An Objective is Not a Strategy

Sometimes I just can’t resist writing a rant. I should know better. I blame my conditioning.

thanks to Indrajit for the link to Stephen’s chart

One of the saddest signs of the west’s intellectual and cultural decline over the past half-century, I think, has been the obvious drop in critical thinking skills, especially among our so-called “leaders”. Part of this is probably due to the decline in the quality of our educational systems. And as we now live in a world where media purport to do our thinking for us and tell us what we should believe, instead of actually giving us information that allows us to think for ourselves, so another contributor to our cognitive decline is a simple lack of practice.

One of the manifestations of this decline is an inability to understand what strategy is. Strategy has always been, since we first emerged from the primordial soup and began to use our brains, the specific means by which we achieve our goals and objectives.

So, if we have a squirrel’s brain (not too hard to imagine if you look at our current crop of “leaders”), you learn, mostly by watching other squirrels, how to defeat the squirrel baffle of the bird feeder. And you learn, mostly by trial and error, how to hide the food you find so that you can find it again later and so that other animals cannot.

One of the key elements of a strategy is deciding what you will not do to try to achieve your goals. The squirrel understands that repeatedly, unsuccessfully, leaping up the bird feeder base and trying to crawl around the baffle does not work. But if you look at the political and military activities of most western governments, it becomes quite clear that this element of strategy — not repeating activities that have never worked and fail disastrously every time — seems to entirely elude their thinking processes.

Central to this failure, I think, is our dim-witted leaders’ inability to distinguish an objective from a strategy. In fact, these “leaders” frequently use the two terms interchangeably, as if they meant the same thing. You even get mangled expressions like “strategic objectives”, which is a non-sequitur.

So we have leaders who assert that their strategy is “to defeat terrorism (or defeat fill-in-the-blank currently designated enemy)”. This is an objective. It is not a strategy. It does not say, step-by-step, how they plan to achieve this objective, or what they are going to stop doing in order to reassign the needed resources, time and money necessary to achieve it.

There is, apparently, a simple reason for their confusion between objectives and strategies. It is this: They have no strategy. They are so muddleheaded and infantile in their ideologically-clouded thinking that they believe that, somehow magically, stating an objective is all that is needed, and everyone will know precisely what to do and how to do it, and then do it. And achieve the objective.

We’ve all seen how well this has worked. The brain-dead group-thinkers in the “leader’s” entourage will generally decide the first step in this (non-)strategy is to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money. So money is “allocated” (see an example of that in the chart above) to “achieve the stated objectives”. In other words, they write cheques — to defence contractors, foreign governments, the CIA, oligarchs, mercenaries, consultants, bureaucracies and other people and groups over whom they have neither control nor oversight — since oversight would mean employing regulators to do real jobs, and that would be very unpopular with taxpayers of all stripes.

That is their “strategy”. Write cheques and hope the recipients know what to do with the money and that they share the stated “objectives” of the government (rather than just pocketing the money and using it to their own ends).

Unfortunately, the corporate czars and military leaders and foreign governments and CIA etc who receive this largesse are just as clueless about the whole process of strategy as the western governments writing the cheques. The endless and unmitigated litany of disasters of western foreign intervention in political, economic, social and military affairs of foreign nations over the last 50 years is evidence of this.

There is no strategy, only objectives. Assign someone, tell them the objective, give them resources, let them figure out the strategy. Reward them if they accidentally happen to achieve the objective. If they fail, since there is no strategy, no Plan B, just console them and hope that they learned from their failure and that the next time will be less of a disaster. Or, even better, find some third party (ideally some competitor who can be branded evil and/or insane, though “bad luck” or “the economy” or even “the weather” will also serve in a pinch) to blame for the defeat, call a carefully-rehearsed press conference to portray the debacle as a success, declare victory and close the books on the matter. Mission accomplished! (No, don’t get me started on “missions” and “mission statements”!)

The same thoughtless thinking pervades, in my experience, in corporate boardrooms, especially in larger corporations. Their “leaders” likewise don’t develop or refine strategies, they set objectives (often called “stretch targets”) for subordinates. This is a task that could easily be done by AI, and probably much better. Meanwhile when innovators arise and render the company’s product obsolete, or the product or service becomes unpopular (usually for good reasons), the “leaders” can’t be faulted (“our employees failed to achieve our targets”) so they continue to get their million dollar bonuses, and tell their subordinates to cut staff and costs.

The same is becoming true in almost every sphere of human endeavour. Look at the climate conferences, packed with earnest delegates. Again and again they set targets. The targets are ill-defined, largely unmeasurable, and mostly ludicrous at the outset. Only by cooking the books are they ever achieved (eg by offshoring your manufacturing and not counting the ‘climate cost’ of imports in your domestic emissions calculations). And there is no strategy for achieving them, and so no one to hold accountable when, inevitably, they are not achieved.

There is, however, one thing that western “leaders” are actually quite competent at doing, including the development of strategy for doing it. And that is propaganda.

We have decades of experience (in politics, in economics, in advertising and marketing and PR and “image management”) successfully convincing citizens that what we do and produce, and how we live, are unparalleled, the best in the world, and unprecedented in history — worth every penny. Now that we have outsourced everything to China (to achieve the “strategic objective” of reducing costs, apparently), propaganda is now substantially the principal “product” we produce in the west.

Our skill at doing this is now so well-honed that we can convince our citizens of pretty much anything. You know, like the fact that the writing of cheques in the amounts shown in the chart above is a “sound investment in protecting our democracy and freedom”.

The strategies for doing so are quite brilliant. They include, for example, enabling the mainstream media to shrink to a tight oligopoly and then bribing them to dutifully stenograph government press releases as “news”, in return for “exclusive scoops” from government and CIA insiders. They include hammering on racist and xenophobic tropes over and over, using fraudulent “evidence”, to convince the vast majority of western citizens that China is a serious threat to world order and democracy, though nothing substantive has changed since 20 years ago, when a vast majority of western citizens viewed China “favourably”. Now that’s a successful strategy.

It is an indication of the sorry state of our societies and economies that lies are the main commodity we now produce, and that a host of skilful, targeted, practiced lying techniques are our most successful strategies in most of what we do. Most of the cost of everything from breakfast cereals to decongestants is the cost of convincing you they’re worth buying.

Doing things well requires competence. When you no longer have that, you have to learn to lie skilfully and repeatedly. And to lie low when the truth comes out. But you’ll probably be lucky, and people will have forgotten what it was all about by then. (“Nord Stream? What was that about again?”) And then you can take the revolving door back into power, and start your spiel all over again, with a new, valiant-sounding objective.

Just don’t let them force you to talk about strategy.

Posted in How the World Really Works | Leave a comment


This is #22 in a series of month-end reflections on the state of the world, and other things that come to mind, as I walk, hike, and explore in my local community. 

image above from the wild human initiative

I never really thought of myself as belonging to any particular tribe. Some might say I’ve actually made a bit of a fetish of not belonging. With a few rare exceptions, when I move (homes or jobs), I have almost no further contact with those I’ve left behind. I’ve certainly been perceived as belonging to particular tribes over the years. But the feeling has rarely been mutual. My relationships with tribes have always been mostly transactional — you do this for us, and we’ll do this for you. And then I move on. Having a poor memory for most things helps.

This old ape body took me on three trips this week. In doing so I passed through and was acknowledged by several tribes, or at least the vestiges of tribes — groups of various sizes whose members seemingly felt a deep sense of closeness and affinity for each other. Mostly couples, families, some friends and workmates. But mostly these groups passed each other as if the other group was invisible, or even in another dimension.

It’s strange to me that in our modern, horribly overcrowded world, we have almost entirely lost our understanding of what community is, and how important it is. So we have fallen back on our tribes, which are mostly, among adults anyway, little more than extended families. We may claim to be part of “communities of practice” or “communities of interest”, but by any normal definition “community” is a misnomer in these contexts, much like the misuse of the term “friends” in social media. It’s all make-believe belonging. We have no real skin in the game. Real community is born of necessity, and most of us just don’t (at least yet) perceive any necessity to belong to one. Too much work, hassle and responsibility. Family is hard enough as it is.

So as this ape body trudges off to the local theatre, it passes by and among several tribes, small groups of people walking and chatting, but this body is hardly noticed by them, and vice versa. There is no shared language, no shared culture. I have absolutely no idea how these people live, what they care about, or what keeps them awake at night.

Perhaps my distress at that, my longing to appreciate my neighbours and understand what they think, and what they think about, stems from my sense that we will likely soon all be living in a world of global precarity, necessitating that we learn to build and sustain community together with the people who happen to be living around us when the SHTF. As we slide from Everything Falling Apart into the Age of Chaos that we’re now seeing increasing signs of, most of us are not going to have the luxury of choosing our community.

Now this ape body has arrived at its destination for the evening — “our” local “community” theatre. This evening’s audience, for a comedy/mystery play performance, is almost entirely old, native English-speaking, and white. As someone who meets that description, I am warmly welcomed. I know the rules of these tribes — the customs, the rituals of old theatre-goers. It’s as if I’m being welcomed home, at least for the evening, but there is something ornery in me that resists that welcome. These are no more my tribe than the groups I passed on the way here, speaking languages I do not know, who are clearly not in this theatre audience tonight. Their tribes are meeting elsewhere.


The following evening, this ape body, restless, walks to my favourite local café. The café is under new ownership, but they’ve kept the old menu, and already they know me well enough that they smile at me, nod and wave hello, and start to prepare my “usual” beverage as soon as they see me. But, unlike where I previously lived on an overwhelmingly anglophone island, they call me “sir” instead of by name, though they see my name on the receipt every time I visit, and clearly know it.

As usual, there are at least four languages being spoken in the café. We are all members of different tribes of apes, at least transiently, and, thanks to the model of the Koreans, Chinese and Persians who make up half of this suburb’s population, we have learned to be unerringly polite and gracious to each other. Here, you don’t just get into an elevator and stare at your shoes and ignore everyone else in the elevator. But despite the niceties, and our physical proximity, we are not fellow tribe-members. Separated by single walls in our adjoining apartments, moving along shared walkways and roads, we nonetheless live in separate worlds.

Our city, and this suburb, are often described as “cosmopolitan”, which means “world citizens”. But we are not that. We have been thrown together, mostly by economic circumstances, into crowded spaces in which we awkwardly co-exist. To be a world citizen, you’d have to be able to speak the language and appreciate the culture and history of your neighbours, and we cannot.


Two days later, this ape body makes a trip to the ocean shore, for some errands. We* take the train, and watch as the complexion of our fellow passengers changes several times, reflecting the complexity of our tribal cohabitation. The buildings look mostly the same from the outside, though their inhabitants do not. Each is, it seems, an unlocked prison cell that its occupants have been conditioned from childhood to think of as “home”, or “work”, or some “third place”.

In ancient, real communities, I suspect no one would mistake the places or the ways we now live for “home”. This is not how creatures that are truly connected with each other, belonging to both a shared place and to each other, would ever live. Or, for that matter, where they would ever live.

It is as if all the cages in a zoo or circus have gradually been opened, and each uneventful trip from the nest to the feeding station to the performance stage and ‘home’ again is rewarded with a treat, until the tigers and the ducks and the horses and the bears just ignore each other and make their way, as they’ve been trained, until the cages can be left open and the animals forget that there was once some instinct to live differently from the way they are now conditioned.

I remember, on Kaua’i, seeing the feral cats and the baby chicks sleeping together in the bushes by the ocean, the cats indifferent, since they had never learned that birds might be food, and the chicks serene, having had no experience of a cat attacking them. Even the chicks’ parents accepted this strange order of things, grateful for the odd-looking baby-sitters that kept their offspring warm and dry. Amazing what wild creatures, and domesticated creatures, can get used to. When the good samaritans came around to take the unspayed kittens to be fixed (and then released), and to feed the spayed ones, the kittens seemed cautious to see food that was just left out for them, not in a familiar can.


When I first started imagining the humans I met (and myself as well) as being nothing more (or less) than domesticated apes, similarly to how I would imagine domesticated cats, dogs or horses, it was unsettling. But why should we perceive ourselves as different from other domesticated creatures in any practical sense? We domesticated ourselves — each other — before we started to domesticate other animals. We are no more or less biologically suited to live in cities than the animals we keep as “pets”.

Many years ago, our daughter used to bring her two dogs over to visit us when we lived on a large, hilly, fenced lot in the country. In addition to taking them for walks, we would let our dog Chelsea out into the fenced yard with her two dogs to run around and explore, which they seemed to enjoy. But one day we just couldn’t find them anywhere. Finally, we did. They had dug out a small den in the side of one of the hills — a project that must have taken hours, perhaps over several visits — and the three dogs were there, rather scrunched up together in the dark inside. But they seemed quite comfortable and proud of their work, and we had to bribe them with treats to get them to come out.

Years later I watched a short, moving film called Parked (unfortunately no longer available online) by Bowen Islander Sylvaine Zimmerman about how the homeless men (they are almost all men) who spend the night in Stanley Park work together to create safe, dry places in the park where they can sleep, and look out for each other, taking turns on watch duty. My mind immediately flashed back to those three dogs holed up in their self-made den. We are domesticated, but we can revert to feral practices when we need to. The dogs were a tribe. The men were a tribe. They knew. They “remembered” what tribes are for, and why they’re important. That is who we are, behind the clothes and the language and the technologies of buildings and automobiles. Holed up in our unlocked prison dens, safe with our tribe. At least for now.


No one is in charge of this unfolding, this chaotic struggle for safety, for survival, for meaning, this collapse of an entire global civilization, Everything Falling Apart, as it inevitably was going to do.

There is no one to blame. And there is no one to credit for this civilization’s accomplishments, or the achievements of any of its members. The fix was in, millennia ago. This is always how it was going to turn out. We have only ever, always, done the one thing we could possibly have done under the circumstances of the moment, given our biological and cultural conditioning. This is not good or bad. It is just how it is.


What will we be like after civilization’s fall, without the trappings and prostheses of this strange, unnatural “civilized” culture that lets 8 billion of our species survive, as long as we all allow ourselves to be domesticated, constrained, obedient to laws and other abstract artifices, unknowingly imprisoned, and bereft of the joy and wonder of being the wild, free creatures we evolved for millions of years to be? [Sorry, that’s a very long sentence. I think I need an editor.]

My sense is that this brief, 30,000-year-old civilization, characterized by endless, horrific violence, abuse, trauma, sociopathy and mental illness, has been a brief aberration in a billions-year-long stretch of biophilial, mostly peaceful coexistence with the rest of life on earth. I think this because, from what I have learned, that biophilia seems to be the only recipe for healthy survival of a complex diversity of life, and it seems hard wired in almost all life forms.

I think violence and stress were, before civilization, rare and short-lived phenomena, and, most importantly, not prevalent or chronic enough to engrain hatred and trauma in those who had to cope with it.

So, after the Long Emergency, a few millennia from now, if there are any humans left, my guess is that they may be unrecognizable to us as ‘humans’. They will, I hope and pray, not have the affliction that we have — the illusion of self and separation and ‘consciousness’ and superiority. Despite that, they will be more alive than we can ever hope to be.

And, while still being capable of healthy fear and anger when it is needed, they will be incapable of hatred, of depression, of debilitating anxiety, of shame or jealousy or cruelty or sociopathy. They will, I hope and believe, not see themselves as individuals at all, but rather understand themselves to be just a part of the whole, of everything. That will make them no less competent, no less capable of wonder and sorrow, and no less able to evolve and adapt, than our arrogant, benighted species.

One of Einstein’s most famous quotes is:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

I don’t think that task will be accomplished while Everything Falls Apart, and while we are afflicted with our endlessly-traumatizing sense of self and separation.

But a few millennia from now, if we survive, that task will be, I think, our destiny.

*I suppose it’s an affectation to describe this body and my self, seemingly inseparable ’til death us do part, as plural. It’s not a ‘royal’ “we”. Since I came to the startling realization that ‘I’ am not my body, nor am ‘I’ in control of it, I can’t help thinking of us as two. Not very non-dual of me, I know.

Posted in Creative Works, Month-End Reflections | 1 Comment


The financial success (and even survival) of so-called “social media” depends utterly on one thing. No, it is not ‘eyeballs’. It is advertising dollars, spent by corporate ‘managers’ gullible enough to believe that ads on social media platforms are anything more than an annoyance and a complete waste of money.

Advertising, PR, marketing and similar forms of capitalist propaganda are, I am convinced, a total con game. The people in these ‘businesses’ are, after all, by the very nature of their work, con artists. Their patsies are ‘consumers’ — that is the term they use to reduce human beings to what Jerry Michalski famously defined as “a gullet whose only purpose in life is to gulp products and crap cash”.

Their con is to convince ‘consumers’ that the garbage they are hawking is worth buying at the usually absurdly excessive prices (thanks in part to the costs of overhead, largely advertising, PR and marketing costs, and inflated executive salaries) they are hawking them for. And to convince ‘producers’ (their real customers) that spending huge sums of money on advertising, PR, marketing, branding, promotion etc is not only a good use of their money, but an essential one.

They will of course roll out vast dumps of carefully-selected data to ‘prove’ this is the case. They will show a correlation between more ad spending and increasing revenues, except when they can’t, in which case they’ll make up some excuse that is not their fault and exclude the data that shows their con for what it is.

In the pseudo-sciences of management and economics, these kinds of self-reinforcing con games are commonplace. Executives get obscene salaries and bonuses when they have the good fortune to hold their positions when profits are rising, even though any kind of rigorous study would quickly demonstrate that this is almost entirely coincidence, and that in most cases executives actually contribute less to corporate profits than the people on the front lines who actually do all the important work. (In fact, when they get into complex deals like mergers and acquisitions, they consistently destroy far more ‘value’ than they create.)

Likewise, economics is based on popular theories that come and go, and has absolutely no rigour underlying it at all. Here’s Biden’s whack-job economist Janet Yellen talking about her economic ‘theories’, justifying her cabal’s decision to endlessly jack up interest rates on those already buried in unmanageable debt, in order to deflate the economy and cause a spike in unemployment:

Unemployment serves as a worker-discipline device because the prospect of a costly unemployment spell produces sufficient fear of job loss.

I am sure that this depraved indifference to human suffering is not based on any personal experience of the agony of crushing debts, unemployment, and economic precarity. It’s just a theory, an opinion, and in the pseudo-sciences, you can always find ‘data’ that supports your group’s theory or opinion.

And so it is with the whole racket of advertising, PR, marketing etc. When your job is to con people, you get very good at it, or you don’t last long in the business. You even get good at conning yourself, especially if you surround yourself with other con artists and let groupthink do the rest.

The citizenry of our countries are not, despite what many pundits would have you believe, mindless idiots. Of course, under the horrific stresses of our modern world, we will sometimes buy things for therapeutic rather than ‘rational’ reasons. But those reasons have substantially nothing to do with advertising, PR, and marketing.

Of course you cannot buy something if you do not know it exists, but that’s a minuscule part of the hawkers’ con game. Most of it is packaging, window-dressing, and, most importantly, barefaced lying about the product’s ‘benefits’. And we can all get conned, once, by a carefully-contrived set of lies. But then we will never buy that product or service again, and will warn others not to buy it either. (This is why advertisers are so terrified of online ratings by purchasers, and why they work so hard to discredit, sabotage and manipulate them.)

So after the con has worked, and there’s an initial jump in revenues before the public catches on to the con, and revenues slump. But by then the hucksters have folded up their whiteboards and flipcharts and moved on to the next campaign. And they’re ready to tell gullible corporate ‘management’ that perhaps a new expensive campaign is needed to restore the volume and lustre of their overhyped and now-discredited product.

This keeps going on for a reason, and that is that it serves everyone’s purposes. The advertisers keep their jobs. The executives justify hiring them and spending money on the con, which justifies their own existence. If profits aren’t high enough, the executives use their oligopoly power to jack up prices. If that causes revenues to plummet because ‘consumers’ have no money to spend, banks will open up their purses to lend them more. And if they’ve reached their credit limit, well, “it’s the economy stupid”. Not our fault. Maybe need a new advertising campaign to get sales back up?

This is not an evil process, and the people who keep it going are not evil, just mildly sociopathic, as anyone who gets into the con game really has to be to stay in it. They’ve been conditioned by each other to be that way; it’s not a character flaw. We can all be sucked into it. You can find similar vicious cycles of absurd, useless and even destructive behaviours and rationales in just about any sphere of human activity (in politics especially). It’s the same self-reinforcing process that produces mobs, gangs, rogue cops, corrupt governments, oligarchies, prison camps, military atrocities, and genocides. All just doing what we’ve been conditioned to do, with the best of intentions. Vicious cycles of unsustainable systems in various stages of accelerating collapse.

Even if enough of us were to shake off our stupor to realize that the hawkers have no clothes — that all this money spent on the con accomplishes nothing sustainably except to increase costs — then nothing much would change. There’d be growing unemployment in the cons’ ‘industries’, and most of the cons would probably gravitate to a different con (likely ‘management consulting’). Costs of products and services would briefly drop, as the cons struggle to get reintegrated into the ‘cost of business’ in some new role. (Imagine everything re-priced to what are now called ‘no-name’ prices in the grocery and some other industries.) But those cost savings would be quickly appropriated by the oligopolies to jack up profits, since they need to perpetuate annual double-digit profit growth to keep the Ponzi scheme called the ‘stock market’ going a bit longer.

But what about the ‘businesses’ and ‘industries’ that have nothing of any value to sell except the con of advertising? Like the new oligopoly of ‘social media’?

Well, they would of course try to institute transaction fees, subscription fees and other ‘user fees’ to replace the trillions in lost revenue. But MuskX has shown the futility of that brainless strategy. We don’t need some oligarch intermediating our online conversations at an obscene cost. We can easily and quickly set up and network non-profit platforms that will give us all of the benefits of ‘social media’ with none of the crap advertising and other interference in our conversations, with an annual user fee so low that it is substantially free.

Will that happen? I doubt it. There is too much inertia in the system. Too many rich and powerful people’s jobs and reputations depend on continuing the con.

Until the system collapses. MuskX is at death’s door. Farcebook and Goourgle have become sufficiently annoying and rapacious that people are abandoning them in droves. But these companies have already done immense damage to the essential structure and modus operandi of the internet, so it’s anyone’s guess whether what will follow will be a return to the bold innovation of the internet’s early days, or additional disasters sponsored by dimwitted rich and powerful narcissists, or years of chaos.

Kind of like what the future is looking like for a lot of the other collapsing systems these days. Hang on to your seats.

Posted in How the World Really Works, Our Culture / Ourselves | 7 Comments

The Need to Know

Yep, another radical non-duality exploration.

 New Yorker cartoon by the late Charles Barsotti

Many times on this blog I’ve concluded my article with the rhetorical question: Even if there’s nothing we can do about it, isn’t it at least better to know?

As an incurable asker of “why”, I have started thinking about my seemingly insatiable need to know: How the world really works. What’s really going on. Why things are that way.

Why do I want, so badly, to know?

The non-dualist’s answer might be that this is the essence of human nature. Our brains are pattern-recognizers, sense-makers, driven to assign meaning to everything, presumably because that might make us safer, and better prepared for foreseeable eventualities. But, the non-dualist would probably add, there is actually no meaning to anything. We can find patterns and meaning in what appears to be happening, perhaps even lay claim to some apparent predictability. But if the underpinnings of that understanding depend on time and causality and free will, none of which, the non-dualist would assert, actually exist, then we’re finding patterns and meaning where there actually are none.

That raises two obvious questions: Why are we so sure that the patterns and meaning we conceive to be accurate, are actually correct interpretations? And If they’re not true, why have we evolved to believe falsehoods?

One explanation that neuroscientists and others have proffered is that our brains are not particularly interested in or oriented towards the truth, but rather have evolved to enable us to make quick decisions in the absence of complete information (since complete information is rarely available). We’re going to prepare to fight, flee or freeze in the presence of that fast-moving orange thing we perceive out of the corner of our eyes, even if it turns out to be a balloon and not a tiger. We don’t actually need to know whether or not it was a tiger; what’s important for our survival is that we perceived it might be, and took appropriate, instinctive action.

The non-dualist would likely say that that’s just a story invented to try to make sense of what apparently happened, or what apparently might happen. It’s an invention, a fiction. Orange balloons or tigers may seemingly appear, and may or may not seemingly attack us, resulting in apparently real pain or even apparent death. But, they would likely assert that these are all just appearances, outside of time and without causality or any exercise of free will over the ‘decisions’ seemingly made. That’s not to make light of apparent death. It is what apparently happens. But nothing ‘we’ do changes that in any way. ‘We’ do not make decisions, merely rationalize them after the fact. Decisions are apparently made by the body. Sometimes the apparent result is death.

For a wild creature, say a bonobo, there is the seeming appearance of something fast-moving and orange, and the seeming instinctive reaction to fight, flee or freeze. That is what is apparently happening, and layering a time sequence, a sense of causality, and a decision-making process serves only one purpose — to enable the human to make sense of those apparent happenings. The bonobo needs none of it. It doesn’t need to ‘know’ anything. Even its apparent conditioning is just a story, a story that the bonobo almost certainly doesn’t care about, and doesn’t have to understand.

Of course the bonobo may, apparently, discover that using a stick to probe rotten wood sometimes unearths some delicious snacks, and to that extent we might say the bonobo ‘learns’ or ‘knows’ how to use tools. But actually, it has just been (apparently) conditioned to poke handy sticks into rotten wood. It does not need to ‘learn’ or ‘know’ or ‘reason’ any of it. It needs no conceptualization of cause and effect, and no conceptualization of time being a linear dimension in which it lives, in order to react to its conditioning. Rotten wood, handy stick -> poke. If treat happens, yay, apparent conditioning is strengthened. If not, apparent conditioning is weakened.

Encumbered as we are with wildly complex, imaginative and insatiably conceptualizing brains, we humans have come to believe that we have to know — that the cost of not knowing is severe — death, pain, suffering, loss, entrapment, or something else we label as ‘bad’. We have come to believe in time, in our selves as real, separate things, in free will, and in causality. To some extent, that is also our conditioning. But it is also the result of furious sense-and-meaning-making in our hyperactive brains, reinforced by other humans, to the point our species has created an entire ‘meaningful’ world that no other creature has any sense of or need for, and which is, arguably, a complete and mostly useless fiction.

Still, ‘I’ think it’s better to know, even if I have a strong intuitive sense that my knowledge is useless. Why? Because that is how I have been conditioned. I have been conditioned to feel anxious if there are screaming headlines and I know nothing about what is allegedly happening and what supposedly was behind it, its ’cause’. I have been conditioned to feel proud at imparting knowledge to others, and ashamed to be caught ‘ignorant’ of the ‘facts’. I have been conditioned, when dealing with people who are angry, to try to understand the cause of their anger so that at least it doesn’t threaten me, even if I cannot help defuse it. And when people I know and care about are overcome with grief, I have been conditioned to try to understand its cause so that I can be compassionate, if not empathetic.

I have been conditioned to equate knowledge with competence, and hence with reputation, reliability, status, ‘worthiness’ and even moral ‘character’. And to equate ignorance with stupidity, gullibility, and laziness.

What is seemingly loosening this desperate want/need to know in me is not so much the realization that I don’t ‘need’ to know all these things, but rather the very slow realization that I don’t and cannot know — anything. Of course I can know how to fix some of my possessions, or how to create a set of financial statements. But that ‘know how‘ is skill; it is not ‘know what‘ knowledge. It is simple or complicated conditioning through trial and error and practice and study and repetition with mostly inanimate things. All creatures acquire skills, know-how.

Our supposed knowledge — knowing what is happening, and what is true, and why (ie what led up to it, its history and context) — is likewise conditioned, and we tend to conflate and equate the two ‘knowings’. But knowing what is almost invariably complex. Complexity theorists at least admit that complex situations and systems (and almost all social and ecological systems are complex) cannot be completely known, and that what is apparently known is highly subjective. 

And there’s the rub. Only human creatures have subjective knowledge, because only our species has the bizarre conception, thanks to our imaginative and easily-conditioned brains, that there are any separate subjects and objects in the world. Other creatures have no need for this conceptual conceit. They ‘know how’ the same way we do. They have no capacity, and no need, to ‘know what‘.

And neither do we. We only think and believe we know (and need to know) what is happening and what is true. It’s just opinion, conditioned entirely by others, a making-sense in our heads that may be agreed upon with others and reinforced or re-conditioned by others. It’s a model of reality that is not reality, any more than a map is the territory. Although we humans are conditioned to believe, from an early age, that this model of a separate world with separate things, in time and space, centred around our ‘conscious’ selves, with free will and choice and control, is reality. When it’s all a fiction, make-believe, a consensus of know-nothings.

So we actually have no need to know what is happening or what is true. I certainly don’t expect anyone to be convinced of this, of course; I’m not convinced of it myself. But I now know enough people for whom it’s obvious, not just an intriguing theory, that I am inclined to believe it, at least tentatively. Meanwhile, conditioned as I am, I continue to search to know what is happening and what is true and why. Cognitive dissonance to the max.

What would I do with myself if this was seen, was suddenly obvious? Well, for a start, there wouldn’t be a ‘myself’ left to presume to do anything. Those I’ve come to know, for whom this is obvious, don’t seem to ‘do’ very much, or ‘do’ anything much differently than ‘before’ it was obvious. In that sense they seem to me a little like wild creatures, their bodies moving, mostly, between states of equanimity and enthusiasm, and doing what ‘must’ be done. Wild creatures, like us.

As this body I presume to inhabit is already lazy enough, what would it do in the case of ‘my’ seeming absence, and in the absence of the need to know stuff? My guess is that it would become even more hedonistic in its behaviour than it already is. It would pursue its ikigai pleasures — music and theatre, play, sensual pleasures, beautiful sights, clever people, creative work — even more. It would write and read for fun, not to acquire or impart knowledge. Not even to acquire know-how to equip me better for accelerating collapse, I’m afraid. Too hard; no fun. Told you I was lazy.

All this knowledge, acquired over a lifetime! The word was even in my job title at one point. Just opinion, useless sense-making, complicated models and maps pretending and presuming, absurdly, to represent reality. Make-believe.

But there’s no letting go. Even as I write this I am occasionally stopping to read ‘news’ and ‘essays’ that supposedly will make me more knowledgeable. Only when the ‘one’ holding on desperately, pretending and needing to know, disappears, will the wonderful, terrible spell of humanity’s illusory, self-made ‘reality’, and our ludicrous, arrogant sense of ‘consciousness’, be broken and fall away.

Leaving nothing. And everything. And nothing changed. And nothing known or knowable. Just what is, in free fall. Terrifying, tantalizing, impossible.

I don’t know.

Posted in Illusion of the Separate Self and Free Will | 2 Comments

Crouching Tiger

This is a work of fiction.

Many years ago, a mother tiger gave birth to three cubs, and for the first few months of their lives, the cubs lived ordinary, extraordinary, tiger cub lives.

One day, however, the mother tiger did not return home from a foraging/hunting trip. The cubs were lost, not knowing what to do. They tried to hunt for themselves, but didn’t have the skills or experience to do it well, despite their intuitive knowledge. They lost weight and struggled. But then one night a group of people came, crated them up separately, and carried them off.

One of the cubs, a female, was placed with a small traveling circus. The circus decided that she was too young to train properly, so they used her in a clown act, where the clown, pretending to be an animal tamer, would bark out orders to the cub, which, as she was completely untrained, she would ignore, racing around the enclosure to the delight of the audience. She was billed as the Holy Terror for her frenetic actions.

As she got larger, however, this behaviour was no longer as cute, so she was retrained to behave in ways that would scare the audience instead. Holy Terror was a fast learner, and quickly figured out how to avoid, and even anticipate, the ‘punishments’ meted out for misbehaviour, and how to act as a fearsome, unpredictable tiger, even though she was not.

But she missed the constant attention she got when she was younger. She now had her own cage, and had fewer visitors than before. Being alone and dependent was frightening, and so were the long road journeys between shows. Somehow she knew that tigers, when they grow up, are largely solitary creatures, but she missed her mother and her siblings, her ‘streak’.

As she aged further, the lack of exercise, the unvaried diet, and the chronic stress combined to take a toll on her health and agility. She was no longer, as her name suggested, a Holy Terror. There was some discussion about what to do with her, and finally one of the trainers came up with an idea to keep her in the show. Knowing she was very intelligent, the trainer taught her a variety of signals for two opposite actions — “pounce” and “stay”. She would be rewarded with food (and audience applause) for acting on the non-verbal signal, even when the trainer’s voice said the opposite.

The trainer explained to each audience that Holy Terror, now renamed Crouching Tiger, was actually the spirit of an ancient ninja reborn in a now-aging tiger’s body, and that he, the trainer, could communicate with the spirit telepathically. Crouching Tiger sat crouched on a high platform while the trainer held up a large card, visible to the audience but not the tiger, with the word “pounce” or “stay” on it, and the trainer then said either “pounce” or “stay” to Crouching Tiger. A reward (and applause) was given whenever Crouching Tiger did what was on the card, regardless of whether that was the word the trainer actually said to the tiger. Her furious, graceful “pounce” was from the platform onto a large stuffed animal on the floor below.

The act was a considerable success, since Crouching Tiger had been trained to obey the last non-verbal signal she saw before the trainer said either word. Seemingly uncannily, the ninja spirit ‘read’ the word on the card she could not see, unerringly, time after time. Critics tried to solve the trick, including by tying the trainer’s hands so he could not signal her, but Crouching Tiger had mastered so many non-verbal signals — foot movements, eye movements, even body posture — that she always ‘read’ the unseen card correctly. She became so skilled at reading the trainer’s body language that she hardly even needed the signal to know what was needed to get the reward.

But sadly, audiences are fickle, and even tigers with ninja spirits get old and tired, so the show became less popular, and the platform had to be lowered so Crouching Tiger could still safely make the “pounce” as required.

The circus group gathered again, and decided it was time to retire Crouching Tiger. They found a group that released wild animals that had been domesticated back into the wild for their final years, and this seemed the best solution for her.

Some of the circus members were in tears as they accompanied her to the release point. They sat with her in her cage as the animal welfare group urged her out to take her first wild steps since she’d been a small cub. “You’re free, now!” they called out to her.

But of course Crouching Tiger was terrified. What was this strange place? Who would teach her the signals she would need, now, to earn the food rewards she needed to survive? Why were they trying to get her to leave her cage, her home? She refused to budge.

Finally, her trainer stood before her, looked into her eyes, and gave a long series of subtle signals, all of which, she knew, meant “pounce”. He placed a stuffed animal on the ground outside the cage, and then, in a loud voice, called out “Stay!”

Crouching Tiger pounced out of the open cage onto the stuffed animal, and the circus team quickly closed the cage door. The trainer, his eyes full of grief, ran to the truck cabin towing the cage, and they drove away. Her new caretakers gave Crouching Tiger a wonderful meal as a reward, and made plans to slowly wean her off feedings until she could, hopefully, learn to fend for herself in her new, ‘wild’ home.

Very tentatively, Crouching Tiger wandered into the sanctuary and explored it, first checking out the periphery, which was mostly fenced, and orienting herself to her new home. There were a number of strange creatures in the sanctuary, but her instincts and sense of smell told her that they were mostly not dangerous to her. There was one creature with a strangely familiar colouring that she considered the most dangerous. It had a warm, ‘mother-like’ smell, but when she actually saw it, she didn’t recognize the wild growling creature as one of her own species. It was not like her.

Crouching Tiger quickly selected and settled into one area, sheltered in the forest, as a suitable place to sleep. Each day she would survey the perimeter of the refuge, checking out the other creatures in it, and then wander back to the entrance, where each day the refuge wardens had her dinner ready for her. And then she would watch the sunset and return to her sleeping place.

Only one part of the refuge was unfenced, and it was on the edge of a huge high cliff that overlooked the ocean. Having never seen an ocean, Crouching Tiger found this area especially interesting, and a bit frightening. She would stare down at the water, at least on days it was not obscured by fog, before continuing on her route, pacing the perimeter of this new home.

A few weeks after her arrival, Crouching Tiger awoke early. There was a heavy mist, and it was an unusually cool morning. She did her usual survey of the perimeter, and then stopped and lay down by the edge of the unfenced area, which was completely obscured by fog. And then, she rose, and stood on the precipice of the cliff. In her mind she saw and heard the signals and the words of her trainer. And then suddenly they were not the trainer’s signals and words, but her own. For the first time, there was no one to tell her what to do.

She watched her inner self signalling to her, telling her she was now the master, now the wise ninja who knew everything, who knew exactly what to do. And she listened to the voices inside her, saying, louder and louder, the words she had heard so often, but which now meant something completely different.

And then she crouched down, as those inner voices called out “Stay! Stay!”

And with a single motion of incredible strength and grace, she answered them, pouncing off the precipice and disappearing into the sea of clouds ahead of and below her.


It could have been longer, with plot developments and added drama and fleshed-out empathetic characters and clever diversions. But I have little interest in that kind of fiction, so this is what I wrote instead. Yes, the circus people conflated Japanese ninja and samurai myths with the Chinese crouching tiger/ hidden dragon idiom. No, this story is not in any way a moral statement; though it is, of course, an allegory. And yes, I’m aware of parallels between the ambiguous ending of the Chinese movie of the same name, and the ending of this story. Image is by Midjourney AI, my own prompt. Midjourney ❤️ Crouching Tiger.

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Acting Out our Collective Trauma

a card from the Group Works deck, with a bit of my own editing

Those of you who have been following me for a while, or who know me personally, know that I’m generally at least as concerned about why things are happening, as I am about the facts of what is happening.

When it comes to events as momentous and complex as wars, it is of course impossible to actually know all the facts, but by looking at the history and context behind these events, we can at least offer some conjectures about why they are happening. So what I am writing here is simply that: my conjecture about why the atrocities unfolding across the globe these days, have been and are being committed.

I do not claim to be particularly knowledgeable about human behaviour; my discoveries about human nature and human culture are all the result of armchair research, and resultant conversations, based on a deep curiosity for what makes our species tick, and in particular how we differ in our ‘psychological makeup’ from other animals.

As a result of that curiosity, I have read and studied a fair bit on the subject of trauma, although certainly not enough to claim any expertise on the subject. But when you read enough about how trauma is passed down from generation to generation, how easy it is to be triggered and reinforced, and how horrendously difficult it is to move past it, you start to get an idea of how seemingly rational humans can begin to behave, individually and collectively, in insanely irrational ways.

I have read, as much as I can bear, about the subjugation and mistreatment of Palestinians, particularly since 1948, but even before that. I have read, as much as I can bear, about the horrific crimes perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators against the Jewish people during WWII, and also their persecution before and since then. It doesn’t take much to realize that both groups have assuredly been profoundly traumatized as a result of these crimes.

What happens to people who are traumatized? They may become sensitive and easily triggered. They might try to desensitize themselves in case it recurs. They may vow to do whatever it takes to prevent it happening again. They may even become traumatizers and bullies themselves, as a fraught way of coping.

This trauma may be personal, or it may be collective. And of course those suffering from personal trauma may well inflict suffering on whole groups of people, and the sufferers of collective trauma may reinforce that trauma in each other, and inflict additional suffering on individuals ‘outside’ the group.

The result, it would seem, is what we now see in Palestine and Israel. And, though I’m less sure about this, perhaps this acting out of trauma is what we’re seeing in Ukraine and Russia, and in most of the countries in the world beset by seemingly endless sectarian violence and oppression. Although the west has attempted to rewrite the history, it was the Russians who were mostly responsible for the defeat of the Nazis in WWII, not the British or the Americans. And of all nations it was the Russians who paid the greatest price in that war — 27 million people killed, of which 19 million were civilians. A quarter of the entire Soviet population was killed or wounded in the war. If that isn’t enough to traumatize a nation’s citizens to the point they get triggered by any signs of Naziism on their doorstep, I can’t imagine what is.

You can sense the residue of this kind of trauma in the animosity that still exists in Ireland, and even in the anger in the former Confederate States of America. I suspect it was also rife among the humiliated people of the Weimar Republic between the two world wars.

This is not to excuse any of these behaviours. An atrocity is an atrocity, and a genocide a genocide. There is no excuse for it, no defending it. But things don’t happen for no reason, and that reason is almost never, as I have repeatedly argued, insanity, evil, or even simple greed. It is almost always, I think, an acting out of trauma.

Look at most of the people locked up in prisons, most of the people wasting away in city streets, and those bullying other kids on the playground, abusing family members, and joining gangs, and you will, I think, see the same pattern. Look at the people, including current and past presidents and senior officials, rejoicing gleefully in the violent overthrow, torture and abuse of declared “enemies”, and you are, I would suggest, watching the acting out of suffered trauma.

The biggest question I have pondered over the years is: Can we ever really get over trauma? Or is it something that will always consume us, and something that we will inevitably pass down, most likely unintentionally, to future generations, keeping the hate and fear alive?

My tentative conclusion is that in most cases we probably don’t ever get over it, especially when it is re-triggered by subsequent or recurrent events, conversations, media reports, and other stressors in our lives. We have long memories, and all the new media help keep them alive. And there is disturbing evidence that we carry trauma in our bodies and pass it down to future generations, so even if we don’t speak about our trauma to our children, it can infect them nevertheless.

Of course, we don’t want to hear this. It’s a hopeless prognosis. Not only are we all conditioned by our culture to think and act alike, even when those thoughts and actions (and reactions) are cruel, brutal, destructive, and inevitably make the situation worse, we are likewise conditioned by our bodies to carry and to act out the trauma of our ancestors.

This is part of the reason I am so pessimistic about our capacity to handle the accelerating ecological, economic, political and social collapse over the coming decades. It’s long been known that ‘stress kills’, but the lingering effect of stress manifested in trauma might actually ‘kill’ even more than the immediate stress of the moment does. I have argued before that the stressors of our civilization have made us all to some degree mentally ill, and I think this trauma is a significant component of that.

And this, I think, might be the upshot of the unique development of the human brain, with its long memory, and its capacity and proclivity to attach cause and meaning and intention to things that happen. That’s not to say other creatures can’t be traumatized, but my sense is that because they don’t ascribe it to malice or deliberate intent, other animals don’t ‘carry’ trauma as long or as deeply as humans do. In that sense, our brain’s evolution might be a terrible maladaptation, an evolutionary misstep that we, and our world, would have been better to have avoided.

Nevertheless, that’s where we are. As I said in my next-to-last post, this is likely only to get worse. Knowing what might be behind it, and that after all we are really doing our best, and that we are by nature a biophilial species, and that our acting out of our personal and collective trauma in horrific ways is not a reflection of our inherent nature, is small solace.

But isn’t it better to know anyway? To give the billions of humans who have no choice but to act out their conditioning, as Everything Falls Apart, the benefit of the doubt? Not to condone or excuse, but just to understand.

Thanks to Kelly Gavin for helping me think through this article, though its ideas and conclusions are my own. Kelly points out that there are some programs that have demonstrably helped individuals, including those from oppressed and vulnerable groups, to heal from trauma. I am pessimistic that such programs can ever hope to make more than a small dent in the terrible accumulated toll of personal and collective trauma being acted out in the world today. 

Posted in Collapse Watch, How the World Really Works, Our Culture / Ourselves | 2 Comments

Links of the Month: October 2023

from the extraordinary Michael Leunig

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

These are the words of the inimitable Yoda, and we see the truth of this everywhere in the world today. We all ‘know’ intuitively that Everything’s Falling Apart, and despite all the distractions, denial, propaganda, misinformation and censorship, it’s becoming pretty obvious intellectually (in our minds), as well. It’s when this realization hits us emotionally (in our hearts), that we start to become incapacitated and dysfunctional in our response to collapse. Yoda might well have added: “And suffering leads to trauma.” to his famous statement above.

When we have faced major crises in the past, it would seem that we were usually able to find a way to transcend our fear, and hence avoid some of what follows from it. (Though that may just be my sense because history is written by the victors.) But those past crises have almost all been perceived to be temporary, and overcomeable, if not for us at least for generations to follow. The current polycrisis, the collapse of all the systems underpinning our now-global civilization, cannot and will not be overcome. There is no assurance that things will ever get “better”.

And so the fear of that permanent collapse, as Yoda suggests, is now leading to chronic suffering on a mammoth scale, and hence to global trauma that is incapacitating us and rendering us all dysfunctional — just helplessly and uselessly reacting, and reacting to others’ reactions. That suffering is not only being inflicted on others, as we act out our trauma, it is being inflicted on ourselves as well.

A few days ago we lost, in Michael Dowd, a brilliant thinker and orator who warned us about all this, telling us that, in realizing the inevitability of collapse, we had to move “through the stages of grief, then beyond mere acceptance and more fully into calm, clarity, and courageous love-in-action”. I was honoured to be one of the ‘collapsniks’ he interviewed to try to put together a program to help people make that transition. He fervently believed such a transition was possible. I hope he was right.


OK, so maybe keeping temperature rise below 1.5ºC was a bit optimistic. How about we aim for 2ºC? Do I hear 3ºC?

Last rites: One of the things Michael Dowd stressed was the importance of accepting collapse as inevitable, as the first step in beginning to respond to it in a useful manner. Indrajit Samarajiva suggests some next steps: Give stuff away, write a warning, or an obit, for those who come after to learn from our mistakes, spend time with loved ones, and put your affairs in order.

Steamy September: Average September temperature was 1.75ºC above the pre-industrial average, and half a degree warmer than any previous September. “We’ve had the warmest June, the warmest July and the warmest August on record. But September has really exceeded all of the previous broken records that we’ve seen over the last few months. When I speak to my colleagues around the world, no one has ever seen climate monitoring data like this.”

But cooler ocean temps will moderate that though, right? Um, nope. Also half a degree above previous record. And hotter than average land temperature. Scientists interviewed by the mainstream media confess to being “baffled”. Perhaps the media are talking with the wrong scientists?:

And it’s not just climate change: We’ve transgressed six of nine planetary boundaries that prevent complete ecological collapse. Thanks to Just Collapse for the link.


from the Memebrary; original source uncited

Relish the gaps: A lovely ‘intermission’ essay from the indomitable Caitlin Johnstone, on lessons learned about paying attention during a visit to a nursing home.

Sounds to help you focus, relax, or sleep: A huge, free library of calming and energizing sounds to help you stay alert, and healthy. Thanks to Naked Capitalism for the link.

Getting more affordable housing built: Governments are offering tax relief, and experts suggest streamlining and speeding approval processes, training and hiring more construction workers, and subsidizing the interest rates on new developments. But why is no one talking about public housing? Just because we mostly suck at it, and governments don’t want to run it, is no excuse. Countries like Finland can show the way.

China presents a collaborative model for global development: Call it propaganda if you want, but China’s “A Global Community of Shared Future” makes one hell of a lot more sense to me than Biden’s selfish and destructive “my way or the highway” strategy.

The traumatic ‘trace’: Rhyd Wildermuth outlines a controversial theory about how traumatized people “do not need to have actually been harmed to have a memory of having been harmed, and it’s very difficult for us to tell the difference”. Not entirely sure I agree, but it’s a provocative and interesting read. If he’s right, it explains a lot about the dangers produced when “unresolved ressentiment shifts quickly to identitarian thinking”.


Manufacturing productivity index Sep/23 vs Aug/23 (50=no change); chart by Ben Norton; thanks to Indrajit Samarajiva for the link

When we think we know, but we don’t: Aurélien explains how most of the worst war debacles, including the current ones in Ukraine and now Palestine, arise when political and military decision-makers do not understand the motivations of the combatants, do not understand the underlying history and context for the situation, and do not understand how wars in the 21st century are actually fought. “So why do you think this attack took place?” “A combination of fifteen years of imprisonment and sanctions, and a sense of betrayal by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.” “But you can’t possibly say that justifies all this killing!” “We’re not talking about justifications, but explanations.” “So you refuse to condemn Hamas then?” “You asked me why I thought the attacks took place.” “Ah, you must support Hamas.”

Corpocracy, imperialism & fascism: Short takes (thanks to John Whiting for many of these links):

Propaganda, censorship, misinformation and disinformation: Short takes:

CoVid-19 the pandemic that keeps on giving: Short takes:


from John Atkinson via the Memebrary; did you catch the extra wordplay in the final panel?

The neurobiology of transexual orientation: Fascinating short video wherein Robert Sapolsky suggests there is a biological marker for trans orientation.

The process of mourning: A moving essay by Indrajit Samarajiva describes his personal struggle to mourn after his relative was murdered, so there’s no closure.

The science of cringe: Rebecca Watson explores what might lie behind our propensity to find some things unbearably cringeworthy. And in another video, she again corrects Sabine Hossenfelder, this time for Sabine’s rather reckless claim about the virtues of capitalism, pointing out that without public research and public funding, we’d likely never have made penicillin available to everyone.

The long and the shorts of it: Lyz Lenz skewers the US Senate for its kerfuffle over its dress code. And reports on how Joyce Carol Oates killed arch-conservative David Brooks for lying about his expense account.

When everything falls apart, it’s government vs government: Several municipalities in BC Canada have jacked up development fees. The idea is that future growth needs to be funded by developers, rather than the current residents. This of course denies the reality that development is a Ponzi scheme, and that future expanding development forever is essential to pay for the maintenance of the current sprawl. Without that development, municipalities would all soon be bankrupt. But the federal government, which had pledged billions to help subsidize development costs to help spur new housing development, saw through this, and is now withholding the subsidies for municipalities jacking up their development fees.

Why ‘social sciences’ are not ‘sciences’ at all: A fascinating review of the way in which research done in the so-called ‘social sciences’ is so easily prone to manipulation and misrepresentation, that it’s mostly just opinion, prettied up with selective ‘data’ to support popular but unprovable hypotheses. It’s come back to bite researchers like Dan Ariely into — you guessed it — the subject of lying.


Midjourney AI’s attempts at cubist art; not my prompt

A couple from Indrajit Samarajiva; the first on the causes of human violence,

Too often the reaction to human violence is beatings until morale improves. This is both immoral and doesn’t improve things. Most public policy about human violence ignores the connection to resources, and the lack thereof. With a dog and cat, it’s obvious that if they’re hungry, tired, and competing for resources they’re going to fight. We somehow miss this point in human animals. In modern society we have created an artificial world where humans are crammed together in spacetime (cities), resources are made artificially scarce (an economy), and competition is elevated to a virtue (capitalism). Is there any wonder that violence erupts? It’s inevitable, not from the sinful nature of man, but from the system.

and the second on the wisdom of children, animals, and the dying:

The important things simply cannot be put into words, numbers, or represented at all. I’m not saying that children, animals, and the dying are arahats [what Buddhists call perfected souls], I’m just saying that in their general not talking about this stuff, they are sages of sorts. And, in action, they are at least not awful. Given the state of the world, that’s saying a lot. These neglected philosophers of the crib, cage, and coffin, they are not mired in illusion and live closer to the moment, and thus it’s a blessing to be close to them, to feed and care for them, as one gives alms to a monk. This is what I think about all the time, surrounded by children, animals, and old people.

From Jeffrey McDaniel, in The Forgiveness Parade


In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Posted in Collapse Watch, How the World Really Works, Our Culture / Ourselves | Comments Off on Links of the Month: October 2023

Getting Used to Everything Falling Apart

Calling Palestinians “animals”, Israel’s defence minister announced a full genocidal siege against the citizens of Gaza. Western leaders unanimously supported the “response” to the Hamas attack on Israel, and the US pledged military support. Western governments announced airlifts to rescue Israeli civilian refugees, but none for Palestinian refugees. 

Over the past five years, the news has grown steadily worse — CoVid-19, ecological collapse and its extreme weather and disease manifestations, brutal wars (mostly of attrition) flaring everywhere, economic and political collapse, the abuses of extreme untrammelled capitalism, and the end of the illusions of democracy and the fair distribution of wealth. One thing after another.

Collapse is picking up speed, and there is nothing we can do about it. That’s really hard to accept, when you see its horrific consequences in all of the above events. The sense of helplessness as everything slowly (and sometimes not-so-slowly) falls apart. The feeling of everything being out of control. The fear that the loss, the poverty, the violence, the death and illness and precarity, will soon be on our doorsteps, and not just, mostly, many miles away.

My sense is that there was a time — before communications and ‘information’ media became so powerful that we can now read and view distant horrors, sometimes even in real time — when we didn’t much concern ourselves with news about things that were either happening far away, or which we could do nothing about. We weren’t expected to have an informed opinion on everything happening in the world. It wasn’t our job, or our responsibility, to know and deal with things personally that we couldn’t possibly know enough about to do so intelligently. We relied on people who we expected to know more — health and medical professionals, economic experts, diplomats, wise elders, and those with enough experience to provide nuance to their theories and to support their proposals — to take appropriate actions and to advise us to the best of their capability what we should do, if anything.

One of the consequences of Everything Falling Apart is that we no longer trust anyone, least of all governments and anyone in public service, to take those actions and to give us sound, unbiased advice. So we feel we have no choice but to “do our own research” and learn enough to make our own judgements and decisions on everything that is happening in the world, since nothing seems isolated to one place anymore.

But we really do not have a clue. The issues we are dealing with are massively complex, and no one — especially the political ‘leaders’ and experts and pundits — has a fraction of the background, experience and depth of understanding needed to even have a well-informed opinion on what is happening and why, let alone to be able to knowledgeably and competently recommend appropriate courses of action.

So those with enough power and wealth to be able to take actions that would have any impact at all on these issues, now seemingly feel obliged to pretend to understand the issues, so well that they can pontificate sensibly about events that only just happened, and which mostly were decades or centuries in the making, when in fact no one has even a basic understanding of what has happened or why.

And in many cases, in the fog of war or the confusion of the panicked moment, we can and will never know what really happened, or how, or why.

But decisive action is called for! So our ‘leaders’ draw on their superficial understanding, their simplistic models, their incompetent advisors, and the groupthink of those around them, and absurdly declare the unquestionable truth of the situation, the performative action that they are immediately taking, and what the rest of us ‘should’ think, believe, and do about it. It’s a circus act, with the clowns running everything.

It’s going to get worse. This is what collapse looks like. This is the new ‘normal’ as Everything Falls Apart. There is no ‘fixing’ the situation. This is what we, and our ‘leaders’ have been conditioned to do, all our lives. This is how humans behave in a situation of growing chaos. We cannot know what to do, but something has to be done, we think, so we do something, anything, based on the flimsiest and most flawed of premises, the most threadbare and unsupported theories, the result of which is, more times than not, to make the situation worse. Sometimes much worse, as substantially all of the political and military interventions in other countries’ affairs over the past 70 years demonstrate all too clearly.

This is the politics of the lynch mob, the economics of oligarchy and robber barons, and the philosophy of “doing anything is better than doing nothing”.

In times of chaos, doing nothing is seen as weakness, stupidity, ignorance, cowardice. Where in better times, doing nothing is often exactly the best tactic, and sometimes even the best long-term strategy. Don’t make the situation worse until it’s known more fully what the situation is and what the options are. Don’t send in the army (or equip another’s army with WMD) until you know the consequences of doing so. Don’t organize a coup until you have reasonable assurances that that won’t make things worse. Don’t deregulate unless you fully appreciate why the regulations were put in place and why there is no risk in doing so. Don’t cede control of essential goods and services to private industry unless you have a simple means to renationalize them when it’s necessary. Don’t deindustrialize your country by offshoring all your manufacturing, unless you appreciate the extreme vulnerability of such a strategy. Don’t geoengineer the atmosphere until you are absolutely sure that the consequences of not doing so vastly exceed the staggering risks of doing so.

In short, don’t fuck around when you have no idea what you’re doing. Even if you’re goaded. Even if your advisors tell you there’s no downside and everyone is on board.

This generally becomes obvious to all of us when we first try it as children, like the first time we play with matches, or mix stuff together in chemistry lab.

But in times of collapse and chaos, we feel we no longer have the luxury of inaction. That is the way the simian brain apparently works. And this is how, as the flood of overwhelming events and horrors created by industrial civilization accelerates, we have conditioned each other to respond. We have no choice. 

So we take hostages (advisors, friends, the media) and we respond to each new unfathomable (at least in the moment, without the time or effort to understand how things got to this stage) crisis, by fucking around. Take sides, send in the troops, overthrow their government, try this new chemical on our crops, tell everyone to drink bleach, throw metal filings into the stratosphere to block the sun, use the sick or the poor or the homeless as guinea pigs for this new experimental treatment. Just do something. Show you’re a person of action. It works in Hollywood!

It is easy for me to say, with my enormous privilege of birthplace, heritage, caste, circumstances, education and conditioning, that it makes more sense to confess our ignorance and acknowledge and accept the inevitability of collapse and, as much as possible, do our best not to make the situation worse. And then do our best to adapt ourselves to the ever-changing circumstances. Most of the people in the world, including almost all of our ‘leaders’, do not have that privilege, and they’re going to act out their conditioning like the true simians we all are — facing chaos with rage and fear and sorrow and distress, and doing the human equivalent of throwing rocks and feces at the supposed enemy.

So, I am not going to tell anyone that they ‘should’ ‘get used’ to Everything Falling Apart. And I’m not going to assert that my predilection for caution, inaction, hesitation, and attempted equanimity is a ‘better’ way. I’m just as much a product of my conditioning as everyone else.

But as we slide into collapse and chaos, this is what is going to take up more and more of our time and attention, and it’s going to get closer and closer to home.

Can we just ‘get used’ to that? Of course not. That is not in our nature, or in our conditioning. We humans get angry, fearful and violent when we get stressed.

And if there’s anything that we can safely predict about our precarious future, it is that it is going to be more and more stressful. And unlike Hollywood, Everything Falling Apart is going to happen unpredictably, over decades, with no heroes and no clarity about where in the Long Emergency we are each day. And no deus ex machina happy ending.

Deep breath. Here comes the next thing.

Posted in Collapse Watch, How the World Really Works, Our Culture / Ourselves | 2 Comments

Caution: Slow Learner Ahead

photo from wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

It seems to take me a while to really process things I have come to understand. There’s the initial “aha!”, and then there’s a kind of backsliding or forgetting, as I try to reconcile and integrate the new understanding into my very complicated, unwieldy, and tentative worldview. I’m not sure what that’s about, but that appears to be how this mind, this self works.

(Even now as I write these words I’m thinking: “That can’t be right; there is no mind, no self, so how can there be some understanding of how it works?” I have no idea; that’s still in the process of being worked out, and ‘I’ am clearly not in control of the process. My conditioning is messy. This whole paragraph can’t possibly make sense. Never mind.)

When I retired, I revamped the categories I used for my posts, streamlining them to just six: Creative Works, Collapse Watch, How the World Really Works, Our Culture/Ourselves, Using Weblogs & Technology, and Working Smarter. The latter two, which used to be the subject of most of my writing, have hardly been used since. Hard-coded blogs went out of style, and I lost both my edge and my interest in writing about technology and the work world.

At the same time, I reworded my ‘masthead’ to more accurately reflect what I was writing about: A “chronicle of civilization’s collapse, creative works and essays on our culture”. Very slowly, the tone of my posts became less prescriptive, as I realized how little I actually know, and that almost all of what I think I know is really just opinion, and provisional at that. That’s not new-found humility — I’ve come to realize that almost all of what everyone thinks they know is just opinion, and for the most part it’s arrogant and muddleheaded.

Accordingly, most of my writing (I still backslide regularly) shifted from the second person conditional or first person plural imperative (“you/we all should/need to/might be best to…”) to first person singular (as in this post: “here’s what I think I’m seeing/learning”). Likewise my “what we should do” lists about collapse have morphed into “reminders to myself” lists about accepting and adapting to collapse. Qualified words and phrases like “seemingly” and “apparently” and “my sense is that”, now seem (see what I mean?) to have taken over much of the space in this blog that previously conveyed urgency, necessity, absolute conviction, and outrage.

So this blog has slowly become less a “what to do” blog and more of an actual chronicle, capturing as best as I can sort out what is actually happening, and why it is happening, and not prescribing solutions, as collapse is a predicament that has outcomes, not a problem that has solutions. My reading choices changed commensurately — I have pretty much stopped reading anything that proffers prescriptions on what “should” be done, or which is clearly just opinions and rehashed propaganda disguised as “factual information”.

I am still reading just as much, but it is a vastly different set of readings. I no longer read any mainstream news at all, other than local news stories. Some of the blogs and newsletters I do read provide a quick digest and dissection of the mainstream media’s BS of the day, so I’m still aware of what misinformation most people are still subjecting themselves to. Much of what I’m reading is analyses of what is actually happening in the world (not what propagandists would have you believe is happening) that has been written by historians, economists, insiders, whistle-blowers, and deep thinkers who provide background and context for what is happening, and can help me see why things are happening the way they are.

That why never has anything to do with good vs evil, insane people, secret cabals of people who “actually control everything”, or the usual range of absurd conspiracy theories. Real life is not a Hollywood movie. My newer, more sober reading has finally made me realize that we are all doing our best (what we think is the best thing we can do both for ourselves and those we care about, even if that ‘best’ is awful), and then (and this was even harder to accept) that there is no such thing as free will and that we are all just acting out our biological and cultural conditioning given the circumstances of the moment, so no one is in control of what is happening.

When I first realized this, I felt compelled to create another blog post category for my writing, a category called Illusion of the Separate Self and Free Will, which explored both this new understanding of human nature and the human predicament, and the even more radical idea that there is no self to have free will, that the self is an illusion created by the brain to make sense of its model of reality.

For a while there was this kind of schizophrenic shifting happening in my writing, between the perspectives of the angry activist Dave, the resigned collapsnik Dave, and the equanimous nonduality Dave.

But more recently those three perspectives have all started to blur together, and it’s getting harder and harder to tick off any one category box when I index my new blog posts. It’s all connected. And I have no choice or control whether to be angry, or resigned, or equanimous about what I am writing, though I’m beginning to appreciate why, at different times, I feel all three reactions.

Still, I think I owe it to (most of my) readers not to annoy them with articles about our apparent lack of free will, let alone our lack of real selves, when they presumably come here to get interesting/alternative insights about collapse, about our culture and human nature, or about what is actually happening in the world, and why it is apparently happening.

But I’m increasingly sensing that this ‘compartmentalization’ is  bit dishonest, and probably confusing, since the entire lens through which I now view my chronicle of collapse is one in which we have no free will.

(And worse — it’s one in which there are no selves and no separation, just things apparently happening, outside of space and time, to no one, for no reason or purpose, and in which nothing really matters. Gah! Even I am not ready to completely embrace that lens. How could I possibly inflict it on my readers? Or am I just self-concerned that my readers will all quickly unsubscribe and turn to reading saner stuff? Never mind — let’s just leave it at ‘no free will’.)

But this blurring of the categories of this blog seems inexorable. It’s impossible to write about our culture or human nature without taking a stance on whether we do or do not have free will. It’s impossible to write about How the World Really Works without the presumption that the very nature of reality either is, or isn’t, what most humans believe it to be. And it’s impossible to write about collapse without being clear that the lens I see it through either does (sometimes) or does not (at other times) presume the existence of free will, time, and real, separate human selves.

I can’t have it both ways. The more I (slowly, slowly) integrate my emerging views on free will and on self and separation, into my writing on our culture and collapse, the more I’m likely to alienate readers who don’t share that perspective, even if they try to get their head around it, and even if they agree with and appreciate the insights and information my writing tries to provide.

I blame the fact that I’m a slow learner for this disagreeable situation. It took me forever to really understand, formulate and articulate Pollard’s Laws, even though they were intuitively obvious to me long before I did so. It seems to be taking even longer for me to integrate the worldviews behind the angry Dave, the resigned Dave, and the equanimous Dave. I’m not sure I’ll ever resolve their differences, and I’m even less sure that most readers of this blog would be happy if I did. The angry Dave is too self-righteous, and the resigned Dave is too dark and bleak, to abide for long. And the equanimous Dave is just unfathomable.

I keep reminding myself that life is apparently a successive approximation process. We absorb, we process, we accept or reject, we hypothesize, and we adapt our worldview, and our actions, accordingly.

Or more precisely, our genes, our bodies, our culture (the people we pay attention to), and the circumstances of the moment combine to condition us to do so. We are a perpetual work in process, in more ways than one.

But only apparently. Maybe. That’s the script that appears to be playing out. It would seem to be a grim story, an epic tragedy with probably an awful ending. But it’s only a story. Perhaps.

If I ever figure it out, you’ll be the first to know. Hopefully long before I do.

Posted in Collapse Watch, How the World Really Works, Illusion of the Separate Self and Free Will, Our Culture / Ourselves | 4 Comments

Adapting to Collapse: Some More Reminders

A friend of mine asked me the other day how I reconcile my disbelief in free will with the very human need to do something, anything, to cope with, deal with, and prepare for our civilization’s accelerating and inevitable collapse.

My answer was that I cannot. As I’ve often written, it’s impossible to prepare for something when you can’t possibly know how it will play out in the places you will be living, with the people you will be  living with (like it or not), as collapse deepens over the coming decades, and evolves into an utterly chaotic, uncivilized world.

The closest we can come, I think, is to be adaptable, as calm and accepting as wild uncivilized creatures are, and as pre-civilization humans were, to any and all changing circumstances that may arise, even those circumstances we cannot currently imagine. Whereas most of us now, at least in the West, are completely dependent, domesticated, and lacking even the basic technical and soft skills, knowledge, experience, and practice needed to build, create and sustain self-sufficient communities, wherever and however we might find ourselves during the late stages of collapse and thereafter. And the necessity to change, to move, to adapt to an ever-changing, uncontrollable situation, evokes in most of us anxiety and resistance, the antithesis of calm acceptance.

But ‘being adaptable’ suggests we have some free will around who we are and what we do. And IMO we simply do not. What each of us does is completely the result of our biological and cultural conditioning, given the circumstances of each moment. We have no choice about any of it, including how adaptable each one of us is, and how adaptable we will be as the situation becomes more dire.

So what, then, is the point of writing about adaptability, and the practices we might follow to become more so? Well, in the first place, I have absolutely no choice about what I write — it all comes ‘through’ me, a consequence of my own conditioning. I don’t need a point, or reason, to write about this, or any, subject.

And, in the second place, it’s just possible that something I write might arrive at just the right time to affect someone else’s conditioning, at precisely the moment they’re ready to hear it. And, if they’re really ready, they might actually act on it. None of that has anything to do with me, or them, or free will, or choice. There is no point to any of it. It’s just what is playing out, the only way it possibly could. We can only be who we are, believe what we believe, and do what we were already and inevitably inclined to do anyway.

Another friend of mine, Michael Dowd, is organizing an online discussion group around Terry LePage’s new book Eye of the Storm: Facing climate and social chaos with calm and courage. Much of the book is about acceptance and adaptability.

Michael believes we have free will and that there are practices and steps we can choose to take to prepare for, and deal with, the crises and grief of civilization’s collapse. I’m sure a lot more people agree with him than agree with me. But we do share a profound belief that collapse is inevitable, and accelerating quickly, and that it will be a catastrophic and exceedingly difficult predicament to deal with, and that we have no idea what its aftermath will be, or if indeed our species will even survive it.

The introduction, first and last chapter of Terry’s book can be read for free here.

Why did I read the book, when I don’t believe we have any free will over what we do anyway?

I had no choice. I found the sample chapters compelling, heartfelt, and thoughtful.

Some of it, I confess, I had no interest in reading. For example, the very last thing that those embracing the inevitability of collapse need, IMO, is another f*****g story. And I don’t believe any book is going to help you gather your courage to face what lies ahead, or make you calm if your nature is to be constantly anxious, fearful, and overreactive. People I know who have faced a lifetime of challenge, pain and trauma, when I ask them “Where do you find the courage to go on?”, simply reply: It isn’t “courageous” if you have no choice. 

And we have no choice.

In addition, unlike most people I know, I just don’t get the whole grief thing. When I’ve attended events on the subject, they just strike me as wallowing, and as completely useless. But then perhaps I’m just not in touch with my emotions. Lots of people seem to really value these collective activities. They find them cathartic.

Not me. When I enjoy crying, it’s while listening to a beautiful song or watching a beautiful sunset here and now, not dredging back up some loss or awful remembrance from the past, or conjuring up and dreading some imagined future horror. I respect that grief processes and rituals are important and even essential to many people learning to accept and cope with collapse. But not for all of us.

The parts of Terry’s book about the importance of composure and calmness in the face of chronic stress (even if we may have no choice as to how much calmness we can each actually muster or maintain) do ring true. So does the importance of reconnection to the natural world and of learning to build, and live in, true community. And the imperative of giving attention to your self-knowledge, self-awareness, and capacity for self-management (along the lines of the first three bullets of my Being Adaptable poster above) also makes a lot of sense. We may have no choice in what we pay attention to, but when we do manage to pay attention to what is going on inside us, and why, that self-awareness seems to help focus our energies, and make us less uselessly reactive.

Somehow, perhaps paradoxically, when it comes to what’s going on in our own heads, we seem to have no choice in what we pay attention to, yet we seem able to condition others, when we catch them behaving in un-self-aware ways, to pay more attention to their lack of self-awareness. Perhaps that’s why people who spend too much time alone tend to go mad.

The book has chapters on opting out of the industrial economy and consumerist society, on finding wonder in, and belonging to, the world, and on practicing compassion, which I found insightful.

Terry’s capsule summary of her first chapter is very well written. It reads in whole:

  • Sighting the storm. My dawning awareness of the depth of our predicament.
  • Not saving the world. The solace that comes from releasing ideas of fixing the unfixable. It sounds like giving up, but it’s not.
  • Perspective: It’s really that bad, and I am not alone. Kat’s realization of the depth of our predicament and her discovery of a community that shares her awareness.
  • A healthy form of avoidance. A warning against listening to pundits who predict we will all be dead or nomadic shortly.
  • Perspective: Getting real. A list from Karen Perry of what we can still do after we envision a future of catastrophe [most notable: “setting the younger generations free from the dominant culture”].
  • Don’t do this alone. My experience finding like-minded people and a plea to find yours.
  • Many voices: Living in two worlds. People share how they navigate living in the world of industrial consumer society’s “business as usual” while holding an awareness of our predicament.

This strikes me as an eminently realistic ‘roadmap’ for navigating the early stages of collapse. I found the attacks on Guy McPherson in relation to the fourth bullet a bit heavy-handed (I think Guy likely has the endgame pegged correctly but is probably off on the timeline, and in any case there’s no harm considering worst-case scenarios as long as you don’t obsess over them). But on the whole this list really does make a lot of sense.

The remaining chapters likewise each begin with a key summary of the chapter’s ideas. While some of them are suggestions on what to do, and worded that way (ie in the second person conditional tense), they can also be viewed, as I tried to do in my poster above, as “reminders to self” — things to remember and be aware of when things get rough (in the first person singular). Here is a brief sample of the ones that resonated most with me:

  • A reminder of the importance of finding out where (place and community) I really belong, and why belonging is so important.
  • A reminder of the importance of staying healthy to be able to deal with all the challenges that the predicament of collapse will present.
  • A reminder of the importance of accepting what is — and especially what is not — true and happening, and not fighting impossible battles, no matter how heroic. And also accepting and tolerating what is forever uncertain or unclear.
  • A reminder that outside the cloister of our prosthetic human civilization, the world is a place of impermanence, constant movement, insecurity, compromise, and adjustment, and a place where everything inevitably and naturally falls apart. And that as I rejoin that world, I will come to accept that this is how things are, and they don’t ‘need’ to be otherwise. I’m the one who will learn to adapt. Or won’t.
  • A reminder of the different forms of relationship whose distinctions and values have been lost, that I will of necessity relearn to navigate: relationships with ‘work’ partners, neighbours, people in community who are ‘not like me’, communities of interest and of practice, and of course, the more-than-human community.
  • A reminder that people in different cohorts from mine — children and young people, and those from different cultures and castes, often with different languages and ways of communicating and learning, need to be listened to on their own terms, and to have collapse explained to them in ways they can understand and come to accept.
  • A reminder that the accelerating migration of humans from more-collapsed to less-collapsed areas will continue and probably grow into the billions, and that essential to my coexistence with them will be my capacity to offer them refuge.

The book concludes with an excerpt from a sermon by Molly Housh Gordon called How to Survive the End of the World. It’s second-person-conditional tense again, but it’s very smart, and quite funny:

  • Get to know your neighbors. Feed them. Let them feed you. Watch each other’s kids, grandkids, pets.
  • Develop the muscle of generosity like you are training for a giving ultra-marathon. Share everything you can with anyone who asks, and ask for what you need.
  • Get in touch with your body. You will need it, and it knows things. Pay attention to what is happening below your neck.
  • Tell the truth. Tell it to yourself first.
  • Sit at the feet of your most vulnerable neighbors and in your own most vulnerable places. They have the most to teach you about survival. Listen.
  • Remember your ancestors, and the things they survived. Find the resilience that is your birthright and the courage that made way for your life.
  • Practice taking risks. Show up in every struggle where someone is fighting for their dignity, because that is how we will all survive.
  • Learn about reparations and native sovereignty. Double down on exorcising supremacy systems from your soul.
  • Learn to be tender. Refuse to be hardened. Let your heart be moved. Every damn time.
  • Root in the place you are. Learn its history. Learn its geography. Learn its seasons.
  • Sing. A lot. And dance. Make art. Make love. Rest luxuriously. Eat pie.
  • The world is ending and beginning now. We are surviving now. Let us love, let us connect, let us fight like hell for the dignity of each and all.

Lots of ideas, and reminders, in this book. I learned a little from reading it, including a bit about my own biases and blind spots. I felt better, appreciating that more and more people are actually starting to get the message I’ve been shouting about incessantly for the past 20 years.

How well am I doing in actually taking all these great and important ideas and reminders to heart and acting upon them? Rather abysmally. Will this book change my behaviour? Really unlikely. Will I join the book discussion group and just shut up and listen with an open mind? Come on, you know me better than that.

So, again, what’s the point? We are who we are, and do what we do, and we can’t be or do otherwise. Could some insights from this book, or from a follow-on conversation, or from my own thinking about the implications of the ideas in this book, worm their way into my brain and alter my conditioning in some way that would, in some small way, have this body doing something it wouldn’t otherwise have done? You know, like, for example, maybe something I hear next week or next year will be something I will, as a result of this worm, pay a little more attention to, listen to more carefully, let it sit. Maybe that worm might provoke me, say, when someone mentions something about some upcoming school event in my town, to volunteer to talk to the kids in that school about collapse. Isn’t that possible? Of course.

One of my most important learnings in life has been that, while we may have no choice in what we do or don’t do, we condition each other in unpredictable and often indirect ways. Conversations, daily practices, study, and books like Eye of the Storm, can make a difference, maybe even an important one we’d never have imagined possible. We can’t know. We can only do our best. Our best may be inspiring, or awful, but it’s the only thing we could have done.

And that, I keep reminding myself, has to be enough.

Posted in Collapse Watch, How the World Really Works, Illusion of the Separate Self and Free Will | 2 Comments