Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Self-Destruct Sequence

We approach the end of 2018 to a quickening drumbeat of news articles and analyses heralding the demise of the US as a global superpower, its huge and mounting political economic and social problems and its ever-expanding list of strategic and geopolitical failures far too obvious to ignore. There can be many possible views on what comes next, from a gradual or stepwise descent into depression, dysfunction and insignificance all the way to global catastrophe by way of nuclear annihilation, and there are about as many ways of reasoning about such views, based on macroeconomic models, risk assessment methodologies, ardent belief in Christ’s second coming or on good old-fashioned crystal ball juggling. I would like to propose a different method: of reasoning by analogy. It has stood me in good stead before.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Bush41 was an Excremental Planetoid roiled by Wriggling Worms

I believe that it is bad form to speak badly of the recently deceased. Doing so may hurt the feelings of the loved ones they left behind and create animosities among the living. Death should be handled with dignity and decorum. Dead people should be forgiven their transgressions, for even the truly evil ones could be said to have done the right thing in the end—which is to have died, thereby ridding the world of their foul presence, their very death an act of atonement.

But is this way of thinking relevant to the timely demise of American political festering orbs, be they democratic suppurating spherical bags of pus or republican excremental planetoids roiled by wriggling worms? Would it not be profoundly disingenuous of you to do anything other than cry out joyfully at their final consignment to the nether regions of Hell? Did you not feel a tiny spasm of exaltation upon hearing that Richard Nixon had died? Did you not feel the urge to do a little happy dance when John McCain bought the farm? And will you not have to restrain yourself from pumping your tiny fists in the air and shouting “Yesss!” when you hear that Henry Kissinger has finally kicked the bucket?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Flight of the Headless Chicken

When I was five and spending the summer in a small village a couple of time zones east of Moscow I witnessed the execution of a rooster. My brother and I walked over to a neighbor’s house to pick up some eggs. Just as we arrived the neighbor finally caught the rooster and chopped his head of. The now headless rooster then put on quite an aerobatic performance that was quite amazing. After doing an unlimited takeoff he repeatedly soared and plummeted, executed several touch-and-gos (more like crash-and-goes, actually) and was undeterred by what previously would have been head-on collisions. I was by then quite familiar with the poor aerodynamic qualities of barnyard fowl and was duly impressed with the energetic and breathtakingly erratic behavior of a bird liberated from the mental straitjacket of its brain. Unfortunately, the performance only lasted for a minute or so. A word to the wise: I later learned that it is possible to prolong the show, should the need ever arise, by heating up the hatchet so as to cauterize the severed neck. More recently, I have learned that such sans-tĂȘte aerobatics are not restricted to chickens.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

NEW RELEASE: Collapse and the Good Life

My latest collection of essays is now in print. Some of these essays were previously published here while the rest—probably the more significant ones—have until now remained hidden behind a paywall and only accessible to subscribers. This collection represents a gradual shift of focus. I am still doing my bit as a chronicler of collapse, but what I want to emphasize is that a meaningful and fulfilling life can be lived even in the midst of collapse, which, with the right preparations and the right mindset, can be relegated to its proper use as a particularly macabre form of entertainment.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1731435282

The book is 244 pages long and contains the following essays:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

In Praise of Irresponsibility Part III: Out-Of-Control

The vast majority of physiologically and psychologically normal people want to be good and to do good. They wish to feel competent in carrying out challenging, complex tasks and capable of carrying them out as an exercise of their own free will. They want to have a sense of agency, a feeling that what they do matters to others. They want to be recognized and respected for their talents and their efforts. They also want to be able to pass along their wisdom and skills, their acumen and world knowledge to the future generations.

As they grow old, they want to be able to depart this world with a sense that they have helped build it with their own hands, and that it is in safe hands and will exist in perpetuity. They want to feel assured that the traditions they have inherited and passed along, or the ones they have helped establish, will be adhered to, honored and passed along after they are gone.

Even if all of the above does not result in a high level of physical comfort and luxury but involves hardship and privation, considerable personal danger, and even if many lives are cut short as a result, people can remain happy—satisfied and fulfilled—provided they get to contribute freely to a common cause. When they are deprived of any and all these things, they cease to be physiologically and psychologically normal.

When deprived of any and all of these things, they lose self-respect and interest in their work, and just try to get by, just doing the bare minimum. Some even give up on trying to do the bare minimum and just drift along, helpless and hopeless. They are unable to convince themselves that it is still worthwhile for them to make an effort, convinced that it would all go to waste.

They begin to dress shabbily and stop minding their manners. They lose interest in other people, and especially in the younger generations, feeling that they have nothing to offer them, and that even if they had, their advice would not be heeded and their contributions would not be respected.

As their physical and social environments are transformed out of all recognition, they no longer feel that they belong anywhere and become desensitized to being trapped in a dismal built-up environment full of graceless, utilitarian buildings, run-down infrastructure and hostile or indifferent strangers. Often the result is mental anguish, which drives them to psychiatrists, who in turn prescribe them antidepressants. In many cases, these either don’t work and/or exacerbate the very biochemical imbalance they were intended to correct, cause additional impairments and may drive them to suicide.

Their mental state also negatively influences their immune system, causing it to weaken, making them susceptible to infections, or to go haywire, causing autoimmune disorders and allergic reactions. They project all that is wrong with the world around them onto their own bodies and develop psychosomatic ailments, especially chronic pain, and especially in the one part of the body which is particularly capable of self-generated pain: the spinal chord. In an attempt to alleviate the pain, many of them begin to self-medicate and fall into alcoholism and drug addiction.

This is all perfectly normal and is perhaps exactly as it should be.

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Friday, November 02, 2018

America’s Skull: Crumbling or just Thin?

A curious and fraught imbalance has developed between the three major international powers—the US, Russia and China. As the latter two grow stronger and, together with their neighbors, coalesce into a cohesive and cooperative Eurasian whole, the former, sinking into a morass of its own making, is growing increasingly desperate and is starting to act out in ways that are economically and militarily provocative, if not outright self-destructive. From sanctions to tariffs to saber-rattling, the US refuses to fade out quietly. Russia’s and China’s responses to these provocations have been measured and cautious.

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Thus, neither China, nor Russia have much to fear from the US in spite of its military and economic belligerence, which is increasing along with the desperation of its ruling class—or should I say its owners. You see, the US is not so much a country as a country club: it’s very much a members-only affair, while everyone else, be they native-born or guests, is welcome to serve the oligarchy for as long as they remain useful. After that they are free to die on the streets as bums.

And the oligarchy has every reason to be extremely worried. Their wealth is primarily denominated in money (this may seem like a tautology, but it isn’t: money≠wealth). In turn, the future value of money is dependent on the future level of economic activity, which in turn is dependent on access to energy that makes economic activity possible. That energy comes primarily from fossil fuels. Yes, it’s all still about oil: no oil—no industry—no money, and a lot of hysterical, angry oligarchs.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Full Nuclear Retard

Trump recently announced that the US intends to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the 1988 USA/USSR arms control agreement that has been keeping a lid on nuclear madness by making surprise nuclear attacks less likely. He made the announcement in an offhand way while boarding a helicopter. This is understandable. I too like to make momentous pronouncements while getting on a bicycle, to add drama. And then Trump’s national security guy Bolton flew to Moscow to discuss. There he met with various local characters—Foreign Minister Lavrov, Defense Minister Shoigu—who showed him the various local sights—the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry—and then they all promenaded down the yellow brick road to see the wizard in the Kremlin.

Putin has been relaxed lately, even playful. Sitting across from Bolton, with microphones on and cameras running, he looked up at the ceiling and extemporized: the US coat of arms portrays an eagle that holds 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch with 13 olives in the other. “So, where are the olives?” Putin inquired whimsically? “Did the eagle eat them all?” Bolton wanted to quip that unfortunately the eagle ate all the arrows too (hence the $21 trillion mystery hole in the US defense budget)—but quickly realized that Trump might hear about this, fly into a rage and send him skedaddling, and so he bit his tongue. Bolton’s normally florid complexion made it impossible to tell whether or not he was blushing. Flying halfway across the globe to have your national emblem ridiculed is indeed a blushworthy event for a government official, but with Bolton we simply don’t know whether he is a high-octane alcoholic, whether his temperament makes him naturally apoplectic, whether he is just permanently embarrassed to be John Bolton (I know I would be) or any or all of the above. I wouldn’t be surprised if his Secret Service handle is “Mr. Pink.”

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