Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The View From The Grassy Knoll

I’ve argued before that the unfolding crisis of industrial society is not really a technical problem, to be solved by the familiar tools of science and engineering. It’s a human problem, with deep roots in the mythic narratives we use to make sense of the worlds of our experience. It’s worth remembering that those of us discussing peak oil are not exempt from the same difficulty. Like every other member of our species, we think with narratives, with roughly the same inevitability with which we walk with feet, and the narratives we use to make sense of peak oil can be just as misleading as the narratives other people use to ignore it.

In some of my previous posts here, I’ve talked about one very common narrative that structures thought in the peak oil community—the narrative of apocalypse, the sudden purifying cataclysm that will show everyone else just how wrong they are, and punish them for it. Still, that’s far from the only narrative that’s been swept up in the unfolding dialogue about peak oil, and this week’s post will focus on another such narrative.

A recent conversation with a peak-oil-literate friend brought this narrative to center stage for me. The two of us were sitting in front of an Ashland coffee house, calmly discussing the end of industrial civilization while SUVs zoomed past on the street in front of us, doing their level best to make our worst case scenarios look mild. I honestly don’t recall what we were talking about when my friend suddenly veered off topic, as it seemed to me, onto the subject of revisionist speculations about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

To my friend, as it happens, this is anything but unrelated to peak oil, and he seemed as nonplussed by my unwillingness to connect these particular dots as I was by his insistence that the connection had already been inked in by events. After a brief discussion we moved on to other topics, but I’ve been mulling about the exchange since then. It’s not as though the same debate hasn’t surfaced in other corners of the peak oil community, either. Richard Heinberg, one of the leading figures in the peak oil scene, devoted a sizeable part of his book Powerdown to claims of US government complicity in the 9/11 bombings. James Howard Kunstler, another heavy hitter, has argued the opposite case, insisting that the whole 9/11 revisionist movement is basically a paranoid obsession.

To my mind, though, the whole controversy unfolds from the working out of a myth with deep roots in popular consciousness. Call it the story of the Man Who Found Out. You know this story; it was on TV last night; that mystery novel you saw in the checkout line at the supermarket is all about it, so were five of the last six videos you rented, and quite possibly one of your recent dreams. The story starts with some horrible event. There’s an obvious explanation for it, but there’s also one person who realizes there’s much more going on than meets the eye. After a lonely quest that has to overcome ridicule and stonewalling from the official authorities, our hero uncovers the truth and reveals it to the public in a redeeming revelation that thwarts the villain, saves the innocent, and as often as not lands the protagonist in the love interest’s arms.

It’s not always fiction, either. Most myths are true at least some of the time; that’s why they have the power they do. The myth of progress was true more often than not betwen 1650 and 1950, and that gave it the sway it still holds over our collective imagination. In the same way, the myth of the Man Who Found Out works often enough to make police departments hire detectives, countries establish intelligence services, and ordinary people ask searching questions whenever the initial answers seem too pat.

Like every other myth, though, the story of the Man Who Found Out makes good sense of some situations, partial sense of others, and nonsense of still others. Despite some of Joseph Campbell’s more enthusiastic claims, there is no monomyth, no narrative that makes sense of everything. Still, the myth we’re discussing is seductive, because of its promise of empowerment. The Man Who Found Out has no power except the ability to find the truth, and in the myth, that’s all the power he needs. Thus it’s a very appealing myth for those who feel disempowered and believe they know something others don’t.

The problem, of course, is that it can also be a distraction. If there was a time for this myth in the peak oil community, it was back in the 1990s when a handful of people were first trying to bring the imminence of Hubbert’s peak to the attention of the wider world. Unfortunately, the moment of revelation came and went, and most people shrugged and kept on driving. At that point other myths became more useful. The fact that a myth stops being useful, though, does not necessarily make it less appealing.

Now for all I know, it may be true that George W. Bush personally ordered somebody to fake a terrorist attack on the United States. Mind you, this seems unlikely to me. I’d sooner vote for Bozo the Clown, but I’ve never found much plausibility in the claim that the mediocrities making up the current administration could stand in for Sauron the Dark Lord. They may be corrupt, even slightly more so than the administration that preceded them; their competence could surely be questioned; the elections that put them in office quite possibly involved vote fraud, as do most American elections – I trust at least some of my readers recall the voting machines on the bottom of Lake Michigan that put JFK in the White House.

I find it illuminating, though, to compare current rhetoric on the left with its equivalents on the other end of the political spectrum. Just as the right, smarting from electoral defeat in 1992, took refuge in claims that Bill Clinton was about to unleash a fleet of black helicopters on America’s gun owners, the left took refuge from an equivalent defeat in 2000 in claims that George Bush was about to turn America into a fascist police state. All this has played an important role in generating the seething partisan hatreds that have helped make constructive change all but impossible in the United States.

These hatreds, it seems to me, have made it all but impossible to notice the real significance of the neoconservative ascendancy. At a time when the market-based approach to America’s energy predicament embraced back in the Reagan era had clearly failed, and no one else had a politically viable alternative to offer, the neoconservatives offered a plan of action, and enough of the fragmented American political class united behind that plan to give the neoconservatives their chance. The plan proved to be hopelessly out of touch with the real world, and the loose consensus that brought it into play is fragmenting now, with results that will likely make the 2008 election more than usually dramatic.

Still, something like the neoconservative project was probably inevitable, if only because the American people have made it painfully clear that any politician who tries to deny them the privileges they think they deserve needs to find a new career. We will be very lucky if the next round of economic contraction and political failure fails to launch something much worse – and the slogans next time could come from the left just as easily as from the right.

Whether or not that happens, though, two things seem fairly certain. The first is that none of us will ever know exactly what happened in US airspace on the morning of September 11th, 2001. The second is that in terms of the future of industrial civilization, it doesn’t actually matter much. The crucial tasks ahead of us right now are establishing new frameworks for local economies, salvaging skills and technologies appropriate to a period of relative energy scarcity, and making a start at the daunting task of rebuilding civil society in our communities. None of these tasks will be noticeably furthered by the sort of conspiracy-hunting that keeps people busy to this day prowling Dealey Plaza in Dallas, pondering the view from the grassy knoll in yet another effort to figure out who shot JFK.

All these crucial tasks, furthermore, require us to move away from the sort of political demonology exemplified by so much of the rhetoric around 9/11 revisionism. Blaming all our woes on the other party’s politicians is an old American pastime, to be sure, but an increasingly counterproductive one. One of the lessons of peak oil that may prove hardest to learn is that the troubles we face unfold not from someone else’s malice, or even their incompetence, but from what sociologist C. Wright Mills called “fate,” the unintended consequences of our own everyday actions. But here again we circle back to the bedrock requirement of our predicament, the need to make changes in our own lives. It’s not an easy thing, and the pursuit of clues on one grassy knoll or another may be so popular because it helps to distract us from that challenge.


Rob said...

You’re opening up a can of worms by mentioning 9-11! True, we may not know exactly what happened on that day – and time will eventually bury its significance as we begin the long descent into an energy-scarce future – but are you suggesting that we just swallow the impossible story of Osama bin Laden and 19 jihadists with box cutters? I would gladly buy this story, but there’s far too much evidence against it. I agree the predicament we’re in will require deeper transformations in our culture – not just kicking out an “evil elite” -- but let’s at least be clear about what happened on 9-11. The truth is coming out, and it's not the official myth.

Danby said...

Very insightful analysis. I hadn't put the "truther" movement into that context before.

The American Political scene simply disgusts me anymore. Actual candidates that an honorable person could wish to vote for are so rare as to be verging on extinction, and so hapless as to make your vote a throwaway. The only two people in the current Presidential race that I would even think about voting for are Mike Gravel and Ron Paul, both of whom are doomed to failure.

Why them? They are the only candidates who have come out and said that the invasion of Iraq was wrong and have pledged not to attack Iran. All the other candidates have pledged themselves either willing or eager to attack Iran and thereby destroy the world economy. One has to presume that the candidates have done their polling and know that that stance is a vote winner. Or perhaps, more importantly, a campaign funding winner.

Ultimately, though, it's not all that important who wins. One candidate may speed the political, moral, and economic decay, another may slow it, but the problems with the Western world are structural, endemic, and only susceptible to transformation, not repair. What we end up with might be slavery or liberty, but it won't be the kind of society we have now.

John Michael Greer said...

Rob, from my perspective, it doesn't actually matter which of the various competing narratives about 9/11 you believe. If it distracts you from the task of getting ready for the end of cheap energy and the coming of the deindustrial age, it's a waste of time. I have to say, also, that I don't share your faith that "the truth is coming out" -- we've heard that same proclamation more times than I can count about the Kennedy assassination, among many other examples, and consensus is still nowhere to be found.

Dan, I'm no more impressed with today's political scene than you are, but as I see it, the politicians are simply taking their cue from the voting public. As James Howard Kunstler said in one of his better blog posts, you can say "war is not the answer" all you like, but if you insist on an SUV lifestyle in a world on the brink of Hubbert's peak, war is the only answer you'll get. We live in a nation where the vast majority long ago lost track of the fact that rights imply responsibilities, and treat their extravagant lifestyles as non-negotiable. In that sense, we get the government we deserve.

Jim said...

I recently read Joanna Macy's memoir Widening Circles, and was happy to discover that she had studied with Jacques Ellul early in her career. I haven't read Ellul, but a good friend of mine is a big fan and has given me many summary lectures.

The point of view I have come away with from my friend's lectures is roughly: governments are essentially extortion rackets. They hold the monopoly on violence. "Do what I say or I will shoot you." It is not this government or that government in particular that is such a racket: that is what governments are, by nature. Changing the personnel in, or the form of, government is not going to change this.

Living amidst a gang of armed thugs, of course a person needs to may good attention to what they're up to, and even make whatever efforts seem worthwhile in order to influence their behavior. But even if these particular thugs put their weapons down, there are plenty of other thugs ready to take over. Some lesser of evils is the only reasonable expectation.

I think another huge driving myth is that somehow we can set up society and government in a way to recreate paradise on earth, or some such. That we can move beyond smoldering evil at a broad social structure level.

Getting trapped by this myth, we are disempowered. We are expecting our paradise to be served to us by our masters. We enslave ourselves.

Even worse, this kind of myth encourages the application of harmful means, through the enticement of such a glorious end. If one realizes that government and society will always be dominated by thuggery and greed, then one can understand that the only good possible is our actions themselves. This really just comes down to localization. It's essentially impossible to transform the world into a paradise, but one can most certainly help one's neighbor in many meaningful ways. If there is a paradise, I think the road lies there.

Danby said...

When will you acknowledge the truth, that Global Warming is proof of malevolent alien DNA manipulation?

Loveandlight said...

I'm surprised that you don't seem to think that BushCo is attempting to implement a police state. Surely you know of the Military Commissions Act and how it undermines habeus corpus.

It occurs to me that the movie Donnie Darko was a "Man Who Found Out" story that operates on the cosmic level. Anyone who would rent it from Blockbuster should get "The Director's Cut". The original is very confusing.

John said...

Brilliant post, 911 while interesting distracts us from the real task of sorting this culture out in an energy descent world. National politics is a diversion of energy which should go into action. It doesnt matter who gets into the whitehouse or who plotted 911 and the sooner we realise this the better.

John Michael Greer said...

Jim, from my perspective, the "all government is evil" claim is no more balanced than claiming that all government is good and virtuous. Rather, all government is human, and it draws its moral tenor from the people it governs. I never fail to be amused by the people who cheat on their taxes, make their private decisions purely on the basis of money, and break the law when they can get away with it, who wax indignant when their elected officials pocket tax dollars, make public decisions purely on the basis of money, and break the law when they can get away with it!

That being said, your conclusion follows just as well from my viewpoint. Trying to achieve Utopia by political means is a lot like trying to achieve celibacy by going to orgies.

Dan, well, what can I say? After all, I've already been accused to my face of being an evil alien space lizard. Hiss.

Loveandlight, people have made exactly the same accusations about every presidential administration in the last half century. From where I stand, it's just partisan rhetoric meant to whip up passions and line the pockets of the politics industry.

John, my point exactly. Thank you for getting it!

Danby said...


It's not the GOP that are trying to implement a police state, it's both major political parties. There are voices on both sides that decry it, but the congressional votes, judicial rulings and executive decisions are consistent, bipartisan, and received with approval.

The reason is obvious. As John points out, it's because the majority of people in this country want a police state. It's a politically winning stance.

The political machine in the US is lubricated with fear. The most winning strategy is to make the populace afraid of your opponent being elected. It was that way in the first election that I paid attention to, the 1972 McGovern / Nixon contest. McGovern's a communist! It was that way in when my grandfather was the So. Dakota co-ordinator for the Al Smith campaign. Smith's a Papist! And I'm sure goes back to the election between Burr and Jefferson. Burr's a traitor!

Into a political climate of fear, the Twin Towers Massacre landed like.... well.. like a 757 running into the side of a building. The climate of fear was palpable. I saw immediately what the political fallout would be: Bush's re-election, calls for expanded police powers, a war with Afghanistan. I must admit I was surprised when the Neocons trotted out Saddam Hussein as the new Hitler.

It is possible that the political winds will change direction and Americans will once again want Liberty, but I'm not betting on it. So long as the elites keep the velvet glove on the iron fist, most people will have no problem with an authoritarian government, just as the Russian people like their authoritarian government. So long as the people can be kept afraid, they will welcome, even clamor for repression.

As I've tried to teach my children, when you're reacting out of fear, rather than an honest assessment of the situation, you've already lost the battle and maybe the war.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Excellent, insightful post.

George Monbiot makes a similar argument in a couple of his blog posts:Short Changed and Bayoneting a Scarecrow, though for different reasons, from a political activist's point of view. (And how ironic that he doesn't view Peak Oil as an emergent issue.)

What bothers me most about the so-called "9-11 truth movement" is that it's advocates deny even the possibility that the attacks could have been carried out by some organization other than the US government. This is just as bad as the opposite argument that everyone in the middle east is a terrorist or a potential terrorist.

The Man Who Found Out myth really does fit like a glove here, because for a truther—much like for a fundamentalist—there is no moral ambiguity. In that myth, one's insatiable demand for energy has no effect whatsoever on the mood of the indigenous peoples who live where the bulk of one's energy resources come from, and those peoples would never have the power or motivation necessary to lash out. In that myth, one's guilt is absolved because it's the fault of the ever-so-easy-to-hate Bush administration (and I hate them too) that those bombings took place, and the energy demand of the ordinary citizenry of the most energy-gluttonous nation on earth are not even part of the equation. In that myth, one never has to examine the morality of one's everyday choices about transportation or food or any other product of the resources that come from other parts of the world, brought here by multinational corporations that do not make it a practice to involve the locals in the decision-making processes governing who exploits or benefits from those resources.

Really makes things simpler, doesn't it? Almost wish I believed it.

John Michael Greer said...

Dan, well, not much more that I can say other than I agree. Freedom's a scary thing; much easier to reduce it to a buzzword and hand it over to the state. Wasn't it Ambrose Bierce who commented that Americans had three inestimable gifts -- freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and the good common sense never to use either?

Mauricio, you've pinpointed the driving force behind America's political demonology. If you can identify somebody else as evil incarnate, and you hate them, that means your behavior is not at issue; everything bad is the fault of the people you hate -- whether those are Islamic fundamentalists, neoconservatives, or whoever you like.

I think most Americans know somewhere deep down that their lifestyles, supported as they are by Third World slave labor and the systematic pillaging of wealth from the rest of the world, and are morally indefensible. I think most Americans also know that their choices today are condemning their own children and grandchildren to a more difficult life on an impoverished world. The desperate need to put the blame for all that somewhere other than where it belongs is, I think, one of the most potent cultural forces today. That's part of why moral ambiguity is so unbearable; if all the evil in the world doesn't rest on George W. Bush's shoulders, some of it might come home...

Rob said...

Well, as one who is researching what happened on 9-11, let me say I don’t rule out the possibility of foreign involvement. My first impression, in fact, was that the attacks were blowback. The U.S. certainly deserved it, given the empire-building violence we’ve perpetrated on the rest of the world, and Muslim nations in particular.

And make no mistake: I’m on board with the idea that much of the geo-political madness unfolding now has a deep ecological basis. I agree with Catton and Tainter that we’ve overshooting the earth’s carrying capacity – indeed we’ve overshot it. And I think peak oil marks a key turning point, when nature begins to make its power known. And things will get crazier in politics and in our personal lives as a result.

Still, as a practical matter, I think we CAN know what happened on 9-11 and hold the right people accountable. Call me crazy, but I think it’s possible, by looking at the evidence, to come to the right conclusion on this matter -- to figure out the truth.

LorenBliss said...

For JWG and everyone else, two points in response to "Grassy Knoll":

(1)-Speaking as the urban investigative reporter I once was, all of the implicitly damning anomalies in the 9/11 case (including the reluctance of government at all levels to investigate and in some instances even acknowledge the anomalies themselves) are attributable to the truly bottomless corruption that is the byzantine norm in urban America, particularly in the Mafia-dominated Northeast. The omnipresent corruption portrayed by The Sopranos is not fiction; it may even be understated.

For example, a rule of thumb in Manhattan is that every construction budget is marked up 50 percent (and in some instances doubled) for the bribes to inspectors and payoffs to politicians and the Mob necessary just to get the materials delivered and the building built. As to the WTC itself, from the very beginning of the project in 1969 -- I was working in NYC and Jersey at the time -- there were wild rumors about political payoffs, bribed inspectors, substandard materials and flawed designs, and in this instance, the rumors were far beyond the Big (Wormy) Apple norm.

If even 25 percent of the rumors were true, it would go a long way toward explaining why the towers collapsed as they did -- and why government refuses to investigate: precisely because any such investigation would, of necessity, expose the Roman-Empire-class corruptness that long ago became endemic to the United States. Ditto for how the terrorists got aboard the aircraft: airport staffs, especially baggage handlers, are crooked beyond belief -- the worst-in-the-world the incidence of baggage theft is just the tip of the iceberg -- but neither government nor the travel industry want to acknowledge this fact, the former because of the doubly damning implications of powerlessness and complicity, the latter because such disclosure is bad business.

The conspiracy theories thus serve as red herrings, distracting attention from the fact the U. S. is fast becoming the most corrupt nation on earth -- perhaps the most corrupt nation in human history -- and that one of the results was the great ease with which the terrorists accomplished their goals.

Such corruption is indeed our greatest vulnerability -- and has been for as long as I can remember -- but what is different today is that the emergence of the media monopoly has totally and permanently silenced the watchdog press: the reason reporters such as I was have mostly all been ousted from journalism forever. (Disclosure: my biggest story -- this via The Jersey Journal in 1970 -- was exposure of the heroin addiction epidemic inflicted on the urban U.S. by the Vietnam War and the federal conspiracy to keep the epidemic secret.)

(2)-While the U.S. has not had a genuine Left since the McCarthy Era -- the so-called “New Left” of the 1960s was a contradiction in terms, leftist in its slogans but utterly reactionary in its truly savage anti-intellectuality -- the fears of non-rightists Bush would impose fascism have all been proven: note not just the Patriot Act/Homeland Security matter (the deliberate reincarnation of the dread Reich Security Service or RHSA) and the Alberto Gonzalez affair but the ever more obvious fact the entire Bush Regime is fanatically dedicated to nullification of the Constitution.

But this should surprise no one: historically speaking, the Republican Party has been the U.S. vessel of fascism since its open alliance with Hitler, Mussolini and Franco during the 1930s.

As to the Democrats, the nomination of the Christian Fundamentalist Jimmy Carter marked their forever abandonment of New Deal values and the beginning of their gradual, Big Business-financed merger with the Republicans in all save peripheral issues.

Thus what we have today should be called the Republic/Ratic Party; the Republicans finally out of the political closet to behave like the fascists they have been since the 1930s, the Democrats offering bogus alternatives that -- like every one of their 2006 election-campaign promises (Medicare reform etc.) -- are invariably betrayed. Indeed the “seething partisan hatreds” you describe are histrionics only, agitated as part of the panem et circenses that keeps us as sedated as the proverbial frog being slowly brought to a fatal boil. This is the fulfillment of the Big Business objective, paramount on its agenda since the 1930s, to turn the U.S. into a defacto one-party state.

But the public is at last beginning to awaken: which is, I believe the core political and evolutionary function of sites such as this -- though whether the awakening will coalesce into any sort of viable political and socioeconomic alternative remains to be seen.

Lara Braveheart said...

Hi John,

Being from South Africa, and having lived under Apartheid South Africa, where we had far more stupid and incompetent fellas 'in charge' than Bush and his neocon's.... and a dime a dozen million denialists, who would never in their worst dreams have admitted that any of the 'conspiracy theories' about what the apartheid governments black projects were doing, were 'true', because they 'just couldn't be'... and so on...... were forced to take a very long hard look at the bottom root causes of their attachment to their denial, when the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings occurred.

Personally, for me the value of the TRC hearings, was not so much the 'spiritual' or whatever 'reconciliation' and for most part on most protagonists definately not a 'sincere' forgiveness.... For me the value of the TRC hearings were much more reality pragmatic. Since you love narratives, let me explain within the context of a narrative, for you:

George Orwell's 1984:

In Winston's view, Big Brother's intentions of Reality Control focus on: ERASE PAST + FORGET ERASURE = LIE BECOMES TRUTH....

The value of the TRC hearings, were to publish into the Public Record, day after day, after day, on every media publication available, front page, page 2, etc.... what had previously been the ERASED PAST, AND THE FORGOTTEN ERASURE! It was to CONFRONT THE ENTIRE NATION WITH HOW THE 'TRUTH' WE HAD BELIEVED FOR SO LONG ABOUT WHO WE WERE, WAS NOTHING BUT LIES, AND MORE LIES!

And it was to place rock solid into the 'history' books, namely into REALITY, which short little 'grassy knoll' stories never do, no matter how many times they are printed here and there in how many news publications or documentaries (that was the value of the Warren Commission, which effectively equals conventional 'history')

The TRC process flipped HISTORY upside down! The HISTORY books for all students in every school in the country, in every library, etc had to be RE-WRITTEN!

And this brings me to your statement: "One of the lessons of peak oil that may prove hardest to learn is that the troubles we face unfold not from someone else’s malice, or even their incompetence, but from what sociologist C. Wright Mills called “fate,” the unintended consequences of our own everyday actions."

Indeed... and may I add... that when we are living in a world, where 'truth' is not the 'truth', but the truth has been erased, and the erasure forgoten, then unfortunately what we consider 'reality' is nothing but fiction, and fantasy.

They are our UNINTENDED consequences for the exact reasons that our 'history' upon which we base our decisions as to 'learning from our past' is BASED UPON LIES!

If we had -- as I have recommended from 12 September 2001 -- Truth and Reconciliation Hearings for the US Foreign Policy Issues surrounding 9/11 and their causes...... the result would be unimaginable!!

No less than an awakening, a revolution in consciousness.... becuase for the first time... the millions attached as much to their denial about how history has been erased and the erasure forgotten, shall have to hear it from the horse's mouths (from the terrorists, both Muslim and American/Military) how what the conspiracy theorists' (ha, ha) dreamed of was occurring, was merely scratching the surface!, and they will no longer be able to deny it occurred, and worse that it OCCURRED IN THEIR NAME, FOR THEIR BENEFIT, FOR THEIR SOCIAL 'LIFESTYLE'... FOR THEIR 'WASP ETHNIC LIFESTYLE'!!

But of course, while many 911 revisionists as you call them want the truth about 9/11, they don't want it that much! Interestingly, I shared this perspective/suggestion to resolve the War on Terror/9/11 via Truth and reconciliation hearings with all the foreign embassies ambassadors in South Africa! You would be surprised to find out that in fact two middle eastern embassies contacted me telephonically to express their appreciation and interest in the suggestion!

Although I have shared this information with individuals in the US, from 9/11 truth movements supporters to peak oilers, etc.... there appears not to be any enthusiasm for the truth, when it involves Truth and Forgiveness, as a means to really find the truth!

Pity... but then there undoubtedly is a narative we can find for that! ;-)

Take care and thanks for the input though


Danby said...

I don't know that in the current political climate one could actually hold useful hearings analogous to the TRC hearings. The government, the Media, the Judiciary are all on the same side, and no-one wants to believe anything that would be revealed. For proof, look at how Ron Paul is being savaged in the media for merely suggesting that the jihad against the US has rational causes and flows from historic events. A real congressional investigation into 9/11 would quickly be derailed and hijacked by entrenched interests. South Africa had the advantage that very few of the people conducting the hearings ran any risk of exposure.

phadraigin said...

you know you're really asking for it, opening that 9/11 box!

something that has been taking shape in my own thoughts regarding politics, etc., is that one major purpose (intentional or not) of the whole US v. THEM circus, egged on by the monopoly media, is to be a massive energy sink for people on all sides. this will keep us "shopping" and keep us supporting "business as usual" a while longer.

i think about the old labor union movements in this nation, and how often those opposed to the workers would use race, religion and ethnicity to divide the very people who should have been natural allies in the struggle for a more dignified life. it often worked quite well.

every time a "republican" (or whatever) family member, neighbor or colleague tries to get me into one of the various pre-manufactured "debates"--that's what comes to my mind. "yes! let's you and i ignore the very real and present problems, and our own complicity, and rather than work together to find a better way through, we'll just sit here and argue for a while about something neither of us has any power to do anything about. that's really smart."

i think it comes down to your individual, personal energy--where are you going to put it? if you use it all to attempt to tear down the existing faulty structures, to further enflame the US v. THEM Circus, then you are, by default, NOT putting it toward building something better. and when enough energy has been withdrawn from "business as usual" it will *have* to stop.

i can't resist paraphrasing Darth Cheney: "You don't build a better community with the friends, family and neighbors you would LIKE to have, you build it with the ones you're stuck with now."

to end this by contributing a wee bit of happier energy here myself--i saw TWO frogs in my city park on my walk home last evening! TWO! we still have frogs!

Danby said...

phadraigin said;
i saw TWO frogs in my city park on my walk home last evening! TWO! we still have frogs!

Flashback to talking people through bad acid trips many many moons ago:

Ummmmmmm, it's okay.... Why don't you put down the pencil. It's going to be all right buddy. Yes, I see the frogs too. They're nice frogs. Nice froggies. They sit in the water. Here have some wine. Very pretty wine. It's red. nice wine. No, the frogs don't want any wine. I'm sure of it.......

Guy said...

1. I've found the following distinction between fate and destiny to be helpful.

Things over which a person has no influence or control (such as birth parents or genes) constitute one's personal fate.

Things over which a person exercises influence or control during one's lifetime are matters of personal destiny.

2. Regarding conspiracy theories, as a student I looked at the alleged conspiracy theory that Roosevelt and/or other government officials allowed Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor to get America into WWII.

If you look at the horrific succession events in the Far East right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then read firsthand accounts from men like Britain's wartime Chief of Staff (Lord Alanbrooke), you will quickly discover no one in their right mind would have let Pearl Harbor happen simply to get America into the war.

Conspiracy theories appear to construct meaning in a very haphazard world.

Rabbit Mountain said...

The latest evolutions of 9/11 "conspiracy theory" divorce the events of that day from both jihad and peak oil/civilizational decline. Its worth considering that it was 9/11 conspiratorial writers who introduced peak oil to a much wider audience than had ever heard of it before, in the months right after the attacks. The original conspiracy theories explicitly tied together 9/11 and peak oil.

For me, continued debate about government involvement seems a distraction, but the original 9/11-conspiracy narratives do imply an extremely useful moral: Government is not going to save you; if you want to prepare, you must do it yourself, on the ground, among the grassroots, in conjunction with your own immediate neighbors.

IMO, whether the theories are true or not, this is exactly what people need to understand most. Waiting for government to provide salvation -- or worse, pouring one's personal energy into the black hole of political activism, expecting to elect someone to lead us courageously into decline -- is to do nothing at all.

I think alternative views of 9/11 are similar to the facts demonstrating peak oil, in that there's only so much effort one can put into researching that info before it comes down to a matter of making some decisions and taking some action. I don't know of any actions the new 9/11 theories point to, but the original ones pointed explicitly to relocalization and individual-level powerdown.

Atheist_ said...

When I found out the that 911 was perpetrated by Christians and Jews with Muslims as patsies, it changed my life.

I sold my large low gas milage car and bought a Hybrid that gets 45 mpg.

I planted fruit trees all across my property.
I put in a hand pumped water well, solar panels, etc. etc. etc.

I went from being a fat profligate pig of capitalist America to what Mr. Greer would call a model citizen.


Why did I change my life?

Because I realized that 911 was the excuse to start terrorizing the oil rich countries.

It changed my life, I am not exaggerating.

You can belittle it if it makes you feel superior, but finding out that the neocons and "christian zoionists" perpetrated these crimes, made me a better person in every way.

Go back to sleep america.
Maybe Mr Greer can sing you a lullaby.

adamf said...

JMG, I'm in Aus, not in the US, but I'm pretty certain that most 9/11 'conspiracy theorists' are a far beyond the partisanism / faith in the Democratic party as you would have it. It's a bit too much of a reality shake up for the pieces to fall so neatly... Adam

Kit said...

Mr. Greer, I found your point of view on 9/11 to be rather ill-informed. If you had spent enough time looking at the main arguments from the likes of David Ray Griffin, Michael Ruppert, Michel Chossudovsky, Paul Thompson, and many other notable researchers, you'd realize that the "incompetency theory" you ascribe to is simply an easy way out of looking at the reality of the situation. What's ridiculous to me is hearing the argument that BushCo just isn't competent enough, as if Osama bin Laden and the 19 hijackers WERE competent enough to completely stand down NORAD, fly impossible maneuvers when they could barely operate planes, and on and on.

I won't try to educate you in this brief message -- many others, such as those mentioned above, should be able to wake up even the most stubborn of minds, except for those absolutely shut down. And don't ask me to explain why someone like James Howard Kunstler is buying the Official Conpiracy Theory... but, he loses mega-points in credibility with his mega-denial.

So, why does 9/11 truth matter? You dismiss it as a distraction. Speak for yourself. If ever there was a wake-up call, 9/11 truth is it and has had a profound effect on many people from all walks of life and political persuasions. In fact, the movement itself is not very consolidated simply because of this.

Your point of view that 9/11 truth doesn't matter much because we need to be concentrating on "establishing new frameworks for local economies" etc. just misses the reality that the vast majority of people in this country are NOT on that page, and probably won't be until it's too late. That's one of the ironies of 9/11 truth -- the silver linings, if you will -- it's an opportunity for ordinary people to wake up now and start changing their lives. That's what I've been doing for the last 4 years since my initial wake up in 2003 -- planting a garden and fruit trees, installing solar panels, getting involved in the local peak oil community, etc. -- but, it's an uphill struggle which I believe wouldn't be so hard if more people were awake (the peak oil community in my area is embarassingly miniscule).

One of the biggest mis-characterizations of 9/11 truth is that it's simply a political attack on the neocons. Nope, wrong again -- that's way too simplistic. Waking up to 9/11 truth means waking up to the reality that BOTH political parties are corrupt, and that the mainstream media is a huge progapanda organ and a total distraction from reality. Truthers are as diverse politically as the general public.

One more point before I end. To characterize 9/11 truth as a "conspiracy theory" is to fall into a trap. The very term has been hijacked as a quick and easy way to dismiss something one doesn't agree with. The perpetrators of 9/11 knew that they could get away with the crime simply because of the innate patriotism (nationalism in fact) that would come to the fore, thus preventing any dissention without ridicule. How convenient. "Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories." -- George W. Bush

Most of us, even those within the 9/11 truth movement, were conned for some period of time. Even David Ray Griffin scoffed at the idea of 9/11 being an inside job -- he was urged to look further by a friend in 2002, but was unconvinced by a couple of websites and looked no further. Another friend turned Griffin on to Paul Thompson's terror timeline which turned Griffin's head around and lead to the writing of 4 of the best books on 9/11 to date. I heartily recommend you read them.

Again, my point is that waking up ordinary citizens to 9/11 truth can only help move our entire society forward in the very preparedness you seek. Ironic, isn't it?

FARfetched said...

Lots of good stuff to chew on here — both the article and the comments.

While I see a connection between peak oil & 9/11, it's more of a dotted line — two side-effects, perhaps, of the location of the oil itself. If there were no oil in the mideast, there would be no US meddling in the region, and thus no convenient hook to hang a false jihad on.

The real problem is that we've pissed away the chance we had to kick the oil habit without major disruptions. Non-negotiable doesn't begin to describe the changes we'll be making, probably starting this year. Matthew Simmons places the odds at 60-70% that we'll have rationing this year, 90% with a major Gulf hurricane.

phadraigin said...

don't worry Danby, i will not try to feed any wine to the frogs!

: )

actually, they were probably both toads--well, one of them for sure was (it was getting dark!) i even resisted trying to pick them up--but it wasn't easy. i love those little guys! and seeing them tells me my local environment isn't totally toxic quite yet!

for the record, i don't believe the Official Story of The 9/11, and i do think many of the would-be expose researchers provide good evidence. the trouble is, what can we do about it?

IF someone can uncover and prove a "true" version of that day's events, who will broadcast it? NBC? if it never leaves the internet, then how will it change the minds, or "wake up" anyone beyond the small percentage who are already singing in the chior, as it were?

i appreciate the effort and intent of those who are trying to move the larger public opinion in this nation, but i fear they will never beat the Big Media, nor will they get them on board. i only count ONE Keith Olbermann, so far, and he isn't even that radical!

i guess i'm just done trying to "convince" people...they will get it, eventually, but by then (actually, even NOW) it will be too late. they/we need to start doing real things, NOW.

for me, i find it is more efficient, and less negative, to skip that part about who did what to whom, and who needs to be "run out of office" or whatever, and just go right to the stuff they can agree with NOW--local food, growing your own, community building, and all of that. whatever happens first, i believe that *people* willing and able to work together will be the best asset, the best preparation, no matter where you live.

as for the power of "wake up calls"--did anyone in this country miss the solid weeks of 24/7 coverage on the television of The Storm That Ate New Orleans?

what more can you tell people, to make them understand that when the "authorities" come, it will NOT be to save your ass?

and that story has not ended, yet, and still the real heroes are the small people, who volunteer to help one another. TPTB could not have said any plainer, to America and the World, that "This it it, you are on your own."

Alan said...

Well said, Kit (above).

The significance of 9/11 is not
huge, but is substantial. It was
a signal event in the
conversion of the cold war into
a new phase -- a war on
"terrorism", ostensibly,
but of course the real ongoing war
is about resources, and it is
intensifying. The "terrorists"
were/are Muslims, and
the Muslims just happen to be
living on top of all the oil.
Just a coincidence, surely. Haha.
Anyway, the military-industrial
complex needed more justification
for its existence, generally,
after the SU collapsed, and a
better cover was needed for the
ongoing/upcoming war for the last
of the cheap oil. And so, voila!
9/11. Filled the bill beautifully.

Yes, one can become too
preoccupied with 9/11 conspiracy
theories (or any other
conspiracy theories), but it is
unwise to simply dismiss it all as
trivial. Trivial it is not! That
event served powerfully to
manufacture consent of Americans --
consent to things that otherwise
would not have had a snowball's
chance. That event drew and still
draws enormous attention away from
the critical realities, and toward
a (manufactured) delusional view
of things that is now assuring a
much worse outcome than what might
otherwise have been possible.


Nim Chimpsky said...

JMG, thank you for this very insightful post. And thanks to the commenter who linked to George Monbiot's articles on the subject.

It's an amazing irritation that the conspiracist obsession with 9/11 persists, especially on our side of the spectrum. Your post does well to describe its mythic and psychological dimensions. As Larry Bensky a veteran journalist and commentator for KPFA radio described it, it's faith-based, not reason-based. And it's a bizarre distraction from real and ongoing crimes of state (to paraphrase Noam Chomsky's take on it all) and the reality of our chaotic world.

Counterpunch, an excellent leftist magazine, ran an article on some of the technical aspects of the controversy that makes for very good reading:

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

Guy: Have you ever read "Abandonment of the Jews" by David S. Wyman? After seeing conclusive proof about what Roosevelt knew during the early years of WWII about what was going on in Europe, I will absolutely believe he allowed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And nothing is different today.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

By the way, I am personally acquainted with people, secularists and christians, who fled from Lebanon and Syria over the past 20 years to get away from the Muslims. The violence in Islamic societies stems from the very income gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" that is happening here. The oil sheiks keep the factions fighting each other to deflect violence away from themselves - and now that the oil is running out they need to do this more than ever.

Part of that process is to tell the Muslims that the US or the UN is going to impose birth control and forced sterilization onto them in order to control their "world population," and when they read stuff about peak oil and climate change, the population issue is always mentioned and they see that as proof of this "plan."

Are they wrong? Actually, no. And we all know it. That and other things is what will keep them fighting until the bitter end - nukes. They don't intend to shrink their population, they intend to eliminate ours. That much of the 911 talk is true, and you can read it in Arabic on every single Islamic webpage.

It's the same thing with all the other "evils" of our "decadent" western civilization. In fact, just about every criticism they have about us is correct - and again, they know it. We are, as one person already stated, living off the backs of slavery, oppression of non-whites, and the rape and theft of their natural resources.

So they are a very real danger to use, because in every way we are a very real danger to them. That's the truth - but it's far past the point where we can stop what we're doing and expect them to accept that as authentic. They have seen the destruction and havoc we have wreaked on other countries by way of the IMF, World Bank, UN, etc. Trust is gone - as well it should be. Our "elites" will do ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING to ensure their continued entitlement lifestyle.

Kit said...

Nim Chimpsky, the CounterPunch article you mentioned was written by Manuel Garcia, who works for the government (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory). So much for CounterPunch's "leftist" leanings, at least in this particular case. Garcia's "science" (in support of the ever-changing theories supplied by the Bush Administration regarding the destruction of the WTC buildings) was easily debunked by Kevin Ryan, formerly of Underwriters Laboratories, who was fired simply because he had valid questions about what happened. Two excellent articles here:

A Quick Review of Manuel Garcia’s article “We See Conspiracies That Don’t Exist: The Physics of 9/11”

Manuel Garcia Sees Physics That Don’t Exist

As usual, it's easy to debunk the debunkers, which brings us back to the reality that the government's 9/11 story makes no sense. With so many anomalies still unresolved, it's no wonder that more and more people suspect government involvement. The 9/11 truth movement continues to grow, and even if the truth is never brought to light in a court of law, the court of public opinion is finding the government guilty. Why is that important, you might ask? Because the next false-flag terror event could be much worse and without a skeptical public, our rights could disappear overnight. Already, we've lost much of the supposed democracy we had -- all because of the lack of a complete and unbiased investigation into 9/11, AND because the media and the public simply went along with the government's Official Conspiracy Theory. If we dismiss the questions about 9/11, we do so at our own peril.

RJ said...

The condescending tone of this post is typical of persons who haven't researched the topic, including the official version of events (The 911 Commission Report). In fact, Kunstler called the idea of governmental complicity "beneath discussion". That is pure unadulterated cowardice.

Well guess what. I've gone down that rabbit hole, and it's worse than you can imagine. Not only did I find out that yes, the 9-11 commission report is a total fraud, but I'll also be ignored or called names for not believing in it.

Athiest is spot on in his analysis of the potential for this subject to change lives, it sure changed mine. Manuel Valenzuela calls crude oil the "Devil's Excrement", I couldn't agree more. By the way, if you watch the internet movie Oil, Smoke and Mirrors, you'll find that Richard Hienburg has both feet firmly planted in the "truther" camp.

I would urge anyone reading this blog to find anything by David Ray Griffin and read or watch it. There's also a ton of deliberate disinformation out there, so you'll have to keep the BS filer on, but isn't that what critical thinking is all about?

Lydia Crabtree said...
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carbuster said...
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carbuster said...
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John Michael Greer said...

I went off on Druid business for four days just after posting this, expecting to see quite a bit of discussion, and of course I was not disappointed. I won't be responding to everyone in detail, largely because I have one more book to write this year than I'd planned.

I do think it's interesting that the "truthers" who posted here seem to have missed the point of my post entirely. Let's put it this way. If tomorrow's papers blared in six-inch headlines that Bush and Cheney had been marched out of the White House in handcuffs to await trial for high treason, and Nancy Pelosi had just been sworn in as president, do you think that would have a significant effect on the trajectory of industrial society on the far side of Hubbert's peak? I don't. That's the point of my post -- and, btw, I've read most of the "truther" literature, as well as its opposite numbers, so my agnosticism on the subject is not a matter of lack of information.

Dia and Carbuster, for future reference, the best way to contact me is to go via the contact page on the website of the Druid order I head, The Ancient Order of Druids in America. But I'll be in touch shortly.

Hardleft Millenarian said...

Dear JMG,

I hope you will take the time to read and comment on my response to the points you made in reply to my posts on the "Religion and Peak Oil: The Next Spirituality" thread. I was preoccupied by personal and professional matters for a full week after your last reply to points I raised, and was therefore not able to post my response in a timely fashion. Consequently, my last response is (currently) the final post on that thread.

LorenBliss said...

JWG, on this vital point, you are absolutely right:

If tomorrow's papers blared in six-inch headlines that Bush and Cheney had been marched out of the White House in handcuffs to await trial for high treason, and Nancy Pelosi had just been sworn in as president, do you think that would have a significant effect on the trajectory of industrial society on the far side of Hubbert's peak? I don't.

Precisely: no matter who is elected, nothing -- absolutely nothing -- will change. And any real alternative will be crushed with maximum brutality: note the political murders of the 1960s (JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, RFK) and the destruction of the South Central Los Angeles Urban Farm just last year.

Hence my own frequent references to the Republic/Ratic politics of the present era -- the bad cop/good cop routine applied to politics: the bad-cop Republicans as the already out-in-the-open fascists inching ever closer to overt Nazism (the GOPorkers' intent since the 1930s); the good-cop Democrats as the soft spoken "I feel your pain" investigators who come in after you've been beaten and tortured and with their soft-fingered touch and feigned gentility convince you to rat out all your comrades (hence the Rat in DemocRATic and Republic/Ratic). I should note too that "rat" is here used in its broadest sense, i.e. not just to snitch someone out but to betray us in every way possible, as in "Dems Now Admit Economic Reforms Impossible until 2009" -- at which point the 'Rats will find some new excuse to allow capitalism to continue its tyrannosauric savagery unchecked.

Bush, Pelosi, Reagan, the Clintons -- despite their wildly differing facades they are absolutely united in purpose: no matter how they camouflage it, they serve Big Business and Big Business only -- which now that peak oil is upon us means handling the political tasks of bringing capitalism to its ultimate fulfillment: the global sweatshop/slave economy sustained by fascism whether secular or theocratic. Thus the ruling class retains its power, concentrates its wealth and maximizes its profits by replacing petrodollars with "human capital" -- a term borrowed, prophetically, from the slavemasters of the antebellum South.

John Michael Greer said...

Hardleft, I made time to read it, but no, I won't be responding to it. I get plenty of mail from people who want to promote their belief systems -- whether it's based on the Bible, the prophecies of Nostradamus, the Mayan calendar, or what have you -- and there just aren't enough hours in the day. You'll have to look for an audience elsewhere.

LorenBliss said...

Clarification: when I wrote all of the implicitly damning anomalies in the 9/11 case (including the reluctance of government at all levels to investigate and in some instances even acknowledge the anomalies themselves) are attributable to the truly bottomless corruption that is the byzantine norm in urban America, particularly in the Mafia-dominated Northeast, I was speaking of the event itself -- the hijackings, the smuggling of weapons aboard the planes, the collapse of the towers and adjacent buildings -- not its prelude in what appears to have been the most colossal intelligence failure in human history. That aspect of 9/11 is another story: just as there is no reasonable doubt the Bush Regime cunningly manipulated the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina into the U.S. government's first domestic campaign of euthanasia and ethnic cleansing since the Indian Wars, so is there no reasonable doubt (especially in light of the most recent French disclosures) the Bush Regime saw 9/11 coming and deliberately chose to manipulate it into another Reichstag Fire.

Where the "truthers" do us all a disservice is by focusing on these realities as exceptional -- when in fact the U.S. government applied precisely these kinds of tactics during the Indian Wars and has been doing exactly these sorts of things abroad at least since the Philippine Insurrection. Thus the "truthers" actually serve the ruling class they claim to despise. By approaching 9/11 as an exceptional event, the "truthers" merely reinforce the Big Lie that the only change necessary is for a fixit candidate -- in this instance a DemocRat -- to plunk h/er magic twanger and kiss our collective boo-boos and make everything all better again.

But just as JWG said, it won't happen: not now, not ever -- not without transformation to a communalist/share-and-share-alike economy -- a radical transformation most Americans are too viciously selfish (and too malevolently self-centered) to even contemplate, much less courageous enough to achieve.

John Michael Greer said...

Loren, if the US today was actually the police state you (and, of course, so many other people on the far left and far right alike) insist it is, you would be dragged out of bed at 2 am tomorrow morning by uniformed thugs in jackboots and your bullet-riddled remains would be found in a mass grave a couple of decades from now. Words like "fascist" make great rhetoric but lame social analysis, and twisting my comments into a support for political demonology isn't appreciated.

Raymond said...

"Loren, if the US today was actually the police state you (and, of course, so many other people on the far left and far right alike) insist it is, you would be dragged out of bed at 2 am tomorrow morning by uniformed thugs in jackboots and your bullet-riddled remains would be found in a mass grave a couple of decades from now. Words like "fascist" make great rhetoric but lame social analysis, and twisting my comments into a support for political demonology isn't appreciated."

Why bother?Loren is obviously a twit and a "cunspeerasee nutso"

Who's going to take him seriously?

For that matter,who's going to take _YOU_ seriously JMG?

You speak of a situation far more incredulous, the peaking of fossil fuel energy usage.The evidence is just as good in both cases that the official stories are don't amount to a hill of beans.

I don't think any "Truther" here missed your point with this blog.
I think they fully realize what's coming.

I think _YOU'VE_ missed the point of "truthers" and "dissidents" alike.That the need for truth and clarity to satisfy human dignity and integrity are just as important
as the fleshly needs, if not more so.Flesh will take care if itself, but what about memory?morality?hope?

We are the story-telling mammals, we strange bipedal walking,singing apes.Without a true basis for our stories, we go astray.

Danby said...

Fascist is a stark word, but it has a meaning. Actually it has several, but the two most important will suffice. First is a political system based on belligerent nationalism and economic fascism, featuring a strong single executive, and depending on censorship and violence to maintain power.

Economic Fascism is a system whereby individuals and corporations retain ownership of productive capital, but are directed in the management and use of that capital to serve the needs of the State.

I believe that the elites in this country are fascist in desire, but not yet in fact. Some, such as Rudy Giuliani are more naked in their attitudes, but the strain is there in virtually all of them, from the top tiers of Congress down to small town mayors, newspaper reporters and bloggers both right and left.

You are right we do not live in a police state. Yet. I do, however see plenty of desire for endless anonymous detention, suspension of Habeas Corpus, and torture, in media, in fiction, and in the populace.

LorenBliss said...

My apology, John; I should have defined my terms.

Benito Mussolini himself defined fascism as rule by Big Business -- explaining that a more apt name for it would be "corporatism" -- and (1) that is the (only) sense in which I use the term because (2) that is precisely what we have had in the United States throughout most of its history, especially since the ascent of Richard Milhous Nixon to the presidency via the 1968 election. Indeed Big Business is so omnipotent -- and American society thusly so tyrannized -- the traditional police state tactics are seldom necessary.

However, whenever a person or an alternative becomes genuinely threatening to the status quo -- note the examples of Martin Luther King Jr. and the South Central Los Angeles Urban Farm -- they are terminated as quickly here as anywhere else under such governance.

(The methodical destruction of one's career is another such mode of oppression: note the ruination inflicted by the McCarthy Purge. Indeed this is something -- including the Civil Rights era variant of blacklisting Movement activists -- with which I have personal experience: not a proper subject here on your blog but one I would willingly discuss in detail via private e-mail should you so request.)

That said, back to my apology: I had no intention of trying to co-opt your arguments to purposes other than your own; I was merely expressing my agreement -- based on my own (admittedly libertarian/leftist) principles -- with your own conclusions. (Disclosure: I regard Marx as the vital tool for socioeconomic and political analysis but I differ profoundly with Marxists in my conviction that solutions must spring democratically from the grassroots upward rather than be despotically imposed a la Plato from above. The 14-acre SCLA Urban Farm -- officially destroyed by government forces last year -- was just such a grassroots effort. )

As to trafficking in "demonology," here in the Puget Sound area -- with the worst urban mass transport in North America (and as a direct result, the most permanently inescapable dependence on the private automobile and thus the worst traffic congestion in the United States) -- I deal daily both as a socioeconomic issues writer and a motorist with the consequences of our betrayal by the politicians of both parties in their greedy servitude to Big Oil and Big Automotive.

Here -- despite the fact we have the second cheapest electricity in the U.S. -- the malevolence and cunning of the opposition to light rail (or any other electrically-powered mass transit) has no precedent anywhere else on the planet. The magnitude of the resultant crisis is unspeakable -- note the defeat of the Seattle light rail initiatives in 1969 and 1972, the legislative defeat of region-wide light rail in 1980, and the deliberate and ongoing political sabotage (all in Seattle) that has flung the present light rail system nine years behind schedule. The cumulative effect is that the crisis is forever: runaway inflation now guarantees the desperately needed light rail system will never be built, and the price of gasoline is already irremediably dividing our citizens into two classes: those fast-dwindling numbers who can afford to drive -- and thus do not have to dedicate their entire lives 24/7 to survival -- and those who now are condemned to riding herky-jerky buses for a two-hour trip to work that formerly took 20 minutes by car, or an entire weekend of shopping that formerly took at the most half a Saturday by car.

And, no, there will never be any improvement; things will only get steadily worse -- the shrinkage of the economy guarantees it as surely as the laws of physics guarantee the form and content of the universe. If it is "demonology" to report not just these facts but the savage political and economic realities that underlie them, I suppose I am guilty as charged. Though -- please believe me -- I surely meant no offense to you.

Bill Pulliam said...

How elegant! These comment threads have demonstrated with fine precision exactly the point you made in your original post. You couldn't have come up with a better example if you had planned it.

The crucial tasks ahead of us right now are establishing new frameworks for local economies, salvaging skills and technologies appropriate to a period of relative energy scarcity, and making a start at the daunting task of rebuilding civil society in our communities.

Absolutely. And it will happen with or in spite of political movements. The grand arc of history generally shows that the political whims of individual decades, parties, and leaders are the "noise" superimposed on the great underlying trends. Those trends are created and driven more by ecological, economic, and technological forces. Politics happens within that fundamental context; it does not create the context. Even the "Great Wars" are symptoms of these trends, not causes.

At least, that's one shaggy animist's opinion.

P.S. it was great to meet you while you were off on your "druid business."