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Four Reasons Civilization Won’t Decline: It Will Collapse

Four Reasons Civilization Won’t Decline: It Will Collapse

Photograph Source: Studio Incendo – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As modern civilization’s shelf life expires, more scholars have turned their attention to the decline and fall of civilizations past.  Their studies have generated rival explanations of why societies collapse and civilizations die.  Meanwhile, a lucrative market has emerged for post-apocalyptic novels, movies, TV shows, and video games for those who enjoy the vicarious thrill of dark, futuristic disaster and mayhem from the comfort of their cozy couch.  Of course, surviving the real thing will become a much different story.

The latent fear that civilization is living on borrowed time has also spawned a counter-market of “happily ever after” optimists who desperately cling to their belief in endless progress.  Popular Pollyannas, like cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, provide this anxious crowd with soothing assurances that the titanic ship of progress is unsinkable.  Pinker’s publications have made him the high priest of progress.[1] While civilization circles the drain, his ardent audiences find comfort in lectures and books brimming with cherry-picked evidence to prove that life is better than ever, and will surely keep improving.  Yet, when questioned, Pinker himself admits, “It’s incorrect to extrapolate that the fact that we’ve made progress is a prediction that we’re guaranteed to make progress.”[2]

Pinker’s rosy statistics cleverly disguise the fatal flaw in his argument.  The progress of the past was built by sacrificing the future—and the future is upon us.  All the happy facts he cites about living standards, life expectancy, and economic growth are the product of an industrial civilization that has pillaged and polluted the planet to produce temporary progress for a growing middle class—and enormous profits and power for a tiny elite.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The hidden recession of 2020

The hidden recession of 2020

After 20 months of economy-wrecking lockdowns and restrictions, 2019 is fondly remembered as a period of prosperous calm.  Memories though, are deceptive.  And in the days before we learned what gain-of-function meant, things were not as rosy as they now seem.  Although the decade 2009-2019 was officially one of the longest periods of economic growth ever recorded, the rate of growth was anaemic – the media reporting on any quarter with more than 1.0% growth as if it heralded a return to the 1960s.  And what growth there was owed more to additional debt than to improvements in productivity.  The reality of the post-2008 years was of the mergence of an 80:20 economy in which the majority watched their prosperity evaporate, while a shrinking metropolitan salaried class fought a rear-guard defence of their income and status.

The political dam broke in 2016, with “the revenge of the places that didn’t matter” – aka Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.  But few in the salaried class understood the economic decline which had spilled over into the political arena; preferring instead to blame it all on Russian bots.  Nevertheless, whether the elites and their salaried lapdogs chose to understand the economic situation or not, the process of decline continued.

In the UK, Christmas 2018 had been the worse on record… until Christmas 2019 rolled around.  And whereas Christmas 2018 had seen a big decline in discretionary spending, Christmas 2019 produced the first indicators of a decline in borderline essential spending too.  We might choose to regard the humble Christmas pudding as something which can be lived without – although those who lived under Cromwell’s puritanical dictatorship might beg to differ – but a decline in sales – along with those of turkey and seasonal biscuits – points to a nation which was reining in its spending long before SARS-CoV-2 embarked upon the European leg of its world tour.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Tao of Degrowth

Tao of Degrowth

I am a degrowther and a doomer but this is not what your first reaction indicates.  We are taught to be optimistic and so forth.  People loath pessimist and doomers.  People tire of people who cry wolf constantly.  This is what the doom movement has done for decades now.  There is some truth to this but there is also the reality of the slow boil.  A frog will slowly boil without realizing its fate.  Humans because of our short-termism and immediate gratification tendencies slow boil with periods of change.  Some of this is beneficial because it is the degree of shock and the duration that is the key variable of survivability so adapting slowly allows survivable change.

My doom approach is different.  I am a visionary of sorts in regards to the tipping over of an age.  This is academic and I have been studying this for decades now.  I have been living the response for over a decade.  I have digested the available science not as a specialist but as a generalist with some specialization.  I study all fields in general picking through them in relation to decline.  I specialize in energy and systems for my theoretical approach.  It is my assessment that a multifaceted tipping over is now at or near the peak point.  The tipping over is at or near where diminishing returns to technological efforts go non-liner into problem creation.  I see an extinction event for life systems with localized failure and general decline.  The planetary systems that support life is in abrupt change with climate but also the nutrient, carbon, and hydrologic cycles.  Finally, systematically, civilization is in a phase of degrading.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Escobar: The Disintegrated States Of America

Escobar: The Disintegrated States Of America

Andrei Martyanov is in a class by himself. A third wave baby boomer, born in the early 1960s in Baku, in the Caucasus, then part of the former USSR, he’s arguably the foremost military analyst in the Russian sphere, living and working in the US, writing in English for a global audience, and always excelling in his Reminiscence of the Future blog.

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Martyanov’s previous two books. In Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning, nearly three years ago he conclusively proved, among other things, how the missile gap between the US and Russia was a “technological abyss”, and how the Khinzal was “a complete game-changer geopolitically, strategically, operationally, tactically and psychologically”.

He extensively mapped “the final arrival of a completely new paradigm” in warfare and military technology. This review is included in my own Asia Times e-book Shadow play.

Then came The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs, where he went one step beyond, explaining how this “revolution”, introduced at the Pentagon by the late Andrew Marshall, a.k.a. Yoda, the de facto inventor of the “pivot to Asia” concept, was in fact designed by Soviet military theoreticians way back in the 1970s, as MTR (Military-Technological Revolution).

His new book, Disintegration, completes a trilogy. And it’s a stunning departure.

Here, Martyanov, in meticulous detail, analyzes the imperial decline thematically – with chapters on Consumption, Geoeconomics, Energy, Losing the Arms Race, among others, composing a devastating indictment especially of toxic D.C. lobbies and the prevailing political mediocrity across the Beltway. What is laid bare for the reader is the complex interplay of forces that are driving the political, ideological, economic, cultural and military American chaos.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Western Civilization has become a never-ending Jerry Springer episode

Early in the 2nd century AD, around the year 101, the Roman humorist Decimus Junius Juvenalis began publishing a collection of satirical poems poking fun at the Empire.

Rome was already in serious decline by the time Juvenalis wrote his first poem. In the first century AD alone, Romans suffered the tyrannical insanity of Caligula, the destructive extravagance of Nero, multiple civil wars, and the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ in 96 AD.

Needless to say, Juvenalis had plenty of inspiration for his satires.

He was like the George Carlin of his day– making fun of everyone, even the most sacrosanct institutions. And he didn’t pull any punches.

Juvenalis made fun of the Senate for their endless hypocrisy. He made fun of wealthy noblemen for acquiring their wealth by sucking up to the Emperor.

He made fun of the merchant class and its constant obsession with status. He made fun of the military for acting as if they were above the law.

He made fun of how the Imperial government pretends to give a damn about the common folk. And he made fun the common folk, saying “the mob cares for nothing but bread and circuses. . .”

Most of all, Juvenalis made fun of the extreme decay in Roman morality.

By the 2nd century AD, the Roman virtues of ‘strength and honor’ had been replaced by deceit, idleness, apathy, and corruption.

Edward Gibbon echoed this sentiment in his work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in 1776.

Gibbon’s primary thesis is that Rome became a victim of its own success– its extraordinary wealth and prosperity made people lazy, complacent, and entitled.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

2021 – The Choppiness Ahead

QUESTION #1: OK. Now what? The Democrats seem to be just vindictive and do not represent all the people. Any thoughts on the future?

FC

QUESTION #2:  Hello Martin.
You and Socrates are the only sane people/AI in a totally insane world for the time being. Thanks for that.
From a Swedish perspective, it is completely absurd what we see unfolding in Washington DC among these corrupt politicians. If Trump leaves without some security guarantees, they will probably chase him and his entire family all the way to hell with various accusations, lawsuits, and maybe even arrests. Maybe he can make an art of the deal with Pence and let him step in 24 hours before noon 20th and pardon Trump and his family against all possible accusations or maybe even make an art of the deal with Biden, for the good of the country, etc.

What do you think and what does Socrates say?

BN

ANSWER: Trump’s biggest flaw is he does not know when to stop. Think a rally would show he had support was not necessary because he had the support and a number of Republicans were going to contest the vote despite the fact it would not win. All the conspiracy theories that Pence would just unilaterally declare Trump the winner were absurd. That was a fringe opinion at best. I stated that once the Supreme Court rejected the Texas suit it was over. The absurd statements that they were telling him how to bring the suit were obviously made up by people that do not understand the law. I do think he should step down, cut a deal with Pence, get a pardon for him and his family. The press will never allow him to come back.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

There Is No Normal

There Is No Normal


The wheel of time rolls forward, never retracing its path, but because it is a wheel, and we are riding in it, a persistent illusion persuades us that the landscape is recognizably the same, and that our doings within the regular turning of the seasons seem comfortably normal. There is no normal.

There is for us, at this moment in history, an especially harsh turning (so Strauss and Howe would say) as our journey takes the exit ramp out of the high energy era into the next reality of a long emergency. The human hive-mind senses that something is different, but at the same moment we’re unable to imagine changing all our exquisitely tuned arrangements — especially the thinking class in charge of all that, self-enchanted with pixeled fantasies. The dissonance over this is driving America crazy.

The wheel hit a deep pothole in 2008 turning onto the off-ramp and has been wobbling badly ever since. 2008 was a warning that going through the motions isn’t enough to sustain a sense of purpose, either nationally or for individuals trying to keep their lives together ever more desperately. The cultural memory of the confident years, when we seemed to know what we were doing, and where we were going, dogs us and mocks us.

The young adults feel all that most acutely. The pain prompts them to want to deconstruct that memory. “No, it didn’t happen that way,” they are saying. All those stories about the founding of this society — of those Great Men with their powdered hair-doos writing the national charter, and the remarkable experience of the past 200-odd years — are wrong! There was nothing wonderful about it. The whole thing was a swindle!

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

American Chernobyl

American Chernobyl

In the Spring of 1986 the Soviet Union was in a slow motion collapse. No one in the US intelligence agencies predicted it, the military was taken completely by surprise and no apologies were ever made for the thirty year, multi-trillion dollar oversight. It’s political and social institutions were Potemkin villages kept alive by little more than inertia yet on the outside everything appeared normal, and if not healthy, at least it seemed monolithic in it’s outward appearance.

The structural rot that had taken hold after the death of Stalin had become the central pillar of Eastern European civilization and the foundation upon which it was built- the blood of tens of millions of murdered citizens- softened the ground further, leading to it’s eventual implosion five short years later. On the 26th of April a failed experiment at a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine initiated a slow and steady series of system failures, leading to a full blown meltdown that forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of inhabitants from the exclusion zone.

Most Americans recall the event as a catastrophic ecological disaster that threatened- at that time- to spread radioactive particles across wide swaths of Europe, poisoning the groundwater that fed the Dnieper River, leading directly to the Black Sea. No one was certain in the aftermath of the extent of the damage, nor of the ability of the Soviet system to respond truthfully to international inquiries. It was assumed throughout the Free and Democratic nations of the West that the USSR was incapable of sharing anything that would reflect poorly on their ability to govern.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Great Fossil Cycle and US: Story of a Family

The Great Fossil Cycle and US: Story of a Family

Last week, I published a post on how the economic decline of Italy led me to move to a smaller house, abandoning the mansion that my parents had built during better times. Complementing that post, I thought I could repropose a post I had published in 2017, reproduced here with some minor modifications. You can find more data about the story of the Bardi family on the “Chimeras” blog.

My great-great grandfather, Ferdinando Bardi. The story of the branch of the Bardi family to which I belong is inextricably linked to the great world cycle of the fossil fuels. (this painting was made by Ferdinando’s son, Antonio)

There was a time, long ago, when the Bardis of Florence were rich and powerful, but that branch of the family disappeared with the end of the Renaissance. The most remote ancestors of mine that I can track were living during the early 19th century and they were all poor, probably very poor. But their life was to change with the great fossil revolution that had started in England in the 18th century. The consequences were to spill over to Italy in the centuries that followed.

My great-great grandfather Ferdinando (born in 1822) lived in an age when coal was just starting to become commonplace and people would still use whale oil to light up their homes. He was a soldier in the infantry of the Grand-Duke of Tuscany and then of the King of Italy, when Tuscany merged into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy, in 1861. The family lore says that Ferdinando fought with Garibaldi in Southern Italy, but there is no trace of him in the records as a volunteer of Garibaldi’s army. He may have fought there with the regular army, though.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Two Paths to Collapse

The Two Paths to Collapse

The very structure of our systems guarantees their failure once conditions change beyond their limited ability to adjust.
As a general rule, there are two paths to collapse: gradual erosion and sudden crash. The two are intertwined, of course; in most cases, the system slowly loses vigor, resources, efficiency, etc. (erosion) which leaves it so weakened that a crisis that would have easily been overcome in the past triggers a catastrophic decline of production and order.
My new book explores these system dynamics in the present: Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic. As the title suggests, we’ve got a window to prevent the final descent, but it’s years, not decades.
There are two basic drivers of systemic erosion, drivers that have little to do with leadership or policy. Our current delusion is that changing leaders and tweaking policies are enough to stave off systemic erosion, decline and collapse, but the two dynamics cannot be so easily thwarted.
The first is the gradual decline in the system’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Life’s core asset is the ability to evolve and adapt, and organisms, species and systems which fail to adapt fast enough and effectively enough to rapid change disappear.
Today’s modern complex systems are typically optimized to specific conditions, meaning that they’ve evolved (or been designed) to maximize production and output given a certain set of inputs and processes.
If those conditions shift outside the expected parameters, the system’s efficiency and output are heavily eroded. To take a real-world example: airliners are designed to cruise at specific altitudes to maximize the efficiency of the engines and aircraft design while maximizing the cruising speed.
If an airliner is forced to fly at an altitude of 500 feet instead of 35,000 feet, the optimizations are lost.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Telltale Signs of Imperial Decline

The Telltale Signs of Imperial Decline

Nothing is as permanent as we imagine–especially super-complex, super-costly, super-asymmetric and super-debt-dependent systems.

Check which signs of Imperial decline you see around you: The hubris of an increasingly incestuous and out-of-touch leadership; dismaying extremes of wealth inequality; self-serving, avaricious Elites; rising dependency of the lower classes on free Bread and Circuses provided by a government careening toward insolvency due to stagnating tax revenues and vast over-reach–let’s stop there to catch our breath. Check, check, check and check.

Sir John Glubb listed a few others in his seminal essay on the end of empiresThe Fate of Empires, what might be called the dynamics of decadence:

(a) A growing love of money as an end in itself: Check.

(b) A lengthy period of wealth and ease, which makes people complacent. They lose their edge; they forget the traits (confidence, energy, hard work) that built their civilization: Check.

(c) Selfishness and self-absorption: Check.

(d) Loss of any sense of duty to the common good: Check.

Glubb included the following in his list of the characteristics of decadence:

— an increase in frivolity, hedonism, materialism and the worship of unproductive celebrity (paging any Kardashians in the venue…)

— a loss of social cohesion

— willingness of an increasing number to live at the expense of a bloated bureaucratic state

Historian Peter Turchin, whom I have often excerpted here, listed three disintegrative forces that gnaw away the fibers of an Imperial economy and social order:

1. Stagnating real wages due to oversupply of labor

2. overproduction of parasitic Elites

3. Deterioration of central state finances

War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires

To these lists I would add a few more that are especially visible in the current Global Empire of Debt that encircles the globe and encompasses nations of all sizes and political/cultural persuasions:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How the World Elites are Going to Betray us: Lessons from Roman History

How the World Elites are Going to Betray us: Lessons from Roman History

The more I study the story of the Roman Empire, the more I see the similarities with our world. Of course, history doesn’t always repeat itself, but it is impressive to note how with the start of the collapse of the Western Empire, the Roman elites abandoned the people to build themselves strongholds in safe places. Something similar may be starting to occur in our times and our elites may decide to seek for safe havens while leaving us to drown, starve, or burn.

Rutilius Namatianus is known today for his “De Reditu Suo” (of his return). It is a long poem where he tells us of his travel along the Italian coast around 416 AD, during the last decades of the Western Roman Empire. We read in it a chilling report of the ongoing collapse: abandoned cities, wastelands, ruined roads, and more.

But who was Rutilius Namatianus, and what was he doing? A patrician, a powerful man, a rich man, and also a liar and a traitor. He was running away from Rome, probably taking with him gold, slaves, and troops with the idea of building himself a feud in Southern France, where he had some possessions. In doing so, he was abandoning the people of Rome to fend off for themselves. The people whom it was his duty to defend as praefectus urbi, the prefect of Rome, the delegate of the Emperor himself.

Namatianus was doing nothing worse than other rich and powerful Romans were. Emperor Honorius himself had run away from Rome, settling in Ravenna, protected by the marshes surrounding the city and with ships ready to take him to safety in Byzantium if things were to get really bad.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm

The gathering storm cannot be dissipated with propaganda and bribes.

July 4th is an appropriate day to borrow Winston Churchill’s the gathering storm to describe the existential crisis that will envelope America within the next decade. There is no single cause of the gathering storm; in complex systems, dynamics feed back into one another, and the sum of destabilizing disorder is greater than a simple sum of its parts.

Causal factors can be roughly broken into two categories: systemic and social/economic. The central illusion of those who focus solely on social, political and economic issues as the sources of destabilization is that tweaking the parameters of the status quo is all that’s needed to right the ship: if only Trump were impeached, if only GDP hits 4% annual growth rate, if only the Federal Reserve started controlling the price of bat guano, etc., etc., etc.

The unwelcome reality is the systemic issues cannot be reversed with policy tweaks or shuffling those at the top of a crumbling centralized order. The systemic problems arise from the structures of centralization and monopoly capital, theinstitutionalization of perverse incentives and the depletion of natural capital: soil, water, fossil fuels, etc.

We can create “money” out of thin air but we can’t print fresh water, productive soil or affordable energy out of thin air.

Regardless of their ideological labels, centralized socio-economic systems follow an S-Curve of rapid expansion during a “boost phase,” a period of stable expansion (maturity) and then a period of stagnation and decline as the system’s participants do more of what’s failed, as they cannot accept that what worked so well in the past no longer works.

A successful model traps those within it; escape becomes impossible. That’s the lesson of the S-Curve:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Investing in Collapse

Investing in Collapse

For years, I’ve been writing about Venezuela, describing it as the “movie” by which we can view the future of other jurisdictions that are presently in decline.

The reason is that declining nations follow the same pattern, time and time again, over the centuries. This is not coincidence. The pattern exists because human nature never changes, regardless of the era or the locale. Political leaders make the same mistakes as their forebears, and the people of a nation react in kind.

For this reason, countries have a sort of “shelf life.” They rise in prominence, due to work ethic and productivity. They then go through a period of abundance, which eventually deteriorates, due to complacency and apathy. Finally, they collapse into a period of bondage.

If we recognize that this pattern has played out countless times over the millennia, we can track any given country and assess where it is at present, in the pattern. For example, Europe and North America are presently in the last stages prior to collapse, Venezuela is in the process of collapse and Cuba is in the post-collapse recovery.

But, although this may be historically interesting, of what value is it to us in terms of our own lives and the choices we make for our future?

Well, we can observe Venezuela and see the effects of the present policies evident in our own country, if we happen to live in one that’s on the verge of collapse.

For example, we can see that ever-increasing largesse by a government—on the backs of productive taxpayers—is a major destructive trend. “Protective” tariffs and capital controls also lead to collapse. And excessive debt is a pathway to economic collapse.

We can see from the recent history in Venezuela how these political mistakes caused their collapse, and we can now observe how that collapse plays out.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US Empire on Decline

US Empire on Decline

US empire is in decline. Reports of the end of the US being the unitary power in world affairs are common, as are predictions of the end of US empire. China surpassed the United States as the world economic leader, according to Purchasing Power Parity Gross National Product, and Russia announced new weapons that can overcome the US’ defense systems.

What is happening in the United States, in response, is to do more of what has been causing the decline. As the Pentagon outlined in its post-primacy report, the US’ plan is more money, more aggression and more surveillance. Congress voted nearly unanimously to give the Pentagon tens of billions more than it requested. Military spending will now consume 57% of federal discretionary spending, leaving less for basic necessities. The Trump administration’s new nominees to the State Department and CIA are a war hawk and a torturer. And the Democrat’s “Blue Wave” is composed of security state candidates.

The US is escalating an arms race with Russia and China. This may create the mirror image of President Reagan forcing Russia to spend so much on its military that it aided in the break-up of the Soviet Union. The US economy cannot handle more military spending, worsening austerity when most people in the US are in financial distress.

This is an urgent situation for all people in the world. In the US, we carry an extra burden as citizens of empire to do what we can to oppose US imperialism. We must be clear that it is time to end wars and other tools of regime change, to become a cooperative member of the world community and to prioritize the needs of people and protection of the planet.

There are a number of opportunities to mobilize against US empire: the April 14-15 days of action, the Women’s March on the Pentagon in October and the mass protest planned against the military parade in November.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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