Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Shadows in the Cave

I had intended this week’s post to be the next episode in the Retrotopia narrative, chronicling Peter Carr’s meeting with the irrepressible Col. Tom Pappas of the Lakeland Republic Army, and the trip out to Defiance County for the annual drone shoot, but that will have to wait another week. No, I haven’t decided to comment instead on the recent spate of terror attacks in France.  As people in a variety of other corners of the world have pointed out, identical outrages happen all over the Third World every few days.  The only reason this latest horror has gotten so much air time is that it affected people in one of the world’s privileged countries instead.

Nor am I going to be devoting this week’s post to the latest, extremely troubling round of news from the climate change front—though that’s going to get a post to itself down the road a bit, when I’ve had time to do a little more research. That’s a far bigger story than the terror attacks in Paris, though of course it’s not getting anything like as much attention in the media.  From the beginning of serious salt water infiltration into South Florida’s aquifers, through ominously bulging sediments in Arctic Ocean shallows, to an assortment of truly frightening data points from Greenland, it’s clear that we’ve passed the threshold from “something may happen someday” to “something is happening now”—a transition that probably has quite a bit to do with the increasingly shrill tone of climate-change denialist rhetoric just now, and even more to do with the increasingly plaintive tone of those activists who still insist that everything can be fixed if we all just join hands and sing “Kum ba ya” one more time.

No, this week’s post is going to explore a topic that’s far less important in the overall scheme of things, though it’s not without its relevance to the crisis of our age. I want to talk about the reaction I fielded in response to last week’s post here on The Archdruid Report, which was an exploration of our culture’s taboo against choosing not to use the latest technologies.

I expected that post to field its share of outraged denunciations, and it certainly did. What I didn’t expect was that it would receive more comments than any other post in the history of The Archdruid Report, and the vast majority of those comments would agree heartily with the two points of that post. The first of these points is that there’s a significant number of Americans out there who, for one good reason or another, choose not to use cell phones, televisions, automobiles, microwave ovens, and an assortment of other currently fashionable technologies. The second is that there’s an even larger number of Americans out there who get really, really freaky about people who make such choices.

Some of the stories I heard from readers of my blog were absolute classics of the type. There was the couple who don’t enjoy television and so don’t own one, and had a relative ask them every single year, over and over again, if she could buy them a television for Christmas.  They said no thank you every single year, and finally she went out and bought them a television anyway because she just couldn’t stand the thought that they weren’t watching one. There was the coworker who plopped a laptop playing some sitcom or other right down on the lap of one of my readers and demanded that the reader watch it, right then and there, so that they would have something to talk about. There was the person who, offended by another reader’s lack of interest in television, finally shouted, “You must be living in a dream world!” Er, which of these people was spending four to six hours a day watching paid actors playing imaginary characters act out fictional events in contrived settings?

Televisions were far from the only focus of this sort of technobullying. Other readers reported getting similar reactions from other people because they didn’t happen to have, and weren’t interested in having, microwave ovens, smartphones, and so on down the list of currently fashionable trinkets. The stories are really quite eye-opening, and not in a good way. Forget about all the popular cant that insists that you’re free in the USA to make your own choices and have whatever lifestyle you want.  According to a significant fraction of Americans—and to judge from what my readers reported, that fraction isn’t limited to any one class, income level, or region of the country—the only freedom you’re supposed to exercise, when it comes to technology, is that of choosing which brand label will be slapped on each item in the officially approved list of devices you’re expected to own.

The prevalence of technobullying and technoshaming in today’s America is a fascinating point, and one we’ll explore in a few moments, with the able assistance of the denunciations flung at last week’s post by the minority of readers who reacted that way. What I want to consider first is the fact that so many people responded to last week’s post so positively. One blog in an uncrowded corner of the internet, written by an author whose day job as an archdruid locates him squarely on the outer fringes of contemporary American life, is very nearly the opposite of a statistically valid poll. Still, the sheer volume of the response makes me suspect that something significant is going on here.

By that I don’t mean that there’s some sort of groundswell of renunciation, leading people to walk away from technologies in the same spirit that led medieval ascetics to don hair shirts and flog themselves for the good of their souls. That’s one of the common stereotypes directed at those of us who aren’t interested in the latest technotrash, and it completely misses what’s actually going on. I’ll use myself as an example here. I don’t own a television—I haven’t owned one in my adult life—and it’s not because I have some moral or political objection to televisions, or because I’m into self-denial, or what have you. I don’t own a television because I find watching television about as enticing as eating a bowl of warm snot.

It’s not the programming, either—that’s another of the standard stereotypes, that the only thing one can find objectionable about television is the programming, and it’s as inaccurate as the rest.  To me, quite simply, the activity of watching little colored shapes jerk around on a screen is boring and irritating, not relaxing and enjoyable, no matter what the little colored shapes are supposed to be doing. Yes, I grew up with a television in the house.  I experienced plenty of it back in the day, and I have zero interest in experiencing any more, because I don’t like it. It really is that simple. It’s that simple for others as well: they don’t find this or that technology enjoyable, useful, or relevant to their lifestyles, and so they’ve chosen to do something else with their money and time. Shouldn’t so simple and personal a choice be their own business, and nobody else’s?

To judge by the reactions that those who make such choices routinely field, apparently not. The pushbacks discussed in the comments page last week range from the sort of in-your-face confrontations discussed above to a much-forwarded article in I forget which online rag, where somebody was airily announcing that he wasn’t interested in being friends with somebody unless he could text some vacuous comment about lunch to the other person at 2:15 and get a response by 2:30. (My readers and I are good with that—somebody who insists on getting immediate feedback for their random outbursts of mental flatulence isn’t somebody we want as a friend, either.) Then there were the indignant responses to last week’s post, which belong in a category by themselves.

I’m sorry to say that my favorite diatribe didn’t show up in the comment queue for The Archdruid Report. It appeared instead on one of the many other websites that carry my weekly posts, and it insisted, among several other less juicy bits, that my lack of enthusiasm for television obviously meant that I was conspiring to deprive everyone else of their teevees. You’ve got to admit that for sheer giddy delirium, that one’s hard to beat. By the same logic, if I dislike peanuts—as in fact I do—I must be committed to some kind of anti-peanut crusade devoted to eradicating the entire species. Not so;  Arachis hypogaea is welcome to live and thrive, for all I care, and my fellow hominids are equally welcome to eat as much of its produce as they happen to desire.  In fact, they can divide my share among them. The only thing I ask in return is that nobody expect me to eat the things myself.

The same rule applies equally to television, as it does to a great many other things. Like most human beings, I enjoy some things and don’t enjoy others, and in the vast majority of these cases, nobody feels particularly threatened by the fact that I don’t like something they do, and avoid it for that sensible reason. For this one commenter, at least, that obviously wasn’t the case, and it’s worth reflecting on the vast personal insecurities that must have driven such a bizarre reaction. Still, that was one of a kind, so we’ll pass on to the others.

A theme that showed up rather more often in the hate mail responding to last week’s post was the insistence that if I don’t have a television, a microwave, or a cell phone, I’m a hypocrite if I have an internet connection. I encourage my readers to think about that claim for a moment. I suppose a case could be made that if my lack of interest in having a television, a microwave, or a cell phone was motivated by the kind of passion for hair-shirt asceticism mentioned above, and I had an internet connection, I could be accused of the kind of slacking that used to get you thrown out of the really top-notch hermitages. From any other perspective, it’s a triumph of absurdity. If people are in fact allowed to choose, from among the currently available technologies, those that make them happiest—as the cheerleaders of the consumer economy delight to insist—what could possibly be wrong with choosing some old technologies and some newer ones, if that’s the mix you prefer?

Then there are the people whose response to the technology of an older time is to yammer endlessly about whatever bad things happened in those days, even when the bad things in question had nothing to do with the technology and vice versa. People like the couple I discussed in last week’s post, who prefer Victorian furnishings and clothing to their modern equivalents, get this sort of bizarre non sequitur all the time, but variants of it turned up in my inbox last week as well. Here again, there’s some heavy-duty illogic involved. If a technology that was invented and used in the 1850s, say, is permanently tarred with the various social evils of that era, and ought to be rejected because those evils happened, wouldn’t that also mean that the internet is just as indelibly tarred with the social evils of the modern era, and ought to be discarded because bad things are happening in the world today? What’s sauce for the goose, after all, is sauce for the gander...

Finally, there’s the capstone of the whole edifice of unreason, the insistence that anybody who doesn’t use the latest, hottest technotrash wants to go “back to the caves,” or to even take all of humanity to that much-denounced destination. “The caves” have a bizarre gravitational effect on the imagination of a certain class of modern thinkers.  Everything that’s not part of the latest assortment of glitzy technogimmicks, in their minds, somehow morphs into the bearskin kilts and wooden clubs that so many of us still, despite well over a century of detailed archeological evidence, insist on pushing onto our prehistoric ancestors.

When people of this kind archly dismiss people like the Chrismans, the neo-Victorian couple just mentioned, as going “back to the caves,” they’re engaged in a very interesting kind of absurdity. Do cavemen and Victorians belong on the same level? Sure, cavemen had flush toilets and central heating, daily newspapers and public libraries, not to mention factories, railways, global maritime trade, a telegraph network covering much of the planet’s land surface, and a great deal more of the same kind! That’s absurd, of course. It’s even more absurd to insist that people who simply don’t enjoy using this or that technology, and so don’t use it, are going back to “the caves”—but I can promise you, dear reader, from my own personal experience, that if you show a lack of interest in any piece of fashionable technology, you’ll have this phrase thrown at you.

That happens because “the caves” aren’t real. They aren’t, for example, the actual cave-shrines of the Magdalenian people who lived fifteen thousand years ago, whose lifestyles were quite similar to those of Native Americans before Columbus, and who used to go deep into the caves of Europe to paint sacred images that still stun the viewer today by their beauty and artistry. “The caves” of contemporary rhetoric, rather, are thoughtstopping abstractions, bits of verbal noise that people have been taught to use so they don’t ask inconvenient questions about where this thing called “progress” is taking us and whether any sane person would actually want to go there. Flattening out the entire complex richness of the human past into a single cardboard bogeyman labeled “the caves” is one way to do that.  So is papering over the distinctly ugly future we’re making for ourselves with a screen shot or two from a Jetsons cartoon and a gaudy banner saying “We’re headed for the stars!”

It’s really rather fascinating, all things considered, that the image of the cave should have been picked up for that dubious purpose. Not that long ago, most literate people in the Western world tended to have a very different image come to mind when someone mentioned caves. That was courtesy of a man named Aristocles of Athens, who lived a little more than 2300 years ago and whose very broad shoulders got him the nickname Plato. In the longest, most influential, and most problematic of his works, usually called The Republic—a bad choice, as this word nowadays has connotations of rights under law that the Greek title Politeia lacks—he framed his discussion of the gap between perception and reality with an arresting image.

Imagine, Plato says, that we are all shackled in a cave, unable to turn our heads to either side. All we can see are dark shapes that move this way and that on the flat wall of the cave in front of us. Those dark shapes are all we know.  They are our reality.

Now imagine that one of these prisoners manages to get loose from his shackles, and turns away from the cave wall and the dark shapes on it. He’s in for a shock, because what he sees when he turns around is a bonfire, and people moving objects in front of the flames so that the objects cast shadows on the cave wall. Everything he thought was reality is simply a shadow cast by these moving objects.

If the prisoner who’s gotten loose pays attention, furthermore, he might just notice that the cave isn’t limited to the bonfire, the prisoners, the objects casting the shadows and the people who manipulate those objects. Off past the bonfire, on one side of the cave, the floor slopes upwards, and in the distance is a faint light that doesn’t seem to come from the fire at all. If our escaped prisoner is brave enough, he might decide to go investigate that light. As he does so, the bonfire and the shadows slip into the darkness behind him, and the light ahead grows brighter and clearer.

Then, if he’s brave enough and keeps going, he steps out of the cave and into the sunlight. That’s not an easy thing, either, because the light is so much more intense than the dim red glow in the cave that for a while, he can’t see a thing. He stumbles, rubs his eyes, tries to find his bearings, and discovers that the detailed knowledge he had of the way shadows moved on the cave wall won’t help him at all in this new, blazingly bright realm. He has to discard everything he thinks he knows, and learn the rules of an unfamiliar world.

Bit by bit, though, he accomplishes this. His eyes adapt to the sunlight, he learns to recognize objects and to sense things—color, for example, and depth—which didn’t exist in the shadow-world he thought he inhabited when he was still a prisoner in the cave. Eventually he can even see the sun, and know where the light that illumines the real world actually comes from.

Now, Plato says, imagine that he decides to go back into the cave to tell the remaining prisoners what he’s seen. To begin with, it’s going to be rough going, because his eyes have adapted to the brilliant daylight and so he’s going to trip and stumble on the way down. Once he gets there, anything he says to the prisoners is going to be dismissed as the most consummate rubbish:  what is this nonsense about color and depth, and a big bright glowing thing that crosses something called the sky? What’s more, the people to whom he’s addressing his words are going to misunderstand them, thinking that they’re about the shadow-world in front of their eyes—after all, that’s the only reality they know—and they’re going to decide that he must be an idiot because nothing he says has anything to do with the shadow-world.

Plato didn’t mention that the prisoners might respond by trying to drag the escapee back into line with them and bully him into putting his shackles back on, though that’s generally the way such things work out in practice. Plato also never saw a television, which is unfortunate in a way—if he had, he could have skipped the complicated setup with the bonfire and the people waving around objects that cast shadows, and simply said, “Imagine that we’re all watching television in a dark room.”

Now of course Plato had his own reasons for using the cave metaphor, and developed it in directions that aren’t relevant to this week’s post. The point I want to make here is that every technology is a filter that shapes the way we experience and interact with the world. In some cases, such as television, the filtering effect is so drastic it’s hard not to see—unless, that is, you don’t want to see it.  In other cases, it’s subtle. There are valid reasons people might want to use one filter rather than another, or to set aside an assortment of filters in order to get a clearer view of some part of the world or their lives.

There are also, as already noted, matters of personal choice. Some of us prefer sun and wind and depth and color to the play of shadows on the walls of the cave. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to drag those who don’t share that preference out into the blinding light, or that we’re going to turn ourselves into the Throg the Cave Man shadow that’s being waved around so enthusiastically on one corner of the cave wall. It does mean—or so the response to last week’s post suggests—that a significant number of people are losing interest in the shadow-play and clambering up the awkward but rewarding journey into the sunlight and the clean cool air, and it may just mean as well that those who try to bully them into staying put and staring at shadows may have less success than they expect.

On an entirely personal note, I’m pleased to report that Founders House Publishing has just brought out a new edition of my first science fiction novel, The Fires of Shalsha. It’s closer to mainstream SF than anything else I’ve written—it’s even set on another planet—but fans of my subsequent novels, Star’s Reach and Twilight’s Last Gleaming, will find it an enjoyable read. Copies can be ordered here.


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jean-vivien said...

I am starting to realize that the brittleness of manners that you exposed in this venue, a brittleness of manners characteristic of the USA (a nation of bar brawlers, when seen from the rest of the world...) was also manifesting itself in attitudes towards technology. Here in Western Europe, people are a lot more pragmatic when it comes to technology. When it is useful, we use it, and we use all kinds of it, but we do not have technobashing. Maybe it does happen on a more unconscious level ?
In any case, here in Ecnarf, suddenly dipped into a valley of tears - ahem, like the rest of the world gets to know every other day of the week - there are still a lot of taboos on social, political, and technological choices.

Overall, this difference in perspectives probably makes your Retrotopia narrtive more relevant in the USA, where you are, as one should expect. But the narrative still makes a lot of useful points even for us, and turns out to be by no means less essential in these dark times.

Therefore I am trying to stick to my personal goal for the end of 2015, that is, to publish on my own blog a French translation of each of your Retrotopia posts published so far. Because I enjoy the world you are trying to create, albeit I do not necessarily agree on all of your assumptions regarding certain social choices. And because it is an engaging way to live your narrative a little closer. it can even be fun, as i have to come up with inventive phrasing to match your style and still feel litterate in the language of Molière.
And maybe it will help to give me a closer look at how short fiction is built, structured and shaped, so that I can shape my own ideas into words at one point.

Where to post links to it is still a challenge for me since I am mostly reading US blogs. That is also going to prove an interesting endeavour.

So far there are the first five installments translated into French here :

Best of luck !

Marcu said...

Last week's post and subsequent discussion has finally convinced me to take a good hard look at my technological diet and to only keep that which is really working for me. I have already started to copy down (by hand, onto paper) various notes and things that I kept stored on the computer. As an added incentive, my friend who is a firm believer in the myth of progress, and who is always ridiculing me about my old computer, recently lost a large amount of files due a hard drive failure.
Newer is not always better.


This is the final boarding call for the last Melbourne Meetup of 2015!.
All interested parties are invited to attend the next meeting of the Melbourne Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 1223, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 1223, (Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne for short, GWAM for shorter) which will be held on the 28th of November 2015 at 13:00.

The venue is Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

Please RSVP, or send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]
Just look for the green wizard's hat.

pygmycory said...

Maybe some of the people watching shadows are afraid that if too many people look away, the whole edifice of theory they've made of how the world works will fall apart, and they won't be able to pretend its the entire world any longer. After all, if most of their friends leave facebook, if they want to still be friends they'll have to find some other way to contact them.

And if too many people stop using the internet, prices for access per person will probably go up and they might not be able to afford it anymore. And if no one is on the internet, who will they email and will their favorite sites still be there?

Our technological decisions aren't made in a vaccuum, especially decisions about communications technology.

J.D. Smith said...

To use one media product in the service of a larger critique, I would cite the the link, which reminds me in essence if not in precise detail of much peer pressure to adopt one or another technology.

Travis Marshall said...

Well you may not like peanuts but you have to like peanut butter, everybody likes peanut butter :) I love the analogy of the cave, not yours but the connection to the television was a perfect fit. From time to time our family will still enjoy a movie or show from time to time but we have slowly found other more interesting things to occupy our time. This morning was one of those occasions. As I passed by I did pick up a pretty nice one liner from Queen Amadala of the Star Wars movies. "It is clear to me now the republic is no longer functioning" It seems Hollywood often tries to make us see things that are awry with worthy messages but the medium choice they are communicating with and their constant refusal's to follow their own advice seems to only exacerbate the problems.

sgage said...

Ah, a timely post, as I gird myself to visit my family this Thanksgiving. A more progress-worshipping, techno-whizbang besotted group you could hardly hope to find, and they endlessly poke (mostly) good natured fun at my lack of, and utter lack of desire to have, a TV, cellphone (smart or otherwise), etc. etc.

They can't look out the window for a weather report - they must get it on their smartphone app! They will believe it's raining if it's sunny if their app tells them! It's modern! It's tech! And I spent a bundle on this thing so by godz I am going to get the good of it! To a person with a hammer, all problems look like nails...

Can't keep a shopping list on a piece of paper - must have an app for that. Must have wi-fi connected 'Nest' thermostat thingies to control the heating. What's the matter with a thermostat? But hey, it's modern, and the latest tech!

And when I gently try to explain to them my thoughts on the issue, you would not believe the sheer amount of rationalization and self-delusion that gets spun out. I must add here that these are highly 'intelligent' 'successful' people. I used to get a bit feisty and push back, but I give up. It's a very potent 'glamour', and I sure don't seem to know how to break the spell...

buddhabythelake said...


I did see some of the comments at one of the re-posting sites ( and felt that I had to respond on at least one occasion -- not that you require defending, as you are more than capable. But the "you're using electricity, therefore you're a hypocrite" theme was a bit much.

I do have a TV myself, though my wife and I dropped our cable (kept the broadband connection, however) and the screen sits dark the vast majority of the time. And the small amount of viewing done is on broadcast (and yes, public TV) channels. But I do notice the difference, having been "off cable" for more than two years now, when I visit other's homes. The contrast with the general quiet of ours is striking.

My approach has been to gradually and selectively reduce my usage of various technologies and resources, from the TV described above to line-drying our clothes mid-spring to mid-fall. As I've mentioned before (I believe), I work at a municipal power/water utility and a few weeks ago my supervisor and I attended a regional wholesale energy conference. At my lunch table, we were all talking shop and the topic of consumption trends (which have been flat or declining, generally) came up. I mentioned that our household usage is down to ~230 kWh per month on average. I got a lot of stares.

On a different note, but in line with your ongoing point that we need to start where we are and get working, I have decided to take out nomination papers and run for city council in my small town (~12,000). There is an opportunity, I feel, to influence the direction of and decisions being made in my community, and hopefully I can do something to promote or at least enable the kind of resilient local networks we are going to be needing in these coming decades.

And of course, I am eagerly awaiting posts on each of the topics you mentioned in your opening.

Ray Wharton said...

Plato's night terrors of home entertainment centers to come is a pattern I have been thinking about for years. Countless technologies our culture favors resembles the cave wall. I think even the wind shield of a car and the wholesome chalk board of the class rooms of yore resemble the Cave. It makes me wonder if "The Public Thing" hasn't been read a few too many times by too many intro to philosophy classes. I taught one of those classes!

One this has me a bit concerned about last weeks comment section, and this is just a weird feeling, nothing solid. Remember that suddenly hot topic on the generation wars? Yeah let's not kick the glue bottle! Well once generation got put on the side lines there was a refocus on what group would scapegoat what other group when the fan get's it. Could that topic have found soil to grow in because of a split through the country concerning progress?

Looking forward to your update concerning the signs from the climate.

Graeme Bushell said...

So, selection of technology means choosing a filter which shapes the way we experience and interact with the world - or... changes consciousness in accordance with the will?

The most obvious example of this for me is the choice to drive a car, take public transport, ride a bike or walk. Each of these has their place, and they are all forms of transport that I use regularly, but they lead to radically different experiences, even along the same routes.

Lifestyle choices affect this experience enormously too. A lot of the conversation about collapsing early involves an agrarian lifestyle choice, or aspects of it, but I'm thinking long and hard now that a nomadic lifestyle might have real advantages...

Love your work as always JMG, keep it up!

Genevieve Hawkins said...

Does not having a desire to interact with the people in the cave make me a technophobe? We have a TV I just don't watch it. Always seemed like a waste of time. Yet with holiday gatherings coming up the conversations will be about predictably deathly boring things: what happened on the programming last night, what the news or some presidential candidate said about the Paris terror attacks, what football team will go all the way and of course talk about the latest baubles and gadgets. I cannot add anything useful to these conversations and as I get older I don't like trying to. It takes a few hours just to deprogram a single person on a single political point just to get them opened up to a broader meme than what the teevee told them to think. It's frustrating.
A measure of a person's happiness may well be their lack of desire to change or control others, because if I'm happy I can't imagine why I'd care what other people do if it's not harming me. But I've experienced it, certainly. When I lived in Thailand my aunt in California chastised me because my house lacked a microwave (I don't like them) an oven (ovens are almost nonexistent in Thai houses)a TV and whole house hot water--I only had a hot water supply for the shower. She told me that I was lucky that this was Thailand because the Department of Social Services would take my children away if I lived in such deplorable conditions in the US. I had a nice two bedroom two bathroom house with full furnishings, a bathtub, refrigerator/hotplates and full kitchen, air conditioning, computers and Internet, et cetera.
We still don't have a working dishwasher--I never understood the point of the contraption, as it seemed like it was a reason to wash dishes twice....

Travis Marshall said...

Under the category of stories that cannot possibly be made up. Not 5 minutes after reading this post I called an old friend who I no longer live near but try and keep up with as we were very close for quite some time. After him asking me what I did today, I began to answer his question. After getting out two sentences of how we pressed our own apples into cider and took a fermented batch of cider and finished bottling it I was cut off and told, "I will talk to you later, I have to go and fix my teevee"

Art Deco said...

Good evening JMG I'm a long time lurker and first time commenter. Honestly, I just couldn't stand to read one of your posts and not see a hundred comments, so I'll start tonight's session. I have not had a regular TV at my home in the US in over 30 years (although I do have a DVD player hooked to a monitor), but I'm in a furnished flat in London for a semester which has one, so in the aftermath of the Paris attacks I turned it on to the BBC and let in run (sans sound, I admit) just because it seemed like the thing to do. It wasn't. I even wrote a post for my friends and family trying to sort out some of the stuff going on in Syria and found the news coverage to be very repetitive and almost worthless. It seems intended to just keep folks stirred up and anxious; perhaps anxious people buy more of the stuff advertisers are selling, perhaps not. But value received for time spent is very low - one good article would cover everything the TV covered in 20 hours in 20 minutes of time. Maybe less.

steck said...

I just bought a smart phone, my first cell phone, because I think it will be useful in some ways. I like apps to help me find good restaurants, and apps to give me cycling directions, for example.
Ask me how I like it a few months hence, now that people can reach me at any inconvenient moment.

I've owned a couple of cars in my life, but I've been car-free since 2007. This practice appears to cause many people consternation, here in car-loving California. Although I know many cyclists here, I don't know anyone else without a car.

Misty Barber said...

An area where I've encountered push back is doing my own maintenance and repair work. Whether its simple tasks like oil changes or slightly more complicated tasks like replacing worn out parts in an appliance someone will inevitably ask why I didn't pay someone else to do the work or buy a new thing instead. I find it terrible that learned helplessness is now expected of all Americans.

will said...

JMG, a speculation - I'm thinking that much of the negative reaction re your refusal to buy fully into tech-gizmo modernity may he due to simple generational self-identification. I grew up in the 60's-early 70's. For better or worse, my Boomer generation identified to a great degree with music; it was distinctly ours, it served as our revolutionary manifesto, etc. Fact is, we're still fairly age-chauvinistic about it, maybe with some justification. Millennials and Generation Z's, on the other hand, identify with the world of high-tech invention - that's what sets *them* apart, makes them distinct. A refusal to bow down to technoglitter - a refusal that just might *catch on* here and there - might seem a dagger to the heart of their collective identity, even if many of their own are doing the refusing.

Also, re fears that a tech-downsizing would equate with an ethics regression: there are those who believe that feminism and all the equality-of-the-sexes mvt's over the last several centuries really began with the Industrial Revolution. The preceding Agrarian Ages had men necessarily doing the heavy work, consequently women were diminished in archetypal stature and were relegated to second-citizen status. In the Industrial Revolution, women could work the same jobs as men, consequently their statue began to rise, and feminism was born. Our high tech civ just accelerates the liberating process. I don't buy into the notion that a return to a more agrarian-centered, less tech-defined world would equate with a return to traditional sexism - there's just some toothpaste you'll never get back in the tube - but I can see how some would have their concerns. 

fudoshindotcom said...

Well...... Ok then. I'd like to offer some assistance to those folks who believe one is a hypocrite for picking and choosing among the newer technological gizmos instead of blindly embracing the entire suite of them. In order for these people to maintain their peace of mind I'm willing to accept, free of charge mind you, all obsolete US currency. Simply send me all coins and paper money minted before..... Oh, let's say 1990. Said men and women, now unburdened, are free to go directly to their bank of choice and replace that crappy, old money with freshly minted notes withdrawn from their accounts. I realize what a hardship I'm undertaking in making this offer, but have broad shoulders and believe I can bear it.

PS Living in a cave doesn't seem like the worst possible choice to me.

John Michael Greer said...

Jean-Vivien, delighted to see the translations into Siacnarf! It'll be interesting to see what kind of response they get in the Francophone countries, if any; as I've noted rather more than once, I don't claim to be able to offer advice outside the part of the world where I live.

Marcu, glad to hear it. It amazes me that so many tech-heads don't remember something as simple as burning the occasional backup CD or, heaven help us, printing out a hard copy of things that matter...

Pygmycory, that's doubtless a significant part of it.

JD, hah! I've also seen "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" used as a metaphor for the same thing.

Travis, au contraire -- I find peanut butter even more loathesome than peanuts. You can have my share!

Sgage, I tend to think that the successful feel an extra need to parade around the trinkets that show how much money they can spend on gadgets, in much the same way that nouveaux-riches a couple of centuries ago would wave around the jeweled snuffboxes and pearl-embroidered whatsits that showed off the same thing.

Buddha, 230 Kwh a month is a solid step in the right direction -- glad to hear it. Glad also to hear of your decision to enter local politics. That's where some of the crucial steps will be taken next.

Ray, yes, I noticed that. It might be a function of the split over progress, but I wonder if it isn't something broader -- the rising spiral of tensions that bids fair to split this country apart.

Graeme, exactly!

Genevieve, I think not wanting to interact with people who can only talk about sitcoms and the latest technogimmicks is a sign of good taste, but then that's just one archdruid's opinion... ;-)

Travis, I suspect that what happened is that your friend abruptly realized that you were doing interesting things with your life and he wasn't. It's a common experience these days, among those of us who are doing something other than sitting on the couch photosynthesizing!

John Michael Greer said...

Art Deco, I've noticed the same thing! On those very rare occasions when I see a TV news program -- when visiting somebody who must have the thing on all the time, for example -- I've been struck by the sheer vacuity of it. It's as though the talking heads are simply reading a collection of headlines from a third-rate newspaper and then sticking in some video footage more or less at random.

Steck, if you find it useful, pleasant, and relevant, and don't mind the conditions in which it's made or the impact its manufacture and use have on the planet, by all means.

Misty, I've seen that also, and it's bizarre. Still, the desperate attempt to claim the status that comes with wealth may be behind it -- "I can afford to pay someone to do this."

Will, I considered that, but I get the same pushback from Boomers and people in our generation as I get from the younger, supposedly more tech-savvy generations, and from people (for example, young men into Neoreaction) who don't care in the least about feminism and equality. So I don't think it's that.

Fudoshin, I think that's a great idea! Heh heh heh...

Cherokee Organics said...


Thanks for tackling this thorny issue. I'm going to meditate on the subject for a day or so before replying fully. It is a subject that I've thought about quite a bit because it took me a long while before committing to putting my life on display a bit for the weekly blog - it was no small step for me because as mentioned to you before I'd been confronted with a lot of push back and bullying about all sorts of choices that my lady and I made just to live where we do, the way we do. The push to conform in our society is a massive force because it often backs people into a corner and forces you to support the status quo.

Incidentally, did you get a chance to look at the article I posted a link to last week about the councillors being assaulted during a recent council meeting in Melbourne? By Crom, it was a very Conan response by traders who are feeling that their livelihoods are being threatened and their concerns are being ignored by the local legislators.



PS: I've got a new blog entry up: Breaking Bread. You might not get the joke in the title, but I think it is funny! There is a short video on how I go about making bread in less time than it would take to stand in line at the local bakery. There have been fires in Western Australia and South Australia over the past week and the air is smoky here - you can smell the burning vegetation despite the fires being thousands of kilometres away. I picked up a very cheap hardwood table for under $33 and restored it to better than new condition. There are lots of flowers and just to keep you lot jealous up in the cold Northern hemisphere, you can have a look at the strawberry haul from my berry patch.

JoAnna said...

Long-time reader, first-time commenter -- I have to say that your post last week and this week really struck a chord for me (as it seems to have done for many of your readers) regarding choice and conformity in our society.

When I was a little girl, I developed a love of certain fashions found in different historical periods. I remember clearly that when I first expressed interest in actually wearing something like a Victorian dress, a hoop skirt, or a beautiful cloak I'd seen in an illustration or 18th century painting.. I was told that "that isn't how people dress now" except perhaps as a Halloween costume or something. There was absolutely no possibility of wearing it any other time of the year, end of story. I accepted, as a child, that apparently choosing to wear an Edwardian dress or beautiful hat was wrong or silly for some reason, and I -mostly- let the matter drop, though I never could get an answer from adults as to WHY it was so wrong to wear such a thing.

As a young woman in college in NYC, I found a few lovely vintage 50's dresses, and took to wearing them (before Mad Men came on TV) and was EXTREMELY surprised the first time I received comments from other women, informing me that wearing such dresses meant that I (not kidding) endorsed the oppression of women, wanted to go back to pre-Roe V. Wade times, had wanted to go back to the days when women were just secretaries, or some other complete nonsense that had nothing to do with what I was wearing. Happily, I didn't let that change my choices, and whether I feel like wearing a 50's dress or jeans and hiking boots, I don't consult fashion magazines for permission. It was strange and a bit troubling at first though. I am still shocked at how much those choices seem to irk some people even now. (My husband and i also do not have a TV, microwave, or a number of other technologies, and have fielded the usual shocked/upset reactions from that as well..) It's all a part of the "cave" around us, I suppose.
Thank you for your posts, as always!

Steve W. said...

JMG: "You must conform!" Just Kidding!

I have to agree with you. It truly is bizarre that it is expected to have the latest and "greatest" technology. I know from personal experience as well. Try explaining to people why you're not on Facebook. Even though I still watch T.V. and use the Internet, I do think that large swaths of both these technologies have done more to harm our society -- we're more socially isolated, we're more depressed, we have more unrealistic expectations about life, we're not learning useful skills -- it's almost like narcotics that we're medicating ourselves with, because our lives have lost meaning.

Oh, and speaking half-in-jest: can someone please explain to me what the appeal is with Twitter?

Clark said...

Just FYI: Reader for some years, first time commenter.

On Teevees. In my early twenties I quit watching teevee for a couple of years just as an exercise. I wanted to see what would happen. Well, I read more and played more music!

But then one day I dropped in on a friend and found him and a few others sitting in a semi-circle on chairs and a sofa all staring at a teevee and it seemed positively surreal. (They were all young men with bottles of beer in their laps, but we'll leave that alone for now.) I thought, "Don't you guys want to do something? Play music, walk the dog? Something, anything rather than this?" They looked like zombies.

(I never returned to a lot of teevee watching, just a little.)


I really wanted to say that technology acts as a molder (for lack of a better term) of behavior as a result of filtering perception. (Perhaps that is so obvious it needn't be said...) My daily commute is a case in point. So many drivers act as if we are all playing a competitive game that it's hard not to respond by adopting a competitive gaming frame of reference myself. On the way to work. Every. Day. It infects the personality of many, I am sure.

(Probably video and computer games impact peoples' perception of their commute...)

Also, if I drive a big car I feel more powerful than if I drive a small car. I really do. And if I could afford an expensive car, I imagine that I'd feel, well, sort of aristocratic.

And when I didn't drive at all (the same couple of years I didn't watch any teevee), I felt more human. I'm looking forward to someday not driving again.

Misty Barber said...

"I can afford to pay someone to do this." certainly is where it originated from, but this idea that unless you're "qualified" to do a specific thing you shouldn't do it has seeped into all areas of our culture. I think this mindset is partly to blame for why so many people, who are considered responsible, take on unmanageable debt loads. Many people rely on financing to pay for full on replacements when simple repairs would have done.

Here is an example: this summer my roof was damaged in a wind storm; many shingles and two vents blew off. In the days that followed several door to door salesmen wanted to sell me a new roof. A new roof would have been at least 3k. Before the next rain I picked up a pack a shingles and replaced all the blown off and damaged shingles and nailed all the roof vents down. I even straightened out and reset the zinc strips. Total cost: $25 and 3 hours. Weekend before last another big storm blew through and not one shingle was out of place.

Ray Wharton said...

Where I am at for the holidays there is a TV on alot, mostly I don't mind it as there are rooms other than the two with screens on. The exception to that is World News Tonight, which is as a matter of custom louder and which I actually remember with a thin dint of fondness from childhood. It is terrible. Full bore terror this and terror that, claiming that we should be calm while the whole time oscillating between a mood of horror, disgust, and giddy school girl meeting her dream crush excitement while talking about the uniformly depressing topics. The weird this is that the mood oscillation doesn't seem synchronized with the topics. They are excited about some detail of that sad hospital in Afghanistan, disgusted about some boring lie from a lesser candidate. Its actually depressing, I feel sad for the talking heads, they pull my heart strings like seeing a bum on the street about to crack up. Casting shadow puppets for a living must be a weird head space.

Concerning my earlier point. By all means I think that the country is loosing its string. A lot of the unifying group creating stories are collapsing into plot hole singularities from which no meaning can escape. What's on the other side of the current event's horizon? It cannot be seen. I guess history implies the possibility of a story filling the vacuum of collapse and expanding to fill a frightening amount of our cultural space. A story capable of growing to critical mass cannot form before divergent stories pull the country in so many directions that it cannot function at all. I wonder what work can be done out side of the cave?

Repent said...

If you've ever seen the classic film 'The matrix', where everyone is plugged into a giant computer system and that everything that everyone believes is false, this seems a more apt metaphor for our time than a cave. In the film the lead character Neo is given a choice between the 'red' pill of truth, and the 'blue' pill of ignorance. In my experience 99% of people would take the blue pill, and wake up safely in their homes and go about their lives as if nothing has happened. Only 1% of the population seeks the truth and will take the red pill.

Now I've taken the red pill many years ago at this point, and I've given up on trying to convince anyone about any truth or perspective that I have, except for others who, like myself have taken the red pill and are seeking what is real. Recently however, I have noticed that many of the blue pill people are starting to wake up and ask questions:

If the economy collapes, what would happen to the pension that I've paid into for the last 40 years?

If business as usual doesn't continue, then how is my son who is in Junior league hockey going to have his professional NHL hockey career?

If our suppliers are raising their prices to the extent that it is hurting their upstream customers they must have a lack of commitment to their buyers retail margins?

No where near the level of comprehension about what the real issues are, still stirrings in the mass consciousness that something just doesn't seem right anymore...

(I hope it continues)

Bike Trog said...

My favorite older tech is a manual hair trimmer. It does a closer trim than scissors.

While reading comments I am converting a TV to scrap metal. I especially like the newer flatscreens I can lift with one hand and stack five in the space of one older TV, and the fresnel lens may be used for solar cooking. The bundles of shiny wire look festive in copper and aluminum colors.

Nick said...

"Buddha, 230 Kwh a month is a solid step in the right direction -- glad to hear it. Glad also to hear of your decision to enter local politics. That's where some of the crucial steps will be taken next. "

I agree. I have no idea what my electricity consumption is because it is not metered. I haven't turned on the electric heat in my apartment yet, even though it is hovering around 0 degrees outdoors, my profligate neighbors ensure my apartment remains at a toasty 15 degrees. I kind of miss my previous accommodations, which, by future standards were luxurious - electricity automatically kept it heated above freezing, but due to my financial and environmental concerns, not more than a few degrees C. I occasionally talk to a city councilor who "gets it" (and is well liked despite it!) and wholeheartedly agree with the notion that change has to happen on the municipal level, the state/provincial levels and federal levels are too hopelessly hide-bound here in North America. I am seriously considering municipal politics as a career move.
Steck, if you find it useful, pleasant, and relevant, and don't mind the conditions in which it's made or the impact its manufacture and use have on the planet, by all means. "

I've spent the last two months engaged in highly paid work designing utterly stupid products at a company full of, honestly, not-so-bright-but-well-paid technophiles. I can only imagine the horrors of the Bay Area in SF. I justify this as a means to get out of debt I incurred as a result of several poor life choices. At least the thousands of dollars I receive for manipulating memory registers on a computer in an organized fashion aren't being used to buy more crap. My benefits (in a hilarious testament to today's priorities) are $500 dental and a new smartphone every year. For those who don't keep track of such things, a new high end smartphone costs more than 500 dollars. The idea that having the latest smartphone is more important than dental health is well, very progressive. Presumably in the future we'll have an app to chew our food for us. Anyway, a significantly challenging part of my occupation is playing along with these people. So, with much reluctance, I accepted the free smartphone, even though I had no intention of replacing my old, moribund smartphone purchased in a more delusional time. I feel awful about it, having resigned my digital life to that which can be sustained on the castoffs of others. It's reafirrmed my nigh-veganism, however.

Although I generally agree with the logic presented in your various posts about the death of the Internet, JMG, I will confess my complete addiction to it, but for reasons that are probably different than the average affluent westerner. I am not sure how I would relate to the world in the absence of an alt-media, which I would love to see happen locally (maybe I should make it happen...). I stay off clickbait sites, don't use pornography for personal reasons, and although I have access to Netflix, spend only a few hours on it a month. I am not sure what would happen to my mental health without access to something to counter mainstream drivel and remind me that I am not alone and am not crazy. I would definitely prefer nothing to "only corporate media". Although you've wisely avoided giving the Paris attacks - which at the peak rate of killing that sad night in Paris, failed to exceed the rate at which cars directly kill people, leaving ecological destruction and obesity/heart disease/diabetes aside - any more attention than they deserve, I think there is something worth talking about in the aftermath of them. Eventually, alt-media will be censored. It won't be called censorship. It will be an internet whitelist to keep us safe from terrorists and/or child pornographers, or simple corporate refusal to carry the content. At that point, the collision between our culture and reality will take on a new and hard-to-imagine trajectory.

End Part 1

Nick said...

Part 2 (sorry it's so long)

At that point, disconnecting totally from CNN, CBC, BBC, Al-Jazeera, etc will almost become a prerequisite for mental health as the resource and climate crises start to bite. I suspect that this phase of collapse will roughly coincide when we find out what the consequences of a decade of NSA and co. monitoring our internet use will be. I am not so optimistic about the future of anyone like myself, who reads a lot of media that doesn't exactly follow the official story. Or, for that matter, those who actually produce alternative media. I think the MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood is a convincing vision of our future, and it's pretty clear that my place in that future is a forgotten corpse on some imperial battlefield after some crisis justifies a draft. Empire has a long tradition of what Russia called penal battalions during World War 2, where undesirables are drafted at pain of death for their loved ones and sent on suicide missions to maintain Empire.

I refuse to give up what I consider to be nigh-irrational optimism, and am still moving forward, learning good skills, hopefully buying land (keeping in mind last week's reminder that bugging out to a remote farmstead is not a realistic strategy) if I keep my job and things remain "normal" for long enough. However, the recent incidents in Syria and the recent spate of bad news about the climate is... disturbing. I know climate catastrophe isn't what's being talked about this week, but I can't shake the feeling that I'll be long dead a decade from now.

And finally, regarding climate action: I really thought that the COP21 protests would be something of a turning point - not that they would save the planet or industrial civilization or the polar bears - towards a future where at least a few tens of % of us die with our boots on. It seems that "ISIS" has kind of curtailed it, although I am very much involved in the local COP21 action which is going ahead regardless of what the cops say.

Although I expressed this last point in last week's discussion, every new form of media, if you ignore the environmental costs of the machines required to display it, provides worthwhile experiences to the concision user. I think it's worth ending this (extremely rambling) post with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Princess Mononoke (by a guy that's definitely in the collapse camp)... "you cannot alter your fate, but you can rise to meet it". Or, in the words of Iron Maiden, "if you're gonna die, die with your boots on".

Gary Shannon said...

It's been my experience that people don't hassle me or find it strange that I don't have a smart phone, don't watch T.V., or use any of those other technological playthings you mention. I think the reason is that I started working with computers in 1963, and retired after 50+ years as an engineer. Of course it has nothing to do with my technological education and experience and everything to do with the fact that I'm 70 years old. I believe that as an "elderly person" I'm not expected to stay current with the latest plastic whiz-bangs, and people feel comfortable with just telling themselves "he's old and technology has passed him by".

So, if you want to avoid being hassled for your lack of a television, or for your collection of 78 RPM records, my advice is simply to get old. Once you're old people will let you get away with picking and choosing which technologies to use. They'll use adjectives like "quaint", "cute", or "harmless and eccentric". But mostly, they will just ignore you, which suits me just fine.

A Post-Millennial said...

Will, I want to push back against the idea that generations are coherent entities about which we can generalize beliefs or behavior. You identify "music" as central to Boomer identity. Very well. But why should that be unique to boomers? Members of the so-called "Generation X" were heavily influenced by, and would go on to shape, Punk and Hip-Hop. Moreover, this idea that "Boomers" even had a "revolutionary manifesto" calls on a particular set of boomer experiences, by which I mean those middle class white kids who got heavy into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. For every hippy in the sixties, there were plenty more straight types who contested civil rights, were drafted into the army, or got their high school sweethearts pregnant and spent the next four decades working in restaurants.

Every demographic generation contains innumerable individuals with their own unique experiences, rounded lives which cannot be pounded into the square hole of generational narratives without brute force. Sure, we live our lives in parallel and react to the many of the same forces and events, but we react differently, in accordance with our own situations and proclivities. So the "Millennials" and "Generation Z's" have indeed come of age in an era of rapidly changing information technology. But, those of us born after 1980 (or whatever the arbitrary line is) have experienced those technologies quite differently. Some of us, like Revolutionary boomers of the suburban sixties, are completely immersed in information technology, with smartphones and game consoles and laptops and streaming content and so on and so forth. Others of us grew up poor, with knock-off "smartphones" from Wal-Mart which we carry like iPhones to fit in, but loathe to use.

Most of us, at least those of us who were too young to jump on the Facebook bandwagon when it was the "it" thing, whose parents were already on Facebook when we asked to create an account, have since deleted our Facebook accounts, our twitter accounts if we had them. We prefer a discreet set of applications, most of which are peer to peer (snapchat, kik) rather than blurting information out into the void. Meanwhile our parents, even our grandparents, are addicted to Facebook like they were (and still are) to televisions. We don't watch cable. Some of us watch too much Netflix, though those of us who aren't rich have triaged streaming video and found it not worth a monthly subscription. Perhaps the crucial point is that there is a range of attitudes towards technology which track quite closely to ones income bracket (or perhaps ones' parents).

A Post-Millennial said...

(pt 2)

I think the crucial thing, the thing that perhaps warrants a separation of generations, is that those of us born after, say 1990, graduated high school into a stagnating economy. We are, you could say, the first post-growth generation. The younger age cohorts you look at, the more real this is. Someone born in 2000, who is today a high school freshman or sophomore, might have among their youngest memories their father losing his job or the family house being foreclosed on. This generation was the first that was told something along the lines of "you can't study whatever you want in college, the economy is tough, if you can't hack STEM you might spend the rest of your life flipping burgers." Most of us still are flipping burgers.

Excuse the rambling, I hope my point isn't too muddy. Generational narratives are tricky, doomed to smooth over the stories of those whose lives contradict the narrative. If anything, today's generation of teens and young twenty-somethings may be the most amenable to critically examining the narrative of progress and selecting which technologies we want to use. As I pointed out, it's something we're accustomed to with social media. As economic deterioration continues to squeeze our prospects, shedding more gizmos, like smartphones for flip phones or cars for bikes, buses, and hitchhiking may make more and more sense.

jbucks said...

Sort of related: while in a book shop yesterday, I noticed a new book by a self-claimed socialist British journalist named Leigh Phillips called Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-porn Addicts. I took a look through it, curious, and later did some internet research, and found an article he wrote which sums up the main points.

I'm flagging it up because he seems to get one of the central points of this blog: that, quote: "Updated for the era of the genuinely exacting challenge of global warming and biodiversity loss, a retreat from economic growth is argued to be necessary today because “We cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet”. (emphasis mine)

BUT, he then proposes that in the face of this, the only solution is....... more growth. Quote:
It is true that the right-wing Pollyannas say: “Don’t bother your pretty little head; technology will save us.” The green left Cassandras meanwhile run around screaming: “Technology can’t save us; we’re doomed!” The socialist meanwhile says: “So long as we plan and regulate the economy carefully, we need never run out of anything, no matter how large we grow.”

"The patchwork of hair-shirted, back-to-the-land, anti-industrial and degrowth prescriptions common on the green left should really be described as “eco-austerity”. Green anti-modernism is a cuckoo’s egg in the nest of the left.

The truth is that we can stop climate change and deliver expanding wealth for all. The end is not nigh and we do not need to rein in industrial society. If anything, we must accelerate our modernity."

Shrill? Yes. He does use some examples to make his points, I realize I am very selectively quoting here out of context. I almost bought the book, I may yet do so, because I wanted to understand his perspectives (always makes sense to understand both sides of an argument) but I can't yet tell if it a reasoned argument or simply a polemic.

I remember from an earlier post that you noted when some people's beliefs become challenged by evidence, they more tightly grasp them as changing them is harder for them to do - maybe this is an example of that?

Alex said...

Peanuts are a legume, a bean. Some don't like them, that's OK. There are all sorts of other nut butters.

The boiled peanut doesn't get enough respect in the USA but I believe it will eventually come into its own.

Modern internet is much more laborious than cuneiform. I imagine some old duffer 4000 years ago pressing this message into clay with MUCH less effort than it took me to hammer out, backtrack, hammer out again, backtrack again, hammer out again, proofread, and finally accept what the computer forces on me and post with a resigned sigh. And a cuneiform tablet can be read 1000s of years later!!

Mickey Foley said...

Your point about technologies as filters is well-taken. The spiraling accumulation of gadgets seems to be an attempt to screen out all unpleasant feedback coming from the physical realm. The desire to talk about TV shows and other inane topics strikes me as a symptom of avoidance of the many harsh realities encroaching on Reagan's "shining city on a hill." Perhaps techno-bullying is a reaction against the intrusion of the Real World into the bullies' techno-bubble. But I think the main culprit is the deeply repressed doubt the bullies feel about their own lifestyle. On some level, they probably question the value of their gizmos and wonder if the price they pay for the privilege (economically, socially, psychologically, etc.) is worth it. Unfortunately, they're too deeply indoctrinated into the civil religion of Progress to abandon the path or even contemplate that possibility.

I'm guessing all of this has already occurred to you, but it's nice to work it out for myself :^)

Eric Backos said...

Dear Mr. Greer, Your Grace, &c.
Cleveland, Ohio: The Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be in official attendance at East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, 10848 Chillicothe Rd, Kirtland, Ohio, 44094, Phone: (440) 256-3400.
This week’s sermon is based upon ideas put forth by James Howard Kunstler. Please join us! Look for the table topper with the green wizard hat. Faithfully yours
Tower 440

Tom Fitzpatrick said...

I wonder what you think about this recent essay by a prominent computer scientist about what his field can do about Climate Change.!/ClimateChange

One significant claim is that a controls system and compliant materials can drastically reduce the costs of some renewable technologies. I'm wrestling with is whether this saving in materials can make up for the embodied cost within the microprocessors. Information about these costs are hard to come by.

Given the cost for fab labs, mining, and the short life cycle ... I wonder if a push towards automated cars, smart grids, and better controllers is a mistake compared to the simpler solution of changing lifestyles especially considering how much infrastructure has to be built to support our current levels. The following page shows a plan to support the UK at current levels.

The scale for supporting the US is comparable to putting Solar panels on every roof and along every highway.

Tom Fitzpatrick said...

Another question about Retrotopia. I read Small is Beautiful recently based on you mentioning the economics were largely inspired by it. At the end he mentions a system of taxation whereby large corporations are 50% owned by governments and a small council of local interests allocates its share of the revenue. Will this idea get any play in the story?

Eric Backos said...

We can fight back. I’m working on middle school teaching certification for math and English. In response to the technophiles I have been turning in lesson plans based on using older technologies like Napier’s Bones and based on cautionary tales such as “The Dark Age” by Smith and “Crabs Take Over the Island” by Dnieprov. The response from my professors and classmates has been surprisingly mixed.
The response from the supposedly green crowd has been disappointing: s complaint about the financing of higher education with a an angry subtext directed at the fact that I’m actually doing something about the future. Of course, the technophiles I know claim that giving kids the right gadgets negates the need for training. Teaching the Trivium and Quadrivium seems to have become an all-around heresy.

PRiZM said...

It's my feeling that people trying to push technology down others' throats has been discussed at great length here on this blog, albeit not exactly on the issue of why it's pushed down our throats. Quite frankly, technology is part of the cult of progress. By not owning these technological devices, which are symbols of progress similar to the Cross being a symbol of Christianity, you are not paying homage to the modern, commonly accepted gods. Those who are not paying homage, are being ridiculed and discriminated against. It really appears to me as having all the hallmarks of religious intolerance.

Unknown said...

""I am half sick of shadows" said the Lady of Shalott"
I'm starting to agree with her. Your post from last week and this one in the cave, reinforces my feeling of living in two worlds. You've talked about this before I know. Its a funny feeling though - kind of like when I left home and I realised that the people I had spent 100% of my time with at school knew absolutely nothing about me and that my social whirl was changing. Not wanting to leave them behind but also needing to be with people who were, well, speaking in a different language.

On a brighter note, the tv is used as a shelf in my daughters bedroom for photos and nailpolish and my cell phone has now in the parlance of her and her friends reached 'old school' and/or 'retro' status. This apparently puts me in the league of drug dealers - wanting to remain untracked. I've decided I will attempt to maintain this semblance of street cred. :-)

ed boyle said...

The medium is the message. Insects, animals, whales see, hear, smell what we don't. Certain wavelengths like nuclear radiation are imperceptible but deadly. Awareness of bacteria led to a revolution in surgery, handwshing, sterilization. Thematrix films based on a japanese manga is buddhistic. This life is maya, illusion. So we are all caught on a very specific wavelength of perception in spacetime. Our TVis the human organism. If soul is infinite and perceives everything we are missing a lot. No choice here. We just have to try tobreak out. The problem is if we refuse to believe in our limitations like plato's crowd of shadow watcher's.PO, climate change and the modern brain washing mainstream technological progress meme which have brought PO and climate change about are mutually contradictory. Human progress in our modern sense of more, more, more means the end of the biosphere. Internet has videos so the criticism on that point s understandable. Perhaps you go to theater performances of tennessee williams, thornton wilder, shakespeare, euripides. These can be had on video on PC. Quality?

I mentioned in other blog of yours I begin to perceive people's feelings in my chakras. Cool. Gut feeling, heart warming, tingle down spne, cold chills are all proverbial. It's just more intense. I recall reading people who can see auras. Just imagine. What if like yoganada described that he almost droped a baby, as he saw the horrible murder it had committed in a past life. So a highly advanced guru walks into a room of strangers and sees,feels auras, past lives, maybe future lives. An insect sees us like a bli d man an elephant. A normal person sees what he wants to see or what you can hide from him by posing, smiling,lying, whatever.A demagogue can use tv, radio, media to change world.

Barrabas said...

To the extent that we cling to our gadgets , and bitterly defend them , is the extent that we are our gadgets , i suppose . If technology is the palest reflection of the sphere once removed from waking consciousness " the machinery of the universe " , Yesod , then to this end is our consciousness individually and collectively anchored in that sphere . ( Fortune - mystical qabala / JMG - paths of wisdom ) . To this sad end we refuse to migrate or combine our consciousness to the sunlit uplands beyond Platos Cave , instead opting for the more or less Luciferan lower spheres . The moment our tech stopped serving us as a species and we started serving it with our constant anxiety and awarenesss , was the moment we passed that point of dime nishing returns and began to use it as a crutch or surrogate womb for all our little Iddys... Tragic really , and self destructive , and no one is more guilty or enmeshed than i , bad , self loathing me ! ..
But wait ..there is another way ..

Andrew Crews said...

John Michael,

I think the phenomena you are discussing is related to another concept you outlined on this blog with reference to technology, the shape of time.

I think the vast majority of people not only define time by it's upward linear shape, but due to the way history has been taught in schools for the past 50 years, define time by the technology present rather than the actual date. Think of the terms the "gunpowder age, nuclear age or the bronze age." You could argue that the modern day perception of time is actually exponential and not linear. We were worthless brutes until a few rogue mavericks decided to introduce such and such technology. As our technology compounded on itself it grew exponentially until it will reach escape velocity just like our messiah rocket-ship launching us into what is completely unknown but surely assumed to be heaven among the stars.

In the information age there bias towards the present because from 10,000 bc to today we know orders of magnitude more about history the closer we get to the present. In a medieval society people probably knew more about the biblical time's than they did their own time or history. This would create a bias towards time in the past. If you take away technology as a time reference and use the dry cut dates in years history and time itself looks very different. There is no bias towards any particular date, the year 18,971 BC is no more noteworthy than 235 AD. When time itself is given its proper important and unit of measurement a look of history yields different sets of facts for me. How amazing is it that hunter gathering tribal cultures existed for almost a million years. It seems most civilizations have only lasted a few hundred years intact.

Education and culture that asserts that the only important feature of a particular date is the technology that was used, leaves people completely lost in the wilderness if technology doesn't hold to its "expected" path. The first thing many people do when they are lost in the woods is panic and begin to deny that they have no idea where they are. Why should we think people would react any different when lost in their own perception of time.

Art Deco said...

Your reply to my earler comment ; "It's as though the talking heads are simply reading a collection of headlines from a third-rate newspaper and then sticking in some video footage" brought something to mind. Here in England they literally do that on one of the news shows.
They have a section of the program like News, Sports, and Weather called "The Papers" where two or three people sit around the table and they project the front page of a series of newspapers onto a screen and the talking heads take turns talking about them. All the TV viewer can read is the headlines at best, and the commentary is so short that it's really just the headline and lead.
Seems very bizarre in a "The Media is the Message" way to me, something like the time I visited a friend's house during a sporting event of some type and noticed he had three screens on simultaneously to watch it: The big screen TV, a laptop off to the side, and his smartphone on the coffee table. There were three or four of us in the room and it was almost like the real people existed in just another window. I don't know if media displaying other media has any relevance to your post, but the image of a snake eating it's own tail came to mind.

Pavel said...

OK, one more anecdote about technological choices. Your mentioning various reactions to abstaining from some technologies reminded me a certain representative of Czech Green Party. This young man, at the time a member of city council, once told in an interview, that he does not own a fridge (and also a TV). Because he does not need it, and he considers owning too much a burden. What followed was hysterical reaction of some journalists about green extremism, living in caves etc. There was only one article on an alternative leftist server saying, that... well, he apparently lives by his principles, so what?

Martin B said...

I don't have a TV for the opposite reason to JMG. I'm addicted to it.

My country didn't have TV when I grew up. I was 25 years old when I traveled to Britain and saw TV for the first time. I can still remember the experience.

Someone ushered me into the sitting room, and there I saw a box displaying the most beautiful, glowing colors I had seen in my life. It was a movie called "The Iron Maiden" which featured brightly-painted traction engines in the lovely green English countryside.

From that moment on I was hooked. I spent far more time watching TV than experiencing a new country. Back home I continued watching TV obsessively until one day I thought to myself a grown man shouldn't be watching Oprah and Ricki Lake and Jerry Springer all the time. Since I needed a bit of ready cash I took the TV down to the pawn shop and sold it. That was 15 years ago and I don't miss it at all.

But I must confess to a weekly visit to a friend to watch my soccer team on his TV.

Doug W. said...

Well, I am sure glad I didn't respond last week. It might have really upset people. I had someone suggest to me one time that the Amish were actually a more mature society, despite their "backward ways" because their social evolution had been made consciously by their choices. They rejected the automobile, for example, because it would undermine their families, communities and way of life. Meantime, our social evolution is willy nilly with technology and devices accepted without any thought to their impact or negative influence.

Bryan Emerson said...

JMG, you have finally inspired me with this post to leave you a comment! My wife and I have purchased and read most of your books and we are loyal followers of your insightful weekly blog posts. We have been so favorably impressed with and convinced by your writings to give your vision a try. So we sold our big-city high-rise condo and semi-retired to an off-grid, off-road-system cabin with outhouse in a remote part of Alaska. And we have no interest in ever owning a TV! Should you wish more details about our new live of the past several years, feel free to read our blog at Thanks for helping to give the world an alternative vision of the future and what we might do today to create it.

Odin's Raven said...

Most of this reaction seems to be normal herd behaviour, picking on the animal that is different. People who were a bit different used to have the commonsense not to flaunt their differences. Of course nowadays it may be that those who control certain technologies are using them to manipulate the perceptions and instincts of the herd.

All those fancy technologies are supposed to be beneficial to people. Are they? Its not hard to tell. Matthew 7.20 'by their fruits ye shall know them.' Again, Galatians 5.22-3 'But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace,longsuffering, gentleness,goodness,faith,meekness, temperance:against such there is no law.'

DesertedPictures said...

I think you see a lot using technology, for technology's sake. And it's hard for people to come back from that. It's not just individuals, you see it a lot in big organisations. Things are 'improved', without thinking about the consequences. I live in the Netherlands and we had a perfect example of that, just a couple of weeks ago. In our country you have an government organisation (uwv) that is supposed to help unemployed people get jobs. This is a moderately succesfor venture, that has functioned in one form or the other, since the fifties. Basically: every unemployed person get's someone assigned to their case, that helps them prepare, or retrain, etc, for jobs. A couple of years ago the former administration had the bright idea that all those government workers helping people get jobs, where unnecessary. It could all be done much cheaper with a brand new internet-information system. The unemployed could just go online, use the system to find their ideal career-path, and everyone would get jobs.
Last week they found out that it didn't help squat: the new system helped no one and was, because of extra needed welfare money, much more expensive. So the organisation had to turn back the clock: they are going to hire new people and do the job the way it worked before. We just lost millions and millions of euro's this way, but according to all involved 'it should have worked' and it could not have been foreseen. Well, live and learn I guess...

Johnny said...

I suspect a lot of the reaction you get to choosing to not use some piece of technology are emotional. Myself, and a few people I know, are long time vegans. I have never tried to convince anyone that they shouldn’t eat animals or anything of the sort, I see it as none of my business and a matter of personal choice what people want to eat, but in the past two decades since I made this choice I can barely go more than a week without somebody discovering I’m vegan and challenging me on it, how I’m missing out, how I’m probably not getting sufficient of any assortment of minerals and vitamins they are sure meat and dairy contain in abundance, how I’m limiting my options in some hypothetical survival scenario, how some vegans died or their children died, etc.

If I manage to politely get out of this, then the real challenges start, why don’t I eat meat? “It’s not for the animals is it?” “You don’t care about animal rights do you?” And of course I say no, because I don’t want this conversation at all, I just want to eat my meal, and then I have to listen to weird confessions about how their bodies need meat, or that someone they know tried it and got sick and their doctor told them to eat meat and they got better. At any rate it just goes on and on. The only thing I can think is that people feel some sort of moral judgement must be coming from me by the mere fact that I am choosing to do something different from them, maybe they have encountered other vegans who did make judgements on them in this way, or saw some on TV, or possibly this moral judgement is internal in them, and meeting someone who’s showing that you can decide how you want to act causes this sort of weird emotional response.

For me honestly it’s a personal thing, I got into it as a means of reducing my impact on the environment, along with not driving (I never have, like yourself) and not flying places for vacations, not that I think I’m particularly green or anything, but they seemed like simple enough things I could do myself to chip in. I imagine other people chip in in ways they feel they can. One nice thing about it is that it seems to overshadow other choices I’ve made in people’s minds so I haven’t experienced so much of the technological backlash you and your readers have described.

Daergi said...

In response to Will's post - Equality and any relation it might have to industrialization/peak energy is an interesting line of inquiry. From Laurie Anderson's, Beautiful Red Dress, "You know, for every dollar a man makes a woman makes 63 cents. Now, fifty years ago that was 62 cents. So, with that kind of luck, it'll be the year 3,888 before we make a buck." I think I read recently that women are up to 74 cents. It would be hard to make a case that industrialization has achieved any parity for women, or for minorities for that matter. Certainly not in the countries where they assemble our stuff and collect resources for our Western lifestyle.

In 'Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope For A Future On Earth" by Alan Weisman he cites country after country where equality for women jumps dramatically ahead when women are given control over their reproduction. In some countries the number of women at university, after implementation of national women's health programs, comes to surpass the number of men; better jobs, more income, stable population are some of the other benefits.

In the US, women's ability to choose seems to have peaked along with peak energy. As we slide down Hubbert's peak we find that more and more states are managing to take away women's choices. Is this coincidence or is there causality?

Automation certainly makes lots of people redundant. Those redundant people are then "free" to pursue... whatever they can afford to pursue. And so we declare that they are free. With deindustrialization will so many people be able to sit uselessly on the shelf being 'free'? Will those people have access to land and access to choice about how they govern their own bodies, among other things?

Retrotopia is interesting in that choice is preserved in the face of sliding down from Hubbert's peak. Dignity and meaningful employment are also present. This, of course, is an ideal and not a certainty moving forward from here.

Jen said...

I observed last week's comments with a good deal of surprise. I have always been a bit technologically "backward," and have never really gotten most of the push back that seems so common, either in my small home town or in Austin.

If anything, many people seem to laud my decision to forgo a TV, and when I didn't have a smart phone the worst I got was a sort of affectionate disbelief (some relative got an iPhone as a free promotion right when my old clunker of a Nextel dumb phone died, so now I have one, and I must say I rather enjoy it since I downloaded the Kindle for iPhone app and now it's like a combination mobile library and electronic dictionary, plus I can get myself un-lost using Google Maps now that I've moved back to the city. Also, people used to text me even though I couldn't receive texts, and then when I didn't answer I always feared that they thought me rude, so that problem's solved). Actually, I hear people comment in a rather self-congratulatory manner all the time on their lack of smart phone, the way that some people avow their lack of understanding of sports--sort of a coded way to claim a bit of intellectual superiority. Same with not watching TV, actually.

I also don't have a microwave or toaster, and no one seems to really care (except that many people are astonished and pleased to learn that you can make toast in a normal oven, which I find hilarious). I also hate driving, and now that I'm in the city I have no vehicle, which people also seem to find laudable since most folks in Austin are at least nominal environmentalists. My refusal to drive except in cases of dire necessity did earn me a bit of haranguing in my home town, but it seemed to be largely because my driving, when I was forced to it, was so anxious and inept that people feared I lacked an essential survival skill or hadn't quite made it to adulthood or something.

If anything, the only technological refusal I've ever truly been harassed for was a refusal to grow produce using chemical poisons or to buy food grown in such a manner, and that was I think because it was perceived as hoity-toity, which is anathema in small town Texas.

I wonder if I have just happened to live in unusually illuminated milieux? It seems unlikely, especially since I have lived in a small, very conservative town, and a liberal city, and experienced the same lack of negative response in both places. I'm not strident about my choices, so I suppose it's to my advantage that I don't come off as particularly threatening or supercilious about it, but it sounds like most people who have gotten such negative reactions were just minding their own business, not projecting smugness or proselytizing about their technological abstentions.

Mister Roboto said...

Those smartphone things are cheap enough now that I would not find the cost of obtaining one unreasonable, but I still have an "old-fashioned" unsmart clamshell-phone (the kind that resembles a communicator-device on the original "Star Trek" television series) because I know it would not be a healthy thing for me to be able to take the Internet everywhere I go. I may rely on the Internet far too much to keep me company in my lonely boredom (I have no desire to personally relate to the hard-drinking, televised-sports-obsessed caucasian blue-collar folk in my immediate environment), but the Internet has always been something that I indulge once I get home and have done whatever business I have to do in the world outside my apartment, and I think I should keep it that way.

As for television, I think so much controversy and bullying exists around that technology on account of our corporate masters using it as a very effective mind-control device. Back when I was into reading New Age tracts from purported channeled entities, one claim I encountered that I still remember is that television sets are built with some kind of doo-hickey in their electronic guts that emanate a signal that renders people hypnotized and compliant. Now, this might be one of those New Age claims that makes skeptics roll their eyes and sigh, but the effect that television has on people in our society is such that it is not so easy to dismiss such claims out of hand! For those who don't object to watching the occasional movie online, I recommend John Carpenter's They Live for a fuller sense of what I'm talking about here.

Leo Knight said...

A thought provoking essay as always. The thing I notice most about television is the effort to shape the behavior of the viewer. Commercials, of course, but even during the programming. Lately, a few nostalgia channels have come on, with shows from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Almost all of the "comedies" have canned laugh tracks. I read that in the early days of live TV, producers found that live audiences laughed, or failed to, at inconvenient times, so they started playing recorded laughter during the live show to prompt the audience. The final step of eliminating the inconvenient live humans seems inevitable.

My father particularly loathed what he called "the rehash." After a major speech, or sporting event, the talking heads would proceed to tell the audience what reaction they should have. My father passed away 40 years ago, but nothing has improved since then.

I myself notice what I call "the prehash." My wife likes to watch horse races, so each year we tune in to the Triple Crown. Throughout the buildup to the race, odds makers try to predict what will happen. About a minute before post time, they show a computer generated animation of what how they think the race will go. The first time I saw this, I actually screamed at the teevee.

It goes without saying this applies to political coverage as well.

Patricia Mathews said...

Before I read the other comments - I've been thinking about the extreme reactions described in last week's comments, and it occurred to me that our tech choices must be coming across as a personal criticism of the tech-shamers and their way of life. You don't get that sort of rage without having stepped on an extremely sore toe.

As for the guy who dumped the laptop in a lap and insisted that his victim watch the show he was watching "so we can have something to talk about," it seems he was saying (screaming, rather!) "ARE YOU REFUSING TO SOCIALIZE WITH ME?!? WELL! WHO DO YOU THINK ***YOU*** ARE!"

Alas that people have to feel that way, but I have met some who take any form of dissent as a deliberate personal insult. And this seems to fit that pattern.

Leo Knight said...

A weird synchronicity: as I was typing, Cathy was watching the Macy's parade. A troupe of actors was performing a number from the musical "Finding Neverland" titled "Believe!" A cast of dozens chanting, "Believe, believe, believe!"

Paging Dr. Jung...

WwoofBum said...

What I find most amusing is that, despite a considerable history of belittling the sort of comments that are the subject of the current post, folks continue to post them. Maybe they are all just "shills," a cadre of virtual dummies that are dedicated to giving JMG fodder for another of his (justifiably) bemused diatribes against thoughtlessness? Or, maybe not.

Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, "The Denial of Death," made it all so clear, for me. When your "immortality project" is threatened you must respond, or admit that your immortality (whether physical or conceptual) is not assured by whatever cultural system you've committed to. When I die, there will be no one left to remember my father, nor his...and even I know nothing about my paternal great-grandfather. Pity the poor slobs whose basis for immortality is reverence for a smart phone.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Genevieve - I always bring my crocheting to such gatherings and tune out the TV and the programming-based babble while I work on a hat for my grandniece or whatever the project is.

@Clark - when you said "So many drivers act as if we are all playing a competitive game that it's hard not to respond by adopting a competitive gaming frame of reference myself. On the way to work. Every. Day. It infects the personality of many, I am sure." I had to laugh. Decades ago I was working myself up to another fit on anger over why nobody on the road would ever let me into their lane, and applied Miller's Law - "assume it's true and find out what it could be true of." Well, as a track mom of longstanding, I realized immediately "what it was true of." A race! In which, if they let me in ahead of them, they would lose! So, not having an entry in this road race, I started hanging back and slipping into their lane behind them. I've had very little trouble changing lanes ever since.

At least it works in New Mexico. Not sure how well it would work in other states, having given up long road trips ever since.

BTW, my children think my distaste for driving on the Interstate and preference for surface streets is Little Old Lady timidity. It probably is.

barrymelius said...

A few years ago I came across the phrase"overburdened by technology". Slowly the light dawned. Being lazy at heart made me realize how much work all this stuff was. Today I am a recovering technology addict. Keeping the parts that work for me and am slowly getting rid of the rest. Making progress. I see I am in good company.

Lynnet said...

@JMG "that my lack of enthusiasm for television obviously meant that I was conspiring to deprive everyone else of their teevees"

Not too surprising. It's so common today that a believer in one or another creed, such as evangelical Christianity or veganism, is not comfortable unless EVERY other person in society holds exactly the same views as they do and manifests those beliefs in their lives. If other members of the society don't believe in the creed, some believers will do everything in their power to force it upon them, by shaming, legislation, or any other means foul or fair. People with this attitude naturally believe that everyone with a preference will be trying to enforce their preference on others (just like liars tend to think everyone else is a liar too).

@Gary Shannon. Yes, exactly. At 71, nobody hassles me about not doing Facebook, Smartphones, texting, Snapchat, the Cloud..... don't get me started on the Cloud. My files on somebody else's computer: what could possibly go wrong?

patriciaormsby said...

I know a certain number of people who are trying to urge a sort of magical thinking onto others, in the belief that if we all pray hard enough or believe strongly enough in a a bright future, and of course not just any bright future, but the particular future they are touting as the only good one, we can achieve it. Some of them express this view explicitly and are quite aware that they are doing so. They consider themselves leaders and urge everyone else to follow. Others probably don't even realize they are afraid that if too few people agree with them the future will keep heading off in the wrong direction, as it clearly is. The problems just keep stacking up, and if other people would just achieve the future we've been promised. That is probably a good part of what is driving the unpleasantness. I'm a true believer in staying low key, because when the SRDHTF they are going to want scapegoats to go and atone for whatever sins got us all into that mess.

Ahavah said...

Dear Toomas,

Thank you for your help. I have passed your suggestions along with those of JMG. LPFM stations have a lot of restrictions that are primarily designed to prevent us from actually being able to complete with commercial stations. Predatory capitalism always defends is turf and has bought and paid-for govt regulators to enforce their will. That being said, wlxl is supposed to be pointed toward the NW part of the county. Since I can pick it up well south of there, maybe there is some problem with the way the transmitter is configured that can be fixed. The sister station will be on the air by April and will be pointed to the NE. I will be curious to see what it's actual range turns out to be.

Also, if anyone can find it in their heart to help us a bit, the local nonprofit community foundation is having a fundraiser featuring 100 small local nonprofits and we are included. In addition to funds raised, there are prizes such as money to begin an endowment fund that we could win.

Hope everyone is having a great day, whether or not it is Thanksgiving where you are. Peace!

Chris Smith said...

Last week's post was excellent (even shared it to Facebook!). And I have to say that I am dumbfounded by the hostility to technological choice. I can never figure out why some people need me to validate their choices. Who knew I was that influential.

Back in the 90s, I taught philosophy at Tulane University, usually this included symbolic logic. Tulane added a new model technology classroom to Newcomb Hall (where philosophy was taught). It had computer connections (wired - no wifi yet), a projection screen, and multimedia capabilities. There was a bit of competition to book this room for teaching a class. I never joined in though. Why?

I taught symbolic logic. A chalkboard was the best tool to work proofs and analyze sentences in natural language. It was easy to write on, and easy to erase which is what you need when you are working through proofs or carving up sentences. You also want people to make errors when you are teaching them logic - its necessary for the learning process. You see you got it wrong, track down the problem and start erasing. You cannot do this anywhere near as easily on a computer. (Unless you are using a stylus and projecting on a screen - of course, you are just using a glorified electronic chalkboard at that point.) Powerpoint (a program I despise) would have been worse than useless.

I think I got accused of wanting to return to "the caves" a few times. Hmm, no caves around New Orleans, but the free cool air would have been nice and I could have wheeled a chalkboard into it.

Even when I taught "regular" philosophy (the kind that doesn't look like math) I avoided the technology room. I preferred pulling my students (at least the ones who cared) into a discussion. You can't have a discussion when all eyes are on the screen.

I have nothing against computers in education, the question is just the application.

Spanish fly said...

"I want some kind of actual interaction"...

Dan Stoian said...

I couldn't get to comment on last weeks' post to up the comment number, but given that the topic is still (partially) on, I have to chip in here. It just aches.

My father – in his 60's – is an avvid technology user, he keeps trying to have the latest gadget at hand thinking somehow that it wil improve on his productivity (he is after all a workoholic). I on the other hand am more relaxed, I quit TV a few years ago (had a couple of days of some sort of withdrawal syndrome), don't miss it now, don't have one at home, no MW oven, dishwasher, clothes dryer. Still use though my smartphone as I apparently must be within our customer's reach at all times (or else!) and we have more than one car. We (my family and my parents') are not on the lower end of the social scale.

Thing is my dad tried for a few years to convince me I need a TV (he's the kind that has one on at home, all the time), especially the period just after I moved to a new house. He used to come visit and sit uneasily on the couch and during the first few minutes suggest we get a TV set. Eventually that subsided, but it was rather difficult to convince him to turn off his TV when we went to visit at his house with my son (almost 4 years old now). Even now, when we go visit him, he looks at me when entering, with the same question on his lips: “should I turn the TV off?” even though we've had the same talk over and over again.

He insisted as well we should get a drone – as we regularly inspect rather high buildings (we sometimes work together), in the idea that it would be a great help. I argued with him that it would not bring much added value to our business (actual value, not only high-tech wiz image value) but he would not take it. We eventually got one and the result is that it is easier to get good quality photos of the buildings that we inspect. But the price paid for a marginal advantage is rather high. And maintenance of the device is a new topic in the picture now, and training for an operator as well. And if I have to actually measure something up there, I still have to climb. On the up side, I enjoy playing with it...

I also use a bicycle to get around whenever weather permits and I feel like (the two combined don't even yield a lot of opportunities to do so). He almost always asks “is anything wrong with your car?” if he sees me on the bike.
Once, I insisted he drop me off a few hundred meters away from home, as it was not in his way to drop me off at home. You should have seen his face when asking “and how are you going to get home, will you... WALK?”, as if the notion of walking more than 10 meters was untihnkable.

end part 1

Dan Stoian said...

part 2 continued

Mind you, we're in eastern europe and until some 25 years ago we used to live in a completely different, imposed, world. No tech, no wiz. I guess some of what drives him is a desire to recoup what he's been missing earlier, but while I know him as a reasonably cerebral and an intelligent person otherwise, whenever we get to technology he keeps saying more is better without taking into account advantages and disadvantages and rejecting any evidence as to how expensive and difficult to produce technology is. It's like something is blinding him.

Still I must tell you that TV penetration is rather high and pretty much everyone is in the “I've got the latest smartphone” competition, regardless of social condition – even though general tech penetration level around is quite low, wages are generally low and general quality of life is not at its highest. I guess he takes example from what he sees in the western world – looking at what he sees as his peers over there.

His views are shared mostly among the reasonably well off to the point that the reaction to the introduction of a trolleybus line in the area where we live was generally met with incredulous replies in line with “and who's going to use it?” as opposed to the not so well of people who cheered at it.

I've noticed that the only acceptable direction for him is “forward”, after me having once mentioned something about permaculture and the like he almost had a fit about the impossibility of returning to work the land and whatnot.

Luckily for my mental health I have found people that share our (me and gf) view of technology: we use it when and if actually useful – incomprehensible for my father why I do not fully commit to the tech trend (I am also a hamradio operator, I can configure a computer and am competent at all sorts of tech stuff – but I do not buy into everything that comes along).

I guess it comes down to a different "Weltanschauung" in the end, combined with the addictive/blinding capacity of media/social media. I am (more or less secretly – as my dad would see it as something unfathomable) preparing for the unwinding that's to come, for the pension that I won't get and so on while he tells me that I've just got to work on and good things will come.

tazmic said...

A sociology professor I know said he had post-docs who were paid by the UK government to determine how well the population were being conditioned to accept the new technologies.

It's worth keeping in mind the potential hubris of assuming the people busy painting the walls of the cave for us are the stupid ones.

Anyway, Rifkin has already told everyone that everything will be okay:

and the technocratic plan already drawn up:

Luddene Perry said...

I can’t help but suspect that the “you gotta get with technology” meme has something to do with the waning days of religion. The Pew Foundation keeps surveying us and it is obvious that religion is standing on its last legs in American. For millennium there have been some sort of moral strictures that the shamans, priests, or preachers were hysterical about. It was a good way to control society and probability necessary back in the day. It what was keeping the men in the cave facing the wall. But now our over-grown legal system has superseded that need.

For example, I lived through the first days of the “pill.” It finally has done what the opponents claimed it would: break down socially acceptable sexual behavior. However, no one could imagine in 1961 that 50 years later the pill would lead the Supreme Court would actually go for same-sex marriage. I’m reminded of what a Supreme Court justice – can’t remember which one – said in Loving vs. Virginia (1967). Something like: “…would allowing Negroes and whites to marry lead to allowing brothers and sisters to be allowed to marry”? The thought that two men might marry didn’t even come to mind.

The point I’m think I’m trying to make is that once you don’t have the moral strictures confirmed by religious views, we make them up. Not watching my favorite TV show? Shame on you. What wrong with you? You don’t have a smart phone – I get that a lot. Personally, I suspect this same thing is happening on a much wider scale with food as opposed to technology. The imposed moral strictures concerning eating the “right” food today is every bit as controlling as kosher food laws once were, and in some communities still.

Ray Wharton said...

@ jbucks

I was amused by the subheading of your linked article. "Progressives need to rediscover their Promethean ambitions and counter green ideologies that hold us back and won’t save the planet "

At a young age I learned to watch what others do and judge how it worked out for them before imitating it. I read up on Prometheus, his theft of fire, and decided that I don't think I would want to imitate him. I prefer my liver uneaten.

Kyoto Motors said...

Well, I must chime in here... should have last week, but time just did not permit.
To get into specifics, T.V. is a good place to start. I don't necessarily dislike the medium. I could watch a good film on T.V. with considerable satisfaction -- though a film projection in a cinema is always preferable. What I dislike about T.V. is more the content, and specifically the "spectacle" of the medium, which involves so much advertising (ideological programming of viewers, propaganda, and consumerism all rolled into one stream of unconsciousness). And of course this spectacle has made enormous inroads into the content of the actual shows, never mind the highly produced commercials. I will suffer through some of this from time to time to watch a good hockey game, but I have gravitated to listening to these on the radio, which frees one up to actually do other things while taking in the action. T.V. watching is SO passive. Then there's the issue of what the mesmerizing effects of the flickering image has on the brain -- especially those of younger viewers. Terrible stuff. Video games are even worse, but I'll stop there -- for now!

Ahavah said...

Regarding the techno wars and crashing now before the rush, I think most people are probably doing what we're doing - just not replacing dead gadgets with new gadgets, but with older acoustic versions, if you will. That leaves us with some very odd combinations of tech and not-tech which honestly doesn't make any coherent philosophical sense because it can't. I have no way to predict what gadget will die next. We are to poor to throw away previously invested funds. So I am sure what we do have and don't have could be interpreted to be somewhat hypocritical. We can only adapt on an as needed basis. But perhaps slow and steady wins the race after all...

Regarding the generational differences, it is far too simplistic to lump everybody together by age. At least in our community, a very stratified social structure exists that transcends age, race, religious affiliation, and even political philosophy to some extent. The elite stay with their own, and look out for their own interests, period. They don't even acknowledge the realities of the lower classes, or if they do, they play the blame the victim game. Even wealthy philanthropists give primarily to feel-good large national charities with little to no real local impact, to arts, or to something that will have a plaque with their name on it. Almost never do they give to house the homeless, or volunteer to cook for the hungry (except as a photo op around Christmas), or work for any real local social justice. They have no real concern for others. Not only that, they don't understand why they even should. They can't think in theme of whole systems, I guess. They can hardly see beyond the ends of their noses.

Howard Skillington said...

I once read a short story in which time had inexplicably reversed its flow. Lost loved ones were yielded from graves, rejuvenated; life’s vector proceeded from old age to youth; infants reentered the womb, never to be seen again.

For those of us who believe in causality that’s a preposterous premise, but it does strike me as an apposite metaphor for what will happen to modern technology in the times ahead. The most recent wonders will be the first to be unborn.

Last week I attended a high-level crafts fair where I visited with a furniture maker from New Zealand. We talked about his four-year apprenticeship and discussed methods and techniques. At that same event I was introduced to a man who is selling CNC laser stations. The “woodworker” just lays a piece of wood beneath the laser, feeds a file to its computer, and the mechanism proceeds to machine the wood.

Very soon in the rewinding of technology this system will reenter the womb of collapse. Any effort expended in mastering the system will have been wasted. And, for those who have never learned to surface a board with a hand plane, it may then be too late.

Hello... said...

Dear John Michael Greer--

i wanna respond before i read the comments here and say THANK YOU. KEEP GOING. THIS IS SO PERFECT.

i have a lot more to write, maybe a few postings, but i wanted to say THANK YOU/KEEP GOING/AND THIS IS SO PERFECT.

the less i use the phone/email, the more i've clicked into a bigger synchronicity with people. and it IS getting bigger. and yet feels...SMALLER. love your cave analogy, as i've been madly mixing my metaphors as i struggle to explain these new "bends" i get from pushing through to different levels. but squinting in the light is way more apt.

and on that note, i must stop or i'll miss the day! happy holiday to you all out there here and out there all over this world. and i've got more to say to you, Shane Wilson.

but later. for now, i stay here in this sad, dying city of san francisco that has turned into a bastion of money and contempt, because i MUST. i am of the class brought up to take a punch and i cannot possibly find it interesting now to run away elsewhere for my own mere "safety", although i've fantasized about it plenty of times. but i only see day two of us as runaways. and when you're poor, there's nowhere really to go. that's the thing, right?

also, don't put revolt/rebellion off on the kids. they've already dried up on the "instinct to live" and don't get aroused with each other anymore. they are lost causes without the rest of us who REMEMBER pieces of the light outside, stepping up adn getting in physical and emotional shape for all this that is here and coming.

we're all connected. you can't outrun this thing. that's the thing: none of us were ever SUPPOSED to. there's nowhere to go. no mars. we all pee in the water. there is no real separate smoking section. and like the reader who wrote about a constant level of discomfort to stay awake, i'm trying to figure out how to jujitsu all this mad chafing and cutting.

but for good. i keep being reminded by the men who see this, the poets, that the artist's job is to turn poison into MEDICINE. if i run, it's all theoretical BS. i've gotta stay here, where i live, my HOME, and fight.

and i've got it GOOD. so i must stay and learn how to surf this. and help others surf it. because yeah... it's gonna probably get pretty bad, anyhow. this revolt thing, i mean.

more later and thank you so much for this, John Michael Greer. yes. that is the agony of NOW. they are clamping way down on anyone the least bit different any the tiniest of ways.

the civil rights movement had role playing to practice passive resistance so that you'd be prepared and know how to channel your instinct to lash out, fight back. and this is sort of like that, but on another level of reality.

that's the thing no one really wants to mention. even those of us who're completely mystified and still baffled about this...dimension of light and depth and how to navigate it without trying to NAME it, and thus KILL it.

because it seems to exist most strongly without naming any of it. just paying attention. that's how SIMPLE it is! go figure.

thank you again. magic is happening. it always, IS, i know. but now it seems to be speeding up. and the others i find here, keep acting like it's NORMAL. so i'm heartened that i'll adapt and not be such an ineffectually gawking tourist forever!


PRiZM said...

The idea of the cult of progress mirroring especially the religion of Christianity has been festering around inside of my head all day until it burst.. into the beginning of the 10 Commandments of Progress..

Thou shalt not worship any god.. only mankind and his technological prowess.
Thou shalt not kill progress. Thou must buy new technological devices as often as possible.

..I think it could be a fun exercise to see the possible parallels. If anyone else is willing, and if it isn't being disrespectful or distasteful, I'd love to see more additions and develop it a bit more.

temporaryreality said...

in 2010 the NYT had an article about people who chose not to heat their homes. The tone of the article (found here: is one of slightly genteel befuddlement rather than ridicule, which was refreshing. Having lived in south-of-the-Yangtze China, where houses are not generally heated or insulated (though many locations are subject to snow and freezing), I've picked up a skillset that involves clothing layers, hot-water bottles, going outside in the sun (warmer than the house), drinking tea, etc.

Back in California, we only periodically turned on the forced air in the various apartments we lived in for a number of years. Now, though, the kids are older and seem less flexible (fashion dictates much), my husband embraces upwardly-mobile trappings and habits probably in reaction to growing up in Cultural Revolution austerity, and my 70 year old father lives with us in a single-family home. It took me a few weeks this Oct/Nov to train him off wearing shorts and turning the heat on. This summer I couldn't get him to open his windows at night and so he repeatedly "needed" AC to cool his room. I only partially blame encroaching dementia. Mostly it's a lifetime of expecting convenience and comfort and purely reflexive (rather than reflective) living.

Here we are, making different technological choices in one household and I find that when there isn't agreement (as other readers have noted about their familial connections/significant others), the low-techer has a harder time living their "lifestyle choice." I am not capable of convincing my family members of much (let alone changing aspects of the greater society). I'm trying hard to not take it as though my path is diverging from my family. I'm gradually tugging them along with me as best I can - even if it's just through conversation and slight tweakings to the thermostat (etc.). If I were to extrapolate our microcosm onto the future of greater society, I'm not too hopeful about the majority collapsing before it's required. This family: 1/5th aspiring green wizard making concessions and selling-out in some areas (me), 2/5ths BAU (husband and dad) and 2/5ths (the teenagers) recognizing decline intellectually but often wishing not to act on their knowledge mixed with finding some green-wizardry as natural as breathing.

I guess my point, playing off A Post Millenial's, is just that it's easy to generalize about people and their groups (from small scale couples/families to locales and generations) - but the abstraction doesn't show the complexity of reality. Not only is each family a microcosm, our society is an amalgamation of all phases of energy reliance and resource use. No wonder we struggle.

Jason Heppenstall said...

JMG said: "As people in a variety of other corners of the world have pointed out, identical outrages happen all over the Third World every few days."

I once spent a depressing couple of months in 2008 working as an online report writer for a 'security bulletin'. The company, as far as I could make out, offered some kind of expensive real-time news service for wealthy individuals and companies with business interests in the Third World. Generally, there would be an email update every three or four hours featuring the latest atrocity. Usually it would be a group of 'freedom fighters' (and this is how I learned there is an entire universe of rebel groups out there) gunned down by security forces. These would tend to feature a handful of deaths, but every few days it would be several dozen or even multiple hundreds (the bigger ones tended to be in East Africa or the Congo). You'd never read about these in the news, but rest assured that multiple groups of people die in a hail of bullets and bombs every day. Usually it would be Africa, India, South America (especially in the Amazon region) and Papua New Guinea - anywhere with big extractive industries, basically. The US cropped up every now and again too.

I imagine if the Middle East were to be included I'd have been getting an awful lot more emails.

Alex said...

Steck - You could get to know me; I don't have a car, yes, even though I'm in car-crazy California. In my Universe, cars are playthings of the rich, costing what I make in a year to own and operate.

But happy Thanksgiving! I'm going to take the train up to San Francisco today and wander around Fisherman's Wharf, give a few bucks to any decent buskers I come across, have a decent meal, and enjoy myself with no parking worries.

Kyoto Motors said...

To follow up on my last comment, I'd like to continue on the subject of cars -- my attitude to which is similar to my regard for television. The main difference is that cars do have a decidedly practical functionality such that even one who tries to do much with my bike trailer as I do, resorts to using the local car-share service from time to time. Ideologically speaking, the Car's presence in our society is super problematic to be sure, and the reasons I refuse to own one are many. In a downtown urban setting it's not hard to find like-minded compatriots either, but the car-driving conformists threatened by the likes of me outnumber us enormously... The common thread that I see between all these technologies (TV, cars, cell phones, etc.) is that we are conditioned to accept the industrial scaled, consumerist business model of their application, the real agenda behind which is that of immense disparity in power and wealth, widespread distribution of technology notwithstanding. The question that comes to mind is whether (for example) the common use of cars would even be possible if the "business model" used was strictly based on communal/ sharing applications? Or, what if advertising was not allowed on TV?

Cathy McGuire said...

Okay, I'll say Happy Thanksgiving again, since I was comment 409 on the last post! ;-) Congrats on creating such a response, JMG, and I hope you and your wife have a wonderful turkey or tofurky day. I'm thankful for this blog and for the green wizards I've met through it.

I confess to having been glued to the computer during the French bombings (I have no tv), but partly because I am a communications major, and the first live broadcasts give a unique chance to see the action as it's happening, not as it's spun later - and I have a compulsion for seeing the process of spinning and smoothing and the whole (usually non-transparent) process of media reporting. I was moved by the tragedy, very much so, but a part of me is always monitoring the reporters - what gets dropped in a later report, what gets "spun"... fascinating.

As to the rest - I'm always dropping jaws when I tell folks what technology I don't own or use. I've gotten used to it, but sometimes the less than subtle contempt or pity does sting a bit (only when I'm off-balance for some other reason). But when I hear about their bills, I'm the one who's smug! :-)

Eric Backos said...

Aw, rats! I read my fellow readers' posts and then noticed typos in my own post. I believe the techno-term is “facepalm.” To set a good example for my students, I submit this corrected copy. (With double extra apologies for any offended parties.)

We can fight back. I’m working on middle school teaching certification for math and English. In response to the technophiles, I have been turning in lesson plans based on using older technologies like Napier’s Bones and based on cautionary tales such as “The Dark Age” by Smith and “Crabs Take Over the Island” by Dnieprov. The response from my professors and classmates has been surprisingly mixed.
The response from the supposedly green crowd has been disappointing: A complaint about the financing of higher education with an angry subtext directed at the fact that I’m actually doing something about the future. Of course, the technophiles I know claim that giving kids the right gadgets negates the need for training. Teaching the Trivium and Quadrivium seems to have become an all-around heresy.

Goldmund said...

"Techno progress" still seems to be the secular religion of the land, but from at least my perspective here in Minneapolis there seems to be a shift occurring that convinces me that the taboo against "going backward" is losing its grip. One example is bike riding. When I first began biking through the city, over 30 years ago, there was absolutely no public infrastructure that supported this activity, none- no bike lanes, no off road bike paths, no bike racks to lock your bike to downtown. I would often get hostile reactions from car drivers, even though I was practically riding on the curb, to "get the hell off the street, streets are for cars!" Some even tried driving me off the road. The difference now couldn't be more dramatic. Biking culture, while not nearly as prevalent as car culture, receives much support from the city as well as the general public, with bike lanes and paved paths- even bridges- built exclusively for bicycles and pedestrians all over the twin cities. Same goes for urban gardening. While people once were fined for tearing up their front lawns and growing food now the practice has taken off with support from local government, and you can even get a discount off your monthly water bill if you plant a rain garden in your yard. Each year I see more people tearing up the grass and restoring their yards to native plant communities or planting food gardens like people did during the Great Depression. It's these kinds of activities that are making me a bit more hopeful for the future.

Seaweed Shark said...

This post reminded me, perhaps inappropriately, of John Ruskin's comment from Fors Clavigera, when he faced a similar kind of response to his published criticism of modern technology in the mid-19th century (Fors Clavigera was a kind of blog of its day): "My correspondent doubts the sincerity of my abuse of railroads because she suspects I use them. I do so constantly, my dear lady; few men more. I use everything that comes within reach of me. If the devil were standing at my side at this moment, I should endeavour to make some use of him.... The wisdom of life is in preventing all the evil we can; and using what is inevitable, to the best purpose."

Kyoto Motors said...

@J.D.Smith & @MarshallTravis
The first of the Matrix movies serves as a pretty good metaphor akin to the platonic cave as well... "Captive consumers" being an established term, we are at least partially aware of the situation.

Jerry Silberman said...

Just amazes me that so many people apparently read your blog posts repeatedly for the sole purpose of rejecting what you have to say. Haven't quite figured out the psychological needs which drive that behavior.
I read, and circulate, because you very often have very useful insights...

pygmycory said...

Amidala has a couple of nice one liners in those movies. My favorite is "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause."
I also like
"What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?"
It's a bit cumbersome, but it gets the point across.

I fear they may prove apt in the next few years to some nations that are currently democracies.

aiastelamonides said...


Just the other day I was talking with some tech-minded friends about technologies as filters of reality, the different kinds of filters and anti-filters (glasses being the main example of an anti-filter), and the possible dangers created by them. In the course of our discussion, the topic of the Inevitability of Progress came up (specifically, the question was whether progress in creating alternative realities for ourselves and progress in exploring the universe and discovering its nature are compatible, and if not which is the more inevitable). One fellow argued that the former of the two guises of Progress was irresistible on the evidence of "the fact that even [Aias] will eventually own a smartphone." This choice bit of circular reasoning was from someone ordinarily very thoughtful and intelligent.

- Aias

The other Tom said...

Happy Thanksgiving, JMG.
Although you have vehemently denied that you will take away our TVs, for the sake of domestic tranquility I propose the following Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
"A well regulated Media, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear TVs, shall not be infringed."

pygmycory said...

re the status of women and agriculture. Most of the small farmers and food gardeners I know are female. Ditto people working with textiles and fibers. The big exception is contruction/repair which seems to be mostly men. So I don't know that things need to go back to the way they were before the industrial revolution.

Hugo Costa said...

I think that the Plato cave is a very good alegory. That's the way I feel when I try to explain my mother why I'm not going to University. She keeps saying that I need a course, how would I survive in the job market. When I try to explain my circumstances, she just repeats ehat she said and uses an enormous amount of thoughtstoppers (eg 'those are apocalyptical predictions; ''they' also said that all ice would have melted by 2000'), it's really, really hard.I can't fight it; her head is in one place and won't leave it.

Hugo Costa said...

I'm trying to learn biointensive gardening and maybe help, in the future, to establish community gardens in my home country, Portugal. The fact that food is more important than money just doesn't get in her head

samuraiartguy said...

"If people are in fact allowed to choose, from among the currently available technologies, those that make them happiest—as the cheerleaders of the consumer economy delight to insist—what could possibly be wrong with choosing some old technologies and some newer ones, if that’s the mix you prefer?"

Sounds perfectly legit to me, and for that matter, for me.

As a Graphic & Web Designer I am career dependent on a rather particular stack of high technologies. We have high-speed internet, but no cable TV service. When I hooked up after moving, the Comcast rep pointed out that a Business account at a residential address could not provide cable TV and I would need an additional residential account.
I said we were fine without, and he was stunned into speechlessness. He could not fathom we were perfectly content without. We do not own a television. We're quite happy with streaming the media we care for over our 'Net connection.

I somewhat reluctantly picked up an iPhone as it was a good deal, but made do with the absolute bottom basic phone for years. But there are many concessions to high technology that I do adopt to be professionally relevant, not because our friends/family/neighbors insist upon it. Facebook in moderation, but not twitter. I just don't care for it, so perfectly content to not twit about like a 13 year old girl.

I do have the Adobe Creative Cloud... and slightly resent not directly "owning" my professional tools. But I do need those tools to remain professionally relevant. But I cast my critical craftsman's eye across lower cost alternatives that won't blip out and die if I don't fling my monthly tariff to Adobe or a future glitch with the Holy 'Net causes my workstation to not routinely check in with the 450 kilo gorilla Adobe mothership. On the other hand, I have acquired a pair of used drafting tables and working on re-acquiring other practical tools of Design in the physical world vs the purely digital one.

It's of course the not entirely crazed notion of descending gradually, as opposed to collapsing with the rest of the monkeys.

Paulo said...

I laughed at the idea of Plato's cave dwellers being glued to a tv instead of a fire's reflection. Right on!

It is curious, these attacks from others about ones' decisions, almost as if they feel threatened by them. About 10 years ago my wife and I sold our house in town and relocated an hours drive west in a rural valley on Johnstone Strait. We built a beautiful smallish home on a tidal river. People simply could not believe we did this. Friends cannot believe we wash our own dishes in a sink, and laugh at my 5 year supply of firewood. Somehow, splitting wood for heat and exercise is weird, but going to a gym and mindlessly lifting iron on a bar, or running on a treadmill makes sense? My good friend often says to me, "I love my Kindle, I can't imagine living with out one", as if my reading books doesn't really count. Of course we don't have a cell phone as they don't work here, thank God. I usually can be reached by landline before 7:30 am, or between 6:00 - 8:00 in the evening. Oh the horrors, "We can never get a hold of you guys"!! And if I drop into the pub for a beer to see some past friends it is normal enough to hear someone hum the duelling banjos theme from Deliverence as I get up to go home. (If they only knew I am now learning the banjo and making pretty good progress to boot!!) I think that one fine day, maybe in a year or two, I'll carry into that pub my banjo and play that song. What a wonderful goal!! I can hardly wait to see their faces! Maybe someone will snap a picture on their cell phone, or pose with me in their selfie.

will said...

Post-Millennial - no lengthy response from me cos I don't think this is really germane to JMG's current topic. But sure, you're right, there's all manner of bleed-over from one generation to the next. Nonetheless, each generation - if we reckon a generation to be 12-14 years in duration, which coincides with Pluto shift from one sign to another - we can see that each generation really does have an astrological imprimatur that it clearly manifests. In this sense, each generation is a discreet entity; think of it as an astro-branding. (and factor in Neptune along with Pluto)

Anyway, I was speculating on the causes of the social animus directed at the neo-Victorians and their like, which I admit I find baffling, particularly since some of the animus comes from the self-proclaimed Green and Hip. Personally I think the neo-V's are freaking awesome, to be greatly admired, and that their faces should be on postage stamps. 

buddhabythelake said...

@ JMG "Glad also to hear of your decision to enter local politics. That's where some of the crucial steps will be taken next."

I appreciate the encouragement, John. While I have been involved on the city Planning Commission (an advisory board dealing with zoning, land use, conditional use permits, and the like) for about five years now, this would be my first foray into electoral politics. Fortunately, here in Wisconsin, local races (town/village/city/county) are nonpartisan by law. I doubt I will ever (ever, ever) get involved above the county level. One's soul gets eaten once the party machines sink their teeth into you.

Helen Highwater said...

It's not just technology that people try to force on others. Declining to participate in various cultural practices often elicits the same kind of response. I remember when my son once mentioned at school that we weren't having a Christmas tree. When asked why, he said that his mother didn't want to have one. (It was actually because I'm a Pagan and don't celebrate Christmas.) But nonetheless, my son was sent home from school with a Christmas tree, purchased out of a fund for the disadvantaged. It was assumed that it couldn't possibly be that I didn't want a Christmas tree, but that I must not have been able to afford one. He also was sent home with a turkey that Christmas, even though the school knew our family was vegetarian. Apparently even vegetarian families are supposed to eat turkey on the culturally appropriate occasions. I know they meant well, but I felt that our freedom to be different was not acceptable.

Even though it limits my circle of friends, I'm mostly stopped hanging out with people who continually respond to texts or answer their phone while we are spending time together. I feel that they don't care enough about our time together to be there with their whole selves.

Brian Kaller said...


I’ve been reading the last series of posts with great interest, and find they match my own experience. Rather than simply add my experiences to the long list here, I’d like to bring up a few related points.

Firstly, it’s not just that more people are increasingly adopting technology in their private lives – it’s that technology has invaded public spaces until it’s almost impossible to escape their influence. For example, I find it increasingly difficult to ride the bus, eat at a restaurant, work in an office, or relax in a coffee shop, without loud music blaring over loudspeakers, interfering with normal reading or conversation.

In our office there is a daily battle to get the pop music turned down, and the idea offends many people – “What would we listen to?” they ask. I invested in my own headphones to listen to something else, but this also makes conversation more difficult, and it takes away my right to silence.

The same is true of television screens. Just in the time we’ve lived in Ireland, it seems, more and more pubs have abandoned the conversation or sing-a-longs for which they were traditionally known; many have purchased wide-screen televisions, and more patrons just sit there staring at it. More and more restaurants too have a television on the wall, playing television while people are trying to eat. I have even seen offices that set up televisions on every wall – showing company propaganda rather than actual programming, but programming all the same.

Secondly, I notice that many people – especially in my native USA – regard adopting the latest technology not just as a fashion, but as a patriotic or religious duty. I hear many people talk about “supporting the economy” – meaning the money economy, a coalition of international corporations, beholden to no one -- as though they are tithing in church. I can’t tell you how often I hear people stare at their glowing rectangles and make announcements about how “the economy” is doing, as though they have sworn loyalty to it rather than to their family or community, and as though they have some control over it.

Finally – while I largely agree with you and everyone here about the dangers of technology, and have argued as much in my own life – I would argue that just using technology sparingly makes a big difference.

For example, I know many people who only watch one television programme, and gather at friends’ homes to watch it 12 times a year or however often it is on, and live the rest of their lives largely media-free. They find their television gatherings a powerful experience, partly because they are seeing it with others, but partly because they are not surrounded by such things all the time. For my part, I watch old black-and-white films with my daughter, and have written about their value in envisioning a low-tech future.

When our ancestors saw plays or operas, or my grandparents saw cinema in the 1930s, I suspect they felt a power and catharsis that few of us will ever know, precisely because what they experienced was so different from their daily life. Just as loudspeakers playing the same songs over and over prevent me from ever enjoying those songs again, so does constant exposure to television or media rob us of the ability to savour them.

Thank you for your posts,

Brian Kaller

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, I did indeed. "To pummel the city councillors, see them fleeing before you, and hear the lamentations of the media -- that is best."

JoAnna, delighted to hear it. I'm beginning to think that it's time to campaign for the right to be unfashionable!

Steve, I ain't arguing. This week's post is presenting a minimalist case -- "it's perfectly okay not to use the latest trendy technotrash" -- but yes, there are deeper issues as well, and deeper reasons to back away from said technotrash. As for Twitter, beats me. If a potter makes pots, by the way, what does Twitter make?

Clark, exactly. Every technology is a filter; every technology has built-in biases; every technology shapes the behavior of its users. That is to say, technology is never neutral and never value-free.

Misty, that's a good point -- and a very relevant one. It doesn't bode well for the long term, either...

Ray, I'm glad I don't see television news more than once in a blue moon. As for alternative stories, well, yes -- that's one of the core things this blog is about.

Repent, if people are really starting to wake up and ask those questions, that's a good thing in one sense and a very worrying thing in another -- the latter because most Americans these days have no idea how to sort out good answers from bad ones, and a plausible demagogue with a lot of easy answers could go very, very far.

Trog, that's heartwarming. I can imagine a family sitting around the living room after a good Thanksgiving dinner, relaxing by turning televisions into scrap metal -- certainly the most family-oriented thing you can do with a TV!

Nick, of course alt-media will be censored eventually; it's not censored now, because having it out there in the open makes it much easier for the authorities to keep track of would-be dissidents, a vast number of whom don't seem to realize that every word they text or type is going straight to a NSA database. The challenge you face is learning how to establish relationships in the real world (the internet, remember, is not the real world) that will carry on when censorship finally comes. That's your fate; will you rise to meet it?

Gary, oh, granted. I'd just like to make things easier for those who don't yet have that advantage.

Jbucks, "The truth is that we can stop climate change and deliver expanding wealth for all" is exactly the kind of thinking that's going to hasten the collapse of industrial civilization and the death of billions. The truth, rather, is that you can't have limitless growth on a finite planet, no matter how badly you want it or how many buzzwords ("decoupling") you invent to try to justify it. I'm afraid, though, that that's only going to be clear to the descendants of the survivors...

Hubertus Hauger said...

Fascinating! Just today I had an encounter with an old friend of mine. He asked me for feedback to an article of him. I wrote it down for him in a paragraph. Because he didn´t comment on it, I pressed upon him, to tell me, how he thought about it. He responded: "Well, I see that´s your belief, how future will be. You are a doomer" Well, true. What I actually did, I gave him some tought of a simple rural villagepeople life I imagined. On the contrary he discribed, what I told him, as concentration-camp quarrymen. After I insisted on my idea being rather different, little while passed and he told me with a flat voice, I should let him go, because he be tired. So I said good bye.

What a coincidence, as we just happen to disscuss that bias-ridden people, who do insist on misunderstanding what we talk about or simply run away, it just happened to me today. Astonishing. I am even amused.

I didn´t give it so much thought before, than I do it together with all of you just now. Ignorance, i.e. not knowing and really not wanting to know anyway! I find it funny, how well ignorance is describing this pattern.

thecrowandsheep said...

Although I generally hold most news media in overweening contempt, I did pick up the latest le monde atlas of globalization - post growth edition - to be greeted with the following sentence: "There was life before growth." Well hello there! There is the usual fare of energy scarcity, pollution, industrial cruelty, slave labour, hyper-financialization, myth of "green growth", land grabbing, recipe for chocolate cookies, planned obsolescence, poisonous electronic devices, climate change, inequality, etc*.

Further on though we learn of a burgeoning worldwide shortage of, er, sand? That's right druids, we have reached peak sand! Are we going to run out of salt water next? A mere two-thirds of the world's surface is covered by salt water so we better watch out. In fairness, a particular type of sand is needed by the construction industry as your generic Saharan desert sand does not offer the desired material properties required to construct modern day architectural marvels. On the one hand. On the other hand, cry me a fracking river.

Speaking of fracking, that is actually another one of the things for which the sand is used. After being forced down at high pressure, the sand helps to maintain the integrity of existing seams through which gas is expelled, then collected for a marginal gain in energy. Given the quantity of chemicals also pumped down, you're probably concerned about the level of propane in your local water supply. But in places where sand is intensly extracted, water supply is also threatened since this leads to sinking of the water table.

I'll be in my cave if anyone needs me.

* one of these is unfortunately not discussed in this edition

Odin's Raven said...

In Britain the fixation on technology even extends to wanting the landscape to be floodlit at night!

Kfish said...

I'm one more person that's been given a TV by a well-meaning relative. I think that since my family grew up on a farm, having 'nice things' is a sign of prosperity and security.

The weirdest occasion was at a pre-marriage counselling session, where a group of us were learning about how to keep a marriage healthy. We were asked to list activities we could do together as a couple, and TV was mentioned. My fiancee said we didn't watch TV, and the room went completely silent. Even the people in the other group across the room stopped and stared. Then the questions started. What do you do with your time? Well we drink tea, watch the chickens in the yard and talk to each other, you know? Eventually I said we watched movies on DVD sometimes, and at that moment an audible sigh of relief went up. All the tension in the room disappeared when I confirmed that we weren't entirely cut off from the screen.

Shane Wilson said...

I just wanted to comment on the outpouring of affirming comments, from a lot of posters that I have seen in a while. I think a lot of the screen tech reinforces just how little people are governed by the rational, and how much they're governed by the non-rational. No one's ever disproven all the reams of studies on the damage caused by TV, or ever really contested the claims made in the Shallows, yet, people just keep on with their screen addictions. For me, the more I disengage, the more sensitized I get to the medium, such that when I encounter it, I have a strong negative reaction. I'll extend that to cars & driving--I've gotten really sensitized to how much I HATE sitting in a car, being on the road, or driving for long periods. This from a person who racked up a HUGE carbon footprint over the years behind the wheel. Of course, it probably didn't help that I was with a pro-positive New Ager on these road trips that was focused on increasing her "positive" energy such that she was "GO! GO! GO!" 24/7 and censoring any and all perceived "negative" comments. I had to regularly meditate to detox, relax, and unwind from the constant bombardment of "GO! GO! GO!" energy. I'm appreciating NOT driving, and making a real, intimate connection with my surroundings, and I'm sure that it helps my carbon footprint, as well.
@a Post Millenial
I see so much promise in you, and others like you. First of all, your not the 1st generation to get the raw end of the stick. As I mentioned last week, my cohorts have managed to get to 40-50, old enough to be your parents, without much to collectively show for it (a lot of debt, for one thing) So, we may not have it as bad as you do, but we certainly, collectively, haven't arrived. My biggest guilt as I look back on it, is that I DID take the blue pill, pretty much unconsciously. I was 5 when Reagan first took office, my earliest recollections were of gas prices bottoming out, yuppies flashing wealth, and limits to growth being pooh-pooh'd and dismissed, and discouraged ex hippies somehow fading into the woodwork. But you won't have that option, as JMG has mentioned, things WILL fall apart before long. Even though Lakeland and Twilight's Last Gleaming are fiction, they're based on what JMG thinks will actually happen. So, unlike me, you really DON'T have the option of "opting in" to a system whose days are numbered. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being honest and DOES NOT have your best interests at heart. Lakeland is set in 2065, only 50 years from now (within your lifetime). To get to Lakeland, we first have to have all those crises first, we have to get beyond the US. My preference is for the rather Burkean peaceful dissolution laid out in Twilight's Last Gleaming. The point is, as JMG has mentioned, revolutions are carried out by the young. Look @ how old Che & Castro were in '59. Look at the ages of other revolutionaries. That's why JMG said he's not concerned about the Tea Party--look around any Tea Party rally, and all you see are a bunch of angry old people. So, someday soon, people your age and younger are going to be looking around in bewilderment at themselves, standing in the middle of a state capital, wondering what the h*ll they just accomplished, just like the people dancing on the Berlin Wall. Don't be the Loyalist, this time--there won't be a Canada or Bahamas to flee to, this time. It's going to fall to you, and the people that come after you, that's who Lakeland is directed to. It can go anyway, and JMG's purpose in writing such a story is to help head off some Dystopia by providing some alternative. And it doesn't just have to be the Midwest, people in the South, inspired by I'll Take my Stand, could just as easily create something similar to Lakeland. What an awesome time for you to be the age you are, and to have such power!

Monica said...

I have experienced all of the arguments you have listed, with the most common one being "but you use the internet!!" or any other variant ("but you drive a car!") when I talk about not choosing this or that technology or working to minimise my footprint - somehow I am by default a hypocrite if, say, I tell people I don't use a microwave, or I don't have an iPhone etc.

It has occurred to me it is now about 10 years since I started a whole raft of changes. It started out with food - stopped buying soft drinks and junk food in general; then came personal items - I make my own soap, for example ("but you buy shampoo!!"), use coconut oil as a moisturiser, and make my own salve for dry skin.

The microwave was donated a long time ago, 8 out of 10 loaves of bread in my home I make from scratch, though I am yet to master the art of sourdough.

In the past couple of years, I started learning about herbs and herbal folk medicine - the peasant's medicine. I infuse oils (for my herbal balms) and vodka (for tinctures) though I am at the very beginning of this learning curve. This is by far the most challenging given I live in tropical Queensland, Australia, and there is very little knowledge on how to use native tropical trees or herbs (yes some books will say "use for toothache" but the actual process of how to use it is not recorded, only what it's for).

I have a mobile phone with buttons, which I paid $20 brand new a couple of years ago. We do not have mobile coverage where we live, it is mainly to have with me when I travel in case of an emergency etc. People are almost in shock to see me use it. Needless to say I do not have a smart phone, or intend on ever getting one.

Some of these changes people find amusing; other changes, they are rather visibly stupefied by - women in particular are horrified that I use cloth pads, and don't get me started on my highest achievement to date, making washable "wee-wee" wipes from op-shop flannelette (this cut our toilet paper use considerably). As a new mother, I am the only one in my mother's group of 8 women to use washable nappies. Even when I tell people this, I've been challenged by some who insist that washable nappies use more resources in fact than disposable ones do... It just goes on and on.

We live on 5 acres in central Queensland, Australia, so have our own water collection, and also we are lucky that the house was actually built for the climate - thus we do not have air conditioning (summer here lasts for 6 solid months with daily average around 30-35 Celsius, more if it's a really hot summer). Not so the case with virtually 80% (conservative) existing housing stock, and about 100% of the new housing stock - all built with air conditioning throughout, because the houses themselves do not take into account climatic factors....

Anyway - thanks for the slide ruler tip for my astrology class on chart drawing. Will have to check this out sometime soon. Thank you for another great blog post, I thoroughly enjoy reading these :) Monica.

flute said...

Interesting post this one too! I very much recognise the reactions you describe. It's not just in the US that people react like that, but also many people here in Sweden (the country with a reputation for being so progressive and open).
Apart from not having a TV or smartphone as I commented on your last post, another thing I get people reacting to like I'm a weirdo is the fact that I don't have a car. When I need a car (a couple of times a year) I rent one, which saves me an immense amount of expenses compared to owning a car. Many of my cousins and colleagues often comment on that. For example when I turn up for a family gathering in a shiny rented car a cousin might say "Hey what a cool car you've bought!" but when he realises I've just rented it's not cool any more.
These people come up with all sorts of reasons why I should buy a car - "freedom" is one of the most common. But "freedom" to me is not having to bother about repairs, taxes, insurance, changing tyres etc, and let the car rental firm take care of all that.
When I explain this freedom and also the detailed calculations I've made of how much money I save, and that since I save so much money I often take a taxi when I'm feeling lazy they say that they understand but they still want their "freedom". I've even had people telling me they are insulted when I say that they would also save money and time by not owning a car. "My car is a non-negotiable part of my life style." (Yes that's an actual quote)
Then they might try to convince me of the "impression factor" that owning a car has. I never cared for that kind of "status marker".
I live in a middle class suburb of Stockholm and as far as I can see mine is the only household in the neighbourhood that doesn't own at least one car. This is in spite of the fact that public transport in the area is excellent with buses into town running so often I don't even have to bother checking the time table.

sgage said...


"Every technology is a filter; every technology has built-in biases; every technology shapes the behavior of its users. That is to say, technology is never neutral and never value-free."

And remember, too, that every automation is an amputation (tip of the hat to Marshall McLuhan). One of my nieces kinda sorta is starting to 'get it', and every so often I whisper that line to her, and she smiles...

Shane Wilson said...

(part II)
this is all much more pressing than you may think. We may actually have a President Trump, and if he does somehow get assassinated before taking office, it will be even worse. In that case, it will be the RESPONSIBILITY of reasonable people to separate/dissolve from such a disaster. People's opinions are all over the map--my own mother expressed support for both Gov. Bevin & Trump today, after just recently saying what a horror they would be. (To our Canadian friends, particularly in Ontario, yes, the Trump/Ford connection has been made, complete with plenty of photos of the two together.)
I've been voraciously consuming the spectacle that is Donald Trump of late, and I'm quite bemused, in a horrified kinda way. I'm not at all convinced that it's a given he'll lose the nomination, or the general election, if it comes to that. Popcorn time, indeed.
I'd just spend the past summer on a biodynamic farm in Ontario, and it was a joy seeing how little you need, how much you can learn, and just how comfortable you can be in a cold home. To Pablo above, my mother, too, is adamant that I can't just "give up" and "go be a hermit", and it's impossible to discuss collapse with her, we just go round and round in circles on the topic.
Related to the above, I'm so disappointed how so much is coopted in to the system. "Black Lives Matter" isn't in the fold, of say, Stokely Carmichael and Black Power, it just about going to the powers that be and demanding justice, working within the system, not working outside of it. Same for the riots that happen. I get so disappointed seeing violence wasted in such a disorganized fashion. It's a shame it's not yet being organized against the system. Then something like "Oath Keepers" is run by old Tea Partiers, and reliably supports controversial right wing stuff, complete with the "stamp of approval" of a GOP congressman. If you have an idea, people are like, "oh, here, start a 501©3 and start up your charity" (coopted by the system) People waste so much time "being legit" and having their ideas and energy neutered in order to be "above board" & "legal".

Shane Wilson said...

One sort of interesting generational twist is the value of being, or considering yourself, "old". I've met so many people, recently, who are very happily "entering middle age" at 30, or "getting older" @ 40, or "old" @ 50. It seems like the old meme "X is the new X" of aging denial might be on it's way out.

patriciaormsby said...

Let's see...
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's device, but rush right out and buy one that's even snazzier."
I'll be thinking about it all day today and come back with what I find.

Ron M said...

Great post, as usual, JMG! Interesting application of Plato’s Cave metaphor.

Regarding the numerous negative reactions to your posting last week, it looks like you really hit a live wire! I wonder if the critics dwell in a binary produced by TV: if you don’t root for one Hana-Barbara cartoon (the Jetsons) you should live in another Hana-Barbara cartoon (the Flintstones)!

Glenn said...

More appropriate for next week, but I thought it worth sharing. The U.S. seems to be a nation of hucksters, ready to make a buck out of anything. While tooling around the internet with my nephew looking up Mosin-Nagant rifles, my brother came across an ammunition advertisement. It would appear that Snake River Shooting, and perhaps, other companies, are marketing "anti-drone" shotgun shells. Regrettably, they did not indicate pellet size, number, material or amount of propellant. So aside from being a 12 ga. 3" cartridge, I have no idea how different it is from large bird shot. I suspect it _is_ re-labelled bird shot, perhaps between #2 and BBB.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Repent said...

JMG- I was going to wait until next week to post this, but I think you've done something really significant in these last few essays, and that is to penetrate into the literate under 30 crowd. This is an accomplishment!

I'm currently 45, and a year ago I would have put myself in the category of the youngest of your typical reading audience; whereas the bulk of your readership would be in the mature adults approaching retirement category.

It is worth pondering- what is it that you have said recently that has attracted flock, after flock of young literate adults to your column? A couple of years back and the only young readers commenting on your posts couldn't put a single paragraph together, and now, at least for awhile, you are in vogue with droves of young literate readers. What changed?

Cherokee Organics said...


Haha! A worthy quote! We could go on like this for quite a while too. ! I noted in the story of the “Hour of the Dragon” that Conan considered a three thousand year old coin handed to him and I wondered what our left over materials would look like in three thousand years and thought that perhaps some may even survive intact. I know that my clippers were advertised as containing titanium in the cutting edge blades and thought that manufacturing inclusion was perhaps a bit over the top and extreme for simple clippers.

The actual quote from the story was: "Conan had handled many coins in the years of his plunderings, and had a good practical knowledge of them. The edges were worn and the inscription almost obliterated. But the countenance stamped on one side was still clear-cut and distinct." Fiction is an excellent medium.

Incidentally, I've also been trying to get my head around the coming retreat of the comfortable jobs that people have become used to in developed countries. I have seen how it rolls for people living in third world countries and am under no allusions on the subject. Also it appears to me that jobs have little in the way of historic parallels so it can only be a product of the industrial revolution and as such is directly linked to its rise and fall. Dunno, just thinking aloud really, because it appears to me that a lack of jobs ultimately foments violent actions and change.



Kevin Warner said...

Nearly a hundred posts within the first day? What the hell? You'd think that by the reaction to this post that the Archdruid had just suggested that all bicycles be crushed up and recycled as SUVS or something. OK, I'll add a random thought or two here.
We talk here about how people are so wrapped up in TV, the internet and the like that we forget that this is not a new phenomenon. Not even close. In researching the town that my grandfather was brought up in, I came a cross an article of the "I-remember-when" type on this town written back in the 1920s. In it, the person was talking how the streets of this town at the turn of the century were always bustling and that especially on a Saturday night the streets were thronging with people and the town lit up by gas lights. He noted in sadness that now the streets were nearly deserted of a night and the place was like a morgue. The reason for this change? People were all inside theaters now watching the new moving pictures! Was it the same when mass book printing first started up?
Here is a thought experiment for now, though. What if those of us with TVs (hand up in the air!) could set them to ration out, say, 7 hours of TV a week using software. A decade ago I would have used the word device. Now watch us sweat when we start adding up what we watch in the TV guides in terms of time allowed. Then put the pressure on by saying that any TV ads in any TV program also count as part of that 7 hours. You certainly would not waste any time watching a TV program based on watching people's reaction to watching TV programs. I kid you not - it is called Gogglebox! You also would not waste time on watching a news program where TV journalist are interviewing other TV journalist on how to react to a story because talking to people on the street can be too unpredictable. You could do the same experiment by limiting how long a mobile phone would work as well so that it would only work for a total of one hour a day. I reckon that it would be a fascinating experience for many people.
One final thought here. After some twenty years of staring through our screens into the internet it is only the past few years that we have become aware of how much the internet is staring back at us. Makes it sound like some sort of abyss, doesn't it? In stating this thought, it is only now that I am realizing that a book by contrast is a very private thing. It doesn't watch you or measure how often you turn the pages (unlike its digital counterpart) and the act of reading it implies both privacy and downtime. I note how both the last concepts seem to be falling out of favour the past few years. Some now even find the concept of solitude as either uncomfortable or even unnecessary. We live as strangers now in a very strange land.

Nicholas Carter said...

There is, I suppose, an argument that goes something like: One year Britain's prince Harry went to a costume party dressed as an SS officer. There's nothing really connecting the shape of SS uniforms with the Holocaust, but it was nevertheless a big media scandal that the prince had dressed as a Nazi.
Which is the crux I think of the belief: suites of technology aren't being used as tools, they're flags and uniforms to signal social allegiance, and who else can you be signaling allegiance to when you embrace retro tech than retro societies?

Renaissance Man said...

I wonder about the tech-worshippers: what they call the basement rooms stuffed with La-Z-boy recliners so they can watch the Big Game on high-tech, big-screen TVs & surround-sound speaker systems in luxurious comfort, while snacking on cheeze-doodles and knocking back wobbly pop.
I understand "Man-Caves" is the popular term. (I love irony.)

mgalimba said...

I get the same kind of disbelieving response sometimes from people that live in cities and can't believe that I actually like living in an extremely rural, "backward," economically rudimentary place. Not only do I like it but I can't imagine living in a city anymore, though I did for many years. Conversely, I have to constantly remind myself that there are lots of people that like sterile, over-crowded, stressful environments where no fresh breezes scented by green grass blow and no birds sing in the morning.

It is interesting that you have appropriated Plato's cave and taken it in an almost diametrically opposite direction. Whereas, if I remember correctly, Plato used the analogy to argue for the reality of a non-material realm of ideal forms i.e. a higher level of abstraction, you are using it to refer to and highlight the reality of the natural phenomena outside the cave, in other words less abstraction. I like this Druidic re-reading of Plato!

Jo said...

I didn't comment last week, because a number of other commenters took the words right out of my mouth and I didn't see any reason to clutter up the airwaves, but like multitudes of your other readers, I too am steadily working towards powering down and using technology very selectively.

When I have discussions about this with my teenagers I always remind them to ask the question, when faced with a new, shiny, must-have bauble - 'Who is going to benefit from this technology, fashion, doohickey? Who is losing out? Is it serving us or consuming us?' And this last question is one that is often lost in the rush towards big, new, shiny technologies. Is it actually better, for you and me, in our lives, right now? Is it so much better that its benefits mitigate its inevitable downsides?

This is where I see the benefits of an education in the humanities. Science and technology produce marvellous things, but it is not discriminating. It also produces terrible things, and only by asking very penetrating questions about the meaning and quality of our lives are we able to judge whether a particular product of science is enhancing or degrading the quality of our lives. This links back directly to JMG's series on the religion of progress. If we reject 'progress', then we are unbelievers, and we undermine society, therefore we must be excommunicated..

and I think that in judiciously selecting technologies that work for us, we are committing a worse crime than if we rejected them all (all?? Where do you draw the line?) because then we are also rejecting the binary on-off switch of modern thinking - that you are either for us or against us.

In choosing some technologies and refusing others we are, in effect, rejecting 'progress' as a god, and putting it back where it belongs, as something that should serve us and our ends.

I read hundreds of books every year, and write down the best bits in my little blue notebook. With a pen. Here is a gem from Schumacher's 'Small is Beautiful' - 'No doubt, a price has to be paid for anything worthwhile: to redirect technology so that it serves man instead of destroying him requires primarily an effort of the imagination and an abandonment of fear.'

Now this cuts directly to the heart of JMG's thesis as I read it, and have experienced it. Some technology makes us more stupid, less happy, less connected, more unhealthy, wrecks our habitat, hurts our fellow humans. Abandoning such technology makes us happier, calmer, healthier human beings. Why, as a society, would we not throw it away en masse? Because, as a society we are terrified of reality, and have lost our capacity for bold, imaginative action.

But here at ADR, we are of course, happy and creative freedom-fighters:)

iangagn said...

Just this week I had a conversation with a few other engineers. We were talking about how climate change will impact our careers and what we could do to prepare for it. One fellow had already mulled it over and his reasoning appeared to be quite mature. Most held a version of the technofix myth that ranged from the unlikely to the outrageously impossible. The conversation then steered toward geoengineering, which seems like a possible career path more and more every day. I don't want to get into the " as if humans (...) " and " you can't mess with one variable without it rippling through the entire system ". I get all that; I spent most of my adult life studying such things. Anyway, everyone said what they wanted to say, but there was one guy who was frankly insulted that almost nobody in the technosphere -- the group -- we're very fond of orbital elevators and mining asteroids. At one point I told him : " It's just that even if it were technically feasible, I don't think it's a good idea to send small nuclear bombs up the atmosphere in a physics-defying elevator to go mine asteroids so that we can keep building more iPhones while Indonesia and much of the world is on fire and the oceans are going from breathing CO2 to exhaling methane " and all hell broke loose. He literally got up his chair and shouted " Are you even engineers or are you a bunch of Amish? " to which I burst out laughing and calmed things down by telling him how much I liked him for being so insane. Anyway, my point is that I think geoengineering is one of the elephants in the room when it comes to technologies that will be forced down the throats of many when the day comes. Maybe one day instead of reading about the Fed's rate hike in the morning's newspaper we'll read about how much aerosols were dumped in the sky the previous week and we'll look back and wonder how we ever made due without tailor made hurricanes and pretty(ier) sunsets.

Ivan Lukic said...

In November 1969, a researcher named Herbert Krugman, who later became manager of public-opinion research at General Electric headquarters in Connecticut, decided to try to discover what goes on physiologically in the brain of a person watching TV. He elicited the co-operation of a twenty-two-year-old secretary and taped a single electrode to the back of her head. The wire from this electrode connected to a Grass Model 7 Polygraph, which in turn interfaced with a Honeywell 7600 computer and a CAT 400B computer.

"Flicking on the TV, Krugman began monitoring the brain-waves of the subject What he found through repeated trials was that within about thirty seconds, the brain-waves switched from predominantly beta waves, indicating alert and conscious attention, to predominantly alpha waves, indicating an unfocused, receptive lack of attention: the state of aimless fantasy and daydreaming below the threshold of consciousness. When Krugman's subject turned to reading through a magazine, beta waves reappeared, indicating that conscious and alert attentiveness had replaced the daydreaming state.

"What surprised Krugman, who had set out to test some McLuhanesque hypotheses about the nature of TV-viewing, was how rapidly the alpha-state emerged. Further research revealed that the brain's left hemisphere, which processes information logically and analytically, tunes out while the person is watching TV. This tuning-out allows the right hemisphere of the brain, which processes information emotionally and noncritically, to function unimpeded. 'It appears,' wrote Krugman in a report of his findings, 'that the mode of response to television is more or less constant and very different from the response to print. That is, the basic electrical response of the brain is clearly to the medium and not to content difference.... [Television is] a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure.'

Justin Patrick Moore said...

Speaking of technology, and the ones we choose to use, I finally got my Amateur Radio Technicians license.



Iuval Clejan said...

Dear JMG,

Yes, you've zoomed in on a taboo. It would be good for me to understand what part is commercially driven and what part is not. If the constant ads stopped would people still feel like we are breaking a taboo by not having televisions or cars, etc?

I've come to help my parents take care of themselves in their old age, but it's hearbreaking.
It's painful for me to watch my parents watching TV or my mom doing Facebook, or buying new appliances as soon as the old ones are slightly broken, or freaking out if their car is not here for a few days because the driver who was supposed to bring it from NYC had some trouble. It's hard to watch the food addictions (my dad has high blood pressure and is eating massive amounts of salt, sugar and caffeine), the pharmaceutical addictions, the shopping addictions and the general emptiness of their lives that they fill with those addictions.

I am trying to stay busy with food processing projects--making nutritional yeast, propagating tempeh culture and making tempeh, and building a sunflower oil press. I may try fishing with a net in the lake if I can avoid the authorities. I am also trying to do some physics research and design some social psychology experiments to test what seems obvious, that if people depend on the natural environment for their livelihood and can't externalize costs (or pollution), they are more likely to take care of it than if they are dependent for their livelihood on an abstract market.

We just got back from the PA, where they have no electricity or power tools, and use petroleum only when they take trains or when their grain orders come in (they will slowly move away even from these if they survive). They've had their share of people hating them for their choices. But it isn't just that they don't like petroleum. They have chosen their lifestyles based on values and reason, not on consumer whims.

Shane Wilson said...

@Luddene, possibly others,
here we are, 100 years later, and we're facing the same "death of God" here in the US that Nietzsche observed in Europe 100 years ago, the fact that the Christianity that used to thoroughly permeate our ethics, culture, etc. is, basically dead--that it no longer provides that essential collective meaning it once did. Keep in mind what followed in Europe, we look very likely to follow in the their footsteps 100 years later.

william fairchild said...

am not at all surprised that there were far more comments in favor of dropping certain technologies, rather than agin it. Tech can of course have benefits ranging from lifesaving (blood sugar monitors/apps to track fitness/food intake for diabetics and such) to just handy (GPS). But, especially in the "screen" space, it becomes an encumbrance not only in money, but time. I suspect you would call most of the stuff flowing over Facebook "twaddle" and you would be right. I very rarely log on to FB anymore, and I ditched my smartphone 2 years ago. I don't miss it. We have a TV, but I dont watch it alot. What shows or movies I do enjoy, I stream over Netflix, but it is not very often at all. I just couldn't justify the expense of cable and a smartphone bill.

My mother in law was so horrified at the thought that I cut the cable, we had an antenna, isn't that quaint, she put in satellite and pays the bill.

Anyways, there is a local foodbank that does work twice a week. I was blown away by the number of folks in line for food who were diddling on smartphones. The service isn't cheap. It struck me that they were so addicted to digital garbage that they sacrificed some good groceries. Now THAT is an encumbrance.

My wife's company gave her a smartphone. It dingledongles at all hours.

I had a man stop me at the gas station and ask me for directions to some small town I hadn't heard of because his GPS went wonky I got out the roadmap and found it for him. He said "You do it old school".

State highway map: free. GPS smartphone: $50 - $100/mo. Duh.

Lou Nelms said...

With filters come separation. With prosthetics, amputation. First novelty, now need. A unity of devices connected universally to bring the vision of the future by the masters and billionaires of Silicon Valley. Dampening the ancient connections with the wild from which we all came. Don't question the machined universe. Your pod to happiness and survival in a fully anthropogenic world. Abstract your way to tomorrow. Your head in the cloud. Your footprint heavier on the wild. Fool for blind modernity. To grow more on.

My archaic bad.

will said...

Re television - back when I was a kid I saw the late Norman Mailer talking about some of the seductions of the tube. (He was on a tv talk show, 'natch). Movie stars, said Mailer, come across as hyper-realistic, mythic figures, and because they are bigger-than-life glamour-totems, they are also ultimately unreal. Yes, having an 8 ft tall face can tend to do that to a person. Mailer then pointed out that television, by contrast, seemingly diminishes a person to an easily digestible, user-friendly figure who's in your living room with you. The effect, said Mailer, is that you get the impression that you actually know the people who are just "being themselves" on tv. But of course, you don't. 

Thinking about this now, I tend to see tv as a glamour-posing-as-anti-glamour hellbeast. As glamourings go, that's pretty insidious. You don't necessarily feel seduced, but yes, you have been. 

Btw, Mailer prbly picked up some of his ideas on tv from Marshall McCluhan who I've never really read.

Unknown said...

This IS the primary issue. Your tenacious insistence upon repeated refinement of its clarification is most comendable. NEVER give up.


mrzatar said...

Thanks you so much for the writings JMG. I am finally writing on the comments because it is a subject I have been fascinated with for some time now. I also started a word press site just because of your blog so that one day I would write a comment. As musicians, me and my partner have taken the route of no social media. And our listener have lets say dwindled, but the quality of people who now listen to our music has inspired us to even be more bold with our vibrations and words. I just thought one would add to the technology subject. Thank you again we have been inspired with our music and our new endeavour of a book store/theatre by cotributions to the world in the real sense of the word Archdruid.

Hawk Zatar of TenDerVishes

No I am not trolling just thought I should leave some context.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Salutations, Archdruid - Way back in the 80s, in a moment of madness, I got myself one of those cable boxes. Back then, it was 30 channels, and nothing to watch. Instead of 300. After about 6 months, I realized how silly the whole thing was. And, how much time it was taking out of my life. So, I returned the cable box to the cable store. There was a bit of a line.

When I got up to the window, to return the box and discontinue service, the nice young lady asked why I was discontinuing service. I said "I can't stand to watch "Clash of the Titans", one more time." The people behind me, cheered.

Back when I had a bookstore, I needed a phone somewhere in the whole electronic mess that allowed me to take credit cards. I had an old rotary phone that worked just fine. A young woman came in to ask to use the phone. Phone booths being few and far between, these days. I said sure and handed her the rotary phone. She starred at it for the longest time and I had to take it back and show her how to use it. :-). Lew

234567 said...

I haven't paid much attention to TV - Making wine, carving and work tend to take precedence. I do have cable internet and use Netflix. For the little it costs, and commercial free, I can watch things I find interesting, and skip those that are not. So it has literally been years since I watched even news, preferring to read a paper or internet sources.

As an exercise, yesterday I hooked the cable box up and turned the TV on. I saw the news, and a goodly portion of the local news constantly suggested I make comments on Twitter or 'like' them on Facebook. Portions of the sports segment did the same, referring me to "" or else to Tweet or comment on their Facebook page. A segment was used to talk about Fantasy Football, where a local guy had won over $10,000.

So, IMHO, when TV is referring us to online sites, and online sites are buying TV ad space, aren't we in sort of a Mobius Strip of madness that only benefits a very few folks? When the TV news urges us to go to their website for more information, why?

To be fair, I went to the local station website, where I watched in amazement as my Disconnect App recorded 35 tracking or analytic programs attempting to load....and then surfed back to sites I prefer with quite the wry smile on my mug.

I don't use Facebook (Faceplant, as my kids now call it) or Linked-In or Twitter. These are all simply time wasters - I have no need to converse in little tweets (twits?) about my day with people I have never met. I have no desire to build a large following or a trend of likers - I just don't care about that.

The news was awful - banal, inaccurate and very over-hyped. Including terror warnings and veiled suggestions of islamic radicals pouring into the US from Mexico. International news was relegated to a single story about refugees in europe. The weather was hyped beyond belief - talking of scattered severe thunderstorms and warning people to be careful - for goodness sake, it was a cloudy day with some scattered thunderheads. Every other local news item included a reference to online websites and solicited comments for the same.

I am now very firmly convinced that regardless of "content", TV has become as boring as most of the internet. Most of what is blasted across websites is untrue or highly slanted, lots of clickbait and time-wasting headlines that go elsewhere. It seems TV has become similar, even to the point of urging one to go to the internet for more 'information'. It is almost like a cult of cons and shills playing to the masses. I detest it, and unhooking the cable box from my screen was honestly a relief. Instead, we played guitars and drank beer and talked - guess my family is just very old fashioned and Luddistic?

And I was utterly amazed at the number of drug ads where the benefits took 10 seconds to cover and the side effects took the remaining 50...egads!

No, I do not need commercial television. Netflix is fine as I control content choice and am free to watch at my convenience rather than a particular broadcast time. And nobody is urging me to make a twit or faceplant about anything.

I don't need a smartphone - talking and SMS when out of talking range suffices. I do enjoy the internet, but the instantaneous nature of it lends itself to rabid knee-jerk discourse and thus it isn't at all courteous discourse in most venues. Anonymity lends itself to rudeness because there are no social repercussions.

No - I think picking and choosing technologies which you prefer to use or participate in should be the norm. There are some very unrealistic expectations working in our world, and both television and the internet seem to require everyone to accept these expectations. With smartphones now being an extension of phone and TV and internet - the same holds true and now resides in your pocket.

No - I much prefer real people, social consequences and the honesty required for those.

Myriad said...

The deeper issue to me is that to a very large and very real extent, we are the shadows on the cave wall. That is to say, most if not all of what we carry around in our heads and think of as ourselves arise from our interactions with the world, starting when in infancy we instinctively reach out and grasp things and pull them toward our mouths. By "world" I mean everything we encounter, including the natural world, other people, artifacts, text, and images. Our physical brains give us the ability to collect and process that "stuff," and our individual genetic makeup strongly affects how we process and select and assemble the bits and pieces, but neither of those account for the actual content of ourselves. Experiences, knowledge, memories, skills, and beliefs aren't built in. We gather them from without. (If we do have souls or past-life karma, we don't seem to have much access to what might have been written there before we started interacting with the world.)

So, what happens to that process when much of that world is screened from our view and replaced with stylized caricature? What happens when it's replaced with reflections of ourselves? (That latter question has an answer, provided by noting what happens to every dictator and celebrity whose portrait ends up papering city walls: we go insane.) What color is a chameleon on a mirror?

Narcissus's problem wasn't seeing his reflection, it was missing everything else in the process, until there was no self left to stare at.

Blueback said...

Solomon had a great Thanksgiving Day post that I think ties in with a lot of the things we have discussing on this blog. SNAFU has become my go-to blog for military news and commentary, but Sol has some great commentary on other topics as well. Original post can be found here:

"This is late but sincere. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

But while you're doing it consider a few things. First this is basically a religious're giving Thanks to God for the blessing of the year, which has been turned into a secular eat and spend fest.

Something is wrong (in my opinion) with that. Additionally I want you to think about this. Many Christian organizations are jumping thru hoops to get Syrian Muslims into the US and Europe, yet at the same time are turning a blind eye to people in their own countries that are hurting...hungry...and desperate. There is something wrong with that.

Last but not least, I can't help but think about what we're gonna see later tonight. Consumerism on steroids. People will rush out to buy stuff they don't need to satisfy a requirement that isn't there. They will claw, punch, scratch...and a few will steal to meet this artificial need.


I really do hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving but I wish that all who read this to stop, consider and chart a different course from the average Westerner.

Dare to be different! Dare to think! It won't be easy and you will be ostracized for doing it but I really believe it's worth the effort."

Jeanne Labonte said...

JMG says: "If a potter makes pots, by the way, what does Twitter make?"

Well, geez that's a no-brainer. Twits of course!

I have always disliked nuts (though I am a great fan of peanut butter) and as a young child it always irked me that people who cooked walnuts into brownies seemed to think it was a great treat. I would always meticulously pick out the nuts so I could eat the brownies, much to the vexation of the adult who had gone to all the trouble of cooking them in. I recall many years ago at a Christmas party being offered a bowl of nuts and trying to politely turn it down. The lady offering me the bowl (I dont even remember who she was now) just didnt seem to believe that I didn't like them and kept insisting I should try one. Finally, just to get her to leave me alone, I picked out a nut and sat chewing it with a very sullen expression
on my face. Needless to say I was offered no more nuts!

Four hundred and ten, Yikes no wonder it's taking so long to read through the comments! I missed some of the ones you note in your latest post. If someone gave me a TV I didnt want, I would politely accept but after waiting a decent interval, stick it out at a yard sale. That might smack of ingratitude but the gift of more stuff that you repeatedly indicated you don't want but got anyway doesnt exactly constitute generosity on the part of the giver. And don't forget bread making machines. That's another gee-whiz gizmo we don't really need (sorry). I only happened to think of that when making bread today (by hand), an activity I
much prefer to the one involving visiting the local madhouse known as Walmart.

As someone else mentioned, you definitely hit a nerve with last weeks post. The feeling we have been heading down the wrong path over the past half century or more seems to be growing. Those of us of the older generations see no real advantage to much of the cornucopia of allegedly labor saving devices that have popped up over the years and so cheerfully do without. Increasing numbers of the newer arrivals are catching on to the fact that none of these devices actually improve the quality of life but only add to the waste stream when they break.

For those still mesmerized by the myth of progress, we're an uncomfortable eye-opener to the fact that it's not only possible to live without this stuff but actually be happy doing it. The hollowness of the lifestyle they think is so wonderful is not a comfortable thing to face which may account for the
negative reactions many of your readers experience.

August Johnson said...

@Justin Patrick Moore - Congratulations!

August KG7BZ

Caryn said...

Thank You again, JMG for these essays.

For me they are always a mix of positive and negative reactions - Very positive that finally someone has articulated and offered the most plausible explanation for the disconnect that I and so many around me are feeling/ sensing; negative in that uncomfortable waking up to face a super harsh reality that we kind of knew but didn't want to. I appreciate the negative too, as it allows me insight and compassion to what the angry techno-philes are feeling, where they're coming from. I get why they're angry.

For me personally, like others here, writing from outside the US, I don't feel a lot of pushback or hostility about my low and very selective tech use. Maybe I'm just not paying attention, but here in Asia, we're kind of schizophrenic uber-tech-embracers and rejectors. We luuuurve shiny high-tech-gizmos, even obviously pointless ones, but we are horrifically cheap, cheap, CHEAP! We are also closer to the externalized costs of those gizmos. I'm not alone here, in individually based selection, even amongst the wealthy.

I also love/hate the use of Plato's Analogy of the Cave - it has always given me the heebee-jeebee's. IMHO, it's far more dire and impacting that those Matrix films. But
@ mgalimba: Forgive me but I think you're wrong in your comment. From what I've understood - Plato was saying the reality we see day to day, like the shadows on the wall, are only a tiny facet of what's really out there, so tiny as to really be a filter or an unreality. The real reality includes a whole universe we may sense and feel, but cannot tangibly see or hold - we've been taught from childhood to ignore it as unreal, so most of us cannot sense it anymore, like the cave dwellers, the shadows, (filter) become our reality and we don't even want to see or sense more. In this understanding, I think JMG is simply updating the Analogy of the Cave to virtual/media reality. TV sets in the caves - perfect, IMHO.

* Just a note, In the following, I'm not intending to lecture - just thinking/typing out loud to figure things out:

As a US citizen living abroad, I totally get this as I get my news and understanding of what's happening back home, the buzz, what the 'social temperature' of my fellow Americans back home are thinking; I get most of this the only way I can - virtually, through the internet and TV. I am FULLY aware that what I'm getting is a skewed, filtered picture. From what we see abroad, Americans are the stupidest, craziest people on the planet! Nothing they do makes sense! Yet, as I've lived most of my life as one, I KNOW this is not true - what I'm, (we're) seeing is a very warped sensationalized picture. BUT My fellow American's 'on-the-ground', back home are getting the same info via internet and TV that I'm getting here, in addition to real info, (talking to neighbors, friends, etc) I think they don't see as clearly, that they are also getting a massive dose of skewed version of reality about themselves, their country, their place in the world.

Caryn said...


Sorry all, Very wordy - me.

The upsetting thing I'm noticing is that both in the US, (so it seems) and here, we are getting more and more of our connection and info from this virtual/TV filter and less and less from actual human interaction. This is found here locally as well. It has it's up-sides: It's easy, lazy, it offers a much much broader range of people and perspectives, I can stay in touch with friends and family all over the world.
but it also has it's downsides. Apart from instances like my 15 yr old's, most of the virtual connections, info and insights are extremely shallow and vaporous. The heaviest downsides have been outlined here repeatedly by JGM and fellow commenters: prosthetic/amputation, a tsunami of externalized costs, and finally, simply unsustainable, oh yeah - there's that!

When I first came to HK, I was a stay-at-home-mom with 2 babies - we joined 3 of the many free available neighborhood or apt. building playgroups and got together with other moms and babies weekly. We moms gave each other advice, comfort, laughter, friendship, as locals and expats from everywhere we had parenting insights from every corner of the globe to follow, laugh at or both. As my kids got older, many expats moved on or back home, the demographic and life changed. I'm still in touch with those moms, for that I'm happy to have the internet (upside!). I went back to work and am not in that SAHM 'world' anymore, but have joined a facebook group called Hong Kong Moms. It's all I've required of late, in 'staying in touch', (this for personal emotional reasons). Sadly, I have noticed that occasionally there are new moms asking where to find an in person playgroup or just a bunch o moms getting together with their babies and toddlers - and there are none! None!! I feel very sad for them - we've all gotten so used to 'connecting' online that no one does it in person anymore.

As to those personal emotional issues - I know I've used the distance / filter of shallow connections as a crutch for the past 4 years. Only in the last 2-3 months, I'm starting to forget to sign in from day to day, so I think I'm beginning to outgrow my crutch. I do really appreciate this site and venue, but there will probably come a Thursday, (your Wed.) when I'm too busy and forget to check in. I'll say Thank You again now, in case I just wander off at some point!

JMG: Your essays and the commentary here have been super helpful and very very much appreciated.

Nick said...

Re: hypnotic effects of TV

I wonder what other human experiences induce similar mental states. I have read theories that staring at fires late at night in some way enhanced or sparked human intelligence. I wonder if there is some deep neurological trigger that fire (or a flickering TV in a dark living room) that enables deep thought. The difference, of course, is that a fire does not project human ideas and therefore requires the watcher, or his/her community to provide them. I wonder, for example, is there is much difference between reading a book from paper, e-ink or a backlit LCD screen (there are aesthetic differences, but whether they affect how the reader responds to the information contained in the text is not clear to me). Based on my own subjective experience, although I like reading out of real books much more than I like reading off electronic devices, and prefer an e-ink display to a LCD display, I am not sure I interpret what I am reading differently.

Regarding an earlier comment about the people who cast shadows on the cave not being dumb... knowing some very amateur level cave-shadowers, NO THEY AREN'T. They know exactly what they are doing.


Your responses to my posts over the years have been invaluable and I owe you a debt. But yes, I am forming real-world relationships, they just aren't with my coworkers, who mostly just fuel my misanthropic side. Regarding NSA surveillance, well, I'm not really a real dissident, I just don't want to see myself or people I care about harmed by the government. But yeah, I accepted a long time ago that what I type into the magic box will one day have consequences, unless the shape of collapse is such that those in power have no time to devote to minor threats to the status quo like myself.

After some cursory research, it might be possible for a hobbyist with a modest budget to measure their own brain waves with a portable device. This might be worth doing.

william fairchild said...

@Renaissance (and anyone else)-

Awwwww, don't get so down on Man-caves. I have one. Of course there may be a bit of a cultural difference between where you and I live. Most dudes I know have theirs in the garage. Mine is known colloquially by the family as "The Shop". I don't park cars in there unless they need repair.

The Shop is a "safe space" for guys to be guys. No TV, but there is a radio/stereo with a killer sound system. No video games, but lots of tools (queue the Tim Allen grunting), and yes it is heated (with a wood burning stove--very manly). I have one beat-up recliner and an old bench seat out of a Ford Aerostar as a couch. And yes, there might be a cerveza or two in the fridge.

It is where the important work gets done, such as getting out from underneath Mrs. Fairchild's feet when I irritate her, as well as fixing flat bicycle tires, building to-scale models of step pyramids for social studies projects, and repairing damaged dollhouses. Viva Le Man-caves!

latheChuck said...

MY "man-cave" is outfitted with a (metal-cutting) lathe (of course!), drill press, dozens of drill bits, taps, dies, cutting tools; amateur radio gear (HF, VHF, and UHF); herb-drying space, winter-squash storage space, seeds for next-year's gardens; and books: electronics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, gardening, etc. But I'm in my mid-50s, and starting to wonder where it all will go if an apprentice does not appear in the next 20 years. Here on the edge of The Most self-Important City in the World (Washington DC; you can actually hear people say things almost like that in ads for local banks), the powers that be may stave off local collapse for another generation or two. [Detroit is a curiosity, not a precedent, right?]

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

One thing I think our society has lost sight of is that every technology is just a tool. Tools work for us, but our fancy gizmos have somehow convinced people it's the other way around.

Consider how many people text while driving, knowing that people get badly injured and killed this way. Even people who drove for decades without a phone and know full well that constant communication while driving is unnecessary, are completely unable to turn the darn thing off and put it away while they drive. It's as if their smartphones tell them what to do, and not the other way around.

Television is treated the same way, especially by older generations who don't stream their favorite movies and programs onto tablets and smart phones. Many people think you aren't properly informed if you don't have a TV or if you aren't watching the 6 o'clock news. It's useless to point out that you read multiple news sources online and cross-check stories of interest to get a more in-depth and nuanced view. You're somehow not as well-informed as the person who believes every sound bite. Go figure.

Consider the behavior of early-adopters, who will camp overnight outside the nearest Apple Store to be one of the first to purchase a slightly speedier version of the perfectly good phone they already have. This is a classic case of having one's life dictated by technology and not the other way around.

I'm far from being a luddite, but I rarely watch TV because I'm not fond of any sort of passive entertainment. I'd rather paint than go to an art museum. I'd rather play music than go to a concert. I'll dance as often in the day as the spirit moves me, but dance recitals quickly bore me. There would be no TV in my house at all if not for that my husband loves it.

I also tend to be a bit behind the times on technology, but this is mainly a cost/benefit analysis. If my current phone and computer meet my needs, why waste money on an upgrade? What would I do with a fancy tablet that I can't do with my laptop? Once I see a good use for something, I'm happy enough to buy a gadget, but I refuse to be bullied into it just because it's the latest thing.

What's interesting to me is that even people who claim to be uninterested in the latest technology often speak of it in terms that suggest that these aren't tools but evil overlords that once purchased, must be obeyed. How many people say they don't want a smartphone because they don't want to be on call all the time? How could that happen unless you want it to? All phones, smart and otherwise, have off switches or can have the alerts turned off. (Try to call me at an unscheduled time and see how far you get with that!) The only way you can be a slave to a phone or any other device is if you allow yourself to be.

We, the humans, have the ultimate power over our technology. Maybe this is what some people find so disturbing about those of us who aren't led around on a technological leash: at some subconscious level they realize they've willingly chosen their tech-slavery and we're living proof that it doesn't have to be that way.

Kfish said...

Regarding smartphones: on a road trip through the US (man, that's one strange and beautiful country) we were driving south into NYC. We'd picked up a road map from one of the rest stops along the way, rather than rent a GPS with the car.

Driving over the tollbridge onto Manhattan Island, we stopped to pay the toll and the guy in the booth looked over. Then he almost shouted, "Is that a MAP?! Don't see too many of those anymore!"

The GPS cost $13 / day, as much again as the car rental. The map was free.

nuku said...

Response to your comment:
"From what we see abroad, Americans are the stupidest, craziest people on the planet! Nothing they do makes sense! Yet, as I've lived most of my life as one, I KNOW this is not true - what I'm, (we're) seeing is a very warped sensationalized picture."

I beg to differ and please don't take it personally. As a USA born citizen who lived in California, Oregon, and Hawaii for 44 years before bailing out and living as an ex-pat for the last 28 years, I was CONVINCED that the majority of Americans are stupid and crazy BEFORE I left. That's precisely why I left. If anything, its gotten even crazier, like Donald Trump for president??? The picture is not warped, the country is.

Philip Hardy said...

I think we need some thought stoppers to brick wall the technological progressives, any ideas?

My contribution; “Oh you have a hobby, that’s Nice”. It immediately reduces the technology your protagonist is pushing on you to something that is slightly eccentric, personnel to them, and totally irrelevant to the rest of society. The spluttering is amazing and quite entertaining!

For vegans to defend your selves I once heard this thought stopper used by a vegan who was being put upon “So you like eating dead meat?” again followed by a lot of defensive spluttering from their protagonist.

Best Regards JMG
Philip Hardy

Cherokee Organics said...


As I said above, I needed a day or so to meditate on this essay before coming to any sensible thought merely because it annoyed me and I was unsure why. Fortunately, I had the comfortable train trip into and back out from the big smoke today after the Green Wizards meetup to meditate upon your essay. I must say that my reaction was a bit grumpy, but please perhaps indulge me a few minutes of your time for me to explain myself more fully.

Some people set out to leave vast monuments of their works for later generations to marvel at. Look at the pyramids for example - or even our nuclear reactors of today. In millennia to come they'll still be there and people will wonder at them and marvel - perhaps not in a good way with ours though. In a century no one will remember me and that is how I prefer the whole matter to rest. It seems to me that Plato was a pretty switched on dude, because in your cave example he provided a mental model for people to wonder upon. I can almost hear him laughing at us all now: What did Plato mean by that cave model? Learned discussions will be had, papers will be written on the model, degrees will be handed out by august institutions and careers will be made. And Plato steers the conversation still.

But to me it appears that what Plato is trying to achieve is to get people to think in abstract terms, thereby collectively turning their backs on their learned and observed experiences and introducing the concept that it is OK to ignore all of those experiences and lessons and concentrate instead on the abstract. He's good, I certainly couldn't have come up with such a clever ruse. It is genius really and I guess that is why we are discussing the dude 2,300 years later.

However, I give Plato the middle finger (which is me trying to be very punk!) because whilst that sort of thinking can be very valuable, it has been so thoroughly over used in our society that it is no longer a valuable method of looking at the world. People don't even see that they are using such outmoded ways of interacting with the natural world.

And just in case anyone is interested as to how I came up with that conclusion, it was quite simple really. Plato is effectively describing the existence of a human being in a dungeon deprived of sensory input. That is a bad place and I imagined it myself as I read the text. That human then escapes the dungeon and learns of the experience of the outside world. Tidy work! At that point however, Plato lost me because his protagonist in the story went back to the dungeon. No one in their right mind would do that, but here Plato slips in the meme that it is OK to ignore your perceived reality and experience and just go with this wholly imaginary other world of make believe and abstract concepts. I don't buy it as it stinks of black magic to me.

The unfortunate thing is that today you can find yourself living in a magician state where every day people as well as people in authority say the most preposterous things and you have to stand back and say I'm not going into that cave that you lot inhabit. Plato's cave is a prison of the mind and I strongly suspect that he created that prison for his own purposes. Anyway, the cave is clearly full of trolls and should be avoided at all costs. Be wary people!

I'm not playing his game. Nuff said.

PS: By the way, excellent essay and I declare that the Melbourne Green Wizards meeting today was a total success! Now, a nice ginger wine will help soothe my completely jangled nerves, I’m not built for going head to head with the likes of Plato, you know. Thanks for the challenge though. Plato – Pah! A good swift kick would have taken him out! Conan would never have fallen for such abstract silliness. This thought popped into my mind right at the final proofread: Beli is a much wiser guide to life in uncertain times.



David Henry said...

Thought-provoking as always and your blog boasts one of the few 'comments' sections that I find consistently worth reading. Losing our electricity here in Fairbanks, Alaska for about 4 days recently we were ok without lights, water, even heat since we still weren't that deep into winter yet, but were grateful to have our smart phones. Definitely addicted.

At the risk of being moderately off topic, you alluded to looking at new climate data recently. Just wanted to say that I'd be very interested in what you make of it, as well as if you've changed your opinion any about guy mcpherson and the whole NTE (Near Term Extinction) idea. He's spouting rather radical stuff, but is also a prof. emeritus of biology/ecology who is mostly citing peer-reviewed science. Climate is a slow-moving train but with a of lot of inertia and I'm a bit apprehensive that we may have started it creeping along the tracks a little faster than we thought.

Patricia Mathews said...

@William Fairchild - actually, those smartphones are not a luxury nor an addiction for the homeless, but a lifeline. When State Unemployment has a lot of its functions all but inaccessible except online (an hour on the phone, long lines during short hours on site), you need the net. Also they pass on warnings and tips to each other (Barrett House is full, Joy Junction kicked out a couple with heathen tattoos last year, etc...)to each other at times. And the Mayor started a campaign to give panhandlers, not money or food, but a leaflet saying there is help. "Help" proved to be a megacharity that keeps regular business hours.

Actually, it's the same reason so many people have them in the nonindustrialized nations. They have proven useful under the circumstances that prevail today. I'm lucky to have internet access at home, however unsustainable it is, since so much today requires it.

And don't get me started on "you need a federally recognized ID to enter a government building. Yes, that includes the Social Security building. Which you MUST visit to get your disability. No, a New Mexico driver's license doesn't count because it doesn't satisfy the Real ID requirements."

Which is another topic entirely except to point out that even the poorest, perhaps especially the poorest, are actually forced by government policy, to certain expedients.

I can foresee a day when internet access, papers, and all the ID needed for citizenship, benefits, and legal existence, are reserved for a slowly dwindling elite, while a large chunk of the nation lives in ... well, check out a news story from this past week called "Life in the poorest border town." OR some such thing.

Sorry, End rant. But again ... *before* assuming that something you don't like or understand is because "he's a bum, she's a slut, they just have poor values..", try to seek a RATIONAL reason for their behavior.

Here endeth the sermon.

William Lehan said...

It's a shame that so many people seem to interpret others' proclaimations of tastes and distastes as implicit criticisms of their own.

My own tastes, in regard to television, lie between yours and the mainstream. As is so often mentioned in the entertainment press these days, there is a surplus of "quality" television being broadcast now, as opposed to, I guess, the mindless sitcoms many of us grew up with in the '70s and '80s. Some of these new "premium cable dramas", I have found worth watching and have sacrificed not inconsiderable blocks of time occasionally in so doing. I always feel ashamed, though, after spending a couple of hours watching a show or broadcast movie, as If I could have done something much more productive with the time. I couldn't imagine spending more than a small fraction of my leisure time, over the long term, sitting watching, as you described it, paid actors acting out contrived dramas. I guess you could say I am conflicted about the practice.

On the balance, I doubt I would miss television, were it to somehow become unavailable.

Hello... said...

earlier, "mrzatar" said...

"As musicians, me and my partner have taken the route of no social media. And our listener have lets say dwindled, but the quality of people who now listen to our music has inspired us to even be more bold with our vibrations and words."

I LOVE THAT! ME TOO! I think something "new" (old/ancient) is opening back up among those of us living under the rocks. As i was writing before, dancing and not being connected very well via phones etc. has made the EYES and other connections stronger. it freaked me out at first, but now i'm more comfortable with the intensity that can come at ANY moment from another person. i feel more "connected" to the RIGHT people. that i'll find the safe ones. the ANGELS.

it was like this when i was a runaway little girl. when you're feral, and possibly prey, you're FORCED to smell EVERYTHING on every possible level you can access in order to survive. so you see eyes and how empathetic or sociopathic someone is when you're feral. only thing is to try and stay sane. and it's hard. people used to find me and say i was sane/not crazy as a kid.

when i tried to fit in to the regular world, it dulled and killed it off because in the regular world you're constantly fussing over how you suck or you're trying to make people like you and see certain parts. you're holding your stomach in ALL THE TIME and the self-hating narcissism keeps you oblivious to all the magic around you.

james/thor was saying now that everyone is taking photos of absolutely every moment, emulating the same singers, etcetera, artists of all kinds would now just sit and watch or have conversations.

i know of a DJ who does "invisible parties" at his house. parties where no one can take out the phone to take photos or talk. you've gotta be where you are. he said a lot of folks left like they'd finally seen the face of god.

and to you, shane wilson, if you're here:

shane, you're a goner. when you start ranting to the generation beneath you, THEN you're joining the artists scrawling warnings on the cave walls for the younger ones. for that's also a cave analogy i use to explain what i think of artists who care. (not the ones who are sofa artists)

you realize they don't listen to the rants early on, so then your "art" becomes the art of conveying these IDEAS and TRUTHS to them in clever ways that shake 'em up, blow their minds.

and this is where the "madnesses" come in as you test society's boundaries to see what their reactions are, so you can continue to see the terror and truth and fears underneath all the pretend swagger.

i say madnesses because it gets harder and harder to sit through polite holidays without setting emotional matches even by ACCIDENT. and how do you deal with the fallout everywhere? because everyone starts gunning for you and trying to lift up your 1900 dress to see if your underwear is REAL.

you're not the only one searching for honor, integrity, and truth. EVERYONE is.


Cathy McGuire said...

@Lewis Lucan: I still have a rotary phone (got it at Goodwill) and it works - up to a point. I can make phone calls to humans, but not to any of the automated systems that make you "press one for billing"... they don't recognize the rotary sound. So I can't use it unless I keep it just for talking to friends (even the greenie stores have computerized answering these days, I swear!) Another example of being forced to accept new technology.

TJ said...

After spending over an hour reading comments this week, and even longer last week, I have to say that I sense some insecurity from a lot of readers. I've gone years without a car living in big towns working as a cutting edge computer engineer. I spent years without a cell phone, even to the point that my job finally offered me a free one - which I accepted but said I would only use for business calls during business hours.

I received comments, pushback, and occasionally have been the punchline of some not-so-funny jokes about this from friends, family, and coworkers. But I've never felt pressured to change, and I've never felt it impacted my friendships or career. People don't understand some of my choices, so I explain it. Sometimes they listen, but usually they don't. But rather than feeling like a victim, I'm grateful that they want to be a part of my life, and are sincere in wanting the best for me (even if I believe they are misguided), and I also want the best for them (and admit that I could be misguided about them).

If someone were to put a laptop on my lap and ask me to watch a show I didn't care to watch, I would politely decline and probably never think of it again. If they were a real friend who just wanted to bond over something as silly as a TV show, I would consider it a complement that they reached out to me in such a way - even as I rejected the offer. I'd use it as an opportunity to find some other connection we could share, because obviously the desire is there.

I don't bring this up to reign down judgment on all the green wizards out there, I am very much like you guys. But I think as soon as you feel defensive about your choices, then you quickly risk becoming a negative voice of the cause you are trying to support. My observation is that people who have actually affected positive change in the world are always confident, self-assured, and remain positive in their message. I won't claim to be some great voice of the eco-technic future that adopts only appropriate technology, but I am beyond feeling insecure about my choices. I hope most of you are secure in that as well, because it makes life a lot more fun. I know I'm having a blast.

valekeeperx said...

Thought that I would share the links to a couple of interesting posts by Christopher Nyerges. I’ve been to a few of his workshops and thought that these descriptions of his experiences were generally related to this week’s topic, as well as a few of the other topics discussed here on the ADR.

Happy Thanksgiving and Best Regards to all

onething said...

Random thoughts

On intolerance: Someone upthread mentioned systems of achieving immortality. Interpretations of reality are very important to many or most people in this hell/prison/funny farm because subconsciously we all know that we have very little access to it (reality) and yet how are we to make a jailbreak if we don't even know a little bit about the layout? Religion and science/progress are strong competitors. It does not matter if you know a religious person who is strongly attached to salvation through progress. People quite often don't worship the deities they claim to, or are promiscuous.

Device addiction: Why does it bother (some of) us so much? I have noted that nature and physical reality are our anchors to sanity. It is our bedrock. Since life is but a dream anyway, without that constant contact with physical reality, our minds would quickly come untethered and we would all begin to dream different dreams. Total chaos and isolation. Which would be terrifying. When we see our compatriots engaging in less and less reality check, it makes us nervous. But if life is a dream, is it even true that physical reality equates to sanity? And yet, those are the rules of this maze -- ignore physical reality and you get offed.

TV and dreams: It is really, really important that we dream the same dreams together. Since most belief systems are largely nonsense, we need that confirmation that our belief system is not utterly silly (which it usually is). Since TV is fantasy anyway, it is nice to have lots of others who have indulged in the same fantasy. This desire is related to the confirmation we get when others interpret reality as we do.

JMG "To pummel the city councillors, see them fleeing before you, and hear the lamentations of the media -- that is best."

Genghis Khan?

The other Tom said...

Regarding cellphones, the most cost effective way of having any phone, in my experience, is a prepaid cell phone. I do not want the fixed monthly bill that comes with a house phone or regular cell phone. A prepaid phone costs me about $200 a year, at the rate I use minutes, used only when necessary. This precludes long conversations, which is fine because a long email or meeting at the coffeeshop is better anyway. I would be OK with not having a phone at all except that I would risk becoming a nonperson, in the world as it is now. In a future scenario where universal phone service is absent, where I am not expected to have one, I will be very happy to speak to others in person.
So I guess that makes me a "moderate," on the Luddite/Technophiles scale. I just spent 20 days in the back country, and took the cell phone along. Even to me, that seems a little incongruous, but it was practical because I had hired someone to take care of my cats and wanted to know if anything was wrong. I was forced to use the cell phone sparingly to save the battery; I would turn it on once a day on top of a ridge, so it seemed like a correct use of technology.

Bob Patterson said...

I began to feel something was amiss when I noted so many people need loud music, both at work and at home.Another day, I watched a woman neighbor excitedly talk to someone on her cell phone, while dragging her garbage to the curb, in a snowstorm. I guess I should not be bothered by the people at the grocery/superstore, who need to list the entire contents of a grocery shelf to some far away remote shopper. But I remember when you went to the store with a written list. The idea that someone would buy an auxiliary power system, just to play computer games is a bit strange to me. I feel that one of the reasons the whole Alternative Tech thing went away, is that it showed how simple manual machines could easily replace powered ones. Trade in your weed wacker for a brush whip, etc. And finally I contrasted two TV shows about wood working. "The Woodwright's Shop" explained traditional manual working of wood, by means of fairly simple tools, easily constructed. "The New Yankee Workshop" took you through each step of constructing something useful or decorative in wood. The problem was that each step seemed to require another power tool (their sponsor was a power tool mfg) .

Hubertus Hauger said...

@ BoysMom suggested "... to those of you who are unclear about what your job is, ... look at what needs most to be done, that you might be able to do, and do that first."

It appeals to me, that no matter, how much I am misled in my cave, doing what is most important and urgent, may come easier, however faulty I am in comprehending reality, and I´ll do the right thing anyway.

Daergi said...

Would it be applicable to consider a broader discussion of technology? The debate currently seems to be hinging on a very narrow definition, primarily electronics and how this particular type of technology rules people's lives or how we are able to free ourselves from its grasp. (Content delivered through the technology, though, seems to be just as despised as the technology itself.) However, a talking stick is technology. The Great Wall of China is technology. (Can I posit that religion is a technology. Building a society from a doctrine - a suite of tools - is technology.) Is the unspoken assumption that older, or more primitive technologies, or those less electric-y are safe and/or don't have the power to corrupt or consume lives. Let's ask the remains of the slaves buried in the foundations of the Great Wall or in the pyramids. I've suffered through a talking stick being abused. Certainly I'm not the only one, where one person has tried to dominate a gathering through its control. Humanity's history is full of excess in the utilization of its technology.

The issue, to me, is in our own nature. JMG's example of the mice with the spilt grain at the beginning of Ecotechnic Future is as pertinent to the overuse of technology, the abuse of ideas, as much as to the overuse of fossil fuel.

Imagine a new technology (invented at any point in history to solve some particular problem) as a stack of 'get out of jail free' cards. The card is played and we're out of that pickle. It worked so wonderfully, so we play another... and another. We get used to getting off scot-free, enjoy not having to wrestle with that particular pickle, the ease it creates, so we come to play from the stack of cards more and more. Is the technology that solved a problem the issue or our inappropriate and incessant use of it. Antibiotics have a valid and important function, which putting into animals' daily feed or into hand sanitizer are not examples of. I guess if Lassie had a cellphone handy when Timmy fell down a well we might consider that a good thing. But as a crutch to mask our soul-crushing loneliness or inability to interact with others? It prevents us from the necessity of having to learn important lessons or to face inevitable facts.

Janet D said...

In a most interesting synchronistic event, Paul Kingsnorth (co-founder of The Dark Mountain Project & co-producer of its subsequent anthologies*) just announced that he will no longer be using social media & will be closing his FB & Twitter accounts. His (brief) blog post, "What Would Ted Do?" about why he is walking away is well worth a read and very much in line with the contents of the recent posts and comments here. What Would Ted Do?

*For those who don't own a copy of Dark Mountain's "The Manifesto" and the first anthology (which features an amazing essay by our own Archdruid), I highly recommend them. Any Green Wizard shelf is for the lesser without them. IMHO, of course. Google the Dark Mountain web site to get them.

Shane Wilson said...

am I the only one who misses dialing the phone? Sigh, I'm still fond of the old Automatic Electrics I grew up with! & my grandmother's bakelite phone with the brass dial that was her retirement gift! & the lovely bell ringers! Nice thing about Automatic Electric is that they were using coiled handset cords long before Western Electric.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

My attention is easily captured by music. If I walk into a restaurant or cafe and the music is loud or I dislike it, I walk back out again. I can't enjoy my food if the "background" music irritates my nerves. Recently higher-ups ordered the managers of the local supermarket to play old pop music loudly on the store's sound system. It's distracting and makes what used to be a fairly calm task into an ordeal. I feel sorry for the people who have to work there.

Etiquette for cell phone use in company was worked out more than a decade ago. In the smart phone era the rules seem to be breaking down. As I understand it, unless you are on call for work, in which case it's one call and goodbye, you arrange that the time you spend in company is not repeatedly interrupted by the phone. You do not initiate calls. You turn the ringtone off and let calls roll over to voicemail. If you receive one particular call that is important to you, when it comes you apologize, step away, tell the caller when you will call back, or you converse for less than a minute, ring off, and apologize again for the interruption. You get one of these per social occasion. If you get another, sticking around is plain rude.

Some kinds of multitasking may be acceptable on informal social occasions; I would include in that list minding children and dogs, needlework and some chores. Communicating with people who aren't present is not allowed unless all the people who are present can join the conversation.

Ahavah said...

So, I am currently reading a relatively new book by William Easterly called The Tyranny of Experts regarding development in 3rd world countries, and I came across this passage on page 140:

"As many à rebel has discovered then and now has discovered at great personal cost, it is not that easy to be an individual going you're own way in an autocracy that can punish rebels with impunity. Those who care about you...will beg you to conform... In autocratic societies the role of parental education is to control the negative instincts of children... Individuals may prefer to assert their own rights but might have no good of success when collectivist norms hold for everyone else... "

I immediately thought of all the anecdotes related here recently about how people's family and friends and especially parents had mini freak outs when we decided to forgo some or all tech devices. What are they afraid of? We don't - at least yet - have enforcers who stalk you and break you kneecaps for going against the system.

It is also interesting to note the book repeatedly returns to the theme of racism as being as symptom of autocracy, and states on this same page that "those regions with a history of autocracy have significantly lower values of trust and respect for others..." As we see being demonstrated right now in reaction to Syrian refugees. But if you ask anybody they will insist that we absolutely do not live in an autocracy.

Yet evidence would seem to indicate we are the thralls of the tech lords, or of the priests of the myth of progress who are gleefully profiteering off of our fear of.... What, exactly?

I know this is part of what we are exploring here, but surely the fear of having to write a letter instead of an email, of look at a map instead of a GPS, or carry a date book instead of a phone or tablet is far too shallow an explanation. Is it racism after all, that they fear living like "those people?"

Jen said...

My laptop met a messy end today thanks to my own carelessness and a large mug of tea and honey. My laptop is one of the few complex technologies I have clung to like grim death, partly for my writing and partly for research and reading material and access to information (things I desperately wanted but did not have growing up); normally I would not even have entertained the thought of not replacing it; it has been one of my "non-negotiables." But thanks to this post and the last one, I was able to step outside that automatic pattern of response and realize that I could choose not to replace it. Not only does that mean hundreds or, more honestly, thousands of unspent dollars still in my pocket, but the sense of psychological relaxation and relief is very liberating; I feel like my mind had been clenched up around the idea of it like a spasming muscle (a state I was unaware of until it changed) and now can move smoothly and freely again. Just goes to show that even those of us who live happily without cars, televisions, or powered kitchen appliances can still have our own oddly potent mental off-switches when it comes to our favored technologies. My most sincere thanks, JMG and fellow commenters, for the timely assistance in deconstructing that particular pattern of non-thought.

Shane Wilson said...

One of the biggest things for me of the world that we've created for ourselves is the pathos of it all, and how lonely and isolating it can be, and how, when you're with others, you're still alone, and that, very few people, certainly none I've ever met, actually "get" it, and understand the grave situation we face, particularly in the US. So, yes, choosing to go an alternate path has definite social costs, but, from our perspective, going along with a pathological society costs the soul even more. Not to mention the very real unsustainability of it all, that the gig's up for us in the US, at least. So, as I've mentioned before, my goal is to disengage as much as possible, as I find most interactions with most people trying, keeping interactions as superficial as possible to avoid "taboo" topics/arguments. I will say that my most promising engagements are with younger people--the closest I've ever been able to "turn on the light" and "connect the dots" with people have been with young adults. I find nature to be my battery recharger from living in dystopia. I simply don't have the spiritual tools at this point to engage with present society very much. Maybe when I've cultivated those tools sufficiently, I'll be ready to engage more. Certainly, JMG's expressed here so much the damage all that modern industrial society has caused, especially since it ignored limits to growth.
Regarding politics, I'm holding back there. I definitely do NOT want to do anything to support/endorse the "system"/status quo if I can. I'm just monitoring the situation. If there was something on the horizon that held great promise for overturning the current order without bringing in something much worse (a needle to thread, I'll admit), I'd definitely come out of the woodwork to participate. But it seems best in such volatile times as these, when things could go any number of ways, not all good, to hold back and see if anything promising develops first.

Shane Wilson said...

one of the "big lies", I think, is that Western society, that is, white Europeans and their societies, are somehow better equipped to deal with the impacts of modern industrial society than "primitive" cultures. We lament what modernization has done to "primitive" cultures. The "big lie" is that we're not damaged by it, as well. What we're finding out is that we're just as damaged as any culture by industrialization, maybe more so, because we've lost the collective memory of what came before.

Dennis D said...

Reading this post I an reminded of a saying regarding wood working: Power tools let you make mistakes much faster (then hand tools). I think this applies to any tech that multiplies human potential.

John Michael Greer said...

Alex, true enough! Cuneiform is an elegant way of writing, and it also has the advantage that baked clay tablets last a very long time. Hundreds of thousands of tablets from the libraries of Mesopotamia are perfectly readable millennia after they were originally written, whereas information on the internet will be gone forever a millisecond after the relevant server goes dark.

Mickey, yes, I think that's an important part of it.

Eric, good heavens. Freemasons and other fraternal orders routinely attend church services, but I didn't know that ruinmen were doing the same thing now!

Tom, sure, data processing could help -- well, until you start factoring in the whole systems cost of the infrastructure needed to generate the hardware that would be needed for the purpose. You're right, of course, that the sheer cost is also a nontrivial factor. As for Schumacher's system, stay tuned... ;-)

Eric, of course the greens are upset at you. The entire mainstream green movement at this point rotates like a broken record around the rhetoric of "You have to do what we want or horrible things will happen!" If you point out that the horrible things are already happening and doing what they want won't change that, they've lost their one and only argument, and they also have to face the possibility that the horrible things they've been using as a stalking horse for so long are actually going to happen.

Prizm, yes, that's certainly a plausible analysis. What I'm trying to do, though, is focus on the fact that it's happening, pointing up how absurd it is, and encouraging those who've suffered from technobullying to remember that they're not alone and follow their values rather than peer pressure.

Unknown Toni, oh, granted. It's a challenge, though not an insuperable one, to live in two worlds at the same time.

Ed, well, yes -- the lack of technology is also a filter of sorts. The question, again, is whether you choose your filters or whether you allow someone else to push them on you.

Barrabas, there is indeed another way...

Andrew, good. Yes, that's also a factor -- and the panic caused by the cognitive dissonance between what progress is supposed to bring and what it actually brings is a massive political fact just now.

Art Deco, I'm not surprised. The media is stunningly self-referential these days anyway -- no doubt any day now we'll have TV programs that portray people watching TV programs about their TV-watching habits!

Pavel, a classic example, complete with the stunningly absurd non sequitur about living in caves.

Martin, well, there you are. The important thing, to my mind, is that you realize that you have a choice, and act on that knowledge.

william fairchild said...

@Patricia Mathews-

Wow! With all due respect, what a flamebait. Against my better judgement, I will bite on it this time.

"...actually, those smartphones are not a luxury nor an addiction for the homeless, but a lifeline."

When did I indicate criticism of "the homeless"? Are "the homeless" the only ones, or even the main ones that use a food pantry? What stereotypical nonsense. I merely indicated that clients at our local food pantry were diddling on smartphones whilst in line, and could perhaps put their monies to better use. FYI most clients nowadays are gainfully employed and have a home. The jobs they have just don't pay enough to support themselves. I am sympathetic with that, but don't make the argument to me that your Facebook account is more important, or equally important, to the grocery bill. Do we really think they are filling out job aps or checking out the best price to sell recycled copper/aluminum in line at the pantry? Really? Newsflash: I overhear the conversations- they are about funny memes or what Sally did over the weekend.

I may be wrong, but I have a strong suspicion that a great many not only have a smartphone, but also home internet access, which is fine. But if the argument is that the disadvantaged need internet access, and therefore 50-100/month plus a two-year contract is justified when you are having trouble eating, I have news for you, free WiFi is readily available, from the local Mickey D's to the local library. 4G wireless smartphone internet is about the most expensive service you could pick.

Finally on "the homeless" I have had the privilege of being friends with and being related to several homeless people. My brother-in-law and a co-worker, being two. It took Harry 2 years to get back on his feet after he was laid off in Houston and my boss (God bless his heart) picked Kevin up from the family shelter until he could afford a car. Neither had smartphones.

"Actually, it's the same reason so many people have them in the nonindustrialized nations"

The comparison between us in the US and the 3rd world is not valid. The 3rd world doesn't have the sunk infrastructure costs in landline or fiberoptics, nor the corporate monopolies, and have chosen to bypass those modes for wireless. Their costs are far lower, per capita, than ours. Even in Europe, they pay on average less per month for more bandwidth than do US consumers. Is this right, or just? Maybe not. But it is the way the telecom world is right now. And all the righteous indignation of the Tumblr social justice warriors in the world can't change it.

"...No, a New Mexico driver's license doesn't count because it doesn't satisfy the Real ID requirements."

Sounds like there is a political problem in NM. By golly, IL managed to work out Real IDs replete with bar-codes and holograms. Western Civilization didn't fall. Renewing it costs a whopping $10. Maybe y'all need to un-elect your black-helicopter watching, Tea Partying, New World Order types. They probably don't frequent this blog anyways...

"But again ... *before* assuming that something you don't like or understand is because "he's a bum, she's a slut, they just have poor values.."

Shame on you! I certainly didn't call anyone a bum. I didn't say anyone's values were poor; I merely pointed out that some priorities were out of whack. I NEVER engaged in slut shaming. I raised three daughters and wouldn't do that. It seems to me that there may be some projection here.

As we used to say "don't stick your finger in my Kool-Aid when you don't know the flavor."

Stepping off the soap box...

Best regards

John Michael Greer said...

Doug, funny. The only people you might have upset were the trolls whose comments got delected.

Bryan, congrats, and I hope the adventure goes well.

Raven, as I mentioned the last time you suggested this, that begs the question -- why does this difference elicit such frantic behavior, while so many other differences get no reaction at all?

DesertedPictures, what astonishes me in your story is that somebody noticed that the new high tech system wasn't working, and the decision was made to go back to something that worked. In the US the response would have been to punish the people who were using the system, on the assumption that the only reason it didn't work was that they must be doing something wrong.

Johnny, you're getting pushback about your veganism for two reasons. The first is that Americans basically aren't sane about food, and quarrel about diets at the drop of a hat. The second is that a great many vegans aren't as courteous as you are. I'm an omnivore, and I've been in exactly the same position you describe, with vegans hectoring me about my diet -- in several cases, screaming insults at me because they happened to see me at a food co-op putting meat into my shopping basket. So a great many omnivores have gotten into the habit of launching preemptive strikes of the sort you've described, in the hope of heading off yet another vegan diatribe. I agree, it sucks to be treated badly as a result of somebody else's bad habits!

Daergi, I'd point out that some countries are restricting rights on their way down the far side of Hubbert's peak, some are expanding them, and some are doing some of both. For this and other reasons, which probably deserve a post of their own one of these days, I suggest that there's no statistically significant correlation between energy per capita and civil rights, and the descent into a deindustrial world could involve almost any combination of expanding and contracting rights.

Jen, Texas is Texas, and such experience as I've had with that state and its residents suggests that eccentricity is actually less of a taboo there than in many other parts of the US -- after all, it's the only US state that fought a civil war over whether to have laws at all! I suspect that may be shaping your experience.

Mister R., I've read numerous studies -- though I don't have the references handy -- that claim that the flicker effect of television entrains the human brain into alpha wave activity, making rational thinking difficult and sinking consciousness into a vague emotional haze. The channelers you were reading may have gotten the details wrong but they had the principle right!

Leo, they do what? Oog. I'm even happier that I don't have one of the wretched things.

Patricia, that might be part of it -- but why does that difference call up a more frenzied reaction than most others?

Wwoofbum, my take is that a lot of people these days have no inner life, and have to vent their opinions on the internet to find out what they think, or prove to themselves that they think at all. The mere fact that they're blurting out thoughtstoppers they picked up from random websites just adds irony to the situation.

Barrymelius, glad to hear it.

Lynnet, maybe that's one of the beliefs I should target, then.

Patriciaormsby, ah, yes -- the Tinkerbell theory of social change. It's a common bad habit of the privileged, who are so used to having their whims catered to that they become convinced that the universe itself is obligated to do so.

John Michael Greer said...

Chris, good. Which technology is best for any particular task has nothing to do with how "advanced" the various options are.

Spanish Fly, thanks for the link!

Dan, one of the awkward things about the current historical situation is that so many parts of the world outside Western Europe, North America and Australasia have been sold on the consumer economy just as the consumer economy is running hard into the limits to growth. I suspect that's going to generate spectacular social stresses as the goodies everyone in your part of the world is waiting for don't show up.

Tazmic, did you think I was making that assumption?

Luddene, and that's also part of the picture, of course.

Kyoto, and that's valid, for you. My point is that people ought to have the right not to use technologies they don't like, for whatever reason.

Ahavah, that's what I've described as the senility of the elites. It's very common in declining civilizations, and generally ends very, very messily.

Howard, good! I've suspected for some time that at least some parts of the 21st century will look like a film of the 20th century played in reverse.

Hello/Erika, thank you. Stay tuned for more...

Prizm, go ye forth and do that thing!

Temporaryreality, of course. Nobody said it was going to be easy; nothing really worthwhile ever is.

Jason, fair enough. I thought I might be understating the situation.

Kyoto, good. Now factor in the immense subsidies directed toward approved technologies such as autos, and away from any alternative.

Cathy, and that's always a point! If I'd owned a car, I never would have been able to afford to take up a writing career -- I'd have had to do something else to pay for the car, on top of everything else.

Goldmund, one of the reasons I'm exploring Retrotopia now is precisely because I've seen a similar shift begin to take hold. Whether it'll spread rapidly enough to make a difference is a good question, but it seems to me that it's worth the attempt.

Patricia Mathews said...

@William Fairchild -- all right, then, I do apologize. When I heard "food pantry", "homeless" was the first thing that jumped to my mind.

The rest was a hot button than comes from having lived too long around affluent liberals (no, I won't move; I was here first and the house is paid off) whose response to people not doing what they think should be done is that either "these people" need more educating or that there is something wrong with them. From the right, BTW, you get a lot of the "something wrong with them." And don't get me started on the media.

And my father sensitized me early on to the dangers of poor-bashing. He was an Episcopal minister of hillbilly background (and proud of it) who had adopted the Social Gospel early on, probably in college, and was a proud left-of-the-New-Deal Democrat. And so when I indulged in the mindless poor-bashing of the day, he set me straight, with a tongue that could lash every Pharisee in Scripture. This whether it was being lofty about football scholarships ("How else do you think some of these poor kids can afford college at all?") to the flashy cars driven by people living in ratty houses. ("They aren't allowed to live anywhere but [the local ghetto]. Nobody will rent decent housing to them. Those cars are all they have.") And so on.

And of course, I was on the other end of a fair amount of oddball-female bashing until the late 1960s.

So again, I apologize. But I stand by my claim that whatever else the poor use those phones for, it's communication, information, and access without waiting for a library computer to come free. I've seen that with my own eyes. (And would no more begrudge the frivolous uses thereof than I'd sip my wine while begrudging some poor devil his beer can.) But then, I never asked who had what level of smartphone or on what contract - and what sort of gadget do you need to use the free wifi at McD's? Surely not a laptop, which is cumbersome to carry around. A Kindle? A tablet? Because one thing the free wifi spots do not have is free laptops. Seriously. I have no idea!

william fairchild said...


Your Cave sounds like an awesome place to pitz around. Sometimes apprentices appear by accident. My youngest girl is the gardener. So she helps me in the yard, even with the dull, nasty stuff, such as weeding.

The other two have no real interest in the Shop. But, Liam, who is the neighbor's boy, stopped by when I was pulling a fuel tank out of the car, and visited. He was curious and wanted to watch. He now regularly stops by to see what is going on. Perhaps I inspired some love of tinkering in the little guy. If so, it's all good. If not, well hell, at least my Baby likes messing in the dirt! That's not nothing! :D

Maybe you could check out the local Big Brother/Big Sister outfit if that suits your fancy.

Patricia Mathews said...

Re: Real ID and New Mexico politics - three words. Governor Susana Martinez. Who carries her veto pen in a holster in quick-draw mode, I swear. She's a former prosecutor from Las Cruces, for what that's worth.

She campaigned on a crusade against illegal aliens getting any sort of driver's license. To give them any sort of state recognition is to condone them being illegal! Anathema! Crush the infamous thing!

Others imagined a whole lot more unlicensed, untested, untrained drivers on New Mexico's roads and shuddered. If you're familiar with our state's driving statistics, you'd shudder, too. (Common bumper sticker back in the day, "Visualize using your turn signal.")

And then you get people born here who can't prove their citizenship for one reason or another. Elders on the Rez, though that's dying out. No pun intended. People brought here as children and raised American, but still paperless. And the usual run of off the grid types, dropouts, transients, etc whose ID has probably been stolen several times over.

John Michael Greer said...

Shark, the problem with deciding to use the Devil is that the Devil generally ends up using you.

Jerry, a lot of people on the internet and elsewhere can't stand the thought that somebody might disagree with them, and go out looking for people who disagree with them in order to fling an assortment of "disproofs" (generally thoughtstoppers borrowed from the conventional wisdom) more or less in their direction. No question, there are some immense personal insecurities involved in that behavior...

Pygmycory, if you find those films useful, by all means.

Aias, it's remarkable how many otherwise intelligent people start babbling nonsense when anybody questions the inevitability of progress!

Other Tom, the problem is that people would go from there to insisting that the government must fund an infinite number of sitcoms, reality shows, etc. because otherwise their right to watch television would be infringed!

Pygmycory, good. What's more, agricultural societies vary dramatically in the rights they confer on women. Technology is not destiny...

Hugo, you can't argue with someone who's convinced they're right and isn't interested in logic. This is the advantage that blind faith always has over intelligent understanding.

Samurai, understood! I need a computer to make a living; these days publishers insist on receiving manuscripts in electronic form, rather than typed on paper, and a great deal of my marketing relies on this and other internet sites. Doesn't mean I have to buy into the rest of the online lifestyle!

Paulo, people are definitely threatened by the decision to use less complex technologies. Why that should be so is a fascinating question.

Buddha, I suspect the top-down stranglehold of the party elites on the parties will be one of the next things to go. When you're inaugurated governor of your state, I'll be happy to attend the banquet. ;-)

Helen, oh, granted. It really is absurd.

Brian, no argument there.

Hubertus, it's fascinating to watch otherwise intelligent people force-fit the idea of using less technology into whatever Procrustean bed of assumptions they prefer!

Crow, I expect to see the whole "life was unbearable before dancing Elvis dolls!" rhetoric to be cranked up even further in the years immediately ahead, as it becomes clear that the world after growth is going to look a lot like the world before growth. Otherwise people might notice that the world made by growth actually isn't tht blissful...

Ahavah said...

A link between the myth of progress and racism might explain why Republicans get so bent out of shape about minorities having any tech, saying things like they're not poor and don't deserve help if they have a microwave, or air conditioning, or a cell phone... But generally excuse white people having them by saying they must have had those before they got poor. Funny, they never suggest minorities used to be more wealthy. Minorities are generally presumed to have always been poor. Of course, that is not the only explanation. Just one possible aspect of the myth of progress.

Carl Dolphin said...

Dear JMG, one technology I haven't read mentioned yet is electric toothbrushes. Everyone "has to have one" your dentist will tell you. Of course they cost $100 and the heads have to be replaced every few months. I'll stick with my old plastic one.
In better news, my kids are taking up the electric guitar and they still play the violin. One is on lead and other on bass. They want to start a garage band (good thing it's not my man cave). I'd much rather support them in this endeavor than paying for any video game garbage. Who knows maybe if they stick with it, they can support themselves entertaining people that want to escape their problems for a couple hours.
Now if they wouldn't keep playing the same song over and over again.

theotherwayto said...

I am really enjoying this topic JMG - please keep revisiting it. Your last two posts have challenged my assumptions significantly. I was feeling a bit smug about the changes my husband and I have made to our lives in the past decade. (The usual off-grid story of healthy gardens, happy chickens, solar, yada yada). But yeah. Not so smug now - your posts have caused some serious reflection and the realization I'm still seriously plugged into the tech world-eating-machine. Thanks for that. My month (and the dreams bubbling up from my subconscious each night) just got a whole lot more interesting.

Candace said...

@ William Fairchild and Patricia Matthews
FYI - If you are eligible for SNAP, TANF, GA you can be eligible for the lifeline program.

They are usually what looks like smart phones.

I work at a food shelf in Minnesota. It is useful to remind yourself that you really don't know what is going on in someone elses life. My niece and nephew have moved on from the iPhones they received from my other technophile sister a couple of years ago. They are going to be donated to rhe local women's shelter.

So the reality is, you don't know how they came by the phones. You don't know what plans they are eligible for.

Blue Fibonacci said...

Hi JMG -

(Long time reader, 1st time commenter)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, a thank you for your consistently wise writings.

This year we got rid of the TV for good.

Also, tore out some evergreen hedges we inherited from the previous owners and built raised beds, in the front yard(!), for medicinal herbs(!).

Thank you!

PRiZM said...

All my talking about cults got me thinking about sacrifice. All this talk about how in a variety of ways we are better off without certain types of technology got me thinking about doing without some pieces of technology. And the talk about how many suffer from technobullying makes me realize how important it is to make people aware that it's OK to not use technology that feels useless to you, and that we could help others understand why. So, I feel this year I will sacrifice a piece of my technology, and spend the year explaining to people why I've given it up. To some extent, I know I'll be ridiculed. I'm planning on getting rid of the smartphone I've been using. Ever since I started using it two years ago, the voices in my head screamed to get rid of it. I'm constantly using smartphones as a topic of debate in my ESL classes, and I'm always on the con side. There's really no reason not to sacrifice it and let others know in the hopes that less people will be bullied. Even in China, where as Caryn has mentioned, most people are pretty open minded to doing things because they save, I was in the past the object of some ridicule because I had refused to use smartphones and the social networking media du jour.

Now the question arises.. how should I get rid of it? As mentioned earlier, all the cult talk makes me want to burn it. Oh how I would love to watch the flames engulf the phone.. but it's not environmentally friendly. Anyone have any suggestions?

And I would like to take a moment to ask others to join me in sacrificing an item of theirs which represents modern technology and the cult of progress, but is that which you could do without. And I'd encourage you to tell others why you've done this.

Oh, and it may be worth writing about how you get along life without the piece of technology you sacrifice. For example, I may start using smoke signals now!

Russ said...

John – there are a few fallacies in Plato’s shadows on the cave wall story: 1) the narrative assumes these folks were just plopped there as adults without any history as children – no prior experience as children or teenagers. 2) the fire behind them doesn’t have an infinite supply of fuel. Someone has to fetch wood because trees won’t grow in a cave. 3) they have to eat and eliminate waste and if they don’t do the latter outside the cave will become a latrine. So, we need to recognize that this is also just a story, not reality. Today this situation has been called a “living in a bubble”. The difference between Plato’s fake story and the bubble is that those in the bubble can see that there is a real world out there but they choose to ignore it. The latter more adequately describes today’s situation.

Other than looking at a screen in your den or living room TV is essentially no different than attending an opera or a stage presentation featuring one of Shakespeare’s plays. I don’t defend the content of the usual stuff on TV but there are some good things to watch. If one has a recording device the ads and commercials just fly bye. If one is unable to travel or is disabled sports events are fun to watch when you can root for a team. One of my daughters has bragged for years that she doesn’t watch TV, but she does rent movies from Netflix and watches them on the DVR/TV. I joke about her snobbery.
Regards, Russ Day

David Bazett-Jones said...

"Technology" has become our hope, our saviour, the one true god. To critique god or to put him/her in a less than positive light is to blaspheme. "Technology" has attained this standing because we really are in a precarious state unless "someone will think of something". If you demonstrate that high tech gadgetry will not save us, that it is not omnipotent, maybe people get frightened, seeing the true state we are in; hence, the irrational, shrill responses you have had.

Daergi said...

People have been talking here about their experiences where their friends and family have tried to shove electronics down their throats. The example that seems to encapsulate what's going on here is the one where a coworker set the laptop down and told the person to watch a particular show so that they would have something to talk about. There's lots of examples, though, and I've been tsk-ing and shaking my head along with everyone else. But this morning a light went off, and I realized I was as bad as the people in all of the examples.

For the last few years climate change, peak oil, our collapsing economic system and so on has been consuming a lot of my attention. But I can't ever find people to talk intelligently with about it. So I started buying extra copies of the books I was reading and lending them out to friends, colleagues and customers. Basically saying, "Read this so that we have something to talk about." I've handed out copies of Overshoot, Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush, Currency Wars and several others. All to no avail. I shudder to think that maybe all these people I handed books to are on some mirror site of The Archdruid Report (maybe The Carbon-Burner Patriot Report) complaining about people who shove books and articles in their faces about some leftist, doomsday conspiracy nonsense.

It's human nature, I think, to want to be connected to those around you; to have a common understanding of the world. One problem seems to be that the world has grown so much larger and more complex than the small, localized groups we evolved in. Another problem seems to be that in all of the chatter, the incessant noise and static, people can no longer distinguish between things with meaning, with valuable content, and things that are meaningless. And perhaps vacuity is actively promoted. Advertising is, after all, about creating perceived value. If you can sell nothing for a lot of money, well then, that's a home run. People have devoted their lives and their hard earned money for an advertised reality - a lot of content-devoid nothingness. To admit that is to render meaningless their lives. I think that under these circumstances these people would double down on their current path (check), create some all encompassing philosophy to validate their choices (check), and villain-ize anyone who challenges or tries to expose what's happening by offering up a more meaningful reality (check).

Hello... said...

i say this to shane or anyone with a broken heart:

sitting on the sidelines, sitting out this dance and WAITING for something interesting to happen, is part of that passivity that'll kill you and your spirit, and enervates you. it's also part of the whole problem.

it's like looking for a new girlfriend, skulking around with a chip on your shoulder still about the LAST one. you're sending out daggers and you only attract certain people.

to really change your current circle, you have to break free and be yourself OUT IN THE OPEN (and ALONE!), even if quiet, to attract other similar types of folks. you have to not know anything. because you DON'T!

the cave analogy is so good, John Michael Greer! thank you for being such a good and gentle teacher, leader.

shane! and you DO know people, or OF them, people with honor, integrity. people who go the long, uncomfortable route for a cleaner outcome. the more you even quietly and privately do such things according to your own beliefs, similar people will also find you. it's a smell that comes off people. i can tell in a second about folks now. before they speak. in fact, that's part of what made me think i was going insane about five years ago or so: i'd go to a party and someone's eyes would be PLEADING in pain, but their MOUTHS would be talking party smack and saying nothing.

i didn't know what to ANSWER. and i'd actually get physically tired enough to have to lie down on the floor where i was. another author i met for almost two hours, i left all nauseous and was sick for 2 weeks. i was terrified that people were magically "bleeding" me. i only casually believed in this "energy" thing. i thought the mind could "over power" anything. ha!

so my sensitivity is good and i protect it now, and can practically "smell" people now as soon as i see them. i can see who's twitchy, angry, defensive. they're dangerous. i also see the people who used to be invisible to me before when i hated myself and became friends with the ones who'd "deign" to see me, fix me.

John Michael Greer is a visionary who stays true to his longer view when he could go the short route to sell books, please the masses.

he does a good balance of his own vision, with giving folks what they NEED, and keeps this place clean and safe so it doesn't descend into madness. how a person prunes every moment in the here-and-now says all you need to know about how they'll treat you now and in a year when the shine of newness wears off.


Hubertus Hauger said...

@ JMG on Dan about the situation that many parts of the world have been sold on consumption just as economy is running hard into the limits to growth, suspecting huge social stresses as the goodies won't show up.

Long time one of my passions is predicting future possibilities. As I have turned from a boomer to a doomer, predictions also changed.

Just a few days back I saw one foresight, very earnest and not at all exageratedly technotopian. Just because I do rather like their sincere and profund attidude, the more it struck me. They account of 3.5 Billion urban people living today compared to 6 Billion in 2050. Which are suppose to use up double as much ressources than today.

What I then observed, that they didn´t include peak everything. Which in my point of view, is were we are. A doubling of consumtion, where the raw materials are lacking, doesnt count for a smooth transition. All this wrong calculation ask for a mass of trouble.

Our future, an exellent examples for worse does make Syria with all its turnmoil, civil-war, destruction of livingspace, warlords taking over power from a formerly centralised government. Emerging is a warfare like in the dark ages. Amassing refugees aka “voelkerwanderung” to flood neighnouring areas. A collapse disease, maybe infecting the neighbours and spread.

I guess, there will be other developments too. Another example for good was Cuba, which simplified and survived quite well. They experimented in simplifying their life adapting to their lack of ressources.

In that range between simplifying life and carrying out disputes and raids via warfare. Whatever place may flourish, may soon get jealous and greedy marauders and predators on their doorstep. Nowadys still camouflaged, later on openly with shameless force.

Do I recall that right? Somewhere I read a JMG timeline of 300 years of decline until humans on earth will stabilise in a sort of medieval state.

We are already running hard into the limits to growth. Half of the time I am in denial. I rather dream that there is a Happy End.

Mr. Spock, please come for our rescue and bring along the horn of plenty, the philosopher's stone and the fountain of life!

Patricia Mathews said...

@hello --- you sound to me like an unshielded empath. Are you into any sort of magical or spiritual practice? I'd like to suggest JMG's other blog, THE WELL OF GALABES, which deals with such things.It's not a technical how-to blog, but his readers whoa re into that sort of thing, gather there. Just my $0.02 ... and your talent is a great survival asset if you can keep it from draining you dry.

Pat, whose level of empath talent is roughly equal to that of a rock.

sgage said...


"Mister R., I've read numerous studies -- though I don't have the references handy -- that claim that the flicker effect of television entrains the human brain into alpha wave activity, making rational thinking difficult and sinking consciousness into a vague emotional haze. The channelers you were reading may have gotten the details wrong but they had the principle right!"

A good book on the whole topic of the corrosive effects of TV is the classic 'Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television', by Jerry Mander. One of the things he talks about is the neurological impact of the technology. Evidently, when watching TV, information gets into your brain while bypassing the usual critical faculties. That's one reason why 'advertising' on TV is so brutally effective. He also talks about the effects on alpha wave activity, and lots more...

sgage said...

@ Hubertus Hauger:

"'Mr. Spock, please come for our rescue and bring along the horn of plenty, the philosopher's stone and the fountain of life!"

Might as well throw in the Rosetta Stone while we're at it!

donalfagan said...

During one of Orren Whiddon's sessions asking us to get specific about collapse, I said - or tried to say - that failing antibiotics and sanitation could be as severe as any pandemic. Here's the latest wrinkle, with the relatively mundane E Coli and Salmonella becoming more resistant:

Also, Peter Thiel once again exhorts that we must go nuclear to avoid climate change:

What could go wrong?

I watch TV, if it's good. If there was no TV I'd probably watch vaudeville, or listen to the local storyteller. I'd like to think I'd pass on watching a naked, painted King dance around the stage, but then there's Trump.

Jen said...

Russ said: "looking at a screen in your den or living room TV is essentially no different than attending an opera or a stage presentation featuring one of Shakespeare’s plays."

I have said similiar things in the past, and have often felt that your average theatre-goer or opera buff was a self-satisfied twit (this despite the fact that I was often attending the same performance as the aforementioned twits; but of course I am too fine and broad-minded a person to ever descend into such smug self-congratulation).

However, two circumstances have converged which have led me to re-think my position: first, I have lost my ability to tolerate television and film even in the minimal amounts that I previously consumed it, at friends' houses or once every couple of years at the cinema; I find myself almost frantically bored and fidgety and distressed when obliged to sit through it, and cannot tolerate more than a few minutes of it with any equanimity. This is true even of content that I think has interest and value, although something very good can hold my attention for a bit longer before I can't take it anymore. Second, I have returned to the city and have been socializing with some friends who enjoy plays, a couple of whom are playwrights. I have attended performances with them and have found that the physical presence of skillful actors in a shared space makes for a riveting experience. A good play leaves me engaged and energized and appreciative of my fellow human beings. Even a mediocre performance does not leave me feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin. For me, at least, the medium of performance has a very marked effect on my response. Perhaps it is down to bald personal preference, but my superficial familiarity with the neurological and sociological literature on the subject of television leads me to suspect that something more is at work, and I am less inclined than previously to dismiss the denunciation of television by those who prefer more "cultured" pursuits as mere classism or cultural chauvinism.

Shane Wilson said...

A lot of us admire the Amish for their communal take on technology, and wish that we could "detech", ourselves, but lack the social reinforcement to encourage such a move. Keeping in mind what JMG has said in the past about cohesive communities (shared values, enforceable rules, etc.) I wonder if it would be possible to create an effective, cyclical/seasonal/Earth focused Amish type community in which tech w/drawal was the focus, in which community members set effective targets of tech rollback and committed to forgoing/abstaining from certain forms of digital tech, and supported other community members in doing so? Ever since I've been reading this blog, I've dreamed of emulating the Amish in a non-Christian, or not necessarily Christian, way.

sgage said...

@ Russ:

"looking at a screen in your den or living room TV is essentially no different than attending an opera or a stage presentation featuring one of Shakespeare’s plays."

To the extent that you really believe this and are not just trolling, you are very badly and indeed absurdly mistaken. But I think you're just trolling.

Iuval Clejan said...

Shane, contact me about the Possibility Alliance (ask JMG for my email address or through my blog) or the Luddite Manhattan Project (aka the Monastic Order of Luddite Scholars). The Possibility Alliance not only have social support for deteking, but are building TECHNOLOGICAL support for it. As Most people who have thought hard about technology have realized, it is a complex system with feedbacks, which means everything is connected and you can't just deter--you have to figure out the infrastructure for whatever technology you want to replace the old one with in a SYSTEMIC way.

Actually the term deteking is inaccurate. My goal and the PA goal (as well as most luddites inkling Gandhi and Peter Maurin) is a craft and agrarian based, as opposed to industrial, means of production/consumption/technology.

John Michael Greer said...

Raven, of course! Otherwise people might see the stars and realize how unimportant they are in the great scheme of things...

Kfish, I've seen that sort of thing happens. People are terrified of the TV-free.

Shane, I've spent time around people with the same sort of "everything MUST be postive!" attitude, and it's far from pleasant. It became painfully clear after a while that at the heart of that attitude is an overwhelming craving for power -- nothing can be allowed to disobey the command to be positive! A less arrogant attitude seems more sensible to me.

Monica, delighted to hear it! Back in the day, there used to be all sorts of specialized slide rules for different uses -- I've seen electronics slide rules set up to automatically calculate inductance, for example, and naval slide rules that gunners used to calculate the right angle for dropping a shell on top of the other guy's battleship. I wonder if anybody made astrological slide rules with all the right scales for interpolating planetary positions, calculating house cusps, etc. That would be a very cool technology to resurrect.

Flute, I know. The only reason I successfully avoid that sort of thing is that I tend to live in down-at-heels neighborhoods where a lot of people can't afford cars or, if they have them, don't drive them much to save on gas money.

Sgage, true enough.

Ron, funny! I didn't think of that, and I should have; thank you.

Glenn, my guess is that anything that will take down a duck will take down a drone, so you're probably right.

Repent, my guess is that more and more young people are starting to realize just how thoroughly they're being screwed by today's American society, and it's beginning to sink in that playing another round of video games or what have you isn't going to change that ugly fact.

Cherokee, we could indeed, by Crom! I think you're quite right about jobs. One of the ways the senility of the elites is really showing itself these days is the extent to which the privileged blandly assume that if they deprive more and more of the population of any way to make a living, there's going to be blowback. As Lao Tsu said, if people have nothing to live for, it doesn't do a lot of good to threaten them with death...

Kevin, it is an abyss, and in the best Nietzschean sense, when you stare into it, it stares back at you. I definitely recommend counting exactly how many hours a week you watch television, and then thinking of everything else you could have done with those hours.

Nicholas, here again, the question in my mind is why technology should be so much more loaded as a uniform than any of the many other things we use every day for similar purposes.

Nick said...

"Nicholas, here again, the question in my mind is why technology should be so much more loaded as a uniform than any of the many other things we use every day for similar purposes"

A uniform is just clothing. Although a uniform can be assigned great value, it is basically just bits of cloth, leather and metal. It might protect you from the sun or keep you warm, but that's about all it can actually do in the real, material world.

It seems natural that we are preconditioned to get excited about things that are useful for some imagined purpose. Throughout the recent parts of our evolution, having a good tool to accomplish the task at hand was very important. It stands to reason that obtaining tools triggers powerful reward circuits in the brain.

Sven Eriksen said...


When reading your comment, I suddenly felt ashamed at having made denouncing comments on previous post with regards to vegans, describing it as a neurotic relationship to food etc. Of course I was referring to the proselytizing/trolling activity that goes with it, which I personally have happened to be experiencing at intensifying rates of late, and not to people's actual personal dietary choices per se. Being on the receiving end of emotional abuse because you opt for a diet that you consider natural, and which is an essential component to your well being is both hurtful and disempowering. Reading that you experience the same, only in reverse was an eye opener. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Nick said...

Sorry for two posts, but I just noticed your reply, JMG, to Monica about slide rules. I generally don't like TED talks, but this is one worth watching*:

An astrolabe is definitely on my appropriate technology bucket list.

In a metaphysical sense, slide rules are kind of fascinating. They're a little bit of material reality upon which is encoded fundamental mathematics, which as far as we can tell, are the most fundamental thing there is. One can almost imagine these simple bamboo, plastic or metal devices as reality-lenses that bring fuzzy parts of the universe into focus...

*If one discounts the colossal cost of the infrastructure that lets you watch it

Michelle said...

It's my pleasure to inform you, O Archdruid, that as recently as 1991, Student Naval Aviators were issued circular slide rules to compute such things as true airspeed, ground speed, etc. I still have mine. It was affectionately known as a "whiz wheel."

I've been reflecting on a language choice of mine. For some years, since I shut of the TV after 9/11, when someone asks me if I am familiar with (insert name of show, or commercial) I say, "No, I don't watch TV. I live in a bit of a cave." I don't, of course, actually live in a cave. I daresay I spend more time outdoors than most folks - I have a small, one-acre farm with meat rabbits, laying hens, and dwarf dairy goats, plus perennial fruit trees and several large garden beds. I hang my laundry out more months of the year than not, despite needing two days to get everything dry at this time of year in New England. So why do I say that I live in a cave?

Pulling my MA in English Literature and Language out of storage, I have come to a preliminary conclusion that I say it partly to poke a bit of humor at myself, and partly because by claiming to live in a cave, I make it clear that my lack of TV is my choice, and that since nobody actually expects anyone to live in a cave, folks need not feel that I'm judging their TV habits.

Now I'm realizing that when my teenage Scouts snicker at my flip phone, I cheerfully acknowledge to them that I'm a dinosaur. And I also realize that I have never had the kind of explosive reaction to my Luddite tendencies that others have described. I wonder if it's because my attitude tells folks that I'm not taking the matter too seriously, therefore I'm no threat to them.

patriciaormsby said...

@Shane, what you are saying really resonates with me. I am so glad to read, too, that you are connecting with younger people. I connect with Japanese youngsters fine until they get their first device, usually in junior high and then they mostly drift away, and part of the problem seems to be that I have to ask them to turn off their devices when I'm teaching them.

@Everyone, I've read through most of the comments these past two weeks, and I am heartened by this discussion, but there have only been two of us actually bringing up negative health impacts of modern wireless technology. The cell phone industry is up in arms over a new ordinance in Berkeley, requiring purchasers to be warned to keep their cell phone away from their bodies (5 to 25 mm). Such warnings have been buried in the fine print until now. And more and more lawsuits are being brought against the industry regarding brain cancer . Cancer is just the tip of the iceberg.

We should be discussing the human right to a healthy environment, but no one wants to touch this too hot of a potato, for fear of ridicule. About 15 years ago, the Tokyo train stations put up posters urging people not to use their cell phones on the train. The posters showed little lightning zaps coming from the phone BECAUSE THAT WAS WHAT PEOPLE WERE UPSET ABOUT (sorry to shout). A few days later, the posters were replaced with identical ones, but the lightning zaps were gone. Do you have any idea how much effort has gone into keeping you ignorant? The meme got spread far and wide that people were upset about overhearing chatting. The real issue was buried under an avalanche of cosmetic concerns that obfuscated the real issue.

I am happy to know that most of you realize what a turkey we've been sold, but the problem goes much further than what we've been discussing.

patriciaormsby said...

A few weeks ago someone here mentioned you can actually destroy an allegedly smart phone with your bare hands. I haven't tried it myself, never having been presented with one, but this method relies on muscular strength alone, increasing your strength as a result. Then I suppose you could pick the thing apart by hand then, sorting out useful bits (of which I am no expert).
The priestess in me would perform a short prayer over the little devil before proceeding. It didn't ask to be made into a dangerously addictive device of enslavement. Promise it you'll transform it into something beneficial.

John Michael Greer said...

Renaissance, hah! A nicely honed irony.

Mgalimba, exactly. As I noted in passing in my post, there are some very problematic features in Plato's original discussion; I took a certain amount of pleasure in taking his metaphor and using it for a purpose almost diametrically opposed to the one he had in mind.

Jo, excellent. That's exactly the point: there's no reason (aside from peer pressure and superstitious faith in progress for its own sake) to embrace a technological "advance" if it's harmful, or simply doesn't happen to please or interest us. The negative reactions to those who embrace that freedom of choice need to be confronted and challenged.

Iangagn, I'm sure geoengineering will be tried, to the extent that the funding and resource base can be managed. I'm just as sure that trying to tamper with a system as complex as the global climate will promptly result in disasters at least as extreme as anything climate change will do to us all by itself. "Er, that tailor-made hurricane we were trying to launch caused so much hot wet air to surge north from the Gulf of Mexico that it triggered a wall of thunderstorms and a burst of EF-5 tornadoes, which completely destroyed St. Louis -- hope you don't mind!"

Ivan, many thanks for the reference! That's exactly the study I was trying to remember.

Justin, congrats on getting your ticket!

Iuval, it would be good for all of us to understand that, but I don't happen to have those facts to hand. It would take serious psychological studies to make that clear, and I kind of doubt the funding will be available...

William, I'd certainly call most of the stuff spewing over Faceplant -- er, Facebook -- "twaddle," but only if I were feeling polite. Otherwise I'd have stronger terms in mind! I've looked over enough shoulders at social media to have a tolerably clear idea of what kind of information the information economy fosters...

Lou, exactly. On the other hand, you can put down the trinkets and have a life.

Will, interesting. I'll have to see if Mailer wrote anything about that.

Unknown RW, my hope is that others will pick this up and run with it. One voice in the wilderness won't have much effect. When it's a galaxy of voices, things become different.

Mrzatar, trust me, I wasn't about to confuse your comment with trolling! You wouldn't, either, if you'd seen the trolls whose attempted posts come to my inbox to die.

Shane Wilson said...

the fact that people are not, literally, "up in arms", is evidence enough to the powers that be that social services, charities, and their staff can be cut some more. Cutbacks will continue until people are literally, "up in arms". People will be squeezed until they can't be squeezed anymore, and the lack of widespread social disorder is evidence that social services, charities, etc. can be cut even more, or be required to go through more red tape for funding/tax exempt status, etc.

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