Small Cracks in the Wall

Posted: April 26th, 2010 by: h2

Recently there’s been a slight bending of the overtly rationalist worldviews of some our more prominent doomer bloggers. I’m not sure what triggered this subtle change, though I could take a guess, but I’ll refrain until we can see which ones actually are able to return to something resembling reality.

First we had Dmitri Orlov, who really nailed a lot of these issues, and along the way reminded me of just how well educated Europeans of his age really were, even if they moved here as teenagers.

Our species’ hypertrophied linguistic abilities have allowed us to create entire systems composed of elements that we either cannot directly observe or cannot observe at all: mathematics, physics, ideologies, theologies, economies, democracies, technocracies and the like, which manipulate abstractions-symbols and relationships between symbols-rather than the concrete, messy, non-atomistic entities that have specific spacial and temporal extents and that constitute reality for all species. There is a continuum between products of pure thought, such as chess or mathematics, sciences which produce theories that can be tested by repeatable direct experiment, such as physics and chemistry, and the rest-political science, economics, sociology and the like-which are a hodgepodge of iffy assumptions and similarly iffy statistical techniques. Perfectly formal systems of thought, such as logic and mathematics, seem the most rigorous, and have served as the guiding light for all other forms of thinking. But there’s a problem.

The problem is that formal systems don’t work. They have internal consistency, to be sure, and they can do all sorts of amusing tricks, but they don’t map onto reality in a way that isn’t essentially an act of violence. When mapped onto real life, formal systems of thought self-destruct, destroy nature, or, most commonly, both. Wherever we look, we see systems that we have contrived run against limits of their own making: burning fossil fuels causes global warming, plastics decay and produce endocrine disruptors, industrial agriculture depletes aquifers and destroys topsoil, and so on. We are already sitting on a mountain of guaranteed negative outcomes-political, environmental, ecological, economic-and every day those of us who still have a job go to work to pile that mountain a little bit higher.
The Great Unreasoning

This was a really good meta view of just what’s wrong with the so-called ‘critical’ methods being used by our largely untrained intellectuals masquerading as bloggers.

So this posting was really welcome.

Next along comes Joe Bageant with a great series of articles, stuff that finally is making sense, and almost, don’t take this wrong Joe, but it almost sounds like he’s achieving that rarest of all things, wisdom.

Thanks to technology and layers upon layers of mediation by TV, movies, the Internet, etc., gadgets and manufactured imagery, we all live many steps removed from reality. Collapse is symbolized to each of us in different ways. To some it would be the sustained malfunction and lack of access of the Internet, which is surely coming.

Yet, believe me, just being in a place where life is more fundamental and simple, if hard, goes a long way toward peace of mind and discovering human normalcy. It’s the learning ground. And usually one learns that people who escape at least some of the ravages of our slow collapse, always seem to do it in cooperation with a community of some sort. Either an already existing one, or an intentional one they create between themselves.

So I would suggest that in planning for the future, you first spend many days pondering the question: How can I best go about giving up the world as I have known it — which, after all, is the root of our pain and of our catastrophe — and serve others every day and in as many ways large and small as possible. In other words, sacrifice. In truth, the sacrifice will not be sacrifice, but liberation, because Americans are buried under so much material shit and petty notions as to entitlement, that shedding such things is a blessing. A gift.
There ain’t no escape from collapse

And in an earlier posting, he dropped this little gem, which I really think people should start to try to understand, because it’s something that is very non-trivial as a core point of all this, and how we got here.

At the same time I believe we can become finer within ourselves, even during collapse, which will take god only knows how long. Or not. So I have become interested in the in the spiritual side of things, as well as the political — because as near as I can tell, spiritual courage, insight and judgment, are what is missing from the progressive struggle (or whatever you want to call it).

It is seeing everything in material terms, just like our avaricious capitalist overlords, that holds us back. Of course it’s about money and the material, and its fair distribution. But that ain’t the whole picture. Engorged as we have been for so long on goods, services, commodities and spectacle, I think we have lost sight of the power (and frailties) within us as human beings, as souls on this planet. I am not saying saying that we should run away to some transcendental space and never come back. I’m just saying we can never have a clue unless we look inward and learn that spiritual territory, then look outward and discover that it’s common ground for all of mankind.

And besides, doing that helps one get up every morning and do the right things — such as stop mindless consumption (which in itself is subversive in a nation of zombie gluttons), stop following sham leadership (we don’t need elite “leaders,” and indeed they are all elites by virtue of making choices for the rest of us). We need to own our own lives, inside and out. And you can never own the outer, other than in appearances, until you possess the inner.
Joe, why did you crap out on us?

Very nice.

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