Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Retrotopia: Lines of Separation

This is the fourteenth installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator returns from his trip to a tier one county full of doubts about the Lakeland Republic’s prospects, and has those at once challenged and sharpened by a conversation at the local Atheist Assembly...

I’d had lunch with Ruth Mellencamp at a pleasant little diner a block from the station before I caught the train, so I had nothing to do until I got to Defiance but watch farmland roll by and think about what I’d seen since I’d crossed the border less than a week before. My reactions were an odd mix of reluctant admiration and unwilling regret. The people of the Lakeland Republic had taken a situation that would have crushed most countries—an international embargo backed up with repeated attempts at regime change—and turned it into their advantage, using isolation from the capital flows and market pressures of the global economy to give them space to return to older ways of doing things that actually produced better results than the modern equivalents.

The problem with that, I told myself, was that it couldn’t last. That was the thing that had bothered me, the night after I’d toured the New Shaker settlement, though it had taken another day to come into focus. The whole Lakeland Republic was like the New Shakers, the sort of fragile artificial construct that only worked because it isolated itself from the rest of the world. Now that the embargo was over and the borders with the other North American republics were open, the isolation was gone, and I didn’t see any reason to think the Republic’s back-to-the-past ideology would be strong enough by itself in the face of the overwhelming pressures the global economy could bring to bear.

That wasn’t even the biggest challenge they faced, though. The real challenge was progress—the sheer onward momentum of science and technology in the rest of the world. Sure, I admitted, the Lakeland Republic had done some very clever things with old technology—the Frankens blowing drones out of the sky with a basement-workshop maser kept coming to mind—but sooner or later the habit of trying to push technology into reverse gear was going to collide catastrophically with the latest round of scientific or technical breakthroughs, with or without military involvement, and leave the Lakelanders with the hard choice between collapse and a return to the modern world.

A week earlier, I probably would have considered that a good thing. As the train rolled into Defiance, I wasn’t so sure. The thing was, the Lakeland Republic really had managed some impressive things with  their great leap backward, and in a certain sense, it was a shame that progress was going to steamroller them in due time. Most of the time, people say “progress” and they mean that things get better, but it was sinking in that this wasn’t always true.

I picked up a copy of that day’s Toledo Blade from a newsboy in the Defiance station, and used that as an excuse to think about something else once I boarded the train back to Toledo. The previous day’s drone shoot was right there on page one, with a nice black and white picture of Maude Duesenberg getting her sixth best-of-shoot trophy, and a big feature back in the sports section with tables listing how all the competitors had done.  I didn’t pay attention to anything else on the front page at first, though, because another satellite had been hit.

The Progresso IV and the the Russian telecom satellite were bad enough, but this one was a good deal worse, because it was parked in a graveyard orbit—one of the orbital zones where everybody’s been sticking their defunct satellites since it sank in that leaving them in working orbits wasn’t a good plan. There’s a lot of hardware in most of the graveyard-orbit zones, and though they’re well away from the working orbits that doesn’t really matter once you get a Kessler syndrome started and scrap metal starts spalling in all directions at twenty thousand miles an hour. That was basically what was happening; a defunct weather satellite had taken a stray chunk of the Progresso IV right in the belly, and it had just enough fuel for its maneuvering thrusters left in the tanks to blow up. A couple of amateur astronomers spotted the flash, and the astronomy people at the University of Toledo announced that they’d given up trying to calculate where all the shrapnel was going; at this point, a professor said, it was just a matter of time before the whole midrange was shut down as completely as low earth orbit.

That was big news, not least because the assault drones I’d watched people potshotting out of the air depend on satellite links.  Oh, there are other ways to go about controlling them, but they’re clumsy compared to satellite, and you’ve also got the risk that somebody will take out your drones by blocking your signals—that’s happened more than once in the last couple of decades, and I’ll let you imagine what the results were for the side that suddenly lost its drones. Of course that wasn’t the only thing that was in trouble: telecommunications, weather forecasting, military reconnaissance, you name it, with the low orbits gone and the geosynchronous going, the midrange orbits were the only thing left, and now that door was slamming shut one collision at a time.

It occurred to me that the Lakeland Republic was one of the few countries in the world that wasn’t going to be inconvenienced by the worsening of the satellite crisis. Still, I told myself, that’s a special case, and paged further back. The rest of the first section was ordinary news: the Chinese were trying to broker a ceasefire between the warring factions in California; the prime minister of Québec had left on a state visit to Europe; the melting season in Antarctica had gotten off to a very bad start, with a big new iceflow from Marie Byrd Land dumping bergs way too fast. I shook my head, read on.

Further in was the arts and entertainment section. I flipped through that, and in there among the plays and music gigs and schedules for the local radio programs was something that caught my eye and then made me mutter something impolite under my breath. The Lakeland National Opera was about to premier its new production of Parsifal the following week, and every performance was sold out. Sure, I mostly listen to classic jazz, but I have a soft spot for opera from way back—my grandmother was a fan and used to play CDs of her favorite operas all the time, and it would have been worth an evening to check it out. No such luck, though: from the article, I gathered that even the scalpers had run out of tickets. I turned the page.

I finished the paper maybe fifteen minutes before the train pulled into the Toledo station. A horsedrawn taxi took me back to my hotel; I spent a while reviewing my notes, got dinner, and made an early night of it, since I had plans the next morning.

At nine-thirty sharp—I’d checked the streetcar schedule with the concierge—I left the hotel and caught the same streetcar line I’d taken to the Mikkelson plant. This time I wasn’t going anything like so far: a dozen blocks, just far enough to get out of the retail district. I hit the bell just before the streetcar got to the Capitol Atheist Assembly.

Half a dozen other people got off the streetcar with me, and as soon as we figured out that we were all going the same place, the usual friendly noises followed. We filed in through a pleasant lobby that had the usual pictures of famous Atheists on the walls, and then into the main hall, where someone up front was doing a better than usual job with a Bach fugue on the piano, while members and guests of the Assembly milled around, greeted friends, and settled into their seats. Michael Finch, who’d told me about the Assembly, was there already—he excused himself from a conversation, came over and greeted me effusively—and when I finally got someplace where I could see the pianist, it turned out to be Sam Capoferro, the kid I’d seen playing at the hotel restaurant my first day in town. He gave me a grin, kept on playing Bach.

We all got seated eventually. What followed was the same sort of Sunday service you’d get in any other Atheist Assembly in North America: the Litany, the lighting of the symbolic Lamp of Reason, and a couple of songs from the choir, backed by Capoferro’s lively piano playing. There was a reading from one of Mark Twain’s pieces on religion, followed by an entertaining talk on Twain himself—his birthday was coming up soon, I thought I remembered. Then we all stood and sang “Imagine,” and headed for coffee and cookies in the social hall downstairs.

“Anything like what you get at the Philadelphia Assembly?” Finch asked me as we sat at one of the big tables in the social hall.

“The music’s a bit livelier,” I said, “and the talk was frankly more interesting than we usually get in Philly. Other than that, pretty familiar.”

“That’s good to hear,” said a brown-skinned guy about my age, who was just then settling into a chair on the other side of the table. “Even with the borders open, we don’t have anything like the sort of contacts with Assemblies elsewhere that I’d like.”

“Mr. Carr,” Finch said, “this is Rajiv Mohandas—he’s on the administrative council here. Rajiv, this is Peter Carr, who I told you about.”

We shook hands, and Mohandas gave me a broad smile. “Michael tells me that you were out at the annual drone shoot Friday. That must have been quite an experience.”

“In several senses of the word,” I said, and he laughed.

We got to talking, about Assembly doings there in Toledo and back home in Philadelphia, and a couple of other people joined in. None of it was anything out of the ordinary until somebody, I forget who, mentioned in passing the Assembly’s annual property tax bill.”

“Hold it,” I said. “You have to pay property taxes?” They nodded, and I went on:  “Do you have trouble getting Assemblies recognized as churches, or something?”

“No, not at all,”  Mohandas said. “Are churches still tax-exempt in the Atlantic Republic? Here, they’re not.”

That startled me. “Seriously?”

Mohandas nodded, and an old woman with white hair and gold-rimmed glasses, a little further down the table, said, “Mr. Carr, are you familiar with the controversy over the separation of church and state back in the old Union?”

“More or less,” I said. “It’s still a live issue back home.”

She nodded. “The way we see it, it simply didn’t work out, because the churches weren’t willing to stay on their side of the line. They were perfectly willing to take the tax exemption and all, and then turned around and tried to tell the government what to do.”

“True enough,” Mohandas said. “Didn’t matter whether they were on the left or the right, politically speaking.  Every religious organization in the old United States seemed to think that the separation of church and state meant it had the right to use the political system to push its own agendas—”

“—but skies above help you if you asked any of them to help cover the costs of the system they were so eager to use,” said the old woman.

“So the Lakeland Republic doesn’t have the separation of church and state?” I asked.

“Depends on what you mean by that,” the old woman said. “The constitution grants absolute freedom of belief to every citizen, forbids the enactment of any law that privileges any form of religious belief or unbelief over any other, and bars the national government from spending tax money for religious purposes. There’s plenty of legislation and case law backing that up, too. But we treat creedal associations—”

I must have given her quite the blank look over that phrase, because she laughed. “I know, it sounds silly. We must have spent six months in committee arguing back and forth over what phrase we could use that would include churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, assemblies, and every other kind of religious and quasireligious body you care to think of. That was the best we could do.”

“Mr. Carr,” Finch said, “I should probably introduce you. This is Senator Mary Chenkin.”

The old woman snorted. “‘Mary’ is quite good enough,” she said.

I’d gotten most of the way around to recognizing her before Finch spoke. I’d read about Mary Chenkin in briefing papers I’d been given before this trip. She’d been a major player in Lakeland Republic politics since Partition, a delegate to their constitutional convention, a presence in both houses of the legislature, and then the third President of the Republic.  As for “Senator,” I recalled that all their ex-presidents became at-large members of the upper house and kept the position until they died. “Very pleased to meet you,” I said. “You were saying about creedal associations.”

“Just that for legal purposes, they’re like any other association. They pay taxes, they’re subject to all the usual health and safety regulations, their spokespeople are legally accountable if they incite others to commit crimes—”

“Is that an issue?” I asked.

“Not for a good many years,” Chenkin said. “There were a few cases early on—you probably know that some religious groups before the Second Civil War used to preach violence against people they didn’t like, and then hide behind freedom-of-religion arguments to duck responsibility when their followers took them at their word and did something appalling. They couldn’t have gotten away with it if they hadn’t been behind a pulpit—advocating the commission of a crime isn’t protected free speech by anyone’s definition—and they can’t get away with it here at all. Once that sank in, things got a good deal more civil.”

That made sense. “How’s the Assembly doing financially, though, with taxes to pay?”

“Oh, not badly at all,” said Mohandas. “We rent out the hall and the smaller meeting rooms quite a bit, of course, and this room—” He gestured around us.  “—is a school lunchroom six days a week.” In response to my questioning look:  “Yes, we have a school—a lot of,” he grinned, “creedal associations do. Our curriculum’s very strong on science and math, as you can imagine, strong enough that we get students from five and six counties away.”

“That’s impressive,” I said. “I visited a school out in Defiance County yesterday; it was—well, interesting is probably the right word.”

“Well, then, you’ve got to come tour ours,” Chenkin said. “I promise you, there’s no spectator sport in the world that matches watching a class full of fourth-graders tearing into an essay that’s been deliberately packed full of logical fallacies.”

That got a general laugh, which I joined. “I bet,” I said. “Okay, you’ve sold me. I’ll have to see what my schedule has lined up over the next few days, but I’ll certainly put a tour here on the list.”

“Delighted to hear it,” Mohandas said.

I wrote a note to myself in my pocket notebook. All the while, though, I was thinking about the future of the Lakeland Republic. Unless the science and math they taught was as antique as everything else in the Republic, how would the kids who graduated from the Assembly school—and equivalent schools in other cities, I guessed—handle being deprived of the kinds of technology bright, science-minded kids everywhere else took for granted?


While we’re on the subject of narrative fiction, Conan the Cimmerian, Robert E. Howard’s archetypal barbarian hero, has made more than one previous appearance on this blog. With that in mind I’d like to point interested readers in the direction of one of Conan’s more wryly amusing modern manifestations. By Crom! by cartoonist Rachel Kahn features the guy from Cimmeria offering helpful advice for modern urban life. Those who find that thought appealing might consider visiting the publisher’s website here to read the online version or buy PDF copies of the two By Crom! books; those who want printed copies can find the Kickstarter for that project here.


James M. Jensen II said...

Well, my prediction was almost right: no mention of the big natural gas leak in California, but we did finally see the inside of an Atheist Assembly!

I have to say they sound like a decent sort: anybody who's a fan of both Twain and Bach is alright by me. I'm sure many of your readers would agree with me that the argument for taxing "creedal associations" is quite convincing. And I'm looking forward to seeing how Carr reacts when he discovers that even the Atheists have fallen for the charm of "the great leap backward," and that their school curriculum is much better for it.

(By the way, did you have a particular piece by Twain in mind?)

HalFiore said...

I thought maybe he would find out that the Lakeland Atheists weren't as wedded to the creed of progress as what he's used to.

Tom Schmidt said...

As I learned from the 2013 series on the Religion of Progress, 'round these parts, there is no separation of Church and State in the USA. The Elite cling to it like they once accused the accursed of clinging to guns and religion. I would take taxation of religions in return for complete freedom of belief, including the right not to believe in their false faith of Progress.

Are charities also taxed? If not, that would open a loophole for the unscrupulous, oleaginous types.

Cicada Road said...

Good evening, all!

I am a longtime reader/lurker.
Thank you very much, sir Archdruid Emeritus, for all your thoughtful essays these past years.

Tonight I would like to come out of the shadows and offer, if I may, my candidate for the 2016 Space Bats Challenge.


Cicada Road (Thursday)

HalFiore said...

"What's that? You don't believe we're going to the stars? Heresy!"

Iuval Clejan said...

I'm glad you mentioned isolation. Seems to be important for forming species (known as reproductive isolation) for reasons not fully appreciated by most evolutionary biologists, having to do with genetic drift from the old species and the selective advantage for the genes that have changed in the new species (but not the old!) . For the same reasons, it is useful for starting a new culture when the old one has not collapsed. Unfortunately part of the ROP agenda is a "global village", which works to propagate the memes of the ROP and the global economy. I have blogged about this, but I think it's time for a new summary on isolation.

Moshe Braner said...

Talking about a country that found ways to do some things well while under embargo and attempts at regime change, but may get swamped with faux progress as a result of increased integration with the globalized economy: what's the future of Cuba? For some years it was the poster boy of some peak oilers, since it turned to small scale organic agriculture after it lost much of its oil supply after the soviet union collapsed. Now their tourist facilities are "struggling to cope" with the flood of American tourists.

Urban Harvester said...

Your Atheist Assembly sounds more or less indistinguishable from the Unitarian Universalist Congregations I have experienced. The reason for that may be particular to Utah where the UU's draw heavily from Mormons who have lost faith in the literalistic truth claims of their erstwhile tradition and whose kneejerk reaction tends to be to replace said faith with a belief in literalistic Scientism, Progress, and frequently atheism. The "more or less" difference would obviously be your Atheist Assembly's non-attachment to Progress. In my experience it would not be hard to see the UU morph into an Atheist Assembly.

RepubAnon said...

I'm sure there'll be a technological breakthrough to solve the satellite collision problem... (snark).

Not that there couldn't be - say, a laser that fired at the various fragments just enough to warm up one side enough to slow the fragment down. Over time, such a laser could slow the fragments down enough to cause re-entry.

However, the Retrotopia world sounds as though it's reached a tipping point: no more easily extractible resources. It's much like a trust fund kid who's been spending all the principle, and finds out that the bank account is now empty...

I do think the future of drones would be more as spotters for the artillery than as weapons platforms, absent some good artificial intelligence. Too much speed-of-light lag time if they're controlled via satellite.

jbucks said...

As someone who plays the piano and composes music in my spare time, it's great to see that the arts seem to be flourishing in the Lakeland Republic. So far the music you've highlighted is from the existing repertoire (Bach, Thelonius Monk, Wagner) - is there a role in any of Lakeland's arts for newer works? In other words, art which belongs to the culture of the Lakeland Republic?

Glenn said...


Regarding the tier system; this article is about your area. I find their choice of dates an interesting coincidence.

"The Canal Quarters program, a partnership between the C&O Canal Trust and the C&O Canal National Historical Park, has restored six lockhouses within the Park to provide overnight interpretive experiences for guests.
Each has been furnished to depict a different time period from the 1830s to the 1950s, and a stay in all six lockhouses will allow visitors to trace the history of the Canal. The program was conceived as an innovative way to creatively reuse the deteriorating lockhouses that sat on Park property, and since its launch six years ago, has won three major preservation awards in recognition of its success."


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

John Michael Greer said...

James, I was thinking of "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven," but Twain wrote a lot of very funny, very incisive pieces critiquing the religion of his time.

Hal, all in good time!

Tom, every person or association that owns property, uses or pollutes any natural resource, or receives money from any form of investment or other unearned income, pays tax in the Lakeland Republic. There aren't a lot of charitable (or oleaginously pseudocharitable) bureaucracies, though there's quite a bit of charity!

Cicada, got it, and you're in the contest! If you could put through a comment marked "Not for Posting" with your email address in it, so I can contact you if your story is chosen for the fifth Space Bats anthology, that would be great.

Iuval, what do you think the whole "global village" business is about? Absolute intellectual and cultural conformity overlaid with a veneer of purely biological diversity. The "global village" is an Omelas from which I hope a lot of us are ready, willing, and able to walk away.

Moshe, good question. I haven't lived there, or studied the country well enough to have an educated opinion, so I'll leave that for those who have.

Harvester, it's modeled partly on the better UU groups I've encountered, partly on generic liberal American Protestantism, which has so little historic Christianity left in it that you could pull out the last bits of Jesus, substitute Mark Twain and the mellower of the current crop of atheist thinkers, and change the name on the building, without causing more than a modest flurry of protest. That's not actually a critique, though it probably sounds like one; the US has been a post-Christian society for some years now, and it's entirely appropriate that the religious institutions are catching up with that shift.

RepubAnon, sounds easy, doesn't it? Now try to scale it up to a situation where there are two million pieces of debris more than 5 centimeters across (there are supposed to be about half a million now, so four times that by 2065 seems reasonable), ranging in altitude from the lowest near-earth-orbits out to the geosynchronous orbits and beyond, and more are being created by new collisions every few days. Oh, and energy resources are running short on Earth, so the very large inputs you'd need to power any significant number of laser batteries would need to be diverted from other critically useful needs. That is to say, your snark is a boojum...

Jbucks, yes, but for reasons we'll get to, that's just beginning to happen in any kind of large scale way at the time of the narrative.

Glenn, fascinating! I hadn't heard of that -- many thanks.

. said...

That's a great option thank you. I need new suggestions to throw out there. Incitement to crime is a huge improvement over incitement to hatred. The latter is being pushed in Europe at the moment and it reduces law to absurdity to get involved in identifying and defining how an emotion is created and can be manipulated. Its orwellian.

also, as far as i know, it would be no defence to a charge of incitement to prove that you were simply quoting someone else. Unless you were quoting to criticize or condemn. Not sure what it would take to persuade people to support a change like that though.


Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

JMG, I think your description of the current state of liberal American Protestantism might be a bit over the top, though not without a basis. My take, which is partly based on anecdotal evidence I can't repeat, is that the clergy and other religiously educated people in mainline Protestant denominations jettisoned belief in Christ the Savior a while ago and they are not self-conscious about that. However, the laity has a fondness for Jesus the world teacher and moral exemplar, which is an important part of their attachment to Christianity.

Nice choice of a hymn.

44bernhard44 said...

Hi John,
I wonder if you´re aware of Terry Pratchett, a (writer) colleage of yours, who sadly died on 12th of March 2015. Most of his novels are set on discworld, which is carried by a giant turtle with four elephants on it´s back (you probably know the myth). He has been called ´the Douglas Adams of fantasy´, and his writings got the label ´fantasy comedy ´, although they´re much more than that. Apart from being funny and sometimes silly, they´re witty, occasionally even wise and full of shrewd observation of human (and dwarf, troll, goblin etc.) character.
The reason I was reminded of him when reading your blog this week is that he created a ´Conan´ character as well: he is called Cohen the Barbarian, is over 80 years old and he suffers from a bad back (which sometimes has to be reset in the middle of a fight) and all the other ailments of old age – hilarous!
Terry has also invented a communication system for his world (on which electricity doesn´t work) that he called the ´clacks´, which basically is semaphore taken an order of magnitude further: it consist of tower lines, which are just in sight of each other. Every tower is equipped with a squareshaped array of black and white shutters for daytime and the same system with lanterns for nighttime. Given enough able workers to man the towers and a relatively stable political climate, one can send messages and even pictures over vast distances with this system; I thought you might like the concept (if you haven´t heard of it already).
I can highly recommend the discworld novels to anyone who likes fantasy and the sort of humor Douglas Adams displays in his Hitchhiker´s Guide To The Galaxy.

Kutamun said...

Gee Retrotopia is a lot more challenging terrain than simply unloading on The Donald like a bunch of howling Black Star Hyenas of which i am undoubtedly one . God i love Donald , but Retrotopia simply baffles me because i have to use my shrivelled imagination and creative function . The single candle burns bright in this Villa of Ormon where the bejewelled skull of the descending Starman Ziggy Stardust inhabits the decaying spacesuit of the Ascending Major Tom ; aha , ahs !

Ben said...

JMG - That sounds like the Unitarian church I grew up in. The future is already past!

As for Mr Carr's adherence to the myth of progress, it would seem that by the time this narrative takes place, peak oil would be a historical fact and based on the reporting about the Antarctic ice shelves melting, even global warming may be viewed as historical fact by this point. Add on to that the collapse of ecosystems and the rise of anti-biotic resistant bacteria, and it would seem the fact on the ground should be putting the myth of progress out of it's misery.
I'm guessing that Mr Carr is high enough on the human food chain that he still hasn't gotten it yet?

FiftyNiner said...

A question. I read somewhere on the internet just within the past couple of days that satellites that are in geosynchronous orbits are outside of our capability to retrieve for the purpose of repair. In other words, no matter how expensive the satellite, nor how minor the glitch, if it fails it becomes very expensive space junk. Is that the case? Also, are the geosynchronous ones less likely to degrade in their orbits and become part of a Kesseler cascade?

If we cannot operate in space at a distance less than the circumference of the planet, are we really ready for any of this marvelous "Star Trek" future that the believers in progress say is right around the corner? That question, of course, is rhetorical.

(It is curious that the believers in progress miss the point of the two most famous movie franchises of the past 40 years--Star Wars and Avatar. Didn't they notice that the little guys on the primitive side won?)

Patricia Mathews said...

The Atheist Assembly's form is Protestant Lite - why am I not surprised? Only that they're not meeting in the Unitarian Church's social hall.

Carr's fears - aha! Totally logical!

rob said...

A Toronto, Ontario United Church minister no longer believes in either god or the bible. Rev. Gretta Vosper says that "current church ideas of God are part of outdated world view". She has written a book, "With or without God : why the way we live is more important than what we believe For more on the story see

Etienne Bayenet said...

I know this is not related to the topic, but I wanted to share this.

I am now reading the book of Isaiah, just after reading 1 Kings and 2 Kings.

The interesting thing is that already at that time, people were unable to see a predictable catastrophy (the fall of Jerusalem in the hands of Babylonia). Many coments would be valid for Peak Oil and Climate Change. For example :

Who is blind, but my servant? who has his ears stopped, but he whom I send? who is blind as my true one, or who has his ears shut like the Lord's servant?
Seeing much, but keeping nothing in mind; his ears are open, but there is no hearing.


And the voice of the Lord came to my ears, saying, Whom am I to send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I, send me.
And he said, Go, and say to this people, You will go on hearing, but learning nothing; you will go on seeing, but without getting wiser.
Make the hearts of this people fat, and let their ears be stopped, and their eyes shut; for fear that they may see with their eyes, and be hearing with their ears, and their heart may become wise, and they may be turned to me and made well.
Then I said, Lord, how long? And he said in answer, Till the towns are waste and unpeopled, and the houses have no men, and the land becomes completely waste,
And the Lord has taken men far away, and there are wide waste places in the land.
And even if there is still a tenth part in it, it will again be burned, like a tree of the woods whose broken end is still in the earth after the tree has been cut down (the holy seed is the broken end).

And this is not because of a lack of praying :

What use to me is the number of the offerings which you give me? says the Lord; your burned offerings of sheep, and the best parts of fat cattle, are a weariness to me; I take no pleasure in the blood of oxen, or of lambs, or of he-goats.
At whose request do you come before me, making my house unclean with your feet?
Give me no more false offerings; the smoke of burning flesh is disgusting to me, so are your new moons and Sabbaths and your holy meetings.
Your new moons and your regular feasts are a grief to my soul: they are a weight in my spirit; I am crushed under them.
And when your hands are stretched out to me, my eyes will be turned away from you: even though you go on making prayers, I will not give ear: your hands are full of blood.
Be washed, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; let there be an end of sinning;
Take pleasure in well-doing; let your ways be upright, keep down the cruel, give a right decision for the child who has no father, see to the cause of the widow.

To get the full picture, you also need to read 1 Kings and 2 Kings.

Somehow, the new testament teaches us that it is not God personnaly who punishes us, but the fact that we are not able to deal with the problems.

Best regards,


kayr said...

Carr's observation that the Lakeland Republic will be steamrolled by "progress" and technology coming from other countries now that the boarders are open is interesting. I was thinking that the Lakeland Republic must have some kind of council or board that reviews proposed new technologies to see if they are acceptable, maybe something like the way the Amish handle the adoption of a new technology.

Your response to luval about walking away from an Omelas was one that unsettled me when I looked up the reference. This is definitely a problem I wrestle with a lot. Sometimes I think I have succeeded in unplugging from "Omelas" to some degree only to realize that it's tentacles are long and subtle and I might have only thought about walking away in reality. I have a friend that is struggling to live plastic free and actively trying to convince others to do the same. Her efforts are valiant and I have tried many of the strategies she has suggested, but even she acknowledges that Omelas won't let her go due to a lack of alternatives or time to make up the difference with her own efforts.

It strikes me that learning the skills and technology of a simpler time is one very desirable thing, but changing your mental frame of mind and not fooling yourself is quite another. In your story Lakelanders had no choice and perhaps we won't really be able to walk away until we really have no choice either.

Thanks for provoking more thought.

Spanish fly said...

About atheist music: Bach is not very suitable for atheists meetings. He was a very serious and german christian...I think that piano man should play some classic scholar themes (XXth century): Schonberg, Cage, Stockhausen...
"Imagine", well...a bit childish: some day we will get rid of religions and there will be no war. And we will be riding unicorns too. Even from a materialistic view, it's a wishful thinking: beliefs maybe are born from non-rational mind...biological roots?

However, I'm curious about atheist philosophy without progress mythology. Nowadays, nearly every materialistic people worships the unholy trinity: science=terchnology=progress.
Unfortunately, they are the most boring atheist.
Nietztsche and Camus didn't believe in historical great purposes nor bombastic they were not Progress worshippers.
Of course Twain was a great nightmare for organized religions, but I'm not sure that he was an atheist, I think on him as an agnostic/deist man...

Eric S. said...

Re: Atheist Assembly: Interesting, it looks like the Atheist Assembly is a combination of Unitarian Universalism (especially the lighting of the flame), and Alain de Botton's "religious atheist temple" concept (particularly in its veneration of great artists, thinkers, and works of culture. And then... Imagine would be their hymn wouldn't it? The big question about the Atheist assembly is, does it represent a feeble last gasp at maintaining early 21st century progressive scientism akin to Julian's attempts at keeping the Pagan temples alive in the 3rd century by reforming them to look more like Christian churches? Or could it be a movement that, given another century or so of regular ritual combined with continued societal breakdown turn into something where the Sky above, the Earth below, the Flame of Reason, and the various secular "saints" actually start showing up and becoming something more than symbols?

Re: Taxes, while I'm sad to see protections for non-profits go away in Retrotopia, since that does tend to hurt some of the smaller charities and religious organizations that I tend to donate my time to. But at the same time, some of the bigger charities and megachurches out there have found so many loopholes in the "non-profit" designation that they've become big businesses unto themselves. And, I suppose it is a reversion to the way things functioned up until the the 1890s, and the century leading up to that was the golden age of voluntary organizations and fraternities who managed to get by just fine without the non-profit laws that were passed later on.

Re: Kessler Syndrome: Eep. I hope the civil war put an end to the international space station and reduced the traffic of manned space flight.

Mikep said...

Hello JMG
Perhaps it’s time for a new religion, certainly the old ones seem to have lost their relevance for many people, but can a religion flourish which has no supernatural element to it? Your Atheist Assembly sounds very like the Sunday Assembly movement which has recently formed in the United Kingdom but that was founded by a pair of comedians so I’m not sure how seriously it should be taken. Have you considered turning the Lakeland Republic into a theocracy? There is a theory that anything the Government runs tends to wither away and die. Many folk would be happy to see that happen to religion.

As for Mr Carr’s concerns about the future of Lakeland now that the international trade embargo has been lifted, I’m guessing that the Republic’s leadership have had ample time to come up with a cunning plan. History appears to suggest that Nations which nurture and protect their developing industries behind protectionist barriers can grow powerful enough to dictate free trade terms to their rivals, just look at the history of the United States and the German Empire in the late 19th Century and China in the late 20th.

Just a thought but I wonder if Vladimir Putin reads your blog, on the other hand perhaps he’s acting as technical consultant. I can’t wait to read the next episode.

Donald Hargraves said...

A thought comes to my mind:

I wonder if the "Santo Muerte" cult has developed into a full religion by 2065, with Santo Muerte developing into a Charon like figure guiding his (her?) believers into the afterlife (as well as blessing them in "this" life. And if the religion is making an impact in the Lakeland Republic.

Shane W said...

So, the myth of Progress dies a slow, hard, death. Does our protagonist have a "road to Damascus" moment where he sees the light, I hope?

Nastarana said...

Luval Clejan, What does ROP represent? I doubt you meant either Retinopathy of Prematurity or Return-oriented Programming, which is what a google search turned up.

I also am glad the Archdruid mentioned the importance of isolation. We Americans have made such a fetish of friendliness and sociability that our culture tends to overlook the need for periods of isolation in the lives of nations and individuals.

Cicada Road said...

I was kind of stoked to see Lakelanders in the previous episode (the barbershop quartet) singing tunes from the 60's-80's 20th-century rock era.
Stoked because I had recently thought to myself, 'maybe I'll start collecting sheet music for all those favorite tunes'. That thought in turn, came from an essay that you, JMG, had published in 2008 or 2009 where you commented, 'the Romans had a rich musical tradition, but virtually all of it is lost, except for one haunting, tantalizing snippet about 20 seconds long.' (I paraphrase.)

We have two huge advantages the Romans didn't-- we know how to make paper, and how to use printing presses. This is in fact how China was able to hang onto its culture through multiple empires, often warring with one another, and the crashes thereof. Now we know these arts too; let's take advantage of them.

So how to decide which songs should be kept? To me, the test is, 1) do you like it, and 2) can you sing it in the shower and it still sounds decent?
Can you play it with handcrafted instruments and have it still sound good?
If you have a band with banjos, acoustic guitars, some animal-skin drums with a cymbal, a couple fiddles and a Chinese Violin, can they still belt out a listenable version of "Where the Streets Have No Name" or "A Momentary Lapse of Reason"?

Yes, I cite songs from the rock era, but thanks to the joys of Sirius XM, I am learning to love a number of '40's songs too. They really did have some good ones in those days-- the lyrics are often miles more witty and poetic than we get in songs today. The old names we've all heard our grandparents sighing about-- Doris Day, Artie Shaw, "Old Blue Eyes" Frank Sinatra-- they were GOOD! So their music is also worth rescuing and preserving for the future. "No Moon At All" -- that's a classic for any era.


Eric S. said...

Regarding the entire underlying theme of this week’s chapter… (as well as one of the repeated themes throughout your Retrotopia series), is once again a reassertion that technological regression doesn’t necessarily mean social regression. You’ve portrayed a well-attended wedding between two men that had its procession go by without being accosted, ethnic minorities and women in high places of government, and in this week’s post, a stricter set of laws enforcing separation of church and state that has allowed temples, mosques, synagogues, churches, Shaker communes, and Atheist Assemblies to exist alongside each other in harmony more or less. One thing I’ve been mulling over lately, especially as I’ve been reading through comments on some of the more recent essays on the upcoming year, the tensions abroad, and the Trump phenomenon is that… that might not be the direction our society is flowing right now. I read several comments on posts from these last few weeks (especially the New Years post, and the Trump post), in which multiple regular readers here expressed their beliefs that the ideals of multiculturalism, religious pluralism, gender and racial equality, gay rights, and so on are scourges on society that have to be thrown out… and espousing the idea that the people who value these things, are in and of themselves threats to our society. I’ve begun to fear, reading some of these comments that what has in my mind been one of the few real achievements of our civilization… the concepts of human civil rights, equality, religious freedom, and so on may be something that is viewed with as much distaste and derision as the wastefulness and environmental degradation that also features. Do you think it’s possible that a society like Retrotopia could exist? Or are you expressing a hopeful optimism on what is possible, rather than what is likely? Or is it possible that even if there are ways to maintain things like separation of church and state and freedom of religion through times of contraction, people won’t want to find ways because they won’t want to preserve them? And… if those values truly are in danger of becoming seen as harmful values that people view as not worthy of being preserved in the uncomfortably near future, can anything be done to preserve them in the face of those changes? Did anything like the backlash against those values that’s beginning to unfold now happen in the world of Retrotopia and still leave room for at least a few countries to emerge that didn’t completely reject them in the near future? It feels sometimes lately, like there are some possible futures where buckling down, muddling through, and surviving to see what emerges looks like a more attractive option than others.

Mark said...

Excellent, thanks. I particularly liked the Atheists lighting the lamp of reason. I wonder if when doing so they feel a bit warm and mystical, or just full of cool-headed rationality? Imagine is an interesting song choice: it's become a spiritual-but-not-religious New Age anthem in recent years (at least it is in my neck of the woods); I hadn't thought of it so much as an Atheist hymn. I always thought XTC's Dear God would be a worthy Atheist gathering song, and I'm not an Atheist.

ed boyle said...

I recall how the Roman religion deteriorated from the original deep devotion, i.e. worship of and love for, to a deity, towards ritual boredom and philosophical sarcasm. In italy catholic atheists are now of the same level of belief. In middle ages there was presumably deep awe for god and his creation. I might have presumed a similar development here but your shakers fulfill this need. Atheism would be seen by such as a sin. Religious freedom is a luxury. I wonder that this luxury exists post peak oil and that, as you state, the whole world is still quite modern., lakeland republic being a unique experiment in voluntary simplicity. Can we expect a rapid collapse into savagery of such modern societies due to such failures of technology as depicted with satellites and lack of voluntary simplification preparations? Will Atlantic Republic form a source of refugees for Lakelanders in future?

Iuval Clejan said...

Dear JMG,

We agree on the nature of the "global village" meme, except that besides the attempt to keep the global economy and the Religion of Progress going (with a veneer of cultural diversity), this meme also is a reflection of the humanist values of equality, and open-minded and respectful communication (the opposite of parochialism, predatory nationalism, or tribalism). If it was only what you said, it wouldn't have such mass appeal.

Bob Patterson said...

Another great installment. Nasim Taleb's comments on fragile systems seem to be addressed,

Why are we rushing to develop "driver-less" vehicles, that would put thousands of taxi, truck and bus drivers out of work, when we cannot seem to establish comprehensive, sustainable bus routes in our cities?

anton mett said...

I think the idea of an atheist assembly is a very interesting one. I know you haven't gone very far into the topic yet, and I suspect you'll have some interesting ideas. If you'll allow me to predict:
1-it will have to have more than just anti-religious ideas to survive long term as a community. Meetings or classes that work as such in our world are fine for the purpose of education or reinforcement, but they do not build community or change behavior in the same way as a religion can. You've mentioned this multiple times, that no one is going to "go green" in the spirit of self denial and self-punishment, rather, they find something more meaningful and turn to that. People gather around an idea, not around a negative of an idea. So I find it hard to believe that a group of people would enjoy getting together regularly to discuss how we don't need God.
2-so if an assembly is to be interesting/useful long term, it will end up focusing on something besides a lack of God (or god or gods if you prefer). This could be set up in the form of debates, lectures, analysis etc. A group could get a great deal of satisfaction in running a book club type of arrangement, consuming stories and deciding what it tells us about the world, about relationships, behavior, thoughts, and so on. If they can come to a general agreement and this affects their behavior and culture, it has taken the place of a religion without having to have "God" involved.
3-rules on how to behave within context of the meetings will probably be established early on. In any group, order is necessary for progress.
4-at some point certain stories will rise to the top. There are certain texts that people go back to again and again because they offer the most interesting ideas and can be revised often. Other texts may come and go, but they don't become cannon or classic in the same way. These could well become bound together as a sort of Lakeland Classics, which most everyone would want to have read if they were to participate/interact in the atheist conversations.
5-they'll probably start developing a special terminology to help describe ideas and topics that continually come up. "Sin" is a popular one in our current world. Through multiple translations, it has acted as an umbrella for many types of negative behaviors and thoughts. It has mostly been rejected by the secular community, but as the concept is explored, people will come up with some sort of terminology to capture similar ideas. Perhaps more specific, perhaps too much jargon will get in the way of the big ideas and they'll boil it down, it's hard to say how it will evolve.
Eventually a term similar to god may come back into the conversation as a placeholder for what is right/powerful/orderly/good/connective or whatever. Again, to be clear it not be one term for all of those things together, it may be given personality, but if a concept is going to be discussed at length it will get a word.

I guess the point is that a lot of what religion has/does seems like it could evolve from any group that is going to try to bring about betterment and introspection. Community, rules and dogma, holy texts, specialized terminology, concern for things bigger than oneself. Not every individual has to follow this path, but I think groups do if they survive long term. They may go down different paths, at different rates, and may lead to different destinations, but there are similarities to be found.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Lol, I have a feeling I know what comes next. I honestly cannot wait to get this story in full book form.

By the way, I've been meaning to ask. Which of the distributors gives you the biggest cut of the sales of your books? I don't want to order anything more off Amazon since it keeps ripping off authors, and I would like to make sure a greater sum of the revenue goes to you.



Shane W said...

The next meeting of the Green Wizards Benevolent & Protective Assn., Tower 859, and Ruinmen's Guild, Local 859 of the Bluegrass, Lexington, KY, will be @ Common Grounds coffeehouse on High Street, 7:00pm, on Thursday, January 28th. in servitio libertas! All are welcome.

Dan Mollo said...

This is my favorite one:

Brian said...

So how long before a group of people decide to start an intentional community based on the principles of Lakeland?

donalfagan said...

@ Bob, I suspect driverless cars are for people addicted to their smartphones. I've even seen cyclists looking at their smartphones while coasting along.

Christopher Kinyon said...

The national government cannot spend tax money for religious purposes. However, what about local governments? Could one community vote to build a statue of the Virgin Mary in a city park, while another community votes to build a statue of Pan, while yet another thinks all statues are blasphemous idolatry?

Ezra Buonopane said...

Even as late as 2065, rich people in eastern North America have not noticed the gradual but bumpy decay of their civilization. Kind of depressing, but most likely realistic.

I'd like to hear more about Lakeland's history after the embargo ends, and what happens to them as western industrial civilization continues down the far side of the fossil fuel depletion curve. Do they maintain the same technological standards? Do they remain a unified nation, or even become a deindustrial superpower?

Dave Ross said...

luval Clejan wrote:

"Unfortunately part of the ROP agenda is a "global village", which works to propagate the memes of the ROP and the global economy."

Please pardon my ignorance, but what is a ROP? I tried doing a Google search, but couldn't find any plausible terms that made sense.

As Bill Pulliam and others pointed out during the discussion of SJW's ("social justice warriors"), spelling out unfamiliar acronyms when they are first used would be a big help to the rest of us.

Tony said...

As someone who on occasion has made use of the 'atheist' label, it's a little sad to me that an atheist assembly would seemingly define itself in terms of opposition to something else, what with the central reading being Mark Twain commenting on religion, rather than being FOR something. Unless the impression I got of the centrality of that particular bit of the service was wrong.

Justin said...

Regarding what Varun Bhaskar said about who gets what cut of your books, what if you gave away the ebooks with a physical purchase? You've said before that you get nearly nothing on an ebook purchase, and you would be able to provide both instant gratification (which I know directly contradicts the idea of LESS that you espouse) and a paper copy that will work without electricity. I'm not sure exactly how that would work logistically, unless you went to a DRM-free distribution system for your books, which would of course expose you to piracy. However it might be a net benefit.

JMG, if children in the Lakeland republic are taught critical thinking, how will they ever become effective consumers and supporters of one of the two political parties?

44bernhard44, Pratchett is great. And the clacks (telegraphy by semaphore) has been tried in real life, and although it's certainly a viable technology, it is very manpower intensive. However, navies have had various schemes of optical communication for centuries because without radio, the next-best thing is shouting...

Shane W said...

I think you're mistaking people criticizing the SJW's and the ivory towers that the come from with values of equality, justice, and tolerance. I'm not at all sure that what today's SJW's are pursuing is at all helpful to that goal, and is probably harmful.
I read in the paper where beliefs in racism in the justice system have risen from 15% 20 years ago to 44% today among white people. Now, that is significant, but, if you scratch beneath the surface, you'll see that it is indicative of something much larger--if white people's distrust of authority & the System reaches that of people of color, we'll have a major problem...

John Roth said...

@Urban Harvester

As a member of one of the larger Unitarian-Universalist congregations, it would surprise me to see UU going more Humanist (which is what we call atheists). Our congregation has shifted rather radically from a humanist majority to where the humanist and earth-based components are about equal. Other than that, it did seem quite UU, from the candle lighting right on, although I have yet to hear Mark Twain from the pulpit. UU congregations are quite diverse, including a fair number of Christian congregations in the East.

I did, however, have to snort at the idea of defining religious organizations as “credal” organizations. We define ourselves as being non-credal, and note that Christianity (and its derivatives) is the only major religion that has formal creeds. That idea seems to have crept in with Justin Martyr and Iraneus of Leon.

@Bob Patterson

Yup, driverless vehicles will put a lot of truck, bus and taxi drivers out of business. It will (according to both the auto companies and most everyone else) reduce the rate of automobile ownership, the number of automobiles on the road and the amount of time people waste driving to and from work. It will also reduce the number of people who die in auto accidents every day here in the Land of the Untrained Driver. You win some, you lose some. Change is the only constant.

Patricia Mathews said...

Now, since your other blog touched on MISTS OF AVALON, and considering the religion in STAR'S REACH, if there are any Goddess-based religions in Lakeland.

John Michael Greer said...

.Mallow, to my mind, no government has any business telling people what they should or shouldn't think or feel -- treating "hatred" as a crime is as absurd as claiming that you can fight a war against "terror." (Ahem.) The law should govern actions, including certain kinds of speech, that affect others -- and that's all. Thus the Lakeland Republic's approach -- it's my utopia, I can legislate what I want to. ;-)

Unknown Deborah, I based that on my own repeated experience, and what you've said doesn't actually contradict it at all. Historic Christianity is not about Jesus the very nice person, whose worship consists of trying to be good; it's about the Christ, the son of the living God, whose worship consists of participation in the mysteries of the sacraments. Once Jesus becomes a moral teacher rather than god made flesh, unless you've got another god to turn to, you're most of the way to atheism anyway.

44bernhard44, I read the original short stories that went to make The Color of Magic, the first of the Discworld novels, ansd some of Pratchett's other early works. I wasn't a great fan of the Discworld saga as such, as the jokes got old (at least for me) relatively quickly, but I know a lot of people loved his work.

Kutamun, you're in extensive company. Last week's post is now my second most read post of all time, while the Retrotopia posts chug away comfortably at modestly below-average levels of readership.

Ben, ding ding ding! We have a winner...

Fifty-Niner, since the decommissioning of the space shuttles, nobody on Earth has the capacity to retrieve and repair satellites in any orbit. The best that can be done is to put in a little extra fuel so that satellites can be boosted into a "graveyard orbit" out of the way of other satellites. So you're quite right about the first point. As for the second, no, satellites in geosynchronous orbits are just as vulnerable to a Kessler syndrome as those in any other orbit -- all it takes is a few collisions that send spalled debris spraying at angles to the main geosynchronous band, and it becomes crunch time very soon. What this implies is that we have a choice between seeing the space age end because we stop launching things, or seeing it end because everything we launch gets smashed to bits by orbiting debris within a few days or weeks of launch. Take your pick!

Five8Charlie said...

Greetings Mr. Greer-

If your readers are interested in Mr. Twain's very unconventional (for his time) views on religion, "The Mysterious Stranger" is a place to start. He pulls no punches in that one.

When we, as a society, can no longer launch weather observation satellites, that's when there will be no doubt that our goose is cooked. All the other uses of space seem pretty marginal economically at this point, but if we can't justify the cost of accurate weather prediction, either because we can't afford the production and launch cost, or the lifetime of a satellite is so short it has no value, then it's over for this version of civilization. Weather prediction is so valuable that it will be the last thing to go. (My prediction - check back in 20 years to see if I'm right.)

Finally, I disagree that the number of comments correlates to your readership. Most of us read every week but don't comment. We may be nodding in agreement at Retrotopia, or screaming in horror at Donald, but we're here every week. The need to scream just provokes more comments...

Thanks for doing this every week!

John Michael Greer said...

Patricia, nah, they schismed from the UUs forty years previously, so they can't use the same hall -- too many edgy feelings on both sides.

Rob, that's been going on for a long while now. Notice the word "outdated" -- that's one of the standard bits of jargon that lets you know that somebody's real religion is faith in progress.

Etienne, of course! Another lesson that could be taken from that is that people are no brighter now than they were in the 6th century BCE, and just as good at pretending that they could always evade the logical consequences of their own actions.

Kayr, exactly. The thing is, any serious effort in the direction of simplifying your life and decreasing your impact on the biosphere is better than doing nothing at all -- perfection is neither required nor possible.

Spanish Fly, the problem is that music by Schonberg, Cage, and Stockhausen is what symphonies play when they don't want to have to put up with an audience -- and for good reason: their "music" is ugly and, once you get past the "shock of the new," boring. Bach has long been fashionable among computer geeks here in the US, because -- whatever his personal religious beliefs were -- his music is a delight for the ear and also has a strong underlying mathematical structure. As for beliefs coming from nonrational sources -- of course they do, and that applies to atheism as much as anything else.

Eric, heck of a good question. By 2100 the Atheist Assemblies might be a fading memory, it might be a small remnant like Theosophy or Spiritualism today, it might have morphed into something else, it might be going strong -- I don't know. I simply see it as a likely outcome of the ongoing collapse of American Protestantism in our time.

Mikep, I'd be delighted to learn that Putin reads my blog, but so far he hasn't posted a comment. ;-) (I had more than 1700 readers from Russia last week, though, so it's at least possible.) As for technical consultant, I wish -- I could have used his help working out some of the scenes in Twilight's Last Gleaming.

Donald, Santa or Santissima Muerte, not "Santo" -- and very much a she. Followers call her "the pretty girl" or "the thin girl;" scholars of religious history, and no few polytheists, suspect she's the same divine person as Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec death-goddess. If I were writing Star's Reach today I'd blur the name to Mertay, make her the sister of Mam Gaia, and turn her into a major presence in Merigan popular religion.

Shane, stay tuned...

Cicada Road, delighted to hear this. If our music is going to survive, somebody is going to have to keep it going as a living tradition -- and of course that means playing it on instruments, not playing recordings of it!

Iuval Clejan said...

Dear Dave Ross and Nastarana, ROP is the Religion of Progress, something JMG has written much about. Sorry to not mention it in my first comment. You can look up his blog posts on it if you haven't already, or read his After Progress book.

I am not sure the comparison of the global economy or the meme of the "global village" to Omelas is warranted. Maybe only insofar as the causal connection between the cons and the pros is not clear in either. At least the believers in the humanist "global village" do not make that connection. They see the tolerance, open minded communication, diversity, comfort and relative abundance for themselves, as completely disconnected from the hardships of the third world, destruction of nature, work alienation and structural unemployment and community destruction in the first world.

John Michael Greer said...

Eric, my take is that what we're seeing is the usual sort of temporary pushback you get when a social change has become so pervasive it's unstoppable. Nearly all the pushback in North America is coming from the middle-aged and older -- look at the near-universal acceptance of gay marriage by the under-30 cohort in North America as one measure of that, and the collapse of traditional religious beliefs in the same cohort. The current yelling reminds me of nothing so much as the frantic denunciation of race-mixing in the wake of the Civil Rights movement. The thing that traditionalists tend to miss is that North America is not Europe, and what they like to call capital-T tradition -- religious orthodoxy, ethnic nationalism, gender paranoia, and the like -- has very, very shallow roots on this continent. More on this in an upcoming post.

Mark, I always thought of "Imagine" as a serious piece of atheist hymnody: "Imagine there's no heaven..." No doubt the Assemblies have plenty of other songs to sing, though.

Ed, it's only in a very small number of religious traditions that doctrinal uniformity is valued and worship of other gods is a problem. Those handful of faiths happen to have been dominant for the last fifteen hundred years or so, but I see no reason to suppose that their dominance will continue.

Iuval, obviously I disagree. I think that what the "global village" concept is meant to convey -- note here the use of "village" rather than some other concept of community with different connotations -- is not open-minded and respectful communication, but the erasure of differences, the manufacture of a faux-consensus in which the privileged never risk being confronted with the implications of their own privilege. It's very comforting for people in the salary class to talk about being members of the global village, because this allows them to dodge the fact that it's actually a global plantation and their comforts are being paid for by other people's privations and sufferings.

Bob, let me pose a broader question in response to your question. Is it still "progress" when we're clearly going the wrong direction?

Anton, of course! Again, just because the Atheist Assemblies look viable in 2065 doesn't mean they'll still be doing the same thing, or existing at all, in 2100. I do think they're a likely future stage in the ongoing self-immolation of American Protestantism, but whether they'll be an enduring form or not is anybody's guess.

Varun, if you want to give authors the biggest cut, order books direct from the publishers. That's why I put links to publishers on the sidebars of my blogs -- royalties are usually based on the sum received by the publisher, so when they're their own distributors and retail houses, the author benefits. Many thanks for asking!

Patricia Mathews said...

Wow, yes! "Mertay", the Merigan Erishkigal! The dark-and-light sister goddesses are a motif often encountered, though, alas, the dark sister is often tagged "Evil". Even though day must have night, and summer, winter. Oh, that would have been so perfect.

alex carter said...

Ah, and you've hit on a sore spot for this Californian. Proposition 8. Pushed and funded to the tune of millions of dollars by the Mormons. I'm still convinced a lot of voters thought pro-8 was *for* allowing gay marriage, not against. How in hell the Mormons are allowed to swing elections, and do a bunch of other church-as-a-business stuff, I don't know.

Yeah, hold a church, but pay your damn taxes.

Clarence said...

How well are the People of the Plains represented? Do Coyote, Raven, Owl etal still guide, confound and amuse?


Urban Harvester said...

@John Roth, it's nice to know that there is some more balance in the larger congregations, our local group is a smaller one.

@JMG, I've often wished that there were a Universalist congregation around, and if you're right I may only have to wait about 9 years to see them reappearing (provided that some of the larger local congregations further up the valley from me are as balanced as John Roth's experience suggests is possible).

heather said...

44bernhard44 and JMG,
Re. Terry Pratchett- I didn't care for his early works either, but my preteen daughter wanted to read his "Wee Free Men", the first of a series (the Tiffany Aching books) nominally for younger readers about a young witch coming of age, so I read it to assess its suitability and found myself impressed. It was indeed funny (to my sensibility) but also sensitively written and full of reflection about the responsibilities of growing up and becoming a contributing member of one's community, yet never preachy. It also described the existence of magic in terms that struck me as somewhat closer to the Druid Magic Handbook than to Harry Potter. I gave my daughter the thumbs-up and in fact read the rest of the series myself, save for its last book, which is in fact the final book Prachett published before he died. I'm saving it for the right mood and moment. Though I haven't read all of Pratchett's works, I would venture to say that his style evolved somewhat over the decades and dozens of books in his career, and those who didn't care for "The Color of Magic" might still find some enjoyable, intelligent fantasy in his later works.
--Heather in CA

Bill Pulliam said...

About discussion of readership versus comments; as the owner of my own Little Red Blog on blogger, you can easily get actual page views via various methods, not just comments. However, page views include repeats, and don't count those who just looked at the starting page. A post with more comments will get more people coming back to read the updated comment thread, and more people who actually click the individual entry rather than just read the home page.

As for me, I read every entry here. The ones I comment on more are not necessarily the ones I like the most! In the current alternation I much prefer the Retrotopia series to the current events series for basic enjoyment and interest, as these posts feel *to me* closer to the core of the long-term theme of this blog. But the current events posts tend to trigger more responses from me, mostly because they are more likely to contain arguments, points, predictions, other comments, etc., with which I *disagree.* I don't think I am especially unusual in this behavior, judging from the comment threads!

Bill Pulliam said...

This comment thread has helped me understand a bit of terminology from a discussion I had a few months ago that left me a little puzzled. It waa with a very interesting fellow whom I often ran into at the local gym. He was 40s, mostly blind, former school teacher, intellectual, and very devoutly christian. When he first moved to this area he, his wife, and 10 kids had attempted to be Amish. He joined in with some of the radical Amish families I was also friends with, who then got excommunicated for, ironically, objeceting to the practice of excommunication.

He and I would often have fairly serious religious discussions while working out (although as is often the case he never seemed to notice that he was tellign me everything about his religious beliefs amd learning nothing about mine...) These were not debates or arguments, but bona fide discussions about basic concepts in christianity. At this time he was trying to be a Methodist, and not succeeding very well. On this occasion he had been especially upset two nights before at Wednesday bible study when they discussed Job. Some of the people there just could not reconcile that book with their belief in the all loving all benevolent deity - the old question of "how could a loving god treat his most loyal follower that way??" I'm not going to get into that theological question here, but we discussed it at great length. He said that he felt these people were practicing "Christianity without Christ." I didn't fully grasp what he mean then, but just tonight reading these comments I understood. They want the positive, loving, egalitarian ethical system as summarized in the Sermon on the Mount. But they don't want to deal with the rest of the story, the sacrifice, obedience, suffering, and torment that are the foundation of millenia of Christianity and that we are not supposed to "understand," as they are of the mind of a deity that is ultimately an inscrutable mystery to our human minds.

Indeed it is very easy to see that once you just boil it down to an ethical system that "makes sense" and "works," why do you even need a god anymore?

DiSc said...

I wrote before that I do not like this novel at all, and I would like to read JMG's brilliantly insightful analyses of current events instead. But I would like to substantiate my criticism.

First, the characters do too much explaining. I understand the story is supposed to make a lower-tech world understandable to rich-world internet users, but it is not believable that random characters know or understand so much about how society came to work in particular way - not outside a university setting, and even there.

It just does not work that way. The real world is not full of annoying know-it-alls. People just take for granted the world they live in, and if other people disagree, what they give is not an explanation, but blank stares and misunderstanding in the best cases, all the way to lynching and violence in the worst ones. You need to be born into a worldview, no amount of explanation will do.

Second, whatever we think we know about the world is usually wrong. So when people try to explain the world around them to an outsider, what they usually spout is a mixture of prejudice, opinion, lies and convenient untruths. Instead, the characters in the story are always spot-on in their remarks, always seem to know Mr. Carr's opinion and are always read to counter it elegantly. It is just not believable.

Third, the story settings feel remarkably white and western. Even if characters in the story have exotic-sounding names, things seem to work either like an exaggerated version of today's America, or an exaggerated version of America in the 1800s.

I do not think current demographic trends allow for predominantly anglo-saxon political entities in North America within a century or two. And demographic change does not only bring people of different color, but also societal change. However society will work in the future, it will not be a repetition of the past, or of the present.

Fourthly, the Lakeland Republic seems to get everything right with its "great leap backward". But that is just utopian. A simpler society has less complex problems, but more simple problems: food, healthcare, security. Collapse is not a pleasant path, otherwise civilisations would have chosen it more often, and migration flows would be reverted.

Finally, there is as good as no plotting, at least until know. And that probably was JMG's intention from the onset: More's Utopia has little plotting too. Unfortunately, a good story is the reason why I read fiction in the first place, otherwise I might just as well read non-fiction. And that is indeed my recommendation: more analyses, less stories please.

Mikep said...

One thing that has struck me reading this week’s comments, they are all thoughtful and well argued, but they appear to me to view religion through a consumerists lens as something we choose to match our lifestyle. I apologise if this is delicate or offensive but don’t all religions function at least to some degree as marks of identity in that they serve to distinguish US from THEM. These are topics which polite people don’t discuss in public at least not when sober, but most of us inherit our faith from our parents and many go to marry within the faith community and raise their children in it. In fact I suspect that the degree to which this happens is a better predictor of a particular communion’s long term survival prospects than any analysis of their actual doctrines and beliefs. Belonging is more important than understanding, for example, I literally have no idea what the transubstantiation of the Eucharist means, but I do know that Protestants are wrong for doubting it, whatever it is.
Please don’t hate me for mentioning this.


Spanish fly said...

OK, John, let's tell Mr. Dawkins and Charlie Hebdo boys that their crussades basis is...a set of beliefs (oh no!).
About Bach...Maybe organized Lakelanders Atheists rename religious musical themes with P.Correct titles that erase every disturbing reference: 'St Mathew Passion' to...'St. Sagan star dust'.

Damaris Zehner said...

Mr. Greer: Steve Martin has been concerned about what atheists would sing in their assemblies. Here is his offering -- the first page of the atheist hymnal:

patriciaormsby said...

Interestingly, a devout Mormon girl I knew in Salt Lake liked John Lennon's Imagine. I think she was reacting to literalist interpretations by people in her faith who favored form over substance (i.e., hypocrites). I spent part of my childhood attending the Unitarian Church up by the University of Utah, and another part attending the Buddhist Church downtown. The former, and virtually all of my family, were strongly atheistic. Being surrounded by fundamentalists can be quite a strain, particularly to those attempting to break away from them. They apply real psychological pressure, condemning apostasy in such harsh terms that a person lacking self confidence would turn to proof of the fallacy of dogmas for support. Nonetheless we were all singing lovely Christian Christmas carols each year. Even the Buddhists did that. Why miss out on a good time?

Shane W said...

while I agree that things are fundamentally changing in a big way, as noted by the under 30 crowd, I'm taking exception with the characterization that religion was shallow in the US. New England was founded by Puritans, and a certain sort of pietistic, fundamentalist, evangelical Protestantism took root in this country, particularly the South (the Bible belt) I think it's indicative that it took a whole 100 years after Nietzsche for the US to follow Europe in the death of God. It's still a force to be reckoned with, especially in the South. Now, while I won't argue with anyone regarding the death of God in present-day America, I would take issue with someone who said it never was a force to be reckoned with in the first place in the US...

Phil Harris said...

I enjoyed both Spanish Fly’s speculation about Atheist music and your reply. You wrote: “As for beliefs coming from non-rational sources -- of course they do, and that applies to atheism as much as anything else.”

I have long gone along with a notion that music – and drawing and painting – and perhaps doing it or having it going on inside one’s head, is a way of knowing stuff in the swirling world in which we have our impressions, as well as a way of drawing others into communication. As the man said once; “I can’t tell you what I mean, but I can play it to you”.

I also enjoyed and was greatly impressed by Etienne’s selected readings from Isaiah. Can I echo your’ ‘Of course!”? I also appreciated your’: “Another lesson that could be taken from that is that people are no brighter now than they were in the 6th century BCE, and just as good at pretending that they could always evade the logical consequences of their own actions.” I can only add that it seems one heck of a conversation was going on in those days when He was open to the right kind of questions! ;)

A slight generalisation on my part about religions as a boundless class, but one downside as I perceive - and it might just be me - is religions’ terrifying use, or misuse, of logic to impress on me the reality of the intelligence of their Gods. (Did the Greeks do that by the time of Aristotle?) That could be the nature of the ‘theology’ I happen to have come across perhaps, but a body swerve or two in the face of contact-contagion feels appropriate to me. Like I can take Bach and much music and even geometry when it is human and wandering destiny comes like a tune in air. But this stuff I never heard of before about (actual) Sunday non-religious but ‘look-alike’ services and gatherings seems sadder than much of what they are copying.


Dan Bashaw said...

Hm... I wonder if the Atheist Assemblies have assistant ministers that help attend to the flock? And if they do, would these be called 'dawkins'?

Ray Wharton said...

Carr's inner worries about the Lakeland Republic are the stand out part of this post. I am curious to see what progress means to him, for though it is clear that many aspects of it are based on charactature of extrapolation of our cultures sense of progress, the tumultuous history between our time and his must, I imagine, have imparted so twists in its meaning to him.

As for the Atheist church, I have been to one of those (for all intents and purposes), a UCC Church. Very dull place, and not especially spiritually satisfying; tastes may vary. The funniest memory is a large plastic gas pump in the lobby about 'fueling your faith'. It was to collect funds for the Church, like most of the Churches activities. If they were less contemptuous about the rural past of Fort Collins before it became the hub of America's 'central coast' I have little doubt they would celebrate the area's ranching history with a golden calf. Which I would find much more charming than the gas pump. Ugh, I think the bordom of that non-spirituality is one of the main factors that re opened my mind to being receptive to spiritual teachings after my teen age and early twenties rebellion against all things other worldly.

Oi! I want to make a mention of Small is Beautiful a book that JMG has recommended on this blog many times, and which strongly influenced his writing. To those who have not read it yet, please read it at your earliest convenience. It is most excellent! I am about 3/4 through it at the moment and I feel like its ideas are very practically applicable to local economics in my own life, and how to maintain local economic activity in times when the support of the larger economy is flagging fast.

WW said...

I'm quite interested to hear about Lakeland's strategy for surviving the end of international embargo and being actively targeted by international capital markets. The opposite of sanctions and embargo can also be a means of regime change. Presumably the Republic isn't relying solely on the senescence of the globalized system and the exceptional moral fiber of it's citizens to keep sweatshop sneakers and fast food franchises out. I recall that Jerry Pournelle long advocated this approach to Iran, i.e. dropping sanctions and exposing them to what he termed "our cultural weapons of mass destruction." Conceptually, I imagine Lakeland would first need to establish and actively maintain a kind of business and political ecosystem where global corporate interests are unable to thrive, and also devise a thoroughly innocuous seeming but effective offense.

Eric S. said...

I... really hope you're right. It's just begun to feel lately like there's been a rising tide of some of these attitudes among younger people, and secular people, and even in the pagan and polytheist world where I've spent most of my adult life. I’ve been feeling an uncomfortable shift in the Peak Oil community, which when I first became aware of it in college was still very tied to the environmental and social justice movements, in which those types are running off for some other movement and the people who are left behind are increasingly involved in anti-feminist, white nationalist, or fascist organizations (by fascist here, I mean organizations whose logos take some sort of ancient Indo-European religious symbol, wrap it in laurel leaves, slap it on a red or black background and put an eagle on top). Perhaps I'm being disoriented by the geographical flattening the internet can cause and tapping into trends that are rising in Europe but are less likely to take hold in America. But at the same time, I can't help but notice that a decent part of Trump's appeal aside from his appeals to the defunct labor movement, is also tapping into racial and religious paranoia, and the fear of the Other.

As I’ve watched these trends I keep thinking back to the essay "the god with three heads." In which you pointed out that our culture's " focus on the virtues of equality, social justice, and kindness, all understood and pursued primarily on a collective rather than an individual level" was no more inevitable than any other form of progress. Back when I read that essay, it opened my eyes in big ways, made me think about Martin Luther King’s insistence that social progress never “rolles in on the wheels of inevitability, and that without hard work, time itself can become an ally of the forces of social stagnation.” That stagnation is the very thing that the social justice movement’s marriage to the Myth of Progress has caused, and as I look at some of this backlash, I still haven’t figured out yet if it’s a last gasp of a dying culture like you suggest, or evidence that that stagnation caused by the assumption of progress is actually causing one of (in my mind) the greatest achievements of Western Civilization to lose ground. Perhaps by your 2060s, there’s been enough of an upset to decouple the movement from the assumption of progress and allow it to make enough headway to open the way for the world you’re presenting. Or perhaps I’m seeing trends that aren’t there when I see the movement losing ground.

@Shane: I agree with you that the shrill, self-righteous downsides of our cultural values of social justice, equality, and kindness have risen of late to a self-defeating crescendo that's causing massive frustration, especially when it's tied into identity politics, "call-out culture" online bullying, and so on. What I was more disturbing to me was the way that some of the comments suggested that the entire enlightenment project, from religious freedom and feminism to democracy itself was a lie that could not and should not be preserved for posterity. Those seemed to mostly come from European readers, and some of my friends in Europe have mentioned with unease that in some areas the ghost of the early 20th century is steadily rising from the grave. I only hope those ideas don't become the wave of the future everywhere.

Shane W said...

Announcing the Bluegrass Green Wizards FB page:

daelach said...

I giggled when Mr. Carr's reasoned Lakeland to be unsustainable because Progress is irresistible - and not noticing the contradiction when he read the satellite breakdown in all its seriousness. He can't connect the dots, it seems. Not even with the help of the satellite's name.

As for doing math without computers - what a pity that Newton, Gauss and a lot of other bright people didn't have computers and thus failed to invent differential math, linear algebra and the like. Ooohhh, wait.. it's just that Mr. Carr can't check out the history of math on the metanet.

Mean Mr Mustard said...


F-35 Lardbucket Latest.

Check Six!


Mikep said...

I can't comment on the scientific value of this piece however it may perhaps indicate the kind of direction that spirituality is moving in the western scientifically literate world.

Patricia Mathews said...

Now I'm getting more and more distressed about the religious scene everywhere, just from reading the comments. I'd take Freya and Odin, or Isis-of-ancient-Egypt* and Osiris, over 90% of this!

Does this mean we're ripe for a slowly growing new religion that fills the needs of the people who've been overlooked lurking in the shadows? One that would shock and disgust the respectable and the intellectual classes of today? Or at least seem crazy to them.

*Attention Homeland Security and other trolls** - this is NOT a reference to that gang of warlords in the Middle East, but to a lady best known to archaeologists.*

**Apologies to Homo Giganticus for the comparison.

Patricia Mathews said...

Respectable Retropia!

US could cut power emissions 78% by 2030 using existing technology, says study
Sophie Yeo, Carbon Brief
In their pursuit of a connected nation, Americans built transcontinental railroads in the nineteenth century and the interstate highway system in the twentieth century.

With a similar level of effort, the US could construct a nationwide energy infrastructure that cuts carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 80%, says a study in Nature Climate Change.

This could be achieved without increasing the cost of electricity, thus providing an economic incentive to tackle the problem of climate change...

James M. Jensen II said...


I can't comment on the scientific value of this piece however it may perhaps indicate the kind of direction that spirituality is moving in the western scientifically literate world.

I genuinely hope not. I'm sure a short article like this is not a truly representative of the nuances of Kelly Smith's train of thought, but he seems to be making some rather common logical fallacies. The most basic is the naturalistic fallacy: he seems to argue from "nature tends to produce societies that value X" to "X is good," and that inference just won't wash.

Caryn said...

Thanks, JMG: IMHO, It's kind of relaxing rejoining Mr. Carr on his look-see through Retrotopia. In contrast to DiSc, I think the name is a give-away - it is an utopia - in retro. Although I do echo Mr. Carr's concerns of how LLR is going to stave off the Golden Arches and Coca-Cola invasion and all of the exploitative one-sided business shenanigans coming their way with open borders and more open trade. If our own real-life cultural and economic hegemony is anything to go by, it is extremely, (even murderously) aggressive and can be made to look extremely appealing to a populace - until it's claws are fully sunk in. "How you gonna keep 'em down of the farm, after they've seen gay Pay-ree?" Maybe not now for Lakelanders as the pain and suffering of the 2nd civil war is still in their living memories - but what of the next generation who grow up in security with no such memories?

The one source that to me has explained how our own hegemony works is John Perkins' "Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man". Ultimately the hegemony, (well like old Imperialism), is irresistible at the point of a gun, (or tanks, bombs, drone strikes, assassinations, etc.) That is the bottom line. However sophisticated we think we are - the world still turns on 'Might Makes Right'. So maybe in this retro-Utpoia the resolve is that it can't happen as the Atlantic Republic, Mountain regions, China, Brazil, et al. are currently so screwed up themselves they can't get a proper offensive together. (?) They are in 2065, only paper tigers with no real 'Might'. (?)

In something of the same vein: I'd like to chime in with Eric S. - I also hold the ideals of genuine 'social justice', equality of opportunity, social safety-nets, blind justice, democracy to be among our highest achievements, (or I should say 'almost achievements', as for many they have not been achieved.) They are far from inevitable. They have been hard won by massive, often violent struggle in the Civil Rights era, the deadly struggles of the Wobblies and early union organizers, etc. Currently we are moving backwards from those goals, I think largely because the bulk of the populace has grown up with the benefits of (relative) equality and justice, but no memory of how hard the battles were.

So, JMG: I totally understand, it's your utopia, if you decide that racial, gender, religious, sexual-preference equality and harmony are there in LLR because they don't HAVE to be linked to technological progress - fair enough. But linked or not, I don't think they can exists for long without continued struggle. I think that's just human nature. "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" (Thomas Jefferson), and all that.

buddhabythelake said...

For a bit of contrast to the level-headed assessment of the future presented in Retrotopia, I am watching the cinematic version of Atlas Shrugged (just popped in part II). I read the book (tome, screed) many, many years ago -- when I was much younger. It is interesting to be reminded, or more accurately, to see so clearly now, how the fundamental premise of the work rests on magical thinking (unlimited resources, limitless energy from technology). There are no environmental or natural limits in this universe.

On a side note, they apparently recast for the second film.

More on-topic, John, I particularly enjoyed the Carr's "not getting it" scene. I am very interested in seeing how this resolves.

patriciaormsby said...

Totally off-topic this week (and I apologize to everyone). News flash from Japan: the CIA-censored noon-time TV has finally mentioned the existence of Bernie Sanders. (Not even the late-night programs have managed to do that yet.) They also finally mentioned Mrs. Clinton's e-mails, including the 22 top secret ones. It is not proof they are abandoning her, just evidence of a move afoot in that direction. I think a cross-fire between Sanders and any of the Republican bunch, especially Trump, will be much more interesting, as Clinton's strategy has been "deign to say nothing," and Bernie's so far, "don't push it." But it will also be interesting to see how the shadow government responds to this. They will.
JMG, I promise to visit the Meriga Project as soon as I get through the job I'm currently working on (translation on Mekong River environmental issues). Whenever I read your writing, I think my own is just so juvenile, but never mind, I'll keep writing.

william fairchild said...


I enjoyed your story. I was listening to the radio news today. They had a piece on how you could use an app on your smartphone to order a gas fill up for your car, ala Uber. You place the order, leave your gas door open, and someone comes and fills you up. You don't even need to go self serve.

So very efficient and, well, inbuman. No, progress does not always mean things getting better. Bring on the full service filling station with greasemonkeys.

patriciaormsby said...

@Eric S,
I think it is inevitable that as signs that our current course is unsustainable become more obvious, people like myself who started out as environmentalist, and still are, find ourselves in the company of people traditionally inimical to our point of view, who scoffed, and still do, when we mentioned things like "global warming." About 15 years ago, when we were trying to establish a US greens party, I read that people of our persuasion (with views rooted in liberalism, but recognizing the importance of a spiritual connection to our planet) constituted about 25% of the population, and growing, while the reactionary conservatives were about 25% and falling, and the remaining 50% believed in technological "progress." The key, it was said, was to open up to the conservatives as our natural allies, while not going as far as to agree with them on social issues. It was clear then to us that Gore's position (he was the Democratic candidate) was not the answer. Even before then, but especially since then "green" has been associated with the privileged classes, and my impression (and it may just be me) is that as people get bumped from the middle classes, they are more likely to turn to the conservatives, who have vocally opposed the hypocrisy of the more visible grifters among the greens. When I was young, I thought, like so many concerned people, that we have to control the population somehow. This was the rational, humane solution to severe and growing problems, but I knew it had to be voluntary and start with oneself only. But when people who have been on the receiving end of austerity hear the words "population control," and see rich greens pontificating and zooming around in their special cars, I don't blame them for getting a different impression. Thus, I think we are going to see the reactionaries make a resurgence, perhaps even at our quartile's expense. We will have to work with them in certain ways, but how to deal with them without compromising our own ideals will be a difficult question. Some people will distance themselves; others will be...tolerant.

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, glad to hear it.

Dan, that's a good one!

Brian, good question. Are you volunteering to set that project in motion?

Christopher, good for you for catching that! The Lakeland Republic constitution gives a lot of wiggle room to county governments -- the way the US constitution once did to state governments. Civil rights and the no-religious-establishment clause are guaranteed at all levels, but if a county wants to put up Christmas decorations in its public buildings, and the voters approve, it can do so. Some do, some don't, and it's fairly common for those that do to provide equivalents for the whole range of local religious holidays, but yes, that's an option.

Ezra, as late as 2065, rich, well-connected businesspeople and politicians in the Atlantic Republic are still desperately trying not to notice what's in front of their faces. Care to guess what the guy who was moving with his family to the Lakeland Republic would say if somebody insisted to him that the Atlantic Republic was still progressing?

Tony, I've talked to a lot of atheists over the years, and most of them do seem to put being "not religious" very close to the core of their identity. Sad? Granted, but it's a reality in many cases.

Justin, no, I actually do very well on ebook purchases -- between 25% and 50% of the cover price. Nor do I control the prices for which my books, e- and otherwise, are sold -- the publisher makes that call. As for children not growing up to be mindless consumers, exactly; did you know that "consumer" was an insult in the 19th century, implying that you didn't contribute anything, you just ate up the fruits of other people's labor?

Patricia, I'm sure there are, but they're probably not a lot bigger in terms of the total population than they are in today's US.

Five8Charlie, with regard to weather satellites, no argument there -- when those stop being viable, the Space Age is really over. As for readership, though, I don't judge by the number of comments; Blogger gives me current, daily, weekly, monthly, and all time figures for who's reading the blog at all and who's reading what page, and readership totals for Retrotopia posts are noticeably below average. That doesn't bother me at all -- I write what I want to write, for the benefit of those who want to read it, and since I don't make money from advertising, the rise and fall of my site stats is a matter of mild interest to me at best.

Patricia, yeah, I'm not happy that I didn't think of it at the time. It would have been a great touch. Oh well -- another time, maybe. (Though H.P. Lovecraft's pantheon of monster-gods is getting most of my fictional attention just now.)

dltrammel said...

A nod to last week's topic:

"Fire the Bosses: Management Under Attack as Office Hierarchies Disappear"

"Call this the era when managers are under attack. Many are getting fired, but there's also a general shake up of the hierarchical structure in offices. The question is why. The other question is: is this managerial wipeout about to go mainstream?

Ground zero for the full out assault on managers is Zappos in Las Vegas, the Amazon-owned shoe seller. CEO Tony Hsieh in a memo dated last March wrote, “As of 4/30/15, in order to eliminate the legacy management hierarchy, there will be effectively be no more people managers.” He ominously added: “Self-management and self-organization is not for everyone, and not everyone will want to move forward.”

John Michael Greer said...

Alex, exactly. The tax exemption for religion amounts to a subsidy for religious activities paid by everyone, whether or not they favor religion. That seems unfair to me.

Clarence, good question. I suspect that's more a living tradition out in the Missouri Republic, which includes most of the Great Plains.

Bill, you're right that the Retrotopia sequence is closer to the core theme of this blog than my potshotting at political and cultural targets -- that's a combination of entertainment and the general irritability brought on by creeping middle age. ;-) As for "Christianity without Christ," exactly -- notice that the guy didn't say "Christianity without Jesus." Jesus the Really Nice Guy fits very well into a whole range of essentially atheist narratives. It's when you bring in the icky bits, the blood and death and so on, that the mysterium tremendum et fascinans begins to peek in -- and to judge by my experience, that's actually more offensive to a lot of people who think of themselves as Christian than the blood, death, etc.

DiSc, so? As I've noted here rather more than once, I write what I want to write, for the entertainment of those who want to read it; I'm aware that there are plenty of people who don't like what I write, and that couldn't concern me less. If you don't like the narrative I'm working on just now, all you have to do is skip every post that starts with the word "Retrotopia," you know.

Mikep, one of the things that typically happens as a society goes through the changes ours is facing -- what Spengler called the transition from Culture to Civilization -- is that religion stops being a matter of birth and community and turns into a matter of personal choice. Christianity found its foothold in Roman times, remember, because people no longer simply followed the Pagan religion they grew up with -- they had a choice in the matter, and a lot of them decided that this new faith about the guy on the cross resonated more with them than Zeus and Hera did. New Us/Them dynamics will certainly emerge, just as they did in Roman times -- "Pagan! Heretic! Blasphemer" and so on -- but the discourse you've heard here is a reflection of a common historical fact.

Spanish Fly, I figure they just use the number: "Opus no. 846" and so on.

Damaris, somehow I managed to miss that. Many thanks!

Patricia, why indeed? I confess to a lack of enthusiasm for the Santacentric carols -- we have enough renditions of "gimme-gimme-gimme" in American pop culture without them -- but the more religious carols are lovely to listen to and lovely to sing.

Shane, nah, you've misunderstood what I was saying. Of course there has been a vast amount of intense, even fanatic religiosity in the US. My point is that Christianity is an import here, and a fairly recent one; it doesn't have the deep historic roots that it does, for example, in Europe. Carl Jung used to say that the thing he noticed about all his American patients and students is the overwhelming presence of a suppressed Native American layer in the depths of their psyches, which isn't there in Europeans; he came to the conclusion that each of the large regions of the planet has its own inherent spirituality that continued irrespective of the migrations of human beings from continent to continent. For a variety of reasons -- and those will need to wait for a future post -- I think he's right, and the consequences of that on the future history of North America are likely to be profound.

Emmanuel Goldstein said...

If anyone wants a complete belief system for the Atheist Assemblies, it can be found in Thomas Campbell's "My Big Toe (Theory Of Everything)." I have read about half of it so far, but he is making a good effort to explain Physics, Philosophy, Theology and Magic. It is based on the "Fundamental Process," Progress with a capital P, but only to improve the quality of one's consciousness.
Sounds like an emerging religion, yet Mr. Campbell regularly tells people to suspend their beliefs if they want to get the big picture.

It might be fun to write the "My Big TOE" into the story as the Atheist's Creed, and have them light a giant TOE-shaped candle at the beginning of the meeting.

John Michael Greer said...

Phil, I ain't arguing. If there were Atheist Assemblies around, you wouldn't find me in attendance.

Dan, funny! Thank you.

Ray, good. We'll get to that, of course.

WW, stay tuned.

Eric, well, we'll see. Of the various changes that get lumped together under that vexed label "progress," some require hard work to bring about, some require hard work to prevent, and some creep along under the radar screens without anyone quite noticing that the whole world is changing. More on this down the road a bit.

Daelach, good! Very good -- yes, that was quite deliberate, of course, and those dots will be connected as we proceed.

Mustard, many thanks. For writers of comedy, at least, the Lardbucket is the gift that keeps on giving...

Mike, granted -- but I'm not sure that's a compliment. I wonder if the author of that piece realizes that anyone with what used to count as an undergraduate knowledge of basic philosophy could spend all day counting the fallacies and simplistic reasoning in it.

Patricia, there are always such religions. Wicca and the other brands of popular Neopaganism were the standard flavor of shock-your-mom spirituality from 1980 to more or less now. My guess is that here in the US, African diaspora religions such as Vodoun, Santeria, and Candomble are next in line, but we'll see. As things wind down, one or more of the shock-your-mom traditions will morph into the main religious forms of the next cycle of civilization, but that's probably still a ways off yet.

Caryn, well, we'll see. One of the things that hasn't been factored into a lot of analyses is the extent to which North America these days is already post-Christian; that's why, for example, the opposition to gay marriage has collapsed so completely, so fast. (I don't know of anyone who predicted that.) When a given set of discriminatory practices is rooted entirely in religious grounds, and the religion is no longer actually believed in by the great majority, the practices can collapse with impressive speed, and stay collapsed.

Buddha, I'm impressed. I'm a pretty tolerant reader, but Rand in full spate is enough to make me throw the book across the room into a wastebasket, and not take it out again.

Patricia, the accelerating failure of the Clinton campaign is becoming increasingly hard for anyone to ignore.

William, "efficient" for the user, wildly inefficient for the service provider, like most internet businesses. I wonder how long it will take for somebody to hack the site, show up right after the fillup, and siphon the gas right back out of your tank.

Dltrammel, I see this as another of the death throes of American retail. Without managers on site, it's going to get wild...

Cherokee Organics said...


By Crom! I'm a bit late this week to the party! :-)! I respect the return to Retrotopia. You know your stuff, no doubt about it.

I must confess to enjoying your clever word plays too as they're very funny. The name Progresso IV always puts a smile on my face. It is very amusing. I dare not suggest, but oh well, why not? You could have called it: Progress Forth! That may have been a bit too unsubtle though? Hehe! Conan appreciated subtlety too in his dealings with the world. It is interesting how quickly Mr Carr has transitioned from his vee-pad to a newspaper - and quite smoothly too.

Oh! I wonder if anyone has considered an EMP hit against a drone in the real world? The problem with high tech is that often low tech solutions are just that much cheaper.

Well, yeah, I'd probably take away tax exempt status for a whole lot of entities for exactly that reason. Also as interesting side story, and it is worth mentioning that the US is our ally, we're mates and the US says jump and we jump, but today, I noted an article in the business section of the printed newspaper - that apparently named and shamed the US as a major tax haven for wealthy individuals and corporations. To say that is unprecedented is an under-statement. If you are interested I'll try and rustle up a link to the article?

The Conan cartoon is exceptionally amusing!

There isn’t much to mention here other than I scored some rain yesterday! Yay! 0.67 inches to be precise and it was gratefully received. Oh yeah, I picked a whole lot of feral wild apples which I'm hoping to begin turning into cider over the next few days. Good stuff apples, they truly are a heavenly fruit! ;-)! Apologies, I do amuse myself, if no one else! Hehe! Hey, did you get a massive dump of snow in your part of the world? Martial law in New York would have been quite a surprise for some.

Oh yeah, dare I speculate that we have finally reached the inevitable point of diminishing returns for the iphone thingees? Maybe?



PS: There is a new blog entry up: Accidentally Hugelkultur where that method of turning timber into soil has remarkably been discovered by sheer accident here. Firewood sheds are starting to be filled despite the fact it is still summer and quite hot here. A wallaby damaged a young apple tree, more flowers, an update on the new colony of European honey bees, weird insects, and photos of sun ripened fruit on the trees. All good stuff and cool photos.

Sven Eriksen said...

His lament is square on the mark. Devout belivers in progress-as-religion may very well indulge in a little quiet introspective heresy and question the benevolence of progress, but to question the sheer inevitability of it never enters their wildest dreams. I've actually learned my lesson and to the best of my ability simply stopped getting into conversations with these people. It's really like talking to members of a bleedin' sect...

Thanks for sharing "By Crom!" Really made my week ;-)

Phil Knight said...

"Carl Jung used to say that the thing he noticed about all his American patients and students is the overwhelming presence of a suppressed Native American layer in the depths of their psyches, which isn't there in Europeans; he came to the conclusion that each of the large regions of the planet has its own inherent spirituality that continued irrespective of the migrations of human beings from continent to continent. For a variety of reasons -- and those will need to wait for a future post -- I think he's right, and the consequences of that on the future history of North America are likely to be profound."

This explains Jim Morrison. Do you have a reference for this JMG? It will prove extremely useful for a writing project I am engaged in.

Grandmom said...

You hit on one of my father's hot button issues - no taxes for churches. He often gets on a soap box on how given all the tax breaks they receive (property taxes and income taxes), there should be no hungry or homeless in any community.

We went to a large Methodist church for several years, attending the traditional service with traditional hymns and the organ. Fellow congregants, mostly retired folks, could not stop commenting each week on our children being at the service - shouldn't they be in Sunday School playing or at the Contemporary Service which was more for young people? The children sat quietly and participated fully, so no, I'm not excluding them. Ah, yes, church is all about the club benefits, forgot about that.

The budget for that church was as follows - tithes and donations (income) $1 million. Expenses: salaries & benefits for pastors and staff $500,000. Building upkeep $100,000. Programs for congregation $200,000. Advertising $100,000. And finally, amount given to feed hungry and help homeless, the actual work Jesus called them to do, $100,000. So 10% of what was taken in was used to help people. We stopped attending and just give money to actual people in need, no intermediary needed. We don't get the public recognition of attending and giving, but oh well.

Shane W said...

@patricia o,
I wanted to echo what you said. IMHO, a lot of people on the "green" end, some of the permaculturists, etc. are not helping the cause, precisely because they're using it as an exclusionary, class based status symbol, along with any other trendy thing like, paleo, parkour, or capoeira. And they're just riddled w/hypocrisy, with these huge carbon footprints from driving & jetting so much. And most, if not all of the ones I've met are diehard believers in Progress via Man's power, that we'll all have ecotopia once all the powers that be and everyone gets on board. Which is so odd, because I've found that in talking with non-greens, particularly down-on-their luck wage & welfare class people, if you come to them with a Limits to Growth, this is where where heading whether we want to or not, this might cushion the blow approach, the wage & welfare class folk are way more receptive to the argument you're trying to make. Yet it's the ecotopian trustafarians who seem to rail most strongly against the idea of Limits to Growth, the end of Progress, and the end of Man's Dominion over Nature.

Grandmom said...

I think we reached peak NJ shore property - the flooding from last weekends snow storm was great than the flooding from Sandy, and there's been very little mention in the media about it. Billions in damage again for property owners, some of whom had not rebuilt from Sandy yet.

Florida mayors saying effects of climate change is ruining their towns and cities

Wondering if there would be a climate event or series of events that could make people admit climate change change is real?

Shane W said...

Oh, speaking of retail, Walmart moved into the smallest of towns with its "Neighborhood Market" concept, putting out of business all the mom & pop stores. Now, Walmart is having problems, and has closed a bunch of the "Neighborhood Markets", leaving the communities without groceries around for 20 miles or more. Somehow, though, I'm guessing that where there's a demand, someone will come fill it, possibly even in the old Neighborhood Market properties, depending on the leases. It would be funny if it weren't so sad...

Shane W said...

I think I get what you're saying, basically, ever since the origins of the US, we've been kinda like an immature, shallow outpost of Western culture that's a poor fit for our land, and as the US implodes, we'll be able to begin to retrieve the essence that was lost when the Natives were obliterated. Makes since, but, geez, even First Nations' people get blank looks on their faces when you try to explain that to them...

Patricia Mathews said...

Re: Shock-your-mom" religions. In my case, it was "shock your daughters," not that I intended to, though I knew that would follow. But I wasn't getting anything out of either the faith of my fathers or out of rational materialism, so....

My oldest and her husband would probably attend the atheist assemblies if they had time and if the assemblies weren't so serious; the youngest and her husband and his family are nominal Episcopalians; the real faith of the entire 2nd generation crew is the Religion of Progress, I'm sure.

Re: Jung's detection of a suppressed Native American layer in the American psyche, I need to read up on that. The problem with that is an infestation of Blonde Princess Wannabee types and the usual cultural appropriation that empires like ours so love. Pardon the PC jargon.

Speaking of PC jargon ... a pun concerning the people who speak it as opposed to the people who greet you with "Hey, Mac!" came to mind.

Well, Rand certainly predicted the withdrawal of the elites into gated communities! Though if her world is "20-minutes-into our future", Ellis Wyatt will be hanging from a lamp post covered in tar and feathers for setting fire to the oil fields. I note that David Brin thinks John Galt was one of the creepiest villains in all 20th century literature! For what that's worth.

And I'm afraid Hillary Clinton's post-campaign song is "The Old Gray Mare, she ain't what she used to be...."

Ray Wharton said...

"Carl Jung used to say that the thing he noticed about all his American patients and students is the overwhelming presence of a suppressed Native American layer in the depths of their psyches, which isn't there in Europeans; he came to the conclusion that each of the large regions of the planet has its own inherent spirituality that continued irrespective of the migrations of human beings from continent to continent. For a variety of reasons -- and those will need to wait for a future post -- I think he's right, and the consequences of that on the future history of North America are likely to be profound."

This is something I have felt for a very long time, much of rural Western culture, that which hearkens back to the Old West and otherwise. Even that which uses the symbols of the White settlers seems to point beyond then to the peoples they displaced. In whites I notice that the progressive have much more sympathy for the Natives than the Americans, and even among conservative or deeply Christian individuals there is a very commonly held and deep sitting respect for the Native populations. A neighbor I know, who is as good an example of a 'True Christian' as I can think of laments the destruction of the Utes, lamenting how much the Utes and the settlers could have shared and learned from each other had animosity been less. She dreams, and many of the rural folks I know and talk with, of a life more a kin to the Native ways.

Some, especially among the young, is fueled by a general additude of sympathy for the underdog or the oppressed; some is fueled by a nostalgia for a different world era; some by the fact that any one in the arid west can see clearly enough that the American way of life is an awkward and clumsy fit for this eco region, admiring the practicality of Native practices. These factors and others are all significant, but they are not sufficient to the depth of connection to a people that many know only through caricature.

Another point that is significant to me is the time I have spent with the Dine, or Navajo. They are more 'Western Redneck' that any white could aspire to be, and the Lakota I have known are similar in some ways. I have a hunch that much of the flavor of rural American culture is at heart of a Native character, redressed in American symbolism.

There is another factor I think of, the overlay of the Industrial technological system. Both the extant Native populations and the current White populations seem to have a mixed relationship to it. Young men in my community are as enthralled with their big pickups as the Utes were with horses, up until Meeker plowed their race track, which was a catastrophe worthy of remorse and study. Today the Deni have pickups much like the Americans. For both peoples the industrial feels alien, invasive, and disjunct from the natural setting. I would cite the religion of the UFO as evidence of how much the West FEELS like it is under alien occupation when technology is looked upon with eyes that feel.

Also interesting is how many Native groups took quickly to Christianity, and yet also profoundly transformed its meaning in the context of their lives.

Ray Wharton said...

City of Dreams, a song by the Talking Heads that explores some of these issues.

Images for album art that resonates with my feeling of the mixing occuring in the West, and perhaps America more generally.

An article of some interest that touches on this topic via Jung.

temporaryreality said...

JMG, you said, "Carl Jung ... came to the conclusion that each of the large regions of the planet has its own inherent spirituality that continued irrespective of the migrations of human beings from continent to continent. For a variety of reasons -- and those will need to wait for a future post -- I think he's right, and the consequences of that on the future history of North America are likely to be profound."

This makes me very happy. I understand the benefits to having a religious sensibility, a practice - but am a total misfit when it comes to the organized forces I've come in contact with, longing instead to figure out who I am connected to in my locale. But I'm also untrained and, well, bumble about. That my *sense* to look for something HERE indicates an actual possibility is… quite satisfying. It's been a source of consternation that I can't seem to get on board the variety of religious imports that have come my way and the sense of loss that has come not only through being an uprooted product of modernity, but through not having the tools to figure out with whom/what to connect in the places I've ended up (genius loci, kami, mountain gods, heck, even household deities). This is probably a discussion for Galabes more than ADR, but I just wanted to say that if you decide to write about this, I'm attentively waiting!

Speaking of what you decide to write about, sorry to DiSc, but by all means, the writer should write what he wants! The reader can read what he wants as well!

Also, I know Amazon is seen as the paragon of evil in these parts, but I know several writers personally (and through them I know of some a few steps removed) who are able to make a small but consistent income through self-publishing ebooks (probably combining platforms like nook and ibooks, but still) and print-on-demand paper books. It's no longer the days of self-pubbed=vanity press. Some folks make very decent money and a lot of writers are recognizing that they can be paid a fair price for their work.

Granted, the fiction market is a different creature than the non-fiction, BUT - it would be easy enough to experiment with it. If you have a piece of writing that you've shopped around without takers but that you still love, or a slow seller to which you can reclaim the rights - consider publishing it yourself. Your readers would delight in their payments going directly to you.

Lynnet said...

JM, would it be possible to have blogspot automatically number the comments? It would be so much easier to remember where I left off reading from one day to the next. Last week with 488 (or more) it would have been particularly helpful.

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

"As for children not growing up to be mindless consumers, exactly; did you know that "consumer" was an insult in the 19th century, implying that you didn't contribute anything, you just ate up the fruits of other people's labor?"
Late one night, driving around taking call for hospice, I saw a sign that said "there are consumers in all zip codes". Being in a late night weird frame of mind, the force of the word hit me. It's like "reaver" or "decimator" or "obliviator". They must think we are just total freaking jokes, calling us consumers, and MEANING it. I think that Christianity stands a directly related better chance of survival to the extent it can distance itself from exploitative "consumerism".

Matthias Gralle said...

An interesting interview on the consequences of the fall of the Western Roman empire for middle and lower income people by a mainstream historian at Oxford. He does not avoid talking about the consequences for our own civilisation, though he (absurdly, in my opinion) thinks the Roman elite could just have pulled themselves together and overcome the 5th century crisis.

Matt said...


your point about the rapid collapse of traditional Christian morality has struck a real chord with me.

I don't think I'm alone in the UK in being a bit discombobulated by the speed with which, for instance, "gay rights" have gone from being scorned or ridiculed, to broad acceptance within the mainstream political and media culture. Witness MI5 flying the flag for Pride this year, and Tories using attitudes to homosexuality as a stick to beat traditional Muslims.

The UK's official educational inspectors are, apparently, to quiz primary school children on their attitudes to homosexuality and gender equality, in attempt to identify embryonic 'radicalisation'. Yet the government that is introducing this were, for the most part, staunch 'reactionaries' in the late '80s, happily voting for Section 28 which forbade the representation of homosexuality in schools as a "pretended family relationship".

I think this has some kind of bearing on the SJW conversation that sprung up heatedly last week.

It will, I think, be obvious from the above that I am from the leftward end of things, in my case part of the left that sought to combine a focus on class with broader social issues. We knew, of course, that there was nothing left-wing about being gay, but taking up the cause of equality and openness, or anti-racism and sexual equality for that matter, brought you up against the same 'enemy' (the Right, the government, the state, the establishment, the Man or whatever) that exploited and oppressed the workers.

All of which leads me to wonder whether some of the most shrill expressions of the SJW mindset are a way of generating the same charge of conflict, the same sense of 'fighting' and rebellion, that seem to be part of package for many involved in politics. Many of the old establishment targets are gone (due to the ground shifting so far) so the conflict has to focus on those 'backward' individuals who are not yet on board, or the fighting terrain has to become even more marginal (whatever its merits) in order to generate the required heat.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160130T184832Z

Dear JMG,

Thanks for your reference, in your post timestamped "1/30/16, 12:27 AM", to the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. This reminds me of a passage from John Henry Cardinal Newman, commenting on Victorian press reports from the deathbed of some eminent Victorian equivalent of Prof. Carl Sagan. That grey eminence (the contemporary press was reporting with approbation) had been consoling himself in his final hours by reflecting on the dignity and sublimity of science - on (I paraphrase loosely here, from memory) some details of chemistry; on acids and alkalis and oxidation-reduction reactions, or on something similar.

Newman's comment was that in the face of the desolation and majesty of Death, this scientistic-atheist attitude is bizarre, is nuts, is significantly and majorly Ding-a-Ling-Ding-Dong.

We all have to make up our own minds about this. For my part, I side with Cardinal Newman. There seems to me, speaking subjectively and privately, something like colour-blindness in a scientistic response to deathbed suffering. Or one could say, varying the metaphor, it is a bit like tone-deafness.

I make this remark as a Catholic mainly anchored in science, not in humanities.

Hastily, respectfully,


PS: On science itself, I would like to add (I hope that nobody greatly minds this; perhaps some maths-or-phys student in JMG's readership will indeed be helped) that I keep working on a programme of writing up elementary physics without the obfuscatory Leibniz derivatives-and-integrals-and-differentials "d". This week, I found to my joy that the same programme is pursued, at the exalted level of advanced classical mechanics ("calculus of variations", with "Hamiltonians" or "Lagrangeans"), by Wisdom and Sussman. I got put onto this work through a brief correspondence with Dr John S. Denker (at Bell Labs?; Dr Denker has multiple deep essays at I additionally find Dr Denker's judgement affirmed by an Ivy League authority, Prof. P. Hut at Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies: simply Google on ((STRING))sussman wisdom review piet hut((/STRING)).

PPS: Thanks, Shane et al, for pointer to new Facebook page for Wizards. Heraldic logo, with grammatically correct Latin motto, inspires confidence in the Wizards movement.

Urban Harvester said...


Yes, most of my fellows who have moved on/away from the mormon church - no matter their atheism or polytheism or other - still enjoy singing the christmas carols. Emphasizing form over substance is truly the ever present issue in this community, and is becoming pronouncedly more so. The pressure of fundamentalism has grown if anything (demonstrable by the deplorable behaviour Alex Carter referenced) with the ease and availability of information which immediately summons cognitive dissonance with the fundamentalists' literalistic historical truth claims. What they don't realize is that something does not need to have authenticity in the strict sense to have validity. Years ago my late friend Benson Whittle lamented the Mormon Church's purging of their own unruly and magical history, full of poetic potential, and called for a "war against literalism" led by none other than that trickster the Salamander Predictably they did not, and it appears they will not, listen.

jean-vivien said...

Hey all,

this is somewhat off-topic but nonetheless relevant to the usual discussions here.
Lately Ecnarf is coming to the realization that 2016 might not be better than 2015.

Yet another round of demonstrations was staged by the agricultural sector, caused
by price dumping due to supermarkets' increased pressure as well as the competition
from produce grown by other countries. Also there is a trade gap
caused by the lack of export to Russia, since they banned some products in retaliation to economic sanctions.
Yet another round of blockades by the regular taxi drivers, who are protesting against
the lack of fairness in the competition against Uber and its kin.
The Minister Of Justice resigned, since she disagreed with the Prime Minister's pushing of a totally usueless, revision of the Constitution to take away the French citizenship from binationals convicted of terrorism (very scary for people who already plan to blow themselves up...).
As for the migrant crisis, the other European countries are planning is isolate Greece from the Schengen area for a couple of months.
Since I work in IT service industry, I got to see how quite a few companies use mergers to save up on IT costs, and thereby reduce their IT staff. In 4 or 5 years from now, we might get to hear news stories about growing unemployment in the IT sector... that will probably be a landmark in the bumpy road ahead. Or we may just have far worse concerns than the woes of the IT industry.

As you can see, the forecast for Ecnarf in 2016 is rather easy to compound : more unemployment, more protest, more ridiculing of the political class, sprinkle a few terrorism-related pieces of news/events, and add in a bit more support for the far-right.

buddhabythelake said...


I must admit that when I was younger and first encountered Atlas Shrugged, I was rather beguiled by the philosophy. Francisco was the character I wanted to be -- able to do nearly anything, nearly perfectly, after a moment's study. The fact that Rand's characters were god-like and not at all human took much longer to sink in. In addition to the aforementioned cornucopianism, of course.

I got about 1/3 through part III and had to stop. Aside from a re-recasting, it finally got too annoying. Moreover, the cinematic quality was definitely on a downward gradient across the three films and this last one felt like a badly-spliced film student's project.

Re the discussion of satellites, I really do wonder what people are thinking when they propose to add yet another layer of technology (e.g. driverless cars) onto the assumed continuation of the satellite system. The concept that all those cars would become useless without the navigation signals from the satellite constellations just doesn't seem to register.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160130T200145Z

I am hoping that JMG, in his capacity as ADR blog moderator, will tolerate an (INITIALLY off-topic) news report on the David Dunlap Observatory 77-hectare heritage greenspace conservation case, here in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

On checking things yesterday through the bus window, I noted to my surprise that despite the would-be developer's having promised purchase opportunities by this spring, there is on the side of the main relevant thoroughfare no hint of walls and roofs going up.

This morning, someone made to me the remark that the absence of house-construction activity might reflect a slow market. Could it perhaps be that the general house-buying public is regarding the destruction of 32 out of the 77 (largely forested) hectares as morally objectionable, and is therefore reluctant to purchase?

I will remark here what I have in essence remarked here before: an overview of the case can be had by googling on ((STRING))Glen Strom ugly battle over David Dunlap Observatory((/STRING)). One thereupon retrieves a rather gappy piece of 2015-04-26 blog journalism from space-exploration enthusiast Glen Strom, with two clarifying 2015-12-30 blog comments from my desk. The gappy journalism, together with my gap-filling comments, and together also with Mr Strom's own graphics and Mr Strom's well chosen video links, makes much of the case clear.

As I remark in one of my two comments on Mr Strom's blog, the general public can help by subscribing, politely and truthfully, to the developer's own newsletter, offered at This little action takes all of 40 or 60 or 120 seconds.

If lots of people, especially from outside Ontario, subscribe, it will slowly sink in to the developer that many of the people reading the newsletter promo are not interesting in flipping the projected offensive houses, or even in buying them honestly as permanent homes.

That dawning realization may make the developer family (publicly and visibly Catholic) more amenable to meeting with me, as another publicly visible Catholic. What we need - I have already pointed this out twice by e-mail to the Archdiocese in Toronto and to the Papal Nuncio in Ottawa, and of course to the wealthy developer family - is a kind of low-key meeting, in which the ethics of this thing get probed, and in which both I (defending conservation on all 77 hectares) and the developer family (opposing conservation on 32 of the 77 hectares) are represented by our respective spiritual directors. If we are Catholics, we must make some effort, however limping, however clumsy, to live our faith.

Thinking of the sad case of this wealthy, Catholic, and from one perspective faux-Catholic, family makes me ponder a question which IS connected with JMG's ADR blog this week - the question, namely, "What is it to leave a faith tradition?" One is tempted to deem leaving some varieties of Christianity easy enough - one puts the stress on Jesus, not equally on Jesus and the Christ; and one stresses ethics, not the liturgy of sacrifice; and one neglects the actual lived practice of previous generations, in their architecture, music, and other physical forms of expression; and soon it becomes easy to migrate to some approximation of JMG's Atheist Assembly.

I think that the case of Catholicism is different, and that the cases of Catholicism and Judaism are similar.

Does anyone ever just stop being Jewish? People fall away from the synagogue, they know less and less of the Law, they claim more or less mellifluously to be agnostic: but at some level they remain Jewish. At any rate, this is my guess. Maybe some Jewish ADR readers are able to comment?

Tom Karmo




Hubertus Hauger said...

Generally spoken, for me the narrative needs plenty of sensation.

Seeing in the narrative how we explain our roumouraging existence and meaning with sensation our overhelming need to feed our lively emotions, agitations and social interactions with likewise lively festive actions.

So that atheist gathering was a little dry for my taste. Guess in that JMG universe is room for gatherings which satisfy the sensational needs of people too.

william fairchild said...

Re- siphoning

LOL. Back when I was a young (and sometimes indiscreet) lad, we called a 6' length of garden hose a "cross country credit card". Yes indeed, hack the app, then hack the gas tank. Too funny. Of course there was what was referred to, back then, as " midnight auto supply". It may make a return in the years to come.

. said...

If Christianity, and maybe the pagan beliefs that preceded it, are part of an inherent spirituality of Europe then might that continue irrespective of Islamic immigration? It's kind of hard to see how. Vigilantes and violent clashes between pro and anti immigration groups are becoming more common here and it looks like an incipient civil war in some parts.

Moshe Braner said...

Talking about religion getting undeserved breaks, it's not just tax exemptions. Here in Vermont last year the legislature eliminated the "philosophical exemption" whereupon parents could refuse to have their children vaccinated on the claim that they have a philosophical objection. But they left in place the "religious exemption". There was a lively debate on that, with some demanding that if one exemption goes then so should the other, since one man's philosophy is another man's religion. But that's what they voted to do. I expect an increase in the number of religious exemptions... BTW the percentage of parents that used the philosophical objection was only 6% or so, albeit growing. The growing anti-vax movement and its relation to the declining prestige of science is a whole 'nuther issue.

Justin said...

JMG, no I didn't know that consumer was ever considered to be an insult. Of course I was also kidding about my comment about skepticism. To echo others, your comment about Carl Jung is fascinating. Is there a book you can recommend to read more about the concept you mentioned while we wait for your post?

PRiZM said...

Shane and JMG, and all

RE: Regional spirituality connected with the land

I'm really interested in this upcoming post of yours. As a descendant of purely European stock, I have always found it intriguing why I felt so connected with the stories of the Native American peoples of the two regions I grew up in. When younger I had even devised a plan to present to the US government in the hopes of persuading them to allow a much larger area where the Native Americans could live more like they used to ... but I was cognizant enough even then how things worked in the government to know it was a waste to present.

Fast forward 20 years later, and my daughter, despite being born in China, she has a strong interest in things Native American. It has always left me curious why..

Shane, as to Native Americans not being aware that many may return to their ancient ways.. a lot of them are lost in this current life, but having been employed by a reservation, I was able to see quite a resurgence in Natives reconnecting with their ancestral ways, and much more pride in it. Languages are being recovered, along with ancient skills. And while I realize some of the prophecies are hoaxes, there are quite an astounding number that mention the return of peoples to their ancestral ways.

Recently I had an opportunity to join a workshop concerning Waldorf education. In the workshop the Anthroposophical approach to life stages was being taught. While it was all very interesting to me, what I was really stunned by was the similarity between the life stages and how they were recognized by Anthroposophical studies, and how MANY Native cultures had already discovered similar things. They were, and still are, a very wise people, and it would not surprise me in the least if many were aware of the spiral of life.

Nastarana said...

Dear Patricia Matthews, Blond Princesses are Valkyries of course. They just need to remember who they are, kick off the shackles of demeaning consumer culture and retrieve their swan feathers.

Dear said, Europeans seem to have begun to realize that their incomparable cultural heritage is something worth defending. Islam does not appear to me to be able to flourish in cool climates without the support of a modern industrial infrastructure. A community which must spend the summer preparing for the winter cannot afford to have half its population confined to quarters.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Toomas Karmo asks, "Does anyone ever just stop being Jewish? People fall away from the synagogue, they know less and less of the Law, they claim more or less mellifluously to be agnostic: but at some level they remain Jewish. At any rate, this is my guess. Maybe some Jewish ADR readers are able to comment?"

I'm responding by talking only about Jews in the Diaspora, where we are a minority population. It depends on how recently there has been fresh emigration/settlement and how prevalent anti-Semitism is in the surrounding culture.

In the absence of pervasive cultural anti-Semitism, I'd say that Jews stop being Jews two generations after an intermarriage in which the children are not raised as Jews with a Jewish identity (cultural or religious). In the presence of anti-Semitism, hostile outsiders are keeping track of your ancestry and treating you differently even if you don't feel Jewish. That will motivate some to try harder to "pass", but most will react to discrimination by feeling more identification with the group.

The United States presents a set of test cases because Jews have never suffered any legal disability and because Jews in the Northeast, the South and the West have different histories of origin, settlement, and experience of prejudice. For example, the Jewish community of San Francisco from the beginning was mostly Reform Jews, it is more culturally assimilated than Northeastern urban populations, and a significant proportion of San Francisco's high society consists of Jewish families who made their fortunes in the gold and silver rushes.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

The rapid change in attitudes toward homosexuality and in particular toward marriage rights has a precursor in heterosexual mores.

In 1960, a young man and a young woman cohabiting while having sexual relations was known unironically as "shacking up" or "living in sin". Only sluts, bohemians, and low class girls who didn't care about their reputations did it. If a baby was born less than nine months after the marriage ceremony, it was an embarrassment though not a scandal.

As I recall it, by 1970 middle class parents were resigned to their daughters not being virgins when they married but weren't pleased if they advertised the fact by moving in with their fiances. By 1980 it was not just accepted but expected that couples of all classes would live together for months or years before they marry. Not living together before marriage became regarded as odd and perhaps unhealthy.

At present, it appears to me that the norm for the middle and upper classes is that couples do not set a marriage date until a baby is on the way. This was once the standard practice for parts of the working class. Today the working class does not get married at all, because the prospects for working class men are so poor that young women do not see any economic benefit in marrying them.

The speed at which this reversal of social attitudes has spread through all classes, in the teeth of Christian morality, seems like an indication that organized Christianity has a weak hold on Americans. OTOH, the percentage of Americans who do not believe in the theory of evolution is very high, and nobody is teaching against evolution except Bible-inerrant evangelical Protestant churches.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Since we're talking about Atheist Assemblies, Christianity without Christ, social justice and Jewish identity, this article is relevant and also completely accurate IMO:

Patricia Mathews said...

Re; "Consumers" - I have a friend who works for a nonprofit, whose job is getting the needy into housing, getting them the disability payments that were suddenly cut off, etc. When I objected to her calling them her "consumers", she told me they preferred to be called that. It made them feel as if they were part of society.

Re: ATLAS SHRUGGED - Dagny's comments about being a bright girl in her society nearly made me cry. Been there, done that, somebody understood! And the message that one had a right to be anything she pleased, rather than what was expected of her, felt like a message of liberation - of *permission*. That was long ago, of course, and mainstream society now pressures us to achieve. In the currently fashionable fields, of course. It took a while to catch onto that. Like going through The Matrix, taking the pill that was supposed to free you, and finding that you're only at the next level of the game. (You think the masters of the Matrix were stupid?) However, whoever unlocks the cage door, however evil, has done you a service. At least you have a chance to escape again, now that you know it can be done.

The other Tom said...

I am very intrigued by Carl Jung's conclusion that "each of the large regions of the planet has its own spirituality that continued irrespective of the migrations of human beings from continent to continent..." Could this inherent spirituality be a lot more local than large regions?
I have always wondered about this because I cannot thrive in a place that feels sterile to me. Even a day in a landscaped place where the native trees and plants are gone can leave me tired and depressed, as if the life has been sucked out of me. There has to be a lot more to geography than a particular combination of rocks and vegetation and weather, although trying to broach this topic in a consumer culture would certainly elicit the blank stare.
A lot of people seem either unaffected by the subtleties of place or oblivious to it. It's like not being from anywhere, in a spiritual sense, and perhaps that causes or exacerbates so many of our social problems.

Kevin Warner said...

"Carl Jung used to say that the thing he noticed about all his American patients and students is the overwhelming presence of a suppressed Native American layer in the depths of their psyches, which isn't there in Europeans; he came to the conclusion that each of the large regions of the planet has its own inherent spirituality that continued irrespective of the migrations of human beings from continent to continent."

I have to say here that this quote makes me a bit uneasy here. Not for what it says but for the way that some could twist this idea to reinforce the myth of "American exceptionalism" that even Obama has proudly boasted off. Certainly a land can and does have an effect on the spirituality of a people living there, whether they were raised there or are recent blow-ins, but not always in the same way. The traditional aborigines in Australia are spiritually bound to their land in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine but the people that have come to live her in the past two centuries show no sign of adopting similar spiritual feelings. Remember too that three of the world's great religions all had their origins in the same neighbourhood but they too have evolved differently in their own way.

Thing is, people are to a large extent a product of their place and time. As an example, using my flux-capacitor, I could go back in time to a medieval bog-peasant village rife with disease and superstition, kidnap all the babies and toddlers in that same god-forsaken village, bring them back here and have them raised to be accountants, fire-fighters, engineers, nurses, pilots and whatever else they were capable of. The difference here is the scope and opportunity that they were offered in growing up. I suspect that their spirituality would be likewise radically different. I didn't say necessarily better, I just said different.

The description of the Assembly is quite enjoyable but there is another way that things could play out in terms of religion. In this, I am reminded of the story of the bloke who went to join the army back in 1939 as the country went to war. He answered all the interviewer's questions on name, age, address, education and the like but when it came to the question of religion, he replied:
"Aww, just put me down for whatever you're short off!"
He may have been an atheist, a deeply religious person, or something in between but I have always admired this individual's attitude.

Grandmom said...

@Prizm I just read this book last week "Who Discovered America?" by Gavin Menzies, which is basically an updating of his book "1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered the World". He asserts that it was the Chinese who sailed and settled the Americas (as far back as 100,000 years ago), and develops his case through Chinese navigational maps and artifacts found particularly in the remains of the Olmec's. Plant biologists through DNA testing have also traced back plants along the coasts of the America's that were native to China. Same with some domesticated animals. There was no Bering Straight Land route crossing by people and he kinda proves it by attempting to drive it noting the harshness of the weather and the barren land. He details out a lot of it on his website, but the book is a quick read.

It tickles my brain to think the Native Americans and the complex civilizations of Central America were descended from Chinese explorers and colonists.

Ben said...

@ Mathias - The interview with Prof Ward-Perkins was well worth the read. I did not read the closing paragraphs the same way you did though. He points out that even good leadership and a bit of luck in the 5th century would not have allowed the Roman Empire to continue indefinitely.
He also point out in the last paragraph of the interview that the lessons from the end of the Roman Empire could teach us a great deal, if we were willing to listen. (Key words there!)
@ JMG - (In ref. to above) Apparently, Mr Carr is just now getting around to opening his ears!

Shane W said...

I just meant that Natives seem just as unable to view Western industrial culture as fragile and subject to collapse over the next however many hundred years. I was saying to them that First Nations peoples could be part of a future priest class in the Americas, as they were the only ones who ever lived sustainably on the land. I think the idea that the dominant white culture could be fragile & subject to collapse over time was what drew the blank looks. As to peoples comments about admiration of Native culture, I think the old saying "familiarity breeds contempt" is apt here, same as with African-Americans or even Latinos. Just as the whitest areas of the US were the most pro-abolition, pro-desegregation, the same is true with animosity towards Natives. In Canada, there's a lot of animosity/bad blood between First Nations and white people, but First Nations make up a larger percentage of the population, and the Canadians did not evacuate and resettle (and kill) First Nations peoples the way the US did, so there is more interaction. The issues in Winnipeg come foremost to mind.
as a miscegenating, heathen, sodomite who does things that cause his Confederate ancestors to roll in their graves and doesn't think twice about it, it sure seems that things have fundamentally changed, though I'm mindful that people in Weimar Germany felt the same way (the dragon is most dangerous when it's dying) In all fairness, I'm sure the Confederate ancestors miscegenated, I guess it's the "treating as equals worthy of a relationship" that is different. Does it still count as miscegenation when gay people do it, or does a baby have to potentially result, I've never been sure on that point? Considering how exotic gingers are regarded in most cultures, and how much they value translucent pale skin, you'd be a fool to be a ginger and NOT miscegenate, IMHO And I have 30 and under evangelical friends that I'm totally open with and feel totally accepted by, so there's that, too.
It seems that our Mr. Carr comes from a very senile elite, indeed...

Mon Seul Desir said...


Your atheist assemblies seem to be today's atheist movement projected in the future, but How? Today movement seems to be a pale shadows of the Gilded Age atheists and those in spite of being well know public figures in their times were forgotten by the mid 20th cent. and accessible only in specialized litterature, having left no public trace. The whole movement such as it was, was a few individuals and diseappeared with them. The problem in this case is how do you go from a few, to a tradition that can continue once they are gone?

To comment on the last post, I've felt that the US has entered the some twilight zone that the USSR entered in the late 1980s and the sudden rise of Donald Trump is very reminiscent of the sudden rise of Boris Yeltsin in russian politics at the time. Both are apparachiks who found they could climb to power by becoming the bullhorn of popular discontent and frustration with the ruling apparat. They can openly voice the discontent of the masses while being protected by their nomenklatura privileges.

Yeltsin program of a renewed russia was a failure, but he buried the USSR. Trump is near certain of "failing" in the same manner and burying the American Empire in the process...

latheChuck said...

Grandmom- In defense of Mainstream Protestantism, I'm not sure that we can write off 90% (in your example) of church spending as non-Christ-ian overhead (e.g. "club benefits"). Of course, each congregation has its own particular culture, and it may be that the one you participated in did keep service to the needy at arms length (or out-sourced completely). But the little Lutheran church which I attend uses its building and paid staff to provide service to the needy. The poor, elderly, and those suffering illness are among the worshipers; those giving care this year may be those receiving care next year (and vice versa). We celebrate the Sacrament of Communion, as Christ told us to, and that can be every bit as much of a mystic ritual as you allow yourself to experience.

On the other hand, a church that defines itself as community choir, civic association, and vehicle for redistribution of a bit of its members' wealth to its strange and distant inferiors does not represent the Christ that we see in the Gospels. I do not have experience with such a church.

aiastelamonides said...


The Atheist Assembly seems like a combination of two fairly different strands of atheism. The Lamp of Reason (rather than, say, the Candle of Compassion), the positive anti-religious attitude, and the specialty of science and mathematics point to the tech-loving, libertarian-leaning Dawkins crowd (the label "Atheist" points this way too, but only slightly), while the choice of a Beatles song, the UU-ish atmosphere, and the willingness to partake in weekly ritual suggests the atheistic end of modern liberal Protestantism, which primarily exists among UUs, Liberal Quakers, and the other mostly-theistic groups (there is also a non-theistic organization called Sunday Assembly that fits in this category, and apparently is doing rather better in the Midwest than elsewhere), which is consequently much more respectful of religion (and politically lefty). Of course these two categories overlap, and it's no surprise that they would come to share one building by 2065 (particularly in the LR, where the 1st category's devotion to Progress will have been abandoned), but it seems strange that the dominant tone is that of the first group, which has a much less spiritually fertile attitude than the second and little experience running a church.

onething said...

Emmanuel Goldstein,

I've read at least half of Campbell's Big Toe and I would not call him an atheist at all.

Martin B said...

@Bob Patterson
I think driverless cars are insanity, and only possible with a huge technological infrastructure. If the GPS goes down, you're lost! But I was impressed by an account from Errol, Elon Musk's father, on his experience with a driverless car. From memory, this is what he said on the radio:

"We arrived at Denver airport. Elon had sent his latest driverless car for us. There was a driver, but he just punched in the destination on the dashboard screen. After that, he did no driving. We were on our way to Boulder, about an hour away.

"The car pulled away by itself and drove from the airport to the highway. It knew all the turns to take, and stopped at all the red lights and stop streets on the way. We were naturally very nervous at first, but relaxed when it seemed to know what it was doing. We went onto a high-speed freeway and travelled fast, 75 miles an hour. The car kept a safe following distance. It overtook and got overtaken. It seemed to know when there was a gap in the traffic and it was safe to change lanes, and it signalled before doing so. I honestly think it was a better driver than a human driver.

"The car anticipated where it needed to turn off, and got into the correct lane. We drove through Boulder to our destination, and the car parked itself in the driveway. All without the driver touching the wheel or controls. It was very impressive."

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

It's not the Progresso IV, but it's too good not to post:
This massive, out-of-control cargo ship is about to crash into the coast of France

“We will do everything within our power to succeed,” said Vice-Adm. Emmanuel De Oliveira of France’s Atlantic Maritime Prefecture of Monday morning’s Hail Mary salvage maneuver. “If this does not succeed, the Modern Express will run aground on the sandy coast … between Monday night and Tuesday night.”


James Fauxnom said...

I saw this article and couldn't resist :)

Glad the Financial Post has a vibrant entertainment section for their readers.

DesertedPictures said...

You mentioned 'old school technology' against drones in an earlier post: you might enjoy this: Police officers in the Netherlands are training eagles to take out drones. (they are not so concerned with outside countrie-wide threaths of course: just the kind of things criminals can get their hands on. But it's still quite shocking to see how vulnerable these kinds of advanced technologies are.)

whomever said...

Off topic from Retropia, but: Florida is starting to wake up to having to deal with climate change and sea level rise. They are the canaries in the coal-mine. Reality is arriving, and it's not pretty.

daelach said...

@ JMG: Another idea for the drone shooting day would be to train eagles to take down the drones. Actually, the Dutch police is already trying that:

David James Peterson said...

Off topic but interesting news from the Fusion power front and i quote:
"As a result, a panel of engineers recently considered how an ITER divertor might be built and found, “The present knowledge base of tokamak divertor physics is not complete enough to specify a divertor ‘solution,’…. In fact, we do not know that a solution exists even in principle.”"
The new ITER-tokamak has a critical part that needs to be redesigned for the higher power levels in the ITER and there is not solution "even in principle". Not good news for the tokamak.

Grandmom said...

This morning I listened to the start of a biography of James Madison, and the author was emphasizing Madison's role in 1780 of the establishment of religious freedom instead of the accepted religious toleration. Madison was not a faithful church goer by any stretch (and the author mention most other founders were not church goers too), and he petitioned in Virginia to stop the tax assessment to pay for Anglican ministers salaries. Every colony by PA and RI had an established religion, most the Church of England.

I thought this distinction between religious freedom and religious toleration important. In the first, the state does not dictate what is a religion and provides no financial support to any religion. In the second, the state has a sponsored religion and allows others.

So does the running free from taxes of religious groups count as freedom? I believe you are saying paying of taxes like every other institution counts as freedom.

donalfagan said...

Regarding the previous post, FiveThirtyEight now admits that there might be a reason that people are worried about the economy, but they still claim it has gotten demonstrably better in the short run. They don't seem to connect Trump's and Sander's support to any real problem with the middle class.

@ Driverless cars, as a bike commuter, I'd probably be safer sharing the road with one. At first I thought they were a solution in search of a problem, but the perceived problem may be that millenials aren't buying cars and are glued to their smartphones. So create a car that allows millenials to watch their smartphones instead the road. Whether they can afford them is another matter.

Ashtead said...

I read with interest the story related from the newspaper of the failing satellites. As it turned out, an old GPS satellite, SVN 23, was taken out of service last week, and this caused a GPS time error of 13 microseconds that was noticeable but fortunately not fatal to any equipment. Now one thing that can be made to eventually happen to dead satellites is that they are sent into a crashing trajectory, aimed to hit the surface in one of the oceans. This might mitigate, somewhat, the crowding of the orbits.

Still, accidents can happen and the amount of small debris can increase.

I will be looking forward to reading more about Carl Jung's observations on regional spirituality. I remember having read old folk tales and fairy tales from different Europeian countries, and there seems to me that there is quite a bit of correlation between the stories and the way the landscape looks and which plants and animals there are. Maybe this phenomenon runs deeper than this (although the fairytales might be another part of the "Collective Unconscious").

LewisLucanBooks said...

Off topic, but, interesting. There was an article this morning, on, about how we're about 7 states away from calling a Constitutional Convention.

A whole can of worms that could change the political landscape, quickly. Lew

jean-vivien said...

here in Ecnarf the media have followed the Modern Express's fate extensively. No big deal here though : it only carries wood. And its rescue is now pretty well underway. But it is scary mostly because of the implications, should we have failed to rescue it, and should a similar cargo ship turn up in the same drifting condition but carrying a much more dangerous payload. Its rescue was possible partly because of other countries (Spain) 's hauling ships. And it partly underlines the lack of means for coastal protection, from a rich coastal nation... A very good description of our times.

As for the symbolism... here "modern" refers to the 1920s so no big symbolism either. Besides Castro has come from Cuba to France. Quite a strong symbol since it nails the coffin of the Cold War era. One of the promising new markets to invest in, along with Iran. In the meantime, a big oil rig junction manufacturer (Valourec) has to shut down factories. Is that Progress with a big P ? Hmmm... it is definitely History with a big H.

Tidlösa said...

Most off topic comment this evening...

How are the Iowa caucuses going?


Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Mon Seul Desir--That's an interesting comparison. I wonder if there is any chance that Trump can bury the American Empire without dismantling the Republic in the process. Perhaps that's a meaningless question, since some critiques of Manifest Destiny say that the empire stretches from sea to shining sea.

Justin said...

Tidlosa, Iowa caucuses are looking (at 8pm central) like a narrow win for Hillary, although likely a technical win, as it is likely Bernie will earn more of the popular vote. As a Canadian, I sympathize, but well, welcome to mass democracy.

Patricia Mathews said...

Well, Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucus. Here's his platform, for what it's worth:

John Michael Greer said...

Emmanuel, yes, I've read it. No, it's not what the Atheist Assemblies teach.

Cherokee, two-thirds of an inch of rain, feral apples, and peak iPhone? What more could anyone want? ;-)

Sven, well, you know my views about faith in progress as the established religion of the modern world...

Phil, regrettably, I don't -- it's been some years since my really intense Jung studies, and I don't have a set of the Collected Works handy.

Grandmom, I've encountered way too many religious organizations (of all kinds, not just Christian churches) that do things that way to disagree with your father. Thanks for the update on the coastal flooding -- as the news media becomes more and more propagandized, that kind of on-the-spot update is going to become more necessary.

Shane, the difficulty here is that, for reasons already discussed here, most kinds of economic activity are so massively parasitized by government, banks, and other intermediaries that they're no longer viable. My guess is that very few new stores will go in, and those towns that survive will revert to subsistence economics and non-market modes of exchange. As for the shallow roots of European civilization here: exactly. I don't think, though, that we'll retrieve what was lost; I think that what was lost will retrieve us...

Patricia, good! I don't have children to shock, but would probably have done so if I did.

Ray, exactly. It takes a few centuries for people to be drawn into the kinds of relationships with the land that the land wants, but sooner or later it happens. I think of the process that turned a bunch of Saxon pirates into the English as an example.

Temporaryreality, I'm a very poor businessman, so I like to have a publisher take care of the business dimension and leave me to write. I have no complaint if people who use self-publishing find Amazon useful -- but if your favorite authors aren't self-publishing, buying their things from Amazon takes a big bite out of their income.

Lynnet, I wish -- it's not one of the options Blogger provides, as far as I know.

Matthew, exactly! The word I like to compare with "consumer" is "devourer." "The devourer economy" really does seem like a workable description.

Matthias, thank you. Perkins is a favorite writer of mine -- his The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization is a brilliant book.

Matt, hmm! That's at least possible.

John Michael Greer said...

Toomas, I ain't arguing. Still, running away from the stark reality of death is among the most popular habits of people in industrial society, and has been for a very, very long time.

Jean-Vivien, thanks for the update from Ecnarf!

Buddha, I'm rather fond of John Rogers' famous quote about that book: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

Toomas, I wonder to what extent you might be confusing Catholicism as a religion with Catholicism as a cultural phenomenon. I've long noted that most people in the US are cultural Protestants even if they long ago rejected everything that the Protestant churches stand for -- but that's not visible, because Protestant culture is so pervasive in the US that it's invisible. Catholic and Jewish culture, by contrast, stand out because they differ from the norm.

Hubertus, the Atheist Assembly was pretty dry for my taste, too, but there are people who like that kind of thing.

William, now there's a blast from the past! Yes, I think it's very likely that both will make a comeback.

.Mallow, of course. Just as Pagan gods were redefined as Christian saints, Christian saints will be redefined as Sufi shaykhs or the like, and European Islam will morph to fit the soil the way it's done in Indonesia and elsewhere. It'll take a few centuries, though.

Moshe, and a very extensive discussion it will have to be, too.

Justin, it's in an essay in Jung's Collected Works, which I know is no help at all. If I had to guess, I'd reach first for Civilization in Transition, but that's only a guess.

Unknown Deborah, the implosion of the cultural consensus backing traditional Christian sexual morality is a really dramatic shift, and you're quite right that the latest round of culture wars are simply part of that larger change. As for the decline of belief in evolution, I'd associate that with collapse of faith in science, rather than any enthusiasm for fundamentalist Protestantism.

Other Tom, Vine Deloria Jr. in God is Red argued that the sacrality of place is of huge importance, and largely neglected in the mainstream religions of the US. I tend to think that he's right.

Kevin, the religions of the desert Middle East all have much more in common with each other than they have with most other faiths -- enough so that I think it's fair to consider Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and the like as variations on a common desert theme. As for America and Australia -- if Jung's to be believed, the orientation toward the land happens at the very bottom of the unconscious and slowly works its way up. It'll be centuries before the white people of Australia consciously relate to the land the way the native peoples do, and the same could be said about white people here -- but it would have been interesting, if Jung had visited Australia or had a bunch of Australian patients, to hear what he had to say about the crawlspaces of their psyches.

John Michael Greer said...

Ben, there are reasons for that. Stay tuned...

Desir, as I noted in response to an earlier comment, it's entirely possible that in the longer run, the Atheist Assemblies will turn out to be no more durable than the Ethical Culture movement or Auguste Comte's "Religion of Humanity." I find it likely that something like that will emerge out of the current atheist scene over the next fifty years or so; beyond that I don't care to speculate.

Aias, good! You caught that. Most churches are awkward hybrids of a variety of different viewpoints and trends who manage to work out ways of spending Sundays together, and I saw no reason to make the Atheist Assembly any different.

Team10tim, yes, I heard! Talk about fine metaphors...

James, oh bright gods. That is such a perfect example of what passes for economic thinking these days!

Pictures and Daelach, many thanks! Eagles versus drones...I like it.

Whomever, yep. And there isn't a thing that can be done at this point except to move to higher ground.

David, ah, but look at the bright side -- the fusion physicists will be able to keep clamoring for more billions in grant money for years to come, in order to find out whether it's possible to come up with a solution to this problem, and then figure out what the solution is, and then spend decades trying to make it work, before they have to get back to the far more daunting challenge of making ITER look like it's going to do anything but waste money. Whole generations of young physicists will retire before the gravy train runs dry!

Grandmom, good. Exempting religious organizations from taxation is a covert subsidy for religion, at every other organization's expense. Real religious liberty would be an even playing field, with nobody getting a subsidy except from their own congregations.

Donalfagan, of course! If they admitted there was actually a problem, they'd have to admit that the middle class might have benefited from it...

Ashtead, sure, but that has to be done systematically, starting now, and it's not being done. Meanwhile the space junk piles up.

Lew, why, yes -- which is why I put that in Twilight's Last Gleaming.

Phil Knight said...

OK Thanks JMG - I'll see if I can hunt it down.

buddhabythelake said...


You were reading my mind :) That quote was echoing in the back of my head even as I wrote my comment. Yes, my adolescence and early adulthood would have been easier if I'd run across that quote before the book.

Shane W said...

the nice thing about a Con Con, when one happens, is that it will clearly and unequivocally show how "disunited" the States actually are. It takes 3/4 of the states (38) to pass an amendment, which is even more than the 2/3 to break a filibuster, which rarely happens. Between red & blue, and however many other ways you dice it, there's just nothing other than milquetoast that 3/4 of the states agree on, but having it on display, at a convention that just goes on for eternity without accomplishing anything, will make it crystal clear that the United States is not united anymore, and that other, more manageable arrangements need to be made--see Twilight's Last Gleaming...

Grandmom said...

On this toleration vs. freedom - I'm thinking about it in terms of children's schooling now. Schooling is more mandated and forced on us than any religion in the US. Our faith is public schooling is high. In fact public schools are probably part of the religion of progress given its conveyor belt approach: add subjects and testing onto the child until they are deemed "graduated".

We all pay taxes to support public schools for K-12 grades and we have no freedom or choice in what our children study, who their teachers are, and what school they attend. Experts and bureaucrats make all those decisions for parents and society. Homeschooling and private/parochial schools are tolerated because the families still pay the taxes to support the public schools and follow the public school guidelines (subjects and scope by grade, and the school year schedule).

If there were freedom in education for children and parents picked schools, opponents retort that the educationally disadvantaged and those in poverty would suffer because those families can't afford a good education. The assumption there being that the public school education is good. But public schools are the complete opposite of good in every way - academics, social development, physical exercise, nutrition and just plain old relevance. Does anything one learns in public school matter?

I don't have an answer to fix public schools and I think they are so entwined in our culture that we can't fix them, just hope to eliminate them completely at some point. Too many adult salary class jobs rely on the system, and in many communities at least here in the rural north east, a teacher is the highest paying (salary + benefits), most stable job to be had.

Shane W said...

I'm having fun reading all the MSM (mainstream media) coverage of the caucus talking about Cruz's "win" in Iowa. I mean, I looked @ the results, & saw that only 3% separated Cruz & Trump, and thought that it was inconclusive, certainly not decisive in such a crowded field, but then I went & read the MSM reports fawning over Cruz and his efforts and how brilliant they were, and how badly Trump did, and how small the crowds were, and I was thinking, "man, these people are running scared, they're all like 'whew, we dodged a bullet on that one' over 3 measly percent in the first contest in a crowded field". It's just amazing to me how eager the talking heads are for Trump to be a has-been, and will grasp at anything, no matter how flimsy, that confirms that...

PatriciaT said...

With the lifting of the embargo, how will the Lakeland Republic protect business from unfair competion with cheaper imports? I memory serves me, you said something about tariffs. Are fair labor practices and pollution among the factors that determine the size of tariffs? I recall a visitor to our store (historical area, all kinds of people drop by) who owned a foundry in another state. His business was (is?) still viable by catering to a niche market. He mentioned had a hard time finding trained workers (program cuts); due to unfair completion he couldn't train new workers and expand his business. And of course,comply with anti-pollution laws. Because of unfair completion from cheaper imports (lower quality materials, poorly paid & possibly poorly treated labor, and unchecked & penalty-free pollution) his options were limited. I just wondered how some like him would fare in the Lakeland Republic.

Also - re: " would have been interesting, if Jung had visited Australia or had a bunch of Australian patients, to hear what he had to say about the crawlspaces of their psyches." There was a 1977 movie (in typically superficial Hollywood fashion, of course) that looked at a those crawlspaces: "The Last Wave".

Keep up the good work!

onething said...

" As for the decline of belief in evolution, I'd associate that with collapse of faith in science, rather than any enthusiasm for fundamentalist Protestantism."

I wasn't aware that belief in evolution was declining, but I doubt it really comes from loss of faith in science. Rather, I suspect that intelligent design is starting to make inroads. That won't wash if you insist that intelligent design is just another form of creationism, but it isn't. It discusses the science in great detail, and questions the prior assumptions based on that detail, especially the new findings of the past 2 or 3 decades.

Andy said...

Greets all!

- Satellite congestion...Irridium plans to de-orbit their entire first-generation constellation once the 2nd gen birds are in place, but it looks like they had to get the FCC to amend a de-orbit rule to allow them to bring some satellites back more quickly than 'normal'. The article suggests that all satellite operators are 'supposed' to provide the ability to bring the hardware back into the atmosphere but not all do.

- Religions and taxes...Amen - where do I sign?

- Etienne Bayenet: Thank you! And thank you for confirming that the human condition still is. ;)

- Grandmom - thank you for the title of the next book on my 'gotta read' list!

- Driverless cars...Sure, today they're tied to GPS, but that's only one part of the nav system. The cars can see where they are (visual, radar, etc.), have map databases, use inertial navigation, to synthesize a location, and car-to-car communications. GPS can't be the 'one and only' location source, especially in the artificial canyons of cities where buildings block the line-of-sight to satellites. Prior to GPS, pilots (air and water) used a ground-based system called LORAN which provides finer-grain location data than GPS. So...they'll be very usable even if GPS goes down.

- Bob Patterson - I'll bet the reason that 'the nerds' are looking at self-driving cars is probably because, as you noted, Americans seem to be unable to understand the benefits of mass transit and trains. I guess it's easier to 'preach to the choir.'

Happy February!

Bill Pulliam said...

About this constitutional convention thing...

A Section V Convention would not be able to just sit down and rewrite the constitution. It would propose amendments. Each proposed amendment would have to then be ratified by 38 state legislatures (same as any other amendment) to take effect. So it is not as doomsday as it sounds; it only takes 12 states to block any proposed changes. I think we have 12 states that would block most any draconian right- or left-wing amendments (not necessarily the SAME 12 in every case, of course!).

That article implies that 27 states have already called for a convention. This is grossly misleading. Only 4 states, I believe, have actually passed anything. The other 23 just have some legislators pushing for such a thing.

We have been much closer in the past. In the 60s and 80s, there were two times when 32 states had already passed the bills, and only 2 more were needed. In each case Congress took action to head off the momentum.

Constitutional Doomsday is not looming just over the horizon. That is fearmongering.

latheChuck said...

On the topic of "how empires fail", I recommend reading this small book. It's a free PDF download at

U.S. Army War College >> Strategic Studies Institute >> Publications >>

The Strategic Lessons Unlearned from Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan: Why the Afghan National Security Forces Will Not Hold, and the Implications for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

"This book examines the Afghan National Security Forces in historical and political contexts, explains why they will fail at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war, why they cannot and will not succeed in holding the southern half of the country, and what will happen in Afghanistan year-by-year from 2015 to 2019."

The good news is that the US Army employs people to think and write skeptically about its operations. The bad news is that it seems to ignore them when they do.

dragonfly said...

I know this is terribly late in the comment cycle, but I wanted to mention that the 2013 film 'Gravity', aside from highlighting how fragile human life is in space, depicts a Kessler Syndrome episode with nail-biting realism. Yikes !

John Roth said...

@Shane W

Back when I was much younger, I remember a story about the Molehill Man. He found a molehill on his desk when he came in, and it was his job to turn it into a mountain by the time he knocked off work for the day. The political columnists need to have something to talk about, and if they don't have anything new and interesting, the just keep repeating the same old stuff. I've seen a lot more insightful comments about the difference: Cruz poured a lot of money into his ground game, Trump basically ignored it; Cruz is appealing to the Christian right, which is big in Iowa.

@Bill Pullam:

Thanks for the clarification on the call for a Constitutional Convention.

Shane W said...

you're only partially correct there--to my knowledge, unless anyone can show proof to the contrary, there are 27 pending calls for a constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment that have already passed state legislatures, 7 states more are all that are needed, provided it follows the language of the other 27 and calls for a Con Con to pass a balanced budget amendment. This is actually a conservative number because some states that passed Con Con balanced budget amendment resolutions subsequently rescinded them (there's some question about the legality of Con Con rescissions.) Some orgs besides ones solely concerned about a balanced budget are pushing for Con Con balanced budget amendment resolutions simply because it's the closest to passage, and many legal scholars agree that the scope of a Con Con cannot be proscribed once it is in session.
I do agree w/you regarding the 3/4 (38 states) part (see comment above)

Shane W said...

Bill's post illuminates another generational fault line that seems every bit as prominent as the fault line between Christian elders and post-Christian youth, and that's the difference in attitude regarding American power. Maybe it's just me, but, to a fault, everyone I've ever encountered who goes apoplectic regarding the dissolution of the US, who refuses to consider the possibility of a post-American world, or thinks that American dissolution will bring on Armageddon, belongs to the 50+ cohort, regardless of political belief. These people seem unable to rationally, calmly entertain notions of dissolution, secession, disunion. I'm thinking it's a true generational divide, that is, growing up during the Cold War, when postwar America was at its peak imperial power, fundamentally determines their view of the US and American power. For them, the US is The Most Powerful Superpower in the World whose foundation must not be challenged without risking apocalypse. Of course, for the under 40, particularly under 30, crowd, who have grown up in a decidedly different America, this Power That Must Not be Challenged is an ironic joke, at best an emperor with no clothes--the US that they grew up in does not inspire the same faith in the civil religion of Americanism that it does in their elders, therefore, they're much more willing to entertain ideas of dissolution, disunion, and a post-American world. Again, like most things, Gen X (40 somethings) form the cusp between the divides.

FLwolverine said...

Re: Jung and the influence of the the land on people who settle it.

Here is a link to a blog post that discusses the idea of the influence of the land and provides references to several of the late19th-century and early-20th-century authors who wrote about it. There are extensive quotes from and references to Jung and DH Lawrence. This may be helpful for anyone who wants to explore Jung's thought further, because the article provides references to the Collected Works.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160203T170654Z

This Ontario lunch-time I write in haste, recalling that JMG (like various others among us) has an interest in libraries - significantly including libraries run for the communal good by private individuals. JMG will soon be writing on education. In the course of this, he or others may be touching on the theme of libraries. It may in this context be useful to note the work being done in Florence by the religious hermit Julia Bolton Holloway. Her own library-for-the-communal-good is documented at Here "Dame Julia" (as I like to think of her) has a photo of her big work table, with candelabrum and Florentine reading chair. She also here has some stories of the people who have found her library helpful - the homeless Arab; the group who came to read Dante week after week, and to say or sing Vespers (when they were finished the reading, they decided that they had to start Dante again); and others.

Allegro con brio,

Tom (20 or 25 km north of Toronto's Union Station)

Patricia Mathews said...

Retropia - Tier 1 question.

I can see how cobbler-made shoes and tailored clothing would be a great improvement over the sleazy machine-made plastics of the Atlantic Republic. But those cost money Peter Carr has in abundance. I was wondering how the immigrant family, especially the kids, would take to wearing homespun, which I understand is rather coarse and itchy compared to, say, tee-shirts. I suppose it takes someone with sensitive skin to ask this, but it may be the opening wedge towards Coca-Colonization. Even slaves and serfs can "long for the fleshpots of Egypt."

And have those kids ever done manual labor back in the Atlantic Republic? Or just been penned up in public schools hunched over a tablet? Or course, the hands-on learning might be very attractive to them. Especially if the kid helping in the kitchen foresees a career as a cook, or even a chef! But mucking out stables might not be, and isn't that the entry-level task for people working with horses etc?

John Michael Greer said...

Phil, please post the reference if you can find it!

Buddha, I was fortunate enough to miss Rand in my teen years, and read about orcs instead. I've never regretted that.

Grandmom, well, as you may have noticed, Retrotopia includes public schools, private schools, and home schooling -- my take is that there, as in many other cases, a diversity of options followed by Darwinian selection is a good approach.

Shane, they have to have something to talk about, or there might be a few seconds of silence in which somebody out there in the audience might have time for an unprompted thought...

Patricia, good. We'll get to that.

Onething, no, what's been increasing in popularity is young-Earth Creationism -- that's what the polls say, at any rate.

Andy, no question, some satellite operators in some countries are taking some steps to stave off a Kessler syndrome. Some people in some countries took some steps to stave off anthropogenic climate change, too!

LatheChuck, thanks for the link!

Dragonfly, indeed it does -- it was the publicity around that film that got me thinking about the implications of the Kessler syndrome for the future of industrial society, as it happens.

Shane, the generational divide is always an issue, of course. Half the reason the future surprises us is that the political consensus of a generation always reaches its greatest influence over society a decade or so before that generation ages out.

FLWolverine and Toomas, thanks for the links!

Patricia, oh for heaven's sake. Let me restate it again, in the hopes that you and others will actually pay attention this time: THE TIER SYSTEM ONLY DETERMINES WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE IS PAID FOR BY TAX MONEY. I haven't shown a single person in the Lakeland Republic wearing homespun or mucking out a stable by hand, and there are good reasons for that. People living in tier one counties are not 1830s reenactors; they're people living in a county that provides a much simpler infrastructure and charges much lower tax rates, and that's all. Most of them wear clothes made in factories in the Lakeland Republic's cities, just as Carr does -- his clothing wasn't hand-tailored; he walked into a shop and walked out with a complete wardrobe, after all. The shops in Hicksville are full of manufactured products, including a fair number of electrical devices -- it's just that they run either on batteries or on 12-volt DC, produced by those wind turbines Carr noticed.

It's fascinating to watch the extraordinary power of the mental fixation that leads so many otherwise intelligent people to assume blindly that you can't choose among technologies: if you have one 1830s technology, you've got to have them all, and you can't have anything that came along later. That's not a rational claim, but it's astonishingly deeply rooted in many people's minds these days.

peacegarden said...

@Shane W

I suppose you might say the exception proves the rule, but I don’t believe your generational analysis works here. I cannot speak for others in my cohort, but I think many of us believe in the inevitability of dissolution but also that it might take a long time and much more unrest than is present now. Also, it is a difficult task to make a con con happen. I don’t believe that balanced budget proposed amendments can just be remade into seceding from the union ones.
I, for one detest all the “We’re number one” propaganda and have done so since I was in 9th grade. My civics teacher, Mr. Steiger, assigned book reports based one of a list of titles. I chose The Ugly American, and thanks to my ability to think somewhat critically (it was actually taught back then in the olden days!) combined with an amazing educator (guide and mentor), I “got it”…and I have kept it…and still not found any evidence that my awakening was a false one.

I enjoy the commentariat here in JMG’s salon, but you made what I would call a blanket statement about the great divide between “us and “them” based on age, and I wanted to call you on it.



Robert Mathiesen said...

Toomas, thank you so much for the link to Julia Bolton Holloway and her current work!!!

I remember a somewhat earlier version of her from my days as an active academic Medievalist, and (IIRC) I even met her once or twice at the great Medieval Studies Congress that meets every May at Kalamazoo, MI. She was quietly luminous and very memorable back then. It seems as though her light has only increased since those long-ago days.

I had not known what she had been doing since she went -- fled, as she put it -- to Italy. I am delighted to find it out at last, and to see the impact she is having in her new home. She has set a worthy example for all us scholars as we face the coming Dark Ages.

Patricia Mathews said...

Ouch! You caught me with my ass-umptions showing again.

Shane W said...

I just contacted the Con Con balanced budget people. Seems that KY is one of the target states for a Con Con balanced budget resolution. This might be a way to actually make a difference politically. The sooner we can get to a Twilight's Last Gleaming scenario, the better...

Shane W said...

the one interesting thing about this time around is that this generational divide (under 40/50+) is way more substantive than the faux divide of the 60s-70s between the Boomers & their elders, as you've noted in previous writings--that one was all about style and nothing of substance. This one is going to be way more real & substantive...

Andy said...

John Roth said..."...Cruz poured a lot of money into his ground game, Trump basically ignored it; Cruz is appealing to the Christian right, which is big in Iowa."
It'll be interesting to watch this unfold as much of the country isn't as extreme as conservatives in Iowa. To add my 'editorial comment'...Mr. Cruz is 'my' senator. Based on performance and his unwillingness to work for any of his constituency that isn't in the fossil fuel industry, I hope and pray that he doesn't get hear the Presidency. I despise Trump - but Cruz makes my skin crawl. I'm not political scientist, but my gut suggests that not a good sign. ;)

Andy said...

JMG Said: "Andy, no question, some satellite operators in some countries are taking some steps to stave off a Kessler syndrome. Some people in some countries took some steps to stave off anthropogenic climate change, too!"

I hear ya, boss man. :)

The Other Tom said it so well last week: "...but I think it's important to remember that this is a system designed by humans and it can be altered by humans."

It still breaks my heart to know (not think or suppose, but know) that we can fix our problems right now with no new tech - even if some of us don't 'believe' that the problem is real. That we don't strengthens the suggestion that while too many humans think we're the peak of development, that in reality we're little more than virus or a cancer on this planet. Sigh.

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane -- if you count every state that has ever called for amn Article V convention and nehlect those that have resceonded it, that total is somethin like 49 states meaning that if we count all of them the convention should have bneen called decades ago and Congress has been grossly derilict in its duties by not doing so. However, most scholars feel that Congress only needs to pay attention to the Article V calls that are related to a single topic or movement. In the current wave, there are 27 states that are somewhere in the process. Many have not yet even introduced the bill (it was just introduced TODAY in TN), and only 4 states have passed it. If you read carefully the linked article you can see how they kind of wealede worded their way through this go give the impression that 27 states had already passed it.

There's a decent wikipedia article on the Article V convention process, history, and current situation. That is a good jumping-off point.

You also read a lot into my comment that I did not put there. I think you have projected your model of the generational divide on to it, rather than actually finding it there. I have no doubt that the US is headed for dissolution same as every other republic and empire that has ever existed. And I don't see that this represents armageddon; much of it will likely happen peacefully. My thought about the "Patriot" movement is, what's the rush? All those lands will eventually revert to local control when the larger-scale governments are no longer able to manage or control them. But I don't see this as happening particularly soon. The "sagebrush rebels" have been trying to get them back for 40 years, with not much progress.

I just was challenging an article that made claims I found to be fearmongering and misleading.

Bill Pulliam said...

A p.s.... JMG and I are very nearly the same age, and I have been a regular follower and commentor on this blog for almost a decade. He and I are very close on most of the concepts and topics that come up here. As I have said before, we agree on about 95% of everything which makes it especially easy for us to argue at length about the other 5%. And many of those arguments come about more because of our differing cognitive functionings than any actual fundamentally different ideas about society, history, and humanity. I'm not a very good counterexample to JMG on much of anything... heck we even have almost identical beards.

BDR said...

Having heard atheists argue that they need to consider coming together in congregation-like ceremonies, have choirs, and follow the behavior of other religions (to continue the important local networking between like-minded individuals), I found this post extremely predictive. This ongoing story as a whole has been very enjoyable. Thank you.

Noni Mausa said...

Regarding the fragility of the Lakeland Republic, I was reminded of the grand novel "Islandia," by Austin Tappan Wright. In the book, the admirable nation of Islandia is on the brink of a time when new technology would render their splendid self determination moot. Still, the book should be on the reading list of anyone following your ideas.

Nav Vandela said...

Hello! It's not my usual habit to comment haphazardly on posts in this way. I read The Flutter of Space Bat Wings just a few minutes ago, and for some reason I can't comment on that post. But there was something about it that I would really like to share. Feel free to delete this comment, because it doesn't fit with this post! It's very much in the Alien Space Bats vein.

If you liked H.P. Lovecraft's work, I believe that you'll may enjoy Olaf Stapledon (whose philosophy Lovecraft admired quite a bit). Stapledon's Last and First Men tells the story of humanity as it plays out over 200 million years, with 18 different human species on three different planets in the solar system (don't worry, though. When it becomes clear that the moon is going to crash into the Earth it takes the Fourth Men over one million years of preparation to manage to make the leap from Earth to Venus, and they traumatically collapse into non-sentience immediately afterwards. That seems like a more realistic view of colonization than we have got), and ending with humanity's complete extinction. There are dozens of cycles of societal rise and collapse within a single human species and several periods where humanity loses sentience altogether.
Two interesting things stand out for me. First of all, we, the first human species, end up utterly collapsing after using up all of our coal and petroleum. Prescient, right? The second thing, and what is for me the most interesting thing about the book by far, is that Stapledon claims in the introduction that even though he himself believes that he is writing a work of fiction the actual author of the book is one of the Last Men, who is subtly directing Stapledon's thoughts from the far future (it is explained that as our acquaintance with time is very imperfect, our understanding of how it works is completely defeated). This device adds an almost mythic quality to the whole work that I can't really describe. For a book that was written in the 1930s it got a startling amount of stuff right and remains quite amazingly powerful. He's like Lovecraft in the way that he emphasizes our insignificance, but he somehow does it in a way that is almost triumphant rather than with Lovecraft's cosmic pessimism.

"Great are the stars, and man is of no account to them...Throughout all his existence man has been striving to hear the music of
the spheres, and has seemed to himself once and again to catch some
phrase of it, or even a hint of the whole form of it. Yet he can never
be sure that he has truly heard it, nor even that there is any such
perfect music at all to be heard. Inevitably so, for if it exists, it is
not for him in his littleness. But one thing is certain. Man himself,
at the very least, is music, a brave theme that makes music also of its
vast accompaniment, its matrix of storms and stars. Man himself in his
degree is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things. It is very
good to have been man. And so we may go forward together with laughter
in our hearts, and peace, thankful for the past, and for our own
courage. For we shall make after all a fair conclusion to this brief
music that is man.”