Membership has its privileges

by Mike Sliwa, who blogs at Chasing a Different Carrot with his wife Karen

We spent three months at the mud hut and lived to tell about it.

My wife Karen and I were fortunate enough to spend most of our summer with Guy on his doomstead and came away with an appreciation for how fragile life really is. As the days rolled along and the learning curve was fully realized it occurred to us that homesteading on our own was not in our near future. Don’t get me wrong, we loved working on the homestead but we really don’t have any desire at the moment to find a place and settle down. There are many factors that brought us to this realization but the important part is my wife and I agree. It could be that we’re soul mates but reality tells me it’s because we see the world in a similar light. We both come from a place of privilege and have come to realize how the world works for us.

According to Jared Diamond, geography played a major role in determining the haves and have nots. It’s a good starting point for understanding how privilege works and very telling on how it starts. Being born in the United States and never knowing hunger in our lives is important to recognize. We didn’t choose our nationality but it surely has shaped our existence. Geography was an important factor in forming our privileged life. It is the basis for the social groups to which Karen and I belong.

I am a white heterosexual male born in the United States and raised by a middle-class, college-educated family. More importantly, I was born into industrial civilization. I did not earn any of these distinctions but they have made all the difference. Because of my geography other social categories carry more weight. The wealth and power of my country have helped elevate my social standing. Membership has its privileges, as Louis C.K. knows.

During our time with Guy we realized the privilege of being able to pick up and leave our old life behind and venture out toward a new one. People living in refugee camps have no such luxuries. We live in a country where we get what children call do-overs. Just like when you’re a kid playing cops and robbers and suddenly you’re shot dead. You stay still on the ground and play dead for a few seconds and then jump back into the game. In a sense that’s what Karen and I have done and many U.S. citizens and corporations have done. Some call it a bail out, some call it bankruptcy, and others call it walking away. In essence it’s a do-over.

Growing up with these benefits leads to a sense of entitlement. We agree with those who argue that it’s not their fault they were born in this country or that they were born into a particular gender or race. What we find fascinating is that most of those same people still feel entitled to the perks that come along with their social groups. I see no sense of responsibility from the privileged. What we see are expectations. We expect food in our stores. We expect water to come out of our taps. We expect affordable gasoline. We expect kiwi fruits in December. We expect a do-over when we fuck up.

Like most of us, Karen and I have distorted boundaries. We live in the gated community of the world. Living this way has turned our perspectives into truth. Others have perspectives but here in the U.S. we have the truth. The actual truth is we have set the norm for the industrialized world. Breaking free from that norm will be very difficult for us.

On the homestead I started to wonder what I was really doing. Obviously my privilege gave me some opportunities to pursue this lifestyle and in a sense I certainly felt that I should have a chance to learn a new skill set. What I discovered was that it’s difficult to change gears when living in a country of great abundance. The truth is Karen and I have a huge safety net. Many of my friends think we’re taking a huge risk by giving up our jobs, our credit scores, and our many conveniences. That’s their “truth.” In actuality it’s their perspective. If one steps outside of the dominant group and looks at the situation for what it actually is, it’s plain to see that there is very little risk involved at all. When comparing our situation with many in the developing world the risk factor is laughable. Our worst-case scenario is our credit drops and we feel guilty about it. We have friends and family who would support us emotionally and financially if necessary. We will not go hungry or die because of our decision to leave it all behind. This is the actual truth which is very different from many perspectives we encounter. Privileged individuals live in a world of distortion and our experience thus far has reinforced this idea.

When I arrived at Guy’s place it was a little frightening for me personally. I had no connection to the land, animals, insects, or surrounding community for that matter. I had become an expert at ignoring the land, avoiding the animals, stepping on the insects, and tolerating my community. I would objectify what I was fearful of and compartmentalize what I was ignorant of. My wife on the other hand had no such fears and I began to wonder about my actions. She was in a place of wonderment. Like so many people in Guy’s community, she has peace within her. We met primitivists, artists, tramps, handy men/women, authors, and many living in voluntary poverty. All of these folks are dedicated to the simple wonderment of life.

While the summer months passed I began to reflect on my place is this mess called civilization. I benefit directly from the murder of the living planet but in the end it will cost me the planet. So is privilege worth the cost? The answer is simple but arriving at it is very difficult for most. It feels so good to have all this convenience but when you’re alone on a piece of land that you have no connection to, one quickly comes to realize how much of a fraud civilization actually is. I have been standing on the shoulders of others all of my life and I haven’t a clue to the oneness of life. Oh sure I know everything is connected, but I’m so disconnected that I’m afraid in my short time left in this world I may never come to feel it on a personal level. My whole life has been about objectifying and compartmentalizing. Without it industrial civilization is impossible.

Consequently I am a supremacist. I live in a white supremacist nation. I live in a patriarchal world. I live in a time period where we believe we have conquered nature, even though we all know who bats last. Ultimately being a supremacist leads to the violent destruction of the living planet and all who depend on it for life. So as we continue to emulate those who have more privilege the train keeps rolling towards the cliff. We are all passengers on this train, which is not news to those who read and contribute to NBL.

Karen and I have come to realize that privilege has created this mess and privilege will not get us out of it. It’s time to pay the price for this gravy train and that’s not just a perspective but more like truth. Settling down on a homestead would be an amazing education. I’m not sure I have the staying power when my disconnect from the living world is so blatant. I need to experience what’s out there before I can call any part of it home. So we will continue to seek work on various homesteads across the world and take it as it comes.

My wife and Guy are fearless … I wish I could say the same about myself.

Comments 77

  • Excellent post. Especially the evaluation and honesty of how American culture has shaped both your lives, values and judgements. Your self-awareness and honesty is refreshing.

    That said, each of us has the right to choose (within a legal threshold) the lifestyles we *want* to live. I chose to disconnect myself from mainstream (coming from a similar background as you) in the early 1970’s, moving into the backwoods of Maine to build and develop my perceived Utopia. In many ways it was, but it was more a 12-yr ‘experiment.’ After almost 30 yrs later of living and working in six states, in private industry and academia, the woods, desert, rural ranch and cities, the culmination of my continued ‘experiment’ will be returning to that self-sufficient (and disconnected) lifestyle I lived so long ago. Now, more wiser and mature, this is my ultimate choice. And with accumulated experience, it will be my Übermensch.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. Continue exploring more options, find a ground on which you both feel is right; in your heart and in your soul. The native saying is to follow the path that has heart. You may take a few wrong turns along the way, it will twist, go up and down, but you will find the right path eventually.

  • **My whole life has been about objectifying and compartmentalizing. Without it industrial civilization is impossible.**

    The overt sense of HONESTY that comes across through the words is really inspiring. The truth of the matter is that when one is forced into discomfort change is possible. I would say congratulations on recognizing the disconnection even exists. Thank you for the great read. Your personal experience and history is the norm for a lot of people … what you experience and write about is important for you and the reader’s too. I wonder sometimes if guys have it tougher than women….

  • Mike thanks for your honest essay. While skills and courage are important things to have going forward, so is honesty and especially personal honesty. In fact it takes a fearless person to express such honesty on an open forum.

    Meanwhile in Tamnaa’s land our energy greed is wreaking climate havoc.

    FLOODING in central and northern Thailand blamed on unusually heavy monsoon rains and poor management of the country’s large dams has left at least 237 people dead.

    Twenty-six of the 77 Thai provinces have been hit by floods this rainy season, affecting 2.6 million people

  • Tamnaa from the last thread, yes I have heard Vandana Shiva a number of times on Democracy Now and other venues. She is a remarkable woman. Per wiki “In the area of IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) and Biodiversity, Dr. Shiva and her team at the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology successfully challenged the biopiracy of Neem, Basmati and Wheat.” She went against some of the big players and won!

  • Mike-thanks brother. It’s great to hear about your life lessons. We share similar fears and experiences. Disconnecting for this long has been a huge learning curve not only in homesteading, but personally. My views on our situation aren’t clear and I have yet to arrive at answers. My daily experiences shape my perceptions-some aren’t what I thought they would be. However, I have met amazing people who seem to move through this ‘mess’ with grace and I suppose that if I could at least do that, I would be happy. I hope to catch up with you guys soon.

  • Great essay, Mike.

    Now I’m going to be a bit hard on you. It’s not because I don’t like you, or because I think you’re wrong.

    When my nieces were moving into middle school, my sister-in-law made a big public spectacle about whether she should buy them Barbie dolls or not. She’d go through all the arguments against — the consumerist life-style, teaching them not to want things just because their peers had them, the waste of enabling yet more plastic products and their toxic side-effects to the environment, etc. This public display of angst went on for some months, then she caved and bought them both Barbie sets for Christmas.

    I know you’re not about to go out and do the metaphorical equivalent of buying Barbie dolls, but you do need to get over the guilt of being privileged. Having seen that, having publicly wallowed in the angst of it, and keeping it in the back of your head are enough. Now put it away and get out there and do good things!

    It’s easy to get immobilized by guilt. I do it all the time. I try not to let it take too much of my attention, though. But especially when I just have to do something right that I don’t want to do, I can let guilt block me.

    Pick up your foot. Point it in the right direction. Put it back down. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s all the world can ask of any of us.

  • There are many, many ways to be useful in the world. I imagine there are other homesteaders who could use a migrant worker or two. Sometimes I think of doing the same – instead of trading my little plot for a bigger one and starting over, it appeals to me to help someone with more land than they can work. I don’t need to own it. I just want to be outside every day getting dirty. One side benefit is that if you get flooded out or nuked, it’s a lot easier to move on.

    Tamnaa – is your river staying on its side of the levee?

  • Thanks for the responses.

    @Jan-If I gave the impression that I feel guilt for my privilege then I apologize. I feel a responsibility to listen to those who know true oppression. I don’t feel guilty at all. In fact that’s the problem with those who have privilege. They confuse guilt with responsibility. I have a responsibility to listen, resist, and follow those who know what oppression is and not be so quick to try and “fix” or “help” those without privilege. The privileged need help and the sooner we realize it the better off the living world will be.

  • Kathy C; yes, the monsoons have been very persistent this year. The old city of Ayuthaya has been badly flooded including the historic temple ruins.
    Rita, I just got back from a short walk to look at the water. It’s still more than a meter below the top of the dike, about the same as it was last year at the height. I saw people fishing and one fellow giving his motorcycle a good wash.

    Mike, like the others, I commend your honesty. This is a very interesting piece.
    I’ve been wondering about the way so many people seem to react with bewilderment, shock and, very often, denial when they start to become aware of the fallacies of industrial expansionism. This includes people with high levels of education. I have a notion that is not yet fully developed but I thought I’d ask you about it anyway.

    First, I suspect that part of your privileged life has been ready access to higher education, so you have a degree or two, right?
    You wrote: “We live in the gated community of the world. Living this way has turned our perspectives into truth.”
    The wall and gate and security guard of a gated community maintains a separation from the realities of the world outside and I’m wondering whether the education system functions, in a very similar way, to protect students from seeing the realities of the world and from thinking objectively about them. Do Universities teach students to genuinely observe and question and think, or do they generally discourage all that and just re-enforce the delusions of unlimited progress and cultural superiority?

    It seems to me that universities, in preparing young people for careers of affluence and privilege within the walls of Industrial Civilization, fail to prepare them even for thinking, let alone acting, in ways that are appropriate for the current situation.
    What do you think?

  • Tamnaa,
    I am a former high school teacher with a BA. Your assumptions are correct about my access to education. As an educator I watched and participated first hand in the elimination of objective critical thought. At the high school level thinking has been outlawed so I would assume at the university level most students would lack the skill set to observe, question, and think. I find that most are stuck in the awareness phase and have difficulty when it comes to taking action.we simply produce consumers who are aware something is terribly wrong but lack the understanding to make real change. Hell I was educated in the same system so my decolonization has been a long but rewarding process.

  • Thank you, Mike Sliwa, for pointing out a valid view. And Jan Steinman sees things from a somewhat different but also valid viewpoint. I agree that there are indeed people of privilege, but what one considers privilege speaks of the character of the person.

    From the time of the microbes, the competition for the substrate for subsistence, sustenance and growth have been a central to biological life. Even amongst mammals other than ourselves, the offer of food to another individual is an important gesture of friendship, gratitude, bonding, etc. Hence the domestic cat that places a dead rat on the pillow: a gesture of the deepest love and admiration, but seen with disgust and revulsion by the recipient.

    Indeed, the security in the availability of food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities, allowing one’s attention to wander towards “comforts” and “luxuries” is in a very real sense a privilege. But another aspect that is overlooked was alluded to in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s answer when asked what he thought of western civilization: he said that it would be a good idea. In that respect there may still be “miles to go before we sleep”.

    I am grateful for the course of history that made me what I am. For example, all but the lightest elements were made in supernova explosions before the formation of our sun: the substance our very bodies was forged in those unimaginable crucibles.

    Much further down the road, I have to be grateful that King Phillip II of Spain appointed Medina Sidonia, a successful land commander against the Dutch, but with no experience at sea, to the task of raising an armada against England. Intent on transporting troops, most of that armada became little more than troopships with gunwales, poorly suited to manoeuver in battle, and successfully dispatched by the English Navy under leaders such as Sir Francis Drake.

    Thus Brittania came to rule the waves, and so the British Raj in India, without which my parents would not have met. Most Indians from the time of the British Raj considered the white man to be a demigod. That perception had not completely faded in my generation, but the first change to it occured after I came to America. Prior to that the white man’s English was the perfect Engllsh, but I found in New York that I had to UNLEARN English.

    It did not bother me at all that the colored folks could not speak English: after all, English was not the language of the colored people where I came from. But it wass a different matter when the white person could not speak it. Correcting their errors of speech, however, made them madder than a hornet, and very quickly I realized that I was up against a quarter of a billion (that is what the population was at that time). “If you can’t lick ’em, you jine ’em” proved to be sage advice.

    Any remaining ideas of a white Übermensch came to an end when I was stationed in Korea, in a bubble of the uS Army, seenig the attitudes out in the open without the influences of policital correctness stateside. And I was in a privileged position, as a Captain (and a physician). While I enjoyed the position of privilege, my ideas of American civilization (in the alternate sense) changed completely.

    The white man unquestionably has a position of privilege, but that is not the kind of privilege that commands my respect. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:20-21.

    Incidentally, the loss of ancestral melanin in the Europeas races is postulated to have been the result of two factors: the switch from hunter-gatherer to agriculture with the decrease in dietary vitamin D, combined with the decreased intensity of sunlight (the same rays hitting a surface at close to a right angle are more concentrated than when hitting a surface at a great inclination). The skin needs sunlight to synthesize vitamin D. Melanin blocks sunlight. THe decrease in melanin increased the available sunlight. But in the areas “where the sun don’t shine” like the groin and axilla, the melanin tended to remain.

    The Paleo-Etiology of Human Skin Tone

  • My wife and Guy are fearless … I wish I could say the same about myself.

    Mike, many thanks for the ‘confession’ – it had the sound of sincerity and truth and deep personal honesty. Certainly you spoke for many on this site. We ‘connect’… ;-)

    As for fear, this is good that you feel fear. It is your responsibility to feel fear. Fear is what maintains caution and alertness. Fear makes you assess risk and make value judgements about your direction, and what you should be doing. Those without fear tend to jump into things without enough thought and often find themselves caught up in their excesses. So I consider you and your wife to be well-matched in this respect. She needs you.

    And you need her since I suspect it will be her fearlessness that will keep you both moving in the same direction. This is good.

    As for the whole discussion on ‘privilege’, however, I must admit to something of a disconnect. It seems to me that privilege is a matter of perspective, though in our case not a shared perspective. You have those with greater ‘privilege’ and those with lesser, and those with little more privilege than that of simply ‘living’. You mentioned Jared Diamond and his perspective of ‘haves and have-nots’. Not being a huge Jared Diamond fan, nonetheless I recognise what he (and you) are saying here, I think.

    But a lot depends upon what one means by being one who ‘has’ and one who ‘has not’, don’t you think? You seem to speak from the perspective of one who judges the ‘have’ to be access to material possessions, the conveniences of modern society and a ‘safety net’ (in case things go wobbly).

    Yet I see the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of this world in a totally different light. The ‘haves’ are those who have deep connections to the earth and nature, and know the rules of living in harmony with their natural surroundings, and lead daily lives of deep uncertainty and struggle to live within the bounds of a Nature that is not altogether kind at all times.

    The ‘have-nots’ have long ago lost that harmony, that sense of connection and the spirituality that accompanies it. They live in a profoundly false and artificial world of their own making, a gigantic cocoon within which they have comfortably placed themselves and within which they have lost all true meaning of true ‘connection’ and real living. So from that perspective modern human civilisation and all those who live within its power are caught up in extreme poverty and lack of privilege, and thus live under desperate conditions of need – the poverty that comes from a lack of understanding of one’s place in the natural world, the lack of tools and skills to survive in nature and the profound lack of spirituality that living in harmony with the natural processes brings with it – in other words, the need of …well…connection. And from this perspective, I disagree fundamentally with Diamond, maintaining that it is the ‘have-nots’ of this world who came to dominate. And it is the ‘have-nots’ of this world who destroy nature and continue to oppress the ‘haves’.

    Real ‘privilege’ comes with time and deep-rooted culture of community and the accomplishments of those who have formed deep connections with not just the present, but with those of the past, passing on that which they received from their ancestors and understanding the importance and the deep, spiritual meaning of that, and understanding the attendant responsibilities of keeping and protecting that ‘connectedness’.

    This is why none of us born into poverty can begin to understand the richness and privilege that comes with those in the ‘connected’ cultures of the world. Those of us who have ventured some distance near the outer boundaries of civilisation and towards ‘connectivity’ – like Guy, Rita, Kathy, Ed, Tamnaa and so many others here – have wandered far enough into the world of the ‘haves’ to at least begin to understand the depth of their own poverty and the lack of privilege they share with the rest of modern civilisation. Indeed, they might someday share many of the things with the ‘haves’, but they will likely never achieve a privileged life of deep-rooted community.

    I do not mean this in a negative or offensive way, but when you recognise your true poverty – that you are actually among the ‘have-nots’ – and therefore, your profound LACK privilege, you will have taken the first small step towards ‘enlightenment’ – this word used at the risk of raising the hairs on the back of Robin’s neck…. :-)

    Again, thanks for the essay – we connect profoundly.

  • Victor; very beautifully said! I’m in perfect agreement with your perspective but could never articulate it so well.

    I think this message is exactly what needs to be spread to everyone, to those who still maintain their connection with the living world, to those who are struggling to regain it, and to those who have lost it long ago.

  • Ditto what Tamnaa said Victor. Off to Montgomery today for a bit of business at our capital. Yuk. City life is truly an impoverishment.

  • ” (the “Haves”)… lead daily lives of deep uncertainty and struggle to live within the bounds of a Nature that is not altogether kind at all times.”

    Perfect victor – I love you man! ; )

  • Thank you Mike and Karen for helping Guy and all of us who try and do our part for nature and the natural world. Recognizing what needs to be done is half the battle, like the way Redreamer said:

    The truth of the matter is that when one is forced into discomfort change is possible. I would say congratulations on recognizing the disconnection even exists.

    Me too!

    Guilt cannot force you to have a connection with the earth, seems to me you already know that. Maybe there’s more of a connection there than you recognize. Think we’re all fearless if we challenge ourselves to explore other options.

    Congratulations to all of you and what you’ve done together.

  • Mike, I echo what most of the others here have said. Great essay! True self-awareness is a rare thing but something I find that many here possess. Your own self-awareness is refreshing! Thanks for sharing such a personal account of your journey.

    On a completely unrelated note, I was just listening to President Obama’s press conference. During the Q&A portion, a reporter asked why more jobs haven’t been created in the alternative energy sector given how much money the government has been pumping into it (I paraphrase). The president’s response was the usual political BS mostly, but the part that surprised me was when he said that we are “running out” of the traditional energy sources of oil and coal and that if we wait until they are gone, then it will be too late to do anything about it. He didn’t say we will run out someday, but rather we ARE running out. Even though I think it’s too late already to do anything about it (I suspect he does too) that’s the closest admission to peak oil that a U.S. president has come to since Jimmy Carter.

  • Mrs Mcpherson

    Mike Sliwa or Guy

    Mike,you seem to have a similiar perspective as Guy’s wife.This surely
    came up during your stay at the mud hut.

    Either one of you care to comment on this subject ?

    Double D

  • Mike,

    I would also like to thank you for an essay that has forced me to think about my place in the world, always a good thing.

    Reading your essay did leave me with a nagging question, one I’m having trouble putting into words. I think the best I can do is present you with three statements and then ask a question.

    I read your remarks as a belief that you have unlimited time to wander around in the world trying out different lifestyles, finding yourself. Guy has often suggested that modern civilization will collapse within the next 15 months (and many who suggest by 2015). You seem to have rejected Guy’s assessment of the situation. What evidence, other than wishful thinking, leads you to believe you have unlimited time to practice your privilege?

    Michael Irving

  • @Victor- I agree with your points but that surely doesn’t change the fact that those with the power are negatively impacting us all. Obviously I’m talking about power as a privilege and you’re correct in your assessment that it is something that is an actual loss of experience. It’s been wrapped and presented as what people should strive for instead of a poison that kills and manipulates. In our current arrangement the ultimate goal in affluence when it should be connection and understanding. Fantastic response and I will use it in my future conversations.

    @Frank-Guys wife is wonderful so thanks for the compliment.

    @Michael-I don’t live by any timeline (as far as collapse is concerned) because there is little I can do about it. If collapse happens next month then it happens. My wife and I need to follow our collective hearts and minds and take it as it comes. In the beginning collapse motivated me but now my motivation comes from ending my overall disconnect.

  • Mike:

    Reading your essay reminded me of when I was visiting my mother in the assisted living home during the last few months of her life. I talked to her contemporaries there, men and women in their nineties who had once been skilled farmers and artisans. They had watched as their skills were made useless by technological advances, and then they had forgotten their skills. But enough remained that I was often reminded of Rutger Hauer’s “Tears in the Rain” speech in Blade Runner.

    When we cleaned out my mother’s crawl space we found cases and cases of home-canned preserves and berry juices, well beyond their safe-consumption years. Our rule around the house was you-kill-it-you-eat-it, when it should have been you-can-it-you-eat-it.

    Those 19th century county agent skills will be needed again, at the level of muscle memory. And you’re right–they’re not easy to learn. I’ve worked with city kids in the local wilderness, where gasoline engines aren’t allowed and the hard work is done by draft and pack animals. It takes whole seasons to get these kids where they’re safe to work around animals and more seasons to get much done with them. It takes time we don’t have anymore and you can’t scale that process up to 300 million people.

    I write this having gotten up to six inches of snow on the deck this morning, evidence that I shouldn’t have waited for the weather to cool to chop up the 3 cords of wood in my back yard. As for doing without gasoline sometime in the future, I’ve got the crosscut saws and the harnesses, and I know where there’s an old rubber-tired wagon abandoned in the woods ten miles away, but I hope to hell I’ll never have to use them.

    The first white people to stay year-round in this valley were the first people to stay year-round in this valley. They kept their work animals in 20X20 barns, with hay in the loft and in lean-tos along the outside walls for insulation. The animals stayed there from November to April.It must have been a happy day for everyone when the snow melted for the summer.

  • @Victor: Thanks for sharing your wisdom. 

    However: raising the hairs on the back of Robin’s neck
    Robins have feathers – it should be “raising the hackles”. 

  • Nice, Michael. Thank you. Great stuff. It’s always helpful to be reminded of this.

  • More support for Guy’s position on the nearness of collapse

    IMF Advisor Says We Face a Worldwide Banking Meltdown

    Video –

    Dr. Robert Shapiro who advised Presidents Clinton and Obama and who currently advises the IMF predicts a cascading meltdown of the World’s banking system starting with Sovereign debt in the Eurozone, affecting the UK then finally bringing down the global banking system.

  • Kathy C:

    I certainly hope they don’t blow this chance to bring it down.

  • Curtis

    They are pretty adept at kicking the can….

  • Guy’s latest essay for Transition Voice, titled “Philosophy and conservation,” is here. It’s an excerpt from Walking Away from Empire.

  • A refreshing read, Mike. And not because your “been there, done that” perspective (or truth, as you call it) dovetails with mine (it doesn’t), but because your words exhibit exposure (three months are better than none), honesty (with yourself), and awareness (living off the land is more than you’d initially supposed). Too many times, those qualities are lacking.

    The above being said, I do have an observation.

    You talk about a disconnect with going natural and put the blame promptly on Empire.

    Geographical upbringing is actually only one player in your disconnect. Just as important are personality type, social pre-disposition, tolerance level, mental balance, and personal interests. If you can walk away from a piece of land and never give it a second thought, that land was never you.

    I’ve lived in many places, some because I had to–at least until I could move on. Most never spoke to me even though I did the same things I’m doing right now. The geography wasn’t right. The climate wasn’t right. The community wasn’t right (and I’m not talking about co-mingling with like-minded people … that’s only a piece of the mix).

    The planet is as diverse as its communities. Intentional environments work for some. For others, not so well.

    So, I’m not against your wandering a bit more. When you find the right place you’ll know because it’ll sing to you. And everything that disconnected you before tugs you in. Fear will be a non-player. I only hope that (if and) when that happens, it sings to your wife as well, otherwise you have a problem.

    Good luck.

  • Guy, just read your essay from your book. You conclude “It is not at all clear that humankind can be saved (or, for that matter, is worth saving). Evolution drives us to survive, drives us to procreate, and drives us to accumulate material possessions. Evolution always pushes us toward the brink, and culture piles on, hurling us into the abyss. Nietzsche was correct about our lack of free will — as Gray points out in Straw Dogs — free will is an illusion. It’s not merely the foam on the beer: it’s the last bubble of foam, the one that just popped. It’s no surprise, then, that we are sleepwalking into the future, or that the future is a formidably tall cliff.”
    Absolutely no argument there. Yet walking away from empire seems such a strong exercise of free will. I think we make such choices because those of us who choose to walk have something deep inside that doesn’t feel right living in empire. I know my husband and I have never felt we really fit from our youth. So while our unconscious self lets the conscious self get the credit, we were in a sense “fated” to make these choices. Yet as you give your talks there may be someone in the audience who also doesn’t feel right and it is the nudge for them also to walk away. And so free will or not you may well help others to walk away. And whether or not humanity can or should be saved, walking away, however far we go, feels good. One has only to read Tamnaa’s postings to know that he has walked a far distance and finds what he found to be very good.

  • At the risk of only passing along internet junk mail, I present:

    Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

    Perhaps you will see it as an appropriate comment at this juncture.

  • Any time somebody makes a statement about the world or especially about human nature, I evaluate it in terms of consistency with my own experience and reason. Maybe there is a little information about the world in what the person says. Mostly, though, I see such statements as information about themselves, their own perceptual bias.
    If Nietzsche said that humans have no free will, that says more about Nietzsche than it does about humans in general.

    I think we humans are much deeper than we realize. We have the potential for perfect free will but we have been really bad at developing it. The current vogue for the dogmas of scientific materialism has led us to perceive ourselves as DNA driven automatons in a mechanistically determined universe. Nietzsche uncritically swallowed materialism whole simply because it was fashionable at the time. That left him entangled in the dilemma of “meaninglessness of existence” which his conventional European ego was unable to deal with successfully.
    Riddled with syphilis, dosed with mercury, insane in his forties… what a wretched life! I think there may be wiser people to go to for advice.

  • Tamnaa, David Wegner in the Illusion of Conscious Will would disagree. Many studies back up the idea that our unconscious brain makes decisions and often acts on them before the conscious brain knows a decision has been made. Surely this happens when you jam on the brakes because something runs in front of your car – if it didn’t you would react too slowly. It is harder to believe that this happens for other events in our lives, if not all events in our lives.

    I believe the conscious brain is similar in a way to a sense organ. Like eyes and ears it gathers information and feeds it to the unconscious brain, which (unconsciously of course) lets the conscious brain think it did the deciding.

    Its hard to think that we don’t have free will, but would you really like your will to be willy nilly, ie unaffected by anything. To be truly free, what you have learned about right and wrong, what you fear, what you desire etc would have no bearing on your actions. I suspect the most we can do is affect how much something weighs in a decision. A possible example: If our genes prompt us to chow down on sugar and fat when available. But we can inform ourselves about the dangers of sweet and fatty things and feed this into our unconscious brain over and over so eventually we don’t pick up that cookie but pass it by – not by will but by counter weighing the matter for the unconscious brain. Heck even St. Paul speaks to this “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” If that isn’t an admission of failure of will I don’t know what is. We all have had experiences where we have said “why did I do that?” eh?

  • Our biological makeup and drives are as mechanical as that of any other carbon-based life form that we are acquainted with. Acquisition of material possessions are either part of the anatomy, or externally stored. In plants, there are tubers of stems (as in potatoes) and roots, or other structures that are modified to form fruits, seeds, etc. In animals one finds adipose tissue, including “brown fat” stored prior to winter in hibernating animals, but found also in human neonates. Externally stored items include nuts and acorns in the case of squirrels, and honey in the case of bees.

    In all these cases the storage facilitates the life-cycle of the organism; there does not appear to be “storage for storage’s sake”. In nomadic humans, the acquisition of stores is constrained by mobility; pastoral nomads gain their advantage from stores on the hoof, an advantage that does not obtain in the other nomadic groups, viz. hunter-gatherers and peripatetic nomads.However, the acquisition of stores on a scale to support the hierarchy of empires requires an anchor in real estate: a base of operations, even if a substantial part of the population is nomadic.

    The will is free when one’s actions are non-volitional. As Robert Aitken Roshi noted in The Mind of Clover, clover grows naturally in accordance with its environment. In a somialr manner, the “enlightened ” person acts in accordance with one’s environment, the mind funcitoning as another biologic process. Only when thus unencumbered is there a free will. For those who better understand theistic explanations, the will becomes free when it is subsumed into the Divine Will.

  • Tamnaa, you wrote [That left him entangled in the dilemma of “meaninglessness of existence” which his conventional European ego was unable to deal with successfully.] The problem for Nietzsche was perhaps his European ego, not his thinking. I have had dark thinking about the world for a long time – I suppose reading The Jungle, The Grapes of Wrath and 1984 and the like as a teen didn’t help, but others read those and fluff them off. When I went to Haiti I had discarded Christianity, but I found myself saving babies (good) to add to the overpopulation, poverty and environmental destruction (bad) and I had to discard the notion of absolute good or bad. That was pretty shattering and at the time I was not able to shake the depression I starting taking a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. What was fascinating was that noticed that not one of my beliefs about the world changed, merely how strongly they mattered to me. Since then I have had positive changes in my personal situation and have found ways to cope with the possibility that there is no large meaning for our human lives. There is still small meanings – I found Hospice work very satisfying. My full acceptance of death (which often makes me seem weird to others) meant that I could be with a dying person and share their journey without their death shattering me. I meant something to them, I made their journey into nothingness a bit easier, while not having to worry whether it changed the world in a good or negative way.

    Our brains help us avoid thinking about things such as the inevitability of death. Thus people on Peak Oil web sites routinely say that THEY are going to survive. I keep telling them no one survives because we are mortal. Survival is only for x years, to a certain event, longer than someone else but never absolute. Peak Oil may mean the deaths of billions, but they were going to die anyway, it is just timing that changes. That acceptance of that fact, mortality, that seems so dismal to most helps me face the future. No one will die who wouldn’t die anyway.

    Some of us have brains that don’t hide unpleasant truths very well. Often such people are depressed, but often they are not wrong. Death comes to us all, it is seldom easy. That is depressing, but once accepted one can just shrug and go on. This planet is going to burn up one day, so the human species will end eventually. Maybe we will do it to ourselves sooner. But nothing can keep it from happening in the end. Oh well…. but today I can enjoy the weather, the people I love, the intellectual discussions I get into, the fact that only a few joints in my body currently hurt. I suspect Nietzsche may have had a brain that didn’t have enough serotonin.

  • Robin Datta; when you say; “Our biological makeup and drives are as mechanical as that of any other carbon-based life form that we are acquainted with.” I wonder whether or not you are fully convinced that all you are is a carbon-based life form. Does that description define you in all your totality?

    Kathy; of course people most often act in unconsciously programmed ways. The fact that we don’t exercise free will much doesn’t mean that we don’t have the capacity, no matter how latent or undeveloped it might be.

    To me, your experiences in Haiti and later with hospice are very interesting and I would think there are plenty of examples in your life of moments when you exercised free will in making your choices.

    I suspect that the great lengths people go to just to define themselves in mechanistic terms is a response to fear. Seems to me people take refuge in the notion that everything they do is DNA driven, as an attempt to escape responsibility for their actions; it relieves them from the serious work of altering their behavior.

    I guess I’ve had naturally high serotonin levels all my life, so I have trouble identifying with dark depressive thinking. For me, happiness and misery originate within, in the realm of choice and have little to do with external circumstances.

    “To be truly free, what you have learned about right and wrong, what you fear, what you desire etc would have no bearing on your actions.”

    That’s right. I’m not truly free of course, but I try to do what I really want to do, as opposed to what society teaches us we should do. I was taught that I should get a good indoctrination, be conventional, serve industrial civilization, consume its products and pretend to be satisfied… oh, and suck up to big-shots and don’t have anything to do with “lowly” people. I found a lot of the fears and desires are “shoulds” as well (I should be afraid of poverty and low status, I should desire to have a sexy girlfriend or to drive an expensive car)

    When I gave some thought to what I truly wanted to do, It turned out that who I really am is a better and freer person than what I had been taught I was. I believe that everyone is much deeper and better than their beliefs about themselves would indicate.

    That’s what seems so sad about Nietzsche. He was intelligent in a certain way, but not wise. He was unable to free his mind from the cultural packaging in which it was so tightly wrapped.

  • tamnaa, i disagree about free will. between genes and environment, neither of which we control, i don’t see free will having a role. as kathy’s comment towards neechee (easy to spell phonetically) suggests, sheople don’t choose tragic fates, they just happen. same with ‘success’. one might argue ‘success’ is earned by making good difficult choices. perhaps so, but if everyone was capable of making such choices, don’t u think they would?

  • What a great discussion.
    Wish there was time to add/answer/ask a little here or there.

  • Exercising free will and making ‘good choices’ are separate issues, no? Not to trivialise, but I am reminded of the Russian prisoners of war under the Germans during Stalin’s reign, arguing about free will.

    Some, looking around, said there is no such thing – Stalin, Hitler, or death.

    Others, looking around, argued that certainly there was free choice – Stalin, Hitler, or death.

    What are good choices anyway? The invention of antibiotics leading to the saving of millions of lives that would go on to produces millions more to live off the limited resources of the planet and thus produce untold misery and hardship for their children? Where was the good choice made?

    The Green Revolution leading to the prevention of starvation for many millions so that they could go on to lead well-fed lives that would produce many more millions to live off the limited resources of the earth and produce untold misery and hardship for their children? Where was the good choice made?

    The introduction of a consumer-driven economic system predicated upon unlimited growth and bringing the fruits of technology and education to the masses that we might capture and manage the abundances of nature lifting the standard of living for untold numbers of people, and thus allowing many more millions to steal from their progeny’s legacy, pollute the environment and destroy nature?

    Were these good choices? Would it have been a good choice not to have made those choices?

    Or were they really choices at all?

    And what about our choices today? What are the good choices available? Whatever alternative comes to the table will result in masses of people suffering and dying (far sooner than they might otherwise have – as a nod to Kathy). And if you don’t exercise those choices, it will result in masses of people suffering and dying.

    I have said many times before, we can’t hold on, and we can’t let go.

    Now you can say that is a choice and an act of free will…. or not.

  • V. Terry, it sounds to me that you are convinced that you are incapable of making any choice based on free will, i.e. that 100% of your actions are genetically or culturally/environmentally determined.

    Would you say that you are one of the “sheeople”?

    “if everyone was capable of making such choices, don’t u think they would?” No, not at all. Freedom of choice is a latent capacity that must be developed. Have you ever run a marathon? Can you run a marathon now? If the answer to these questions is “No” that does not prove that you cannot ever run a marathon.

    Victor; your examples of questionable good choices are all conspicuously those of the Industrial Civilization culture, the disconnected people who, in my opinion, have no basis for making truly good or even free choices.

    Probably “masses of people suffering and dying” will be a reality due to poor choices made in the past, but the present moment point of decision for every aware person is; “what will I do with the unknown amount of time left to me?”. This choice may be made in perfect freedom within the bounds of reality.

    By the way, I think Guy has mentioned that free will is not to be confused with freedom of choice, something like that. I’m not clear on the distinction and I don’t think anyone has addressed it yet. Perhaps someone can explain.

  • Tamnaa

    I would see free will as a capability, and freedom of choice the available alternatives upon which to exercise free will. I have the ability to make a free choice (free will). These are the choices I have available to me at this time (freedom of choice). My opinion only – Guy’s mileage might differ…. ;-)

    And yes, I am concerned with societal choices, the sum total of all individual and group choices to be made. Admittedly, I have little interest in the intellectual attempt to examine the idiosyncrasies of free will where it concerns the individual – not that that is not a legitimate and important concept to examine – it’s just that it is simply not in my radar at this time. I certainly agree with your that an individual has the ability to exercise free will – we do it all the time. It is as you have suggested, however, limited by the alternatives available, or not so, as the case might have it. The problem is to see and understand what alternatives are there, and how re4alistic and practical they are, and if perhaps they be of an imagined nature. Sometimes we act under free will based upon those perceived alternatives, only to find later that they were not real alternatives at all, but only as we perceive them. In other words, we think we have a choice, but in fact none really exists. American democracy is an excellent example of fictitious choice. Choosing to contribute to a charity is one where you think you have the freedom to choose or not, but the for some, that which led them to make that choice had already made the choice inevitable. I have a pain in my chest. I can visit my GP or use an alternative treatment or simply suffer. I have that freedom of choice. But it is not always that simple, is it because depending upon where I live, I might or might not need money for this. Or my wife would greatly influence me to have it examined. How could I deny her that? My free will is still there, but my freedom of choice is rapidly disintegrating.

    As for people of the industrial civilisation having no basis for good choice – what happened to you? And to Guy? And to Nicole in Australia? Or to Kathy? Or to so many others who have made the choice to come out of that environment? They had no basis? I think not. So I can’t agree with you there. We nearly always have a choice.

    What I am saying is that when you add all those choices that people since the beginning of time have made, the sum total is modern industrial civilisation – and I also believe that you and your neighbours are part of that civilisation – indeed, very few on this planet are not. And looking at that sum total for civilisation, I find that the freedom of choice has been wiped away over time as we experienced population overshoot, became dependant upon fossil fuels, fouled the earth with our wastes, and hitched our proverbial wagons to a growth-based economy. Our position now is that, whilst many individuals can exercise the free will to choose another lifestyle, the fact is that as a civilisation we are in a position that we can not move backwards, nor forwards, nor over, nor dig ourselves out from under, the situation we find ourselves in. And because of this, Nature will now take the bat.

    Your neighbours might survive the economic collapse, or even the technological collapse (thought I think you might have more dependencies than perhaps you realise), but I doubt that they will not be affected by the environmental collapse that is surely on its way.

    Lastly, as to your point “what will I do with the unknown amount of time left to me?”. This choice may be made in perfect freedom within the bounds of reality. First, I do not believe everyone has that choice, or even if they did find the means, they probably don’t have the time to develop the skills and knowledge and access to the necessary resources before the end comes. But even if they did, and if all the people of the world (or even a significant number of them) made that choice, I can assure you that most of the world’s population would collapse and chaos would reign. Can you imagine 7 billion people, or even two billion people suddenly looking for available land and resources and education and tools at the same time? Who would make the tools – them? I think not…Who would teach them? You? I think not. What I am trying to say is that the choices are not always simple, as there are important things to consider when you are talking about making societal scale changes – changes that might be possible for individuals, but are nigh impossible for a societal as a whole to make – far too much inertia involved! And we have no more time for a gradual and ordered transition.

  • Tamnaa [I would think there are plenty of examples in your life of moments when you exercised free will in making your choices.]

    There are plenty of examples in my life when I FELT like I was exercising free will. However when I look back I can see all the things, personal nature, events, information gathered, that moved me to that decision.

    Have you ever made an arbitrary decision, uniformed by your own nature and experiences and information gathered?

    We do make choices but free will is not required to make a choice. Choices are based not on perfect freedom but on the basis of knowledge of consequences and the weighting of that knowledge. We acknowledge that in attempting to raise our children we hope to influence their current and future choices. If we wished them to have free will we would not attempt to influence their behavior.

    I don’t believe in God and contrary to believers I still have morals (although not exactly the same as many believers do), I don’t believe I have free will, yet I don’t act as though I have no constraints.

    The free will belief serves three purposes
    1. to assign responsibility
    2. to excuse God (the world is a mess but free will is such a great gift that God can’t stop a child abuser or a Hitler)
    3. to find some way to convince ourselves that we are not mammals and endorse our hubris

    Free will is not necessary in order to assign responsibility. In fact the fact that we have punishments for those we consider offenders means that we believe that those punishments will deter them and others from future offenses. Some people act even in the face of punishment, but it is because something else drives them that is weighted heavier in their minds. The believer may become a martyr because the belief in heaven has become strong and weighs heavier than the continued existence of their body.

  • I’ve written about free will a few times, most concisely in July 2008: “I believe Nietzsche was correct about our lack of free will, and overwhelming evidence accumulated since his death supports this view. Nietzsche recognized that our ability to choose can overcome our lack of free will, but only with great intellectual effort (and, very often, intellectual suffering). Our absence of free will constrains, but does not eliminate, our freedom to choose. I believe education facilitates the process of choice over will.”

  • I wonder whether or not you are fully convinced that all you are is a carbon-based life form. Does that description define you in all your totality?

    Conviction comes from evidence / proof. The word for evidence / proof in Sanskrit and extant Indian lasguages is pramana, and the word is used both in Hinduism and Buddhism in elucidating the philosophy and world-view.

    The first of the pramanas is objectless awareness. From it differentiates the awareness of “I” and “not-I”; these form the fourdation of the rest of awareness and one’s construct of the material world; even the constrained awareness (constrained by “I-ness”) is but a construct.

    As long as one operates from dualism, one’s “totality” is in the “I-ness” and its porjections / constructs: one’s preference may be to accept the constructs that project as the material world as one’s “totality” or one may look to subcategories in perception in an attempt to distinguish oneself from the material world. With an a priori approach, there is less of a need to make such a distinction. A posteriori there Source canot be approached. Both approaches are confined to a dualist paradigm: in non-dualism the quesiton disappears.

    The Diamond Sutra: A New Translation by Alex Johnson, 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. Why? Because if they continue to hold onto arbitrary conceptions as to their own selfhood, they will be holding onto something that is non-existent. 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. “. . . . . .

    . . . . . . “Just as the Buddha declares that form is not form, so he also declares that all living beings are, in fact, not living beings.”

  • This choice may be made in perfect freedom within the bounds of reality.

    “Within the bounds of reality”, if that reality is constrained in a dualist (“I” and “not-I”) paradigm, freedom is an illusion, and a heinous one at that. That is what Chögyam Trungpa called “The Myth of Freedom” in his book “The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation”.

  • Updates, as the (end)game is afoot:

    Trends forecaster Gerald Celente believes a huge crash is coming this month. His bottom lines: “game over” and “the worst is yet to come”.

    Celente is joined by an advisor to the International Monetary Fund, here speaking with the BBC

    Graham Summers throws in the towel, too: “The fact remains that we are going down, down, DOWN over the coming months. We’re going to be seeing major banks go under, market crashes, food shortages, government shutdowns, and SYSTEMIC FAILURE.”

    Doug Casey asks if the U.S. monetary system is on the verge of collapse

    None of these conclusions are surprisingly once you realize all economic thought evolves from one unproven and fatally flawed hypothesis: The unscientific assumption that the global economy will continue growing indefinitely.

  • Robin Datta; It seems that your answer to my question is that you choose the dualistic approach, attachment to the self-other distinction and therefor you end up without any sense of freedom.
    As you say; “in non-dualism the quesiton disappears.”
    If you want to move the conversation to the level of advaita, which I respect most highly, I think you will find that confusion over the use of words (which arise out of dualistic perception, depending on distinctions) will ensue.

    Two questions: do the ideas you express come only from your reading of books or are they rooted in your direct experience with consciousness?

    And: if freedom is an illusion, isn’t constraint an illusion too?

  • It seems that your answer to my question is that you choose the dualistic approach, attachment to the self-other distinction

    From the perception of “I” flows the construct of the material world: in the “self-other distinction” the “other” is a construct preceded by the self. To the extent that the “I” is comprehended as a separate entity, it is defined through its constructs, including the postulation of the existence of carbon-based life forms.

    do the ideas you express come only from your reading of books or are they rooted in your direct experience with consciousness?

    If one harbors such a question, it is best to consider the expressiens as coming from book-knowledge, and to move on.

    As the Sanskrit saying goes, little truths, like little waves, like lttle waves shimer and glitter on the surface; great truths, like the great ocean deep, are dark and silent. Or as Lao-Tsu said, “He who speaks, does not know; he who knows does not speak”. In the Sufi tradition it is said that the difference between an “enlightened” man and a book-scholar is much greater than the difference between the book-scholar and a donkey bearing a load of books (the book-scholar bears the load in his intellect, the donkey on its back).

    It is of no use to know whether or not something stated is rooted in direct experience of someone else’s consciousness; all that matters is whether or not it resonates within oneself. If it does not, it matters not the origin of the statements, they ane not suitable for the listener.

    As the tradition goes, Ananda attained “enlightenment” when the Buddha held up a flower to the assembly of his disciples. No words accompanied the gesture. In the Tibetian tradition, Naropa achieved “enlightenment” when Tilopa took off his shoe and hit Naropa on the head with it. When Hsiang-yen was sweeping the monastery yard, a pebble flew from his broom and hit a nearby hollow bamboo: the sound of that impact brought him “enlightenment”. The Sixth Patriarch achieved “enlightenment” well before he sought a monastery, when he heard a person retite a verse from the Diamond Sutra.

    And: if freedom is an illusion, isn’t constraint an illusion too?

    Indeed it is. As is the “I-ness” from which both arise.

  • tamnaa, all civilized humans are sheople, by which i simply mean animals domesticated in order to make us more manageable/exploitable. robin quite some time ago provided this link espousing this theory essentially:

    however, wild or tame, i agree with kathy that freedom is illusory. we may be able to make choices, but we’re not free to choose our desires. those are determined by our genes and environment. for example, i like chocolate and frequently choose to indulge this desire, but i never made the choice to like chocolate.

    on one hand, it’s good to believe in freedom/empowerment for it can be self fulfilling, at least in the short run, but as kathy, victor, and others point out, in the long run fulfilling immediate desires often leads to painful consequences. either way, we all end up dead and forgotten. absolutely no choice there.

  • Guy, thanks for the end time news – dismal but better to be expecting it than blindsided. Here is another to add

    Thanks also for your link to the 2008 column. Well writen I believe the function of the conscious brain is not to do the deciding but rather to seek out information to feed to the unconscious brain, and thus education, scientific research etc. give us more reliable information for our
    “decider” to make use of just as stop, look and listen give us reliable information about when to cross the road. Perhaps the conscious brain also acts as a brake, giving the decider more time to ponder and receive more information.

  • Guy, other than Celente, it’s difficult to take these guys seriously (even though I think they may well be right) as they are all trying to sell people a way out – showing them how to make money off of the situation. If they really believed total collapse was on the way, they’d be doing what you’re doing, not peddling their financial advising services.

    Oh well, it’s probably the only thing they know to do.

  • TRDH, I agree with you on Summers at least. His schpiel pops up on ZeroHedge all the time. Sound as his warnings are, he’s just another opportunist at heart.

    I hope Celente is not too far off the mark, at the very least to preserve his reputation. I’ve noticed that he’s become rather shrill in the past few months; not sure what to read into that.

    There are a lot of prophets out there right now, Guy included. It’s tricky, trying to figure out who to listen to, and how far to trust them. I trust Guy because he believes in himself, his convictions are founded on hard evidence, and he practices what he preaches. Right or wrong, there is much to be said for that.

    Without getting too personal, I’m wondering how old everyone here is. I am 41.

  • Christopher, I’m 51. I’ve often wondered what races are represented. I have a suspicion that very few African-Americans are aware of peak oil/collapse. Anyone care to share their race as well as their age?

  • Oops. Forgot to say that I’m white/anglo/English/Scottish, etc.

  • 68/white/slavic

  • I’m white (French/German/Irish/Scottish/Native – so a tiny bit brown) and 63 and I’ve been grieving since the 60s – I’ve lived rustic and avoided as many idiots as I could. I wish my kids could experience how it was back then. So many beautiful places are trashed now.

    I seldom get as angry or political any more. In the 90’s I taught about global warming, resource depletion, etc., as a TA in college and saw how much of a tough sell it was. I did not get the Phd and go down that career path, as I had planned, but still have the student loans ($70,000) in perpetual deferment.

    Guy – I really admire you. It’s a tough job. Thank you so much.

  • 44/white/male
    I believe many are aware in all races. Some races have experienced double digit unemployment numbers for a very long time. All the signs of collapse are finally hitting white America, unfortunately the African American community and other communities have felt these signs and lived with their consequences for a very long time.

  • 62; 50% Aryan & 50% Dravidian.

  • Kshatriya of the Shandilya gotra.

  • Maybe we are not anything special:
    Cassandra’s legacy: The Hubbert hurdle: revisiting the Fermi Paradox by Ugo Bardi

    To quote some significant passages:

    one sun-class star out of three may have an earth-like planet in the habitable zone.With 100 billion stars in our galaxy,Could the galaxy be populated with alien civilizations?

    a well known problem called the “Fermi Paradox”. If all those civilizations exist, then could they develop interstellar travel? And, in this case, if there are so many of them, why aren’t they here? Of course, for all we known the speed of light remains an impassable barrier. But, even at speeds slower than light, nothing physical prevents a spaceship from crossing the galaxy from end to end in a million year or even less. Since our galaxy is more than 10 billion years old, intelligent aliens would have had plenty of time to explore and colonize every star in the galaxy, jumping from one to another. But we don’t see aliens around and that’s the paradox.

    the Hubbert curve may be relevant for the Fermi paradox. Because of the non linearity of the curve, no matter what resources are being used, a civilization literally “flares up” and then subsides, being able to maintain the highest level of energy production only for a very short time. This phenomenon that we might call “The Hubbert Hurdle” may be very general and make industrial civilizations in the galaxy to be very short-lived. The decline associated with depletion and with pollution may rapidly bring a civilization back to stone age, from which it will never be able to develop again a sophisticated technology.

  • 63/Female/Scotch Irish German English possible African American (but no one is talking)

    As long as life is self replicating resource using creatures, the Hubbert Hurdle is probably an inevitability.

  • christopher, i’m 53 caucasian american. it seems apparent unfortunately that very few younger sheople are aware of much of anything thanks especially to public education systems promoting dogmatic conventionality, indoctrinating youth. i suspect that most ‘radicals’ only become so well into adulthood, after extensive periods of self education and unlearning most of the drivel taught in state run schools.

  • But we don’t see aliens around and that’s the paradox.

    We don’t? That’s peculiar then. There are many, many verified and documented sightings of what appear to be alien craft across the globe, especially in the last 60 years or so. In fact the sightings are becoming more numerous. Many of these sightings are made and documented by seasoned and qualified observers.

    No one can say they are extraterrestrial for certain, as there is also the theory that they are from another dimension. But all the same, there is no other explanation for them other than “not us”.

  • With thanks to Mike and Karen, a new essay is up, courtesy of John Rember.

  • Thanks for the responses, guys. So far, out of 7 responses, the generations here are represented thus:

    Boomers (born 1946-1963): 6
    Gen Xers (born 1964-1984): 2

    I would break it down by race also, but with the exception of Robin, only caucasians are represented (I am white also). I noticed the close similarity of how Rita and Kathy described themselves regarding age and race.

  • Another boomer here, 63. Race: pallid and freckly. My ancestors were Scottish and Icelandish (possibly a few Outlandish as well) mostly involved in the marauding trades; looting, pillaging, that sort of thing.

  • Thanks, Tanmaa.

    So, correcting my dates using Strauss & Howe as a guide, the generational breakdown of the NBL crowd so far:

    Boomers (born 1946-1960): 7
    Gen Xers (born 1961-1981): 2

    I should add:

    Silent Generation (born 1925-1945): 0
    Millenials (born 1982-2001): 0

    Guy, would I be correct in assuming you are from the Boomer generation? And TRDH, do I correctly have you as a Boomer?

  • Don’t I get honorable mention? 1943.

  • Yes, I’m a late-breaking boomer, born in 1960. And Caucasian.

  • congratulations, tamnaa. your post a few hours ago has won my unofficial and completely irrelevant honor of most amusing. i am well pleased to find such shameless companionship! how fortunate u are to have such distinguished ancestors!

    curtis, as an unofficial heretic i hereby bestow upon u the honor of being dishonorably mentioned as an almost baby boomer.

  • Yes, I guess being born in July 1960 makes me a boomer, thought I never really identified with that group.

    My reason for mentioning the lack of racial diversity – specifically those of African descent – is that here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., blacks still occupy a place of much less privilege. I think it’s no accident that all the “flash mobs” being shown on YouTube and other media involve blacks, predominantly. For generations, blacks have not been given a seat at the table. Here we are at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and still there’s no seat for them. Is this just my “white guilt” coming through or is this an actual phenomenon?

  • Thanks Guy and Curtis. Apologies to the Heretic for miscounting him as a Boomer. Adding in the G.I. (“Greatest”) Generation, my tally is now:

    G.I. Generation: 0
    Silent Generation: 1
    Boomers: 8 (including Guy)
    Gen Xers: 2
    Millenials: 0

    Thanks to all who have replied so far. Interesting, that instead of a wide cross-section, the tally is skewed towards Boomers by almost 2/3, though I admit the number is probably too small to draw any conclusions from yet.

  • Then again, the Boomer generation corresponds to the “Prophet” generational archetype described by Strauss & Howe in their studies. A Prophet generation finds itself fully mature in years and typically fully in control of its institutions during a time of Crisis, if I recall correctly.

    Guy certainly is a prophet, of a kind; and the discussions here are usually led by Boomers — Kathy, Robin, et al.

    Forgive me for indulging myself in this a little. Been on my mind lately.

  • Seems Curtis and I are the elders here…. ;-)

    1943…not quite white, more like a sort of pinkish with a bit of tan (from gardening) and a reddish nose. Not certain what category that puts me in.

  • @TRDH- you’re absolutely correct in your observation. Today privilege has replaced the firehouse. Racism is systemic and therefore harder to put your finger on.

  • Thank you, Victor. In what will likely be the final tally here:

    G.I. Generation: 0
    Silent Generation: 2
    Baby Boomers: 8
    GenXers: 2
    Millenials: 0

    Unfortunate that there are so few of the two younger generations represented here. While this is but a tiny sampling, I suspect it may actually be representative of the Collapse-aware as a whole. Why are there so few young people? Are we too busy gaming, Facebooking, or simply trying to survive to give much thought to Collapse? Do those two generations lack the fire and conviction of the Boomers? Or are we just tired of hearing the Boomers talk, instead of acting, and now just ignore them — even the ones (like those here) who DO act, and who bear some sound wisdom?

  • i don’t know, christopher. as i’ve said before, to confront our crisis goes much deeper than pointing out various pressing scientific concerns, for the root of the matter involves facing the surreality that pretty much our whole culture is rooted in deceit and delusion. or delusion and deceit? whatever. it’s a daunting task that i and i suspect most here chronically shrink away from. those with the ability to see through the lies and denial are unfortunately few and far between, of all generations. and as i said before, i think sometimes it just takes a rather long time to overcome indoctrination from ‘education’.