Navigating 21st Century Hopelessness

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Published on The Doomstead Diner July 16, 2017

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Is our techno-industrial way of life fundamentally benevolent?  Is it advisable to continue perpetuating a civilization that is predicated by non-renewable fossil energy sources as well as unsustainable rates of renewable resource extraction?  Our civilization requires an ever growing GDP to be considered healthy.  This is a measure of production in terms of consumption.  Our literal benchmark for the health of our society is based on how much we can consume in a year as a nation.  The reason for this is to create monetary profit for the individuals of this society whom have shares in the corporations controlling this production.  The actual physical wealth of the world is subjugated to the tune of dollars and cents.  To make this pathway possible it requires a proletariat class willing to sell their lives for an hourly rate.  This hourly rate is the lowest possible rate so as to not reduce the profit that’s stolen from the resources of the Earth and the energies of its peoples.  This hourly rate is about making money and not about stewardship of any kind.  It does not have to be like this, but that is a delusory sentiment based on idealism. 

The road to ruin for our species began with agriculture.  Before agriculture emerged there was no need for money, and so it did not exist.  Agriculture allows for civilization which requires money to function.  With the creation of money we stratify into economic classes of people.  Once money is created life becomes about servicing this need for monetary acquisition.  Before money life is about engaging with nature to acquire food, fuel, fiber, medicine and shelter.  In aggregate these actions create a healthy human culture.  Agriculture allows for money and removes the limiting factors for our numbers.  Before agriculture the limiting factor is the amount of food that can be sustainably hunted and gathered.  The hunter/gatherer life is mostly nomadic as we follow the animals and plants through the seasons which define their lifecycles.  Our lives are imbued with rich somatic meaning as we engage with the body of nature.  We are from this Earth, and we inhabit it as a corporeal being made of the elements.  We evolved both physically and spiritually within the framework of our physical Earth.  Our health depends on engaging with nature to create life and its meaning.  The fall from paradise began with domestication which is nothing less than the taming of wild nature.  Domestication is tandem to agriculture and literally creates civilization.  What is being civilized if not the opposite of wild?  The two are anathema to one another. 

Agriculture means that we stop moving around.  It means that we domesticate ourselves as well as the wild beasts of nature.  It sets up the conditions that allows for a great competition between us and nature.  All of a sudden our culture becomes one of domination and control rather than harmony.  Being rooted in one place we begin building monuments to hubris.  We get bored and invent competition.  We stockpile food and create war and plague.  We set up the conditions for disease and famine and warfare (although nomadic people still do occasionally fight with opposing tribes).  We argue and debate and create inequality amongst our people.  Life becomes a struggle to create meaning and avoid boredom.  Eventually, as we move further and further from our natural origin, habitat, and culture the enchantment of being evaporates. We are left with a driving urge to consume to fill this void of meaning that emerges due to our domestication.  Time continues forward and our habits create technologies to service convenience.  We become lazy and our bodies grow fat with our sedentary nature which arises from our domesticated captivity.  No longer do we need our bodies for anything more than acquiring money.  We then want pleasure to fend off boredom and meaninglessness.  Life is no longer about dancing in the wild where we are from and where we return to.  Civilization is nothing more than something to do in the great illusion that we create for ourselves.  This is the way that it is.  The Matrix was born with the first surplus of cereal grain. 

Is there anything that can be done about this?  It seems to me that we are at the end of this failed experiment in hubris.  There is no harmony in domination and control and consumption.  There is only waste, disease, and poison by way of ecocide and genocide.  Our quest for the production of unlimited energy against the gradient of entropy has created cancer.    In the end we cannot dominate nature.  Aside from money the quest for domination  is the great fallacy of civilization.  We cannot think our way out of the limiting factors of ecology.  Our modern techno-industrial civilization will run out of the fossil blood that sustains it.  We will lose the capacity to safely maintain the nuclear power plants that liter the surface of the Earth.  They will spew out DNA damaging clouds of radioactivity as they have already begun doing.  The rain will become poisonous to life.  As we fight to continue this failing technotriumphalism we will continue increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere which will continue heating the human supporting biosphere.  Natural disasters will continue increasing in number and severity.  Our hubris has metastasized into a cancer that will shrink our settlements as the habitable regions atrophy.  Nothing is going to stop this process now.  All that remains is answering the question of what to do about this inevitability.  We have entered into the age of doom. 

There is no escaping this destiny that we have perpetuated.  The most unfortunate aspect about this hopelessness is that man cannot live without hope.  Hope makes life worth living.  Is hope itself a delusion?  What are we to hope for?  The nature of existence is a destiny with death.   The time we have between birth and death needs to be animated by meaning.  Meaning is derived from a harmony with all life.  Our civilization is marked by domination and control.  There is no harmony in control.  The great struggle is finally about the nature of life because life wants to live.  We must maintain ourselves within the boundary of our skin while we are here walking the Earth.  The overwhelming desire is to do this devoid of pain and misery.  The tragedy of man is to think that he can avoid his own nature by the creation of a technological utopia.  Life cannot be about domination and control, but that is what man forces it to be.  We are teetering in a suspended animation just before the moment of expiration.  We are flailing about in denial of this process of resolution.  Maturation as a species must culminate in an acceptance of suffering and death.  We must accept our temporary nature, stop struggling, and lie down in the great current of life.  We swim against this entropic process everyday as we participate in this civilization.  We collectively attempt to keep the center from flying apart under the pressures of our own technologically created centrifuge.  We struggle in vain against the pressures of physical dissolution.  We create illusions to fight against the natural process of becoming to fall apart. 

The first act was rife with physical struggle within the framework of existing in harmony with nature.  Hubris arose and we thought we could become gods using the power of physical manipulation.  We thought we could master the universe with our cleverness.  We are collectively a breaking wave, and nothing will stop the pull of gravity as we are recycled back into the void which we originally manifested from.    Idealism is nothing more than the ravings of a mental lunatic.  Idealism is a delusion that is born from the struggle to acquire more than we need.  Fighting against entropy is finally not worth it.  Yet this fight is what it means to inhabit a physical body. 

In the final analysis life must be about observing beauty.  Without beauty it is not worth living.  We have made a mess of this beautiful blue/green orb that’s floating about the universe.  We have partied our way to desolation.  Yet the Earth keeps spinning around in outer space in its dance with the sun that sustains us.  Every morning the sun reemerges to give us another day of life.  Our great challenge is to honor this life by creating beauty and not it’s opposite.  We have created a lot of ugliness.  Maybe the secret to this 21st century hopelessness is to learn how to make beauty out of malevolence.  Or maybe we should just stop struggling and accept the final act of misery which we have written for ourselves?  Or maybe we can simply embrace our collective ugliness with grace?  Without love and beauty this great struggle that is life is not worth it.  The greatest challenge that we face is learning to love and observe beauty even as love and beauty vanish under the oppression of our own collective delusions. 

The nature of a body is to act.  How are we to act?  We should act to minimize suffering for all sentient beings while honoring our bodily nature.  Every day is a new day to make the right decisions.   Yet every day requires a certain amount of money.  This is why my conclusion is that a lifestyle that requires no money is the only truly benevolent lifestyle.  That lifestyle is a fiction in this world we have created.  This world is quite literally hell on Earth.  Therefore we must learn to love and find whatever beauty we can while in hell.  We must not resist as we realize our ultimate destiny of assimilation with the machine we have created.  I’ve tried finding work arounds to the truth that life is suffering, but the only way to win is to let go, stop resisting, and accept the nature of this great delusion.  Manifestation is transience in action, and our resistance arises within that transience only to dissolve back into the void that is death.  All that is created within that resistance is more suffering.  Yet still we must act in the world, and how should we act when our actions only serve to create more suffering?  The heart of our civilization is the creation of suffering, and to participate only adds to this toll.  Not participating in this civilization can be our only spiritual redemption.  For the life of me, and my children, I cannot figure out how to not participate. 

Go Ask Alice

Off the keyboard of RE

Published on Reverse Engineering June 2009

Discuss this article at the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant Table inside the Diner was another one of those Alice in Wonderland days here up on the Last Great Frontier.

Last summer I wrote about the 4th of July Parade and the Alaska State Fair, two of the main Americana style events held here in the summertime. At that time I was wondering whether I would see such a thing happen again, as always DOOM seems just around the corner to me.

So here we are a year later with things even WORSE than they were last summer, but today we marched in the Colony Days Parade over in Palmer. It wasn’t quite the beautiful summer day we have had many of this year so far, a little cool and drizzly, but nevertheless the Parade Route was PACKED! Knowing as I do the total Population of Palmer and of the entire Mat-Su Valley, it astounded me to see the thousands stretched out along the Parade Route. I’m going to guess around 5000 people, which would be around 8% of the total population around here.

There were numerous Antique Tractors pulling Floats; numerous Antique Cars from Tin Lizzies to Chevy Chevelle Super Sports from the Muscle Car Era. The local Tea Party folks had a float with a “Freedom is not Free” banner flying high. There was a Boy Scout troop marching sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, AKA the Mormons, who have a decent presence up here.

The remarkable thing about the crowd to me was the racial distribution. I swear, not even freaking Sweden is as astoundingly WHITE as this bunch of folks. LOL. I picked out a few natives along the Parade route, but not many. Palmer I guess was Colonized back in the early 1900s as a far north Farming Community, and it still looks like the archetypal 1950s era farming comunity of a place like Iowa or Minnesota. Because of its particular geology, Palmer has some freaking GREAT soil, unlike many other parts of the state, and the farmers there keep their tractors runnning a LONG time. There were quite a few WORKING tractors in the parade that dated to the 1940s.

Besides the Tea Party Float, there was absolutely ZERO sense along the way that there is ANYTHING wrong with our economy at ALL. All the biznesses in Palmer are Open, the local food stores just filled with goods from all over the world. No sign of JIT failure ANYWHERE. The children along the route held open their bags for Candy passed out by the bucket full by passing float staffs. Maybe in other parts of the world white people aren’t breeding like rabbits, but here they sure are. LOL. the Parade, I went out to eat with friends at Carl’s Jr., and had a $6 Portobello Mushroom topped Flame Grilled Burger with huge load of Fries, and a bucket size Soft Drink cup I could refill endlessly. The meal was so laden with FAT I about immediately felt the need for a Nap, but I still had to drive back to the cabin. Along the way I was driving on the Parks Highway which runs right next to the Rail Line which connects Anchorage to Fairbanks, basically both are on the same Right of Way. I passed one of the beautiful Double Decker Tourist Trains which are basically All Glass on the top deck, sort of like a London Bus on Steroids. There appeared to be many Touristas inside peering out at the Mountains as they rode the train up to Denali National Park. On that same stretch of track almost every day I see passing Freight Trains loaded with Bulk Cars going the other way, carrying I suspect Coal down to Anchorage for shipment to China perhaps. Its a REAL working railroad, in both directions all the time, and so far does not seem to be slowing down at all.

I also passed a brand new Mini Mall, with a Target as its Anchor that opened last October, and a Sports Authority that openned last month. All the storefronts now are filled as well, and there is a new Branch Office of the Wells Fargo Bank. The newz also broke this week that Exxon has signed on with Trans-Canada to build a Pipeline for Natural Gas across the Yukon Territory, at the estimated cost of $28B. No idea what that will eventually REALLY cost if it ever does get built, but the very fact they came to a deal here and will probably start to build it means BOOM TIMES for our local economy. All that money distributed to the family guys here with all those White children on the Parade route in the form of Jobs working to build the Pipeline, expected to take around a decade to build. Part of me wants to believe that in some way, somehow the Monetary Sytem does NOT crash here and we will be an Island of Prosperity as the world around us crashes down. From all external appearances here at the moment, that would appear to be the case, and one could forgive most of my friends for still doubting my Doom Predictions up here. Hell, even *I* doubt them when I look around at all the Prosperity we have on a daily basis, including the Parade of our Wealth and Happiness.

Barely Beneath the surface though, the clock is still ticking here as everywhere else. There are still MANY “for Sale” signs on all the houses around here, many of which I think are actually Second Homes for people who live down in then lower 48, bought on Mortgages. Though the Real Estate prices have dropped somewhat in value, the houses mostly are not selling I suspect because the banks won’t take the loss on them. No layoffs that I am aware of as of yet, but there are Hiring Freezes up on the Slope and among the Goobermint Agencies around here. Anchorage had its worst season for Homeless Deaths this year, 6 Homeless people were found Dead in Tents and in the parks around Anchorage after the Spring Thaw.

Anyhow, regardless of whether the Monetary System crashes or not, it appears to me that we have all the necessary ingredients to make a working sustainable community around here. Plenty of Energy, plenty of Minerals, good Farmland, great Fishing, a working Railroad, a working Coal Mine right next to it where the Coal Seams are exposed at Ground Level, a Homogenous and Small population of people who are used to helping each other out when times are tough, and of course those Mountains. The really BIG Mountains. The Great Wall that GOD Built. They give me a feeling of Safety when I look out at them from the Cabin Window on those nights I HEAR the Thunder of the Hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen approaching. Horses are not real good at making it over really Big Mountains. Maybe they will leave us alone.

That is the view from Behind the Looking Glass, anyhow. I guess I got a Contact High from the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar today. Go Ask Alice, when she’s 10 Feet Tall.

Peak Six Strings responded

One question, if I may.

How did you end up where you are?  I have always understood that folks that end up in Alaska are hiding from someone or something.  While it all sounds peachy-keen, exactly what, or who are you hiding from?  I know from your writings that where you live is very isolated, and hard to get to.  What made you go there?

I have written about this a few times in some posts on Peak Oil, but I suppose I should review it here for the sake of completeness.

I did not arrive on the Last Great Frontier by any “Plan” I myself made, or even any clear realization of “Peak Oil” or a prescient knowledge of oncoming economic collapse. I arrived here merely as the result of being a long term Wanderer, a kind of 20th Century Nomad who never really found anything in society very acceptable. If you have not noticed, I am virtually the DEFINITION of an Iconoclast, in my writings I dismember almost all social structures you are familiar with, from Politics to Economics to Religion, though I haven’t done that much religion bashing in my Peak Oil writings. Done plenty on other boards though.

What am I “hiding from”? I don’t think I am hiding from ANYTHING, I am and always have been however AVOIDING things. I avoided being trapped into suit and tie as my father was, working as a Bankster. In case you did not read all my posts on PO, I was at one time a Risk Analyst for two different Wall Street firms, Drexel before they went outta biz and Merrill Lynch as well. I hated my work in those days, and quit to do “my own thing” as we used to say in the 60s. With the exception of a few Weddings, I haven’t worn a Tie in probably 20 years now. wasn’t ever a real “Hippie” though, I was too young when there were real Hippies around. I floated through our society as it existed from about 1980 to today by trading on the things I know how to do, which are MANY. Had many different jobs along the way, I was a Clinical Chemist, a Truck Driver, a Risk Analyst and a Teacher of many different subjects. I taught for a while the SAT and MCAT (all sections) and LSAT (my Specialty was the Args, or Arguments section of the LSAT)  for the Princeton Review at the nice hourly wage of $50/hr. I got said job because I do very well on such Standardized Tests, and people who want to get their kids into good colleges, Law Skules and Med Skules will pay well for the Tutoring. Its kind of a Gift and a Curse at the same time though, for someone like me. You know many things, but you just cannot bring yourself to buy in to the culture that surrounds you, and so you always are at odds with it.

I ended up here on the Last Great Frontier after years of wandering through the entire Lower 48, I lived in many places. I was married briefly, but I wasn’t well suited for marriage any more than I am well suited for the civilization I live in.  I am very much a Solitary Man, a kind of Monk in my own way. I live a very ascetic lifestyle, basically I just work and write on the internet. I spend little of what I make, just buy preps mostly.  OK, granted, I buy Plenty-o-Beer also, which may not qualify me as a Monk or Ascetic in the traditional sense, but as I said, it’s a Monastic Life of my own Fashion. LOL., people who live in Alaska come or came here for many different reasons, but we all do have one thing in common. We all live in what is a very harsh environment overall that most people do not want to put up with. Most folks here are not PRECISELY the kind of Iconoclast I am,  but I have found quite a few more friends here than I ever did anywhere else. Its a kind of Refuge for people who just found the life in the Lower 48 something they did not like, for many different reasons. I actually sorta FIT IN here, just because I am as different as everyone else here is in one way or the other.

How I ended up here after a quarter century of Wandering at PRECISELY the time the World at large was going to hell in handbasket was NOT in any way a planned event.  I did not get here with a foreknowledge of Peak Oil or Economic Collapse or a desire to Bunker Up. I got here simply as a result of the course of my life, drawing me ever outward from the core of civilization I was born into in New York City a half century ago. No plan got me here. It was The Finger of God.


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