Jason Heppenstall

Holistic Resilience

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 12,  2017


Discuss this article at the SUN☼ Table inside the Diner
 

I’ve been thinking about resilience lately, and what that word means to people. According to my Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word resilient is defined as:

 

 

 

 
1. (of an object) Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching or compressing 2. (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
 
As our supply of cheap, concentrated fossil fuels stutters and dwindles, and the industrial age that has ridden on its back for so long enters its twilight years, it is a certainly that most of us will find ourselves experiencing great change. Despite all the bluster and inflated claims of a new ‘green’ era in which people will be able to continue their high consumption lifestyles and enjoy all the benefits accorded by globalised supply chains, the facts — as I’ve been researching and writing about for the past eight years — simply don’t stand up to any meaningful analysis of this possibility.
 
A minority of critically thinking people have accepted this and recognised the likelihood that their lives are going to take a turn for the materially poorer in the immediate future. A smaller minority still have decided to actually take action in preparation for this. These people have seen that all is not well in the three major ‘E’ realms of energy, environment and economy, and are concerned about what it means for them and their families. They may hold differing opinions on what the trigger point will be — ranging from economic collapse and global war, to rampant virus outbreaks and civil strife — but they share the same feeling that things are more delicate than the mainstream media would have them believe, and that the best way of ensuring one’s welfare is to prepare for an era of disruption and dramatic change.
 
These people can count themselves as among the lucky few, because preparation and proactive behaviour is always better than unpreparedness and reactive behaviour. Once they have got over the psychic shock that usually accompanies a realisation of an uncomfortable truth, and then proceeded through the standard stages of the Kübler-Ross Change Curve (also known as the Five Stages of Grief Model), they will find themselves at the ‘acceptance’ or ‘integration’ end of the process. This is the point where they decide to do something useful about the predicament they find themselves in.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Not everyone, however, makes it as far as the acceptance stage. Many get caught up in the ‘frustration’ and the ‘depression’ stage of the process, and find they cannot escape. These people see little or no point in continuing, and often they adopt a nihilistic outlook as a coping mechanism. It is as if they are being pulled into a black hole. And yet if they can pull themselves away from the gravitational well of despair and make a commitment to moving forwards to acceptance then they can be said to be demonstrating resilience. Resilience, in this case, is a dogged determination to make the best of the scenario you find yourself in, despite the fact that you have no control over the wider situation.  It is the conscious decision to take control and do something useful.
 
“Something useful” is often manifested in the form of stockpiling food and other items that will be valuable to have around if they are suddenly no longer available. This is a natural and worthy start, but it is only the beginning of a much wider transformation on the path to resilience. Now that the internal reality model you were brought up with has fractured and is no longer useful, you may begin to frantically hunt for new information and make connection with like-minded people who have been through the same transformative process as yourself.
 
Plenty has been written on the subject of resilience in the past, and the focus is usually on the preservation of one or more forms of capital. This may be because people are generally, and understandably, concerned with losing what they already have. This has led to a lot of talk about how to secure one’s financial capital (wealth) and property. Ranked higher still is how to preserve one’s corporeal presence on the planet i.e. how to stay alive if the food trucks stop turning up at your local supermarket. In other words, resilience has come to mean protecting and holding onto ones capital.
 
But capital is an oft-misunderstood word, usually meant only to mean material assets or the means with which to produce wealth — hence its association with capitalism. But the concept of capital goes far wider when considered in the personal sense. Everybody — no matter how materially poor they are — has various forms of personal capital. It could be considered the summation of the resources that we value and have some form of control over. Logic then tells us that if we want to be happy (and who doesn’t?) we should build up our capital.
 
Having personal capital that we can use to our benefit and control can be translated as empowerment. Being lost in the ‘depression’ stage of the Kübler-Ross Change Curve is a failure to recognise one’s personal capital twinned with a self-defeating outlook that says “there is no way out of here – I should give up now.” This is not a recipe for happiness and empowerment, so the first step to figuring out how to become resilient is identifying our capital in order to build upon it. These are the broad forms of personal capital to recognise and identify in your own life:
 
1. Financial capital. Let’s start off with the simplest and most easily recognisable one. Your wealth includes all the money you have in your bank account or stuffed in your mattress. It includes any assets that can be easily liquidated (i.e. sold off), such as a house or car, as well as share certificates, gold bars and antiques hidden in your attic. When considering wealth, you must deduct debts. In our modern world, many people look wealthy, but often they are very highly leveraged and have a negative net worth. As Mark Twain once quipped on becoming wealthy “I wasn’t worth a cent two years ago, and now I owe two million dollars.”
 
2. Hard capital. This is the stuff that you own. It includes everything that is in some way useful. Books, lawnmowers, furniture, fishing rods, guitars and that drawer of old nails and bolts in the basement. It could also include articles that are beautiful, but otherwise useless — as long as it adds value to your life in some way it can be considered part of your capital. If it isn’t useful or beautiful and it has no monetary value you should probably get rid of it.
 
3. Mental capital. Your mental capital includes everything that you use your brain for. We’re talking knowledge and education (specifically, education that is useful in some way), language skills, other skills (cooking, fishing, sewing etc.), musical abilities, all the books you have stored in your head and a sense of humour. Yes – all of these are assets that are at your disposal to help ease your way through life and make it productive and enjoyable. Mental capital could also include mental health capital and — crucially — your outlook on life.
 
4. Social capital. No man is an island, they say, and your family and friends are of potentially immeasurable value to you. There are zero instances in history of successful societies comprised of individual loners, so it’s a good bet to build up your network of trustworthy and sympathetic people who will accompany you into whatever the future holds. Do you invest time in your relatives and children? Are you the kind of approachable person people turn to for help? Do others see value in having you around? This holds too for any groups you are a member of.
 
5. Health capital. Your body is the most important asset you own. Without it you are literally dead, and so it makes sense to look after it. Good nutrition, exercise and an avoidance of harmful addictions mean that your reliance on the failing industrial healthcare system will likely be minimised. What’s more, having a healthy body means you will enjoy life more and can undertake a wider range of types of work, which leads to …
 
6. Employment capital. What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy your job or are you merely doing it to keep afloat, even though you dislike it? How many marketable skills do you possess? Do you have more than one way of making money and multiple income streams, or are you so specialised that if your job vanished you would have no way of supporting yourself? Admittedly hard to quantify, these are some of the questions to ask when considering the kind of work you do, how it benefits you (and the wider community), and how resilient to shocks it is.
 
7. Bio-capital. This is the environment you live in. If you are a millionaire living in a polluted inner city with no trees or plants then your bio-capital will arguably be lower than a penniless hermit living in a wilderness zone in the mountains. Interactions with the living natural world are crucial for human wellbeing, and the fact that so many people now have very little contact with wild animals and plants is not just a sad reflection of modern life but also a threat to the sustainability of our ecosystems. As organisms, we humans depend entirely upon the natural capital provided for free by Mother Earth. Treating ecosystems recklessly and exploiting them for short-term gain is like sawing off the branch we are sitting on.
 
In terms of personal bio-capital, think about what you have access to or control over. Do you own a garden that could be planted up with insect friendly plants, fruit trees and organic vegetables? Maybe you don’t, and all you have are a couple of window boxes and some shelf space. This is still bio-capital — you can grow a few small plants such as tomatoes or chillies, and you can sprout beans and pulses on the shelves. Maybe you don’t even have that, and yet you can still be a guerrilla gardener or grafter (planting and grafting in communal spaces), or you could help out at a local nature reserve or organic farm, clean litter from the beach or canal you live next to … the possibilities are many.
 
8. Time capital. How much time do you have? A lot? A little? Many people these days are afflicted with a disease called busy-ness. They are always busy and have no time for anything! When you haven’t seen them for a while and you ask them what they have been doing they invariable respond that they have been “oh, you know, busy!” So consider how much time you have available to you. How can you make better use of the time given to you? Time, we know, is subjective: it can speed up or slow down depending on who is experiencing it and when. You can ‘time hack’ your life using methods such as meditation and contemplation, and you can strip things out of your life that are unnecessary and time-consuming.  Furthermore you can become efficient at planning and executing tasks so that you have time spare to do enjoyable things. Balance is key.
 
9. Emotional capital. How much control do you have over your emotions? Do they control you or is it the other way around? Do you live a fearful life full of angst and worry, or do you adopt a contemplative or Stoic approach to existence? To some extent we are not able to control the emotions we are born with, but we do have a choice in how we respond to external events. Gaining a solid bedrock of emotional security is a crucial form of capital that is often overlooked.
 
10. Spiritual capital. Finally, we have spiritual capital. By this we mean how we relate as individuals to the wider cosmos.  Since the Enlightenment, people brought up in the Western world have been taught that they are inconsequential cogs in a vast machine called the Universe. There is no meaning in life, they say, and the whole of existence is an interstellar game of billiard balls played with atoms. Needless to say, this bleak outlook represents a break not just with tradition, but also with every other human society that has ever existed. People, they say, are merely meat sacks of DNA, programmed like robots and only self-interested. Love is a chemical reaction that will one day be produced in a test tube, and consciousness is merely data on an organic chip stored in your head.
 
Thankfully, more people are beginning to question this view. At the same time they are turning away from the major religions — which have claimed hegemonic control over the spiritual dimension for millennia — and are awakening to the personal spark of potential within themselves. A good spiritual grounding is an empowering phenomenon, and therefore a very valuable form of capital.
 
Each of these ten forms of capital are present to a greater or lesser extent in everyone’s lives. They do not exist independently from one another, and they will usually grow in symbiosis with one another, as long as no single one becomes outsized compared to the others.
 
Combining these ten form of personal capital are what I am going to be writing about over the coming months. It’s a process I’m calling holistic resilience i.e. considering ways in which to withstand or recover from difficult situations using a synthesis of personal capital. I’m looking forward to expanding on each of these ten forms, as well as delving deeper into the meaning of resilience and why people should be developing it. Along the way I hope to include many examples and introduce new concepts from different areas of thought.
 
Three key assumptions throughout will be that:
 
1 – The industrial age is coming to a messy end due to diminishing energy returns
 
2 – We have free will and are willing to use it
 

 

3 – There are no guaranteed outcomes in life

 

 

 

 

Q is for Quotidian Fluctuations in a Teacup

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on June 12,  2017

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

 

Here in the UK, things have been a little weird over the past week. People have red rings around their eyes and they get angry at the slightest provocation. You may have heard that there was an election, and that the result was somewhat unexpected and confusing. You may have seen some news about it and experienced a fleeting sense of bewilderment, wondering whether it was relevant in any way to your own life. And then, deciding that it wasn't, you will have instantly forgotten about it. But if you're even a wee bit curious as to what is afoot, here is an explainer of sorts. I will summarise the election twice. The first summary will be incredibly brief. In fact, it will be one sentence. Should your curiosity be piqued, the second summary will be a bit more in depth.

Summary 1

Nobody is in control and the politicians are running around like headless chickens emitting a strange gurgling squawk from their neck holes as they hold up banners saying 'Situation Normal – please carry on shopping'.

Summary 2

Okay, take a deep breath and get ready to shake your head slowly from side to side whilst quietly muttering "And these people once ran a whole empire?" For clarity and understanding I shall proceed in bullet point format.

 

  • So, the prime minister, Theresa May — a vicar's daughter who was never elected to lead the country and only promoted to the position after David Cameron resigned following the Brexit vote — called a snap election a little over a month ago.
  • The prevailing logic was that her party, the Conservatives (Tories), would prevail in a landslide, thus cementing her authority and enabling her to follow through on some of her most favoured pledges, such as breaking up with the European Union (which, ironically, she was opposed to in the vote), bringing back grammar schools, taxing people with dementia so that their homes can be stolen, and re-legalising fox hunting for the 1-percenter chums of her investment banker husband.
  • Political analysts boldly stated the Tories would win a landslide because May's only viable opponent, Jeremy Corbyn (leader of the opposition Labour Party), was completely unelectable, despite being very popular with the non-elite.
  • Corbyn, it was said, was 'completely unelectable' because he was a bearded socialist who rode a bicycle to work and spent his down time growing organic vegetables rather than chasing foxes with dogs and selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. In short, he was 'crazy'.
  • Much was made of a statement he made when he said he wouldn't want to start a nuclear war and kill millions of people, which was seen as hopelessly idealistic and weak. What a loser!
  • And the fact that he once spoke with representatives of the IRA (remember them? The Irish Republican Army) to try and get a peace deal. Clearly a friend of terror!
  • A smear campaign was launched by the media, with just about every publication, including so-called progressive outlets, such as The Guardian and the BBC, saying he was not fit for office.
  • Pollsters predicted that the Labour Party would be wiped out — possibly for generations — and we would enjoy a prosperous future governed by the Tories, whose main objective was to privatise everything and share out the spoils among the top 1%.
  • But not everyone loved the Tories. In fact, anyone not under the spell of the media smear campaigns, or under 60, hated them. With bells on.
  • They hated them so much that some of the other progressive parties, such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, even bowed down and told their supporters to vote for Labour.
  • This made some of their supporters angry. They didn't like the idea of tactical voting. "It will end in tears," they opined.
  • But young people were quite keen on the idea of getting rid of the Tories and electing Jeremy Corbyn. He had promised them a long list of things, such as abolishing tuition fees for students,   halting austerity programmes and taxing the rich more to pay for public services. Oh, and he was not going to privatise the National Health Service, which the Tories wanted to do.
  • Fighting between the two sides was bitter and acrimonious. The media stooped low, very low.
  • And it began to work. People started to call Jeremy Corbyn 'the terrorists' friend', Jezbollah and Red Jezza.
  • As all this squabbling was going on a young Islamic fanatic walked into a pop concert in Manchester filled with teenage girls and children and detonated a suicide bomb, killing 22 innocents.
  • Everyone went quiet for a few days until Theresa May popped up again saying she was the only one who could be trusted to keep Britain safe from terrorists.
  • But then people with a memory longer than the average goldfish remembered that in her previous role she had axed 20,000 police officers as part of an austerity drive. The police themselves said that would probably have caught the terrorist if they hadn't been so underfunded and resourced.
  • Some of the right wing newspapers began to turn on Theresa May, although they made it clear that the still hated Jeremy Corbyn even more because he 'supports terrorism' and doesn't like war.
  • Theresa May, who enjoyed war and said she would be more than happy to nuke entire nations, tried to fight back. But there was a problem. All she could say was "I am strong and stable" over and over, like a robot that had been programmed by a 10-year-old using BASIC and was stuck in a recurring logic loop. People began to call her the 'Maybot'.
  • She came across very badly in media appearances and decided not to turn up to a televised debate for party leaders, which looked bad.
  • Then, for some reason known only to her and her team of advisors, she stated that she was going to confiscate everyone's houses when they got old and infirm. This didn't go down very well with a lot of people.
  • The gap between Labour and the Tories began to narrow as the election approached, sending several newspapers in paroxysms of terror. All the stops were pulled out in smearing Corbyn and his party. 
  • But none was more terrified than The Guardian, which had been knifing Jeremy Corbyn in the front for the past two years and suddenly realised he was in with a chance of winning. The editor decided to completely reverse position on Corbyn, ordering all leader writers to do a U-Turn on the man. Up until then the progressive organ had advocated a Blairite ideology of free market capitalism under the guise of 'socialism lite'. The spectacle of journalistic slithering and backsliding and was enough to upset a delicate stomach.
  • And then three Islamic fanatics attacked central London on a Saturday night, butchering people with kitchen knives and slitting a waitress's throat before they were killed in a hail of bullets by police.
  • Everyone went silent, again. It was only a week before the election. A few liberals could be heard bleating about extending the hand of love to Jihadis, but otherwise it was quiet.
  • In fact, things were pretty quiet right up to the day of the poll, other than a constant low level murmuring on social media about tactical voting.
  • Nobody mentioned the almost £2 trillion (and rising fast) national debt, or the precarious state of energy reserves. These were issues that are not considered important enough compared to, say, Jeremy Corbyn's fondness for growing his own vegetables, or the fact that he once rode around behind the Iron Curtain on a motorbike. 
  • On election day, every online British news site declared that the Tories would win by a substantial margin, meaning that Corbyn supporters might as well just stay at home. A suspicious person would almost think that there was a coordinat … oh, never mind.
  • Polls closed at 10pm and then it was revealed that there was a SHOCK EXIT POLL which showed that Jeremy Corbyn could potentially WIN!
  • How could the opinion pollsters have got it so wrong, gasped the public. I mean, they never get it wrong, do they?
  • Corbyn supporters went wild with excitement for several hours as the results began to come in, most of which showed the Tories being savaged by the electorate, even in supposed 'safe seats'. For the second time in less than a year, it seemed people were lining up to plunge their daggers between the ribs of an out-of-touch government.
  • A Tory bloodbath ensued and by the next morning it looked like the government was DOOMED… 
  • BUT there was a major catch. Something which would take a while to sink in for Corbyn's supporters…
  • The Tories had still WON, albeit by a margin not large enough to mean they could be declared fit to form a government.
  • A HUNG PARLIAMENT was declared.
  • Which does not mean suits dangling on the end of lamp posts (yet) but simply means there was no overall winner and  a caretaker government would have to be put in place until another election could be scheduled (and we're getting pretty sick of elections, I can tell you).
  • But Labour supporters (and many others) STILL saw it as a victory and started drinking beer, even though it was a Friday morning, and they should have been drinking tea instead.
  • And then Theresa May, who should have been dead at this point, TOTALLY KILLED THE PARTY!
  • She went to see the Queen and told her she was forming a new government with the DUP. Queenie said "Okay, Mrs May."
  • "The DU what?" said everyone.
  • The DUP — Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party. They had enough elected Members of Parliament to form a viable majority with the Tories.
  • Everyone frantically Googled the DUP to see who they were and what they stood for. When they found out there was much gnashing of teeth and renting of hair.
  • The DUP, it turns out, are an Irish version of ISIS. As Presbyterian fundamentalists, they define themselves by what they hate, which is Catholics, gays, single mothers, sin, Catholics, modernity and gays. What's more, many of their supporters wear black balaclavas and paint murals on the sides of houses depicting them holding machine guns with words such as "Never Surrender" and lines of scripture.
  • These people were now potentially our government.
  • And Jeremy 'the terrorists' friend' Corbyn was still free to spend plenty of time down at the allotment watering his pumpkins.
  • Progressives fell into a profound pit of despair as something beyond their worst nightmares had come to pass. Their strategic voting hadn't worked, and the smaller parties, such as the Greens, having voluntarily acted as doormats, had lost credibility.
  • But it wasn't all bad news from their perspective, at least now EVERYONE hated Theresa May — including her own party. For she has taken a party that was telling itself to get ready to rule for several decades, if not forever, and brought it to the much reduced point where they had to cosy up to people who wore ski masks in the pub.
  • She'll probably be killed off for good shortly and replaced with Boris 'the buffoon' Johnson.
  • And she didn't even get to re-introduce her favourite blood sport, which must hurt.
  • To further confuse things Scotland voted FOR the Tories, rather than their beloved Scottish Nationalist Party — meaning the Scots wanted to be part of Britain and rejected the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon's desire to break away from England BUT surrender to the EU. Confused yet?
  • Meanwhile, the pound fell on all the uncertainty, and the whole process of Brexit has been thrown into confusion. And the EU just sits there, thrumming its fingers on the desk and saying "Well, are you leaving, or aren't you? Make your mind up."
  • But the DUP don't like the idea of Brexit (which must be sinful, in some way) — despite once stating that Europe was run by the Antichrist — and seeing as they have a very big bargaining chip they might insist on either staying in the EU or watering down the terms of leaving it — most probably in the form of keeping the borders open.
  • Meanwhile 'unelectable' Corbyn is down at his vegetable plot fertilising his brassicas, a wry smile on his weathered face. Not only does he now have a large army of fanatical supporters, but he has some major chunks of the media begging for forgiveness. And if another election were called in the next couple of years —which, let's face it, is looking very likely — he'd stand a good chance of winning.
  • So, to recap, the Tories won but they 'lost', Labour lost but they 'won', the Scottish Tories won for Britain but lost for Scotland, the Northern Irish Presbyterians, who could never have dreamed of winning, have won the whole UK, UKIP has disappeared but might appear with a vengeance if Brexit is threatened, the Green party got thrown on the compost heap and the Liberal Democrats simply annoyed everyone — all clear?
  • And still nobody mentions the debt or the energy entropy time bomb …
 
So there you have it. I imagine it looks like a storm in a teacup from an international perspective — but it sure feels uncomfortable when you live in the teacup.
 
And the winner is …

Ouch & Hepp is BACK with Patience!

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on April 7 & June 7  2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

O is for Ouch!

 

Hello everyone, just to say that I'm not writing much at the moment as I've had a little … accident. As you can see from the picture, my right hand is not fully functional, and given that it's my writing hand I'm forced to type with one finger on my left hand.

Yes, two weeks ago I was cutting through a steel pipe with an angle grinder when the tool caught an edge, banged against a wall and rebounded onto the back of my hand. Luckily, I was at home when it happened, which is a five minute walk away from the nearest hospital. Once there they ascertained that it was serious enough to be sent to the regional hospital, and I emerged two days later having had an operation to sew together a severed tendon and dig some fragmented disk out of the bone.

Although I've been using power tools for 25 years, this was my first experience of anything going wrong. It was a silly mistake that could have been avoided, and I've learned my lesson. I also got to learn a few things about the health system here, and got a free mini-break in a nice hospital with nice doctors and nurses. So, much humbled, I'm back home and recuperating.

Anyway, I'm pretty much handicapped for three months while it heals, which has torpedoed most of my work projects. At least I can catch up on a lot of reading – it could have been a lot worse.

***

In other news, I'm sad to report that heretical polymath and fellow peak oiler Liam Scheff passed away earlier today aged 45, having written this note. I wouldn't claim to have been a friend of Liam, having only become aware of his work six months ago, but I interacted with him quite a few times on social media and appreciated his rapier wit and sharp thinking. The tale of his demise is a sad one, but he bowed out lucid to the end and with true spirit. He was definitely one of the good guys – I've got his book Official Stories on order.

————————

P is for Patience

 

 

 

 

Image: Sarolta Bán

Patience is something I got a lesson in recently when I almost sliced my hand in half with an angle grinder. Minutes before my little accident I'd been sitting at the dining room table with my wife, discussing the jobs that needed doing before summer. Spring was in the air and I felt full of pent-up energy after the winter. I wrote a list of all the various renovation projects that needed doing on our old house, the tasks that needed to be completed in our woodland to ensure a supply of firewood, charcoal, mushrooms and fruit for the coming year, and the last-push that needed to happen to get our polytunnel producing food during the main growing season. Yes, there was a lot that needed doing, but I felt equal to the task and was impatient to get on with all the jobs.

Twenty minutes later I was walking to my local hospital – which, luckily, is only five minutes from home – a blood-soaked pillow case wrapped around my hand and arm. "I'll be alright," I was telling my wife. "It's just a cut — we'll stick a plaster on it and it'll heal." Luckily, she disagreed with my prognosis and prodded me along to the hospital emergency centre.

An operation under general anaesthetic was performed that saw surgeons digging chunks of abrasive disk out of my metacarpi and sewing severed tendons back together. When I came round and saw a plaster cast from my elbow to the fingertips I began to realise that my list of jobs might just have to wait. The hand doctor gave me the bad news. "You won't be able to use the hand at all for a month, and it'll be three months before you can do any manual work with it."

And so that was that. A right-handed person losing the use of their right hand, albeit temporarily, is severely limiting, to put it mildly. There was no chance I could complete any of the jobs I had set down on my list. I couldn't drive, I couldn't cook, I couldn't open bottles or jars, get my clothes on or off, or eat food that wasn't already cut into small pieces. I managed as best as I could with my left hand, but I'm not ambidextrous and it's pretty hard to do things such as type or brush your teeth with the hand you're not used to using. I became like a big baby — almost totally helpless when it came to doing simple tasks.

Now, three months on, it has completely healed. I have an interesting scar that I can show to people at parties, and I can't make a 'thumbs up' with my right hand, but otherwise there is no sign of my injury. I got off pretty lightly, having heard some rather gruesome stories from others (walking around with a power tool injury seems to attract a certain type of man who is keen to show off his own power tool injury scars.)

But apart from teaching me that angle grinders are dangerous (something I had known on a theoretical level but now know on a visceral one) my mishap did teach me about patience. Sitting around for a month with nothing much to do apart from read books and reflect made me realise that in the seven years or so since I first learned about the fate of the industrial world, how delicate is its mode of operation and how dependent we all are upon it, I have been engaged in constant hurried preparation for its demise. I'd downsized from my job, moved the family out of a city and country to somewhere less risky, bought a piece of land, learned a few skills that might be useful for when the current economic model has a seizure, and spent countless hundreds of hours filling my questing mind with books, blogs and media trying to figure out what the hell was going on with the world and what an appropriate mode of living might look like in response to it.

And over those seven years I've seen the majority of collapse pundits repeatedly get their predictions wrong for when 'the big one' is coming. Well, so far, 'the big one' hasn't hit us in our cosy first world bubble, but there are plenty of signs of carnage and chaos if one cares to look. We have various failed state countries, including Libya, Syria, Venezuela and Egypt. Each one of these countries was relatively prosperous and stable a decade ago, and yet now, life for many people living there has become a mad scramble for survival amidst political turmoil, hunger, rioting and civil war. Mainstream news media doesn't often report on what is going on within these countries, so it falls to independent observers to go out and look at what is happening on the ground and spread their info using social media.

On the finance and economics front we have basically seen the death of economic growth, in any meaningful sense. Sure, there are lots of figures and factoids flying around about 'full employment' and 'economic recovery' and the like, but scratch the surface and you'll find a dispiriting reality of millions of unemployed but uncounted people, people working minimum wage jobs on zero hours contracts and GDP figures that are almost entirely comprised of central bank generated debt. The debt bubble has ballooned to epic proportions, but again, the media doesn't seem interested. Debt allows countries, institutions and people to look good in the short term, while at the same time sacrificing the longer term.

On the energy front there is a sustained and continued fall in the density of the supplies available to us as a species. We consume something like five times as much oil as we discover, and whatever new stuff we do discover tends to be so challenging to extract and process that we have to expend huge amounts of our remaining energy just to do so: translated, this means that we might as well not bother. It's as if we have been at a rambunctious frat party and the parental liquor cupboard has been smashed open and drained. All that remains are a few empty bottles lying on their sides and some really horrible sticky orange-flavoured aperetifs. The party looks like it's about to fizzle out when someone discovers several crates of booze in the basement. Party on! But wait, it's just shandy, but who cares, it looks like beer and it comes in bottles that look like beer bottles. And all the time new guests keep arriving and demanding booze…

To make up for the inconvenient truth that we are running out of the highly-concentrated fuels our industrial civilisation needs to run, we have a loud cacophony of techno-optimists who insist that business as usual can continue if we just build enough wind turbines, or solar panels or propagate algae in the sea that we can turn into diesel. All of these schemes look great on a computer screen and it is easy to get uninformed people to believe that they are indeed feasible, but none of them ever consider the mechanisms — financial, political, economic — that would be needed to scale them up to a level where they would make much of a difference to offset the diminishing conventional fuels. We seem to be lost in a dreamlike state of demented unreality, like blindfolded people wandering around in a maze shouting hail Mary through gritted teeth. The sad truth is that the smartest people among us are those who capitalise on this madness, amassing huge personal fortunes by promising the moon (or Mars), just so long as the government subsidies continue rolling in.

Aside from all this we have ten different shades of crazy running through our societies. Some mischievous demon somewhere decided to lob a bomb into our carefully ordered political consensus of what constitutes left and right, good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate. This has given the chattering classes, who thought they had it all sorted out, a bad case of the vapours, and turned many of them into little more than drooling basket cases who become psychotic when presented with images and words that go against their programming. Thus we have people who identify as 'liberal'  throwing their allegiance behind billionaire financiers and politicians promising endless war, and those who identify as 'conservative' being generally in favour of conserving nothing except for their own privileges at the expense of everyone else.

On top of the above factors, we've also got a few new wars, environmental problems that are getting steadily worse, the drumbeat of Islamic terrorism that is getting closer to home, and there are now half a billion more people in the world than when I first started writing this blog, some of whom are refugees heading this way.

So, when you look at the past seven years, a lot has changed. Even if it doesn't feel like it on a day-by-day basis, the world is going through a profound readjustment. Sure, at some point, something will probably snap. Maybe it'll be a financial crisis that pops the debt bubble and ends up bankrupting entire countries as bonds get slaughtered. Maybe it'll be a war confected by the deep state and the western military industrial complex — that uber parasite on mankind — and we'll all be lying flat on our backs not knowing what hit us. This time next week/month/year we could all be dead or starving, or eating each other's brains for breakfast.

But here's my simple take on things: to give in to such depressing thoughts is to deny ourselves the ability to lives our lives in the best way that we can. Surrender to the fact that there's nothing you can do to 'fix' things, other than making yourself and your loved ones as secure as you can, and try to make the best of the hand you've been dealt. Create stuff, love people and life, try and make things a bit better for others and keep laughing at the absurdity of it all. The universe doesn't owe you a safe passage — there is no other way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N is for Not Sci-Fi but Pi-Fi

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on March 13, 2017

Discuss this article at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Dier


Right now, it seems like people's faith in the idea of endless progress is being shaken. Whether it's the UK leaving the EU, Donald Trump's ascension to the American presidential throne or simply a gnawing feeling that something 'big' has gone wrong somewhere, more and more people are expressing anxiety about the direction in which we are heading. If one wants to see proof of this phenomenon one need look no further than the mainstream media, traditionally the gatekeepers of human consciousness in terms of the day-to-day business of sorting out what is important from what is not. Even a brief glance at an online news site will show a slew of articles that are more biased opinion pieces than factual news items, and the reader comments below — if they are permitted at all — will more often than not display a remarkable level of hostility towards anyone who disagrees with them. Is it any wonder that trust in these mainstream publications has fallen to historic lows across a broad range of demographic groups, with only the over sixties still possessing much faith in them at all?

At the same time, faith in science and technology is facing a similar crisis. Casting an eye back over the last few decades, to give a couple of examples, it would seem that new inventions have been supplanted by mere innovations and 'upgrades', whilst actual space travel has been replaced by theoretical space travel (or low Earth orbit space stations). If one wants to see them there are plenty of artistic impressions of what faraway planets 'might' look like, presumably to make up for the occasional blurry pixel we are told is the actual, and the public at large is ambivalent at best about the latest discoveries made by particle physicists with research grants the size of small countries. Once again, is it any wonder why faith in science is being tested when there are so many things we were told were scientific proofs are now discredited, such as the idea that a low-fat diet makes you slimmer and that you must drink eight glasses of water and five (now increased to 10) portions of fruit and veg a day to maintain health? No, those men and women in white coats are having to fight harder and harder to win over an increasingly sceptical public.

Of course, this cannot be permitted. The reaction by the guardians of the media and the scientific technologists to this loss of faith by their subjects is to double down on their claims and amp up the rhetoric. Thus information that emerges from a non-mainstream conduit is decried as 'fake news' or 'propaganda' and science that emerges through a non-approved channel is debunked as 'pseudo science'. No quarter is given in this battle of consciousness, and no dissent is permitted.

And yet people do dissent. Finding themselves caught in an ever-tightening vice of economic policies which make them materially poorer with each passing year, and faced with an indifferent class of media-savvy personalities who insist that things are getting better all the time, they are wont to ponder whether, in the realm of hopes and dreams, they've been sold a dud. Most people, no matter where in the world they live, yearn for practically the same thing. They want peace and security, a decent low-crime area in which to raise a family where they might have a little place of their own with maybe a space to grow some food, and a few good friends with whom they can share a meal or a drink while feeling happy within their own cultural boundaries. That's basically it: a modest, happy life with peace and a degree of autonomy. Is this too much to ask?

Instead, what they get, is an increasingly degraded living situation where, if they live in a poor country, they either have to work long hours in a factory producing gadgets and other consumer items, or else they get a subsistence wage working in dangerous conditions mining minerals or producing chemically poisoned cash crops for the commodities market. And if they are fortunate enough to live in a rich country, the majority will have to work long hours in an office doing unfulfilling work to pay off the huge loans they have taken out to finance buying the gadgets made by the poor people. Here they are forced to dine in the staff canteen on chemically poisoned food from abroad while their bosses wax lyrical about replacing them all with robots made from the commodities mined by the even poorer people abroad.

Weren't we supposed to be living in Utopia by now?
 

And so people need some kind of new plausible vision. In the past, in the industrialised nations at least, we were offered salvation in the form of Sci-Fi fantasies about living in space and travelling around the universe meeting interesting new aliens. Now, unless the aliens come to us, these dreams appear unlikely. The dwindling of oil supplies, and the technical inability of renewables or anything else to replace it, means that the industrial basis of our civilisation has a very short shelf life. Indeed, due to the immutable and non-negotiable laws of thermodynamics, the party really will be over sooner rather than later. Mention this to most people of course and they'll airily dismiss it as an apocalyptic delusion, and that "they'll" think of something before then. But given that an ever growing groundswell of people are losing their faith in "them" — what's a narrative-driven sapient mammal with an above average sized brain to do?

That's where the PI-FI writers step forward. PI stands for Post Industrial and Fi for Fiction, because that's what is needed right now. So what's the difference between a sic-fic writer and a Pi-fi one? Well, instead of dreaming up yet another variation of the tired old trope of muscular space-heroes travelling around the galaxy in spaceships and saving virgins/peoples/planets from annihilation*, the PI-Fi writer recognises that the limits imposed on the human race by geology, thermodynamics and the biosphere mean that we're not looking to the stars for salvation, but under our own feet on the nice blue magic ball we call planet Earth.

PI-fi, it could be said, is a maturation of a form. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be a rock star? You played the music on volume 11 and stood in front of a mirror with a hairbrush and imagined thousands of adoring fans swooning, of lighting cigars with wads of money and seeing pictures of yourself in magazines (I know I did)? And then you get older and you realise it will never happen, and you learn to take life's tragedies and victories in your stride and you see on the news that another pop star has taken a drug overdose or died at a relatively young age and you think, "Thank God my teenage dreams never came true!" It's the same thing with fiction and all those ideas of conquering the universe and dominating other planets.

What does Pi-Fi look like? Thankfully we already have plenty of examples, probably the most well-known of which is James Howard Kunstler's World Made by Hand series. John Michael Greer's After Oil: SF Visions of a Post Petroleum World burst onto the scene in late 2012, cementing the establishments of a new genre, and in the meantime we have had the launch of the quarterly magazine Into the Ruins, showcasing further talent. Another new magazine, Mythic, explores post industrial fiction, as well as more traditional Sci-Fi, and I'm sure there will be more as we move forwards and old narratives continue to disintegrate.

Obviously Pi-Fi has more constraints placed on it than Sci-Fi in terms of possible story lines — or so it would seem. But, wait a minute, doesn't true creativity flourish best when it is constrained by form and must follow agreed-upon conventions? Don't the boundaries of the field of play focus the attention of what's happening in the centre? A case in point: which piece of music sounds better to your ears, Bedřich Smetana's Vltava, with its sinuously flowing phonics that evoke a force of nature, or a piece of avant garde 'noise music' that adheres to no rules or form whatsoever? As ever, the choice between the two is subjective and depends on the listener, and admittedly the latter is evocative of a certain technological dysfunction in its experimental nature: it has its place in the auditory sound ecosystem, but which piece would you rather listen to on your deathbed?

What qualifies as Pi-Fi? At its heart, any narrative that is written with this genre in mind must be set in a post-industrial future. This is our most likely future, and therefore the one that the tool of fiction is the most powerful and useful. This raises the question, what does 'post-industrial' mean? After all, we are often told that we live in a post-industrial society, since most manufacturing moved to China. No, Pi-Fi is different. We are considering a future in which industrial civilisation is either ending or has ended. To that end the following assumptions would have to apply:

1 – Humankind's access to highly concentrated forms of energy will be severely curtailed in the near to medium term
2 – There will be a corresponding collapse in the complexity of civilisation and the population it can support
3 – The future will be haunted by the mistakes of the past, especially in the form of inappropriate technologies

Sound a bit gloomy, or merely realistic? It's been pointed out by others that we have a binary obsession with either/or visions of the future, namely that either we will head off on a grand space adventure in the stars, or else face apocalyptic annihilation at home. But there's a huge amount of ground between those two poles — ground that Pi-Fi is more than happy to occupy. Neither of the two extremes is particularly useful to us, except as a means of escapism, and what if neither of our standard assumptions takes place? What if — gulp — the human story continues for another few thousand years, with different types of technology, different ways of organising our societies and different ways of relating to our planet? True, those skeletal horsemen are certain to be busy — just as they have been throughout nearly all human history — but the folks sticking around will likely have a lot of good stories to tell about their experiences.

Can you imagine telling some of them?

If you think you could then you might be interested to hear that I'm moving forwards with a small publishing venture, with the aim of publishing a handful of Pi-Fi books every year. At present there is not much going on in this genre over on this side of the Atlantic (Europe, that is), or indeed the world outside of America — so I'm particularly interested in, but not limited to, stories taking place in the wider world. I'm going to kick this off with a call for submissions for an initial anthology of stories up to 8,000 words in length, but 2,000 at a minimum.

For this anthology, writers will need to follow these seven rules for their story:

1 – Stories must be set in the future at some point within the next 100 years

2 – The laws of physics as currently understand them must be abided by

3 – Due consideration must be given to the natural limits placed on humans, as well as the damage done to Earth's ecological systems by industrialism

4 – No deus-ex-machina technology that rescues industrial civilisation at the last moment

5 – Stories must be stories, with believable characters, plots, narrators etc., and not just thinly-disguised technical propositions, sociological commentaries or screeds

6 – Metaphysics is permitted and even encouraged as a story device so far as it relates to popularly understood concepts (metaphysics doesn't run on oil, so there's no danger of us running out)

7 – Stories must not simply be "horses and hearses" i.e. a re-hash of pre-industrial Europe, supposedly set in the future

I'm really hoping that readers will respond to this and rise to the challenge with vision, imagination and plausible realism. Unleash your mind and see what happens. I will be cross-posting this blog on a number of different social media pages, channels and groups, and the closing date for entries will be May 1st 2017 — Beltaine — which is seven weeks away. To enter, ideally publish your story on a blog site or other web page and post a link to it in the comments below this post — making sure there's a way of contacting you in the form of an email address somewhere — but if you can't do that then send it to me as an email at the address found in the 'About' section on my site. The stories must be original and they must be by you. I'll pick the winners shortly afterwards and they will share an equal proportion of 70% of the proceeds of the resultant book after the costs of production have been discounted (which is simply the price of designing a cover and printing a few review copies). The book, after I've edited, typeset and printed it, will then be available through print-on-demand and published by Belenos Press (I'm working on making a website so it's just a Facebook page at the moment) — and I'll send all the published authors a copy.

Best of luck for the challenge and I look forward to reading your stories.

* I do realise that not all Sci-Fi is so two-dimensional, although much of it has been in the past, and some of it still is — and I'm as much a fan of it as you are. 

M is for Madness in our Time

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on February 27, 2017

Discuss this article at the Psychology Table inside the Diner

Have you noticed how many people are losing their minds recently? Ever since people here in the UK democratically voted to leave the European Union and, more recently, voters in the USA decided they'd rather have a businessman as the president instead of a career politician, people have been, to put it politely, going batshit crazy. People who, before these votes took place, appeared to be well balanced and generally happy in life, might now spend their every waking moment hammering away on keyboards with the caps lock on, spitting out an endless slew of invective against people they don't  know. The slightest thing can trigger them off into an epic meltdown and one can only imagine their red rheumy eyes scanning their computer screens as they scroll continuously looking for another perceived slight that can be blown up into a full-on fight to the death.

If this were the Middle Ages these people would be called "possessed".

Here's an interesting thought experiment, imagine if we wound back the clock by a couple of years and approached these keyboard warriors with a simple question. If they were British we might ask them "On a scale of 1 – 10 how interested are you in the political and trading arrangements between the UK and the European Union?" Most people, I suspect, would reply that they were either rather uninterested or utterly uninterested. Many would just grunt and look puzzled and say "Eh?" They would then ask you what you thought of the latest series of Game of Thrones.

Now, these same people might say that the arrangements between the UK and the EU are practically the most important thing in the history of things. They might then claim they have always thought that way — that all those years when they ventured no comment on politics or economics or anything serious at all were merely an act — and that anyone who even dares to question the importance of such a thing is a closet fascist and an ignorant sub-human who deserves to be put out of his misery with a cricket bat.

The same goes for America. Ask a person in 2014 whether the country should be run efficiently and like a business and most people would probably agree that it sounds like a good idea. Roll forward to 2017 and there's a president who's a businessman who's trying to run the country like a business and half the population are claiming that he's a satanic Hitler who uses kitten heads as golf balls and lets Vladimir Putin urinate on him as he's wrapped in the American flag.

What's going on?

Clearly, social media and digital legacy media have played a part in the great insanitising of the West.  People have retreated inside their own echo chamber silos where the only views they get to hear accord 100% with their own views, meaning the moment they encounter someone with a slightly different viewpoint (which, to them, will also appear 100% logical and correct) they react as if they just opened their wardrobe to find a tentacled Chthonic abomination trying on their shoes as it lazily devours their firstborn child.*

But anyway, what is it exactly that is causing so many people to go crackers over what, to many of the people who read this kind of blog regard as of the lesser order of magnitude of the Bad Things That Can Happen scale? For a long time we've been saying that our civilisation depends on cheap and abundant energy, and that the supply of our most accessible form of that energy — oil — is faltering and that there's nothing out there to replace it, in any meaningful sense. And that as it falters we'll follow the time-honoured trajectory of civilisations in decline which will feature the more powerful actors attempting to secure energy and materials (as represented by monetary wealth), an inevitable kickback by the left-behind majority whose survival instinct will lead them to choose leaders and reject the ideology foisted upon them by the establishment, who will in turn then fight back etc. — in a rinse and repeat cycle that continues until a new equilibrium is established, albeit at much lower levels of available energy, materials and — yes — population.

We entered into this part of our dance of death some decades ago and it's testament to the power of politics and marketing that the illusion of things getting better (How? For whom? At what cost?) has persisted for so long. When this mass illusion began to fracture in the early part of the 21st century most people doubled down on the denial presented to them by the corporate media. We had somehow convinced ourselves that we were a 'special case' and that the normal rules of entropy and dissolution did not apply to us. Boy, was that a bad mistake, but surely someone must be to blame?

Have you ever heard of the term 'gaslighting'? I encountered it for the first time when I read Thomas Sheridan's book on psychopaths and mind control Puzzling People: The Labyrinth of the Psychopath  — but have heard it used increasingly ever since.

The 1940 British film Gaslight is about a married couple who move into a vacant house in a fashionably wealthy London square. An old woman had been murdered in the house some years before and the property had stood vacant ever since. At first everything seems normal and the couple are happy. But then something odd happens; the woman keeps mislaying things around the house and forgetting where they are, and the husband begins to accuse her of stealing them. He disappears for long periods of time to the top floor of the house—somewhere his wife never ventures—and every time he does so the lights in the house dim. His wife notes this but he dismisses it, implies that she is losing her marbles.

Gaslight — which you can watch for free on YouTube — is a classic illustration of a how a psychopath controls their unsuspecting victim. The person being controlled does not realise they are being manipulated in such a way as they see every 'failing' as a personal one and they will do anything to protect the person who has captured their mind and soul. This is the precise manner in which cults are able to convince people to commit suicide en masse, and anyone who manages to escape from the cult will be able to tell you how terrifying it is for someone to have such complete control over you without you even realising it. They will sink to any depth to defend against anyone who is attacking their beloved leader, to whom they have unconditionally surrendered their mental and emotional faculties.

Which begs the question: have millions of people in the West fallen victim to mind control and gaslighting? In my view the answer is almost certainly yes. Are they irrational and impervious to any argument that doesn't conform with the one they have drilled into their own head? Are they united against some kind of common enemy or demon who is so evil as to justify any form of protest or violence against them? Are they willing to lay down their lives for their dear leader — just like the members of the Heaven's Gate cult, whom Marshall Applewhite managed to convince to commit suicide in order to hitch a ride on a passing alien space craft? When Hillary Clinton released a video yesterday calling for 'resistance' to Donald Trump, the hive mind of social media immediately responded with the following image:
 

Generations of cultural and social programming has resulted in a mass of people who are mentally vulnerable and easily manipulated. Some of it has been deliberate and some of it may not have been. In Dmitry Orlov's recent book Shrinking the Technosphere: Getting a grip on Technologies that Limit our Autonomy, Self Sufficiency and Freedom (New Society Publishers), he makes a convincing case for the existence of a "Technosphere", which is an emergent system that has evolved the characteristic of intelligence and now seeks to dominate the human mind and spirit. It takes human beings with rich histories and cultures, as well as great intrinsic worth, and processes them into almost homogenous units of consumption and production as a means of expanding its own power. People, willingly and unwillingly, submit to being fed into its gaping maw and one of the software programs this Technosphere machine runs on is neoliberal economic orthodoxy, as personified by Hillary Clinton or any other globalist politician.

The Irish writer and artist Thomas Sheridan, likewise, identifies the same phenomenon but from a different angle. Working on Wall Street he once handled a report for a large bank financing a dam being built in Central America. He asked a senior staff member what the miscellaneous costs item was at the bottom of a row of figures and was told off-handedly that this is the money put aside to pay the local mafia to murder all the people opposed to the project. That was an epiphanic moment for Sheridan and he went on to investigate how such seemingly evil machinations can be passed off as merely the cost of doing business, coining the term "Psychopathic Control Grid", which to all intents and purposes is the same as Orlov's Technosphere in that it assigns value to humans and nature only in as much as it can use them for its own ends. In this regard we have somehow created the ultimate death machine, and its modus operandi is neoliberal corporate capitalism.

For people to willingly submit to having their cultures assimilated, their economies ground into the dust, their sense of sexual identity made incoherent and to endure a lifetime of debt servitude in hock to a priestly class of bankers, academics and pseudo mystics (Zuckerberg, Bezos, Musk et al.) they must be offered something as recompense. And that something is no less than a vision of perfect enlightenment or Nirvana. The true believers, who usually identify themselves as atheists, are even willing to be sacrificed to the gods of progress — just look at how many applied for a one way ticket to Mars and the reasons they gave for willingly giving up their (usually young) lives. This Nirvana, of course, won't be attained by the faithful any time soon, but remains far off in a fuzzy Star Trek future i.e. after they are dead. In effect, 'progressive' neoliberalism is a death cult.

On the other end of what appears to many to be a spectrum, we have Donald Trump, Brexit, nationalism and conservatism all lumped uneasily together. For neoliberal progressives this can also appear cult-like. Who knows, perhaps there are people out there who worship Donald Trump as a living messiah and hang his tweets on their bedroom walls in gilt frames, and certainly there are those who maintain that concepts such as the "free market" (a mythic entity with no earthly presence) are worthy of unquestioning worshipful obedience — but in reality they are a different kettle of fish. Most people who chose to vote for Brexit or Donald Trump didn't do so on idealogical terms, they did so on down-to-earth practical ones. Unable to see the greater glory of a neoliberal progressive future they turned instead to look at their own run-down communities, their empty wallets and their ever-dimishing freedoms and they decided to vote against the assorted lawyer-politicos and unelected bureaucrats who they identified as the cause of their malaise.

So, if you got caught up in this and lost your mind, then I'm afraid to say you may have fallen at the first hurdle of our increasingly challenging future. If you spend hours of every day sitting on Facebook writing snarky passive-aggressive comments to your "friends" and trying to debunk them by posting links to your own favoured highly-manipulated information source, then you've been bitten just as bad. Claiming that anyone who doesn't agree with you is "Hitler" is not the way to regain your mental balance, and neither is calling anyone who doesn't agree with you a "Snowflake Pussy" from the other team. Bear in mind that, as Frank Zappa once said, politics is merely the entertainment arm of the military industrial complex, so try to concentrate on the things that are more immediately relevant to your life, such as your friends and family.

To that end, i you value your sanity and think it wiser to direct your energy towards making your little bit of the world a better place during your limited time here then it's probably best to steer clear of political death cults altogether, and instead take a more Stoical view of life. If you've got the time and inclination, take off for a hike alone in a region not too infested by the Technosphere. Pick somewhere you won't encounter many people (or, better still, any) and pack a copy of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius (as I did in the account of my Swedish forest journey The Path to Odin's Lake) and something by Carl Jung. To ensure you are out of the reach of the Psychopathic Control Grid, leave your phone at home and say 'Hi' to your shadow side as you contemplate your own inevitable demise and the demise of everyone and everything you hold dear — because plumbing the depths of your psyche builds perspective and makes you a more balanced individual. Spend time in nature, notice the animals and the trees and the way rain drips off leaves and how sun light is dappled on the ground, and then meditate on deep time and what it means to be a human being alive at this point in the turning of the Earth. If you do this you'll find it to be a useful first step in building up some protection against gaslighting and mind control and you'll feel a greater sense of autonomy and personal resilience. When you get back, if you've truly embraced the challenge you'll be quite unable to hate anyone on the basis of their ideology, cultural or religious identity or whatever — and that will be a useful mental state to be in as we continue on our hike down the far side of Hubbert's curve.

Of course, if this is too difficult and, like a moth circling a candle you simply must throw yourself into the flames, then by all means be my guest. You won't lack for company as you self-immolate and after you've been reborn you can visit a past life regression hypnotist who'll inform you that you died a martyr to some cause that will seem completely incomprehensible to the future you. But there will be more food and stuff to go round for the rest of us, so take your pick.

* [You will either have laughed at my flippant comments above or you will have stared at the screen shaking your head and closing the tab because you’ve no time for people who joke around when things are so serious. But please take note: gallows humour is another way of avoiding insanity.]

L is for Learning new Stuff

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on February 20, 2017

Discuss this article at the Education Table inside the Diner

 

One of the benefits of knowing that the demise of the oil industry is at hand—and thus the modern way of life—is that it now makes sense to learn new skills. Under the standard educational model for most people in the industrial world, most learning takes place in the early years, perhaps stretching into early adulthood for a few. It is during this time, we are told, that the necessary skills are acquired to enable us to become obedient worker/consumers in the economy (or "upstanding citizens in society" in old money). For most people, any learning beyond this age tends to be merely a tweaking of what they already know. For example, they may already be able to operate a computer in an office environment, but they may need to be sent on a course to learn how to use the latest versions of a software package. This kind of learning is called training and one is expected to go through it in order to get a pay rise or avoid being sacked—at least until the day your job is handed to a computer algorithm or a robot.

Of course, this isn't real learning, it's merely learning how to tinker with an unstable and unsustainable system. On the other hand, many adults take it upon themselves to voluntarily expand their minds and pick up new skills. They attend night school classes and go on courses, learning a dizzying array of new subjects that could include anything from conversational French, stained glass window making or calligraphy, through to quilt making, taxidermy or astrophysics. Many more simply buy books and instructional DVDs and learn all about the foxtrot, Faberge egg painting or ritual magic that way—but usually the reason for learning this new information is motivated by a desire to practice a hobby in the leisure time outside of one's productive, money-earning life.

If you want to switch professions, say from being a teacher to a lawyer, you'll likely have to gain a professionally recognised qualification, awarded after a lengthy period of burning the midnight oil and at great personal expense. This is another kind of learning, often referred to as re-training, and although it might give you the ability to make more money in the short term it still likely does not address the problem of systemic instability in the longer term—you might be re-training for a job or profession that doesn't exist in five years.

Economic logic in our over-complex world currently dictates that it is very hard, if not impossible, to earn a living making useful things that can be made far more cheaply elsewhere due to mechanisation, cheap fossil fuels and globalisation. Only people in the continually-shrinking upper middle classes can afford to pay the real costs of production for items made by people who do not work under conditions of slave-labour. For example, I have a friend who is a highly skilled woodworker. He can take a piece of freshly-cut wood and transform it into a beautiful and practical object, such as a chair, a set of spoons and bowls, or a canoe paddle. The amount of work and attention to detail he puts into his creations is both impressive and admirable. But even he admits that he'd rather buy a cheap chair from Ikea than pay the full cost of one of his beautiful hand-made chairs — and he's realistic enough in his outlook that he doesn't blame others for doing so.

Yet this unfair-seeming scenario will not—cannot—last forever.

As the availability of high-density energy sources falters and dwindles, and the political technostructures that make globalisation possible grind to a juddering halt, the calculus of this setup will turn on its head. Many, if not most, of the items we currently take for granted will become very expensive. In other cases they will simply become unavailable at any price. When this happens, the laws of supply and demand will assert themselves and anyone able to provide necessary products and services will find themselves in an enviable position.

Learning new skills and how to make things, however, takes time. There's an assumption these days that anything can be learned quickly and easily, and that once one has learned it one can instantly become a teacher of it. The wife of my chair-making friend—who herself makes baskets, lamps and even coffins from willow—told me last week that she has fielded several separate phone calls in the last two weeks from people wanting to learn how to do exactly what she does. All of them, she said, wanted to quit their careers immediately and move down here to west Cornwall—which for many people is really the back of beyond—and instantly become basket weaving teachers, despite their never having touched a piece of fresh willow in their lives. When gently prodded as to why they felt so moved they each gave some answer that indicated Donald Trump or Brexit as the cause of their unease. An impending sense of Armageddon seemed to be the driver behind their sudden desire to learn how to make picnic baskets.

My friend patiently explained to them that it took her many years of practice to get where she is today. There were the years of experimenting with different designs, and of growing different species of willow, discerning which ones were appropriate for the local climate and soils. Aside from the ongoing learning of the skill of basket-making there were the years of plodding around the region's craft fairs—leaving home at 4:30am in order to get there in time to set up her stall, only to come home late in the day having hardly made the petrol money. There were the years of research into these lost skills (including hunting down old retired fishermen in their 80's and 90's, and learning how they once sat on the harbour walls weaving the extremely specialised lobster and crab pots before the era of mass industrial production) and the years of building up the strength in her hands and fingers. And then there were the numerous setbacks, such as rabbits destroying her willow crop, and all the other various slings and arrows that life chucks at you. Only, she then says, only after a decade and a half of dedication has she been finally able to call herself an artisan who is able to make a modest living from her craft—and she still refuses to call herself a master (you can see what she makes and judge for yourself).

But the people who contacted her were not interested in all of this—they wanted to learn how to make baskets next week and be teaching it the week after.

The point I'm trying to make here is that learning useful skills takes TIME. And the moment one begins to learn something new one begins to realise that there's a lot more to it than you previously thought. Growing food, for example, is another skill that many people assume you can just pick up more or less overnight. It's true that you might be able to quickly grow some food without any prior experience, but growing enough for a balanced diet that will keep you and your family alive is a whole different ball game: man cannot live by beans and potatoes alone.

From a personal perspective, since I first encountered the seriousness of our predicament some six or seven years ago, once I had worked through all the Kübler-Ross stages of grief "No, it can't be happening!", "I'll be alright if I just pack a bug-out bag and buy some gold," etc.) I have picked up quite a few new skills and been led down many an interesting intellectual avenue.  Having gone from a situation of relative complacency with a comfortable, if unfulfilling, office job, I have now learned the value of what it means to be a producer of things rather than just a consumer of them. Among the things that I can now produce are charcoal, wood products, fruit, biochar, natural soap, wine, cider, herbs and vegetables, and books. I'm working on producing many more things, including mushrooms, coppice products (fences, hurdles etc), herbal beers and honey. I've planted a forest garden, I've learned permaculture and coppice woodland management, I can strip a chainsaw down and I can field dress a squirrel. All of these things take skills that I have learned, to some degree.

Am I an expert at making and doing these things? NO! (I might be able to make some charcoal in an oil drum but I'll never be like the Japanese masters who had 2,000 different grades of charcoal, which apprentices had to learn to recognise merely by sniffing the smoke it gave off during production.) Could I live self-sufficiently using these skills? Don't make me laugh! In fact, I consider myself a rank amateur in terms of my practical skills, although to an outsider it might superficially appear that I know what I'm doing. This, I have learned, is the case for many people who nevertheless pass themselves off as experts (I recently heard of a young newly-qualified permaculture teacher who had never seen a carrot grow and was unsure how to get it out of the ground – and he was 'teaching' a group of middle aged people who had been expert gardeners since before he was born).

That's where the community aspect comes into play. Nobody can know everything. I would go further and say that hardly anyone can even know a lot of things. There are very few people in the world who  can do everything from rebuild a car engine, solder electronic circuit boards, grow (and know how to use) their own medicine, and defend themselves in a court of law. For the most part it is far better to specialise and organise into small, manageable groups. The ideal size for an autonomous group of differently skilled individuals is around 150 people (see Rob O'Grady's book, 150 Strong). This was the size of group I chose to use as an example of 'good practice' in my fictional novel Seat of Mars. In my story the 'clan leader' Art Gwavas, takes over a farm and only allows people with a variety of useful skills to live there. In this way they manage to make life a lot more bearable than it is for the hapless individuals hit by the same national calamity.

People learn in different ways. Many are autodidactic to some extent (can teach themselves), but many also prefer to be taught as part of a class. Some things have to be taught one-on-one. A good method for learning that I have heard works well is to be part of a skills swapping group. The concept is simple; you meet up once a week or month and someone teaches their particular skill to the rest. The next meeting it is someone else's turn. The ones I have heard about tend to involve skills such as sewing, soap making, fermenting and household item repair—but it could be anything really. What I have found with learning is that you should only try and learn things in which you have a natural interest. If you're unsure whether it is for you, you can always dip you toe in and give it a go to see if it appeals to you. I have something of a butterfly nature and tend to flit from one thing to next, so there have been many things I have thought would be interesting to me but turned out not to be. I've been learning my whole life and I plan to only stop learning new things when I'm dead.

It's scientifically proven that learning new things keeps your brain ticking over as you get older. My grandfather decided to learn Italian as an old man. Having never been outside of England in his life, he simply got on a ferry and a train and lived in Rome for a while. His method of learning was to sit on public benches and strike up a conversation with similarly-aged Italian men. They no doubt chatted about the war and the how things had been. When he was happy he could speak Italian he returned home.

So if you decide to learn a new skill for the future, make sure it's something that will likely survive the future. Learning how to race cars is probably not such a good skill for the future (nor is anything that would involve wasting fossil fuels). Also check out the competition. For example, when I lived in Denmark I taught myself how to make natural cold-pressed soaps. Everyone was amazed that I could do this ("What, you mean you actually make it? With your own hands?") and was happy to part with a tidy sum of money for a simple bar of soap. Then I moved to Britain and soap-makers are two-a-penny, and so my soap-making venture no longer makes sense*.

The main thing it's important to consider is the lead time involved in acquiring new skills. The best time to start learning them, ideally, is ten years ago. The second best time is today.

* Oh, and don't become a yoga teacher either. The world is already full of yoga teachers and doesn't need any more.

K is for Kids, and How to Prepare Them for the Future

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on December 9, 2016

Discuss this article at the Doom Psychology Table inside the Diner

One topic that is often glossed over by Kollapsniks is the topic of how to talk to children about the future. Perhaps it's because, as humans, we tend to place our hopes for the future in our children, and if all we can see is a bleak future then why bother telling them about it at all?

I have two daughters—aged 11 and 13. They are bright and beautiful, clever and compassionate. I'll admit that sometimes I worry about the world they will inhabit when they become adults. It's likely to be a world that very few people are preparing their kids for—and that's putting it mildly. Given what we know about how climate systems are becoming chaotic, how energy that was once as concentrated as a bottle of whisky is rapidly turning into a glass of shandy, about mass extinctions, overpopulation, the creeping corporate takeover of society, the dumbing down of culture, the pollution and destruction of the biosphere, mass refugee movements, resource wars, nuclear meltdowns and so on and so forth … is it any wonder that so few of us want to broach the topic?

Despite all of these threats hanging over us what message, if any, is society sending to kids about the future? Are the cultural engineers who shape these young minds preparing them for a world in which the above drawbacks of industrial civilisation are honestly discussed? Or are they, instead, doubling down on the failures of the past and hammering into them the idea that what may kill us will also be our saviour? I think you already know the answer to that.

As a parent, I often get to unwillingly overhear/see children's TV programmes in the form of CBBC (Children's BBC). There are no commercials on CBBC but that doesn't mean it doesn't contain plenty of social programming and, by now, my kids are well used to hearing me howl in disagreement at something that was said—especially when Newsround is on.

Newsround—and pretty much every other programme on CBBC—propagates the narrative that we are heading towards a shiny future living on Mars, and that robots will do all the drudge work. Everything will be solar powered and there will be all sorts of consumer gadgets and devices, such as jetpacks and flying skateboards, and instead of dying we will be able to upload our minds into "the cloud" and live in virtual reality worlds that will be even more awesomer than living on Mars with robots.
 

The CBBC Newsround gang – getting the kids ready for the future


These little techno utopian skits are punctuated with other "news" items about reality TV shows, sports and the lives of celebrities, and—needless to say—everything is very PC and "right on" with a perfect mix along lines of gender/race/ability.

If this little window onto the cultural programming of infants is in any way reflective of the wider world then I hate to think what will be the effect on the state of mind of our youngsters as they approach maturity and find out what the real world is like. What's a concerned elder to do?

So, reaching over and turning off the mind-warp machine for a moment, what are reality-aware parents supposed to do to prepare their offspring for the future they'll likely get? Well, I can't speak for everyone, but my strategy is revealed in the 18 tips that follow:

1 – Teach them how to be aware of when someone is trying to con them. Adverts are a great place to start. Teach them how to strip an ad down to its basic components: what's it trying to do? Make it funny. My kids can laugh at any ad they see and tell you what emotion/fear/desire they are using to get you to buy their product.

2 – Get them interested in making things that are useful. I'm not very crafty, but my wife is, and she has taught them how to sew and crochet. They can now make their own clothes—and they enjoy doing it immensely. And if you're doing any DIY get them to watch and hand you the tools. There is nothing more lamentable than adults who don't know how to change a lightbulb or fix a leaky tap.

3 – Don't give them everything they want. Being denied something that you really, really want, is good for you. Growing up and getting everything you want all the time creates adults that are selfish and unhappy. They will be forever craving material possessions and will be mentally unable to process not getting what they want. They end up unhappy and have unfulfilled and unfulfilling lives. In the future people will not be able to get what they want—the best time to practice for that is now.

4 – Teach them to cook proper food from an early age. Let them be messy and let them create hideous concoctions, if that's what they want. Kids love preparing food and cooking, and the only way they'll learn about it is doing it for themselves. For your own sanity, also insist they clean up their mess afterwards.

5 – Tell them that school teaches you useful stuff but the real lessons come from life and what you learn yourself. I tell my kids that I don't care what grades they get as long as they do their best: that grading schemas are dreamed up by dull people in London as a way to get our kids to compete with Chinese kids and squeeze every bit of creativity out of the educational system. These days most children are put on a conveyor belt from early infancy which leads them through school and college and turns them into bonded debt slaves working in unfulfilling jobs. Impress upon them that this doesn't have to be the case and that alternative paths are open to them. Encourage them to follow their interests as long as this will likely lead to them being able to make a living for themselves that doesn't rely on massive amounts of fossil fuels or ponzi finance schemes. Guide them, in this respect. Impress upon them that the world doesn't owe them a living and that no job should be below them. To that end, don't give them pocket money unless they've earned it doing chores.

6 – Show them how much fun can be had for free. My fondest memories from childhood involved tobogganing down a snowy hill on a plastic bin bag, building dens in bit of woodland at the edge of town, hunting for fossils for my collection, playing conkers, riding my bike with friends from dawn until dusk and bodyboarding on a cheap polystyrene surfboard. All of these activities were either free or very cheap—and very fun. I also had loads of toys and certainly suffered no lack of anything—but toys were things to be played with when all the other possibilities just mentioned had been exhausted. Today my kids, and many of the other kids in town, go down to the harbour in the summer and jump off the walls into the water, just as kids have done here for centuries. You can hear their cries of joy from afar.

7 – Get them interested in reading, because books open up all sorts of doors in the mind. If you want to be really devious occasionally forbid them from reading certain books. I forbade my 13-year-old daughter from reading 1984 recently ("It's too grown up for you,") and—unsurprisingly—found a copy hidden under her bed with a bookmark placed well into it. There is nothing like forbidding something to make it attractive to curious minds. When they are young read them stories every night. All kids love being read stories and they love their parents to read them stories most of all. From a book. Made of paper.

8 – Teach them to question authority and not to blindly obey whatever instructions are given to them. By this I don't mean encourage them to be mouthy confrontationists, I mean tell them to trust their instincts and, if something doesn't feel right, discuss it openly with people they trust. At the top I mention CBBC—when I was a kid in the 1970s, many of the famous faces on TV (we now discover) were pedophiles, using their status to prey on young kids. We can only guess how extensive this network of kiddie fiddlers was/is (even the Prime Minister at the time, Edward Heath, is under suspicion of running a ring), but we know that the psychic vampires who populate it prey on people's blind obedience and unwillingness to question authority. Give your kids the equivalent of a silver crucifix and some garlic to ward off these monsters.

9 – Tell them about how the future is likely to be, but don't be a doomer. Show them documentaries. Talk to them about problems—and ask them if they have any good ideas about how to tackle them (you'd be surprised). Nobody knows what the future will hold. It will certainly be turbulent, and turbulence means lots of potential and possibilities for those willing to engage with it.

10 – Teach them about growing plants for food. Just as with preparing food, kids love to grow plants—especially if they can eat them afterwards. Tomatoes are great to get started, as are potatoes, peppers and radishes. All are easy to grow. If you have the space, give them their own plot, raised bed or mini greenhouse. If not, then get them to grow some plants of a windowsill. Take them to a farm and show them where eggs and milk and meat comes from. Teach them what grows for free in nature.

11 – Allow them to be bored. Many kids today are over-stimulated and cannot figure out what to do with themselves if the entertainment gadgets are switched off. Periods of boredom allow the brain to slow down and—more importantly—develop a more reflective aspect. In the future there will likely be far fewer opportunities to be over-stimulated, but at the same time there will be a lot of boring drudge work that needs doing. A mind addicted to external stimulation would not be able to cope with—say—working in the fields for hours each day, whereas a mind that is able to be quietly contemplative and reflective will fare far better.

12 – Make sure they are good mannered. Manners are a form of currency that will open doors and make them pleasant to be around. Also teach them how to disagree with someone with an opposing viewpoint without being hostile and reactive. Being good-mannered in a disagreement doesn't mean being a pushover—it simply means that you can reject the other side's BS with good grace and move on without turning into a foamy-mouthed berserker.

13 – Impress upon them the importance of avoiding debt. Unless they are certain the debt is an investment, make sure they realise how it can trap them. If they want to buy something that is a consumer item they should save up for it.

14 – Teach them how to physically defend themselves from attackers. Getting them enrolled in martial arts classes or boxing will be good for them in many ways. Not only will it give them the ability to fight off an attacker, but it will boost their self-confidence and improve their physical fitness. What's more, many if not most would-be attackers already have some knowledge of their victims, and knowing that they are a black belt in karate or a kick boxing champ will make them think twice. In Europe we are already seeing a huge upsurge in domestic abuse and violent street crimes as law and order breaks down. Young women on the streets of some cities face the prospect of being raped by gangs of men, who can get away with it as observers stand idly by and the police turn a blind eye in the name of community relations. As the father of two girls I want them to be able to fend off an attacker—fighting dirty if need be.

15 – Tell them they ain't gonna live on Mars. No way. Never gonna happen.

16 – Teach them to be open minded but realistic. Get them to think logically and to seek out evidence.  Once they have discovered the harsh truth about the Tooth Fairy and Santa, use this as an example of why you should never trust anything you hear. Being an open minded sceptic is the best way forward.

17 – Show them by example. There's no point in telling them to do stuff if you then go and break all the rules yourself. Admit that you're far from perfect. Tell them all the mistakes you have made along your path, and that you hope they'll avoid the same mistakes. Be ready for them to make the same mistakes.

18 – And finally—loosen up. Don't be one of those joyless parents who only allows their precious snowflakes to eat organic quinoa and listen to non-culturally appropriated fairy tales. Instead, allow them to drink Coca Cola, eat chocolate until they throw up, stay up all night during sleepovers, play with knives, hear rude jokes, encounter bullies, be in the same room as drunken adults talking nonsense, climb trees and run with scissors. Seriously. Because although there may be some minor risk involved in all of these things, there is an almost 100% probability that if you don't allow them this freedom you'll create a delicate little flower who won't be able to survive unless they are cocooned within a safe space and given trigger warnings every time they encounter mild peril. What's more they'll just end up rebelling against you and will turn into exactly the kind of person you didn't want them to be – and it'll all be your fault.

That's pretty much how I'm raising my kids, mindful of the likely future they'll find themselves living in. Oh, I forgot one last thing—make sure you treat your kids well. Look after them, love them and treat them with respect. Foster within them joy, compassion and a sense of fairness. Those kids are not yours—you're just borrowing them. Because one day the boot will be on the other foot and, if you've done your job right, you can only hope the favour will be repaid. And if the future turns out even harsher than all your preparations have allowed for, then at least they might help you to push that shopping trolley down The Road.

 


 

***


This blog post is an updated version of an earlier one, including four new points and a few edits for clarity.

I is for Interesting Times

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 21, 2016

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

 

"May you live in interesting times," says the old Chinese curse. The election of Donald Trump to president of the United States was the starting pistol for interesting times. From now on, not much will remain the same.

On the night of the election I had tried to stay awake to watch the whole thing unfold. Because of the time difference I knew there would be no clear results until early morning, and so I ended up going to bed at about 1am— at which point all the TV pundits were saying it was 'practically impossible' for Trump to win. So I went to be bed, but barely managed three hours of sleep due to fitful dreams. My phone was on the table next to the bed when I awoke, but I couldn't bring myself to turn it on and see all the "First Woman in the Whitehouse" headlines. I put it off and tried to snooze a while longer. Unable to do so I eventually reached over and turned it on with a 'better get this over with' attitude.

That was when I almost fell out of bed in shock.

It was like Brexit all over again. Brexit on steroids. The impossible had suddenly been proved possible. A spell had been broken and the world had been turned on its head. Donald Trump—a giant ego on legs—had pulled off the impossible. He had taken on the arrayed masses of media, celebrities, pundits, received wisdom and social inertia—and beaten them all. Thrashed them, in fact.

The stunned disbelief on social media rapidly turned into white hot anger. I felt a great disturbance in the force—it was as if a million voices cried out in terror; and then there was violence. Protestors rampaging around the streets, setting fire to cars and smashing window. Yes—the great hissy fit had begun.

From my perspective across on the other side of the Atlantic, I had one immediate cause for celebration: my family would not be nuked. Given Clinton's bellicose rhetoric about surrounding China with missiles and 'taking on' Russia, I had every reason to believe that she would willingly start a world war within months of taking office. With Nato forces building up on the border of Russia in numbers not seen since WWII, and the mainstream press squirting out anti-Russian propaganda from every orifice, and with Russia itself drilling its citizens for imminent nuclear war, I felt I had every reason to be concerned—especially as I live close to a couple of likely military targets. But on the morning on October 9th I got my geiger counter, my iodine pills and my copy of US Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survival Manual, and put them away in my bottom drawer. For now.

But, of course, global nuclear war is a piffling matter for those more concerned with transgender bathrooms and the breaking of glass ceilings for power crazed career politicians. "But what about Pussygate?" scream the angry mob of social justice warriors. To which I would reply that there are plenty of places where presidential fingers don't belong, but frankly I'm more concerned about them being on the big red button.

So, yes, a large bubble has been popped. This is what the apocalypse looks like. The word 'apocalypse' means 'living the veil'. It's a consciousness thing. The apocalypse will happen at the level of human consciousness before it happens (if ever) on the physical plane. The fake doctrine of neoliberalism/neoconservatism/globalisation—that has made the world we see today, has been exposed for what it is. And all of those who happily went along with it feel a deep terror in their bones. They sense, perhaps correctly, that all of the horrors America and the West have unleashed on the world over the last four decades—horrors which they thought were safely locked away in the basement—have been awoken and are starting to walk up the stairs, feet shuffling, hands outstretched. Not even the soothing tones of Barack Obama can convince them to go back down again—they know they are done for.

So who are all these people who are so terrified? They are the ones who have fallen prey to the globalist controlling mindset. For them, it's all a matter of identity politics, victim statuses and the almighty ruling patriarchy. Status is conferred by your relative minority status, delineated along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation etc. By shifting the entire nature of politics into the realm of identity politics the globalist class have quite brilliantly— with the unflinching support of the mainstream media and Hollywood—cast a magic spell that almost succeeded in enslaving the entire world. And because identity politics so enfeebles people, it was easy to divide and conquer them and get them to conform to their idealised state of passive obedience. This idealised state is one where everyone is defined in a very narrow sense, there is no collective grouping outside of one's own little group, and anyone who objects to this state of affairs is called a 'racist' or a 'homophobe' or a whatever. With everyone so caught up in policing one another the globalists have been able to continue their destructive course of war profiteering and handing democratic sovereignty to corporations largely unchallenged.

The power of the spell is broken now, even if the socially-engineered, weak-minded apologists for the power set refuse to believe it. For what they don't realise is that the election of Trump—and Brexit before it—was the anguished howl of a people who had had enough and were unwilling to acquiesce to the madness any longer. In that respect, Brexit and Trump's election will go down as the most important historical events of Western civilisation in the 21st century. If you don't believe me, just wait.

Yet the people still entrapped by this spell believe in maintaining the status quo so vehemently that they are quite unable to function when their overlords are exposed as frauds and fakes. They are fine with their military raining death down on foreign nations so that they can plunder their oil (but don't turn away the refugees), fine with supporting a candidate who takes blood money from a nation that routinely kills gays and stones women for adultery (as long as we have freedom and equality) and fine with starting a nuclear war which would kill millions of innocent people (because Putin said something nasty about gays). They are also the ones who loudly insist that it is racist to be against globalisation, although they always assume that the benefits of globalisation will accrue to themselves, and if you find yourself living in a wasteland of drug addiction, crime and unemployment because of it, well then that's just your own stupid fault and you're probably a racist so there.

These people are all going to be swept away into history's compost bin, and they know it. It would be a good thing if they could be brought round to see reason—after all, some of them are good people and it's not their fault they've been brainwashed. But, alas, in most cases they are too far gone and it is impossible to reason with them. They belong to a superfluous unproductive class for which there will soon be no further need. They are the corporate PR flacks, the media, the overstuffed university faculty members, the fat layers of government who produce nothing but new regulations and rules to penalise everyday people, and the political hangers-on and other assorted medieval court fauna. As the global energy pie shrinks and the very real limits to growth assert themselves, these people will find themselves pushed out of the picture. No longer will they boast on Facebook about not being able to change a lightbulb as though menial, physical, useful skills are for the Untermensch classes—they'll be too busy fighting among themselves about whose fault all this was and forming circular firing squads.

For anyone who thinks they might detect a note of glee here, they'd be right. I would dearly love to see the likes of The Guardian, the Clintons and all the other warmongering, social engineering, psychopathically driven impediments to real human progress tossed into the fiery abyss. But, gratifying as that might be, it doesn't mean everything will then be all sweetness and light. Indeed how do we even know what to expect next? As has become abundantly clear to many people, the world of mass media, talking heads, opinion formers and politicos don't offer us any useful guidelines any longer. That's why the polymathically inclined turn to other areas where they might find better tools for human understanding—and one particularly useful area is the realm of mythology and psychology.

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung noted the various archetypes manifest in human consciousness, and explained how we relate to these in our lives (although they exist on a subconscious level so usually we don't realise it). Joseph Campbell took this a stage further in his analysis of myths throughout human history, drawing out these archetypal figures to help make sense of such a widely diverse universe of stories. These archetypes are encoded in our minds and have been there from the time of our earliest ancestors. For the most part they lurk there unseen, only revealing themselves in times of need, when they help us to make sense of the world when everyday logic seems to fail us. This, of course, flies in the face of progress and scientism and the other pseudo-religions we like to insist are useful to us, and so many people choose to ignore the lessons of mythology. So it goes.

The archetype that should concern us today is the one they call the Trickster. The Trickster is a magician—someone who can conjure something seemingly impossible out of nothing. Magic, by the way, is the ability to take something from a non-physical realm and bring it forth into the physical one. It is the ability to change human consciousness through act of will. We all do it, usually without realising it, and politicians try to do it more than most of us (check out the Clinton team's disastrous experiments with Spirit Cooking). The Trickster is adept at this, appearing in times when civilisations have become stale and moribund, and when politics seems dead and insipid. The Trickster strides onto the stage and explodes the neat order of things, creating chaos and mayhem and collapse. Trickster is a disruptive intelligence. He laughs as he brings down elites, chuckles as he tosses political grandees into oblivion and cackles with mischief as he throws entire societies into turmoil.
 

In Norse mythology, Loki took the main Trickster role. Loki wanted to start Ragnarök—an all-encompassing battle that would destroy much of the world and also kill the gods in the process. Pan was also a Trickster—you've heard of 'pandemonium' and 'panic'—as was Shakespeare's Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In Britain we have a real-life Trickster in the form of Nigel Farage, and now in America, we have The Donald. Pretty soon, across much of Europe, each nation will have its very own Trickster running the show.
 
A note of warning. Those who are tired of the status quo, who are sick of corrupt politicians and exploitative corporations, and who yearn for deep and meaningful change should beware. Because normally we don't get the Trickster we want: we get the Trickster we deserve. It is worth knowing that we ourselves may be tossed into the abyss along all the other detritus: we vanquish our control when we summon forth the Trickster. Because, as Jung once again explains, the type of Trickster we get depends on our own dark Shadow. This Shadow represents our deepest fears: it is everything about us that we have been too afraid to confront. Our Shadow, at a societal level, is represented by all those bodies in the basement I mentioned above. It's all the stuff we have tried to block out, such as the harm we do to the planet, the resource wars our politicians get into on our behalf, factory farming, nuclear weapons technology—all the stuff we chose not to focus on rises up from the collective subconscious and becomes the Trickster beating down our basement door.
 
What follows is never pretty. When Shiva dances, worlds crumble. But afterwards, when the Trickster has had his fun, he leaves the scene and a time of renewal can occur. For, even after the mayhem of Ragnarök the land rose up from the sea, cleansed and refreshed. 
 
I'll let Puck have the last word, with his closing speech in A Midsummer Night's Dream
 
If we shadows have offended,
 Think but this, and all is mended—
 That you have but slumbered here
 While these visions did appear.
 And this weak and idle theme,
 No more yielding but a dream,
 Gentles, do not reprehend.
 If you pardon, we will mend.
 And, as I am an honest Puck,
 If we have unearnèd luck
 Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
 We will make amends ere long.

H is for Hydrogen Dreams

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 7, 2016

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

 

I can clearly recall one day in 1997 when I was working for a large company in the UK energy sector and one of heads of the Corporate Strategy department came down to give us a talk. He confidently predicted that inside 10 years "almost every car on the planet" would be powered by hydrogen. This sounded a bit fishy to me, and even though I was a corporate flak at the time, something didn't ring true about his claim. I asked him a question: "But where will the hydrogen come from?"


His eyes boggled at the sheer stupidity of such a question. "Where will it come from?" he repeated, his mouth curling into a smile at the corners as if I had made some kind of joke. "Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe! It's everywhere! You yourself are 10% hydrogen!" There was a ripple of laughter around the room and I felt like the stupidest kid in the class. How could I be such a dumbo!?

Now, almost 20 years later, I have yet to see a car powered by hydrogen. But why?

For a start, hydrogen might be abundant, but it is not a primary fuel. It had to be turned into a useable fuel by employing methods that involve using other fuels. Electrolysis is the main method used to extract hydrogen from water, and most electricity is currently produced using fossil fuels.*

Never mind, let's ignore this energy usage for now and continue making hydrogen. Once we have extracted some pure hydrogen from water (or natural gas, as if often the case – but shhh! don't tell anyone!) we will notice that it is incredibly light and fluffy. To get it into a liquid form we'll have to compress it using a compressor. 10,000psi should do it so that it's usable for a car. Of course, it'll need to be stored in a very thick and heavy high pressure tank.

Okay, so now we've arrived at the stage where we've burned up loads of coal, natural gas or even uranium making water into liquid hydrogen fuel. We have compressed it and stuffed it inside a heavy steel tank ready for using. Can we just store it there until we might need to use it? Well, actually this is also problematic as hydrogen has a boiling point of -253C — which is damned cold by most accounts. Anything above this and it will boil off and evaporate. So forget filling up the tank of your nifty "green" hydrogen car and leaving it sitting on the drive for a few days — you need to use up your fuel before it disappears, which it typically does at a rate of 3-4% a day.

Does it still seem so attractive? Leave you car for a couple of weeks while you go on holiday and you'll likely come back to an empty tank.

Anyway, assuming none of the above really bothers us, what about our good friend the Second Law of Thermodynamics — you know, that old Cassandra party-pooper who endlessly repeats that energy is lost at every stage of conversion, increasing entropy as it does so — does he have anything to say about hydrogen powered motoring? Well yes, quite a lot actually. It turns out that using electrolysis to create hydrogen, compressing it and storing it gives it an energy return (EROEI) of about 0.25. Yep, that means we have to put in four units of energy to get one back.

If anyone still thinks this is a good idea go and grab the nearest six-year old and ask them to explain it to you.

But … assuming you don't care about the energy loss, the burning of fossil fuels to turn natural gas feedstock — sorry, water — into hydrogen, the compression costs, the storage losses and the fact that your hydrogen car weighs twice as much as a normal one due to the giant onboard tank — assuming none of that matters — where are you going to fill it up? According to the US Department of Energy there are 31 stations nationwide where you can fill up your vehicle. Yes, that's 31 that have hydrogen, compared with about 90,000 that have gasoline. As far as I can tell, there are around two in the UK "with another four planned". Yep, the hydrogen future is already here.**

So, for our hydrogen fuelled cars — which will inevitably also feature lithium ion batteries — to be usable to those people who don't live across the road from a hydrogen fuelling station and who like to travel more than 10 miles from their homes, we'll need to retrofit more or less the entire energy infrastructure.

Need I go on …?

So, here we are, still waiting for the great hydrogen future ("It's everywhere! The only pollution is water vapour! The fossil fuel industry doesn't want this to take off!") It probably has some industrial application that could be useful but if we think that hydrogen is a straight substitute for petrol we're going to be sorely disappointed.

In the meantime, here's a "zero emissions" train that's just hit the tracks in Germany. Apparently it is entirely pollution free and "runs on water" (like Jesus, but faster?***) Want to play a fun game and lose all you friends in the process? Every time one of them posts a link to the train on Facebook, leave a simple reply saying 'BS' and link to this post. It works wonders — I've already lost several friends as a result, and expect to lose more in the future.

But don't mind me, I'm just a dumbo, and I'm 10% hydrogen.

* Yep, I know you can make electrolysis happen using solar PV or other renewables, but please refer to the bit where I mention the Second Law, and also consider the sheer amount of solar PV that would be needed to do so on a large scale to keep us on a happy motoring course and how it might be better employed.

** In my second career as a journalist/editor, we got invited to meet the late Shimon Peres in a darkened hotel room in Copenhagen during the shambolic COP15 conference. Peres wanted to push his 'Better Place' hydrogen/electric car initiative on us. We were not allowed to ask questions, such as whether it would actually work. "Better Place" went bust a couple of years later due to the unwillingness of the Second Law to negotiate, and the plug was pulled on it — as were several articles that reported on its demise such as this one in The Guardian "Better Place: What went wrong for the electric car startup"

*** As a small footnote, there's a personal irony in this. The Jesus Train was built by the company Alstom, for which my father, gods rest his soul, used to be a purchasing director. In his time he negotiated and purchased all the major parts for the first trains to run through the Channel Tunnel, as well as the French high speed TGVs. I actually spent a summer working in Alstom's French train factory when I was 21. My father would have hated all this BS — he's probably turning in his grave right now.

F is for Frugality, G is for Get the Fuck out of Dodge…?

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on October 24, 2016

money_flowers

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

F is for Frugality

 

Being frugal, according to dictionary.com, means being:

economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful.

Living frugally means imposing austerity on yourself in order to have better control over your life. It means wresting control away from the exploitative systems that govern the world we live in. Frugality is not a competitive sport to be boasted about online; it's more of an aspirational art form.

There are endless ways of being frugal without incurring any loss of life quality. In fact, most people report that their lives feel more grounded once they begin practicing frugality.

There are many good reasons for being frugal. In his 1970s book Muddling Towards Frugality, Warren Johnson lays out a whole philosophy regarding living well by focusing on what you need rather than what you want. One of the best reasons, however, is that it might save your life. Living in a state of permanent entitlement is a  psychological achilles heel for many. Watching middle class people lose things they consider themselves entitled to is usually a very sorry spectacle. Frugality, or voluntary simplicity, or voluntary poverty is about jumping off the work-to-consume treadmill and getting onto the (much slower) work-to-live one.

Living frugally does not mean living in poverty. Poverty is a trap that can be impossible to escape from. The systems of our industrialised technocratic psychopathically-designed society are set up to funnel wealth upwards from the masses to a few people at the top. Those caught in the trap often find they have no way of escaping it: they are literally powerless.

Some people have the good fortune to be able to practice frugality before it is thrust upon them by outside forces. If you are one of them you should count your lucky stars. It's no fun going from being comfortably middle class to being without a place to call home and unable to afford even a cup of coffee (as I can attest) but if you get enough practice in you can at least salvage the basics of existence and then fill the upper levels of your hierarchy of needs pyramid with things that are free, or very cheap. These things are free (presently):

– Going for a walk
– Keeping fit
– Singing
– Creating works of art
– Making love
– Meditating
– Talking with friends
– Stroking kittens
– Joining a fight club

We live in a time where, in some ways, it is easy to be frugal. Our societies are awash with cast-off clothes, toys, electronics and materials that nobody wants. 90% of our fossil fuels end up as waste heat, and about half of the all the food we produce ends up in landfill. There is plenty of room for frugality at either end of the scale.

But that window is rapidly closing. Within ten years we're likely to have witnessed the end of industrial civilisation as the EROEI of oil drops below 1. At this point those who do not know how to live very cheaply and simply will be – let's just say – at a considerable disadvantage.

If you want some ideas, have a look at Britain's most frugal pensioner.

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 1, 2016

G is for Get the Fuck out of Dodge…?

 

Homelessness is already spiking in cities across the USA


Should disaster strike, being located in a large city is likely to present a number of problems specific to the urban denizen. Due to their concentrated nature, any large scale and ongoing outage in electricity and/or fuel is likely to put the city dweller at a considerable disadvantage to those living in less heavily populated areas. Urbanites often say they feel safer in cities. It's what they know, and often it is where they grew up. And to a certain extent they may be correct: relief efforts during the initial stages of a cataclysm are usually focused on large metropolitan areas where the largest number of people can be serviced via centrally-located distribution points. The shops may all be empty as just-in-time distribution systems enter a state of paralysis but it's a reasonable expectation that there will be an aid agency on hand to give out some food and bottled water to anyone willing to queue up for hours or days. What's more, cities contain much of the most valuable infrastructure in the country, including government offices and centres of finance, so it is likely that much of this will be secured from chaotic elements by the Army.

That was the good news.

The bad news is that due to the concentrated and hyperconnected nature of cities a crucible effect will take place and collapse will be a lot speedier and lethal than in non-urban settings. In a recent report the Pentagon states that by 2030 the world's megacities will be ungovernable hothouses of urban decay filled with rioting youths, collapsing infrastructure and chronic levels of crime. Here's a quote from OffGuardian (link):

"According to a startling Pentagon video obtained by The Intercept, the future of global cities will be an amalgam of the settings of “Escape from New York” and “Robocop” — with dashes of the “Warriors” and “Divergent” thrown in. It will be a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers."

 
In large cities, rich and poor live cheek by jowl, meaning the wealthy and even the reasonably well-off are likely to be easy targets for gangs of looters. Should an economic collapse occur at the same time it is likely that the police, ambulance and fire services will not be paid, meaning they will be less willing to risk their lives by entering 'no go' areas—if they even bother to turn up to work at all. Forced acquisition of housing will also likely occur in this scenario as squatters and the dispossessed exploit the lack of law and order.
 
Even on a very basic level, surviving in a large city in which the power has been shut down is likely to be very difficult—if not impossible—for most. Without access to land to grow or catch food, city dwellers will find themselves unable to feed themselves in short order. Climate will also be an exacerbating factor, with apartment dwellers in cold regions finding it impossible to heat their living spaces, and those living in very hot regions unable to use air conditioning. Without power, water will not run from taps, and toilets will not flush. Backed up sewage systems will spread disease, as will the exploding rodent population feeding off the mounds of uncollected garbage and unburied bodies. People who have not prepared for such eventualities by gathering food and equipment to help them through such a period of turmoil will be at a considerable disadvantage and may find the psychological pressure alone too much to bear under the circumstances. 
 
With urban dwellers having invested in very little in social capital it's likely to be a case of 'every man for himself' within a matter of days of disaster striking. And disaster could strike in the form of a natural cataclysm, such as a tornado or a flood, or it could be man-made, such as a grid outage caused by computer hackers, or a nuclear or chemical strike. It could even be something as mundane as a sudden currency devaluation, sending the economy into a tailspin. Furthermore, it is worth bearing in mind that large cities present easy targets for state and non-state terrorists.
 
Of course, escaping to the countryside will also present its own set of challenges, and it would be wishful thinking to assume that the majority of the urban population could easily move out to grow vegetables and raise chickens. A potential half-way house might be the sprawling suburbs that surround many cities (especially in America). It is not beyond the scope of our imagination to see that many of the houses could be retrofitted to provide better protection against the elements, and the extensive lawns surrounding them turned into food producing spaces. Due to their large size many so-called McMansions could house several families at a time, assuming the materials they are made from hold together, and new localities would form in this way.

E is for EROEI

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on October 3, 2016

oilwell

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

Understanding EROEI – or Energy Return On Energy Invested – should be on every school curriculum, but isn't. Simply put, it's the amount of energy we as a species can play with. Back in the days when you could poke a hole in the ground and oil would gush out of it skywards, getting hold of plenty of energy was easy. In fact, for every blob of oil you used for locating, drilling and transporting the stuff, you got between 100 and 200 similarly-sized blobs of the same quality back. The way this energy value was expressed was by way of EROEI; thus, sweet onshore crude oil could be said to have an EROEI of 100 to 200. These were the low hanging fruit days that made the 20th century boom.

Once all the low hanging fruit was gone we had to move a bit further up the tree. Oil and coal and natural gas were still abundant but they needed more work to get at. They also needed more processing, transporting and all the rest of it. Because of this, the net energy (i.e. energy return minus energy expenditure) available to us was lower. We invested one blob and got considerably less than 100 back. In other words, the energy we invested in unlocking fossil fuels needed to be higher just to get the same amount back that we were used to, meaning the EROEI was falling.

Of course, fossil fuels aren't the only forms of energy. Nuclear was thought to have a high EROEI, but once you took into consideration the entire process of building the power stations, mining the uranium, decommissioning the plant and storing the waste, the EROEI shrivelled up like dead fish in the sun at Fukushima Beach.

Renewables also have relatively low EROEI values compared to early oil. Note, however, that EROEI has nothing to do with money. Getting EROEI mixed up with EROI (Energy Return on Investment) is a common mistake. One deals with the immutable laws of physics and the other deals with the infinitely manipulable world of finance – and only one of these sets of conditions is negotiable.

So what would be the average EROEI value of oil discovered today? Unfortunately nobody can seem to agree on an exact figure, but you can be sure that it's a lot lower than 200. 20 perhaps. In fact many insist that fracked shale gas and tight oil have such a low EROEI they are only viable as a commercial operation when financed by Wall Street Ponzi schemes. Biofuels, such as ethanol, have disastrously low EROEI numbers – in many cases they are less than 1. When you put more energy into something than you get out of it then it can no longer be regarded as a fuel source. Nevertheless, biofuel volumes are often added to 'total liquids' figures, implying they are an oil substitute when clearly they are not.

People will often say that 'the world is awash with oil' because they see it on the news all the time. They see no reason to think scarcity exists – everywhere they look they see abundance. However, there's a problem with this kind of thinking, and the problem is that our net energy levels are shrinking. Yes, shrinking! We can cover the world in wind turbines, solar panels and fracking wells, and we still can't escape the shrinkage problem. We might be producing, say, ten million barrels of oil per day – which looks great on spreadsheets and in news articles – but what good is that if we are then spending the bulk of it to do more drilling to get at more oil that will have an even lower EROEI value?

Which leads us to the crux of the problem. The modern world was set up to run on high EROEI energy. Take a look around. All those roads, airports, microproccesor factories, mechanised agricultural systems, globalised supply chains and space programmes require a huge throughput of energy. But we are running out of high EROEI energy, and will soon have only low EROEI energy to play with. Which begs the question: at what average level of net energy will the modern world cease to be a viable option? In the past, when high energy fossil fuels were abundant, you could always throw more money and energy at problems and expect them to go away – and usually they did. But this option itself is now going away. What will we do?

Here's a chart showing estimated EROEI values for different energy sources (source unknown).
 

Proponents of renewable energy will say that we can simply swap out the old system for a new 'clean and green' one. We'll all drive electric cars, live in solar cities and our lifestyles will not be much different to what they are today. This vision ignores many of the other limits to the system, and would still permit the continued destruction of the planet's life support systems, albeit in a more 'green' fashion. That's not to say that renewable energy isn't extremely useful – especially in a locally-distributed way – just to recognise some of its limits.

On the other hand, fossil fuel dinosaurs claim that we should just go all-out for oil and gas and coal. If there's such a thing as EROEI or global warming or acidifying oceans then they don't want to hear it. We should be fracking the living daylight out of the planet, building pipelines and fighting wars to get 'our' oil out of the Middle East. These people are a type of modern day cargo cult and as such, are quite dangerous. Many of them are politicians and leading businessmen.

There's a third category, too. The techno cornucopian optimists insist that a new technological breakthrough is just around the corner that will allow us to live like we do with no interruption to service. Haven't you heard there's a government conspiracy to cover up the availability of free energy? Or that if we can send robots up into space to mine comets for uranium we can have endless energy? Selling dreams is a profitable business, and the most successful of these people have MBAs and hire the best PR staffers. I myself once pretended to be one just for fun and have had several requests for an investment prospectus from people with money.

So what is likely to happen as these groups fight it out amongst each other while, all along, the needle on the global EROEI fuel tank moves into the orange zone? Perhaps it will be like the hand of God slowly turning down the dimmer switch on industrial civilisation. Because the more energy we USE simply to GET energy, the less energy is available for the rest of society to use. And this manifests itself in many different ways, but it all comes down to lower available net energy. Already we are seeing demand destruction and lower energy use as the former consumer classes struggle to be able to afford as many goods and the corresponding energy they use. Heavy goods vehicle traffic levels have fallen over 6% across the UK in the last decade, councils are turning off streetlights at night, and homeless levels in the US are spiking. Sweden is encouraging its citizens to refurbish goods instead of buying new ones, malnutrition in children is becoming common in the developed world and 30-something Britons possess half as much as 30-somethings did only 10 years ago [*See links below]. These are just some signs that the big squeeze is on, and it's getting tighter and tighter with each passing year.

Links to articles:

HGV traffic levels falling across UK
Councils turning off streetlights
Number of homeless people over 50 in US spiking
Sweden encourages goods refurbishing
Malnutrition in UK children
30 something Brits have less than half of 40 somethings at same age
UK hits "Peak stuff"
If you're under 30 – bad luck – you're screwed

D is for Degrowth

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on September 26, 2016

05-24-human-extinction

Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Or it could also be for Depletion or Dieoff, which are related topics. The human species has been expanding rapidly since the Industrial Revolutions, but really took off in the 20th century. Masses of cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels allowed us to mine and exploit the planet's mineral, animal and plant resources as if they were infinite. We measured all of this activity by giving things a monetary value and measuring the rate at which primary goods (raw materials) were turned into manufactured products, supported by a web of services. We called this system of measurements "the economy".

Because we had an economy we had to have economists. These were the technicians and theoreticians who claimed they knew how to make the system function and grow. If the system was growing then material prosperity – or at least the promise of it – could be made available to more and more people. Banks made loans and lent money, governments issued bonds and initiated works of infrastructure, generals grew their armies and waged wars, and the common person got a credit card and a mortgage to buy a house. All of this economic activity went into the melting pot and was used to calculate a country's GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

This all worked well until the limits of growth were met. However, by that point, the system had evolved into one with no reverse gear. Booming populations, exponentially rising debt and an infrastructure designed and built on the assumption that there would never be any limits to growth had painted us into a corner. The economists, being only concerned with economics and not ecology, failed to recognise that the human economy is merely an artificially created system existing within the wider ecology of planet Earth. As a result of this minor oversight ecological systems are breaking down at an alarming rate. The planet is running out of capacity for dealing with the rising tide of waste from the human species,  just as it is running out of fresh water, fertile topsoil, biodiversity and a climate amenable to continued human civilisation.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Standard neoclassical economics says that when one good becomes scarce the free market will step in and – as if by magic – a substitute good will be found. This hasn't happened in the case of our biological life support systems and represents the ultimate market failure. But this hasn't worried the true believers, and the concept of infinite substitutability has now been taken to its logical conclusion ad absurdum with serious talk about moving to a new (as yet unlocated) planet.

So, given the huge footprint of the human species on a finite planet, there can only be one logical solution to save ourselves: to degrow the economy. This is not a popular option. For an economy geared for growth, and only growth, any backward step to a smaller and less complex state of affairs is calamitous. Financial ponzi schemes collapse, asset bubbles burst, people lose their jobs and governments find themselves unable to supply basic services. All of this tends to lead to riots, revolutions and wars.

And yet we don't have any choice. Given the basic mathematically impossible concept of continued growth in a finite space, it is inevitable that limits will be reached sooner or later. Yet we have engineered a system whereby continued growth is suicidal, and the opposite will be very painful. But given the choice between an outcome that is certainly fatal and one that is likely very painful but not fatal, most rational people would choose the latter, all other things being held equal.

But what would degrowth look like in practice? Imagine, for a moment, the existence of a far-sighted and benign government that wanted to look out for and protect its citizens (I know it's hard to do these days). It might, for example, make cars prohibitively expensive and invest in public transport and cycle lanes instead. It might pour subsidies into researching and developing more benign technologies for generating energy and it might equally focus on energy conservation. Young citizens would be taught at school how to conserve energy and how to decode advertisements. Far fetched? This is exactly what Denmark did in the 1970s following the oil shocks. Alas, being one of only a very small number of countries attempting to unhook themselves from fossil fuel addiction, it was always going to be difficult. Yet its efforts could act in some way as a template for a wider programme.

Is this going to happen? Common sense says it doesn't look like it. Any imposition of degrowth policies by governments would likely be viewed with extreme suspicion – the suspicion being that the brunt of any degrowth would be shouldered by the masses while the rich and powerful minority continued living with wild abandon. This would likely lead to outright rebellion and revolution, or at the very least a new government would be elected on an anti-degrowth platform.

But that doesn't mean individuals, families and groups can't attempt to wriggle free of the economic suicide belt. Sure, it might be difficult to do so, but it has its merits; increased resilience and empowerment being but two. After all, there is no choice in the end. Degrowth is already happening but they just haven't told us yet. All that is left of the world economy is a series of get-rich-quick schemes backed up by asset bubbles, crooked economic figures, a rising tsunami of unpayable debt and ponzi madness. Strip all of that out of the equation and you're left with an economy that is struggling for breath as it sinks beneath the waves, dragged down by falling real energy availability and an increasing complexity that has long since passed the point of positive marginal returns.

The only real question that remains is whether a chaotic and unplanned degrowth scenario will leave the planetary biosphere in an inhabitable state by the time we have returned to a state of sustainability. That, to an unknowable extent, is up to us.

C is for Control

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on September 21, 2016

If we could get photosynthesis to run by moonlight, we would have a chance of supporting the “projected” increase in world population, which as we all know will continue to increase forever, no matter what. Wait, what? (Photo by Sammydavisdog/Flickr)If we could get photosynthesis to run by moonlight, we would have a chance of supporting the “projected” increase in world population, which as we all know will continue to increase forever, no matter what. Wait, what? (Photo by Sammydavisdog/Flickr)

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

The future will be about a loss of control in our daily lives. Some of it will be big stuff that will affect you, such as your pension fund going bust or your country experiencing hyperinflation, and frankly there's not much you can do about it. On the other hand there are other things that you can control, and it's best to get a handle on them now while the going is still good(ish).

Health is one of the most precious things that you can have. To remain in good health for as long as you can without the need for hospitals and drugs and doctors is a worthy aim. For the average person, a healthy diet, a moderate amount of exercise and the avoidance of too much stress will suffice. A scary proportion of people are hooked on medicines dished out by doctors, as well as any number of other harmful substances. Try to get rid of any harmful addictions while help is still available. Likewise, get dental procedures and the like out of the way while the health systems are not collapsing. Assuming you are able bodied and of sound mind, nobody is responsible for your health except you.

Finances are another area where you can take control. Avoid all debt, if possible, and at least avoid all unpayable debt. Being in debt means that other people and entities have control over you. Downsize as much as you can in the expectation that if you don't voluntarily downsize you will be downsized involuntarily at some point. Live within your means – it's good practice for the future. Stop wasting money of takeaway food – learn to cook instead.

Make your home as resilient as possible. Insulate it, fix the roof, get rid of unnecessary energy wasting appliances and do what you can to cut down on its running costs. Have an energy holiday one weekend (i.e. no electricity or gas) and see how you get on. Get rid of any unnecessary clutter in your home by selling it or giving it away – it'll make you feel better. If you wish to hoard food and other dry goods at least put them somewhere out of your immediate living zone.

Try and get control over the essentials of life. This means water, food, warmth (or cooling, depending where you live) and shelter. Play what if games. What if the electricity went off for a month? What if the taps stopped running? What if the heating breaks down and it's minus 30C outside? In this way you will be prepared. If you don't do it already, learn how to grow food. If you have no space for growing food then volunteer at your local organic farm. Make friends with them and help them out so that they'll help you out one day. If you are well prepared for hard times then put aside a little extra to help others.

Taking back control is empowering, but try not to get too carried away with it as nobody has total control over their life. If and when a major disaster or shortage occurs one of your greatest resources will be your friends, family and neighbours. Make yourself indispensable to them and they'll do their best to look after you.

B is for Brexit

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on September 19, 2016

Euro_collapse

Discuss this article at the Geopolitcs Table inside the Diner

Brexit [a contraction of British Exit (from the EU)] is the 'cat among the pigeons' event that future historians may see marked the end of our love affair with globalisation. When, in June 2016, people in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were given the chance to vote in a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union, or to leave it, the majority chose the latter. The 'Leave' camp won in spite of a media campaign of epic proportions to convince people to stay.

Discourse, if one could call it that, was heated and often venomous, with 'Leave' voters subjected to much ridicule and accusations of being fascists. On the other hand, 'Remain' voters were framed as clueless metropolitan liberals – the kind of people who would willingly have rolled over for Hitler and his Third Reich.

In the aftermath of the vote there was much fallout. Many high ranking politicians, including the prime minister David Cameron, found themselves at the end of their political careers. Such had been the level of fear whipped up over what was likely to happen in the event 'Leave' won – including Cameron and his chancellor warning of a market crash and a Third World War – the aftermath felt like something of a damp squib. To date, the only measurable effect has been a smallish downward correction in the value of the pound, and better than expected GDP growth figures.

Media organisations who backed the 'Remain' camp are still in a state of denial. The Guardian, for example, immediately chose to run with the narrative of a wave of hate crime being unleashed across the country – a phenomenon of which there is scant proof. Brexit supporters are routinely labelled as 'misguided', foolish' or 'racist', and are compared to supporters of Donald Trump in the US. Yet the majority of Leavers, when questioned, cited concerns with globalisation as the main reason they chose to vote the way they did. Globalisation, for them, had become something of a disaster in which their jobs were exported overseas and, in return, waves of immigrants moved into their communities and put further strain on the already over-subscribed public services and infrastructure. Put bluntly, as one interviewee stated, "If you've got money you vote 'Remain', and if you've got nothing you vote 'Leave'.

The referendum revealed a split in the nation that ran between social classes, right through the middle of communities and even between friends and family members. For some, voting Leave had little to do with politics and was merely a chance to spit in the eye of the powers that be. Likewise, for some voting Remain, it was like casting a penny into a well and making a wish for a better, fluffier world (albeit a world backed up by punitive EU trade deals, turbo capitalism, non-democratic supra states using NATO's firepower to keep the dispossessed from their borders). There was very little common ground on which anyone from the two sides could agree.

However, some have pointed out that despite the furore the UK has not so far left the EU and may never do so. They assume the EU will continue to grow in power and size and that no prime minister will ever dare trigger the article needed to exit the EU club. But perhaps that misses the point. The world of business and politics runs on sentiment. The one thing they hate, we are told, is uncertainty. The UK has stated its intention to leave – an unutterably offensive thing to do – and thus shattered the looking glass. All bets are off as to how this will play out, although other states will likely follow in the UK's footsteps as the internal and external pressures on the debt-burdened EU continue to mount.

So if there's one lesson to be learned by the globalists from the Brexit debacle it's that the disenfranchised and angry should not be allowed to vote.

“A” is for Alternative Media

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on September 19, 2016

media manufactured consent

Discuss this article at the Guerrilla Internet Free Speech Table inside the Diner

The alternative media has exhibited an exponential growth pattern in recent years due to the digital revolution and the unsatisfactory narrative offered by traditional media. The ease with which new media ventures can be incubated and by which information is distributed has broken the stranglehold the mainstream media (MSM) has enjoyed in terms of setting the narrative agenda in society. In a recent survey it was found only 6% of Americans have a lot of trust in the MSM, and that figure is likely to be repeated, to a greater or lesser extent, across the industrialised world.

This rapid growth of the alternative media has occurred in parallel with the diminution of trust in the MSM. Since the early 1970s – when the rich economies of the West began to depart from a reality based upon physical productivity and currencies backed by precious metals – the MSM has caused ever-growing levels of cognitive dissonance in its consumers. However, the widespread ownership of computer technology which has occurred in recent years has allowed the vacuum to be quickly filled by thousands of YouTube videos, blogs and alt news sites, all distributed at lightning speed via social media, email lists and RSS feeds. The cumbersome business model of the conventional media has found itself unable to compete with this networked and distributed onslaught and faces a lingering death as its cash reserves and lines of credit deplete. All it can do is dig itself into an ever deeper hole as it desperately tries to rescue its own credibility, but finds it is unable to do so without compromising the power structures behind it.

One way in which the MSM and its supporters are attempting to fight back is by discrediting all alternative media. Due to the anarchic nature of the alternative media arena a wide range of controversial topics are addressed in a range of tones. Some of these are singled out as conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit the entire phenomenon of non-hierarchical information disbursement and the old maxim of slinging mud at a wall in the hope that some of it sticks applies here. This tactic in itself seems to be backfiring as one 'conspiracy theory' after another is proved to be reality; a phenomenon that has turned the tables and appears to be inducing cognitive dissonance in the MSM itself. A prime example of this is the Washington Post's simultaneous championing of the ex-NSA computer analyst turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, whom the paper simultaneously supported to earn industry plaudits, whilst subsequently calling for his arrest due to the existential threat he posed to the establishment.

The MSM is acutely concerned by its shrinking power but does not appear to be able to repel the swarm attack. If it mimics the alt media it shoots itself in the foot, but if it ignores it it further erodes its own self-defined relevance. Instead it repeatedly doubles down on failed strategies and expects them to succeed. With so much capital invested in their enterprises the controllers of the old media have yet to figure out a way to compete with alternative media sources. The new media is unbound by any editorial and political constraints and willing to offer up their services for free, whereas the old media must play by the old rules and is forbidden from 'rocking the boat'. Thus, in the face of this existential threat they are churning out more and more 'news' in the form of entertainment, mixing commercials with supposed reality in the form of sponsored content and retreating behind paywalls that nobody wants to pay for. This has created a negative feedback loop for them and, in fact, without the help of generous benefactors or cash engines strapped onto their media enterprises, we could see the death of the MSM within a few short years. Reports of social media sites censoring alternative media material are only likely to quicken the erosion of whatever trust remains in the MSM.

What emerges from the wreckage is unclear but the issue of trust has been thrust to the fore. In the same way that not all MSM content is 'bad', conversely, not all alternative media is 'good'. The same shady array of forces harbouring murky intentions and blatant attempts at propaganda remains, and we can be sure it is desperately attempting to reconfigure itself in new ways for it to continue to control the narrative and perpetuate the status quo. Perhaps, as the collapse of industrial society intensifies more local forms of media will rise in relevance and importance. This would be one way the trust horizon of information providers could be verified. At the same time, in a deglobalising world, people may find they do not have as much time to follow world events from their own home. Instead, they may be too busy raising chickens and growing vegetables. 

Danger! EU Demolition in Progress

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on February 22, 2016

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

It’s getting harder all the time to distract oneself from how threadbare the fabric of our societies is becoming. No matter how much you avert your eyes it is all but impossible not to notice things unravelling around you. This is happening on every level, from the local to the international, manifesting itself in a multitude of ways.  Just as a fractal pattern has both the macrocosm in the microcosm, and the microcosm in the macrocosm, we are seeing signs of collapse small and large all around us.

 
 
At the micro level I could mention the town in which I live. In the past year we’ve seen a couple of big box retailers close down at one end of the scale, and quite a few small independents as well, some of which have been trading for decades. Streets have so many boarded up shop-fronts that the local council has taken to plastering them with posters showing images from happier times. Homelessness has spiked too, as has drug and alcohol abuse. The police station hasn’t officially closed down, but try getting hold of an officer when you need one – as I did when some drunken youth vandalised my car. The building is still there but instead of it being open there is a phone beside the front door that you must use to report a crime.
 
Aside from the police and the shops closing, public toilets are closed virtually all of the time, and the Post Office too is soon to close down, having been privatised and now asset stripped. The council is being forced to raise its taxation rates by 4% this year to cover the shortfall caused by spiralling costs and diminished funding from central government. Clinics and charities are being squeezed out of existence and the local council tried (and failed) to privatise the town’s midsummer festival.
 
My wife works in the care sector. The stories I get to hear will make you never want to be dependent on the state in your old age. If you can’t rely on your kids to look after you in your dotage it might be wise to keep a bottle of whisky and a revolver in your bottom drawer. Or maybe you'd rather die of thirst lying in your own mess because the 19-year-old unqualified carer who works for minimum wage is too busy checking Facebook on her phone to hear you pressing the emergency button by the bed.
 
Food banks are popping up. Schools are cancelling the more costly trips due to a lack of pupils being able to afford them, and local councils are cutting down trees in public places as they are ‘costly to maintain'. Streets are lined with weeds.  
 
This might sound like a laundry list of woes, but despite it all there is still a reasonably solid façade of normality. Potholes in the road get fixed, people are still buying shiny new cars and householders do up their homes. The county council is still pressing ahead with its plans to install super-fast broadband that will ‘connect us to the world’ as if we weren’t already, and the newspapers continue to repeat that the economy is recovering, that everyone who wants a job now has one, and that generally speaking things are pretty good and getting better all the time. Children’s TV programmes are still talking about us all going off to live on Mars at some point in the future, Richard Branson has unveiled a new spaceship and true believers are still talking earnestly about self-driving robot cars that are fuelled by water.
 
All well and good if you are not paying attention, but on another level it is also getting harder to ignore the cracks that are appearing around us. And crack-ups don’t get much larger than the EU. The UK prime minister David Cameron recently announced there would be a referendum on whether Britain should remain a part of the EU aka ‘Brexit’. This has had the effect of a starting gun being fired in the race to win votes for the respective ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigns. If the ‘ins’ win then the UK will remain within the EU, albeit still on the periphery and with various half-measures in place to ward off unwelcome EU policies. If the ‘outs’ win then the UK will be out of Europe and millions of lawyers can expect to look forward to years of lucrative work as we try to disentangle ourselves from the biggest bureaucratic mess the world will have ever seen.
 
Even though it is early days, a basic and simplistic narrative has emerged in the debate. It goes something like this:
 
From the INs: “The EU brings us peace and prosperity. It has eliminated borders, improved the environment and lifted consumer standards. We would be X b/million (insert random number from your favoured think tank) pounds worse off if we left. It protects us from Russia and ISIS and the Brexiters are nothing but a bunch of right-wing racist Neanderthals who want to steal the EU’s (benign) power and use it against us.”
 
From the OUTs: “The EU is undemocratic and nobody should have the right to decide our national policies – especially immigration. It is run by unelected technocrats who are paid a fortune to make up silly laws. The European Court of Human Rights is the go-to place for Islamic terrorists and paedophiles who should be tried (and hopefully hung) in Britain.”
 
That might be a bit simplistic, but that’s the kind of level of debate that is going around at the moment. Everybody is talking about whether the EU is a good thing or not to be part of, but nobody is asking whether it can exist at all for much longer. I would argue that it cannot. The EU, at heart, is a vast trading bloc of half a billion people. Its very existence is predicated on capitalism, acquisitive expansion and favourable trade deals at the expense of the third world. It runs on cheap energy – the kind of energy that will not be readily available for much longer, and when the inevitably huge financial unwind picks up pace it will severely curtail European access to capital markets and energy. The EU might be rich but it is only rich because of historically unfair trading conditions that have impoverished half the world. And it has very few viable energy sources that would keep it in the manner to which it is accustomed.
 
The EU has always contained the seeds of its own destruction. By regarding monetary union as an inevitability (an inevitability that has steamrollered democracy in the process) it would logically reach a point where the weaker member states would not be able to keep pace with the stronger ones. By flooding the southern periphery nations with cash – and then asking for it back with interest – the EU looks from the outside to be a self-cannibalising monster. Peace in Europe? Let’s see how long that lasts. There are many in Greece, Spain and Portugal who see ‘the EU’ as Germany in disguise.
 
Pro-EU liberals tend to regard the continent in terms of what consumer benefits they can extract from it. To be ‘pro Europe’ is to retain one’s right to fly to Barcelona for the weekend on Easyjet and enjoy tapas on Las Ramblas. They warn that this kind of easy living won’t be possible if we leave the EU.
 
 
If the EU were to quit the EU it probably wouldn’t be a death blow. Britain has a vastly over-inflated sense of its own importance in world affairs and the reality is that the EU might barely notice our exit. A far bigger existential threat to the EU comes in the form of the immigration crisis, which it is already at war itself over. So far, only a tiny number of refugees have arrived in Europe and yet people are already whipped into a frenzy of fear and anguish. In 2015 around a million beaten-down desperate people fled war, drought and economic collapse, to arrive on the shores of Europe – many of them drowning along the way. A million sounds like a lot of people until you remember that there are already half a billion people living here in an area of 1.7 million square miles. If the refugees were spread out equally they would have nearly two square miles each. Lebanon, by contrast, has some two million refugees – and Lebanon is a country you could lose under a crumb on a world map. A Belgian minster's response to the EU's refugee ‘crisis’; tell Greeks to push them back into the sea. There’s your liberal EU for you.
 
 
This is also the same organisation that is trying frantically to get a secret trade deal ratified that would hand over yet more power to trans national corporations and take it away from nation states. If TTIP goes through we can kiss goodbye to basic rights and freedoms, such as being able to choose whether our kids eat genetically modified food or can be told that smoking is bad for them.
 
By now you’re probably thinking that I’ll be ticking the ‘Out’ box on my voting slip on June 23rd. I will be, but its more or less irrelevant as the EU cannot last much longer anyway. This point of view, alas, will not go down well with many people. To be a ‘Brexiter’ is conflated with being a pig-headed xenophobe who refuses to regard social justice issues as the most important battle in human history. The ‘debate’ is far too tribal in any case. The arguments of the ‘Ins’ are confusing and make no sense to me. They talk about democracy yet want to give it away, and they celebrate diversity but at the same time think a ‘one size fits all’ mindset will deliver that.
 
The irony of being called anti-European is that I am ardently pro-European. I’ve lived in four different EU countries, travelled all over and am married to an Italian Dane. Europe, to me, is the most diverse place in the world and has an amazing spread of history and culture. My ideal life would involve spending several months each year travelling around Europe in a camper van and getting to know it in an even more intimate manner. The EU is not Europe; it’s an abstract concept masking a faceless undemocratic organisation that funnels wealth from one place to another and keeps its modesty intact behind a fig leaf of supposed liberalism.
 
It doesn’t have to be that way. We could still have a Europe united around some core values other than money and power and capitalism. How about a Europe focused on an emerging eco consciousness? Or what about remaking it as a loose cooperative of bio-regions? Or perhaps, at the very least, we could all agree on a shared constitution founded on liberty, equality and fraternity. Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has suggested something along those lines, setting up a pan-European umbrella group called DiEM25 that aims to shake things up ‘gently, compassionately but firmly.’ Perhaps there could be more debate about what kind of Europe would be better suited to weathering the coming financial, ecological and energy shocks without causing so much collateral damage to both itself and other nations.
 
Until that happens we’ll just have to stand back and watch the fireworks. Big institutions like the EU are like skyscrapers; they don’t come crashing down to the ground without taking out plenty of other nearby buildings and the EU is like the leaning tower of Pisa on steroids.  Big things are an artefact of the age of oil – the future is necessarily smaller and more local. The best course of action is to stop arguing over whether it is best to be stood on top of the creaking tower it or beside it, and simply get the hell out of the way before it goes over. 

Fear and Loathing in the West

terrorist-300x214gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Publishes on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 18, 2015

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

One could hardly have called the Paris terror attacks unexpected. After all, we are constantly being told that murderous plots are being foiled but that others are being planned. I was about to go to bed on Friday night when I noticed the headlines. I turned on the TV and watched the rolling news coverage for a couple of hours before retiring. I felt sad about those people, most of them gunned down in their prime, but perhaps I had been dwelling upon the darkness of the human soul for too long because all I saw were a few more tally marks on a seven digit number filed under ‘War on Terror’. Yes, they were closer to my living room that, say, Yemen or Palestine, but physical distance should not count for much when death is being considered. 
 
And yet, the next morning it seemed like the whole world had changed. I walked to the corner shop to buy some milk just as it was getting light, and already someone had hung a giant French flag on a wall, presumably in solidarity. There was an intuitive feeling that something had changed on a deep level. As I drank my morning cup of tea and checked in on Facebook and various news sites it became immediately apparent that a very pungent genie had been let out of a bottle. Fear and anger bristled on the screen, alongside sorrow and solidarity. It might just have been a bunch of disaffected and murderous young men gunning down a collection of random civilians in a major European city, but the effect was as a bomb going off in the collective western psyche. Daesh had kicked the west in the goolies.
 
 
The blood had barely dried before French president François Hollande declared that his nation would be ‘pitiless’ in avenging the attacks. Jets were immediately dispatched to pound Daesh (as ISIS/ISIL/IS should properly be known – it is an insulting term that confers no legitimacy upon them, unlike the other acronyms) targets, and the president – who had been mocked as a ‘marshmallow’ – was afforded the strongman status he had so desired.
 
In Britain, too, the psychological ramifications were (and continue to be) deep. The shiny-faced David Cameron, who desperately wants us to be involved in bombing Syria but was thwarted by a popular resistance against such a plan, instantly appeared on television talking about ‘cutting off the head of the snake’ and proclaiming that “We’ll be bombing them by Christmas.” (I’m sure Christ will be happy.) A million fingers pointed at Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as if somehow this was their fault. “A refugee’s passport has been found at the scene of the massacre,” screamed the news and everyone nodded wisely and said “Told you so, you softy liberals.” Of course, when it later turned out to be false they didn’t shout quite so loud. In any case, what kind of suicide terrorist brings his passport to a massacre? Come on people, you can do better than this.
 
I, born in 1971, have never lived in a time of such hysteria. 9/11 came close, but even in the dark days of the Cold War, in which we children were told that we may, at any given moment, be given a four-minute warning before being nuked, this sense of hysteria was absent. Not so now. Perhaps it’s a side effect of rolling news channels, internet feeds tailored to suit one’s prejudices and social media, but it seems as if the effect of all this is an electronic catalyst for inflaming passions. In the past few days I have seen people – normal everyday people – call for all Muslims to be put in vast concentration camps, for refugees to be gunned down before they reach Europe and for the entire Middle East to be nuked. I have also seen suggestions that if you don’t agree with these sentiments you should be tied to a post and shot. 
 
I’ll just get my blindfold …
 
But it pays to take a step back from this madness, take a deep breath and consider how we, individually or collectively, can work to de-fang the monster that has been unleashed. I’m not talking about Daesh exclusively, I’m talking about the cycle of violence that is growing like a whirlwind, sucking in ever more people as it spins wildly out of control. Daesh is like a fire elemental, conjured up by evil magicians. Those magicians – some of whom know full well what they are doing, others less so –  are in both the east and the west. The fire tornado grows stronger and wider with every petrodollar donated by sympathetic nations and every bomb and bullet manufactured in the west and sent to the Middle East. There will be more massacres, for sure, whether it's London, or Copenhagen or wherever – we just don't know.
 
It also pays to realise some deeper truths. The conflict in Syria, which is fuelling so much fundamentalism and driving the tides of refugees moving towards Europe, is effectively a proxy war between the US and Russia. A deep trauma was inflicted on the Russian psyche after the battle of Stalingrad, in which over a million Russians were killed, and that trauma has never been allowed to heal. Germany, the aggressor, eventually lost the battle of Stalingrad after sustaining losses of several hundred thousand soldiers. But (west) Germany, following the war, was afforded the protection of the United States, which stepped in to the bombed out space to become the new global hegemon. As a result, Germany prospered, becoming one of the most successful industrial economies in the world. By contrast Russia, in the guise of the USSR, decayed from the inside out and eventually collapsed.
 
Before the USSR collapsed, it could have followed the time honoured tradition of trying to take down its enemies with it. They still had enough nuclear weapons to atomise most of mankind. But they didn’t. Instead, Mikhail Gorbachev, as General Secretary of the Communist Party, pursued a policy of peace in the spirit of glasnost (openness).  World War III was avoided, but instead of reaching out to shake its outstretched hand, the west made a grab for Russia’s throat. Since then NATO has been expanding eastwards for the last quarter of a century and the west – especially the United States – has been gobbling up companies and resources like a bunch of hungry puppies let loose on a dog food factory. All notion of ‘consequences’ flew out the window. History was proclaimed to be dead, ‘we’ had defeated the evil empire and ‘we’ would thus endure endless prosperity as a result. Hooray for us!
 
Of course, the Russians never saw it like that. Perhaps not immediately, but they caught onto the fact that the concept of democracy was not all it was cracked up to be. For, instead of it meaning ‘the right to choose your own destiny’ in reality it manifested as an economic concept that simply meant your economy would be ‘reformed’ in a manner that made it easy for foreign multinationals to plunder it, that you would be offered a ‘choice’ to vote for one of two insipid pro business-as-usual parties, and that you would lose your rights as a worker. Westerners have so far not been able to understand this reluctance to embrace ‘democracy’, even as the ground is eaten out from under them while they congratulate themselves on being ‘free’.
 
Unlike western leaders, President Putin, whom Dmitry Orlov memorably described as ‘a shark who eats other sharks’ is not stupid. Having cracked down hard on the thugs and Mafiosi who were making life miserable for the average Russian, Putin is a pretty popular guy. He might have Chechen blood all over his hands, but frankly most Russians don’t care, and it’s not as if he has ever denied it. So, seeing the US and its NATO allies make a mess out of every country they interfere with – a growing list that includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and many others – Putin has decided to draw the line at Syria, a country with which Russia has historic ties (and, let’s not forget, a strategically-important naval port). By launching bombing raids and committing ground troops to fight Daesh, Putin has (again) wrong-footed the increasingly inept-looking west. At the same time, by launching long-range cruise missiles that fly at altitudes lower than 100m, he has effectively sent the clear message: “Don’t mess with us.” With its ability to block NATO military communications, Russia has sent a very clear signal that it could take out US forces – a truth recently echoed by an American army commander "Russia would annihilate US in head to head battle". 
 
If there is to be no reconciliation with Russia and a chance for the country to heal its deep-seated wounds, then it appears that Putin will simply act in a unilateral fashion until the west comes along, cap in hand, asking to join him. Which they are (see today’s Guardian: “Putin: from Pariah to Powerbroker in one year”).
 
I don’t think there’s much doubt that before last Friday the United States and its allies were not much interested in destroying Daesh. There was much hand-wringing and saying ‘something must be done with these barbarians’, but on the other hand there was much profitable reaping of the whirlwind to be had. An endless war in the Middle East is endlessly profitable for the elite classes who parasitise our societies. Stocks in weapons manufacturers have jumped since Friday, national governments across Europe are suddenly able to award themselves sweeping powers, and the obedient mainstream media beats the drums for war louder than ever, whipping up the citizens into a frenzy of blood lust. To point out that our allies, such as Saudi Arabia, are funding Daesh – using money that we gave them to satisfy our oil addiction – is to invite ridicule. To point out that over a million have died in Iraq in an illegal oil war is to be labeled a ‘peacenik’. To ask why there was no similar outcry over the bombing in Lebanon the day before, or why such little fuss was made when a Russian plane full of holidaymakers was blown out of the sky over Egypt is to invites puzzled looks. 2,000 dead in Nigeria – yawn. “You have no respect for the dead in Paris!” arises the cry from the army of social media soundbiters whose profile pictures are uniformly plastered in the tricolor as if it means something.
 
Nevertheless, despite all this, there does remain some hope and it comes from the same place as the hopelessness. The mainsteam forms of communication are losing their power. They change their allegiances so often that it’s hard not to think of Winston Smith in 1984 trying to remember which country they were currently at war with Eurasia or Eastasia, and what atrocities the enemy is supposed to have committed:
 
“They have attacked an unarmed village with rocket bombs and murdered 4,000 defenseless, innocent and peaceful citizens of Oceania. This is no longer war. This is cold-blooded murder. Until now, the war has been conducted with honor and bravery with the ideals of truth and justice in the best traditions of mankind… until this moment. Brothers and sisters, the endless catalog of beastie atrocities which will inevitably ensue from this appalling act must, can, and will be terminated. The forces of darkness and treasonable maggots who collaborate with them must, can, and will be wiped from the face of the Earth. We must crush them! We must smash them! We must stamp them out! We the people of Oceania and our traditional allies, the people of Eurasia, will not rest until a final victory has been achieved. Death of the eternal enemy of Oceania. Death! Death! DEATH!” From 1984
 
It is to be hoped that emotions and fiery opinions may burn bright and burn out fast. But the drivers that put in motion current events are like deep ocean currents and for the time being these forces will have to play themselves out. The politicians and global military industrial complex demand our participation and ask that we join in unthinkingly – but we still have the free will to refuse to do so. A friend of a friend wrote something on Facebook the other day that I am going to paraphrase here:
 
“Here in France it’s just gone 11 O’clock and almost nobody has paid any attention to the decree that we observe two minutes’ silence. Life went on as normal, people spoke to one another in the streets and shops and carried on with their everyday lives. Yet every news site is saying that we are all fell silent when we didn’t – it’s all a gross exaggeration. This is just to let you know that most people here know they are being manipulated and refuse to be part of the narrative of a war machine.”
 
For my own part I decided to simply shut off all forms of electronic information on Saturday and instead gathered a handful of acorns and ash keys, 25 in total (that was all I could find). I planted them in pots of soil and with each one expressed the wish that by the time it had grown to maturity, so too would humankind, for the only way for a fire elemental to be dissipated is with an opposite element, such as earth or water. Call it a prayer for peace, if you like.
 
And perhaps it would also do us well to recognise that the world is changing into a different form which will be uncomfortable for many of us living cosseted lives. Our public institutions are crumbling, our financial and political systems are rigged and corrupt, our resources are becoming more scarce and unaffordable, and our ability to project power upon the rest of the world is waning. These things are simply what happens to civilisations in old age: there is nothing new under the Sun. The more energy we expend in fighting this change, the less there will be that is worth saving when we eventually face reality. Old forms die, new forms are born – it has always been this way. We consider it a ‘right’ that we should be able to drive cars, eat expensive meals in fancy restaurants and enjoy being showered in consumer goods, but we don’t accept that with every right there is a responsibility. We stand by and allow our governments to reduce foreign countries to rubble with barely a peep, and we turn a blind eye while the corporations that are given protection by those same governments plunder resources, pollute the environment and treat people as commodities to be exploited.
 

I now it’s a tall order to ask for these things to be understood – especially when the news media obsesses about such minutiae as whether the latest James Bond film (the fable of an emotionally-crippled man who travels around the world murdering people for the geopolitical advantage of his country – a character originally conceived of as high satire but now admired as a role model) has earned more money than some other film, or whether a television commercial for a shop is ‘genius’ or not. But we have to try. We have to wriggle free somehow. My kids know it’s all false, other kids I speak to know it’s all false, even some adults are starting to realise it’s all false. And therein lies some hope.

Feeling the Elephant

elephant-in-the-roomgc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 6, 2015

Artwork by Digital Gheko

TAKE THE DROUGHT SURVEY HERE

Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Most people have heard the Indian tale about the blind men and the elephant. For those that have not, it goes something like this. A group of blind men come across an elephant and, perhaps puzzled by the noise it is making, set out one by one to investigate. The first one feels the elephant’s leg and rushes back to report to the others that it is some kind of pillar. The second one feels the beast’s tail and decides that the thing making the noises is some kind of rope. The third feels the trunk and decides that it must be some kind of tree. Another feels a flapping ear and thinks they must be dealing with a giant fan. The last one feels a tusk and concludes the bellowing noise is coming from some sort of pipe.

 
 
When the blind men get together again they cannot agree with one another at all about what they have encountered. Because each one of them had felt a different part of the elephant’s anatomy they all had a different subjective explanation for the phenomenon. Different traditions tell different versions of the story. In one, the king laughs at the blind men and tells them “You are all correct, and yet you are all wrong.” In another the blind men work this out for themselves and collaborate to build up a picture of the whole elephant based on the subjective experience of each one of them, thus obtaining an objective whole.
 
The story of the elephant works as a nice analogy for our understanding of the world. Each one of us is blind in so many ways and yet we all have to feel the elephant of reality. Our blindness is often educated into us, or sometimes it is because of a lack of experience. Some people see the world in terms of economics and finance. They are always talking about monetary policy and central banks and the value of currencies and commodities as if these things are the only aspects of any worth. Others see it primarily in terms of competition and threats. There are ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ and allies and enemies. To their mind the world is just a stage for conflict, where the victorious and the defeated dance a tango until the end of time.
 
Then there are the religiously blind. These are the people who feel that everything can be explained through their own ‘one true faith’ and that the people of other faiths have got it all wrong. They say that God created the elephant in a magical flash.
 
 
For the greater part, most people can’t even be bothered to feel the elephant. "Roaring noise, what roaring noise?" they say. They are too busy listening to the snake charmer playing his flute, and they walk towards the sweet music, unaware of the cobra coiled in the basket.
 
And perhaps it’s dangerous to stand there for too long feeling the elephant. If one blind man were to run his hands all over the elephant’s body he might suddenly realise he was dealing with an immense beast that had the power to put a tusk through him like a toothpick going through an olive. And even if the beast didn’t do that and he ran back to his blind friends, who were all arguing about whether it was a fan or a pipe or a pillar, shouting “It’s a giant beast and it’s going to trample us!” they might all assume he had been at the shisha pipe too much and tell him to shut up.
 
The elephant analogy is often used to illustrate the concept of systems thinking. Thinking in systems gives us a wider perspective and allows us to see things more clearly, and to make predictions based upon this. If more people thought about the important systems that sustain them there’s a good chance that our problems as a species would be lessened. They might, for example, realise that pouring pollutants into the biosphere in ever greater amounts would inevitably lead to the biosphere being degraded and unable to support them. Instead, and given that we tend to be ruled by short-term economic thinking, we are told that the economy has a greater value than the biosphere, even though it is a tiny subset of the latter. An intelligent species would reorganise human economic affairs so that they complemented the natural processes of the Earth. Instead we get fracking, nuclear power and excessive fossil fuel burning.
 
But systems thinking has its limits too. Because humans are not robots we tend to be irrational in our actions and thought patterns. The conceit of many an intelligent systems thinker is that the boundaries of their mental model are wide enough to incorporate ‘enough of reality’ so as to make the stuff that lies outside of their model irrelevant. This can be a fatal error in a world of chaos theory because what you don't know or can't see can hurt you.
 
That's why the more intelligent branches of systems thinking recognise the limits of both knowledge and understanding. So, for example, someone practicing permaculture on a piece of land may have come up with what they consider to be the spiffiest design that incorporates natural cycles and organisms right down to the earth worms and the mychoorizal tendrils that transport nitrogen from plants' root nodules to nearby trees. If they are a good permaculturist they will know that their model is not infallible, that they can never know about the millions of different microscopic organisms that make up the soil and how they will interact with one another. They will do their best to create some system resilience by piling on organic matter, by not using industrial poisons, and by encouraging a diversity of life to flourish. But at the forefront of their mind will be the thought that they are merely the baton-waving conductor of a vast orchestra in which most of the musicians don’t even have eyes. They know the boundary of their perception and they hope things will work out. They observe and they make adjustments, but they can never play God. 
 
I was thinking about this recently in terms of renewable energy. Renewable energy, such as solar and wind, is abundant and free and relatively non-polluting. And yet, when you get down into the nitty gritty and feel the elephant, it looks a lot less feasible than its proponents claim. There are any number of grand claims that renewables can power an ever-expanding industrial civilisation in such a way that we don’t need to make any cutbacks in our usage. But, to me, these claims look highly dubious because they take little or no account of many of the major factors that make industrial civilisation – and therefore the production of these renewable energy systems – tick. Where would the investment capital come from to transform the world’s energy systems – which have taken over a hundred years to build and are eminently designed to burn fossil fuels and distribute the resultant energy from centralised generating plants? Where would the materials to do so come from? How will the political will to do such a thing be garnered in the face of such stiff opposition from powerful players? How would you convince the majority of people – most of whom either do not regard energy depletion or climate change as a problem – that the huge subsidies fossil fuels enjoy should be switched to renewables? There are plenty of parts to this elephant.
 
So, having felt the renewable energy elephant, the picture I get in my head is that barring some kind of miracle there will be – cannot possibly be – a worldwide rollout of renewable energy to replace the fossil fuelled infrastructure in any time frame that could realistically be achieved. It’s simply not going to happen.
 
But then …
 
But then I consider that whatever opinion I might have reached on the matter doesn’t feature at all in the calculations and daydreams of those who claim that it is possible. And thus we get memes spreading around the internet like wild fire claiming things such as ‘Denmark produced 140% of its electricity from wind power in one day’ and ‘X square miles of solar panels in the Sahara could power the whole of Europe.’
 
So then I have to add in another factor to my mental elephant, namely that: even if I think, based on some pretty extensive feeling, that this beast is an elephant, everyone else is claiming that it’s a tiger. And what happens if something you think is an elephant is widely considered to be a long-nosed tiger? Will people be feeding it live chickens and admiring its imaginary stripes? Or will, on some metaphysical level, the elephant turn into a tiger?
 
Put more prosaically, will the fact that so many people believe a worldwide renewable energy grid could work – despite physical reality seeming to say otherwise – actually lead to its creation? Or will it lead to some kind of half-realised dream or, worse, will we end up with a tusk through our chest? When I pointed out the absurdity of Denmark’s claim to a friend he responded curtly “Yes, but at least they are trying.” It has a certain logic to it: trying is better than not trying.
 

So maybe that’s what will happen. Perhaps if we try hard enough we’ll produce enough renewable energy infrastructure to take the some of the sharp edges off the soon-to-be precipitous decline of fossil fuels (precipitous because we are can't dig 'em up cheap enough for our growth-wired economies to function). Perhaps at that point people will realise that renewables are great for some things and lousy for others but that we don’t really have a choice any more because of the nature of entropy. What will happen then? No doubt some will still hold onto their dreams of limitless energy and flying cars and cities on Mars, but by that point they will be in the minority. Perhaps then – and not until then – our shared predicament will mean we can start to agree on a consensual version of reality once again.

TAKE THE DROUGHT SURVEY HERE

Weird Times

weird-science-01gc2Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on October 14, 2015

weird-science-01

Discuss this article at the Science & Technology Table inside the Diner

 
Something weird is afoot. Has anyone noticed? There’s been a growing feeling of weirdness in the air for at least the last year or two.  The feeling has been elusive; hard to pin down. But it all crystalised for me a couple of evenings ago when I went to watch the latest Ridley Scott blockbuster, The Martian. In this film Matt Damon is a botanist who gets accidentally left on Mars when the rest of the crew on his mission are forced to evacuate during a sand storm. Being a plucky and resourceful chap he figures out various ways to survive with minimal food and other resources as he awaits a rescue which – even if it does come – will take years.
 
 
I won’t go into too much detail about what happens in the film. I enjoyed it – even if I did have reservations about whether potatoes would really grow in Martian soil fertilised only by freeze-dried astronaut dung. I took my kids, and they enjoyed it too. But I came away with that curious feeling of weirdness that has been floating around in the ether for the past few years. Perhaps it was the central message of the film. And that central message was that one day we’re all going to Mars. This will be possible thanks to legions of brave planet-hopping scientists who can overcome any obstacle and save the day.
 
Mind you, nobody has actually asked Mars if we would be welcome there. But that doesn’t really matter: it’s just there for the taking. Elon Musk is actually proposing that the first thing we do when we get there is to nuke the place. This seems a bit rude, but all's fair in the game of colonisation. In fact, you can play colonisation bingo whilst watching The Martian: vast empty landscapes and talk of ‘the first person ever to put a foot here’ – check; a tough guy white male in a vehicle that looks a bit like a caravan heading towards a horizon – check; talk of international laws not applying – check; the line “They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it. So, technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!”; American flags – check. Right at the end of the film there’s a whole classroom full of starry-eyed new recruits who have signed up to be planet colonists. The message is clear: we will colonise Mars.
 
Except we won’t.
 
There aren’t any manned missions to Mars right now. We haven’t even sent anyone back to the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, in case anyone hadn’t noticed. Getting to Mars is, ahem, rather more challenging and expensive than going to our local moon.
 
That’s not to say that we won’t ever send anyone to Mars. There’s a Mickey Mouse Mars mission already being dreamed about, and so far over 100,000  people have signed up to volunteer for a cold and lonely death millions of miles away from home. But The Martian gives the causal viewer the impression that we are already doing this kind of thing and that it’s just a matter of political will and the ‘right guys’ being in charge at NASA (and – tellingly – their Chinese equivalent, who are begrudgingly acknowledged in the film (but not those pesky Russians)). 
 
On the same day I went to see The Martian it was splashed across the news that the UK government had banned hoverboards. Say what? Reading a few of the articles they talked about the kind of board that Marty McFly rode in Back to the Future Part II which is set in, ahem, 2015. I double checked to see if this was not some kind of early April fool’s joke but, no, it didn’t seem to be. How could the government ban something that hadn’t yet been invented? Curious to find out I looked online to see if I could buy one of these hoverboards. Yes – there they were – except they weren’t the kind of thing that Marty McFly would recognise. Instead, it turns out, they are merely a pair of wheels with a central platform that you balance on. There is computer circuitry inside them to stop you falling off them.
 
Hmm. What about fusion cars that run on banana skins and tin cans? A quick Google search reveals any number of articles that claim this will soon be a reality.
 
Speaking of cars, what about all those self-driving cars that we were promised? In theory, these might be able to work on the kind of empty and straight roads found in some countries – but would they work, say, where I live in Cornwall? Fuggedaboutit! Most of the roads round here are upgraded sheep tracks first nibbled out in the Bronze Age. They are congested with a variety of motorist fauna, ranging from little old ladies doing about 20mph in first gear, maniacal City traders doing three times the speed limit in their Audis as they drive down from London for a weekend’s surfing, and gigantic lumbering tractors driven by Romanian farmhands too busy sexting to notice they just flattened a cyclist. I’d love to see the software that can predict the random actions of these human variables – some humans simply refuse to behave like robots.
 
An old lady driving a car. Human variables will never be understood by robotic cars
 
Oh yes: robots. Where are they all? My mother-in-law said she had a robot cleaner about six years ago, but when I went to have a look at it all she showed me a small circular vacuum cleaner that moved around the floor. It didn’t have arms or legs or a face, and it couldn’t even play chess. "It's definitely a robot," she said. "It says so on the box." Mind you, we are being told repeatedly in the media that robots will take away our jobs.
 
Hmmm.
 
Three things. First, I doubt that this will be possible for the vast majority of jobs. Artificial Intelligence is only as bright as the collective wisdom of whatever corporation is churning out the job-stealing robots. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across Dmitry Orlov’s concept of Organisational Stupidity but, in a nutshell, it essentially guarantees that any large corporation has a functional intelligence slightly lower than a seaside donkey. This wouldn’t bode well for the IQ levels of those shiny metal automatons. 
 
Here’s something which, when I tell people, they generally don’t believe me: I have worked with robots. Yes, I did an MSc. when I was 22 at Warwick University that involved writing code for industrial robots (I never finished it – I'd have rather gnawed off my own hands than end up as an industrial robot programmer). Those robots were used for building cars – you know the ones, they look like they are made of Meccano – and they were as dumb as. If you told it to pick up Part A and place it in Location B all would be fine unless Frank Smith, daydreaming about the girl he met in the pub last night, happened to wander in between Part A and Location B at the wrong moment, whereupon he would find himself unintentionally integrated into the chassis of a Land Rover. Industrial robots are like blind, hypnotised elephants.
 
Secondly. Assuming they could make intelligent robots that could do everyone’s jobs (or at least a sizeable chunk of them), that would mean those ex-workers would not have an income. Not having an income in an economy based on consumer spending means there would be less consumption and therefore less of an economy. This is already in an advanced stage of happening right now. Adding robots into the mix would be an excellent way to launch a fresh Neo Luddite movement and I can imagine the internet being filled with articles such as ‘101 ways to kill the robot that stole your job’. Thus, to protect themselves from disgruntled humans, the robots would need to be heavily armed and wearing thick armour. Can you imagine Robocop with Ronald McDonald’s face serving your child her Happy Meal? I thought not.
 
Would you like fries with that, little girl?
 
Thirdly – if the functional stupidity and economic realities haven’t already killed the robot dream – there is the small matter of specialised high-tech producers and delicate supply chains. Robots need a lot of bits and bobs to make them work. Those bits and bobs tend to come from specialised production plants in other countries operating on just-in-time principles. There’s no slack in the system, it’s all too efficient, so if anything goes wrong then everything goes wrong. And we are now heading into an era when things will tend to go wrong.
 
But it’s not just robots, self-driving cars, missions to Mars and all the rest of it that is creating this weird feeling (and don’t get me started on 3D printers, Amazon delivery drones, jetpacks, cryogenics, full-mind downloads etc. etc.) – it’s the fact that the collective conscious seems to think that all of these things are part of our lives now, when actual lived experience tells us that they are not. Yes, some of these technological wonders are either theoretically or technically possible at a great cost, but that doesn’t mean you or I get to experience them. So, instead of people acknowledging that nothing about the futuristic version of 2015 has actually come to pass, they exist in a kind of cosy miasma that whispers things ‘out there’ are progressing for the betterment of humankind, even if they can’t see it for themselves.
 
What, indeed, has changed about our everyday world since, say 1985? Most people will immediately say two things: the Internet and smart phones. And that’s true to a certain extent (although, it was possible to send and receive email in 1985 – I myself had a modem hooked up to my ZX Spectrum – but generally it was only extreme geeks that used it to send one another bits of code and unfunny jokes written in ASCII characters). As a society we’ve since then piled our resources into the tech sector and created a smaller version of the bulky mobile phones of the 1980s, which now come with an integrated mini computer. We could have piled it into renewable energy, conservation and social schemes – but instead we generally piled it into little devices that play videos of kittens. But apart from that, not much has changed compared to how we thought it would change back then. Essentially, we are still living with the inventions of the 19th century, pimped beyond recognition in many cases, but Victorian technology nevertheless. Here’s a short list of some of the things we (the 99.9999%) don’t have:
 
 

–       Flying cars (that run on fusion)
–       Jet packs
–       Holidays in space
–       Hover boards that literally hover
–       Intelligent human-like robot servants
–       An affordable cure for cancer
–       Cities on the Moon

 
Here’s what we do have:
 
–             One billion petrol-powered cars
–     –  2,300 coal fired power stations
–  About 16,000 airliners that burn kerosene
–  An internet and tech sector that gobbles up 1,500 terawatt hours per year (which, incidentally, is the same amount of electricity that was used to light the entire planet in 1985)
–  Smart phones which consume 388 kwh per year (see here)
–  2,271 terrestrial satellites, most of which are used for communications and TV broadcasting
–  Collapsing ecosystems and accelerating resource depletion
–     –  7.3 billion people (compared to 4.8 billion in 1985)
7     – Sky rocketing rates of cancer, diabetes, drug addiction and mental illness 
 
So, it appears that we’ve entered a kind of weird twilight zone where our unmet expectations of the future we envisaged are being filled by the creative imaginings of the entertainment industry and the popular media. For now these fantasies are being powered by fossil fuels with a high net energy ratio, but that is declining with each passing year. As the per capita availability of energy decreases it will become increasingly hard for people not to notice this reality gap.
 
Yet it’s easy to be drawn into this comforting trance. I would love to be able to go to Mars, to ride on a hoverboard and to take my family on an all-inclusive break to a resort on the dusty shores of the Sea of Tranquility. However, I recognise that staking our future on the collective hopes of scientific materialists and their promises of salvation through techno-cornucopian abundance is probably not the wisest choice. Phantoms have a habit of evaporating in daylight, and fantasies of limitless technological achievement must surely do the same thing. 

We might be heading into interesting times, but we likely still have a few more months or years of weird times before us yet.

Nasty

gc2smOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on September 17, 2015

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

I was having a cup of tea with a friend in his polytunnel the other day and he was telling me about how hard it was to live a simple life minding his own business. He's about ten years younger than me, is married and has a kid on the way, and they live on a three acre plot of land which they bought with their own money and manage using permaculture. They work every day of the week, have practically no money and their ecological footprint is probably so small it might even not register, and yet they are suffering from endless harassment to get them evicted and complaints from nearby wealthy residents who feel that people shouldn't be allowed to live as they please. My friend had a simple explanation for all this, he said that as a nation and a culture, we are basically nasty and intolerant.

This got me thinking. Britain, after all, was the first industrialised nation. We had the enclosures acts from the 17th century onwards which kicked people off the land and turned it over to the pseudo industrial practice of sheep farming (the rearing of 'woolly maggots' as George Monbiot describes them). Wealth has been concentrated at the top for so long and the society has been stratified by class that imagining normal people living and working in the countryside is practically impossible for most.

Our culture is a dominator one. Due to a geological accident regarding coal, combined with a military nature and a lust for foreign goods, we ended up being the world's largest empire. When colonisers arrived in Australia and encountered Aboriginal people, instead of making friends with them they buried their children up to their necks in the sand and played a game where you had to kick off their heads with a single powerful kick. In India we caused mass famines and when people complained we machine-gunned them down. We did the same in plenty of other countries too. We divided up vast expanses of Africa, Asia and the Middle East and drew lines on maps which caused huge upheavals and sectarian violence. Nelson razed Copenhagen with naval bombardment, just for fun, and we devised the world's first concentration camps during the Boer War, and enthusiastically firebombed cities during the Second World War. And then, even when we stopped being an empire, we spawned Margaret Thatcher whose enthusiasm for the ideas of neoliberalism was enthusiastically passed onto Ronald Reagan and forced upon the world.

People don't like to talk about any of these aspects of Britishness. They prefer to talk about the engineering marvels we brought to India and how we taught the world to speak English. We brought football, cricket and tennis to the natives, and helped them become civilised. They might concede that there was the odd 'dark chapter' but that overall the empire building was all good and proper.

I was in London a couple of weeks ago and took the opportunity to visit the City (i.e. the financial district) to do a bit of background research for my online book Seat of Mars. Leaving Liverpool Street station one passes by a bronze statue of some refugee children. I looked at the inscription and it was a dedication to the selfless efforts of local people who took in 10,000 Jewish children from Germany prior to the Second World War. Valiant stuff, but this is the statue that many of the 35,000 City workers walk past every morning as they head for their high rises to unleash further financial mayhem on the world. How many millions of people has the City of London killed in the last few decades? It's a valid question, but don't hold your breath for an answer. Yet these City workers, for the most part, see themselves as good people. They run marathons to raise funds for cancer research, they donate money on Children in Need night, and they buy kittens for their kids. I have some friends who are City bankers and they are not evil people (though we don't have much to talk about these days). Hell, I was once almost a banker myself, luckily fluffing my interview at Citi.
 

 

 

So maybe it's just the system that is evil.

But then I see evil everywhere. I see the attack dogs set onto Jeremy Corby for daring to suggest scrapping nuclear weapons. I see evil in the pages of the Daily Mail and the Telegraph as they attempt to character assassinate anyone who wants to stop global warming, or as they incite violence against refugees. I see evil in the countryside where farmers and rich people collude to kill the wildlife in the most painful and inhumane ways possible. Fracking is evil. Bombing by drones is evil. Hosting arms fairs is evil.

 

 

Of course, if you say these things to people they will call you a traitor and a 'Brit hater'. They will point out that it's not their fault, all those wars of conquest, and that they have no need to feel guilty – even though our way of life is funded by one-sided trade deals, easy access to energy and a ponzi system of finance that allows us to continue to rack up astronomical levels of debt and consume huge bites of the world's resource pie. I'm not a Brit-hater – there are far too many positive aspects of life in these isles – but that doesn't mean I have to be an apologist for the less-than-wholesome aspects.

Perhaps my friend had a point.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps it is a case that those in the top positions are psychopaths, willing to do anything and everything to consolidate their power and enslave the masses using mind control techniques. I know plenty of people who are not evil. As a matter of fact, I don't think I know anyone who is evil. Most people, it seems to me, are good at heart. They want to help. They want to love one another. They want to stop the destruction of the world. These are the people it is best to hang around with – they're better for for soul and your sanity.

So why do we collectively put up with all this evilness? Is it because badness has a natural advantage over goodness? Do evil plans always work out in the 'real' world and good ones are just 'idealistic dreaming'? Does the devil have all the best tunes?

I have a theory. Could it be that it is because Britain is an island that was once fabled for its gold and tin mines? That it has been invaded again and again since the end of the last ice age, and that the settler populations always selected for the most war-like? For me, you could forgive the Anglo Saxons and the Romans, but it was the Normans that did it. With their Scandinavian blood, their aristocratic French ways and their lust for conquering – the country changed dramatically after 1066. One of the first things they did was catalogue all the people, land and assets in the Domesday Book. Invasion, murder and cataloguing – the start of the dominator culture. It's been almost 1,000 years and still the top landowners in this country can trace their lineages back to the Normans. Or maybe there is some kind of supernatural explanation …

So, no, I don't think we are evil. Just some of us. The ones with the power. And the ability to project that power has been multiplied a thousand-fold since we discovered that you could burn coal and use it to power engines. So will we see a future where access to limited high-concentration energy also leads to a corresponding drop in the ability of bad men (yes, it's mostly men) to do bad things? One can only hope so.

Who knows, maybe in 500 years time it will be possible to live on a small piece of land and raise a family without having the collective wrath of a millennium of dominator culture threatening to fall down and crush you just for wanting not to be a part of that system.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

https://image.freepik.com/free-icon/musical-notes-symbols_318-29778.jpg

Support the Diner

Search the Diner

Surveys & Podcasts

NEW SURVEY

Renewable Energy

VISIT AND FOLLOW US ON DINER SOUNDCLOUD

" As a daily reader of all of the doomsday blogs, e.g. the Diner, Nature Bats Last, Zerohedge, Scribbler, etc… I must say that I most look forward to your “off the microphone” rants. Your analysis, insights, and conclusions are always logical, well supported, and clearly articulated – a trifecta not frequently achieved."- Joe D

Archives

Global Diners

View Full Diner Stats

Global Population Stats

Enter a Country Name for full Population & Demographic Statistics

Lake Mead Watch

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BX686_LakeMe_G_20130816175615.jpg

loading

Inside the Diner

It Could Get Worse After The Election[img]https://o.aolcdn.com/images/dims3/GLOB/crop/1171x586+16+84/resize/630x315!/format/jpg/quality/85/http%3A%2F%2Fo.aolcdn.com%2Fhss%2Fstorage%2Fmidas%2F882909fbaef03b0b0287e8104f8152bf%2F205888039%2FLAndCl...

     Doomstead Diner Daily 11/2...

Due to climate change, including rising temperatures, more and more methane is bubbling up from lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands throughout the world. The release of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – leads to a further increase in temperature, thus ...

A sound detected by sensors hours after an Argentine submarine sent its last signal was "consistent with an explosion", a navy spokesman said on Thursday.A search operation has been under way since contact with the submarine - with 44 sailors on board...

Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised a new era of democracy for ZimbabweHarare, Zimbabwe - On Wednesday, two weeks after fle...

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

Due to climate change, including rising temperatur [...]

A sound detected by sensors hours after an Argenti [...]

Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised a new era of democ [...]

At least 115 people have been killed in a bomb and [...]

Diner Newz Feeds

  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

     Doomstead Diner Daily 11/2... [...]

RE: INTO THE MAELSTROM: HOW THE HYPERCONNECTED AGE [...]

EXCLUSIVE: WHAT TRUMP REALLY TOLD KISLYAK AFTER CO [...]

Fascinating stuff. I get what the author is saying [...]

I first encountered McLuhan as an undergraduate in [...]

Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm Powers Up in the UK [/c [...]

Quote from: Surly1 on November 23, 2017, 06:57:46 [...]

Due to climate change, including rising temperatur [...]

A sound detected by sensors hours after an Argenti [...]

Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised a new era of democ [...]

At least 115 people have been killed in a bomb and [...]

Now there's a soul with some serious karma to [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on November 16, 2017, 11:4 [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on November 16, 2017, 11:0 [...]

Charles Manson, leader of the murderous Manson Fam [...]

Quote from: Surly1 on November 23, 2017, 06:57:46 [...]

Quote from: RE on November 23, 2017, 06:41:04 AMht [...]

http://grist.org/briefly/how-to-survive-thanksgivi [...]

https://nypost.com/2017/11/22/how-a-homeless-mans- [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Taking a Pass on Gas – Wood Preferred - Part 2 By High Desert Homesteading   Part 1 of this article [...]

The Latest Sign of the Coming Apocalypse By Cognitive Dissonance   On occasion Mrs. Cog accuses me o [...]

Taking a Pass on Gas – Wood Preferred By High Desert Homesteading   We recently bought a 22 year old [...]

Small Town Mountain Living by Cognitive Dissonance   I'm a small town boy. Born and bred small [...]

An Act of Pure Evil By Cognitive Dissonance   This is being written the day after the mass shooting [...]

Event Update For 2017-11-22http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-11-21http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-11-20http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-11-19http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-11-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

From Filmers to Farmers is re-launched on the astounding open source blogging platform Ghost! [...]

The blogging scene is admittedly atrocious. Is there really no option for a collapse blogger to turn [...]

Sure, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is out to conserve our agricultural diversity, but who exactly [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

The Diamond Cutter at Apache Pass, Part 3: Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā"The things that are seen are temporal; the things that are unseen are eternal. — Saul of Tarsi [...]

The Diamond Cutter at Apache Pass, Part 2: Passage to India"Blindfolded, he spoke eloquently on the nature of emptiness."This is the second installme [...]

The Diamond Cutter at Apache Pass, Part 1: Cut the Tent"When we move, or we consume foods from outside our region, we are thwarting adaptation. Our ep [...]

Acceleration"We need to get to above-the-line climate solutions with the same urgency as beach communities [...]

Greening Apocalypse California"At some point the marble will fall into a warmer domain of equilibrium."This is one of th [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Democracy and politics would be messy business even if all participants were saints. But America doe [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

I didn't notice that research on the latest Bloomberg article on Tesla trucks... strange... So [...]

Thanks for the comments, I sent my brother one of your articles a few months ago with that reference [...]

The color part of the black and white documentary is interesting in that it features the Czechoslova [...]

The political systems must continue existing... Where at least a part of that oversupply of lawyers [...]

as ive said many times---if rockefeller had printed OIL KILLS PLANETS on every tanker and fuel pump- [...]

Keeping Up Appearances now UP on the Diner Blog. Sporting a brand spanking newly designed Triangle o [...]

If what is going to happen is that the entirety of the rest of the world is going to collapse first [...]

Jim Rickards is saying that every time that the Chinese devalue their currency that there is a drop [...]

I suspect that the "doom/collapse" that we all anticipated, dare I say hoped for, was the [...]

"All we doomers have is coming on a decade of following internet blogs, and going to our dead e [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Simplifying the Final Countdown

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

Off the Keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Merry Doomy Christmas

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

Changes in climate because of global warming during the 20th and 21st centuries have a direct impact [...]

This paper evaluates contributions to global temperature anomalies from greenhouse gas concentration [...]