Monday, July 16, 2018

Newsflash! World War III Finally Over!

Palmier Encoberto
Unbeknownst to most, World War III has been raging for very close to three decades now—ever since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It was preceded by the Cold War, which ended when Mikhail Gorbachev capitulated to the West, causing the Warsaw Pact to dissolve in confusion. In spite of his capitulation, the West never abandoned its plan to destroy the Warsaw Pact along with parts of the former USSR, then conquer and dismember Russia itself. In absence of any military threat from the east, NATO, along with its parasitic twin, the European Union, has relentlessly expanded eastward, gobbling up country after country. It has by now conquered the entire Warsaw Pact plus Moldova and the three tiny Baltic statelets, and is now going after other loose bits of the former USSR: the Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. The reason almost nobody in the West realizes that World War III has been happening all along is that the West has suffered a mental collapse as profound as the USSR’s physical collapse. Russia has recovered from its collapse; the West probably never will.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Individualism as a Risk Factor

The United States attracts a great many people. In 2017 a million and a half people immigrated to the US, most of them from India, China, Mexico, Cuba and the Philippines, in that order. In spite of outdated infrastructure, a failing educational system that ranks 17th in the world, a costly and ineffective medical system, a legal system that is an impenetrable maze and numerous other problems and shortcomings, the US is still seen as attractive—not in general, but for one specific purpose: for a chance to make some money. To a large extent, by now the rest of the world’s countries have carved up their endowments of wealth, leaving little loose change for anyone to easily grab. But in the US its very failures provide opportunities for foreign-born opportunists.

There are close to 44 million first-generation immigrants currently in the US, but taking into account all immigration over its entire history since the beginning of European colonization 98% of its population consists of immigrants and their descendants, and except for some number of notable exceptions (the Irish fleeing famine; the Jews fleeing the Holocaust) they were all opportunists who came for the opportunities.

Although many of them clung to their own tribes for a generation or two, forming ethnic enclaves, again, except for some number of notable exceptions (the Jews, the Armenians, etc.) after a few generations most of them became entirely “Americanized”, intermixed through intermarriage and ethnically denatured. Clearly, the opportunities they came for were individual opportunities, not opportunities for their ethnic groups as a whole, and those still living in ethnic enclaves generation after generation are the least successful. This process has resulted in a country that is extremely well stocked with opportunistic individualists.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taking Refuge in Insanity

Reality can be harsh. “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley,” quoth Robert Burns. The more ambitious the plans, the harder the gods laugh in our faces when they come to nought. As our struggle to achieve our aims hardens into deadlock, so does our conviction that our cause is righteous, petrifying into a blind faith that is impervious to contradictory facts. Instead of reassessing our aims and reexamining our strategy we simply push harder and harder in the same direction, going by the dictum that if brute force doesn’t work then we just aren’t using enough of it.

But the seemingly impenetrable, fact-proof façade obscures a delicate and vulnerable organism sheltering behind it: every contrary word that gets through causes a wound; every grain of truth becomes an irritant. As the laughter of the gods grows louder, we shut our eyes and plug our ears, and yelloch our sacred slogans through amplifiers turned up all the way to eleven. But a time comes when the reality of our failure can no longer be ignored, and then it is time for a break—a psychotic break.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

An Immersive Experience

I generally stay away from subjects as trivial as sport. Various physical games are useful in bringing up healthy children, but professional sport is part of a system of organized distraction—entertainment. I like draw a distinction between entertainment and fun: it’s fun if you make it yourself and it requires some amount of work on your part; if you just passively sit and soak it in, it’s entertainment. Hiking up a mountain is fun; watching someone climb Mount Everest—unless you are preparing to do so yourself—is entertainment and therefore a waste of your time. I have a lot of fun observing the as of yet incomplete collapse of Western civilization, and this is not a waste of my time—or yours—because I am preparing to survive it, as should you.

But I suppose there are times when the form of organized distraction that is professional sport escapes the realm of the trivial and approaches the sublime, and it’s starting to seem that the World Cup that is currently underway in Russia is just such a happening, and it has forced me to pay attention to it—by no means just for the sake of football, although the twists and turns of this tournament have been quite curious. Nobody could have predicted that some of the strongest teams—Germany and Spain—would be eliminated before the quarter-finals, or that the latter of them would be eliminated by Russia. Russian footballers are not known for winning internationally. A popular joke goes: What does Russia want for New Year? (Christmas, which is on January 7th, is not a gift-giving occasion.) New legs for its footballers! That Russia made it into the quarter-finals is already a huge victory and a minor miracle, and there is much dancing in the streets. Akinfeev, the Russian goalkeeper to whom the team owes its victory over Spain several times over, has become a national hero and an internet meme.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Self-Deluded Animal

“I am not an animal, I am a human being!” is a famous line from the critically acclaimed 1980 David Lynch film The Elephant Man which tells the story of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man afflicted with the Proteus syndrome in 19th century London. It was based in part on the anthropologist Ashley Montagu's The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity (1971). The famous line then gave rise to the title of Peter Baynham’s “I Am Not An Animal,” an animated black comedy, released in 2004, about animals who escaped from a vivisectionist laboratory and attempted to survive alongside humans in the big cruel world.

Whenever humans are reduced to animal status it is the stuff of tragedy. Whenever animals impersonate humans is the stuff of comedy. There are few exceptions. Pantomime horses are not particularly tragic. Fortune telling parrots and monkeys on the streets of Moscow are perceived as tragic by certain defenders of animals’ rights. But I get the feeling that comedic possibilities are present whenever humans and animals get mixed up. Even the film depicting the tragic circumstances of Joseph Merrick’s life were co-produced by Mel Brooks of Blazing Saddles and other epic comedies. His name was struck from the credits for fear of confusing the audience into thinking that the film was a comedy.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Barbarians Rampage through Europe's Cemetery

Around the world, very few people are capable of wrapping their heads around the European reaction to the migrant crisis. On the side of the migrants, we have avid displays of barbarism, fanaticism and aggression; on the side of the Europeans, we have abject fear of appearing… intolerant. In an out-of-control situation where we would expect people to organize, protest, put up road blocks and vote en masse for nationalist parties, we are instead subjected to the ridiculous spectacle of meek, effeminate Europeans dressed up in unisex outfits chalking “No to terrorism!” on sidewalks. Most people around the world see in this an orchidaceous display of anthropological nullity. “Is Europe dead?” they wonder aloud.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Three Blind Men and the Greatest Depression

There is no shortage of collapse prognosticators that never tire of prognosticating that a financial calamity is right around the corner. I am not one of them; what I try to do is not prognosticate but explain. I take collapse to be something real—something that my readers can observe for themselves, if they care to look—and what interests me is its inner workings.

That said, when three famous figures simultaneously announce that financial collapse is around the corner, I suppose we should start paying attention. To me, it doesn’t even matter if their opinions are right or wrong, if they have their facts straight, or whether they are good or bad people. That’s all quite irrelevant. What’s relevant is that if enough high-visibility individuals say that financial collapse is around the corner, then, given the reach and the force of their utterances, they no longer function as mere expressions of opinion but as speech acts that transform the state of the world—of the various mechanisms of international finance, in this case, from humming right along to getting ready to seize up.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Imperial Collapse Markers

In thinking through the (for now) gradually unfolding collapse of the American empire, the collapse of the USSR, which occurred close to three decades ago, continues to perform as a goldmine of useful examples and analogies. Certain events that occurred during the Soviet collapse can serve as useful signposts in the American one, allowing us to formulate better guesses about the timing of events that can suddenly turn a gradual collapse into a precipitous one.

When the Soviet collapse occurred, the universal reaction was “Who could have known?” Well, I knew. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a surgeon in the summer of 1990, right as I was going under the knife to get my appendix excised, waiting for the anesthesia to kick in. He asked me about what was going to happen to the Soviet republics, Armenia in particular. I told him that they would be independent in less than a year. He looked positively shocked. I was off by a couple of months. I hope to be able to call the American collapse with the same degree of precision.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

All Values are Relative

It is a bit disconcerting to discover, after studying a subject for quite a few years and writing extensively on it, that you have missed a big, vitally important piece of the picture. The subject was Communities that Abide. After studying collapse in all of its forms and phases, I decided to look into which particular types of communities are relatively immune to collapse and are able to persist (abide) over historically significant periods of time (half a dozen or so centuries) in spite of collapsing empires, wars, persecution, loss of homeland and other such vicissitudes of fortune. After a couple of months spent at a library, I came up with a short list of such communities and their features, and was able to distill these features into a set of precepts I semi-jokingly called “The XII Commandments.”

All of what I wrote still seems perfectly valid, but the message tended to bounce off people’s brains instead of sticking because of what I now see has been a major blindspot: I didn’t take care of the fact that these persistently successful communities make almost no effort at all to fit into the value systems of my readers. In fact, they go about their lives as if my readers, with their treasured values, which they often see as universal, don’t matter at all. Within the highly developed global consumer society, this is a major affront to individuals who, once their physical needs have been satisfied, if they set their sights above being amused, entertained and titillated, want to feel well-informed, well-intentioned and, in a word, superior.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It Doesn’t Matter Who is President

Jim 'll
Let me say it again: “It doesn’t matter who is president of the United States.” I know that I’ve said it before (here, for instance) but I feel that it bears repeating. It’s a simple message, but I don’t think that it’s sinking in well enough. Although nobody seems to want to come out and argue that this message is wrong, plenty of people seem determined to ignore it. Some of them appear to take on board what I have to say but then go on talking as if it does matter who is president. It doesn’t.

It is possible to make the point that it doesn’t matter who is president by speaking in generalities: how the political system is rigged to ignore all inputs that lie outside of a narrow range of interests of a self-serving elite; how the level of political discourse within the US is far too low for a constructive discussion of any serious issue; how artificially generated partisan divisiveness is specifically designed to prevent people from finding common cause while skillfully hiding the fact that the US is not a democracy at all (as explained here). Lots of people have gone into considerably more detail than I wish to in explaining all of this, and yet if you ask “the man on the street” whether it matters who is president, it is highly likely that he will respond in the affirmative.