is currently sorely tested when doing calculations by hand, with pencil and paper - and a good eraser!)

Thank you for the ongoing perseverance with this blog - I read it every week though I don't comment often (I used to have a blog, tropical tomatina, on gardening in the tropics, however have had to stop this due to new motherhood commitments).


11/20/15, 3:55 PM

latheChuck said...
Dwig- Schemes to capture the wasted energy from people pumping and spinning their exercise machines come along from time to time, and they all quietly slip away when one runs the numbers. As a rough rule-of-thumb, an adult human can generate about 100W of power for about 10 hours per day (that's an aerobic pace; higher power levels can be generated for much shorter periods of time). Energy is power * time, so 100W x 10 hours = 1 kiloWatt-hour, for which we typically pay the electric company about $0.15. Yes, your labor at the treadmill could earn fifteen cents per day.

A similar argument can be made about oil lamps and candles vs. modern lighting. According to , an oil lamp can produce 37 lumens for 1000 hours on 25 liters of oil. A modern LED lamp can produce 100 lumens for 1000 hours on 15 cents worth of electricity. Doubts about the sustainability of grid power, I think would apply as well to lamp oil. LED lighting is easy to run from 12VDC power, too, and is useful at power levels around 1 Watt (which, in light of my first paragraph ) one COULD generate with a hand crank or stationary bike.

Another useful conversion factor: a gallon of gasoline contains the energy equivalent of 240 hours of adult human labor.

11/20/15, 4:02 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Where I live, if I say I gave up my TV, they all assume I'm livestreaming my boob tube fodder on my computer instead.

As for people finding their identity through sports, that happened in Imperial Rome as well. There were fights and riots over who backed the Blues, the Greens, etc in the chariot races. People lived for them; they formed their primary identity! Note: Imperial Rome. After Roman politics ceased to matter because everything was decided in the Emperor's court. And, I might add, after the chances of striking it rich in a province went away. (Listen to the non-office-holding Catullus whine about going out to a patron's province as some sort of aide, and did a poor poet get any of the loot? Nooooo.... and he fully *expected* to, in those dying days of the Republic.)

11/20/15, 4:13 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Dwig, I used to call that "yuppie logic" -- get a riding mower to mow your lawn and drive the two blocks to the grocery store, and then get a gym membership to get the exercise you could have gotten from a push mower and a two block walk. It's as pervasive as it is idiotic.

Jason, fair enough; I figured it was probably something like that.

Tripp, actually, I don't have much of anything to say about Paris. Events just like the shootings there happen every few days in Africa, the Middle East, etc. The only reason people think it's newsworthy this time is that more of the corpses were white. I trust you're enjoying The Great Crash!

Matt, trust me, I find it just as entertaining to see how many of my readers are ready to follow me into heresy! As for spending my time for me, nah, if you want a system like that, you'll have to set it up and do the grunt work; I'll simply hand you the week's post, pretty much the same way I do now. ;-)

Koen, good. That's a highly relevant question. Since I don't do most of those activities, I'm not going to propose an answer, but I have a pretty good idea of what the answer will turn out to be.

Unknown Deborah, there are certainly subcultures where technoshaming isn't much practiced; glad to hear you're in one of them.

AndyT, sure, but so few people are willing to pay attention to the effect of their choices on others these days that I wasn't going to start there.

Cherokee, you're doubtless right about the pushback. It's a good rule of thumb that people who truly believe what they're preaching are usually pretty laid back about it; it's when they don't actually believe it, and are trying to make others believe in order to silence their own doubts, that they really get strident. BTW, if your screen starts flashing THOTH-AMON, you'll know you're in real trouble... ;-)

Samurai, oh, granted. To me, the fascinating thing about climate change is that even the people who claim to get it aren't willing to make the changes in their own lives that will be needed to deal with it, and nobody, anywhere, seems to be willing to talk about just how close we are to really massive disruptions. More on this in an upcoming post.

Leo, glad to hear you landed on your feet.

Greg, a Butlerian carnival sounds like a lot of fun. If a general gathering does happen, I'd encourage everyone to bring something entertaining that doesn't involve little pictures on a screen.

Luddene, okay, got it! "Grave crawl" sounds like something that one of H.P. Lovecraft's characters would do...

Kevin, I've long thought that when the last of the Boomers is gone, somebody ought to put up a monument to them somewhere, saying:


David, excellent! That earns you this evening's gold star. My wife and I have been using a fireless cooker for years with very good results; it's a simple technology that saves a lot of energy.

Margfh, I envy Chicagoans their rail connections -- most places in the US that trains go are one train away from Chicago. If a gathering happens, though, we'll have to see where seems to work best.

11/20/15, 4:19 PM

hcaparoso said...
@Shane Wilson and JMG, I would love to go to your meeting! And I would definitely take the train. Could it be more central for those of us who live put west? And Shane Wilson, I could help you plan it.

11/20/15, 4:43 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Rita, you're welcome and thank you.

M Smith, an excellent point. "Don't be a jerk" should be a basic rule of green wizardry.

Daergi, this is interesting. Clearly different technologies get different degrees of obsessive reactions depending on locality, social class, etc.

Myriad, so noted! I'll keep it in mind for an upcoming post.

Michael, granted. Trust me, walking is at least as heretical!

Shane, so noted. I still haven't decided how the Lakeland Republic runs its phone system -- I may not know until Carr picks up a phone for the first time.

Eric, that's another thing I'll have to find out as we proceed. My writing process isn't a "work it all out up front" approach -- I discover a great deal as I write.

James, as soon as someone steps up to the plate and decides to do the thing, you can subscribe to it.

Picador, funny. Of course what I write, in the Retrotopia narrative as elsewhere, is based on my own preferences; equally, when Bill Gates rabbits on about the inevitability of a 24/7 cyberfuture or what have you, what he's saying is based on his preferences (not to mention his personal financial advantage). That said, while you have the right to your own opinions, you don't have the right to your own facts; if you want to fantasize about a low-tech internet, that's your right, but unless you can explain how it's going to pay for itself and how it's going to outcompete other uses for a harshly limited supply of energy, resources, and wealth, fantasy is all it will ever be.

(Now let's see if you actually address the economic issues, or ignore them and talk loudly about something else, as generally happens.)

Roger, I've begun to get that; as a fifty-something guy with a graying beard, a lot of twenty-somethings think I must be right up there with Methuselah. The one comeback that I've found useful is to snort, tell them that I remember when the first personal computers came out, and reminisce about what it was like doing word processing with two floppy drives and no hard drive when you had to write your own AUTOEXEC.BAT files. That gets wide-eyed stares and the kind of respect you'd give someone who admitted to having spent his youth as a professional alligator wrestler.

Ursachi, you'll notice that I didn't place the Lakeland Republic in Moldavia; it's in the American Midwest, which has (ahem) a very different relationship to the rhetoric of progress and industry. If you want to tell me that the sort of thing I'm sketching out wouldn't be popular in Moldavia, I won't argue at all -- but then I never said it would be popular there. Where Moldavia is underdeveloped, the Midwest was overdeveloped; it was the heartland of the US industrial economy through most of the 20th century, and then got to see the aftermath from 1980 on. That's one of the differences I mentioned a couple of exchanges back.

Bob, one of the things that has been worked out here in the US over the last century or so is that it's tolerably easy to get a right of way for something if you make it sufficiently worthwhile to the property owner. For railways in agricultural areas, preferentially low rates for shipping produce to urban markets would likely be enough to have farmers clamoring to offer to sell the necessary strip of land.

11/20/15, 4:48 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Onething, I'm probably going to start scheduling an annual holiday of a month or so, just to rein back a little on my workload. On the other hand, if the Report starts coming out as a newsletter, you might find that more congenial!

Bruno, exactly. That's what's going to drive the "rush" -- people collapsing because they no longer have any choice. Get there first and you've got your pick of the best seats in the house. ;-)

Aron, I'm just as fascinated. Clearly there are quite a few people out there who aren't using the latest fashionable technotrash, and are sick and tired of the way they get treated by the mainstream. I don't know of any academic studies on the subject, but I'm already thinking of which publisher to contact about a book...

Denys, granted, that's another part of the puzzle.

Yucca, that's one of the things that drove my decision to launch this blog: the same realization that so many people who talked about the environment by the hour weren't willing to make the smallest change in their lifestyles to lessen their impact on it. I'm glad there seems to be an emerging community of people who do walk their talk.

Ploughboy, good. I was introduced to that in the Boy Scouts as "Kim's game," the reference being to Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim. It's a very helpful way of getting out of the media trance.

Swimmer, fascinating. Not surprising at all, but fascinating.

Hubertus, when you say "Life itself commands us always higher, faster, forward!" -- do you have the slightest evidence for that claim? I don't think you do, and in fact I'd suggest if you look at life in a broader perspective, you'll find that this sort of thinking is simply a cultural construct of industrial society that's been imposed on nature in an underhand fashion. Bats and coelacanths and blue-green algae have all been doing the same things for millions or, in the last case, billions of years, and don't seem to be any worse off for it. What if life is actually telling us "Why don't you stop the frantic rushing about for a while and learn how to be what you are?"

Wormhole, I take it that "Narcissistic injury" is a very polite way of describing what current slang calls "butthurt." In that case, I think you're quite correct: a lot of people get profoundly butthurt when someone else doesn't affirm and validate their tech habits.

Janet, it's really bad. It's already reached the point that people who go to hospitals run a significant risk of coming out with an antibiotic-resistant infection that's worse than what they went to be treated for. My father's an example -- he had heart surgery, and came out with a resistant Staph. aureus infection that nearly killed him twice. If current trends continue, a great many people are going to die of things that used to be easy to treat.

Ordoliberat, excellent! An astonishing number of people these days find it impossible to realize that technology, like anything else, is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

11/20/15, 5:12 PM

Nick said...
JMG, thanks for the reminder that there is more to this than bugging off to some remote place.

The monument to the boomers could be a scared-looking pair of obese senior citizens, standing on top of a car with a Kitchenaid mixer for a hood ornament, with gaunt, helpless figures trying to claw their way up.

As far as concrete things that I have actually done/do:

Practiced pickling and canning food. Although I did this in line with the harvest where I live, it is worth noting that it is presently perfectly reasonable (although more expensive and lower quality) to do this with imported out of season produce. It is much less stressful to do this with food you paid a few bucks for, that can be replaced with imported produce if preservation doesn't work out than to do this for real. On the other hand, I'm sure the end result would be much more satisfying if it's being done for real.

Gotten in shape and work on getting into better shape. Even with low stress and good nutrition, this is not something that can be rushed even if you are in your 20's like me.

Bought a used 7x12 lathe, took it apart, cleaned it, put it back together and use it to make (sort of) useful parts on it.

latheChuck, regarding the gigantic energy content of gasoline: Good thing we haven't figured out how to only use it in sensible and efficient ways, or we would be even more in trouble without it!

For example, when I used to have a lawn to mow, I could do it in 45 minutes with a massive self-propelled gasoline mower or an hour with a push mower. Although this is an extreme example, in this case many kWh worth of gasoline only managed to substitute 25-50 wH of human exertion. However, you are somewhat right about LEDs, it is too bad they require such a vast technostructure to produce. In terms of things to hoard, I suspect that low power lighting systems will get you a lot further than bullets and beans.

I've spent several winters living in a place that rarely exceeds 5 degrees C - ice formation in half-finished glasses of water left in the wrong place was common. It is amazing what you can get used to, even though people were shocked when they found out how I was living.

11/20/15, 5:22 PM

Nick said...
One more thing, after seeing your response to Janet's post, JMG. One common theme in post-collapse discussion or fiction is that there is "modern" knowledge of infection and sanitation that could be usefully applied to medical practice under say, 19th century conditions. For example, so far I have not seen a serious refutation of the claim that doctors would go from examining a cadaver to delivering a baby without even washing their hands. I am mildly skeptical of these claims, thinking them to be another facet of the myth of progress - that we could do better than our ancestors even in the same material conditions they lived in. At the same time, human nature being fairly constant, it would not surprise me if the stories about doctors eschewing hot water and soap in between procedures (which would have not been a big material challenge "back then") are actually true, when I consider our present capacity for institutional inertia and professional incompetence.

And regarding the diminishing returns of technology, of course. Just like there are things worth watching on TV, doing on the internet (like this blog) and even on Netflix, the very real benefits of these technologies are outweighed by the social and material costs.

11/20/15, 5:33 PM

Michael Davies said...
JMG...I'm loving these Retrotopia thought provoking...and find myself wanting to share them. However, for a new follower who might be just jumping in, the way the posts are arranged seems there a way someone can access these posts like a book..starting at the beginning and just reading through, rather than having to start with the most recent one and scroll back? My apologies if I've overlooked an obvious way to do this.
thanks, mike

11/20/15, 7:10 PM

Caryn said...
Wow! We're already over 260 replies! Definitely hit a nerve. This 'narcissistic injury' / 'butthurt' is definitely something we all see, IMHO, not limited to us "in-the-know" ADR readers. I find it absolutely fascinating from a broader or distant perspective. It really does feel like the mass majority of those butthurt individuals are RIGHT on the verge of actually seeing through the illusion, doesn't it? Like as a whole society, we are struggling against waking up, but knowing waking up is inevitable. Am I wrong? I don't think the butthurt has ever been more prevalent, so widespread and on so very many issues. (?) And it's so virulent these days!

I'm blessed (or cursed) with a really laid back attitude on insults and rebuttals to my low-tech 'eccentricities'. Lucky. In MOST ways, I can use tech that enhances my life, (like this blog, Green Wizards and some youtube craft and gardening tutorials), and am not bothered (I usually forget) to use that which vexes me. I've lived most of my life without a mobile phone or some earbuds blaring something in my head 24/7 or even a computer. I have a mobile, but it's almost never charged, or left at home or left at my desk at work…

Having said that, I like shows and stories, (I really don't mind if other people don't - and I totally understand how the medium of pixels on a screen can be unpleasant or unbearable for some people.) But personally I love visuals, shows and stories, so I do enjoy certain TV shows. Some of them can not be misinterpreted as anything remotely 'educational'. I also read, (real books - pixels on a page like e-readers are unbearable to me) see plays, occasional concerts and films.

BTW: LOVED Shantaram, but even better, (on a similar subject) was/is 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry.

When 'the lights go out and the screens go dark', so to speak, I suppose I will be the first and last at the local community theatre! Get ready for the all Hong Kong cast of 'MacBeth - The Musical!"

11/20/15, 8:04 PM

Caryn said...
ONE weak spot is this contraption I am typing on now. (I will type this overly-personal bit out, as it may help or be applicable to others here too, who may experience something reasonably similar).

I do recognize that the internet and social media have fulfilled my need for friendship interactions. When my husband lost his high-flying job, 4 years ago, we lost our easy and sociable lifestyle, (we were always 'those ones' who picked up the beer tab, paid the taxi's, threw the parties, etc. Almost every single one of our local 'friends' scattered like roaches. They would literally not return our calls, would avoid eye-contact on the street. In some cases, it didn't surprise me, so it didn't bother me, but in some, I'd really thought of as true friends, it really hurt. I know I retreated from in-person social life to online - keeping in touch with more reliable friends and family in far flung places, rather than try to make new friends to hang out with in person here. I know I've been using it as a sort of crutch. I have joined groups and (virtually) met new potential friends who live here - so my challenge now is to be brave and move those lazy online friendships into coffeehouses and local meet ups.

I guess we've all got our challenges, our work to do.

Thanks for providing this space with like-minded folks. If you go offline, I will most likely not be able to follow, but this has still provided me with so much. :)

11/20/15, 8:06 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Admin, I've noticed that a significant number of my readers who work in the belly of the high-tech beast have no illusions about what goes on there. One reader of mine, as already noted, helps run a big data center, and explained to me in great detail just how hopelessly unsustainable those things are -- as previously noted, he's the source of the data about those semis full of palleted hard drives that have to roll up to the loading dock every day to keep the thing running. I can think of many others. For that matter, it interests me that nobody who actually works with computer hardware for a living has ever gotten into the "of course we can have an internet in the deindustrial age" rhetoric; the people who do that are one and all people whose sole contact with computer technology is through a screen and a keyboard.

Monica, glad to hear you're learning the art the hard and honest way! Proportional math has been almost completely abandoned since the Second World War. Have you considered consulting books on astrology written before then? Several of them I've read provide detailed methods for erecting horoscopes quickly to an accuracy of one degree without logarithms. You might also consider picking up a slide rule and learning how to use it, as slide rules are very good at crunching numbers, and the better ones have trigonometric functions built into them.

Patricia, oh, granted. It seems to be a common feature of decadent civilizations.

Hcaparoso, if you and Shane will put through comments marked "not for posting" with your email addresses, I'll put you in touch with each other, and we'll see what comes of it.

Nick, good. I find I have to remind people about that every few months, because the run-off-to-the-country reflex is so deeply ingrained in our culture. As for the doctors going from autopsies to delivery rooms, well, lack of adequate handwashing is a major vector for infections in American hospitals today, so it's not a matter of moderns doing better than Victorians -- the mere fact that we know the consequences doesn't seem to prevent us from making the same mistakes!

Michael, the only option I know of is to wait until the sequence is done, when it will be edited, published, and made available in book and e-book forms.

Caryn, if you like visual media, then by all means enjoy visual media. Don't feel apologetic about it! As Emerson noted, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." I wonder if it would work to start referring to people who get butthurt because someone has a cell phone but doesn't watch TV, or what have you, as consistency hobgoblins?

11/20/15, 9:00 PM

Barrabas said...
Australia has been busy preparing itself for the realities of the long descent . Last weekend 60000 people converged on a stadium in melbourne to watch two girls from the u.s.a in a cagefight . In the third round , one of the girls was kicked in the head and knocked unconscious , while the referee had to physically restrain the victor from punching her in the face multiple times while unconscious . The crowd went wild and loved it , many having flown in for the occasion . Efforts to stem the dramatic recent increase in domestic violence against women continue unabated . Meanwhile , We have had riots in the gulags that stud our northern approaches , with guards periodically being forced to withdraw from the facilities. Our FA18 bombers continue to pound sand dunes in the syrian hinterlands , while defence chiefs reportedly have been forced to prevent former prime minister tony abbott from attempting to unilaterally insert two of our three unfantry battallions into northern iraq. Our leaders have responded to recent world terror attacks by publicly demanding our muslim population produce more proof that islam is in fact a peaceful language . Our resident mufti was villified for suggesting france may have been a victim of duplicitous foreign policy as well as dubious treatment of its former colonies and resident islamic population . Summer is here , the country remains locked in a four year drought and wildfires are breaking out sporadically and violently across the island , with considerable loss of life and property . Cheers

11/20/15, 9:10 PM

Unknown said...
(Deborah Bender)

@David James Peterson--Thank you for describing how you constructed your fireless cooker. The fireless cooker is mentioned in my late mother's edition of the Settlement Cookbook, and I have wanted one for some time, but I lack carpentry skills. With your description, I am confident that I can assemble one with materials on hand and a couple of trips to thrift stores or garage sales.

Apart from the energy savings, I have had a few close calls with leaving a pot over low heat on the stove and forgetting to turn the burner off while I'm upstairs immersed in catching up with a blog or something--it happened again tonight. If I'm not standing over the stove minding the pot, it would be far safer to have that pot off the stove.

11/20/15, 10:35 PM

onething said...
I've seen several hospitals transition to electronic records, which is apparently now mandated. There are upsides. One that is resisted but is actually good is having the doctors put their orders into the computer. The old way, they wrote them down, were generally illegible, the secretary took care of the orders and then the RN has to approve them. It seems annoying at first, but it saves 2 layers of workers after they write them down, and isn't really any slower. Obviously the doctors hate to bother writing either. I have asked my employers for the authority to use a ruler upon the knuckles of those who write illegibly (including a few nurses) but for some reason they did not grant it. I think writing out medical orders that are difficult to read should be simply unacceptable.

On the other hand, I am not at all sure that the various assessments that the nurses do should be on computer at all. It takes longer and involves a lot of pointing and clicking, which I find incredibly tedious. I don't know what it is about computer screens that they carry so little information. But because of it you have to click through innumerable screens to see something that used to involve just a couple of pages. Therefore, I often think that I am charting into a black hole, never to be seen again. It takes too much effort so that no one will bother looking at it other than God once you put it in. To go back 24 hours takes 6 clicks.

But my favorite example is at my prior hospital they had a form in place for at least a couple of decades without changing it. (This is another annoyance -- they have these IT guys on tap who can constantly change the layout on you, always tweaking.) This marvelous form was one piece of 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. And on one side of that paper was a weeks' worth of vital signs (3-6 times per day) and blood sugars (4 times per day) and their daily weight (sometimes important). On the back, if there was a need such as giving blood, frequent vitals were recorded. This notebook was kept just outside the door. So, when the aids took vitals or blood sugars it was recorded immediately. Doctors always took a look before entering. I estimate that the information on that one side of one piece of paper might take as many as 50 screens to get to, and worse, even if you do all that, it is utterly disjointed because you're flipping through screen after screen after screen! Instead of having it right there before your eyes!

After going digital, the aids would have that data in their pocket on a piece of paper, waiting for a lull so that they can put them in the computer. So, if a nurse needs to give insulin, they often can't find the blood sugar because it hasn't been entered in the computer yet, and aids are hard to track down. Much frustration and useless walking. It might seem trivial, but getting to a computer, logging in with 2 secret passwords, and clicking through several screens to find the blood sugar takes a lot longer than having that notebook right there. Worse still, entering a bunch of vitals written down on a piece of paper is far more prone to error. It is a struggle not to have your eyes stray to the wrong patient's vitals as you click through different patient screens, rather than taking the notebook into the room and writing them down as you get them.

All the hospitals are crowing about going paperless. But our printer sings all day long, and we now give out reams of paper to them upon discharge that we didn't do before. The computer generated discharge papers are a nightmare of tiny computereze and general gobbledygook with the occasional item of importance carefully hidden. The old paper forms were completely understandable and well laid out, requiring far fewer sheets of paper. I don't know why computer generated forms can't match paper ones?

Sometimes a piece of paper cannot be improved upon. Meanwhile, my training at my new job is prolonged entirely due to having to learn a weird, new software.

11/20/15, 10:44 PM

jbucks said...
I just found this blog post with a set of quotes about TV, which was taken from a book called "Kenneth J. Gergen's The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life". Rather interesting/scary about how the content of TV gets embedded in one's psyche:

“With the development of radio and film, one’s opinions, emotions, facial expressions, mannerisms, styles of relating, and the like were no longer confined to the immediate audience, but were multiplied manifold..... Television has generated an exponential increase in self-multiplication. This is true not only in terms of the increased size of television audiences and the number of hours to which they are exposed to social facsimiles, but in the extent to which self-multiplication transcends time – that is, in which one’s identity is sustained in the culture’s history. Because television channels are plentiful, popular shows are typically rebroadcast in succeeding years.The patient viewer can still resonate with Groucho Marx on You Ben Your Life or Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows on The Honeymooners.....

“People can choose the actors they wish to identify with or the stories that will bring fantasies to life. Increasingly, this also means that in terms of producing a sense of social connection, any given actor may transcend his or her own death; viewers can continue their private relationships with Marilyn Monroe and James Dean long after the physical demise of the performers. With television, a personage may continue a robust life over eternity.”

“We appear to each other as single identities, unified, of whole cloth. However, with social saturation, each of us comes to harbor a vast population of hidden potentials – to be a blues singer, a gypsy, an aristocrat, a criminal. All the selves lie latent, and under the right conditions may spring to life.... The populating of the self not only opens relationships to new ranges of possibility, but one’s subjective life also becomes more fully laminated. Each of the selves we acquire from others can contribute to inner dialogues, private discussions we have with ourselves about all manner of persons, events, and issues."


"This syndrome may be termed multiphrenia, generally referring to the splitting of the individual into a multiplicity of self-investments. This condition is partly an outcome of self-population, but partly a result of the populated self’s efforts to exploit the potentials of the technologies of relationship. In this sense, there is a cyclical spiraling toward a state of multiphrenia....."

The blog post with the entire quote can be found at this link here. As the blog post notes, this book was written in 1991, so pre-internet. Imagine how the internet is contributing to this 'multiphrenia', if the idea is accurate. Perhaps this provides an insight into why so many people are hostile to the idea that the internet isn't sustainable, because their identities are being deeply affected by its content!

11/20/15, 10:44 PM

william fairchild said...
So a great many folk feel tech is a right and an obligation. Any rejection of this is a rejection of this culture, and by an extention, a rejection of them. From my point of view, tech is also an encumbrance. Become too reliant and you are locked in, financially and otherwise. There is a local food bank which gives away foodstuffs twice a week. You would be blown away by how many folks are playing on smartphones in line as they wait for their handout. I got rid of my smartphone 2 years ago. I don't miss it a bit.

11/20/15, 11:43 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Oh that's good! Very, very funny!

Hey, whilst I'm at it, I've noticed that people around here are saying how dry this year is. What is interesting about that is that last year was drier and on average the rainfall is more or less on the lower side of average, but nothing out of the ordinary at all. Those same people have also been making wild claims about how much rainfall is actually expected on average here. And I mean wild claims because I have the rainfall records for the area dating back almost 100 years - and that is statistically valid.

It occurred to me today that what they actually mean is that it is hotter this year and perhaps this is their way of talking about global warming - which is a non discussable topic around these parts for all sorts of reasons. What do you think about that, do you think that it may be possible that this is what I'm seeing? It is interesting anyway.



11/21/15, 12:48 AM

Greenie said...

Here is a public blog post you may find useful -

The author recently retired after working for a big cloud company in SF.

You may also take a look at the original article. It gives useful stats on disk failure rates, but is a bit optimistic according to link mentioned above -

11/21/15, 2:25 AM

patriciaormsby said...
@Robert Mathiesen,
Thank you for a long reply! I see the comments have exceeded 200 this week. There are many people here who are in enthusiastic agreement with us in our respective choices to be less connected. (And probably also many offended by us. JMG is so kind as to wade through those himself and spare us the chore.)

I was lucky that I while I loved certain technologies (flying for one), I was never enamored with the entire package, and aware most of my life how unsustainable our modern lifestyle was. My flying was hang gliding--with a lesser impact than most forms. Other than the literal sense, I like "having my feet on the ground." The more I learn about self sufficiency and practice it, the happier I am. Your lifestyle sounds very similar to mine.

11/21/15, 4:09 AM

Catoctin Mountain Mama said...
I am very intrigued by the idea of an Archdruid Report Newsletter. As JMG mentioned in an earlier comment, it's better to practice with your low-tech tool, while your higher-tech tool is still humming along nicely!

I think most of us would miss the immediacy of this blog and how a wonderful dialogue can happen so quickly. But, who doesn't LOVE getting REAL mail?

I could see there being possibly three sections: the newest essay, the previous weeks' essay plus readers' responses, the week before that week's essay plus readers' responses plus JMG's response. Perhaps, a section after with just responses to JMG's responses or late original responses from over-sea readers.

The biggest issue, I could see, would be getting comments in a timely manner from over-sea readers. Maybe they could email the editor their comments to included.

I would be willing to pay $8-10 a month for two newletters. I don't think it would be possible to do a fast enough turn-around for a weekly newsletter. While the Internet was still widely available, JMG could still publish every other week in a blog format.

I just wanted to throw some possibilities out there. Now, does anyone have a mimeograph or spirit duplicator and some experience working one?


11/21/15, 6:43 AM

Justin said...
hehe... I find myself counting screen cuts when I do watch television. The average 30 second commercial has almost once screen cut per second, some have about 2 per second! Cognitive whiplash...

11/21/15, 6:57 AM

James Gemmill said...
James, as soon as someone steps up to the plate and decides to do the thing, you can subscribe to it.

I wonder how that could be turned into a reality.

In a more serious light, this could be a practical way to get the Archdruid Report in print form prior to a transition to letter press. I wonder how many impressions you'd have to do for letter press for it to be economically viable.

If I can figure out a way to acquire, operate and store it, I'd step up to the plate. Unfortunately, I've yet to see any of 'em here in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina--more accurately described as the "Middle of Nowhere", and can't keep it in my apartment since I'm not allowed to do anything here in the Soviet States of America.

11/21/15, 7:00 AM

Catoctin Mountain Mama said...
@ Greg Beledere

Both of my daughters (4 1/2 and 2 1/2) were born out of hospitals, so I can empathize with constantly fielding other's opinions about your family's choices. My first daughter was born at home and then we transferred to a hospital due to Meconium Aspiration. I experienced a tremendous amount of family pressure to birth in a hospital the 2nd time because of their fears. But I switched back to my original Midwives at around 33 weeks and had the most perfect, healing birth center birth at 41 weeks. May your wife have smooth sailing the rest of her pregnancy and a healthy, joyful birth experience!

11/21/15, 7:07 AM

Catoctin Mountain Mama said...

Thank you for the update. I heartily second your recommendations for Stephen Buhner's books " Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria" and "Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging and Resistant Viral Infections. " His books are dense but full of Science and light on Woo-Woo. (Not that I don't like a little Woo-Woo myself, but this is a book an allopathic Doctor could appreciate).

I have been studying Herbs for nine years and have bookcases full of books on Plant Medicine; these two books are essential.

Making your own tinctures (liquid extracts) is super easy and fun. It's a great activity to do with kids - my girls LOVE making Elderberry Syrup. (They are both under the age of five.)

I highly recommend buying these books (if you haven't already) and making tinctures of the herbs he recommends, NOW. The fantastic thing is that tinctures last for DECADES. Hopefully, your life or a life of a family member won't depend on these tinctures but it's an easy precaution to take today. Take care.

Green Blessings,

11/21/15, 8:01 AM

Shane Wilson said...
RE: Green Wizards conference,
I think I have your email where you've emailed me before, so I can send you an email. I think we should post something on the Green Wizards site, maybe organize it there. Not sure how much is going on there. Chicago sounds good--anywhere near or in the Lakeland Republic should work. I'm wondering if Chicago is convenient for our Canadian friends? (I'd suggest Toronto, but I know a lot of Americans don't leave the US, even if they live in states bordering Can.) I think you can use Via and transfer to Amtrak. I'm sorry I never mentioned that I was on a biodynamic farm in Hastings Co., Ont. from July till recently, but I didn't have a car, no way to go meet anyone from the blog.
Nastarana mentioned consumerism, and that was the other thing conversations invariably turn to when talking to anyone anymore. If they're not talking about TV or some other pop culture soundbite, they're always talking about buying something. What to buy, where to buy, going to buy, have bought, what you should buy, how great this product they bought is, buy, buy, buy, buy, buy! To me, that's as pervasive as TV & pop culture, and not at all unrelated, considering advertising.
JMG, it's not necessarily true that you don't have a Moldavia type area in Lakeland. To the extent that you've included WV & KY in Lakeland, you've included an underdeveloped area that has never felt the full benefit of the industrial economy and has always been striving to "catch up" and "progress" up to the standards of its Yankee neighbors. Really, only the periphery of KY & WV, along maybe the Ohio River, felt the full blown effects of Midwestern industrialism. KY & WV have always rounded out the bottom along w/Miss. regarding any number of vital stats used to measure well being.
Now, now, JMG, I never said you were rude! I never thought Seattle was brash, least not to the level of, say New York or Boston. Indeed, I always thought it was the westernmost boundary of "Minnesota nice", in that it was settled be immigrants from "Minnesota nice". Interesting how regional differences are. I remember the first time I ever saw a Yankee screaming match in a public place. I must've turned God knows how many shades of red and gotten physically ill from being mortified that people do such things in public. If I'm going to publicly confront someone about something, I'll be on the verge of a blind rage, I'm so uncomfortable with it. Now, talking about someone behind their back is another story. I'll never understand why Yankees get so upset about that. If I say something to your friend about what a hypocrite you are for driving solo to the environmental conference, knowing full well that your friend is gonna turn right around and tell you what I said, I've accomplished the same thing without publicly humiliating you. I know that other, more subtle cultures work exactly the same way. Yankees assume we're being dishonest when we talk about people behind their back--they have no idea just how honest we know we are being.

11/21/15, 8:13 AM

onething said...

Assuming you're American. A friend originally from St. Petersburg once said to me that Americans treat information about money as other nations might treat information about their sex lives. She thought it odd the way people are so secretive about their salaries and financial state. I suspect that the ones who you thought of as true friends are not actually callous, but in fact are so embarrassed and filled with such pity that they simply can't be comfortable in your presence. They do not know how to maintain a friendship when your financial circumstances have received a blow.

11/21/15, 9:23 AM

Clay Dennis said...
I have a one man shop where I manufacture one-off items such as prototypes, models etc. and almost all of my regular customers communicate with me via email as has become common in business to business commerce. I also have retail customers to whom I sell spare parts from a product line I discontinued years ago. I attempt to steer these customers in to sending me inquiries by email via a phone message. I find phone calls during the day, while I am working with manual machine tools or torches to be distracting and dangerous. Many of these customers stubbornly resist this ( I know, perhaps they don't have email) and will call over and over trying to get me to pick up. Recently I have begun thinking about how much more relaxed the pace must have been serving customers in the days before telephones or the internet when everything was done via the mail.I am seriously thinking of returning to mail corrospondance only for this retail side of the business as I don't really make any money at it and mostly do it as a service. In todays world, this is of course heresy, but it seems like an excellent way make a conscious choice about technology. I wonder how much scorn and anger I will get as a result

11/21/15, 9:27 AM

onething said...

I am pretty sure that a sense of contamination does not come naturally. There were other practices such as throwing human wastes into the street that might go quite a way to explaining some epidemics of old. I believe it is cholera, but other diseases too, that come of contaminated drinking water.

It seems amazing, but I have read that villages in third world places often put their places of elimination near the local water supply, and my hippie neighbors here in rural Appalachia lived in a holler in the 70s in which a family built their outhouse right over the creek.

The use of gloves by hospital personnel used to be much, much less. It was really the Aids epidemic that caused the adoption of what we now call universal precautions. Back in the early 80s before the disease was figured out, some nurses in San Fransisco insisted on using gloves on all patients as they did not know what they were dealing with. Logical? They were fired.

11/21/15, 9:31 AM

Shane Wilson said...
One of the things some of the comments have touched on relates to what I call the "tyranny of 'nonjudgmentalness'" in modern society. The frankly bizarre idea that you're not supposed to "judge" anyone--their lifestyle, choices, etc. For years, I was around people who preached being "nonjudgmental", and striving to be "nonjudgemental" frankly drove me insane. There's really no way to be an alive human being and be "nonjudgemental". Everyone makes judgements based on their own values. What's so refreshing about JMG and the ADR is that he doesn't buy into the whole "nonjudgemental" insanity. You're free to judge here, as are others. JMG makes judgements all the time. This post itself is "judgmental". How liberating to be freed from the "tyranny of nonjudgmental insanity" I seem to remember a comment JMG made a while back quickly dismissing all the cries about being "judgmental" and demanding people be "nonjudgemental" as cries made by people who feel guilty about the choices they make. I feel the same way--why in the world would you care how I judge your decisions unless you value my opinion on such things? Why do people demand others not judge them? Whether someone who's opinion I don't value is judging me bothers me not one whit on my decision to do something.

11/21/15, 10:05 AM

jeffinwa said...
For some reason I've been thinking more and more that this book may be the one that rockets you into the mainstream public's attention, sort of the way “Stranger in a Strange Land” or “The Trilogy of the Ring” achieved cult notoriety.
Your fiction has power (I really like the way you get out of the way and let the story come through) and the clarity of the ideas presented here (a beautiful distillation of the thoughts you've been presenting here for so long) are going to resonate with many and those it doesn't resonate with will start a storm of discussion explaining why.
Hold on to your wizards hat!
A grateful thank you for this refuge of sanity.

11/21/15, 10:46 AM

Ruben said...

I recently ran across a study showing how much infant mortality could still be prevented by handwashing—which is a bit of a problem for the technophiles who think growth, industrialization and modern everything is the only way forward.

This study in Nepal found a 41% drop in mortality with handwashing.

11/21/15, 11:44 AM

Glenn said...
JMG's repeated refrains about bringing back private lending libraries and a few of the library decline related comments this week have motivated some thought on my part.

We own upwards of a thousand books, last time I checked (18 years ago?); easily double that now. Many of the people I know also own more books than they can read in a year (Our daughter has read about 160 new books this year,not counting re-reading and counting series as one book). Anyway, I thought one could put together a cooperative lending system. The database might require using the current internet to set up, though generating a phone tree might work. So, in a central neighborhood location, a few people could set up an old fashioned Dewy Decimal cabinet of file drawers. In addition to all the usual information on each book, would be contact information for the owner. One could either pick up the book directly, or arrange a drop off and pick up exchange at the central location. There are obviously details to work out, but they need not be onerous. People who have no books they are willing to contribute could be charged a nominal sum; and all check outs would require contact information to deal with overdues.

The Devil is in the details, but I think it could be a workable alternative to both public libraries or private subscriptions; a community co-op. The concept could also be used, and has been in places, to tools, bicycles and other vehicles.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

11/21/15, 12:15 PM

Shane Wilson said...
try to cultivate some connections in the under 30 crowd, particularly under 25. While the millennials may be a lost cause, many of the "post Millennials" (whatever they're called), show great promise in being "post-digital" and "digital skeptics" and may be very receptive to learning older, non-digital ways of doing things. My experience with many of intelligent folks of this group is promising. It's not at all uncommon now for a 60 something Boomer to be absorbed in all of his/her devices, thinking he/she is "cutting edge", while the 25 or younger next to him/her has nothing more than a flip phone and finds social media passe.

11/21/15, 1:06 PM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
JMG, no arguments there. I am looking forward to seeing how you deal with national defense for this fictional country.

11/21/15, 1:09 PM

Ahavah said...

You mentioned to someone that they should start a new low power radio station. I have been heavily involved in doing just that for a bit over a year now. I am on the executive board, I do some of the administrative work, and I produce a one hour show each week. Finding funding for it has been extremely challenging. The FCC imposes a lot of rules, and of course as a nonprofit public service station we have to produce a certain number of hours a week of public safety and education programming, as well as the usual local arts and entertainment. But there are some technical problems you should be aware of. We broadcast at the maximum wattage we are allowed and the signal is still pretty terrible. Or transmitter is on a building in the highest part of the county so we get more broadcast area than the usual 3.5 miles - but only in your car. Building penetration is nearly non-existent. I live only about a mile from our tower and I can't get the signal in my house on either the first or second floor, and we have an ordinary 1950s cottage, not even some new ultra insulated house. Truthfully, other than car radios, the only way most people can hear the station is by way of our livestream on the internet., if you're curious. I don't know if the problem is all the modern electronic interference or something else. But I am quite disappointed so far in our ability to reach people at home or at work. Since we all know neither cars nor the internet have a long shelf life ahead, I am not sure if this is going to help any in the great scheme of things. Just wanted to let you know.

11/21/15, 1:20 PM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
Onething, I come from a country where the average lifestyle is much less energy and resource intensive, so my perspective is (I hope) understandably different. As for the elites, I talked about my country's former communist elite, but I could mention any ruling class from "low tier" quasi-democratic countries in Africa, Central America and the like, as well as my personal experiences in the Repubic of Moldova - Europe's poorest country, which has no shortage of very wealthy politicians.

Raymond, we're sort of like Europe's Mexico, so I understand where you're coming from. ;)

11/21/15, 1:54 PM

MawKernewek said...
I do own an e-book reader, but I don't buy many e-books. I mostly use it to download old out of copyright books which are available free (subject to the optical character recognition being comprehensible). The reason I think that they haven't caught on more is mission creep.
What I mean is that they marketed things with colour screens that could display more visual books, though not very well due to the screen size, or watch videos on. If you're reading just plain text, an e-Ink reader is quite a useful technology to me, but not one that entirely replaces paper books. It doesn't really work as well with diagrams, figures etc. as plain prose.
What I really wish someone would produce, is an e-Ink display the size of a desktop screen. I could use that if I am not doing something visual, I could switch to that in the evening to avoid the effect of staring at a glowing screen on the wake/sleep cycle.

Jason, I will come cycling with you sometime. In the meantime, have a look at my website:

Kim Stanley Robinson is an author I've read a lot of. I can see a bit of a progression, with Red, Green and Blue Mars being very techno-utopian, and 2312 and Aurora steadily less so. 2312 is sort of a sequel to the Mars trilogy although not quite in the same timeline I think.
I have read the climate change trilogy, and I didn't think it was as good, it read to me as Californian main character goes and watches DC get trashed by various disasters. I can think of a major flaw in the means by which the world is saved in Sixty Days and Counting, by having a genetically engineered fungus/bacterium promote more woody growth in the boreal forest and draw down CO₂. What happens when a forest has a lot of dead wood lying around?

11/21/15, 2:24 PM

Gabeindc said...
I assume that the tech tiers also apply to medical technology, right? If I remember correctly, 1950's tech leaves out a lot - no CT scans, no antivirals, dreadful dentist drills (those I do remember well!). And 1850's medical technology? I recently read Sheridan's memoirs, and it was a pretty grim reality. Perhaps tier 1 is for the young and healthy, and they gradually move up tier as they age... I'm really enjoying this continuing story, and the site has become a high-point of my weekly routine. Many thanks.

11/21/15, 2:51 PM

MawKernewek said...
I know quite a lot of people in their 50s - 60s who are social media addicts.

I have had a phone for 5 years, which is technically a smartphone (i.e it has 3G, Wifi, Bluetooth, microSD) but looks stone-age to some people because nothing happens when you touch the screen. When it eventually dies, I will replace it with a phone that just does calls and texts, because if I want to do computing I would take my netbook - something like it could probably be bought second-hand for less than some people pay in a month or two for their smartphone.

11/21/15, 3:09 PM

nuku said...
Re screen "cuts":
Same thing with current Hollywood style movies. I have suffered through a movie with all its individual cuts no longer than about 2 seconds! (I did this just as an experiment)
Everything was happening so fast that the mind cannot keep track. This allows huge plot holes to go by while the mind is overwhelmed with special effects and the blur of the blinking screen. There is no opportunity to linger on the facial expressions and no subtlety in the acting (maybe it fits the mostly pathetically deficient acting skills).
At the same time, the sound (noise) level is cranked up to the point where it is just below being physically painful. Dialogue cannot be heard and understood because the "music" drowns it out (again maybe because the screen writing is so pathetically bad that the dialogue is mostly inane or totally meaningless.
After watching the movie, the viewer comes away with a memory of flashing light and sound, little chopped up bits of images, but no coherent experience.
Combine that with the junk food people eat while watching and you've got the modern version of "bread and circus".

11/21/15, 3:22 PM

MawKernewek said...
@Jason - the planning department had better not collapse before the car culture unwinds, otherwise Cornwall might be end up being like an American city.

11/21/15, 3:28 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

That makes a whole lot of sense. Incidentally, I find dogmatic people to be incredibly tiring.

Ha! I'm waiting to see "XALT-OTUN" shown on successive display screens... Watch out trouble lies dead ahead! Hehe!

PS: I really enjoyed the character of the wise woman with the wolf who hung around in the background causing a whole lot of trouble for Xaltotun the dark wizard of Acheron and one of my favourite quotes was: "He was not a living man, she said. The Heart lent him a false aspect of life, that deceived even himself. I never saw him as other than a mummy".



11/21/15, 3:40 PM

Shane Wilson said...
Regarding Boomers inheriting and leaving things behind. One small, little thing the Boomers could do to ease the burden on generations after them, as a small gesture of contrition for destroying the common wealth during their watch, is to forfeit their old age entitlements. One way that they could "collapse now" is to swear off any and all energy intensive, life prolonging, modern medical care. I won't hold my breath for that, though, not even for the Boomer readers here.

11/21/15, 6:28 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Barrabas, in a certain sense, I suppose...

Onething, back when I worked as an aide in a nursing home, the standing joke was that doctors have to take a course on making their handwriting illegible, and pass an exam proving that nobody could interpret what they'd written, before they were allowed to graduate from med school. Funny, except that patients died now and then because an illegible scrawl got interpreted the wrong way. Good to know that computers are now responsible for messing up communication between doctors and the staff...

Jbucks, fascinating. I'll have to add that one to the get-to list.

William, and it's the foundations of that bizarre sense of obligation and right that I want to burrow down and uncover.

Cherokee, makes perfect sense. Here in the US, the denialists have become absolutely frantic -- the most bizarre paralogic gets shouted by the media and ordinary people alike in an attempt to insist that what everyone knows is happening isn't actually happening.

Mountain Mama, that sounds like a good first draft. I'd want to talk to some people with experience in zine culture and see what advice they might have to offer, too.

Justin, good. That also breaks the trance, which helps minimize the cognitive impact of watching.

James, so noted. My guess is that some adept internet work would turn up the needed hardware, but that's probably a job for someone who has a basement workshop and fewer restrictions on what they can do at home.

Shane, that's fascinating. In the culture of the part of the country where I grew up, talking behind someone's back is looked down on as a nasty, underhanded, backstabbing thing to do. Of course plenty of people do it all the time -- anything taboo is taboo because lots of people like to do it -- but if you get a reputation for doing it people stop trusting and respecting you. Different corners of the country have profoundly different cultural mores!

Clay, probably quite a bit. I'd encourage you to do it anyway, and brazen it out -- you might even put up something saying, "Yes, I know lots of people will be offended by this, and I couldn't care less." Letting people know you really, truly don't care is a surprisingly effective off switch for certain kinds of bullying.

Shane, I should probably do a point on that. The irony, of course, is that the people who claim to be preaching nonjudgmentalism are generally very quick to pass harsh judgments against anyone who disagrees with their values -- it's simply that nobody is allowed to judge them.

Jeffinwa, while that would be welcome, I really have my doubts. Readership has been a little low on this series -- not drastically, but noticeably. Still, it'll be coming out as a book sometime in 2016, and we'll see.

11/21/15, 6:34 PM

pygmycory said...
I know someone who got an antibiotic-resistant S. aureus infection visiting a dying friend. I consider myself lucky to have escaped it, since I visited the same person in hospital as she did. The hospital in question was in Vancouver, BC, Canada and it was in spring 2014, for reference.

So yes, antibiotic-resistance is getting to the point where it is starting to affect people we know.

11/21/15, 6:41 PM

Jeanne Labonte said...
In my case, I still have a land line, no cell or smart phone. I do not subscribe to cable but have not experienced any flack when people learn this. The response you get ("Good for you") is the one I generally get but I've noticed the people who say this don't indicate they intend to give up cable themselves. Television is something I rarely watch any more, especially given some of the incredible drivel that's being touted as the 'new hit show' of the season.

One of my brothers had tried hinting in the past that I should get a microwave (I think more for his convenience when he visits than for mine...). Aside from the fact there's really no shelf space for it in the small kitchen I have, I enjoy cooking way too much anyway to bother with one. After finally mentioning it was just one more thing to break, he finally conceded my point and hasn't mentioned it since.

I also prefer an actual book in my hand. Out of curiosity, I did download the Kindle App to my computer which Amazon has, rather than buying a Kindle device and found that reading a virtual book online far less enjoyable than a real book. The paper book doesn't gobble up electricity the way my PC does or require batteries like an e-reader and doesn't bother my eyes nearly as much.

Speaking of which, Mr. Mathiesen's issue with TVs sounds like plain old fashioned motion sickness to me. Having recently entered my sixties, I have begun noticing while watching some of the videos on YouTube that I can't tolerate the herky jerky or rapid movements they have. As soon as the cold sweat breaks out and that woozy feeling starts to come over me, I have to stop watching. There are better things to do anyway. But its strange to think that a problem that used to plague me on car rides when I was very small is starting to resurface.

11/21/15, 6:51 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I just realized that the post Boomer generations now make up an overwhelming majority of the population. Hmm, if someone could find a way to get them to put down the X box and coalesce in revolution/coup, what a force to be reckoned with. Boomer wealth and privilege wouldn't stand a chance. Fred Haliot, here we come. Sigh, interesting times, but, wow, geez, if the us (Gen X, Y, & Z) vs. them (Boomers & what's left of the Silents) meme takes hold, it'll be a firestorm...

11/21/15, 7:20 PM

Nick said...
"Jeffinwa, while that would be welcome, I really have my doubts. Readership has been a little low on this series -- not drastically, but noticeably. Still, it'll be coming out as a book sometime in 2016, and we'll see."

JMG, some constructive criticism on Retrotopia:

The tier system makes sense to a certain extent - every county pays taxes according to the amount of government services they have voted for. You can have whatever technology you want as long as it doesn't pollute too much, and you can keep it running, though. This part makes sense. The idea that the tiers have to be a linear system assigned to certain historical eras, however is confusing and unnecessarily clunky.

Maybe the book will be better, right now every week we get a brief visit to one business, industrial operation or government facility in Retrotopia with very little conflict - there is the mystery of what is going on outside the Lakeland Republic, but I don't think there was enough of a teaser about why Carr is on his mission. I think it really is a good story you are telling, but the blog format just isn't working as well as it did with say, the posts connected to your book Twilight's Last Gleaming.

11/21/15, 7:38 PM

Olivier said...
JMG, have you considered the possibility that some reader misread your tier system because the element of coercion is in it already: it is inherent in the bundling of maybe dozens of binary choices into just five tiers. Why do that when an à la carte system would not be more difficult to administer?

Bundling is rampant, e.g., in commercial (dozens of features but typically just two to three tiers) and academic publishing (journal subscriptions for libraries), where it is *very* unpopular with librarians. Thus I am skeptical that such a political system could come in existence or, having done so, survive for very long: the à la carte system is more natural.

11/21/15, 8:27 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Gee, thanks, Shane. I will repeat a comment I made much earlier on an earlier blog post. "I refuse to put a period to my existence for the convenience of others."

11/21/15, 8:49 PM

Caryn said...
Shane: I think you can rest assured that most Boomers and Post-Boomers, (like those of us in our 50's) won't be able to afford energy intensive modern life prolonging medical care, so we'll die off and be out of your way fairly easily; whether it is by choice or not. Not to worry. I personally don't plan on any extreme measures to stave off the inevitable. I don't want to be around for that, or endure it.

So with the infinite omniscience so inevitable in the young - Best of luck to you. :)

11/21/15, 9:11 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Glenn, that's certainly an option. I'd like to find out how subscription libraries like the one Ben Franklin founded in Philadelphia were run, as that was a very successful system in its day, and copying something that works is generally a good way to get something that works... ;-)

Ursachi, it's in process.

Ahavah, thanks for the info! I'd encourage your station engineers to consider talking to some experienced ham radio operators -- hams tend to be very good at getting the most signal out of the allowable wattage, and it sounds to me as though you may be having some problems in that regard.

MawKernewek, good. The sort of fiction that uses a gimmick to save the world usually has that sort of problems.

Gabeindc, wrong. I don't mean to be rude to a fan, but do you know the meaning of the word "infrastructure"? Medical care isn't infrastructure, and yet again, THE TIER SYSTEM ONLY DETERMINES WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE WILL BE PAID FOR BY LOCAL TAXES. It astonishes me that so many apparently literate, intelligent people Just. Can't. Grasp. That.

MawKernewek, interesting. The possibility that social media will turn out to be a fad like goldfish swallowing and the hula hoop may deserve more attention than it's gotten so far.

Cherokee, on the other hand, the screen could start flashing CROM, in which case you know that the system will endure to the bitter end and will send down terrible dooms on anyone who wastes electricity... ;-)

Shane, my guess is that that will happen when pigs sprout fairy wings and the sun rises in the dead center of the sky.

Pygmycory, my father got resistant Staph. aureus in 2010, so yes, it's here and now.

Jeanne, that's a real possibility. The frantic flurry of screen cuts, jerky movements, and other visual tricks that TV uses to try to hide the fact that it's really profoundly dull could indeed give motion sickness to somebody who's sensitive to that at all.

Shane, possibly in a very literal sense.

Nick, the utopia genre isn't based on literary conflict -- it's based on the tension between the world the reader lives in and the world the story evokes. I don't recall much narrative tension in Ecotopia, for example, and a lot of tours of this and that Ecotopian institution. As for the tier system, the more obviously uncomfortable that makes people, the more certain I am that it belongs in the story -- with the dates, which clearly cause a lot of minds to freeze up in a sort of intellectual Blue Screen of Death.

Olivier, the tier system's actually very simple, and since many infrastructure elements are integrated -- you have to have electricity for traffic lights if you're going to have roads with a lot of car traffic, to cite only one example -- it makes sense to organize things as a package deal to start with, and then modify from there. (As we'll see, such modifications are a part of the way things operate.) As noted above, the more uncomfortable the tier system makes people, the more sure I am that it's got to stay in the narrative, because that discomfort -- and the weird paralogic that it summons so reliably -- is a sign that I'm talking about something that matters.

11/21/15, 9:16 PM

John Michael Greer said...
By the way, as far as I can tell, the highest number of comments any post of mine has yet received is 323, held jointly by March of the Squirrels from the beginning of this year and Seven Sustainable Technologies from the beginning of 2014. This post is on track to knock both of those into a second place tie. I also note that the vast majority of comments have been from people who've experienced the same hostile reaction to their unfashionable technological choices that I have. I may be mistaken, but it looks as though there may be quite a few of us out there...

11/21/15, 9:26 PM

Shane Wilson said...
It's just so amazing when you put the whole senility of the elites and throwing increasingly higher classes under the bus in a generational context. You only have, really, two, increasingly elderly generations that benefit from the status quo. Then you have a cusp, Gen X, that's not going to do as well as previous generations, yet, for those who conformed to the system early enough in life, may feel they have enough vested in the status quo despite realizing they won't get Social Security. The remaining two generations are downright victimized by the current system and are disenfranchised and impoverished by it. So, that's 2 1/2-3 whole generations, two of which are bigger than the Boomers, of young, virile, disgruntled protorevolutionaries. Keep in mind that the elderly generations benefiting from it all are simply too old at this point to actually enforce the system. The "boots on the ground" authorities enforcing this system (police, military, etc.) are by now entirely made up of the disenfranchised/victimized generations taking orders from the elderly generation authorities in charge. Wow. Hmm. I wonder if anyone who wishes to foment an Orange Revolution in the US is taking note.

11/21/15, 10:18 PM

Tidlösa said...
Here´s my contribution to breaking the 323 postings record...

I´m glad (!) to hear that idiot optimism runs rampant in both the US and Canada, since we have it here in Sweden, too. That it´s a global phenomenon must mean something...

Perhaps I mentioned this before, but the Swedish daily "Metro" recently published an article on climate change, including rising sea levels, *without mentioning the concrete consequences this would have for coastal cities or humanity in general*! The only concrete effect mentioned in the article was that the flora and fauna of Europe may change (in some unspecified manner)?! OK, "Metro" is a terrible rag, but I suspect this may mean something...

Otherwise, everyone is insisting - more and more loudly - that Sweden is still the safest, most stable and most prosperous nation in the world (usually, you only hear that from jaded government officials at election time!) and that the few problems we somehow seem to be experiencing somewhere would all go away if we just open our borders and borrow more money (the leftist position), open our borders while lowering wages, benefits and taxes (the neo-liberal position) or close our borders, pretending the rest of the world isn´t really there (the nationalist position).

I´m starting to feel claustrophobic over here. Ironically, without anti-social media (the Internet) telling me I´m not alone, I might have felt even more isolated! Weird.

11/21/15, 10:39 PM

Karim said...
JMG wrote: "The frantic flurry of screen cuts, jerky movements, and other visual tricks that TV uses to try to hide the fact that it's really profoundly dull could indeed give motion sickness to somebody who's sensitive to that at all."

Now I know why TV scenes seem never to be still. And yes, I get nauseous too Jeanne.

I also noted that TV serials tend to do that whilst good and well made history documentaries (that I really enjoy) never do. Yes I do watch a little TV from time to time.

11/22/15, 12:21 AM

Hubertus Hauger said...
@ JMG ask meto give out evidence for higher, faster, forward being nature law.

Before I take that on, I am more catched from the message I hear, that you blame me not to have the right insight and produce a false idea. Indeed, blame I give a lot of consideration generally. Wherever I look, blaming happens so frequently. This world is filled with it.

So your blame gives me the opportunity, to get in a broader perspective an blaming in general.
Honestly, most of all that habit of blaming someone or somewhat for whatever, is getting on my nerves. Here, I am refering to that thinking of bad mankind destroying good mother nature. As I see it, there is no good or bad in this issue. However our way to look at it is validating it to either good or bad.

In the perspektive of mother nature it doesn´t concern her, if some tyranno saurus rex was eating the last mohican of some species. And afterwards that species was extinct. Or one day some human made pesticide will kill the last butterfly and than that species will finally be extinct. As a matter of fact, mother nature is not concerned!

However we humans are quite disturbed. The beautiful butterflies will diminish and mother nature, as she is, will easily replace them. I imagine her replacement could be fatty shining brownish cockroach. But most people will prefer butterflies. We want to preserve certain species to soothe our need for beauty. Nevertheless most people let most species die unnoticed and with few or no regret.

While now we people blame other people being responsible for the extinction process, I dont see that being correct. If so, then we are all to blame. On a broader screne nature itself does do it. We human beings are not unnatural. We are part of nature. So it is build within each of us. However people, with the urge to blame others will not consider their one responsibility.

Illogical, yet justified. Often the question was debated here, why do most of us greenish people tend to quite contrary continue a consumer life instead? Some even repeatedly ask JMG: "Lord, what should I do?" And JMG says: "Do something, anything!" And they repeat (often unsaid): "But I cannot, because that bad people and circumstances around me ...!" So, we are not logical, but we are justified and still righteous. We feel we are not responsible for what happens! We are innocent!

All living beings have a tendency to take things personal and put the blame on something or someone. A habit mother nature has build into us, because it must have some advantage. So blaming is a natural law. We humans are hard, not to blame, no matter how the real case and effects are. We just have to blame.

So there it comes, the blaming of bad mankind destroying good mother nature. It comes much more easy, than seeing our own full load of responsibility.

Look on myself. Why I am so agitated, of many here in this blog lamenting and blaming so much. I ought to take my own preaching serious and midly smile about it and be unconcernd. Instead I dislike that quarrelsome attidude strongly. I am to forced to blame that unbalanced blaming habit of you people and do complain about it. And part of me is bitter towards nature even, that it has made mankind in general and me in particular so much lacking balance and enlightment.

So, as JMG blames me not to have the right insight and produce a false idea, I find it diffucult, to share ideas, when the idea is rejected in advance. Please, put your reservation aside. So we can more easily share than to clash.

11/22/15, 1:43 AM

John Roth said...
@ Oliver. About the tier system. You might look up the topic "Tyranny of Choice." The more choices a person has, the more likely they are to become overwhelmed and simply choose one by throwing a dart at the wall, or the cognitive equivalent.

@ Chris

Look up Xaltatun of Acheron on the web. Notice the spelling variation, though. He's been back for quite a few years now....

11/22/15, 2:05 AM

Bruno Bolzon said...
JMG, just a side note on antibiotics. There are two branches of antibiotics regarding their targets: there those that target biological processes common to all living beings, and those that target biological processes specific to a certain living being, such as a particular species or strain of bacteria.
The latter are the ones that are subject to becoming obsolete due to widespread resistance, because living beings can alter these specific processes or abandon them altogether, replacing them by others, less or more efficient. Antibiotics that affect general biological processes, on the other hand, will not be affected, ever, period, because they work on processes that are common to all or most forms of life on the planet. problem, then? Antibiotics will be with us always, right?
Not so fast. As it happens, antibiotics that affect general processes also affects us. They harm us, that is. The only reason they do not kill us is because the dose needed to eliminate an infection is much smaller than the dose needed to put down a human being. So, here's the catch: in a debilitated or severely injured patient, prescribing her a general antibiotic may do more harm than good - and patients suffering from serious infections tend to be severely debilitated. The future I foresee, thus, is that physicians will treat antibiotics similarly to how we treat chemo nowadays - as something to be considered in a general strategy to fight the disease, but still a difficult choice to make. There will still be antibiotics, and they will be used a lot, but won't be as nearly as widespread as they are today.

One more thing: when discussing antibiotics and resistance, most people think that what will be affected are only the people suffering from epidemic and contagious diseases. That's mostly true, but, from my point of view, the first kind of deaths due to resistant infection to skyrocket will be nosocomial deaths. Debilitated people that are going to suffer surgery will no longer be able to receive prophylactic doses of antibiotics as they are now, and, as a consequence, will get more infections, that will kill many of them. We may go back to the pre-1950s era, when the mortality rate for the post-op for surgeries in general was 10% (today is about 1.5%).

11/22/15, 4:21 AM

Ray Wharton said...
I have always been a non driver, and for almost 3 years a non cell phone user. I find it very surprising that not having a cell phone causes much more press back than not driving. Part of it is of course that my 'driving is expensive' counter punch is a quick knock out while people argue about the frugality of phones all the time, which is strange in that either tech costs more money than any expense except food for me. My unspeakable reason is that I have noticed the technologies are addictive (like this computer I am using, but more lifestyle structuring) and that I don't want to adapt to something so ephemeral.

Right now I am using a family member's computer to post this, my most recent computer just got dismantled for cool little salvage bits, this machine keeps whining at me about software updates. Grrr. Still though, computers to their credit have very nice magnets you can get out of them!

I noticed that phones are deeply associated with a need for safety, the power to call for help.

11/22/15, 6:00 AM

Nastarana said...
Shane Wilson, I have already informed my children, in no uncertain terms, I might add, that I do not want my life prolonged by artificial means. I had rather what might remain of my estate go to them, not to the medical and insurance rackets.

As recently as 10 or 15 years ago, if you were to mention that you had the flu or a toothache, people around you would tend to ask, in a tone of polite inquiry, had you been to a doctor and what had been proscribed for you. Nowadays, the polite inquiry tends to be "What are you using?". This will often be followed by a conversation about various herbs and spices and how those can be used.

11/22/15, 6:39 AM

Lynnet said...
Re Haycookers: A friend showed me her haycooker. She used the deep drawer in her old-fashioned kitchen cabinets, lined with rags and old towels with a nest for the casserole, and with a thick pad of them for a cover. Put the casserole of hot food into drawer, cover with the pad, and close the drawer. Easy-peasy!

11/22/15, 7:13 AM

Dennis D said...
The tier system is in place right now, just to a lesser extent. I could have bought a house in a nearby city, which (at a much higher property tax rate) provided paved roads, paved bike paths, and every amenity expected in a small city, including a bylaw officer to prevent my neighbors from harboring any evil chickens. Instead, I bought a hobby farm in a more rural area. The much lower tax rate also includes much less. The fire department is volunteer, with a half hour + response time, police response up to half an hour, if they deem it important, and gravel roads. I could fill up pages of other items, but that is the general idea. I understood the system proposed, and the current problem is the income tax system does not allow opting out, where the property tax being local does allow some control, for example, there was a vote on contributing to the recreation center, pool and rink system in the mentioned nearby city, which allows us rural people access at resident rates to the facility. A good friend moved farther out, and bought a piece of bush land, and has even less services and corresponding lower tax rates (no electricity means the land price is lower, taxes based on assessed value)

Another related idea is that I am currently building a sailboat, and deciding which systems to include, and are they nice to have or required. The fridge (wife required) requires solar panels, and the engine gasoline. There are many other choices that help make up for lack of skills, such as a hand held GPS. If it was to fail I have options, such as remain within sight of land, or learn how to use other navigation devices. You could argue that a log is the base level, and anything else just adds convenience or additional capability (and cost).

11/22/15, 8:41 AM

Susan Farque said...
Kevin Warner said...
"Could it be that after generations of progress that people are now realizing that we are now in decline and that it is happening on our generation's watch?"

Myself, I see a lot of people that don't have the capacity to realize much of anything at all. They go through their days like a horse with blinders on, only seeing the same path before them, and the lovely carrot on a stick, and not realizing the wide open spaces to either side as well as the cliff edge ahead. Of course, it could be that a lot of them are concerned with what they see as "basic" survival.

I have felt like a dreamer waking from an impossible dream and realize I have also been just like that. I see it in my children and really don't like being the one to wake them, but I try to do it gently, a little at a time by getting them to help me with my own transition. The television is off at my house. Cell phones are put away when they come to visit. They still come very often. We get into lively, deep discussions that make us all think a great deal more than we are used to. Now they think a little more about the amount of pollution they generate each day and where it goes, or how ridiculous flushing our sewage in good drinking water is, and how tenuous is the economic system we are all such slaves to. My kids have come to expect strange topics of discussion when they visit but the reaction of the inlaws is sometimes so entertaining. (composting toilets?!) A lot of the time its been about the discussions on this blog.

I am the caregiver of my precious mother who is suffering through the end stages of dementia at 92 years old. I have noticed that the auditory and visual stimulation disturbs her greatly. Air conditioner noise, fans, washing machines and dryers, etc., all make a great deal of noise that increases her agitation. All of it has been turned off in my house for the majority of the time and it has been an eye-opening experience for me. Even the volume of most people's voices is noticably loud in such a quiet environment. When others come to visit they always remark on the sound of rain or acorns on the metal roof of the house, or the chickens clucking and crowing outside, katydids, whipoorwills, and rain frogs with amazement. Myself, I will be leaving it all off even when Momma is no longer with me. I have come to realize just how much of modern technology I don't need or want. Might take a bit longer convincing my spouse, however.

Just for smiles I wanted to tell you about something that happened when I was with one of my grands recently. I was riding with my youngest daughter and a 13 year old granddaughter to the birthday party of my 5 year old granddaughter. The conversation turned to what she wanted to be when she grew up and I jokingly said I was studying to be a Green Wizard when I grew up again. Naturally, she thought I was talking about a movie or book and I explained to her what I was talking about. It led to a very lively, and pleasant discussion. Later that afternoon, my daughter quietly told me that I should be more careful who I talked to about "that stuff" because people were going to think I was crazy. I just smiled and told her I didn't mind.

11/22/15, 11:59 AM

Susan Farque said...
On the subject of anti-biotic resistant microbes, most of these are not any more contagious than the antibiotic susceptible varieties. They are just harder to get rid of once they cause an infection. Its easy to blame medical personnel/facilities for passing these microbes around but less easy to accept the fact that if visitors washed their hands or wore gloves it would drastically cut down the spread of infection also. When you visit someone in the hospital (or anywhere else) and hug them or shake their hand you have potentially come in contact with a microbe that could make you sick. Every time. When you open a door, or put your hands on the shopping cart you have potentially spread that same microbe to somewhere else for someone else to pick up. These microbes are everywhere, some live for weeks on surfaces and some are not killed by ordinary soap and water. Isn't it wonderful that most healthy, well-nourished people won't get sick because their own bodies have better defenses than anti-biotics? In 25 years of working in hospitals, the last 3 working as the infection control practitioner of the hospital, I have contracted one staph infection and it was not the anti-biotic resistant variety.

11/22/15, 12:00 PM

Clay Dennis said...
After reading some of the "hate" posts aimed at the Chrismans I recognized another meme that has been popularized during the last 30 years as part of the post Reagan idiology that has gripped much of the country. Though I don't disagree with your assertion, JMG, that part of the pushback aimed at the Chrismans has to do with technological choice. But I think it also has to do with a section of the "culture wars" that spells out which lifestyles and passtimes are authentic and genuine for the "folks" as fox's Bill Orielly would say. I beleive that approved lifestyles have everything to do with resource consumption and consumerism but they have been dressed up in Americana. So for instance living a Victorian Lifestyle is the purview of inauthentic trust fund hipsters. While driving a giant motorhome pulling a trailer full of gas guzzling ATV's is authentic for the middle class to engage in despite the fact that it is more expensive. The list of the things that are inexpensive and low energy that are frowned on compared to its high energy "down to earth" doppleganger is endless. Snowshoeing bad, snowmobiling good etc. Things that seem like a step backward are viewed as something that only the effete members of the upper class who have made it in the world can waste their time doing while the folks who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps have just gotten to the point where everyone in the family can have a car and they certainly don't want to consider going backward. This is definetly a cultural roadblock in spreading the mention of collasping early.

11/22/15, 12:13 PM

Olivier said...
JMG, if this is a literary device to get a reaction out of readers, fine. But bundling in non-fictional settings is almost invariably used to make people buy things they wouldn't otherwise purchase. Google, e.g., "evils of Elsevier bundling" and see how many hits you get. Typically you want to subscribe to, say, the Journal of Combinatorics but it's only available with a subscription to the Minutes of the Waxahachie Society of Numerologists and dozens more like it that nobody wants to read but which are very profitable for Elsevier to publish *because* of the bundling system. The bundling of features into discrete product tiers in software is less egregious but the principle is the same. So whenever I hear the word "bundling" I think "Skulduggery ahead!".

In your system the people who put together the bundles would have a lot of unchecked power. It's a truism that you can often get the answers you want if you can write the questions and I am concerned that your tier system would be an irresistible invitation to such shenanigans. There are for instance industrialists who would stand to benefit if many counties embraced xyz but only because they really want abc, which xyz is bundled with. That sort of thing.

PS: There was a typo in my earlier post: I meant to write "commercial software and academic publishing".

11/22/15, 12:39 PM

Olivier said...
Re. the Chrismans, I've had a similar experience. I subscribe to the theory that subjecting your body to regular "micro-aggressions" (or, if you prefer, challenges) is good for both body and mind. Thus I often do my shopping in the winter wearing clothes more appropriate for the spring (i.e., no coat). For a long time nothing really bad happened until once I made the mistake of taking the train in that attire and I was questioned by a pair of policemen while on the platform. I managed to wiggle free when my train threatened to leave without me but it was a bit scary. I am more careful now as a result: I take into account where I'll be going and who I might run into when picking a dress.

11/22/15, 12:48 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
Silent generation here, Shane! The real reason Social Security won't be there in the future is that the den of thieveing frackers known as Congress took nearly all of its cash reserves and used that cash to finance other things, so as not to have to raise taxes and face revolts by irate taxpayers. I'm in my early '70s now, but my wife and I both come from very long-lived stock and we may well live to be 100. We do not expect to have any income from Social security all our lives either. So your anger is justified, but I think it is somewhat off target.

11/22/15, 1:05 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
Thank you, Patricia. Yes, from what you have posted, it seems we have made some similar choices in how we lead our lives. I've always looked backward to the past instead of forward to any sort of different future, even as a very small boy. And both my parents came from very, very poor families -- so frugality was always attractive in and of itslf.

Jeanne, I'm sure that motion sickness produces the same sort of effects that I have when I watch TV. In my own case, however, I've never had motion sickness. I can read a book on a car ride jouncing down a rough road and not get sick at all. So there must be several sorts of causes that can produce roughly the same effects.

11/22/15, 1:20 PM

Glenn said...
Dennis D said...


"Another related idea is that I am currently building a sailboat, and deciding which systems to include, and are they nice to have or required. The fridge (wife required) requires solar panels, and the engine gasoline. There are many other choices that help make up for lack of skills, such as a hand held GPS. If it was to fail I have options, such as remain within sight of land, or learn how to use other navigation devices. You could argue that a log is the base level, and anything else just adds convenience or additional capability (and cost)."

Read everything Linn and Larry Pardey ever wrote. They sailed for over 40 years including a circumnavigation and Cape Horn, without engines, electronics beyond a short wave receiver, or refrigeration. Then act on it. Experience starts when you begin.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

11/22/15, 2:43 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

By Crom, I think you're right! Congrats on the comments too and I was wondering about that issue as well. You've certainly hit a raw nerve here.



11/22/15, 2:44 PM

donalfagan said...
Regarding technology, I just read this in the NY Times:

I didn’t care if he was a non-texter — and what does that even mean in this day and age? If you’re a 20-something urban professional who doesn’t text, you’re pretty much impossible to be friends with. For a friendship to exist in 2015, people need to know they can text “ugh I love oysterrrrs” at 2:15 p.m. on a Friday and get a response by 2:30.

I couldn't handle that kind of pressure.

11/22/15, 4:03 PM

hcaparoso said...
@Shane Wilson,
I was just wondering where do you get off lumping all Boomers together as being entitled and privileged? I'm 62 years old and have never owned a house or a new car in my life. My family of 6, 2 parents and 4 kids always got along with one old car, we just made sure we lied close to my husband's job. I have never worked at a job long enough to collect social security, not to mention a large pension, mainly because I was too needed at home. My husband worked his rear end off at low paying restaurant type jobs, and also will never see a pension. He will never be able to retire. None of this, of course, is any of your business, I'm only telling you since, in your ignorance, you have lumped all boomers together as being entitled and privileged. My sister lives with her partner in a small single wide trailer and also will probably never be able to retire. What have we possibly done to you, that you would be so hateful to all those a generation older than you? I have 4 millennial children and 4 and counting grandchildren, for whom I would give my dying breath, in fact I am helping to raise one of my grandchildren after his millennial dad blew his bains out. Will I ever be able to retire from the work of caring for other people? Probably not, which is fine by me, as I would rather care for people than have lots of "stuff" and be on vacation all the time. And I know many, many boomers in my situation. I only share all this with you, because you seem to need some kind of reality check.
The Archdruid gave you my email address to contact me , as I said I would enjoy helping to set up a conference with you. Please don't bother contacting me, I could never work with someone who is such a bigot.

11/22/15, 4:21 PM

Glenn said...
I would like to offer up my own experiences, which seem to be different from many others. No one criticizes us for lack of smart phones or a television; though my MIL does not talk about how we live with the more conservative side of her family. I have been complimented by fellow islanders who've seen me bike _and_ hold up traffic until a safe passing spot was reached (our roads have _no_ shoulders). I have been crabbing under oar and sail for 10 years now. A few years back a fellow islander from Down East (a retired Federal Forester) saw me rowing my heavy sloop, sans rig, and offered me a Pea Pod (some assembly required, it was the moulds and a stack of plywood, I wound up purchasing an even more expensive stack of solid wood, glue and fastenings) I'll note here that he crabs from a 22 foot outboard powered plywood skiff (Calkins Bartender); so there's more sympathy than empathy.

What this points up I think, is that different geographic areas have different amounts of tolerance for individual behaviour. Given that the Chrismans live only 15 miles from us, perhaps rural Marrowstone Island is more tolerant than urban (and famously liberal) Port Townsend.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

11/22/15, 5:07 PM

Glenn said...

I suspect one factor is in the country one is more likely to be respected for walking one's talk; in even a small city, there may be more pressure to conform.


11/22/15, 5:09 PM

HalFiore said...
Deborah Bender: I also have few carpentry skills. My fireless cooker is a cardboard box with an old synthetic blanket I literally found on the side of the road stuffed inside. Been working great for about four years.

11/22/15, 5:35 PM

Nick said...
"Nick, the utopia genre isn't based on literary conflict -- it's based on the tension between the world the reader lives in and the world the story evokes. I don't recall much narrative tension in Ecotopia, for example, and a lot of tours of this and that Ecotopian institution. As for the tier system, the more obviously uncomfortable that makes people, the more certain I am that it belongs in the story -- with the dates, which clearly cause a lot of minds to freeze up in a sort of intellectual Blue Screen of Death. "

That is a fair point JMG. I still disagree with things having to be specifically the way they are in Retrotopia, and was hoping for a cultural explanation within the narrative. I haven't read Ecotopia or much other utopian literature. Nonetheless, I think my point is valid even though you deliberately are using less narrative tension, the story is less compelling without it. Your point about creating tension between the expectations of the reader and the story makes sense to me, and could be why Retrotopia isn't working as well - most of your readers understand that the future looks a lot more like Retrotopia than Ecotopia so there is less tension to exploit than there would among the "unwashed masses". However, far be it from me to be too critical of your work, which except for the books I have bought, I haven't paid for.

Clay, an interesting point about, say, snowshoes, is that to sell snowshoes in say, Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart, a supplier needs to be able to make thousands of identical ones of fairly consistent quality at a cost compatible with the retailers they are targeting. The same goes for a higher end outdoor sports retailer, say, REI.

You can make snowshoes using simple tools and common industrial or deindustrial materials, but the process would be labor intensive and likely yield a perfectly functional snowshoe that would nonetheless require some maintenance and user engagement beyond putting them on and walking around on some snow. Compare that to a mass produced shoe using aluminum extrusions, custom molded plastic parts and other things which require large economies of scale, and huge amounts of energy and resources but yields a cheap (in terms of skilled human labor) snowshoe that can be put on, used occasionally, thrown in the garage for the summer and keep working year after year until it breaks in some fashion that cannot be economically repaired because the materials it is made from cannot be manipulated effectively except as part of a massive industrial system. Of course, I'm not just talking about snowshoes.

11/22/15, 5:39 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
John - instead of you knocking yourself out to repeat the facts about the tier system to people who can't get said facts into their heads, allow me to dip into story to show them an s/f/fantasy series by S. M. Stirling which illustrates your point in a way that nobodym, at least on the Stirlig list, has so far misunderstood.

In the Emberverse series, the Alien Space Bats/Powers That Be have stripped our planet of its ability to use any fossil fuel technology except for heating, and have also canceled out gunpowder and electricity. The handwavium required is well done and beside the point; the point is this:

People have been reduced to medieval-level technology WITH all their 20th Century knowledge.

Some SCA survivors have even set up an entire 14th century society and social order. (Another group has based itself on what they call The Histories - the collected works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Their founder was, of course, barking mad.

BUT the SCAers build their castles of concrete and rebar, and use slide rules and log tables to calculate. Their offices have mechanical typewriters and adding machines, run by genteel widows in coye-hardies and wimples.

Their medical practice very much includes 20th century sanitation, practiced more rigorously than we do now. This despite jokes about bleeding some hothead to correct his humours, apparently meaning giving him a taste of combat.

In short, they avidly apply 20th century knowledge to the limitations of medieval technology and are doing very well thereby. One of the cultures, the Lakota, were headed by a chief with a degree in range science, and they manage the buffalo herds scientifically.

Have your readers - the chief arguers (we all know who they are) read that series and then come back and cry "But 1830 infrastructure means 1830 medicine!"

No. Steve has shown how it can not and WILL NOT mean that.

So why are they arguing with you? I think because they see Stirling as pro-modernity at heart. That's the only answer I can give. And considering how many times he's sent civilization back to a pre-industrial level, I'd think about that one.

11/22/15, 7:02 PM

Annette Simard said...
Wow! 240 hours of labor.

That's a lot of carrots. Or squash.

11/22/15, 8:18 PM

Mark Rice said...
I have a few divergent comments:
For Monica -- I second what JMG has to say about slide rules. They usually have a scale with evenly spaced numbers. Those are the log of the unevenly spaced numbers on the main scale. Under the hood, slide rules actually multiply and divide by adding and subtracting the log of numbers.

Next an article on the younger generation growing up on computers:

Next, I want to second what Admin had to say about unnecessary complication in the design of machines. I see this a lot too. I help design communication equipment -- the backbone of the internet. Some of the unneeded complication is based on misguided ideals of what is good. Some is due to the fact that it is often more difficult in the short run to come up with a simpler solution. And it requires some sustained concentration to find a simpler way.

Sustained concentration is so 20th century. At my very first job in electrical engineering few decades ago, someone was posting an integral of the week problem in the office. This was a difficult math problem. Back in the day, electrical engineers took pride in their math skills and practised them. I do not see this in today's short attention span world.

All of this will catch up with us. These overly complicated designs have long term costs.

11/22/15, 9:13 PM

nuku said...
@Glen and Dennis D:
Re the Pardys and simple sailboats: Yes, its certainly possible to sail around the world in a 26ft wooden boat with no engine or electronic navigation gear other than a short wave radio receiver for time ticks when doing celestial navigation. You can even do it with just a sextant, wind-up chronometer, Bowditch tables, paper charts, and a towed log. However, I know for a fact that the Pardy's got towed out of difficult situations several times by other boats with motors, and you also need to be aware of the huge losses of sailing ships in the days before auxiliary engines. BTW, gasoline inboard engines are definitely a no-no due to the possibility of explosion and fire. Diesel is the only way to go.
26 feet is IMHO very small and very spartan for long ocean passages; limited coastal cruising is another matter. Larry and Lynn are quite short people and that helped! Another downside to 26ft is that you are very limited as to food and water capacity.
"Staying in sight of land" may feel safe, but the reality is shipwrecks mostly happen when boats hit the "hard bits" so its a false sense of security.
After cruising on 3 of my own boats (30, 32, and 40ft) for 17 years, I can confidently say from experience that if the wife is not happy, its doesn't matter what boat you're sailing; the cruise will end badly!

11/23/15, 4:26 AM

Tyler August said...
Can we quit with the boomer-bashing already? For the record, I am a millennial, but one who sees where this is coming from. Isn't it obvious? I hadn't heard this before '08-09. So... at the height of Occupy, when the huddled masses of the younger generation were starting to develop a class consciousness. That's when, conveniently enough, this meme shows up saying that the enemy isn't the 1% after all! It's the old folk!

And, of course, at the same time, establishment publications aimed at oldsters are flooding the airwaves and newsstands with articles detailing everything that's wrong with the younger generation, and why boomers as older and wiser and obviously superior individuals, should look down on them.

Coincidence? I think not. Black magic, I say. I wish I knew a counter-spell we could apply to the commentariat here. It's not about generation. It's about class.

Seriously -- who is more responsible for the worlds woes? The aging hippy homesteader or the Gen-Y Facebook billionaire? The dirt poor pension-less "pensioner", or the young guns on Wall St? It's not about generation. It's about class.

Oh, yes, the old guns pulling the young guns strings are the REAL villains here, but! Their age is almost incidental. It's not about generation. It's about class.

And remember that on this page, even if we might not all have the same level of wealth, we're all the same Character Class: Green Wizard, lvl 1 to 5.

11/23/15, 4:54 AM

RCW - said...
The Puritan mindset, still prevalent in the U.S. (see Albion's Seed), is not the exclusive province of the religiously spirited. Living 50 km northwest of Baltimore, I'm partial to the quips of a local yokel, now deceased, who japed a century ago:

"The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think.” - HLM

11/23/15, 6:02 AM

Nastarana said...
Dear hcaparoso, You are not alone. Course, you already knew that. I have also never owned a new car or a house or earned more than $9./hr. in my life. I would suggest that Mr. Wilson has an agenda. Check out some of his posts from other discussions, and the agenda begins to emerge. Used to be called "the servant problem" and there seems to be in every place and time a group of folks who simply think they are too important to have to pick up after themselves.

11/23/15, 6:52 AM

Glenn in Maine said...
Greetings, I rather enjoyed the reference to earth sheltered housing as I was enamored of that form in the early 1980s when at architecture school. The late Malcolm Wells of underground and passive solar fame was a hero. Included among the many influences at the time were solar architect Donald Watson, Harrowsmith magazine, the poet Gary Snyder, Mother Earth News, the Farallones Institute, Arne Naess and the concept of Deep Ecology, and of course Thoreau. Sadly the Regan Revolution and his supply-side insanity put me in the wilderness amongst my fellow students, as Post Modernism became the rage. Nobody was at all interested in using less as the market would always provide more. We lost a solid quarter century from that point to the 2008 oil price spike, and I fear it is beyond hope for the majority. I will point out that I do in fact bicycle to work, and will continue to do so as long as I can (or need to). We’re now at the point of refinement with our systems, and can once again turn our attention to aesthetics. It’s taken a solid 10 years of concentrated effort to achieve real security, and there is always more to do, but my advice to anyone on the fence would be to get started immediately. Any bit of resiliency is better than none.
Best regards

11/23/15, 7:59 AM

Unknown said...
I choose to use film cameras for art and some family documentation. Like the Victorian era couple, the flack I get for using older technology is amazing.

I spend too much time in front of a computer screen as it is. I KNOW it is a lot easier to capture and manipulate images in the digital space and for some things I do use my cell phone, even for "art."

Yet, the more I learn about film photography, the less I want to devote myself to computer versions.

What's more, I tend to prefer very large cameras of a decidedly antique look---Think bellows and sticking your head under a "sheet" to focus the image on a piece of frosted glass. I tend to forget how unusual this is until someone asks me if my 1970's era camera of this type is 100 years old...

I already make prints using iron-based blueprint chemistry on watercolor paper. I'm hoping to make prints using another antique process based on Chromium---which also goes back to the Victorian era.

If I were a commercial photographer, selling to a modern market place, I'd have to have all computerized equipment. This is, however, a hobby. There is at least one antiquarian photography business in Gettysburg, complete with period looking costumes and period chemistry recipes for the photography using original lenses and cameras for the era. In some ways his images surpass the best of digital and are longer lived, too.

Why do I do this? I used to be a chemist and I enjoy the intersection between art and chemistry that photography represents.

Also, computers and digital cameras devalue rapidly and the 100 year old camera is useable. The 1970's cameras I have are in great user shape and should be for the foreseeable future. I've gone back to reprint negatives from the 1970's and I can't even open computer files from the same era. Different films have different looks, same for different lens designs. Most Films can capture more data than most digital sensors. Especially with big films the detail and smooth tonal gradation possible in film is better than most digital, though you probably won't see the difference on a computer screen.

Even so, it still astonishes me the hostility being old school raises.

Changing subject a little:

The Amish and some Mennonites deliberately choose their technology levels, not from a hatred of technology per se nor from a belief that one era was more perfect than another, but because they are concerned to preserve a certain mode of family life which they believe is more conducive to leading people to salvation. They are spared some of the hostility the people recreating the Victorian era receive because the Amish tend to live in groups and support each other and people think what they do is for the people born into Amish life, not a way of life you can adopt (though you could, I suppose become Amish).

In my own household we had a bit of a technological throw back/blow back recently. My 16 year old's iPod died. He tried doing a version of organ transplant surgery on it, using a non-working donor iPod. He failed. He doesn't have money to buy another. I find the kid easier to be around now that he's had a week's break to start to get over the withdrawal symptoms. I chose that description deliberately, I really think the iPod was an addiction.

I did not approve his getting the first one, he traded some bike parts for it. At this point, the cost benefit ratio suggests to me he should not get another one while he lives under my roof.

We've deliberately lived without a TV for 20+ years and don't adopt every new gadget that comes down the pike either. Were I not a clergyman who is expected to be in contact 24/7, at least theoretically, I might do with a lot less technology.

11/23/15, 8:01 AM

The other Tom said...
@ hcaparoso. I am also a working class boomer, and I dread getting lumped into the privileged boomer stereotype. The common stereotype of us is that our parents paid for our college educations, which meant we had a blast smoking pot and practicing free love, traveled around Europe for awhile, then got a good job, and finally inherited a ton of money when our parents kicked off. Not me, or anyone I grew up with. But a certain number of our generation did have that experience, and thanks to the SNIC (Sixties Nostalgia Industrial Complex), this fantasy persists of a special, enlightened generation that had all the answers until somehow it all went wrong. I can understand how people of other generations are tired of this mythology because I am as well. But those of us who did things the hard way are used living LESS, not only as an idea but as a reality, so we have a head start on the future. Some of my friends, the ones from more privileged backgrounds, unintentionally reinforce the boomer stereotype. They consider my relatively simple life as one of my endearing eccentricities, and not as a practical necessity. No wonder people get this idea of boomers, or of Americans in general. Because a certain number of us have been comfortable, cradle to grave, and some of them do not understand how extraordinary that is, in human history.
Of course, I need to add that I have been extremely privileged, along with most other people in the West, compared to the history of humanity. But when our perceptions are fogged with stereotypes it is hard to see any of this.

11/23/15, 8:57 AM

Shane Wilson said...
as I mentioned in the post where I suggested it, I may not be the one to organize such a thing (the conference). If you feel you need to organize it without my assistance, by all means. Don't let me be the obstacle.
It's so interesting that this post discusses one thing being said while people continually hear another. Whenever I've mentioned Boomers & Silents not protecting the commonwealth on their watch, inevitably, the response is about what they do for their own family. Not the fraternal organizations, charities, boards, etc. that they serve on, not they ways in which they're serving their community. Looking after family is nice, but is kind of a social expectation in that people who don't are usually looked down upon. Protecting the commonwealth for future generations that you're not necessarily related to, and maintaining society and societal organizations is something different.
I realize that all Boomers are not necessarily privileged, yet for all my life, they've been the ones in charge, the ones setting trends, deciding elections, and, finally, the ones controlling the levers of power. I'm not familiar with your particular situation, but I just know all the bad Boomer & Silent behavior and attitudes I regularly confront. Just as JMG feels it's his responsibility to tell people just what happened in 1980 to conservation & limits to growth, as someone who remembers well the generations that came before todays crop of old people, I feel it's my responsibility to tell younger generations what an aberration today's old folks are and what very special economic circumstances led to that aberration.
I just realized that my generation, Generation X, is now mostly in their 40s, with the oldest turning 50 (presumably getting their AARP card). It seemed profound, to me, in that all the previous generations had "arrived" by that time and were all well locked in to the American dream, nice suburban home, mostly, if not completely, paid for, vacations, retirement, a comfortable spot in the consumer economy. People may have worried about the Boomers during their youth, but they did "settle down" and "conform to expectations" during the Reagan counterrevolution. What does it say that our generation has reached the milestone of having adult kids and, presumably, grandkids, just as disaffected and struggling as we were 20 years ago, having suffered through one boom & bust cycle after another? Being elders now, that is, old enough to have adult children who will look to us for advice, is profound, because, all previous generations were locked in to the system, so, with all their might, they successfully redirected youth rebellion into conformity (like with the Boomers in the late 70s-early 80s) When young protorevolutionaries old enough to be our children come to us for advice, I doubt as many of us will offer as rousing support for the system as previous generations. I know that if I encountered a group of young disaffected kids in the years to come with an idea for a collective coup to remove the neocons from a number of Southern statehouses, I wouldn't necessarily dismiss them out of hand, especially if they had enough disaffected young veterans in their midst. Keeping in mind JMG's "there are no brighter futures ahead" and that revolutions often are worse than what they replace, I'd be cautious in supporting such a thing. But I certainly wouldn't offer a rousing support of the system, dismiss it as insane out of hand, and I certainly would help them prepare and direct them to read and plan as much as possible their strategy, and I'm sure there are plenty of others in my age group that would feel the same.
Maybe that's why there's so much desperation to get people on screens 24/7, if young people put down the screens long enough, no telling what might happen.

11/23/15, 9:49 AM

Roger said...
Shane Wilson, I am acquainted with some people in the age group you mention but, alas, they are as electro-zombied as can be.

Not long ago on the subway train I saw a young couple (in their late teens I would guess) sitting, limbs intertwined, both looking at their own smart phone, ear buds plugged in, ignoring one another.

I couldn't fathom it. I think back to when I was young, riding the subway with my inamorata. Mobile devices didn't exist back then but, even if they did, there's no way they would have distracted me from the sensory delight right beside me.

I see this kind of thing all the time. How is it possible? Amazing how times change.

What made people go cold and clammy? Maybe it's a cultural shift, maybe the young now strive to appear so detached that it's considered drastically uncool to attend too much to that nubile young thing even when in close physical proximity, ESPECIALLY when in close physical proximity, maybe so drenched in irony are the young that libidinous states are mocked. Is it now seen as just too messy and exhausting? Has it all become a bore? Or a chore? Is it because of internet porn?

Or maybe it's as you say, the really cool kids are off in the other direction and it's the counter-revolution taking shape.

11/23/15, 10:06 AM

onething said...

Do you hate your parents?

11/23/15, 10:49 AM

onething said...
Just for the record, I never pass on bad things that someone says to me about someone else. It stays right between my ears.

I did once really help repair a marriage by analyzing what each party said, thinking about where each was really coming from, and then explaining to the wife, my friend, what her husband's motives really consisted of. She asked him, he confirmed it (but had been too paralayzed to communicate in the normal way).

As to not judging, it does not actually mean that you cannot analyze a thing or call a spade a spade. It means that you allow, to the greatest extent possible, the person to be imperfect.

11/23/15, 11:01 AM

Shane Wilson said...
Actually, I wish I did know Boomers and Silents that didn't fit the stereotype of privilege, but among my family and their friends, I do not. For the most part, to a t, they're all either of the "clueless hypocritical liberal" or "Tea party nihilist" type. I worked at a branch of a credit union that we nicknamed "the Senior Citizens Center", so I got to encounter Boomer & Silent behavior and attitudes on a daily basis. The credit union started with IBM, so these were all IBM retirees, of different classes from the factory floor, to engineers, to the boardroom. I particularly remember one old guy who'd immigrated from Scotland, and was very well off. He point blank told me that the key to success in life was being "born @ a lucky time, like he was". It's actually depressing more so than enraging--I may come across as angry, when the true reaction is one of profound sadness that there are people like that in the world. My grandfather just turned 101 in April, and, growing up in the 80s, I remember quite vividly the generations that came before the Boomers & Silents, the values they had. I don't mean to idealize them as perfect, but some reflection on just how much has been lost and how much of the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater, I think, is in order. So, yes, I would LOVE to meet non-stereotypical Boomers & Silents, instead of the stereotypical ones that I constantly encounter. IDK, but if JMG seems to engage it what could be called "Boomer bashing" from time to time, it does seem to be fair game.
As for class, a lot of that does overlap with generation. It certainly would be easy enough to do an analysis of it. I just don't see that many of my generation doing that well, and the situation is worse for those younger.
As for parents, my dad died of cancer @ 67. He died in denial, not wanting to go, fighting. His biophobic denial of death was personally horrifying to me, and I resolved to die willingly when my time came. My mother's life revolves around watching TV, and doing sudoko puzzles. I do not, in any way, see them possessing the same level of maturity that my grandfather's generation when he was their ages, nor do I see their friends possessing it, either. I just remind myself that they can't really undo the experience of coming of age during postwar prosperity, that they can't really create, say, the hardship of going through a Depression, when they don't have it.

11/23/15, 12:26 PM

Shane Wilson said...
oh, I never said that tech-free or low tech youngsters are a majority, not by a long shot, but you CAN find them. There are enough of them now to be a noticeable presence. May the digital backlash begin!
The only Boomers I know who are struggling are of the irresponsible kind, like drug addicts and alcoholics. Like I said before, I just haven't met that many, if any, non-stereotypical Boomers & Silents. To the extent you're out there, I haven't met you yet, and it would be very refreshing if I did!

11/23/15, 12:40 PM

John Roth said...
Before this thing about the Boomers degenerates further, may I suggest getting a copy of Generations, by Strauss and Howe, and learning a bit about how the generational cycle in the US (and other places) actually works? JMG's list in last month's post on the Galabes blog is a good starting point, and the Fourth Turning site has a good summary and chart, but there's a lot more depth.

Now back to the main topic: while I'm going to see if Steve Stirling's Emberverse books are in the library and are worth reading, he's pushing a bunch of different buttons from the ones JMG is pushing. In particular, the theme "somebody intelligent from the modern world winds up in a "primitive" setting and / teaches the natives / survives in style / etc / is older than I am, by a long shot. I remember seeing it in L. Sprague deCamp's "Lest Darkness Fall," and Eric Flint is flogging it for all it's worth in his 1632 series. It's a variation on the Sacred Story of the myth of progress. Since it goes with the grain, there's no surprise that people pushing this theme are not getting pushback.

JMG is pointing out that you can have very different technological choices in the same cultural setting at the same time, and that quite a few people might find a less technologically frantic setting more to their taste. That not only flies in the teeth of the myth of progress, it kicks those self-same teeth in. The fact that he's polking at a number of other sacred cows as the body falls just adds to the fun.

I suspect that at least some of the incomprehension, though, is that a fair number of people are already overwhelmed by the number of completely inconsequential choices they're faced with every day, and are simply incapable of absorbing anything more. Do I really need eight brands of toilet paper and 30 different brands of disposable razor?

11/23/15, 12:54 PM

Ing said...
One of the things about your story and the tier system I've appreciated the most is the opportunity to think about what tier I'd really want to live in, and that's probably tier 3 or 4. I haven't entirely decided, although in reality we didn't have the widest choice of homes to buy when we moved here and that could be true at any time in any place, sometimes we have to settle where we are. That thought exercise has also brought to the fore the very real possibility that my home and town will be more like tier 1, possibly tier 2, when we've tumbled to the final step of the decline ahead. My thoughts are occupied with how to adapt well and this includes asking myself questions about what I really need and what would be truly fulfilling.

It's hard to keep up with your posts and all of the comments each week, but when I do I'm grateful for another chance to try on "collapse now and avoid the rush" and find some new and some deeper ways to embody the concept. It also helps stem culture creep...those moment when I realize I've gone to sleep and allowed one or another of mainstream's unconscious imperatives to take up residence in my life yet again! As evidenced by the internet that I need to produce an income but that is taking up even more time with Facebook for "marketing" or the cell phone that I regretted the day I bought it to be able to email with clients when away from my computer but has now become just a convenient way for my daughter to text me rather than have a voice-to-voice conversation. There's always work to be done, but I sure would like to get passed retracing so many of my steps.

11/23/15, 1:06 PM

Graeme Bushell said...
Hi JMG and all,

Apologies if this has been said already, I find it hard to keep up with the flood of comments each week and I haven't finished reading what looks like a record number this time!

It seems to me intentionally choosing an older technology is inconsistent with the faith that Progress is a Good Thing. You can't consider it if you have the faith, and if someone else does it, that is a threat to your faith: hence the hostile reactions. If progress is always good, it follows that regress of any kind is always bad - a step in the "wrong" direction. I think this association helps explain the mix-up between technological vs social and moral progress, as well.

Faced with someone who has intentionally chosen an older technology over a newer one, the faithful have to conclude that the person is evil or deluded and requires saving, because the alternative is to accept that regress isn't *always* bed, hence progress isn't *always* good. Accepting that undermines the core of the faith. Part of the reason for the unreasonable hostility may be that deep down we all know it's true (we all know there are "downsides" to progress, which is an implicit admission that it isn't always "good").


11/23/15, 1:27 PM

Yupped said...
Excellent comment Tyler August. It is more about class than generation certainly. But it's disturbing to see how quickly the Trump phenomenon has reminded us of the race and religion factors as well. When things start to get even more interesting, as they might be over the next few years, my guess is we'll see nativist explanations of our ills stirred-up first, and that could easily morph into a "progress forever" versus the greenies/luddites sort of thing. Class will be last, but only once things get very bad, if in fact they do.

11/23/15, 2:03 PM

nuku said...
Re Boomers: Born in 1944, I qualify as a member of the post WW2 "baby boom". My folks came from Jewish working class families and supported "left wing" politics all their lives, even after my father worked his ass off developing a successful business and our family became a member of the upper middle class.
BTW, the business actually produced an honest useful physical product, furniture, and gave employment to 40-50 workers some of whom were Mexican illegals who got paid a fair wage the same as the others.
I fought the good fight against The System all through the 60's; marched in anti-vietnam rallies (spent much energy avoiding the draft), participated in the "Free Speech Movement" at UC Berkeley, supposted the black students at SF State University when the California govenor called in the armed police, etc. In other words, I feel like I "did my bit" trying to change The System in the wider public arena, not just "looking out for my immediate family". Several Boomers I knew got arrested and beaten during demonstrations, some left the US for Canada rather than kill folks in Vietnam; we weren't sitting around with our heads in our smartphones in virtual reality mate.

After the 60's I became completely disenchanted with working for change within The System. I "tuned in, turned on, dropped out" traveled, and spent 14 years learning a craft making acustic musical instruments. I always saw myself as an outsider and unwilling participant in The System. I never saw the greedy, lying, hypocritical, power-hungry SOB's who ran the country as members of my tribe even though by the 80's they happened to be members of my age group.

Somehow you have come to the conclusion that what is happening now in terms of the intergenerational situation/conflict is unique. I don't think so. The boomers as humans are no different in essence from any other human generation. Some are more conscious than others, some even have a conscience, some are sociopaths. The material situation of generations, such as availability of resources may differ, but humans always in act the same ways. Some trash the environment, some don't. I've seen it happen in remote "primitive" societies on very small Pacific islands where you can't blame Western influences".

So my advice, as a member of the so-called privilaged generation, is to get off the blame game and get on with doing what YOU can to improve the present situation as YOU see it. Put YOUR body on the line.

end of rant...

11/23/15, 2:12 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Okay, first of all, I think it's time to draw a line under the generational Boomers-vs.-post-Boomers discussion, and no further comments on it will be put through. Tempers are obviously beginning to run high on the subject, and that's not conducive to the kind of atmosphere I want to have here in my virtual living room. I'd encourage both sides to reflect on the possibility that the other side has serious reasons for its views.

That said...

Tidlösa, it does seem to be pretty pervasive these days. I wonder what would happen if you got maps of Sweden after 50 meters of sea level rise and handed them out to everyone you know, saying, "Here's your future."

Karim, interesting. I wonder if the documentaries can get away with less jerky camera work because they actually have some content.

Hubertus, where on earth do you get the notion that I'm blaming you for anything? I'm not; I'm just asking you to explain why you think progress is a law of nature.

Bruno, thanks for this! I've done a little reading on the old metallic antibiotics -- Salvarsan, which was used for syphilis, is not too hard to find documentation on -- and you're right, they were highly toxic compounds that had to be handled with exquisite care and couldn't be prescribed to anybody who was too debilitated. You certainly didn't give them prophylactically. I wonder whether enough knowledge of them will survive to make them viable options in the post-wonder drug era.

Ray, fascinating. I get far more pushback about not watching television than I get for not having a cell phone; clearly there are a lot of factors that determine which technology is how rigidly required.

Lynnet, thanks for passing that on!

Dennis, good! Of course the tier system already exists, in some sense. What I've done is taken it and given it a formal institutional structure, with dates attached to give true believers in progress a case of the hiccups.

Susan, the question in my mind is why so many people seem to be unable to think about much of anything at all. You're right, of course, that it's not just the issues discussed here -- there's astonishingly little reasoning going on these days about a whole galaxy of things.

Clay, and yet I get plenty of pushback from the people who prefer snowshoeing to snowmobiling and go out of their way to distance themselves from prole technologies. In fact, I get more pushback from the upper middle class left than from the working class, snowmobile-riding, stock care race-attending right.

Olivier, it seems to me as though you're jumping to a heck of a lot of conclusions here, not least in assuming that the tier system was created by some one group acting out of arbitrary power. As I've already hinted, and will be discussing in more detail as we proceed, it evolved out of debates over how much infrastructure to build after the Second Civil War, and was enacted by the national legislature after a great deal of public discussion. As we'll see, if that had been done against the will of the people, it would have been overturned promptly by referendum. Also, I note that you seem to be evading my point about the way that technologies bundle themselves -- as I noted earlier, you can't have a tier five road system without traffic lights, which require a countywide electrical grid, and so on. Are you sure you're not still stuck in the same mental box I criticized in the post?

11/23/15, 4:03 PM

gjh42 said...
I would like to remind both sides in the current discussion that "The enemy are Boomers" does *not* equate to "Boomers are the enemy".

And on a lighter note, in relation to the topic of railroads early in this week's comments:

11/23/15, 4:10 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Cherokee, yes, this definitely hit a nerve. I may have to delay the next installment of Carr's travels to discuss that.

Donalfagan, I'm with you. Anyone who expects me to respond to a meaningless bit of brain flatulence in fifteen minutes or he's not my friend any more isn't someone I want as a friend in the first place.

Glenn in WA, the difference doesn't surprise me at all. As I've noted, it's precisely in the famously liberal places I've lived that I've gotten the most pushback -- I suspect in part because liberalism among white Americans tends to be concentrated in the middle and upper middle classes, which are also intensely status-conscious.

Nick, well, we'll see what you think when it's finished.

Patricia, I see Stirling as pro-modernity at heart -- all the examples you've sketched out can be described, without distortion, as modern people doing their best to progress back to modernity when chucked into a premodern setting. (BTW, having been encouraged to do so by some of his fans, I sent Stirling a copy of Star's Reach, having first emailed him to ask if he'd like to see it. He was perfectly friendly in that preliminary conversation, but once the book reached him I never heard from him again. I suspect I know why.)

RCW, nicely quoted.

Glenn in ME, those are very familiar names! I remember the same sequence of events; glad to meet someone else who didn't sell out.

Unknown, glad to hear it. It's precisely those hobbyists who make their own paper and do their own developing who are going to make it possible for photography to survive, if anything does.

Ing, good. One of the core points of the narrative is to get people thinking, "Okay, if I had the choice, what tier would I live in?" From that comes the awareness that technology is something we can choose to have, or to do without.

Graeme, I think that's definitely part of it.

11/23/15, 4:16 PM

Shane Wilson said...
thanks, I wish I actually knew someone like you, who stayed true and never sold out. I've never really met such a person, least not in person. My biggest thing right now is striving for an almost monastic withdrawal from pop and mainstream culture, being connected to the Earth, and doing real things/work with my hands. I find most interactions with most people nowadays trying. My batteries are only recharged from having to deal with people when I'm in nature, when I can look around at something that is indifferent to humans and works on its own cycles that are indifferent to what it going on in the world of humanity. I'm not really sure that I believe that all eras are equal, some ARE more insane than others, and I believe that we really are on the verge of some kind of madness like what occurred in early 20th century Europe, if not worse. The latent insanity in society right now WILL find expression somehow, especially once the screens go dark. Honestly, the screens, along with psych drugs and weed, are probably all that is keeping the insanity from public expression.
Knowing what JMG says about revolutions, I'm still surprised just how many work so hard just to keep "the system" going. I wonder just when people are going to stop trying so hard, and put all their efforts into bringing down "the system". If we're going to have a Lakeland in 50 years, we have to tear down the US first, and JMG seems to think that it's going to fall to us (the South), once more, to fire the first shot/pull the string that unravels it all.

11/23/15, 5:04 PM

Shane Wilson said...
What's interesting the perspective of tech, is that while technology is supposed to just keep on zooming to the stars, pop culture is just supposed to keep on the same rotation of the late 20th century, the 60s through the 90s, repeatedly. There's nothing NEW coming out of pop culture AT ALL, just the same ole, same ole. It always baffles me, from a historical perspective, that the same old songs from the 60s-90s are popular with a lot of kids today, and that it's not at all strange to see a Ramones or Bob Marley tee on a teen or twenty something. We really are, stuck in a rut, despite our devices.

11/23/15, 5:16 PM

Blueback said...
@ donalfagen and John Michael:

I read the piece from the New York Times. There is no fracking way I would date someone as shallow, narcissistic and self-absorbed as Rachel Fields. Ye gods, what an entitlement mentality! If yuppies like Fields are supposedly the best and brightest of the young in America, this country is well and truly fracked. Then again, I think most if not all of us who read this blog already know that. My brother, who was an avid skater and punk rocker in his younger days, used to have a patch on the back of his jacket that said "Die, yuppie scum!", sentiments I and many people I know can readily identify with.

Revolt Against the Modern World? To paraphrase a certain disgraced American politician, you betcha!!!

11/23/15, 6:01 PM

Kevin Warner said...
Re: Hubertus, where on earth do you get the notion that I'm blaming you for anything? I'm not; I'm just asking you to explain why you think progress is a law of nature.

Progress may not be a law of nature but change certainly is. Thing is, change has got a high resistance index to it in our culture whereas progress has the opposite. Both, when you think about it, are aspects of the same phenomena but progress seems to be more allied with change that we do want versus normal change that, as often as not, entails stuff that we do not want. Sorta makes it sounds like progress is more to do with a what-we-want-when-we-want-it mentality. The ultimate change of course is death which is perhaps why in modern culture people will quite happily tell you all about their sex lives but talking about death makes you about as popular as the person that farts in an elevator whose doors have just closed.

Just on a side note, when things start to contract like the Archdruid believes, perhaps a form of the internet will survive but in a much simplified form such as from about 1990. There would be no server farms but perhaps a type of peer-to-peer network would come into place like what was originally envisioned for the internet. Text would be sent but the new html code would support neither movies or images so goodbye YouTube and Pinterest. Even the pages would have to be simplified to reduce traffic loading. I notice, for example, that in the source code for the Archdruid Report website that the body of this week's post does not even begin till about the 670th line down and I am betting that this is typical of a modern website.

11/23/15, 7:09 PM

heather said...
This post has helped me make sense of some puzzling exchanges I've had in the past. One that has nagged at me for years occurred when a neighbor and I grew a patch of wheat with our kids, to show them where bread came from. We had harvested the grain by hand and were threshing it out with a combined five kids, ages 4-9, who were fascinated to realize that the seeds that came out looked the same as the seeds we had planted, AND were the substance we were going to grind up in a hand mill to make flour. Another neighbor, an eighty-ish nursery owner with a farm background, who still hunts and runs a small cow-calf operation, happened by and had such a strange reaction- "What are you doing that for? Why would you want to do that? That's going BACKWARDS!" and left in something of a huff. I was mystified. I could understand him maybe thinking we were a little "out there", but why did he seem angry? I guess we must have touched a nerve in him somewhere, since I am sure he remembers the days when bread came a lot closer from its source than it generally does in most of America these days. Perhaps he was thinking, on some level, that the Wonder Bread world really isn't so great after all in comparison? Thanks for the context for this and some other head-scratchers.

--Heather in CA

11/23/15, 8:01 PM

heather said...
A data point on antibiotic resistance: my mother, a former nurse and unfortunately a heavy consumer of health care services, reports that in Hawaii, where she lives, MRSA is rampant, in hospitals, school locker rooms, gym facilities... She herself has struggled with either multiple infections or a single infection which goes latent for months at a time, for about the past five years. She is currently suffering from an infection on a surgical site on her foot- I'll spare you the ugly details, but she was just released from five weeks in an extended care facility on various high powered IV antibiotic concoctions. The treatments have maybe, possibly, got the wounds looking a little better. I'll acknowledge, they might have been worse without the antibiotics, or she might have ended up dead. In any case, I've sent her Buehner's book and some herbal tinctures, which she promises to take as recommended, as soon as she is clear of her capt- uh, caretakers. I am hoping for the best- she is open to alternative treatments, and these particular herbal remedies seem to be of the "can't hurt, might help" variety. They are certainly more sustainable than the vast resource sink of the allopathic treatment she has been receiving.

--Heather in CA

11/23/15, 8:20 PM

Bruce said...
@Shane Wilson

re: getting out of the rut of popular music. Free form station WFMU is online and has been an amazing resource for all kinds of music, for all ages. From wax cylinders on through to beautiful new music they play it all - free!

11/23/15, 8:29 PM

Sven Eriksen said...
You have indeed been stomping on some soar toes of late, John...

Funny thing is, this has got to be perhaps the one issue that gets frequently brought up here that I actually do not see reflected in the attitudes of people around me to any significant degree. Granted, officialdom is pushing its tech trash here with same clueless enthusiasm as anywhere else, but I don't encounter people who make a big point of subscribing to it and angrily react to people who don't. It might be because of my own particular choices with regards to whom I spend time around, or I just might be plain wrong, but I don't really imagine the Chrismans would need to endure all that much punishment here. Which is odd, really, as the devout believers in Progress (yes, capital "P") are legion here, and they are getting increasingly hysterical and angry by the day. Man, are they angry...

Then I remembered a post of yours a few years back titled "The God With Three Heads", and it started to make sense. Up here, the progress believers seem have opted for moral progress as their main axe to grind for the moment, and are busily grinding it to shreds, campaining for the rights of every artificially created minority you'd care to name (there cannot be world peace until people with rubber duck fetish or what have you gets equal rights as everyone else, that kinda thing), getting neurotic about food (veganism can hardly be described in any other way), and most importantly screaming in foam flecked fury at anyone with the audacity to suggest that it might be prudent to attempt to control the amount of people currently rolling in from the Middle East. It really is quite a spectacle.

I sense some really heavy denial underneath all this, which is why I suppose, anger seems so prevalent. It feels mostly like people are creating non-issues in barrel-loads just to not have to deal with any of the actually issues that beset us.

I'd pop some popcorn too, but I'm not hungry...

11/23/15, 10:10 PM

Nbxl said...
Dear Mr Greer, what do you think of Charles Hugh Smith's latest post on his blog: "Profound Political Disunity is Now Pitting Rising Elites Against Fading Elites" (24 Nov 2015) on his blog Is there indeed a new Tech Oligarchy rising? Or is this new Elite already doomed because of peakoil?

11/24/15, 1:58 AM

Hubertus Hauger said...
@ JMG ask me to give out evidence for higher, faster, forward being nature law - No: 2

Where shows live that it commands higher, faster, forward compulsory? Growth aka higher, faster, forward!

Start with extremist - cancer! It just continously crowing. Common cells have developed internal stops to that. At least in the complex organisms, like humans, rats or cockroaches there are these stops. While the undercomples organisms, like bacteriea, archaea or protozoa are stopped by external limits to growth.

So the drive to grow - unlimited. Ergo growth is a natural law. While the counterbalance of it is no static state, but a dynamic process, which is developing, out of what happens. So a bacteria in a petri disk has no natural stop blog inside. However there are limits to growth outside. Has the bacteria filled up all the petri disks surface, it ceases to grow. Just like we humans will do with ressources. After they are depleted, consumtion stops eventually.

Biospheres have generally developed by adabting to circumstances in dynamic processes. It is not that there was a fixed state of internal stops from the beginning by mother nature. Living-beings do not halt voluntarily, before overshoot. No! That dynamic processes in the struggle for living-space create complex balances of regulatory circuits. They emerge and continu doing so. There is no status kept from the beginning. Its a turbulent circle of life, with every change trying to get swing into balance afresh. And when the system is overloaded, it tumbles.

Evolution is a competitive system we are all forced to participate. Impossible to shut that urge down in any living being.

Last time I mentioned the ancient 2500 year old hybris story of building the tower of babel in the Bible. Also you may know of many old civilisations having collapsed. So collapse being a frequently happening, isn´t it? Joseph Tainter, my prefered historian on that matter, says, that we human societies grow expotentially until we reach our peak ressources. Then, trough the overhelming costs, due to diminishing returns we tumble down. And ... soon ... everything starts all over again.

And nobody is excluded. Is see no "them" being stupid going on the wrong path of hybris, while "we" being enlightened having the right greenish consciousness. I see no difference between "we" good consumers and "them" bad consumers.

I see us all connected. We all grow and finally die. Until our offspring will be born again. And ... everything starts all over again. A circle of life and death. Here shows live that it commands higher, faster, forward compulsory until we fall ... into our grave ... resurrection.

So compulsory driving us on to higher, faster, forward untill that stop blog. That spinning carrousel is all natural law.

11/24/15, 2:53 AM

Martin B said...
I made a primitive fireless cooker in minutes. On a flat bit of styrofoam (mine blew into my garden, augmented with flattened-out foam punnets), place the hot pot. Over it place sheets of newspaper with a sheet or two of aluminium foil interleaved (shiny side down). Jam a plastic bucket over the whole thing to seal it. Voila!

The newspaper will take on the pot shape. Store it and keep reusing it.

Works like a charm. I use a cast-iron pot which retains the heat well. The main thing I cook like this is maize meal, which is still steaming hot after 25 minutes.

11/24/15, 3:43 AM

Caryn said...
JMG: Apologies for spilling a full glass of heated debate on your carpet. I hope it doesn't leave a stain.

@ Shane:

RE: Pop Culture;

My teens definitely went through an oldies phase - Beatles and Jimi Hendricks, early Stones...I suspect interest in retro-music is always going to pop up every now and again, BUT As you have addressed - because of the tech itself, the speed with which the public can and has come to expect new music, (or art, or fashion or whatever) has dramatically increased. I don't think these industries can keep up, but they have to to 'survive', (keep making millions!) so they cut corners and cut the corners of the corners and on and on.

If you've seen any of those film length documentaries on older rock bands, you may notice a lot of time is spent in revealing these artists' formative years as obscure struggling musicians. None were instant successes overnight - generally speaking, they worked at their craft for years before anyone knew who they were. If you've ever seen any documentaries on the old Hollywood studio system, the actors went through the same - even if they were under contract to the studio. They would take lessons and work to hone their craft for years before the studio would allow them to 'debut' in some appropriate vehicle/film for their talents. When the studio system collapsed, for decades, many of the most interesting and successful new actors came from the NY theater scene, again, because Off Off and Off Off Off Broadway gave them a place to practice their techniques and skills, take risks, learn and grow.

High Art and Pop culture rely on each other for ideas, ideals, the current public's aspirations, fears etc. Artists of every kind, (high and low) NEED to work for years to develop.

It's very rarely the same or similar trajectory any more. Young artists in music or any other arts/entertainment, (pop culture) industry must become marketable/salable within the time it takes to shoot their video or record their song. There's that phrase, I think it was coined regarding the music industry - "They eat their young". They seem to be eating them faster and faster these days long before a young artist with potential can grow into an actually skillful artist capable of finding and focusing their natural talents, whatever those talents are.

That's not even touching on Auto-tune - the need and desire for quick success pushes labels and artists and just plain wannabe's to 'debut' earlier and earlier and there's no talent or muscle needed, even to sing. It's not only that we WANT instant success, with auto tune, anyone can HAVE instant success! But not really. Song writing still takes time and thought, (which few are willing to give it), and a singer's skill is not only in their technical ability to stay on key.

Sad. I think there are probably just as many young artists out there with potential, but they will probably cash out and flame out far before they ever get a chance to hone their skills, far before we the ever hungry public will ever get to hear some really good stuff from them.

So, yes, In this, I think youre right. It's a low time for creative or salient pop culture, and yet, the impetus to create will not die - there will be artists who ride out or emerge from this storm as well, because some of them, (I'd like to think us), do it because they can't NOT do it.

Looking forward to seeing Carr visit that piano player's gig!

11/24/15, 4:53 AM

nuku said...
@shane wilson,
You sound like someone I'd like to chat with in person, but I voted with my feet 27 years ago and left what I somewhat tongue-in-cheek call "The Evil Empire" to cruise around the Pacific on my sailboat. After 17 years of that life, I emigrated to New Zealand, so chances are we won't meet up in person.

As to the lack of people in your life who are not trapped in the system, I suppose that has to do with where you and how you live and how open you are to going out of your way to seek out kindred spirits...the fact that you're on this blog means that you are already partly outside the system and communicating with some real people who are seeking alternative narratives...

I agree with your feeling that the present human world is in for some very nasty interludes in our de-industrial future, what JMG calls "The Long Descent". "Mass Madness" exceeding even the horrors of the last century is certainly one way to describe what is likely to occur in response to the breakdown of industrial civilization based on cheap energy.
Re your question about why more folks don't opt out of The System: it seems to me that many of JMG's posts are his attempt to answer that question. One of the take ways for me is that without a coherent vision of what an alternative society/civilization looks like, and a vision that most people can "buy into", revolutions generally fail. It seems to me that the whole project of writing about Lakeland is an attempt to model one possible vision so the rest of us can see what a coherent vision that appeals to ordinary folks might look like.

11/24/15, 4:58 AM

Nastarana said...
Today's article in the blog, entitled "Profound Political Disunity Is Now Pitting Rising Elites Against Fading Elites" is well worth reading.

About pushback from affluent liberals: I once suggested to the woman who was then president of the local chapter of Slow Food America, that it would be a good idea to remove legal and other restrictions on renters growing vegetable gardens. Oh my goodness! Did I not understand that the average length of tenancy is only 1 1/2 years? Did I not realize how much a property owner has to spend cleaning up after each tenant? (That is what the security deposit is for, to pay for the mess left by the previous tenant) I hasten to add that I believe the international Slow Food organization is good people doing good work, whatever the deficiencies of their American chapter.

11/24/15, 5:39 AM

Hello... said...
Unknown said: "Something to do with authoritarian followers, conformism and inability to think for ones self. I think its getting worse."


(back to reading comments)

--erika, in what's left of a dying San Francisco (before i've been "kitten" on another acct here/i think)

11/24/15, 7:10 AM

Shane Wilson said...
I wonder if this may be the beginning of open conflict between the US/NATO & Russia.

11/24/15, 7:18 AM

heather said...
Re. deliberate choice of historical eras:

There is a woman in Michigan named Susan Odom who runs a 1910-era bed and breakfast. She has a museum background, (including at Greenfield Village, one of the largest historical museum complexes in the US), and dresses in period-appropriate dress, uses period recipes and cooking techniques, and gives classes in historical farming and food preparation. Re. her choice of era, she noted in Mary Jane's Farm Magazine (Oct.-Nov.2015): "There's a lot better kitchen stuff available [from the early 1900s] than from, say, 1855 or 1860 or 1850, which are other time periods I've worked in. You start to see enamelware and lightweight pots- the idea of industrialization and commercialization start to appear. It's all part of the story." Guests come to her Hillside Homestead inn to help with farm and kitchen chores, learn some period skills, and get away from TV, though the inn does provide internet connection in the rooms (as well as indoor plumbing). Her deliberate selection from earlier technologies and lifestyles, mixed with current technologies as she deems appropriate (she has a blog, for one) seems to be working for her, and her customers.

--Heather in CA

11/24/15, 7:37 AM

Unknown said...
The comment thread on here is a good representation of how easily people are offended, and therefore have their emotions manipulated, by faceless unknown to them "people". I say "people" because comments could be seemingly coming from different sides but all originating from one actual person with various accounts and log-ins.

11/24/15, 8:54 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Thanks very much to (a) a private e-mail correspondent referring to the detailed reporting at and (b) a reader posting visibly here, for help with the question of hard-drive replacements in the Google server farms. To boil this question down to essentials, after a bit of rather superficial reading-and-skimming, and superficial pencil-and-paper work, I make now the following set of points:

- The just-cited "inner workings of Google" journalism makes it a reasonable guess that Google is now running quite a few hundreds of thousands of servers. To get an order-of-magnitude estimate (i.e., an estimate likely to be correct to within a factor of ten), we may peg that number at an even million.

- For purposes of an order-of magnitude estimate, it is reasonable to assume that there is just one hard drive on each server, and that each hard drive lasts for about three years.

- From these suppositions, we may infer that Google needs, for its family of data centres around the world, about 300,000 new hard drives each year, or on the order of 1,000 new hard drives per day.



PS: The Internet makes one nervous not only for reasons of resource consumption, and not only for the subtle erosion of skills in mathematics and foreign languages and laboratory physics that it seems to be inducing in the current generation of students. There is also the question of cascading tech failure. What happens to banking and the power grid if the Internet is brought down? Or (a different failure path, but equally troubling) what happens to the power grid if the Internet initially stays up, BUT the power-grid "SCADA" control systems are successfully hacked through some duly functioning Internet portal? The 2003 grid collapse in New York, Ontario, Ohio, and some other jurisdictions took 6 lives and cost around 6 billion USD. The next grid collapse could be worse. Many of us are trying to address this scenario in one way or another. My own tactic is to work on the theoretical end of ham radio - studying the mathematical foundations underlying Maxwell's equatios, with a view eventually to improving the literature currently available to hams. What is needed is a set of white papers, or a small book, called something like "The Physics of Radio", and explaining with full clarity such things as the radiating dipole aerial. (The current books tend to say things like "The voltage at this particular instant in the transmitter-output RF-alternating-current cycle is largest at point x on the dipole wire", and yet to leave unanswered the question "Voltage at point x with respect to what reference point? i.e., voltage difference between point x and what other point?")

11/24/15, 9:15 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Dear Ahavah,

Lexington Community Radio (WLXL) is on FM, as opposed to AM. There are two things that COULD be considered with your transmitting aerial.

(1) Are you on a sufficiently high mast?

(2) Can you concentrate your beam in one preferred direction? I recall that in my childhood
in Truro, Nova Scotia (conurbation population 15,000 or 20,000), CKCL-AM used a pair of high masts, with the usual red aerial-navigation warning lights, about 4 km west of town. The purpose of the pairing was surely to change the radiation pattern from a disk into a more concentrated sector-of-disk, with most of the power going eastward onto the town, and less power going out to the sparsely settled terrain west of Truro, around Glenholme, Great Village, and Bass River. Since your engineers are on FM, their construction work becomes easier: perhaps even (but here I speculate as a layman) a dipole on a boom, with one single reflector behind the dipole, and with the entire boom secured to one single mast.

Liaison by your engineers with your local ham community, in the spirit of JMG's comment on your ADR posting this week, might prove helpful.




11/24/15, 9:27 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Dear gjh42,

Thanks for the wonderful reference to monastic railway operations, at I did not read all of this comic, but I did rejoice in some of its initial pages - the monk or friar making it clear that the railway welcomes all; the glorious Victorian plush, displaying monogram or logo, in the private compartment; the pot-belly stove supplying warmth (a stroke of brilliance from the artist); and the ready availability of the Confessional.

I have been meaning to post a small apology to the ADR blog for being unconsciously sexist in my earlier remarks on railways. My suggestion of monastics running trains makes it sound as though railways are the proper and exclusive preserve of men. If we do pursue the monastic line of thought, we should have in mind less the traditional all-male communities, such as newly founded Clearwater in the USA or newly founded Norsia in Italy, and more the successful mixed-gender Italian experiment which is Monasterio di Bose.

One recalls here the circa-2000 fate of the short freight line which was the Canadian National road from Truro (in Nova Scotia) to Sydney. When this road was taken over by a Texas-based shortline operator, a lady was interviewed by the Truro Daily News. She had secured a position with the reorganized short line, and she made it clear in her interview that she lived, breathed, thought railways - that she was through and through a railway person, that working on the road was for her a guiding and almost obsessive ambition. The railway is a calling. Ladies can appear in the ranks of the called (I speak here of freight and real engineering, not of the effete world of the "Customer Service Ambassador" as encountered at Richmond Hill), despite the grease and dust and danger and hard hours.


in Richmond Hill, Ontario, just over 20 track miles north of Union Station in Toronto;
last time I checked sched, diesels (one loco, not a pair) with approx 10 double-decker carriages, and with the so-welcoming "Customer Service Ambassador", departed for Union at 6:25, 6:35, 6:55, 7:25, 7:55, and 09:20; I use the 09:20 a few times each month

11/24/15, 9:48 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
An early 21st Century version of The Fool would show a student with earbuds in both ears and his or her hands and eyes fixed on a smartphone as s/he approaches the cliff. And the little dog trying to drag the student back by the seat of the jeans.

11/24/15, 10:03 AM

Nic said...
To Heather in CA -

I had an antibiotic-resistant staph infection after a surgery at UCLA in May. After six weeks, I gave up trying to treat it conventionally, since my doctors could not satisfactorily explain to me why more antibiotics would help a resistant infection.

I ended up picking some plantain from my garden, crushing it and keeping it as a poultice in and on the wound. The wound changed colors within six hours (from hot, red and swollen to smooth and normal-colored) and was completely closed and healed in five days.

I understand if she is resistant to trying herbal medicine, being a nurse, and I am not saying that something so simple could heal her wound, but it worked for me and is worth a try. I hope she finds some relief soon - I didn't realize how bad I felt generally from that infection until it was gone.

With sympathy,

Nikki S.

11/24/15, 10:36 AM

Hello... said...
from John Michael Greer: "Mountain Mama, that sounds like a good first draft. I'd want to talk to some people with experience in zine culture and see what advice they might have to offer, too."

oh my god, i've totally RETURNED to the zine format i was playing with back before they were called zines and i had a love affair with my art school library's xerox machine and huge picture file for me to draw from/use.

now that all the artists and regular folk have been evicted from san francisco, i find i'm returning to eye contact and no phones and hand lettering, pen and ink, and XEROXING. i love that there is more about what i'm doing, who i am, on paper than online. it feels SECRET. oddly SECRETIVE.

and i fxcking LOVE that!

okay, back to the comments. this is gonna take DAYS to get through 320+ comments...

but i love reading 'em here. i feel like i'm not alone for a change.

--erika (kitten) again

11/24/15, 10:54 AM

Hello... said...
yes, art and culture is dead dead dead.
-erika in dead san francisco

11/24/15, 12:43 PM

Hello... said...
Dear John Michael Greer-
just speaking for myself, and inspired by Shane's honesty about his hunger for art, anything NEW that speaks to NOW--i prefer the COMMUNITY of NOW that you provide. James/Thor and i were just talking about what a RELIEF it is to read all these comments. it's INSPIRING.

fiction is problematic right now in such a society immersed in symbolism and encrusted with hallucinogenic fantasies. so i find anyone's fiction makes me itchy because i need things to be more LITERAL and direct about NOW. the terror of the massive existential crisis going on all over the hive and things are rotting at different rates.

san francisco is a huge hallucination that's hard to live in on a daily basis. i truly worry i will end up dead like sandra bland because all the cops that're getting called on me in our own neighborhood when i'm dancing alone or with the little girls who've now started to FINALLY join me! (hurrah! i know what i'm here for finally! to pass it on! human defiance felt in the BODY when you dance in the sun only for your god/s.)

anyhow, my spirit is battered and i'm needing literal ministering and TASKS for me to learn how to jujitsu the rage i feel the sadness i feel everytime i leave the house and another artist is evicted or neighbors are bullying the poorest ones left so they'll leave because SO MUCH MONEY IS HERE NOW.

shane, this is why there's no art. artists are homeless, couch surfing, evicted, working 3 and 4 jobs and broken hearted. artists used to need each other as well as ALONE TIME to think and be scared and summon up the courage to do what was UNKNOWN. answer visions, step up to manifesting them... all that good and scary stuff.

i, myself, have been struggling for the past handful of years for the WORDS as i scream about all that is happening. i've been confused because my "poetry" has gotten blunt, all CAPS, and has lost its punctuation (i'm a visual artist first and my words cannot bow to english class conventions for very long and actually SAY what i MEAN).

i'm finally riffing off the world now and my old ways of writing now seem contrived. so i write in all CAPS now but only want the most information in xerox form. i struggle to find my new self now.

i'm 48 but feel like a teenager anew. even with my inability to stop chasing down cars or yell at people for being mean in our little town. san francisco used to be NICE!!! full of NICE people. now we've got people in expensive cars honking at homeless people and nearly running over mothers and children.

for WHAT????

so i find i'm creeped out by people who ONLY emulate the past because we're going down and it feels like another form of american obliviousness. i think some regular boring people get angry because it feels like another "precious" indulgence. you have to have a little bit of money to say "screw you" to society when you're still IN it. it's like a hobby.

i'm not starting a fight. i'm an artist. i think EVERYTHING should be a lot more precious. it'd be a START, at least.

erika again

(yeah, this is good. this site is so cutting EDGE, your fiction is the future, but we may not be emotionally READY when just being in the here and now is deadly difficult. and i'm USED to taking punches and the previous despairs of the art life. it'd kill most folks and i'm doing better now, but i still get to reeling over how scary it is being surrounded by zombies who don't wanna LIVE here and now. they look at mars as a great idea...

and yeah, what is terrifying is that they don't fight to live OR have SEX!!! how do you appeal to such folks' lack of HUMANITY???? THAT is SCARIER than obvious evil to me. the living dead with no sex drive at all. that's just... WRONG.)

11/24/15, 1:08 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I've often wondered, when I'm somewhere like Walmart or the dollar store, and the place is just saturated with pathos, and the poor clerk who's struggling, has this vacant, tired look in her eyes, and you're just thinking, when do you just put it down and say "I'm done", and do something productive that might actually set the stage for a different future, like stage a coup or kill some CEOs. I guess we're just not there, yet. I do think it is funny that there's this mad rush to excise any public display of anything regarding the Confederacy right at the time that we're on the verge of dissolution. Not even the pro-Confederate people are saying that it may be premature, that history might just be on the verge of taking a second look @ secession & the Union. Or then again, maybe that's WHY the push is on to remove all reference to the Confederacy--we are THAT close to revisiting secession & questioning the Union.

11/24/15, 1:18 PM

Shane Wilson said...
actually, I DO think Lakeland is a useful, pragmatic exercise, because I could easily see the ideas influencing young revolutionaries, and I DO think we may actually have the opportunity in the near future to 1) support a successful revolution and 2) shape what comes after.

11/24/15, 1:50 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

I'd be very interested to read your thoughts on the matter as I reckon the subject is quite important.

Sorry, it's a bit late for fascinating new off topic comments this week being Wednesday and all, but progress waits for no person (that's a joke, by the way)...

Yesterday morning I was in the big smoke and I went to my favourite cafe for a coffee and muffin. The parents of the guy that owns the cafe have a farm up north and they grow a lot of the coffee beans for the cafe and the son roasts them out the back of the shop. The muffins aren't actually muffins, they're mini cakes so they are very tasty and not at all greasy like your average muffin. Anyway, it's good and I've been consuming tasty produce there for over a decade and parking in the same spot because there is no shortage of parking near the café (plus a short walk). Yesterday, they'd introduced parking inspectors and my coffee had a $91 bill added to it. I was filthy about it and I caught the inspector putting the fine on my car and said to him: "Don't you realise that I'm spending money at a local cafe which pays council rates, which keeps people like you in a job" and he pointed at the sign saying "Permit parking only". Now the reason it is permit parking was historical because there used to be an old pub near there which had long been converted to housing. There is certainly no shortage of parking that I can see.

Anyway, I didn't think much more about it until I spoke to my wife about it and who tipped me off to this little incident from a council meeting (in a nearby area) a few days ago: Yarraville parking meters: Punches thrown after council meeting becomes violent. My mind immediately recalled a prediction that when the executive class throws the middle class under the bus...

I reckon what I'm seeing here is that costs are slowly increasing whilst income is staying quite constant, so every year we're all a little bit poorer. The interesting thing is that those who can dictate their own incomes via the legal system seem to be gouging others... It is not a strategy I would pursue as it has no shelf life.

And, in the strangest turn of events of all: Port of Darwin: This is about more than China's economic interest. Our new overlords are flexing their muscle. Just as a reminder, the US stations 1,000 marines just out of Darwin for 6 months of every year (probably the dry season if I had to guess).

Interesting times...



11/24/15, 1:59 PM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Sorry, typo: in place of "6:25, 6:35, 6:55, 7:25, 7:55, and 09:20", I needed simply "6:25, 6:55, 7:25, 7:55, and 09:20". - I have to concede and admit that my current cummuter-train timetable obsession is turning into a rehash of (upload of Monty Python railway-timetables parody of Agatha Christie, by YouTube account-holder "Revictus13", 2007-10-09).


11/24/15, 3:02 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Oh yeah, forgot to mention what is probably obvious to you, but may get lost on others...

The councils response to the punch up in the council chambers was not to concede that they'd made a deeply unpopular decision with the local traders (who pay their wages, mind you), but to install extra security and CCTV adding even more cost to the local traders and residents. What is wrong with these people, how can they be so deaf to current events and history's lessons?

Incidentally, I reckon as well as developing brewing skills as an antidote to future turmoil, it probably isn't a bad suggestion to go and learn some martial arts training. Clearly the councillors in question would have benefitted from such skills.



11/24/15, 3:12 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I'm not too concerned about bigotry, and here's why. We've basically reached "critical mass" on tolerance on the under 30 group, even in Mississippi, even evangelicals, even on same sex marriage. It's just "the way things are" for them. The reason why they're so important is because, when we actually do get to the revolutionary part, as JMG is said, the "boots on the ground" of any revolution must come from the young. So, as a gay person in the South, I'm not concerned about bigotry when the South goes its own way again. I know the attitudes of the young people regarding race & sexuality, and they're the foot soldiers of any future revolution.
So Trump and others may be able to score points on bigotry among some in the electorate currently, but it's not a strategy with a long shelf life, precisely for the reasons JMG has alluded to in his own poor neighborhood.

11/24/15, 4:10 PM

Hello... said...
(Part 1/2)

To John Michael Greer AND Shane Wilson:

Dear John Michael Greer,
i really want to thank you for having this place. i feel so much LIGHTER since reading all the comments (although now there are MORE i must read! i love it! a total obscene EMBARRASSMENT of riches here! thank you all!) i want to thank you for having the foresight in the present moment (?) to have this. it's much needed. not in a passive gushy way, but as in you HELP SAVE LIVES way.

which brings me to continue to answer Shane Wilson on "where have all the artists gone, long time passing?"

Shane, i've talked here before of the half dozen suicides of artist friends. if you agree that artists tend to be sensitive and therefore among the screaming CANARIES of this coal mine, a lot of them couldn't have POSSIBLY made it this far. a lot of regular people who are PART of this system, and always believed in it, they're finally cracking. a lot of folks couldn't get a thick enough skin to take it. as you see, the world says you're insane for thinking out of step. and artists are taught to COURT being out of step, and the best ones learn to be outsiders and handle the pain. as long as they can.

and that's why, is so important to so many of us struggling to hold on. i wanted to check out, although in a more self-destructive way that many of us also choose as many of us wouldn't have had the confidence to pull off a successful suicide without ending up as a "lesson" on a daytime talk show, and that would be like being demoted to 'circus freak' for any serious artists.

and John Michael Greer, a lot of ARTISTS (i call anyone sensitive an "artist" here) are at a loss as to how to deal with ANY of this. no one CARES.

in fact, the very people who've put millions upon millions of people out of WORK with massive debt, the very people who've made slaves out of a city of struggling people, are considered GLOBAL HEROES. i'm talking air bnb and uber and all these companies that have made sub-contracting whores out of EVERYONE.

everyone's acting GUNG HO and one older man (60ish) just yesterday said to me at the bagel shop, "but the city's so much SAFER with gentrification."

i had to shrug because safer for WHOM? the cops get called on me ROUTINELY now when i dance to music outside my own apartment on a REGULAR BASIS now. and when i do laundry.

the poorer folks don't want to leave their homes because everyone's mean to each other now. it's OVER.

so Shane Wilson, that's also a longer answer to where are all the artists? the ones who no one knows that EVERYONE ELSE copies. the first ones. the inventors. the wackos. the ones who dare to test first.

you've gotta TRAIN for that kind of hate coming at you ALL YOUR LIFE. and now EVERYONE is TRAINED to go for the "thumbs up." kids can't even ask each other out or have an argument in person now... the ones who have the audacity to be different are getting bullied and shamed before they can even WALK with all the WATCHING and lack of privacy to be WEIRD alone. in private.


11/24/15, 5:43 PM

Hello... said...
(Part 2/2; continued from erika to John Michael Greer AND Shane Wilson...)

Shane Wilson... that is where the artists have gone and why every mainstream movie now is derived from an old comic book or rocky or star wars.

John Michael Greer... this is why i personally need your take on what's happening NOW. it's blowing my mind and i don't wanna end up feeling ALONE and freaking out and getting killed when the cops are called or another tourist to the MISSION thinks it's okay to stand 15 feet away from us while we're dancing, rudely filming us with her arm out.

it's such a hostile move, it's all i can do to not throw another iphone outta someone's hands and end up with a felony. that'd be like a botched suicide. so John Michael Greer, this is why your work is so RELEVANT. more RELEVANT than anything going practically ANYWHERE.

and i'm also at this new stage where now that i've let go and can pay attention and now that i'm USED TO this stage more, i'm finding other people who felt "insane". there's this whole other LEVEL that i used to call "mystical." ha! it's just NATURALLY PAYING TRUE ATTENTION. BEING AWAKE OF ALL THE CLUTTER! (kind word)

and back to you, Shane Wilson (great name, by the way) sound like you're ABOUT to snap in a good and beautiful way. like you got it, maybe passed through the pain of the terrifying existential crisis that follows these wake-ups. i say this because you never got cocky or rude or defensive with all the attacks from the "bottom of the boomers". i was impressed. you don't have your ego invested in what you're saying. you're starting to answer a higher VOICE. and what this community here is also about to me, is us finding each other and saying, "you're doing good--keep GOING" because more "madness" will ensue. but as james (thor) reminds me: "when you think you're crazy, just check in with the universe and you will know your answer."

and when i think i am dull, the universe shows me by placing who's left of the sensitive folks. they're not necessarily "artists" .and artists stopped being so great because of how capitalism co-opted most of us, anyhow. so we started twirling on table tops for the polite applause and forgot to court dis-favor and be COMFORTABLE with it.

i'm now used to the queasy feeling of a "right direction" for me. if i'm terrified and it feels right and scary... then i MUST check that out. it's a HABIT not to be too comfortable. like the other reader who spoke of learning to enjoy a little chill. it keeps you raw and feeling.

so snap. just make sure the bills are paid (or not) and that you have some open-minded "spotters" near you so you stay clean and don't kill anyone. (smile)
dark energies are interesting to play with and are necessary. don't fear 'em. just have someone who's also not afraid of traipsing through darkness on a regular basis.

thank you both for so many insights and inspiration.


11/24/15, 5:44 PM

latheChuck said...
Hubertus- In my opinion, you're mis-interpreting Darwin in a very common way. What Darwin actually said (paraphrased) is that some offspring survive, and some don't, depending on individual variations. Those that survive tend to propagate those variations. This is often called "survival of the fittest", and has been used (by the Eugenics Movement, for example), to suppress the reproduction of those judged as "less fit". But "fitness" doesn't mean stronger, faster, higher, smarter, or sweet smelling. It just means "surviving". The garden slug survives, though it's about as weak, slow, low, and stupid as any creature in my personal experience. The passenger pigeon did not survive, despite being strong, fast, and high-flying. The sparrow survives, T. Rex did not.

In WW-2, the National Socialists had their ideas about "fitness" in universal struggle and strength, but the Allies had their own ideas of "fitness" in cooperation, tolerance, and endurance, and some survived; some didn't. Fitness in Darwin's sense can only be assessed in hindsight.

If you're subject to the overwhelming force of an occupying army, "fitness" may lie in forgiving the enemy for his abuse, turning the other cheek, going the second mile, humility, working for peace among members of your own community, and just waiting as many generations as it takes for the occupying empire to collapse. (Of course, you may have to dodge the occasional genocide for this to pay off. In that case, fitness lies in running, hiding, and/or fighting.)

11/24/15, 6:55 PM

Marcu said...

In the interest of trying to push the comments over 400, and confirming your theory, I put forth the following. I overheard it on the radio the week. The Stonnington council need to make up a $100 000 budget shortfall, so now the inspectors are working overtime - and being more aggressive one would assume. I find it interesting that they have a target to meet with regards to parking fines... Surely the aim is to ensure that there is sufficient parking and not to generate money for the council? Yes, yes I know the answer.


11/25/15, 1:40 AM

nuku said...
@Shane Wilson,
Now that I know you are a youngish gay person living in The South, much of what you've been saying now has a context I can appreciate.
After so long living outside the USA and only reading random pieces of "news" from many sources, it is impossible for me to have first hand experience of what it feels like for a thinking/feeling person to live in a society "on the verge" of collapse. Your comments are helpful to my understanding.
Your strong desire for change/revolution, and sense of urgency, even desperation, is certainly akin to what some of my generation felt back in the early 60's.
May you not lose hope and may you channel your anger in productive directions...

11/25/15, 3:54 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
Retropia Today:

UNM-LA donates darkroom equipment to Los Alamos High School
Traditional darkroom photography skills­—developing film, printing, enlarging, and using filters—are still valuable for aspiring photographers to learn. UNM-LA recently donated a significant amount of darkroom equipment to the photography program at Los Alamos High School where 75–100 students take photography classes each semester.

11/25/15, 6:54 AM

donalfagan said...
Shane, Isn't Dylann Roof an under-30 Southerner?

Thanks to whoever posted that train comic. We needed some diversion.

I'm wondering if we'll get the race riots first, or a shooting war with Russia? I'd be interested in Dmitry Orlov's reaction to Josh at Talking Points Memo:

[[[For all the worry and Putin worship we see today, what I find most worrisome about the Russians is that I strongly suspect their readiness, expertise at military craft, hardware etc are all basically third rate. That means that when they get into confrontations with first rate military powers - the US and NATO signatories, for instance - they'll likely embarrass themselves. That's great in nationalistic terms and as comeuppance for the destructive and reckless actions Russia has been taking in recent years. But it also means, they'll be driven to save face - especially given how much nationalistic resurgence and cult of personality is central to Putin's rule. And that is especially dangerous.]]]

TPM is sounding more and more like the MSM outlets it was supposed to supplant.

11/25/15, 7:21 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Mr or Mrs or Ms or Madame or Monsieur or H&aumlaut;rra or Proua or Preili or Gospodin or Frau or Herr "Occasional Inside Information" told me yesterday, in a chat, that Vladimir Vladimirovitch tends to hide out when he smells trouble. O.I.I. cited here VV's behaviour when the sub when down in the Barents Sea some years ago, with the trapped and doomed crewmen tapping out signals on their hull for a few days, I presume until their oxygen was gone: on that occasion, sez O.I.I., VV went off to a rather remote dacha, way down south.

I pass this on for what it's worth, thinking that it might help our Kremlinologists, as we assess current events.

Perhaps someone has fresh info on VV's whereabouts? Is VV in the Kreml today?

Okay, this must be at least Comment Number 397.


(of &ecaute;migé Estonian background, living in Canada)

11/25/15, 9:58 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

11/25/15, 10:20 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
on dang, typos - meant to type Härra (Estonian formal salutation), and
additionally émigré in place of something really inept (&ecaute;migé ?)

---so this might be Number 399 .... okay, come on, folks, POST...


11/25/15, 10:30 AM

Shane Wilson said...
interesting you should mention Dylan Roof. JMG had mentioned the Oath Keepers a while back, so I googled them and visited their website. While, at the base, it could be promising, they shoot themselves in the foot by lining up with typical right wing divisiveness (supporting Kim Davis, militant pro-Christian, conspiracy NWO crap divorced from reality) You can't deny that youth is trending more non-Christian and more tolerant of LGBT and other minorities. That's the way the wind is blowing, and JMG has confirmed it in his own working class neighborhood, as have I. So I guess the Dylan Roof's of the world are the last gasps of a dying breed, and the violence is a sign of their desperation. I still don't see racism, homophobia, and evangelical intolerance being the recipe for a widespread popular movement today, particularly in the under 30 crowd. I guess the point could be made that a crisis severe enough would shake everyone, including the under 30 crowd, back to a more homophobic, racist, evangelical belief system, but I'm not convinced. JMG has mentioned that he doesn't think these are reversible trends, either.
funny you mention youngish, as I've been pondering the meaning of 40, and that the oldest of my cohort is turning 50. Funny thing regarding revolution, though, my biggest fear is that it could go the wrong way, considering JMG's admonition that revolutions aren't always better than what they replace. If I could guide any revolution in a Burkean direction, I would. The first thing the 13 colonies did way declare English common law the law of the land. Lakeland itself is downright Burkean.

11/25/15, 10:35 AM

Jen said...
@ Shane Wilson,

I am surprised to hear that the under-thirty crowd is Mississippi is so tolerant, especially the Evangelicals. While my generation (I'm 27) is certainly more tolerant than, say, my father's (he's 71), there is a very significant and very vocal segment of my former schoolmates from small town Texas that seem to delight in (verbal) gay-bashing and trans-bashing (not a day goes by that I don't see a few memes on my Facebook page directing hate at Caitlyn Jenner and/or the idea of gender-netural or gender-appropriate bathrooms for trans people), virulent anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican and anti-Black sentiment, etc. and it is growing steadily worse, not better, with reactionary backlashes becoming more popular and more open--and not just in terms of the usual jingoism, but domestically. A broad anti-discrimination ordinance was just decisively shot down in Houston, and the debate (which extended far outside the city itself) was largely focused around LGBT issues. Increasingly, these people seem to be labeling one as an enemy not just on the usual ground of identity (race, orientation, sex, etc.) but on ideological grounds--if one does not also hate Muslims/gays/women who get abortions/black "thugs" et cetera, one sort of becomes an honorary Muslim/gay/et cetera and they hate you, too, and suddenly you're depersonalized and deserve whatever you get.

These same folks are extremely pro-gun (and it's hard to be more than averagely pro-gun in Texas; I sleep with two pistols, have an entire actual glassed-in wall as a gun rack, and have already shot a couple of deer, several hogs, and many birds and small mammals for food in the last couple of months, and I am hovering at like a 3.5 on a scale of "1" to "Gun nut" in Texas). These people's reactionary rhetoric is growing in blatant (as opposed to coded) violence and gun culture is a big part of it.

I'd say that my age group from my town falls out to about 30% aggressive reactionary Right-wingers as described above, maybe 10-15% Bernie Sanders-loving Lefties (almost all of whom have moved to the cities), 30% apolitical or only desultorily political, a few Libertarian types who lean far Right but are appalled by Trump, maybe a couple of women who are for Clinton (I break this down by political party/candidate not because I put a lot of stock in those distinctions, but because that is the way most of the people I know express their political leanings).

I'm not convinced that we are going to have any kind of big revolution or re-attempt seccession, but our most volatile, vocal, well-armed, and mobilized group of young(ish) local people are definitely the Tea Party sort, and they are definitely no friend to your average queer, nor to anyone else who is not just like them.


P.S. For those who expressed interest in my Victorian reading project, inspired by this post, the full reading list is now available:

11/25/15, 10:36 AM

Yupped said...
In the quite possibly cheesy combination of lets-get-to-400 while also celebrating the spirit of the holiday, I'd like to say thanks to JMG (and the commentariat). I've been reading here for about 5 years now, and still very much look forward to Wednesday evenings. I've learned much and I've change my life much as well. Thanks JMG for all that you have done with this site, and for your other site and for your many fine books. You are much appreciated.

Have great Thanksgivings all!

11/25/15, 10:50 AM

Shane Wilson said...
leave dead SF while you still can, while there's still water to drink. Find somewhere where it's okay to be a poor artist. I might suggest one of the more "alive" parts of Appalachia. Follow in JMG's footsteps. Leave the hypocritical, status conscious left coast folks behind. Go somewhere where you can be poor and grow some food, make music, or paint, or whatever. Leave before you have to leave. I thank the gods every day that I left Calif. and am back in this place the gods have blessed, and not a moment too soon. I think you said you are a person of color--keep in mind the FLOOD of black folk moving back South to their ancestral home. You won't be alone.

11/25/15, 10:50 AM

Shane Wilson said...
I think the biggest guilt, for my generation, wasn't that we "sold out", like so many of your generation did in the 70s & 80s, but that we never rebelled in the first place. We pretty much drank the mainstream Kool Aid from the time we first pulled the lever for Bill Clinton and joined the HRC, the NGLTF, Greenpeace, etc. So, as we're hitting our 40s & 50s, we probably have a lot of guilt for unthinkingly supporting the status quo all these years, and if we can help the young folk responsible for the revolution, and guide their decisions in the right direction, that's our moral responsibility.

11/25/15, 11:30 AM

John Michael Greer said...
Okay, this is pretty impressive -- the first time the comment thread has ever gone to three sections. I don't think it's accidental that this happened in response to a post talking about the specific subject of last week's essay. Stay tuned...

11/25/15, 12:23 PM

Shane Wilson said...
wow, amazing. Different parts of the country, and different parts of even the South, must be different. I'm not experiencing that in KY. Growing up evangelical & gay, I always had a healthy fear of evangelical Christianity and working class people, and it's been refreshing to experience them differently. I must say that I agree w/JMG's experiences in his working class neighborhood regarding racial tolerance & tolerance of different sexualities. Although, I wish I had never heard of the Jenners & the Kardashians, that has nothing to do with gender identity. Don't get me wrong, coming from Kim Davis' state, I know it's still out there, but I'm not seeing what you're seeing.

11/25/15, 12:42 PM

Shane Wilson said...
I'm hoping saner minds will prevail. You've got to look at the cold, hard reality of the numbers in the South. The South has the largest African-American community, and the states with the highest percentages of African-Americans are in the South, and they're returning home to the South in record numbers. Blacks who left (or who's ancestors left) and then came back are not going anywhere, and they're not going to back down, either, not in this day & age. Not to mention that the South is home to some of the largest percentages of Latinos. Those agitating for a race war have to face the reality of what a long, bitter struggle it would be, that they're not guaranteed to win, and the fact that not even a majority of white heterosexuals would support such a thing.

11/25/15, 12:57 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Happy Thanksgiving Day to all of you here in the States, and a nice weekend to those without.

11/25/15, 4:12 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
Wow - I'm gone a couple weeks and this blog goes crazy! ;-) I've read some but not all of these comments - quite a post, JMG!- and I'm impressed with all the ideas; too many to comment on. But I wanted to wish all Happy Thanksgiving, and to say I'm thankful for this blog. Also wanted to mention that the After Oil series has been reviewed on (and I'm thrilled to have my story mentioned by name). Here's hoping that adds a few readers to the series!

11/25/15, 8:51 PM

Jen said...

I hypothesize that tensions are running higher in Texas because we have an unusually large amount of immigration and are undergoing such a demographic shift, and a lot of people I think feel existentially threatened by it, like our (white) culture is in danger of being overwhelmed and destroyed, and people get defensive and belligerent and there's this reaching back to the idea of the old, good way where men were men and women were demure and immigrants were undemanding and grateful to be here and gays didn't exist and blacks knew their place and everyone believed in God and everything ran smoothly. And I think there's this semi-unconscious idea that a lot of the symptoms and ambient gloom of living in a declining society are due to these cultural shifts, and if we reverse them, everything will become prosperous and coherent and pleasant again.

Interestingly, the worst of it seems to come from the upper, rather than the lower, classes. And I also almost never hear anything about immigrants "taking American jobs" but I hear constantly about how we have to pay more and more taxes to support them, especially in the area of healthcare, and of course generally speaking taxes are of more concern to the relatively rich, whereas jobs are of more concern to the relatively poor.

11/26/15, 4:57 AM

DVDfeels said...

I found a youtube video you might find quite interesting. CARTA:Climate and EvolutionPast and Future: Naomi Oreskes:Human Impacts:Will We Survive the Future?Here is the link. It is actually a main stream academics approach to much of what you and others of your kin speak of. I would like your thoughts? It seems the main stream is turning on to what you have spent so much of your life dedicated to. It would be nice if you would get some credit for it, but I won't hold my breath

11/29/15, 1:32 AM

nrgmiserncaz said...
No dryer, no microwave, no toaster, no electric can opener. Hand cut and split firewood. Smartphone with email access - required and paid for by my employer. It sits on the counter on weekends. 3 TV's - all circa 1990's and a combo VHS/DVD player. We read more than we watch TV. No gym membership - walk, run and lift weights in my living room. I like to pick & choose!

11/30/15, 1:33 PM

Lee said...
I'm another person that lives without a TV and microwave. I do use a smart phone, but I'm not sure that I will if I change jobs. Also, my radio/sterio is extremely simple and small. I just wanted to give another example of someone that lives without a TV. I think that my ability to live happily without one started as a child and teen when my family and I would spend a lot of time outdoors riding horses and caring for them late into the evening. Though I did watch some TV with my family, I was generally too busy.
For anyone interested in low-tech farming, especially using draft animals, The Small Farmer's Journal is a great resource that has been being published quarterly since the 70's. Rural Heritage is another good magazine that specialized in the use of draft animals as well.
Have fun reading!

11/30/15, 8:35 PM

Wendy Crim said...
I'm clearly months late to this party. We do have TV, but no cable or Netflix (because we don't have Internet.) These things have been difficult for our kids. I am "typing"/texting this on an iPhone. We go to the library when we need to use Internet for something. Honestly, I could live without the TV- I'm usually cooking or cleaning when it's on anyway- but my husband and kids still watch DVDs from the library on it and local tv channels. I actually think I will get rid of my iPhone and just get a landline. Interestingly, I said that last year at a friends house for a get-together she was having. She started lecturing me on how dangerous it is for a woman- a mother!- to not have a cell phone and "didn't I care about" my kids? How would I keep track of them? What if there was an accident? My own parents, both in their 60s, totally agreed with her. Anyway, the next day I cancelled my Facebook account and she hasn't really wanted to hang out with me since. I know I really offended everybody, which doesn't make me feel good. I'm not the worlds best communicator, I take responsibility for maybe coming off as a jerk, but I still want to get rid of this thing. Or at least not be forced to use it as a phone. Wasn't one of the perks of leaving the house back in the day, that people COULDN'T reach you?
I do actively sew. On a sewing machine. Some, but not much, by hand. I make quite a bit of what I wear, all of our curtains and window coverings, all of our napkins and rags, all of our tote bags and purses...I mend hats and socks and will sew whatever I can get my kids to agree to wear. Sometimes I get a "that's weird" from people and I've been told by first wave feminist that I could "be" or "do so much more" (never mind that I truly enjoy sewing). For the most part, I get a lot of "wow, where'd you get that?" I'm rambling here, but I think my point is, by not dressing in a prescribed way, it's a visible divorce from society. People can't tell by looking at you if you have a tv (not always) but they can tell if you're standing in front of them NOT wearing jeans and a tshirt. And by and large, people respond really well to my making and wearing different things. It is liberating, but it's also a necessity. That stuff from the stores is so expensive and falls apart so quick. Not yet bioplastic but not far off.
I still read books. Real, old books. I've read a lot of yours, JMG and a lot of gothic southern fiction. Going through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners currently. Stuff from mid 1930s has been my favorite. "Now in November" may be the best book I've ever read. Well, please excuse my ramblings. Thanks for having this blog and a comments section for us all to share. I enjoy reading the entries and the comments, both. Be well!

5/25/16, 11:25 PM