Emotional Morons

by John Rember, who blogs at MFA in a Box

In the 1951 short story, “The Marching Morons,” science-fiction writer C.M. Kornbluth postulates a far future where smart people have been outbred by stupid ones. As a result the average IQ is 45. Five billion stupid folks sit around, watch TV, and go to jobs where if they screw up it won’t hurt anything, while a few hundred thousand smart ones work desperately to keep civilization going.

Then a salesman of 20th century Florida swampland awakes from several millennia of suspended animation, the result of an electrochemical accident in a dentist’s office. Once he figures out what’s going on, he offers the smart people a solution to their problem: all the stupid people can be tricked into boarding rocket ships bound for Venus. He designs brochures that show it as a tropical paradise where processed ham grows on trees.

The rockets are built and boarded. The ships, having been built by morons, miss Venus and disappear into deep space. When all the stupid people are gone, the smart ones, free of their moronic charges but hating the salesman for the solution he gave them, put him in the final rocket. The world is empty, except for a bunch of semi-remorseful killers with IQs of 175 or so.

I first read this story when I was 16. I liked the way it flattered smart people. At the time I was a Goldwater Republican, one who believed in a cheery social Darwinism where young men who got As in high school rose to the top of the American meritocracy, became rich and famous, and drove Porsches. The story even gave those A students a conscience, but only after they had gotten rid of all the stupid people cluttering their lives.

I recently read the story again, and I don’t like it nearly as well as I did when I was a Republican.

For one thing, the average IQ is 100 by definition, and most people are average. A high school class, a Congressional budget committee meeting, a political convention, rodeo cowboys drawing numbers for bulls, a group of voluptuous vacant-eyed blondes sitting in passenger seats at a Porsche rallye? Average, on average.

Because the results of IQ tests tend to show up as a bell curve, half the people in any group of test subjects have below-average intelligence. That fact may help you to understand why so many Americans watch Fox News.

But there’s another problem with the concept of IQ, and it’s a big one. It compresses lots of discrete intelligences down to a cryptic two- or three-digit number that pays no attention to empathy, intuition, or emotional awareness.

And Kornbluth’s story wasn’t really science fiction, it was history. Six years prior to its publication, the Nazis were marching Jews into gas chambers, a low-tech version of Kornbluth’s Venus-bound rockets. To recapitulate the Holocaust with a satirical science fiction story was, at the least, adolescent bad taste. But adolescent bad taste didn’t bother me when I was an adolescent.

Now it bothers me. It also bothers me that genocide isn’t an aberration in human history, although it was an aberration that the Jews were on the whole better educated and smarter and wealthier than their killers. It bothers me that Kornbluth, reaching for a population figure beyond all human toleration, came up with a little over five billion, two billion less than we’ve got now.

It bothers me that the United States of America is not a meritocracy. Since my high school years, it’s been an oligarchy, a gerontocracy, a kleptocracy, and a moronocracy. Smart people aren’t running things. Maybe they started out smart and became stupid because they were running things, because power makes you stupid. Stealing things also makes you stupid, because you so often have to lie to yourself when you steal, and lying really makes you stupid.

And certainly age makes you stupid. The average 72-year-old has the same size brain he had when he was three. Women’s brain size doesn’t seem to shrink as much with age, but that’s probably because they’re not running things or stealing things as much as men.

But the most disturbing realization that Kornbluth’s story brings up for me now is that being smart doesn’t mean that you have emotional intelligence. In fact, if you look at the really smart people who designed America’s banking system, or wrote torture memos, or ran their companies into the ground, or offshored the jobs of their friends and neighbors, it doesn’t seem as if they have any capacity for empathy, grief, or pity. Their inability to empathize with the suffering of others makes them emotional morons.

I worry that even now, a 16-year-old intern in a Big Pharma biolab, with a straight-A average and a weakness for Ayn Rand novels, is injecting Bird Flu into a lab animal with Swine Flu, just to see what will happen. As for Kornbluth’s “Marching Morons,” he’s read it, and it’s got him in heat.

My library contains books on plagues, biowarfare, and tropical diseases. Most of them came from the Barnes & Noble remainder bin, which indicates that their publishers expected to sell more of these books than they sold. Apparently, people don’t like reading books about bedbug-vectored Chagas’ Disease or weaponized smallpox or more frequent Ebola breakouts as more of the wild world is converted to habitat for humanity.

But I buy these books. I appreciate the usual 80% discount. I don’t find their subject matter cheering, but I like to keep up with what’s been happening in commercial medical science and its bad-seed child, biowarfare.

It’s a frightening picture, especially when you consider that way back in 1980, as part of a job interview for a medical information company, I had to translate an article on recombinant DNA and monoclonal antibodies, written in near-opaque medicalese, into blunt-force everyday English.

Briefly put, the article described the mechanism by which monoclonal antibodies could make microorganisms produce vast quantities of interferon, which was supposed to be a cure-all for cancer. [They did and it wasn’t.]

My translation got me the job, and I ended up writing a book about myocardial infarcts called So You’ve Gone and Had a Heart Attack. I learned that when you put medicalese into understandable language, a lot of medicine consists of common sense, prevention, placebo, and coming to terms with the sure knowledge that the human body is subject to entropy.

I also learned that almost every medical study is subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences, defined as what happens when factors outside of a study’s parameters overwhelm factors inside of a study’s parameters. The most important thing I learned was that the quality of the language used to propose, run, and interpret a study was a determining factor in how well the study held up over time. Good writers did better science, which is to say that language is the prime parameter of any study.

I left that job when the company I worked for went broke. People did not want to buy books that explained medical conditions in layman’s language. They preferred to place their health in the hands of experts who spoke in a language they did not understand and who prescribed them drugs whose efficacy declined with their familiarity. Newer, more expensive drugs were consistently more effective, suggesting that the active ingredient in most drugs on the market is faith.

Still, medical science marches on. And what do you do when you can operate on a bacterium and change its mechanisms so that it will produce a complex protein? Do you sit back and say, “Well, interferon didn’t work out the way we had hoped, so we’ll just quit and go back to treating cancer with surgery and radiation?”

You don’t. You start looking for other proteins, enzymes, and bioactive lipids. Once you turn your e. coli buddies into little interferon factories, your next move is to retool their assembly lines to make other complex molecules, and hope that one of them will be more effective against cancer. Or heart disease. Or old age. Or you maybe you can teach them to make diesel fuel, although you wouldn’t want them to get loose in the compacted biodebris of a forest floor in any year with a lightning storm.

The huge growth in human population that began in the 20th Century was made possible by putting microorganisms to work to produce antibiotics, in conjunction with advances in sanitation, safer and more abundant food supplies, oil-fueled transport, advances in extractive technology, and go-forth-and-multiply religions and governments. It’s impossible to look at the current human population of seven billion as being in any way separate from the huge system that supports it.

Take away oil, coal, fertilizer, medicines, credit, chainsaws, bulldozers, cement plants, drilling equipment—the entities that allow the preferred contemporary human environment to be made up largely of LED screens—and you face the reduction of human numbers to pre-industrial levels in less than a decade. If studies of animal populations can be extrapolated to the human, such a population crash will take the numbers even below what the planet can support. In human terms, think of a number less than 500 million.

Technological civilization is holding six-and-a-half billion of us hostage. Either it continues, or 94 out of 100 of us die. Is it any wonder that we’ve got the techno-industrial equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome going on?

Consider a coal mine in Wales.

When the mine was discovered, coal seams lay on the surface, and it was a simple matter to dig pits and short tunnels to get the coal out to burn in hearths and crude smelters. Over time, those tunnels and pits deepened, and the energy needed to get coal to the surface increased. So humans carrying baskets of coal up ladders were replaced by draft animals turning windlasses or pulling slip-scrapers. The tunnels and pits continued to deepen. The demand for coal increased as smelters increased in size and began to use coking technology.

Enter the steam engine, a giant machine with a huge riveted cast-iron boiler and a vast coal-burning firebox. Its barrel-sized pistons wheezed and hissed, and drove cast-iron wheels that powered pumps and drilling equipment deep below the surface of the earth, where there were vaster coal deposits. Other steam engines in use in factories, railroad locomotives, and ships provided an ever-expanding market for coal. Profits from the coal spurred improvements in mining technology.

After the steam engine had been hooked up to a generator, the belts and shafts and compressed air that transferred power from the steam engine to the coal face were made obsolete. Cast iron was replaced by steel. Giant electrical shovels and drills and coal trucks were safer and more efficient. Coal production increased exponentially. Pistons in the steam engine were replaced by turbines, but in essence it remained a coal-fired steam engine. The fuel that powered the mine was what the mine mined, even though at the end of the mine’s life, its power came over transmission lines from a nearby coal-fired power plant.

What happened next is more fact than controversy. Exponential production curves worked their wonders, and the coal ran out sooner than anyone expected. Mine maintenance slowed and stopped. The mine filled with water when its pumps were turned off. The nearby company towns emptied. A few years later, all that was left was a smoke-blackened landscape marked by poisonous streams, piles of ash and waste rock, and the poorly-repaired remains of machines too big or too obsolete to move to other coal deposits.

Still, after a generation, vegetation began to reappear on bare and eroded hillsides, the blackened foundations of arson-destroyed houses began to shelter small trees, and the wild descendants of once-tended roses began to form thorned thickets. Animals denned in boilers and moss grew in the dark interiors of old fireboxes. The place began to have a kind of delicate archaeological beauty. It wasn’t at the level of temples overgrown with jungle, but it was enough to allow a sensitive visitor a moment of contemplation of the conversations, dreams, hopes, lives and deaths of miners and miners’ families, and to reflect on the adaptability of life in a hostile environment.

Consider the earth as a coal mine in Wales.

I live in an area of the United States—like a lot of areas in the United States—where most people keep arsenals in their basements. There is a kind of psychology of previous investment here, where men and women who have spent most of a decade’s discretionary income on guns and ammunition and freeze-dried food keep buying more and more guns and ammunition and freeze-dried food and giving time and effort to inventing the scenarios that make them necessary. Civilization’s collapse is looked forward to, not because it will end of our destruction of the world and our fellow creatures, but because it reinforces a we’re-going-to-live-you’re-going-to-die-tribalism. That’s the headspace a lot of people occupy after a decade of thinking about the end of the American Empire as we know it.

There are four-year-olds in nearby towns whose wardrobes include flak jackets, and basements and crawl spaces full of food, and plans to use our local mountains and their usual heavy snowfall to create a geographically gated community. There are contingency plans that include shooting enemies, and those enemies look like ordinary suburban Americans a week or two away from full supermarket shelves and electricity and gasoline.

So you overhear late-night barstool discussions about the merits of a scoped 30-06 BAR loaded with WWII surplus armor-piercing ammunition versus an open-sight .308 assault rifle with a 20-round clip. Which one will be better against a mob of starving urban refugees?

My usual contribution to these discussions is to ask, from a barstool or two down the bar, “What about germs?”
“What about germ warfare? Don’t think that The Powers That Be will release weaponized smallpox into the population? Don’t you think there are plans to deal with all these ‘surplus eaters,’ as you call them? You’ve got a whole nation of people who are armed and no way to feed them? What are you going to do?”
“They wouldn’t do that.”
“Of course they would. You think they’d rather go to all the trouble to put people in concentration camps and feed them surplus cheese? There isn’t going to be any surplus cheese. Besides, the Powers that Be like cheese. They’re going to come after the freeze-dried cheese you’ve got in your basement. It’ll help if you’re already dead of smallpox or anthrax or something else they’ve got in the freezer.”
“You’re just a troublemaker, Rember. You’re not one of us. When civil authority evaporates, you’re going to be the first to go.”
“The next time you watch Fox News, take a look at some of their vacant-eyed anchor persons. Check their upper arms for smallpox vaccination scars.”

It’s not good for your long-term safety to mess with the minds of paranoid survivalists. But if you want to know what might really happen it’s useful to bring Occam’s Razor to bear on the machinations of the Masons, Bildebergers, the Trilateral Commission, the Bohemian Club, and whatever other group you think might be running things behind the scenes.

Occam’s Razor is a way of preferring one hypothesis over another. It states that in the absence of certainty, you should prefer the explanation with the fewest amount of variables. In practice, this means that the simplest solution is more often than not the right one, although you can spend a lot of time arguing about the meaning of the word simple.

The usual example used to illustrate Occam’s Razor is the replacement of the Ptolemaic view of the cosmos by the Copernican view. It was more elegant to place the sun at the center of the solar system than the earth, even though astronomers could construct complex models of the Ptolemaic solar system that explained the night sky just as well as Copernicus’s theory.

As long as one’s perspective was confined to earth, that is. Once we were able to set cameras and transmitters in orbit around the earth and sun, we had photographic evidence that Copernicus was right.

Unless, of course, those photos were faked. Unless the complex formulas used to slingshot Voyager I and II around the planets and into instellar space were cooked up in a Madison Avenue advertising agency by guys who drank martinis and drove Porsches and had affairs with their voluptuous vacant-eyed secretaries, never thinking to lift their eyes above their concrete-and-steel horizon.

But back to more familiar conspiracies. I don’t worry about the JFK assassination being a CIA-Mafia joint venture, or 9/11 being a false-flag operation designed to create the emotional climate necessary to get the United States into Iraq, or guillotines being set up in newly-constructed FEMA concentration camps. That’s because the mundane official accounts of such matters don’t require elaborate logistics or cabals of secret-keepers or the perfect execution of the malignant intentions of a whole class of human beings who lack neocortexes. Besides, the official stories are just as full of deadly implications for the future, plus they include human laziness and incompetence in their makeup. Any story that doesn’t include human laziness and incompetence probably needs an extensive rewrite.

Bioclasswarfare is a good example. On the surface, it’s a simple Marching Morons solution to the problems of the rich. Find a disease you can vaccinate against, inoculate members of your tribe, and release it in the world’s airports. A few months later you have a bunch of bodies to dispose of, but your children have lebensraum and you have your pick of nice houses in resort areas all across the world, and maybe a yacht or two.

I’m not saying bioclasswarfare can’t happen. In fact, starting with the anti-vaccination memes now circulating among the scientifically illiterate, and the de facto denial of medical services to the poor, you could argue that it’s already happening.

But the rich—and their children—share DNA with the rest of us. That’s no small Achilles’ Heel. Vaccinations fail or become ineffective as engineered viruses and bacteria mutate. Vaccines can be given to the wrong people. Biolabs can defect to the other side. Antibiotics that worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow. Telomeres shorten, and merciless movers-and-shakers end up demented in hospital beds, crying for someone to empty their bedpans.

Human empathy, which some of us are born with and is only a few years of unemployment away from most of us, assigns the deliberate release of pathogens into the human environment to psychopaths. Of course psychopaths exist. But—given the cautionary example of the Nazis—your average psychopath won’t deliberately destroy the edifice of capitalism, nationalism, and resource extraction that he thrives in.

Other ways of getting rid of “useless eaters” present similar complications. As the Nazi Tribe found out, there are logistics problems involved in killing huge numbers of people. Thus far, no tribe, rich or not, has found ways of dehumanizing Americans to the point where they can be killed in FEMA slaughterhouses, and the chances are they won’t, as half of all Americans are above-average and are more articulate than they’re given credit for. They can appeal to the softer side of FEMA employees, who, after all, might have gotten into their careers out of an inclination to help people.

Following Occam’s razor, it is far easier to simply ignore people who are starving and dying of disease than it is to go to all the effort to dehumanize and then murder them. Take away the benefits of civilization from the folks who bother you, and eventually they will go away. If you’ve got shelter, clean water, an adequately defended local community, stored and/or stolen food, and patience and a cheerful outlook, you’ll still get all their stuff.

That doesn’t mean you can relax. When I think about the near future—say, 2015—I think of all the non-average psychopaths, sitting on stocks of weaponized anthrax and smallpox and nuclear and chemical weapons. I think of India and Pakistan, where two peoples who well and truly hate each other, are getting to the point where a sun-bright day of 120 million deaths is beginning to look like a preferable alternative to sharing the world with each other. I think of the Aum Shinrikyo Tribe, stymied in its effort to cause mass death in the Tokyo subway system by sarin gas distribution problems, problems that were solved by the world’s militaries fifty years ago.

I don’t think any nation-state will survive the breakdown of the social contract occasioned by the failure of its financial systems, and a quarter million years of hunting and gathering have made tribalism our genetic default position. There’s an ever-present danger that a group of people will take the reins of power, define themselves as a tribe, and start dealing with the rest of us as lesser tribes. Lest you think I’m picking on the Nazis, the Bolsheviks were also a group that defined themselves as a tribe and began exterminating other groups. Mao did it. The Hutus did it. Mugabe seems to be doing it in Zimbabwe. Without getting into the specific politics of the ruling class, tribal outlooks are dictating events in Iran, Afghanistan, China, most of Europe, and Mexico. And don’t forget Arizona.

But I don’t think that even being a member of the tribe in power can ever be better than being a lower-class citizen of a nation or even of an empire. Anthropologists, excavating prehistoric burials, have determined that more people die by violence in tribal societies than in any other form of social organization. Hunter-gatherer bands are a close second. If you want to live apart from a kill-or-be-killed economy, opt for a nation-state. They manage to give meaning and comfort to most of their citizens. They treat women and children and the old as people, not useless eaters. They don’t make every one of their young men into killers. They pay lip service to ethics and altruism, and sometimes even the rule of law.

More worries, already subjected to Occam’s Razor:

—That dumping a bunch of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere of a planet with a history of violent climate oscillation is going to set the climate violently oscillating.
—That nuclear power plants explode and poison broad swaths of farmland in the absence of or failure of civilization.
—That the sudden denial of access to internal combustion engines, television, or the Internet will cause the most mild and empathic among us to become happily homicidal.
—That our cultural stories of wise old men and wise old women will be replaced by kill-the-old-and-take-their-stuff stories.
—That groups of vacant-eyed refugees will show up at the door, wanting food, and if I want to preserve that part of me that is civilized, I’m going to have to share my last few ground-squirrel carcasses with them.

Certainly the people who invented the nation-state thought they were making things better for humankind when they ended the Thirty Years’ War. You can say the same thing about the Dutch traders who invented the tontine and its byproduct of capitalism. You can say the same thing about folks who invented industrial use of fossil fuels, and the Peaceful Atom.

But these fine people ran into the Law of Unintended Consequences, in that the great interlocking system that they created was a great and fecund Petri dish for emotional morons. Call them psychopaths, sociopaths, zombies, vampires, the walking dead, banksters, the vacant-eyed, whatever, these people without conscience, as the psychiatrist Robert Hare calls them, substitute narcissism and greed and intelligence for altruism and community and empathy, and when they reach a critical mass the system goes down.

Some thought experiments:

—Dick Cheney is elected vice-president in 1954, on the ticket with Curtis LeMay.
—The Wall Street of 2008 and the U.S. Congress of 2011 is in place in the United States in November of 1929.
—President Barack Obama is confronted with the shelling of Fort Sumpter on April 12, 1861.
—Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas draft the American Constitution in 1787.
—Bernie Madoff moves to Amsterdam, spring of 1625.

There are historians who claim that individuals don’t matter in the broad sweep of history, but I don’t think they can account for the havoc emotional morons can wreak on the rest of us.

Let’s combine Occam’s Razor with Fermi’s Paradox. Fermi’s Paradox suggests that the galaxy should be full of civilizations, since 100 billion stars, almost all of them orbited by planets, should give rise to intelligent life at least some of the time. A percentage of those intelligences should give rise to civilizations that discover capitalism, the nation state, and industrial technology. If one in a million stars produces a civilization, that’s a hundred thousand civilizations. Yet we haven’t seen any evidence of anybody else out there.

Plenty of elaborate explanations have been proposed for our being alone in the cosmos, including the idea that we’re an incurably evil species and have been put in a permanent quarantine. But Occam’s Razor suggests a simpler answer: that intelligence invents the economic, social, and technological conditions that allow psychopathy to thrive, and once that happens, psychopathy expands and kills a civilization. That vast silence that has greeted our SETI antennae has a simple message: You’re Next.

It’s a shame, because our prime directive has been crafted by people who will lay waste to our planet in the name of profit, and as long as there is a coal seam to mine, a strata of hard shale to frack, a deepwater well to be drilled, we’ll keep on keeping on. We’ll keep pumping water into the cooling pools outside nuclear power plants as long as the power is on and the pumps get replacement parts and somebody replaces them. Humans will keep messing with viruses and bacteria until we find one that shares our assumptions about our own tribe. We’ll keep doing the things that make us money, or at least the people who crafted the prime directive will.

It’s not as though you can stop a market economy once it’s been invented, and teach an emotional moron to value feelings over profit. You can remove them from power, but as the current crop of presidential candidates attests, it’s not easy to find someone in politics who is not an emotional moron. It makes you wonder how the species that gave rise to Opus 35 in D Major can give rise to Koch Industries, but it did, and we’re about to find out the consequences of sending more people to Harvard Business School than Julliard.

Whether we end up with a Venus-style molten-lead climate or revert back to being nasty and brutal and short hunter-scavengers living parasite-ridden lives amid the greening ruins of once-great cities, the result will be the death of human consciousness. They look different, but they’re not that different, really, if you imagine yourself listening to nothing but the hiss of static and pondering Fermi’s Paradox from a thousand light-years away, as a member of a civilization that made it a few more years into the future than we did.

Comments 84

  • Thanks for an entertaining and thought-provoking screed. Anthropologists used to do a lot of analysis of “carrying capacity” for various human arrangements, but the topic fell out of style as the percentage of people not overrun by nation-static civilization reached the vanishing point. As though that fascinating issue were no longer relevant to homo sapiens sapiens (sic). Yeah, that might have been premature.

  • Like George Carlin said in his performance of, “Life is Worth Losing”, (paraphrasing)

    The most important thing you can do with your life is end it.

    Anyone with half a brain knows we’ve done messed up, but how bout we get on with what we can do and what some want to do.

    Didn’t see as many comments when Guy posted video’s on what him, Mike and Karen were doing there at the mudhut compared to these redundant posts of how stupid we are. What’s up with that?

  • Our problem is derived from having a corporate plutocracy and not a democratic country…..

    We face a colossal, human-induced global predicament. Emerging and converging ecological challenges, that we have chosen to ignore rather than acknowledge during my lifetime, are in large part the result of the way either silence or else politically correct BS has been and continues to be employed by ‘the powers that be’ and their many absurdly enriched minions in the mass media to prevail over science. Hysterical blindness, willful deafness and elective mutism of knowledgeable human beings with feet of clay rule the world every bit as much as malignant narcissism, pathological arrogance and extreme foolishness of greedmongering masters of the universe and their overly educated sycophants rule the world. This pernicious situation is as intolerable as it is dangerous to future human well being and environmental health.

  • John Rember you are partly right, but where you drop the ball is in failing to realize that sociopathy represents the evolution of human consciousness and civilization. We simply don’t need the empathic values of small tribes much any more, because you can’t run empires with a hunter-gatherer mentality. What you need are Darth Vaders who can create higher levels of order, organization and power. Dick Cheney, Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the PRC are such people, and other leaders will necessarily follow their example or be conquered. This is the Lucifer Principle in action, and it is pushing the world not toward global collapse and the end of consciousness, but toward the Galactic Empire and Sith super-consciousness.

  • John, very interesting essay. I particularly liked your comments on biowarfare. I sure am going to be looking for small pox vaccination scars from now on :). I got mine way back when and maybe us oldies will still have immunity if they let the pox out of the bag. I suffered through listening to H1N1 conspiracy theories on another blog a while back, and was amazed that people couldn’t understand that the flu viruses change rapidly. Using the flu for biowarfare would be insane. Already resistance to Tamiflu is floating around and being picked up by new strains of flu. Just check out Dr. Niman, my favorite flu doomer at http://www.recombinomics.com/whats_new.html However a natural flu pandemic might be just the thing to start the necessary population reduction. TPTB might release the small pox which is more stable than the flu, but as you note no vaccine is 100% effective.

    One note – you wrote “Technological civilization is holding six-and-a-half billion of us hostage. Either it continues, or 94 out of 100 of us die. ”
    I have to quibble with that – 100 out of 100 always die. The grand die off is not about if you die, but about when, how and if you leave offspring. Rather you should say “94 our of 100 of us die earlier than expected”. Just tell those survivalists types that NO ONE survives. They are mortals. No one will die who wasn’t going to die anyway. Some days that truism is all that keeps me from going insane :)

  • John, just remembered a similar scene to your bar scene. This was at an engineering firm I worked for in Atlanta. After being told by a bunch of these engineers that the New York Times was a liberal newspaper, they took up the subject of the right to bear arms. They told me it was to protect them from the government. I was stunned, I said “but they have tanks”. In an echo of your story they said “they wouldn’t use them”. Yet I was going to school at Valparaiso Indiana when Gary Indiana had a black man running for mayor. They stationed tanks on our campus just in case. As it went,
    Richard Hatcher was elected and the tanks were not needed.

    It stuns me that folks think that our government, who they hate, will fight fair, guns for guns, never pull out tanks or bio weapons.

    Yet they have already bombed Americans, some even veterans, in the little known coal union war of the Battle of Blair Mountain. “Private planes were hired to drop homemade bombs on the miners. A combination of gas and explosive bombs left over from the fighting in World War I were dropped in several locations near the towns of Jeffery, Sharples and Blair.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain
    That battle wasn’t in my history book.

  • John, excellent essay. Very thought provoking. I was quite busy in the clinic today so had to keep interrupting my reading with sick patients. Rather fitting given much of your subject matter. (I suspect that my patients would not be very comforted in knowing that seconds before entering their room, I was reading about the end of civilization via killer pathogens.)

    I wonder how many killer bugs will get out by accident? One possible scenario will be that some facility which keeps those bugs in check will suffer a severe, extended power outage and suddenly all the safeguards no longer work.

    Of course, as I’ve mentioned several times before, it only takes about 7 days for people to die of water deprivation. If the entire grid should go down at once, the lack of drinking water will kill more people more quickly than just about anything other than nuclear weapons.

  • Thanks for the thought-provoking essay.

    It’s just the last paragraph I’d like to take issue with.

    Firstly, we are likely to see an improvement in the health of the average ‘suvivor’ once the industrial economy goes under -we are, after all, suffering a pandemic of diseases induced by industrial living.

    And are those who get through the bottlenck going to suffer from being parasite-ridden? I understand that the presence of certain intestinal worms, for instance, has been linked to reduced levels of alergy. When I watch film of chimpanzees they mostly look very healthy and active. Why not humans?

    You mentioned the Venus syndrome. The intriguing aspect is that the longer the present continues to dominate, the lower that chance of anyone surviving long term. Presumably the elites are so obsessed with the now they fail to notice the long term consequences of their actions; they are in the process of not just of bringing end to civilisation via exhaustion of resources but are also in the process of redering the Earth uninhabitable for anyone.

    While we wait, the statements made by the ruling elites to maintain confidence in the system become more absurd by the day: this week’s entertainment centres on strategies to ‘fix’ the Eurozone problem. And I see that US unemployment remains at 9.1%. It’s such a pity unemployment numbers are only quoted to one deciomal place otherwise the publicly announced figure would be 9.11%

  • Yes there is a mafiocracy running the nation, but in Detroit, where 46% of the population is, for all practical purposes, unemployed, 47% is functionally illiterate, the crime rate is that of the most dangerous third world cities, the high school graduation rate is barely 24%, and there are no supermarkets, only stop-n-robs, what goes on, on a national governing level, is almost of no consequence. Much the same can be said for Camden, NJ, Flint, East St. Louis, etc, etc, etc.

    In those cities, there are few Armageddon Christians with arsenals in their basements. Survivalists there surround themselves with brothers in arms wearing either red or blue. It is another America that has little connection to the America of your desert warriors.

    We are a nation of tribes. We are a Yugoslavia with no Tito. We are red states/blue states, Republicans/Democrats, Judeo-Christian/everyone else, pro-choice/pro-life, pro-death sentence/anti-death sentence, pro-war/anti-war, Tea Party/OWS and the enemies of the earth vs the greenies. What we are no longer are blue collar/white collar, and soon we will only be the very rich vs everybody else.

    No one speaks for the United States, because the States are no longer united. We live in the world of counter-party default where it is becoming every man for himself. This is only the beginning of the end. The beginning was feudalism, and the end is neofeudalism. We are coming full circle.

  • John,

    10. … “You’re Next.” I enjoy your writings and look forward to your posts. They are always provocative and thought-provoking, and you’ve given me many gems to add to my collection. But this one hit a nerve. It’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve thought about this as it pertains to human history. Every alternate history I can imagine brings us eventually to where we are now. I had hoped it was my combined lacking in imagination and knowledge of history that was to blame. I had hoped there must be some way empathy and compassion could trump greed and hatred. But I never saw a way. And it never occurred to me this could be extrapolated to the degree you’ve stated. It is a picture of hopelessness and utter futility totally beyond my ability to cope. I hope you are wrong. Not that we are ever likely to find out. But I hope you are wrong.

  • “But there’s another problem with the concept of IQ, and it’s a big one. It compresses lots of discrete intelligences down to a cryptic two- or three-digit number that pays”
    Of course. This has been the pathway of our Western culture and mindset for centuries: a growing Cartisianism separation of the mind and the body. Many forms of baggage associate with that, including myopic dualism, categorization, etc. We no longer know who and what we are in relation to the world around us. And many no longer care.

    Expression of emotion and/or empathy has been discouraged (and perpetuated by gender stereotype) and often repressed, further snow-balled down the hill with expectations. Thus, IQ tests do not accurately measure personal intelligence, which is an interrelated combination of factual knowledge, empathy, intuition and awareness. Existential phenomenology not only enhances intelligence, it is also a source of creativity and plasticity in our own well-being and survival. And in our connections and relationships with other human and non-human beings. Perhaps even inorganic matter, which comprises a large part of our world. But that is now well received in our educational system at any tier (including medical universities).

    However, as populations increase, so do socialites (and cultures) evolve towards a conception and center of homogeneity (those nice little boxes that each must fit into and accept that which hands feed us). Enforcement of that area under the curve is charged to not only governmental and public institutions, but by bodies of politics in even the smallest community and by participating individuals themselves. (e.g.remember the Jewish police in the WWII Warsaw Jewish ghettos).

    I’ve always wondered about a threshold of population, of justice and fair policies, where the AUC becomes tighter, the number of ‘outliers’ more prevalent, and the degree of enforcement to conform… or die. Similar to the social dynamics observed in other mammalian populations.

    Nevertheless, as much as we/they protest the financial world’s leaders and participants, the number of individuals that completely divest themselves of reliance and/or dependence on their institutions are much less than we can hope for. Exemplified by the many individuals protester in WA DC and elsewhere that were seen retrieving money from nearby ATM’s. I suspect many who voice their opposition to the Big Dollar Brothers also do not think twice about their savings/paychecks and loans that they still stash in the bank’s virtual vaults.

  • ‘But the most disturbing realization that Kornbluth’s story brings up for me now is that being smart doesn’t mean that you have emotional intelligence. In fact, if you look at the really smart people who designed America’s banking system, or wrote torture memos, or ran their companies into the ground, or offshored the jobs of their friends and neighbors, it doesn’t seem as if they have any capacity for empathy, grief, or pity. Their inability to empathize with the suffering of others makes them emotional morons.’ -john

    great paragraph. i might add that in some ways many of them are also surreally flawed intellectually, as are sheople in general. they may be particularly adept at climbing to the top of society, but surely they for the most part are just as clueless as ‘the masses’ regarding scientific consequences. i can’t believe anyone’s so evil as to intentionally condemn billions of species including likely ours to an early artificially induced extinction.

    i’ve just finished the first 3 parts of your long post. great stuff. truth is even stranger than fiction, isn’t it? that’s why i call it surreality. u’re a surreally talented writer, john, imo. i’m humbled.

  • Here’s another possibility, that I think is equally likely, regarding alien civilizations: perhaps they don’t WANT to go to the stars. Dolphins are easily as intelligent as we, but because they’re fully adapted to their environment, they don’t need tools. They can travel further and deeper than land-locked hairless apes, and they can do it without any baggage. Who needs the stars when you have the world?

    Man is NOT the measure of all things. We may wear the mask of Shiva, but that doesn’t mean we’re all that. Earth has another five billion years, and new life is being born in geothermal vents as we write. The only question is how much diversity will be left when we make our exit. Obviously, sooner is better.

  • Thank you, John, for pointing out new facets to the perspective on the predicament. The postulate of the lack of empathy being at the its rood has merit.

    Their inability to empathize with the suffering of others makes them emotional morons.

    Those among them with great social skills and intellectual ability are difficult to recognize for what they are, making them all the more dangerous, capable of great mischief: the psychopaths.

    coming to terms with the sure knowledge that the human body is subject to entropy.

    As is said, life is a terminal / fatal condition.

    Sith Master Sean’s return after a hiatus makes one think he may have been preoccupied after taking Dmitry Orlov’s advice about chickens on alfalfa roofs. The idea that sociopathy represents the evolution of human consciousness and civilization . . . . toward the Galactic Empire and Sith super-consciousness is the flowering of psychopathy and its complement, authoritarianism.

    It ignores the core of human motivations that are in the non-verbal “lizard brain”, the limbic system, where perceived morals play a role commensurate with experienced emotions in defining the intellectual scaffolding for one’s overall life strategy. Even the psychopath maintains a frame of moral justification for attitudes and actions.

    Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

    There are of course situations where empathy can have deleterious effects in the long term. As professor Albert Bartlett pointed out, the factors that contribute to population growth are considered “good”, such as children, prevention and cure of disease, etc., while the factors that contribute to reductions in population, such as starvation, war, disease, etc., are considered “bad”. Our evolution has hard-wired us towards “population growth” and to empathy with those who suffer from conditions that contribute to population control.

    When I watch film of chimpanzees they mostly look very healthy and active. Why not humans?

    The healthy ones show up on the film. The unhealthy ones were (are & will be) lunch meat for the various denizens of the jungle.

  • John, as usual, presents a razor sharp cut into the human condition, and as always, I am impressed and stimulated – at least as much as a near-72 year old man getting more stupid by the day can be….after reading John’s essay, I can almost feel my brain shrinking… ;-)

    But the point is well taken that there is likely someone out there walking the earth today, and more likely a significant number of them, who will, within the next few years, make the decision to kill a substantial percentage of our global population. And that person will be met with a number of retaliatory decisions which will result in further large numbers of people being killed or permanently imprisoned within a resulting police state capable of monitoring one’s every movement.

    What John does do here is to present just another doomsday scenario among so many others, one that has the same ring of truth to it. But all such scenarios are based upon one foundational truth – adopting a complex lifestyle eventually results in over-population, over-complexity, environmental damage, excessive waste, and premature death. In the end it must be recognised that the human cannot manage complexity.

    I am not so convinced that to revert back to the H-G paradigm is to ‘revert back to being nasty and brutal and short hunter-scavengers living parasite-ridden lives’. Neither am I convinced that

    Hunter-gatherer bands are a close second. If you want to live apart from a kill-or-be-killed economy, opt for a nation-state. They manage to give meaning and comfort to most of their citizens. They treat women and children and the old as people, not useless eaters. They don’t make every one of their young men into killers. They pay lip service to ethics and altruism, and sometimes even the rule of law.

    I am left wondering what nation-state truly does this. Most nation-states I am aware of must be fought tooth-and-nail with much blood spilled to gain such rights and treatment – and they (the rights and treatment) seldom last – nation-state entropy eventually wins out and they collapse of their own weight. And often, during that brief period when rights and good treatment are being offered, the nation-state is most likely fighting a war of aggression against other nation-states killing and maiming that state’s women and children and old folks and completely destroying their infrastructure so that their future generations will have to struggle as well. And if you think they really care about their people, perhaps you haven’t visited the ‘wrong side of town’ lately, and perhaps you haven’t noticed that the ‘wrong side of town’ is getting ever closer to yours lately?

    If one in a million stars produces a civilization, that’s a hundred thousand civilizations. Yet we haven’t seen any evidence of anybody else out there.

    We haven’t? I’m not so certain of that. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong place.

    OTOH, in my old age I am probably getting too small-brained and stupid to properly assimilate and understand the pearls of wisdom being cast here….. :-)

  • The healthy ones show up on the film. The unhealthy ones were (are & will be) lunch meat for the various denizens of the jungle.

    I think Kevin’s point here is that a healthy life is possible outside of technology. Humans lived for a long time as H-G’s and subsistence farmers. That is not to say that life was not difficult ( with a nod to the unhealthy chimps), but life was simpler, less work, more time for community, and the connections to nature firmly in hand and understood. Yes, life was brutal in many ways, at least as we see brutal. But to them such brutality was simply a fact of life, a piece woven into the fabric of community and recognised as real and a necessary part of life and living – contrasted with today where we are obsessed with running away from the realities of death, and where death and dying has become something almost ‘evil’ to be disposed of or at least warded off as long as possible (even if you have to be connected to a respirator and lie in vegetative state for the rest of your natural life, fighting muscle atrophy and bedsores whilst your ‘caring society’ broods over you with self-satisfied delusions of being among those who ‘protect life at all costs’. Better to be left to nature to be shared with the rest of life, don’t you think?

  • Who needs the stars when you have the world?


    Much wisdom in that statement. A corollary might be something like ‘If you have the world, why fuck it up thinking about the stars?’.

    Earth has another five billion years, and new life is being born in geothermal vents as we write.

    Then we have nothing to worry about!… ;-) I knew that they had found new life forms that we hadn’t discovered before around those vents – I didn’t realise that we actually observed new ones being formed….

  • I just got thinking this morning (a dangerous time to think) – what is the evolutionary usefulness of empathy. Empathy could result in sympathy and appropriate action to help your mate, children, tribe mates. Thus when one of those people get hurt you imagine how they feel based on how you think you would feel and come to aid them. This would be a big plus for a social animal. OTOH it could be a great help for guessing what your enemies might do (mimic the sound of a wounded rabbit and you might lure them into killing distance). I had never thought about empathy this way, but had red what scientists had theorized consciousness is good for in the evolutionary scheme. I think it is a fair question. I think we confuse empathy with sympathy, when in fact while empathy might invoke sympathy it might not. When a policeman pepper sprays a protester, he probably has full empathy, just not sympathy. In fact it is his empathy that tells him how this will immobilize that person he sees as enemy.

    With TPTB it is possible they have no empathy – but it is possible that through education they just see us as enemy or a different species.

    Some say H-G’s are more violent than modern man. What I have read seems to compare say NYC’s murder rate to murders and war in H-G’ tribes. I haven’t seen the full detail but I bet that on the civilized side wars deaths are not counted. Nor I imagine does NYC have to count the dead in South America that bear a direct relation to their ability to get tropical fruit, or the early deaths of copper miners. But whether or not HG’s truly have more deaths per capita, they operate on mind programs evolved for their way of life, just as the rabbit and the fox do. The fox kills rabbits to further its reproduction, and sometimes the rabbit eats its own babies in a famine to stay alive to reproduce later. Not good or bad, moral or immoral, just programs to enhance reproduction success. The point is that our programs were evolved for tribal life not the life of extreme stratification that exists in any civilization. Death is in a sense not important, since it is our fate. Perhaps what matters may be how well our programs fit our lifestyle – we modern humans are surely as insane as the pacing lion in a cage, we have just been taught to think that regular meals and parasite removal make the cage worthwhile, but the pacing says otherwise.

    Perhaps selective reproduction of self replicating creatures will always look like ruthless competition, because it is. Perhaps it is best we end life. Perhaps alien societies came to the same conclusion. Perhaps I shouldn’t write comments so early in the AM.

  • There seems to be no collective IQ high enough to be able to deal with what is to come. Even questioning how long or how deep a recession will be, shows a complete lack of understanding about what the US is now facing. The US is on a downward slope without end. Consider that in 1971, three major events occurred:

    1) The country went completely off of the gold standard
    2) The country reached peak oil production
    3) Inflation adjusted wages for working males began what has now become a forty year decline

    The US is never coming out of this. The country will never again return to pre-1971 prosperity. 57,000 US factories are gone. Over 6 million US manufacturing jobs have disappeared or have been outsourced. We have run out of the cheap energy needed to sustain an industrial economy. The cost of the energy needed to produce more energy is rising too rapidly. We do not have the willing cheap labor force needed to sustain a world-competitive industrial economy. We are a consumer economy (70% of gdp), and the consumer is rapidly running out of money and credit. This ain’t your father’s recession, this is your great grandfather’s depression on steroids.

    Read this for a glimpse into the future. Do not be fooled by the title. Have that cup of coffee first, or you will be rudely awakened:


  • david x li

    You have correctly identified peak Oil as modern civilisation’s ‘Waterloo’, and specifically, EROEI as the most significant issue of our age. That applies to metals and minerals as well. Although there are vast amounts of iron in the world, as an example, the energy requirements to process the ever-decreasing quality of iron deposits locks us into high energy processes. When Collapse comes, the industrial infrastructure will fail, and with that the grid and all heavy metal industrial capability. We will not be able to go back to traditional smelting and foundry processes because we will not have the energy sources to do that – both the low-hanging fruit of rich metal deposits and that of rich energy sources will have long disappeared, leaving us, in a technology sense, far behind even middle-age capabilities. Once the grid fails, it is instant Stone Age or worse.

    Very nice, understandable article you referenced.

  • I think we confuse empathy with sympathy, when in fact while empathy might invoke sympathy it might not.


    Excellent point, and true enough. Empathy allows us to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Having empathy is an extremely valuable tool fro anyone. The best executives and military planners are highly empathetic people. As you say, they can readily put themselves in their enemies’ shoes and plan accordingly. TPTB are exceptional in this way – a Bill Clinton can honestly say, ‘I feel your pain’. He didn’t really feel our pain: he only recognised that his actions would cause pain. What he lacked is what all psychopaths lack – conscience. Power and profits trump everything. Conscience, if the young PTB has any, is removed from them during training. What remains is a highly trained, intelligent creature having social graces, a highly refined sense of empathy and absolutely no sense of conscience. Such a person will destroy the world in search of power and profit, believing that he is doing the right thing for his shareholders. “Nothing personal. It was only business….ya know?”

  • Victor, that sums it up pretty well….. part of it is identifying the “people” as rats, cockroaches, etc whatever terminology works to dehumanize them. But given that they will do in each other as well, well lack of conscience works. definition – conscience – the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience. I suppose they even think they have conscience – surely they know its wrong to use the salad fork to eat your main meal and behave accordingly?

  • david x li:

    Great link, thanks. Just one more the stuff up a deniers ass.

  • David and Curtis, the same article posted at zerohedge:


    Reading the comments makes perfectly clear why we are in the mess we are in. Feces-slinging, lint-for-brains primates with attention spans shorter than that of a grapefruit.

    John – dog’s speed to the microbes (natural or “enhanced”).

    Industrial man = “Bubble Boy.”

    The Worm Turns

    In the early 1990s, Joel Weinstock, a gastroenterologist, encountered a puzzle. The prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (I.B.D.) across North America increased markedly during the 20th century….

    Instead of asking what triggered I.B.D., he asked what, before the 20th century, protected against it?


    (all hail the microbes, for they shall inherit the earth ; 0)

  • Just a nit to pick in an otherwise excellent (if sobering) essay…

    You seem to imply that all groups follow the same absolute intelligence curve as the general population. It is certainly true that among 100 doctors, 50 of them will be above and 50 of them will be below average intelligence — for doctors! But surely the lot of them is, as a group, more intelligent than 100 people you picked off the street at random. (Depending on which street, of course, especially if it’s “Wall Street:” the doctors might really sine in comparison there.)

    I’m guessing that a Congressional budget committee committee meeting, regardless of your opinion about their end results, out-IQ’s a similar number of ditch diggers.

    This is not to quibble with the main premise, that there is more to it than simple IQ. Indeed, I find the notion that such groups of people are lacking in emotional intelligence highly compelling. And “EI,” for lack of a better term, is not something that we measure nor reward. Perhaps it should be.

  • Kathy:
    You’re right, we all get one death, but we all get a life as well, one that is enhanced–as yours is–by the pursuit of dignity and consciousness. Free will, if we can have it, probably lies in that direction.

    My definition of empathy involves acknowledging other people’s emotional existence, something that people without conscience by definition cannot do. Conscience is a complex concept, but maybe it’s the word we should all be using here.

    I should have said that it’s best to live in the center of an empire and not on its borders. An H-G band, it’s all borders.

    I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but my natural skepticism comes from spending my childhood visiting various abandoned homesteads around our own not-so-abandoned homestead. Mike and Karen’s decision–that they’re not yet ready–is a huge choice, given the pace of events these days. Michael Irving asked the question that was on my mind.

    My family survived on our homestead because my father did everything he could, including the brutal occupation of fur trapping, to make enough money to buy groceries. We had horses and we logged with them and built trails in the wilderness with them. It was a life that required huge numbers of time-consuming painful-to-practice skills, and entropy–of animals, children, and equipment–was a constant factor. I gladly traded it for the life of privilege that my education afforded me.

    I think that what you’re doing is a good thing, and I wish you success, but I have noted some of the pitfalls in”Life and Love After Collapse,” an essay Guy let me post a couple of years ago on NBL.

    I hadn’t thought about germ-warfare labs being the biological equivalent of nuclear reactors/cooling pools when the pumps stop, but it makes perfectly lethal sense.

    Obviously, I was being deliberately literal-minded about brain-size and intelligence, ignoring wisdom, life experience, and the crafty habits of mind we old folks get into. But if we get old enough, we say good-bye to most of our intellectual and executive abilities. Thank God I’ve still got enough of them to keep the goddam neighbor kids off my lawn.

    John Stassek:
    I’ve been trying to figure out a rhetoric of collapse that will get through to people who don’t want to believe in it, and applying a temporal perspective is one way to get through the defenses. Another is these ten-item essays, with which I’m trying create a deeper effect through juxtapositions and resonance than more unified pieces would. It doesn’t always work.

    But I don’t want to plunge you or anyone else–even folks still living in a compulsively consuming suburban trance–into depression. It’s still a beautiful world that we live in, for all its fragility and imperfection, and hope often enough obscures its beauty with magical thinking. I haven’t given up on hope, but I’ve reduced the time frame it operates in. Today I’m hoping the rain stops long enough for me to chop some wood.

  • Johnn ” I haven’t given up on hope, but I’ve reduced the time frame it operates in.” Now there is a refrigerator quote if I ever heard one. Up it goes on my refrigerator, along with the one up there now “Eternal optimism is a sign that you are not paying attention” I think that makes a nice balance.

  • Shades of the Strike in 2000 (9 meals from anarchy)

    Greece may Run Out of Gas in 3 Days in Refinery Strikes; Garbage Piles Up in Street of Athens

    Refinery strikes in Greece ahead of a general strike on October 19, have caused supplies of fuel to drop to a mere 3 days. Everyone is up in arms over still more austerity measures. Also ahead of the “general strike”, trash collection services are on strike and garbage mounts in the streets of Athens.

    These reports show Greece is no longer functional. Should gasoline run out, the entire country may as well shut down.


  • Kathy

    Your entire message is up on our fridge now, the first ever;-) Thanks.

  • Thanks Bernhard. John of course gets credit for the hope quote and I don’t remember who I got the eternal optimism from.

    My quote for the day “no one survives”. It helps me to get through another day at the end of empire. I don’t have to go on forever, thank dog, and they won’t go on forever – thank god. And no one will die who wasn’t going to die sometime anyway.

    Here’s a cheery little piece by Max Keiser that I enjoyed

    99% to Bankers: We’ve Got the Guillotine!
    rather bold of him I thought…….

  • I’ve been on hiatus from NBL, not that anyone noticed. I’m unhappy with much of what I read here, most of what I read elsewhere, and of course the whole stinking state of the world. I haven’t plunged into depression or an unrecoverable tailspin, but I struggle.

    The flurry of posts and comments over the past month (plus some) is not something I can keep pace with, so I ignored most of the posts and all of the comments until I saw John Rember’s new 10-part essay, which like those before, is laden with tasty morsels. Thanks, John. I won’t even quibble with your misapplication of several concepts; I don’t care anymore.

    I’m still conflicted about participating in a world and preparing for a future I don’t think will be here in a few years. Retiring to my hermit’s shack to scribble my manifesto and tend the chickens (sorry, Guy, I meant goats) seems a poor option, too (for me, at least). Rock, meet hard place. Maybe fiddling while Rome burned wasn’t as irrational as it seems.

  • to victor

    it appears that you are knowledgeable enough to form adequate expectations about inevitable breakdown of democracy and capitalism that we all are part of

    from the tone and style of your messages i infer that you are concerned

    the fact that you took the time to participate in this discussion suggests to me that you may be willing to spend your time as part of dh group

    i therefore invite you to review the material at http://www.condition.org

    join us and be the part of inevitable transcendancy of science

    alex todorov
    for dh group

  • http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/260976/tssi-rises-over-900-plants-hit-by-floods
    Floods have closed 900 factories
    Published: 12/10/2011 at 04:49 PM
    Online news: Economics

    At least 900 factories have been shut because of the flooding, many of them auto-parts manufacturers, and vehicle production will be down this year as a result, but the government’s stimulus measures boosted the confidence of small- and medium-enterprises in August.

    Industry Minister Wannarat Channukul said on Wednesday more than 900 industrial plants have been inundated by the floods, affecting more than 200,000 workers.

  • If you’ve ever wanted to visit Japan, this may be your chance.
    In a desperate attempt to lure tourists back to a country plagued by radiation fears and constant earthquakes, the Japan Tourism Agency’s proposed an unprecedented campaign – 10,000 free roundtrip tickets.
    The catch is, you need to publicize your trip on blogs and social media sites.

  • In your point 1 – you describe “emotional morons” – I might suggest that these individuals have lost emotion – moved to pure reason, and use that as an advantage against those who have emotions. They are looking for an advantage – “struggle for survival”, and have found this to be a very profitable area to be exploited. Example: in a closed loop system I control credit. You ask to borrow 10, I agree, dependent upon repayment of 11. When you borrowed 10, I only allowed 10 to be placed into circulation – thus you agreed to the impossible. If there are no new borrowers who can expand the 10 in circulation – I will confiscate your property because you cannot pay me back. After I confiscate your property – I will sell it again, to someone for 10, yet require 11 – and so the game continues on. What happens to the former owner does not concern me – perhaps they leave- perhaps they die, perhaps they commit suicide – I only require more players for my game. Would it not have been better if you never agreed to play? Those who rule are NOT emotional morons – they have NO EMOTIONS. Problem solved. http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

    Point 10 – You hint that you believe Humans are a unique creation with no other intelligent beings in the universe? I disagree. While you and I have no direct proof of it – others claim to. Their claims must always be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism – but here are some sources to research and ponder upon – if one is so inclined:




  • The last link I posted, perhaps should have been the first – for Charles Hall is a very impressive, highly educated person. If he is lying about his experiences, with the “Tall Whites”, then he certainly has a very active imagination. He claims to have seen vehicles capable of Interstellar travel at speeds exceeding the speed of light – they utilized fiber optic windings that created an anti-gravity drive which resulted in speeds in excess of 25X speed of light.
    Here is the paper he authored, concerning “The Hall Theory of Photon Structure”. http://openseti.org/Docs/Hall_Photon_Science_Paper_B.pdf

  • John,

    Great essay, but I don’t think we have to worry about whether we’ll revert to Hunter Gatherers or just fall back in the Dark Ages. Read this report, published September 27, 2011 …


    For those who find the science too much to take in, here is the concluding paragraph …

    “In conclusion, methane in the Arctic can be linked to seismic activity. As temperatures of deep waters of the Arctic Ocean keep rising, further seismic activity can be expected to trigger further releases of methane from hydrates that are likely to make the planet uninhabitable within decades. Only rapid cooling of the oceans’ waters can avoid this. To accomplish this, even a complete cessation of carbon dioxide emissions by developed and developing nations combined will not suffice. Geoengineering will have to be deployed to save humanity.”

  • Is humanity worth saving? Perhaps humanity can be considered a transitory species that, through it’s activities, would give rise to a new species of beings that would utilize methane as a life-giving source.

    Extinction seems to be a normal part of the eternal universe – however the genes are eternal, and will find expression on other hospitable worlds – made possible by the extinction of former life forms that created that world. – And so… the circle of life.


  • Since a Charles Hall was cited, here is the home page for Professor Charles Hall, a giant in ecological economics and a very early investigator into the concept of and issues associated with ERoEI.

  • Kevin

    Congratulations – I am certain that decision was taken due in no small measure to your influence! Small victory, but still a victory indeed!

  • alex todorov

    Thank you for the invitation, but after reviewing the link you offered, I suspect you have me confused for someone else, a supposition I suspect many on this site would hardily agree with… :-)

    I am not certain who you are, or the ‘dh group’, but if you wish to further explore this, then feel free to get my email address from Guy and contact me via that means.

  • Nicole

    This is not good news….indeed, if I interpret this correctly, we have triggered another positive feedback mechanism. The uncontrolled release of vast amounts of methane will surely do us in as well as most other forms of life on earth – and relatively quickly, as methane has something like 20 times the greenhouse effect of CO2.

  • Tim E.

    Evidence of intelligently controlled unidentified aerial phenomena is well documented. We don’t know where they come from (or what dimension), but their existence is no longer questioned among governments of the world (thought that fact is often not publicly acknowledged).

    I have always been rather agnostic about the whole thing until I read Leslie Kean’s UFOs, General, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record, published last year (2010).

    I am now convinced that there is something to this, though what impact its truth will have on our science, religion and philosophy is a big unknown to me at present. I am still trying to get to grips with it. There are so many follow-up questions in my mind, chief among them being ‘Who (or what) are they?’, ‘Why are they here?’ and ‘Are they attempting to communicate with us? – Why, or why not?’. There could be many answers to those questions.

    The revelation that we might not be alone is a bit startling to me, I must admit. I am hopeful that Leslie Kean would write another book on documented close contacts. This book only covered sightings and contact at a distance, if you catch my meaning. I know there are a lot of people who claim to have made close contact with these creatures, but I really haven’t seen the level of qualified observer documentation that Ms Kean presents for the sightings aspect of it. But I am new to this and can not attest to there not being such objective documentation available.

    What I do observe, however, is a growing flood of things happening in recent times covering the entire sphere of human experience – more so than I believe there has ever been, and it seems to be accelerating. We seem to be approaching a climactic point in our history in so many areas.

  • I see this same thing happening in many countries today – parents having to skip meals in order to feed their kids. It will get worse…


  • And I don’t know what your experience is but people are having trouble meeting current rent amounts.


  • The utter corruption of the US Congress at work – no bi-partisan problems here:


  • We never learn, do we?


    BP is making contingency plans to fight the largest oil spill in history, as it prepares to drill more than 4,000 feet down in the Atlantic in wildlife-rich British waters off the Shetland Islands.

  • victor, the link u provided to the u.s. congress corruption story was identical to the link u provided for the high rent problem, just to let u know. and yes, ‘we’ never learn. it’s why sadly so many here look forward to collapse, horrific as it undoubtedly will be, as the only way this madness will end.

  • vt

    Thanks for that. Here is the Congressional corruption link:


  • It is interesting to note the perspective of the MSM on these agreements. When you look at what the NY Times says, you will note that the money-laundering portiion of the agreement was not even mentioned. This is the most important part of it as it allows individuals and corporations to register accounts in Panama that cannot be accessed by the IRS and are subject to 0 taxation – a huge benefit to Wall Street and the top 1%.


    Obama continues to spread them wide for Wall Street. And people just keep supporting him.

  • Forgot to mention – I believe this Panama deal was done in response to the unveiling of the Swiss Bank accounts to the IRS some time back. This agreement provides for even greater power to hide money than Swiss accounts or other off-shore agreements.

    I also notice that it is not even mentioned by some MSM outlets.

  • Kathy

    Cognac is my preference – Tums are bad for you (at least in the amount you would have to ingest to compensate for THIS interview!)…. :-)

    The whole slant of that interview gort off on the wrong track very early on. Somehow both gentlemen missed the whole point of the OWS. Instead they concentrated on State Taxes, of all things! That is not what OWS is all about. It is about the influence of Wall Street and the mega corporations on Government and thus, on the rest of the country’s (and the world’s!) REAL economy. Has nothing to do with state taxes.

  • Victor,

    Regarding your link about the US Congress: This is NOT THE MOST DEPRESSING THING I’VE EVER READ, but I do give it very high marks.

    Michael Irving

  • Kevin,

    Congratulations! Good work in persevering even when at times it seemed hopeless.

    Michael Irving

  • Greece public transport strike hits capital again

    (AP) ATHENS, Greece — Public transport ground to a halt in Athens Thursday as workers began a 48-hour strike against austerity measures, while protesters tried to prevent the collection of a new property tax by occupying the power company’s billing offices.

    Many Greeks have said they cannot pay the new property tax, which is to be paid through electricity bills to circumvent the country’s dysfunctional tax system and make it easier for the state to collect. Those who do not pay risk having their power cut off.

    But the power employees’ union has reacted with outrage, saying the power company should not be used as a tax collection system. Workers have said they will refuse to switch consumers’ electricity off.

    “Electricity … cannot be used as a means of blackmail against the unemployed, the poor, the wage-earner,” the power company’s union GENOP-DEH said. “(We) will not allow our poor fellow citizens to be left without power.”

    The unionists took over the company’s billing facility in central Athens, blockading the entrance from Wednesday night. They ended their occupation Thursday afternoon but vowed to continue their protests, staging a sit-in of the company director’s office to protest a decision to have private contractors print the electricity bills.

    “We will not let this pass. This will be a hand-to-hand fight — we mean it,” power workers’ union leader Nikos Fototopoulos said….

  • Reminds me of John Rember’s previous essay on “self” (last line in quote) and of Orlov’s discussion of suicide rates during the collapse of the USSR.

    DiManno: Financial crisis is literally killing Greeks

    Four years ago, Violatzis established a suicide helpline through Klimaka. At first, it received only four or five calls a day. Now it’s upwards of a hundred daily, more than 5,000 through the first eight months of 2011 compared with 2,500 for all of 2010.

    “The callers are primarily men between the ages of 40 and 60 with families who had led productive lives,” he says. “Now they feel destroyed.

    People get ill and depressed when their self-concept is incongruent with their reality.”


  • John,

    I remember reading Life and Love after Collapse and understand there are many pitfalls to living today, but for me that’s how I get up every morning otherwise I’m with George Carlin believing the most important thing I can do with my life is end it.

    Every day is a battle against the machine and I know we’re losing but at this point I can’t do anything but live and enjoy what is here and now. Until the time comes when I deem it appropriate to not participate (won’t be around for the rape and cannibalism) then I will no longer live, as you spoke so eloquently about Julie’s feelings,

    She knows that life is worth living until it isn’t.

    I was just reminded of this yesterday while visiting my hospice patient. Thank you for addressing my comment, have you looked at the full moon recently? It’s beautiful.

  • The Wall Street protestors are barking up the wrong tree:

    The First Manifesto of the Wall Street Protesters!

  • Victor and all, here is an interview with Chris Hedges that will make your day – he trounces the interviewer soundly!!!

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article29370.htm it includes the transcript

  • I hear Mayor Bloomberg might be evicting OWS tomorrow morning. This is getting interesting.

  • Funny enough, Robin Datta, an author named Morris Berman recently said the same thing on his blog.

    To paraphrase, he said he certainly hoped the Occupy Wall Street succeeded, except that what would success look like? The protesters want a bigger piece of the pie, Berman said, but they never considered the idea that the PIE ITSELF (the American Dream) was poisoned rotten from the START.

    Berman thinks the protesters should be protesting to END the American Dream, not to save it or extend it to everyone, by which he means they should be protesting to get rid of wealth entirely, not merely redistributing it.

  • Some persons will be better than others at some things, so some may be wealthier than others, as in the story of the ant and the grasshopper. 

    But extreme concentrations of wealth are made possible through mechanisms emplaced and operated by the state, such as corporations, subsidies, tariffs, bailouts and other forms of favorable and unfavorable legislation and policies. 

  • Please consider that during my lifetime, when human numbers exploded from less than 3 billion to more than 7 billion worldwide, many experts may not have known enough about what they were talking about when they spoke of human population dynamics and all causes of the human overpopulation of Earth. Their research appears not to be scientific. What I have been trying to communicate regarding the human population does not issue from ideological or totalitarian thinking, or from group-think consensus for that matter. It is not derived from what is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable and culturally prescribed. I have wanted to openly discuss the best available science. That is all. It appears the generally accepted thinking of a surprisingly large number of so-called experts in the field of population dynamics appears to have an unscientific foundation. Their preternatural thought and theorizing about the population dynamics of the human species appears to be both incomplete and mistaken. Most disquieting of all, a widely shared and consensually validated theory about a demographic transition four decades from now is directly contradicted by unchallenged scientific research. As a consequence, and it is a pernicious consequence, woefully inadequate thinking and fundamentally flawed theorizing has been broadcast during my life cycle and continues to be broadcast everywhere by the mainstream media as if it is not only science but the best available scientific evidence. The implications of this unfortunate behavior, inasmuch as it appears to be based upon a colossal misperception of what could somehow be real regarding the human population, appear profound. This failure of nerve has served to slow momentum needed for a confrontation with a formidable global predicament that appears to become more difficult to overcome year by year.

    In their elective mutism regarding an astonishing error, are first class professional researchers with expertise in population dynamics behaving badly by allowing the “ninety-nine percenters” to be misguided and led down a primrose path by the “one percenters”? The power of silence on the part of knowledgeable human beings with feet of clay is dangerous because research is being denied that appears to shed light upon a dark, non-recursive biological problem, the understanding of which appears vital to future human well being and environmental health. Too many experts appear to be ignoring science regarding the human population and instead consciously through their silence consenting to the leviathan scale and unbridled expansion of global overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities that are being adamantly advocated and relentlessly pursued by greedmongering masters of the universe, the tiny minority among us who are primarily responsible for ravaging the Earth, ruining its environs and reducing its fitness for habitation by the children. If this assessment of human behavior is indeed a fair representation of what is happening on our watch, then the desire to preserve the status quo, mainly the selfish interests of ‘the powers that be’, could be at least one basis for so much intellectually dishonest and morally bereft behavior. Could it be that the outrageous per capita overconsumption, large-scale corporate overproduction and unrestricted overpopulation activities of the human species worldwide cannot continue much longer on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of a finite and frangible planet like Earth?

  • As Professor Albert Bartlett pointed out in “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” the population problem will be corrected, if not by human intervention, then by Nature.

  • Steven worldwide there are approximately 56 million deaths per year. If we had no births for 40 years that would reduce our population by about 2 billion. Just the numbers. By then only few women would be able to give birth and could only have a few kids, so that should go a long way to solving our problems. All we need to do is figure out how to have women stop having any babies for 40 years. You have a plan?

  • Kathy:

    I have seen few references to increasing death rates do to HIV, crop failures, diseases, floods last year in Pakistan, fires in Russia, or even radiation in Japan. Is this a lack of reporting, or a deliberate attempt to ignore the numbers so as to keep everyone from knowing what is happening?
    Last years flood in Pakistan only caused something like 1800 deaths. We kept getting the same number week after week. Sure seemed like deliberate under/non reporting.
    Does anyone have any hard numbers?
    I would think that by now, there should be some numbers on radiation illness in Japan. Same with the earthquake/tsunami numbers. The attitude may be, lets just not talk about it.

  • I don’t know much about this school, but I am putting it up here in case anyone is interested. Something inside me wants to take it but 2 weeks gone during a really important time of the growing season makes it tough.


    We are doing more with wild nuts this fall with mixed results. It’s not nearly as easy as we thought it would be though we probably have a couple of hundred pounds of nuts drying. Some trees give absolutely nothing others alot, some are small while the same species (I think) 200 ft away are at least twice as big. Trying to figure out what causes the variances. I suppose the orginal HG knew every tree and how they produced etc. If you didn’t have time to get this right you would starve in the first couple of weeks.

  • Curtis, you may be right. But whatever the numbers are they are not enough because darn babies keep getting born, even in Falluja Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/toxic-legacy-of-us-assault-on-fallujah-worse-than-hiroshima-2034065.html Explain to me. If you see your neighbor have a baby with two heads, and kids and people around you getting cancer would you go on an have children?????? If people who know they are contaminated have kids anyway what hope for cutting the birth rate. If you want to cut the population by 2 billion in the next 10 years, the death rate has to rise to more than the birth rate by say 200 million per year (at present that would mean a death rate of 334 million per year instead of 56 million or about a 6 fold increase). I think we have a ways to go.

  • But in the meantime the fields are ripe for missionary work

  • An average of 200M extra deaths/yr. I doubt it will be linear. Even without nukes, an epidemic lasting 2 – 3 years; a major crop failure; pick your favorite. Any such event can trigger several others. It probably won’t matter which one is first, as any one can be the trigger to get the ball rolling.

  • Curtis, my current bet is on a solar storm that wipes out the grid – worse for the developed countries with the big grids – think big antennas (the bigger you are the harder you fall)

    But maybe the economic collapse will get here first. But even things that should be slow motion events – running a bit short on oil, fertilizer, etc will probably get out of hand early due to the fragile nature of our complex society, the choice of “efficiency” over redundancy, the refusal to take even small steps back, and the nature of humans to panic.

  • Look at the EU and Greece. Someone always votes no to whatever lame plan is proposed. As they should. It just drags on with the volume turned up a notch with each failure. They will all collapse in exhaustion from shouting, with nothing agreed upon. What will Greece do when they run out of what ever credit/cash remains, and they cannot buy oil or any other commodity on the world market? This just has to blow up soon.

  • Protest with song

    Community Members block auctions in Brooklyn court; 9 activists arrested.

    Date: October 13, 2011

    Calling on the judicial system to institute an immediate moratorium on all foreclosures until a fair system of home loans is put into place, a group of New York City housing justice advocates disrupted the auction of several foreclosed Brooklyn properties in Civil Court on Thursday afternoon through music and song. The group, called Organizing for Occupation (O4O), was protesting what it views as a system designed to benefit financial lending institutions at the expense of homeowners and low-income communities. Although the New York judiciary instituted mandatory pre-foreclosure settlement conferences in 2009, O4O claims that these conferences do nothing to protect the rights of homeowners to remain in their homes. “No lender, be it Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank or Chase, has any intention of settling by means other than a foreclosure auction or another predatory modification,” says Karen Gargamelli, a housing attorney and spokesperson for O4O. “These auctions displace our neighbors and destabilize our neighborhoods. We need a stronger system for dealing with foreclosures, one that holds banks accountable for making bad loans and then speculating on them as ‘securitized instruments’.” And until the Legislature passes more protective laws, O4O is calling on the courts to hold all foreclosure auctions, and encouraging New Yorkers to raise their own voices in the courts to stall these auctions through concerted direct action such as Thursday’s disruption.

  • OK….my this exceeds my limit….don’t mess with me coffee in the morning!


  • I’ve posted a brief new guest essay

  • George Bush: Condi! Nice to see you. What’s happening?
    Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.
    George: Great. Lay it on me.
    Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.
    George: That’s what I want to know.
    Condi: That’s what I’m telling you.
    George: That’s what I’m asking you. Who is the new leader of China?
    Condi: Yes.
    George: I mean the fellow’s name.
    Condi: Hu.
    George: The guy in China.
    Condi: Hu.
    George: The new leader of China.
    Condi: Hu.
    George: The Chinaman!
    Condi: Hu is leading China.
    George: Now whaddya’ asking me for?
    Condi: I’m telling you Hu is leading China.
    George: Well, I’m asking you. Who is leading China?
    Condi: That’s the man’s name.
    George: That’s who’s name?
    Condi: Yes.
    George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of China?
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the Middle East.
    Condi: That’s correct.
    George: Then who is in China?
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Yassir is in China?
    Condi: No, sir.
    George: Then who is?
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Yassir?
    Condi: No, sir.
    George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.
    Condi: Kofi?
    George: No, thanks.
    Condi: You want Kofi?
    George: No.
    Condi: You don’t want Kofi.
    George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.
    Condi: Kofi?
    George: Milk! Will you please make the call?
    Condi: And call who?
    George: Who is the guy at the U.N?
    Condi: Hu is the guy in China.
    George: Will you stay out of China?!
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.
    Condi: Kofi.
    George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.
    (Condi picks up the phone.)
    Condi: Rice, here.
    George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we should send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you get Chinese food in the Middle East?

  • Victor, NO NOT THE COFFEE……………………

  • Dear Kathy C,

    My response to your question follows.

    1. Immediate, universal, free, easily accessible and humane contraception is required;

    2. Open access to family and health planning education is made available to everyone;

    3. The time for the economic and social empowerment of women is now.

    4. As a means of accelerating the present downward movement in birth rates (TRFs) in some countries, a VOLUNTARY policy of one child per family would be initiated worldwide.

    5. The many human beings who are suffering the unhealthy effects of obesity will share their over-abundant resources with many too many people who are hungry and starving.

    6. Every effort to conserve energy and scarce material resources will be implemented with all deliberate speed.

    7. Substanitial economic incentives are necessary for the development of energy resources as alternatives to fossil fuels.

    8. Overhaul national tax systems so that conspicuous per human over- consumption of limited resources is meaningfully put at a disadvantage.

    9. Humanity needs a new economic system, one that is subordinated to democratic principles and more adequately meets the basic needs of a majority of humanity who could choose to live better lives with lesser amounts of energy and natural resources.

    10. Overall, what is to be accomplished is a fair, more equitable and evolutionarily sustainable distribution of the world’s tangible (e.g., food) and intangible (e.g., education) resources, as soon as possible.

    What do you think?



  • Victor

    Result is US politics;-) – worst possible results.
    But I’m afraid those people now what they are doing quite well.
    World wide humanitarian bombing for profit.