Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Collapsing Consciously

Pawel Kuczyński
Carolyn Baker's CollapsingConsciously: Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times is perhaps the most approachable book on collapse you are likely to find. Compared to Jarred Diamond's Collapse, which weighs in at just over 600 pages, Baker's is well under 200. And yet in these few pages Baker manages to tackle a topic which Diamond studiously avoids: Whatever shall we do about the fact that collapse is happening all around us right now?

The reason Diamond avoids it is obvious: collapse is an unacceptable topic of discussion if it relates to us. It is perfectly fine to talk about past collapses, and perhaps even muse about future collapses, provided they happen to someone else. That's because we are exceptional and will go on forever. Here's a memorable example: I once gave a talk for the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco, and during the Q&A afterwards someone asked me about Russia's demographic crisis. Stewart Brand, who was reading off the questions from cards, chimed in to say that it looks like the Russians will be extinct in just a couple of generations (they aren't). So, Stewart, in how many generations are Americans going to be extinct? I need a number; what's the Long Now Foundation's estimate on that? Crickets...

And the reason collapse is an unacceptable topic of discussion if it relates to us, in the present or the foreseeable future, is that the moment you mention it, the topic stops being it, or us; the topic becomes you. What is wrong with you, why are you collapsing, and is it contagious? (Actually, just go away anyway, because you are probably bad luck.) This society operates on a combination of conformism and one-upmanship. Collapse as reality is nonconformist—in a society that worships success it is seen as defeatist and unpatriotic. It is also noncompetitive—because who on earth would want to buy it? “After all, who wants to hear that their very identity—the industrially civilized ego they have built throughout their entire lives, the ego that defines who they are—is, well, dying?” (p. 89) (By the way, this explains why my last book hasn't sold all that well.) In any case, if you keep at it, you come to be seen as a loser. Then you start feeling like an unlucky outcast, and before too long you end up with a psychological problem, and start asking yourself questions such as : “What's wrong with me?” “Have I gone mad?” and “Should I kill myself?”

Which is where Baker comes in: she is a trained psychotherapist, and her book is a self-help book. She takes your subjective reactions of hurt, loss, and bewilderment and gives them the status of objective reality. Yes, insanity is just around the corner from where you are standing, but that's a perfectly normal, justifiable reaction: “Anyone preparing for colapse inevitably, on some occasions, feels mad. How at odds with circumstance we are, and how profoundly crazy-making it feels!” (p. 8) Helpfully, she enumerates the panoply of emotions that normally accompany the dicovery of collapse: “crazy, angry, joyful, depressed, terrified, giddy, relieved, paranoid, stupid, guilty, liberated, grateful, despairing, heartbroken, courageous, compassionate, lonely, loved, hated.” (p. 8) For some, the discovery of collapse may not even be necessary: “...I have never met any resident of industrial civilization who doesn't carry some form of trauma in their bodies." (p. 20) And, I would add, their minds and souls as well. Symptoms may include “...sleepless nights, a weakened immune system, moodiness, anger, depression, despair, and, often suicidal thinking.” (p. 26)

Baker's prescription is to heal thyself: “...to become familiar with internal resources; to practice skills of self-soothing, deep listening and truth telling with friends and family, and regular journaling; and to have an ongoing, daily stillness practice that provides grounding and centering in the midst of chaos.” (p. 15) “Healing our own trauma prepares us for navigating the trauma of a world in collapse and also equips us to assist others who are traumatized by the changes and losses of an unraveling society.” (p. 22) And although much of the job that awaits us is a sort of post-collapse hospice care for the severely disturbed, that is by no means the full extent of it: “...hold in your mind the reality of what is and what is yet to come and, at the same time, hold in your heart the vision of what is possible for a transformed humanity, no matter how few in numbers, that is willing to step over the evolutionary threshold and become a new kind of human being.” (p. 83, my emphasis)

The old kind of human being comes in for a good thrashing. Baker singles out the emptiness of the pursuit of happiness: “...many people confess that their greatest happiness is derived from shopping... [and from] having no constraints on consumption...” (p. 32) The commercialized mind control field in which many people are trapped defines happiness by positive thinking, which “...has become an integral aspect of corporate culture.” (p. 32) “I believe that since the end of World War II, positive thinking has become the quasi-religion of industrial civilization, and the failure to maintain it has become tantamount to treason.” (p. 33) This almost totalitarian emphasis on happiness and positive thinking amounts to a system of enforced stupidity. To Baker, what matters is not happiness but joy and not positive thinking but meaning: “Happiness comes and goes, but meaning doesn't. The truth, of course, is that we can find meaning in experiences that are anything but happy.” (For example, in war.)

Finding meaning doesn't necessarily lift our mood or make us happy. But it does amplify our existence, making it less than completely trivial. To find meaning, we have to confront sadness, loss, and, ultimately, death. This is why the message of collapse is almost universally rejected: “To speak of collapse, peak oil, demise, downturns, economic depression, or unraveling is anathema, because it rattles the rice paper-thin bulwarks we have constructed around darkness and death.” This is rather at odds with the dominant culture: “It's so easy to disregard death, especially if one is an [Anglo-]American.” (p. 55) (The English tend to regard death as the ultimate embarrassment, and their cultural baggage is unfortunately still with us.) Add to it a dollop of positive thinking and sprinkle on the “New Agey mindset,” and you get people who act “as if human beings are the only species that matter and as if the most crucial issue is that those humans are able to feel good about themselves as the world burns.” (p. 55) Such people will not fare well: “The collapse of industrial civilization will be challenging for those who have been preparing for it; for those who haven't, it will involve massive trauma.” (p. 29)

But what does it mean to prepare of collapse? There is, of course, the question of the logistics of surviving collapse: reskilling, relocalization, community organizing and the like. There is also the task of finding meaning in it, beyond mere physical survival; to borrow an aphorism from Nietzsche, the task of gazing into the abyss, until the abyss gazes back at you. But “...most human beings who do have the capacity to stare down collapse seem to lack the ability to dig deeper into its myriad emotional and spiritual ramifications, focusing only on physical survival issues.” (p 12). (I suppose preparing for the zombie apocalypse does make you a bit of a zombie, as your attitude becomes: “Sure, I'll resort to eating brains if I have to!”)

Baker wonders whether the “emotionally myopic survivalists” might be busy creating a world eerily similar to the “vapid, vacuous, barren inner landscape engendered by industrial civilization?” It's largely a question of how they were brought up. Western education is riddled with binary thinking: “Black or white, either-or, this way or that way permeate the educational systems of modernity and torment our thinking about and preparation for collapse. When will it happen—in this decade or in the next? Will it be fast or slow? Should I take the lone survivor approach or go live in an ecovillage? Should I stay in my home country or expatriate? The binary questions are endless, and limitless obsession with them is likely to leave us in the same predicament as the proverbial dog chasing its own tail.” (p. 7)

People who have been conditioned to think that to make such binary distinctions is to be rational, analytical and productive are loathe to accept that perhaps black or white are just moods: on some days they may feel like collapse is already here, while on other days it may feel far off; sometimes it may feels fast, other days slow; some days you want to be alone, on other days you crave companionship; sometimes you want to flee the country and give up your passport, while on other days you contemplate wanting to coming back to visit.

The crisp delineation between the present and the future is an artificial construct too: both the present and the future are works of fiction—a bit of “framing” created for us by those expert professionals who craft “consensual reality” on our behalf. The emphasis on rational responses to collapse has produced efforts to achieve logistical resilience: “Anyone not involved in this kind of logistical preparation is only half-awake, yet many individuals believe that no other preparation is necessary. Might that not, in fact, be one characteristic of trauma?” (p. 27) Taking it just one step further, strictly logistical collapse preparation may be a form of compulsive behavior that is quite obviously maladaptive “...building one's isolated doomstead or underground bunker is not only profoundly dangerous but astoundingly unrealistic.” (p. 97, my emphasis)

Much of the doomsteading activity is a projection of middle-class angst—to which much of the world is immune: “...for all the suffering of abjectly impoverished human beings, they have seldom known any other standard of living and have learned how to survive on virtually nothing.” (p. 26) On the other hand, “Those living a middle-class existence can comfort themselves only for so long by reflecting on the plight of the destitute in far-off places. Their immediate reality is an anomalous deprivation, a stark loss of the familiar, and the looming reality that things will not get better, but only worse.” (p. 26) Lastly, “...it is much easier to build cooperative relationships with individuals who are fundamentally like us than it is to build them with those who, for a variety of reasons, may be very different.” (p. 69) And if the only acceptable way to prepare for collapse within your middle-class, anglocentric cultural milieu is doomsteading, then I suppose you build some doomsteads, even though this is “not only profoundly dangerous but astoundingly unrealistic.” (p. 97) To understand why this is so is to challenge some deeply held assumptions: that “...the privileges afforded to people of Anglo ethnicity...” (p. 73) will remain in place, or that “the dominant culture will prevail alongside a number of subcultures.” (p. 74) And this is already manifestly not the case.

But the thought that part of what is collapsing is the Anglo cultural hegemony would be so profoundly angst-inducing that it might provoke a psychotic break in some of her readers, and so Baker avoids spelling it out, tap-dancing around the issue in a way that strikes me as slightly comic. “To be ‘civilized’ is synonymous with being domesticated, restrained, and repressed, and if we participate in sexual behavior at all, we are encouraged to do so in a controlled, sanitized, or even surreptitious fashion.” (p. 63) Yes, she gets that part, which is why she puts “civilized” in quotes. It is apparent that she has wandered outside the mental security perimeter, has tasted the forbidden fruit, and knows what it means to be fully human: “Benjamin Franklin said it best, after returning from living with the Iroquois: ‘No European who has tasted Savage life can afterward bear to live in our societies.’” (p. 56) And it is clear why she thinks that staying within the cultural perimeter would be “profoundly dangerous [and] astoundingly unrealistic.” (p. 97): “...collapse will decimate our anti-tribal, individualistic, Anglo-American programming by forcing us to join with others for survival.” (p. 105) Yes, it would appear that the Anglo ethnicity will go down in history as the oddest of the odd: the anti-tribal tribe.

But if you are a fully paid-up member of that tribe, then it is perhaps Baker who can speak to you like no other. This comes through most clearly when she talks about the soul, by which I think she means the Anglo soul, because it seems that there are some differences here. “The soul blossoms and flourishes not by going upward but by going down into the depths of emotion, body sensation, and intimate communion with nature.” (p. 38) “The soul ... loves darkness, descent, downward mobility, and the razor-sharp adversities of the human condition. In dark times, it doesn't have to be guided; it knows exactly what to do.” (p. 39) To me, this all sounds very strange. In my native language, the words soul, spirit and breath are all variations on the same theme. This is not accidental but nearly universal: the Sanskrit ātman (soul) and the German atmen (to breathe) are the same word that has spanned continents and millennia. Like breath, the soul is light (weightless). It is luminous and lucid, not heavy or dark or drunk with emotion. It is apparent and visible, and shines in the eyes of those who happen to have one. (Soulless people have eyes like fish, and even children can be taught to spot them.) The action of soul and spirit is roughly analogous to magnetism: when another soul touches yours, it strengthens it withought weakening itself. A person whose soul is great is said to be selfless, accommodating, forbearing, self-sacrificing... And so when Baker writes that the “[s]oul waits like a crouched predator to deepen us...” (p. 40) I can't help feeling that she is talking about something a little bit different. Be that as it may; perhaps it speaks to you, and, cultural differences aside, I fully agree with her that “...what will be most valuable will not necessarily be a sharp intellect but a well-honed intuition” (p. 65) Being able to tell at a glance whether someone has a soul is definitely part of that intuition.

I also sense that Baker's soul is great, and that she is selfless, accommodating, forbearing and self-sacrificing. She worries about “...people of color, women, children, the elderly, and the LGBT community—the most vulnerable members of a society in chaos” (p. 43) and that “...the gains experienced by ethnic minorities, women, and gays in the past forty years will essentially be erased as berserk, belligerent males succeed in ruling the day.” (p. 43) Now, it bears pointing out that this has largely happened already. Look at the prison population, at the gangs that are active throughout the US military, and at narcocartels; look at the perpetually depressed, disintegrating inner cities or the rapidly slummifying suburbs. Only the still-sheltered middle class can place such things in the future rather than the present. She does point out that “[c]ircumstances will vary from one community and region to another. I use the word lumpy to describe this phenomenon.” (p. 44) “Avoid the lumps” is the only advice I can give.

But some of these lumps are rather large—as large as the Roman Catholic Church—making them hard to avoid. (One former Catholic described it as “[a] large multi-national, tax-exempt, authoritarian corporation, with a history of child sex abuse [that is] selling an invisible product.”) Baker points out that much of the mysogyny present in Western culture comes from the “irrational dread of the feminine archetype in general and women in particular” (p. 49) that has been present in Christian relgious thought ever since the church fathers expelled the Gnostics. She quotes St. Augustine, who thought that women “should be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in men...” (Whereas those caused by the choir-boys are what?) She also points out both the Catholic church's and the Republican party's “war on women ... in which funding for contraception and abortion has been savagely cut, along with funding for programs that alleviate poverty.” (p. 51)

Not all of us can hope to avoid such lumps, and this brings us to what is perhaps the most important message of Baker's book: there is much to do, so get cracking! A change of direction is called for. Many people are still attempting to work jobs, while “...employment as we know it will probably not exist a decade from now and ... this time of massive unemployment creates space in our lives that allows us to prepare for a future of permanent unemployment.” (p. 5) Many people are still trying to stockpile advanced degrees or paper wealth, while “[i]n a post-collapse world, academic degrees and stock portfolios matter little.” (p. 104) In the meantime, there is much to do: “Volunteering in a homeless shelter, a daycare ceter for homeless children, a nursing home, or other agencies still in existence that serve vulnerable popultions is excellent psychological preparation for a time when none of these services exist. First, it puts you in a serving mode. You allow your innate compassion to reach out to other human beings in need. In addition, it causes you to ponder how you might deal with the situation in the future when members of the population you are serving are symbolically or literally on your doorstep. Furthermore, it expands your horizons beyond ‘me and mine’ to a sense of the commons and a camaraderie with the rest of humanity. (p. 67) “There is something about being of service in the current time that could have lasting benefits for us in the future, simply because a service mentality and especially a willingness to see the suffering of others in this moment provide us with critical emotional skills. In many cases, we may need to provide nothing except the capacity to listen.” (p. 67) “I venture to say that most collapse-aware individuals cherish some fantasies, no matter how frail or infrequently spoken of, of a new culture in which we live in authentic community, sharing resources, food, tasks, and recreation with each other. And we already know that such a culture will not be possible without an attitude of service and cooperation.” (p. 68) Such efforts may start out as responses to practical, mundane needs, but their results can transcend them: “Paradoxically, collapse may bring to our lives meaning and purpose that might otherwise have eluded us ... With civilization's collapse, we may be forced to evaluate daily, perhaps moment to moment, why we are here, if we want to remain here, if life is worth living, and if there is something greater than ourselves for which we are willing to remain alive and to which we choose to contribute energy.” (p. 106)

There are quite a few books on collapse that provide “food for thought.” Baker's does some of that too; but more importantly, she guides the reader in feeling about collapse, progressing from hopelessness and helplessness to hope, self-realization and a sense of belonging. And this, I think, is a singular achievement.


k-dog said...

I don't want to be in the predicament of the proverbial dog chasing its own tail. But I know if I were new to the collapse community that is exactly what I'd be doing.

Coincidentally I was on Carolyn's website last night and whatever I was reading there strengthened me.

I don't necessarily agree that collapse may paradoxically bring to our lives meaning and purpose. Life in a shit-storm may be quite simply horrible. I'll advocate something else that can bring to our lives meaning and purpose. That something else is preparing for collapse knowing that every day we are vertical is a gift and that the knowledge of our inevitable collapse is not a burden but to the contrary is something that can give our life meaning, right here, right now.

Collapse-aware individuals who cherish aspirations of a new culture where we live in an authentic community, sharing resources, food, work, and recreation with others cherish a fantasy if they do not plant the seeds for that community now. Waiting for collapse to happen will be waiting too late.

We must now cultivate that culture in a thousand ways. What can give one more meaning in life than to participate in growing a culture prepared for a future where attitudes of service and cooperation replace the empty transient drives of current civilization and meaningless competition and consumption.

Professor Diabolical said...

Reading this review of Baker's Collapsing Consciously puts me of two minds: on the one hand, I take to heart her thought of the plight of others and of a mind to service of man. On the other hand, this sharply contradicts both strategy and sense.

As Orlov has painstakingly outlined--at some cost to his non-PC view--the societies that survive and thrive are those who do NOT support all, but only themselves: the Roma, the Mafia, the Amish, etc. If this is too harsh, then remind yourself that as you support and protect only your group, the others have the same ability and perogetive to protect and sustain THEIR group. Making the NY Jets a better team need take nothing from the Miami Dolphins. There is your team and my team, and those 2, 12, or 200 actual people are about all I can reasonably affect or care for anyway. Nevertheless, I will care for them, and if there are no one yet, I will create conditions until my allies appear of necessity. Caring for a theoretical ALL against ALL is a fool's errand, and one of the irrational fool's errands that got this culture into this mess in the first place. To wit, it's the false Socialism that the USSR found. Instead of all helping all, it insured no one helped no one except their close friends and family, directly into poverty for 70 years.

Second, her darling thoughts of preserving the LBGT community are laughable. Don't get me wrong, I take her message to heart: that subgroups will be hardest hit, and the smaller and weaker they are, the more impacted. However, to my ears, it sounds like the question, "How did the LBGT community fare during the siege of Stalingrad? Were they adequately cared for?" If you have anything like a serious mind about the difficulties facing us, then you couldn't possibly waste time with such nonsense but with figuring out how on earth YOU and the nearest 5 people to you will survive--nevermind anyone else, as in those odds the healthiest and best-prepared, backed with a solid tribe is barely 50-50.

This is no slight to other groups, whoever they may be; I bless them to do their best to preserve themselves as well as they may, but if they don't create their own self-supporting community, then you have to know that I don't have the resources remaining to do it for them. Sorry--that's what being a supporting community is about: that there IS an US and THEM, and THEY don't get support unless we have it to spare and decide among ourselves to freely give it. ...More or less same as now, with my checkbook and the latest charity fund.

The idea of supporting everyone just because, is laughably against everything we know about humans, about survival, and about allocating resources most effectively, all of which are best done and most securely and sustainably done by as small a group, with resources held as tightly as possible. Which is good if you're IN the group, but bad if you're OUT. So you'd better make sure you get your own group right away.

The excerpts also reinforce my already dreadful view of psychotherapists as useless and irrational. That is to say, if they can function in what is already an insane culture without drawing fire, they must be relatively corrupted apologists for the culture themselves. Otherwise, they would say the dysfunction is not US, it's THEM, and the only sensible reaction to an irrational, insane THEM, is to isolate within your own, sane, group, and if they won't stop bugging you, fight to change THEM back into something resembling sense and sustainability, or at least respect your wrath enough to leave you alone. Not to be utterly exhaust yourself being nice to everyone who cannot reciprocate. It's embarassingly successful upper middle-class, showing nothing of what hardship, war, or living in poverty or on the street is like.

Get your own group soon and hold tight. Your life may depend on it.

Witney History said...

The quoted extract re the soul does read strangely ("The soul ... loves darkness, descent" etc) and my limited ideas are similar to what you expressed about the nature of soul. Is there anything between "The soul... loves darkness" that might 'illuminate' the subject?

Perhaps she is referring to the trials of life being food for development.

@professor diabolical
Had the same initial response to the excerpts and the tone did come across a little... well, to to quote an acquaintance, "middle class wank"; however, the idea of getting on and doing something seems reasonable.

On the other hand:
“Paradoxically, collapse may bring to our lives meaning and purpose that might otherwise have eluded us ... With civilization's collapse, we may be forced to evaluate daily, perhaps moment to moment, why we are here, if we want to remain here, if life is worth living, and if there is something greater than ourselves for which we are willing to remain alive and to which we choose to contribute energy.”

I think if people haven't got grounding already when thinks get tricky, there will be little time for navel gazing. Having time to 'evaluate why we are here' will be a luxury, and likely that rather more pressing matters will be up the priority list. It is unlikely to be like a weekend camping and chanting for the new age workshop groupies.

Chris G said...

In light of the review and the above comment by Dr. Diabolical, for what it's worth, I think there ought to be a dose of reality. Charity and compassion do indeed depend on surplus. Now, while surplus is perhaps a relative, individually defined word, it has some fixed boundaries: the bare necessities. But "scarcity" in an era of economic contraction, and perhaps a sudden collapse, is likely to have a pretty high threshold. It will include: as much as one (or one's group) can possibly keep hold on. That, I agree, doesn't bode well for the possibilities of building enlightened community in an age of collapse. Regarding the nonsense of psychology/psychiatry: it functions after all as a scientificated religion. It's about supposedly rationally based dreams of a higher human being - she's pretty honest about that. it might be misguided, But many prayers are.

Hypothesis: what's key here is time frames - how quickly it all goes down; and secondly, the ability of government and corporate hierarchical structures to come to terms with reality and set common goals for the herd, in any nation. The former and the latter are intertwined, and based on evidence from the past, regarding the ability to recognize real limits particularly, there has been pretty much wholesale failure. So it doesn't bode well. Sadly, though it would be better to take a "prayerful" path toward cooperation, such a thing requires agreement. And it seems to be more likely that everyone will just be scrapping to avoid their own definition of scarcity.

Professor Diabolical, I'd say you pretty much fit the definition the author provides the survivalist (it's not a diagnosis mind you, but a categorization, much like what she criticizes). Regardless, even though one might hope for something better, more cooperative, meaningful... the lowest common denominator is violence. As Hobbes said, it takes a Leviathan to tame that tendency; industrial civilization was our Leviathan. And the hopeful dreamer (author included, Jesus included) dies just as readily as the survivalist.

Peter said...

I would be interested to know what (if anything) Carolyn has to say about expelling a disruptive or antagonistic person from a community, because that's the situation we are facing in a community of about 35 people which I belong to. One person does nothing to help anyone else, and his antisocial activities drain energy and resources from the community. When collapse comes, do we expel him? Or maybe just shoot him? Sometimes you have to make hard choices, and you can't be touchy-feely towards all the people all the time.

subgenius said...

Ian Welsh is on a similar vein today...


Alexander Carpenter said...

A suggestion for Peter…

When "collapse" intensifies, why not just shoot and eat him, as a rigorous bonding ritual (and object lesson) for those remaining. Good meat may be hard to come by. Is his name S. Green, by any chance?

But I wouldn't wait, I'd want him gone as soon as possible, lest his toxic subversion of healthy-group dynamics become contagious.

There's nothing like branding someone as "other" to make our "us" more solid and coherent, and give encouragement for community-mindedness. In some business schools and military academies, the lowest-scoring students are routinely expelled every year. It really does focus the attention and energies of those realigning.

We should develop a "corruption index" for government officials and Congress: the two highest-scoring should be publically executed as an annual ritual. None of the other proposals for making government more honest have worked…


Jason Mierek said...

Random responses:

@k-dog: Collapse won't bring meaning to anyone's life anymore than the Holocaust brought meaning to people's lives. Collapse is not our savior. Viktor Frankl pointed out in Man's Search for Meaning, that the ability to find and/or make meaning in the midst of the horrors might have been the primary determinant between who gave in and who persevered. So collapse may be the occasion in which the capacity to find meaning enhances survivability.

@ Prof. Diabolical - regarding the "false socialism" in the USSR and how it "helped no one," I would suggest re-reading "Closing the Collapse Gap," particularly the part that asserts that the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US. If a reduced standard of living (i.e., material poverty) is the ultimate outcome of collapse, then a society of mainly poor folks with access to modest public transportation, housing, and health care actually seems to be helped quite a bit more than a society in which millions fight over the table scraps provided by a handful of obscenely wealthy billionaires, all without even minimally guaranteed access to the aforementioned shared resources. I'm tired of seeing collapse being used as the next in a nearly infinite series of USAmerican justifications of selfish-shitbaggery-as-the-natural order-of-things.

And finally, @ Peter - check out The Great Explosion by sf writer Eric Frank Russell and Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution by Peter Kropotkin. The easiest way to deal with a disruptive community member is to expel them from the community, after a threshhold of disruptions is met. For Russell, the folks who mooch off of others and never live up to their obligations eventually starve as pariahs who can no longer obtain the favors necessary to survive. No need to kill 'em, just kick them out. From each according to ability, to each according to need means that there is no free lunch, but that everyone who contributes even a little gets to partake of the meager feast.

My 2 cents.

onething said...

My take on the soul loving darkness is that one's spiritual faculty is strengthened by going within, away from the hubbub and noise and chatter, as in "the divine darkness", as in meditation.

The disruptive person - if enough people want to expel him, by all means, do so. In natural tribal communities, everyone is related to at least some of the others, and expelling would therefore be a last resort, but it is done. I am pretty sure any viable community or tribe will have to occasionally expel someone.

Jamey Hecht said...

I enjoyed this review very much and I look forward to reading Carolyn's new book, on which I congratulate her.

By way of friendly and tentative correction, my understanding is that our colleague Carolyn Baker is *not* a "trained psychotherapist" at all, but a life coach, a title which requires no formal training and no license. While I respect her and her valuable work, and do not make a fetish of credentials and professionalization, I am also working very hard to earn a Marriage and Family Therapist license along with psychoanalytic training, and have come to see the enormous difference this training can make to one's scope of practice. Since she is a person of integrity, I'm sure Ms. Baker shares my concern about this distinction between two different career paths, life coach vs. psychotherapist. If I am mistaken about her credentials, I apologize, but I am basing my impression on her website. This distinction is trivial in a world of near-term human extinction, but from my perspective it remains salient. Thank you.
Jamey Hecht,
California M.F.T. Registered Intern # 73628

"This age is both comic and tragic: tragic, because it is perishing; comic, because it continues." --Kierkegaard

Justin Wade said...

Another possibility, which I believe as a native of this culture, is that the mal-association of the sensory and weightless soul with the sensate and mass of the body and emotion is another form of trauma. I believe this trauma runs deep through the culture, its ruined our entire understanding of art and how to craft things with soulful expression. (Btw, Francis Bacon just set an art house record for his portraits of Lucien Freud.)

I think there is a great spiritual-philosophy about working with one's hands and paying strict attention to your senses while working is laying in the wait here. Lots of supply and demand on that. That sort of philosophy leads to spiritual paths and has some resonance, see Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Shopclass for Soulcraft. (And I know lots of Blacksmiths that went right into devout Christianity best expressed in their words as a function of their craft.)

Unknown said...

Demitry, I did buy your book before I came to your site. If you feel like a speaking tour in the West, let me know. I'm trying to do the same for Dr. Guy McPherson.

As to being "the disruptive person", ever wonder if you in fact might be the disruptive person in your group and not realize it?

As Madonna said when asked if she were gay, her reply was "When..."
Which group considers you a pariah and... when? Creatives are usually a moody sort.

Steve Salmony said...

Despite institutional denial inside and outside the scientific community regarding the ecological science of human population dynamics, The AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population was founded in 2001. Since that moment I have seen it as a moral imperative to continue the work I’ve been doing for many years now: getting the message out and explaining to as many people as possible that human overpopulation of the Earth is occurring on our watch, that it poses profound existential risks for future human well being, life as we know it and environmental health, and that robust action is required starting here, starting now to honestly acknowledge, humanely address and eventually overcome.

Dingo Pup said...


Dmitry Orlov is nothing if not original in his observations and clearly has a lot of experience to draw on. However I wonder if maybe it causes him to skirt around important matters that might be obvious and mundane.

Matters such as overpopulation. I mean who wants to talk about that? Well the fact that exponential growth according to Darwin is the engine that drives the struggle for survival might make it worth some consideration.

It seems if we are going to talk about the collapse of our industrial civilization the fact that we have 7 billion + folks on this planet and are increasing at roughly 200,000 new people each day ought to be worth plugging into the equation.

pansceptic said...

Justin Wade, your comment inspired me comment. I'm a skilled tradesperson who does a little artistic expression using the same skillset. As Kunstler has pointed out, we will soon be living in a World Made By Hand, but most folks are ill-prepared. I feel that a portion of the disfunction of our current system is Temple Grandin's insight of "excessive abstractification"; that is, people have come to live in a very abstract world and have come to view abstactions as interchangeable with the things they represent. Examples would be confusing money with wealth, or a bunch of Facebook "friends" with a tribe.

I just completed a cruise of the Carribean (hey, it was a gift :) and was discouraged by the lack of soulful consideration in the "souveniers" offered. I visited desperately poor communities with plenty of idle people and plenty of exotic tropical hardwood, but the shops were full of identical crap made in China. I made many inquiries and hiked away from the tourist areas, but saw nothing of merit. Ironically, the only two places I saw any artistic expression were a very remote indigenous Embera villiage in Panama, and beach cobble and driftwood creations made by visiting tourists on a windswept beach in the Bahamas.

Vic Postnikov said...

Dear Dmitry,
I've found many accompanying thoughts in your review of Carolyn Baker's book. I thought you might like to know that I have translated it into Russian.
It's been my pleasure to see you and Carolyn working "in tandem".

Very best,

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Dear Dmitri, the scope of your education continues to amaze and delight. Love the Atman/atmen bit. You are so entitled to a new life. Thanks for everything you have done here. Carol Deppe, garden writer and seed activist, said this about the 'doomstead' (great word) movement: your job is not to be self-sufficient, but to be a contributing member of a more or less self sufficient community. Not a verbatim quote, in case that matters. We're working on it.

Jean-Paul Printemps said...

Dmitry, historians may be attached to the tell-tale spelling patterns of English words, which, in their origins, point to significant events in English history (as Flavo Flave would say, "HIS story.") However that may be the case, history is rather unromantically driven by pragmatism, and it is compelling that this innovation may be an example of that fact. I am wondering if computer languages, which can jarringly impose their Englishness in on-line software discussions, will catch up to the new technology.

Also, is unspell extensible? If so, certain languages in this world, which contain different phonemes than those in English, may benefit from the unspell model.