The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Breaking Your Chains

I started blogging in 2003. Since then, I’ve written well over a million words. There was a time when I wrote two or three articles a day.

I thought that the writing mattered, that it made a difference. It did to some people, but not to many. Seven billion people have a lot of momentum, and stopping them or even turning them is close to impossible, especially when the lever you have is just blogging.

Oh well.

Various bad stuff has happened. More bad stuff will happen. As I’ve written before, this stuff is now baked in. It will happen, it cannot be stopped. When you’re going 200 miles an hour and ten feet from the wall, everything is over except the casualty report.

You should probably still slam on the brakes, though.

A few years ago, I turned my primary emphasis from, oh, let’s call it political economics to more fundamental issues.

Why do people believe in what they do? Why do they do what they do? And how can that be changed?

Because, as I’ve written before, the primary problem isn’t that we don’t know what our problems are, or even how to fix them (in technical terms). It is that we aren’t fixing them even though we know they exist and have a pretty good idea how to fix them.

I mean, to repeat myself yet again, we’ve known about climate change, undeniably, since the late 70s at the latest. And we did, well, basically nothing. We know that inequality is terrible for everyone, and people were warning back in the late 80s about it and we, well, slammed our foot down on the accelerator.

And so on.

Now, this isn’t a new pursuit for me. I wondered about it when I was a teenager, but I examined it, mostly, the wrong way–through anthropology, sociology, linguistics, history, neuroscience, and so on.

Oh, it’s not that these disciplines don’t have important insights, but they are all fragmentary and none of them tell you the most important thing, not really: How to change.

I mean, it’s nice to have some insights into why you’re fucked up, but if those insights don’t lead to the ability to become less fucked up, the exercise is somewhat sterile.

There are a group of people who have, over millennia, spent virtually all their time examining  how the human mind works, and why it believes what it believes. Spiritual people.

Not religious people, understand; religion is what people who want pat answers to the insights of spiritual people. They suck the insights dry, and turn them into set rules.

You’ve got someone like Mohammed, say, whose first followers are mostly slaves, women, and poor people. And Mohammed, well, he made their lives better; he made new rules which were not as bad as the old rules. Sure, women still weren’t equal to men, but they had more rights than before.

And poltroons and fools think that the new rules are now set in stone for eternity, rather than considering that he was making things as much better as he could under the circumstances and given his own, unbroken conditioning.

Then there’s poor Jesus. Good God, what his followers have done to his teachings! They’ve turned them into, with some exceptions like the social gospel (now dead), an utter force for evil.

This is the fate of the great spiritual figures–to be misunderstood. Sometimes that misunderstanding doesn’t do too much harm (Buddha, yes, some); sometimes it does a lot, as with Mohammed and Christ.

Or, as Marx, a great ideologue, though not a great spiritual figure, said: “I am not a Marxist.”

Or Jesus: “I am not a Christian.”

Anyway, there’s a type of spirituality which basically involves learning to examine one’s mind, until the way it really works becomes something one can’t deny any more.

Jiddu Krishnamurti tried to teach this. Failed miserably. Maybe got one person enlightened, despite spending his entire life working at it.

The problem he had was that he really wouldn’t give instructions. He was scared of the founder effect; he wanted people to learn to think for themselves and not reify a bunch of new rules.

So, yeah, that didn’t work too well.

The simplest rule of the mind is that everything in it is stuff given to you by other people. Your religion, your nationality, your love of sports, whatever… it’s all conditioning and while it isn’t precisely all garbage, it’s close to it. You didn’t choose it, but you think it is “you.” You think your personality is you, or that you are American or Chinese or Hindu or Christian or Jewish.

You’re full up to the brim with stinking garbage; realities created by “wise” men of the past, which served their purposes and which has been, usually, completely unsuited to living a healthy, happy life with other humans in such a way that you don’t, well, destroy the ecosphere, for one.

And the humor of it is in the identification with it–that you, that we, think that all this garbage is actually us. It’s closer to a sickness, a virus, passed from sufferer to sufferer.

And it’s why we’re ten yards from a wall, going 100 miles an hour.

If you want to stop being sick, and a vector for sickness, start by just resting and examining the contents of your consciousness as they come and go.

And be ready to be really unhappy, as you realize you’re a slave.

But it is the slave who believes they are free who is most chained: You can’t break invisible chains.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


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  1. different clue

    The writer, blog or otherwise, can only broadcast what he/she knows on the frequency he/she is best at. It is up to potential readers, within range of the “broadcast” ( “blogcast”?) to either tune in to the blog-frequency or not. It is not the lighthouse-keeper’s fault if the ships all ignore the lighthouse.

    As to “we” refusing to do this or that . . . that “we” is too all-inclusive. On global warming, for example, a lot of “we-s” tried to get it addressed every which way “we” knew. The Merchants of Fossil Carbon had/have enough power to frustrate and deflect all of “we’s” efforts.

    So what is the blog-writer and the blog-reader to do? If the blogger is already writing a high-enough-quality blog that people will come to it, some of those people can choose ( or not) to write high-enough-quality comments that word of those high-quality threads will spread and other people will come for the threads as well as the posts.

    If some of those commenters offer actual actionable-information and links and sources which other commenters and/or non-commenting readers can find and use that information in their analog meatspace real-world real-lives, then those takers-and-users of the actionable-information can make their little quota of difference in their little circle of power-to-have-effect. If all they achieve is to know that they are living their own witness, then they can choose to be satisfied or not with that. If enough millions of people choose to live their own witness in roughly semi-parallel with eachother, they may end up having a measurable physical effect on the world around them. For example, what if 300 million Americans east of the Sierra all dropped their electricity-per-capita consumption to the level of what 35 million Californians are already using? The effect would be measurable and the people exerting that effect would eventually find eachother and use their shared witness as a political tire-iron to force economic behavior changes in the political-economic legisphere. And its not the blogger’s fault if no such 300 million Americans ever choose to emerge and practice global de-warming behavior.

  2. Jeff Wegerson

    So we must have busted right through the wall. In forty feet, during the time to cover all most all of the article, we we lost 100 mph but the wall didn’t stop us. Yet, probably. Likely the engine was stripped away and we are coasting to a stop. Casualties are still likely even though the wall was kinda flimsy.

    Seriously though Ian, the spiritual stuff is helping keep me sane. Thanks.

  3. Linda Amick

    My personal cosmogony includes the belief that truth cleanses and therefore to speak it or write it has intrinsic value to the world. It builds goodness around us.
    As a student of philosophy so many years ago I became informed by Aristotle that our universe is a living organism wherein all living things are intimately connected and due to man being a rational animal it is his duty to care for and shepherd all things in a loving and mindful manner. It was a wonderful metaphysics from which all branches stemmed such as ethics, politics, epistemology etc.
    Once Descartes and the rationalists’ mathematics took over metaphysics and the universe became infinite and everything was understood as composed of atoms in this mechanical world view man was freed of responsibility. The universe is infinite. Anything goes.

    Personally I think your contribution is valuable and contributes to the body of truth and goodness that is essential especially since western thought derailed metaphysically several hundred years ago bringing us to where we are today.

  4. Icarus

    When the inventor of Mormonism Joseph smith got his call the ‘ angel told him that all religions were wrong and he would make the right one.
    well Ian you did him one better by not only religion all wrong but everything you thought you knew is garbage, everything that you thought was right or wrong is garbage and you are going to lead us to happy ,healthy lives. can’t wait.

  5. highrpm

    one is growing up when less and less one looks for saviors or even to be saved. each of us are sovereign. ownership starts — and perhaps ends – with our own choices. a high priest may call it free will. when one of the many beauties of life is owning our own choices.

  6. Stirling Newberry

    Things happen when we least expect them.

  7. Webstir

    “Anyway, there’s a type of spirituality which basically involves learning to examine one’s mind, until the way it really works becomes something one can’t deny any more.”

    Some of us call it the 12-steps.

    Easy does it …

  8. AB

    The simplest rule of the mind is that everything in it is stuff given to you by other people. Your religion, your nationality, your love of sports, whatever… it’s all conditioning and while it isn’t precisely all garbage, it’s close to it. You didn’t choose it, but you think it is “you”. You think your personality is you, or that you are American or Chinese or Hindu or Christian or Jewish.

    I would go further and say there is nothing “in” the mind. It is not a container of thoughts. The mind is simply a thought happening right now and “you” are that to which it appears.

    If you want to stop being sick, and a vector for sickness, start by just resting and examining the contents of your consciousness as they come and go.

    And be ready to be really unhappy, as you realize you’re a slave.

    When it’s realized that “you” are not actually a localized independent entity who “has” thoughts, who is there to be unhappy?

  9. Mike

    I’m going to post this, although I think no one here is interested in it. IMO this explains exactly why, despite the fact that ‘we all know we are destroying the environment / economy / climate’ etc., ‘we’ do nothing about it.

    I’d be interested in anybody’s opinion of it if anyone wants to read it.

  10. someofparts

    Following from what Ian is saying, it occurs to me that the people who are harmed by the inculcated consciousness we inherit have the greatest motivation to change.

  11. someofparts

    Icarus – “and you are going to lead us to happy ,healthy lives. can’t wait.”

    Ian – “And be ready to be really unhappy, as you realize you’re a slave.”

    Reading comprehension – more than just a breakfast cereal.

  12. Hugh

    You fight because you think there is something worth fighting for, not because you think you are going to win.

    On inequality, the Census report for 2017 on Poverty and Income is out. The top 20% got 51.5% of the income share, meaning the bottom 80% got 48.5%. This is the same as in 2016. The income share of the bottom 80% peaked in 1968, if memory serves at 57.4%. There are two important caveats. First, things like food stamps and housing subsidies are not figured in for those at the bottom. But for those at the top, and this is really big, capital gains are not counted into their income. Second, income and wealth are not the same thing. Many Americans do not accumulate much wealth because their expenses consume their income. If they do, it is in the form of a home, but fewer Americans can afford one. For the rich, their wealth increases exponentially. They have large positive excesses between their income and their expenses. These accumulate, compound in investments, and are taxed at lower rates or not at all if they are hidden.

  13. Preston

    Ian: This post is exceptional. Keep writing, we’ll keep reading. People do many things to help them cope with the cruelty and stupidity they encounter daily. You write. It helps you and many others. Thank you.

  14. Webstir

    I’ve read the flatlander theory before. He’s not wrong, by any means. Our adaptability, once a blessing, is now a curse. But, we’ve adapted before and we’ll adapt again. The rub is, the only thing that breaks through our flatlander mentality is serious pain.

    Ian’s been over this time and again. We’ll change, but it will be extraordinarily painful. This isn’t good or bad. It just seems to be the human condition. It goes back to the insights about psych I talk about on here all the time. The human mind is really nothing more than a glorifies simplification machine. It hates to work hard and rationality is hard work. Much easier to rely on heuristics for day to day functioning.

  15. This poem by Red Hawk appears as the prologue to his book Self Observation: The Awakening of Conscience: an Owner’s Manual

    The Teaching

    It is as old as the stones.
    It came with Humans to the Earth
    and it offers them a way out
    of the web of sorrows
    but at a price:
    we must observe ourselves,
    our behavior, our
    inner and outer responses,
    objectively. This means
    without taking a personal interest
    or doing anything about
    the horror
    which self observation uncovers:
    like a bad boy with a stick
    overturning a stone
    and finding a mass of crawling things
    beneath, but
    he refrains
    from stomping on them.

    the process discussed in red hawk’s book – self-observation – is noticing what’s going on around you, and what you are doing, and also how you are feeling – is paying attention to what’s happening WHILE it’s happening – NOT chewing the cud of one’s earlier life or one’s ambivalence about this, that or the other thing – and as the poem states, one aspect of this paying attention is the attempt to do so dispassionately

    if you have something better to do, do that instead

    will it save your soul, if any/technological civilization/the human species? as yogi berra could have said, you never know when something surprising might happen

    may the creative forces of the universe smile in our general direction

  16. Herman

    Well at some point you have to say “enough” when it comes to the problems of the world. I used to think people were sheep and to some extent I still do but at the same time I understand that it makes perfect sense to not think deeply about all of the issues we discuss on this blog. Most people have almost zero ability to impact the world in any significant way so it doesn’t make sense to make yourself miserable over these issues. That is why most people just deal with their own personal problems and don’t think deeply about big issues. It is not because they are stupid but because they are practical.

    I have noticed that many radicals become very cynical and unhappy due to burnout. There is the real risk of becoming a nihilist after seeing most of your causes fail miserably. I am pretty cynical but I don’t think that everything is lost or that all activism is a waste. Sure, most people will never influence the world or even their town but there are some people who do make a difference. However, it is likely that we will have to go through some very bad times for things to get better. The relatively egalitarian world of the post-war era was only possible after the disasters of the Great Depression and World War II created a brief culture of solidarity in the West. I think something similar will have to happen to us.

    Please note that I am not downing the content of this blog. This is one of the very few blogs that I find worth reading. I am just saying that most people are not like us and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I understand why many people don’t want to be bothered with issues like climate change and inequality.

  17. someofparts

    Here is one of the social forces that push against enlightened behavior.

  18. someofparts

    “The rub is, the only thing that breaks through our flatlander mentality is serious pain.

    Ian’s been over this time and again. We’ll change, but it will be extraordinarily painful.”

    To pull this together with the depressing points Hugh is making, our communities have been arranged so that those in a position to set policy for the rest of us are insulated from the pain, so their decisions keep getting worse.

  19. Willy

    Seven billion people have a lot of momentum, and stopping them or even turning them is close to impossible, especially when the lever you have is just blogging.

    Yet… those who knew how to get momentum out of a (generally) greedy, corrupt and stupid mob, even if the direction they were being persuaded to head in involved much badness for them and their own, knew exactly how to do so.

    The big question is: How can the highly manipulative monkey brain tricks of the sociopathic players be countered, by those gifted with rational and empathic integrity and insight?

    If I’ve learned anything, simply explaining things calmly and clearly doesn’t always work.

    Example: After my career was ruined I tried to calmly and clearly explain to family and friends what had happened, best I could, partly so they might be able to avoid a similar experience. Some listened. But two in particular did not. Those two chose to place all blame for my ‘failure’ onto me, and wound up dissing and shunning me. Ten years later, take one guess as to exactly who, out of all those family and friends I’d warned, has had their own careers ruined. Yup. Those very same two who’d dissed and shunned me. Strange how the human mind works. Defense mechanisms may help one feel better in the short term, but sometimes it’s best to discipline oneself to handle today’s emotional discomfort for longer term reasons. At some level those two had known their own careers were at risk but chose to salve themselves with emotional folly instead.

    I’m currently dealing with a PhD friend who is working in a dying business with insecure jobs who is employing similar emotional strategies as those two in-laws did. Logic doesn’t seem to work on him. I really need to get better at this. I suspect that the same strategies I might use to get through to him would in some form, work on the far more monkey brained mob about far greater issues which all of humanity is facing.

  20. different clue


    When most of the people actually around you, whom you can see and who can see you, drift into a deep and prolonged survival crisis and survive very poorly, and they all see you surviving much better; some of them might well ask what you are doing to survive better. If at that point you have specific advice and assistance to give them, they may well put it to use to enhance their own survivalizing.

    That will only work if y0u begin up-survival-readying your own physical life and situation now, of course. Living up there in Redoubtistan puts you in a good physical area and an okay semi-permissive social headspace to begin survival-readying yourself now so you can be a visible inspiration and good example to any survival-seekers later.

    The envious will of course seek to make your life as bad and precarious as their lives will be. So part of the survivalist’s art is looking poor in public. ( I have been mistaken for homeless on four separate occasions by people who had never met eachother. Two of those people were themselves homeless at the time. So camouflage in plain sight is possible).

  21. different clue

    @ Willy,

    About living in Redoubtistan, never mind. My brain confused you with Webstir for a few keystrokes there. But maybe you can still enhance your own camouflaged survivability where you are living at.

  22. bruce wilder

    Many interesting comments.

    Individualism seems to be some sort of inchoate theme. Which leads me to throw out as a heuristic that maybe the problem is that thinking is social and we keep trying to think individually.

    I know that we have individual brains and maybe we experience problem-solving insight sometimes as if we are isolated, but we are deeply, profoundly social and politics is society “thinking”. Or, maybe remove the scare quotes, because realistically all thinking is social. Distributed, of course, but the true locus of thought is society, where we are constructing a virtual reality within which we can coordinate our activity.

    The pathology of political society is in the self-righteous cruelty and stupidity that manifests in the information processing relationship between leaders and followers.

    Ian has frequently drawn attention to various aspects of how polities have historically failed to manage hierarchy, or used the emergence of deep hierarchy to effectively make permanent improvements to human welfare. It is interesting to me that the official theory and ideology of society in our own time — neoclassical economics and neoliberalism — make a concerted effort to ignore the hierarchical organization of the political economy in favor of a counterfactual narrative of “markets”. The body politic may be thinking, but it resists collective self-awareness mightily and individual self-awareness is no remedy, apparently.

  23. someofparts

    diff clue – I’ve watched all of this guy’s videos. Incredible.

  24. steeleweed

    When I was in my teens, it occurred to me that almost everything I thought I knew came from someone else – parents, teachers, books, media (in those days it was magazines and radio – my youth predated TV, fortunately). I began to systematically examine my beliefs to see which made sense from my own experiences or logically deduced from what I saw. I do this reexamination every few years, always finding what I call “cockleburs”, the irritating things that cling unnoticed. Sometimes they are newly-acquired because I was too lazy to examine the facts before accepting them and sometimes they seem to date back to childhood. Mental housekeeping is an unending task and the house is never 100% clean.

    Living in Greenwich Village in the ’60s, drugs were part of the daily milieu but never really appealed to me. I was interested in LSD as a way to investigate the mind and read about everything available, from beatniks, hippies, psychologists and scientists. I was roundly ridiculed for stating that it would be possible to take it and have no effect. My friends were eagerly looking forward to me having my mind blown. So I took it. And it had no effect, even at a higher dose than normal. Having established to my satisfaction that I was in control of the experience, I took it several times more and allowed it to present different views of external reality. But I never assumed that the views presented were any more valid than the views without the drug. I didn’t use it to investigate the world. I used it to investigate my mind. It did facilitate getting to new mental states, but once that had happened, I found I no longer needed it as a crutch to achieve those mental states. I stopped using it.

    What I learned is that the Mind is the final frontier and we will never completely master it. It is grossly misunderstood and has been since the ancient Greeks first began writing about it.

    When I ski, or when I quickly descend the rocky scree on a hillside, I do not precisely control every move. I pick spots in advance and make tiny adjustments to my movement, ending up where I need to be without ever moving forcefully. Whether we like it or not, our thinking is mostly responding to what we think. We cannot directly control our thinking (although there are ways suspend it, at least temporarily), but we can guide our thinking, nudge it one way or another, gently apply a purpose to it and thus influence the thinking and its resulting behavior.

  25. Mojave Wolf

    Consider me to have echoed all the other positive comments in the thread. I’m one of “the few”, however you define the term, who thinks your blog has made a positive difference in my life and my thinking, at least, though I know you’re striving for something more global and world-saving (which is good, because someone’s gotta do it, might as well be you, and who knows? if it’s not you, maybe it will be someone who reads this site one day).

    We may disagree on some things but never doubt that I and many others appreciate your writing and your insights.

    I haven’t commented as much recently due to a whole bunch of things happening in real life over the last couple of years which have sapped my time and energy, but you’re still the blog I read the most, for whatever that’s worth (and this still has the comment section I read the most, for whatever that’s worth, even if I don’t say anything myself)(speaking of being around less frequently, does anyone know if Reality Checker is okay? ::waves to him if he sees this:: I totally understand spending less time online just to be mentally healthier, as Ian has pointed out that might be good for nearly everyone, but I do miss seeing his comments).

    I think I’ve read the flatland stuff before; will try to make time later.

    As Bruce said, interesting comments all round.

    Re: influencing the world and the nature of the people who actually DO hold the levers of power and influence, here’s an (I think) interesting snippet from Tulsi Gabbard’s appearance a week or so ago on Joe Rogan’s podcast:

    Weirdly, I notice that almost no one has watched this particular (and imo very worth looking at) bit, while the two hour long show is almost at a million views. Here it is:

    Yes, it’s long, but she’s still my choice for the next President (or Bernie’s VP/successor, which would be just as good and is more likely), and it’s an interesting conversation. Amazing the difference between her and some of the more scripted pols (tho she’s being hella careful here as well, she just comes off way better and more genuine even in her carefulness, aside from having by far the best foreign policy chops — and best foreign *policy* — of anyone in the running, and being the only person besides Bernie and O’Malley who actually GETS the seriousness of the global warming crisis, and someone who actually cares about environmental issues, and has the leadership to get people to follow her rather than following everyone else’s trends and megabucks)

    They do take the Russiagate idiocy too seriously, but that part is brief and it’s a hella lot less hysterical than anyone in politics with a bigger platform; otherwise the whole thing is great if you have the time. If not, again, the snippet is very worthwhile.

    Last idle stray thought: I don’t know much about Krishnamurti. I think the only thing I’ve ever read by or about him at any length was in the wonderful book I read back in the early 90’s, “The Search for Unity: Dialogues with Scientists and Sages” which also introduced me to the world of David Bohm and Rupert Sheldrake. I shall try to make time to check him out in more depth as well.

    Good will and best wishes to all.

  26. different clue


    Thank you for the link to these videos. It looks this man is/will be very real and very knowledgeable. Every video would be worth watching.

    For myself, I hope that survival will be possible within a community . . . hopefully a sizeable community, of fellow co-survivors. The deepest into survivalism I will ever get will be suburban slum neo-peasant subsistence neo-village survivalism. If my choices narrow down to live-alone-in-the-woods or die, death seems more likely.

    If Ian Welsh circles back in future comments to eco-vironmental topics that offer an opening for relevant comments with relevant links, I will offer some. If many people offered some such links when relevant, and they were all as high quality as the link you have offered, word might spread and more people would come here perhaps.

  27. V

    I rather like this:
    Everything you know is crap.
    Everything you think is crap.
    Everything you have been taught is crap.
    Everything you say is crap.
    And everything you believe is crap…
    Thayer Dowd

  28. Webstir

    someofparts —

    Myself and the USFS recreation crew that I led from ’06-’12 rebuilt this cabin around ‘08 after a fire burned it down in the late 90’s.

  29. Webstir

    I’ll add, we did use chainsaws. Which made it easier by a skoch.

  30. Webstir

    Oh, and gang. Get a set of these:

    When the lights go out, we won’t be watching youtube.

  31. Mike

    @Webstir – thanks for replying.
    I do think the Flatland hypothesis is a good working hypothesis of the way in which ‘human nature’ works. It’s not the case that individuals can’t change their behaviour and go against instintual conditioning, but it probaby IS the case that a large group will, in general, not be able to do so in any menaingful ‘short period of time’. So, while people like thos ewho read this blog, and others, can attempt to effect change, overall, the vast majority will filter out any such attempts, and nothing much concrete will happen.

    The Paris accord is a great example of Flatland in action. Ticks all the boxes.

    So, Ian – your writing does make a difference, but, not enough difference. And that’s not your fault. It’s like trying to tell a dog never to wag its tail again.

  32. someofparts

    When I was young I had a chance to spend some time around groups that were loosely modeled on the Diggers. They had a little newsletter that I delivered on foot to households around the city. I wanted to send a copy of the paper to friends back in my hometown but no one was allowed to do that. They felt that the moment information became impersonal or second-hand, it became subject to distortion. I think they had a point which the passage of time has only served to vindicate.

    The Frankfurt school was not able to change the direction of mass history in the short term either, but they kept the lights on and the conversation alive.

    This website does that too, like a lighthouse. You can’t stop the storm or save everyone from the rocks, but plenty of people you never hear from see the light and find their way to safety because of it.

  33. jonst

    You read, to me anyway, like a man afraid of life and living.

  34. V

    You people just flat amaze me; flatland hypothesis?
    Your house is burning down for Christ sake!

  35. Webstir


    What is so flat amazing?
    All it is, is a hypothesis about why humans choose to fan the flames when the house is burning down around them.

  36. realitychecker

    @ MojaveWolf

    Fear not, amigo, I am still alive, but have retired from online commenting. I do still read Ian’s work and the comments, but I cannot justify the effort of dealing with some here. There are some voices here that I value highly, but others, easily identifiable and much more numerous, just make me feel like vomiting.

    When I consider the small readership here that is capable of rational interaction, and the offensive (to me) aspects of some of the recent moderation decisions, I have no good answer to the self-query of, “What is the fucking point, anyway?”

    In a society obviously awash in lies and manipulative bullshit, reality checkers SHOULD be in high demand, but they are not. Instead, they are universally rejected and attacked by the willingly deluded on both sides of the partisan political spectrum.

    “My team has to win” is all the ‘ethics’ that most folks require, apparently. Sadly. That alone bears full testament to the level of dysfunction that currently shapes our world. I cannot delude myself any longer into believing I can help anyone sort anything out.

    So, now I’m just a silent observer of the unfolding madness. Putting my personal energy into different things. More selfish things.

    I sense and empathize with Ian’s despair. His work is very good, but his cause of restoring some sense of rationality to the public dialogue is already a lost one, according to all the available evidence.

    So I am out.

  37. Tom W Harris

    Don’t let the naysayers get you down, Ian. As someone said up-thread, your contribution is positive, and it sets a good example for the rest of us.

  38. Willy

    The problem is that so few, anywhere, are willing to be realitychecked. Yet so many have been successfully persuaded to believe in unreality. I’d hope that all the best realitycheckers know how these things work, and are able to gather together many disciples, as could Jesus with all the children sitting at his feet (assuming that’s your style of unreality).

  39. Willy

    Lets take the anti-globalwarmers. In some previous better managed time, I’m sure they might’ve just believed the science. But somehow they’ve been persuaded to make silly stale stalwart comments every time it freezes outside.

    Right wing pundit Candace Owens has been asked about why she doesn’t believe. She never has a credible answer, simply always “I just don’t believe in it”. Of course she’s a classic right wing pundit in it solely for the money not likely to care about much of anything outside herself, but her supplicants cheer her on despite her lack of any kind of rational argument.

    How did the oil companies accomplish this? …the successfully nefarious binding together of greed with Jesus in clear violation of Matthew 6:24. How does one advise the evangelical that this is messed up, and if global warming does yield catastrophic results, the suffering children will not want to be anywhere Jesus’ feet?

    Even if it’s too late, I’d think some basic wisdom about dealing with post-apolcalyptic gangs might be useful. There’s only so much one can learn from Mad Max.

  40. Webstir

    “Even if it’s too late, I’d think some basic wisdom about dealing with post-apolcalyptic gangs might be useful.”

    Basic wisdom:
    1. gtfo of any urban environment.
    2. gtfo of any urban environment.
    3. if in doubt, return to step 1.

  41. Webstir

    Good to see you still kicking, RC.
    Don’t be a stranger.
    Personally, I think Ian’s civility break paid dividends. It actually helped be regain a little online context.

  42. Mojave Wolf

    Yay! Hello Reality Checker!

    I am glad you are still around and in reasonably good health. =)

    You had spoken about possibly not commenting online anymore, so I was hoping that was all; good to hear that it is, and that this is working out well for you. It certainly can be a timesink and an energysink, & I’ve cut back a great deal myself.

    Can’t think of any good way to stay in touch, since I’m not about to put my email up here, but if you ever want to drop a line I do have a livejournal I barely use anymore (7 posts in the past year, most recently a bit over two months ago; generally only talk about frivolous stuff, not politics) or you can set up your own account to send direct messages, tho I warn you LJ is nearly dead; it was hurt by the advent of twitter and facebook, then the (possible) coup de grace was administered by the “OMGRussia!” hysteria, as the vast majority of (very leftwing, heavily creative-type) people still there abandoned the platform in protest because it had been bought out by a Russian company a couple of years ago, which of course, like all things Russian, was directly responsible for the election of Trump and the horrifying defeat by cheating of Saint Hillary. I wish I was joking but I’m not even exaggerating (except I don’t think anyone called her Saint Hillary).

    At least it’s free (or possibly it’s not and I was grandfathered in by having a free acount, I’m not sure).

    This would also go for Willy (or anyone else who felt like it; I’m very gregarious and friendly for a hot-tempered semi-reclusive misanthrope)(my somewhat hostile-sounding profile notwithstanding; I tend to redo it only when something has greatly annoyed me). I remember he said he twice tried to write a long reply to a comment of mine in a Mandos thread a while back that got eaten by the software and gave up; I’m still curious (I think it had to do with my observations on the political culture in DC during brief exposure).

    Again, don’t expect anything profound over there or you will be disappointed; I think my last years + worth of entries were all pop culture related.

  43. Mojave Wolf

    Re: the Flatland article.

    It is quite interesting, but I really can’t read past or get over being boggled by the “intellectual” writing books and essays on the need to save the biosphere who “could not come up with a non-anthropocentric view of why humans should value the natural world”

    This is where I have trouble even addressing people. It’s the same way you come up with a view of why humans other than yourself have value, other than their value to you. BECAUSE OTHER HUMANS/ANIMALS/PLANTS/WHAT HAVE YOU have value intrinsic to themselves indpendent of your friggin existence!!!!

    That is so obvious it SHOULD go without saying.

    Yes, you can make the argument “don’t kill the world because then it will be less fun for you to wander around surviving in a dead world” just like you can make the “more equality” argument by pointing out to rich types that the world is more fun when you can wander the streets without bodyguards and fear of being murdered/kidnapped/having your family members kidnapped, as has happened in some poorer countries with concentrated wealth at the top, but it really shouldn’t come to that.

    What the fuck is wrong with people?

    I’m not talking about basic ideological agreements about the best way to make life better, or even factual disagreements, where however much this also boggles me I get that there are well-intentioned folks who genuinely don’t believe in human-caused global warming or the destructive effects. Those people are wrong in a way that might help kill us all, but it doesn’t make them bad people (as weird as that sentence sounds). I can relate to these people. We’ve all been wrong and we will all be wrong again at some point, should we live long enough.

    But how do you not get that other living creatures have an existence and intrinsic worth independent of yourself (and, for the slightly less sociopathic, independent also of their value to your family and friends and people similar to yourself)?

    I don’t get how anyone can not get this.

    *That* is what’s going to get us all.

    Which may or may not be the failure of imagination the author was speaking of; I read that one part several times and every time I read past it I kept going back to see what was before and re-reading that section and shaking my head.

    Clearly I have my own failure of imagination, or understanding, or something, which if I could get past it might help me reach such people. But then, I try to AVOID SUCH PEOPLE LIKE THE PLAGUE so . . .


  44. Mojave Wolf

    @Willy — Have you ever read Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”? It has a couple of chapters dealing with things like The Heartland Institute and where the funding for the AGW denialism comes from and how they try to manipulate discourse (with a frightening amount of success).

    On the same token, re: “greed + Jesus”, as someone who used to be very devout myself, I never understood things like “the Prosperity Gospel” or how there were all these supposedly fundamentalist Christians who were also Ayn Rand acolytes. Rand’s writing is MUCH more akin to The Satanic Bible (this is a real thing) than to the Gospels or the New Testament. (to spare anyone reading either Rand or Levay, they both advocate selfishness as the way to personal uplift, if you want a quickie oversimplified shorthand). Rand thinks altruism and self-sacrifice is the great evil. Jesus is all about the self-sacrifice for the good of others. Literally, in his case. Yet people manage to convince themselves that they are good followers of both.

  45. Tom W Harris

    Speaking of RussiaRussiaRussia, here’s a meme that implicitly skewers the hysteria:

  46. someofparts

    I’m just starting to study the history of the Western hemisphere before the arrival of Europeans. Right away I have been intrigued by how varied and complicated the cultures were, but especially how very, very long they were around before our ancestors showed up. So why could populous, complex cultures rise and fall for so many centuries with no peril to the planet until the dawn of industrialization? My guess is that the technology IS the problem. Human culture, meanwhile, is no better or worse than it has ever been. It just is not capable of using this technology without killing itself. Kind of like letting a toddler drive a car. The child is a perfectly normal youngster, but people will get killed if you let it drive.

    I don’t think propaganda is especially puzzling either. Seems like it’s a body of practices that have been refined and improved over the last couple of centuries. There are plenty of books that teach a person how it works and how to wield it for one’s own purposes. The fact that it does work is very unpleasant and contravenes plenty of our favorite ideas about who humans are and how we think, but I don’t believe learning how to catapult it onto people is mysterious or even difficult.

  47. Ian Welsh

    I’ve seen estimates that the plagues that followed European arrival wiped out as much as 90% of the population. It doesn’t need more explanation than that. If Europeans/N. Amerians today lost 90% of our population, no tech would save us from those who decided they wanted our lands.

  48. someofparts

    Yes. I didn’t mean to suggest that the natives were wiped out by our technology instead of our germs. Instead I was just speculating that if those natives had possessed the industrial processes we deploy, they would have ruined themselves with them just as we are doing. My point was that any human culture would abuse such tools to its own detriment.

  49. Webstir

    “Seems like it’s a body of practices that have been refined and improved over the last couple of centuries. “

    Just pick up a social psychology textbook. It’s all there. The wheels started coming off with the nearly simultaneous emergence of modern media (radio and television) and the research psychologist. Hollywood and Madison Avenue perfected the application of the two, and shortly after politicians.

    We’ve been living in their world ever since. Those that uncritically consume media (and by critical, I mean, you better know your social psych like the back of your hand) are indeed the slaves Ian speaks of. Consumers … that have caught the virus Ian speaks of.

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. 90% of the people in the U.S. have a bullet in their head that was put there by their T.V.

  50. Willy

    @Mohave Wolf,
    Thanks, I will read that if I ever get the time. Robert Reich has some short videos, maybe made with the time-challenged in mind, about reaching the other side regarding issues we all have in common. His primary rule is to not provoke tribalism which quickly deafens ears.

    I’m hoping any ‘antidotes’ will scale (translate?) well. For example successfully dealing with office sociopaths or bully bosses may involve similar techniques to managing corrupt global PTB and the toxic national cultures they promote.

    IMO Jesus is right about happiness and fulfillment not requiring cash prizes. My father the minister was far happier in his little house on the prairie surrounded by good friends and family than he is now in a pricy (because of skyrocketing values) west coast home trying to keep up with his ‘successful’ prosperity gospel wingnut son-in-law. Dad inherited money from his father and spent it all on extravagant trips overseas, then bragged to his mostly poor congregation that these were blessings from Jesus. Bad mistake. Where his prairie congregation had grown fueled by fellowship, his current one has died. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if prosperity gospel is the way it works then why aren’t all priests, monks and nuns driving Mercedes and sporting bling? BTW, the in-law is average in every way except for his considerable talents in the art of charm and nepotism, usually involving his fellow megachurch members, which he then credits Jesus for. I haven’t done any studies, but the limited evidence suggests that the hopelessly poor become disenchanted, excluded, then eventually leave that church.

    Rand was right about misguided power limiting personal potentials (she might’ve been permanently scarred by what her father went through in the USSR). But like Marx, she completely ignored who all power games tend to reward. Unchecked concentrated power eventually always goes vicious and corrupt. Nice guys really do finish last because they don’t have nearly as many weapons they’re willing to use, as the bad guys do. And giving complete freedom to the successful selfish, again, leads to misguided power limiting personal potentials. The road to hell is paved with good intentions co-opted by lying sons of bitches.

    I’d think that somewhere between the two (or best of the two, well-regulated) is a best fit solution that fits most people. Personally, I would study, then euthanize psychopaths.

  51. Peter


    For years I’ve hoped the left could evolve and create new ideas for the future but as your DOTE link shows they are stuck in boring repetitive anti-capitalist, anti-civilization, anti-human claptrap. The only vision they offer for the future is a collectivist nightmare of reducing humans to an insect or Borg like existence under the powerful control of their elite globalists totalitarians. They can’t even admit that the failed soviet socialism produced some of the most distructive ecological disasters in history along with the social nightmares of the millions of dead subjects. The DOTE author also projects the false claim that the US has done nothing to reduce GHG emissions, because Trump and Americans have rejected globalists IPCC mandates, while the fact is that the US is the only country to reduce CO2 emissions using market forces without unconstitutional mandates.

  52. Hugh

    Domestically, the Constitutional power is found in the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution: Article I, Section 8, Clause 3: “The Congress shall have Power … To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

    Internationally, the Constitutional power derives from Article VI, Clause 2: “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

  53. Mike


    I love a good right wing rant. Thanks for proving the Flatland point.

    Also: in the real world, US GHG emissions have only reduced due to a combination of real-world (non financialised) economic contraction and offshoring of CO2 producing processes.

  54. Willy

    I like Peter. He’s my poster boy for old school thinking. Very old school.

    One would hope that Peter’s preachings would involve more than just Stalinic fire and brimstone with all the shaming and shunning. The youth of today are far more political, secular, and dare I say, astute about their futures, then those from his generation. Probably because of all the pressures their parents didn’t have. Socioeconomically, the youth of today want what the Norse countries have. Hell, they’ll settle for Japan or even what their Western parents had post WWII. They know the way things are heading isn’t the way they want to go.

    Peter, I really think they got the warnings about Stalinist totalitarianism the first time they heard about them back in middle school. They may have even seen the old “Don’t you wanna be a Pepper too!” commercials on Youtube and thought: “WTF”? I would think your energies would be better spent trying to restore capitalism to a more honestly competitive state, before any violent totalitarian-inducing mob revolts really do happen.

  55. Willy

    China is by far the world leader in CO2 production but they’re still officially Communist.
    As for the other stuff, especially their economic ‘successes’, let’s credit capitalism.

    See what I did there? Cherry picking is fun!

  56. Peter


    A least you admit that the US is leading the world in reducing CO2 emissions while the collective is failing to meet their goals. Most of the offshoring of our heavy industry occured decades ago and are you really claiming that our 4.2% GDP growth rate is economic contraction? Much of our reduction of CO2 emmissions is due to the replacement of old coal fired generators with fracked natural gas fired turbines along with improvements in efficiency. These are market driven changes that improve profits while keeping costs to consumers lower everywhere except the Peoples Republic of California.

  57. Hugh

    China joined the WTO on December 11, 2001. That was just 17 years ago. NAFTA went into force on January 1, 1994 or 24 years ago.

    In January 1994, there were 16.855 million jobs in manufacturing. In August 2018, there were 12.717 million. Of course, in January 1994, the US population increased by 66 million from 259.487 million to now 325.71 million.

    Note: Job numbers are seasonally adjusted because I am comparing different months.

  58. Hugh

    Oops. that should read: Of course, the US population increased by 66 million from 259.487 million in January 1994 to now 325.71 million.

  59. Webstir

    By your logic, Peter, it’s ok to poison our aquifers in order to reduce CO2 levels because, markets.

  60. Peter


    You’re projecting, generalizing and exaggerating all in one statement, counselor. Industrial activity of any type produces some pollution but it is minimised by current regulation and best practices. Hydraulic fracturing has been used in the oil industry for over 50 years on conventional shallow wells without major groundwater contamination problems and today’s fracking of very deep tight oil and gas production wells hasn’t produced any major increase in this problem. These wells do produce huge amounts of saline water from deep aquifers but a new industry is developing to recycle this contaminated water for reuse in fracking new wells insted of using fresh water. After decades of observation I have come to view the increase in CO2 and moderate GW as more positive than negative changes in our environment. If market forces in the US moderate these changes and increase profits while limiting consumer costs this is also a positive development and it’s fun to mock the collectivists who fail to meet their goals while pushing CAGW alarmism.

  61. Webstir


    Uh huh.
    I don’t debate you, Peter.
    I just point out your foolishness.

  62. Foy

    Excellent post. Know Thyself. The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You……

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