Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Burden of Denial

It occurred to me the other day that quite a few of the odder features of contemporary American culture make perfect sense if you assume that everybody knows exactly what’s wrong and what’s coming as our society rushes, pedal to the metal, toward its face-first collision with the brick wall of the future. It’s not that they don’t get it; they get it all too clearly, and they just wish that those of us on the fringes would quit reminding them of the imminent impact, so they can spend whatever time they’ve got left in as close to a state of blissful indifference as they can possibly manage.  
I grant that this realization probably had a lot to do with the context in which it came to me. I was sitting in a restaurant, as it happens, with a vanload of fellow Freemasons.  We’d carpooled down to Baltimore, some of us to receive one of the higher degrees of Masonry and the rest to help with the ritual work, and we stopped for dinner on the way back home. I’ll spare you the name of the place we went; it was one of those currently fashionable beer-and-burger joints where the waitresses have all been outfitted with skirts almost long enough to cover their underwear, bare midriffs, and the sort of push-up bras that made them look uncomfortably like inflatable dolls—an impression that their too obviously scripted jiggle-and-smile routines did nothing to dispell.

Still, that wasn’t the thing that made the restaurant memorable. It was the fact that every wall in the place had television screens on it. By this I don’t mean that there was one screen per wall; I mean that they were lined up side by side right next to each other, covering the upper part of every single wall in the place, so that you couldn’t raise your eyes above head level without looking at one. They were all over the interior partitions of the place, too. There must have been forty of them in one not too large restaurant, each one blaring something different into the thick air, while loud syrupy music spattered down on us from speakers on the ceiling and the waitresses smiled mirthlessly and went through their routines. My burger and fries were tolerably good, and two tall glasses of Guinness will do much to ameliorate even so charmless a situation; still, I was glad to get back on the road.

The thing I’d point out is that all this is quite recent. Not that many years ago, it was tolerably rare to see a TV screen in an American restaurant, and even those bars that had a television on the premises for the sake of football season generally had the grace to leave the thing off the rest of the time. Within the last decade, I’ve watched televisions sprout in restaurants and pubs I used to enjoy, for all the world like buboes on the body of a plague victim: first one screen, then several, then one on each wall, then metastatizing across the remaining space. Meanwhile, along the same lines, people who used to go to coffee shops and the like to read the papers, talk with other patrons, or do anything else you care to name are now sitting in the same coffee shops in total silence, hunched over their allegedly smart phones like so many scowling gargoyles on the walls of a medieval cathedral.

Yes, there were people in the restaurant crouched in the gargoyle pose over their allegedly smart phones, too, and that probably also had something to do with my realization that evening.  It so happens that the evening before my Baltimore trip, I’d recorded a podcast interview with Chris Martenson on his Peak Prosperity show, and he’d described to me a curious response he’d been fielding from people who attended his talks on the end of the industrial age and the unwelcome consequences thereof. He called it “the iPhone moment”—the point at which any number of people in the audience pulled that particular technological toy out of their jacket pockets and waved it at him, insisting that its mere existence somehow disproved everything he was saying.

You’ve got to admit, as modern superstitions go, this one is pretty spectacular.  Let’s take a moment to look at it rationally. Do iPhones produce energy? Nope. Will they refill our rapidly depleting oil and gas wells, restock the ravaged oceans with fish, or restore the vanishing topsoil from the world’s  fields? Of course not. Will they suck carbon dioxide from the sky, get rid of the vast mats of floating plastic that clog the seas, or do something about the steadily increasing stockpiles of nuclear waste that are going to sicken and kill people for the next quarter of a million years unless the waste gets put someplace safe—if there is anywhere safe to put it at all? Not a chance. As a response to any of the predicaments that are driving the crisis of our age, iPhones are at best irrelevant.  Since they consume energy and resources, and the sprawling technosystems that make them function consume energy and resources at a rate orders of magnitude greater, they’re part of the problem, not any sort of a solution

Now of course the people waving their iPhones at Chris Martenson aren’t thinking about any of these things. A good case could be made that they’re not actually thinking at all. Their reasoning, if you want to call it that, seems to be that the existence of iPhones proves that progress is still happening, and this in turn somehow proves that progress will inevitably bail us out from the impacts of every one of the predicaments we face. To call this magical thinking is an insult to honest sorcerers; rather, it’s another example of the arbitrary linkage of verbal noises to emotional reactions that all too often passes for thinking in today’s America. Readers of classic science fiction may find all this weirdly reminiscent of a scene from some edgily updated version of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau: “Not to doubt Progress: that is the Law. Are we not Men?”

Seen from a certain perspective, though, there’s a definite if unmentionable logic to “the iPhone moment,” and it has much in common with the metastatic spread of television screens across pubs and restaurants in recent years. These allegedly smart phones don’t do anything to fix the rising spiral of problems besetting industrial civilization, but they make it easier for people to distract themselves from those problems for a little while longer. That, I’d like to suggest, is also what’s driving the metastasis of television screens in the places that people used to go to enjoy a meal, a beer, or a cup of coffee and each other’s company. These days, that latter’s too risky; somebody might mention a friend who lost his job and can’t get another one, a spouse who gets sicker with each overpriced prescription the medical industry pushes on her, a kid who didn’t come back from Afghanistan, or the like, and then it’s right back to the reality that everyone’s trying to avoid. It’s much easier to sit there in silence staring at little colored pictures on a glass screen, from which all such troubles have been excluded.

Of course that habit has its own downsides. To begin with, those who are busy staring at the screens have to know, on some level, that sooner or later it’s going to be their turn to lose their jobs, or have their health permanently wrecked by the side effects their doctors didn’t get around to telling them about, or have their kids fail to come back from whatever America’s war du jour happens to be just then, or the like. That’s why so many people these days put so much effort into insisting as loudly as possible that the poor and vulnerable are to blame for their plight. The people who say this know perfectly well that it’s not true, but repeating such claims over and over again is the only defense they’ve got against the bitter awareness that their jobs, their health, and their lives or those of the people they care about could all too easily be next on the chopping block.

What makes this all the more difficult for most Americans to face is that none of these events are happening in a vacuum.  They’re part of a broader process, the decline and fall of modern industrial society in general and the United States of America in particular. Outside the narrowing circles of the well-to-do, standards of living for most Americans have been declining since the 1970s, along with standards of education, public health, and most of the other things that make for a prosperous and stable society. Today, a nation that once put human bootprints on the Moon can’t afford to maintain its roads and bridges or keep its cities from falling into ruin. Hiding from that reality in an imaginary world projected onto glass screens may be comforting in the short term; the mere fact that realities don’t go away just because they’re ignored does nothing to make this choice any less tempting.

What’s more, the world into which that broader process of decline is bringing us is not one in which staring at little colored pictures on a glass screen will count for much. Quite the contrary, it promises to be a world in which raw survival, among other things, will depend on having achieved at least a basic mastery of one or more of a very different range of skills. There’s no particular mystery about those latter skills; they were, in point of fact, the standard set of basic human survival skills for thousands of years before those glass screens were invented, and they’ll still be in common use when the last of the glass screens has weathered away into sand; but they have to be learned and practiced before they’re needed, and there may not be all that much time left to learn and practice them before hard necessity comes knocking at the door.

I think a great many people who claim that everything’s fine are perfectly aware of all this. They know what the score is; it’s doing something about it that’s the difficulty, because taking meaningful action at this very late stage of the game runs headlong into at least two massive obstacles. One of them is practical in nature, the other psychological, and human nature being what it is, the psychological dimension is far and away the most difficult of the two.

Let’s deal with the practicalities first. The non-negotiable foundation of any meaningful response to the crisis of our time, as I’ve pointed out more than once here, can be summed up conveniently with the acronym L.E.S.S.—that is, Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation. We are all going to have much less of these things at our disposal in the future.  Using less of them now frees up time, money, and other resources that can be used to get ready for the inevitable transformations. It also makes for decreased dependence on systems and resources that in many cases are already beginning to fail, and in any case will not be there indefinitely in a future of hard limits and inevitable scarcities.

On the other hand, using L.E.S.S. flies in the face of two powerful forces in contemporary culture. The first is the ongoing barrage of advertising meant to convince people that they can’t possibly be happy without the latest time-, energy-, and resource-wasting trinket that corporate interests want to push on them. The second is the stark shivering terror that seizes most Americans at the thought that anybody might think that they’re poorer than they actually are. Americans like to think of themselves as proud individualists, but like so many elements of the American self-image, that’s an absurd fiction; these days, as a rule, Americans are meek conformists who shudder with horror at the thought that they might be caught straying in the least particular from whatever other people expect of them.

That’s what lies behind the horrified response that comes up the moment someone suggests that using L.E.S.S. might be a meaningful part of our response to the crises of our age. When people go around insisting that not buying into the latest overhyped and overpriced lump of technogarbage is tantamount to going back to the caves—and yes, I field such claims quite regularly—you can tell that what’s going on in their minds has nothing to do with the realities of the situation and everything to do with stark unreasoning fear. Point out that a mere thirty years ago, people got along just fine without email and the internet, and you’re likely to get an even more frantic and abusive reaction, precisely because your listener knows you’re right and can’t deal with the implications.

This is where we get into the psychological dimension. What James Howard Kunstler has usefully termed the psychology of previous investment is a massive cultural force in today’s America. The predicaments we face today are in very large part the product of a long series of really bad decisions that were made over the last four decades or so. Most Americans, even those who had little to do with making those decisions, enthusiastically applauded them, and treated those who didn’t with no small amount of abuse and contempt. Admitting just how misguided those decisions turned out to be thus requires a willingness to eat crow that isn’t exactly common among Americans these days. Thus there’s a strong temptation to double down on the bad decisions, wave those iPhones in the air, and put a few more television screens on the walls to keep the cognitive dissonance at bay for a little while longer.

That temptation isn’t an abstract thing. It rises out of the raw emotional anguish woven throughout America’s attempt to avoid looking at the future it’s made for itself. The intensity of that anguish can be measured most precisely, I think, in one small but telling point: the number of people whose final response to the lengthening shadow of the future is, “I hope I’ll be dead before it happens.”

Think about those words for a moment. It used to be absolutely standard, and not only in America, for people of every social class below the very rich to work hard, save money, and do without so that their children could have a better life than they had. That parents could say to their own children, “I got mine, Jack; too bad your lives are going to suck,” belonged in the pages of lurid dime novels, not in everyday life. Yet that’s exactly what the words “I hope I’ll be dead before it happens” imply.  The destiny that’s overtaking the industrial world isn’t something imposed from outside; it’s not an act of God or nature or callous fate; rather, it’s unfolding with mathematical exactness from the behavior of those who benefit from the existing order of things.  It could be ameliorated significantly if those same beneficiaries were to let go of the absurd extravagance that characterizes what passes for a normal life in the modern industrial world these days—it’s just that the act of letting go involves an emotional price that few people are willing to pay.

Thus I don’t think that anyone says “I hope I’ll be dead before it happens” lightly. I don’t think the people who are consigning their own children and grandchildren to a ghastly future, and placing their last scrap of hope on the prospect that they themselves won’t live to see that future arrive, are making that choice out of heartlessness or malice. The frantic concentration on glass screens, the bizarre attempts to banish unwelcome realities by waving iPhones in their faces, and the other weird behavior patterns that surround American society’s nonresponse to its impending future, are signs of the enormous strain that so many Americans these days are under as they try to keep pretending that nothing is wrong in the teeth of the facts.

Denying a reality that’s staring you in the face is an immensely stressful process, and the stress gets worse as the number of things that have to be excluded from awareness mounts up. These days, that list is getting increasingly long. Look away from the pictures on the glass screens, and the United States is visibly a nation in rapid decline: its cities collapsing, its infrastructure succumbing to decades of malign neglect, its politics mired in corruption and permanent gridlock, its society frayed to breaking, and the natural systems that support its existence passing one tipping point after another and lurching through chaotic transitions.

Oklahoma has passed California as the most seismically active state in the Union as countless gallons of fracking fluid pumped into deep disposal wells remind us that nothing ever really “goes away.” It’s no wonder that so many shrill voices these days are insisting that nothing is wrong, or that it’s all the fault of some scapegoat or other, or that Jesus or the Space Brothers or somebody will bail us out any day now, or that we’re all going to be wiped out shortly by some colorful Hollywood cataclysm that, please note, is never our fault.

There is, of course, another option.

Over the years since this blog first began to attract an audience, I’ve spoken to quite a few people who broke themselves out of that trap, or were popped out of it willy-nilly by some moment of experience just that little bit too forceful to yield to the exclusionary pressure; many of them have talked about how the initial burst of terror—no, no, you can’t say that, you can’t think that!—gave way to an immense feeling of release and freedom, as the burden of keeping up the pretense dropped away and left them able to face the world in front of them at last.

I suspect, for what it’s worth, that a great many more people are going to be passing through that transformative experience in the years immediately ahead. A majority? Almost certainly not; to judge by historical precedents, the worse things get, the more effort will go into the pretense that nothing is wrong at all, and the majority will cling like grim death to that pretense until it drags them under. That said, a substantial minority might make a different choice: to let go of the burden of denial soon enough to matter, to let themselves plunge through those moments of terror and freedom, and to haul themselves up, shaken but alive, onto the unfamiliar shores of the future.

When they get there, there will be plenty of work for them to do. I’ve discussed some of the options in previous posts on this blog, but there’s at least one that hasn’t gotten a detailed examination yet, and it’s one that I’ve come to think may be of crucial importance in the decades ahead. We’ll talk about that next week.


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NomadsSoul said...


All too true. Your post reminds me of Neil Postman's book, Amusing Ourselves To Death. In light of were we are today, Postman's insight from the 1980s rings all the more true.

Thank You

steve said...

Thank You John for again trying to to wake the deniers.
Within our community here on the West coast the "business as usual" crowd are still winning with the advancement of illogical transportation plans. Very difficult to stomach the craziness while trying to prepare a lifestyle that will feed our grandchildren and those to follow us

Caryn said...

Thank You, That was a great analysis. A few things, I'd like to add, if I may:

I think it could also explain the growing and very noticeable aggression and hostility we non-residents have seen over the past few years. I think I've mentioned that before: As a US expat, living in Hong Kong, almost every encounter with friends, family, businesses, etc., back in the States leaves me with this impression of some nebulous, unidentified rage seething beneath the surface. It feels like everyone is spoiling for a fight. This was not our experience up until about 5 years ago.

It COULD also (at least partially) explain the recent spate of police abuses that have become fairly prominent on the news. The latest coming from South Carolina looked nothing short of execution; which leaves one to ask, "What was that cop thinking?" "How on earth could he have done that?" Poor training as a cop is not remotely enough of an excuse - poor training as a human being is only faintly plausible. The important point being - he is not alone by a long shot in his actions.

Sorry for the length of this, but one other strong example I can't get out of my mind is the corporate gutting of the Hostess Baked goods company, again, because what happened there was by far, not an isolated incident in the corporate world. The CEO's and Senior managers purposefully gutting the company (short term gain) rather than follow the well-worn path of running and profiting from, (not astronomical profits, but good profits), or riding a successful, healthy company.

(This is one article about it, there are many others)

CUZ- to me it looks like those CEO's and those cops are acting like the end of the world coming. Whatever they do impacting the future doesn't matter, so they're just living for today, whether it's corporate looting or living out some Mad Max us-against-them execution. Neither actions are rational if one has faith that there will be a future.

This is a very important discussion that must be had. I don't know if it is possible to do anything, but I have to ask: What can we do about it? Community is crucial to us herd-animals, (humans). What can we do about our herd falling to pieces?

(2 more points, but I think you have a word limit on these comments).

Again, thanks.

Five8Charlie said...

Greetings Mr Greer-

I stopped taking my kid to her pediatric dentist when the TV went up in the waiting room in place of the aquarium.

On the other hand, there has been small pockets of real progress in America since the 1970's. You were able to get a Guinness in a run-of-the-mill restaurant - couldn't have done that 30 years ago!

bryant said...

I noticed the same phenomena; a creeping tide of TVs.

It used to be the only place you saw so many TVs was at a Las Vegas Sports Bar, now it is everywhere. Airports, bars, restaurants, tire shops, parts stores, feed stores, dentist's offices, all relentlessly televisionated. For me, the nadir was going into the local school district's offices and finding a half-a-dozen TVs in the waiting room. As education and TV viewing seem mutually exclusive to me, I determined to self-educate my kids at that point.

Trent Appleman said...

I've never owned a cellphone, a TV, or a car; neither have I used credit for any reason. One may indeed pay a price! But it is a price that gets repaid with interest: organic welling up of energy & organic welling up of stimulation are sufficient recompense indeed.

That which you term a Butlerian Carnival is genuinely one of the most fulfilling and diverse modes of life possible to us at the present time. It can be and should be exciting, an alternative to the disillusionment and rage to which one would otherwise be the eternal prey and not the momentary victim.

Also, I would rather the slim but real savings inherent in not purchasing fly food to all of the high flying salaries in the world!

One quibble, and only one: the poor are in many cases not to be blamed, and the Social Darwinist sneering of at least a subset of the rich is as incorrect as it is ignoble. But if the poor involve themselves in extravagances like credit, car, cellphone, and TV use, then one cannot but regard them as proportionally responsible for their own poverty.

So much money has flowed through the hands of today's people -- including the humblest labourer -- and it has been wasted on trinkets as upon event horizons... When I think of the opportunity even a labourer has of becoming better off than over 2/3rds of the American population in less than one year of sustained expenditure trimming and savings accumulation it is truly exasperating.

No amount even of fossil fuels and equality of opportunity can make up for the inability to discipline oneself, which will forever remain the exclusive preserve of a small minority; and may fortune smile even upon them!

I can provide my own antidotes to rage and disillusionment, my own stimulation, my own excitement. But I am glad of the excitement and stimulation afforded by this blog and the comments of its readers; for they justify my keeping at least one thing in common with my times while mostly rejecting the rest.

Travis Marshall said...

Tune in next week to learn how you too can soften the blow of Industrial Decline. I can't wait as usual. The first issues that show up for most of us will deal in economics ei. the grocery store is not empty you just don't have the paper to get in. How to be cheap would be my best guess as to what is in store for next week. In light of a post you wrote a few years back on the prominence of the salvage economy in the days immediately following the collapse of Empires I have done my best to begin to find ways to utilize would be waste to my advantage. An interesting anecdote on said waste. A couple of weeks ago while volunteering at the local food bank distribution center. I received instruction on what food could be utilized and shipped out and what food was to be put aside for what I was told would be pig food but quite obviously there were going to be no farmers feeding half open cans of vitamin water and ketchup bottles with crack in them to their pigs. At the end of the 4 hr shift an entire pallet of what I would consider completely edible food was to be disposed of due to what would not pass inspection. A bag of rice or beans that had any tear in it was a no go. Presumably they were grown in the bag never having seen the light of day. It was very hard for me as someone who has learned to despise wastefulness so be a part of this madness. The bureaucrats making these rules have obviously never been hungry.

Peter VE said...

As I sit here doing my taxes, I realize that there is no way I can leave my children anything like the legacy my parents left me, even in nominal dollars. They had lost much in WW2 (the d@##%d Americans bombed my father's parents house a mile from their target: the rail yards in Den Haag), and they restarted completely immigrating to the US.
My son has already voluntarily collapsed to a much simpler life, and we're slowly doing the same. Each year I know the garden better, and we use less. Each year I try to weave the bonds with my neighbors tighter. Each year I try to do more outside the money economy.

Jo said...

I went through an experience a couple of years ago similar to the one you are describing - except that mine was a divorce. For years my ex-husband and I had been distracting ourselves in various ways to hide the reality of the situation which was that our marriage wasn't working. We couldn't bear to admit it even to ourselves, because it seemed too terrible to face.

When we finally were able to admit the truth, yes, it was truly terrible and traumatic, but as you say, also cathartic and a tremendous relief. It was then that I resolved to make facing reality a more regular feature of my life. I don't ever again want to waste years finding ways to avoid the truth.

So I have been training myself to recognise the ways in which I distract myself and ask myself the question, 'So what am I trying to avoid today?' Interestingly, once I had gone through one terrifying life-changing experience and survived, facing up to other changes I knew I needed to make, like tackling the implications of a life with LESS, didn't seem so scary.

So maybe, all those people sitting in cafes looking at their coloured screens trying not to think about the terrible things that might happen to them, will be able to face all sorts of other realities after those feared terrible things have happened.

In the meantime, I tell my children, 'Put the phone down darlings, and come and tell me about your day..' Maybe if I can help them face their realities now then they can go clear-eyed into the future, because, my goodness, will they have some harsh realities to come to terms with..

Brian Rich said...

Great article as usual. But I'm finding this week's cliffhanger less tolerable than usual! Can't wait until next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, my family and I are well into collapse, and this month will see some big changes.

Flagg707 said...

Great hook. I can't wait for next week's post.

A couple of thoughts.

Another aspect of this denial might be Apocalypse fatigue. The people who planned for Bankruptcy 1995, or an economic collapse after the Dot Com bubble, or $400/bbl oil a few years back, or the collapse of the banking system in 2008-2009, etc. have probably warned their "unawakened" family members multiple times over the years of impending collapse, only to see the system recover, though at a lower level of operability for many users. This "proof" that the Man will always find a way to fix things, even if the little people get a few less toys, reinforced by family and friends tired of hearing about "the long run" might be just the kind of excuse for people who know better to ignore what appears to many of us as Catabolic Collapse in action around us. Just a thought.

Also, I think you may have found a new writing challenge - have readers describe their journey through the 5 stages of Peak Oil awakening and see where most landed after a few years in terms of mindset.

Thanks again for the writing and the platform for sharing these powerful ideas. And I don't even have to spend my April 8th in un-airconditioned Cairo to receive them... :)

Caryn said...

2nd point;

In the last 6 months here in HK, they have installed video screens on every public bus, running on an endless loop of infomercials, so we no longer talk to each other. It's bizarrely quiet. We just stare at the screen. Lot's of people, including me have missed our stops because of the distraction. The bus drivers insist they hate it too, but they can't turn them off.
Now, I may be imagining this because I can only see trees in this particular forest I am in; but I think people here are generally becoming less polite, less generous, less civil. There may be a causation, not just a correlation in those screens and our public civility. At the least, it is contributing to a downward spiral of our connectedness.

(ALSO: I would bet donuts to dollars, your scantily clad waitresses would have been more friendly and personable if they were not (literally!) uncomfortably exposed and visually exploited. An air of disdain and a smile that screams "FAKE!" may be their only cover of self protection in their circumstances.

Lastly: You touched on another facet of this decline that I think is pertinent to note. People who are 'waking up', disengaging from this screen induced torpor are largely doing so because they are in some ways falling through the cracks. One by one, or family by family; we fall through. I think this is the face of the stair-step down decline for most of us. True, there will probably be another Katrina or Fukushima that we aren't prepared for and can't recover from. That will precipitate a huge resounding crash to a big chunk of civilization as a whole. But mainstream living is going or gone for many of us. It matters not that civilization crashes. WE'VE crashed. This is the case for my family - Well, in our case, hanging on by our fingernails for the next 3 years (if we can) until our kids finish school. We are below those floor-boards and collapsing to LESS as much as possible in prep. Crazzazy-Hong Kong Preppers - HA!

I find it kind of perplexingly optimistic to find a positive path, mental and physical, however LESS filled with toys and gadgets, to travel on.

That's in fact, why I keep coming back here, so Thank You so much for showing me this path.

Let's keep walking.

O’Hollern said...

I worked as a substitute teacher for awhile, and the quickest, easiest way to get a class of thirty or forty teenagers to become quiet, docile little lambs is to let them use their iPhones. Instant passivity. It's digital Soma.

I remember during the "Arab Spring" a lot of TV news types gushed about the importance of social media in spreading democratic uprisings, and oh wasn't it wonderful? Well, maybe, but American kids ain't using it for that, okay? They're texting and watching stupid pet tricks.

Zachary Braverman said...

One thing I've come to realise in middle age, looking back on the (numerous!) stupid things I've done in my own life, is that illusions are expensive. In the end, most of my blunders seem to have come from trying desperately to pretend that something I know is true, isn't. And the bill has always come due. Big time.

I guess it's no surprise that what is true for individuals is no less so for society at large.

Tony f. whelKs said...

One response to the "iPhone moment" that comes to mind goes something like this:

"Run that 'progress' thing by me again, I think I missed something. The average (allegedly) Smart Phone now has a computing power somewhat comparable to the original Apollo programme, and now we can't put a person on the Moon even though 'everyone' has a Smart Phone...???"

However, I suspect it may be too subtle...

Andy Brown said...

All of last week I was traveling in the coal fields of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia talking with people. These are the poorest counties in the US, and many of them are getting poorer as more mines close.

I was curious as to whether there were any signs of turning away from the wages and consumption economy that has betrayed the hardest hit members of these communities - a bit ahead of everyone else's schedule - are there kitchen gardens? rabbits? community entertainments? any sign of people creating an exit for themselves from the bottom of the American economic hierarchy?

Now I know enough not to expect grinding poverty to be a great engine for activism or revolution, but still, Appalachia is an area that has living memory of traditions of self-reliance and resistance.

But no, I saw poverty and despair and a ubiquitous and utterly destructive black market of prescription drugs and crystal meth. And yes, a television in every dark hovel. There is a die-off (of more than just bodies) happening in Appalachia that I fear is a preview of how most Americans are going to fail to cope with an end to progress.

Jim Davis said...

That's a good point about the increasing ubiquity of televisions in restaurants. They started out in sports bars only. Or maybe at the bar of a restaurant to pass time while waiting for a table. Now they are everywhere. And of course everyone is on their "smart" phones at the table too. Is everyone afraid to talk with all of the economic and social bad news, or are they just so dumbed-down from pop culture that they have nothing worthwhile to say?

Cherokee Organics said...


Yes, the TV screens are popping up here too in all sorts of places – the bank is my personal favourite: Sure we’ve just had a major scandal involving ripping off plenty of customers, but trust us, we know what is best for us – Ooops, sorry we actually meant to say you the customer and that other bit just sort of slipped out. Hehe!

The weird thing is that they usually have them displaying an image, but with no sound which I've always thought to be a significant point. I actively avoid places with multiple screens as it is just too distracting – look at the pretty flashy colours! Fortunately, there are still plenty of places that do not have any screens displayed, which is a relief.

I've often wondered - given where those screens are produced and just how unrealistically cheap they are, whether there is a subtext behind it all. Like it may be possible that these toys which are virtually gifted to us are just considered to be a nice helping hand along the road to histories dustbin - and we (well not all of us) happen to be cheering the helping hand along. It is weird you have to admit.

Thanks for the new word too: Buboes - sounds very unpleasant. No one wants swollen lymph glands.

Well most of those smart phones that I've seen have broken screens - which I'm cynical enough to consider as an apparent design feature to boost parts sales - but what do I know? Obtaining more sales from existing customers is always a possible but very risky growth strategy. And what does it say about our society that people jump up and down get very excited by a product that is so easy to break whilst at the same time holding that up that same product as representation of progress? It is all very weird to me.

If tools here don't road test well or are not able to be easily repaired, they get disposed of or converted into something else. There is no place for a lack of resiliency here.

The smart phones also distract people from the task at hand and on many occasions I've noticed that people start to look something up on the Internet usually to back up a point that they’re making on conversation and find that they are unable to find what they're looking for, but then repeat the same process over and over again. It is weird and it smells of a sort of intellectual crutch to me. The whole thing is like a giant "neg" and I bet the developers were saying to themselves: "I'll bet they'll buy this easy to break and hard to use product". The last thing I want to receive whilst I'm out for dinner or at the local cafe enjoying a coffee is an email - what an invasion of privacy. Now a guiness or even dare I say it – an excellent pale ale - is a whole ‘nother matter. ;-)!


Cherokee Organics said...

The culture of fear of loss of status isn't as pervasive here. People are concerned about status and that is used against them to sell them increasingly larger SUV's, expensive houses and (smaller and less robust) smart phones but at the same time there is a sense of respect and awe at the audacity of sticking it to the man and I don't know whether that comes out of the convict beginnings? Dunno.

Yes, exactly. Shame should be heaped upon those that produce children and say: "I hope I'll be dead before then". It is an absolutely shameful admission of a very possible reality for both them and their children. It stinks. Shame on you lot. You know who you are.

Of course, there is plenty of work to do, it is just that many don't realise it yet!



PS: My new blog entry is up: Easter Eggs. It actually isn't about the chocolate kind of eggs, but actual eggs that get produced by actual real birds. As I have a variety of heritage and more expected species of chickens here, and egg production is on the rise (which is all explained) there are all sorts of unusual eggs which get produced so I've matched photos of the chickens to their eggs. All good fun and quite informative, plus you'll get an understanding of why you would want a few different varieties and learn something about chickens in the process. Phew that was a mouthful! Oh yeah, there was a Blood Moon in the last week and I took a very cool photo of that. Excavations continued. Zucchini madness - how can a few plants produce so much fruit? Tomato and tree seed stuff. I also reveal how I can move 1 cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of manure in under 30 minutes. Plus there is more house stuff which looks at the heavy insulation and the commercial fire retardant (weird stuff) cladding. Enjoy, there's lots of photos as usual!

latheChuck said...

At the Easter pot-luck breakfast at my little church next to a major university, I happened to be seated next to a student majoring in computer engineering.
"Hey! I got a degree in computer engineering too, in 1981." I said.
"Wow." she said. "I'll bet a lot has changed in over 30 years."
"Yeah... What do you think the world will be like 30 years from now?"
"Who can say?"
"Well, we probably won't have much in the way of fossil fuels left, and sea level will probably be somewhat higher... I'm glad my house is more than 200' above current sea level."
... and it went on from there, to the possibility that the Church, which was 'a thing' 1000 years ago, may still help us cope with future challenges 1000 years from now.
And it wasn't just the two of us, but four or five engaged in the topic. If they show up again on the ordinary Sunday after Easter, it might be the seed of something.

And no TVs anywhere around.

Paul K. said...

As a result of reading your blog, and based on your encouragement, some years ago I decided to get into sustainable organic food gardens. I've gotten far enough along to start teaching this year, and am finding that a lot of fun. An interesting thing I'm seeing in my audiences is that people take a certain joy in growing food, and in simply being in the garden itself. I feel it too. I can't quite explain why, or what's going on, but there is something that transcends modern economics and "reason" in modern terms that happens in the garden. I wonder if it's one of the most real experiences that I have day to day.

Thomas Daulton said...

Yet again you've hit on something I have also noticed and would like to add a qualifier. I have often noticed the "denial" you cite and I tend to think of it as "the argument from bad faith".

At this point I dive into conjecture, but I suspect the motivation for this denial is less from fear of risk or fear of the truth or fear of the future. I think it has more to do with the Straussian "Noble Lie". Many Americans see and recognize the signs of decline, at least at some unconscious level. But as befits a country founded on Exceptionalism, every single American thinks they're someday going to be the one-in-a-million breakout success, buy their way into some kind of gated community for the wealthy and powerful, and laugh Galt-style while the rest of their countrymen go down in flames. As Steinbeck aptly put it, average Americans to a man "see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

When people of a certain mind-set aid and abet and pass along the "Noble Lie" which the elite uses to maintain its power, then in their minds they become more like the elite by association, and therefore more likely to join it. To a people unaccustomed to systems thinking, the more of their neighbors who fall for the lies and the myths, the better their own chance of success.

When such a deceitful people sees the lies spread all over their TV screens, smart phones, and entertainment, they can spot the lies easily and it will actually make them feel better about themselves, thinking they're not fooled by something that the stupid proles obviously fall for. Unfortunately -- when everyone is actively promoting propaganda, and fewer and fewer people are actually fooled by it, the net effect is just the same as if the broader society buys into the propaganda wholeheartedly. I don't think the rich and successful are any more likely to hand out lifeboats and champagne to anyone from the steerage class regardless who does and doesn't understand the Noble Lie. I think the America of the future will have certain things in common with the past: if you're not born into wealth and security, and you're not ruthless enough to outright steal it, then your odds of achieving it by hard work are tiny, and your odds of being granted it on a silver platter by means of blatant @$$-kissing to your "betters" are probably even less than that.

Pinku-Sensei said...

“Not to doubt Progress: that is the Law. Are we not Men?”

We are Devo! Sorry, couldn't resist. Just the same, my smart-aleck outburst serves a purpose, which is to point out that the idea that the U.S. had reached a zenith in the 1960s and has be in decline (de-evolving) ever since has been around since the late 1970s, even the response to it at the time was "mutate now and avoid the rush," which was meant as a joke, instead of "collapse now and avoid the rush," which our host means seriously.

“I hope I’ll be dead before it happens.”

Someone who saw the onrushing catastrophe and came right out and said that was Joe Bageant. He decided to get out of the U.S. while he still could to avoid it, retiring to Belize. The irony was that by doing so, he collapsed and avoided the rush. He also got his other wish, as he died four years ago. That's not exactly how I want to collapse now and avoid the rush.

"Today, a nation that once put human bootprints on the Moon can’t afford to maintain its roads and bridges or keep its cities from falling into ruin."

I don't know if the nation can't afford to prevent those signs of decline, but it certainly thinks it can't. Michigan's Governor proposed a tax increase to fund road maintenance two years ago. Next month, that measure will be on the ballot. It's likely to lose, as no one likes it and would rather use its failure to beat up on the other political faction.

“Oklahoma has passed California as the most seismically active state in the Union as countless gallons of fracking fluid pumped into deep disposal wells remind us that nothing ever really 'goes away.'”

Welcome to an application of one of Barry Commoner's Laws: Everything must go somewhere, as there is no "away" in Nature. My students see all four of them every time they open their lab manuals and identify examples all during the semester. I'm sure some of my students from five years ago can still recite them. As for whether they'll apply them, I can always hope.

Speaking of fracking and California, Jerry Brown's announced water restrictions didn't include any constraints for either oil extraction or farming. Environmentalists and residential consumers are livid. As an expatriate Golden Stater, I can tell the people left behind that it's all about the money. Those enterprises make money with water, while homeowners don't. That's a big part of the resistance; the psychology of previous investment means that the winners under the old system still make money. Until that ceases to be the case, they'll continue their old ways.

Andrew said...

This reminds me of a dream I had, years ago.

In the dream, I'm a passenger in an aircraft that is full of people looking at screens, of the sort you might find in a military radar plane - the interior is military and functional. As the flight goes on, the aircraft starts to vibrate and shake, as though something is wrong - but the screens don't show anything out of the ordinary.

I don't remember any end to the dream, other than the increasingly rough vibration and shaking and tilting down of the fuselage while everyone else on board ignored these things and continued to watch the glowing screens. I don't remember saying anything, rather just being a silent observer.

This dream was back before smartphones became popular - never forgotten it.

AlaBikeDr said...

Everybody knows is a great song by Leonard Cohen but I don't think it is the current state of the American mind about civilization decline and the death of Progress. People are clueless. I am far from the fringe, smack dab in the middle of upper middle class America, and we are shamelessly riding the Uncle Sam gravy train; working hard in our community and churches, plunking money in 401-k's and planning to send our children off to college and graduate school. Any awareness of precipitate decline is well concealed. I must confess that packed vacation beaches at Spring Break, rounds of golf more outrageous every year with WAITS to play, restaurants overpriced for just average food, suggest to me that a surfeit of people have a surfeit of money (or credit). If I could make sense of what I SEE and what I KNOW, I might be able to explain it in an elevator speech. I am in awe of your dogged persistence in getting the word out but personally I feel more Cassandra like every year. When I show people the graph of the standard run of the limits to growth model and ask what do you think this means? Nothing. The boys blank face asked the blank window....

My donkey said...

I don't know whether this is another example of denial-and-distraction but I'm both amazed and disheartened at the sheer volume of vacuous sayings that people put on display in their homes.

These supposed "words of wisdom" are typically printed on wood or canvas and hung on a wall. Here is the actual text of one of them:

"Follow the voice of your spirit. Listen to the wisdom of your soul. Dance to the music in your heart."

What is this supposed to mean? I get the impression that any word in one of the sentences could be exchanged with any word in the others without changing the meaning -- whatever that might be. If the intent is to inspire me or to wow me with profundity, why, after reading ten similar examples, do I get the urge to hammer an icepick into my eye socket?

Dave Brown said...

The roots of cognitive dissonance are many, varied and deeply personal. The best antidote is a positive vision of the future. As a longtime reader, your weekly trips down memory lane are beautifully written, informative and provide much needed perspective, but it is like preparing the field and not planting seed. Kuntsler offers a likely accurate but uninspiring vision of provincial minds and feudal lords. Orlov envisions small, paranoid tribes content with simply abiding. Korten offers a utopian vision of how the world ought to be, but never has been. A list of sorely needed skills in the future of L.E.S.S. is interesting, but not inspiring. In the spirit of Nietzsche, give us your vision of where we can and should go. Rest assured, we will work out the details.

Brother Kornhoer said...

The Archdruid in imagination runs wild with the possibilities. Seriously, though, those places are sad - how embarrassing for those girls to put on that act, and how patronizing to be on the receiving end of it. I always felt greasy after going there (with my coworkers), and not from just the food.

I especially notice the frantic nature of the blame-the-poor crowd - they know in their hearts they're a few paychecks away from being poor themselves, and that they'd better not fall off the treadmill or fail to kiss posterior enthusiastically enough. But such a realization would be too fearful to acknowledge, so they pretend it can't happen to them, and it only happened to all those poor people due to some character flaw. This also allows them to rationalize the heartless acts they themselves may have to carry out. Meanwhile they distract themselves with addictive behaviors of some kind or another.

Archdruid Greer, does this mean you're finally getting around to discussing education and the preservation of knowledge? Here's looking forward to it.

Nano said...

Oooooh cliffhanger

jonathan said...

jmg- perhaps the leading example of your thesis is the transformation of president obama from the recipient of the nobel peace award that he was to the prince of drones he is today. i imagine a presidential briefing early in his administration in which he sits stunned at his oval office desk and mutters "i had no idea things were THAT bad!" policy decisions of late, economic, military and social seem clearly designed to extend and pretend and hope for a miracle.

on another note, i'm trying to picture the scene in which the wait staff at hooters or the tilted kilt put on their grin and wiggle act for you and your friends. too bad you were not (i assume) in your full archdruid regalia.

escapefromwisconsin said...

Here's a headline from The Guardian to warm the heart of an archdruid: Apple Watch reviews are in: an 'elegant', overpriced gadget 'you don't need'

Have you heard the reliable chestnut that "We have more computing power in our pockets than NASA did when we went to the moon!" I usually respond either, "so?" or "when was the last time we went to the moon, again?"

onething said...

Egads! That is surreal, that restaurant. If all the TVs are playing different channels...what a cacophony.

What I've noticed is that it takes quite a bit of attention to a topic to drill down on its details and get a good scope on it, and most of the time people stay on the surface. Thus, the iphone moment.

"To call this magical thinking is an insult to honest sorcerers;"

Now that was funny!

But I dunno, as much as a way to hide out, I think this screen proliferation is like a bad drug addiction. The dose just keeps increasing. It's to where people feel kind of nervous if left to their own devices. In the world that's coming, it seems like the least of our worries, as people will snap out of it in a matter of days and invent more satisfying entertainments, as they always have.

Again, not seeing the whole picture and its many interconnections, I don't think people are very cognizant that their lifestyles are making things worse for the next generation or that there is much they can do about it. The clarity just isn't there.

fudoshindotcom said...

I was recently informed that an asteroid is scheduled to crash into the earth in September of this year.....................

How many people do you suppose will be honestly disappointed when that doesn't happen?

I hope the next GREAT CATASTROPHY is a little more original and entertaining, with the amount of amazingly imaginative hog-wash it took to put us in this mess I'd expect the Head-in-the-sand gang to be predicting a resolution at least as colorful.

Lynford1933 said...

I just hope I am around long enough to teach a few people how to use their hands to make something ... anything, be it a chair of wood or a solar panel from individual cells. Creation of things for living is a goal unto itself. Hand skills are rare in the iPhone generation (except of course the thumbs used to talk to person next to them).

One of the more gruesome illustrations of what you are alluding is the militarizing of the police force. A friend saw an armored personal carrier with "Police" on the side. What on earth would the police need an APC for in a civil environment?

These same "Hope I die" people leave their children to be raised by gangs which apparently is the only place the child gets some attention and life skills in that environment. An alternative for the child is drugs of various sorts and availability.

HalFiore said...

Ha ha! I guess Hooters is one place you don't have to worry about running into fans!

Next time, you might want to bring one of these:

(I haven't tried it, so am not endorsing the product, but it's definitely an intriguing idea. Might get you lynched, though, if caught. Denial can turn real ugly.)

RepubAnon said...

This also explains why so many people are buying guns these days - it gives them the illusion of power and control.

will said...

I think that's right on the jingle, JMG. As an esoteric Christian, I'm certainly not looking for a Jesus-ex- machina to bail us out. That seems to me an escapist glamorization; its really a certain form of immanentizing the eschaton. I think a "Second Coming" - in whatever non-material way that might manifest - completely depends on our making the way ready, on our openness and willingness to receive it. It would appear that we're going to have to reap one large karmic whirlwind before that happens. Still, we can do our individual bits to ameliorate the karma by, as you suggest, waking the eff up and then acting accordingly.

Vincent said...

There is a consistent theme running through your narratives in which you believe the US government is restrained in its ability to pay its bills, or unable to subsidize an industry which does not make economic sense on its own.

This is simply not true in a modern monetary system. The comment section is not the proper forum for this discussion, which I would like discuss with you in greater detail, but I am unable to find a link to contact you via email.

I believe once you understand the mechanics of our current monetary system, it will change your paradigm for the bases to some of your individual hypothesis

John Michael Greer said...

NomadSoul, no argument there! At this point, though, it's less amusing ourselves to death and more desperately trying not to pay attention to the guy with the scythe as he knocks at the front door.

Steve, the Mayans built their biggest pyramids just before their population crashed by 95% and the survivors abandoned the cities. I expect much the same thing will be said of us by future archeologists.

Caryn, I've also noticed the rage, and I think it's another sign of the same thing. Anger is very often a cover for some other emotion -- in this case, stark shivering terror.

Charlie, well, to be fair, the restaurant was faux-Celtic themed, and that pretty much guarantees Guinness on tap.

Bryant, gack. I didn't realize that the electronic leprosy had become that widespread.

Trent, the thing that strikes me is that the people who generally go around criticizing the poor for spending all their money on consumer goods also spend all their money on consumer goods, but happen -- mostly because of the social class of their parents -- to have more money.

Travis, yes, I've seen that sort of thing. It's embarrassingly typical.

Peter, your parents had the great good sense to move to the nation that had just supplanted Britain as global hegemon, right as the golbal petroleum boom hit, and benefited accordingly. Not everybody can count on winning the jackpot that way!

Jo, the ability to learn from a mistake may just be the most important of all human skills; I hope you've been able to pass that onto your children, as they'll need it.

Brian, happy collapsing!

Flagg, apocalypse fatigue is certainly an issue; so many people have used the real crisis of our age as a hook onto which to hang apocalyptic fantasies that they've done a great deal to discredit the rest of us. Thus the steady drumbeat on this blog of "it's not the end of the world, just hard times..."

Caryn, excellent. That's exactly how civilizations crash: one family at a time, one community at a time, one region at a time, until finally there just doesn't happen to be anybody left who hasn't crashed in one way or another.

Claire said...

'I'll be dead by then' is a recurring comment from my sister; a woman who wouldn't dream of putting a hand for anything a grandchild wanted . . .

John Michael Greer said...

O'Hollern, exactly. It wasn't social media that caused those uprisings.

Zachary, good. Please put that phrase on the business end of a branding iron, heat it up, and apply it to the backsides of all and sundry.

Tony, funny. Given that two readers both thought of that, I think it's worth boiling it down into something pithy and using it as needed to deflate the iPhone moment...

Andy, that makes perfect sense to me. I expect a lot of Americans to respond to the crises ahead by replacing the "I hope" in "I hope I die before then" with something more active, whether directly or by way of drink, drugs, etc.

Jim, I think that nobody wants to say anything for fear of what they'd have to talk about.

Cherokee, that would make a good plot for a story: the Chinese deliberately sell the Western countries vast numbers of allegedly smart phones, etc., because they know that after X number of years of continuous use, everyone who uses them becomes a catatonic vegetable. Rather too plausible!

LatheChuck, that's very good to hear. Wouldn't be the first time that religion has become the one force for stability at a time of otherwise universal disintegration...

Paul, excellent! Yes, it is more real. The world of nature is the real world; things manufactured by human beings are our own mental creations -- that is to say, imagination at best, hallucination at worst -- given temporary material form. Long after the briefly concretized fantasies we call "manufactured products" have vanished away, seeds will still be sprouting in soil, and in the depths of ourselves, we all know and feel that.

Thomas, I'd considered that. The problem is that it doesn't explain the rage and brittleness that surrounds the various ignoble lies people tell themselves in this country. Catch a conscious liar out, and he looks sheepish or starts blustering; catch someone lying to themselves to try to hide from a terrifying truth, and you get blind rage. The latter's far more common these days.

Pinku-sensei, the phrase as I remember it was "Mutate now and avoid the post-Bomb rush" -- and yes, I had that in mind when I was writing about "Collapse now and avoid the rush."

Andrew, that's a splendid metaphor. My compliments to your subconscious.

AlaBikeDr, yes, there are still ghettoes of privilege where that kind of attitude is well ensconced. It'll be interesting to see how long that lasts.

mirela said...

Funny you would pick on smart phones this week.....have you seen this? File it under "externalities"

Reminds me of a short story by Le Guin - "The ones who walk away from Omelas". Collapse now = walk away.

PhysicsDoc said...

Great observation about the large flat screens of various forms. I have noticed it and not noticed it if you know what I mean. I go to restaurants frequently enough and the screens have gone up gradually (first one then two then...) that I have only noticed it in the periphery of my consciousness until you brought it front and center. It may be one of our last achievements, the ability to make what were previously very heavy glass and metal vacuum tubes into very light and significantly more efficient displays (hence the ability to plaster them everywhere). Ironically in my various positions I have played a small role in the development of these devices. I also have an acquaintance who is making a very nice living installing the latest audio visual high end equipment into the homes and condos of the uber-rich in the Seattle area. Think flat screens that look like walls when not in use and walls that are huge speakers in disguise etc. Maybe the rich need even bigger distractions from the world outside.

Pinku-Sensei said...

@AlaBikeDr "Everybody knows is a great song by Leonard Cohen but I don't think it is the current state of the American mind about civilization decline and the death of Progress."

To be fair, Leonard Cohen is Canadian and his music is an acquired taste. That written, I've found people who appreciate the idea of collapse like it. I posted a link to one embed of the song at Kunstler's blog last year, and the commenters liked it so much that I gave them an encore.

@JMG "Charlie, well, to be fair, the restaurant was faux-Celtic themed, and that pretty much guarantees Guinness on tap."

Tilted Kilt? Guinness is Irish, not Scottish, but it figures that an establishment like that would not care about the details and have drinks more suited for Saint Patrick's Day than for toasting St. Andrew.

"Pinku-sensei, the phrase as I remember it was 'Mutate now and avoid the post-Bomb rush' -- and yes, I had that in mind when I was writing about 'Collapse now and avoid the rush.'"

I forgot the "Post-Bomb" but Mutate now and avoid the rush stuck. Thanks to your prompting, I found out that Devo was inspired by that passage from H.G. Wells. They were mocking progress even back then. Wells to Devo to Greer, who then cites Wells--the path of influence and tribute swallows its own tail like the Worm Ouroboros…

Kutamun said...

I like the painting by Pawel Kuscynski where a mobile phone hollowed out with a little bell ringing in the top is attended by a fully garbed priest ; " the opiates of the masses " springs to mind . John Pilger referred recently to people " lighting up " their mobile phones in the manner and timeframe historically reserved for cigarette breaks .
Little talismans that we gaze into , searching desperately for answers ; perhaps feeding the body of anxiety that now constantly attends the vast majority of westerners .
I like my iphone , i use it as a diary , recording dreams and synchronicities , feeding them into the belly of the beast like a virus . I use it to monitor my calorific intake with enormous health benefits ; i am able to use it to read the great novelists during waiting periods , carrying the full breadth of human intellectual endeavour around in my top pocket .
Above all , i try to minimise time spent surfing on the anxious- net , that insidious creation that seems mainly used to unite us all in our despair . As Morpheus advised in the Matrix " stay off the highway , its suicide , agents are everywhere " ... Sometimes i feel like hurling the thing into space , i will be sad when its gone , maybe

James M. Jensen II (badocelot/shiningwhiffle) said...

Well, I for do hope I die before things get really bad.

But what I mean by that is that, as a Type I diabetic, I hope a supply of insulin remains available long enough that I can die of something less awful than complications of diabetes.

Seeing as I have some heart issues, too, maybe I'll get that wish!

One thing I like to keep in mind is actually from the GURPS roleplaying game: one of the disadvantages (which gives you extra character points to put into skills or whatnot) is for a terminal illness. The thing is, if your character has more than two years to live, you don't get any points for the illness: as they put it, anybody could be hit by a bus in that time frame. I've always thought that was a rather practical point of view.

One hope I do have is that supply problems may finally inspire the FDA to loosen the overly-restrictive regulations that make generic insulins effectively legally impossible and guarantee Eli Lilly a near-monopoly on the industry. Of course, by that point generics will hardly be cheap, but it could help.

9anda1f said...

Thank you JMG, I always appreciate reading your words and have every week now for two plus years.

I’ve never had a blaring idiot box, nor do I frequent restaurants or homes of any well intentioned guests who have them on. I simply can’t concentrate on conversations or trains of thought for more than one minute if that type of energy is in the room. I’m not deaf as I can hear thunder 50 miles off, buzzing of beneficial insects six feet away and the sound of my own beating heart(actual function of blood pressure on the inner ear) during the day where I live.

I fell off the cliff 4 years ago. It was a devastating and emotionally torturous experience. Without money for gas, having failed at an attempt to save my rentals (and retirement) I found myself stranded in the channeled scablands of Eastern WA. Could I have returned to the city over the mountains west of there? Jumped on a plane, left all of my belongings behind and headed back to the north east? Sure I could have. Some of my friends had already begun to distance themselves from lack of contact or perhaps afraid they would catch what I had. Family members were living through their own gradual financial ebbs but supported me emotionally where they were able.

Instead I woke up. I gathered what no one can take from me; my degree in Environmental Science and Native American Philosophy, my PDC and all of my life’s observations of the world around me. I created my own employment at an organic farm instead of dooming myself to a route 90 off - ramp job and landed a place to stay in exchange for the permaculture knowledge I now have and put to good use.

Voracious reading, research, and well-designed action now fills the void where distraction and fear based self-soothing consumerism existed. Quietude and critical thinking take the place of endless hours of high profile restaurant work and quacking about the latest greatest gastronomic encounters at parties. Instead of shopping at Nordstrom’s I cut my own hair, chop my own wood, and make my own candles and so on. 800 perennial shrubs and trees have been planted from seeds, cuttings and some crazy Espoma award money that will provide food, medicine, fuel, wind breaks (needed), shade, mulch and native habitat.

Money is fiat currency. Got it. First 5000 years of Debt. Got it. How Patriarchy and agriculture has shaped the world. Got it. Collapse isn’t linear, but fractal. Got it. How to disappear from the centralized monster. Got it. I’m no longer under the illusion that social security will be there when I need it and no longer interested in aiding and abetting an out of control empire or their bff elite friends. They can have their Earth and eat it to. Good luck with that.

The ability to Observe, Learn and Implement is worth more than everything I let go of.


John Michael Greer said...

Donkey, it's perfectly relevant, because that kind of thoughtstopping drivel is just one more way people try to close their minds to the real world. Rather than doing the thing with the icepick, though, have you considered a nice poster from Despair.Com?

Dave, I see you've forgotten the protective spell I passed on a while back: There is no brighter future ahead. That said, I'll have a few things to say about possible futures in a bit.

Brother K., nah, it was one of the faux-Celtic themed versions. It still had a greasy quality, though as I noted, the food wasn't bad.

Nano, heh heh heh...

Jonathan, nah, those are my work clothes. ;-)

Escape, excellent on both counts.

Onething, I'm by no means sure I agree with you. Addictions are very often a way of hiding from some deeper problem, and I see that very much in the present case.

Fudoshin, I spent a year in the runup to the 2012 nonevent running an End of the World of the Week feature to make fun of apocalypse fandom. Of course they ignored it -- though I did field some engagingly furious denunciations when nothing happened that December 21. It was highly entertaining, no question.

Lynford, the police need an APC because the US is gearing up to fight a domestic insurgency, of course.

Hal, I'll keep that in mind!

RepubAnon, exactly.

Will, well, yes -- it's not hard to tell the difference between those who actually believe in and follow the gospel of Jesus and those who are using their own distortions of it to justify behaviors he condemned in no uncertain terms!

Vincent, you misunderstand me. It doesn't matter at all who can manufacture how much money -- money is simply a system of tokens. What can't be manufactured at will is real wealth: actual energy, raw materials, labor, and goods and services. That's what's running short at this point, not money.

Claire, and it's probably not worth pointing that out to her, either...

Donald Hargraves said...

Here's a thought: The nation that put men on the moon now has a sizable portion of people who CAN'T believe that it put men on the moon. Note that I said "can't," not "don't;" if you're right that people know how bad things have gotten even if they go out of their way not to admit it to themselves, it's possible that our present is beginning to warp our memory of the past – since we can't keep a bridge up (or build one, for that matter) anymore, it then follows that there was no way we could have gotten men to the moon.

John Michael Greer said...

Mirela, I have indeed, and yes, I've been thinking of that Le Guin story a lot of late.

PhysicsDoc, you may be right about the rich. I wonder what they'll be thinking when the mobs interrupt their favorite program to drag them off to the nearest lamppost.

Pinku-Sensei, well, yes, that's why I said faux-Celtic rather than faux-Scots. It's the usual American "Aloha, Amigo!" mush.

Kutamun, I never know when you're serious or making a joke...

James, understood. This has got to be particularly ghastly for those who depend on the machine to stay alive, and get to watch its current drivers go pedal to the metal toward the wall.

9andalf, exactly. My route out was more tortuous, and I got started earlier, but I remember the experiences involved vividly.

Jason Heppenstall said...

The way you describe your bar experience tickled me. Reading it, however, I found it noteworthy that a couple of pints of Guinness helped you to ignore all those TV screens. Could it be that by so over-stimulating their customers the business owners are ensuring that the only way out is to soften the experience with alcohol? Kind of like a high-energy wasting version of putting salt on the bar snacks.

And all those people staring at their iPhones all the time (all over the world) - I think it has less to do with stimulation and everything to do with anaesthesia. They are treated to a never-ending sequence of mildly stimulating tosh (what colour is this dress; Look at this kitten dressed as a dog; such and such celebrity has plot up with some other celebrity ... as well as unimportant emails, status updates, 'news' alerts etc ) and the effect is mesmerising - a bit like lying on your back and watching clouds pass. The end result is probably similar to having a local anaesthetic injected into your cerebral cortex: it doesn't make the world's problems go away but it keeps you in a dreamy state where if the iPhone doesn't mention it then it doesn't exist.

Incidentally, I have noticed another modern way of dealing with cognitive dissonance: the cult of busyness. When people say they are always busy it's often a subtle way of saying "I don't have time to deal with the concerns that you are raising about the state of the world - I'm too BUSY." There is sometimes the implication that having the time to think about things is an indulgence. It's a neat mental trick, a bit like the one ostriches use when confronted with danger. I've touched on this in my latest blog post - along with my recent experiences working in the production end of the mind anaesthesia industry. I hope you will find it amusing.

John Michael Greer said...

Donald, that's a fascinating suggestion, and one that makes sense. Hmm...

Jason, nah, the pints simply put something pleasant on the other side of the balance. Your broader point, though, is entirely valid; there's a whole galaxy of ways that people who don't want to notice something can arrange not to notice it.

Andrew Crews said...

John Michael Greer,

I think what we are seeing is time of the dragon yield to the birth of a unicorn age, in a most unevenly distributed way. You see the Iphone's and TV spam is not because these objects hold any material value, it is because they are talismans to ward off the evil demons of collapse and catabolism. There is a great serpent by the name of Ouroboros, who consumes its own tail to stay alive just a bit longer the personified version of catabolism. Much like buddhist papers and flags written with mantras, these talisman's are the cross we hold up to vampires and demons. I can almost envison people holding up their iphones to ward off rust, poverty and unemployment.

As the cycles continue, I notice that in an age where politics is gridlocked and power so conflicted a diffuse, there is somewhat a cult gaining momentum that only accepts shows of strength and fortitude as anything of consequence. While the average American demonizes Putin mostly due to propoganda, they actually according to polls respect him as a leader more so than the clowns in congress and the white-house. There is an air of envy, when people see leaders who get things done, whatever that may be for better or worse.

Personally, I have found most twenty somethings, including myself, have abandoned television watching the occasional documentary or series over some service like netflix or the internet. Young people are more likely to use adblockers and be annoyed or immune to advertising. I think these cycles of change are in the pipeline, it will just take later generations dying out for it to take full effect.

Anyway, I loved reading Twilight's last gleaming, Wealth of Nature and Decline and Fall, wonderful pieces. I am working on After Progress as well. Of course I've seen all these concepts in bits a peices and understood them fairly well, but they take on a new effect when applied in the more coherent and dense a form as a book, such is the way of human memory.

Best Wishes,
Andrew Crews

DVDfeels said...

I remember reading some letters of the recently late poet Charles Bukowski. Not to get into the whole hipster thing concerning his popularity I will simply state for those that do not know that he was quite a drinker. Anyway one time he mentioned what ruined bars, he said it was TV. Once TV came into the bars the entire vibe changed. People no longer had to deal with each other. (I imagine he was speaking about the late 50's to early 60's. Any readers old enough to comment on that are welcome) Well now it seems it is there so people no longer have to deal with reality. On a side note I would refer JMG and readers to this excellent lecture on post-roman Britain. Being a druid you might be interested. Apparently post-roman/post-collapse Britain was more primitive than Pre-roman Britain. Who would have thunk it!

If the link doesnt search it is by Brian ward-perkins: a real economic meltdown.

Allan Stromfeldt Christensen said...

Re-posted (as the second post) to the new website, Nyet-Flix: Home of the End of Film & Television.

You may also want to check out the site's inaugural post (at it's original site), The Netflix Wall, The Netflix Fall.



Rhisiart Gwilym said...

"To call this magical thinking is an insult to honest sorcerers -"

Too right! I always considered the very phrase 'magical thinking' an insult from people hopelessly mired in the current hyper-materialist extreme of scientific orthodoxy - the Dawkettes, as you might call them - aimed at the very idea of magic as a crucial part of the basic nature of reality; which of course it is.

BTW, I don't comment often, as you may have noticed John, so let me take this opportunity to say that I never miss an episode of TAR, avidly imbibed as soon as it's posted, simply because of its stratospheric, not to say geo-stationary orbital, level of insight into the unpopular realities now crowding in on us. TAR is simply unique. Ta very much for your extraordinarily good work, Archdruid!

das monde said...

Exactly, distraction and denial tools are in demand like never before. The supply is worth attention as well. The number of survivors is not really determined by the number of transformatively aware, but by the carrying capacity of what remains of the planet and the fallen civilization. With not enough for everyone, there will be many misleading tales cooperating. Only a wonder technology or a superman can save all the humanity - so why not keep on praying?

Sabretache said...

Well well well JMG.

How can I have been following this blog off and on for over 5 years now, with a number of substantive exchanges between us, without knowing or realising you were a Freemason.

I'm baffled and I really would love to know more about it. Help.

Val said...

I frequent an online forum on which I recently brought up the appallingly destructive activities of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. One individual there, in addition to making other absurd arguments, insisted that their defeat is assured, on account of now we have international electronic media and the Internet and drones to defeat the baddies. I didn't bother arguing.

Full disclosure: for the past couple of years I've been reading this and all the other blogs I follow on an iPhone, my only home-based web access. I plan to download the app for a Starfleet beacon, and am fully expecting to be beamed up at any moment.

As J.H. Kunstler was told by the wonks at Google - "Dude, we have technology!"

squizzler said...

Yes, as a species we knew all too well the implications of environmental degradation on its way, and gleefully chose to rush headlong into our avoidable fate.

In all fairness, the film Age of Stupid reached this conclusion back in 2009. For anyone with a "glass screen" to hand, I recommend it thoroughly.

jean-vivien said...

I have a humble suggestion to submit :
why not dedicate a section of your weekly posts to concrete initiative undertaken by individuals, and detail in which ways they run against or avoid the psychological pitfalls you try to describe ?
My understanding, from the outside of course, is that Western business culture likes to feature "projects".
Bridging the gaps between one of the fashionable concepts of corporate management and the L.E.S.S. mindset would help people... or maybe not ? I may have fallen into the old cliche that taking action is one of the things Americans do best.

Gloucon X said...

JMG said ...PhysicsDoc, you may be right about the rich. I wonder what they'll be thinking when the mobs interrupt their favorite program to drag them off to the nearest lamppost.

I love your recurrent mobs-lamppost-rich imagery. It would be interesting to see those types of events. When do you expect them to begin?

daniel said...

To expand on Donald's comment - believing man went to the moon contradicts belief in Progress. For if man did go to the moon then Progress dictates man should be able to do more or better now. The fact he can't creates a dichotomy that is most easily resolved by dropping the simpler 'fact' - ie the belief that man went to the moon. Thus Progress can continue unchallenged...

KL Cooke said...

My Donkey

"Follow the voice of your spirit. Listen to the wisdom of your soul. Dance to the music in your heart."

What is this supposed to mean?

It's not supposed to mean anything. It's supposed to cover up a hole in the wall board.

Ondra said...

Dear JMG,

thanks for this interesting analysis.
I think that you outlined only one option for majority: clinging to the passing lifestyle until bitter end.
The other option is some kind of violent explosion - like when Civil war of First world war "finally" began, many people greeted it with cheerful feelings. The source of these feelings was probably the fact, that the unbearable state of something-is-going-to-happen was finally blown away, and people can do something, not just wait for explosion.
Of course, such "solutions" have obvious drawbacks...

D. Mitchell said...

So interesting! I especially like the point about younger people being unable to accept that the world can and did indeed run fine before email, cell phones, text messages, and the like. I encountered just the other day someone that was illogically upset when I suggested that email was not a human necessity nor was the internet. That means, in the words I told him, that you do not need a direct line into your home.

They made many statements about finding work, banking, using their apps, that sounded like hollow, weak, veiled attempts at justifying something that until 5 years ago was considered an unaffordable luxury in many of the fly over states. It still is in many parts, though the government is trying to peg it as a necessity by making children take classes over the web in schools. (One teacher for 5 schools of English classes in Middle school) or insisting they carry only laptops instead of books.

Whatever happened to the one tv in the entire school that teachers had to reserve a week in advance? What happened to computers being at best an aid in science or computer science, not high tech video game machines you carry around 24/7?

I'm so glad my children are limited in what gadgets are at their disposal. No tv. One landline. One tablet, which we share. My laptop in my office for work, which I do from home for their sake. That is the extent of their interactions and every piece I secured had to pay for itself in some way. How many Americans could live like that? I think we will find out sooner rather than later as each family collapses further every year.

Odin's Raven said...

It seems that the gargoyles have replaced the congregation as modernity fades away, protesting all the while that its never been more vital.

Let the dead bury their dead?

evodevo said...

IPhones - ack! - did you mention to them the working conditions of the peons who make their precious electronic pacifiers? That alone turns me off....

Christopher said...

Television screens have even been installed on gas pumps. We can't even have two minutes of quiet time while filling our tanks.

Marc L Bernstein said...

I even see smartphones with regularity when I work as a tidepool educator on the rocks in Laguna Beach. It's the young folks that are most commonly seen with them. The teenage girls often have pink-colored ones. It's rather sad to see ignorant teenage girls come onto the rocks and focus on taking pictures of the tidepool organisms or the waves without the slightest understanding of the ecosystem that surrounds them.

The youth of this country is not being prepared at all for the difficult future (L.E.S.S.) that awaits them.

aunteater said...

Indeed. Once every couple of years, I get stuck in such a restaurant. It's one of the (very, very) few occasions when I can see an upside to being a migraineur: if not for the very real pain those screens induce, I might be just as attracted-- or indifferent-- to them as anyone else. As it is, fast-cut flashy TV advertising (and programming) is literally nausea-inducing to me, and very much makes me want to dis-associate myself from the thing being touted. So much so, that when I later see an item for sale, that I once saw a commercial for, I am actively repulsed by it, in the same way I might be reluctant to eat a food I had once associated with a bout of gastroenteritis.

The smart phone thing is puzzling. I don't own one (can't afford it, and don't reckon I'd want one if I could). Everyone I know who uses the things claims to be totally dependent on the devices to "keep in touch", but from the looks of it, it's just a way to ignore the people currently around you, in favor of people (or programming) not present. Nothing looks so lonely and out of touch as a roomful of folks hunched over electronic devices.

What will happen to these people(and the rest of us?) when we are forced in some crisis (major or minor) to rely on the actual geography-dependent social networks around us, which technology has allowed us to abandon?

Matt said...

Just by coincidence, we carried our flat screen up to the loft room last night leaving us TV-free downstairs, with the gogglebox for specific 'events' only. Hopefully this will convince us that we can wean ourselves off it.

What about those Apple and Microsoft technologies presentations, where the faithful gather to 'ooh' and 'aah' over the latest gizmo? It can't just be me who catches the whiff of the high ceremonies of the new religion.


Karim said...

Greetings all!

JMG said: "it’s one that I’ve come to think may be of crucial importance in the decades ahead. We’ll talk about that next week. "

Dear John, would you accept a Gold Star from me (and perhaps from the rest of us) for the out of the ordinary cliff hangers you happen to deliver to us at frequent intervals ?

As a spolier, has this option something to do with religion and monasteries?

Don Stewart said...

Dear Archdruid
Last evening I listened to a webinar with Daniel Siegel, the UCLA psychologist. I have no transcript, so take what I am about to say as a rough approximation.

A healthy mind depends crucially on integration. The mind is not just the brain, but includes the entire body proper, our gut bacteria, the people we know, and the broader environment. A 'desert island mind' cannot even be imagined, much less implemented.

The mind is also a complex adaptive system. As such, it shares features with other complex adaptive systems. One of those features is that, to function flexibly, it must be composed of individual components which communicate and interact with other components. (I would call this a pretty good description of Anarchism.) I will just note that while two humans, or a human and a dog, or a human and a domesticated plant can interact and communicate with each other quite well, a human cannot really communicate or interact with a government or a corporation. As we substitute government and corporate bureaucracies, we can expect the complex adaptive system to fail. Siegel said that when the linkages fail, we get either fatal rigidity or chaos. When the linkages work, we have what Siegel called 'integration' and 'health'.

I'll just remark that 'free trade' is really about the ability of corporations to construct global supply chains with a minimum amount of bother about interacting with anyone or any government. we go about abdicating more of our life to bureaucracies and global supply chains, we give fewer and fewer working links in our mind. Is it any wonder that many resort to the kind of burger joints featuring jiggle and TV screens that JMG experienced? Thinking, perhaps, that fake linkages are better than no linkages.

I suggest that 'freedom' means escaping from BAU and re-learning the art of using the linkages Mother Nature endowed us with.

Don Stewart

Cherokee Organics said...


Yes it would make an excellent story. I was channelling Sun Tzu who wrote in the Art of War: "If the enemy be at rest in comfortable quarters, harass him; if he be living in plenty, cut off his supplies; if sitting composedly awaiting attack, cause him to move." What better way than to harass the enemy through large scale distraction and better still they’ll pay for it willingly.

Wise words indeed and a nice summary of the situation. You may believe that I have some other subtext for looking for some sort of power, people or civilisation to blame for the present predicament and fall of empire, but no, both you and I live in magician states and I feel that other powers are well aware of that circumstance and the attendant weaknesses. And, I don't believe that they would hesitate to take advantage of that weakness.

I've always suspected that the screens in public places are also happily employed as a pacifying and controlling tool for either the patrons or the public at large - plus it greatly extends the reach of electronic messages into places that people would otherwise be communicating.

People here this week are describing the effects of the screens, but only hinting at their larger role. It is a bit 1984 really.



ozquoll said...

I saw something this evening that seems apposite to this post. My husband and I were returning home in the dark - for some reason the street lights hadn't come on yet. Our neighbour was standing on the footpath, the hood of her light grey sweatshirt pulled over her hair, her face eerily lit by the smartphone she was staring at. She looked exactly like a ghost. She switched off the screen - the light disappeared and our neighbour became nearly invisible in the gloom.

Such a small occurrence, but somehow it gave me and my husband the creeps. And, reading this post, it seems rather emblematic.

Justin Patrick Moore said...

My wife and I have had a lot of fun playing with a TV-Be-Gone, a little universal remote that can be used to turn off pesky televisions.
You can get them here:

Turning off tv's in places like you mentioned gets quite the appalling reaction...


Fred said...

I had a similar epiphany over Easter Sunday, John.
I had dinner at my nieces along with the company of the usual suspects from my sister’s family. These are all well educated people, but typically, I’m the one who represents, “the Voice of Doom”. When I attempt to turn the usual inane conversation toward something a little bit more substantial (and interesting) such as the galloping corruption in our government (both sides), the dominance of the economy by the Big Four (or is it five?) investment banks, the deterioration in local, regional and national infrastructure or the ongoing crisis in energy, the usual response is basically what I call denial. They are “dimly aware” of the issues but maintain that TPTB will keep everything on more or less an even keel.

But guess what? I was well aware that my niece who was hosting Easter dinner was running a farm with chickens and all sorts of other good things. But to my wondering ears I was also informed of my nephew’s chicken coop. “An amazing structure that must have set him back $1,000”, according to my nephew-in-law (I like to tell myself that my nephew somehow inherited his skill with wood and hand tools from ME).
And most amazingly, my other niece was ALSO raising chickens in HER chicken coop. This niece who is a card carrying member in good standing of the denialist club!
Obviously, these people are starting to get it. And they may not be articulating it in casual conversation, but there is NO WAY this group of people would be doing things like this unless they were experiencing growing (and grave) concerns about the future.

But we expect this, right? Change WILL come. And it will seep UP from the bottom. NOT descend down from the top.

Don Plummer said...

Regarding the iPhone phenomenon, have you seen this cartoon? It tells a slightly different, but related story than the one you tell.

Quos Ego said...

Dear JMG,

the phone waving anecdote is priceless: I guess our species is sticking its head as deep as possible in the worship of Gordelpus.

As Stapledon put it: The sun is setting, and we are not ready.

astroplethorama said...

Hey JMG -- Ooh, those demotivators are wickedly funny. Could your favorite poster be:
REVELATION The downside of being ahead of your time is that your ruins might end up a playground for cavorting druids.

dfr2010 said...

Judging from the number of comments already as I sat down with my first mug of coffee, I'd say you have hit upon a reflexive nerve here this week. While I also can hear the melody from the calliope in the Butlerian Carnival, there are just some chores that are not fun. I have one this morning: slaughtering some meat chickens. They still refuse to pluck and eviscerate themselves before jumping into the refrigerator. For the chores that will never be fun, there is another aspect: it is WORTH IT! Cooking from scratch, raising our own food, making our own clothing ... some parts are fun and others are a chore, and some leave us sore and aching physically, but all are worth the effort. You just can't buy that sort of satisfaction that results when you have put forth the effort, both physical and mental, and reap the rewards. I have been telling hubby for over two years now that we live in the real world now, where life is uncensored and triumph and tragedy often happen together.

squizzler said...

Further to my earlier comment relating to Franny Armstrong's "Age of Stupid", the poster strap-line was "why didn't we save ourselves when we had the chance?". At work I remembered part of the film where Pete Postlethwaite's character musing that perhaps at some level, we did not consider ourselves worth saving.

Jason Heppenstall - I like your comment about the modern cult of busyness - I assumed the reasoning was that important people have many demands on their time, so if you claim to be busy you must be important. I suppose the obvious response is to ask if the busy person needs help with their time management:)

beneaththesurface said...

The ubiquity of televisions and screen media in public spaces is something that I notice and can't stand. I do my best to avoid going to restaurants or places where I'll be around television, but sometimes it's hard to entirely avoid it. It seems that the parlor walls (wall-sized televisions screens) in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 have become the reality.

Apart from retreating to my own house or walking into the woods, it bothers me that it's hard to escape the onslaught of screens, especially in places that were traditionally quiet sanctuaries. While I dislike the ubiquity of screens in restaurants, airports, train stations, and government buildings, their intrusion into libraries has caused me the most grief. I can write a long list of ways public libraries have been debased, but I think #1 on my list is the invasion of screen media into the book areas of the library. As someone who works in youth services at a library, my #1 workplace frustration is witnessing how the presence of screen media distracts children and families away from books (no surprise that frustration was articulated in my After Oil 2 story). During certain times of the day at some neighborhood libraries you will not find any children reading books; they will all be on the computers playing video games--often very violent ones with machine gun shooting too. In the Teen Space amidst the books, there is a large screen that is used for showing movies and video games or doing karoake, all library programs. It's ironic to me, that a library, supposedly promoting literacy, does so much to distract people away from books.

A few months ago, as part of a forum where staff could propose ways to improve our library system, I proposed that we reconfigure all the children's rooms so that the book areas are screen-free environments (& put the computers in a separate section at least), so that families wanting to come for books can more easily do so. I haven't yet gotten a response from the administration if this is an initiative they've decided take on; I should find out soon. But I was pleased that a number of staff agreed with me and thanked me for speaking up; not one staff person voted down my proposal.

Ray Wharton said...

I am happy to say that these days I am too busy to read the comments section beyond skimming the first couple responses by Greer for the occasional 'gold star' or 'thank you for getting it.' But this post in mighty good, and I wanted to chime in before the days tasks stack up too deep.

I see the Burden of Denial all the time, and it makes some of my key relationships more difficult than I would like. I get a pass from many for being a Storm Crow because I live with serious austerity and am active passing the many blessings that come my way on. Thank you all who have been posting here in the years I have been reading, this agora has taught me the skills of recognizing those aforementioned blessings, there by making the best things in my life possible.

Question to the group. What helps balance self care with working authentically hard and well? I kick butt often on my works, but burn out some times, sage advice would be awesome.

Looking forward to coming post series, one project of mine is gathering a Hedge of Wizards to hedge against some of the uncovered risks of our era. Many people are doubling down on denial, but among the young alot are waking up, but they often lack the emotional tool kit to use the wake up call well. Listening to people on their terms is vital to helping with this; being loved and being listened to feel similar enough that most people don't distinguish them. Remember the screenbound are deeply lonely, much can be done by giving them an ear to chew, in fact I cation that this technique can be too powerful and must be only used with great carefulness.

On April 21st I will very publicly give up Facebook as a gift to myself, and hopefully to rattle some of my screen bound friends. Dang though, it will mean losing contact with many otherwise cool folks. And losing one of the few techniques for gathering people to working projects. The sooner I am pushed to improving the alternatives the better though.

Much gratitude to you all.

redoak said...

Though I have followed the clarifications in the comments, I am stuck with an image of you in full Archdruid regalia, belly to the bar at a Hooters, and no one looks up from their iPhone to notice. Of course, the effect of all this video mediation on children is really ugly. I think the worst of it is fairly subtle, especially true of video games, but the rest of it as well. There is an expectation of rules, intention, discrete and solvable puzzles, fair compensation or reward: in other words, a dream world of human control and progress. My experience is that kids seem uneasy in the face of open ended systems (like reality). When they do take risks, they are stupid risks, but most of the time they are intimidated by a world with sometimes unpredictable consequences. Exposure to the system assumptions of video games, television, social media, impairs their ability to grasp the very different system assumptions of the natural world. My guess is it is far worse than exposure to violence. Not sure I’m doing justice to these thoughts with these words, but my hope is other parents on this blog might be able to improve on the theme.

So I’ve started a 4H club in town and this weekend we’ve got the kids coming over to learn about sunshine, soil, and plants, to dig around in the garden and compost, visit with the chickens, and plant some tomato seeds to take home. The interest in the club is growing, people are really getting into gardens here in NH.

Amy Olles said...

I think this is the most I've read of your exploits into the 'mainstream'. I was surprised that a group of druids would end up at such a place, instead of an a more comfy (and perhaps less bawdy?) Irish pub.
But, you do what you can with what is available to you, right? :)
I agree with you on the TVs. I find myself avoiding some of the more popular 'sports' centric food establishments, because the barrage of blinky lights hinders my ability to enjoy the company. Plus all the environmental noise in the world can't hide bad food and poor service. I rarely have a good experience the few times I go. It's like modern day gladiator games of Rome...only the rabble watching now is expected to pay for the admission price and most of the infrastructure support price, along with the cost of the people that serve them. To put it another way, when you go out you pay for: the overhead costs of the restaurant via the food and beverage mark ups, and the wait staff salaries. Not to mention the tax subsidies you pay out to farmers to keep the base ingredients flowing to the processing plant. And though I can't explain it well, there's a another monetary drain in that the processing companies are enjoying tax breaks and standing up jobs in other countries where labor is cheaper.
The audience for the entertainment offered these days has such a short attention spans that multiple games must be presented at one time in order to keep them interested. That adds to the cost of production and requires more people paying into the process in order for it to work. (maybe my logic is off there, feel free to correct me if so). all said, I'm glad you survived your encounter (a good beverage helps).

Thank you for so patiently pointing out all the ways that we can succumb to the seduction of distraction. I enjoy your fluid descriptions and ability to repeatedly point out that perhaps putting the phone down, turning off the TV and venturing out into reality might actually help you in the long run. I'm going to start reading Peak Prosperity as well - thank you for the introduction!

Shane Wilson said...

An Archdruid of a Celtic based religion in a pseudo Celtic, push up and jiggle sports bar/restaurant. May my mind explode now.
In my darker moments, it's really hard for me to even see people as human, and not the zombies they're trying to be.
I'm amazed at the contrast between the behavior you mention above with the immigrants in my community. I've observed how poised, gracious, and humane they are in their interactions, how they carry themselves with confidence and self assuredness, yet are modest and conscientious all the same. I'm thinking, "oh, this is definitely the future, the successor people, the ones who will keep on going without missing a beat as the natives go mad."

Renaissance Man said...

I know the chain of which you speak. Decor that suggests something vaguely out of a Mel Gibson or Liam Gleeson movie by and for people who don't really care enough to look beyond the most superficial veneer of verisimilitude. An atmosphere, a comforting feeling with, of course, pretty, sexy girls smiling at you to make everything seem OK.
I heard the neologism 'breastaurant' to describe the phenomenon of such establishments.
I suspect their proliferation has as much to do with the theme of this post as the buboes of TV screams everywhere: yet another way to distract and comfort.

Justin Patrick Moore said...

There is a small trend, at least in what might be termed "hipster" bars, to do away with the television sets.

Of course the people there often still have their smart phones. They can't for a minute, think of something without having to look it up.

Still getting along without a cell phone just fine, much to some peoples dismay and horror. I like the old rotaries I have set up in the house. They have a sound quality cell phones can't live up to. Newer certainly isn't better.

Stein L said...

David Byrne, the musician, was in NY during Sandy. He made an observation on watching hordes of people waving their phones and computers in the air, desperately looking for "juice". He called them Recharge Zombies.

People know that the economy isn't delivering, that we are going through our resources too fast, and that the pollution we're causing is overwhelming the planet's ability to maintain a background against which we can continue our careless lives.

The other day, BBC's Inquiry did a program they called "Are we tired of talking about climate change?"
Among other participants was Robert Gifford, who is an environmental psychologist who has spent considerable time studying why we deny the need to turn things around.
His team has identified the various barriers we have erected, to avoid accepting the truth, and the program underlined how many there are - 31 by now.

Ancient Brain, Ignorance, Environmental Numbness, Optimism Bias, Lack of Perceived Behavioral Control, Uncertainty, Suprahuman Powers, Sunk Costs, Technosalvation, Lack of Place Attachment, etc.

A lot of work is being done trying to find out why we have such an enormous disconnect between awareness and effective action.

Two links - the first to the program, it's worth listening to:

Here's a link to the Full Report of the American Psychological Association on: Psychology and Global Climate Change - Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges.

We're not ostriches with our heads in the sand, we've literally closed ourselves off from the real world and its challenges, and are off in fantasy-land. The nightmare place JGM chose to eat a meal in is a good metaphor for that place ...

Stein L said...

@Donald Hargraves

A point is made in the movie Interstellar, when the character played by Matthew McConaughey, a trained astronaut, is told by his daughter's teachers that the "old" history book she brought to class was the reason why she's been disciplined.
It contained an account of the Moon Landing, and "as everybody knows, it never happened. It was just propaganda, to trick the Soviet Union into emptying its treasury."

architrains said...

I was reminded while reading this of a railfan video I encountered about a year ago on YouTube, just as I was having dark thoughts about what iPhones really meant. I had encountered something different from the "iPhone response" from my older coworkers and parents, what I will call the "iPhone arrival." That is, that the existence of the iPhone proves we have finally arrived in the future, and that we are living in a science fiction world come to life. That video I encountered was of the Sandaoling open-pit coal mine in China, being operated as of 2013 by steam locomotives. When I told people that their iPhones were really just steampunk devices with the coal-soot output removed from the device to its manufacture in China (for where does the energy used to produce an iPhone come but from the coal those weary scrap-bucket locomotives pull out of the ground?), I was generally written off.

Now a year later I have an iPhone out of sheer survival, as life in the building design professions calls for ritual sacrifice at the altar of Cilahakrow (to add one to your Atlantean pantheon). There has been a lot of doubling-down on previous investment going on just within the professions, not to mention in the built projects. Even though people struggle daily with the computer technology that is supposed to make their lives easier, they just muddle along without giving it any serious thought - we have to stay competitive, right? Even when that comes at the expense of work-life balance. I inwardly laugh when it is the older managers (who are in the generations criticizing mine for being technology obsessed)who are constantly jumping at their iPhones and interrupting unimportant meetings with underlings to take calls from clients, or having meltdowns when emails aren't responded to quickly enough.

The considerable sacrifice of a design education makes for considerable willingness to double down on previous personal investment. In the meantime I do what I can to make sure my life is on a path to the Steampunk Future - likely not for civilization at large, but for myself at least.

trippticket said...

James Jensen's comment about the FDA prompted me to chime in.

With a busy farmers market and craft show season bearing down, my wife and I took a few minutes (eventually hours) to read over the new FDA rules for herbalism. In a nutshell they are basically trying to squash herbal medicine out of existence. And it wasn't that way a year ago. Comfrey is now a bona fide demon. So is eyebright. Both major healing, that's right HEALING, ingredients in one or more of our products. As well as numerous others. Claims of diagnosis, healing, curing, etc, for any disease, disorder, ailment or condition, printed or verbal!, is strictly forbidden without mega-expensive FDA drug testing (think US$10 million to get started).

It feels really personal! Especially since we felt like we were well-positioned for the future and have already done a proper portion of collapsing at home. Can't they just leave us alone? Poor, disenfranchised, trying like heck to make a living in a non-predatory way? We're fine with all that. We're even fine with being mocked for our promotion of "unsophisticated, backwards medicine," when it's anything but.

But to be forced out of business by myopic regulatory offices interested only in preserving profits for their cronies in the medical-pharma rackets?

What does your comfrey cream do?

So many good things. (I mean nothing, it does nothing of any consequence.)

What is the Eyebright Elixir for?

Toning eyes and strengthening vision muscles. We've actually had reports of people dumping their glasses and contacts after prolonged use. (I mean nothing, it's just pretty. I'm not sure why we even make it.)

Would anyone like a handful of raspberry starts? Last I checked they weren't illegal yet.

Just grousing. Thanks as always for a beautiful post!

Cathy McGuire said...

THANKS for bringing up an obvious and much-ignored problem! As someone who has just come home from a week caring for my mother, exposed to constant mindless tv for at least 8 hrs/day, I can vehemently support your statement. I have watched more tv than I watched in the past 5 years at least (I don’t own a tv), and it will take weeks to recover. (My mother, personally, is denying/avoiding her final decline; refusing to discuss or think about it). There is nothing on 500 channels that addresses the grim situation we are in, and the theme of the mindless chatter or drama is entitlement (Antiques Roadshow and SharkTank), defensive righteousness (BlueBloods, GoodWife) and just sheer prattle (OMG the daytime talk shows…!!!) Sports are a non-verbal version of the other shows. And don’t even start on the commercials… they are an assault force for the corporate invasion of our lives. I am positive that the average person watching at least 4 hours of this per day is not in their right mind (and I’m speaking as a retired therapist)… there is no way one can watch this (or even have it on and “ignore it”) and still have the ability to look at the world clearly and to think linearly about our problems. And when I saw the proliferation of tvs in the restaurants, I knew they were a symptom of collective illness, also. I resent having to search out an eating place that doesn’t have such nonsense (I take a 91yr old friend out to lunch weekly, and neither of us can have a decent conversation about poetry with the tvs and also music playing!!)
Please excuse all the exclamation points, but I have been on 24/7 duty, slept one overnight in 8 days and have only had two nights sleep since… I will be more coherent soon… I hope.

Dr. Kris said...

This blog has been my main life-ring following my own moment of horrified realization over a decade ago. While freely sharing many lifetimes worth of painful knowledge and insight you grant us opening to laugh at the absurdities, no mean feat. Oh, and yes, it has translated to substantive changes in how we live and prepare for this brave new shore just up ahead.
You have my eternal respect and gratitude, good Sir!

Sean McPhail said...

Chris Martenson plays Bela Lugosi, with the ipod the crucifx of the religeon of progress? Back! Back!

Thank you for that image.

David Condron said...

One of the Desert Fathers, when asked about fasting, once said: "To fast is good; to eat and remain hungry is better." L.E.S.S. is an important concept, in fact, it is what I have termed the central organizing principle of the Resistance to the System. To live your life as much as you can, as if the System were irrelevant. This looks different in kind and in degrees for each person. But the concept is simple enough for everyone to follow. I have a TV but no pay service like cable. I have a car but I walk to work daily. I could buy books for an electronic device, but I use the local library. The future looks a lot like New Orleans after Katrina; massive failures but small local victories by people willing to get in a boat and pick people off roofs. I was there 9 days after the hurricane 10 years ago and stayed 2.5 months helping out with a Christian relief organization. Also been to Haiti. Post-Katrina New Orleans reminded me much of Haiti. Whatever our ideologies are before catastrophe, they evaporate in immediacy. You will find that Christians and Archdruids can be friends.

Goldmund said...

Fortunately, here in the Twin Cities there are Celtic themed pubs still going strong where one can enjoy a Guinness sans TV, although one's conversations may be interrupted occasionally by Macalester students playing the bagpipes! That said, the political situation in these parts is quite schizophrenic. On the one hand we have made some significant strides towards building alternative energy infrastructures, subsidizing urban farms and community gardens, encouraging bicycle riding by making it much safer and so on, and the Minneapolis City Council just voted recently to divest from fossil fuels. At the same time we are building a billion dollar, taxpayer funded Vikings stadium (after building a mostly publicly funded Twins stadium and Gophers stadium) over the objection of a majority of voters. Every one I know sees these monstrous things as modern day coliseums that future generations will see and curse as a colossal waste of money and energy. And of course the highways and car dependent suburbs continue to be subsidized. One can feel hopeful or collapse into despair depending on which side you choose to focus on. Perhaps as more and more people face their denial and start doing something about it as the current counter-culture is more people will peel away from the denial culture and join in. Encouraging others through example, i.e. changing the culture by making the transition to a sustainable lifestyle seem like a less frightening prospect than continual denial is key in my view.

Dammerung said...

The problem is the social networks aren't in place to really sustain your Bulterian Carnival. It takes a whole lot of people willing to participate before it can become a self-sustaining enterprise, and I guarantee you the government will find a hundred thousand regulations you've violated justifying any measures necessary to get you to stop. And there's just nothing that can be done about it. By definition one person can't constitute a social context no matter how committed or how steadfast they are.

I furthermore have the bitter impression that blind, stupid, malevolent luck will play as big a role if not bigger in the question of who makes it to the other shore with their life and limb intact, let alone something to live for. It's difficult to maintain even a shred of optimism.

Clay Dennis said...

Ah Hah! The bar television is a phenomenon that I have also been observing with horror and amusement. My view is that there are two different things going on here. The first , which mostly takes place in waiting rooms etc, is the distraction motivation which you have nailed in this weeks post. The second ,which mostly takes place in bars and restaurants, is the gravitational pull of the sports marketing machine which has worked it's magic on American Society for the last 30 years. They have convinced people that they have some sort of faux tribal connection to their favorite sports team ( or teams) and are not complete as humans unless they watch said team ( or any other contest which might someday affect their team). This of course is a modern day blend of the Bread and Circuses distraction from the Roman Empire, and sports as the consumption of a brand like soda pop.
I know several well meaning bar owners who lament this trend but have had to give in to it or go out of business. One fellow owns two establishments ,within a block of each other,and has several televisions in one and none in the other. These establishments have different themes but equal quality and price of beer and food. When any big sports event is going on, the bar with the T.V.'s is packed and the one without is empty. The sports marketing juggernaut has made sure these "must-watch" events are more and more common and as such are difficult to ignore.
A great example of this happended at our Pacific Northwest green wizards meet-up a few weeks back here in Portland. We had arrived early and taken over a large table in a back room of a large brew pub. The room was peacefull and its resident big screen turned off. As the lunch crowd grew several groups of customers arrived to sit at the remaining tables. They stared with horror at the blank television screen, and one of them got up to find a waitperson to rectifiy this disturbing situation. They found someone to turn on the screen and tune it in to the sports event that was more important than spending time with the friends and family they had brought with them. I am sure if there was no TV these people would have gone somewhere else. Luckily there was only one of these screens in a large room and we could easily ignore it, but the juxtaposition of the green wizards with those deep in denial was both comical and frightening.

Leo Knight said...

Until my recent job loss, my fiancé and I went to Sunday brunch at a local restaurant. They had very little Sunday traffic because the restaurant had no TVs. In the bar, two flatscreens, one with sports, the other with a talking head show, usually Fox. The regulars could be found sitting at the bar, multi-tasking eating, watching sports, and participating in the extra long version of Two Minutes of Hate.

A restaurant down the street had much more traffic, since they have flatscreens on every wall, all sports, all the time. It gets especially weird when someone puts a song on the jukebox, like some insane John Cage composition. This restaurant has been in business since before I was born, a traditional bar setting, dark wood, masculine décor, horse racing memorabilia. It was once a cozy "man cave." Now it's a cacophonous mess. At least they don't allow smoking anymore.

I suspect I may not survive the gathering storm. My knee has been bothering me. Walking any distance, once a pleasure, is now a chore. This morning, I broke my glasses beyond repair. I thought of that "Twilight Zone" with Burgess Meredith crying over his broken lenses: "It's not fair!" But I have an appointment for an eye exam this afternoon, and a job interview tomorrow. Hope springs eternal.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Soma, the drug mentioned in "A Brave New World," has it's roots in India. Throughout the various rises and falls of empires the word has been used to describe many drugs. The drug was variously Ephedra sinica, Cannabis, Alcohol, and a number of other things now lost to history. The general trend seems to be a substance that altered our perception of reality. Soma in our societies case is literally anything we can get our hands on and consume in quantity. Pot, video games, movies, and so on. The list is massive. Wonder how the documents written during our second religiosity are going to handle sorting them out.

"and the deceiver stole the black blood of the divine mother, the fire of the light giver, the song of the wind, and the forge of the maker, all to bind the light of the gods. Unto the people the deceiver gave out wondrous gifts to fill their senses. He promised them freedom from their fears and their worries, and foolishly the people took his gifts."

- Excerpt from the book of the Wheel, author unknown.

I've managed to get three people gardening, and am thinking of taking up an apprenticeship. Need to unplug from my drug of choice - the news.

I'm hoping next week we start discussing adult education.



jean-vivien said...

Hi John,
I don't understand how you can think that staring at our collective screens help people escape the realities of our time. I check daily, the French news sites... and I assume that the US news must made of the same cloth.
Honestly some days it makes the Archdruid Report read like a fairytale in Candyland !
Maybe what is missing is that old-fashioned thing which journalists used to do... you know, interpret the news, try to get the big picture yaddah yaddah...
To be fair, they do have opinion pieces, but there seems to be a certain threshold of abstraction above which nobody is looking at.
It is a great irony of our information age that we are using tidbits of facts to actually abstract ourselves from not so abstract realities !
I guess it all boils down to competing stories... and a topic for your other blog.
I also infer that outside the USA, the rest of the world is just checking the news to grasp if and when the whole mess is gonna hit them too...

Tasha T. said...

As a 22 year old I was raised on the idea that the internet is The Ultimate Source of Information in the History of the World.

So I pick up my phone, looking for some mental stimulation: I find a paucity of primary thought, a surplus of shoddy secondary sources, and tertiary tracts too terrible to talk about.

So I give up and just read a book.

It boggles my mind when I see "science minded" Techies hold peer-reviewed journal article as the end all be all, and completely dismiss books as biased trash.

Don't they understand why colleges have publishers? The articles are often the framework for the eventual books. In many disciplines the meat of the research is in books (try to sum up two years of anthropological field work in 10,000 words).

But if the idea can't be explained in a 15 minute TED talk, it isn't worth anything.

I constantly have to resist falling into the positive feedback loop of the instant gratification of smartphones and an atrophied attention span.

Instead, I focus on developing skills that don't need electricity.

escapefromwisconsin said...

Personally I find loud screen everywhere I go a form of mental rape.

Even economists are starting to see the light:

One of the great mysteries about the U.S. economy today is the discrepancy between the objective and subjective pictures we have of the middle class. The numbers say that the middle class is doing OK or even improving its lot; middle class families themselves say they're being crushed under economic hobnail boots....The disconnect comes from the different approaches of economists and sociologists to defining the middle class. Economists do it by the numbers, typically defining the middle class as households with income roughly 50% higher and lower than the median....Sociologists, according to {William R. Emmons and Bryan J. Noeth], define the middle class "by evaluating demographic dimensions like race, education, occupation, and status."

Emmons and Noeth separated families into three groups, all headed by someone at least 40 years old:

Thrivers, which are families likely to have income and wealth significantly above average in most year and are headed by someone with a two- or four-year college degree who is non-Hispanic white or Asian

Middle class, which are families likely to have income and wealth near average in most year and are headed by someone who is white or Asian with exactly a high school diploma or black or Hispanic with a two- or four-year college degree

Stragglers, which are families likely to have income and wealth significantly below average in most years and are headed by someone with no high school diploma of any race or ethnicity and black or Hispanic families with at most a high school diploma

They combine the approaches and solve the mystery. In effect, they've shifted from defining middle class as merely anyone earning a middle-income to defining the class as a fairly stable demographic group and looking at how it's doing relative to middle income. By defining the middle class demographically, they find that families falling into the murky category of "neither rich nor poor" are under much more crushing economic pressure than the sheer numbers indicate.

By measuring the income and wealth of each of those groups against the economists' median standard, the authors show exactly what's happened to the economics of American households. The median income of the demographically defined middle class hasn't been as stable since the 1980s as the numbers suggest. It's 16% lower now than it was in 1989; relative to the overall U.S. median, it's down by 21%. To put it another way, the sociologically defined middle-class family ranked at the 55th percentile of U.S. income earners in 1989; by 2013 it had fallen to the 45th percentile. If you're riding in that car, it's a steep drop. The same trend shows up in wealth; the middle class has fallen short by about 24% of overall median wealth since 1989.

Greg Belvedere said...

Excellent post.

I have mentioned the TV b gone here before (a universal remote that fits on a keychain for turning off TVs in places where we would rather interact with humans). I have not bought one because it is another gadget and because I think people would turn on me like they did on John Savage in Brave New World when he interrupted the soma ration distribution. People might also consider it rude, but so is forcing someone to watch tv.

I have certainly noticed that people no longer try to deny our current trajectory when I mention the interesting times we live in. But instead they give one of the two responses you mentioned, "hey have you watched x show?" or "I will be dead by then"

I find it pretty boring when I get together with family and they spend so much time talking about the TV shows they watch and they have little attention span to hear about the things I'm doing in the real world. I admit I still watch a very limited amount of TV online, but the fixation on it amazes me. We watch at most 3 hours per week and even that number seems to be steadily dropping as I lose interest and have other things to do.

While my wife and I have long felt a feeling of release about not having to buy into the mainstream american lifestyle anymore, it certainly pains me to see family members who are riding for a fall.

I'm also glad I'm not single. I hear bars are full of people looking at dating, or hookup, apps on their phones. Sometimes to meet people who are in the same bar/club they are in. Many of the popular apps are based solely on appearance.

Rita said...

I haven't seen one recently, but your comment that "hope I'll be dead before then" is a betrayal of one's children reminded me of a once popular bumper sticker. It was usually seen on the back of a large motor home and read "We're spending our children's inheritance." I recall thinking how strange, even evil and incomprehensible that sentiment would have sounded to the majority of the world's population. Particularly ironic given the gas guzzling nature of the motor home.

I wonder whether those Westerners who have adopted a belief in reincarnation will move toward a more traditional view of it. It seems that the Eastern view could be summed up as "Oh no, not again," with the goal of spiritual development being an escape from the pain of earthly existence. Westerners, particularly of the New Age type, seemed to have a more "Whee, another turn," approach to the idea of rebirth. Do you see this changing?

Matthew Sweet said...

Two recent experiences came to mind when reading this week's post. One was a very similar experience in a sports bar on a date with my wife. It was our first time going to this particular bar, and our last. Every corner of the place was covered in TVs at a million different angles. It was overwhelming, and this is from a fella who enjoys watching the game from time to time. We remarked on it then and our reaction was very similar to JMGs.
The second experience had to do with the environmental sustainability office at a workplace of mine. I worked in that office for a time. They recently had an opportunity to get a renovation done, and one of the key elements was the addition of an LCD TV above the entryway with constantly streaming content about their programming. It always struck me as contradictory that a sustainability office would be so interested in consuming electronics and electricity to power it, although seeing it through the lense of L.E.S.S. is even more of an indictment.
Finally, someone needs to make a L.E.S.S. infographic that can be spread about the interwebs.

Pantagruel7 said...

I've been improving your "bottom line," I'm sure, by buying more and more of your books recently. Your analogy, comparing TV screens on the walls to buboes on the body of a plague victim, was worth today's price of admission. Also on your recommendation I picked up a copy of Manly Wade Wellman's "After Dark." I loved his use of the local mountain dialect: it reminded me of the months I spent working in West Virginia a few years back.

Zach said...

"To call this magical thinking is an insult to honest sorcerers"

I'm confused. Cargo Cults aren't magical?

FLwolverine said...

Almost a year ago – April 23, 2014, to be exact – JMG posted his essay “Refusing the Call: a Tale Rewritten”, which included the story of Frodo’s refusal (in an alternate Middle Earth) to take his magic ring to Mordor.

The comments following the post raised the topic of female heroes and why so few stories were told of women undertaking quests. And then raised the question of how a woman would respond to the challenge of a quest, and whether that would be different than a man’s response. To which the Archdruid replied, that’s a good question but one “that women will have to answer.”

I’ve been thinking about that answer for a good while. Now, spurred on by the latest Space Bats challenge and JMG’s story of Atlantis, not to mention Cathy McGuire’s diligence in completing her novel and posting it online, I’ve finally completed my answer in the form of a continuation of that story, which is posted here:

I’ve quoted from the original essay, with proper attribution and links, which I hope JMG will permit. Also, as I say in the introduction to my story, I have undoubtedly made mistakes in my depiction of Middle Earth, and I hope that those who know better will be patient and forbearing.

Thank you, Archdruid, for the motivation, not only to write something, but to finish it.

Mickey Foley said...

For all Archdruidians in the Mpls./St. Paul metro area, we'll be having the second meeting of "The Archdruid Report" Study Group this Sunday at 3pm at Bob's Java Hut in Uptown Mpls. Check it out on Meetup.

I like hearing about the Archdruid living in the world of Hooters (my guess) and smartphones. I usually imagine you in a secluded, old-fashioned homestead in the woods, restricting your contact with mainstream culture to the bare minimum. I think it's important to remain engaged with the mainstream. I think there are many more receptive ears out there than we're inclined to believe.

But you're right: the urge to deny collapse is strong and pervasive. However, I think what keeps most people chained to the mainstream is emotional dependence. Our social lives seem to be in a much more advanced state of decay than our economy. I used TV and material goods to fill the psychological and spiritual voids encouraged by the mainstream culture. A lot of people seem to be doing the same.

Ergo, I believe the answer is rebuilding community, to provide for our psychological and spiritual needs, thereby eliminating our emotional reliance on the American Dream of mindless consumerism.

I'm still trying to overcome the need for my parents' approval of my occupation. They still have a lot of faith in Progress, which makes them less-than-thrilled about my interest in organic farming. Unfortunately, I've lost touch with the friends who would've been most supportive of that career choice, but the friends I have now are still pretty supportive of that. I'm trying to make friends with people who are interested in sustainability. Luckily, I'm an amateur playwright and comedian, and you can't swing a dead cat in those scenes without taking out a dozen or so like-minded folks. (Apologies to my fellow cat lovers.)

Cathy McGuire said...

@MyDonkey: "Follow the voice of your spirit. Listen to the wisdom of your soul. Dance to the music in your heart."
Add to that the irony that that plaque or scroll was made in less developed nations by essential slave labor. I hope they can’t read English…

@Jean-Vivien: I have a humble suggestion to submit :
why not dedicate a section of your weekly posts to concrete initiative undertaken by individuals, and detail in which ways they run against or avoid the psychological pitfalls you try to describe ?

That’s what the Green Wizards Forum is for:

@Ray Whatron: Question to the group. What helps balance self care with working authentically hard and well? I kick butt often on my works, but burn out some times, sage advice would be awesome.
For me what helps is to remember if I fall apart, I am helping no one and will need much avoidable help myself. It is a gift to others to be in balance and caring for oneself as much as possible. I’m sure there’s a significant reason that our modern culture sees true self-care as “selfish”. I am spending much of my first day back from caring for my Mom in self care: resting, soaking in the beauty of Nature and later getting a chiropractic session… Balance allows us to know what the next right thing is… so it’s essential. This would also be a great topic over at the Green Wizards Forum.

Mickey Foley said...

I forgot to mention one point about the restaurant TV phenomenon. The main reason for the din and spectacle seems to be to fill in the silence and awkwardness that has grown between us, esp. with our families and even our friends. I had the same revelation on the advent of the iPod. The iPod didn't create the social void between strangers in public. It was created to fill the void that was already there. These products are filling needs, just not in a way that's ultimately beneficial to the consumer.

ando said...

Really fine work, JMG! I am currently debating, on facebook, with a supposed fan of yours. I can't tell if he is defending solar roads, or just repeating "their" argument. You are pushing a big stone up a bigger mountain, but it is appreciated. Mac

wagelaborer said...

I went to a debate between candidates for state representative. One was a woman who worked in the state prison system. She was a cut-the-budget Republican, except for the state prison workers' pensions.
But, as they did with union workers in the 80s, they grandfathered in the older workers and are only screwing the newer workers. This she approved of. THEN, though, she gave her final plug, and said that "I'm running because I have grandkids and I care about them."
I was sitting there thinking, your grandkids? The ones who will get jobs at half pay and no pension? Yeah, you really care about them, lady.
As for people secretly knowing the truth, I doubt it. They blame the poor because they can tell themselves that it will never happen to them. They are worthy.
Watch TV news, and they daily report car crashes, because millions of them happen daily. Over 40,000 Americans a year die. And yet, the chirpy talking heads used to report on whether there was alcohol involved. Now, it's cell phones. Either way, the destructive way that Americans travel is never blamed for the ensuing carnage.
My kind of people do the same thing with cancer. "But I only ate organic foods!"

John Roth said...

This one from bizarro seems somewhat appropos.

wagelaborer said...

My Donkey, those "words of wisdom" are ubiquitous. I think they are meant to keep people from organizing with others.
There are also memes that say things like, "John doesn't care what other people think. John is free".

No, John is a sociopath. But individual paranoid sociopaths are so much easier to keep divided, so we are told, constantly, that that should be our goal.

jean-vivien said...

good short story, thanks for sharing it.

trippticket said...

Ma'am, if the difference between Eastern and Western views of reincarnation is "oh no, not again," and "Wheee, another round!," respectively, consider me firmly entrenched in the WESTERN school...on purpose.

John Michael Greer said...

Andrew, if the twenty-somethings you know are at all representative, even of a subset of the generation, that's very good to hear!

DVDfeels, thanks for the link -- I'm a fan of Ward-Perkins' work on the fall of Rome, so this is particularly welcome.

Allan, glad to hear it! Keep up the good work with that site -- it's needed.

Rhisiart, diolch yn fawr! I like "Dawkettes" -- perhaps they're all doing the kick-step to Offenbach's "Can Can"?

Das Monde, that being the case, since there are no supermen or wonder technologies on their way, nothing will save all of humanity, and so we can get to work on what's still an option!

Sabretache, you haven't been paying attention -- I've talked about my Masonic activities repeatedly on this blog, for example, here and here. As for your bafflement, well, I'm baffled that you're baffled; you know that I consider the rebuilding of civil society one of the major needs of our time, and you know I consider personal action the foundation of any meaningful response to such needs; joining and supporting a voluntary association that's been one of the core elements of civil society in the US since colonial times seems like the obvious response to me.

Val, did you mention to them that Islamic State also has the internet, and has been using it quite skillfully of late?

Squizzler, exactly. It's not as though people didn't have every opportunity to find out.

Jean-Vivien, I prefer Churchill's comment: "The American people can be counted on to do the right thing, once they have exhausted all the other possibilities." As for taking action, as Cathy commented, that's what the Green Wizards forum is all about.

Gloucon, heck of a good question. In the runup to the French Revolution, quite a few people knew that an explosion was coming, but the timing was a surprise to everybody. The situations are closely comparable, so figuring out just when the current version of Madame Guillotine will come into play is a very hard call.

Daniel, that makes sense. I'm still processing the implications.

Ondra, yes, that's also an option. Given the way things are shaping up, the comparison to 1914 may be uncomfortably close.

Wayne Freeman said...

Recently my wife and I made a rare visit to a local burgers and brew chain for, well, a burger and a brew.

We also got a plethora of video screens, as you found, just above eye level, impossible to ignore, each tuned to a different game. This was a new phenomenon as we had been to the same restaurant a few months before.

I needed to visit the restroom which I thought would provide a brief respite from the visual cacophany before my burger arrived. It was not to be, for as I stepped into my place at the urinal I found myself face-to-face with a video screen. There was one just like it at every urinal and above the sinks. There was no escape.

It's a sad state of affairs when a guy can't take a (substitute appropriate alliteration here) in peace.

Patricia Mathews said...

@Wolverine - I am SO looking forward to your story! IIRC, not sure whether I mentioned this or not, but when the question about female quests came up, I referred then to Lois McMaster Bujold's PALADIN OF SOULS. The heroine is 40 years old, long widowed (older husband), last surviving child finally settled, just coming out of a long clinical depression and a prisoner of those who love her (Bujold had some cogent words on that score!)and when she does make her escape, consciously contrasts her quest tale with that of the archetypical boy's tale. One major point: a woman's quest is often a midlife one.

John Michael Greer said...

D. Mitchell, glad to hear it. Your kids will grow up knowing how to use their own brains without electronic assistance -- rather a useful skill, all things considered.

Raven, nicely put!

Evodevo, try it sometime. You'll be impressed by how fast they'll change the subject.

Christopher, good gods. Okay, that's well into self-parody territory!

Marc, agreed. It's going to be harsh.

Aunteater, my guess is that most people will be frantically tapping at an assortment of blank screens, trying to get something to happen, until the night closes in around them once and for all.

Matt, glad to hear it. The next step is to fling the screen out the window, you know!

Karim, thank you and I'll be glad to accept one! Put it down to a taste for old-fashioned pulp fantasy fiction, where the cliffhanger was an essential part of the story. As for spoilers, mum's the word...

Don, that's fascinating. I'll have to see if Siegel has published any of this in print formats; it sounds worth following up on.

Cherokee, of course rising powers will take advantage of the weaknesses of the US and its allies. The question is simply who's going to exploit which weakness in what way. Me, I wonder how many Chinese electronic components have been rigged with little internal self-destruct switches, or the like, so that they go dead on command -- and how many of those components are currently installed in the military technology of the US and its allies...

Ozquoll, that must have been eerie. It would make a great painting -- an assortment of people standing apart from one another, their faces lit from below by their allegedly smart phones, the expressions of lost souls on their faces, all against an evening landscape and a darkening sky.

Justin, I trust you can keep it hidden while using it. Being lynched by a restaurant full of people who are desperately trying to avoid thinking about their lives and the future doesn't sound like fun to me.

Fred, that's very good to hear. Where chickens go, the rest of green wizardry will sooner or later follow!

oilman2 said...

Two things I have observed at this juncture:

Those with less "stuff" tend to transition to less more easily. By less "stuff", I tacitly mean those who have less due to their income levels being toward the bottom echelon of normal.

I have an entire family who went "back to the boonies" near my farm. It was precipitated by one child losing their job and nowhere to live at the means they had. Thus they bought a small trailer and moved it onto some property, via a 99 year lease, owned by other family members. No water, no sewer, no electricity. They got electric, but boost it with tiny solar. Water is hauled in weekly and sewer was recently installed with pickaxes and shovels. Their outgo is minimal, increasing their income. Their luxury is no noise, no television (save weekly Redbox binges), stars all around, and progressively better living conditions as they develop what they need.

Formerly, this pair were working IT and in insurance (AIG), got burned and when government assistance ran out, decided to do what they needed to do. Their 2 kids are thriving in this environment.

Item 2 is that the younger seem to be either aware that the future will change drastically, or else in complete denial and drinking the kool-aid pouring from the TV and internet. There are very few that do not fall into these two categories from what I have experienced in the last 10 years. The latter appear to be prominent Iphone waivers and believe in transhumanism and other such rubbish.

There are small groups of aware 20-somethings banding together and figuring out what to do to in order to deal with a life not-so-easy. They discuss possibilities, and are honestly shunned by the other segment of their peers, those bathing in the elixir of digitized distractions.

I have one group working on my farm building with me, and recently another guy bought property down the road, and his 20-somethings and friends are colluding, going as far as borrowing ideas and equipment from my group. But all are trying to live simpler and closer to an older normal - the land and the seasons and no 'daylight savings time'.

I have both groups within my offspring, and those that are working on the farm are actively aware that their brother and sister are likely to show up hat-in-hand sometime in the future. They will be met with open arms and opportunity - and a few told-you-so's...

Again, just my own observations but I think that some of us elders (with remembrances of low energy ways due to poverty) and the 20-somethings are forging on down the slope effectively. It is the 30-40 somethings that I am not seeing and who seem to be very "butt-hurt" (per my 20-something) about their lot and in extreme denial of a viable future.

Not to say this is all encompassing - just something we all discussed and seemed to have observed during a ride to the farm last week.

oilman2 said...

@ Cathy McGuire...
I agree with your assessment regarding the mental health of anyone who watches most of television. I actually saw a movie a couple of years ago where ice floes sank. I was speechless, struck dumb by the ignorance it portended.

Streaming TV was at first a way to better programs - now it has also succumbed. The History Channel actually has a show called American Wiseas*, and watching the TED channel is like watching science books being set to the torch...

Good books are the answer - and the way forward through the miasma. Buy them as long as the government allows and hoard them. Remember - here in America they still burn books when they make people think excessively...

Justin said...


I think another sign of the repression, avoidance, cognitive dissonance and projection is a universal ad lib among Americans.

The ad lib is: The problem is X, only people are too stupid/asleep/unaware to fix it. Pretty much every American thinks they have a handle on the issue, and that the problem is that other Americans won't correct their behavior to solve it. Of course, from that projection, it follows that its inevitably coming apart so nothing can be done.

John Michael Greer said...

Don, I hadn't -- many thanks!

Quos Ego, it's sticking its head as far as possible somewhere...

Astroplethorama, why, yes, I do find that one particularly funny. How did you guess? ;-)

Dfr2010, the notion that all of life ought to be fun is one of the oddest superstitions of our time, no question.

Beneath, I'm delighted to say that our public libraries up here in north central Appalachia have no TVs. Computers, yes, but that's as far as it's gotten yet. When they install TVs, I'll turn in my library card.

Ray, delighted to hear it. I plan on talking down the road a bit about the bizarre notion -- well publicized in the media, of course -- that it's not an option to go to a state of less connectedness.

Redoak, excellent! I hope the 4-H club goes well.

Amy, nah, it wasn't a bunch of Druids -- as far as I know I'm the only Druid in the local Masonic scene. Think middle class and working class guys, some retired and some still working, from what passes for a big town in the north central Appalachians, and you'll have a fair idea of my fellow carpoolers -- which may also explain how I ended up at that place.

Shane, well, yes, it was kind of surreal.

Renaissance, yes, that's about it. "Breastaurant" is a keeper, btw!

Justin, I'd go to a bar like that, hipsters or no hipsters.

Stein, "Recharge Zombies" is another keeper. Many thanks!

Architrains, I wonder at what point the total loss of productivity due to too much time spent on allegedly smart phones starts to have measurable negative impacts on the economy. We may already be there...

Caryn said...

Redoak: "... the effect of all this video mediation on children …... Exposure to the system assumptions of video games, television, social media, impairs their ability to grasp the very different system assumptions of the natural world…."

Yes! I totally get that. As a primary school art TA, that 'touch-screen' expectation of how the physical world works is by far, my students' biggest handicap and has become what we primarily teach to overcome. Our art instruction has increasingly become more 'crafts' than 'arts' because that hands-on, tangible materials-manipulation, (everyday physics) seems to be where the real gap in their capability is.

Clearest example: In our lesson plan, every year group must have at least 1 sewing project. Almost none, (300 kids, aged 5 to 12) knew how a knot is tied, let alone how to do it themselves - just the basic mechanics of it. They would put it on the table, touch the thread to the needle and look at it, then look to me and ask, "Why is it not working?"

I find myself saying constantly, "See? It doesn't do it by itself. You have to MAKE it happen. Yes, it's more work, but the good news is - when YOU make it happen, you can make ANYTHING out of it!" This goes for every material we use; clay, paper, fabrics.... Most have never played with play-dough or made paper airplanes. They've never been allowed to handle any sharp object, including a sewing needle. IMHO, our once-a-week instruction is not enough.

You're right, this is cause for GREAT concern.

Ironically; I think this is an affliction that affects wealthier kids / schools, like ours, far more than poor ones who can't afford the technology.

The good news is: Some get it and for those; I can't shoo them out of the art room with a stick at every single break, lunch, 5-minute free time… They can't get enough of 'making stuff' happen. (I don't shoo them, actually - I love it).

If you work with kids, IMHO, THIS is the new challenge: To integrate into your projects or lessons: hands-on, tangible, everyday physics. Play-dough, paper-airplanes, spit-balls.

HA! Who-ever would'a thunk!?

John Michael Greer said...

Trippticket, the thing you have to keep in mind is that the medical and pharmaceutical industries are in a state of blind panic. Every year, more and more Americans stop seeking mainstream medical care and go to herbalists, acupuncturists, and the like, where they can get care that actually helps them feel better and get well at a price that makes any kind of sense. The whole point of Obamacare was to force people to pay for the mainstream medical industry whether they wanted to use it or not, and even that isn't doing the job. Yes, there'll be all kinds of draconian attempts to force people to pay prices they can't afford for "health management" that just makes them sicker, and to shut off access to the alternatives -- but I don't expect that to last long. Fly under the radar as much as you can, and you should be okay.

Cathy, I think the fact that you're reading this post rather than simply stumbling off to sleep counts as heroic dedication. Sweet dreams, and don't worry about the exclamation points!

Dr. Kris, you're most welcome, and thank you.

Sean, just one of the services I offer. ;-)

David, I found that out a long time ago -- I have plenty of Christian friends.

Goldmund, I find it easier to laugh at the absurdities of contemporary life by taking the long view, and remembering what those stadiums are going to look like in fifty years or so.

Dammerung, quite the contrary. For something like the Butlerian Carnival to thrive, it's got to start small, with individuals embracing the role of early adopters and spreading from there. I'll be discussing this in more detail shortly.

Clay, of course -- the bar and restaurant owners are simply giving the public what it wants, which in this case is something to numb them into insensibility.

Leo, best of luck!

Varun, that's an interesting point. It would be worth doing a detailed survey, but it does look as though modern industrial society puts more resources into allowing its inmates to sink into a drug-sodden coma than any other society in history.

Jean-Vivien, did you think that any of the screens in the restaurants over here show the news? If so, permit me to disillusion you. They show everything but -- and our TV news isn't news any more, except to the same extent that Pravda in the Soviet Union's heyday was news. (I sometimes think that when the Soviet Union broke up, all the people who used to write those giddily counterfactual propaganda pieces for Pravda all came to the US and now work for our media.)

John Michael Greer said...

Tasha, I think they claim to despise books because they're afraid of them. No buttons to push, no dancing kitten pictures, just page after page of actual information...scary!

Escape, fascinating. Thanks for the links!

Greg, yes, I've met far too many people who seem to be unable or unwilling to talk about anything but what's on TV. I tend to avoid them.

Rita, fortunately, the New Age is not representative of Western spirituality in general. What I've seen in Western traditions that embrace reincarnation is something closer to "Okay, if I can deal constructively with what's on my plate in this life, I can move on to something a notch or two more interesting the next time around" -- which seems quite sensible to me, certainly.

Matthew, do you know how to make infographics? I don't...

Pantagruel7, delighted to hear it.

Zach, not at all. Magic is the art of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will. Cargo cults are a desperate attempt to avoid personal changes in consciousness by demanding that the universe change instead. What do they teach children in school these days?

FLwolverine, thank you. A very large part of my job -- one of the places, in fact, that my job overlaps with that of Gandalf, Radagast, et al. -- consists of challenging people in ways that get them to rise to their potential; it's always good to see when such a challenge gets taken up, and capably, too.

Mickey, nah, I live in a brick house on a little lot in a small city in the Appalachians, fifteen minute's walk from downtown and about the same distance from the nearest woods of any size. As for swinging a dead cat, try a live one instead -- your friends will appreciate the claw marks. ;-)

Ando, thank you. The thing is, the stone is rolling now, and I'm not the only one pushing it.

Wagelaborer, I think you missed my point. It's the attempt to convince themselves that they're worthy that drives people to insist that the poor must be to blame for their own poverty.

John, it is indeed. Many thanks!

John Michael Greer said...

Wayne, that absolutely, positively takes the cake. (In this case, the cake in question is the little round thing in the urinal.) If I'd have seen that in an article in The Onion, I'd have laughed and thought it was brilliant satire.

Oilman, I know a few 30- and 40-somethings who get it, but very, very few. On the whole, your generalization matches my experience. If packs of 20-somethings are beginning to coalesce around shared projects and opportunities, that's a very good sign indeed.

Justin, good. Very good. Yes, that's a common way of dodging the issue, too.

Caryn (if I may interject), many thanks for this. That's going to feed into a very extended discussion down the road a bit.

Peter Robinson said...

A scene in the excellent 1988 film "The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey" deals with the effects of massed television screens.

In this film, a group of 12th Century English copper miners dig a tunnel through to late 20th Century New Zealand. They have no idea that they are no longer in the 12th Century but are unfazed by the technology. They assume that this is normal for large cities, of which they have absolutely no experience. Their solution to crossing a busy freeway is to dig a tunnel under it, because they are very good at digging tunnels.

However, when faced with a store window full of blazing, blaring television sets, they assume that these are demons and run away screaming. They are not far wrong!

Unknown said...

Read about 98% of the comments, didn't see one like the one I'm thinking about, so here goes. Yes, distractions are everywhere even when you're not looking for them, yes, people are trying hard not to notice (some are, anyway). If the ancients are to be believed, you can try not to notice, but it just doesn't work. La-la-la! Doesn't work. Yes, the way forward is to recollect (pun intended) how it used-to-was. But I haven't noticed a lot of comments about not getting too wrapped up in a critique of what everyone else everywhere seems to be doing, but to "cultiver vos jardin" (hoe your own garden). And to try to show some compassion for the usually overwhelmed-beyond-crazy people around us.

And no, a lot of us aren't likely to make it, skills or no skills. Depends on the speed and intensity of chaos and collapse in part.

Me, I've no children and few reliable friends, and I'm a bit older. Have been working on the building community part for some years now, and its hard work! You can't be looking at the effort/reward ratio, or you might give up in despair. If it's good to be there and doing what you do, that might have to be good enough, I think. We get so awfully ambitious! Maybe more "step by step catchee monkee" (quote from "Kim") is called for. Even though getting free is urgent! Make haste slowly, another bit of advice from the middle ages. Works for me, but then I'm the sort who gets hurt badly (physically not least) when I try to make haste any other way!

I think the expression "I hope I'm dead" really means "I can't get there from here," or "I'm in despair," or "What?" At a certain level of extremity, thinking beyond the present, even to consider one's children, isn't happening. I think it's a measure of the desperation of people that they say this. Concentration camp feelings, I think.

When the lights do go out, everything being equal (as a commenter who went to Nawlins and Haiti to help noted in this thread) a lot of good stuff happens, human-wise, despite all the other lot-of-awful stuff (human-wise and materially).

My point? You can emulate Yeats' poem if you've the energy and inclination, and "rage, rage, against the dying of the light," or you can sit down, quiet down, and reach out to your neighbor and yourself on the spot. I don't know. I'm sure there's a lot of love and compassion among the readers here, but tonight I just was feeling/seeing everything else, with a few exceptions. Maybe just me feeling sad and not noticing. Corragio!

Agent Provocateur said...


I agree that, as you have suggested, most citizens of the USA, regardless of their social-economic class, know at some level that the bloom is off the rose for their country. How could one not? Once the city that used to manufacture most of the automobiles in the country (what could be more American than building cars?) goes bankrupt, one must know its all downhill from there economically.

Certainly there is little sign that this knowing is fully acknowledged or articulated. It is probably registered consciously as more of a vague sense of ill ease for most. One reason it is not fully recognized is that the skills to do so have been deliberately allowed to atrophy. Those who create and sustain the tone of public life in the USA saw it in their favour to lobotomize the nation.

The TVs and screens everywhere reflect and encourage that dumbing down process. I suspect that if you we not “in tow”, you would not have stayed at the restaurant. I feel sorry for the waitresses. Working at such a place in such a way reduces their sense of themselves. Much the same happens for the regular patrons if there are any. I recall the culture shock of going to a big box cinema some years ago. It was the full body assault on one's senses and values. I expect your experience was much the same but slightly subtler. At least the beer was good!

And thus the morale is that consumption of alcohol can be a functional response to a dysfunctional situation ... at least in the short term.

nuku said...

Andrew Crews and JMG: Holding up the iPhones to ward off the demons and/or as “proof“ against the on-going decline of industrial civilization reminds me of the classic scene in the Peter Sellers movie “Being There” when Chance The Gardener is taunted by the black street kids on his first venture outside the mansion. He points his remote control at them and tries to change the channel. Chance spent all his free time watching a TV which completely moulded his concepts of the outside world. Anything he didn’t like or understand could just be “clicked away”, yet he “liked to watch.”
This might have some relevance for the situation you are highlighting now.

Agent Provocateur said...


There are other responses that just denial, distraction, or inebriation of course. Other typical dysfunctional and predictable responses are the bog standard trio of anger, bargaining, and depression. Mix in some sustained substance abuse or just a legal addiction (excessive screen time?) and you've got a working way to avoid reality.

I have soft spot for neurosis i.e. “avoiding real problems in your life by creating and focusing on unreal ones.” Its the thinking man's way not to think! As it has a creative element to it, I think its a step above your more plebeian dysfunctional responses. Of course I'm not looking down my nose at anyone. From each according to their ability to each according to their needs what? We all should be free to spike our individual glass of koolaid however each of us wants.

OK. More seriously ... L.E.S.S is good. It allows the mental space to comprehend the problem so as to think of actual functional responses as well as frees up financial resources to do something functional. I don't see it as an actual full course of action in itself however; just a good first step. You have given dis-inter-mediation as one practical course of action in other posts.

I can think of one other general guideline. Situation yourself in that part of the local economy that has legs in the short and medium term. If one produces good and services that are inexpensive and fluff, it may have legs, the recreational drug and entertainment business did well during the great depression. On the other hand, if one's product is expensive and not essential, one is in a very poor position. Readers can work out the other two quadrants themselves.

onething said...

I drug my feet about starting a garden, and now I love it. It is deeply satisfying, and we are just now finishing the last of the potatoes.
I find human life so full of delusion and odd motives, nature is truly the antidote.

" Onething, I'm by no means sure I agree with you. Addictions are very often a way of hiding from some deeper problem, and I see that very much in the present case."

Well, now, that is true, isn't it.

I find it a bit hard to reconcile the passivity of the American populace with the idea of an insurgency.

"My wife and I have had a lot of fun playing with a TV-Be-Gone"

Since this exists, there must be more of us...I wonder how many? Someone should take a poll.

Tony said...

I wonder if you'd call it a net positive or negative when I use a program on my smartphone to instruct it's IR-blaster to act as a universal remote and shut down all TVs in the room I'm in...

James Fauxnom said...

Wayne - They had screens above the sinks? That I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing yet. Seeing screens above the urinals was a bit of a shock the first time too. I guess we should be thankful that they haven't made the stalls out of plexiglass so we can all watch the television in a communal bathroom setting.

Cherokee Organics said...


Exactly. It could even be simpler to arrange than that too - critical components that are designed to fail under stress. So many people are specialists these days that they forget about the big picture: Most contracts for that sort of supply contain detailed specifications. The supplier then delivers the product with certificates, someone else bolts them in and it is then long forgotten about... The purchasers rely on the rule of law to enforce the certification, but didn't Sun Tzu say something about applying ruse? And what would the rule of law mean when in such a scenario anyway?

Just sayin, I wouldn't allow any supplies to come from off shore for military stuff - at all. Seems common sense to me, but other people want to save a buck or two.

The recent repairs to the steel plate on the 4 year old wood fire box here has had me thinking about such matters as I spoke to a guy down in Tasmania who’s wood heater is over 20 years old, locally made, with local steel and not showing signs of damage. He suggested that a lot of import steel - it is still locally made, just not as cheap as the import steel - has a high percentage of lower grade ore and recycled steel in it's make up.

And people say the local car manufacturing industry is not worth saving because the imported product is cheaper. They forget about the very serious strategic role that such industries and people involved in them play. During war situations importing stuff is very difficult and imported military hardware would be a massive target. Again, just sayin…



FiftyNiner said...

Don't ever view your Asperger's as anything other than Nature's attempt to make a better, more thoughtful human being! I have read history all of my life and you are the preeminent weaver of the fabric into a workable whole of the human story.
The question now is whether the decline and descent into Chaos will be paced in such a way as to give humanity time to begin to understand what is happening. My hope is that it will. If, OTOH, there is a cataclysmic decline, we will
be confronted with a national government in full damage control and the People will see once and for all what they are about. (Not to drift off into politics, I told my brother-in-law years ago that if we lived long enough we would see the Republicans try to take up all the guns and we would see the Democrats try to dismantle the social safety net. Both of those things will be about their own craven self-preservation when faced with a populace that has had ENOUGH!)
But I don't want to too much anticipate your much awaited next post.
Reading you has made me aware of how much of the history that has been written in modern times is based on fallacious assumptions about the real world and how it actually works. That which politicians, journalists and historians cannot conceive just does not exist--until they get hit in the face with that dead or LIVE cat!

Kyoto Motors said...

And of course the quality of life on the road has gone downhill as well, particularly with respect to access to food - something that has been completely taken over by corporate interests. This ensures the homogeneity of the Spectacle, limiting (eliminating) the possibility of spontaneous discovery on the journey. And let's not forget that most of the vehicles forced down the confines of the interstates are thoroughly mediated consoles, such that the trance may never be broken!

Kyoto Motors said...

It is quite telling really, that the greatest consumer advances have been in the area of TV/computer/smartphone screens and the quality of picture resolution. To anyone who loves the quality of traditional film projections is likely to find that the hi-def films coming out now feel wholly artificial... But the technology is progressing the way it is, I'd say, by sheer need: the Spectacle requires that the fantasy is seen as the most polished, most seductive "reality" as possible...

Shane Wilson said...

Related to both people's inablity to think logically or reason and people's screen addiction, I don't know how many people I know say they're offline, extolling the virtues of conversation and written communication, that are always online, sending me videos, updating social media, using voice recognitioAnd it's not even limited to screens. They exhibit the same illogical attitude about their carbon footprint (driving & flying), consumption, etc. It's not even hypocrisy, just a total lack of awareness and inability to make connections and thinkn, that are simply unaware of the conflict or the dichotomy. They're as wired as anyone, but it's totally in their blind spot.

fudoshindotcom said...


My crass poking of fun at those who cling ferociously to obliviousness is, in fact, an exercise in self-flagellation.

I spent four decades as a full, card carrying, member of the "Part-of-the problem" tribe.

I can't even lay claim to an "AHA" moment. For me the revelation came when I was unceremoniously ejected from the rat race, and took a year to fully coalesce.

The realization that one has been so thoroughly duped is a bitter pill indeed. It is also very good medicine for dispelling illusions.

Employing minimalism, organic gardening, and intentional technological regression has allowed me to cobble together the simple, peaceful life I now enjoy.

maybe, with further practice, I'll be fit to join the "Part-of-the-solution" tribe.

Thanks for the constant encouragement to challenge mainstream wisdom, observe how precariously it is knitted and how easily it unravels when a single thread is gently tugged.

If by chance we ever meet, the guinness is on me.

earthworm said...


"David Byrne, the musician, was in NY during Sandy. He made an observation on watching hordes of people waving their phones and computers in the air, desperately looking for "juice". He called them Recharge Zombies."

Here's one for your green wizard dictionary:


Term used to describe an old subset of humanity only able to relate to the world through the mediation and interface of their 'smart' devices and the resultant [effective] lobotomisation of such humans as they became subsumed and increasingly reliant on devices that were designed to trigger dopamine release through Pavlovian response patterns.

First recorded use: 475 BCC (Before Catabolic Collapse) ~ approx early to mid 21st Century old calendar. Partial transcribed records of TAR.

Attributed to one of the 'Talking Heads' - thought to be a reference to a popular prophet of the time [*see 'other references' below] and a reference to 'recharge zombies'.

Following on from food technologists' identification and exploitation of the 'Bliss Point':
Corporate device manufacturers employed the base principles as used by food scientists to develop online media and associated devices to achieve a technological bliss point.

This reached its zenith in the early part of the 21st century (old calendar) with media delivery through BlanketCoverage™ [BC] using all available surfaces and substrates. It was designed and implemented throughout NorthAm during the early 21st before full onset of Catabolic Collapse. However, an unexpected consequence of BlanketCoverage™ was the
development and increasing adoption of BLIPAT (Bliss Point Avoidance Techniques) based on Green Wizardry L.E.S.S principles (Less Energy, Stimulation & Stuff).

Although legislated as Un-American, Green Wizardry and L.E.S.S was just one part of the Great Butlerian Carnival, but there is still some debate about how the Geedubs (Green
Wizards) avoided the fate of other dissenters of the time.

It is not clear of the exact cause of the cataclysm that engulfed the techno-zombies, some say it was 'the great recharger', but more recent research suggests that the techno bliss point just resulted in people wasting away. After the die-off, there was a temporary resurgence with the advent of something called the iSelf - a tattooed smart** device that ran off human bio-electricity. This was short lived (quite literally) when the Coronal Mass Ejection of 2038 caused a feedback surge that put the neural software into perpetual reboot.

The exact number of deaths attributed to techno-zombism is not known.

*Techno-zombie day is still marked in Southlands to recall the great loss of life when the great recharger in the sky failed. Residents gather and hold up small blocks of wood (apple wood is traditional, but bark and other tree varieties are acceptable) and hum the
great invocation "We're on a road to Nowhere".

**Smart device is thought to refer to the feeling of 'smarting' that resulted from use of the device. Debate now revolves around the level of smart and whether it was the feeling of a light slap to the face, or perhaps the psychological pummelling due to intense levels
of cognitive dissonance induced by prolonged exposure to BlanketCoverage™.

Ares Olympus said...

Your mentioning the propagation of more and more TVs in restaurants made me think of Bradbury's distopia Fahrenheit 451 where firemen light fires to burn books, and the middle class aspires to have 4 walls of interactive televisions across their living rooms.

On a different perspective, I was reminded of Leonard Shlain's book that suggested written language changes how the brain develops and strengthens the rational brain, so makes me wonder about our modern high-stimulation media puts us back under a spell, yet also in some overstimulated version of our pre-written language ancestors. The Alphabet vs. The Goddess Lecture by Dr. Leonard Shlain

And that opens the need for "L.E.S.S." (Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation), or primarily the third one which comes from the first two, and ignoring our wider predicaments of limits, at a personal level, the "slow movement" in all its permutation seems promising for those who can practice this discipline.

My own favorite "slow" is travel, at least I've managed to only take a jet trip 4 times in my life, and my bicycle seems quite fast for my daily needs for movement, physical awareness, visual stimulation, and free exercise.

Lastly, unrelated, but I just noted a recent speech of yours online, along with a number of others at a New York City event "Techno-Utopianism and the Fate of the Earth." So its nice to see and hear your voice, rather than just your written words. I'm sure other readers would like to listen to it too: John Michael Greer: False Promises, October 25-26, 2014

Ed-M said...

133 comments already!

Anyway, splendid article on denial, JMG. Speaking of denial, my siblings expect me to find a *real* job with an employer, and are absolutely flummoxed why I haven't gotten one. (Yes, I am one of those long-term unemployed -- redundant is the British Anglosphere term for it -- and my money ran out a couple of years ago.)

On a different note, some green onions I bought from a supermarket and whose remnants I planted in the back garden are all taller and stouter and more succulent than they were when I bought them. Organic and permacultired really are better than conventionally grown. Plus, they've escaped cultivation and their children are now all over the neighborhood, hehe!

Flagg707 said...

JMG, et al. Moving from denial to action, and picking up on some threads which have been played with in the past here at the ADR - has anyone read Ruth Goodman's How to be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life or have an opinion on the various programs she's been associated with (Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, Tudor Monastery Farm, and/or Victorian Pharmacy)?

This "re-enactment" theme seems to be building continuously and strikes me as a growing "stealth" way for those of us who regard ourselves as a tad bit more awake than our neighbors to get involved in preparing ourselves for potential changes ahead.

Mark Rice said...

I am surprised no one has mentioned the prescient TV series Max Headroom. This is from the 1980's. It is set in a somewhat distopian future where TVs are everywhere - including fancy restaurants. It is illegal for TVs to have an off switch.

Charles DeYoe said...

JMG, another excellent post as always, I can't wait for next week!

Something I'd be curious about would be the role drugs have played and will continue to play in society. I'll sometimes read something by counter-culture authors from the 60s and 70s who predicted that drug usage would allow people to free their minds to an extent previously thought impossible. And of course entheogens have a long history in many societies.
But I personally am not a fan of the usage of illegal drugs and know of a great many people who have been messed up from their use. And even though something like marijuana comparatively harmless, it seems to me that most people I know who use it primarily use it as a tool for mindless escapism, usually paired with watching TV. (I'll admit that I am not sure if my disdain stems from my own snobbish/elitist tendencies rather than anything more legitimate.) Further, in my area heroin abuse is endemic; the library I work at, until recently after we hired more security, overdoses used to be a very routine occurrence. Meanwhile the amount of nonviolent drug offenders who are filling the prisons is staggering...
I'm sure I don't have much to offer on the subject that you don't already know, but I would very much be curious to read a post on your thoughts on the matter!

blue sun said...

I think I have to agree with you that most people get the concept of an “imminent impact” all too clearly, and they just wish that we would quit reminding them of it. Timely you should mention it. Just yesterday, I saw a billboard advertisement for a new TV show called "HAPPYish." I have no idea what it's about, and I have no plans to watch it, but the image seemed to convey this idea perfectly.

It depicts a father, mother and child running leisurely toward the viewer through a field of flowers. Butterflies flit by. They have carefree, almost goofy, grins on their faces. In the background, a mushroom cloud forms. The caption reads: "HAPPYish. Are you?" This says it all.

You can view the image here:,0,214,317_AL_.jpg

Brian Cady said...

Well, I'm a month late, but here's a relevent link:

Moshe Braner said...

"the notion that all of life ought to be fun is one of the oddest superstitions of our time"

- Here in Vermont people worship the founders of the ice-cream brand "Ben and Jerry" - even though they've since sold it to a multinational corporation. One of those founders coined a phrase that is commonly seen around here on bumper stickers:

"If it's not fun why do it?"

Whenever I see that sticker, I feel like asking the driver: have you ever sat in a traffic jam? Washed a dirty dish? Filled in tax forms?

David said...

Your post, as usual, has provoked significant self-examination. I have some work to do, I fear, in releasing my own layers of denial.

On the other hand, as I am at least semi-awake now, I can notice what is happening to the system that everyone assumes will continue to operate as it always has. One case in point is this article here, which is going to accelerate my transition to barter...

Admittedly, I should be doing it anyway.

Gregory said...

I agree with your post for the most part but the irony is thick as I read this post during my lunch break on my allegedly smart phone, and plan to download your conversation with Chris Martenson on to this device so I can listen next week while I work. It will be a welcome distraction from my job which is not a bad job, but is also not intellectually engaging.

pygmycory said...

With reference to kids not having enough contact with physical objects and the natural world, I agree. I was just gardening with a 5 year old who couldn't recognize most of the insects and didn't know that a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. I can't remember ever not knowing that. We worked on fixing that, obviously! Her family is actually working quite hard on the whole gardening/chickens thing, so she's probably better off in this department than most her age.

Shane Wilson said...

30-40 yr olds,
Most of us who weren't aware at the time, but are aware now, are pretty embarrassed at what we were doing in the 90s. That being said, we're the last generation that was aware of the psychotic personality switch the U.S. made in 1980, and remember the national mood before Reagan, however dimly.

George Coles said...

Another wonderful post, Mr. Greer. Also, thank you "NomadsSoul" for the Neil Postman reference. I find his book "Technolopy" another great read.

Elizabeth Kennett said...

Dear Mr. Greer,
As usual, thank you for the Archdruid Report. I've been noticing all the comments on the spread of TV screens. Am I the only one to wonder how many of them contain cameras to watch the watchers? Or, possibly, the non-watchers?
Elizabeth Ann Kennett

Christopher Kinyon said...

I must do a better job of escaping from my own cell (phone, that is). I ride a bus to and from work, and it has been my custom to read a book during this time. Since obtaining a smart phone, however, it has taken me far longer to finish a book. This despite the fact that the content of the book is far more interesting than anything I could read on my phone.

Marinhomelander said...

All I want for Christmas is a universal remote that has only one function: "OFF"

It will shut off every television known to man. I plan on going into restaurants and screaming 'AWAY SATAN!" as I gesture wildly at the T.V.s and I surreptitiously push the remote.

Believe it or not, they actually sell such things.

valekeeperx said...

Yep, agreed, great stuff.
I, too, have seen the multiplying TV phenomenon in the restaurants, bars, and many other places. And, we have one of the faux-Celtic breastaurants here in our town, though I’m happy to say that I’ve never been. There are a few older places that seem to have maintained immunity to the TV virus, though, even in many of those music is piped in. In fact, my place of work is located in the downtown of one of the larger LA satellite cities. A few years ago, the city remodeled the downtown outdoor walking mall. As part of this remodel, the new lampposts were fitted with speakers. So now, music blares all along the walking mall from sun up to sun down and beyond (please feel free to work that into the lamppost/gallows motif). Apparently, all of our activities must now be accompanied by a soundtrack. In addition, most mornings, there is a crew “sweeping” up leaves and debris using gas powered leaf blowers. What a lovely greeting as I walk up through the haze of dust, fumes, and noise. Oh happy day! Progress has bestowed such wondrous gifts.

Best regards one and all.

BoysMom said...

Shane, I do believe your math's off by a decade. People in the age range 30-40 were at most five in 1980, and were in middle school to college in the nineties.

I'm mid-thirties: I don't remember Reagan's elections, I do remember the Berlin Wall coming down. My demographic wasn't old enough in the nineties to do anything more embarrassing than believe the lies about student loans so we could get a degree and a wonderful job.

John Michael Greer said...

Peter, they weren't wrong at all!

Unknown, if you glance back a ways to the posts I've done on practical action, you'll find quite a bit of what you're looking for. This week's post was social criticism, so, yes, you're going to see a lot of people being critical of their society.

Agent Provocateur, good heavens, of course I'd have gone somewhere else if it was my choice. One of the realities of carpooling with fellow Masons is that you get to have lunch in places you might not otherwise ever visit -- which can be a good thing or a really, really awful one, depending. That said, it's useful to check out what's going on in the unreal world where most Americans spend their time -- and, as already noted, the meal wasn't bad and the beer was, well, Guinness.

Nuku, once again, the line between satire and reality is hard to trace...

Agent, good. We'll be talking about practical options shortly.

Onething, Americans are mostly passive from the neck up; they're perfectly willing and able to go places in large numbers and do stupid things, as long as they don't have to think about it. That's a dream come true for the manufacturers of insurgencies, who just have to get them stampeding in the right direction.

Tony, good question. It must be entertaining, though.

Cherokee, as far as I can tell, the Australian government has to be assuming that there will never be another shooting war large enough or close enough to interfere with shipping. When that turns out to be wrong -- and it will -- well, I just hope you get along well with your new overlords.

FiftyNiner, I should do another post on the pace of decline sometime, shouldn't I? The key point will be that the closer you get to the collapse process, the more it breaks up into a fractal landscape of macro-, meso-, and microcollapses at many different rates of speed. That's why so many people have managed to convince themselves that the collapse that's currently under way isn't happening at all -- after all, only a certain fraction of the people they know are permanently out of work, only some bridges and roads are falling apart, etc., etc. That cat is already swinging, but it only has some of its claws out...

Kyoto, I figure that's why all the hype these days about self-driving cars. That way the people on board don't have to interrupt their time spent staring at screens so they can look at the road!

Shane, or simply hypocrisy, like the preachers who praise traditional marriage every Sunday morning and go pick up a boy toy at the gay bar in the next county every Saturday night.

John Michael Greer said...

Fudoshin, if we ever meet, I'll gladly take you up on that. Thing is, a lot of people who get dumped out of the rat race never do catch on; the ability to say "What was I thinking?" is not that common, and worthy of respect.

Earthworm, excellent! I see a Space Bats story in there...

Ares, many thanks for the links! The thing Bradbury missed was that a single program still allows too much thought. That's why all the different screens show different programs -- viewers can jump from program to program and keep their nervous systems sufficiently off balance to keep troubling thoughts from ever emerging.

Ed-M, glad to hear it. I don't imagine you'll have heard of ramps -- they're a wild onion that grows here in Appalachia. We got some from a friend and planted them in the back garden, and they're up this spring, a nice bright green patch of them, over between the comfrey and the Joe Pye weed. So your green onions have a relative waving to them from afar!

Flagg, stay tuned to that meme. I expect to see it take off in a big way, and for good reasons, in the time immediately before us.

Mark, hmm! I didn't watch it -- I'd discarded TV by that time -- but it's interesting to hear that the idea was in circulation.

Charles, I'll consider it. By and large, I'm not impressed by the claim that drugs can have any sort of positive impact on the crisis of our age, even on an individual level; that hypothesis has been tested quite extensively since Timothy Leary's time, and the results are not particularly impressive.

Blue Sun, that image is spooky. Yes, it does rather catch the national mood, doesn't it?

Brian, actually, you're a year late -- note the date on the post -- but it's still an interesting study!

Moshe, comforted a child in pain? Been through labor pains -- your own or those of your spouse? Helped someone face their own imminent death? Exactly.

David, we all have work to do. You're doing it, which is the point that matters.

Gregory, oh, granted. There are plenty of ironies in the fire just now!

John Michael Greer said...

Pygmycory, that five year old child has just encountered the real world, with your help. That's a thing of massive importance.

Shane, well, you're one of the few I mentioned in my response earlier.

George, thank you.

Elizabeth, an interesting question. If so, they got to see me being very bored.

Christopher, good. You're noticing the time-wasting effect -- a lot of people never do catch that.

Marinhomelander, they do indeed. Several other commenters have mentioned brand names, in fact.

Valekeeperx, all this is reminding me increasingly of one of my favorite children's novels. Stay tuned to next week!

Ray Wharton said...

Einstein made a smartypants remark one time about how we know more and more about less and less, that someday we would know everything about nothing. I am not sure if one ever reaches absolutes, but our culture is developing a mindlessness that is reminiscent of Bert's old prophecy.
I have the reading material of ten thousand geniuses at my beckon call, but so does everyone, and being mortal beings, with time enough on this Earth to study one or two great minds to their full depths and perhaps if one is a scholar by disposition time enough to know a couple dozen fairly well, this great power has a dark side. Because the more works are available to a culture and the more individualized choice each member has concerning who they study, the less our wisdom paths and experiences overlap. Granted, in the deep past when a culture was limited to a tiny handful of sources, say the Bible and Aristotle, it created something like intellectual inbreeding over time, but to lift an idea from Plato and the Buddha, the opposite of a bad idea is usually a complimentary bad idea.
As our access to knowledge has multiplied to give us more sources we have as a culture taken a path opposite of Einsteins prediction, we know nothing about everything. I have read some Plato, but never studied it in-depth because I moved on to Spinoza, Gabran, Carse, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Bateson, Goethe, Spengler, Mollison, Franklin, Darwin, Sagan, Stamets, and a dozen other intellectual flings I never got to know that well or called back the next morning.
Now through social media the size of thought most often encountered is cut in to a piece slightly smaller than a television commercial. A one liner or quip from anyone rarely gives context, or can guide one back to the lived experience the person developed their thought from. Knowing any stand alone thought ripped from the life and times of its source is as close to knowing nothing as a hand ripped from its body is to death. But we can see these dismembered parts of every thinker you can name quoted automatically on any of the screens that line the walls of public places and the palms of most Americans.
The power, called thinking, to see many different claims, experiences, sensation, questions, accusations, explanations, excuses, justifications, hopes, fears, dreams, suppositions, orders, prayers, accounts, reckonings and requests together in a cohesive whole and see each as it relates to its neighbors, and to imagine how they might relate to others is not something that we posses by birth as humans, any more that a person raised in man constructed environments can naturally make sense of the ecological relations of a rain forest. It is developed through encountering and struggling to make coherent sense of complicated thoughts. The fact that our culture has so many things to allow us to avoid this activity, in exchange for sound bites and articles that, though some times long, very often are schulpted to manipulate our feeling more than stimulate our minds is alarming.
"Common sense is the most well distributed commodity, because each person is convinced they have an adequate share." some dead dude, and I ain't gonna google who. All of us are sacrificing our potential (which in each case is quite finite, but vastly greater than is commonly actualized) when we let ourselves be split thus.

How much of why this is can be attributed to the burden of denial? Concerning the collective situation of our society, I would say a respectable minority, concerning the burden of denial generally (including all the other things humans have do deny in the daily life of social primates) most likely a modest majority. Of course measuring proportions of such things is very very tricky, the law of cause and effect is tricky.

Shane Wilson said...

@ BoysMom
Well, when I was in college (university) in the 90s, and for a good time after I'd left, I was partying it up, drinking too much, taking advantage of cheap gas prices to do the same all over the U.S., taking advantage of said cheap gas to move all over the country to "find myself". That's what I and a lot of people I knew were doing. I meant to say "30s-40s" instead of 30-40. Gen X'ers. We're a small generation sandwiched between boomers and millennials, and have awkward characteristics of both. Enjoyed the wild times of the 90s, some got good jobs and did well, still won't have good retirements and will be kinda old (I'm going back to the traditional definition of anything over 40 as "over the hill", as I firmly believe collapse will accelerate aging and shake us out of our youth obsession and the lies we tell ourselves about how old we really are) when things really start to fall apart. Just like the silents, another cusp generation, didn't suffer through the Depression or WWII, yet didn't participate in the cultural upheavals of the late 60s.

FiftyNiner said...

This is not news but one of the most egregious ways that people are in denial is in the amount of water that they use.
Last year when mother was quite ill our washing machine decided to call it quits.
I really didn't have the time to shop for a new machine, but in the searching on the internet I became aware of how much water a typical wash and rinse cycle of the average top loading machine uses: up to 42 gallons!
I decided to buy a Wonder Wash tumbler hand operated washer for which I used the old machine as a work surface. For fifty bucks I was not disappointed. We strung up new clothesline in the back yard and I was back in the laundry business. The thing that amazed me was that we immediately realized a $30 to $40 per month savings on the water bill! I plan to take the savings on the water bill and construct an outdoor laundry just off the garage, with washtubs, a hand wringer and scrubbing board, This was the kind of laundry that I first remember my mother having in the 1950's. The only difference was that she also used and iron wash pot! So, I have "collapsed" backward about 60 years.

oilman2 said...


Collapse is definitely ongoing, with the demand destruction seesaw currently destroying my business area, oil drilling. The last big collapse bump was the stock market dump in 2008, which was preceded by a huge oil price spike - don't think that was coinkydink - globalism is sensitive to oil price greater than $.03 per ounce (I use oz because oil is highly undervalued relative to what it delivers to society).

Today's demand destruction is due to QE, which allowed oil guys to attract capital investment by offering 5% return when banks and bonds only offered 3% at best - resulting in massive cash influx from the flood of dark pool money waiting for a chance to earn. The resulting shale oil boom, unsustainable, threw lots of oil into a market in the midst of global deflation (bubble). Now we have excess oil, and declining wages/employment as capital pools up within the .01% group and oil industry downsizes back to pre-shale boom levels.

Next up is an oil price shock when people finally realize that without $90/BBL oil, we cannot afford to find more - low oil prices are uneconomical for exploration as the cheap finds are long gone. Combining world depletion, even with consumption flat, this spells an eventual ouch...

Mesocollapse could be seen 10 years back when Wallymart quietly but systematically reduced their China-built product offering. Ostensibly, they widened the aisles in all their stores. Surreptitiously they also ceased carrying many items, while increasing the major throwaway profit items. Why? Chinese prices rose on the back of a rising Yuan...

Home Depot also curtailed their product offerings, downgraded their lumber offerings and reduced quality while maintaining prices.

Microcollapse can be seen easily - just drive through any metropolitan area. You will see empty strip centers, empty mall spaces and a dearth of Mom&Pop businesses. Retail space renters DO NOT want Mom&Pop. They want chain stores who accept higher rents, CAMS and other nonsense because it comes out in the wash for big S-corps offshoring their profits. Mom&Pop cannot even open a business without mortgaging their entire life any longer - even with life-mortgaging, it now requires partners or inheritance windfall just to open the doors.

Technical innovation is displacing many jobs and few are talking about it. But one glaring example is found in grocery stores and bulk hardware stores (Lowes, etc.) - where the self-serve checkout lines now outnumber those with cashiers. Home Depot now closes all save one lane of cashier checkouts after 6pm, forcing the issue.

Waiting jobs are seeing touch-screens or I-menus curtail even this staid profession in metro cities.

Fewer low wage jobs are on the horizon - problematic in a service oriented economy.

The collapse is here, but the Great Unraveling is only visible in the rear-view mirror to those with a 30 or 90 day outlook. Soundbites are insufficient to explain it and those in the media dare not expound on it, while many listening do not have the faculty to comprehend it.

Slow motion collapse is invisible in a digitally paced world...

nuku said...

@Charles DeYoe
Re drug use and freeing the mind:
Drugs have been used by many human societies as a way to induce transcendent experiences. From personal experience with LSD in the early 60’s (when it was still a legal drug because the authorities didn’t know about it), I can say that given the right circumstances these experiences/experiments did in fact open/free my mind to some extent and were life altering in positive ways.
The experiences can temporarily break down one’s underlying personal/ social programming, giving access to bigger pictures and larger contexts. It is then up to the individual to continue the process of self-investigation in a more orderly fashion using tools such as JMG has at his disposal as a Druid.

The 2 abiding lessons I took away from those experiences are 1) that the Universe is an organized structure of incomparable beauty and complexity,
2)that my puny human mind will never be able to comprehend more than the tiniest bit of that structure because it cannot completely escape from its own limitations.

I am extremely sceptical of anyone using drugs who claims to come back enlightened or bearing universal truths.

After several LSD experiences, I realized that if I wanted a non-drug induced transcendent experience, all I needed to do was listen with full attention to Pablo Casals play the Bach unaccompanied cello suites.

Scotlyn said...

On Easter Monday, I was the entertainment for a 6- and a 9-year-old girl, neighbours. I took them for a river bank walk, where I decided I would follow them to see how far they'd go... Two hours later there was no sign of flagging or boredom. They had found a cave under the gnarled roots of a fallen tree, invited me to a tea party of primrose petal bread and river water tea under it, thrown lots of rocks into the river just for the splash, closely examined all sorts of growing things, found a wee stagnant pool full of frogspawn, and seemed content in themselves. When they remembered we had some baking to do we headed back to the house, stopping to pet the donkeys and a cat... We baked and talked and drew pictures and towards the end of the visit, the older one said, "its kind of odd you don't have a television" and I said I didn't like them cause they were "unhappiness machines"... There are many seeds to plant, and not all of them in the tangible earth...

Cherokee Organics said...


Yes, I agree entirely.

To put it bluntly, they are dolts because they ignore the lessons of history. Back in the 19th century, there was very real and serious concern that the Russian navy would pay a visit. The Great White Fleet exerted its muscle here whilst we were still English colonies and we did what we do well: We got them drunk and entertained them. The Japanese bombed Darwin during World War 2 and also just happened to get a mini sub into Sydney harbour. Didn't a small German raider sink the pride of the Australian fleet off the coast of Western Australia, losing all hands on board during World War 2 too?

Sun Tzu said something about long supply lines, but then Napoleon thought he was above such concerns as well so it is probably a very common error. Such hubris.

Such short memories too. Meanwhile in today's world, the US is landing 1,000 marines - as they regularly do each year - in Darwin whilst the powers that be in Canberra appear to be agreeing to China's proposed banking arrangements. It must be inordinately stressful for them to say both yes and no at the same time meanwhile filling the media with hot air and posturing – I can only conclude that they are perhaps morally flexible which is hardly surprising given how many of them have a certain professional background predisposed to that particular condition?

You are doubly correct. We have always had overlords here. It is funny that the powers that be here never consider taking the option of taking a big hit to the national income and standard of living and simply manning up to the challenge of becoming independent (or at least largely independent). My guess is that it will happen eventually - when there is nothing left to take.

On an altogether more positive note, I finally visited my favourite naked hippy, old school, second hand book shops today looking for both William Catton and Clarke Ashton-Smith books and completely failed to find either which was a real surprise. Even Ursla Le Guin's book mentioned earlier this week wasn't there. All I can say is that your readership is large indeed and perhaps in the future I should move somewhat faster?

On a positive note, and I believe that you will approve of this - I picked up a 1969 book entitled: Public Speaking and Chairmanship. Well blow me down but there is some serious complexity involved in running a proper and orderly meeting. No wonder all three of the groups that I've been involved with in recent years were a disaster zone on such matters. The rules, guidelines and order are in place as much to protect the group as the members themselves. There is a certain laziness in side stepping such niceties, but it doesn't end up well.

You'd love this but the book covers various meeting problems for example: Discussion out of control; the side talker; the over talker; the non talker; the grievance airer; and best of all the arguer. I tell you what, I've met a few of all of that lot in my time. Fortunately it also has much discussion about how to combat these individuals (or members maybe a more appropriate description).

Take that! from the dread pirate Chris - nemesis of all meeting time wasters and wafflers!



Cherokee Organics said...


I'm having a quiet day today - no work, all play and lots of fast typing - the fast typing was courtesy of a state government experiment many decades ago, but that is another story. True story.

As I was reading through the comments, it brought to mind an incident I mentioned to you many months ago and something I read a week or so back clicked into place with your story.

Now as an interesting side note, I am unaware of the type of restaurant operating down here that you described. Ladies in that particular employment are known down under as "skimpies" and they tend to be more a feature of bars at remote large mining towns. Just sayin there is something in that fact...

Anyway back to the main discussion point. So many months ago I was at a restaurant and also at that same restaurant there also happened to be a bikie gang - now I realise that sounds very dodgy indeed and brings into question my own choices, but I can assure you it was an unusual and unprecedented coincidence. Me, being me, I took the advantage of that opportunity to quietly observe them - no harm in that as long as you don't bring any attention to yourself.

What was fascinating is that not one of the members and their partners present were on a smart phone (or even displayed one) and they all were existing in the moment and seemed to be largely having a good time.

So I was reading an article by the very respectable crime journalist John Silvester the other week and spotted this about bikie gangs: The brutal truth: there is no outlaw code. I agree with everything the guy wrote as it seemed pretty common sense, but one bit really troubled me as it documented a disengagement of a certain section of the community. I'll repeat the quote here:

"And yet the publicity generated from police raids by the Echo taskforce has a bizarre side effect.

Bikie bosses say they have never had so many inquiries from men who want to join, claiming they can't keep up with the demand."

Chilling stuff as the barbarians are clearly already within the gates.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Ray,

You ask: What helps balance self care with working authentically hard and well? I kick butt often on my works, but burn out some times, sage advice would be awesome.

I don't know whether I can offer sage advice, but I'd suggest a good way to know what your limits are is to explore them whilst keeping alert for signs of internal stresses.

Burning out is a poor use of your time. I'd suggest you have to do the above and learn to say "no" as politely and firmly as possible.

Be aware that there are some cultures where it is in your interests to say "yes" and do "no", so you always have to be aware of context, people and environment.

Essentially it is best to be realistic in your goals though.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Shane,

Not to stress mate, I still remember wondering as a small child whether I could somehow employ the miracle of "Supply Side Reganomics" whatever that was to improve my lolly supply. And whilst we're at it, few adults at the time could explain the concept clearly to me either! Just sayin...



Nastarana said...

Dear tripticket, The reason your craft is being targeted for excessive oversight is because there is a growing demand for your products. Can you do what I have seen elsewhere and say things like X ingredient is rumoured to promote Y but (usual disclaimer about see a qualified health professional etc.)? I will refrain from bringing unwanted attention to the Archdruid's blog by mentioning by name the herbal elixir which does in fact, for me, clear up cold and flu in record time.

I have been thinking for years we may be reduced to buying or trading for herbals, herbs themselves and open source and heirloom seeds and plants on a kind of informal black market.

Ed-M said...

JMG, glad to hear that! I never knew there was such an onion called Ramps even though I had grandparents who retired in Frostburg, MD back in the 1960s.

Well the developments on the homefront have taken a turn for the next stairstep of my own personal collapse. It turns out that, after letting the house my partner and I live in fall down for the past twenty years, the real owner has finally decided to gut-rehab it, either into a single 4BR or two 2BR condominiums. Apparently he finally caught wind of the so-called progress the real estate market is making here in New Orleans (inflating a bubble is more like it). Average household income is $35K and the average rent is $1200/mo; average house prices are $300K and for a $100K house the monthly insurance note is as big as the monthly mortgage payment, making the monthly costs for that to be about $1000/mo. Such is life being a collapsnik in a 'hot' RE market in a gentrifying city. ;^)

heather said...

Flagg707, I've read the "How to be a Victorian" book, and found it both interesting and informative. The opening description of the average Victorian stepping out of bed in the morning onto a cold floor in a room where the washbasin might have frozen over, both because textiles, including rugs, were very expensive, and because the social custom even among the wealthy was not to "waste" a fire in a sleeping room, alone provided enough food for thought to justify the purchase price for me. I found myself looking soberly at my closet stuffed full of clothes and thinking of the salvage economy to come, once unlimited textiles in the form of new $5 t shirts stop flowing in. LESS indeed.

I also watched and enjoyed the BBC shows you mentioned. I found them inspiring in practical ways- am learning to make baskets after seeing it done and thinking, 'I could do that', and teaching kids to make them too- and also useful as an entry point into conversations about LESS with family members who were watching with me. A less-evil application of the glowing glass screen, in my opinion.

Re the reenactment scene in general, a very popular field trip among the homeschoolers' group I belong to is an annual pilgrimage to one of the many historical programs offered by various parks and historical sites, where families dress in period costume for a weekend and engage in various period crafts and activities. This year we are staying at Sutter's Fort, just before the Gold Rush. Not really deep or truly authentic by any means, but it's a start, and hopefully a memorable and inspiring springboard for the kids.
--Heather in CA

Donald Hargraves said...

For some strange reason I can't help but wonder whether China's "persuading" General Motors to stop making cars in Australia. After all, with China being a big enough market for GM that they're using Chinese designs in the United States (think Buick, which survived Maoism as THE status symbol for cars), I wouldn't be surprised if China's giving other "suggestions" to GM.

Roger said...

JMG, most of what you see in your neck of the woods you see up here north of the border.

We see much of the same decline and malaise. Our civil service too is a sewer of sloth and indifference. And worse, a kafka-esque maze that serenely inflicts grotesqueries on its citizen-victims.

Like our Dept of Veteran Affairs making de-limbed Canadian war veterans prove, on an annual basis, that they are still missing the arm or leg they left behind in Afghanistan. Can you imagine?

So, it won't astonish you that we too see distraction in the political sphere.

For example, in one of our recent mayoral elections we had a ranting fat-man running against a former government minister. The fat-man vowed to end the corruption and waste that grips city hall. The former minister touted his executive experience. He also happened to be a married gay man who, along with his husband, (both Caucasian) adopted a black baby boy.

You can see the outlines of where this is going. Guess who the local intelligentsia and establishment supported? Not the ranting fat-man. Stop corruption? Why would the establishment want that?

The enlightened would claim that sexual orientation was irrelevant. But I'm not very enlightened. I saw it as central to the candidacy, that is, implicitly the shining example of what could be done by a truly progressive society (ie us). All other things being equal, maybe it was. But also very useful, like I said, as a distraction from the opponent's issues. It was an original approach, I'll grant them that.

Original or no, the intelligentsia miscalculated. The man-in-the-street wasn't having it. Guess who won by a wide margin. You guessed it, the ranting fat-man.

Do you think the election campaign was a circus? You should have seen the aftermath. You see, the citizenry voted wrong, the establishment couldn't reconcile themselves to the result and so, after the self consoling sneer-fest, set about overturning the election, by hook or by crook.

Respect for a democratic vote? No chance. End corruption and waste? Not in this life-time.

You may have heard some stuff about our ex-mayor's excesses. Yeah, well, we have a long tradition of that here. Like, for example, the founding father of this country (Sir John Eh?) and the ex-mayor of Calgary (Ralph). Roaring drunks these guys. Ralph got government business done at his table at the St Louis Tavern. Both men were highly effective. Ralph was later elected Premier of Alberta. No matter.

Was Rob Ford a drunk? Yes. Did he use crack? You bet. Did he employ a two-bit hood as a driver. Yes. Ford consorted with low-life. Tell me, is drinking fine wine with crooks in five thousand dollar suits any better?

In the end, was Ford charged with anything, let alone put on trial? Nope, not even after months and torrents of police effort to pin something, anything on him.

So what about this preening we do about our alleged mercy and compassion? Was there any shown towards Ford with regard to his addictions? Not a stitch, not by the glitterati. He had to be gotten rid of no matter what. Due process? Bollocks. Fairness? Not here.

This was a Barnum and Bailey affair whose sole object was removing this obese annoyance that threatened to upset the gravy-train. And, with so much money at stake, this obviously couldn't be allowed.

Daniel Cowan said...

Excellent post, JMG.

Regarding the omnipresence of entertainment media in our public spaces: does anyone, JMG or anyone else, have any ideas about coping strategies these kind of noxious infuences?

In my personal life, they are easier to avoid, but I have had a hard time dealing with these things in the workplace. I used to work in kitchens, some of which played music at extreme volumes - one kitchen even had two seperate stereos playing two different streams of music, which was a nightmare on my nervous system.

I'm currently working in plumbing, which is not as bad, but many people like to listen to very loud music as they work - and lot of it is radio stations that play music that sounds to me very aggressive and kind of negative, it wears me down by the end of the day, makes it hard to concentrate.

Eventually, I'd like to remove myself from these situations where I'm caged into consuming streams of electronic 'entertainment', but in the meantime, when I'd like to derive pay and specialized skills from these workplaces, I'm wondering if there are any mental techniques I could use to lessen the impact of the sounds of TV/radio, and let it pass by me more?

Anselmo said...

Probably you´ll like to know that in the restaurants in Spain there is not proliferation of TV screens and high noise of loud speakers. Still the people prefer to speak,but I don´t know until when.

dragonfly said...

A word on infrastructure. Seems like any bridge or road fix results in shocking cost and time overruns. Here in the town where I live, bridges are closed for a decade while people dither about. Meanwhile huge buildings practically leap into the sky full of million dollar apartments...every one a penthouse. Teevee is to lull us all to sleep.

Steve W. said...

Cognitive dissonance seems to be everywhere these days. One thing that doesn't make any sense to me is when Americans overwhelmingly tell pollsters that they expect their children to be worse off than them. I then think to myself, "Yes, OK, so what are you DOING to HELP your children to prepare for a world where they will be worse off?" To paraphrase a line from a well-known children's cartoon: Are we as a society doing anything to help our young people have a future that's worth getting to?

HalFiore said...

In response to the "I hope I'm dead by then" thoughtstopper, it occurred to me that there's a very good and honest response to almost anyone who says that. Given that what most of them are talking about is the more terminal "rubble bouncing" stage of collapse, rather than what's actually going on around us, the only real response is, "Well, I have good news for you. You almost certainly will be."

Followed by, "So you can relax now, and take a deep breath."

What we need is people who realize this is about what we leave behind for the future, not the little pizzant comforts of the most indulgent handful of generations ever to walk the Earth.

oilman2 said...

Being in a metrozone until the farm is fully habitable, I see the malignant growth of advertising and the Eye of Sauron daily. Recently Shell gas stations here replaced pumps with units that have advertising/news blaring from LED screens while you pump your gas. Starts playing as soon as you insert your debit card or pay the cashier. It is quite the cacophony when several people gas up, since these digital streams are NOT synchronized and quite loud.

Within Lowes, there are now screens within departments directing you to other screens for great information about how to repair your widget or perform a task. It is the entire concept of one screen directing you to another within a store filled with supposed 'service employees' that brings my grin. Yet these same employees are oblivious to their pending redundancy, readily evident around them.

My daughter was with me today buying hinges, etc. I have a flip phone, she has I-phone 6-7(?). Upon entering a store, her phone went off with txtmsg sounds. She was sent coupons and advertising as she entered the store, all tailored to her most recent shopping habits. The screens are everywhere - the younger generations buy them, live with them and many love them.

If we drive about 25 miles, there is still a seriously low tech bar buried in the woods (more tavern, as there are sometimes meals). This bar has no television, no radio - just an old classic jukebox with 45 RPM records that still costs a dime to play. This bar has been there for 35 years, and you will find conversation, argument, seduction and even quietude merely by selecting your seating.

Found out that this bar is no longer acceptable due to structural deficiencies - the restrooms, doorways and lack of ramps do not support the handicapped. Hence the county has required them to put in these improvements by CERTIFIED and APPROVED county contractors or else shut down. Option B is likely as the costs to upgrade exceed the cost of the building. Surely it makes sense for the 1% handicapped population to have access to 100% of everything? And of course, nobody would dream of insulting the handicapped by assisting them....

Public officials and regulations make complete cents, right?

JML said...

It sometimes makes me angry or sad to think about what we as a species have done to our planet for the sake of "progress", but I'd rather be aware than blissfully ignorant.

What do you think of the philosophy of permaculture, JMG? Is it a viable alternative to the drawbacks associated with traditional agriculture?

jonathan said...

to daniel cowan-
i don't know about any mental techniques for noise abatement, but i am very impressed with the efficiency of ear protection devices available today. for a relatively low price you can get headphones that deaden sound above a defined decibel level while still allowing normal conversation at lower levels.

trippticket said...

@Ed-M and JMG:


Now there's a word I bet the Archdruid can really appreciate;)

(As I type this from the inner sanctum of my VERY permaculture-esque landscape.)

Steward of Rivenwood
Talking Rock
Lower Appalachia

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Cherokee Organics--Is the book you bought by Alvey and Laffey? I found several books with similar titles listed online but the one with the exact title Public Speaking and Chairmanship is Australian. Only 128 pages long (in the 1977 edition), and it's divided into two parts, with Alvey covering public speaking and Laffey covering meetings. Sounds good; I'm going to see if any local library has it.

trippticket said...

@ Andy Brown:

Just read your comment toward the top (I tend to work up from the bottom as our host updates, and sometimes the first comments are the last ones I read). I've noticed the same thing around here in north Georgia. Now, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of really great gardens, and a lot of beginners' gardens, and lots of livestock, too, around where I live. But a significant portion of the local population is just dirt poor, and there ain't a tomato in sight...

What exactly are they expecting to happen next?

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Daniel Cowan--You have my sympathy. I worked under similar conditions for nearly thirty years and never got used to it, though I did learn to concentrate well enough to do my job. Some of those yahoos would turn up their radios and then walk away for half an hour. Two or three different stations at once, all of them playing crummy pop music. Loud because these guys were half deaf from using power tools without ear protection.

It definitely wears a person down. One thing I thought of doing but never got around to was to make mix tapes of the kinds of music I like and crank it loud enough for the others to hear, not to drown them out but in hopes that they would like my music better and would turn off their own radios in order to listen to my selections. Never did it though; just took an early retirement and that was one of the reasons.

Phil Harris said...

JMG & DVDfeels
Thanks for the link to Bryan Ward Perkins lecture at BYU

Like JMG I am a fan of Bryan WP and have his book. Fascinating that Wales was the last part of the Roman Empire to fall to invasion militarily in 1277, though the people had retained little or none of any 5thC 'Roman' life. (Early on in post-Roman Wales there were still graves marked with Celtic names in Latin inscription.)

Bryan WP's makes larger points about economic complexity; for example, coinage appears only when it is needed. This as I understand it, appears true also for literacy, numeracy and other tools such as a wheeled economy (bulk trade) or even anything much of a non-local trading economy. Big subjects!


A.S. said...

JMG said: "That parents could say to their own children, 'I got mine, Jack; too bad your lives are going to suck,' belonged in the pages of lurid dime novels, not in everyday life. Yet that’s exactly what the words 'I hope I’ll be dead before it happens' imply."

As you have suggested, I started reading William Catton's Overshoot. Just yesterday I read these passages:

"Progress also posed other problems. In medicine, new techniques of prolonging life thrust upon unprepared and unwilling human beings the burden of decision (rather than leaving to luck and microbes the task of 'deciding') when human beings should die.... they also began to give to the living more power to implement the antagonism between themselves and the unborn, antagonism which was being intensified by the age of population pressure. For the whole Western world, the tradition of bestowing upon future generations advantages exceeding those received from the past was becoming inverted. We had become competitors with, rather than benefactors of, our descendants." Pg. 59

And later on he writes:

"As other mammalian species have moved into a post-exuberant stage, increased antagonism and competition typically have led to increased violence and behavioral degeneracy. Status hierarchies become more abrasive. Care and training of the young become inept and even reluctant; the young come to be treated as intruders." Pg. 107

It seems that the response you outline in this week's post can be seen as a common symptom of being a part of a post-exuberant world.

onething said...


I would consider those little spongy earplugs, to muffle it.

onething said...

Oilman, I, too, have wondered about the amount of space we allot to the handicapped. In the approximately 30 years of it, I do not think I can recall, ever, not once, seeing a wheelchair bound or obviously handicapped person use a public restroom. Yet there are often 2 stalls. One for the general public, and 1 for the handicapped, which you shouldn't use. I did once know a person of the male persuasion who went about town in a wheelchair. Most of the time handicapped parking spots sit empty, and they are of course the prime real estate. In the case of your bar, it would seem common sense to have some sort of grandfathering law, where old establishments worth less than X dollars would be exempt. I do think that a certain amount of handicapped access esp in new construction is warranted, rather than the old way in which they were totally invisible and not planned for. But I am very sensitive to waste and what I see is a lot of waste.
Once size fits all laws are unjust.

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