Archive for January, 2012

Quick Comment On Ran’s Comment

Ran commented:

I’ve noticed that primitivists use a trick in their definition of “civilization” (and also “city”). They define the word by looking at the past, and then project that definition onto the future.

I hadn’t noticed this before, but that’s true. This is also what economists do when they predict economic performance for the next quarter, year or whatever, even in the face of things like peak oil. Whatever happened in the past is certain to continue into the future in exactly the same way, right?

Also, Jason commented over at G+:

[C]omplexity is all of a piece. Joseph Tainter has a good explanation for why this is. With the interconnectedness of all the various forms of complexity (James Burke has illustrated this in a lovely fashion with his Connections series), limiting any one form of complexity (like, military complexity) necessarily limits the growth of complexity in all other areas.

This is a really good point and something I’m not too familiar with. My first thought on this is that limiting some form of complexity in the beginning might limit the growth of complexity as the society moves along; however, what happens when one form of complexity — say, military complexity — gets removed when everything dependent upon it has already developed? I think that’s what Western empire/civilization will have to face. I’m inclined to think that in this case, the existing complexities will respond in the way computer and biological networks do: the missing piece is either considered a error and alternate paths are constructed, or the missing piece is treated as an empty space and something else moves in to fill up that niche.

Interestingly, Western mythology in Revelation describes that exact process. In Christianese it’s referred to as “the judgment,” after which a (comparatively) utopian civilization emerges. Fascinating stuff.

And on a total and complete aside — if you’re on G+ come find me! I’ve started a Mythodrome circle to which I’d love to add you. If you follow me there send me a note to let me know, I’ll add you to the Mythodrome circle and then ‘share’ it with you.


A Civ-Empire Metaphor

In a lot of doomer & primitivist literature, “civilization” and “empire” are used interchangeably, as if these are the same thing. I think they are not. As far as I can see, there isn’t any overriding reason why social complexity — e.g., civilization — must necessarily result in armies, wars, and conquest. I think empire is a subset of civilization, a particular type of civilization that demonstrates a particular type of pathology.

Nate Hagens supplied a really useful metaphor for this in (what I believe was) his 2010 presentation at ASPO USA, although he used the metaphor for a different purpose.

Hagens began his talk with a short history of the Irish Elk. The Irish Elk grew antlers that measured up to 12 feet across and weighed as much as 88 pounds. It died out when the climate got warmer at the end of the last ice age because the new vegetation could not supply both the animal’s body and its antlers with the nutrition both required. The antlers essentially depleted nutrients from the elk’s body as they were growing, much like a parasite.

However, the Irish Elk’s antlers are only one type of antler. Lots of other deer species have antlers; in addition to these, there are also numerous species with horns. The Irish Elk’s antlers were out of control and eventually led to its demise, but this does not mean that all antlers and horns develop in the same way or are necessarily doomed to the same fate.

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Thoughts On Revelation

The new year has brought about an abundance of apocalypse-themed television shows. Revelation, Hell, the Antichrist, Nostradamus, Mayan 2012 doomsday prophecies, Armageddon, Satan — this stuff is everywhere. Apocalypse is a big seller just now, as I suppose is to be expected given that this is 2012 and all.

I always watch these shows when I happen to catch one. It’s a kind of morbid fascination. It’s been so long since I subscribed to such a worldview and yet it was so saturating during some of the most formative years of my life that I can still step into that mindset and see through its eyes. It is a very hard life, that kind of fear.

In light of all this mainstream doom, what I want to get back to my real passion and the purpose of this blog: Christian mythology and our relationship to it in the context of our historical moment.

On Background: Genesis

In Cognitive Archaeology of the West, published over at Ribbonfarm last year, I presented my take on Genesis, the first book of the Bible. I believe Genesis is a collection of cultural traditions and histories that accurately reflect the origins of Western will-to-empire. These traditions and histories are not literally accurate, but rather are literarily accurate, and our challenge is to unpack them in accord with their original significances.

The central theme of Genesis is “the Fall,” the moment when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s edict not to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the Genesis narrative God told Adam and Eve: “On the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Whatever the literal facts, the story represents quite explicitly a profound cognitive shift in the here-and-now temporal world. It was not something abstract that happened in some invisible spiritual dimension, and it had very tangible consequences. It was what we might call real.

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The Implications Of 2012 NDAA For Relocalization: A Lesson From The Black Panthers

Much ado in the non-mainstream media about 2012 NDAA. If you’re not up to speed, you can find out about 2012 NDAA here and here.

If you’re among those who watch peak oil events, and came to the scene after about 2007 or so, you can be forgiven for not knowing what “relocalization” means. Back in 2001 when I first learned of peak oil, everyone understood relocalization to be the best and most comprehensive response. It meant running globalization in reverse: learning to manufacture goods locally and regionally; rebuilding the networks of small businesses that made distribution of these goods efficient and provided a living for those involved; establishing barter and alternative currency schemes to make sure we all still had means of trading our goods and services with each other even in the absence of a workable national currency. It was a fantastic idea, and it still is.

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Jesus Christ, Where To Even Start

Despicable. Atrocious. Diabolical. Disgusting.

The 2012 NDAA is now law. In a slimy ass move that would make Karl Rove proud, Obama signed the 2012 NDAA into law on New Year’s Fucking Eve, the biggest party night of the year in the United States, when absolutely no one was paying attention. New Year’s Fucking Eve! And he did it from Hawaii, which means that by the time he was driving this abomination through the heart of our Bill of Rights, the eastern half of the nation was already plastered.

This after the American public jammed the White House phones just a week and a half earlier in protest.

This, in turn, after an almost complete media blackout on the issue. Those of us who’ve been following the story have had to do so through independent and overseas media.

Jesus Christ. This is worse even than the PATRIOT Act. That bill was slipped through before anyone knew anything about it. At least they had the decency to be sneaky about it. At least they pretended to care what we thought back then.

2012 NDAA was rammed up our asses in spite of our prior knowledge and vigorous opposition. It is a giant middle finger from Congress and the White House to the American people.

Divide & Conquer

This thing is hunting us. *All* of us. You know that?

"This thing is hunting us. *All* of us. You know that?"

I guess if ever there was a good time for our government’s corporate overlords to clamp down, it would be now.

In surveilling blog reactions to this pus-filled boil of a legislation, it seems clear that the American people are incapable of coming together for any reason, even their own political and economic interests. Conservatives blame liberals for it; liberals blame conservatives for it; some Obama apologists deny the seriousness of NDAA; Tea Partiers blame the Occupy people; the Occupy people blame the Tea Party conservatives now in Congress.

And no one even slightly progressive will even consider throwing support to Ron Paul, the only candidate willing to stand up to the global vampire squid. Why? Because he said some unsavory things back in the day? I daresay that compared to what 2012 NDAA is poised to unleash against black Americans, Paul’s statements are positively innocent.

If we could pull together, we could behead this monster. But I just don’t see it happening. For 30 years it’s been hammered into our heads that we are each others’ enemies. That there is no common ground at all between those who vote one way, and those who vote another. That your Republican neighbor secretly wants to kill you if you’re a Democrat; that your Democratic neighbor wants to enslave you and steal your property if you’re a Republican. We’re so blinded by this we think OWS and the Tea Partiers want different things. How can a people so divided ever trust one another enough to pull together?

I literally have no hope at all for America’s future. I have long thought that Empire cannot be reformed, it must burn itself out, and only in rebuilding can things be made better. As far as I know, it has never happened otherwise. I guess now it’s our turn.