August 3/10. A Nation of Wimps, an excellent survey of all the ways we've been fucked up by being insanely overprotected as kids. On a deep level, like civilization itself, it's just a case of power corrupting. Lately I've been thinking that the core human mistake is the assumption that satisfaction of desires is a good use of tools. What we desire is usually bad for us. In this case, parents wanted their kids to be super-safe, and tragically, they got their wish.
The article nicely articulated what my husband and I have been struggling with as we raise two boys. We are surrounded by effusively nice, well-meaning people who are bludgeoning the creativity and natural intellectual curiousity right out of their kids. The toys these kids have are good for one thing -- giving them practice at following strict directives. Parents schedule "playdates" and cram every type of class they can into their kids' schedules. When a really great toy comes on the market, these parents will find a way to squash any creativity it might inspire. For example, Thomas the Tank Engine: parents buy train engines and tracks made out of wood and kids can configure the track however they choose, making villages, building bridges, figuring out how to make dual tracks converge, etc. A good deal of the parents around here bought the tracks, built a configuration on a fancy train table, then GLUED the tracks together. Their kids can't do anything but move the train around and around, in the same pattern. They like coming over to our house.
What is it that's causing nice, well-meaning parents to do this? My theory is that they're not acting on a rational level, even if they can justify their actions rationally. It just feels right to them to micromanage their kids' time and glue the tracks together, because they are in a semi-hypnotic trance, resonating with a movement in the collective consciousness that seeks to crush the life out of humans. What it feels like to them is fear of "chaos," fear of uncomfortable silences, open spaces where the unexpected can happen, fear of the formless void from which all creation arises.
August 15-16. Good summary of the issues in the latest fake terror scare, and one about how the chemistry wouldn't work. It wouldn't surprise me if these "terrorists" were just dreamers who would not have got half as far in their plot without the police spies pushing them. And of course the whole spectacle, on a deeper level, is just a big joke to see how much degradation humans will submit to in the name of fear. I used to love flying, but I won't go near a plane now, not because of "terrorists" but because of the abuse rituals. If there were an airline with no security at all, I'd gladly fly it and roll the dice.
August 17-18. From Toby Hemenway, a really impressive analysis of foraging, agriculture, and horticulture, and the social effects of different food-production systems, especially all the bad stuff that's subtly built into agriculture.
But it might be more than just agriculture. Matthew writes that wheat contains a peptide called Gliadorphin, which acts on the opiate receptors of the brain, and will kill smaller animals if eaten raw.
And this article argues that civilization originates in addiction to drug effects of foods, especially wheat and milk.
People who succeeded in eating sizeable amounts of cereal seeds discovered the rewarding properties of the exorphins contained in them. Processing methods such as grinding and cooking were developed to make cereals more edible. The more palatable they could be made, the more they were consumed, and the more important the exorphin reward became for more people.
August 19. Has everyone noticed the collective consciousness getting excited about lawless freedom in sailing ships? I trace it back to Hakim Bey writing about pirates in his Temporary Autonomous Zone essay. Then anarchists ran with it, like in this excellent article about Pirate Utopias. My hippie-anarchist friends were already going around saying "ARRRRR" in the late 90's. Then it hit the mass culture, most noticeably with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Now it's ready to manifest in reality. Dmitry Orlov has written a major essay, The new age of sail, arguing that the sailing ship is an even better invention than the bicycle, and that it's the future of trade and even housing as the oil runs out. If you read only one section, read part 3, A Brighter Future. I can't remember the last time I read something that made the future feel so exciting.
August 23-25. Ted brings up a point I've also been thinking about:
I have been following green anarchism for a while now and I am wondering if anyone is really on track. This concept of "rewilding" -- is anyone really trying to achieve it?
Indeed, why hasn't a single primitivist yet walked the ideology? Why hasn't a single wilderness survival master gone full-time? Here's an email I just got from Tim, who's on a short tech break from Teaching Drum school:
There is enough food and materials to live out there, in certain bioregions around North America, to raise a group of families. Then all the impediments from hunting/fishing regs to limits of semi-nomadicism arise as obstacles. Here, we easily gather enough plants, roots, berries. The difficulty is enough fat. We mainly catch small fish, mice and chipmunks, frogs, insects, frog eggs. Living as a trusting flowing social human clan is the hardest part other than enough fat. I just am not sure I want to go all the way to a woods ninja forager. I see very few humans going to foraging clans right away in this generation and most folks living in permaculture communities. We can do it, I know it, it's just a little to very freakin painful. There are parts of civilization I really like, like this internet and manna bread, and yogurt. So I don't get too worked up about needing to be a perfect aspiring hunter gatherer.
I'm coming around to the idea that going primitive, like marrying a movie star or climbing Mt. Everest, is one of those things that everybody feels the desire to do, but almost nobody would actually enjoy doing. This all makes me wonder where humans are going.
Parker suggests that true rewilding requires a "being-ness" that's impossible as long as there are property lines and civilized institutions. Jason argues, in Where have all the savages gone?, that going primitive requires spiritual changes that will take longer than merely learning physical skills. And Scott comments:
Our species is here because we are adapted to meeting new challenges through novel means. The next step in becoming ourselves is not in becoming "wild in the ways of the Elders." It's an entirely new kind of wild.I think we need to do what makes us feel wild and free, whether our ancestors did it or not. Between ecological changes, surviving artifacts of civilization, and possible changes in human nature, our world will be different from theirs. Humans are the ultimate weedy species, and we will survive by acting like weeds, adapting, using what we've got. Maybe our descendants will be wildflowers in a field, but we are dandelions growing through pavement.
August 26. I got depressed a few days ago by this article about mortality salience (single page link). Researchers have found that when people are asked to imagine their own death, and then asked political questions, they tend to side with Bush, the "war" on "terror," and so on. The effect is even stronger on liberals! Judges even give nastier sentences. And I thought, 1) There is no hope for America to snap out of this insanity now that the rulers have discovered how to scare us, and 2) What is wrong with people? When I'm reminded of my own mortality, it makes me looser and more courageous, because, hey, I'm going to die anyway, so what do I have to lose? I've mentioned before that 9/11/01 was the day I started going barefoot in the city, and started standing up to my employer.
I think most people just don't have very good imaginations. When they're reminded of their own mortality by some scientist doing a study, or a spectacle on TV, they're not actually becoming aware they're going to die. They just feel the encroaching threat of that awareness, and to maintain the illusion that they're going to live forever, they go into full angry denial mode, and want to punish other people to feel safe.
The problem is, people are not being reminded strongly enough of their own mortality. Here's a great article about the new science of post-traumatic growth:
It turns out that some of the people who have suffered the most, who have been forced to contend with shocks they never anticipated and to rethink the meaning of their lives, may have the most to tell us about that profound and intensely fulfilling journey that philosophers used to call the search for "the good life."
I think Americans are craving a "dark night of the soul." That's the real reason they like voting for assholes and starting wars and burning gasoline and feeding economic bubbles. We're not playing around -- we seriously want an apocalypse, a transformation through catastrophe. And we'll get it.
August 31. Tuesday morning the site went down. Later in the day my web host told me they got hacked and sixteen servers were completely wiped. Since I had to rebuild the site anyway, I decided that it was a good time to switch to a new host, the highly rated ICDSoft. It was surprisingly easy -- it only took a few minutes to set up the account, a few hours to rebuild the site from backups and google caches, and a day to get the "ranprieur.com" domain name to point to the new server.
It's going to cost me, since I was prepaid another 20 months on the old site, and the new one's a bit more expensive -- but probably a lot better. I started a few years ago with dr2, a great small host, which got merged into Mesopia, then Netbunch, and finally Web Host Plus, a poorly rated host which I'm told is mostly used by spammers.
I'm suspicious -- I don't think it had anything to do with me, but an attack that precise and deep is likely to be motivated by money or politics. There's speculation on this thread that they erased their own servers to get rid of the Netbunch clients.
September 6. Something I didn't know: all ancient societies, up until the Roman Empire, had a "Jubilee" tradition where they would cancel debts and return land to farmers. But at some point, "civilization" got redefined not as a project to develop a stable complex society, but a holy quest of limitless "progress" by the instruments of domination. Ancient humans were smarter than us: they understood that concentration of wealth can't go on forever, and the farther it goes, the less efficient the society gets, so they developed a sensible balancing mechanism. America has no balancing mechanism other than violent collapse.
September 7. Fascinating article about a girl raised by dogs in the Ukraine. They present it as a tragedy, but I think it's cool! Patricia comments:
"Oxana Malaya is now in a clinic and unlikely ever to leave as she lacks the skills to survive"... Seems like she did okay before they caught her.
Humans are the most mutable animal in the world, and the real tragedy is that we've all been molded by forced schooling and cars and computers, instead of exploring ten thousand different directions. I just hope, as the industrial matrix breaks down, some coyotes decide to raise abandoned kids instead of eating them. Check out this excellent Fortean Times article, Wild Things, for more about humans raised by nonhumans.
September 8. Lots of buzz about a scientist who says that climate change caused civilization, specifically the drying out of the Sahara about 6000 years ago. Wilhelm Reich follower Jim DeMeo said exactly the same thing years earler, and more radically, in his book Saharasia.
September 15. Fascinating link about zombie behaviors. Basically, unconscious behaviors are done much more quickly and efficiently, because the thinking mind doesn't get in the way. But (the article doesn't say this) the power of thinking is that you can notice when unconscious behaviors are no longer serving you, and overrule them. Thinking is not "maladaptive" -- it makes you more able to adapt to rapid change. For example, on an unconscious level, Bush represents "strong leader" and Cadillac represents "good car," so people feel good about them, but when you really observe and think, Bush is a belligerent sociopath and the Cadillac has been an overpriced piece of junk for decades.
I think my great strength and weakness is that my social behavior is almost completely conscious. So I fail in any situation that requires quickness and instinct. But at the same time, I'm immune to a lot of mind control.
September 22. Boeing to build high-tech system to block migration to Canada (dead link unrecoverable)... Did I just say that? From Canada. We're stopping migration from Canada. From. Nobody will be prevented from going to Canada. Who would even want to migrate to Canada? Ha ha. America is free and prosperous. And free. It's getting better all the time.
September 24. I don't often write about it, but I'm totally into fringe science, and one of my favorite subjects is cosmology. The Big Bang theory is based on the observation that other galaxies are redshifted -- their light waves have lower frequency the same way a siren sounds lower-pitched when it's moving away from you. If this redshift is interpreted as being caused by recession velocity, then you have an expanding universe, which must have started expanding with an explosion. But Halton Arp and other astronomers have found overwhelming evidence that cosmic redshifts are being caused by one or more other factors that we don't understand yet. Check out Arp's book Seeing Red, his earlier book Quasars, Redshifts, and Controversies, William Mitchell's book Bye Bye Big Bang: Hello Reality, or this article on the quantization of red shifts. If cosmic redshifts are not caused by everything moving apart, that means no expanding universe, and no Big Bang. All the evidence that seems to confirm the Big Bang really confirms how easy it is back up any theory by seeing the right shapes in the clouds. The physical universe is dynamic and stable, just like nature, and possibly eternal!
I love the idea of an eternal universe because there's no pressure to go anywhere. The Big Bang story is symbiotic with the culture of Empire and it's myth of "progress": that we have to "expand" into a glorious future. But if the universe has always been here, then there's nowhere to go. Anything that could be done has been done. We're just here to make our corner of the universe as nice as we can, and hang out and have a good time.
September 26. Why gas got cheaper: Goldman Sachs tweaked their commodity index to force gasoline holders to sell 75% of their futures.
Still a mystery: why does Goldman Sachs want to help Republicans, when it's been obvious for years that Bush is driving the economy off a cliff, that he's doing more to crash civilization than all the anarchists who ever lived, while Democrats are historically better for big business, and have been lap dogs of the elite since 1992? Sure, there are connections between Goldman and the Bush gang, but if your best friend and business partner were driving you toward the edge of a cliff, what would you do? And it's not just Goldman Sachs -- it's the vast majority of the criminal/corporate elite. What are they thinking?
The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that they're acting from a non-rational level. I remember Ed Koch on the Daily Show admitting that he was supporting Bush, despite everything, just because it felt good. The dominator classes are spiritually resonating with Bush's sadistic warlord persona. They are in a hypnotic trance, and by the time they wake up, their power will be reduced to a few islands on a heaving landscape of social microclimates.
Or here's an even weirder idea that I just got from reading about shamanism and nature spirits: Suppose the people at the top of the pyramid have eaten so much from the bottom of the pyramid, that they've been possessed, and now the spirits of murdered nature are acting through the most powerful humans in the world to crash civilization. That would explain a lot.
September 28-29. Patricia mentioned the trend to digitize books and kill libraries, and I said: Then when the system crashes, we can burn books for fuel, and the computers won't work, so all that knowledge will be lost, enabling our descendants to make the same mistakes again! She commented:
Does this remind you of the so called "Dark Ages" when the Catholic Church was the one organization that held a monopoly on history and knowledge in written form? And this allowed the Church to say what DID and what did NOT happen in the past... If you control knowledge in the present, you effectively control reality in the past.
That's an angle of the future I never considered. In 200, 500, 2000 years, different interests will be jockeying to reveal or hide information about our own time. So how do we preserve it? If you think digital data will survive, consider how hard it is now to get data off 5¼ inch floppy disks, even though they're only 20 years old and there hasn't been a collapse! Patricia says:
Your best long-term storage options are, in order of
most to least durability:
1. Vocal tales passed on from person to person, possibly supplemented with rock carvings, paintings, standing stones, dances, songs, etc.
2. Vellum and non-acidic inks.
3. Microfilm, if cared for well.
4. Rag-paper and non-acidic inks.
But now we're talking about stuff that will either be entrusted to multiple generations, or stored in caves and old mines and such like places, with the hope it will later be found by the right people -- and not the WRONG people!
I'm not asking anyone to come with me here, but I think the wrong people have already found and covered up loads of stuff left in old caves by advanced ancient and pre-ancient civilizations, including Egyptian artifacts in the Grand Canyon, and nine foot tall skeletons with two rows of teeth. The best place I know to read about this stuff is in back issues of World Explorer magazine, which you can find at Adventures Unlimited Press.
Finally, Dave suggests engraving books on stainless steel or titanium, and points out that this is being done now... with... the complete works of L. Ron Hubbard!