Celebration and Cognitive Dissonance (But Not Celebrating Cognitive Dissonance)

As I break away from the shore, I have been given many opportunities to ponder the extraordinary nature of my life (so far). I’m reminded by this week’s post at survival acres that “you cannot change the system from within, all you’re doing is playing musical chairs as it is too entrenched and has too much inertia to effectively be changed,” and “departing from the system is the first critical step, you must stop feeding the beast.”

I’m done feeding the beast, but not quite done feeding my stomach or my ego. So the week has been filled with at-least-daily celebrations, and they continue through the weekend, when a dozen students will be visiting the mud hut and meeting with the locally famous primitivist.


At the end of my last class in the Pima County jail, I wrote a poem to thank the inmates with whom I’ve spent each Wednesday afternoon this semester. The guys, from pods 2R and 2Q, have been serving as advisers to the teenagers in the other two classes, from Pima Vocational High School and the juvenile detention facility.

As we push away from the shore,
let us feel no remorse.
We have traveled so far,
though not always on course.
We are bound together now,
more us than me and you.
I will joyously remember
2R and 2Q.
As we cross the rubicon
and hear the door close,
another door opens,
filled with new highs and new lows.
You’ve been thoughtful advisers
to the kids and to me,
teaching through patience, kindness,
prose, and poetry.
Instead of mourning our goodbye,
our bittersweet ending,
let us not demand more, but instead
offer a prayer of thanksgiving.

And now you see why I don’t get paid for my poetry.

In marginally related news, my latest guest commentary appears in this week’s issue of the Tucson Weekly. As usual, the online comments should be the most entertaining part (starting with the one posted to date).

John Michael Greer reminds us about the inability of many online commentators to think through an issue in this week’s version of his blog. His primary point, that our information age is actually dependent on physical substrate, reminds me of the cognitive dissonance running so deeply among the American populace. Exhibit A is the magical thinking that we’ll create new alternatives to oil, despite the absence of any such alternatives so far, even when the price of oil skyrocketed to $147.27 (this is the gist of the first response to this week’s op-ed piece). Exhibit B is the magical thinking that we need to keep the cars running at all costs … which means, of course, at every cost to the planet and even our own species. Exhibit C is the magical thinking that our economy is necessary to our survival, when in fact it is a grave threat to our survival.

As usual, any number can play. Please post your own example here.

Comments 5

  • A very alarming analysis of the American predicament with graphs is now online at
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5381
    I do not know what the margin or error or even the specifics of the empirical analysis are, but the general tenor of the approach is right on and in harmony with the ecological economics philosophy of greats like Herman Daly.
    As an example, the charts show that if the American population wishes to keep its current standard of living, then the population will be reduced (involuntarily) from the current 302 million to just 9.7 million in the foreseeable future (I believe the author predicts collapse no later then 2050 and as soon as within 25 years). Or, if we want to keep our current population of 302 million, our living standard will have to lower to approximately the level of North Korea.
    I wonder what young Americans between the age of ten and twenty will think and want to do when they discover the reality that awaits them…

  • Thanks, Stan, for posting the link to this report. I have only skimmed it, but it appears to be right on target. I quibble with a couple details — the author fails to acknowledge the role of agriculture as the initial imperial trigger, and he does not acknowledge the IEA’s forecast for a 9.1% annual decline in world oil supply from 2009 forward — but in general the full report is finely detailed and comprehensive. For somebody naive to the idea of limits to growth as recently at 2006, the author really has produced a compelling report.

  • Hi Guy —
    If you click on the link to the original 79 page document and can read it in its entirety when you have a little more time, I think you will be impressed. The author even mentions “cognitive dissonance”, which is the title of your own latest piece. And he cites people like Walter Youngquist, Richard Duncan, Jared Diamond, Colin Campbell, William Catton, Jay Hanson, and really does analyze empirical values taken from reliable sources.
    He seems to rue the idea that America as we have known it does not have the possibility of a happy ending, but the realization is not due to preference but due to recognition of reality. There was a great quote by Ayn Rand to the effect that we can ignore reality to some extent but cannot evade the consequences of reality.
    The author has a MBA from Temple University and background in finance and in consulting, so it appears that his investigation produced a big surprise for him personally that was not at all apparent to him when he began his investigations. This is the beautiful nexxus of an open mind and an intelligent one that seeks truth and is willing to dig for it.
    On a separate vein, while I do not always read John Michael Greer’s essays, I thought the latest one posted on energybulletin.net describing the likely decline of the internet as infrastructure fails should be required reading for young people who do not know a world without cyber communications. George Harrison sang that “all things must pass” and the internet era will be a brief footnote at the end of a failed civilization. If you go back to the piece on sustainable America and look at the number of generations it took for hunter gatherers to reach the agrarian stage, and then how short the industrial era turns out to be, it really impresses one on how our temporary industrial civilization is just a “flash in the pan”. I also thought it interesting that the analysis of pre-industrial, agrarian civilization was fascinating in revealing that agrarian society was itself unsustainable in the abstract, but the pace of disintegration just keep quickening and quickening with technical, industrial prowess, so that our “success” is what ultimately will do us in.
    I guess one way of putting it would be “We are all John Belushi”. 🙂
    Am I highly recommend the recent DVD on Pete Seeger called “The Power of Song”, which details a magical life of a truly wonderful and important man. And the scenes of him singing to little preschool children are priceless. I was lucky to find it for checkout at the public library and I am about to watch it for the fifth time in three days — I can’t get enough of it.
    Stan

  • The Pete Seeger DVD included footage of him singing the song “Guantanamera”, which is about a peasant girl from Guantanamo, Cuba and is a very, very beautiful song. It describes a worldview that is absent from our decadent society, and one which I think many Obama supporters believed he espoused: “With the poor of the earth I wish to cast my lot…” Unfortunately, Obama is sending drones to bomb the poor and handing the remaining wealth of our nation to the obscenely wealthy, but the song stands the test of time and is still wonderful to contemplate:
    Guantanamera Lyrics
    Guantanamera is a song with lyrics that inspire, particularly the phrase, “With the poor people of this earth, I want to share my lot.”
    Yo soy un hombre sincero
    De donde crecen las palmas
    Yo soy un hombre sincero
    De donde crecen las palmas
    Y antes de morirme quiero
    Echar mis versos del alma
    (I am a truthful man,
    From the land of the palm.
    Before dying, I want to
    share these poems of my soul.)
    CHORUS (AFTER EACH VERSE):
    Guantanamera! Guajira!
    Guantanamera!
    Guantanamera! Guajira!
    Guantanamera!
    Mi verso es de un verde claro
    Y de un carmin encendido
    Mi verso es de un verde claro
    Y de un carmin encendido
    Mi verso es un ciervo herido
    Que busca en el monte amparo
    (My verses are light green,
    But they are also flaming red.
    My verses are like a wounded fawn,
    Seeking refuge in the mountain.)
    Cultivo la Rosa blanca
    En junio como en enero
    Cultivo la Rosa blanca
    En junio como en enero
    Para el amigo sincero
    Que me da su mano franca
    (I cultivate a white rose
    In June and in January
    For the sincere friend
    Who gives me his hand.)
    Y para el cruel que me arranca
    El corazon con que vivo
    Y para el cruel que me arranca
    El corazon con que vivo
    Cardo ni ortiga cultivo
    Cultivo la rosa blanca
    (And for the cruel one who would tear out
    This heart with which I live.
    I cultivate neither thistles nor nettles
    I cultivate a white rose.)
    Con los pobres de la tierra
    Quiero yo mi suerte echar
    Con los pobres de la tierra
    Quiero yo mi suerte echar
    El arroyo de la sierra
    Me complace mas que el mar
    (With the poor people of this earth,
    I want to share my lot.
    The little streams of the mountains
    Please me more than the sea.)
    If you saw Pete Seeger singing this song at Carnegie Hall at age 89, I think you would not help falling in love with the man and what he has long stood for.
    Stan Moore

  • SF Chronicle article tells about teen panic when separated from internet:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/05/14/national/a142646D52.DTL&type=tech
    What a double whammy for some youngsters who go to camp and (1) are forced to do without their cellphones and internet connections while also (2) being faced with wild nature scaaaaaary.