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

Happiness, Love, and Terrorism

So, we’re seeing more attacks by motorists. (edited since the Japanese attack turned out to not be an attack. Woops.)

Many years ago, decades ago, I used to wonder why people didn’t use cars and trucks directly in terrorist attacks, not just as vehicles for bombs. Automobiles are one of the only things government can’t take away from people, because our entire society is set up to require them.

John Taylor Gatto, amusingly, used the fact that everyone had cars and almost never deliberately hit anyone as proof that people could, basically, be trusted.

That’s breaking down.

Look, this is simple enough. Our lives suck ass. Despite Abe’s manipulated stats, living in Japan is hellish, even if you are in the system. If you aren’t in the system, it’s beyond hellish.

As for most of the West, most people haven’t had a raise in 40 years, and while inflation stats say, “Hey, that’s okay, because wages have slightly exceeded inflation,” that’s BS, especially in the US, where prices for everything you MUST have, like food, medicine, and housing have increased far faster than wages.

The culture has also moved increasingly to a surveillance culture. This isn’t just about government (cameras everywhere) or private companies who try to track everything we do and are pretty successful; it’s about us–with parents, for example, turning into helicopter parents who basically never let their children have unsupervised time without adults around.

And if you do try, well the cops and children’s services will take your children away from you.

In workplaces more and more electronic devices track what workers do minute by minute and in some cases, like Amazon warehouses, by seconds.

Meanwhile, we have an ideology which says that if you have money you deserve to have it, and if you don’t, you don’t deserve to have it. So not only do you get to be poor, you get to feel bad because you weren’t enough of a psychopath to climb the corporate ladder. (Yes, yes, a few people get rich without engaging in psychopathic behaviour. Maybe you’re one of them. You are an exception.)

Back in the 70s and even 80s, which I remember well, there were no security guards in most buildings. Most governments did not have blast barriers. You could just walk into legislatures. This is not an exaggeration.

We have created a hell world, then we wonder why people eventually freak out and do hellish things.

Why they take what little power they have and kill.

Oh yes, they shouldn’t, blah, blah, blah. Why you are in just as bad a place as they are and you haven’t, so they shouldn’t, because you are the measure of all things.

But human nature resides on bell curves. There are always going to be some people at the ends of the curves. Move the center 10 percent over and you get a lot more than a 10 percent increase in violence.

Who doesn’t commit violence?

Happy people who love the people around them and are looking forward to their future. Those people only commit violence when they or their loved ones are attacked, or if their government tells them to (the last one is rarely to their credit).

It isn’t more complicated than that. If you create a dystopian surveillance society, raise prices on things people need faster than wages will provide for and tell people they are bad people for not being successful when your society makes it harder and harder to be successful and worse and worse for those who fail, some of them are going to flip out.

Eventually, enough may lose patience and stop believing they are the ones who suck, and cause a revolution instead.

I just hope they kill the right people when the time comes. Because don’t think they won’t kill.

A reminder to any members of the elite reading this: Those who have more power have more responsibility. Your subjects are largely what you made them. You will eventually reap as you have sowed.

Indeed you are already, but so far most of this violence hasn’t hit you.

Don’t expect that to continue. More flip-outs are going to target people with power as time goes on.

Bank on it.

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The Coming War with Iran?


Who Do You Want to Win an Iranian/American War?


  1. neal birch

    You\’ve heard of the rat park?
    We could make the world into a human rat park, but instead we have what we have.

  2. nihil obstet

    We act according to more disparate ideas than an overall motive would suggest. It’s not just “I want to kill those suckers” so you pick the easiest, most effective weapon; you have a classification system that determines what a weapon is. In our society, cars aren’t classified as a weapon against the general population. You can run down a targeted individual in a dark alley, according to our thrillers. You can bump another car off the road. But as a generalized, mass attack, it takes some mental rewiring for a terrorist to get into it. Now that it’s started, it may become more general. On the other hand, the need for cars may act as a mental suppressant.

    I think I accuse others of hypocrisy when I forget this — that the person I disagree with has different classifications than mine.

  3. StewartM

    As someone who bicycles (and I used to bicycle commute to and from work, for a period, I put more miles on the bike than my car every year) I agree I’ve seen more and more automotive road rage build over the years. People have hit, or tried to hit me with things, plus other bicyclists I know–even if we were in a separate bike lane, separated from automotive traffic. Recently, a coworker of mine was deliberately hit by a truck with a driver spouting epithets.

    My own opinion is that this aggression starts with animals. There was a 2012 Clemson study using realistic-looking rubber animals which showed a surprising number of drivers go out of their way and weaponize their cars to squash them. This not only included animals like snakes, which suffer prejudice, but also non-threatening animals like turtles (me, on the bike, will stop to move both off the road).

    I also have noted a change in bullying in school from my time as a student to today. When I was in school, there was a lot less bullying (at least in my region). If a kid or group of kids started to harass a smaller kid, bigger and/or older kids would step in and stop it—“hey, pick on someone your own size” would be their admonition. It wasn’t considered cool. But now, the attitude is “if you can get away with it, if you’ve got it, flaunt it” and there has been an upsurge in bullying.

    I figure this is in part place-related as well as time-related, but I can’t help but think much of it is due to the transition from the much more egalitarian America of my youth, to the very unequal America of my adulthood (this also generally fits in with anthropological observations of equal versus unequal societies). Just like the rich of that period pretended that they too were middle-class (I remember a 60 minutes story about J Paul Getty having five cars, some not working because ‘he couldn’t afford to fix them”) while the athletes of the period spoke graciously about their opponents (“we were fortunate to win”) instead of trash-talking them.

  4. Hugh

    Many more people OD on drugs or drink themselves to death. Millions do drugs or drink to deal with their pain and hopelessness. Aside from a few stray psychopaths, happy people aren’t violent to themselves or others.

  5. bob mcmanus

    C’mon, we are all watching the End of the World on Live TV and Real Time Internet. As more of us understand that They Are Not Fixing This and allowing us to die in the billions we will start acting out our terror and rage. In millions every day. The crazy has not even really begun. Suicide cults and incendiaries in every burg.

    And fuck it, I don’t care. I got Haydn and Hell Monkey strain. I am a monster generated by a mutant swamp. Many will become monsters of action, and monsters of indifference, and monsters of grief and sorrow.

    I am not judging my neighbour in Hell.

  6. Herman

    It is wild how so many people don’t get this. There are many people who just don’t understand how bad things have gotten for millions of people. I encounter a lot of Steven Pinker-style “everything is getting better and better” nonsense, usually from comfortable upper or upper middle-class types who have pretty good lives compared to most people. They just don’t want to believe that decline can happen because faith in progress is so important to their worldview.

    If you bring up stats about rising suicide rates, drug and alcohol deaths, depression, anxiety and other obvious signs of social decay they will just say that is because people don’t know how to cope with change. People just need to get with the times and learn how to code or whatever the stock advice is these days.

    You will also get accused of being a nostalgic fool if you argue that in many ways things were better in the past than they are now, because things have never gotten worse, ever. Thou shalt not question the myth of progress. If you happen to be a white male the reactions will be even worse and many people will assume that you must be a reactionary racist/sexist who wants to bring back segregation and force women back into the kitchen.

    If elites are not worried yet it is because they know that most people are so atomized and lonely that they cannot start any kind of organized opposition even if they wanted to. It is recognized that people flipping out is bad but lone wolves aren’t threats to the status quo. Lone wolf attackers are another sign of how sick our society has become and how loneliness and atomization breeds destructive nihilism among people.

    If some elites are worried they will demand more surveillance, more power for law enforcement and other measures to control human behavior. Our more “progressive” elites will likely support mental health programs and research into biomedical solutions to behavioral problems as well as some minor reforms to placate poor and working-class people.

    I suspect that this is why so many liberal Silicon Valley magnates support UBI. Their hope is that UBI, combined with psychoactive drugs, consumerism, video games, TV and other distractions will keep people placated so that the “losers” of society will just quietly die out in a peaceful manner. On the other side of the spectrum, right-wing elites might demand more punitive measures but there is no doubt that we are on our way to a hellish dystopia and to a large extent we are already there.

  7. anon

    Not only are people unhappier than before, you have an entire generation being raised as zombies hooked on meds and tech screens. When I was in school, we at least did not have smartphones yet (I’m an older Millennial), so a school days mainly consisted of human interaction, no worries about cell phones interrupting class time, physical exercise, and civilized intellectual debate. Some of my classmates were taking medication for ADHD, but only a small number, which I’m sure has grown since the 1990s. Columbine was a huge topic of discussion because it still felt out of the ordinary back then. Rather than having an active shooter drill like so many schools do today, my high school had an hour-long assembly dedicated to discussing the Columbine shooting. Now it happens pretty much every week in America. It’s not a matter of if but when the next school shooting will occur.

    And as you have pointed out, I never remembered major incidents in which crowds of people were run down intentionally by an automobile. I would have never imagined this becoming commonplace before the mid-2000’s.

    By the time I was in college, Facebook had just been developed, and more people were becoming hooked on their phones and sitting in college computer labs for hours on end, not only to write a term paper, but to text, surf the web, and play video games. Now, it’s even worse with people becoming more unhinged as they rant on Twitter (including America’s current president), communicate via texting rather than calling and meeting in person, and are being taught by iPads rather than human teachers (like underfunded schools used as guinea pigs by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative).

    I have seen firsthand how YouTube and Twitter have made otherwise normal and fairly good people become much more extremist in their political beliefs. I’ve seen this happen to a family member and former classmates who are more nationalist and hateful towards others with different viewpoints. For people dealing with depression and hopelessness, I have no doubt that all of these things can ultimately lead them to easily research and perform monstrous acts of violence against the “other”.

    These problems are going to get worse before they get better. You have more of the elites in Silicon Valley realizing that this is a problem, which is why they are keeping their own children away from technology while forcing it on everyone else’s children. Those who are rich will have the resources to have fun in other ways that still involve human interaction and traditional learning, but those options will be too expensive for the masses, so most will have to resort to being in front of a smartphone to pass the time.

    I wish for the days when everyone wasn’t expected to sit in front of a computer screen for eight or more hours a day and abusive bosses didn’t have a way to text and call workers at all hours of the night (this happens with regularity in certain work cultures like Japan, btw). I admit to also having a bit of a smartphone addiction. I’ve noticed that my attention span is shorter than what it used to be and I read a lot more books prior to 2000. My generation and likely the ones after mine also have to contend with the possibility of never owning a home in most major cities, unless inherited from family. When more people are struggling to save, won’t ever own a home, work longer hours, and can’t afford to start a family, there will be more people prone to doing something drastic and horrible to release pent-up anger and frustration. The problems of unhappiness and isolation are bound to only get worse in a world that is becoming more unequal, less interactive offline, and less community based.

  8. someofparts

    Has anyone else noticed how generations and communities displace others in our cities? I have seen this over a lifetime in my small town.

    It led me to develop this notion that grounded, humane, creative people always find some new place, someplace that the voracious, greedy mobs haven’t spotted yet. They create charm and nourishing communities. Then the greedy mobs find out about it and invade and spoil everything. The creative humane people quietly leave and go somewhere else and produce fresh charm and liveability in a new spot, until the mobs get wind of it and invade again.

    So I look for the places the mad greed monsters haven’t found yet and enjoy them until they get overrun. Been thinking that trying to pick up at least basic conversational Spanish would help me, going forward, to keep finding hidden neighborhoods that are still fit to live in.

  9. Willy

    As a teenager I worked at a local supermarket for college money, along with a few other neighborhood kids. Back then it was pretty good union pay. One friend decided he wasn’t college material and went company. One day he asked me if he should buy either a boat or a house. I told him that a boat is a hole in the water you throw money into, but a house is an investment. So, for a year he stayed with his parents saving his money. And then he bought both. I moved on, but he stayed with the grocery business.

    It’s been 30 years, and this post prompted me to look him up just now. The Google map pics shows his same little boat in the same front yard of the same little house. As a grocer he’s definitely been one of the never-seen-a-raise folks. Apparently his life peaked when he was nineteen years old, and he’s just been hanging on ever since. Then I found another source which says he’s a Republican.

    I know a bunch of different union guys who vote Republican. I don’t think it’s any kind of protest statement. They appear to be genuinely tribal zombie. It seems that a little home equity and a lot of Limbaugh is the opiate of the masses.

    I’m tempted to write my old friend a letter explaining the real causes of his situation. I’d call him a useful tool, a loser, a fucking moron… then sign it with the name of his psychopathic rival who stepped on him on the way up to store manager. Not sure if that’d make him wanna smash his car pulling a boat into the other guys crowded store, but it might make him think for once.

  10. nigelk

    Wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent entirely new beasts, and beasts so terrible that the ancient animal symbols of St. John will seem like cooing doves and cupids in comparison. – Heinrich Heine

  11. Tom

    Iran is pulling out of the deal which is now dead unless the EU actually sticks it to the US, which judging by their statements, they don’t want to do.

  12. so

    I remember as an art student in the 80s in Albany NY going frequently to the State senate and assembly chambers to look at all the beautiful crafts on display. Stone, wood, and steel everywhere. Nothing was off limits. The people who worked there were proud of the history on display.
    I’m sure that its nothing like that now as I attempted the same in the late 90s and was accosted by guards. After 9/11 who knows.
    It seems that all of us, including the Evil Rich, are going to learn firsthand that we are our brothers keeper. We are all one. The separation is the illusion.

  13. John

    “I just hope they kill the right people when the time comes”
    Sorry, I don’t think it works like that. It will be just random killing. Or thorough killing…everybody gets it. When then Mongols took Merv, jewel of the desert, it is said they methodically slaughtered the whole population and then sent a team back three weeks later to finish off survivors who hid. And of course there is that old fashioned Christian aphorism: kill them all God knows his own, from the sack of Beziers at the beginning of the Albigensien crusade. We are far enough from the last bloodletting orgy WW2 that some are ready for another.

  14. altruisticpunisher

    While I agree with the sentiment of the article re: violent escalation in desperate times, the news report about of Japan about this incident (if it\’s the same one) states that it was a collision between two drivers, women in their 50s-60s.

    \”Fumiko Shintate, 52, and Michiko Shimoyama, 62, the drivers of the two vehicles that collided at a crossing at around 10:15 a.m., were arrested at the scene on suspicion of negligent driving resulting in injury.

    Shintate was allegedly trying to make a right turn and hit Shimoyama\’s car, which was coming from the opposite direction. Shimoyama\’s car then slammed into the children who were waiting with the three teachers for the crosswalk signal to change.\”

  15. As this thin layer of gases enveloping the only rock we know of we can live on/in continue to grow ever more toxic the central to northern migrations will be unlike anything seen since the Neanderthal. It’s already happening in Eurasia, where the “civil” wars are as much about water as religious idiocy, or oil. It is happening here. It may be beyond our comprehension. We are distracted by the politics, bloodshed and War, but the migrations not only out N Africa and the Middle East but Central America and the Islands are drought related.

    We’re not going to stop millions or tens of millions, perhaps even hundreds of millions, of people determined to leave someplace that has become uninhabitable by just saying “no”. We’re not going to stop it. We won’t stop it. It can’t be stopped. And it is playing out equally on both sides of the planet: When we look to the middle east and beyond the wars over oil and religious insanity we find drought. Mega-drought, rapid desertification, and the outright theft of one nation/state’s water by her neighbor to the south. And famine. That population is fleeing north. It can’t be stopped. It won’t be stopped.

    So too on our side of the pond, something I’ve been pointing to for several years but only recently catching the attention of the mainstream with the advent of drumpf uck’s ooga-booga caravan of Central American refugees fleeing not just crime and violence but drought. Mega-drought, rapid desertification and famine. That population is fleeing north. It can’t be stopped. It won’t be stopped. We can’t stop the migration. Ask the Neanderthal.

    Which isn’t to say we won’t try. We will need to grow thicker skin as it is but one factor in the equation seven billion, ten in ten years, people on a ball of mud that can barely sustain one.

  16. ponderer

    Unfortunately, until they start driving over rich connected people, no ones lives will be better. That’s the problem when people snap its not generally in a strategic location to have the maximum effect on society. I’ve been saying for years that desensitizing a large, hostile, populace to violence and taking away any relief from their crappy lives will not work out for our elites. Not sure when the dam will break, but I wouldn’t want to be a yankee (in the south) living in a McMansion when it does. Seems like a good time to live as close to a large family unit as possible.

  17. Hairhead

    As telling as the (not really) “random” violence stressed people perpetrate upon others is the skyrocketing violence they perpetrate upon themselves. I am referring the flood of self-slaughter by opiods and other drugs, and other misreported suicides (i.e. – “accidental” overdoses of prescripton drugs, suicide-by-car, etc.)

    Here in British Columbia, Canada, 1000 people, all most all below the age of 50, die from opiod/fentanyl overdoses every year. That’s THREE A DAY!. And the count would likely be double if it were not for the efficacy of Narcan. That’s about 4,000 dead acros Canada in 2018.

    What’s more amazing is the collection shrug from both the public and the authorities. If it were 4,000 dying from measles or any other disease there would be a national crisis declared and action taken.

    It’s as though everyone knows (though no-one is saying) that life is generally shitty these days, and about to get worse, sowhattayagonnado?

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