Monday, December 5, 2011

The Foundation

I've decided to get away from writing about current events for a time and return to the original purpose of this blog, which was to prepare for the coming collapse, not on a short-term basis, but on a long-term generational survival basis. There is always an awful temptation to get caught up in the matters of the day and treat them with the utmost importance. Sometimes, it feels like there is a collective desire among all people to be commentators and "armchair quarterbacks." The problem here is that it leads to putting far too much weight on even the most trivial of news items as people search for the "key" to find meaning in all of the noise out there.

The reality is that we have past history and future change occur as glacial shifts in human action and activity. For example, if you really look at the origin of the problems of modern Europe, they lie in the inheritance custom of the Franks and how the descendants of Charlmagne split his empire into three chunks. Likewise, our decision -- as a collective global human civilization -- to go down the path of letting rates of material consumption define our "success," has doomed any chance for carrying that civilization into the future. We worship things instead of ideas, pastimes such as sports over weighty things such as philosophy. Ignorance is a virtue and learning is a vice. Don't believe me? Try quoting Plato or try talking about quantum physics around a demographically average group of people. Farting loudly is usually far more acceptable in most circles.

But it is the fact that we have chosen poorly that will eventually destroy modern civilization. The seeds are already planted, it's built on shifting sands (cheap energy availability), and it's a matter of time before we see the supports truly taken away. The paradox is that the more we struggle to preserve it through war and spending, the quicker the end approaches. If people have just stumbled across this blog and are not convinced, there is plenty of information available to confirm this and doesn't need to really be discussed further here.

Now, the question is what do we really see as the future, once the modern world has exhausted itself and died? What foundation do we really want to build on? Science, before it became another politicized cultural weapon, offered a glimpse into a world where objective empirical thought would reign. Philosophy, likewise, before it became a tool of oppression, offered a chance to redefine ourselves through ideas and reason.

Maybe this isn't a question which can easily be answered, but I think one thing comes to mind -- beginning to understand that we are not isolated and that survival likely depends on reversing the trend of becoming more fragmented and individualized. At this time of year, people give to charity because it is something which is supported by religions, or they help out in soup kitchens and so on for the same reasons, and many people find great satisfaction in doing this. The reasons they give when asked "why?" are water-thin, however, and are usually a barrage of platitudes.

I tend to think that the real reason is that by helping another person, we are forming a connection to them, when our actions and thoughts are no longer oriented solely around ourselves, but become part of a larger community. We instinctively know that this makes sense, that we don't exist as a vacuum, but as part of a larger world. The isolated animal becomes sick and despairing. The isolated human becomes much the same way, even if that isolation is self-chosen and occurs while surrounded by millions of people.

Instead of becoming isolated, we need to understand that the times which are coming are going to require us to once again become more than just ourselves. I've written some on the importance of this, but I think it's more essential now than ever. I don't mean become part of a group -- groups are always about benefitting one or two at the cost of the many, but I mean, build bridges. Don't be afraid to get to know people or work with them. There will be a time soon when we must do this to survive and it's better to start now.


  1. To the author:
    Are you my same acquaintance in the Pampas who wrote over at the L. Abbey, amongst others? You'd be T.C.
    I'm RJG

  2. Fart jokes will always be funny. ‘A man may break a word with you, sir; and words are but wind; Ay, and break it in your face, so he break it not behind.’ (Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors III i 75-76)

  3. Ross, I am not the same person.


    I remember also a bit of "airy" humor present in the Miller's Tale. Probably, if he had thought to include it, Chaucer would've included a bit about a serf being hit with a tennis ball to the groin.

  4. The more I think about what is likely to unfold, the more I think it will resemble "The Road" - massive human die-off. Getting any knowledge/information/technolgy through this horrible die-off phase is a very tall order. I commend you for starting and continuing this blog; what is the best solution to ensure some of what is current knowledge makes it through to future generations? Time-capsules? NASA decades ago launched the Gallileo capsule into outer space, and inside this capsule was a smattering of human knowledge and invention. Maybe NASA should put the something similar underground, with some clues for future humans to find and dig up.

  5. I'm also worried about a human die-off (what is not to worry about?). Its hard to get around the fact that the human population of the world first hit one billion around the time Napoleon crowned himself Emperor. Now its seven billion, with another billion being added each thirteen years or so. In a post-industrial future, which is what peak oil implies, I don't see how the population doesn't go back to around a billion.

    However, it took two centuries to go from one billion to seven billion, and if we have two centuries to go back it might not be that bad. If every couple would limit themselves to just one child (and imagine what the situation would be like now if the Chinese government had not been successful with its "one child" policy) for four generations, it could be done with everyone still living reasonably long and full lives.

    Even if the die off is accomplished by the traditional means of war, famine, and pestilence in one generation, there will still be survivors and a social structure of some sort. I don't think they will have to resort to digging up time capsules. Even after smallpox and other diseases wiped out most of the inhabitants of the New World, cultural traditions survived in the remaining native groupings, and its not like humans will be facing a simultaneous invasion from another planet when this hits.

  6. Ed, I hear your point - you think the die-off could go slowly and take years/decades.

    I doubt it - as Gerald Celente said, once people lose everything, they lose it - total mayhem, societal and cultural collapse. Only the brutal survive, and my point is that unless there is some "time-capsule" like idea, it is likely that no advanced knowledge or technology will make it into whatever future "recovered" society eventually appears.

  7. I meant to write a post on slow collapse/fast collapse a while back, but I think a couple of points are relevant here.

    The late Jane Jacobs write about cultural amnesia. I don't think she ever fully defined a hypothesis, but the notion was that people quickly forget anything that isn't of immediate use to them on a daily basis.

    In a sense, we're all on life support on this planet. However, most of the population is on double super plus life support, in the sense that they rely on quite a few more advanced systems to stay alive, such as other people farming for them, finding their water, etc. The time around Napoleon was when science was formally applied to farming, plus food preservation began to be studied in earnest.

    Now, people don't live on (or close to) the land, the carrying capacity of the human population is well over what can be realistically sustained, and most people have no idea how to grow their own food, especially without technology. If you threaten the existence of, say, five or ten percent of the people, how fast are the remaining systems going to be in trouble? Remember, people living on what had once been Rome's breadbasket were starving a generation later because they had forgotten how to farm with even Rome's level of technology.

    In one sense, it's counter-intuitive that a system should collapse quickly, but complexity theory offers some suggestions as to how it can and might happen (more on that when I explore it in writing).

    For now, I don't necessarily endorse either the fast collapse or the slow collapse idea, except to say that my gut tells me that people will want to keep the party going even when it's obvious that it can't, which will just make the end result worse.

    Last, preserving and protecting information has always been the point of Leibowitz Society. The idea is that anyone who wants to take part in the effort can begin putting information aside. The other side of the coin is that they should be able to explain and interpret it, at least on some level, and find others who want to do the same, in essence, keeping it alive in the mind, not just as dead books. Or, if you prefer, ultimately being an approach like the monks of the Dark Ages. The big issue with a "time capsule" idea is that you may have people who have no idea what a book is digging the thing up. Then what?

    Tall order, I agree. However, we're also assuming that this only applies to a Peak Oil-style collapse, not also something like an asteroid strike, a pandemic, nuclear war, etc, so the idea of preparing for a slow collape isn't necessarily the correct approach either. It just happens that I think we're moving toward a Dark Age through our own lack of foresight, coupled with Peak Oil and other factors.

  8. Hello,

    Totally appreciate your writing on this topic. Its something I have been involved in my whole life.

    I believe that we will see a dynamic much like the collapse of rome and the western catholic empire.

    Those with resources will flee the cities to the country side and people will return to the land. Feudalism of a sort.

    I am also very interested in these folks, who seem to be a new sort of strategy for the long term.

    Glad I found your blog!


  9. Stuart,

    The obvious parallel to us is Imperial Rome, you are right. It's not a perfect analogy, but empires all seem to follow the same pattern of events.

    The difference between us and Rome is that we don't have an ascendant hierarchical religion like Catholicism to act as a repository of civilization through the darker times. Modern Christianity has ceased to be a culture of its own and instead is more of a social club, as far as I can tell.

    We also can't rely on universties to provide any respository for knowledge. They are morally bankrupt, lacking in anything that resembles free thought, and mostly concerned with keeping enrollment up, while trying to make sure the "college tuition bubble" doesn't burst.

    This is mostly why I started this blog to spread the idea of saving knowledge. There's simply no one who is really concerned with doing it.

    Eco-communialism seems to be a good model for something to build around a group of people who were keeping a body of knowledge. The idea of a "time capsule" was mentioned earlier, but without anyone who knows the meaning of it, it doesn't so us any good.