Collapse Culture

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Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:46 pm

I would like to start a discussion surrounding the concept of Collapse and the culture that has developed from interest in it, and the culture/cultures that is/are envisioned by those who are deeply steeped in and vested in the topic. People gravitate to the notion of Collapse for many varied reasons and they emanate from an eclectic mix of backgrounds. However, many of them share one thing in common, and that is they appear to, if you look at it objectively and closely, be attempting to conjure Collapse.....a collective rain dance, of sorts. Not necessarily a conscious act, although there are instances where it may be, but a collectively unconscious wave of sorts. As the discussion proceeds, we can delve into this aspect in much greater detail, but for now, let me start this off by focusing on one such culture envisioned by one of the preeminent Collapse voices, Dmitry Orlov. I'm certain many, if not all, of you know of and have read Orlov, but maybe some of you haven't recently and you may not be aware of the conflict that has surfaced between him and his male acolytes and a group of women who have taken him to task for his Communities That Abide essays and its not-so-unobvious paternalistic implications. At The Age of Limits conference in Pennsylvania in late May, a group of women called Dmitry on his bias and prejudice. His response to their challenge was telling. Katherine Acosta, who attended the conference, recently wrote all this up in an excellent essay at the following link. It's well worth the read and a great catalyst to kick-start this conversation. Needless to say, there is a certain contingent of those who gravitate to Collapse Theory who appear to envision a highly paternalistic world where women abide because women will need men's protection in order to survive.

Feminism Pre and Post Collapse

Writing, blogging, and “prepping” for collapse has become a cottage industry over the last ten years.

The proliferation of websites, books, articles, and conferences devoted to analysis and speculation about what will happen, learning to grow and preserve food and other survival skills, and storing up supplies, are based on the well-founded fears that inter-connected systems of finance and fossil-fueled industry are heading for implosion and that the environment will become unstable, less habitable and less able to sustain the billions straining the earth’s carrying capacity.

At the heart of all this activity is the concern: How will we be able to protect and sustain our families and others we love in drastically altered conditions?

Dmitry Orlov, a prominent writer on collapse, now weighs in with a preliminary analysis of “communities that abide”. Orlov has written several books on collapse, including Reinventing Collapse, which compares the collapse of the former Soviet Union with the impending collapse of the United States, and The Five Stages of Collapse.

Turning now to writing about small, self-sufficient societies, he aims to identify some commonalities, or a set of “best practices,” that may be adapted for small-scale post-collapse communities. His goal, he wrote on his blog,

is to give individuals, families and small groups of people (of modest means) viable options for the future that they otherwise wouldn't know existed—options which they will be able to exercise separately from what remains of American society. And the nature of these options will be dictated in large measure by the nature of the conditions that will prevail in as little as a couple of decades.

In late May, he gave a talk on his work at the Age of Limits conference and in subsequent months elaborated on his ideas in a series of posts on his blog. The talk didn’t quite goes as planned, however, provoking what he later described on his blog as a “shit storm” where “feminist rhetoric flew fast and furious” in the Q & A following his presentation.

It seems that all his examples of “communities that abide” were patriarchal and some women in the audience questioned his work. In Part I of this two-part essay, I reviewed the incident and his post-conference response to it. In this second part of my essay, I examine the content of his work on “communities that abide” and provide an alternative model.

Over the course of six posts published on his blog in the weeks following the Age of Limits conference (links below), Orlov discusses three examples of “communities that abide;” the Dukhobor of Canada, the Roma (sometimes called Gypsies), and the Hutterites. (I could not find a transcript or video of his presentation at the conference.)

The essays are rambling and muddled, making it unclear exactly what the criteria were for selecting communities to include in his study and which of the “commonalities” he observed among these communities emerged from his analysis.

One explicit, though non-specific, criterion is endurance – communities that “have been around for awhile – a century at least.” Self-sufficiency – meaning that the society provides for all its members’ needs like housing, nutrition, education, and so on - also appears to be a criterion for inclusion in the study.

Less clear is whether two organizing principles Orlov identifies as important for success, “communist organization of production and communist organization of consumption,” were criteria for inclusion in his study or emerged from the data after he selected his study groups.

Most confusing of all, in Part II Orlov presents a list of characteristics that “winners in the game of survival” are likely to have based on their “commonalities.” How exactly a “commonality” is distinguished from an item on this list, and whether this list is a prediction of what Orlov expects to find, or has identified based on his study group, is unclear.

The list describes communities that are autonomous, separatist, based on a strong ideology which they refuse to question or debate, speak their own languages or dialects, are distrustful of outsiders, nomadic, pacifist, “anarchic in their patterns of self-governance – neither patriarchal nor matriarchal,” and have high birth rates and communist “patterns of production and consumption.”

Reading Orlov, it becomes clear that that his primary interests are collective ownership and management of resources and anarchic forms of social organization. So it’s worth stating here that, broadly speaking, anarchism is characterized by lack of a ruler or a ruling hierarchy, by direct democracy, and by mutual aid. This latter idea was developed by the 19th century Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin, who argued that mutual aid, rather than competition, was the key to evolutionary advancement of a species.

The most striking example of mutual aid Orlov describes involves the Dukhobor of Canada. Orlov reports that this pacifist group fled “Russia for the US, then the US for Canada, to avoid conscription.” (He doesn’t say when this happened, but a quick fact check reveals that they arrived in Canada in 1899, and that their pacifism stemmed from their religious beliefs.)

Orlov quotes from Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid to describe how, having arrived penniless and therefore unable to buy draft animals, “their women would hitch up to the plough 20 or 30 at a time, while the middle-aged men worked on the railroad, giving up their earnings to the commune… [A]fter seven or eight years all 6000 or 7000 Dukhobors achieved a level of well-being.”

Although families lived in individual cabins, their land and buildings were held in common. Orlov provides no information about their internal decision-making processes or self-government, but it is hard to imagine that women capable of pulling a plow – and making that level of economic contribution to the group - didn’t manage to have their voices heard.

Contemporary Dukhobor no longer live and work communally and their population is aging. Fact-checking independent of Orlov indicates that in 2001, 28% of Dukhobors were over 65, compared with 12% of the entire population of Canada.

The second group considered by Orlov in his series on “Communities That Abide” is the Roma. This group also engages in collective labor and property ownership. The Roma, he writes:

will contract to do work as work groups (called kumpania) but never as individuals, and all the earnings are given to the Rom baro who is the self-appointed leader with the responsibility for distributing these earnings according to merit and need. This system is extended to every other type of good that is taken in from the outside.

They must have some private property, however, because Orlov also states that “the Roma all unconditionally pledge a large part of their private property to the common cause, in order to support an extensive system of mutual self-help.” Orlov doesn’t give specific information about the kinds of property that are held in common or those that individuals or families are allowed to hold privately.

Nevertheless, the Roma seek to avoid accumulating wealth and thus the “temptation to re-privatize,” according to Orlov. One way is by “burn[ing] through fantastic sums of money by throwing lavish wedding feasts that last three days.”

The Roma are a diverse people with groups in many countries throughout the world, so it is difficult to make generalizations about them. Some adopt the religion of the countries in which they live, some are no longer nomadic, some Romani groups arrange marriages and others allow young people to choose their mates.

They are generally considered to be a patriarchal culture. Virginity prior to marriage is prized in girls and bride-kidnapping to avoid paying a bride price has been reported among Romani in several countries. Though they appear to practice a degree of collectivism and mutual aid, Orlov presents no information about their decision-making processes.

The third group, and the one Orlov defines as a “success,” are the Hutterites. This group is a branch of the Anabaptists who fled religious persecution in Europe and eventually settled in Canada and the United States. Again, Orlov provides no dates, but apparently they arrived in North America between 1874 and 1879. According to Orlov, the Hutterites practice the doctrine of “everything in common.”

They live in communal houses where each family has a separate room or apartment, but children over a certain age go and live in the Kinderhaus. They take their meals together in a separate communal kitchen and dining hall.

Orlov praises their high fertility, but in fact, their birth rates have been declining for at least half a century. In 1954 they averaged about 10 children per family; by 2010 this had dropped to fewer than five.

Orlov describes the Hutterites as “entirely anarchic” because, while some leaders are elected, “all lines of authority really proceed from the full meeting of the commune, which tends to rule by consensus.” At the same time, he admits that:

[T]heir notion of gender roles is strictly 16th century. The women have no voice (except in prevailing on their husbands) and no opportunity to compete with men. They take their meals at a separate table from the men (the children have a table of their own). It's tempting for some to call the Hutterites patriarchal, except that they have no archon (Greek for “ruler”) and exhibit no hierarchy. Instead, there is gender dimorphism, which exists in many species, human species included.

This is truly pretzel-bending logic. If the women have no say, and the men elect leaders and make other decisions among themselves, then is not one sex ruled over by the other? Here Orlov parts ways with the 19th century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin who saw equal rights for women and men as central to the anarchist project. Emma Goldman, another 19th century Russian anarchist – and feminist - would certainly have derided Orlov’s claim that Hutterite governance is “anarchic.”

Orlov’s work thus far on “communities that abide” suffers from severe limitations. His selection of communities to study is unsystematic. Aside from endurance and self-sufficiency, he fails to distinguish which “commonalities” he discusses were criteria for inclusion in the study and which emerged as a result of his analysis.

He provides insufficient detail about the internal workings of these communities to enable identification of “best practices.” In particular, he fails to make his case that the examples he presents are “anarchic in… self governance – neither patriarchal nor matriarchal.”

He describes decision-making processes for only one of his three examples, and that one he admits excludes women. Clearly, Orlov needs to go back to the drawing board on this one.

Orlov insists that his aim in studying “communities that abide” is not to advocate any particular type of social organization. He’s merely a messenger, describing ones that;

are uniquely successful in terms of their longevity and outcomes… Please draw your own conclusions. You can run off and join them or damn them all to hell. But please leave me out of it.

But are Orlov’s examples the best that can be found among a dearth of “communities that abide” without large bureaucratic governments and systems, provide for all their members’ needs, and survive hard times? Is Orlov correct in his assertions that such communities “tend to be conservative” with regard to gender relations and that communities based on progressive principles usually do not “outlast the generation of their founders?”

The answer is an unqualified “no.” There are indeed matrilineal societies that have “abided” for centuries, fed, housed, nurtured, and protected their members through good times and bad – and that allowed all members, women and men, a say in decision-making for their communities. They are also, as Orlov wrote of his examples, found right here in North America.

Many of the largest Indian tribes in what is now the United States, including the Navaho, the Cherokee, and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), are matrilineal societies. (The Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee include the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations.)

Recall that an audience member asked Orlov at his talk whether he could find examples of matrilineal societies and Orlov responded that matriarchal societies were rare; they were outliers. It is true that there is no strong evidence in the historical record of matriarchal societies – the inverse of patriarchy – where women rule over men.

But there are many examples of matrilineal societies. Strictly speaking, matrilineal means that lineage is traced through the mother rather than the father. However, many matrilineal societies are characterized by shared power arrangements among women and men. This is true of the Navajo, the Cherokee, and the Haudenosaunee.

Among the Haudenosaunee, women collectively owned and farmed the land. The men cleared new fields and were hunters and warriors. The men also served as chiefs but the clan mothers nominated the chiefs and could remove a bad one.

A contemporary Onondaga clan mother told researcher Sally Roesch Wagner that the “unbroken custom” for nominating chiefs to represent their clans in the Grand Council excludes men who have committed murder or theft, or who have sexually assaulted a woman.

Haudenosaunee means “people of the longhouses.” Extended family groups lived in these longhouses, with young couples joining one of their mothers’ households after marriage.(1) Children were cared for by the extended family group, with young boys trained by their uncles to hunt and fight.

Among the Seneca (the largest of the Six Nations), the women distributed the communally-owned land according to household size and each year elected a woman to organize the work. According to Jensen:

Sick and injured members of these mutual aid societies had a right to assistance in planting and harvesting; and after hoeing the owner of each parcel of land would provide a feast for all the women workers. (2)

Mary Jemisen, an 18th century Irish woman who was captured by the Seneca and lived with them for decades, reported that the work of Seneca women “was less onerous than that of White women… [T]hey had no drivers or overseers and worked in the fields as leisurely as they wished with their children beside them.”(3)

Seneca and other Haudenosaunee women were free to divorce husbands who were absent too long or failed to do their share of providing for the family. A former Adjutant General for Massachusetts, Henry Dearborn, noted in his journal (1904) that Seneca women enjoyed “perfect equality,” with their husbands. They influenced and advised their men and were well-treated in return. Dearborn wrote, “She lives with him from love for she can obtain her own means of support better than he can.”(4)

Traditional Haudenosaunee exhibit many of the “commonalities” Orlov argues are characteristic of “communities that abide.” They collectively owned and managed the resources of the group and collectively organized production.

They had systems of mutual aid such as the obligation to help the sick and injured to work their parcels of land. They are more genuinely anarchic in social organization than any of the groups Orlov describes because women as well as men participate in decision-making processes for the community.

Unlike the groups Orlov describes, the Haudenosaunee are not pacifist; they fiercely defended their land and customs. However, they value nonviolence within their communities – unlike some of the groups Orlov mentioned in his Age of Limits talk. (See Part I here.) Men who have sexually abused women are ineligible to serve as chiefs and violence against women generally is taboo.

Jesuit visitors in the 17th century reported that “Seneca women showed extraordinary affection for their children… and children had great respect for their parents.”(5)

The superior status of Haudenosaunee women relative to their American counterparts was a major source of inspiration for 19th century feminists”. Recall that in the 19th century, American women could not vote and married women were “legally dead,” meaning they could not sign contracts and had no right to own property or to their own earnings. It was legal for men to beat their wives and women who attempted to leave could be brought back by the police. Divorce was not an option.

Feminist historian Sally Roesch Wagner spent 20 years studying the work of early women’s rights activists, including Lucretia Mott, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

All three had personal experience with the Haudenosaunee that influenced their activism. Mott, after spending a month in 1848 observing Seneca women participate in decision-making as the Seneca reorganized their governance, had her;

feminist vision fired by that experience… [She] traveled that July from the Seneca nation to nearby Seneca Falls, where she and [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton held the world’s first women’s rights convention.

Gage, who published a series of articles in 1875 about the Haudenosaunee in the New York Evening Post, including the observation that “division of power between the sexes in its Indian republic was nearly equal,” had an even more dramatic experience:

Shortly after Matilda Joslyn Gage was arrested in 1893 at her home in New York for the "crime" of trying to vote in a school board election, she was adopted into the Wolf clan of the Mohawk nation and given the name Karonienhawi (Sky Carrier). In the Mohawk nation, women alone had the authority to nominate the chief, after counseling with all the people of the clan.

Stanton, who studied the law with her father, was impressed with the power of Haudenosaunee women to terminate bad marriages.

"No matter how many children or whatever goods he might have in the house," Stanton informed the National Council of Women convention in 1891, the "luckless husband or lover who was too shiftless to do his share of the providing" in an Iroquois marriage "might at any time be ordered to pick up his blanket and budge; and after such an order it would not be healthful for him to attempt to disobey."

Stanton, who was born in 1815, refused to promise to obey her husband in her marriage vows, bore seven children, the youngest when she was 44 years old, and lived to the ripe old age of 86. "According to Wagner:

When called a “savage”… for practicing natural childbirth, Stanton rebutted her critics by mocking their use of the word, pointing out that Indian women "do not suffer" giving birth -- thus it was absurd to suppose "that only enlightened Christian women are cursed" by painful, difficult childbirth.

Some prominent Haudenosaunee men supported the cause of the American feminists and rebuked American men for their treatment of women. Wagner reports that:

[Ethnographer Alice] Fletcher… quoted an Indian man who reproached white men: "Your laws show how little your men care for their women. The wife is nothing of herself." He was not alone in chastising white men for their domination of women.

A Tuscarora chief, Elia Johnson, writing about the absence of rape among Iroquois men in his popular 1881 book, Legends, Traditions and Laws, of the Iroquois, or Six Nations... commented wryly that European men had held the same respect for women "until they became civilized".

A Cayuga chief, Dr. Peter Wilson, addressing the New York Historical Society in 1866, encouraged white men to use the occasion of Southern reconstruction to establish universal suffrage, "even of the women, as in his nation."

There is a pernicious thread in the discourse on collapse that goes something like this: The gains American women made in the 20th century were “frills” made possible by industrial society. Once TSHTF (The Shit Hits the Fan), men and women will revert to their pre-industrial roles and statuses.

Women will be consumed with child-bearing and rearing and household tasks and will therefore have little time for anything else. The chaos and lawlessness that is expected to result from collapse means women will also need male protection from rape and violence.

The implication is that, in exchange for protection, women will naturally submit to some degree of male authority – or what a feminist wit once called, the “protection racket.” These are merely the facts, we are told, and women who object are just not being rational. Those who don’t get with the program may be left behind when times get tough. Per Orlov:

It will be a thorough regression to baseline, which will be hard on people who are used to the idea of endless progress… Many of them will no doubt insist on making a stand for their hard-won social victories, and this, in turn, will make them a poor choice as crew to take along on this journey.

But Orlov is not the first or only writer on collapse to express this point-of-view. James Kunstler has been propagating these ideas for years, both in his nonfiction books, such as The Long Emergency (2005), and in his novels. In the former he wrote that

Reestablished traditional divisions of labor may undo many of the putative victories of the feminist revolution. In the context of new circumstances, these altered relations will come to seem normal and inevitable (p304).

In 2010, at a conference in Colorado, Kunstler apparently came unglued when critiques of his portrayals of women in his novels were read. Several attendees reported his response to Sharon Astyk, one of his literary critics:

“Fuck those motherfuckers!” When he was finally at the podium he began with, “I’m going to address the woman thing right up front. I’m appalled that educated, intelligent women of the boomer generation are so incapable of imagining a world where a completely different economic status has evaporated the gains of women. You need to get over it.”

In July of this year, he returned to this theme in an essay entitled “Reality Does Not Have An Ideology," where he again addressed criticism of his novels:

High and low, far and wide, women denounced my book in formal reviews and casual emails…. It seemed self-evident to me that a lot of this achievement [of feminism] was provisional, depending on larger macro historical trends. That idea alone was greeted… by the sharpest opprobrium, since it was assumed that the political victories of recent decades have become permanent installations of the human condition. I recognize that, as a principle of politics, privileges and rights attained are rarely given up without a fight. But I wondered at the failure of imagination I was witnessing, especially among educated women readers.

The real “failure of imagination” is among people like Orlov and Kunstler who cannot envision post-collapse gender relations different from those derived from Euro-American culture culminating in the 19th century. It also reveals ignorance of history and cultures different from one’s own. The subordination of women characteristic of pre-industrial America is neither natural nor inevitable as the Haudenosaunee example has shown.

Pre-industrial Haudenosaunee women enjoyed status on a par with the men of their culture. They (collectively) owned their means of subsistence and had a powerful role in the governance of their community. Strong cultural sanctions, rather than submission to male authority, protected them against rape and violence.

Certainly, gender roles among the Haudenosaunee were strictly defined. A little girl who wanted to be a warrior or a boy who wanted to farm was unlikely to get their wishes. But one gender was not assigned a lower status relative to the other.

Though gender roles may come to be seen as “natural” they are always to some degree socially constructed – that is, determined by the society itself. To 18th century Americans, it was “unnatural” for Haudenosaunee women to farm and their men to “‘play’ with bows and arrows.”(6)

After conquest, missionaries moved in on the Haudenosaunee, determined to force them into their “proper” gender roles. For women, that meant spinning and sewing; for men, farming like American men. One Quaker woman spent most of her life, half a century, at this task, but never made much headway.(7)

In October 2012, I wrote a warmly favorable piece in response to Orlov’s article “In Praise of Anarchy.” I was inspired by the idea that, although political and economic collapse will produce pain and disruption for many, it also presents an opportunity to build something better. I wrote:

The decline of industrial society and impending collapse of global capitalism is, and will continue to, produce social dislocation and misery, but this rupture with the past also creates the space to build something new; perhaps something more equitable? More freeing? More caring? After all, industrial society produced its own forms of misery: boredom, conformity, stifling of creativity, and alienation to name a few.

So Orlov’s reactionary turn with his patriarchal examples of “best practices” and his ferocious attack on the women who dared to question him is deeply troubling. It betrays the egalitarian ideals of anarchism, a philosophy he claimed to praise.

But Orlov’s views are just that; his opinions. He has not made his case and his vision is not inevitable, nor even probable, in my view. Those of us who can envision something better, most women and men, will work to build it. As for Orlov, and his latest work on “communities that abide,” I wonder, have we reached peak kollapsnik?
Last edited by Carol Newquist on Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:53 pm

I think you'd enjoy the Dark Mountain series if Orlov's weirdo fantasies don't do it for you.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:06 pm

Wombaticus Rex » Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:53 pm wrote:I think you'd enjoy the Dark Mountain series if Orlov's weirdo fantasies don't do it for you.

Yeah, I've heard of Dark Mountain and actually reviewed the website. I don't think I would enjoy it. Don't get me wrong, I like Dark, just not that kind of Dark. I'm glad Orlov was challenged. He's talked about Anarchy in the past, but I've always sensed a strong authoritarian dimension to him. He's had some interesting things to say over the years, although I think he's over-rated and a sort of fan club has formed around him. He monitors his blog like a border collie. I never attempted to post there because I don't think he's tolerant of alternative views. In fact, I know he's not. After the Age of Limits kerfuffle, he received a plethora of comments and a number of people complained he was deleting their posts. He had more important things to do than consider the potential role of women post-collapse other than as barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby American Dream » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:18 pm

Sasha Lilley has interesting thinking regarding all this:

Apocalypse Now?

December 21, 2012

By Sasha Lilley

The end of history arrives today. While the Maya never actually predicted that the world would end on 12.21.12, apocalypse tourists have been flocking to Guatemala for the occasion, much to the chagrin of many indigenous people there. Others have been heading to a small village in the French Pyrenees, where they believe a spaceship, hidden in a mountain peak, will whisk those present at the appointed time to a new era. In southern Ohio, New Agers inspired by rightwing conspiracist and erstwhile sports commentator David Icke, have been caught planting quartz crystals and aluminum foil (baked in muffin tins) in the Native American Serpent Mound, the largest effigy earthwork in the world, to open a “stargate” when doomsday arrives this week.

These predictions are easy to laugh off. Certainly, anything that brings together Icke, evangelical Christians, and Brittany Spears is hard to take seriously. Yet the allure of the notion of collapse and rebirth has a strong hold on more than the New Agers. It resonates with what many feel about the times we live in, which are indisputably catastrophic. Global warming is not something looming in the future, but is here already, as the inundation of Manhattan and the destruction of the Jersey shore have shown (and have been even more magnified in the Global South, hit as they have been by the worst effects of climate change). The global financial crisis has upended the lives of those who did not already feel like their jobs were increasingly precarious. Why not hope that out of the ashes of the present, a better—or different—world might take shape?

The left has a long history of catastrophism—expecting collapse to lead to social transformation. So has the far right, with its emblem of the phoenix muscularly rising out of the embers of the old. For the left, such hopes have frequently been based on the idea that capitalism will run up against internal limits and then come crashing down. The beginning of the financial crisis was met with glee from some quarters that finally the behemoth that is capitalism, that we had not been able to vanquish over the last four decades of accumulated defeats for the left, had imploded under its own weight. Unfortunately, such hopes were short lived as the crisis proved—and as crises under capitalism tend to prove—an opportunity for elites to force concessions out of workers that would have been more difficult in less fraught times. In the United States, profits are at an all time high, while wages are at a record low as a percentage of GDP. So much for the self-destruction of capitalism.

The idea that the current order will be transformed through collapse and rebirth is frequently connected to peak oil—the notion that readily accessible petroleum reserves are becoming scarcer and scarcer, ultimately leading to the unraveling of industrial society and the blossoming of a new way of living. Like apocalypse-predictors of old, peak oil catastrophists have no compunction about putting a date on the collapse, frequently in the immediate future. But as with the financial crisis, they lose sight of the destructive dynamism of capitalism, which sees such barriers as not final roadblocks but hurdles to overcome, opening up new avenues of investment and profitability. Hence, rather than teetering on the edge of a Mad Max-like scenario of oil scarcity and industrial collapse, the International Energy Agency recently announced that the United States will surpass Saudi Arabia in the next decade as the world’s leading oil producer, thanks to a destructive boom in hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Unfortunately, it appears that we have more than enough accessible petroleum to roast the planet, long before reserves run out.

Since these ideas tend to be misguided, why are such scenarios so appealing to those on the left? And why have they become particularly appealing—at least in certain forms—in recent decades? I would suggest that their allure is rooted in a politics of despair, resulting from the defeats the left has suffered over the past forty years and the ebbing of hopes for large-scale anti-capitalist social transformation. Or, to quote a phrase often attributed to Fredric Jameson, it’s become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. That’s unfortunate, because there is nothing eternal about capitalism. It is a fairly new system historically and hopefully we will usher it out one day. But expecting it to collapse under its own weight or because of peak oil is ill advised. Such catastrophism—that harrowing external forces will bring about changes that we have lost faith in our own capacity to achieve—lends itself to bad politics: to the limited, sometimes desperate, actions of the few, and the paralysis of the many.

Fear and fear-based politics, do not tend to serve the left in the way that they serve the right. The idea of a cleansing catastrophe flows naturally from reactionary politics. The right thrives on fear. And it has a simple solution for the alarmist scenarios that it is constantly invoking: scapegoat the “enemy”—whether immigrants or other easily targeted populations—and demand authoritarian fixes. These do not work for the left (nor should they). Fear tilts right. Leftists enter into fear mongering at their peril.

A new beginning emerging from a fiery end has been predicted countless times before. In 1844, the followers of American Baptist preacher William Miller sold their possessions in anticipation of the return of Christ. What did not, in fact, follow is known as The Great Disappointment. It is unlikely that the aftermath of the 2012 apocalypse will leave such a mark. Who remembers now the rapture predicted on May 21st of last year? Or the follow-up, “corrected” date of October 21st? But it should remind us nonetheless of the limits of catastrophist avenues for social change–and the need to go about constructing our own real collective ones, drawing on our collective strengths, not our weaknesses.

Sasha Lilley is a radio broadcaster, writer, and coauthor of Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, published by PM Press. ... 1122258581
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:26 pm

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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:32 pm

Two excellent reads there, WR and AD. Thanks. I had a taste of each and will finish them off tomorrow, but I liked what I saw so far. But now, it's time to celebrate life a little....if you catch my drift.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby wallflower » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:05 pm

I'm a lurker, but want to step out of that mode briefly to express my gratitude to the posters here.

The essay by Katherine Acosta that Carol Newquist links to is good in so many ways. It's great how cooly Newquist rebuts Orlov, at least for me her critique is much stronger for that. Indeed, while I read what Orlov and James Howard Kunstler have to say, I'm often put off by their chest thumping. I'm sure I don't get all of what John Michael Greer has to say, but his careful and analytic style, like Newquist's, is stickier and makes me think longer and harder.

I also read Vinay Gupta. A recent post Patriarchy, colonialism and intersectionality: a definitively unpopular analysis? bothered me not just as an unpopular position, but what seems to me a lack of rigor in Gupta's reasoning. Oh wow, I'm one to talk about poor reasoning! But I want to try to explain a little bit.

Recently I read a paper by Paul Rabinow and Gaymen Bennett A Diagnostic of Equipmental Platforms (It's a PDF). In it Rabinow and Bennett quote Max Weber:

It is not the ‘actual’ interconnections of ‘things’ but the conceptual interconnections of problems which define the scope of the various sciences. A new ‘science’ emerges where new problems are pursued by new methods and truths are thereby discovered which open up significant new points of view.”

Rabinow and Bennett are concerned with the "production of actual practices" as that's what "equipment" is for. I found it very useful that they were clear to distinguish "the actual interconnections of things" and "the conceptual interconnections of problems."

Gupta writes:

Two axioms, clearly stated: biological evolution is real and our basic outlines are more-or-less correct. Second axiom: therefore, any model which does not cleave closely to this biological basis is worthless.

Okay I agree with him. But I found myself antsy when he began to ascribe certain behaviors to instinct and just shutdown reading when I came to the "rape gene." The biggest problem with Vinay Gupta's essay for me was he wasn't being careful to distinguish between actual interconnections of things and the conceptual interconnections of problems as Rabinow and Bennett do. And frankly Gupta's conceptual interconnections seem so poorly drawn that it's hard to give them credence as the biological basis he believes must underlie his model.

I'm a older white American guy, so "bias" is my middle name. I think that bias plays a big part in Gupta's notions about biology, but I doubt that critiquing his biases are the best way to uproot his mistakes. I think better to critique the conceptual interconnections he puts forth. Alas, that's really hard, and I'm not quite up to the task.

One of the great strengths of Acosta's essay is that she doesn't just take Orlov's Hutterite example and raise the ante with her Haudenosaunee example. She makes an effort to relate the interconnections of Haudenousaunnee men and women with the conceptual interconnections they share, such that these conceptual interconnections play out among the Haudenousaunnee and are able to inform and change actual practice among white people; e.g. the influence on early women's rights activists.

We're all trying to figure out how to proceed and lots of us have a hunch that the "dominator" culture is a problem not a solution. I do pay attention to both Vinay Gupta and Dimitry Orlov because they have a lot to say that seems relevant. But when they turn to strong patriarchal models it's contrary to the hunch, more like my conviction, that the dominator culture is what we've got to turn away from.

I tend to agree with Acosta that Orlov doesn't relate well to criticism. In my experience Vinay Gupta is much more receptive.

Recently Naomi Klein said that in re the climate change crisis she takes hope from the Idle No More movement:

And so I’ve taken a huge amount of hope from the emergence of the Idle No More movement, because of what I see as a tremendous generosity of spirit from Indigenous leadership right now to educate us in another narrative. I just did a panel with Idle No More and I was the only non-Native speaker at this event, and the other Native speakers were all saying we want to play this leadership role. It’s actually taken a long time to get to that point. There’s been so much abuse heaped upon these communities, and so much rightful anger at the people who stole their lands. This is the first time that I’ve seen this openness, open willingness that we have something to bring, we want to lead, we want to model another way which relates to the land. So that’s where I am getting a lot of hope right now.

Given the actual state of affairs between the First Nations and the governments of Canada and the USA, Klein's hope seems grasping at a tender reed. But if we view Native leadership, many who are women, on the conceptual interrelations they offer, perhaps hope for more imaginative practices emerging is quite substantial.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:03 am

wallflower, great comments. So much of this stems from dysfunctional thinking processes, meaning as you say, a disassociation between actual interconnections and conceptual interconnections. Of course, we know that's due to complexity. Beyond a certain level of complexity, we lose the ability, except for a few chosen savants who are generally dismissed as lunatics, to match our conceptual interconnections to the actual. This complexity is well beyond our capacity as a species, and yet this beast of an actual system continues unabated and we feed it every day (or face ostracization if we don't) even though conceptual understanding of how it all actually works is infantile at best. Enter the Egregore. ... -egregore/

The Real Meaning of Egregore

The word “Egregore” derives from the Greek word egrégoroi, meaning “watchers”, which also transliterates as “grigori”. The word appears in the Septuagint translation of the Book of Lamentations, as well as the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch. Even being derived from the word Grigori, which acquired a somewhat negative aspectation over the time, the general concept of Egregore is not evil. Gaetan Delaforge, in Gnosis Magazine in 1987, defines an Egregore as a kind of group mind which is created when people consciously come together for a common purpose.

When a group of people pray and meditate collectively towards an objective, an Egregore of protection and blessing is sent forth, as a circle of Light that shields and safeguards the objective of the prayers.

Psychologically speaking, an Egregore is that “atmosphere” or “personality” that develops among groups independent of any of its members. It is the feeling or impression you get when walking into a neighborhood that “feels different” from the surrounding area, or when visiting a club or association that has been around for a long time.

In an occult or magical context, an Egregore is the general imprint that encircles a group entity. It is the summary of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies generated by two or more people vibrating together towards the same goal; being a sub-product of our personal and collective creative process as co-creators of our reality.

An Egregore has developed to the point of attaining an independent existence as an entity itself or as an intentionally created entity, such as a servitor, that has grown in power well beyond its original design. To a non-religious practitioner of magic, an Egregore and a god, or goddess, would be interchangeable terms. To a religious practitioner, an Egregore would be just below the level of a god or goddess.

The vast majority of human beings both incarnated and disincarnated are, in one way or form, connected to an Egregore. An Egregore can be either negative or positive, depending on the level of vibration and the frequency. Most of the connections with negative Egregore come from negative contracts made with physical or astral entities in exchange of power, fame or material goods. Also, some of these contracts or pacts can come from emotional persecutions, which at some point was born of the intent to keep the victim under its dominion to the extent of various earthly and parallel lifetimes. Some of these connections can also be activated through vices, addictions and unruled sexual activities. When a soul gets committed to these types of obscure energies, there is always the tendency to lose vital energy which can result in the compromise of the monadic essence.

More at link

The idea of Egregores resonates deeply with me. Many of us know there is much more than the reality we have the capacity to comprehend at this moment in our evolutionary history. Advances in all the sciences, physical or otherwise, prove that there is so much we don't understand. Of course, through the ages, if something couldn't be explained, speculations were adopted to fill the void, and that generally came in the form of myths. Religion as we know it today was institutional codification of these myths. Anyway, back to Egregores. I believe many are drawn to Collapse because, for one reason or another, they are disenchanted and dispossessed from the dominant Egregore. This budding Collapse sub-culture, albeit unconsciously and unwittingly for the most part, is attempting to create and forward its own Egregore in response to the dominant one, but because this sub-culture is so diverse, its unconscious conjuring is weak. The only way to strengthen their Egregore is for the entire group to quite literally become of one mind and to do that they must become conscious of their effort. Once that's established, then deliberate recruitment follows. I think this is how the Nazis became so powerful. They developed a fleeting, but extremely powerful Egregore to challenge the dominant one.

We need to be extremely cognizant of this because I believe we're on the precipice of earth-shattering events. It doesn't have to be a negative outcome, although as AD's article points out, there are those who will create an Egregore based off the fear of the unknown, and an Egregore conjured in this way will most likely have horrible consequences for humanity just as Nazism did.

Kunstler, Orlov and other prominent voices in the Collapse sub-culture don't acknowledge what we're discussing here, and yet they're leading voices. That's a dangerous combination. Let the right one(s) in comes to mind.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Sat Oct 05, 2013 7:36 pm

To continue with that Let The Right One In theme as it relates to Collapse Culture, I have something that I think American Dream will appreciate considering his excellent analysis and discussion of all things Fascistic. I have been observing this budding Collapse Culture for several years now....very closely, actually, and I've spotted a trend manifesting.....a disturbing trend. It was my intuition that led me to research the issue further, and that intuition has been validated. Once you acknowledge it and become consciously aware of it, the clearer the patterns become. To preface what I'm about to post, I first want to post a quote from the article offered by AD and authored by Sasha Lilley.

Fear and fear-based politics, do not tend to serve the left in the way that they serve the right. The idea of a cleansing catastrophe flows naturally from reactionary politics. The right thrives on fear. And it has a simple solution for the alarmist scenarios that it is constantly invoking: scapegoat the “enemy”—whether immigrants or other easily targeted populations—and demand authoritarian fixes. These do not work for the left (nor should they). Fear tilts right. Leftists enter into fear mongering at their peril.

As we all know, Fascism creeps up on you, slithering its way into every nook and cranny until it busts the whole thing wide open in a blitzkrieg that no one saw coming until reviewing it from afar, in the midst of the wreckage, many years later. This is what is happening in Collapse Culture to include elements of the environmental movement, imo.

Ecofascism: lessons from the German experience by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier


For most compassionate and humane people today, the ecological crisis is a source of major concern. Not only do many ecological activists struggle to eliminate toxic wastes, to preserve tropical rainforests and old-growth redwoods, and to roll back the destruction of the biosphere, but many ordinary people in all walks of life are intensely concerned about the nature of the planet that their children will grow up to inhabit. In Europe as in the United States, most ecological activists think of themselves as socially progressive. That is, they also support demands of oppressed peoples for social justice and believe that the needs of human beings living in poverty, illness, warfare, and famine also require our most serious attention.

For many such people, it may come as a surprise to learn that the history of ecological politics has not always been inherently and necessarily progressive and benign. In fact, ecological ideas have a history of being distorted and placed in the service of highly regressive ends--even of fascism itself. As Peter Staudenmaier shows in the first essay in this pamphlet, important tendencies in German "ecologism," which has long roots in nineteenth-century nature mysticism, fed into the rise of Nazism in the twentieth century. During the Third Reich, Staudenmaier goes on to show, Nazi "ecologists" even made organic farming, vegetarianism, nature worship, and related themes into key elements not only in their ideology but in their governmental policies. Moreover, Nazi "ecological" ideology was used to justify the destruction of European Jewry. Yet some of the themes that Nazi ideologists articulated bear an uncomfortably close resemblance to themes familiar to ecologically concerned people today.

As social ecologists, it is not our intention to deprecate the all-important efforts that environmentalists and ecologists are making to rescue the biosphere from destruction. Quite to the contrary: It is our deepest concern to preserve the integrity of serious ecological movements from ugly reactionary tendencies that seek to exploit the widespread popular concern about ecological problems for regressive agendas. But we find that the "ecological scene" of our time--with its growing mysticism and antihumanism--poses serious problems about the direction in which the ecology movement will go.

In most Western nations in the late twentieth century, expressions of racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are not only increasingly voiced but increasingly tolerated. Equally disconcertingly, fascist ideologists and political groups are experiencing a resurgence as well. Updating their ideology and speaking the new language of ecology, these movements are once again invoking ecological themes to serve social reaction. In ways that sometimes approximate beliefs of progressive-minded ecologists, these reactionary and outright fascist ecologists emphasize the supremacy of the "Earth" over people; evoke "feelings" and intuition at the expense of reason; and uphold a crude sociobiologistic and even Malthusian biologism. Tenets of "New Age" eco-ideology that seem benign to most people in England and the United States--specifically, its mystical and antirational strains--are being intertwined with ecofascism in Germany today. Janet Biehl’s essay explores this hijacking of ecology for racist, nationalistic, and fascist ends.

Taken together, these essays examine aspects of German fascism, past and present, in order to draw lessons from them for ecology movements both in Germany and elsewhere. Despite its singularities, the German experience offers a clear warning against the misuse of ecology, in a world that seems ever more willing to tolerate movements and ideologies once regarded as despicable and obsolete. Political ecology thinkers have yet to fully examine the political implications of these ideas in the English-speaking world as well as in Germany.

What prevents ecological politics from yielding reaction or fascism with an ecological patina is an ecology movement that maintains a broad social emphasis, one that places the ecological crisis in a social context. As social ecologists, we see the roots of the present ecological crisis in an irrational society--not in the biological makeup of human beings, nor in a particular religion, nor in reason, science, or technology. On the contrary, we uphold the importance of reason, science, and technology in creating both a progressive ecological movement and an ecological society. It is a specific set of social relations--above all, the competitive market economy--that is presently destroying the biosphere. Mysticism and biologism, at the very least, deflect public attention away from such social causes. In presenting these essays, we are trying to preserve the all-important progressive and emancipatory implications of ecological politics. More than ever, an ecological commitment requires people today to avoid repeating the errors of the past, lest the ecology movement become absorbed in the mystical and antihumanistic trends that abound today.

More at link

It's a great and extremely important read. What you don't know, but should, can't hurt them.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:19 pm

Furthering the theme of creeping Fascism and Collapse, to include environmental Collapse, there's this link. I know, I know, it comes from a source you wouldn't think it would. I could have chosen many sources that popped up in my google search, but this one was enigmatic, so I've used it. It's highly informative, otherwise. It also underscores the confusion created with labels. This source calls people like Tanton and Colcom leftists, or at least implies it, yet others would refer to them as rightists. Which is it? It's both, or neither, wrapped in a smallpox blanket called Fascism.
Anti-Immigration Groups Founded and Backed by Radical Environmentalists and Population Control Activists

At their core, anti-immigration groups like the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR), NumbersUSA, ALIPAC and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), were founded by and to this day are backed by left-wing, population control and radical environmentalist groups. These groups were founded by population control advocate and Michigan Planned Parenthood founder John Tanton. While these groups have tried, over the past few years, to distance themselves from Tanton's radical ideas of zero population growth, it does not take much research to see substantial amounts of their funding today still comes from environmentalists and population control groups. Groups that are not friends of the GOP, nor do they share our pro-life and family values.

Cordelia Scaife MayOne of their main sources of funding comes from The Colcom Foundation. Colcom was founded by population control advocate Cordelia Scaife May. According to a report by Imagine 2050 titled, "The Colcom Foundation: Bankrolling the Greening of Hate," Colcom donated over $25 million to the Tanton Network groups, FAIR, NumbersUSA, Center for Immigration Studies and Progressives for Immigration Reform between 2008 and 2010.

"While Colcom is the lifeblood that sustains the functioning anti-immigrant movement, the foundation also supports a long list of non-Tanton groups like Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the National Park Service, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Mount Washington Community Development Corp., Allegheny Land Trust, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, Population Media Center, and beyond.
"Funding bigotry in the name of conservation is a sham, especially with the approval of so-called environmentalists. Those of us interested in actual solutions to climate change and environmental degradation should be aware of this reprehensible overlap of funding, as this overlap just further underscores why we must take a stand against the greening of hate."

Yes, it seems even environmentalists think Colcom has gone too far. Last week, the LA Times looked further into May and her Colcom Foundation. While May died in 2005, her legacy of anti-population growth lives on through the foundations efforts to expand birth control and abortion while blocking much needed reforms to immigration (legal and illegal).

"Today, May's influence is stronger than ever. Her Pittsburgh-based Colcom Foundation has been the single-largest donor to the anti-immigration cause, providing more than $76 million over the last decade to groups that now are fighting to block immigration overhaul efforts in Congress.

In hyperpartisan Washington, most immigration opponents focus on beefing up border security and blocking any path to legal status for immigrants in the country without authorization.

May was driven by other concerns.

'Her worry in life, almost, was population control,' said horticulturist George A. Griffith, a longtime friend. 'I think she would stay awake at night just worrying about what would happen' to the environment from too many people.

'She loved animals almost more than people,' Griffith said."

May's concerns about population growth led her to become an avid supporter of Planned Parenthood. According to the LA Times article, May kept a portrait of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger in her living room. Sanger was a believer in stopping large families, particularly in the black community. It is said by some that Sanger is responsible for "Black Genocide" as a result of the abortions of millions of black babies.

Clearly these groups do not represent the conservative values of life and family. Nor do they represent the conservative views which support free market economies. So why then, do conservative and strongly pro-life groups like the Eagle Forum not only listen to these Tanton Network groups like CIS and FAIR, but promote them in their meetings and communications?

Republican groups should send a clear message that we do not support the bigoted messages of hate from these groups. Particularly when that hate is backed by radical environmentalism and population control groups like Colcom.

Recently the Clear Lake Tea Party hosted an immigration debate which included Dr. Stephen Steinlight from the Center for Immigration Studies, one of the groups funded by Colcom. We have got to stop promoting these people and here's why. Following are segments from a speech Steinlight delivered last year in Sugarland at a conservative group meeting. Listen to the bigotry in his message and ask yourself why any self-respecting conservative organization would want to listen to this garbage. This speech was so hate-filled, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who had been asked to stay and listen to Steinlight, walked out of the meeting about halfway through Steinlight's speech.

Steinlight has tried to counter the claims of support from these radical groups like Colcom, but a recent report from Colcom's own website continues to list their major support of his very organization. And the LA Times article claims that about half of FAIR's $5.6 million in annual contributions comes from Colcom.

I would ask my fellow conservatives and Republicans to look closely at the message from these groups. We must realize where these messages come from. They come from an agenda to suppress population growth and promote radical environmentalism. These are anything but conservative organizations.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby bardobailey » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:29 pm

Here is a link to the latest updated article from Guy McPherson at Nature Bat's Last: ... nd-update/

If you investigate each of his points through other sources, I think you might find the entire issue of survival strategies made convincingly moot. Free up some time and energy for more fruitful endeavors.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Sun Oct 06, 2013 8:35 pm

Thanks for that link, bardobailey. McPherson's Nature Bats Last was going to be one of the stops in this conversation, and what an interesting stop it will be.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:21 pm

Alright, continuing with this theme about the current culture that surrounds Collapse, Nature Bats Last and Guy McPherson are about as severe as it gets. McPherson has calculated that the human species will be extinct by 2032. Yes, he has put that date on it. I bet you didn't know that.....that you only have less than twenty years left. For some who are older, maybe that doesn't make a difference for you, but for the younger ones who post here, like 8bitagent, I'm sure it's disconcerting news to know that he's slated to perish when he's 54, or earlier. That quote from Sheltering Sky comes to mind. It all seems so limitless.......not according to McPherson and his brethren though. According to them, We're Done. I chose the following link to reveal the extent of the budding cottage industry of Collapse Katherine Acosta referred to earlier in this discussion. Collapse have to love it...everyone wants in on the Collapse Dollar (hat tip to Bill Hicks).

Guy McPherson: We're Done

British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) is well known for his views on monetary policy. The printing-press approach he forwarded is widely used today, especially as the world-wide Ponzi scheme nears its end. My favorite line from Keynes: “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

As I pointed out in this space a few years ago, I concluded in 2002 that we had set into motion climate-change processes likely to cause our own extinction by 2030. I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. And then, shortly thereafter, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time. Like Pandora with her vessel, I retained hope.

No more. Stick a fork in us. We’re done, broiled beyond We're Donewishful thinking. It seems we’ve experienced a lethal combination of too much cheap oil and too little wisdom. Yet again, I’ve begun mourning. It’s no easier the second time.

As always, I’m open to alternative views — in fact, I’m begging for them, considering the gravity of this particular situation — but the supporting evidence will have to be extraordinary. By the way, irrationally invoking Al Gore doesn’t count as evidence. Ditto for unsubstantiated rumors about global cooling. A small dose of critical thinking might be required, rather than the ability to repeat lines touted by neo-conservatives and their owners in the fossil-fuel industries.

Before you launch into the ridicule I’ve come to expect from those who comment anonymously from a position of hubris and ignorance in the blogosphere, I invite you to fully consider the information below. I recommend setting aside normalcy bias and wishful thinking as you peruse the remainder of this brief essay. (While you’re at it, go ahead and look up the word “peruse.” It probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. I’ll make it easy: Here’s a link to the definition.)

We know Earth’s temperature is nearly one degree Centigrade higher than it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. And 1 C is catastrophic, as indicated by a decades-old cover-up. Already, we’ve triggered several positive feedbacks, none of which were expected to occur by mainstream scientists until we reached 2 C above baseline global average temperature.

We also know that the situation is far worse than indicated by recent data and models (which are reviewed in the following paragraphs). We’ve known for more than a decade what happens when the planes stop flying: Because particulates were removed when airplanes were grounded, Earth warmed by more than 1 C in the three days following 11 September 2001. In other words, Earth’s temperature is already about 2 C higher than the industrial-revolution baseline. And because of positive feedbacks, 2 C leads directly and rapidly to 6 C, acidification-induced death of the world’s oceans, and the near-term demise of Homo sapiens. We can’t live without life-filled oceans, home to the tiny organisms that generate half the planet’s oxygen while comprising the base of the global food chain (contrary to the common belief that Wal-Mart forms the base of the food chain). So much for the wisdom of the self-proclaimed wise ape.

With completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as will be obvious when most of the world’s planes are grounded. Without completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as described below. Joseph Heller, anybody?

I’ve detailed the increasingly dire assessments. And I’ve explained how we’ve pulled the trigger on five positive-feedback events at lower global average temperature than expected, while also pointing out that any one of these five phenomena likely leads to near-term human extinction. None of these positive-feedback events were expected by scientists until we exceed 2 C warming above the pre-industrial baseline.

My previous efforts were absurdly optimistic, as demonstrated by frequent updates (for example, here, here, and here, in chronological order). Yet my frequent writing, rooted in scientific analyses, can barely keep up with increasingly terrifying information about climate change. Every day, we have more reliable knowledge about the abyss into which we have plunged. Consider, for example, the International Energy Agency’s forecast of business-as-usual leading to a 6 C warmer planet by 2035. Malcolm Light, writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, considers one of the many positive feedbacks we’ve triggered in one planetary region and reaches this conclusion: “This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.”

Please read that sentence again. Light is a retired earth-systems scientist. As nearly as I can distinguish, he has no hidden agenda, though he believes geo-engineering will save us (an approach that would take several years to implement, and one that we’d almost certainly FUBAR).

Forecasts by the International Energy Agency and the Arctic Methane Emergency group match the recent trend of increasingly dire assessments based on collection and interpretation of more data and increasingly powerful models. If these forecasts are close to accurate, we’ve only a requiem to write for human beings on Earth.

It’s time to modify Keynes’ famous line thusly: “In the short run, we’re all dead.” For those of us living in the interior of a large continent, much less on a rock-pile in the desert, I’d give us until 2020 at the latest. Carpe diem, reveling in the one life we get.

What, then, shall we do? As I contemplate the shackles we’ve created for ourselves, the words of Albert Camus come to mind: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” In terms of action, I hardly know what that means for me, much less for you. But I encourage any and every act of liberty and rebellion, particularly as the world burns.

I’m often asked why people living in industrialized nations shouldn’t relent to hopelessness and party like hedonists as the world burns. My typical response is to ask how our lives would be different if we suddenly starting acting like hedonists.

I know, right? A bitter pill to swallow. If we get enough people to subscribe to Nature Bats Last and McPherson's message, we'll be putting out auto-cremators all day long and saving people from jumping off cliffs and blowing their brains out. We won't have time to kill people overseas we'll be so busy killing ourselves. Talk about the end of hope. I thought Obama was the end of that, but McPherson tops him. Of course, he couches this certitude with the admonition that we should use this news to go out and be happy. No joke. Except his followers don't do that. No, they prefer to camp out in his comments section and bicker and whine and moan and tell everyone you're going to burn, burn, burn and there's going to be massive gnashing of teeth and it's going to be The Road....and name it, it's going to be that bad. They prefer to wallow in fear and loathing at Nature Bats Last and none of them see the irony.

Now, here's what worrisome about this message and the behavior and attitude it's inculcating. If the PTB know how bad it is, and we have to assume they do, then population reduction can be voluntary, or it can be involuntary. Which do you think we'll get? I'm going with the involuntary....but skillfully managed....and this is one way to come in the back door and get people to accept their fate for killing the planet. If you review the commentary at his blog, imo, it's crawling with intelligence socks and it has all the characteristics discussed in the previous article about the Fascist Eugenicist funding of this message. It's no coincidence, imo, that McPherson and his sock puppet congregation lay the blame squarely on Over-Population even when McPherson pens an excellent essay about getting to the root of the problem here:

You probably recognize this symbol, though you might have forgotten its name: √

When I write the symbol on the whiteboard in a class, and ask what it is, the response is invariable: “The square root.”

I respond, “Yes, its function is to take the root, including the square root or any other root. But what is it called?”

Extended silence ensues, followed by, “The square-root symbol.”

I lead the abundant laughter.

“Really? Nobody took math in junior high?”

Nervous laughter.

“I’ve insulted everybody here within the first minute of our meeting,” I say. “Now that that’s out of the way, we can proceed.”

Long pause before I give away the answer: “It’s called a radical.” Another long pause before I reveal the point of this exercise. “It’s called a radical because it gets at the root. That, by the way, is the definition of radical: of or going to the root or origin.”

I use this anecdote to introduce myself to the class. I’m a radical, I point out. And, whereas this culture has convinced most people that a radical is a bad thing, similarly to anarchy, it’s actually not a bad thing, and it’s different than most people believe.

On this topic, the words of H. L. Mencken resonate with me: “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”

A good citizen driven to despair. That sounds about right. A few excerpts demonstrate the point:

The perfect parrot was the perfect pupil …. As students in grammar school or in high school we seldom question the truth of any statement. Instead, our concern was to get each phrase exactly as the teacher or textbook stated it …. Imagine the effect of years of such training on the developing mind. The habit of mental conformity becomes almost ineradicable. I was merely one of generations of victims. How many teachers suggested to us that the established order was not all that it might be? Even the possibility of change was hinted at only vaguely. We were not rebels. We were not pioneers. We were not even enthusiastic or devout copyists. We were mere discs on which the language of our generation was cut. At certain intervals, called examination periods, we were expected to reproduce this language, word by word and paragraph by paragraph.

The American Way was not based on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but upon the determination of business men to hold down wages and push up profits. The American Way was designed to make the rich richer while it kept the poor in their places.

Meanwhile the war makers, whose profession is wholesale destruction and mass murder, had taken over control of the United States and its policies, were writing the words, calling the tune …. The United States of my youth was slipping from under my feet and vanishing from my sight. The Mayflower Covenant, William Penn’s charter of love and good human relations, Thomas Jefferson’s Bill of Rights, the Constitution of 1789 which as a schoolboy I had learned word for word, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural had become obsolete scraps paper …. We had begun beating our plowshares into swords and our pruning hooks into spears, transforming tools into weapons and techniques of destruction and murder.

Where did I belong? How could I classify myself? Was I a Don Quixote, tilting ineffectually at windmills? Was I crazy and were my stand-pat conservative fellow citizens sane? Was I alone sane and they all off the track?

This world I saw was not at all to my liking. It was a world in which the destructive forces clearly had the upper hand. I had been taught to believe in the possibilities of well-being for every individual and the probability of social improvement. I found myself in a world hell-bent on its own destruction.

I live in the United States only because my post of duty is there …. I am ashamed of any connection with the oligarchy which presently misgoverns, exploits, plunders, and corrupts the United States and the world.

As an individual, I continue to do what I can. I go about, talk, and write in the face of ignorance, inertia, escapism. I believe there is a growing awareness of the crisis and the gravity of the menace hanging over humanity. There is also a growing awareness that the crucial decision has been made and that the process of vaporizing western civilization is well under way …. My personal contribution is increasingly a form of foreign aid — a contribution to fellow citizens whom I seem not to know. They are a people without history, misled, deluded, inexperienced, baffled. They are people who are turning more and more away from reason and foresight to instinct, emotion, and pathetically desperate efforts to escape a fate that is closing in around them as a fog envelops a ship at sea.

With increasing awareness of the real situation there has grown up in me a conviction that I should do something about it. I have tried talking, writing, speaking, lecturing, and have been bypassed and ignored by my fellow Americans. I continue to do what I can, at every opportunity. I have spoken my lines as I have thought them out and learned them. I continue to offer my help to my fellow Americans as one would offer help to a drowning man who every moment is being carried farther away by an irresistible current. I offer this aid gladly, hopefully, anxiously.

Like the Ancient Mariner, I am saying to preoccupied passersby: you have chosen and are following a path that leads to your destruction and probably to the destruction of hundreds of millions of your fellows. I have advised, opposed, warned, decried, denounced. You continue on your way to perdition. You rush on, unheeding. I continue to warn. You do not look and do not listen. You do not see the infinitely rich possibilities of life, lying unused at your feet. You go your own way — the way that millions of humans have gone before you, lured and corrupted by the glass beads and printed calicos which civilized societies offers to its devotees.

I have turned my back on the American Oligarchy, the American Way of Life, and American Century, the American Empire, western civilization. The entire chain of civilizations have brought a little light, learning, joy, and hope to a very few human beings while multitudes lived and died in darkness, ignorance, misery, despair. I have turned my back on this short-sighted, opportunistic acceptance of that which is, because I am convinced that we could reach out, create, touch, and grasp a better life and make it ours, if only we would put forth the effort.

I have burned the last bridge which connected me with the American Way of Life because I am convinced that the ideas, devices, techniques, and institutions of civilization have been tried time after time and found wanting. They are superfluous and obsolete because better ways are already in being, available to any who will turn their backs on the past and face the future hopefully, confidently, creatively, and conscious of the need for concerted, radical action.

I say farewell to western civilization. With no shadow of regret I try to dismiss it from my life as I try to dismiss any other unsavory, painful memory.

My separation from western civilization and its ways is almost as complete as my separation from the civilizations of Rome and Egypt. I continue to live in the United States, the power center of western civilization because this is part of my assignment, but I have no more sympathy with it or concern for it than an emissary of the United States has in a precapitalist areas of equatorial Africa or South America. The emissary lives in the midst of backwardness, but is not of it. This is exactly my feeling about my relations with the United States, in which perforce I must live.

Who could have imagined in the early part of the century that after a brief foreign sojourn I would return to these shores and find large sections of Los Angeles, Detroit, and Washington smoking ruins, sacked, and looted? Who could have foreseen the mounting drug addiction among the population, the vicious crime waves, the riots, the police ferocity? Each time I asked myself, incredulously, can this be home?

The affluent, drugged, debauched, corrupted, polluted, deluded nation is a country I never envisioned in my youth. It is an alien and hostile land. When I return to it I cannot say happily, “I am going home.” Instead, I must gird myself and prepare to return to a foreign and none too pleasant habitat.

No thoughtful person can face the facts of present-day life without realizing the terrible urgency of the situation. It is the dawning of this realization that is largely responsible for the tidal wave of protest, disruption, and destruction that is presently sweeping over the planet. The reaction is more evident among young people. They have their lives ahead of them. The parents, members of the previous generation, are more inured to the situation. Most of them never had it so good.

Man disturbs and upsets the balance of nature. Nature retorts by restoring the balance. From childhood to man’s estate we construct dams and dykes. Before we turn our backs nature is undermining and breaching. Water is again running downhill. Nature is tireless, persistent, implacable.

Teaching is my job. Teaching, in its largest sense means searching out the truth, telling it to all who are willing to learn, and building it into the life of the community. Truth is often unpleasant, annoying, and unpalatable to those who hold a disproportionate amount of worldly goods, who are power hungry, and who are pushing a cause to the detriment of the many. So they try to avoid truth, to cover it up, to forget it. It is the job of the teaching profession, of which I have been a lifetime member, to keep on uncovering the truth, reminding the rich and powerful of its character and its significance, bringing it to public attention, and arguing that it be made the cornerstone of local, regional, national and planet-wide public life.

I have had the rare privilege of being present, and of assisting slightly, at the death process of one social system and through the early stages of the development of an alternative pattern of human society. If this were all that life had granted me it would be a lifetime well spent. I am grateful for the opportunity and hopeful that my fellowmen will carry on to victory in the perilous fight, taking fuller and fuller advantage of the infinite possibilities for creative experiment and persistent improvement.

The preceding words, like those of Mencken, resonant with me. They were written by Scott Nearing and published in 1972 in his autobiography, The Making of a Radical. He was 89 years old at the time. References to his youth and to the early part of the century offer his perspective from the early 1900s.

A full century later, I am afflicted with a form of radicalism similar to that which plagued Nearing. I am ignored or disparaged when I point out the actions taken to prop up an empire in decline, including unprecedented military actions in the Middle East and northern Africa.

Too, I am ignored or disparaged when I point out the obvious signs of human-population overshoot and the likely near-term results, as well as the root causes of overshoot. The calls increase in number and tenacity when I point out the seemingly obvious need to destroy industrial civilization, the system that is driving to extinction several hundred species each day while making us sick, driving us to insanity, and killing us while we further human-population overshoot and the despoiling of our only home.

Imagine this scenario: You walk past a house every day. In the house, an old man kills 200 human babies as you stroll by. What shall you do? The response to which I’ve become accustomed: You walk past the house, plugging your ears to the screams and closing your eyes to the sights.

It’s not a hypothetical scenario, and it’s far worse than I’ve indicated. It’s not merely 200 human babies this old civilization is killing every day. It’s 200 species. In other words, it’s genocide. The majority responds by wishing this omnicidal system will continue forever. A slim minority wish it will end, thereby leaving habitat for humans for another few years. Vanishingly few people are motivated to the type of action that might preserve life, including habitat for humans.

How radical are you? Do you love life? Are you willing to fight for it?

So, as you can see, in this essay McPherson clearly states Population Overshoot isn't the root of the problem. To me, it necessarily follows that focusing on population to rectify this issue is treating the symptom, not the root of the problem.....but, of course, it doesn't matter because we're all dead by 2032.....yet his congregation keeps harping about it as though something can be done yet they lambast any one who disagrees for whatever reason. It's actually quite bizarre, but also disturbing for the reasons I've stated. Also, in the article about Fascism creeping into Collapse Culture, the following was mentioned as a characteristic telltale sign or fingerprint:

In most Western nations in the late twentieth century, expressions of racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are not only increasingly voiced but increasingly tolerated. Equally disconcertingly, fascist ideologists and political groups are experiencing a resurgence as well. Updating their ideology and speaking the new language of ecology, these movements are once again invoking ecological themes to serve social reaction. In ways that sometimes approximate beliefs of progressive-minded ecologists, these reactionary and outright fascist ecologists emphasize the supremacy of the "Earth" over people; evoke "feelings" and intuition at the expense of reason; and uphold a crude sociobiologistic and even Malthusian biologism. Tenets of "New Age" eco-ideology that seem benign to most people in England and the United States--specifically, its mystical and antirational strains--are being intertwined with ecofascism in Germany today. Janet Biehl’s essay explores this hijacking of ecology for racist, nationalistic, and fascist ends.

The part in bold is noteworthy because discussions at McPherson's blog invariably devolve, or evolve, into this spiritual/mystical theme, and then there was this from the previous article about Cordelia Scaife May (The Colcom Foundation):

'Her worry in life, almost, was population control,' said horticulturist George A. Griffith, a longtime friend. 'I think she would stay awake at night just worrying about what would happen' to the environment from too many people.

'She loved animals almost more than people,' Griffith said."

This characteristic is very much prevalent at McPherson's blog. It's clear he prizes animals over humans and this message is amplified by the congregation. Keep in mind, he is a self-avowed sociopath. He has clearly stated he is incapable of, and lacks the capacity for, empathy. He has stated he had to teach himself empathy. You can't teach empathy. You can fake it. But if you don't have it, you don't have it. Also, he doesn't sleep....he's stated this, and he suffers from cluster headaches. Watch this video from the Age of Limits conference this past Spring in Western Pa. Notice all the inappropriate laughing....especially McPherson's almost sinister, sneering laughter. A sociopath comes to mind. It's all a big joke, isn't it?

And is it me, or is Orlov stoned out of his mind with his comments about nukes and what they might do with them? I think he was serious. WTF? This guy's a leading voice of this subculture? It's truly bizarre.
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Carol Newquist
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby bardobailey » Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:23 pm

Interesting take on McPherson's message. First you mistake McPherson's message for the wide-ranging comments he receives on his blog. As if he is responsible for the back and forth of the crowd, then, you mistake McPherson's personal asides for the science that he clearly cites for all of his informed opinions. Would he receive further condemnation from you if he admitted to not liking brussel sprouts? I'm disappointed, but not surprised.
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Re: Collapse Culture

Postby Carol Newquist » Wed Oct 09, 2013 10:44 pm

I'm disappointed, but not surprised.

I suggest if you truly believe you have less than twenty years left, you don't go out of your way to be so disappointed and maybe a little more surprised. Or do you really not believe it? I don't think you do. I don't think any of them do, neither McPherson or his followers. They don't believe it for a second. But they like to feel self-righteous. And sorry, but at a blog that small with that many limited comments, yes, his message includes that of his closely guarded commentariat. With a message such as his, why does he even have commentary, especially when the commentariat says the same thing every day, day in and day out like prayers in church? I mean, it's case closed as far as he's concerned...or at least that's what he asserts emphatically. Time to shut the doors and go home.....meaning disconnect. Sitting around talking about it, if you truly believe we're gone in twenty years, is an abject lesson in futility.
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