Happy 7th Anniversary Doomstead Diner


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 19, 2019

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

 ― Hunter S. Thompson  


RE asked me to dump a few words to acknowledge the 7th anniversary of the Doomstead Diner. This is in no way like the US Government beseeching Shinzo Abe on behalf of Trump to nominate Ol' Melonhead for the Nobel Peace Prize. If you are like me, the Diner (and especially the Diner Forum) has been your virtual home away from home and the recipient of altogether too much of your time and attention for the last few years. It's become an unshakeable habit, like porn, online gambling or compulsive masturbation.

Doom blogs come and go, as does the readership and participation. Indeed, how much "doom" can one soul take before he reaches for the remote to find "I Love Lucy" reruns? The endless pessimism that comes with contemplating the end of resources, freedom, days and even humanity is overwhelming. Most "collapse" blogs attempt to predict the future in dire and sensationalistic terms. In 2007-8, sites like like prison planet.com predicted that terrible things would happen in two years. And when they didn't, said terrible things would happen two years later. (You'll recall who was elected President in 2008.) Yet they didn’t happen. Eventually, people tire of all the “end of the world is nigh” BS. One of the things that has made the Doomstead Diner different, in my view, is a foundation of optimism that underpins the regular observation of the way the wheels are coming off the wagon.


See You On The Other Side

One of the qualities that identifies successful people is optimism. Successful hunters, like successful people, never stop learning, practice their craft, cultivate a positive mental attitude, manage stress effectively, and let go of mistakes or reversals quickly. Those who succeed adapt, learn and thrive. Survivors, if you will. A modern genetic theory holds that everyone alive today is descended from those who survived a "population bottleneck," or sharp reduction, that occurred 75,000 years ago. There is controversy in the scientific community over what caused the bottleneck. One theory is that with a volcanic eruption at Lake Toba in Sumatra that blew @75,000 years ago resulting in  massive global cooling effects that may have reduced humanity to fewer than 10,000 souls, or 1000 mating pairs. The debate continues, but the timing is right. Some survived. Some always survive. It's this attitude that lies at the root of the Diner and which separates it from other collapse/doom/survival sites. Not for nothing did I first encounter the tagline, "See You On The Other Side" from RE.

I first "met" RE online in the commentariat of The Burning Platform. in late 2010-2011, as I began to become more collapse-aware. The Burning Platform is Jim Quinn's blog, and while Quinn is a gifted writer capable of keen insight and a felicity of writing style, his touch as a site admin ran to "bully."  He was not above rewriting people's comments to invert or ridicule what they said. Tough room.

JQ found god with the Fourth Turning, created by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, and which theorizes a recurring generational cycle in American history. They described a recurring pattern of four generational types, each with a distinct collective persona, and a corresponding cycle of four different types of era, each with a distinct mood. The overlay of generational types and national moods was able to be shoehorned in a unified theory to account for all moments of Anglo-American crisis, and thus took the position of holy writ at TBP. Here's an typical example:

There have been three prior Fourth Turnings in U.S. history: the American Revolution, Civil War and Great Depression/World War II. The American Revolution preceded the Civil War by 87 years. The Great Depression followed the Civil War by 69 years and this Millenial Crisis arrived 76 years after the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. Essentially, each prior Fourth Turning has represented a Revolution in American history…

No one knows exactly what events will transpire over the next 15 to 20 years as this Fourth Turning morphs from regeneracy to climax and finally to resolution. The mainstream media, most politicians, and self proclaimed progressives are blind to the cyclicality of history. They believe history proceeds in a linear upwards path. These are the people you see on TV talking about toning down the rhetoric, false gestures of bipartisanship, and soothing words about the financial crisis being a thing of the past. They fail to understand that once the mood of the country is catalyzed by a trigger event or events, there is no turning back the clock… Absolutely no one anticipated the extreme measures taken by the U.S. government and Federal Reserve to “Save” the country from a 2nd Great Depression. These measures have added $5 trillion to the National Debt in the last 40 months. It took 205 years to accumulate the 1st $5 trillion of debt.

And so on. In contrast, here is RE in the comment section of the same article, advancing a point of view that has been remarkably consistent from then to now:

This cycle will in the end be dominated by the effects of decreasing available energy. Complex systems will no longer be supportable, requiring a vast simplification of how our societies are organized. Nation States will progressively break up in a One to the Many devolution, first toward Regional organizations, then Local ones, finally to Tribal organization. There may be larger reorganizations in the short term, but long term this is part of a grand supercycle larger than the 80 year periodicity of Strauss & Howe Turnings. This is the end of a 1600 year cycle that began with the Fall of the Roman Empire and proceeded through Centuries of the Dark Age…

For the rest of this generation, and for generations to come the population of the world will shrink markedly, likely to less than 1% of the current population of Homo Sapiens. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will ride herd over Humanity as War, Pestilence and Famine bring Death to every doorstep. The Age of the Grim Reaper is Upon us Now.

Don't you love listening to the classic hits?

TBP featured a zoo full of characters who revealed their inner hunchbacks in comment-section prose:  LLPOH, SSS, Stucky, Flash, MuckAbout, AWD. Those who think that comment on the Diner Forum gets heated simply never encountered the Bessemer-furnance-like blasts that emanated from the comments section of TBP in those days. Grunts, gas and gurgles. Some, like "Smokey," he of the putative "twelve inches of swinging meat," yielding "baby batter" and "throat yogurt," were real flamethrowers.

Quinn and his TBP jackals made much of the "Free Shit Army" that was, in their minds, about to be unleashed like zombie brigades upon an unsuspecting American public to steal their savings, rape their women, and usurp their precious bodily fluids as soon as a Democrat became President. Other regular TBP features included Quinn's "30 Blocks of Squalor," depicting his commute through the poorer sections of Philadelphia to get to his job as CFO of the Wharton School, the better to blame poverty of circumstances on the poor, and the weekly "People of Walmart" photo features, guaranteed to depict the clueless at their absolute worst and provide a welcome sense of superiority to its mostly male, suburban readers. 

During those days, RE posted a regular column there, entitled the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant. Forum aficionados will note that the "Frostbite Falls" moniker has carried over into the Doomstead Diner forum. RE's writing was materially different from the other postings in TBP. Equally acerbic, equally convinced that the fix was in, equally convinced that the end was nigh, but accusing a different set of villains. It wasn't the "Free Shit Army' that was the danger, it was the crony capitalists and their hireling whore legislators. The Burning Platform was once a blog with a libertarian bent, big on defending individual rights against government encroachment, and Quinn allowed multiple POVs. But in its current incarnation, it has gone full Trump and the commentariat consists of furiously nodding bobbleheads. It is now unreadable. But in those days, RE was a (perhaps overly dramatic) voice of reason and light in a room full of discordant voices.

[What was surprising was Quinn's support for the Occupy movement in its early days. In fall of 2011, I became involved with the Occupy movement's local iteration in Norfolk, Virginia. It was really my first taste of direct political activism, and it was exhilarating. (I also met a woman who was first a comrade and workmate, and who later became my wife. So I am able to answer the question, “How did you two meet,“ with the response, “I met her in the street.“)

Occupy indelibly changed the conversation in this country. Phrases like “The 99%,” “the 1%,” changed the national conversation and the prevailing narrative forever. Occupy exposed how the 1% control our fates through the financialization of all aspects of economic and political life: the middle class drowns in loans, student debt, fraudulent mortgages, and a democracy being sold to the highest bidder, all while our environment is turned into yet another toxic asset, sold off to the highest bidder as well.

We forget how in a country deeply resistant to notions of class, where even $250,000+-per-year professionals consider themselves ”middle class”, the development of any sort of class consciousness is quite remarkable. Most Americans find it difficult to stomach the sight of the capital gains classes being bailed out and then earning obscene profits while they, or their family, friends, and neighbors, are looking for their tax refunds without success.]

In the fullness of time RE and Jim Quinn fell out for good, as a stage can generally hold only one diva at a time. So RE decided to stand up a Yahoo News group, to write in virtual exile for an audience of maybe a dozen. And then in early 2012, RE and Peter Offermann stood up the first version of  a fully-functioning blog and discussion forum, the Doomstead Diner that stands before you today. RE registered and made his first post 2/19/2012 on one of his favorite subjects, Da Fed.

Peter Offermann, the site designer registered in December 23, 2011. We remember Peter as the person who, based on photographic evidence, did "An Analysis of the FBI Video of the Road Block resulting in Lavoy Finicum's Death." He started on Feb. 19, 2012 with a series of how-to posts. I registered on February 21, and made my initial post about the trial of Occupiers arrested for obstruction of justice charges in Norfolk, in which the charges (including those against my daughter) were dismissed.


How Quickly We Forget

What things cost in 2011 :Average Cost of New House : $263,200, a gallon of gas cost $3.91, a First Class Postage Stamp 44 cents, a gallon of milk $3.39, a dozen eggs cost $1.54 and a loaf of Bread was $1.88. The price of gold per ounce in August 2011 was $1,677.95, and the average Yearly Wage was $40,925.

The Top Political Events of 2011-12 included 11 separate mass shooting events, including

  • Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
  • Mass Shooting in Aurora, Colorado, killing twelve and injuring fifty-eight people on July 20th.
  • Mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killing 26 people on December 14th, most children. Lanza killed himself before he could be caught.

Other highlights included

  • The Arab Spring
  • Killing of Osama bin Laden
  • Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement
  • US President Barack Obama is re-elected for a second term over Republican opponent Mitt Romney
  • Greece debt crisis
  • The shooting of Trayvon Martin
  • Rising Gas Prices
  • Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law
  • 2012 Summer Olympics
  • Attack in Benghazi, giving Republicans a four year head start on damaging the putative Dem candidate in 2016
  • Hurricane Sandy devastates the US East Coast and kills around two-hundred people on the US Coast and in the Caribbean 
  • Curiosity Rover successfully landed on Mars

Has the Diner been a “success?“ Like most things, that depends on the definition. It has succeeded in surviving with a small but avid following that, according to data from a recent survey RE created, is much more educated than the average. It's been a labor of love, paid for out of the pocket of RE, with a few infrequent donations to help keep the lights on and coal in the server furnace. The Diner has accepted not one cent of advertiser revenue since its inception, with no plans to start anytime soon– even no "Buy at Amazon" button. 

In terms of the optimism that infuses the Diner, RE created the Sustaining Universal Needs (SUN) Foundation, a 501c3 Nonprofit corporation dedicated to developing systems for living in a low per capita energy world, with a goal to assist the transition toward local, community based support and sustainable living in a world of reduced energy inputs. SUN remains largely a notion, but it is a positive effort and a note of sheer optimism at variance with the nihilism that characterizes so much discussion about collapse.

I attribute the survival of Doomstead Diner to the single mindedness and utter stubbornness of RE. He is monomaniacal, a wolverine of a human being. Anyone who has met him in person can attest to this: as disagreeable as Rumpelstiltskin, and with a personality to match, he is often wrong but never in doubt. But he is committed to certain ideas; that no matter how severe a future spin-down, some will survive; that community and sustainable living is possible; and that free-speech should be untrammeled.

We’ve had several episodes during the seven years of Dinerdom where posters have pressed the limits of free speech, running to abuse and acts of outright sabotage. We've learned that free-speech is not absolute, even on a online forum. No one grows up in life wanting to be a board moderator, or to manage the speech of others. It’s a thankless job, but is necessary to maintain at least basic civility. A discussion board is a commons. It turns out that free-speech is not absolute, and those who post to abuse and disrupt have to be managed. 


So whither the future of the Doomstead Diner? Who can say? Those who used to speculate about “peak oil“ have found themselves made irrelevant by events. There are always new processes, and new ways to wring petroleum products out of the last bit of oil sands, as long as price is no object. The frackers have proven that, even though their capital intensive scam shows that nobody makes any money, but the wheels keep on turning as the low-interest loans keep getting rolled over and the can kicked into next year.

Looking down the barrel of “collapse,“ whatever that is, exacts its own costs; it grinds on the soul after a while. What bring us together in this virtual space is the knowledge, the feeling in our bones, that the current way of life is unsustainable. The earth has limits in terms of resources, carrying capacity, and its capacity to absorb human greed. And for a small subset of the collapse-aware, the Diner exists as a waystation of sorts where we share information, talk and/or argue with one another, and post dispatches from waypoints by which we mark another ratchet in the eventual spin down.

People who predict “collapse“ end up looking like Harold Camping or Marshall Applewhite. Which is to say, wrong. But collapse is not a destination, but a process, and one in which we are already well and truly engaged. The fact that collapse cannot be resolved in a 28 minute story arc is our own shortcoming. The best we can do to survive collapse, or any calamity that befalls us, is to create and maintain community, and to support one another as best we can. That is what the Doomstead Diner does on its best days, and why the Diner remains a destination of choice for the happy few that read, participate, and make it what it is.


Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

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