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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXVI–On Narrative Control and ‘Fact Checking’

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXVI

December 21, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

On Narrative Control and ‘Fact Checking’

One of the areas of interest for me as I weaved my way through my ten years of formal post-secondary education (yes, I spent the entire decade of the 1980s pursuing four degrees at several different universities; some of it part-time as I waffled between education and full-time work for relatively good pay in a grocery store) was that of epistemology (the nature and origins of ‘knowledge’). It was likely the result of some of my required readings: Stephen Jay Gould’s Ever Since Darwin, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and Clifford Gertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures. Regardless, I ended up exploring (outside of my regular classes) such topics as deconstructive criticism, hermeneutics, and philology; interesting topics for someone who ended up teaching elementary school students (10 years) and as a school administrator (15 years).

Upon reflection, this exploration of how humans come to ‘know’ what they know (or at least what they believe) has led me to be rather skeptical of dominant narratives, especially of ‘authority figures’. My challenging of ‘authority’, as it were, may have come somewhat ‘naturally’ given I grew up in the household of a police officer. Not that I consider my dad to have been ‘authoritarian’, not at all, but the somewhat ‘natural’ pushback children can give to parents was slightly coloured in our household by the simple fact that my dad was a sociocultural authority figure on top of his role as a father.

Anyways, I believe I have always questioned to a certain extent the ‘popular’ stories we are exposed to. And as I’ve read more widely over the years, I’ve come to hold that these stories tend to always play to the pursuits of the people that dominate society’s economic and power structures. Reading Edward Bernays’ Propaganda, Murray Rothbard’s Anatomy of the State, and Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance has certainly solidified that feeling. In fact, I’ve come to believe that the primary motivation of our ruling elite is the control/expansion of the wealth-generating/extraction systems that provide their revenue streams. Everything they do serves this purpose in one way or another. Everything.

As Chomsky makes clear in Hegemony or Survival, one of the dominant concerns of the ruling elite is controlling the masses. Without such control, their power and privilege is at risk since the masses far, far outnumber the elite.

Rothbard argues in Anatomy of the State even just simple, passive resignation by the people that the status quo structures are inevitable is enough to sustain them. To ensure such acceptance, the State employs ‘opinion molders’ to justify/rationalise/persuade the population of the beneficence of the ruling elite and that some alternative is far worse.

In Propaganda, Bernays sets out arguing that democracies being so complex require an unseen group of people to guide their ideas and beliefs so as to ensure cooperation. It is this special cadre that directs what stories/narratives are to be believed that is the real ruling power in a society, not its politicians. And, of course, Bernays became an important part of the US Empire’s storytelling to market geopolitical ‘interventions’ as adventures in nation building and spreading democracy.

So, narrative control is essential to maintaining power and privilege. One of the growing ways of controlling the narrative in a world of social media and non-mainstream/corporate digital news is to ‘disprove’ alternative stories. One of the more recent forms of such control has been the phenomenon of ‘fact checking’. Fact checking has been marketed as a form of objective and investigative research into claims disseminated by others. If one can ‘check’ the ‘facts’ and show them to be biased, prejudiced, misinformed, misguided, purposely false, etc., then one’s own narrative can be shown to be ‘true’ and ‘factual’.

It would appear, however, that the ‘fact-checking’ narrative itself is beginning to fray quite openly, perhaps reinforcing the accusation by some that the process of ‘fact checking’ is far more about giving the appearance of objective support for dominant/mainstream storylines (virtually always in favour of the power and economic structures that favour the ruling elite) rather than actually providing ‘factual’ buttressing of well-documented and evidentiary arguments.

Although you will have some difficulty finding the following stories in most (all?) mainstream/corporate media outlets (this is one of the ways legacy media censures stories; they simply don’t report on them at all or very marginally— see the organisation Project Censored for ongoing examples), there is increasing exposure that ‘fact checking’ is nothing more than another tool in the toolbox of narrative control/propaganda used by the ruling elite.

In a lawsuit by journalist John Stossel, Facebook has defended its ‘fact checking’ by claiming that the third-party fact checkers it uses are merely the ‘opinion’ of the fact checkers it depends upon and thus protected under the U.S.’s First Amendment. It’s ‘opinion’ not actually ‘factual’ so the lawsuit is frivolous.

In another accusation of wrong-doing, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has written an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook/Meta calling the censorship and flagging of some of their work very problematic. In fact, the editors of the journal called Facebook’s fact checking: “inaccurate, incompetent, and irresponsible.” Facebook/Meta has yet to reply.

We have a long-time journalist standing up to the fact-checking process and Facebook defending itself by stating these ‘fact checks’ are really just the opinion of others. Followed by a well-respected medical journal challenging Facebook’s fact checking as completely off-base and unfounded. Two pretty strong strikes against a powerful media’s supposed objective ‘fact checking’ and increasing censorship of non-mainstream stories.

I could go one with example after example of such blatant manipulation of narratives by our ruling elite and their so-called ‘fact checkers’ but what else is there to say? Except, if the mainstream/corporate media and/or government/politicians are pushing repeatedly a narrative (or purposely censoring one), then it likely serves the purpose of manipulating what you believe so as to maintain/expand the status quo power and/or economic structures of our society. Their stories, no matter the rationalisation/justification for them, should always be viewed critically and questioned. Chances are they are serving their narrow purposes, not the wider society’s.

I see this all the time in many of the energy/resource stories I read and the domineering economic paradigm through which the ‘facts’ are viewed at the expense of an ecological lens. And while there has been a growing incorporation of environmental/ecological concerns in the energy/resource narratives, it seems to me it’s more about crafting storylines that serve to leverage concern about natural limits to further expand wealth and control, and certainly not to address the notion that we can’t continue to pursue growth in any form in perpetuity without doing irreparable damage to the natural systems we depend upon for our very survival.

No, we can chase growth, employ everyone, and forever raise our standards of living by constructing ‘Net Zero’ buildings and electric vehicles, all powered by ‘clean/green’ energy, and living happily ever after. Comforting stories to be sure, but also ones that feed the insatiable profit-seeking of the ruling elite at the expense of the natural systems that provide our ability to be alive.

Infinite growth. Finite planet. What could possibly go wrong?

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXV–Exponential Growth, Natural Carrying Capacity, and Ecological Overshoot

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXV

December 8, 2021

Pompeii, Italy (1984) Photo by author

Exponential Growth, Natural Carrying Capacity, and Ecological Overshoot

The following very short contemplation was in response to some comments on an Andrew Nikiforuk article in The Tyee.

As an Apex predator, humans were on a path from the outset to likely overshoot the natural carrying capacity of their environment. As the late Dr. Albert Bartlett opines in a must-watch presentation on our inability to understand the exponential function: “…here we can see the human dilemma — everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem. There is a dilemma if ever there was one.”

As William Catton argues in Overshoot, we humans have had two approaches to overcoming carrying capacity limits and continuing our exponential population explosion and global reach/impact: the takeover and drawdown methods.

For millennia we relied upon taking over unexploited regions by migrating. The biggest boost came about with the European ‘discovery’ of a second hemisphere.

Then, a couple of centuries ago, we began exploiting the drawdown method that relies upon extraction of fossil energy to inflate the human carrying capacity.

Given that the drawdown method relies upon a finite resource, that avenue of extending the limits to our expansion could only ever be temporary. And, it would appear, we encountered diminishing returns on the drawdown method some decades ago but are only now really beginning to experience the limits imposed upon us by a finite planet.

Population biology shows us what happens to a species that comes to rely upon finite resources (or renewables ones that are over-harvested faster than can be replenished): population collapse.

We have this knowledge and awareness but for many reasons we tend to refuse to accept it. Instead we craft comforting narratives in our denial or bargaining to avoid thinking too deeply about it.

There is no solving this via our technology or ‘ingenuity’ (in fact, there’s a good argument to be made that our attempts to do this are actually expediting and adding to our overshoot by increasing our drawdown of finite resources, further overloading our planetary sinks, and further reducing our carrying capacity). Our refusal (for whatever reason) to degrow/downsize/power-down/etc. ensures we lose our chance to mitigate the consequences of our overshoot.

After posting this comment, Alice Friedemann (see her Energy Skeptic website) posted the following on Facebook. I encourage everyone to read this and consider signing it.

I Asked Gardeners How Climate Change Hits Them

I Asked Gardeners How Climate Change Hits Them

I connected with gardeners from across North America and Europe to understand how climate change is affecting their ability to grow our most valuable resource: food.

What does “climate change” actually mean at the grassroots level?

When most people hear the term they think of rising seas and hotter temperatures. Many are aware of potential collapse, but it all seems theoretical for now. The grocery stores remain stocked and we go about our daily lives.

While political leaders and scientists discuss broad mitigation strategies, the effects of climate change are already impacting those on the front lines of human survival.

Distant heat domes and flooding dominate the headlines, but food production is where it becomes real for all of us. Farmers and gardeners are the first to experience the early stages of the global crisis. We must pay attention to the signals food growers are sending.

I connected with gardeners from across North America and Europe to understand how climate change is affecting their ability to grow our most valuable resource: food.

The results were shocking.

Given the wide geographic scope of my audience I expected a range of feedback – some positive, some negative. What shocked me was the uniformity of responses around the world.

I expected some reporting bias in the responses because those experiencing negative changes would be more likely to respond. However, the survey was targeted at general gardeners (i.e. not at a collapse-aware or climate change population), so I anticipated a more even distribution of comments.

I’ve included a selection of the best verbatim comments below, but if you’d prefer a summary I’ve listed the common themes here:

  1. Extreme Weather Patterns: People are experiencing more extreme and unpredictable weather, with severe droughts, intense heat waves, early frosts, and heavy rains becoming more common…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

All Four “Pillars Of Civilization” Are Under Attack By An “Anti-Human Death-Cult”; Shellenberger, Carlson Unload On Global Elites

All Four “Pillars Of Civilization” Are Under Attack By An “Anti-Human Death-Cult”; Shellenberger, Carlson Unload On Global Elites

As world leaders gathered over the weekend for the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, they faced an uncomfortable reality check from the conference president Sultan Al Jaber, who stated, “there is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” warning that their fossil-fuel policies would “take the world back into caves.”

Nevertheless, no lesser mind than Vice President Kamala Harris pledged another $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund at the summit, seeking to help developing countries adapt to the “climate crisis” as well as decreasing fossil fuel production, according to CNN.

The cult-like worship of (and escalation of) these policies is what led to tonight’s discussion between Tucker Carlson and Michael Shellenberger, author of the must-read “Apocalypse Never”, highlighting the increasingly obvious disconnect between global elites and the general public – most specifically in the context of environmental policies.

“We know that the pillars of civilization are cheap energy, meritocracy, Law and Order, and free speech and all four of those pillars are currently under attack,” warns Shellenberger in his typically erudite and fact-based manner.

The hypocrisy is simply Orwellian.

As Shellenberger recently wrote on his Public substackflying on private jets to a climate conference to announce plans to make energy even more expensive for working people is bread-and-circuses, except there’s no bread, and the circus consists of rich people celebrating their wealth, morality, and superiority.

Carlson begins by pointing out that the drastic climate change policies are “fundamentally nonsense,” asking Shellenberger just how long this “posturing” of environmentalism can go on:

“We’re watching people push an Orthodoxy at increasing volume with increasing hysteria and with increasingly severe penalties for disagreeing…what is that?”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: CLXVIII–Avoiding ‘Collapse’ Awareness

Today’s Contemplation: CLXVIII

Pompeii, Italy (1984). Photo by author.

Avoiding ‘Collapse’ Awareness

The following is my comment on Alan Urban’s most recent post (see here) discussing his thoughts on why more people are not ‘collapse aware’.

The reasons you cite for most not being ‘collapse aware’ are part and parcel of a variety of explanations for this state of affairs. In my contemplations on the situation I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of this is due to human psychology and the mechanisms that help us to avoid anxiety-provoking thoughts.

First, we highly-cognitive apes deplore uncertainty and the idea of ‘collapse’ is all about an uncertain future and one in which we have little to no control over events. In response, we tend to grab a hold of stories that portray certainty, especially if they paint a more positive future (thanks optimism bias) — regardless of evidence to the contrary (see my posts that discuss this here and here).

In addition, we humans tend to defer to authority, get caught up in groupthink, strive to reduce our cognitive dissonance, and seek to justify our perceptions of the world (see my series of posts on these, beginning here). These aspects of human cognition make us most susceptible to certain forms of narrative management (aka propaganda), particularly stories that portray a comforting and certain future.

Then there’s what seems our complete and utter blindness to the underpinnings of our complex societies — energy — and the limits of our ability to sustain the quantities required to maintain our living standards (see my post series beginning here on this aspect). That we have been drawing down our primary source — hydrocarbons — at ever-increasing rates as we encounter the headwinds due to diminishing returns is increasingly rationalised away as simply a bump in the road since our ingenuity and technological prowess can address any impediments to our wishes/wants — physics be damned.

Add to the above the idea that perhaps the most important cognitive evolutionary shift for our species may have been where we became aware of our own mortality and then developed ways to deny this reality (see Ajit Varki and Danny Brower’s thesis here). Denying reality has become an entrenched means of reducing our anxiety, and it gets used often; and perhaps increasingly as the world goes sideways and provokes greater instances of uncertainty.

Combine the above with the hierarchical aspects of our social species and complex societies, and our story-telling means of communicating, and we have the perfect mix for why we rationalise away evidence for the impending ‘collapse’ of our current living arrangements and all the conveniences and comforts they afford us — especially in the so-called ‘advanced’ economies that have depended upon the lion’s share of what has been to this point in our history a growing supply of surplus energy.

We ignore the hard biogeophysical limits, we rationalise away the ecological systems destruction wrought by our demands, and we weave comforting narratives to avoid anxiety-provoking thoughts. We live in a world of what appears widely-held false beliefs where challenging them gets you ignored and/or ostracised by those clinging to mainstream notions. It’s often better to raise marginally-related topics and concerns to nudge others along a path of ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ as you suggest rather than confront the hard reality of limits and what overshooting them means to our future…

Beware the Snake Oil Salesmen: Climate Change and Elite Confabs

I penned this more than two years ago as members of the world’s ruling caste gathered for COP26. It’s just as relevant today as these so-called ‘leaders’ gather once again in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for COP28…


Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXI–
Beware the Snake Oil Salesmen: Climate Change and Elite Confabs

Blog      Medium

“If we are not discussing significant degrowth, however (and we’re not because there’s no money to be made from it and the primary motivation of the ruling class, who control the mainstream narratives, is the control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams), then it would seem we are just creating stories to sell more stuff and people tend to accept them readily because they reduce cognitive dissonance — we recognise we live on a finite planet and infinite growth is not possible (except through extreme magical, Cargo Cult-like thinking) but want to also believe that we can continue to live in our energy- and resource-intensive lifestyles uninterrupted and without significant sacrifice”

Also see: Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXII–
Greenwashing, Fiat Currency, Narrative Management: More On Climate Change and Elite Confabs

Blog      Medium

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXIV–Energy-Averaging Systems and Complexity: A Recipe For Collapse

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXIV

November 28, 2021

Athens, Greece (1984) Photo by author

Energy-Averaging Systems and Complexity: A Recipe For Collapse

Supply chain disruptions and the product shortages that result have become a growing concern over the past couple of years and the reasons for these are as varied as the people providing the ‘analysis’. Production delays. Covid-19 pandemic. Pent-up consumer demand. Central bank monetary policy. Government economic stimulus. Consumer hoarding. Supply versus demand basics. Labour woes. Vaccination mandates. Union strikes. The number and variety of competing narratives is almost endless.

I have been once again reminded of the vagaries of our supply chains, the disruptions that can result, and our increasing dependence upon them with the unprecedented torrential rain and flood damage across many parts of British Columbia, Canada; and, of course, similar disruptions have occurred across the planet.

Instead of a recognition that perhaps a rethinking is needed of the complexities of our current systems and the dependencies that result from them, particularly in light of this increasingly problematic supply situation, we have politicians (and many in the media) doubling-down on the very systems that have helped to put us in the various predicaments we are encountering.

Our growing reliance on intensive-energy and other resource systems is not viewed as any type of dependency that places us in the crosshairs of ecological overshoot and unforeseen circumstances, but as a supply and demand conundrum that can be best addressed via our ingenuity and technology. Once again the primacy of a political and/or economic worldview, as opposed to an ecological one, shines through in our interpretation of world events; and of course the subsequent ‘solutions’ proposed.

Our dependence upon complex and thus fragile long-distance supply chains (over which we may have little control whatsoever) is not perceived as a consequence of resource constraints manifesting themselves on a finite planet with a growing population and concomitant resource requirements but as a result of ‘organisational’ weaknesses that can be overcome with the right political and/or economic ‘solutions’. Greater centralisation. More money ‘printing’. Increased taxes. Significant investment in ‘green’ energy. Massive wealth ‘redistribution’. Expansive infrastructure construction. Higher wages. Rationing. Forced vaccinations. The proposed ‘solutions’ are almost endless in nature and scope.

All of these ‘solutions’ have one thing in common: they attempt to ‘tweak’ our current economic/political systems. They fail to recognise that perhaps the weakness or ‘problem’ is with the system itself. A system that has built-in constraints that pre/history, and population biology, would suggest result in eventual failure.

Archaeologist Joseph Tainter discusses the benefits and vulnerabilities of ‘energy averaging systems’ (i.e., trade) that contributed to the collapse of the Chacoan society in his seminal text The Collapse of Complex Societies.

He argued that the energy averaging system employed early on took advantage of the Chacoan Basin’s diversity, distributing environmental vagaries of food production in a mutually-supportive network that increased subsistence security and accommodated population growth. At the beginning, this system was improved by adding more participants and increasing diversity but as time passed duplication of resource bases increased and less productive areas were added causing the buffering effect to decline.

This fits entirely with Tainter’s basic thesis that as problem-solving organisations, complex societies gravitate towards the easiest-to-implement and most beneficial ‘solutions’ to begin with. As time passes, the ‘solutions’ become more costly to society in terms of ‘investments’ (e.g., time, energy, resources, etc.) and the beneficial returns accrued diminish. This is the law of marginal utility, or diminishing returns, in action.

As return on investment dropped for those in the Chacoan Basin that were involved in the agricultural trade system, communities began to withdraw their participation in it. The collapse of the Chacoan society was not due primarily to environmental deterioration (although that did influence behaviour) but because the population choose to disengage when the challenge of another drought raised the costs of participation to a level that was more than the benefits of remaining. In other words, the benefits amassed by participation in the system declined over time and environmental inconsistencies finally pushed regions to remove themselves from a system that no longer provided them security of supplies; participants either moved out of the area or relocalised their economies. The return to a more simplified and local dependence emerged as supply chains could no longer provide security.

Having just completed rereading William Catton Jr.’s Overshoot, I can’t help but take a slightly different perspective than the mainstream ones that are being offered through our various media; what Catton terms an ecological perspective. And one that is influenced by Tainter’s thesis: our supply chain disruptions are increasingly coming under strain from our being in overshoot and encountering diminishing returns on our investments in them (and this is particularly true for one of the most fundamental resources that underpin our global industrial societies: fossil fuels).

What should we do? It’s one of the things I’ve stressed for some years in my local community (not that it seems to be having much impact, if any): we need to use what dwindling resources remain to relocalise as much as possible but particularly food production, procurement of potable water, and supplies of shelter needs for the regional climate so that supply disruptions do not result in a massive ‘collapse’ (an additional priority should also be to ‘decommission’ some of our more ‘dangerous’ creations such as nuclear power plants and biosafety labs).

Pre/history shows that relocalisation is going to happen eventually anyways, and in order to avert a sudden loss of important supplies that would have devastating consequences (especially food, water, and shelter), we should prepare ourselves now while we have the opportunity and resources to do so.

Instead, what I’ve observed is a doubling-down as it were of the processes that have created our predicament: pursuit of perpetual growth on a finite planet, using political/economic mechanisms along with hopes of future technologies to rationalise/justify this approach. While such a path may help to reduce the stress of growing cognitive dissonance, it does nothing to help mitigate the coming ‘storms’ that will increasingly disrupt supply chains.

The inability of our ‘leaders’ to view the world through anything but a political/economic paradigm and its built-in short-term focus has blinded them to the reality that we do not stand above and outside of nature or its biological principles and systems. We are as prone to overshoot and the consequences that come with it as any other species. And because of their blindness (and most people’s uncritical acceptance of their narratives) we are rushing towards a cliff that is directly ahead. In fact, perhaps we’ve already left solid ground but just haven’t realised it yet because, after all, denial is an extremely powerful drug.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXIII–Overlooking Ecological Overshoot

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXIII

November 25, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Overlooking Ecological Overshoot

Today’s thought was prompted by an Andrew Nikiforuk article in The Tyee and my recent rereading of William Catton Jr.’s Overshoot.

I just finished rereading William Catton’s Overshoot. One of the things I’m coming to better appreciate is Catton’s idea that the ‘Age of Exuberance’ (a time created by human expansion in almost all its forms and mostly facilitated by our extraction of fossil fuels) has so infiltrated our thinking that we tend to view the world through almost exclusively human-created institutional lenses, especially economic and political ones. We have come to think of ourselves as completely removed from nature: we sit above and beyond our natural environment with the ability to both control and predict it; primarily due to our ‘ingenuity’ and ‘technological prowess’.

This non-ecological worldview is still very much entrenched in our thinking and comes through quite clearly in mainstream narratives regarding our various predicaments. Usually it goes like this: our ingenuity and technological prowess can ‘solve’ anything thrown our way so we can continue business-as-usual; in fact, we can continue expanding our presence and increase our standard of living to infinity and beyond (apologies to Buzz Lightyear).

What are by now increasingly looking to be insoluble problems appear to have been solved in the past by two different approaches that Catton describes: the takeover method (move into a different area via migration or military expansion) or the drawdown method (depend upon non-renewable and finite resources that have been laid down millennia ago). On a finite planet, there are limits to both of these approaches.

But because of our tendency towards cornucopian thinking, most analyses overlook the idea of resource depletion or overloaded sinks that can help to cleanse our waste products that accompany growth on a finite planet. It’s all about economics, politics, technology, etc..

Our traditional ‘solutions’, however, have probably surpassed any sustainable limits and instead of being able to rely upon our ‘savings’ we have to shift towards relying exclusively upon our ‘income’ which, unfortunately, doesn’t come close to being able to sustain so many of us. To better appreciate the increasing need to do this we also need to shift our interpretive paradigm towards one that puts us back within and an intricate part of ecological systems. Ecological considerations, especially that we’ve overshot our natural carrying capacity, are missing in action from most people’s thinking.

The first thing one must do when found in a hole you want to extricate yourself from is to stop digging. Until and unless we can both individually and as a collective stop pursuing the infinite growth chalice, we travel further and further into the black hole that is ecological overshoot with an eventual rebalancing (i.e., collapse) that we cannot control nor mitigate. Our ingenuity can’t do it. Our technology can’t do it (in fact, there’s a good argument to be made that pursuing technological ‘solutions’ actually exacerbates our overshoot).

It is increasingly likely that a ‘solution’ at this point is completely out of our grasp. We’ve pursued business-as-usual despite repeated warnings because we’ve viewed and interpreted our predicament through the wrong paradigm and put ourselves in a corner. It is likely that one’s energies/efforts may be best focused going forward upon local community resilience and self-sufficiency. Relocalising as much as possible but especially procurement of potable water, appropriate shelter needs (for regional climate), and food should be a priority. Continuing to expand and depend upon diminishing resources that come to us via complex, fragile, and centralised supply chains is a sure recipe for mass disaster.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXII–Greenwashing, Fiat Currency, and Narrative Management: More On Climate Change and Elite Confabs

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXII

November 6, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Greenwashing, Fiat Currency, and Narrative Management: More On Climate Change and Elite Confabs

Today’s missive was motivated by a former student’s (and eventual colleague) question regarding a Facebook Post I made regarding COP-26.

Here’s what I posted:

COP-26. Be aware…

These elite confabs are not about climate, except to leverage the fear factor over it to meet the primary concern of the ruling class: control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams. It’s additionally a marketing expo for ‘green’ energy products; a mechanism for helping to steer the mainstream narratives; and a justification for further enrichment of the elite via massive expansion of fake fiat currency.

It is not about saving the planet.

And here is the comment I am responding to:

The greenwashing of society is ridiculous. People continuing to buy useless things they don’t need that will not help the environment and now feeling good about draining their own pockets. The elite lining their pockets and masterminding it all. Curious, what do you mean by fake flat currency?

My response to Michelle:

Thanks for the question. It has motivated me to write a rather lengthy response that I have ‘published’ with my ongoing ‘series’ on Medium. You can find it below:

Basically, the currency we use is supposed to carry with it a number of ‘qualities’: use as a medium of exchange; a measure of ‘wealth’; and, a store of ‘value’. As with virtually everything the ruling class touches, our ‘fiat’ currency has become a tool of control and wealth extraction through its creation and distribution mechanisms (just another in a long line of examples that have lead me to believe that the primary motivation of our ruling class is the control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams; everything they do seems to serve this purpose in one way or another).

Our ‘money’ has always been problematic in the ability to be manipulated, but became even more exploitive in nature once removed from its tie to physical commodities, such as gold and silver, that served to constrain somewhat the level of abuse — thanks Richard Nixon and fellow politicians of the time. Since then, money (with the aid of the monetary policies of our central banks) has been able to be created from thin air in staggering amounts. This exponential growth in currency destroys it as a store of ‘value’ — the quality that most significantly impacts the ‘average’ user.

The term inflation actually refers to this growth in currency but has been twisted (as language often is by the-powers-that-be, think about the notion of ‘clean/green’ energy and the greenwashing that has and is occurring) to represent something ‘beneficial’ when it is for the ‘average’ person actually quite detrimental (classic Orwellian doublespeak). When the term inflation is now used it usually refers to the increase in the price of consumer products, and those running the fiat currency system market this price increase as beneficial to the economy and pursue it believing they can control it and its consequences (the belief that one can control/predict a complex system is perhaps one of humanity’s greatest shortcomings).

In reality, this currency expansion is primarily beneficial to the creators and distributors of money, and those first in line to receive this newly ‘minted’ money — usually governments and wealthy elite who can more or less avoid the impact of price inflation by getting access early, thus the lack of resistance by governments and large businesses to reign it in; to say little about the banking system that creates the currency and then charges interest on its product made from nothing. Once this flood of currency filters down to the ‘average’ person, its ‘value’ has decreased significantly because of consumer price inflation (what we witness as a loss of purchasing power — which of course is drastically underreported by the government institutions that ‘measure’ it; primarily because of the way they manipulate the statistics with the actual price increases people experience multiple times higher than the value reported and broadly regurgitated by the uncritical establishment media).

The issue is far more complex and convoluted than I could summarise in a few paragraphs, and I am sharing my ever-changing view based on relatively limited reading and experience. There are a myriad of books written about the subject.

And I haven’t even touched on the ‘narrative managers’ (academics, private economists, government bureaucrats, journalists, etc.) that steer the public perceptions of this gargantuan scam for that is what our monetary/financial systems have become (and thus our entire economic system): they have morphed into the largest Ponzi scheme ever created. In fact, we have entered a time where without constant growth (thus exponential in nature) the entire scheme collapses — the classic definition of a Ponzi scheme, one in which we are all embroiled.

For a long time, the growth needed to ‘fuel’ our economic system was provided by our exploitation of the planet and its relatively preserved and seemingly limitless resources. That changed, however, as we began encountering diminishing returns on our investments. For the past 50 years or so this growth has been predicated upon the expansion of debt/credit (i.e., fiat currency creation) and has, unfortunately, entered a very dangerous territory where debt repayments are exceeding people’s ability to even pay for their interest, let alone principal. To say little about the fact that debt/credit is in essence stealing from the future in the form of claims on future resources (especially energy) that are not only increasingly difficult to procure but in many cases don’t or won’t exist in the future because we live on a finite planet.

Our ‘prosperity/wealth/growth’, therefore, is in a sense all ‘fake’. A Potemkin village if you will. It appears solid and real on the surface but behind the façade is nothing but the ‘promises’ of our feckless ‘leaders’ — and we should, by now, know how much integrity these class of people have and how much of the ‘truth’ they spew. Zero, except perhaps some kernel of it that can be manipulated and leveraged to their advantage.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXI–Beware the Snake Oil Salesmen: Climate Change and Elite Confabs

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXXI

November 2, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Beware the Snake Oil Salesmen: Climate Change and Elite Confabs

So, dozens of political leaders, their hundreds of staff, multitudes of corporate leaders, and who knows how many ‘celebrities’ have all gathered in Glasgow, Scotland for an elite confab (#26) to discuss the ‘Climate Crisis’. Heaven knows how many resources have been extracted and pollutants dispersed in this latest political theatre (mostly? all? at taxpayer expense). The irony is not lost on many, except perhaps much of the mainstream media that tends to simply regurgitate political media releases and share simplistic narratives for exceedingly complex issues — it is indeed difficult to get someone to understand something if their income depends on them not understanding it.

So, dozens of political leaders, their hundreds of staff, multitudes of corporate leaders, and who knows how many ‘celebrities’ have all gathered in Glasgow, Scotland for an elite confab (#26) to discuss the ‘Climate Crisis’. Heaven knows how many resources have been extracted and pollutants dispersed in this latest political theatre (mostly? all? at taxpayer expense). The irony is not lost on many, except perhaps much of the mainstream media that tends to simply regurgitate political media releases and share simplistic narratives for exceedingly complex issues — it is indeed difficult to get someone to understand something if their income depends on them not understanding it.

Needless to say I expect little of substance to result from this event. In fact, I am increasingly seeing this event as an expo for marketing of ‘green/clean’ energy products (and making sure most? all? countries pursue purchasing them) that do not address our fundamental predicament — ecological overshoot — of which greenhouse gases is but one negative consequence (and not even the worst). And, of course, all of this provides the justification to create trillions of more dollars out of thin air (the debt held by a variety of the ruling class) that will be funnelled towards specific industries (owned by others of the ruling class) while doing little to reduce actual consumption or ecologically-destructive extraction industries.

This is increasingly looking not like a problem that can be solved but a predicament that may at best be mitigated on the margins. One of the most significant dilemmas, however, appears to be the ‘solutions’ that are being bandied about also appear to be the ones that will simply make the situation worse: increasing technology and complexities in the form of ‘renewables’.

The evidence is accumulating quickly that ‘renewables’ (which aren’t really because they require lots of non-renewable, finite resources in perpetuity) are neither ‘green’, nor ‘clean’, nor ‘sustainable’. They require the fossil fuel platform at every level of their production, maintenance, and after-life disposal, and depend upon a variety of rare-earth minerals whose procurement wreak havoc on the environment. The entire ‘renewable’ narrative is appearing more and more like a sham meant primarily to market products and support business as usual than do anything about reducing our ecological destruction and carbon footprint (and keep in mind that our current debt/credit-based monetary/economic/financial systems are all predicated on growth in perpetuity — they will most certainly collapse without it).

If we are not discussing significant degrowth, however (and we’re not because there’s no money to be made from it and the primary motivation of the ruling class, who control the mainstream narratives, is the control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams), then it would seem we are just creating stories to sell more stuff and people tend to accept them readily because they reduce cognitive dissonance — we recognise we live on a finite planet and infinite growth is not possible (except through extreme magical, Cargo Cult-like thinking) but want to also believe that we can continue to live in our energy- and resource-intensive lifestyles uninterrupted and without significant sacrifice.

Basically, the snake oil salesmen of the world are, as they often (always?) do, leveraging our fear over a crisis (or crises) to enrich themselves mightily. We are being led to follow a path that actually exacerbates the predicament of overshoot rather than reduces the harm caused by us blowing past the biophysical limits imposed by a finite planet.

Sad on so many levels.

The World Has Already Ended

The World Has Already Ended

Due to climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, the world in which civilization was born has already ended. Most people just don’t know it yet.

“You say the ocean’s rising,
Like I give a shit,
You say the whole world’s ending,
Honey, it already did.”

– All Eyes On Me by Bo Burnham

The world that many of us grew up in is already gone, replaced by a world of superstorms, megadroughts, brutal heat waves, rising sea levels, toxic chemicals, and mass extinction. It happened so gradually that most people didn’t even notice, but they will soon.

Many people, particularly those in first-world countries, have been relatively insulated from the effects of the polycrisis, even if they have seen their standard of living drop. So it’s easy for them to dismiss warnings about the end of the world.

I’ve often heard people say things like, “What’s with all the doom and gloom? Sure, the weather is a little worse, but for the most part, things are fine.” The purpose of this article is to prove that things are not fine. In fact, things are worse than ever, and it’s all downhill from here.

Civilization was born during the Holocene, an epoch that lasted about 10,000 years. During this time, the average global temperature was incredibly stable, never varying more than 1°C. As a result, weather patterns were also very stable, creating conditions that were perfect for societies to flourish.

With more predictable weather, farmers were able to greatly expand agriculture, and the ability to stockpile grain contributed to the development of the first civilizations. Humans have had the intelligence necessary to form civilizations for about 300,000 years, but the Holocene made it possible.

We inherited a beautiful world covered with vast forests and teeming with millions of species. And in just a couple hundred years, we destroyed it. Forests are dying, countless species are going extinct, and the weather has become increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Coming Soon: Your Travel Will Be Restricted By Personal Carbon Allowances

“Experts suggest” your standard of living be reduced by over 85%

A report on the future of travel and tourism, co-authored by a travel agency called Intrepid Travel and The Future Labs Institute, posits a future deeply impacted by climate change and restrictions on tourist travel to combat it.

“A Sustainable Future for Travel”, warns of “travel extinction”, where some areas suffer such radical climate change that all tourism there ceases, and “personal carbon allowances” that will restrict how often one is permitted travel.

From the report (pardon the length, emphasis added):

“Carbon Passports

A personal carbon emissions limit will become the new normal as policy and people’s values drive an era of great change.

As demonstrated by a worldwide tourism boom, the frequency at which we can fly is once again seemingly unlimited.

Conscience and budgets permitting, we feel free to hop on planes from one place to the next. But this will change. ‘On our current trajectory, we can expect a pushback against the frequency with which individuals can travel, with carbon passports set to change the tourism landscape,’ says Raymond [Martin Raymond, Future Laboratories co-founder]

Personal carbon allowances could help curb carbon emissions and lower travel’s overall footprint.

These allowances will manifest as passports that force people to ration their carbon in line with the global carbon budget, which is 750bn tonnes until 2050.

By 2040, we can expect to see limitations imposed on the amount of travel that is permitted each year.

Experts suggest that individuals should currently limit their carbon emissions to 2.3 tonnes each year – the equivalent of taking a round-trip from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia..

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Why Do Today’s Realities Escape Society?

Why Do Today’s Realities Escape Society?

Philpott Lake, Virginia, as seen from the Visitor Center of Philpott Dam
First of all, many people do clearly see what is happening. However, society as a whole still has many blind spots. The news continues to worsen regularly as this article points out, and more studies pointing out tree decline and deforestation like I have written about before are constantly coming out. That article is about the forests in the UK and this article goes into detail on the Amazon Rainforest, quickly turning into a carbon source rather than a carbon sink. Countless articles tell the story of countless animals meeting up with mass die-offs, including the elephants in this article. Once again, Tom Murphy hammers these points out in his new article here (his word, BTW), quote:

“What I am saying is that a system powerful enough to destroy ecological health and biodiversity—which we have demonstrated in spades—cannot survive unless it deliberately refrains from using this power. It must invert the cultural hierarchy and place ecosystem health—the vitality of the biodiverse planet—above all other considerations…ABOVE ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS, to hammer the point. 

We have abundant evidence that we can destroy life, at large scale, up to and including a ballooning number of permanent extinctions. It is far beyond our power to create biodiversity and life—especially pre-tuned to play a viable ecological role in the context of all other life. Only life can create itself, and only long exposure to the full world-as-it-is can shape life to work in the long term, via multi-level selection processes. While we can’t create and shape life to our whims, what we can do is get out of its way: let life do what it does best. Give it room. Make it a priority…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXVII–The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXVII

Tulum, Mexico (1986). Photo by author.

The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

Today’s Contemplation is my brief comment on an article posted on Facebook by Tristan Sykes of Just Collapse.

The article in question (short and concise) is an update of the World3 model used in creating the various scenarios in the 1972 The Limits to Growth study using the most recent empirical data.

While the authors make clear the uncertainty involved in a data’s trendline after it reaches its ‘tipping point’ (although one could argue there exists great uncertainty in any such modelling beyond the present; complex systems with their nonlinear feedback loops and emergent phenomena are impossible to map out with ‘perfect’ accuracy), the interesting — but not surprising — thing to note is that virtually all of these projections exhibit not just shifts of their peaks into the future but ‘higher highs’ followed by temporally-contracted declines (i.e., a quicker ‘collapse’) resulting in ‘lower lows’.

‘Deniers’ will argue this highlights the fallibility of ‘doom-based’ narratives’ and ‘bargainers’ will likely suggest this buys humanity more time to ‘mitigate/manage’ our predicament. But, perhaps, this merely points out how non-linear system-feedback loops behave.

As Donella Meadows argued in Thinking in Systems: A Primer: “…Delays that are too long cause damped, sustained or exploding oscillations, depending on how much too long. Overlong delays in a system with a threshold, a danger point, a range past which irreversible damage can occur, cause overshoot and collapse.”

The delays in these peaks that are projected are looking to allow us to go further into overshoot — providing fodder for those rationalising away our predicament — and most likely result in a ‘correction’ that will most certainly ‘dampen’ adaptive responses as the time to do so will be shorter. Such a situation may also possibly feed into further negative feedback loops as attempted adaptations could be quite maladaptive (as many (most? all?) have been the past few decades given the influence and direction of our societies’ wealth-extractors who are leveraging our predicament at every turn).

While it is indeed difficult to make predictions, especially if they’re about the future, overshoot and collapse remains the predicted ‘conclusion’ of this business-as-usual scenario, despite the uncertainty painted by the authors.

As the saying goes, the future ain’t what it used to be; it seems to be getting worse by the day…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LI–Cognition and Belief Systems: Part Two — Deference to Authority

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LI

May 27, 2022

Monte Alban, Mexico (1988) Photo by author

Cognition and Belief Systems: Part Two — Deference to Authority

This contemplation is the second part of a look at several psychological mechanisms at play in our thinking about ecological overshoot and the accompanying societal ‘collapse’ that will eventually result. You can find Part One here.

In Part One, I briefly summarised four psychological mechanisms I’ve been reflecting upon in the context of ecological overshoot and in particular the collapse of our global, industrialised complex societies that will (or, as some argue, has already begun to) accompany this overshoot.

One of the primary considerations in understanding how our cognitions and thus our beliefs and behaviours are going to be affected by the unfolding of the consequences of ecological overshoot and the concomitant ‘collapse’ of our societies is the anxiety/stress that such a future (and present) is going to have (is having) upon us; personally, on a familial level, and on the broader societal scale. Contemplating an unknowable future that is unlikely to provide many of the energetic conveniences most currently depend upon and/or that will challenge our complex systems to the breaking point because of extreme weather events[1] or supply chain disruptions/breakdowns (especially food, water, energy), etc. can be exceedingly anxiety-provoking.

Mix these (and many other) psychological mechanisms in with Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect — that postulates all animals have an innate motivation to avoid pain/seek pleasure[2] — and you have an animal whose sense-making abilities are leveraged by its mind to deny/ignore away evidence that challenges them and can cause painful, anxiety-provoking emotions (in fact, there appears to be neuroscientific support for this[3]). In response, we appear to employ all sorts of biases/rationalisations to support our belief systems (a ‘pleasurable’ sensation) regardless of disconfirming evidence (that can lead to painful/stressful emotions).

It’s long been recognised that complex societies[4] by their very nature become socially hierarchal in nature[5], with ‘power’ structures arising from the organisational requirements of living in large social groupings[6].

As archaeologist Joseph Tainter points out in The Collapse of Complex Societies[7]: where more complex political differentiation exists, permanent positions of authority/rank can exist in an ‘office’ that can be hereditary in nature; inequality becomes more pervasive; these groups tend to be larger and more densely populated; political organisation is larger, extending beyond local community; a political economy arises with rank having authority to direct labour and economic surpluses; and, with greater size comes a need for more social organisation that is less dependent upon kinship relations (ties that have historically constrained individual political ambitions).

Tainter goes on to point out that ‘States’ are characterized by their territorial organisation (i.e. membership determined by place of birth/residence). In addition, “a ruling authority monopolizes sovereignty and delegates all power”, with the ruling class being non-kinship-based professionals that hold a monopoly on force within the territory (e.g. taxes, laws, draft) and is validated by a state-wide ideology[8]. Maintaining territorial integrity becomes stressed and being more populated society becomes even more stratified and specialized, particularly with regard to occupation.

Further, complex states like their simpler societies must divert resources and activities to legitimizing authority in order for the political system to survive. While coercion can ensure some compliance, it is a more costly approach than moral validity. As a result states tend to focus on a symbolic and sacred ‘centre’ (necessarily independent of its various territorial parts), which is why they always have an official religion, linking leadership to the supernatural (which helps unify different groups/regions). When other avenues for retaining power arise, the need for such religious integration recedes — although not the sense of the sacred.

As social psychology has demonstrated, human deference/obedience to authority is a significant tendency. In a complex society that invariably develops hierarchical structures that facilitate organisation as it grows in size and complexity, this propensity can be — and pre/history shows it has been — leveraged by a society’s rulers to ensure efficiency but also to maintain compliance and control, regardless of its pursuit of ‘equality’ or ‘democratisation’[9].

I have the feeling that this deference to authority is perhaps one of the more problematic of human tendencies, especially as we glide down the Seneca Cliff of cheap resource availability (especially energy) and all the knock-on effects of this.

As Tainter further argues about complex societies, those at the top of human social hierarchies work hard to maintain their privileged position using coercion, moral validity, or a combination of the two. A ‘moral’ validation is developed by creating a narrative that the status/authority of the ruling elite is due to their directly descending from the gods, through to, more recently, it being based upon the will of the people.

There is likely no higher motive for the ruling class than to maintain their positions atop a complex society’s organisational structures. In fact, one of the beliefs that I have developed over the years and have argued is that the primary motivation of the ruling class is the control/expansion/maintenance of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus the power/prestige that they tend to seek[10].

In addition, as Lord Acton has been credited with observing: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely[11]. The research is still relatively young in this area and while most suggests power can but doesn’t always corrupt, there is still not definitive consensus upon the idea[12]. So once in power, it can be argued, all sorts of machinations are employed to keep and/or expand an individual’s/family’s/group’s hold on it. It is certainly not always in the best interests of the ruling elite, however, for the ruled to know about or believe such manipulations occur for they do require the consent of the governed, even in totalitarian regimes. Note that on the rare occasion when the curtain is drawn back to expose corruption/nepotism/criminal behaviour/etc., the incident is explained away or viewed as a one-off by a lone wolf or group (usually political opposition) and do not have the best interests of the people in mind as all the rest do (#sarc).

As a result of our tendency to trust/obey authorities, humans are susceptible to narrative control/propaganda. And one must consider that the ruling elite are well aware of this fact and leverage it to their advantage. Perhaps nowhere is this made more obvious than in the research and writings of the ‘father of propaganda’ and US government consultant, Edward Bernays, particularly within his seminal text Propaganda where he outlines the necessity of narrative control in complex societies:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” [13]

One can additionally look at the expenditures (hundreds of billions of US dollars) diverted to advertising by businesses[14] to support this argument. If marketing/narrative control was ineffective, neither businesses nor governments would spend so much of their time and wealth employing it in attempts at being ‘persuasive’. Suffice it to say, our ruling class is well aware of the psychological mechanisms at play in forming beliefs, and have been for some time.

It may be that humanity’s deference to authority is one of our most perilous psychological tendencies as we increasingly experience the negative consequences of ecological overshoot. It is because of this behaviour that we can be drawn into and blindly accept maladaptive strategies that are offered up by our ‘leaders’. As crises emerge, our ruling class will offer ‘solutions’ but one’s that do not do what they are marketed as doing but, in fact, quite often the exact opposite — such as the stories we are told about non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies and their ability to support not only our current complexities but continued growth in a clean and sustainable fashion[15].

As the energy/resource descent proceeds and possibly accelerates we might expect that those who ‘manage’ our narratives to expand their efforts to mask ‘collapse’[16], use it to highlight the evils of our ‘enemies’ so as to deflect anger from our own ruling class[17], and/or leverage crises to their advantage[18].

In addition, many if not most of the developments we have come to ‘celebrate’ as symbolic of our ingenuity (e.g., technology) and the language we use (e.g., progress, success) are mostly if not entirely energetically- and ecologically-blind. They tend to elevate one specific aspect of our existence (e.g., economic growth), ignore the negative consequences of their favoured narrative (e.g., biodiversity impacts are not relevant), and then encourage adaptations that align with this but are the exact opposite of what we likely need to be doing (e.g., degrowth). Pursuing such a maladaptive strategy, however, does benefit the ruling class who tends to own or be heavily invested in the industrial processes needed and/or the financial institutions required for growth to take place.

Given all the above, deference to authority can be viewed as an exceedingly problematic tendency that could well lead us into significantly more difficult times than we have experienced to date — in fact, likely speeding up the collapse that always accompanies a species overshooting its natural environmental carrying capacity. If our ‘leaders’ adopt and/or encourage maladaptation to our predicament and we mindlessly obey because that is what we do, we end up making our circumstances worse but end up cheering them on because to do otherwise leads to extremely anxiety-provoking emotions.

It can be argued that we don’t solve anything, for example, by pursuing non-renewable renewables (and increasing ecological destruction), we simply further reduce human carrying capacity. But in the thirst for expanding their revenue streams, our ‘authorities’ will market/cheerlead such consumer products as a panacea for perceived ‘problems’, relegating the negative consequences to the sphere of misinformation and/or ostracising/censoring those who raise them while raiding national ‘treasuries’, all the while ensuring the masses hear the message that what they are doing is great for ‘the people’ and their non-negotiable way of life[19].

As we continue to descend our energy/resource cliffs, it will be increasingly important to come to the realisation that there are no white knights coming to the rescue — especially from the ruling class. The solutions being pushed/marketed by those at the top of our social power structures should not be trusted just because they are in positions of authority; they need to be viewed for what they tend to be: a leveraging of ‘power’ to expand/maintain privilege and wealth.

We cannot grow or spend our way out of overshoot; in fact, we do the opposite in trying this. We cannot continue to destroy the planet with alternatives to fossil fuels and expect to avoid collapse in the process. We need to be considering that we are being led astray by people and groups who do not in any way have our best interests in mind.

‘Salvation’ is not likely to be found in our hierarchical social structures but perhaps within our close kinship-based circles[20].

Part Three of this multi-part Contemplation can be found here.

Please consider visiting my website and supporting my work through the purchase of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai, that chronicles the ‘collapse’ of modern society. For less than $10 Canadian you can receive the entire trilogy in PDF format.

[1] Having just experienced such an event with the most populated region of Canada having been hit with a devastating derecho storm, I can attest to the added stress that occurs. I think our family’s anxiety was mitigated with the help of previous preparations for such times but many others were not so prepared for several days without electrical power or the damage that took place — we were also much luckier than some having only sustained minor physical damage to our property (a blown down fence); in our immediate community there were homes/businesses damaged, cars crushed/damaged, and many power lines down due to snapped hydro poles and large tree falls. I am happy that all the seedlings I had planted the day before the storm were undamaged but it reminded me of the vagary of food production and vital importance of having surpluses set aside and establishing what Joseph Tainter terms ‘energy-averaging systems’: regional trade to support life when things go sideways in your area.

[2] https://www.simplypsychology.org/edward-thorndike.html

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/202001/the-neuroscience-seeking-pleasure-and-avoiding-pain

[4] https://anthropology.iresearchnet.com/complex-societies/

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/social-hierarchy; https://www.sociostudies.org/journal/articles/140641/; https://evolution-institute.org/blog/the-evolution-of-hierarchy/

[6] http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/Richerson/complex.PDF; https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/211336; https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1942.44.1.02a00040; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5494206/

[7] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/477.Collapse_of_Complex_Societies

[8] I would also recommend Murray Rothbard’s Anatomy of the State as a relatively short and concise text on motivations of the ruling class and their machinations to maintain/expand their power/wealth/prestige. (https://cdn.mises.org/Anatomy%20of%20the%20State_3.pdf).

[9] Try pointing out to someone the unquestionable yet religious-like faith in the institution of representative democracy and its concomitant belief that one has agency via the ballot box. Firm believers in this process for ‘choosing’ leaders and providing input into societal ‘decisions’ will stanchly defend it and even attack ferociously any challenges to it — why do ‘leaders’ always suggest they are defending ‘democracy’ whenever they are pontificating about the evils of a geopolitical foe? Because it feeds into the narrative. Few people will entertain the argument that the entire election process is mostly theatre to help ‘legitimise’ our ruling class’s hold on power or the idea that they have no agency in the fundamental decisions made by politicians.

[10] I believe I have developed this notion primarily through my readings of Charles Hugh Smith who blogs at https://www.oftwominds.com. I cannot locate any exact reference by him to this idea at this time, however. Regardless, the concept does align with historical evidence and psychological mechanisms.

[11] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_dalbergacton_109401?src=t_power_corrupts

[12] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200908/how-power-corrupts-leaders; https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/does_power_corrupt_everyone_equally; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/the-science-behind-why-power-corrupts-and-what-can-be-done-to-mitigate-it; https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-power-corrupts-37165345/. Also consider Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment here (https://www.prisonexp.org) and the Power Paradox that occurs (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/power_paradox): “Power is given to those individuals, groups, or nations who advance the interests of the greater good in socially-intelligent fashion. Yet unfortunately, having power renders many individuals as impulsive and poorly attuned to others as your garden-variety frontal lobe patient, making them prone to act abusively and lose the esteem of their peers. What people want from leaders — social intelligence — is what is damaged by the experience of power.

[13] I highly recommend reading Bernays’s Propaganda (https://archive.org/details/BernaysPropaganda). It lays out fairly clearly the notion of creating narratives to direct what people believe.

[14] https://www.statista.com/statistics/272314/advertising-spending-in-the-us/

[15] To be fair, this view is via my personal interpretive lens that has shifted over the years as I have researched and learned more; there are various competing narratives that one can choose from.

[16] Look at the manipulations that have been taking place for decades with respect to consumer price inflation and its pernicious impact upon pretty well everyone outside the top 1–10% of earners. You will only hear that ‘mild’ inflation is great for the economy and nothing about the currency devaluation that is taking place as a result of infinite credit/debt growth.

[17] Almost everything going wrong in the West currently is the fault of that evil Vladimir Putin.

[18] The quote “Never let a good crisis go to waste” has been attributed to a number of politicians including Winston Churchill, but demonstrates the thinking of our political class when it comes to using a crisis to their advantage.

[19] There is a very good argument that the creation and distribution of fiat currency by our ruling class falls into this category as well. They maintain that it is done responsibly and for the benefits of society but evidence would suggest the opposite.

[20] Unfortunately, for most ‘advanced’ economies these kinship-based circles have been eroded for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the ‘mobility’ provided by cheap energy. Small, local communities may be the next best avenue for the coming ‘transition’.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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