Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dark Age America: The Cauldron of Nations

It's one thing to suggest, as I did in last week’s post here, that North America a few centuries from now might have something like five per cent of its current population. It’s quite another thing to talk about exactly whose descendants will comprise that five per cent. That’s what I intend to do this week, and yes, I know that raising that issue is normally a very good way to spark a shouting match in which who-did-what-to-whom rhetoric plays its usual role in drowning out everything else.

Now of course there’s a point to talking about, and learning from, the abuses inflicted by groups of people on other groups of people over the last five centuries or so of North American history.  Such discussions, though, have very little to offer the topic of the current series of posts here on The Archdruid Report.  History may be a source of moral lessons but it’s not a moral phenomenon; a glance back over our past shows clearly enough that who won, who lost, who ended up ruling a society, and who ended up enslaved or exterminated by that same society, was not determined by moral virtue or by the justice of one or another cause, but by the crassly pragmatic factors of military, political, and economic power. No doubt most of us would rather live in a world that didn’t work that way, but here we are, and morality remains a matter of individual choices—yours and mine—in the face of a cosmos that seems sublimely unconcerned with our moral beliefs.

Thus we can take it for granted that just as the borders that currently divide North America were put there by force or the threat of force, the dissolution of those borders and their replacement with new lines of division will happen the same way. For that matter, it’s a safe bet that the social divisions—ethnic and otherwise—of the successor cultures that emerge in the aftermath of our downfall will be established and enforced by means no more just or fair than the ones that currently distribute wealth and privilege to the different social and ethnic strata in today’s North American nations. Again, it would be pleasant to live in a world where that isn’t true, but we don’t.

I apologize to any of my readers who are offended or upset by these points. In order to make any kind of sense of the way that civilizations fall—and more to the point, the way that ours is currently falling—it’s essential to get past the belief that history is under any obligation to hand out rewards for good behavior and punishments for the opposite, or for that matter the other way around. Over the years and decades and centuries ahead of us, as industrial civilization crumbles, a great many people who believe with all their hearts that their cause is right and just are going to die anyway, and there will be no shortage of brutal, hateful, vile individuals who claw their way to the top—for a while, at least. One of the reliable features of dark ages is that while they last, the top of the heap is a very unsafe place to be.

North America being what it is today, a great many people considering the sort of future I’ve just sketched out immediately start thinking about the potential for ethnic conflict, especially but not only in the United States. It’s an issue worth discussing, and not only for the currently obvious reasons. Conflict between ethnic groups is quite often a major issue in the twilight years of a civilization, for reasons we’ll discuss shortly, but it’s also self-terminating, for an interesting reason: traditional ethnic divisions don’t survive dark ages. In an age of political dissolution, economic implosion, social chaos, demographic collapse, and mass migration, the factors that maintain established ethnic divisions in place don’t last long. In their place, new ethnicities emerge.  It’s a commonplace of history that dark ages are the cauldron from which nations are born.

So we have three stages, which overlap to a greater or lesser degree: a stage of ethnic conflict, a stage of ethnic dissolution, and a stage of ethnogenesis. Let’s take them one at a time.

The stage of ethnic conflict is one effect of the economic contraction that’s inseparable from the decline of a civilization.  If a rising tide lifts all boats, as economists of the trickle-down school used to insist, a falling tide has a much more differentiated effect, since each group in a declining society does its best to see to it that as much as possible of the costs of decline land on someone else.  Since each group’s access to wealth and privilege determines fairly exactly how much influence it has on the process, it’s one of the constants of decline and fall that the costs and burdens of decline trickle down, landing with most force on those at the bottom of the pyramid.

That heats up animosities across the board: between ethnic groups, between regions, between political and religious divisions, you name it. Since everyone below the uppermost levels of wealth and power loses some of what they’ve come to expect, and since it’s human nature to pay more attention to what you’ve lost than to the difference between what you’ve retained and what someone worse off than you has to make do with, everyone’s aggrieved, and everyone sees any attempt by someone else to better their condition as a threat. That’s by no means entirely inaccurate—if the pie’s shrinking, any attempt to get a wider slice has to come at somebody else’s expense—but it fans the flames of conflict even further, helping to drive the situation toward the inevitable explosions.

One very common and very interesting feature of this process is that the increase in ethnic tensions tend to parallel a process of ethnic consolidation. In the United States a century ago, for example, the division of society by ethnicity wasn’t anything so like as simple as it is today. The uppermost caste in most of the country wasn’t simply white, it was white male Episcopalians whose ancestors got here from northwestern Europe before the Revolutionary War. Irish ranked below Germans but above Italians, who looked down on Jews, and so on down the ladder to the very bottom, which was occupied by either African-Americans or Native Americans depending on locality. Within any given ethnicity, furthermore, steep social divisions existed, microcosms of a hierarchically ordered macrocosm; gender distinctions and a great many other lines of fracture combined with the ethnic divisions just noted to make American society in 1914 as intricately caste-ridden as any culture on the planet.

The partial dissolution of many of these divisions has resulted inevitably in the hardening of those that remain. That’s a common pattern, too: consider the way that the rights of Roman citizenship expanded step by step from the inhabitants of the city of Rome itself, to larger and larger fractions of the people it dominated, until finally every free adult male in the Empire was a Roman citizen by definition. Parallel to that process came a hardening of the major divisions, between free persons and slaves on the one hand, and between citizens of the Empire and the barbarians outside its borders on the other. The result was the same in that case as it is in ours: traditional, parochial jealousies and prejudices focused on people one step higher or lower on the ladder of caste give way to new loyalties and hatreds uniting ever greater fractions of the population into increasingly large and explosive masses.

The way that this interlocks with the standard mechanisms of decline and fall will be a central theme of future posts. The crucial detail, though, is that a society riven by increasingly bitter divisions of the sort just sketched out is very poorly positioned to deal with external pressure or serious crisis. “Divide and conquer,” the Romans liked to say during the centuries of their power:  splitting up their enemies and crushing them one at a time was the fundamental strategy they used to build their empire. On the way down, though, it was the body of Roman society that did the dividing, tearing itself apart along every available line of schism, and Rome was accordingly conquered in its turn. That’s usual for falling civilizations, and we’re well along the same route in the United States today.

Ethnic divisions thus routinely play a significant role in the crash of civilizations. Still, as noted above, the resulting chaos quickly shreds the institutional arrangements that make ethnic divisions endure in a settled society. Charismatic leaders emerge out of the chaos, and those that are capable of envisioning and forming alliances across ethnic lines succeed where their rivals fail; the reliable result is a chaotic melting pot of armed bands and temporary communities drawn from all available sources. When the Huns first came west from the Eurasian steppes around 370 CE, for example, they were apparently a federation of related Central Asian tribes; by the time of Attila, rather less than a century later, his vast armies included warriors from most of the ethnic groups of eastern Europe. We don’t even know what their leader’s actual name was; “Attila” was a nickname—“Daddy”—in Visigothic, the lingua franca among the eastern barbarians at that time.

The same chaotic reshuffling was just as common on the other side of the collapsing Roman frontiers. The province of Britannia, for instance, had long been divided into ethnic groups with their own distinct religious and cultural traditions. In the wake of the Roman collapse and the Saxon invasions, the survivors who took refuge in the mountains of the west forgot the old divisions, and took to calling themselves by a new name:  Combrogi, “fellow-countrymen” in old Brythonic. Nowadays that’s Cymry, the name the Welsh use for themselves.  Not everyone who ended up as Combrogi was British by ancestry—one of the famous Welsh chieftains in the wars against the Saxons was a Visigoth named Theodoric—nor were all the people on the other side Saxons—one of the leaders of the invaders was a Briton named Caradoc ap Cunorix,  the “Cerdic son of Cynric” of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the efficiency of the blender into which every political, economic, social, and ethnic manifestation got tossed in the last years of Rome. My favorite example of the raw confusion of that time is the remarkable career of another Saxon leader named Odoacer. He was the son of one of Attila the Hun’s generals, but got involved in Saxon raids on Britain after Attila’s death. Sometime in the 460s, when the struggle between the Britons and the Saxons was more or less stuck in deadlock, Odoacer decided to look for better pickings elsewhere, and led a Saxon fleet that landed at the mouth of the Loire in western France. For the next decade or so, more or less in alliance with Childeric, king of the Franks, he fought the Romans, the Goths, and the Bretons there.

When the Saxon hold on the Loire was finally broken, Odoacer took the remains of his force and joined Childeric in an assault on Italy. No records survive of the fate of that expedition, but it apparently didn’t go well. Odoacer next turned up, without an army, in what’s now Austria and was then the province of Noricum. It took him only a short time to scrape together a following from the random mix of barbarian warriors to be found there, and in 476 he marched on Italy again, and overthrew the equally random mix of barbarians who had recently seized control of the peninsula. 

The Emperor of the West just then, the heir of the Caesars and titular lord of half the world, was a boy named Romulus Augustulus. In a fine bit of irony, he also happened to be the son of Attila the Hun’s Greek secretary, a sometime ally of Odoacer’s father. This may be why, instead of doing the usual thing and having the boy killed, Odoacer basically told the last Emperor of Rome to run along and play.  That sort of clemency was unusual, and it wasn’t repeated by the next barbarian warlord in line; fourteen years later Odoacer was murdered by order of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, who proceeded to take his place as temporary master of the corpse of imperial Rome.

Soldiers of fortune, or of misfortune for that matter, weren’t the only people engaged in this sort of heavily armed tour of the post-Roman world during those same years. Entire nations were doing the same thing. Those of my readers who have been watching North America’s climate come unhinged may be interested to know that severe droughts in Central Asia may have been the trigger that kickstarted the process, pushing nomadic tribes out of their traditional territories in a desperate quest for survival. Whether or not that’s what pushed the Huns into motion, the westward migration of the Huns forced other barbarian peoples further west to flee for their lives, and the chain of dominoes thus set in motion played a massive role in creating the chaos in which figures like Odoacer rose and fell. It’s a measure of the sheer scale of these migrations that before Rome started to topple, many of the ancestors of today’s Spaniards lived in what’s now the Ukraine.

And afterwards? The migrations slowed and finally stopped, the warlords became kings, and the people who found themselves in some more or less stable kingdom began the slow process by which a random assortment of refugees and military veterans from the far corners of the Roman world became the first draft of a nation. The former province of Britannia, for example, became seven Saxon kingdoms and a varying number of Celtic ones, and then began the slow process of war and coalescence out of which England, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall gradually emerged. Elsewhere, the same process moved at varying rates; new nations, languages, ethnic groups came into being. The cauldron of nations had come off the boil, and the history of Europe settled down to a somewhat less frenetic rhythm.

I’ve used post-Roman Europe as a convenient and solidly documented example, but transformations of the same kind are commonplace whenever a civilization goes down. The smaller and more isolated the geographical area of the civilization that falls, the less likely mass migrations are—ancient China, Mesopotamia, and central Mexico had plenty of them, while the collapse of the classic Maya and Heian Japan featured a shortage of wandering hordes—but the rest of the story is among the standard features you get with societal collapse. North America is neither small nor isolated, and so it’s a safe bet that we’ll get a tolerably complete version of the usual process right here in the centuries ahead.

What does that mean in practice? It means, to begin with, that a rising spiral of conflict along ethnic, cultural, religious, political, regional, and social lines will play an ever larger role in North American life for decades to come. Those of my readers who have been paying attention to events, especially but not only in the United States, will have already seen that spiral getting under way. As the first few rounds of economic contraction have begun to bite, the standard response of every group you care to name has been to try to get the bite taken out of someone else. Listen to the insults being flung around in the political controversies of the present day—the thieving rich, the shiftless poor, and the rest of it—and notice how many of them amount to claims that wealth that ought to belong to one group of people is being unfairly held by another. In those claims, you can hear the first whispers of the battle-cries that will be shouted as the usual internecine wars begin to tear our civilization apart.

As those get under way, for reasons we’ll discuss at length in future posts, governments and the other institutions of civil society will come apart at the seams, and the charismatic leaders already mentioned will rise to fill their place. In response, existing loyalties will begin to dissolve as the normal process of warband formation kicks into overdrive. In such times a strong and gifted leader like Attila the Hun can unite any number of contending factions into a single overwhelming force, but at this stage such things have no permanence; once the warlord dies, ages, or runs out of luck, the forces so briefly united will turn on each other and plunge the continent back into chaos.

There will also be mass migrations, and far more likely than not these will be on a scale that would have impressed Attila himself. That’s one of the ways that the climate change our civilization has unleashed on the planet is a gift that just keeps on giving; until the climate settles back down to some semblance of stability, and sea levels have risen as far as they’re going to rise, people in vulnerable areas are going to be forced out of their homes by one form of unnatural catastrophe or another, and the same desperate quest for survival that may have sent the Huns crashing into Eastern Europe will send new hordes of refugees streaming across the landscape. Some of those hordes will have starting points within the United States—I expect mass migrations from Florida as the seas rise, and from the Southwest as drought finishes tightening its fingers around the Sun Belt’s throat—while others will come from further afield.

Five centuries from now, as a result, it’s entirely possible that most people in the upper Mississippi valley will be of Brazilian ancestry, and the inhabitants of the Hudson’s Bay region sing songs about their long-lost homes in drowned Florida, while languages descended from English may be spoken only in a region extending from New England to the isles of deglaciated Greenland. Nor will these people think of themselves in any of the national and ethnic terms that come so readily to our minds today. It’s by no means impossible that somebody may claim to be Presden of Meriga, Meer of Kanda, or what have you, just as Charlemagne and his successors claimed to be the emperors of Rome. Just as the Holy Roman Empire was proverbially neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, neither the office nor the nation at that future time is likely to have much of anything to do with its nominal equivalent today—and there will certainly be nations and ethnic groups in that time that have no parallel today.

One implication of these points may be worth noting here, as we move deeper into the stage of ethnic conflict. No matter what your ethnic group, dear reader, no matter how privileged or underprivileged it may happen to be in today’s world, it will almost certainly no longer exist as such when industrial civilization on this continent finishes the arc of the Long Descent. Such of your genes as make it through centuries of dieoff and ruthless Darwinian selection will be mixed with genes from many other nationalities and corners of the world, and it’s probably a safe bet that the people who carry those genes won’t call themselves by whatever label you call yourself. When a civilization falls the way ours is falling, that’s how things generally go.


In other news, I’m delighted to announce that my latest book, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, a novel based on the five-part scenario of US imperial collapse and dissolution posted here in 2012, will be hitting the bookshelves on October 31 of this year. Those of my readers who are interested may like to know that the publisher, Karnac Books, is offering a discount and free worldwide shipping on preorders. Those posts still hold this blog’s all-time record for page views, and the novel’s just as stark and fast-paced as the original posts; those of my readers who enjoy a good political-military thriller might want to check it out.


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Roille Figners said...

Fans of The Wire will recognize the first four paragraphs as being essentially this.

Avery said...

It is very comforting to think about Sidonius Apollinaris, who I'm sure you will be mentioning in a near future essay. Blood purity and ethnic supremacy were no longer concerns to him, a Gallo-Roman aristocrat in a dying world; he lived a secular life, basking in the last glimmers of Roman glory, then turned his thoughts to the salvation of humanity. He did not leave a legacy as a hated oppressor, but rather as a Christian saint. Perhaps one of the fringe benefits of a long rather than a short descent is giving people enough time to reflect on deeper questions.

By the way, if anyone wants to know how many people are reading this blog, check out how many people have expressed interest in JMG's next book on GoodReads. Wow!

Violet Cabra said...

My mom is mostly Danish and my dad is a Jew. When they got married both sides of the family were leery of the other, to the point of abuse. Now my parents don't care who I date, as long as I'm happy.

An important characteristic of the dissolution of complex ethnic caste system is that it doesn't merely consolidate ethnic divisions into more simplistic categories like “white” but it also erases much cultural legacy. I don't identify as Danish and I wasn't raised in the Jewish faith, nor am I recognized as a Jew by the Torah.

When you talk about “dividing and conquering” I think how much of that is “atomization”? If I feel that my cultural legacy is as an “American” but distrust American institutions, feel alien from American culture and experience shame about the uglier aspects of American history it becomes very, very difficult to feel a sense of meaningful we-ness with other Americans.

Spengler, wrote something to the effect that a conquering people need not be a large fighting force – the Sea People, the Ostrogoths, the Crusaders, etc were a mere fraction of the populations they conquered. The conquering force doesn't need to be of the same ethnicity or even speak the same language. All they need is a sense of “we”. The stronger this sense of “we” the more unstoppable and overwhelming they are to people who lack a belief in their shared identity.

I imagine that the loss of the “we” is where civilization falter and the formation of this shared “we” amongst disparate peoples is where new ethnicities are conceived.

Tom Hopkins said...

Thanks for an excellent post. 2 reasons it might be different this time in regards to ethnic tension and migration. White male "preppers" armed to the teeth, and no useable non-tech skills known by enough of the population. I doubt if these travelers would know what a grain silo was when they die in front of it of starvation. Also, i noticed 3 things this week that much up with your predictions. 1.The fed is considering diect payments to taxpayers because nothing else is working. 2.The army is training on horseback again(must be reading the archdruid report). 3.35% of americans have an avg. Of $5300 in collections(credit - bubble anyone?) Also wanted to say thanks for helping me to get ready by collapsing at my own speed and giving me the resolve to learn to make soap and beer. Its been fun, and i'll be able to barter for some eggs and a chicken perhaps.

Tom Hopkins said...

I always get another good hour of reading from the comments like ccabra's and avery's. Thanks folks.

Kutamun said...

As a young kid growing up in the harsh gum tree racist apartheid patriarchy of rural Australia , i was fascinated by the tales of Doctor Who , many of which depicted the doctor stumbling across some long stranded space craft or other whose crew had either lost access to fuel/ energy or expertise , or falling prey to some local force of nature . The Crew of these ships were then often forced to integrate themselves into surrounding community / population , often retaining some semblance of their original haute technology , which over time becomes the basis of their own personal power , providing the stuff of myth and legend for the local populations to be in awe of ( perhaps like "archetypes " , " fallen angels " , ) ..crew often works hard at saving the appearances to protect their own position/ authority until The Magician ( doctor who) comes along to debunk it , and often to free them ..

Doctor Who - State of Decay

After the events of Full Circle, the Doctor, Romana, K-9, and their newest companion/stowaway, Adric, arrive on a planet experiencing what appears to be a feudalperiod. The villagers live under the thrall of three lords—Zargo, Camilla, and Aukon—who dwell in a shadowy Tower, and experience a yearly ritual called "the Selection," in which a sample of young villagers are taken to the tower, never to be seen again. This selection process is enforced by a thuggish band of guards led by Habris.

The Doctor and Romana discover evidence of technology considerably more advanced than the medieval level of development of the planet, and wonder what happened to cause the planet to devolve to its current rustic condition—to be in a "state of decay." Romana's only suggestion is that there is a powerful force holding the inhabitants back. As the two head out of the village they are seized by cloaked figures. Meanwhile, Adric comes to the village and is caught by the owners of the feeding house. Adric is discovered and captured by Lord Aukon, who sees him as an alien and worthy of becoming one of the 'chosen ones'.

The cloaked figures, members of a resistance movement, convey the Doctor and Romana to a secret base filled with forbidden technology. Kalmar is a scientist - a heretical role in their society - and is very grateful for the Doctor's help in repairing a computer which proceeds to reveal the names and faces of the original chief officers of the spaceship Hydrax - who look exactly like the Lords of the Tower.

The Doctor and Romana discover that in fact, the great Tower in which the Lords dwell is itself the spaceship Hydrax, originally from Earth, which also was pulled into E-Space long ago.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has deduced (by applying principles of consonant shifting) that the current lords' names are a corruption of the original crew names (e.g. "Sharky" becomes "Zargo", "MacMillan" becomes "Camilla", and "O'Connor" becomes "Aukon"). Thus the Doctor realizes that the three lords are not descendants, but members of the original crew themselves, mutated into vampires and the subjects below are the descendants of the other colonists, made dull and primitive by over twenty generations of breeding and oppression. He is reminded of ancient Time Lord stories of the Great Vampires - ancient enemies of the Time Lords. He deduces that the Great Vampire escaped destruction at the hands of the Time Lords by somehow retreating into E-Space, and it managed eventually to gather enough power to pull the old Earth ship into this universe, corrupt the main crew and use the colonists for its own ends.

Pinku-Sensei said...

"It’s quite another thing to talk about exactly whose descendants will comprise that five per cent. That’s what I intend to do this week, and yes, I know that raising that issue is normally a very good way to spark a shouting match in which who-did-what-to-whom rhetoric plays its usual role in drowning out everything else."

What you've invited is a round of "fact and fantasy about immigrants," never mind that the facts are about the role of immigrants in modern industrial society (studies show they are generally beneficial, not a malign influence as many fear) and not about the results of Volkerwanderung and its aftermath that you describe here. Good luck on taking the side of reality against the tide of fantasy you should expect in the comments.

Speaking of fantasy and Volkerwanderung, the confluence of the two is an older subject on your blog than a lot of the newer readers expect. That goes back to 2007's "Fascism, Feudalism, and the Future," in which you brought up the persistent myth of mindless hordes erupting out of the cities to devour the countryside. Your readers turned that into a discussion of zombies in pop culture that eventually metamorphosed into a comment about immigrant hordes. You really were quite sanguine about those, and pointed out that wasn't the fantasy you wished to debunk. However, you did describe an early version of the kind of North America that you projected today, full of climate refugees and others who could better handle the environment of a Dark Age America. I distilled that conversation at my blog.

Nathan said...

I'm really enjoying this series of posts. By painting such a clear vision of the "deep" (in human terms) future, these posts more than any others are helping me think about what is worthwhile to do and achieve in this life.

One question that has been gnawing on me recently. As thing continue to fall apart in the coming decades, I imagine typical news outlet reporting is going to become even more fanciful and propagandistic as authority figures intensify pressure to show their love for their country. While the internet is still functional, will international news outlets produce more reliable news about America (such as Russia Today) than our own media outlets will? Or would you recommend some other network of obtaining information about national events?

Doctor Westchester said...

Congratulations on getting the novel out. I know it was a real slog for you, like bouncing a basketball off the undead corpses of all those Tom Clancy novels (a paraphrase from Stephen King on the writing of Salem's Lot).

Let's hope that international political events don't immediately try to promote your novel (a.k.a. the Ukraine situation), at least for a while longer, say for a few years since hoping for decades seem outright unlikely.

steve pearson said...

Hi Violet,I guess for a rather frightening current example of a small group with a very strong sense of "we", one need look no further than ISIS.If their sense of "we" holds up, they may very well redraw the map of the middle east in fairly short order, as well as creating a fair bit of havoc in the west,leading then to further militarization of the police, etc., etc.

mr_geronimo said...

Today's post was a kick in the nose.

That lesson, that in the long run i am nothing and my tribe is nothing, is humbling.

Kyoto Motors said...

I enjoyed this post, and the historic illustrations. The Americas do seem ripe for quite a culture-storm. And in fact the migration of hispanics northward has already begun, as you have noted in the past... The french of Quebec is yet another wild card. Very successfully used as political leverage in the past; and more recently, totally unsuccessfully... Interesting to imagine the northward pressures from other linguistic groups, who will undoubtedly covet the ressources of the north, especially hydro, if that can be maintained. But who knows?
Anyway, one "prediction" of yours I am still waiting on (from last week's post):
"...For that reason, the faux-conservative side of the debate, along with the usually unmentioned realities of immigration policy in today’s America and the far greater and more troubling realities of mass migration and ethnogenesis that will follow in due time, will be left for next week’s post. "
Seems like there's lots more to sink our teeth into on the topic!
Oh, and congratulations on the book. I look forward to the read.

ww said...

The "armed to the teeth Prepper" is a figure of menace in some parts of the modern imagination, it seems. I'm sure there were some in Wales, but it sure didn't keep them speaking Latin. A stockpile of stuff only gets you so far, and then there's the need for accommodation to the new state of affairs.

ando said...


The most important thing we can all remember is that "It is what it is!" We are fortunate that you have the steel and clarity to spell it out for us, in spite of the emotional attachments of those in denial. Thanks for your continued efforts.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Off topic. Relates to the coming (maybe very soon) shale bust.) I just spotted this. An article lifted from the Bloomberg Financial Newsletter and posted on the Yahoo news financial page.

"Trader Who Scored $100 Million Payday Bets Shale Is Dud.";_ylt=A0SO80w7wQdU8uUAn49XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEzcWk2bjUzBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMQRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDQ5Nl8x

Not that most of the readers here needed any convincing. Lew

Joe Roberts said...

Typically enlightening post. My mind goes to: there are numerous reasons why a television program like All in the Family would never be made today, but surely among them is the fact that the once-common "white ethnic" terms spouted on the show, like "dago," "wop," and "mick," would be unintelligible to so much of the viewing audience today. (You once said you did watch television until some point in the 1970s, so I trust you'll get the reference.)

Anyone who thinks "white" alone sufficed as a self-descriptor for most of the 20th century in most of the US (I can't speak for the Deep South, where I expect things were different) wasn't there or hasn't read their history carefully enough. It's only in the last several decades that European American, non-recent-immigrant identity in the non-Southern US has solidified into this massive, homogeneously perceived (apart from class differences) bloc that is called simply "white" with no follow-up questions expected.

My friend in Philadelphia tells me that in his neighborhood, new alliances may be being tentatively formed. He's witnessed black and white neighbors, members of groups of course long antagonistic and generally distant toward each other in the city, grumbling in commiseration about recent Latino and Asian immigrants moving into "their" neighborhood, an image rich with irony. I don't know if that's an outlier, but I was reminded of it when I read your ideas about the unpredictable ethnic alliances of the future.

Violet Cabra said...

Steve, excellent point! It is noteworthy that ISIS is both actively recruiting and deploying Westerners (up to 3,000 according to CBS), and being remarkably effective, as Kunstler noted, running around the desert with 30 lbs of guns and ammo in 110 degree Fahrenheit weather. With that amount of drive and believe in their we-ness I too wouldn't be surprised if they redraw the map in the Middle East in short order.

jkwill said...

John Michael-

Thank you for a very thoughtful post reminding us of some historical truths which I´m sure will continue into the future.

The islamic religion is in crusader phase at this historical moment which makes me fear that the fact that they have a plan (albeit not a good one) and the fact that the over populated middle eastern and north african countries are running out of oil means that there will be an influx of people from those regions into many other regions in the world. This fact, combined with the high birth rates in those populations, can make us suspect that the next dark age will be an islamic one.

Ares Olympus said...

Its certainly scary to imagine even 1% of all this, so its a good thing history doesn't come all at once or we'd have no heart at all for living.

Even more than the strange genetic paths of survival for our collective descendants, its fun to imagine what aspect of our yet exponentially growing knowledge base will survive through a dark age, and who will be the post-industrial monks hand-copying down books they don't understand that might pass through to whatever next civilizations that arise? And what profane knowledge will there be a systematic attempt to destroy for distracting the youth from their religious duties?

I hold a tiny hope for that material dark ages aren't just about poverty, war and deprivation, but also a sort of cultural inversion, where the only "good" people will find that can't be taken away tomorrow is in their own mind and soul experiences, and who knows what Jung's collective unconscious and what it will stir up for attention?

I'm also reminded of your phase "Knowing many stories is wisdom, knowing one story is death." so individuals will die regardless, but those who can best carry on carrying one may be those who have the creativity to see everything symbolically as well as literally, or like Blake's fourfold vision. There cam be a universe in a single grain of sand, and those universes are forgotten when we don't need them.

Brother Kornhoer said...

So one day an unelected warlord will go around using the title "President of America" except he won't be able to even say it right......wait, didn't his already happen a few years ago?

russell1200 said...

I think it is important to note that total collapse of the empire is not always the case. About as typical is a severe drawback to a core area. A core area which may not actually include all of the originating territory.


1177BC Greece, Cyprus, India areas collapse. Egypt and Central Asian Empires have a series pullback.

476 AD Western Roman Empire Collapses, Eastern Greek speaking territory survives with last vestige being taken in 1453 AD. Our story of the total collapse of Rome is culturally influenced by our culture modern culture being derived from the collapsed parts, with Britain being one of the earlier and worst locations.

1945-1963 British Empire gives up half its colonies. Currently face cessionary vote of Scotland, but the core of England is still intact.

There are many other examples.

It is important to note that there is some evidence that the downturn phase (dark age) has gotten shorter over time.

Tom Hopkins said...

Ww....the picts had a nasty habit of throwing themselves on roman swords so their pictish buddy could kill said roman. Thats not sustainable

John Michael Greer said...

Roille, I'll take your word for it.

Avery, he's a workable role model, though of course he's far from the only option. Thanks for the info on Goodreads -- that's certainly promising.

Violet, exactly. Americans have almost stopped being "we" at all; that is to say, we've gotten to the stage of ethnic dissolution a little sooner than others.

Tom, my guess is that once the rule of law breaks down, warbands will go out of their way to find, target, and kill the heavily armed kind of preppers -- where else are you going to get so rich a concentration of arms, ammo, and supplies for free? As for those who have no skills, well, that's just one way the population is going to get down to 5% or so of its present levels, you know.

Kutamun, that was a common trope in science fiction dating back to the 1930s. Not surprised to see it in televised SF-lite.

Pinku-sensei, I did my best to chase off such discussions with those first four paragraphs -- we'll see how well it works. As for previous mentions of this same issue here, why, yes: it's a big part of the future ahead of us, so deserves close study.

Nathan, the US media is already laughably propagandistic. Foreign media isn't necessarily any better, but it has different biases; check out stories from a variety of mutually hostile viewpoints, and you'll have some chance of figuring out what's going on.

Doctor W., thank you. I was glad to get it out while it's still fiction!

Mr. G., we delude ourselves when we think otherwise, and it's not a helpful delusion.

Kyoto, I basically ran out of space before I got to immigration -- that'll have to be rolled over to a later part of this series of posts.

WW, what do you expect in a consumer society in which most people can't think of any response to anything that doesn't involve buying a bunch of stuff?

M said...

Re: Violet Cabra wrote: "Spengler wrote something to the effect that a conquering people need not be a large fighting force – the Sea People, the Ostrogoths, the Crusaders, etc were a mere fraction of the populations they conquered. The conquering force doesn't need to be of the same ethnicity or even speak the same language. All they need is a sense of “we”. The stronger this sense of “we” the more unstoppable and overwhelming they are to people who lack a belief in their shared identity."

In an interesting Op Ed in the NYTs today, "ISIS Is a Disgrace to True Fundamentalism", Slavoj Zizek (Living in the End Times) quotes one of the writers you referred to quite a bit in a previous series of posts:

"Long ago Friedrich Nietzsche perceived how Western civilization was moving in the direction of the Last Man, an apathetic creature with no great passion or commitment. Unable to dream, tired of life, he takes no risks, seeking only comfort and security: “A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end, for a pleasant death. They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health. ‘We have discovered happiness,’ say the Last Men, and they blink.”"

I guess the common way of saying it these days is we've gotten "soft." I wonder if many of our ideas about how to proceed into the future--concepts like degrowth, shareable cities, climate justice, transition, what have you--are products of a soft life, and would be quickly overrun by the warlords and gangs you are predicting. I mean, "frugal abundance?" That sounds very Last Mannish, having our little poison cakes and eating them, too.

Having recently finished "The Empire of the Steppes, a History of Central Asia," by Rene Grousset, I'm certainly hoping the modern day Attila, Jenghiz, or Tamerlane doesn't arrive on the scene here in the Hudson Valley until I'm long gone. Sadly, the ethnic, political and economic strife and tension and violence have begun in earnest, and I fear will be a too-common feature of my 5-year-old son's life.

Thanks again for your special insight and clarity, though it casts a shadow on my days.

Brother Kornhoer said...

Joe Roberts: I second your comments. My parents got married in 1949 in Savannah, Georgia. Mom's mother was HORRIFIED that she was marrying a non-Irish, Protestant, Southerner from rural Georgia. Her priest told her she was going to hell for all eternity for doing so. Meanwhile, Dad's family was MORTIFIED that their son was marrying a Yankee, ethnic Irish, (soon-to-be-ex) Catholic, daughter of an excommunicated Catholic divorcee. Of course, nowadays, two white Christians marrying each other is hopelessly plain vanilla.

In the South, I think at least some of the blacks and whites are starting to realize that they have a lot of things in common with each other culturally, particularly when compared to outsiders. Bit by bit the intermarriage prohibitions are breaking down.

John Michael Greer said...

Mac, thank you. The hope is that if enough others learn to think in the same cold terms, something might still be accomplished.

Lew, hmm! Another crack in the wall of denial...

Joe, yes, I get the reference! I've seen the same thing. Bigotries and ethnic hatreds are surprisingly transitory when conditions shift and new groups enter the picture.

Jkwill, I've been saying for years now that one very possible future involves the conquest of western and central Europe by armed mass migrations from the Middle East and North Africa. I see no reason to change that opinion -- well, unless Ebola gets out of Africa and hits the Middle East very hard.

Ares, I'm far from sure I believe that our knowledge base is actually growing exponentially at this point. Our stock of data is certainly doing so, but data that lacks meaningful perspective and understanding has another name: noise. All of which makes your other points all the more valid!

Brother K., well, haven't I been saying all along that we're already in the process of decline and fall?

Russell, yes, but there's another side to that story. The Byzantine Empire was a very different thing, socially, culturally, and economically, from the eastern Roman empire. I've already noted that there may be something calling itself "the United States of America" four or five centuries from now; it may be neither united, composed of states, or American, but such are the ironies of history.

John Michael Greer said...

M, good. What Nietzsche didn't realize was that the Last Men would distract themselves with angst and emotional melodrama rather than with numbing poisons.

Brother K., here in the Appalachian small town south of the Mason-Dixon line where I live, I see a lot of multiracial families -- so, yes, I think you're quite right.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Tom Hopkins--The Army is training on horseback again? Good grief. I wonder if they are thinking about reviving the Camelry.

@JMG--Congratulations on the new novel. Let's see Twilight's Last Gleaming on the racks in airport newsstands. It has potential for a wide readership if the word gets out.

Cherokee Organics said...


The top of the heap has always felt to me as if it were a transitory position anyway. Even the really Greats eventually fall only to be replaced by someone else.

Your quote tickles my brain: "does its best to see to it that as much as possible of the costs of decline land on someone else." Incidentally, over the past decade I have seen this cultural shift Down Under. It is expressed here as a weird form of expectational behaviour in individuals. It is weird because over the past few years, I've noticed that people who have no social currency with me are all too happy to ask for me to undertake tasks which will be of benefit to them, cost me and then they offer nothing in return. They can be very free with my time and resources. The old timers Down Under used to say this sort of action had: "More front than Myers" with the emphasis on the word "front". Seriously, it affront's me, but the frequency with which it is occurring is both increasing and staggering.

Speaking of costs, I received my renewal for house insurance and it was a staggering AU$1,400 for the house only with no farm infrastructure included. Oh boy, is insurance going up and up as the years go on.

Yes, even the convicts were split along those lines with the Irish at the bottom of the heap within that system. People love caste systems.

My gut feeling is that the divide and conquer strategy is being wielded along economic lines now. It is ugly to watch.

Thanks for the book. I'll check it out for sure! Nice to see that the publisher does worldwide shipping. It's a long way to the bottom of the world you know.



PS: I’ve had an article published about the water systems here: Fernglade Farm – Water Systems It is a nice summary of the stuff I’ve been discussing on the weekly blog: Sometimes you need a deadline

Hope you all enjoy the links as there is lots of cool photos and videos.

Joe Roberts said...

Just to clarify what I meant about the South and early/mid-20th century white identity: two things -- one is that the whites of the Deep South were much more homogeneously of British/Scotch-Irish origin with far, far fewer continental European immigrants than northern states; and two is that de jure segregation laws with all their rigid white/black dualism may have created a generalized, catch-all "white" identity decades earlier than in the north. But on reflection I'm sure that's an oversimplification, as the Jews and Italian Americans of Atlanta circa 1950 could have no doubt attested. So I wish I hadn't singled out the South in my earlier post as an exception. Digression over.

Mark Sebela said...

Most of the big bad preppers won't last more than a week or two in their hidy holes. Their inherent need for human contact will drive them out or drive them crazy.

k-dog said...

19772Things will be chaotic as things dissolve. New forms will coalesce from the broken remnants of the old in ways we cannot know.

As I closed my blog today:

Our road through the next few centuries to a world that supports far fewer people than it does now could mean arrival at a final destination by people who are far different than we. People to whom we are distant memories if we are memories at all.

Bike Trog said...

I've read about the Southwest being murder on bike tires. Riding a bare rim on a railway might work. Draisines existed before bikes, but engineering one with a pile of bike parts or random scrap could be a tough challenge while trying to evacuate.

Bogatyr said...

Lots of comments here this week about Britannia. When the Romans invaded, they disarmed the various tribes that they conquered. Some tribes were allies, and remained armed (eg the the Dumnonii), and others - in territory too difficult to properly control - may also have kept their weapons. Later, as the borders were consolidated, tribes in the Old North, and possibly in Wales, acted as armed foederatii, keeping the heart of the province safe from the Picts and the Irish.

Within the main part of Roman Britannia, the situation was different. Regional government was set based on tribal territories, and tribal nobility took most of the important positions in the local bureaucracy.

In "Britannia: Failed State", Stuart Laycock suggests that inter-tribal hatreds and feuds pre-dating the invasion continued to simmer away with ongoing guerrilla raids, but with the provincial government and the legions keeping the lid on. Laycock's theory, based on archaeological evidence, is that the latter wasn't sufficient, and that the tribes all began to invite in Saxon sub-tribes, and to install them in defensive rings around their borders to keep out incursions from neighouring tribes. Of course, different Saxon raiders were attacking everyone everywhere along the east coast.

Once the Romans left, the same situation continued, except that now the tribes were responsible for defense, and they couldn't work together; this is the King Arthur context in history. At some point, it all went pear-shaped for the Britons. Laycock, iirc, doesn't explain this. However it seems that in some areas plague wiped out the Britons leaving the mercenaries in charge; in others, the mercenaries joined forces with the offshore raiders, while in others yet, tribe and mercenaries teamed up to attack their neighbours. This would explain the chaotic situation. What is certain is that within the province proper, the Saxons were eventually victorious. The areas which remained under British control were those where the tribes had a) remained armed, and so knew how to protect themselves (and hadn't needed to hire Saxons to do the job), and b) maintained their social structures intact.

As JMG suggests, this has some interesting lessons for today. (To be continued)

Bogatyr said...

(Continuing from my previous comment).

There have been some discussions of slavery here, and whether it may return. The Roman example provides a more likely development: the return of serfdom, in which those who have land and authority (but no longer the means to practise industrial agriculture) allow refugees to settle in villages and support themselves as none-free serfs, giving up a portion of what they produce to the original, free, inhabitants.

All of this leads to some questions which, frankly, I shy away from, because answering requires a rather brutal approach (which, of course, is what JMG is telling us).

- Are you in a community? If not, how do you become a member of one in good time?
- Is your community able to defend itself against predation? If not, can it develop this ability? If not, can it hire someone to do the job? If so, who, on what terms, and how are they to be controlled?
- Does your community have strong, resilient, internal structures? If not, how can these be built, in a relatively short time?
- Is your community economically secure, to at least a subsistence level? If not, how can this be achieved?

Of course, JMG's discussed all of these topics, but as I look around (and as I've been looking around since I first discovered TADR several years ago), I see very, very few models which tick all those boxes.

Frankly, the only one I can point to with any confidence is the neo-Cossack movement here in Russia; that's why I came here, though it's not easy for me to get to know them - and current events aren't making that any easier.

Speaking of which, it's worth noting for this audience that if the US is a society in the process of collapse, contemporary Russia is an example of post-collapse consolidation and revival; as such, consider Putin's Russia as another potential model for future US development. (It also helps to know when you're reading the headlines that a BIG motivator for Russian policy-makers is that they're trying to re-create a society that almost entirely fell apart in the 1990s).

Jason Heppenstall said...

As I mentioned last week, I have just returned from Scandinavia, specifically Sweden and Denmark. In Sweden I passed through a small village and noticed a very odd thing—most of the inhabitants seemed to be from the Middle East. I asked a local woman about this and she explained (in exasperated terms) that they were Syrian refugees - some 400 of them that the government had 'dumped' on this village of 300 Swedes. The refugees—men, women and children—appeared listless and sat around in groups in the street (a VERY un-Scandinavian thing to do). They are given a place to live, some money and clothes, but are not allowed to earn money and so just fill the days wandering about and sitting smoking.

Anyway, my point is that all the chaos in the ME is tossing people out at an ever-increasing rate and many of them are ending up in places where the culture can only be described as opposite. Of course, these Islamic settlers want to build places of worship and practice their own culture, much of which is anathema to your average white ethnic Scandinavian (or Anglo). I have a bad feeling about how all of this will end up.

Talking about Scandinavia in general, people who talk about collapse almost universally claim that it will be a 'great place to be'. Lots of space, forests, low population density, minerals etc etc. To me that just makes it look like a good target for warlords and settlers ... a bit like the, er, Vikings. Who said history couldn't be ironic?

@Nathan - as for the foreign press being somehow more reliable, I wrote about this in my blog 22 Billion Energy Slaves this week: On Being Misinformed

wiseman said...

You raised an important point in this post, one that will rub many people in PO community the wrong way. I already saw a couple of comments at the fag end in the last post from people who didn't like being told the cold truth.

Cold hard thinking is what is required for survival, all that reading of 'Limits to Growth' won't get you anywhere if you are not willing to give up your 'post modern beliefs' about not having kids and following what your 'heart desires'.

I think Orlov mentioned it well when he said that it's people who aren't reading his blogs or for that any matter any blogs and whose sole occupation is survival who will survive.

Bogatyr said...

Tom Hopkins - do you have any links regarding the direct payments, and about the US army retraining on horseback? Thanks!

Mr Geronimo - I agree. Speaking as a member of a pretty vulnerable minority, the prospect of seeing my people vanish as a viable population within my lifetime is profoundly troubling for me.

JMG said "Jkwill, I've been saying for years now that one very possible future involves the conquest of western and central Europe by armed mass migrations from the Middle East and North Africa. I see no reason to change that opinion -- well, unless Ebola gets out of Africa and hits the Middle East very hard". Indeed. Illegal immigration into the EU is increasing dramatically and looks set to continue that way. It's already causing tensions between EU members, and I expect to see attitudes (and responses) harden significantly in the near future. Ebola adds a whole new element to the mix; I wonder, how do Ebola's incubation period and and the time taken for the average West African refugee to reach EU shores compare?

In the last couple of days I've seen a flurry of articles about missing Libyan airliners, and much speculation that they may be used for 9/11 style attacks. I wonder whether some evil genius (of whom there seems to be a good supply at the moment) might instead load them up with refugees (possibly infected and/or infiltrated by jihadis) and fly them to some European airports...

Rita Narayanan said...

what lovely posts indeed! The problem with a large number of famous elites in the environmental movement is that think they are moving into an eco friendly *nice* world where evolved humans create a Garden of Eden.

I have a very different view coming from a non Western poor nation whose internal sensibilities are in conflict with our very evolved constituion...I hold modern liberalism as the mother of modern capitalism, it is very superficial and romantic but hollow inside.Far more insidious than what seems on the outside.

if you create solid intense values then they are self-regulating but inundating people with dreams/entitlements far from their personal growth is bound to be a recipe for mini darth Vaders :) A democrqtic aristocracy that sacrifices quality!

the writer said...

As a counter-argument, what about China? The Chinese have existed as a continuous civilization for millenia despite multiple state collapses and civil wars.

Barbarian incursions such as the Mongols and Xiongnu were just absorbed into Chinese civilization. You could seize the capital, but your descendants would be Mandarin-speaking emperors with the "mandate of heaven"...

Odin's Raven said...

On course to Spengler's 'fellahin'?

galacticsurfer said...

I share same ethnic stories as above, ango-episcopal with catholi-irish and my wife's parentsin multiethnic russia russian marrying ethnic german and our kids speak the three languages and have a couple passporrts so i and my family are a bridge of understanding between east and west in developing cold war where the propaganda goes full blast as western europe was post wwii amrricanized. East germans learned russian and west germans english. Since fall of wall east europeans learn english and orient themselves to western values(german, british chain stores, western trademarks and factories and tv films and series depicting usa life and values) so that an invasion from westwith nato, eu is a usa invasion and attempt to invade russia, ukraine and middle east, central asia is failing. American and european economic dissolution and break up of countries into smaller units through referendum or war already under way due to stress and radical parties gaining in votes at ballo box as major parties interested in status quo of growth, profit, eu, nato. Europe will be at forefront of described chaos while usa chaos looks more like occupy protests, ferguson, border vigilantes, anti-blm gunslingers in southwest challenging national authority. If everyone really ghas a gun or two in usa then one wonders what can be expected after a terror attack induced martial law. Perhaps raids of armories and resistance in western states, ghetto and subburb street blockades and attacks on police.

das monde said...

Interesting explication, JMG!

Since recently I am impressed by the human social-hierarchical dynamics. It is worth going beyond logical or stereotypical perceptions of hierarchic interactions, and notice particular influence channels, their implications. For example, to communicate effectively, you cannot avoid an "alpha" posture (be it more subtle than a cliche) - otherwise people just won't listen.

Implications of deeper hierarchical instincts for the civilization/ecological collapse could be very interesting, if not central. Dawkins might explain everything from the "selfish gene" perspective, but there is a strong ecological implication for hierarchical or territorial species - they are more "protected" from overshots, or potentially have an intrinsic structural resource to "deal" with them. Particularly the primate species are known to hit survival or overshot limits regularly. The ecological effect of hierarchical/territorial dynamics might be a game-theoretic pun of mother Nature, after all. If so, what corrections to the Mad Max scenario could be predicted? People would stop expanding their impact (or even die off) more submissively perhaps.

Claudia Oney said...

I were a charismatic warlord, say in Kansas, I might look around at the worn out soil and think of leading my merry band to a better place. California, assuming the drought and flooding have continued would be out. East? It might be a sloppy mess and the worn soils still a problem, as would be the soils in the American South. Food and the ability to feed any enclave I might establish is paramount. JMG thinks the North a good bet and it may be. I would worry about the wet mess from melting glaciers and the poisonous devastation of the last gasps of the oil industry. Also, the seasons will be short and I am not sure of food production in that setting. So I think I would fight my way South, maybe all the way through Mexico hoping Central America would have enough good land above water to support us; if not to South America. I would hope things would not be so terribly worn there. Gail T. believes a hot climate better for non-industrial civilizations like Egypt and that the North only developed in tandem with industrialization.
I suppose my point is that I think emigration out of the U.S. is as likely as immigration into the the U.S. in this horrible future we are imagining.

Tony f. whelKs said...

As an inhabitant of the British Isles, I've long had a fascination with the whole idea of ethnic and cultural identities. I've always self-identified as English, never British, and much of my sense of identity has been driven by an abhorrence of the toxic mix of racism and nationalism which seemed resurgent here during the 1970s when I was a teenager. This series of posts has shone bit of a light upon one of my unconscious blind-spots, or rather something I have seen but not really understood, and that is that I am a product of a post-imperial society.

Although I was very aware of growing up in the shadow of the Second World War (my parents were children during that conflict), the hangover of the British Empire was a dimly-seen shade behind the stage curtain, not an actor in the limelight. I guess that's mostly the myopia of youth, but standing back from that with a few extra decades under my belt, I can discern much more of the patterning left behind by Empire, and its fall. In many ways, our Empire declined more gracefully than the Romans', yet without it we would have had far less immigration from former colonies, and we would consequently have had fewer neo-fascists marching on various high streets during the 70s.

The rhetoric of the racist parties amused me as much as it revolted me: talk of the 'pure British race' being one of the most salient. And to echo earlier references, it is neither pure, British, nor a race, but an ethnogenetic artefact, a simmering cauldron that has had its ingredients constantly added to, stirred and blended over centuries, or even millenia. That the latest touches have been a bit of spice from Asia, some Afro-Caribbean mellowness or even boomerang bloodlines of returning colonials, only underlines rather than threatens the nature of Englishness. For my part, I have a simple definition regarding who is English - someone who lives in England and who speaks English with an English accent (ie any regional accent, not just RP). Their ancestors may have arrived with the Huguenots, the Saxons, the Celts, the Romans or as easily on the Windrush or as refugees from Idi Amin's Ugandan expulsions.

I can't deny there have been frictions along the way between different ethnic or cultural arrivals, and there are always some ready to exploit that, but generally I am more relaxed about eventual assimilation. To some extent this genius of Englishness has already been tested by imperial decline, but what the future of industrial decline holds is harder to read. It could solidify, it could fracture. Looking from the outside, I believe the USA is much more likely to pull itself apart.

One other telling fact regarding ethnogenesis - about five or ten years ago a genetic survey of British populations was released, which revealed that at the genetic level the Welsh and the Cornish are totally indistinguishable from the English, despite them seeing themselves as separate nations. This suggests to me that nationhood is predominantly a social construct with linguistic and cultural strata overlaid on, and mostly independent of, ethnicity. Or to put it another way, national identity is more of a narrative than a reality.

(Captcha: 1914, how apposite :-) )

Snotra Prudentia said...

first time commenter, long time lurker (there you go, Cherokee Organics ;-)) from Sweden. I start by apologizing for any weird grammar and expressions that might not come across as intended, since Swedish, not English, is my native tongue. Thank you for this blog, which I value tremendeously - just wish there was a corresponding one, dealing with the European and Scandinavian situation.

John Michael Greer said...
Mac, thank you. The hope is that if enough others learn to think in the same cold terms, something might still be accomplished.

Now I know that you promote learning skills that will be useful in a time of resource scarcity - skills that I am already trying to acquire for myself (though a bit too slowly, I fear) - which is all clear and sound to me. And fun doing at that, too.

What I wonder, is what we are expected to (we ought to - "yotta"? ;-)), or rather, then, could accomplish, having the insights you've shared in last week's and this week's posts? What I'm getting at, is the difference between contraction in the economic and energy sector - for which one needs certain skills (growing food and other types of local production as described in your blog and books), and the kind of hardships due to warbands and mass migration you portray here, where one might expect some gun-carrying squad literally wipe out ones home and family in this or that way.

Is it merely to be mentally prepared for getting chased away, killed or raped/enslaved or are there certain skills, mindsets, community building, relocation or other types of preparation, which could increase ones chances of avoiding that miserable fate, that you have in mind? If so, please, I'm all ears.

What is it, that we can accomplish by being informed?

Spanish fly said...

"It’s a measure of the sheer scale of these migrations that before Rome started to topple, many of the ancestors of today’s Spaniards lived in what’s now the Ukraine."

Oh, my restless nephew (a 3 years, fair-haired beast) could be a Goth, if he had a moustache, a helmet and a sword...

Eric S. said...

Once you’ve made peace with the prospect of culture death and depopulation that you brought up last week, the prospect of culture birth becomes extremely exciting to contemplate. Trying to imagine the new forms and directions Awen will take lore and language for the peoples who will walk the earth as humanity cycles again into the cauldron of beginnings. But, that process doesn’t begin in our lifetimes, and as you said our age is going to be marked by the much harsher reality of ethnic tension. For those today who value equality, fairness, and civil rights, how can we live by those values in a time where these may be in short supply. It seems the simplest answer, and the one that probably matters the most as we head into the decades ahead is to stop talking about ethnic diversity as an abstract concept divorced from day to day reality and start living it. Learn the human ecology of your area: the languages, ethnicities, cultures, and religions that make it up or will make it up and how they touch on the lives of the people within them in the same way you learn about the soil, weather, and vegetation. And start making some friends outside of your own ethnic circles if you haven’t already. Learn some of the languages and hospitality customs that might define your hometown a hundred years from now and get used to practicing some of them. It’s a way of applying those moral values to present circumstances and as the future comes bearing down it will probably be an adaptive strategy to take, not to mention the value for inner health stepping out of your own cultural tunnel vision has. Just some thoughts about applying the trajectory of the future to lived life in the present.

Don Plummer said...

John, what do you think are the chances that the future might witness a revival of one or more First Nations cultures and lifestyles in the deindustrial future, especially in more remote regions of the continent? As wealth disappears; as political, social, and physical infrastructure crumbles; and as the damage we've inflicted on the ecologies of North America really begin to bite, some of the historic Native ways of living on this land may become more attractive and, for that matter, feasible.

I would assume, of course, that any such revivals would be populated not only by the descendents of "enrolled" members of Native nations or tribes, but could include people of any (currently recognized)ethnicities.

Twilight said...

I have often been led to various Wikipedia pages concerning the history of one post-Roman area of Britain or another, and I have been continually amazed by the chaos. It seems like 1000 years of one warlord or another clawing his way to power, holding on for maybe a dozen years of constant battle, only to be killed by his brother/cousin/son or other rival. That's overlaid by various invasion from outside, which caused some consolidation of groups for a short time, until new groupings formed.

That's left a big impression on me - how many died in those wars, how many young men marched under the banners of those would-be kings, and what did they believe they were fighting for? How many of those warlords believed they were going to consolidate power over the whole land and reign as king?

I believe this same process played out in the wreckage of the rest of the Western Roman empire too, but perhaps was more extreme and lasted longer in Britain due to isolation and the fact that it fell harder. I can't help but expect something similar here in due time. It's already begun on the southwest border, which will likely expand north as climate and economic collapse deepen. I wonder what other region is likely to spawn the next batch?

Marc L Bernstein said...

I don't have a long comment today, but I just finished reading an article that you should know about, in case you have yet to come across it.

It's by David Price of Cornell University, edited in part by Carl Sagan.

From Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies
Volume 16, Number 4, March 1995, pp. 301-19

Bogatyr said...

Re: migration, I've just seen this article. It seems nearly 500 migrants broke into a French port, with just under 100 of them storming a ferry headed for the UK. A sign of things to come.

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown Deborah, thank you. I'm doing my best to get the publicity machine rolling on this one -- if it catches on, the novel might just kickstart some conversations that ths US desperately needs to have.

Cherokee, that has me wondering who this Myers was that such people have more front than? ;-)

Mark, oh, granted.

K-dog, exactly.

Bike Trog, my advice to anyone in the Southwest amounts to "get out now." You don't want to be trying to evacuate along with millions of others when a flat bike tire could be your death warrant.

Bogatyr, communities of the kind that can answer your questions in the affirmative don't currently exist in the industrial world, nor will they for a good long time. There's a straightforward reason for that: the arrangements that will be necessary in the coming dark ages aren't economically or politically viable today. That's one of the things that makes descent into a dark age so difficult: the social and economic forms that work in dark age conditions are nearly the opposite of those that work in the eras immediately beforehand. More on this as we proceed.

Jason, thanks for the data point. That could lead in all kinds of difficult directions...

Wiseman, rubbing people the wrong way is just one of the services I offer!

Bogatyr, Ebola's a potential pandemic where you've got extreme crowding, extreme poverty, and very limited health care resources. If it gets out of West Africa, I expect to see scattered cases in the industrial world, but not the sort of self-catalyzing spread that's going on now in Liberia et al. -- the conditions aren't right. The urban Middle East, on the other hand, has nearly perfect conditions for an Ebola pandemic, and the increasing hostility and distrust toward Western medicine among Muslim fundamentalists isn't going to help much. Keep an eye on the major trade routes across the Sahara; if cases start showing up at the entrepots on the southern end of those, that's a warning sign of some importance.

Rita, thank you. You're right, of course, about the elite end of the environmental movement -- the pervasive sense of privilege that's common to upper classes is a huge and normally unrecognized vulnerability. More on this as we proceed!

Bogatyr said...

@TTony f. whelKs I think what you meant to say was "at the genetic level the English are totally indistinguishable from the Welsh and the Cornish, who were here first" ;-) That's not entirely the case, of course; in my experience, the English of the south-east are significantly more Germanic in appearance, with much more fair hair and blue eyes to be found.

John Michael Greer said...

Writer, China had the advantage of a hugely resilient agricultural and economic system, and millennia of practice assimilating new upper classes. The industrial world has neither.

Raven, nah, that's a phenomenon of old Civilizations, in Spengler's sense, which haven't been shoved aside by rising Cultures. You didn't see a lot of fellahin in post-Romen Europe.

Surfer, good. I can't speak to Europe, but I expect conditions here to resemble nothing so much as Afghanistan during the recent war.

Das Monde, exactly -- that's why, for example, the process of warband formation proceeds as reliably as it does, and why feudalism is the inevitable social form of a society coming out of a dark age. We'll be discussing that further on in this series of posts.

Claudia, an interesting point. A great deal depends on the local and regional results of climate change -- if the Southwest US and northern Mexico become uninhabitable sooner rather than later, your imagined warlord may have to try to find ships!

Tony, exactly. Ethnicity and nationality are complex constructions rooted in history and maintained by cultural means, not the sort of enduring biological realities that racists like to fantasize about. That's one of the reasons why ethnic and national divisions dissolve so completely in dark ages, and new patterns form.

Snotra, I've been talking about that for eight years now. Since you don't have to worry about barbarians showing up on your doorstep next Wednesday, and collapse of all kinds is fractally distributed in time and space, you have plenty of options. You might read Eric S.'s comment a bit further down for a few suggestions.

Fly, why not get him the helmet and sword for his next birthday? Might as well start getting him ready for his future career... ;-)

Eric, exactly. Exactly.

Don, stranger things have happened. If it happens, I'd expect to see it mostly where First Nations have been able to establish themselves in fair numbers and maintain at least some of their cultural traditions.

Twilight, I think in a lot of cases the young men simply liked to fight -- a lot of young men do -- and the mead, gold, and female companionship that came with the deal was also an incentive. Fighting for ideals is an invention of more civilized times. As for the likely nuclei of warband formation in North America, we'll be getting to that.

Marc, yes, I've seen it. To my mind, it's oversimplified, but he's got some of the picture.

Bogatyr, thanks for the heads up! Welcome to the Age of Migrations...

Ray Wharton said...

I wonder about how discreet those three phases are. Not all flowers bloom in the same month.

I was at a Californian owned coffee shop recently. I was talking with a fellow Rainbow Wwoofer about how much we enjoyed our time in the garden that morning, and discussing if it was reasonable to try scaling up the garden for '15. We discussed decline, being seed bearers, the farms we had worked at, the people meet, and our experiences at recent rainbow gatherings.

When my Rainbow sister left the Californian addressed me, teasing about how much we liked gardening and dirt. And I joked back at the Californian that I haven't talked with anyone in my own age who isn't interested in sustainability, and gardening, at least in theory, but more and more in practice, and mused that I would be curious to meet some youth who don't care about such things, just to get a pulse on things.

The Californian says something to the effect "Ray, you live in a bubble, but what is your bubble, you're not hippies, what are you guys?" he was referring to the string of friend I had meet with at various times in his establishment.

Story time's over, because I didn't have much of an answer. But since yesterday I been thinking, it is a bit of ethnogenesis. I figure we are Rainbow Children, identifying more or less as such. And at least in the individuals who are cast off from the binds of privileged I know alot of 'former whites'. They still have white skin, and can pass in a pinch, but they mark themselves and their social persona in a way the excludes them from full inclusion with that ethnicity, and reach out to other ethnicities for meme sharing as new seeds grow fertile.

I fear that the Rainbow children are like a seed that germinates before a killing frost. But it has many features of ethnogenesis, at least in the cases of individuals who are isolated from white privilege. Even the contrast between 'rainbow' and 'white' I think is symbolically signaficent. The Rainbow culture also has a decent representation from other ethnicities, black and Indigenous American especially. Cultural aspects from South America are coming in fast and heavy thanks to the subcultures inherent alliance with the South American peoples against the methods of USA's control of the Western hemisphere.

I claim that the final stage is already happening in an immature way.

Greg Belvedere said...

I find the smugly superior tone many westerners use when talking about ethnic conflicts in the middle east rather amusing. Westerners like to think that we have left those conflicts behind and look down on those engaged in them. An example of the myth of progress no doubt. We don't realize the ingredients for ethnic conflicts in the US are in the pot and they only require some time and heat to come to a boil. I wish it was different. I wish we got better with every generation. Perhaps over much greater stretches we make small improvements in some areas (logic, scientific method, better farming methods). Perhaps we can preserve them (trying to do my part). I don't know. I agree with Roille Figners quote from The Wire. We want it to be one way, but it's the other way. Great blog.

Allie said...

Hi JMG. Great post this week. I'm really enjoying this series of posts. It gives me lots to think about while working around the old family farm. I have recently started reading Star's Reach. I'm a few chapters in and it reads nicely alongside this series of posts.

I'm really looking forward to your next book too.

Thanks for your continued writing and enlightenment.

Mean Mr Mustard said...


Just ordered both of your Karnac books. Particularly looking forward to 'Twilight'. On which, your infiltrating wily Chinese are already made real by the 'Little(?) Green Men' and lost soldiers apparently on walking holidays (unmarked Russians) now operating semi-clandestinely in Eastern Ukraine. Which underlines the folly of maintaining expensive military hardware (in the Ukrainian's case, Sukhoi Flankers inherited from the Soviet breakup) while yet in denial on facing insurgency connected to their own restive populations.

Converting that into a future American street scene - it's not so hard to imagine a stripped carcass of an F-22 - retired from service after only fifteen years - now baking in the parking lot of the local small-town museum, which burned down years back. The charred carcass of the plane rests on wooden trestles, stripped of the valuable metals, and now daubed in graffiti, a curious mix of English, Spanish and latest youth idioms. It's used as a gathering point - a welcome shady spot for those ne'er do well punks, always up to no good they are, when gathering under the wings of the Raptor, with no cops to bother them. What's wrong with the kids these days, huh...?



Ray Wharton said...

As for population displacement, many of the youth in the Rainbow movement, which I am hypothesizing is a 'sapling' ethnicity, dream of resettlement in South America. And many of those dreamers have spent time south of Mexico doing projects where they did service for poor families. I think they may have some degree of success, because even as second class citizens (as immigrants are often fated to be) I think they can avoid being identified with USA, they have honest reverence for the cultures they wish to live amongst, and are eager and enthusiastic workers when given something better than the molding carrot on a telescoping stick they were trained with stateside.

Personally I hope that more Rainbows stay State side, because I like the company and personally am quite fond of North America. Though if I were living in a bicycle caravan some day and the Cook says "We're going to Peru." what could I say?

I say sapling very intentionally because every sapling has poor chances of becoming a mighty tree, but even when a forest is retreating a sapling has a chance in the right refugia. We need a level 13 Green Wizard who can cast "Spangler's Greenhouse", winter is coming.

Nathan said...

I agree that the national media here is unreliable and full of absurd biases. Am I paranoid if I expect it to get much worse though? To expect that national media will stop even reporting 'civil disturbances' like Ferguson, embarrassing foreign policies like Ukraine, or internal implosions like Detroit? A reflection of a reflection of the truth is better than nothing.

Joe Roberts said...

Last night your comment that "it’s entirely possible that most people in the upper Mississippi valley will be of Brazilian ancestry, and the inhabitants of the Hudson’s Bay region sing songs about their long-lost homes in drowned Florida" struck me, if only because I thought, Brazilians? And only Floridians in that part of northern Canada? Why so specific?

But then I thought about the improbable wanderings of the past. Deep into the age of exploration, in 1760 let's say, who would have believed that a distant continent 10,000 miles from London, with a population, language groups, and primary climate that could hardly be more different from those of Britain, would in not too many decades have several cities composed nearly exclusively of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish people, complete with primrose gardens and teatime and all the rest. Well, I suppose people might have believed it, since it had already happened in North America (with more continental European diversity), but it does remind one how the very rapid migration of one specific group and all its cultural baggage from one corner of the globe to another is hardly a new story.

Rita Narayanan said...

Glad JMG that you will be discussing the environmental movement itself..thought mentioning names would be rude on my part getting your blog involved. However, both from India and the West the environmental elites constantly mention Bhutan and Gross National Happiness.

How can people use as a template a nation and culture that in every sort of way is the opposite of a modern Western/global society... to address an essentially global problem

Bhutan is a Buddhist(a Bhutanese form of Tibetan Buddhism) aristocracy, it has a small population, the people have a very *different* ethos from modern multiculturalism, it's polity/society couldn't be more at odds with the West.How exactly do many northern Californian - East Coast liberal people use this template.

It amazes me that hip Indian environmentalists do the same and then talk about People's Democracy...the only person who has a glove that fit's is Prince Charles as a member of the English landed aristocracy.

Cheers :)

Cathy McGuire said...

Lots of good points in this post – and congrats on the book release! Might bring a huge wave of “immigrants” to the shores of this blog! ;-)

Americans have almost stopped being "we" at all; that is to say, we've gotten to the stage of ethnic dissolution a little sooner than others.
That was probably inevitable, given that “American” seems to consist only of being a good consumer and buying the “right” brands! American exceptionalism has been empty words for generations, though individuals who believed in it could be brave and selfless (odd irony, that).

@Cherokee O: The top of the heap has always felt to me as if it were a transitory position anyway.
Always reminds me of “Yertle the Turtle” – anyone get the reference? I'm reminded of the old saying, "Stand out in a crowd and you'll be a better target." ;-)

James Mishler said...

JMG, loving this series of articles!

I am very interested in seeing what your thoughts are on the development of a North American Bagaudae, or "Peasant Insurgency," and how that will play out. I feel the Drug Gangs of Mexico may well effectively be the model for modern Bagaudae in the United States.

RE: the return of slavery, I see it happening more along the lines of that experienced by the populace in the Merovingian era, than in the Industrial style of slavery the US experienced historically. In other words, warlords and kings raid their neighbors, and in addition to stealing their grain and goods, kidnap the populace. Those with wealthy or powerful families will be ransomed, those without will end up hewers of wood and drawers of water...

Bogatyr said...

@JMG " Ebola's a potential pandemic where you've got extreme crowding, extreme poverty, and very limited health care resources."

No doubt. Still, I like to play 'headline mashup', and to contemplate Ebola showing up in a Detroit where the water supply has been disconnected for thousands of residents. Or even, perhaps, in Ferguson, Missouri...

Strovenovus said...

Thank you for these presages. Though dark, they shine new urgency on the cultivation of self-sufficiency, usefulness and goodwill.

I hope that you will also continue with your unique brand of utilitarian comedy-- carving out a different path amidst the ruins-- even as an occasional interlude to your visions of what may come.

ChemEng said...

We are putting together a small community garden. One of the ladies with whom I work casually mentioned that she expected migration to our area (Virginia) from the southwest due to the drought there. I hinted that the migration might not be just a few children but could be millions of people, semi-organized into fighting groups. She immediately understood and agreed.

I wonder if these ideas are as unusual as we may think. When I suggested this she simply said that people do understand but don’t want to think about bad news. In other words, many people are aware of the changes that are going on but then change the subject.

Ragelle said...

I thought this book review was interesting considering last week's post. There are after all several civilizations that rode energy to its peak.

Thomas Daulton said...

Hey JMG, how about another reader contest? "In one paragraph, what's the strangest yet barely plausible cultural distortion that the readers expect to emerge from the coming Dark Age America." Such things are a sci-fi trope, for example, people worshipping Elvis Presley as a saint, or the underground dwellers in _Planet of the Apes_ worshipping the nuclear bomb and its saint, "Lost Usa". (Consider those entries taken.) But it doesn't have to be religious. Maybe a reader could explain how exactly that the State dish of the Merigan State of New Greenland in the 2650s (79th in the Union, because, y'know, when Meriga kept adding conquered territories as States, it continued to count the original 32 dissolved States), the official State cuisine of New Greenland came to be Mega-Elk Luau Style, after a large family of Hawaiians were blown off course and accidentally crossed over the warm waters of the melted Arctic during a historical re-creation of the Kon-Tiki journey in 2592, washing ashore in the Merigan Zone of Greenland, where six of them found employment (and marriage) working as chefs in the Emperor Governor's summer Palace.

Dorda Giovex said...

(Sorry for my English .. I am Italian and so it is probably full of mistakes)

One thing that is rarely brought up is how today's gangs in western cities are already an embryonic version of what society could be during a collapse.

When I was in England I got stunned by a documentary showing the life of gangs in Glasgow. Adolescent boys where in fact describing their responsibility of defending their neighbourhood against rival gangs .. often getting horrible knife wounds and not being able to go to school at all.

There is a growing movement in England called "Transition Towns" I interacted with. Laudably, it tries to push people to re-learn skills useful when the economy becomes forcibly local. I do feel, though, that the vision of "local economy" is often seen in a romantic, 1700-style bucolic view.. instead of the brutal affair of constant defence of the little hard-earned food against roaming migrating bands of hungry murderers it is likely to be.

Middle age society formed gradually during collapse: first almost all forms of organized society nearly failed, to be then protected by ever higher and thicker walls to defend life and the scarce resources from the lawless wilderness which was everywhere.

Every village fortified and became a "burg" with the richest man building the castle, the ultimate refuge of the people in case of attack. Every narrow passage was guarded and exploited by some making any kind of travel an expensive and life-threatening business.

The second constant during middle ages is the constant relentless economic competition of localized economies sparkling war and conflict at every level. As in any human societal dis-organization the lack of a strong, credible and effective management is the catalyst of conflict among peers.

Wave after wave of conflict brought aggregation of larger and larger political entitities: city-states, regional powers, nations, empires, then finally superpowers and globalization.. and here we are.

So my point is that local economy is certainly more natural.. but it won't be a pretty way of living. Life in a collapsed society is going to be brutal and short as it is today in gangs (for example I read that LA gang people rarely make it to the late 20's).

magicalthyme said...

Not much time to post these days, but just an update on Ebola. It's now spreading in Nigeria. Apparently an exposed diplomat broke quarantine and was secretly treated by a Lagos doctor, who himself became infected yet continued treating other patients, attended a celebration of a birth, etc. Needless to say, that a diplomat and a doctor would knowingly do such things does not leave much hope for containment.

Bill Pulliam said...

I was born in downtown Atlanta in 1961, have lived in the South for 3/4 of my life, half of that in small towns. About ethnicity "down here..."

When I was a kid, Mexicans were white, Jews were not. Now, Jews are white, but Mexicans are not. Blacks remain black, and christian northern europeans remain white,of course, but people are caring less and less about that distinction with each passing year. Even social and cultural segregation along the traditional black/white schism seems to have all but vanished among most people younger than 25 (and I am now living in an isolated rural county, not a big metro area). At the grungy dive gym I use in town, there's a 19-year old white dude who is always blasting gangster rap from his phone. And the 21 year old black dude listens to Garth Brooks.

So... even in Flaming Red State Dixie, don't expect the old ethnicities to have much to do with how the new identities coalesce.

Jason Heppenstall said...

@Tony. With regard to English/British ethnicity a great book on the subject (maybe you have already read it) is Bryan Sykes's 'Blood of the Isles'. In it he details the results of his genetic analysis of a large sample of Britons conducted over a number of years.

There have been numerous waves of migrations, with many people here originating in southern Spain (this is especially true of Ireland). This prompted me, out of curiosity, to get my own DNA analysed. I'd always thought I was '100% English' - which may be true but I have plenty of Saxon genes in the mix (well, my surname is Viking - it means 'the place where rosehips grow') ... but genetically I am most similar to someone from modern day Crimea. Apparently this is quite common in England.

So, yes, any talk of 'ethnic English' is pure nonsense. We are a mash-up and the result of numerous invasions, tribal alliances and partnerships that occurred through trade (quite a few people in Cornwall have sub-Saharan and Assyrian genes mixed in there, harking back to the tin trade during the bronze age). Saying that, many in the upper classes can easily trace their genetic lineage back to the Norsemen from which they are descended via the Normans. Maybe wealth doesn't trickle down after all ;-)

I'm also around 2% Neanderthal, it turns out, but we won't talk about that.

Tom Hopkins said...

the web of debt blog sept 1 2014 has the fed quip, the navy times june 23 2014 has the horse story

Nemo said...

I find the subject of demographics in the future to be pretty interesting. I work (part-time) as a librarian in a small, poor city in New York state and over the past several years, there have been some pretty profound shifts in the population. According to the latest census data, about 30% of the inhabitants speak Spanish, which is up from about 20% in 2000. Meanwhile, none of the professional librarians speak the language or are directly involved with the community, so we are not serving the Spanish-speaking population *nearly* as well as I think we should. Currently the library board has been more concerned with hiring more security guards and remodeling the bathrooms to discourage illicit goings-on than expanding our library services. It seems like de facto segregation has become a significant factor in shaping the city's current state, with large chasms between the white/Hispanic/black populations; unfortunately those who are in formal leadership positions aren't acknowledging it, let alone doing anything about it. I'm just hoping that there aren't any incidents of racial violence like the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson.

Neo Tuxedo said...

Pinku-sensei skrev:

What you've invited is a round of "fact and fantasy about immigrants," [...] Good luck on taking the side of reality against the tide of fantasy you should expect in the comments.

We can find a forerunner of that tide in Derv's comment on last week's post:

"We've seen the rather spectacular failure of multiculturalism throughout Europe over the last few decades, primarily on account of a lack of integration (itself a product of cultural self-doubt and self-loathing)."

I thought of that comment at once, and I was gratified to find Jason Heppenstall offering a corrective:

The refugees—men, women and children—appeared listless and sat around in groups in the street (a VERY un-Scandinavian thing to do). They are given a place to live, some money and clothes, but are not allowed to earn money and so just fill the days wandering about and sitting smoking.

I read somewhere that something similar is happening in France, that the Muslim underclass is not so much opting out of French society as being actively if not systematically shut out of opportunities to opt in. I foolishly didn't bookmark the page where I saw this, or if I did, I can't find the bookmark in the zoo that is my bookmarks folder, but my understanding is that, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton on Christianity, integration has not been tried and found wanting; in France and Scandinavia, it has been found difficult and left untried. In Britain, there's individual tolerance and individual intolerance, but official institutions are not working to shut Muslims out, which I hope will have a positive outcome for the British Archipelago in the event of an Arab/Islamic Volkerwanderung.

(I don't know how things are in present-day Germany, but I'm hopeful, based on an understanding that they've come to terms with their past and are trying to expand their "sense of 'we'", as Violet Cabra paraphrases Spengler in the comment just to the left of the box in which I'm writing this. Expand their sense of "we" without diluting it, what we in America used to call "the melting pot" back before we decided that letting Certain Ingredients blend in would make the baby Jesus cry and the baby Karl Marx giggle.)

rube cretin said...

Thanks for that link. Agree the clip does demonstrate the lessons of the first few paragraphs. However, a much better clip is available to demonstrate JMG's crushing point.

Try this one from Apocalypse Now. The final monolog by Brando is one of the best examples of the role of morality and judgement in the the struggle for power ever filmed.

@violet and Steve. I believe this clip demonstrates the psychological warfare being implemented by ISIS.


Please watch the clip, because I got a nickel bet with someone you have a copy of the book on the table in the clip in your personal library. The Golden Bough.

"The Weak are Meat and the Strong shall eat."

Rebecca Brown said...

JMG, as someone else pointed out, the process of racial intensification has already started in the south. The black/white lines are disappearing (in some areas -in others they're hardening) while the hatred towards immigrants, gays, atheists, and others is intensifying.

As a biracial lesbian who can "pass" for both white and straight, I've always been both more sensitive to such things and have been exposed to these things from both sides. The rhetoric and the anger towards these "others" has increased exponentially over the past few years, with people now saying public and vehemently that the best way to deal with illegal immigrants (including children) and gays is to shoot them.

Carl said...

Dear JMG,
Related to your recent topics is this interesting blog entry,
The author compares internet trolling and ancient Rome's gladiator games and how both signal the falling of a civilization.
I ordered your new book and looking forward to reading it in November.

Roger said...

So what about future warband formation? Maybe, like ISIS, growing right under our noses as we speak. As you say you'll be getting to that and I'm getting ahead of things but a couple suggestions: what about armed urban street gangs? Or militia groups? Maybe those will be the templates for new war-bands. And maybe, down the road, new institutions.

Roger said...

You see in post-Roman Europe and its American offspring the shadows of the Roman world and the pre-Roman world. You see it in the ethnic and linguistic map. And, in some cases, the institutions.

I read that the Roman Senate in Italy continued meeting until sometime in the 7th Century, that is, long after the last Roman Emperor was shooed away.

I wonder what institutional ghosts persist after our own collapse. I wonder for how long. Maybe the US Army and the US Senate? Maybe just going through the motions, kept on life-support by a traumatized local population, with no power outside a small community. But, who knows, given the exigencies of the times, maybe everything that now looks so solid and powerful and permanent, will just be disbanded, formally or informally or maybe violently, and quickly forgotten.

Can you imagine illiterate farmers two thousand years from now tending livestock on a grassy mound unaware of (and indifferent to) what lies beneath? The remains of an august Washington building, once the center of world power, covered over by wind-blown dirt.

Carl said...

Related to migration from the ME is this two part history of ISIS, Saudia Arabia, and how the two look to be coming together soon. I had no idea ....Carl

Raymond Duckling said...

Dear John,

During the last years I have had to learn of the peak oil and other great events of this century. Little by little I came to terms with the fact that my chosen profession is going to die, and that I am also going to die (probably a couple of decades earlier than what I had come to believe in my cornucopian youth).

Then, over the last week or so, you have come to tell me that my children are going to die and my people is going to die too?

The Buddha was right, all attachment leads to suffering. There will be other peoples, and there will be other children.

Derv said...

Hey JMG,

While considerations like this are important, and a lack of perspective is one of the greatest flaws of the West, it's also important not to err too far to the other side and give into a sort of hopelessness. I'm not accusing you of this of course, merely noting it. On a long enough timeline, all of humanity is dead.

It is my hope that, at least for a time, the West will once again find its cultural confidence in the face of existential threats. Our only hope of preserving Western civilization as we know it is to abandon our recently-acquired materialism (an easier prospect when material wealth dissolves before us) and return to the just and merciful ideals of our predecessors. We need a new "we." As you've said, there will likely be several, but it's my hope some of them will survive.

Rome did not escape collapse, but its ideals did. I don't want to see the ideals of Christendom die, or rather I wish for them to remain as long as possible - rage against the dying of the light and all that. Some of this gets into religious concepts in the future, which I could not expect anyone else to accept, but I think the final loss of that light does not bode well for the world. Of course, transformation and adaptation are all inevitable, and totally fine so long as the core remains. Ethnic Chinese in Missouri speaking Portuguese could still hold to those ideals, after all. And when talking about the far future, our vision becomes increasingly colored by our ideology (which would include materialism, I might note).

Other civilizations do not face the same crisis of confidence we've recently faced. As many other comments have noted, ISIS represents a manifestation of that confidence within Islam. They do not fret about their many past sins as we do; regret can be a source of good if it prompts change, but it's become paralyzing. No German today, for instance, should feel oppressed by guilt over Nazism, and such crippling guilt in the face of real threats can be suicidal.

For good or ill, Israel may be an example of the "best case scenario" for the West; through suffering and crisis, a new unity is formed, one whose foundation is self-preservation more than anything. The new "we" needs to be a model that has a fierce survival instinct, or it will fail. That means it must, absolutely must, believe itself worthy of existing. The current Western impulse toward collapse is for many one of "good riddance." That bothers me, no less because I feel it myself. But for anything to survive, we must decide what we want to be and unite around it. This will differ depending on the people, even in the US. But as for me and mine, we will serve the Lord.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

It is perhaps worth explaining Cherokee Organics' nice idiom from the State of Victoria, "More front than Myers" (said with reference to inconsiderate and presumptuous intruders on one's time and energy). Myers was, perhaps still is, a distinctively opulent department store on one of the poshest streets in Melbourne. Myers was, perhaps still is, noted among other things for its long shop-window frontage.

I may as well add here, plagiarizing from my own work on another Web site, a small anecdote about Myers and Latin (since we are here pondering a Nova Aetas Obscura). This anecdote I have from the eminent, now-deceased, Monash University classicist Gavin Betts. - As I remarked many months ago on the ADR blog, Betts is the author of a distinctively good, correctly rigorous, intro to Latin, found in almost all large bookstores in cheap paperback, Teach Yourself Latin. His book is the 1980s or 1990s version of Teach Yourself Latin - not to be confused with an inferior, less rigorous, textbook under the same title, from the same publisher, from perhaps the 1930s or 1940s. The inferior book has as one of its early examples "Puer capram amabat": the reading public in the 1930s or 1940 was rather touchingly innocent. So if you see "Puer cabpram amabat", and have quite STOPPED snorting (the imperfect is progressive: "The boy was loving the goat"), note that the book you are holding is not Betts's, but its unhappy predecessor.

A long time ago, I think before World War II, Myers (so said Betts to us, his 1981 or 1982 Latin class in Australia) held a particularly pretentious sale. The executive responsible, wishing to invest his proceedings with a certain snob value, phoned up a Latinist at the closest university to ask for a motto he might put onto a front-door banner. Easy, said the prof: write 'CAVEAT EMPTOR'. And it was even so. A vast banner, thus inscribed, welcomed shoppers. Now and again, the executive would get odd looks from some Melbournian - some odd comment, asking what the motto meant, or even suggesting that he make inquiries into its exact meaning. Feeling at length uneasy, the manager phoned the academic - here's the part you have to imagine said in broad Strine, in the Cockney of the extreme latitudes - 'Eh, that motto, eh? What's it actually MEAN?' The professor-consultant set his manager-client's unease to rest: 'Ah, yes, that motto. CAVEAT EMPTOR - for, ah, the discerning purchaser.'

scanning horizon for incoming Goths,

Toomas (Tom) Karmo

(near Toronto, Canada)

www dot metascientia dot com

thrig said...

Progress may be defined as the near destruction of the wooden base of the spice mill, the daily sourdough wheat grains ground having taken their toll on the revealed weakest point of that device. And the mustard, though that is easier to grind, though the home-made mustard comes out less smooth and more black than yellow and very, very strong—very little is necessary. Still, circling in the food miles is fun, running them down by slow iterations as the easy things are mastered (ghee, bread, mustard) and next steps—how about ketchup, or apple cider vinegar, or beer? Or to purchase a larger wheat mill, or buy local pre-ground flour for the bulk of the bread? Another point: full time cooking really should be a thing, as after a day of work at the office I'm more likely to not want to cook and oh by the way did you start that pot boiling and did you have the beans soaking? No?

Random Man said...

I'm interested in hearing about how North American collapse will affect the politics, economics, and demographics of other areas, for example Latin America, Europe, and Asia. But perhaps that's a topic for another post.

Here in Texas where I grew up and still live, I can report that, ideally, I would make an alliance with the Mexicans, as many of them are good, down to earth people. Practically, though, it can't be done, because there's just so many of them, and they have many children (some for the birthright citizenship reason). So it really is a replacement migration, we in the southwest are being replaced.

But of course, according to the coastal intelligentsia, I'm an incurable "racist" and not a real human being with a real life, a real history, and nuanced views.

You aren't going to pick this up by reading the news or watching television or movies. You have to be on the ground here.

Eric S. said...

Re: Thomas on weird cultural constructs: One of the stories I started and abandoned for the last Spacebats story was going to be about a group of nomadic herders descended from the Inuit, Sami, and a ragtag group of Asian and Eastern European cultures living in what's now Siberia who have a complex culture centered on a population of woolly mammoths engineered by Chinese scientists in the 2050s. I couldn't find a story so it didn't happen. I'm working on a novel set in the same world and time period as the story I did write, though and we're pretty sure that's still a background element. Since none of the characters have been that far north, if it got mentioned at all it'd just be through travellers tales and artifacts and even then, it'd be a minor detail. Still though, it's a weird future culture possibility that crossed my mind.

C Stegiel said...

I wonder if in 100 years anything we speculate will be accurate. For example, I suspect industrial civilization will make it, but large numbers of people will not. One can envision a world where elites exist with their machines and retainers and urban fortresses. One can envision these enclaves as linked together into a global enclave roughly of the Haves and Have Nots. Possibly a model for this can be found in the varied feudal systems of this world. One example would be Tibet. You can have a culture venerating the ruling "Lama" and accepting any evil as par for the course.

sgage said...

@ Cathy McGuire,

"Always reminds me of “Yertle the Turtle” – anyone get the reference?"

I do! 'I am the ruler of all that I see'.

One of my first books :-) Good ol' Dr. Seuss!

Matt McNeill said...

An interesting visualisation of European Boundaries from Rome to the modern era. Brings the post alive.

1000 Years of European Borders

SLClaire said...

Some weeks ago I was reading a bit of the history of the post-Roman empire that you refer to as part of a question that had come up in my Druidic reading. That question is, who was/is Celtic, and do I have any right to claim myself as a Druid given the usual way I have identified myself ethnically as of mostly German and secondarily English descent? Not only did I need to learn where the people who became the Celtic empire come from and what happened to them as the years went by (something you won't be surprised to find out was not covered in the public schools I attended), but I also had to think about how England and Germany came into being and what it means to think of myself as having those particular ancestries. What was and is the source of these varying ethnic identities and what does it imply about who I am and who I might become? I got a sense of ethnogenesis from that line of thinking and how civilizational rise and decline influenced that process. That helps me understand what you are discussing in this post, which in turn should help me make sense of the process as it plays out during the remainder of my life. It seems that ethnic identity is a good deal more fragile and contingent than my upbringing taught me that it was, but that it can harden rather easily under certain conditions and lead to a lot of conflict.

russell1200 said...

Stretching the topic, but I thought you would like this bit of fracking news from Bloomberg(hat tip to Naked Capitalism blog).

Everything below is a headline/quote, with link at bottom.

Trader Who Scored $100 Million Payday Bets Shale Is Dud

Hall is going all in on a bet that the shale-oil boom will play out far sooner than many analysts expect, resulting in a steady increase in prices to as much as $150 a barrel in five years or less.

Investing ever-larger sums of his own money, he’s buying contracts for so-called long-dated oil, to be delivered as far out as 2019, according to interviews with two dozen current and former employees and advisers who are familiar with Hall’s trading but aren’t authorized to speak on the record. To attract buyers, the sellers of these long-dated contracts -- typically shale companies that have financed the boom with mounds of debt -- need to offer them at a discount to existing prices.

Hall’s strategy -- which in a May letter he described as more akin to “loan-sharking” than market speculation -- has already shown some signs of success.

Justin Patrick Moore said...


I just wanted to let you know I'm enjoying the new series on Dark Age America immensely. Each week it gives me some new perspective to "look forward" to. I consider it as research material for fictional world building. It' nice to know something will be built out of the ruins. Cogitating on what kind of society it will be is a rather instructive challenge.

All the best, and congrats on your new book. You are really putting your pen to task and that is quite an inspiration.


Claudia Oney said...

I think warlords in a small(isn) country like England might have had a longer shelf life than warlords will in the U.S. First, there is just so much food and other supplies that can be pillaged in the current U.S. Like Ebola with its huge kill rate, wiping out everyone and taking all the food is going to limit the life of the predator. (I realize Ebola has changed recently, but formerly blazed out pretty quickly.)
I also wonder who is going to fund large displacements of people from one part of the country to another. The distances in the U.S. are enormous. I watch the occasional trashy movie or TV series about a distopian future. The characters set out in stylish clothing on long journeys with no supplies for themselves, gas for their cars or fodder for their horses. I think air travel has distorted the idea of going from California to Virginia. You could run out of bullets or food. One imagines a lot of dead travelers, both benign and evil since 2000 or 3000 miles is well, far. Of course the pioneers traveled west in their wagons but the industrial revolution was in full swing--plenty of gear for horses, metal fittings by the hundredweight for example--and the U.S. Army paved the way. The Mongols covered ground. I wonder if they were not on the upside of their curve like our pioneers; or perhaps they were traveling through a countryside on the upside with rich pickings. Cultures in trouble, on the downside of their curve are not going to have that much to steal or buy making emigrating or immigrating tougher.
The French army routinely starved in Spain during the Napoleonic wars since their practice of living off the land led to the peasantry taking them out one by one while hiding food. Supply lines, so important. Imagine the American military trying to live off the land in Afghanistan.
I am not discounting a violent future, I'm just not sure about large numbers of people moving from place to place.
My immediate future: it's time to milk the cow and water my garden.

Wolfgang Brinck said...

JMG, thought provoking post as usual. Speaking of the need to migrate and so on in an environment of collapsing nation states, I am reminded of my own family's experience after WWII at the border of eastern and western Europe which involved the need to move across borders and deal with occupation armies and so on.
One thing to add to the post collapse tool kit might be the ability to forge documents or cultivating the acquaintance of people who know how to forge documents.
In the US at the current time, documents like passports, green cards, drivers licenses might be hard to forge given that every id can be checked against some database, but in a collapsing culture, computer systems might not be available and untrained soldiers might just be giving documents a visual check and so a passable forgery might be sufficient.
Also handy for anyone trying to go from one place to another might be some way of paying for services by means other than a credit card. Ready cash in a negotiable currency or gold or silver or something fairly portable like jewelry might be useful tender for forgery services or bribes.
Of course, language skills are always useful as are charm, guile and the ability to lie convincingly.

david.ringeisen said...

Greetings from Hungary. I've been following your posts for a while now, and I do find your posts thought provoking with mostly convincing train of thought and reasonable conclusions. I do have a question though, regarding your last post as you're using the Roman era as an example from time to time.

While it occurs to me that in America it is a common reference point - from historical parallels to governmental symbols(eagle, fasces etc.)- I get the impression that the rise and fall of the Roman Empire is discussed mostly separately from it's context.
I do think that when discussing the fall of the Western Roman Empire one should not forget that the Eastern part, later Byzantium survived almost another millennia after the collaps of the former part. And though those were separate political entities, socially, culturally they were quite similar for a long time, thus the Roman civilization did not collapse entirely after all. And Byzantium might have played a major part in preserving latin literacy through the dark age of North-western Europe.

So according to that, don't you think that it would worth exploring if such an intermediary civilization could prevail during the oncoming dark age, maybe in America, maybe some other continent at a moderately intact state? Maybe some guesses as where could that happen, and to what extent could that society keep it's existing achievements?

ReedPerry said...

I have to admit, I was hoping for much more, as I appreciate your ability to weigh controversial (and conflicting) opinions about the future.

To compare our near future to the post-Roman period is limiting. Many groups shifted thousands of miles - but many did not move at all. Because global population is at-least 12-times what it was then, the magnitude of migration will be greater - as you mention. The consequences for certain groups may also be cataclysmic. This is particularly true for Europeans who are not reproducing at even close to replacement levels. In 50-years there could be half as many whites on Earth as there are today, - all the while, mestizos, Arabs, and Africans have been multiplying. Even in Eurasia, Asians are replacing Russian populations rapidly, particularly in East Russia and the former USSR.

I would expect all the Central American populations to be headed north. Pressures in East Asia could cause a migration of Chinese to western North America by boat. This could easily reach from Alaska/Arctic to Mexico. Already, many of the border signs are in Mandarin awhile Chinese fishermen set up villages in the Aleutians.

Even after they've spent all their nukes, I doubt the Jews will be able to keep Israel. White South Africa is gone. Asian boat migrations to Oceania with increase tenfold. The ISIS Jihadi-horde will go plowing into Europe sooner or later. Sooner, - in the next year, or later, - in the next generation, as indigenous birthrates continue to plummet awhile offering no resistance to mass colonization.

Of course we can only speculate what the ethnicity of people in North America may be in 500 years, but if one begins examining current trends with honesty, it does not bode well for Western Civilization or the European race. I would expect it to be dissolved into the Arabs/Asians/mestizos with perhaps some remnant populations in the far north. I don't like this outcome at all, but it seems likely. The balancing force I can foresee would be an apocalyptic disease in tropical/subtropical zones.

Derv said...

@Neo Tuxedo,
I think that's an unfair claim about my comment, and I don't believe you've offered any evidence to counter my claim. Additionally, I suspect you missed this follow-up comment by me:

"It is a complex issue, and certainly overly simplistic to simply say "failure" or "success" to multiculturalism, but I don't think it's unfair that the vision once held of a unified European set of values combined with myriad diverse cultures living in harmony hasn't turned out as hoped. Rather we are seeing fracturing, "balkanization," resurgent fascism, far-right reactionary movements, and a lack of adoption of European values by many immigrant populations even after two generations. I don't quite get what the flashing red light comment means, but understand that my comments aren't meant to make a value judgment on these things. I'm simply observing them. Humans have always been tribal, and something that was not tribal would in many significant ways not be human as we currently understand it. Any expectations we have of human activity needs to account for it. And if we categorize it as racism, well, then humanity is itself inherently racist (which I don't agree with)."

To somehow conflate this with a "fantasy" about immigration seems quite ridiculous to me. I believe that the fact that I'm a conservative, which shows in many of my comments, has led you to make some assumptions about who I am and what I believe. But anyone claiming that mass immigration in Europe is going just swimmingly has missed some rather critical and notable developments there.

sgage said...

@ Roger,

"The remains of an august Washington building, once the center of world power, covered over by wind-blown dirt. "

Cue the obligatory 'Ozymandias' reference ;-)

Kutamun said...

Here in rural Ozland , where we are all friendly simpletons with corks on our hats who like to sing "waltzing matilda " and cuddle koalas , collapse seems to have begun to accelerate . Commodity prices for many staples have declined in real terms , forcing out the small farmer . Depopulation has seen the rural country party decline from 25 out of 75 possible seats to just 10 , many of the best and brightest have long departed for the big smoke . Lately we have seen the onset of a rampant crystal meth epidemic , and the arrival of formerly city based criminal gangs into townships of fewer than 10000 people . Crime rates have skyrocketed , in particular assault break in and theft , and many farms in my area have been rolled , particularly those near the interstate highway ; many people i know are installing surveillance cameras on their house and sheds , motion sensors linked to mobile phone , ( powered by ordinary duracell battery , about $500.00 a pop) .With the locals becoming addicted to meth and increasingly desperate , some formerly upstanding long time local lads were arrested with horde of stolen firearms and farm machinery , they had been working with me on and off so i was glad i was spared ! ..Something has changed at an unconscious level for these people ; the old rural industrial " we are the masters of nature", " we hate foreigners , out of towners , gays and greenies" paradigm seems to be cracking up , and these folks are looking for a way out ; thats before we even get started on the obesity and gambling in these parts ...

Meanwhile , just up the road in the larger provincial city , we have three thousand Iraqis in the community and a congolese choir , along with increasing numbers of somalis , australia is increasing its migrant intake to around 400,000 a year , and this is spruiked as a main driver of " economic growth" in the country , while the next news flash is our pm saying we need to go to war again in the middle east and Ukraine , in the next news flash we have the chinese government calling our foreign minister " a fool " , the next one is Hilary Clinton announcing an expanded u.S military presence in australia , while chiding our leaders for duplicity with china , saying "australia needs to work out what it wants to be when it grows up" ... My head us spinning , i need an aspirin and a good lie down !

Tony f. whelKs said...


"I think what you meant to say was "at the genetic level the English are totally indistinguishable from the Welsh and the Cornish, who were here first" ;-) "

No, I know what I meant ;-) That the Welsh/Cornish narrative is undermined by the evidence - the Celts were incomers too, and there is still a common pre-Celtic substrate that is just as prevalent in the 'English' population (probably Iberian at the oldest level). The 'here first' story is just that, a story, and serves a purpose. The Welsh and Cornish may have retained a more Brythonic culture than the 'English' but they are essentially the same population, biologically.

@Jason Heppenstall

I wouldn't worry too much about your Neanderthal 2% - I believe that applies to all Europeans ;-))

I haven't had a DNA analysis done, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few surprises in it. There's too much illegitimacy in my recent family history to trace very far back. I know one of my great-greats was an aristocratic under-the-stairs by-blow (the pay-off came with the condition that no names be named, I may have a claim to the throne...), another was a sephardic Jew, and my paternal grandfather was Australian, but alas he didn't leave his name on the birth certificate, so I don't get the Ozzie passport :-(

But there could be all sorts in there - we talk about the 'Romans' coming to Britain, but most of the troops they brought were auxilia. Off the top of my head I'm sure there were Syrians, Sarmatians and Illyrians in quite large numbers, as well as other western Europeans, and let's face it, local genepools rarely stay isolated from those of occupying troops. We always have been and always will be a mongrel nation, and no-one is 'indigenous' because Britain was totally depopulated in the last glaciation. For most of our history we have been intimately interlinked with continental Europe (even the 'Avebury Archer' came from the Alps), yet we still have this persistent 'island nation' myth, but I guess that's how ethnogenesis works....

Janet D said...

Hmmmm, I'm not sure the future is going to be as simple as some-percentage-of-all-those-reproducing-today can be extrapolated into the future. Perhaps North American and Europe will be many-shades-of-brown and perhaps not. If the climate were stable, and antibiotics weren't on their last legs, and there was plenty of water and food was not produced using a cr*p-load of oil, tthen perhaps it would be as simple as "you people had more babies, so your descendants will win out".

I think the future is going to be much more of a dice-roll than that. Large populations (which almost always live in close proximity) can die exceedingly easily. Also, "large populations" does not necessarily equate to "people with skills to live in a de-industrial world". Once the pillaging is over, what is there to eat? Entire civiilizations have collapsed before, leaving no trace.

I just aim to regularly remind myself that forecasting the future is always a muddled business. Then it's time to go make chocolate chip cookies. Escapism with sugar usually works......

John Michael Greer said...

Ray, of course they go on concurrently. The process of ethnic dissolution, as I noted in the post, has already dissolved most of the ethnic divisions among Americans of European ancestry; the process of ethnogenesis is always happening on a background level, and simply has to wait until dissolution reaches a critical point before it takes center stage. Whether your Rainbow tribe turns out to be the foundation of an enduring ethnicity or a flash in the pan is another matter, one I'm not prepared to assess yet.

Greg, no argument there. The US could very easily dissolve in a torrent of violent ethnic rivalries in the years immediately ahead, if enough people make enough bad decisions.

Allie, thank you!

Mustard, write that story. It'll be a contender for a spot in the 2015 Space Bats anthology.

Ray, interesting to hear. I wonder how many will take that route.

Nathan, no, you're not paranoid. The quality of the US media has been getting worse for years, so I think it's entirely plausible that it could just keep on going downhill.

Joe, exactly. I was simply pulling random examples to show just how drastically populations can shift.

Rita, I want to see the people who talk about Gross National Happiness put up with a Bhutanese lifestyle, just for a week. I really do. ;-)

Cathy, a lot of people are brave and selfless -- fewer are choosy about the cause in which they exercise those virtues!

James, to my mind the drug gangs aren't Bacaudae, they're incipient warbands, and their leaders are the nascent Alarics and Gaiserics and Attilas of the fall of the American empire. The nascent Bacaudae? Check out the number of people who are living in camps in the national forests and other out of the way places, unable to get work or get out of crushing debt. A little more social stress, and a few violent attempts on the part of government to get rid of them, and you've got your Bacaudae.

John Michael Greer said...

Bogatyr, my guess is that it'll be something other than Ebola -- a respiratory virus, maybe, or a bacterial disease that's gotten resistant to all our antibiotics. One way or another, Horseman #3 is likely to play a very active role over the decades ahead.

Strovenovus, thank you. "Utilitarian comedy" is a welcome turn of phrase...

ChemEng, that's very interesting to hear. I wonder how many other people have the same attitude.

Ragelle, I understand that there's some debate over the accuracy of that article. Still, your point stands.

Thomas, early next year, when we have the next Space Bats contest, that might be a good theme!

Dorda Giovex, yes, that's pretty much the process we're looking at. I'll be discussing that in more detail in the months to come.

Magicalthyme, no argument there. My guess is that Africa at least, and quite possibly much of the world, are in for it.

Bill, thanks for the data point! That corresponds with what I've heard from other sources as well.

Nemo, I hear things like that all the time and want to tear my hair. If libraries are going to survive, they need to do the opposite of what they're doing. I've begun to think that encouraging the rebirth of co-op subscription libraries, not owned by government, may be the only way to get something through the current mess. More on this as we proceed!

Rube, I don't own a copy of The Golden Bough -- I used to, but sold it when I ran out of bookshelf space -- but the other book on the table, From Ritual to Romance, I still have. It was T.S. Eliot's main source for the Grail passages in "The Waste Land," just as The Golden Bough was his source for the whole dying and reborn king image.

Rebecca, that's not good to hear. I wonder why gay people are on the receiving end of that -- it seems a bit odd to see them lumped together with Hispanics!

Carl, fascinating. Do you think we can get internet trolls to fight each other to the death in the arena, or maybe feed them to wild beasts? An irate chipmunk could do in some that I could name... ;-)

John Michael Greer said...

Roger, stay tuned; I'll be discussing that in a later post. As for institutional ghosts, absolutely -- my novel Star's Reach has the more or less hereditary monarch of the midwest in the 25th century bearing the title of Presden of Meriga, there's a Congrus that meets ceremonally every four year, and Jennel and Cunnel are the usual titles of the protofeudal military nobility. Nobody will be standing on Washington's ruins, though, unless they're in a boat -- it's going to be well under water in a few centuries.

Carl, the Middle East goes through cycles of centralization and disintegration every few centuries. I hope that Islamic State isn't the next great centralizing influence, but you never know.

Raymond, everything in this world dies. If you want to talk about realities that last forever, we need to switch the subject to metaphysics or religion.

Derv, there were plenty of Romans saying more or less the same thing you are about the traditions of Rome, as the dark ages closed in. It's not just a matter of loss of confidence -- or, more precisely, the loss of confidence is a reflection of other losses, far more important in some senses. That said, each of us has to choose where to make his or her stand, and if this is what makes sense to you, go ye forth and do that thing.

Toomas, thank you. I needed that bit of Latin humor -- and no, I haven't quite stopped snorting yet. I think I saw a statue once of that boy and that goat...

Thrig, I'm still trying to parse that. Postmodern poetry?

Random, and of course you and the coastal intelligentsia have different economic interests; your replacement keeps their cost of living down. More on this in a future post!

Eric, that would have been great! I'm a great fan of mammoths, too, so it probably would have been a shoo-in.

C Steigel, I'll be explaining in an upcoming post why that very popular fantasy won't happen.

Matt, for some reason the video won't load when I try to access it. Do you know of any other sites that host it?

SLClaire, don't fall into the trap of thinking of Druidry as an ethnic category! The modern Druid movement was kickstarted by a random assortment of English, Welsh, and Irish eccentrics, and spread to North America very nearly as soon as it was on its feet in Britain. You don't have to be a Celt to be a Druid, any more than you have to be from Galilee to be a Christian.

Russell, I saw that! Another crack in the wall of denial...

John Michael Greer said...

Justin, thank you.

Claudia, well, check out the geographical scale of the migrations when Rome fell; it's comparable to North American distances, and they didn't have the failing scraps of a petroleum economy, which we'll have for maybe the next century.

Wolfgang, a very good point!

David, Byzantium survived when Rome fell, but Byzantine civilization was far from a simple continuation of Roman culture. If something of the sort endures, it'll probably be in Europe, not in America -- civilization has very shallow roots here -- and it won't be able to preserve much of today's technology, for the simple reason that the resources needed to support such technologies will no longer be available. More on this in a future post.

Reed, if you're disappointed, well, you're disappointed. If you were hoping for some kind of ringing call to arms for Western civilization and "the European race" -- whatever that imaginary beast might happen to be -- you'll have to go somewhere else; I don't waste my time with that sort of nonsense.

Kutamun, welcome to decline and fall. The SF writer Cordwainer Smith, in his future history, had Australia renamed Aoujou Nambien and occupied by the Chinese sometime fairly soon; I don't know that I'd bet against that.

Janet, where on earth did you get the idea that I was doing a fixed-percentage extrapolation? The point of my post is precisely that no such simple analysis provides a meaningful picture of the future.

YJV said...

I don't know if you've seen this, but a recent study at the University of Melbourne (an highly reputed institution) found that all of the predictions of 'Limits to Growth' have been met to a chilling level of accuracy. The study has already started reaching news media.

The advantage of having model predictions with numbers means that they're harder to refute. I wonder how all the oil companies are going to explain this - so far all I have heard to the contrary has been rife with logical fallacies.


Bogatyr said...

Just to add another data point, I used to teach in a Chinese university. The Dean of my school, who had research interests in African development, and who was politically well-connected, remarked a number of times in my hearing about "Africa's empty spaces", and how Africa was ideal for China's surplus population. If climate change gets as bad as predicted in China, with rivers drying up etc, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see mass emigration from China to Africa. I'm dubious whether in such a fight for survival the local populations would prevail against organised, highly motivated Chinese settlers. One might even wonder whether China's African 'empty city', Kilamba, wasn't built with this at least partly in mind... I could see the West stepping in militarily to protect ASEAN members; I'm less sure that they would fight for the DRC, or Mozambique. Maybe for Angolan oil - but perhaps that's why Kilamba's there...

@Tony f. whelKs You missed my point. I meant to point out that your original implication - that the Welsh and Cornish should shut up about being different and accept that they're English - is not taken well by the Welsh and Cornish, genetic similarity or not. I've had too many English people tell me to my face that the Welsh language should just die to be tolerant of this.

Several people have referred to Byzantium as Rome's continuation and successor state. Don't forget that many would argue that Russia became the 'Third Rome' due to Ivan III's marriage to Byzantine princess Sophia Paleologue, and to the Russian church's status as the only Orthodox branch outside Turkish control. The Byzantine double-headed eagle still flies...

Bogatyr said...

Sorry, another data point. Some have mentioned the role of migrants/refugees in the Nordic countries and France, and the growth of the Arab Muslim minority in France, with attendant risks of radicalization. I can't help wondering if this is connected to France's recent offer of asylum to Iraqi Christians forced out of Mosul by ISIS. France has no historical connection with this part of the Arab world, and these people don't speak French. Perhaps, as Christians, it's been calculated that they will be an internal 'foederati', supporting the French state against radical Muslims? A BBC report on the same subject noted that rallies in support of the Iraqi Christians were being organized by the far-right Front National - usually regarded as racist and anti-Arab. Just another sign of perhaps how things get mixed up in the process of collapse..

CrispCrit said...

Are you sure your prediction of an upcoming feudalism isn't based on your support for such a model? Unless transition voice is wrong, they state "So, with his latest book The Wealth of Nature, in steps John Michael Greer with a bit of heresy: feudalism might not have been so bad."

Bogatyr said...

This is very interesting: The Dying Russians. Looking at various possible causes of mortality in Russia, the author concludes that Russians are simply dying of despair. Look out for this in a society near you...

@Tom Hopkins, thanks for the references.

Diana Haugh said...

Surely a new Age of Migrations has already started with millions of Central Americans now living in El Norte and millions more planning the move. Climate degradation and the breakdown of the social order in those countries play a large role in the difficult decision to uproot and move north

Kristoffer Kavallin said...

@ Snotra Prudentia
I'm a Swede as well, if you have any site-specific things you wish to discuss, I'm all ears! ;)

Cherokee Organics said...


Toomas's charming anecdote was a better explanation than I could ever have offered. The guy that started the department store was Sidney Myer who anglicised his name as he was originally a Russian immigrant. What is interesting about the guy was that during the Great Depression he was a bit of a philanthropist and to quote: "Rather than terminate employment of workers in his Department Store, all staff, including himself, had their wages cut". This was amongst other acts too.

Perhaps he was a man that understood all too well Violet's "we". Where shall his like be found now?

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that bush walking became very vogue during the Great Depression here. It was because the government and other companies made travel on the train network free during weekends during that period of time. Many individuals took up this opportunity to travel with their families to the outer areas of Melbourne whereby they went walking in the forests surrounding the city. Because it was a free activity, it became very popular very quickly.

As an interesting side note to my previous comment about the present expectations of people. I broke my firm rule of mixing friendship and business to assist a local writer. Well, I can only say that the situation ended in a complete debacle, which further reinforced the need for my rule in the first place. Anyway, it was an error of judgement on my part. I was wrong, I make mistakes, that’s life. However, the legacy from the debacle is that the individual is now trolling me on the Internet. The nuisance of the situation is that it was someone else who spotted it and pointed the trolling out to me. Oh well, I'm considering my options at this point in time. What a nuisance.

Hi Violet,

I wonder about the "we" too. By the way, and not to out Spengler you, but I picked up a hard back copy of Arnold Toynbee's book, "A selection from his works" last night at a second hand bookshop. What would you recommend from Spengler's body of work?

Hi Snotra,

Many thanks for rising to the challenge. You raise a very interesting conundrum which I am also pondering here. Top work.

Hi Cathy,

I loved the Dr Seuss books. That is a blast from the past for sure and so very true. Liked the sayings too. Down Under they say, "put your head up and it will get chopped off". Tall poppy syndrome used to be frowned upon here, but with the rise of individualism...

Hi Toomas,

Genius and you know it! Well done.

Hi Kutamun,

Dr Who used to scare me silly as kid. All the daleks and the cybermen and the big invisible spiders. Thanks for the memories, plus I remember K9! I heard the latest doctor on triple jjj the other day and he sounded very entertaining. I was very partial to Blakes 7 too, how about you?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Deborah,

Don't laugh but both the Afghan people and camels have a long history with Australia because of the very expansive central deserts. Camels are now a feral pest in the deserts of central Australia.

About a decade and a half ago when I was visiting the deserts of central Australia, you could actually purchase camel meat pie. For some reason I never had the chance to try it. Unlike crocodile burgers. Yum.

As an interesting side note, there has been a bit of talk about reintroducing a crocodile cull. There are quite a few 7m (that's 23ft) specimens and their progeny lurking around up North. Apparently many of the swimming holes - which I swam in all those years ago - are being progressively closed.

After we are long gone, the crocodiles will remain. Just sayin...



Mister Roboto said...

I have to admit, this post made me sad. Not only will the island of Ireland likely be submerged by the rising oceans precipitated by climate change, but also Irish ethnic identity itself may well not survive. Glehry be an' begehrra!

Eric S. said...

"Eric, that would have been great! I'm a great fan of mammoths, too, so it probably would have been a shoo-in."

It's at the top of my list for the next one. I got the culture and landscape pretty thoroughly drafted out, it's just a matter of finding the right story.

Ronald Langereis said...

A very sharp exposition of future developments, JMG, and leaving, let's call them 'conservationists', nowhere to find refuge.
However, what you describe so imaginatively of history's quirks at the demise of the Roman Empire, isn't that exactly what we see unfolding before our eyes in North Africa and the Middle East? Utter chaos, warlords, mass executions by a band of outlaws from every corner of the Western Empire. Millions of refugees, particularly from Africa, flocking to what they see as the Last Homely House in a darkening world, eventually in vain.

Janet D said...

@JMG, no, no, no, no.....I wasn't commenting on your post and I didn't think you were doing a simple extrapolation (and I fully accept responsibility for the confusion). I was responding to some of the other commentors above who were discussing how the high birth rate of other peoples (than European ancestry) would translate to a lost European race/culture/mindset in the future. I don't think that's automatically a given.

At the time I was writing, I couldn't recall specific names and didn't have the time to scroll the list to look them up. In the future, I'll be sure to clarify! The internet makes communication more difficult, IMHO!

Ed-M said...

Well that was an interesting post! Brazilians in Tennessee and Missouri, Floridians in Hudson's Bay, English speakers spread over an area from New England to Greenland. Well of course, it's not that simple because of the expected changes over the next 500 years.

Regarding Rebecca's comment that people in her area are hardening against Gays and Illegal Immigrants, it happened before in Rome where Romans hardened against "effeminates" / "sodomites" and Germans (that is, what were then called the Germanic tribes including the Ostrogoths and Visigoths. And it's also happening in Russia where they passed a "homosexual propaganda" bill that effectively silences Gays, even in the face of some who've declared open season on them and are hunting them down like animals. And of course the Ukraine mess has given the Russians a perfect excuse to harden themselves against Westerners.

Shane Wilson said...

One of the major newsmagazines a few years back published on its cover a prototype of a person composed of all the different ethnic/racial groups worldwide, would that be a good approximation of what people of the far future will look like? Also, after unprecedented movement of people around the globe during the industrial era, how long would it take for climate to self select again for skin tones and features most conducive to that climate e.g. darker in equatorial/hotter climates, fairer in polar/colder climates?

Shane Wilson said...

Oh, "meer of kanda" = "premier of Canada"? I figured "prime minister" would be" praminser" or some such in far future-ese

Ray Wharton said...

"The nascent Bacaudae? Check out the number of people who are living in camps in the national forests and other out of the way places, unable to get work or get out of crushing debt. A little more social stress, and a few violent attempts on the part of government to get rid of them, and you've got your Bacaudae."

I stayed at one of those camps for a couple nights a few weeks ago. Very impressive people, good at community, and resilient against poverty, and tough as nails. But also ground down by poverty, inflicted by drug abuse, and mentally strained.

A couple of the people were soldiers from the wars, trying to find peace and put themselves back together. The community, it was a regional Rainbow Community, was very supportive of these two fellas and their emotional needs. Having them around and pleased with the community made me feel VERY safe. These guys were both trained to the highest degree.

Bacaudae, very interesting concept, it fits, but I need to do much more research. I hope those kids I ate with can avoid the meat grinder.

One thing about the Rainbow Ethnicity I was seeing is that it is still very amorphous, and in under overlapping influences of very diverse focal point. Rainbow Gathering, Festival Scene, and Burning Man being the big three. Drugs are a uniting part of it, though more and more of them don't smoke reefer, but almost all use mushrooms of iowaska, a few times a year; some of the facilitators seem to have healing mojo, others are stuck in escapism.

Some of the kids in the culture still seem to be enacting increasingly exagerated forms of Western patterns in critique of the West. Burning Man is a great example of this, children burning a giant effigies in a inhospitable desert. Sticking it to that man by doing what the man does in an even more pointl... oops I mean 'artistic' way. What happens as environmental pressure force all groups outside of the concentric rings of privilege?

I think much will be decided by who try to cling and fight for the privilege lost. They will go under. Those who let go of the anchor before it pulls them over will go on to round two and carry forward of become feed stock for later cultures to build themselves out of.

There is no "we" that has unified, because the boundaries are still very open.

Rebecca Brown said...

JMG, my theory is that it has to do with the many increases in gay rights over the last few years coupled with the hardline fundamental stance on homosexuality and the increasing fear this subgroup has about "their" culture and country slipping away from them. Feminists and atheists (all non-Christians except Muslims tend to get lumped together as atheists down here)also are targeted for hate.

I was in a national hardware chain store just a few days ago and overheard two employees talking with a couple of customers about the best way to 'secure the borders' from the immigrant children crossing. They all thought the best way to deal with it is to issue shoot on sight orders to the border patrol and "after a few dozen of these **** their parents won't let any more of them come." That's a quote, and another man then said "and once we handle that, we can start on the gays and Muslims."

That was not an isolated incident, and we live in one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the south. These incidents are among the many reasons my family is moving.

John Michael Greer said...

YJV, yes, I saw that! The walls of denial are coming under increased strain just now. It'll be interesting to see whether they can be patched up quickly enough this time, or not.

Bogatyr, thanks for the data point. I'm not surprised to hear about the offers of aid to Iraq's Christians -- that's less a matter of foederati, as I see it, and more of battle lines being drawn for the religious wars that are likely to convulse western Eurasia for the next few centuries.

Crisp, yes, I'm quite sure. When feudalism appears, it's the only viable alternative to chaos on the one hand and a hopelessly corrupt bureaucratic mess on the other; that doesn't make it good. I'd be much happier to see a recovery of democratic ideals and practices on the local level here in the US, but nearly everyone -- including much of the Left -- has been moving in the opposite direction for decades.

Diana, good; you get today's gold star for realism. Yes, the migrations have already started -- for the usual reasons, and with the usual endpoints well in sight.

Cherokee, sorry to hear about the writer. I've had the same thing happen from time to time, which has inspired similar resolutions on my part.

Mister R., understood, and mourning is an appropriate response.

Eric, I'll look forward to it!

Ronald, exactly. As I noted in an earlier post, civilizations differentiate as they rise, but they all fall the same way.

Janet, no problem -- I simply misunderstood. You're right that the internet is a heck of a difficult medium for communication.

Ed-M, I'll have to research the role of homophobia in other cases of decline and fall. If it's a common factor, that might be a useful data point.

Shane, quite the contrary -- think of the different nationalities of post-Roman Europe, many of whom ended up distinctive enough that you can identify them by sight. Not homogenization but a new shuffling of the deck, followed by genetic drift -- that's the sort of thing that happens.

Ray, it's precisely the interface between military vets and the communities of the dispossessed that promises Bacaudae in the not too distant future. The raw idiocy of the US government, in training all those young people in warfare, then dumping them back here in the US and denying them the benefits they were promised, staggers belief.

John Michael Greer said...

By the way, I was wondering when the racists were going to show up, and they finally did. Sorry, guys; go put the white sheets back in the closet and go play somewhere else. 'Nuf said.

Luckymortal said...

Teaching at a community college in an area with a large latino populaton, a constant topic of discussion among faculty was a comparison of imigrant students and "Americans." Among imigrant groups, teachers were given an amazing deal of respect and that, with the shared goal of learning, reinforced the social cohesion and authority necessary to learn quickly. Meanwhile, many American students often seemed obsessed with challenging authority, any autority, over any petty thing.

Fast forward to this same attitude in our workplaces and organizations and you have a recipe for the constant conflict that--I'm told--characterizes American institutions today. And how, with that sense of internal conflict, hightened by the sense of stressful urgency in Envionmental circles, could we ever get anything done?

Are there ways WE can harness that shared sense of opposition to the current system/culture in doing our work?

Violet Cabra said...

Chris, if you don't mind reading lots of text on a computer screen I would recommend starting Spengler with:

It provides excerpts from every chapter of The Decline of The West. If you dig it I would suggest diving into DOTW Vol I, form and actuality. If your local library doesn't have it you can get the entirety of the unabridged text here:

When I was reading it I kept on falling asleep! It was that dull!! And yet I can recall entire paragraphs of text because it was that fascinating. I recently bought a 1940's printing of it and can't wait to read it again!!

Ray, I've run with queer "Rainbow" kids for about 5 years. Radical faeries, squatter punks, train-riders, homesteaders etc. Many took delight in going to the gatherings and most were into one festival scene or another. Maybe I ran with "vanilla" groups but I always, in the back of my mind, doubted the commitment to freaky living of the majority of the Rainbows I met. Most that I knew are from middle class backgrounds, and most I know eventually get tired of riding trains, squatting and whatever and find a skill or a job and become more conventional. Even some of the people who were the most out there.

Not that I blame them - I left squats and communes a few months ago to work on an organic farm with people who are way less of ramblers and way more stable.

The one reason I find myself doubting Rainbows becoming an ethnic group is I haven't seen much of a work ethic amongst the ones I know. Most I've met take drugs, hitchhike and are on food stamps which is to say their lifestyle is as heavily predicated on the industrial infrastructure as anyone else's but they find ways to circumvent work and society. Of course Rainbows could be quite successful as raiders, they have an impressive skillset (constant travel, living in camps etc) for that already in place if they choose to go that route.

August Johnson said...

JMG - Here's the paper about the Limits to Growth research:

Unknown said...

Derv's comment: "Other civilizations do not face the same crisis of confidence we've recently faced. As many other comments have noted, ISIS represents a manifestation of that confidence within Islam. They do not fret about their many past sins as we do; regret can be a source of good if it prompts change, but it's become paralyzing."

Is false to facts. I can't imagine where this idea comes from. European domination has been a colossal assault on the self identity of other cultures...China, India, Japan, even Russia have all had to come to terms with the pole position currently occupied by the US/Europe.

Tamim Ansary in 'Destiny Disrupted' devotes several chapters to the crisis of identity that hit the Islamic World in the 1700s. It is not news in the Middle East that Islam has been in a crisis since that time - the period of European ascension, which put an end to Ottoman expansion, and began to bleed it dry.

In Ch. 13 of his book Ansary identifies three reform movements:

1. Wahhabism/fundamentalism (the Faith had been corrupted by accretions, and purity of the original religion must be restored).

2. Secular modernism (admitting that the west was right, and that the Islamic world had to modernise).

3. Sayyid Jamaluddin (modernise Islam, but keep Islamic cultural values, keep science, but do NOT westernise).

These three responses have each taken many forms, and are not elemental or singular. So for example, Deobandi of the Hanafi maddhab of Sunni Islam, and Wahhabis of the Hanbali maddhab, would both be advocates of path #1, though Deobandis originate from modern Pakistan/India, and Wahhabis from modern Saudi Arabia, etc. Aims may overlap, but relations between them are mixed:

Similarly, secular modernism takes many forms, from Nasserism (RIP), to the Fatah/PLO (soon to RIP), to Ba'ath (Syria and Iraq (RIP)), as well as many others.

But the idea that the Muslim world (and using a singular to describe it is a dangerous thing) doesn't have a crisis of identiy is simply not true, if not catastrophically wrong.

Though the decline of secular modernists has allowed a temporary rise of hard line fundamentalists of the AQ/ISIS(daath) stripe, this is not to suggest that these forces will long dominate the scene. Only 40 years ago, Marx was the big thing, and where is that now?

I'd caution against linear extrapolations based on current events. Ibn Khaldun's muqqadimmah is a better guide to the cycles of Islmaic history, previously alluded to.

Anselmo said...

This is the address of a genetic study of the European population, which I believe may be of interest to the issue at hand.

Juhana said...

Bogatyr, that article you shared here, Dying Russians, truly nailed something... Dying from the broken heart, indeed. It's almost impossible to conceptualize that feeling into words, but it seems that long decades of anti-religious campaigning broke something in their culture, or in parts of it. Solace of religion and code of conduct it offers are the heart of every civilization, Spengler already thought so. Large percentage of people there bought secular religion offered by socialism, which actually was just mirror image of Western consumerism religion, and now they have landed with nothing. They are like bullied kids in the school who also have insecure home, they just have that touch of despair under thin veil of stability. One bad day and that desperation erupts like some hidden volcano.

If my understanding is right, religious people with old school views are surviving better there, outbreeding their secularized countrymen... It's not only region in the world where that is happening. Israel is going to be pure theocracy soon, if current demographic trends continue there. I wait with mixed awe how they treat Dome of the Rock when red heifer is born and raised to it's third year, when they can purify remnants of the temple mount and start building Third Temple. Waqf of Jerusalem wouldn't take that turn of events lightly. In France "extreme" native Right and Muslims joined hands and attacked with touching multicultural cooperation rainbow flag demonstration promoting feminist and homosexual agendas, causing death of at least one participant.

That is the face of future. Future belongs to believers, whatever their creed. They just can roll with the punches better, reproduce , maintain their vitality and group coherence in forthcoming world that is even more cruel, poor and unjust than now. They have hope because they believe, and absence of hope kills in any individual that part of us that makes us humans.

It's also weird how reliably these "paramilitary wars" of recent decades fought largely by irregular troops have mirror rivalries in sports world years before things escalate from knife/ fist fights into neighborhood cleansing campaigns fought with balaclava , assault rifle and blackest of black hearts. They kind of have Mini-Me version posturing in the stage before actual appearance of Dr. Evil, to use Austin Powers analogy. Two groups having rivalry situation in the video below are watching each other through sights of AK rifles now. If morphology as method keeps up it's promise, one can tell already where fault lines are ready to collect bloody harvest maybe decade onwards from this moment in other areas of Europe also.

Raymond Duckling said...

JMG> Raymond, everything in this world dies...

Well, of course it does, and of course everyone but the very young and sheltered know that, at least in the abstract.

Our civilization, however, encourages us to not think about that in a concrete, down-to-earth way. So I've found very dismantling for the self to contemplate how the coming Darkness is threatening to obliterate everything I have learned to care about and project my hopes into, as of acknowledging my own personal mortality: A profession that will be no more once energy subsidies run dry. Individual children with at best odd chance to reaching my current age. A people and culture whose survivors will be changed beyond recognition. A land lost to brutal climate change.

At least I am Mexican, and feel glad to see my corrupt government going down (a part of our national character is very cynic with regards to institutions, please indulge me this much). But I commiserate you Americans for your loss of your own fine Republic. I am aware that the ideals it represents mean a lot for most of you, even if the concrete implementation has fallen short so many times.

My God, I don't know... I am not sure I buy the rhetoric of "For where two or three gather in my name..." Maybe he will find himself another people after all this mess.

But still, there will be other peoples, there will be other children. And they will die too in due time, as was meant to be.

latefall said...

I like the "I were a charismatic warlord" approach that Claudia does. I guess it would bring out the chaotic nature of a Völkerwanderung scenario quite well if people posted their approach based on where they are now and a few possible trigger events. Bear in mind that you'd probably not be the charismatic warlord himself, but one of several advisers whose family is held hostage. What are the factors I would base my argumentation on and how would I suggest the actual execution of the plan? Of course that strongly depends on the time and situation (neighbors, size of our group, motivation of leadership/members, our mobility over terrain, and skill set, perceived uncertainty and tolerance of it, e.g. willingness to go through hard times to get reward later).

From my experience I could envision best a Frisian Wanderung or part of on a Mediterranean Wanderung.

The factors I mentioned would likely be significantly changed over time, but as JMG says it is difficult to predict the sequence for some - but not so much the trend.
Neighbors: potential predator or prey - over time this should tend towards predator (globally) but if history is a guide once Völkerwanderung is in full swing it'll tend to be very variable and very important to getting "the stone rolling".
Size of our group: could be anything from 100s to several millions. Here I would expect a superposition of bell shaped curves over time. I guess the overall one will be left leaning as the first couple of migrations kick off a cascade while mobility (includes opportunities to "live off the land" so say it euphemistically) is fairly high and the 4 horsemen haven't been through quite as often. This would of course be rather important for considerations such as moving in stealth or plunder mode.
Motivation of leadership/members: Note there is generally some tension between those. I am not sure if this tension is greater than today (or people will be more aware of it). I guess the members should be rather more risk averse if not properly propagandized. Here I assume religion to have some influence, though I don't believe it matters much which one as they will often (have to) "go with the flow".
Mobility over terrain: ha, this one is a really interesting one especially when there's still some tech differential on the upslope of the Völkerwanderung.
Skill set: I assume the general skill set will shift from plunder/reuse, to mobility, to sustenance with a shortage of sustenance skills all along. I assume third world medical skills will be in high demand for quite a while as well. So will be maritime skills once the big boats are gone and you need more skippers. I expect complex skills that you cannot pick up by just watching over the shoulder for a few weeks to diminish rapidly (in line with the hardware necessary for them). E.g. there's the starving power plant operator (who wouldn't leave when hi mates packed up), and eventually left with when the next migration came through to pick up the metal from the transformer cores for horseshoes.
willingness to go through hard times to get reward later: this depends on culture, age, etc. Not at all sure if there can be trend extrapolated from that. Takers?

SLClaire said...

Thanks, JMG, for your response to my comment. I'll take it to heart as it helps with the particular issue I was trying to work out.

Janet D said...

@Derv...I have empathy for what I think you are trying to convey.

My grandparents (both deceased, born in 1915 & 1918) were non-partisan conservatives (and what I consider to be "true" conservatives). They were such fundamentally decent, gracious people, who put family first in everything - their entire lives - who never had a cent of debt, and who wouldn't tell a lie even if it got them in trouble or possibly lessened support for their 'side'. My great aunt was a devout Catholic who was married to a committed agnostic and they made it, pretty happily, for 57 years before she died. There was a respect of others' privacy and a common understanding that the only decent thing to do most of the time was to keep your fat yap shut, especially if you felt you just had to say something NOW.

When the Band of Brothers mini-series was popular, I remember hearing one of the real soldier/participants interviewed about the show. He said the only thing that bothered him was the swearing, because back in 1940, "no one talked that way", even isolated young men experiencing the hell of war.

I could go on, but cultural things of great value (such as the idea of personal restraint) have been lost, and it is sad. Based upon my own family, my grandparents were the last generation to have that grounded, internal sense of balance and honesty. Their kids split into various camps of Fox-News-conservatives (with all of the attendant unpleasantness publicly displayed) and irresponsible liberals (who only wanted the conservatives to go away). Materialism and a consumer culture certainly carry a large part of the blame, but perhaps losing touch with the land contributed as well. You can't be impractical when spreading manure on a garden and planting seeds are a required part of much of the year.

Anyway, even though, by today's standards, I am somewhat-left-of-center, I do connect with what you are saying.

Ed-M said...


Yes, that would be excellent. I think you will find a lot of interesting facts. The idea that "anything goes" in using homosexuality in a libertine free for all during a covilisation's collapse is a bit of an old chestnut. By my understanding of what I found, as it Christianised, Roman civilization became homophobic (at least the authorities did).

On a unrelated note: Robertscribbler has posted an article addressing peak oil. (second article).

latefall said...

@Eric S. I was most tempted to write a story based on a small group doing compulsory border guard duty. And then someone arrives (maybe while they are temporarily cut off from their superiors) and they have to make the call. In this you can reflect all of the society's and individual's considerations and motivations in a number of direct and indirect forms in a pretty timeless manner...

Michael McG said...

TY for another great post. In my little corner of the Great Lakes basin I expect it likely a big winter kill may come about before the gene mixing cauldron starts to boil. It's hard to overstate the natural brutality of winter here and reliance on petro charms to keep supply chains going and people from freezing. I imagine an adaptive response of many people banding together in smaller houses so that body heat can be best leveraged as the First Nation people once did long ago here. Such may be the places where the new brews of people emerge.... In the stories of the long night.

wagelaborer said...

I moved here 20 years ago, and started trying to live off the land. So far, I haven't done very well. Never have grown enough to preserve, and this year I had whole tomato plants disappear.
Luckily, I have a wage earning job, and I spend money at the local co-op and farmer's market, in order to keep those can can grow, in business.
I agree with those who say that people who can grow and store food will be targets, just as the well-armed preppers will be.
However, I doubt that there will be mass migrations. People who think that food comes from grocery stores won't even imagine that they could go out into the country and forage their own. They wouldn't recognize food on the plant anyway. Who would pull up a carrot, if they never saw carrots other than in a plastic bag, or, more likely, never ate a carrot at all? Plus, walk? Previous migrations involved walking and today's Americans would just sit around waiting for a ride. I think that it's much more likely that people will starve in the place that they live.
I'm just glad that, although I reproduced, my kids are not. I don't particularly care that my genes won't make it. I just want my kids to make it.

Myriad said...

These posts in a nutshell: the one fuel that will be in plentiful supply is turm oil. (Which appears ill-suited for powering comfortable lifestyles, but efficient at propelling change.)

Ellen He said...

On an unrelated note, Pinku-Sensei noted a decrease in oil demand .
He thinks this may remove peak oil as a problem.-

Avery said...

@Ed-M, I hate to go off on a tangent, but because this comments thread is often a way for people from different sides of the political spectrum to talk together, I'd like to make a point about sexuality in Rome vs. today. Ancient Rome never had our modern malady of "orientation essentialism", and while Orthodox Christianity eventually put restraints on sexual behavior in general, this was not the same as restricting male partnerships. If you'd like to get unpinned from the modern way of looking at the subject, please take a look at <a href=">this article in First Things</a>.

When we look back on the ancient world, it is through our own lens. We can complain Christianity is "too unrestrained" or "too restrained", that it is "too specific" or "too universal", or indeed all of these things at once. But to know what was actually affecting the thoughts of the people living in that age of decline, we need to go back to primary sources and see what specifically they were saying.

Derv said...

I appreciate your comments, Janet D. I fully understand that, this being a blog focused on peak oil/environmental issues written by a druid, most people here would not share many of my views. But I do feel as though there is an attempt by a few to see me as a "typical repuglican" because I believe a few things they disagree with. I think JMG has made a concerted attempt to "re-humanize" the false political dichotomy that runs American politics. It'd be nice if we could avoid all that on here.

I think I can note the need for a return to that sort of near-lost Western culture partly because I feel as though I've regained it. I'm part of a group of religious individuals who are very close, who help each other and depend on each other. We care for each others' kids, help each other financially, pray together, read books together. I am certain that they do not lie to me, and I do not lie either. I don't believe I've told a lie for at least ten years now, maybe longer. There has been a recovery of community and identity that I didn't have when I was young. It's strong. It's built on noble ideals. And it gives me hope.

This is not to toot my own horn, but to note how different the world is from this position. My people and I have forged a new "we," and it's basically the old "we" that the West used to possess. I see a strength and hope in it that I don't find in most people. Most people I know don't have a strong sense of community, or ideals they're willing to die for, or even a positive identity.

Especially among those who are caught up in modern politics, whatever community exists is one bound together more by hatred of the other side than any positive set of ideals. It's sad. And JMG is right, I think, when he says that there is no shared collective identity among Americans anymore, but a few sets of them. I want others to have what I have, that's all. I want them to rest secure that they are a part of something that matters, their lives have meaning, and their ideals are noble.

I don't mean to apply sweeping generalities to a group comprising over a billion people; I was speaking in shorthand, much as one might blame "America" for the current situation in Iraq despite the fact that few Americans were involved and millions were opposed to it. Certainly many Muslims have had an identity crisis. But I'd argue that, at least for many in the Middle East today, they've found a "solution" in ISIS (or Wahhabism, or Boko Haram, or etc.). When a group of people can look you in the eye and say without any hesitancy that their cause is righteous and they will overrun your lands, when they can shout "God is great" without any hint of irony or doubt, when they are willing to blow up their OWN shrines to purify their faith, that is a force to be reckoned with.

Another comment stated here, I can't remember who, that the future belongs to believers. I agree with that. Whether that be one group or a hundred, I want something of the achievements of the West to survive, as it survived the fall of Rome. So we need to find something to believe in. I've found my something and I hope you find yours.

And to JMG, I would absolutely agree that many said these same things around the fall of Rome; I would simply say that they were correct. The collapse did bode ill for the West, and did bring great suffering. And a few groups did manage to preserve some of Rome's heritage, and it was greatly beneficial. And those who survived, preserving Western culture and ideals, did form a new identity that united their disparate elements, namely the idea of Christendom.

But I'll stop now. This is a long comment. :)

Shane Wilson said...

Considering the expansion of the term" white" over time, is it possible that the derivative of the term" white" in the far future means" humanity" or people in general?

Don Plummer said...

This comment isn't strictly on topic for this week's post, but I thought readers here might like to see this report from the Guardian on how recent examination of the predictions found in a certain 42-year-old report prepared by the Club of Rome are being vindicated by current data:

Andy Brown said...

It's a big topic you've opened - and the comments reflect that. I'm an anthropologist rather than an historian, but I imagine things similar to your sketch. In the near term, political entrepreneurs will work with the categories at hand, which for a while at least will keep people believing that categories like White, Black, Hispanic, Muslim, are "real" rather than fragile constructions that have outlived their purposes. And people will be especially susceptible to it during times of material contraction, because Othering (that is, defining some set of people as less fully human than you) is a basic technique that humans use to justify taking stuff away from others. It has it's costs however - a county of Whites that drives off the Mexicans loses valuable skill sets, for example, in exchange for coalescing its identity. But the next rising political entrepreneur (whether warlord, prophet, or governor) will draw their circle in a different way for pragmatic reasons. Hence the ethnic blender - or cauldron as you put it.

I guess that was a long winded way of saying, "Yup."

I'm curious about your take on ethnogenesis and whether history and anthropology diverge. I assume that the groupings that exist once the political and demographic collisions of the cauldron eventually subside, become the catalysts for more organic and adaptive life ways that can become distinct peoples and cultures. Never free from manipulations by the powerful, but nevertheless developing a more resilient internal coherence.

Rebecca Brown said...

JMG, here's another data point to back up what I said earlier. A good friends of ours who lives up the road from us and her family were the victims of an anti-LGBT hate crime this afternoon because one of their children (who is not yet in middle school and is terminally ill besides) happens to transgendered. Everyone is okay, but they've been getting death threats since some kind soul (note the sarcasm) made the transgender issue public a few months ago.

Shane Wilson said...

I think a lot of the comments refer back to JMG'S posts a while back about the coming religions sensibility. In them, he laid out the ancient, life affirming/celebrating pagan cultures that were gradually overtaken by the heaven/belief focused, ascetic abrahamic religions, particularly Christianity in the West. These religions were heaven/belief focused, in which earth and what happens on it are secondary to the afterlife and what happens in heaven. These religions are particularly sex negative, especially regarding homosexuality. I guess that's where the contrast between those on here grieving Christendom and Western religious sensibility and me comes out. I'm looking forward to the coming new, post-belief, post-heaven, post-abrahamic, nature based religions sensibility. I'm also pretty sanguine that other abrahamic religions like Islam won't survive the coming dark ages without major changes, either. It might initially surge, but it will suffer the same death Nietzsche's Christendom suffered.

Shane Wilson said...

As a follow-up, I guess my last comment just reinforces that we're no longer a" we", in that I'm looking forward to something others are grieving.

steve pearson said...

An amusing note on whiteness and reality checks: in apartheid era South Africa, Japanese were "honorary whites". One can make a lot of ideological adaptations when ones well being depends on it.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@galacticsurfer--I'll just comment on one sentence, "If everyone really has a gun or two in usa then one wonders what can be expected after a terror attack induced martial law."

First thing, everybody here doesn't have a gun or two. The proportion of the population that owns guns has declined and is now a minority. However, among gun owners, the number of guns per person has increased. Forty years ago, those guns would have consisted of hunting rifles, shotguns, six-shot revolvers and a few military souvenirs. Now ownership of military-style weapons and pistols with large clips is more common.

Second thing, small parts of the United States get put under martial law for short periods fairly often. It's called calling out the National Guard. Governors of states and the President have the authority to call out the Guard. It's an available response during natural disasters and for dealing with violent civil unrest when local law enforcement can't get the situation under control or appears to be in sympathy with the lawbreakers.

The first episode of this I remember was President Eisenhower sending the National Guard to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school desegregation. During the antiwar protests and draft riots of the Vietnam era, the Guard was called out in several cities and college towns.

These episodes of martial law are generally limited to one city or small region at a time and last for days, weeks or a few months. The locals mostly put up with it. When things calm down, normal law enforcement, or lack of same, is restored.

That's the expectation that Americans have about martial law, that it will be a localized, temporary response to an emergency. I don't expect determined resistance to be mounted until it ceases to be localized and temporary.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

I'm not caught up with the comments, so please excuse me if someone already posted this. The Navy Times article that Tom Hopkins mentioned about Army horse training may be found here

Lots of echoes to points JMG has made in past essays. Very interesting article.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@thrig--Now you are finding out why men with office jobs used to have a wife who stayed home and kept house.
And also why the English working class, who couldn't afford to do that, were terrible cooks.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Random Man--You wrote, " So it really is a replacement migration, we in the southwest are being replaced."

By coincidence, the last thing I did last night before turning off the TV was to watch the first installment of a PBS documentary called The Latinos.

I had a very sketchy knowledge of the history of the Southwest between the arrival of the conquistadors and the mission friars and the American Civil War. None of it was covered in my public school history classes. This doc covered the Mexican revolt from Spain, the arrival of Anglo settlers into California, New Mexico and Texas, and the Mexican American War.

Control of the land has changed hands repeatedly, usually by force and violence. Tejanos fought for Texas independence and died at the Alamo. Some of the mestizos who have been living in the same area for centuries say, "We didn't cross the border. The border crossed us."

If you are looking at it in terms of group identity rather than personally, maybe turnabout is fair play.

John Michael Greer said...

Mortal, I don't think it can be harnessed, because it's rooted in a brittle sense of self overlaid by a fantasy of universal entitlement. Americans these days can't handle being led, and they're not much better at leading: not a useful set of habits in an increasingly dangerous world.

August, many thanks!

Anselmo, thank you. Notice just how little genetic isolation actually exists between Europe and the rest of the planet!

Raymond, I know. It's a massive challenge to the ways of thinking in which we've all been raised and trained. Off those ways of thinking, though, are approaches to an understanding of the world that can embrace all that, and still rejoice.

Latefall, your first line suddenly made me think of Zero Mostel singing "If I Were A Warlord." Er, I think we've been through this before: one or, at most, two screens is maximum for a comment here; if you want to go beyond that, please start a blog and put a link here.

SLClaire, glad to hear it was helpful.

Ed-M, true enough. If anything, Roman culture became more sexually repressive as the empire became more decadent -- though I don't know if I'd want to draw a cause and effect relationship there!

Michael, a lot of people are going to die as energy becomes too expensive. Some of them will freeze to death, some of them will die of heat stroke, some will die of thirst, and so on. That's one reason why learning to get by with much less energy now is so important!

Wagelaborer, I don't imagine that a lot of middle class Americans will be participants in the mass migrations, and those that are probably won't live long. Not all people on this continent, or the one due south of it, are as unused to physical labor and hard times as middle class Americans are, though.

Myriad, elegant! That earns you tonight's gold star.

Ellen, a drop in demand is another way that the broader problem of peak oil manifests itself. The reason demand is declining is that people can't afford to use as much energy as they like. Why can't they afford it? Because the increasing drawdown of capital of all kinds needed to keep energy supplies flowing is starving the rest of the economy, resulting in lost jobs, declining wages, and other symptoms of contraction. It's entirely possible that if that process goes a bit further, we could see a steep economic downturn driving an equally steep drop in the price of oil as those who had no money stopped spending it on petroleum products; the economic shockwaves from that would be spectacular, and not in a pleasant way (though it would destroy the fracking industry, of course.)

John Michael Greer said...

Derv, my point was that the loss of confidence was arguably a symptom rather than a cause, and could as well be seen as an accurate assessment of Rome's ability to weather the storms ahead! That said, you're quite correct that those who found ways to preserve some parts of Rome's heritage did a major service for the future, but they did it by embracing a vision of themselves, the cosmos, and human destiny that the great minds of ancient Rome rejected with utter disgust. In the same way, I suspect, those who preserve the heritage of the industrial West will do it in the name of some movement that would horrify you.

Shane, nah -- ethnic labels only have meaning when they exclude somebody. That's their social purpose: creating a "we" by defining a "not us."

Don, good -- you're the third of my readers so far to spot that article.

Andy, of course the communities that come together in the wake of dark age chaos evolve organically toward some sort of viable pattern of subsistence and culture -- human beings do that, even in the most appalling settings. The war leaders and their roughly drawn territories are simply the catalyst -- by bringing an end to the most intense phase of chaos and migration, they make it possible for the ordinary processes of ethnogenesis to get going.

Rebecca, in your place I'd certainly hit the road. Hate crimes directed at a terminally ill child are so far beneath contempt that I don't think I could come up with an adequate description.

Shane, just remember that the route there leads through some very, very rough territory.

Steve, that's an excellent example of the flexibility of ethnic lines. In the same way, African-Americans occasionally used to pass themselves off as people from somewhere else on the planet, and got treated as white -- the point of ethnic prejudice is to maintain the internal hierarchy of power and wealth in a society, no matter how thickly it's larded with cultural or pseudoscientific hogwash.

Unknown Deborah, thanks for the link!

Juhana said...

JMG, I think that consumerism touches same nerves in humans as religion. Buying stuff, building identity through it, finding out new needs as old ones are satisfied, that does the trick. Majority of secular people are not very interested about grand ideas behind secular humanism; it is consumerism part of the deal that keeps them rallying behind the flag. Think about medieval Catholicism; myriad peasants and low-level landlords revered images of saints and baby Jesus embraced by Holy Virgin, they didn't care about scholastic nitpicking and disputes about finer theology.

Masses always have "vulgar" version of any religion, and that vulgar and common version is actually more widespread than elite definitions of same faith. One writer once wrote:

“The one place gods inarguably exist is in our minds where they are real beyond refute, in all their grandeur and monstrosity.”

If that is true, vulgar religiosity is actually more true than more sophisticated versions of same faith, because more people share it's vision.

Economic situation is so bad that individual consuming must shrink, not grow for good. Backbone of secularism shall snap at that very moment. People truly are that shallow, it is not gender equality or minority rights that keeps Western boat floating, it's promise that material needs are satisfied if you play your part like a good boy or girl. After that there shall rise new spiritualities to replace secular humanism, aka consumer religion. That has been one of your points all along, right?

My question to you: where you base your belief that these new spiritualities shall rise from neo-pagan traditions instead of already existing, Abrahamic ones? My experience about neo-pagans is that they are shopping identity that makes them "stand out"; they think with terms "I" and "me", not in terms "we" and "us". This is no intention to insult, but my limited experience indicates to that direction. That kind of group, which is not actually a group at all, shall disperse into four winds when really hard times begin and protection of liberal state most Westerners take for granted is taken away. It is groups with strong shared identity, who are ready to go through suffering and take casualties, with clear definition between "us" and "them" who shall conquer.

So is this looking down existing religions and their potent strength during already ongoing crisis result of personal preferences or what? I can understand and to some degree symphatise with those who feel ridiculed or unjustly ostracised by set of rules laid down thousands of years ago in totally different economic and material conditions. But that doesn't matter. If we feel as individuals that something is unjust or just, universe don't care.

Some loner organic farmers, whose only soulmates are found through internet, won't form backbone of communities that survive through storm. Neither do communities with very weak shared identities. Strong "spiritual" communities already exist, at least in the Old World, and any new communities who want to solidify their existence must go through Darwinian fight for Lebensraum, fought in the near future also with methods not allowed in current liberal democracy. I think their prospects are bleak in that kind of fight. Just my opinion.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Eric S,

As true a response to the future as any that I have yet read. Many thanks.

I try very hard to speak to everyone that my path crosses, regardless of social station. It doesn't always end well, but every occasion is a learning opportunity. It is fascinating to me, but everyone has a story to tell for those that have ears to listen.

As an interesting side note, my father upped sticks and left when I so young, I barely remember him. Yet as a young teenager my mother had to get her car serviced and I walked into the mechanics shop and said, "G'day mate, I just want to get the car serviced, how much is it goin to cost?". On the drive back home, my mum said to me, "how did you know how to ask that question, that way?" Her question made quite the impression on me as I hadn't considered communication from that perspective before. The simple truth was and still is that I didn't know, it was just what other people did, as I'd observed.

There is a lesson in that anecdote which highlights to me just how adaptable humans really are. Take away the structures that people take for granted and people will simply - adapt.



Bruno Bolzon said...

JMG, your last comment to Derv makes me wonder - what would terrify the West, exactly? The only thing I can think of is a movement like ISIS - but that sort of movement rejects everything the West has developed that is worth something, specially science. What's your opinion?

Cherokee Organics said...


I occasionally say to my partner: "I'll rarely make the same mistake twice, but am almost certain to make new and interesting mistakes".

It sounds amusing, but is also mostly also true!

Sorry to hear that you have also encountered similar circumstances. I would not wish that on anyone.

It sometimes pains me to understand and comprehend first hand that people do not realise that they could be that much richer spiritually than they are at present.

You know, if truth be told, I went out on a limb for the guy because we shared a hobby and that was the reason I broke my hard earned rule. From hindsight it is clear that what I viewed as goodwill, he viewed as weakness. It is sad really that our culture propagates such memes. Unfortunately for him, I have a level of ruthlessness (which I hold back 99.99% of the time) which will ensure that the situation is resolved one way or another to my satisfaction.

I look forward to reading your essays on:

"the arrangements that will be necessary in the coming dark ages aren't economically or politically viable today." Your comment to Bogatyr.

You know, very occasionally I mention a current or previous hardship which I'd overcome (or am shortly to overcome) and truly I've had more than my fair share of such experiences (not that there is such a thing) than most people in Industrial countries receive for one lifetime. You have also replied that you've travelled along a similar path and provided enough examples for those that have ears too hear, to satisfy me that you are speaking the plain truth - for your actions are what I would have done in those circumstances too.

I'm starting to suspect that a bit of hardship - which people recover from and learn from - can actually be a positive experience.

Thinking much further ahead, I suspect that successful war lords will also arise from such experiences? Dunno.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi thrig,

I hear you man. How about adding: Get the fire box started so that the oven and hot plates are warm.

As an interesting side note, I'm noticing that fire boxes made from sheet metal - even really thick stuff - tend to suffer from the consecutive layers of steel peeling off. I haven't spoken about the wood fire before, but it is on my radar and I'm wondering about the future.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Kutamun,

The rise of meth use in Victorian towns has been discussed on Triple JJJ's Hack program, which discusses youth affairs. It is well worth the listening to the show from 5.30pm to 6.00pm weekdays as it discusses many issues that are very far from the mainstream media.

Apparently the drivers for increased usage of the stuff are that it is cheap, accessible and apparently unlike dope, users do not put on weight. Apparently this is an important issue to the users who are predominantly Gen Y and body self-conscious (read prone to bouts of narcissism).

At a social encounter, I spoke to a policeman about the issue from this perspective and he looked at me like I'd suggested something very strange indeed. Don't confuse the desire for a complex answer just because you don't like what the simple answer is telling you.

As an observation, I'd have to suggest that pornography is perhaps a little too widely and freely accessible and is perhaps feeding into youth body consciousness issues. Not anything to worry about long term though as the demise of the Internet will sort that one out.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Violet,

Many thanks and I'll definitely check it out.



Tony f. whelKs said...


@Tony f. whelKs You missed my point. I meant to point out that your original implication - that the Welsh and Cornish should shut up about being different and accept that they're English - is not taken well by the Welsh and Cornish, genetic similarity or not. I've had too many English people tell me to my face that the Welsh language should just die to be tolerant of this.

To use a phrase JMG has much need of, I'd like to suggest you re-read what I wrote and identify where I imply that 'the Welsh and Cornish should shut up' etc etc. I suspect you're projecting from your experiences with others. I was simply indicating the fact that the Welsh, English and Cornish are drawn from essentially the same stock but maintain separate identities based on cultural and linguistic heritages, making it an example of the very dissolution and reformation of nations through the processes of ethnogenesis under discussion here. The fact that this occurred in the twilight of the Roman empire is particularly apposite. The point is that the ethnic lines are blurred to non-existent, and boundaries were redrawn by narrative means instead. I explicitly stated that my own 'Englishness' is a non-ethnic, socio-linguistic construct, so how can you construe any denigration in suggesting that 'Welshness' or 'Cornishness' is similar in nature?

You've made a very big miss if you think I wish to see an end of Cymraeg (or for that matter Cornish, Manx and Scots Gaelic, Orcadian, Guernesiaise or Jerriaise). I even started learning the language myself when it looked like I had an opportunity to move to Wales a few years ago, but let it slip after that fell through. I don't doubt that you've met many English bigots, but please don't make the mistake of believing that all English people share their views.

Nastarana said...

About Feudalism:

It is hated and feared nowadays because of memories of the horrors of its last centuries, the Great Plague, the Inquisition, the mercenary companies which devastated swaths of countryside across Europe. In a similar way, capitalism will be hated and feared in centuries to come.

I think capitalism has an undeserved reputation for efficiency. The great acheivements of the modern era, the technological advances, the rising standards of living, and so on, I would suggest, owe little or nothing to capitalism, which has parasitized representative government to the point where that civic achievement no longer works for most citizens.

I would argue that the great virtue of feudalism, at least in its early stages, is that it is devastatingly efficient. People are set to work doing whatever they know how to do. If you are a weapons maker, you will be making weapons, never mind looks, personality, connections or any other of the intangibles so dear to modern business. If you are a girl known to have a deft hand with a needle, the baron's wife will have you brought to ply your trade in the castle. As for the canard that there was no chance for talent to rise, au contraire. Recruitment of likely lads was one of the primary responsibilities of the factor who administered your village, just as the parish priest was charged with seeking out exceptionally bright young men for promotion in the church.

There is no question that feudalism is very hard on women. The option of taking refuge in a convent was available to upper class girls only; all other women were expected and assumed to be available for marriage. Peasant girls had some latitude in choosing their husbands from the limited selection, but choose they must.

Bill Pulliam said...

Rebecca -- you really think attitudes towards homosexuality in the south are hardening? I think you might need to think harder about what it was really like here in the 1960s and 1970s, when if a gay person was beaten to death the police likely wold not even get involved, if they were not the actual perpetrators. I'd also ask how much of this are you hearing from people under 30, or even 40? Again, my rural hyper-red county also contains a gay male nudist retreat, that everyone knows is here, and they have very little harassment (and reasonable cooperation from county government). At least one out lesbian is a high profile figure in the local community and arts. A bit to our east is the Radical Faerie Mother Lode (aka Short Mountain Sanctuary), and they also have very little trouble with harassment. They have been there for 30 years. When a local TV station tried to do a sensationalist hidden camera piece on them, the local sheriff charged the journalists with trespassing.

Sure, you hear more anti-gay marriage sloganeering, but that is just media political junk in response to national campaigns. I think it is actually a backlash against softening attitudes, not a sign of a hardening of attitudes among the general populace.

jcummings said...

Hey Chris, I'm reading - Water For Every Farm by your own PA Yeomans. Your comment on water systems brought this to mind. Have you heard of this fellow and his ideas? If so what are your thoughts on key line planning?

Varun Bhaskar said...


I wanted to took a few days to consider these last two posts, which more or less answer the question I asked about ethnic conflict a few months ago. The comments on this post all refer to the break down of ethnic groups, dispersion, migration, and etc... I have no problem with any of these things because I'm already an immigrant. I was fortunate enough to move to the United States during the peak of the empire and drop right into a melting-pot city. My whole life I've been surrounded by people who aren't like me, but are now all close friends.

What unifies us? Core ideology. We all want to be left alone to go about our business and love the liberal democratic standard. What I really want to know, and maybe you'll go into to this later, is how do we preserve the ideals of liberal democracy through the long decline? The break down of social order isn't exactly conducive to the maintaining the true gems of industrial civilization. Democracy, liberty, fraternity, and secularism. As many of your readers have pointed out the people who carry and believe in these ideals, whatever their backgrounds, are the ones who aren't breeding.

Everyone else,

You know one of the interesting things I've noticed about futurology is that India seems to be missing in most people's assessments of the world. I mean it is a massive democracy strategically located near the rising Islamic state (whatever form of government it takes) and the Chinese. I'm honestly curious. Why don't the Indians ever figure into anyone's projections?

Pinku and Cherokee,

So, your blogs are linked to my website but I can't get either of you registered (as pinku well knows). I'm working on resolving the problem and will let you know the moment it is resolved.

Ray Wharton said...

@Violet Cabra

Your critique is a painfully accurate description of the majority of the rainbow population. I could carry it much further too, but I don't think I would be doing much good there by. I am not interested in the majority though, but in the aristocracy. The minority of Rainbows who do the majority of the work there. Because they are functioning as leaders in a proto-barbaric environment. Good training.

My references were not as much about the folks at the gathering, but the people back at home who are doing organic gardening, and trying to conserve, but who are inspired by the Rainbow Gathering they might never make the pilgrimage to. Wwoofing might be more the common thread, but the cultural overlap between wwoofing and rainbow is nearly the center of what I am thinking of.

"Mortal, I don't think it can be harnessed, because it's rooted in a brittle sense of self overlaid by a fantasy of universal entitlement. Americans these days can't handle being led, and they're not much better at leading: not a useful set of habits in an increasingly dangerous world."

I am so sad that this rings so true. I can HEAR the brittleness in many peoples voices and it hurts so bad. My sense of self is still rather brittle, but the sense of entitlement is different. Growing up I always had an anxiety that I wouldn't be about to make a living with a job, and as an adult I have mostly avoided even trying to get a job, scrounging up small money with odd jobs. I never felt entitled, I felt astonished to receive so much. Today I feel uncomfortable if I am not either hungry or well worked.

I was quite the rebel when I was younger, and still have a rebel edge, but mostly I look for and crave good teachers and authorities, though alas the rebel is right about this much "Most these leaders aren't worth listening to." I wish there were better leaders in my circles. I am not natural to that calling, but can fake it in small doses. Some of my friends have the fire for it, but they have never obeyed! So how could they command?

I pray for friends who have the ears to hear "at your service." How frustrated I am by people who ask me for help, and when I show up its just a fracking party! Still loving people, and it keeps fat on my bones, but where is one who can command among them?

Kutamun said...

There are some pundits in Australia , a mob called "The Daily Reckoning " who have a better handle on the decline of industrial society from an Australian perspective than most , albeit through the deluded prism of " how can i make myself filthy rich from this catastrophe " .. Recently they published a scenario called " invasion A330 " in which they posit that the modern battlefronts in the unlikely event of foreign military invasion are our airports . Several aircraft under filed regular flight numbers disgorge 200 plus commandoes each to seize each of the nations major airfields , with the objective of holding them for a few hours until a second wave of reinforcements arrives . This assumes air superiority of the indo/ chinese airforce to protect the reinforcement wave , not difficult considering Australias clapped out fleet of 75 outdated FA - 18 hornets , the u.s having conveniently left us with an air defence gap around the time leftie prime minister Kevin "Elmer" Rudd was threatening a wave of resource nationalism , having the audacity to propose a " super profits tax " on mining multinationals .. Australias special forces would be hard pressed to retake the airports within several hours , especially with several thousand hostages . Air travel being the train lines of this vast continent , the country grinds to a halt in no time . If the American carrier fleets were , Ahem , otherwise engaged ( in the middle east with the australian army gone as well ) at the time , then this scenario becomes even more plausible .... The days of the old " landing craft up the beach seem well and truly gone .. Coupled with the fact that australia with its hyper efficient but zero resilient " just in time " supply chain system means there is only ever three weeks worth of food/ fuel/ pharmaceuticals in the country at any one time ...

Australias visa scheme allows wealthy chinese with children on student visas to purchase real estate in the cities , and anyone wishing to start a business in the rural countryside is especially favored .. I have noticed chinese hairdressers setting up in my own community , charging half price and then shutting up shop and back to the city once visa attained .... Smacks of communist party machinations , me thinks , no doubt they are having a good look around at the people , the culture and the lie of the land while out here ..

Neo Tuxedo said...

Kutamun skrev:

they posit that the modern battlefronts in the unlikely event of foreign military invasion are our airports

I'm trying to decide if that's more or less plausible than Tomorrow When the War Began. (Yes, that did get published up here in the States, too early to ride the young-adult dystopia boom.)

Hiruit Nguyse said...

I have felt for a long time that Civil Rights were just another short lived product of the cheap energy economy. Ditto for Womens Rights also.

MawKernewek said...

It is important to be careful with genetic claims for a particular region or people-group's claim to be distinct from other. As far as DNA markers go, I have heard of other studies saying the exact opposite re: the Welsh and Cornish. There are different methodologies used, and none of them generally give a full picture. Most rely on either the male-line Y chromosome, which as I remember I think has fewer genes on it that any of the others, or mitochodrial DNA passed only from the mother, which is the limited set of non-chromosomal DNA from the cellular mitochondria.

What actually happens is that both parents have 46 chromosomes, in 23 pairs, from each one of each pair is selected so following genetic ancestry is by no means as simple as Y-chromosome or mtDNA studies.

Violet Cabra said...

Chris, you're so welcome!!

Ray, I think JMG wrote awhile ago something to the effect that Rainbows are one of the the last remnant population of the hippies. I would say that wwoofing is, likewise, something of a legacy of hippie culture.

It is easy to imagine both carrying embers that help start fires of knowledge and tradition in the cold morning of tomorrow.

As for your point about leadership; this is the elephant in the room in terms of American response to a troubled future, isn't it?

There seems to me to be twin flame of discord with most people craving effective leadership while resenting all authority.

This is probably normal part of the degradation of dominant minority - internal proletariat relations. How terrible to be under the thumb of a government which, increasingly, is exploitative and oppressive. A government of occupation. This in turn corrupts ones notions of authority and power. Humans being social primates need hierarchy, and this leaves the door wide open for charismatic tyrants and leaders like Atilla and Alaric.

Interesting to note that apparently Jesus had similar concerns during the decline of the Roman Empire: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" he said when asked about the lawfulness of Jews paying taxes to support a government of occupation.

In worldly terms hence, in part, the social significance of the Second Religiosity: an ability to create and maintain effective hierarchy in the face of mass distrust of authority and leadership in a world torn asunder by tyrants, raiders, high taxes and unjust laws.

Ed-M said...


Be careful what you wish for! You just might get it.


I have the article duly noted for later reading. As for my knowledge of ancient sexual mores of Europe, and medieval ones, too, well I haven't read the original sources except a few English translations here and there, but I have read John Boswell's two excellent works: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexualty; and Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. It appears that the "orientation essentialism" was not widespread until the Late Medieval / Early Renaissance period, despite the fact that homosexuality as a fixed orientation wasn't defined and discovered almost until the end of the 19th Century. The Church Fathers starting with Justin Martyr, on the other hand... well the less said about them, the better!


From what I've read and seen, it appears the Greco-Roman society became more restrained in the 3rd Century. I've seen a mosaic from that time showing two gladiators having a go at it, and they were dressed very much like Cricket players! (Ancient mosaics Do Not Lie.)


1) You know, I was wondering when they would start going after the biological families that LGBTs come from. I had thought, worst case, a decade from now, in a place like Russia or Uganda. Now they're doing it now and in the South!? And against the family of a transgendered child; well that's just beyond the pale. Shows you're not dealing with Christians, but Christ-psychotics.

2) What Bill Pulliam said. Maybe you could move to his neck of the woods. Otherwise New England's a good place.

steve pearson said...

Just thought I'd throw in one story from somewhere there at least was a very strong tribal identity. A guy is asked in Northern Ireland if he is a catholic or a protestant. He answers " no, I'm an atheist",to which his questioner replies "Yeah, but are you a catholic atheist, or a protestant atheist?"
@Chris,I question your theory of meth use being a body image conscious gen Y habit. It wasn't prevalent in Oz where I was up till 2010, but is very much so in Hawaii where I have been living and in California & NZ. It is very much used by the poor, especially rural poor.Even in the small village in N. CA where I am now, it is a plague. I had a meth addict landlady in Hawaii. Ultimately your teeth & hair fall out, you gouge your skin because it feels like there are ants under it, you stink, you don't eat. Unfortunately it is the most addictive drug of all & very hard to quit.Most of the middle class gen Yers know this & avoid the stuff.Very nasty business.

progress4what said...

I'd like to address three points in the discussion this week. The first is a simple one, and the complexity increases from there.

First, there seems to be a meme here at the ADR that "preppers" are over-prepared isolationists - who wouldn't last long without a lot of social help. Of course, this is true for some of those folks. Those featured on the various "prepper" shows on cable TV certainly do seem to fit the stereotype. Do remember, though, that this is a stereotype - and that individual preparation for disaster and/or supply disruptions likely resides on a continuum. I know a fair number of (mostly) men in the police and emergency medical services. Many of them give a very reasonable amount of thought and energy toward disaster preparation for their families. Our own US government recommends that a 3-day supply of food and water for every individual in a household should be maintained at all times. Forewarned is forearmed, in this regard - and just because one makes preparations for times of need - does not mean that one is a lunatic.

My second point has to do with lucky mortal's idea that, "...a comparison of immigrant students and "Americans." Among immigrant groups, teachers were given an amazing deal of respect... (snip) Meanwhile, many American students often seemed obsessed with challenging authority, any authority, over any petty thing.
Fast forward to this same attitude in our workplaces and organizations and you have a recipe for the constant conflict..."

YEAH, no kidding, lucky mortal! I've seen this problem in operation. And, I was a rebel myself, in my youth. I think most young people go through some of this. However, it used to be that the "school of hard knocks" would educate enough rebelliousness out of a young person that he or she could learn to function in society, make a living, raise a family, whatever. The school of hard knocks has been forced out of session - temporarily - due to certain permissive predilections in today's America. This is part of why first generation immigrants thrive while the native-born wither. Unfortunately, children of immigrants seem to become fully Americanized, in these non-functional rebellious regards, and very often in a single native-born generation. And someday, the school of hard knocks will go back into session - with a vengeance.

Third point concerns Christianity. This faith has been around for over two thousand years. It has endured hard times and good times. Honestly, it does far better in hard times, as today's "prosperity gospel" can not really be justified by reference to the literal words of the Bible. Certainly, Christianity can be misapplied and misused - yet there it stands, ready for harder times.

Personal to Raymond Duckling. Steady, man! Too much time on too many doomer websites is hard on the soul. You indicate you have children who are still reliant on you for physical sustenance. That means they also depend on you for an honest appraisal of a way for them to survive and (maybe!) thrive in a declining future. As best you can, find a middle ground.

Personal to Juhana. Welcome back! Your hard-edged and tribal view of the present is something ALL of us need to ponder for an uncertain future.

steve pearson said...

Hey Chris, Sorry if I came across a bit strident on that last comment; no offense meant. You are one of the people whose opinions I respect the most. Just so much violent & senseless crime involves meth, as well as prostitution, break, enter & steal,etc, etc.It is a virtual epidemic in much of the poorer areas of Hawaii & western US.
regards, Steve

Shane Wilson said...

@ Rebecca,
I just wanted to 2nd what Bill was saying. I live in what I consider to be the sister state to Bill's, and my experience is similar. Most of the young evangelicals I work with are as gay friendly as any, yet they're as into Jesus as any evangelical. Fairness ordinances, as LGBT civil rights laws are called in our state are migrating down to the smaller communities, and are passing. The statewide Fairness law is gaining traction in the legislature, as well as the law to ban indoor public smoking.
I too, want to know the ages of the bigots you're hearing from. My guess is that they're over 50, if not over 60. My impression of the whole tea party thing is that it's a phenomenon of disaffected older white boomers and silents, judging by the photos and the demographics I've seen. For that reason, it's just a bunch of hot air not to be taken seriously. No effective revolution or riot ever comes from the aged, much as older boomers are in denial about their age, they're still old and getting older, and unless they have a death wish and want to die a few years earlier of unnatural causes, they're not going to start a revolution against people half their age. File tea party intolerance under irrelevant.

Shane Wilson said...

@ juhana
Maybe you could reread JMG'S earlier post on the new religious sensibility a while back? In it he outlines the rise of the abrahamic religions, how they came to dominate previously nature based pagan religions, often violently, how they require linear time (you have to mark time linearly if you're waiting for the messiah/Mohammed to come/return), how linear time is required for progress, thereby how Christianity is the handmaiden of the secular religion of Progress, or how Progress is Christianity in secular drag. This is just my bastardized summary. Best to read/reread them yourself. As for wahabbist/radical Islam, it's just the inverse of Christianity, cut of the same cloth.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Ray Wharton--Leadership doesn't necessarily involve giving commands. There are several styles of leadership, some more consultative than others.

A hierarchical structure in which people have to obey commands whether or not they respect the commander can either lead to disaster or save a group from it. You Must Obey is a crutch that allows people who have no leadership ability at all to exercise power.

In groups that have less formal hierarchy, leaders give a lot of suggestions. They also start projects and make room for others to join in. One part of being a leader is identifying which of the people hanging about want to be involved and then figuring out what they are able to do, willing to do, and won't screw up the master plan by doing. They don't necessarily know what the master plan is; that's one of the things a leader is for. Probably being in charge of small children is good practice for this.

People who have some area of competence they think is equal or larger than yours won't offer to help unless they think your approach has a chance of working. If they think it does, they will want to know the objective and the schedule and the resources available to them. I really love a leader who gives me something to do that interests me and that I'm good at, and leaves me to get on with it.

Moshe Braner said...

This relates to last week's topic, but it seems that some readers still havn't understood the basic math of exponential population decline. Saw this on in a comment by Nigel Williams to the latest article from Heinberg:

"The Arch Druid pointed out that de-population need not be a hugely significant event for most of us; If the rates of death exceed rates of births by just 3% per annum over the next hundred, then that would see global population decline to just 5% of today's [...]

Currently the global population is increasing by about 1.2% per year, so an increase in death rate by 4.2 % pa would be enough. So for those of us who have been to 100 funerals so far - this would see us going to 104 funerals instead. Not that dramatic."

- uh, percentages need a numerator and a denominator, got to keep those straight. The "3% per annum" excess deaths in this example means 3% more of the _total_population_ dying per year, not 3% of the previous death rate. I.e., an increase in death rate _to_, not "by", 4.2% pa. That would be 4 times as many funerals, not 4% more funerals. From 100 funerals to 400, not 104.

William Lucas said...


Your post this week reminds me that life’s no fairy tale with a guaranteed happy ending, and the ‘good guys’ are not always victorious (though all ‘winners’ write the history books that way). I also sense that countries and ethnicities do not exist as physical entities, and that it is even fairly nonsensical to think in terms of ‘family’. Personally, I subscribe to the notion that as individuals we don’t even exist, but that may be straying in the direction of your other blog.

But on a more practical, what-to-do-in the-here-and-now note, I glean from various comments (Eric S and others) that it makes sense to learn at least one other language (maybe not Neanderthal, Jason). Such a skill isn’t mentioned as often as gardening etc, but I feel that it is as least as important. Maybe Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French or even Portuguese if those Brazilians make the move northward as you hint.
I shan’t name names, but a search using the keyword ‘polyglot’ on either Google or Youtube will provide a fascinating trove of enthusiastic advice about how to go about learning a new tongue easily, enjoyably and usefully. Don’t be put off by memories of grammar or school larnin’. There are better approaches these days which many people are happy to share.


Unknown said...

Deborah Bender)

@Violet Cabra--This may be nitpicking, but the Roman Empire was not in decline during Jesus's lifetime. The empire was approaching its pinnacle of power and prosperity. Britain was conquered a few years after Jesus's death. The next hundred years or so were a time of stability and prosperity in most of the empire.

I've become more aware, through contemplating some of the more accessible symbols of Eastern philosophies such as the yin-yang symbol and the hexagrams of the I Ching, that when a thing reaches full ripeness, there's a bit of rot within that will spread.

In Jesus's lifetime, King Herod had the resources for an extensive and magnificent building program, but the poor were still poor. I wouldn't press the comparison too far, but I see parallels to 1950s America, when the established order was questioned only by a few outsiders like the Beatniks, who thought that the postwar peace, economic expansion and social conformity were inauthentic and hollow. Jesus may well have foreseen the decline of Rome, but he didn't witness it in the flesh.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

I hope I haven't exhausted everyone's patience with my critiques of other people's posts, because this comment is different. We have been discussing the survival of communities, and what kinds of leaders are successful in times of violence, chaos, and fighting over resources.

There is a recent historical movie that deals with those questions very directly. It is called Defiance. It came out in 2008 and starred Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. It is supposed to be based on real people and events. (An older movie and a TV series by the same title are not connected in any way.)

The background of this movie is that when the Nazis began rounding up Jews in Eastern Europe for extermination, some fled into forests to hide. Many were civilians just trying to survive. Some wanted to fight Nazis. This much is certainly historical fact.

There were various partisan groups, independent of each other and not under any unified command. Some of them did not welcome Jewish fighters.

The premise of the movie is that two Jewish brothers escape into the forest in Belorussia and try to join up with a contingent of Russian resistance fighters. One of the brothers wants to help the hundreds of non-combatant Jews who are in the forest. The other brother's priority is assembling a group of fighters and sees all these old people, children and bespectacled clerks as nothing but liabilities.

The brother who is focused on the survival of all the Jews organizes a clandestine forest village. He figures out ways that all these non-combatants can be useful to each other and to supporting the fighters. Improbable as this sounds, they pull it off and most of the non-combatants survive until the end of the war. (After that, I don't know what Stalin did to them.) That's real leadership.

Juhana said...

Shane: Thanks for the tip.

Ed-M: When did I mention that I wish any of that? I have noticed curious thing in people: when you visualize with your senses dark, stormy clouds in the horizon and describe them to other people, they tend to say you wish for that storm to rise. Of course person has limited senses; storm clouds can disperse or go to other direction. But as long as they are visible in your horizon, is describing them same thing as wishing for the storm?

Certain amount of...ahem, let's say "reservations" I have towards Western liberals is that if you describe something you have noticed in the REAL WORLD that doesn't fit their frame, they practically just shoot the messenger and close their eyes and ears from obvious signs. Rise of religiosity is one such thing.

Before 9/11 attacks that shook the world, discussion with "enlightened" people about this subject went regularly like this:

"Well, I have actually BEEN in Pakistan. Official administration there is hopelessly corrupt. Clan and blood connections seem to matter a lot for what district gets what. Only persons people seem to trust outside extended family in those big, unsanctioned shag towns are religious figures, who have some leverage at lower levels of local government. I am outsider to their community, so I probably have missed many nuances, but to my eyes they actually RULED those shag towns. They are like protecting their communities, keeping up order and at the same time taking patterns of thought among people they herd towards more strict religiosity."

"I have met many academic Pakistanis, they were very polite and civilized!"

"Huh..? What the he...? I just meant that at grass roots level that country is going towards more fundamentalism, and their self image is in growing proportions based on religion. Family ties still matter, but religion as building block of self image is expanding. As that same thing is happening simultaneously in many parts of the world, I believe we are not heading towards secular future but future of rising religiosity outside this small circle of Western academic middle class. At the same time, tensions between major religions shall rise again. Base on things I have seen in Balkans and Asia I honestly believe that world's progress towards ideals set in place during European Enlightenment period is over."

"You evil, evil man! How can you say such a thing! Third world is just opressed, and when that opression is lifted, they are going to be just like us! Just like us! Our own poor folks shall also be just like us, when they are steered away from football, populist Right and rising superstitions!"

"Huh... I didn't mean... Well, okay... Let's talk about weather, shall we?"

There are many peak oil denialists. People who "believe" in peak oil tend to think they are quite stupid and blind. At the same time, at least American peak oilers seem to be on denial about many VERIFIABLE facts about how world has been chancing during last decades. I don't say everyone should make same conclusions about those facts; people never do. But saying that Abrahamic religions are dying away, as their more fundamentalist interpretations are in the REAL WORLD gathering momentum and strength is plain stupid. Do you want to have roleplaying session D&D style or see world as it is? Fundamentalist religiosity is on the rise, not falling. Maybe American TV preachers and their herds are exception, but their religiosity is not actually truly fundamental, "back to the basics"-style breed anyway. See old-school Orthodox sects of Syrian Christians if you want to see "fundamental" aka basic Christianity.

Juhana said...

And to those Americans who still don't get rising religious tide in old Christian heartlands, here are two videos published probably by Syrian Alawite regime, honoring Christian and Shi'ite volunteers fighting for al-Assad regime. And there truly are large volunteer forces, "paramilitary" forces, moving along tribal and religious lines in East Europe and Middle East right now. Hard times make weird alliances. This thing is already REAL, not any fiction:

Juhana said...

Translation in English for video footage I shared:

Juhana said...

English "translation" for second video link, I recommend to read comment section also...

catching up said...

Hello JMG. Slightly off topic (sorry!) I discovered your blog about a year ago and am slowly working my way through it. Thank you for all your interesting and thought provoking posts! I just read your 2010 post "Seeking the Gaianomicon" which contained a link to the instructional handouts from your Master Conserver program. I believe the link is no longer active. Are the handouts still available online? I'd very much like to read them if so. Many Thanks, -H

Dennis D said...

A side note on Preppers and Survialists. For some reason the media likes to take those who take sensible precautions and find the most extreme examples, then state that this is typical. A number of years ago, the defintion of the two was split, with the wannabe Rambos who were primarily gun collectors, and no real plan, other than "I have guns, I will take what I need" from the people who call themselves "preppers".The media is now trying to associate this term with nutcases and hoarders, but it was not the intent. Honest preppers understand that guns are not the entire answer, and devote ten times the resources to living as they do to fighting. The on-line community of preppers I belong to is primarily composed of people who work in regular jobs, and see first hand the vurnuabilities that the current system has. Myself, I work in the electric power generation industry, and see how fragile the system is. I agree that the Rambos will have a very short life span, as bullets are hard to eat. At the same time, the preppers out there are quietly storing food and putting in solar panels so they don't need to get in a firefight for their next meal, and at the same time are not going to be pushovers for a gangbanger and his sideways pistol. If you practice Permaculture, preserve food in your pantry and put up solar panels, you may be a prepper yourself.

Raymond Duckling said...

"Some loner organic farmers, whose only soulmates are found through internet, won't form backbone of communities that survive through storm"

I think this is (one of) the reason(s) JMG is advocating the image of the Green Wizard. While it is true that "us vs them" is going to be a big part of the times to come, it is also true that not all "others" are equal.

A Green Wizard can be seen in those terms. Not one of us... but a valuable ally (or need be, fearsome foe for those inclined to the darker shades of green if you like). The idea is to be accepted as an important member of the community, even if you are seen as "different".


I know, it's just that this series from the Archdruid is lifting the veil behind some dark places that have been carefully kept out of sight for the past few years.

I will spare you with my personal story, but suffice it to say that while making it to ripe old age is not particularly important to me, making it to 50 is. While dead can take many forms, main causes in my demography are highly related to car accidents and the personal demons that talk you into suicide.

I am taking steps to deal with my unsolved issues and steel myself for the loss of everything dear to me. When the day comes that, as one of the readers once put it, having the contents of a shotgun shell for breakfast sounds like a plan, I hope this will be enough to fend of the temptation.

For what is worth, I don't follow doomer sites anymore. To much negativity and too little direction to move one's footsteps towards. As Tolkien said - though Gandalf's mouth - "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us".

Violet Cabra said...

Deborah Bender,

That does not count as nitpicking at all! Thank you for your insightful critique - you've inspired me to do more research on the history of Galilee and Judea.

The one change I would make to your analogy is that Israel under the Romans would have been less like 1950's mainland USA and much more like Puerto Rico during the same time, which had both major public works, repressive laws, and nationalist uprisings.

Minor quibble aside your analogy is excellent and I appreciate you taking the time to critique my incorrect historical understanding.

Shane Wilson said...

@ juhana,
It seems to me that you are unable to see a future that is not like the past or present, it seems to be in your blind spot. Not much I can say to that, so I'm sure all we can do is talk past each other. I come from a Confederate part of a border state, and the local cemetery less than a mile from where I live are buried many Confederate veterans who lost their lives for a cause I'm sure they believed in with all their hearts, and were certain God was on their side, but lose they did, which is why it's called the Lost Cause. I don't doubt that what you are saying will come to pass, and indeed is already coming to pass. It still doesn't change my belief that it is futile, but I know I can't convince you of that and won't even try. I mean, the host of this blog is the head of a Druid order and has written a lot of books about his beliefs, it's not like they're a secret or anything, it seems easy enough to understand where he's coming from from a religious perspective.
If Christianity and Islam survive the Long Descent, they won't be recognisable to modern day adherents, and indeed will probably be blasphemous to modern day adherents. For one thing, after industrial civilization has collapsed, it will be considered obscene or profane to consider Earth to be Satan's playground or void of any spiritual significance, and the idea of an afterlife in heaven will probably likewise be considered obscene. Salvation would be considered obscene in the deindustrial dark ages. Man, the conqueror/ruler of nature will be particularly obscene. So any surviving Islam or Christianity would be circumspect at best about life after death, and would instead focus on the cycles of the Christian or Muslim calendar.
As to how the fall of Christianity or Islam will progress, I'm guessing that after being repeatedly forsaken by God/Allah, most people will stop believing and look for something else that more accurately fits the circumstances. After centuries of decline and collapse, with promises of rapture failing to deliver Christians from the results of industrial decline, how many believers will be left? Likewise, after the Caliphate or whatever fails to bring back Mohammed or create heaven on earth, how many Muslims will be left? A religion can only fail so many times before people look for something else.

Ellen He said...

@JMG: Do you know that Pinku-Sensei believes that collapse is evitable and that your his adversary?

Khadija said...

@Rebecca Brown,

My thoughts about any woman who---for any reason or no "official" reason at all---feels unsafe in a place:

If you feel like you're not safe in a certain setting or while living in a certain area, then you probably AREN'T safe there.

I would strongly urge any woman who feels that way to listen to her gut instinct. Because it's trying to tell her something. Usually something important.

Kindest regards.

DaShui said...

I am offering you an invitation to come to my hometown, way down in the Deep South.
We can "requisition " a firetruck from the local volunteer fire department and proceed on a nationwide expedition to baptize at the point of our swords,all these heathen secularists posting on this blog!

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