History

Peak History

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Published on The Daily Impact on June 14, 2016


We live in a country whose citizens — make that residents — are increasingly averse to complicated thought, indifferent to veracity, and reductionist in their thinking (every thing and every thought and every person is and must be either one kind of thing, or another kind of thing, no additional choices allowed). In such a country history has few friends.

History is too hard. You have to find out what happened, and then you have to figure out the context of the events — what led up to them and what followed — so you can tease out their significance for your time and place, and even after doing all that it may not be clear. Far easier to decide first what history means, and look up a few facts to “prove” it. Works for Fox News. And what they have made of journalism, we are making of history.

The stories of contemporary history are short and punchy, crafted for an audience suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder; their lessons are simple and obvious, as befits an audience capable of obeying rules, not of evaluating them — you know, nine-year-olds. (Soon we will have a population of adults who will not cross the street without holding a grown-ups hand, because, you know, that’s the rule.)

A recent case in point: the American Civil War. It is now almost universally spoken of as a war that was about only one thing, slavery. Knowing that, as all right-thinking folks do, it follows that everyone who fought for the Confederacy was fighting to maintain slavery. Period. Because they were wrong to do so, a very popular line of “thinking” goes, we should scrub from our history and our world every vestige of their existence, eliminating their flag from our sight, rooting out and destroying their statues from our county seats and capitals (you know, like ISIS is doing in the cradle of civilization) and reducing their biographies to simplistic diatribes.

Now we could see in this an evil hand, an intent to make sure that our children never learn that good people fight in bad wars for good reason,  that bad people support good wars for bad reasons, that causes and outcomes are complicated, and can be both good and bad at the same time. Because if they do learn that, they are far less likely to allow some tinhorn president to fight any damn war he wants to for trumped-up reasons.

But the reality is probably dumber than that. While I was trying to figure out how to express my view of it, Ken Burns did it better, not the first time that has happened. He delivered the commencement speech to this year’s graduates of Stanford University (damn him, he still looks too young to be a graduate, let alone advise them). Most of the news coverage hyperventilated over his blistering condemnation of Donald Trump. But mostly he talked about history and our misuses of it:

… we live in an age of social media where we are constantly assured that we are all independent free agents. But that free agency is essentially unconnected to real community, divorced from civic engagement, duped into believing in our own lonely primacy by a sophisticated media culture that requires you—no—desperately needs you—to live in an all-consuming disposable present, wearing the right blue jeans, driving the right car, carrying the right handbag, eating at all the right places, blissfully unaware of the historical tides that have brought us to this moment, blissfully uninterested in where those tides might take us.

We are, in other words, in the grip of a terminal case of cultural Alzheimer’s Disease, increasingly unaware of the people around us, unable to remember where we came from and who we are, deprived, in other words, of the resources we need to set a rational course, we are reduced again to children who can only follow orders. So we grasp the nearest grown-up’s hand and await instruction.  


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Coal, Wars, and Beautiful Women

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Published on Cassandra's Legacy on February 22, 2016

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Why in Italy we speak Italian and not French

 

 

Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, 1837-1899. Portrait by Michele Gordigiani. The following text is part of the talk that I gave in Paris on Feb 12, at the Momentum Institute (h/t Yves Cochet, Agnes Sinaï, and Mathilde Szuba)

In the study of history, it is fashionable to use quantitative data as much as possible. We speak of financial and economic factors, of the competition for natural resources, of population unbalances, of the effects of climate, and more. And, yet, sometimes history goes on according to the whim of one or another ruler making colossal mistakes; from Napoleon to Saddam Hussein. In that case, human factors become predominant and only in some cases we can have a glimpse of what may have passed in the mind of the people at the top. One such case may have been that of countess Virginia Oldoini, femme fatale of the 19th century, mistress of the French Emperor Napoleon III, and, perhaps, the origin of the Italian unification of 1860. Beautiful woman, indeed, and hard to describe using system dynamics models!

Let's go back to the early 19th century. At that time, the industrial revolution was in full swing; fueled by the coal mines of Northern Europe, mainly in England, France, and Germany. This revolution had created an economic unbalance, making the Northern countries much richer and more powerful than the Southern ones. It was not just a question of having or not having coal. It was a question of transporting it. Coal is heavy and bulky and, at that time, the only practical way to carry it over long distances was by the sea. Sailing ships could take coal everywhere in the world but, when it was a question of taking it inland, waterways were needed. No waterways, no coal. No coal, no industrial revolution. That was the reason of the unbalance: the Southern European countries, just as the North-African ones, could have no waterways because of the lack of water. Hence, they could not industrialize and they remained economically and militarily weak.

Here is the situation as it was in 1848.
 

At this date, the only Mediterranean regions that had waterways and could industrialize were France and Northern Italy, and Piedmont in particular. Of the two, France was by far the most powerful and, already in 1848, you can see how France had occupied Algeria, snatching it away from the weak Ottoman Empire. The rest of the North-African region was ripe for the taking and even the Kingdom of Naples, in Southern Italy, was militarily and industrially weak; an easy prey for any industrialized country. So, what could have stopped the French from turning the whole Mediterranean sea into a French lake? That had been, apparently, Napoleon's idea when he had invaded Egypt, in 1798. It had not worked out at that time, but it had been a good strategic intuition that later French governments could have carried out.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of the British. In the great strategic game of the 19th century, they had sighted Egypt, that they would occupy in 1882, but there was little or nothing that they could do to stop France from occupying the whole Northern African shore, all the way to Egypt and perhaps farther than that. Nothing direct, that is, but what if they could create a strategic counterweight to balance the French power? And what could that counterweight be? Italy, of course, if it could be unified and transformed into a single country, out of the plethora of statelets it was at that time.

So, in mid 19th century, the strategic pieces of the Mediterranean game were all in their places, as if on a giant chessboard. The British objective was shared by Piedmont: unify Italy as soon as possible and stop France from further expansion. On the other side of the chessboard; France's objective was also clear: avoid at all costs the unification of Italy and take as much as possible of North Africa, as soon as possible.

Clear; perfectly clear. And easy for France. They had almost nothing to do; just keep Piedmont in check; which they could do easily. It is true that Piedmont was a small industrial powerhouse for its times, but it was no match for the much larger and much more powerful neighboring France. But the French president and emperor of that time, Louis Napoleon, or "Napoleon III" did exactly the opposite, even engaging the French army in support of the expansion of Piedmont in Northern Italy in a series of bloody battles against the Austrians, in 1859. Not that France helped Piedmont for nothing, of course. In exchange, the French obtained a slice of land on the Western side of the Alps, formerly part of Piedmont. It was a territorial gain but, in strategical terms, it was nothing in comparison to what France was losing.

One year later, Piedmont, with the support of the British, sent an army led by Giuseppe Garibaldi to invade the Southern Kingdom of Naples. The Neapolitans put up a spirited resistance, but, alone, they couldn't cope and Napoleon III did nothing to help them. With the collapse of the Southern Kingdom, the complete unification of Italy became unavoidable, despite a last-ditch attempt by Napoleon III in 1867, when he sent troops to Italy to stop Garibaldi from taking Rome.

So, Italy was. And it still is. The curious thing is that it had not to be. Had Napoleon III stopped Garibaldi in 1860 in the same way as he did in 1867, probably we would still have a kingdom of Naples and the country that today we call "Italy", would be mainly a French protectorate. And, most likely, French would be the dominant language in most of the country.

Instead, France had lost a historical occasion to become the dominant Mediterranean power. Later on, the Franch still managed to carve out some more pieces of North Africa, occupying Tunisia in 1881 and Morocco in 1904, but all further advances in the Mediterranean region were stopped when, in 1911, Italy claimed what Italians saw as their rightful slice of the declining Ottoman Empire: the region that we call Libya today.

So, how was it that Napoleon III made such a colossal strategic mistake? In a way, we can say that it is rather normal: Rulers of states are often awfully incompetent at their job (just think of our George W. Bush). But, for Napoleon III, there may have been a reason that goes beyond simple incompetence.

The French have invented the phrase "Cherchez la femme" ("look for the woman") as an explanation for many otherwise inexplicable events. And, in the story of the unification of Italy, there is a woman involved: Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione. She was the cousin of Count Cavour, prime minister of Piedmont at that time, and she was sent to Paris by him, it seems, with the specific idea of influencing Napoleon III. She was a faithful Italian patriot and she understood very well what was to be her role as mistress of the French president and emperor. She was to convince him to do something that the French should never have allowed: help Piedmont to invade and conquer the rest of the Italian peninsula. According to what we can often read in history books, she fulfilled her role and, from the portraits and the photographs we have of her, maybe we can also understand how.

Of course, we can legitimately think that this story is just a legend. But could it be that Virginia Oldoini really convinced Luis Napoleon to do what he did? In this case, the Countess should be considered as one of the most influential women in modern history. But we will never be able to know: by now, she is on the other side of the mirror, perhaps watching us from there and laughing at us.

 

For a fictional tale of what could have happened had Napoleon III been smarter (or Virginia Oldoini less beautiful) see "The Tipping points of History" on the "Chimeras" blog.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legacy of John of Wallan

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 8, 2016

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Wake up!  Or our legacy along this dead end road is not going to be pretty.

 

True prophecy lies in the music, you just need to stop and read the lyrics…

 

Suicide is painless. Johnny Mandel

It is now more than 20 years since Kurt Cobain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Those of you who are not Nirvana fans might not think much of this fact, but myself, like a lot of other 40 something fans have fond memories of the whole Nirvana episode on the road to our final destination. Done too soon indeed! While listening to Nirvana and reading an article about the anniversary of their last Album “In Utero”, I decided to take the time to ponder what our legacy will be when we finally smoke our last cigars. I use the collective “our”, rather than the personal “I”, to make sure that whoever reads this knows I am not getting all melancholy and suicidal like poor Kurt. No, I am getting all judgemental on our collective 21st century asses. Nothing sentimental or defeatist here. Let’s face the facts; we have just about screwed everything up we can along the road less travelled in the pursuit of instant gratification, you included sunshine, and it’s about time we tried to fix it.

 

Gimme Shelter. The Rolling Stones

The news is full of the governments trying to distract us from the bad moon rising by kick starting another war in Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, the South China Sea, and in half a dozen other places just far enough away to be able to change channels and ignore. All the while the religious are urging them on in order to bring on Armageddon due to some obscure reference to the fall of Damascus, or the 7 headed hydra, or the fall of the temple, in the middle ages interpretation of a Bronze Age myth from sheep herding desert dwellers they take as the word of their important imaginary friend. We have the central banks printing money and screwing the middle classes even more than their usual lower class targets, poverty, environmental catastrophes, crime, sex and drugs. Not a lot has changed since Woodstock, except the hippies all gave up. Too much THC probably made the true flower children all pacifist, fatalists, while the rest, just along for the sex and drugs, woke up and screwed the rest on their way to living in a gated communities of fat, greedy “entrepreneurs” with selfish children and silicon spouses. I am sure in 100 years the dictionary will have “entrepreneur” and “psychopath” interchangeable.

 

Down to Earth. Peter Gabriel

From birth we are told to work hard and get ahead. We are not told tread softly and leave this place better off than when we arrived; that would be too radical… While Gordon Geckos “Greed is good” may be taking it too far, we are certainly told we deserve to have it all, whatever that means, and that if we work hard we can have it. I am sorry to burst your bubble Cinderella, but you going to the ball has too high a price. We are currently consuming 5 earth's worth of resources according to thinking people, as opposed to the “Real Experts”: the religious bigots, psychopaths/ entrepreneurs or employees of such. Many seem to think this over consumption is Ok. Science will work out a fix, or more commonly, if I make enough money I can buy my way out of trouble… Sustainability is an interesting concept. When something is unsustainable, it will end. Get it? Apparently not.

 

Party like its 1999. Prince

I am the first to say we are here for a good time not a long time. Many take this comment out of context. Our lifetimes are but blinks of an eye compared to the lifespan of trees, let alone whole forests and ecosystem. Usually…. We seem to think it is Ok to chop down the trees today for gadgets tomorrow, but fuck next week; it’s too far away. That thinking has lasted hundreds of years, spurred on by the strong tribes with plenty of resources and armies with their gods on their side. It’s now next week, and we seem to be approaching the limits of diminishing returns to mix a few mathematical metaphors, as well as paint a reality few understand. More importantly, few want to understand. Ignorance is indeed bliss… In the short term anyway.

 

Stupid Girl. Pink

Sound like bull wank to you rocket surgeons? Look around. Take your eyes away from your thousand inch flat screen TVs, showing ever increasing banal escapism of titillation and fake reality, made from non- renewable oil and rare earth minerals, and have a look at the real reality show that is life. We are running out of oil, phosphate, water, functioning antibiotics and arable land to name but a few. The biggest deficiencies seem to be empathy for our fellow man and intelligence, and they are both diminishing despite the fact they should be renewable resources. Instead we have a return to ignorance and superstitions and the reliance on faith to get us through these supposedly hard times. There is a Russian sailor’s proverb which goes something like this: Pray all you like, but keep rowing. I have some news for you sunshine: These are not bad times, these are the new normal. Shortages means high prices. High prices means lower living standards.

 

Street fighting man. The Rolling Stones

I for one am not taking this lying down, but as the song says “But what can a poor boy do?” Speak up would be a start. (I don't sing in a rock and roll band) We are told the meek are to inherit the earth. They will inherit a sewer just before they die from drowning. Better to die standing than live on your knees is a better option Shania Twain gave us. I am trying to make somewhat of a stand against the biggest destroyers of life, happiness and humanity, namely the 4 great horseman of the thinking man’s apocalypse:

  1. Consumerism

  2. Globalisation

  3. Religion

  4. Nationalism

 

 

#1: Consumerism.

Oh lord can’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benze. Janis Joplin

Never have I seen a more wasteful pathetic notion than the competing we do to obtain the latest plastic gadget to impress our plastic friends because if we don’t we can’t possibly be happy. Talk about getting no satisfaction! I drive old 2nd hand cars, not because I am cheap, (though I probably fit that definition), but because it consumes the least resources across its lifetime. It may consume slightly more fuel than the latest vehicles, but it has a longer time to amortise the inherent energy and materials used in its manufacture, which are significant, and hence is actually better for the environment than buying the latest and greatest and scrapping the old ones. I have had plenty of questions as to why I drive an old car. Few can understand that it is a choice I make. Everyone seems to think it is a mental illness that I prefer to drive an old car than go out and get a loan for a shiny new penis extension on wheels….

 

Big Yellow Taxi. Joni Mitchell

Remember the first word in the “Reuse, reduce, recycle” mantra is reuse. We seem to jump straight to the last: recycle in order to give us a clear conscience while we throw out the half kilo of plastic wrapping our latest i-gadget came wrapped in, shipped half way around the world. We then get doubly chuffed with ourselves when we donate our old gadget to those poor unfortunate people overseas who are kept in slave labour making the i-gadgets for us in the first place. Having worked in recycling, and specifically electronic recycling I have become even more cynical. Green wash is the best way to describe it. The ability to make those of us in the first world destroying the planet feel comfortable while doing it by allowing us to give back a small amount of what we took, usually from the third world at gun point. Instead of lying awake at night we sleep soundly having completely laundered all our guilt. If that does not work 100% we can always pray for them. That always makes us feel better, and requires much less effort.

 

#2: Globalisation.

Is this the world we created? Queen

Consumerism and Globalisation go hand in hand, much like religion and war. Globalisation means cheap goods but low wages too. It means you compete with people in Bangladesh on $1 a day, or people in West Africa on $0.50 a day, or those on death row in China who are slave labour until they are despatched and have their organs harvested for those that can pay for them, usually people not from their area. It means low paid labour intensive jobs go to where people are working slaves. Think I am getting carried away? Go check where your last pair of sneakers came from, and see if you can find out how much the obscenely profitable multi-national paid for them. Slavery is alive and well in the 21st century, we just have a clear conscience because we pay a token fee to the slave and they are far enough away in the plantations that we don't hear the cries when they are whipped. Real slaves were at least fed and housed as they had a worth to their owners. Globalisation also means we can pay others to die for us. My first job in the recycling industry entailed me loading containers full of waste plastic which we sent to china for “Recycling”. About 40% of what we sent was recycled. The rest got burned, buried or thrown in their local river. Their local river is a long way away from where I lived, but it gave us all a warm glow that our discarded widget was being sent to kiddies in “Overthereistan” to sort in slave conditions and stay alive long enough to breed in order to get the next generation of cheap labour.

 

Globalization Is Good For. David Rovics

As manufacturing in Australia dies, just as it has in most first world countries, we are starting to see the reality. Those of us with jobs can buy cheap goods. Those without go without. Advertising pushes us to consume more and more we can afford less and less. More and more is produced overseas at low cost. More and more is produced with local ecological destruction. More and more is shipped around the world in polluting forms of transport. More and more is thrown out after its short lifespan with built in obsolescence

 

#3: Religion.

Imagine. John Lennon

Any and all religion is truly a crime against humanity. All religion is evil. Religions are a collection of non- living self-replicating entities, like viruses, which ironically exhibit all the natural selection traits so many of its followers rally against. Through natural selection the ones with the favourable traits come to dominate and survive/ kill off the others. This occurs over hundreds of years, with random mutations, (schisms), throwing up new branches along the evolutionary tree. Some branches die out, particularly those who don't reproduce in enough numbers, while others that capture the mojo of the moment thrive. Of course the truly successful ones are the ones that get to a dominant position and then forbid any variance through amalgamating with local authorities/ governments and make religious doctrine official law of the land, tying in cultural identity along the way. Think of Judaism in Jerusalem, Catholicism in Italy, Islam in Saudi Arabia or the Hinduism in India. They cement their position by official doctrine of ignorance and denial, for science and knowledge is indeed the opposite of religion. A fact is still a fact no matter how many deny it. Religious apologists always attack my contempt for religion, sighting what they call moderates to counter my supposed fanatics. Most view themselves as moderates. I view them as ignorant apologists. There are no moderates in religion, just those blissfully unaware of what crime is being committed in their name, with their financial assistance. Many Christians don't believe half of their official church doctrine on topics such as women’s rights, homosexuality, marriage, slavery, birth control, climate change, exorcisms and miracles, but are blissfully ignorant to the fact that their mere patronage fuels the bigotry of the dogmatic few who spew this bile and spread disease, death and misery through their ideology of hate. Yes you read that right: the followers of the teachings of the long haired hippy Nazarene seem to me the most destructive of all. Oh the irony. The 3 Abrahamic religions in particular are very similar in their bigotry, yet seem to have the most to fight about. They can't all be god’s chosen people.

 

#4: Nationalism.

Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert. Pink Floyd

I am a patriot. I love this country and I love the freedoms and lifestyle we possess. I am not a nationalist. I have no desire to burn flags or point out differences between me and the “others”, nor am I likely to get upset if someone burns a flag. I am not a wimp. I have jumped in the ring and gone 3 rounds with a heavy weight. (I lost on points). I have faced up to many challenges and difficult moments and believe I am a man, whatever that means. I am also not afraid to voice my opinion nor am I afraid to stand up to injustice, even if I stand alone. I am also an ex-soldier, and I am lucky enough to not have to “Represent the Country” but still bear the scars of this foolish childhood folly, and I don't mean just the physical scars. I once contemplating killing in my country's name. How futile. In reality I would have been killing in the interest of some large multi-national corporation whose dominance was being tested, and find it cheaper to lobby governments than to compete. I have been blessed with the experiences of travelling the world, mainly through work, and I have come to the realisation that we are all the same. We may look a little different, and even sound a little different, but we are all the same people, with the same dreams, aspirations and hopes. Every war has been, and will be a war for money, they are just wrapped in a flag to get the cannon fodder to support it. They are also often dipped in a baptismal fount to ensure you have a god on your side.

 

The times are a changing. Bob Dylan

There you have it. Get rid of ignorance and religion by education, buy quality locally, lead by example not by force, go back to local communities with simple lifestyles and empathy for others and we may survive. Pigs might fly. The battle is trying to get others to see the folly of their ways. People have too much invested in their bigotry, nationalism and greed to want to stop. It is impossible to convince someone who thinks they have a god given right to something to give it up, particularly if they person who wants it has another god, or worse still no god at all! Won’t stop me from fighting the good fight, even if it is a losing battle. I sure as shit won't sit around and pray for deliverance.

 

The end. The Doors

 

John of Wallan.

A Distant Mirror

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Published on Resource Crisis on October 4, 2015

(Image: a battle scene showing Roman troops fighting Barbarians. This relief is much later than the times discussed in this post, but it gives some idea of how these battles were seen in Roman times: "Grande Ludovisi Altemps Inv8574" by Unknown – Jastrow (2006). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons)

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Bimillenary of Germanicus' campaigns in Germania

Success, sometimes, shows one's limits more than defeat. That's a lesson that the Romans had to learn the hard way when they tried to subdue the Germanic tribes east of the Rhine, between the first century BC and the first century AD. The attempt involved a long series of campaigns and, perhaps, the climax came exactly two thousand years ago, from 14 to 16 AD, when the Romans invaded Germania with no less than eight legions under the command of Tiberius Claudius Nero, known as Germanicus (at right), grandson of Augustus and the adopted son of Emperor Tiberius. The total number of the troops employed could have been at least 80 thousand men, perhaps close to a hundred thousand; about a third of the whole Roman army. Using a modern term, we could say that the Romans were trying to steamroll their enemies.
In this case, the concept of "steamrolling" can perhaps be intended in an almost literal sense. Tacitus makes it clear for us in his "Annals" that the Romans were going into Germania with in mind something much different than "bringing civilization" to those primitive peoples. No, no such silly idea; the Romans were there to teach those Barbarians a lesson. For this, they were burning villages, slaughtering everyone, or taking as slaves, as Tacitus says, even "the helpless from age or sex." Germanicus' name, evidently, didn't imply that he loved Germanic people. Again, using a modern term, we could say that the Romans were practicing a scorched earth campaign, if not an outright war of extermination.

And yet, all these efforts achieved little. Over three years of campaigns, Germanicus' troops won all the battles they fought; but they couldn't break the Germanic tribes. And the cost of keeping so many men in the field was becoming unbearable even for the mighty Roman Empire. In 16 AD, Emperor Tiberius recalled Germanicus to Rome. He also ordered the legions to abandon the territories they had conquered and to retire behind the fortifications along the Rhine, from where they had started their campaigns. Germanicus was given a big triumph in Rome, but, a few years later, in 19 AD, he died, possibly poisoned by Tiberius himself who feared the competition of a popular general.

So, Germanicus' campaigns had shown the might of the Empire, bit also its limits: there were some things that the legions just couldn't do. That was a lesson that Emperors understood well and, indeed, the Romans never tried again to attack the Germanic territory. Two thousand years afterward, we see in these remote events a distant mirror of our age. The parallels with our current situation are many, and I am sure that the word "Iraq" is already coming to your mind. Yes, the Iraq campaign was a series of victories, just like Germanicus' campaigns. But, from a strategic viewpoint, modern Iraq, just like Germania two thousand years ago, turned out to be a conquest too expensive to keep.

But there is more to be seen in this distant mirror and so let's go a little more in depth into history. First of all, Germanicus' campaigns were the consequence of an earlier, failed campaign: the defeat of Teutoburg in 9 AD, when three Roman legions were annihilated by a coalition of Germanic tribes. Not even their commander, Consul Publius Quinctilius Varus, escaped alive. Teutoburg was not only a disaster, but a mystery as well. How could it be that the Roman legions, not exactly amateurs in practicing the art of war, blithely marched into a dense forest where a large number of Germanic warriors were waiting to hack them to pieces?

I wouldn't be too surprised if Varus himself were to appear to me one of these nights as a bluish ghost in my bedroom. Then, he could  tell me the story of why exactly he was sent to Germania as the governor of a province that existed only on paper and supplied with insufficient troops to control a region that had never been really pacified. Lacking this apparition, we can only speculate on this story, but it takes little imagination to conclude that someone, probably in Rome, wanted Varus' head to roll. Whoever they were, anyway, they probably couldn't imagine that so many more Roman heads would roll together with Varus' one. We will never know for sure, but we know that the man who led Varus into the trap in the forest, Arminius, was a Roman citizen, albeit born in Germania. Varus was betrayed.

I know what you are thinking at this point. And, yes, we can find some kind of a parallel with modern history in the 9/11 attack to the twin towers in New York. Let me state that I am not discussing conspiracy theories, here; what I want to highlight is the similarity of the reaction of the ancient and the modern empires to events that both perceived as an existential threat. Just as the US citizens were deeply scared by the 9/11 attacks, the Romans were deeply scared by the disaster of Teutoburg and that had political consequences.

The main consequence of the defeat of Teutoburg was that it strongly reinforced the position of the Emperor as the military leader of the whole Empire. Don't forget that, in the early 1st century AD, the idea that there was to be an emperor at the head of the Empire was still something new and plenty of people would probably have liked the Republic to be re-established. That was what what Brutus and Cassius had tried to do by killing Julius Caesar. But, after Teutoburg, reinstating the Republic became totally out of question. You probably have heard of Suetonius reporting that Emperor Augustus, on hearing of Varus' defeat, would walk aimlessly at night in his palace, murmuring, "Varus, Varus, give me back my legions!" That was a master propaganda stroke on the part of Augustus, a consummate politician. By showing himself so concerned, Augustus was positioning himself as the defender of the Empire against the barbarian menace.

Not only Teutoburg reinforced the role of Emperors; the campaigns by Germanicus reinforced the effect. If Teutoburg had shown that the Germanic tribes were the existential threat for the Empire, then, Germanicus' failure showed that they couldn't be destroyed. The result was that the Empire positioned itself for a long term war. That generated the equivalent of our present military-industrial complex: a standing army and a set of fortifications along the Imperial borders. That was good business for the military contractors of Roman times. However, the Empire bled itself to death in order to maintain the colossal defense works it had built. Before Teutoburg, the Roman army had been producing wealth as the result of the conquest of foreign lands. After Teutoburg, the army became a destroyer of wealth, costing much more than it produced; as Germanicus' campaigns clearly demonstrated. As time went by, the Roman Empire became weaker and weaker, but it stubbornly refused to admit it and to accept the barbarians in roles that were not those of mercenaries or slaves.

Four centuries after the battle of Teutoburg and Germanicus' campaigns, an enlightened empress, Galla Placidia, broke the rules in a bold attempt to revitalize a dying empire. She married a Barbarian king and tried to start a new dynasty that would merge the Germanic and the Latin elements of the Empire. She didn't succeed; it was too late; it was too much for a single person. The Roman Empire had to go through its cycle, and the end of the cycle was its disappearance; a relic of history that had no reason to exist any longer.

This is the destiny of empires and civilizations that, as Toynbee says, die most often because they kill themselves. So it was for the Romans, our distant mirror. A dark mirror, but, most likely, our destiny will not be much different.
___________________

See also

http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.it/2015/09/fortress-europe-wall-to-keep-foreigners.html

Note also that I created a new blog "A Distant Mirror" to act as a repository of all the post published here that deal with Roman history. It is still being filled up.

The 1783-84 Laki Eruption: A Catastrophic Volcanic Eruption that Changed the Course of Human History

gc2smOff the keyboard of A.G. Gelbert

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on September 16, 2015


On June 10th wrote Sæmundur Magnusson Holm at the University of Copenhagen, falling ash coloured black the deck and sails of ships travelling to Denmark.


Discuss this article at the History Table inside the Diner


Most people are propagandized by the leaders of the societies they live in to believe that history is simply a collection of facts strung in chronological order. The truth is far more nuanced.

Historians interpret the importance of events as if they are the only ones qualified to do so, or just leave them out all together, for allegedly "objective" scholarly reasons. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Human history is rife with key pivotal events that don't make it into the flag waving, hero worshipping, designated bad guy demonizing, condensed narrative.

The fact that these key events are deemed "not credible" as key events by the academic community, despite the fact that said "scholars" (see lock step lackeys) accept that the event occurred, should be a red flag to anyone that still retains the ability to think critcally.

I have written about the Piri Reis maps in an article titled Evidence that Demands a Verdict: The Consensus Historical View that Piri Reis used South American Coastline maps made by Columbus . I have pointed out how they do not "fit" the world view of the "scholars" of history. But that is an extreme example of the capacity, willingness and bulheadedness of historians to engage in agnotology (i.e. culturally induced ignorance or doubt) to avoid admitting even the possibility that their narrative is, not just flawed due to innocent mistakes, but a product of status quo defending mens rea.

So what else is new? Humans lie to puff themselves up. We all know that, right? Or do we?

Here, on this forum, among highly educated, intelligent people. I occasionally run into assumptions about our history that are the product of agnotology propaganda. Individuals who are properly cynical of government motives for doing this, that, or the other in our time are blissfully accepting of all the mendacious double talk that infects our history books.

Conspiracy is the norm, not the exception, among powerful and influential humans now, is it not? WHAT makes you think it hasn't been the history twisting norm as long as we have been human?

I wish historians were more open to criticism of their interpretaton(s) of history. I wish they would NOT leave stuff out just because they decided a certain event was not key.

No, I'm not here to tell you that George Washingon's wooden false teeth were really made from Native American pelvic Indian "Ivory" (I'm kidding!) and he was a Sith Lord. It's true that walking sticks made from the femur bones of the "savages" were all the rage among the white well-to-do in our great and grand cities for over a century after the USA got started, but that's not what I want to discuss either.

What I am about to discuss is NOT, as the walking sticks and other bits of European empathy deficit disorderd cruelty, a conspiracy theory, as many claim (but I don't).

The events I will discuss have all been accepted by modern historians as factual. What they have not accepted is their cause and effect relationship.

The case I wish to make is for the tremendous effects, in subsequent history from 1783 to 1825, of the Laki Volcanic Eruption.

Natural historical events that coincide in time with human historical events are rarely given the importance they merit by the "scholars" that populate the academic institutions. Their convenient NON-interpretation of, or ignoring of, natural disasters as key causes of subsequent human historical events evidences a bias that exaggerates the power of human ideas and thought over the power of nature.

Our behavior as individuals and as a society is strongly influenced by any natural disaster that we happen to witness due to the massive pointless suffering and death involved. We are generally stunned by such events. This the way it is for most of us.

But for the elites of powerful, warlike countries, and conversely among the leaders of the downtrodden of said countries, natural disasters cause plans to do this or that to be postponed by the former, and conversely, accelerated by the latter.

Since the survivors of disasters and/or the victors of wars write the history books, this cause and effect sequence rarely makes it to the flag waving masses. 
 


1755 Lisbon Earthquake and Tsunami


It's a side issue that I mention only briefly now, but Voltaire was deeply affected by the 1755 earthquake and tsunami which caused massive human suffering and death. He wrote some biting satire about the "Best of All Possible Worlds" did he not? TRY to find how that fits (and believe me, not the historians, it DOES!) in the historical narrative from that time period AND how that has affected human society and thinking to this day! You won't find it. Had the 1755 earthquake and tsunami not occurred, it is not a stretch to assume that no GIGANTIC society affecting satire would have been written.

QUOTE: The earthquake and its fallout strongly influenced the intelligentsia of the European Age of Enlightenment. The noted writer-philosopher Voltaire used the earthquake in Candide and in his Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne ("Poem on the Lisbon disaster"). Voltaire's Candide attacks the notion that all is for the best in this, "the best of all possible worlds", a world closely supervised by a benevolent deity. UNQUOTE
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1755_Lisbon_earthquake

If Voltaire wasn't an atheist before that 1755, I would wager that the huge loss of life convinced him to eschew theism. I am not defending his decision. I don't agree with it. I simply understand where he was coming from. The corrupt church in those days wasn't exactly a source of inspiration for intellectuals, or anybody else.

As a Christian, I find it perfectly appropriate for a Just God to destroy all the churches in Lisbon, along with killing the Grand Inquisitor of the Catholic Church there, while sparing all the brothels. Lisbon's "pious" society, all of them claiming to be Christians, would gather routinely to cheer the burning at the stake of "heretics" and "those engaging in witchcraft".

Lisbon was one of the richest cities in Europe because of it's lucrative slave trade and it's lucrative influx of gold. That gold was mined in South America. That gold was obtained by cruel forced labor exploitation of South American natives and African slaves. A portion of that gold found its way into the spectacular amounts of gold gilding in Lisbon's churches. Lisbon's churches were the envy of Europe at the time because of their copious amounts of gold gliding. The Portuguese were Empathy Deficit Disordered human predators.

So, if God did it, why isn't He more consistent in His wrath? I don't know. However, what happened in Lisbon seems like a great example of Divine Justice visited on a particularly blatant example of egregious religious hypocrisy in the service of greed and rampant cruelty. People claiming to be Christians are, according to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, far more likely to get Da Business from God than other humans. Google ""Judgement begins in the house of God"" for details.

But perhaps Voltaire, a product of his time, didn't see it that way. Voltaire's conclusion was that a Just God would not destroy Lisbon, so there must not be a God, period. The selective application of justice was not acceptable for God, according to Voltaire. That seems logical to me. ;D

However, for humans like Voltaire, selective application of "Enlightenment" justice, was, though hypocritical in the extreme, quite acceptable  :P.  As you will learn in the final part of this three part article, despite his atheist "Enlightenment" rhetoric, born of the suffering he observed in Lisbon (and later in France), Voltaire did not seem to believe his  ideas applied to African slaves.

If you think that earthquake did not change human history all the way TO THIS EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDERED, ATHEISM DEFENDING DAY, you are wrong. But that's another, rather sore, subject.  I KNOW there are WAY TOO MANY cheerleaders for the "Enlightenment" (see Orwell) here for me to make a dent in their mechanistic reductionist, cause and effect comfort zones. The flexibility of those fine fellows in those matters is akin to that of one year old cured concrete.

So, for the moment, forget I mentioned Voltaire and implied that the "God is Dead" fun and games that begat Darwin and Empathy Deficit Disordered profit over planet began with an earthquake in 1755.
 
Travel with me back  in time to England in the year of our Lord 1783.
 


English two-decker ship of the line


Ships are, compared with today, small. Even the majestic clipper ships of the late 19th century have not been invented yet. It takes over a month to cross the Atlantic from England to the American Colonies that just successfully revolted. It cost the crown a lot of money to move a fleet with weapons and soldiers from England to the American Colonies and prosecute the, now failed, war effort, thanks to the well timed arrival of a rather impressive French fleet.

Jamaica is still in the English fold, however. I mention it now because of the role it played in some Simon Bolivar history (mentioned in part 3 of this article). I also mention it now because, unlike the American Colonies, it continued to be exploited in order to provide commodities for the English Empire.

As of 1783, the commodities flow coming from the American Colonies has been severely curtailed for several years and the English are not happy campers.

England is a Maritime Empire. Testament to that is the fact that the English language is populated with sailing terms. Ships are the vessels through which the life blood of this warlike island nation flows. Ships need to know where they are when they are at sea. They navigate by compass, some pretty accurate clocks and sightings of the sun at noon and/or the 'moons of Jupiter positions' (ephemeris).

Moving ships from here to there profitably is a matter of life and death for the British Empire. Any interruption in profitable shipping activity hurts the empire. Warships are profitable only if they can secure rebellious colonies and protect the commodities flow from the colonies and the finished goods (the English colonial "business model") to them.

British America's most valuable exports in the early 1770s, in order of total value: sugar, tobacco, wheat, rice.

Value of annual British imports to the North American colonies in the 1770s: nearly £885,000.

http://www.shmoop.com/american-revolution/statistics.html

Let us compare "Now" (1783) to the British national debt about 19 years ago (about ten years before the American Colonies revolted):

British national debt in 1764: £129,586,789 (this was money that the British government borrowed from banks and investors, and it would be the equivalent of tens of trillions of dollars today).

http://www.shmoop.com/american-revolution/statistics.html

The war against the American colonies had finished only in 1782 during Rockingham's second ministry and the wars against most of the rest of Europe had been concluded by Shelburne's ministry in 1783.

http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/pitt/taxpitt.htm

Total British casualties from battle and disease in the Revolutionary War: around 24,000.

http://www.shmoop.com/american-revolution/statistics.html

The Rebellious American Colonies avoided the cost of sending a fleet across the Atlantic. They did a little better than the English in the war.

Total American battle casualties in the Revolutionary War: 6,824 (estimates range between this figure and 4,435; some 90% of them came from the Continental Army).

Total Americans wounded in the Revolutionary War: 8,445.

Total American deaths from disease in the Revolutionary War: 10,000 (approximation).

Total Americans who died in British prisons in the Revolutionary War: 8,500.

Total Americans captured in the Revolutionary War: 18,152.

http://www.shmoop.com/american-revolution/statistics.html

The  British forces under Cornwallis at Yorktown had surrendered in October of 1781. In March of 1782, the British Government authorised peace negotiations.

But before the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783  (formally ending the Revolutionary War), a very big volcanic eruption began in Iceland. The eruption immediately affected history by delaying the ratification of the treaty.

Official ratification of the peace accord was delayed for months by a mix of political logistics and persistent bad weather. The makeshift U.S. capital in Annapolis, Maryland, was snowbound, preventing assembly of congressional delegates to ratify the treaty, while storms and ice across the Atlantic slowed communications between the two governments. At last, on May 13, 1784, Benjamin Franklin, wrangling matters in Paris, was able to send the treaty, signed by King George himself, to the Congress.

http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10195.pdf

 


June 8, 1783 the Laki Eruption began. It lasted EIGHT MONTHS. It killed about 22% of the human population of Iceland and sixty percent of their grazing animals.

The Laki eruptions had a staggering effect on Iceland itself, in large part due to the volcanic gases released in the eruption and not the lava flows themselves.

Sulfur dioxide released by the lava flows stayed close to the ground (within 5 km) in Iceland, creating acid rains that were strong enough to burn holes in leaves, kill trees and shrubs and irritate skin.

The eruption released 8 Mt of fluorine, so as that fluorine settled out and was incorporated into grasses, grazing livestock got fluorinosis. Sixty percent of all grazing livestock died due to the effects of the Laki eruptions. The “Haze Famine” as it is called in Iceland killed over 10,000 people (~22% of the population) from famine and disease.

http://www.wired.com/2013/06/local-and-global-impacts-1793-laki-eruption-iceland/

But that was only the beginning.

Of the 122 Mt of sulfur dioxide released in the eruption, 95 Mt made it to the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, so it entered the jet stream and was circulated around the entire northern hemisphere (see right). The haze quickly reached Europe and by July 1, 1783, the haze was noticed in China.

There are not many historical records from North America that mention the arrival of the Laki haze, but tree ring records from northern Alaska suggest that July and August 1783 were very cold. The mean temperature in northern Alaska is 11.3ºC, but the mean temperature recorded in May-August 1783 was only 7.2ºC. Russian traders in Alaska noted a population decrease in the years after the eruption while Inuit oral histories do refer to a “Summer that did not come” that could correlate with the Laki eruption as well.

Globally, those 95 Mt of sulfuric dioxide reacted with atmospheric water to form 200 Mt of sulfuric acid aerosols. Almost 90% of that sulfuric acid was removed in the form of acid rain or fogs, while 10% stayed aloft for over a year. This might explain why northern hemisphere temperatures were 1.3ºC below normal for 2-3 years after the eruion.

Thordarson and Self (2003) created an excellent figure to show how the sulfur aerosols were dispersed during the eruion (see below), where 80% was part of the explosive phase of the eruion and launched 10-15 km, producing distant haze across the world while 20% came directly from cooling lava flows, so it stayed close to the ground to produce the local haze in Iceland. The sulfuric acid was even damaging to crops in Europe, where noxious dews and frosts (sulfur precipitates) formed. Ash from the eruion was noted as far away as Venice, Italy and many places in between.
http://www.wired.com/2013/06/local-and-global-impacts-1793-laki-eruion-iceland/

Here's a graphic of the aerosol spread from the Laki Eruion:


NOBODY outside of Iceland knew what was causing the haze which killed people, animals and crops and then made it real, real cold.

 

The Laki Eruption effects on England


"When an Icelandic volcano erupted in 1783,  many feared it was the end of the world…"

By June 22 it was above Le Havre in Normandy, and a day later arrived in Britain.

Reports at the time stated that the fog was so thick boats stayed in port, unable to navigate. The skies became unrecognisable, with 'the sun at noon as blank as a clouded moon, but lurid and blood- coloured at rising and setting'.

According to an article in Gentleman's Magazine in July 1783, a visitor to Lincoln reported: 'A thick hot vapour had for several days before filled up the valley, so that both the Sun and Moon appeared like heated brick-bars.'

Another account, by Gilbert White in his Naturalist's Journal, spoke of: 'The peculiar haze or smoky fog that prevailed in this island and even beyond its limits was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.'

But it was perhaps the observations of the travelling evangelist and founder of Methodism, the Reverend John Wesley, which put the drama in its most illuminating context.

When he visited Witney in Oxfordshire in 1783 he witnessed a combination of summer thunderstorms and thick fog which left inhabitants convinced the end of the world was nigh.

Yet at the time, in the summer of 1783, no one knew why so many farm labourers and outdoor workers were succumbing to fever and dying. Nor could they explain the strange, nauseating fog that had descended on the island, or the peculiar pall it cast over the sun.

In fact the deadly cloud that shrouded Britain was a toxic mix of volcanic gases and particles sweeping south from the eruptions of the Laki Craters in southern Iceland.

The sulphur dioxide and sulphuric rain it contained was destroying the lungs of its human and animal victims. Just as devastatingly, crops withered and died leading to famine, corruption and ugly riots.
This week we have seen the crippling effects of another volcanic eruption in Iceland. But air-traffic chaos, stranded passengers and economic fallout pale into insignificance when compared with the catastrophic events of 1783.

The series of eruptions then – which were severe for five months and lasted eight months in total – were 100 times stronger than those we have seen this month (April 2010). They propelled 120 million tonnes of toxic gases into the atmosphere.
Without the benefits of modern science and accurate meteorological predictions our ancestors had no comprehension of what was happening to them.

In some parts of eastern and central England entire families of farm workers (and it was typically the rural workers who toiled each day outdoors, breathing in great lungfuls of polluted air) were virtually wiped out.

Families lost their father figures, their breadwinners and their fit young men, as the shortage of manpower left vast swathes of produce unpicked.

Farmers had not enough hands to gather their harvest as the sight of grown men being carried out of the field – many of whom would die where they were lain – became commonplace. Towns and villages used to burying only a handful of people each season, suddenly had to deal with four times the usual number of deaths.

As quickly as the grave- diggers could excavate the plots, men fell to fill them. Little wonder then that many assumed the apocalypse was fast approaching.

Describing the unrelenting thunder and lightning, he wrote that: 'Those that were asleep in the town were waked and many thought the day of judgment had come.'

Throughout the day the panic intensified. 'Men, women and children flocked out of their houses and kneeled down together in the streets.' At Sunday service Wesley reported a full church, 'a sight never seen before'.

Such was the mounting anxiety that many became afraid even to go to bed – convinced an earthquake or worse would befall them. Others begged their clergy to carry out exorcisms to rid the land of this evil.

The poet William Cowper told his friend the fog was wreaking havoc. 'We never see the sun but shorn of his beams, the trees are scarce discernable at a mile's distance, he sets with the face of a hot salamander and rises with the same complexion.'

And Gilbert White, who lived in the Hampshire village of Selborne, noted: 'There was reason for the most enlightened person to be apprehensive.' 
 
The effects of the choking ash cloud were compounded by the abnormally hot summer, combining to frighten even the most rational of inhabitants.

At some points the heat was so intense that butchers' meat was rendered inedible just a day after it had been killed and the flies it attracted irritated the horses, making them treacherous to ride.
As time wore on, the masking of the sun led to a severe drop in temperature and frost and ice were reported in many places in late summer. All vegetation was affected.

Leaves withered, crops failed, insects died in their millions, preventing the pollination of fruit and flowers. Fruit simply fell from the trees for lack of nourishment.

Then the effect spread to animals. The first impact was on their food supply, as reported in a Cambridge newspaper. 'The grazing land, which only the day before was full of juice and had upon it the most delightful verdure, did, immediately after this uncommon event, look as if it had dried up by the sun, and was to walk on like hay.

'The beans were turned to a whitish colour, the leaf and blade appearing as if dead.'
At the same time sores and bare patches began appearing on the skin of the livestock. Little wonder then that this rural chaos led to disruption of food supplies and prices.

By the autumn of 1783 shortages meant grain was being sold at 30 per cent more than its pre-fog price, sparking protests and riots.

At Halifax market, men gathered from the surrounding weaving villages and formed into a mob to force merchants to sell their wheat and oats at the old prices.

All across the country similar scenes were being played out, and at ports many even formed blockades to stop producers exporting grain in order to achieve higher prices.

At the same time the fog was continuing to claim thousands of human lives. Tragically, it was often the younger and fitter members of the community as they were typically the agricultural workers who spent most of their time outdoors in the fields, breathing in the deadly particles falling from the sky.

Recent analysis of climate detail and burial records shows eastern and central England saw their death tolls rise most. And even when the fog finally began to dissipate, the gases in the atmosphere continued to divert the sun's rays, precipitating a period of global cooling and the abnormally cold winter of 1783/4 which saw temperatures hit their lowest level for centuries.

Mercury levels were typically two degrees celsius below the norm and Selborne in Hampshire experienced 28 continuous days of frost.

For many, the twin catastrophes of the extremely hot then extremely cold weather coupled with the choking dry fog were attributed to God, but as this was the age of the European Enlightenment, other theories, not dependent on religion, began to emerge.

In the days before global communication and mass media, it was several months before word of the Laki explosions filtered through to the rest of the world.

Even with that knowledge no one could prove the connection (a feat achieved only relatively recently). Anyway, by that time the effects of the fog were beginning to decline and Britain had new worries to contend with.

The last quarter of the 18th century was dominated by the aftermath of American Independence and the looming French Revolution. Consumed by these events, historians lost interest in the dry fog. 

It is only now, as we once again face the cataclysmic effects of Mother Nature, that the true significance of those distant events can be put into perspective.
• Adapted from Britain's Rottenest Years by Derek Wilson, published by Short Books, £12.99. To order a copy at £11.70 (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1268405/And-thought-THIS-eruption-nasty-When-Icelandic-volcano-erupted-1783-feared-end-world-.html#ixzz3jVNLiICD

 

Increase in Mortality in England directly caused by the Laki Eruption


Through analysis of monthly burial data we have revealedthat two periods of mortality crisis occurred in Englandduring the Laki Craters eruption. The first mortality crisis peak occurred in August and September 1783, nearly two months after the start of the eruption and the first reported appearance of haze in England, and the second peak occurred in January and February 1784, with mortality re-maining above normal in the following two months. If the parish data are assumed to be representative of England as a whole, then the peaks represent ~19,700 extra deaths in the country during this period.
http://www.academia.edu/3860865/Mortality_in_England_during_the_1783_4_Laki_Craters_eruption

Below please find an example of historical facts that completely ignore the deleterious effects of the Laki Eruption on British coffers. Nevertheless, anybody that can add and subtract, if they compare things as they ARE in 1784 to the way they were a mere 20 years earlier (British national debt in 1764: £129,586,789), understands that England was in no position to wage war for several years to come:

… Britain's economic condition in 1784 apparently bordered on catastrophe.

the National Debt stood at £250 million. That was twenty times the annual revenue of £12.5 million from taxes

the annual interest on government borrowing, which stood at about £8.3 million, automatically produced a deficit which was funded by further borrowing resulting in increased interest and an even greater deficit.

National bankruptcy was a strong possibility.

http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/pitt/taxpitt.htm
 

Profound effects of eight-month eruption in 1783 caused chaos from US to Egypt,


SNIPPET:

Then, as now, there were more wide-ranging impacts. In Norway, the Netherlands, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, in North America and even Egypt, the Laki eruption had its consequences, as the haze of dust and sulphur particles thrown up by the volcano was carried over much of the northern hemisphere.

Ships moored up in many ports, effectively fogbound. Crops were affected as the fall-out from the continuing eruption coincided with an abnormally hot summer. A clergyman, the Rev Sir John Cullum, wrote to the Royal Society that barley crops "became brown and withered … as did the leaves of the oats; the rye had the appearance of being mildewed".

"The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. At the same time the heat was so intense that butchers' meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic

… the country people began to look with a superstitious awe, at the red, louring aspect of the sun."
Across the Atlantic, Benjamin Franklin wrote of "a constant fog over all Europe, and a great part of North America".
The disruption to weather patterns meant the ensuing winter was unusually harsh, with consequent spring flooding claiming more lives. In America the Mississippi reportedly froze at New Orleans.  :o

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/apr/15/iceland-volcano-weather-french-revolution

The wretched state of the British economy kept the Brits licking their wounds while the Laki Eruption caused crop failures and famines in France that served as triggers for the French Revolution in 1789. 

As usual, the historians list all the social problems festering at the time as primary causes. I believe they contributed, but were not the primary causes. Despotism wasn't exactly a new fad in Europe, was it?  Historians also give a lot of credit to the "Enlightenment" for said Revolution. Of course, those factors are real. But without the crop failures and the famines, THAT Revolution would probably have occurred much later than 1789. 

The Haitians took a keen interest in the French Revolution.

Here's the "scholarly" Cliffs Notes type boilerplate for the French Revolution. NOTICE (i.e. LACK of bold font  ;)) how the lack of available food is low balled in comparison to the "Enlightenment" and the "American Revolution". LOL!


HELLO? WHERE is the Laki Eruption that caused the crop failures that caused the famines that caused the high food prices and bread riots that were, ADMITTEDLY (by academia) a sine qua non factor in the French Revolution?

Richard Saul Wurman knows his history. And he is not happy about how we are not taught the historical cause and effect FACTS of history in general, and the MAIN cause of the French Revolution in particular.

He has been awarded several honorary doctorates, Graham Fellowships, a Guggenheim and numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Wurman has also been awarded the Annual Gold Medal from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, a Gold Medal from AIGA and will receive the Boston Science Museum’s 50th Annual Bradford Washburn Award in October, 2014. He is also a Fellow of the AIA and in the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame.

PLEASE, take 3 minutes of your time and watch this Richard Saul Wurman  video (start at the one minute mark):
 

The Volcano That Caused the French Revolution


TED founder Richard Saul Wurman believes knowledge of history is crucial to understanding our present and future. On today's EPIPHANY Wurman shares a now obscure story about a volcano that altered the course of history.
Conservative estimates are that 5 MILLION people died from the THREE YEAR EFFECTS (1783- 1786) of the Laki Eruption.
 

21 Sept 1792 – In France, The Republic is declared, abolishing the monarchy. In January of the following year Louis XVI is beheaded.
Upheavals in France and Saint-Domingue 1792–1796

Ideas don't move people to Revolution if they are well fed. How is it possible that historians don't know that? Downtrodden people resist change (see long train of abuses) unless they lose all hope of a reasonable existence. Losing all hope is what famines do to people when the Empathy Deficit Disordered "Enlightened" elite that rule their country turn a blind eye to the starvation of the masses. "Enlightenment", my ass! Most of the people in France couldn't even read!

The ones sucking up Voltaire were part of the OPPRESSOR class. They loved all his pretty words about equality and justice, as long as the rabble never read them. Yeah, the church (that pretended to be Christian, while in truth it had eschewed all Christian ethics and embraced elite cruelty) was part of that same corrupt and cruel class too. But the very definition of ethical behavior was (and is) RELATIVE for the "enlightenment". You call THAT an improvement? Yeah, most readers here do.  :(

It really torques me that historians try to cast "Enlightenment" ideas as some sort of "hunger and thirst for justice" magic wand that produced the French Revolution.  Such stuffed shirt, idea glorifying arrogance is breathtaking! But, it is expected from insulated ivory tower types that have never missed a meal.

Or perhaps they know better and, in order to not miss any meals and retain their tenure job security, are just toeing the lock step line dictated to them by the history "sanitizing" propagandists.

Ashvin, a scholar and a lawyer, said the following hard truth that modern academics refuse to accept:

Quote

Secular ideologies can be abused and cause just as much harm as religious ones, and if there was ever any doubt about this fact, they should have been stripped away by the events of the 20th century.

 

 

At any rate , for those who have their eyes open, you can SEE the results of the "Enlightenment" ALL AROUND YOU in the year 2015.  :P

But for now, we are in Haiti in 1790. The French Revolution is a green light for the ever opportunistic English to see what they can conquer in France. France has a dictator in the wings called Napoleon, who was working his way up the ranks at the time. I'm sure he had lots of enlightened ideas about equality, fraternity and so on…

Here's a timeline of all the "fun and games" going on back then:
Principal Dates and Time Line of the French Revolution

Any historian will acknowledge that the opportunistic English aggression against the French was directly connected with French weakness from the Revolution. But for some reason, they fail to make the SAME connection with the motivation of the slaves in Haiti to cast off the slavery yoke.

The French sent some dudes down to Haiti to tell them all about equality, fraternity and so on. The slave owners were nervous about that even though, of course, they knew that equality stuff (probably) did not apply to the slaves. Nevertheless, the slave plantation owners were not amused. The Haitians were.

Both groups thought it was happy talk propaganda. History has proven them right.

But at the time, the slaves decided to do a little liberty, equality and fraternity of their own.  Which brings us to August 22, 1791.

 

How the French Revolution triggered the Revolution in Haiti


SNIPPET:

One must emphasize the struggles that had been occurring for decades prior to the 1791 outbreak of full-scale rebellion. Yet the French Revolution was also crucially important, for the conflicts between whites about what exactly its ideals meant triggered an opportunity for blacks.
http://scholar.library.miami.edu/slaves/san_domingo_revolution/revolution.html

In the following video, the historical importance of the Haitian Revolution in concert with the American Revolution and French Revolution is clearly established. It is a historically accurate video about Haiti.
Somehow Voltaire never managed to voice any defense of the Haitian Revolution. Perhaps the FACT that Haiti provided two fifths of French overseas trade had something to do with that hypocrisy by Voltaire and his "enlightened" luminaries  ;).

Haiti was known as the Pearl of the Antilles. Haiti, little bigger than Maryland, was the richest colony in the new world, producing HALF of the word's sugar.
 

 

General Toussaint Louverture


February 1793 – Rebel leaders, including Toussaint Louverture, join Spanish forces to fight against the French. France declares war on England and Holland
Agelbert NOTE: The forces of the North or the South, as referred to below, are in regard to Haitian geography.

Early June 1793 – Louverture offers to aid French General Laveaux, Chief Commander of the republican forces in the North. Louverture offers his support and 5,000-6,000 troops in exchange for full amnesty and general emancipation. Laveaux refuses and Louverture continues to aid the Spanish for another full year.

20 September 1793 – British troops sever ties between the North and South, isolating the provinces from each other as the Europeans, planters and rebels all fight for control. The British intend to restore order, make Saint-Domingue a British colony, and reinstate slavery.
 

Benoit Joseph André Rigaud (1761 – 18 September 1811) was the leading mulatto military leader during the Haïtian Revolution. Among his protégés were Alexandre Pétion and Jean-Pierre Boyer, both future presidents of Haïti.


Land ownership in Saint-Domingue was a critical issue before, during, and after the Haitian Revolution. Land ownership granted access to power and prosperity and was sought after by all of the colony’s social classes.

During the build up to the revolution whites were increasingly threatened by the mulattoes and free blacks who were becoming powerful landowners. At the beginning of the revolution, one of the slaves’ central demands was to have small plots of land and an additional free day during the week to cultivate them. Later on, during Louverture’s reign, laborers objected to his adherence to a plantation-based economy which required blacks to work land that was not theirs.  

Through the course of the revolution, and in the years following, former slaves felt owning land was critical in order to truly claim their freedom. To that end they fought for the colonists – and even their own leaders – for land rights, never giving up their goal to own the fields they worked in.
 


29 August 1793 – Sonthonax issues a General Emancipation decree abolishing slavery in the North. More slaves in the colony have their freedom than ever before. Monsieur Artaud, one of the colony’s wealthiest planters with more than 1,000 slaves, tells Sonthonax that “only universal freedom could spare the whites from being totally annihilated.”

Agelbert NOTE: The "issue" of potential annihilation is often presented in historical narratives involving the decision by European whites to agree to reforms that provide African slaves with freedom. But, as you will see, these reforms are mostly on paper.

What you are seeing here is a precursor to a similar white reaction to freed slaves in the US in the South after the Civil war. And even before that, in the American Revolutionary war, both sides offered freedom to African slaves in return for becoming cannon fodder. As soon as the war was over, most of the promised freedoms were arrogantly discarded. It's all documented in "The Unsteady March", a truthful, hard hitting, thoroughly referenced, scholarly work on African American history from the first colonies in North America to the present.

Returning to Haiti in 1793:

Following decrees further restrict punishments and grant minimal pay to slaves – now called “laborers” – in the colony. Skilled laborers are legally allowed on administrative councils. However, the declarations of freedom are bound solely to theoretical property rights. Slaves are still regulated by the government, legally bound to the same plantations and masters. Their daily lives change little. In protest, many slaves go on strike, arriving to the fields late, leaving early, and doing little work. Disarmed, many former rebels turn to vagrancy as their main form of resistance. Notably, women demand that they are granted equal pay and rights as men. Under the current system women are held to the same rules and punishments but paid only two thirds of men's wages.
Upheavals in France and Saint-Domingue 1792–1796
CLEARLY, the African-Haitians wanted exactly the same things that American and French Revolutionaries wanted. African-Haitians were not stupid, backward or unable to grasp. or take responsibility for, Liberty. Even the women were far more progressive than American, English or French women of that time period!

The Haitians, despite a brief period of working with France against the British and Spanish, decided to get rid of the "liberty, equality, fraternity " rhetoric spouting French once and for all. WHY? Because the Haitians discovered that the French had no intention of treating African-Haitians as anything but commodities to exploit, PERIOD.

For those who don't get that, a cursory look at  all the post French Revolution rhetoric coming from France (i.e. proclamations and laws about this, that and the other in regard to ending slavery and codifying freedom for the Haitian blacks) will reveal that Napoleon reversed ALL of it in short order.

The Haitians got the message. They sent their own message to the French troops. This was VERY expensive for France. Over fifty Thousand French soldiers had died by 1803. France, with its new emperor Napoleon, had tried to reinstate slavery. France lost many soldiers, ships and stopped getting sugar from the Pearl of the Antilles.
Casualty Facts Haitian Revolution

Napoleon needed money to keep his war machine up to snuff. As you know, he had plans for expanding his "empire" to the east, as well as war with England. He had a racist friend in the USA (always happy to do anything he could to give England a hard time) named Thomas Jefferson who helped him get it.  It was called the Louisiana Purchase.

The back story to the Louisiana Purchase, not taught to most Americans, is that France only got "title" to that massive amount of land from Spain in 1800!

On October 1, 1800, Spain ceded the Louisiana Territory to France in the Treaty of San Ildefonso. The territory was equal in size to the entire United States at the time. Napoleon Bonaparte envisioned a Caribbean empire, with the Louisiana Territory providing the resources to support the center of the empire on the island of Santo Domingo (now Haiti). At the time the Treaty of San Ildefonso was signed, Santo Domingo was controlled by former slaves, under Toussaint L'Ouverture, who had driven their masters from the island. Napoleon dispatched the French army to regain control of the island, but the islanders met the troops with fierce resistance. Faced with this resistance, and many troops suffering from yellow fever, the French retreated in defeat. Napoleon gave up on his plan for a Caribbean empire.

By 1802, France had still not taken control of the Louisiana Territory, leaving it in the hands of the Spanish despite the fact that the land belonged to France. In October 1802, the Spanish colonial administrator in New Orleans prohibited American crops from being deposited at the port of New Orleans before being shipped to other nations. This severely constricted US commerce in the southwest, and many Americans believed, incorrectly, that the order had actually come from Napoleon. Fears of French control of the Louisiana Territory, and especially of New Orleans, loomed large. Jefferson began efforts to ingratiate himself to the British in preparation for enlisting their aid against the French. 

Jefferson sent James Monroe and Robert Livingston to France with the intention of negotiating the purchase of the port of New Orleans, in an attempt to end, at long last, American difficulties there.
He also instructed them to negotiate the purchase, if possible, of as much of Florida as possible. However, the envoy found Napoleon had given up on his plan for a Caribbean empire in order to focus on the war in Europe.
http://www.sparknotes.com/history/american/firstyears/section6.rhtml

Agelbert NOTE: You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand why no French defeat in Haiti would have meant no Louisiana Purchase!

Napoleon figured if he could get a quick influx of money from a deal with the United States, he could curry some favor with his own people as he geared up for more war with  England. The $15 million deal was broken down as such:

The French received $2 million cash up front.

France received 60 million francs ($11.25 million) over the 20-year loan.

The French debt of 20 million francs ($3.75 million) to the United States was forgiven.
http://history.howstuffworks.com/revolutionary-war/louisiana-purchase2.htm

Napoleon was also already slugging it out with England when the Haitians kicked the French out.

1801 Battle of Aboukir 8 March – British-Turkish army under Sir Ralph Abernathy defeats French Army of Egypt under Jacques de Menou

1801 First Battle of Algeciras 6 July – English naval defeat by French

1802 Battle of Delhi 11 September – British forces under Gerard Lake defeat Maratha forces led by French officer Louis Bourquin Battle of Assaye

1802 18 November – Haitians defeat French in last battle of war of independence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_battles_1801%E2%80%931900

The Englsh had gradually bounced back from the dark days in 1783 to a robust economy that could finance predatory capitalist wars.
 
Pitt the Younger became PM in December 1783 at the age of 22. The effects of Pitt's economic policies were a substantial increase in Britain's trade and an upturn in the economy. Confidence was restored in the £.  Worries, especially over the National Debt, ended and more people were prepared and able to lend to Government at guaranteed rates of interest.

Anglo-American trade quadrupled, providing an example of the effectiveness of free trade.
Pitt rebuilt the financial foundations of Britain, which later enabled him to subsidise European armies to fight France in the French wars.

As 1804 begins, Thomas Jefferson, having digested the news of the French defeat in Haiti, is in a panic (and high dungeon) over the very idea that African slaves are running their own country. ALL the despotic colonial powers were in full agreement to DO what they DO to "uppity" Africans. That is, if it was too hard to defeat them in combat, then white=civilized countries would agree to not give them loans of any sort, allow their ships to engage in commerce with "civilized" nations or buy their export commodities.  It is right and proper for "civilized" folks to treat "uncivilized" blacks in an uncivilized manner, right? Ah, the smell of Orwellian enlightenment in 1803.

Not much changed for well over a century. And when it did change, it was when American military forces INVADED Haiti and set up a puppet government to start the predatory capitalist "business model" shafting the Haitians all over again. Whitey just loves to have fun, don't he? THAT is why Haiti has not done better.
 
When France finally recognized Haiti in 1825, something Haiti sorely needed to trade internationally, the massive "reparations" Haiti was forced to pay kept the nation without working capital to improve its infrastructure and economy for OVER a century. The "debt" (with lots of usurious interest, of course) was not paid of until 1947! French Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and the "Enlightenment"? I don't think so. Hypocrisy and empty rhetoric is more like it.

But l digress. The English took note of the Louisiana Purchase. Tell me, dear readers, how do you think the English received the news that the "traitor" Jefferson was helping Napoleon spruce up his war machine? Napoleon wasn't going to use that money for spreading Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, was he?

I do believe the English Maritime Empire, now with a healthy economy, was thinking that:

1) France was weakened BY THE LOSS OF HAITI.

2) The Rebellious American Colonies were giving money to an enemy of England.

3) Said American Colonies could still count on French help as long as Napoleon was a threat to England.

4) When, not if, France was eliminated as a threat to England, the Rebellious American Colonies were in line for a good thrashing (and good, properly dictated, trade deals!).

SO, the British Empire, in 1803, continued to kick French ass whenever and wherever they could. The Americans would be dealt with by English maritime "policies" until France was out of the picture. Then a military visit  to the American Colonies would be in order.
 

1803 British war song against the French


The amazing amount of hero worshipping glorification of Thomas Jefferson's OBVIOUS unconstitutional embrace of the Louisiana Purchase by historians is breathtaking, if not downright Orwellian.
 
They go to great lengths to call Jefferson a "strict constructionist" (because of all his high flying Constitutional rhetoric, still liberally quoted to this day). They want us to picture him as being involved in soul searching and hand wringing about whether to make the deal with Napoleon or not. They say he considered "making it legal"  by getting an Amendment to the Constitution passed that would authorize the purchase of FOREIGN lands.

He didn't need to bother. The US Congress, despite some hemming and hawing from Federalists, went for the Louisiana Purchase like bees to honey.

As usual in the USA, when expansion is in play, the Constitution is just a piece of paper to be amended at oligarchic will. The historians are then tasked with burying all the bodies and providing sainthood for the oligarchs. So it is with Jefferson. The historians even try to portray Jefferson as a big enemy of Napoleon. That too is Orwellian. Jefferson admired, then feared Napoleon.   

An objective analysis of history at that time shows that Jefferson's concern for English agression against the USA was his main worry. Historians today try to paint Jefferson as trying to "ingratiate" the USA with England. That is simply NOT TRUE. Jefferson understood England quite well. He KNEW they would be back to the the US mainland in high dungeon as soon as they could. The Brits, especially from the Revolution on up to 1806, were NOT the forgiving sort.

The American Revolution, followed by the Laki Eruption, almost destroyed England. Were in the hell do historians get the idea that the Brits were not extremely angry with the Rebellious Colonies all the way up to the War of 1812 and a few decades after? 

Moving right along, we now arrive at 1806. Napoleon rattles his saber at England.

A chain of cause and effect events, begun by the Laki Eruption, followed by the French Revolution, followed by the Revolution in Haiti, followed by the French defeat in Haiti, followed by Napoleon's new plan to focus on Europe instead of the Caribbean, followed by the Louisiana purchase, followed by Napoleon getting funds to build up his war machine, now brings about the conditions for the War of 1812.
  
In 1806 France prohibited all neutral trade with Great Britain and in 1807 Great Britain banned trade between France, her allies, and the Americas. The US Congress passed an embargo act in 1807 in retaliation, prohibiting U.S. vessels from trading with European nations, and later the Non-Intercourse Acts, aimed solely at France and Britain.

The embargo and non-intercourse act proved ineffective and in 1810 the United States reopened trade with France and Great Britain provided they ceased their blockades against neutral trading.

Great Britain continued to stop American merchant ships to search for Royal Navy deserters, to impress American seamen on the high seas into the Royal Navy, and to enforce its blockade of neutral commerce. Madison made the issue of impressment from ships under the American flag a matter of national sovereignty—even after the British agreed to end the practice   —and asked Congress for a declaration of War on Great Britain on June 1, 1812. Many who supported the call to arms saw British and Spanish territory in North America as potential prizes to be won by battle or negotiations after a successful war.

Pro-British Federalists in Washington were outraged by what they considered Republican favoritism toward France. The leading Republican, Thomas Jefferson responded, that “the English being equally tyrannical at sea as he [Napoleon] is on land, and that tyranny bearing on us in every point of either honor or interest, I say ‘down with England.’”

The United States declared the war on Britain.
https://history.state.gov/milestones/1801-1829/war-of-1812

Agelbert NOTE: If you don't think the Brits, (as soon as they had a strong economy post 1803) weren't deliberately goading the USA to war, you are a history challenged historian. We learned that Modus Operandi from the Brits! It works every time! 

The Brits were giving France (and Argentina) a hard time and winning. The British Empire was on the move.

1811 – Battle of Paraguarí 19 January – Revolutionary Argentinian forces are defeated by Royalist troops

Battle of Barrosa 5 March – Minor British victory during Peninsular War

Battle of Tacuarí 9 March – Revolutionary Argentinian forces are defeated by Royalist troops

Battle of Lissa 13 March – British fleet defeats French fleet

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_battles_1801%E2%80%931900

And then the WINDOW England had been waiting for to enable her to give the Rebellious Colonies a thrashing, opened up.

After Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, the British concentrated on the American continent, enacting a crippling blockading of the east coast, attacking Washington and burning the White House and other Government buildings, and acquiring territory in Maine and the Great Lakes region. American forces, however, won important naval and military victories at sea, on Lake Champlain, and at Baltimore and Detroit. Canadians defeated an American invasion of Lower Canada. By 1814 neither side could claim a clear victory and both war weary combatants looked to a peaceful settlement.

Under the mediation of the Czar of Russia, Great Britain and the United States came together in the summer of 1814 to negotiate the terms of peace.
https://history.state.gov/milestones/1801-1829/war-of-1812

Meanwhile, Haiti was isolated and embargoed by all the maritime powers. Finally, France recognized Haiti in 1825 in return for onerous payments plus interest that keep that nation in dire straights. The "debt" was not paid until 1947. Consider what NAZI Germany did to the planet. THEIR DEBT was mosty reduced to peanuts within TEN YEARS of WWII!

But let us go back to the year 1815.

Haiti, unlike the European powers and the USA, actually tried to live up to the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, at least for a while, until they were forced by cruel, racist embargoes into poverty, which opened the door to massive, foreign imposed, corruption.

In 1815, they were a shining beacon of hope for freedom for enslaved people in general and enslaved Africans in particular. That is why Thomas Jefferson hated them. That is why historians downplay the following event. If they gave it the importance it deserves, the European powers and the USA would look like the despotic, racist oligarchies that they were.
 


Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios (known to gringos as Simon Bolivar  ;D)


Simon Bolivar is famous for leading a successful campaign to liberate a large part of South America from the Spanish. But he would have failed in this noble effort if Haiti had not granted him sanctuary at a crucial time. This is a key historical event of  incalcualble importance. Despite this key help by Haiti, Bolivar was a bit of ingrate.  

In 1815, after a number of political and military disputes with the government of Cartagena, Bolívar fled to Jamaica, where he was denied support and an attempt was made on his life,[14] after which he fled to Haiti, where he was granted sanctuary and protection. He befriended Alexandre Pétion, the leader of the newly independent country, and petitioned him for aid.[13]

In 1816, with Haitian soldiers and vital material support, Bolívar landed in Venezuela and fulfilled his promise to Alexandre Pétion to free Spanish America's slaves on 2 June 1816.[8]:186
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar

Simón Bolívar received help from the Haitian goverment under Alexandre Pétion for his military campaigns. Pétion secretly supplied Bolívar with 4,000 muskets, 15,000 pounds of powder, flints, lead and a printing press and asked in return for South America’s slaves to be freed. (Heinl p. 158 – See also footnote 430 of The Struggle for the Recognition of Haiti…).

Bolívar left Haiti on April 10, 1816 for Venezuela, but returned in mid September of that year to Les Cayes after lost battles in South America. Resupplied by Pétion he sailed again from Haiti on December 28, 1816, this time to successfully conclude his struggle for South American liberation from colonialism. The Haitian help was given because he promised to free slaves, Bolívar landed in Venezuela and captured Angostura.

Despite the crucial logistical support from Haiti, Bolívar never recognized the independence of the former French colony Saint-Domingue.
[img]http://www.createaforum.com/gallery/renewablerevolution/3-200714183337.bmp[/img

Latin America’s Debt to Haiti: The Untold Story
https://thoughtmerchant.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/latin-americas-debt-to-haiti-the-untold-story/

As I told Surly before, in so many words, the people of this world, who actually WALK the "liberty, equality fratenity" TALK, owe Haiti a giant debt of gratitude for all they have done in the service of freedom.

Alas, Haiti has instead been treated with cruelty, disdain and 'blame the victim' vicious propaganda born of Racism and Empathy Deficit Disorder.

Human power structures are infested and dominated by aquisitive, opportunistic, aggressive, greedy, oligarchic, tyrannical but, oh so polished, educated and erudite humans that dress up Empathy Deficit Disordered.

Gone, Gone, Baby it’s All Gone

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on June 21, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Did you ever spend a few hours typing up an email reply or a message on the net, hit the SUBMIT button and have the post disappear into the ether, lost forever in the sea of digibits floating around the internet?  Or go to open up a file you were working on saved on your own computer, but when you try to open it up, you get a "FILE CORRUPT" error message?

Or, God Forbid, one day you try to turn on your laptop, only to get the Blue Screen of Death?

blue-screen

Just losing one email you spent a lot of time writing is pretty frustrating.  It's a lot worse when you lose your entire hard drive, but usually in that case you can bring it over to the local Computer Renaissance and the geeks can extract the data off of it.  It's usually still intact, just the drive motor gave out or the computer motherboard quit etc.

Still, it's a sinking feeling if you don't have that Magical Wand called BACKUP.

Now, take this feeling and imagine you run a website where you have spent 1000s of hours over 3 years writing, and not just you writing for it either.  Dozens of other people also writing and contributing to the data stored on your website.  Then one day you awaken, and you find your website is down, and you don't have a backup.

IT'S GONE, GONE, BABY IT'S ALL GONE.  IT'S OVER FOR ME AND IT'S OVER FOR YOU.

http://outlookexpresshelp.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/outlook-express-help8.jpg Now, similar to bringing your hard drive in for the Geek Squad to extract your data, Web Hosts have a thing called "Tech Support".  These Pros From Dover most of the time can fix up your site and recover your data.

Not always though, and sometimes the backup copies they have don't work either, or the backup copy is stored on the same server as your original live version and the whole server goes down, not just your website if you are on a shared server, which most Blogs except the very biggest like Zero Hedge are on.

Such was the case with the most recent crash of the Diner, besides internal problems we were having with the WordPress Blog, a couple of sticks of RAM went bad on the server, the MySQL which controls all the databases got screwed up, and the Diner and some other nonsense in French got jumbled together, all in all a major CLUSTERFUCK.

By day 3 of the CRASH I was giving up all Hopium that the Diner would ever be recovered.  3 years and thousands of hours of work, all GONE in the blink of an eye!

At the height of the crash, I wrote the following message on the Diner "Beta" Forum, a Forum on Create-a-Forum I created in a prior Diner Crash:

On Losing the Diner
« on: June 04, 2015, 05:46:24 am »

It is Thursday Morning June 4, 2015, 2AM AK Time.

As of right now, all the material on the Doomstead Diner, thousands of pages put up by myself and other Diners is currently lost and inaccessible on the web.

There is apparently now a problem with MySQL on our server host  the Code Jockeys are working to fix, and hopefully they will succeed.

Doomer Support took a backup copy of the Diner yesterday, so hopefully the material will all be retrieved at some future date on some server.

However, I have always known this is all time limited, and really about nobody goes back and looks at archives in a Blog anyhow.  What you write on a Blog only lasts a few days to a month before nobody ever reads it again.

So if it all is gone for good, so be it.  Some people read the stuff when it was fresh and first came off my keyboard.  That is good enough.

In terms of keeping the Doomstead Diner going, I will give it a week or so, and if the Code Jockeys at ASO and Doomer Support cannot resurect the Diner, then I will simply start over, first here and then with a Blogspot or free WP Blog, and point the DoomsteadDiner.net and DoomsteadDiner.com that way.

I'm not going to quit writing about collapse on the net until I croak.  I'm not going to quit ranting either, and at least last I checked Diner Soundcoud was still running.  If/When it collapses, I'll find other free cloud storage for mp3s and drop them on there.

Today's project will be setting up a new Doomstead Diner Beta Blog on Blogspot or WordPress.  I won't switch the URL pointer to that for at least a week or so.  I think Doomer Support and the Code Jockeys at ASO will get this fixed here, so I'm not going to prematurely jump the gun and flip the switch over on the URL yet.

No matter what occurs here, the Doomstead Diner has been a Great Adventure for me over these last few years, and I do know that what I wrote reached many people.  That is good enough.  The internet will not last forever, probably not more than another 20 years IMHO.  About Nobody goes back to read the old stuff anyhow.  What I wrote, what I thought does exist somewhere, and will for all eternity.  It cannot be destroyed, it cannot be hacked.

Tomorrow is another day I will carry on here, and spend my day chatting with support to fix the Diner.  I am not worried about this though one way or the other.  I will keep writing and ranting no matter what until I Buy My Ticket to the Great BeyondTM.

RE

As Philosophical and Stiff Upper Lip as I was trying to be with that post, I was really feeling quite devastated at the time.  The Diner was supposed to be my LEGACY.

legacy

noun leg·a·cy \ˈle-gə-sē\

: something  that is received from someone who has died

: something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past

Although I am quite aware of the truth that few people will go back and read my old articles after I Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond TM, it's my hope that at least a few will, and also that the Diner Community and the SUN Project will continue onward as well for a while longer too.

I also know that what is up on the internet is not going to be up for reading forever also.  The Energy requirements to keep it running, the personal technology of laptops for everyone to be able to access it, and the poor economics of it eventually will take it offline.  I'd give it maybe 20 more years of general accessibility, although the main servers and cached information may remain on Google servers longer than that, accessible to a few Illuminati.  Even that though eventually will go down, maybe 50 years for that.

Not a real long time in the grand scheme of things, matched up against some text written on paper or papyrus, there's still some Legacy material floating around now that goes back around 4000 years for that stuff.  The oldest known writing comes on the Dispilio Stone Tablet and dates back around 7000 years.

http://www.ancient-origins.net/sites/default/files/field/image/distilio-tablet.jpg

If you go to the area of Cave Wall Paintings as conveyors of Legacy Information, the oldest ones of those go back around 40,000 years

Cave paintings are paintings found on cave walls and ceilings, and especially those of prehistoric origin, which date back to some 40,000 years ago in both Asia and Europe. The exact purpose of the Paleolithic cave paintings is not known. Evidence suggests that they were not merely decorations of living areas since the caves in which they have been found do not have signs of ongoing habitation. They are also often located in areas of caves that are not easily accessible. Some theories hold that cave paintings may have been a way of communicating with others, while other theories ascribe a religious or ceremonial purpose to them. The paintings are remarkably similar around the world, with animals being common subjects that give the most impressive images. Humans mainly appear as images of hands, mostly hand stencils made by blowing pigment on a hand held to the wall.

The earliest known cave paintings/drawings of animals are at least 35,000 years old, at Maros on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, according to datings announced in 2014. Previously it was believed that the earliest paintings were in Europe.[1] The earliest figurative paintings in Europe date back to the Aurignacian period, approximately 30,000 to 32,000 years ago, and are found in the Chauvet Cave in France, and in the Coliboaia Cave in Romania.[2] The earliest non-figurative rock art dates back to approximately 40,000 years ago, the date given both to a disk in the El Castillo cave in Cantabria, Spain and a hand stencil in Sulawesi. There are similar later paintings in Africa, Australia and South America, continuing until recent times in some places, though there is a worldwide tendency for open air rock art to succeed paintings deep in caves.

"AltamiraBison" by Rameessos

The oldest known Sculpture is around the same age as the Cave Wall art, at around 40,000 years also.

Venus of Hohle Fels

So in comparison to the artists who who did those Paintings and Sculpture, even a 50 year Legacy is pretty small potatoes, if you can even manage that.

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cavalry_charge_1905_4616.jpgSmall potatoes or not though, now that I got the Diner BACK, thanks to Tech Support at ASO and Doomer Support of the Database Cavalry From California TM, I'm on a Mission From God to make the Diner as resilient as I can, and try to make sure it stays up on the web until the Internet Goes Dark TM.

The first part of the plan I hatched with my good friend Doomer Support.  He has already done two major Stick Saves of the Diner, we had another problem back in 2013 on my old server which he was able to fix, and that's when I moved over to join him at ASO.

Both of us upgraded our separate hosting packages to Virtual Private Servers, or VPS.  We're both taking backups of the sites we host on each other's server, and creating an automated backup system between the two servers.  So if any website on the server crashes, or even if the whole fucking server crashes, we still have working copies of up to date material dropped on the databases.  This is pretty close to BULLETPROOF as far as backup is concerned.

However, in terms of making the material LAST for the full 50 years maybe possible here, this isn't the only problem you have.  The other problem is MONEY.

This server space isn't all that expensive in the grand scheme of things (I spend more money on Beer in a month than on my Hosting package), but obviously once I am DEAD I won't be paying the bills on the server.  So I did go ahead and pay up a full year in advance on the hosting Package, and 5 years in advance on the URL registration, but that still only gets 5 years if I cough up 4 more years advance payment, which now is getting into a significant sum of money.  Still just 5 years though, not 50.

Now, assuming the Diner Community hangs together here, maybe they will continue to pay Diner Bills in order to keep it running, that would be GREAT! Image result for sunny smiley

Still unlikely  they will keep paying the bills for the next 50 years though. 🙁

The only chance to keep all the material up until the Internet Goes Dark TM is to get the Diner up onto FREE Internet Blog space on the WordPress website, where nobody has bills to pay on it.

In order to do this, I created the new DoomsteadDinerBeta blog.  The actual address of Diner Beta is

https://doomsteaddinerbeta.wordpress.com/

also accessible until 2021 at doomsteaddiner.com. The actual current address of the LIVE Diner is doomsteaddiner.net.

To create this Beta version, I used a fresh version of WP without all the Plugins and Widgets myself and others have installed here on the main Diner.  Such plugins can cause havoc with your database if you don't keep them all updated, along with updates to WP itself, so Beta gets nothing but the bare bones of a WP site, with a stock theme as well.

To transfer the database, I'm not doing a wholesale copy and trying to import it over there (not even sure you can do that, I don't see a utility for it on WP and I don't have access to their cPanel either), I am going article by article and just pasting over the HTML.  I'm also not copying EVERY article on the Diner, just those written by Native Diners, not the Cross Posted articles from other Blogs.  If those folks want to try to create a Legacy Blog, they can do that themselves.  As it is, just copying Native Diner articles is a long and tedious process, I'm only about halfway through it now, up to July of 2013 or so after several days and numerous hours at this task, which is cutting into my writing and ranting time. 🙁  However, it's important to me to have this backup copy up on the web, so I am slogging my way through it.

As far as the Diner Forum  here is concerned, there is a whole lot more material in the SMF database than on the WP Blog database for the Blog, and the Diner Beta Forum works the same, but it doesn't have any of the data from this one in it, and I doubt it ever will.  I also don't see any means of importing databases to Create-a-Forum, and copy/pasting all the posts here over there is out of the question.  So the current Forum is likely to be lost when the main Diner goes down for good. The material MAY be cached on Google servers though, they have spiders crawling through the database all the time.

I have tons of other material up on the web I am going to try and move to free space over time, like all the Rants and Interviews currently up on Diner Soundcloud, which also has a yearly fee for the Pro Package.  I will update on that when I get to it, but the priority right now is the main Diner Blog, which will probably take another week or two to get finished in transfer.

Diner TV is already up on Free You Tube space, so that needs no changes to stay up as long as Google does, which is until the Internet Goes Dark TM.

Beyond all that are the Yahoo Groups like Reverse Engineering I ran over the years.  This material is on free space, the problem is these were all Restricted Groups for Members Only.  So if you don't have a User ID & Password, you can't read the material in the database.  You can't change the group setting to Public anymore either.  I'm still trying to work out a reasonable automated means of capturing that material to make it public in Blog form.  If I can't do that, I will make a User Name and Password anyone can use to go read there.

So, all in all, if I can finish the Diner Archiving Project TM before I Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond TM, I should be about the most resilient Doomer on the net, with multiple backups and cyber-redundancy.

I WILL NOT LOSE THE DINER!  Image result for sunny smiley

I will not live forever, but the Diner will LIVE until the INTERNET GOES DARK TM.

My LEGACY as an internet writer and forum moderator for a Quarter Century will not disappear the day I Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond TM.

LONG LIVE THE DOOMSTEAD DINER

Brian Davey responds to Giorgos Kallis on Degrowth

Off the keyboard of Brian Davey

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Published on FEASTA on January 14, 2015

degrowth

Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner

Note: This discussion started with Brian Davey’s review of the book Degrowth: A vocalabulary for a New Era. One of the book’s editors, Giorgos Kallis, wrote a detailed reponse. The text below is Brian’s reply.

To start my reply let me take you up on this part of your response where you write:

‘“Political” in Castoriadis’ terms means the pre-paradigmatic view that humans make their own history, and they are not subject to immutable, outside forces that pre-determine their fates, and to which the best that they can do is adapt.’

Thus stated it is hard to disagree – for if I were to disagree then it would seem as if I see humans as automatons with pre-determined destinies. But this conclusion is an outcome of the way that your sentence is written. By definition anyone subject to “immutable forces” and a “pre-determined fate” can do no more than “adapt”, fit in – and lose their freedom.

But what if history involves humans making their own destiny in conditions not of their own choosing? And what if these conditions, while not “immutable”, are not actually very favourable to their purposes either? What if the conditions in which people make their destiny are a little bit more “fuzzy” – not exactly “immutable”, but not very “mutable” either? What if the conditions are something in between? What if people do not “adapt” to the conditions they find themselves in but “respond” to them? “Adapting” implies accepting the conditions as a given and fitting in with them. The word “responding” carries no such implication – it can mean, as ‘conditions’ become more fluid, that people become freer to pursue entirely new ideas and novel purposes.

The conditions that all humans face in “making our history” vary in how much scope they allow for success in a variety of different endeavours, including new and innovative ones. We have degrees of freedom or, put the other way round, we face varying limits to our power to make history according to our intended purposes. In part this depends on who “we” are. If the people referred to are those billions of people without significant purchasing power, without well-connectedness in high places, without the power to influence the mass media and state policy then “this we” may only have ‘proximal power’, the ability to influence the things and people close to them. That is unless the the powerless mass becoming part of a broader movement that starts to take practical and coherent steps to live differently. Others – like “the 1%” – currently have “distal power”. They have a much greater ability to influence events, and indeed are able to frame the circumstances or conditions in which “the 99%” are forced to act – so that they end up largely working for the benefit of the 1%.

However, no part of humanity has unlimited power to do just as it wishes. Any individual, group or society that overestimates its power – and then attempts to use it in a way disproportionate to conditions will eventually become unstuck. To use a religious and mythical metaphor, they will be punished by the Goddess Nemesis whose role is to take revenge on those who overstep their limits.
The question for each individual, for each group and for all of society, is where are these limits? Unfortunately it is often not at all easy to see them. Indeed the more powerful that an individual, a group or a society is, the more it inclines to arrogance and the overestimation of its own power, to optimism bias and then to hubris.

The so called “Serenity prayer” expresses this variability in the conditions and the difficulty of recognising limits:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

It seems to be a recurrent narrative in the history of humanity that powerful people fail to have the wisdom to know the difference and they can pull, not only themselves, but the rest of society into a catastrophe as they overreach – for example miscalculations leading to wars – or overstepping the limits to economic growth, pulling the global economy and society into overshoot and collapse.

As you suggest Giorgos in such hubristic situations it is typical that the most powerful people who share the greatest responsibility for disaster are also best protected and at first escape the consequences that first fall on more vulnerable people. I don’t disagree with you on that or your comments about people like Richard Branson.

What I do take issue with is the idea that if one says that growth will come to an end anyway then one is ipso facto “a survivalist”, that one is “ a-political” and that one is inadvertently “hiding the fact” that “we” are not all equally responsible or equally vulnerable. I can’t see that those conclusions follow inevitably at all. If that is meant as a description of my point of view then it is not one that I recognise.

It seems that for you, the very acknowledgement that the growth process could come to an end anyway, whatever anyone does,

“…opens the potential for authoritarian responses to save “us” from disaster; and it is politically disempowering and demobilizing, as it suggests that we can do nothing to change the system and its trajectory, only prepare and “survive with our peers”.

I would prefer to say instead that “…. AT THIS TIME in most countries we cannot do very much to change the system and change its trajectory except assist the early victim of the crisis and thereby sow the seeds and prepare the ground for later. At this later time changing conditions are likely to make the political situation more fluid and open to wider political purposes when “our seed projects” mature and network into a new kind of system as the old one disintegrates…”

The point is that we make history not in conditions of our own choosing but that those conditions vary from place to place and they also change change, not necessarily through our own actions. What’s more the conditions can change in ways that open up a greater freedom to make history. However it also leads to greater dangers if we make the wrong choices through clinging to what is no longer viable.

This is indeed a route along which there is a lot of conflict and it is not at all clear to me which are the best and most appropriate choices to make. There are a lot of difficult decisions and no doubt one of the choices is how much to engage in politics, how much to try to organise communities around projects and social and ecological enterprise and how much to try and go it alone, survivalist style. Speaking personally I don’t see much purpose in the last choice but I certainly not advocate a choice of “only” preparing to “survive with our peers”.

It’s been one of the features of the Transition Movement that it is NOT “only” about survival but also about re-creating community, recreating creativity and seeking to create a life that would be worth living. I myself helped set up and ran a community garden which was never “only” to help people to survive. We’ve had plenty of parties, meals on the grass and among the trees in the summer, festivals at harvest time, community building, art, creating a beautiful place. There is nothing that makes it inevitable that the responses to an involuntary breakdown would involve adapting to a worse situation. After the fear and the trauma of change, after the loss of control, after the breakdowns it might be better for some people, perhaps even for a majority. (I don’t know because I don’t have a magic ball to tell the future with).

The fact is that we are talking about such a vast process in so many different places facing so many different people it’s going to be hard to generalise meaningfully. But please let’s take off the rose tinted spectacles. At the recent Leipzig conferences I heard academics lecturing on degrowth as an opportunity for the promotion of new “concrete utopias” and it really bugged me. It seems that you have the same sort of idea when you write:

“A social change, if it is to take place, requires desire, materialized into an alternative political vision, a vision driven by a quest for the enjoyment of life, not by fear of a looming disaster, or a pure survivalist spirit.”

Giorgos, I don’t accept your simple ‘either–or’ choice. I don’t buy this kind of psychology. For me it’s more complex than that, and more paradoxical. I’m all in favour of enjoying life where it’s possible but the peculiar thing is that people often grow and lead fuller and richer lives when they face the worse that can happen and learn and grow as a result. That has been the discovery of those who work with people who have a terminal illness:

“When we face the worst that can happen in any situation, we grow. When circumstances are at their worst, we grow. When we find the true meaning of these lessons, we also find happy meaningful lives. Not perfect, but authentic. We can live life profoundly.”

[1]

Note that this is not chiefly or at all about how we are going to realise our desires, it is about how we are going to live authentically. They are not necessarily the same thing. Growing as a human being eventually involves accepting that one cannot live all of one’s desires – and it almost certainly will in a degrowth society.

If there is a looming disaster then I think we have to say so, even if, at first, this spoils the party. It seems to me entirely appropriate to fear a disaster if a disaster is threatened – and one is certainly “looming” in the case of climate change. Not talking about extremely dangerous climate change because it would create fear and frighten people away would be denial and avoidance as part of a political strategy.

Implied in what you write seems to be an assumption that we should not emphasise things that might frighten. It is preferential to have messages that are uplifting. For myself I am weary of uplifting messages. The plan is going to be achieved, our troops are holding the line, our regulations are the best in the world, the economy is recovering, technology will solve the climate crisis, the government will make sure everything is OK.

….and now you want to tell people “The degrowth society will realise your desires.”?

Sorry. I don’t believe in the “concrete utopias” dreamed by academics. Let’s simply tell the truth instead – what humanity is doing to the eco-system is close to catastrophic. On current trends, the poor will probably die first but it won’t be nice for anyone – even, eventually the psychopaths who govern us. If we degrow the economy it might help avert this global tragedy. It will be difficult and chaotic and there might sometimes be time to party. Perhaps it won’t be all bad. We actually don’t know because nothing quite like this has happened before in history so we’ve no precedents. However, it’s often likely to be very difficult.

Is it really so outlandish to simply tell the truth? This was a famous speech that an English politician, Winston Churchill made early in world war two. It was recognised at the time and afterwards as being an inspirational speech but it certainly wasn’t inspirational because it was about realising desire.

“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.”

This was inspirational because it was true.

By comparison the challenge of degrowth at national and global levels may be even more daunting. We need to be realistic. Consider this excerpt from a paper on psychological strategies to cope with the threat of a 4 degree increase in global temperatures by Clive Hamilton and psychologist Tim Kasser:

“The research literature on death reflection (the more thoughtful and prolonged engagement with death) suggests that an open and wide-ranging public debate over questions of mortality and survival would make recourse to maladaptive coping strategies less attractive (Kasser 2009). More conscious reflection on mortality would also encourage more pro-social and less materialistic goals. At present most governments and environmental organisations adopt a “don’t scare the horses”
approach, fearful that exposing people fully to the scientific predictions will immobilise them. With climate scientists now stressing the need for extremely urgent action and spelling out more catastrophic impacts if action is inadequate, this now seems to us a dangerous approach to undertake.”

[2]

So, as you can see, here are scientists who, basing themselves on research about motivations and values, come to a position that appears very different from yours. That’s not to rule out giving thought to how we are going to enjoy life “on the way down” but it does point to a potential danger in perspectives that put “realising desire” at the centre. As Hamilton and Kasser point out, the major “maladaptive coping strategy” that people adopt, when confronted short term with uncomfortable emotions like anxiety because of environmental threats, is “pleasure seeking”.

Now let me turn to your comment and question:

“Note also your own contradiction. If climate disaster, degrowth and whatever else the future holds for us is “involuntary” and the best we can do is to become “resilient” in “transition towns”, then what is the point of an international “cap and share”, like the one you propose, or any other mitigation action for that matter? Cap-and-share is a voluntary, and deeply political action, for which people would have to be seriously mobilized and organized to get it institutionalized. How would this ever be done without a positive, political vision about the future? And why do it, if the future is pre-determined?”

That’s a perfectly valid question and, as I was, for a long time, involved in promoting cap and share, I asked myself something somewhat similar – though not exactly the same. The point is though that I have never regarded the future as pre-determined as I already explained. I do not know for sure what the future holds and my experience of life has been one in which plenty of unexpected things have happened. The future is one of “strong uncertainty”. That being the case, if you re-read my comments on your book carefully, you will notice that I envisage two possibilities – one where the degrowth process is largely involuntary and the other where it is more of a voluntary process because of the emergence of political forces that actually promote it – for example, driving the process of degrowth through policies like cap and share.

The point is that, at the moment, it seems to me that, the process of degrowth is likely to start more as an involuntary process to which people and groups must respond. However as it proceeds, if the responses are successful and networked, then the response networks might be able to accumulate political influence and power which might make it possible to start to drive the process more directly. That process is further along in places like Greece than most other places and the situation has change there.

So part of my answer to your question is that situations can change. A process that starts off largely involuntarily can end up steered more directly and cap and share might then be adopted along that road.

When? Again I don’t know. In the next 1, 5, 10, 15, 30 years?

You will note here that a part of my answer to your question is to note the varying conditions in different countries – in some countries at this time a policy for voluntary degrowth appears to be more of a possibility. In others this is not so. Political-economic conditions vary tremendously. I am sure that part of our difference reflects our different experiences in our different countries. At the time of my writing this I am reading about the possibility that Syriza could win in elections that are called early. As a grass roots party it makes sense for Syriza to have a programme for the transformation of society here and now – in Britain where I am the situation is totally different.

Now let me turn to “depense”. I must admit a bit of me does wonder if the idea of depense is in some way connected to the Euro zone crisis in that it allows the “green left” to connect to a mood of defiance among people in southern europe. This is a question to which you will better know the answer than me? Does “depense” have a function in matching the emotional reaction of many people southern Europe to dictats from Northern eurozone creditors?

Is this the kind of idea: “So what if you lent our governing elite a lot of money and now they can’t service the debts? So what if our corrupt elite has squandered what they bought on euro credit and now our country can’t pay it back? Your efficiently produced products, your exports that our elites borrowed Euros to buy, need to be used rather than accumulated. We have to destroy capital to prevent destructive growth. But the good life, the dolce vita – belongs to all of us, not just our governing elite so we are going to protect and cherish our festivals and our feasts. It’s something that we know how to do here in southern Europe better than you constipated workaholics in the north. So, even though we are prepared to accept personal frugality, take your hands off our right to have a good life together and stop insisting that we have to save and invest to compete with you, when it leads to ecological destruction anyway.”

Once again I emphasise that I am asking an exploratory question. It is not accepting or rejecting the depense idea it is trying to exploring where it might have come from. I write “might” because I am trying to explore whether there are other collective emotional roots for why this idea be given prominence at this time. If it is accepted that depense has an emotionally cathartic role then it seems to me legitimate to explore possible emotional roots in other directions too. Of course I might be wrong, I often am. It’s my imaginary at work I suppose and my imaginary is sometimes pure imagination and nothing else.

I want to repeat here that my first concern was to try to understand depense and I was not sure that I had understood it, partly perhaps, because a ‘new idea’ requires more space than was available given the constraints of chapter length that you put upon your authors. Now you tell me that I have understood it I’ve got to admit that I have still not made up my mind – although I do incline to scepticism. This is because although I can understand the idea that accumulation of the surplus product would lead to growth, I doubt that you would ever be able to administer this idea as a policy. If you accept that energy sources will be shrinking involuntarily then, as I explained, all sorts of systems and interest groups will be claiming resources so as to prevent complex systems breaking down as contraction occurs. Buildings will need maintenance, computer networks will need maintaining, health systems will be under pressure, power grids will be having brown outs, vehicles, roads and rail will need repair. And there will simply be less and less to do each of these things. In this context a strategy of deliberately “wasting resources” “to prevent growth”, when the resources are dwindling anyway, would not be very popular and doesn’t seem to me to make much sense. So it depends on how you see the conditions “on the road ahead”. If the global economy can continue growing for the next thirty years and this is a policy for a movement of opposition to that further growth then you’ve got more of a case. However, I think that there is likely to be a claim on resources, not to grow the economy but to slow a descent into chaos – and hopefully a transition to more locally low energy lifestyles lived in and though the network of projects that we envisage.

At the same time I also accept that the process of degrowth whether voluntary or involuntary will be emotionally difficult so it make sense to devote a part of the surplus to events that bring people together, that celebrate and that make life worth living – rather than devote all resources to “fire fighting”, emergency responses and the maintenance of crumbling technical systems. At the time of writing I have just read an article about Donezk and the Ukraine in the latest copy of Der Spiegel. The sub title of the article makes the point that I think is important:

“The Opera of Donezk is performing Rigoletto, without money and with only half a cast. But all 970 seats are sold out because the yearning for beauty in the middle of the war is so great”

A final point on resilience – I think that you are under-emphasising the importance of resilience as well as the sophistication of the people who have theorised what resilience is and how it fits into the bigger picture of social, economic and ecological change.

There is a “Resilience Alliance” of academics from different disciplines that has developed a theory called “Panarchy” which is not at all static and has influenced my thinking a lot. In their approach ecological and economic realities evolve cyclically in three dimensions – productivity, interdependence and vulnerability/resilience. Mature systems lose their resilience because of their huge complexity and interdependencies so that when “hub interdependencies” break down problems cascade through entire systems which may then collapse. (Think of hub interdependencies like the money system, the electric power system, the internet or public health). A collapse is a break down of complexity and interdependency which then creates opportunities – if you like the space – for pioneering species in an ecological system, or pioneering projects and pioneering institutions in an emergent new social system. When these pioneers start to grow together, to network and develop new shared infrastructures and institutions, then a new system begins to emerge. That’s the process that I’m trying to envisage here using Panarchical concepts.

Featured image: Roman statue of Nemesis from Eygpt, 2nd century AD. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Statue_Nemesis_Louvre_Ma4873.jpg

Endnotes

1. Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler. “Life Lessons. How our Mortality can teach us about Life and Living” Simon and Schuster 2000 p25
2. Clive Hamilton and Tim Kasser “ Psychological Adaptation to the Threats and stresses of a Four Degree world” A paper for “Four Degrees and Beyond” conference, Oxford University 28-30 September 2009

(Deceiver) How Jesus’ Brother Killed Millions Of Chinese

Off the keyboard of Stuck in New Jersey

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 10, 2014

China_imperialism_cartoon

Discuss this article at the History Table inside the Diner

BACKGROUND

I won’t spell them all out, but I hope you see the many similarities between China in the 1850′s and the USA today.

Chinese Superiority Complex

Westerners shown as a pig and goat and being executed by Chinese officials during the Boxer Rebellion

 

Chinese folk, throughout most of their history, believed they were the only civilized country on earth, and that they were surrounded by uncouth, illiterate barbarians. They were the greatest nation on earth. They said Europeans have more hair than monkeys, noses larger than anteaters and they all smelled worse than dead bodies. Some even believed European women were so ugly that they became pregnant by staring at their shadows. The disgust for everything not-China exists to this very day …. Chinese Internet forums are filled with anti-Western diatribes, all allowed and encouraged by the State’s censors. One Chinese proverb states:We can fool any foreigner.”  The Chinese have a special venom reserved for Blacks. To read more about Chinese xenophobia, click the link at the end of this article – “Foreigners and Racism in China”.

 

Perhaps the Chinese had ample reason to be proud. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire (476CE) and as Europe marched toward its “Dark Ages” … the Chinese civilization only shone ever more brilliant while becoming technologically advanced. China’s Golden Age lasted for 700 years; the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Some of their contributions to humanity include; gunpowder, weapons using gunpowder, paper, silk, magnetic compass, moveable type, and banknotes. While the Chinese regarded the rest of the world as inferior, it is crucially important to note that China was not isolated.   Foreign trade and other contacts with the outside world, particularly Japan, increased considerably during the Ming Dynasty. Chinese merchants explored all of the Indian Ocean, reaching East Africa with the voyages of Zheng He.

Active Image

The Silk Road

 

If you were a Chinese leader, or even a peasant, you would have thought the supremacy of China would last forever. But, nothing lasts forever.

 The final forty years of the Ming Dynasty should have been a clue that the sun was setting on the Chinese empire. There were famines, drought, flooding on the Yellow River, a bubonic plague pandemic, and other natural disasters … resulting in the deaths of tens of millions. The country was beset with civil unrest and foreign threats. A Japanese Shogun tried to conquer China. While both Japanese campaigns failed, the war was very costly for the Ming court …. estimates are that it cost 26 million ounces for silver for the wars, significantly draining the empire’s coffers.

Additionally, the Chinese economic colossus proved itself to be hollow. The flow of foreign money was greatly diminished due to fighting between Spain and the Dutch and English. The Spanish rulers tried to have the silver of the Americas brought directly to Spain instead of being exported to the Ming Empire. This raised the price of silver sharply. Because of the inflation of the price of silver and natural disasters, the farmers could no longer pay their taxes via banknotes. They had to pay their taxes in silver, which many could not do. Revenues decreased substantially. This resulted in great deficits … so much so that soldiers were not getting paid, and they deserted in huge numbers.

All these foreign and economic woes led to political instability, which led a centralized imperial bureaucracy whose rigidness and endless passing of laws was totally incapable of addressing the nation’s problems.

This resulted in a disastrous new mindset, one that would plague China for centuries afterwards. Chinese leaders, intoxicated by their beliefs in China’s days of glory past, couldn’t face the current music. It was unthinkable to them that the European barbarians who benefited from Chinese technology, was now in a position to surpass them. So, instead of looking forward and outward, China now decided it was best to look inward and backward.

Blinded by a belief in their invincibly, the unthinkable occurred in 1644. A semi-civilized nomadic people — the Manchu — invaded and established the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was only the second non-Han Chinese dynasty to rule over all Chinese territory. Things started out badly under the Qings. It took them 65 years to conquer all of China …. at a cost of lives unfathomable to Americans … 25 million dead souls.   But, then things got better.   By the end of the sixth emperor’s reign – Qianlong, 1711-1799 — China ruled more than one-third of the world’s population (my god, they breed fast!!), and had the largest economy in the world.

But, China’s long history can be read as one endless series of peasant rebellions. Once again, things turned to (Chinese) crap. By the 19th century the Qing Empire economically was internally stagnant and Western powers were a threat.

Economically, Qianlong began his reign with about 44 million ounces of silver in Treasury surplus. At the peak of Qianlong’s reign (1775) the treasury surplus was 96 million ounces of silver.   All that was squandered over the next couple decades; — frequent travel expeditions, huge palace constructions, wars, campaigns against rebellion, an opulent, lavish and extravagant lifestyle, — cost the treasury a total of 195 million ounces of silver.   Shovel-ready jobs didn’t exist. The state was bankrupt.

Embezzlement and corruption by officials was widespread and overlooked with a nod and a wink. Qianlong’s most trusted minister was a man named “Heshen”, who was entrusted with the day-to-day governance of the country Well, at least they had the sense to execute him. His fortune at the time of execution? 1.2 BILLION ounces of silver … or, the total of 12 years of treasury surplus (apparently he had sex with a western woman whose offspring eventually gave birth to Dick Chaney).

Militarily, China’s dream of perpetual world dominance was (once again) shattered when they were defeated in the First Opium War (1839-1842) against Britain. And, then again, in the Second Opium War (1856-1860) against Britain and France.   China was forced into a humiliating peace treaty, had to open its ports to foreign trade and at a great disadvantage, and ceded territory to the victors to the extent that some historians called it the biggest land grab since Columbus discovered America.

CARVING UP CHINA

 

The Chinese emperor was an absolute monarch and called the “Son of Heaven”. However, he was NOT immune to political replacement, whether peaceful of violent, due to the Chinese political philosophy known as the “Mandate Of Heaven”.  

Quite simply, according to this belief, heaven bestows its mandate to a just ruler …. the Son of Heaven. It has this very important feature; the “mandate” could be lost if a dynasty proved to be an economic, social, or military failure. It was believed that a ruler had lost the Mandate of Heaven when natural disasters occurred in great number, and when, more realistically, the sovereign had apparently lost his concern for the people. In response, the royal house would be overthrown, and a new house would rule, having been granted the Mandate of Heaven. By the mid-19th century the Qing failed on all three counts; China was defeated in two wars with Western powers, social unrest was widespread, and the economy had all but collapsed.

Heaven was calling for a new leader to emerge. It was under this chaos which brought forth Hong Xiuquan (1814-1864) … the younger brother of Jesus Christ.

 

JESUS’ BROTHER

 

Hong was born to poor farmers belonging to an ethnic group called “Hakka” — aka, the “Jews of Asia”. The are two theories regarding the origin of this designation. The first is that “hakka” roughly translates to “guest families”, meaning, these people left their homelands to settle down in other parts of the country, in contrast to residents originally from the area … just as the Jews settled in Palestine. The other possibility has to do with the Hakkas heavy emphasis on education and public service, such as, military service and banking. The Hakka, while a minority (about 4% of the population), constitute an overwhelming disproportionate number of important Chinese political and military leaders. Some historians go as far as to say that almost all Chinese revolutions were started by, or supported by, Hakka leadership.

True to form, Hong’s family made financial sacrifices to provide a formal education for him, in the hope that he could one day complete all of the civil service examinations …. a notoriously difficult exam with only a 1% pass rate. He took the test four times. He failed four times. So, he became a teacher in the Detroit School system …. err, Gurp!, excuse me, …. a teacher in his village.

On Hong’s first visit to Guangzhou in 1836 (to take the civil service examination) he heard a Christian missionary preach. He took some Christian tracts and read them. Not much else happened, except, the seed was sown.

His second trip in 1837 (failure #2) resulted in Hong having a nervous breakdown. This resulted in several mystical experiences and visions. Hong had recurring dreams whereby he was visited by two figures, an old, paternal figure and an elder brother-figure. In one specific dream, Hong dreamed of angels carrying him to heaven, where he met the elder-brother figure with a long golden beard wearing a black dragon robe, who gave him a sword and a magic seal, and told him to purge China of demons …. meaning, the religions of Buddhism, Confucian ancestor worship, and Daoism. In order to complete his mission of ridding the world of demons, the elder brother-figure changed Hong’s name to “Hong Xiuquan”.   It took a few years, but Hong was eventually able to interpret the dream; the old man with the long beard was God, and the elder brother that he had seen was Jesus Christ, and therefore, in one gigantic leap of ‘aww, screw logic’, this led him to believe that he was a Chinese son of God, and that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ.

Hong wrote this poem in 1837, well before he started his revolution. It will give you an idea of his extreme sense of self worth … a.k.a. meglomania.

———-

Poem on Executing the Evil and Preserving the Righteous

In my hand I wield the Universe and the power to attack and kill,
I slay the evil, preserve the righteous, and relieve the people’s suffering.
My eyes see through beyond the west, the north, the rivers, and the mountains,
My voice shakes the east, the south, the Sun, and the Moon.
The glorious sword of authority was given by the Lord,
Poems and books are evidences that praise Yahweh in front of Him.
Taiping [Perfect Peace]  unifies the World of Light,
The domineering air will be joyous for myriads of thousand years.

———-

But, Hong waited until 1844 to act upon the revelation given to him. He started by cleansing his own house of demons — he burned all his Buddhist and Confucian statues and books. Then he talked all his relatives in doing likewise. Then he convinced the villagers to do the same … right in the village temple. This attracted the authorities.   Hong was forced to flee to a neighboring province, which had a large Hakka community. Great.

Now he got down to serious business.   He developed a social and political blueprint which became ‘The Heavenly Kingdom Of Great Peace’, which it was not.   It was a combination of pseudo-Christian beliefs and communism; no private property, society was declared class-less, women were equal to men but married couples had to live apart, and abolished opium smoking, prostitution, and gambling. All followers were strongly encouraged to deposit their pay and assets into a communal treasury. In other words, he was kind of like Jerry Falwell. He also condemned and banned various aspects of Chinese culture; polygamy, footbinding, and the wearing of the traditional Chinese hairstyle. In short, he was trying to remake China according to his own personal heavenly vision.

The federal Chinese (Qing) government , beset by a host of other problems, ignored Hong until it was too late. In 1850, when the movement already had about 30,000 followers, the government sent out a small force to demand Hong’s surrender. They were easily defeated and the general was killed. The government next launched a full-scale attack …. which was again repulsed after heavy casualties on both sides.   With nothing left to lose, Hong proclaimed the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in 1851. In 1853 he marched on the very important city of Nanjing, and slaughtered its 30,000-strong imperial garrison, along with several thousands of civilians. He renamed the city Tianjing – Heavenly Capital.

Slaughter in Nanjing

 

After he installed himself in the Heavenly Palace, Hong “retired” from the day-to-day running of his kingdom. This trivial role was left to lesser “kings” and “princes” …. which really didn’t work out to well as it almost immediately led to internal feuding and assassinations amongst the many rivals. Hong preferred the role of Religious Prophet, including 60 or more concubines — issuing a string of religious decrees and moral codes which he received directly from God … like some kind of Chinese Pope.

The Western Powers ignored all this throughout the 1850’s, because it benefited them to do so..   The rebellion diverted the attention and manpower of the Qing government, and that allowed the Westerners a free hand in China. Then Hong, in a moment of Greater Stupidity Than Ever Before, attempted to take the port of Shanghai in 1860. This forced the Western Powers to intervene. The Qing gained the upper hand, and eventually, four years later in 1864, fought their way to Tianjing. It is believed Hong, like many evil cowards before him, committed suicide before the government could capture him.

It took another 10 years to track down and execute the remaining Taiping followers. The Kingdom Of Heavenly Peace was downing in an ocean of blood – its own, and millions of innocents. In the slaughter of Nanjing, Manchus who did not die in the battle — men, women, and children — were rounded up and systematically killed by burning, stabbing, or drowning. It was Hong’s way of showing that the devils would be driven from the face of China. By the end of the Taiping era at least 10 million had died, some say 20 million. Eyewitnesses described the Yangtze valley as littered with rotting corpses.

 

 THE AFTERMATH

LESSON #1: —- Pure Bullshit often wins the day. Hong is but another of many examples throughout history whereby ONE man, by virtue of his charisma, can change the fate of millions. Call him what you want — psychopath, sociopath, narcissist, power hungry, liar, deceiver, pure evil – maybe he’s all of them, or none of them, meaning, he’s something even worse. One thing I have noticed is that all such “leaders” have something in common, and that is; their undying rock-solid belief in their own bullshit. That’s how Hong started out, believing in the “vision” he received, which was most likely itself bullshit. Yes folks, believe totally your own bullshit, and you’ll go far in life. It worked for a guy named Hong, and another named, Barrack.

LESSON #2: —- NONE of the above would be possible without a large dumb-ass flock of sheep. Now, I know back then there were no iPads, and people were not as educated. Nevertheless, the Chinese are not stoopid people. Did no one have a Bible available to read and to counter Hong’s lies? Was there no one available to cry out, “BULLSHIT!!”.   Well, I’m guessing there probably were. Just not enough of them. Just like in America there are folks on blogs such as this one yelling at the top of our lungs that unless things change, “AMERICA IS DOOMED!!”. We’re just pissing up a rope. It’s time to realize there just aren’t enough of us. It’s a fact folks, whether in China in 1850, or the USA! USA! USA! in 2014 …. most people love bullshit.

LESSON #3: —- All earthly alliances are concerned only with profit. Hong came very close to overthrowing the Qing dynasty and establishing his own. The Western Powers backed China in 1860 for only one reason; they preferred the weak and corrupt government of the Qing, rather than face the radical Taiping. Profits would have suffered under The Heavenly Kingdom. Western leaders were especially concerned about Hong’s rabid hatred for opium. There will always be many dead people, one way or another, so you might as well pick the side that will generate the most money. The West won. China won. Or, did they? The Qing dynasty limped along for another 58 years …. until it was overthrown in 1912, and along came Mao, and millions more died. Some “victory”, eh? (BTW, Mao loved Hong. Hong showed Mao that a peasant rebellion could work in the modern age.)

LESSON #4: —– The law Of Unintended Consequences can be more horrible than ever imagined. China has been home to many religions, and many cults. Let’s quickly skip to the Falun Gong movement, which was founded in 1992.   It has nothing to do with Christianity. Rather, it is based on traditional Buddhist and Taoist ideas. It became so popular that the Chinese Communists banned it in 1999. Why? Because it represents the same mixture of religious beliefs, practices, and subsequent reform agenda which absolutely terrifies the Communist leadership. And that may be Hong’s most terrible legacy. His bullshit beliefs are keeping 1.3 billion people from enjoying the basic human freedom of a Spiritual Life. May he rot in hell. Hong condemned  an entire nation to one of Pure Materialism. You can clearly see that principle at work in China today. Let me tell you something that you can take to the bank; humans are Spiritual Beings. The spirit within the people cannot, and will not, be suppressed forever. I’ll tell you one more thing; when the Chinese people reawaken spiritually, the shit will hit the fan, and that won’t be good for the Chinese government …. or, us.

 

PRIMARY SOURCES:

“Foreigners and Racism in China” —–  http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat5/sub29/item1686.html

Hong’s life (excellent) —–  http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu/HST265/07.CrisisWithin.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19977188

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandate_of_Heaven

http://cominganarchy.com/2009/10/03/the-hakka-people-chinas-leadership-caste/

(Decider) How Russia Became a Great Nation By LOSING a Battle in 1695

Off the keyboard of Stuck in New Jersey

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Published on The Burning Platform on September 19, 2014

History

Discuss this article at the History Table inside the Diner

Note: Depending on interest shown for this article, every two weeks or so I will be posting educational (hopefully) articles with titles that will start with (Decider) or (Deceiver). “Decider” will focus on people whose decisions made a significant positive impact on world history. “Deceiver” will focus on people whose decisions made the world a worse place to live via them being deceivers, frauds, or just general assholes. Let’s get started.
——————————————————————————————–

Peter The Great — a very brief bio, and what motivated him

Peter The Great (1672-1725) became Tsar in 1689. (Well, actually, it was a joint Tsar-ship with his mentally retarded brother, Ivan … the result of the Kremlin Guard launching a coup d’etat. Ivan died six years later). Peter was a member of the Romanov Dynasty (1613-1825).

When Peter took over in 1689 Russia already stretched from the Polish border to the Pacific. Peter did add some small, yet terrifically strategic important, territory. However, Peter accomplished much greater good for Russia than merely acquiring territory.

http://lisawallerrogers.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/russian-map-1894.gif

What’s important to know about Russia at the time Peter took over is that it was for all intents and purposes totally isolated from the outside world. Russia missed out on all the great events; the Renaissance, the Reformation, the exploration of the world, and the birth of modern science. To westerners Russia was little more than an afterthought … a backwards and unproductive medieval state that was more Oriental than Occidental.

Peter was hell-bent on changing that. He wanted Russia to be competitive economically, and especially militarily, with Western Europe and the other major empire of the day, the Ottomans. But, he faced a huge geographical hurdle. Trade with Europe was essential, but he didn’t have any warm water seaports. Sweden controlled most of the Baltic, and the Ottomans controlled the entire Black Sea. So, Peter went to war.

The first Fort Azov Campaign — failure

The Turks and the Russian had been in on-and-off wars since 1568, vying to control the area around the Black Sea. Previous attempts to take the Crimea directly had failed, so Peter opted to lay siege to Turkish-controlled fortress of Azov at the mouth of the river Don (which flowed into the Sea of Azov, an inlet of the Black Sea).

Fort Azov, located near where Taganrog Gulf meets the Don River

 

The Ottoman garrison consisted of about 3,700 men. The Russian army consisted of 31,000 men and 10 cannons. The Russians blocked Azov from land but they could not control the river and prevent resupply. The siege started in the spring of 1695 and ended in October.

A few months later another Russian army of 120,000 men set out for the lower reaches of the Dnieper River to take the Ottoman forts there. Several forts were taken, but once again the Russians were not able to hold the area and withdrew most of their forces.

The second Fort Azov Campaign — partial success

The failure to capture Azov caused Peter to rethink his tactics … and he began to build ships to form the first ever fledgling Russian Navy. Peter ordered the construction  of two ships-of-the-line, two fire ships, and twenty three  galleys. The Turkish fleet consisted of 23 ships with 4,000 men. The Russian cavalry consisted of 70,000 men. The battle commenced on June 14, 1696. After massive bombardment from land and sea … and despite having lost only two ships … the Turks at the Azov garrison surrendered on July 19.

But, at the end of the day, Russia gained …. nothing. The Ottomans still controlled the Black Sea, …. Peter’s fleet was bottled up in the Sea of Azov due to Crimean and Ottoman control of the Strait of Kerch ….. and Russia still did not have a suitable trading port.

Peter realized that any chance of gaining the necessary hotly contested territory would reacquire an upgraded modern army and a fully equipped modern navy. He also realized that the expertise to achieve these goals simply did not exist in Russia at that time. Peter would need to look at countries that already had advanced military technology and naval engineering.

So, Peter sent out a huge diplomatic mission to Europe, led by himself, known as The Great Embassy (aka, The Grand Embassy).

The Great Embassy

“The Great Embassy was one of the two or three overwhelming events in Peter’s life. The project amazed his fellow countrymen. Never before had a Russian tsar travelled peacefully abroad; a few had ventured across the border in wartime to besiege a city or pursue an eney army, but not in time of peace”  ————— “Peter the Great: His Life and World” by Robert K. Massie

Peter organized a 250-man expedition (ambassadors, noblemen, priests, soldiers, clerks, cooks, and musicians)  for Europe in March 1697, known as The Great Embassy. The expressed intention was to develop relations with those Christian nations of Europe that opposed the Ottoman Empire. Peter’s unstated goal was to learn as much as he could about European military and naval methods.

The Great Embassy’s Political Success

In terms of the diplomatic efforts, The Great Embassy had only one success. The major European powers were in various disputes amongst themselves, which would lead to the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701. As they were preparing to fight each other, they had no desire to antagonize the Ottoman Empire by siding against it with the mostly insignificant Russians.

Peter formed an alliance with Poland and other countries (especially Denmark) with interests in the Baltic against the dominance of Sweden. This resulted in the Great Northern War which took part during most of Peter’s reign (1700-1721). It was after the Great Northern War that Europeans called Peter “the Great” and started referring to his country as the Russian Empire instead of Muscovy. Even Peter’s enemies admitted that “he works harder than any peasant”.

By war’s end Russia had a  powerful standing army of 200,000 – the largest such force in Europe. It provided Russia with the military muscle to replace Sweden as the greatest power in north-eastern Europe. The war with Sweden ended with the conclusion of the Treaty of Nystadt (1721) which gave Russia access to a strategically important stretch of the Baltic coast. Russia now had access to the sea and sea trade which opened the opportunity of economic and cultural exchanges with the countries of western Europe.

Charles XII

The end of the Sweden’s glory days is symbolized by the funeral procession of Charles XII

 

To ensure that Russia could maintain this territory … and to exploit the maritime access …. Peter ordered the founding of a new city on desolate marshland, about three miles inland from the gulf. He used foreign engineers, architects, and city planners he met while traveling abroad to make the bog-land habitable. The city would become famous for it’s gorgeous buildings … many designed by renowned Italian architect, Domenico Trezzini. Peter made a decisive break from the past by moving the capital, Moscow, to this new city … St. Petersburg.

The Great Embassy’s Real Success …. Knowledge

Peter’s goal of learning from the Europeans was a resounding success. He attempted to travel incognito, giving his name as ‘Peter Mikhailov’ … but he fooled few, as it’s hard to disguise someone 6’8” tall.

Wherever The Great Embassy traveled, Peter wanted to learn as much as possible about how things worked. He had no interest in theoretical knowledge. He was more interested in the products of European civilization, rather than the theories that produced them. Sometimes his naiveté resulted in humorous exchanges; while in Prussia, not knowing about whalebone corsets, he remarked that German ladies had very hard bones.

Peter spent his time visiting shipyards, armament factories, and military bases, universities, and museums. In the Dutch Republic Peter was given access to the shipyard of the Dutch East India Company, the largest and most advanced in the world, where he actually labored for four months on the construction of a ship. Using his own tools, he would work with his hands to learn shipbuilding as a carpenter learns it. Peter didn’t want the luxurious house offered to him. He chose instead the master ropemaker’s house, where he lived with several of his men. He made his own fire, cooked his own meals, and mended his own clothes. He even learned to make shoes. Every morning at dawn he set out joyfully to the shipyard dressed as a Dutch workman. He was simply “Carpenter Peter’’ to them. After four months, the ship was finished. Peter was given papers that said he was a master of the art of naval architecture. With great pride Peter would thereafter declare, “I, too, am a carpenter!”

Ultimately he became an expert in 14 crafts: he could shoe a horse, cast a cannon, pull a tooth or cut the type for a printing press.

PETER’S RETURN TO RUSSIA

It should be appreciated that Peter even left his country for 18 months … where a military coup d’état  and a disruptive and often violent political environment was the norm. As such, Peter was forced to return to Russia after an uprising in one part of the army. But, the uprising was quickly and brutally repressed before Peter arrived … which left him free to implement many of the reforms he had been planning while he had been in Europe.

An extensive shipbuilding program was undertaken. The new navy would be modeled on those of the British and Dutch Republics. The army reorganized along the lines of the Prussian and Swedish military … both generally recognized as being the best armed forces of the day. Peter employed numerous experts in various fields (military experts, engineers, scientists, architects, and a whole range of others) during his Great Embassy travels who arrived in Moscow to not only modernize the military, but to modernize the country as well.

Some changes were major, such as; military conscription, establishment of technical schools, replacement of the church patriarchy with a holy synod answerable to himself, simplification of the alphabet, changed the calendar, and introduced a hundred other reforms, restrictions, and novelties. Some changes were trivial … such as encouraging Muscovites to adopt Western dress and customs, which resulted in Peter instituting a tax on beards in an effort to get those who were resistant to change to at least look like clean shaven Westerners.

Peter — Russia’s George Washington

Peter’s decision to reform Russia and implement a policy of ENGAGEMENT … rather than warmongering or bullying … had far-reaching effects for Russia, Western Europe, and even for the entire world leading up to this very day. Compare Peter’s policy of co-operation with current American international politics today … the Politics Of Bombs.

Peter was a true Renaissance Man; a man of many skills and talents, and if he lacked in knowledge in any area of interest he actively and aggressively sought to educate himself. He took the bull by the horns by his own blood, sweat, and tears. He wasn’t just “the decider”, he was a doer. He just as easily could have coined the motto, “The buck stops here!”. Compare Peter’s leadership to the buffoon currently known as POTUS. The contrast couldn’t possibly be more startling.

Closing Note: Please save yourself the effort of googling and searching for “Peter The Great was evil”. This writer is not blinded by Peter’s short-comings. Yes, he exhibited brutality at times. Yes, he failed to reform the concept of tzardom, and the Romanov’s would rule for the next 200 years. Had he instituted reforms regarding political rule of his country, then perhaps there would have been no Bolsheviks in 1917 to instigate the Russian Revolution … and Communism might never have existed. But, no man is perfect. Even George Washington was not able to abolish slavery. It takes a real man, with real character, with real vision, and real strong determination to modernize a huge and backward nation. Peter’s commitment to making Russia a great nation meant that inevitably sacrifices were made, compromises became a necessary evil, and hindsight is always 20-20. However, he is called Peter The Great – not, Peter The Pussy – for a reason.

.

SOURCES:

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/russia/ru03.html (Imperial Russia)

http://www.debello.ca/ussr/1689/095.html   (The Grand Embassy)

http://www.allrussias.com/tsarist_russia/peter_the_great_2.asp

http://missinglink.ucsf.edu/lm/russia_guide/historyofrussia.htm#romanovs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_the_Russian_Empire#Siege_of_Azov.2C_the_Grand_Embassy.2C_and_the_Streltsy_rebellion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azov_campaigns_%281695%E2%80%9396%29

The Anti-Empire Report #123

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

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nature bailout

Published December 4, 2013 by William Blum on The Anti-Empire Report

“If nature were a bank, they would have already rescued it.” – Eduardo Galeano

 

What do you think of this as an argument to use when speaking to those who don’t accept the idea that extreme weather phenomena are man-made?

Well, we can proceed in one of two ways:

  1. We can do our best to limit the greenhouse effect by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were not in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve wasted a lot of time, effort and money (although other benefits to the ecosystem would still accrue).
  2. We can do nothing at all to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena (not simply extreme, but getting downright freaky), then we’ve lost the earth and life as we know it.

So, are you a gambler?

Whatever we do on a purely personal level to try and curtail greenhouse gas emissions cannot of course compare to what corporations could do; but it’s inevitable that the process will impinge upon the bottom line of one corporation or another, who can be relied upon to put optimization of profit before societal good; corporate “personhood” before human personhood. This is a barrier faced by any environmentalist or social movement, and is the reason why I don’t subscribe to the frequently-voiced idea that “Left vs. Right” is an obsolete concept; that we’re all together in a common movement against corporate and government abuse regardless of where we fall on the ideological spectrum.

It’s only the Left that maintains as a bedrock principle: People before Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a centralized, planned economy.

Holy Lenin, Batman! This guy’s a Damn Commie!

Is it the terminology that bothers you? Because Americans are raised to be dedicated anti-communists and anti-socialists, and to equate a “planned economy” with the worst excesses of Stalinism? Okay, forget the scary labels; let’s describe it as people sitting down and discussing what the most serious problems facing society are; and which institutions and forces in the society have the best access, experience, and resources to offer a solution to those problems. So, the idea is to enable these institutions and forces to deal with the problems in a highly organized and efficient manner. All this is usually called “planning”, and if the organization of it all generally stems from the government it can be called “centralized”. The alternative to this is called either anarchy or free enterprise.

I don’t place much weight on the idea of “libertarian socialism”. That to me is an oxymoron. The key questions to be considered are: Who will make the decisions on a daily basis to run the society? For whose benefit will those decisions be made. It’s easy to speak of “economic democracy” that comes from “the people”, and is “locally controlled”, not by the government. But is every town and village going to manufacture automobiles, trains and airplanes? Will every city of any size have an airport? Will each one oversee its own food and drug inspections? Maintain all the roads passing through? Protect the environment within the city boundary only? Such questions are obviously without limit. I’m just suggesting that we shouldn’t have stars in our eyes about local control or be paranoid about central planning.

“We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.” – William James (1842-1910)

So, George W. Bush is now a painter. He tells his art teacher that “there’s a Rembrandt trapped inside this body”. 1 Ah, so Georgie is more than just a painter. He’s an artiste.

And we all know that artistes are very special people. They’re never to be confused with mass murderers, war criminals, merciless torturers or inveterate liars. Neither are they ever to be accused of dullness of wit or incoherence of thought.

Artistes are not the only special people. Devout people are also special: Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood. Osama bin Laden prayed five times a day.

And animal lovers: Herman Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.” Adolf Hitler was also an animal lover and had long periods of being a vegetarian and anti-smoking. Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.

And cultured people: This fact Elie Wiesel called the greatest discovery of the war: that Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin. Mussolini also played the violin. Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.

Former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic, on trial now before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, was a psychiatrist, specializing in depression; a practitioner of alternative medicine; published a book of poetry and books for children.

Al Qaeda and other suicide bombers are genuinely and sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing. That doesn’t make them less evil; in fact it makes them more terrifying, since they force us to face the scary reality of a world in which sincerity and morality do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.

Getting your history from Hollywood

Imagine a documentary film about the Holocaust which makes no mention of Nazi Germany.

Imagine a documentary film about the 1965-66 slaughter of as many as a million “communists” in Indonesia which makes no mention of the key role in the killing played by the United States.

But there’s no need to imagine it. It’s been made, and was released this past summer. It’s called “The Act of Killing” and makes no mention of the American role. Two articles in the Washington Post about the film made no such mention either. The Indonesian massacre, along with the jailing without trial of about a million others and the widespread use of torture and rape, ranks as one of the great crimes of the twentieth century and is certainly well known amongst those with at least a modest interest in modern history.

Here’s an email I sent to the Washington Post writer who reviewed the film:

“The fact that you can write about this historical event and not mention a word about the US government role is a sad commentary on your intellect and social conscience. If the film itself omits any serious mention of the US role, that is a condemnation of the filmmaker, and of you for not pointing this out. So the ignorance and brainwashing of the American people about their country’s foreign policy (i.e., holocaust) continues decade after decade, thanks to media people like Mr. Oppenheimer [one of the filmmakers] and yourself.”

The Post reviewer, rather than being offended by my intemperate language, was actually taken with what I said and she asked me to send her an article outlining the US role in Indonesia, which she would try to get published in the Post as an op-ed. I did so and she wrote me that she very much appreciated what I had sent her. But – as I was pretty sure would happen – the Post did not print what I wrote. So this incident may have had the sole saving grace of enlightening a Washington Post writer about the journalistic standards and politics of her own newspaper.

And now, just out, we have the film “Long Walk to Freedom” based on Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography of the same name. The heroic Mandela spent close to 28 years in prison at the hands of the apartheid South African government. His arrest and imprisonment were the direct result of a CIA operation. But the film makes no mention of the role played by the CIA or any other agency of the United States.

In fairness to the makers of the film, Mandela himself, in his book, declined to accuse the CIA for his imprisonment, writing: “The story has never been confirmed and I have never seen any reliable evidence as to the truth of it.”

Well, Mr. Mandela and the filmmaker should read what I wrote and documented on the subject some years after Mandela’s book came out, in my own book: Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (2000). It’s not quite a “smoking gun”, but I think it convinces almost all readers that what happened in South Africa in 1962 was another of the CIA operations we’ve all come to know and love. And almost all my sources were available to Mandela at the time he wrote his autobiography. There has been speculation about what finally led to Mandela’s release from prison; perhaps a deal was made concerning his post-prison behavior.

From a purely educational point of view, seeing films such as the two discussed here may well be worse than not exposing your mind at all to any pop culture treatment of American history or foreign policy.

Getting your history from the American daily press

During the US federal government shutdown in October over a budgetary dispute, Washington Post columnist Max Fisher wondered if there had ever been anything like this in another country. He decided that “there actually is one foreign precedent: Australia did this once. In 1975, the Australian government shut down because the legislature had failed to fund it, deadlocked by a budgetary squabble. It looked a lot like the U.S. shutdown of today, or the 17 previous U.S. shutdowns.” 2

Except for what Fisher fails to tell us: that it strongly appears that the CIA used the occasion to force a regime change in Australia, whereby the Governor General, John Kerr – a man who had been intimately involved with CIA fronts for a number of years – discharged Edward Gough Whitlam, the democratically-elected prime minister whose various policies had been a thorn in the side of the United States, and the CIA in particular.

I must again cite my own writing, for the story of the CIA coup in Australia – as far as I know – is not described in any kind of detail anywhere other than in my book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II (2004).

Americans are living in an Orwellian police state. Either that, or the greatest democracy ever.

There are those in the United States and Germany these days who insist that the National Security Agency is no match for the East German Ministry for State Security, or Stasi, which, during the Cold War, employed an estimated 190,000 part-time secret informants, and an additional 90,000 officers full time, in a spying operation that permeated both East and West Germany. Since the end of the Cold War, revelations from the Stasi files have led to thousands of collaborators being chased from public life. Even now, new accusations of a Stasi association can hound politicians and celebrities in Germany. 3

All that of course stems from an era before almost all information and secrets became electronic. It was largely labor intensive. In the digital age, the NSA has very little need for individuals to spy on their friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. (In any event, the FBI takes care of that department very well.)

Can we ever expect that NSA employees will suffer public disgrace as numerous Stasi employees and informants have? No more than war criminals Bush and Cheney have been punished in any way. Only those who have exposed NSA crimes have been punished, like Edward Snowden and several other whistleblowers.

Notes

  1. Washington Post, November 21, 2013
  2. Washington Post, October 1, 2013
  3. Washington Post, November 18, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

 

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

On the Far Side of Progress

Off the keyboard of John Michael Greer

Published on The Archdruid Report on July 31, 2013

Summer_Solstice_Sunrise_over_Stonehenge_2005

Discuss this article at the Spirituality & Mysticism Table inside the Diner

The pointless debates over evolution discussed in last week’s Archdruid Report post have any number of equivalents all through contemporary industrial culture.  Pick a topic, any topic, and it’s a pretty safe bet that  the collective imagination defines it these days as an irreconcilable divide between two and only two points of view, one of which is portrayed as realistic, reasonable, progressive, and triumphant, while the other is portrayed as sentimental, nostalgic, inaccurate, and certain to lose—that is to say, as a microcosm of the mythology of progress.
According to that mythology, after all, every step of the heroic onward march of progress came about because some bold intellectual visionary or other, laboring against the fierce opposition of a majority of thinkers bound by emotional ties to outworn dogmas, learned to see the world clearly for the first time, and in the process deprived humanity of some sentimental claim to a special status in the universe. That’s the way you’ll find the emergence of the theory of evolution described in textbooks and popular nonfiction to this day.  Darwin’s got plenty of company, too:  all the major figures of the history of science from Copernicus through Albert Einstein get the same treatment in popular culture. It’s a remarkably pervasive bit of narrative, which makes it all the more remarkable that, as far as history goes, it’s essentially a work of fiction.
I’d encourage those of my readers who doubt that last point to read Stephen Jay Gould’s fascinating book Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle. Gould’s subject is the transformation in geology that took place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when theories of geological change that centered on Noah’s flood gave way to the uniformitarian approach that’s dominated geology ever since.  Pick up a popular book on the history of earth sciences, and you’ll get the narrative I’ve just outlined:  the role of nostalgic defender of an outworn dogma is assigned to religious thinkers such as Thomas Burnet, while that of heroic pioneer of reason and truth is conferred on geologists such as James Hutton.
What Gould demonstrates in precise and brutal detail is that the narrative can be imposed on the facts only by sacrificing any claim to intellectual honesty.  It’s simply not true, for example, that Burnet dismissed the evidence of geology when it contradicted his Christian beliefs, or that Hutton reached his famous uniformitarian conclusions in a sudden flash of insight while studying actual rock strata—two claims that have been endlessly repeated in textbooks and popular literature. More broadly, the entire popular history of uniformitarian geology amounts to a “self-serving mythology”—those are Gould’s words, not mine—that’s flatly contradicted by every bit of the historical evidence.
Another example? Consider the claim, endlessly regurgitated in textbooks and popular literature about the history of astronomy, that the geocentric theory—the medieval view of things that put the Earth at the center of the solar system—assigned humanity a privileged place in the cosmos. I don’t think I’ve ever read a popular work on the subject that didn’t include that factoid. It seems plausible enough, too, unless you happen to know the first thing about medieval cosmological thought.
The book to read here is The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis—yes, that C.S. Lewis; the author of the Narnia books was also one of the most brilliant medievalists of his day, and the author of magisterial books on medieval and Renaissance thought. What Lewis shows, with a wealth of examples from the relevant literature, is that nobody in the Middle Ages thought of the Earth’s position as any mark of privilege, or for that matter as centrally placed in the universe. To the medieval mind, the Earth was one notch above the rock bottom of the cosmos, a kind of grubby suburban slum built on the refuse dump outside the walls of the City of Heaven. Everything that mattered went on above the sphere of the Moon; everything that really mattered went on out beyond the sphere of the fixed stars, where God and the angels dwelt.
The one scrap of pride left to fallen humanity was that, even though it was left to grub for a living on the dungheap of the cosmos, it hadn’t quite dropped all the way to the very bottom. The very bottom was Hell, with Satan trapped at its very center; the Earth was a shell of solid matter that surrounded Hell, the same way that the sphere of the Moon surrounded that of Earth, the sphere of Mercury that of the Moon, and so on outwards to Heaven.  Physically speaking, in other words, the medieval cosmos was diabolocentric, not geocentric—again, the Earth was merely one of the nested spheres between the center and the circumference of the cosmos—and the physical cosmos itself was simply an inverted reflection of the spiritual cosmos, which had God at the center, Satan pinned immovably against the outermost walls of being, and the Earth not quite as far as you could get from Heaven.
Thus the Copernican revolution didn’t deprive anybody of a sense of humanity’s special place in the cosmos; quite the contrary, eminent thinkers at the time wondered if it wasn’t arrogant to suggest that humanity might be privileged enough to dwell in what, in the language of the older cosmology, was the fourth sphere up from the bottom! It takes only a little leafing through medieval writings to learn that, but the fiction that the medieval cosmos assigned humanity a special place until Copernicus cast him out of it remains glued in place in the conventional wisdom of our time. When the facts don’t correspond to the mythology of progress, in other words, too bad for the facts.
Other examples could be multiplied endlessly, starting with the wholly fictitious flat-earth beliefs that modern writers insist on attributing to the people who doubted Columbus, but these will do for the moment, not least because one of the authors I’ve cited was one of the 20th century’s most thoughtful evolutionary biologists and the other was one of the 20th century’s most thoughtful Christians. The point I want to make is that the conventional modern view of the history of human thought is a fiction, a morality play that has nothing to do with the facts of the past and everything to do with justifying the distribution of influence, wealth, and intellectual authority in today’s industrial world.  That’s relevant here because the divide sketched out at the beginning of this essay—the supposedly irreconcilable struggles between a way of knowing the world that’s realistic, progressive and true, and a received wisdom that’s sentimental, nostalgic, and false—is modeled on the narrative we’ve just been examining, and has no more to do with the facts on the ground than the narrative does.
The great difference between the two is that neither medieval cosmographers nor late 18th century geologists had the least notion that they were supposed to act out a morality play for the benefit of viewers in the early 21st century. Here in the early 21st century, by contrast, a culture that’s made the morality play in question the center of its collective identity for more than three hundred years is very good at encouraging people to act out their assigned roles in the play, even when doing so flies in the face of their own interests.  Christian churches gain nothing, as I pointed out in last week’s post, by accepting the loser’s role in the ongoing squabble over evolution, and the huge amounts of time, effort, and money that have gone into the creationist crusade could have been applied to something relevant to to the historic creeds and commitments of the Christian religion, rather than serving to advance the agenda of their enemies. That this never seems to occur to them is a measure of the power of the myth.
Those of my readers who have an emotional investment in the environmental movement might not want to get too smug about the creationists, mind you, because their own movement has been drawn into filling exactly the same role, with equally disastrous consequences.  It’s not just that the media consistently likes to portray environmentalism as a sentimental, nostalgic movement with its eyes fixed on an idealized prehuman or pretechnological past, though of course that’s true. A great many of the public spokespersons for environmental causes also speak in the same terms, either raging against the implacable advance of progress or pleading for one or another compromise in which a few scraps are tossed nature’s way as the engines of progress go rumbling on.
According to the myth of progress, those are the sort of speeches that are assigned to the people on  history’s losing side, and environmentalists in recent decades have done a really impressive job of conforming to the requirements of their assigned role.  When was the last time, for example, that you heard an environmentalist offer a vision of the future that wasn’t either business as usual with a coat of green spraypaint, a return to an earlier and allegedly greener time, or utter catastrophe?  As recently as the 1970s, it was quite common for people in the green end of things to propose enticing visions of a creative, sustainable, radically different future in harmony with nature, but that habit got lost in the next decade, about the time the big environmental lobbies sold out to corporate America.
Now of course once a movement redefines its mission as begging for scraps from the tables of the wealthy and influential, as mainstream environmentalism has done, it’s not going to do it any good to dream big dreams. Still, there’s a deeper pattern at work here.  The myth of progress assigns the job of coming up with bold new visions of the future to the winning side—which means in practice the side that wins the political struggle to get its agenda defined as the next step of progress—and assigns to the losing side instead the job of idealizing the past and warning about the dreadful catastrophes that are sure to happen unless the winners relent in their onward march. Raise people to believe implicitly in a social narrative, and far more often than not they’ll fill their assigned roles in that narrative, even at great cost to themselves, since the alternative is a shattering revaluation of all values in which the unthinking certainties that frame most human thought have to be dragged up to the surface and judged on their own potentially dubious merits.
Such a revaluation, though, is going to happen anyway in the not too distant future, because the onward march of progress is failing to live up to the prophecies that have been made in its name.  As noted in an earlier post in this sequence, civil religions are vulnerable to sudden collapse because their kingdom is wholly of this world; believers in a theist religion can console themselves in the face of continual failure with the belief that their sufferings will be amply repaid in heaven, but the secular worldview common to civil religions slams the door in the face of that hope.
The civil religion of Communism thus imploded when it became impossible for people on either side of the Iron Curtain to ignore the gap between prophecy and reality, and I’ve argued in an earlier series of posts that there’s good reason to think that the civil religion of Americanism may go the same way in the decades ahead of us.  The civil religion of progress, though, is at least as vulnerable to that species of sudden collapse. So far, the suggestion that progress might be over for good is something you’ll encounter mostly in edgy humor magazines and the writings of intellectual heretics far enough out on the cultural fringes to be invisible to the arbiters of fashion; so far, “they’ll think of something” remains the soothing mantra du jour of the true believers in the great god Progress.
Nonetheless, history points up the reliability with which one era’s unquestioned truths become the next era’s embarrassing memories.  To return to a point raised earlier in this sequence, the concept of progress has no content of its own, and so it’s been possible so far for believers in progress to pretend to ignore all the things in American life that are blatantly retrogressing, and to keep scrabbling around for something, anything, that will still prop up the myth. In today’s America, living standards for most people have been falling for decades, along with literacy rates and most measures of public health; the nation’s infrastructure has been ravaged by decades of malign neglect, its schools are by most measures the worst in the industrial world, and even the most basic public services are being cut to Third World standards or below; the lunar landers scattered across the face of the Moon stare back blindly at a nation that no longer has a manned space program at all and, despite fitful outbursts of rhetoric from politicians and the idle rich, almost certainly will never have one again. None of that matters—yet.
Another of the lessons repeatedly taught by history, though, is that sooner or later these things will matter.  Sooner or later, some combination of events will push cognitive dissonance to the breaking point, and the civil religion of progress will collapse under the burden of its own failed prophecies. That’s almost unthinkable for most people in the industrial world these days, but it’s crucial to recognize that the mere fact that something is unthinkable is no guarantee that it won’t happen.
Thus it’s important for those of us who want to be prepared for the future to try to think about the unthinkable—to come to terms with the possibility that the future will see a widespread rejection of the myth of progress and everything connected to it. That wasn’t a likely option in an age when economic expansion and rapid technological development were everyday facts of life, but we no longer live in such an age, and the fading memories of the last decades when those things happened will not retain their power indefinitely. Imagine a future America where the available resources don’t even suffice to maintain existing technological systems, only the elderly remember sustained economic growth, and the new technological devices that still come onto the market now and then are restricted to the very few who are wealthy enough to afford them. At what point along that curve do the promises of progress become so self-evidently absurd that the power of the civil religion of progress to shape thought and motivate behavior breaks down completely?
It’s ironic but entirely true that actual technological progress could continue, at least for a time, after the civil religion of progress is busy pushing up metaphorical daisies in the cemetery of dead faiths. What gives the religion of progress its power over so many minds and hearts is not progress itself, but the extraordinary burden of values and meanings that progress is expected to carry in our society.  It’s not the mere fact that new technologies show up in the stores every so often that matters, but the way that this grubby commercial process serves to bolster a collective sense of entitlement and a galaxy of wild utopian dreams about the human future. If the sense of entitlement gives way to a sense of failure or, worse, of betrayal, and the dreamers wake up and recognize that the dreams were never anything more than pipe dreams in the first place, the backlash could be one for the record books.
One way or another, the flow of new products will eventually sputter to a halt, though at least some of today’s technologies will stay in use for as long as they can be kept functioning in the harsh conditions of an age of resource scarcity and ecological payback. A surprisingly broad range of technologies can be built and maintained by people who have little or no grasp of the underlying science, and thus it has happened more than once—as with the Roman aqueducts that brought water to medieval cities—that a relatively advanced technology can be kept running for centuries by people who have no clue how it was built. Over the short and middle term, in a world after progress, we can probably expect many current technologies to remain in place for a while, though it’s an open question how many people in America and elsewhere will still be able to afford to use them for how much longer.
Ultimately, that last factor may be the Achilles’ heel of most modern technologies.  In the not too distant future, any number of projects that might be possible in some abstract sense will never happen, because all the energy, raw materials, labor, and money that are still available are already committed twice over to absolute necessities, and nothing can be spared for anything else. In any age of resource scarcity and economic contraction, that’s a fairly common phenomenon, and it’s no compliment to contemporary thinking about the future that so many of the grand plans being circulated in the sustainability scene ignore the economics of contraction so completely.
Still, that’s a theme for a different post. The point I want to raise here has to do with the consequences of a collective loss of faith in the civil religion of progress—consequences that aren’t limited to the realm of technology, but spill over into economics, politics, and nearly every other dimension of contemporary life. The stereotyped debates introduced at the beginning of this post and discussed in more detail toward the middle will be abandoned, and their content will have to be reframed in completely different terms, once the myth of progress, which provides them with their basic script, loses its hold on the collective imagination. The historical fictions also discussed earlier will be up for the same treatment. It’s hard to think of any aspect of modern thought that hasn’t been permeated by the myth of progress, and when that myth shatters and has to be replaced by other narratives, an extraordinary range of today’s unquestioned certainties will be up for grabs.

That has implications I plan on exploring in a number of future posts. Some of the most crucial of those implications, though, bear directly on one of the core institutions of contemporary industrial culture, an institution that has derived much of its self-image and a galaxy of benefits from the historical fictions and stereotyped debates discussed earlier in this post. Next week, therefore, we’ll talk about what science might look like in a world on the far side of progress.

Held Hostage by Progress

Off the keyboard of John Michael Greer

Published on The Archdruid Report on July 17, 2013

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The continual recycling of repeatedly failed predictions in the peak oil community, the theme of last week’s post here, is anything but unique these days. Open a copy of today’s newspaper (or the online equivalent), and it’s a safe bet that you’ll find at least one op-ed piece calling enthusiastically for the adoption of some political, military, or economic policy that’s failed every single time it’s been tried. It’s hard, in fact, to think of any broadly accepted policy in any dimension of public life today that can’t be accurately described in those terms.
Arnold Toynbee, whose sprawling study of historical cycles is among the constellations by which this blog navigates, pointed out quite some time ago that this process of self-inflicted failure is one of the standard ways that civilizations write their own obituaries. In his formulation, societies thrive so long as the creative minority that leads them can keep on coming up with new responses to the challenges the world throws their way—a process that normally requires the regular replacement of the society’s leadership from below, so that new leaders with new ideas can rise to the top.
When that process of replacement breaks down, and the few people who still rise into the ruling class from lower down the pyramid are selected for their willingness to go along with the status quo rather than for their commitment to new ideas that work, what was once a creative minority degenerates into a dominant minority, which rules by coercion because it can no longer inspire by example. You can tell that this has happened to your society when every crisis gets met with the same stereotyped set of responses, even when those responses clearly don’t work. That happens because dominant minorities identify themselves with certain policies, and with the social roles and narratives that go with those policies, and it takes much more than mere failure to shake those obsessions loose.
The resulting one-track thinking can go very far indeed.  The ideology of the Roman Empire, for example, copied the theological vision of Roman Pagan religion and projected it onto the world of politics. Roman Pagans saw the universe as a place of chaotic powers that had to be subjected to the benevolent rule of a cosmic paterfamilias by way of Jove’s thunderbolts. Roman social thought understood history in the same way, as a process by which an original state of chaos was bashed into obedience by Rome’s legions and subjected to the benevolent rule of the emperor.  For much of Rome’s imperial history, that model even made a certain amount of sense, as substantial parts of the Mediterranean world that had been repeatedly ravaged by wars beforehand experienced an age of relative peace and prosperity under Roman rule.
The problem was simply that this way of dealing with problems had little relevance to the pressures that gutted the Roman Empire in its final years, and trying to apply it anyway very quickly turned into a massive source of problems in its own right. The endless expansion of the Roman military required by increasingly drastic attempts to hammer the world into obedience imposed crippling tax burdens across Roman society, driving whole economic sectors into bankruptcy, and the government responded to this by passing laws requiring every man to practice the same profession as his father, whether he could afford to do so or not. Across the dying empire, whenever one extension of centralized imperial authority turned into a costly flop, some even more drastic act of centralization was the only thinkable option, until finally the whole system fell to pieces.
Modern industrial civilization, especially but not only in its American expression, is well on its way to this same destination by a slightly different road. Across the board, in politics, in economics, in energy policy, in any other field you care to name, the enthusiastic pursuit of repeatedly failed policies has become one of the leitmotifs of contemporary life.  I’d like to focus on one of those briefly, partly because it’s a classic example of the kind, partly because it shows with rare clarity the thinking that underlies the whole phenomenon. The example I have in mind is the ongoing quest for fusion power.
Scientists in the US and something like a dozen other countries have been busy at that quest since the 1950s. In the process, they’ve discovered something well worth knowing about fusion power:  if it can be done at all, on any scale smaller than a star—and the jury’s still out on that one—it can’t be done at a price that any nation on Earth can possibly afford.  The dream of limitless cheap fusion power that filled the pages of gosh-wow newspaper articles and science fiction stories in the 1950s and 1960s is thus as dead as a sack full of doornails. Has this stopped the continuing flow of trillions of dollars of grant money into round after futile round of gargantuan fusion-power projects? Surely you jest.
Thus fusion researchers are stuck in the same self-defeating loop as those peak oil mavens who repeat the same failed prediction for the umpteenth time in a row, in the serene conviction that this time it’ll come true.  They’re approaching the situation in a way that prevents them from learning from their mistakes, no matter how many times the baseball bat of failure whacks them upside the head. In the case of the fusion scientists, what drives that loop is evident enough:  the civil religion of progress and, in particular, the historical mythology at the core of that religion.
Fusion researchers by and large see themselves as figures standing at the cutting edge of one important branch of techological progress. Given their training, their history, and the cultural pressures that surround them and define their work, it’s all but impossible for them to do anything else. That’s what has them boxed into a dead end with no easy exits, because the way progress is conceptualized in contemporary culture is fatally out of step with the facts on the ground.
Progress, as the word literally means, is continued forward motion in one direction. To believers in the civil religion of progress, that’s the shape of history:  whatever it is that matters—moral improvement, technological prowess, economic expansion, or what have you—marches invincibly onward over time, and any setbacks in the present will inevitably be overcome in the future, just as equivalent setbacks in the past were overcome by later generations.  To join the marching legions of progress, according to the myth, is to enlist on the side of history’s winners and to help the inevitable victory come about just that little bit sooner, just as to oppose progress is to fight valiantly in a misguided cause and lose.
That’s the myth that guides contemporary industrial society, just as the myth of Jupiter clobbering the Titans and imposing the rule of law on a fractious cosmos was the myth that guided Roman society. In the broadest sense, whether any given change is “progressive” or “regressive” has to be settled by good old-fashioned politics, since changes don’t arrive with these labels branded on their backsides. Once a group of people have committed themselves to the claim that a change they’re trying to bring about is progressive, though, they’re trapped; no matter what happens, the only action the myth allows them to consider is that of slogging gamely onwards under the conviction that the obstacles will inevitably give way if they just keep at it. Thus the fusion research community is stuck perpetually pushing on a door marked PULL and wondering why it won’t open.
Of course fusion researchers also have deeply pragmatic reasons for their refusal to learn the lessons of repeated failure. Careers, reputations, and multimillion-dollar grants depend on keeping up the pretense that further investment in fusion research has any chance of producing something more than a collection of vastly overpriced laboratory curiosities, and the field of physics is so specialized these days that shutting down fusion research programs would leave most fusion researchers with few marketable job skills relevant to anything this side of flipping burgers. Thus the charade goes on, funded by granting agencies just as committed to that particular corner of the myth of progress as the researchers whose salaries they pay, and continuing to swallow vast amounts of money, resources, and intellectual talent that might accomplish quite a bit if they could be applied to some less futile task.
The fusion research community, in effect, is being held hostage by the myth of progress. I’ve come to think that a great deal of contemporary science is caught in the same bind.  By and large, the research programs that get funding and prestige are those that carry forward existing agendas, and the law of diminishing returns—which applies to scientific research as it does to all other human activities—means that the longer an existing agenda has been pursued, the fewer useful discoveries are likely to be made by pursuing it further.  Yet the myth of progress has no place for the law of diminishing returns; in terms of the myth, every step along the forward march of progress must lead to another step, and that to another still.  This is why, to glance briefly at another example, efforts to craft a unified field theory out of Einsteinian relativity and quantum physics still get ample funding today, despite a century of total failure, while scores of research projects that might actually yield results go unfunded.
It does no good to science, in other words, to be imprisoned within the myth of endless linear progress. I’ve wondered more than once what modern science would look like if some philosophical equivalent of a SWAT team were to kick down the doors of the temple of Progress and liberate the hostages held inside. My best guess is that, freed from the myth, science would look like a tree, rather than a road leading into infinite distance:  rooted in mathematics and logic, supported by the strong trunk of the scientific method, extending branches, twigs and leaves in all directions, some of which would thrive while others would inevitably fail. Its leaves would spread out to catch as many of the rays of the light of truth as the finite nature of the tree allowed, but if one branch—the one called “fusion research,” let’s say—strayed into a lightless zone, the tree of science would direct its resources elsewhere and let that branch turn into a dry stick.
Eventually, the whole tree would reach its maximum growth, and after a lifespan of some centuries or millennia more, it would weaken, fail, and die, leaving its remains as a nurse log to nurture a new generation of intellectual saplings. That’s the way that Greek logic unfolded over time, and modern science started out its existence as one of the saplings nurtured on classical logic’s vast fallen trunk. More generally, that’s history’s way with human intellectual, cultural, and artistic systems of all kinds, and only the blinders imposed by the myth of progress make it impossible for most people in today’s industrial world to see science in the same terms.
That same logic is not restricted to science, either.  If some force of philosophers packing high-caliber syllogisms and fallacy-piercing ammunition ever does go charging through the door of the temple of Progress, quite a few people may be startled by the identity of some of the hostages who are led out blinking into light and freedom. It’s not just the sciences that are tied up and blindfolded there; nearly all the Western world’s religions share the same fate.
It’s important here to recognize that the myth of progress provides two potential roles for those who buy into its preconceptions. As noted earlier in this post, they can join the winning side and enlist in the marching legions of progress, or they can join the losing side, struggle against progress, and heroically fail. Both those roles are necessary for the enactment of the myth, and the raw power of popular culture can be measured in the ease with which nearly every religious tradition in the Western world, including those whose traditions are radically opposed to either one, have been pushed into one role or the other. The major division is of course that between liberal and conservative denominations; the former have by and large been reduced to the role of cheerleaders for progress, while the latter have by and large been assigned the corresponding role as cannon fodder for the side that’s destined to lose.
The interplay between the two sides of the religious spectrum has been made rather more complex by the spectacularly self-defeating behavior of most North American denominations following the Second World War. In those years, a series of wildly popular books—John A.T. Robinson’s Honest to God, Pierre Berton’s The Comfortable Pew, and others of the same kind—argued in effect that, in order to be properly progressive, Christian churches ought to surrender their historic beliefs, practices, and commitments, and accept whatever diminished role they might be permitted by the mainstream of liberal secular society.  Some of these books, such as Robinson’s, were written by churchmen; others, such as Berton’s, were not, but all of them were eagerly received by liberal churches across the English-speaking world.
The case of The Comfortable Pew is particularly intriguing, as the Anglican Church of Canada hired a well-known Canadian atheist to write a book about what was wrong with their church and what they should do about it, and then gamely took his advice.  Other denominations were not quite so forthright in expressing a death wish, but the results were broadly similar.  Across the board, liberal churches reworked seminary programs to imitate secular liberal arts degrees, abandoned instruction in religious practice, took up the most radical forms of scriptural criticism, and redefined their clergy as amateur social service providers and progressive activists with a sideline in rites of passage. Since most people who go to churches or synagogues are there to practice their religion, not to provide their clergy with an admiring audience for political monologues and lessons in fashionable agnosticism, this shift was promptly followed a steep plunge in the number of people who attended services in all the liberal denominations. Here again, the logic of progress made it all but impossible for church leaders to learn the lesson taught by failure, and most liberal denominations have remained in a death spiral ever since.
Meanwhile, conservative denominations were busy demonstrating that the opposite of one bad idea is usually another bad idea. Panicked by the global expansion of Communism—you rarely heard that latter word in American public discourse in the 1950s and 1960s without the adjective “godless” tacked on its front end—and the sweeping social changes triggered by postwar prosperity, the leaders of the conservative denominations moved as eagerly as their liberal counterparts to embrace the role that the myth of progress offered them. Along with William F. Buckley and the other architects of postwar American pseudoconservatism, they redefined themselves in opposition to the progressive agenda of their time, and never seemed to notice that they were so busy standing against this, that, and the other that most of them forgot to stand for anything at all.
The social pressure to conform to stereotypes and resist progress in every sense drove the weirdest dimension of late 20th century American Christian pseudoconservatism, the holy war against Darwinian evolution. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the luminous poetry of the first chapter of Genesis must be treated as a geology textbook, nor is a literal reading of Genesis mandated by any of the historic creeds of the Christian churches. Nonetheless “Thou shalt not evolve” got turned into an ersatz Eleventh Commandment, and devout Christians exercised their ingenuity to the utmost to find ways to ignore the immense and steadily expanding body of evidence from geology, molecular biology, paleontology, and genetics that backed Darwin’s great synthesis. That and such sideshows as the effort to insist on the historical reality of the Noah’s ark story, despite conclusive geological evidence disproving it, crippled the efforts of conservative Christians to reach outside their existing audience.
The conservative denominations never quite managed to discard their historic beliefs, practices and commitments with the same enthusiasm shown by their liberal counterparts, preferring to maintain them in mummified form while political activism took center stage; still, the result was much the same.  Today, the spokespersons for conservative religious denominations in America speak and act as though reinstating the mores and politics that America had in the late 1940s has become the be-all and end-all of their religion. In response, a growing number of former parishioners of conservative denominations have withdrawn into the rapidly growing Home Church movement, in which families meet in living rooms with their neighbors to pray and study the Bible together. If that trend accelerates, as it appears to be doing, today’s conservative megachurches may soon turn into cavernous spaces visited once a week by a handful of retirees, just like the once-bustling liberal churches across the road.

The hijacking of religious institutions by the competing civil religion of progress has thus turned out to be a disaster on both sides of the political divide.  The distortions imposed on religion, once it was taken hostage by the myth of progress, thus correspond closely to the distortions imposed on science during its own imprisonment by the same myth. As the civil religion of progress begins to lose its grip on the collective imagination of our time, in turn, both science and religion thus will have to undergo a difficult process of reappraisal, in which many of the mistaken commitments of recent decades will need to be renegotiated or simply abandoned. Harrowing as that process may be, it may just have an unexpected benefit—a negotiated truce in the pointless struggle between science and religion, or even a creative rapprochement between these two distinct and complementary ways of relating to the universe. I’ll discuss these possibilities in next week’s post.

Asking the Hard Questions

Published on the Archdruid Report on July 10, 2013

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There are nights, now and then, when I sit up late with a glass of bourbon and look back over the long strange trip that’s unfolded over the last thirty years or so. When a substantial majority of Americans straight across the political landscape convinced themselves in the early 1980s that mouthing feel-good slogans and clinging to extravagant lifestyles over the short term made more sense than facing up to the hard choices that might have given our grandchildren a livable future, that choice kickstarted a flight into fantasy that continues to this day.

Over the seven years that I’ve been writing and posting essays here on The Archdruid Report, in turn, a tolerably good sample of the resulting fantasies have been dumped on my electronic doorstep by readers who were incensed by my lack of interest in playing along. There’s a certain amusement value in reviewing that sample, but a retrospective glance that way has another advantage: the common threads that unite the fantasies in question form a pattern of central importance to the theme that this sequence of posts is trying to explore.

Back in 2006, when I made my first posts suggesting that the future waiting for us on the far side of Hubbert’s peak was a long, ragged descent punctuated by crises, there were three common ways of dismissing that prediction. The first insisted that once the price of petroleum got near $100 a barrel, the sheer cost of fueling the industrial economy would trigger the economic crisis to end all economic crises and bring civilization crashing down at once. The second insisted that once that same price threshold was met, any number of exciting new renewable energy technologies would finally become profitable, resulting in a green-energy boom and a shiny future. The third insisted that once that price threshold was met, the law of supply and demand would flood the market with petroleum, force prices back down, and allow the march of economic growth to continue merrily on its way.

A case could be made that those were reasonable hypotheses at the time. Still, the price of oil went soaring past $100 a barrel over the next few years, and none of those predictions panned out. We did have a whopping economic crisis in 2008, but emergency actions on the part of central banks kept the global economy from unraveling; a variety of renewable energy technologies got launched onto the market, but it took massive government subsidies to make any of them profitable, and all of them together provide only a very small fraction of our total energy use; and, of course, as prices rose, a certain amount previously uneconomical oil did find its way to market, but production remains locked into a plateau and the price remains stubbornly high.

That is to say, the perfect storms weren’t, the game-changing events didn’t, and a great many prophets ended up taking a total loss on their predictive investments. It’s the aftermath, though, that matters. By and large, the people who were making these claims didn’t stop, look around, and say, “Hmm, clearly I got something wrong. Is there another way of thinking about the implications of peak oil that makes more sense of the data?” Instead, they found other arguments to back the same claims, or simply kept repeating them at higher volume. For a while there, you could go visit certain peak oil bloggers every January and read the same predictions of imminent economic doom that appeared there the year before, and then go to another set of peak oil bloggers and read equally recycled predictions that this would be the breakthrough year for some green energy source or other, and in neither case was there any sign that any of them had learned a thing from all the times those same predictions had failed before.

Nor were they alone—far from it. When I think about the number of arguments that have been posted here over the last seven years, in an effort to defend the claim that the Long Descent can’t possibly happen, it’s enough to make my head spin, even without benefit of bourbon. I’ve fielded patronizing lectures from believers in UFOs, New Age channelers, and the fake-Mayan 2012 prophecy, airily insisting that once the space brothers land, the New Age dawns, or what have you, we’ll all discover that ecological limits and the laws of thermodynamics are illusions created by lower states of consciousness. Likewise, I’ve received any number of feverish pronouncements that asteroids, solar flares, methane burps from the sea floor or, really, just about anything you can imagine short of titanic space walruses with photon flippers, are going to wipe out humanity in the next few years or decades and make the whole issue moot.

It’s been a wild ride, really. I’ve been labeled dogmatic and intolerant for pointing out to proponents of zero point energy, abiotic oil, and similar exercises in wishful thinking that insisting that a completely unproven theory will inevitably save us may not be the most sensible strategy in a time of crisis. I’ve been dismissed as closed-minded by believers in artificial intelligence, fusion power, and an assortment of other technological will-o’-the-wisps for asking why promises of imminent sucess that have been repeated word for word every few years since the 1950s still ought to be considered credible today I’ve been accused of being a stooge for the powers of evil for questioning claims that Bush—er, make that Clinton—uh, well, let’s try Dubya—um, okay, then, Obama, is going to suspend the constitution, impose a totalitarian police state and start herding us all into camps, and let’s not even talk about the number of people who’ve gotten irate with me when I failed to be impressed by their insistence that the Rapture will happen before we run out of oil.

Not one of these claims is new, any more than the claims of imminent economic collapse, green-energy breakthroughs, or oceans of petroleum just waiting to be drilled. Most of them have been recycled over and over again, some for over a century—the New Age, for example, was originally slated to arrive in 1879, and in fact the most popular alternative spirituality magazine in 1890s Britain was titled The New Age—and the few that have only been through a few seasons’ worth of reruns follow familiar patterns and thus fail in equally familiar ways. If the point of making predictions in the first place has anything to do with anticipating the future we’re actually likely to get, these claims have flopped resoundingly, and yet they remain wildly popular.

Now of course there are good reasons why they should be popular. All the claims about the future I’ve listed are, in practical terms, incentives to inaction and evasions of responsibility. If rising oil prices are guaranteed to bring on a rush of new green energy options, then we don’t have to change our lifestyles, because pretty soon we’ll be able to power them on sun or wind or what have you; if rising oil prices are guaranteed to bring on a rush of new petroleum sources, well, then we don’t need to change our lifestyles, either, and we can make an extra donation to the Sierra Club or something to assuage any lingering ecological guilt we might have. The same goes for any of the other new technologies that are supposedly going to provide us with, ahem, limitless energy sometime very soon—and you’ll notice that in every case, supplying us with all that energy is someone else’s job.

On the other hand, if the global economy is sure to go down in flames in the next few years, or runaway climate change is going to kill us all, or some future president is finally going to man up, impose a police state and march us off to death camps, it’s not our fault, and there’s nothing we can do that matters anyway, so we might as well just keep on living our comfortable lifestyles while they’re still here, right? It may be impolite to say this, but it needs to be said: any belief about the future that encourages people to sit on their backsides and do nothing but consume scarce resources, when there’s a huge amount that could be done to make the future a better place and a grave shortage of people doing it, is a luxury this age of the world can’t afford.

Still, I’d like to cycle back to the way that failed predictions are recycled, because it leads straight to the heart of an unrecognized dimension of the predicament of our time. Since the future can’t be known in advance, attempts to predict it have to rely on secondhand evidence. One proven way to collect useful evidence concerning the validity of a prediction is to ask what happened in the past when somebody else made that same prediction. Another way is to look for situations in the past that are comparable to the one the prediction discusses, in order to see what happened then. A prediction that fails either one of these tests usually needs to be put out to pasture; one that fails both—that has been made repeatedly in the past and failed every time, and that doesn’t account for the way that comparable situations have turned out—ought to be sent to the glue factory instead.

It’s in this light that the arguments used to defend repeatedly failed predictions can be understood. I’ve discussed these arguments at some length in recent posts: the endlessly repeated claim that it’s different this time, the refusal to think about the implications of well-documented sources of negative feedback, the insistence that a prediction must be true if no one’s proved that it’s impossible, and so on. All of them are rhetorical gimmicks meant to stonewall the kind of assessment I’ve just outlined. Put another way, they’re attempts to shield repeatedly failed predictions from the normal and healthy consequences of failure.

Think about that for a bit. From the time that our distant ancestors ventured out onto the East African savannas and started to push the boundaries of their nervous systems in ways for which millions of years of treetop living did little to prepare them, their survival and success have been a function of their ability to come up with mental models of the world that more or less correspond to reality where it counts. If there were ever australopithecines that couldn’t do the sort of basic reality testing that allows food to be distinguished from inedible objects, and predators from harmless animals, they didn’t leave any descendants. Since then, as hominids and then humans developed more and more elaborate mental models of the world, the hard-won ability to test those models against the plain facts of experience with more and more precision has been central to our achievement.

In the modern West, we’ve inherited two of the great intellectual revolutions our species has managed—the creation of logic and formal mathematics in ancient Greece, and the creation of experimental science in early modern Europe—and both of those revolutions are all about reality testing. Logic is a system for making sure that mental models make sense on their own terms, and don’t stray into fallacy or contradiction; experimental science is a system for checking some mental models, those that deal with the quantifiable behavior of matter and energy, against the facts on the ground. Neither system is foolproof, but then neither is anything else human, and if both of them survive the decline and fall of our present civilization, there’s every reason to hope that future civilizations will come up with ways to fill in some of their blind spots, and add those to the slowly accumulating body of effective technique that provides one of the very few long-term dynamics to history.

It remains true, though, that all the many methods of reality testing we’ve evolved down through the millennia, from the most basic integration of sense inputs hardwired into the human brain right on up to the subtleties of propositional logic and the experimental method, share one central flaw. None of them will work if their messages are ignored—and that’s what’s going on right now, as a vast majority of people across the modern industrial world scramble to find reasons to cling to a range of popular but failed predictions about the future, and do their level best to ignore the evidence that a rather more unpopular set of predictions about the future is coming true around them.

Look around, dear reader, and you’ll see a civilization in decline, struggling ineffectually with the ecological overshoot, the social disintegration, the institutional paralysis, and the accelerating decay of infrastructure that are part and parcel of the normal process by which civilizations die. This is what the decline and fall of a civilization looks like in its early-to-middle stages—and it’s also what I’ve been talking about, very often in so many words, since not long after this blog got under way seven years ago. Back then, as I’ve already mentioned, it was reasonable to propose that something else might happen, that we’d get the fast crash or the green-energy breakthrough or all the new petroleum that the law of supply and demand was supposed to provide us, but none of those things happened. (Of course, neither did the mass landing of UFOs or any of the other more colorful fantasies, but then that was never really in question.) It’s time to recognize that the repetition of emotionally appealing but failed predictions is not a helpful response to the crisis of our time, and in fact has done a great deal to back us into the corner we’re now in. What was Ronald Reagan’s airy twaddle about “morning in America,” after all, but another emotionally appealing failed prophecy of the kind I’ve just been discussing?

Thus I’d like to suggest that from now on, any claim about the future needs to be confronted up front by the two hard questions proposed above. What happened at other times when people made the same prediction, or one that’s closely akin to it? What happened in other situations that are comparable to the one the prediction attempts to address? Any prediction that claims to be about a future we might actually encounter should be able to face these two questions without resorting to the kind of rhetorical evasions noted above. Any prediction that has to hide behind those evasions, in turn, needs to be recognized as being irrelevant to any future we might actually encounter. My own predictions, by the way, stand or fall by the same rule, and I encourage my readers to ask those questions of each prediction I make, and answer them through their own research.

Yes, I’m aware that those two questions pack an explosive punch that makes dynamite look weak. It’s embarrassingly common in contemporary life for theories to be embraced because of their emotional appeal, and then defended with every rhetorical trick in the book against any inconvenient contact with unsympathetic facts. As suggested in last week’s post, that’s a common feature of civilizations toward the end of their rationalist period, when abstract reason gets pushed to the point of absurdity and then well beyond it. Fantasies about the shape of the future aren’t uncommon at such times, but I don’t know of another civilization in all of recorded history that has put as much energy as ours into creating and defending abstract theories about the shape of the future. With any luck, the civilizations that come after ours will learn from our mistakes, and direct their last and most overblown abstractions in directions that will do less harm.

In the meantime, those of us who are interested in talking about the kinds of future we might actually encounter might find it useful to give up the standard modern habit of choosing a vision of the future because it’s emotionally appealing, demanding that the world fulfill whatever dream we happen to have, and filling our minds with defensive gimmicks to keep from hearing when the world says “no.” That requires a willingness to ask the questions I mentioned above, and to accept the answers, even when they aren’t what we’d like them to be. More generally, it requires a willingness to approach the universe of our experience from a standpoint that’s as stunningly unfashionable these days as it is necessary—a standpoint of humility.

What would it mean if, instead of trying to impose an emotionally appealing narrative on the future, and shouting down any data that conflicts with it, we were to approach the universe of our experience with enough humility to listen to the narratives the universe itself offers us? That’s basically what I’ve been trying to suggest here all along, after all. That’s the point to my repeated references to history, because history is our species’ accumulated body of knowledge of the way human affairs unfold over time, and approaching that body of knowledge with humility and a willingness to listen to the stories it tells is a proven way to catch hints about the shape of the future as it unfolds.

That’s also the point to my equally frequent references to ecology, because history is simply one subset of the behavior of living things over time—the subset that deals with human organisms—and also because ecological factors have played a huge and all too often unrecognized role in the rise and fall of human societies. Whether humans are smarter than yeast is less important than the fact, and of course it is a fact, that humans, yeast, and all other living things are subject to the same ecological laws and thus inevitably experience similar processes over time. Attentive listening to the stories that history tells, and the even richer body of stories that nature tells, is the one reliable way we’ve got to figure out what those processes are before they clobber us over the head.

That act of humility, finally, may be the best ticket out of the confusion that the collective imagination of our time has created around itself, the proliferation of abstractions divorced from reality that makes it so hard to see the future looming up ahead of us. By turning our attention to what actually happens in the world around us, and asking the hard but necessary questions about our preferred notions concerning that world and its future, we might just be able to extract ourselves far enough from that confusion to begin to grapple with the challenges of our time. In the process, we’ll have to confront once again the issues with which this series of posts started out—the religious dimension of peak oil and the end of the industrial age. We’ll proceed with that discussion next week.

 

 

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The Song Remains the Same

Off the keyboard of John Michael Greer

Published on the Archdruid Report on May 8, 2013

Discuss this article at the Favorite Dishes Smorgasbord inside the Diner

If you always do what you’ve always done, a popular saying nowadays has it, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. Most people accept that readily enough in the abstract. It’s when they attempt to apply this logic to their own lives and thinking that they get tripped up, because self-defeating patterns very often arise from a mismatch between basic presuppositions about the world and the world as it’s actually experienced, and confronting that mismatch is not an easy thing. It’s usually much simpler to insist that it’s different this time, and repeat the same failed strategy yet again.

The logic of speculative bubbles is a case in point. The next time you read some online pundit insisting that a new era has dawned, that the old rules of economics have been stood on their head, and that some asset class or other that’s been rising steadily for a while now is certain to keep on zooming upwards for the foreseeable future, he’s wrong. It really is that simple. Any of my readers who haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last fifteen years or so saw that same rhetoric deployed to promote the tech stock bubble, the housing bubble, and an assortment of commodity bubbles, not least the recent and now rapidly deflating bubble in gold; those who know their way around economic history can find the same rhetoric being waved around every bubble since the Dutch tulip mania of the 17th century.

If human beings were in fact rational actors, as one of the more popular schools of economics these days likes to insist, investors would react to the next appearance of that well-worn rhetoric by pulling out every dollar they can’t afford to lose. In the real world, of course, things don’t work that way. When the Federal Reserve’s current orgy of quantitative easing finally does what it’s supposed to do and kicks off a gargantuan speculative bubble—yes, that’s what it’s supposed to do; Greenspan’s easy-money policy a decade ago succeeded in blowing a bubble big enough to cushion the downside of the tech-stock crash, and Bernanke’s pretty clearly working off the same playbook—it’s a safe bet that investors will stampede into the bubble, “it’s different this time” will once again become the mantra du jour, and the same cycle of boom and bust will repeat itself with mathematical precision.

Grasp the hidden logic behind bubble economics and you can see the mistaken presuppositions that drive that cycle. It’s an article of faith in today’s industrial economies, buoyed by three centuries of economic growth driven by fossil fuels, that money ought to make money, and that having a certain amount of money invested ought therefore to guarantee a stable income. It so happens that this isn’t always true. In 1929, for example, overinvestment and overproduction during the boom years of the 1920s left very few sectors in the US economy able to pay accustomed rates of return on investment, but investors weren’t willing to come to terms with this unwelcome reality. The result was a huge pool of funds seeking any investment that would promise a return heftier than the economy would support; modest increases in stock values started pulling that pool into the stock market, kicking off a feedback loop that ended with Black Friday and the Great Depression.

That same pattern on a vaster scale is what’s driving the latest round of bubbles. In the United States and most of the other established industrial nations, the returns on investing in the production of goods and services are too small to support investors in the style to which past decades accustomed them; the result is a pool of funds almost immeasurably larger than the one that created the 1929 boom and bust, sloshing through the global economy in search of any investment that will yield a bigger than average return. Because the real economy of goods and services is dependent on such awkward necessities as energy and raw materials, which are in turn subject to accelerating depletion curves, the problem’s only going to get worse, but those who hope to make a living or a fortune from their investments aren’t exactly eager to learn this. Thus the increasingly frantic efforts to inflate the global economy by means of speculative excess; the alternative is to accept the fact that an entire way of life based on money making money has passed its pull date.

That’s the kind of awkwardness that tends to pop up when the world shifts, and a pattern of behavior that used to be adaptive stops working. To get past the misguided but seductive insistence that “it’s different this time,” in turn, the habit of morphological thinking discussed in an earlier post is essential. 1920s-era investment trusts are not the same thing as tech-stock mutual funds, mortgage-backed securities, or whatever boondoggle will be at the center of the next big speculative bubble, any more than a porpoise is the same thing as a bat; put them side by side, though, and the common features will teach you things that you can’t learn any other way.

All this is by way of introduction to another bit of comparative morphology, one that many of my readers may find even more upsetting than the ones I’ve covered already. I’m sorry to say that can’t be helped. Last week we talked about the shape of time, the various abstract notions of history’s direction that every human culture uses to make sense of the world its members experience; such notions are exactly the sort of basic presupposition about the world that I discussed earlier in this post, and when the course of events begins to move in directions that a culture’s notion of the shape of time can’t explain, the result is quite commonly the sort of self-defeating cycle discussed earlier. That’s the situation we’re in here and now, and what makes it worse is that the shapes of time that define history for most people nowadays have very different origins and functions than most of us think.

To unravel the resulting tangle, in turn, it’s necessary to glance back to two thinkers whose relevance to modern thought is rarely recognized. To meet the first of them, we’ll need to go back exactly sixteen centuries to the year 413 CE. The place is the city of Hippo, in what was then the province of Numidia and is now the nation of Algeria; more precisely, it’s the residence of the Bishop of Hippo, a man named Augustine, who was just then in the process of giving the Western world what would be, for the next millennium or so, its definitive shape of time.

Here as elsewhere, historical context matters. By Augustine’s time, the Roman Empire’s control of the Mediterranean world had been established for so long that most of its citizens assumed that it would be around forever. Troubles at the periphery were common enough, but the thought that something could disrupt the whole imperial system was all but unthinkable. The distinctive shape of time accepted by nearly everyone in the late Roman world contributed mightily to that habit of thought. To most of the people of the Empire in that age, history was the process by which an original state of chaos was reduced to stable order under the rule of a benevolent despot. What Jupiter had done to the Titans or, in terms of the new Christian faith, God had done to Satan and his minions, Rome had done to the nations, and peripheral troubles were no more a threat to Rome than to her divine equivalents.

The problem with this confident civil faith was that history stopped cooperating. In 410, after a long series of increasingly desperate struggles against Germanic invaders, the legions crumpled, and the Visigoth king Alaric and his army swept into Italy and sacked Rome. Only Alaric’s willingness to be bought off kept the city from remaining in his hands for the long haul. The psychological and cultural impact of the defeat was immense, but of equal if not greater concern to the Bishop of Hippo was the uncomfortable fact that the empire’s remaining Pagans were pointing out that the beginning of Rome’s troubles coincided, with an awkward degree of exactness, with the prohibition of the old Pagan cults. Since Rome had abandoned the gods, they suggested, the gods were returning the favor.

Augustine’s response is contained in The City of God, one of the masterpieces of late Latin prose and the book that more than any other defined the shape of medieval European thought. The notion that divine power guarantees the success or survival of earthly kingdoms, Augustine argued, is a complete misunderstanding of the relationship between humanity and God. The inscrutable providence of God brings disasters down on the good as well as the wicked, and neither cities nor empires are exempt from the same incomprehensible law. Ordinary history thus has no moral order or meaning.

The place of moral order and meaning in time is found instead in sacred history, which has a distinctive linear shape of its own. That shape begins in perfection, in the Garden of Eden; disaster intervenes, in the form of original sin, and humanity tumbles down into the fallen world. From that point on, there are two histories of the world, one sacred and one secular. The secular history is the long and pointless tale of stupidity, violence and suffering that fills the history books; the sacred history is the story of God’s dealings with a small minority of human beings—the patriarchs, the Jewish people, the apostles, the Christian church—who are assigned certain roles in a preexisting narrative. Eventually the fallen world will be obliterated, most of its inhabitants will be condemned to a divine boot in the face forever, and those few who happen to be on the right side will be restored to Eden’s perfection, at which point the story ends.

Those of my readers who are familiar with the main currents of European and American Christianity already know that story, of course. 1600 years after Augustine’s time, his vision of time remains official in most Christian churches. What’s more, it can be found in a great many places that would angrily reject any claim of intellectual influence from Christianity. Goodness at the beginning; a catastrophic fall brought about by a misguided human choice; a plunge into the history we know, which has no redeeming features whatsoever; a righteous remnant set apart from history who serve as an example of the blessed alternative; a redeeming doctrine that brings the promise of future joy to those few who embrace it; and sometime soon, the final cataclysm that will sweep away the fallen world and all its evils, so that the redeemed few can be restored to the goodness of the beginning: where else have we heard this story?

Pick up any neoprimitivist book by Daniel Quinn, John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen, or their peers, to cite one example out of many, and you’ll find that the names have been changed but the story hasn’t. Eden is called the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the Fall is the invention of agriculture, the righteous remnant consists of surviving hunter-gatherer peoples, the redeeming doctrine is set forth in the book you’re reading, and Armageddon is the imminent collapse of industrial civilization, after which humanity will be restored to the hunter-gatherer paradise forever: it’s the same narrative, point for point. Look elsewhere in contemporary popular culture and you’ll find scores if not hundreds of ideologies that follow the same pattern; from radical feminists whose Eden consists of Goddess-worshipping Neolithic matriarchies straight through to Tea Party supporters whose Eden consists of pre-1960s America seen through intensely rose-colored glasses, the song remains the same.

This is where morphological thinking becomes as necessary as it is difficult. Most people can quickly learn to spot the standard elements of Augustine’s narrative in any belief system they themselves don’t accept; add a six-pack or two of good beer and it can turn into a lively party game, in which characters, situations, and events out of The City of God can be spotted hiding in a dizzying assortment of contemporary ideologies. The fun stops abruptly, though, when one or more of the players realize that his or her own beliefs follow the same script. One of the things that sets the Augustinian shape of time apart from most other shapes of time is that it assumes its own uniqueness; while it might be possible to imagine a version in which there are several different Edens, Falls, righteous remnants, sacred histories, redeeming revelations, final cataclysms, and New Jerusalems descending from the skies, in practice this never seems to happen. Each such narrative presents itself, and is accepted by its believers, as uniquely true and unrelated to any other version of the same narrative.

Still, this is only half the story. Those of my readers who know their way around the history of ideas, or have tried the aforementioned party game themselves, will have noticed that a significant number of popular ideas about history don’t fit the narrative of fall and redemption Augustine set out. This is where the second of our two thinkers comes into the tale. His name was Joachim of Flores, and he was an Italian mystic of the twelfth century CE. Like Augustine of Hippo, he was a writer, though his prose was as murky as Augustine’s was brilliant, and nobody other than historians of medieval thought reads his books nowadays. Even so, he had an impact on the future as significant as Augustine’s: he’s the person who kicked down the barrier between sacred and secular history that Augustine put so much effort into building, and created the shape of time that the cultural mainstream occupies to this day.

To Joachim, sacred history was not limited to a paradise before time, a paradise after it, and the thread of the righteous remnant and the redeeming doctrine linking the two. He saw sacred history unfolding all around him in the events of his own time. His vision divided all of history into three great ages, governed by the three persons of the Christian trinity: the Age of Law governed by the Father, which ran from the Fall to the crucifixion of Jesus; the Age of Love governed by the Son, which ran from the crucifixion to the year 1260; and the Age of Liberty governed by the Holy Spirit, which would run from 1260 to the end of the world.

What made Joachim’s vision different from any of the visionary histories that came before it—and there were plenty of those in the Middle Ages—was that it was a story of progress. The Age of Love, as Joachim envisioned it, was a great improvement on the Age of Law, and the approaching Age of Liberty would be an improvement on the Age of Love; in the third age, he taught, the Church would wither away, and people would live together in perfect peace and harmony, with no need for political or religious institutions. To the church authorities of Joachim’s time, steeped in the Augustinian vision, all this was heresy; to the radicals of the age, it was manna from heaven, and nearly every revolutionary ideology in Europe from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries drew heavily on Joachimist ideas.

That guaranteed that Joachim’s narrative would percolate out just as enthusiastically as Augustine’s did, influencing at least as many apparently secular ideologies. Pick up a copy of Hegel’s Philosophy of History, for example, a hugely influential work in 19th-century European thought; if you can get past the man’s famously unreadable prose, you’ll find a version of history that copies Joachim’s plot exactly but changes the names of all the characters. Hegel’s version of history begins in Asia and ends in Germany; there are three ages, Oriental, Classical, and German, and the improvement that plops a One Way sign on history is the increase of freedom, which is the way that the absolute Spirit reveals its essential Idea in history. “The East knew and to the present day knows only that one is free; the Greek and Roman world, that some are free; the German world knows that all are free,” Hegel wrote. “The first political form therefore which we observe in history, is despotism; the second democracy and aristocracy, the third monarchy.” (If this last point seems a bit odd to my readers, this may be because they aren’t ambitious professors angling for patronage from the royal house of Prussia.)

More generally, look at all the sets of three more or less ascending ages to be found in modern thinking about time. The division of prehistory into the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age is as much a reflection of this habit as the division of history into Ancient, Medieval, and Modern periods. No matter how many scholars point out the complete irrelevance of these schemes, they remain stuck in place in popular culture and education, because they bolster the contemporary belief that our own time is the culmination of all previous history, the point from which the future will leap forward along its predestined track toward the future we like to think we deserve.

Put two compelling visions of the shape of time in a culture, and you can count on any number of fusions and confusions between them. Marxism, interestingly enough, is among the best examples of this. Karl Marx himself was a thoughtful student of Hegel’s philosophy, and the theory he presents in his own writings is correspondingly Joachimist: history is a progressive series of ages—feudal, mercantile, capitalist, socialist, communist—in which each age represents an improvement on the ones before it, while falling painfully short of the ones still to come. Friedrich Engels, who finished the second and third volumes of Capital after Marx’s death, was heavily influenced by his Lutheran childhood and brought in the standard hardware of the Augustinian vision, with primitive Communism as Eden and so forth. The result is a rich ambiguity that allows committed Marxists to find adaptive responses to most of the curveballs history might throw their way.

For the great difference between the Augustinian and Joachimist visions is precisely the kind of historical events to which they tend to be adaptive. Augustine’s vision was crafted in a civilization in decline, and it turned out to be extremely well suited to that context: from within Augustine’s shape of time, the messy disintegration of the Roman world was just another meaningless blip on the screen of secular history, of no real importance to those who knew that the history that mattered was the struggle between Christ and Satan for each human soul. That way of thinking about time made it possible for believers to keep going through times of unrelenting bleakness and horror.

Joachim of Flores, by contrast, lived during the zenith of the Middle Ages, before the onset of the 14th-century subsistence crisis that reached its culmination with the arrival of the Black Death. His was an age that could look back on several centuries of successful expansion, and thought it could expect more of the same in the years immediately ahead. His way of thinking about time was thus as well suited to ages of relative improvement as Augustine’s was to ages of relative decline.

Improvement and decline, though, are value judgments, and what counts as improvement to one observer may look like decline to another. That’s the key to understanding the roles that Augustinian and Joachimist visions of time play in contemporary industrial society—with implications that we’ll explore in detail next week.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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Inside the Diner

Quote from: Surly1 on November 21, 2019, 03:58:40 PMQuote from: azozeo on November 21, 2019, 02:55:27 PMQuote from: Surly1 on November 21, 2019, 01:40:43 PM[quote author=azozeo link=t...

EVERYBODY KNOWS who the "Whistleblower" is/was!  He's been Outted by a variety of Right-Wing websites and radio shows.Trumpovetsky is a Pathological Liar. If he opens his mouth or hits his keyboard,you can be sure he is lying.  Ar...

Is there anywhere in SA that is NOT rioting?     RE[embed=960,540]

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/11/democratic-candidates-supreme-court-trump-judiciary.htmlDemocratic Candidates Are Utterly Delusional About the Looming Judicial CrisisEven their more moderate policy proposals will ...

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/21/yellen-good-reason-to-worry-about-us-economy-sliding-into-recession.htmlJanet Yellen says...

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Knarf’s Knewz

Defying growing perceptions in Western countries o [...]

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Navy warships twice sa [...]

Diner Newz Feeds

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Doomstead Diner Daily November 22The Diner Daily i [...]

Quote from: azozeo on November 21, 2019, 03:24:12 [...]

I have a question about your post regarding the fa [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily November 21The Diner Daily i [...]

Perhaps your story with Contrary is why my son got [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

Defying growing perceptions in Western countries o [...]

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Navy warships twice sa [...]

Scientists have unlocked the power of gold atoms b [...]

Quote from: azozeo on August 14, 2019, 10:41:33 AM [...]

Wisconsin Bill Would Remove Barrier to Using Gold, [...]

Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Time for another Bloody Mary!   RE [...]

Kicking off with the death of the Marlboro Man.RE[ [...]

Alternate Perspectives

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

Politicians’ Privilege By Cognitive Dissonance     Imagine for a moment you work for a small or medi [...]

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-20http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-19http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-17http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-16http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

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Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
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Waterboarding Flounder"Serious oxygen loss between 100 and 600-meter depths is expected to cover 59–80% of the ocean [...]

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects"We need wooden ships, char-crete buildings, bamboo bicycles, moringa furniture, and hemp cloth [...]

"Restoring normal whale activity to the oceans would capture the CO2 equivalent of 2 billion tr [...]

Ukrainian Rhapsody"Our future will be more about artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and non-state actors tha [...]

LeBron’s Chinese Troll Mobs"In the 36 hours after James’ delete, a troll mob with bot support sent a flame tsunami at the [...]

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

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

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

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

a ''burden on the state'' means all your bodily functions becoming the responsib [...]

Or maybe we do live in fire prone forests, but we live as hunter-gatherers. We pick up and move to a [...]

The "state" in the UK has found a solution to this problem. It is called the "Liverpo [...]

FWIW, the overarching narrative in the mainstream news this week is that the global economy may have [...]

I think of 1999 as the year that inflation-adjusted oil prices hit a bottom. It is also the year tha [...]

Living around 5300' elevation, the only flood we'll likely see is refugees. Although, that [...]

For those safe from the rising seas, the ocean acidification will fcuk you up instead [...]

Here's an article: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-imo-shipping-factbox/factbox-imo-2020-a-m [...]

What is the shift away from bunker fuels? [...]

Yeah, when the water heater goes out the day after you just put new tires on one of the cars, etc... [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

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Technical Journals

The effect of urbanization on microclimatic conditions is known as “urban heat islands”. [...]

Forecasting extreme precipitations is one of the main priorities of hydrology in Latin America and t [...]

The objective of this work is the development of an automated and objective identification scheme of [...]