Published on The Doomstead Diner February 16, 2017
Discuss this article at the Collapse Naratives Table inside the Diner
Karl woke up early, and set about his usual routine of collecting chicken eggs, milking the goats and watering his raised beds, then headed inside for a shower and to brew the morning coffee. The sound of the water running in the bathroom and the jostling around in the kitchen awakened Karen, and she followed Karl after he finished the morning cleanup, and took his humanure out to the compost pile, covering it with wood chips, straw and leaves to let it ferment. Although he had a flush toilet and a septic system installed, he hardly ever used it, not wanting to waste the precious nutrients and fertilizer contained in his own excrement. He had installed the septic and toilet early on in building the earthship, before he had learned all the techniques of Permaculture and how to compost your own waste to recycle it, but had hardly used it over the last decade.
Karen observed Karl taking out his morning poop and emulated him, shitting into the clean bucket that Karl had left next to the flush toilet after taking his own waste to the compost pile. The bucket had a nice Camping Toilet seat on it and was quite as comfortable to poop in as a normal toilet. Actually even more comfortable since the squatting position was closer to the normal position Homo Saps who do not use toilets take in defecating. Kenny heard Karl and Karen trudging over to the composting area, and took his own bucket of shit from the van, and then walked down to the stream to give the bucket a rinse out before putting it back in the van, in it's storage compartment beneath the bed with his 1 gallon piss jug. Rather than taking a shower as Karl and Karen had, Kenny took a Sponge Bath utilizing water from one of the two 5 gallon water containers he always kept topped off in the van. One container held non-potable "grey water" which he usually got from the streams in the area and was used for washing purposes, and the other contained his drinking water, which he generally got from the Missoula City water system, filling Up a gallon jug every so often when using a public bathroom in a convenience store, of at the Fitness Center where he worked out in the mornings. He also had a water filtration and purifying system, including a small distiller he could use to distill otherwise impotable water if he had to. That generally had not been necessary so far for him though, through the last winter he simply melted snow for drinking water. The streams in the area also were generally quite clean and free of pollutants or bacteria, and just boiling some water from them was good enough to make it potable.
Kenny wandered up the hill to the house after getting dressed, and found Karl and Karen busy getting breakfast ready in the Kitchen. He poured himself a cup of black coffee, nicely brewed from the fresh coffee beans he had brought with him from the gourmet roaster in Missoula. It was WAY better than Maxwell House! Kenny was not looking forward to the day when good coffee was no longer available! How would he manage to get going in the morning? This aspect of the future was not something he liked to contemplate, it might be better just to be BBQed up by Zombies!
"I've got to head back to my place after breakfast, I have the Sunday afternoon shift at Quinn's." Karen said.
"Why don't you cut back on your hours at Quinn's and spend more time out here? Karl asked. He was really enjoying having Karen's company. "Huckleberry really seems to like the place and all the extra space to roam around, plus she seems to have made friends with Mr. Ed and Quick Draw." he added as an enticement.
Karen frowned, thinking. "I don't know dad. I'm not sure I am ready to be a full time doomer yet. Plus, most of my friends are at Quinn's, and if we are going to get a community together I need to spend time with them."
Karl nodded his head, slightly disappointed. "Yea, that's true. Having the condo in Lolo is also good to maintain so probably just a couple of visits a week on days off is the best plan until we have a SHTF scenario."
"I'll make sure to get days off on the weekends so I can be here when Kenny comes." Karen said, smiling at Kenny.
Kenny smiled back, looking forward to getting to know Karen better and working with her. Her engineering knowledge would come in very handy with many of the projects he was hoping to build. The only problem was Kirsten, he couldn't stop thinking about her either! The female companionship thing was getting complicated, and Kenny could almost see why Karl had chosen the life of a Solitary Man. Almost. His close companion behind the zipper of his Levi Strauss jeans argued otherwise.
After doing the dishes and getting her bag packed, Karen got Huckleberry into the back seat of the Ford Escort and headed back out to Civilzation in Lolo. Not that Lolo was much of a town of course, but it still ran on grid electricity and had a local grocery store, and the drive on State Highway 93 wasn't far to the Walmart Supercenter either. She was still adjusting to the idea that all the conveniences she had taken for granted growing up were going to disappear, although neither Kenny nor Karl could put a precise finger on the date, nor even could RE on the Diner. The more she read though, the more convinced she became that these folks were right, and things would probably start to deteriorate faster with the election of The Donald as POTUS. She had been a strong Bernie Sanders supporter during the primaries, and was devastated when the nomination was stolen from him by the criminal Clinton Gang. Besides all the economic and climate problems she was becoming aware of, Global Thermonuclear War seemed a strong possibility also with a clown like Trump in the White House.
Once the goodbyes were said, Kenny and Karl waved to Karen as she headed out the private road and back to civilization and they walked back toward the Earthship to get ready for a day of prepping.
"So, what kind of plans have you got for today Kenny? We can't really do much more work on getting the Cable System and Funicular Railroad set up until you pick up more hardware next week at Home Depot in Missoula."
"I have a couple of projects to do over on my property I brought some supplies for starting. I want to put together a picnic table that is more permanent for outdoor eating than the folding table we had breakfast on last week, for one thing."
"That shouldn't take long between the two of us if you have all the materials, maybe a couple of hours." Karl replied.
"Probably not." Kenny agreed. "Although staining it and coating it with linseed oil and polyurethane will need to be done over the next couple of weekends. I also have a bigger project to start on, I want to excavate and build a Walipini Greenhouse on the property as well."
"How big a Walipini were you planning on excavating?" Karl inquired.
"I was thinking about 20' by 60' " Kenny replied.
"That is a fucking BIG hole to dig Kenny!" Karl laughed.
"Yea, I figured to dig it out would take me most of the summer, doing a little each weekend."
"Fuck that idea." Karl replied. "I'll rent a Daiwoo Back Hoe and Front End Loader and we'll get the excavation done in a weekend, no problem.", Karl proposed.
Kenny laughed. "Yea that certainly would speed things up! I didn't really consider doing that because first off I didn't want to spend the money on the rental, and second I've never used one of those monster machines."
Karl waved his hand in the air. "The money is nothing. A weekend rental for a Back Hoe costs maybe $1000 the most, and I think I can get one maybe for free from a contractor in Lolo who built a lot of the cabins up here. I own several of them and had them built as rentals and for sale over the years. He'll probably let me use one for a Moose Roast or some Venison."
"Well as long as you drive it Karl, I'm certainly good with that!", Kenny laughed.
Karl threw a few of his own tools into Kenny's trailer, and they made the drive over to Kenny's property via the logging roads.
"It sure would be nice if we could take a more direct route from your property over to mine." Kenny observed. "We gotta drive over 20 miles here, but your place is really less than 5 miles away as the crow flies."
"Yea, it would be nice to have such a road, but tough in practice to do. There are 3 other privately owned properties between here and your place, and we would need permission from all of them to build a road, or even just cut a decent trail. I know the people who own these properties, at least I have talked with them a few times. They are well to do Dentists and Doctors mostly who would not be amenable to a road being build on "their property". Isolationists mostly who just like to have their own hunting land and a nice summer cabin to vacation with the family."
Kevin sighed and nodded in acceptance. "Yes, most of the people who actually still have enough money to make preps and buy land still buy into the old memes, and wish to 'go it alone', not working together with others to 'Build a Better Tomorrow', as RE often says in his Tag Lines. You and me are rare breeds I think, unfortunately, thinking about the fate of others as we plan for ourselves. Most people brought up in the acquisition culture of the Industrial Civilization cannot grasp this, and desperately hold onto their meme of Private Ownership of property."
"A direct road isn't really necessary right now though, the surrounding roads are not too bad, although the road up to your property is not being maintained these days. In the future, after TSHTF, we can maybe build a more direct route. It would be a big project in any event to even make it passable for my Polaris Ranger EV. We would need to build a couple of bridges and do quite a bit of earth moving too." Karl concluded.
Construction of the Picnic Table went pretty quickly, just a matter of bolting together the 2X4s for the most part for the table top and benches, just using the stock 8' length for both. About the only thing the least bit tricky was cutting the 45 degree angles for the X-pattern legs, which just took a quick line from a protractor to do.
After finishing the table, Karl and Kenny took a walk around the property looking for the best spot to excavate the Walipini. Kenny used the opportunity of the exploration to bring up Kirsten.
"Karl, I have a little problem. On Friday before I drove up this weekend I met someone who I know from High School. We are supposed to go camping next weekend together and I am not sure if I should bring her to my property or not. Karen is also supposed to be coming up next weekend and I want to see her too."
Karl let out a belly laugh. "Did you ever have to make up your mind?", he said, quoting the title of an old song from the Lovin' Spoonful written by John Sebastian Kenny had never heard. "Man am I glad I left that shit behind, it can drive you insane."
Keny nodded. "No shit. First in High School I couldn't get a date to save my life, now there seem to be females everywhere. It's driving me nuts."
"No worries Kenny, you only have about another 40 years or so of being driven crazy by this problem." Karl said with a grin. "Once you hit your 60s it calms down some, although some guys never escape it."
"Only 40 more years to go? Shit, we'll probably be extinct by then! I'll never get any peace!" Kenny said semi-sarcastically.
"Life sucks, and then you die.", Karl remarked philosophically. "Far as it goes, I'd love to see you hook up with Karen, but far be it from me to get in the middle of anyone else's love life, that's even worse than managing your own. You'll have to figure that one out for yourself."
"Gee, thanks Karl, you're a fountain of wisdom." Kenny remarked sarcastically. "What about the other problem though, should I bring her up here, or maybe just go over to Lolo National Forest and do some camping there without telling her about the property?"
Karl gave this some thought for a bit as they reached a nice portion of the property that had a slope facing to the south for excavating the Walipini.
"Probably not a good idea yet to bring her over here, until you are more sure of where you are going with it. You could bring her to the Lean-To though, and Karen and I can meet you there. Then you can really experience torture trying to make up your mind." Karl remarked.
"Great! Another fucking pearl of wisdom from the wise Guru! Kenny remarked with an eye roll.
Karl pursed his lips. "Personally, I think it would be rather humorous."
"For YOU maybe!" Kenny replied.
Karl shrugged. "It's your problem, not my problem. Now, what do you think of this spot for the Walipini? Good southern exposure, nice slope to cut into."
Kenny let go of the discussion about the females. Karl was obvious not going to be of any help, and actually seemed to enjoy his suffering. He vowed to himself to get revenge on Karl for this someday. He'd find a female to sic on Karl to invite to the community! He couldn't be as immune to the attraction as he made himself out to be! That would serve him right! Kenny satisfied himself with this nefarious plan and got back to discussing the Walipini.
"Yea, this looks pretty good, although it's a lot of trees to cut down.", Kenny remarked with sadness.
Karl shrugged. "The trees are no more permanent than you or me, and someday after we're gone new ones will grow in their place, or maybe they won't if the climate change gets bad enough. Meanwhile, if we're going to grow enough food beyond what we can hunt and gather out of Lolo for a full community of people, we're going to need more than just my raised beds and greenhouse garden."
Kenny nodded in understanding. "Yea, that's true. Sure will be plenty of wood for the next couple of years for cooking and heating and campfires. Lotta wood splitting to do."
"No worries on the splitting Kenny, I have a Champion Hydraulic Wood Splitter for this. I quit on splitting with an axe and wedges when I hit 60."
Kenny still had trouble believing Karl was 66. Other than his complaints about arthritis in his knees, he was even bigger and more robust than his daughter, maybe 6'3" and 220 lbs. He looked to Kenny to be in his mid 50s.
"A hydraulic splitter will certainly make that job easier.", Kenny remarked. "We'll need to get it over here though to get the job done."
"No problem there, I can drag it over with the pickup, it's on wheels. Once we cut the trees into sections, Mr Ed and Quick Draw can pull them over to the splitter back in your campsite area."
"That works.", Kenny replied. It was getting late in the day and the sun was beginning to set, so the two friends walked back to the campsite to get in Kenny's van and head back over to Karl's place for dinner of some Smoked Trout from Karl's freezer, honey glazed peas and carrots from his garden and from his bee hives and butter from the goat's milk. They spent a couple of hours surfing the internet for Doom Newz, beginining with the Doomstead Diner, where the regulars were all napalming each other as usual. They spent time together composing up a PM to to send to RE once Kenny got back to Missoula and could use an anonyomous connection to the internet.
I have been a lurker on the Diner almost since you began it in 2012. I am a regular reader, and get many of my ideas from your website.
Currently, together with a friend we have a large property in the lower 48 we would like to get a SUN☼ Community going on when TSHTF. However, we are highly concerned about security and about simply inviting people to the place now, which would make it too widely known. We estimate our possible carrying capacity for our land to be about 200 people, although it could be substantially more since the properties are adjacent to a large National Forest.
Do you have any suggestions on how we might find some people, but not necessarily give them the location of the Doomstead at this time?
Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 25, 2016
Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner
MERRY COLLAPSE CHRISTMAS DINERS!
Here on the Doomstead Diner, we've been tracking Collapse Issues since February of 2012. A few of us were members of the Reverse Engineering Yahoo Group which I ran from around 2009 to 2012. I myself began participating on Collapse oriented forums in late 2007. There are many others with a much longer history than this, going back to the 1960s even with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
The Environmental movement had its heyday back in the 1970s, with the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. This also coincided with the "Back to the Land" Movement, spearheaded by Hippies like Albert Bates, one of the founding members of The Farm, and scientists like Ugo Bardi, one of the researchers of the "Club of Rome" which produced the first "Limits to Growth" Study in 1972. Both Albert and Ugo are still active as Environmentalists, and I cross post their work regularly on the Diner.
Sadly of course, all those years of environmental activism and scientific research that demonstrates the mess we have been making of the planet has not done a whole lot to stop it, at least globally. In given locations it was occassionally successful, but generally speaking the problem just moved somewhere else where the local Goobermint was amenable to having the local environment destroyed in the name of PROFIT. So industry which once polluted places like Love Canal in Amerika moved offshore to places like Guanzou Province in China, polluting the water there instead.
I personally was not a huge Environmentalist in my 60 years walking the earth in terms of any activism. I was always disgusted by the rape of the earth through the period, but I never really did anything to stop it, and in fact contributed to my share of the destruction by buying all that gas I burned in my motorcyclez and my carz along the way. I also rode plenty of Subway Trainz in the years before I could afford a car or motorcycle, and they also burned plenty of fossil fuels and fissioned Uranium in Nuke plants to keep electricity flowing along the third rail so the trains would run, and there were many days I forgot to turn off the lights in my room when I went out to play, needlessly burning still MORE juice and putting more carbon into the atmosphere.
Then I also ate lots of Animals, mainly Chickens and Cows and Baby Lambs, who all farted and put methane up in the atmosphere on the way to my dinner table. After eating them, I also farted putting still more methane up into the atmosphere. I cannot calculate what my particular contribution was over these last 60 years to total atmospheric carbon or climate change, but I am sure it is greater than most of the people currently living on earth. These days, I try to reduce it some but since I still live in a 1st world culture and need to get around on Buses, Trains, Planes & Automobiles and I still need to EAT, I continue to be a big ass Carbon Emitter into the atmosphere of the planet.
I came into the World of Collapse not because of Climate Concerns, but because of observations on how the economics of the world were breaking down in the aftermath of first Bear Stearns and then Lehman Brothers during the 2008 financial crisis. This led me to investigating many things related to that, like Peak Oil and Climate Change and Ecological problems, and as each year has passed since that time, all of those problems have grown larger. The Climate issue appears to be growing much more rapidly than predicted even back only so far as 2008, and this problem now gets more attention overall than economic issues do, at least on websites besides the Diner that I frequent like r/collapse. Climate problems are considered an existential problem core to our very EXISTENCE on the planet, whereas Economic issues are considered temporal and mainly a math problem and distribution problem overall. Long as the planet itself is capable of supporting life, economics seems secondary to people who are climate concerned as a priority.
I do not tend to hold this view, I think climate issues are survivable for at least a portion of the population currently walking the earth, though probably not all that many. The TIMELINE to a final extinction of the species Homo Sap remains an open question, and is highly disputed, although it is sure to come at some point. It goes from as short as less than a decade according to Guy McPherson of the Nature Bats Last blog to as long as 300M years when the SUN puts out too much radiation for Eukaryotic organisms to survive on the surface of the Earth. Well, even longer if you believe that we can migrate off the planet to other star systems with the techno- folks like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, but IMHO that is not gonna happen. We are planted on Planet Earth, this is where we were born and this is where we will die, at some point in the timeline. Our real near term issues come in how we organize the society and distribute out the resources we still can access economically. Then we gotta figure out how much we can produce each year and how much that production can support in terms of total population size. We are time-limited as all living things are including planets. We just need to figure out how to live just as long as we can in the timespan alloted to us. Figuring out that question best I can is what I do on my blog here, the Doomstead Diner, and it keeps me very bizzy. LOL.
My opinions on this are not all that popular, I have people from the cornucopian side of things who despise me because I say we have limited resources and too large a human population that needs reduction; and then on the other side I have Extinction Afficionados who think everything is HOPELESS, and NOBODY can survive for even 10 more fucking years! I am too HOPIUM FILLED for these people, and deluded. You can't strike any kind of middle ground with either of these types of ideologues.
There are numerous other issues that are more temporal that cause conflict, like the issues about who our political leaders will be, whether they can make some difference in the collapse trajectory, whether using Gold as Money would make any difference, etc, etc, etc. If you take a particular stand on some of these issues, it gets you as a Blogger a constituency that supports you. For me though, I tend to bounce through these issues and have positions that one consitutency or the other does not support, so I NEVER make everyone happy. "You can make some of the people happy all the time, all of the people happy some of the time, but you can NEVER make all the people happy all the time." I live that cliche just about every day on the Diner, my home as a blogger and analyst of collapse. I am also not a real compromising sort of guy, and get in arguments all the time, both with commenters on my blog as well as with other bloggers who treat the subjects of collapse with their own spin on it on other blogs. I take no prisoners in an argument, I hold grudges a long time, I FIRE BACK in the Chicago Way and I make enemies because of that. So it goes.
Which now brings me to the point of this whole diatribe, which is to look at where the Doomstead Diner is AT after nearly 5 years of operation chronicling the World of Collapse? We have seen our ups and downs over the years here, and it's always tough to figure out just how well you are doing. Google Analytics as of 12/4/2016 is up as the Header Graphic for this article, the Daily Users Chart.
Based on records of hits inside the Diner Forum, the Peak of the Diner Popularity came around 2014. This period was also when the Alexa Ranking for the Diner was at its Peak, we hit around 75,000 Globally at that point. BUT, Alexa changed their algorithm AND the numbers of hits on the forum are always pretty suspect, because MOST of them are BOTS. You can get millions of hits (we did), but only a tiny fraction of them are real Human Eyeballs.
|Yearly Summary||New Topics||New Posts||New Members||Most Online||Page views|
Diner Forum History
Over time though, you do get a decent idea of how many REAL DOOMERS are out there reading your website. We have had some up and downs over these years, our Video & Audio material brought in some folks and that was likely responsible for the peak period in 2014 for page hits.
In the last year we suffered a decline in total hits, I attribute that mostly to a lot of Burnout in the Collapse Crowd. It basically plateaued out at around 320 Users/Day, according to Google Analytics on the Diner Blog anyhow. But then we have Facepalm users, Twitter Users, YouTube Users, Soundcloud Users and Reddit Users also to try to account for. Tons of crossover involved here, so tough to determine what the total individual and independent readership is for the Diner.
My BEST GUESS on this is around 1000 Global Diners who hit one of our sites once a week or so. Maybe 300 who drop on the Diner daily to see what is cooking in Collapse. Given a Global Population of over 7B people, this is NOT making a huge impact! LOL.
At the same time though, the Diner DOES do better in terms of daily readership than most other Collapse Blogs out there and stays out of that sub-1M category of personal blogs most of the time on Alexa. The total readership of ALL collape blogs at this point still remains pretty small, my estimate for that is around 50,000 people globally interested in the topics of collapse who regularly surf the web on such topics. So I am OK with capturing 1000 or so of them each month for a read on the Diner. I would like more of course, but it's a reasonable number of people to be reaching each month.
If you look at the Google Analytics chart I put up from last week at the top of the article, you'll see that the last 90 days we did see a significant upward bump in users, about a 25-30% increase. This coincides with a few recent events on the Diner.
The first main one is the beginning of the publication of the Serial Novel, "How I Survived Collapse". I took myself off of doing Video discussions and Audio Rants to devote myself to this project instead, and apparently Kollapniks like fictional representations of collapse issues, these chapters get a LOT of page hits. On the downside, the YouTube and Soundcloud Diner channels get fewer hits without steady new material going up. However, you only have so much creative energy to expend in one day. You can't just print up creativity every day like you can Fiat Money. lol.
The next reason I perceive as important are political events ongoing that the Diner has focused on, namely the Election of Trumpty-Dumpty and the ongoing protest at the Standing Rock reservation against the DAPL pipeline. In both cases, the MSM Newz on these events is very poorly covered, and/or full of bullshit. So people are out there looking for other perspectives and information on these topics, and various Diners are contributing their analysis to the subjects, providing more original material on the Diner.
Finally, a main reason for the now again increasing popularity of the Diner is that many of the other bloggers who treat collapse issues have tapered off in how much and how often they will write. "Collapse Burnout" is a problem for many bloggers who have written on these topics for years, and even if they are producing new material it's mostly rehashing stuff that has been said a million times before and basically beaten to death, unless of course you are a Newbie to the World of Collapse. If you're not a newbie though, writing and rewriting the concepts you focus on can be tiresome after a while. I fight this battle against burnout by examining the newz and looking for new insights and changes in the dynamic, which are always occuring even if the underlying principles of collapse don't change all that much.
The fact fewer bloggers are writing now also means I don't Cross Post as much as I used to from other bloggers, but that turns out not to be such a bad thing. Fact is, people who read the Diner also read the blogs of the other people I cross post. I cross post to keep the blog fresh each day for newbies, but for long term Kollapsniks they don't come to the Diner to read those blogs, they read them when they originally were published on that blogger's website. Cross Posting less means I post more Original Diner Material, which apparently is what the readers want. Of course, producing enough original material up to the High Standards of the Diner for every day publication is somewhat difficult. lol.
All in all, it was a good year for the Diner moving through Collapse. Hell, at least we are still up and running, right? The NSA hasn't taken us down yet, and we STILL have not made the list of Fake Newz Websites. 🙁 1000 regular readers who drop by the Diner for a collapse meal a few times a month isn't too bad, although I would like to see more of those people contributing Inside the Diner on our Forum. Hashing out the issues with others is really the best way to get further insights, in fact for myself the reason it took me so long to start a blog was because I like dialogue and argument more than I like expository prose writing, although I can do that most certainly, at great length too! lol I got more prose up on the web than Shakespeare and Tolstoy combined! Argue the quality all you want, but in word count this is no contest at all! 🙂 Still, it is much more enlightening to exchange ideas with other people, even if periodically they piss you off a whole lot.
Another significant milestone for the Diner is we held our 2nd Convocation this year at the Inman Harvest Day Festival in South Carolina. This was in conjunction with trying to get our SUN☼Project off the ground, and we got a great reception from the local movers & shakers there, but NO MONEY! lol. So SUN☼ is still just an idea, it hasn't yet become a reality and maybe it never will, but that doesn't really matter all that much. The most important thing is to get the MESSAGE out to people that this style of living we have grown up with just is not destined to last all that much longer. In the longer term, SUN☼ type communities will evolve if Homo Sap is to survive on the planet a while longer, because we CANNOT survive with the way we are living now. It would certainly be better if people got started on this shit NOW rather than waiting until after TSHTF, but if you can't get the locals to pony up some money for it, you are just SOL there. Sadly, I am not a Billionaire who could finance the whole thing himself, I wish I was, but I ain't. So if the people themselves who would benefit from a more resilient community will not pony up, you're stuck in neutral, which is where SUN☼ is right now.
On a personal level as regular Diners know I struggle with deteriorating health issues resulting from my spinal injury, and struggle as well with getting the Title to the Entitlements I was promised when I set out working for 40 years inside the Industrial Economy. I won some of the battles so far, but the War goes on here on this still. I didn't end up as a Homeless Cripple Freezing to Death on the Streets of Palmer, Alaska as was my fear for the first 7 months of this adventure in my life, at least not yet anyhow. On the upside to it, I did get some time in "Retirement", about a year and a half now so far, and I really like retirement. I get up in the morning (or afternoon, or evening) when I feel like it, I spend my day reading and writing on topics that interest me, and I got no Boss I need to keep happy so he writes my paycheck each week. I got no tests to study for in school and no traffic or stinky subways to ride on to get to work or school. I do have a crew of somewhat testy Members, Mods & Admins here on the Diner I don't always keep happy and which can be somewhat frustrating, but at least my living does not depend on keeping them happy. It's also most certainly NOT a "cult", since most of the time nobody agrees with me! lol.
As of now, 2017 looks like it will be a watershed year in the World of Collapse. The election of Trumpty-Dumpty and his installation of Billionaires, Corporatocracy CEOs and Military Generals as Cabinet members and his Advisory team speaks clearly to exactly what kind of "Populist" this jerk is. It boggles my mind that people are so foolish as to buy any of the nonsense he spouted out through the campaign. It's a fucking GUARANTEE he will eviscerate civil liberties, curtail free speech & freedom of assembly and increase the power of the Police State, all the stuff Libertarians say they are against! He's also obviously going to give away the store to fellow plutocrats and .01%ers, he's already stacked the whole fucking cabinet with them! Jamie Dimon and Carl Icahn are his economic advisors here for crying out loud! He's going to shrink the Military? Are you fucking NUTS? He's already appointed 3 Generals to his cabinet, one of whom worked for General Dynamics after leaving the military! He's up for a new Nuclear Arms Race! He's got Jamie fucking Dimon & Carl leveraged buyout Icahn as his leading advisors on the Economy! Can you get more status quo BAU Military-Industrial-Banking complex than this? This is "draining the swamp"? More like "swimming in the swamp".
Besides the mockery of His Trumpness as POTUS, we also have just all sorts of shit going on across the pond in Eurotrashland. The Italian banks are teetering on collapse and as I write this article, the current plan is for the fucking BROKE Italian Goobermint to Nationalize and Bailout Banca Monte dei Peschi di Siena, because of course it is TBTF. Precisely where and how the Itie Goobermint will get the money to do this bailout remains unclear at the moment. Then after the Italian banks, you got the German ones like the Big Kahuna, Deutchbank, also not looking too good on the balance sheet. However, you tend to suspect that the Goldman-Sachs cavalry will somehow ride in to the Rescue of these Zombies one more time. Maybe.
After that are all the "Populist" (aka Neo-Nazi Right Wing) reactionary parties that have cropped up in Eurotrashland and further elections are sure to result in Goobermints which cannot effectively Goobern anyone. At least half the population totally despises Da Goobermint even before they actually take office! It doesn't matter who it is or which side of the lefty-righty divide they come from, they just can't do anything to stop the collapse of their economies. Various plutocrats from one side or another can be made happy, but this does not create more jobs for J6P and total tax revenues for all the states continues to be eroded.
Then you got my favorite Snake Oil Salesman Elon Musk who continues to sell the fucking stupid idea we are going to replace the entire fleet of ICE carz and truckz with EVs powered by Batts produced in his "Gigafactory", slated to be the largest building on Earth if/when it gets finished. He's ALSO going to "Go Where No Man Has Gone Before" and set up a fucking colony on Mars! NASA couldn't do this in the last 50 years, but Elon CAN! He's a can-do entrepreneur! What fucking idiot buys this crap?
Meanwhile here on Earth, you got cities from Sao Paolo to La Paz to Johannesburg running short on water and forest fires burning all the time and oil pipelines leaking, suicide and overdose epidemics, a new shoot-em up on a college campus or nightclub once a week, but HEY! don't worry, be HAPPY! Take another Fukitol Pill, you'll feel better in a jiffy!
I do not have any expectation of having a shortage of collapse topics to write about as we move into 2017, nor do I expect to burnout writing about them either. I have great stamina for this stuff, I'm going on near a decade now of writing about the topics and I feel like I am just getting my stride! lol. Collapse is a MARATHON, not a SPRINT! It may seem slow to you in human years, but in fact it is going quite rapidly not just in Geologic time but in Generational time also. "Collapse" isn't coming "someday", it is here with us right now and we are all living it in one way or the other, to one extent of knowledge or denial of it or another.
The BIG QUESTION of course everyone always asks me as an Official Collapse Pundit is whether this will be the year THE Collapse occurs, as in the lights all going off, shelves all going empty, ATMs outta cash and Zombie Cannibals roaming the streets eating children for breakfast? I'll go out on a limb here and say I do not think 2017 will be the year of the Zombie Apocalypse, at least not here in the FSoA. One thing I have learned in my years writing on this topic is that the "system" or "matrix" (whatever you wish to call it) has a lot of inertia. It's rolling down a hill, gathering speed, but it's not off the clif quite yet, the Wile E. Coyote Moment has not quite arrived.
I do believe though at some not to distant point in the future of this timeline we will witness a discontinuity, I just hope I am alive long enough to witness that from this side of the Great Divide and write about it. Not that I really want to see a lot of Death & Destruction before I die, but I do want to see "TEOTWAWKI", or "the end of the world as we know it". The exercise we have put ourselves through as a species and this planet and other creatures who inhabit it through from the Age of Agriculture through the Age of Industrialization MUST come to an end, regardless of all the pain and suffering that will come along with that. I believe that some Homo Sap will make it through the Zero Point to the Other Side, and those who are left standing will be better for it, a new species in fact. I won't be there (at least in this broken down body anyhow, maybe my spirit reborn to a new one), but I will smile from my side of the Great Beyond as a Better Tomorrow emerges.
Anyhow, New Year's Eve approaches now, 2017 is arriving and at least unless Nibiru collides with the Earth in the next few days, we'll have another year in Collapse to observe and record here on the pages of the Doomstead Diner. I would like to close here with a special note of thanks to my fellow Admins here on the Diner, who tolerate my idiosyncracies and who have proven to be good friends IRL as well as in cyberspace. To Surly, to Eddie, to Monsta, to Lucid Dreams & Gypsy Mama and to Palloy, Auld Lang Syne. To all the rest of the Diners, I wish you also all the best in collapse in 2017. Thanks to all for your participation and help in making the Doomstead Diner #1 for Doom on the Net!
Be sure to stop in at the Diner next Sunday for Surly's recap That Was the Year That Was in Doom, and drop in periodically for more Chapters of How I Survived Collapse!
Published on The Doomstead Diner on August 28, 2016
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Newz from Inside the Diner
One of my neighbors recently got a kitten which they are keeping as an "outside cat". He (or she, I haven't checked the gonads) wanders around and shows up on my porch regularly when I go out for a smoke to further destroy my lungs.
This has been going on for the last week, and I chat with the Kollapse Kitten when it jumps my fence and arrives, scoping out the 100 or so square feet of the porch area. KK does not have much to say to me so far but is a good listener while I have a smoke. Hopefully if I keep talking it will learn English and perhaps be able to communicate with me telepathically.
The trick though has been to keep KK from actually getting INSIDE my digs, which are PRIVATE PROPERTY! If I leave the back door open, KK can sneak in, and I don't want to be cleaning up kitten poop or kitten piss in the digs! I have been successful in this battle this week up until tonight. Tonight when I opened the door to the porch to go out and poison myself further with Nicotine, KK slipped by me to head inside and investigate my digs.
Fortunately, KK seems to trust me so capturing her and picking her up to pitch back out the door was not too hard on this occassion, but my guess is if the little devil keeps at it this won't be so EZ in the future. There are tons of places in my digs I cannot get to easily that this quick little monster can. I am also not exactly really fast these days.
I do enjoy talking to KK on the porch, but I don't want the animal trapped in my digs when I go to sleep. I will try to get a picture of him/her in the next couple of days, I am quite sure more return visits will come so this won't be too hard.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 25, 2016
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This open letter to The Zeitgeist Movement replaces an essay I originally promised to Diners, "Peak Oil Revisited Part 2: Why business as usual guarantees that global industrial collapse will be complete by 2030". I have not had the time to elucidate all aspects of my argument in detail and Dr Louis Arnoux is probably doing a better job with his articles on this topic anyway. He is a true energy expert, I am merely a lay person trying to interpret the thoughts of the experts for the general public.
The other "Peak Oil Revisited" essay I promised, "Part 1b: Is an International Standardised Energy Dollar feasible?" has proved to be much more complicated than originally envisioned and is the lowest of my priorities at the moment. Even if an ISED is feasible it is unlikely to ever see the light of day for political reasons.
Graph 1 Graph 2 Graph 3
OPEN LETTER TO TZM:
by G. Chia, August 2016
Dear L and C (Queensland TZM organisers),
As you know I ran sustainability meetings for doctors and scientists from 2006 to 2013. I note your Zeitgeist group is holding a meeting on sustainability on 10 September 2016. As a starting point for your discussion you may wish to display on your projection screen the letter I wrote earlier this year to "Doctors for the Environment Australia" (see attached pdf). When I subsequently met with the Queensland DEA representative, Dr David King, he could not offer any factual or logical objections against my letter. His only comments were that although my views were consistent with those of many scientists, he felt he had to give DEA members "hope". DEA are operating on the false hope they can fix rampant global warming which has now spiralled out of control. They have completely ignored more immediate energy and economic issues.
Energy analyst Dr Louis Arnoux has informed me that world average1 EROI (energy return over invested, or to use the proper mathematical description for this ratio, energy return divided by energy invested) for petroleum fell below 10:1 a few years ago. Dr David Murphy's figure for world average EROI of 17:1 for 2013 was an overestimate because Murphy himself wrote in his paper (published by the Royal Society) that his figure did not account for the energy costs of fuel refinement and transportation2.
According to other EROI luminaries, Drs Hall and Lambert3, a ratio of 10:1 is the minimum required for a complex industrial economy to function properly.
Some parts of the industrial world can continue to function at present because they have captured4 the few remaining high EROI (>10:1) sources for themselves. Others areas eg Southern Europe are losing or have lost access to such high net energy sources ("Hi-NES")5, hence they are now deindustrialising and collapsing. The rest of the world will never industrialise. We have no significant liquid hydrocarbon replacements for conventional petroleum. Unconventional petroleum, with its woeful EROI of 3:1 or less, is an environmentally devastating scam and a stock market Ponzi scheme.
Decline in Hi-NES is the primary reason for the current global economic contraction6, a fact that conventional economists are too venal or too stupid to acknowledge. The present low price of oil is deeply misleading and is hiding the fact that oil has become less affordable/available for most people around the world due to demand destruction and deflation, temporarily freeing up more oil for "lucky" countries such as Australia.
Dr Jeffrey Brown's export land model (ELM) shows that oil availability for oil importing countries will eventually fall off a cliff (see graph 1 from postpeakliving.com in which I have corrected a caption: the red line shows GROSS world oil production, which does NOT take into account the energy invested in that oil production. Hence the yellow circle is an overestimate of when zero oil will be available to oil importing countries). A more accurate curve on which to superimpose the ELM should be downslope of the Net Hubbert curve as shown in graph 2. Prior to me doing this, I do not believe anyone else has combined ELM and EROI concepts and it is high time someone did so.
A most vital concept to understanding why global industral societies will soon suddenly and catastrophically collapse, just as a teetering Jenga tower suddenly collapses, is the mathematical fact that the net energy available (= energy return minus energy invested) falls off a cliff when EROI declines to 5:1 (see graph 3).
Sudden catastrophic collapse is consistent with the view of Dr Ugo Bardi, one of the original "Limits to Growth" scientists, who calls this phenomenon the "Seneca cliff". Dr Bardi is an incredibly smart scientist whose dire warnings over many years have been blithely ignored by all the stupid sheeple around him, hence he titled his blog "Cassandra's Legacy".
In human terms, plummeting EROI in the absence of any plan to transition to a post carbon lifestyle, will mean social breakdown, war, starvation7 and mass die off on a monumental scale. No part of the world which depends on petroleum will be spared.
We can understand why TPTB promote false hopes for the future to the clueless sheeple, using extravagant bread and circuses like the Olympics. Such theatrics keep the herd distracted and subdued. Be assured that once the masses revolt, the drones will be deployed.
On the other hand, offering intelligent people false hope for the future is in my view deeply inappropriate, especially if useful measures can be taken right now to mitigate impending hardships. Unfortunately the window of opportunity is closing fast. What is your transition plan?
You may vehemently reject my warnings and choose to ignore this letter because everything seems "fine" to you now, however denial will not make a looming catastrophe magically disappear.
One of your previous speakers promoted manned space travel to Mars. How useful, do you think, is that sort of meeting?
Geoffrey Chia, August 2016
Global "average" EROI of below 10:1 at present means that most oil fields now yield EROI below 10:1 (eg perhaps only 8:1 or 6:1). However there are a few oil fields which continue to yield a high EROI (eg perhaps 20:1), oil fields which the vultures are now circling.
Murphy DJ. 2014 The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 372: 20130126.
Lambert, Jessica G., Hall Charles A. S. et al. 2014. Energy, EROI and quality of life. Energy Policy 64:153–167 "There is evidence…that once payments for energy rise above a certain threshold at the national level (e.g. approximately 10 percent in the United States) that economic recessions follow. "
Such capture can be accomplished by fair means (eg providing useful products to the oil vendors in exchange for their oil), or foul (eg the criminal protection racket known as the Petrodollar).
Being starved of credit
In China, intolerable pollution has been a major factor for their economic slowdown, as well as the marked reduction in overseas demand for their industrial output
Mass agriculture is crucially dependent on petroleum (also natural gas)
Off the microphones of RE & Deb Ozarko
Introduction text off the keyboard of RE
Blog off the keyboard of Deb Ozarko
Published on The Doomstead Diner on June 1, 2016
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With this podcast, the Diner welcomes Deb Ozarko to the pantheon of Diner Cross Posting Bloggers. Deb has her own blog debozarko.com and is author of the book Unplug. She works as a graphic designer and lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
I ran into Deb's most recent blog Letting go in a World of Collapse: A conversation we're too afraid to have a couple of weeks ago in a link on the Reddit Sub r/collapse, and themes in that blog are similar to ones that have been explored for quite some time on Guy McPherson's blog Nature Bats Last. As regular Diners know, I take issue with both Guy's timeline to extinction as well as his philosophy on how to deal with ongoing collapse psychologically. I also did not find it true that "this is a conversation we are too afraid to have", since we discuss this topic all the time on the Diner. lol. So I invited Deb in for a podcast to further discuss these issues in depth, to get a better handle on her current thought process. She is relatively new to the world of Collapse and these concepts, so it appeared to me a great opportunity to explore how a recently awakening mind is processing the information. Also valuable was the opportunity to get a female perspective on these issues, since they tend to be few and far between across the blogosphere, particularly in the commentariat.
I hope you enjoy the podcast, and below you will find the blog which inspired the conversation that we're NOT too afraid to have on the Doomstead Diner. 🙂 -RE
Letting Go of a World in Collapse: The Conversation We’re Too Afraid to Have
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency ask the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
NOTE: This post/essay is filled with considerable depth. As such, it is my most important post to date. The content is raw and lengthy. It is the voice of my heart … my stark naked soul. This is part one of a 3-part series. For those who courageously venture through it all, I honor and thank you from the depth of my soul. For those who prefer reading in pdf format, I’ve created a downloadable pdf file of the essay in its entirety that can be read in multi-page format.
A few weeks ago an email from a podcast listener arrived in my in box. It read as follows:
I’ve recently discovered you and your work. Your work is amazing, however it’s filled with too much hope in today’s world (Hopium). We are already in the 6th mass extinction with tipping points long passed. There is NO saving the ocean, saving endangered species, saving the forests, saving humans. It’s too late. THIS is the message that needs to be shared…how we live and die at the end of human civilization.
My initial read through triggered a wave of irritation peppered with self-righteous indignation. How dare anyone tell me that my message is filled with “too much Hopium”.
When the wave passed however, what remained was a feeling of deep sadness. I realized that the initial irritation emerged from a part of me that didn’t want to be called out on my denial. In my heart and in every cell of my being, I knew that she was right.
In recent monthly posts, I’ve alluded to the rapidly imploding, pressurized global energies I’ve been feeling with heightened intensity. For the record, I don’t profess to be psychic. I don’t channel non-physical entities, swing pendulums, or commune with guides, angels, ET’s, or fairies. I have no crystal ball, magic wand, tarot cards, or ouija board. I’m fully embodied and plugged into my heart and the energies of the Earth—deeply grounded in my profound love for Gaia.
After numerous conversations with others who are intuitively connected, including local indigenous wisdom, I know that I’m far from alone in feeling the alarming Earth energies that are playing out. Although my heart knows how dire the planetary situation is, I’ve sidestepped the deep inner truth that I carry. With receipt of AV’s recent email however, I know that I’ve been called out. I feel that it’s incumbent upon me to now step in to where I’ve been too fearful to go.
I confess that I’ve mastered the art of procrastination with the paralytic inertia I’ve been feeling while writing this post. I’ve been grieving, feeling, and processing my own denial as I navigate the collapsing energies that have descended on my heart. This is why an April post wasn’t written. I’ve been struggling for the proper words for this month’s blog post/essay, figuring out a way to give voice to a tough conversation that scares me. But the thing about tough conversations is that, well, they’re tough conversations. The only way to say what needs to be said is to just tell it like it is. I’ve finally reached a place of acceptance where I’m able to write this post from a place of transparent authenticity.
Over the past few months I’ve been feeling a greater sense of grief over the state of the world with the accelerating breakdown that is playing out in every aspect of life on Earth. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to navigate this Gaia Grief as I call it, knowing that everything I love so dearly—animals and nature—are being mindlessly consumed, commoditized and destroyed with reckless abandon. Joanna Macy calls this breakdown The Great Unraveling. The word that resonates most with me is collapse.
I’m blessed to live in a stunning location that is energetically charged by rainforests, mountains and ocean. I live in a state of perpetual awe for the beauty that still remains in this part of the world. As such, I’m aware of the “thinness” of this magnificent place, where the veil between the physical and non-physical world is virtually non-existent. Unlike a city with its denuded, unnatural landscape and the incessant noise from honking cars, blaring music, car alarms, machines, construction, techno-distraction, and the mental static of worry, busyness, fatigue, anxiety, and irritation, Earth energy is much easier to feel here—especially for the energetically sensitive like myself. I feel what is unseen and unheard by the collective, and which is subsequently ignored and denied by our culture. The Sunshine Coast is a true barometer for what’s really occurring in the world on a non-physical level. For me, this is truth.
The internal guidance I’ve been receiving is arriving with a clarity that is beyond what I’m used to. The message is clear: get out of the system. Collapse is upon us. It’s no longer some distant event. It’s happening now and it’s happening faster than anyone can predict.
Along with the clear message to extricate myself from the system, I’ve been having repetitive premonitions that won’t let up.
These premonitions have a persistent ocean theme that come with two words, “It’s over.”
My intellect is grasping, trying to understand what the “it” is that’s over. Is it literal: the collapse of our oceans? Is it our dominant patriarchal worldview of separation? Is it our consumptive culture of infinite growth, ignorance, distraction, and relentless destruction? Is it our biosphere? Is it humanity? Is it life on Earth? There’s no doubt that we’re collectively committing ecocide, is it more?
As my mind struggles for answers, my heart doesn’t care. Content is irrelevant. To my heart it makes no difference if the “it” is cultural, economic, ecological, or human collapse. Rather than allow my mind to exhaust me with possible future scenarios, my heart has chosen to be fully present with what is. In this acceptance, I’ve unleashed a force from within that knows that no matter how it all plays out, it’s ok, because the love in my heart remains steadfast through it all.
In Praise of Mortality
Despite our widespread willful ignorance, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a consumptive way of living that devours non-renewable “resources” with reckless abandon cannot last.
If “it’s over” means the end of life on Earth, there are worse things than the end of Earth’s surface humanity—such as continuing in a way that systemic tyranny and desecrating consumption reigns, while free-will, freedom and awakening to inclusive consciousness is forsaken.
As Peter Russell says, “There’s no blame for the crisis we are in. Any intelligent technological species has the potential to become a magnificent flowering of consciousness, but the side effects of its rapid evolution mean that it only has a short window of time to complete it’s evolutionary journey. Facing the end of our species could in itself be the wake-up call we need.”
One manifestation of our collective insanity is that we’ll do anything to deny our own mortality. We’ve all known since early on that we’re going to die and that our mortality is ensured, but ironically, we have a death-phobic mindset in a culture that is driven by a death urge to compulsively destroy life.
This is insanity.
Most people exist as if they’re never going to die—invincible … immortal. Yet they don’t really live either. The level of anxiety and depression is profound. The world is filled with hopeless, unhappy, self-loathing people. By avoiding all conversations about pain and death, slavery is ensured and the masses never break free from their own misery.
Facing our own mortality can be, in many cases, a radical awakening into a more sacred connection with all life. In my own life, the most liberating, expansive and transformative experience was the untimely death of my mother. As painful as it was, it altered my perception of reality and connected me to a deeper love for life.
I believe that if we faced the fact that we may be coming to the end of our incredible evolutionary journey as a species, we can live with more love in our hearts than we’ve ever known. To me, this is a beautiful thing.
As Joanna Macy says, “There is absolutely no excuse for making our passionate love for the world dependent on what we believe the outcome will be: whether life continues on or not. In this uncertainty, we come alive.”
I realize that warnings of ‘collapse’ and the end of civilization are often viewed as fringe or controversial, but I believe that on some level, we’re all feeling it. To the naked eye, things may look “ok”, but lurking below the surface, we know something quite different.
Collapse is not a new concept. Civilizations have risen and fallen repeatedly throughout history. The difference this time however, is that collapse is not isolated to a particular civilization, it extends to all life on earth. It is the sixth mass extinction event that gets little airtime in our truth suppressed world.
We’ve had endless opportunities to wake up and alter our course throughout history. Instead, we’ve chosen a deeper coma of separation by remaining slaves to our cultural conditioning. We now have more babies, more consumption, more violence, more ignorance, more denial, more entitlement, more arrogance, more selfishness, more depression, more anxiety, more addiction, and more distracting and destructive technology to drive us farther from our souls. The increase in human population is directly related to the escalating violence and destruction in our world.
As Derrick Jenson writes in his book, Endgame, “The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life. From birth on, we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate and fear animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we would not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.”
If we could only stop the war on our souls, we would stop the war on the Earth and everything else.
Our dominant culture is built on the foundation of separation and violence. Rape of the Earth is rewarded, peace on Earth is punished. Lies are honored, truth is vilified. Ignorance is coveted, wisdom is ridiculed. Even the so called ‘awakened’ remain trapped in the conditioned entitlement that perpetuates the slavery, oppression and slaughter of animals for their flesh (meat), ovulations (eggs), and maternal secretions (dairy). Everything that represents the feminine/life—particularly animals and nature—is fair game for obliteration in our anthropocentric patriarchal culture. Sadly, with women influencing more than 85% of household purchasing decisions, and unconscious decisions as the norm, the destructive forces of patriarchy infect us all.
With a rapidly growing critical mass in a coma, our ecocide is rendering planet Earth uninhabitable. The planet cannot regenerate itself as quickly as industrial culture is destroying it. Even the antiquated notion of linear Newtonian science brings with it alarming predictions. What Newtonian science fails to recognize however, is the organic, non-linear nature of Gaia. Gaia is a living organism and linear scientific predictions just don’t work for the rapid acceleration we’re now experiencing. We’ve set off so many positive feedback loops that we’re officially on a runaway train to a greater hell than we’ve already created. When the web of life breaks down, collapse accelerates and there is no certainty … no predictability.
Newtonian science speaks from a linear cause and effect worldview. If “x” continues to happen, then “y” will happen in 10 years they tell us. It always seems like a distant event that may or may not happen should we decide to curb our consumptive ways. We tend to face problems with facts, figures, statistics, extrapolations and rationale. We think that we can master the world with a three pound hunk of watery flab—our almighty brains—but this only serves to distance us from the source of our greatest potential and the place where we most need to go: our hearts.
We’re not only living through startling ecological, economic, system and cultural collapse, but most frightening of all, we’re living in a state of collapsed consciousness, where fear, denial and ignorance reign supreme. Our cultural story of separation/patriarchy has been fundamentally contradicting truth, love and life for several thousand years. It is therefore, contrary to the essence of who we are. As such, we’re confused about who and what we are as a species, especially within our modern, narcissistic technological civilization. Because we’re so unsure of our identity as a species, we’ve lost our sense of belonging in Nature. This disconnect from the web of life has sadly brought us to where we now stand today.
Lately, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what the purpose of homo sapien is—and always has been for that matter. I keep coming up empty. Biologist Jonas Salk said, “If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.” Such a tragic statement about how far we’ve strayed from the web of life.
While every other form of life on this planet intimately knows its place in the web of life, what the hell happened to us? Surely we were not created with the sole purpose of forgetting who we are so we could gobble up everything in our path leaving a trail of toxic trash in our wake while destroying the biosphere in the process. Despite everything pointing in that direction, I have a hard time believing this could be so. Despite my own imperfections, I know that it’s not so for me, but do I confess that I’m confused. According to Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, “Since the Self is the core of every personality, no one needs to acquire goodness or compassion; they are already there. All that is necessary is to remove the selfish habits that hide them.”
So the problem is not a lack of goodness and compassion, the problem is a lack of interest in expressing goodness and compassion—especially in ways that are not conditional or fragmented.
For most of my life, I’ve felt like I’ve been shouting love and compassion for animals, the Earth, and the human soul into a hurricane hoping for someone … anyone to hear me. But sadly, love and compassion are not big sellers in the paradigm of separation. Six pack abs? For sure! Sixth mass extinction event? Meh. Scarf down another bacon cheeseburger, chase it with a beer and Prozac and all is well.
On a deep visceral level, I know that the world I now live in is nothing like the world I grew up in. The degradation of human consciousness that has accompanied the population explosion is significant. Despite my lifelong work for a kinder, more compassionate world, I now wonder if it’s worth the effort anymore. I feel the bittersweet pain when I sit by the ocean with my partner and dogs admiring a beautiful sunset knowing that the oceans are plasticized beyond repair and are now nearly devoid of life. Spring comes earlier every year, flooding is more intense every year, heatwaves last longer every year, larger algae blooms choke the ocean every year, drought descends earlier every year, fire burns more aggressively every year. And yet we still do nothing to change our ways.
As comedian Jimmy Kimmel says, “2014 was the warmest year on record. Until 2015 was the warmest year ever. Now 2016 is already turning out to be warmer than either of the previous two years. You know how you can determine if climate change is real? When the hottest year on record is whatever year it currently is. That’s how you know. We’ve had 15 of the 16 hottest years ever since 2001.”
If we’re really honest with ourselves, as was written in the email from AV, tipping points are well behind us and there’s no hope for salvaging our broken world anymore. Quite frankly, why would we want to continue on with what is so blatantly cruel and destructive toward life anyways? Because it’s familiar? I don’t think so.
We’ve had ample opportunities for transformation. So many wide open doors to walk through, and each time we’ve chosen to slam the doors shut, throw on the deadbolts, toss the keys, and relocate every piece of furniture to ensure our containment. With our refusal to walk through however, we’re now locked from the outside as well. In his book Endgame, Derrick Jensen asks, “Do you believe that this culture is going to undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?” Most of us know that the answer is a resounding NO. With our collective indifference and denial, we’ve thrown away all opportunities for a global transformation in consciousness.
We’ve had all of the knowledge, technology, creativity, ancient wisdom, and inspiration to create a beautiful new world for several decades, if not much longer. Instead, we’ve chosen the familiar coma of our antiquated separation-based worldview. The only changes we’ve experienced are those that clearly show how far we’ve strayed. The explosion of humans on the planet—all indoctrinated into the paradigm of separation—is the perfect recipe for biosphere collapse.
We’re rigid in our worldview and refuse to look outside of our mechanistic conditioning. We persist in having having the same old conversations that we did hundreds of years ago. Sexism, speciesism, racism, and many other ‘isms are as prolific as ever. Climate change deny-osaurs abound. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were many who still believed the world was flat.
As I write this post, Fort McMurray Alberta, the infamous oil and tar sand hell, is burning up. How tragically ironic. And while desperate conversations about anthropogenic climate change spring to life, the denial-infected masses angrily pounce on the harbingers of truth, denouncing their message as “preying on tragedy to further their climate change ‘agenda’”. WTF?
While this armageddon unfolds in my neighbouring province, red tides are choking out life in the ocean, coral reefs are dying, and the ever so eloquent Sarah Palin (sarcasm intended), in the full-on glory of her ignorant arrogance, bloviates about the great climate change hoax. Yes folks, 97% of scientists are wrong because Lady Palin said so. If that’s not enough, her bloviating partner in ignorant arrogance, Donald J. Trump is a few steps away from accepting the keys to the white house.
Methinks we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Published on Reddit on May 29, 2016
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Abandoned Malls & Vaporwave
If I wanted to limit myself to posting profoundly insightful things, I'd have to post once a month perhaps. So, today I want to discuss something that simply happens to entertain me. I'm part of an age cohort that happens to remember the nineties, but only very vaguely so. We're the echo-boomers, born from around 1989 until 1992. During that period there was a small but significant spike in birth rates around the Western world. If you were to ask your parents however, they'd insist that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin wall had nothing to do whatsoever with your birth. So for us, our experience of the late nineties and its culture consist of vague unreliable memories and an abundance of toys. My girlfriend insists that she remembers how it was, despite being two years younger than me, but I struggle to believe her. I think she remembers hearing the echo of that culture in the early '00's, although it could be argued that's what I heard myself as well. Still, I have some memories, particularly, I remember an atmosphere of exuberance.
I personally think that I got an odd version of the 90's and turned into a rather odd person, because of the fact that my father got laid off from the government somewhere in the late 90's. At the time, if you lost your government job, the government would continue paying you a monthly severance package practically equivalent to the salary you used to earn, until you found a new job. The state traditionally takes care of its own people very well here in Europe. My father's job would probably put us in the upper-middle class bracket (if my mom would have a job too, but she didn't), but he hated the job and most of his colleagues. As a result, my father didn't really want to find a new job at first. My parents would earn some money on the side by selling scrap metal or participating in surveys, which was more than enough to get by. Then, after years of unemployment when it did become useful to find some extra money, it proved to be somewhat difficult.
I think this environmental upbringing plays a role in the fact that I'm not very interested in participating in the economy. I was quite proud of the fact that my parents didn't have to work and made no secret of it to the preppy kids I went to junior high school with who'd ask me what my father does, because they grew up with parents that based their self-image on their petty jobs and taught their children to do the same. Personally, I believe I got the best of both world. I have vague memories of economic excesses and did not have to suffer poverty as a result. When I became mature and began to think about the world, civilization began to horrify me, almost driving me into insanity. Now that I am an adult, I woke up from my slumber to realize that civilization has already started to fall apart. The signs are everywhere and even regular people are starting to notice them.
Ted Kaczynski claims in his manifesto that the atmosphere of the nineties was rather critical of progress. That's not what I remember. I remember corporate guru's, paid hundreds of euros an hour to give pep talks based on buzz-words to cubicle-concubines. I remember stock markets that were going to keep growing forever. I remember the end of history, as neoliberal democracy was going to conquer the whole world. I remember sitcom television series, where the main characters suddenly had more money than they knew what to do with and decided to invest it in ridiculous ventures. I remember good television shows and arty farty computer games. I even remember people thinking that diversity would make our nations stronger and allow us to enjoy experiencing exotic cultures. People thought that they had won, that the good times would last forever.
If I was born a few years later, I'd be a rather ignorant person, with no idea of what went wrong and how things used to be and what made people take the poor decisions they took. If I was born a few years earlier, I think I'd be a rather miserable person. I would have grown up in economic growth and become psychologically dependent on it. I'd be stuck somewhere with a petty job and I'd probably be in the prime of my life now and suffering the effects of the economic downturn, watching my hopes for the future fall apart. Never having hope or goals for the future meant I never had to suffer disappointment. Being an echo boomer means that I've never had any experience with the economy as anything other than a beast of burden that has broken its leg and struggled to pull the plow ever since. I don't remember how things used to be before temp-contracts and waiters with Phd's, all that I remember is tasting the fruits we used to harvest in those earlier days. Instead, I've somehow always known that I would have to live through the collapse and that regardless of what I do, I won't be prepared for it.
I can't deny that I'm surprised by how long they have managed to drag the process out. It's something that used to bother me, but I'm beginning to come to terms with it. I used to hope that I would be a teenager during the collapse, one day waking up to a catastrophe of Venezuelan proportions and living as a permanent nomad from that point on. I still think a fast collapse may be better, for a variety of reasons, but for me this situation works too. It's the difference between watching someone paint a landscape and wandering into an art gallery. I will learn to better appreciate things that future generations will take for granted. And believe me, there is plenty to appreciate out here.
Let us start for example, with the fact that you and me get to watch everyone's utopian dreams end in profound humiliation. We get to watch the babyboomers be confronted with the reality that they won't get to live like modern day aristocrats after retiring. We get to watch every technology that was supposed to protect us from the consequences of our own greed fail to deliver. And perhaps most importantly, we get to dance on the corpses of our predecessors. It's fun to watch how the shopping malls are gradually deserted and once busy streets now house only money laundering jewelers and second hand stores kept alive with government subsidies. For future generations, abandoned shopping malls with flickering lights overgrown by vines and mosses are a self-evident part of the landscape. For me, they're orgasmic.
The advertisements once meant to seduce us into consuming now serve as a source of hilarity, as we don't have money left to consume with. This led to perhaps the most beautiful thing of this decade, vaporwave. Vaporwave was made for a generation of people for whom prosperity is an unreliable childhood memory. It's the international anthem of every abandoned mall around the world. Nobody invented vaporwave, it simply emerged spontaneously as a collective hallucination of dementing patients who struggle to remember their childhood. It seems inevitable that capitalism will now aim to mass market this anthem of its own decay, like a cancer patient selling tickets to his own funeral. Some people feel upset about this, but I don't see why you should. It seems that we struggle to understand that there can be life after the peak. The Russians and the Japanese had to learn to accept this, now it's our turn. In America and Western Europe, the post-peak world began in the year 2001, when it became clear that we still had problems. The level of wealth we reached in 1999 will never be experienced again and we should be glad about it. What lies ahead now is a long descent, with bumpy plateaus that prove to be unsustainable and tend to be followed by rapid collapses. As of speaking, the bumpy plateau we've been on since 2009 is rapidly coming to an end.
My recommendation to all of you is to learn how to enjoy the decline. Abandoned buildings are a treasure trove of mysteries and sometimes even wealth. Do not become too physically attached to any place, as everything you see will disappear. Abandoned buildings will be destroyed, even as beautiful wastelands will be filled with new offices and shopping malls as a product of wealthy people's inability to accept that their way of life is coming to an end. When you find yourself mourning the ruins of today that are demolished to hide the decline, remember that the ruins of tomorrow are built today. If you ever doubt whether God loves us, remember that rising CO2 concentrations lower the light compensation point: The amount of sunlight needed for a plant to gain more carbon than it loses. As a result, plants of all kinds will be able to grow in places that would have been barren under our previous climate due to insufficient sunlight. An overpriced McMansion built today will come to house trees growing through its roof, their lives made possible by the abandoned SUV rusting away in the garage. After years of suffering through this mediocrity, what lies ahead for us is more beautiful than what we can begin to imagine.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on May 19, 2016
Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
A poll among experts…and YOU TOO!
Take the Renewable Energy Survey HERE
I am reporting here the results of a small survey that I carried out last week among the members of a discussion forum; mainly experts in renewable energy (*). It was a very informal poll; not meant to have statistical value. But some 70 people responded out of a total of 167 members; so I think these results have a certain value in telling us how the experts feel in this field. And I was surprised by the remarkable optimism that resulted from the poll.
This is what I asked the members of the list
The question is about the possibility of a society not too different from ours (**) but 100% based on renewable energy sources, and on the possibility of obtaining it before it is too late to avoid the climate disaster. This said, what statement best describes your position?
1. It is impossible for technical reasons. (Renewables have too low EROEIs, need too large amounts of natural resources, we'll run out of fossil fuels first, climate change will destroy us first, etc.)
2. It is technically possible but so expensive to be unthinkable.
3. It is technically possible and not so expensive to be beyond our means. However, it is still expensive enough that most likely people will not want to pay the costs of the transition before it will be too late to achieve it, unless we move to a global emergency status.
4. It is technically possible and inexpensive enough that it can be done smoothly, by means of targeted government intervention, such as a carbon tax.
5. It is technically possible and technological progress will soon make it so inexpensive that normal market mechanisms will bring us there nearly effortlessly.
As I said, it was a very informal poll and these questions could have been phrased differently, and probably in a better way. And, indeed, many people thought that their position was best described by something intermediate, some saying, for instance, "I am between 4 and 5". Because of this, it was rather difficult to make a precise counting of the results. But the trend was clear anyway.
Out of some 70 answers, the overwhelming majority was for option 4, that is, the transition is not only technologically possible, but within reach at a reasonable cost and fast enough to avoid major damage from climate change. The second best choice was option 3 (the transition is possible but very expensive). Only a few respondents say that the transition is technologically impossible without truly radical changes of society. Some opted for option 5, even suggesting an "option 6", something like "it will be faster than anyone expects".
I must confess that I was a little surprised by this diffuse optimism, being myself set on option 3. In part, it is because I tend to frequent "doomer" groups, but also on the basis of the quantitative calculations that I performed with some colleagues. But I think that these results are indicative of a trend that's developing among energy experts. It is an attitude that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but the experts are clearly perceiving the rapid strides forward of renewable technologies and reacting accordingly. They feel that there is a concrete chance to be able to create a cleaner world fast enough to avoid the worst.
I understand that this is the opinion of just a tiny group of experts, I understand that experts may well be wrong, I understand that there exist such things as the "bandwagon effect" and the "confirmation bias." I know all this. Yet, I believe that, in the difficult situation in which we find ourselves, we can't go anywhere if we keep telling people that we are doomed, no matter what we do. What we need in order to keep going and fight the climate crisis is a healthy dose of hope and of optimism. And these results show that there is hope, that there is reason for optimism. Whether the transition will turn out to be very difficult, or not so difficult, it seems to be within reach if we really want it.
(*) Note: the forum mentioned in this post is a private discussion group meant to be a tool for professionals in renewable energy. It is not a place to discuss whether renewable energy is a good thing or not, nor to discuss such thing as the incoming near term extinction of humankind and the like. Rather, the idea of the forum is to discuss how to make the renewable energy transition happen as fast as possible; hopefully fast enough to avoid a climate disaster. If you are interested in joining this forum, please write me privately at ugo.bardi(zingything)unifi.it telling me in a few lines who you are and why you would like to join. It is not necessary that you are a researcher or a professional. People of good will who think they have something to contribute to the discussion are welcome.
(**) The concept of a society "not too different from ours" is left purposefully vague, because it is, obviously subjected to many different interpretations.Personally, I would tend to define it in terms of what such a society would NOT be. A non-exhaustive list could be, in no particular order,
- Not a Mayan style theocracy, complete with human sacrifices
- Not a military dictatorship, Roman style, complete with a semi-divine imperial ruler
- Not a proletarian paradise, complete with a secret police sending dissenters to very cold places
- Not a hunting and gathering society, complete with hunting rituals and initiation rites
- Not a society where you are hanged upside down if you tell a joke about the dear leader
- Not a society where, if you can't afford health care, you are left to die in the street
- Not a society where you are worried every day about whether you and your children will have something to eat
- Not a society where slavery is legal and the obvious way things ought to be
- Not a society where women are supposed to be the property of men
- Not a society where most people spend most of their life tilling the fields
- Not a society where you are burned at the stake if you belong to a different sect than the dominant one
Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 28, 2016
Discuss this article at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner
Here at the Diner we're discussing the Collapse of Industrial Civilization from a variety of perspectives: survivalists, socialists, anarchists, and wildists share their approaches to the future. The following interview presents an anarchist view.
An interview with a domestic insurgent
From the book
RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War
By William T. Hathaway
I first met the man we'll call Trucker in 1970 at a rally against the Vietnam War. Our demo was going to start on the Berkeley campus and continue with a march down Telegraph Avenue. This was shortly after the National Guard and police had murdered six demonstrators at Kent State and Jackson State, so the mood was extremely tense. The Berkeley city government had denied us a permit to march and called in police reinforcements from Oakland. The Oakland cops had a reputation for brutality (based on their treatment of the black population), and we were expecting an ugly and possibly violent confrontation. Out of fear, many people decided not to march, but others of us argued that marching was now more important than ever. We needed to defy the government's attempts to scare us into silence.
After speeches and music in front of Sproul Hall, we marched off the campus and were met by a wall of police sealing off Telegraph Avenue. Some of our hard-cores in front tried to break through the barrier but were clubbed down. Cops began firing what looked liked shotguns, and people started screaming and running in panic, but it turned out to be tear gas.
A demonstrator wearing a biker helmet, swim goggles, and a cloth around his face picked up a gas canister with gloved hands and hurled it back at the police — a classic scene of a brave individual defying tyranny. Inspired, I pulled off my old green beret that I'd been wearing and used it to protect my hands as I scooped up a hot canister and threw it back where it came from. I thought about all the grenades I'd thrown in Vietnam and felt much better about this one.
The first line of cops, those who were firing, wore gas masks, but those behind didn't, and I felt a surge of triumph seeing them run from their own gas. But the ones in masks kept advancing and firing, looking like robots.
The peace marchers fell back, fleeing down side streets. Agonized from the tear gas, I sank to my knees, hacking convulsively. My eyes were seared, nose and throat raw, skin burning. Through the tears I saw the guy in the biker helmet approaching. He helped me off the street into a doorway and pulled out a first-aid kit. From a squeeze bottle he squirted glycerin water into my eyes and nose, helped me rinse my mouth and throat with regular water from a canteen, then rubbed moist baking soda under my eyes. He was firm but gentle, like a good combat medic. I saw the cloth around his face was a towel wet with vinegar to absorb some of the gas. This man was equipped.
As soon as I could walk better, we straggled away from the scene. The police strategy had worked: the march was broken up, scattered in all directions. We walked down to People's Park, angry, bitter, exhausted.
The park was full, and no cops dared to show, although they and other agents were probably there undercover. Joints were being passed around, and we got high. Smoking grass back then had an innocence to it that it hasn't had since. Cannabis helped us to abandon the death world we saw around us and resurrect our child-selves. Stoned people were learning to play again, singing, blowing giant iridescent soap bubbles, juggling pine cones, tossing Frisbees back and forth. But under it seethed a mood of defiance and rebellion. A statement in Ramparts magazine summed up our feelings: "Alienation is when your country is at war and you want the other side to win." But I would have spelled it a-lie-nation. A group of conga drummers were playing, and their furious, insistent beat seemed to herald a rising tidal wave of protest that would sweep the militarists out of power.
We didn't realize it at the time, but this wasn't the beginning of the wave but its crest, and in the next years it would dwindle down. But this was better than no wave at all. It didn't sink the ship of state, but it did slosh over the deck. And now a new one is rising that may go even higher.
The events of the day bonded Trucker and me as friends, and although our lives took different directions after that, we stayed in touch. Years ago he went totally underground, changing his identity and location, and since then all I've had for him is a webmail address, through which we held the following interview.
Hathaway: Why don't you start by telling us why you became a saboteur.
Trucker: Well, like Jerry Garcia said, "What a long, strange trip it's been." After you went back to New York I joined an anarchist affinity group, and we worked with the Weather Underground to move demos in the direction of revolt — trashing the headquarters of war corporations, barricading the entrance to the Oakland Army Terminal, throwing rocks at the cops. By then the fuzz had refined their tactics and had special squads that would target the activists, rush into the crowd and grab the hard-cores. They clubbed me, kicked me, punched me, then charged me with assaulting a police officer. I did four months in the Alameda County Jail. Later I found out our group had been infiltrated. One guy who was always pushing us to be more violent was actually an agent. He gave them all our plans, even photos of us he'd made with a hidden camera.
After that I gave up on groups and since then have focused on individual guerrilla insurrection, autonome actions, monkeywrenching the machine. Especially now with the Patriot Act, that's become the safest way to work. There's a good book, Leaderless Resistance, on how to organize that without getting smashed. You can't totally prevent being infiltrated, but you can prevent the agents from knowing much.
Hathaway: I remember back then you were complaining about all the infiltration, and I thought you were paranoid, but it turned out you were right.
Trucker: Yeah, the government took our threat very seriously and did everything they could to smash us. But they couldn't.
Once the war was finally over, I and lots of other people were totally burnt out. We needed a break, to depressurize. But after a while exhaustion turned to apathy, and many people lost interest in the ongoing struggle.
I remember when Nixon violated the Paris Peace Agreement by refusing to pay the reparations we'd promised to help Vietnam rebuild their infrastructure and buy medical supplies. Refusing this humanitarian aid was an outrageous, criminal act, and some of us tried to organize a mass protest. We ended up with a hundred people on the steps of the San Francisco County Courthouse. The momentum was gone.
I too began to focus more on my personal life. I'd met a woman I wanted to build a future with. We were both tired of being poor. Living on the fringe is a struggle, it wears you down. Neither of us wanted to work for the Man and go the yuppie route, and we wanted something with a bit of adventure to it.
I'd done a little dealing before, but now we got into it in a big way. Just grass and hash, though — natural plants. I never liked hard drugs. Went to Mexico and spent a long time in Michoacán finding a good connection. Not just price and quality, but also good personal vibes.
We moved to San Diego, and I cut my hair and shaved my beard. Customs was using dogs on the border by then, but we came up with a way to beat that. Formed a little company called Baha Divers, stenciled this on the sides of a van. I'd drive south across the border about every other day with the van full of scuba tanks and gear, supposedly to give diving lessons to the tourists at Rosarito Beach. The US border guards thought of course American tourists would rather learn to dive from an American. In Mexico we sealed the stuff inside the tanks. We filled them with hash because it's more concentrated. I had cut the tanks in the middle and had an airtight way to reseal them. Then we would wash them off with ammonia, to get rid of any smell. The first couple of times I was totally nervous and was afraid the guards would pick up on that, but they didn't. Pretty dull bunch. After a while they didn't even bother to put the dog in the van, just waved me through.
People I'd known in the Bay area were now spread all over the West Coast, so before long we were supplying all the way up to Vancouver.
But one day the border guards flagged me into the inspection lane. They knew exactly what they were looking for, took the tanks apart and handcuffed me. It turned out that one of our guys on the Mexican side had got busted by the Federales, and he traded his way into a lower sentence by ratting me out.
It looked bad, like I'd be going back to the Bay area — all the way to San Quentin. But we hired a very good, VERY expensive lawyer, and he got me off. I had to plead guilty as part of a plea bargain but ended up with a suspended sentence.
I decided to get out of the business. By then our savings were enough to buy a spread of land with an old farmhouse in Oregon. We settled down, went back to college, got involved in local issues and environmental organizing.
Then it all exploded in our faces. We let a guy, friend of a friend, stay with us for a couple of weeks. He was going through hard times and needed some peace and quiet out in the country. He was active in the Black Panthers, and so of course the cops were hassling him, but what we didn't know was that they had warrants on him for the armed robbery of three supermarkets. They tracked him out to our farm and arrested everybody there, charged us all with the robberies. He had some of the loot with him, and he'd given us some bills that turned out to be marked, so that tied us in. Cops found a few pot plants in our garden and added drug charges. They could tell we were radicals, so they wanted to send us away for as long as they could. Considering the other busts, I was looking at major time as a repeat offender.
We decided to scram. Sold the house and land. Our forfeited bail took a huge chunk of that, but since we weren't going to pay taxes, we came out OK. With the help of some of our old contacts, we transferred the money off shore, then followed it and kept moving, got passports under new names. We thought about staying overseas and becoming ex-pats, but we both missed the USA. The thing is, we like the country. We just don't like the people running it.
We had some facial surgery — my wife loves her new nose — and after a couple of years came back as different people. We haven't been back to the West Coast, though, don't want to push our luck. And we're super law-abiding, except of course for the small matter of burning military vehicles.
Cutting ties was hard. Both our are families are conservative and had shut us out a long time ago, so that part wasn't so difficult. That was pain we'd already gone through. But we had to let go of a lot of friendships. We have webmail with a few close and trusted folks like you, but none of them know where we live or our names.
Hathaway: Thanks for including me on your list.
Trucker: Well, we go back a long time. And those were very formative times.
But by the time we came back, the country was deep into the Big Chill. Straight and retro. Women were abandoning feminism and returning to femininity, joining the Fascinating Womanhood movement. Guys were majoring in business and wearing suits with suspenders like their grandfathers. Bill Gates replaced John Lennon as the generational hero. Disgusting.
Maybe as part of our trying to fit into the mainstream, we became tamer ourselves. Got married, in church yet. Stopped smoking dope … pretty much at least.
Politically, we started thinking that the way to bring change was through the Democrats, gradual reforms. Now we see that was a trap.
We turned radical again when Clinton ignored the chance for disarmament that the collapse of the Soviet Union offered. He could've turned the end of the Cold War into a new era of peace. Instead he saw the chance for empire and went for it. Modernized the military with high-tech weapons, clamped sanctions on Iraq that led to millions of children dying from lack of medicine, bombed Yugoslavia and built a huge base there. Rather than communists, the people who opposed the empire were now called terrorists.
Domestically he declared war on welfare. Thanks to his policies, millions of single mothers were forced away from their children and into crummy, low-paying jobs. Their kids grew up just as poor but much more neglected.
Underneath the big smile, Clinton was just a loyal servant of the corporations and the military. Both Clintons are masters of giving the impression of working for real change, but it's just show. And Obama is even better at that show than they are.
The Democratic Party leadership serves the interests of the mercantile side of the business establishment. They support slightly higher wages and unemployment benefits so people will have money to keeping buy stuff. There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't go any farther than that. The basic injustice of the system is never challenged. The Democrats just bring mildly expansionist policies to stimulate the economy.
The Republicans bring mildly contractive policies that serve the interests of the fiscal side of business. They keep wages low, which holds costs and inflation down and thus preserves the value of capital.
Although these two tendencies conflict, they're two complementary ways that corporations maintain their control over us, two sides of the same gold coin. Both are necessary for them, and trading the power back and forth keeps things running in a wobbly balance.
The goal of both parties is to continue this system with little changes here and there, fine tuning. Neither one is going to take it apart and rebuild it, which is what we need. And both parties support an aggressive foreign policy to force US economic and military power into other countries, which is what nobody needs except the corporations they represent.
Although there's little difference in their policies, there's a great deal of difference in how the parties are marketed to us. Liberal candidates are sold as figures of great hope. We're supposed to think, Finally someone who'll change things. But their changes turn out to be trivial. The system stays mostly the same, and we slump back into disappointment. As the disappointment builds to mass discontent, another fresh liberal face is presented to us with new slogans. But they're all tied to the system. The only candidates that have a chance of getting nominated are those supported by business. They're in their pockets. That's the price of their coming to power.
Look back in the past. The only major changes to come out of congress have been the New Deal in the 1930s, passed to stave off a total economic collapse, and the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, passed under the threat of armed insurrection. And congress has been whittling away at them ever since.
We have to take the power away from both parties, close down their whole show. Or else we'll keep on being their vassals.
We fall for their shell game because we have a desperate need to believe the USA is a great country and our personal lives will turn out well. So we ignore what our leaders are doing in the rest of the world and cling to their mirage of a better future. That's comforting. But things are not improving, they're declining. And that'll continue until we get rid of this corporation government, both parties. We can't build a new system until we break the power of the current one.
Hathaway: How are you trying to do that?
Trucker: After Bush & Co invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, I knew I couldn't just sign petitions and march in demonstrations anymore. That wasn't going to have any effect on these guys. I had to do what I could to keep them from waging war, to take away their equipment, to bankrupt them. The people running the show are just businessmen. If they see it's costing them more than they can get out of it, they'll stop. So I decided to start destroying expensive military items.
I took off in a pickup truck with a camper and a dirt bike to become a domestic insurgent. Slept in the camper so I didn't leave records at motels. Showered at truck stops. I used the bike to scout out targets and escape routes.
I found out that security around the big bases was tight, so I started checking out National Guard branches. I liked the idea of taking revenge on the Guard for Kent State. I found a unit that had all their trucks and humvees locked in the motor pool behind a chainlink fence, but someone had left a staff car parked behind the building. I guess the colonel didn't want to have to walk very far.
I decided to go for it, but this first time was damn near my last. I set myself on fire. I made the mistake of starting at the top. I poured gasoline over the trunk of the car above the gas tank, and then more under the tank. But without my knowing it, the gas ran down onto the sleeve of my coat. When I flicked the lighter, my whole arm caught fire. The car did too, of course, and I had to run away from it with a blazing arm. By the time I got the coat off, I had third degree burns. Hurt like hell but I couldn't scream. Scared to.
But it was great seeing the car go up. When the vapor in the gas tank gets hot enough, it explodes, not a huge explosion, but enough to set off the whole tank, which erupts into a fireball that swallows the car. You can feel the concussion and a blast of heat. Everything is flames. It's quite a scene, a real charge.
Getting away, I could hardly steer the bike, my arm hurt so much. I didn't sleep that night because of the pain. Terrible oozing blisters, skin peeling off. I'd brought a first-aid kit with salve and stuff, but this was way past that.
I was afraid to go to the emergency room because they might call the cops — a guy comes in with burns right after an arson fire. But next morning I headed for the down side of downtown.
I had tried heroin once years ago and didn't like its down, shut-off feeling. But now I needed it. I went to the bus station, knowing that's a good place to score in most cities. I could pick up on dealer vibes, having been one myself, so I talked to this guy who was hanging out there, standing and looking around rather than just sitting and waiting for a bus. At first he was suspicious, but he sensed I wasn't a cop. A dealer has to have that instinct or he won't last long.
I probably paid twice as much as his regular customers, but I got a balloon. Mixed a quarter spoonful with orange juice, drank it down. Bitter. I threw up and had to take some more. But a half hour later I was fine.
I bought the newspaper and read about "Arsonist Torches National Guard" with a picture of the burned-out car. I felt great. I knew that the money it was going to take to replace that car couldn't be used to bomb Afghanistan. This had a lot more impact than writing a congressman or shouting slogans in a protest march. It made a bottom-line difference. I wanted to save the newspaper, but it could've connected me, so I threw it away.
By then I was getting woozy. Went back to the truck and passed out. Pain woke me up in a few hours, I took some more smack and nodded out again.
I've still got the scars, patches of turkey skin.
Hathaway: That didn't make you stop?
Trucker: No, it made me realize what all the people who've been hit by US napalm and white phosphorous are going through. Right this moment men, women, and children are crying in agony because of our bombing. And they don't have the luxury of pain killers.
It's worse for the kids. They have a lifetime of pain ahead of them, because the scars don't grow. As the skin around them grows, that stretches the scars. The tissue becomes very thin and sensitive. It hurts for the rest of their lives.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam and Cambodia are still living with this on a daily basis. And now Iraqi and Afghan children are facing this future.
My pain gave me just a taste of what they are suffering. It also made me aware how terrible it would be if someone got caught in one of my fires. I'd never torch a building. Just vehicles. I even look in those to make sure no one's sleeping in the back.
My burns made me see that what I was doing was important, trying to stop this war machine.
If Americans knew, I mean really opened our hearts to the mass suffering we're inflicting on Iraq and Afghanistan at this moment, we'd overthrow this government. Not to mention what we did in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, the Congo, Iran, and so many more. But we don't want to know. We turn it off — it's a long ways away. And the media sure don't want us to tell about it. Their job is to distract us from it with all sorts of nonsense.
We close our eyes to the killing because it conflicts with the patriotic fantasies about America we learned as children. Reality is too disturbing, so we deny it. Our love of country has blinded us.
But deep down we do know. We push it away, but it sinks into our subconscious and festers there and pops out in sick ways. That's why we have so many crazy shootings.
We're convinced our society is good, because that's what we were taught. But good societies don't kill millions of people. Pathological ones do that. And you don't cure pathology with reforms. It needs major surgery.
Hathaway: What do you see as your greatest triumph?
Trucker: The Air National Guard watches their planes pretty carefully, but I found one parked at an unguarded airstrip. This was in the middle of the day, and I was hoping it would still be there at night. It was, and no one around. I needed more gas because the flames had to reach higher, and I wasn't sure where the tanks were. I soaked some boards with gas and laid them against the fuselage and on the wings. The plane went up fine. A beautiful sight. Had a different smell because of the kerosene.
Hathaway: Are you going to get more planes?
Trucker: I hope so, but the vehicles are easier to find. My favorite are the deuce-and-a-halves, those big trucks with canvas covers. They make a huge fireball, and they're expensive. That's what this game is about — make the war too expensive, so it becomes bad economics. There's lots of ways to do that, and this is my way.
A couple of times a year, but not in any regular pattern, I take off and look for targets of opportunity. My wife keeps the home fires burning while I go out and set a fire. I follow the basic principles of guerrilla warfare — pick the time and place to attack, make it quick, and get out before the enemy can react.
Once I almost got caught. I always pick Guard units of the edge of town, somewhat isolated. Those are less likely to be patrolled by the police, and they offer quicker access to escape routes, trails where only the bike can go. This place looked good, and they'd left a truck out. Right after it erupted in flames, though, I heard a siren and saw flashing lights. A patrol car must've been cruising nearby.
He was between me and my escape route, so I had to take off on the bike in the other direction. He saw me, even though I was running without lights. I was hoping he'd first go to the fire, but no such luck — he charged after me. The bike is fast, but so was he. I kept turning corners because I could do that faster than he could, but he caught up on the straights. I zigzagged back onto the main road towards the escape trail, but by then other sirens were approaching from different directions.
He was right behind me as I got to the trail. I was afraid he was going to run me over and claim it was an accident. As I slowed down to turn left onto the trail, he swung beside me into the oncoming lane and blocked me off. I couldn't turn, just had to keep going.
Up ahead was an intersection. I sprinted towards it and swung a wide U-turn in the middle of it, so I could get back to the trail. But he turned his car sideways to block the road. His front tires covered the right shoulder I wanted to drive on, and I couldn't turn sharp enough to get behind him.
I was still going fast and had only a split second to react. I plunged the bike down into the drainage channel next to the shoulder of the road, right in front of his headlights. I could barely hold it stable. I skidded on the wet bottom of the channel, almost laid it down, but kicked out with my foot and managed to stay up. Then I hit an old tire and lost control. The bike bounced up and keeled over, and I scraped through the mud, wrenching my leg and banging my knee, and finally stopped, front wheel still spinning. I was hurting and covered with dreck.
The patrol car was backing around to get me. My engine had stalled, but it started again on the first kick. I roared up the side of the channel at an angle, back onto the pavement.
The cop was closing fast, and I moved onto the shoulder so he couldn't cut me off from the trail again. Another patrol car was speeding from town, red lights flashing, siren blaring, but he wasn't close yet. Approaching the trail, I slowed just enough to slue through the turn. As I careened down the trail away from the road, I imagined the cop swearing at me in frustration.
I was on a tractor path leading into a big area of cornfields, and the tall corn swallowed me up in a second, friendly and protective. It was dark in there, but I kept my lights off so they wouldn't reflect off the stalks and show my position. I slowed down and laughed out loud in the warm, fragrant September night.
The fields ran for miles, gridded with other tractor paths, and I was sure they couldn't find me here in the dark. The feed corn was so dense that even with a helicopter they'd have to be right above me before they could spot me. I was safe here until dawn.
This was my territory now, but the streets were enemy territory, and I was going to have trouble getting out of here. When I had to try, my best bet would be a road with lots of traffic, so I could blend in. The cops couldn't be everywhere.
A state highway ran north of town, and I headed for it, now pushing the bike so they couldn't tell my direction from its sound. It took hours. I had to cross a couple of gravel roads, first waiting out of sight until it felt safe, then running across. Finally I could hear the highway ahead. It was almost dawn, but I wanted to wait until rush-hour traffic, so I lay down and tried to sleep. The ground was cold, I was hungry, my knee hurt, and a field mouse scampered over me, but I managed to doze.
About 7:30 I crept up towards the highway, peering out from my tractor path, afraid again. To my relief, there were enough motorcycles on the road that I figured the cops couldn't stop them all. I waited until I felt lucky, then started the bike, accelerated along the shoulder, and joined the stream between two big trucks. I saw one cop, but he was going the other way. I kept expecting a patrol car to pull beside me with a shotgun leveled out the window, but it didn't happen.
I stopped in the next town and hid the bike near a shopping center. I was covered with mud, so I bought new clothes, cleaned up as best I could and changed, then ate a big farmer's breakfast of steak and eggs, grits, and three cups of coffee. It was the sort of place where cops might stop for doughnuts, but none came in. Poor guys must've all had to work overtime.
I took a cab back to near where my truck was parked, drove back to the bike and loaded it in, drove a hundred more miles, and collapsed into the bunk. My body was still clogged with fear, my leg was swollen and aching, I had a nervous tic in my cheek, but I was almost glowing with bliss as I sank into sleep.
It was a long time before I went on another sabotage mission, though.
Once I had a close call at what looked like a perfect set up — a humvee parked behind a Guard admin building, secluded, dark, no one around. As usual I waited an hour after the bars closed, so the streets would be emptier. Also it was a regular work night, so fewer late partygoers. But as soon as I took the lid off the gas can, this car pulls in and two guys get out, drunk. They were fumbling at their zippers to piss when they noticed me by the humvee. They shouted at me — probably thought I was trying to steal it. Seeing their chance to become heroes, they forgot about their bladders and started towards me. One of them pulled out a knife.
Part of me wanted to throw the gas can at them and light it, but I couldn't do that. I know what burns are like. Instead I threw the can at an angle between us. The gas spewed out in a long trail, and when I lit it, the flames leaped up, high enough to reach their zippers if they'd tried to get through. That stopped their charge long enough for me to take off on the bike while they were shaking their fists and swearing at me.
Never did get that humvee. Went back a year later and everything was locked up.
Once I found two humvees and a truck parked together. What a blaze they made! Someday I'm hoping to get a whole motor pool … or a squadron of planes.
Hathaway: Some people would call that violence.
Trucker: Violence means harming living beings. I'm very careful not to do that. It's only because our culture worships property that we see destroying war machines as violence. What I'm doing is depriving the military of their tools of violence. I'm decreasing their ability to harm people. Since they refuse to disarm, I'm doing it for them.
But I admit I've got some psychological quirks. I like fire — the huge eruption of flames is magnificent. Torching is an adrenaline high … like dealing. Apparently I need that. Maybe that makes me neurotic, but if so, I've managed to channel my neurosis into a socially useful activity — destroying war machines. The real crazies are those who go along with this system and think they're sane.
It's probably true that certain personality traits make people more likely to oppose their society. But conservatives use that to discount the rebels' objections by branding them abnormal. They say radicals have psychological problems, they're not well adjusted, they have a bad relationship with their father.
But what does it mean to be well adjusted to a society like this? It means you've accepted and internalized its values. If you think about what those values really are, it's insane to do that. The people who do are normal only in the sense that they're the majority.
And since most fathers are the spear carriers of patriarchy, since they are the power structure, how can we not oppose them? That kind of authority needs to be defied.
Having a "good" relationship with your father isn't necessarily good. It tends to make people support the powers that be, to want to please them. Kids who need their father's approval turn into toadies. That's the only way to please a patriarch. If we want to build a new kind of person, we have to become different from the old kind, and that usually means displeasing them.
Hathaway: Would you prefer matriarchy?
Trucker: I'd prefer no-archy. No group should have power over another group. That's what anarchy means.
Conservatives conveniently forget that they're supporting this culture because of their own personality traits. And look at those — the desire to placate authority rather than defy it, to actually become the authority and have power over others, to preserve with violence if necessary an unjust economic system that denies the majority of humanity the basics of a secure life. Those are conservatives. And if you put them under pressure, they become fascists, as we're seeing.
Hathaway: You're in your sixties now. Do you have a protégé, someone to, so to speak, pass the torch on to?
Trucker: No. This business is too risky. I'd feel terrible if something happened to them. Also there's the security issue. With all the government surveillance and infiltration, this sort of work has to be done alone. No one knows what I do except my wife, and they can't make her testify against me.
Hathaway: Why tell me?
Trucker: I know you won't turn me in. And if they waterboarded you — always a possibility these days — well, you don't know where I live or what my name is now. All you have is a webmail address.
But it is a calculated risk. I want to go public in an anonymous way to let people know what's happening with the resistance movement. The government is hushing up about all the sabotage that's going on. It's not just me. I'm just a small part of it. There's a growing movement to undermine the machine from within. People are trashing recruiters' offices, slashing their tires, cutting their phone wires, grafittiing-out their billboards. In universities they're squirting glue into the locks of ROTC departments, stealing their mail, hacking into their computers. The government and corporations have had to set up internal security units to catch their own people who are sabotaging them — leaking secret memos, destroying equipment, zapping computer files. An autonome threw a log under the wheels of an arms train and derailed it. It's only a matter of time before a vet sets up a mortar outside an air base and starts blowing up Stealth bombers.
The war is coming home where it belongs. But this is just starting, and the government doesn't want people to know. They're scared it'll spread.
Hathaway: Do you want it to spread?
Trucker: Yes. I'm convinced that's the only way to stop these wars. Make it too costly for the USA to extend its empire. We need to lame the beast so it can't attack anymore. We have to maximize chaos on all fronts, a thousand different kinds of uprisings so the country becomes ungovernable. That's the only way to break their hold and build something new.
Hathaway: That's going to make things tougher at home.
Trucker: Yep, it will … for a while. And that's why a lot of people are against it. They don't want to lose their comfort level. That's more important to them than the lives of millions of people overseas … and the lives of their own grandchildren.
You can't blame people for wanting to have a pleasant life, but in times like these that turns them into accomplices with the system. The only way life can stay pleasant now is if you play along. The punishments for opposition are getting increasing unpleasant.
But rebelling is invigorating. It's an authentic life, not the superficial pleasantries of a lackey life.
Even the lackeys are going to lose their precious comfort level before long. Things are getting worse and worse here because that's the nature of the system. It devours everything.
The country is run by corporate robots. They're squeezing the people at home and strangling them overseas. And the military is their enforcer. It's become a monster rampaging out of control, fighting enemies that it itself created, like Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban. This beast knows only to kill, and it does that reflexively, mechanically, massively. The leaders elected to stop it end up serving it. Amerika is running amok in a mania of unconscious killing. Amerika is a berserker battling the universe, a gut-shot hyena devouring its own entrails.
We have to stop doing this … and we can. We don't need to live this way, by bombing and killing.
I want people to know there's a movement here to resist militarism. It's rolling. They can be part of it … in many ways.
Hathaway: Would you recommend that people burn trucks?
Trucker: I would not. It's very dangerous.
Hathaway: What would you recommend that people do?
Trucker: That's a question only they can answer.
Hathaway: What if you get caught? Would you shoot it out?
Trucker: No, I don't have any weapons. I don't believe in killing people for peace. And cops are still people.
I'd probably spend the rest of my life as a prisoner of war in Guantánamo West, that new supermax in Colorado.
Hathaway: Doesn't that scare you?
Trucker: You bet it does. But even if that happens, my life will have meant something. I'll have done what I could to stop this monster from invading more countries and murdering more people.
But I don't think it will happen. I'm very careful. I want to continue the struggle. As Ed Sanders said, "Resist and Survive."
"Saboteur" is a chapter of Radical Peace: People Refusing War, which presents the experiences of activists who have become criminals for peace, defying the government's laws and impeding its capacity to kill: http://media.trineday.com/radicalpeace. William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.
Published on The Economic Collapse on April 5, 2016
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Watch Japan – For All Is Not Well In The Land Of The Rising Sun
One of the epicenters of the global financial crisis that started during the second half of last year is Japan, and it looks like the markets in the land of the rising sun are entering yet another period of great turmoil. The Nikkei was down another 390 points last night, and it is now down more than 1,300 points since a week ago. Why this is so important for U.S. investors is because the Nikkei is often an early warning indicator of where the rest of the global markets are heading. For example, the Nikkei started crashing early last December about a month before U.S. markets started crashing really hard in early January. So the fact that the Nikkei has been falling very rapidly in recent days should be a huge red flag for investors in this country.
I want you to study the chart below very carefully. It shows the performance of the Nikkei over the past 12 months. As you can see, it kind of resembles a giant leaning “W”. You can see the stock crash that started last August, you can see the second wave of the crash that began last December, and now a third leg of the crash is currently forming…
And of course the economic fundamentals in Japan continue to deteriorate as well. GDP growth has been negative for two out of the last three quarters, Japanese industrial production just experienced the largest one month decline that we have seen since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has sunk to a three year low.
The third largest economy on the entire planet is in a comatose state at this point, and Japanese authorities have been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it in an attempt to revive it. Government stimulus programs have pushed the debt to GDP ratio to 229 percent, and the quantitative easing that the Bank of Japan has been engaged in has made the Federal Reserve look timid by comparison.
But none of those extraordinary measures has been successful in stimulating the Japanese economy, so now the Bank of Japan has been been trying negative interest rates. Unfortunately, these negative rates are also having some unintended consequences. According to the Wall Street Journal, the negative interest rate program is putting additional stress on the Japanese financial sector…
The Bank of Japan started imposing a minus 0.1% rate on some deposits held by commercial banks in February, meaning that those banks now have to pay a small fee when they add to their money parked at the central bank. The financial sector has suffered amid worries that banks can’t pass on negative interest rate to their depositors and therefore will take a hit to their profits.
I would keep a very close eye on the big banks in Japan. It is my conviction that there is a lot more brewing under the surface than we are being told about so far.
In addition, many analysts in Japan are complaining that all of this manipulation by the BOJ is essentially destroying normal market behavior. The following comes from Bloomberg…
Nobuyasu Atago, who also had worked at the BOJ and is now the chief economist at Okasan Securities Co., pointed out that instead of serving as a important source of cash for borrowers, the credit market has become a profit center for dealers looking to buy securities from investors and sell them to the central bank. While the strategy may be lucrative now, financial institutions face the risk of massive losses, he said.
“By making the trade with the BOJ the only source of profit, markets are exposed to unexpected volatility when that trade ends and the BOJ moves toward the exit,” Atago said. “Markets are being destroyed.”
The more global central banks try to “fix things”, the more they make our long-term imbalances even worse.
To me, it makes no sense to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable central planners constantly monkeying with the financial system. In a true free market system, we would allow market forces to determine the course of events. But of course we don’t have a free market system anymore. Instead, what we have is a heavily socialized system that is greatly manipulated by the central planners.
That is why global financial markets gyrate wildly if Janet Yellen so much as sneezes. They know who holds all the power, and investors are constantly on edge as they wait for the latest pronouncement from our central banking overlords.
At this point, 99 percent of the global population lives in a country with a central bank. Our world is more deeply divided than ever, and yet somehow everyone in the world has agreed to adopt this insidious system.
It sure is quite a coincidence, isn’t it?
Getting back to Japan, things are so bad now that the Japanese government is actually considering giving gift certificates directly to low-income young people. The following originally comes from Bloomberg…
The Japanese government plans to include gift certificates for low-income young people in its fiscal 2016 supplementary budget, Sankei reports, without saying who provided the information.
Recipients would be able to use them for daily necessities.
The government sees gift certificates as more effective in stimulating consumption than cash handouts, which may be deposited.
This is what the end of democracy looks like.
When the government just starts handing out money like candy, you might as well turn out the lights because the party is over.
Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times and they have injected approximately 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs.
Has all of this monkeying around solved our problems?
Of course not.
Instead, our long-term problems have grown progressively worse and now a new financial crisis has begun.
Keep an eye on Japan, and also keep an eye on Europe. Huge problems are bubbling right under the surface, and when they come bursting into the open they will deeply affect the United States as well.
Published on Pray for Calamity on March 31, 2016
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She picks up a stick. Her two year old hands are pristine, without callouses. Standing straight up she begins to walk forward on the path that leads along a ridge line deep into the forest. On uneven ground her steps still betray a clumsiness, but she overwhelms her lack of experience with exuberance and then turns to see me walking a few steps behind her.
“Dada get a big stick?”
She wants me to use a hiking stick as well. Last year I would carry her in a hiking pack, and I would use a large stick for support as I navigated slopes and downed tree trunks. Now she imitates the habit using the small bit of hickory in her hand, poking the ground with it as she walks, and she expects me to do so as well.
“You want me to find a hiking stick?”
“How about this one?”
Leaning over I pick up a bowed piece of a fallen branch and proceed to snap off the twigs that jut from it in crooked tangles. It is a brittle piece of wood and suffices as more of an accessory than anything, but my daughter is happy that we are now both equipped for our walk. She turns once more down the path. A two year old girl takes confident steps with her hiking stick in one hand, and a plastic pink magic wand in the other. We are going out in search of fairies, and she flat refuses to embark on such an adventure without her wand.
Economic collapse finds itself a popular plot device across a broad spectrum of the internet. Those who anticipate such a collapse monitor the details of international trade, noting the ups and downs of stock and bond markets, currency values, volatility and shipping indices. Economic collapse is one of those concepts that is out the door and around the world generating hype, fear, and sales of pocket knives before anyone who would take the time to explore its value can even settle into an armchair. As with so many other premises and cliches we are bombarded with, most people take for granted that the economy is even a thing.
In 1776 Adam Smith published his magnum opus, “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” in which Smith establishes the now firmly entrenched and wholly mythical notion that barter societies preceded the invention of money, which was an inevitable progression due to its efficiency at facilitating trade. In “Nations,” Smith also establishes the idea that the economy is even a thing that exists and that can be studied. Of course, it will be men like himself that are capable of doing the studying and imparting their wisdom onto the world. It is quite a ruse, if you think about it, inventing a specter and then inventing the business of studying it.
When we speak of “the economy,” what are we even talking about? The Dow Jones Industrial? The S&P 500? Or are we merely speaking of some amalgamation of the habits and behaviors of humans which combine to provide for our daily acquisition of needs? It may seem silly to question because it is such a prevalent notion in this culture, but for the majority of human existence, there was no economy. It was an idea that had to be invented, and now, there are whole academic wings dedicated to the maintenance of the idea, as well as sections in newspapers and channels on television focused solely on its changing winds. Those who lord over such institutions have their charts and maps and a host of methods for describing the economy to everyone else. At times, they speak of their trade as a science, which would lead one to believe that the thing which they observe is predictable, that they could establish some level of capable control over it. At other times, the economy is a wild thing, and it moves and thrashes of its own chaotic will like a storm squall.
So people watch the signs. They generate charts. They consult the experts. Some believe that the economy, despite its tantrums, is an all loving God that will always rise again, and so they tithe. Others believe the economy is a false idol set to feast on the souls of the avaricious or the merely ignorant, and so they prepare.
As someone who long ago came to the conclusion that the civilized method of human organization is one that is always bound to fail, I have many times put forth the suggestion that we need to transition into living arrangements that do not rely on the creation of cities. This is all to say, I have an anti-civilzation philosophy, which to the uninitiated perhaps seems extreme or absurd. Consider quickly, this definition of civilization offered by wikipedia:
“A civilization is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment by a cultural elite. Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labor, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon farming as an agricultural practice, and expansionism.”
To be against civilization is not to be in favor of some inhumanity towards others, but simply to believe that urban development, infinite growth, ecological destruction, social stratification, agriculture, etc. are ultimately unsustainable pursuits that are dooming our possibility of existing very far into the future. Further, the anthropocentrism inherent in such societies results in the widespread extirpation of the other beings with whom we share this planet.
Suggesting that we abandon, once and for all, the project of civilization is often met with a buffet of criticisms. That civilization gave us the sciences, and the sciences – usually now expressed simply as Science! – gave us a candle in an otherwise dark, demon haunted world, is usually proffered as reason enough for humanity to continue on a civilized trajectory. Critics of anti-civ ideas would have us believe that as primitive people we lived in constant fear of disembodied spirits that stalked and haunted us, manifesting as sickness and death that we could not otherwise explain. Science! they claim, was a great demon slayer that has brought illumination in the form of germ theory and biology, and thanks to optics of all kinds, both micro and telescope, we can see that the universe both minute and macro is not subject to god or djinn, not spirit or elemental but merely to the wind of a grand mechanical clock of subatomic particles and fundamental forces.
What light! It bathes us in such cleansing luminance! Fear not as you walk through the world sons of Ptolemy and daughters of Hypatia!
Now check your stocks. There are movements in the markets. How is your 401K?
More is happening in the space around you than you can possibly imagine. Your body is equipped with various sensory abilities that allow you to gather information about the world around you, and this information is used to generate a picture of existence that you as a biological entity can use to go forth and attain your survival. This picture exists in your mind only, and it is further shaped and formed by your particular biological makeup, as well as the cultural programming that you have been inculcated with since birth.
The world you see is not the world I see, let alone, is not the world an owl, or a butterfly, or a snap pea sees. Human societies have a habit of claiming that through their sciences that have been able to package and interpret reality as it is. The fun sets in when we notice that each of these societies that has claimed such a handle on reality have all, in fact, had different descriptions of reality.
Again, more is happening around us than we could know. We are filtering. We are constructing from the pieces we capture. We are naming and simplifying and manufacturing volumes of symbols. In a sense, we must do so so as not to be crippled by the overwhelming weight of all that we experience. But ultimately, more is not included in our picture of the world than is included. The cutting room floor actually contains more reality than the final film playing out in our heads.
It is this understanding that stays my hand when others might wave theirs in dismissal of the disembodied phenomena that live outside of the lens we in the modern industrial world currently use to view our surroundings. Those who fear the crumbling of the city walls for what hordes of demons might come rushing in like a torrent to corrupt our understandings so finely crafted over centuries of weighing and measuring might do well to look around and see which demons already stalk the streets and halls. We have traded one set of lesser gods for another. You many not make offerings to the spirits of rain after holding the dry dirt in your fingers, but your faith in tomorrow’s full stomach might have you watching for a little green triangle to come drifting across a stock ticker. Where a few centuries ago a geomancer may have cast a chart that relied on the anima mundi – or soul of the Earth – for its answers, today’s economists are numerologists drawing meaning from the staggered lines that connect disparate values of commodities and currencies, hoping to tease from it all some prediction about future well being.
Am I attempting to claim that germs do not exist? Of course not. Am I attempting to claim that science has produced nothing of value? Of course not. I am simply suggesting that civilized life has not rid the world of demons, but merely shifted the demons we concern ourselves with. Priests have not gone out of fashion, to be sure, they just wear a different costume and spin incantations of a new variety. This class of priests extends far beyond the realm of economics, and the demons they promise to exorcise can be found anywhere uncertainty and fear have taken root. The simple fact is that life is a dangerous pursuit, and we all enter into it with a debt. We owe our lives and will all be held to account sooner or later. If we do not create cultures capable of accepting this most basic truth, we will invariably create cultures that attempt to mitigate our fear of death with palliatives. The palliative du jour in our particular civilization is technological domination of the ecological systems of the Earth, and it is this behavior that is responsible for the variety of cataclysms now unfolding globally. Sea ice melt, top soil loss, forest die offs, oceanic dead zones, mass extinction of species, climatic disruption; all have now long passed the formative stage and are well underway.
But so afraid of the dark beyond the city gates, the civilized world clings to their neon gods. They pray to markets and justice, progress and innovation. The Maya may have found it prudent to sacrifice some humans, perhaps by throwing them into a cenote or by letting the blood of a Pok-ta-tok victor to replenish the vigor of the tree of life. We modern civilized are far more sophisticated, and instead sacrifice the salamander, the Ash tree, the island chain, the clean flowing river, the indigenous tribe, or the global poor.
If we refuse to defecate in the river because we consider the water sacred and believe it contains within it a spirit of its own, does it matter? The water runs clean. If we continue to clear cut jungles so as to mine for rare Earth metals using diesel fuel and laborers fed mono-crops all because we believe that technology will somehow repair the wounds we have inflicted on the living planet, can we really claim that our demon free world is now safer?
She kicks up leaves as she walks.
“Shh!” I crouch low, squatting on my hams and I tap my ear with a forefinger. “Listen.” My daughter emulates my posture and I cannot help but smile. She looks out into the mass of trees before us. I whisper when I ask her if she sees any fairies, and she whispers her replies.
“What color are they?”
The afternoon sunlight is gold as it falls all around us. We stay there a while and I tell her that we must not disturb the fairies. We tell them that we are not there to do them any harm. We are nice people, we assure them. We hope that they are safe in the forest and we wish them well in their endeavors. After all, the forest can also be home to goblins, which is why I am glad my daughter had the foresight to bring her wand.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 27, 2016
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As a student of Collapse Dynamics, I'm always looking for signs of collapse in various areas in our civilization. I was drawn to the topic first by the collapse of the Investment Banks Bear Stearns & Lehman Brothers back in the financial crisis of 2007-2009, which is really still ongoing but reached a crescendo during this period. It will eventually be followed by an even BIGGER crescendo, but for the moment it just plods onward with various smaller changes in tempo and volume.
There are many other areas beyond just the financial ones that reflect ongoing collapse, Climate Calamities and Wild & Wacky Weather being other examples of Collapse Catastrophes we have to examine on virtually a daily basis these days. Then all the Geopolitical manifestations of collapse, from the non-stop wars in MENA to the ever escalating Refugee crisis of displaced Homo Saps, either because of the wars or climate change, or both in synergy. There are so many manifestations of collapse these days it's almost impossible to keep track, and there is a tendency in many people to internalize this as "normal". "There will be Wars and Rumours of Wars" always as a Fundy friend of mine often says, and of course Floods and Tornadoes and other weather related disasters go back to time immemorial. So you can't point to one flood in Texas and say "See, this is EVIDENCE of Collapse!". By itself, it's not evidence since there have always been floods. There also always have been companies going out of bizness, store closings and booms & busts in various industries, so if you point to any one of these things to bolster the argument collapse is underway, the Denier of Collapse will simply point out such things have always occurred in the past.
This is a general failing of all anecdotal examples, just about EVERYTHING always occurs at some frequency, from wars to tornadoes to corporate bakruptcies to mass murders. Holding up any one of these things as an example of Collapse in Action merely invites the criticism of "Wars and Rumours of Wars". To demonstrate anything of this sort "scientifically" you need STATS! You need to show that such events are occurring more frequently and/or are greater in intensity than they were before. That is of course a very hard thing to do, since in most areas of collapse appropriate statistics are not collected by anything approaching a credible level by any credible agency at all.
Who believes the stats pitched out by the BLS (Bureau of Lies & Statistics) these days? You have to be brain dead to buy those stats. What about GDP figures pitched out by Da Fed or the People's Bank of China? Do you buy that shit? Do you buy the financial reports from the TBTF banks on the state of their balance sheets and non-performing loans? Even with stats, you can't evaluate the truth of anything too well most of the time, because stats themselves can be manipulated in innumerable ways to show whatever you want them to show. If you believe that Near Term Human Extinction is imminent, you Cherry Pick data to show that, as Guy McPherson does on Nature Bats Last all the time. If you want to manipulate your energy company's stock price, you over estimate recoverable reserves and then revise the estimates later.
So finding metrics upon which to establish collapse is underway is pretty hard to do. More and more people can "sense" it these days, thus the popularity of Prepper websites and Zombie movies. Sensing it and demonstrating it though are two very different issues.
I do have a new metric though to observe cultural collapse, and it is in the film industry. AKA Movies or Cinema, depending on the crowd you happen to be hobknobbing with. If you are at the Cannes Film Festival, despite the name of the festival everyone calls it "cinema". If you are chatting at the bar, it's "Did you see this movie?".
This collapse has been building over time, first with the decreasing revenues overall for the film industry, and then pretty observable with the low ratings and stupid controversies surrounding the latest in the Academy Awards extravaganza, where sadly for the Black Community no People of Color got nominated for anything significant. Beyond this though and IMHO more significant is just the complete lack of interest in the current crop of actors and celebrities paraded out for this Dog & Pony Show for the masses. There was a time back in the early years of Television when the Academy Awards were a HUGE ratings engine, mainly in the years when Bob Hope was the Master of Cermonies, and then after him Johnny Carson. There have been a parade of different MCs since, from Billy Crystal to Chris Rock, but you could see the deterioration underway after the Carson years.
The actors getting awards now also have diminished significantly in quality. Leonardo DiCaprio is OK, but he is no Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson. The films themselves while they may get decent Box Office sales from an increasing population size generally suffer from a lack of originality, other than new and more eye popping CGI graphics.
What really hit me in the last week on the Entertainment Newz front on my Google Newz Headlines was the newz that 2 of my favorite pop culture film/TV shows were being dusted off for yet another go round, Indiana Jones is coming back and so is Xena, Warrior Princess. Arnold is talking about another Terminator movie too. I started thinking about how the film and television industry is just loaded up these days with Sequels and Remakes of old material.
There are now 22, count 'em 22 James Bond 007 films.There are 12 Star Trek films & 6 Star Wars movies. The list of Robin Hood remakes and adaptations is endless. The first one appears to be a silent film circa 1908. Mel Brook's Men in Tights is still the best though. lol.
Essentially, all the good themes have been explored already, and what the film industry does is dig up popular themese from the past, populate the story line with the latest generation of actors and spruce it up with new CGI technology to present the same narratives to a new generation of Movie Goers or DVD buyers.
Of course there have been remakes going back to the silent era, and many films are remakes of plays or adaptations of novels, so themselves were not original material, but now it is the quantity of remakes and sequels that has become overwhelming.
I personally don't go to the movies anymore, nor do I own a TV. Going back at least a decade or so, both had begun to bore me. I was a TV addict growing up, watching probably an average of 5 hours a day in my peak TV watching years. Those were the days when they re-ran old movies and old TV shows, and it almost didn't matter what time of day it was, I could find something to watch on one of about 7 channels that were available over VHF frequencies in NY Shity. There were another 2-3 channels that came in OK over UHF as well, but they didn't usually have anything worth watching on them.
Today, when I am in a hotel room somewhere on the few occassions I venture from home, I can flip on the big screen TV in the hotel room with 100 channels, and not a damn thingis worth watching. Not to mention the fact that whatever is on is jam packed with commercials unless it's a pay service.
So it's really no wonder that the Academy Awards get low ratings, nobody really gives a rat's ass who wins the little statue. The only thing people care about with respect to celebrities these days is what kind of scandal they get immersed in, drug rehabs, divorces, sex change operations or whatever. I didn't watch the Academy Awards this year of course, but I bet you dollars to doughnuts the speeches were boring and the jokes were flat.
A while back I wrote an article where I pegged the year which IMHO was "Peak Movies", which was 1968. This was a year for quite a few other peaks, like Peak Assassinations and Peak Riots too. Older folks than me often put the date of Peak Movies earlier, and younger folks put the Peak Movies later than this date, so it is somewhat subjective.
Ugo Bardi though put up a graph a while back which traced "Peak Rock Music" as defined by Rolling Stone's "Top 500" vs. US Oil Production, and the charts are astonishingly similar.
Here again, you seem to see the cultural peak of Amerikan Empire coming around 1965 or so, with local Peak Oil production shortly following that around 1971, and by my estimation Movies hitting the middle ground right between in 1968.
Correlation is not Causation of course, at least not necessarily, however it is remarkable how both cultural aspects of the society and available energy in the society seem to match up. In speculating on why this is so I have three working hypotheses:
1- On the upswing of available energy, all things seem possible, which gets the creative juices flowing in the artistic members of the society
2- New technologies developing inspire artists to create in new ways.
3- Both artists and aficionados of art have more free time and money to appreciate artwork of various types. They gravitate to the latest types of artwork available in their culture for the most part.
In the Music Industry, the New Technology to develop was Amplified Music and the Electric Guitar which first hit the scene in 1931, but really took off in the early 1950s with the mass produced Fender Stratocaster. This of course is also when "Rock & Roll" really took off as well as the dominant music style of the late industrial era, now in its declining years.
Invented in 1931, the amplified electric guitar was adopted by jazz guitarists, who sought to be able to be heard in large big band ensembles. Early proponents of the electric guitar on record included Les Paul, Lonnie Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, T-Bone Walker, and Charlie Christian. During the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar became the most important instrument in pop music. It has evolved into an instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles. It served as a major component in the development of electric blues, rock and roll, rock music, and many other genres of music.
In films after their initial invention by Thomas Edison, the first major technological improvement was the addition of sound in "Talkies". This preceeded the invention of the Electric Guitar by a few years, coming in the lat 1920s. The first major motion picture to feature soun was "The Jazz Singer" with Al Jolson released in 1927, just 4 years before the electric guitar
Film technology continued to develop, and got a real kick start in the 1940s with the development of films that would record in native color. There were color films made going back into the silent era, but they had to be hand colored. Probably the first major motion picture to feature color was the Wizard of Oz in 1939, and the contrast between the stark B&W panorama of Kansas and the Color of Oz really brought home the visual impact to audiences of the era.
Through the 1940s and well into the 1950s though, color in films was more or less a 50-50 proposition, and even in the 1960s many filmakers elected to use B&W either for their own artistic aesthetic or due to budgetary constraints. Color Film remained much more expensive than B&W film well into the 1960s and the beginning of the "Kodachrome" era.
Film technology continued to improve using miniatures and animation techniques through the 1960s, which were applied mainly in the Sci-Fi genre like "2001: A Space Odyssey" in films and the television series "Star Trek".
These enhancements contributed enormously to the popularity of this type of film, and to the meme of perpetual progress as well. Sci-Fi and fantasy films of all sorts began to take over, and on a cultural level this is where the art became divorced from the reality.
The reality in fact was that after making the expeditions to the Moon in the 60s, the NASA Space Program basically hit a wall, the big wheel in the sky Spce Station never materialized, only a few RV sized modules labelled the "Intenational Space Station" dropped into low Earth orbit mostly carried up there by Ruskie Rockets.
It is at this point the cultural memes and artistic representations began to become repetitive, basically milking every last ounce out of the ideas while in reality the surrounding culture was deteriorating, and the art became just facsimile of art done before, rehashed for the next generation of Homo Sap. It is degenerate art, and the generation growing up viewing it knows that, at least on a subconscious level.
To maintain the DREAM, decades were spent evolving ever increasing debt in pursuit of this dream, and it continues onward today in the ckepersona of folks like Elon Musk with his "Power Wall" batteries, EV Carz and Private Space Rocketry program. Where does the money come from for a Rocket Program? It makes no money and they crash expensive hardware all the time, along with killing the occassional test pilot. Obviously, the money comes from debt, and Elon Musk's great gift is to be able to get the folks ho issue debt out to issue out BILLIONS of it so he can pursue these dream projects. Richard Branson does the same thing. The shit never makes any money, it's not "productive", but it sells the dream and more debt is issued to pursue that dream.
The future if we are to have one lies in LETTING GO of these dreams and leaving behind the sick & deteriorating culture of consumption that surrounds those dreams, but this is something that few individuals in this society wish to do, and none of our political "leaders" wish to do at all. The Donald's sound bites talk about "Making Amerika Great Again", as if we could go back to those halcyon days of the 1950s when Harriet had a nice hot dinner waiting for Ozzie when he came home from work and the Beaver played baseball in the sandlot with his friends. We CAN'T go back to those days, no matter how much The Donald or Jim Kunstler would wish it to be so.
You variously hear the cliches that "Art Imitates Life" or that "Life Imitates Art". In reality, Life and Art are one in the same thing, and our deteriorating culture runs in tandem with our deteriorating civilization, one just reflects the other. To know that collapse is real and apparent, all one needs to do is walk around a Mall that still has some stores open and look at theChinese manufactured junk they are selling. All one has to do is go to the movies to see "Superman vs Batman" for another regurgitation of a tired myth. All one has to do is flip on the TV for a rehash of "Xena: Warrior Princess".
I won't be watching the new edition of Xena, nor will I go to see the new Terminator film Arnold says he is going to make. I won't have the dreams of my youth destroyed watching derivative television series with new actors or film sequels with aging ones. They are artifacts of the past, nice in the memory but just a reflection of a bygone era that will never come again. I have let it go, and I kiss it goodbye.
In this interview with William T. Hathaway we discuss his evolution from his time as a Green Beret in the jungle of Vietnam to his succeding years as an activist for peace, William Hathaway speaks with a clear voice the Diner is proud to feature. -RE
"It took me years to overcome the warrior indoctrination I got in the Special Forces. It was very deeply ingrained. What finally brought me out of it was meditation and my wife's persistent love," says author William T. Hathaway. "Now I look back and ask, How could I have fallen for that military nonsense?"
A Special Forces combat veteran, Hathaway has answered that question in two novels about what attracts men to war and how they can be healed of the pathology of patriarchal machismo.
His first novel, A WORLD OF HURT, won a Rinehart Foundation Award for its portrayal of the blocked sexuality and the need for paternal approval that draw men to the military.
"I was trying to uncover the psychological roots of war, the forces that so persistently drive our species to slaughter," says Hathaway. "Our culture has degraded masculinity into a deadly toxin. It's poisoned us all. Men have to confront this part of themselves before men and women together can heal it."
He is active in a group offering support and shelter to soldiers who have refused to be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The real heroes in the military are the deserters," says Hathaway. He wrote the introduction to AMERICA SPEAKS OUT: Collected Essays from Dissident Writers and has published numerous shorter pieces, including "Sedition, Subversion, Sabotage" in CounterCurrents.
His writing won him a Fulbright professorship at universities in Germany, where he currently lives.
Hathaway sees spirituality as an essential component of a more peaceful world. "My military experience convinced me that to prevent war we need to raise human consciousness. A look at the history of revolutions shows that switching economic and political systems isn't enough. The same aggressive personality types take over and start another army. We have to change the basic unit, the individual.
"Many of my leftist colleagues ignore this because they see the individual as the product of social and material forces. But I think the human heart is deeper than that and can be changed.
"I've found Eastern meditation to be the most effective way to change people. Unlike prayer, it works on the physiological level, altering the brain waves and metabolism. It refines the nervous system and expands the awareness so that the unity of all human beings becomes a living reality, not just an idealistic concept.
"After a while of meditation people stop wanting to consume things that increase aggression, such as meat, alcohol, and violent entertainment. They become more peaceful."
Published on FEASTA on February 19,2016
Discuss this article at the Doom Psychology Table inside the Diner
Mental health problems and debt finance are strongly linked. People in debt have a higher incidence of psychiatric problems, and there is a higher rate of psychiatric symptoms among the people working in the finance sector too. During a bubble, egos are pumped up with asset values – and, when the bubble bursts, reputational collapse occurs with corresponding psychological effects.
When we look at the financial markets from an emotional and mental health angle, we don’t find optimal equilibrium states and rational people adapting to them. Instead, we come across a large number of unhappy, dysfunctional and disorientated people. Let’s look first at the debtor – creditor relationship from a mental health point of view.
Mental Health and Debt
For a start, there is a striking correlation between mental ill health and debt – on both sides – lenders as well as borrowers. Among other things, it is now well documented that self-reported anxiety increases with the ratio of credit card debt to personal income; that the onset of mortgage debt has a negative impact on mental health on males; that of people receiving debt advice, a high proportion (62% in a UK study) reported that their debt led to stress, anxiety and depression which they are likely to consult their doctor about; that there is a relationship between debt and post natal depression; that debt is the strongest predictor of depression; that difficulties in repaying debts are strongly connected with suicidal ideation and self-harm; that debt is associated with feelings of shame, social embarrassment, a sense of personal failure, negative self-identities and is implicated in isolation, social exclusion and strained relationships. (Fitch, Chaplin, Trend, & Collard, 2007)
Now let is turn to look at the situation on the other side, among the people who lend money, or at least those who manage and direct the credit markets. Mental health problems can be severe in the heat of financial competition. Drugs and alcohol are commonplace on Wall Street.
In a study of 26 men ages 22 to 32, all prestigious Wall Street brokers, researchers at Florida’s Nova South-eastern University examined how work stress affects brokers” physical and mental health. Led by John Lewis, Ph.D., a psychology professor at NSU, the study found that a broker’s average workday was 10 to 12 hours long, and that those earning the most also slept the least. The participants rarely missed work, calling in sick an average of twice a year but suffering from the flu or a virus at least twice as often. And despite being wealthy, the brokers were unhappy. Thirty- eight percent met the criteria for subclinical major depression, while 23 percent were clinically
diagnosed with major depression—shocking, considering only 7 percent of men are currently depressed in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Gorrell, 2001 update 2009)
A few years ago, during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, New York newspapers revelled in stories about stressed-out traders reaching breaking point. One broker, Christopher Carter, was charged with assault for throwing a hedge fund manager, complete with an exercise bike, at a wall in an Upper East Side gym. The hedgie’s offence? He grunted and shouted, “You go, girl!” too loudly during a spin class.
In London, a hedge fund manager, Bertrand des Pallières, made news during the time of the financial crisis because he was so busy shorting stocks that he didn’t notice for three months that his £80,000 Maserati had been towed away.
Jim Cramer, a hedge fund manager turned television stock picker, told the New York Times that drugs tended to reinforce traders’ inability to spot a looming downturn: “Prozac and all those other drugs banish the ‘this is the end of the world’ thoughts. Which means you are not as anxious as you should be about an obvious downside.” (Clark, 2008)
During the panic, therapists reported that there was an epidemic of psychological illnesses in the finance sector, while some of the managers used some of the oldest of psychological strategies for coping – avoidance, denial, switching off mentally in the heat of the crisis. An example was James Cayne, chief executive officer of the Bear Stearns bank.
The German news magazine Der Spiegel described Cayne’s work style thus:
“Even in times of the greatest crisis the boss of investment bank Bear Stearns did not let himself be distracted from his hobbies. Last July, as one of his Hedge Funds broke down, the head of the board travelled undisturbed to a several day long bridge tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. While his troops fought for survival Cayne was not contactable. He had turned his mobile phone off. Its ring could have disturbed the many times American bridge champion.” (Die Bank Raeuber, 2008)” – translator author.
Even a cursory glance reveals therefore that, from the point of view of community mental health, the credit system is highly dysfunctional. Of course mental health workers meet desperately unhappy
people living absurd lives all the time. Meeting people trapped in belief systems that, from the outside, seem crazy goes with the job. Normally, to be unlucky enough to qualify for a mental illness diagnosis, the apparently strange belief system that you have, and your strange way of making sense of the world must be unique to you. It will be seen as part of your inability to communicate with others. Then a psychiatrist can damn you with a variety of diagnostic labels like “thought disorder” which are said to be the symptoms of something deeper.
Over the last couple of decades, it has become clear that a lot of these strange thoughts are actually interpretable with a bit of effort. Psychologists, therapists and counsellors who become good at this quickly note emotional response patterns in society at large – the common cultural assumptions that help form collective emotional responses made by whole groups of people. There is nothing new in this. Freud applied his ideas out of the consulting room in observations about the wider world and his ideas were picked up by the advertising industry in the manner already described.
Using what we know about group emotions, it seems to me that it ought to be possible, and would indeed be valuable, to integrate the knowledge of group psycho-dynamics into our understanding of the way that markets evolve, including financial markets.
As explained in the previous chapter, using borrowed money during a boom phase, as long as asset values continue to inflate, it is easy to make money using borrowed money. This is called leverage and the point about leverage on the way up is that it can get out of control. Betting that asset values will go up with borrowed money creates a further pressure pushing those values up even more in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such self-fulfilling prophecies are common in mental health – confidence leads to success and builds confidence even more. However, where there are no limits to mood enhancement, it leads into mania – and that includes on the financial markets…
Egos get pumped up at the same time as assets values
In the circumstances of a leveraged boom it is not only asset values that get pumped up but egos. Ordinary mortals who, in other circumstances would see themselves as no more or less important than anyone else, suddenly become very rich and acquire the symbols of social success that are so important to “marketing characters”. It is, thus, not only bank balances that swell in size when bonuses are announced.
Trading rooms are fiercely competitive places and the action is fast and furious. In finance, just as in any other branch of life, the more one devotes one attention to the matter at hand, the better one will do. The broader and deeper one’s knowledge is, the more edge one will have over everyone else. However, this has some resemblance to addictive behaviour. In an addiction, everything and everyone takes second place to the addiction. The guru who understands the markets better than anyone else probably understands the other things in life less well – and certainly gives them lower priority. For the finance experts, it will probably seem self-evident, ultimately, that the way out of problems is to buy one’s way out. This will not make for happy relationships. (Kreitzman, 1999, p. 26)
Earlier in the book, I quoted the example of the currency trader whose marriage was wrecked because of the way that he tried to keep track of the 24 hour currency market and woke every 2 hours to keep track as markets on the other side of the world opened. This is the kind of thing that a manic person will do. The fact that other people in the financial markets are living in the same crazy way is likely to mean that it is not interpreted as mania, but it does not change its essential character. The euphoria of mania is like the excitement of a small child the day before its birthday. This child cannot sleep because the next day will bring a pile of presents, a party and lots of attention. The manic person cannot find a way to switch their feelings off and is constantly on an adrenalin high. Often enough, in these circumstances more and more commitments are taken on. What is missing is the idea of a personal limit to one’s practical and work capacities.
In the life of a person who is not wealthy, these practicalities and the urgent adrenalin-charged character of their relationships will eventually mean that they come unstuck. Making ever more commitments means that they over-reach. Complications are not foreseen. Other people do not play ball with grandiose designs. If one does too much one doesn’t have time to wash one’s clothes and do the washing up. Life, practicalities, projects and relationships fall apart as one goes past one’s limits.
A rich person may not have some of the complications of ordinary life which would floor a manic person. Their money can buy servants and, with enough wealth, sex (though not love) is no problem either. Many of the practical problems in life can be solved with money or a credit card – until the crash.
The whole history of the market economy tells us that a crash comes eventually. Euphoria impairs judgement. The overconfidence of rich and powerful people, because it cannot be held in check by the countervailing power of those who are not as strong economically or politically, nevertheless, reaches a point beyond which it cannot go further. As I once argued in a psychotherapy journal:
“The ancient Greeks already knew how to describe situations like this. This was a job for the Goddess Nemesis whose role it was to maintain equilibrium on earth “rebalancing” happiness from time to time. In fulfilment of her role, Nemesis had a tricky relationship with the goddess Tyche – who was irresponsible in handing out Luck and Fortune, indiscriminately heaping her horn of plenty, or depriving others of what they had. In particular Nemesis would wreak havoc on those favoured by Tyche if they failed to give proper dues to the gods, become too full of themselves, boasted of their abundant riches or refused to improve the lot of their fellow humans by sharing their luck.” (Davey, What Future?, 2007)
People who become too full of themselves eventually believe that they can get away with anything in the pursuit of their addiction. In the literature about the financial crisis of a few years ago we could read over and again that the banks did not trust each other. When trust breaks down, we have a very specific kind of psycho-dynamic occurring between people.
A Professor of Organisational Ethics at the Cass Business School, Roger Steare, undertook integrity tests on more than 700 financial services executives in several major firms and came to the conclusion that: “There is a systemic deficit in ethical values within the banking industry. This will not change by hanging a few people out to dry”.
The results of these tests indicate that, as a group, they scored lower than average in honesty, loyalty and self-discipline. Steare compared traders to “mercenary hired guns”, who regularly switched firms to maximise earnings. (Hunt, 2008)
Behind the technical language of “liquidity”, is a language that distances us from the deeper reality.
The truth about the credit crunch was that it was a reputational collapse of the participants of an entire economic sector – the people running this sector overreached themselves. The really damaging thing has been that most of them have been able to get away with it because governments feel that they must bail them out. This means that the whole charade will happen again… and again… until society organises a fundamental root and branch reform of this sector.
The road that has brought humanity to this crazy point has been one where there have been, and still are, plenty of illusions. These are little different from the illusions that a manic person would create. Cassandras who try to express the folly of pushing beyond the limits are ignored.
In the case of the financial markets, because the manic process is a collective one, the illusions are repeatedly embodied in institutions and are dignified with words like “financial innovation”.
Rather as a mad person will split off the part of their personality that does not fit their cosy self-image, that is, the murderously angry and hateful self, so the financial institutions split off the financial junk that earns them fees making predatory loans to people who cannot afford to pay them back or are in other ways dubious ethically and financially. The splitting hives securities off balance sheets into “special purpose institutions”. Rather as the mad person will wishfully believe what they want to believe rather than hard realities, the banks have paid other organisations to give AAA ratings to the worthless pieces of paper that they issue so that everyone, including themselves, can believe that everything will be OK.
Such strategies have their parallels in mental mechanisms of avoidance – the pathologies unravelled by clinical psychology. But then, to use the terminology of Freudian analysis, the repressed truth, the reality that has been held at bay, returns. The worthless assets have to be taken back onto the books. Reality bursts through the illusion.
To conclude, it would be valuable to integrate into our theorisation of what happens in the course of the credit and other economic cycles and events, the emotional changes of the people involved as they act and live through these events. Very often, people live with their emotions but barely notice them. They have no language or concept systems to describe their emotional responses and we may describe them as emotionally illiterate. Not having reflected deeply on their own emotional responses and those of others, they may act in ways which are unconscious, lacking in self-awareness. As explored in other chapters, this kind of person lives through what the therapist Erich Fromm called a “marketing personality”.
Published on The Economic Collapse on March 3, 2016
Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner
The 7th largest economy on the entire planet is completely imploding. I have written previously about the economic depression that is plaguing Brazil, but since my last article it has gotten much, much worse. During 2015, Brazil’s economy shrank by 3.8 percent, but for the most recent quarter the decline was 5.89 percent on a year over year basis. Unemployment is rising rapidly, the inflation rate is up over 10 percent, and Brazilian currency has lost 24 percent of its value compared to the U.S. dollar over the past 12 months.
At this point, Brazil is already experiencing its longest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and things are getting worse for ordinary Brazilians every single day. The following comes from CNN…
But with Brazil plunging into its worst recession in over two decades — hopes for a brighter future are fading. The Brazilian economy shrank 3.8% in 2015, according to government data published Thursday. That’s the biggest annual drop since 1990 and the country is in its longest recession since the 1930s.
“I have never seen anything like this,” said Alves, 24, as he stood on his balcony overlooking Rocinha, a massive lower middle class neighborhood or favela in Rio de Janeiro where he grew up. “My parents would tell me about hard times, but today it is really tough. Prices are going up every day.”
So how did this happen?
Well, there are a couple of factors that are really hurting South American economies.
Number one, during the “boom years” governments and businesses in South America absolutely gorged on debt. Unfortunately, many of those loans were denominated in U.S. dollars, and now that the U.S. dollar has appreciated greatly against local South American currencies it is taking far more of those local currencies to service and pay back those debts.
Number two, collapsing prices for oil and other commodities have been absolutely brutal for South American economies. They rely very heavily on exporting commodities to the rest of the world, and so at the same time their debt problems are exploding they are getting a lot less money for the oil and industrial commodities that they are trying to sell to North America, Asia and Europe.
I want you to pay close attention to the following chart and analysis from Zero Hedge. As you can see, the economic problems in Brazil appear to be greatly accelerating…
“The Brazilian economic downturn took a real turn for the worse in February,” according to Markit’s Composite PMI, which collapsed to record lows at 39.0. Despite a slightly less bad than expected GDP print this morning (still down a record 5.89% YoY), hope was quickly extinguished as PMIs showed economic activity continuing to contract at a record pace, job losses accelerating, and manufacturing’s collapse accelerating. As Market sums up, “With the global economy also showing signs of slowing, which will impact on external demand, it looks as if the downturn is set to continue to run its course in the coming months.”
GDP was a disaster (but better than expected)
And of course Brazil is not the only South American economy that is a basket case right now. In fact, things in Venezuela are far worse. In 2015, the Venezuelan economy shrunk by 10 percent, and the official rate of inflation was a staggering 181 percent.
Could you imagine living in an economy with a 181 percent inflation rate?
As prices have escalated out of control, citizens have attempted to hoard basic supplies in advance, and this has resulted in food shortages that are absolutely frightening…
Cardboard signs on the door warning of “No bread” have become increasingly common at Venezuelan bakeries.
Venezuela gets 96 percent of its foreign currency from oil exports, and as crude prices have plunged, so have the country’s imports — among them wheat.
The leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro has tightly controlled access to hard currency, and this has affected imports ranging from medicine to toilet paper. Now it is seriously affecting imports of wheat, which Venezuela does not grow.
Add to this the soaring inflation rate — 181 percent in 2015, the world’s highest — and you see why customers are mainly interested in buying basic food items such as bread.
Here in the United States, there are still people who doubt that an economic crisis is happening.
But in Venezuela and Brazil there is no debate.
Unfortunately, what is happening in Venezuela and Brazil is also slowly starting to happen to most of the rest of the planet as well. It is just that they are a little farther down the road. Economic and financial bubbles are bursting all over the world, and I like how author Vikram Mansharamani described this phenomenon during a recent interview with CNBC…
Deflationary tides are lapping the shores of countries across the world and financial bubbles are set to burst everywhere, Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer at Yale University, told CNBC on Thursday.
“I think it all started with the China investment bubble that has burst and that brought with it commodities and that pushed deflation around the world and those ripples are landing on the shore of countries literally everywhere,” the high-profile author and academic said at the Global Financial Markets Forum in Abu Dhabi.
And of course the evidence of what Mansharamani was talking about is all around us.
Just this week we found out that Chinese state industries plan to lay off five to six million workers, U.S. factory orders have now fallen for 15 months in a row, and the corporate default rate in the United States has now risen above where it was at when Lehman Brothers collapsed.
There are some people that would like to point to the fact that stocks have bounced back a bit over the past couple of weeks as evidence that the crisis is over.
If they want to believe that, they should go ahead and believe that.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the hard economic numbers that are coming in from all over the world tell us very clearly that global economic activity is slowing down significantly.
A new global recession has already begun, and the pain that is already being felt all over the planet is just the beginning of what is coming.
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 22, 2016
How reassuring is it to Hillary, exactly, that she won what amounted to a straw poll totaling less than 11,000 votes among the various Nevada hotel employees unions? You could tell from her pained, artificial smile at the victory podium that there is something booby prize-ish about that narrow triumph. And what was with the metallic red outfit that had her looking like a previously-owned Christmas tree ornament? Maybe her handlers put her in Kevlar for the occasion.
She’ll need it as this fretful election campaign moves into the middle innings. That trademark unconvincing smile masks the embarrassing truth that the fix is in for Hillary inside the dark machine that is the Democratic Party hierarchy, hijacked by chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s league of crones. The so-called “super-delegates” have all been rounded up and branded with a big smoking “H” on their hindquarters, leaving poor Bernie in the alkali basin of dashed hopes.
Readers have noticed (and complained loudly) lo these many months that I couldn’t get on-board for Bernie. I’m glad that someone opposed Mz It’s-My-Turn, but the Vermonter-from-Brooklyn lacks the juice to drive the necessary wooden stake into her grifter’s heart. The Goldman Sachs speaking fees ($200-K-plus each) should have been enough to send her to the donkey’s graveyard but, like so many awful truths in our over-amped and under-brained world, it got sucked into the TMZ alternative universe of discarded realities.
The latest simpleton’s political theory floating around the ether says that Hillary is guaranteed to get the overwhelming support of black voters. Why is that exactly? And what does it mean? Is she going to re-run the civil rights era? Is she going take up the banner for “safe spaces” on campus? Is she going to join the Oscars boycott? And, honestly, what has Mr. Obama done for black America, besides provide a model for how you can get somewhere in this society by learning how to speak English intelligibly?
So, the simpleton’s theory goes: Hillary wins the black and Hispanic vote and a big majority of womens’ votes. What does that mean? That America is now split into an ethnic-and-womens’ party (Dems) against a white mens’ party (Repubs)? Isn’t that a nice recipe for a multi-dimensional civil war?
Actually, it would be the mere seasoning in a stew of civilizational crisis simmering on the margins of the stupidest election contest in American history that could literally blow the country to pieces. The news media is, for instance, perfectly oblivious to the awful instabilities blossoming on the financial scene. In fact, the banks and markets are behaving in a way that suggests shocking disruptions to everyday life before the general election is even held. How would the Hillary-versus-Trump match-up go in a September of bank bail-ins and empty supermarket shelves due to the inability of businesses to service one another?
Rumblings out of the banking system ought to inform us that trust in mutual obligations is dwindling to the same zero-peg (and under) as world-wide interest rates. Something’s got to give and something will give (perhaps starting with something that has the initials “DB”) and then a whole lot of other things will give — beating a path swiftly to disrupting the normal complex operations of daily life that put food in your microwave and gasoline in the convenience store pumps. At that point, of course, all bets are off. Without being too cute about it, we ought to have reason to worry that America will be too disorderly later this year to even hold the 2016 general election.
As for Mr. Trump, he remains what I said at the campaign’s outset: worse than Hitler, lacking the brains, charm, and savoir faire of the Ol’ Fuhrer, and with his darkness even more plainly visible. Even Adolf could manage to get his necktie on so that it didn’t dangle around his nutsack. I don’t mean to trivialize the difference between these two psychopaths, except to say that America will be very very sorry to follow the tune of the so-far leading Republican candidate’s pied-pipings.
Frankly, if Mr. Trump actually manages to technically snag the party’s nomination, I can imagine several consequences. One, that he will indeed succeed in destroying the party. The other leaders at the dark heart of its hierarchy will never stand for Trump. In that case, they will form a breakaway rump GOP and throw their support to Michael Bloomberg, if he decides to jump in — and he might be enough of a true patriot to do that. The less appetizing alternative consequences involve the apparatus of the runaway Deep State (NSA and the military) either bumping off Trump, or staging a coup d’état against him in the event that he manages to get elected. I’m not advocating for those outcomes, but you ought to be prepared for the possibilities.
Most of all, don’t underestimate the power of events to outrun personalities this year.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on February 8, 2016
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At the beginning of the 5th century AD, Augustine, bishop of Hippo, wrote his "De Mendacio" ("On Lying"). Reading it today, we may be surprised at how rigid and strict Augustine was in his conclusions. A Christian, according to him, could not lie in any circumstances whatsoever; not even to save lives or to avoid suffering for someone. The suffering of the material body, said Augustine, is nothing; what's important is one's immortal soul. Later theologians substantially softened these requirements, but there was a logic in Augustine's stance if we consider his times: the last century of the Western Roman Empire.
By the time of Augustine, the Roman Empire had become an Empire of lies. It still pretended to uphold the rule of law, to protect the people from the Barbarian invaders, to maintain the social order. But all that had become a bad joke for the citizens of an empire by then reduced to nothing more than a giant military machine dedicated to oppressing the poor in order to maintain the privilege of the few. The Empire itself had become a lie: that it existed because of the favor of the Gods who rewarded the Romans because of their moral virtues. Nobody could believe in that anymore: it was the breakdown of the very fabric of society; the loss of what the ancient called the auctoritas, the trust that citizens had toward their leaders and the institutions of their state.
Auguistine was reacting to all this. He was trying to rebuild the "auctoritas", not in the form of mere authoritarianism of an oppressive government, but in the form of trust. So, he was appealing to the highest authority of all, God himself. He was also building his argument on the prestige that the Christians had gained at a very high price with their martyrs. And not just that. In his texts, and in particular in his "Confessions" Augustine was opening himself completely to his readers; telling them all of his thoughts and his sins in minute details. It was, again, a way to rebuild trust by showing that one had no hidden motives. And he had to be strict in his conclusions. He couldn't leave any openings that would permit the Empire of Lies to return.
Augustine and other early Christian fathers were engaged, first of all, in an epistemological revolution. Paulus of Tarsus had already understood this point when he had written: "now we see as in a mirror, darkly, then we'll see face to face." It was the problem of truth; how to see it? How to determine it? In the traditional view, truth was reported by a witness who could be trusted. The Christian epistemology started from that, to build up the concept of truth as the result divine revelation. The Christians were calling God himself as witness. It was a spiritual and philosophical vision, but also a very down-to-earth one. Today, we would say that the Christians of late Roman times were engaged in "relocalization", abandoning the expensive and undefendable structures of the old Empire to rebuild a society based on local resources and local governance. The age that followed, the Middle Ages, can be seen as a time of decline but it was, rather, a necessary adaptation to the changed economic conditions of the late Empire. Eventually, all societies must come to terms with Truth. The Western Roman Empires as a political and military structure could not do that, It had to disappear, as it was unavoidable.
Now, let's move forward to our times and we have reached our empire of lies. On the current situation, I don't think I have to tell you anything that you don't already know. During the past few decades, the mountain of lies tossed at us by governments has been perfectly matched by the disastrous loss of trust in our leaders on the part of citizens. When the Soviets launched their first orbiting satellite, the Sputnik, in 1957, nobody doubted that it was for real and the reaction in the West was to launch their own satellites. Today, plenty of people even deny that the US sent men to the moon in the 1960s. They may be ridiculed, they may be branded as conspiracy theorists, sure, but they are there. Perhaps the watershed of this collapse of trust was with the story of the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" that we were told were hidden in Iraq. It was not their first, nor it will be their last, lie. But how can you ever trust an institution that lied to you so brazenly? (and that continue to do so?)
Today, every statement from a government, or from an even remotely "official" source, seems to generate a parallel and opposite statement of denial. Unfortunately, the opposite of a lie is not necessarily the truth, and that has originated baroque castles of lies, counter-lies, and counter-counter lies. Think of the story of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Somewhere, hidden below the mass of legends and myths that have piled up on this story, there has to be the truth; some kind of truth. But how to find it when you can't trust anything you read on the Web? Or think of peak oil. At the simplest level of conspiratorial interpretation, peak oil can be seen as a reaction to the lies of oil companies that hide the depletion of their resources. But you may also see peak oil as a scam created by oil companies that try to hide the fact that their resources are actually abundant – even infinite in the diffuse legend of "abiotic oil". But, for others, the idea that peak oil is a scam created in order to hide abundance may be a higher order scam created in order to hide scarcity. Eve higher order conspiracy theories are possible. It is a fractal universe of lies, where you have no reference point to tell you where you are.
Eventually, it is a problem of epistemology. The same that goes back to Pontius Pilate's statement "what is truth?" Where are we supposed to find truth in our world? Perhaps in science? But science is rapidly becoming a marginal sect of people who mumble of catastrophes to come, People whom nobody believes any longer after they failed to deliver their promises of energy too cheap to meter, space travel, and flying cars. Then, we tend to seek it in such things as "democracy" and to believe that a voting majority somehow defines "truth". But democracy has become a ghost of itself: how can citizens make an informed choice after that we discovered the concept that we call "perception management" (earlier on called "propaganda")?
Going along a trajectory parallel to that of the ancient Romans, we haven't yet arrived at having a semi-divine emperor residing in Washington D.C., considered by law to be the repository of divine truth. And we aren't seeing yet a new religion taking over and expelling the old ones. At present, the reaction against the official lies takes mostly the form of what we call "conspiratorial attitude." Although widely despised, conspirationism is not necessarily wrong; conspiracies do exist and much of the misinformation that spreads over the web must be created by someone who is conspiring against us. The problem is that conspirationism is not a form of epistemology. Once you have decided that everything you read is part of the great conspiracy, then you have locked yourself in an epistemological box and thrown away the key. And, like Pilate, you can only ask "what is truth?", but you will never find it.
Is it possible to think of an "epistemology 2.0" that would allow us to regain trust on the institutions and on our fellow human beings? Possibly, yes but, right now, we are seeing as in a mirror, darkly. Something is surely stirring, out there; but it has not yet taken a recognizable shape. Maybe it will be a new ideal, maybe a revisitation of an old religion, maybe a new religion, maybe a new way of seeing the world. We cannot say which form the new truth will take, but we can say that nothing new can be born without the death of something. And that all births are painful but necessary.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 30, 2016
Over the next few weeks in the Diner Lens Header Photo, we will honor some of the best photographers to produce images since the invention of photography. I begin here with one of my favorites, Ansel Adams. Click the link for a Google sample of AA's photos. -RE
Discuss these photos at the Art & Photography Table inside the Diner
A girl pushes a boy on a bicycle past damaged buildings in Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria, Saturday. /Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
Mohamed Ahmed, an asylum seeker from Sudan, stands inside the bunker he has dug at his home in Yida, South Sudan. When he arrived, Ahmend dug a bunker due to the fear of the bombing he had fled from.Picture: AFP
A sperm whale lies on the sand after being washed ashore at Skegness beach in Skegness, Britain January 25, 2016. Three dead sperm whales washed up in Skegness on the weekend, local media reported. (REUTERS/Andrew Yates)
A young migrant pulls a fire extinguisher in a muddy field at a camp of makeshift shelters for migrants and asylum-seekers from Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran and Syria, called the Grande Synthe jungle, near Dunkirk, France, January 25, 2016. A "race to the bottom" on asylum policy among European Union countries is exposing more than 360,000 child migrants to greater risk of harm as the bloc struggles to cope with a surge of refugees, rights watchdogs said on Monday. (REUTERS/Yves Herman)
A health worker stands in the Sambadrome as he sprays insecticide to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmits the Zika virus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Inspectors begin to spray insecticide around Sambadrome, the outdoor grounds where thousands of dancers and musicians will parade during the city's Feb. 5-10 Carnival celebrations. Brazil's health minister says the country will mobilize some 220,000 troops to battle the mosquito blamed for spreading a virus linked to birth defects. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Posted by Surly: To understand the sheer scale of the Syrian refugee situation, here's a picture of a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.
Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, arrives for a news conference with supporters at the refuge on Jan. 8. LaVoy Finicum, who died during the arrests of his fellow Oregon occupiers on Jan. 26, carries his granddaughter on his shoulders to the left of Bundy. Rick Bowmer / AP
Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 16, 2016
Discuss these Images at the Art & Photography Table inside the Diner
A frame from a video shows that Edward Archer runs with a gun toward a police car driven by Officer Jesse Hartnett in Philadelphia, Pa. on Jan. 7.
A Shi'ite Muslim girl holds a picture of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed along with others in Saudi Arabia, as she takes part in a protest rally in Islamabad, Pakistan. FAISAL MAHMOOD / Reuters
A civil defence member carries a dead child in a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria January 9, 2016. At least 70 people died in what activists said where four vacuum bombs dropped by the Russian air force in the town of Maaret al-Numan; other air strikes where also carried out in the towns of Saraqib, Khan Sheikhoun and Maar Dabseh, in Idlib. (REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi)
Mourners gather around the bodies of four Palestinians during their funeral in the West Bank village of Sae'er, near Hebron. According to the Israeli Army, the Palestinians were killed Friday by Israeli forces while attempting two separate stabbing attacks. ABED AL HASHLAMOUN / EPA
Members of the FBI stand guard at the Burns Municipal Airport, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Burns, Ore. A small, armed group has been occupying a remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon since a week earlier to protest federal land use policies. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
A protester wearing a mask of missing bookseller Lee Bo stands in a cage during a protest against the disappearances of booksellers in Hong Kong, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. Five men associated with a Hong Kong publisher known for books critical of China's leaders have vanished one by one in the last three months, alarming activists and deepening suspicions that mainland authorities are squeezing free expression in the enclave. The sign in front reads: "Missing men." (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A dapper Kim Jong-un, dressed in a winter coat and fedora hat, watches an underwater missile launch purportedly on December 21, 2015. North Korea's "successful" submarine-launched ballistic missile test was, according to South Korea media, an explosive failure that was not even launched from a submarine.Picture: YONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
A dead sperm whale is seen on a beach on Texel Island, The Netherlands, January 13, 2016. The five sperm whales that beached on the Dutch lsland of Texel on Tuesday have died overnight, Dutch media reported. (REUTERS/Cris Toala Olivares)
A supporter of anti-immigration right-wing movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) sporting a tattoo reading 'Proud and Free' and the word Nazi struck out, takes part in in demonstration rally in reaction to mass assaults on women on New Year's Eve, in Cologne, Germany. Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters