Consensus and Other Realities

by John Rember

Note: I apologize for the Ten Best format of my essays. I’m trying to generate ten, ten-item essays, at which point I’ll try to publish a little book titled A Hundred Little Pieces about the End of the World. I realize a ten-item essay has a contrived and hokey structure, and ten of them is exponentially more contrived and hokey, but the form keeps me from writing down everything at once. Thanks for bearing with me.

1. I’ve been reading R.D. Laing again, mostly when I wake up at 3 a.m. and worry about how long it will be before Social Contract Capitulation. That’s when people sliding toward the bottom of the human pyramid give up, cash out their remaining 401(k) funds, use it to buy an assault rifle and a cookbook, and start researching how to field dress their neighbor’s Bichon Frise.

Worrying about pyramids causes me to also worry that if the American Federal Reserve ever loses its ability to prop up the economy, the largest employer in America will not be the Federal Government but Amway Corporation. That might not be all bad if you’ve correctly timed your entry into the Amway family. Amway can’t really lay you off once they’ve sent you a pallet of household detergent and cosmetics, especially if you’ve taken the time to hide it all in a safe place.

Unsold Amway products will form the nucleus of a new barter economy, which is how goods and services will be distributed after global capitalism finishes making like genetically-engineered oil-eating bacteria. As the oil economy starts winding down, your regional Amway dealer will likely send you a railcar full of unsold diesel pickups to distribute to your friends and family one tier down the pyramid. You’ll be able to trade them for food just as soon as folks learn how to fashion crossbows from leaf-springs.

One of the most valuable things you can have in a world where the Social Contract has broken down is a good place to hide stuff. The Swiss have known this for years. Their best customers reached Social Contract Capitulation long ago. But in a good way.

It’s thinking like this that wakes me up when it’s dark outside and going to stay dark for another four hours.

2. So I turn on a reading lamp, and pick up R.D. Laing. Laing isn’t an economics pundit. He’s a British psychiatrist, a dead one, except at 4 a.m. on dark winter mornings, when he comes back to life, sheeted and gibbering.

One of Laing’s foundational ideas is that we humans create false selves to satisfy the demands of our culture. But a false self, and the story we tell about it, alienates us not just from our real self but from the natural world and from other people and their real selves.

Laing says that this process of creating a false self makes us lonely to the point of psychosis. Bad craziness begins when we start to think our false self is our real self, and that the story we’ve made up about it is true. We starve our authentic self to feed the false one. We forego an authentic world and authentic relationships to live in ones that we’ve constructed out of wishes and lies and projection.

It happens no matter how smart you are. In fact, one of the side-effects of being highly intelligent is that your false self and made-up world are better and less subject to breakdown than the false selves and made-up worlds of people less intelligent than you. If you’re of genius-level intelligence, your false self is likely smarter than any other false self you encounter. In philosophical terms, this is known as winning the booby prize.

You seldom glimpse your false self when you look in the mirror, but you can see it when it happens to other people. For example, Ernest Hemingway spent his life constructing a writer’s self and its accompanying story about a wounded guy who never complained. When self and story broke down under the pressures of age and alcohol, there was nothing left to sustain his real self, and no real self left to sustain. His shotgun merely provided punctuation for a sentence already complete.

While R. D. Laing is concerned with individuals driven crazy by their false selves, the current economic and ecological crisis has made me realize that technological civilization also has a false self and a false story to back it up. For fifty years now, we have been telling ourselves that we’re richer than we are, that we can steal from unborn great-grandchildren, that we stand for the noble cause of human freedom, that our economic system isn’t subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that we’re mining and consuming inexhaustible resources according to their highest and best use.

Our real story is different, because our real self spends more than it makes. It approves the torture of detainees. It investigates the geology of countries before it invades them, because it has wasted most of its oil. It tolerates the manipulation of markets and tax codes that result in the working poor, who aren’t free, and the idle rich, who lack the sort of purpose in their lives that would allow them to do something constructive with their relative freedom. It turns its gaze away from observable phenomena when they contradict projections of economic growth and technological triumph.

Laing would say we’re in the process of discovering that we’re nuts. Hard facts are beginning to destroy the myths we’ve lived by. When George W. Bush called the American Constitution just a piece of paper, and America’s Supreme Court proved him right, all of technological civilization took a giant step toward reality. Another giant step came when America’s military got away with violating the Geneva Conventions. Another came when American politicians enacted more tax cuts and higher spending, which means we’ve realized that in an inflationary economy wealth is debt, and debt is wealth.

We’ve reached Capitulation Level with our cultural story. We’ve stopped believing in things we cannot touch or see, and a bleak, pragmatic survivalism has taken hold, even in that Font of Narrative called the Oval Office.

It’s a good thing, because it’s the start of sanity. But sanity is an inhospitable environment for technological civilization. It’s an inhospitable environment for any civilization.

3. One of my best writing students ever was a 7th-grader named Darrel. I forget Darrel’s family name, but that doesn’t matter, because Darrel is the author of the Frank-And-Dave Stories, and that is accomplishment enough to let him go through life single-named, like Madonna or Cher or Eminem. Frank-and-Dave Stories had titles like Frank and Dave Go Fishing and Catch a Fish, or Frank and Dave Push the Explorer Back onto Its Wheels, Change the Tire and Get Back on the Road, or Frank and Dave Watch the Superbowl and Their Team Wins.

When a Frank-and-Dave Story fulfilled the promise of its title, it was over. There wasn’t a lot of conflict in these stories, but they all got to where they said they would go. Frank and Dave weren’t complex and interesting literary characters, but they liked each other and helped each other out when the fish stopped biting or a tire blew or the opposing team was up by two touchdowns at the half. Good things happened in a Frank-and-Dave story, and they happened in short, simple sentences full of concrete nouns and action verbs. One of the lectures I used to give the students in my graduate-level creative writing classes was called How to Write Like Darrel.

But Darrel’s greatest asset as a writer was not his simple, clear, and effective language. It was his intact world. Darrel’s parents had raised him in a disciplined but loving environment. They had seen him through the usual challenges of childhood. They celebrated his successes and when he failed, they reassured him that he would do better next year, and then they analyzed his failure and actively prepared him to succeed. They set consistent and age-appropriate rules and when Darrel followed them they lovingly rewarded him and when he disobeyed them they lovingly punished him. If Darrel misbehaved in class I had only to mention that misbehavior in a parent-teacher conference and it never happened again.

The world that Darrel lived in was defined by the story his parents told themselves about their own lives, which had them living in a world where it was possible to make a lot of money in the stock market and then retire in their forties to a ski resort and raise a child in a rational and loving way. When Darrel sat down to write a Frank-and-Dave Story, he was telling yet another version of his life story, where success was always the punch-line.

Reading a Frank and Dave Story did not make me wish for more action or that a really serious bad guy would show up or that the wrong team would lose the big game. Instead, it allowed me to visit a completely safe and grammatical world and to want to get back to that world whenever Darrel finished his next story. I gave Darrel an A in 7th grade English.

If you’re wondering when I’m going to tell you that Darrel’s parents went through divorce and bankruptcy and addiction and criminal prosecution for duct-taping Darrel to the wall on club nights, and that Darrel ultimately responded to his loving-but-overcontrolled upbringing by mowing down a kindergarten class with an AK-47, that’s your world view making assumptions about my world view.

As far as I know, Darrel turned out all right, even if he didn’t continue as a writer. And his parents lived to a ripe old age with their marriage and story intact. They died believing in their story, which isn’t the worst way to go.

4. The stories that define life’s parameters are called meta-narratives by people who represent their false selves as philosophers. Meta-narratives define the world and the purpose of living and how time works and what wealth is for and where we’ve been and where we’re going, among other things.

The End of Civilization is a meta-narrative. So are Utopia and Ecotopia, stories in which humans have learned to Live In Peace With Human Nature and With Their Planet. So is Laissez-Faire Capitalism, where The Market Will Make You Free, and Marxism, where History Will Make You Free, and Christianity, where Christ’s Passion Has Washed Away Your Sins. Techno-futurists believe that The Singularity Will Make You Free Except That You’ll Have To Live In A Hard Drive.

A distinguishing characteristic of meta-narratives is their susceptibility to capitalization.

Meta-narratives can look a little silly when presented this way, but if yours or mine malfunctions, we’re in what is called, in philosophical terms, deep shit. R.D. Laing says schizophrenia occurs when a family’s or culture’s meta-narrative breaks down to the point where the individuals trapped in it stop believing in it.

2011 sees us surrounded by meta-narratives that are no longer doing their work of keeping us sane. If I had titled this essay Free Energy From The Peaceful Atom or Get Rich Flipping Houses, or Work Hard And Save Your Money And Prosper, I wouldn’t have given much help to your false self in its struggle to maintain the illusion of its existence.

Instead, you would have retreated into a less absurd meta-narrative, which might go something like The Marauding Hordes Won’t Make It Through My Minefield and Get My Krugerrands, which preserves your false self in the same way you preserve a bushel of peaches: first you kill all the bacteria, and then you seal yourself away from further contamination.

5. The usual response when a meta-narrative breaks is to go through an uncomfortable period of wondering if you have a self at all and then lie like crazy to get things back to where they were before the break, as when a fundamentalist Christian looks at a fossil and declares it an invention of Satan. Conservatives who insist that the free market doesn’t contain the seeds of its own destruction are doing the same thing, as are liberals who insist that entitlement programs—including the one that supports the Pentagon—haven’t bankrupted this country.

My own meta-narrative, which is in need of repair on a number of fronts, is that Brilliant Writers Always Become Rich and Famous.

It’s hard to experience the breakdown of your meta-narrative as anything but violence to your false self and your family and your community, and such perceived violence begets more violence, usually in the form of scapegoating. New meta-narratives can be forged out of the scrap of broken ones, and there’s always a low-life demagogue out there forging one from the basest, nastiest, ugliest, most fearful and least sane parts of the human psyche. The reason those demagogues prosper is that the story they offer is better than nothing, which is what the false self is in the absence of a good story. For people who have butchered their real selves to feed their false selves, the choice is simple enough: buy into this cheap-ass fiction or wink into non-existence.

6. R.D. Laing has a wonderful experiment that demonstrates how threatened we can get about the the boundary we’ve erected to preserve our false self from the world. Anybody can perform it:
1] Swallow the saliva in your mouth.
2] Sip water from a glass and swallow it.
3] Spit in the glass, and then sip from the glass and swallow.
4] Sip water from the glass, spit it back into the glass, sip from the glass again and swallow.

Laing points out that we can handle the first two, but that three and four cause great anxiety even though they are only variations on the first two.

Our anxiety stems from a confusion about what’s inside and what’s outside, and the sudden consequent knowledge that the boundary of the false self is both arbitrary and permeable, and always in danger of collapse due to an encounter with the real world. For the false self, authenticity is contamination. So things that cross the false self boundary need to conform to rigorous standards of purity. For these reasons, most of us have hard rules about what we put into or take out of our mouths, nostrils, or any other orifice.

Laing mentions that in moments of ecstasy, as when making love or when under the influence of psychotropic drugs—or both—the rigid boundary of self softens, and authentic experience is possible. Governments concern themselves with the sex lives and drug use of their subjects because sex and drugs (and even rock ‘n’ roll) can create a borderless and storyless self, one that by definition will not be a part of a national or global meta-narrative.

Substitute the borders of a country or a farm or a city lot for the borders of the body and you can see how people can get so upset over illegal immigrants and youth gangs, especially the ones who don’t work their fields or serve them Big Macs or keep their houses and lawns clean.

Imagine yourself in a twenty-four hour scenario involving mescaline, marathon sex with illegal immigrants and youth gangs, all set to a tape loop playing the BeeGees’ Stayin’ Alive at 120 decibels, and then try to imagine waking up the next day and trying to fit back in your old life story.

Immanuel Kant, if I understand him right, believed in a real world but said this about it: You Can’t Get There From Here. Post-Kantian philosophers have more or less gone along with that idea, improving it to say You Can’t Get There From Here But You Wouldn’t Want To Go There Anyway. Or, Who Cares About The Real World When You Can Live In Its Linguistic Simulacra? Or, If You Have Power, The Real World Is What You Say It Is.

It’s a good thing reality isn’t up for tenure in a university philosophy department. If it were, it would be out on the street just as soon as the contract year is over.

7. Back when I could read fine print, I spent a winter reading the 1972 edition of The Columbia History of the World, authored by the Columbia University history faculty. I slogged through all 1,165 pages of it.

It was spring when I finished. I was glad the book hadn’t been published in 2072, after a lot more wars, refugee migrations, currency collapses and epidemics.

Not that reading all the way to 2072 wouldn’t have been worth my while. I would have invested in Microsoft and Apple and Facebook and Google. I wouldn’t have hiked to the base of Mount St. Helens in early May of 1980. I would have written a heartfelt letter to the young George W. Bush, begging him to stop his drinking before it caused irreparable brain damage.

But maybe it’s better that history appears to end with this morning’s cup of coffee and this edition of the paper. We wouldn’t want to know if the weddings we attend are the opening acts of bitter divorces. Knowing that the Yankees were going to win another World Series or that Dallas was going to win a Superbowl would make me suicidal. Knowing where and what the next terrorist attack would be, for example, would start a desperate attempt to stop tragedy, with new tragedy coming out of the effort. A struggle with fate would replace freedom in our lives, and you don’t have to be Oedipus to know that’s a lousy trade-off.

Of course, the people with starring roles in The History of the World saw themselves free of fate, too, when in fact they were trapped within it. It’s the way you and I are going to appear to any historian of 2072.

We could all be in the position of a Jewish physician with a loving family, a flourishing practice, a fine home—in Prague, in 1933.

8. But history never tells us what’s going to happen. It only tells us what can happen. That said, knowing what can happen usually expands our estimation of what might happen. If you refrain from cherry-picking history to support your peculiar vision of the future, it can help you to understand how unpredictable and even unimaginable the future can be.

9. Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel Oryx and Crake shows a near-future where biotechnology underwrites the world economy, where health and truth are sold to the highest bidder, and where as soon as a technology is developed, it is immediately indentured to commerce. But Atwood is no prophet. The time she’s writing about is our own, unexaggerated because there’s no way to exaggerate what drug companies, life-extension researchers, and bioweaponeers are doing right now. There is no way to exaggerate the commodification of the world, no way to pretend that uncontrolled technology isn’t making us its slaves. Watch a kid playing a videogame, and you’ll see what I mean.

Atwood writes in the grand tradition of dystopian novelists. George Orwell’s 1984 was about its year of publication, 1948. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World incarnated the dreams of 1930s eugenicists. H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine as a satire on the class system in Edwardian England. Hailed as prophets of what would be, these writers just saw the implications of that which was.

10. The DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, contains a diagnosis called Folie a Deux. It means madness shared between two persons, and it’s helpful to point at when you’re trying to make a case that consensus reality, dependent as it is on false selves and false narratives, is a form of psychosis. It demonstrates that craziness does not live in neurotransmitter dysfunction, it lives in the space between two or more people.

So if Frank notices that all of Siberia is bubbling methane, Dave says that it’s normal climate oscillation. If Frank says that tropical diseases are colonizing Canada, Dave blames South American immigrants. If Frank notes that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction, Dave demands to see the evidence because he just doesn’t see any extinct animals around. If Frank says that the stock market is rising while more people lose their jobs, Dave praises the wisdom of the Free Market. If Frank quits his job, buys weapons and ammunition and a team of horses and moves to a small farmstead in an isolated valley in Alaska where the cabbages grow to the size of pumpkins, Dave sinks his life-savings into the stock market and studies to become a broker.

But remember that this is a Frank and Dave Story. Frank and Dave are bound to reach consensus by the end of it. Eventually Dave will join Frank in Alaska for cabbage-and-bear stew or Frank will move south to join Dave’s brokerage as a junior partner. They are bound together in ways they don’t consciously understand, and each of their false selves is fighting for its life when they get into an argument. The false self that wins gets to write the story for the false self that loses. That’s the nature of Frank and Dave, and unfortunately for their and our real selves, that’s the nature of humanity. The false selves of the winners get to write the narrative for the false selves of the losers, which is another reason not to place your faith in History. Or even in Frank and Dave stories, set in a world where God is named Darrel.

Where is the real self in all this falsity and fiction? Often enough, to use a philosophical term, it’s extinct. But if your real self is still alive, you can nourish it and heal it by carefully listening to and observing the world without preconceptions or paranoia. The Buddhists have an idea that the real self can be found in chopping wood and carrying water, which is a gnomic way of saying that reality lives in doing and not in being, in the microcosm and not in the macrocosm, in production rather than distribution, and in witnessing rather than shouting.

John Rember’s latest book is MFA in a Box, available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. His weekly blog on writing can be viewed at

Comments 94

  • As I sit here enervated in my 4th (5th?) contest with Lyme disease since moving to these Rhode Island woods, I can’t muster much enthusiasm for finding my true self. Almost certainly it would just turn out to be a more cleverly constructed false self. Self is a construction, and we can do it well or poorly, do in ways that serve our better potentialities or the worst potentialities of others, do it in a way that makes room for joy and “self-actualization” or for depression and stuntedness. Maybe some of that’s truer. In any case, thank you for the decimal essay – and I am now going to soak my head in that sunbeam that’s perched on the laundry pile . . . .

  • John, wonderful!
    really like your pointer to the ‘real’ in the closing
    also liked “If Frank notes that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction, Dave demands to see the evidence because he just doesn’t see any extinct animals around.” … speaks volumes!

  • Always love John Rember’s work. Thanks for posting, Guy.

  • If you think there isn’t a war on, consider that, quite recently, the British conservative Peter Hitchens, brother of the more famous Christopher, called Laing a charlatan. It seems that old resentments die hard.

    The first time I read The Politics of Experience, I didn’t understand it. Only two years later, I read it again, and understood it perfectly. What had happened in the intervening years? Alienation.

    Picture this: I’m at a party, and I sit next to a girl I like. She leans against me. I quote extensively from Laing. Now she really likes me! I have seen the bird of paradise, she has spread herself before me …

    Or this: I’m speaking to someone I know about an incident at another party where we took MDMA and someone noticed a physical ailment of mine, the only time that has ever happened. I’m thinking of Fritjof Kapra’s account of his meeting with Laing, towards the end of the old man’s life, in London, when Laing recounts a patient of his telling him that he (Laing) was the only person who ever listened to him. Laing had listened for perhaps 20 minutes to this man, and this had detonated a charge in his patient that had been life transforming. Imagine! Imagine how thirsty for recognition this patient of Laing’s had been. I, in turn, recount my experience of being noticed in a way I hadn’t before. The person I’m speaking to says: “Is that it?”

    There is a war. It is a war against the last remnant that holds out against the all-devouring apparatus of control: your inner life. Zerzan, quoting Rieff, discerns a culture “in which technics is invading and conquering the last enemy—man’s inner life, the psyche itself.”

    It is astonishing that as long ago as 1980, Laing could contribute an essay to the compendium The Schumacher Lectures, in which he could ask: “Is anything the matter?”

    Is anything the matter? Is there fuck.

  • It’s always good to read new perspectives and see more pieces of the jogsaw.


    Yes, that summs up mainstream culture in a sentence: ‘If Frank notes that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction, Dave demands to see the evidence because he just doesn’t see any extinct animals around.’

  • Fabulous! Thank you, John. I just signed up for your newsletter. Will check out your book.

  • Even as tired as I am, I found the essay enlightening and entertaining. Parts of it remind me of reading Douglas Adams’ works. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  • But a false self, and the story we tell about it, alienates us not just from our real self

    There is no self. That is the First of the Three Features of Existence in Buddhism. The delusion is that there is a self.

    our economic system isn’t subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics

    Only the tertiary economy is so subject.

    George W. Bush called the American Constitution just a piece of paper

    Actually, it is: it took the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to shore up the collapsing edifice. Such amendments would not be needed in the charter of any ethical society.

    For people who have butchered their real selves to feed their false selves

    There is no real self: in that regard nothing is butchered. All that has happened is a morphing of the delusion.

    Laing points out that we can handle the first two, but that three and four cause great anxiety

    Either he, or his subjects did not have their brains wired “properly” – with the caveat that “properly” may also be quite subjective: what is “proper” to me may be improper to someone else.

    Substitute the borders of a country or a farm or a city lot for the borders of the body

    Actually borders are a prerequisite for the maintenance of homeostasis. Without a cell memblane, nucleic acid chemistry would not be able to sustain itself; wihtout intercellular borders, life would not have progresed beyond the plasmodial stage of an enormous slime mold. At every further level, whether it be a picket fence or a Maginot Line, borders are created with the intent to preserve internal homeostasis.

    But homeostasis also is a matter of perspective. What may preservation of homeostasis to one may be atavistic to another, and intemperate dissoluteness to yet another. Endoymbionts are a notable breach, the mitochondrion derived from a proteobacterium endosymbiotic in an eukaryote being one postulated example.

    It’s a good thing reality isn’t up for tenure in a university philosophy department.

    It is more of a matter whether universities have tenure in forthcoming Reality.

    It demonstrates that craziness does not live in neurotransmitter dysfunction, it lives in the space between two or more people.

    Levels of emergence beyond the individual will of necessity be perceived from an individual point of view. A perspective from a remove such as history may reveal more features, but real comprehension remains for the “superorganism” (if any).

    Dave demands to see the evidence because he just doesn’t see any extinct animals around.

    Looking back, those extinct animals are from the lineages of our umpteenth-great-uncles (and -aunts).

    the real self can be found in chopping wood and carrying water

    There is no self. While the chopping of wood and carrying water continue past this awareness, their nature changes from volitional to non-volitional – becoming like breathing. The awareness itself is not perceived as an achievement – just as something that had always been there, previously unnoticed.

    reality lives in doing and not in being

    When the emperor of China described to the Bodhidharma all the temples he had built, all the priests and monks he had housed and fed, all the alms he had given, and asked what merit he had accumulated for these, he was told “None whatsoever”.

    technics is invading and conquering the last enemy—man’s inner life, the psyche itself

    It may well prove to be the case. However, beyond that. since there is no self, there is nothing conquerable.

  • Robin, there may or may not be a self in the sense of an “I” within us that runs the show. But we all act as if there is one, even those who deny it. That is a reality in itself.

    Frankly sometimes Buddhist philosophy sounds like saying things that seem so contradictory that people think it must be profound.

    I know when I held that little boy dying of Aids in Haiti, he snuggled into my arms and I liked it even though I knew it would not save him. There are no words in any religion for that moment, it was real, it happened to me and him, and that me and him were real.

    Perhaps in all this language about there being no self, self needs to be defined because your definition of self that does not exist may be so different from other people’s idea of self that your use of the term becomes irrelevant to others. I fail to see how pretending there is no self helps anyone. In fact it is perhaps a way of avoiding reality. I really exist. I am not you or anyone else. When I hurt I feel the pain. When I am happy, it is I who is happy. If I lose my mind people will likely say “she isn’t there anymore”. I have a self. It somehow proceeds out of the connections in my brain. That the self is actually in charge of my body is debatable, but that it exists is undeniable. And I am responding to another self – a person in particular who goes by the name of Robin and writes about Buddhist philosophy. Perhaps we should rephrase the I think therefore I am, to I will die, therefore I existed. When you die that unique person that is you will be gone. But before then, you yourself exist.

  • Hi Kathy! Yeah, i had to think about this for a long time before i “got it” (understood what was being described).

    The point is that there is no “me” apart from or independent of the entire universe. A standard zen question is to find the boundary where “i” stop and everything else starts. You see? Without the air, sunlight, human interaction, etc. of “out there” the “i” doesn’t or cannot exist. We’re all “part of” the one thing called existence, yet there is no “part” – it’s all the same thing (existence) – we simply experience it that way (as “my” life).

    Does the fish see itself as living separately from the ocean?

  • Tom, sure I understand that we are part of all that is, but at the same time we are unique individuals. Saying we experience it as “my” life is in effect saying my self is the experience of my life. So when the author of the essay says “the real self can be found in chopping wood and carrying water” I hardly think that the appropriate response is that there is no self. One might more usefully say that because we are a natural part of the whole, pleasure can be found in doing things that help us feel our connection.

    Just to say “there is no self” to every mention of the world self or selves is not a discussion. It is a religious assertion. One can both feel part of everything and separate. No matter how much I feel a part of everything, it is my own pain I feel when I cut myself, and it is your pain I can imagine myself feeling when you cut yourself. In a sense my pain is an illusion created in my brain to protect me from injury, but frankly at the moment of the cut my self is quite present and objecting, while other selves the world over, including the fish in the see are oblivious.

    The fish in the sea can’t live without the ocean, but I can eat the fish without drinking the ocean or eating all the fish in the sea. Our dependencies on that natural world don’t mean we have no status as individuals.

    Now if you want to say there is no soul, no god given something that animates you and exists without you I would say I think that is true.

    But in any case as you can see I agree with you that there is no me apart of the universe because you elucidate that this as a way of looking at ourselves instead of seeing ourselves as separate from the universe. This allows for discussion about what the author meant when he used the word self and how his perceptions can be understood. In fact what he is saying is I think quite in line with Buddhist philosophy but Robin dismisses it with “there is no self” which is sort of a conversation ender type assertion. Not that that keeps me from addressing it tho. 🙂

  • Corrigendum: the quote is from the Third Feature of Reality, not the First.

    I really exist. I am not you or anyone else.

    Diamond Sutra Chapter 14:

    Such a person will be able to awaken pure faith because they have ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of their own selfhood, other selves, living beings, or a universal self.

    It is the same with all arbitrary conceptions of other selves, living beings, or a universal self. These are all expressions of non-existent things.

    One route to such awareness is Self-Inquiry, the practice of which is known in the Hindu tradition as Vichara. It is not a matter for debate: the awareness has to be direct. Cognitive “understanding” is in a different domain. And from that naturally flows the resolve to help the every sentient being into “enlightenment”.

    In the Hindu tradition the bases for knowledge (evidence, proofs) are known as pramanas (the same word in Hindi and Bengali). The first of these is the awareness that precedes the senses, language, thought, emotion. and even self-awareness.

  • Robin Datta, the concept of the self is imbibed with mother’s milk in Western Civilization, and it’s difficult for many of us to step outside of it. At worst it becomes a windowless prison cell that one only leaves at death, but at best it becomes a fine perch from which to witness the universe. It may only exist as an erroneous idea, but it’s a powerful and potentially useful erroneous idea.

    I have friends who profess to be Buddhist, but they tend to see themselves as the best Buddhists around with the best Buddhist stuff and the best Buddhist actions. Even I can see they’re missing the point. In spite of huge efforts to rid themselves of their Western selves, their Western selves are very much in charge of their lives, and they’re as much of a pain in the ass to be around as any other narcissistic Westerner.

    The Burmese generals and Thai oligarchs, who must have imbibed Buddhism from their own mother’s milk, seem to have been seduced into adopting flashy-but-shallow selves that they found wandering around the Las Vegas suburbs.

    Another way to look at a false self is that it’s tempted forward and backward in time, as was your Chinese Emperor when he pointed to his enduring works. Obviously those works weren’t enduring, and obviously he would not have asked the question had he been concerned with living authentically in the moment between his own heartbeats.

    From a Western perspective, your entry above seems to have been generated by a self, and your assertion that there is no self is being asserted by a self. That’s just the way it looks from here.

  • Certainly, this kind of complex reasonings are good for our times, but in the times coming, empty stomaches will not be worried about them.

    Dark Age incoming, life vest under your seat!

  • I had two friends once who chose to be nameless. I assume it had something to do with renouncing selfhood. In fact what it did was bring attention to their unique nameless selves, not to mention making things awkward for those of us who use names. The naming of individuals is I believe a pretty much universal human trait. It establishes Robin as Robin and not Kathy and Guy as Guy and not John. It is quite useful as in “I went to see Joe” lets a person know which unique human you have gone to see.

    At any rate I don’t accept the authority of anyone’s holy books, so quoting from them proves nothing to me. But I do note in the Diamond Sutra that the Buddah said he had 500 previous lives. If he had no self then he was in every and all previous lives or none. He can only be in and know that he was in the limited number of 500 if he has selfhood although that goes beyond self and begins to look suspiciously like a soul.

  • The false self that John describes is where we lose it. Noticing what we are doing, understanding the ‘reasons’ for what we are doing gives us knowledge of how we are interacting with our environment. The practice of attention/noticing the thoughts arising, the feelings accompanying these thoughts and the inclination to act on these thoughts gives us insight. This is important as we move to a different relationship with our place on earth.

    … so appreciate the conversation here
    Robin, bookmarked the links, thanks

  • Looks like the self/no-self/true-self/false-self issue is well handled, so I won’t elaborate further. Besides, my quibble was with the concept of “good things happen” in a Frank-and-Dave story. Not with its original intent—kudos to 7th grader Darryl—but with its application as applied to sub-section #10. At least that’s how it appeared upon initial reading.

    Consensus, by definition, is based on collective agreement. That collective agreement, however, may or may not be by unanimity. It may be by stand-aside, which implies, especially in a consensus of two, that one party (I’m not going to use the word “self” here) has greater power than the other whether won via love, respect, coercion, denial, sex, drugs or sheer exhaustion. At its heart then, consensus is simply a non-violent form of capitulation. One party devours another. How could that be a good thing?

    From my perspective, a true Frank-and-Dave story would be founded on compromise. Thus, if “Frank says that tropical diseases are colonizing Canada,” and Dave blames those tropical diseases on “South American immigrants” then together they dedicate themselves to eradicating said tropical diseases, thereby saving bajillions of Canadian and South American lives. Everyone benefits.

    Or, if “Frank notices that all of Siberia is bubbling methane” and Dave says that’s “normal climate oscillation” then together they develop a means to capture and distribute that bubbling methane whereby everyone enjoys the comfort of a cool house until the climate pendulum swings into a cooler era.

    But then I realized that compromise is simply a collective agreement between unhappy parties in which everyone feels he or she gave up too much or received too little. (sigh) Another form of capitulation.

    So John, what you say works.

    However, in regards to “the real self can be found in chopping wood and carrying water,” that’s simply fatigue.

  • Jean – touché

  • ‘From a Western perspective, your entry above seems to have been generated by a self, and your assertion that there is no self is being asserted by a self. That’s just the way it looks from here.’

    lol touche, mr. rember!

    robin, u must be right re. your buddhist assertions existing outside the domain of intellectual cognition, and not up for debate. if i understand u correctly from an intellectual cognitive standpoint, the gist of your buddhist message is that surreality isn’t surreal, that common perceptions of ego separation/distinction/boundaries are imaginary. interesting. i’ve read/heard of experiences with hallucinogens with this same revelation. sounds nice, but seems to fly in the face of surreality. if ego is imaginary, why do we all have this delusion, or at least most of us most of the time? perhaps time’s another delusion of ego?

    ‘Certainly, this kind of complex reasonings are good for our times, but in the times coming, empty stomaches will not be worried about them.

    Dark Age incoming, life vest under your seat!’

    jean, ever the practical one, urging us back to surreality, or reality, as he prefers. thanks for the urgent wake up call, for as we fiddle, rome is burning, and the fire’s just getting started.


    March 2, 2011
    February Arctic ice extent ties 2005 for record low; extensive snow cover persists
    Arctic sea ice extent for February 2011 tied with February 2005 as the lowest recorded in the satellite record. Sea ice extent was particularly low in the Labrador Sea and Gulf of St. Lawrence. In contrast, winter snow cover remained extensive in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Robin Datta, the concept of the self is imbibed with mother’s milk in Western Civilization, and it’s difficult for many of us to step outside of it.

    It is not only a concept, but is so deeply perceived that it is accepted as factual knowledge. The mention of the pramanas is a reference to this acceptance. Also, it is the nature of the – shall we say – beast, in all sentient beings, not unique to just “Western Civilization” or humans. It does not have to be imbibed. Even with stepping outside of it, the concept is still retained: stepping outside, one carries one’s “self” outside,

    your Chinese Emperor

    Actually, in the place of my origin there were no Chinese Emperors. There were, however, Persian kings who for a time maintained their hegemony there: compared to them the present rulers of iran are outright saintly. Later there were the Mughals, (who ruled for several centuries immediately preceding the advent of the British Raj). These were of the lineage of Genghis Khan: the first Mughal emperor, Babar, was the great-great-grandson of Genghis Khan.

    From a Western perspective, your entry above seems to have been generated by a self

    Not just a Western perspective, but the perspective of every sentient being with intelligence sufficiently developed to read that entry. Operating within a paradigm further buttresses it.

    There is a metaphor that could be used in this context – that of a dust devil. When it wanders over one spot, it may pick up a few leaves and some sand, giving it a particular appearance. When it wanders away from that spot, it may be invisible, in which case it is no longer a dust-devil. The whirling tendencies (karmas) may still remain, in which case it continues as a whirlwind. When the whirlwind moves to another spot it may pick up sand of a different hue and maybe different debris, manifesting as another dust-devil with a different appearance. Ultimately the whirlwind will die down, leaving no trace of its identity.

    Certainly, this kind of complex reasonings are good for our times, but in the times coming, empty stomaches will not be worried about them.

    There is a story told of a haughty person learned in all the Sanskritic writings, who would regularly use the services of a ferryman to row him across a river; he treated the ferryman with disdain because of the ferryman’s illiteracy. During the crossing one particularly stormy day it became obvious that the boat was about to sink. The ferryman asked the scholar whether he (the scholar) knew how to swim. When the scholar said that he did not know, the ferryman enquired as to what use there was for all that extensive knowledge. One does not escape one’s “karmas” through book-knowledge.

    At any rate I don’t accept the authority of anyone’s holy books, so quoting from them proves nothing to me.

    There are no “holy books” since there is nothing “holy”. Even if one goes by a theistic tradition, to suggest that something is holy is to imply that G_d is lumpy. Holy places and things are the sites where there is a lump of G_d; less holy places are those where G_d is thinned out.

    “Holy” books that purport to prove something are the most “unholy”. A very young child in its mother’s lap at evening. may look at her face when she points to the moon. When somewhat older, it may look at her finger. The leap of understanding is to go from the finger to the moon. In this regard, books are only pointers. Any proof has to be realized within one’s “self”.

    In the Sufi tradition one metaphor used is that of a scholar and his beast-of-burden – a donkey – laden with his books. (This refers to a time before printing, when each book had to be written or copied quite laboriously by hand, and was worth a small fortune). It was said that the difference between a person with awareness and a scholar with book-knowledge was like the difference between the scholar laden with book-knowledge and the donkey laden with books. Thinking along these lines leads to the admonition to burn all the sutras.

    The naming of individuals is I believe a pretty much universal human trait.

    Names are a way to attach a handle to a set of objects, actions, relationships, properties, etc. whether they be animate, inanimate, an individual or a group. It is easy to think that a name confers a reality beyond this function.

    If he had no self then he was in every and all previous lives or none.

    Indeed, with awareness, a person recognizes one’s identification with all sentient beings – hence the resolve to help them all into awareness.

    if he has selfhood although that goes beyond self and begins to look suspiciously like a soul.

    It not only “looks suspiciously like a soul”, it is what is called “soul”.

    The story goes that a the time of creation, the craftsman god (the Hindu equivalent of Vulcan) created the shells for the various creatures (including “man”) before filling up each of them . To allow for the sense-organs to communicate with the exterior, he pierced holes in the appropriate places in all the shells. In every instance he pierced the holes from inside out.

    Hence human (and animal) the direction cognition is fixed outwards: even when an attempt is made to direct it inwards, all that usually happens is that the inside is temporarily shifted to a new virtual location “outside”. Hence the Herculean effort needed to achieve the awareness. Acknowledging the established paradigm when necessarily operating within it does not entail subscribing to it.

    That collective agreement, however, may or may not be by unanimity.

    An approach to this issue was addressed at some length:

    Why Dissensus Matters

    Dissensus and Organic Process

    your buddhist assertions

    They are not my buddhist assertions; I am not a Buddhist. My uS Army and uS Navy dog tags asserted that.

    surreality isn’t surreal, that common perceptions of ego separation/distinction/boundaries are imaginary. interesting. i’ve read/heard of experiences with hallucinogens with this same revelation. sounds nice, but seems to fly in the face of surreality.

    if ego is imaginary, why do we all have this delusion, or at least most of us most of the time?

    Surreal and real are both in the realm of a lower-level basis for knowledge (pramana): all such knowledge is dependent on the senses, thought, emotion. and such. The awareness that one’s self is sensing, thinking, feeling emotions. etc, is a necessary (but not sufficient) part of all such levels dependent on it. Hence everyone operating within that paradigm has that “delusion”.

    But it not a delusion until one recognizes that it is based on an awareness that includes it – a state of awareness in which the self is an object, not the subject – with the caveat that externalizing a virtual self to look at itself does not change the paradigm: “stepping out” does not enable the apprehension.

  • And a decade after most of us realised it:

    Market turmoil as IEA warns ‘age of cheap oil is over’ (Independent UK).

  • Kevin

    Does your source indicate mass measurement as well?

  • A headline on Yahoo finance – Oil falls to near $101 amid Libya mediation hopes – Ah well we are saved then almost back down to $101. Whew I was getting worried there.

    Actually tho Kevin’s comments on the Arctic sea ice are worrisome. The economy better hurry up and collapse – soon.

  • Names are a way to attach a handle to a set of objects, actions, relationships, properties, etc. whether they be animate, inanimate, an individual or a group. It is easy to think that a name confers a reality beyond this function.

    Names serve a function because they reflect a reality. Thinking of ourselves as part of a whole serves one function and represents the reality of that whole. But within the whole are parts. I have a left and a right leg. They are part of my body but have individual status and knowing that they are separate legs helps me keep from getting my pants on backwards or trying to put my legs in my sleeves. There are lots of realities – and that of the whole I don’t deny. But I am me. I think my own thoughts and you don’t know them unless I put them down here and you don’t know who thought them unless I put in my name. To talk about different realities, perspectives, ways of looking at things is very useful. To assert to that your particular ways of looking at things are right and others ways of doing so are wrong, in fact implies that you highly regard yourself as having more wisdom than others.

  • Victor.

    I don’t think anyone has a really good assessment of the mass of ice. All we can be sure of is that we are headed into the northern summer with the lowest ever (tied with 2005) area of ice in recent times and the highest ever CO2 content in the air (around 391ppm). Logically we would expect to see the lowest ever summer ice, but things rarely go exactly as as we would expect.

    Oh, there are several other thing we can be sure of: the nutters out there will continue to insist that the Earth was much warmer in medieval times; 99% of the populace will continue to have no idea what is happening or why; oil companies will look forward to warmer operating conditions in the far north and the far south; politicians will do nothing about any of it.

    By the way, the inevitable has happened in Christchurch. The response of government has been predictably inadequate and a week-and-a-half later people don’t have water or temporary toilets. However, there are plenty of talking heads.

    One can only speculate how it might have been if every dwelling was wooden, single storey, and had a composting toilet and the CBD had been constructed on a human scale.

  • Robin: Ahhh, yes, dissensus, the application of different and opposing options. Good point. That’s undoubtedly why some years I come out ahead on my farm and other years my neighbor does. We’re generally at odds on how to do everything.

    BTW: I also appreciate your comment (several posts back) regarding homeostatic maintenance and its relevance to borders. You noted endoymbionts as a breach of such. Other examples include viruses, viroids, and prions. They may not be eukaryotic (and may lack a cellular structure), but they most definitely know how to create internal havoc once they put their minds to it. (Okay, they don’t have minds either.)

  • To talk about different realities, perspectives, ways of looking at things is very useful.

    Not just useful, but necessary.

  • Not just useful, but necessary.
    I disagree

  • I disagree

    particular ways of looking at things are right and others ways of doing so are wrong

  • Resa, considering the ideas you wrote about consensus, collective agreement, compromise and capitulation … I read somewhere that some Inuit tribes considered consensus decision making to mean literally everyone agreeing. The book described some decisions taking months to achieve a truly unanimous agreement. My hope in reading this description of the Inuit process is that it did not result in the surrender you described of giving too much and getting too little – but that may be wishful thinking. The book went on to point out how ridiculous a democracy looks in comparison when the majority is ‘just’ 51% – plenty of the giving too much getting too little here!

    As John wrote “Laing would say we’re in the process of discovering that we’re nuts.”
    Many of us who read here could certainly agree with that. As for mainstream I would celebrate the 51% majority agreement on this point … more wishful thinking

  • ‘There is a metaphor that could be used in this context – that of a dust devil. When it wanders over one spot, it may pick up a few leaves and some sand, giving it a particular appearance. When it wanders away from that spot, it may be invisible, in which case it is no longer a dust-devil. The whirling tendencies (karmas) may still remain, in which case it continues as a whirlwind. When the whirlwind moves to another spot it may pick up sand of a different hue and maybe different debris, manifesting as another dust-devil with a different appearance. Ultimately the whirlwind will die down, leaving no trace of its identity.’- robin

    this spiritual dust devil imagines ‘he’ vaguely comprehends the above. sometimes ‘i’ don’t have a clue what ‘u”re trying to say, but when i do have a clue, i think maybe ‘u”re the surrealest dust devil on nbl, and i dig where u’re coming from. i’m enriched, grateful and not yet dead. still a metaphorical whirlwind. i appreciate the different cultural perspective and knowledge u share here, dust devil datta.

  • Sarah:

    As with everything else, there’re a dozen different ways to have consensus. In my experience, it’s been less of the unanimous agreement (although that’s generally what’s associated with consensus) and more of “unanimity minus x,” where x stands for the number of individuals permitted to NOT support the proposal. In formal situations, rules of process are (usually) set at the first meeting and may include specific meanings for specific words, especially if legalese is involved.

    I have stood-aside, usually in situations where either outcome would have been the same amount of work (or grief) (or annoyance). In those situations, you can become a target for bribery, because yes, a “lose / less-lose” can seem more attractive than a straight “lose-lose.”

    BTW: Consenting to a decision does not necessarily mean consenting to one’s personal preference. Many (possibly most) times it’s consenting to the direction of the majority (or most powerful) of the participants involved.

  • Looking over these comments takes me a long way from the sense of urgency and hope I had when I started looking at R.D. Laing and his concept of the false self and its sustaining narrative.

    The false self seemed to be able to explain multiple and competing consensus realities and the resulting inability of a supposedly rational species to deal with the mess they’re in.

    The urgency came from the fact that not much time is left before a number of positive feedback loops–population, desertification, open Arctic waters, and overfishing, to name a few–kick in big-time.

    The hope came from my belief that NBL is one of the more intelligent discussion groups out there, and that R.D. Laing’s work is part of an old-but-still-kicking human liberation movement, and that a mixing of the two would be fruitful. I don’t know where a viable future is going to come from unless it’s from groups like NBL’s commentariat.

    Resa, you have the dynamics of faculty committee meetings down cold. Consensus, indeed. On balance, the kind of consensus they’re achieving in Libya right now is less painful.

  • particular ways of looking at things are right and others ways of doing so are wrong

    There is no right or wrong.

  • SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher knew what he was doing when he made $1.8 million in false oil and gas drilling bids at a federal auction. He knew he couldn’t possibly pay for them. And he knew he could end up behind bars.

    But he did it for the cause. On Thursday, a federal jury convicted him on two felony counts of interfering with and making false representations at a government auction. He now faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $750,000 at his June 23 sentencing.

  • stating the obvious here but …

    “Laing would say we’re in the process of discovering that we’re nuts.” …

    drilling/fracking in pristine areas is supported by law …

    longing for the good ole’ days that George Carlin described as life here being a freak show …

    a lunatic freak show is what we have now

  • I would like to inquire into what sort of charmed life Robin Datta has enjoyed in competitive Western society, that he affects to have distanced himself from the claims of selfhood. Has Robin not been in a boarding school, or in the army, or in prison, or worked in a tough profession like advertising? Has he not grown up in a rough neighborhood, where he has had to defend himself from others? I hope that Robin, if I may call him Robin, will forgive me for being skeptical about his Buddhist accomplishments. Most Buddhists I know are people whose parents paid for their education, got jobs in the public sector or in some or other non-governmental organization, never have to work overtime, and are therefore able to turn up at their temple to sit zazen exactly on time, dressed in their finest, with hair in suitable disarray.

  • Oil up to 103.82


    I expect that a great deal of ice will be lost via Fram Strait, Nares Strait and the Canadian archipelago. By September the bulk of sea ice will remain only in the area along the coasts of the Canadian archipelago and Greenland, with an extent of substantially less than 4 million km2. – perhaps less than 3 million km2

    Reduced ice cover affects sea temperatures, in turn affecting Arctic current flows and air movements. Thinner ice, instead of piling up as pressure ridges due to compression effects, cracks into sections due to tension and agitation effects.
    The Arctic is virtually ice-free by late summer: there is open water at the North Pole.

  • Ladies and gentlemen:

    Due to the rising prices of oil (related to peak and crisis in Lybia), it’s expectable to see another financial crack, similar to the one occurred in 2008. Get out of debt right now, avoid investing, store silver and gold and expect anything.

    Civilian unrest included.

    This time, the budget of governments is going to be seriously affected. It’s a couple months from now, maximum.

    PS–> I don’t give a s***t, I’m away from industrial civilization, already.

    PS PS–> I’ve managed to buy 5,000 extra rounds and many cans of food, until my crops grow.

    I’m ready.

  • Has Robin not been in a boarding school, or in the army,
    Has he not grown up in a rough neighborhood, where he has had to defend himself from others?
    skeptical about his Buddhist accomplishments.

    Boarding school: not quite: did live in a dorm in pre-med for a while.

    Army: Colonel (retired), Flight Surgeon, Medical Corps, united States Army Reserve.

    Rough neighborhood: Born in Quetta, Pakistan. Lived in East Pakistan / Bangladesh through the Bangladesh Independence episode. Had to retake the final medical school exams (passed both times) because Bangladesh would not recognize the ones taken under the Pakistani administration.

    Buhhdist: never been one.

  • competitive Western society … distanced himself from the claims of selfhood.

    A characteristic of all sentient beings, not just competitive Western society; a direct perception, not a claim; cannot distance oneself from perception.

  • Robin:

    Perhaps you’ve explained previously, but why do you always lower-case the “u” in US?

    I’m assuming it has significance, possibly derogatory.

    I have hunches. Curious is all.


  • John Rember, if your idea of a viable future is peasant farming, primitive hunting/gathering and a return to ignorance, then yes, NBL is a good place to look for ideas. Fortunately this remains a blogospheric backwater which attracts a particularly wretched breed of Malthusian civilization-hater, and is in no way representative of the aspirations of our species at large.

    My questions as always for this crowd are these: do you really want to have your horizons so radically reduced that you live without space telescopes, without a global communications network, without our entire body of scientific knowledge? Do you want to abandon the germ theory of disease, Copernican astronomy and evolutionary biology? Do you want to live in a state of primitive superstition and tribal barbarism? Because like it or not, that is exactly what would happen without this complex structure called modern civilization. What could possibly make anyone so pessimistic about the human enterprise that they would reach this state of total nihilism? I’m still waiting for an answer to these questions from someone here (and no personal attacks please)!

  • Mr. Datta, I don’t waste my time debating Buddhists, because Buddhism is a pathological form of life-denying nihilism. Why would anyone want to deny their ego when ego is all we have? H.P. Lovecraft said it well:

    “The human race will disappear. Other races will appear and disappear in turn. The sky will become icy and void, pierced by the feeble light of half-dead stars. Which will also disappear. Everything will disappear. And what human beings do is just as free of sense as the free motion of elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, feelings? Pure ‘Victorian fictions’. Only egotism exists.”

    In other words, Buddhists want to rob us of the only thing that gives our lives significance, here on this tiny speck of dust orbiting a star in a universe of ten billion trillion suns!

    You will never encounter a Buddhist in the animal kingdom, because Buddhism is not compatible with survival in this universe. Only a species capable of such vast self-delusion as our own could ever adapt such an unnatural perspective on life as Buddhism!

  • Rising oil prices and tumbling bank shares dragged Wall Street lower on Friday, with stocks surrendering the previous session’s hefty gains

    Oil 104.4

    Jean – while at times I find myself thinking human extinction is the best thing, I also find myself hoping you make it through the bottleneck. Things are looking pretty unsettled as you note and the grand crashing may be nigh.

    Cosmist – It is far beyond a question of what we want. NBL is about what is happening, ie that nature is now at the bat, not humans. You probably need to re-read a bunch of Guy’s essays as you seem to have missed the point of what he is saying. If civilization crashes before we totally ruin the planet, and some life and some humans may survive. If not we totally ruin the planet and no humans survive. Climate change has moved much faster than the most dire predictions and it may well be into positive feedback such that nothing humans do or don’t do matters. If it isn’t into positive feedback it just might be possible that a complete economic collapse, bringing this global industrial civilization to a halt could keep climate change within some bounds that allow humans to exist. Guy can correct me if I am wrong but that seems to be the core of his message. I myself am not sure which is better because I am not sure that the existence of humans is a good idea. However for those who think humanity continuing is a good idea, it would seem if Guy is right, that collapse of the current civilization is good in the sense that it prevents a greater evil.

  • Kathy, I don’t share your fatalistic attitude about the future. Are you a climate scientist? Do you believe this story about an imminent climate apocalypse because you have carefully studied the evidence and understand the models and our options for addressing the problem? Or do you just look for anything that confirms your End-Timer worldview? In my experience almost everyone in the doomer camp falls in the latter category. I challenge you to study the actual science of these issues instead of dancing around your campfire like a savage celebrating every piece of bad news. Sorry, but a system like the global climate far too complex for simple apocalypse stories, no matter how much you might like them!

  • Cosmist,

    I don’t share your optimistic attitude about the future. Are you a climate scientist? Do you reject this story about an imminent climate apocalypse because you have carefully studied the evidence and understand the models and our options for addressing the problem? Or do you just look for anything that confirms your Cornucopian worldview? In my experience almost everyone in the cornucopian camp falls in the latter category. I challenge you to study the actual science of these issues instead of dancing around with your light saber like a Jedi knight celebrating every flight into sci-fi fantasy. Sorry, but a system like the global climate far too complex for simple magical solutions, no matter how many stars you might wish upon!

    Michael Irving

  • Excellent response, Michael Irving. I’ll throw in my two cents. Sean The Cosmist, I am a climate scientist. I believe this story about an imminent climate apocalypse because I have carefully studied the evidence and understand the models and our options for addressing the problem.

  • What could possibly make anyone so pessimistic about the human enterprise that they would reach this state of total nihilism?

    It’s a fair question, eloquently phrased. I might counter with: What could possibly prompt a person who is even passingly acquainted with the sour stink of civilizational defeat and today’s all-pervasive alienation to ask such a wide-eyed question? It seems to me that the human enterprise now encourages wistful nostalgia in all but the very young. Why is this?

    Perhaps it is because the days when we could still celebrate the serendipity of the Alexander Flemings or even the brainiacal excursions of the Nikola Teslas is long gone. It’s not just medicine, which increasingly yields fewer returns despite dizzying costs, and becomes ever more arid and inaccessible to all but a few specialists. Or Tesla’s humming electrical grid, which is utterly taken for granted and yet is still fatally dependent on digging stuff out of the ground.

    It’s every field and endeavor of the civilizational enterprise you care to name. Everywhere the triumph of technology, enjoyed by nerds (like me) only a generation or two ago, has been delivered into the hands of lab-coated cyborgs. You can’t repair your audio gear, TV, or auto yourself any more: it’s now the job of specialists armed with esoteric tools, and in case you hadn’t noticed, the pharmacists and hardware stores that sold interesting stuff to amateurs have all closed. Do you wish to buy saltpeter? It is forbidden, or at least heavily discouraged. So the conclusion to be reached is: it wasn’t for us, after all. It just seemed to be for one glorious summer; now we realize that, all along, civilization and its handmaiden, technology, had its own inner logic and has vaulted away, and now no longer even pretends to hear us or please us.

    John Ralston Saul takes a good long swipe at this fetid overspecialization; I recommend him.

    The truth is, the arc that industrial civilization has thrown goes over everyone’s head, off past the sun that illuminates our world, into the distance further than anyone can see. The truth is that industrial civilization has clothed and fed us for a few generations now, such that we have become soft, weak and helpless. And the result is that we are totally at the mercy of a heartless and headless golem that has escaped from the laboratory. You can forget the intersubjectivity of watercolor paper, pencils, library catalog cards, spiral-bound notebooks or anything else that has its own smell and gathers dust. Instead, we find ourselves living in what appears to be the remains of an abandoned world. Some of the buildings, the ones we celebrate, are old, and, if the truth be told, couldn’t be built now by us if our lives depended on it. We’ve forgotten how. The tourists gawp at the Art Deco or the Victoriana, and go home to the ugly overpriced shells they call home.

    “We may be living in an ‘information age’ with ‘information overload,’ in some sense. But when it comes to what actually gets into people’s heads, we’re instead living in an age of ‘knowledge scarcity,’ says Thom Hartman in The Last Days of Ancient Sunlight. People no longer know information that’s vital to sustain life – how to grow their own food, how to find drinkable water, what’s in their food, how to build a fire and keep warm, how to survive in the natural environment, what the sky means and how to read it, when the growing seasons begin and end, what plants in the forest and fields are edible, how to track and kill and dress and eat and store game, how to farm without (or even with) chemicals and tractors, how to treat broken bones and other common medical emergencies, or how to deliver a baby, among other things.

    “Because of this information deficit, we are out of touch with reality, and are also standing on a dangerous shelf of oil-dependent, corporate-induced information starvation.

    “In the 1930s during the Great Depression, far more people lived in rural areas than in the cities. The information about how to grow and preserve food, how to survive during difficult times, and how to make do with less was general knowledge.

    “Today we know the names of the latest movie stars and how much their movies grossed, or at what level the Dow Jones Industrial Average is at, but few of us could survive two months if suddenly the supermarkets closed.”

    If you’re in the United States, consider that you read these words by the grace of something that is scarcely more sophisticated than throwing a shovel-full of peat onto a fire in a grate. Yes, 80 percent of electricity is still generated by burning coal.

    I have a nagging suspicion that, in the not very distant future, industrial civilization, drunk with power, will return to earth with a crash, but we will scarcely notice, because by this time we will be preoccupied with finding enough to eat.

    It’s just a damn pity we will go back to poring over the last remaining Bible. Or maybe we’ll get lucky, and the last surviving book will be a copy of Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World.

  • John.

    The problem with consensus is that it is often very wrong.

    I am no expert on these mattera, but as I understand it most people in 15th century Europe believed the Earth was flat and that the Sun went round the Earth. It was only after a successful circumnavigation had been accomplished that a new [correct] consensus was extablished. It was only after a lot of misery and persecution that the heliocentric model was accepted.

    It was only after basic hygiene had been practised by a few surgeons for quite a time with coonsiderable success that a consensus formed that there might be some merit in basic hygiene.

    ‘The urgency came from the fact that not much time is left before a number of positive feedback loops–population, desertification, open Arctic waters, and overfishing, to name a few–kick in big-time.’

    I totally agree. But the more I see of it, the ore convinced I am that it will only be after the oil stops arriving that the majority of people will abandon the ‘we are entitled to cheap oil’ consensus.

    The sad reality is the world is populated by uninformed fools like the Cosmist -who claims to understaand climate scinece but is obvioulsly completely clueless about it. Nor does he understand what NBL is about, so continues to post his idiotic diatribes. In that sense, there can be no hope. People will hold on to their delusions to the bitter end.

    It seems to me we must accept that there will be a massive die-off shortly, and there is nothing we can do about it, other than try to personally avoid the worst effects and perhaps try to reach the few people with sufficient intelligence to be reachable.

    Right now there is dicussion about rebuilding the portions of Christchurch that collapsed as a consequence of earthquakes. There in no recognition in official circles or amongst the general populace of the imminence of financial collapse, the ramifications of living in a post peak oil world, or the ramifications of environmental degreadation and substantial sea level rise to come. Rebuilding Cheistchurch as it was would be adsurd, if not impossible, yet that seems to be the plan.

  • but why do you always lower-case the “u” in US?

    Because that is the way it was.
    Declaration of Independence

  • Robin.

    Admittedly, that explanation didn’t make my hunch list. Puts you in a whole different limelight. Thanks for enlightening me.

    Incidently, the Declaration of Independence was unanimous. I wonder how pleasantly the consensus went on that one.

  • It could get very interesting from here on:

    Saudis mobilise thousands of troops to quell growing revolt

    By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent

    Saturday, 5 March 2011

    Saudi security forces in armoured vehicles responding to the threat of a Shia uprising this week

    Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week’s “day of rage” by what is now called the “Hunayn Revolution”.

  • Kevin

    Interesting, indeed – as the Shia population is most dominant in the Eastern oil-producing area of Saudi Arabia, and really pissed off at the ruling Sunnis. If these folks on on the move, we can expect worldwide reaction, not just Saudi armed forces. If we think Libya oil is important to the markets, wait until Saudi oil is under threat.

    Hold on to your hats – this is going to be a wild one!

  • Kevin, re rebuilding Christchurch, the image of continuing to cut trees to move stone to make statutes on Easter Island comes to mind. I agree that time is likely short and Jean’s wisdom about the primacy of the empty stomach will drive all other arguments out of mind.

  • Interesting clip on this blog.
    Head of World’s Largest Asset Manager: “Markets Like Totalitarian Governments”
    …it is stunning that Blackrock’s Chairman and CEO – Larry Fink – said on Bloomberg TV: “Markets like totalitarian governments.”

    An actual bit of honesty?

  • Kevin

    They might declare the intent to re-build Christchurch, but I suspect that in reality it will never happen.

  • Kathy

    He also said the markets are confused. And they are volatile. And they are in a period of “self-reflection” – is that the same as gazing at one’s navel?

    So here we have some totalitarian governments in a state of confused volatility, aimlessly gazing at their navels?…. 😉

  • Victor, I think you have a very astute analysis. Navel gazing may become more common in the coming days.

    Article by R. Heinberg on Energy Bulletin – nothing new but I thought this comment was astute “But if more energy must be used to obtain water as water becomes scarce, more water must be used to obtain energy as energy resources become scarce.”

    There is a problem that won’t go away – more problematic than even the “takes a barrel to extract a barrel” problem as the oil is not essential to human life but the water is.

  • Not to fear:

    Everone should read Jeff Rubin’s,”Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller”.His record on predicting crude prices is better
    than anyone else’s.

    His prediction for 2011 is $225 per barrell.

    Guy has already invited me to visit The Mud Hut.That’s the best invite
    I’ve ever had.But Guy,I might not want to leave.

    Double D

  • Frank

    I think anyone predicting a sustained oil price at over $150 per barrel will be proven wrong. The world economy will simply not be able to bear it. A change in oil prices is systemic and relatively quick – nearly all prices will rise accordingly within 6 months as companies try to absorb such rises at first, but are in the end forced to raise them or go out of business.

    Because the economy will suffer greatly, oil demand will be driven down enough that prices will rise no further, and might even drop. But as the world oil production goes into terminal decline in the next few years, the economy will find it harder and harder to maintain a price ceiling at which point the economy can no longer bear the price increase. That ceiling will continue to steadily drop.

    At a point key industries will be driven out of business and other businesses that depend upon these will be driven out as well in a domino effect. Those companies supplying spare parts, equipment and fuel for industries like transport, power, communication, agriculture and water management come to mind immediately – there are probably many other key industries that feed off these like mining, oil and other metal/mineral extraction industries.

    When these folks can’t get parts, equipment and fuel, then all these other industries that rely upon them will collapse – as will the rest of modern civilisation.

    I’ve heard it expressed like this somewhere – the economy relies upon 20% of the world’s industries to function. That 20% in turn relies upon 20% of those industries to survive (4% net). In other words, if the right 4% of global industries fail, it all comes down like a house of cards – quick, painful.

  • For the sake of conversation…
    $225 a barrel oil could be seen in a hyper-inflation scenario? or in a situation where the dollar was no longer the reserve currency? Even so, either of these possibilities would not change the basic point Victor made.

    The Saudi issue Kevin mentioned is the biggie right now, that and the oil facilities in Libya. I looked at the book Frank mentioned and the copyright is 2009. When events are unfolding as fast as they are now, it is hard for me to read anything less current than the past 24 hours. I have however felt the need to add in humor. Just finished David Sedaris “When Engulfed in Flames”. I laughed, really laughed and then realized I was crying. Emotional release is good a-n-d there is nothing funny about what is happening, no escape.

  • Sarah, you are so right, there is nothing funny about what is happening. And often we make jokes because we fear if we allow ourself to face the enormity of what is coming we would never stop crying…. I was just thinking this morning about my son who has epilepsy. He has in the past had uncontrollable seizures. With a new medication he is now seizure free for 1 year. When the drugs stop being manufactured will he go through a withdrawal and find out all the drugs were making things worse, or will he go into a spate of uncontrollable seizures unable to function or worse. Those who accuse us of having a doom wish don’t know the pain that exists behind the belief that the crash is the only thing that can save us from uncontrolled climate change.

  • Haven’t been reading here for a day or two. At times have to get these things of my mind. And it does feel good. Tomorrow I’ll go into wood chopping, so that will be different too.
    @ Kathy.
    Epilepsy. It is good to hear that your son has been seizure free for a year. My wife has epilepsy too. Despite all different kinds of trying to help her, there was never any good solution. For more than 25 years we managed some how, she was having seizures in two/two and a half weeks turns, mostly out of sleep so I could control her seizures at night most times, often giving rectally applied Stesolid to her. The medications weren’t of much, if any help. A try on a “new” medication turned out kind of disaster, lasting for from beginning of Dec. until end of Feb.
    Now she takes a tiny portion of Valium – a quarter of a 5 mg tablet, has kept her seizure for a week now. We will see how this goes on.
    What medication does your son take? And do you know about the rectally apply-able Stesolid to stop on going seizures?

    All the best,
    Love and Peace.

  • Bernhard – this is what he posted on his blog on November 30, 2009
    “I started taking a higher dose of Vimpat 300 mg twice a day this weekend. I did not seem to have any problems on Sunday, but this morning I have had a few instances where I was dizzy or had blurred vision. I am not sure if it is from the medicine, but those are some of the reported side effects. I will keep monitoring to see what happens. My Depakote is down to 250 mg twice a day. We shall see what happens.”

    Then on Jan 14 2011 he posted
    “Although I haven’t posted recently, it is because I haven’t had any seizures in over a year! I am so grateful for that! ”

    I don’t know if his dosages have changed. His Dr thought family was being brought in too much so I have tried to respect that and not ask much and he doesn’t blog very often any more – nothing between those two posts. He also has a Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) device that he had put in in 2007. I think it helped a little. His blog is

    I will ask Guy to send you my e-mail address and if you want to correspond more and have me ask my son some questions I will be glad to. I don’t know about Stesolid.

    My son’s wife has willingly dealt with helping my son through all of this. Sounds like your wife has been lucky to have you.

  • victor and sarah, re. the price of oil as denominated in ‘funny money’ (dollars), i think sarah is right on the money (unintentional pun) here. the u.s. with ‘helicopter ben’ and the perfidious ‘federal’ reserve in charge of monetary policy is overdue for a bout of hyperinflation. when it hits (maybe not for a few more years- these things appear to be unpredictable, like earthquakes- but maybe this year), the price of oil could easily exceed $1,000/barrel very quickly.

    kathy and bernard, u should inform your loved ones of anecdotal evidence of cannabis’ ability to control seizures. i’m reading a book presently titled CANNABINOMICS whose author shares the story of one testimonial that not only is it good to use on a regular basis (i think this individual only smoked a couple times/week) to pre-empt seizures, it can even prevent a seizure about to happen, if the sufferer is able to smoke immediately when the symptoms of an imminent seizure present themselves.

  • Stesolid (diazepam) – commonly called Diastat here.

    Vimpat® lacosamide) indicated as adjunctive therapy(not as sole therapy).

    RxList: A very useful Internet Drug Index for prescription drugs (that is as long as the ‘net is still functional).

  • prescription drugs are much more dangerous than most sheeple surrealize. in the u.s. they are responsible for over, probably well over 100,000 deaths/year. even when taken exactly as directed, they cause sudden death (heart attacks and such) in some sheeple. quite a lot, actually. i read a surreally good book on this subject about 10 years ago i imagine. combined strong anecdotes of various victims with scientific explanations in lay-sheeple language i could well comprehend of various hypothesis and explanations for why big pharmas’ magic (magically expensive; big pharma’s one of the most profitable corporate enterprises, and that’s after the billions of bucks they spend in marketing each year) pills are so dangerous. how dangerous? all the supposedly deadly addictive drugs like cocaine, heroin, etc. combined are involved in fewer than 10,000 u.s. deaths, if i recall correctly. it seems the ‘authorities’ have it exactly wrong, if their motive for banning certain ‘drugs’ is protection of public health, for they ban the most valuable medicinal plants which cause relatively little harm, and approve shit that’s over-hyped by corporate marketing, and much more harmful to public health: prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco being the trio of greatest carnage.

    don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying all prescription drugs are bad, or ‘over-hyped’ (if i did, i’m now correcting it). i imagine they’re vital in many circumstances, saving lives, improving lives. i’m saying the industry is, like all ‘big business’ corporations, motivated primarily by greed, which shows in their lavish executive compensation, bottom lines and those 100,000+ deaths their products are involved in each year in the u.s. (and the frightfully insipid barrage of advertising they put out via dominant corporate media to attract more customers (suckers) in the u.s. ahhh, good old uncle sam! what would big corporations do without institutions like the u.s. government to create the most favorable conditions for economic fraud, greed, and corruption to thrive? their specialty is preparing sheeple for fleecing, and they do it exceedingly well judging by the enormous disparity of wealth distribution. the fleecers occasionally reach billionaire status, while the fleeced are in debt.

    now where was i before that sermon to the choir? oh yes, big pharma’s magic pills and elixirs. they’re not only peddling death in many cases for a handsome profit, they’re also a primary sponsor of illicit drug prohibition. them, big tobacco, and big booze all spend big bucks promoting ‘drug’ abstinence campaigns and the propaganda supporting prohibition of nature’s most valuable medicinal plants and their derivatives. can’t patent nature in this case, can’t get rich selling something people could grow themselves to provide medicine, so they make sure they can get rich selling dangerous artificial drugs to a public lacking access to nature’s banned medicines. it’s surreally disgusting. it surreally makes me look forward to collapse.

  • Robin Datta,

    Re– “united States of America”:

    I wouldn’t get to righteous about the lower case “u” in the Declaration of Independence because viewing the whole document it appears the capitalization is entirely random (when viewed compared to current usage). Also, the sense of the “thirteen united States of America” is that they are several entities (States—equivalent to Greek city-states?) that are united in a common cause. The “United States” (one entity) appears in the Constitution, which I would argue is the founding document of the country, whereas the Declaration is about the dissolution of a different country.

    Michael Irving

  • Kevin Moore,

    Thanks again for directing me to an article that shocked me like a jolt of electricity. Not that I was not expecting it. I had just gotten busy with life for a couple of days and you reminded me that the world had not just been sitting around waiting for me to start paying attention again. We had planned to get replacement tires and tubes for all our bikes and suddenly today seemed like a great day to carry through on that plan.

    They tell me gas is up to $3.90 in northern California now. I know diesel is up to $3.99 here and gas has jumped $.30 in the last two weeks. Blame that on Libya. What will happen if Saudi Arabia falls apart? Hang on!

    Michael Irving

  • Kathy.
    Thank you for the information, for email address, will write to you. Visited Scott’s blog. Over decades discovered ever more how many people are out there, dedicating their life to support others. Mind- blowing experiences and then trying to adapt to what ever is necessary with this absolutely unpredictable disease. As we’ve tried out so many different ways of possible cure/relief, if times were different I’d like to write this all down.
    Totally agree on your point of view about prescription drugs.
    There are some useful though, but the overall situation is disgusting.
    Can’t follow you on the point of looking forward to the ahead.
    Substances, we’ve tried them “all”. Interesting experiences for me too, because I went all along in trying out that substances too. Crazy, sometimes nearly wishing I’d develop the illness and take it of her.
    Thank you for doing the research and for “translating” the Trade names.

    All the best.
    Love and Peace

  • I might be terribly wrong here, but I honestly do not think hyperinflation, or indeed normal inflation will be a huge problem. There is a fundamental difference between inflation and a rise in prices. As I understand it, inflation is where there exists too much money in the economic system with respect to the productive capabilities of that system – inflation is a monetary problem, not a “price” problem. A price rise can be generated by all kinds of events, the most common being too much demand for the available supply of a product.

    Looking at it from this viewpoint, which is consistent with the way Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth sees it, our primary concern at this point in history is DEflation. When the credit bubble finally pops – it hasn’t really yet, as debt has been (and is being) transferred from the private sector to the public sector – to help the bankers and the rich, and to piss on you – you will have massive deflation.

    Learn a bit more about this here at the Automatic Earth:

    Get this inflationary flotsam out of your heads and focus on the real monetary problem presenting itself – deflation. When the credit bubble explodes, there will as a result be a severe contraction of the money supply, so money will be much much harder to get and credit almost unheard of.

    Only after deflation hits us on full will there be the possibility of a later inflationary cycle. Take a look at The Automatic Earth. It is really quite informative.

  • ‘The “United States” (one entity) appears in the Constitution, which I would argue is the founding document of the country, whereas the Declaration is about the dissolution of a different country.’

    Michael, would agree with this entirely. At teh time of the Declaration of Independence there were 13 colonies, ‘united’ in their action.

    At the time of the writing of the Constitution, there was one State, the United States of America.

  • Kathy,

    The Heinberg article is very good. And you are so correct – we can survive without oil (though not all of us), but none of us can survive without water.

    And then you have natural gas “fracking”, a process using huge amounts of water, and polluting rivers and ground water. A whistleblower in the EPA has recently released a load of EPA documents showing the EPA scientists’ deep concerns about fracking over the last 25 years, and how those concerns were removed from publicly released documents under pressure from the oil and gas industry. You can read about it here.

    And here:

    This is a clear example of how corporate powers that be influence government at all levels. It is about PROFITS, not people. They don’t give a shit about people, or the environment.

  • Terry, epilepsy is a syndrome not a specific disease. It has many causes and multiple manifestations. (petit mal, grand mal, etc.) Not all haveThey found a growth on my son’s brain when he was in college – something sort of like a strawberry mark birthmark. They weren’t sure it caused the seizures but took it out anyway. He seemed better for a while… There is not ONE cause and therefore not ONE cure. I think my son and Bernhard’s wife represent the far edge of the syndrome – many do quite well on small amounts of medication. I appreciate hearing that maryjane helps some. However jail time would not be a cure even if use of this substance helped. So as long as the medical use of maryjane is not legal I will not recommend it. I have heard stories of some people going entirely off drugs and actually getting better, but when one has seizures so bad they can make life dangerous (falling down in dangerous places or worse yet status epilepticus) trying that would be a hard decision to make. For better or worse, I try to not be an interfering mother with my adult son. He knows how to search the web…

    Bernhard I understand your pain and frustration. My son got worse over time, with brief periods when something new was tried. His wife has dealt with more of it than I have. You have a very generous spirit to wish you could give your wife relief by taking it on yourself.

  • The Virgin Terry and others,

    I agree with your comments about big Pharma. As one who works in their shadow every single day, I can tell you that their influence is enormous. I doubt this crowd needs any enlightening as to how big Pharma has infiltrated every organization that approves and monitors drug companies – the fox is truly guarding the hen house in this case.

    I’ve written about the rx drug problem a couple of times on my blog. As TVT mentioned, there are many good, useful drugs. And when collapse reaches the point at which we can obtain no drugs other than those we make ourselves, lots and lots of people are going to suffer and die (of course that’s going to happen anyway for other reasons, but nonetheless . . . ). Supply disruptions have started already. Here’s a list of the current drugs in short supply in the U.S.
    Some of these drugs are highly specific and you would never encounter them unless you have a particular type of cancer or needed to be put on a breathing machine for a surgery or difficulty breathing on your own. But some are more widely used including morphine and thyroid replacements.

    Probably the most important class of drugs that have done more to improve quality of life has been the antibiotics. However, due to improper use and overuse, many antibiotics are no longer effective. So, we must use the expensive, powerful (read lots of side affects) IV drugs that are brand name. Interestingly, some of the really old drugs – say 60 or 70 years old that ceased effectiveness 30 or 40 years ago are now effective again. It seems there’s a limit to the amount of information that bacterial DNA can carry.

    Most people probably can think of at least one drug that has had a positive impact on his or her life. Probably quite a few also can think of a drug that has had a negative impact. Drugs are chemicals. When we ingest or inject chemicals, our own chemical balance is changed. Hopefully that will be a good thing, sometimes it’s not, and sometimes it’s both.

    There are two important ideas to keep in mind about almost all drugs: 1) is not to use them for extended periods of time if at all possible. Drugs which help blood pressure or to keep your heart beating correctly or to control your insulin, etc., may be unavoidably chronic. But ask your doctor what you can do to decrease the amount of those medicines, if possible. 2) For the last 20 years or so there have been almost no true advances in medicines. So, the generic drug is almost always just as effective, if not more so, than the expensive brand name.

    Here’s an example that’s one of my favorites. (I may have mentioned this before. If so, forgive me.) Prilosec – omeprazole – was first introduced about 20 years ago. It helps with GERD (heartburn). It works great – of course, it’s totally unnecessary if we eat properly, but that’s another story. AstraZeneca introduced it and it made TONS of money for them – hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in profits. When their patent ran out their money machine was at risk; suddenly they came out with Nexium – esomeprazole. “Today’s Purple Pill” – whatever the hell that means. They claimed that it was way more effective than that generic medicine. What was it called? Oh yeah, Prilosec.

    Notice the two scientific names: omeprazole and esomeprazole. The reason they are so similar is because they are the same molecule. Their chemical makeup is identical. The only difference between the two molecules? They simply rotated one of the chemical bonds on esomeprazole. But it was a sufficient enough change that it allowed them to get a new patent and claim that magically it somehow worked so much better than that old drug. It doesn’t, of course. Not one single independent study that I’ve seen shows that it works any better. But, their marketing gimmick has worked and GERD sufferers who come into my office are convinced that they need the more expensive drug. It costs more so it must be more effective, right?

    Over the last 20 years, this same trick has been applied repeatedly to drug after drug. And the American consumer has sucked it up like the drug addicts that we are.

    On a somewhat related note, here’s a new factoid that I encountered recently. Over the last year, I have been visited by a grand total of 2 (yes, two) drug reps. To the uninitiated, most doctors here in the U.S. see two to three times that many in just one day – every day. So, while I certainly haven’t missed the nuisance of their canned recitations of “facts” about their drugs, I must admit that I’ve been curious as to their absence.

    I was at a cocktail party the other evening and was talking with a lovely young lady who until about a year ago was a drug rep. I shared this with her and asked her what she thought about it. Without hesitation, she asked “how many brand name drugs do you write?” I responded, “almost zero”. She said, “that’s why”. Drug reps get monthly printouts of which doctors write which drugs. Apparently, a drug rep will have his or her pay docked if they visit a physician like myself who has proven that he’s not buying into their bullshit.

    Since I refuse to write a brand name prescription unless it’s been proven to be more effective significantly, I am banished into “no drug rep land”. I’m heartbroken.

    I’m not about to change my ways, of course, but I thought that was interesting.

  • Victor[They don’t give a shit about people, or the environment.] Nor apparently do they give a shit about themselves and their offspring. We heard the Democracy Now interview – worth a listen for sure.

  • Victor, Nicole Foss said we’d never see $100 oil again … and here we are. I understand her argument about deflation, and I think it’s wrong. Fiat currency is overwhelming the monetary system, contributing to record high prices of “precious” metals and food. Ultimately, as I’ve pointed out before, it doesn’t matter: The little people won’t be able to afford food, fuel, or clothing whether we experience deflation or hyperinflation. I’m guessing neither applies, by the way: I think capitulation of the stock markets causes companies to become worthless, thus causing lights out in the empire. within days or weeks.

  • Guy

    I agree…and I disagree. I disagree about fiat money. I think what moswt people don’t understand is that the money supploy is made up of hard currency and credit. If I take out a loan, I am creating money. The great majority of the money supply is made up of credit. When governments take on debt by bailing out banks, for example, no new debt is created, and therefore NO new money. When banks refuse to offer credit, no new money is created. For both these reasons, the velocity of money has taken a dive, and the money supply is not growing; therefore, no inflation. At least that is my understadning…but again, I am no expert. BTW when Nicole made that prediction, I don’t believe we had yet enterede another round of quantitative easing; therefore the dollar was worth more then. I am almost certain she would have meant to say “all things equal….”

    As for high prices of various commodities, that is not a “dollar” problem. If it were, the rest of the world would have cheaper metals and food and other commodities as their currencies will increase in value against the dollar. Instead, we are all paying more, which indicates not a dollar issue but a market issue.

    Where I agree with you is that the little people will not be able to afford anything no matter what happens. Big disaster waiting there! I still think things will limp along until 2012-2015 period when oil will start its terminal decline, forcing all financial markets to implode, disrupting global transport and food supplies, taking fuel and food pricing beyond our reach, and crippling critical industries.

  • Terminal decline might start very soon: oil price has risen over 100 $ again. 149 was the limit for the credit crunch 2 years ago: in a few weeks could there be a good economic earthquake!

    I’m enjoying my last hours here. Tomorrow in the morning I’ll be working in my farm again: spring is coming and I have to break the land and prepare my first harvest. 🙂

  • Guy by lights out do you mean that metaphorically or do you think grid collapse is imminent. I tend to side with Richard Duncan’s original analysis that the grid is the Achilles heel of the empire, but paradoxically the US grid may be the most vulnerable grid of all. Gail the Actuary over at TOD has written about this quite a bit – one article here and While Gail seems at time to be too close to oil and gas (after a tour offered by the fracking industry she wrote rather too favorably of them IMO). But she has outlined some of the vulnerabilities in the big machine. However per Tainter pretty much anything can bring down complex societies because those things that they used to be able to handle become increasingly impossible to handle. The complexity requires all the available resources and none are left for emergencies. Thus like Kevin says, Christchurch may never be built back – I just read they expect it to cost $11 billion. And as Matt Simmons noted there is rust in the system, he was particularly talking about actual rust in oil pipelines, but everywhere as net energy has declined the slack has been taken up by not doing upkeep on the infrastructure. Still the collapse of the grid would be monumental and precipitous. Since you no longer can pump gas without electricity, once all the repair trucks are out of gas no more repairs can be made. Thus a country wide grid collapse in the US IMO would be the end for us in say 5 days. With that in mind the possibility of heavier than usual solar storms in 2012 may make the Mayan calendar seem accurate 🙂 But an economic collapse might be just around the corner and while less precipitous than a grid collapse might be just as effective and would lead in the end to grid collapse.

    Sudden withdrawal from the grid will mean delirium tremors on a mass scale.

  • Terminal decline began in 2005 (May, to be precise). According to the DoD (echoing DoE), we’re falling off the cliff this year (2011). Even without the ongoing oilquake in Middle East, any hint of economic growth takes oil to $140/bbl … and that should do the trick for a fragile industrial economy. By lights out, I mean no food at the grocery stores, no fuel at the filling stations, and no water coming through the municipal taps … and, of course, no streets lights in the cities and towns. As I’ve indicated before, I cannot see how we can avoid a new Dark Age by the end of 2012.

  • Guy McPherson, at least if that happens, our society might no longer be overrun by self-help charlatans and business leaders who create a culture where the poor are constantly screamed at and humiliated…

    …but that doesn’t cheer me up if that only ends up the case because EVERYONE might be poor in the future.

  • As I’ve written previously, Librarian, without money we’ll all be rich … as we were, before money came along. It’s time to get out of this new game of chasing fiat currency as if money is more important than life itself (which is the exact route we’ve been pursuing for the last few thousand years, contrary to the first two million years of the human experience).

  • Dr House, thank you for your very insightful comments. I looked at the drug shortages and found nitro glycerin which didn’t surprise me. My Dad’s wife has been having trouble getting generic nitro for my Dad. Something about it only being made in some place like Puerto Rico by one company and they are having trouble after all these years getting re-certified – well something like that. The non-generic is way way more expensive. My Dad is so dependent on nitro to keep him alive that I fear if anyone lights a match near him he might explode.

    Your story about the drug rep fits with all we know about big pharma.

    I suppose one modern advance that people might want to think of before the crash is getting an update on a tetanus immunization. That seems to have worked out rather well for modern humans…I haven’t heard of any downside and tetanus is reputed to be a rather nasty way to die.

    Well overuse of medicines is a problem we will soon not have. Your advice on medications is welcome and I think your community is quite lucky to have you there.

  • guy
    thanks for this forum; & u’r work & example.
    also i especially appreciated the ‘news’ value of u’r heavily linked/researched ‘demise of the dollar’.

    u’r above comments also help us with the dots u see & how u project the lines u point too. thanks again; & to victor, kathy, jean, et. al too.

    guy when u talk about market capitulation i think of orlov’s financial collapse. his book convinced me that that arena can freeze up in a matter of days…ala russia. stoneleigh sees us[not Robin’s us] in & out of such…panic, & major drops; but the markets & nations still functioning at some level[i think that’s her way of seeing this]. i think we might jump start a new level of war instead of accepting financial chaos; however financial heart attack…the big one, as fred sanford used to say…will probably strike quickly…we’ve already got the warnings.

    guy u & orlov [& i] agree that inflation/deflation terms are not that useful. i think we already have one, then the other, here & there…& later some elements of the system will be in & out of one then the other in a matter of days; & as such impossible to predict or concretely prep for… which is what counts! u’r kind of prepping works for either! thanks again.

  • In a surreal world where the majority of my friends, relations and acquaintances are happily playing their fiddles, I’m asking them “Can’t you smell the smoke? Don’t you think we should call the fire brigade? Maybe grab your precious items and get out of the house – it’s caught alight!”, I’m greeted with blank looks, condescension and irritation. “Don’t disturb us – we’ve safe in our little cocoons.” I read an article by Steve Keen, an Australian economist ( who clearly shows just how close to bursting the Australian housing bubble is. But when I share it, I get the same response. “Don’t disturb us – we’ve safe in our little cocoons.” I listen to the news and shake my head. Typical example – ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) news last night – was the lead story “Football star charged with assault”, second story about Libya – fair enough – that is newsworthy, but then followed by more trivia. And the night before, we were fed the line that the US is recovering because there was a drop in unemployment rates. There was no mention of Saudia Arabia, which I heard of thanks to Guy’s website. I checked ABC’s website – one small article about minor rioting in Saudia Arabia at about 6:30 am yesterday morning. Nothing more.
    So thank you to all most contributors to this website. It gives me a deal of comfort to know that there are others out there preparing for the collapse of civilisation and who share my viewpoint on so many matters.
    We bought our farm 8 years ago, long before we had any idea of peak oil and the imminent collapse of civilisation. Just as well we have had that much time because we have not proven to be very competent farmers. Why people think that they can start learning to grow vegetables when they’re hungry is beyond me. The learning curve has been very steep for two highly impractical, computer and office bound creatures like us, an ex TV producer and a scientist cum business consultant. 7 years of drought to learn by didn’t help things much. Several years ago now, we realised that putting emphasise on improving our soils would possibly give us some protection against climate change, although that depends on just how extreme the climate change will be. We’ve had news in the last few months that the coal mines that were 30 km distant from our boundary 8 years ago are now just 1 km away, and worse yet, the gas companies have started buying up land too and yes, they will be fracking the rocks and poisoning the Great Artesian Basin to get their beloved gas. One point – I dislike the term “fracking” immensely. It gives the impression of meaning something highly technical and thus not to be questioned by the average person whereas it merely means “fracturing”. They are fracturing our rocks, which will disrupt the pressure in the Great Artesian Basin. Last week’s Four Corners program ( discusses the plight of farmers in Queensland who have no right to stop gas companies coming onto their land and drilling for gas. One farmer now has gas instead of water coming out of his well. Their water tables are dropping and their water is being poisoned.
    We are starting to feel under time pressure to get our skills up, purchase the essential tools, get a year round vegetable garden happening, and gather a community of skilled or at least enthusiastic people around us before the collapse. When I heard there was rioting in Egypt, I woke up the following morning and said to my husband “We’ve not ready”. We live 40 km out from a small country town. If the supermarkets and petrol stations shut their doors tomorrow, we’d be in trouble.
    So like that writer for whom Guy has just written a review, we are also faced with a paradox. We want civilisation to end as soon as possible to stop the mines and gas companies destroying our landbase. Yet we don’t want it to happen tomorrow because we’re scared of whether we have the ability to survive once the umbilical cord of civilisation is cut.
    To end on a very childish note, one reason I want civilisation to end sooner rather than later is to wipe the condescending smiles of the faces of the nay sayers. An extreme way of saying “I told you so.”

  • Dr. House,

    As usual, an excellent post. Your points about big pharma are well taken. I would note also that as I understand it there are several common medicines that are being taken off the market because they are no longer profitable enough? In these cases I hear doctors and hospitals are in some cases having difficulty getting hold of them. At least that is a problem over here on the UK/European scene. So what big pharma is also telling, as is the general predatory capitalist system, it doesn’t really matter to us how much the medicine is needed, if it isn’t profitable enough we have other uses for our investment monies.

    Another thing I am a bit concerned about as far as medical help goes in the future, is that today’s doctors are often very much tied into technologies and big pharma-produced medicines. After the collapse, they will not have continuing access to these. Therefore, though they are excellent doctors when such medicines and technology are available, they might not be so competent when having to do without. So is it back to the “medicine man” or “witchdoctor” for us?

  • Niocole [To end on a very childish note, one reason I want civilisation to end sooner rather than later is to wipe the condescending smiles of the faces of the nay sayers. An extreme way of saying “I told you so.”]

    Funny I have had the same thought. 🙂

  • me, too! As juvenile as that might be, it would warm my heart to see these people falling from their high and might perches before I am dragged over the cliff!