Transcript of James H. Kunstler’s Podcast 280: Kunstler talks with Dmitry Orlov about Rob O’Grady’s book 150 Strong: A Pathway to a Different Future
Kunstler: Hello and welcome to the KunstlerCast. Thanks for listening in. If you'd like to support this podcast, you can become a patron of the show by making a small monthly contribution through my Patreon page. To do that, you can either search for me on Patreon.com or use the link in the upper right hand corner of my website, kunstler.com. My guest today is Dmitry Orlov, an old friend of the podcast. He's been here many times. He's the author of Reinventing Collapse and many other books. He's also become a publisher lately. One of the books that he's published we shall be talking about today, 150-Strong: A Pathway to a Different Future by Rob O'Grady. I'm a long-time fan of Dmitry Orlov. He brings a clear eyed worldview and mordant sense of humor to the rather confusing and confounding events of our time. Listen up now. There will be a quiz as we discuss 150-Strong by Rob O'Grady. Tell the listeners, if you would, why I'm interviewing you about it and not Rob O'Grady.
Orlov: Well, Rob has sort of indicated that he's perfectly comfortable with having me do interviews on his behalf and I'm happy to do it. I'm not only his publisher, I'm also his publicist. That's suits both of us fine.
Kunstler: Is he shy?
Orlov: He's not particularly shy. But he's your typical engineer. He's very soft spoken and talks in long paragraphs and that sort of thing. Maybe I'm a little bit more effective having done so many interviews over the years.
Kunstler: Well, it's fine with me if we talk about this his book through you. I found it to be a bit of an intellectual puzzle box but let's try to unwrap parts of the puzzle and see where it takes us. The title, 150- Strong, refers to something called Dunbar's number. Can you please tell us what Dunbar's number is and what it signifies?
Orlov: Robin Dunbar some time ago did a certain amount of research on human predispositions for dealing with each other, dealing with humanity. He found out that basically what is genetically programmed into us is the ability to deal with a certain not very large number of people face-to-face where we basically have personal, trust-based relationships. That is by far the optimal way to organize because everything else involves some amount of politics or social grooming that makes social interactions much less efficient. He looked at various types of groups where efficiency of human interaction is extremely important such as various types of military organizations. He found out that basically a company is a bunch of people who know each other personally. If you expand it beyond that size, it becomes less efficient.
Kunstler: You mean a military company, not ordinary company?
Orlov: Military company, yes. This is something that is programmed into us. It's sort of the bedrock of how you can reform society if the culture, the surrounding social culture, is in a state of decay such that you cannot really rely on it anymore.
Kunstler: Yes. Well, I remember in my own life that one of the places that I was most comfortable as a human being was summer camp as a child because there were only about 70 people on the property. We barely got off it to see other people and so we were really only interacting with a small group. It worked pretty well. But it prompts me to ask you, when was really the last time that the people of Western civilization actually lived like that? Lived in 150-strong units of society?
Orlov: Well, it does happen. There are parishes that are that size which actually function extremely well as little mini-societies. Religious communities tend to embrace this principle very readily. Various small farming communities are oriented around these lines. Then there are various companies. I've worked in a number of startup companies that fit this mold pretty well. That's really the phase transition that occurs when you exceed Dunbar's number of 150 or so is incredible because suddenly you have chain of command, suddenly you have an HR department and then everybody starts sandbagging. Nobody is actually there to be proud. Everybody is there to just basically hold onto their job and basically do the typical corporate thing, a startup stops being a startup.
Kunstler: We've mostly not been living like that in our time, especially in the 20th century and a bit beyond, right?
Orlov: Well, yes. The terrible thing is that we are now conditioned to deal with strangers. We've been programmed to not do business with friends and relatives because that's supposedly corrupt and nepotistic and instead we're supposed to have these impersonal, rule-based relationships with people we hardly know. Supposedly, we are kept safe by the police or the courts or arbitration or the idea that people will try to protect their reputation by doing the honorable thing. In those types of relationships, they're just much less efficient because everybody does the absolute minimum to please the client or whatever. Nobody does their best on behalf of each other.
Kunstler: To make matters worse, we seem to have moved into a new phase of American history and American social transactions where we're kind of living in society where anything goes and nothing matters. How does that fit into your view of things and you think Rob O'Grady's view of things?
Orlov: Well, it's the path of increased degeneracy in society. I would qualify what you said. There's a stratum, upper stratum of people where anything goes and nothing matters. It's impossible for them to get locked up no matter what they do. There is just no consequences for them at all because they can just pay somebody or whatever. But then on the lower stratum of society or the lower strata of society, it's actually absolutely the opposite. You’re basically just waiting to get locked up for whatever reason. You know ahead of time that it has nothing to do with whether or not you do or don't do something.
Kunstler: Well, the two models that were arrived at for social relations in the industrial age were, I guess for lack of a better term, we call it capitalism. The other one is communism. There seems to be something kind of in the twilight between them called fascism which is maybe authoritarian government sponsored corporatism. I don't know where that fits on your transect or gradient. But let's talk about the deficiencies of both of these models for a society that will work properly and has some chance of continuing in the long run.
Orlov: Well, first of all, communism is two completely opposite things. On one hand, it's the principle by which Dunbar-sized communities are organized and they still exist a little bit of place in the world. Families are basically communist, et cetera. On that level, communism is real. On the other hand, communism is some kind of philosophical dream which is now largely defunct but has infested culture politics in Western Europe. It's this unkillable abortion of Western philosophy as far as I'm concerned.
But on the other hand, there is socialism. The excesses of capitalism where you kick everybody off the farm, make them work, work them to death in factories, et cetera, runs into a problem where the people you're working to death are not your consumers. You have to sort of allow them to get a little bit richer or something. Socialism and various labor movements develop as an antidote to unfettered capitalism. In some economies, Sweden for instance, they come into some sort of equilibrium. In other places, they fail to do so, the US being a glaring example.
But there is a balance between capitalism and socialism and the collapse of the USSR which was the big socialist country was really, really bad for capitalism in the US because socialism is the only thing that can keep capitalists sort of serving the common good. When socialism goes away, capitalism becomes pernicious.
Kunstler: Well is it possible that socialism is afflicted with just its own internal contradictions that it's fraught with its own problems apart from whatever capitalism presents?
Orlov: Well, ideally, if you have too much socialism, you throw in a handful of capitalism. That sorts it out. It's an ecosystem.
Kunstler: I hate to brandish a cliché but there is Margaret Thatcher's idea that socialism ends with when you run out of other people's money to spend. Where does that stand?
Orlov: Well, it's a false point. It's a non-existent point because the money that she's talking about that isn't other people's money is stolen from other people. Under a set of rules, that kind of theft can be okay. You can have some capital accumulation but not too much.
Kunstler: You're starting from the standpoint that all production really should be returned to the producers of it. That is the people who work at whatever they're working at.
Orlov: Yes, most of it. There is some kind of... some people are intellectually superior in their ability to organize things. There is some amount of seigniorage that they’re owned as a result of that. There is a certain amount of respect but it's not infinite.
Kunstler: Well, you spent part of your childhood in the old Soviet Union and you actually saw it in operation and know quite a bit about it. But the Soviet model of running things kind of degenerated very quickly in its history, by the time Lenin shoved the original Bolsheviks out of the way, yes, and decided that they really weren't going to pay much attention to the Soviets which were the grassroots organizations of 150 or so people. Is that not the case that they decided fairly early on to turn them into a kind of strictly authoritarian enterprise?
Orlov: Well, it was never strictly authoritarian, strangely enough, even during the days of Stalin. There was a lot of limited self-government and there was a lot of initiative taken by people. Nothing of the scope of the Soviet Union would have been possible if it was just Stalin sitting there making every single micro-decision. Instead, he was very good at proposing policies and making sure that they were adhered to. In terms of where the Soviet Union stood beside the United States for instance, in the '70s during the oil embargo and all of the troubles that the US was going through, the economic troubles at the time, the Soviet Union was looking pretty good. In fact, that's when we left the Soviet Union thinking we were going to this dreamy place. We got there and it's a dump. It was just an unbelievably sad sight.
Kunstler: Where did you arrive, in New Jersey?
Orlov: New York. That's when garbage wasn't being cleaned up.
Kunstler: That was a bad time for New York.
Orlov: Highways had gigantic potholes that cars disappeared into. You could get mugged just walking down the street.
Kunstler: The point of one of your first books, Reinventing Collapse, was that the United States would recapitulate that collapse experience of the USSR, hasn't quite happened yet. How do you see that unfolding as we speak?
Orlov: Well, it's unfolding. What has been extending this period of suspension of disbelief...
Kunstler: ...It can be collapse...
Orlov: …that anything bad could possibly happen. Yes. It is all the financial shenanigans that had been going on. The question is when do they run out of room? It's a big question.
Kunstler: How do you explain for the moment why they've been as successful as they have been given the fact that it's really just kind of a magic trick?
Orlov: Well, it is a magic trick. It works because people really want to believe that it works. People want to believe in magic.
Kunstler: I think by it, we're referring to the creation and ever more rolling over of debts in order to fund the ongoing project of Western capital-based economies?
Orlov: Well yes, if debt is like a heroin habit, then what's been happening is the addict of American society has been injecting twice as much heroin with each fix.
Kunstler: Well, so we have these two models of how to organize an industrial society. But it raises a question which is the period of the last 200 years since the onset of the industrial age has really been kind of an anomalous period of history. If these two systems which were engineered to run industrial societies, if that industrial society is in its twilight, then why not other models? Why not a return to feudalism or warlordism or tribalism or some other disposition of social arrangements?
Orlov: Well, all of those things were underpinned by a mindset that no longer exists. That's the problem and you cannot just kind of regenerate a church-centric view of the universe just out of nothing.
Kunstler: Well, tribalism doesn't have to be… I mean, not tribalism, warlordism doesn't have to be a church-centric society.
Orlov: Yes, but warlordism produces results that nobody likes. That's the problem with it. Everybody just waits for it to just... waits for everybody to kill each other and then start over. Sometimes that can go on for generations like in Afghanistan. But nobody likes that. What people are looking for is basically making up their own minds, not having somebody impose a model on them. But basically, dealing with people you directly know the way you like to deal with them, you decide how you're going to arrange your affairs, how you're going to manage things. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else. It just has to work. And that's the working model.
Kunstler: Well, one of the sections of Rob's book is I think it's titled people are not reasonable [In a World of Reasonable People, p. 101]. And if people are not reasonable, why expect them to organize along a reasonable, a supposedly reasonable, rational social paradigm?
Orlov: Well, they care of each other. People are funny that way. They're not reasonable acting on their own behalf. They're weak and greedy and vice-ridden and lazy. But the moment they start helping each other and the moment their sense of self is bound up with how useful they're perceived and how useful they feel vis a vis each other, that's when things start to change for the better. You can have weak, not very intelligent vice ridden parents doing a reasonable job taking care of children. I see that every day. If they were just doing everything for their own sake, they'd be much more of a mess.
Kunstler: What is the concept that Rob uses called a triadic balance?
Orlov: Well basically, he traces everything back to Newtonian mechanics where every action has equal and opposite reaction and there's some kind of a mediating force that maintains the balance between them and that exists in physics as a metaphor but not too much of a stretch it exists in society as well. For instance, in a capitalist society, the mediating force is the profit motive. Basically, that's what determines what thrives and what dies, is a company has to make a profit has to be profitable in order to exist. That is a negative force because basically somebody ends up with everything and everybody else ends up with nothing.
Then there are various other ideas, socialist ideas, where you do good or you thrive by redistributing scarce goods in some equitable fashion. Just another type of force which is a little bit more opaque because then some bureaucrat ends up figuring out who gets how much of what and nobody ends up liking that and nobody ... there's no such thing as an ideal bureaucrat. That runs into the problem of governance. Both of those things fail if they're applied on too a large scale. The problem of scale is the most important thing. That gets back to 150, Dunbar number.
Kunstler: Well, we seem to be trapped at a certain scale of operations right now, of human operations, and unable to get away from that. Would you say?
Orlov: Yes. Well, the problem with everything that we've built up from the electric grid to the container ships that deliver the goods that we use, to oil and gas pipelines, everything is at an absolutely gigantic scale and getting bigger and bigger. We have Panamax ships and now we have super Panamax and the Panama Canal had to be widened. These are like the dinosaurs that get bigger and bigger and then go extinct. It's an absolute trap. It's a thermodynamic trap. There's no escape from it except to start doing something small on the side, that is independent.
Kunstler: Sometimes nature or reality seems to have plans and mandates of its own. What's going on now would seem to me to be the beginning of a process of pretty brisk contraction of our activities.
Orlov: Yes. A lot of people, more and more every year, are just going to be trapped with no good options. Right now, people in Louisiana are trapped. All those people in California that had to live with a methane plume for a few months, they were trapped. That's just going to happen in more and more cases in more and more places. That's an ongoing thing. At some point, something major will break where there's no reversion to norm possible for the system as a whole.
Kunstler: Well, that brings up the question of what is the journey like on the way to a 150-strong society? How much disorder does it entail? You have a pretty clear map of your own, of the kind of the stages of collapse as you called it in one of your books, a book I really liked. Can you describe to the listeners what the stages of collapse are as you’ve mapped them out?
Orlov: Well, that's the kind of like large scale phenomenon in society and in nations.
Kunstler: We are at the large scale.
Orlov: Yes, at the large scale, finances are the first to fail because they can fail within basically a single 24-hour news cycle. The whole thing is a confidence game. To give you a concrete example, there is many trillions of bonds right now that are negative yielding. So the only reason anybody would want to hold onto them is because they expect their price to stay high. If that price starts dropping then everybody starts selling and it's a panic, it's a route. We're waiting for that moment. Then banks become insolvent. Letters of credit fail to be honored. Cargoes don't get put on ships. Then there are basically various types of knock-on effects called supply line cross-contagion where you cannot really complete any project because of some missing component. Things unwind from there taking you to the next stage which is commercial collapse which is basically no products to be bought or sold.
Kunstler: The shelves get empty.
Orlov: Shelves get empty. Then because of that, the tax revenues, they flat line, governments are broke. That brings on political collapse. That's the triad. Then in addition to that, you can have social and cultural collapse. Social collapse is when various types of social groups, formal and informal, fail to function and help their members. And cultural collapse is really where people stop behaving like people and start acting more like animals. That can happen at any time independently from all of the other phases.
Kunstler: Well, if you do believe that some kind of a collapse process is underway in the USA, as it was in the old Soviet Union, how deep do you think that process take us?
Orlov: It can go all the way to just complete depopulation of a given district. Some area might be relatively prosperous growing their own food, maybe even doing a little bit of trade with the rest of the world. Maybe having some specific barter arrangements with some country across the world. While other places, the oil patch in the Dakotas or something, would be just completely gone.
Kunstler: Tell me, how do you see this working out invarious parts of this very large country? Because the regional differences are pretty striking.
Orlov: Well, I lived in Massachusetts a long time. I traveled all over the Midwest. Been to California many times. Then I just kind of on a whim ended up in South Carolina. Then I realize that this isn't really all one country. It's very different here. This country is held together by the federal government and all of its various handouts, especially the military, that's the biggest jobs program there is in the country, and the interstate highway system and the airlines and a few pipelines and the electric grid. Take away those things and you no longer have anything that resembles a country. It becomes pointless to even talk about it as a country.
Kunstler: Some of these places are more habitable than others.
Orlov: Oh, absolutely, yes. Some places will stop being habitable as soon as the electric grid goes down.
Kunstler: In fact, there's a story in the New York Times, I think it was in New York Times this morning, it was realtor's report for the suburbs of the Northeast. Suburban houses, even really nice ones, are getting hard to sell in places like Connecticut because the population is generally falling in this region. They said it's because more people are moving to the Sun Belt. But frankly I don't see the Sun Belt as being a particularly successful place in the future. It seems to me that the only reason it's successful at the moment is because they've got air conditioning for all.
Orlov: I don't see it as a particularly successful place moving forward. I will agree with you. It's got some things going for it. There are pockets of really good kind of social cohesion where people have been living in the same place. They all know each other and everything has gelled. They'll look out for each other somehow. But the big cities in the Sun Belt, there's really no hope for them at all.
Kunstler: Explain the concept that O'Grady uses called the reason of rulers [p. 71 of 150 Strong] and why that's problematical.
Orlov: Basically, if you can do rather well by relinquishing authority to somebody who just decides on your behalf.
If all goes well, then that person is popular and has popular support and everything. It goes swimmingly for a while. But that doesn't go on forever. That's a matter of luck. It's an occurring thing in history but it's not something to rely on.
Kunstler: What happens when you're in a situation like we are in the USA right now where you have two prospective leaders who are rulers, Trump and Hillary, who a very small percentage of people feel okay about?
Orlov: Well, that's the absolute failure of the presidential system. That's basically instead of a president, you have a presidential stooge. It doesn't matter who gets elected. It's still a stooge. Nothing depends on them. They can’t possibly govern because the whole system is just corrupt and internally conflicted. That's kind of like the degenerate form of that. At that point, you might as well not even bother with having an executive.
Kunstler: I happen to believe along the lines that you do that we are headed into some kind of a fairly desperate period of history. I'm mostly puzzled by what the proposed journey is to the regime of 150-strong. My own view of it was expressed in the novels I wrote under the World Made By Hand rubric. In that one, most of the comforts and conveniences of modern civilization are absent. Things like the electric grid and the internet and most of the international commerce that we had. It seems to me that events are in charge now and in the books I wrote, the situation that the characters found themselves in and it was largely a matter of events having deposited them in a new disposition of history. What is that journey like?
Orlov: Well, in your book, in fact, there's a similar type of group, maybe a little larger which is I think you called the Brethren?
Kunstler: Well, it's The New Faith Covenant Brotherhood of Jesus.
Orlov: That's right.
Kunstler: It's a religious cult and they're living in an old high school.
Orlov: Well, that seems to be sort of along similar lines although they do have a charismatic leader so they're pretty far from democratic, strange in other ways. But in general, if you want to start applying the principle of 150... I'm sorry about the noise. There's a landscaping crew. If you try applying the principle of 150 in your life, you can start doing it anytime you want. Basically, start employing friends and relatives instead of strangers. Start doing business with friends and relatives instead of strangers. Make it as unbusinesslike as you like. Basically shift to doing everything in terms of gifts and barter and favors and things like that and figure out who your 150 people are and try to consciously use that as an organizing principle in your own life.
Then it may turn out that you don't really need to go shopping because all your neighbors are growing enough food and you're growing food that they need. You don't need to hire babysitters or deal with daycare because again your neighbors will provide all of that and you will provide it for them. You know a doctor who lives three houses down so you never need to go to the hospital, on and on and on. Eventually, you get to a point where you decommercialize just about everything in your whole life. Your car needs repair, there's a mechanic living three houses down. If you start doing that, then as things collapse, you won't even notice. It just won't matter to you.
Kunstler: Well, it's interesting because it reminds me of the social order that you described in Reinventing Collapse in the old Soviet Union which was essentially a society of you might call it a favor bank society where you're constantly doing little things for people who then owe you. There is a sense of obligation that actually is the glue that makes things work. But when you're trying to apply it to the current society we're living in, I have a little bit of a problem seeing it as anything but a workaround. One that would require some rather extreme cunning to pull off. Not everybody is equipped to be that resourceful.
Orlov: Well, you'd be amazed. I think the first requirement is that you have to be very poor. The people who are doing it now are people who are poor. If you're in trouble in the US, don't try asking rich people for help because they'll do nothing for you. Find some good poor people because if you help them, they'll help you. If they think that you'll be able to help them in the future, they will help you in the present. That sort of thing goes on every day. We just don't notice it because these people are basically invisible.
Kunstler: They keep a very low profile.
Orlov: Of course.
Kunstler: There's another thing that troubles me a little bit about this book is that, and Rob O'Grady touches on it but I'm not sure he resolved it to my satisfaction, which is the idea that there's a tendency in human beings towards hierarchical relations. I'm not sure how you get around that even in a 150-strong kind of society.
Orlov: Well, it's like this. There’re positions within a hierarchy and then there are ad hoc hierarchies that are task oriented. For instance, if you are running a ship, somebody gets to be the captain. Somebody plays captain. That's a requirement. If that person doesn't play captain well enough, then somebody else will step in and play captain. That's how it worked on pirate ships, captains were elected according to a constitution. That way of running things is quite reasonable. Where it becomes really bad is when you have hierarchies where at the top you have somebody who's a pseudo-deity like an emperor or a Pharaoh. That is the absolutely degenerate form of social hierarchy. But there are also hierarchies that are sort of low key, ad hoc and work out pretty well.
Kunstler: This vision of 150-strong depends on a form of tribal democracy. We haven't lived that way in North America for hundreds of years probably since the early settlement days. I'm not even sure that that worked most of the time. Tell me how this pure form of democracy might work in this imagined 150-strong society.
Orlov: Well, actually, I wrote a previous book, Communities that Abide, that talked about that at great length. In fact in the US, there have been numerous experiments based around the principle of direct democracy. Direct democracy is the only type of democracy there is because representative democracy is not really particularly democratic. It's a form of majoritarian rule where people get to pretend that they approve whoever it is that represents them who quickly forms a separate class, a political class. That's not really democracy at all. Real democracy is basically consensus based. It only works in groups that are small enough where people can actually all speak.
For instance, the tribal groups amongst the Pashtuns in Afghanistan is through the idea of representation. When the Americans invaded and announced that there's going to be a parliament called a Loya Jirga, the locals, the elders all got invited and went and they stood up and said that there is no such thing as a Loya Jirga because it's too big and because they're there to speak on other people's behalf and that's not valid because nobody gets the right to speak on anyone's behalf. You represent yourself. The way it works is everybody normally, a Jurga the way it works, is everybody sits around in the dirt, on the ground and talks and everybody gets the right to talk until they get shouted down or whatever. Eventually, they come to a consensus decision or the group splits, fractures.
If they cannot reach a consensus decision then they have no business being together. There is no concept or majoritarian rule either. Either you get convinced to go along with everyone or you leave. That functions pretty well. There are lots of groups that have functioned that way and they've splinted sometimes. At other times, they stay together for fairly long periods of time.
Kunstler: I'm kind of wondering, as you're looking at the world scene, how do you see this idea perhaps playing out in Europe and where do they stand right now in this late stage industrial melodrama?
Orlov: I really don't know. I cannot really speak about Europe as a whole. Right now, it's a really distressed place. It doesn't even understand how distressed it is because the Europeans for the past several generations, pretty much since World War II, have been kind of sold a bill of goods and it's not working out the way it's supposed to. A lot of people are really unhappy. It is starting to come apart at the seams. But it's all kind of like being paved over with this idea that, "None of it matters. History doesn't matter. Nationality and national culture doesn't matter."
The disconnects are just so incredibly profound. On one hand, you have these Islamic communities that are basically all about making religion the centerpiece of their life and having a completely distinct and separate culture. On the other hand, you have all these liberal-minded Western people who believe that patriotism and the national flag and national culture are just basically throwbacks and a nuisance and we're just all citizens of the world. It's sort of like wading into a crocodile-infested river and going, "Hey, crocodiles. It doesn't matter that you're crocodiles. We're all just animals." It doesn't work. It doesn't work.
Kunstler: Well, let's say that maybe Russia is something apart from Europe right now at this point in history. It's certainly not part of NATO or the EU. How do you view Russia's prospects these days?
Orlov: Well, from the Russian perspective, Russia is most of Europe. The rest of it is just this tiny appendage sticking out into the Atlantic. It's kind of like a different view of the world, if you will…
Kunstler: What are their prospects looking like to you as someone who is familiar with the place? You lived there as a child. You went back several times when you were a young man. I don't know if you've been back recently, have you?
Orlov: I have.
Kunstler: You've seen an awful lot of it. What's your take?
Orlov: Well, I think Russia is a European country, at least… well, no, actually all the way to Vladivostok it's pretty much a European country.
Kunstler: Well, I mentioned the formal sense that it's not part of the EU or NATO.
Orlov: Well, those organizations really have nothing to do with the culture or the history of the place. They're ephemeral temporary things.
Kunstler: Well, in any case, tell me.
Orlov: Russia really sees itself as a different civilization, a separate civilization at this point. Really unhappy and sort of embarrassed to be associated to the extent that they have been with Western Europe and the United States. Sort of living down the fact that they at some point followed some examples that were set for them by Western consultants and people like that and very much forging their own path, their own way.
Kunstler: Successfully or what?
Orlov: There are problems as always but overall people are fairly satisfied. The Russians have never been quite as happy, healthy, long-lived and optimistic as they are now.
Kunstler: That's interesting. Yes, because we consider them to be kind of a people of a dark spirit.
Orlov: Some of that remains. The young people in Europe are very much kind of la-de-da at this point. But the Russian young people tend to be a lot more serious. There's this kind of undercurrent of this is for real, we're not playing. That is kind of missing in Western society.
Kunstler: “Missing”, I mean, looking around at American youth culture in a way, it's hard to imagine a culture that is less interested in reality.
Orlov: Well, yeah. I think the Russian young people that I see coming along are quite impressive. It's quite a turnaround compared to the lost generation that came out of the 90's who just were wrecked really by everything that's collapsed around them. It's quite a turnaround.
Kunstler: I think very few people really want war but there seems to be some kind of a virus loose in the American's political psyche that wants to start a war with Russia over nothing. That's an impression that I have. What's your take on that?
Orlov: They want to pretend that they're going to start a war with Russia.
Kunstler: For what purpose?
Orlov: For the purpose of justifying their existence.
Kunstler: I mean, are we talking about the State Department or the Pentagon or who?
Orlov: Yeah, the whole big ball of wax. The defense contractors, their lobbyists, the congressmen who are in their keep. All of the people in the various agencies that want to defend their budgets, et cetera. Right now, the United States is basically reduced to keeping to their garrisons and maybe steaming around the oceans around the world and then fighting these tiny little bits of mischief. There's a little bit of mischief going on in Iraq. There's another bit of mischief going on in Syria where they're toying around with the Kurds. There was a bit of mischief going on in Yemen. That kind of went very badly now. But that's what they're reduced to doing. They're also busy tearing up the dirt in the Baltics right on the Russian border pretending that that's serious. None of that is really serious. That is all efforts to justify their existence and the ridiculous amount of money that they get for doing absolutely nothing.
Kunstler: Well, I've only got two more questions for you. One is, second to the last question is, you've famously been living on a sailboat for quite a few years. I wonder, are you surveying the scene waiting to see where the best place to drop your anchor is going to be?
Orlov: That is always on the back of my mind. I'm very much torn. On the one hand, my family and I continue to talk about dropping anchor in various places around the world that we haven't tried yet or haven't tried enough yet, and on the other hand, I have the aspiration of becoming a gentleman farmer in Russia where we have a country house and land. I don't know which one of those is going to win out.
Kunstler: It's going to be like either The Cherry Orchard or Blackbeard the Pirate.
Orlov: Yeah, I don't know about The Cherry Orchard…
Kunstler: Yeah, I was just thinking about that. I was in that play when I was a theater student 45 years ago. So I've got a warm spot in my heart for that whole sense of things. Tell me, finally, who do you think it's going to be, Hillary or Trump and what's the blowback going to be?
Orlov: I really have no idea but it's pretty clear to me that nothing good will come of it either way. I don't really have any sort of a sense of optimism going in a way. I'm treating it as some kind of a low grade farce and I'm mining it for that and try to keep people sane. Because what I run into all the time is people who think that this is really important. Literally, I've had friends' heads explode because they thought I was pro-Trump and that's the most ridiculous thing in the world. Or people think that, oh well, maybe I'm a liberal so maybe I'll vote for Hillary, something like that. It's all just completely ridiculous based on absolutely nothing. One thing I've observed which is interesting which is that a lot of people will not admit that they're going to vote for Trump but you see it in their eyes.
Kunstler: Oh, yeah, possibly.
Orlov: Absolutely, they're just keeping mum about it because their own family members will turn on them if they announced the fact that they're about to vote for Trump. There's going to be a huge number of men, specifically, angry ones who keep their anger hidden most of the time, who will walk into that voting booth and out of spite pull the trigger for Trump.
Kunstler: Well, it's been a pleasure talking to Dmitry Orlov who is the publisher and publicist for Rob O'Grady's new book 150-Strong: A Pathway to a Different Future. Where can people get that book?
Kunstler: Good. Allright, well I guess they'll get it, not at their… can they order it at an independent bookseller or is that just not possible?
Orlov: I'm working on that.
Kunstler: Good. Well, I hope you can get that done. It's been a pleasure Dmitry. We check in from time to time. I expect to check in with you again in the future. So until then, we will ride again.
Orlov: OK. Thank you very much, Jim.