Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Fifth Side of the Triangle

One of the things I’ve had occasion to notice, over the course of the decade or so I’ve put into writing these online essays, is the extent to which repeating patterns in contemporary life go unnoticed by the people who are experiencing them. I’m not talking here about the great cycles of history, which take long enough to roll over that a certain amount of forgetfulness can be expected; the repeating patterns I have in mind come every few years, and yet very few people seem to notice the repetition.

An example that should be familiar to my readers is the way that, until recently, one energy source after another got trotted out on the media and the blogosphere as the excuse du jour for doing nothing about the ongoing depletion of global fossil fuel reserves. When this blog first got under way in 2006, ethanol from corn was the excuse; then it was algal biodiesel; then it was nuclear power from thorium; then it was windfarms and solar PV installations; then it was oil and gas from fracking. In each case, the same rhetorical handwaving about abundance was deployed for the same purpose, the same issues of net energy and concentration were evaded, and the resource in question never managed to live up to the overblown promises made in its name—and yet any attempt to point out the similarities got blank looks and the inevitable refrain, “but this is different.”

The drumbeat of excuses du jour has slackened a bit just now, and that’s also part of a repeating pattern that doesn’t get anything like the scrutiny it deserves. Starting when conventional petroleum production worldwide reached its all-time plateau, in the first years of this century, the price of oil has jolted up and down in a multiyear cycle. The forces driving the cycle are no mystery: high prices encourage producers to bring marginal sources online, but they also decrease demand; the excess inventories of petroleum that result drive down prices; low prices encourage consumers to use more, but they also cause marginal sources to be shut down; the shortfalls of petroleum that result drive prices up, and round and round the mulberry bush we go.

We’re just beginning to come out of the trough following the 2015 price peak, and demand is even lower than it would otherwise be, due to cascading troubles in the global economy. Thus, for the moment, there’s enough petroleum available to supply everyone who can afford to buy it. If the last two cycles are anything to go by, though, oil prices will rise unsteadily from here, reaching a new peak in 2021 or so before slumping down into a new trough. How many people are paying attention to this, and using the current interval of relatively cheap energy to get ready for another period of expensive energy a few years from now? To judge from what I’ve seen, not many.

Just at the moment, though, the example of repetition that comes first to my mind has little to do with energy, except in a metaphorical sense. It’s the way that people committed to a cause—any cause—are so often so flustered when initial successes are followed by something other than repeated triumph forever. Now of course part of the reason that’s on my mind is the contortions still ongoing on the leftward end of the US political landscape, as various people try to understand (or in some cases, do their level best to misunderstand) the implications of last month’s election. Still, that’s not the only reason this particular pattern keeps coming to mind.

I’m also thinking of it as the Eurozone sinks deeper and deeper into political crisis. The project of European unity had its initial successes, and a great many European politicians and pundits seem to have convinced themselves that of course those would be repeated step by step, until a United States of Europe stepped out on the international stage as the world’s next superpower. It’s pretty clear at this point that nothing of the sort is going to happen, because those initial successes were followed by a cascade of missteps and a populist backlash that’s by no means reached its peak yet.

More broadly, the entire project of liberal internationalism that’s guided the affairs of the industrial world since the Berlin Wall came down is in deep trouble. It’s been enormously profitable for the most affluent 20% or so of the industrial world’s population, which is doubtless a core reason why that same 20% insists so strenuously that no other options are possible, but it’s been an ongoing disaster for the other 80% or so, and they are beginning to make their voices heard.

At the heart of the liberal project was the insistence that economics should trump politics—that the free market should determine policy in most matters, leaving governments only an administrative function. Of course that warm and cozy abstraction “the free market” meant in practice the kleptocratic corporate socialism of too-big-to-fail banks and subsidy-guzzling multinationals, which proceeded to pursue their own short-term benefit so recklessly that they’ve driven entire countries into the ground. That’s brought about the inevitable backlash, and the proponents of liberal internationalism are discovering to their bafflement that if enough of the electorate is driven to the wall, the political sphere may just end up holding the Trump card after all.

And of course the same bafflement is on display in the wake of last month’s presidential election, as a great many people who embraced our domestic version of the liberal internationalist idea were left dumbfounded by its defeat at the hands of the electorate—not just by those who voted for Donald Trump, but also by the millions who stayed home and drove Democratic turnout in the 2016 election down to levels disastrously low for Hillary Clinton’s hopes. A great many of the contortions mentioned above have been driven by the conviction on the part of Clinton’s supporters that their candidate’s defeat was caused by a rejection of the ideals of contemporary American liberalism. That some other factor might have been involved is not, at the moment, something many of them are willing to hear.

That’s where the repeating pattern comes in, because movements for social change—whether they come from the grassroots or the summits of power—are subject to certain predictable changes, and if those changes aren’t recognized and countered in advance, they lead to the kind of results I’ve just been discussing. There are several ways to talk about those changes, but the one I’d like to use here unfolds, in a deliberately quirky way, from the Hegelian philosophy of history.

That probably needs an explanation, and indeed an apology, because Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel has been responsible for more sheer political stupidity than any other thinker of modern times. Across the bloodsoaked mess that was the twentieth century, from revolutionary Marxism in its opening years to Francis Fukuyama’s risible fantasy of the End of History in its closing, where you found Hegelian political philosophy, you could be sure that someone was about to make a mistaken prediction.

It may not be entirely fair to blame Hegel personally for this. His writings and lectures are vast heaps of cloudy abstraction in which his students basically had to chase down inkblot patterns of their own making. Hegel’s great rival Arthur Schopenhauer used to insist that Hegel was a deliberate fraud, stringing together meaningless sequences of words in the hope that his readers would mistake obscurity for profundity, and more than once—especially when slogging through the murky prolixities of Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit—I’ve suspected that the old grouch of Frankfurt was right. Still, we can let that pass, because a busy industry of Hegelian philosophers spent the last century and a half churning out theories of their own based, to one extent or another, on Hegel’s vaporings, and it’s this body of work that most people mean when they talk about Hegelian philosophy.

At the core of most Hegelian philosophies of history is a series of words that used to be famous, and still has a certain cachet in some circles: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. (Hegel himself apparently never used those terms in their later sense, but no matter.) That’s the three-step dance to the music of time that, in the Hegelian imagination, shapes human history. You’ve got one condition of being, or state of human consciousness, or economic system, or political system, or what have you; it infallibly generates its opposite; the two collide, and then there’s a synthesis which resolves the initial contradiction. Then the synthesis becomes a thesis, generates its own antithesis, a new synthesis is born, and so on.

One of the oddities about Hegelian philosophies of history is that, having set up this repeating process, their proponents almost always insist that it’s about to stop forever. In the full development of the Marxist theory of history, for example, the alternation of thesis-antithesis-synthesis starts with the primordial state of primitive communism and then chugs merrily, or rather far from merrily, through a whole series of economic systems, until finally true communism appears—and then that’s it; it’s the synthesis that never becomes a thesis and never conjures up an antithesis. In exactly the same way, Fukuyama’s theory of the end of history argued that all history until 1991 or so was a competition between different systems of political economy, of which liberal democratic capitalism and totalitarian Marxism were the last two contenders; capitalism won, Marxism lost, game over.

Now of course that’s part of the reason that Hegelianism so reliably generates false predictions, because in the real world it’s never game over; there’s always another round to play. There’s another dimension of Hegelian mistakenness, though, because the rhythm of the dialectic implies that the gains of one synthesis are never lost. Each synthesis becomes the basis for the next struggle between thesis and antithesis out of which a new synthesis emerges—and the new synthesis is always supposed to embody the best parts of the old.

This is where we move from orthodox Hegelianism to the quirky alternative I have in mind. It didn’t emerge out of the profound ponderings of serious philosophers of history in some famous European university. It first saw the light in a bowling alley in suburban Los Angeles, and the circumstances of its arrival—which, according to the traditional account, involved the miraculous appearance of a dignified elderly chimpanzee and the theophany of a minor figure from Greek mythology—suggest that prodigious amounts of drugs were probably involved.

Yes, we’re talking about Discordianism.

I’m far from sure how many of my readers are familiar with that phenomenon, which exists somewhere on the ill-defined continuum between deadpan put-on and serious philosophical critique. The short form is that it was cooked up by a couple of young men on the fringes of the California Beat scene right as that was beginning its mutation into the first faint adumbrations of the hippie phenomenon. Its original expression was the Principia Discordia, the scripture (more or less) of a religion (more or less) that worships (more or less) Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, and its central theme is the absurdity of belief systems that treat orderly schemes cooked up in the human mind as though these exist out there in the bubbling, boiling confusion of actual existence.

That may not seem like fertile ground for a philosophy of history, but the Discordians came up with one anyway, probably in mockery of the ultraserious treatment of Hegelian philosophy that was common just then in the Marxist-existentialist end of the Beat scene. Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson proceeded to pick up the Discordian theory of history and weave it into their tremendous satire of American conspiracy culture, the Illuminatus! trilogy. That’s where I encountered it originally in the late 1970s; I laughed, and then paused and ran my fingers through my first and very scruffy adolescent beard, realizing that it actually made more sense than any other theory of history I’d encountered.

Here’s how it works. From the Discordian point of view, Hegel went wrong for two reasons. The first was that he didn’t know about the Law of Fives, the basic Discordian principle that all things come in fives, except when they don’t. Thus he left off the final two steps of the dialectical process: after thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, you get parenthesis, and then paralysis.

The second thing Hegel missed is that the synthesis is never actually perfect.  It never succeeds wholly in resolving the conflict between thesis and antithesis; there are always awkward compromises, difficulties that are papered over, downsides that nobody figures out at the time, and so on. Thus it doesn’t take long for the synthesis to start showing signs of strain, and the inevitable response is to try to patch things up without actually changing anything that matters. The synthesis thus never has time to become a thesis and generate its own antithesis; it is its own antithesis, and ever more elaborate arrangements have to be put to work to keep it going despite its increasingly evident flaws; that’s the stage of parenthesis.

The struggle to maintain these arrangements, in turn, gradually usurps so much effort and attention that the original point of the synthesis is lost, and maintaining the arrangements themselves becomes too burdensome to sustain. That’s when you enter the stage of paralysis, when the whole shebang grinds slowly to a halt and then falls apart. Only after paralysis is total do you get a new thesis, which sweeps away the rubble and kickstarts the whole process into motion again.

There are traditional Discordian titles for these stages. The first, thesis, is the state of Chaos, when a group of human beings look out at the bubbling, boiling confusion of actual existence and decide to impose some kind of order on the mess. The second, antithesis, is the state of Discord, when the struggle to impose that order on the mess in question produces an abundance of equal and opposite reactions. The third, synthesis, is the state of Confusion, in which victory is declared over the chaos of mere existence, even though everything’s still bubbling and boiling merrily away as usual. The fourth, parenthesis, is the state of Consternation,* in which the fact that everything’s still bubbling and boiling merrily away as usual becomes increasingly hard to ignore. The fifth and final, paralysis, is the state of Moral Warptitude—don’t blame me, that’s what the Principia Discordia says—in which everything grinds to a halt and falls to the ground, and everyone stands around in the smoldering wreckage rubbing their eyes and wondering what happened.

*(Yes, I know, Robert Anton Wilson called the last two stages Bureaucracy and Aftermath. He was a heretic. So is every other Discordian, for that matter.)

Let’s apply this to the liberal international order that emerged in the wake of the Soviet Union’s fall, and see how it fits. Thesis, the state of Chaos, was the patchwork of quarrelsome nations into which our species has divided itself, which many people of good will saw as barbarous relics of a violent past that should be restrained by a global economic order. Antithesis, the state of Discord, was the struggle to impose that order by way of trade agreements and the like, in the teeth of often violent resistance—the phrase “WTO Seattle” may come to mind here. Synthesis, the state of Confusion, was the self-satisfied cosmopolitan culture that sprang up among the affluent 20% or so of the industrial world’s population, who became convinced that the temporary ascendancy of policies that favored their interests was not only permanent but self-evidently right and just.

Parenthesis, the state of Consternation, was the decades-long struggle to prop up those policies despite the disastrous economic consequences those policies inflicted on everyone but the affluent. Finally, paralysis, the state of Moral Warptitude, sets in when populist movements, incensed by the unwillingness of the 20% to consider anyone else’s needs but their own, surge into the political sphere and bring the entire project to a halt. It’s worth noting here that the title “moral warptitude” may be bad English, but it’s a good description for the attitude of believers in the synthesis toward the unraveling of their preferred state of affairs. It’s standard, as just noted, for those who benefit from the synthesis to become convinced that it’s not merely advantageous but also morally good, and to see the forces that overthrow it as evil incarnate; this is simply another dimension of their Confusion.

Am I seriously suggesting that the drug-soaked ravings of a bunch of goofy California potheads provide a better guide to history than the serious reflections of Hegelian philosophers? Well, yes, actually, I am. Given the track record of Hegelian thought when it comes to history, a flipped coin is a better guide—use a coin, and you have a 50% better chance of being right. Outside of mainstream macroeconomic theory, it’s hard to think of a branch of modern thought that so consistently turns out false answers once it’s applied to the real world.

No doubt there are more respectable models that also provide a clear grasp of what happens to most movements for social change—the way they lose track of the difference between achieving their goals and pursuing their preferred strategies, and generally end up opting for the latter; the way that their institutional forms become ends in themselves, and gradually absorb the effort and resources that would otherwise have brought about change; the way that they run to extremes, chase off potential and actual supporters, and then busy themselves coming up with increasingly self-referential explanations for the fact that the only tactics they’re willing to consider are those that increase their own marginalization in the wider society, and so on. It’s a familiar litany, and will doubtless become even more familiar in the years ahead.

For what it’s worth, though, it’s not necessary for the two additional steps of the post-Hegelian dialectic, the fourth and fifth sides of his imaginary triangle, to result in the complete collapse of everything that was gained in the first three steps. It’s possible to surf the waves of Consternation and Moral Warptitude—but it’s not easy. Next week, we’ll explore this further, by circling back to the place where this blog began, and having a serious talk about how the peak oil movement failed.

In other news, I’m delighted to report that Retrotopia, which originally appeared here as a series of posts, is now in print in book form and available for sale. I’ve revised and somewhat expanded Peter Carr’s journey to the Lakeland Republic, and I hope it meets with the approval of my readers.

Also from Founders House, the first issue of the new science fiction and fantasy quarterly MYTHIC has just been released. Along with plenty of other lively stories, it’s got an essay of mine on the decline and revival of science fiction, and a short story, "The Phantom of the Dust," set in the same fictive universe as my novel The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, and pitting Owen Merrill and sorceress Jenny Chaudronnier against a sinister mystery from colonial days. Subscriptions and single copies can be ordered here.


Unknown said...
What is your take on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the ramifications of 500 Native Nations uniting around a single cause? I may have missed it if you have commmented on it previously. I have read your blog off and on, for years so sometimes I have to play catch up.

12/7/16, 12:16 PM

Matt Heins said...
Quick editorial note:

On the Retrotopia link, should the end of the teaser not read " modeling their future... ...ON the past"?

Definitely gifting myself and a few others with a copy this solstice.

12/7/16, 12:17 PM

drhooves said...
I've tried explaining to friends and relatives the processes related to the Long Descent, and how peak energy, among other factors, is one of the main driving forces. It's easy enough to translate Confusion and Consternation into explaining some of the news flow, but Moral Warptitude is going to take some extra effort. That's just an awesome term though.

At the end of the day, however, I imagine most folks will be less concerned about identifying terminology and stages, and more concerned about what it means to them. And they'll want to know how to make the descent less painful, when it becomes apparent it's going to happen, whether part of their life goals or not.

12/7/16, 12:34 PM

Picador said...
Great post. One additional note on this comment:

"One of the oddities about Hegelian philosophies of history is that, having set up this repeating process, their proponents almost always insist that it’s about to stop forever."

I think it's fair to categorize the US Founding Fathers as sort of proto-Hegelians who thought that the chaos and violence of the old world, as between states, churches, tribes, and classes, could be banished by breaking the cycle of history through a continually renewing, evergreen, democratically-refreshed political order in which the Constitution is rewritten every 20 years. Hence Jefferson's comments about refreshing the tree of liberty periodically with the blood of patriots and tyrants, etc. (Hell, proto-Hegelian -- he sounds downright Druidic, now that I read his quotation again!)

12/7/16, 1:00 PM

zaphod42 said...
Well said. Only problem, when I read it I want to cry. Reality is like that!


I look forward to the next installment. And yet, I do not, knowing how badly the Mavens of Peak Oil missed the mark. May I include myself in that?

The best article I have seen in the last week or so told me that there are 10 years left, so enjoy them. Another miss, but one with high irony.

Thanks for the help.


12/7/16, 1:02 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

A different perspective involving self restraint seems particularly unpalatable for the population. It is funny but I wrote to you many months ago saying that the banks were a victim of their own success. Well, Overshoot has told me in no uncertain or even remotely ambiguous terms that this is a characteristic of our society. I'm starting to look at things a little differently and some of the beliefs espoused by our society are a little bit cult like. And I can see that in the past supporting those beliefs paid dividends for the believers - but the joke is that it is all subject to diminishing returns. It is our little friend entropy nibbling away at the edges.

It is absolutely bucketing down here this morning - but it is warm too. Those tropical storms that form up in the north west over the Indian Ocean have some serious strength and reach these days. Hope your snow was nice.

A couple of deer turned up yesterday in the orchard and so I've been thinking about the meaning of surpluses versus the meme that everything gets eaten. There is a story in there somewhere. ;-)!



12/7/16, 1:08 PM

Philosopher said...
JMG, absolutely brilliant!

12/7/16, 1:12 PM

NomadicBeer said...
have you seen the announcement about a fusion reactor finally becoming (marginally) energy positive? It seems that they have not given up yet on trotting out ridiculous "alternative" energy sources as excuses...

Have you seen this Time article ( It's a push for tax rebellion due to the election result.

It seems the refusal to learn anything from reality continues.

12/7/16, 1:26 PM

Eric S. said...
One thought that I had as I was reading your particular way of describing Hegelian philosophy, was that the idea of a binary resolving into a new synthesis looks an awful lot like sexual reproduction, with memes taking the place of genes. And of course in that process, the synthesis that emerges does not create the "best traits of both parents," but rather a more or less random shuffling that may produce adaptable traits just as certainly as it may produce deformities and genetic diseases. It seems as though, from there, ideas drawn from evolutionary biology and population ecology could be applied on a broader scale. And of course, in that case, some syntheses would be universally maladaptive, others would only work in particular circumstances, and some might be slightly more resilient. I'm not sure exactly how the satirical addendums of the Discordians could be applied to that approach, but it does at the very least, seem like another approach that could be placed alongside it that could salvage the bits of the philosophy that do make sense, while finding a way to resolve it into something that has better predictive power.

12/7/16, 1:45 PM

Unknown said...
Immanitizing the eschaton! Great essay. The more you push, the harder it pushes back.

12/7/16, 1:49 PM

Gottfried Wilhelm Melvin Hicks-Leibniz said...
John, first off, congratulations on getting Retrotopia published. I'm looking forward to finally having a hard copy version.

Secondly, nice title for the post. Wasn't sure where you were going with it, but that was a good hook to keep on reading.
I didn't think my grin could get any bigger when you brought Discordianism into your post.
But, then you did this:

"Am I seriously suggesting that the drug-soaked ravings of a bunch of goofy California potheads provide a better guide to history than the serious reflections of Hegelian philosophers? Well, yes, actually, I am."

That alone deserves a visit to the tip jar!

If anyone is further interested in Robert Anton Wilson, I highly recommend these talks > 20 years ago. He rocked!

(warning: red pill territory)

12/7/16, 1:58 PM

MigrantWorker said...

That's basically a Brexit saga in a nutshell!

But the stages run in parallel to some extent. Consternation certainly reigns among the beneficiaries of the Confusion, who still do not seem to have internalised the fact that the British electorate voted the way it did. And so we have Prime Minister loudly proclaming that we will trigger the Article 50, goddammit - while at the same time there is an ongoing Confusion about who is legally allowed to trigger it, whether the result of the referendum is binding to the Parliament or not, or that maybe we should have another referendum and get a more palatable answer (the possibility of the current, unpalatable answer being confirmed is never mentioned). Meanwhile the EU itself has managed to shake off its initial Consternation, sadly by going back to being Confusing: and so the UK is at odds with Germany which insists on taking all of the toys and shutting the door, while Poland makes effort to become better friends with us.

All this put together creates conditions for an expanding Paralysis - which already exists to a certain degree, what with the Schrödinger negotiating committees which were (supposed to be) set up to negotiate the conditions of Brexit but cannot negotiate anything yet for an as yet undetermined period of time because their mandate for doing so is unclear.

And lastly, Chaos is set to remain - we may be maybe stepping away from one trading bloc, but the priciple of free trade is not yet seriously challenged - and so will Discord that results from it.

So all five stages seem to be running in parallel in late 2016 UK, and each of them can conceivably strengthen in the future. Or is that simply another word for Paralysis?


12/7/16, 1:59 PM

RogerCO said...
Oh thank you for the memory jog. I had completely forgotten that I spent the early 70s whilst training to become a compliant member of the 20% immersed in that stuff (with the predictable consequence of occasionally being able to see the fnords and never being able to take the establishment seriously).
Funny how commonly accepted rigid models are often subverted by extensions which make the whole structure wobbly and reveal the discord within. I'm reminded of the additional three layers on the OSI model (sometimes called the personal, the political and the religious although any variant serves). The additional two sides to the Hegelian dialectical triangle serve the same purpose. They enable us to clamber out of Hegel's rat trap and remind us that real life is messy and confusing and for living.
Here's to the memory of Ken Campbell and the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool

12/7/16, 2:04 PM

Somewhatstunned said...
I’m far from sure how many of my readers are familiar with that phenomenon, which exists somewhere on the ill-defined continuum between deadpan put-on and serious philosophical critique.

(Big Grin) Hehe! Me! I'm familiar - coz I looked it up when it was mentioned in one of your books (WfoG possibly?). I was most tremendously tickled by it and henceforth declared myself a Discordian.

(Dang blogger seems to be playing up - I hope this doesn't turn out to be multiply posted)

12/7/16, 2:17 PM

Mister Roboto said...
I do think Donald Trump represents this parenthesis of which you speak, but in a different way than you might suspect. The basis of my idea is that the reality we experience has a spiritual component of which the physical world of the senses we perceive is merely an outgrowth, and when a society tries to pretend that the core spiritual component doesn't exist or doesn't matter in favor of the material world, we set ourselves up for a nasty fall. This is the "Principle of Mentalism" in the Hermetic Laws.

Our materialism motivated us to set up a global neoliberal order in which the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) aspect of the economy is emphasized and industrial production is farmed out to poorer countries or automated when technologically possible. As you pointed out, this set-up made the upper 20% in the developed countries fabulously wealthy and bent the other 80% over the proverbial table.

The imbalance this situation created along with peak cheap oil brought us the economic crisis of 2008. And so the upper 20%'s worship of the material world and its artifices made them impose a "bailing-wire-and-duct-tape" fix on the global neoliberal economic order without addressing any of the underlying problems. Since they were only instituting a turbo-charged version of what they had been doing previously, it made sense that this would increase the intensity with which the most affluent became even more affluent while everyone else suffered worse than ever.

The thing about the bailing wire and the duct tape is that the ingenious ways in which they have been applied has caused the whole system to keep chugging along far longer than any of us doomers thought was possible (hence the phenomenon of "collapse fatigue"). But the only thing that the bailing wire and the duct tape is really doing is preventing the world economic system from re-balancing itself from the imbalanced state that is increasingly being inflicted upon it. Of course the reason our elites are doing this is that when the balance restores itself, the resulting massive economic dislocation will likely make the legendary Great Depression seem like a Lutheran church-picnic in comparison!

But this doesn't make the re-balancing any less necessary because the universe always seeks to balance itself out. This is the "Principle of Polarity" in the Hermetic Laws. And the more the re-balancing is artificially postponed, the greater the pressure that will be formed by the universe's natural drive to restore balance. This is inevitable, because reality is always in motion and can't be just frozen in place like some kind of fly in amber, as you pointed out. This is the "Principle of Vibration" in the Hermetic Laws. The circular manner in which it moves is the "Principle of Rhythm" with which Hegel was apparently so fascinated. So the more re-balance is postponed, the more intense the dislocation will be when it finally happens.

(To be continued. I had some problems submitting this, so I apologize if you receive more than one submission of this post. Hopefully you won't.)

12/7/16, 2:26 PM

Mister Roboto said...
[continuation of preceding comment]

Enter one Donald J. Trump. As regular readers of the comments know, I am not exactly sanguine about what a Trump Administration will mean for this country. But I still think that his political rise is part of the process I am describing here. On the spiritual level of reality, the universe (which includes our collective human consciousness) knows that the more the re-balancing dislocation is postponed, the worse it will be when it occurs (and the more likely that the sheer intensity of it could make us do something very stupid like end up in a nuclear war out of sheer desperation). So something must be brought into the picture to precipitate the re-balancing dislocation so that the resulting fall doesn't destroy civilization and humanity from too much pressure being allowed to build up.

I think Trump will be a disaster, but on the cosmic level, he needs to be a disaster in order to precipitate the next stage of catabolic collapse that has been delayed for far too long. And Hillary Clinton being the worst possible candidate to oppose Trump was part of this cosmic process to make sure Trump gets into the Oval Office, even if only by a whisker, to act as this necessary agent of chaos. Everything causing everything else and all events happening for a reason is the "Principle of Cause and Effect". So when the Hillary's sanctimonious supporters scream "We told you so, we told you so" when a Trump Administration brings down the global economy, I'll just shrug and reply, "Yeah, so what?"

12/7/16, 2:27 PM

Ezra Buonopane said...
I have long pointed out to those on both the left and right politically, that the US economy is less like actual free market capitalism and more like the kind of monopolistic "corporate socialism" that you briefly describe. It's good to see someone other than myself notice this.

I believe that there is in fact a way to fit the political events and trends that have emerged since the end of the cold war into a semi-Hegelian worldview. The kind of capitalism we had during the early 20th century, where the economic elite controlled a much smaller portion of total economic activity than today, and the political elite could be counted on to represent people other than the economic elite, is a synthesis. Its antithesis was socialism, where the political elite controlled economic activity. The emergence of the synthesis ("corporate socialism") began in the United States during and after WWII, when the economic and political elites began co-operating much more closely. This process began when auto companies were temporarily turned into defense contractors during the war, but afterwords the economic elite acquired a much more equal footing with the political elite. It was essentially completed in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. A similar synthesis emerged in China due to Deng Xiaoping's capitalist reforms, and spread to the former Soviet Union after the cold war ended. The shape of the antithesis of the synthesis is not entirely clear yet, but will become more so as the current populist uprising becomes the new political establishment.

The main difference between this theory and Hegelianism is that none of the stages is necessarily an improvement of the past one. I would also categorize the fourth and fifth stages added by the Discordians as part of the emergence of the antithesis of the synthesis.

12/7/16, 2:42 PM

Austin Levreault said...
Impromptu Monty Python Sketch

Sir Bedovere: Let me crack open The Book Of Progress and read from the book of scientific prophecy. "If we had all the information we could make a spot on prediction about what was and what will be."
Arthur: So that's why those monks were beating themselves in the head. It'd be an exercise in futility processing all that.

Academic theory in political science (and other fields) seems to be about common sense playing twister, not necessarily about interpreting the world around us. Right now I think everyone's starting to realize they're going to have to dislocate a shoulder to keep game going.

12/7/16, 3:06 PM

Shane W said...
Wow, I think I'm seeing where the whole SJW movement failed. I've never gotten so much pushback as when I've suggested to our pagan group that fundamentalism might be imploding (for the time being), and that Republicans might be lightening up on the bigotry. I get so many heated retorts on why this just isn't so, accompanied by a very noticeable discomfort at the mere idea. Fascinating...

12/7/16, 4:01 PM

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
While theories of history are interesting, I was struck by this sentence: "How many people are paying attention to this, and using the current interval of relatively cheap energy to get ready for another period of expensive energy a few years from now?"

This seems fundamental to everything, including the maintenance of leisure enough to consider theories of history.

Although the Green Wizards site ( is primed for this topic, I'd like to put this forward as questions here:

@JMG - what do you see being a currently inexpensive way for people to prepare for coming periods of high energy cost?

@ the greater commentariat - what are you doing individually? While I'm learning to garden, using a "haybox" (a thermal cooker) for some meals, keep the house cooler than the norm in winter and warmer in summer, and am learning to knit socks, I still feel very uncollapsed and 'afeared' of financial insecurity with only one of 5 members of the family employed and that only indefinitely. We're hard pressed to save enough money to retrofit the house for greater efficiency... which, to me seems to be the best thing to do when energy is cheaper in preparation for when it's not.

I'd love to hear folks' top 5 or so ways to utilize this time of "affordability" (it's relative, I know) to prepare for difficulty ahead.

12/7/16, 4:05 PM

Keith Huddleston said...
I'd like to pick your brain on the following fork, or at least a way out seeing it as a di-lemma

Looking at Trump's appointments (personale is policy), I see only these two options:

1) Trump will have to run roughshod over them or
2) They will do almost nothing to benefit the bottom 80% and/or working class

This looks like a cabinet completely comfortable austerity for the masses and hand-outs to big corporations and banks.

12/7/16, 4:06 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Hail, Eris! As that great prophet of Florida Keys drinking & loafing remarked, "if we didn't laugh, we would go quite insane."

Re Retropia: downloaded while waiting for the print version to shop. One typo: "seize" for "size" and one infelicitous choice of noun re: Janice Mikkelson's garb. "Pantsuit" conjures up that excessively boring set of garments worn by Hillary Clinton, rather than - can someone find a still of Marlene Dietrich in a natty set of 1940's menswear? And - it seemed more streamlined, too. Anyway, a good read.

12/7/16, 4:13 PM

Helix said...
... parenthesis, and then paralysis! I love it!

I studied a bit of Hegel in college as part of a European Philosophers course, although not, of course, Schopenhauer. Must have been the times (late 1960s). But I'm glad someone else thinks Hegel was full of hot air, because that was certainly the impression I got!

Not that you could say that on an exam, of course. Not unless you wanted to sit through the same course next semester.

12/7/16, 4:15 PM

Peter VE said...
And the multitudes cry out "FNORD!" ;-)

12/7/16, 4:27 PM

donalfagan said...
Hegel and Schopenhauer:

Also, regarding the trotting out of energy sources, Brookings has a piece out advocating molten salt nuclear reactors, the design of which has been resuscitated by two young nuclear scientists. The good news is that it recycles old rods and you don't need emergency power for cooling in case of failure. The bad news is that it isn't going anywhere without ... wait for it ... government funding.

12/7/16, 4:41 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Unknown, I don't have a take on it yet. I'm watching the situation to see if that's just a flash in the pan, or if it marks an enduring realignment.

Matt, true enough. Typos happen...

Drhooves, granted, but if they understand what's happening they'll be more likely to do something constructive, rather than falling back into habits defined by les productive ways of looking at things.

Picador, one of the things that people like Jefferson got, and Hegelians often miss, is that there is no stopping place. You always have to defend the ground you've won, and that means coming up with new responses to new challenges -- not just repeating the same old responses because you think they're really neat. That latter is a common feature of Consternation, by the way.

Zaphod, yes, you may. I'll be including myself as well; I made some accurate calls but also some seriously mistaken ones, and that also needs to be taken into account and included in the analysis. Don't forget the payoff, though; when you look at your mistakes, you have the chance to learn from them!

Cherokee, "our little friend entropy, nibbling at the edges" -- I can't keep myself from thinking of the Wombat of Entropy, plodding about taking one bite after another out of everything. Perhaps a meme?

Philosopher, thank you!

NomadicBeer, no, I didn't. Clearly somebody's angling for another round of funding. I wonder what energy imputs they're leaving out of the calculation to get that result. As for the "tax revolt," it sounds like a good idea to me; once the people who do that have to deal with liens on their salaries, attachment proceedings on their property, and the other things the IRS does to people who refuse to pay their taxes, it's just possible this will have a corrective influence on their sense of entitlement.

Eric, hmm! I rather like the evolutionary model you've suggested, with a stochastic combination of thesis and antithesis and a selection process imposed by reality on the product. Yes, that would also make a useful tool.

Unknown, they're always immanentizing the eschaton, and the result is always "fnord." ;-)

12/7/16, 4:42 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Gottfried, many thanks. He did indeed rock -- and his ideas had a significant influence on my misspent youth, for which I'll always be grateful.

MigrantWorker, that's typical of the stage of Moral Warptitude. As one piece after another falls off the lumbering mess that started down its trajectory so gloriously in the era of Chaos, you have little bitty recapitulations of every phase, which resemble nothing so much as decapitated chickens running around in circles. When the last piece hits the ground, you're all the way back to Chaos, and the cycle kicks off again. My guess, in this case, is that the British government will still be feverishly debating Brexit, unable to move forward on any other policy, until the EU comes apart at the seams and makes the whole point moot.

Roger, you're most welcome. The trilogy's worth a rereading, by the way -- it's quite the cultural artifact of its time, but in other ways it wears well. Come to think of it, I'd encourage any of my readers to give it a shot -- the usual used book outlets have plenty of copies cheap. (You want the one where the volumes are titled The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan -- Robert Anton Wilson wrote a couple of others on his own, and they were frankly not as good.)

Stunned, delighted to hear it. No multiple postings, btw -- it came through alone and intact.

Mister R., well, we'll see, won't we? From my perspective, as I've noted here repeatedly, the issue with predictions of collapse is that they fixate on fast collapse fantasies and so fail to notice the collapse that's already well under way, and accelerating, around us right now. Thus I think you'll be disappointed in your prediction; the massive crash so many people have been expecting won't occur -- but what will occur is a ragged, unsteady, but ongoing decline in standards of living and quality of life throughout the industrial world, which will have the same effect in the long run.

Ezra, sure, you can use a different quasi-Hegelian analysis if that works better from your perspective. To quote an old adage, "Discordians must always stick apart."

Austin, excellent! That just earned you tonight's gold star, decorated with holy hand grenades.

Shane, oh my. I was wondering when that was going to happen. Can you describe the pushback in more detail? This is actually of some importance.

Wendy, depends on what you've already done. Have you weatherstripped, insulated, done all the usual conservation things? Have you glanced through the Green Wizardry book or its equivalents, identified projects that would fit your needs and resources, and gotten going on at least one of them? If your employment depends on cheap abundant energy, are you making arrangements to do something else for a living? It's all the same stuff I've been talking about all along -- it's just that for a little while, you'll be ahead of the rush.

12/7/16, 4:59 PM

Nathan said...

So, as you have long stated on this blog, it turns out that the internet is not just an Abstraction but a real physical entity subject to economic and political pressures.

A good chunk of left has seized on this "fake news" malarky, which obviously means it is time to go all-in on censoring the primary web outlets -- Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. Considering how PC modern American corporations have become, I will be shocked if the New Maoists don't have a lot of initial success in their war against badthink. As postmodernists, it's the only war they know how to win.

I wouldn't have predicted this would be the way that we started chipping away at the usefulness of America's Favorite Pastime. But, here we are.


12/7/16, 5:01 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Keith, okay, your assignment, in keeping with the Law of Fives, is to come up with three other possibilities. Like most dilemmas, this one is a construct of the way you've chosen (without realizing that you're doing the choosing) to look at the problem. Give it a shot, and see what you come up with; if you really can't think of any, I can suggest a few.

Patricia, if he's not a Discordian saint, fifth class, he should be. Thanks for spotting the typo -- if you could drop a note to the publisher via the website with that and any others, that'd be great. As for the choice of noun, it was entirely deliberate, and I'll let you figure out why.

Helix, oh, I know. Hagbard's Law -- "communication is only possible between equals" -- applies in that setting, as does Sturgeon's Law -- "95% of everything is crap." Mind you, I think Hegel managed more than his share of the latter...

Peter, they do indeed. ;-)

Donalfagan, the comic's hilarious, and all too true. If I ever get a big enough bestseller or something that I can spend a few years doing a pure labor of love that nobody else will ever care about, I'd like to do a book picking apart what Schopenhauer got right (most of it) with those things that were value judgments mistaken for facts, and presenting Schopenhauer's insights in a form that might actually get them some attention. As for the molten salt subsidy dumpster, why, yes, of course. Sigh...

12/7/16, 5:10 PM

gwizard43 said...
Hmmm....'Add to cart' at Retrotopia link isn't working for me in chrome or firefox. Anyone else having this problem? I've used their 'contact' form to request help.

12/7/16, 5:14 PM

NomadicBeer said...
Wendy - I think yours is a great question, maybe at some point JMG will start a refresher course on urgent adaptations.

One thing that tends to mislead a lot of people is the expectation of a quick fix. What can I do so that I am 100% ready overnight? Obviously nothing!

In my case I have been preparing on and off for 15 years. I had some setbacks, times when I thought it won't matter so I might as well join the madness. Overall though I think I am slowly getting to a situation where I can do what I enjoy more and more.

- I live in a small place with good southern exposure and insulation. Most of the cost for natural gas is the fixed (connection) cost. It also helps that I set the thermostat to 15C in the winter. The roof is painted white - that is another cheap step that has great ROI on both heating and cooling.

- I make bread at home using a "rain" starter (just some dough that I left in the rain for a bit last summer). I am too lazy to knead so I just double the dough once a day for a week. It works! Also pickling, cooking etc. I haven't eaten outside in a long time.

- I have some fruit trees (work in progress).
- I learnt how to build houses, repair most things around the home, prune trees etc.

The biggest step for me was to detach from the work stress. I do my job and go home. Surprisingly, by being less involved or stressed out, I am doing a better job :)

Of course, on the negative side of the equation, my job is a typical desk jockey type with not much future. I am still thinking about how to improve that...

12/7/16, 5:43 PM

Nastarana said...
Dear Mr. Greer, Discordianism I had never heard of. I don't doubt it has its' uses, but I can't help thinking that you might be somewhat overthinking the recent unpleasantness. What I am seeing is that some arrogant, spoiled people got told no. In no uncertain terms. They don't like being told no, and it wasn't supposed to happen to them and so on, and besides that, a lot of them are out of jobs, or the shiny new positions they were promised just went bye bye, and so, being ill bred oafs and oafesses, they are staging a major squalling tantrum. I will venture on a modest prediction that no self-respecting voter is going to want to be associated with their party again.

Cherokee, how do deer happen to be living in Australia? Were they introduced along with the rabbits, for hunting?

12/7/16, 6:07 PM

Keith Huddleston said...
Ah, touché. Here's my thought of potential "outs" -- 1) the people put pressure on government, violent or peaceful. 2) solutions start becoming built from the bottom up and adopted by the federal government. This one sounds good, and is what I am working on, but is highly unlikely for our biggest collective-action problems.

I don't know if any of that really answers the fork fully, however, because it still looks to me like this set of politicians will TRY the austerity plus self-enrichment. But that would be my vision of how they'd be beaten.

One of the week spots of the current version of the Trump revolution is how top-down it seems. So much depends on the charisma of one man to be able to break the old rules. There is no bench.

The formation of a bench could also be seen as an "out", but I think that would be some version of him dominating his cabinet. Also, I'm not sure if that his leadership style.

I'm still interested in thoughts from you or other members of the community.

12/7/16, 6:18 PM

Repent said...
I didn't understand half of what you wrote here tonight, however glad to be talking about something other than the recent US presidential election.

Previously, in one of your comment thread replies you mentioned that you were a fan of Bloom County, and I was as well until its untimely end. The author Berkley Breathed went out and had a family and so forth... Until now. In honor of the new 'Morning in America' with President Trump, Bloom county has started up again with weekly facebook posts:

I presume as a archdruid that you have better things to do with your time than having a personal facebook page; but being able to revel once more at a once a week Bloom county sketch might be reason enough to start up a page?

Good luck !

12/7/16, 6:36 PM

Pinku-Sensei said...
Hail Eris!

Oh, I'm familiar with Discordianism. I'm single-handedly keeping alive a fake holiday called Wester, which is the first Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Atumnal Equinox. When I first posted about it, my Discordian friend claimed it for Discordianism. As far as I'm concerned, it's still a Discordian holiday.

Now, would you like to play catch with this golden apple inscribed with "Kallisti (To the Fairest)? I got it to commemorate The Original Snub.

12/7/16, 6:36 PM

Shane W said...
Are we done with the series of posts on education?

12/7/16, 6:59 PM

latheChuck said...
Wendy -

What are we doing to prepare? At the moment, I'm learning to culture sauerkraut (raw cabbage preserved by fermentation in salt brine). Why? Because I read (in Wikipedia, I think) that, just as the British navy carried limes as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy, the Germans carried sauerkraut. In a world where fresh, vitamin-rich citrus fruits don't get trucked to Maryland from Florida during the winter, vitamin C might be scarce. But cabbage is cheap, and can be grown locally (though I have had not much success with that, due to vermin and varmints).

This is, however, after buying a relatively small house, creating a carpool, stuffing the attic with insulation, lining some of the basement walls with more insulation (and maybe extending that should go on the to-do list), and putting solar panels on the roof.

We're also growing geraniums on the windowsill, because a flower blooming in mid-winter is good for the soul, and costs nothing but a little water and fertilizer now and then.

12/7/16, 7:09 PM

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
Yes to your several questions (except the weatherstripping/insulating part. Lack of funds don't permit much, though I did buy outlet insulators and will install them as my next step). I am chipping away on various projects/skills and things designed to cushion us a little. I guess it was kind of a silly question to ask - of course it depends on what I've already done and of course there's a massive list of things yet to do. I'll admit to recognizing how far we (as a family) can/will fall to collapse relative to what feels like my meager preparations. I'm casting about out of worry. Sorry 'bout that.


On another topic, had anyone noticed whether, in the aftermath of the Oakland warehouse fire that killed 30+ people, media reports tended to focus mostly on the "artsy" aspect of place without coming out and naming it for what it was: a tenement house? For all the talk about coastal elites and how CA is not to be taken as the reality of the rest of America, I think that this can be seen in another light (ie. not just alternative types living in their boho commune - but as young people effectively shut out of the housing market and making a go of it in an illicit and unsafe way). The plight of many here, while grim and terrible like other parts of the US, hasn't translated to political fed-up-ness, for some reason. I did read quotes from people who were living in the "Ghost ship" who survived the fire and at least one person noted that she was effectively homeless and on the street after this, but the parallel between tenement housing (and tenement fires) wasn't drawn.

And one last off topic sharing of current events. The president of the UC system has stated that she won't do anything to aid federal powers, once Trump is installed, in the gathering of information about undocumented UC students or in the enforcement of immigration laws. Apparently she's above federal law. Meanwhile, as a Master Gardener in my county, I'm prohibited from sharing any information about the now-legal-in-CA cultivation of marijuana because it's against federal law and the university doesn't want to jeopardize federal funding. Uh, mental disconnect much?

12/7/16, 7:13 PM

barrigan said...
One interesting thing I noticed: Anything that has a clear beginning and end can rather straightforwardly be separated into fives. Novels and films, for instance (though the falling-action and denouement tend, for reasons of suspense, to be relatively short compared to the first three). Similarly the five stages of grief and the five stages of collapse.

But another way of thinking about this is that whenever you have five points arranged in a line, you have four spans between them. And it's interesting to see how often the number 4 comes up in nature and mathematics, especially when it comes to cycles.

In a cyclical process, the end ("point 5") of one cycle is also the beginning ("point 1") of the next. Midnight tonight, sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight tomorrow night. New moon, first quarter, full moon, third quarter, new moon of the next month. Winter, spring, summer, autumn, winter of the next year. In the case of the expanded dialectic, the thesis of the new order is inherently intertwined with the paralysis of the old. Death and rebirth.

What the religion of progress does, I think, is to forget half the circle. They stop at Point 3 rather than continuing on to Point 5 (which is, of course, Point 1 of the new cycle). Thus you have "undeveloped" (point 1), "developing" (point 2), and "developed" (point 3) countries, which is basically like saying a nation goes from metaphorical midnight/winter/new moon to noon/summer/full moon and just stops there: It is forever summer; the moon is forever full. In reality, nations proceed past point 3 into point 4 (declining), ultimately arriving back at "undeveloped" again (point 5 and, if resources and circumstances permit, point 1 of the next cycle).

Employing some astrological symbolism, we can reasonabhly say that the religion of progress is enamored with the eastern hemisphere of the sky - the part going from Nadir to Midheaven by way of the Ascendant, which is governed by choice and fate. The fate- and circumstance-ruled western hemisphere, containing the hated Descendant, is virtually anathema to them.

12/7/16, 7:17 PM

Auriel Ragmon said...
Probably OT but I found this earlier today, an interview with Col. Andrew Bacevich, and others regarding the various emanations of Trump. Long and audio only but has some good stuff!

Jim of Olym

12/7/16, 7:55 PM

Clarence said...
patricia, the search terms are 'white tuxedo Blonde Venus'. (watch your step, rabbit holes are deep)


12/7/16, 8:05 PM

Chris Smith said...
As a former philosopher, I have always been amused by Hegel. There are some good ideas in "Phenomenology" but they are expressed poorly and surrounded by a bunch of other writing that I did not get. I wonder if you have to be German to get it fully.

On Hegelians always predicting the end of history, my old friends from undergrad and I were always mystified by it. The theory itself seems to insist that the dialectic goes on forever, but (and I'm thinking of Fukuyama in particular here) the followers of Hegel always want to bring the dialectic to a halt. This never made any sense.

As for "Retrotopia," sigh. Just take my money. I told my wife it is a book in which you excoriate such things as fast fashion and glass-box architecture, and she wants to give it a read.

12/7/16, 8:10 PM

Matt Heins said...
When I first read this essay this morning, it called to my mind the to me inexplicable decision of Hillary Clinton to run for President on the strength of her horrible record and Obama's horrible legacy and the horrible status quo.

The situation was and remains truly bizarre. It was as if a car salesman was proudly telling me about the many flaws of the model we were looking at, the rank financial stupidity of buying a new car at all, considering the knock in value just by leaving the lot, and the basic and stark ripoff to consumers everywhere that built-in obsolescence represents in all manufactured goods, all while looking at me in smiling anticipation of a sale. The bizarre-ity was of course compounded by the fact that Clinton and everyone else had just *watched Bernie Sanders campaign the correct way right in front of their faces*. And now it just continues on and on, into ever greater realms of out-and-out nuts where small facts like that Clinton lost votes from Obama's 2012 turnout in key states are forgotten in favor of vague conspiracy theories about Russian hackers, neo-McCarthyism, and just sort of squeezing one's eyes shut, covering one's ears, and shouting "Racist!" over and over again.

The Discordian quasi-mock theory of history you've explained here provides a pretty good explanation for all this.

Upon rereading tonight, it occurred to me that theories of history are strange and dangerous beasts that are best left in the wild of dilletante circles of philosophes or the zoo of academia, never allowed to roam the streets of society and government, where they will only reek havoc. Who will prove the most destructive, Marx or Fukiyama? Gods help us, we're going to find out.

I look forward to the discussion on the Peak Oil Movement. It will be interesting to see which of what you conclude was mistaken matches things that I was myself doubtful of at the time, and which were things I was in agreement with.

12/7/16, 8:13 PM

Bob said...
JMG: Thanks so much for summarizing our current (and future) predicament in the language of political philosophy (and the funniest one, at that!). This clarifies where we are - and where we're headed - as well as anything I've encountered. Special note for conspiracy buffs: Kerry Thornley, one of the book's co-authors, wrote and PUBLISHED a novel based on Lee Harvey Oswald BEFORE the Kennedy assassination (The Idle Warriors), and went on to live a life full of confusion, paranoia and fear. Just a little factoid to lead some of you down a spooky and confusing internet rabbit-hole. Heil, Eris!

12/7/16, 8:19 PM

Revere T. said...
The Archdruid Emeritus discusses the Pricipia Discordia. It really warms the heart! I would love to sit down for a couple hours at some inter-dimensional pub (or bowling alley) with you and R.A.W.!

In other news, thanks in part to this blog, I've decided to leave my comfortable corporate day job in favor of work in the salvage industry. Do you think I can work my way up to full Ruinman?

12/7/16, 8:55 PM

jbucks said...
I'm struck by the similarities, and differences, between the Discordian five-stage process and Buzz Holling's work on the adaptive cycle which looks at the dynamics of ecoystems, and also for some reason the Tao Te Ching - all of which seem to me are different ways of looking at how things change.

12/7/16, 8:59 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Gwizard, hmm! If it isn't fixed shortly, let me know.

Nastarana, I have to say that "oafesses" is my new word of the week; thank you. Still, have you noticed that people in pretty much every movement for social change, at every point on the political spectrum, tend to run off the rails into arrogance and absurdity? The point of the essay was to suggest at least one of the mechanisms that drives that repeating pattern. In future posts we'll discuss how to avoid it.

Keith, okay, try this one: the Trump administration accidentally helps the American working class by changing some of the things that are hurting the latter, even though Trump's appointees have no idea that this what they're doing. Or this one: Trump's appointees do such a bad job that the reaction breaks the grip of the conservative movement on the US working class and gives Bernie Sanders et al. an opening wedge, leading to a landslide victory for a Democratic candidate in 2020. Or this one: Trump's strategy at this point depends on getting enough leading GOP figures in his cabinet that he can get legislative backing for his plans, and he actually has a plan. Or this one: a significant fraction of the political class has realized that austerity policies have failed so badly they risk destabilizing the US economy and government, and Trump is their front man for extensive reforms. There are others. My point is that overly simplistic models of the future rarely reflect political reality.

Repent, I'll probably wait for them to appear elsewhere, as Faceplant is way too much of a time eater, and I have little enough time as it is. Still, thank you!

Pinku-Sensei, yes, I thought I remembered you were a closet Discordian. Wester is funny; presumably that was the day that some messiah or other descended from the living?

Shane, no, I'm just rambling as usual. I'll write more on that when I think of something else to say, and other issues don't distract me.

Wendy, good. Of course you're right that the business in Berkeley is simply the latest return to the past, with Victorian tenement slums sprouting again. As for the president of the University of California system, I wonder if it has occurred to her that with a single executive order, Trump could make every university in that system no longer eligible for federally insured student loans, federal research grants, etc., etc., etc. Given that most of America outside the formerly Golden State would cheer heartily if that happened, I suspect Trump will do exactly that if she doesn't back down. Strange days...

Barrigan exactly. The metaphor I've used is that the myth of progress assumes that after spring comes summer, and after summer comes uber-summer, and after that comes uber-uber-summer, and the harvests just keep on rolling in and winter is a myth. Too bad the universe doesn't work that way.

Auriel, "emanations of Trump" -- now that sounds like something HP Lovecraft would have a field day with!

Chris, nope. It's just as stupid in German.

Matt, oh, granted. They're having a tantrum, and if you've ever tried to talk to a child who was throwing a tantrum, you know how useless that is. Give it a while, and once they've run out of breath and bruised their fists and heels on the floor, some of them will probably figure it out.

Bob, yes, I know about Thornley; chaos, discord, and confusion are not always safe to be around all the time.

12/7/16, 9:01 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Why the choice of words .... Peter Carr knows no other terminology? Because I cannot imagine this very canny millionaire, who knows the value of her image, being so badly dressed. If she ever chose to be badly dressed, I imagine she'd go the flannel shirt and windbreaker route. And would be doing something that called for it. It's assuredly not a shout-out to our former presidential candidate.

12/7/16, 9:03 PM

Avery said...
As JMG writes, "chaos, discord, and confusion are not always safe to be around all the time." That's why Discordianism works better as a takedown of high-falutin' but myopic philosophical idealism, rather than as a philosophy in its own right. To anyone buying a copy of the Principia Discordia as a result of this blog post (and please do so, as it's a hilarious and strikingly insightful read), I recommend that you also pick up a copy of the Taoist classic Zhuangzi. Burton Watson's translation is my favorite. It's possibly the single most overlooked work in all world literature. All Chinese people know large parts of it by heart, but I think Americans by and large have never heard of it. If you're feeling some existential crisis as the Long Descent continues, Zhuangzi is a great book to lead you onwards and upwards.

12/7/16, 9:08 PM

Wendy Crim said...
I'm so grateful for this blog. I don't even bring up politics, energy or money with people in my life anymore. Everyone is so dogmatic and so sure about everything. The truth is, I just don't have as many opinions on as many things as it seems most people do. I love turning to this blog for excellent posts and comments. Since my mind is rarely made up, it gives me so much more to think about and consider. So, thanks.

I will def be grabbing a copy or two of Retrotopia. I hope everyone enjoys their holiday and makes the best of this cheap energy moment.

To respond to @temporaryreality (Wendy) - funny, that's my name, too- having been renters, coming from a long line of renters, I think we've finally decided to buy a house. Something small, older, modest and affordable (to us). I will be dusting off my copy of Green Wizardry soon and go from there. We only have one car, a hybrid, and go only by car when we travel. We cook and eat at home, homeschool our child, I sew a lot of our things. That's what we are doing. Not really a "top 5" I guess.

Be well, everyone!

12/7/16, 9:13 PM

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
For your amusement, a la Retrotopia, here's a comment-full reddit thread that asks "What's something old that works better than the same thing new?". While some of the answers are along the lines of those things that improve with being broken in (leather couches, cast iron cookware), there seem to be lots of people who find old tech works better than new tech in a lot of cases. Almost 5,000 replies (a large percentage are fluff, but still)

12/7/16, 9:15 PM

Genevieve Hawkins said...
Those patterns are noticeable everywhere. Where's our supervirus scare of the year? I've seen swine flu, SARS, H1N1, ebola, then Zika....they should be looking for a new one by now. Fascinating how history stops sort of like fairy tales "And they lived happily ever after" when the girl married the prince, as though nothing ever happened again. Strange!

12/7/16, 9:22 PM

Wendy Crim said...
I heard a funny joke just today.

"How many social justice warriors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?- Hey that's not funny."

Made me laugh.

12/7/16, 9:22 PM

jessi thompson said...
Archdruid Greer, this particular essay was so entertaining I nearly forgot I was learning! I discovered the Illuminatus Trilogy very recently, and was glad I already had a lot of exposure to the Occult, the Discordians, and the generally paranoid scene, otherwise I would have been quite lost. (As a thirty something raised by hippies, I understand more about that time than most of my generation, but alas, not having been there, I know there's a lot I will never understand). I do agree it's worth a reread, and I do plan to read it again some day, just not in the next six months! (Just finished it in August).

Again, raised by hippies, I will say copious amounts of drugs very rarely yield a good idea, but they do shift perception enough to throw some light on prevailing bad ideas. Thanks for the read! Looking forward to the next one!


All hail Discordia!

(I worship as many old gods as will listen. I find the fewer followers they have, the more strongly they respond to me. But of course, that's probably an observation for the other blog).


Jessi Thompson

12/7/16, 9:24 PM

jbucks said...
And by the way, you mentioned in an older post that you wanted to explore Schopenhauer's ideas through Wagner's music - I would be very interested in such a series of posts, if you ever get the time.

12/7/16, 9:28 PM

Wendy Crim said...
I had the same exact conversation w my husband today about "artsy" vs no affordable housing in regards to the Oakland fire.

12/7/16, 9:32 PM

Joe McInerney said...
@JMG Re: NoDakotaAccessPipeline
"Unknown, I don't have a take on it yet. I'm watching the situation to see if that's just a flash in the pan, or if it marks an enduring realignment."

Hold on to your hat. I just returned from the Standing Rock reservation, and having attended many of the major U.S. anti-globalization demonstrations in the last 20 years I can say this is another order of magnitude. Once Drumph orders the pipeline completed there are going to be an unending amount of people willing to die to prevent it and a disgusting number of thugs willing to kill them. I believe history will pivot on this struggle. Hold onto your hat.

12/7/16, 9:43 PM

Pinku-Sensei said...
Yes, I do worship Discord in my own way. My time on USENET had that effect on me. It also made me familiar with the Church of the Subgenius. I absorbed their attitude, which is more misanthropic than the Discordians, but not much else of their beliefs.

I agree, Wester is funny. As for an anointed one descending from the living, sorry, that wasn't part of the Wester story that I heard. However, the holiday has its own animal mascot, the Wester Squirrel, which goes around and gathers goodies to hide instead of hiding goodies to pass out like the Easter Bunny.

12/7/16, 10:00 PM

Silent Otto said...
Your blogs are merging at the time of the twins !
Wonder if thesis / synthesis /antithesis is the equivalent of Deleuze and Guattaaris Capitalistic Oedipal triangle with Daddy( Existence)/Mommy ( matter) and Oedipus ( abstraction).
The body without organs , the earth , the desired state being Fukayamas end of history , which is a collective death wish to return to Mommys womb and float in the Briny , having all our needs instantly met !
Here we go !
Oedipus as the myth of our time

Incidentally, Trump / Pence is actually a word " Trumpence" , which means "the amount of return on investment in a con job ".

12/7/16, 10:00 PM

Allexis Weetman said...
I dabbled in discordianism back in college days. Makes more sense than hegelian dialectics anyway! There is rampant chaos beneath the smooth clean surfaces of our world. It reminds me of the food retail shop I worked in; on the surface it is wipe-clean, organised, ultra polite, welcoming and hygienic. Out the back there is swearing, panic, duct tape, baling wire and broken eggs! Sometimes this spills into the public shop and freaks the customers right out. But that's how the world often really works behind the scenes.

12/7/16, 10:15 PM

Kfish said...
@Nomadicbeer - regarding your point about small gradual preparations. It was a breakthrough for me when I realised that I could put one homegrown ingredient at a time into a dish, rather than wait until I could produce ALL of its parts from my garden. A little here, a little there, and soon you're cooking with gas! :)

@Nastarana - like most other exotic species in Australia, deer were brought over to be farmed or hunted, and then escaped. There are quite a few deer farms around but since deer can jump anything less than an 8 foot fence, there are also some wild deer to go with the pigs, camels, foxes, cats and rabbits.

12/7/16, 10:27 PM

Kfish said...
@Nomadicbeer - regarding your point about small gradual preparations. It was a breakthrough for me when I realised that I could put one homegrown ingredient at a time into a dish, rather than wait until I could produce ALL of its parts from my garden. A little here, a little there, and soon you're cooking with gas! :)

@Nastarana - like most other exotic species in Australia deer were brought over to be farmed or hunted, and then escaped. There are quite a few deer farms around but since deer can jump anything less than an 8 foot fence, there are also some wild deer to go with the pigs, camels, foxes, cats and rabbits.

12/7/16, 10:27 PM

inohuri said...
The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu
Translated by Burton Watson

Principia Discordia

Farmers of Forty Centuries; Or, Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan

12/7/16, 10:38 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
How will we eat?
Why do we eat?
Where shall we have lunch?

12/7/16, 10:45 PM

Librarian of Hillman said...
I have this repeating dream where i invite everyone of all types, beliefs, desires and backgrounds to have potluck dinners of 10 or 20 each with everyone represented at each dinner...and somehow this fixes everything. I know it cant but...why not? I am so tired of living on so many bridges between so many people who think everyone else is their enemy when really if they could just sit down together and break bread... We dont have much if any more time left. I guess thats not a question or a comment but ive followed you for years and ive never felt so frustrated or sad as i do now.

12/7/16, 11:03 PM

Vesta said...
Regarding urgent adaptation, I make my living doing the sort of simple energy efficiency upgrades that many folks here are probably interested in, and of course I fully support doing all the 'usual' energy upgrades. Expect a lot of awkward, uncomfortable work in confined, dusty and dirty spaces. Three pieces of advice if I may:

1) Do the air sealing FIRST and WELL, especially in the attic. Insulation without careful air sealing rarely works well, and often causes condensation problems, which can and does rot roofs, among other problems.

2) Most houses have one or more dramatic defects, big holes even, which often cause much or most of the air leakage. These defects (we call them pots of gold) are always hidden, and often associated with built-ins or chases, or are between new and remodeled areas. Finding and fixing these is often more important than weatherstripping and other typical air sealing project. It is almost always necessary to work thoroughly through all of the attic and crawl space.

3) There are no magic materials or formulas. You just have to go over ALL of the building surfaces carefully, and seal every crack and hole. Often, the biggest problems are in the nastiest, hardest-to-get-to spots. Do these first, and save the fun stuff like weatherstripping for the end.

12/7/16, 11:06 PM

econojames said...
JMG, I so look forward to Wednesday night for your blog entry, though I try to put it off until Thursday so I get more of the comments. Your blog is the only reason I would miss the internet.

I had not heard of the Discordians, but you had me laughing out loud, and I will soon be educating myself. I could use a few laughs. Of Schopenhauer, I am a fan. This is a very curtain-drawing way of shedding light on our situation (predicament?), and I thank you. I am already a lover of reading (no TV for over ten years, never once missed it), and I will never catch up with everything you've introduced me to.

Wendy: good for you on the gardening, that's probably the most important and most effective thing you can do. I concentrate my efforts on produce that can be stored as-harvested (that is, without extensive or energy-intensive methods), like winter squash, onions, garlic. Tomatoes get canned, and I've made several gallons worth of jam this year from ground cherries, peaches, and hot peppers. Sugar, at least for now, is cheap, and jam is easy. Sauerkraut, as already mentioned, is easy. Shredded cabbage, salt, cram it into a jar, wait. Fruit wine is just as easy - same process (but use sugar instead of salt). If you're interested in any of this, I highly recommend Sandor Katz's Art of Fermentation - he takes the stress out of learning something new.

A woodstove is not cheap to buy or have installed, but mine paid for itself in eight years, and I haven't paid for firewood for seven years. Of course, if EVERYONE gets a woodstove, there go my sources of free firewood, and hello Peak Wood. The rub, with this, is that unless you're HOME during the day in the winter (to feed the stove), the woodstove doesn't save you much money. Insulation is probably the better route to go for all-around effectiveness.

In the time of affordability, I guess I would additionally suggest that you stock up on things you can use in times of unavailability. It sounds obvious, but think jars and lids for canning; candles; knives and sharpeners; banjo strings for God's own instrument...

12/7/16, 11:21 PM

Spanish fly said...
John MG: I think this is your best post in the last months; so, thanks. Please, receive my gift:An interlude with Hegelian music...I hope you like it, or at least you don't dislike too much.

I'm not good at philosophy, and I have read no more than a few short discordian texts in the web a time ago; however, I've been thinking that there is some conection between Discordian jokes, Tao mysticism and dense hegelian books...Hail Eris!
Mr. Roboto: I also feel that Trump is a "necessary disaster" (and scandal, and offense...) for USA and the rest of the world, maybe in the terms that a bizarre jew preachers said long time ago time ago: "Woe to the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!"(offense=trnaslation from greek "Skandalon").
I write this in my poetic mood, not in the literallistic/dogmatic one.
EU discordian dance speeded last days, thanks to Italian people voting NO:

Meanwhile, the other PIG countries are living the dead calm before the storm. Greece is being tensioned between NATO loyalty and historic bonds with Russia (Syrian logistic support and hostility against Turkish new imperialism). And we, the Spaniard cousins...well, our weak and Eu-subservient new government will have to reinforce the austerity economic policies. Beaten mule's patience is big, but not unllimited.

12/8/16, 2:47 AM

Bob said...
This terminology seems strange and abstract to me. I guess I need to exercise my Hegel muscles.

My philosophy of history would take the form of an endless tug-of-war. In the simplified version, there are two teams and they are connected by a heavy rope. I recall that the rope we used in gym class was made of hemp, so I imagine that be the type of rope used here.

In the full version, there are more than two interest groups and they are connected by an asymmetric network of ropes comprised of a variety of exotic materials, including ones with unknown tensile strength. But I digress, as always.

The tug-of-war is meant to represent a power struggle between countervailing forces. The rope connects the competing interests and the forces applied to the rope are known as incentives. When the forces are equal, no movement is observed. It goes without saying that there will always be plenty of grunting as each side strives to realize their goal, but it is the movement that we, the audience, are focused on.

The process of a tug-of-war depends not only on brute strength, but on momentum. A slow movement to one side is in fact a momentum that must be neutralized, then reversed. If one side is able to build upon a momentum, the movement will accelerate.

In this tug-of-war there is no demarcation point; no line to indicate victory. There is no gym teacher to signal the end of one war and the start of another. There are but two teams pulling in one direction, or another; in opposition, or obliquely. The arena in which this struggle takes place is not a gymnasium, but a mesa. It is an unusual mesa in that it is shrouded in fog, so much so that no one can be sure where the cliff edges are located.

That the tug-of-war is taking place on a table top is of little interest to our grunting participants. They are too engaged in their struggle to care about uncertainties such as the future. They are driven by incentives, not wisdom.

During one era of this ceaseless match it came to be that some participants on the team on the "left" began to flounder and die. They were known as the unions. Seizing the momentum, the opposing team turned the tug into a rout. They began to pull everyone, with great enthusiasm, towards the foggy unknown. There were a few observers who tried to shout a warning about the cliffs that lay out yonder, but the "winning" team could not be deterred. Power concedes nothing without a demand, they insisted. As the audience continued to observe, they continued to pull.

"Let go of the rope!" someone shouts. "Let them have their Pyrrhic victory." Alas this is not an option in an endless tug-of-war where we are all connected. In the olden days, when one team or clan or species overcame another, it was possible to watch without being pulled over the cliff alongside them. Nowadays the stakes are higher, but there is no question of calling an end to this contest, sometimes referred to as the cycle of life. There remains the question of whether such cycles can be managed. In a real life tug-of-war you just join the losing side and lend your strength to it. Physics does the rest.

12/8/16, 2:48 AM

Bob said...
Peak Oil: The Short Version
Once upon a time, someone drew a sharp downward sloping curve. Thus was born a crisis and a movement dedicated to publicizing it. The end.

12/8/16, 2:52 AM

Robert Honeybourne said...
Do you think Hegel imagined philosophy was fixed and that hundreds of years later people would be thinking of him as 'wrong'?
You have quite a bit more to go on to move philosophy on

Heidegger might for say example that 'thinking was a way', a path
That path, or parts of it, in his favourite woods, might be a dead end, and steps may have to be retraced
They still have furthered thought at the time

It is interesting how the feel of the blog has changed recently. Previously it was very much, as a comment last week, finding false binaries and expanding on them. It seems more black and white of late 'calling things as wrong'

I look forward to the peak oil topics coming up


12/8/16, 4:07 AM

gregorach said...
Great post! I've nothing to add on the main themes, but the pre-amble triggered a couple of thoughts that may be of interest...

Firstly, you probably haven't noticed, but the Governor of the Bank of England recently observed that Britain is experiencing it's "first 'lost decade' since the 1860s". This immediately brought back to my mind your recent post on the fallacies of "free trade" (or "laissez-faire", as it was known in Britain in the mid nineteenth century). I doubt many other people made the connection...

Regarding oil prices, I've been thinking recently about the similarities between market pricing mechanisms and industrial control systems. Please bear with me here... ;)

Back in my serious home-brewing days, I did a fair bit of tinkering around with PID controllers for both hot liquor and fermentation temperature control. For those who don't know (I know you brew, but I don't know what sort of equipment you use), these systems involve various forms of feedback between sensors and heating (or cooling) elements in an attempt to provide accurate control to a target setting. Critically, they require "tuning" to account for the physical properties of the control loop - for example, how quickly the heating element can actually heat a volume of water, or how well insulated the system is. A well-tuned system will rapidly converge on a set of stable inputs which achieve the target setting. A slightly less well-tuned system will tend to oscillate around the target. In a really badly tuned system, the oscillations will increase in magnitude over time, as the system drives itself into ever-increasing instability. How easy or difficult the system is to tune depends largely on the rates at which various parts of the control system respond - the more slowly the system responds, the more difficult it is to stabilise.

The feedbacks between oil price and both demand and production seem to function in a similar way, and empirical observation clearly indicates that the system is not converging on stability. The important thing to realise here is that it's entirely possible that the system may fall into the third category (escalating instability).

Now here's the kicker - as we move to increasingly expensive and complex forms of oil extraction, the difficulty of financing these operations makes it more challenging to quickly ramp production up or down to respond to price signals, which slows the response of the pricing control system, and makes the system progressively less stable. In this case, market forces could well achieve the exact opposite of what conventional economics insists they should, and we could end up with a situation in which the price of oil has almost no relation to the "correct" market price.

Like I say, not particularly relevant to today's post, but it's an idea that's been kicking around my head for a while, and I thought you might find it interesting...

12/8/16, 4:35 AM

Brian Kaller said...
I’m so looking forward to reading Retropia! As for the Discordian ideas, their divisions might sound abstract and somewhat arbitrary, but so are most of the paradigms we use in mainstream society.

I do something similar when I talk to people about the Left and Right, pointing out that they do not represent ideologies, but potpourris of unrelated ideas, attitudes and interest groups, crammed into the same side by historical accident and shotgun marriages.

When the conversation turns to ideas that are hard to define as a coordinate on that line, I suggest that perhaps they go up a bit, then right, then forward, and then do a curly-Q in mid-air. It sounds ridiculous to them, but I point out that it’s no more ridiculous than working only in one dimension.

So, is it worth asking how long the stages take to play out and what it might predict for the future, or is that taking this tongue-in-cheek proposal too seriously?

12/8/16, 6:10 AM

Nastarana said...
Dear Patricia Matthews, if 'pantsuits' is or are to be a topic here, let me say that I know of no more useless garment than "business casual" trousers for women. They are neither functional like jeans or looser work pants, nor have they the chic and elegance of a well made skirt. They conceal almost nothing; one might as well be wearing a miniskirt for all the freedom of movement one (does not) have, especially when sitting. Finally, on all but the slimmest women, they are neither comfortable nor flattering, and if you have a lumpy figure, which most of us do, you still have to wear the hated pantyhose under them. We women need to declare independence from high heeled shoes and stockings, not from skirts and dresses.

12/8/16, 6:14 AM

Phil Harris said...
Your essay has just given me a laugh or more. But it now has me scratching my increasingly scruffy (dare I say patchy?) elderly beard.

It reminds me of something I wrote in the 70s as a kind of mock tribute to our international industrialism. I saw us as very naive and generally mistaken followers of Lord Jagannath with no idea of what we are taking on. We Europeans seem especially good at misreading stuff and getting run over by our own machines.

Phil H

12/8/16, 6:14 AM

Wolfgang Brinck said...
Fitting a schema on historical ups and downs only works in retrospect and has little predictive ability. If you are in the middle of the fifth phase of a five phased scheme, it's probably safe to call it a fit, even if the mainstream refuses to see it. This is not to say that the process has no validity, it just seems that it cannot predict how long phases last and what they will look like in their particulars.
The whole process reminds me of a summer job I had in a chemistry lab where I had to weigh some vial over a period of time while some reaction was going on and then plot the data points and draw a curve through them. I had a french curve and so I plotted what to me seemed like very nice curves with multiple inflection points, perhaps as many as five. I did this over a period of weeks with the professor never checking on my work. When he did finally look at it, he dismissed my curves as rubbish. Problem was, from my point of view, that he never told me that I was only allowed to have one inflection point. Or as they used to joke in the physics department, if your equation has enough parameters, you can fit an elephant.
Don't know if you saw it, Stacy Herbert quoted you on the Keiser Report, broadcast # 1001 link here: around 5:32 in the video. Perhaps this can make up for the archdruid report not having made the official list of fake news sites. I believe the keiser report made the official fake news site. You are therefore officially a second hand fake news site or at least a first hand fake news source.

12/8/16, 6:41 AM

Caryn said...
JMG: Wow, Thanks! That was a really fun essay.
Many years ago, when I began to really watch social and economic politics compare to history, (how we got where we are from where we were) and try to see the bigger picture; I came up with a theory that the whole thing, social justice, politics, economic philosophy.... was much like a pendulum swing. With or without knowing it, players on both the 'Right' and 'Left' side of values, interests and actions would move the pendulum to the right, until it could not go further - then there would be pushback or momentum to move it to the left. It would start to swing back, gain momentum and get to the furthest reaches of the left, then swing back towards the right again. It has no beginning and no end, and no real point of stasis. It's always moving. And no, it never gets to the 'top' of either side. Neither side ever gets ALL of what they want and hope for.

A much less sophisticated analogy than either Hegel or Discordian thought, but it still kinda works and I think holds similar ideas to the 5-sided triangle you describe. I will have to further investigate both Hegel and Principia Discordia when I can. Sounds like a fun endeavor.

@ Chris / Cherokee Organics: Thank You for that comment also. I've been seeing the same phenomenon from a very different perspective. Trying to teach some (ANY!) form of limits to my 4-year-old students, and whenever I engage the parents for reinforcement/support, I get a blank stare. It is clear, there will be no help from that quarter in teaching limits to these little ones. It has occurred to me that they also have little to no experience with the idea of limits. This is not the top 1% or even the top 20%, yet the majority of people here have and CAN get pretty much whatever they want whenever they want. They truly don't seem to get the idea of limits. As a society - we seem to have been TOO successful. Pretty frightening.

12/8/16, 6:42 AM

Tower 440 said...
Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
We in Northeast Ohio are following Melbourne’s example by holding well-advertised monthly meetings.
The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, December 21, 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat. Contact us at [email protected].
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

12/8/16, 7:12 AM

redoak said...
JMG, in the mid 90's I took a two term doctoral seminar on Hegel's Science of Logic with Alexandre Kojeve's best (and most excellent) student, Stanley Rosen. The class was a tour de force of philosophical context and explication surrounding the text. But alas, the text itself remained impenetrable. I concur with your assessment of Hegel, his abstraction from Kant is exponentially greater than Kant's from Hume. One bit of gossip, Kojeve apparently said something to the effect that "he who forms an authoritative interpretation of Hegel will rule modern politics." The problem of external validity was apparently irrelevant, though I'm pretty certain it remains, as always, the only one.

12/8/16, 7:14 AM

Donald Hargraves said...
Another way to look at it, for me at least: Feet on the ground always beats heads in the clouds. I now feel that anyone willing to look around could have seen what was happening, but a lot of people chose to avoid the looking around.

BTW, another data point: heard from a worker at a nearby warehouse that Rockwell, Mondelez and a number of other corporations have shifted production to Monterrey, Mexico over the past two years. Makes me wonder if the gangs of Mexico have made a peace of sorts in Mexico (making the factories a good investment and home a viable option for native Mexicans) and are starting to project power into the United States to the north. Same person also told me that Rockwell had also offshored much of their production to China as well the last two years.

12/8/16, 7:42 AM

RAnderson said...
While not at all sanguine, myself, about the eventual outcomes soon-to-be-precipitated by the upcoming "administration", especially in view of the personages being announced daily as those who will be surrounding our future "Decider in Chief", the creative and varigated potential scenarios envisioned by our host, beyond those proposed earlier by one blog responder here, illustrate just why I read TDR faithfully. One certainly gets viewpoints not to be found anywhere else, priceless indeed.

That said, the appointments of those such as Steven "King of Foreclosures" Mnunchin, and Wilbur "Destroyer of Worlds" Ross, who single-handedly dismembered and sold for pennies on the dollar the world's most legendary and iconic steelmaker, Bethlehem Steel, once the 6th largest concern in the US, along with Republic Steel, Armco/LTV Steel, and others to the upstart Indian steelmaker/consolidator Mittal (later Acelor/Mittal), decimating tens of thousands of good jobs in the name of quick profits, does not augur well for policies encouraging well-paying industrial wage jobs to be returning to our beleaguered working class any time soon. And while the torpedoed TPPA is not to be mourned, the unsustainable taxpayer funded corporate welfare bribery as practiced in the Carrier "deal" is no answer to the problem either.

I fear that DT has been well and truly subsumed, and actually was all along, by TPTB, Wall Street, Military/Industrial Complex, or however one might wish to refer to the many vested interests of The Establishment 1%. In reality he was, and is, a card-carrying member, who will, in the end, carry out the status quo which benefits himself and his cohort. Multiple generals being named for the most important security and defense posts hardly leads to confidence in the potential for diminishing the American Empire of Eternal War. Naming vociferous science deniers to positions of greatest influence hardly leads towards hope of furthering the project of protecting the environment, clearly our most important legacy. Aspiring "agents of change" are quickly brought to heel once in DC by the real powers in charge. Once the security briefings and Fed advisement begins, any threat to the hegemonists in power is quickly neutralized by acceptance of "reality", reluctant or not.

What will be truly interesting is the reaction from the desperate and yearning masses once they realize that, once again, they have been hoodwinked, this time by the insidious process of being brainwashed by the "post-truth", aka lies. They have been sold the Biggest Bill-of-Goods in American history. Hope I'm wrong, but one way or another, it will likely lead to an explosion heard 'round the world.

12/8/16, 7:58 AM

Matthias Gralle said...
This is an interesting post on Discordianism applied to contemporary politics. You have been writing mainly about American contemporary politics for several months, whether "disguised" in the Retrotopia narrative, in posts on thought patterns like the Victim Game, or directly about the presidential election. That is of course your personal choice, and no doubt there is more to write about this subject. As a non-American reader I have accompanied this with some interest, but I would be certainly very glad if you wrote some post again on something not directly related to contemporary American politics.

Last week you commented (to Caryn, I think) that you had already written about the collapse of civilisation from every angle you could think of, and therefore were turning to politics. Respectfully, I suggest that there are other subjects of great interest to (some) readers that you have not fully explored yet. I would certainly be very interested in posts on the relations between Neoplatonism and Christianity (e.g. Eriugena or the interpretation of the sacraments), on the relations between religion and ecology (your frequent references to Lynn White and to Greek deforestation after conversion) or on your personal "post-platonism". I would also be very interested to hear more about the Renaissance debates that resulted in the "exorcism" of alchemy and of neoplatonistic philosophy. Or on the Chinese and Japanese "Dark Ages" and how they were less dark than in Europe (e.g. less loss of literature). Other readers may have other interests.

Best regards,

12/8/16, 8:06 AM

Johannes Roehl said...
I have not read all of the article on resurrecting nuclear technologies. But the so-called "breeding reactor" that should "breed" more fuel than it used in the first place was a 1970s dream of cheap energy forever. Western Germany spent billions on of them but it never worked and was abolished around 1990 without ever providing any power... Admittedly, the problems seemed to have been more political and economic than technical, except for the risk, so especially after Chernobyl the thing was doomed.

and the french "Superphénix" did work only slightly better

12/8/16, 8:42 AM

RUKidding said...
Thank you for a most interesting post, which I now need time to digest and ruminate on. I have had some encounters with the concepts you discuss, but it's clear I need to do some homework! Something useful for these colder darker night.

@temporaryreality (Wendy)
Thanks for you commentary on the most unfortunate "Ghost Ship" fire in Oakland, CA this past weekend. I only know rudimentary information about it, but some of the reports I've heard on the local NPR stations - both the one in the SF Bay Area and that in Sacramento - have discussed, albeit briefly, the issues that you bring up - how the warehouse can be likened to a tenement, although NPR commentators didn't use that term. But it's useful. The news programs and commentary I heard did go into some detail about the lack of affordable housing all around the Bay Area, in particular, and about how the majority (if not all) the tennants really had few to no other options in terms finding living/working spaces in Oakland.

One program discussed how this warehouse "commune" (if you will) lifestyle is something apparently quite common in Oakland going back decades (I have heard about such shared art/living space loft/warehouses for quite a while, but it's anecdotal). One program out of Sacramento listed similar spaces in Sacramento utilized in similar ways for decades, which has contributed to our growing arts "scene." And Sacramento is just getting more expensive.

There were discussions about how these warehouses are not adequately set up for this use, with the clearly attendant safety issues/violations.

Some limited discussion has happened in terms of cost of living, lack of any real solutions for low cost housing, etc. I doubt much will come out this, sadly, other than the usual hand wringing, finger pointing and finding someone to blame. IOW, no real solutions will eminate from this to resolve these issues or develop afforadable housing solutions.

And so it goes. Good luck to those displaced by this terrible tragedy.

12/8/16, 9:31 AM

David, by the lake said...

I realize that much of it is the typical post-election foaming-at-the-mouth, but I find myself growing increasingly concerned that the legitimacy of the institutions and social compacts which bind us together are eroding and at an increasing pace (attacks on the electoral college, ignorant [sic] voters, etc).

In the vein of things coming apart, I was reading a post over at Wolfstreet

and I saw a post in the comment thread about how automation was a necessary and natural part of progress and that without it, people would still be "plowing fields by hand" -- to which another commenter remarked, "at least then people would at least have food." I try not to fear where things are going and rather to work to do what I can, where I can, but it is difficult some days, I must admit.

12/8/16, 10:22 AM

mayinoh said...
I am so excited to see that Retrotopia is in print and I will be getting a copy in my stocking this holiday.

I would also love to send a copy with a letter each of the 132 legislators in our Ohio General Assembly. After all it is an engaging narrative about innovative and creative resilience of future Ohioans. We are so in need of leaders that think out of the box and this would be a useful tool to plant those seeds of thought.

As the executive director of the Ohio Sustainable Business Council, a network of businesses that believe in a more just, vibrant and sustainable economy, I would hand deliver them to our Senators and Representatives.

Unfortunately we cannot afford to buy them all, but would accept donations from anyone that would like to purchase a few for this purpose and ship them to our organization's address on our website at or contact me to make arrangements.

Best regards,

Mayda Sanchez
Exec. Dir.

12/8/16, 10:27 AM

Rita said...
Ah Discordianism, a refreshing visit from the past. Fond memories of being promoted from Pope to Bishop by R. A. Wilson for helping with a Bicentennial prank involving the Illuminati. I do recommend the uncompleted Historical Illuminati series for a weird take on American History. The titles are The Widow's Son, The Earth Will Shake and Nature's God.

I find the allegiance of main stream Democrats to the idea of unlimited immigration to be mystifying. For most of them it is certainly not self-interest. None of my friends can afford undocumented nannies. Is it subconscious guilt for enjoying the privilege of life in the US? I mean politically I understand why neither Republican nor Democratic congresspersons have approached a solution, but what is in it for the rank and file? How does anyone imagine that they are benefited by more competition for jobs, university admissions, housing and so forth? Yet I am pretty I have badly damaged a friendship by asserting that, while I would like to see immigration policy undergo a rational reform, I see no problem with enforcing existing laws. Refugees, I granted, are a different problem entirely.

Given the Brexit vote, do you see a possible redo of the Scottish Independence vote resulting in a Scottish exit in order to align with the Continent?

12/8/16, 10:56 AM

Troy Jones said...
Ah, great post. When I read the bit about a quirky alternative theory of history which first saw the light of day in a bowling alley, I immediately knew what was coming next and couldn't keep from grinning haha. The Principia Discordia is so great. I bought my copy at a local board-game and comic book store waaaay back when. (They had it because Steve Jackson Games, maker of the much-maligned card-game Munchkin published an edition of the PD for some reason back in the 90s).

12/8/16, 11:28 AM

ganv said...
Yes, the challenge with any analysis like Hegel's is that you can always tell a story to make sense of what happened. And so the stories that are told are usually the ones that benefit the story-teller. But these stories are so oversimplified that they don't have any predictive power. I am not sure that the story of a challenge to internationalist ideas of the wealthy by populists that have born the brunt of globalization is any better. Globalization has improved the lives of a lot of people. Look at the plight of the poor in India and particularly China and you see huge gains. Globalization and automation have hurt the uneducated in wealthy countries since it has forced them to compete with uneducated workers around the world and with machines. Moving forward, more of the educated population will have to start competing with billions around the world and with automation for their jobs as well.

As I see it, the real danger is the siren call of 'non-competitive' economic ideologies. Anyone who tells you that they can stabilize economic arrangements by taming competition is either self-deceived or trying to deceive you. Logic, morality, tradition, religion, patriotism and more are all proposed as bases upon which the nasty competitive nature of reality can be tamed. But at the end of the day, if someone can out-compete you, it is a pretty safe bet that they will. So the best we are going to do is develop constraints that tame the worst excesses of the competition. Trump voters and Brexit voters probably are mostly a small course correction. The real decisions are still to come as we figure out whether there can be a social contract to manage the global competition in our resource and pollution constrained era or whether we will descend into military competition.

12/8/16, 11:47 AM

Happy Panda said...
Figured I'd submit this even though it relates more to last week's topic than this week because I think many ADR readers will find it interesting.

CNBC published this little ditty today:

Most Jobs Created Since 2005 Are Temporary or Unsteady
Some choice Excerpts (Numbering is by me, not in the original article):

1. "It's also within the range of what Fed policy makers call "full employment."

2. "But a recently updated study by Harvard and Princeton economists shows that a staggering 94 percent of net job growth from 2005-2015 was in "alternative work." That's "temporary" or "unsteady" work, like independent contracting and temp agencies. "

3. "The study's authors, Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger, point out that the majority of these temporary employees are on-call workers, freelancers, temp agency workers, independent contractors, and workers hired out through contract firms."

4. "They also have pushed on-demand scheduling for part-time employees who have to call in an hour or two ahead of time to find if they get to work that day."

Of course, unlike in many European countries, a U.S. "Precariat" worker gets little (if lucky) to (more typically) no benefits. The 3rd-World-ification of the general U.S. workforce is picking up pace as Discordia gains momentum.

The actual study cited can be found here:

12/8/16, 11:58 AM

Coboarts said...
I love your re-framing of the Disocordian philosophy. I read the "Illuminatus" trilogy while hitch-hiking around GB in 1979. Those books along with "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (plus "Another Roadside Attraction"), and all of Carlos Castaneda's books (I know, I know), made me understand that my mind was not limited. In fact, as I may have mentioned before, my relationship with the Geography Dept at San Diego State, where I got an early copy of Dr. Johnson's book, "Muddling Toward Frugality" had put me in touch with the ideas of M. King Hubbert as a young lad. I read the Limits to Growth my senior year in high school, one year after it was published by the Club of Rome.

In other words, I've been on board for a long time with Peak Oil and awareness of all the other insults that we've been heaping on the thin envelope of ecology that supports human existence. That said, I have begun to question even my long-standing counter-culture beliefs. This after taking a serious look at the UN Agenda 21, which is evident everywhere in local planning and zoning efforts. I've begun to pay real attention to the conspiracy researchers, such as James Corbett at The Corbett Report.

Enjoying as much as anyone a rapid ride down the rabbit hole, I've been reading books that are opening my eyes to new possibilities. I'm not saying that I'm buying the into it, but M. King Hubbert was a founder of Technocracy Inc, back in the 30s. And, there is an interesting case being made for the effort to bring the planet under the control of a single scientific, shall we say, management. I'm not even necessarily against that in concept, although who is in charge of the hen house is an important consideration.

The reason I bring this up, is based on your intention for revisiting where this blog all started. Although I didn't get here until 2011, I went back and read every post. This is the notion that I would like you to consider. The supply of oil has always been manipulated to make it appear scarce and more valuable. In light of this, have you read F. William Engdahl's book "Myths Lies and Oil Wars"? With Paris accords and Rio and carbon tax and Agenda 21, Tri-Lateral Commission, Skull and Bones and Technocracy - (Antony Sutton's evidence that western financiers financed both the Russian Re-Revolution and Hitler and China's rise of Yale Man Mao...), does the linear progression to the end of oil still dominate as the critical determinant for the future of global society?

12/8/16, 12:37 PM

Juhana said...
Your political analysis, during last posts, has been extremely good. It has helped to understand your nation's political machinations in a way that no news media has done. Thank you for that. I have noticed that this (un)welcome clarity of analysis has caused upset among some of your readers. Phenomenon is familiar from Europe.

It caused deep resentment to talk with fashionable, green "downshifters" as resently as couple of years ago. Green party is big thing here in Finland; it has even sit in national government many times. But mainstream Green downshifters were peculiar in their view how this contraction and bottleneck was coming; it was very liberal and very political correct contraction they saw ahead of this road of ours. Political problems connected or caused by end of growth politics were duly ignored, if they did not sit well into liberal world view. So this victory of Trump was no surprise for me. It seems to be common feature of human species that people can thow whole geopolitical and sociopolitical segment of their own population under the bus and truly except that nothing is going to happen. That those masses are going to play with the rulebook handed down to them by those not thrown under the bus.

Sheer stupidity of this approach is astounding. Here in Europe, where working class grassroots movements have been order of the day from late 19th century onwards, their partial metamorphosis into current form of right-wing populism has been more rapid as the grassroots organization was already on place. In your country, it seems that horizontal, grassroots political organizing by common, working or lower middle-class people is not so strong. Because of that, amount of resentment and feeling of externality by large segments of population seem to surprise many in your nation. It has been hilarious (and somewhat sad) to see all these surprised people have same temper tantrums and rage ventilation taking place in your national culture's context that has already been played out by here in Europe a decade or little less ago. Trump spoke about problems they see in their everyday lives. So they voted him, because he represents their interests. It is truly that simple. For the same reason working families here in Europe turned into Social Democracy back in the days, even when elites denounced them for doing that.

At the same time, collapse of working class neighborhoods into relative lawlessness and rise of embryonic war bands has continued as your catabolic collapse model predicts: one step at time and slowly. But change has been astounding if you look it from decade's standpoint.

Molding of local, feudal loyalties into "young men warrior societies" has continued uninterrupted, both in native football firms and one-percent clubs, and in Salafist madrassa schools. Same kind of development bloomed in former Yugoslavia as full sectarian warfare. And in the Yugoslavia, it was not those liberal types whom adapted best. It was common, engineering types of men who build all those river turbines giving small-scale electricity into their own house after grid was gone, and whom insulated just one or two rooms from that house to survive through winter. I was there, in international relief context, just after the fighting had ceased. Fresh marks of both human brutality and human ingenuity in extreme conditions was amazing to witness.

12/8/16, 12:41 PM

Eric S. said...
Thanks, I'm sure it's an approach that can be taken in interesting directions. Of course, in the meantime, you now have an obligation to find some way to work the Church of the Sub-genius into your blog at some point ;-). On another note, have you gotten around to reading Time's Person of the Year article for Donald Trump? I was actually surprised by how closely it mirrored the exact points you've been making:

12/8/16, 12:46 PM

Izzy said...
"You always have to defend the ground you've won,"--Agreed. As someone horrified by many facets of the upcoming administration (like, think what you will of Trump, but Pence's ideal world is like half a step from the Republic of Gilead), I've found some comfort in Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse, wherein fighting evil is compared to pulling weeds: you can't just do it the once and then stop.

I read and enjoyed RAW's trilogy--although there was a point where he wrote something about how you can't hate anyone because we're all connected and you can't hate part of yourself, wherein I put the book down and snickered for a minute. RAW at the time of writing was very clearly a) a man, and b) one who'd somehow made it to book-writing age without ever having a head cold, a rotten tooth, or a really good case of norovirus. Like, I consider myself relatively well-adjusted and I hate parts of myself on a weekly if not daily basis.

12/8/16, 1:41 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
A valuable persepctive on the Oakland warehouse fire:

12/8/16, 1:50 PM

Maria Rigel said...
This is what happens when somebody is too much in love with old history and doesn't check up on the latest developments.

Theories about the cycles of history have been vastly improved since the examples above. Check up on "cliodynamics". It helps a lot to see where the world (well, Europe and the States at least) are in the cycle. It's just at the beginning of things falling apart, not at or near the bottom.

One of the ways you can tell this is the beginning, and it's downhill from here, is comparing the situation of the elites vs the average Joe. If the average Joe is hurting but the elites are still enjoying life, things haven't gone downhill very much yet. The lowest point is when the heads of the elites have rolled. Except that it doesn't usually happen in the Hollywood movie style: the evil rich people are taken down by the good and righteous little guys, and peace and justice follows. It happens far more often with the elites stabbing viciously each other. Or with somebody taking power by lying to almost everyone about practically everything (yes, Trump, exactly) who then proceeds to destroy just about everything, and in the process, the elites also get thinned down. Sometimes, history does some heavy revisionism on these guys, and that's where the ideas of Hollywood movies came from. The guys of the French Revolution were pretty nasty, but that isn't how they are remembered.

When things look this bad at the beginning of the downhill, you have good reason to suspect that the slide down won't be pretty at all. I think it isn't unreasonable to expect dictatorship and WWIII. I know, I sound like I've lost it. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not counting on it.

12/8/16, 1:54 PM

PatriciaT said...

Bloom County available at gocomics, some new, some (apparently) 'classic'.

12/8/16, 1:57 PM

PatriciaT said...
Not sure if comment went through the first time, but if not -

Bloom Country at gocomics (new & (apparently) 'classic'):

Some more recent, but appear to be 'classic'; this one definitely 2016.

12/8/16, 2:02 PM

Maxine Rogers said...
Hi Lathechuck,
I notice you are buying fertilizer for your house plants. You certainly can; however, the alternative is to water your plants (mine like a nice shower to get the dust off their leaves)and then give them some human urine diluted in water.

A girlfriend came over last October and looked at my pot of miniature roses on the deck. They were a mass of blooms and she asked me how I did it. I told her I fed them human piss. She wailed, "I knew that! Why did I forget that? I am going home to piss on my roses now."

And no, it does not stink. The plants are so keen, they suck the urine down before it has a chance to get stale and smell of ammonia. I usually dilute the urine 50/50 with water.

Yours under the red cedars,
Max Rogers

12/8/16, 2:12 PM

Morfran Anónimo said...
Greetings John Michael,

I was also a massive fan of R.A.Wilson back in my late teens and early twenties; I couldn't help but cheer when he got another mention here. Oddly enough it was his non-fiction that did it for me; there's some wonderful rhetoric in some of his short essays like "13 choruses for the divine marquis" Well, it seemed wonderful to me back then. And the jocular skeptical-skepticism throughout even the weirdest of his non-fiction like Cosmic Trigger is something that always stays with me. I actually never read Illuminatus! fully but your post gives me an urge to correct that at long last.

I wonder what Wilson would have made of the Archdruid Report. I've been reading your blog since the "Two Agricultures, not one" post back in 2010, with occasional breaks, and I'd say its had as big an impact in my late twenties/early thirties as his writing did earlier. You introduced me to peak oil as a concept, but more generally your detailed exploration of the reality and necessity of limits (resource limits, limits of human knowledge and capability), your "Conservatism" if I can call it that, has been a necessary tonic to Wilson's "Jumping Jesus" faith in informational and technological progress (

Thesis and antithesis indeed. I'm still working on the synthesis. I'll be looking forward to seeing your correctives vis-à-vis your past writing on peak oil too. Wilson would call that following the Cosmic Schmuck principle ;-).

All the best,
Jack (Longtime semi-lurker; occasionally posting under the name "Rumighoul".)

12/8/16, 2:41 PM

Ed-M said...

Well! Discordianism certainly 'splains things better than Hegel's historical philosophy-- I remember right after the USSR fell, that Russia was under the constant threat of the destruction of civil peace for YEARS, the Russian Mafia basically had free reign during that time, and the Russian Federation couldn't get its act together until after Putin got in. No wonder the Russian people hate the term "democracy!"

12/8/16, 2:42 PM

David, by the lake said...
Quick update on election effort #2. Eight days into nomination signature collection (we have until Jan 3rd) and I just crossed the halfway point.

12/8/16, 2:54 PM

Ian R Orchard said...
Re the "excuses du jour" for failing to address fossil fuel depletion & its other problems, some folk out there are trying to do something.

The Economy After Fossil Fuels
When: December 13, 2016 at 11:00am Pacific/2:00pm Eastern
How to Participate: REGISTER
Share your thoughts on this topic before the conversation

All economic activity entails energy usage. As our energy sources change, our economy will likely evolve and adapt—perhaps in surprising ways.

Join us for the sixth and final conversation in conjunction with the recently released book* Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path to 100% Clean Energy with Rob Dietz, former Executive Director of Center for Advancement of a Steady State Economy and author of Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources and Joshua Farley, Fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and co-author (with Herman Daly) of the foundation textbook Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications. Joined by Richard Heinberg and hosted by Asher Miller of Post Carbon Institute, we will discuss what the future of our economy might look like in a 100% renewable energy future and explore such important questions as:
What are the implications for how human labor will be valued, and how jobs will change?
Can the economy (measured by GDP) continue to grow if energy consumption and use of resources declines significantly?
Is growth of GDP essential to a functioning economy and to human well being?
Can capitalism survive in the era of climate change and energy transition? What would work better?
Please join the live conversation on December 13. We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions, too.


12/8/16, 3:16 PM

latheChuck said...
Librarian of Hillman - Just last night, I attended a mid-week Advent "simple supper and worship" event. We had about 20 people, from high-school to elderly. Where I was sitting, we had two for Hillary, two for Trump, and one for McMullen. The conversation amiably progressed as we discussed the voting process, the ballot layout, and anything other than the qualifications of the candidates. The moral of the story is to not be defined by your politics, but to recognize what you and your neighbors have in common (such as religious faith) that transcends partisanship.

It may also be true, on the other hand, that the mention of McMullen disrupted with its novelty what could have been bipolar dispute.

12/8/16, 3:48 PM

Steve said...

I love the reference to Schopenhauer! He's by far my favorite philosopher, and IMHO gets too little credit, likely due to his iconoclastic thinking.

The power of positive thinking he is not.

12/8/16, 3:50 PM

latheChuck said...

Fertilizing your flowers with human urine?!? (Shhh... that's for the advanced class. First, we start with the "what?" and the "why?". The "how?" comes later.)
I've actually been using a dry granular chicken waste organic fertilizer product, for the most part.

12/8/16, 4:11 PM

rapier said...
Let me quibble with; "At the heart of the liberal project was the insistence that economics should trump politics—that the free market should determine policy in most matters, leaving governments only an administrative function."

This is absolutely on point, except that it was not a liberal project, or I should say it should not have been a liberal project. The proper term for this is neoliberalism, called neo conservatism in much of the rest of the world. Liberalism in Western political parties was hijacked by neoliberalism, and then destroyed by it. While cognizant that Liberalism always fails in extreme situations, Russia on the cusp of the revolution or Germany as the Enabling Law was passed, the surrender of our liberal elites to neoliberalism and thus abandoning the hard political work of shaping the political economy and then turning the economy over to the Fed and the banks via Humphrey Hawkins was a tragedy.

It is perfectly understandable that today's Democratic Party or Britain's Labor Party are called liberal but in fact they are neoliberal. Thus liberals were educed to fetishizing gender and racial issues, which while worth topics, are not the stuff of basic governance.

It no longer matters that Liberalism is dead at it's own hands via neo liberalism but one should be careful in calling today's so called liberals, Liberals, if you get my drift.

12/8/16, 4:18 PM

donalfagan said...
I was doing involuntary Kegel exercises during the election coverage. Does that count?

12/8/16, 5:23 PM

onething said...
" We women need to declare independence from high heeled shoes and stockings, not from skirts and dresses. "

Hear! Hear!

But I up and decided some 20 years ago that I was not going to wear stockings if it is hot, and I don't.

12/8/16, 5:32 PM

Tim F said...
This reminds me of my most superficial complaint about Stephenson's Anathem. You can't have an endless accretion of civilizations / political philosophies building on top of one another. Nothing goes on forever. The first major advanced civilization is also the last one, at lest for a good while. I am glad to see the oil peak rubber-band cycle get covered above because people too often forget it in this age of shale gas. Nothing can replace light sweet crude, and nothing will.

I gotta admit that I had some hope that we would alternative and innovativize our way to some sustainable version of our modern nirvana. That was more or less my reason for supporting establishment liberal parties. Out of the people likely to win an actual election they strike me as (somewhat) more concerned with keeping lights on for the long term.

Then I remember that a majority of we citizens living in this shining city on a hill supported torture. All things considered I would prefer to give sustainability a try. But maybe we deserve this.

12/8/16, 5:38 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Revere, that's a conversation I'd be delighted to take part in. As for your prospects as a ruinman, since you're getting in on the ground floor, why, yes, you may well even become a mister of the guild!

Jbucks, yep. If you treat continual change as the basic rule of existence, you tend to end up with models that work, curiously enough...

Patricia, the fact that Hillary Clinton favors pantsuits doesn't suggest anything to you but a shoutout?

Avery, I personally find Lao Tsu more useful, but I won't argue about Chuang Tsu -- I've owned a copy of his works since my first stint in college, and wouldn't be without it.

Wendy C., you're welcome and thank you!

Temporaryreality Wendy, delighted to hear it. It's when such ideas become so widespread that people stop laughing and just nod that we'll have a decent chance of getting out from under the tyranny of progress, and be able to pick and choose instead from those things that actually work.

Genevieve, good! And all the while the steady rise in deaths from ordinary microbes, many of which are now immune to antibiotics, goes unnoticed. That's a very solid example of the pattern I was discussing.

Wendy C., funny. That one's been applied to several other groups in its time, too.

Jessi, thank you. If you've read it recently, you're way ahead of the curve.

Jbucks, as I recall, I also mentioned that I'd do that series of posts when I want to reduce my readership sharply; I can't imagine that you'll have a lot of company! Still, I'll consider it.

Joe, to my mind the fact that 3200 veterans mobilized to help the protest is already a potential turning point -- but we'll see what comes of it. Apparently promising movements have fizzled before (cough cough Occupy Wall Street cough cough), you know.

Pinku-sensei, ah, well, it was merely a speculation. Druids would likely demand a Souther and a Norther, too, with a Souther Wombat and a Norther Lemming as animal mascots; I'll leave you to decide what if anything they do with goodies.

Silent Otto, I'm pretty sure Deleuze et al. were riffing off a fusion of Hegel and Freud, which is certainly workable. Me, I'd rather fuse Schopenhauer and Jung, with just enough Nietzche for seasoning, and see the World as Will and (mis)Representation -- the Will seeking individuation, generally via the school of hard knocks, and the Representations being mucked up with any number of projections of misunderstood unconscious contents -- but that's a theme for a different day.

12/8/16, 7:10 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Re: "onething said...

" We women need to declare independence from high heeled shoes and stockings, not from skirts and dresses. "

Hear! Hear!

But I up and decided some 20 years ago that I was not going to wear stockings if it is hot, and I don't.

12/8/16, 5:32 PM"

****The average business skirt for decades, with some joyfully remembered exceptions, has been those tight cylinders that either required a girdle (the 1950s)or show your bulges off worse than any pants on the market except the skin-tight-clingy ones. I would gladly wear a skirt with a gentle drape that fell to below the knee. In fact, I own a few, for summer wear only. But with my legs, I would wear stockings with them. I do like the fashion for heavy black stockings/tights/leggings with my flat thick-soled dress shoes I've had for years.

But sooner than wear the cylinder skirts, I'd wear a nicely tailored pair of what used to be called slacks any day of the week. And if the office thermostat is going to be set for what the men are comfortable in (ask any woman office worker about that!) the slacks it is, with a nice blazer. No shivering in a feminine but thin dress for me, thank you!

Of course, the stocking issue is now moot - my doctors say 15-20 mg compression. And not in the two colors many brand offer for women: Nurse White and Old Lady Beige. Nope. Black.

@JMG re pantsuits - no. Rings no bells. Sorry. I guess my brain is frozen worse than my fingers this week. But re Ms. Mickelson - images found for what I had in mind.

12/8/16, 7:31 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Allexis, true enough. The chaos is generally more entertaining, too.

Inohuri, in a sense, you've just compiled a very basic reading list for this blog.

Bill, good. Now add the stages of Parenthesis and Paralysis!

Librarian, have you tried taking the dream seriously and hosting such a dinner? That's one thing a repeating dream of that sort can be trying to say, you know.

Vesta, true enough. Thank you.

Econojames, thank you! That's high praise.

Spanish Fly, thank you! I'm listening to the Mertens piece as I type this. Odd, but distinctly listenable.

Bob, okay, but does your model allow you to predict the behavior of social movements? To my mind, that's the point of a model -- it tells you what changes to expect. Your model of the peak oil movement, similarly, is far too simplistic to communicate anything useful to those who want to learn lessons from its failure, which again, is to my mind the point of the exercise.

Robert, ever since the beginning of this blog I've been pointing out various bits of popular or intellectual culture that don't make sense when applied to the real world -- the myth of progress, the myth of apocalypse, binary thinking, neoprimitivism, the obsession with fast collapse, and the list goes on. Hegel is just the latest sacred cow I've plopped on the barbecue grill. Get used to it; there will be more -- and Heidegger may moo in protest all he wants; he might just be next on the grill.

Gregorach, yep. That's a good practical example of the way that feedback can cause stabilization, cyclic alternation, or chaos, depending on the way that it loops back into the system. One of the major flaws in contemporary economics is that it assumes the first option by preference, when the last is often the case!

Brian, the time element's always the issue! My guess is that the timing's essentially unpredictable in advance; all you can do is learn the typical characteristics of each phase, so you can figure out where you are and what's coming up next.

Phil, that's a workable metaphor as well!

Wolfgang, the advantage that a qualitative model gives you is that even if you don't know the timing, you can identify where you are and know what's not coming next. When someone insists that the Confusion du jour has settled some social problem once and for all, for example, you know they're wrong, and that the result will gradually turn into a dysfunctional jerry-rigged mess and then fall apart. You may not know when, but you can certainly refuse to buy into the Confusion and begin to quietly brace yourself for the inevitable.

12/8/16, 7:47 PM

Peter VE said...
A sign of parenthesis for those looking: Life expectancy in the US has dropped. I seen to remember another empire where life expectancy dropped, first slightly, then fell off a cliff.
When I tried to explain the idea of the fnord to my wife last night, she only became agitated. A second sign.
I'm off to reread "The Eye in the Pyramid". A third sign?

12/8/16, 8:03 PM

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
Thank you to...
@NomadicBeer (me too, trying to figure out the livelihood thing),
@econojames & @latheChuck (yep, I'm a fermenter too, gonna try beets next. Go Wild Fermentation! and +1 for the reminder to stock up on certain household goods like canning supplies),
@Wendy Crim (there seem to be a few of us Wendys around, haha)
@Vesta (the details about how to go about upgrading for efficiency are helpful. I've got the number of a local company that does such things and will call them soon to help me evaluate my home)
@RUKidding (when you say "our growing arts scene" I wonder if you're in Sac. A shy wave from Yolo County if you are :) )
@Robert Mathiesen (the article on the Oakland underground art "thing" was fascinating and definitely points to that warehouse's use as more than just "tenement.")

I appreciate the reminders that even though steps taken might be small, they're steps in a good direction.

12/8/16, 8:13 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Caryn, the pendulum metaphor works; in fact, it's very close to the classic Taoist thesis that yin is born when yang reaches its maximum, and when yin reaches its maximum yang is born.

Redoak, there have been some very, very thoughtful Hegelians over the years, and by all accounts Kojeve was one of them. That said, I think an authoritative interpretation of Hegel is (a) as inaccessible as Shangri-La and (b) an irrelevance at this point. Fukuyama seems to have been Hegel's last hurrah -- and thank goodness!

Donald, true enough. With regard to your data point, that's something that a lot of people missed; the loss of jobs has been continuing, and getting worse. It's not a static thing -- and that's one of the things that's driven the working class to revolt.

RAnderson, again, we'll see. As I've noted before, it would take very little for the Trump administration to be an improvement over its recent predecessors; if Trump can extract the US from the Syrian mess, stand down generally from the endless wars in the Middle East, ditch some trade treaties, and maybe reenact Glass-Steagall, I'll consider it a step in the right direction.

Matthias, so noted. I tend to have my doubts that the philosophical themes you've suggested would be of interest to most of my audience, but I'd be willing to be convinced otherwise; any comments pro or con from the rest of the readership?

Johannes, don't forget the Japanese Monju breeder reactor, which is apparently about to be shut down as well, having turned into a money pit in the usual way.

RUKidding, delighted to hear it. As we used to say back in the day, "'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds."

David, the fact that the comment got so telling a response says to me that clearer thoughts are beginning to slip in. "At least then people would have food..." The gap between the fantasy of progress and the reality is beginning to be noticed. To my mind, that's immensely hopeful.

Mayinoh, delighted to hear it! I'd certainly encourage readers either to support your project or to buy and send copies to the politicians and pundits of their choice.

Rita, delighted to hear it. I never had the pleasure of meeting Wilson, and I've long regretted that. As for Scotland, I hope so. I know it's none of my business, as I'm not a resident, and my reaction is pure sentimentality, but roughly half my ancestry comes from Scotland and if it becomes its own nation again, I plan on buying a bottle of the most expensive scotch I can possibly afford, and drinking toasts with my friends while we sing O Flower of Scotland off key.

Troy, Steve Jackson Games also published the wickedly funny Illuminati card game, so I'm not at all surprised they issued the Principia. Yes, I played Illuminati, and yes, I still make references from time to time to the Fnord Motor Company and the Orbital Mind Control Lasers...

12/8/16, 8:14 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Ganv, it's surprisingly common for people who think they're in favor of competition, as you are, to forget that there's a mode of competition between the economic and the military modes. That's political competition, and tariffs and other trade barriers are among the classic tools of effective political competition between nations. Look at the way that first Japan and then China built up their industrial economies behind trade barriers; the US did exactly the same thing between 1861 and 1945, and it worked extremely well in all three cases (and others as well).

Panda, thanks for this! The fact that these are lumped together as "jobs" in the abstract, when they have essentially none of the benefits of the steady jobs they replaced, is an example of the way that excessive attention to quantitative data at the expense of qualitative data produces bad analysis.

Coboarts, the thing I've noticed consistently is that conspiracy-based analyses of current events pretty consistently lead to inaccurate predictions. Do you recall how, until a little over a month ago, all the conspiracy-based analysts were insisting that the Deep State would prevent Trump from being elected? That's the kind of mistake I mean, and there have been a lot of them. (Engdahl in particular has, if I recall correctly, a long string of whoppers to his credit.) Thus I'd suggest that you reconsider the matter.

Juhana, exactly. People vote their interests; they don't vote for what elites think their interests ought to be, especially when their interests conflict directly with what the elites want. We're a ways further from warband territory here than you are, at least at the moment, but we'll see.

Eric, yes, I know. These days a lot of my ideas somehow appear in various corners of the mainstream media, without attribution. No complaints; the ideas are getting out there, which is what matters.

Izzy, point taken! There was a certain naive idealism common in those days, and long extinct in ours, that made statements like Wilson's seem to make sense.

Maria, I'm familiar with the cliodynamics theories. If they impressed me, I would have cited them. They don't, so I didn't. Tell you what; if you turn out to be wrong, and we don't get a dictatorship and/or World War 3 in the next four years, will you admit that?

Morfran aka Rumighoul, I don't at all object to the label of conservative; I consider myself a moderate Burkean conservative, after all. No doubt Wilson and I would disagree sharply about the value of technological progress, not to mention the value of Timothy Leary's contributions to 20th century thought -- I think you had to know the man or something; I've never been particularly impressed. Even so, by all means seek a synthesis -- just remember that parenthesis and paralysis follow in due order!

Ed-M, Russian history from 1900 to 2000 makes a very good example of the five stages of the Discordian theory of history, no question.

David, glad to hear it! Much success this time around...

12/8/16, 8:33 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Ian, I'll retain a certain skepticism until we see what that discussion accomplishes. Identical panel discussions were a common feature of the ASPO conferences I attended, and have you noticed how much they accomplished in practical terms? I'll list the results below:

Steve, true enough. I tend to challenge his value judgments about existence -- like all value judgments, I'd argue, those are irreducibly personal -- but his analysis of consciousness and its objects, will and its grades, and so on? Brilliant and, to my mind, utterly convincing.

Rapier, if you want to insist that it should not have been a liberal project, I won't argue with you for a moment. Unfortunately, it was a liberal project, because liberal parties, politicians, and pundits bought into neoliberalism hook, line, and sinker, accepting an improvement in conditions for a variety of minorities in exchange for turning a blind eye to the cascading economic injustices of the neoliberal project. That said, of course there's a distinction, and it's worth making.

Donalfagan, be glad you weren't doing involuntary Hegel exercises. To judge by his writings, those involve vast amounts of gas.

Tim, excellent! True; linear progress is a temporary condition at best, and what follows on the heels of each civilization in history is not a bigger, shinier civilization, but a dark age from which some new civilization must build all over again from scratch.

Peter, yep -- people always get agitated the first time they see the fnords. The third, fourth, and fifth signs will not be long delayed. ;-)

12/8/16, 8:52 PM

Yucca Glauca said...
JMG, regarding what you said to Matthias, I'd also be interested in those philosophical themes. I'm particularly interested in Neoplatonism, your reading of Schopenhauer, and your own philosophy that you mentioned as "a theme for a different day" to Silent Otto.

Pinku-Sensei, if I still remember come next year, I'll celebrate Wester. I've done the occasional pilgrimage involving bowling alleys and hot-dogs before, so that'll fit right in.

12/8/16, 9:54 PM

Morfran Anónimo said...
Hi John Michael,

I think parenthesis and paralysis did follow pretty swiftly after my initial exposure to your writing, to be honest. What I liked about Wilson was essentially the clarity of his writing, his humour and his overall attitude to life, and it only took a few hard shoves from yourself on the subjects of resource limits, likelihood of space travel etc for the residual regard for his Leary-themed techno optimism to topple. I don't think I was ever all that convinced by it but didn't want to admit that to myself at the time. I never got into Leary's books either by the way, probably for the same reason of his writing style or lack of.

I'll always have time for what I still like about Wilson though, and would be happy to revisit some of his books now.

I meant "Conservatism" in a good sense of course and knew you oughtn't object. That's another thing I've gotten from this blog; I come from a strongly socialist/liberal/progressive-aligned "tribe" or social milieu, and your explicit presentation of Burke's ideas and critique of unthinking Progress-oriented approaches to life has helped me sort out a few things. I realised I have probably always had a Conservative side of my own that warrants exploration, even if friends and family don't like the word.

12/8/16, 11:50 PM

grisom said...
On Hegel's gas: I am reliably informed by William James that Hegel makes perfect sense if you've inhaled enough nitrous oxide.

Matthias and JMG: to my taste, anything about Neoplatonism belongs on the other blog. But I would definitely be interested in what we can learn from the Chinese Dark Ages—China has been really good at weathering collapses.

12/9/16, 12:20 AM

Twilight said...
For a moment I was worried you were going to suggest there is an order to this thing! I was quite relieved to get back to cycles of chaos.

12/9/16, 3:31 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

This evening whilst I was supervising the chickens in the orchard, a massive and fat looking wombat turned up. At one point the very happy wombat was so deep in grass that it just sort of lay down in the long grass and just started chewing and moving its head around so that it could reach the feed. Honestly, it's face was full of vegetative matter. Fortunately I had the camera readily to hand.

Hmm, my mind is circling around the story idea of a wombat and entropy. If you have any further ideas I'd appreciate them?



12/9/16, 4:00 AM

Kevin Warner said...
I suppose that repetitive patterns of so-called solutions should not be surprising as the same sort of answers are only ever tried, even if they fail again and again such as fossil fuel alternatives mentioned here. This is all reminding me of the bloke trying to fix a problem and is convinced that only a hammer will do because There Is No Alternative. Thus he keeps going back to his tool box and gets out a claw hammer, a ball pein, a sledge hammer, a wooden mallet, a rubber hammer, a power hammer - in short, anything but trying any of the other tools in his tool box.
I have to say too that in reading over this essay that at times I am very dubious about some efforts to assign patterns and 'themes' to the study of history in that in can end up like the six blind men and the elephant ( You end up with a partial picture that does not reflect the full reality as may be the case with Hegel's three stages which was extended by the Discordians to five stages.
I think that in the end that we are going to have to junk historical, economic and political theories and just do stuff that works - Retrotopia style. If it works, then you keep doing it. It it fails (e.g. austerity) then you forget it and try something else until you find something that works. A bit like how the scientific method is suppose to work. We could do worse than to try this approach.
For a bit of light relief and as the essay is on philosophers, may I recommend the film clip at for a demonstration of philosophers in a possible real life situation?

12/9/16, 5:10 AM

Bill Pulliam said...
It's your turn to fix lunch!
Oh no, meatloaf again?

12/9/16, 6:37 AM

Eric S. said...
@JMG: I went and looked up cliodynamics just to see what it was. Hmm... reducing the entirety of human social history from population ecology, to politics, to the arts down to mathematical models... Is it a coincidence that it reminded me a lot of Noology from the Weird of Hali books, or was that intentional?

12/9/16, 6:39 AM

ganv said...
"Ganv, it's surprisingly common for people who think they're in favor of competition, as you are, to forget that there's a mode of competition between the economic and the military modes. That's political competition."
First, I am not 'in favor' of competition. I simply observe the reality that those that win the economic, military, (and political) competition control the resources that we all depend on. And those who think they can remove the competition from reality are deceiving themselves.

Sure, political competition is important. But it hasn't been successful in taming economic competition. In earlier times with much more difficult communication and transportation, some used politics to isolate their economies from global competition. That is great if you can win the economic competition by using political action inside a country to ensure highly competitive industries. But it is nearly useless to win the political competition and lose the economic competition. What usually happens is that political convenience causes governments to shield their non-competitive industries from global competition. Without competition, industries don't innovate and fall further behind. If you can use political action to spur strong industry in a closed economy, that would be great. But the much bigger lesson from history is the Soviet Union and before that Japan and China who failed badly trying to do this. I am not claiming the Anglo forces pushing trade on the far east were 'good'. Just that they won the competition and politics didn't help those were behind economically and militarily.

12/9/16, 6:42 AM

onething said...

"Naming vociferous science deniers to positions of greatest influence... "

I agreed with your post and have the same big worry, but please consider that calling people who disagree on the interpretation of data science deniers is not useful, and leaves you in an echo chamber. It is neither fair nor true, and is an ad hominem that prevents progress in discussion.

12/9/16, 6:53 AM

Jay Moses said...
discordianism, bokononism, scientology, pastafarianism, church of the subgenius, rastafarianism, dudism. so many religions, so little time. to this incomplete list of parody religions should be added economics and the church of endless growth.

sadly, parody and satire just can't keep up with events. you literally can not make this stuff up.

12/9/16, 6:56 AM

Troy Jones said...
Oh, yeah, the Illuminati card game was great. SJG printed a full-color edition of it a few years ago. I should go see if my local board-game and comic-book store has a copy-- would make a good Christmas present for someone I know.

12/9/16, 7:18 AM

onething said...

"I mean politically I understand why neither Republican nor Democratic congresspersons have approached a solution, but what is in it for the rank and file? How does anyone imagine that they are benefited by more competition for jobs, university admissions, housing and so forth?"

Their way of thinking is just not in the realm of connecting their ideals and ideas to reality. They do not think concretely about it. I have some neighbors who go to Mexico every winter and are thus completely against any immigration law. Why? Because they like Mexicans! I happen to like them quite a bit myself but that's really not the issue. They can't see that. And they don't believe they are taking jobs because "they do jobs Americans don't want." Except that when you go to an area where there are no Mexicans, or no blacks for that matter, the workers in McDonald's are white. White people used to do seasonal produce picking but it paid better.
Another issue they brought up is that we stole a large chunk of land from Mexico. Now that is true and it was outright theft, but I have pointed out that it was not as if the ancestors of today's Mexicans once had a country or a civilization there. It was a battle of the new colonial powers. Mexico was Spain's colony. And if Mexico one day takes it back I will say tit for tat, but in the meanwhile we are a nation of certain boundaries and we should act like it.

12/9/16, 7:36 AM

Ben Johnson said...
@ JMG - Hahaha! Illuminati is a great game! It always amused me (especially now that I work for one), that local police departments were rated as having no 'Power'!

12/9/16, 8:01 AM

Matt said...

your advice looks really valuable. Any pointers to more detailed instructions?

I hadn't considered sealing the roof - doesn't that create potential for condensation?



12/9/16, 8:35 AM

Bob said...
Bob, okay, but does your model allow you to predict the behavior of social movements? To my mind, that's the point of a model -- it tells you what changes to expect. Your model of the peak oil movement, similarly, is far too simplistic to communicate anything useful to those who want to learn lessons from its failure, which again, is to my mind the point of the exercise.

The lesson to be learned from the Peak Oil movement is to refrain from making patently false predictions. World oil production was extremely unlikely to undergo a sharp drop due to the economic factors involved. I suppose an earlier lesson is not to draw a frequency distribution curve just for the sake of illustrating a topic.

Models are built on an analysis of past behavior and observations of the present. That doesn't mean they will turn out to be predictive tools. Consider Marxism as a model that describes socioeconomics. Can we use Marxism to predict the future? Only in a limited context. Marxism can be used to question the status quo, and to advocate alternatives, but it is useless in telling us how to get there. Leninism, Maoism, Stalinism and the like are all failed attempts at seat-of-your-pants social engineering. The intentions may have been noble (Trotskyists will dispute this), but the complexities proved insurmountable.

My tug-of-war analogy draws upon the Marxian view of antagonistic social relations, which isn't unique to Marxism when applied to other contexts. It assumes that human beings will act in their perceived self interest. It assumes they will act individually and in groups. For Marxists, this is expressed in terms of Labour vs. Capital, Wages vs. Profits, etc. They describe these relationships as being in conflict due to their opposing interests. For example, the archetypal employee should want to receive the highest possible wage for the least amount of work. The archetypal employer should want to pay the lowest wage while extracting the greatest amount of work. The actual situation is a compromise between those ideals, which will depend on the relative bargaining power of the participants. An economy with high unemployment would tend to favour the employer, leading to lower pay and harsher working conditions. And vice versa. Hence there is tension.

What some would deride as Marxism others would conclude is common sense. It doesn't take a Marxist to be familiar with the concept of overreach and backlash. These are lessons that can be learned through observation, or from history, if one is willing to learn.

If a relationship is antagonistic, some form of countervailing force is required to keep it stable or balanced. Removing the bargaining power of labour is analogous to removing the governor in a steam engine. The incentives exist to drive our economic system out of control.

Can my tug-of-war analogy be used as a model to predict the behavior of social movements? Of course not. There are psychosocial dynamics within social movements that affect its development and conduct. Maintaining solidarity and remaining on target as far as objectives are concerned is an ideal. Sometimes the objective(s) is an ideal. You have covered this and more in previous essays.

That being said, what does philosophy offer in terms of prediction? How many angels will be dancing on the head of a pin? At least that prediction is specific. I'm having trouble seeing what role philosophy plays in generalized predictions. There is the precautionary principle but that is usually ignored...

The philosophy of our species appears to be a form of pragmatism. Learning lessons "the hard way" is a feature, not a bug.

12/9/16, 8:59 AM

grisom said...
On the "religion of progress" front, everyone will be pleased to hear about this recent tech conference:

'Many groups and individuals today celebrate "innovation" ... such as Walter Isaacson’s recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

This conference takes a different approach ... that could be titled The Maintainers: How a Group of Bureaucrats, Standards Engineers, and Introverts Made Technologies That Kind of Work Most of the Time. Conference participants ... share an interest in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world.'

12/9/16, 9:33 AM

zaphod42 said...
Of course, y'all must know that Hegel's {?musings?) were his feeble attempt to explain motion... Zeno's paradox, Parmenides and all that. It is interesting how they were picked up, chewed upon, and, undigested, spewed out as politico/historical theory.

Those wondering whether any of this is new need to review the ideas propounded by the Greeks... Science, astronomy, logic, mathematics... all were available. Anaximander would have been comfortable today! And yet, they fell at their zenith. We seem on course for another repeat.

A strange species, Homo Sapiens. I wonder whether they will be missed.


12/9/16, 9:53 AM

Joe McInerney said...
JMG- Re:Standing Rock
Thank you for your recognition of the 3200 veterans figure. On my way home I listened to an AP report that said there were HUNDREDS of protestors at the Sacred Stone camp. There were 10,000 of us and I have many pictures to prove it. I stopped at the veterans rally point on the way in, full size bus after full size bus full of them, and I agree, they did mark a turning point. We went from evacuation deadline enforced by guns to a fragile victory. Law enforcement physically withdrew within an hour of the announcement by the Corps of Engineers. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all those heroes. No one knows what happens from here, but many of us will return as soon as necessary and the Oceti Sakowin remain vigilant.

Also, I always thought the reason I couldn't understand what on earth Hegel was defining Spirit as in Phenomenology of Spirit was because I was missing something. Good to learn Schopenhauer agreed. That was a very enlightening essay JMG.

12/9/16, 10:08 AM

Chris Larkin said...
When I encounter to end of histories, continuous curves, or any perfect stable state, I think of I-330’s quote from We, “Then how can you speak of a final revolution? There is no final one. Revolutions are infinite.”

I myself follow a more lifecycle approach when it comes to rise and fall of movements, ideologies, and subcultures. They wax and wane noisily over time though rough childhoods where the initial canon and concepts are made, maturity where they make their greatest accomplishments, and then a decline into irrelevance, self-parody, and/or destruction. I never liked Hegelian thought for not only the reasons you outlined, but also how the common treatment that thesis and antithesis arrive as fully formed formal concepts where they are in fact amorphous bubbling beings.

12/9/16, 10:16 AM

pygmycory said...
Maxine Rojers, I use lizard urates/poop on my miniature orchids and christmas cactus. They LOVE it. I keep it well away from my veggies and fruit though, since lizards can carry reptilian salmonella. Anything I might possibly eat gets bought organic fertilizer and home-made compost.

12/9/16, 10:59 AM

pygmycory said...
My big project for this year was scraping together meaningful savings in case the next stairstep down brings major impacts on my personal life (like losing my joblet, losing disability status, having my rent jump by half, or some combination of the above). The last one did a major number on me, since it co-incided with my health falling apart and inability to find work I was able to do. That is not something I want to experience ever again without more of a float.

It turned out better than I had dared hope, since work was wanting as many hours as I could manage, the minimum wage went up by $0.40 CAN per hour, the disability allowance went up by $25 CAN/month, plus I ended up doing some tutoring and started selling a little handspun yarn. It has been very difficult at times, but worth it in terms of peace of mind.

12/9/16, 11:15 AM

Kristoffer Kavallin said...
As a reader from Sweden, I can only agree with Matthias Gralle
I would love to read more on topics less connected to current US affairs.
It's not uninteresting, just not as relevant to me as it is to your US readership. (Even though Swedish media made me think we where the 55th state running up to the election...)

I would have no problems reading more about any of the philosophical topics mentioned.
I have read most of your books and After Progress and Blood of the Earth are high on my favourites list.

12/9/16, 11:16 AM

Maxine Rogers said...
Hi Temporary Reality Wendy,

I think the very best thing we did to get ready for collapse was to get rid of our van 4-plus years ago. That saved a lot of money in insurance, gas and repairs/servicing. It also caused our thinking to slow down and our consumption with it.

The other thing I really love is our pressure canner. I can make a vast vat of clam chowder(we are right by the sea) or poultry stock or baked beans and then pressure can it. The soup and beans are a life saver when we are tired or ill and the stock is so much better than anything it is possible to buy. It makes soup very quick to prepare with some vegetables and herbs from the garden. We can have super nutritious food for pennies a bowl using the pressure canner.

No one needs a pressure canner 100% of the time so this might be something to go in on with some friendly households to share expenses.

I hope this is useful to the Collapsenik Community!
Yours under the snowy red cedars,
Max Rogers

12/9/16, 11:27 AM

pygmycory said...
I have owned exactly one of those office-type cylinder skirts, courtesy of my stepmother. I no longer do, as I came to loathe it so much I practically never wore it and eventually gave it to the thrift store. The fact I couldn't take a decent stride in it made me feel vaguely unsafe and like I couldn't breathe.

As for pantyhose, they can be quite useful: for preventing fry from getting sucked into a power filter or for keeping baby crickets from escaping their container.

12/9/16, 11:53 AM

Nancy Sutton said...
Wendy ... cheap... Food: potatoes, cabbage/cole (these are 'weeds' that you can have forever), chickens. Heat: buy all the old wool clothing you can find at thrift stores (store away from moths) House: masking tape on window, etc. cracks; google 'bubble wrap window insulation (rolls are dirt cheap on eBay) for how to put on (with a sprinkle of water!) and remove. Money? the irreducible costs (for us) are taxes and insurance... everything else we can go cheap... there is a TON of DIY self-suffiency stuff on-line... no need to be clueless or reinvent the wheel :)

12/9/16, 11:55 AM

Nancy Sutton said...
And, re: Rapier et al, here's a detailed, painful retelling of exactly (if it's unbiased) telling of how the Democratic Party took a 'right' turn after the 60's (sorry if this is redundant):

Also, I think they learned they needed Wall St $$$ to ever win the presidency after Reagan/Bush popularity and M Friedman brainwashing. I believe it was Bill Clinton's 'third way', DLC, etc. that left the liberal Democratic party in the dust.

And now for the third chapter (counting from FDR)... exciting times :)

12/9/16, 12:02 PM

Happy Panda said...
Here is another link to gathering Discordia in the U.S.

The return of the Tenant farmer who rents the land he/she farms from the proto-feudal landlord.

12/9/16, 12:40 PM

pygmycory said...
I would enjoy looking into historical dark ages and late imperial eras other than the late roman one. A broader view would be valuable in understanding the location of the error bars on the graph of collapse. By that I mean, the broad parameters of where we're heading, and some of the possible courses we might take within that. I'm also interested in the fate of provinces of falling empires during historical collapses.

The philosophy ones I'm not very interested in.

12/9/16, 2:15 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Nastarana,

There is a well established population of deer up here in the mountain range. They live deep in the forest, but obviously they have to drink water at the farm dams (which I don't have - and that is just another reason why not (also the dams attract deadly poisonous snakes)) and the deer eat the herbage in the meadows and road sides.

My belief is that there used to be a deer farm in the valley below way back in the day and when the people sold up, move on, went bust – or whatever, they let the deer loose into the forest.

To be honest though, if the deer managed to establish a population despite the considerable difficulties that they would have faced, then they are taking advantage of an ecological niche which is in this forest. They're really consuming a lot of vegetation and turning that into manure which should enrich the soils of the forests, plus their tracks will be starting to open up the forest in ways that the marsupials can't or won't do. The deer just have to remember to keep off my apple trees as they eat the bark off them for some strange reason but then that is why I keep dogs who know how to work in a pack.

Hi Caryn,

Exactly. If they win, then they lose. ;-)! That is the unfortunate joke on all of us. The trick really for the long term is to come up with a game for the kids where they have to work out how to produce more than they consume. That is not as easy to do as you'd think.



12/9/16, 3:45 PM

Tidlösa said...

My problem with Hegel (and his black sheep disciple Marx) is precisely that the "dialectic" seems to end at some point. My take on the synthesis is that it´s never perfect, always contradictory, and precisely for that reason gives rise to an antithesis - the antithesis is a product of the synthesis´ own contradictions. (In the Marxist version, capitalism gives rise to its own grave-diggers, the proletariat) But if so, why does the process suddenly end? And when it ends, why does it always end with an ideal state, rather than simply decompose completely - a more realistic scenario? Hegel´s philosophy strike me as a curious pantheist version of - surprise - Christianity, while Marxism is a materialist version of Hegelianism. Fukuyama is simply world history repeating itself twice, second time as farce.

For those interested in Hegel (what´s *wrong* with you guys, ha ha), I can recommend two books. "Hegel Myths and Legends" is a valiant attempt to defend Hegel. It contains the claim that the scheme thesis-antithesis-synthesis really comes from one Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus, a German philosopher completely forgotten today. Calling Hegelianism "Chalybäusianism" does have a certain Discordian ring to it, a bit like screaming "Heil Schicklgruber".

Then there´s "Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition", which makes the claim that Hegel was really an esotericist! Could be of some interest to the less Discordian sub-set of ADR´s readership, or to those more infatuated by "the other blog".

Combining Schopenhauer and Jung? Sounds scary, although The World as Will and Misrepresentation is a keeper! But by all means, please attack Heidegger...

12/9/16, 3:51 PM

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
Forgive me if this is a duplicate post - bungled an html string and got an error.

Re: my original post about what folks are doing to prepare for a time of increasing energy expense, I think I'd like to further refine what I (thought I) was asking. I am aware of the larger categories of how to collapse early (also see this checklist on the Green Wizard's site for a bulleted list of things one can do).

I'm making my way (somewhat haphazardly, but still) through items on the list and their derivatives.

And maybe it's a fool's question, to ask specfiically what one can do with cheap energy now that will be difficult, out of reach, when energy is scarce and expensive, but that's the direction I'd attempted originally. Obviously energy is wrapped up in everything (energy costs for imported goods: learn to make things with local materials, energy costs associated with food production (growing, fertilizing, shipping): learn to garden). BUT, beyond that is kind of where I'm pointing -- if there's a way to answer it.

In that regard, while cooking for myself now is a good thing, it's not something that utilizes "inexpensive" energy now in hopes of a later benefit.

I thought Vesta's info was helpful - and prompts me to not assume I can't afford to make efficiency upgrades now but to actually get an estimate of costs.

Along those lines maybe - learn to raise poultry now and determine or generate local feed sources. Or purchase ... phosphate garden amendments ( (?) that's the one we're likely to see declines in in the near future, right?). One of the things I did this year was source used food grade IBCs (bulk containers for shipping liquids) that I converted into rainwater catchment. One is nearly full and the other will be filling shortly). In the future it might be harder to transport them (or get them, when shipping liquids around the world is more difficult). Also, I would think decent gardening tools would be a good investment - or other non-electric general tools as well.

I don't know if I'm differentiating it well enough, my interest in the things related more directly to energy costs than the larger 'make yourself more resilient' set of things to be done. ?

Maybe this would be better discussed at Green Wizards, but I beg our host's pardon for carrying it on here - I know lots of readers here aren't on the GW site.

12/9/16, 3:55 PM

Justin said...

We know that things are getting really bad now that nuclear fusion 'totally works guys'

12/9/16, 7:03 PM

Pinku-Sensei said...
Ah, but which solstice gets which holiday? At first, I was not amused by your suggestion, as I thought one parody holiday was enough. Then I slept on it and not only was I OK with it, I decided that Norther would come after the Winter Solstice and Souther would come after the Summer Solstice. Why would a lemming visit in the middle of summer? Norther would usually have little competition for holidays, at least in the U.S., most of the time. Next year, it would fall on January 15th, the day before MLK Day. Not a bad three-day weekend! Souther, on the other hand, falls in more crowded field. Next year, it would be July 16th, after a long series of patriotic holidays, Canada Day, 4th of July, and Bastille Day. Oh, well, why not another reason to celebrate?

As for the animals' actions, lemmings could stampede off a cliff and drop presents into the sea. I don't know what a stereotypical wombat thing to do is other than be the alternative to a panda for a joke about an animal that "eats roots, shoots, and leaves." Maybe eats roots, shoots, and leaves presents?

12/9/16, 7:18 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Yucca, so noted.

Morfran, glad to be of service!

Grisom, that makes a great deal of sense -- a lot of really goofy things seem to make sense when you're sufficiently buzzed!

Twilight, funny. No, it's chaotic turtles all the way down... ;-)

Cherokee, I was thinking of the Wombat of Entropy more in terms of symbol than story. "Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, the Wombat of Entropy is nibbling away..."

Kevin, oh, granted -- any intellectual construct can turn into a Procrustean bed. The trick is to use them purely as a tool for understanding when that's appropriate, and to always have multiple options to try onto any given situation.

Bill, nicely done. Thank you!

Eric, it's somewhere in between. The attitude of relentless quantification that undergirds cliodynamics is very widespread, and that was indeed one of the things that inspired the fictional science of noology in my novel.

Ganv, that is to say, completely closed borders are at least as big a mistake as completely open ones. I won't argue with that at all. The winning combination, rather, seems to be to allow economic competition within a framework established by political competition -- again, that's what turned the US from a third world agrarian nation in 1865 to a world power in 1945.

Jay, I've thought for years now that the most difficult job on earth has to be that of staff writer for a satire magazine such as The Onion. How on earth do you stay more absurd than real life?

Troy, glad to hear it's been reprinted!

Ben, now that's funny. Thank you.

12/9/16, 7:51 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bob, as someone who was involved in the peak oil scene very nearly from day one, I still find your description embarrassingly simplistic. As for models, to my mind, if they don't produce accurate predictions they're a waste of paper. Yes, I would include Marxism in that!

Grisom, hmm! That seems uncommonly sensible.

Zaphod, nah, the zenith came centuries before the fall. That's usually the way of it. By the time Greece fell into Roman hands the glory days of Greek philosophy were well in the past; by the time Rome fell and dragged the entire classical world down with it, the entire intellectual heritage of the classical world was either mummified or pushing up daisies.

Joe, the US government is afraid of one thing more than anything else, and that's the kind of spark that could trigger a domestic insurgency here in the US. A vast amount of US policy for the last decade can best be understood as (a) desperate preparations for such an event, and/or (b) equally desperate attempts to fend such an event off for at least a little longer. The lesson I'd offer activists in this regard? Make sure, when you confront the system, that you can offer it a credible threat of an uprising if they respond with violence. It worked for the Bundy brothers, it worked for the DAPL protest, and it'll work for others...

Chris, and that's also a valid model. I rather like "amorphous bubbling things," by the way, though that may just be because I've read a lot of Lovecraft recently.

Kristoffer, so noted!

Panda, this country has always had a lot of tenant farmers. The advantage is that this allows people without much capital to get started farming. Protofeudal? Sure -- but then, as I pointed out in a previous post, there are good reasons why feudalism emerges whenever a civilization falls apart.

Pygmycory, so noted.

Tidlösa, my take is that Jung was significantly influenced by Schopenhauer, as indeed was the entire central European psychological movement; once you start talking about the world as representation, you're going to start noticing that the representations have a great deal to do with the perceiving mind, and that leads to the discovery of the unconscious and its projections. That said, Jung subtitled one of his major books as a deliberate Hegel reference -- "researches into the phenomenology of the Self" is a nod to "Phenomenology of Spirit," though it's also a dig in Hegel's direction.

Justin, funny. The contradiction between the article and the headline is particularly choice.

Pinku-sensei, we'll have to ask Cherokee for advice on the behavior of wombats. I admire them but have no personal experience of them!

12/9/16, 8:07 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
Zaphod, JMG, a point of definitions... doesn't the fall HAVE to begin at the zenith? Otherwise, it wouldn't be the zenith, would it? Perhaps you are distinguishing between gradual decline and full blown fall. But as was much discussed here in the earlier years, the fall of a civilization happens in fits and starts, and takes multiple generations, even multiple centuries. Hence in hindsight the zenith will always be seen to have occurred just before the beginning of the fall...

12/9/16, 9:05 PM

Keith Huddleston said...
I'll add myself to the list of people happy to read more philosophy pieces here on the Report.

I too see Nietzsche as a spice for the dish, and would love to read a piece about Schopenhauer.

12/9/16, 9:43 PM

KL Cooke said...
Jessi Thompson

"...raised by hippies, I understand more about that time than most of my generation, but alas, not having been there, I know there's a lot I will never understand)...I will say copious amounts of drugs very rarely yield a good idea..."

That's really all you need to understand about that time.

(A 1966 Haight-Ashbury "original.")

12/10/16, 1:04 AM

KL Cooke said...


"...if 'pantsuits' is or are to be a topic here, let me say that I know of no more useless garment than "business casual" trousers for women. They are neither functional like jeans or looser work pants, nor have they the chic and elegance of a well made skirt. They conceal almost nothing; one might as well be wearing a miniskirt for all the freedom of movement one (does not) have, especially when sitting. Finally, on all but the slimmest women, they are neither comfortable nor flattering, and if you have a lumpy figure, which most of us do, you still have to wear the hated pantyhose under them."

Here's a picture worth a thousand words.

12/10/16, 1:51 AM

Chevaliermalfait said...
hmmm maybe somewhat related:

12/10/16, 5:29 AM

David, by the lake said...
@temporaryreality (Wendy)

I'll toss in my own two cents with respect to what my wife and I are doing at present to adapt. We are each pursuing crafts that pique our interests -- hers are primarily artistic and she has a definite knack for beauty, form, and color. Mine are more varied: gardening, food preservation, bookbinding, letterpress printing, beer/wine making, cheese making, and banjo lessons.

We are also at the beginning of what we've dubbed our "five-year plan" to refurbish the small house my wife inherited from her mother (two blocks from ours) and downsize sufficiently to move in at the end of that time. I have the good fortune to have a decent income and a steady job at a local utility, and coupled with our modest lifestyle, we have the funds necessary for this project.

I've also been active in our community on our small city's planning commission for the past 6 years and, as noted earlier, I'm making a second attempt at getting on our city council. I think that involvement in local governance is important so that we can try to steer our communities toward more robust paths. (Just recently, the council approved an ordinance related to the keeping of chickens with city limits, an issue which originated at the planning commission b/c it involved zoning issues. I dubbed it the "Great Chicken Debate of 2016" as we had considerable discussion on the issue. Thumbnail summary: up to 6 hens, ten feet from property lines, coop no more than 10 feet tall, conditional use permit required for additional chickens beyond 6, $10 annual license per property. It was a reasonable compromise.)

I still have not been able to get a local green wizard group started, but I am making personal connections and have a small barter-and-trade network, as I've discovered that beer makes pretty good currency. Small steps...

12/10/16, 5:51 AM

Phil Knight said...
I suppose this is more pertinent to last week's post, but this is very, very good:

12/10/16, 6:35 AM

Bob said...
Bob, as someone who was involved in the peak oil scene very nearly from day one, I still find your description embarrassingly simplistic. As for models, to my mind, if they don't produce accurate predictions they're a waste of paper. Yes, I would include Marxism in that!

As someone who was casually interested in the peak oil scene (which is a better descriptor than 'movement'), you should find my description accurate. It depends on whose perspective you're interested in - those involved, or the wider audience.

The Marxist model (which is yet another perspective) can be used to criticize capitalism. Is there no utility in fault finding?

You've shown that philosophies of history are good for a laugh, and not good as predictive models. My tug-of-war model attempts to follow in that tradition.

Why the emphasis on formulating predictions?
A false prediction damages your credibility. A true one allows you to say "I told you so!" But was anything accomplished?
What can prudence accomplish?

12/10/16, 7:04 AM

Bob said...
(In the Marxist version, capitalism gives rise to its own grave-diggers, the proletariat) But if so, why does the process suddenly end?

It was not so. The proletariat has not shown itself to be the movement for change as Marx had predicted (envisioned). Thus the story ends here, or so it would seem. Do we discard the entirety of Marxist thought because of this failure?

p.s. I am not a Marxist.

12/10/16, 7:11 AM

Dan Mollo said...
I have a few comments on Cliodynamics. I think there are a few interesting ideas that at this stage seem to warrant further exploration, such as the concept of meta-ethnic frontiers and how they contribute to the development of large scale societies, as well the role of warfare and it's affect on in-group cooperation. I also think the Seshat project is a noble goal (for those of you who are not familiar, it is an attempt to organize all global historical, archaeological, cultural, and social publications in a digital format and on a single platform to make it more easily accessible for researchers, which would be impossible without the internet and data storage. Though I think this is exactly the type of thing the internet was built for, unfortunately this centralization on a digital platform will most likely not survive the decline of industrial civilization. Hopefully they will transfer all this information to a more durable medium.)

However, the inherent weakness of Cliodynamics, as stated previously, is the relentless drive to quantify history. Though this can help contribute to uncovering certain patterns and trends in historical processes by supplying hard data, it cannot stand alone in this regard. Historical narratives will always be incredibly important, and the peculiarities of cultural, religious and social development cannot be boiled down to an equation, as I think many proponents of Cliodynamics wish was the case. On several occasions, Peter Turchin in his work as criticized great works of history because they didn't back up their arguments with hard data. Well, does one need to supply data that Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon was significant, or for that matter actually happened in the first place? This type of thinking is unproductive. Dismissing other efforts as "old history" is also a baseless critique, as this implies that the work that went before is of no value, and that what is being done now is inherently better because of the simple fact that it is "new." Vico, Spengler, and Toynbee were able to construct valuable works of history that look at broad overall trends without quantifying everything in sight, and their work still stands the test of time.

Human interaction is a chaotic thing, and despite the insistence of many that the human-made world should make absolute sense, we will always only be able to uncover general patterns that give us a good approximation of historical processes, and at best help us anticipate future trends in a generalized way, but still leave plenty for us to scratch our heads about. I am not familiar with Discordianism, but as an effort to describe the chaos that is human existence, its basic assumptions seem better than most (or would it be correct that there are no assumptions in Discordianism, and that's the point?)

12/10/16, 8:14 AM

zaphod42 said...

"...the zenith came centuries before the fall. That's usually the way of it."

Are we now, then, centuries past our zenith? Or is the fall in the rather distant future? Perhaps we have a bit of time with which to preserve some significant portion of our higher culture and useable technologies, eh?

Books published with acid free paper, bound in leather, and having gold edging might help in the print world. How long do you think the "cloud" will last a major disruption. IMO, a solar flare might well be the 'black swan' that begins serious societal deterioration, taking out not only most hardware, but also a good bit of stored information. Some years back, I was told that the plastic and metal used in cd's had a fairly short shelf life as well.

I am collecting books of the sort described... in addition to the "100 best", I have maybe 50 others, mostly from used book stores. I plan to add to this library as much as possible, and pass it on to one of my grandchildren intact. Do you know a good source for similarly constructed science, math, etc., works? The encyclopedias that I have had in the past have not used the best materials, post EB, 1945ed. In addition to being snapshots, they are evidently designed to be replaced at about 20 year intervals.

Meanwhile, readying my house in the South for sale and a move to less repressive climes. Enjoying your blog. I would be interested in a (monthly?) bibliography.


12/10/16, 9:27 AM

[email protected] said...
Fascinating article, as usual, John!

I do get an increasing sense that the globalization trend that has so enriched the top 20% has peaked and is now in a serious crisis. Reading the FT and other prestigious legacy media organs is rather fascinating. They provide good analysis on what the problems are but appear incapable of providing any solutions or indeed, any alternate to the status quo.

I also agree with you on your analysis of Brexit e.g. that talks will go nowhere until the whole European project disintegrates making the whole thing a moot point. The Italian crisis does appear to have triggered the start of a broader crisis of the euro zone which is entering some very tough times in 2017.

In regard to Trump, I note that he is slammed the CIA this weekend on the alleged Russian intervention in the elections (even through there is no evidence to back it up).

It seems that the Democrats and the media are still doubling down on their attacks on Russia which is remarkably stupid even by their own standards. I am glad to see that Trump has, so far, made clear his contempt for the CIA's analysis.

I look forward to reading your peak oil analysis next week which in my minds barely got started before being knocked aside by the onset of the Great Recession in late 2008.



12/10/16, 9:58 AM

zerowastemillennial said...

Very late here, but my 2c are this: one of the most important things to do is prepare mentally, which, thankfully, is generally free. Ran Prieur, though much more apathetic and moderate now than he was when he first published his piece on how to drop off, made a very good point that I haven't seen made anywhere else. That is, practice being bored. Practice being OK with being bored - having to entertain yourself without gadgets and gizmos, having to live much more of your life and your thoughts in your own head. It's all well and good to have all the material parts down, but they won't help so much when the depression sets in at having so little "do" compared to what we're used to now.

And I'm likely preaching to the choir here, but de-digitize. Stop relying on apps, and start writing in calendars again, consulting static maps, paper bus schedules, and re-learn how to leave the house prepared.

Our rapidly degrading sense of navigation thanks to the use of GPS is a societal issue not to be taken lightly! An entire generation of people doesn't know how to read maps or trust their (weakening) sense of direction now. We'll need good navigators in the future.

12/10/16, 11:09 AM

jeffinwa said...
"Am I seriously suggesting that the drug-soaked ravings of a bunch of goofy California potheads provide a better guide to history than the serious reflections of Hegelian philosophers? Well, yes, actually, I am."

Love it; the wife and I are still laughing :)
Those late night *inspired* conversations really ran the gamut.

A panda walks into a bar;
eats shoots and leaves

12/10/16, 11:37 AM

Rita said...
On the subject of tenant farmers -- Along with your general comments on the probably fall of current elites, I would say that absentee landlords are particularly vulnerable. The early stages of feudalism pretty much rely on the land lord and his armed followers being on the land he claims to collect the rent and services that the tenants trade for protection from other lords or from the roving bandits. It is not until the central government begins to be reconstructed that there are courts and government officials to enforce payment to a distant owner.

I am reading an example of this in Sylvia Townsend Warner's novel _The Corner That Held Them_ about a 14th century convent in an obscure corner of England. The convent owns or claims rents from a number of different properties acquired as the dowries that families customarily gave to support the convent into which they were delivering their daughter. But the nuns are unable to collect rents from the more distant properties without lawsuits, which may cost more than they gain. You know that if people will cheat the brides of Christ during a devout period of history they will have no qualms about cheating Consolidated Agraland.

I seem to also recall violence and threats against bank agents during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. The government didn't fall apart then, but I can certainly see situations in which local sheriffs would refuse to enforce the "rights" of distant corporations or in which attempts to enforce such rights could lead to insurrection.

On a different note, a Republican columnist in my local paper (Sacramento Bee)referred to the Golden State's arrogance "as though we are America's lone path to enlightenment." Leaders of one of the few Democratic controlled state legislatures are talking about establishing state grants to pay the legal defense of illegal immigrants facing deportations and of forcing the federal government to get the approval of California voters for any wall on the southern border. The columnist, Bill Whalen, calls this an interesting twist on federalism. The latter idea is especially silly since the area around San Diego is already the site of extensive fencing, as any Google search will show.

(note to out of country readers--Sacramento is capital of California, which is nicknamed the Golden State for the 1849 Gold Rush. Our neighbor, Nevada, is the Silver State, after the Comstock Lode, and Arizona is the Copper State.)

12/10/16, 2:34 PM

Morfran Anónimo said...
Hi John Michael,

A final quick comment if that's alright.

You say:
"Only after paralysis is total do you get a new thesis, which sweeps away the rubble and kickstarts the whole process into motion again."

...Yes, that seems to really sum up your whole post; and its anyone's guess what parts, if any, of the erstwhile synthesis will be picked up in the beginnings of a new thesis, I'm presuming? And thus we have the chaotic and often destructive (Erisian) real-world element that will ceaselessly wash away at what any culture or individual or movement has to offer for our supposed betterment.

The only part of your post I'm not sure I got was when you talked at the end about "what happens to most movements for social change". Are you describing the economics-trumps-politics heart of liberalism as being in part a "movement for social change" in the sense normally meant (i.e. how green movements are those for social change too?)

One last glance at Wilson (sorry); it seems to me he would have really dug a lot of your philosophical and historical perspectives, and the individualist in him ought to have appreciated your views on technological progress, if not agreed. But where he seems in my view to have gone off to extremes was in his "addiction to utopia" in Israel Regardie's words - and not just a technological one. He continually sought to wake from what he saw as the nightmare of history. From Wilson's Promethus Rising:

"Whether we speak in terms of Taylor's Matrist-Patrist dialectic, Vice's cycle of Divine, Heroic and Urbanized ages, the Marx-Hegel trinity of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis, or any variation thereon, we are speaking of a pattern that is real and that does repeat. But it only does so to the extent that people are robotized: trapped in hard-wired reflexes....The current rampages of territorial-emotional pugnacity sweeping this planet are not just another civilization falling, Vico fashion. They are the birth-pangs of a cosmic Prometheus rising out of the long nightmare of domesticated primate history."

This touches brushes against your whole point about cycles of events and behaviour repeating and hardly anyone ever noticing, but from the perspective of someone who really thought this characteristic could be changed.


12/10/16, 2:43 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
This sems highly relevant to some of the practical questions raised in reply to this week's ADR:

12/10/16, 3:52 PM

Varun Bhaskar said...

Discordianism is the perfect philosophical description of India, except without a thesis.



12/10/16, 6:38 PM

Breanna said...
I too would love more philosophy-type posts. I've been reading you for a long time and I would remind you that you are often surprised by the positive reception such things get!

12/10/16, 7:05 PM

latheChuck said...
Wendy - Another idea on "how to spend now, while you can" is to haunt garage and estate sales, picking up things that were once useful, perhaps kept for decorative or sentimental purposes, but likely to be useful again. Save them from the trash, at least! For example, I saw a hand-cranked coffee grinder (but I don't drink coffee, so I didn't get it). I've bought none of my ham-radio station equipment from a dealer or store, it's all been used by someone else first.

If you find something that could support a future small business, that would be even better. For example, at today's "hamfest" (ham-radio flea market, with food and door prizes), one table featured a man with a tabletop machine for engraving name/call-sign tags. The machine was about 50 years old, just a pantograph, cutting tool, and a tray of brass templates: no electronics at all. The cutting tool was spun by a small electric motor, but could probably be powered like an old-time dentist's drill, with a foot pedal and drive belts. The guy needed 5-10 minutes to engrave a $10 badge, and seemed to be as busy as he wanted to be.

You might find a sewing machine (almost every estate sale around here seems to have at least one!), knitting needles, a manual typewriter, garden tools, workshop tools, lab equipment, etc.

12/10/16, 7:08 PM

Candace said...
I'm thinking this fits into the fourth stage.

Is there a reasonable alternative analysis of this? This is definitely reminding me of "red scare" stuff.

12/10/16, 7:17 PM

Grebulocities said...
I found the peak oil movement in 2012, just as fracking and tar sands were taking off and not long before peak oil fell off its own Seneca Cliff. Of course it will come back again in some new form the next time we end up with an oil supply shock, but the current movement has truly collapsed, except for isolated refugia like peakoilbarrel. I look forward to your discussion of what went wrong.

The thing that I found the most remarkable about it was the way sites like TOD and Energy Bulletin provided a forum for environmentalists and oilmen to come together and talk seriously about the long-term issues facing our society, with very little of the angry moralizing that has taken over most of our political discourse these days. I learned a lot from both camps, without having to pan through a whole lot of pointless bickering to get to the interesting stuff. When the Energy Bulletin turned into, the oilmen and other energy experts left and it turned into yet another one of those sites for privileged liberal environmentalists. Then TOD's death was the final death knell for most of the movement.

It's too bad - the internet desperately needs places where people of divergent backgrounds and beliefs come together and try to understand something important about the world, without yelling at each other loud enough to drown the facts out. I wonder what communities like that might still exist, even in our balkanized world, and how to cultivate them...

12/10/16, 8:23 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi JMG and Pinku-Sensei,

Ooo, I do like the idea of a Souther wombat minor deity. Very cool. And thanks for the suggestion.

More on wombats tomorrow evening! ;-)! I'm busy writing a day early this evening.



12/11/16, 2:44 AM

Bob said...
An interview with "Rosa Lichtenstein", who is anti-Hegelian. May be worth a read to those interested in far left politics; or if you remember her from the glory days at RevLeft forums.

12/11/16, 3:56 AM

Tidlösa said...

The short answer is that we should discard Marxism, since Marx´ criticism of capitalism was inherently connected to his idea that the proletariat is its grave-digger and will inevitably usher in socialism. If that´s wrong (and it is), a specifically Marxist criticism of capitalism seems pointless. Of course, a new criticism of capitalism can overlap with the Marxist criticism on a number of concrete points, but it would still not be the same thing, due to the "Hegelian" framework of the latter. For instance, a Green criticism of capitalism would overlap with Marxism on the question of exploitation and *perhaps* on the question of how crises happen, but the framework would be completely different and entail zero-growth, "collapse now and avoid the rush", no romantic notions of proletarian revolutions, no teleology, etc. This would be so different from Marxism that I think most Marxists, and rightly so, would view it as non- or even anti-Marxist!

12/11/16, 4:22 AM

Sylvia Rissell said...
Wendy the sock knitter,

One of the things to consider is what resources are required for your art/craft activities. For example, a 'normal' American gets socks from a store. Those socks came from knitting factories/mills, probably overseas. So, if there is a suppy interruption, no socks for the 'normal' American.

You now know how to knit socks, so you can buy yarn, and have socks to wear. (You now have more flexibility: buy socks OR buy yarn!)

Most of the craft store yarn (75% wool 25% nylon) that is worth knitting into socks comes from mills in Turkey or China, at least according to the lable. You will also find European and Amercan yarn in specialty stores. What if there is a supply interruption of sock yarn?

I have been considering unravelling thrift store sweaters, but the qualities that make a nice warm sweater don't make for a strong, durable yarn needed for socks. The qualites that make for a lousy sweater probably don't make good socks either. There is also the ethical issue of whether removing a quality sweater from circulation is or is not outweighed by the addition of 3-5 pairs of socks.

The solution would seem to be to learn to spin sock yarn, or team with a skilled spinner who can. This is more or less where I am stuck, and then your supply problem is the availability of quality wool to be spun into yarn to be knitted into socks.

Another example for the non-knitter: Cornbread. If the stove doesn't work, can I bake my bread in a dutch oven with charcoal? How about a solar box oven? If I can't get cornmeal, how about acorn flour?

tldr: simpler to go barefoot!

If you need a topic, I would like to read your thoughts on charity. It seems to be a part of building community, and supporting vulnerable members during hard times. However, there is the free-rider problem, and mathematical problem that with 7 billion people/1 planet there will one day actually be not enough to go around, and your attempt to feed your neighbor will starve you.

Who provides charity? In what form? To whom?

12/11/16, 4:22 AM

latheChuck said...
Yet another sign of our Gilded Age...

This week's Washington Post Sunday magazine section is dedicated to "Luxury: Inside Washington's High Life". Having failed at defeating Donald Trump, despite publishing both Democratic and Republican op-ed pieces against him for months, the Post now seems to have capitulated, saying this: "'Luxury' is not a word normally associated with Washington, the recent election of a gilt-loving billionaire as president notwithstanding. But as those of us who live here know, the region has transformed in the past decade. ... The capital city itself is more prosperous than at any time in recent memory. That prosperity is not shared equally, nor is it spread evenly across the region. But it continues to reshape the way Washington looks, the way it operates, and even the way it parties."

They've even selected a heavier paper stock, as if elegant advertising demands substantial paper behind the ink.

One of the "articles" features a gift shop, with a "loyal, well-heeled customer base... you might run into the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Renee Fleming, or Ellen DeGeneres browsing the treasure-filled warren of rooms."

This brings to mind the old Leninist phrase "heightening the contradictions", described elsewhere as: "the idea that you have to intentionally make conditions even more miserable than they are, so the people rise up and cast off the illegitimate rulers and replace them with you and your allies. Then the work of building a paradise can begin. (Paul Waldman, in

If the Post wanted to celebrate the senility of the elites, they've really outdone themselves this time! In Your Face, 99%-ers!!

12/11/16, 4:56 AM

David, by the lake said...
Translating to my own internal language, the theme of "the dialectic doesn't stop" corresponds to "there is no steady-state solution," which has been one of my bigger hurdles to overcome, psychologically. I've managed to get there, however, and reaching that point of acceptance has released me from a significant amount of stress. The idea of a "solution" really is just another manifestation of our hubris. Might as well try to measure the universe with a six-inch ruler ;)

12/11/16, 5:23 AM

trippticket said...
@ Zerowastemillenial:

Great advice of course. I used to employ an email tagline that encouraged recipients, among other admonitions, to embrace "behavioral innovation," as permaculture might state it. And I think it is probably the most important of the preparations.

I live on an organic farm, that I'm developing for a friend who owns the land, and he is one of the most jet-setting, gizmo-centric people I know, completely flabbergasted by how much time I can spend outside and offline. I would say I spend at least 8 hours a day out of doors and not online, and I am NEVER bored. If I took this guy's iPhone away I think he would probably die of boredom within a few days...

And I'll leave you with this: a week away from home on foot or horseback is just as far away from home as a week in a car or airplane is.

12/11/16, 5:54 AM

Merle Langlois said...
JMG, I can't find the reply you gave about the handful of philosophers and their ideas and their relation to peak oil that you mentioned as options to be discussed, but as a long time reader since 2008 and a buyer of your books and a tipper, I can say that I'm achin' for some philosophy. I mentioned before that I'd become bored of your "review" posts where you recap peak oil and resource limits, although I realize the necessity of bringing new kids up to speed. At one time, as a former believer that politics could get positive things done, I used to pine for you to talk about politics. Now that you've gotten collapse covered thoroughly and politics chipped away at, boring old philosophy would be a real treat. Just one person's opinion but to me the absolute most boring posts are about technology, however I'm just one people-person type nerd in a world of gadget-lovers and -likers.

12/11/16, 6:13 AM

Nastarana said...
About the tube skirts, if one means those skin tight knit things from the 90s, I think it was, those are an abomination. I think I might have made a straight skirt a few decades ago when I was teaching myself how to draw patterns. They can be marginally comfortable if made with enough ease, but skirts in general are among the easiest of all garments to make and fit.

Hello Cherokee, I wondered when the taipans and other serpents might show up at your farm. I had no idea that they are attracted by dams. Australia perhaps resembles Florida as a place with lots of ecological niches in which exotic species can thrive. Have you considered wrapping tar paper around your fruit tree trunks?

Maxine Rogers, Lehmans has made in USA pressure canners and cookers for around $250 for the smallest. I have been wondering if they would be worth the money. I can understand how, for a family, the pressure canner would easily pay for itself, especially if you can safely can things like tomato sauce for winter cooking.

Onething and Rita, about Democrats (Dumbocrats) and immigration, free movement of peoples across borders is a major component of the neo-liberal project. Credentialed professionals, I use the term advisedly, are a large part of the Democratic voting base, and their livelihoods are not threatened by immigration, or not yet. They owe their positions, let us not use so plebian a word as 'jobs', and social eminence to neo-liberalism, which seems to require a vast government apparatus to enforce its unpopular dictates.

12/11/16, 6:41 AM

gwizard43 said...
@ Grebulocities

"I look forward to your discussion of what went wrong."

Not forward - backward:

I miss TOD and Energy Bulletin, and I agree with your assessment of the vital role they played.

12/11/16, 9:06 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
@ Rita re state names: then when you get to New Mexico, metals give way to magic.

Pat, from the Land of Enchantment.

12/11/16, 9:40 AM

M Smith said...
After reading the zerohedge story, I had two thoughts:

1. Da*n, this is going to and in the future, as these crony consultant jobs multiply.

2. I must go replenish and purify my precious bodily fluids.

12/11/16, 1:44 PM

August Johnson said...
Nastarana - If you want to buy one of those All American Pressure Canners that Lehman's sells, go to the manufacturer's web store. Great prices! I have the 21 quart unit and they are fantastic. No rubber gasket to ever wear out. They'll last forever.

12/11/16, 2:45 PM

Kfish said...
Dear Sylvia and Wendy,

I am a sock knitter who has learned to spin sock yarn. You can start with either a spinning wheel or a drop spindle (instructions available on the Internet both for spinning and making spindles). The process is about as complicated as learning to ride a bike and you can produce very good yarn at home. You can also select different sheep breeds to change the qualities of your sock - Suffolk is very hard wearing and will not felt, while Merino is softer but will pill and felt more easily. Depending on where you are, you should be able to obtain sheep fleeces relatively easily from your local area. Many people in Australia on larger blocks of land have sheep or alpaca for keeping the grass down and will happily give away the fleeces.

12/11/16, 3:02 PM

latheChuck said...
Nastarana - You don't need a pressure-canner to preserve tomatoes, apples, or other fruit. They contain enough natural acids to suppress bacteria growth, so 30 minutes in a boiling water bath (near sea level, at least; high-altitude lowers the boiling temp.) is sufficient. Pressure canning is needed for low-acid foods, such as green beans and meats.

Also, for home canning to make economic sense, you need to have a source of raw food, and energy, that's either cheaper (or just more reliable) than the commercial food processors. Otherwise, you might just as well buy a year's supply of canned tomatoes when they go on sale (or maybe privately negotiate a large-quantity purchase).

I looked at self-contained multi-purpose (incl. pressure-canning, rice cooking, slow-cooking, etc.) appliances at Target today, and thought that I'd much rather have (as I do) cooking pots without the touch-panels, indicator lights, and microprocessor controls.

12/11/16, 3:37 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
@Nastarana - not, not those knit things, which I wouldn't wear for taking out the garbage. I mean woven, business suit material, tight with maybe a little pleat or split in back - in some cases where "professional" and "sexy" seem to be one and the same, a big split, and these days they hit above the knee.

As for "skirts are the easiest things to make", I agree. Except that not everybody has a straight spine, and I have seen far too many women with protruding rear ends the front of whose skirts fall to their shoetops, and the backs show where their kneehighs stop and their thighs begin. Or why I am going to a tailor to have my nice straight-with-enough-ease (almost a gentle A-line) hemmed *with me in it* so that does not happen.

Pat, who could be ringing the bells at Notre Dame if I had the strength. (Victor Hugo reference)

12/11/16, 5:28 PM

Varun Bhaskar said...
Ummm, guys we just had an interagency war break out.

12/11/16, 6:50 PM

nuku said...
@ David by the Lake,
You said: “The idea of a "solution" really is just another manifestation of our hubris“.
And have you noticed that just about every tech website these days has a “solutions” drop-down menu tab at the top? Unconsciously for most people “solution” = “final fix”. For obvious reasons, the term “final solution” is NOT used.

JMG, I’m interested in the pattern of change that applies to a political party or social movement as it moves from being an out-of-power opposition entity to an in-power entity and back the other way. It seems to me that different skills and methods, and perhaps internal organization is needed in the two roles. Inability to “change gears“ up or down creates problems.
Here in New Zealand, the charismatic Mr Teflon leader of the National Party just resigned after 12 years (3 terms) about 9 months before the next scheduled election. He clearly wanted to get out while the going was good.
The other main party, Labor, has been in opposition so long that I doubt they know how to BE the Government. They have spent most of 12 years reacting to whatever the Government does, offering “patches” to the operating system, and have lost the ability to come up with an independent set of policies.
Your thoughts?

12/12/16, 12:53 AM

KL Cooke said...

"Calling Hegelianism "Chalybäusianism" does have a certain Discordian ring to it, a bit like screaming 'Heil Schicklgruber'."

That's a good one.

12/12/16, 2:02 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi JMG and everyone!

The wombat is back: Living on the razer's edge

And for those that prefer podcasts, you can hear me banging on about the blog here: Fernglade Farm Podcast

Hope you enjoy the story and all the crazy stuff that goes on down here? Also, you may notice that I took a small leaf out of Mr Catton's book with that story. Do you reckon I was a bit too subtle? I am guilty sometimes of over subtlety.

Mate, you have carried a burden since reading that book. Now I reckon I carry part of that burden.



12/12/16, 3:12 AM

Nastarana said...
Mr. Greer, Here is a link to an article which describes the lineage of the Russia propaganda accusations, from which you were unaccountably left out. It appears that Zbig had his grubby and bloody fingers on this affair.

There is also a longish and not bad article on the subject at alternet. Charles Hugh Smith linked to it this morning.

12/12/16, 5:57 AM

Bob said...

Discarding Marxism would mean discarding the concept of class. It's not like they have a patent on that type of analysis, but it is attributed to them.

Some Marxists can advocate as Greens, but those who follow a Humanist philosophy would be discontented.

I don't understand the requirement for Marxism (or any perspective) to make accurate predictions. Pointing out problems doesn't mean there are solutions, or that there is a clear path forward. Marxists are not Meteorologists!

12/12/16, 6:08 AM

Bob said...
Could we get a double feature:
What happened to Peak Oil and Why is Guy McPherson still here?

12/12/16, 6:09 AM

pg said...
This just in: The Lardbucket has attracted unfavorable pre-presidential attention:

12/12/16, 6:16 AM

Nastarana said...
Dear Patricia Matthews, the problem you mention is why I decided to teach myself to draw patterns. Clothes off the rack and commercial patterns are designed for a hypothetical figure no one has, even before middle aged weight gain sets in.

Dear Varun Bhaskar, I have been following the interagency spat. I can't decide if Clinton, Inc. is still trying to steal the WH, or just trying to stay out of jail. I think what is clear is that the countries which have been interfering in US elections, not that I blame them, are KSA, Israel and China. There also seems to be a Ukrainian/Russian émigré faction which has sunk tentacles into the Democratic Party.

Thank you for the comments about canning, Lathe and August. Water bath canning I will not do. Sorry, too many hot, sticky afternoons in a kitchen helping my mother. I have been parboiling grated carrots, turnips, etc., and drying tomatoes in the oven, and then wrapping the prepared veges in freezer bags in log shape. You get out the log, and chop off an inch or two as needed.

12/12/16, 10:33 AM

Nastarana said...
Here is the link on the interagency squabble which seems to have disappeared above.

Voltaire net is one of the designated Russian propaganda sites, AND is not American. At this point, I am not sure that the WaPO can tell the difference.

12/12/16, 10:44 AM

inohuri said...
"The 1930s Germans called it gleichschaltung. Look it up."

I did.


12/12/16, 12:04 PM

M Smith said...
Oh nuts, pg reminded me, the Lardbucket was one of the stars of Dr. Strangelove! Wish I'd worked in a joke about it. Obviously, someone had impurified my precious bodily fluids, and I forgot.

But I'm still flailing with an attempt to make a clever joke about the Wombat of Entropy moving at Moral Warptitude speed. Or something.

12/12/16, 2:35 PM

hapibeli said...
Just for you JMG Hehehehe!

Trump as a figure out of Hegel;

12/12/16, 3:02 PM

Shane W said...
Sorry I'm just now responding, but I've been busy with the holidays. I made Bourbon balls for a party (I think it is the state confection of KY), among other things...
JMG, you asked about pushback regarding social change among wage class evangelicals. I was discussing an article I'd read about how the Southern Baptist Convention was in the process of conceding the culture wars and turning inward. I'd mentioned that the new leader (Russell Moore) of the SBC was a Calvinist, and had taken the denomination in a decidedly inward direction, while not necessarily changing SBC doctrine on social issues. I'd also mentioned how common tolerance of LGBT people was amongst younger evangelicals. Many people in the CUUPS (Unitarian Pagans) group were visibly uncomfortable with the idea, and pushed back against the idea of conservative change (no, they are still political, they are still pushing a political agenda, their not moving inward, they're still homophobic and intolerant of other beliefs.) It was as if they needed them to be the "Other" to rail against.
Other conversations of a more political nature that I've had amongst members of the CUUPS group, the local Fairness group (LGBT), and my older lesbian couple were pushing back against the idea that the GOP is moving away from social issues. Mentions of Trump's tolerance leads to charges that Pence is the one calling the shots, and more outright denial that the GOP is capable of change. I'd mentioned how free the Paul/Gray Senate race was of sexual orientation issues, of Hoover's (incoming state House speaker) commitment to focus on economic, not social issues. Mostly, there is an outright denial that such a comment was ever made, it is ignored totally as if the comment was never made while the person goes on about how evil and unchanging the "Other" is, sometimes, it is accompanied by offense, as if you'd broke wind at a cocktail party. However, I'm probably not the best person to ask about these things. If you really want to get inside the head of one of these people and know the thinking, or lack thereof, behind them, the person to ask would be Ahavah, if she hasn't left the readership b/c of "antisemitism" due to favorable comments you've made towards elements of the alt right. She seems positively petrified of the upcoming legislative session here in KY, let alone the national scene.
I will say that I was at the house of some of the people from our Fairness group, and I could not get over the difference in attitude. They seemed much more level headed and less panicky than at the meeting among the kids. Personally, I thought that the calm attitude was the more appropriate attitude to have among the kids. The panicky, hateful, hysterical tone of the adults over the results of the election at the meeting seemed very irresponsible.

12/12/16, 4:48 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bill, nah, the decline sets in at the zenith. The fall is later.

Keith, so noted.

Chevalier, thanks for the link.

Phil, fascinating -- and worth keeping an eye on.

Bob, fault-finding that doesn't lead to accurate predictions, viable alternatives, or both, is simply a form of whining. It leads nowhere. Accurate prediction allows you to choose your own course of action to take advantage of advance knowledge; I own a house, for example, despite a very modest income, because I correctly predicted the housing bust of 2008-9 three years in advance. That's a very concrete value of prudence!

Dan, no argument. I think there are some good ideas there; on the other hand, cliodynamics has fallen into the classic trap of premature quantification, in a very big way. If your conceptual models aren't good, quantification just means you're wrong to sixteen decimal places.

Zaphod, the peak of Western civilization came in the second half of the 19th century -- the period when European nations literally owned the world, and also the high point of technological innovation (which, despite the usual cliche, has been slowing since the 1880s). So we're more than a century past peak already, with the decline picking up speed around us. Whee!

Lordberia3, I think we've definitely passed peak globalization, and it's going to be a very rough road for a while as a result. With regard to the Russian-influence accusations, that's predictable -- Putin infuriated the globalists by prying Russia loose from the economic domination of the multinationals, so he's their favorite whipping boy these days.

Jeffinwa, they did indeed. (You'll want to imagine those words spoken in that very distinctive croaking voice used by those who inhaled...)

Rita, yep. That was one of the things that facilitated the end of the Roman order in western Europe: your barbarian warlord settled in, proclaimed himself king, and said to the slaves on the big plantations, "The land's mine now, but you can farm it in exchange for a cut of the produce" -- and the cut was much, much smaller than the tax burden imposed by distant Roman bureaucrats. Pretty quickly all the former slaves, now upgraded to peasants, were happy with the change, and the literate, formerly privileged former elite got to lump it.

Morfran, it's a common delusion. Five hundred years ago, the death-pangs of medieval society were identified by the Robert Anton Wilsons of that time as signs that the Age of the Holy Ghost was about to dawn. Five hundred years from now, there'll be some other excuse handy for those who want to claim that it's different this time.

12/12/16, 10:23 PM

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

Varun, hah! That's good.

Breanna, so noted.

Candace, fourth stage trembling on the edge of the fifth. The bipartisan neoconservative consensus lumbers ahead!

Grebulocities, I wish there were such a place. Ron Patterson's doing a good job over at Peak Oil Barrel, but yeah, I miss Energy Bulletin and The Oil Drum like anything.

Bob, thanks for this. I'm wholly unfamiliar with the RevLeft forums, but it's a very solid essay.

Sylvia, I'll consider that.

LatheChuck, that's just stunning. I think the senility of the elites has just reached the point where drool puddles in its collective lap.

David, thank you. I'm glad that somebody got the point of that comment by Owen Merrill!

Merle, hmm! I think the post you're remembering is this one. That said, I'll definitely consider at least a few posts on philosophy, since there does seem to be some interest.

Varun, to be expected. The neocons are desperate to hold onto the levers of power; they thought they were going to get a nice shiny war in Syria, and now that mean Mr. Trump is going to take it away from them.

Nuku, hmm. That'll take some thought.

Cherokee, The Return of the Wombat! (Doubtless preceded by The Fellowship of the Wallaby and The Two Koalas. No, it wasn't too subtle, at least for me -- and as far as carrying a burden, it was an honor. You might be amused to know that I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first saw a copy of it.

12/12/16, 10:41 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bob, funny. Guy McPherson is still here because too few people hold those who make predictions accountable for their failures. A lot of other people who talk through various improbable orifices about the future are still around for the same reason. That's one of the reasons I review my predictions at the end of each year, right here in public.

PG, hmm! That's very promising indeed.

Nastarana, many thanks.

M Smith, funny. The Wombat of Entropy smiles myopically in your general direction, and then goes back to nibbling on everyone's energy supply.

Hapibeli, oh bright gods. One of Clinton's more breathless fangirls assigned her the same status. I think that means by definition that neither one will ever amount to much.

Shane, many thanks; yes, that's the sign I was waiting for. Twenty or thirty years ago, if Christian fundamentalism had started to unravel, the American left would have cheered. Now they refuse to consider the possibility, because that would remove their sole remaining reason for existence. Postliberal politics, here we come...

12/12/16, 10:52 PM

Tom Mole said...
Hi JMG. I really enjoy these posts wandering off into the literature - I'm not widely read and you've simultaneously introduced me to both Hegelian philosophy and Discordianism, the latter of which is funny as heck. Damned if I know where else to hear about these things, outside perhaps some peculiar university lectures which I won't get to attend. Much appreciated.

12/13/16, 1:45 AM

Fred the First said...
I second @Bob's double feature. Also I'd love to know why peak oil writers publicly and at times viciously disagreed with each other.

12/13/16, 3:40 AM

Vince Busch said...
Again, you've added a new dimension to my thinking. Thanks very much. Easy to quit and be marginalised, especially if you (think you) rank among the 20%. Why do you use the fall of the Berlin Wall as a reference point, and not 1980/81 (or even the 1930s)?

12/13/16, 5:57 AM

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
(to continue on the practical tangent...)
A few "commit now for later benefit" type projects that are worth considering: building a greenhouse or hoophouse (and purchasing replacement panels) - to extend your growing season and/or allow for growing traditionally imported plants (vanilla and ginger come to mind, but also some tropical fruits). Seedlings can be sold.

Replace carpet indoors with something that doesn't require electricity to clean (wood, linoleum, laminate, etc).

Upgrade pots and pans to cast iron (can be used on stovetop, in coals, or in (wood-fired) oven, making it very versatile).

If somewhat distant travel is a necessity, consider a moped. (As a caregiver to an older parent whom I'm trying to keep home as long as possible, I still need a car, but I'm toying with the idea of a moped for local-but-distant-&-it's-104F-outside kinds of uses).

Also on my extremely long (but slowly getting-to-some-of-it) list is learning some basic pottery. While it's probably possible to put together an evaporative cooler (link provided by Robert Mathiesen, above) with terra cotta gardening pots if you can find the right shapes, I'd like to learn to make clay oil lamps. I’m planting two multi-purpose olives in my front yard and oil+lamp+wick equals light and good cheer when things are iffy. Then I’ll be able to knit while snacking on home cured olives, lit by lamp light. :-)

And re: the knitting topic – my skill level with the drop spindle is decidedly chunky, but maybe it’s time to work on that. I have the benefit of being near the Yolo Wool Mill which seems worthy of exploration. Also, there’s a northern CA “thing” afoot, called Fibershed that has links to other fiber producers and projects.

What an interesting batch of responses my question generated. Thanks, all!

(oh, and David, I’m completely jealous your town has the Wood Type museum. We have a tractor museum… I’d much prefer anything related to letterpress!

Zerowastemillenial – how in the world is it possible to be bored, there’s so much to learn and do!!

latheChuck – I could get into the repair and upkeep of old sewing machines and typewriters but crikey, there just aren’t currently enough hours in my day!)

12/13/16, 11:12 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Really? I get that as that book is a bit mind blowing and a real perception changer.

I doubt that I will be able to look at the world the same way again. And I fell into the trap of thinking that: If I had one minor criticism of the book then I'd have to suggest to Mr Catton that there have been other cultures that have not fallen into the same trap. And then he wrote about what I was thinking about and I realised that my thoughts were irrelevant because he is writing about the world as it is from the perspective of a sociologist and ecologist and not how we imagine it to be. It is not a book for the faint of heart. Oooo, he had a very sharp eye!

Hey, I have to bounce, but this one is huge: Mass data loss fears as Australian Taxation Office suffers Hewlett Packard Enterprise equipment crash.

I have an internal BS alarm which is screaming air raid sirens style warnings at me about this matter, because the story does not ring true to me. I rather suspect that they were hacked and not even the biggest computers in the Southern hemisphere were grunty enough to ward off the attack. I also rather suspect that they considered themselves too big to fail and the data was possibly also too large to be able to be backed up. I have heard of instances like that only very recently and it is good to know that there are limits to the volume of data that can be stored. Of course tech heads will say that there are no limits to the amount of data that can be stored, but they are talking rubbish. They can be ignored with impunity! Yes singularians would be wise to take note of this failure.

Gotta run, but this is huge.



12/13/16, 1:08 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
latheChuck -- because tomato varieties vary greatly in acidity, boiling water bath is no longer recommended, pressure canning is. A pressure canner is not a difficult device to obtain or operate; not a whole lot more difficult than the water bath in reality.

12/13/16, 1:39 PM

Maxine Rogers said...
Hi LatheChuck,
I agree that one does not need a pressure canner for tomatoes but it is necessary to add a bit of lemon juice to each jar because they are not acid enough by themselves. I do want to ask if you have ever tried to eat store bought canned tomatoes after eating home-grown and home canned tomatoes? I have and the store bought tomatoes are disgusting.

Everything you produce for yourself in the garden, the orchard and eggs and meat from your own farm will always be much more nutritious and tasty than anything you can buy commercially. This is because you cut out all the other people who need to make a profit on your food so you do not have to cut corners in quality. Trust me, home produced is worth it even if the dollar cost is the same as buying commercial crap food on sale.
Yours under the red cedars,
Max Rogers

12/13/16, 1:44 PM

latheChuck said...
Bill / Maxine - Thanks for the tip on new low-acid tomatoes now requiring pressure canning (or supplemental acid). At our house, the tomatoes get eaten fresh as fast as their produced, though.

My favorite thing for canning is applesauce. I get "cooking apples" (culled from the bins due to scratches, bruises, or other imperfections) at $10 per half bushel, which I take to be about $0.50/lb. So, I save money on the materials, and they're available during the months when we're heating our home anyway (so extra heat in the kitchen is a bonus, not a cost). But, as you've said, the quality is really outstanding. Commercial applesauce makers must be cheating us somewhere, maybe squeezing the juice out first, and making "applesauce" with the dry pulp + sugar. Or maybe they just add too much water.

12/13/16, 2:12 PM

M Smith said...
A small suggestion for the "practical" list: I started a germination room about 18 months ago. It's very small, and I keep the rest of the house at 58 in the winter and rarely use AC. But the germination closet is lit by enough CFLs that they produce warmth, and I stuff a towel under the door to decrease the exchange.

This morning, I needed to melt some baking chocolate. I put it on a plate in this closet, and an hour later, it was soft enough to mix into the cheesecake batter. Didn't go near the stove or have to keep watch over it so it didn't burn.

I've also used it to warm refrigerated cat food for ten minutes so the cat doesn't bring it all back up, and plan to raise bread dough in it this winter. We don't need no stinkin' microwave! (I realize it's easier to do these things when you're not rushed for time and have few demands on same.)

12/13/16, 3:01 PM

Shane W said...
In all fairness, not all the people at the Pagan group were resistant to the idea of evangelical change, some acknowledged it. The attitude at the Fairness group was more universal, though the Fairness group is salary class while the Pagan group is wage class.

12/13/16, 6:16 PM

zerowastemillennial said...

It's amazing how threatened the Marx-descended radicals (syndicalists, workerists, etc) are of harder greens. I've seen the paranoia morph into calls for murder on more than one occasion. One of the conclusions I came up with was that radical leftists of that sort are inherently progressivist/humanist, and are threatened by the dual loyalties of the environmentally-minded. Man is still the measure of all things for them.


I've been de-digitizing slowly but surely, and I can confirm that withdrawals do happen at first. They've done a fine job of getting us to confuse silence, stillness, slowness, and introspection with boredom. We are a culture of dopamine addicts - quit any good drug and you'll reel from its absence for a while before hitting on a new equilibrium.

Once I got rid of the smartphone, it only took me only days to become alienated by the compulsive phone-checkers like your friend!

12/13/16, 10:32 PM

Unknown said...

There are a couple of possible reasons for NZ Labor's failure to put up a decent effort.

1/ Inbreeding has sapped all clarity of vision and filled the party with hacks who are in it for the game itself and not for what they can do for the nation.

2/ They are well aware of what the light at the end of the tunnel is, and do not want to be held responsible for the carnage that will accompany it.

More broadly, political parties the world over are failing, largely because they are entirely comprised of individuals whose required acceptance of conflicted interests renders them incompetent to manage the task of government. Once that is understood it becomes easier to see what is required to make democracy work. It looks like a parliament dominated by independents who represent, as opposed to party politicians who dictate, and who work cooperatively to find solutions that deliver the greatest common good, as opposed to ramming their ideology down our throats while making sure their maaates go home with the loot.

12/14/16, 1:52 AM

August Johnson said...
Bill / Maxine / latheChuck - Last year we took over 170 lbs of very not for eating apples and cut out the bad spots (wormholes, bruises, rotted parts) and canned huge quantities of Applesauce, Apple Pie Filling and froze lots of Apple Pudding. Until I started making my own applesauce a few years ago, I had no idea just how vile the commercial product was!

12/14/16, 12:02 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
JMG: Bloomberg has an article on Cumberland, MD, entitled "All the brains are moving to Boulder." Colorado, that is. College town! Yuppies! Boutique stores! My niece-in-law works there.

12/14/16, 2:16 PM

Nancy Sutton said...
Regarding 'must hate/fight' the 'enemy'... I'm getting lots of emails from liberal candidates I supported...NOW the message is 'we must fight'... the word 'fight' is in every one. It's like they never heard Bernie's first speech after Trump's win... 'we will cooperate where we agree... etc.'

It looks like there is a central 'service' that is 'helping' to write these emails (typically always ending in 'donate' please)... and they are too dense to realize that 'divide and conquer' has a diversionary, weakening effect. Hmm... now who might like to 'control' the most ardent liberal folks? who's actually tried recently? could it be the DNC?

12/19/16, 9:45 AM

Phitio said...
Dear Mr Greer,
if Hegelian reasoning is constantly worse than a flipped coin, then it IS a good predictor.
To have the better possibilities of a "good decision" can be obtained simply by choosing the opposite suggested by it

On another side, I don't buy very much in the discordianism approach. The History itself says that we have galaxyes, stellar systems, planetar systems, and a particular palnet (between countless other similar to ours) inhabited by living organisms with a very complex structure of biology and also by human beings even more complexified, to the point that we can believe that chaos is indeed the true form of reality (and in the meantime drinking beer from a highly complex tool as a beer can) :D

Not exactluy an oozing cloud of scattered plasma of particles as at the beginning

Have a nice day

:D :D

12/21/16, 2:35 AM