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Justified Pessimism

2012 February 23
by Ian Welsh

is not, in fact, pressimism.  It is realism.

I find the “be happy” crowd odd.  We have, in the past few years, seen millions of Americans and Europeans impoverished and lose their homes.  We are seeing a wave of austerity in the 1st world which has and will impoverish many millions more.  In the last quarter of 2011, Greece was on track for -7% annualized GDP growth.  Civil liberties are under assault throughout the world, and the surveillance state is tightening its grasp.  In the forseeable future, and one which is, now, almost unstoppable, we can expect to lose hundreds of millions of lives to climate change, and that, frankly, is the optimistic scenario, one which is almost certain not to occur.  A billion is a good middling number, and it could easily go much higher.  Many climate scientists believe we are beyond the point of no return.

None of what has happened, or which will happen, couldn’t have been stopped.  For decades, with increasing stridency, prophets have warned of what would happen.  Those prophets, in the grand Cassandric tradition, were ignored.

The left, virtually the world around, with the exception of Latin America, is in disarray and retreat, suffering defeat after defeat, from economic populist issues to civil liberties issues (other than gay rights).  The forces of reaction, once aiming only at the edifices of mid 20th century liberalism, are now aiming to roll back the twentieth century en-masse, getting rid of socialized medicine (under assault even in England), child labor laws, reinstituting debtors prisons and celebrating inequality which exceeds even that of the gilded age.  Gays may gain the right to marry, women may keep the franchise (and be allowed to vote between parties who will do the same thing at varying paces), but we will all be impoverished, largely powerless and watched 24 hours a day together.

Dystopian?  Apocalyptic?  Perhaps.  But also the current trendline.  Now, trendlines can always change.  Indeed, trendlines do always change.  This will not last, this era will come to an end.  The questions are when, how, and what will replace it.

Living, then, in a period where many are still prosperous, but with the first storm clouds scudding over the horizon, and the first casualties falling, I find it odd to continually have to deal with the “be happy”, “optimism is superior” crowd.  I find neither optimism nor pessimism interesting.  What is interesting and what is needed is realism.

Realistically, what is going to happen?  Why has what happened, happened?  Why are events unfolding as they have?  Part of the reason is the corruption of discourse: part of the reason is the happy talk.  Hey, your life is good, everything’s fine, so be happy.  Go about your life oblivious to what has happened, is happening and will happen.

I’m not interested in happy talk.  Never have been.  I am not interested in “reasons to be optimistic” or “reasons to be pessimistic”.  I am interested in the most likely scenarios and questions of what can be done to change the likely course of event so fewer people suffer and die.

I will note another thing.  My failures of prediction, and I now have years of data, have almost all been on the upside.  I make mistakes when I pull my punches.  People who think I’m a pessimist are fools.  My record indicates the opposite, if I have a bias, it is towards optimism, to things not becoming as bad as they have.  I think this is because I keep expecting people to protect their own future interests (not very future, often just a couple years) better than they do.  I forget just how completely depraved our elites are, and how weak and debased the populations have become by the great complacency.  Most who came of age in the post-war period in the developed world, who did not have to fight for every scrap, simply are not capable of truly believing in disaster or catastrophe, or of forestalling it even if they do.

Finally, I have nothing but contempt for most of the current generation of intellectuals, thinkers, and members of any elite.  They have demonstrably failed their job, if their job is conceived as serving the truth and looking after the common weal: of telling people what they need to hear and finding a way to make them understand.  Some have fought the yeoman’s good fight, and lost and there is honor in that, but most did not even fight.  Instead the spewed lies and reaped the rewards.  They were complicit with the political and economic elites, they took their share of the loot, a petty pence, and wrote what would please their masters.  They will be exorciated by history, but in the current day, they have their silver gripped firmly in their hands, as they lope behind and before their masters, making the world safe for oligarchy, poverty and the new despotism of the modern security state.

They deserve no respect, and I will give them none.  Their reward is the false flattery of their peers and the tarnished silver of their masters, the true gold of intellectual integrity or the gold of compassion and care for their fellows, these will be denied them.

And I watch the scudding storm clouds, and I feel the wind whip around me and it is to these signs and others I attend, not the fools crying “life is good!  It’ll be ok!”

No, it will not be ok.

92 Responses
  1. Sanity permalink
    February 23, 2012

    Okay, Ian. Let me give you an example of a good left-wing blog: DownWithTyranny. Every day, Howie brings attention to injustice taking place all over the country and all over the world. He highlights crooks, liars, scandals, swindles, corruption, and idiots everywhere ruining the fabric of our society, and provides narration on the dark and dire times so many of us face.
    HOWEVER, he, unlike you, also provides answers. He provides solutions. He spends time talking about what we can do about it. AND he also talks about people who trying to do the right thing. He introduces and supports politicians who want to represent struggling families instead of the special interests Obama is loyal to, and motivates readers to help those politicians with their campaigns. He has a page with a list full of Democrats who will fight for the 99%. I especially like how he talks about what can be done to clean up the Democratic Party of corporate insiders.
    You don’t do any of this. All you do is talk about how stupid everyone is, and never provide any examples of what your readers can do to stop the downward spiral, or mention people who are doing the right thing, even though they exist. You only talk about the problems, never the solutions. Which is one of the many reasons why you are ridiculous.

  2. Everythings Jake permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Uhm Sanity:

    Or you might run a search on “Argentina slashing tires” or “Malcom makes MLK possible” on this blog.

    I come for the reality here. It helps me to feel less insane which I do most days surrounded by consumer choice solution liberals deluded in their belief that it’s not overconsumption that threatens, it’s the wrong kind of consumption. The last couple of weeks alone have given us new studies suggesting that the climate change crisis is 3-5 times worse than the conventional wisdom among those who already thought things were very, very, very bad.

    All strategies for progressive change are going to be needed. And getting people to recognize the problems and how dire they really are is the first necessary step in getting people to take action to promote change. Marginalizing those who do that (and who incidentally are not guilty of your charge that they offer no solutions) does not help. I recommend to you David Graeber’s excellent response to Chris Hedges’ article on expelling the black bloc movement from Occupy which hits this nail squarely on the head (David’s handling of Chris is itself a testament to the message of his reply):

  3. February 24, 2012

    “Sanity”, Ian does provide solutions. The problem is that the solutions are clear, obvious, and utterly impossible to implement given the current political system.

    Change the political system, you say? Easier said than done in a world of 24/7 surveillance. Why do most Americans, for example, not participate in protests? Well, simple: Because if they do, they’ll be arrested. And if they’re arrested, they’ll be convicted (99% of those arrested either plead guilty or are convicted in the end, because by and large prosecutors can convict a ham sandwich of murder, nevermind a protestor of “resisting arrest”). And if they’re convicted, it will be placed on their credit report — their official record — when the next dump of records from the courthouse to the credit reporting bureaus takes place. And once that happens, that’s that — you’ll never get a job outside of scrubbing toilets again, because nobody hires convicted criminals.

    Is there a solution to that? Yes. But where Ian and I disagree with you is when, where, and how that solution can be practicable. We hold that the majority of Americans are not going to be willing to put their bodies on the line — what it will take — unless the situation is so dire that mass starvation is threatening the American people, and even there it’s going to be a race between the forces of progress and the forces of regression to see who can take control of this mass movement first. And if the forces of regression win… well. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union will look like a day care center and the carnage of Europe 1939-1945 will seem like a quaint skuffle in the parlor by comparison.

    My final comment here: The biggest problem facing the forces of progress is the fact that we have no real ideological “hook” to hang our hats upon, because pragmatism — looking at problems, looking at solutions, choosing the most viable solution, and implementing it — is not sexy. The forces of regression, on the other hand, have sound bite “hooks” to hang their hats upon, eagerly hanging their hats on “Capitalism”, “freee-dom”, and so forth though they practice none of these (crony capitalism is *not* capitalism in any real sense of the word, and a world where even our every movement is monitored by our oligarchs — via our cell phones — hardly qualifies as “freedom” by any traditional definition of the word). Communism failed because of its inherent ideological contradictions, but while it was still extant at least provided an ideological alternative to the framing presented by the forces of regression. We have no consistent frame as progressives because it’s impossible to frame expediency and pragmatism, there is no consistency possible when you do what’s right in a given situation rather than what agrees with a specific ideology. This is the biggest problem to face progressives right now, and one we have to think about, because we all know that people look for simple answers to complex questions when times get hard — and there’s a hard time a’comin’, faster than I like, and if the regressives win the hearts and minds of those who want simple answers, we’re all Rome in the 5th century AD — where Rome went from a metropolis of over 1.5 million, the center of civilization in Western Europe, to being 40,000 or so heavily armed survivors huddled in the ruins of a once-great city.

  4. February 24, 2012

    It occurred to me a few months ago that everyone in my life who had strongly advocated positive thinking was without exception trying to con me. At the same time, I do not hold people to blame for holding on to false hopes. To me, that is blaming the victim. To live without hope is an early death. “It is better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, for where there is life there is hope.”

    There is hope in the Arab Spring, in the Occupy movement, in the democratic risings around the the world, in the human connections made possible by the technology of the internet, and the new technologies that are lifting the world out of poverty. But this is all in the long term. In the short term, the whole Western world is going through an authoritarian period, has embraced economic pain, is not engaging desperately important environmental problems, and there is every reason to believe that this will be the story of the rest of this decade.

    “Sanity,” insulting Ian in his own comments section is crass. Instead, have you true hope to offer?

  5. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Minus Sanity; all the above echo my sentiments exactly.
    Huffpost and virually all of the MSM are delusional in their analysis, optimism and offer absolutely no viable/realistic solutions.
    Nothing offered is basically any different than the status quo extant in the western world today.
    Iceland is the possible exception and Greece could be, may be, if…

  6. February 24, 2012

    Ian always mentions gay rights as an exception, as if those will last longer than a decade or two. What little progress that has been made is easily undone with ballot initiatives. The poor and minorities kicked the gay rights movement in the nuts in California. And as more become poor that trend can only grow. To say nothing of the police state. You can have all the nice egalitarian laws you like, but when the police are almost universally hostile to your rights, they don’t amount to shit.

  7. Ian Welsh permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I expect you’re right about gay rights, guest. But, for the moment, at least, they’re doing ok. Mostly because they’re much more willing to throw punches and take hits, which is because they still remember the AIDS crisis. In their guts they feel their lives are on the line if they don’t have equal rights, so they’re willing to put it on the line.

    I know Howie, and we’ve talked strategy a couple times, actually. He’s a good man, and he’s fighting the good fight.

    I’ve said what needs to be done plenty of times, not just here, but on other blogs. I’ve even helped raise money for candidates on occasion, I’ve talked to Senator’s offices trying to get good legislation passed, and so on. I was an a-list blogger for years, I was on the strategy conference calls, I knew the think-tankers, and I talked to the Congressional aides all the time at one point.

    It didn’t work. We lost. Every one of the most important fights, we lost. That’s not meant as hair-ripping, that’s a clear retrospective look at the movement. And when Obama came along, the movement sold out. I know, I was there, I saw it happen in real-time, as they say.

    Every time I tell people what needs to be done, they tell me it can’t be done.

    Ok then, it can’t. Sometimes people just can’t/won’t do what it takes to stop catastrophe from happening. Have I done absolutely everything I could? No, but I put a good 7 years of my life into trying, wrecked my health and damaged my finances. I’ve taken my shot. I’ll keep hanging around, reminding people what needs to be done, and urging individuals to take care of themselves (about the only good I really did is indicated by the emails I still get occasionally from people who took my economic prognostications seriously and saved their asses). If folks show signs of getting serious, I’m willing to help.

    In the meantime, telling the truth, and bearing witness, is about all I can do. I can’t stop the catastrophe, but maybe a few people will be better prepared, and better off, and even alive, because they listened to me.

    That I can do, that I do do, and those who don’t like it, who want happy talk, can go elsewhere. I ain’t making anyone read, and at this point I’m not even bothering trying to get traffic (I know how, I increased traffic significantly at FDL and the Agonist, I increased it at Open Left in just two weeks). The truth, as best I know it, is here. The truth is worth something, I think. And the truth, right now, is not happy talk.

    On those occasions when there is cause for hope, I mention it. I even had a post recently pointing out that there’s cause for some hope in Greece and that they have a narrow opening to turn things around. I said exactly how to do it, too. I have told the non-violence types exactly what I think they should do, within the tactics they say they are morally willing to do and with the resources they currently have. They have chosen not to engage in those tactics (say, stalking Bloomberg day and night). So be it. I can show you where the water is, I cannot make you drink.

    During the initial Egyptian uprising in Tahrir, I wrote publicly that Mubarak would fall, if he did, when they marched on his palace and made the army choose whether or not to shoot them en-masse in his defense. When they marched, it went down exactly as I said it would.

    I have done much of what I can do. I’ll probably write at least one book explaining some stuff at length, in one final attempt. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, my conscience is clear.

    In the meantime, this blog will continue to be about the truth as I see it, and I will continue to name the names of people who made this disaster possible and who continue to enable it with their stupidity and lies. When they google their names, they will see at least one person calling them out for what they have done (and after seeing some of them squeal, it is absolutely the case that many of them do care.)

    And maybe, just maybe, if enough people tell the goddamn truth, it might make a difference. A small difference, a tiny difference, but a difference.

    Maybe not, too.

    But remember, Children, I don’t charge for this and I don’t put a gun to your head making you read it. If you don’t like reading it, don’t.

  8. February 24, 2012

    I’m not in disagreement over any of the facts here, but I have a very different reaction than you do to the “be happy” attitude.

    I can support social movements that want to change things, I can bear witness to scientific truths, I can try to get the right kinds of politicians elected, but in the end, I have little power to actually personally make the necessary big changes through these efforts. I can make ripples, if I’m lucky, but more often than not I can’t even achieve that. What I do have more control over, though, is my immediate surroundings and the course of my own life. Some of my efforts therefore are going to go into doing the things that make me, as an individual, happy. I don’t apologize for that at all; in fact I encourage others to do the same.

    I don’t see that as at all inconsistent with my concerns about the world. On the contrary, if my concerns about the world made me unable to be happy, I would have absolutely no energy to make the little tiny ripples I do make in improving larger conditions. The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but if I can’t be happy while it’s doing so, then my little life is worth less than nothing.

  9. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 24, 2012

    ^ That was hammer-on-nail Ian. I’m pretty much done with this posting shit; an avalanche of blah, blah, blah, pontificating, and just general hostility for differing points of view. In the end you do speak, point to subject, and rarely step into disputes; all of which I applaud. “Viva la differance” (you got to add your own French accent).
    So, I’ll be sticking around for a while longer; at my age and genetics; that’s as optimistic as I get.
    You go man!

  10. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Nuts; my comment was (at the time) under Ian’s post.

  11. Ian Welsh permalink
    February 24, 2012

    The assumption about happiness is odd. Some commenters have said that in their day-to-day lives, they’re perfectly happy. Me, generally, I’m neither worse nor better in terms of happiness than I was at many other points in my life. The facts aren’t happy-making, but this isn’t my entire life. In fact, folks who check the date-stamps will note I post here extremely irregularly. When I was working at FDL, the Agonist and so on, I posted almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day, on top of editing duties. At FDL I worked 70 hour weeks regularly. I was drowning in the shit. I cannot tell you how happy it made me that I didn’t have to write dozens or a hundred or so articles on “health care reform”, as I would have had to if I’d still ben at FDL. Here I could just say “the public option is bullshit, and it isn’t going to happen, but if it did this is what it’d take to make it work”. I could write that two or three times and go on my way rather than having to pretend, even while knowing otherwise, that the daily news about HCR meant a goddamn thing.

    What I don’t have to do here is lie. I may get things wrong sometimes, including factually wrong, but it is no longer my job to lie to people, either by commission or by omission.

    That makes me happy. Incidentally, now that it I no longer sell “hopium” I also no longer get paid. So be it, it’s a worthy trade-off, at least as long as I can eat and put a roof over my head. Experience indicates that not being able to afford food is bad for my happiness, which is why I worry about policies which make it so other people can’t afford food.

    (I should make the caveat, that in most cases, the people who sell hopium are the first users of it. They believe the lies. The problem comes when you stop believing the lies. No, there aren’t going to be “more, better democrats”. No, the labor movement isn’t going to get EFCA or anything like it, nor are they going to actually revolt against the Democrats, instead they’re just going to keep coming back to be slapped around and used some more. Yes, women are going to keep slowly losing their reproductive rights, because the majority of politicians, including Barack Obama, want them to. No, Barack Obama doesn’t personally give two fucks about gay rights. No, Harry Reid does not fight for anything remotely progressive. Yes, I knew in January 09 that Obama was going to ramp up drone assassinations. Yes, TARP told us that Obama was definitely not going to be FDR II. Blah, blah, blah. No, Obama has not become a progressive suddenly in 2012, coincidentally before the election. Yes, Obama is still torturing people and is worse on security theater, the surveillance state and general civil liberties than even George Bush Jr. was. Of course, audience are complicit: I’m sure people remember what happened if you tried to tell people in 2008 that Obama wasn’t a liberal, progressive, or the great black hope.)

    Meanwhile, in Canuckistan, the Ontario government has decided to get rid of 150K+ civil servants to “balance the budget by 2018”, which it won’t, but it will gut the province’s economy. But since even the NDP refused to suggest policies which would actually work in the last election, well, so be it. Ontarians, who were the swing voters who put Harper in charge nationally (check out those southern Ontario numbers, the Cons won outright in many ridings). Memories of American working class voters shooting themselves in the nads: if anyone should vote against Conservatives on pure self-interest it’s southern Ontarians, but I guess they think their housing prices are magical and will stay up no matter how few jobs there are. Ok then.

  12. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 24, 2012

    At times like this, I’m thankful for Ian. Thanks, Ian. There’s some real keepers in that piece, some of which may go on the refrigerator as daily affirmations.

  13. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Guest and Ian, yes, the Gays are being used as a ruse, or a foil as a divisive wedge in any potential Left Flank. They will be discarded and scapegoated when the time is ripe, just as Hitler did in Germany. They were useful in gaining power, and once power was secured, they were quite literally executed. All of this is in the Playbook writ large.

  14. February 24, 2012

    My point was that, like the “be happy” people you’re speaking out against in your post, I think being happy is important. And I don’t think being happy (or, in fact, encouraging other people to do what they can to “be happy”) necessarily means that I’m not a realist about what is going on in the world. Saying “be happy!” might just be some people’s way of saying what you yourself seem to be saying in your latest comment: that thinking about the world’s problems isn’t your whole life, and sometimes you have to put those efforts aside and work on just being happy.

  15. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Bless you Ian. In trying to withdraw from your site, craw filled past endurance with vain opinion, had decided to give it up for lent (lent usually being what is given up for lent), an you had to post this one and comment superbly as well.

    About the only issue that could be contributed to is pointing out that history is the great storehouse of the human experience, almost every scheme concocted by mankind resides there, the key to which has many parts, the largest being some knowledge of history, another an ability to understand, to critically read, and to synthesize from the artifacts presented, history is never absolute or complete. Often history is the story of the victors, containing clues as to why the victory happened as well as fragments preserved of the vanquished and how that loss occurred. Under attack without a clearly drawn resource available and facing an existential threat to the core of being, the erstwhile combatants effectively hobble their efforts. It is disingenuous and futile to attack neoliberal economics without a shared working idea or language of what basic economics is in the first instance, same for social engineering, or constructing a political edifice that shelters from the abuse of political power, or any of a myriad other complexities that the modern world is built upon. Self imposed ignorance, many times sheltered by strong opinion or belief has become a fatal cancer to the body politic, acting as a counter-antidote to the necessary medicines of survival, obscuring vision of the enemy at the gates in a generated fog of false diversions. Language itself has become fungible, meaning detached from words, traditions usurped by the expediency of corruption until nothing is as it appears. Laws of primordial pedigree unrecognized and unheeded, their power usurped by courts populated by ideological sycophants of some self-serving philosophy. This is a house built upon shifting sands, a house that cannot sustain itself, a house without future. There are many ways to withdraw consent to power, it is the reader’s duty to discover them, find those which can be done, and apply to the limits of the reader’s ability.

    End of message. All the best …

  16. February 24, 2012

    Montana Cassandra reporting for duty. Is this where the resistance is meeting? Great. I’ve been looking for you guys. I tried the Democrats down the street. Boy was that a big zero. Yeh, I joined them in 2004 because I was told “you have to change it from within” by people like Thom Hartmann and Arianna Huffington, and David Brock, and Katrina Vanden Heuvel and, and, and… (Gawd, I even went on “The Nation” cruise, sweet little optimist that I was).

    I did everything. Joined a campaign for the working person i.e. John Edwards. Became a county chair, got elected a delegate to the convention(that’s a whole chapter in the book on disgusting behavior of the so-called protectors of the people- “Agriculture (Monsanto, Cargill, et al) Salutes Tom Harkin” party -ugh) , tried to take over the state party and almost did, then got beaten down by the status quo insider lackeys. So devoted myself to 5 years of a once a week radio show that got zero support from the Democrats because I was critical. Couldn’t stand Obama from the get go because I actually read his record and interviewed Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report. (One of the greatest thinkers I have encountered) and read Paul Street (great intellectual). Yes, there are no “better Democrats”. My last interview was with Matt Taibbi. It was a local show here so I stayed under the radar. About 6 months after we started streaming, our show was cancelled and they went to all right whacka doodle and yes, “buttfuck crazy” talk.

    So thank you, Ian, for this beautifully written post. It is what is missing in today’s discourse. It is a combination of succulent ideas on a bed of luscious poetic imagery. I am borne along on the current of conversation and the delight of discussion. I get my taste of realism with such delicious phrases as “the false flattery of their peers and the tarnished silver of their masters.”

    I am “happy” when I am hearing and seeking the truth. It’s just how I was put together. I am hard wired for justice. After reading comments in the “Sewage” essay, I looked up the definition of “intellectual”. Edward Said said, the “…real or ‘true’ intellectual is, therefore, always an outsider, living in self-imposed exile, and on the margins of society.” Well, I moved from New York City where I lived amongst my own kind. Now many years wandering in the literal wilderness of Montana and amongst a pretty dour bunch of Northern Europeans. I know there is a reason for it, but at times it seems awfully stupid.

    Thanks for this port in the storm, this Elim (oasis where the children of Israel rested in their wanderings).

  17. John B. permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Plenty of truth here to ponder, think about and act on…but also, live now, live today for yourself and for your family and friends. Read critically, garden, take care of your health and simplify. Poetry and music are balm for the soul. If you listen to your most quiet inner self, you will know when it is time to fight and who to fight against.

  18. tom allen permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Of course catastrophe is about to happen. You say that like it’s a bad thing. And it will be, of course, for millions and billions of us around the world.

    But then things will get tremendously better. The old order will be overthrown, the totalitarian regime will go down on the ash heap, a new day will dawn.

  19. Tony Wikrent permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Last week I ruffled a few feathers by raising the question of why rich elites promote the idea that the world is overpopulated. I neglected to point out the obvious answer – that it provides cover for the terrible outcomes of elites’ policies. It is exactly what Henry Carey wrote about the British empire’s Rev. Malthus, and free trade, back in the 1850s: “We thus have here, first, a system that is unsound and unnatural, and second, a theory invented for the purpose of accounting for the poverty and wretchedness which are its necessary results. The miseries of Ireland are charged to over-population, although millions of acres of the richest soils of the kingdom are waiting drainage to take their place among the most productive in the world, and although the Irish are compelled to waste more labour than would pay, many times over, for all the cloth and iron they consume. The wretchedness of Scotland is charged to over-population when a large portion of the land is so tied up by entails as to forbid improvement, and almost forbid cultivation. The difficulty of obtaining food in England is ascribed to over-population, when throughout the kingdom a large portion of the land is occupied as pleasure grounds, by men whose fortunes are due to the system which has ruined Ireland and India. Over-population is the ready excuse for all the evils of a vicious system, and so will it continue to be until that system shall see its end…. ”

    This week, allow me to raise another troubling question: who really runs “the left”? Do you know who Thomas W. Lamont is? Google his name. Better yet, look up his name in the index of Quigley’s TRAGEDY AND HOPE. If you don’t know who Lamont was , then you won’t be properly gobsmacked by next looking at his son, Corliss Lamont, who was the money-bags for the left in the U.S. for most of the last half of the 20th century.

    Why is the left useless and ineffective? Perhaps, because its masters intended it that way?

  20. February 24, 2012

    Or, Tom, it could end up with a world whose defining symbol is a fascist jackboot pressing down on a prostrate face. Forever. People tend to turn to simple answers when things get bad, and you can’t get much simpler than fascism.

    I give us about a 20% chance of avoiding that end game. It’s worth working for that 20% chance, but let’s be real here — likelihood is that past a certain point it’s going to be about how to sustain an underground pro-freedom resistance movement without getting shot (with no support for the resistance from the majority of Americans, who seem to *like* their police state), not about how to build a better nation.

  21. February 24, 2012

    Well done, Ian (like you needed to hear it from me.)

    Tony Wikrant, thanks for posting this more nuanced argument for “over-population” skepticism. The oft-maligned Malthus’ objections to this decrial of the elites was contemporaneously correct – there were still resources that were being withheld. This is a different time – and Malthus is more popularly known for pointing out the limits of this Petri dish that we call the world. I don’t mean that as a quibble to your comment – I completely agree with what you have written.

    I would add that (and this is a further buttress to your position) laments on “over-population” are like the complaints about immigration – they are both attacks on symptoms, conveniently ignoring the causes.

  22. February 24, 2012

    You meant to write, “Justified pessimism is not in fact pessimism. It is realism.”


    And you wrote, “Finally, I have nothing but contempt for most of the current generation of intellectuals, thinkers, and members of any elite.

    “They have demonstrably failed their job, if their job is conceived as serving the truth and looking after the common weal: of telling people what they need to hear and finding a way to make them understand.”

    But you don’t really think that is their job, do you?

    As for me, I think they are succeeding wonderfully at what actually is their job.

  23. someofparts permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Ian, know this too. For every squirrely character out there that listens to you and survives, there are a few others we save because we survived long enough to do it.

  24. someofparts permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Also, somehow, I just don’t have the patience to stay in comments and debate this.

    I know Ian is right because for all the wrenching insights he shares, they still pale, absolutely pale, in comparison with the horrors I see every day. One friend after another gone, or going, financially and often medically and psychologically as well.

    Who has the stomach for posing and nitpicking at a time like this?

    I don’t know, but it sure isn’t me.

  25. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I’m thankful for the Popeyes Spicy Fried Chicken I’m eating as I review these wonderful posts.

    Love That Chicken From Popeyes

  26. February 24, 2012

    Spot on. This whole post pretty well sums up how I feel. I was also taken by this passage from one of your comments: “Incidentally, now that it I no longer sell “hopium” I also no longer get paid. So be it, it’s a worthy trade-off, at least as long as I can eat and put a roof over my head.”

    It’s pretty tough to get liberal/progressive opinion sites to republish your pieces even for free if you do that. I’ve had a number of my blog posts picked up by several sites, but I’ve noticed that if my tone gets too dark the piece usually gets rejected. Being a purveyor of the antidote for hopium addition is definitely not a path to fame and riches.

  27. February 24, 2012

    I urge people here to read anything and everything by David Graeber. His “Revolutions in Reverse” is available free online and is filled with real hope as he grounds his ideas in thousands of years of history and his own actual activism in the “anti-globalization” movement. Graeber says that they were so busy being depressed about the failure of Seattle 1999, they didn’t realize they had eventually neutered the IMF in South America and East Asia. Big accomplishment!

    His book “Debt; the First 5000 years” is a rich read. The examples of “gift societies” are wonderous. I practice gifting and it works for me. I give something with no desire for direct exchange. In some Northwest American tribes, they competed with each other by seeing who could give the most up .
    As Everything Jake noted, Graeber’s response to the patriarchal moralizing and dangerous Hedges piece “The Cancer in Occupy” is eloquent and peaceable. Oh, and nuanced and researched as opposed to the Hedges’ piece.
    Graeber points to the young anarchist group Crimethinc who have been very eloquent in their statement of purpose.

  28. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Let’s all be thankful for the 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in North Alaska. Everybody, on three….a big Frack You!!!

    N. Alaska May Hold 80 Trillion Cubic Feet of Shale Gas

    Alaska’s North Slope shales may hold as much as 80 trillion cubic feet of gas, or more than half the highest estimate for the Marcellus formation, and as much as 2 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

    President Barack Obama’s administration and the state of Alaska are offering more access to oil and natural gas resources on land and in the Arctic waters to help lower dependence on imported fuel and push more crude through a major oil pipeline crossing the state. Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) plans to start drilling this year in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, which are off the coast of the North Slope.

    “Alaska’s energy resources hold great promise and economic opportunity for the American people,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today in an e-mailed statement.

    The geological service, part of the Interior Department, said in a statement that North Slope shale hasn’t been developed because of economic and infrastructure considerations.

    The assessment, the first made of North Slope shale resources, is based on success in extracting oil and gas from similar formations, such as the Marcellus Shale in the U.S. East. The agency last year estimated Marcellus may hold as much as 144 trillion cubic feet of gas.

    And MontanaMaven, this one’s for you in hopes that it sparks a little nostalgia for that fateful cruise you took with The Nation folks several years prior

  29. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I agree with Badtux’s most likely outcome scenario. There’s literally a world of difference between what I would like to see happen and what actually will happen.

  30. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Who has the stomach for posing and nitpicking at a time like this?

    Or cafe life. Can you imagine cafe life at a time like this?

  31. Kropotkin's Beard permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I like that people are rejecting liberalism and re-discovering anarchist ideas/thinkers. Hey, there is hope–it’s just not in this wretched system.

    I agree a new order will arise from the ashes. May we live long enough to see it.

  32. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I read everything here, but I haven’t posted in quite a while. Ian’s writings resonate with me more than anyone else’s. My realism is now beginning to get me in trouble. I’m getting bad evaluations from my students because I “go off topic” in class and try to get them to wake up. My Dean had to have a “talk” with me about this. I no longer have the stomach to publish in academic journals where we all “peer-review” each other’s (non)-work to go up the ladder of rank. I’m slowly withdrawing from the classroom even though there is the occasional student who asks to meet me in my office to talk more about this (when this happens I have to hold back tears at their bravery). Nursing students are, in general, idealistic little pampered princesses who want to “help people” (for which you can read: “they want to uphold the status quo and keep people dependent on their masters). All, that is, but a few. One asked for my help in writing a paper on oppression. I’ve written strong articles on how this works in health care and can’t get them published.

    My university has an online component and I’ve applied to teach a couple of classes for them. If I’m successful, I can work from home and make the minimal amount of money we need to survive. We cashed in all of our retirement and paid off the mortgage on seven acres set among a small collection of hobby farms way out of town. There are some good people here, and some that will die soon. There are some children here. We grow lots of food and I need more time in the garden. I’m good at teaching and I’ll be able to do the online stuff with one half of my brain tied behind my back. I can teach these kids how to garden, and my husband can teach them how to use a scythe.

    I just turned 64 years old. I just want to watch it all go down and the sooner the better. I want to be able to give this farm to someone who knows how to use it (my daughter is not the one – she sold her soul to Boeing and told me not to send her any more of that “depressing” stuff).

  33. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel hearings in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

    spoken by Lee Brian, the 26-year-old son of an oil executive.

    Here is an excerpt of his speech:

    My oral evidence today comes in the form of a story, an experience I had three years ago which directly reflects the impacts this project will have on me, and my community.

    The story begins after a lifetime of debating with my father -he thought it was high time for me to finally experience first-hand the magnitude and power of the oil industry.

    So in the summer of 2009, I had the opportunity to spend one full month on one of the world’s largest oil refineries, producing 800,000 barrels of oil per day. At the time, it was under an expansion project to produce up to an astonishing 1.2 million barrels per day and for confidentiality reasons, the company and details of the project will remain unnamed.

    The catch was that this refinery was in a very rural area in a northern province of India – right on the coast of the Arabian Sea, and bordering Pakistan.

    So here I am, 23 years old traveling to India, and needless to say, tensions were high upon arrival. Coming through the airport, between the H1N1 virus
    outbreak and the one year anniversary of the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks of 2008, the military presence was simply overwhelming.

    I landed in Mumbai, or Bombay to the locals, and spent a day travelling to the northern province of Gujarat, Ghandi’s home province. Situated outside the small village of Jamnagar, I stayed in a secured complex surrounded by high walls, meant for expatriates – in literally the middle of nowhere. The
    land in the region was primarily used for agricultural production, but due to the strategic location on the Arabian Sea, naturally there was large military and industrial presence in the area as well.

    Each day I would wake up at 6 a.m., and travel roughly an hour to the refinery. Guarded with AK47s, I remember the first day of my arrival I had
    the whole place in a stir, wondering why I was there. And to tell you the truth, I was thinking the exact same thing. It’s not easy being in a foreign country, being the only young Caucasian male in sight, amongst 50,000 workers constantly staring at me. But my fears quickly subsided as I spent more time there each day, and learned about the gracious, kind and humbled culture of the East – regardless of the portrayals the media would have you believe.

    I spent each day with 2-3 different managers from each department, and was able to learn a large portion of each faculty of discipline during my time
    there. I was very fortunate to have received such an in-depth, bird’s eye view of the entire project — and not even the most qualified engineering intern would have had this opportunity. The experience itself changed who I am, fundamentally, forever.

    I learned about the entire EPCM – that is, the production process from engineering, procurement, construction, and management – I spent many hours
    and days with managers from piping, documentation control, distributed control systems, civil, biological, chemical and environmental engineering instrumentation, quality control, marine operations, water management -electrical and on-site power production – from construction management,
    procurement and materials, product creation and commercial supply, safety and security, and loading and unloading via rail, truck, VLCC (very-large
    crude carriers) and ULCC (ultra-large crude carriers).

    I am not exactly sure if the average person could fully appreciate the sheer magnitude of the operation, and the intricate interrelationship dynamics between workers, departments, managers and corporate headquarters. It is nothing Discovery Channel would ever be able to portray.

    The experience made me question many of the fundamental assumptions I had been making regarding the industry itself. I was realizing just how tricky of a situation we are in globally. My naïveness of the reality and immensity of this substance was not fully actualized until I had this experience. I
    can say right now, that I fully respect the power of oil.

    One such day on the refinery stood out in particular. It was a hot, sunny and humid day, after monsoon rainfall my entire time there – I think it was
    most likely the Prince Rupert weather following me overseas – and on that day a hand full of managers thought it would be fun to take me out to the Jetty, where they loaded and unloaded the super tankers. Situated a lengthy route away from the refinery itself, we drove down to towards the coastline.

    On our way there, we drove past many different villages. Each one looking extremely impoverished. I learned later that this was not always the case. There was a time in this region where fishing, farming and the local economy truly flourished. But once the refinery project was approved, among other projects in the region, they built a pipeline directly through nine different villages. Over a period of time, there was pipeline breakage which contaminated an underground aquifer, and spoiled the wells and water supply of the majority of the surrounding villages. As industry expanded, and land bought and sold, men were forced into cheap labour at the refineries, after lifetimes of sustainable farming and fishing – now dependent on one or two companies for employment. Women, children and elders went starving after losing access to fresh water, with no accountability for cleanup – just left to fend for themselves. I ask, what would be the case here in our region? Do you see any potential similarities?

    Converging onto a thin strip of man-made road spanning about two miles in length, we arrived at the Jetty, greeted by military personnel. After a lengthy process of clearing me for entry, we walked onto a couple of massive docking stations. To my right, men were conducting repairs on a rather standard sized vessel, no larger than the ones you would see here in our Harbour. In the distance, an ULCC fresh from the Middle East was rolling in from the horizon. The size of the vessel stopped me in my tracks. After 10
    minutes, the ship stopped and made a slow bank horizontally out at sea.

    I asked one of the managers — Jitesh was his name — why the ship stopped so far out. He told me that because of the size of the ship, they had a floating unloading station, and through another piping system they unload and load way out there, and that connects to the main routing station at the Jetty, to be piped a few miles back to the refinery.

    I asked him why, and he said ‘even though we have docking stations here, it is for the smaller vessels that are used for domestic purposes. But these larger vessels that come from the Middle East can run aground easily.’

    This, in open seas, I thought.

    So we all stood there, suspended in what felt like an eternal moment -the heat waves rising above the calmed Arabian Sea, and the ship danced in the
    horizon as I stood dumbfounded by its sheer mass. One man comments: “I always forget just how large those vessels are.”

    A few moments pass as we all stood, just watching.

    Out of the silence, Jitesh says to me “Do you see what we are doing here Mr. Lee?”

    I asked “What’s that, Jitesh?”

    He replied, with an unexpected, sobering tone: “We are destroying future generations for now, and forever.”

    And in this kind of slow motion life moment, I felt this kind of tingling feeling on the top of my head– and with sweat dripping down from the inside of my hard hat onto my face, the sun beaming into my eyes – I squint over at six men slowing nodding their heads in silent agreement.

    It was such a profound statement, and in that moment, there was silence.

    On the way back, I had a lengthy discussion with Jitesh about the ‘whys’ of it all – about life, the human condition, and the challenges we face in the
    21st century. Although I will not cover that conversation due to procedural constraints, I will say that I learned some extremely valuable lessons that

    I learned that it is not because every man and woman who participate in industry are all evil, bad people – being in India, on this refinery, there was this certain kind of ‘rush’ I felt. I felt a kind of new power within
    myself –being in a productive, hard working, problem solving environment where there is grit, and dirt, and sweat, and mud and building and pumping
    and drilling and hammering and huge turbines at massive pressures doing crazy stuff. There is this feeling you get when you’re working with other professionals in a high stake environment — and on some very obscure and messed up level, I can understand how those who work in industry can get
    excited about growth and yet subsequently, can turn their eyes off towards any adverse impacts they are creating as a result.

    Like I said, on a very obscure and messed up level.

    And I just have to be fully honest and mention this, the feeling is addictive – you can literally feel it in your veins. And this coming from just one month of experience, with a totally different ideological

    The major thing I witnessed in my time on the refinery that I feel constitutes as evidence was my observations of the relationship dynamics
    between corporate headquarters and the managers on the refinery. What I witnessed time and time again, was the technical experts knowing the damage,
    risk and adverse effects of the project, versus what corporate would portray to the general public after reading their materials.

    There was a clear and present dual world operating simultaneously –completely undeniable if you are on site. So what I saw, first hand, was this dynamic between ‘what is really happening’ and what the corporate headquarters will have people believe is happening. And as we have seen in our planet, this situation is not an isolated event.

    Based on my experience, what I learned was that the global system of infinite growth attracts men and woman of a certain… level of understanding, a certain type of person who will be attracted to the ideals of the current economic measurement that coordinates the global psychology of things, and a
    type of person who externalizes themselves and detaches from connection, and so whole-heartedly believes in their reality, their perception of things,
    that they project their fears out onto everyone else — and their ego becomes the driver, blindly leading them down a path of self-destruction. And they are people of high intellectual prowess, but unfortunately have yet to develop the deep wisdom that we all possess within us as human beings.

    And we call these people CEO, and Prime Minister.

    The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is simply just one of thousands of projects across the globe that are by-products of a severely flawed global
    system. Even if this pipeline does not go through, there will be another proposal of the same magnitude appear somewhere else – and this will go on and on, until we either address the fundamental root of the issue – or face the slow decline of our civilization.

    We are psychologically stuck. We are good at what we know, but are too scared to try anything else. If we could directly transfer the mobilization power of oil into a new energy economy, into a new economic measurement, into a new level of coordination and cooperation -where the true cost of development is clearly laid out -we may have a chance.

    Because you simply cannot infinitely grow, within a finite system of resources – period.

    So I do not sit here today, in anger, or in blame, or in judgement. And on behalf of my generation, I forgive these men and women for their lack of awareness, heart and understanding.

    They too were born into an established system, conditioned into a certain way of thinking, and as far as they know, they did and are doing their best. But now, it is time to let go of the 20th Century, and enter into a new global direction towards a path of healing and new design.

    In closing, it’s time now for a full scale, mass mobilized transition process off the fossil fuel economy. We need to use all of our resources we
    have left wisely to create a whole new system of operation that is global in scale. This process needs to have the mobilization power comparable to the
    proportions of the Manhattan project, and then some. It’s time for us to journey into a new dream, a new way, with new design and new fundamental
    principles. It’s time for us to end a millennia of pain, suffering, shame and unconsciousness. It’s time to create resilient, sustainable and flourishing communities, that have the adaptive capacity to respond to any challenges they may face in their external environment – and be able to effectively respond specifically to the coming age of peak oil, climate change and rampant global economic instability.

    It’s time for us to dismantle the institutions that are beginning to imprison us. It’s time for us to un-learn, to remove the power structures, and to decentralize the grid so that individual communities can produce
    their own food, energy and own internal means of production for hundreds to thousands of years to come.

    And ultimately, it’s time for us to become the true masters we are meant to become – true, planetary mastery — in balance with the emotional, cultural,
    spiritual and psychological wellbeing of every inhabitant. It’s time for us to embrace the new consciousness that is emerging at this time, where by
    busting open the hearts and minds of our people, we will propel ourselves forward into a new golden age of humanity that is imminently upon us.

    We are those people.

    So, if on one hand, you had an unpredictable path, that leads into a new dream, a new way of life for all of mankind and on the other hand, you had a
    predictable path that leads to the slow, inevitable decline of a civilization.

    Which path would you choose?

  34. February 24, 2012

    Okay, for our next movie for our film club, I would suggest Visconti’s “The Damned” for a little bit of what fascism looks like up close and personal. And another favorite of Martin Scorcese’s and my favorite Visconti is “The Leopard”. I started out to write an essay “Is Obama the Tancredi Character in ‘The Leopard’?” Millicent Marcus writes in his book on Visconti “Tancredi represents the phenomenon of trasformismo –the neutralization and appropriation of revolutionary movements to serve the interests of the ruling elite.” Visconti himself said, “Tancredi was the kind of man who always swims with the tide, betting on a certainty.”

    Thank you, Tony, for those most interesting observations. And thanks to Morocco Bama for the reminder that love is just an ocean cruise away. Although on my cruise, Eric Alterman pretty much told me to get out of his face and Calvin Trillin looked at me like I was something on his shoe when I mentioned mutual friends. But might have been worth it if only to have sung show tunes with Molly Ivins.

  35. jacksmith permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I think D* can be adapted in many ways. For example as a federated front end to some p2p technology like Triblr. In addition to its other modes of operation like pods. Bottom line is you cant have the potential of D* without decentralization.

    Without decentralization you just end-up with another flavor of g+ FB etc.. Rather than a REVOLUTION! 🙂

  36. groo permalink
    February 24, 2012

    BC Nurse Prof

    …My realism is now beginning to get me in trouble. …

    Very true.

    The more honest of us try to evaluate the the outside and the inside, and draw conclusions, always aware, that the methods we use, (Occam, binary Logic, the scienticic method) are not as rigid as we wish them to be.
    But it is the best we have to our disposal.

    My personal experience is, that I find rarely even a friend, who can distance himself of the web of convictions, prejudices, hedonistic drives.

    So Ian’s place is a very rare location, where people gather and ponder on that.

    If one ponders like that, one necessarily falls out of the system.

    See David Byrne
    “Once In A Lifetime”

    Lots of artists noticed this state of mind early on, but rarely anybody took them seriously.
    The sciences do a fair job, but not enough.
    Which is understandable by all the pressures which are put up on them and the educational system at large.
    Which makes one think.
    Who exactly wants to kill Humboltian ideals of education, in favour of commercialized, tuition-driven production-line of nonthinking functional future serfs?

    The explanation for this riddle is maybe an inherent drive to left-brained functionality in western societies, against more holistic right-brained assessments of the situation.

    If You do not believe that by heart (absent holistic mind, if You value that), You fall out of the system.
    A teacher has to be convincing, right?
    And if You are not convinced, You cannot teach.

    Hence You fall out of the ‘system’.

    Awareness of this dichotomy maybe can help.

    All the best!

  37. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    February 24, 2012

    @ groo

    thx, it’s really lonely out here.

  38. CMike permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I, myself, find the “Houston, we have a real problem” explanation a little more convincing than the more encouraging “if we could just get rid of those damn derivatives” one. Here’s some of chronic doomsdayer James Howard Kunstler’s latest [my emphasis]:

    …Now, in the last hours of the cheap oil economy, the forty year miracle of the Sunbelt boom dwindles and a fear of approaching darkness grips the people there like a rumor of Satan. The long boom that took them from an agricultural backwater of barefoot peasantry to a miracle world of Sonic Drive-ins, perpetual air-conditioning, WalMarts, and creation museums is turning back in the other direction and they fear losing all that comfort, convenience, and spectacle. Since they don’t understand where it came from, they conclude that it was all a God-given endowment conferred upon them for their exceptional specialness as Americans, and so only the forces of evil could conspire to take it all away.

    Hence, the rise of a sanctimonious, hyper-patriotic putz such as Rick Santorum and his take-back-the-night appeal to those who sense the gathering twilight. And the awful ordeal of convictionless pander and former front-runner Mitt Romney drowning in his own [bull] as he struggles to extrude one whopper after another just to keep up with the others in this race to the bottom of the political mud-flow.

    There is an obvious dither backstage now among those who cynically thought they could manipulate and control these dark impulses of the frightened masses as the candidates all pile into a train wreck of super-PAC obloquy…. Is this finally its Whig Moment – the point where the Republican Party has offended history so gravely that it goes up in a vapor of its own absurdity? I hope so. The conservative impulse is hardly all bad. We need it in civilization. But it can’t be vested in the sheer and constant repudiation of reality.

    The opposing Democrats have their own problem with reality, which is that they don’t tell the truth about so many things despite knowing better, and, under Obama, they act contrary to their stated intentions often enough, and in matters of extreme importance, that they deserve to go down in flames, too. Just as there is a place for conservatism in civilized life, there is also a place for the progressive impulse, let’s call it – for making bold advance in step with the mandates of reality and an interest in justice for all those along on the journey.

    The Democrats under Obama don’t want to go to that place. They want to really go to the same place as the fretful Sunbelt fundamentalists, but by a different route – and that place is yesterday, by means of a campaign to sustain the unsustainable.

    Mr. Obama is pretending that an economic “recovery” is underway when he knows damn well that the banking system is just blowing smoke up the shredded ass of what’s left of that economy. He pretends to an interest in the rule of law in money matters but he’s done everything possible to prevent the Department of Justice, the SEC, and a dozen other regulatory authorities from functioning the way they were designed.

    He has never suggested resurrecting the Glass-Steagall act, which kept banking close to being honest for forty years…. He declared he’d never permit a super-PAC to be created in his name, and now he’s got one.

    Mr. Obama represents a lot of things to a lot of people. He is mainly Progressivism’s bowling trophy, its symbol of its own triumphant wonderfulness in overcoming the age old phantoms of race prejudice. Alas, that’s not enough. Where exactly is the boundary between telling “folks” what they want to hear and just flat-out lying?

    Neither party can articulate the current reality, which is that we have to reorganize civilization pretty drastically….

  39. John Puma permalink
    February 24, 2012

    To BC Nurse Prof:

    Thanks for the statement of Lee Brian.

    You said you want to be able to give your farm to someone who knows how to use it. I suggest you offer it first to Lee.

  40. February 24, 2012

    To BC Nurse Prof — surviving fascism requires different skills from living in an open society. The most important of those skills is being careful about what you say in the presence of possible brownshirts, because brownshirts are the enforcers of fascism — *not* the secret police, *not* the military, but, rather, all those happy happy people who rejoice at the thought of a boot smashing into the face of an unbeliever and will do everything possible to make your life miserable, which, as you’re finding out, can be a significant problem in a system full of brownshirts where you find yourself out of a job, perhaps your car vandalized and ruined, perhaps your home burned down in the middle of the night, until you’re so marginalized for your failure to support the One Truth and One Leader that you might as well be dead.

    I’ve had business dealings with people living under fascist governments that monitor communications for clues to possible sedition, and it’s always an adventure making sure we don’t touch upon any topics that might possibly get them in trouble. Unfortunately, as time goes by I see more and more of those topics becoming verbotten *here* in the supposed “land of the free” outside of certain circles.

    There is a *reason* why I blog as a penguin. Just sayin’.

    – Badtux the Cautious Penguin

  41. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Badtux PERMALINK
    February 24, 2012
    There is a *reason* why I blog as a penguin. Just sayin’.
    – Badtux the Cautious Penguin

    I would suggest that your nom-de-plume won’t protect you from identification.
    If one is really that concerned then any posting on public forums is a betrayal of identity; as is e-mail, facebook, twitter and all the other methods of the wasting of electrons.
    I’m not even in the states, yet every phone call and sent e-mail from outside of the states, is monitored by the NSA and who knows how many other agencies.
    At just shy of 67; I just don’t give a shit any more, but I still post here and at SP’s place.
    I post less and less as the futility becomes apparent; but there are some simpatico individuals here for company.
    As BC Nurse says; it’s lonely out there.
    I understand Formerly T-Bears reluctance to continue, but as long as Ian’s place remains the collection point for the distilled wisdom of the few; it makes for nice company most of the time…

  42. Ian Welsh permalink
    February 25, 2012

    Yes, the surveillance state is particularly horrific when combined with fascism. The best way to lie, is to convince yourself that the lies are true, and when there is no backstage (something sociologists have studied a lot), it gets really nasty. Since BC Prof Nurse is older and has a farm, I’d say she’s probably ok (just make sure you don’t get out of a job while you still need the money), but those who are younger need to watch what they say. Things also haven’t gone as far in Canada yet.

    When my company in Canada took over a US company, our particularly division actually got taken over by the US part. The new VP, in a speech to the Canadian staff, started telling people about his politics (Republican). People stood up and walked out. There will come a time when you will understand that it is your job not just to stay, but to smile and nod and look thrilled.

  43. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 25, 2012

    “Don’t believe them, don’t fear them, don’t ask
    anything of them.”
    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  44. February 25, 2012

    I would suggest that your nom-de-plume won’t protect you from identification.

    Of course not. I can be trivially identified with a few Google searches and if the police state cared to track me they could do so. It does, however, protect you somewhat from brownshirts. Brownshirts, by and large, are dumb. At this point in time the police state isn’t concerned if we vent here on the Internet because as long as we’re babbling here we’re doing nothing that threatens them, but the brownshirts can be annoying.

    I have of course made other preparations for the time when the police state becomes so pervasive that even a pseudonomynous ID is dangerous but for obvious reasons will not tell you what exact preparations have been made (or when). Traffic analysis could turn up those preparations if I gave sufficient information to narrow the search.

    At one point in time I would have considered all of this to be just paranoia. Nowadays… I’m not so sure. I have noticed, for example, that a large number of lefty bloggers of my acquaintance are unemployed nowadays, a far larger number than is true for the population as a whole, including some rather skilled ones. If you Google my real name you get hundreds of thousands of hits, none of which on the first ten pages (at least) are me, because it is apparently a very common name. So the Google blacklist wherein the brownshirts check your Google record to see whether you’re a subversive hasn’t been effective against me so far. The very fact that I’m thinking about that shows just how far down the road toward fascism we’re gone, where the notion of blacklisting people for having unapproved ideological leanings no longer seems like a quaint remembrance of a thankfully-bygone time…

  45. February 25, 2012

    “It didn’t work. We lost. Every one of the most important fights, we lost.”

    From the outside of the health care fight I could tell: we pulled out all the stops, and we lost. It must have been horrible from within.

    I am going to have to get an ebook copy of Brust and Bull’s Freedom and Necessity (probably the world’s only Victorian pagan Marxist romance–Engels appears as a secondary character), just so I can quote it. Ah, but it seems I already have; to John Emerson, writing in a similar vein.

    “‘James, this is a harsh life, and no one can command another. Sometimes those who pass through the fire of the movement leave nothing of themselves behind but ashes. Some become so exhausted they cannot continue.’”–Brust & Bull, Freedom and Necessity.

    Take care of yourself, and–I say–save yourself for another day.

  46. Ian Welsh permalink
    February 25, 2012

    The HCR fight was mismanaged, but they did pull out all the stops.

  47. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 25, 2012

    BC Nurse Prof, you’re not alone. There are many more of us than we imagine. I empathize with you because I feel very much the same way. I’ve done very similar things in my life and have run up against the Establishment. My last career position, several years prior, before they escorted me to the door, they revealed a file six inches thick they had on me. They completed a full investigation on me, and had accumulated that much data. Of course, they wouldn’t show me what was in the file, and I still to this day cannot imagine what would warrant six inches of paper, but there it was. This is a company that knowingly supplied Iraq with heavy equipment when the sanctions were in place and yet every person, with the exception of a small handful, were Heartland Conservatives through and through. It received an immaterial fine and a slight slap on the wrist. This was the character of this outfit….and it’s the character of most outfits.

    I haven’t gone back, and I refuse to go back, at great personal economic sacrifice. I received a threat from the State of Alabama about rescinding my CPA status if I don’t pay the dues and complete continuing education requirements. I threw it in the trash can. They’re a bunch of crooks in charge of watching the crooks. I know. I’ve been right in the middle of it, and at its basic core, it’s a sham. I cannot go on living a lie for a living.

    I am now repulsed whenever I am in the the presence of corporate personalities. You know of what I speak. They have a sense of false arrogance about them. There’s an intangible dimension to their disposition, but it’s the same, and highly recognizable, across the board. One aspect is the stare down, especially the higher up the corporate food chain the monster is. It’s standard issue to stare down anyone you believe is in opposition to you, and these amoral people believe everyone is in opposition to them. So, I avoid having to be in their presence, not because I fear them, but because they draw my energy from more positive endeavors, and I don’t want to give them a shred of it. I have guided my children to laugh at them in irreverence whilst embracing the retarded, meaning the exact opposite of what the system wants them to do. These corporate types are seen as retarded by my children, and the retarded are seen as peers in need of assistance on occasion. My goal is to keep my children, to the extent it is possible, from the clutches of the Corporate Beast.

  48. February 25, 2012

    I’m probably repeating myself from an earlier comment. There are a few books that I believe should be required reading. “Limits to Growth, the 30 Year Update” (LTG) discusses broad strokes what can/is happening. “Collapse” by Jared Diamond looks at what happens when a culture hits a ecosystem wall (usually breaks). And, less broad but equally insightful, “The Lords of Finance” when viewed in context of today’s global economy.

    As you mention in your blog, change could have occurred to correct our path. LTG notes though that it takes a generation or so for the cultural mindset to change to implement a change. And, those changes should have started back by the 70’s to be useful now. Collapse sorts out the social psych pattern that usually blocks the constructive changes until the whole of the culture collapses w/ a radical decrease in the culture’s population.

    I’m trying to sort out, as an American, what I can/should do now. A zen-monk-like artist I know lives light on the land (under $10k/year) and says you help the people around you. But I use the image of a tsunami coming that will overwhelm us. Anyway, I do appreciate your blog.

  49. Lyss permalink
    February 25, 2012

    BC Nurse:
    I’m 35 and have spent the last 17 years working in the medical profession (first as a nursing assistant and then as an office admin for a home-care agency) and when you wrote that, “Nursing students are, in general, idealistic little pampered princesses who want to “help people” I knew precisely what you were speaking of. It took only a few short years for me to truly understand the massive and corrupt American Healthcare industry that we have and I can assure you that many of your students that brushed off your lectures without a second thought will find themselves reflecting back on the one person in their academic career that didn’t hold the ugly truth of it all from them. I wish there were more people like you living in my backwards Midwestern city (Where the most recent rally cry from our General Assembly has been a tirade against those homosexual recruiting, baby killing, Girl Scouts) that I get together routinely for coffee and unfiltered discussions about politics and civics.

    Ian: Your timing is ironic for me on a personal level as I was JUST talking about the perils of being excessively optimistic yesterday. It is FAR easier to be justifiably pessimistic/realistic than to bear an undue burden of unrealistic/excessive optimism. Intentionally or not, you’re one of the most Zen-like bloggers in regards to contemporary politics and issues. I always enjoy your posts and how you stick to the rational and logical and don’t buy into the polar extremes that are pitched to the public 24/7 by MSM profiteers.

  50. February 25, 2012

    BC, MB, Badtux – just to flesh out the employment malaise meme:

    I have a friend who was the archetypal “hippie sellout” – a Deadhead who became a broker throughout the eighties, nineties. He was quite jolly about it even as I teased him (I was a long-haired programmer not yet as aware of my own complicity). He didn’t survive the FIRE spasms of the 00’s (the merger and scandal madness of the big firms), and can’t work up the enthusiasm to find work anymore, mostly spending his days with hiking and music and beer and fighting depression… the other day he blurted out to me “I just can’t sit there and lie to people anymore, cause that was what my job was!” Very uncharacteristic of him to be so reflective, especially after all those years of needling by me…

    I left my version of corporate servitude around six years ago after I was asked to participate in a project that made it easier to grift people with a psychic hotline scam, a new and obvious low. I’ve had a couple of food-service jobs since – better to be the exploitee rather than the exploiter, by my lights – what could be more innocent than preparing food for folks? Lost the last job when my inner outrage could not be tamped down as my exploiter… erm, employer… insisted on having me help him abuse another employee…

    And now (and I’m getting to the point here) – I feel kinship with all of you in that I cannot work up the enthusiasm to play-act in the system any longer. Even as a simple burger-flipper.

    This is how broken it all looks to me.

    We really must come to some other arrangement.

  51. February 25, 2012

    Still, a series of events eventually forced that discontentment to the surface. Working for corporate polluters, white-collar criminals, militaristic multinationals, and the like can have its deleterious effects on one’s psyche, no matter what it pays at the end of the month. I realized in fairly rapid fashion (about ten minutes, actually, even though it took me ten months to extricate myself from the firm) that I could not separate my ethics from my earnings or my morals from my meals. I wanted to work with people, not for (or even against) them, and likewise had a strong desire to try and make the world a better place rather than the worsening one experienced by the vast majority of people.

    From Debt of Gratitude: Less Earning, More Learning

  52. groo permalink
    February 25, 2012

    Actually, I wanted to tell you two important stories of my past about the misguided ‘pursuit of happiness’.

    Meanwhile I am deeply impressed about many of the personal confessions here.

    So this:

    Are ‘we’ the other 1%?
    Maybe. Not sure.
    This afternoon we had a radioplay here: ‘The Persians’ by Aeschylus, one of the oldest tragedies of the western world.
    Now Aeschylus did something significant:
    He put himself into the shoes of the Persians, and tells the story from the other side.
    Notice: The VICTOR tells the story from the side of the LOSER, and shares his moans, and worldview, and such.

    Did we morally/intellectually overcome this?
    Obviously not.

    The moral big picture is very much behind this.
    Dialectically spoken, the victor should internalize the woes of the loser, for both to ascend one level.
    In this regard, Aeschylus was a mile above ‘us’.

    If You look into the fineprint of Aeschylus’ tale, the ‘Gods’ and the ‘Gold’ and the godlike Heroes, Aeschylus is not wrong, but
    his value system is quite shaky, and bound to his time.

    Actually the ancient gods resemble the 1% (or 0.00x%) of our time.
    They were the celebrities of their time, which is a deep flaw.

    Actually the Greek gods were not so different from Billionaires nowadays.
    They command large resources and –well- fight each other.

    So the Greek ‘heaven’ is quite an accurate description of the current situation .

    What the ancient Greek did not anticipate though, is, that the modern gods not only act for their own pleasure, but DESTRUCT THE VERY BASIS OF THEIR EXISTENCE, which is virtual, and based on the belief of -well-the believers.

  53. February 25, 2012

    Another great post. The comment thread has a lot to recommend it too. I’m also reminded of this Alternet post from the summer of 2011:

    Don’t look on the bright side: pessimism, not magical thinking, is what will save us

    by Marty Kaplan.

    Although I’m inclined to think Badtux is likely right. (Also, I guess Kaplan’s “will” in the title is optimistic too.)

  54. alyosha permalink
    February 26, 2012

    I come to this site not for happy talk but for reality, and for the fact that you can see farther, more clearly than most.

    That said, while the optimism is odd, it’s very consistent with human nature, and I actually welcome it. I’m very used to being on the outside, being at odds with the masses. It’s human nature that only a few will see what’s really going on, while the masses are celebrating the peak of one bubble or another, be it a financial bubble or a bubble representing the peak of a particular social system’s maximum influence (I started thinking about this comment back with your Fukuyama post). Fukuyama’s End of History is just an expression of how conventional wisdom works at the top of a bubble.

    I welcome this optimism, however misplaced, because it’s much easier to deal with a happy crowd than an angry one. I suspected 2012 would be a relatively happy year, maybe the last one we’ll see for some time, maybe even in my lifetime. (Agree with your earlier prognosis about 2013.) I can handle Barack Obama a lot better than any Republican, and for whatever reasons – the economy, while still anemic, appears to be doing better, for the time being.

    You have to learn to use the energy of those around you to move your life forward. This is one of the reasons why I like the Christmas season – another usually happy vibe that can be tuned into, and surfed.

    Frank Zappa had a saying, “you have to learn to make stupidity work for you”. Using the energy of the masses to help me move my life forward is one of the ways I fulfill Zappa.

  55. February 26, 2012

    “Health care fight?” What health care fight? There was never a health care fight. There was a very lengthy and acrimonious health insurance fight, which the public interest lost, but there was never a health care fight.

  56. groo permalink
    February 26, 2012


    very wise words.

    Being -like myself- a skeptic about nearly everything, makes for a difficult life.
    I personally do not call myself a pessimist, although I acknowledge, that cultivated (not the pathological ones) pessimists are the better realists.

    Imagine a world, where there is no beauty, no love, only basic logic, and ‘god’ is sort of a midsized fool, or some group of such, as David Hume already suggested.
    Are we right in it?
    Well. Quite possibly.

    This makes for a good laugh at least, and dying not a catastrophy, but sort of a relief.
    Some Zen-monks seem to have gotten it.

    To a large degree we have to invent the essential constituents of life, or whatever we call this episode between nothing and nothing.

    And remember another word of the wise Frank Zappa:
    “The chances are fifty-fifty, that I might have something to say.”


  57. adrena permalink
    February 26, 2012

    BC Prof

    The nursing culture especially can be brutal to dissenters. I know as I’ve been there. I was severely penalized for my political activities many years ago in London, England. It threw me off my professional path. However, after laying buried in deep trauma for a while, I was able to break free, regain my strength, and move on.

    Resistance can be a lonely experience but it has to be done. So don’t give up. I appreciate your courage.

  58. February 26, 2012

    Thanks Ian. Although I was never part of the hopium crowd I did used to more optimistic. Right now it is hard enough just being realistic.

  59. rumor permalink
    February 26, 2012

    Being not nearly as eloquent or wise as many of the folks around here, I just want to add my thanks first to Ian for this post. I always appreciate every time you put something down here and for the discussion it brings here. Which leads me to my thanks also for all the folks who’ve gathered here and contribute so much as well. I find a lot of succor in all your words.

    Keep the torch burning, folks.

  60. groo permalink
    February 26, 2012


    I just want to bring to your attention this amazing video, of a japanese guy, who raises more than any Dylan song my feelings:

    This Guys’ energy is genuine, other than Alyosha suspected, that the pessimists somehow feed from the optimists.

    Please watch carefully!
    Takes 20 minutes, but small ‘me/I’ thinks, it is worth it.

    Draw Your conclusions!

  61. February 26, 2012

    Colin Ward’s kind of anarchism or left libertarianism is a “description of a mode of human organization, rooted in the experience of everyday life, which operates side by side with, and in spite of, the dominant authoritarian trends in our society.”

    I didn’t know much about left libertarian thought before Occupy. Once I read David Graeber I remembered that a friend of mine gave me a book by Colin Ward called “A Very Short Introduction to Anarchism”. Then I found a book called “Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward by David Goodway. I had forgotten all about Oscar Wilde being a libertarian. Being a theater and film major, it was a delight to rediscover the rebels in my field like Wilde, Shaw, Ibsen in the era when anarchism was more of a common word.

    Colin Ward also said that” anarchist society, a society which organizes itself without authority, is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy, capitalism and its waste, privilege and its injustices, nationalism and its suicidal loyalties, religious differences and their superstitious separatism.”

    I was inspired by everybody here to write a piece called “Obedience is for Dogs”. Like to know what you think.

  62. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 26, 2012

    February 26, 2012
    Well done. Interesting title; I have a blog; Good Dog, Sit; with which I haven’t really done much…yet.
    Maybe I’ll get moving on it. Cheers.

  63. February 26, 2012

    You can’t win them all but you can sure lose them all which is what America is going to do with our country and our constitution if we don’t stop being so stupid, keep writing IAN as you’re only telling the truth.

  64. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    February 27, 2012

    The folks at The Automatic Earth encountered and reported this presentation:

    which may be one of the most seminal economic observations in recent times (or since J. M. Keynes’ economic views or the advent of MMT). The proposition that capitalism could be conflated with power has broad and interesting implications. It is highly recommended to read the original which is linked in The Automatic Earth’s link. Spoiler alert: Some finely considered reasoning contained therein.

  65. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 27, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear PERMALINK
    February 27, 2012

    Where do you find this stuff? Asymptote? My brain is reeling absorbing this completely new concept (to me). Well done you!
    Note worthy quotes, in order;
    “…they realize that the only way to further increase their distributional power is to apply an even greater dose of violence. “
    “In order to have reached the peak level of power it currently enjoys, the ruling class has had to inflict growing threats, sabotage and pain on the underlying population.”
    One key manifestation of this infliction is illustrated in our last chart, Figure 17.”
    Figure 17 is a stunner!
    With the underlying magma visibly shifting, the shadow of the asymptote cannot be clearer.
    This was initially intimidating; but proved very readable and so-to-the-point; it would be hard to miss-understand. This will never be seen in the MSM or most other fodder for public consumption unfortunately.
    I am so happy you have stuck it out here; your contributions are invaluable, at least for this one.

  66. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 27, 2012

    @ Formerly T-Bear
    Where do you find this stuff?

    Erm, what I mean is HOW do you find this stuff? It’s obvious “where”; sorry. 🙁

  67. Morocco Bama permalink
    February 27, 2012

    Controlling the aftermath of any potential, or imminent collapse. Don’t you think a system as diabolical as this one doesn’t have that covered? You don’t think it’s already operational? If it is operational, how would it look? What would be its message? I posted the following in a previous thread, but I will post it again since there is a different audience and some more people who may appreciate its gravity. Take a good, hard look behind the curtain of The Oil Drum and ASPO. Look familiar? Of course it does.

    The Net – The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet

  68. February 27, 2012

    Good catch, Formerly T – thanks.

  69. February 27, 2012

    In another forum, I posited that one way in the current economic crisis differed from the one faced by FDR is that today’s PTB are aware of the lack of potential growth today as contrasted with the days when cheap energy was ubiquitous and unquestioned, thus rendering Keynesian remedies more palatable at that time since future recovery of wealth (through growth) was a near certainty.

    (Sorry about the long sentence paragraph – it just wouldn’t shut up!)

    This fascinating restatement of economic conditions buttresses that view, using different parameters (from the longer article at T-Bear’s link):

    It is at this latter point, when power approaches its asymptotes, that capitalists are likely to be struck by systemic fear – the fear that the power structure itself is about to cave in. And it is at this critical point, when capitalists fear for the very survival of their system, that their forward-looking capitalization is most likely to collapse.

    “Forward-looking capitalization” roughly analogues “Keynesian stimulus.”

    This addresses the problem that I encounter everywhere that we are mostly arguing about symptoms, rather than the core disease – whether it be immigration, drug war, consumer debt, ratio of FIRE-sector to productive industry, and even the consumer hologram’s bread-and-circuses themselves.

  70. February 27, 2012

    I see on further reading of the discussion that the authors do not touch on resource depletion – they are relying (and powerfully so) simply on the pressures of wealth distribution… I would say, however, that resource depletion can only aggravate (accelerate?) the situation.

  71. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    February 27, 2012

    I came back here this morning to see if there were any further comments and got all of this feedback on what I had said. Thanks to all, I didn’t expect this, I just threw it out there because I am getting so sad and dejected. My poor husband, much younger than I, is on the tenure clock and working so hard to please everyone, as he must, to get in the door. I rose up in the ranks to full professor and thought I could now write what I wanted to write. No dice. I saw where “The University” as an institution in the U.S. was heading and I hated it. I was in administration by that time and I missed the classroom. As a Canadian, I could leave, but had to wait for hubby to get his Ph.D. and be able to come, too. So we left. I had job interviews in Canada and in New Zealand. I blew the interview in NZ and I know exactly the moment I did so because I saw the looks on their faces. So here we are and I love the place we live. Hubby became a Canadian, too, and we bought land. When the U.S. model of a “university” came here to our nice little college, I despaired. Now we have a new prez, a few new deans, and the pressure’s on. Money, money, bring in more money. No money, no promotions. I told my dean “I don’t do grants. That’s the people’s money. It’s not right. I’ve been a waitress (and a lot less) and I’ve stolen food to live. I won’t ever write a grant.” Well, I guess that was my death knell. I’m a damn good teacher and the few students who learn about the real world when in my classroom keep in touch when they graduate. Maybe they’ll make a difference, I don’t know. I’ve written about nurses as social agents of the status quo, but editors don’t like that kind of stuff. Except one. She overruled the reviewers and published it. I still get calls and emails from doctoral students saying, “We had to read your article in my class. I hated it. Until now. I finally see what you mean. Will you be on my committee?” Some made it to their degrees, some didn’t. I’d really rather talk compost and tomatoes, but I can do poststructural eco-feminist theoretical discourse analysis for a salary, at least to pay the taxes on the farm. I have one doctoral student left, studying at Rush University in Chicago, but living and teaching nursing in Mississippi. I think she’ll make it, she’s so close, and so smart, but the Michel Foucault part is pretty hard on her. I really really want to see her teaching this stuff to nursing students in Mississippi. But I’ll still never write a grant.

  72. February 27, 2012

    Here is Montana we have hedge fund guys, former Goldman Sachs guys, inherited wealth move in and buy ranches. I hear story after story of these guys building palatial ranch compounds. Then they want a section of house that was built last year torn down and rebuilt this year. They build and tear down. Build and tear down. And on and on. Gives local construction people work- short term. But to what purpose? Build and tear down. Is that a viable system?

  73. groo permalink
    February 27, 2012


    Do’nt know if I understand this correctly, but is reminds me of this (a German professor ca in the 1930’s, talking to his students):
    “Meine Herren, studieren sie vorwärts, studieren Sie rückwärts, aber studieren die forsch”

    “Gentlemen, study forward, study backward, does nit make a difference, but study forcefully.”
    (Students were ‘gentlemen’ then, because they mostly came from the upper classes.)
    Which is strange statement, because intensity (i.e. collective energy) trumps direction.

    Actually it should be the other way round:
    1st: Determine the direction.
    2nd: Go this way.

    If one reverses the priorities, one gets a twisted system, which is prone fall prey to hidden forces, who direct the energy in the direction of their advantage.

    German ‘Naziism’ was very much about that: Disconnect the energy from the goals.
    Quite like the rider and his horse.
    Training/subverting the ‘horse’ to the will of the ‘rider’ seems to be quite an apt metaphor for what is going on in the large scale.

  74. groo permalink
    February 27, 2012

    BC Nurse Prof,

    I think I can see Your woes.
    It is about capital interests attempting to take over the educational system.

    The two goals seem to be:
    1) Establish a system of private financing of schooling and universities. Any direction which does not attract enough ‘private’ sponsors is basically starved down to subsistence-level.
    2) Promote these external ‘ideas’ by the concept of ‘money talks’, and basically determine what is the ‘right way’ of thinking.

    Last time I checked, it seems, that in the US-system nearly 80% of physicists directly or indirectly are financed by the military.
    If they comply, they have a good live.

    Scientists and engineers do not much talking on overarching societal issues, and silently support the selfserving issues of politicians, lawyers, financials, militarists and oligarchs.

    Which is a pity.
    I myself live near to a paradise, which is the Max-Planck-society , where the technological/functional elite in Germany is working.

    This does not make me happy, because the method is:
    ‘We’-the society, throw a lot of money on You, so keep Your mouth shut on the big issues, and do what You are supposed to do:

    Be a functional elite, and keep out of politics!
    So it is..

    A –ahem- ‘beautifully’ closed system.

  75. Agnes permalink
    February 28, 2012

    BC nurse, thanks for your comments. It must be very lonely in Academia indeed. I left the nursing profession– I agree with your assessment of nursing students. There is much talk about wanting “to help” people, but it is a very paternalistic sort of help.
    At my university the profs receive grants to combat smoking and obesity among the poors– especially among those in the southern part of our state. It is the same old crap. Ignore the fact that there are too many dirty power plants, focus on demonizing habits of the poor.
    And… pretend to take a “holistic” view of health but don’t include things that I consider part of health such as housing, schools, parks, etc.
    My alma mater has taken its share of dirty money from the fracking industry I might add.
    Nursing is an awful job if you are any sort of dissident and if you question our consumer society and the dogma of unlimited growth– after all what is the promise of medicine but unlimited growth. We sell the idea that everyone may be “cured” with the just the right application of technology.

  76. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    February 28, 2012

    Thank you so much, Agnes, for your comment. I’m heartened to see that there are some who understand what nursing has become. I presented my work on empowerment as strategy of oppression at a conference in Seattle and the nurses in attendance were horrified at my suggestion that the idea of empowerment had been co-opted into an intervention to keep people dependent and quiet. Then a patient representative stood up and said she was so happy to hear someone actually identify what she had felt for so long but was unable to put into words. Then another patient said the same thing. The nurses in the audience were open-mouthed and visibly angry. Students actually accept this idea better than nurses, but if they say anything in their classes other than mine, they’re shot down. I don’t think the time has come for this kind of thinking, but it may not be long now. I forsee a time when the neighbourhood nurse may be the only health care person anyone has access to, and she or he may take chickens in trade for their services. I’m trying to write something about this, but it certainly won’t be published in any journal – I’m writing it for an enlightened physician who is hosting a website for “post-crash health care.” I’m open for suggestions as to what would be in such a guide. Please help.

  77. Agnes permalink
    February 28, 2012

    My hospital went through the stupid Magnet certification process. Magnet certification requires that hospitals adopt something called “shared governance”. As far as I could tell this “shared governance” amounted to nothing– it probably would fit your definition of empowerment as a strategy of oppression.
    Management and administrators could always come up with new tasks and paperwork for nurses to give the appearance that they were doing something important. One thing it seems like nurses can’t– must– never get is a reduced patient load.

  78. February 28, 2012

    What a fascinating discussion, BC & Agnes…

    I guess Ken Kesey knew more about what he was writing about than I realized.

  79. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    February 28, 2012

    Yes, the stupid “magnet hospital” trick! Another good idea that was deliberately morphed into something else that supports oppressive situations for patients and nurses alike with management on top and us bent over. If you really want to know, the reason nurses can’t get a reduced workload, the reason students are taught to give backrubs before bedtime but graduate to find there’s no time for that, the reason I finished so many shifts with my legs crossed because I hadn’t been to the bathroom in 8 hours, the reason we don’t strike because “it’s hurtful to patients”, etc. etc. The reason for all of these things and more is that……ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone……WE’RE NOT A PROFESSION. We tell ourselves we are. We tell our students we are. We tell the public we are. But we’re not. There are still nurses in Canada who punch time clocks. Is that a mark of a profession? Nurses do the hours and shifts they are told to do. Is that a profession? I call this a “pink collar occupation.” So. What would happen if we quit our jobs, got together and offered our services on our own terms? When I was going through my doctoral program, I worked weekends for a nursing services company in Seattle. They had contracts with the main hospitals all over the Puget Sound area. The hospitals only hired as many nurses as each ward needed. When the flu went through and knocked enough nurses out, they called this agency for “temps.” I got paid double what the regular nurses got, took care of the easiest patients, and went home. I could decide not to go if I wanted to. I could do two shifts, or one or three or whatever. It was my decision. I was a professional. Could we do that now? Can we hang out our own shingles and practice nursing? Sure, but no one does. Why? Because they’re chicken-hearted, that’s why. They’ve been told to be good little girls and do what they’re told. How do men in nursing handle this? They go into administration and make big bucks and keep bankers’ hours. Or they teach. We females in nursing have got to grow a pair (of ovaries, that is) and change our entire view of work. The coming collapse may be the time to do this.

  80. groo permalink
    February 28, 2012

    BC Nurse Pro, Agnes,

    Yours is a very irritating but interesting conversation.

    Something personal:
    An elderly woman next door, age maybe 80, stands up everyday before me, and is very busy to care for other elderly people.
    I once told her on her way, that I very much appreciate what she was doing.
    Somehow I frightened her then, but now its is ok.
    I’m sure she does this for nothing or maybe a couple of Euros.

    So why does she do this?
    Maybe I’m too much into this left-right brain issue, but anyway.
    The caring side is very much right-brain.
    The exploitative, calculating left-brain abuses this caring tendency of right-brainers, and this is honed by western -ahem- ‘culture’.

    Not much financial reward necessary, because right-brainers do anyway, what they deem necessary.

    I think Iain McGilchrist (whom I mentioned in an earlier thread) is onto something important in his
    “The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World”,
    to shed some light onto this dire sitation.

    As the Saying is: Insight is the first step to remedy.

  81. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    March 1, 2012

    If anything elicits justified pessimism, this from Al Jazeera does:

    Another Library at Alexandria is no more, and the world is just that much more the poorer for the loss.

  82. March 1, 2012

    Let’s hope that the formerly servers find another domain – I think it’s likely… let the games begin.

  83. groo permalink
    March 2, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear,

    this library story You cite should not come unexpected.

    The basic story seems to be:
    What cannot be monetarized, or even what hinders monetarization, has no worth.
    Empowerment of the many through knowledge also does not belong to the agenda of the few.

    The astonishing thing is, that the ‚few’ are as stupid as they are wicked, and this combination trumps intelligence, insight and compassion.

    The old dichotomy between the rock and the water nowadays reads as IP versus open source, amongst many similar dichotomies, which taken together constitute the syndrome of a more general disease.

    Those, who, make us so pessimistic, has to be remembered:

    Know your enemy!

    One person, who deconstructs the problem quite clearly, is Naomi Klein.
    EG in her essay “Der neue Antihumanismus”, where she quite precisely pinpointed the problem:
    Stupid white men, with a well filled purse, who trade their whealth and status versus phony pseudo-reality and phantasy-future.

    Their ‘thinking’-pattern is that of dominance, hierarchy and control.
    ‘Reality’ or the rest of the lot are just sideshows in their illusionary worldview.
    Over those they dominate in word and deed.

    Thank You guys.
    Glad to be your servant.

    Here is the link to the (German) essay of NK:

    Sorry. I id not find an English equivalent, but this is NK at her best.
    Bing/google- translate may help.

    To be pessimistic wrt that to me means,
    to surrender to a stupidity of monstrous proportions, which is right before my eyes.

    Which I do’nt!

  84. Celsius 233 permalink
    March 3, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear PERMALINK
    March 1, 2012
    If anything elicits justified pessimism, this from Al Jazeera does:
    Another Library at Alexandria is no more, and the world is just that much more the poorer for the loss.
    As an author and self publisher of 2 books (so far), I had the dis-pleasure of dealing with Amazon and their Kindle.
    I pulled my book (no easy feat) from, and quit them.
    I refuse to be told how MY property will be marketed and priced.
    I’d sooner give it away to those who appreciate books (I had it printed here). My wife and I were able to market and sell out the first printing of my first book.
    In any event, the loss of “” is a genuine loss.
    Fortunately there is still;
    From which many beautiful classics are available for free.

  85. Celsius 233 permalink
    March 3, 2012

    My nom-de-plume; Celsius 233, is of course, the metric for Fahrenheit 451; probably one of my all time favorite movies/novels.
    It, as much as Orwell’s 1984, aptly describes our present situation. It may be closer actually, to our present conundrum; with the attacks on all forms of freedom of expression in today’s world.
    That the U.S. is leading the way forward in this attack/suppression is the height of irony; but surely not un-expected given the legislation and rhetoric flowing from the right and not being fought from the left. That dichotomy is no longer relevant and is illustrative of the movement toward fascism by both factions. In fact, there is no longer a left and right; there is just us and them.
    This polarization is the death-nell of the last remnants of our republic. Democracy is a sham and false flag rhetoric of the fascisti who would be our masters and en-slavers.

  86. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    March 3, 2012

    @ 233ºC

    Grateful for the Project Gutenberg link. The Fahrenheit 451 connection was immediately manifest from the Al Jazeera article. The world’s horizons have become diminished by corporate commercial fear. Boycott the corporation; withdraw consent to wanton power. What would be the titles of your books and where obtained?

    @ groo

    Was what you were looking for? or this? Also, pessimism may have a broader spectrum of meaning outside the narrow dictionary usage, try sadness as an alternative instead or check the thesaurus for more. As for knowing one’s enemy, there are few better things than good books, but alas, now there are fewer of those than there once were; the reason for the lament at the passing of the

  87. groo permalink
    March 3, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear,

    Your links basically reflect Naomi’s position of the German essay. But this (German) one is much more to the point, and harsher. (Sorry. I only overflew them.)

    Her argument -which she borroved from Kahan- is, that people (my loose transcription)
    ‘prefer denying reality to questioning ones own worldview’

    ‘the billionaires of this world promote- via think-tanks- an a genda which secures and promotes their wealth’

    ‘climate-deniers are by and large exactly those people, who profit from our dysfunctional system’

    ‘the group of selfconfident conservative white men believe times more than the rest, that climate-change will never happen’

    ‘The solution is more free trade’

    ‘this converges with theories of racial superiority’

    ‘They lack any compassion for the sufferers of climate-change’.

    ‘ those men have the dominant positions of power’ (McCright and Riley Dunlap )

    ‘everybody is the creator of his own fate’.

    And on it goes.
    Now me again.
    This is a selfstabilizing semantic net, where the growth paradigm, infinite resources,
    the right of the capable and strenuous and some other ingredients all nicely fit together in a social-darwinist system.

    Somehow this is the essential clash of ‘civilizations’, and, as Ian points out :

    I stop here, because most of the commenters here know this anyway.

    It is just about bringing it into the right order, so that the logic of all that becomes evident.


    all the best

  88. groo permalink
    March 3, 2012

    I forgot something:

    This all is not about a symmetric battle of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’, or ‘socialist’ versus ‘individualist’, or ‘dictatorship’ of any kind versus ‘democracy’, but between a living planet being destructed, and one which is preserved by our actions.

    Ideologies are only temporary vehicles in this long-term quest.
    Maybe even some types of religion can help.
    Although I doubt that.

    See eg George Kenney:
    …In theory, churches should be more active than they are these days in pursuing Justice and Peace. So why aren’t they?…

    Good question.
    See here:


  89. Celsius 233 permalink
    March 3, 2012

    @ Formerly T-Bear
    March 3, 2012
    @ 233ºC
    Grateful for the Project Gutenberg link. The Fahrenheit 451 connection was immediately manifest from the Al Jazeera article. The world’s horizons have become diminished by corporate commercial fear. Boycott the corporation; withdraw consent to wanton power. What would be the titles of your books and where obtained?
    Thanks so much for asking; but with no PM feature here, I’m hesitant to say.
    I think you can understand why; given the recent past.

  90. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    March 4, 2012

    @ groo

    Could social Darwinism be the mentality necessary to motivate your “high class” malefactors of great wealth? Their great wealth evidence of superiority of themselves? much as their aristocratic and ennobled feudalistic progenitors styled themselves (complete with “ideas” of breeding producing genetically true offspring, incognisant that their deviant psychological pathologies allowing social position were a learned trait promoted by the environmental immersion of their offspring). Self awareness was never a functioning part of feudal or these self-styled capitalist captain’s makeup, nor effected restraint upon their pathologies of power. This may be reflected in both the British Victorian desirability for “breeding” as well as Prussian “rectitude (for lack of better descriptive)”. Neither in the end made a good showing of itself, there is little in evidence to expect differently now but these grandiose stylings will have to be pried out of the cold, dead fingers of those hands which hold them (as the saying goes). The systemic collapse being affected will soon enough provide those cold dead fingers in abundance; what will be required is the wisdom needed to exercise the power they once held.

    @ 233ºC

    Understood and appreciated. Life can be tough for us cookie-monsters for books sometimes.

  91. groo permalink
    March 4, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear,

    appreciate Your impressive prose, as ever.

    Actually I think, I know what is going on.
    You do.
    Naomi Klein does.
    Others too.

    It is a matter of expressing it clearly.

    Just as an example.
    Over at the agonist Steve Hynd made this ridiculous post:

    I was so infuriated, that I wanted to comment, but the agonistas closed comments some time ago.

    Some agonists thankfully smelt the rot.

    It may be far fetched, but underneath all that is a subtle question about ‘beauty’, which is a social construct, and not a platonic idea, which the good Steve Hynd does not seem to understand in the farthest.

    Sorry for the digression.

  92. groo permalink
    March 4, 2012

    ‘closed new commenters ‘

    …”For the time being, new registrations for new logins are off, due to the havoc the spammer attack caused. If you are a new reader, or just a long time reader who wants a login, please email Steve and we’ll set one up for you. …

    I like the agonistas, but some rare time I want to hit them, or the moderator and emanator os silly messages: Hynd, right onto his head.

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