Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Season of Consequences

One of the many advantages of being a Druid is that you get to open your holiday presents four days early. The winter solstice—Alban Arthuan, to use one term for it in the old-fashioned Druid Revival traditions I practice—is one of the four main holy days of the Druid year. Though the actual moment of solstice wobbles across a narrow wedge of the calendar, the celebration traditionally takes place on December 21.  Yes, Druids give each other presents, hang up decorations, and enjoy as sumptuous a meal as resources permit, to celebrate the rekindling of light and hope in the season of darkness.

Come to think of it, I’m far from sure why more people who don’t practice the Christian faith still celebrate Christmas, rather than the solstice. It’s by no means necessary to believe in the Druid gods and goddesses to find the solstice relevant; a simple faith in orbital inclination is sufficient reason for the season, after all—and since a good many Christians in America these days are less than happy about what’s been done to their holy day, it seems to me that it would be polite to leave Christmas to them, have our celebrations four days earlier, and cover their shifts at work on December 25th in exchange for their covering ours on the 21st. (Back before my writing career got going, when I worked in nursing homes to pay the bills, my Christian coworkers and I did this as a matter of course; we also swapped shifts around Easter and the spring equinox. Religious pluralism has its benefits.)

Those of my readers who don’t happen to be Druids, but who are tempted by the prospect just sketched out, will want to be aware of a couple of details. For one thing, you won’t catch Druids killing a tree in order to stick it in their living room for a few weeks as a portable ornament stand and fire hazard. Druids think there should be more trees in the world, not fewer! A live tree or, if you must, an artificial one, would be a workable option, but a lot of Druids simply skip the tree altogether and hang ornaments on the mantel, or what have you.

Oh, and most of us don’t do Santa Claus. I’m not sure why Santa Claus is popular among Christians, for that matter, or among anyone else who isn’t a devout believer in the ersatz religion of Consumerism—which admittedly has no shortage of devotees just now. There was a time when Santa hadn’t yet been turned into a poorly paid marketing consultant to the toy industry; go back several centuries, and he was the Christian figure of St. Nicholas; and before then he may have been something considerably stranger. To those who know their way around the traditions of Siberian shamanism, certainly, the conjunction of flying reindeer and an outfit colored like the famous and perilous hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria is at least suggestive.

Still, whether he takes the form of salesman, saint, or magic mushroom, Druids tend to give the guy in the red outfit a pass. Solstice symbolism varies from one tradition of Druidry to another—like almost everything else among Druids—but in the end of the tradition I practice, each of the Alban Gates (the solstices and equinoxes) has its own sacred animal, and the animal that corresponds to Alban Arthuan is the bear. If by some bizarre concatenation of circumstances Druidry ever became a large enough faith in America to attract the attention of the crazed marketing minions of consumerdom, you’d doubtless see Hallmark solstice cards for sale with sappy looking cartoon bears on them, bear-themed decorations in windows, bear ornaments to hang from the mantel, and the like.

While I could do without the sappy looking cartoons, I definitely see the point of bears as an emblem of the winter solstice, because there’s something about them that too often gets left out of the symbolism of Christmas and the like—though it used to be there, and relatively important, too. Bears are cute, no question; they’re warm and furry and cuddlesome, too; but they’re also, ahem, carnivores, and every so often, when people get sufficiently stupid in the vicinity of bears, the bears kill and eat them.

That is to say, bears remind us that actions have consequences.

I’m old enough that I still remember the days when the folk mythology surrounding Santa Claus had not quite shed the last traces of a similar reminder. According to the accounts of Santa I learned as a child, naughty little children ran a serious risk of waking up Christmas morning to find no presents at all, and a sorry little lump of coal in their stockings in place of the goodies they expected. I don’t recall any of my playmates having that happen to them, and it never happened to me—though I arguably deserved it rather more than once—but every child I knew took it seriously, and tried to moderate their misbehavior at least a little during the period after Thanksgiving. That detail of the legend may still survive here and there, for all I know, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the big guy in red is retailed by the media these days.

For that matter, the version I learned was a pale shadow of a far more unnerving original. In many parts of Europe, when St. Nicholas does the rounds, he’s accompanied by a frightening figure with various names and forms. In parts of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, it’s Krampus—a hairy devil with goat’s horns and a long lolling tongue, who prances around with a birch switch in his hand and a wicker basket on his back. While the saint hands out presents to good children, Krampus is there for the benefit of the others; small-time junior malefactors can expect a thrashing with the birch switch, while the legend has it that the shrieking, spoiled little horrors at the far end of the naughty-child spectrum get popped into the wicker basket and taken away, and nobody ever hears from them again.

Yes, I know, that sort of thing’s unthinkable in today’s America, and I have no idea whether anyone still takes it with any degree of seriousness over in Europe. Those of my readers who find the entire concept intolerable, though, may want to stop for a moment and think about the context in which that bit of folk tradition emerged. Before fossil fuels gave the world’s industrial nations the temporary spate of abundance that they now enjoy, the coming of winter in the northern temperate zone was a serious matter. The other three seasons had to be full of hard work and careful husbandry, if you were going to have any particular likelihood of seeing spring before you starved or froze to death.

By the time the solstice came around, you had a tolerably good idea just how tight things were going to be by the time spring arrived and the first wild edibles showed up to pad out the larder a bit. The first pale gleam of dawn after the long solstice night was a welcome reminder that spring was indeed on its way, and so you took whatever stored food you could spare, if you could spare any at all, and turned it into a high-calorie, high-nutrient feast, to provide warm memories and a little additional nourishment for the bleak months immediately ahead.

In those days, remember, children who refused to carry their share of the household economy might indeed expect to be taken away and never be heard from again, though the taking away would normally be done by some combination of hunger, cold, and sickness, rather than a horned and hairy devil with a lolling tongue. Of course a great many children died anyway.  A failed harvest, a longer than usual winter, an epidemic, or the ordinary hazards of life in a nonindustrial society quite regularly put a burst of small graves in the nearest churchyard. It was nonetheless true that good children, meaning here those who paid attention, learned fast, worked hard, and did their best to help keep the household running smoothly, really did have a better shot at survival.

One of the most destructive consequences of the age of temporary abundance that fossil fuels gave to the world’s industrial nations, in turn, is the widespread conviction that consequences don’t matter—that it’s unreasonable, even unfair, to expect anyone to have to deal with the blowback from their own choices. That’s a pervasive notion these days, and its effects show up in an astonishing array of contexts throughout contemporary culture, but yes, it’s particularly apparent when it comes to the way children get raised in the United States these days.

The interesting thing here is that the children aren’t necessarily happy about that. If you’ve ever watched a child systematically misbehave in an attempt to get a parent to react, you already know that kids by and large want to know where the limits are. It’s the adults who want to give tests and then demand that nobody be allowed to fail them, who insist that everybody has to get an equal share of the goodies no matter how much or little they’ve done to earn them, and so on through the whole litany of attempts to erase the reality that actions have consequences.

That erasure goes very deep. Have you noticed, for example, that year after year, at least here in the United States, the Halloween monsters on public display get less and less frightening? These days, far more often than not, the ghosts and witches, vampires and Frankenstein’s monsters splashed over Hallmark cards and window displays in the late October monster ghetto have big goofy grins and big soft eyes. The wholesome primal terrors that made each of these things iconic in the first place—the presence of the unquiet dead, the threat of wicked magic, the ghastly vision of walking corpses, whether risen from the grave to drink your blood or reassembled and reanimated by science run amok—are denied to children, and saccharine simulacra are propped up in their places.

Here again, children aren’t necessarily happy about that. The bizarre modern recrudescence of the Victorian notion that children are innocent little angels tells me, if nothing else, that most adults must go very far out of their way to forget their own childhoods. Children aren’t innocent little angels; they’re fierce little animals, which is of course exactly what they should be, and they need roughly the same blend of gentleness and discipline that wolves use on their pups to teach them to moderate their fierceness and live in relative amity with the other members of the pack.  Being fierce, they like to be scared a little from time to time; that’s why they like to tell each other ghost stories, the more ghoulish the better, and why they run with lolling tongues toward anything that promises them a little vicarious blood and gore. The early twentieth century humorist Ogden Nash nailed it when he titled one of his poems “Don’t Cry, Darling, It’s Blood All Right.”

Traditional fairy tales delighted countless generations of children for three good and sufficient reasons. First of all, they’re packed full of wonderful events. Second, they’re positively dripping with gore, which as already noted is an instant attraction to any self-respecting child. Third, they’ve got a moral—which means, again, that they are about consequences. The selfish, cruel, and stupid characters don’t get patted on the head, given the same prize as everyone else, and shielded from the results of their selfishness, cruelty, and stupidity; instead, they get gobbled up by monsters, turned to stone by witches’ curses, or subjected to some other suitably grisly doom. It’s the characters who are honest, brave, and kind who go on to become King or Queen of Everywhere.

Such things are utterly unacceptable, according to the approved child-rearing notions of our day. Ask why this should be the case and you can count on being told that expecting a child to have to deal with the consequences of its actions decreases it’s self-esteem. No doubt that’s true, but this is another of those many cases where people in our society manage not to notice that the opposite of one bad thing is usually another bad thing. Is there such a thing as too little self-esteem? Of course—but there is also such a thing as too much self-esteem. In fact, we have a common and convenient English word for somebody who has too much self-esteem. That word is “jerk.”

The cult of self-esteem in contemporary pop psychology has thus produced a bumper crop of jerks in today’s America. I’m thinking here, among many other examples, of the woman who made the news a little while back by strolling right past the boarding desk at an airport, going down the ramp, and taking her seat on the airplane ahead of all the other passengers, just because she felt she was entitled to do so. When the cabin crew asked her to leave and wait her turn like everyone else, she ignored them; security was called, and she ignored them, too. They finally had to drag her down the aisle and up the ramp like a sack of potatoes, and hand her over to the police. I’m pleased to say she’s up on charges now.

That woman had tremendous self-esteem. She esteemed herself so highly that she was convinced that the rules that applied to everyone else surely couldn’t apply to her—and that’s normally the kind of attitude you can count on from someone whose self-esteem has gone up into the toxic-overdose range. Yet the touchstone of excessive self-esteem, the gold standard of jerkdom, is the complete unwillingness to acknowledge the possibility that actions have consequences and you might have to deal with those, whether you want to or not.

That sort of thing is stunningly common in today’s society. It was that kind of overinflated self-esteem that convinced affluent liberals in the United States and Europe that they could spend thirty years backing policies that pandered to their interests while slamming working people face first into the gravel, without ever having to deal with the kind of blowback that arrived so dramatically in the year just past. Now Britain is on its way out of the European Union, Donald Trump is mailing invitations to his inaugural ball, and the blowback’s not finished yet. Try to point this out to the people whose choices made that blowback inevitable, though, and if my experience is anything to go by, you’ll be ignored if you’re not shouted down.

On an even greater scale, of course, there’s the conviction on the part of an astonishing number of people that we can keep on treating this planet as a combination cookie jar to raid and garbage bin to dump wastes in, and never have to deal with the consequences of that appallingly shortsighted set of policies. That’s as true in large swathes of the allegedly green end of things, by the way, as it is among the loudest proponents of smokestacks and strip mines. I’ve long since lost track of the number of people I’ve met who insist loudly on how much they love the Earth and how urgent it is that “we” protect the environment, but who aren’t willing to make a single meaningful change in their own personal consumption of resources and production of pollutants to help that happen.

Consequences don’t go away just because we don’t want to deal with them. That lesson is being taught right now on low-lying seacoasts around the world, where streets that used to be well above the high tide line reliably flood with seawater when a high tide meets an onshore wind; it’s being taught on the ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica, which are moving with a decidedly un-glacial rapidity through a trajectory of collapse that hasn’t been seen since the end of the last ice age; it’s being taught in a hundred half-noticed corners of an increasingly dysfunctional global economy, as the externalized costs of technological progress pile up unnoticed and drag economic activity to a halt; and of course it’s being taught, as already noted, in the capitals of the industrial world, where the neoliberal orthodoxy of the last thirty years is reeling under the blows of a furious populist backlash.

It didn’t have to be learned that way. We could have learned it from Krampus or the old Santa Claus, the one who was entirely willing to leave a badly behaved child’s stocking empty on Christmas morning except for that single eloquent lump of coal; we could have learned it from the fairy tales that taught generations of children that consequences matter; we could have learned it from any number of other sources, given a little less single-minded a fixation on maximizing self-esteem right past the red line on the meter—but enough of us didn’t learn it that way, and so here we are.

I’d therefore like to encourage those of my readers who have young children in their lives to consider going out and picking up a good old-fashioned collection of fairy tales, by Charles Perrault or the Brothers Grimm, and use those in place of the latest mass-marketed consequence-free pap when it comes to storytelling time. The children will thank you for it, and so will everyone who has to deal with them in their adult lives. Come to think of it, those of my readers who don’t happen to have young children in their lives might consider doing the same thing for their own benefit, restocking their imaginations with cannibal giants and the other distinctly unmodern conveniences thereof, and benefiting accordingly.

And if, dear reader, you are ever tempted to climb into the lap of the universe and demand that it fork over a long list of goodies, and you glance up expecting to see the jolly and long-suffering face of Santa Claus beaming down at you, don’t be too surprised if you end up staring in horror at the leering yellow eyes and lolling tongue of Krampus instead, as he ponders whether you’ve earned a thrashing with the birch switch or a ride in the wicker basket—or perhaps the great furry face of the Solstice bear, the beast of Alban Arthuan, as she blinks myopically at you for a moment before she either shoves you from her lap with one powerful paw, or tears your arm off and gnaws on it meditatively while you bleed to death on the cold, cold ground.

Because the universe doesn’t care what you think you deserve. It really doesn’t—and, by the way, the willingness of your fellow human beings to take your wants and needs into account will by and large be precisely measured by your willingness to do the same for them.

And on that utterly seasonal note, I wish all my fellow Druids a wonderful solstice; all my Christian friends and readers, a very merry Christmas; and all my readers, whatever their faith or lack thereof, a rekindling of light, hope, and sanity in a dark and troubled time.


Brian said...
A Solstice / early Christmas present - the Report, early in the day! I couldn't have asked for anything nicer. Thanks for this and all your writing throughout the year, John. Happy Solstice to you and yours, and a blessed new year.

12/21/16, 11:49 AM

Ryan M said...
As a high school teacher, I see this every day. Bad grades are never the fault of the student, detentions earned are as a result of mere misunderstandings, failing a class is a profoundly difficult thing to do... As a society, we are in desperate need of parents willing to stop shielding their children from consequences. It is indeed time to bring back Krampus...

12/21/16, 11:56 AM

Stuart Jeffery said...
Alban Arthan blessings to you too and thank you for your continued pearls of wisdom.
Stuart /|\

12/21/16, 12:06 PM

Bob said...
My favourite holiday tale was The Happy Prince.

12/21/16, 12:19 PM

Ed-M said...


"The selfish, cruel, and stupid characters don’t get patted on the head, given the same prize as everyone else, and shielded from the results of their selfishness, cruelty, and stupidity; instead, they get gobbled up by monsters, turned to stone by witches’ curses, or subjected to some other suitably grisly doom. It’s the characters who are honest, brave, and kind who go on to become King or Queen of Everywhere."

Yes, those fairy tales DO tell a moral. But it seems that now real life teaches the exact opposite -- the selfish, stupid and cruel characters get to be king or queen of Everywhere; and once they get the golden ring, become the very monsters who get to devour the honest, brave and kind to boot!

12/21/16, 12:29 PM

Wes Loder said...
I am reminded of the coming of the ogres to the high mesas of the Hopi Nation each February. Black or white, they have huge toothy jaws and carry long saws and other threatening tools. Days before their arrival children are warned: boys must catch mice—as many as they can; girls must grind corn—as fine as they can. If not the ogres will take then away. The day comes and a gathering of Kachinas appear: Ogres and others, some with baskets on their backs. No matter how many mice the boys have caught, it is never enough. No matter how fine the corn meal, it is never fine enough. The ogres also seem to have a detailed knowledge of all the many misbehaviors each child has committed. Screaming in fear, the children are dragged toward the baskets. Then, at the last moment, a parent or family member interferes. "The children have really tried; their behavior has improved … Would the kachinas please accept a gift of mutton, fresh-baked bread, corn meal bread instead? The Kachinas reluctantly agree and load the baskets with the alternative offerings.
Later the adults will "trick" the ogres out of their prizes and the goods will come back. Perhaps as gifts to a needy family, perhaps back to the family.
The behavior lesson has been learned: work hard, do your job, and your family and community in the end will care for you and protect you.
The Winter Solistice, of course is the day that the first Kachinas reappear on the mesas after nearly half a year away in their on world. My wife and I were on Second Mesa when the Ogres came for the children. The children were really and truly terrified, but love of family prevailed,and we all learned a lesson that day. Cheers, WES

12/21/16, 1:06 PM

DaShui said...
Along with Kek, Krampus seems to be making a comeback:

Best wishes 4 Alban Arthuan!

12/21/16, 1:11 PM

artinnature said...
I hope you all planted your garlic two months ago. Around here garlic is typically planted about two months before the winter solstice, and by about two months after, it starts growing like crazy...I like that. Also, we usually dig (and re-plant for next year) horseradish roots around the winter solstice. If you don't plan ahead there will be garlic or horseradish!

My copy of Retrotopia arrived yesterday! I'm sure my wife will devour it before I get a chance to re-read.

Happy winter solstice to all!

Cheers from Cascadia

12/21/16, 1:16 PM

Tommy said...
Happy first day of Yule.
I would have to raise kids with the same stories I learned. The Brothers Grimm, Bulfinch, Aesop, and the Edda would be a strong base. I know Snow-White and Rose-Red by heart along with Cinderella. All with the cutting off of toes and crows pecking out of eyes intact. I would also have to include the Gullah stories of Br'ers Fox, Rabbit and Bear. Never shall the Disney versions be promoted. Euclid would probably be in there but I would want that to start teaching reason.

12/21/16, 1:30 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Thank you for that. As a grandmother, I often find myself needing to bite my tongue(after having said my say once) about the toxic mixture of overprotection, overscheduling, and downright letting the little ones get away with murder that seem to be today's norm in Affluenzia. I am about to send one of my 12-year-old grandsons the Lord of the Rings trilogy, his mother having finally decided he's not too sensitive for it. (His brother will be getting Bad Arguments.) Their cousins are somewhat tougher, I'm happy to say.

OTH - something quite similar was said about the Greatest Generation in its day. There was an article in American Gunsmith, I think in 1939, calling them a bunch of wussy mama's boys who couldn't do a blessed thing with their hands, etc. So there is hope yet.

12/21/16, 1:36 PM

Charles DeYoe said...
I'm a regular reader of this blog and Well of Galabes though I normally don't post comments but I have to say this post put a twisted grin on my face. Really your past three posts have all been knocking it out of the park even more so than usual!

Part of my pre-winter reading has been The Krampus and The Old, Dark Christmas by Al Ridenour, which is a great book with krampus folklore. Krampus is pretty popular with young people these days: there are Krampuses all over the internet, they make krampus sweaters, krampus Christmas ornaments, and a major Hollywood movie called Krampus. Similarly, there's been a trend with movies towards making "gritty reboots" of fairy tales (e.g. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters or Snow White and the Huntsman). Those movies might actually be more "safe" and sanitized than the original stories and certainly most of them are terrible, but I think it reflects a certain cultural awareness. On an unconscious level, people are still aware that the old, dark stories have a weight and significance that can rise up through the years to have an impact.

I've been studying astrology in 2016 and I'm thinking about how today marks the entrance of the Sun into Capricorn and so the season of Saturn will be here until February. Saturn as a god of consequences would certainly approve of Krampus, the Yule Cat, or any of the other "dark" figures of Christmas.

Now to read the other blog's update! Two JMG posts in one day feels like a solstice present to me!

12/21/16, 1:56 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
Re: Santa Claus, the Finnish film "Rare Exports" has another take on him, perhaps mythologically and culturally retaled to Krampus. The Finnish name for the Santa character, Joulupukki, translates as "Yule goat" and clearly reflects a different nature for him in earlier times...

On our mantle, the yule goats are pulling a sled filled with presents while Thor skijors along behind, in keeping with some Norse pagan traditions. White beard, red beard, reindeer, goat, otherwise not a lot of difference

Re: Trees, druids might not sacrifice and glorify one for Yule but many other central and northern European pagans did.

Another aspect of Yule that I find significant is the understanding that though the hardest and leanest times are ahead of us, the light has already begun growing, inexorable and inevitable, and the coming of spring is guaranteed. I have wondered if this part of the holiday is the reason the Christians adopted it for the nativity celebration, regardless of its entirely non-christian nature in every other way and its calendrical incorrectness (shepherds abide their flocks in the fields overnight in lambing season in early spring, not in winter).

And finally, astronomical note, it is axial tilt, not orbital inclination, that is the reason for the season!

12/21/16, 2:21 PM

Herbert Pagg said...
As for turnings of the year, they are celebrated in one form or another even if they aren't explicitly mentioned in any of the holy scriptures. Iran, where islam was added to the country (it doesn't owe its existence to islam as Pakistan, nor is it an Arabic-Islamic melange like Egypt) celebrates these turnings of the year - at this time of the year, Iranians prepare to celebrate Yalda, the longest night, which marks the birth of Mithra, God of Sun and Fidelity. A sleepless night of joy. An when spring equinox comes, there'll be Nowrouz ('new light' - new year, as spring arrives) with all its festivities. The Quran doesn't mention anything about these rites at all, but they are celebrated in a republic with islam as state religion (Ayatollah Khomeini didn't like it and it is rumored he wanted to abolish the tradition when he returned to Iran, but had to bow to pressure from mullahs who basically said the people would never bow to do without those traditions ).

Of course, Islam is a religion, not a culture nor a civilisation. People with different cultures & civilizations could be Muslims (Turks, Indians, etc), just as Icelanders and Brazilians are Christians without sharing many customs. In the case of Iran the Iranians kept their culture and language, islam is part of national identity along with other ingredients and not all of it. Thus even older traditions are celebrated - and the fact they kept on to celebrate the turnings of the year says something about its importance and power. I wish you well in this turning too.

12/21/16, 2:35 PM

Justin said...
Interesting - and I'll add the reminder to make sure that your copy of Grimm's fairy tales isn't bowdlerized!

It's worth considering that the Grimm brothers were collectors and editors of folklore, not original authors and that the stories that the Grimm brothers were telling were very old indeed.

For those who have time, this video is an explanation about the layers of meaning within a very old piece of folklore - I'd love to see Jordan Peterson explain the Brother Grimm. A fair bit of warning, watching Jordan Peterson videos leads to watching more Jordan Peterson videos.

12/21/16, 2:57 PM

Sylvia Rissell said...
Thank you for the seasonal report!

Here is my theory (completely without any data to back it up) as to why coal is out of fashion:

100 to 150 years ago, coal was a common fuel for stoves. If 'Santa' can't be bothered to bring a toy for a naughty child, it wasn't that hard to reach over to the coal bin and grab a couple of lumps.

The coal stove is now a museum-object in today's North America.

I suggest that the modern equivalent item for the naughty child's stocking is JUNK MAIL. It can be had by the basket-full in any modern house, and won't take up any room in 'Santa's' sack.

Now I am wondering if I know any children who DESERVE junk mail...

12/21/16, 2:59 PM

Adam Jarvis said...
Kia ora John,

A jaunty sax is playing outside in town on this beautiful midsummer's day. My partner and I observed the solstice yesterday by doubling down on our usual evening habits of silliness and laughter. The family will get together to feast this Sunday, probably to be accompanied by a glass of white wine and the odd call of 'Merry Christmas'.

I've commented here before about the absurdity of holding to Northern traditions down here in Aotearoa, and won't revisit that except to say that behind the glitzy veneer of commercialism, the traditions are gradually evolving into more appropriate forms. The tree of the season is rapidly becoming not the felled spruce, but the twisted, hairy, stunningly beautiful pohutekawa tree in its full gorgeous red bloom. I imagine once the imported commercial detritus necessarily washes away, we'll find ourselves left with a tradition much more appropriate to the season.

Like so many abroad, I've been looking on recent events with a certain degree of interest. I'm the sort of person that, since a very early age, has loved to soak up ideas and information like a sponge. I take a certain degree of pride in my ability to sift through the noise, listen to a variety of viewpoints, think deeply and change my mind several times before coming to some degree of principled perspective on an issue. However, in the lead up to the election, I had only succeeded in confusing myself totally. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I still have no idea how I might have voted in your election. To go further, I'm unsure about what my wider course of action might be where I living under similar circumstances in the US. In the face of (true) chaos, I've come to appreciate the limits of my analytical and predictive abilities. Counter-intuitively, this has been extremely freeing. No longer do I waste my time as Maud'dib, attempting in my arrogance to thread the needle of unfolding events. Instead, I focus my attention on the world around me - the wind speaks, the ground is firm, the trees are of such wonderous and largely undiscovered beauty, and there are signs that the Pākehā, largely dormant since their translocation from Europe, are beginning to sprout new growth. There's a serenity there, and it's much more useful information in any case.

We're aided of course: by our isolation, by the language and culture of our indigenous people, by our productive land, and the excellent insulation of mid latitude ocean - but after long years of being quite depressed by the whole thing, I'm beginning to get the sense that after the rubble stops bouncing, someone coming down from your way might just find a relatively healthy and thriving people who've quietly shelved the Northern ways, and are steadily plotting their own. Maybe not. But who knows?

Tehei Mauri Ora!

12/21/16, 3:02 PM

avalterra said...
Happy Solstice JMG! I can't wait for your yearly predictions!

12/21/16, 3:04 PM

dragonfly said...
Thanks for this piece about Ursa and Krampus. If only I'd gotten more coal and switching I'd be a better woman today.

12/21/16, 3:15 PM

Old Professor said...
Dear JMG

First, Happy Solstice to you and your family.

The warming of the arctic and resultant ice melt in the last few years seems to have occurred much faster than expected. Soon, Santa will have to move from the North Pole! Seriously, the end of ice up there surely is an ominous sign.

12/21/16, 3:31 PM

Wandering Sage said...
And a happy solstice back at you JMG.
thanks for everything you do.
wishing you much peace,

12/21/16, 3:31 PM

Glenn said...
For the last two or three years, Krampus themed posts have been pretty common on Facebook. Used mostly for comedic effect, but those posting seem pretty knowledgeable about his complete role. It may be a sign of the times.

I rather like Tolkien's reference to Andrew Lang's description of children in Tolkien's essay on Faerie Tales. "Children are innocent and prefer justice, while adults are not innocent and prefer mercy". The sub-meaning of ignorant or inexperienced seems implied in this use of "innocent" to me. I agree with him, as a child I had a very powerful sense of justice, as have my own children.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

12/21/16, 3:50 PM

Clay Dennis said...
I am very thankful to have had an upbringing on a sheep ranch where I was exposed ( and mentored) by a collection of crusty old time characters. Most memorable was a fellow that my father knew who would come down from his cabin in the mountains of Montana to "Shepherd " the lambing season in January and February. With 500 ewes this was a considerable undertaking and took at least one person on duty around the clock. This fellow, I will call him Jim, was not at all thankful about forcing me at a young age to confront the reality of the natural world. It would horrify most modern folk to make a young kid cut a lamb from the womb of a doomed mother sheep , or bury the dead sheep that had expired the night before . I was not happy about such things, nor did I get used to them but it grounded me in the reality of the world. In addition to the lesson that actions have consequences the other lesson is that there is often only two bad choices but one is much worse than the other and survival demands making the right one.

12/21/16, 3:54 PM

jeffinwa said...
Thanks John for sharing a real solstice message with teeth, sharp pointy ones with dripping stuff and some growls.
I know I'm a better person for having read Brothers Grimm and other such when I was young; the message was clear and easily understood. Krampus would have been icing on the cake to offset the saccharine of santa. Fire burning tonight and burnt some sage.

12/21/16, 4:00 PM

David Henry said...
What a wonderful post to read, happy solstice to you JMG and all the readers!

As a practicing Christian (United Methodist), I've long assumed that we (Christians) were kind of really celebrating solstice by another name since I've heard that Dec. 25 is when people can actually tell that it's started to get lighter. Living here in Fairbanks Alaska we tend to celebrate the solstice with more gusto than most and some of us do 108 sun salutations at a local yoga studio, very happy to welcome the sun back for more than 4 hours a day.

The mention of a bear as a solstice symbol surprised me, since at least in my neck of the woods they are all hibernating this time of year. Maybe where this tradition arose had bears that were active throughout the winter? Or perhaps it extolls the virtues of hibernation?

I found your post this week so wonderful because I'm not quite sure what to do with what Christmas has become. We usually fly out of state to visit family, partly because tickets are often cheaper on Dec. 24, but partly because Christmas Eve services are overwhelmed with people you see once or perhaps twice each year. Considering that it's mostly become a consumer celebration, just giving it up, or having it turn into something radically different, like going back to its solstice roots, might not be such a bad thing.

12/21/16, 4:00 PM

Repent said...
Shocking, I almost feel like reading this was like a well deserved and postponed spanking.

Your right of course about Christmas no longer being the event of even a quarter century ago. The schools stopped calling the Xmas break as such, and now it is just the winter break. At what used to be a Xmas concert at my kids school, they instead provided a Winter around the world set up, with a cultural focus on Nigeria. (I was shocked)

There is also the famous 1988 painting of Santa Claus crucified:

Which reminds those who truly are Christian of who really got crucified for bringing peace to the minds of men. (It wasn't Santa) All of the politically correct Christmas carols that are allowed to be played on the radio are of the genre of -I saw Santa kissing mommy underneath the tree, ect, and these are a far cry from the traditional old We three kings type of sincere Christian songs; which contain verses like:

Myrrh is mine; it’s bitter perfume;
Breathes a life of gathering gloom: —
Sorrowing, sighing,
Bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb. Chorus

The Solstice is a more joyous event as you say, the days are getting lighter again!

12/21/16, 4:24 PM

kayr said...
I love the Solstice holiday. Watching the sun light disappear then come back. Very cool.

I also long ago dispensed with a Christmas tree and I hang my collection of ornaments from circle of wood with strings running across the inside to provide a place to hang the ornaments. I have decorated the rim with artificial greenery, flowers and fruit and wee blinking lights. The ornaments hang at various lengths, so it makes quite a cool looking 3-d hanging for the holiday season. My modest attempt at simplifying the holidays. Happy holidays everyone.

12/21/16, 4:27 PM

M Smith said...
What a splendid gift that only JMG could bring!

I get lost in some of the technically oriented posts and comments, but I can surely relate to this. Those Grimm's stories terrified me, and it wasn't witches or poisoned apples or talking wolves in gingham dresses - I knew those things didn't exist. It was the existence of a parent who would tell the other parent to take the children into the woods and leave them to die, and have that command carried out. I had no reason to believe those didn't exist, and not just in the hell that was medieval Europe either. Several news stories a week prove me right.

Where to start with the self-esteem? That woman on the plane had way too much self-esteem and no self-respect. Self-esteem says, "I am special just 'cause I'm ME! I can do no wrong, just 'cause I'm ME! I deserve what I want, just 'cause I'm ME!" Self-respect says, "I know the difference between right and wrong, and I love myself, my life, and those around me so much that I choose right."

It's hard to pick my favorite idea from among all those presented in this very re-readable post, but it might be: "the willingness of your fellow human beings to take your wants and needs into account will by and large be precisely measured by your willingness to do the same for them." I just got a visit from an entitled young man who thinks I should still give him gifts, money and a restaurant dinner like I did for years when he was a boy, even though he's 19 now and has chosen to hang with thugs, has brought trouble to my door, and does nothing to intervene when trouble inevitably demands money from me and retaliates when turned down. No adoration this time: this dumb saltine kept on doing my chores in my dirty housekeeping clothes though I did talk to him civilly, then drove him home without so much as a Value Meal. I'm still angry that I was taken by surprise by his visit and didn't tell him briefly and clearly why he is no longer allowed on my property either, just like his thug friends. I don't even care to try to set him straight. He already knows it all.

It's not just ThePoor. Why should a suburban "single mom" have to stress her selfish self out by setting boundaries and imposing punishments when she can just claim ADHD and drug the kid senseless? Who cares what happens to so many of them when they get to be about 20-22 years old and snap violently and irrevocably? He was cramping her "Me! Time" with her latest "fiancé".

12/21/16, 4:38 PM

Tom Bannister said...
Ahh so many things I could say here.

Good points about Santa Claus, Christmas trees and even the day of New Year. Here in the southern hemisphere, these things look even more peculiar since its summer at this time of year. I guess Christmas will eventually be replaced here by something more seasonally appropriate, or even a change in our calendar. (having spring at the start of the year makes wayyy more sense than having the height of summer and autum at the start of the year). There are calls to make the Maori new year (Matariki) a Public holiday (roughly May June here). this link will explain Matariki.

I guess for me since my family are still fairly recently migrated to this part of the world, Christmas still feels like an important gesture to our norther hemisphere ancestry. And Christmas still wouldn't be the same for some reason without trees (live trees, that fresh smell of pine needles!) and Santa. In my defense though I have Ancestry in Lapland, the home of Father Christmas!

As for your points about fairy tales, well I'd say you don't even look in fairy tales to know your actions have consequences. Plenty of Hollywood films (and TV shows) these days are constant rehashes of old fairy tale plots. We watch the film, we're like "oh yes its so terrible what happened, those people got what they deserved" and then forget and go back to our environment destroying, soul destroying jobs and ways of life. If you try and point this out, you'll just get a response of 'oh but fairy tales are silly stories for kids, that doesn't apply to me' or something like that.

Anyway Merry Christmas, or Happy solstice. Whichever you prefer.

12/21/16, 4:55 PM

Jerome Purtzer said...
JMG-great post as always. I guess retail sales this year, excluding cars, are down for the 2nd year. It isn't for lack of trying. Equating the merry with the money and the inability to deliver it seems to be a good metaphor for out industrial society. Is it Diminishing EROI as postulated by The Hills Group or are we just running out of gas? Perhaps the Red Queen just needs some Reindeer or a 427 with leaded fuel.

12/21/16, 5:01 PM

Tom Bannister said...
I'll just say too, the behavior of that women you just described is a fairy good summary of how Americans are stereotypicaly viewed by the rest of the world (not that the rest of the industrial world is a lot better, but just sayin).

12/21/16, 5:05 PM

PRiZM said...
Bravo! In recent weeks I noticed an increase in the amount of Krampus stories compared with prior Christmases. It reminded me of your own stated connection with the god, and I wondered if you'd make any reference to him this year. This year, I think he's taught you a lot! Thanks for sharing it with us.

The analogy of our consequences of our choices resulting in, in modern times, no discipline is exactly the same thing I see, and have felt. People are completely disconnected from reality. Unfortunately, while the desire to know our limits may be in born, it really doesn't take long for people build up their esteem and think they can and should get away with anything. Upon reaching adulthood, it often requires quite a few reality checks to get reconnected with reality. The coming decades will probably bare many tokens reality checks that have been given with less of the privileges we are afforded today. If I could make one solstice request of everyone, despite the fact that many will be ignored or even shouted down, I'd like to ask the brave to become messengers of reality in hopes that there are less tokens of privilege dotting the hills in the coming decades.

12/21/16, 5:12 PM

Cortes said...
A lovely essay. Thanks.

As a resident at 55.5N, sunrise 0845 sunset 1543 today (well yesterday), cheering tales and Vitamin D supplements are needed.

Roughly 20 years ago I took my daughter into the city centre for a little wander and happened upon a movie which I think is probably the most beautiful and intelligent film made in Hollywood since the 1970s. The reworking of the Cinderella story, with Drew Barrymore starring left me utterly enthralled. You and any commenters will have your own views, of course, should you care to watch it.

About a quarter of the way through the film the combination of a longish walk , a full tummy and the warmth of the cinema zonked the Cortesita out...

Onwards to the sunlit uplands of summer!

12/21/16, 5:21 PM

John Michael Greer said...
I'll start by wishing a happy Alban Arthuan to all, and especially to those who wished me and mine the same. Thank you, everyone, for your encouragement.

Ryan, true enough. BRING BACK KRAMPUS would make a nice button...

Bob, I don't think I know that one. Any hints!

Ed-M, no, not quite first. ;-) The thing to keep in mind is that life has always been like that. Here's your theme for reflection -- why does it still make sense to read and tell stories that have morals?

Wes, no wonder the Hopi are still around! Thanks for the story.

DaShui, Krampus and Kek -- now there's a pairing!

Artinnature, good. Yes, it works even -- or especially -- in simple ways such as those.

Tommy, an excellent collection! Yes, the Gullah originals of the Bre'r Rabbit et al. tales are excellent -- and yes, Disney is the anti-Midas as far as I'm concerned; everything that company touches turns to excrement.

Patricia, oh, I think the kids can grow out of it, especially when they tumble out of the nest and find themselves enrolled in that ancient and honorable institution, the School of Hard Knocks. It's the parents who irritate me.

Charles, glad to hear it. The more Krampus, the better. In fact, I think it's past time for a Krampus carol or two:

Krampus the Yuletide devil
Used to stalk the winter night,
And if you ever saw him,
You would wet yourself in fright.
All of the ill-bred children
Used to pester poor St. Nick;
They'd whine and shriek and snivel
'Til they made the old elf sick!
Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say,
"Krampus, with your birchen slats,
Won't you flog those puling brats?"
Then all the children feared him,
And they shouted out in dread,
"Krampus the Yuletide devil,
We'll be good and go to bed!"

Yeah, I know, politically incorrect. Sometimes I can't help myself. ;-)

12/21/16, 5:22 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bill, of course you're right; momentary brain cramp. I should have said "axial inclination."

Herbert, I'd heard of Nawroz (the spelling I'd encountered) but not of Yalda -- thanks for this!

Justin, true enough. Thanks for the link!

Sylvia, excellent! You get tonight's Krampus's Little Helper award. ;-)

Adam, I'm glad to hear it. The peoples of the European diaspora that survive the unraveling of the industrial world face the hard task of becoming indigenous -- not a simple thing or a fast one, that, and it usually involves a lot of pain. I hope the Paheka population manages it with as little of the latter as possible.

Dragonfly, true of most of us, I think.

Professor, it is indeed. I'll have a climate change update post down the road a bit, and it won't be easy reading.

Glenn, good! That's from "On Fairy-Stories," if I recall correctly -- a very good essay by a man who knew the fairy tale tradition better, perhaps, than anyone else in his century.

Clay, those are crucial lessons and you're fortunate to have learned them.

David, I'm not at all sure about the bears -- they've been gone from northwestern Europe for so long I don't know if anyone recalls if they hibernated or not.

Repent, thank you. I try to wield the birch switch with vigor! I agree with you wholeheartedly about the loathesome pseudocarols and the erasure of tradition. For all that I'm a Druid, I appreciate the traditional carols that have to do with, ahem, Christ.

Kayr, nice. That sounds as though it would do very nicely.

12/21/16, 5:32 PM

Sheila Grace said...
As always, thank you.
We realized “that” three years ago, and set ourselves free from the consumerist happy holidays madhouse. After reading your post we’ll go outside under clear skies and zillions of stars, light the fire and spend time being grateful for nudging this property and ourselves; to act in concert with Nature and the Universe – not against it. Our presents to one another run the altruistic line, and we stand our ground in our position; starve the Monster, it’s going down anyway, so again, we might as well work with the energies at hand.
I’ve had the experience (strangely enough)to find myself on a side road, next to an old cemetery in upstate NY, and have found the occasion to walk around in them while waiting for a timely appointment at some nearby organic farm, and they are filled with the graves of children.
Just before I started reading tonight’s post we got into a conversation about how Newt Gingrich asked the Donald ‘when was he intending to drain the swamp?’. The response was ‘that was just a silly slogan; we’re not doing that anymore’. Huh. I wondered out loud how some of his voters were going to take that news, and especially after four years of what will probably be the latest grifter to occupy the white house, which will end up looking like more hope and change. The fact of the matter is, there’s nowhere else to go, no enemy to vanquish, no dragons to slay – the only enemy has been and still is - our own Entropy - and god knows anyone who has tasted the fruits of full blown Entropic living and all its trappings won’t give that up if their lives depended upon it – oh wait.
Krampus already gave me my switching after 2008, around 2012 when I had to file bankruptcy, and then I woke up and haven’t stopped reading since. As a last ditch effort we’re reducing our Entropy in every way we can, kind of a present of sorts for a whole lot of sleeping children that probably don’t deserve it.
Reducing our Entropy does matter, it matters to me and matters to Will and every being on this property. So tonight when we light the fire we’ll raise a toast to Toby Hemenway, Author of Gaia’s Garden, who passed away yesterday of pancreatic and liver cancer.
Peace and a blessed Solstice

12/21/16, 5:46 PM

Hubertus Hauger said...
What I see here, is a rather complicated and conflicting story.

Truly, that ritual feast was enriched with pedagogic figures, to bring in ritually the offspring into line. Like St. Nicolas’s second, the “Krampus” threatening or even beating the little ruffians. So ritual does mirror the habit of daily life. While the rough tradition reflects a past, where times were as rough too, contemporarily its softened quite to an extend. In life and in ritual. True so!

But I may bring to memory, that here justice is not the ruling party. Contradictory, in reality the dutiful and gentle do not inherit the earth! Instead there is an ever going battle ensured between the mild-mannered and the ruffians. So the “though guys” get their good share in that jealous struggle. I remember lots of stories of crying injustice due to the favouritism of the sassy ones in favour of the shy ones. Not to speak of what I myself, considering my as an adaptor, being neglected for queue-jumpers.

Connected here with are the pedagogic reformists. They tried to avoid such favouritism system, treating grownups equally positive in order to bring up the best in each one of them. A well meant intention.

Yet I cannot, but agree to the overall picture. We all enter into a level of the feast, where we are confronted with the consequences of our wasteful party. After the hangover we shall enter the purgatory of our afterlife. The hangover now is just the beginning of a worldwide frugal existence. We are already full speed in compulsory catabolic collapse and simplification of life. We are headed to a non-fossil future whether we’re ready or not.

Still there will be no justice, as people, classes and regions will be favourably privileged before others.

Things will be as they ever were. Complicated. Our rituals just give it the look as if order prevails. But its only a cover of the chaos behind the curtain.

12/21/16, 5:48 PM

Bob said...

The Happy Prince is a story by Oscar Wilde. It's protagonists are a swallow and a statue. The version I saw dates from 1974. The original book is called The Happy Prince, and other stories.

12/21/16, 5:55 PM

John Michael Greer said...
M Smith, the difference between self-esteem and self-respect, as you've hinted, comes down to the focus of love. Do you love anyone or anything else in the world more than you love yourself? If so, there's probably a point to your existence...

Tom, the thing that interests me is that the more obviously the bills are coming due, the more shrill the insistence that this can't be happening. Cognitive dissonance? Maybe, but I'm wondering if there's more to it than that.

Jerome, I think it's partly diminishing net energy and partly the accumulation of externalized costs in the economy as a whole. One way or another, yeah, we're skidding down the slope at an accelerating pace...

Prizm, good. "Messengers of Reality" is a good useful label, too.

Cortes, me, I'd rather read the book. But to each their own!

Sheila, I'm sorry to hear of that. I learned a fair amount from his book. Thanks for passing on the news.

Hubertus, of course life will be unfair. It always is. Your assignment is to explain why teaching morals by way of fairy tales still makes sense -- as it does.

12/21/16, 6:00 PM

M Smith said...
Or, to tie together Santa Claus, red-meter-level self-esteem, and consequences:

Now just 'cause you think you're so pretty
And just 'cause you think you're so hot
Just 'cause you think you got somethin'
Nobody else has got....

Babe, you're spendin' all my money
You laugh and call me Old Santa Claus
I'm tellin' you, Honey, I'm th'oo witchoo
Because, just because!!

A happy and prosperous Solstice to all, and respective good wishes to all.

12/21/16, 6:01 PM

The Geographist said...
A very Happy Solstice to you Mister Greer.

Oddly enough, your writing was not my first introduction to Krampus; I first learned about about him from a fellow student in trade school a few years ago. Perhaps a sign the old man is making a come back?

I was particularly intrigued by your discussion of blood and gore in traditional children's tales today. I grant your point, but do you think that sort of morbid fascination is best left behind in adulthood, or are fans of the sort of high body-count torture porn put out as horror films actually engaging with something healthy? Maybe I draw a false comparison?

12/21/16, 6:08 PM

Greg Belvedere said...
A very happy winter solstice to you.

As the father of a very energetic 3 year old boy, testing limits and santa claus are regular topic of conversation between me and my wife. I think I remember my childhood better than most and I remember wanting to look at the things the adults were looking at, so this week's blog rang true. The YA genre that gained a lot of steam when I was in its target group always felt like pandering and I always gravitated to more classic literature. I also come from a generation that people associate with getting trophies for participation. I never got one of those, but it seemed like they handed out a lot of medals for 6th place and beyond and yes kids see through that.

This year I'm giving a copy of D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths to my nephew for Christmas, not exactly Grimm, but not the sugary stuff either. A few weeks ago I was looking for something like this in my public library and found a graphic novel of some greek myths that I read to my son. I was a bit worried it might be too gory for a 3 year old (Medea tricking Jason's father was rather gruesome), but he loved it. I will need to purchase Grimm soon. I might wait until next year to talk about Krampus though.

A Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, and Happy Holidays to all.

12/21/16, 6:10 PM

siliconguy said...
As for the trees, more seedlings sprout than can live in a mature healthy forest, so taking one that needed to be thinned anyway for holiday purposes need not be taken as wasteful.

12/21/16, 6:19 PM

Dylan said...
A happy Alban Arthuan to you and yours, and to all who frequent the comments portion of this blog.

Solstice is as good a reason as any to visit the tip jar, so here's your gift, with appreciation for another year of excellent posts.

I've placed an order for two copies of Retrotopia and will be curious to see how the print version differs from online.

12/21/16, 6:21 PM

pygmycory said...
I don't like the modern Santa/Rudolph/misc. meaningless carols very much either. They don't mean much, and a lot of them are lacking in the tune department, too.

Set them against something like Coventry Carol, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, or Oh Holy Night... and I know which I'd rather sing or play on an instrument.

12/21/16, 6:22 PM

Dean Smith said...
"Children aren’t innocent little angels; they’re fierce little animals, which is of course exactly what they should be”
This is very close to some advice my father gave me when I got married. My father raised five children and when I got married two of my sisters still lived at home. One of them had done something wrong and he had just got done dealing with it. He looked at me and said, “Son, kids are not little angels, they are wild animals.” Having four kids of my own now I think that was one of the best pieces of parenting advice he could have given me. Thanks for the reminder and Happy Solstice!

12/21/16, 6:27 PM

Fred the First said...
Best wishes to you and yours too! Left a tip in the tip jar. Thank you for being a contribution to us all!

12/21/16, 6:35 PM

Dennis Mitchell said...
Not many kids around here do farm work anymore. My grandkids spend most of their time indoors plugged to the smart phones. They are rather worthless. I guess we try to fix that with artificial "self-esteem". Back before my time kids worked in the gardens and fields so the family could eat. That is having worth. Kids knew it. Pretty soon we will be automated out of work and many of us will be worthless. We can paste smiley pictures all over it, but it will still be a sad foundation for a community.

12/21/16, 6:35 PM

Austin Levreault said...
Happy Solstice JMG!!!! I celebrate Christmas and Scrooge has always been my favorite Christmas character to face consequences. And I feel like him in thinking giving children a lot of toys when they're young gives them that much more insulation from the real world and consequences. Video games seem to be a form of putting a no consequence mentality into overdrive because these sorts of games continue well into adult hood. You've described our society's notion of progress as being linear; maybe the closer we think we're getting to the Star Trek style future the more we think consequences don't matter. This would be so because we think we're approaching the level of gods, pie in the sky, and nobody today bothers reading about Greek or Roman mythology. Consequences apply even to celestial beings. Christmas/the solstice has become the ultimate insulation - Would people still feel the magic of Christmas if there was a monster troll running around? If they did then it would mean that much more because it would be a magic feeling in the face of adversity. This could also be a reason why magic is discredited these days because with dangerously high levels of self esteem maybe delusion is to often mistaken for magic. Magic and delusion by definition are two separate words and should be two separate experiences. I don't know much about magic - I just know there are some personal experiences I've had that tell me it's out there.

12/21/16, 6:39 PM

SamuraiArtGuy said...
I have just returned from a local celebration of Solstice with our drumming troupe, with a decidedly Wiccan flavor. As a Drummer, Ceremonial Singer, and Sacred Bard, the various musics of the season always interested me. I grew up singing in a holiday chorus with my Cub and Boy Scout unit, and later ran that chorus as an adult leader. In later years ran a volunteer Interfaith chorus in NYC, where we sang anythibg with meaning and mojo, and we'd essentially Wassail in the streetss and subways every Solstice season. Passerby would be bemused by our blithely switching fron Angels We Have Heard On High to The Hanukah Song into The Wintry Queen, The Infinite Sun (Hopi), and Winter Solstice Sunrise. Relatively painless widening of mundane heads. A particulary fun event was an onstage"radio show", Solstice Night at WYRD.

But on the Radio and in the Stores, ever more concentrated, practically since Labor Day, the music is almost entirely secular. Demi-god consumer Santa supplants Jesus. Grandmas are hit and run victims. Hearts are gifted to the undeserving. A donkey saves an itailin village. Rudolph Rides. Frosty dodges the sun, again. Get those people the hell out of church, they need to be shopping!

In a few days our household shall joirney North to the Belly of The Beast, New York City, for the decidedly odd spectacle of Jewish Christmas in Brooklyn. My Jewish mother in law has so embraced the secular holiday, she busts out the Cuirrier & Ives to a point that would embarrass a Southern Baptist.

Solstice Blessings to each and all (and Krampus take the wicked!)

12/21/16, 6:54 PM

W. B. Jorgenson said...
"[T]he thing that interests me is that the more obviously the bills are coming due, the more shrill the insistence that this can't be happening. Cognitive dissonance? Maybe, but I'm wondering if there's more to it than that."

I think the issue may be the messengers: nearly all the "rational" (aka atheists) in public life (and my personal life as well) I can think of believe in a limitless world. Nearly everyone who believes in limits is religious in some form. Considering the deep, visceral hate a large number of atheists have for religion, at a conscious or unconscious level, the need to refuse to admit the people they hate have a point may be part of what's leading to the weird doubling down on a number of issues. Considering how many people I know are atheists (even if they claim otherwise), I'm willing to bet this plays role.

12/21/16, 7:07 PM

M Smith said...
Oh, it's Krampus Karols you want? I'll throw down. To the tune of "Frosty the Snowman":

Krampus the Yulefiend
Is a demon to be feared
Better watch it toots, cause he's in cahoots
With the guy with the white beard

He car-ries bad kids
Very deep into the wood
Let 'em wet their pants! For they had the chance,
But chose naughty over good!

He really doesn't care if you agree with what he does.
Nothing but a mirror, he sheds neither warmth nor fuzz.

Krampus the demon
Is alive as he can be
Don't you doubt my word, he can bring the hurt
You've been warned, he's not PC!

12/21/16, 7:11 PM

Keith Huddleston said...
My wife and I are both educators. I am in my last year, while she's going to keep going. She made a point about how it is a constant tinkering that does some of most potent damage to education. Thinking about your piece, I said that this tinkering was almost invariably driven (in practice) by trying to prevent students from having a consequence from not focusing on the material (ie studying).

So we invest in technology, aps, and new ways of teaching, including "latices" presuming students will never loan a times table, so here is a neato way around that (do I need to point out it doesn't work). The only coherent narrative in all of the changes is that students are not to have consequences. The real dream is learning as pure entertainment and student whim.

This "reform" has only accelerated in pace in my 9 years of teaching. It makes it so teachers are ill-trained (for the current party-line), the students expectations are confused, and parents don't know how to help their students with work. These last three factors then feed into each other . . .

Meanwhile, it has gotten to the point that you can't assign 10 vocabulary words a week and expect the average high school student to study them. I even do a lessons on the brain and on space repetition to show why studying works, and how there is really no substitute for looking back over the material at some point. It doesn't matter. I'm one of the only adults telling them this.

I know you're no fan of American schooling, and, now, neither am I, but what good I could accomplish is thwarted when parents are left feeling their only job is to shield their students from consequences.

12/21/16, 7:12 PM

Justin said...

Another Jordan Peterson video.

In this one, one of the important points he hits on is the idea that falling in love with the products of your own intellect is fundamentally Satanic (and he means that in a non-Christian sense, satanism is just the word that we in the West have for a phenomenon which has no unique relationship to Christianity). A lot of people repeat the not-untrue quote about how growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. However, this isn't quite true, once you start to evaluate things by standards that you make yourself, you're just a sentient cancer cell. A modern poet referred to this process as "getting high on your own supply", which, no kidding, is a fine way to describe our situation in the industrial world.

Just like universities are self-destructing in an epic purity spiral and the Dow continues to grow despite no actual basis for it's growth, and the number of megabarrels per day grows despite less net energy delivered, we've completely sawn through the umbilical cord which connects us to the truth and we're quickly spiraling off into parts unknown.

12/21/16, 7:30 PM

foodnstuff said...
And a happy solstice to you too, John. I don't 'do' Christmas either. Solstices are much more important and satisfying. Thank you for another season of excellent posts.

12/21/16, 7:58 PM said...
Actions do indeed have consequences... One of the ones that I've pondered for most of the last two decades is the problem of literacy in young people. Harry Potter and the ever-more-mysterious titles, and some other recent Young Adult dystopias aside, most children today don't read easily or well. And over the course of my teaching career, it got worse.

I finally realized that children simply weren't reading any more. When I was a child (and I think that I'm somewhat younger than the Archdruid, but not by much), "Reading" was the single most important leisure activity in the US, with most adults and children racking up an average of 10-15 hours a week of reading time: around two hours a day. Television was second, at about an hour and a half to two hours; movies third, with most people watching only a matinee a week. Internet? Non-existent. Radio? The age of the radio drama had passed, and often it provided a background to other activities rather than being the main event.

Today... Reading is the seventh or eighth most common leisure activity, and rarely fills more than 45 minutes of a young person's week other than as school work. I admit that video does have its uses, as does audio — I listen to podcasts on long drives, and I learned how to knit and sew and a number of other crafts from watching videos on YouTube. But that's not what young people are viewing, for the most part; and reading is still the easiest way to acquire in-depth knowledge about some topics, as well as develop the critical capacities to distinguish fact from fiction from opinion.

To put that in perspective, most children are in school in the US for 1260 hours a year, or about 15,000 hours from grades 1-12. They'll spend 3 of those daily hours in subjects closely dependent on reading: English, history, science (maybe...), or about 6,400 hours total in learning reading-related skills . But 7-8 hours of reading a week used to add another 4,680-ish hours on top of that in-school training, and usually in subjects of interest to the student/child... And that's all gone.

What replaced it? First, more television channels. Then more cable channels as wires into our homes replaced antennas on the roofs. Then Internet, and the combination of social media, on-demand video, video chat, video games... screen time now eats 8-15 hours a week, and cuts into time that used to be about reading even in school.

We have literally been letting young people self-educate using training materials and methods that bear no resemblance to anything that's existed before... and they'e in the process of launching a completely different kind of society that's fossil fuel-dependent in very strange ways, and that by and large doesn't know how to use the old information technologies of reference books or the non-fiction section of the library, or encyclopedias without the word 'wiki' in their name.

I feel like I've done enough of this "I'm old and the young are weird" rant, so let me end with this — young people didn't do this. It's not millennials' fault that they're like this: they used the tools that were put in front of them by their parents and teachers. And we, the 30-somehtings and the 40- and 50-somethings did it because it looked like it would be profitable. It's our fault, not theirs.... and it's also probably too late to fix it.

12/21/16, 8:14 PM

Lucretia Heart said...
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for saying this! You've made several points that I've been preaching myself for a few years now!

I see 2 massive personal and societal consequences of trying to make the world a padded playground for children.

For one thing, when you raise children this way, you make little monsters, inflicting your oafish progeny on a world that is already stressed beyond belief, what with all the sharing of resources and space we have to do. You made your point on this very well.

For another, you don't do your children any good. Parents who protect their little darlings from the darker truths of the world send their kids out into the cold, dark night that inevitably comes without knowledge of how to strike a match and light a candle. Everyone needs to fail a little, be scared a little, and learn to deal with disappointment a LOT in order to be fully functional human adults. (I worked in a staffing agency for several years, and parents were calling in for their 'kids' in their late 20s! Guess how successful they were as employees?)

I mean, as parents, if your agenda is to have a child who finds a good and happy life as an adult, the worst thing you could do is abuse them. The second worse thing you could do is spoil them.

By the way, I introduced Krampus to some children of friends of mine, and they fell in LOVE! The idea of a Big Bad to balance out the Glorious Good seemed to resonate instinctively for them, and they declared it was the best Christmas they ever had, much to the shocked delight of their parents, who were afraid it would be 'too much' for them. And, by the way, I've notice Krampus has been getting much more popular across the board in the last 5 years. I think we need our symbolic devils, because endless angels is endlessly boring!

12/21/16, 8:15 PM

Candace said...
I enjoy this updated version of the Santa story from David Sedaris, SantaLand Diaries.

"The woman grabbed my arm and said: You there, elf. Tell Riley here that if he doesn't start behaving immediately, then Santa's going to change his mind and bring him coal for Christmas.

I said that Santa changed his policy and no longer traffics in coal. Instead, if you're bad, he comes to your house and steals things. I told Riley that if he didn't behave himself, Santa was going to take away his TV and all his electrical appliances and leave him in the dark."

I also enjoy the story of the Dutch version of Santa Claus in "Six to Eight Black Men"

I was told growing up that Christmas is celebrated on the 25th that 2000 years ago the winter solstice was four days earlier. Something about the dates of the calendar shifting back 1 day every five hundred years. Presumably that means that in the year 2500 of this calendar the solstice will more often coincide with the 20th of December. Again vaugely remembered story that we have Christmas basically because the church couldn't get people to expunge their local festivals of mid-winter. So the church pasted the birth on to the competing holiday and made it part of the liturgical year. Basically the same way that some of the gods/goddesses were turned into saints in the Catholic Church so that there generation could be moved under the authority of the church. One of the St. Bridget's and the Virgin of Guadalupe come to mind. However, my memory is far from flawless these days.

12/21/16, 8:18 PM

Ien in the Kootenays said...
Wishing you all the best in the next solar cycle. In my long ago Dutch childhood the companion of Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas was Black Peter, sometimes singular, sometimes in a group. The switch was still used as a threat, andbreally hard core kids just might be stuffed in Piet's big bag, I guess after the toys were all given away. The bad kids were then taken to Spain, which is where Sinterklaas came from. It is not clear what happened to them there.

12/21/16, 8:23 PM

NomadsSoul said...
Happy Solstice JMG,

Consequences - Consequences.

My journey on those paths began with extended unemployment over a decade and a half ago. Learned the art of living minimally in an urban environment while cutting expenses to the bone.

Things left behind included Christmas and the mind cancer delivery mechanism called TV. Truthfully, I miss neither and am annually bemused observing the madness of those consumed by consumerism.

These days, joy comes from quiet, meditation, nature, insights culled from an old technology called books and imparting what wisdom has been gained with those whose hearing is unimpaired.

Thank you for your willingness to share and educate as it is greatly appreciated.

All the best to you and yours.

12/21/16, 8:47 PM

Mister Roboto said...
I would apply the lesson in consequences in particular to the Democratic Party: They thought they could alienate all their traditional constituencies except corporate donors and pursue and uphold policies that nullify any status they might have as a true opposition party. And then they blamed everybody except themselves when the number of people willing to vote for them began to peel off in flakes and blow away in the breeze like a layer of a very old paint-job. The sad thing is, such abysmally clueless narcissism is so taken for granted today that only observers on the fringes such as you and me seem to be capable of making this observation.

12/21/16, 8:53 PM

Thijs Goverde said...
A little Sinterklaas (that's Saint Nicolas to you) story, don't know if I shared it before: In my house, the birch switch still gets doled out every year. To me. In te run-ip to the festival, on certain days, the kids get a handfull of sweets in their shoe, to whet their appetite for the larger gifts. On one of these days, dad (that would be me) behaves particularly obnoxious and greedy (eg setting out his largest boots with a note: 'Dear saint, please fill to brim'). Dad gets the switch. The kids are very impressed by this.
Thus, they learn that:
a) actions have consequences, and
b) dad will shoulder the worst of them.
Of course, the kids then immediately offer to share their sweets with dad, which, to me, proves they got the point.

And when they grow up, and find out who it was that put the switch in dad's boot... well, they learn another valuable lesson!

12/21/16, 9:19 PM

andrewmarkmusic said...
Those DMT like substances got me through many a harsh northern winter:) Hey, they altered my metaphysical views, too!

One point I'd like to make is that fear of consequence has been eroded in the religious sphere by modernity. This normalization of non-consequence for actions has been projected into the environmental sphere, also; combined with a culture of narcissism ( left celebrity culture) which short-curcuits the ability to even care about future consequences .

I suspect the enormous amount of shekels some people have convinces them of future security.

Anyway, enjoy the solstice! Greetings from a long time reader and trouble maker:)

12/21/16, 9:22 PM

gwizard43 said...
If refusing to accept the notion that one's actions will have consequences on one is the gold standard, then I suppose the platinum standard would be a refusal to acknowledge that actions can also have consequences on trans-generational others.

Thanks for the welcome reminder of the 'true spirit' of the season, JMG. I'd never before made the connection between 'nice' kids and surviving the difficult winter season. So very much that will need to be relearned - the hard way, no doubt - in days to come...

12/21/16, 9:23 PM

beneaththesurface said...
Coincidentally, I am almost done reading The Complete Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by the notable fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes (he's written a number of books about children and fairy tales, storytelling and culture, which I recommend checking out if the topic interests you). I recommend reading this edition--even though it only came out a couple years ago, this collection is the first translation of the original 1812-1815 edition into English. There is more of a sense of oral tradition in the language of these tales than the later editions with more embellished tales. While I recognized some of the more famous tales (despite the original stories being different than the tales we know), there are a number of tales I didn't know of prior:

I work in the library's children section, and most of the books I check out are from the 398 section (folk and fairy tales) and am very protective of it when I see staff "weeders" approaching it. Once one reads a lot of this traditional literature, it becomes so apparent how most contemporary children's literature lacks any depth.

12/21/16, 9:34 PM

Nancy Sutton said...
At least the rich 'conservatives' are not hypocritical about their intentions, as are the 'rich liberals'... seems to be the 'rich' part that is the poison. And we celebrate a poor baby in this festival of 'riches'. My husband thinks we should swap 'Happy Shopping' for 'Merry Christmas'.

12/21/16, 9:44 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bob, thank you.

M Smith, good. We're definitely getting some musical accompaniment going here.

Geographist, when people are denied something in childhood that they should have, it's not at all uncommon for them to get distorted, extreme cravings for those things in adulthood. My guess is that that's what's going on here.

Greg, excellent! The D'Aulaire's also had a wonderful book of Norse gods and giants that's just as good as the book of Greek myths; you might consider that for your nephew in due time. Oh, and with your son, don't neglect the old Mother Goose rhymes. Most children love those, especially the ones that don't seem to make any kind of obvious sense:

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Aye, and back again.
If your feet be quick and light
You can get there by candlelight.

I adored that one in my distant and misspent childhood...

Siliconguy, it's better still to transplant them somewhere that lacks trees and could use them.

Dylan, thank you!

Pygmycory, no question. The trad carols aren't afraid of minor chords and strong harmonies -- think of the way that "O Holy Night" moves back and forth between major and minor, challenge and resolution, as it rises toward its resolution -- while the pseudocarols are the kind of sticky-sweet schlock, musically speaking, that reminds me of why medieval musical theorists used to consider the Ionian mode (today's major scale) only fit for cheap love ditties.

Dean, your father's a wise man.

Fred, thank you!

Dennis, I really have my doubts about the whole everything-will-be-automated hoopla, because the costs of complexity are not being factored into those predictions. I should probably do a post on this sometime soon.

12/21/16, 9:46 PM

Wendy Crim said...
I second the idea "it's the parents that irritate me."

My youngest is 11 and still at home. I try to let her work out her own relationships and have consequences. You can not believe how many parents can NOT do this. Most kids are way too over scheduled, to be sure. But even when they are not, the parents hover over them- constantly monitoring behavior. Most parents don't even allow their kids to go over to other kids houses unless they themselves come along. I try to push my kids out the nest and society pushes them back in!
Quick story. Just yesterday, my husband had a rare day off and we decided to run around, see some friends, get a few errands done. Our daughter, homeschooled, was told if she wanted to join us when to be ready by and if she wasn't ready, she couldn't go. Well, she didn't get to go. She stayed home w grandma (who lives here too) and grandma doesn't have time to entertain her. So, that was that. She was ready when I had places to go today. ;-)

Happy whatever to everyone!

12/21/16, 9:47 PM

Derek Banker said...
JMG: I cannot thank you enough for this one! First of all, A very happy and blessed Solstice toy you and yours, and a Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Kwanzaa or whatever is celebrated to all of my fellow commenters;

I am now teaching preschool, (3 and 4-year-olds). I have just finished my mandatory state certification classes, one of which was entitled, "Positive Guidance and Discipline" - basically how NOT to ever discipline, punish or even raise one's voice to the children for bad behaviour, but instead 'redirect, distract' with treats and special treatment. (I'm not making this up!) Again - a false sense of esteem being the #1 consideration.
Now, I'm not a seasoned pre-school teacher, but I'm very invested emotionally & professionally so I'm really open to any advice and helpful hints on how to deal with my little darlings, and I do indeed have some kids with troubled family lives and discipline problems. This certification course was however, as you can imagine, to say the least - less than helpful, utter hogwash. Your essay this week, OTOH, is actually very helpful and thought provoking.

A few years ago, I read a popular book called "Battle Hymn Of A Tiger Mother". It was hyped as author Amy Chua bragging about how superior traditional Chinese parenting was to American, (or Western) parenting; which got a lot of negative attention and resulting mad-sales from outraged Western mothers who couldn't wait to read it and be outraged. It was of great interest to me and fellow Western moms raising our kids in China, at the time it came out as we were actually raising our kids with a foot in both worlds. Well, the hype was not really that founded, Chua turned out not be such a snobbish self-congratulating horror. I really liked the book. One thing she wrote really struck me and is relevant here.

(Paraphrasing, I don't have the book with me), 'Real self-esteem comes from having actual skills and knowledge and accomplishments. This has to be achieved by the child themselves through hard work, failure and overcoming failure. A child cannot have real self-esteem by being given a trophy they know they don't deserve, trust me - they know it! They get it from seeing their hard work pay off, from overcoming obstacles. A parent would only give undeserved trophies and bolster self-esteem to a child they themselves had no real faith in. This also undermines the true self-confidence of the child/young adult - which explains why so many cannot cope in college or in their first years of young adulthood. They know they've never accomplished anything without their parents doing it for them.

JMG: I also see and would like to comment on your tying this unhealthy phase of our decline to the larger picture of our national political and global trashing cognitive dissonance and weirding. I will in a few days when I'm off work and not so bone tired and brain rattled by my darling little heathens each night!

Many thanks again!

12/21/16, 9:56 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Austin, good. You're quite correct that given sufficiently toxic levels of self-esteem, delusion gets mistaken for magic; a glance back at the 2012 apocalyptic frenzy will give you some first rate examples there. Magic is hard work, and it requires self-discipline and self-mastery; where you don't see those three things, you're not seeing magic, you're seeing wishful thinking in the service of an overblown sense of entitlement.

Samurai, glad to hear it. Maybe it's time to start passing out buttons with a circle and slash over Santa, on the order of the old Ghostbusters logo from my youth, and start a movement for a holiday season that means something again.

WB, hmm. Yes, I could see that.

M Smith, okay, we've definitely got a Krampus Carol songfest under way. Good! Anyone else care to contribute?

Keith, I get that. My father and stepmother are retired schoolteachers, and have similar things to say.

Justin, nah, it's quite true, but there's also a mental equivalent of it, as you've pointed out. I don't know that I'd call the latter "satanic," though; "masturbatory" seems a bit more like it from my perspective, not least because it tends to result in a cold sticky mess...

Andrew, all we can do is try to pass on a love for reading to our own children, if we have any; encourage others to do the same, and to bail out on the mass media; and support alternatives to the current public school system. Come to think of it, that's a pretty good list of action points.

Lucretia, you're welcome you're welcome you're welcome. ;-) Delighted to hear that you're spreading the Bad News, so to speak, about Krampus! The old goat needs more missionaries.

Candace, nah, the solstice was corrected back to the 21st when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian one, which did the slippage; the 25th of December is the first day you can actually see a slight shift northward in where the sun rises, which is why it was a common date for the celebration in the Mediterranean world. That said, you're right about the rest of it, of course.

Ien, given the history between Spain and the Netherlands, that must have been quite the threat back in the day! Many thanks for this.

NomadSoul, glad to hear it. Everyone I've ever met who gave up TV is incredibly thankful that they did so; I'm hoping someday enough people who currently watch the Plug-In Drug notice this...

Mister R., dead on target and buried up to the feathers. Thank you.

12/21/16, 10:02 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Thijs, that's delightful. Thank you.

Andrew, oh, granted. Most people I've met who call themselves Christians don't actually believe that they themselves might be damned, no matter what they do. As a descendant of old-fashioned Scots Calvinists, I find this incomprehensible, but there it is -- "Jesus loves me, therefore I can commit every sin there is and then feel sorry about it all, and still go to heaven" is the reigning theology in American Christianity these days. Faugh.

Gwizard, I won't argue. I wonder how many people who claim to be environmentalists, and still participate with wild abandon in the biosphere-wrecking lifestyles of the industrial world's affluent classes, have ever stopped to think that their own great-grandchildren will grow up hating and despising them for what they did to the planet.

Beneaththesurface, delighted on both counts. Thank you for guarding the 398 section -- that attracted me like a magnet in every library I visited in childhood.

Nancy, that would at least be honest.

Wendy, excellent. Everyone who has to deal with your daughter in later life will have reason to thank you for that!

Derek, it's good to hear that someone's saying that. I'll consider a post along those lines if I can think of anything useful to say.

12/21/16, 10:19 PM

Synthase said...
JMG: What do you make of Christmas in the southern hemisphere, coinciding with the summer solstice?

12/21/16, 10:22 PM

Ed Suominen said...
This atheist wishes you the very best in the lengthening days following your solstice celebration, and the Christians here a peaceful and joyous celebration of their savior's birth. (My Jewish friends place more importance on other holidays than Hanukkah, which has taken on a "substitute Christmas" status due to its calendar proximity.)

My family and I have spent these past long evenings sitting around the seven-foot fir I cut down not two hundred feet from the front door. My acres of woods need constant thinning to stay healthy, and before each Christmas (which we happily celebrate, faith or no faith), I select a fir for culling that is too crowded by others, bringing a little green inside the house. It's wondrous to be able to do this still, in our mechanized and plasticized and overcrowded world. And to be warmed from a stove stocked with wood that grew right here on the property, fell on its own or was thinned by me to let its neighbors grow, and got bucked, chopped, and stacked with my own two hands.

12/21/16, 10:44 PM

nuku said...
Dear JMG,
Greetings to you on the day after the Solstice (here in NZ). Thank you for all the wisdom and humor in all this last year’s posts.
My house looks out West by Northwest over the sea, and I am privileged to watch the Sun go down into it every day. I track the Sun’s swing from Summer Solstice through Equinox to Winter Solstice and back with 3 pieces of wood inlaid into the railing of my deck. They point to the place the Sun goes down into the sea as he rides his chariot over and under the Earth.

The USA style Christian inspired “silly season” is here too. Not having kids and no tv, its pretty easy to just ignore it.

Thinking of the theme of the post, Consequences, I’m reminded of the late Leonard Cohen’s lyrics in his “A Thousand Kisses Deep“.

“The ponies run, the girls are young
The odds are there to beat
You win a while and then it's done
Your little winning streak
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat
You live your life as if it's real
A thousand kisses deep“

12/21/16, 10:46 PM

Kevin Warner said...
I do not know anything more valuable for a human to learn than the fact that actions have consequences. Until you learn that, you are still a child no matter how old you are. It is surprising how many adults and even leaders, especially leaders, have not learnt this lesson. Examples? You finance, arm, train and transport jihadists to attack another country and are surprised when these same jihadists turn and attack your own people. You ignore, denigrate, mock and make clear your contempt for a large section of the people that you are running for office for and wonder what the hell happened when they do not vote for you. Need I go on?
Still, it is Christmas and whatever the origins of its customs or however that it could be made better, I will say this. I am in favour of any holiday in which we can listen to the better side of our angels. A season where it is socially acceptable to be nicer to each other and be more of the people that we hoped to grow up to be.
Just as a final passing mention, may I recommend a modified film clip called the "Dance of the Druids" from the series "Outlander" at as something to watch? Is it made up? Absolutely. Is there any historical evidence for any such ceremony from the ancient Druids? Who knows - there is no such surviving evidence. But as a thing of beauty and symbolism - it is something to see and I think that it is not too inappropriate for this site.

12/21/16, 11:35 PM

jessi thompson said...
Archdruid Greer and Community,

Thank you for yet another excellent essay and discussion!!! I admit I will have difficulty keeping this short, but I'll do my best. In my family, we were never threatened with coal. Santa's gift for naughty children was a stocking full of reindeer poop. When my little brother was 3, he had a pretty naughty year, and he got reindeer poop as his one gift on Christmas Eve (though he got normal gifts Christmas day, like everyone else). All us kids were shocked!! As far as I know, he was the only one to ever get it. (I'm still a little irked by this, haha, protective big sister and all... It must be some kind of sibling protective instinct for it to still bug me after 30 years). Well he grew up to be an inspiring young man and I am very proud of all he accomplished in his life.

If I ever have children, I will never raise them to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or any other fake holiday or childhood being. It's not because of the commercialism (which I also hate), it's the way they are used, in our culture, to ridicule children into disbelieving in magick, in that awkward transition from childhood to adolescence. I think that teaching a child to believe something is real solely based on their gullible innocence is wrong, and it kills the part of the child that would grow up to be a powerful mythmaker and magician. If you talk to kids who just learned Santa isn't real, they feel hurt, humiliated, and lied-to. I think as a society this has led to our ridiculous worship of rationalism and technology to the detriment of our spiritual sides, mainstream religions included ("Santa's not real. But it's OK, Jesus is still real.").

On Christians and fear of Hell: my Dad's Christian but not devout. He's not afraid of going to Hell, but he shouldn't, he had a near death experience and went to heaven. He says it rained peace, all the time, peace just raining down from the sky. He IS afraid of his children going to Hell, and it doesn't help that I'm Pagan and my brother and I used to listen to a lot of heavy metal (which uses Satanic imagery all over the place). Most of the time Dad's OK with everything, but every now and then I can see that deep-seated fear, and I wish he didn't have it, because there's no reason for it. It's also weird because he's a 100% counterculture hippie, so you wouldn't expect it, you would expect him to have a better understanding of the more modern countercultures and a broader religious viewpoint (which he kind of does, because he likes a lot of Eastern religion... anyway I'm rambling).

My Yule gift to the community in general, though I warn you it's a slightly darker aesthetic... a comic about the Pagan history of Santa Claus. It's one of my favorites. While not all of it is entirely historically accurate, I still find the argument compelling.


Jessi Thompson

12/22/16, 12:05 AM

jessi thompson said...
Also, I almost forgot, I used to be a daycare teacher and I 100% agree with you about where this type of parenting leads. Also, it only takes one helicopter parent to turn your whole school into one of those places, where you can't actually punish a child for fear of a lawsuit. This leads to an entire generation of children being raised by strangers who can't punish them for the bulk of their waking lives. I believe that particularly the elites, who are spared the School of Hard Knocks, grow to live in a bubble world where bad things can't happen and there are no surprises. As a waitress I see it all the time. Some people just can't fathom that a restaurant might not carry the particular ingredient they want, and they fly off the handle, and I walk away wondering how they made it this far in life without ever encountering a real problem, so that not having provolone cheese on their sandwich is a crisis. When I see for example, the president, start a war he can't possibly win, and a pundit describe the actions of another country as if all they ever did was either to help or spite us Americans, I see those people, spoiled as children, incapable of understanding another person's point of view, completely unaware that bad things can happen, or that their actions will have negative consequences (which are obvious to those of us that are used to seeing the consequences of our own actions, and often quickly). I think the problem is middle and lower class kids are getting that shoddy elite style of "education" without the actual study of challenging and empowering subjects to go with it (as the elites do have access to a lot better bookish learning than the rest of us). Thanks again, no more rambling, I promise! :)

12/22/16, 12:19 AM

Robert Honeybourne said...
The 'undo' button has a lot to answer for

12/22/16, 12:46 AM

Gaia Baracetti said...
Hi everyone, I can't resist adding that in Alpine Northern-Eastern Italy, where I live, very close to Austria and Slovenia, the Krampus are still a big part of winter traditions. In early December they parade through the streets of some towns and hit people (hard!) with their sticks, especially those that come close to them. At the end, St. Nicholas comes and they bow to him, simbolising I guess the victory of Christianity over paganism. I never liked that bit, but I can confirm that this tradition is still alive and quite a powerful thing to watch, with haunting music, fog, cow bells, big beasts and snow. They are actually scary - the hit you, trap you, frighten you every way they can.
As for the coal, we have another tradition here, the Befana (from Epiphany, now associated with the Magi, overlapping with many Celtic and old traditions of fire, symbolic burning of old women, female symbolism, etc, that it would be to long to get into now). She is a witchy-looking old woman who supposedly gives coals to naughty children, though the coals tend to be made of sugar now, sort of missing the point.

12/22/16, 1:04 AM

LunarApprentice said...
Hello JMG and all.

In the Pacific Northwest town where I live, Bellingham, WA, it is a commonplace for bicyclists to insert themselves in the middle of traffic with cars and trucks (frequently sans helmet). They not only use the left turn lanes, but downtown they will often ride in the middle of the lane, especially on the downhill slope on which they can more or less match the speed of motorized traffic. Sometimes they leisurely pedal in the middle of 2 lane avenues and compel traffic to pass in the opposing lane or crawl at bicycle speed. A couple I’ve honked at, and you would not believe the enraged glances turned my way. One fellow even dismounted his bike, stared at me, arms akimbo, and challenged me get out my my car and confront him. I’ve seen similar behavior in some pedestrians who step out in front of traffic without so much as a glance to the left or right, evidently certain that no harm may befall them.

A recent experience really got me thinking about this phenomenon. I was driving home in the dark, and was in enough of a hurry that I did not want to be delayed by downtown rush-hour traffic. So I detoured through a semi-rural zone. I approached a stop sign at an unlit intersection, made a full stop and confirmed there was zero traffic in all directions as far as the eye could see. So I proceeded, but a torrent angry obscenities from my right prompted me to slam my brakes. It turned out a fellow in dark clothing stepped into the crosswalk just as I stopped, and expected me to see him and yield right of way. Indeed he explicitly told me (when he wasn’t swearing) that “PEDESTRIANS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY IN A CROSSWALK YOU DUMB###T.” No kidding. I considered shouting out my window that I did not see him in the dark, but thought the better of it and drove on.

I think I know what is going on: These cyclists and pedestrians now regard safety as a human right, as in people other than yourself are primarily responsible for providing it. This is new. Indeed the very idea of “right of way” is exactly that: You, the driver, are in fact accountable for the safety of, say, a pedestrian in a sidewalk. But the new mindset extrapolates this concept to the moon; so all those cyclists who blend themselves with motorized traffic have the mindset that they have a “right” to use the roads just as car drivers do, can cite the law chapter and verse in support of their position, and they accordingly claim their rights. But this way of thinking does not come to terms with what it really means to be safe: To be safe means you have minimal exposure to risk, and the first rule of risk mitigation is not to subject yourself to avoidable risk. So in the dark, you let the lone car to pass before crossing the street. A cyclist does not plant him/herself in the midst of motorized traffic. You wear a helmet. But no, since safety is a right, then it is incumbent upon motorists to be vigilant for pedestrians and cyclists who no longer shoulder primary responsibility for their own risk reduction. I don’t consider these people merely “jerks”; they are fools. I regularly remind my daughters, 6 and 13, that a wrong idea, even if “everybody does it ” can still turn them into roadkill. (Indeed one of these very fools tried to exercise his road rights on the highway here. He suffered multiple orthopedic injuries that ended his cycling days for good. I made sure my daughters heard about this guy.)

This is a small issue I know, and over the course of the de-industrial future will become moot. Safety as human right does not generalize across other domains either, and I don’t think it is compatible with survival in a world less and less subject to orderly, let alone civilized, function. Yet I still find this mind-set disturbing in other ways that I can’t quite put my finger on.

12/22/16, 1:06 AM

thriftwizard said...
Wishing you many Solstice blessings! I'm interested in the symbolism of that lump of coal... so many myths about the dawn of mankind are wrapped up with the making/bringing of fire. Maybe a lump of coal would seem like cold comfort to a naughty & demanding child, but it does contain a little spark of warmth & hope when kindled, and it burns slower & hotter than wood... Cold will kill you faster than hunger, so a lump of coal is not a total slap in the face, to be thrown away in disgust, but a little nugget of hope if you can learn how to behave. Because it won't catch alight by itself; it can only be kindled through hard work & following the correct steps...

12/22/16, 1:31 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

A happy solstice to you and your lady too! And may the dawn light and days shine slightly brighter in your part of the world, what with the traditional winter you are having this year.

I must say that this was an excellent essay. I particularly liked the way you wove tradition and history into a story dotted with all sorts of useful bits of knowledge and ended with the certainty of the future and what an image to leave us all with!

I was always rather curious as to the symbolism of the lump of coal? It must have been a recent innovation to the story?

People treat their children like pets which I find to be a rather strange thing. Poopy the Pomeranian who is one of the farm dogs here works harder on this farm than most kids do in the household economy. Other people in our societies are also treated like pets in that they are provided with an existence and shelter and yet are not allowed and/or discouraged from finding a place in that society. The interesting thing though is that we are starting to see a backlash from those people down here...

The other thing I don't get is why parents often have expectations that their children exceed their own accomplishments - that is just strange to see and it is breeding prolonged anxiety and stress in kids and I doubt they will recover from that. There is a reason why it used to be said that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree but people forget that.

It is funny that you mention boundaries, but I once worked with a young lady who told me in confidence that she just wanted to be told: "No". Her boundaries were clearly too large for her.

I used to manage staff for about two decades before I'd had enough, and I used to do a funny trick with them to slowly introduce the concept of boundaries to them. Some of them had no idea about that concept - and you will note that I avoid managing staff nowadays for good reason. I used to wait until someone started humming, singing or whistling - and it always happened sooner rather than later. And I would glare at the person menacingly and tell them loudly to stop it now! And thus make an example of that person. There'd be a bit of quiet giggling and then they'd slowly fall into line. It worked every time. I take my hat off to teachers as they do it tougher again.

The lady on the (or off as the case ended up) aircraft went through an initiation of sorts, don't you think so? I'm glad to read that she is up on charges too. Queue jumping is a bad sign. A really bad sign.

Oh don't forget the East Antarctic ice sheet. Apparently a scientific report was released recently that this floating ice sheet - which is holding back the much larger glacier on the land mass, is succumbing to warmer waters. Apparently this ocean mechanism was unknown until this report. The funny thing about the report was that the numpty's who wrote it appeared not to have understood the irony that they were able to approach the glacier closer than ever before - and that their actions contributed to the warmer waters. I didn't finish reading the report, but I'm using my fluffy mind powers here and can predict that they asked for further funds to study this most important matter as if that will make a difference. Just sayin...

And I heard on the radio today that a music festival which is held at an idyllic location had a lifesaver ring in to the radio station and said that people should be careful because the beach had been half washed away recently. I'd like to say I'm making that stuff up, but not so.



12/22/16, 3:06 AM

Leo Santilli said...
I recall a terry Pratchett quote on idea that kids are naturally innocent, pointing out that yes they love blood and guts. Its funny that people can possible think that's not normal, since its not like most kids hide this. And its not like more adult themes can't be hidden, thinking of a viking tale where the hero & heroine speak in the sacred grove your not allowed to speak in for 3 days while the rest of the tale deals with a lot of explicit violence, oaths and revenge.

And it's not like there's any proof that violence in storytelling (modern days video games, used to be D&D) makes kids any more violent than they already would be.

Heck, if done well could even lower their propensity for violence by making them realize the consequences and it changing from an exotic thing that looks cool and unique (like how drugs look cool when banned to teenagers) into just a regular thing with risks, rewards and consequences.

Also; got this book from my library, Interesting to more mainstream take on post peak-oil.

12/22/16, 3:38 AM

Siebe Hoekstra said...
Thanks JMG for reminding me of the Grimm brothers. Here in the Netherlands there reasonably famous, because there the basis for the Netherlands most famous theme park: The Efteling. It contains a "fairytale forest"(Het sprookjesbos) which depicts a lot of the Grimm stories along with all the evil queen, wolfs and sorcerers. Sadly they added all the fancy rollercoaster and disney like theme mess aswell, but the fairy tale forest is still there in the old form with painted sculptures. Its still very popular and intend to take my children(1 and 2) there next summer.

12/22/16, 3:57 AM

Greg Reynolds @ Riverbend said...
Thank you and wishes of health and happiness to you in the new year.

I have long thought that a lot of people seemed to have rights without responsibilities and wondered how that could be. Then of course, there is the long forgotten, old fashioned Golden Rule.

I put it down to the rise of the religion of consumerism. The main tenets are getting as much for yourself, as possible, at the least cost and obviously, ME first.


12/22/16, 4:35 AM

Ethan La Coursiere said...
I hope you had a lovely solstice this year, JMG. The benefits of being able to open your presents 4 days early are not exactly negligible, and I may consider doing the same in the future. On a more serious note, I'm glad you decided to cover the problem of irresponsibility and ego inflation in today's world; I'm certain that I'm not the only one whose eye starts twitching involuntarily when yet another parent demands a participation trophy for their "special" children.

Just think about that — participation trophy. A trophy is, by definition, something that not everybody gets; "He was given a trophy for winning the 100m dash." Demanding a participation trophy is like saying that everyone who participated in a race should be given the gold medal — even if they were as far away from first as humanly possible, or didn't even finish at all.

The thought-stopper of "participation trophy" is one of the most nefarious of the bunch used in contemporary North America today. The bending of language for its users' own ends is definitely a problem in the world of today, and I'm certainly glad you decided to cover it, or at least a facet of it, in your post.

12/22/16, 5:09 AM

Greg Belvedere said...
Thanks. He loves Mother Goose and I have a preference for reading him things that rhyme. It makes reading the same thing over and over much more enjoyable and it makes me appreciate why that was done by the great bards. The children's Tarot book I'm working on right now rhymes.

In regards to children being fierce little animals, a relative commented that my son was such a little angel. Rilke came to mind, "Every angel is terrifying."

12/22/16, 5:12 AM

Sven Eriksen said...
Very appropriate of you you to finish up 2016 with a post on the raging infantile-ness that our society has degenerated to, as this has truly been the year where its proponents have gone to extreme lengths to take it all the way into the realms of parody.

Speaking of bears, I have wondered for quite some time now if the reason that the neoliberals who've monopolized our collective conversation has cast Vladimir Vladimirovich in the role of evil incarnate is precisely because the man is the near-ultimate personification of limits and consequences. I can easily see him and D.J.T trotting through a gated D.C. residential community together in the dark and cold. All overgrown and overprivileged man-children getting duly spanked with Russian birch twigs by Uncle Putin, while the really nasty ones (Soros included) disappear into The Donald's picnic basket, never to been seen or heard from again...

Time to pour a glass of aquavit, break out the guitar and write a carol about this, I think.

Wishing all of you guys a happy holiday season!

12/22/16, 5:13 AM

David, by the lake said...
Since a number of educators have commented on modern teaching and consequences, etc, I'd like to toss out a question. Does anyone have experience or data on whether private school education (we have a number of church-affiliated schools around here, for example) is any different? Or does the same pedagogical philosophy apply there as well? Obviously, each case is different to some extent but I'm wondering if there are broad trends.

12/22/16, 5:23 AM

TJ said...
A question for JMG or anyone else with an opinion...

" I’ve long since lost track of the number of people I’ve met who insist loudly on how much they love the Earth and how urgent it is that “we” protect the environment, but who aren’t willing to make a single meaningful change in their own personal consumption of resources and production of pollutants to help that happen."

I've been struggling internally with this for awhile now. I'm one of these people that claims to love the earth, and I certainly have made some changes to show it. But here I am on a device made of oil and rare earth minerals (and likely assembled by slave labor) reading about not using up all the resources. Talk about building low self esteem!

So JMG, seeing as how you obviously use some of these devices as well, how do you reconcile this? I'm not accusing or judging anyone, I'm sincerely not sure how to comprehend this perceived contradiction.

12/22/16, 5:52 AM

Caryn said...
OOPS! So sorry. I was so tired and loopy when I posted last night - I didn't look to change the google sign in to my account. It's appearing under my husband's account - Derek Banker. It's me - Caryn!

12/22/16, 5:56 AM

Bob Brown said...
Loved the post, my kids know about the lump of coal but not Krumpus, I’ll have to fill them in.

I have a different take on self-esteem. I don’t believe that a person can have too much self-esteem and the efforts to give children self-esteem these days are actually resulting in children who feel entitled but have low self-esteem.
The best definition of self-esteem that I’ve come across is that self-esteem has two components, a sense of competence and a sense of self-worth. So a person’s self-esteem will vary depending on the situation they are in. Someone like myself will have a higher self-esteem when in a math class (since my sense of competence is high) than in an English class (lower level of competence).

A person develops healthy self-esteem through dealing with success and failure. These days society seems desperate to prevent children from experiencing failure without realizing that they are also preventing the children from experiencing success. You can’t have success at anything without taking the risk that you might fail. So kids these days pile up unearned trophies that inside they known they didn’t earn and don’t learn that success is earned or that they can fail and bounce back, they simply learn that they should get stuff. I think that is low self-esteem.

A person with healthy self-esteem deals with life’s ups and downs without feeling the world revolves around them. They are resilient, where-as people who try to make up for a lack of self-esteem through feeling entitled tend to fall apart when presented with any kind of challenge or are denied anything.

Hope that adds to the conversation.

Thanks and happy solstice!


12/22/16, 6:20 AM

Caryn said...
from Caryn (or Derek up thread):

Hammering on about the preschool and this may be relevant as this essay begins with child rearing as a large contributor to our societal dysfunction:

I also just wanted to add that it has become clear to me that this official modern child rearing pedagogy, this lack of discipline or consequences in child rearing is designed to protect parents, teachers, schools, etc. Anyone working with young children - not to help the self-esteem of the child him or herself, at all. We have become overwhelmingly fearful of litigation and calls of child abuse that could close us down. Parents have become fearful of CPS knocking on their door to take the children away for spanking. In our collective haste to protect children who actually are being abused, we have thrown away the reins of control on all children. Of course it sounds better to say "It's for their own good, for their self-esteem".

12/22/16, 6:21 AM

peacegarden said...
Thank you, thank you, and thank you! What a lovely solstice surprise…including a spot on critique of modern child rearing practices. Started my day with grins and chuckles, always a plus.

I appreciate the light-hearted celebration, but cannot ignore the predicament we face. It is good to follow the great wheel of the year, feeling how small we truly are, and how much we need one another to thrive. May you and yours have a blessed season.

The seed is in the ground…
and now may we rest in hope
While darkness s does its work
~Wendell Berry ~

It is a serious thing
Just to be alive
On this fresh morning
In this broken world.
~Mary Oliver~

Green Blessings to us all, every one

12/22/16, 6:22 AM

Breanna said...
Parenting at the end of the industrial era is my wheelhouse, so I'd like to offer a few resources for those who, like me, are trying to raise young children in one culture while preparing them for what comes next. Some of the books I recommend might also be welcome gifts for the young parents in your life, even if you don't have children.

Author Kim John Payne has written two books, "Simplicity Parenting" and "The Soul of Discipline." He is also a family therapist who specifically tries to correct the worst of our cultural excesses and the children who behave worst from them. His primary recommendation in the first book is to remove half of your children's toys - then remove another half from what remains. Also zero media and a way slower schedule. Many childhood pathologies are directly related to massive overstimulation. In his second book he teaches a method for being quite firm and having lots of clear limits and boundaries without being violent or reactive.

My other big recommendation is Waldorf education. The entire first grade curriculum is fairy tales, and Waldorf philosophy strictly opposes modern media interpretations - it's all the originals all the time. There are some really amazing resources for Waldorf homeschooling too - that is what I am doing with my son. Even those with children in public schools can add in the kinds of stories that nourish a child's soul though. There's a nice age-based list of stories to introduce in early childhood here: The Waldorf Library site in general has a great deal of good information as well as lots of out-of-copyright books.

12/22/16, 6:56 AM

peacegarden said...

Thank you for reminding me about Coventry Carol…I must play and sing along with that today…haven’t played that one yet! Second only to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on my favorites list, and then there is The Halleluiah Chorus…ah, so many moving compositions, so little time.

I am definitely in the traditional carol camp…although a recovering/lapsed Catholic, I still think music in Christ’s name is appropriate.

Going off to play some seasonal music…


12/22/16, 7:04 AM

Violet Cabra said...
thank you for writing this. I grew up in a household that exemplified many of the things that you discuss. my sister and I got presents every year regardless of how bad we were, our parents rarely disciplined us regardless of how bad we were, my parents would give and give without good energy exchanges, we watched those films about care bears, etc. I, of course, rebelled from a very early age and lived in a semi-feral state in the woods, eating berries, dandelions and acorns and smoking moss in computer paper joints on the sly. I killed frogs and brought home their legs to grill and shared double boiled milkweed pods with the extended family. I didn't brush my teeth, my hair was long and matted, and I'm sure I smelled bad. the flipside of my parent's attitude was their acceptance of my wild behavior, of which I am now extremely grateful. of course I was a loner for many, many years and had next to no friends between the ages of 7-14. Sometimes that's how things go.

Between ages of 15-20 I began gathering and chopping all my family's winter firewood. It seemed totally uncool to me that we didn't have a good energy exchange. Like everyone else I didn't want things so much as meaning and participation.

Now that I'm an adult I've mellowed out and the same things I did as a kid now can even make me money ie leading plant walks. Foraged wild food and roadkill round out my diet so i don't feel my youth was misspent, although it was very unhappy. I see now that my parent's had somewhat poor boundaries with me. This in turn has led me to unconsciously have poor boundaries with others and habitually be in relationships with poor energy exchanges (I give and the other takes) I tend to even cultivate this one sided type of relationship, viewing it as normal and natural. I guess I imitate what my parent's did rather than what they said. it is somewhat of a struggle for me to create healthy relationships. of course my parents did the best they could and the work of personal development in my adulthood is mine.

12/22/16, 7:23 AM

Donald Hargraves said...
Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! I've actually gotten into a few arguments with some people who wanted to censor fairy tales, and when I made your point (about consequences) the other person usually went ballistic, all caps in tow. (yes I use them, but I keep them targeted).

I remember when they republished the first edition of the Grimm's classic a couple years ago. I bought four books and gave each one to my brother, sister, and two step-sisters. Since I didn't have any kids myself, I made sure that the books got to where the nephews and nieces were.

As for worthy Christmas Carols, you might want to look at An Altered Christmas, where Rhan Wilson takes Christmas Carols and puts them into a minor key. Takes them to places nobody thinks they'll go, and Deck The Halls becomes almost revelatory in the sorrow the woman's singing with (the recorded version doesn't quite go the full trip, and the live versions have their own way of keeping things tolerable).

12/22/16, 7:26 AM

ganv said...
Yes, consequences do happen. I find following this line of thinking to be somewhat unpleasant. At the root of "consequences happen" is the reality that we exist as a consequence of a long process of evolution. A piece of the agenda of any "civilization" is to tame some of the nasty pieces of the evolutionary struggle. Sometimes it is in restraining warfare. Sometimes it is in providing an economic safety net. Sometimes it is in caring for those who ordinary evolutionary processes would leave to die. One way of reframing "consequences happen" is that you can't take this to its logical conclusion and remove competition and losers from social reality. The attempt in our current era to isolate children from threats to their self-esteem is just one branch of a massive attempt to create harmony without economic and evolutionary competition that create losers. Like you, I suspect these attempts will fail, but it will be complicated to develop post-'no consequences' society. Other processes will take over for us if social systems don't apply consequences. But there are a cacophony of differing ideas about how consequences should be assigned. And without some degree of consensus, we will proceed along the historical routes toward warfare and starvation. Assigning losers is an unpleasant business, but it happens either by social or natural means.

12/22/16, 7:28 AM

DiSc said...
I usually admire your polished prose, but you misspelled "its" in this essay, for the first time as far as I know.

About children literature: my children get indeed a lot of fables by Grimm and similar.

However, my 7-year-old son's teacher wants him to stick to the library books: these are graded by age, and he is supposed to only read those for his age. It is mostly, as you write, "mass-marketed consequence-free pap".

The grading goes to age 12, so he won't be able to choose his literature until he is almost an adult. My wife and I are shocked: we had both already read our first novel at age 7. So this Christmas he is a getting a copy of "20,000 Leagues under the Sea" by Jules Verne.

The method has the creepy name of "Learning to Read in Safety" (Veilig Leren Lezen in Dutch). Associations to repressive ideologies write themselves.

12/22/16, 7:32 AM

Scott Nance said...
Last night I asked my niece, who's finishing her final year of medical school, what percentage of ailments she saw were related to lifestyle. She replied that, for adults, it's about 90%. She went on to describe a typical case -- a long-time alcoholic who's told that her liver is shot, that to get a transplant she has to stop drinking for six months, and that she doesn't have six months. My niece's summary of all this: "did you really think you could drink 12 beers a day, every day, and there wouldn't be any consequences?" Instead, the attitude is very much "okay, fix me." Our society seems to have absorbed the conviction that actions have no consequences at a fundamental, almost unconscious level.

Or maybe people have always been that way. Just before they died.

12/22/16, 7:51 AM

Scott Nance said...
Oh, and I forgot to wish you a god jul, JMG. I look forward to Thursdays because I know I'll learn something new or gain some insight. The way I define a profound thought is something that, when you hear it, you don't understand how you didn't already realize it. You enlighten me on a weekly basis.

12/22/16, 7:53 AM

Robert C. Guy said...
A wonderful solstice to you yours as well sir. My wife and I were pleased to learn the reasonable old traditions around Krampus some years ago. I mentioned to her that the fierce old goat featured prominently in your latest post here and she was delighted. She thought a moment and reflected "Krampus is like the other side; he's the nega-Santa." to which we both agreed that if any one wants to have a true Santa Claus in their figurative universe they ought also to accept the nega-Santa clause as right and balanced.

I apologize if this shows up three times in your queue. My first attempt was pressing the submit button after viewing the preview and I the spirits of the Internet frowned on my button press and returned a '400 bad request error'. So I tried again without the preview and received the same error (perhaps I am overlooking an electronic bridge troll whos questions three I must first answer).

12/22/16, 7:54 AM

Eric S. said...
A blessed Alban Arthan to you. Other Druid solstice symbols that tend to feature in decorations of cards: holly and mistletoe, wrens, the Holly King (or more specific incarnations of the archetype), and the Mabon. And though it’s thankfully not hallmarked out, there are plenty of Druids who make and sell solstice cards with these sorts of images on them. Meanwhile there are also plenty of Druids out there who also celebrate a good old fashioned Yule in the Northern tradition alongside and mixed in with their Alban Arthan festivities, which brings in much of what Bill described in his comment above. However, I’d always thought of the bear imagery of Alban Arthan as having more in common with the star of Bethlehem in more traditional Christian Midwinter traditions, as the guiding light of the pole star in the dark of the year, than as a Druidic Krampus, which is a role much better occupied by the Wild Hunt that features heavily into the Winter lore of most Indo-European traditions (though Krampus himself has been fairly enthusiastically embraced by a lot of the Druids I know.) That was a lovely essay, though. Maybe stories for children that don’t coddle them, or spare the gory details about the harshness of life, the reality of limits, and the roughness of the sort of world that they will likely be growing up in would make a good writing contest someday ;-) .

12/22/16, 8:05 AM

Seaweed Shark said...
Good essay. Krampus is bad enough, but before I was halfway through this I was expecting you to go all the way to "The Gods of the Copybook Headings."

12/22/16, 8:22 AM

Clay Dennis said...
While bringing back Krampus and the Grimms are both good ideas for the kids, I am afraid it won't bring back the true realization of consequences as long as much of the consequence avoiding structure of the modern industrial world stays in place. The one I was thinking of is, the now ubiquitous world of insurance. Such things as fire, car, life and house insurance ( I will leave out sick care insurance from this as it is not really insurance) have been hearalded as unblemished goods. But in reality they have dulled peoples realization of consequences, poor planning and uninformed choices. In addition they have helped lead to the over financialization of the economy and advanted the big over the small. When one does not have fire insurance, it forces you to band together with your neighbors to create rebuilding pools and such. The nuances of things like professional liability insurance, gap insurance and other special kinds are even more damaging and allow stupid rackets to continue that would have been taken down years ago.

12/22/16, 8:37 AM

Iuval Clejan said...
Evolution is about random actions (mutation and drift) and consequences (selection). There are tradeoffs though and sometimes what might be good for the individual (dominance and selfish behavior) might not be good for the group, and therefore indirectly for the individual. There is a whole theory emerging now of selection happening at higher levels than the individual, both in biology and sociology. It is called Multi level Selection (MLS) theory, or sometimes just group selection. It is controversial still in the inner circles of evolutionary biology. It explains how groups are able to modulate selfish or dominant behavior of individuals through such mechanisms as gossip, punishment (either by the group or transcendent entities, e.g. God), rewards for altruism and fables/mythology. Groups who do this can sometimes outcompete groups that don't do it as effectively. I also think that groups/individuals who evolve better foresight can gain a selective advantage over groups/individuals who are not as skilled at it. Both these mechanisms can be thought of as bigger picture thinking and doing. Perhaps if they are strong enough, they can help avoid the historical cycles that you have been focusing on, or at least prepare for them better.

12/22/16, 8:43 AM

Varun Bhaskar said...

Happy Alban Arthuan to you as well sir! I fasted yesterday in observance. Trying to get into the habit of observing the Druid holidays by fasting. Something about holy days seems to make us hindus want to not eat....:P

Dealing with consequences is painful, but the pain isn’t consistent. Think about the child who tells one lie to cover up misbehavior, then another to cover for the lie, and keeps lying till a small mistake becomes a huge one. Now if the child had fessed up and took the punishment for the original misdeed, or been caught out the first time, the consequences probably wouldn’t be too bad.

Consequences for bad behavior only get worse over time. The consequence for an adult is far worse than for a child in most cases. However, we live in a culture that encourages us to behave like the lying child by allowing us not to deal with the immediate consequences. We’re given countless ways to run away from reality, which we use to pile one misguided act on another. Well none of that actually means that the consequences go away, they just get kicked down the road. Deep down everyone knows that, so they have to keep kicking in the desperate hope that someone will save them like when they were kids.

Eventually society won’t have the energy to help people kick the can, and that’s when things will get ugly.



12/22/16, 8:43 AM

JimBobRazrBk said...
The Universe doesn't owe us anything- and nothing we do can force it to hand over whatever our fantasy demands of it.

Most of the people who follow Peak Oil understand perfectly well that the Universe is under no obligation to bend to our limitless Consumerist desires. What is a little harder to learn, I think, is that the Universe is also under no obligation to make the transition to a post-Peak Oil world easy, idyllic, or perfect either, no matter how pure your intention or how "correct" your assessment of the situation. For example, the Universe is under no obligation to shelter you from concerns like how you will stay fed, clothed, sheltered, and hydrated during your period of transition, nor will it shelter you from more "unfair" concerns like keeping the tax collector, regulator, and other bureaucrats off your back. This is the difficulty for any modern suburbanite who has had the good intention to, for example, go off and start an organic farm only to find that the Universe is under no obligation to make that farm succeed, no matter how much you "believe" it's the right thing to do.

12/22/16, 8:46 AM

ganv said...
A nice short video description of the Krampus tradition in Austria:

12/22/16, 8:47 AM

Christopher Henningsen said...
I'm not sure how you feel about your readers promoting other people in your comments section, but I discovered your blog this way, so I hope you're all right with. This feels very a propos: One of my favorite authors reading the kind of children's story you recommend.

12/22/16, 8:50 AM

Iuval Clejan said...
I should have said, that just like the tradeoff between what is good for the individual vs the group, there is also a tradeoff between what is good for the individual (or group) right now, vs in the long run. Short term benefits with long term costs that outweigh the benefits are the Achilles heal of most species, but H. Sapiens has evolved foresight to be able to deal with this better. This is also part of the definition of addiction, and there are ways that addicts can recover.

12/22/16, 8:55 AM

Roger said...
JMG, I think we have a real-life example of people being world-class jerks. And also an example of ignorance being an active state. I'm not talking about those much maligned people in Red-State America. For all the accusations of "ignorance" thrown at those people in so-called flyover country, the ones who seem to be most actively practicing deliberate cluelessness are the same people making the charge, those being inhabitants of sea-coast, big-city bubble-lands.

I say this because I've read a a swathe of articles in coastal publications that purport to be progressive and who constantly tell us that they live on a much higher moral and intellectual plane. Maybe TOO high to see clearly what's happening on the ground not so far away.

But it's rather more likely that the explanation is simpler. Now, I don't want to put words in your mouth JMG, but I think you'd say they're being jerks.

They ask, why did Hillary lose the election? And their answers seem to be centered on the inadequacies of people that voted for Trump. They natter on and on that such voters are guilty of the many "isms" and "phobias" in the progressive handbook of societal pathologies: racism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia etc. That is, they most ludicrously elevate simple intolerance or distaste into full blown psychiatric conditions - phobias. So not only are these Trump voters bigots, they're nuts.

But more particularly, ignorance being an active state, the glitterati selectively (and jerkishly) disregard their own role in the economic demolition of wide areas of the country and the removal of the bread-and-butter mainstays of tens of millions. In this account, the flyover slobs have no gripe. They may FEEL ignored or left behind or culturally threatened, but these are mere feelings with no basis in reality. No, they have nothing to complain about but, to the extent that they do have problems, they are of their own making.

And besides (consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds) they insist that everyone knows that what ails the rust-belt, globalization, is really a natural tectonic force, overwhelming and irresistible. Adapt, make your peace with it, or die.

Globalization or no, according to the luminaries, things aren't so bad, not even for those racist hicks. And boy, are they ever done with trying to understand working-class America.

12/22/16, 9:05 AM

Michele Yamano said...
Dear JMG,
This has to be my favorite post next to the tongue-in-cheek one about Republicans being Satanists. I'd like to give a high five out there to my fellow teachers who were nodding their heads while reading this essay. At every report card I hear students complain about the grade the teacher "gave" them to which I always reply "you mean what you earned". I dropped some early "otoshidama" into the tip jar and ordered Retropia from Founders House. Glad you had a fabulous Solstice and have a Happy New Year!

12/22/16, 9:05 AM

William Lucas said...
Hi JMG, Even before you had come to the part of your essay where you recommend readers to purchase a good-old-fashioned book of fairy tales I'd decided to report back that I'm reading nightly bedtime stories from Andrew Lang's Yellow Fairy Book to my 7-yr-old daughter. "Look," I showed her yesterday, "This book's cover is made not of paper or card, but of some sort of cloth." We both rain our fingernails over it to produce a satisfying scratching sound. BTW, in our part of the world winter solstice celebrations would entail an extra 6 months wait, or shift forward, depending on whether you regard the glass half-empty or half full. Hmm, maybe just regard time as cyclic . . .

12/22/16, 9:09 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20161222T174051Z

Yes indeed, actions with consequences - including actions taken by people voting as a collective.

One such action is electing an uneducated pal of Goldman Sachs, supported at the ballot box by basically 1 in 4 of the people who were this November legally able to cast a ballot in the USA, to the White House. Diplomatic and naval events from the last few days suggest one such consequence might be a deterioration in USA-People's Republic of China (PRC) bilateral relations, over the coming years.

Perhaps the PRC might be destined to serve as something of a reality-checking Krampus? Kinda-sorta like the rather testy and ill-tempered EU, pondering what trade arrangements - temporarily, perhaps, harnessing even the World Trade Organization harsh null-position rules - it should now be proposing to the UK?



Nice sentence in my Finnish grammar book, from a table-pounding curmudgeon in a loud little Finnish drama, set in something like a shopping mall or restaurant, and entitled something like "The Difficult Customer": Minä olen realisti - "I am a realist" (in my mother-tongue of Estonian, this changes only slightly, becoming Mina olen realist).

Yes, yes: Krampus, and GRINCH!

Wickedly, in Grinch hat,


12/22/16, 9:44 AM

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...
A good solstice to all. My multi-religion family has a big party the weekend before Christmas, which leaves us all free to do what we will on the actual day--so much more relaxing and less coercive.

Evocative photos of Krampus-fests are here:

Like others in this forum, I did raise my children according to the "young animal" theory of child rearing. :) I second all favorable comments about exposing kids early to old (un-Disneyfied) fairytales, and Greek and Norse myths. Plus Native American stories (and, of course those of other cultures and indigenous peoples). My parents raised me that way and I continued the tradition. We all respect consequences and ramifications of actions taken or not taken. My children are independent thinkers and doers with a healthy respect for cultures not their own.

12/22/16, 10:06 AM

Keith Huddleston said...
On the bright side, I'm pretty sure we're close to peak enablers.

It's a lagging indicator, unfortunately, but it'll get there. We've hit peak oil and peak net-knowledge. Heck, the U.S. has even hit peak health.

12/22/16, 10:26 AM

Joy said...
When I was a child, my family had a book filled with old stories from many different countries that definitely would not be considered age appropriate in today's world. Many contained endings that included the monster/evil person carrying off the little girl, often times after killing her family. I loved a tale called The Hobyahs ("Hobyah, Hobyah, Hobyah! Tear down the hempstalks, eat up the old man and woman, and carry off the little girl!) I found The Goose Girl particularly disturbing, as the villainous woman at the end met her just deserts by being dragged through the streets naked in a barrel with nails pounded into it. Many of the stories certainly had a moral to them. Perhaps this fed my early love of horror stories and movies? My brother read Bram Stoker's Dracula to me when I was no more than 6, and I have memories of sitting on the bed in the front bedroom, listing to him. I still have vivid images of the Count crawling up the castle wall, Renfield gobbling up flies in his cell, and the Bloofer Lady trolling for children. At 10 I wanted to stay up late on Saturdays to watch the Double Creature Feature (my mom only allowed me one movie at that age). I still love a well written horror story (Thank Cthulu for Lovecraft!).

Off topic, John, but in line with some of your previous entries: You've discussed how as nations collapse people realign, sometimes into armed groups. The average person in the U.S., when hearing words like "gun club", "gun rights" or prepper/survivalist, pictures a right wing militia man, or a fundamentalist Christian end-timer. Now the movement is growing among liberals and all points left.
US liberals are now buying guns too.
Through the Hampton Institute Blog, ( , Aug. 12, 2016 post) I learned about Redneck Revolt ("Putting the Red back in redneck"), which formed out of The John Brown Gun Club of the early 2000's.

12/22/16, 10:26 AM

Sydney Mike said...
For the last three years, I have spent Christmas in Ethiopia. This year I am back in Australia again. The contrast is staggering. Ethiopia is arguably the world’s most sustainable civilization. Dinknesh (Lucy) was found there, the world’s oldest humanoid skeleton dated over three million years of age.

Children are polite in Ethiopia. Teenagers will rise when an adult enters the room. Disciplined work is a given in whatever you do. There is no materialistic gift tradition for Christmas either. Families get together for a sumptuous meal for Christmas. They give thanks for what they have.

Ethiopia has a significant rural population that live without electricity or running water. So charities and NGO’s from the world over try to bring them the modern way. They see it as their first order of business to acquire the most wasteful SUV that they can find, to move their do-gooding behinds around. They are spending monies that they have collected from little old ladies back home on 5 star hotels and the left overs on bringing rural Ethiopians the trappings of modern life.

The tragedy is that some people get the impression that those material things grow on trees. That they come without price. Oxen pulling a plough is age old sustainable technology, a tractor requiring oil and spare parts from China is not. At the moment, most Ethiopian food is still farmed the old way.

I suspect that the world’s most sustainable civilization will have a better chance of dealing with resource depletion than any other. To this day, donkeys deliver cement to building sites in Ethiopia in parallel with trucks. The donkey herd operator can turn a profit by saving massively on capital cost and by not being dependent on foreign oil.

I once sat in a café overhearing a demanding late teenage American Ethiopian in Addis Ababa complain to her mother back home on her latest iPhone that her Ethiopian host mother was expecting her to do household chores and that she observes a curfew. In addition and perhaps her biggest complaint was that the internet is intermittent in Ehtiopia. The hysteria in her voice was comical. What will she do when one day back home in the US of A she will have to settle for less all around? The entitlement generation has another thing coming.

JMG, big thanks for another year of fine writing. Perhaps one day "The Twilight's Last Gleaming" or another one of your novels is turned into a Hollywood blockbuster.

Happy Solstice and a merry good year!

12/22/16, 10:43 AM

Sister Crow said...
Krampus, schmampus, you forgot to mention good old Mother Perchta/Berchta! If I may quote the 'pedia that shall not be named:

In the folklore of Bavaria and Austria, Perchta was said to roam the countryside at midwinter, and to enter homes during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (especially on the Twelfth Night). She would know whether the children and young servants of the household had behaved well and worked hard all year. If they had, they might find a small silver coin next day, in a shoe or pail. If they had not, she would slit their bellies open, remove stomach and guts, and stuff the hole with straw and pebbles.

How's THAT for consequences? There's a filked carol, "Mother Berchta's Coming To Town," which was a favorite Solstice song of my young witchhood:

You better watch out when winter comes nigh
You better not doubt, I'm telling you why
Mother Berchta's coming to town

She carries a sack made out of skin
She dumps the toys out and stuffs the kids in
Mother Berchta's coming to town

She rides on Master Skeggi
A Goat whose back is strong
Her beard is grey and scraggly
And her tail is ten feet long!

With six or eight horns, a moustache or two
Make a mistake, she's coming for YOU!
Mother Berchta's coming to town.

She knows with whom your sleeping
She knows with whom you wake
She knows each thought you're thinking
So don't THINK! For Goddess sake

So when the winds howl way up in the sky
Listen as she and Skeggi pass by
Mother Berchta's coming
Mother Berchta's coming
Mother Berchta's coming
Mother Berchta's coming to town

12/22/16, 10:49 AM

Rita said...
Humorist David Sedaris has a hilarious bit on the Dutch St. Nicholas called "Six to Eight Black Guys." He is suitably horrified by a Santa whose helpers beat bad children with a switch, kick them or stuff the worst into bags to be taken back to Spain. Add to it that the helpers until the mid 1950s were St. Nicholas' slaves and are portrayed by men in black face (or in today's multi racial Holland by actual Afro-Europeans).

I have always thought of the noun "jerk" as a shortening of "jerk-*ff" clearly indicating the self-centered activities of the person being described.

I have recently read some postings by Millennials pointing out that the "prizes for everyone" situation of their childhood years was the idea of their parents, not their own responsibility. I suspect that left to themselves children always keep score. When my oldest daughter was in elementary school I had her enrolled in an "open" style school. I liked part of their program, but some of it just didn't work for her. As soon as I transferred her to a "fundamental" style school in which grades were given her performance greatly improved. Evaluations were not motivating enough.

12/22/16, 11:28 AM

EnergyLens said...
I repackaged all of this for my boys (9 and 11) at dinner this evening. Fits very nicely into our review of traditions of various cultures for this time of year. We reminisced about listening to Philip Pullman's "Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm" on a road trip last year and had a far ranging discussion about consequences, even touching upon "safe spaces" on college campuses. As we were wrapping up my normally very serious older child got a silly grin and suggested that what kids need now is a Krampus Campus...

Thanks again and again and again for all you put into your weekly posts!

12/22/16, 11:31 AM

Sister Crow said...
Rats, missed a typo in the song. I know the difference between "your" and "you're," I swear, but Blogger ate my first post and I had to reassemble it. Oddly, when I learnt the song in the 1990s, I'm sure it was Berchta, but when I went looking for the lyrics online today, every version was Berta, instead. I blame Spellchecker .

12/22/16, 11:31 AM

EnergyLens said...
I repackaged all of this for my boys (9 and 11) at dinner this evening. Fits very nicely into our review of traditions of various cultures for this time of year. We reminisced about listening to Philip Pullman's "Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm" on a road trip last year and had a far ranging discussion about consequences, even touching upon "safe spaces" on college campuses. As we were wrapping up my normally very serious older child got a silly grin and suggested that what kids need now is a Krampus Campus...

Thanks again and again and again for all you put into your weekly posts!

12/22/16, 11:31 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
Festive Solstice Mr. Greer! As a bit of background, I don't have children. And, I've never had the least bit of interest in that direction. Don't know why, just never felt the urge to replicate myself. And, I've taken a bit of heat for that. Sometimes I state, maybe not so much tongue in cheek, "If I had kids, I'd still be in jail." :-).

What I find grating about movies and series programs, from Jurassic Park to the last iteration of War of the Worlds, it seems like there's always a child or two who whines and wails through the entire hour and a half. They will not follow instructions, and generally endanger the whole group trying to survive whatever threat. Usually someone dies because of their antics, but never them. They might feel bad for a moment or two, but there are no consequences. Were I in a similar situation, my inclination would be to feed them to the aliens or dinosaurs, early on, and get about the business of survival, unencumbered.

Growing up in the 50s, we were often threatened with "coal and switches" but in my Finn/German family, it didn't come with any cultural background. It was Santa who'd deliver such things to bad little boys and girls. There was a popular Christmas song at that time, played ad nauseam. "Santa Clause is Coming to Town." Santa was this all knowing, all seeing, omnipotent person who kept track of naughty and nice. Kind of a walking, talking "permanent record."

12/22/16, 12:27 PM

Del Nogal said...
Dear JMG,
I coulnd't resist sharing this slideshow from my home, Fribourg, Switzerland.

I hope you will be pleased to note our Pères Fouettards (Whipping Fathers?) still kept some of their medieval creepiness (we also kept the kids butcher of the legend o_O).
This is still a lively celebration we enjoy the 1st weekend before the 6th of December.
In the way we celebrate it, the Pères Fouettards chastise the naughty kids, while Saint Nicholas chastises the powerful (public figures and authorities) in his yearly speech (1st picture) by making fun of them, very much as a jester would do of the king.

I'm thankful every year that le Père Noël(Santa Claus) didn't manage to kill this tradition yet.

All my best wishes to all who will now enjoy more light every day.
And many more wishes to all the others under all the other latitudes as they need them more now.

12/22/16, 12:27 PM

Noel said...
My mother's favorite poem was Little Orphan Annie. I still can recite it by heart. It's a long way from anything my kids have ever learned outside our home. I've taught them the poem as well. Kids do indeed need to know that their actions have real consequences, and not just that they might not get a "participation" trophy.

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you

12/22/16, 12:44 PM

[email protected] said...
My addition to the Krampus carols:

Here comes Krampus Claws,
Here comes Krampus Claws,
Right down Krampus Claws Lane,
Snortin’ and Spittin’ and lickin’ his lips
Ev’ry bad kid’s bane.
Bells are ringin', children singin',
All is merry and bright.
But if you’re naughty then say your prayers,
'Cause Krampus Claws comes tonight.

Here comes Krampus Claws,
Here comes Krampus Claws,
Right down Krampus Claws Lane,
He's got a bag that's filled with coal
For children who are pains.
Hear him cackle like a jackal,
He’s a terrible sight,
So jump in bed, and cover your head,
'Cause Krampus Claws comes tonight.

Here comes Krampus Claws,
Here comes Krampus Claws,
Right down Krampus Claws Lane,
He'll come around when parents have to shout,
“Will you go to bed!” again.
Peace on earth will come to all,
Once Krampus turns out their lights,
So let's give thanks to the gods above
'Cause Krampus Claws comes tonight.

12/22/16, 12:48 PM

Caryn said...
David by the Lake:

"Does anyone have experience or data on whether private school education (we have a number of church-affiliated schools around here, for example) is any different?"

My kids went to a private International school and I taught in another one, both very expensive, no scholarships - families with loads of money or corporate debentures, (the company pays) My preschool now is private, although largely funded by the state. The families we serve are largely poor working class or military families. My school feeds into the public school system.

Yes, from what I've seen private schools have the same 'no discipline' policy, but the difference is that they can kick a trouble-making student out - no refund on the $50,000 tuition you've paid in advance. That generally gets the parents attention. The way they address bad behaviour is the same though. A chronically misbehaving kid is labeled with an array of disorders, (cannot possibly be held accountable for their own actions), so the standard modern answer is psychiatrists, counselors and drugs.

I'm pretty sure private schools as well as public ones

12/22/16, 1:01 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
Thanks for this, JMG, and a happy Solstice to you, too! I've been waiting for this turning; the dark seems too dark this year, and knowing that the light is winning again gives me hope.
I read Hans Christen Anderson's tales as a very young girl, and found Andrew Lang's multi-colored fairy books in the adult-only section of the children's library in 4th grade, among the books adults took out to read to children, I guess... with a bit of pestering, I was able to borrow them, too. Now I have a Grimm's and love perusing for stories.
The lack of real consequences is a lot of what's causing the faux news phenomenon, I think. Because knowing what's real isn't survival-essential, most feel free to go with what they want to be real... and that becomes addictive. More acquaintance with the consequences of these stories (very difficult because it seems most of them are about people they would never meet and thus never experience consequences - watching a good person be brought down by lies, etc.) might wake them up...
In any case, enjoy the holidays and thanks for everything. May I just add that I'm really enjoying the new issue of Mythic? Your story is intriguing; makes me consider getting your book (tough on a tight budget). I'm grateful that two good scifi magazines came out this year (Into The Ruins is also wonderful, if folks don't know it.

I'll end with the lyrics of a Xmas song by The Fallen Angels (a Portland OR group who disbanded at least a decade ago, but whose songs I sing each year):

Jingle coins, jingle coins,jingle in the till.
Oh what fun it is to sell, and call it all goodwill.
Jingle coins, jingle coin,jingle in the bank -
Christ came to save the winter slump, for that we can give thanks.

The trinkets in our line are mostly from Hong Kong,
where there's no overtime, and no one thinks it's wrong.
The labor there is plentiful, and practically free,
producing little ornaments to dangle from your tree.

Oh, jingle coins (etc)

Now Christmas is the time to demonstrate your joy
and generosity to those whom you employ.
So what's a bonus now? A few bucks there or here?
These are the folks you underpay throughout the coming year,

Oh, jingle coins (etc)

12/22/16, 1:47 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
@Lunar Apprentice: here in Albuquerque, just east of the University District, I find myself making a hard distinctuion betwen bicycke riders and cyckusts ... Spot! Off the keyboard you silly puss! ,,,, anyway, bicycle riders are carrying cargo or equipped for the same. are in street clothes, and ride everything from Walmart bikes to whatever. They dodge around cars and ride on whatever surface will accommodate them, one at a time. They are everything from students to working-class.

Cyclists, all spandexed up and hunched over and scowling, will ride 4 abreast on a two-lane street and double-dog-dare you to honk at them. Or in any way indicate that you in the car behind them, are inconvenienced by them.

And that's my say on those self-appointed Special People on 2 wheels.

12/22/16, 1:50 PM

Phil Knight said...
Definitive map or who brings European Christmas presents here:

12/22/16, 2:04 PM

sgage said...
@Sister Crow,

Thank you so much for the Berchta carol! I am definitely going to sing this at my extended-family's Yuletide gathering. I am lucky to belong to a family that will really get a huge kick out of it. I'm going to have to practice it until it's automatic, because there is a very real danger that I could break down into sobs of laughter...

And while I have the mic here, let me wish Bright Blessings and Happy Solstice to one and all, and especially to our host who has brought us all together! Happy Solstice and many thanks to you and yours JMG! Merry Christmas and whatever else to all! The Light is returning! And nothing anyone can do can change that...

12/22/16, 2:07 PM

beneaththesurface said...
On the subject of the holidays which have become an orgy of consumption:

Readers of this blog may appreciate this personal story about my criminal past -- quite literally about nothing. Over a decade ago, my sisters, a few friends, and I would celebrate Buy Nothing Day by promoting the product NOTHING-TM. We'd dress up like real salespersons (and one of us as Santa) complete with T-shirts that read "NOTHING - What you've been looking for!," Santa Hats, big bags that said "FREE SAMPLES (and NOTHING in smaller print), and wear lanyards with fake salespersons' names like "Frida Laff" and "Joy Full." We would enter the largest shopping mall in Delaware to promote our wonderful product. We fit in quite well (at first) because there were lots of other salespeople giving out free samples of their products. We didn't approach anyone, but waited for customers to come to us as we wandered around. When customers saw we offered FREE SAMPLES, they'd come up and ask for whatever we had. We would ask them to hold out their hand, then we'd take out a clear container (labeled NOTHING) from our bag, and pour NOTHING into their hand, while enthusiastically telling them, "It's a revolutionary new product, guaranteed not to put you in debt, zero waste, family friendly, fun and creative, satisfaction guaranteed..etc. !"

Every customer we interacted with laughed and thought it was funny (we weren't being antagonistic towards anyone; it was all done in a lighthearted, friendly, and goofy manner). I specifically remember one man was elated upon receiving NOTHING, telling me that he kept telling his wife that was what he wanted for Christmas but she wouldn't take that for an answer and he had been dragged by her to the mall to choose a gift for himself. He then went and got his wife to come up to us to prove his point that he really wanted NOTHING for Christmas!

However, despite the positive reaction from customers, mall management was not so happy. Within 15 minutes, the mall manager had stopped us in the hallway, and various police officers gathered around. We were told that we had to leave the mall immediately, that we were soliciting (what were we soliciting - NOTHING?), that our T-shirts were offensive (is NOTHING really that offensive?), etc. We kept asking for more detailed information on what mall policy we were really violating, but they refused to give us answers. Mall management had no sense of humor whatsoever. Then because we weren't quick enough about leaving the mall, police officers put us all in handcuffs and arrested us (our improvisational act was pretty innocuous and getting arrested really wasn't in our plans). We had mug shots taken of us, were fingerprinted, and were banned from mall property for three years. The next day, the main headline in the state's local paper was "Sisters arrested for 'nothing'"

12/22/16, 2:09 PM

beneaththesurface said...

The real-life farce continued. We had to go to an all-day trial for our charges (what a waste of taxpayer money). At one point "evidence from the crime scene" was brought out (yes, in complete seriousness). Item #1: T-shirts that said "NOTHING What you've been looking for" Item #2: Santa hats Item #3: Security Camera photo of the group of us walking goofily down the mall hallway. During the entire trial, the mall manager never smiled or laughed. I thought the greatest crime was for someone to have no sense of humor whatsoever.

And yes, we ended up being convicted (of trespassing). The next day the headline in the newspaper was "Guilty of Nothing." I think the journalists covering our story had fun playing around with the word "nothing". The last time I applied for a job I had to have a criminal background check, and was worried I might get questions about what showed up on it. I was prepared to tell my potential employer that yes, I had been arrested but not to worry -- it was about nothing -- quite literally!

I guess in this age, a group of people armed with NOTHING entering a shopping mall is very threatening!

Check out this slideshow of our activities, set to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "I Got Plenty O' Nothing:

Wishing everyone plenty o' nothing this season!

12/22/16, 2:09 PM

sgage said...

Wow, you just sent me hard down memory lane with Little Orphan Annie. It was part of my family's culture. I wish I could remember what old book it was in - I grew up surrounded by old fairy/goblin/etc. books. Old books

An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you

Wow, I hadn't heard that in decades. Thanks...

12/22/16, 2:13 PM

Jay said...
I'm hoping you didn't mean to include symptoms of disability as bad behaviors that need consequences. Unfortunately we live in a society where you need to remind your readers that disability is not a lifestyle choice. I can see from some of the comments here that some of your readers are interpreting what you wrote the wrong way.

I had some of those "disorders" the commenters think are fictitious. I'm autistic. I also have severe depression and anxiety. And yes, I was punished. Most of my childhood memories involve being punished for one thing or another, half of which I don't think I even understood. The other children were not just allowed but sometimes encouraged to torment me for being different. Being punished for crying and self-harming did not cure my depression. Being shouted at did not cure my anxiety. Being told I was worthless and that my stalker was threatening my family because I was "different" did not cure my autism. So now I'm an adult with all of my original problems, plus PTSD, plus a host of stress-related and medication-related physical illnesses.

I'd like to point out that the way I was treated might itself be a symptom of entitlement and abundance. The adults around me felt entitled to live in a world where they didn't have to cope with disabled people, and thought that if they could make me suffer enough I would magically give them what they wanted. And I have a hard time picturing a pre-industrial community wasting THAT amount of time and effort in trying to turn a person into something they are obviously incapable of being. Surely the ability to harvest a crop would have been more important than the ability to carry a conversation at the level a team of child psychologists deemed "normal." I expect people were still cruel--in my experience all humans are vicious animals, not only the children. But I would also think they would have other things to do with their time and energy, and that they wouldn't have the rigid artificial standards of "normal" that the modern school system does.

Of course, I don't expect nature to make allowances for my disabilities, and I might not have survived childhood in those days. But that doesn't change the fact that my autism was not a choice, and I couldn't change it any more than a person in a wheelchair can choose to walk, no matter what the consequences are.

12/22/16, 2:20 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Synthase, since I live in the northern hemisphere, I don't worry about it; I figure those who live on the underside of the planet can work that one out for themselves.

Ed, to each their own.

Nuku, thank you -- and thanks for the Leonard Cohen song as well.

Kevin, it's not traditional -- we know almost nothing about what the ancient Druids did or taught -- but yes, it's lovely.

Jessi, that's brilliant, but where on Earth did your parents get reindeer poop?

Robert, no argument there.

Gaia, thank you for this! I hadn't heard of the Befana, but clearly she's someone to add to the collection of winter holiday consequence-bringers.

Apprentice, yeah, I know. As a pedestrian, I go out of my way to avoid being a jerk around cars, partly because I consider basic courtesy a good thing, partly because half a ton of metal and plastic moving at high speeds can squash a human body like a bug.

Thriftwizard, hmm! I like that; thank you.

Cherokee, you know, you may have hit on the core concept here -- the denial of limits. Behavioral limits, resource limits -- hmm. Definitely something to mull over!

Leo, that's a good point. The latest video games are no more violent, and no less, than Beowulf or The Iliad, after all.

Siebe, that sounds like a lot of fun. When I was a child, I'd sometimes get to go to Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, a half hour or so south of where we lived, and there was a similar attraction there -- a trail through a patch of woods with painted sculptures, cottages, etc., all with reference to fairy tales. The last time I went there, in my early teens, it had basically been abandoned -- the paint was faded and peeling, the statues crumbling, the trail half overgrown. It was inexpressibly sad -- and a fair metaphor for the abandonment of the folk culture of American childhood. I'm glad to hear the Netherlands has kept an example in good repair!

12/22/16, 3:00 PM

Dan grown old said...
I find myself out of sympathy with the other commentators. Firstly Donald Trump is a current vivid example of a man who feels immune to consequences, “I can grab them by the pussy...” and he is not mentioned except once and that once does not examine his failings. I can empathize with people who felt his offer was better than the status quo but I think we are seeing that what we actually end up with is yet another version of the status quo in all its horror.

My second point of divergence is the power of folk tales to educate children to consequences. I was raised on the Grimm Bothers and Russian folk tales. I also stole coins from my parents’ purses, teased my younger brother, drove far too fast and drank too much. I knew there were consequences, I simply believed I could avoid them, except for hangovers.

I also joined the bigger grimmer myth-makers, I became a church goer to the bemusement of my atheist parents. This was at age 11, then at 13 I discovered masturbation and had a private battle between solitary sex and Christianity. Sex won but I spent the next two years miserably convinced I would go to hell. Fear of consequences can be tormenting. Atheism was a relief.

I did not have parents who saw Christmas as a reward for a year’s goodness or badness. If I was bad and got caught I was hit but I knew I was still loved. Christmas was a time when the family celebrated that love for each other, coal would have been irrelevant.

I took real risks as a kid, I hiked bush with poorly formed tracks, I wandered along rocky surf coasts, I snorkeled alone, miles from home, I ended up driving more skilfully because I pushed my limits (to the detriment of other people’s safety). I came home with cuts and bruises and a growing understanding of how to live in a world where there were consequences. I do not think that tales by themselves would have worked for me.

12/22/16, 3:13 PM

canon fodder said...
Your comment about the solstice wobbling around the 21st of Dec. got me thinking about how our calendars have evolved over the last couple millennium. As you say in the comments, the Romans celebrated the solstice on Dec 25th by the Julian calendar. The Catholic church in the 4th century decreed that Dec 25th was the birth day of Christ. An interesting side note from either apologists or theologians says they picked this date partly because Jesus is seen as the light of the world, and it was only appropriate that he was born on the darkest day.

Anyway, the Catholic church (and western Europe) switched over to the Gregorian calendar several hundred years later, moving the solstice back to the 21st, but leaving Christmas on the 25th.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, on the other hand, kept the Julian calendar for their liturgical calendar, so even though they celebrate Christmas on Dec 25th by their reckoning, that equates to January 7th by the Gregorian calendar (at least for now).

Oddly, you could say we all celebrate the solstice in some small way on all three of these dates. I guess that's what happens when you measure astronomical events with human calendars.

Happy Solstice.

12/22/16, 3:17 PM

inohuri said...
One of my neighbor kids was a complete jerk. And then he disappeared. Years later this familiar looking teenager showed up, likeable and polite. His mom, the one who had spoiled him rotten, had sent him to Puntland, northern Somalia.

12/22/16, 3:20 PM

donalfagan said...
I'm in luck because Baltimore just opened a dedicated cycle track running North South along Maryland Ave, Cathedral Ave and Liberty. Cycle traffic is separated from auto traffic with painted lines and plastic bollards.

On ordinary roads, there are two schools of thought about bikes. In one, bikes are supposed to be driven just like cars, use a full lane, stop at all signs and lights, and signal all turns. In the other, bikes ride to the right of a lane, and hope that drivers allow a decent clearance when they pass us. Some bike activists insist that the law supports the first strategy, but auto drivers and police rarely see it that way. Most of us use the second approach.

12/22/16, 3:40 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Greg R., that's certainly an important part of the situation.

Ethan, yep. That's a classic example of what I'm talking about.

Greg B., delighted to hear it! As for angels -- oh man. As anyone who's studied the traditional lore knows, angels aren't fluffy little debutantes with oversized pigeon wings who scurry about making life comfortable for the supposedly entitled. They're terrifying, unhuman beings who are as likely to kill as to help. A classic account: "They had the likeness of a man. And every one of them had four faces, and every one had four wings....and as for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox, on the left side; they four also had the face of an for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps; it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning." Then there were the vast wheels within wheels, colored like beryls, studded with eyes, and dreadfully vast, that accompanied the angels just described! If your son is indeed a little angel, he's one terrifying kid.

Sven, I want to hear that carol!

TJ, that's a valid question, and it has a simple and straightforward answer. I've never owned or used a new computer. Since I need a computer and internet access to make a living -- publishers require manuscripts in electronic formats these days, and handle editing and proofs over the internet -- I buy obsolete machines that would otherwise enter the e-waste stream, use them until they die, and then pass them on to charities that refurbish them and give them to the poor. That way I'm sparing the biosphere the very large ecological costs of making a new computer, and also sparing it the additional costs of dealing with e-waste.

In the same way, if you happen to need to own a car -- and given the idiotic way that the built environment in the US has been laid out, some people do -- buy a used car with decent gas mileage, run it until it drops, and then pass it on to one of those charities that hauls clunkers away, parts them out, and uses the funds for various good purposes. Since so huge a fraction of the ecological cost of a car is the direct and indirect cost of manufacture, you can slash your footprint hugely by never buying a new car.

The faux environmentalists I'm critiquing aren't the people who own cars or what have you because they actually need them. It's the people who insist they love the Earth, but wouldn't be caught dead in a ditch owning a used compact -- no, they've got to have the latest model Ford Behemoth SUV with all the energy-wasting extras, and use it to commute 45 miles each way with not another living soul inhabiting any of the seven other seats. Oh, and they paste a bumper sticker on back saying "Live Simply That Others Might Simply Live" -- and yes, I've seen that sticker on that kind of vehicle. Faugh.

12/22/16, 3:46 PM

M Smith said...
Greg Belvedere said, "Every angel is terrifying."

In every instance of an angel appearing to man in the Old Testament, the first words out of the spirit's mouth are: "Be not afraid." This tells me they were indeed terrifying creatures, as they should be.

12/22/16, 3:48 PM

Ed-M said...

"Ed-M, no, not quite first." Yeah, I noticed! ;^)

"The thing to keep in mind is that life has always been like that. Here's your theme for reflection -- why does it still make sense to read and tell stories that have morals?"

Speaking of reading and telling stories that have morals, have you ever read the original Pied Piper of Hamelin? In the story, after the Pied Piper cleared Hamelin of RATS, he charmed all the townschildren and led them to a cave in the side of a mountain which then closed itself up upon them all... the Cave of Wealth and Death!

12/22/16, 3:58 PM

sgage said...

"As for angels -- oh man. As anyone who's studied the traditional lore knows, angels aren't fluffy little debutantes with oversized pigeon wings who scurry about making life comfortable for the supposedly entitled. They're terrifying, unhuman beings who are as likely to kill as to help."

Nearly every time an angel appears in the Bible, they feel compelled to say. first thing, "be not afraid", because the natural reaction to such an apparition would be utter terror.

12/22/16, 4:02 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bob, obviously I disagree. My take is that you're on the right track in adding the qualifying phrase "healthy self-esteem," but I'd encourage you to reflect on the possibility that people can have an unrealistically high sense of their competence and self-worth -- to think that they're competent when they're not, and to think that they're worth more than they actually are. That's the point at which healthy self-esteem crosses the line into an unhealthy excess of self-esteem, and people begin acting like jerks.

Caryn, and that's a good point, too.

Peacegarden, thank you. The humor and the edginess are both ways of dealing with the severity of the predicament we're in, of course.

Breanna, thanks for these.

Violet, many thanks for your story! Yours was an uncommon response to the mess that's been made of childhood in our time, but apparently a functional one.

Donald, you're very welcome. The all-caps ballistic rage is the thing that fascinates me -- not a normal reaction, though a common one. As for the minor key Christmas carols, I'll certainly check that out. Have you ever heard "The Star-Spangled Banner" in a minor key? It's harrowing. (If my novel Twilight's Last Gleaming ever becomes a movie, I want this as its central musical theme.)

Ganv, of course. One of the points of community is finding ways to soften the otherwise brutal forces pushing toward warfare and starvation. Will ours manage it? I'm sorry to say I doubt it, but it still seems worth trying.

DiSc, that's horrible! I hope you'll surreptitiously take your son to the public library so he can pick out his own books to read.

Scott, thank you! You and your daughter are both quite correct, of course. So many people want to do whatever they feel like, and insist that the consequences won't happen -- and when they do, it's always someone or something else's fault.

Robert, thank you also! There may be a troll or something; I only got the one copy.

Eric, as I noted, there's a lot of diversity in Druidry! Of course the bear has close connections to the northern sky -- she's the constellation of the Great Bear, Callisto, and there's also the symbolic connection to the element of Earth and the northern quarter, which are among the correspondences of the winter solstice. As for a writing contest, hmm. The problem there is that I don't have any experience writing or editing children's stories, so would have a hard time judging the results.

12/22/16, 4:15 PM

Jeff said...
Merry Christmas, archdruid! Your gift is a Christian apologetic to neo-pagans.

12/22/16, 4:31 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Shark, funny. It's a good poem, though.

Clay, one step at a time. We start by changing minds and end by changing institutions.

Iuval, I don't think it's possible to avoid the cycles, but it's certainly possible to manage them better than we're doing now!

Varun, the one thing I'd add to your analysis is that there's a whole mess of cans being kicked, and some of them have already fallen behind. Some consequences are already arriving; others are on their way.

JimBob, and that's a very important point as well!

Ganv, thank you.

Christopher, people do it all the time. Many thanks for the link!

Iuval, good. The thing I'd point out here is that our capacity for foresight is a very recent evolutionary innovation, so it's not surprising that it should still be pretty fitful.

Roger, why, yes, that had crossed my mind as well. ;-)

Michele, many thanks!

William, delighted to hear it. Lang's books are great resources.

Toomas, well, given that we got to choose between two pals of Goldman Sachs, one of whom wanted to antagonize China while the other wanted to antagonize Russia, I don't know that we did that badly.

Adrian, delighted to hear it.

Keith, oh, I hope so!

12/22/16, 4:33 PM

PRiZM said...
Another post with a slightly different perspective on things, but quite timely and probably of interest to many people with it's great use of history and how things then parallel now, and how people then were able to rise to the occasion, and a call to action for us to rise now. Whether it's "peak oil", "catabolic collapse", or just a general feeling of the world going into the can, there's a lot of people realizing things aren't getting any better and ready to rise against the "myth of progress". We'd all do well to work together.

12/22/16, 4:41 PM

talus wood said...
Nice post thank you. I find animals can be great teachers for children in teaching consequences and boundaries. there tends to be a warning and then action is carried out, animals tend to mean what they say and a nip on the arm speaks a thousand words!

Now for a contrarian view, my understanding of some "primitive" societies, is that they tend not to discipline children or expect much from them until they are in their teens.

Children "play" at what the adults are doing and learn the adult skills in that way. The western/modern method of discipline would be strange to them i think. Maybe living so close to nature brings it's own boundaries?

12/22/16, 4:41 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Joy, to my mind there's nothing more age appropriate for children than a good Grimm fairy tale, and I also adored creature features at a young age -- in Seattle, one of the non-network stations ran a Japanese monster movie every Saturday afternoon, so I was a serious kaiju geek at age ten. Lovecraft, though -- I find his work delightfully imaginative but not scary at all, with one exception -- "The Color Out Of Space" is genuinely creepy. The others? I'm invariably cheering for the monsters. (Though, to be fair, I also cheered on Rodan, Ghidorah, et al.) Thank you for the heads up; I wonder if the left has finally realized that the reason the Bundy brothers were treated with kid gloves, and the NDAP pipeline stopped suddenly the moment a large cadre of veterans showed up, is that the only thing the US government genuinely fears is the risk of armed insurgency.

Sydney Mike, many thanks for the data points from the real world.

Sister Crow, you can certainly name Wikipropaganda if you like! I'm beginning to think that there should be some kind of League of Yuletide Frighteners or what have you, in which Berchta, the Befana, Krampus, Black Peter, the Whipping Fathers, et al. all have a place at the table, with hot roast spoiled brat as the entree!

Rita, I've heard the same thing from Millennials I know. They weren't at all happy with the "prizes for everyone" nonsense. I hope they raise their children differently!

Energylens, your older son has just earned tonight's gold star. A Krampus Campus! Yes, I think a lot of people would benefit from a semester or two of that. (And I'll note, for the benefit of all and sundry, that gold stars are not given out on this blog just for participating...)

Lewis, I get that. Toss the spoiled brat to the dinosaur, and while it's busy crunching the snack, run: yeah, that sounds like good advice to me.

Del Nogal, many thanks for this! It's good to see so robust a tradition still rolling along. When the Pères Fouettards are finished flogging naughty children in Fribourg, do you think you could talk them into coming over here? We've got so many spoiled brats of all ages in the US just now that poor Krampus is getting a repetitive-strain injury thrashing them all... ;-)

Noel, thank you! I don't think I'd ever encountered that before, and it's a great old poem -- and a useful memory of the days when orphan children would be welcome in other homes to help maintain the household economy.

[email protected], another good carol! I imagine a band of Krampus carolers going through the streets, led by a hairy figure with horns, and all the naughty children huddling in their beds until they've gone by...

Cathy, thank you! The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth will be out in trade paper sometime next Spring, if that's any help. As for the faux-news phenomenon -- on all sides of the political landscape, as of course it is -- granted; since there are supposed to be no consequences, people can insist on believing anything that makes then feel good, on the assumption that there's no reason not to.

12/22/16, 5:01 PM

M Smith said...
Lewis Lucan wrote: "They will not follow instructions, and generally endanger the whole group trying to survive whatever threat."

I knew a VietNam vet who told me that when he first got there he was a kvetch. He whined and complained about everything and it was getting on the platoon's nerves. It didn't take long for his sergeant to snatch him aside and growl: "You're affecting morale. If you don't stop complaining NOW and for good, you will walk point tomorrow. And you will be killed." Funny how the sergeant was able to predict the future...

12/22/16, 5:21 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Phil, many thanks for this!

Beneath, oh my. Have you considered writing that up as an essay and getting it in print? It's a splendid story, and deserves more circulation.

Jay, where on Earth did you get the idea that I was including symptoms of disability in an essay that's about excessive self-esteem and a refusal to accept consequences? I have Aspergers syndrome, btw, so I can sympathize with your experience; I also got a lot of bullying in childhood because of it -- but that has nothing to do with what this essay was talking about.

Dan, of course tales by themselves aren't enough, and I never said they were. They're a starting point, that's all. As for Donald Trump, yes, I know that frantic vilification of the man has become a mandatory form of virtue signaling in some circles just now, but -- ahem -- this isn't one of those circles. We could talk at quite some length, you know, about how Hillary Clinton's career shows exactly the same belief in immunity from consequences that you decry in Trump...

Canon, oh, granted. As a Druid, I prefer to use the actual movements of the heavens to time my festivals, but to each their own.

Inohuri, that would do it!

Donalfagan, glad to hear it -- on both counts. Dedicated cycle lanes really are a good idea.

M Smith and Sgage, bingo. Angels aren't cute; they inspire dread and awe.

Ed-M, yes, I did! It's a fine story in its original form, and deserves retelling.

Jeff, thank you. I'm flattered at the amount of material from my book The Druidry Handbook that the author quoted, and I was impressed by the way that the section on apologetics zeroed in on two of the really crucial divisions between Druidry and modern Protestant Christianity -- the latter's insistence that human beings are a special creation separate from, and superior to, the world of nature, on the one hand, and its insistence on the uniqueness of Jesus as the sole source of salvation, on the other. Of course I'd point out that from my perspective and that of many other Druids, these claims made by Protestant Christianity are wrong, that the first is a massive source of misery, failure, and destructiveness, and the latter is little more than the standard soap salesman's claim that his product is infinitely superior to Brand X -- but that's not something a Christian apologist is going to discuss, of course.

Prizm, good heavens. I'm delighted, not least because the authors have done the unthinkable, and looked to the past to see if anyone else ever had to deal with a crisis like the one we're having in the presence. Huzzah!

Talus Wood, to my mind, that's because "primitive" societies -- that is to say, hunter-gatherer societies and the like -- are natural to human beings, since the environments and social contexts of such societies are the things that our species evolved doing. Complex societies like the one you and I inhabit are much less natural for us, and it takes much more training -- and discipline -- for each generation of fierce young animals to learn how to get by functionally in that more complex and less natural setting.

12/22/16, 5:29 PM

PRiZM said...
JMG, you may be especially pleased that the authors are advocating the virtues of lodges and thus encouraging the resurrection of communities. There really are many other voices out there offering some sane, realistic ideas about our current mess of problems. It gives me some hope that not all will be lost in this age of decline.

12/22/16, 5:37 PM

latheChuck said...
I have found that the process of cooking is a low-risk way to introduce my sons to "consequences". A grilled-cheese sandwich that's neglected will burn, and cannot be unburned. Making a fresh one today means less cheese for tomorrow (and we don't buy more than we expect to use within a week).

"Did you eat the last of [it], and not put [it] on the shopping list for this week's trip? Too bad. We'll have to get along without it. Have you put it on the list for next week?"

"There's nothing in stock but what your parents like to eat? Make a plan. Put it on the shopping list. Or learn to like what we eat." (Some of you will say that even this is too accommodating... probably with good reason, but we have our reasons, too.)

The garden also presents consequences: setting in plants without protecting them from the deer or groundhog is one way to discover them.

12/22/16, 6:15 PM

latheChuck said...
During tonight's ham radio social net (a weekly half hour of round-robin conversation between 4-5 local guys gathered around the VHF repeater), the club treasurer noted that my membership renewal form had been filled in with a manual typewriter. "What's up with that?", he wanted to know. I could have said that I'd let my inkwell dry up (which was true), but I simply explained that I was using my old Underwood in pursuit of my "retro-technical future, along with my slide rule, my telegraph key, and my jars of sauerkraut fermenting in the basement". The next speaker in line commented that he'd like to turn back the clock, but of course we have to get used to change, and even more change in the future. "I'd like to see you try."

This is a topic we may come back to during future nets.

12/22/16, 6:25 PM

Jay said...
Sorry, just to be clear--I didn't mean to say that YOU were including disability in an essay about bad behavior from people who had been shielded from consequences. It's just that some of the people who have caused me problems in my life would have looked at your essay and assumed it did apply to me, regardless of what you had intended. I found some of the remarks in the comments section about children being labeled with disorders instead of disciplined disturbing in that regard, and I wanted to let people know that not every child who seems to have a behavior problem is actually a spoiled, entitled brat.

By the way, I have to agree with you 100% about children and gore. When I was little I was obsessed with velociraptors (or Deinonychus, as they used to be called.) I think my parents were a bit concerned. There does seem to be an impulse to pretend that childhood is a time of blissful innocence, which in my experience is totally out of touch with reality.

12/22/16, 6:35 PM

Ron M said...
Happy belated Alban Arthuan, JMG. And thanks for the seasonally appropriate post!

As soon as you mentioned in your post “bear” and “actions have consequences” in the same sentence, I was immediately reminded of The Godson -- the most mystical (and therefore my favourite) short story by Leo Tolstoy. The key lesson for the Godson on his quest for his “God”father is taught by a mother bear, who ends up first harming, then killing her cubs and then killing herself by flinging a log tethered to a tall tree higher and higher. The log simply returns the same force she applies to it. Unfortunately, the Godson is not “ripe” to receive this teaching and after doing an extraordinary amount of harm to the world in a short time while wielding godlike powers (kind of reminds me of what we’ve been doing since the start of the industrial revolution), he has to spend most of his life learning this lesson (along with a few other spiritual lessons).

Your observations about the lack of such lessons being taught by Western society to its youth in recent decades is bang on. Largely thanks to being the offspring of a strict Third World mother, my children have been spared such a fate. They also have a solid grounding in traditional fairy tales of the West and Asia. I am happy to report that my children are often praised by employers and other adults for their sense of responsibility. I think that’s because under our roof, they know very well that all actions have consequences (some of them dire!).

12/22/16, 6:41 PM

onething said...
W.B. Jorgensen,

"I think the issue may be the messengers: nearly all the "rational" (aka atheists) in public life (and my personal life as well) I can think of believe in a limitless world. Nearly everyone who believes in limits is religious in some form. "

That it worth thinking about, but I am not sure how well it squares with my personal experience that the nonreligious are far more likely to take climate change seriously than the religious or spiritual. Climate change being an acceptance that there are least theoretically...someday maybe...

12/22/16, 8:09 PM

onething said...

"as parents, if your agenda is to have a child who finds a good and happy life as an adult, the worst thing you could do is abuse them. The second worse thing you could do is spoil them."

That is quotable and worth remembering.

12/22/16, 8:23 PM

onething said...
Funnily enough, I just had a thought a week ago about my grandson and also my neighbor's son, both four, who don't seem to want to be read to. I thought, maybe I will just bypass the little kids' books and try reading them fairy tales. They might be too young, but I'll see.

12/22/16, 8:38 PM

canon fodder said...
Consequences and Circumstances

Long ago man learned the quality of life depended largely on circumstances. Being the tool-using intelligent species we are, we promptly set about to alter circumstances to make life better, easier and more survivable. We cultivated things like fire, animals and crops. We created tools to ease the effort of crafting our environment and altering our circumstances.

Fast forward many thousands of years and you arrive at the current fossil-fueled age of abundance. You also run into the western concept of the social democracy. We, as a society, found we had enough resources, natural and social, to alleviate some of the harsher circumstances people fell into. Hungry? We’ll feed you. Homeless? We’ll shelter you. Sick? We’ll try to cure you. All arguably good things.

Here’s the rub - sometimes a person’s circumstances are really a product of their own choices. In other words, consequences. How do we as society differentiate between the two? In western social democracies, for the most part, we don’t. Should we? Should people be allowed to suffer because of their own actions?

New Orleans was built on a low lying swamp - that’s circumstance. So we built dykes, installed pumps, and drained the swamp. As a consequence, most of New Orleans now sits 10 feet below sea level. So when Hurricane Katrina came along and restored the water level to its natural elevation, was that circumstance or consequence? Should we as a society pay to alleviate the suffering caused by circumstance, or stand aside and let people learn about the consequences of building houses below sea level in a flood plain? Of course, the taxpayers came in and bailed them out, literally and figuratively, and people are rebuilding right where they were flooded out.

The liberal ideology of the past couple centuries have brought governments into every aspect of our lives “for our own good.” They can point to specific instances where great suffering could have been prevented if only such-and-such rule or program were in place, so the rule is made, government bureaucracies created to run programs. As we reach for that utopia with no suffering from circumstance, we also end up in a virtual padded cell where we are protected from ourselves, from the consequences of our own actions. A place where we can’t learn from experience, a place where we are dependent on the government for guidance in all aspects of our lives. Sadly, many Americans are clamoring for this utopia, to be protected in their safe spaces, to be led about by the liberal elite.

It’s time to break out of the cell and face the consequences.

12/22/16, 10:08 PM

Nancy Sutton said...
Lot of interesting comments here, but, just out of curiosity, I'd like to ask those addressing 'consequences' to clarify whether they actually have any children.

12/22/16, 11:24 PM

Crow Hill said...
Happy Solstice JMG and thank you for your high quality posts throughout the year.

Besides the Grimm and the other stories you mentioned, your post reminded me of the terrifying Struwwelpeter (dating back to the 1840s) we were read as children. According to Wikipedia its author wrote it for his son as a Christmas present in reaction to the lack of good children’s books!

Concerning celebrations of “turnings of the year” or lack thereof at this time of the year, Herbert Pagg mentions Egypt. But this country is marked by different climate and geographical features than the more northerly latitudes were winter celebrations take place. Here variations in the length of daytime and temperature are moderate and the historically significant events of the year (in pre high-dam days) corresponded to the Nile flood cycle. Related to this the Coptic Orthodox New Year which is in September has origins going back to Pharaonic times.

12/23/16, 12:08 AM

Crow Hill said...
I agree that contemporary children’s literature is totally insignificant. Sad for those children who do not even have access to traditional religious texts which at least have some depth.

12/23/16, 12:20 AM

Frank in Reno said...
I lived in LA for many years, and I remember a comedian saying once that LA was a town full of people who had never been punched. I loved that saying. It was another way of saying the town was full of Jerks.

12/23/16, 12:50 AM

trippticket said...
@ Cherokee:

Piggybacking on your protecting children and pets theme...

The ex-wife of the guy I've been building a farm for this year was heard complaining about my dogs. "They just run free all over the property! Who's taking care of them??"

Taking care of them? It'd be hard to find happier dogs in the US today. Well, um, they're keeping our poultry alive at night while I'm sleeping so I can do it during the day while they're sleeping? What would you have me do instead? Invite them in to slack on the rug by the fire while I sit in the cold all night with a shotgun and flashlight? Me, too tired to work the next day, and them, too spoiled to move?

The cognitive dissonance among this set is truly stupefying!

12/23/16, 1:02 AM

trippticket said...

Bought two copies of Retropia from Founders House - one for me and one to loan out - and am anxiously awaiting their arrival! And I will have my wife slip a little Solstice something in your tip jar later this morning during coffee/tea, after I read this post to her. Which she will love.

The garlic crop is sticking its slender green tops up through the straw mulch as we speak.

Hope you had a great solstice, sir, and many happy returns.

12/23/16, 1:09 AM

flute said...
You mentioned how Halloween has been wimpified, and that made me think of my favourite Halloween pastime: When the kids come by saying "trick or treat" expecting to get a treat (=candy), I reply "trick" and they are often totally confounded and don't know what to do :-) I think Wednesday Addams would be a good role model for modern children :-)
Of course I taught my daughter some good "tricks" (e g put hand cream on the door handle) to do when she went around dressed as a witch for Halloween.

As for Krampus, his "cousin" Perchta/Berchta also deserves a place in December traditions. E.g. like this modern day version:

12/23/16, 2:44 AM

Scotlyn said...
Why are fairy tales good for teaching morality? Perhaps because they distill huge quantities of human experience into single drops of essential meaning. And morality is the art of connecting action to consequence in imagination, where such tales take up residence (or at least it is greatly facilitated by the practice of that art).

One thing that I think is often overlooked is the way in which inequality fosters asymmetry between action and consequence, such that, if a structure of inequality becomes marked and deep enough, the link between action and consequence may break down altogether.

Another word for "toxic self-esteem", after all, is "privilege" -ie, to be so positioned within some set of arrangements that the consequences of one's acts will be automatically distributed towards others. Without consequence following action (ie feedback) in the system, it can no longer correct its course and becomes caught in a loop of futile cycling.

This would be like a galley ship in which all the errors of the tillerman rain down as whippings upon the backs of the chained oarsmen. The tillerman has no (immediate) reason to change course, and the oarsman lack the power to do so, taking any utility out of their forced experience of consequences.

Consequences suffered because of the acts of others (over which one has no power) may be no more useful as lessons (or system feedback) than acts committed without consequences to oneself.

None of this means that consequences can be avoided, but I think it says something about why, ultimately, elites and privileged classes fail to learn from them in a timely way.

12/23/16, 3:31 AM

Scotlyn said...
To all who have contributed a Krampus ditty, thank you. I have some children in mind who will enjoy hearing them sung, I think. May I suggest, JMG, a call for contributions to an illustrated Krampus songbook to be released in time for next winter's seasonal festivities? I would definitely buy and give it.

12/23/16, 3:33 AM

Ethan La Coursiere said...
Since so many people are making Krampus-themed Christmas songs, I figure I should give it a try as well. Ahem:

You'd better watch out,

just don't be a jerk!

He'll get ya if you're a twit or a berk,

Ol' Krampus is comin', to town.

He's got a big bag,

he's got a birch switch!

He strikes if you're a twerp, a wag or a snitch,

Ol' Krampus is comin', to town.

And if you're really naughty,

He'll take you all away!

So don't scream or be haughty, just

Be good for your life's sake!

You'd better watch out,

just don't be a jerk!

He'll get ya if you're a twit or a berk,

Ol' Krampus is comin'... to town!

12/23/16, 3:56 AM

nuku said...
Cherokee and JMG,
Speaking of limits and consequences, it occurs to me that Death is the one sure consequence and limit of Life for all living creatures. Live long enough and you will surely die.
All the One-God religions hold the overcoming of Death as one of their central tenants of faith.
Similarly, the current Religion of Progress, which has many elements in common with One-God religions) has a strong belief/faith that someday technology will allow humans to avoid death either through stopping the aging process, or transplanting the brain into another “fresh” human body (or some sort of cyborg).
In both cases, there is a deep denial of limits and refusal to accept consequences.

12/23/16, 4:12 AM

Unknown said...
@Lunar Apprentice,

You must've missed the memo that the roadway is actually the safest place for a cyclist. Riding on sidewalks and in between cars is extremely risky (I'd rather someone be angry at me than not see me). You talk about entitled cyclists but most are just trying to get safely down the road, when your sense of entilement is dripping from your words. (How DARE this cyclist inconvenience me for the 13 seconds it takes me to get around them!!!). Never mind the fact that cyclists risk their lives every time someone harrasses them with a 3000+ lb vehicle while paying more attention to their cellphone than other people that they might endanger.

By the way, if there's a bike lane, I'll be in it if its safe. But I'm not going to not go somewhere just because there's no bike lane. That's where this practice comes in.

For the record I used to be a spandex groupie, but now I wear whatever I want on my steel framed road bike. Sometimes that means bike shorts on long rides, or whatever I happen to be wearing when I do the short 1 mile hop to the grocery store with panniers. I used to actually ride my bike to commute to work when it was closer.


Ah but you were soliciting very dangerous ideas indeed! I can't count the number of times I have gone to a random store, eying the latest techno-gizmos (I'm a sucker for them), and continually convince myself that I don't need them and walk out buying nothing.


12/23/16, 5:16 AM

August Johnson said...
I see a far more “interesting” future in upcoming years, as described in “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”. None of it good and a lot sooner than expected.

Donald Trump meets with trigger happy generals, followed by tweet:

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the United States must “strengthen and expand” its nuclear forces “until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

and then he “clarifies” his tweet…

“Let it be an arms race … we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” during an off-air conversation on Friday.

Now Hillary Clinton seriously scared me but this goes way beyond! If Clinton concerned you but this doesn’t, you are being intentionally blind. Hillary Clinton is a war-monger, but the President-elect is a maniac. While he says some things that make sense, there are others that truly terrify me. I see a pissing match with North Korea and China, and who knows who else, in our future. And really bad results.

And then, a different kind of insanity:

In what is being described as a "historic" decision that will have a significant impact, particularly on the lives of those living in rural and First Nations communities, Canada's telecom agency on Wednesday issued a new rule declaring high-speed internet a basic service "necessary to the quality of life" of all Canadians.

This is nuts, Internet is a "fundamental right"???

Nobody seems to understand anymore that actions have consequences, do and say what you want, don’t worry about what happens next.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, this is why I’m working with many people here, they’re getting their Amateur Radio licenses, working together on learning radio and emergency communications, developing a community of people with wildly differing political leanings that are all working together towards a common goal. This is a lot of work, but I think it’s paying off well. We have a county-wide group that is working with various agencies and we’re not letting differences stand in our way.

I’ve been able to get many interested in having a small solar-powered battery backup system to handle radios and some lights in case power is out. This excites everyone. We are also talking about gardening and related things. An aside, it’s an amazing feeling to eat a meal of a Quiche made with eggs and vegetables that you raised/grew yourself.

Get yourself a simple solar panel, battery system and learn how to run a radio and light with a simple off-grid system.

I see this as the only way to preserve some sanity in the coming times. Work on developing a sense of community with your neighbors and local area. Learn how to work together in spite of differences of opinion. Develop skills for basic living. It’s not easy and you will work hard but it will pay off.

August Johnson KG7BZ
Member: ARRL (American Radio Relay League)
ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services)
RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain)

12/23/16, 6:43 AM

trippticket said...
An offering from Mrs. Trippticket:

The neighbor's little devil-daughter gave my 6 y.o. son this funny little pink monkey back in the summer. Something she didn't play with anymore, and he really liked it, so it seemed like a nice gesture. Then a week ago she was over here playing with the kids and decided that this monkey was hers, and she missed it terribly, so she claimed to have never given it to him at all. She took it, and my son was devastated. He played with that monkey every day he had it, and suddenly it was gone forever.

I think it really helped him deal with that stressful event to be able to imagine Krampus switching her backside mercilessly, or maybe even giving her a ride in his hand-basket!

12/23/16, 6:43 AM

Caryn said...

I suspect I might be one of the commenters you are talking about, re: children with real disabilities vs. children with bad behaviour systematically labeled and 'treated' for disabilities. Sometimes, trying to keep a post from being too long, I think I leave out certain caveats and side notes that may be needed. Apologies.

I would never deny that some children do have genuine disabilities - even 'unseen'. They are very real. I agree that for a few the path of counseling and even the behaviour modifying drugs can be beneficial, but from what I've seen this path is not only overused - it is now the only path a lot of schools follow for any kind of misbehaviour or deviation from the norm. This is what I have a problem with.

Personally, I kind of stumbled across this career as an educator of young children, but have found it to be my absolute calling. I love it and love them, my darling, frightening little devil-angels! One side-effect is that I've gotten pretty astute in picking up on which ones are actually struggling with things like impulse control and opposition, those who don't see it at all, they're just not mature enough yet, those who see and try to follow instructions, but often can't or fail and those who know darned well, but simply don't, as it suit their wants. Working with them every day, engaging with them and well, just caring: even after only a few months - it's actually not hard to see. But in the end, most of the time it's irrelevant as the 'cure', the magic pill of positive healthy interaction is the same.

As the mother of one who was diagnosed (IMHO correctly) as being on the periphery, but definitely, under the umbrella of the ADHD spectrum, I've gone through the whole testing/analysis/therapy route - but no drugs. The thing as a parent I always wanted to know was, "So what do we DO about it?" Answer: The magic pill that is the cure is the same one our grandparents and great grandparents had: There is no magic pill - your child just has to learn to work harder than the rest to keep up, to learn coping strategies to get around, on top of, squish under, or slog through whatever problem/challenge they have.

Well, OK - that and be food-nazi-diligent about their diet helps a lot. Preprocessed foods and sugars exacerbate the problem for most kids. Exercise helps, as does a strict limit to any screen time.

The good news is that hard work and creating coping strategies ends up pushing many of these kids far ahead of their peers later in teen and adult life.

12/23/16, 7:38 AM

beneaththesurface said...
"Oh my. Have you considered writing that up as an essay and getting it in print? It's a splendid story, and deserves more circulation."

My sister did write an essay about it which was published in a small non-profit newsletter, but other than that no essay was published that circulated widely. At the time though, several people wrote letters to the editor and a journalist wrote an op-ed in support of us, plus we were interviewed briefly on NPR, so the story (the basics, at least) did get some circulation. Unfortunately, our experience with media coverage was mixed -- the underlying issues behind why we did what we did was often ignored. Also, we were sometimes referred to as "protesters," which annoyed me, because it really wasn't a protest -- at least not in any overt sense -- we saw instead ourselves as participating in a kind of "embedded theater" to illuminate the absurd theater that everyday life has become. We never told anyone not to buy stuff; it was done in a way so people were free to come to their own conclusions. One person encouraged us to write an actual play based on it -- it had the makings of a great farce.

Despite the reaction from mall management, diverse people expressed support for our efforts, which was heartening. For example, our most enthusiastic supporter happened to be a Christian conservative activist (who was also an anti-abortion activist). She wrote letters to the editor in support of us, generously donated to help cover the cost of our lawyer (though in the end, we wished we had represented ourselves), came and supported us at our trial, and even said she would have participated but family time was more important to her. It made me realize that at least on issues about consumerism (in contrast to very polarized issues such as abortion), if messages are framed rightly, I think there is a lot of opportunity for alliances of both the political left and right to work together.

I'm not sure how much difference our efforts made, but many people appreciated the story and the absurdity of it all. Compared to other types of activism I've been involved in, it was the one I felt most passionate about. Why? I think it goes back to what you've written before -- it was focused on the industries of demand instead of industries of supply (and that's probably why, despite being such an innocuous action, it was so threatening). Also, it used humor, which I find is too often neglected in activist work. In the absurd age we live in, where people are simultaneously too serious but not serious enough, it is really necessary to use humor to make people take things seriously!

12/23/16, 7:53 AM

Renaissance Man said...
Bad news, my friend. Coca-Cola, who gave us the whole red-and-white, corporate coloured Santa 100 years ago, has for the past few years been plugging their noxious liquid with an anthropomorphic cartoon polar bear family on TV.
BTW, semi-off topic, got 'shouted down' when I pointed out your observations re. the failure of the environmental movement the other day. Heh, heh, heh... ca m'amuse tellement!

12/23/16, 8:21 AM

August Johnson said...
To be clear about my previous comment, the "Intentional Blindness" I am seeing from many towards Donald Trump's comments and actions is exactly the same as I have seen and still see from many others towards Hillary Clinton's comments and actions. This blindness is in no way limited to any one group of people.

12/23/16, 9:46 AM

Unknown said...
A data point (on campus, not Krampus):
"More colleges open food pantries to fight hunger on America's campuses"

12/23/16, 10:42 AM

Phil Harris said...
I have some things in common with ‘Dan grown old’. “I did not have parents who saw Christmas as a reward for a year’s goodness or badness”. Ditto for me. We likewise knew we were loved even we were ashamed.

In our case it was wartime with air raids. And food rationing continued for more than a few years after. There was sentiment and some tribute to piety from mum but pretty much zero theology. I retain affection for carols whatever the words. Our beloved older brothers did a lot of looking after baby brother and me. I don’t ever recall my parents praying. It was more a matter of them staying alert, reacting very fast and doing and hoping for the best and being thankful.

Though I was an omnivorous reader I deliberately rejected ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ I think before I was 11. I remember when I was 13 or 14 carrying my opinion into a classroom debate that the stories were mostly dressed up European atrocity stories. Well … a bit sweeping; but I was rather young and the record of WW2 was beginning to get to my generation’s consciousness. The record of Eastern Europe must have been circulating, though if I remember correctly the photographic detail was a year or two later.

I have never liked or understood Christian Church services much though I have been to relatively few. Ancient English churches were OK, and some sincerely affecting, but I never really got Christianity – did not favour or reject one form or another. I gave C of E a short trial when 17 and met some nice people but came across the Nicaean Creed and did not rate it. So I still like Christmas, though it’s mostly the time of year and the singing.

It would be good if we could break the modern spells and sing again. (I see there is a nice comment to that effect at Ugo Bardi’s blog this week on the loss of normal everyday singing.)

very best

12/23/16, 11:06 AM

sgage said...
@Crow Hill,

"Besides the Grimm and the other stories you mentioned, your post reminded me of the terrifying Struwwelpeter (dating back to the 1840s) we were read as children."

This was also read to us kids in my family - the illustrations were particularly, um, compelling. For those who are unfamiliar with this book, it is all about dire consequences for children's misbehavior.

'Let us see if Philip can
be a little gentleman.
Let us see if he is able
to sit still for once at table.'

No, he can't, and bad things happen. And don't suck your thumb - the long-legged tailor-man will come with his scissors and cut it off. And on and on. A couple of the vignettes were pretty gruesome...

12/23/16, 12:13 PM

August Johnson said...
When I was in third or fourth grade, a classmate had given me his copy of "Grimm's Fairy Tales". That thick book was my favorite for several years. I read it over and over. There's no comparison with the meaningless pablum of today.

12/23/16, 12:30 PM

M Smith said...
Sorry to keep posting but people are raising many good points.

August wrote: "This is nuts, Internet is a "fundamental right"???"

Oh my yes, it is. The Durham Rescue Mission in NC, which up till now has been irreproachable in its care for the homeless and hungry, announced this year that in addition to the hot meal itself, the usual clothing, toy, and groceries to take away, they're giving away doorprizes. (For non-USA readers, that's literally a prize for showing up!)

What is this doorprize, you want to know? Is it a gift card to a grocery store, a fee paid for a community garden plot, a year's worth of public transportation passes so a car isn't needed, a membership at any of the "grassroots organizations" that provide unending "programs" to learn skills? It is to laugh! No, among the doorprizes is an Amazon Fire Tablet!!

It's not as silly as it sounds, because earlier this year the politicians of this Sanctuary City decided that Internet is a "right" and no one can do any job-hunting without the internet and a "device" (much in the way they insist that ThePoor must make babies because no one will buy birth control for them). Therefore hi-speed internet is being installed at all the public housing projects. For "free".

Let's get this straight. There's public Wi-Fi at all the libraries and McDonald's, but TheStruggling can't find jobs because there's no "free" internet for them at their "free" homes. Also for non-USA readers, they've already been given "free" cell phones because everyone knows you can't find a job if you have a landline instead of a cell phone.

There was an episode of MASH where the wealthy doc generously gives loads of exquisite chocolates to the guardian of some Korean war orphans, so they can have a treat. The guardian sells the candy, and the doc is outraged until the guardian explains that the candy would have delighted them for an hour, but the money can purchase a month's worth of rice for all of them. The doc realizes that "it is supremely cruel to give dessert to children who have not had dinner."

12/23/16, 12:55 PM

tolkienguy said...
In the spirit of Jeff's earlier post, I thought I'd leave this here.

Authetic traditionalist Christianity (the real deal, not what passes for it in much of this country) can be a very rebellious, even scary thing...

12/23/16, 1:34 PM

Rita said...

Here is a little ditty to remind your children of traffic consequences.

Here lies the body of Richard O'Shay
Who died defending his right of way.
He was right, dead right, as he rode along.
But he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.

My oldest daughter is a fiercely protective mother. I sometimes wonder if that is part of the reason her oldest son has joined the US Marines. His geeky form of goofing off in boot camp was to run an after lights-out D & D campaign. He also tells me that down in Arizona at least, a military ID will get you a beer even if you are not legal age. Guess they figure "old enough to kill, old enough to drink." Of course there are still consequences to being caught drinking by your command.

Now there are whole generations of students who have never received a red mark on their work. Red pencil has been deemed too harsh for corrections. The chair of my dissertation committee was old school, so when he retired from department chair to regular teaching some of his graduate students gave him a box of red pencils. You could always spot a university library book that he had read because he would correct typos in red pen. The result of the coddling at lower levels was that I had a student in an advanced expository writing course who was incapable of writing anything other than first person narrative or of cutting and pasting from the internet into a sort of outline format. "I get 'Bs' in all my English classes" she claimed. But I girded my loins and flunked her.

12/23/16, 2:00 PM

siliconguy said...
"Canada's telecom agency on Wednesday issued a new rule declaring high-speed internet a basic service "necessary to the quality of life" of all Canadians.

This is nuts, Internet is a "fundamental right"???"

When the internet is the only way to do certain interactions with the All-Glorious State, then yes it is a "fundamental right". Just recently in the US the Social Security Administration had to back down (temporarily) from a requirement that all communications with them had to occur over two-factor authorization. That second factor was a text message. And that requires a cell phone. The elderly (the target market) are the least likely to own a cell phone. Major oops. There are ways to send a text over a land line, but did they think of that and implement it at the same time? Of course not.

So if they want to to communicate via the internet for required government interactions, then there had better be internet.

12/23/16, 2:02 PM

latheChuck said...
I noticed several stories today regarding Donald Trump's willingness to revive the nuclear arms race, but not all of them included his full statement (below), and only a few provided the context that he was responding to Vladimir Putin's statements of the day before, in which he proclaimed Russia's need to improve it's nuclear forces. It looks to me as though Trump was reacting, not inciting, but you wouldn't know it from the headlines.

From the Washington Post:
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” [Putin] said, according to an Agence France-Presse translation, “especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.” In other words, Russia needs to ensure that its arsenal of nuclear weapons can avoid interception by the enemy.

"The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes" (Trump)

12/23/16, 2:31 PM

Jay said...
Thanks, Caryn, I appreciate the clarification. I wish we'd known to avoid sugar at the time (I certainly do now) and I agree with you about the medication--while I know some people are able to live normal lives because of it, I felt it was sometimes used inappropriately on me--it was used to cover up my symptoms and allow problems at the school to persist. (Talking about avoiding consequences ... I think it would have helped me more if they had sent the school bully to drug rehab instead of medicating me.) On the other hand working harder than the average student was physically beyond me. I was getting physically ill from stress as it was. Anyway, I wish you lots of luck with your "devil-angels"!

12/23/16, 2:39 PM

Ray Wharton said...

Start of a little comic story line that I think is topical. I hope it is enjoyed.

12/23/16, 2:54 PM

Maxine Rogers said...
Dear JMG,

Excellent post! Consequences may still be much delayed but they seem to be getting more server for the extravagant and the feckless.

That said, I looked in the Druidry Handbook for references to the animal spirits of the Druid Holy Days and could not find any. So it is the Bear for Alban Arthuan and which animal for the other holidays? Inquiring minds want to know!
Yours under the red cedars,
Max Rogers

12/23/16, 2:55 PM

Scotlyn said...
@beneath - your wonderful subversive theatre display reminded me (just a bit) of the second series of the surreal 1970's BBC series "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin" in which he sets up a shop to sell things that are worth exactly nothing. To his dismay, he succeeds rather too well...

12/23/16, 3:05 PM

David, by the lake said...
For the record, I do have one child, the previously-mentioned teenager and soon-to-be high school graduate (?!) who has helped explain to me the nuances of today's gender/sexuality continuum. I cannot take credit for her level-headedness, however.

12/23/16, 3:10 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
@canon fodder, re "The liberal ideology of the past couple centuries have brought governments into every aspect of our lives “for our own good.” They can point to specific instances where great suffering could have been prevented if only such-and-such rule or program were in place, so the rule is made, government bureaucracies created to run programs. As we reach for that utopia with no suffering from circumstance, we also end up in a virtual padded cell where we are protected from ourselves, from the consequences of our own actions. A place where we can’t learn from experience, a place where we are dependent on the government for guidance in all aspects of our lives. Sadly, many Americans are clamoring for this utopia, to be protected in their safe spaces, to be led about by the liberal elite.

It’s time to break out of the cell and face the consequences."

A really good novel, many decades old, that vividly addresses that point, is Jack Williamson's THE HUMANOIDS. Williamson lived in New Mexico from back whenit was still a territory.

12/23/16, 3:38 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Prizm, good heavens. Over and above the advantages of community in general, old-fashioned lodges have a lot to recommend them. It sounds as though there may be some kind of outbreak of actual sanity under way...

LatheChuck, true enough!

Jay, thanks for clarifying. Like so much having to do with education in America today, it's a steaming mess; you've got perfectly ordinary and healthy behavior being defined as pathology and used to push drugs on children, you've got discipline problems being treated the same way, and then you have children who actually do have some kind of special needs who aren't getting the help they need because it doesn't fit the approved model. Believe me, I get that; my time in the public schools was hands down, no questions asked, the most miserable experience of my life, and a lot of that came out of the way my Aspergers syndrome and mild ADD failed to fit the assembly-line ideology of schooling.

Ron, I haven't read that story, so thanks for the heads-up! I'll put it on the get-to list.

Onething, you may be on to something. I wonder if it's not the process of being read to, but the drivel that passes for children's books these days, that they object to!

Canon fodder, good. Keep in mind, too, that the energy and other resources needed to manufacture, maintain, and support the nice padded cell are going away...

Nancy, I had one child, who died at birth due to medical malpractice. Other than that, my observations concerning children have been based entirely on other people's kids.

Crow Hill, hmm! I haven't encountered Struwwelpeter yet. I'll have to make its acquaintance sometime soon.

Frank, I like that! Thank you.

Trippticket, many thanks!

Flute, funny. As I heard it, "trick or treat" was originally a threat -- "give us a treat or we'll play some kind of nasty trick on you!"

Scotlyn, that's a very good point. People who have privilege don't always suffer from toxic levels of self-esteem -- there used to be such a thing as noblesse oblige -- but there's surely a correlation. Hmm.

As for a songbook -- hmm again. I'd need to find a good illustrator, and then a publisher who is prepared to produce it, but neither of those are impossibilities.

12/23/16, 4:26 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
@sgage - which led to the later parodies called Ruthless Rhymes.

A sample I chortled over in my misspent childhood:

Willie stuffed his brother John
Into a homemade cyclotron
Willie's sorry now, you bet!
John staticks up his TV set.

@ everyone who wrote on neurologically different children labeled "spoiled" and vice versa - in Steve Stirling's anthology THE CHANGE there's a story about a trio of those "gifted but...." kids coping when TSHTF. A mild spoiler: it doesn't take our narrator's disability to account for her finally giving up on saving her parents and walking out to save her friends without a second thought. I wanted to whomp both those parents upside the head with a 2x4!"

And one thing about Steve's Emberverse and Eric Flint's 1632 series - they are positive hymns to the value of mining the past when said organic fertilizer meets the rotating air conditioner. Hymns? Think the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! The characters in both do it extensively and consciously, whatever you think of their basic premises and "Author has a thumb on the scale" dice-loading.

12/23/16, 4:53 PM

onething said...
Scott Nance,

"My niece's summary of all this: "did you really think you could drink 12 beers a day, every day, and there wouldn't be any consequences?" Instead, the attitude is very much "okay, fix me." Our society seems to have absorbed the conviction that actions have no consequences at a fundamental, almost unconscious level.

Or maybe people have always been that way. Just before they died."

This is a question I have really begun to ponder. I'm a nurse, and I have to say that the 90% is probably fairly accurate. What so often amazes me is how few people, and that can include my coworkers, are actually willing to put forth effort or change their ways in order to live. And not just live, but live with the much greater enjoyment that reasonable health allows.
Most of the time I don't bother, but sometimes I talk to patients and among that small subset, maybe one in 30 or 50 gives me the impression that they are actually glad that someone gave them some useful information that they might implement. So I have begun to wonder, when we read about historical things and are struck by how often people were dying - maybe some of them didn't care? Maybe they died of carelessness? Because most of my patients don't seem to care whether they live or die, even when it appears they have something to live for.
I also have to say that the hospital population, to me, is different. I suspect that people who don't take care of themselves in various ways are hospital patients way, way more often. Because the general population does take more care, but we don't see them.

12/23/16, 4:55 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Ethan, thank you. We're definitely getting raw material for a songbook here.

Nuku, a good point slightly marred by overgeneralization. Attitudes toward death in Judaism and Christianity -- I don't know enough about the various forms of Islam to extend the discussion there -- actually vary drastically; there are certainly versions of both faiths that fixate on a supposed triumph over death, and then you get versions that are very, very deeply into the acceptance of death -- the faithful die and stay dead until, at some point very possibly far in the future, God resurrects them via a miracle. But you're right that the religion of progress came out of the triumph-over-death end of things, and has staked a lot of its prestige on the same claim.

August, of course it concerns me. I'd like to ask you this, though: were you equally concerned when Barack Obama launched a massive upgrade and expansion of the US nuclear arsenal? It was in response to that program that the Russians began upgrading their arsenal, after all, and it was in response to Putin's statement about further Russian nuclear upgrades that Trump made his comment.

With regard to internet access as a "fundamental right," I'm sorry to hear that Canadians have their brains turn to mush when the word "right" is mentioned, the same way that most Americans do.

Trippticket, the little girl in question definitely needs some quality time with Krampus!

Beneaththesurface, of course the media was less than helpful -- it exists to market products, after all! I hope you and/or one or more of the other people involved will write up the whole thing as an essay and look for an alternative publication, print or online, that would be willing to carry it. It's a splendid story and will, I think, help a lot of people grasp the role of industries of demand in the manufacture of the current mess.

Renaissance, ugh. Fizzy brown sugar water that tastes like dilute prune juice gone stale -- I repeat, ugh. As for your latter point, I bet you got shouted down! That sort of thing goes over about as well as a slug in a garden salad...

August, understood. I get the impression it's more common now, on all sides of the political landscape, than it used to be.

Unknown Jonathan, heh. Of course they could consider lowering tuition and paying less kleptocratically insane salaries to the stuffed shirts that run the colleges, so that students wouldn't need food banks, but no...

Phil, I get that. As a ritualist, I understand the ceremonies and appreciate them; it's half a dozen specific points of theology that I can't swallow no matter how hard I try.

Tolkienguy, many thanks for the link. The searing hatred of the world and embodied existence that shines through that whole project, though, is one of the things I find least appealing about Christianity.

12/23/16, 4:55 PM

David, by the lake said...

Your reference of noblesse oblige is an important point. We desperately need a renewal of that ideal.

12/23/16, 4:55 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Maxine, it's the elemental correspondence. For the spring equinox, the Hawk of May; for the summer solstice, the White Stag; for the autumn equinox, the Salmon of Wisdom. Now Hallmark can do a whole series of cards! ;-)

Patricia, I'll have to get to those one of these days.

David, unfortunately that ideal tends to be embraced enthusiastically only when the privileged have learned the hard way that noblesse oblige is one of the few reliable ways to avoid dangling from lampposts. Mind you, it may come to that.

12/23/16, 5:04 PM

Moshe Braner said...
Regarding "internet access as a right", have y'all noticed that whenever there is a natural disaster these days, the field reports seem to be mostly about people going to great lengths to figure out a way, not to get food or water or shelter, but to get their "devices" charged?

Oh and BTW, if one wants to pass an occasional short message to distant loved ones, using text messages a couple of times a day, and turning the device completely OFF the rest of the time, will make the battery charge last for many weeks. But no, people need to spend all their time on a-social media.

Also, half the discussions about how to get off the grid, or off fossil fuels, seem to be about ways to charge the "devices". E.g., from tiny solar panels, or pedal-powered generators. How many of the e-addicts know that just the light bulb in the room (even if it is an LED bulb) uses more power than the device charger? And that the energy used directly by the device in its whole life (2 years?) is a small fraction of the energy used to manufacture it?

12/23/16, 5:04 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
@ JMG - Yes, of course! As a halfway self-taught Wiccan, I work with the elements/directions/Quarters a lot. Spring = East = Air = Birds; Summer = South = Fire = well, I went with the tradition of many desert folk, whether Egyptian or Aztec, and went with the Big Cats - Sekhmet is as perfect a personification of the desert heat as Thor is of thunder - but back to Autumn = West = Water = the Salmon of Wisdom, unless you're on the Left Coast and go with dolphins. And Bear is so self-evident both astronomically and in European (or Eurasian) history.

Interestingly enough, Greek myth not only has Artemis and Apollo born on Delphi to Leto but also says they are Hyperborean, "beyond the North Wind." And Artemis is certainly a bear goddess.

Wicca and Druidry both draw on Celtic sources real or reconstructed, of course.

12/23/16, 7:42 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Thanks. Mr Catton has had my brain working overtime on those matters. Hey, you know what? That book is important enough to undertake a re-reading of it. And so the other day I started just that, and today over lunch I happened to read a startling chunk of information. Our food which is produced via the system of industrial agricultural methods has a negative net energy in that it produces far less energy than is consumed in the production of that output. And then just to be sure, he went on and gave a solid example from 40 years ago. Things can not have improved in the meantime. No wonder people have such inflated expectations as to the agricultural surplus produced from here. The surplus is just not that great using the systems that I do. But the flip side of that equation is that the rest of the eco-system here gets to benefit from the work here. I'm starting to seriously consider the question of choice that I posed to you last week. Perhaps Orwell got it right when he wrote in the book 1984 that Freedom is Slavery? It is a complex matter.

Hi trippticket,

I've always enjoyed your handle! And I must say congratulations and best wishes for your shop. If I were living in the area, I would support your business. :-)!

That is a crazy attitude. Yeah, my lot here do the same, and mostly they look after their own canine business. The dogs have been very busy of late as the local population of deer has increased and as summer has hit here in full force, the deer are moving into higher elevations. Twice now I have caught a herd of deer on the edge of the orchards, and the dogs to their total respect will happily chase the deer (Stag and all!) off into the forest for a fair distance. Dogs are a critical tool, no doubts about it. I've learned to live with all of the different birds and animals that drop by here for a feed but deer are something else altogether and can reach much higher into the trees in the orchard and the scraping of the antlers on the tree bark...

Hi nuku,

Exactly, it comes to all of us in the end and it is a very serious limit. I'm personally surprised that it is a taboo subject in our culture. But no doubts that you are correct in those assertions. Personally, I have no beef with any Gods so hopefully when I pass on such concerns as the ones you raised and are often displayed by some religions adherents don't apply? It seems as good a strategy as any you have to admit? :-)!



12/23/16, 8:32 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Well, well, well. Have you noticed that unmentionable things such as: a destination based cash flow tax are now being considered and have serious support behind them? I'd call that a wind of change wouldn't you? And it sure beats sound bites of: Hope and change. Hehehe! We'll see how it goes, but I'd say it is a step in the right direction.



12/23/16, 8:36 PM

August Johnson said...
JMG - there's not much that Barack Obama has done since taking office that I'm not completely disgusted with, and I've been vocal about it. Even though I voted for him. However, he doesn't remind me of a spoiled brat 5 year old throwing a tantrum or my Father-in-Law with diagnosed Dementia. Trump speaks the exact same way my father-in-law did. You could have a great conversation with him about house construction or real estate, he was quite knowledgeable, but then he'd go off and who knows where it would lead. My wife and I spent 5 years dealing with this, she was her father's legal guardian. Whenever we see another Trump tweet, we both can't help but be reminded of some very stressful times. The subject matter and manner of speaking is identical.

There's a huge difference between Obama's behavior and Trump's. I've never had the feeling that Obama was going to see something in the news that tweaked his nose the wrong way and lash out with something that was going to massively endanger the entire country. I most definitely feel that way about Trump.

If the President doesn't have enough self-control to keep himself from tweeting threats whenever somebody insults his Restaurant or prints something bad about him, he doesn't have enough self-control to be President. Think what people would have said if Obama had lashed out the way that Trump does every time another idiot questioned his Birth Certificate!

My biggest complaint this election is that NEITHER candidate that made it to the election that was worth a d**n. Both were completely unsuited for the office. I knew what Clinton was going to do, all bad. Trump gives no specific clues to the exact details of what he might do, but, at least to me, the generalities are more than bad enough.

I still remember the room I was standing in when Reagan was elected, it was an oh... frack moment. This time I knew it didn't make any difference who was elected, my response was going to be the same, except worse. Unlike many, just because Trump scares me, doesn't mean I think Clinton is any better. Clinton's supporters/rationalizers can't see her lies and Trump's supporters/rationalizers can't see his lies.

I'll end my mention of this subject, won't bring it up again. I'm reminded of something one of the Mexican Astronomers my Father worked with in the 1970's told him. "You know what's the difference between Mexico and the U.S.A? We admit our Politicians are crooked."

12/23/16, 8:59 PM

Glenn said...

The nautical version of the rhyme is:

Here lies the body of Michael O'Day,
who died defending his right of way;
he was right, dead right, as he sailed along;
but he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.

In prose the maxim: "right of way is in direct proportion to gross tonnage" is useful advice at sea.

I agree with Unknown, above, those of us piloting 3,000 to 4,000 pound machines down the road at great speeds need to take care and look out for unarmoured road users. Where I live, for instance, there are simply no shoulders; just enough pavement past the white line that they can paint the line. Then it's a ditch, bank or brush. As someone who regularly drives, rides and walks on said roads, I am always hypervigilant. I don't blame other road users, but the State and County who design and build the roads. So far, lobbying has been fruitless.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

12/23/16, 9:30 PM

Matt said...
Bill, Candace and others,

Whilst Christmas is clearly crammed full of pagan influence, the date might be one thing that isn't of pagan origin, at least according to a fascinating article I read a few days ago:

The proposed altwrnative is that the date was fixed to provide a correspondence between jesus' conception and death. There's a great image of the infant floating down to earth with a cross over his shoulder!

Happy Whatevers


12/24/16, 1:40 AM

Sven Eriksen said...

I'll see what I can come up with, once the Yule pig is devoured. In the meantime, just for good measure, you and your readers might perhaps want to check out Brian Joines and Dean Kotz' 2013 graphic novel "Krampus!", in which the Yule fiend himself is set loose on a Snake Plissken-esque mission to save the holiday spirit...

12/24/16, 3:32 AM

Silva said...
About books for (well, older) children, may I recommend Ursula Vernon and Howard Tayler's works? (and the slug's story) (and subsequent talk)

12/24/16, 3:37 AM

Greg Belvedere said...

Thanks for that description it reminds me of the things I have read about the four sacred beasts, as well as some experiences I had when I was younger after encountering... let's just say the siberian version of santa.

He is a pretty well behaved 3 year old. But like the angel with the faces of the sacred beasts, he has many faces. Sometimes animal, sometimes sweet little child.

If given the choice between that description and a 3 year old who has missed his nap, I might take the angel.

12/24/16, 4:55 AM

David, by the lake said...
I realize it is a minuscule and not (necessarily) representative sample, but speaking of consequences, I've noted several comments on one left-leaning political blog suggest that Trump's public disagreements with Obama on policy positions in these last weeks of the outgoing administration are tantamount to treason and that Obama should fulfill his duty to protect the country from "all enemies, foreign and domestic" and jail Trump before he can take office. These are obviously not intended as serious propositions, but there are also consequences to eroding our societal institutions. People need to think before they post.

12/24/16, 7:12 AM

Roger said...
JMG, talking about a bumper crop of jerks, what do we make of "campus snowflakes"? From what I've seen there's quite an infestation. Do they assume that they have a natural right to wealth and power, not to mention an absolute right to not be challenged? Does history ever tell us about any aristocracy, hereditary or not, that presumed so much, that had such an towering sense of their own entitlement?

From what I've read and heard, even the most hidebound English toffs had a sense of obligation, for example, to lead in war-time, to set an example, to put themselves in harm's way, even if they did assume leadership as their natural right. Would we ever see such a sense of personal duty in a "snowflake"?

As far as non-English aristocrats go, I think you see a degree of insecurity about their place, that is, fear of being displaced and killed by foreigners or ambitious people in their own realm. I think their idea was that only the paranoid survive, to quote Andy Grove. Do we see any of this in snowflakes?

I think that, in the past, American aristocrats, even if not in the old-world model, assumed they had commitments, for example, Bush 41, who served in WW2 as a bomber pilot, and JFK, who served as a PT boat skipper, and his brother Joe who died in the air service.

But I think that the downslide came in the Vietnam era. I read that only two grads of MIT died in Vietnam as opposed to some fifteen former students of a Boston high school in a neighbourhood of Polish and Italian immigrants. You hear about sons of the rich, like Mitt and Dubya and Trump, that managed to avoid service or at least the more kinetic aspects of it. You hear about Republican chicken-hawks who won't stint on sending others into battle. But shared sacrifice? No more, not like before.

So what name do we assign to the new ideology? Snowflake-ism? Or to their mode of behaviour? Snowflakery? When these people get out into the real world, have they got any idea of what confronts them? There's no safe spaces. Even if that odious gang currently tormenting Syria and Iraq gets dispersed, the economic and societal factories that churn out their like will still exist. There's a multitude of challenges, military and non-military, that come with eight or nine billion aggressive, resource-hungry people. They will have to be confronted. Are the snowflakes up to it?

Even if the snowflakes manage to acquire power, I suspect that such delicacy of sensibility won't be of service to them, nor their presumption to safety. I think their time at the apex will be short.

12/24/16, 7:34 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
A dissenting voice on a couple of things -

Little Orphan Annie. You who so strongly advocate children (and adults, of course) pulling their own weight, and dislike the sense of entitlement that means "I don't have to help!" are praising a poem whose narrator is a privileged family child who os pleased to be playing with toys while Annie does all the chores. Which child are you identifying with? Annie? Or the narrator?

You do not want use the 19th Century German "scare the kids witless" verses like the ones quoted ("cut off their thumbs for thumb-sucking") as guides to child rearing. We don't take them seriously, just as examples of going over the top for emphasis. The original writers, while they did exaggerate, were serious. At least according to Alice Miller, whose books make out a plausible case for a philosophy based on "breaking the child's will" to unquestioning obedience by any and all means, being responsible for the mentality which went along with the Holocaust. She uses period sources to document the brutality with which this was done, and cites two simple factors: the unquestioning obedience, and a volcanic mass of underlying rage in the brutalized child grown up. Incidentally, nowhere does she claim all children were treated like this, merely that many were, and that Hitler himself (like Stalin, which is also on record) had such an upbringing. So I would be really, really careful that a concern for consequences has limits like everything else.

(Incidentally, it was a German himself - 15th century - who memorably compared people and their treatment of ideas to a drunken peasant trying to ride a horse. "First," Martin Luther noted sardonically, "he falls off on one side, gets back on, and then falls off on the other side."

Me, I note that at least the peasant wasn't roaring down the Interstate the wrong way at 100 mph, with the power to do the amount of damage 20th history has shown we can do. Even if the peasant did wake up with a mouthful of hay and horse droppings, since at least the horse knew where home was and how do get there. Even with Hans Hayseed on his back bawling out alehouse songs and falling off. Which - to push the metaphor further than it wants to go, very few of us do any more.)

Christmas Carols: I love the sincere simplicity of Silent Night, which, done right, actually conjures up the little country church with neither organ nor orchestra. Just the pastor, a guitar, and the congregation singing in a straightforward A major key.

BTW, "I'll be home for Christmas" ceases to be mushy if you know the context, which I learned very late, from a Popejoy Hall production of Irving Berlin's songs staged as a tour of the 20th century. The period is the very early 1940s, and the next song in sequence was "Suppertime."

At any rate, The Grey Badger stumps off with best wishes for Christmastide/
Midwinter. May the light ever return.

12/24/16, 11:10 AM

sgage said...
@Patricia Matthews,

I was not 'identifying' with anyone in the 'Little Orphan Anny' poem, or maybe each in turn. I was just reminiscing about a poem remembered from my own childhood. The entire poem was very evocative and has a big sense of the world behind the veil. Must we politicize it using modern notions of social justice? There were times and places when relatively well-off families 'took in' orphans. Why not learn about that? How are orphans treated now in various parts of the world?

As far as 'Struwwelpeter', I was certainly not advocating that people use it to train up their kids! Again, I was just remembering a book from my own childhood. Although I will say, even as a small child, it seemed like a parody of something or other, funny. It certainly didn't terrify me into being good. The illustrations were over the top (funny), even to a little kid.

I honestly don't think your moralizing was quite called for.

12/24/16, 2:09 PM

nuku said...
Hi Chris (Cherokee),
I’m not sure if this story is true, but I read that Henry David Thoreau was on his deathbed when a friend called in a minister to give the “last rites.” The minister asked Thoreau if he’d “made his peace with God”, to which Thoreau replied “I’m not aware that we have ever quarrelled”.

At 72, in relative good health, but with the Grim Reaper no longer a personal abstraction, I’m very much aware of the this ultimate limit and how its perceived both by myself and the people around me here in NZ.

I once spent a late Fall in a 1700’s stone farm house which looked out over Lake Zurich. I awoke one cold misty morning, looked out of my 3rd story window to see a tall old man, dressed entirely in black, reaping the late wheat crop with a curved wooden handled sythe. Nothing in that scene was modern; just the golden brown wheat field, the man in black, his sythe, the lake in the mist. Elemental, mythological, timeless. Images and myths connect us to the larger realities, human and non-human, in which our lives are embeded.

12/24/16, 2:11 PM

Kevin said...
Here's an important data point on a trend previously predicted by the Archdruid. It seems a little off-topic for the week, but then again maybe not:

12/24/16, 5:05 PM

Shane W said...
Knowing what I now know about the shape of the future, I wish I'd been raised more resiliently, and not had as "soft" an upbringing, and I think that the progressively "softer" and more indulgent parenting of each successive generation after the Greatest will prove deadly in upcoming years. I wish I'd been raised as strictly as my grandfather, there seemed to be an ethos by my great-grandfather that "I'm going to be hard on you, but the world will be much harder". If had children, resilience and challenge would be the order of the day.

12/24/16, 6:38 PM

Candace said...
Hopefully no too OT.

Certainly I wonder what the consequences of this will be

I know I've brought it up before. I just can't tell if I'm worried about nothing? Sent previous articles around to family and friends asking if they had heard of it, they all read a variety of media and my email was the first they'd heard of it. I've even emailed other alternative media sites and a site that is supposed to be a first amendment watch dog. I Have received no response from any of them. I have asked a friend who is a retired lawyer to read it, she said it wasn't her area of law so she didn't really have any insight into it .

Well, hopefully. I'm worried about nothing. I'm just wondering, could our government now label "climate change" and "peak oil" or any thing similar Russian propaganda? I believe Trump already labeled "climate change" Chinese propaganda. So does that mean that TAR could be labelled a propaganda site? Am I reading too much into this?

12/24/16, 10:46 PM

KL Cooke said...
"Krampus the Yuletide devil"

That had me rolling on the floor.

12/25/16, 12:05 AM

KL Cooke said...
"Krampus the Yulefiend"

Keeps getting better.

12/25/16, 12:22 AM

Robert Mathiesen said...
You all need some background on "Little Orphant [sic] Annie" before rushing to judgement one way or another.

Basically, it was set in the situation of my wife's great-grandmother, Mary Corbit, and it was a very common situation at the time. Mary's parents had fallen in love across social boundaries in England sometime around 1850. He was a son of a wealthy English family, and she was an Irish servant girl in the household. To marry against his family's wishes, they fled England for New York. There they had three children, two boys and Mary. When Mary was still too young to have learned which day of the calendar was her birthday, her parents died of one of the diseases that regularly swept through the New York tenements in those days. Friends of the young couple, who knew their story, wrote to his parents back in England, and the grandparents sent a relative across the ocean to inspect the orphans, The two boys reminded that relative of their father, but the girl more resembled her dsspised mother, so Mary was rejected and dumped into a New York orphanage, while her brothers were taken back to England and a life of privilege. When Mary was old enough to work, she was sent westward on one of the Orphan Trains. She got as far as Muncie, Indiana, where she finally found someone who would buy her from the orphanage for a servant, to serve until she was 18. This was George W Seitz, who owned a hardware store. She was treated well for a servant, but when she turned 18 and her term of service was up, she west to Colorado to find a husband in the silver mines there. (She was a plain woman, and she thought her chances of marrying well would be better in a place where men considerably outnumbered women.) In Leadville she met and married a mining engineer, Isaac Taylor Tallman, and they had two children, the younger of whom died as an infant. Mary had fond enough memories of her time with the Seitz family that she made the hard trip from leadville back to Muncie to show them her new baby; clearly they had all parted on good terms. True, she had been a servant in the Seitz household, like Annie in the poem, but thought herself fortunate to have had that life instead of a much shorter life filled with much harder work in the slums of New York.

The poet, James Whitcomb Riley, was also from Indiana, and he was born within a year or two of Mary Corbit. The orphan trains were a regular thing in his day, and Irish servant girls bought off from them, like Annie in the poem or Mary Corbit in real life, were a common thing for the time and place where he lived. In those days even privileged children did not have a life of leisure: they worked, too, though their work was less "menial" than that of the Irish servant girls. The Seitz's son would have started working in the family's hardware store all day long at about the same age as Mary began to spend her days doing household chores, and the Seitz's daughter would have had work of her own all day in the house, though her work would not have been as menial as Mary's. The evening was the only time when everyone normally had some time off, to rest and relax as a family together before going to bed. In the poem, the servant girl and the family's own children amuse themselves together around the fire with scary stories.

(to be continued)

12/25/16, 2:42 AM

Robert Mathiesen said...
(continuation of previous post)

Yes, there were different levels of privilege back then, as there always are. But any child below the top layers of society would spend his or her days working. If you had loving parents, your work might be light, and you might hope to be taken care of even if you became disabled and unable to work ever again. But mortality was high, and no child could afford to take for granted that there would always be loving adults to look after them. Children knew that, too. If you, a child, wanted to live and become an idnependent adult, you would have to work all your days, startig as soon as you were old enough to do any work at all. That was just how a child's life was, unless you had been born into the very top ranks of the privileged.

And for my money, that sort of childhood producd a crop of tougher, nore resiliant grown-ups from the children who survived it, than today's usual manner of doing childhood.

12/25/16, 2:43 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
@sgage: I'm sorry you interpreted a dissenting opinion as a personal attack. It was not so intended.

12/25/16, 5:35 AM

doomerdoc said...
Although I don't have children myself, it is worth pointing out that middle aged Americans also have an extreme sense of entitlement.

This is true for different reasons. For middle aged Americans, they feel entitled to reap the benefits of the consumer economy of American empire, forever. The stock market will always increase, their homes will always go up in price, their pensions will give them an income, etc. In their minds, they have worked hard and earned it.

Which may be true, but nothing lasts forever. And they will individually be subject to decay and mortality, like everyone.

12/25/16, 5:51 AM

Nastarana said...
Dear Roger, could you please define or explain what is a 'snowflake'? Does the term refer to spoiled brats, youngsters who are immature and naïve, a not unusual circumstance among the very young, or anyone with some certain kind of political orientation? Or does the term perhaps refer to people who refuse to spend such cash as they might have in support of our wonderful mass production and mass consumption economy?

One factor I see missing from this discussion so far is the sense of entitlement and refusal to accept consequences of people in business who think they should be guaranteed a profit no matter what bad decisions they make. TARP is the most obvious case in point, but one could also point to the whining of the tribe of auto dealers and insurance salesmen that they will be "put out of business" if their town extends public transportation for anything other than taking seniors from the assisted living center to the shopping areas.

12/25/16, 5:53 AM

SoSickThisIs said...
I'm a teacher as well, and you are so right! I could have not said it any better.

12/25/16, 7:22 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
@Robert Mathiesen - thank you very much for the context. And I am very glad your great-grandmother-in-law had a good enough life with the people who took her in as a servant that she went back to see her foster family. And thank you also for the explanation that all the children had their own work to do as well. I guess I was picturing something far more dire. Actual knowledge is always welcome.


12/25/16, 2:19 PM

Shane W said...
Regarding poor health decisions and increased mortality, I wouldn't get too bent out of shape about it. A lot of people have a death wish now and it gets expressed in various ways. Willfully neglecting one's health is just one way. A lot of people simply don't have the will to live in a post-progressive, post-"American dream" world, and express their death wish in various ways. Think of how death rates & alcoholism shot through the roof in the post-Soviet USSR and Eastern Europe. We'd better just steel ourselves towards it all. Besides, neglecting your health and expressing your death wish has a certain logic to it from a certain perspective, and if you just realize that Mam Gaia is way too overcrowded and there just aren't enough resources to go a around anymore, perhaps you can feel compassion and understanding to those expressing their death wish.
I'm really amazed how many young people have bought into the "savings account" lie about Social Security and Medicare. When I tell them that no, Social Security and Medicare are not "savings accounts", that money that is withheld from their paychecks goes directly into some old person's Social Security check and Medicare, they're rightfully outraged and want an immediate end to the practice. Most young people do not believe in an independent old age, and think that old people no longer able to provide for themselves should be dependents like children. They think that this would inspire a sense of responsibility towards younger generations by the old if they knew they would be dependent in their old age.
I used to tutor immigrant children in a branch library in a heavily immigrant neighborhood, but stopped b/c I got so discouraged that I was unable to stop the digital and commercialized tidal wave of shale. I really felt that there wasn't anything I could do to go against such a tide of shale, but I do feel it is unfortunate that only the wealthy can afford to send their kids to Waldorf schools while low income folks have to put up with digital and commercialized shale. Perhaps I gave up too quickly, and there is a way to go against the overwhelming tide?

12/25/16, 2:37 PM

Shane W said...
Honestly, if younger people were making the living wages that their parents and grandparents were, and were able to afford to take care of their families on their wages, the way their parents and grandparents were, then they probably wouldn't mind having Social Security and Medicare taken out of their paychecks, but Social Security and Medicare withholding of paychecks that already don't go far enough is just too much for them.

12/25/16, 2:42 PM

Anselmo said...
I hope that you have enjoyed your druidical celebrations.

About the high worth of the fairy tales for the children are of special interest the books wrote by Bruno Bettelheim that say that It have different messages that aid the children in the evolution by succesive stages of their live.

12/25/16, 2:58 PM

latheChuck said...
On the topic of ignoring consequences, and reasons for poverty: The father of a friend of mine has some residential rental properties. From time to time, he hires help for maintenance and cleaning. He tried to call on a man who had previously been a good worker, and whom he knew to be in need of work, but the man's (government subsidized) mobile phone wouldn't take the call. After the work was done, the landlord and laborer met again by chance, and the landlord asked why the laborer couldn't be called. "The government only give us 120 phone minutes a month," he said. "That only lasts about a week."

Now, I may not have the right number for the the total number of minutes, but I think you get the idea.

My mother told a story about an impoverished single-parent mother for whom their church offered to purchase some groceries. "Oh, that would be great, because the kids have no milk, and I'm out of cigarettes." When the food was delivered, the recipient called out from the couch: "Just leave it on the kitchen counter. I'll put it away when my [TV] show is over." [I got these quotes third-hand, so I won't pretend that they're word-for-word accurate, but that's the gist of the story that was told to me.] How does a person of charitable intent proceed from this point? To what extent does an offer of charity entitle one to dispense advice as well?

(As I learned from my first wife, every offer of assistance can be regarded (fairly or not) as an indictment of the recipient's competence, and an attack on their ego. Giving "gifts" is not at all as simple as we might expect.)

12/25/16, 4:41 PM

onething said...
"I'm just wondering, could our government now label "climate change" and "peak oil" or any thing similar Russian propaganda? ...Am I reading too much into this?"

I don't think so. I'm worried too.
They could also label climate change denial as propaganda. Don't fixate on your own beliefs being denied. We either have free speech or we don't. Any nonofficial ideas could be outlawed.

12/25/16, 5:07 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Moshe, yes, I've noticed that! I've also noticed that it's rare to hear any discussion about how to get those immense server farms the vast supplies of uninterrupted power they require -- and without the server farms and the rest of the gargantuan infrastructure of the internet, of course, those devices arent' worth much.

Patricia, well, there you are! The Druidry of the Druid Revival does indeed draw on Celtic traditions, mostly medieval through 18th century Welsh lore, with a good healthy dollop of Iolo Morganwg's inventions -- and of course he was a bona fide Welshman, so whatever he cooked up is Celtic by definition, isn't it? ;-)

Cherokee, I know. I read it over again every couple of years, and find something new in it every single time. I'd encourage every reader of this blog who doesn't alreaydy have a copy of Overshoot to run right out and get a copy -- it's frankly more important and more worth reading than anything I've written.

August, fair enough. I'd characterize the difference between Obama and Trump differently; it's simply a matter of which of them cares about appearances. Obama is profoundly concerned with maintaining the right image -- that's why he made a speech at Hiroshima deploring nuclear weapons, while his administration was busy launching a nuclear arms race with Russia. Trump doesn't care about images, so he tweets about launching an arms race. Still, we'll see.

Sven, thanks for this! I'd also recommend the novel Krampus the Yule Lord by Bron, which pits Krampus against Santa Claus in today's Appalachia in a struggle to the death over who rules the Yuletide.

Silva, so noted! My wife is a major fan of Ursula Vernon's and loved Digger, and enthusiastically seconds your recommendation.

Greg, so would I!

David, am I the only person who thinks of Verruca Salt when I read this sort of thing?

Roger, I think there's more to it than that, though yes, the children of a privileged class who are systematically shielded from having to deal with the consequences of their decisions usually do turn out pretty feckless. More on this as we proceed.

Patricia, by all means dissent, but you're misstating the context of Little Orphan Annie pretty dramatically. The poem makes it clear, if you know the habits of the time, that all the other kids have been doing chores until well after dinner; and in a society with no social safety net, the habit of hiring orphan children to help with the domestic economy was an effective way to keep them from starving in the streets. As for fairy tales and Alice Miller, I've read her work, and find it a sustained exercise in cherrypicking. The same habits of childrearing that gave us Adolf Hitler also gave us the great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, you know, and a vast number of perfectly ordinary men and women as well.

12/25/16, 7:08 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
@Patricia Matthews:

You're very welcome, Pat. Both my wife and I came from families that had and cherished very many family stories, some going back as far as the early 1600s. When I was a boy and we took long car trips, my mother actually taught my brother and me how to tell stories, not just reciting a memorized text, but shapimg the story around a core line of narrative according to the interests of the people who were hearing you tell it.

12/25/16, 7:18 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Kevin, yes, I saw that. Expect to see much, much more of it as we proceed.

Shane, well, there's always time to teach yourself self-discipline. There used to be an extensive literature on the training of the will; you mostly find it in magical literature these days, but it used to be mainstream. It might be worth reviving.

Candace, it's worth worrying about. This country is heading in some very ugly directions -- and of course has been heading in those directions for quite a while now.

KL Cooke, you're welcome. I have a not very secret fondness for musical parodies; the HP Lovecraft Historical Society's collection of Cthulhu carols, containing such classic Arkham favorites as "I'm Dreaming of a Dead City" and "Away in a Madhouse," is very much my style. ;-)

Robert, many thanks for this. That was my understanding as well, though I don't have the family connection you have.

Doomerdoc, true enough.

SoSickThisIs, thank you.

Shane, most people I know my age and younger -- and I'm in my mid-fifties -- know perfectly well that Social Security won't be available to them once the Boomers get through with it. The money we pay into it benefits them, not us -- but then that's just one of the many fun things about living in the US these days.

Anselmo, a good point. I haven't read Bettelheim in way too long.

LatheChuck, back before the current sense of universal entitlement got bolted into place, it was standard for people to draw a distinction between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. The difference was that people in the former category were poor through no fault of their own, and could be expected to recover economically with some well-timed help, while those in the latter category got poor through bad habits or bad judgments, and would just end up in the gutter again no matter what was done to help them. The usual habit was to restrict charity to the former category. That's an extremely upsetting concept to many people these days, but in a time of harsh limits, it's generally necessary.

12/25/16, 7:33 PM

Candace said...
@ onething
My apology, you are quite right!

12/25/16, 8:08 PM

Rita said...
Glen - re roads. Some counties may be in a double bind in that if they improve a road at all they may have to meet new Federal standards for width, and markings, and separation of functions i.e a bike trail cannot double as pedestrian walkway, that would require widening the right of way, which would entail buying more land along the road. Even if it is only two feet on each side it adds up. A case of the perfect becoming an enemy of the good. I have attending planning meetings in my community, which has narrow, shoulderless roads and this was the response of the county engineers to suggestions of bicycle trails or equestrian trails.

Re snowflake--I have commonly seen it used to mean someone who seems to feel that they are such an unique individual that the ordinary rules should not apply. As in expecting a special early administration of the final exam because they have to be home for break in time to leave for the Bahamas with their parents. The parents obviously share this POV since they made travel plans that conflict with their child's schooling. The forum section of the Chronicle of Higher Education is a treasure trove of such tales, as college professors vent to one another.

In training children to become responsible adults I think we need to bear in mind the contradictory messages of Christian culture. Children are seen by some as innocent little souls, in need only of gentle guidance. But at a deeper level many regard them as little "limbs of Satan", steeped in original sin and needing severe treatment to steer them into something approaching a godly life. Other cultures do not share this view. Japanese culture, for example, does emphasize hard work and discipline, but it comes out of basic belief that human children want to be successful humans just as squirrel babies want to be successful squirrels and need loving guidance to accomplish this. The human soul is compared to a mirror, which is always ready to reflect the light, although, like a mirror it may become soiled by the trials of daily life. I recommend the Parent Effectiveness Training books of Dr. Thomas Gordon. They emphasize communication and identification of what the problem actually is. They adopt the I-statement approach or Dr. Carl Rogers. For example, instead of "YOU are a bad, noisy boy." say "Slamming the door hurts my ears. Can we close it more quietly?"

I remember reading once that Native Americans were deeply shocked by the fact that the Europeans beat their children.

We might also consider the flip side of the helicopter parent: the parent who cuts the kid loose at 18, disclaims any responsibility to continue paying for education or anything else. This seems to be the attitude of some divorced non-custodial parents paying child support, basicly firing their kid for the supposed crimes of ex-spouse. I had college students in my classes who were working a 40 hour week while carrying a full load of courses despite having parents who could easily have afforded to help. Needless to say, dozing off in class because you work the night shift at the casino does not lead to academic success. I predict that some of these people will end up dying on a park bench because when the safety net fails their kids will not be inclined to take mom or dad in or pay for their care elsewhere.

Christmas table discussions reveal a general unwillingness on the part of relatives and friends to accept the idea of actual or looming resource shortages. There is plenty of oil, I hear repeatedly.

12/25/16, 8:11 PM

Unknown said...
​I would define civilization itself as the padded room and indeed one with many layers of padding. So the question is, at what layer of padding does one's comfort zone lie? These layers go back at least to early agriculture and arguably further. The US laid on a more finely crafted layer with the Declaration of Independence, resulting in a new kind of space which inevitably the human penchant for wealth and power found comfortable for actions leading over and over again to consequences which finally brought us the Great Depression followed by the New Deal, which, although a 'couple of centuries' of liberal ideology is mentioned, I suspect may be the layer which creates the most discomfort for those desiring 'freedom' to ignore these consequences and who have also failed to learn from experience. How many layers then do you want to remove to get just the right amount of padding for your particular circumstance?

quoting Canon fodder:
"Here’s the rub - sometimes a person’s circumstances are really a product of their own choices. In other words, consequences. How do we as society differentiate between the two? In western social democracies, for the most part, we don’t. Should we? Should people be allowed to suffer because of their own actions?" No, a person’s circumstances are never entirely a product of their own choices or are only to a very small extent. The question must also be asked: Should people be allowed to suffer because of the actions of others?

If one doesn't feel the need for any padding, well, even hunter-gatherers required a culture, so one may be seeking an Ayn Rand-ish utopia fantasy world where only the strong(est) deserve to tthrive. We may yet get something like that but I don't think you'd find it likeable. And noblesse oblige seems to be far less effective than social democratic welfare programs, which for all their drawbacks have forestalled further violent revolution--perhaps for better or worse......


12/25/16, 8:23 PM

Unknown said...
Sorry JMG I just sent a comment in response to Canon fodder's comment of 12/22/16, 10:08 PM and failed to address it as such. Hope it can be salvaged--Thanks


12/25/16, 8:37 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
@JMG - well, I am glad to have had the context explained to me. I had truly imagined something out of Charles Dickens, or for that matter, the kiddie lit classic The Little Princess. (Which is not the best of that author's works: The Secret Garden is. And the only one I really find to be of lasting worth. Your Mileage May Vary.)

And BTW, hanging over the heads of all those set in, say, 1910, is what will be coming down the road for those kids (and Mister Toad) 4-7 years later. (Oh, yes, I can just see Toad up there in a biplane taking on the Red Baron.) But I digress. And obviously should read up on midwestern rural life in the 19th century.

12/25/16, 8:46 PM

Kevin said...
I have a bit of family history that tends to support the picture sketched out by Robert Mathiesen. My maternal grandmother was born in Denmark in 1893. As a small child she moved with her parents to the San Francisco area. Shortly thereafter both her parents died in an epidemic of scarlet fever, leaving her an orphan. She was taken in by a wealthy local family. I haven't heard that she was particularly abused, but they certainly didn't raise her as their own daughter; they treated her as a servant. So I'm not surprised to hear information which suggests that that was standard practice.

Since I've linked to a bummer article about U.S. life expectancy, I'll try to compensate with some better news linked from Peak Prosperity's "Good News Friday." It seems real progress has been made in developing a vaccine against Ebola:

It's by no means perfected, but apparently there's some hope of that. Of course the vaccine, having been developed at public expense, has been handed over to Merck. Let's hope we can all afford it or the successor vaccine in event of a pandemic.

12/25/16, 9:20 PM

Kevin Warner said...
A small talking point from the cultural wastelands - all this talk about Krampus and like characters has reminded me of a similar character as depicted in a modern TV series called "Futurama" and who was named Robot Santa Claus ( Robot Santa Claus would visit on Xmas murdering anyone in sight and creating Christmas-themed mass mayhem while earth's population barricaded themselves in their homes in sheer terror.
For a taste of what he was like, see the video clip at and a typical song from here is "Santa Claus Is Gunning You Down" ( and now I am wondering if this character was derived for Krampus. It came out that while people were barricaded in their homes on Xmas, they would form closer bonds between each other so it was not all a loss.

12/25/16, 10:28 PM

Hubertus Hauger said...
JMG, I am speculating with others about your motives and objectives to write this weeks topic. I would be interested in your feedback.

While I actually do not argue with you about drawing attention on the responsibility of the left movement by partaking in the consumerist movement as to were put workers to, in order to partake in the industrially accumulated wealth formerly and more recently for the US inhabitants contra-productive development of their economical well-being thru to the support of immigration and globalisation. This is as I understand you for the formerly having pushed up the wasteful life of the overwhelming part of the population towards that unsustainable level, why the recent part the USA is now collapsing and recently helping for jobs going abroad as well as cheap labour entering, thus accelerate the impoverishment of the same population beforehand made so over-consumptive.

Instead, the only thing I, at such occasion do observe is your blaming attitude, which I do not share. As I see it, we are all blindly and due to forces most of us are unable to overcome, behave as we do. Like a drug-addict, we tumble into our common disaster. We are irresponsible. We cannot help it.

I understand you angrily arguing against it, in your idealistic hope to change the tide of fate, despite that you know and repeatedly talk about it, that its human nature and disaster will enfold no matter what we do whatsoever.

We only can go with the tide along, hoping to stay afloat, while the maelstrom carries us along.

Contradictory so you seems to wish, that there would happen a turning around of the leading leftist fractions, in order for the whole society to become a movement preparing for the impact of "post-peak" collapse.

Thinking of myself, I see that supposed habit of you reflected within myself. The conservative since long I see as hypocritical towards saving people and environment, due to widespread but unenlightened self-interests, in spite of the saviour rhetoric. Still I had expected till recently, that the leftist rhetoric of saving people and environment to be for real. However I had to recognize, that there applies the same unenlightened self-interests, contradicting the rhetoric like you so often does describe.

However I guess, that before you and we all can accept that lost cause we have to undergo the five steps of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross´s mourning process. And the first is to start arguing, like I saw how you did here!

12/25/16, 11:04 PM

Phil Knight said...
Regarding the "deserving poor" versus "undeserving poor", it's interesting that modern progressives tend to ascribe the Victorians' employment of these categories to their innate cruelty, rather than to the fact that the Victorians had a much smaller resource base than we do.

This seems to be a general progressive tendency - to posit that the people of the past innately behaved in bad faith, through ignorance or cruelty, and not because their choices were restricted by the absence of the lavish resources we have.

12/26/16, 2:28 AM

111DFC said...
Just in case you decide to publish it:

If you have seen the german film "Das weisse band" where there is a quite interesting explanation of how the childhood is detroyed by a kind of neglection and rough treatement, based on the "justice" and "righteousness", full of physical and verbal mis-treatment, but this is, at the end, is not the more important thing, but the "separation", the emocional distance between the fathers and children. Dr Allan Schore talks about the "proximal abandonment", where the fathers are phisically present, but emotionally absents

In the same film, (that I recommend to see), the wife of the "boss" (an aristocrat) go away to Italy and then she return bringing a fat italian woman as nannie of their children, you can compare, in the film, the kind of care, the feeling of love, of the italian "mamma" with the rest of fathers and mothers of the german village, the lack of touch of the skin, the separation bewteen the body and the sensitivity, the lack of music in the loving words for the little crying child...

For this film’s director, this kind of systematic "killing of the empathy" in the childhood explain what happens in 1933 and later on in Germany

The spartans or the english upper-class are master in the technology of "killing the empathy", in the childhood, to convert human beeins in "machines of power-grabbing", with the disruption of the normal human brain formation, minimizing the contact with care & love, and make them relentless

No, in the early part of the life, for all the mammals (tigers or whales or chimpancees or humans", the "puppy" "need" to feel the unconditional love of their parents/caretakers, that is the way the normal brains develop; forget the "justice". This in the Old Times was convert in myths, for example in the "Mothers" as for example the "Great Mothers" of the Mediterranean and Middle East, and Christianity copy this in Maria

Today the brain of many children are not formed by an excess of "permisiveness" but for an emotional neglection & deprivation that fathers try to fill with "stuff", this makes the people develope a "lack of meaning" (Durkheimian "Anomie") and I thing explain some forms of disorders epidemies (ADHD epidemy) or addictions (to drugs and consumerism) in order to "fill" a vacuum that it is impossible to fill, because as Lacan said "all petition, all human aspiration, is, at the bottom, a demand of love" (the "lost" love), simply "the man travels from significant to significant" in this search

You need the "love" before the "right", otherwise it is only terror

The society need to recover the cult of the "Great Mothers", why not start with the Mother Earth?

12/26/16, 3:58 AM

Nastarana said...
Mr. Greer, are you willing to entertain the notion of deserving and undeserving rich, between those among the wealthy who have earned the respect of the rest of us, and those who have not?

Educators, polishing their halos, will tell you that of course there are 'consequences' in school. When children misbehave, "consequences" follow, as by an act of nature. Now I think part of the responsibility of adults in charge is that we impose penalties for bad behavior.

12/26/16, 5:30 AM

David, by the lake said...

Thank you, John. The Verucca Salt reference made me smile.


Interesting that you should phrase the challenge that way (tidal forces). I am reading Miraculous Abundance by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer. With similar imagery, at the beginning of the first chapter, Charles describes an experience navigating powerful Amazonian rivers by finding the threads of the counter-currents every current creates and maneuvering within them, thereby operating contrary to forces that would otherwise overwhelm human power.


The above applies to our discussion as well. Gardening in the cracks, as we've said.

12/26/16, 5:37 AM

Somewhatstunned said...

every offer of assistance can be regarded (fairly or not) as an indictment of the recipient's competence, and an attack on their ego.

I think that is true. Here, for the little it is worth, is the attitude I would try to take in the sort of situation you describe. If you decide to give something, you decide to give it, because you wanted to, because you thought it a good thing to do. Having done so, I would tell myself firmly that I have no real business judging the response the gift receives - I did not give it in order to receive their grateful thanks and I know nothing really about the inner workings of the giftee's mind and the full details of their circumstances.

Giving "gifts" is not at all as simple as we might expect

Indeed! There is a strong need for reciprocity, because receiving a gift puts one, in some sense, in the giver's debt and giving them something in return restores the balance and the giftee's autonomy. An effective reciprocation can be as symbolic as conventional words of gratitude, or as tokenistic as a trivial action (eg dinner guests doing the washing up).

In the anecdote you describe, what is shocking is that there was no reciprocation. The generous interpetation of this is that the single-parent was so battered by long-term grinding impoverishment that they felt themselves to be sinking below the level of normal sociality. The only way to psychologically balance such a depth (and hence retain some shred of self-respect) is to assume the heights of a grand person who is degining to accept your charity, or to re-frame the gift as their "due" for which reciprocation is not needed.

But before I get called naive, let me add that I try to take this sort of generous interpretation as a matter of strategy

12/26/16, 5:45 AM

Mean Mr Mustard said...
Hi JMG and all

Consequences be damned... If the Arctic has now melted some more, resulting in global weirding causing the Rain in Spain to fall mainly on our out of season leafy salad crop, well, we can fly it in a bit further from the US instead.

As JHK (with his Salad Shooter) would say, It's All Good.

Bah Humbug! from a very non-Victorian 14 degree UK Xmas


12/26/16, 5:58 AM

Somewhatstunned said...

There used to be an extensive literature on the training of the will;

Do you mean people such as Émile Coué? If not, then who?

Just an excuse to send you (belated) seasonal best wishes really (I'm relctucant to clutter up your virtual mantelpiece without the excuse of something else to say).

12/26/16, 6:00 AM

Shane W said...
but we do get "set in our ways" as we age, and making the change at my age is way uglier and wrenching than so many of the kids nowadays that are seem to be doing it so gracefully and with ease. Still, ugly is better than not at all, and is still better than most of the Gen X'ers I know with their heads firmly buried in the sand, stuck in the 90s. Geez, when I think back upon the total embarrassment the 90s were, and what I did w/that decade, I have to hang my head in shame.
Ah yes, changing consciousness in accordance with the will. Seem to have heard something about that. :)

12/26/16, 6:09 AM

Shane W said...
Yes, but JMG, we're at the critical mass whereby the non beneficiaries of Social Security & Medicare (Gen X, Millennial, post-millennial, possibly tail end of Boomer) vastly outnumber the beneficiaries (Silent, Boomer). There's enough clout amongst the non beneficiaries to bring about either an immediate end or a radical restructuring to Social Security and Medicare, if they organized. You are right that 50 and under do not believe they will benefit from Social Security & Medicare, but they are still misinformed about how it is paid for. They still believe the lie that Social Security & Medicare taken out of paychecks goes into an account somewhere to be paid out later in old age. They don't realize until you explain it to them that it is a pay-as-you-go system whereby money taken out of their paycheck goes directly into some old person's Social Security check/Medicare benefits. It really is the sleeping giant.

12/26/16, 6:17 AM

Juhana said...
Good article again, JMG. It has been fascinating to witness how you have disseminated almost organic lifespans of failed political movements in your home country. The way how you profile the rise and fall of civilizations and human infrastructures in general has been unarguably greatest offering of your blog (for me at least). You treat these often delicate subjects as someone with background in biology would examine evidence of human cultures. This attitude has wider implications than just in this “peak oil” or “net energy” scene. It is a new way to see human species during it’s voyage through time and space, through history, as one piece of complex ecological puzzle. Overshoot and bottleneck events are very real, and they are already shaping faith of mankind, but story tells also about tragedy and comedy of cultures being born, living and dying. I have come to a conclusion that when oral, and much later written, traditions enabled human tribes to differ ecologically from each other by means of generationally transmitted traditions and culture, it was final revolution that take us away from the common path with other primates. The epochs of these metanarratives, cultures and civilizations, are the true great stories and tragedies of our species.
So I have a question for you. Historical research has been able to recognise civilizations as far back as to ancient Sumer and Egypt. There were probably sophisticated cultural spheres before that, during Neolithic, but their traditions did not leave behind written records so their legacy is truly lost. Megalithic temples of Malta prove that there was highly sophisticated culture around the Neolithic times, but that is all they can tell. People can project their own fantasies and hopes into these impressive megalithic sites around Europe, but they truly are only their own projections. Still, some justifiable guesses can be made. So what you think? Has earliest cultures we know earlier predecessors from which they sprang? If so, can our civilization be forgotten as totally as those? And was the high point of Western civilization truly during 18th century, as Spengler suggests? And if you think so, why? Here in Europe TRUE conservatives are both monarchist and advocates of aristocracy. For them, French Revolution was tragedy that derailed Western culture from it’s true roots. Monarchy, Christianity and reverence of legacy from antiquity were tripod legs of this original Western identity. And of course they are right. Those truly are bastions of what it means to be Westerner. Only people in relatively young countries of European diaspora can thin otherwise. But was the pre-Revolution truly high tide of Western culture, and why? And what was in the revered legacy from imperators of Rome and philosophers of Hellas?
I truly hope that you find inspiration to answer for these quite large questions. Your outlook at these things is deeply honoured, even if totally different cultural and geopolitical environment inevitably causes deep differences between our understanding of world.

12/26/16, 6:50 AM

Varun Bhaskar said...

My generation refers to doing things that are the mundane duties of being an adult, such as paying bills and cleaning ones home, as adulting. It’s used to describe the separation between normal life, which one assumes is called “kidding,” and the day-to-day responsibilities of being an adult. Over and above looking after their basic survival, the majority of their time is spent keeping themselves entertained. Social organizing, such as community building and civic participation, is give plenty of lip service but never backed up with action. They want to live carefree lives without considering that the only reason their childhoods were carefree was because someone was doing the majority of caring for them. Unfortunately, this leaves those of us who do recognize our responsibilities with a whole lot of caring to follow through on.

The street is filled with the clatter of cans being kicked, and littered with the ones left behind.

By the way, you’ve mentioned books on the training of will power several times. Could you name a few? I would love to pick on up and polish up my will. I found this one by doing a google search:



12/26/16, 8:14 AM

Robert Mathiesen said...
@ somewhatstunned and Varun Bhaskar:

Training the will was a large part of the New Thought Movement that began around 1875 in the United States, and it produced some genuine classics.

For my money, one of the very best of these books was written by the eminent folklorist, Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903). Originally published unde the title, _Have You a Strong Will?_ in 1899, it went through several evisions at its author's hands before reaching its final form in 1903. It has remained in print ever since, though more commonly under the titel, _The Mystic Will: A Method of Developing and Strengthening the Faculties of the Mind_. You can download it from several places on the web, including the Internet Archive. Don't skim it, though it's written in a deceptively esay style. For maximum understanding, go through the book slowly and thoughtfully, take notes as you go, systematize its process in your own words from these notes, and then go bck and read it slowly again.

Another truly excellent book on the subject is _Mind Power_ (1912), by William Walker Atkinson, also downloadable here and there from the web. This book, like Leland's, had a somewhat complicated publication history before reaching its final form in 1912. Atkinson was extraordinarily prolific as an author, publishing under a good number of pseudonyms such as Yogi Ramacharaka and Theron Q. Dumont. He is also probably all three of the "Three Initiates" who are mentioned as authors on the title page of the famous small book, _Kybalion_.

And yes, Émile Coué belongs here also, and his works have some value -- though I prefer Leland and Atkinson, which seem to me to be more meaty and profound.

12/26/16, 11:23 AM

Shane W said...
One thing I've noticed that is causing a lot of rage amongst the younger salary class is whereby the older, privileged generations keep the younger, disadvantaged generations continually indebted to them. They control the purse strings and have the financial clout. However, rather than being the recipients of the privileged generations largesse, the younger generations would much rather have the opportunities that the older, privileged generations had to provide for themselves. That's why it's so important for younger generations to end old age entitlements and retirement.

12/26/16, 1:12 PM

Glenn said...
Rita said...
"re roads. Some counties may be in a double bind in that if they improve a road at all they may have to meet new Federal standards for width, and markings, and separation of functions i.e a bike trail cannot double as pedestrian walkway, that would require widening the right of way, which would entail buying more land along the road. Even if it is only two feet on each side it adds up. A case of the perfect becoming an enemy of the good. I have attending planning meetings in my community, which has narrow, shoulderless roads and this was the response of the county engineers to suggestions of bicycle trails or equestrian trails."

I didn't wish to bore the list with details, since standards vary from place to place, but since you bring it up, I will go into some specifics. The road in question is 22' fog line to fog line, with two 10' lanes, one each way and a double yellow center line. The right of way is 60 feet, enough for almost triple the road. One of the problems is that it is a State Highway, which means the decision makers are literally far removed from the issues. Existing power lines, fences and covering ditches etc would need to be addressed; but the cost of adding both separated bike and pedestrian or equestrian paths is quite feasible. This Low Tech article explains the costs:

In our county (Jefferson County, Washington State) there isn't a legal problem combining pedestrian, equestrian and bicycle traffic on one path. We have a rails to trails path a few miles away that is designated as such a combined use, and all users have been considerate and tolerant of each other.

The challenge I have for our legislatures is if we're doing so well, we can afford the paths. The failure to build the paths is an admittance that in 10 or 20 years _all_ roads will be paths for unpowered transportation because only the military, rich criminals and the criminally rich will be driving.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

12/26/16, 1:13 PM

John Michael Greer said...
"Unknown" Chuck, that's a useful metaphor, not least because it suggests that there may be an optimum level of padding, somewhere between none at all and way too much.

Patricia, one of the reasons The Little Princess was such a success in its time was precisely that it took a common phenomenon -- the orphan girl becoming a servant -- and combined it with the fairy-tale cliche of the princess being forced to work for a wicked stepmother or the nearest approximation thereof. As for the First World War, tell me this -- do you read today's literature with an eye toward the kind of future we've got hanging over us? If not, it's worth trying.

Kevin, if it's in the hands of any firm in the US pharmaceutical industry, we can be quite sure that the moment an epidemic breaks out, some perfectly valid reason will be found to boost the price per dose by 2,000% or so. Grumble grumble kleptocratic swine grumble grumble...

Other Kevin, heh. Very modern.

Hubertus, with all due respect, when people insist that we don't have any choice in the matter -- unless they're talking about something where we really don't have a choice, such as death or the finite nature of concentrated energy reserves -- I see that as a copout. Each of us makes choices all the time. Each of us can choose to make change happen in our own lives, or not. With that in mind, I think the motive behind this week's post ought to be pretty self-evident...

Phil, yep -- if you start from the assumption that modern progressives are mostly interested in feeling morally superior to everyone else, in the past as well as the present, you'll rarely go wrong.

111DFC, do you expect a Druid to disagree with that last comment?

Nastarana, of course -- and in fact I introduced my idea of one of the "deserving rich" in the person of Janice Mikkelson, the streetcar magnate in Retrotopia. I would define the difference between the two precisely as the presence or absence of a strong sense of noblesse oblige -- the awareness that those who have wealth, or more generally privilege, owe to the society that grants them wealth and privilege a return on that society's investment in them.

Mustard, we may not be that far away from the point where there's nowhere on the planet to fly it in from. Hang onto your hat...

12/26/16, 1:57 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Stunned, Robert Mathiesen's comment just above covers the same ground I would have. There's a lot of very good material out there, but Leland and Atkinson are among the best.

Shane, if it's ugly and wrenching, all the better -- the heavier the weight you lift, the greater the strength you build. As for Social Security, maybe so; we'll see how that unfolds.

Juhana, that's a good question. I personally find it improbable that human beings identical to you and me lived as hunter-gatherers and nothing else for half a million years, and then all of a sudden five millennia ago up and started building cities all over the place. Rising sea levels since the end of the last ice age may well have covered over an earlier round of urban societies -- there's actually some hard evidence for this -- and the foreshortening of history caused by the myth of progress is of course also an issue. It would not surprise me, all things considered, if it turned out that there had been advanced civilizations during the last ice age, different enough from our idea of advanced civilization that many of its scattered relics weren't even recognized as such. (That was John Michell's hypothesis in The View Over Atlantis, though he was much more of a visionary than a (pre)historian.)

With regard to European civilization, I tend to agree with Spengler that it reached its cultural peak around 1800, but it reached the zenith of its global power around 1900 -- in that year, most of the planet's surface was ruled either from European capitals or by European diaspora societies. (Britain alone ruled a quarter of the planet's land surface directly, and dominated much of the rest.) Then came 1914, and in the forty years that followed -- Sarajevo to Dien Bien Phu, basically -- that fell to bits. Now? Over the long run, once the US implodes, I suspect Europeans are going to have to decide whether they'd rather accept Russian suzerainty or learn to pray in Arabic.

And the European diaspora, as usual in such cases, will go its own way. Spengler was right there, too, in pointing out that a civilization never really outgrows its original homeland; attempts to export it are only skin deep. You might be interested to know that there's an old tradition in occult circles that America won't have its own civilization until sometime in the 26th century...

Varun, yep. "Adulting" -- somebody's got to be, er, "kidding." As for books on will training, again, Robert Mathiessen's suggestions are spot on.

12/26/16, 2:18 PM

David, by the lake said...

As another local example, my city had to forgo federal grant money for one of our planned bike/ped trails b/c the (very) specific requirements attached to the grant would have made one section cost something on the order of $120 per lineal foot, due to the need to cross wetlands via a boardwalk and no provision made in the aforementioned requirements made for such an event.

12/26/16, 2:30 PM

Shane W said...
I've been doing my genealogy, and have prepared my application for Sons of Confederate Veterans. I'm taking JMG's Retrotopia CSA prediction seriously, and laying the groundwork accordingly. The Calif. and Cascadia secession movements look promising, though it's premature at this time. Still, secession and dissolution of the Union is an idea that will keep coming up up, each time with more seriousness, until the Union is either peacefully, or not so peacefully, dissolved. The South had it right, we're not a United States and do not share a common nationality. If at first you don't secede, try, try again...

12/26/16, 3:04 PM

David, by the lake said...

Perhaps totally OT (though I'll try to shoehorn it in), but an idea that I would be interested in exploring: one of the consequences (shoehorn!) of our situation in the US today and our imperial path, as I see it, is that a return to the pre-administrative state (pre-imperial) Constitution will not be enough to hold the country together and that we will actually have to step back to an even looser structure, restricting federal power even further and operating with much more local sovereignty. Some kind of middle ground between the Articles of Confederation and the (original) Constitution. What might that middle ground look like?

12/26/16, 3:20 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Well, that is one point of view. Another point of view is that without your communication I would not have read the book! And also a further point of view is that because of your communications, I was able to read the book without descending into a dark place or throwing a temper tantrum. I'm at acceptance / realism and it is a nice place. There really is a need for an initiation ceremony for people facing the future.

You know, if you ever decide or want to really annoy people. And I mean really, really, annoy them, have you ever considered writing about how the various social security systems are breaking apart at the seams? To my mind it looks like a break down in the agreed upon social fabric. Down here, they changed the retirement age recently to 70 for my generation and nobody seem to notice. And the ease with which the legislation got through an otherwise gridlocked parliament was very telling in itself. Of course Parliamentary benefits and pensions are going away too because of that, but that is another story.

After the hottest Christmas day here in 18 years (70 years for Adelaide) at 36.3'C (100'F), the mass of humid oppressive air outside right now makes the place feel like the tropics. I've often wondered whether this increase in humidity is one of the feedback loops which people don't tend to consider when it comes to global weirding? Certainly it will change the face of agriculture as humidity tends to increase the recycling of plant material into soil. What people may not understand about that is that it means diverting a substantial chunk of the plant matter that people currently consume into food for bacteria, fungi, yeasts etc. Those little critters will be the winners out of global weirding in the end I rather suspect.

Hi nuku,

Thanks for the awesome story and image!



12/26/16, 3:42 PM

Jessica Rooney said...
JMG: "Have you ever heard "The Star-Spangled Banner" in a minor key? It's harrowing."
Thank you for the music lesson. I went and listened to that YouTube link and I couldn't help but see a scene of total devastation with a few survivors wandering dazed through the wreckage. There was one part in the middle that felt a bit upbeat. 'We'll (eventually) make a comeback." That kind of feeling, but then the last part made it clear that the slightly upbeat sentiment was utterly unrealistic.

12/26/16, 5:46 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
JMG: You asked: I'll answer. Except for some science fiction, the contemporary fiction of any sort that I've read is as oblivious to what's coming down the road as the 1900-1910 era fiction was of the impending Great War and its aftermath. What they are crying doom about when it's not all existential blah, is right-wing politicians and fundamentalist religion and the death of all that is lovely, liberal, tolerant, and civilized at the hands of the same. Occasionally climate change.

But I'm not the best one to ask. I lost interest in contemporary literary fiction some time ago, finding it boring, pointless, or distasteful, and not worth digging for whatever gems there may be. This is not 'moralizing' but an individual aesthetic gut reaction. (I also found myself becoming excruciatingly bored with Analog SF magazine, which had been a favorite of mine since I was 10 and it was Astounding SF. For what that's worth. Same old, same old.)

I enjoy novels written by writers who have turned out good murder mysteries and by certain sf writers, who are keenly aware that a novel must be about something and must have a plot, unless they turn pretentious when they do so. And they, too, seem as oblivious as the rest. For what it's worth.

12/26/16, 5:56 PM

Caryn said...

For me, this is such a good and immediate discussion. Your comment is spot on, and an essential point and part of a healthy child-rearing / society-rearing process. Thank You for including it here. I would agree, punishments for bad behaviour hardly work, and in the long run would most likely backfire into some truly horrid adult behaviour if they are uncoupled from love and caring, the rewards of good behaviour. Like yin and yang, they must go together because good and bad are both relative - there is no good without bad to compare it to, and vice versa. (I might add, this is not restricted to parents, but to us teachers and care-givers too, in our however-limited capacity with the children in our care.)

I would add to your list of sources of 'de-empathizing' children; Iris Chang's "The Rape Of Nanking'. The first 1/2 of the book is an in-depth study on the careful desensitization of young Japanese boys for future harsh military service. They were taken from their families and raised in a sort of 'boot-camp' at a young age, (7 year old, or so, as I recall, although I'm not sure). I understand there was some measure of this harsh, de-empathizing culture dating back to the days of the Samurai, (Patricia would know more about this, and can maybe chime in?), but it was stepped up purposefully by the military prior to WW2.

These examples, however, IMHO were intentional systematic processes of human behavioural manipulation - and for specific causes, (war and creating 'perfect' warriors) I don't think it is innate in human nature to treat each other and especially for parents to treat their own offspring with no love, only cruelty, and neglect. I would not argue that there are some that are cruel, innately - however, I do think they are outliers. Neither would I argue that (especially neglect) is seen often now, but I suppose that is also a result and sign of how far gone our society has gotten to. We've fallen apart.

I'm not a Druid, but I think starting with the love of and for Mother Earth / Mam Gaia is and was an essential tenant to embrace for us silly weak, fragile humans to find any kind of peace and happiness here on her belly.

12/26/16, 6:23 PM

Varun Bhaskar said...

Thank you very much!



12/26/16, 6:37 PM

Shane W said...
A distinction needs to be made between the "deserving old", who've looked after future generations, and the "undeserving old", something our current system of entitlements doesn't do...

12/26/16, 6:39 PM

Justin said...
JMG, about "Adulting". My grandparents (and 100 generations before them) had an entire community that pushed them into "adulting", normalized it and the lack of technological progress and social change made the notion that one would grow up to be like your parents utterly normal and nothing to be bothered by. My parents may not have had community, but they had economic stability and a culture they were confident in - so some errant gametes turned into a healthy family even if a maternity-grade wedding dress was involved. Strangely enough, after the initial accident, a deliberately-created sibling of mine was created.

Now, in addition to the economic uncertainties which hinder family formation, there is a culture which actively discourages settling down and family formation. Nearly every young woman I know grew up watching Sex and the City, a show about four hyperpromiscuous young ladies who apparently find happiness through pseudo-anonymous sex. The protagonist's futures as miserable cat ladies is not shown.

Although modern youth culture certainly deserves criticism, there is a very real issue of cultural engineering grossly distorting human expectations and roles in rather perverse ways. I do hope that this is a pendulum situation and that hopefully it will oscillate towards a happy medium, where the deviant 3% or so are happily tolerated, but the normal 97% adopt more or less traditional roles, which are traditional for good reasons.

12/26/16, 8:50 PM

Fungus the Photo! said...
The celebration is one that was hijacked by Rome. The 12th day is actually the most important one: the day of perihelion, closest approach to Eden or the less old name, Saturn, aka Sol. Now it is usually 7th Jan, due to passage of time.

12/26/16, 11:27 PM

Shane W said...
All this talk of "deserving" and "undeserving" reeks of good, old fashioned judgment, something people who don't want to be judged shriek loudly that we should not do. Methinks the lady doth protest too loudly, that those shrieking about "being nonjudgmental" are doing things they feel guilty about.

12/27/16, 3:29 AM

latheChuck said...

Your reference to "Sex in the City" as misleading to young women prompted me to search for evidence in support of a rumor I'd heard, that the show was really about the behavior of gay men, but trans-formed (so to speak) to make it more appealing to the mass market. A Google search for "Sex in the City writers" automatically suggested "sex in the city gay writers" as a related topic, and accepting that suggestion produced a list of over 34 million hits, of which I have only looked at the first page. (The first page of the list, that is, not even the first page of the items on the list.) A sample: Lauren Hutton Slams “Sex And The City” Writers: “Guys Who Are Sluts” ... “It's written by guys, who happen to be gay, who are sluts. (from Huffington Post, 2008)

If young heterosexual women grew up taking the show's characters as roll models, I too worry for the consequences, both for themselves and for the young men they encounter.

When "anything goes", nothing matters. In the stormy future, secure and committed pair-bonding will matter to all of us. (After over 20 years of secure and committed marriage, I heartily recommend it. Who else are you going to call for a ride home after your colonoscopy? Who else would sit in your hospital room and check for medication errors?)

12/27/16, 4:18 AM

Kjell Aleklett said...
When ASPO was formed in 2002 the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the USA's Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected that the rate of oil production in 2030 would reach 121 million barrels per day (Mb/d). It was these projections against which ASPO protested. The article that Colin Campbell and I published in 2003 showed that conventional oil would reach its maximal production rate (peak production) at 71 Mb/d in 2010. In reality, the peak occurred at a little over 70 Mb/d in 2007. Since then, production has decreased. If we added in unconventional oil except fracking we saw a peak in production in 2013 at 85 Mb/d. Like the IEA and the EIA, we did not include oil from fracking in our production estimates from those times. To state that the Peak Oil movement failed is thus a mistaken assertion. Instead, what has happened is that the IEA and EIA are now adjusting their predictions to more closely align with our prediction from 2003. In the meantime, the world has partially succeeded in compensating for the decreased production of crude oil. However, according to the IEA's World Energy Outlook report from October 2016, there are now signs that world oil production, (that, when including oil from fracking, was 93 Mb/d in 2015), will have decreased during 2016 and there is much to support that it can be as low as 80 Mb/d in 2030. Rather than fail, ASPO has instead made the world conscious that the scenarios presented by the IEA and EIA in 2002 were unrealistic. The manuscript of our new book, Our Global Addiction to oil – depletion, fracking, and reduced climate threat” has very recently been sent to the publishing house Springer for publication. When that has occurred we can, once again, take up this discussion on whether or not the Peak Oil movement failed.

12/27/16, 7:31 AM

Donald Hargraves said...
Finally listened to a couple versions of The Star Spangled Banner in a minor key. Goes from ominous to mournful – almost as if it was being sung by "the hireling and slaves" mentioned in verse 3 as they were taken to the gallows.

Of course, a lot of our folk songs have had their teeth removed. I learned this one day looking over an old history book as a 9 year old and reading these lyrics to a song about building the railroad I had learned in music class:

"So it's drill ye terriers drill
Drill ye paddies drill
Oh it's work all day
no sugar in your tay
working for the UP Railway"

Nothing about the change, just the lyrics as (I remember them being) written above being different from what I had been taught, but it definitely set my tihsllub detector on, leading me to know when something important was being messed with – even if I didn't know WHAT was being messed with.

12/27/16, 8:48 AM

Tony Hammock said...
Yuletide greetings, JMG. Thanks for your efforts, and I enjoy your writing very much.

12/27/16, 11:43 AM

BoysMom said...
Merry Christmas and Happy Holy Days to you all on this, the third day of Christmas!

I'm rather surprised that it was left to me, at the end of The Archdruid Report's week, to observe that as the real Saint Nicholas is famed for punching heretics and leaving dowries to save young girls from prostitution, it's rather obvious that Santa Claus is not he, but rather a spirit of the Religion of Progress.

One leaves Santa Claus an offering of cookies, one receives a reward of mass produced goodies. That Santa Claus rewards his worshipers by using proxies, well, what would one expect from a spirit or deity of such a materialism oriented religion? (I am not quite sure where exactly the line between a spirit and a deity of such a religion is drawn, but I cannot think of another entity so worshiped by the adherents of Progress, so perhaps deity is the correct term here.)

Of course there is a good deal of overlap between old Saint Nicholas and the new Santa Claus, as Santa Claus is usurping the older Saint Nicholas' position, and there are a good number of folks fighting back against Santa Claus, and often hampered by older relatives who wish to spoil the grandchildren. Goodness knows I've had more than one argument with my mother over whether or not my children should be told that Santa Claus is real, and I do not care if I am spoiling her fun by not lying to my children!

Another brief thought, are we raising children to adulthood or to continued childhood? It seems to me a great deal of trouble for young people today could have been avoided by adults remembering that children must become adults if they are to thrive and raising them up accordingly, rather than trying to raise them while preserving their childishness.

12/27/16, 11:50 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
Dear Mr. Greer - Off topic, but touches on things you've discussed, before. And, might be a good resource for future writings.

I picked up a new book from the library. "Junk: Digging Through America's Love Affair with Stuff." (Stewart, 2016). Junk in all it's permutations. There's a quit good chapter on space junk, with a fairly recent interview with Donald Kessler.

There's also a short section on junk science, which you've discussed in the past. Apparently, a Harvard scholar, scientist and journalist named John Bohannon submitted an incredibly flawed bogus article about a cancer wonder drug to 304 open-source online journals. 157 of them published the deeply flawed article. Lew

12/27/16, 1:51 PM

Shane W said...
In the spirit of Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bright Sided", I do so wish someone would write a book, "The Joys of Judging, why 'non-judgementalness' is ruining you sanity and how to find inner peace through judgement"

12/27/16, 1:55 PM

Shane W said...
I don't necessarily think monogamy is necessary for strong families. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing the end of romantic marriage in favor of good, old fashioned platonic or arranged marriage, whether straight or gay. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing a return to Victorian or pre-Victorian norms whereby it's okay to step out on your spouse, but the marriage is sacrosanct and must be honored for life w/out severe social consequences. Today's obsession w/romantic love is bizarre, IMHO. I would like to see a return to "wed lock" without necessarily requiring a monogamy that never really existed the way people imagined it did. I would, however extend an egalitarian right for women to step out just as much as men, so long as they never, ever considered breaking the bonds of marriage. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Besides, as social primates, humans don't really do monogamy well, though they probably can manage to stay married, given enough societal pressure.

12/27/16, 3:03 PM

Shane W said...
Do you really think Christianity will hold strong in Europe? I thought a lot of Europeans were abandoning Christianity, and that the older polytheistic religions were making a comeback, particularly in Scandinavia (Norse gods & goddesses). Christianity just seems the handmaiden to progress and zooming off to the stars. Still, you would know better about it's relative strength vs traditional polytheism (Norse gods & goddesses)

12/27/16, 5:03 PM

Shane W said...
regarding sex, I, for one, would love to live in a society where lots of activities are tolerated and accepted, yet never discussed in mixed company. While I'm hoping that we've shut the door on sexual puritanism for good, I'd be glad to see a resurgence of good, old-fashioned discretion, where there's a time and place for everything, and where one could indulge in anything privately, yet still have tasteful discretion about not discussing it with any and all.

12/27/16, 5:09 PM

jessi thompson said...
Shane W.- Part 1
Shane W.- On monogamy, there are biological reasons that predispose men to cheat more often than women in general, and the same biological reasons make women less likely to cheat most of the time, except when they do cheat, they are more likely to do so when they are most likely, in their cycle, to get pregnant. (There are a lot of studies about this in the science of ethology, if you're interested, it's the science of how evolution guides behavior. It's all fascinating stuff.) Extramarital sex creates many risks in sexual relationships, including STD's and pregnancy outside of wedlock, which is why it has been taboo. Today, individuals are free to explore open relationships of all kinds (involving consenting adults), but once you step outside of the norms you encounter a territory with risks that aren't normally covered in the usual social narrative. Of course, that line is yours to cross, and you are free to do so. I know many people who have chosen this type of lifestyle, some happily, and some with ghastly unforeseen consequences. As with anything, when you step into the realm of the taboo, you walk alone.

Arranged marriages can work beautifully, but unfortunately, to build a society on arranged marriages, one of the most common ways to enforce the permanence of marriage to a stranger is to keep one of the sexes in a socially inferior position, and it's usually the woman. The majority of places that continue to arrange marriages hold women under strict laws.

The most interesting alternative to the traditional marriage I have found is called a walking marriage. Basically, families live in a matriarchy headed by the grandmother. All her descendants live with her. When couples pair up, the man goes to sleep in the woman's bedroom every night and then returns to his mother's house in the morning. All his work and the fruits of his labor go to raising his nieces and nephews. There is no marriage to speak of, if the relationship ends, he just stops spending the night. It has no affect on the children if the relationship ends, in fact there is no word for father. The "fathers" are the uncles. The family unit is based on blood ties with people you have known your whole life. That said, I don't see our culture changing in this direction any time soon, or ever, really. For our society, I agree we need to emphasize a stronger commitment to marriage. I think if people had more time at home to be together, instead of working hours of every day with strangers while your spouse works with other strangers and strangers raise your children in school, all our social bonds would be stronger and it might be a lot easier to be faithful to your spouse. I think all our social problems come from the drastic departure from the tribal life we evolved to live and the agrarian life we lived after that. This separated, mechanized way of life destroys social bonds of all kinds and replaces them with electronically mediated simulations of contact.

12/28/16, 1:38 AM

jessi thompson said...
Shane W- Part 2

I would also like to point out that bringing back the multigenerational home solves a lot of problems, including but not limited to: daycare, social security, isolation of stay-at-home moms, mortgage payments, latchkey kids, loss of skills like sewing and cooking, loss of family history, the abundance of household chores, etc.

You are right to question the current arrangement because it's clearly in decay. However, having been raised by hippies, I would say increasing promiscuity by itself solves nothing, and if you think that sex outside marriage would make staying married easier, I would say you're missing the big picture, and the urge for promiscuity is actually a symptom of a much bigger problem. Again, I think all these problems come from how far our society has deviated from the lives we evolved to live. We are changing the world faster than our DNA, bodies, hormones, brains, and cultures can keep up, and the social fabric is tearing apart as a result.

12/28/16, 1:39 AM

Fred the First said...
It is interesting to me that non-parents and parents of only children will state rules for raising children like this - "if only parents followed what I say, then all children would be wonderful!" The rule could be each gluten-free, go to a certain school, spank, don't watch get the idea. The world is full of advice for parents.

What you quickly discover if you have two or more children, is how vastly different those children are despite coming from the same genetic parents and being raised in the same household. You also discover that they have a certain personality and internal drivers that as a parent you can shape slightly with a lot of effort, but at the core they are who they are. If you have a child who is emotionally, physically, or socially outside of the normal range for children, it will impact your family and marriage in ways you can not imagine.

Parents in this society are endlessly beat-up in the media and in conversation. People says things about parents that you could never say about any other group of people. Parents are human beings trying to do their best. It might not always look like that from outside. They have children who are very different from each other, little support from community (yet lots of judgement and condemnation), a government system which demands attention during all waking hours, and a specific performance expected. No wonder so many mothers specifically are on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. Our society is driving parents crazy.

I was born in 1968. My mother left my brother and I, both under age 7, to play outside all day in the old manufacturing town we grew up in. The yards were found to be full of lead and other toxins decades later. We weren't allowed in the house except at dinner time. Sandwiches were handed out for lunch and we drank from the hose. When we moved to a suburban development, we were given a key to let ourselves in after school, ages under 9, make a snack, do our homework because both parents said they would not help with it, and do chores before 5pm. We then ate dinner and roamed the neighborhood until dark with the other children doing minor vandalism.

Any of that is cause for social services to come where we live and investigate these days. Perhaps it is different in poorer area of the country. But in suburban mostly white areas, leaving children alone or letting them roam will get you unwanted attention.

12/28/16, 4:35 AM

Justin said...
Shane, yes, I think people need to understand why discretion and restraint are important, and that life isn't a consequence free buffet of pleasures with only "the man" standing in your wsy.

12/28/16, 5:25 AM

Izzy said...
Late posting to note: my introduction to your writings came from progressively reading through the Encyclopedia of the Occult at the library here in rural-est PA (it was a nice surprise to find, though I can't check it out) while visiting parents. I'm back here, doing the same, and just came across the entry on "magik" etc, and your comment that "fortunately for the language, none of these have caught on." As a magician who's also a snotty English major, I'd like to thank you for that bit of editorializing. :)

12/28/16, 9:15 AM

Maxine Rogers said...
Hi All,
I want to comment on the Sex in the City characters growing up to be old cat-owning ladies without the benefit of children, grandchildren and husbands. I have seen enough brutally bad and or unfortunate families to think a nice cat and independence plus some close old friends sounds much better.

In addition, the Sex in the City women could think back on many funny and pleasurable exploits. They will not be troubled by their bi-polar daughter crashing into the depths of despair, again. They will not have a police constable come to their house with their son's still-warm wallet that was taken off his body after the car crash. They will not have to hold their tiny grandson as he dies of cancer.

The cat will be happy to sit on the bed when they are ill with a cold and their old girlfriends will be along with soup and gossip. Old girlfriends are possibly the most valuable of all things.

I have never had children because I never wanted any but I have suffered much from watching my young friends struggle through life. I am sure it would have hurt much worse if they were my children.

Yours under the red cedars,
Max Rogers

12/28/16, 1:06 PM

Shane W said...
IDK, I think it's a false binary to posit Puritan/Victorian monogamous norms as the only option for maintaining society. I tend to agree w/JMG that sex phobic norms reached a peak during the peak of Western industrial civilization and then went into decline thereafter, and the abandonment of sex phobia since the 70s is a result of industrial decline. There are plenty of sexual norms across societies besides traditional Western monogamy. The ancient Romans were very sexually open. As Bill has mentioned before, probably the optimum living arrangement for gay men would be a home of 5-10 guys. I could see where a homestead based on such an arrangement would be very successful.

12/28/16, 1:40 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Thank you, Maxine. I have both: children, and my cat lady independence, now down to one cat, Spot. My ex found a woman who could either dismiss his constant carping as just noise, or who he felt no need to constantly pick at; I never remarried nor wanted to. "The triumph of hope over experience" does fail when experience reaches a certain paralyzing point. Our youngest daughter has been seeing to his comfort - their comfort - in an assisted living apartment near where she lives, and also keeps in touch with me. And after a long period of getting over the effects of a bad marriage, I have been very content as a freedwoman. Selfish? But it saved my life, sanity, and ability to be a decent person.

12/28/16, 2:48 PM

Izzy said...
Also, as a "hyperpromiscuous young woman," I'm with Maxine Rogers, thank you very much. I had--and have--a lot of fun.* My friends who acted like me and want children have them; I myself would rather be an aunt to them (and to my sister's kids), while maintaining a lifestyle where I can come home when I want, with who I want, and get a lot of sleep. :P

That said, I'm all for knowing the company in which it's appropriate to discuss your sex life, and that in which it's not. Like Friends Of Friends You Can't Stand and Other People's Fashion Choices, sex is generally better discussed with close friends over an appropriate amount of alcohol.

* And the consequences have generally been things I can prevent at least as much as I can prevent getting hit by a drunk driver tomorrow, or that I can get over with time and occasional medical procedures. No need for hand-wringing or pearl-clutching on my behalf, but, again, thanks anyhow.

12/28/16, 3:11 PM

Izzy said...
Added comment: FWIW, my friends and I never had much patience with the Sex in the City girls--for all the "ZOMG anonymous sex" hype, three of the four characters are tiresomely neurotic about finding a Relationship and How To Make Him Commit and what it *means* that he didn't call and blah blah blah. Far *too* traditional, really. ;)

12/28/16, 3:25 PM

MawKernewek said...
@Donald Hargreaves

No sugar in tea - is that the influence of the Cornish in the "Upper Peninsula" who traditionally didn't have sugar in tea due to the Wesleys concern about slavery in the plantations?

As far as the "deserving poor" concept, I perhaps unfairly see the Victorian concept of that as being "people like us", excluding people too brown, too different of religion, too Irish etc. who were labelled as "undeserving poor".

One of the concerns that could be expressed about non-monogamy would be that if most people didn't know who their father actually was, in a fairly small community there could a greater likelihood of accidental inbreeding in the next generation.

12/28/16, 3:39 PM

Donald Hargraves said...
The song referred to Irishmen and/or Chinamen, and the "no sugar in your tay" refers to being paid so badly that you forgo simple comforts (like sweetness in your tea).

12/28/16, 5:48 PM

Robert Gillett said...
Here's a modern take on a Grimm fairy tale for you, Trumpelstiltskin

12/29/16, 5:47 AM

Bob Brown said...
A bit more on self-esteem, Hopefully, I can explain why I think the distinction I’m trying to make is important. We agree that many people in our society do not have “healthy” self-esteem, you feel that many people have too much self-esteem (an overly inflated sense of competence and self-worth) while I feel those same people actually lack self-esteem (I’m certainly not saying that they lack mental or emotional issues :).
We are in agreement that our society does a poor job with self-esteem by taking away the consequences of one’s actions and always telling young people that they are great no matter how they perform (trophies for everyone). If you believe that they are developing too much self-esteem from the way society is raising young people that implies that we are doing the correct things but too much of them. So if we just cut back on what we are doing and stop at the correct amount of self-esteem everyone would have “healthy” self-esteem. I.e. give out fewer “trophies”.
If you believe that society’s approach to self-esteem is fundamentally wrong, that indicates a very different course should be taken. I feel that the current approach is producing young people who lack “true” self-esteem but have given by society either a sense of entitlement or the knowledge that if they act with a strong sense of entitlement they will get away with whatever they want. You might see this as “artificial” self-esteem (or mental illness) taking the place of “true” self-esteem. They learn to act entitled but actually have a low sense of competence and low sense of self-worth. By always telling young people that they are doing great when they know they are not, we cause confusion. They are never quite sure how they are doing, because they hear they are great no matter how they act.
So I think we would agree that having young people live in a world where there are consequences for their actions, both good and bad, would help develop “healthy” self-esteem. It would allow them to earn that sense of competence and self-esteem and they would be much more mentally healthy and resilient.
Hope that my writing is adequate to get the idea across and gives some food for thought.
Thanks for all the thinking you’ve caused me to do.

12/29/16, 6:24 AM

joanhello said...
I know I'm a little late on this one, but I feel an urge to point out that there are, in the anthropological record, societies whose child-rearing customs don't include anything we would recognize as discipline, and the kids turn out just fine. However, they are technologically simple societies in which child-rearing is still integrated with adult work and social life. One thing young animals do is imitate their elders, and the children in these societies grow up surrounded by adults working and getting along with each other. Furthermore, from toddlerhood, the children are given miniature versions of the adults' tools made to the same quality standards. That includes bows and arrows that shoot true, and any small creature that a little hunter brings down will be added to the family meal with appreciation just as an adult hunter's would be. There's also no really onerous work. Some is dangerous, and the young may be forbidden to participate until they reach a certain age, but there's none of the miserable backbreaking labor that you start to see with the invention of the animal-drawn plough. The work is pretty much all the kinds of activity that are widely practiced as hobbies in the industrialized world: hunting, fishing, gardening, crafts, etc. Children don't have to be forced to do it.

In a preschool classroom with ten three-year-olds for every adult, the kids will mostly end up imitating each other, and problematic behavior patterns that might have been the short-lived eccentricity of one kid can be multiplied and reinforced to the point where it may take years to eradicate. Simple immaturity can also be strongly reinforced. And the nuclear family home in which Mommy and one child are alone together pretty much all day is not much better. One way or another, we prevent children from learning their adults roles (or even appropriate social behavior) in the natural way of our earliest ancestors and then we have to beat it into them.

12/29/16, 3:42 PM