Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Retrotopia: Dinner, Drinks, and Hard Questions

This is the twenty-second installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator has dinner with Melanie Berger, tells her about his change of mind, and has to confront the hard choices ahead of him. 
We’d settled on a Greek restaurant close by, a place I’d been for lunch already.  I passed that onto the driver as soon as we got into the cab, and slumped back against the leather seat as the driver climbed up onto the seat up front, snapped the reins, and got the horses moving. Neither Melanie nor I said anything. The lights of Toledo rolled by, and I wondered how many people behind the windows we passed were worrying about the war down south, the way I was.

It was maybe five minutes, if that, when the cab rolled to a stop, and the cabby swung down from his seat and popped open the door. I climbed down, paid him, reached out a hand for Melanie; she took it gratefully, got down onto the sidewalk. “Thank you,” she said, when the cabbie was driving off. “For a few minutes of silence, especially.”

“We don’t have to talk over dinner,” I said as we headed toward the door.

“Don’t worry about it. You won’t be screaming at me in a Texas accent for an hour straight.”

I gave her a questioning look, but by then we were inside and the greeter was headed our way.  Once we were comfortably settled in a booth over to one side, and the waitress had handed us menus and taken our drinks order to the bar, I said, “Seriously?”

“Seriously. The Texan ambassador wanted to see President Meeker right now, and no, she didn’t care that he was in a cabinet meeting and that she was going to be the first to see him afterwards. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever wished that diplomatic courtesies included the right to slap someone hard enough to send teeth flying.”

I choked, then pasted on a respectable expression while the waitress came back with our martinis and took our order. “I take it Texas doesn’t put professionals in its embassies.”

“Only the important ones, and we’re not one of those. Velma Streiber’s a Houston society matron who has good friends in the Bulford administration and wanted a fancy title.” She shook her head.

“I hope you didn’t have to deal with the Confederate ambassador too,” I said.

“I did, but that was easy. John Bayard MacElroy is your basic Confederate gentleman.  He might shoot you dead in cold blood and feed your corpse to his hound dogs, but he’ll be the very soul of politeness while he does it.”

I choked again. Then, still laughing, I shook my head and picked up my martini. She gave me a startled look. “That doesn’t look much like what you were drinking Friday night.”

“It isn’t,” I admitted. “I decided to try a Lakeland style martini Saturday, and liked it.”

That got me a long, considering look, and then a nod. “But that was my day—that and dealing with just about every other embassy in Toledo by phone or in person, scheduling meetings with Meeker, setting up briefings like the one you went to, attending a couple of briefings myself. Oh, and helping out two delegations—I won’t say which ones—that lost their satellite links with home and have no idea how to get by without hardware in orbit.”

That interested me. “How do your embassies phone home?”

“Shortwave radio, of course—the way everybody did before satellites took over. I had to explain that to both delegations.” With a sly smile: “When the Atlantic Embassy loses its satellite links, have them give me a call; I can recommend a good radio firm that won’t even put bugs in the hardware.”

I gave her a dubious look, and she laughed. “I hope the briefing you got was worthwhile, by the way.”

“Even more so than I’d expected.  Turns out you’re not the only people interested in freight transit through the Erie Canal.”

“Now surprise me.” She sipped her drink. “Missouri, East Canada, and who?”


“Oh, of course. That’s good to know; I’ll talk to Hank Barker with the Missouri delegation and see if we can coordinate shipping with them. We do a lot of trade with Missouri these days; the wool your suit is made of almost certainly came from their flocks, and possibly from their fabric mills.”

“Barker mentioned that,” I said. “Wool and leather.”

Two bowls of avgolemono soup came, and neither of us said anything until the waitress was gone. “I’m going to risk mentioning a potentially uncomfortable subject,” Melanie said. “The Missouri Republic is the one neighbor we’ve got that’s shown any interest in in learning from our experience. They haven’t gone nearly as far as we have—you still see bioplastic clothing there, and they’ve still got a metanet, though it’s pretty ramshackle these days—but the World Bank doesn’t like them much any more.” She shook her head, laughed. “I’ve been told that people from the World Bank threatened them with trade sanctions two years ago, after they refused a loan, and President Applegate told them, ‘Didn’t hurt Lakeland much, did it?’ That shut them up.”

I laughed, because I’d met Hannah Applegate at a reception in Philadelphia, and it took no effort at all to imagine her saying those words in her lazy Western drawl. Then the implications sank in. “They turned down a World Bank loan?”

“Of course. You know as well as I do that the only reason the World Bank makes those is to force countries to stay plugged into the global economy, so they can get the hard currency they need to make  payments on the loan. The Missouri government knows that, too, and they’re sick of it. Since we’re Missouri’s number one trading partner these days, we’ve both got the necessary arrangements to handle trade and investment in each other’s currencies, and a fair amount of private investment from our side heads over there these days, they decided it was time to take the risk.”

“Good timing on their part,” I said, thinking of the war.

“And on ours.” In response to my questioning look: “They produce things we need and buy things we produce. The last thing we want is to see them bled dry.”

“The way my country will be,” I said. She glanced at me, said nothing, and concentrated for a while on her bowl of soup.

The waitress showed up conveniently a moment later, served us our entrees, made a little friendly conversation—Melanie was a regular, I gathered—and then headed off to another table. “As I said,” Melanie said then, “it’s a potentially uncomfortable subject.”

“The fact that your country is set up to weather this latest mess in fairly good shape, and mine might just end up as a failed state.”

Her face tensed, and after a moment she nodded. “If that happens, and you can make it to our border, have the border guards contact Meeker’s office. Shouldn’t be too hard to expedite your entry. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but...” She let the sentence trickle off.

“Thank you. I hope it doesn’t either.” Then: “To the extent that you can tell me, how bad do your analysts expect it to get?”

She considered that. “I can tell you a few things. It’s nothing you won’t hear from your own intelligence people once you get back home—the NIS, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “What do you call your spook shop here in Lakeland?”

“We’ve got three of them: the Office of Political Intelligence in the State Department, the Office of Economic Intelligence in Trade, and the Office of Military Intelligence in Defense. Keeping it broken up like that helps prevent groupthink.”

I motioned with my fork, granting the point, and she went on. “What OPI says is that Texas and the Confederacy were both in deep trouble even before this whole thing blew up in their faces. They both depend heavily on oil revenue to balance their budgets, they’ve both had declining production for years now, and you know as well as I do how badly they’ve been clobbered by volatility in the oil markets. That’s ultimately what’s behind this war—neither of them can afford to compromise because they both need every drop of oil they can possibly get—but this is going to take a lot of wells out of production until the fighting’s over.”

“Or permanently,” I said. In response to her questioning look: “I was told off the record that so much of both sides’ offshore fields are stripper wells that a lot of the destroyed platforms won’t produce enough oil in the future to be worth the cost of rebuilding.”

She nodded. “That’s OEI’s bailiwick and I haven’t talked to them yet, so thanks for the heads up.Even without that, though, both countries are going to be hit hard even if the war ends in a few days—and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end in a few days.”

I nodded. “Military intelligence?”

“Got it.”

I didn’t ask for details; she’d told me as much as she was cleared to pass on, and there are lines you don’t cross in our business. Pretty clearly she’d attended a classified military briefing and gotten the latest information about the war, and I could think of at least a dozen signs that would warn the Lakeland government that neither Texas nor the Confederacy was going to back down any time soon. In a couple of days I’d be back in Philadelphia, and I could ask people I knew in Ellen Montrose’s transition team for a summary.

“And if it drags on?” I asked.

She gave me an unhappy look. “Best case scenario is both countries end up economic basket cases, with per capita GDPs lower than the midrange for sub-Saharan Africa, but they both manage to hold together and begin to recover in about a decade. Worst case scenario is that one or both go failed-state on us. Either way we’re looking at a big refugee problem, and a long-term economic headache if the Mississippi stays closed. We can deal with it, no question—it’s just going to take some work. It’s the people down south, in both countries, I feel sorry for”

We both concentrated on our meals for a minute or two.

“And the thing is,” she burst out then, “this whole business is so unnecessary. If both countries weren’t stuck on a treadmill trying to—” She stopped cold, catching herself.

“Trying to progress,” I finished the sentence.

Another unhappy look. “I really don’t think we should go there,” she said.

“I think we should,” I replied “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the things you said Friday evening, and you were right.”

She was so surprised she dropped her fork. After a moment: “I’m sorry. I’m not sure I believe I just heard you say that.”

“You were right,” I repeated. “I spent all Saturday trying to find holes in your logic, and I couldn’t find any.” I shrugged. “I have no idea where to go with that yet, but there it is.” Which was not quite true, but there were things I wasn’t going to say in a restaurant that close to Embassy Row.

She considered me for a long moment, pretty obviously shaken good and hard, and I said, “Come on, I can’t be the only person from outside who’s told you that.”

“It happens,” she said then. “Once in a blue moon, maybe. No, that’s not fair—working class people get it in a heartbeat, more often than not. They look at the way factory workers and store clerks live here, compared to how they live outside, they ask a few questions about why we do what we do, and they have no trouble at all figuring out the rest for themselves.”

I thought about the family of immigrants I’d seen on the train from Pittsburgh, and the conversation I’d had with the father of the family. “But people who are well off, well educated, part of the system.”

“The minority that still gets some benefit out of progress,” she said.

That stung, but I knew she was right. “Yes.”

“Once in a blue moon.”

Neither of us said anything for a while. Our plates got empty and our drinks got refilled; a couple of dishes of baklava came out for dessert, and when we started talking again it was about uncontroversial things, the Toledo Opera’s future plans, funny stories about trade negotiations, that sort of thing. I guessed that she was still trying to process what I’d said, which was reasonable; so was I.

Finally the meal ended. She was looking really tired by that point—no surprises there—so we settled pretty much right away that nobody was going to end up in anybody else’s bed that night.  I gave her a kiss, helped her into her coat, and got her onto a taxi headed for her place. My hotel wasn’t too many blocks away, so I waited until the taxi had turned the corner and set off on foot.

The sky was still clear and a rising wind swept down the streets, hissing in the bare branches of streetside trees. Overhead the stars glittered, and now and then something bright shot across some portion of the sky and burnt out, one more fragment of business as usual falling out of the place we’d stuck it and thought it would stay forever.

In less than forty-eight hours I’d be back in the Atlantic Republic:  on my way home to Philadelphia, where three decades of effective one-party rule by the Dem-Reps had just gone out the window in a landslide and taken the status quo with it.  The new administration would have to scramble to find its feet in a world gone topsy-turvy, where there were too many hard questions and nothing like enough straightforward answers. For that matter. I was going to be facing some hard questions of my own, and I was far from sure I had any straightforward answers, either.

Another chunk of dead satellite traced a streak of light across the sky, dissolved in a flurry of sparks. I kept on walking.

In other fiction-related news, two magazines with links to this blog have something to report. Into the Ruins, the recently started deindustrial SF quarterly edited by Joel Caris, has just released its second issue. I’m delighted to say that it’s a worthy successor to the first issue, with a lively mix of short stories and a letters to the editor column that’s really starting to pick up. Fans may also want to know that this issue includes the first installment of a regular column by yours truly, "Deindustrial Futures Past," reviewing older works of science fiction set in the aftermath of industrial civilization.

Mythic, the new science fiction and fantasy quarterly by the publisher of the After Oil anthologies, is also moving toward its first issue. I’m eager to see this take off, and am contributing a short story, “The Phantom of the Dust,” set in the same fictive world as my novel The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth. I’ve been told by publisher Shaun Kilgore that he’s gotten a good initial response to his call for fiction submissions but would like to see more, and he’s also very much interested in book reviews, essays, and other nonfiction pieces related to science fiction and fantasy. More details? You’ll find ‘em here. This is a paying gig, folks; let your writer friends know.


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Marcu said...

The next meeting of the Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne will be held next Saturday. All interested parties are invited to attend. For those people who are unsure about the nature of our meetings, imagine a long descent support group with some intentional living discussion mixed in.
If you are interested to join us, meet us on Saturday the 27th of August 2016 at 13:00. The venue is, Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

Send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]

Just look for the green wizard's hat.

P.S. I have created a webpage where I will post the details of the next meeting and any further details for those who don't frequent the comments here. The webpage can be found at

Cam Farnell said...

The inaugural meeting of the Nova Scotia Green Wizards' Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 902, and Ruinmen's Guild local 902, will be held on Thursday August 25th at 6:30 PM at the Halifax Central Library, 2nd floor in the "Community Room" near the stairs to the 3rd floor. If in doubt, look for the the "Green Wizardry" poster. Ruinmen, scholars, priestesses and anyone else who reads The Archdruid Report will be most welcome.

In 2006 I read "The Long Emergency" which for me resulted in a lot of previously collected information suddenly clicking into place. I've been working at collapsing ever since although it wasn't until I started reading this blog that I discovered that there is a specific name for what I've been doing. I now live in a house which requires very few inputs and, in a pinch, could do with a lot less. I'm gradually getting better at growing vegetables and gardening in general.

Justin said...

Interesting as always. I wonder what is going to happen when the conspiracy theory, alt-right and limits to growth crowds, who are of course united in their dislike of the IMF/World Bank come together. I listen to a few 'alt-right' podcasts - no, none of the really vile ones, and so far the limits to growth reality is on the edges of that world. I expect those forces to eventually merge, and probably form the Inner Party of that political party you described in the Strange Bright Banners series of posts. Something interesting about the deep alt-right is the conflict between people (especially in Europe) who identify with their Pagan past, and fundamentalist Christians - I think something interesting will come out of the syncretism between Pagan ancestor worship and the notion of immortality through your ancestors with some of the better ideas in Christianity. Of course, these ideas lead towards very racialist thinking, but well, I think that cat is out of the bag, even if our lead suit dummies insist it isn't. What do you think, JMG?

Edward Bryant said...

I love all you fiction, but this one especially; thank you for writing it.

Steven said...

I must say, I like Retrotopia so far, and have more than once caught myself wishing I lived in Lakeland, strange as it seemed to me?

Is this the last installment, or do you have more coming up?

drhooves said...

Another excellent installment of Retrotopia. Hopefully the ideas will begin to take hold, and allow for a bit of a smoother path to the future. Presently, the "globalists" still seem to be calling most of the shots, with little progress towards a model of contracting economies, local/regional political structures, and sustainability.

David Sutton said...

I have enjoyed reading your series and projecting it's logic onto the rest of the world.
You can tell it's written by a man though. No mention of the three greatest inventions of western civilisation. All three are available to most people. One has rid us of the scourge of fleas and all three have freed us from drudgery. The vacuum cleaner, the washing machine and the refrigerator. You can have all three in a low energy economy.
There are two other things not usually touched on nowadays. Perhaps they are no more obvious to folks living in your country than water is to a fish. The awful and appalling nature of your food, and looking at people anywhere in public: the deep sadness of your population. I guess your protagonist visiting the Atlantic republic would be struck by the absence of both.
Though not by the smell and noise. The sound of hundreds of steel shod horses and iron rimmed wheels on stone is deafening. And if Toledo were a city of about 300,000 and using mainly horses for transport, it would be dealing with about 100 tons of manure and 2,000 odd gallons of urine a day. Quite enough to power the electricity department's turbines. Quite enough to pong the place out.

Greg Belvedere said...

You have mentioned that like any speculative fiction this piece is very much about our own time. I wonder if you have encountered the work of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. He tried to get his party to rejects loans and has talked and written a lot about his experiences. It is very interesting to hear his perspective, because people with his views seldom get as good a glimpse of power as he did. His anecdotes about meetings with the euro group are priceless. A fair number of members admitted to him that that they knew the austerity and additional loans they proposed would make it impossible to pay back the money they owed. But they wanted to make an example of Greece. Upon completing a rather diplomatic speech to the group I believe it was the German finance minister who responded, "we can't allow the outcomes of elections to change economic policy." Varoufakis pointed out that the Chinese had a similar view. I wonder if the Greek restaurant was a coincidence or intentional. I have not had much time to read his books, but I catch talks he has given while cooking.

John Michael Greer said...

Marcu and Cam, best wishes for this month's meetings!

Justin, I'm far from sure that racialist ideas will have a lot of influence on the way things are shaping up. It's not uncommon to see such things bubbling up, along with many other divisions, in the declining phase of a civilization, but as Oswald Spengler points out, the future belongs to those charismatic leaders who can unite the largest possible following from outside the elite -- and that requirement doesn't coexist well with a fixation on racial divisions.

Edward, thank you!

Steven, I'd move there in a heartbeat. There are still three episodes to go before we wrap this up.

John Roth said...


I'm in my 70s, Lakeland's Tier 5 is sort of the country I spent my childhood in. It's different, of course. We didn't have horse-drawn cabs, for instance.

And the radio was kind of obvious. I almost expected him to ask about the shop to see. I wonder if they sell Enigma machines as well?

Joel Caris said...


A nice, simple kiss to end the evening! It almost feels as though you're throwing Toomas a bone. ;)

I'm quite curious to see how this tale wraps up, and what surprises you still have in store for us. I wonder where our Mr. Carr is going to end up? It seems like the Atlantic Republic is becoming less and less appealing to him, though home generally has its draws regardless of its failures.

Thanks for the shout out for Into the Ruins. For what it's worth, I also wanted to mention that I just officially launched the Figuration Press website today and a new weekly blog on it, Litterfall, which I'll be updating on Mondays with various musings on industrial decline, connection to the natural world, and new ways of living rooted in an ecological context. I'm hoping to build a conversation around it--some version of the incredible conversation found here--so hopefully people will visit. This first post is mostly an introduction, but future posts will be diving deeper into certain topics. It's been a few years since I regularly blogged, so it'll be fun to get back in the swing of things!

Also, apropos of your "Deindustrial Futures Past" column, I wanted to note that I tracked down an old mass market paperback copy of Davy last week. Very excited to crack into it! I also finally jumped into Ecotopia and am really loving it. Some of it is so clearly of its time, but there are still a lot of great ideas there--and, hailing from the Northwest, I'm very sympathetic to many of the musings. I can get bogged down in the negativity of our predicament at times, so it's nice to dive into something more positive and remember those aspects, as well. And I ALSO just purchased a copy of The Weird of Hali, so am looking forward to diving into that once it arrives.

As always, thanks for the Retrotopia tale. I quite love it and am looking forward to purchasing the book version.

Steve said...

3 more episodes in this serial?!?

I'm stoked Archdruid, and dying to move to Lakeland.

Pinku-Sensei said...

Shortwave radio and the Erie Canal--where have I seen those before? Oh yes, Seven sustainable technologies, which prompted an exchange between us in which you called a slide rule a "steampunk calculator," and Retrotopia: The View from a Moving Window which elicited my comment about mentioning it as a reviving means of cargo transportation in Great Lakes cities and their roles in the regional economy. Your response was to point out that you've been on that idea for years already. You have indeed, first mentioning it in Energy Predicaments and Prospects from ten years ago. You really do elaborate on your points in this extended discursive meditation on collapse that is your blog!

As for your comment that "the future belongs to those charismatic leaders who can unite the largest possible following from outside the elite -- and that requirement doesn't coexist well with a fixation on racial divisions," a fellow director of the Coffee Party has written repeatedly that U.S. politics will change if Appalachia, the barrios, and the ghettos ever unite, a prospect that frightens the current political elite.

Eric Backos said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
We in Northeast Ohio are following Melbourne’s example by holding well-advertised monthly meetings.
The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat.
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

James M. Jensen II said...

I picked up my copy of Into the Ruins yesterday. I've read most of the stories, and have been delighted. I'll be subscribing to Mythic soon as well.

In other fiction news, I ran across an fascinating SF short story on Reddit. It was a response to a writing prompt, "We finally get men on Mars and they discover an old Soviet flag placed down decades ago. The Soviets won the space race but for whatever horrifying reason didn't say anything."

Most of the entries rehashed alien/monster/zombie tropes, but by far the most chilling was one that had nothing to do with anything of the kind: instead the astronauts discovered a utopian project that was abandoned at the end of the Cold War.

I've often wondered how well a story set on Mars or the Moon would work as deindustrial science fiction. I'm imagining the story of a colony made in the last gasp of progress and with inhabitants coming to grips with the fact that they were never coming home.

(I have nothing like the knowledge needed to write such a story well, nor the writing skills, so anyone else can have at it.)

Eric Backos said...

The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 congratulate Nova Scotia Green Wizards' Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 902, and Ruinmen's Guild local 902 upon the occasion of your inaugural meeting, and extend full recognition and reciprocity to your Tower and Guild. May your Tower Light ever shine!

Eric Backos said...

As far as wishing Lakeland into existence… We in Ohio seem to be muddling our way to that eventuality; however, Churchill’s comment on the order in which Americans act seems to apply.
The Long Emergency does tie things together nicely. The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere set me on the path to Green Wizardry when I first read Geography in 1996… I discovered John Michael Greer on Kunstler’s blog. Lucky me! I live where the lessons of JHK and JMG may be seen and applied.
And back to last week – Regarding the habit of trendy urbanites to dress like lumberjacks: It looks like the inability of the information age to fulfill our psychological and spiritual needs to the point we are acting like a cargo cult... build the airstrip and the airplanes will bring us stuff. Or, dress like real men and the economy of real goods will return.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

Are we going to hear what Lakeland plans to do in the event of a refugee crisis from the south? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the best response to such a situation.

Jon Garrett said...

I don’t know how comprehensive your literary imaginings get, but I find myself wondering if the age that saw America fracture into the nation states described in Retrotopia was an age marked with human migration. Or do you envision that the new countries are, as geographical regions, much like the present day in their total population and ethnic composition?

Justin said...

JMG, well, I hope so, one positive sign is that Trump is one of the most successful republicans among Black Americans in several generations. However, I can't help feel a deep-seated sense of tribalism and anger when I hear about what is happening in Europe, which is at face level silly considering I'm a second generation Canadian. I don't consider myself to be a white identitarian or anything, but the notion of the white population of Europe being replaced by Islamic Arabs and Africans bothers me on a deep level. Rationally, this shouldn't matter to me, and yet I get seriously butthurt when I hear more about the Islamisazation of Europe. On the other hand, I don't particularly care that Brampton, Ontario is predominately Indian and that nobody who isn't Indian has any chance whatsoever of being elected. I might be larping too hard, but I identify as a Danish person even though I've never actually been there, and that feels far more true to my own nature than identifying as a Canadian, where he who has the most money and/or victim points wins.

I might be outing myself a little bit here, but I was very influenced by Kevin Macdonald's Culture of Critique, which posits that societies mostly founded and run by European peoples are vulnerable to tribal politics because protestant, calvinist and secular ideologies short-circuit the tribal impulses in European peoples.

dltrammel said...

Thought this might interest you

America's Birthrate at record low"

I remember you once making the point, it doesn't take a mass die off like a pandemic, to make populations decrease.

The writer's conclusions are completely wrong, saying "Go out and multiply!", as opposed to "Learn to live within your means." More work from the Progress Fairy it seems...

Shane W said...

“I did, but that was easy. John Bayard MacElroy is your basic Confederate gentleman. He might shoot you dead in cold blood and feed your corpse to his hound dogs, but he’ll be the very soul of politeness while he does it.”
Yes, indeed! That's how we do things down in Dixie! :)

RPC said...

" more fragment of business as usual falling out of the place we’d stuck it and thought it would stay forever." Wonderfully evocative writing!

Cherokee Organics said...


I'm enjoying this ongoing Retrotopia narrative! Thanks for writing it. :-)!

I'm glad you included the lines in the story about why the Lakeland people would help the Missouri people and what each would get out of that arrangement – in general terms. It makes sense. People tend to forget, or appear able to, ignore costs when those costs are foisted off onto others. ;-)

Splitting the intelligence agencies in the story was a clever idea too.

Hey, I started reading Innsmouth yesterday (signed copy number 60 FYI ;-)!). I'm only a little bit of the way into the story, but I did notice that you inserted bits of humour, good advice, and occult law into the story too and I've been enjoying those when I spot them. Very cheeky of you! Hehe! However, I'm always left with the vague feeling that I'm missing more than I'm spotting. Oh well.

A regular commenter here raised a fascinating insight (in another forum) about how technology and machines impacts social arrangements. To be entirely candid, I reckon it does impact them quite a lot and I have seen this firsthand many times over in my own life and have been busily adapting in line with those downwards changes. I was curious as to what your thoughts were about this fascinating issue? It is pretty big really.



Robert Beckett said...

Greetings JMG,

Another fine episode, thank you. Mr. Carr has his work cut out for him.

After four years I and my partner have finally managed to end up on a well-watered rural property close to family & friends in the Gulf Islands, BC.

Much gardening to be done, however the fruit are coming ripe. Each day a delight.

Robert, Source Dweller

Hammer said...

“I spent all Saturday trying to find holes in your logic, and I couldn’t find any.”

A few months ago, this is exactly how I felt after reading 20 posts of The Archdruid Report and the limits to growth, and searching desperately on the web for a new energy source. One day I finally gave up in an instant.

You captured it well, JMG!

"Best case scenario is both countries end up economic basket cases, with per capita GDPs lower than the midrange for sub-Saharan Africa"

JMG, I'm wondering if this is just an arbitrary fictional part of the story, or you're really implying that North America will become this poor.

If you are: Is this how poor some parts of North America could become by 2065 (assuming collapse starts in 2020)? Or will conditions sink to this level even earlier?

I think you wrote more specifically about this a few years ago, but I can't find the post.

" “But people who are well off, well educated, part of the system.”

“The minority that still gets some benefit out of progress,” she said. "

What I've believed about the collapse of North America so far is that the affluent classes will be the hardest hit, as the technologically complex high-paying jobs disappear first.

By 2065, would the people in the upper classes be completely different? If so, I don't think they would benefit from trying to continue progress.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Dear Mr. Greer; Another fine and interesting installment. Speaking of progress, I picked up from the library a copy of "A Short History of Progress" (Wright, 2005). I sat down to give it a read the other night and noticed a blurb on the front cover. "If you read one book about impending doom this year, make it this one." (Ottawa Citizen. Newspaper?). I generally don't laugh out loud when I read, but in this case, I did.

Speaking of newspapers, I don't know how many of the commentariate (love the term) caught you wishful speculation that if a lot of us landed in one place, it would be ... interesting. I've been kicking around the idea of Cumberland, Maryland for a couple of weeks. Especially after I took a look at your real estate prices. But I agree with you, that to stay on the right side of the locals, you'd better have your own income that won't take away from the local economy. I have a small retirement income that would travel, with me. And, having been a member of a twelve step program for a number of years, I would be pre-plugged in to at least one support system. It's a possibility, but I'm a little long in tooth for one last great adventure. I think.

But, what I would like to suggest to anyone looking to relocate (to either Cumberland, or, anywhere else for that matter) is ... take the local newspaper for at least three months. Not the online version, which usually lacks .. nuance. Most newspapers will mail you a subscription. In the case of Cumberland, it is the Cumberland Times-News. Per month is probably somewhere north of $20. You have to call to get an exact price.

I subscribed to the newspaper, here, for three months before I moved. I did find out a lot about the place, but I wish I would have paid more attention to the editorial pages. And, letters to the editor. If I had trigged to how conservative this place is, maybe I wouldn't have come, or, would have come with the idea of leaving, eventually. Oh, well. Hindsight is 20/20. Lew

Steven said...

@Justin-which alt-right podcasts? Personally, I have rather...conflicted views on the alt-right. I admire their effort to rescue Conservatism from the Milton-Friedman types who have dominated it since WWII, but at the same time I find the racialist ideas in alt-right circles repulsive. I don't say this out of typical Leftist sentimentalism-I was born and grew up in central South Carolina, a place that has black and white communities interlaced with no real regional separation. Though I'm white, I've worked, gone to school with, and been taught by black people enough to know that they are as much a part of the South as the white population. At one point I frequented alt-right websites a great deal (and found this blog through a link on one of them), but over the past year or so, I've noticed the movement's racialist aspects taking it over like some giant tumor, with alt-right websites calling for the sort of ethnic Balkanization that would tear my birth state's society to shreds if it were ever implemented. I still hope that somebody, somewhere, can build an identitarian, communal Conservatism that tries to unite black and white Americans (or black and white Southerners), but the alt-right that I've seen doesn't seem to have any interest in that. I wonder if you or anyone else here have found somewhere that does.

John Michael Greer said...

Drhooves, that's the point of doing this in the form of fiction -- that's often a more effective way to get people thinking unfamiliar thoughts.

David, er, in case you didn't notice, the viewpoint character is male, and a member of the upper class to boot. Of course he doesn't notice washing machines et al. I've put in enough hints that anyone who's paying attention will know that they're there. With regard to food, if you live where I suspect you do, trust me, the opinion is mutual; and as for the rest, first of all, where did you get the idea that Toledo's streets are paved in stone or that its taxis have iron tires, and second, did you somehow not notice the electric streetcars that are carrying a very large fraction of the traffic?

Greg, I haven't gotten to more than a couple of Varoufakis' essays yet, but I gather that he'd get along very well with the Lakeland Republic government.

John (if I may), radio may be obvious to your generation; I've long since lost track of the number of tech geeks I've encountered who literally don't know that there was any way to communicate to people on other continents before the Internet went in. It's really quite embarrassing. As for Enigma machines, no, those are breakable, as the Wehrmacht found out to its cost. Single-use pads and the like tend to be rather more secure.

Joel, no, I didn't have Toomas in mind when I wrote that scene; I simply remembered that Melanie had been up since about 3:30 in the morning, having not had a lot of sleep before then, and she's pushing middle age, so normal human limits apply. I'm delighted to hear you've picked up a copy of Davy -- to my mind, as you know, that's one of the classic works of deindustrial SF.

Steve, yep. Maybe four, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be three. Carr catches the train back to Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon, and it's Monday night as this episode ends.

Pinku-Sensei, exactly. As I noted in my ten year retrospective post, this entire blog is the working out of a single idea with all its connections and implications. Your fellow director is quite correct, and we're moving in that direction fairly rapidly; as wage class white people increasingly find themselves being treated more like wage class people of color than like salary class white people, unexpected solidarities are beginning to form.

Eric, best wishes for the meeting! I'm glad to see these moving ahead.

James, that's really quite good. A deindustrial story set in the nearer reaches of the solar system might do very well indeed, since the ending of the Space Age is an important theme of the future immediately ahead of us.

Ozark, I don't think we'll get much on that, since there's not a lot of time left for Carr to hear about it. Still, I may drop some hints.

Jon, in the future history I've mapped out here, there hasn't been a lot of mass migration; there were a lot of refugees in various places during the Second Civil War, but most of them returned home when the fighting was over, and of course Lakeland was basically behind closed borders for thirty years, so there weren't any significant population movements to or from their territory in that time.

Justin, I'd encourage you to explore why you feel that way about Denmark and not about Canada! For my part, I've studied way too much history to think of ethnic, cultural, and national identities as anything but temporary and rather arbitrary constructs in the bubbling cauldron of human history.

Mike said...

Just three episodes? Awww. I hoping he'd go home for awhile, so we could get a look at conditions in the Atlantic Republic. Of course, he has to return – obviously.

John Michael Greer said...

Dltrammel, this is excellent news, and the fact that the reporter doesn't realize that it's excellent news just adds amusement value.

Shane, why, yes, of course it is. I've met my share of Southern gentlefolk, as well as good ol' boys and the feminine equivalent!

RPC, thank you.

Cherokee, thank you! Yes, there's quite a bit woven into The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth -- partly, there are plenty of easter eggs for fans of HP Lovecraft and the other authors of his circle, and partly there's a lot of material from other sources that got swept up into the complexities of the story. As for the impact of technology on social arrangements...that's a subject for a whole book, if not several. Yes, it's huge, and I'll see if anything inspires a post or two along those lines.

Robert, congratulations! May the fruit be tasty. ;-)

Hammer, remember that the collapse of Texas and the Confederacy to African levels of GDP is in the case of a prolonged war between the two nations. I don't see GDP levels dropping that far in the US by 2065 barring some really messy combination of events -- but it will be much, much lower than it is now, of course. As for Melanie Berger's comment about the elites being the ones who still get some benefit from progress, remember that every utopian story is at least partly about the present day. By 2065, the way things are going, very, very few people will gain any benefits from continued progress, and most people will be suffering severe burdens imposed by previous generations' pursuit of the phantom of perpetual progress...

Lewis, I wasn't seriously suggesting it, and I'm not actually sure that Cumberland would be the best place in the world to try any such project even if it were an option -- someplace a little less clannish, with better transportation links and a wider range of local resources, might be better suited. Who knows, maybe the city government of Toledo will decide that its future status as the capital of the Lakeland Republic will be furthered by inviting all of us there! ;-)

John Michael Greer said...

Mike, nope. The story ends as he boards the train, for reasons that'll be clear as we reach the final episode...

ed boyle said...

It will be sad to see this novel, short story come to an end. I suppose other serializations will folllow to illustrate arguments that come up. I could imagine similar on your other blog. Perhaps reality will catch up with us rather quickly anyway. Lakeland is a sort of ecovillage/commune/middle ages monastic system writ large. One can just imagine hitech civilized people disappearing back into the jungle to live with primitives but lakeland would be a more comfortable and likely alternative. Soviet collapse saw dachas, gardening come to the fore. Now they are in a conservative 1950s style phase, Putin is Eisenhower in this scenario. The 90s collapse was real however and it could have got worse. The whole Western system is brittle. 2008 banking crisis was a warning. Fracking and QE were stopgap measures but seat of the pants measures to keep system going. Both ideas are scrapping bottom of barrel to maintain growth with debt and energy growth. Conscious deindustrialization, degrowth measures have nowhere been attempted. Alt energy is not that really. Tech reduces need for workers, increases production to increase sales. Debt supports sales and energy supports mass production without humans. Put manual production of very long lasting goods with repairs a prerequisite and debt and energy are reduced, people have a future. 100 million without a job. Next leg down comes soon enough when Deutsche Bank or Italy or China or Japanese debt hits limit. Perhaps a new leader somewhere blows afuse, EU breaks apart with Marine Le Pen winning or something somewhere breaks. We are riding an old jalopy sputtering along from one traffic light to next wondering if we can get home. Putin, china, etc. seem to be creatively replacing western system for eurasia, inviting more countries to join, as they get gisgusted with US imperial arrogance. Pakistan and now Turkey getting abused. Israel flirting with Russia. Saudis getting involved with china just in case. This looks like lakeland as core of new conservative civilization but taking up all of Old World, piece by piece as West falls apart.

patriciaormsby said...

"Remember that every utopian story is at least partly about the present day." I was getting that feeling as I read along. We've imposed economic sanctions on that dastardly Russia, but they just seem to relish them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, leaving Europe with the tab. Also, a group of my relatives and their friends involved in petroleum business started a frank discussion of how that is falling apart big time in the US now, with methane releases being caused by scrappy little operators, who milk whatever profit they can get before abandoning their rigs, leaving others to clean up. And technological failure--today I read about crashes of an advanced version of the F18 due to failure of the on-board compression system resulting in hypoxia and rapid decompression sickness. Meanwhile Putin outlaws GMOs in his country. Lakeland it isn't, but it is a step in the right direction.

You think sub-Saharan Africa will still be a basket case in 2065? Just curious.

Next week I'll try to watch your site like a hawk and post early. I am thinking of starting up a monthly meeting for Green Wizards in the Tokyo area, using the picnic at the Asakawa Kompira shrine as the venue. There will already be a number of regular attenders, who while not quite Green Wizards themselves, share our basic philosophy.

patriciaormsby said...

With regard to my previous post, this is from a cousin who is a geologist (who was then shouted down by others who were firm believers in fracking):

Interesting that the biggest "hot spot" is in the San Juan Basin, here
in northwestern New Mexico. There are a lot of small operators (mostly
renegade Texans and the like :} ) who are not interested in following
the rules if it costs money ... I participated in a remediation effort
there for 40,000 gas well sites where the standard practice was to dump
glycol and condensate to unlined pits. It took years to clean up ...
now, we get to deal with air emissions.

Fracking completions typically have high flowback, or methane emissions: so the typical
industry practice was to flare, until 2015 when "green completion"
became mandatory. My guess is that the small operators just haven't
complied yet ... and many never will.

Make no mistake -- the environmental impact of fracking is only
beginning to be felt. This is why we need to diversify our energy
sources and include renewables, and keep improving our practice -- which
means, yes, we need good environmental laws and we need to fund enforcement.

Mean Mr Mustard said...


"He might shoot you dead in cold blood and feed your corpse to his hound dogs, but he’ll be the very soul of politeness while he does it.”

Heh... Smooth operator President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is known as 'The most polite person'. I've even got the T shirt.



Gregg Schaaf said...

I also reside in Cumberland, Maryland having come here about nineteen years ago, and second the thought that someplace a little less clannish, with better transportation links and a wider range of local resources might be better suited. York County, Pennsylvania in south central Pennsylvania, one county west of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania comes to mind. Excellent soil, with many family farms.

I also second the point that it makes sense to read the local newspaper, and especially the letters to the editor, for three months before moving to a new locale. When I was considering moving here, I met another member of my profession who told me that he had been here 17 years and in 17 more years, he still wouldn't be "from here." Nineteen years in, I see he was correct. I also see a resistance to change and experimentation far more pervasive and entrenched than I ever imagined before moving here.

Peter Wilson said...

I'd love to see my country - New Zealand - develop along the Lakeland model. I think, given our history, geographical location at the end of the longest supply lines on the planet, and cultural tendencies of most of the population, it's inevitable. What encourages me is the diffidence of most young people I know towards technology, sure, they use it, but they don't worship it.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, this piece of fiction - your piece of fiction - makes me think. It's realistic, and I know it can happen someday in the future, just like a Twilight's Last Gleaming scenario - yet, still, should it happen during my lifetime (which is entirely within the realm of possibility), a war between former US states, and seeing some of the once-richest parts of the globe dwindle to failed state status would send shivers through my spine and make me frightened and dizzy. Sic transit gloria mundis, I guess.

Don Plummer said...

Very entertaining. I'm still waiting for the denouement, and I expect to be surprised. :)

I didn't have the chance to comment on last week's post, "The Emperor's New Art," so I hope you don't mind my posting some thoughts here. While reading it, I couldn't help but think of the old cliché "One man's trash is another man's treasure." And of course, that got me to thinking of the unabashedly and self-consciously lowbrow artists who make "sculptures" out of discarded material. Fun stuff, that can be.

Another thought that crossed my mind is based on my experience teaching composition. Several years ago, I was having students research and write biographical essays of favorite writers. A problem we encountered was the lack of scholarly material about writers of genre fiction (e.g., sci-fi and fantasy, mystery and detective fiction, romances, westerns, etc.) The literature intelligentsia, of course, don't consider those writers' output important or valuable enough to be worth engaging in literary criticism. The rap on genre fiction is that it's "written to a formula." Well, yes. The typical murder mystery, for example, is very formulaic. But that, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that the writer of such fiction is not a good writer. Many are. Furthermore, a significant amount of literature that's considered "classic" is written to a formula: Shakespeare's sonnets, for example. The problem isn't the formula; the talent is revealed in how the writer works the formula. Sigh.

My category for the homework assignment is sacred music. Here are my proposed examples for each category:

Lowbrow: just about anything by John Rutter
Highbrow (parody): Leonard Bernstein's "Mass."
Classic: Bach, "Mass in B minor"; Brahms, "Ein Deutsches Requiem"; just about any of the sacred polyphony of Palestrina, Victoria, or Josquin.

W. B. Jorgenson said...


Brilliant story idea! I am going to write the story and submit it to Mythic/Into the Ruins. I'm not sure which one yet, I need to write it and see where it fits better, but with any luck, you'll see it soon enough :)

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160818T132049Z

JMG, you write:

/.../ “I take it Texas doesn’t put professionals in its embassies.”

“Only the important ones, and we’re not one of those. Velma Streiber’s a Houston society matron who has good friends in the Bulford administration and wanted a fancy title.” She shook her head.

“I hope you didn’t have to deal with the Confederate ambassador too,” I said.

“I did, but that was easy. John Bayard MacElroy is your basic Confederate gentleman. /.../

Thanks for this. I asked a few weeks ago about career tracks in the diplomatic world of 2065. You have now illuminated the question.


PS: What a delicious name: John Bayard MacElroy. I am picturing here white hair, perhaps accompanied by off-white linen jacket, pure white shirt, dark string necktie. John Bayard will no doubt be a fount of information regarding his ancestors' 1861-1865 duties, attainments, and sufferings.

gwizard43 said...

"the only reason the World Bank makes those is to force countries to stay plugged into the global economy, so they can get the hard currency they need to make payments on the loan."

This raises an issue I've been wondering about. How is it that the WB still exists in a post-USD-as-global-reserve-currency world? It's current function is to serve the empire - I would have thought IMF, WB, etc would have ceased to exist after the US' political/imperial fragmentation. But it seems the 'economic hit man' game persists. It would be interesting to understand who it serves in the new world order featured in this future.

Shane W said...

I must admit I'm kinda jealous of all the promising things I hear coming out of the Rust Belt--you all do seem to be ahead on the collapse/Retrotopia curve. Though I must admit, I lived in Central OH, both rural and Columbus, in the late 90s-early aughts, and positively hated it! (No offense) I would like to maybe come back and see if things are any different. It was too provincial and not diverse enough for my tastes at the time.
@Steve, Justin
In my ideal world of the future Confederacy, people have reclaimed the word "colored" to mean "a person from the South". By the same token, "white" means an outsider, someone not from the South. By this time, thanks to the knowledge of DNA testing like, it is common knowledge that everyone in the Confederacy is "colored" using the one-drop rule. There will be a national holiday on some significant date called "Colored Day" or "Day of the Colored" modeled after "Dia de la Raza" in Mexico/Latin America. It will celebrate the coming together of European (white), African (black), and Native blood to form the Southern race.
Regarding building racial bridges among the wage class, it seems Trump is finally pivoting to the black community in a speech in Milwaukee after the recent rioting. About time. His message on trade/tariffs and immigration could stand to benefit the black community, and recent GOP presidential candidates have set the bar so low for the black vote that it wouldn't take much to raise it.

David, by the lake said...


Now that I've been using the bus for almost two weeks (I concluded my one-week experiment and went ahead and purchased a monthly pass), I've noted a couple of observations. First, there is something of a community among the riders, particularly on the morning weekday commute, and I have been more or less included now (greeted by name, casual conversation during the ride, etc). Secondly, I have noticed a slight shift in how I view time. Not a huge shift, given that I still operate "on a clock" for work and the like, but definitely a slowing down (e.g. waiting for the bus, waiting at the transfer station between routes) which is both physical as well as perceptual (e.g. being ok with waiting for the bus and waiting at the transfer station between routes). Not feeling that I have to hurry quite as much.

One of the aspects of life in the LR is that is slower, more naturally (and humanly) paced. I have often wondered what benefit we "moderns" have actually gained in the speeding up of our lives. It seems to me that no one has asked if the benefits actually outweigh the costs, but rather that it is assumed that "faster," like "more," is always better.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160818T133425Z

JMG, a small question regarding spookery. You explain that the Lakeland foreign secret service is organized into three branches. Does Lakeland have a need for a dedicated service assessing domestic, as opposed to foreign, threats?

Canada was able to get by for decades without such a thing, assigning to the RCMP what little domestic assessment may from time to time have been necessary. In 1984 (oh heck, what terrible cosmetics, in choice of year), Ottawa created CSIS to counter subversion. Under this change, the RCMP's remit got reduced, being from 1984 onward confined to the countering of conventional, essentially nonpolitical, crime.

The UK, by contrast, has long felt threatened internally, and has since the World War I era accordingly felt constrained to run "MI5". The UK thinking is that MI5 is to be kept administratively separate from the more celebrated MI6: MI5's remit is domestic, and MI6's foreign. Many, I included, will applaud the separation.

What, then, is the situation with Lakeland? My speculative guess is that internal threats are sufficiently mild for Lakeland to be able to apply the pre-1984 Canadian model, using its conventional national police for handling whatever mild threats to its Constitution may from time to time emerge, as pre-1984 Canada used the RCMP. But perhaps I am wrong?

Tom (living in Canada)

PS: I may as well add a remark on spookery more generally. This branch of government is to be, in general, deprecated. What is fundamentally needed (though I do not know if any government anywhere has this) is a visible, prestigious, "Department of Appraisals" under the Foreign Ministry, operating with open-source materials, and publishing almost all of its work. The "DofA" would concentrate on reading the foreign press, monitoring foreign broadcasts, and sending analysts abroad in a transparent manner - for instance, as explicit "DofA" attachés, by way of juniors in selected embassies. A minuscule foreign-intelligence spookshop, also under the Foreign Ministry, would be needed to do the occasional bit of unpleasant work, as when Outer Slobovia (Singapore and the USSR actually did this) criminalizes the mailing of its newspapers to recipients beyond its frontiers. The DofA will have to keep an eye on Outer Slobovia, as on everything else. If all else fails, the DofA will have to ring up the spookshop and arrange for an asset to be deployed - the asset being now charged with, for instance, smuggling out copies of the Slobovskaya Gazyeta day by day, for that curious DofA readership.

hapibeli said...

My wife and have returned to our
Gulf Island after a 5 year sojourn to Vancouver Island. We realized that the wonderful farm we'd been living on, might as well be a suburb, due to the distances needed to drive for most any reason.
We now are walking distance to just about anything on our small island home. There is now a strong local food program, and many other ways of community. With family and friends close by, the fact of our mid sixties ages becomes less of an issue.
As with Robert Beckett, our fruit trees are laden, our garden is verdant, and the sun and water are available in spades.
We are grateful.

SLClaire said...

It was good to read that it is the Missouri Republic that is getting a clue about why and how the Lakeland Republic works so well and is beginning to take steps in the same direction - since I live in the future Missouri Republic. Looking forward to the remaining installments!

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- so I think we should resurrect a nearly extinct $10 word for describing your next chapter: antipenultimate

More generally, I do find the lower income people around here (rural Tennessee) are much more willing to listen and at least half-agree with ideas about the end of progress, long-term economic decline, etc. that are suburbanites from the "Liberal Left (hah!) Coast" It is surprisingly easy to deflect a conversation about why we are going to hades in a handbasket away from the media tropes of "immigrants, minorities, and failed christian values" to a bloated unsustainable corporate-industrial global economy that is crumbling regardless of the color and creed of those who are "running it."

Shane - depends on class. In the hillbilly class most often they just shoot you half by accident with your own gun in a booze-and-meth fueled brawl...

RepubAnon said...

One wonders whether other Retrotropias would spring up in Europe. Most of Europe was designed for horse-drawn and rail transport, so they'd have a head start on infrastructure design. This would also have an effect on the World Bank's behavior - once the Lakeland Republic's successes gain publicity, we'd see a domino effect similar to that which Brussels fears if the Brexit is not a disaster. (Nationalists in France, Italy, Spain, etc are heading that way despite Greece's woes - imagine the reaction if Greece recovered and began thriving...)

I don't recall seeing any mention of solar, nuclear, fracking, coal-to-oil synthetic fuel plants (see WW2 Germany Synthetic Fuel), or bio-engineered oil-producing algae. Re-engineering gas-powered vehicles to run on natural gas isn't difficult, so this might be a transition technology for folks to adapt to a world without endless reserves of extractable materials. We're currently seeing chicken and dairy farms extracting energy from manure, and I expect that there'd be some examples of this in the Atlantic Republic (unless the Koch progeny had gotten them outlawed.

onething said...

JMG, I can hardly believe there are only 3 more chapters. It feels to me that the story is just getting started.

Justin, it bothers me too, and I guess it is simply that I would like the white race to continue. I'd like them all to continue. Maybe none of them will but the white race will disappear the most, and the oriental the least, in my opinion. Sheer numbers and also a matter of dominant versus recessive genes. I had thought that Europe would be the homeland of the white race as China and surrounding countries are probably for orientals and some areas of Africa for blacks, but now there is no geographic area in which whites live more or less by themselves. Perhaps I am outing myself too!

Synthase said...

I really enjoyed Weird of Hali, btw.

sgage said...


"The story ends as he boards the train, for reasons that'll be clear as we reach the final episode..."

Yes, it's going to be a cliffhanger ending to keep us all riveted for the sequel ;-)

Mary said...

David Sutton -- if the Lakelanders are smart, their horse population is mainly foundation Morgan, the little horses that built America. They go quite well barefoot, pack draft horse power in a large pony size (think Haflinger -- similar size and type), and are very easy keepers (think arabian -- less food/less manure).

If by American food you mean "McDonald's" then yes, it's appalling. Otherwise, it's a mix by region with a lot of ethnic variety.

pygmycory said...

Just wondering if the real GDP per capita in sub-saharan Africa is above or below today's in 2065.

Eric Backos said...

@ Shane W
You might stick your toe in the waters of Lake Erie… Cleveland is prima facie proof of the unevenness of the decline-collapse-renew cycle. Take a short drive and see everything from clueless Happy Motoring to the first stirrings of the Lakeland Republic. We already have Lakeland Community College up and running! said...

Great story Greer! Really enjoyed it and will miss the end of the series.

I finished your novel Twilight's Last Gleaming and found it a really good read, very addictive and a model for my future ambitions as a thriller writer.

The Convention story was well written in particular.

Just ordered the new series of Into the Ruins.

Roy Smith said...

The next meeting of The Cascadia Guild will be held on Saturday, August 27th at 2:00 PM. Location will be at East Beach Park on Marrowstone Island, near Port Townsend.

All interested parties are welcome to attend!

Bob Patterson said...

A very good episode. But I wonder about all the industrial infrastructure necessary to maintain any oil production. Lots of steel for drilling new wells, lots of piping, pumps, valves, motors,heat resistant materials and sensors for processing and refining, and some means of transporting finished product.

I have been reading "The Image - a guide to pseudo-events in America" by Daniel J. Boorstein (1962). It makes you consider if the things that interest you about the "news" are events or pseudo-events.

Josh said...

Off topic for this week JMG, but a good quote on your recurrent theme of the public's lost faith in science/scientists/experts...

Regarding Flint water crisis:

"A year ago, [VA Tech Environmental Engineering Prof. Marc Edwards] was the troublemaking outsider whom the authorities were accusing of “fanning the political flames irresponsibly.” Now he was the authority making that case about others, and if many of the activists now considered him an untrustworthy agent of the state, there was nothing he could do about it. In both roles, he said, he had been the advocate for “sound science.”

“This is what a ‘dark age’ looks like,” [Edwards wrote]. “When science is no longer a source of enlightenment, people still need to believe in something.” The people of Flint had been betrayed, and the betrayal had pushed some of them “into the anti-­science camp.” He continued: “We lost our authority and the public trust with good reason. After Flint kids were protected, I took off my activist suit and put on my lab coat. Some people assumed my motives could be changed just as easily. Not so, but arguing about it is not productive. Our energies have to be focused on not betraying the public in the first place.”"

Nastarana said...

Dear Toomas Larmo, if you do a google search for Open Source Intelligence you might find some of the results to be of great interest.

Dear Don Plummer, Shakespeare's comedies were written to a formula, one which had been laid down by Aristophanes, I believe, one part of which is that the play must always conclude with a marriage. Multiple marriages are even better.

Bill Pulliam said...

Justin, Onething... Y'all do know that "race" has virtually no biological basis, don't you? That there is more genetic diversity among "Black Africans" than among all the rest of the people on earth combined, right? "Islamization" is a cultural phenomenon, not a "racial" phenomenon, whatever that would be since "race" is a wishy washy mishy mashy fiction. If your problem is with culture and religion, why bring "race" into the discussion at all?

HalFiore said...

If this were my story, I think the perfect bookend would be for him to share a seat on the outbound trip with out-migrants to the Atlantic. I imagine some young person dressed in the best fake bioplastic, meaning the shoddiest natural fabric they could find, but with the style just a bit obviously wrong. They would wide-eyedly regale him of all the things they expect to find in the wonderful world of progress. Theirs would be a nostalgia for a mythical future that they only have heard about in their own nation's past.

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane -- My "one drop" turns out to be about 1/64th Native American (guessing that is likely Cherokee picked up in the early 19th Century in north Georgia before the trail of tears). At present there are still a lot of zero drop people, though... My "one drop" comes from my previously deeply secret father with whom my mother had a one night stand. My wife, mother, sisters, and their biological father all show nothing but European Ancestry. But, of course, my siblings and I are all in our 50s, and my brother married a slave-descended African-American woman from upstate South Carolina, meaning their kids are thoroughly mixed race, with good portions of European, west African, and American blood. My wife's youngest nephew is married to an African American woman as well, and her oldest nephew is married to a woman who has three mixed Montanan/Jamaican kids from a previous marriage. So you may well be right that by the 2050s "mixed race" will be the predominant "race" in much of the South among the generation that will then have political power. That generation certainly seems to be thoroughly "mixed" culturally now, with hillbilly boys using hip-hop lingo.

Scotlyn said...

@Justin and @onething My skin is as pale and freckled and sun-sensitive as the next European, but I have no clue what this idea of a "white race" actually means, or why, notionally, it would appeal that there is a place where white people live "by themselves".

In my experience people with hard romantic notions of the "white race" are in pursuit of a type of purity it would take physical and/or punitive barriers to achieve... and even then.

I can easily conceive of my genes living on in people of quite different skin tones, and what of that? Family is family. Would it gratify to have family torn asunder? to live to see daughter or grand-daughter shaven and tied to a lamp-post for "consorting with the non-white"?

In this romantic abstraction of "whiteness" I can see nothing but grief and trouble for those who inevitably will love, consort and mingle across the "races".

And to be honest, I can see little pleasure in it for the "pure" either, as that kind of purity can never be kept completely unclouded with doubt, human nature being what it is.

Stacey Neanderthal said...

Justin, onething: It's really odd how white humanity voluntarily retards it's birthrate and gives away it's territory. I know of no other animal group in nature that does that. Does anyone else?

It's almost like God invented us specifically so we could break into the oil cabinet, burn it all, pollute the whole place, submerge a great part of it, and kill as many species as we can, so that new creatures evolve into the many newly-opened niches, for God to look at. And now that we've done our job, we can go away now.

Of course that's the "it's almost like..." that really means "this crazy idea is actually what I think."

Varun Bhaskar said...


I'm sad we're drawing to the end of this story, and am really looking forward to the book. Out of curiosity, how many countries have embassies in Lakeland?


I've noticed the same thing with the poor here in WI. It seems like once you're already out of the system it becomes really easy to recognize the beast for what it actually is.



Gottfried Wilhelm Melvin Hicks-Leibniz said...

Another great Retrotopia episode! Thank you JMG.

On the topic of satellites crash-burning, a senior official at Germany's Aerospace Center expresses his own "Nick Carr" moment:

"We are only starting to realize how dependent our society has become on space assets across the board," Braun said. "The train has already left the station and we are running after it, and we have to run damned fast to catch up."
Germany expands a centre for space junk to deal with new threats

Hammer said...

Thank you JMG. I was very worried there. But do you remember if you wrote anything about the predicted fate of various regions or countries? Any book or blog post?

Matthias Gralle said...

So if Retrotopia, being a utopian narrative, is in fact strongly concerned with the immediate present, the core target audience for the book will be members of Donald Trump's transition team after he wins the election against the Dem-Reps? Since you have a low opinion of Trump himself (which I, though not an American, see no reason to disagree with) you probably hope he has a capable transition team ready.

Of course, for this target audience concerns about the long-term future of Retrotopia (more than 50 years out) are not relevant.

Ahavah said...

I second the motion for people to read The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 though I thought the end was a bit lame, sort of like she couldn't figure out where the story should go for the next generation. A few things were glossed over in the story re everyday living & relationships for women not yet menopausal... Nonetheless, the story was eye opening.

JoAnna said...

Up here in the NEK of Vermont, our wonderful friend and neighbor just dropped off a gift of fresh lard from her pigs that were just processed on her farm, and earlier this month, our town moved a 19th century schoolhouse to it's new location via oxen. Admittedly they had to use some machine power to help the house up the road, sadly... but it was incredible to meet so many people who raise and train draft animals for farm work in our general vicinity! I'm looking forward to learning from some of our neighbors who have oxen and draft horses in the future. (The Amish are moving in to our area, and others outside of the Amish community still practice and teach basketry, blacksmithing, etc. etc.) All of this is to say I'm thoroughly enjoying the entire Lakeland republic story arc, and in some little ways, can say from personal experience that there ARE (thank the Gods) pockets of old knowledge still intact. Some I am still far too 'city-fied' to even hear about yet, I'm sure. I can't wait to see where you're planning to take the final chapters of the story!

BTW, in case you hadn't seen this recent little news item re: reactions to living and dressing in an older style:
What is a costume, what is clothing, and who decides?

ganv said...

Thanks for writing Retrotopia. It is a wonderful way to explore future possibilities.

A few thoughts about the entire series. Sorry it got long, and I didn't intended to nitpick. I love the unity of the story and the way the same point about effective solutions from earlier eras is made in different contexts and builds a full argument.

--About internet technology. The satellite Kessler syndrome makes a great fiction device since it is a real threat to satellite use. But it isn't a primary threat to internet communication. Most of that is fiber optic. And as the telegraph networks of the mid 19th century show, that isn't particularly high tech. Fiber optic takes knowledge of glass chemistry and optical amplifiers, but it is less resource intensive than copper telegraph and isn't that complicated. A primitive digital computer with a fiber optic connection is so much superior to a telegraph operator or a short wave radio operator, that that is one piece of a retrotopia that will not be restored to 19th century. (Just like medical knowledge will not be replaced with 19th century approaches to anesthesia or sterile operation conditions. Note that the story included a 24 hour flu but not a complicated birth requiring a C-section) In short, progress does happen. But in our age of the irrational cult of progress, your story is a refreshing move back toward the truth. As we discover a fairly complete story of the basic mechanisms by which our universe works, there becomes fewer technological advances that improve our lives compared with the number that only improve some corporation's earnings.

--The military aspect is fascinating. I totally agree with your assessment that the military implications of our resource and environmental predicament are some of the most important and hard to predict. I personally suspect that in a resource constrained era, the most successful militaries will be a pyramid with a small amount of very high tech units coordinated with a larger amount of mechanized units, coordinated with an even larger amount of low tech highly adaptable units. But war will be totally different than any earlier war because communication and imaging technologies will make a very different combination of knowledge/ignorance and capability. Note, this is not faith in progress. It is an observation that we won't forget things that are highly useful for achieving victory. (One side note: guerrilla warfare can be very effective against an economically superior power trying to control a less economically productive country. But it doesn't stop a militarily superior but economically inferior power from rolling in, plundering what they want, and returning home. An economically successful country has to have a military capable of repelling possible invaders or diplomatic ways of avoiding being invaded. There isn't much other option. Indeed, you only need to make it economically disadvantageous for an invader, but the more needy the invader, the more it takes to deter them with this method.)

--I particularly like the way you leave the questions of "efficiency measured by what output compared with what input" unanswered. Because answers about human and ecosystem well being compared with time and material resources are hard for people to hear unless they discover them for themselves. And the ludicrousness of optimizing corporate earnings with respect to only time is so obvious that only the most dogmatic and mindless civic religions could possibly believe it.

David, by the lake said...

@Bill Pulling

I agree. Race is ultimately irrelevant and not a meaningful concept. Too much ink and blood has already been spilt over such constructs. We have more important things to worry about.

James M. Jensen II said...

W.B. Jorgenson,

I look forward to seeing your story!

Rita said...

This is not relevant to the week's posting, but interesting in terms of economics. I'm reading the _Folly of Fools_ by Robert Trivers. The general subject is self-deception, its benefits and costs. He assumes it must have some benefits in order to have evolved. In one chapter he discusses the metaphors used to describe the behavior of the stock market in news
. He divides these into 'agent' metaphors such as 'the Dow climbed higher' vs. object metaphors such as 'General Mills dropped to 100 per share.' He claims that agent metaphors influence us to think that the trend will continue, while object metaphors do not. Further, he notices that agent metaphors are more commonly used to describe up trends. He leaves open the question of whether this is deliberate manipulation.

Bootstrapper said...


On the subject of refugees; there's an intruguing sci-fi novel, "Freehold" by Michael Z. Williamson, in which a planetary government on Earth attempts to undermine and overthrow an otherwise peaceful, prosperous and, most importantly, independent (politically and economically) world - Freehold - that has rescources the Earth government wants.

The tactic the Earth government uses, is to destabilise Freehold by engineering a mass movement of people liberally seeded with criminals and 'undesirables'. Think; round up all the homeless, the troublemakers, clean out the prisons, put them all on ships and send them to Freehold as 'refugees'. Then, when things are good and chaotic, send in "peacekeepers" to "restore order". The Freeholders win eventually, but only after a long, bitter struggle reminiscent of the defensive strategy Colonel Pappas outlined several chapters ago, and their once prosperous society is left in ruins from which they have to rebuild.

I couldn't help noticing the similarities between Freehold and the Lakeland Republic, and the relationship each has with the Earth government and the I.M.F., respectively. I can see the I.M.F. using the war between the Confederacy and Texas as an opportunity to undermine Lakeland in the manner described above, as Lakeland represents a viable alternative to their economic hegemony - one that the other republics are beginning to take notice of - and is therefore a threat that needs to be dealt with before it spreads.

How Lakeland copes with a massive influx of people who don't share their culture (new as it is) and may not want to settle permanently, just shelter until the shooting stops, will be interesting both in the context of the story but also in the real world as such mass-refugee movements are likely to become quite common over the next couple of decades.

Cheers! Paul

John Michael Greer said...

Ed, there'll doubtless be more fiction here as we proceed, but this particular story has said most of what I want to say about the strategy of deliberate technological regression. You might be pleased to know that I'm discussing a nonfiction title on the same subject right now with New Society Publishers.

Patricia, why not post an invitation now, and get the planning done early? With regard to Africa, given the way that Western nations and now China have stripped the continent of everything that isn't nailed down, I don't expect to see many African nations leave the basket case category for most of a century yet. Thanks for the update on fracking; yes, and it's just going to get worse...

Mustard, I've long had the suspicion that if Putin were to visit Alabama, he would make a lot of friends very quickly.

Gregg, agreed -- it's a town and a region that's gotten the short end of the stick for a very, very long time, and that has consequences. I had no expectations of becoming 'from here', which probably helped.

Peter, well, then I'd say you might consider advocating for it! The story should be out in book form for the Christmas trade, if you think that might help.

Bruno, good. That sense of dizziness is actually one of the things I've been trying to achieve -- it's crucial, it seems to me, to break out of the common delusion that everything's going to stay as it is today for the imaginable future!

Don, excellent. When the consumers of highbrow trash insist that science fiction, say, is "written to a formula," they're demonstrating that they don't know enough to have an informed opinion. A lot of science fiction is; so is a lot of other fiction, including a lot of highbrow trash. The best SF, like the best of all other modes of fiction, transcends formula. Dune isn't a formulaic novel, for example; neither is Stranger in a Strange Land, or dozens of other major SF novels I can name. The same can be said for every other genre, including mystery, romance, and so on.

Toomas, you're most welcome; you raised a valid question and I saw a convenient way to insert the answer. As for Mr. MacElroy, yep -- he can tell you exactly which Confederate regiments each of his ancestors fought in, which battles, etc. I know people here in Cumberland who can do that right now.

Gwizard43, the World Bank still exists in 2065 because it was taken out of the cold stiffening hands of the US and put to work in the interests of Chinese global hegemony, of course. In this future history Brazil is the new upstart power; Russia has quietly pursued its own interests, spending the last fifty years building a network of alliances and client states in the Middle East, and financing its own projects without World Bank interference.

David, excellent! As a lifelong pedestrian and bus rider, I've felt that gap in time consciousness myself from the other side -- all these people rushing by in a frantic hurry, while I stroll along, knowing that each of us is going to get to our own funeral just as quickly as the other.

Toomas, the Lakeland Republic assigns domestic counterintelligence to the national police, as Canada did, and for much the same reason. Since the level of discontent with Lakeland government policies is fairly low -- this is a common consequence of having a lively democratic society where most points of view have a voice in the legislature, few people are very poor, and jobs at decent wages are easy to come by -- they simply don't have to worry that much about subversion. BTW, thank you for the Slobovskaya Gazyeta -- it's been many years since my high school Russian classes, but that still got a laugh.

Olivier said...

I have a hard time imagining the alt-right being part of anything worthwhile: they are as fissile as a lump of plutonium and frequently just about as toxic. Here in Germany for instance the AfD, only a few years old, is in the throes of a power struggle at the top that may see it split; given that even in its present shape it is scraping the 5% threshold needed to get into parliament that's not encouraging for its future. Paleocons in the Buchanan mold strike me as a surer bet.

OTOH those who think Europe is a spent force about to go gently into that good night have a thing coming for them. Americans in particular cannot quite wrap their head around the fact that Europe is and always has been a charnel house. In the mid-20th century 40 million died here in about as many years; more people died in some WWI battles than in your entire military history, something I don't believe you can really process but which for us is a natural fact. After such a gorging, epic even by european standards, the beast needed a longer than usual rest but it is neither dead nor dying, merely sleeping, like a continent-sized R'lyeh, and right now it is awakening. It is also armed to the teeth, esp. if you count Russia as part of Europe, and still the world's weapon factory. It will probably never dominate the world again but it is not a spent force.

John Michael Greer said...

Hapibeli, congrats on the new digs! One thing I want to revisit in an upcoming post is the irrelevance, for most people, of the "thirty acres in the country" model of collapsing ahead of the rush. For those who can do it, and want to do it, it's great, but there are also entirely valid ways to do it in towns and cities. More on this as we proceed!

SLClaire, well, then, you might consider starting to advocate for those sensible policies in advance! ;-)

Bill, nice. Isn't it antepenultimate with the e, though?

RepubAnon, many parts of Europe would be well suited to a Retrotopian strategy, if they chose to. As for the energy modalities you mentioned, Carr spotted solar water heaters on a lot of roofs on his way to the drone shoot, but the rest aren't in use in Lakeland, and since they're basically subsidy dumpsters, I doubt they're in use further east, either. Still, good point -- I should address that.

Shane W said...

really, you're using the term "ornamental", I mean "oriental" in drop-dead seriousness? Who does that now? I only use that term like "colored" to be facetious or flippant. No literate person seriously uses "ornamental", I mean, "oriental", any more, not even in Appalachia...

Shane W said...

Umm, Bill, if you're going by the official family tree, you might be missing something. Have you actually had your DNA tested to determine where you're REALLY from? DNA test show that we were much more "miscegenous" than we ever let on. I definitely wouldn't go by the official version of the family tree.
As a ginger, I'm probably the most translucently pale of the haole, and, from what I understand, the most endangered. However, I certainly benefit from what JMG has termed "xenophilia", and use it to my advantage. I've been known to strip down and slather on the 100+ SPF amongst those darker than me, and reel 'em in. "Yes, the carpets match the drapes..." It's a good thing I'm an avid xenophile, myself. Opposites attract.

John Michael Greer said...

Onething, it's already past 60,000 words, which is a good length for a novel, and I expect to add another 10,000 or so in the course of revisions. By the way, there is no such thing as "the white race." That's an arbitrary label for a heterogeneous assortment of ethnic groups that have nothing in common except light-colored skins and the absence of an epicanthic fold over the eye -- and it's high time that the label got retired.

Synthase, I'm delighted to hear it! If someone with the kind of scientific background you've got can read that, enjoy it, and presumably get the point of it, that strikes me as a very good thing.

Sgage, heh heh heh...

Mary, thanks for that detail -- I may find a way to insert a reference to Morgans. Can you point me to an online source for data?

Pygmycory, moderately higher than today, but still not good.

LordBeria, many thanks.

Roy, congrats and I hope it goes well.

Bob, 2065 is less than fifty years from now. By my calculation there will still be plenty of industrial capacity available to build petroleum infrastructure, though not enough to do that and maintain current consumer-based production -- so many of the consumer goods have gone away, while oil pipelines are still available. Give it another fifty to seventy-five years and that may no longer be the case, but that's outside the ambit of this story.

Josh, thanks for the link. Yes, that's very much the wave of the future -- and it's heartening that at least some scientists are beginning to notice.

HalFiore, yes, but that's not the point of this story, you know!

Varun, all the nations of North America, the other major powers (China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa), and a random assortment of others -- for example, there's a Polish embassy, mostly because several Lakeland cities have large Polish-American populations. Many other nations have honorary consuls instead.

Gottfried, nice to know that somebody's paying attention.

Hammer, not really. I don't make many predictions, because history shows that most predictions fail; sheer random chance gets in the way far too often. I sketch out trends, present historical models, and suggest that something like X or Y can probably be expected to happen, but we don't have any way of knowing exactly when or where!

Matthias, no, the main audience for this book is the people who are trying to figure out what kind of future they want now that it's brutally clear that the bipartisan policy consensus of the Reagan era -- giveaways for the rich, austerity for the poor, monomaniacal military adventurism overseas, malign neglect of infrastructure and the environment, etc. -- is flushing this country down the drain. The Trump phenomenon, like the Sanders revolt (turned back by the Dems only by way of serious vote fraud), are symptoms of that awareness, but the political themes of the next thirty to forty years are only just beginning to take shape; I want to toss some ideas into the inevitable debate.

John Michael Greer said...

JoAnna, of course there are such pockets -- and more of them every day, as more people get into older ways of doing things and find that they work better and are more enjoyable than their latest glossy replacements.

Ganv, if by "progress does happen" you mean that some discoveries and inventions actually do have value and are worth bringing into play to replace older equivalents, I'm not arguing -- that's why there are five tiers in the Lakeland Republic and not just everyone living an 1820 lifestyle. If you mean by that, though, that everything newer is better, or that we can expect and endless series of such improvements -- which are common meanings of that phrase -- then there's a bridge in New York I'd like to sell you.

I don't recall mentioning anywhere that the Kessler syndrome was going to take out the metanet, though it'll certainly mess up quite a range of other things! As for military technology, though, keep in mind that new technologies always mean new vulnerabilities, and one of the core theses of this story -- and of the case I'm making here more generally -- is that very often, at this point in the filling up of notional space, the vulnerabilities outweigh the advantages. That's why, in the discussion of military affairs, it's mentioned that the Lakeland Republic army has made a specialty out of monkeywrenching high-tech military gimmickry using low-cost methods, to worsen the economic impact. Of course there's also the far from minor point that the Lakeland Republic in 2065 has very little that an invader would want -- no oil, next to no coal left, no significant mineral deposits, etc. So its strategy is well designed for its needs.

Rita, fascinating. I may need to get that book.

Bootstrapper, I'm not sure whether it'll come into the story, but the obvious strategy for the Lakeland government is, first, to maintain its current immigration policy -- you can get in only if there are citizens willing to sponsor you and guarantee that you won't become a public burden -- and maintain the integrity of its borders, using armed force if necessary. If Lakeland feels that humanitarian assistance is appropriate, as I'm sure it will, it can be provided on the Confederate side of the border, and attempts by the Confederate government to get noncombatants to flee to Lakeland to reduce the economic burden on the Confederate economy can be treated as the violation of Lakeland's neutrality that it is. Refugees from the war zone would be best accommodated in the Confederate states along the Atlantic coast, where they'll be out of harm's way, and international aid can reach them just as efficiently there as elsewhere. Texan refugees, by the same measure, have plenty of territory to the west in which to evacuate.

That is to say, the notion that refugees have some kind of inherent right to go wherever they wish, irrespective of laws or the concerns of the people who already live there, is one I reject completely. Do refugees deserve compassion? Yes, if they're fleeing a war zone or the like -- but compassion, like charity, begins at home.

Olivier, the alt-right is very new, and going through the same growing pains as other new movements. Socialism was highly fissiparous in the 19th century, too. As for Europe, though, I couldn't agree more; a couple of thousand years from now, when people can finally sit back and write a tolerably objective history of European civilization, it'll rank with the Mongols and the Huns. Europe will be remembered as a subcontinent packed with savage, bloodthirsty tribal nations that invaded and conquered most of the planet when they could spare the time from murdering one another en masse.

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane -- yes I was referring to our DNA results. That is how I discovered that "my daddy ain't my daddy."

JMG -- of course you are correct in the spelling, my mistake! The antipenultimate might be the second from the first?

FiftyNiner said...

@Olivier and JMG,
Your statements about Europe and the "cluelessness" of Americans in general and of our senile government in particular point us toward a cataclysm of truly world changing proportions! No part of the world knows war quite the way Europe does. The irony here is that the American planners have thought for years that they had, finally, with the EU, established "peace" on the continent forever. And as their next step they helped to unleash a refugee crisis that threatens the continent's very existence! Any moral authority that the US ever had is evaporating before our eyes, and when former allies turn their backs on us and stop listening to any advice we give, the American Empire will be over! There's a new day dawning.

Why didn't I study Mandarin and Russian while I was in college?

Jim R said...

I must confess. I can't help myself, but to feel a certain impulse of pride when I see it reflected in the blog.

Proud to have contributed the tiniest speck of an idea, and then to see it rendered into such beautiful prose! It was originally meant as a simple toss-away line.

(and, you're welcome -- I'll be sure to post them if I have any more)

JebB said...

Not entirely on topic for this week, but I ran across this at my local library and thought several people here would enjoy it. It is a hand-drawn map of the history of science fiction, beginning with the entwined tentacles of Fear and Wonder in the classic shape of a bug-eyed monster.


Shane W said...

Remember, Bill, your background/genetic makeup includes not only the people you "claim", but also the ones you don't "claim". Barack Obama is descended from the first slave in North America on his "white" mother's side. I know "white" people who are only two generations (grandparent) removed from very dark people with very African features--it only takes two generations of marrying/mating to create very fair children.

HalFiore said...

Anyone getting ideas?

"... 329 Chestnut Street in Toledo, OH—a gorgeous Victorian home that’s on the market for a mere $67,777."

Jon Garrett said...

@Scotlyn, @Justin, @Onething,

While I agree with the Archdruid’s remarks on the “White Race,” as a label that should be “retired”, and I further agree with @Scotlyn’s idea that racial purity is an oppressive and impossible goal, I don’t see either remark as addressing the issues that worry @Justin.

What makes a person a member of the “White Race,” is their being labeled as such by those who self-identify as non-white. And people who consider themselves non-white have no trouble identifying “whites.”

The Alt Right rises for several reasons. But the biggest reason is that sufficient numbers of people who self-identify as non-whites are present in societies that once consisted of “white” supermajorities. And again, to be sensitive to Scotlyn’s good point, these supermajorities were racially impure but racially similar enough to largely ignore race a source of nationwide political conflict.

If, for example, rioters with African characteristics are looking to “beat white people,” the racially impure but white looking target cannot avail himself of Scotlyn’s logic by saying, “Whoa, guys, I’m not all white and you’re not all black.” Such good sense is irrelevant in the dynamic of open conflict.

Similarly, if a political organization that consists of people who identify as Hispanic sights “white culture,” as a dominant and oppressive force, and that organization seeks to bring about social change by making people or institutions it identifies as “white” pay tithes or accept handicaps to facilitate the advancement of Hispanics, it does the targets little good to explain that whites are not white and Hispanics are not a race.

Inaccurate labels like the “White Race,” will not be going away because their retirement would be disadvantageous to people and politicos who self-identify as non-white. And as more deracinated people are forced to endure disadvantage because they are labeled “white,” self-identifying as “white” will become the norm for a great many people who otherwise couldn’t have cared less.

Stacey Neanderthal said...

Bill Pulliam, John Michael Greer, and Scotlyn: Would you please let the Black Lives Matter and La Raza people know that there's no such thing as the white race? They don't seem to have gotten the memo. Put it on Youtube for me if you could please. I would LOVE to see how that goes over.

Justin and Onething: Kudos to you guys for being able to say things you know full well everyone else is against. Seriously, that's excellent!

onething said...


"... it is assumed that "faster," like "more," is always better."

Something I've been thinking about too. It makes us miserable.


" It's really odd how white humanity voluntarily retards it's birthrate and gives away it's territory. I know of no other animal group in nature that does that. Does anyone else?"

I think it is a mistake to think that the white race is somehow eviler than the others. It just so happened that Europe started a scientific revolution and went exploring. They took advantage of the world's resources and that is the reason for the low birth rate. It comes from modern, middle class lifestyle, and other countries, such as Japan and increasingly Mexico and others are starting to lower their birth rates as well. I'm afraid we're about to find out that running empires, taking more than your share and bullying other countries is something that goes around and around to the next opportunists.


Oh, please. So what's the politically correct term now? Is it Asian? The meaning is more or less identical...

Cathy McGuire said...

Whew! Climate change is hitting hard here today - 95deg and they're predicting a high of 104! And of course, no A/C... but fan and low-tech cooling tricks are helping. (Frozen corn kernels to stupid hens who won't drink water).

And so appropriate to this week's wonderful post! Front page NYT:

From Montreal to Minnesota, by Inland Sea

The writer was so used to driving and flying, his understanding of North America was distorted. Then he took a slow boat through four Great Lakes.

Ed-M said...


Heh! Missouri didn't want to be used as a conduit scheme like Greece is.

Someone else asked above if you picked out the Greek restaurant on purpose, or if it was just a coinkydink. Now I can't find his question OR you answer and I want to know!

Yellow Submarine said...

John Michael wrote:

Russia has quietly pursued its own interests, spending the last fifty years building a network of alliances and client states in the Middle East, and financing its own projects without World Bank interference.

That appears to be the way things are already headed. One of the key lessons the Russians have learned in the last few years is the dangers of globalization and being overly dependent on foreign trade. You also mentioned that you believe that Europe's most likely future is to end up under Russian hegemony.

One the most amazing trends in recent years is Russia's comeback as a great power. Only a few years ago, Western analysts like David Goldman ("Spengler") were writing Russia off as a dying nation with no hope of long term survival. And yet not too long ago, Goldman admitted that he and other Western analysts were wrong about that. In fact, he had pointed out that Russian birth rates have actually been going back up and are now close to the replacement rate. The current crisis doesn't seem to be having a negative effect on the willingness of Russians to have children. He noted that the birth rates among ethnic Russians, most of whom are Christian or atheist, now exceed those of the Muslim peoples in the Russian Federation.

I am also thinking of Spengler, who believed that the next great civilization would emerge out of Russia and the next great religious tradition would come out of Russian Christianity. He argued that Russia is in its late Pre-Cultural stage of development, so we can expect Russia's Springtime to begin within the next few centuries if Spengler is correct.

Spengler pointed out that Russians have always looked to the South for religious and cultural reasons, in large part due to a reverence for the holy cities of Constantinople and Jerusalem and the formative influence the Byzantines had on Russia in its early stages, so a deepening Russian involvement in the Middle East makes sense for both geostrategic and spiritual reasons. In addition, if Siberia is eventually absorbed into a Greater Chinese Empire, as many expect will happen sooner or later, then the logical course of action would be for the nascent Russian civilization to expand to the south and the west instead.

Nachtgurke said...

"Europe will be remembered as a subcontinent packed with savage, bloodthirsty tribal nations that invaded and conquered most of the planet when they could spare the time from murdering one another en masse."

Very true. Today, the USA are the dominant player in this business, with a lot of help from their European friends, of course. Although the times that the American continent was a "European" colony are over, European culture still seems to be the dominant influence on the other side of the Atlantic - at least from a European perspective, don't know if you would agree. So it might be fair to say, Europeans really messed it up. I wonder if other cultures (Japan and China come to my mind) would have done the same if Europe and in its succession the USA had failed to become such global powers.

Regarding the "sleeping beast", Olivier mentioned - Europe does its very best to demolish all the safety mechanisms - the European Union, mutual economic dependence, etc. - that were put up after WWII to prevent Europe going down that path again.

latheChuck said...

Ganv - Optical fiber is indeed great, ... when it's intact. But it only takes one guy with a backhoe to cut the cable by accident, or one patient saboteur to cut it with a garden shovel on purpose. Efforts to prevent the former, with clear labeling of the right-of-way, assist the latter. To have a reliable fiber-optic system, you need a stable environment all the way from Here to There and back again. With radio, on the other hand, you only need to control the territory around the antennas.

You're certainly right about human radio telegraphy being slow, though. 40 wpm (the fastest speed evaluated by the ARRL) is about 4 bytes per second, and I struggle to keep up with 10 wpm. No one will be transcribing cat videos over radio telegraphy. But it WAS enough to manage the forces during WW-2.

Yellow Submarine said...

Quick correction to my last comment: the last two paragraphs were referring to Oswald Spengler, not Goldman. Clearly, I need to work some more on my writing and editing skills...

Ozark Chinquapin said...

If the worst happens and the Confederacy becomes a failed state, I'd wonder if Lakeland and/or the Missouri Republic (which it sounds like is doing at least halfway decently) would expand. What if Lakeland's intelligence finds out the majority of Tennessee looks upon Lakeland very favorably. Tennessee could be an asset to Lakeland (unlike areas of the Confederacy closer to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, which would be more of a liability), and if the Tennesseeans at that point have a favorable view of Lakeland (and are pretty desperate from the war) and the Confederate government collapses, it could be pretty feasible for Lakeland to incorporate TN without invading them, they could provide support to the right people there who'd keep the warbands from taking over, reestablish enough order to hold an election on joining Lakeland.

The Missouri Republic might also take the opportunity of a failed Confederacy to take the rest of Missouri and possibly push further south too. Since they're less utopian than Lakeland, maybe they'd be more likely to just invade and annex the area.

Ozark Chinquapin said...


In a comment you said,

"in the future history I've mapped out here, there hasn't been a lot of mass migration; there were a lot of refugees in various places during the Second Civil War, but most of them returned home when the fighting was over"

So, where did the former inhabitants of Arizona and Nevada end up? What about those from South Florida and other low-lying areas that got flooded by rising seas? Are they just not enough people for you to count it as a mass migration?

I've been wondering if internal climate refugees may end up being a major factor in breaking up the US eventually. Not if the timeline of partition in Retrotopia happens, that's too soon for mass climate refugees, but i could see a scenario in which the US holds together until sometime in the second half of the 21st century, at which point there's large numbers of refugees fleeing deserts low-lying coastal areas. The whole country is much poorer at this point, and much fewer people are able to travel much and thus connections between disparate regions of the US are much fewer. The midwest and upper south are doing better than many places, but still not great, and resentment builds toward those moving in from elsewhere builds enough that the country breaks up.

Bill Pulliam said...

In general: I believe I said that race is a cultural construct not a biological one. You can stop criticising me and others for making claims we dod not make. When I was young in the South, Mexicans were white and Jews were not. Now Mexicans are not white, and Jews are. In parts of the country 60 years ago, Italians were not white. The cultural construct it what has changed.

Shane -- you lecture me on things I already understand well; see my response to your first comment. And in fact I have seen many people who are 99.8 to 100% Northwestern European in their genetics. And many who identofy as "white" who are more mixed. All my "black" cousins (being descended from slave owners, many of my identified relatives are mostly African in their genetics) are a ruch ixture of African, European, and native American genetics

sgage said...

Stacey Neanderthal said...

"Bill Pulliam, John Michael Greer, and Scotlyn: Would you please let the Black Lives Matter and La Raza people know that there's no such thing as the white race?"

Of course you are correct in the genetic sense. But in the phenotypic sense, there are rather obviously pale "white" people, and there are people of various colors, ranging all the way to beautiful black, and cultural baggage going back centuries with regards to this easily observed fact. There are also cultural divides that derive from this history. So don't call them 'races' if you don't like it but some people are very, very hung up on color and, um, 'features'.

Since I first became aware of racism in the 60's, it has always seemed to me that 'racial troubles' would not end until the entire human, um, race, was the color of coffee with more or less cream. That would be boring, but maybe that's what it will take. On the other hand... For whatever reasons, several of my very white cousins have married people of African heritage, and I am here to tell you that their children are very, very beautiful... coffee with cream, baby.

Or maybe we'll learn some tolerance, and drop all this silliness, and embrace the diversity of color and form. Hey, I'm a redhead (well, at least my beard is still red) of English and German pedigree - please don't hate me! But I think black is beautiful. So is brown, and so on and so forth...

John Michael Greer said...

Bill, good! I think technically, though, the second from the first would be the antepenneproximate. ;-)

FiftyNiner, the US squandered any moral authority it had when the Cold War ended and we just shrugged and kept on squeezing. At this point the US maintains its standing in the world purely at gunpoint -- a situation that, historically speaking, always ends badly for the empire that falls into it. As for Russian and/or Mandarin, it's never too late, you know.

Jim R., thank you!

JebB, funny -- and quite tolerably accurate, too.

HalFiore, hmm! That's about what we paid for a 4 bedroom 1925 Craftsman bungalow in Cumberland -- a very reasonable price, in other words.

Jon, okay, let's analyze what you've just said. Our culture has these arbitrary categories that lump people of many different ethnicities into simplistic groups labeled "black," "white," and so on. A fair number of people in our culture end up identifying with those labels, and now and then people who identify with one such label beat up people who identify with a different label. (If you want to claim that people who identify as "white" never engage in such activities, btw, I trust you won't mind if I laugh long and hard.) Given that situation, you're saying that the only option is to buy into the labels and double down on them, so we can get even more of the same problematic consequences. Riiiiiight...

In point of fact, those categories shift and merge like drops of water on a hot griddle. Not that long ago, as Shane pointed out, people in the South considered Hispanics to be white and Jews to be non-white. Similar transitions happen all the time, all over the place -- and the categories themselves are purely a product of the cultural politics of our society; they emerged in the early 18th century, as a way to drive a wedge between African slaves and European indentured servants, and keep them from making common cause against their masters. The divisions can be scrapped, and one of the ways to scrap them is to stop using the old dishonest labels. Another is to identify with your own ethnic and regional heritage, not as some subset of "whiteness" or what have you, but on their own terms.

Thus, for example, I'm not "white." Ethnically I'm almost entirely Highland Scots on my dad's side and a typical melange of Welsh, English, and Lakota on my mom's side; culturally I'm American, specifically the distinctive subset of American culture you find in the coastal Northwest, where I was raised. Those labels mean something, and teach me quite a bit about who I am and how I differ from people with different backgrounds; "white" does not.

Stacey, read my response to Jon above. The groups you mention, by the way, only get the publicity and the media attention they do because this is to the advantage of certain power centers in the political establishment. It's been one of the core strategies of the affluent in North America for three centuries now to keep ordinary working people of different skin colors at each other's throats, so they don't recognize their common interests and unite to advance those interests in the political arena. By using labels such as "the white race," you're putting yourself exactly where the rich folks want you.

Cathy, whoosh! I hope we don't get any of that up here; 90 degrees F. and too humid is bad enough. Many thanks for the link; that's very promising. I can only hope that it catches on.

Amy Olles said...

I am quite pleased you keep bringing up 'real' fabric in this story. I know, I know, this is a minor detail in the overall story, but, just this week my attention was directed, via the good couple at Root Simple to this study:
Petroleum products have so many bad side affects. And that is after you go through the process of sucking the stuff out of the earth and refining it for use.The Root simple post, the article they site, and your descriptions of Lakeland fashion definitely speaks to the fact that 'regress' in clothing has its benefits. Comfort is one of them.

William McGillis said...

@ Jon Garrett wrote...

What makes a person a member of the “White Race,” is their being labeled as such by those who self-identify as non-white.


Inaccurate labels like the “White Race,” will not be going away because their retirement would be disadvantageous to people and politicos who self-identify as non-white.

My understanding is that the concept of "whiteness" and the "white race" was invented and developed by Europeans (not by people of color) in the 17th and 18th centuries in order to assert superiority and justify enslaving and colonially dominating those seen as inferior, people who they deemed to not be part of this fictitious category.

It should also be noted that identifying and being seen as "white" has historically granted one immense privilege in the United States.

I think it's incredibly naive historically (as well as disrespectful to those terrorized by a white system of domination) to pretend that this concept of whiteness has benefited most non-white-identified people. If anything, the racial category of whiteness has been used to exclude and oppress those seen as other.

Here is an essay by a professor in Wisconsin who explores some of these ideas from a historical context.

James M. Jensen II said...

On the subject of race, especially "the white race," I'm reminded of what G.K. Chesterton wrote on the subject:

When a wealthy nation like the English discovers the perfectly patent fact that it is making a ludicrous mess of the government of a poorer nation like the Irish, it pauses for a moment in consternation, and then begins to talk about Celts and Teutons. As far as I can understand the theory, the Irish are Celts and the English are Teutons. Of course, the Irish are not Celts any more than the English are Teutons...

How much of the blood of the Angles and Saxons (whoever they were) there remains in our mixed British, Roman, German, Dane, Norman, and Picard stock is a matter only interesting to wild antiquaries. And how much of that diluted blood can possibly remain in that roaring whirlpool of America into which a cataract of Swedes, Jews, Germans, Irishmen, and Italians is perpetually pouring, is a matter only interesting to lunatics....

The truth of the whole matter is very simple. Nationality exists, and has nothing in the world to do with race. Nationality is a thing like a church or a secret society; it is a product of the human soul and will; it is a spiritual product.

The piece also includes one of his most quotable lines:

Who were the Celts? I defy anybody to say. Who are the Irish? I defy any one to be indifferent, or to pretend not to know.

This meshes quite well with what our host has said.

To my knowledge, anthropologists recognize three races: caucasian, negroid, and mongoloid. These are recognized because it is possible to identify the race in those cases by things other than skin color, such as skeletal structure. Now, because there are only three races, they cover a wide variety of actual ethnicities and skin colors. Many if not most caucasians have brown skin!

Also, while we're sharing ethnicities, mine is Scandinavian and German on my father's side, Norman and Scots Irish on my mother's. Also from my mother's side is some Cherokee and Choctaw, 3/32 Native American in all.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed-M, got it in one. No, I didn't pick the Greek restaurant on purpose, but as coinkydinks go, it's a pretty good one, isn't it?

Submarine, I tend to think that Spengler (Oswald, that is) was quite correct and that Russia is moving toward the Spring phase of a great culture, though that's some time off. You might be amused to know that the Theosophists argued that a major new culture would emerge in Russia some centuries from now, and that another, later on, would emerge here in North America. I suspect they were quite right.

Nachtgurke, no question, the US is very much part of the European diaspora, and culturally an offshoot of Europe -- though it's also absorbed significant cultural elements from West Africa, from the First Nations who were here all along, and more recently from Asia. In a very real sense, an American civilization doesn't exist yet, nor will exist for a good many centuries. If Europe had stumbled, no, I don't think that China would have colonized North America; I think, rather, as oceanic trade routes picked up, the First Nations here would have picked up more complex technologies, gotten hit by Old World diseases one at a time instead of all at once, and today North America would be divided into maybe two to three dozen nations of mostly Native American ethnicity, functioning on roughly the same technological level as the rest of the world, and competing economically, politically, and militarily with the Old World nations on a more or less equal playing field. It would frankly have been a much more interesting world!

Ozark, my guess is that instead Lakeland, at least, would try to broker a truce among the contending fragments, bring in US peacekeepers, and get the Confederacy back on its feet. Any nation that has control of the entire Great Lakes-to-Mississippi route has effective domination of North America, and the other republics would be crazy to concede that to Lakeland; it's much less problematic to have the Mississippi valley shared out among three different nations. Mind you, it's entirely possible that the Missouri Republic might expand south at Texas' expense, but that's a less geopolitically explosive matter.

With regard to mass migrations, the ones you've noted aren't big enough to overturn public order and swamp nations, which is more or less my touchstone for a mass migration worth the name. In my future history, southern Florida had to be abandoned bit by bit starting in 2020 or so, and the gradual abandonment of Arizona and Nevada began a little after that; it wasn't an all-at-once thing in either case.

Bill, exactly -- and I apologize for crediting Shane for something you said!

Sgage, there have been plenty of eras in human history in which people of different skin colors got along with no difficulty at all, and without everyone turning coffee colored. I'm thinking here especially of the Roman Empire, in which the color of your skin and hair meant diddly squat to anyone. Since the entire color thing became a big deal in Europe and the European diaspora for purely political reasons, relating first to the massive expansion of chattel slavery in the diaspora and thereafter to the European conquest of the planet, I'd like to hope that as the last scraps of the political issues that gave it power fade out, the color thing will dissolve as well, leaving us with a world that still has plenty of other things to divide people and set them at each other's throats!

John Michael Greer said...

Amy, thank you; it's an important theme in the story. I don't wear plastic if I can avoid it, partly because of the environmental issues, partly because it feels clammy and unpleasant on my skin. You can tell by touching it that it's made of fish that rotted under high heat and pressure for millions of years! (Yes, that's where petroleum comes from.) To my mind, synthetic fabrics may be the best example of technology passing the point of negative returns; you can make something more flashy, modern, and high-tech than wool, cotton, linen, and hemp, but it's not better; it's not even as good.

James, thank you! Count on Chesterton to pin things down good and hard, and point out that people start babbling about race when they're trying to evade some unpalatable political or economic reality.

jessi thompson said...

While lakeland vulture and way of life would probably spread rapidly once technology degenerated enough, I expect that maintaining a large territory actually uses too many resources to furl the bureaucracy and organization. I would expect the opposite, that after another few hundred years lakeland and everywhere else has devolved into city states, with largely outlaw or feudalist or tribal territories in between. The lakeland cities will be in a better position than the others though and probably have very dynamic trading partnerships between them. Just my guess :)

jessi thompson said...

I would argue that the new Orleans residents displaced by hurricane Katrina were climate refugees, and they were a very unwelcome burden in many places. We can look at hurricane Katrina to imagine how even larger disasters might play out.

Katrina gained a huge amount of energy from the hot gulf water, which is why it grew so rapidly and why its storm track moved in a different way than predicted. (I'm not a meteorologist, but I have evacuated for 5 different hurricanes in my life, and 1 destroyed my house, and those numbers become 6 and 2 if you count the hurricane that my parents evacuated when I was still in my mamas belly).

The government response the entire time was too little, too late. New Orleans mayor ray nagin gave an excellent speech about how it all went wrong explaining that every aid effort should have added another zero. "They sent a hundred busses, we needed a THOUSAND busses.". It was a failure to grasp the scale of the disaster on multiple levels.

I could go on and on, but if anyone is interested, you really would benefit from doing your own research on what happened to the refugees from start to finish.

I think though the topic of climate refugees is far beyond the scope of the story. Actually, just this topic alone could spark its own future dystopic story.

Hammer said...

Alright. You've definitely written that isolated islands without much resources, especially wealthy ones (Japan, Taiwan, Iceland, Hawaii, Bahamas, etc.) are doomed. Thanks for the response.

I totally agree that in resource efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and reliability, fiber optic network cables are far superior to any copper network, whether transmitting high-volume digital data or primitive telegraph signals.

But copper networking will also take a prominent place in the future.

It might be less resource-intensive right now to build fiber cables, but in a salvage economy, copper wiring is readily available everywhere. Pipes are also another option.

After energy stops flowing through the electrical grid, it might be a good idea to use that existing infrastructure for communication, at least until it degrades enough.

As for satellites, I think they will be used more for military-related geographic imaging and GPS, rather than communication. Even today, satellite communications are slow, unreliable and expensive.

Jon Garrett said...

I am honored to get a considered response, JMG.

"(If you want to claim that people who identify as "white" never engage in such activities, btw, I trust you won't mind if I laugh long and hard.)"

Made no such claim, sir, and I wouldn’t. The point I meant to make was that racial identities, which are imprecise identities, are often forced upon individuals by circumstances. I used topical examples to explain the rise of white identity in the Alt Right. It was a post on ethnic identity and the Alt Right that inspired my remarks.

"Given that situation, you're saying that the only option is to buy into the labels and double down on them, so we can get even more of the same problematic consequences. Riiiiiight..."

I’m not saying this either. We can believe whatever we want so long as circumstances allow us to do it. Even in the face of circumstances if we can bear the consequences. But the number of persons ready to be martyred for Universalist ideals declines dramatically in the face of privation and conflict. I’m not proclaiming what we should do. I’m describing what I think has started happening.

Your description of who you are is interesting and I grok the point you’re making. I suppose I’m from the northeast, the sort of place where people tend to belch out opinions. I don’t have an agenda. Although it is likely that I’m too quick to say what I think.

Hammer said...

Submarine (and also Ozark):

I think Russia might also gain strength from an immigration wave. As regions to its south, like India, China, eastern Middle East, etc. suffer increasingly from the effects of climate change and overpopulation, people from those countries might want to emigrate north.

Northern Asia and Canada will soon become more wet and temperate, instead of being cold and frozen. Their ecological carrying capacity will increase. Climate refugees from the U.S. could move north to Canada.

Russia might want to open the doors to these climate refugees in order to become a larger and stronger nation, as well as forming alliances with countries to the south.

Amy and JMG:
Although I like natural fabrics more than synthetic ones, plastic-based clothes might involve less third world labor than natural fabrics. No cotton farming at low wages in uncomfortable conditions is required. Some polyester fabrics are also made from recycled plastic, and polyester clothing can itself be recycled. Also, any oil used to make clothes isn't burned and released into the atmosphere.

Shane W said...

well, in that case, I guess I prefer to be known as an "occidental", make that a queer ginger cracker from the occident. That covers all bases, I guess.

Bill Pulliam said...

James Jensen -- that three-way racial divide you mention is extremely out of date and was abandoned as a useless relict of Victorian racism many decades ago. Human genetics and skeletal structures are a multivariate continuum with no neat or natural dividing lines. As I mentioned before there is more genetic (and morphological) diversity within Africa than among all the rest of the world combined. Which of course makes sense, because that is where humanity first evolved and is the source of the other populations that radiated out into the other continents. And Africa is an enormously diverse place environmentally as well.

Studies looking at genetic diversity among modern humans do identify "populations" of individuals that are more similar to each other than to those outside the group. These drop out of multivariate statistical math, and are also subject to a LOT of interpretation. They bear little resemblance to traditional ideas of "races."

Jim R said...

I mean, it's like coming into a friend's house at Christmas and seeing a little paper star on the tree, that I folded. :-)

Shane W said...

rock the ginger! Don't tan, ever! Keep as pale as possible! Blind people with that skin, baby! You have no idea how much people in other cultures would die for skin as translucent as ours. Nothing is as bad as a ginger that's spent his whole life trying to tan and has the sun damage to show for it--I lived in SoCal and saw way too many--it is sad. Don't question it, just roll with it--I don't get why bronze people find gingers so irresistible, all I can do is just slather on the SPF 100+ and prevent the slightest hint of tan, and go with it. Nothing beats a pale ginger @ the beach!

Shane W said...

I really don't get gingers who are self-conscious about their paleness...

Starhammer said...

Hi Jmg,

Really enjoyed the series so far -- I'd like to know how the Lakeland handles crime though. Guessing its not a private run prison!

Can't wait for the next three episodes!

Scotlyn said...

Stacey Neanderthal, we made "whiteness" into a thing. And it's a dangerous thing - in its holy name and in our evolving image of our "pure white" selves we conquered, enslaved and to this day may kill without consequence. When we stop making our romantic notions a source of danger for the non-white, I'd say they'll stop stressing about it.

Scotlyn said...

@Jon Garrett, I think you are right that conflict drives its own logic, and frightened, angry people aren't likely to listen to anyone's reason.

But, surely you can see that no-one would identify as "non-white" if "whiteness" had not already been created as a social, political, economic egregore?

And what purpose or powers did this egregore serve? Essentially those bent on taking or destroying much that was and is of value to those the white egregor dismissed as non-white, therefore non-significant.

Now, could it be that this egregore can be retired without there being any blowback or consequence to those of us who, over the past centuries received its benefits? Including the benefit of official doubt?

I want to tell you that, as a missionary's daughter, I grew up in Central America in the 1960's and 70's. And I could not believe the tone deafmess I would encounter then in our sponsoring churches in the USA as to the consequences that must follow US policy there. Yet those "consequences" can be seen along the southern borders.

In conflict no one is safe, and people often suffer who had no hand or part in creating it. But it serves no one to turn a deaf ear to legitimate grievance and call it aggression, either.

We are all going to need each other, and I don't intend to be limited by skin colour or culture or religion in forging my personal networks of support. And I won't be anyone's pre-fabricated enemy. The seeds of peace are sown in the midst of every conflict by those who won't accept pre-fabricated enmities.

Scotlyn said...

And JMG, if this subject has become a hijacking of this thread, many apologies.

Iuval Clejan said...

I suppose this might be a place to point out two things about privilege that you didn't in your starhawking article. One is that pointing out one's own privilege in liberal circles is akin to christians saying they are sinners in front of the group. It gets you brownie points from others and a cleaner conscience, while you haven't done anything and don't really plan on doing anything to promote more justice.

The other is that what often seem like acts of injustice, aren't. For example the wage gap between men and women is mostly due to men being willing to endure more hardship and sell their souls for higher pay, as Warren Farrell documents in The Myth of Male Power. And using such specious examples to claim that males have privilege allows injustices against them (such as them being crucified in family court if they ever get divorced and have children, or being disposable in dangerous work situations, or the military, or prisons) to continue with no abatement in sight, in an irony that parallels Jesus being forced to carry his own cross (and maybe build too), while being called King of the Jews.

Jay Moses said...

the discussion of "whiteness", it's origins, scientific basis and implications is fascinating. it has been the subject of much academic inquiry. i would strongly recommend that anyone interested in this topic find a copy of noel ignatiev's book "how the irish became white". as the title suggests, it is an examination of the process by which irish immigrants to the u.s. became to be regarded as white over the course of the 60 or so years from the beginning of the irish diaspora to the early 20th century.

for jews, especially jewish women, the process was rather more fraught in some ways than for the irish. see:brodkin, k., "how jews became white folks".

Phil Harris said...

Has anybody got any better info on China's so called 'quantum satellite'? I find the reporting very inadequate.

Quantum computing experiments can be and are conducted in the 'lab'. Why launch a satellite?

Satellites are important but their relevance to the current global internet is relatively minor. Worldwide volume communication used to go mostly via copper, and these cables have now been replaced by optical fibre. Just a thought for a future still wired North America?

Phil H

Merle Langlois said...

Stacey Neanderthal, I'm living in Vancouver, been reading JMG since 2008, I was wondering if we could meet up and have a chat? You can e-mail me at tajiri8@ (no space between the gmail), if you're interested. I was wondering about your life, it sounds brutal yet interesting, I was also seeking some advice on breaking into construction possibly. My job is destroying my wellbeing even though it pays the bills, and it's physical enough that I don't think construction would be too heavy for me.

latheChuck said...

Just to pile-on regarding synthetic fibers: it has been my experience that washing-machine lint that goes down the drain quietly rots away if it's natural fiber, but accumulates to cause trouble if it's synthetic. That's probably happening throughout the environment (with the fiber that doesn't get trapped in the pipes under my house), too.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160820T162957Z

I would like to reiterate JMG's point from "8/19/16, 6:27 PM": FiftyNiner, the US squandered any moral authority it had when the Cold War ended /.../ . In doing this, I would like to broaden the perspective a little. There was a moral failure after the Cold War which was not uniquely American, but involved the West as a whole, admittedly under its American leadership.

With the Red Bedsheet lowered for the last time in 1991 December, it was time for the West to reach out to Russia, in two ways: (1) Basic humanitarian help was needed, in a situation that was seeing a decline in male life expectancy almost unthinkable under peacetime conditions. (2) Help was needed in rebuilding institutions, along the lines of the help correctly given to both Japan and Germany by the USA and the UK immediately after 1945. Above all, it was necessary to help in rebuilding the legal system (with due exploration of the possibility of admitting Russia to the EU and NATO, either as a full member or as some kind of close associate).

What actually happened? The requisite outreach was accorded to the Eastern European satellite states, plus the Baltics. Russia itself, however, was left to fend for itself, with little assistance from the West beyond some American support in technicalities of decommissioning nuclear warheads. The help that was so badly needed - to take just two small examples, a scheme of academic exchanges and scholarships, bringing Russian students of law into the Ivy League; and again a scheme for the training of judges, such as the British had in post-1945 Germany - never eventuated.

Russia may succeed in the long term.

I would myself respectfully discount Mr V.I.Putin, who seems to me a second L.I.Brezhnev, now proceeding into his old age as the administrator of a "Stagnation" period paralleling the 1960s-through-1980s Brezhnevian "Stagnation".

Military and diplomatic adventures, such as are now unfolding in Syria, are compatible with "Stagnation", as we see from L.I.Brezhnev's record. Indeed it has been stressed to me that America's defeat in Vietnam was accompanied by trainload upon trainload of Soviet matériel for Ho Chi Minh, rolling through Siberia on its way to some Pacific port: the individual stressing to me saw the unending trains, in childhood. "Stagnation" can be accompanied by, and partly masked by, Foreign Ministry triumphs.

But two factors in Russia offer hope, the West's culpable post-1991 neglect notwithstanding.

(a) Russia, unlike Germany under the Reich, has a viable tradition of domestic dissent, when necessary simply on the part of hardy individuals "writing into the drawer", in the manner of A.I.Solzhenitsyn.

(b) The Russian Church, having survived everything the CP-USSR could throw at it from 1917 right up to 1991, is not now likely to shrivel up.


Tom (Catholic commentator, in Estonian diaspora in Canada, studying Russian very sporadically)

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160820T190135Z

Sorry, folks: under heading "Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160820T162957Z", I erroneously typed "V.I.Putin". This was not an attempt to be disrespectfully snide, but a typo. I meant "V.V.Putin".



RCW - said...

Hi LewisLucanBooks:

Reading out-of-town newspapers beforehand, to get the flavor of the customs & culture where one is contemplating planting roots, is a very cerebral & capital idea. Thank you kindly for that advice, and I'll give it a try shortly, as I'm planning to leave the Land of Pleasant Living in the next six months, for freer parts south & west. :)

latheChuck said...

Toying with the idea of "a bunch of us go to Somewhere to start living a different future", brings me to the idea that people who are already living in Somewhere are not necessarily welcoming to those who come in, recalling comments to that effect regarding Ohio and Cumberland. I think it would be a mistake to think that this is an attitude limited to "hill country, USA". I recall the story of infectious disease investigators in Africa who find themselves mistrusted, feared, and (in some cases) fatally attacked simply for showing up to fight an epidemic, when and where they were not invited. Why would this be? Well, how often have strangers shown up in the village with the sole intention of trying to find the best place to insert the suction nozzle of the wealth pump?

From the perspective of the locals, these outsiders have invested considerable effort to get themselves here. And are we to believe that their purpose was to HELP us? Did we ASK for their help? No, the more they insist that they have invested their own energy simply to make our lives somehow better, the more we must speculate on their true motives. They want to give us medicine, when we are not even sick? More likely, they want to give us medicine to MAKE us sick, so they can rob us more easily than the last gang of outsiders did.

I imagine that one path to escape this predicament is to appeal to religion: "My God told me to come here and learn from you." Having identified yourself as irrational as well as humble, you might be tolerated to go about your irrational business without interference. If you're surprised at local people's hesitation, just think of the frackers that came before you and poisoned the well (perhaps literally).

latheChuck said...


I heard a radio interview with the composer of 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio "Anthracite Fields" (see Wikipedia for details). The part of the program that resonated with me was not the music (a debate for another day), but the description that the coal miner's wives took great care and pride in cultivating flower gardens. I think this is worth paying attention to. We're all going to be "poorer" in the energy-scarce future, so we might as well learn to find our joy in low-energy pastimes. Growing flowers seems like a good one. There is much to know about their selection and care, and their place in a healthy ecosystem. There is room for social competition and differentiation: "He specializes in scented roses, while She selectively cross-breeds marigolds for new colors, shapes, and sizes, and over there, Their sunflowers have the biggest seeds we've ever seen". (Many of us will be growing food crops, of course; that's a given.)

We haven't heard much about this in Retrotopia, but the high-class characters in the story so far have other things on their minds. The small Michigan town that I grew up in had hanging baskets of live flowers on Main Street lamp posts all summer. It was just one example of low-tech community investment for community benefits.

pygmycory said...

Since we're talking about ethnicity and genetics:
I am 99.99whatever% british by blood, to the best of my knowledge. The vast majority of that is english, with a couple of dashes of manx and welsh thrown in for variety.

I am a little tempted to take the 23andme tests, just to find out if I have any neanderthal genes. Because I like the idea of having genes from a long-lost subspecies of human. I like the idea that some part of them survives in modern people.

Steve Thomas said...

On the ethnic discussion--

It's worth noting that, by following JMG's example and identifying strongly with one's ethnic and regional-cultural heritage, but rejecting the racial label that comes with it, you can simultaneously make enemies of today's most authoritarian Social Justice Warriors AND the most nazified members of the Alt Right who will (betcha five dollars) be replacing them over the next five years (and who will be just as bad, by the way, in the same way that George W. Bush's "Why do you hate America so much?" sycophants were just as bad as the first round of P.C. totalitarians in the early Clinton Administration),

And that seems like a very good reason to me.

Proudly Pennsylvanian
Western Pennsylvanian, not Eastern Pennsylvanian thank you,
Culturally Catholic, Ethnically Mixed,
Raised in a household in which Italian and Irish heritage were emphasized,
(Or emphasized themselves),
Currently Stranded in California

James M. Jensen II said...

With all this sudden talk of race and ethnicities, I have a feeling I know what next week's post will be about...

Bill Pulliam,

Interesting. I hadn't looked too far into the matter and don't even remember where I learned it from.

Bill Pulliam said...

pygmycory - From having looked at a lot of 23andMe results...

ALL people with European ancestry have Neandertal DNA, you don't need to pay $199 and spit in a test tube to find that out. You have it, likely between 2% and 3.5%.

"The British"are a bunch of mutts. They are a mixture of old British stock plus lots of Scandinavian and Central European, plus often some Finnish. Those islands have been a melting pot for NW Europe for 1000s of years.

sgage said...

Shane W said...

rock the ginger! Don't tan, ever!... Nothing beats a pale ginger @ the beach!"

I lived in San Diego for 4 years, right on Ocean Beach, and I'm here to tell you I WAS that pale ginger @ the beach. Yes, SPF (some large number) was my friend. Though it will no doubt disappoint you that I do acquire a light golden tan by the end of a Summer. I'm not trying for any particular look, just spend a lot of time outdoors...

I had a good friend back in school-daze who was quite ginger, though no more than I, and seemed to feel that it was a burden. I always felt it was a special distinctive (we're talking growing up in the 60's here). My grandmother always told me it was. I did get an occasional "hey carrot top, better dead than red, haw haw haw", but I just laughed and then they did too. Never got serious pestering about it. Old ladies on my paper route (are paper routes a thing any more?) loved my hair. And so did young ladies ;-) which was great, that being the way I happen to swing.

I actually got a proposal from an Icelandic lady on the basis of her wanting 'the ginger gene' in her offspring. No kidding! She regaled me with all sorts of mystical and interesting things that come along with the ginger gene. I politely declined, being otherwised engaged ;-)

Rock the ginger, indeed! To tell the truth, it's the only life I've known ;-)

Shane W said...

I always get asked when I'm out, "do the carpets match the drapes? Is (it) pink?" Why, yes they do, and yes, it is. "Can I see it?" If I understand JMG's xenophilia, it explains the almost irrational passion I have for bronze skin, it's almost like I want to become one with it. From my understanding, pale gingers exact almost as intense a reaction among darker people. Must be this xenophilia JMG speaks of.

Shane W said...

I'm not only ginger, but Scorpio as well, so there's so much mad passionate intensity tied up with that...

Joel Caris said...

W. B. and James,

Great story idea! While I do ask that stories for Into the Ruins be set on earth, I would absolutely consider that kind of tale. Once you get it written, W. B., please do send it my way for consideration.

David, by the lake,

Congratulations on your bus experiment! I've been a long time, part-time bus rider, both in the city (Portland, Oregon) and on the rural, north Oregon coast. It's fascinating how different it is in the two different places. The city buses are often crowded and a combination of interesting and entertaining, but the mix of people is fairly diverse and it's not that uncommon to see people who appear well off riding them. The rural bus route was pretty different, with a higher ratio of the disabled and poor--most people simply wouldn't ride the bus out there unless they had no other choice. Mostly cultural, I'm sure, but the bus also was admittedly not the most frequent or convenient in its run times (though not all THAT much slower.)

There was definitely a strong community on the bus out on the coast. I never really became a part of it, just because I tended to see the bus rides as a nice chance to space out (especially the ones at 6:50 am, which is a time of day I'm generally completely unable to carry on any kind of coherent conversation) or sometimes to even catch a nap. Still, I've generally found the bus a wonderful way to commute and to meet or observe people you otherwise wouldn't.

Now that I've recently returned to Portand, I find myself almost never riding the bus. I simply walk instead. It's very nice having so much within walking distance. It's far and away my preferred mode of transit.

John Michael Greer said...

Jessi, I'm sure you meant to write "Lakeland culture," but I confess the thought of some uniquely Lakeland species of vulture is entrancing. Old-fashioned formal courtesy, one feather tipped up elegantly as it dines on a carcass... ;-)

Hammer, that's certainly a common historical event, so yes, it's likely to happen again.

Jon, I think you're quite mistaken in thinking that arbitrary labels such as "white" will be the thing people turn to as social order frays and decline accelerates. On the one hand, local identities are far more powerful -- you'll find far more people identifying themselves, say, as Southerners irrespective of skin color, than as whites irrespective of region; on the other hand, as Spengler pointed out in The Decline of the West, charismatic individuals who can draw together a following from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible become dominant political factors in an era of decline, and can easily sweep aside those who only attract members of a single ethnic category, however broad. Loyalty to a region, to a political movement, to a leader -- those are the nuclei around which social order reconfigures in times like the ones we're facing.

Hammer, that is to say, synthetic fabrics employ fewer people? ;-)

Jim, and many thanks for the ornament!

Shane, heck if I know why it happens. It might actually be helpful, in the broader picture, if more gingers celebrated their really pale skin -- not as something better than other skin colors, but as something unique, distinctive, interesting -- and so got people like me whose skin is light brown to notice that human skin isn't "white" or "black," but a lavish diversity of skin colors, each one interesting and attractive in its own right.

Starhammer, I may just put in something as I revise. You're right that they don't use private prisons -- and the thing that separates their legal system most strikingly from ours is that they have a lot fewer laws and a lot more opportunities to make a decent living legally, and so they have many, many fewer people behind bars...

Scotlyn, well, given that I piled into it myself, I'm hardly in a position to criticize you! I appreciate your efforts to help shake some sense into these people who have bought into a set of self-defeating stereotypes that only benefit the rich.

Iuval, I grant your first point, but have serious doubts about your second. I've seen far too many situations in which I've gotten the benefit of the doubt because I'm male, and women have come in second purely because of their gender.

Jay, thank you for both references -- that's something I want to look into as time permits.

Phil, these days the word "quantum" is a red flag meaning "nonsense is being peddled here." I have no idea what the satellite is about either, for that matter.

LatheChuck, and that's also a good point.

Glenn said...


I know you have no intentions of a sequel; but I'd like to share my thoughts of how it might go.
Carr returns to the AR and makes his report. He is appointed Ambassador to Lakeland, where he marries Melanie. His continued career is frequently under the strain of doing his duty for the AR when it conflicts with his growing sympathy for Lakeland and his love of Melanie. He suspects that his assistant is actually his minder, but is not aware that he is also under orders to make sure Peter Carr has an "accident" should he actually do anything harmful to the AR's interests.

Just my riffing on your theme. Thanks for an enjoyable visit to futures past. I hope I can help steer my little corner of Cascadia that way. With bicycles, wind turbines and Photovoltaics of course, dissensus you know.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Kevin Warner said...

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
"Russia itself, however, was left to fend for itself, with little assistance from the West.."

Are you kidding? America was doing nothing but put the boot in, thinking that Russia would never come back. Check out the story at as an example. There was even talk among diplomats that Russia was 'too big' and needed to be broken up into smaller states. That is why they will never trust the West again and are now charting their own course.
There has been a bit of talk here about Europe and its borders but perhaps what is needed is a bit of perspective by watching the video at on Europe over the past thousand years. It makes the formation of the Lakeland Republic seem more possible.
On a lighter note, how this weeks story ends with satellite debris burning up was a very good visual image. After fouling up near space with idiotic ideas like Project West Ford ( and now with the latest idea of sending up plasma bombs ( there must be a breaking point coming soon. I myself will think it sad that it may be centuries before we see sights such as the one at ever again.

John Michael Greer said...

Toomas, I don't know that I'd discount Putin as another Brezhnev -- the man seems to have a much keener sense of strategy than his predecessor, as shown by the relative success of the Syrian intervention (on a much smaller investment of men and materiel). As for the rest, though, I won't argue; as I noted in an earlier post, it would have been the simplest thing in the world to turn post-Soviet Russia into a staunch ally of the US-centric order of things, and it took decades of stunning stupidity on the part of the US government to drive Russia, China, and Iran -- three nations with very little basis for mutual alignment -- into a firm military alliance against us.

LatheChuck, and of course that's a core issue. One of the reasons I moved to Cumberland is that there was an organized program on the part of the city government to attract writers and artists here, and I think that the fact that this program existed and was well publicized was one reason we got the really quite friendly welcome we did. If all of us did up and move somewhere, we'd want to be sure first of all that the people who lived there wanted newcomers -- and some towns do, especially if they think that'll help them keep the local economy going. As for flowers, that's a good point -- it's something Carr might very readily note in Hicksville, for example.

Pygmycory, and "English" means a total hodgepodge of Celtic plus Saxon plus Norman plus refugees from all over Europe -- the days when England had relative freedom of religion and nobody else did brought as wild an assortment to England's shores as to ours. Was there ever a more English author than J.R.R. Tolkien? And yet his paternal ancestors came from Prussia not that many centuries back -- that's where the name originates. So welcome to the melting pot... ;-)

Steve, annoying the extremists on both ends is one of my favorite habits, of course. Join the fun!

James, nope -- we're going to build on the discussion some weeks back of the failure of the climate change movement, and talk about how such a movement can win. Stay tuned!

Glenn said...

I like synthetics for raingear. Before their advent, the Aleutian gutskin kayaking parkas were about the only breathable raingear. I hope by the time petroleum based fabrics are no longer available, Steller's Sea Lions have recovered. I've lived and worked in the Northwest and Alaska most of my adult life, and tried most forms of raingear from impervious rubberized canvas to wool. Nothing beats Gore-Tex and its variations for exertion on land or sea in wet conditions.

Besides that application I prefer wool and silk when I can afford them, and go to thrift stores for cotton work clothes. But wet cotton is a death trap in our area most of the year.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Hammer said...


Yes, the extraction of oil or the recycling of plastic is more automated than the planting and harvesting of cotton, and it's impossible to de-automate the extraction part of making plastic clothes.

But although synthetic and natural clothes have their advantages and disadvantages, I wouldn't list synthetic clothes as particularly harmful to society or the environment.

Nastarana said...

Dear Hammer, You might consider the numbers of people, not all of them highly educated, who had gainful employment in the growing of fiber plants, raising of sheep, and then in various mills. In particular, mill employment provided respectable employment for women who were not able to or did not care to, marry.

Furthermore, natural fabrics can be used over and over, until they eventually disintegrate. Polyesters may have some specialty uses, such as in sports wear and winter gear, although I would wonder why nylons are not just as good, but they are virtually useless for everyday clothing; they are hot in summer, stains are indelible, and they deteriorate in the environment, leaving a plastic residue which endures till the end of time. Natural fibers, fabric and clothing, linens and other things like sails can be produced within the confines of, for example, Lakeland, all profits and wages going to local people doing good work. Polyester fabrics have a yuuge supply chain; consider the machinery, the labs, the oil refining and so on.

Some folks have been refurbishing old weaving equipment to produce high end denim, a profitable venture because of the popularity of denim.

Nastarana said...

In other news, apologies for OT insertion, but I couldn't pass this one up,

Hot climates more likely to spawn violent behavior, theory suggests

By Kevin Byrne, Staff Writer

August 5, 2016; 4:13 PM ET

Share |
A team of researchers recently published a study that proposes a new model on how violent human behavior may be impacted by a warmer climate.

The paper, published in the journal, "Behavioral and Brain Sciences" by faculty at The Ohio State University and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, introduced a model of Climate, Aggression and Self-control in Humans (CLASH) that seeks to understand "differences within and between countries in aggression and violence in terms of differences in climate."

I found this gem at It does explain phenomena like the Viking raids and conquests and similar incursions by Cimmerians, Vandals, Mongols and the like, all known to have originated in hot climates, not to mention European colonization, discussed above.

I do think the necessity of growing and storing crops for winter, and curing and storing meats, in places like Scandinavia, meant that all hands were needed to do the work, and there could be no thought of half the population being kept in seclusion.

Caryn said...

Sunday morning and I'm finally able to catch up and read all of the comments.

Thanks so much, JMG and fellow commentariat for last week's essay and conversation. Fantastic ideas and insights on a subject close to my heart. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

Yes, we may be in for a good essay next week on the 'white' or 'racial' construct topic which seems to have hi-jacked this week. My 2-cents worth is that when I think of any kind of 'racial purity' I always think, (segueing from last weeks discussion on Art!) of Francisco Goya's paintings of the in-bred Spanish royal family, all pudgy, pudding-faced imbeciles, staring blankly out of the canvas.

It's never seemed like a good idea to me. BTW: The human genome will never let us 'evolve' to one common coffee colored sameness. It likes variation and experimentation too much. It also likes nostalgia from time to time; my husband looks nothing like his immediate family or the previous 2-3 generations that we have photos of, but is the spitting image of Dutch ancestors 10 generations back. He's lucky that they were wealthy enough to have portraits painted of themselves which are now hanging in the City Museum of New York, ("Hey, that's D. in a pilgrim hat!!"). I've, (haven't we all) seen and known many other 'throw-backs' among friends and acquaintances. IMHO: mixing it up and having many ancestral 'bloodlines' to call upon is a great thing.

I have no idea what (in that sense) I am, as my family were among those who came to America to re-invent themselves and this did not stop at the door of ethnic heritage. My cousin has always loved Native American cultures and due to a gap of ancestral knowledge on her mother's side, she figures she might be, (OK - IS) part Cherokee. Due to another gap on my Great Grandfather's side and his love of Russian culture and history, my son has declared himself of Russian extraction. That same gap rendered my uncle solid German, (unlike the rest of us.) Having lived in and loved Hong Kong - I'm declaring honorary Chinese. My sister is Irish and Swedish. Going through one of those DNA tests would ruin it for all of us. No, we'll never do that.

pygmycory said...

Oh yes, the english are a melting pot, all right. It's just a few centuries further back than the american one. As for the manx, there's a lot of norse blood and culture there, along with gaelic and english.

Look at the english language: the words and grammar from french, from german, direct from latin, and individual words from all over the former empire.

The next generation will be less homogenous, too - the only cousin of mine who has kids so far's wife is from Singapore.

Caryn said...

As to the story, (oh right the STORY!) It would be wonderfully romantic for Carr to stay with Melanie and enjoy a new life in LLR, but in the broader scheme of things, I do hope (and now expect) he returns to AR to help his new president, Montrose, with the knowledge he's gleaned.

Soooo many thanks, JMG for sharing this story with us in these installments. It has been enlightening and a real treat.


Glenn: The best cold-weather and rainproof coat I have is my old Barbour oil jacket. Cotton canvas treated / coated in oil. Totally waterproof, lightweight and yet keeps me warm in the snow all day. It works much better than any of the synthetics I've tried. As I work now frying chicken in a deli 2 days a week, (10% cooking, 90% cleaning oil off of every surface), I can attest that 'treating' any cloth or fabric in oil that will never come out is dead-easy!

As for American food being the worst: As a recent returnee, hand in the air: I have noticed a difference. The fresh meats and produce are kind of bland, less flavorful than what I was used to in Hong Kong. Is this a result of GMO or factory farming? I don't know why this is. And of course anything even slightly pre-prepared is chock full of sugar, corn syrup or some sort of sweeteners. Inedible for us, so far. OTOH: Our tap water is amazing, (from an underground aquifer, run off from the Tetons and Absaroka mountains in WY. Luckily, no fracking in our area.) Growing as much of our own food as we can is a definite must.

RE: Russia: I was not as politically aware at the time, but I do remember the break up and being aware through the news and mostly a few friends who were in 'expanding business opportunities' that as soon as the iron curtain fell, US businesses went in to "help", like carpet-baggers to carve up the entire region. I guess at that time, the path of the economic hit-men was well worn and the go-to strategy for our leaders. No actually helping them was the furthest thing from what happened or was intended.

The IMF & WB IMHO; are not in thrall to the US or any nation, but to themselves and whatever wealth cabal of internationalists, (be they companies or individuals) that can be served and of service to themselves. I don't think these two would collapse just because the US does, (apropos to your backstory.)

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane -- Personally I don't care one way or another about ginger's pale skin tones. But I'm a total sucker for a ginger beard, the bigger the better. I can look at Kristofer Hivju all day.

Ceworthe said...

@Justin, just because someone reveres one's ancestors doesn't mean they are racist. Beware of dualistic thinking. It can mean they revere their ancestors of what ever racial construct they are. They may not even be their own ancestor, but perhaps a revered teacher, admired person before them in whatever field, etc. Ancestors of blood mind and heart. And just because someone reveres their ancestor, doesn't mean that your ancestors are inferior. I belong to a heathen group that has among their board of directors several LGBTQ persons and those of color. That wouldn't happen in any of the current racialist groups. We don't judge whom the Gods call...
@JMG- I will miss this story, and what might have happened in Mr. Carr and Melanie's romance and lives. I would think it would be interesting to see if Mr Carr was accepted as a brilliant thinker, or run out of town on a rail when he suggests the Atlantic Republic adopts some of the Lakeland Republic's ways. Will have to wait and see in which direction the train is taking Mr. Carr in the final sentences of the your story...

Scotlyn said...

Ok, thanks. I am relieved. Following your lead, here are some personal loyalties and connections I have, that I won't allow to be cast in doubt by the demonisations of others:
1) My maritime, dour, farmer/preacher Nova Scotia/Boston kin.
2) My southern Alabama poor white sharecropper kin.
3) my evangelical kin
4) my Central American multihued hispanic kin
5) my "grafted in" queer and assorted misfit kin acquired through the years...
6) the Irish farming kin into which I have married and borne...
7) anyone of any kindred who has or will work on projects of common concern and interest with me.

Some of my kindreds are linked by blood, some by marriage, some by shared history & effort, but I won't relinquish any of them for an abstraction such as "race" "nationality" etc, nor will I be herded into automatic fear, distrust or suspicion of anyone who has not shown evidence of wishing to harm me.

And this is knowledge - that my actual and potential kindreds are my capital in the dangerous times ahead - to which I intend to hold fast and true.

Scotlyn said...

I am also amazed that anyone could percieve Black Lives Matter as being anti-white, when it is so patently anti-needless-deaths. I have read quite a lot of what has been done and said by people who identify as part of that movement without ever feeling personally attacked.

I have a feeling people in Lakeland Republic would hace a lot less difficulty in
percieving that a state whose officers can summarily execute black citizens without due process is a state that can summarily execute citizens without due process...

And that, sooner or later, if we don't speak up when they come for others, because we don't see ourselves as them... there will eventually be no one left to speak up for us "good people who said nothing" when they come for us...

inohuri said...

Hammer said:

"Although I like natural fabrics more than synthetic ones, plastic-based clothes might involve less third world labor than natural fabrics. No cotton farming at low wages in uncomfortable conditions is required."

Privileged person speak. Take away their uncomfortable low wage jobs and let them starve.

Whenever I see something like an effort to wipe out child prostitution in a very poor country I wonder what effect this has on the kids. Are they better off dead? Hopefully such programs carry through and do a proper rescue. But do they?


Cotton is the fabric I can afford and wear. White shirts and blue jeans, it's boring. I am chemically sensitive and must wash it many times before I can wear it. My electric and water bills remind me that I bought new clothes.

The toxic additives in the cotton is just plain crazy. I bought some cheap wash cloths (made in Bangladesh?). I thought big deal, little pieces of fabric, no problem. I threw them in the next load for a second wash and then dried. The drier stunk. My clothes stunk. I had to go back through the clothes I put away to find those I had contaminated. It was easy to sniff out the stuff to rewash.

Fortunately (?) the pesticides wash out.

So this toxic stuff ends up in the Salish Sea. It seems that nothing happens and there is no regulation unless many people react badly to an individual product.

The politicized efforts to stop toxic chemicals one at a time is rather useless unless you are working for the .org that needs the income.


I don't care about race. I am very sensitive to attitude. Attitudes can be cultural. My reaction to bad attitudes sometimes gets the response that I am racist, a rather cheap shot at a "white" person.

An African American woman once told me that the worst bigots were "black".

Varun Bhaskar said...

Archdruid and gang,

You know the really interesting thing about this discussion of race is how closely it parallels the discussion about caste in India. The same tactics of divide and conqueror used by the elites of India are used here with different labels. The two biggest differences I see is that the welfare networks that castes establish to take care of their own don't seem to exist with race groupings, and that the overwhelming majority of people don't seem to want to be defined by their label.

pygmycory said...

My 2-cents worth is that when I think of any kind of 'racial purity' I always think, (segueing from last weeks discussion on Art!) of Francisco Goya's paintings of the in-bred Spanish royal family, all pudgy, pudding-faced imbeciles, staring blankly out of the canvas.

I had to laugh out loud at that. Nice point.

Shane W said...

Off topic, but locally, I've noticed a lot more Americans taking jobs "Americans aren't willing to do"--you're seeing a lot more white & black people mowing lawns, pouring concrete, picking crops, and cleaning, and fewer immigrants. It's a noticeable change here.

Jeanne Labonte said...

Since some of us are talking about our ancestries, here is my two cents worth. According to the testimony of my late parents, my ancestry is a mildly eclectic mix of British, and Scottish with a bit of Welsh (Mom’s side) along with French from my father’s side (accompanied by family rumors of a native American also from that side). However I’m not about to fork out $100+ bucks just to find out if that’s actually the case.

@ pygmycory

You may want to check out the link below:

I don’t think these people are analyzing your DNA just to help you satisfy your curiosity….

Shane W said...

"you'll find far more people identifying themselves, say, as Southerners irrespective of skin color, than as whites irrespective of region"
JMG, I think you hit the nail on the head regarding the impetus behind the reverse migration of blacks back into the South--when most black people think "home", they're thinking of somewhere south of the Ohio/Mason Dixon

patriciaormsby said...

I will put up a notice on the Green Wizard site for the first Kanto Green Wizards gathering, open to anyone able to attend, to be held on Sunday, September 4, at the Asakawa Kompira Shrine, where they normally hold a picnic once a month, and which is itself an example of a community initiative worth studying.

It is located on the peak of a small mountain just to the west-southwest of Takao Station in Hachioji, Tokyo. I will try to post a map on the Green Wizard site. (I tried out Google Maps with the coordinates presented me a few years ago, and it was about five kilometers off. I'll see if I can obtain better coordinates.)

There are two paths up, both from the south of the mountain. They have a Facebook page, which appears to be entirely in Japanese: (I don't do Facebook, so they don't give me a clear view of the page, but it appears the map Facebook provides is mistaken.)

Here is a recent article on foreigners involved in Shinto:

Off topic, but speaking of "climate weirding," we are having quite a time here in Japan too. It might be ascribable to El Nino. The Pacific high pressure region is larger and stronger than before, and apparently hotter as well. Two typhoons have formed up in the past week just to the southeast of Tokyo, i.e., far north of where they have formed in the past. Just prior to that the winds at our latitude had turned slightly easterly, bringing a typhoon of southerly origins up into Hokkaido, which was hard hit. Normally typhoons come aground in Honshu or islands south of that, and then bumble northeastward along the archipelago, winding up spent in Hokkaido.

We have had sustained easterlies since that. That is a first as far as I know. Japan now has "trade winds" at Tokyo's latitude (about 35 degrees). For as long as I have been watching, the trade wind zone extended to Okinawa (26 degrees). Constant westerlies are normal in Honshu, as they are across most of the contiguous States.

The first northerly-formed typhoon followed a course 180 degrees opposite of the normal, and it now sits just south of Shikoku gathering steam in what constitutes the new doldrums. That typhoon has been producing a strong southeasterly flow, sending the second northerly typhoon straight into Hokkaido, where it is now, and has now brought up a second southerly typhoon right smack-dab into Tokyo. It is bringing us torrential rain as I write, and appears aimed right at Tokyo Bay, for a lovely bowling ball bash straight into Japan's political/financial heart. Thank goodness it's not the biggest typhoon we've ever seen.

Shane W said...

synthetics' persistence in the environment. @ the organic farm I was on this summer, they discouraged composting dryer lint b/c of synthetic fibers. I was wondering how many others would refrain from composting dryer lint b/c of synthetic fibers? First off, I normally only use the dryer for all cotton clothes--wool normally gets dry cleaned, and 100% synthetics almost always get hung/line dried.

trippticket said...

JMG doesn't sanction this sort of nonsense, but I have actually had a run-in with a bona fide psychopath. I thought I had met a few before this guy, but now I know what a genuine one is. Three years ago.

He is the only person I've met in 43 years that scares me - white, black, red, brown, or yellow. Notice I said "that" scares me, not "who" scares me. It was not intentional, but the Freudian slip makes sense, so I'll leave it. This human is different, broken, not a "who." I actually added a phrase to my will that points to this guy as the best lead should anything untimely or suspicious ever happen to me. I'm not generally a paranoid fella.

But, I actually think that the experience was valuable for me. It taught me just how human everybody else is. It taught me not to believe that the persistent peace of my limited experience on Earth is impregnable. And it taught me to live while the living was good.

And by "good living" I mean stooped double picking 120' of very happy bush beans, and cranking the chainsaw up for 4 days straight in the drenching August humidity! But hey, it beats the heck out of dealing with bad people.

Who are, in my experience, fairly rare.

Shane W said...

If gay people were doing the procreating, we'd be way more mixed. Xenophilia/misgengenation is almost the norm or expected in the gay community...

John Michael Greer said...

Glenn, I've always enjoyed the kind of novel that ends leaving the reader full of ideas about what might happen next. I hope this one manages that for others!

Kevin, it's likely to be more than centuries. We've left so little in the way of concentrated energy resources on this planet that the next space age may be up to some future intelligent species, after a hundred million years or so have passed and the planet has had time to stock up on fossil carbon again.

Glenn, maybe so, but seafaring types got by for many thousands of years without synthetics, and they'll do so again.

Hammer, I disagree. Factor in the chemical wastes produced by their manufacture and the problems caused by waste plastics in the biosphere, and you've got something that's significantly more problematic than natural fibers.

Nastarana, hmm. I'd say rather that in most of those cases, warmer temperatures caused increased harvests and a population boom, which then had to go somewhere -- and that usually involves some degree of violence. Still, I'd like some of my scientifically literate readers to go over the study and see what they think.

Caryn, an excellent point! The whole notion that racial purity is a good thing was obviously come up with by people who've never paid attention to animal breeding. Purebred dogs, for example, are neurotic, sickly, brittle, and useless. If you want a strong, healthy, intelligent, and independent dog, you get a mixed breed. In the same way, every great civilization in human history arose out of a mixing of different ethnic groups, and perished when its ruling caste became obsessed with pure blood lines and so became inbred.

Pygmycory, no question, English is the ten dollar harlot of languages, eager to mingle linguistic genes with anyone who's in the mood. Did you know that it contains words from ancient Babylonian? "Abyss" is one -- that was pronounced "Apsu" on the banks of the Euphrates three thousand years ago.

Caryn, stay tuned!

Ceworthe, likewise!

Scotlyn, exactly. The reaction to Black Lives Matter, and more generally to the ongoing extrajudicial executions of young black men, has been eye-opening to me -- it's very clear to me that far too many white people in this country know exactly what the score is, and are willing to come up with the most specious reasons to justify police actions and denounce BLM, because they know their own privileged status is on the line.

Inohuri, this is one of the reasons I'm in favor of legalizing industrial hemp -- much less dependent on toxic pesticides et al. and it grows like a weed (so to speak) in much of North America. You may have noticed that there are a lot of hemp fields in the Lakeland Republic.

pygmycory said...

You'll notice I said 'a little tempted to take 23andme's test" or something to that effect. I haven't done so, and I'm highly unlikely to do so due to the data privacy concerns.

pygmycory said...

@JMG, I didn't, but I'm not entirely surprised. How many english first names come from Hebrew via the bible, for example? Yours and mine both, for starters. Then there's byblos->bible. And I think lilac is from persia.

As for fish and chips cuisine, the potatoes for the chips were originally from the andes. If you put ketchup on them, the tomatoes are from the new world too.

John Michael Greer said...

Varun, that's fascinating but not surprising. While the excuses for bigotry vary from culture to culture, bigotry does seem to be a common human failing.

Shane, that's a very good sign. Thank you. (And I say this having worked in several jobs, back in the day, that "Americans won't do" -- for example, I was a nursing home aide in several places where the only other aides who were native speakers of English were African-Americans from the rural South.)

Jeanne, welcome to the club. I may shell out some money someday, just to find out if the stories about my Lakota great-great-grandfather have any basis in fact, but it's not an urgent thing and I may never get around to it.

Shane, and that's also one of the reasons that I expect a future Confederacy, if one comes into being, to evolve into an exuberantly multiracial society in which everyone's proud of all their ancestries, and proudest of all of being Southern.

Patricia, I wish I could make it! ;-) Thanks for the weather update. Steady easterlies at the latitude of Tokyo -- good gods. There are theories that global warming could completely rearrange the wind and weather belts of the planet, going from a three-cell circulation (one from the equator to the desert belt, one from the desert belt to the temperate belt, and the third from there to the poles) to a one-cell circulation; if the wind belts show any further signs of changing, that might be worth watching out for.

patriciaormsby said...

@Shane, I'm a light olive, but have to be careful about getting too much sun. Still, my back and shoulders are my "solar panels," and I try to get a fair amount of sun on them a few times a week, while mostly shading my face. You would benefit from about 15 minutes of direct sunlight at noon on your bare back. Don't underestimate the importance of vitamin D. You do not need to tan, but treat it as a dosage. We produce an appropriate amount of vitamin D for our health in our skin, so there is no overdosing. The vitamin D/A balance is maintained by eating vegetables with carotene and letting your body produce vitamin A from that.

As for SPF, choose loose, light colored clothing, not the sh*t you slather on. Companies lack any incentive to ensure safety of their products over the long term. I have developed skin cancers, like most Caucasians my age, but not where I burned. They develop where I slathered most regularly. So far I've had success self-treating these with direct application and scrubbing with vitamin C.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- I don't think we're expecting a massive rearrangement of the atmospheric circulation and the merger of the Tropical (Hadley) Cell and Polar Cell until far far off into the realm of extreme warming. I am not sure this has happened at anytime in the past that can be inferred. The three-cell system is pretty stable overall, even if the middle cell (the one that most of the readers here live within) is weak and variable compared to the tropical and polar cells. What is likely and probably even already happening is a poleward growth of the tropical cell, pushing the subtropical deserts farther from the equator. This is disruptive enough on its own!

We in the mid-latitudes essentially live in the eddy created between the two big atmospheric cells. Since both of them rotate the same way (up on their southern edges, down on their northern edges) there has to be an eddy between them just as you can't have two wheels rotating the same way that touch each other. So all our mid-latitude instability is from the swirling of this weak eddy in between the two powerful direct-drive cells. And thus it is very liable to change the turbulent ways it swirls and spins if the big wheels move around!

Patricia Mathews said...

About the English language - there's a T-shirt slogan to the effect that English doesn't borrow words from other languages - it hits them over the head in a dark alley and runs off with a bagful of them. And H. Beam Piper's classic comment that "English was the result of Norman men-at-arms trying to make dates with Saxon barmaids, and about as legitimate as the other results."

About cats and dogs: I stopped going to cat shows when I saw that the breeders were trying to do the same things as the dog breeders were, including breeding for all sorts of anti-survival but "cute" (I find them repellent) mutations. The smartest breed of cat is "Alley", and all my cats have been rescue cats. They just come my way!

Shane W said...

Someone mentioned that synthetics were good b/c they kept the petroleum from being burned. I think that's a bit misguided. I fully expect all the plastic & synthetics that can be collected in the future to be burned. As JMG has mentioned, when high quality, high EROEI light sweet crude is unavailable, we downgrade to lower grades of fuel. Eventually, all that waste plastic & synthetics are going to look mighty attractive to our salvage economy descendants, and they will collect and burn it, hopefully in something resembling a rocket stove if they hope to minimize pollution...

John Michael Greer said...

Tripp, they certainly exist; they're rare, but they certainly exist.

Shane, no doubt. Xenophilia seems to be a fairly significant part of the human sex drive -- there are good evolutionary reasons why this should be the case -- and so the more repressed the sex drive is, the more xenophobia comes to the fore. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I've heard, sexual repression isn't exactly common in the gay community, and so xenophilia would be the norm.

Pygmycory, exactly. There are no pure languages, cultures, or ethnicities, and that's what makes languages, cultures, and ethnicities work. A pure culture would be like a cake made only of flour -- no water, no sugar, nothing else.

Bill, fair enough -- I read a discussion of that a while back (have lost the source) which suggested otherwise, but I'm aware there's a lot of misinformation out there.

Patricia, funny. H. Beam Piper -- now there's a name I haven't heard in a good long time. I don't imagine you can mention him in the science fiction community these days without being shouted down.

Shane, exactly. Leave it in the ground.

John Michael Greer said...

On another note, my publicist at New Society Publications is looking for podcasts and websites that would be interested in posting reviews of my new book Dark Age America, and a certain number of free review copies are available for that purpose. If you run a podcast or review books on your website, and are interested in reviewing Dark Age America, put through a comment marked NOT FOR POSTING with your email, your podcast or website, and any other info that might convince a publicist to drop you a copy, and I'll pass it on. Many thanks!

FiftyNiner said...

JMG and All,
As usual, so much to think about this week! I try to do my shopping early Sunday mornings when the stores are mostly void of customers. This week as I entered the store I looked to my right at the young person approaching the entrance along with me and was immediately aware of his pleasant attitude and smile. It was also obvious that he was bi-racial and I couldn't help but think that I almost never saw bi-racial youth of his age around here in the past. The feeling that I picked up from him, however, was one of self-confidence and wholesomeness--the very traits that any society would want in their young men.
Later, in the store as I was checking out, I began to talk with the checker who was a young black woman in her thirties. The subject somehow got around to the death of my mother a year and a half ago. She then told me the story of her mother's death exactly three years ago. They had moved to Indiana so that her husband could have a decent job. While up there, they received the shock of their lives: her mother died suddenly in her sleep. In dealing with that tragedy they began seriously to look for ways to migrate back to South Alabama. She told me that Indiana was OK, but that she was "country girl" and this is the place that she felt most at home. Her husband was able to get a job with the local electric utility consortium and home they came! She and I agreed that most humans have a strong homing instinct and that that is good. (She said the thing she liked most about Indiana was that it just never got as hot as the weather does down here.)
Just maybe, the days of politicians being able to use race to divide the people at the bottom are coming to an end!

Bill Pulliam said...

As for inbreding, outcrossing, purebreds, mutts, "better" and "worse" etc...

The ideas geing expressed here are about as outdated and unjustified as the old victorian "three races" view of humanity. Inbreeding is a problem in populations like modern humans that have not experienced it in their recent evolutionary past. It is not a problem in species or populations (including many WILD species and populations) that have been experiencing it for many generations. Inbreeding is in fact HOW plants and animals were domesticated. It amplifies whatever genetics you have, and by bringing advantageous and deleterious traits forward it allows you to select for or against them much more rapidly. It basically floors the accelerator on evolution.

This "purebred dogs are worse" crap is nonsense. Find me a real study that shows this by someone who does not have a dog in this fight. There are problems with BAD breeders who do not select out the undesirable traits, but there are problems with bad people in any activity. Sure many purebreds have health and behavioral problems. So do many mutts. The problems with purebreds tend to be more predictable based on known ancestry. Mutts not so much.

Since I know I will be bombarded with random tales of good and bad dogs, I'll tell you about our present collection of dogs. We are down to two. One is a purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback, a magnificent and utterly structurally sound beast, 100 pounds of healthy muscle hung on a skeleton a racehorse (ALSO produced by inbreedng I might note) would be proud of. And his temperament is as stable, sound, and gentle as you could ever ask for. Our other dog is a smallish houndy mix. He is high strung and destructive. He killed our entire flock of chickens in his first few days here.
To generalize.. the most popular dog in the US for decades has been the Labrador Reteriever. This is because of the many generations of INBREEDING that allowed the development of what is nearly the perfect compromise temperament for the suburban family dog. With tightly bred lines you get PREDICTABILITY.

We've had an assortment of mutts and purebreds over the decades. With purebreds you have some basis for understanding what you are seeing, and knowing what health and behavior problems to be on the lookout for. Each mixed breed is a crapshoot. And I can't really say that we've had more behavioral and health problems overall with one group or the other.

Sorry JMG but your generalization about purebred and mixed breed dogs is utterly unsupportable amd ridiculously generalized. It's as true as "Men are this way, women are that way" or "Black people are like this, white people are like that."

RPC said...

On reflection, I wonder at the dependence of the foreign consulates on satellite communication. Even now, it's generally more cost effective to throw down a fiber optic cable (even across an ocean) than to put up a satellite strictly for communication. (The equation changes when you can't have or don't want a cable running to your location or when conditions are, ahem, not conducive to stable infrastructure.) Still, the Atlantic Republic should be able to lease a copper line from the Lakeland border to Toledo and shovel data down it a lot cheaper than they're paying for satellite. Heck, a couple of salvaged 56k modems over dial-up would suffice for e-mail and such. These latter are playing into your hand, though - I could see the AR insisting that anything less than a fiber optic link is "too primitive."

Dean Reynolds said...

I have found your blog insightful. Enjoyable reading. I wanted to make a comment about your last post about that cultural environment known as "The Art World". The thing is that the discussions, or the didactic explanation about art seemed to center around abstraction, generally the Abstract Expressionist and in particular Jackson Pollock. The humor I find is that Abstract Expressionism was new seventy years ago and people are still thinking its new. i say this because I got an MFA a few years back. Painting is rather passe in the art world, or rather its not the giant that everyone supposes it is. Yes there is the Artspeak that says you just have to open your eyes, heart and mind to Abstraction and you will see what it is all about. Sure enough, but in my time just in Grad school, painting was just that which hung on a wall. The cutting edge is video, instillation, performance, mixed media (the combination of video, performance, etc.) I know of the didactic talking down one gets in that environment but its also about power, who says what is what. So much of the Art World has a narrative or mythos of the arts breaking the rules, challenging power, upsetting the status quo. This mythos stretches to the Impressionist, the critics who panned it and how the artist is this symbol of bringing a new way of seeing, doing, thinking, etc. BUT it is now the status quo of what one has to deal with in art schools and art departments. It is the way one must work; how is the work changing things, how is it doing something different and being profound. Its also about money, and a lot of money! No one really talks about that, and that those that today are getting into a museum are both darlings of the Cutorial Clergy Class, and Art Theorist but more importantly those who spend serious money. Long gone are the days of artist struggling in there garrets and hovels seeking truth and being despised by the establishment. You want the establishments support, attention, press and the very rich to spend lavishly on what you do. I know that I will be countered in another comment about what I just wrote here. I know I got an MFA, in the Art World there is always an answer to any comment or question even if it has not been spoken.

trippticket said...

@ Shane:

I don't think I'd be too concerned about synthetic fibers in the dryer lint going into the compost. Just seems like improved soil structure to me. And it sounds to me like these folks you're wwoofing for or whatever are still in the green pet peeve stage, and haven't actually embraced a life of LESS yet. Canvas bags and new Pruises vs. gardening and driving the same old second-hand car for 25 years, and all that.

But I could be mistaken. On either count.

Ed-M said...

Just my little comment about 'race'. If global warming were to force humanity to the poles, all of humanity would eventually become white due to the relative lack of sunlight and the need for Vitamin D.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Ugh, now I feel like a jerk. I've been writing a series of articles about BLM and I just realized that I'm coming off as opposed to their goals. The only reason I don't like BLM is because they're tactically and strategically inept.

BoysMom said...

Caryn, I can't speak to everything, but we did an experiment a couple years ago with chickens. We generally raise Buff Orpingtons on pasture, and pick up a bunch of cockerels cheap each year for meat. We thought we'd try Cornish Rock X, which is the usual meat breed found in stores. Just to see. We ordered a dozen of them, and raised them in with our Buffies. First, half of them died. Second, because we raised them on pasture, they took a couple weeks longer to make butcher weight than had we fed them their special meal. Third, they had only a little better taste and texture than their factory farmed kindred.
Being chickens, they aren't GMO, just excessively hybridized. We haven't bothered with them again. Too expensive and the results weren't the quality we expect in chicken. We'll stick to our Buffies, who are hardy and tasty, even if they are escape artists and keep flying the runs, the little beggars.
I don't know for certain, but I expect the same thing has been done with other livestock and crops, that is, maximizing production size and minimizing production time at the expense of flavor, texture, and health of animal or plant.

Shane W said...

We have other ways of enforcing norms besides ethnic solidarity in the gay community. For example, a couple could both be gym bunnies and/or designer queens and not ever dream of dating a fat/out of shape person who doesn't dress sharply, even though they're not of the same ethnicity. There's a lot of fat shaming & image issues in the gay community. Then, of course, there's the ever present class issue--the gay community is as class riven as any of the US--you're pretty much only supposed to have one-night-stands and hookups w/people outside your class, interclass relationships are strongly discouraged. Outside of that, xenophilia is expected.

Stacey Neanderthal said...

Quick note to all who responded to my earlier comment re: BLM, La Raza

Thanks for your intelligent and thoughtful responses. I've got a lot to say on this topic, if I get into it. Probably too much to unload into this comment room. I might make my own blog post somewhere else to do it, or I might not. It'd be kind of inconvenient, and I don't know if I'm that interested. Is anyone else?

Patricia Mathews said...

JMG - re " I don't imagine you can mention [H. Beam Piper] in the science fiction community these days without being shouted down."

Well, frack them and the high horse they rode in on. May they get a heavy dose of literature from our benighted past as homework and dunce caps to wear when they fail to get it. He's quite frankly Age of Exploration/recycled British Raj and a fine storyteller.

John Michael Greer said...

FiftyNiner, that's very good to hear. I see a lot of mixed-race couples and multiracial kids here in Cumberland, too, and it augurs well for the future.

Bill, yes, I figured I'd get some pushback. Nice anecdotes, by the way.

RPC, but satellites are more advanced than anything else, they've got to be better, right? ;-)

Dean, I suspect people are still talking about Jackson Pollock because everything since his time has been so utterly forgettable.

Ed-M, true enough; then, as natural cycles brought the temperature back down and evolutionary pressures improved the ability of human beings to withstand the heat, you'd see dark skin reemerging as populations shifted south again.

Shane, fair enough -- not being a member of the community, I didn't know that.

Patricia, no argument there. The current outbursts of political correctness in science fiction fandom are among the reasons I'm glad I gafiated back in the 1980s. (The equal and opposite outbursts from the extreme right wing of fandom are of course one of the others.)

latheChuck said...

JMG: I had to look up "gafiated". What an excellent new word! I can't think of a concise synonym.

Candace said...

Just as a matter of curiosity. What do you think would happen to our communications and energy infrastructure in the case of a civil war? I'm inclined to think all of those things would be primary targets. If they are destroyed, how easily can they be replaced?

I'm enjoying the story! I worry about how Carr is going to deal with the culture shock when he gets home. Since he has an upper class background I'm guessing that his family and friends are as thoroughly invested in the cult of progress as he was. It it can be lonely being the only one around that thinks that progress isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Stacey Neanderthal said...

onething: I just got your message from a few days ago. You said a kind thing to me about sincerity and I thank you for it.

I see a lot in your situation that bears praying for, and I will. In particular the part about your brother eating more. I only hope he somehow gets that any spirit that cares about him will let him feed himself.

Some good news: As a child of a schizophrenic parent, I see that in not having delusions or grandiose thinking, your brother has really dodged a bullet there. For my mother, those used to be a regular feature every few years for who-knew-how-long each time. For Mom, it isn't some later-in-life thing, it was always there, so I bet it means that the voices and delusions just aren't a late-onset thing.

"Downcast of heart" is not an expression you hear every day, so I gather you're talking about a way you don't feel every day, something that's bigger than the every day ahh-it's-so-hard. I don't know what it's about but I bet you're trying to work towards the good as best you can. Don't break yourself. Recharge, meditate--well, if you're a regular here, you already know a 7734 of a lot more about it than I do! :-)

Oh, there's a newbie mistake! Go to a blog about, including other things, power words, and invoke 77-well, no need to say it again. I'll learn.

HalFiore said...

"If you want a strong, healthy, intelligent, and independent dog, you get a mixed breed."

Get ready to duck. When I made that suggestion here a few years ago, I got branded by that most withering of labels, "urban."

Rita said...

@ Patricia Matthews--a couple of decades ago I talked with a former cat show judge. He told me he got out of the business because breeding for traits such as lilac point Siamese and other novelties was resulting in litters in which half the kittens had cleft palates and had to be put down. Of course, for some reason, the household cat genotype is far less plastic than that of the domestic dog.

With dogs, what commonly happens is that a particular breed becomes popular because of association with a famous person or a media event (101 Dalmatians, for example) and everyone who has an intact specimen starts breeding with no regard to bloodlines. They sell every puppy instead of culling or at least neutering any with inferior traits, as reputable breeders do. They also tend to exaggerate what are seen as the desirable traits, so you get bulldogs with shorter and shorter muzzles and more and more bowed legs and German Shepherds with exaggerated sloped hips. This happens to some extent to any breed that is bred more for appearance than for temperament and working ability. So you there are AKC bulldogs that can only give birth by C-section, greyhounds that can't run, Dalmatians that are nervous wrecks who pee themselves when approached by a stranger, and so forth. Greed vs. common sense. Same thing happening in the horse industry with breeders turning out more horses than the depressed market can find buyers for.

Most anthropologists now regard human race as a social construct. Look at the "one drop" rule in the American South by which any African blood made a person Negro. Meanwhile in Mexico the distinctions between Indios and Mestizos are based more on language and culture than on genetic makeup. Indios live out in the sticks and speak their tribal language while Mestizos speak Spanish. They may have identical genetics but happen to have lived close to a mission school. I have an American friend whose Mexican husband was rather offended when she pointed out his resemblance to Mayan bas reliefs. She thought it was cool, but he thought it was an insult to be identified as an Indio. Meanwhile, at the higher reaches of Mexican society everyone claims Spanish blood. Considering the small numbers of Spaniards who traveled to the New World, and especially the small number of Spanish women, and the large numbers of Indians the Spanish would have had to breed like rabbits to have produced so many descendants.

I agree with many of the points made in Farrell's _Myth of Male Superiority_. It is true that men get many of the dangerous and unpleasant jobs. He does leave out, if I recall correctly, that most early cultures recognized the dangers of childbirth as a counterweight. Young men serve the community by going to war and risking their lives. Young women serve it by pregnancy and childbirth, which had a high fatality rate during many historic periods. His other point is that we tend to confuse the idea that men have all the the high status positions with the idea that all men have high status. Just because the rulers are all men does not mean that every man is a ruler, any more than the fact that all the rulers are white means that every white is a ruler. Prestige rubs off, so even the gutter snipe in a male supremist society feels superior to almost any woman he encounters, while even Pap Finn, In _Huckleberry Finn_, an ignorant, drunken layabout, feels superior to the college educated Northern Negro he meets. But the elites manipulate the prestige to keep everyone down. "Only a Pawn in their Game", as Bob Dylan observed.

Golocyte Golo said...

"when people can finally sit back and write a tolerably objective history of European civilization, it'll rank with the Mongols and the Huns. Europe will be remembered as a subcontinent packed with savage, bloodthirsty tribal nations that invaded and conquered most of the planet when they could spare the time from murdering one another en masse."

Tribal violence is absolutely universal, and pushing violence out from the core and into the periphery is more-or-less the function of Empire, as anyone acquainted with, for instance, Chinese history will recognize.

If you think there is anything unique about European propensity to violence, other than the capability of our weapons, you don't know much non-European history. Perhaps an objective view of history will credit something actually unique, like the germ theory of disease, the theory of evolution, or the finding that stars are suns.

Scotlyn said...

Varun, tactics and strategy are important. But I have often encountered criticisms of tactics and strategy that masked repudiation of my goals. Somebody has to point out that allowing a police state to develop in any part or section of one's polity gives it too much headroom for anyone's comfort.

A young Irish man was killed by police officers in (I think) Oregon) a few years back. The circumstances caused deep dismay here. The young fellow got lost and also mentally disoriented in se way, and knocked on the wrong door shouting for his sister, whose house was down the road. The householder rang the police and the truly stupid, unnecessary outcome was this young man's death.

Black Lives Matter are correct. It is stupid and short sighted to let life NOT matter. You can't hope to carry out police work in such circs.

Now, please carry on, because tactics and strategy ARE important.

Melissa M. said...

Regarding ancestry, an old family photo has my 'twin' from the late 1800's. Very neat.

As for the line breeding, inbreeding, out-crossing etc, of domestic animals... I think it's a wonderful but frequently misused tool.

Bill, here's your requested study. The article is biased towards purebred dogs, but regarding the study itself they add, "The researchers found that the prevalence of 13 of the 24 genetic disorders was approximately the same in purebred dogs as in their mixed-breed counterparts. Ten were found more frequently among purebred dogs, and one such disorder was more common in mixed-breeds." There's much more on the internet (pet insurance premiums etc,) but this was one of the less... colorful references. In the mildest words possible, closed registries and the inbreeding that results, have not done dogs any favors.

Some closed or nearly-closed lines (like with Arabian or Icelandic Horses) can be incredible, but in both those cases, they originated by consistently selecting for function and disposition in the face of a very harsh environment.

I've closely known seven dogs, two purebred, and five mutts.

The two purebreds, were my childhood Labrador who lived to thirteen, and a guide dog line Golden retriever. They were wonderful dogs, but even being raised kindly as puppies, even (in the case of the golden) having terrifyingly good breeding, in terms of health, intelligence and disposition, they were squarely in line with the average for the rescue mutts.

The mutts have a certain hard to describe spark, but are also more random. One was a saintly doggy Einstein, another while sweet, had difficulty emotionally connecting like most dogs. Of my current two, my Heinz 57 acts like a cat, and my pit/dinosaur mix is almost as visually-oriented as a human, and barks at dogs portrayed on advertising posters.

In a perfect world, we'd have the best of both worlds, consistent breeds, but open registries and health requirements for those breeds.

Unknown said...

JMG, A couple of points re breeding and environment.

In beef breeding there is a phenomenon called "hybrid vigor" It is what happens when you cross two breeds, say Angus and Galloway. The offspring grow better than the offspring from either straight breed, all other limiting factors being equal, in theory. In practice the result is a little less precise, but is certainly observable in the majority of cases.

As for the end product of the exercise, I invite your readership to seek out some grass fed beef and do a taste comparison with the feed-lot fed stuff that is normally available. The difference is chalk and cheese. Both are tender, but grass fed beef has a flavor that is missing entirely from fed lot beef. No marinade or sauce required at all.


trippticket said...

@ Candace:

" It can be lonely being the only one around that thinks that progress isn't all it's cracked up to be."

You got that right. I'm getting extra servings of befuddled pudding from all sides right now. I just say the things I think and people just walk away, wondering what the frack I've been smoking on. But the most interesting part to me is that they never have a canned retort to the sort of musings we folk around here tend to engage in. My father and youngest brother are prime examples: they are very well versed in Republican talking points, and ready to shut down anything a Democrat might say to them. But I'm not a Democrat, and I don't say the things they're prepared for. I just get blank confusion. Like I sprouted an extra head or something. Hey, you're not playing by the rules!

And then fewer people to talk to...

Curiously, this happened to me the other way around recently. I made a new friend on the disc golf course and asked him for his phone number and email address. To which he replied that he'd never been on the internet in his whole life. As low-tech as I am outside of the internet, I had no idea how to reply to this little jewel, except to say "good for you."

onething said...

The advantage in purebreeds for dogs is that you can predict (mostly) the temperament, interests and talents, which is actually sometimes really important. There are breeds that are 3,000 years old or more. I recently read that golden retrievers used to live to about 16, but now to about 9. Beset with health problems and seemingly an early old age. I've got a golden that I adopted (would never buy this breed) and now that he is 6 I see old age setting in.

I'm pretty sure the problem is breeding for show.

As to inbreeding, I've thought about this in terms of some Muslim populations in which cousin marriages as well as uncle/niece marriages area common, such as Pakistan. Perhaps that way they actually have superior genomes with fewer genetic diseases which would be bred out. I don't think that would work for a royal family though, as their total numbers are too small.

Donald Hargraves said...

As for the question of Inbreeding:

I was once asked by a germanic redhead if I could think of three peoples who could be used to study genetics. I gave her these three answers:

1: The Amish, who had lived separately amongst the general population for years. I know there are a couple of diseases that only they suffer from, as well as some diseases among the general population that pretty much leave them alone.
2: Iceland. Traceable from a certain group, isolated for hundreds of years. Don't seem to have been deeply harmed, outside of a gentle downward tendency in population (more from climate pressures than anything).
3: Mormons. A small, self-selected group plus polygamy led to a narrower (known) starting pool than the general population. One would have to use people who can trace themselves from the original Utah settlers (and it is interesting that this was the one choice that my questioner disagreed with me on), but I do believe it has been done.

Naturally my choices were limited by my racial identity. Now I would point out old-line Tibet, the Maori in New Zealand, the Aborigines in Australia, and the curious case of Pitcairn Island (where a British man (who killed the other men off) and some Polynesian women settled down and their their progeny have pretty much intermixed with each other). The Basques would deserve a mention (as their language has probably aided their internal cohesion), as would other groups I'm probably not remembering or don't know about.

The conclusion one could draw seems obvious – make the beginning group large enough (or mixed enough) and you can inbreed for a while without any major detriment. Grow the group large enough, and at a certain point it ceases to be inbreeding even if you don't touch outside populations.

(And as for the Spanish Habsburgs: The Habsburgs took royal inbreeding to such an extreme that they ended up emulating repeated brother-sister matings. While the occasional 1st cousin (or uncle/niece) mating is unlikely to cause major problems, repeating the experience over several generations DOES seem to be deleterious without the occasional outsider to refresh the gene pool.)

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