Of late I have, at last, begun to act in accordance with my stated beliefs and intentions — spending more time in beautiful natural places, and composing creative works (poetry, music, games). Spending less time reading (and writing) non-fiction, especially online. Doing and thinking and talking less, and seeing and being more. I’ve always been a slow learner, but I think I’m finally ‘getting’ what I have been writing and talking about for nearly a decade now (this blog passed its 10th anniversary in February).
It’s curious how, when we have a breakthrough in our thinking that transforms our worldview and our belief systems, we live in a state of considerable cognitive dissonance for a while (a long while in my case), during which our ongoing actions and our new beliefs are very much at odds. Many of us talk about changing the work we do, changing our relationships, changing our whole way of being in the world, long before we do it. For some, the change never comes — there are too many excuses for continuing the old behaviours even though the cognitive dissonance is obvious to everyone. Both of Pollard’s Laws apply here.
I expect to keep blogging at my current miserly pace of a few articles a month, because it’s my way of keeping track both of my own evolving ideas and of how our civilization’s collapse is unfolding. But my real energies now are focused elsewhere. I expect to publish some of my creative work here, though music and games are less well-suited to a blog than what I have been producing. In accordance with my desire to ‘play’ more (since that is as close to a purpose for my life as I’ve found), I want to perform my creative work (poetry, stories, songs, and perhaps plays and films and some new vehicles that don’t really have a name yet), and I want to learn and help others learn (especially young people) through playing games (face-to-face, not online). I want my creations to be more social, more interactive, more collaborative, more physical. I’ve even started to paint.
How, I’m wondering, might we create such stuff together, instead of as such solitary pursuits?
. . . . .
I wanted to give a shoutout to two groups that were kind enough to repost some of my recent blog articles (their reposts engendered a lot more discussion than the original articles did): Generation Alpha (Ben Pennings) and Actions 4 Sustainability (John Strohl and David Cameron).
PREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S COLLAPSE
Collapse Isn’t Coming, It’s Underway: About a year ago, collapsnik blogger and architect escapefromwisconsin posted an article that suggested past collapses weren’t recognized as such until much later, and then went on to catalogue reasons why collapse is already upon us. Reading this a year later is enough to make you shudder — the situation is much worse today. So what happens if we acknowledge that the complete and permanent collapse of our economy, and ultimately our civilization culture, is already well underway? The same thing that happens when we acknowledge that the sixth great extinction of life on the planet actually began with the invention of the arrowhead and the commensurate slaughter of all the world’s great mammals. Nothing. There will come a tipping point at which, like the first declaration in 1932 that the economy was in the midst of a global Great Depression, a large enough proportion of the population will acknowledge that our civilization is done for, that we will start acting accordingly. Those of us who realize this now will find no solace then in saying “I told you so”. (Thanks to Seb Paquet for the link, and the one that follows.)
The Five Stages of Collapse: This is the title of Dmitry Orlov’s new book (available for pre-orders). It’s reviewed on Dmitry’s site by Carolyn Baker, who’s worked with the Transition movement on their “heart and soul” initiative. The five stages of collapse (which Dmitry correctly predicted in the fall of the Soviet Union, and which he sees happening at different rates and in different ways in different places) are as follows:
- Financial collapse: Faith in business is lost. Banks go bankrupt. Savings and net worth disappear.
- Commercial collapse: Businesses go bankrupt. Currencies collapse. Trade collapses. Shift from commercial ‘trade’ economy to barter and then to Gift Economy.
- Political collapse: Governments go bankrupt. Power devolves to local levels by default, and this leads to power struggles. Communications systems collapse.
- Social collapse: Trust in others is lost. Communities struggle, as charities and other local groups exhaust resources and squabble. This is because “the sort of community that stands a chance post-collapse is simply unacceptable pre-collapse: it is illegal, it is uncomfortable and it is unsafe. No reasonable person would want any part of it.” Those who had power before collapse fight fiercely and desperately to hold on to it.
- Cultural collapse: Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. Civilization collapses.
The Collapse of Meaning: Dark Mountain co-founder Dougald Hine writes about the extent to which our sense of ourselves is caught up in our work, which for most means our employment. We depend on it for our financial security, our sense of identity, and our direction for what we should do (next, in the short-term, and for the rest of our lives). As economies collapse, unemployment soars, and young people despair of ever getting a foothold in the work world, more and more of us are having to find financial security, identity and direction from something else than a career as an employee. He suggests that many will, as a result, face a crisis of meaning at the same time that, or even before, they have to face the crises of large-scale economic, energy or ecological collapse. Perhaps how most face this crisis will show us something about how we will face the larger-scale crises to follow.
The Road Down from Empire: John Michael Greer describes the ongoing collapse of the US economy, and the denials and ‘hopeful’ reactions of various factions in that country that prevent any meaningful steps being taken to deal with it. He advocates the personal actions of using less of everything, becoming less dependent and acquiring critical competencies and skills in preparation. But like most collapsniks he acknowledges that these actions will not be enough to prevent the “fall of empire”. Excerpt:
As the costs of empire rise, the profits of empire dwindle, the national economy circles the drain, the burden of deferred maintenance on the nation’s infrastructure grows, and the impact of the limits to growth on industrial civilization worldwide becomes ever harder to evade, they face the unenviable choice between massive trouble now and even more massive trouble later; being human, they repeatedly choose the latter, and console themselves with the empty hope that something might turn up. It’s a common hope these days. I’ve commented here more than once about the way that the Rapture, the Singularity, and all the other apocalyptic fantasies on offer these days serve primarily as a means by which people can pretend to themselves that the future they’re going to get isn’t the one that their actions and evasions are busily creating for them. The same is true of a great many less gaudy fictions about the future—the much-ballyhooed breakthroughs that never quite get around to happening, the would-be mass movements that never attract anyone but the usual handful of activists, the great though usually unspecified leaps in consciousness that will allegedly happen any day now, and all the rest of it.
Environmental Melancholia: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A lovely article by Carolyn Raffensperger describes the unbearable sense of grief that those of us aware of the accelerating damage we are doing to this planet, and the consequent accelerating suffering of creatures (wild and domesticated, including humans), are now living with. Thanks to Anne Proudfire for the link. Excerpt:
The moral injury stemming from our participation in destruction of the planet has two dimensions: knowledge of our role and an inability to act. Our culture lacks the mechanisms for taking account of collective moral injuries and then finding the vision and creativity to address them. The difference between a soldier’s moral injury and our environmental moral injuries is that environmental wounds aren’t a shattering of moral expectations, but a steady, grinding erosion—a slow-motion relentless sorrow.
Environmental lawyer Bob Gough says that he suffers from pre-traumatic stress disorder. Pre-traumatic stress disorder is short hand for the fact that he is fully aware of the future trauma, the moral injury that we individually and collectively suffer, the effects on the Earth of that injury, and our inability to act in time. Essentially pre-traumatic stress disorder, the environmentalist’s malady, is a result of our inability to prevent harm.
Burning Up: A new Shell report forecasts that by 2030, thanks to the Tar Sands, fracking and other goodies jointly brought to us by Big Oil and corrupt corporatist politicians, we will be burning 15% more oil, 26% more coal, and 46& more methane (“natural gas”) than we are now — more than enough to put us into 6C catastrophic climate change by mid-century. This assumes our exhausted economy can afford to pay for its very high extraction and end-user costs. Either we will hit Peak Oil when we cannot afford the cost of new production, or we will burn up from the consequences of affording it. Or both.
State-Wrecked: A Reagan advisor admits, in a NYT op-ed, that the economy is collapsing. His argument is dismissed by a progressive Cornell prof, but not because he doesn’t agree with the prognosis, but because he disagrees about whether and how it can be ‘managed’. Both have made long strides in their thinking, but both have a long way to go to move past the second denial.
Why We’re All Addicted, and How to Live With That: Gabor Mate is a hard-working physician who learned about addiction by working for years in Vancouver’s grim Downtown East Side, and who has become notorious for promoting the ingesting of the plant ayahuasca (with appropriate professional guidance) as a means of facing your true self and moving past addictions, trauma, and stress-related chronic diseases (including the one I suffer from, ulcerative colitis). He’s a brilliant speaker and the people I’ve met who’ve worked with him hold him in the highest esteem. If you’re curious, here’s a presentation he made in Vancouver; here he is answering questions about the use of ayahuasca, and here’s an audio interview with him (if that’s not enough, there’s tons more on his website). My notes from his presentations, in case they’re of any use:
“Clues” to understanding and overcoming addiction/trauma/chronic illness:
1. It’s important to try to attain (a) a high level of self-awareness, (b) acceptance of and compassion for the self (self-love), and (c) courage to look at what actually is, without denial.
2. It’s useful to disidentify the self from the experience (you are not “an addict” or “a survivor”, those are merely your experiences); in this he quibbles with the labeling of the 12-step programs.
3. Beware of being addicted to being ‘on’ (i.e. being admired, successful) and hence the inevitable withdrawal caused by the egoic mind when experiences of that abate. Even when your experiences are positive you are not your experiences, and your experiences keep you in your addiction.
4. It is in the structural nature of the egoic mind to want, to crave, to get temporary relief and then to want again — we are all addicts, constantly ‘sold’ suffering and scarcity and isolation by our culture, creating an addiction to ‘self-ishness’; every addiction starts with pain and inevitably ends with pain.
5. ‘Attachment’ in addiction terminology is craving and holding on in an unhealthy way to transient pleasure; but in psychology ‘attachment’ is healthy connection to parents — the less you had of the healthy attachment (connection) as a child the more you will have of the unhealthy attachment (addiction) as an adult and vice versa.
6. All (negative) emotions are to some extent evidence of the fundamental experience of being disconnected from the core of your being, your essence.
7. It’s important to accept your pain and remain vulnerable — that pain is the ‘real’ you trying to wake you up and show you the path to reconnection and the need to let go of your egoic mind.
Radical Conservation: Brian Fey is the director of the Bosque Village in Mexico, a combination forest permaculture project and intentional community. In this candid and disarming video, he explains the idea of creating an intentional ‘village’ with more decision-making and living autonomy than most intentional communities offer (while still sharing and centralizing resources as much as possible), the challenges of finding compatible residents and coping with eager but time- and resource-sapping volunteers, and the idea that the key to sustainability now and in the future is “radical conservation” — reducing the human footprint by using the absolute minimum amount of resources of all kinds and leaving as much of the natural life of the area as intact as possible, while still engendering a joyful and comfortable community life. More on his work here. Thanks to Seb Paquet for the link.
One Day Everything Will Be Free: A different community but with a remarkably similar set of underlying principles to Brian Fey’s is Haiti’s Sadhana Forest, also in substance a combination of a forest permaculture project and an intentional community. Sadhana is the subject of an upcoming documentary film by Joseph Redwood-Martinez that I’ve had the privilege of viewing an advance copy of. The film is called One Day Everything Will Be Free and is an immersive experience, with gorgeous photography and no prescribed message. It drops you into the village where you can hear comments, both critical and supportive, about the issues they are facing. The community is an experiment in progress, with a long-term vision but no NGO-type time-fixed goals. Watching the film is like being in the village, as a new volunteer walking around getting oriented, left to make your own decisions. It’s a remarkable achievement, and if you’re a member of a film club or transition or permaculture group you can host a screening and have Joseph call in for a Q&A session with your group by Skype. Thanks to Michel Bauwens for the link.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
graphic from the other 98% (thanks to David Hodgson for the link)
Politicians Cede Drafting New Laws to Corporatists: For those not familiar with it, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a cabal of right-wing multinational corporate executives and right-wing politicians, whose role is to draft legislation that furthers corporatist agendas and introduce it in each US state and nationwide (and even internationally). Armies of corporate-funded lawyers do the dirty work for ultraconservative politicians. Here’s the scoop on what these influence peddlers are doing now. Thanks to Sam Rose for the link.
The War on Terra: Biting look from Juice Media at what the governments of Canada and Australia are doing to contribute shamelessly and disproportionately to climate change. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link. More seriously, in the NYT, Thomas Homer-Dixon summarizes the Tar Sands disaster, and Tar Sands Blockade works around the media blackout of the recent horrific Exxon Mayflower Arkansas Tar Sands spill.
How the Rich Pay No Taxes: A massive international investigative project by the ICIJ that involved poring through mountains of leaked documents has revealed the astonishing extent to which the rich and super-rich around the world use secret accounts and offshore tax havens to avoid income and wealth taxes. Thanks to Seb Paquet for the link.
What is Actually Going On in Iceland and Venezuela: We progressives like to point to these two countries as alternative models to corporatist-dominated western governments. But maybe they are not such good models after all. A progressive in Iceland, and the New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson writing Hugo Chavez’s obituary, suggest that we are not likely to find alternatives to our collapsing global industrial economy there, or perhaps anywhere. (And no, I’m not going to take sides in the debate about Anderson’s journalistic integrity.)
Homeland Security and Drones at the Canadian Border: I cross the US border quite regularly, and every time I do it’s with trepidation. Ever since learning about Canadians who were arrested on false information and sent to foreign torture prisons, I wonder what risks I take entering the increasingly foreigner-hostile US. Most Americans I know are welcoming and generous, but what’s happening at the Canadian border is scary. As Todd Miller reports, experiments with drones, surveillance and ever-increasing numbers of multiple types of security forces, all gorging on the endless and absurd budget increases the US government doles out for “security” (that has done nothing but make the US less safe), are continuing with increasing fervour, and in a legal limbo that makes the situation there largely lawless, and border justice arbitrary.
Avian Flu Update: So far there are 16 confirmed deaths and millions of birds slaughtered in the recent outbreak of H7N9 avian flu. So far the virulence and transmissability of the new strain seem to be low. But as long as industrial agriculture continues, the billions of cruelly confined antibiotic-laden birds in factory farms are a vector for disaster, and sooner or later we’ll see a pandemic that will, at least for a few years, dwarf all of the other issues facing us.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
cartoon by arnie levin in the new yorker
The Words We Have Inherited: Niigaan Sinclair responds to a racist editorial by the publisher of the Morris (Manitoba) Mirror newspaper. It’s a beautiful, articulate, disarming response. Thanks to Chris Corrigan for the link.
Being Afraid of the Wrong Things: Jared Diamond explains that we should be more focused on statistically real dangers to our health and safety — showers, stepladders, staircases and slippery sidewalks — and less on statistically insignificant risks like terrorists, robbers and armed strangers. Thanks to Sue Bullock for the link.
The Big Electron: A mash-up of Bill Hicks and George Carlin musings on the wonder of life, by melodysheep. Thanks to Paul Chefurka for the link.
Contronyms: These are words that have evolved two opposite meanings: sanction, oversight, left, dust, seed, stone, trim, cleave, resign, fast, off, weather, screen, help, apology, bill, bolt, buckle, clip, consult, continue, custom, enjoin, fine, finish, garnish, handicap, lease, liege, overlook, peer, rent, sanguine, scan, splice, table, temper, transparent. Be careful when you use them!
Shaggy Dog Story: In California, a blind stray Husky was ‘adopted’ by a stray terrier, and when they were captured on the streets, they’d become inseparable.
THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
From Ralph Waldo Emerson (thanks to Jeff Mincey for the link):
Nothing is more disgusting than the crowing about liberty by slaves, as most men are, and the flippant mistaking for freedom of some paper preamble like a Declaration of Independence, or the statute right to vote, by those who never dared to think or to act.
From Jeff Mincey:
The odds are that in the course of your life, someone you know by the name parent, friend, lover, or spouse will project their own dreams upon you — often in the name of having your best interests at heart. Or they may genuinely have good intentions, even as they nonetheless advocate in behalf of their own agenda for how you should live your life. Either way, resist. Hold fast to your dreams, for they are yours. To consider the advice or counsel of others is fine; but never let anyone talk you out of your dreams.
The time has come to stop allowing the clutter
to clutter my mind like dirty snow,
shove it off and find clear time, clear water.
Time for a change. Let silence in like a cat
who has sat at my door neither wild nor strange
hoping for food from my store, and shivering on the mat.
Let silence in. She will rarely speak or mew,
she will sleep on my bed, and all I have ever been
either false or true will live again in my head.
For it is now or not, as old age silts the stream,
to shove away the clutter, to untie every knot,
to take the time to dream, to come back to still water.
In our Western society materialism has become so all encompassing that we have no clue as to any alternatives, since our foundation, our psychology, our spiritual leanings have all been contaminated by materialism. We have no way to relate to things other than materialistically. The New Age phenomenon is very much a materialistic approach; in fact it is a thinly disguised system of conquest applied to what we perceive as the spiritual. In so many cases, our thirst for meaning, our need for fulfillment, can only manifest in terms of wanting to appropriate more “stuff.” In the New Age this means appropriating the spirituality of other cultures because we are so impoverished and have squandered our heritage and fatally polluted it with our materialistic attitude of conquest and ownership.
From Stuart Malcolm Scott, on Presence:
The act of noticing I am not present is an opening to presence. Admitting I didn’t understand something. Admitting my mind wandered momentarily and asking somebody to repeat. Admitting I am stuck and don’t know what to do next. These are ways of allowing myself to be without defenses. And for me, to be defenseless is to be present.
From Daniel Quinn, on Unschooling, from his book Providence (thanks to Tim Bennett for the quote):
Our entire program [Compulsory Schooling] is based on this argument: “We know kids learn effortlessly if they have their own reasons for learning, but we can’t wait for them to find their own reasons. We have to provide them with reasons that are not their own. This doesn’t work, but it’s the only practical way to organize our schools.” … How would I organize the schools? To ask this question presupposes that we must have schools, doesn’t it? … We know what works for children up to the age where we ship them off to school: Let them be around you, pay attention to them, give them access to as much as you can, let them try things, and that’s it. They’ll take care of the rest.
From Tim Minchin (from his animated short film Storm):
Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex wonderfully unfathomable world? How does it so fail to hold our attention that we have to diminish it with the invention of cheap, man-made myths and monsters?
From Hafiz, 14th century Sufi poet (thanks to Seb Paquet for the link):
The small man
builds cages for everyone he knows,
while the sage,
who has to duck his head
when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long