When All is Said and Done

Fascism has come to the industrialized world, and the evidence is particularly clear in the United States. As I wrote in a book published in 2004 regarding the executive branch of the U.S. government:

[The administration] is characterized by powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism, identification of enemies as a unifying cause, obsession with militaristic national security and military supremacy, interlinking of religion and the ruling elite, obsession with crime and punishment, disdain for the importance of human rights and intellectuals who support them, cronyism, corruption, sexism, protection of corporate power, suppression of labor, control over mass media, and fraudulent elections. These are the defining elements of fascism.

The situation has progressed, and not in a suitable manner from the perspective of the typical self-proclaimed progressive. Along with fascism, we’re firmly ensconced in a totalitarian, surveillance-obsessed police state. We’ve been in this state for many years and the situation grows worse every year, but most people prefer to look away and then claim ignorance while politicians claim we’re not the people indicated by our actions. As long as you’re not in jail (yet) or declared a terrorist (yet) and subsequently killed outright (yet), you’re unlikely to bring attention to yourself, regardless what you know and feel about the morality of the people running ruining the show.

But why? Is fear such a great motivator that we allow complete destruction of the living planet to give ourselves a few more years to enable and further the destruction? Is the grip of culture so strong we cannot break free in defense of planetary habitat for our children? Have we moved so far away from the notion of resistance that we can’t organize a potluck dinner without seeking permission from the Department of Homeland Security?

I know many parents who claim they can’t take action because they want a better world for their children. Their version of a “better world” is my version of a worse world, as they long for growth of the industrial economy at the expense of clean air, clean water, healthy food, the living planet, runaway greenhouse, and human-population overshoot. I’ve come to call this response “the parent trap.” Trapped by the culture of make believe, these parents cannot bring themselves to imagine a different world. A better world. A world without the boot of the police state on the necks of their children. A world with more carnivores every year, instead of fewer. A world with less pollution, less garbage, and less lying — to ourselves and others — each and every year.

All evidence indicates we prefer Fukushima forever, if it means we can have electric toys. We prefer near-term extinction by climate chaos, if it means we can cool the house to 68 F in the summer. We prefer genocide, if it comes with a milkshake and an order of fries. Henry Ford was wrong when he pointed out, “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” On the other hand, General Omar Bradley’s sentiments from 1948 ring true: “The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”

Even though we’re willingly tapping six scary extreme energy sources to fuel the post-peak oil industrial economy, power outages have become exponential within the last decade, as indicated in the figure below. We clearly don’t care about the environmental consequences of our greed, so we keep soldiering on, wishing for a miracle and ignoring the evidence for imperial decline, human-population overshoot, runaway climate change, and a profound extinction crisis. Will the final power outage come in time to save us from our unrepentant selves?

Ultimately and sadly, I suspect it comes down to this: When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. We simply can’t be bothered to contemplate a single issue of importance when the television calls or the shopping mall beckons. Political “activists” spend hours every day elaborating the many insignificant differences between the two dominant political parties in this country, but they cannot bring themselves to throw a wrench into the gears of industry. They continue to ignore the prescient words of Desmond Tutu long after the consequences of inaction are obvious: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

The only reason I can imagine wanting to retain this horrific system for a few more years is to safely shut down the nuclear reactors that are poised to kill us. But increasing the number of these uber-expensive sources of electricity, as President Obama desires, means shoving more ammunition into the Gatling gun pointed at our heads. One bullet does the trick. In classic American style, we prefer more. Always more.

How much of this is too much? When have you had enough?

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This essay is permalinked at Counter Currents and Island Breath.

Comments 61

  • I love the current trend around the globe of “electing” a “new” leader. Hope reigns, because THIS time it will be different.

  • Isn’t it strange how the NEW leaders always bear a remarkable likeness to the OLD leaders?

    Love the vid – very typical…..of most of us…. 🙂

    You can always tell a person’s true values in the things they want for their children.

  • After reading your essay an image came to mind. I grew up in Buffalo and we often went to Niagara Falls and the Horseshoe falls. I also knew people who lived upstream on the Niagara River and would swim in it. I never did. But occasionally boaters and swimmers get caught in the current and swept ever closer to the falls. If they don’t make land again before nearing the falls there are a few rocks near the edge of one of the falls and in 1918 a barge stuck there before going over. If you don’t stop there, there is nothing to do but hold your breath and try not go over headfirst. Maybe you will live – a few have.

    Using this as a metaphor I think we are past the “rocks” that might save civilization and with it the climate we have known for so long. I think we are at the point of holding our breath and going feet first, no longer flailing about but accepting what is about to happen, calming ourselves, and waiting to see if we survive.

    As for the nukes I heard a story on NPR about a $300 million dollar grant that the US was going to make to universities to train nuclear scientists and design better nuclear plants. That doesn’t sound like decommissioning to me.

  • CHANCE OF FLARES: Huge sunspot AR1476 is crackling with M-class solar flares and appears to be on the verge of producing even stronger blasts. The sunspot’s ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field harbors energy for X-class flares, the most powerful kind. Eruptions in the days ahead will likely be geoeffective as the sunspot turns to face Earth.
    spaceweather.com

  • Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

    No one is getting out of this alive. Might as well enjoy the show.

  • From the AP today (Even I could not make this up!):

    Town of Future Has No People

    But if you count visitors, it will have humans. An artist’s rendering shows the $1 billion scientific ghost town that will be developed near Hobbs, in far southeastern New Mexico – a people-less town where researchers can test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets. The CITE project is billed as a first-of-its-kind smart city and will be developed on about 15 square miles.

  • More than ever, I’m ready to get off the merry-go-round of the industrial economy. My chickens are laying, my goat is giving milk, the garden is producing. I’m probably as ready as I’ll ever be. Bring it!

    But can we wait until next Tuesday? There’s this awesome new widget I’m dying to buy at the mall and I’m waiting for the payment I made on my credit card to clear so I will be able to charge it!

    🙂

  • Dr House, time to pray to the sun god that sunspot AR1476 calm down a bit 🙂 Yeah, I too want to hatch out all the eggs we have set – two hatches with grand mothers and 4 more sets under hens. And I want to eat some of those yellow squash that are almost ready. Que sera sera.

  • bub, as always China does it bigger and better, they are building ghost cities – raises GDP but no one lives there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPILhiTJv7E

  • Jan Steinman Says:
    May 9th, 2012 at 11:08 am

    “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

    No one is getting out of this alive. Might as well enjoy the show.”

    My Comment:
    I am continually astonished by this bizarre nihilism as expressed above. My question is this: if a group of thugs entered your home and started assaulting and murdering your family, stealing your possessions and then burned your house down would you “enjoy the show” then go out back and chop some wood and carry some water? How is it different that a bunch of thugs (us, really; each of us, every one of us) are assaulting our biosphere, murdering species, and ‘burning’ our house with nuclear radiation and climate disruption and toxic chemicals in our food and water and air? Are you really going to “enjoy the show” of civil disobedience, starvation, deprivation and unimaginable horror and degradation of the collapse of everything you know and love and a mass die-off of our own and other species? That is the inevitable outcome of what WE are doing to our own and only home. Does it sound like a good and enjoyable show? Will you enjoy the internal show of your own regret and sorrow and hopelessness as you watch your friends, children and family starve or freeze or both because your apathy has made it such that there is no water to haul or wood to chop? When you yourself are dying of starvation, violence, poisoning, cold or gang-rape will you be enjoying the show? Are you now enjoying the show of AIDS ravaging Africa, of the war in Syria, of the slaughters in Afghanistan and Iraq? Will it be a good show when you are dying of radiation poisoning once the cooling pool at Fukishima finally collapses and tons of cesium and other particles are blanketing the Northern Hemisphere? This certainly is not my idea of a good “show” or a pleasing light entertainment.

    This pseudo-Buddhist “detachment” is merely a sophistocated form of denial wrapped up in so-called “spirituality” and I, for one, do not buy it as a useful contribution to any discussion of what to do in a crisis. If my best friend had a heart attack in front of me would I “enjoy the show” of his painful death then go haul some water or would I perform CPR and call 911?

    Perhaps I belabour the point but I can hardly believe that a mature adult would sit back in the easy chair of this attitude when our natural home is being murdered around us. I am also astonished how religion is so often invoked to justify apathy and heartless disregard.

    Finally in EXACTLY what way is “chop wood, carry water” higher than or more spiritual than “get off fat ass, turn off TV, stop madness, save biosphere?”

    Thank you.

  • Madman,

    I won’t speak for Jan – he’s certainly able to defend his own comments – but I don’t think anyone here will literally “enjoy the show” of human suffering. However, many of us WILL enjoy watching the demise of the industrial economy, despite the pain, suffering, and destruction that entails. We will enjoy it in the same way that humans throughout history have enjoyed the building of this current set of living arrangements while destroying the natural world and even any other humans who they deemed inferior and in the way. Tremendous tragedy, but it didn’t stop them from enjoying their “success”.

    As to religion, you mention your dismay, in this post and in the previous, with frequent mentions of religion. If you read earlier posts, you would find that many of those who post here were raised in established religions but now describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or something other than religious. The referencing of a portion of the bible, or koran, or any other writing is usually included for its poetic value or wisdom, not as an endorsement of that particular religion or school of thought. There also are those here who are deeply religious. They have as much right to comment as does anyone else. Religious belief doesn’t change the future, only one’s expectation of it.

    Finally, it may seem that people here are simply “sitting back in the easy chair”, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most regular commenters here have been active participants for many years in attempting to alert the public, as well as policy makers, of the dangers which await us if we don’t change our collective ways. Again, not wanting to speak for others here, several comments have led me to believe that more than one person is tired of beating their head against a wall. Many of us have turned inward, I suspect, and are now focusing on doing what we can to prepare ourselves and our families to face the future as best we can. If you have concrete suggestions of how to unsink this “titanic”, then please share them. I suspect those who still have some hope of saving the industrial economy would love to hear them.

  • I think The REAL Dr. House sums things up nicely, and I have no particular interest in “defending myself.” But I do prefer to be understood rather than misunderstood.

    First off, I am not a nihilist — one who believes in nothing. Quite the contrary, unlike almost all religions that put humankind at some sort of pinnacle in a unique connection with some deity, I “believe” that we are not much more than a sophisticated sort of yeast cell, destined to consume all our resources and die in our own excrement.

    I’m currently reading Botany for Garneders, by Brian Capon, and in it, I find an incredible re-connection with spirit or deity or even “intelligent design” — whatever you wish to call it. In short, I don’t believe all this has happened by accident, by random atoms bumping into each other over some fourteen billion years. From what I’m learning about plants, I’d have to become a “breatharian” to have the sort of righteous indignation you display — they are God’s creation no less than we are.

    Second, I think you’re reading way too much into my koan. You seem very angry. That’s okay, and I don’t take it personally that you attach that anger to me. But anger rarely serves good purpose. Figure out how to get beyond that, and you may understand what I wrote better.

    Third, I’m hardly sitting back in some easy chair. You should be more careful about what you assume about others.

    Finally, thank you for the smile you brought me when you managed to know so much about me and my motives as to turn the 26 words I wrote into a 446-word rant. That’s productivity! That’s growth! You should run for political office!

  • Madman, as Dr. House notes, Jan is quite capable of defending himself. However I will note for your benefit that if you see someone’s name in blue rather than black it is clickable and will take you to their website. You might want to click Jan’s and find out more about him. For that matter Dr. House’s as well.

    As for Nihilism – it has multiple meanings so perhaps you would like to pick one of the below or tell us your own. Never hurts to define terms especially when you are applying them to other people.
    Nihilism Definition
    Dictionary dot com
    ni·hil·ism   [nahy-uh-liz-uhm, nee-] Show IPA
    noun
    1.total rejection of established laws and institutions.
    2.anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity.
    3.total and absolute destructiveness, especially toward the world at large and including oneself: the power-mad nihilism that marked Hitler’s last years.
    4.Philosophy .
    a.an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth.
    b.nothingness or nonexistence.
    5.( sometimes initial capital letter ) the principles of a Russian revolutionary group, active in the latter half of the 19th century, holding that existing social and political institutions must be destroyed in order to clear the way for a new state of society and employing extreme measures, including terrorism and assassination.

  • Come on, Kathy C. Madmanintheattic is surely hoping for engaging conversation, rather than having his teeth drilled by a maniacal dentist.

  • Jason, one cannot have an engaging conversation that goes anywhere unless terms are defined. I have no idea what definition of nihilism “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water” fits.

    Mad wrote “Finally in EXACTLY what way is “chop wood, carry water” higher than or more spiritual than “get off fat ass, turn off TV, stop madness, save biosphere?” If he had checked out Jan’s website he would have seen that Jan is in a group that is described this way “We are developing an ecovillage in the South Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. The ecovillage is working to be a model of co-operative, sustainable land habitation and land use and features public outreach and education as included goals” http://www.ecoreality.org/wiki/Welcome_to_EcoReality!

    Sounds to me like Jan is seldom sitting on his ass, probably doesn’t watch TV and is doing what he can to stop madness and save the biosphere in his neck of the woods. So I would like to know what you are doing, what Mad is doing in those areas of concern.

    Meanwhile emotion laden words like nihilism do NOTHING to further a conversation. And maniacal dentist? That is one term I have never yet had applied to me. Really in what way were my comments similar or akin to the actions of a maniacal dentist.???

  • I’m a better anarchist than you by David Rovics

    I don’t drive a car
    ’cause they run on gas
    but if I did
    it’d run on biomass
    I ride a bike
    or sometimes a skateboard
    so fuck off all you drivers
    and your yuppie hordes
    sitting all day
    in the traffic queues
    I’m a better anarchist than you

    I don’t eat meat
    Ii just live on moldy chives
    or the donuts that I found
    in last week’s dumpster dives
    look at you people in that restaurant
    I think you are so sad
    when you coulda been eating bagels
    like the ones that i just had
    I think it is a shame
    all the bourgeois things you do
    I’m a better anarchist than you

    I don’t wear leather
    and I like my clothes in black
    and I made a really cool hammock
    from a moldy coffee sack
    I like to hop on freight trains
    I think that is so cool
    it’s so much funner doing this
    than being stuck in school
    I can’t believe you’re wearing
    those brand new shiny shoes
    I’m a better anarchist than you

    I don’t have sex
    and there will be no sequel
    because heterosexual relationships
    are inherently unequal
    I’ll just keep moshing
    to rancid and the clash
    until there are no differences
    in gender, race or class
    all you brainwashed breeders
    you just haven’t got a clue
    I’m a better anarchist than you

    I am not a pacifist
    I like throwing bricks
    and when the cops have caught me
    and i’ve taken a few licks
    I always feel lucky
    if I get a bloody nose
    because I feel so militant
    and everybody knows
    by the time
    the riot is all through
    I’m a better anarchist than you

    I don’t believe in leaders
    I think consensus is the key
    I don’t believe is stupid notions
    like representative democracy
    whether or not it works
    I know it is the case
    that only direct action
    can save the human race
    so when I see you in your voting booths
    then I know it’s true
    I’m a better anarchist than you

  • I have always felt that trying to explain my spiritual beliefs and practices was not unlike trying to explain sex to a virgin.

  • Really in what way were my comments similar or akin to the actions of a maniacal dentist.???

    I thought you would ask me that, and here’s my answer: As a philosopher you would make a good dentist. Nobody wants to be fisked with dictionary definitions. Would you please allow a little dissidence on this blog? Otherwise it’s just another hall of mirrors.

  • Jaron, how am I not allowing any dissidence on this blog? I have no power to block any post nor have I told anyone to stop posting what they believe. I state my views, sometimes in agreement with people, sometimes not. I don’t tell anyone else not to state theirs. Are you suggesting that I should not post on this blog because I am persistent in stating my views? It seems like in fact what you wish to do is shut me up so you don’t have to listen to my dissidence. Am I to not state my opinion if it is different? Both Dr. House and Jan disagreed with the portrayal of Jan’s koan as nihilist. Is their disagreement somehow different from mine? If so in what way? If you can tell me what it is that makes my disagreement different from theirs we might get to the core of your problem with me as opposed to the others who also disagreed. Can you explain to me how we can discuss anything if we don’t have a common understanding of a term used in a discussion? How can one start a discussion on the meaning of a term such as nihilism? I thought the dictionary definitions might be a good starting point. If someone is using a word different than how others use that word, and we don’t know their definition, how can we be having a discussion at all?

    Jan is doing a good work and frankly I think Mad needs to get on and apologize for how he attacked him when he didn’t know anything about him.

    Using Jan’s definition for nihilism (which we still have to hear from Mad if that is the definition he is using) – one who believes in nothing it should be clear that no one on this blog is nihilist – we wouldn’t have much to argue about if we believed in nothing. I believe humans are a big evolutionary mistake and that if they go extinct it will not matter. That’s believing in something eh? However I am probably far closer to what Mad was meaning by nihilist than was Jan and frankly I was surprised that my Niagara Falls comment didn’t get the nihilist label. And again, just damn pissed that someone would put all that anger out on someone who is in fact actually doing something. Still haven’t heard just what it is you are doing to save the world.

    But what the hell, its coming down soon anyway. Have at it, save the world, I will leave off posting for a while since I seem to cause such angst.

  • get to the core of your problem with me

    Will you listen to yourself? This blog has a long record of shouting people down. Remember Turboguy? You in particular sound like a slightly unhinged True Believer. In fact, I haven’t been able to read your name for years without a picture of Annie Wilkes swimming into view. You posted your comment to Madman at 2.39 am fer chrissakes.

    But you’re right, Madman is missing the point, but not in the way everyone thinks. The problem is not quotations from religious literature; the problem is that some people here have got religion real bad. Certain people (you?) are fanatically devoted to doomerism, and any dissenting views are treated as heresy. The idea that “it’s coming down soon anyway” is a belief. It has to be, because no one knows the future.

    I think Madman makes a good point about faux Buddhism. I’m less impressed with his manufactured scorn for nihilism, real or imagined. Too much grandstanding.

    Equally silly is your challenge about what I’m doing to “save the world” for having the effrontery to offer mild criticism of your definition-of-nihilism comment to Madman. Is it a competition?

  • Jaron Lanier

    From a story picked up by my local paper, the Spokesman-Review:

    Washington–President Barack Obama’s decision to endorse same-sex marriage staked out a stance that carries uncertain political risks but one he said was rooted in the biblical admonition “to treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

    In your expert opinion would you consider “to treat others the way you would want to be treated” to be an example of faux Christianity?

    Michael Irving

  • In my “expert opinion” (are you trying to get a rise out of me?) it is doubtful if the words that are exchanged on this blog could be successfully transferred to the parlour. People would not be able to stand the atmosphere and would get up and leave.

  • Jaron,

    People would not be able to stand the atmosphere and would get up and leave.

    I realise you intended this to be a criticism of the discussion that takes place on this blog, but I would argue it is a criticism of public discourse which has a great track record of skirting reality and being overly concerned with political correctness than any genuine interest in honest debate. Most public discussion involves calculated couching of ideas so as not to upset the apple cart.

    That being said, I agree it’s important to have opposing views represented here. But in this particular instance I think you’re defense of mad man is misplaced given his lack of appreciation and understanding of the position of the people on this blog and the owner. Guy’s call to action is to end industrial civilisation. How can this be construed in the way it has been by mad man, that we are fiddling while Rome burns? You say that any views other than doomerism are branded as heresay but I think this is being unfair. Views that further support an outcome of ‘doom’ are called out as such, but that’s not the desired result. If someone hasn’t yet been provided with adequate counter-evidence to their position, it doesn’t assume they are clinging to a dogmatic belief, as you suggest. If someone were to make a convincing argument that industrial civilisation could continue without resulting in a nasty outcome, then I’m sure it would be given consideration. Have most here concluded this isn’t possible? Yes. But this conclusion is based on evidence not faith.

    Asking what you and mad man are doing to avert disaster is completely relevant in light of mad man’s ignorant accusations of nihilistic apathy. It’s not a contest, but when people are falsely accused it makes sense to ask the question of the accuser. Might I suggest that mad man could have asked the question before making assumptions that turned out to be invalid?

    I think mad man expresses the same frustrations that many of us have and continue to express on this blog. I think he made a mistake in connecting the comments he perceived as nihilistic with a doctrine of inaction; they’ve simply been taken out of context. In short, I think we’re on the same page, but that there has been a misunderstanding leading to an emotionally charged response due to the frustations we all experience when faced with a seemingly disastrous outcome that few are taking action to avert. To claim those here are not taking such action is a gross injustice.

  • Please also note the time stamp of comments uses the time zone the blog is configured to reference, not the time zone in which the person posting is based. Eg. My post is time stamped 5:48 PM, but here in Eastern Australia the time is 10:48 AM. I don’t know what time zone Kathy C is based and won’t assume anything until I do.

  • Does anyone else recognize a parallel from the post above at this point in the discussion? We seem to have embodied Guy’s point and conveniently drifted off topic.

    Fascism has come to the industrialized world, and the evidence is particularly clear in the United States.

    [The administration] is characterized by powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism, identification of enemies as a unifying cause, obsession with militaristic national security and military supremacy, interlinking of religion and the ruling elite, obsession with crime and punishment, disdain for the importance of human rights and intellectuals who support them, cronyism, corruption, sexism, protection of corporate power, suppression of labor, control over mass media, and fraudulent elections. These are the defining elements of fascism.

    We’ve been in this state for many years and the situation grows worse every year, but most people prefer to look away and then claim ignorance while politicians claim we’re not the people indicated by our actions. As long as you’re not in jail (yet) or declared a terrorist (yet) and subsequently killed outright (yet), you’re unlikely to bring attention to yourself, regardless what you know and feel about the morality of the people running ruining the show.

  • Jaron Lanier,

    Will you listen to yourself? This blog has a long record of shouting people down. Remember Turboguy? You in particular sound like a slightly unhinged True Believer. In fact, I haven’t been able to read your name for years without a picture of Annie Wilkes swimming into view. You posted your comment to Madman at 2.39 am fer chrissakes.

    Okay, I’ll wade into this . . .

    I’ve been reading this blog for more than two years. I’ve never once observed anyone being “shouted down”. I have noticed that there is much agreement on certain topics and vigorous discussion ensues when someone comes along and dismisses the ideas of those who are already in agreement – particularly when fiction is substituted for science. Those who are collapse aware and who “get” the big picture are, I suspect, like me, a bit weary of hearing the propaganda espoused by the powers that be as they try to postpone the inevitable as long as possible. This blog has become a virtual gathering place where we can get away from that destructive misinformation. So, when someone comes along and starts repeating the same old lies, it hits a nerve. That’s not really surprising.

    One thing that has impressed me about the regular posters here as opposed to other blogs is the level of respect that is shown to each other and to occasional or first-time commenters. Comments are rarely disrespectful or contain personal attacks, even if they are diametrically opposed to others’ viewpoints.

    I can’t say the same about your post above. Kathy C is one of the most prolific commenters here. I value greatly the contribution she makes, both original content and the links she shares. Your post was a personal attack and an insult. It served no purpose I can see other than to try to hurt and silence her. You are guilty of the very thing you accuse her of. Her request to madman to define his use of nihilism was a fair question. Why even our host Guy said in a recent post “I’m fussy about the words I use. Words matter, after all. ”

    I’ve noticed that when personal attacks are lobbed, Kathy C is frequently the target. I don’t know why, but I wonder if, at least some of the time, it’s because she’s an intelligent, forthright person who stands her ground, who also happens to be a female. Some men, and even some women, are threatened by such a woman.

    Now, I hope you don’t think I’ve attempted to shout you down, because that was not my intention nor even my right. But, as a de facto member of this community, I feel it would be much more helpful if comments were focused on substance of the issues, rather than personal attacks.

  • Just got back from a long road trip around the Pacific NW, and as high-desert dwellers, we found ourselves amazed at the fertility of the place. Visited a permaculture farm owned by friends and drove mile after mile through industrial farmlands, ate seafood at theme restaurants, walked a couple of hours every day on the beaches, and visited towns on the Olympic Penninsula where vampire tourism is a growth industry.

    It’s off season, but we weren’t the only tourists around–just among the youngest. Lots of motorhomes and diesel pickups, and real-estate brochures at every stop. The number of obese people was staggering, and it seemed like the bigger the people were, the bigger the vehicles they were driving became. The price of gas came down as we traveled.

    It didn’t seem like we were looking at a dying civilization, unless civilizations die of kitsch and coronaries and diabetes. Still, it was good to get home find the electricity was still on and the beef in the freezer still frozen, wood still in the woodpile and my landscaping projects only a little vandalized by this year’s crop of ground squirrels. It was nice to have my horizon–and my fears– shrink to human dimension, and the incoming data slow to the point where I didn’t feel like I was locked in a kaleidoscope.

    It’s occurred to me that industrial civilization has gone so far beyond the human that no individual can grasp it, much less predict when it’s going to end. My reaction to the overwhelming complexity,variety, and material wealth of this country is to say that it cannot go on–that it’s exceeded the human, and once a civilization exceeds the human, it’s doomed.

    But it’s the human, not the civilization, that is doomed. We’ve created something akin to Frankenstein’s monster, only it’s smarter, smoother, and more capable of survival. Certainly any of our larger corporations could pass the Turing test, and probably could have even before Turing was born.

    It may be time to recognize that this discussion we’re having isn’t about us. It’s about what we’ve created over the past three hundred years, something that will outlive us or turn us into abject symbionts.

    Philip K. Dick, in one of my favorite reformulations of “nature bats last,” says, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” I don’t believe in corporations, algorithms, corporate fascism, religious impulses, fracking, black holes, a viable world of 7 billion, or turning people into machines. My disbelief hasn’t caused any of them to go away. I have to conclude that they are real, perhaps more real than the human, a concept I still struggle to believe in.

  • Kathy C,

    I regret my abusive comment and apologise unreservedly.

    Jaron

  • In the Huffington Post today there appeared an article in which it is disclosed that Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan fame has complained that

    1) Banks [like other corporate entities, considered people by the courts) are victims of ‘discrimination’

    2) That criticising the ‘business community’ is tantamount to being anti-American.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/jpmorgan-chase-london-whale_n_1507662.html?ref=uk&ir=UK

    You can see where this is headed. The corporate community will someday be able to invoke federal and local charges of ‘hate crimes’ and terrorism (aiding or comforting the enemy) against those who speak out against them. This is serious business. The constitutional rights guaranteed to all Americans are being subverted and twisted to make the primary perpetrators of crimes against humanity, the Government and the corporate powers, into the victims and the objects of the crimes (we, the people) into criminal terrorists, enemies of the State to be dealt with harshly and without mercy.

    We are rapidly entering a socio-political environment in which we no longer have true citizen rights:

    are considered enemies of the State by default until proven otherwise,

    are subject to constant and ubiquitous surveillance of our physical selves and all our communications with others,

    are encouraged to spy on each other and report any ‘suspicious’ acts to the authorities,

    are subject to undue search at any time for whatever reason,

    are subject to being labelled a ‘terrorist’ or terrorist sympathiser without at the discretion of the President (or his representatives),

    are subject to arrest at any time of the night or day and hauled to prison without benefit of bail or habeas corpus or communication with the outside world,

    can be held without trial or legal representation,

    and can be tortured for the rest of your miserable life without hope of release.

    If you are fortunate enough to be given a trial, you might be subject to a military commissions trial, secret evidence can be used against you, hearsay evidence against you can be accepted and communications with your attorney, if you are so lucky, are subject to disclosure to the court – in other words, no attorney/client privilege.

    The above have already been written into law by your democratically elected President and Congressional representatives, who have also already authorised, built and implemented a nationwide programme of internment camps, known as FEMA camps, ready to receive untold numbers of ‘victims’ of national emergency events (defined by the Government) whenever the Government so desires to do so.

  • Jaron, accepted.
    Dr House thank you.

  • Checking time stamp info. My time right now is 6:42 AM

  • As we slide ever further into Collapse, we can expect a concomitant slide into a global set of fascist states, each attempting to protect its resources and contain its people. This, of course, is also a recipe for increasing wars, further deterioration of human rights, and multiplied damage to the natural world.

    I don’t think anyone is going to enjoy this as it progresses.

  • Ever notice how Too-Big-To-Fail corporations never seem to commit ‘crimes’? They always make ‘mistakes’, or ‘errors’. And those errors should not be considered characteristic of the organisation.

    I got angry last night. I then made the mistake of killing someone. It was just a mistake. An error. That’s not me. So I shouldn’t be hauled into court for that. I promise I won’t do it again.

    An individual would never get by with such an excuse. But a large corporation almost always will.

  • Check out zerohedge.com this morning for articles about the JP Morgan trading loss – Tyler’s been a busy poster this AM

    For dark humor that ties into Victor’s comments see this one
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/20-second-summary-what-just-happened

  • Hey Guy, and everyone else here:

    you (we) aren’t alone in excoriating our “leaders”:

    https://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/05/10/481636/must-read-hansen-slams-obamas-lack-of-climate-leadership-and-our-immoral-inaction/

    “The nation’s most famous climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen, has written a scathing NY Times op-ed, “Game Over for the Climate.” He also lays out an “apocalyptic” but science-based description of what happens if we keep doing nothing.

    Hansen begins:

    GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening.

    That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

    If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

    Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now.

    Hansen lays out why the scientific case for why exploiting the tar sands and unconventional fuels in general would be “game over” for modern civilization:

    The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change.

    We have known since the 1800s that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere. The right amount keeps the climate conducive to human life. But add too much, as we are doing now, and temperatures will inevitably rise too high. This is not the result of natural variability, as some argue. The earth is currently in the part of its long-term orbit cycle where temperatures would normally be cooling. But they are rising — and it’s because we are forcing them higher with fossil fuel emissions.

    The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 p.p.m. over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon — 240 gigatons — to add 120 p.p.m. Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.” (there’s more)

  • At tne Mud Hut:
    Before enlightenment, milk goats, hoe the garden. After enlightenment, milk goats, hoe the garden.

    On the Titanic:
    Before enlightenment, sip drinks, listen to music. After enlightenment, sip drinks, listen to music.

    Also on the Titanic:
    Before enlightenment, don lifejackets, board lifeboats. After enlightenment, don lifejackets, board lifeboats.

    On NBL:
    Before enlightenment, post a screed, condemn nihilism. After enlightenment, post a screed, condemn nihilism.

  • In Algeria, Albert Camus
    Said, “Life has no meaning, it’s true.”
    Nihilism as a state
    Gives you nothing to hate
    Suicide is its question for you.

  • “Living in America is becoming very difficult for anyone with a moral conscience, a sense of justice, or a lick of intelligence.” So says Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy during the Reagan administration and also associate editor of the Wall Street Journal in his latest essay. It’s here.

  • Another quote from Paul Craig Roberts’ article referenced above:

    People without valid information are helpless, and that is where Western peoples are. The new tyranny is arising in the West, not in Russia and China. The danger to humanity is in the nuclear button briefcase in the Oval Office and in the brainwashed and militant Amerikan population, the most totally disinformed and ignorant people on earth.

  • Robin, John, thanks for bringing a smile to my day.

    I know I get long winded and highly persistent – one might say I spew a lot of hot air. However today I found one of our newest chicks had gotten its leg caught and hadn’t been able to get under mom. It was very cold and near death. I cupped it in my hands and put my hot air to good use. It is now up and about and might make it. 🙂

  • A related essay from Michael Krieger at Libert Blitzkrieg: “The people know something is very wrong. They know they are getting poorer; that life is getting harder, yet the television and the markets have cloaked a blanket of sedation upon their minds.”

  • I just got home yesterday from a long vacation. I live in Illinois, west of Chicago. My wonderful pear tree that has produced fine for 3 years, has NO fruit developing this year.
    I attribute it to the early blooming do to the record heat, but without an equally early awakening of pollinators.
    Or, do fruit trees take a year off? Anyone?

  • Curtis,

    Sorry to hear about your pear tree. Some questions which may help figure out the mystery.

    Have you pruned old growth from the tree recently?
    Have you applied a fertilizer, particularly one that is high in nitrogen?

    Buds form on old growth, so if you’ve pruned it that could explain the lack of fruit.
    Nitrogen causes lots of foliar growth leaving little energy for fruit growth.

  • Curtis,

    Disregard my first suggestion, you did say it bloomed.

    Do you know if there was precipitation while you were away? Perhaps it dried out? If not it could very well be a lack of pollinators.

  • Kathy C

    Those darned chicks. I found one hanging upside down with her foot stuck in the fence last year. I unhooked her and her response seemed to be, “Alright, thanks, but now get your hands off me and LET ME GO!”

    Michael Irving

  • John Rember,
    “It’s occurred to me that industrial civilization has gone so far beyond the human that no individual can grasp it, much less predict when it’s going to end.”

    I have to tell you that you sent a shiver down my spine with that sentence. I’ve been looking around too and questioning things, notably, how can we be figuratively driving so fast toward the brink of the cliff that will destroy us and yet everything seems so normal.

    Is this you or Albert??

    “Nihilism as a state

    Gives you nothing to hate

    Suicide is its question for you.”

    Mike Altman said:

    ‘Cause suicide is painless
    It brings on many changes
    And I can take or leave it if I please.
    …And you can do the same thing if you please.

    Michael Irving

  • I have to tell you that you sent a shiver down my spine with that sentence. I’ve been looking around too and questioning things, notably, how can we be figuratively driving so fast toward the brink of the cliff that will destroy us and yet everything seems so normal.

    The system has a life of it’s own, of that I have no doubt. Our leaders provide a false image of control, but I don’t think anyone is controlling the system in it’s entirety.

    Things can appear very normal, until they don’t. Systems can and do fail quite suddenly, and can maintain normal operation right up to the point of failure with warning signs that don’t impact on it’s function or outward appearance of normalcy. I used to work in IT and this was a common phenomenon of computer systems. Normalcy bias can be very deceptive. We know better.

  • Michael:

    Camus starts his essay, “An Absurd Reasoning,” with the statement, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”

  • Michael:

    Carolyn Baker has an excellent essay on her site, “What if collapse happened and nobody noticed?” It’s another look at everything seeming so normal, even when it’s not.

    Camus, in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” provides an answer for anyone who considers life not worth living. It’s an austere answer, but it’s better than nothing.

    Justin: I’m not sure it’s a system that we’re dealing with–a better metaphor is that it’s a colonial organism, or one of E.O.Wilson’s island ecosystems, or that it really is a half-conscious, tortured Franken-monster, one that clearly has yet to resolve the question of whether or not to kill itself. I think that if it were easy to kill, it would have happened long ago, given the cultural death-wish.

    Guy: I agree that American fascism is in the picture, but it’s been in the picture for a long time. Soldiers returning from World War I were lynched in the state of Washington because they were members of the IWW. The history of the American labor movement in the 20th century shows that the last few years aren’t historical aberration. They’re business as usual.

    Your previous entry on art reminds me that kitsch and fascism have always gone together–totalitarian regimes are totally interested in co-opting their artists, and kitsch is what happens when they’re successful. It suggests that fascism can’t stand a true artistic vision, which means that we should probably all be artists, or at least think like artists.

    I believe that any activity, done with enough care and commitment to excellence, can become an art. Fascism is the triumph not of the will but of the mediocre.

  • Kathy C Says:
    May 9th, 2012 at 6:04 pm
    bub, as always China does it bigger and better, they are building ghost cities – raises GDP but no one lives there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPILhiTJv7E

    peak oil=peak wealth=peak squandering of resources, environmental destruction/pollution, peak stupidity/insanity, ushering in peak collapse/death/climate change/extinction. when all is said and done.

    ‘Using Jan’s definition for nihilism (which we still have to hear from Mad if that is the definition he is using) – one who believes in nothing it should be clear that no one on this blog is nihilist’

    not so fast, kathy. i feel a bit mortified a few days after skewering basic buddhism as i see it. mortified because as i ponder my irrational instinctual attachment to my unhappy existence, it seems clear that indeed, attachment leads to suffering. i wish i wasn’t so attached. it would make suicide so much easier.

    i find it hard if not impossible to believe that my life (and by extension, our world) has any meaning, purpose, or ultimate value. perhaps it does, who knows? i think i qualify as nihilist, or damned close to it. perhaps many here do. at any rate, while i may not understand or appreciate much buddhist mumbo-jumbo, i think in it’s broadest outlines it is nihilist, and perhaps the most truthful/useful of major religions.

  • VT – you believe that suicide should be an option. You believe that hang ups about sex are an evil influence on children. You believe I am wrong about your not believing in anything. If however nihilism is believing that life has no purpose then that definition would fit you and on most days fit me.
    Nihilism has become a powerful emotion laden word which is why it should not be flung around or perhaps used at all. See how much more we know about your beliefs and attitude towards life from several paragraphs and how little or wrong would be our understanding of where you were at if we just said nihilist.
    That was my point which of course I didn’t make well because I didn’t explain it fully.
    We humans have so very many words to use and yet communicate with each other so very badly.

  • John I am relieved that Wagner is now removed from being considered an artist and is relegated to where he belongs, kitsch.

  • Curtis, our wild plums had blooms, had pollinators, but have zero fruit. Our blueberries on the other hand are loaded with berries and look to mature early. Figs are loaded too. I put down the lack of wild plums to the unusual weather this spring but perhaps it is something else – maybe last years drought? Maybe the most effective pollinators didn’t get out in time – I think a very few fruit started to form and then dropped off.

  • Justin, Kathy C.

    Thank you for your replies. My pear tree is young, only in 4 years since I planted it, and has been producing fruit for the last three. I have never pruned it, so I will do so this year. The leaves look fine and green, so it seems to have gotten through the crazy heat just fine.

  • Hello Curtis,

    i too have fruit trees (apple, pear, peach and cherry) and came across this site to answer the questions (regarding just how, when and where and what do i prune:

    http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1150.html

    hope it helps

  • John Rember,

    Thanks for showing me Carolyn’s article. My response: “Of course!”

    At the local Food Bank where I volunteer we are struggling with several trends that mirror Carolyn’s article—significantly more clients (1302 families last month), fewer donations (many of our clients once had a job and supported us with monetary donations—now they come seeking help), increased competition between food banks for diminishing resources, fewer State and Federal resources, granting organizations over-extended with demands, fuel and utilities costs skyrocketing, food costs increasing, etc., etc.

    I’ve been hearing so much magical thinking over the last few weeks that my brain was starting to spin. I think it is righting itself again and steadying somewhat. Thanks for the help.

    Michael Irving

  • UPDATE FROM ITALY

    No collapse yet, just great food. Wait…I heard a noise outside.

  • Tom:

    I checked it out. I am a beginning pruner. Thanks.

  • Privileged, yeah I heard that noise too….

    JPMorgan Estimates Immediate Losses From Greek Exit Could Reach 400 Billion
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/jpmorgan-estimates-immediate-losses-greek-exit-could-reach-400-billion

  • A new post is up. It’s a guest essay, and it’s here.