Tinkerers On The Scaffolding and The Recovery Of Ecstasy

Unfortunate things are happening here in Siberia. They are increasingly tearing up tracts of forest land and laying down more and more roads. And even the forested byways are getting expanded at the expense of old growth trees; increasing domestication of the wild to make room for more automobiles.  It seems as though the stupidity of the West is rubbing off quickly on my Siberian brethren, who increasingly believe they need to drive.

And wouldn’t you know it: stupidity is not only a curse of the modern Siberian.  No!  In fact our good President was just in Ohio this week, promoting a rebound of America’s auto industry.  Has he gone bonkers?  Or perhaps Obama is smoking some good reefer now that the global war on drugs has just been declared a failure by world leaders.

But the real story today is Gaia.  She has been speaking rather loudly of late, and recently in the heartland of the USA.  As the frequency and ferocity of the storms, eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural calamities increases, we continue to deny that our actions on and within the earth have any part to play in those events. Why? Because the hegemony (along with its brain-dead populace) does not want to give up the comfortable life, its unrestrained choice and its controlling authority. And folks that is really what these converging global crises come down to, a gambit for manipulation and control – of the environment, of other men, of nations, of resources, of money.

*****

The tame and domesticated contours of civilized life have eclipsed the feral core of everyday experience – that irrepressible anchor of human embodiment, our elemental interlacing with nature, “that subtle knot which makes us man.” Neglecting this wild core, we’ve relinquished our original gift of freedom, the inherent power of just being-there, outside the chains of time and the terror of history.  Forsaking this primal autonomy, the groundwork was laid for our own entrapment, the beginning of our enslavement.

Ever since discovery of the appearance of Homo habilis approximately two million years ago, humankind has been defined as toolmaker, technician, and tinkerer.  Whether or not a direct link to Homo sapiens can ever be definitively unearthed is a moot point.  Clearly we humans live and die by our tools.  But, while necessity may be the “mother of invention,” what manner of need could have led to the never-ending flow of new tools and technologies evidenced today?  What of this unyielding pace of technological innovation that seems to be of another, qualitatively different order?

The Greek “techne” suggests “craft” or “art,” the practical discipline of making things.  Technology, then, would refer to the results or products of techne – artifacts, devices, tools, and other handicrafts – the artifices of human culture.  This sounds like an old story, about which we can be neutral.  But we are not neutral; we adore our modern technologies excessively.  Is it because they create nice, clean, artificial surfaces, insulating us from the wild and uncultivated underbelly of life, of nature, of our own embodiment?

With America leading the way, the path charted and engineered by Western civilization has spawned a hegemony that is rapidly overtaking the globe, socially, economically, and culturally.  This unheralded ascendancy has unleashed a domination of values, which unlike political hegemonies of the past, is lightning fast, wide ranging, and spreading insidiously, artfully enabled by those very technologies to which it has given birth.

Engineering and technological sophistication now appear to constitute the religion of a new epoch.  The foundation stones of a nascent techno-theocracy, they march us, hyper-rationally, to a contrived and perhaps apocalyptic Eschaton.  Their dominion is so complete that they have undermined our very enjoyment of a more spontaneous life, lived naturally on Mother Earth.  After all, the “virtual reality” they promise seems less messy than the real thing.

With an implacable call for progress in our visually dominated world, it is no wonder we are so enthralled by the steady array of new toys and tools paraded before our eyes.  But why do HDTVs, TiVOs, iPhones, iPods, cell phones, Blackberries, electronic notebooks, and a myriad of other digital gadgets hold such sway, and command our rapt attention?  Some might call it convenience; others would say it’s just the fulfillment of the American Dream – the Holy Grail of our continuously advancing civilization.

A large part of this digital delight may simply be a function of its visual appeal, the marketing hook that drives our consumerism.  Perhaps it really is all about the spectacle.  Or maybe it’s the continuous enhancement in microchip effectiveness and processing speed, betraying our “end user” mentality – to accomplish more things more quickly so we can buy more toys and move more rapidly into a brighter future.

More pointedly, perhaps, these technologies serve as valuable tools of social, economic, and cultural control.  They encourage and validate our fixation with civilization’s fundamental construct, unilinear time and its underlying implication – the necessity of historical progress.  This insures our continued dependency and our unquestioned faith in a certain path or trajectory, let us call it the curriculum of the West.

All the while, these same technologies distract attention from the inchoate, but developing sense of our own anonymity in today’s digitized, urban landscape.  They signal the arrival of a new world, the global village, where we all share common values and concerns.  But it is an erector set village, artfully crafted from our own infantile dreams of omnipotence – Western domination – now exported around the globe.  These technologies claim to “connect us.”   But, it is a hollow promise aimed at disarming a potential epidemic of cultural alienation that might otherwise expose the tinkerers on the scaffolding propping up the gloss of our blueprinted lives.

So our suspicions go undetected and our faith in the curriculum remains intact.  We continue on, accepting as axiomatic that the paths of technological advancement, happiness, and righteousness coincide; in fact, we take for granted that progress is a good in itself – the only legitimate means of achieving happiness and living the good life.  But why can’t we jettison this belief?  Why this insatiable need for novelty?  Why is it we have so little regard for what is primal and founding?  And, why do we attempt to light up every corner of the globe, demystify the naturally chiaroscuro quality of life, making everything one-dimensionally bright?  What is it about the curriculum of the West that is so captivating?

It may be that this race for technological innovation is nothing other than the best efforts of our civilization to ensure that we citizens keep producing and consuming, and remain focused on the future.  We are being led to the abattoir of our own planned obsolescence by a marketing wizardry that locks us firmly onto a path of never-ending progress.  Could this also explain our disproportionate emphasis on free will and unrestrained choice in America?  After all, it provides an unassailable platform from which to produce and market an inexhaustible stream of saleable products and commodities that in turn validates our freedom, again keeping us future-oriented and chasing the ever-receding horizon of our Dream.

Who can argue with the shrewdness of such an agenda, or its efficacy in herding us into quiet submission?  I was just as susceptible, just as committed to the plan, as were my fellow citizens.  But I also sensed that this driving “will” to consume was not part of my natural constitution.  It seemed to be the result of a story we had all been told about the future, about “making something of ourselves” and “getting ahead.”

Certainly, no one can deny that America has achieved global distinction along with a corresponding smug vanity for its material advancement and its extravagant pursuit of innovation.  Nor do I wish to underestimate the value of specific advances in medical science and biotechnology.  But that does not mean all progress is necessarily good, or even necessary.

Can I let go of my MacBook or do without email?  No.  Not completely.  But, I refuse to buy the iPhone, the TiVo, or the Kindle; and I reject a host of other gadgets and toys presented to me as necessities.  I know that I am being pursued, ensnared in a vicious cycle of work-buy-owe, and that I was partly to blame for the entire arrangement.  I was a willing accomplice, collaborating with our clever cultural missionaries.  I had become just another spokesperson trying to sell the Dream to the rest of the world, perpetuating the illusion.

Yet, along with most of my fellow citizens, I could not just renounce all the prosthetics provided me without some consequences.  The social covenant our ancestors had entered into long ago guaranteed that each and every one of us would come to rely on these tools as a matter of simple survival.  I recalled what Rousseau, perhaps the single most important Enlightenment figure, had written centuries before in his work, On the Social Contract:

[Civil society] must transform each individual into a part of a larger whole … deny man his own [natural] forces in order to give him forces that are alien to him and that he cannot make use of without the help of others.

As I now see things, we have proceeded too far down this road for anyone to turn back.  If anyone is to survive in civil society before its demise – and really, one can no longer leave it completely because our own natural forces have long ago been replaced by civilized ones over generations of indoctrination to the curriculum – then we have little choice but to make use of the tools provided in the interim.  So, like many others, I am in a double bind from which I can not easily escape.  But at least I now understand the game, the rules, and the potential consequences of playing it.  With this awareness I can develop a healthier positioning with respect to the curriculum and its artifice; I no longer permit its insidious and unchecked control over my life.

Face it!  It is far too late to save anything; and Gaia does not need saving in any event. The earth, along with civilized greed, will just have to deliver the final blow to our vanity. But in the aftermath we might again awaken to that sense of primitive sovereignty, and relearn to experience the untamed, ecstatic undercurrent of life.

68 Responses to Tinkerers On The Scaffolding and The Recovery Of Ecstasy

  1. Disaffected says:

    Hey Sandy,

    Great post yet again this week. You have now “officially” become my favorite weekly commentary site on the web. Sorry I can’t offer you a monetary bonus for your efforts.

    That said, I sense that your commentary, due to posters like myself no less, more often than not merely degenerates to a personally motivated political diatribe from square one. With that in mind, I’d at least like to try to reverse old habits and establish some new.

    It seems as though the stupidity of the West is rubbing off quickly on my Siberian brethren, who increasingly believe they need to drive.

    The “stupidity of the west” is actually a cancer on humanity. There are very few serious social commentators left that will contest this point. Definition of “serious?” Check their bank account.

    And wouldn’t you know it: stupidity is not only a curse of the modern Siberian. No! In fact our good President was just in Ohio this week, promoting a rebound of America’s auto industry. Has he gone bonkers?

    Obama is a tool of American Imperialism, by whatever names it my go by. Think “Manchurian Candidate” if you will. “Puppet” describes him best.

    Neglecting this wild core, we’ve relinquished our original gift of freedom, the inherent power of just being-there, outside the chains of time and the terror of history. Forsaking this primal autonomy, the groundwork was laid for our own entrapment, the beginning of our enslavement.

    This statement should be enshrined. Although, in fact, the groundwork was laid at least sixty years ago. The entombment process is now nearly complete.

    But, while necessity may be the “mother of invention,” what manner of need could have led to the never-ending flow of new tools and technologies evidenced today? What of this unyielding pace of technological innovation that seems to be of another, qualitatively different order?

    It’s name is exponential growth capitalism, and it is indeed THE BEAST foretold in Biblical texts. Why? Because it is some ancient Biblically foretold prophesy handed down by some Jewish-based perpetually pissed of “God?” No. Because it represents nothing less than mankind’s inherent inclination to fuck each other (and thus, itself) until mankind becomes no more.

    With America leading the way, the path charted and engineered by Western civilization has spawned a hegemony that is rapidly overtaking the globe, socially, economically, and culturally. This unheralded ascendancy has unleashed a domination of values, which unlike political hegemonies of the past, is lightning fast, wide ranging, and spreading insidiously,artfully enabled by those very technologies to which it has given birth.
    Engineering and technological sophistication now appear to constitute the religion of a new epoch. The foundation stones of a nascent techno-theocracy, they march us, hyper-rationally, to a contrived and perhaps apocalyptic Eschaton. Their dominion is so complete that they have undermined our very enjoyment of a more spontaneous life, lived naturally on Mother Earth. After all, the “virtual reality” they promise seems less messy than the real thing.

    Yes indeed. This encapsulates the whole thing, doesn’t it? To the point where I’m now defining my potential girl friends by their very disconnectedness. A VERY hard point to make I might add.

    Some might call it convenience; others would say it’s just the fulfillment of the American Dream – the Holy Grail of our continuously advancing civilization.
    A large part of this digital delight may simply be a function of its visual appeal, the marketing hook that drives our consumerism. Perhaps it really is all about the spectacle. Or maybe it’s the continuous enhancement in microchip effectiveness and processing speed, betraying our “end user” mentality – to accomplish more things more quickly so we can buy more toys and move more rapidly into a brighter future.

    I would add, it MIGHT be simply called BOREDOM! As in, the wasted brain power of a youth that SHOULD HAVE stood on its forbearers’ shoulders and CONTRIBUTED something, but who was instead merely regulated to contributing to the profit margin for the ultra rich.

    More pointedly, perhaps, these technologies serve as valuable tools of social, economic, and cultural control. They encourage and validate our fixation with civilization’s fundamental construct, unilinear time and its underlying implication – the necessity of historical progress. This insures our continued dependency and our unquestioned faith in a certain path or trajectory, let us call it the curriculum of the West.
    All the while, these same technologies distract attention from the inchoate, but developing sense of our own anonymity in today’s digitized, urban landscape. They signal the arrival of a new world, the global village, where we all share common values and concerns. But it is an erector set village, artfully crafted from our own infantile dreams of omnipotence – Western domination – now exported around the globe. These technologies claim to “connect us.” But, it is a hollow promise aimed at disarming a potential epidemic of cultural alienation that might otherwise expose the tinkerers on the scaffolding propping up the gloss of our blueprinted lives.

    NO TRUER WORDS HAVE EVER BEEN SPOKEN! Sandy, perhaps, if I might be so bold, you could weed some of the “academia” out of this statement. You ain’t trying to convince PhDs here – they’re largely intransigent anyway. You’ve got a voice, but it ain’t never gonna be “heard,” not in these terms at least.

    And, why do we attempt to light up every corner of the globe, demystify the naturally chiaroscuro quality of life, making everything one-dimensionally bright? What is it about the curriculum of the West that is so captivating?

    At some point, it should be reminded, “progress” becomes simply the “only game in town.” Who can doubt we’ve long since passed that point?

    It may be that this race for technological innovation is nothing other than the best efforts of our civilization to ensure that we citizens keep producing and consuming, and remain focused on the future.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    Who can argue with the shrewdness of such an agenda, or its efficacy in herding us into quiet submission?

    We ALL can. Everyone of us individually.

    But that does not mean all progress is necessarily good, or even necessary?

    NO. It doesn’t.

    As I now see things, we have proceeded too far down this road for anyone to turn back. If anyone is to survive in civil society before its demise – and really, one can no longer leave it completely because our own natural forces have long ago been replaced by civilized ones over generations of indoctrination to the curriculum – then we have little choice but to make use of the tools provided in the interim. So, like many others, I am in a double bind from which I can not easily escape. But at least I now understand the game, the rules, and the potential consequences of playing it. With this awareness I can develop a healthier positioning with respect to the curriculum and its artifice; I no longer permit its insidious and unchecked control over my life.

    Agreed. Choices have been made. We are ALL now inexorably linked in a web of decisions that, while we may certainly not like, are INHERENTLY OUR OWN. UH OH!

    DA

    • Disaffected says:

      A small addition:

      As in, the wasted brain power of a youth that SHOULD HAVE stood on its forbearers’ shoulders and CONTRIBUTED something, but who was instead merely regulated to contributing to the profit margin for the ultra rich

      Although the truth of that last statement turned out to be true enough after all, the “actual” truth of it might have read something more like this:

      As in, the wasted brain power of a youth that SHOULD HAVE stood on its forbearer’s shoulders and CONTRIBUTED something, but which was instead merely relegated to contributing to the profit margin for the ultra rich.

      Why? Because WORDS MATTER!

      DA

      • Disaffected says:

        Just yet another unfortunate response to the “advantages” of US style global capitalism:

        Hamburg Restaurants Just Say No to Vegetables.

        Imagine that! Local restaurants rejecting produce because they don’t know where it comes from or what’s in it? Imagine that!

        Fuck! What in THE WORLD is this world coming too?

        DA

      • kulturcritic says:

        OK!! DA – a couple of disagreements (perhaps clarifications) on your commentary:

        1. “the groundwork was laid at least sixty years ago” – I am saying the groundwork was laid at the dawn of civilization, 6,000 years ago, in the Fertile Crescent (modern day Iran)

        2. “mankind’s inherent inclination to fuck each other” – I do not believe this inclination is inherent in the species, but just a symptom of the “cancer” (as you aptly name it) that has infected the majority of the species since urbanization and its fallout.

        • Disaffected says:

          No quarrels. I’m not really deep in history, and of course, I have been known to be of a somewhat “pessimistic” nature.

    • Straycat says:

      DA, your insights are valid, but, I think, miss a main point. Until we as individuals grab the present, our personal present, and reject the future as now, we will remain trapped in this chaotic kalidoscope of swarming images and shiny objects. Each of the evils you have outlined are the consequence of our individual surrender to the convenient. I have been as remiss as anyone, maybe more so. However, until we sit in the present and think and feel with our whole beings, the predators will continue to win their battles. They are not our battles, and we can not lose them by retiring from the field of their struggles, and enter upon our own. I firmly conclude, as belief for me is a cop out, that we can only win by opting out of the craziness and slowing down to a human scale and speed.

      • Disaffected says:

        No disagreements there whatsoever. It’s just that I don’t believe that we collectively will actually DO what we know needs to be done. The pressures will be too great and the collective willpower is now too weak. But that’s just me. I could very well be wrong.

        • Straycat says:

          Unfortunately, I think that you are right. There appears to be no reasonable mass response to the situation. The predators have succeeded in dividing and conquering. Positivist moral and legal philosophy have made detailed casuistry replace thought and reasoning. When there is not longer any socially secure sources of food, shelter and other necessities, where does one turn? Inward? Or is Kuntzler correct? Even our houses are no longer secure as to title. It’s going more and more quickly.

          • Disaffected says:

            Straycat,

            You’re getting it. And yes, Kunstler DOES INDEED have it mostly right. I’m always surprised that people view him as a “crank.” But of course that’s because I am myself a “crank.” We’ll see about “in retrospect,” although, “in retrospect,” no “crank” takes delight in merely being “right,” or being able to say “I told you so.”

            This is one “profession” where there’s no particular satisfaction as to getting it “right,” other than to say WE COULD HAVE DONE IT BETTER, AND WHY DIDN’T WE?

            INDEED! WHY DIDN’T WE?

            DA

            • Disaffected says:

              And BETTER questions:

              Why DON’t WE?

              …and INDEED…

              Why WON’t WE?

              DA

              • kulturcritic says:

                Guys – I believe the response must be inward (personal) and consanguine (familial). I think there are many who see the writing on the wall, but our comforts and conveniences have become so inbred, and the desire for the same throughout the world-that-had-not (Russia, China, India) will continue to stifle any attempt to respond more broadly to the global catastrophe we are already witness to. This was the reason I opened this weeks post with a discussion of highways and cars in Siberia…. the growing sickness is highly contagious. And they do not want to hear about the party ending soon. They just arrived!!

                With respect to houses, Straycat – you understand that private property was a fundamental part of the problem to begin with; it will come as no surprise than, that it can be taken away (by banks or the starving hordes) just as easily.

                And I know we are quick to blame those who divide and separate us as the reason for our inaction; but I believe that is an excuse. The fact is, no matter how much we know the iceberg is there, we still cannot come to grips with the inevitability of our end. And we find it too hard to give up the ship, just yet!! It is part of the denial mechanism that emerged with the writing of histories and was further crystallized with the emergence of the bifurcation of mind and body, subject and object, self and world. It appears as though the fear of death brings a willful denial of death; fear of the end, its willful ignor-ance.

    • kulturcritic says:

      DA – your contributions are compensation enough for me 😉

  2. pixelwhiplash says:

    Another great post Sandy. I find it infinitely fascinating that the things humans cherish, while orally affirming that they do indeed cherish them, they denigrate through their actions. Technology just gives us greater distance from our convictions while somehow validating their existence. Perhaps an updated version of smoke and mirrors.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Another thought PWL – technology enforces the distance originally outlined by the scientific method based upon the separation of subject (observer) and object (observed phenomena). And even the “connectedness” that some technologies claim to achieve is an artificial connection that further secures our alienation from the sensuous present. Even now, as my fingers click away on this keyboard, I become further removed from the complexity of my world as lived. The distance is not only from our convictions, but from ourselves, our bodies and our surroundings. The technology creates nice clean surfaces in place of those nasty natural intertwinings. Thanks Pixelwhiplash for listening.

  3. kulturcritic says:

    I think it is called self-hypnosis, a symptom of market capitalism, Pixel!!

  4. Hasdrubal Barca says:

    Thoreau provided some good lessons on how not to get too carried away with the rat race. We should have listened. We could have fed and sheltered all people comfortably and then moved on to nobler things as a species. Unfortunately, we didn’t listen in time. Thoreau made his appeals before the earth’s population and depletion of resources spiked to somewhere beyond sustainable. I can’t fully disegage from the matrix because I am born of it, but I’m doing what I can to little-by-little step back. Thanks to Sandy and others here for helping educate me on the nature of the matrix. I am able to step back and see it from the outside looking in, and how I fit into the whole thing.

    I remember reading somewhere the idea that frontiers provided a safety valve for oppressed and impatient populations. So much for that safety valve–there are no longer any frontiers. I think, for a time, the notion of space exploration provided a frontier of the imagination at least. With the space age closing shop, I think people’s imaginations are turning to the grim reality that is our future.

    • kulturcritic says:

      HB – Frontiers are the imaginary vistas sketched by master manipulators with the intention of keeping things focused on the future, and on progress. And this scam (with real consequences) has been going on since the beginning of time (which itself began about 6,000 years ago). Ha Ha!!

      Have you ever noticed that from the earliest age, when a child in our culture begins to walk, parents (like me) say “watch where you’re walking,” “look in front of you,” “stop gawking to the back or sideways,” “watch your step.” The entires focus of civilized behavior is focused forward and with the eyes. So, we grow up, generation after generation, looking forward to the future towards which we are headed. It is a great scam…

  5. Straycat says:

    Thanks, Sandy, for the well done post. Somehow, we must find a way to short circuit the misuse of the human tendency to seek our fellow person’s approval. While this need is one that is useful and necessary, it has been turned by the hierarchy into a tool of slavery. From the sunday school teacher to the child play groups to the professor to the employer, the use of approval and non approval is a tool that infects most if not all with a fundamental conflict from which our social selves seek resolution. Living an honest, useful and authentic life requires permanent and recurring conflict. It wears people down, and isolates them from the very source of well being that you describe. At least one good thing has come from our glittery tools. The internet allows us to find others.

  6. kulturcritic says:

    If parents would provide unconditional love and support (and approval) from the outset, I think the problem would be solved in large measure, SC. However, we are all products of our environment, and the curriculum that we and our parents, and their parents before them, etc. were brought up on is one of conflict, competition and contest. As a retired lawyer, you should understand that fairly better than most. Advocacy and adversary, key terms for us in this world we have constructed.

    Here is an interesting read you might enjoy, SC. Paul Shepard, Nature and Madness. I will now add it to my Bookshelf. And yes, some of the tools are incredibly satisfying.. intentionally so. They help mask our increasing alienation and anonymity in this Spectacle. But, I will also add, I am very pleased to have your voice among ours. sandy

  7. ouroboros says:

    “I remember reading somewhere the idea that frontiers provided a safety valve for oppressed and impatient populations. So much for that safety valve–there are no longer any frontiers. I think, for a time, the notion of space exploration provided a frontier of the imagination at least. With the space age closing shop, I think people’s imaginations are turning to the grim reality that is our future.”
    Reply

    I think the space/time frontiers are within each human consciousness. We are doing the best we can to outrun the necessity of going within ourselves to finally come to know ourselves.
    If we can begin to do this, reality will not be grim, nor will it be “in our future”.
    It will be here and now and we will touch it at last.

    Sandy, I am throughly engaged with your postings, and Disaffected, your cogent responses. Are any of you familiar with the Traditionalist perspective?
    Huston Smith, Seyed Hossein Nasr, Rene Guenon–any of these minds? Rene Guenon’s The World in Crisis– written in the 20’s but a stringent slap in the face of Western hegemony. I am always heartened to find others who are not in a state of mass hypnosis. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here.

    • Hasdrubal Barca says:

      “I think the space/time frontiers are within each human consciousness. We are doing the best we can to outrun the necessity of going within ourselves to finally come to know ourselves.”

      Excellent point! In fact, that’s what this blog is all about. Sometimes I cannot see what is right in front of me.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Thanks ouroboros –

      And yes I have read Smith and Guenon. But, I think a more interesting figure in the history of religions is Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History, among other writings of his. I got to know him in the 70’s at the University of Chicago.

    • Disaffected says:

      No, I’m not familiar with it. But I Google it and read up tonight if I get a chance.

      I am always heartened to find others who are not in a state of mass hypnosis.

      Ain’t that the truth! That’s JUST what it’s like. Like talking to people who’ve fallen asleep and forgotten who they are and what it is we’re all doing here.

    • Disaffected says:

      I think the space/time frontiers are within each human consciousness. We are doing the best we can to outrun the necessity of going within ourselves to finally come to know ourselves.

      EXCELLENT point! Reflected perfectly in western religions’ relentless search for a savior “out there.” It’s long been my contention that the Jesus myth (and that’s just what it was, although it may or may not have had some incidental historical grounding in fact as well) was really about an enlightened figure who tried to tell the equally punch-drunk comrades of his day what the essential truth of this reality is (that the truth we’re all looking for is within, not without, and that’s where the spiritual journey MUST take place).

      Of course he had to have known what his “reward” for spreading that little bit of hearsay would be, which, enlightened figure that he was, he “grinned and bore it” to the end, with the ultimate irony being that it would set western religions off on an errant quest for “truth” in EXACTLY all the wrong places for the next two centuries (and counting). Although, to be fair, I think such an enlightened figure would also have realized the inevitability of such a colossally misguided quest by a group of primates that were really not all that far removed cognitively from their ape ancestors at that point (or now?).

      Religion has always interested me from the standpoint of mass delusion. I’m FIRMLY in the camp of Sam Harris, so much so that I had one of those AHA! moments the first time I read his work. FINALLY SOMEONE WHO GETS IT! I had a front row seat growing up in a mid-western fundamentalist protestant Christian church. Such mindless insanity I have never witnessed the likes of before or since.

    • Disaffected says:

      Just checked out the Wiki entry on Guenon. Very interesting. There seemed to be quite a large amount of interest in the occult and esoteric knowledge around the turn of the 20th century (Blavatsky, et al). Reminds me of the Christian gnostics, who represent nothing less than a complete counter argument to the whole hierarchical Christian mess, which is nothing more than a watered-down, state co-opted, bureaucratic power structure/business. Have I mentioned that organized religion is nothing more than a scam for soothing and robbing simple-minded dolts? No use beating around the bush.

  8. Disaffected says:

    Kunstler’s latest is particularly amusing/frightening and on point.

    The Creeping Nausea of American Exceptionalism

    That’s always been one of my favorite topics, as it really is the basic philosophical underpinning for all the bullshit we’re witnessing today.

    • kulturcritic says:

      DA, et. al., I’ve said it before and I will say it now again:

      History seeks to explain the rise and fall of empires and nations, memorializing those notable personalities and dramatic events that collectively comprise the delicate fabric of its carefully crafted narratives. America, in large measure, stands as benefactor and apotheosis in this arduous historical legacy. But the whole story – from its stunning beginnings in the ancient Near East nearly six- thousand years ago to our post-millennial American hegemony – the entire edifice rests upon a small cluster of hypotheses about the world and how it works; about the logic of scientific inquiry and historical narrative, about the nature of language and social discourse itself. These assumptions continue to shoulder our commonsense understanding of life in civil society today, including our own personal histories, while thwarting any recollection of what was lost with the emergence of history and the story of civilization.

      The overarching vision, with its underlying assumptions and expectations, has peaked and crystalized itself in the now-taken-for- granted concept of ‘American exceptionalism’, our self-proclaimed political, economic, and moral superiority, and the apparent hegemony of our cultural values. It is these expectations and values that have been spread across the globe like wildfire, as we have pursued a policy of global dominance and cultural transformation or occupation. Some groups, nation-states and countries find these values desireable, others abhorrent. Some try to mold themselves to the vision enunciated by such expectations, while others arm themselves to the teeth to fight-off its insidious occupiers.

      Having planted our flag at the forefront of western civilization and declared our own ‘manifest destiny,’ we Americans continue to believe that we have set the right example for mankind to follow, and that we are justified leading the rest of the human race to fulfill its proper role in our civilization. We set ourselves up long ago as protectors of moral virtue, cultural innovation, political power, economic progress, and human rights. And much of the western world has followed our lead in this myopic belief, unchallenged until very recently.

      • Straycat says:

        Wow! Thank you. This is accurate and telling. Unfortunately, attempt to rewrite history may fail for lack of data. The Empire admirers decided what to save and what to discard.

  9. John Bollig says:

    An exception to the rule of the evils of Western civilization, if I may :

    As many problems as the so called west has caused, I would like to point out an exception. The medical technology has saved my life , and those of millions of people.

    As I state to my gf, You are so lucky to be alive. You are lucky to be part of a tradition that protected you and your life. You are lucky to be born in the USA. You are very lucky to be born in the last half of the 20th century. All of the stars in the universe matched to make it possible to live in a society that allowed an incredible luxury. For a multiply disabled female to attend college and graduate school and graduate. Now I realize that this may not at first blush a miracle. However, in the vast majority of the world, she would have not survived birth and even if she did, her life would have ended very shortly afterwords, due to the lack of advanced medical and rehabilitation technology that kept her alive. The incredible luck continued into her education and her fuure career. Due to another medical miracle, she is able to work and function at a job. Political, social and economic stars align perfectly as a Repugunican passes the ADA in 1990, allowing her rights to reasonable accomodations to be gainfully employed. Furthermore when she needed to go back to school, the state paid for her education. I therefore submit that it is due to western anglo american civilization that she is alive, able to be employed and to be a member of the community.

    I respectfully submit this into the record.

    • Disaffected says:

      Hey John,

      The flip side of that is, of course, that we now we have great swaths of entire populations living far beyond their “natural” life spans (I know, I know, what is the “natural” life span anyway?), with no corresponding adjustments in other spheres of life to account for the population redistributions and/or increases implied by that longevity.

      Among the many things we’re already confronting by this amazing ability to stretch life seemingly to infinity are, ability to pay (and what do we say to those who don’t have it) and/or rationing (what mechanisms do we employ to do it, even though the very word is abhorrent to simple minded Americans who think all this techno-magic comes from Heaven because “Jesus loves us.”), and quality of life for those who now have an extra 20-30 years to live, but who may or may not actually have anything meaningful to do with those years and/or anyone meaningful in their lives to spend it with. Combine that last item with state mandated sanctions against assisted suicide and filial responsibility laws (laws mandating financial support for the elderly by their one time dependent children, whether or not their relationships were ever significant and/or the children have the ability or inclination to pay) and you have a recipe for a powder keg in the next 20-30 years.

      And I predict that that’s exactly what it will be. “There’s no free lunch,” as they say, and disproportionately large life extension technologies employed over short time frames before they can be assimilated are bound to, and indeed, already are, having a significantly large and disruptive impact on first world societies world-wide. In my view, NoBama’s HCR gift to the insurance industry was nothing more just the latest effort to privatize the big Med/Pharma sector, where such rationing decisions can be made safely behind closed doors and on the basis of our new unofficial official religion – economics – to the benefit of what else – corporate profits.

      Americans, bless their hearts, seem to be particularly susceptible to simple economic arguments, especially when they’re couched in terms of “winning” and “losing” economically. As in, I’m sorry, but you lost the economic lottery (you worthless poor SOB), they’ll be no operation for you today!

      • Antonio Dias says:

        We – all of us alive today – exist as a bubble on the backs of a few centuries of easy energy and rapacious extraction, the turning of the fabric of life into “resources” for “gain.” It’s true of the most “able-ed” of us in the “developed world” as well as the great bubble of population in the “poor” third-world.

        The consequences of our “luck” are the seeming inevitability of a hard-crash for the entire biosphere at least on the level of the Permian Extinction.

        What we “do” with this information is wide open. That it is true is undeniable. And we face consequences way beyond tax-rates or the enjoyment of the “freedom” to consume “luxuries.” and to Thank the Lord for our “great fortune” and “entitled” exceptionalism.

        Great post Kulturcritic! I’m glad to have run into your work again!

        • kulturcritic says:

          Antonio – thanks for chiming in… WOW, the Permian Extinction… now that is some kind of natural history, writ large. Not that I doubt it, of course, but the hubris again that it shows in our paleontologists (geologists, or whatever scientific specialty) for making such claims with respect to some “event” that never existed in human-historical time or in the same sense in which historians treat some event as having “happened” last year. Again, to my good friends, I recommend, Owen Barfield, Saving The Appearances. Please stick around Antonio. Glad you found me again! Sandy

      • John Bollig says:

        DA,
        It is a given that healthcare will be rationed, ask those who have to wait 24 months to get on medicaid. Under the existing social security laws, people who now apply for some forms of SSDI and SSI must wait 24 months to become eligible for the benefits. The rationale is not clear, but evidently they are trying to kill thru noncoverage rules. What we are all aware of is the fact that the end is nearer than we think and all of us useless eaters will be eventually be soylent green or long pig or some other tasty entree. Soo, I will make myself indespensible to my fellow human beings. We have started to plan for our garden and are preparing for land purchase in an area near a river.

        • Disaffected says:

          Hey John,

          We are actually speaking the same language and speaking to the same truths. My apologies if my sometimes long-winded and/or grandiose replies imply otherwise. Unfortunately, I’ve become known for that. I’m a windbag. What can I say?

          That said, the truth YOU’RE speaking to is the current, ongoing, and no doubt accelerating trend toward denial of service of government reimbursed health care programs. Yep, EXACTLY!

          All as part of the move toward privatization, aka the “invisible hand” of market forces (I’m sorry religious people, I just can’t resist: the “invisible hand” of baby Jesus, who guides ALL OF OUR daily affairs from “heaven”).

          Question. Should this surprise ANYONE with a functional brain?

          I AM CONTINUALLY AMAZED at the utter stupidity of the American Sheeple. How (INDEED!) could a so-called “ADVANCED” civilization continue to cling to such an obviously false belief SO LONG after it’s OBVIOUSLY TRUE refutation has been delivered?

          How are ANY OF US with functional brains to explain this?

          Let me be yet the latest, but perhaps the most obvious yet to state it explicitly:

          I don’t know FOR SURE, but I SUGGEST we start with RELIGION! Religions as primitive, obviously ignorant, belief systems. Religions as slightly more advanced, equally obviously ignorant belief systems based on whatever quasi-science of the day. And finally, RELIGION in general, no matter the precept. From Sam Harris:

          As a cognitive and behavioral imperative, we form descriptions of the world and we try to figure out what’s going on. We tell ourselves stories about our origins, about where we are going and about causes in the world. Given our pervasive ignorance and our disposition to see agency in the world, these stories entail relationships with invisible friends and enemies.

          I might add, is ANYONE in this day and age willing to take ANYONE ELSE’S opinion at face value based on the AUTHORITY of an imaginary friend ( I guess I should add, other than Jesus, Allah, or Buddha)? I thought not.

          As always,

          DA

          DA

          • Disaffected says:

            I’m now known as the artist formerly known as DA, now known as DA DA.

          • kulturcritic says:

            Some day, DA, we must have a serious dialogue about religion (what are commonly known as The World Religions) and something much different — what we in the civilized West patronizingly call “animism” and other forms of mythic participation in the world-as-given. Agreed?

            • Straycat says:

              I’d like to be around for that discussion. May be that the neo pagans have something right here. Back to nature as unfolding instead of a “mother nature” personification. Reverence for what is instead of what is not; what is here instead of what may be in the “afterlife”. Maybe without heaven and hell, we would have to focus on now, radiation heat, drought, carbon and food. May be that without hierarchy there coulds be no empires, and without empires, there could be no lords and ladies. Indeed, without “reliction”, and a sense of chosenness and superiority, may be that there could not be any racism or sense of “otherness” that could withstand familiarity and knowledge. May be that I am learning a lot here. Thank you.

              • kulturcritic says:

                Well, Straycat, perhaps I should initiate that discussion sooner rather than later. We are leaving for NYC (that’s right, the USA) on Monday, so this week’s post will come out Sunday and will not be on religion. But I promise to get to that discussion on mythic participation v religion within the coming month. Agreed?

            • Disaffected says:

              I’m down Sandy! Set it up. I would absolutely LOVE to engage in that dialog with someone who actually has his “shit” together and doesn’t have an obvious ax to grind – assuming both of us aren’t considered obviously and overtly “anti-religion,” as I’ m assuming many would. I’m no “expert,” as I would assume you are, but I do bring a sort of (anti) populist “expert take” to the subject that might otherwise be lacking.

              DA

              • Cass Rick says:

                Agreed, Sandy. We may discover that religion is more than worship and theology, and that the ideas created by religious thinking infect everything we think and do.

          • Disaffected says:

            Let me add, Adam Smith. The guy behind of the “Invisible Hand” scam. A nice enough idea for its time. Unexamined anyway.

        • Disaffected says:

          Hey John again,

          The “Soylent Green” references are once again beginning to run rampant on the net. Excellent movie, and not at all out of the realm of possibility either from my perspective. After all, protein is protein, is it not? Pass me a thigh, this one looks a little skinny…

          Cheers!

          “DA DA”

        • kulturcritic says:

          Glad you made the decision on the land, John. Good luck with it!!

    • StrayCat says:

      I agree with you here. medicine and allied health disciplines have greatly enriched life and freed many from disability and anguish. There seems to be a basic problem with the hierarchical arrangement of science and the desire for the medicine. Of course, on the other hand medicine is barely keeping up with the degrade environment and the attendant disease. There is no way to know whether an effective medicine would have developed absent the post agricultural organized state, However, the Nineteenth/Twentieth century public health advances are not dependent on highly organized science as practiced today.

  10. Anarchrist says:

    Others have already said it, but that was a good one Sandy. As if to crystallise your gist on the subverted values of basic human existence, I noticed this little snippet and thought I’d share it:

    http://blogs.chesterchronicle.co.uk/and-finally/2011/06/and-finally-boy-sells-his-kidn.html

    Sadly, the ipad2 will be old tech in 18 months, when I suspect healthy kidneys will still be very much in fashion, but there’s the consumer treadmill in a nutshell: “Give us your youth, health, freedom, sense of perspective, and ultimately your sanity, and in exchange you may have this currently fashionable but inherently worthless piece of future toxic landfill, you lucky people…”

    I’m not such a sucker for that these days, but I’m as locked in as anyone in that I need to eat, pay rent, and feed my kids. As a self-employed person I find myself saying “I gotta work harder so I can take a break”, which is also crazy when my knees ache and all the pressure keeps me from sleeping well. But fuck it I say, this is where and when you are so use the system while you can because, my burning desire for autonomy aside, I’ll still miss convenience when it’s gone – I for one really appreciate the benefits of good dentistry for example.

  11. kulturcritic says:

    Sorry for my tardy replies to comments this week – I was at dacha resting. See photos!! sandy

    • Disaffected says:

      Let me second that opinion. That’s just the size of abode I’ve always dreamed of having. I’m guessing 500 sq ft or so? The condo I’m leasing right now if about 600, and it’s just about right, although I could certainly settle for less is it was organized properly. Condo/apartment living, despite its many downsides, is at least somewhat more energy efficient due to the collective “huddling,” especially in extreme warm/cold climates (which is EXACTLY what we’re headed into in the coming years). I’m enjoying the fact that I’m on the second floor of four, and thus save tremendously on AC costs in the summer (I’ve previously lived in desert SoCal on the second floor of a decidedly cheap apartment building and borne the costs of summer AC – $200/mo in 1994 $$!). The winter I never worry about, since here in NM the winters are mild and I’m a “natural” Scandinavian anyway. I predict such huddled living arrangements, albeit in smaller communities with reasonable stack heights, will be the natural response to global energy shortages in the coming years (no earth shattering observation there).
      -DaDa-

  12. John Bollig says:

    Nice pics , sandy that reminds me of wisconsin, frankly. I currently am trying to make sense of the nonsense that is medicare. Those idiots keep sending me paperwork saying that they paid for some very expensive home health equipment when they damm well know I didn’t get it nor did my doctor order it for me…..

    Well that is another story to tell later maybe… But on a more promising note, I hit the bullseye on 8 out of 12 targets with a SKS rifle and 19 out of 23 targets with the nagant rifle. Nice patterns too. The communists made good guns, it was the only thing they exported that was any good. Going to an Iconic place next week, Dodge City to go gambling and to let off some steam. God knows I need it and so does the group that I hang out with. The problem with our society is that we are so wasteful. We are closing a perfectly good building and tearing it down simply because the previous owners went belly up on their mortgage. The house sat for months and now the real estate company is going to tear it down… Talk about dumb !!…

  13. zosima says:

    I really appreciate the broad perspective you have on this blog. Our capitalist, industrial, consumer, agricultural, mass society tries to convince us that its way is the only way humans should live. But what about the 100,000 years or more when we lived outside and completely contrary to these modes? What you describe as the feral. Since most of our evolution took place in this pre-agricultural way of life, it is more likely that such a way of life is the most fitting and natural. This is why so many of us feel so much stress and illness while trying to live within this system, it is those 100,000 years of evolution viscerally telling us that this way of life is a lie.

    • kulturcritic says:

      zosima – Great points! And it does appear that a pre-agrarian lifestyle is where our genome fully developed. And there is a “sickness” attached to living by the book and by the clock in industrialized, urban sprawl. And there is a trace of that feral life telling us that this world we have fabricated is indeed a lie. Glad you have joined our discussion. sandy

      • Cass Rick says:

        Sounds like Huck Finn and his quest for freedom and authenticity. Ol Sam Clemens was really radical but his it with humor.

  14. SqueakyRat says:

    Interesting post, but . . . claiming a human role in earthquakes and tsunamis makes you look foolish. Tornadoes, hurricanes, well OK, though there’s no real evidence yet for a human role there either. That leaves plenty of other disasters for which humans have some responsibility.

    • SqueakyRat says:

      Oh, and the same goes for volcanic eruptions. How are humans supposed to implicated in those? God’s punishment for sin, perhaps?

    • Disaffected says:

      Squeaky Rat,

      Good points…but…

      Earthquakes are so poorly understood at this point there’s simply no telling. I’m certainly skeptical of any claims to human responsibility at this point, but I’m equally certainly not dismissing them out of hand either. A reminder: science NEVER has absolute proof of ANYTHING, but ONLY the rejection (or not) of the null hypothesis, which is to say, there is/is not a statistically significant experimental result to support any particular assertion, and thus reject the idea that it is false.

      At this point in earthquake/seismology science, there’s simply no telling. Far too many confounding factors and entirely too little data. Unfortunately, same with climate change. Even MORE unfortunately, by the time we DO have the data (assuming it confirms current climate change projections, and all current indicators say that it will), we’ll all be collectively fucked.

      Now, maybe you’re 50+ years old like myself and don’t really give a rat’s ass either way. If so, no worries. On the other hand, if you’re a current twenty-something raising your standard two or three young’ns in traditional first world style expecting more of the same for the next 100 years or so, THEN MAN HAVE I GOT SOME NEWS FOR YOU! If you haven’t got the news yet (and I live SURROUNDED by those who haven’t), then MAN are you in for a world of hurt!

      Our world is currently and is about to undergo some even more radical climate change that will literally “rock our world.” I always view the young’ns with equal parts pity and respect, since they certainly didn’t choose to have this crisis thrust upon them, yet respond to it they must. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much to admire in their response as yet. I’ll admit, much of that is due to the hyperbole thrust upon them by my BabyBoom generation, but in the end, that will be no excuse. They certainly have the intelligence to handle the current situation, if they will only resist the materialistic impulse NOT TO.

      Will they? Yet to be decided. Color me skeptical, and/or DISAFFECTED.

      DaDa

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