Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Over the Cliff

I haven't written here for a while. Call it campaign season fatigue, maybe, or a desire to work on something else for a while. I seem to get burned out on writing about collapse from time to time, but even if we're not interested in collapse, it's still interested in us. Or, maybe I'm just like that little girl who was fatigued to the point of tears over "Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney."

I don't see a lot of point in commenting on the recent elections, so I'll just say this much -- this contest proved the sheer intellectual bankruptcy of pretty much anyone involved in the whole electoral and governing process of the Western world's largest and most powerful nation. This also includes the voters, who want to pretend that they can have a cornucopia of various kinds of benefits and spending as they see fit to vote for. This idea runs across most of the political spectrum, too -- spending is spending, no matter how you try to justify the "worthiness" of what you're spending on.

As sad an affair as the election was (this being the case no matter who won), the worst is yet to come. Consider now the economic literacy of the American public, who are the ultimate owners of this process. No one seems to really even understand the difference between debt and deficit, or much care. "Reducing the deficit" is a phrase which sounds nice, until you stop and put it in more sober terms -- the Titanic is taking on only 5000 gallons of water per minute, instead of 6000. Having a running surplus of $100 billion a year might actually do something to address the problem of debt, but it is a "pie-in-the-sky" type of fantasy to expect this to happen.

Not much is being done about the debt and deficit in Washington, which makes a sizeable portion of the population freak out on a regular basis, but even they are missing the context that this whole discussion is occurring in -- we have reached the point of "peak wealth," where the wealth of the world is not increasing, but is steadily diminishing as resources begin to get scarcer and more difficult to recover, energy supplies are not able to match the demand, and so on. People have the silly notion that we can "print out way out" of the fiscal mess, but printing money is independent of real wealth, which is not increasing, but decreasing as people use up resources, destroy parts of the environment, etc. Remember that money is just a reflection of wealth, and is not tied directly to it.

This makes the "fiscal cliff" discussion all the sillier. If taxes are raised to one hundred percent of income, all deductions were removed, and spending was slashed across the board, then there might be a chance to avoid the upcoming economic crash. However, that's not a political possibility, and would probably render the nation broken beyond any ability to recover. Likewise, if it's business as usual for the next few years, we're going to see the currency eventually collapse into nothingness. An alternative solution might be to try to figure out how to find a path through a future of receding growth would be most desirable, but is not going to happen in today's political climate.

So, at best, because the "fiscal cliff" is not recognized for what it is -- an obvious and clear symptom of our ongoing retraction of wealth -- then anyone proposing a solution to the problem is singing the wrong song. The immediate economic problems (real unemployment at least twenty percent, inflation, etc) are going to intensify as well, because the discussion does not match the reality. Worse, this is going to be a feedback cycle where the proposed solutions get increasingly more radical and draconian, even as the resulting problems intensify. At some point, the crisis will be indistinguishable from the solutions to the crisis, and we will have reached a state of full collapse (think of it as Kurzweil's Singularity, but in the inverse of outcome).

Okay, so I did lie a little bit -- I will talk a little more about the election. Part of the Leibowitz Society's mission is to preserve the practice of applying rational thought to the world. People can criticize rational thought in the abstract, but on a practical basis, it is all we as humans have to relate to and make sense of the world around us. Yet, for all of the progress made in the last couple of millenia, we sometimes slip back into "magical thinking," the idea that somehow our personal actions will affect an unrelated occurrence. Voting this time around seems to have been an excellent example of this -- people voting for Obama on one hand because of a perception that he would improve their lives, and people voting for Romney on the other hand, because of the perception that he would fix the economy. In neither case did anyone ever ask the most basic of questions -- is it within anyone's power anymore to stave off a complete collase of our economy and society? The secession petitions are a ludicrous, if logical, extension of this thinking, too.

I will end this post with that thought and suggest that this is a good time to evaluate where we stand in relation to the world. Are we looking at alternate means of making a living? Are we keeping a clear and attentive mind about where the world is headed? Are we collecting books and accumulating knowledge to pass on to future generations? Are we focusing our energies and resources on "dual use" things? (i.e. hobbies that will become a way of life after a collapse) Are we gently evangelizing our friends and neighbors that all is not well?

And, last, are we keeping a cheerful heart and focusing on the things in our lives which do matter?


I have received a number of emails from people asking about my absence and what the status of the blog was, and regret not answering them, because I understand that the postings here resonated with many people. However, I am going to resume posting on this blog every Monday. I had not intended to restart where I had left off, but I do not think that, realistically, it is responsible to stop doing so, especially in the face of the path our worldwide civilization is taking. In spite of myself, I have spent the last few months studying and reflecting on collapse anyway, and look forward to continuing to share those insights with all of you.


  1. More 95 nations on earth are are hog-tied, chained, shackled and enslaved by debt finance and usury.

    All nations, continents, communities, and inhabitants are under the savage cruelty of the cobweb of debts at oppressively compounded usury.

    Debt Money System has almost totally comatised billions of people financially. Mind control is continued upon the dumbed down populations to mislead to a cocktails of deliberate lies on money creation out of nothing at interest. There is a very little hope for humanity under the present system of debt and usury that is promoting complete disorder and misfortune to billions of people in this terribly shattering world. The money system is anti-life, anti-soul and anti-God. The cult of the Golden Calf/Mammon of the total world slavery of finance and global degeneration.

    I hope that you do agree with me.

    1. I'm sure that quite a few people would agree with you, actually.

      Debt is very much a double-edged sword. Used properly, it can make sense, covering short-term needs that are not foreseen (repairing a bridge, for example). The problem comes when debt becomes a lifestyle choice.

      Part of the issue is that we're basically dehumanized in the economic system -- people are counted as producers/consumers, relationships (even marriages) become very much an economic matter. People are bombarded with consumerist memes and questioning those memes often leads to a social backlash, which just makes the system more self-enforcing. Yet, as you point out, people are addicted to that debt.

      The system can't be sustained, either. People can print all the money they want, but it doesn't reflect the reality of diminishing wealth -- Europe is seeing that now, and America is going to be close behind once it's realized that the bills can't be paid any longer.

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  3. As an old man, and a retired professor in Medieval studies, it now seems to me that "sheer intellectual bankruptcy" is the normal condition of our species, taken as a whole. I was more optimistic when I was young and naive . . .

    Your advice at the end is very good, I think, and it is what I have been doing for a good number of years now:

    "Are we looking at alternate means of making a living? Are we keeping a clear and attentive mind about where the world is headed? Are we collecting books and accumulating knowledge to pass on to future generations? Are we focusing our energies and resources on "dual use" things? (i.e. hobbies that will become a way of life after a collapse) Are we gently evangelizing our friends and neighbors that all is not well?"

    But I would add one thing more to what you wrote. We should all think long and hard about our own deaths and the eventual deaths of all our children and grandchildren, the extinction of our own genetic heritage. We should think about these things until they no longer frighten us. We should become so comfortable with the idea that it no longer stresses us. For that will be the certain fate of most of us, do what we may, since we have already greatly exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet.

    If we ourselves are not afraid to perish, we can be more rational about all the many things we can do to help others get through the coming hard times after we are gone, and we can better plan how to preserve the best fruits of the past and present for the good of that very small minority of us who do survive.

    And that means following the blogger's advice I quoted above.

    [Edited comment]

    1. This raises a lot of thought and consideration. Technically, once we're dead, we don't really care crap-all about what happens afterwards. If there's an afterlife, well, this world ceases to have a lot of meaning. If we're reincarnated, maybe that's another story. If it is true that we are the only sentient life in the universe, then do we have a duty of sorts to ensure that intelligence continues? Is that the only meaning in the cosmos?

      I'm still of the mind that the noblest thing we can do at this point is to try to pass on what we know to the next generation, so they can maybe sort out some of the mistakes we've made. Part of this is passing on the accumulated knowledge of the ages, too.

      I'm glad to see a person with a Medieval Studies background reading the blog. I've read my fair share of medieval history, but it's nice to have an expert able to weigh in, too.

  4. Glad to have you back.

    "is it within anyone's power anymore to stave off a complete collase of our economy and society?" There are no exits from the Disintegration Highway.

  5. I'm not quite a doomsday prepper, but I have been collecting emergency equipment, food, liquor, 2nd hand jewelry, etc. for quite a while. I joined a local organic farm, learned how to can food, and acquired a collection of books on herbs and alternative health care. Learning to live on less is now a mandate for survival.

    All I see are a bunch of corrupt politicians busily stuffing their pockets while the country goes down the tubes. Everything is controlled by big business, which proceeds to destroy the planet for profit. I don't know where the hell they're going to move when nothing is left.

    In case you haven't figured it out, I am completely pessimistic that anything will change unless there is a real revolution.

    1. I think the healthiest approach is to start changing your lifestyle and viewpoint, so you are probably on the right track. "Prepping" is one of those things that comes off as being short-sighted and self-defeating, like trying to be a dinosaur in a mammal's world. Prepping is, itself, embracing a time of material wealth in order to cope with a time of lesser material wealth.

      I would agree about the politicians. We seem to be on the cusp of something not unlike the French Revolution, although the signs pointing to that are not obvious unless you specifically look for them (the excess populism for one, the disenchantment and alienation from the ruling class, etc). However, I don't think that a revolution will necessarily change anything -- the "new boss" will have to figure out how to make something from nothing, still have the constraints of resource depletion, overpopulation, etc, to deal with, all in an environment where the revolution itself has destroyed that much more in the way of social fabric and institutions. Things can sometimes get out of hand, too -- it was a good fifty or sixty years before the dust had finally settled from the French Revolution, and that was in a time when civilization was still on the "uphill slope."

  6. "You're emotionally bankrupt... Scott Fitzgerald was emotionally bankrupt... We're all emotionally bankrupt..."

    Schulz, Charles. "Peanuts." Comic Strip. 6 Jun. 1995. Print.