The World As Belief and Wanton Desire: Ending the Addiction

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We are spoiled here in the West: all the latest techno-gadgets, the sweetest toys, grocery stores with shelves full to overflowing, infinite consumer choice for whatever the heart desires.  But that is not all, no that is not all.  Hot and cold running water all of the time, central heating and air conditioning thermostatically controlled by us in our homes and businesses, electricity on-demand with the flip of a switch, 300+ channels of television, credit cards galore, the fastest internet connections on earth, 24 hour shopping networks; in short, an endless supply of distractions within a growing spectacle intended precisely for that purpose.

Our unquestioned belief in plenty and in the freedom to choose what we want from the “plenum” has infected our thinking throughout the Western world.  It has become like a drug to which we are now addicted.  Even with massive evidence to the contrary, we continue to believe – even to hope against hope – that this worldview is real and sustainable.  We refuse to read the signs of our own addiction, and the lies we continue to tell ourselves in order to maintain that belief.

The US political culture, in concert with our media oligarchy, is a prime example of how this mass delusion is disseminated and reinforced.  They simply keep feeding us the pabulum with ever-greater promises of new bounty, and we look no further for proof or refutation. Our addiction remains unquestioned.  The problem with ending this addiction is that even those of us who are convinced of the delusion are so overwhelmed by (what one fellow blogger calls) the “staggering momentum” of the spectacle and so entrenched in its addictive pleasure that even we cannot imagine a world devoid of the fruit; we remain “passively complicit” before of the charade, as another fellow blogger has described the situation.

Day upon day we continue to view images from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Greece, England, and elsewhere around the world, and we imagine: “thank god, that is not us.”  But it is us!  In fact the systems that control us are the very same ones that supported and institutionalized the conditions of abuse in those far-flung locales, sowing the seeds of human discontent.  We too are abused, driven into submissive conformity by the curriculum, as are our brothers and sisters across MENA and Europe.  But the abusiveness here has been mostly soft and hidden behind a façade of slick marketing, advertising, sloganeering, and alot of nationalistic mumbo-jumbo, including the big phrase “American Exceptionalism;” it is the language of inverted totalitarianism according to Chris Hedges.  But that too is changing, as the abuses of the State and its mechanisms become more evident daily.  In truth, the only thing really exceptional about us here in the Homeland has been our willful ignorance concerning the nature of our servitude, and the aforementioned complicity in our own enslavement to a system of manipulation and control that we unfailingly accept as a given.

Our addiction to the dream has simply been too strong; it has held us entranced and submissive before the promise of plenty.  And not once have we collectively thought about the limits of growth and sustainability or what we were in fact trading away in order to chase that dream.  The slogan was always, “put the pedal to the metal,” or “full steam ahead” and, more recently, “Just Do It!”  And we were cocksure we knew the truth, that we had the magic wand.  There were never enough eyes open to crack the surface appearances. We never recognized its delusional quality in such large numbers before now.  But as Dylan pointed out some years ago, “the times they are a-changin’,” and the world we have created through the unforgiving logic of command and control, sheer belief, and wanton desire, has begun to unravel more quickly as of late.  The edges are finally torn open, and the stuffing (along with our overstuffed plutocrats and bureaucrats) has begun to fall out.  But still, we hope, against hope, that we are wrong.  We still want to believe that this is just a bump in the road of America’s manifest destiny, and the supremacy of the curriculum of the West.

Then, what do you know, in the midst of this burgeoning public epiphany we have more clowns taking the stage, seeking to continue the charade, piling on the spectacle, trying to feed us the same tripe we have had to swallow on countless other occasions.  Whether the name is Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama, Palin, Bachmann, Perry, or a host of others screwballs and charlatans, they all have their talking points.  And “We, the People,” continue to listen to these snake oil salesmen and women as if they really care about us and are saying something meaningful.  But, they do not! and they are not!  They are just mouthing clichés, words whose meanings have long since vacated the premises.  After all, what does the word “democracy” mean anymore, or “freedom,” for that matter?  I guess we could always ask the Supreme Court to weigh in and make a judgment call on those terms; after all, they hastily redefined “corporations” as real persons.  Just ask Mitt Romney.  He was clever enough to remind his listeners in Iowa of that fact, just days before the straw poll.

The real question is: what is this country we call home, and where is it going?  The answer, I’m afraid, is not a pleasant one.  In brief, we seem more and more to be displaying our true colors, a totalitarian plutocracy managed by the elite and the well-heeled – bankers, financiers, international conglomerates, media moguls, their lobbyists, lawyers, and political cronies.  Perhaps it was never even a democracy, but a political aristocracy, just rearranging the deck chairs occasionally to keep up the appearances.  After all, isn’t that what America is all about… keeping up the appearances (or a stiff upper lip, as the Brits say), even when our lives are in turmoil and the nation is disintegrating before our eyes?

I know of no political solution to our problems, my good readers.  The way I see it, political institutions are at the root of our problems.  Whether it is a theocracy, aristocracy, oligarchy, plutocracy, capitalist democracy, fascist dictatorship, or communist regime, the net result is the same: expand and consolidate command and control of resources, including human resources.  The good old USA has been engaged in that very enterprise since its inception; first by taking from the American Indian, then from the Brits, the Spanish, the French, and then across the globe in MENA and elsewhere.  All political activity here from its founding has been focused on enriching the landed aristocracy, the lawyers and their friends, the financiers.  Who were Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Randolph, and the others?  They were the well-heeled and the lawyers. And who is in control today?

It is altogether another charade when these same leaders of the Western world call for Gaddafi or Assad to step down, or take over Iraq and Afghanistan.  I say charade because it was we in the West, and America in particular, that placed or helped maintain many if not all of these dictators in their place, financing their habits, providing their armaments, and enabling their terror.  We did so because it was in our “National Interest” to do so; and this phrase is just code for maintaining our worldview with its lavish lifestyle, and expanding our hegemonic influence.

But now that a large part of the world (both “free” and “enslaved”) has seen through the charade – a view that perhaps was made possible by the spectacular and catastrophic events of 9/11 – our leaders are quick to change their allegiances because they see a new window of opportunity to further enhance and secure their access to critical resources and markets in the hopes of continued expansion and consolidation of global power — keeping the spectacle alive for another fifty years perhaps.

My final question then is this: when, if ever, will the American people awaken en masse to their own enslavement to this Curriculum, and demand an end to the brutality enforced globally by its imperialist designs?  When will we demand an end to the financing of wars to subjugate and control; when will we demand an end to our own subjugation to a system that benefits the few while destroying the many and the planet we call HOME? My belief is that, like rats in a maze we now desire the treadmill and the prize that awaits us at the end of the race.  We have become so accustomed to the ‘rat race,’ all we seek is the safety and the security of the system, its curriculum and its head – the legislator.

After my divorce, when I was living as a single man in lower downtown Denver, a few of us guys would congregate very often at a particular local bar.  When the bar was just about to close up for the night, after what appeared to be our final drink, the elder among us would always say, “hey boys, let’s have a final-final.”  So I now have a final-final question for us. Why do we collectively believe that the body must be ruled by a headthe body politic by an archia? The early Israelites lived as nomads, refusing to be led and dictated to by a worldly ruler or head; they rejected kingship and the other trappings of civilization. So why do we believe that an archia (a ruler) is necessary today? Perhaps an outcome of collapse will be the reconstitution of a more primitive form of an-archy.

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78 Responses to The World As Belief and Wanton Desire: Ending the Addiction

  1. pat murphy says:

    Sandy,

    I presume you know that in old testament history the Israelites began to implore God to send them a king. God kept telling them that wouldn’t end well and no. Finally he relented. King David I think? The rest is history?

    I often ponder why people want to be ruled. Even a casual perusal of history shows that all governments become corrupt, have little concern for the serfs and it has always ended badly. I don’t understand why as a society we would succumb to such crap. Of course, having an anarchistic society of 300 million isn’t gonna work either. Too much disagreement on everything.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Pat – absolutely too much disagreement (LOL); that’s why after the projected die-off you have to hope this thing can be broken up into thousands of smaller communities, with some affiliation grounded in real afine relations and newly extended consanguine relations. But, hey, it’s all just a crap shoot right now. I have no idea how it will turn out.
      p.s. what did those Israelites and their God know, anyway? They still brought us a heap of trouble.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Btw Pat, of course the Israelites did not speak with this god themselves, conversations were mediumed through prophets or other chosen elders. So someone in the tribe knew damn well that kingship sucked.

    • Disaffected says:

      Just saw NoBama – aka the Great Communicator – on CBS’ Sunday Morning spouting his usual “wisdom of Soloman” line of crap: there’s nothing wrong with the US, we’ve “been here, done this” all before, and that if politicians would just learn to compromise life would revert to a real life Leave it to Beaver episode for all of us every day. I could only imagine that by compromise he meant that the Appeasement Party should just rubber stamp the the whims of the New American Nazi Party.

      Which made me think, the Wisdom of Soloman tale really needs to be updated for our times. So here goes:

      The Nazis and the Appeasers were fighting over who owned a baby, bouncing little American Public (although, God only knows why. A more corpulent, ill-tempered, and spoiled little brat you have NEVER seen!). The Appeasers, ever the appeasers (go figure!), proposed to the Nazis that the good and wise King NoBama be allowed to decide their case, for his wisdom was legendary and his judgments were sound. To which the Nazis, for once, readily agreed.

      After hearing both sides’ petitions for why it was they who should be allowed to rule over little American Public, the answer was obvious to good King NoBama, for he is without a doubt all knowing and all seeing. Realizing that the true rulers of American Public would put the baby’s needs before their own, he would propose that the baby be cut in two, knowing full well that the rightful ruler would never countenance such a thing, and would readily give up possession rather than see the baby harmed. This, he also thought, would be doubly beneficial, for he rightfully assessed that his own Appeasement Party would be the first to capitulate. Little did he know…

      “Hear ye hear ye, hear ye, Appeasers, Nazis, and all who make up little American Public, gather before me and listen to my verdict, for I am the Great and Wise King NoBama, and my wisdom is great and my judgments are sound. In the matter of the Appeasers vs. the Nazis over ownership of little baby American Public, I decree that the baby be cut in two and…

      Thhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhwack!

      At which point the wise King was rudely interrupted and found himself covered in blood splatter. There before him, in a pool of its own blood and entrails, lay the remaining, smaller half of little American Public, the larger half already carted off buy the opportunistic Nazis. The few remaining Nazi’s quickly offered to take the remaining, smaller half off of the Appeasers hands and clean up the mess as well – all for free! – which the Appeasers immediately agreed to as well.

      In the days afterward, the great and wise King NoBama pondered at length the unfortunate outcome that fateful day, and at length, he asked the Nazi leader directly, “How did you know what my decision would be beforehand, that you were so completely ready and able to exploit it to your advantage?”

      To which the opportunistic Nazi leader simply replied, “We didn’t. We were gonna chop the little bastard up either way.”

    • ouroboros says:

      pat murphy said:

      “I presume you know that in old testament history the Israelites began to implore God to send them a king. God kept telling them that wouldn’t end well and no. Finally he relented. King David I think? The rest is history?”

      Actually the first king of the Israelites was Saul, I believe, and yes, it began to go downhill quickly.
      Before the kings, the people of Israel were led by prophets: those who carried a vision for their people, a sense of their larger destiny, and who advised through access to Wisdom. And there were female prophets, too, like Miriam, who danced along with the nomadic Israelites singing and playing her tambourine.

      The closest we ‘Mericans ever got to prophets are what we called “statesmen”, those who held some sort of vision or expressed a philosophy, but it is a pale echo of the great age of prophets. Perhaps true prophecy will be desired again among the people after the tipping point and collapse of our culture lays waste to all the familiar sign posts of our world, and then new prophets will arise in the new desert.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Ouroboros – You may be right about the rise of prophets after collapse, some shamans or seers who can help redirect human activity. But, do you really think the closest we have come to prophets in Amerika is statesmen? I guess there is a residue of elder caring and guidance in the concept; but, it seems far cry from what we have and need today.

        And you are correct about Saul. Interestingly, he was appointed as king by the prophet Samuel. He killed himself fighting the Philistines, and David eventually won the throne in a contest with Saul’s only surviving son.

        I also believe there may be some prophets among us even today. Perhaps we are just too rational to hear them. But even the concept of the prophet has become mangled today, as someone who foretells the future. More correctly, as I am sure you would agree, is the prophet ‘s role as one who knew the way to live in the world, and was fearless (more of less) in providing guidance to the people, and even to kings, as Elijah did with king Ahab, and he lived to tell about it.

        Thanks for joining our discussion, good to hear your voice. sandy

      • kulturcritic says:

        One more reflection on this issue, Ouroboros;

        It seems to me that prophesy itself represented a prior loss of integration with the world as lived, and perhaps before prophesy, shamanism representing an initial sense of alienation from the surrounding environment, where the apparent need for specialists emerges in order to mediate the tribe’s relations with the powers that inhabit their world and that bind them to it (specialists of the sacred, if you will). Thus began the slow slide down the slippery slope to civilization and the emergence of infinitely specialized niches within an ever expanding hierarchy of social, economic and political relations. Just a thought.

  2. B Miller says:

    Another well written post. Ultimately history navigates it’s own path. We can help set the sails but we don’t control the tiller. Like you, I don’t think we can “plan” for much other than our own individual contingency plans. I live on a diversified farm, for one. What happens to our culture (however we define it) will probably be quickly out of our control. I’d like to believe that the old anarchist models of cooperation and non-hierarchical means of structuring a society will come into play. But, I’d be willing to bet it will be more of the same human history, just with less resources to play with.
    Brian

    • kulturcritic says:

      Thanks Brian. We have the same hope. But, it probably will be a long time coming because the interim arrangements are more likely to be a scaled down version of the same. You are right there.

  3. Brutus says:

    Why can’t we be nomadic, leaderless, and anarchic? The world isn’t really ready for that. Venkatesh Rao has apost over at Ribbon Farm describing his emergent lifestyle as a modern-day nomad, which clearly relies on the integrity of the political, social, and commercial institutions around him. The reason nomadic lifestyles failed before is that the British Empire showed up and declared that any land not issued title by some kind of fixed government suddenly belonged to the Queen. It was straight-up theft backed up by a military. I expect fixed governments and title to land to slowly ebb away (via depopulation, if nothing else), but in the meantime, we’re not yet ready.

  4. John Bollig says:

    Not only amused by the notes, Sandy but even a bit worried about it all. We don’t have 50 years to play this thing out. We have maybe 3- 5 years to play with here. We need to shift into overdrive mode. In Mother Earth news, there is a plan to create a sort of a one acre farm for family survival. I urge that everyone take this plan to heart.

    • Anarchrist says:

      What he said, I don’t see these complex human structures ebbing slowly.

      I’d liken our incumbent ‘growth’ paradigm to a rash mountaineer, bullish after having climbed past every minor obstacle but recently facing a true impasse. Any safe and slow way back down is unclear due arrogant over-commitment (just do it!) and our refusal to honestly reconsider the validity of past actions. What we are experiencing is still being stubbornly portrayed as a mere slowdown, a tricky interlude before we resume rapidly climbing on upward. As we’ve frantically attempted to ascend these last three years our options have only narrowed further, now as we cling to the rock face with our muscles on fire it is becoming ever harder to deny that the only remaining path back to ‘ground level’ is the quick and fatal kind. I don’t expect much of anything large-scale to survive the inevitable impact.

    • kulturcritic says:

      I hear ya John. My deal is worked out in Siberia!! Last place global warming will hit!!

  5. Brutus says:

    I said “slowly ebb away,” which is a near-term prediction. Once we lose our grip on the rock face and succumb to free fall (to entertain your apt mountaineering metaphor), it will all mostly likely be over and done with in a flash. Will a few be left hanging from safety lines for a little while? Probably, but to what avail, really?

    And as I’ve said in the comments threads to other posts here, which plausible catastrophic future is to be hoped for is still up for grabs.

    • Anarchrist says:

      Sorry Brutus, I believe know what you truly meant and how you feel about this stuff, though I wasn’t setting out to intentionally misunderstand. I suppose I’m hoping it all happens soon and fast as that will be easiest in the long run, as such the analogy appealed to me so thanks for playing along.

  6. Ken Hall says:

    When Uncle SAM sent me to Viet Nam in 1965 I considered myself a good patriotic American sent to keep the good ole USA safe and save the South Vietnamese from the North. Within weeks I had changed my mind and realized that we were not there to help the South Vietnamese (unless one considers killing and maiming the shit out of them helping ), we were the “ugly” Americans. Later in my life I became convinced that we were there for the potential that oil might be discovered; but, now in the Winter of my existence I think we were there simply to further enrich the Military Industrial Oligarchs. Perhaps they are going to get their oil bonus in Iraq this time around; too bad they are too stupid to realize they are setting the Earth up for the cockroaches to become the leading contender as our replacements.

    I think you have written a number of essays which explain why we are incapable of returning to a nomadic life style; to put it succinctly, “too fucking many humans”.

    What is surprising to me is the dearth of humans with, a penchant for scientific logic/understanding, attempting to enlighten the masses of the stupidity of their proclivities for child bearing and conspicuous consumption. They far too often defer to the mathematical charlatans known as economists whom spew their religiously oriented idiocy that proclaims the Earth is an infinite source of resources for humans to grab and utilize or waste as they desire.

    The really contemptuous bastards are the Oligarchs who mouth support for the so called free enterprise business paradigm when in reality they own the humans who exercise authority at the highest levels of government so as to ensure the the majority of laws which ostensibly ensure free enterprise are actually written to benefit them. Obviously they are shrewd accumulators of vast quantities of wealth but again apparently too stupid to recognize that what happened to precipitate the “great” depression is likely to happen this time also. When too many of the little people have no economic wherewithal their purchasing capability goes into the shiter followed shortly thereafter by the highly vaunted economic system.

    With more than 3 times the number of humans and likely half the Earth’s oil remaining (most of the easily obtained gone), the Earth’s temperature climbing, most, so called well off, humans more interested electronic toys which keep them continuously in contact with who knows who than in what is going on about them and the nuclear option insistently pulling back the curtain to peak out I tend to align with the graphs which depict human populations following the rise and collapse of oil production as proposed by M. King Hubert, a roughly 200-300 year aberration.

    Ken

    • kulturcritic says:

      A clearer alarm could not be imagined. Welcome to the storybook Ken. Yes, I do believe it will be somewhat catastrophic when the wheels fall off… but I do think they are trying to figure out how to scale that last face, to keep AC’s metaphor going

  7. Disaffected says:

    >My final question then is this: when, if ever, will the American people awaken en masse to their own enslavement to this Curriculum, and demand an end to the brutality enforced globally by its imperialist designs? <

    Never. Militarist, imperialist, fascist, corporate crony capitalism is now the only game in town worldwide. Were we in American ever to refute it – as absolutely unthinkable as that idea is – we ourselves would sink in earnest to the same third world status that we've previously relegated the rest of the world to. Senseless brutality is not merely an additional selling point for the system, it's an integral core feature required for the system to work at all. Brutality against its environment, brutality against its minions, brutality against its states and municipalities, brutality against its peer nation states, brutality among its corporations, and ultimately, brutality even among its oligarchs. Its "creative destruction" of which so much hyperbole has been spun, is ultimately, just plain old destruction, albeit of the totalitarian kind. The "coming" war of all against all is actually ingrained within our current system and has been underway for quite some time now. The only difference now is that some Americans and other soon to be former "first worlders" realize (far too late!) that they are targets too.

    Which also explains why hierarchical systems will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future. They’re simply the best systems devised yet for dividing and conquering the unruly feral masses, as well as being the linchpin holding the current, ultimately untenable, overpopulation mess together. Unfortunately, they’ll almost certainly be used to efficiently reduce those same untenable population levels when the time comes, if it hasn’t already.

    Dance with the one who brung ya might be the operable phrase here. Having been brought up and conditioned in the current culture our whole lives, most Americans simply have no conception whatsoever of any viable alternatives. And since that same culture has been and continues to actively propagandize us every waking minute of every day, the idea that a mass breakthrough in consciousness raising is going to succeed any time soon is probably a little far-fetched as well. No, we’re clearly destined to ride this thrill ride gone out of control all the way down to its inevitable conclusion – a giant, epochal smoking hole in the ground – one that such a massively destructive culture as ours can be rightfully and truly be proud of!

    Cue Slim Pickens/Major Kong:

  8. John Bollig says:

    Humm, now thats a spicy meatball.

    My feeling is that we will face the first wave of deaths pretty soon as the social security cuts / eugenics bill takes hold. 20 to 30 million will die in the first few months. Then the welfare cuts will kick in along with an aggressive military draft program. This is a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight. The MENA and chinese better be very worried that an aggressive well armed and energy hungry imperial force that will take and keep taking. I can certainly see china being denied its energy and responding with force to break the logjam that the indian navy and the combined US/ANZAC/jAP/SK forces will impose on china.

    • Disaffected says:

      Actually John, these spicy meatballs are always a slow motion disaster for those of us at ground zero, which is their true beauty in a nutshell. The tightening of social services was ALWAYS designed to be a gradual, almost imperceptible process. That’s the PURE BEAUTY of it! Tell the poor unwitting rubes that they’re being taken care of even as they’re not. And when they’re too old and too dead to contest it anymore, tie up their heirs (who realize they’re next in line for the same treatment) in endless litigation likewise. What’s not to love here?

      By the way, 20-30 million dead first world “old people” will hardly make a ripple in the world’s consciousness. Perhaps rightfully so, I might add.

      DA

    • Disaffected says:

      By the way, I’d be SERIOUSLY more worried about the Chinese bringing their CONSIDERABLY GREATER economic advantage to bear at this point. Should they ever decide to quit buying worthless US debt and exporting worthless shit to bankrupt US consumers, it’s GAME OVER for the world economy.

      Yeah, they’d take a major hit as well, but guess what? TRULY totalitarian economies (vs. the merely “virtual” kind we favor here in the US) tend to weather that kind of storm fairly well. Something about a few hundred thousand/million dead more or less not being all that big a deal when you have total state control of the media. Not that we’re all that far behind ourselves in that regard, especially considering the sophistication of our media.

      Just sayin’.

      DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      John – you’re not overcommitting yourself here, are you?

  9. Disaffected says:

    Looks like Libya is about to become the latest victory for “freedom,” aka Global Capitalism. Here’s hoping that those caught between a literal rock and a hard place find their way before the forces of global capitalism find it for them. Fat chance!

    USA! USA! USA! The kinder, gentler, boot on your neck!

    DA

  10. charley says:

    Here in Australia the mass delusion continues. A mining boom wholly dependent on Chinese demand has our politicians preening and strutting as if the good times will last forever. Meanwhile the manufacturing sector is quietly collapsing with thousands of jobs gone for ever. On the news last night it was reported that new homes being built in Oz were , on average, the biggest in the world. I wonder what it’s going to take for people to open their eyes and see the truth of the world rather than the fantasy they’re living.

    • kulturcritic says:

      As I said, Charley… the addiction is too strong, the denial too great, and the hope, against all hope, too overpowering. But, that will not stop the increasingly speedy deterioration of the environment, and the real signs of collapse. As I have said, prepare you and yours, and watch the spectacle unfold; there is not much that can be done at this juncture to stop it… it is a run away train. glad to have you joining us from Australia. sandy

  11. John Bollig says:

    DA, That 20 – 30 million is just the first wave of death that will come plowing down the strait of malucca to aden or singapore. the problem with the chinese is that they don’t have the energy to force their way thru the gap. The PLA realizes the fact that China will not be able to control the vital shipping lanes. The chinese navy is not large enough to take on a major force projection outside its immediate boundaries. if one looks at chinese combat performance in the past century, it does not bode well for sea lane control. The chinese are well positioned to grab large portions of the Russian Far East territories. Inspite of decades of efforts, the russian far east is still more vunerable to chinese invasion than a battle for the sea lanes.

    • Disaffected says:

      John,

      Me thinks the famed US military hegemony ain’t gonna be nearly so hegemonic once the economic wheels begin to come off in earnest. Which China, India, and the rest of the Pacific rim all hold the keys to. Once the War of All Against All commences in earnest it will be almost impossible to predict how the ever shifting alliances will play out strategically. It’s then that I predict the US will unleash the nuclear genie once again, first as a signaling device to indicate that we’re “Really Pissed” (I can imagine a whole DHS color coded “How Pissed Are We” scale being implemented, from Blue [Mildly annoyed, but don’t fuck with us!] to Red [You’re about to be glowing motherfuckers!]), and then, once everyone gets comfortable with atmospheric detonations over heavily populated areas again, we’ll start throwing them around just for shits, grins, and a few bucks (Hey Joe? How many megatons do you think it would take to level Shanghai? Gee, I dunno Ralph. Should we find out? Yeah, let me get the boys together first. We’ll start a pool!).

      But eventually, middle eastern oil will simply be out of our grasp logistically, militarily, and economically, as we will no longer have the means to waste all the energy it takes to transport the stuff back here to be burned. Makes me wonder if the middle east might one day be a mecca for the last of the oil culture, where people move to be close the last remaining sources of fossil fuel as some sort of bizarre oil/car worshiping cult straight out of the American 50s/60s. Might be kinda kitschy and mildly entertaining.

      DA

  12. kulturcritic says:

    Well DA. Perhaps you are right. But at the present we are inserting our hegemonic-militaristic asses right into Libya under false fucking pretenses. Just to control the flow of oil and secure new markets and slave labor. Watch this man; he knows.
    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=7187

    • Disaffected says:

      kC,
      Anytime the pompous asses in DC start spouting “freedom” and “liberty,” you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a buck or million to be made for somebody. Libya will cease to be important at all once all the proper oil and defense contracts (and few dozen military bases to expand the empire) are all in place. I guess by “false pretenses” you mean the shit that’s peddled to the American public under the guise that it’s anything more than over-the-top in-your-face propaganda. Anyone who’s actually paying attention surely knows better.
      DA

      • kulturcritic says:

        Let’s see if Russia, the EU and Amerika will fight this one out for dibs on the goodies!!

        • Disaffected says:

          Could be. Actually, I think Putin’s playing his hand pretty well over there. Russia’s sitting on a mountain of natural resources and not getting caught up in all the global empire bullshit, which the US, as the so-called “winner” of the cold war, has definitely succumbed too in a big way. Could be that the tables are turned in very short order and the Russians get the last (or at least the latest) laugh after all. Unfortunately, it seems very unlikely that anyone will still be calling themselves a “winner” in a few short years, including the global oligarchs; although, “loser” will definitely be a relative term as well.

  13. Less is more, and we will probably have to learn to live with that in our lifetime–the question is by how much–a quantitative reduction, or a qualitative one. The life of an empire has a specific trajectory, and where we are on it is a known entity. I haven’t heard yet a proposed workable solution for where we may be going, but props to you for discussing it.

    • Disaffected says:

      I guess the real question is (and Kudos for James Howard Kunstler and Sandy for asking it weekly), why isn’t our leadership even hinting at workable solutions going forward, other than propping up TBTF banks, and Wall Street by proxy?

      Failure of imagination? At first blush, possibly. Failure of intent/resolve? On second thought, that makes even more sense. Failure of character (i.e.; CORRUPTION, either borderline [alleged] or actual [convictable]), especially when combined with parts of questions one and two? Umm… You decide; although, REST ASSURED, I’ve already gathered enough evidence for my part.

  14. kulturcritic says:

    Jenny – great to have your voice heard here. Yes, we in the West, and the rest of the civilized world will need to learn to live with less. And there is a point at which quantitative reduction becomes qualitative. But the quality of life is a subjective evaluation. And while we judge the lives of those in ‘third world’ countries (patronizingly) as having a qualitatively poorer life, the judgment is subjective, although from our hyper-materialist viewpoint that more is better, we believe it to be an objective statement of fact.

    Empires do have a trajectory, as did the Persian, Roman, British, etc, so does the American. However, the trajectory we are on globally is that of Civilization writ large, the entire edifice from its beginnings 6,000 years ago until today. What we are approaching is not just the end of the American empire, but, I believe, the end of industrial civilization itself. This mode of life and its accompanying worldview has torn the heart out of the planet, seeking to command and control everything from air to animals to humans. We have depleted the soils, the water, the fossil fuels, even the air we breathe in an effort to grow and maintain a lifestyle that is inherently unsustainable. It will be interesting to see how the current empire fares as this thing continues to unravel at a faster clip than we built it up.

    In terms of workable solutions, Jenny. There are smaller groups working collectively on their survival, as are many individuals and families. However, I am not sure a political or large scale societal solution exits that could be implemented in the midst of this orgy of excess that is being driven by the most powerful (money-laden) people on earth. And, as I have said before, there are too many ‘have-nots’ who have recently been invited into the party (albeit as slaves, but they don’t know it); and these newcomers want to have it all. And there are millions upon millions of them from China, India, and the former Soviet Union. And the capitalists will do ‘whatever is necessary’ to ensure that the party goes on until the lights go out.

    • Disaffected says:

      Well said kC. MUCH more diplomatic than I would have put it. In terms of actual western expectations, we will soon have an EXPONENTIAL reduction in terms of both quality AND quantity. Are there any “workable solutions” on the horizon? Of course not. Will there be at any time in the future, given that we’re already and continually behind the power curve? Of course not. Is there any hope at all? Not really, but what little you have involves decentralization and localization. In other words, everything you’re NOT doing now. Other than that, have a nice day.

      By the way, might want to invest in a flak vest, a kevlar helmet, an automatic weapon, a large amount of ammunition, and the training to put it all together. Might be useful sometime soon. Or, just a large stash of well-protected opiates for personal use. You decide.

  15. john Bollig says:

    DA, Sandy and others,
    at this time of great chaos and death that will very soon be crashing down on us, we need to prepare our people for the coming crisis. Just got back from a meeting of disabled adults and the agencies they work for. I have never seen such a panicked look in these parent’s eyes as the grim budget cuts were forcasted. My feeling on this one is that they don’t get it and will never see old age anyway. The speakers were very unmoved by the pleas and stories they were told. They were reptiles.

    • Disaffected says:

      John,

      I won’t sugarcoat this. The “lesson” soon to be learned by all going forward is that the 20th century paradigm of a relatively “gold-plated” safety net for all US citizens is over. What inflation hasn’t taken already or soon will, government imposed austerity soon will. The cards have been dealt, the bets have been made, the hands have been played, and only the final and ongoing tally has yet to be displayed. Rest assured, if you’re not part of “the house” (and if you’re posting here, you’re not), you won’t like the results.

      Prediction: As the SS retirement age goes up, the average death rate of those collecting it will go down, until they reach a rough equilibrium; IDEALLY, EXACTLY equal. See there? THAT’S why I get to post the letters “MBA” after my name. Master of Bullshit, American style.

      DA, MBA

      • John Bollig says:

        DA,

        I don’t think that many of the policy makers in Washington DC are thinking beyound the 2012 election. The next two years are going to our chance to get items in order to prep for the impending disaster. Things are going to be very hard.

        • kulturcritic says:

          John – have you seen The Road? Sounds like you are prepped my friend.

        • Disaffected says:

          My only cautionary points are:

          1. I’m not sure any of us can be adequately prepared for the long term “known unknowns” (to borrow a term from the infamous “Donny” Rumsfeld, one of my ALL-TIME favorite lampoon subjects) facing us, and…

          2. I’m not sure how much preparation is really gonna matter anyway, given the (by definition) unknowable amount of unknown unknowns (I know, sounds like something straight out of “A Clockwork Orange,” doesn’t it?) out there.

          Although, it should go without saying to anyone reading this blog that I’m a died-in-the-wool cynic/pessimist, and that should be taken into account when reading ANYTHING I write. That said, I just said it again anyway, so there ya’ go. Wait, this isn’t one of those weird mirror in a mirror image moments where everything goes weird in a series of mirror images fading to infinity is it?

          DA

  16. pcrowell says:

    I believe the US is ranked 12th on the “fastest Internet” list which does not diminish your point but does demonstrate that we ain’t that hot technically anymore.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Peter – I always appreciate comments that enlighten without diminishing my point. You are welcome always to tell me like it is. Much of my writing is viscerally grounded, often without checking on the latest facts. I won’t apologize, but facts have become increasingly problematic entities, with many experts bandying them about to suit their needs. Please comment more often, I enjoy the fresh air. sandy

  17. Martin says:

    “The World As Belief and Wanton Desire: Ending the Addiction”???

    Wow! Judging from the content of the essay and comments thereto (not to mention others of similar ilk a priori) y’all are genuinely locked-in to a similar, if opposite, worldview of “…Belief and Wanton Desire…” to that of the so-called mainstream view; i.e., ‘The game is up…might as well shoot myself’.

    Now, I’m no pollyanna, and I tend to agree with the general trend demonstrated within this blog, BUT, what if there are more than just the two options at play? I have no idea what they might be myself, just raising the question since I’ve not seen any mention of any elsewhere within this particular little universe called Kulturecritic.

    • Disaffected says:

      Martin,

      Good question and good points. I’m genuinely open to suggestions as to what any proposed “middle ground” solution might be. Until then, I’ve always preferred Jimi Hendrix videos as opposed to merely marking time. But that’s just me. I REALLY like this one, in spite of all the blatant fascist corporate crony capitalist addendums they’ve added in the interim to add to your “viewing experience”:

      By the way, as a retired vet (24 years, 8 months), this one just plain makes me want to stand up and salute. How about you?

      DA

  18. Anarchrist says:

    All I know is that much of the world is primed for ‘what comes next?’ and I literally can’t wash the feeling off my brain. Call it mass hysteria if you like but I think everyone is aware of dire potential outcomes on some level at least. Went to the dentist recently and the receptionist booked me an appointment twelve months ahead, a ‘conventional looking’ woman of around 40-45 I’d guess, and she had this uncertain look on her face when she handed me the card, I grinned reassuringly and said “2012?” implying it was nothing to worry about, and she looked even less certain saying ” you never know…” Just a tiny every day encounter, but it really stuck in my mind nonetheless. There’s a lot of uncertainty about and with very good reason, in that there’s nothing much to be truly certain about any more, everything suddenly seems subject to change, that in itself is more than enough for self-fulfilling prophesy to come to fruition.

    Sandy mentioned ‘The Road’ above, which is ostensibly a 2012ish ‘end of the world’ type of flick, complete with the moving faults lines/random volcanism concept favoured by some of the more extreme ‘polar-shift apocalypse’ bunnies. **Spoilers** Truly though the film is an exhausting and endlessly harrowing study in human weakness – notably guilt and more importantly FEAR. Viggo Mortenson’s clutching grief and crushing fear is palpable throughout, right up until the point where he does the decent thing and croaks, leaving his boy to get on with growing up as best he can in a broken world. That was (to my mind) the point of the film: beyond the obvious stuff about simply surviving, the question becomes how do you live, and what happens to your humanity? They guy was so in grief, so afraid of ‘what might happen’ that his life was utter hell, a viewpoint which he constantly inflicted on his son. As soon as the stubborn bastard dies and the boy’s world becomes his own, he meets a skanky but helpful Guy Pierce and new horizons beckon. It’s a warning on the dangers of compulsive distorted thinking, likely equally useful in today’s weird world as it could be in tomorrow’s changed one. Films such as this are (intentionally or otherwise) going some way to exorcising (or exercising?) the hidden demons in our collective cognisphere regarding our uncertain future. There are notable others regardless of subject matter (and subjective quality) that a make similar point:

    Book of Eli
    Zombieland
    Monsters

    Obviously it doesn’t stop there, clearly the media is awash with odd little ‘what ifs’ (the bigger Hollywood items [2012] are obviously more about money than anything else). For my part I’ve often posted links to music videos here, mainly to point out that even well known ‘artists’ – though they may not understand 100% of what exactly what is going on worldwide (do any of us, really?) – are certainly aware that something wicked this way comes and are feeling the need to express that in any way they can. These influences are imperceptibly changing our expectations en masse. Are they preparing us? Are they spooking the herd? Both I reckon, but what comes next only time will tell.

    • Brutus says:

      Haven’t waded into this blog post with my comments yet, but this caught my eye. Anarchrist sez:

      well known ‘artists’ – though they may not understand 100% of what exactly what is going on worldwide (do any of us, really?) – are certainly aware that something wicked this way comes and are feeling the need to express that in any way they can

      More than a few cultural critics were/are obsessed with the artist as a chronicler of the times, since historians are not yet ready. I have argued elsewhere that the social conditions necessary to create truly great art are mostly gone, but there is clearly a variety of themes that are being played and replayed in lesser arts. The first wave of disaster films appeared in the 1970s alongside the first zombie films. Today’s disaster films share the sense of dread at what’s to come first expressed nearly 40 years ago, though many of them today are simply CGI festivals. (How many times do we really need to see Manhattan leveled?) Add to this genre various others that channel our inchoate desperation to be something other than human (superspies, superheroes, zombies, vampires, mutants, immortals, aliens, etc.) and the themes suggest a deep dissatisfaction with who and what we’ve become. And since these arts are mass market, their effect on the public is more potent than, say, painting, architecture, or literature. Poetry is pretty much dead for now, like philosophy.

      So whether the arts are driving our awareness or reflecting it is a good question, though the answer doesn’t ultimately mean anything beyond being an observation.

      • kulturcritic says:

        The discussion of art is interesting because it raises again the issue of entertainment as distraction and/or propaganda and/or business venture. Is art (particularly cinema) in a capitalist society concerned with communicating truth, reinforcing a specific worldview, or making money. Does one look at The Road, for example, and say “Civilization is wonderful… we cannot let it slip away; we must keep it going at all costs.” Or does it serve to provide images of alternatives to the present reality, or even the two options that Martin correctly cites above?

        Perhaps there are other ‘options’ as Martin says, and perhaps we need a true artist, prophet, shaman to articulate such, or at least point the way. There are of course our engineering elite who believe they can invent a new world in which we can live. Some of those are greener versions of what currently exists, others are purely artificial environments, even virtual worlds. Others still discuss reconstructing civilization on other planets or in other galaxies. There is no end to the fantasies generated out of our current circumstances, and the desire to establish the eternal continuation of this worldview we have come to inhabit and call home.

        There are others, Martin, and I have voiced a similar opinion many times, who suggest a scaling back at the local, or tribal, level; reconstituting societal units based upon small groups of consanguine and affine relations. That would also require working out the details of living in a smaller way. But the fact is this civilization has made those options less likely if not impossible to pursue now.

        We have willfully created the conditions of our own demise. We imagined an objective and lifeless world. We imagined ourselves independent of that world. We imagined ways to exert influence on those objects of our world. And we imagined a human nature so vile and horrific that it was incumbent upon us to control it as well, or else. We established a red herring, the bogeyman of human nature, Hobbes’ savage, and we have successfully inflicted that propaganda so that it has become (or soon will become) a self-fulfilling prophecy. There was no “warre of all against all” as Hobbes imagined in our dusky prehistory. The war he imagined is the one that may surely result when this edifice and artifice of civilization is dismantled, and the newly uncivilized will start to explore some of those evil habits they have come to expect of themselves the moment appropriate adult supervision is found lacking.

        • Martin says:

          “We have willfully created the conditions of our own demise. We imagined an objective and lifeless world. We imagined ourselves independent of that world. We imagined ways to exert influence on those objects of our world. And we imagined a human nature so vile and horrific that it was incumbent upon us to control it as well, or else.”

          Well, some of ‘us’ did – and many of ‘them’ continue to do so, but (and this is based solely on some conversations, readings of other blogs, various books & etc.) there appears to be a large and growing number of folks who are no longer entirely buying in to the gig but have not as yet formed a viable alternative to that-which-exists. The biggest obstacle to extracting ourselves from the mire of modern civ. appears to me to be the lag-time involved in coming up with a different way of doing/being and then being able to implement it in time to somehow avoid the inevitable as proscribed herein.

          “We established a red herring, the bogeyman of human nature, Hobbes’ savage, and we have successfully inflicted that propaganda so that it has become (or soon will become) a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

          True enough.

          Unless…..

          • kulturcritic says:

            You are right Martin, there is a growing number of folks in the ‘First World’ who are tuned in to the unfolding debacle and looking for the nearest exit.

            But, when I speak about “We,” I am not suggesting that each of us individually created this worldview, although it is true that we have been complicit in helping to maintain it. The problematic is more entrenched in our culture (Western culture), and goes back centuries, if not millennia, to the conditions which led to the emergence of urban, and then industrial life. There was over the ensuing centuries a subtle but progressively alienating shift in our perceptions of the environment and how we fit into it, and hence a change in our relations with nature (as we now call it) and with one another. I suspect that those alterations in consciousness and our existential awareness will not be so easy to overcome or reverse (depending upon your point of view). In either case, we cannot suddenly undo or redo 6,000 years of human history, over 200 generations of indoctrination to the Curriculum (even if that were the desired goal), and achieve a new worldview and a new world order in a few short years or even generations. It will require a fundamental change in consciousness, a metanoia, if you will, from the Greek, meta-noein “to change one’s mind” or, theologically, a conversion experience of sorts.

            I have called this, in other places, the “recollection” of a forgotten genetic memory-trace buried deep within the species, and within each of us as members of the species. It is a recollection of our fundamental and corporeal (bodily) intertwining with a world – an environment whose sensuousness speaks to me as I receive it and experience its power, and speak back to it in gesture and act, ‘my flesh, the flesh of the world.’

            So, unless we can achieve such a collective conversion, I believe … game over!

            best, sandy

      • Anarchrist says:

        Quite so Brutus, just my musings regarding the tension I see building in people everywhere, and the apparent feedback loop in the entertainment that most people (myself included) have been consuming for as long as I can remember. We can see a newish trend of realism portrayed in films generally, better permitting a suspension of disbelief and thus reinforcing the plausible ‘what if’ element in a genre that could be described as ‘post-normality’. If you haven’t tried ‘Monsters’ (2010) I’d recommend it. Rather different to what you might expect given the name, it’s a real gem of a low-budget character-driven creation, as much about what is as what can be imagined.

        Sandy is right to ask if propaganda, distraction, revenue etc. are at work in the mass-media ‘arts’, certainly they are and clearly much of the big-budget Hollywood tosh is best avoided, or at least allowed to wash over a person and quickly evaporate like the vapid froth it is. But of course not everybody is pulling in the same direction and a myriad alternative agendas and viewpoints are being pushed at any given time (‘Transformers’ movies = overt military recruitment propaganda, but ‘Bourne’ trilogy = populist disillusionment with institutional secrecy and state-sponsored extra-legal covert operations) besides which any resulting influence is often very subjective, thus very hard to quantify accurately (like any advertising) and even trickier to predict before general release – I think I demonstrated that fairly well with my above opinion of ‘The Road’ as it seemingly said different things to me then it did to others here.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Actually, AC, your analysis of The Road was penetrating for me. As I reflected back on the travail of the journey, your assessment of the Papa was right on.

        • Brutus says:

          As with Sandy, your interpretation of The Road (hurry up and die already, and get outta the way) was different from mine. I was too overwhelmed by the gravity of it all, or as you say, the father’s anger and grief. This is one reason why I suspect it will be a young person’s game when things go tits up. Many of us older folks (but not all) are too calcified already — all our lives and memories are tied into a dying world. As for Monsters, it’s in my Netflix queue. I’ve heard enough about it already to make it sound worth the two hours.

          The wider question of how fully cinema qualifies as an artistic discourse on our times is still an open question, IMO. Cineastes would certainly say so, but then, so, too, would fans of Lady Gaga.

  19. Ron Greenstein says:

    Speaking of addictions to illusions, this is a portion a quote I like. It is attributed to Meher Baba.

    “Suffering comes through ignorance or attachment to illusions. Most people play with illusions like children play with toys. If you get caught up in the ephemeral things of this world and cling to illusory values, suffering is inevitable. It is not easy for little children to give up their toys, for they become the victims of a habit which they cannot undo. In the same way, through millions of lives, you have got into the habit of playing with illusions. It is difficult for you to get disentangled from them.”

  20. Anarchrist says:

    Brutus – “…I suspect it will be a young person’s game when things go tits up. Many of us older folks (but not all) are too calcified already — all our lives and memories are tied into a dying world.” – Have to agree there, people with less invested into the world we know are likely to be less crippled by grief or uncertainty upon its passing, perhaps even happy to help it along. On that note, I give you the face of angry British youth:

    JHK regularly bitches about the tatted, bikerish looking thugs he sees out there in upstate NY, apparently seeing them as ‘victims’ of the loss of reason and values, though that’s fairly typical of an aloof intellectual. Clearly it’s not exclusively the young ‘uns either, Dave mustaine must be 50 and I’m pretty sure he’s still full of piss and vinegar, of course he started out young and angry, and young people have been very angry for as long as I can remember. This particular song was released around 25 years ago:

    • kulturcritic says:

      The British youth issue is highly relevant!

      • Anarchrist says:

        Most definitely, but try explaining that to our ‘elected’ officials, they are too busy labelling rioters as ‘sick’ and encouraging harsh sentencing to realise the fire they are stoking lies at their own feet – can anyone else smell burning?

        • Disaffected says:

          Demonization of the “rogue elements” among us will be a growing theme in the coming years. First it was the “the foreigners,” gradually it will be anyone and everyone. Demonization/dehumanization is ALWAYS the first step in gaining broad approval for war. And in targeting only select subgroups at any one time, the masses are always fooled into thinking “thank god, at least it’s not me/us.” Until it finally is, and then they wonder why no one will stand with them in their hour of need.

          This all little more than WWII II. The Nazi Party revisited, except this time on a global scale and with MUCH better marketing and killing technology. What’s the saying? History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Yeah, the Germans were pretty ham-handed monsters all right. Much too straight forward in their Aryan sensibilities, actually willing to tell the truth more or less about their genocidal tendencies right up front. Silly Nazis.

          Needless to say, the new Nazi’s have polished up their act in the intervening 80 years or so. And yeah, this is a whole lot less about race than it was the first time (at least overtly, there’s still PLENTY of that component to go around as well), but it’s still mostly a white man’s of European descent game for the most part, provided of course he’s a card carrying member of the inner sanctum (rectum?), which recognizes only three attributes (the UNHOLY triumvirate?): money, power, and prestige.

          If you don’t have any one of those three in MEGA abundance, then the plain fact is that YOU DON’T COUNT in the world ahead, and if you don’t count, then by definition, you are expendable. And expendable is going to be a VERY precarious status to hold in the years immediately ahead.

          DA

    • Disaffected says:

      I see JHK’s comment volume has been seriously dwindling over the last month or so. Looks like he’s finally cleaning house on some of the more-over-the-top nutbaggers over there. His comment board really seems to draw in all the crazies. Lots of good stuff on there, but a lot more really crazy stuff and just plain old personal insults/vendettas. The crazy stuff often isn’t really all that bad, as it’s good to hear what’s out there no matter what. But all the personal feuds get boring pretty quick.

  21. John Bollig says:

    JHK’s perspective is very narrow. He only sees an east coast point of view.

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