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, 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 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.
From Dmitry Orlov, 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.
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. Depressing article about mortality salience. Researchers have found that when people are asked to imagine their own death, and then asked political questions, it makes them more fearful and authoritarian.
What's 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.
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."
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 7. Fascinating article about a girl raised by dogs in the Ukraine. They present it as a tragedy, but I think it's cool! 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.
I think my 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 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 strong 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. 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 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 28-29. Patricia comments on the trend to digitize books and kill libraries:
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 did not happen in the past... If you control knowledge in the present, you effectively control reality in the past.
So, in 200, 500, 2000 years, different interests will be jockeying to reveal or hide information about our own time. 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.