June 11. Something I've noticed: Our science is extremely timid, refusing to say anything without overwhelming proof. On top of this, we have Carl Sagan's rule that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," or non-dominant theories require a greater quantity of evidence, which rigs the game to even further stifle innovation and entrench old ideas.
At the same time, our technology is extremely bold, refusing to hold back on anything even with strong evidence that it will be a disaster. Our science is our thinking and our technology is our doing, and our thinking is tightly regulated while our doing is propelled and amplified. It should be the other way around!
Or here's another angle: We are terrified of mental/internal change, of changing our perspective, our beliefs, our habits, our identity. And we are insatiably addicted to physical/external change, changing our appearance and our surroundings. We would rather devote many hours and dollars, year after year, to killing dandelions, than make the internal change of thinking dandelions are good. We would rather spend our lives at hellish jobs seeking wealth and status, than make the internal change of no longer valuing wealth and status. This is sick, and this sickness has built, and been built by, a societal toolkit that is extremely powerful for physical/external change.
June 11. I don't hate all technologies -- I can't help it if this society has allied itself to mostly bad ones. One that I like is genetic experimentation, if it's used to diversify life on Earth, and not to create new monoculture crops that enable central control. Here's an article about bringing back the cave bear, but the real story here is they're thinking of bringing back Neanderthals! If you're imagining big lumbering dumb guys, think again. There's a great description of them in this article Children of Fire and Ice.
June 13. Thanks Patricia for researching the answer to a question that has bothered me for years. Most of you know the word widdershins, which pagans use for "counter-clockwise." It always tormented my sense of symmetry that no one used, or even knew, the corresponding word for "clockwise." Does such a word even exist? It does! The word is deasil, pronounced "DEE-sil" or "DEE-shil."
June 16. Jessamine cuts right to the core of the techno-transhumanism issue: "I have had a stream of emails from some people here who look forward to humanity's extinction! Because the computers are going to be so much more 'intelligent' and efficient. AT WHAT? And for what?"
June 20. Roswell has been solved! And to some extent, if this guy is right, UFO's have been solved. Here's a link to the Wayback Machine archive of a 54 page PDF file of an article in the UFO Review about a new book, Body Snatchers in the Desert. I just spent all afternoon reading most of it, and I'll summarize: The US military was doing secret experiments with captured Japanese, many of which were continuations of secret Japanese programs, including some very creepy ones. One of the more benign involved balloons that would drop gliders with very small Japanese pilots. One of these crashed, coincidentally right after the Kenneth Arnold sighting touched off the "flying saucer" craze, so one branch of the military thought they had found a real crashed saucer, while another branch was trying to cover up the secret experiments.
Then they figured out that the popular idea of spaceships from other planets and a government cover-up was a great way to throw people off the scent of real secret programs, so over many years they fed fake stories to UFO researchers, including the whole MJ-12 thing. So now it appears that the most popular ongoing story about the UFO phenomenon -- that they're craft from other planets and the government knows about it -- has been fabricated and stage-managed by the government!
So what are UFO's? The planet Venus? Well, some of them are secret military craft, but most of them remain unexplained. The author of this book comes around to what John Keel and Jacques Vallee have been saying for decades, that they're probably native to this planet, and something we can't understand from our present view of reality, so we call it "occult" or "paranormal" or "extradimensional." He even goes off on a fascinating speculation that they are tulpas, projected thought forms that take on independent awareness and existence. Jeremy has conveniently excerpted that part over on fantastic planet.
June 21. New gadget filters out particular sounds. You point it at what you don't want to hear, and headphones play the waves upside down and cancel it out. To me, the interesting thing about this technology is that it weakens and enslaves us. Now, instead of using our own minds to filter out annoying sounds, we can avoid learning that skill and instead become dependent on a device, which we cannot make ourselves, but must buy with money we must make by performing labor for the domination system. The same is true for another gadget in the article, the "goldfish," which replays the last ten seconds of sound. This will enable us to talk and listen carelessly, and then lose the ability to catch things the first time, and then become dependent on replaying sounds, and worst of all we'll be further numbed and alienated, living life in a time-lag instead of directly engaging it.
June 23. Zimbabwe bans urban farming (dead link unrecoverable). They make ecological excuses but the real reason is to keep people dependent on the domination system for their food. Police threaten to destroy the crops, and they urge people to plant flowers and lawns! Here in America we have the same rule, but it's enforced with subtle propaganda associating flowers and nice lawns and clean (dead) supermarket food with higher social status. In a few years when we get desperate, they might have to use the police, or robot aircraft loaded with herbicides.
June 28. Corporate Plants. A reader writes:
I'm currently a systems analyst in a large, shitty public company. Yesterday, a company-contracted florist started placing plants on top of the aisles that run along our rat hole cubicles. We were told by this florist that the plants were "corporate plants" and that we were to take our plants down from these same places. What's worse: this contracted florist is responsible for "maintaining" these plants. Instead of allowing its employees to personalize (albeit, weakly) their work space, the company prefers to hire a "plant contractor."
It seems crazy, but that's just the routine behavior of civilization/empire. What that company did to its workers is exactly what humans did to the Earth when they invented agriculture: instead of letting the Earth grow and tend its own plants and animals, we removed them and installed monocultures of our plants and animals, which we then had to maintain at great expense, which begins to explain why our labor has increased and our health and happiness have decreased with almost every step of "progress."
Update: Exactly five months later, the same reader tells me, "I just noticed today that these corporate plants are dead."
July 13. Mind-blowing post by Tim on Representation and Reality. Basically, he suggests that by "reality" we mean consensus, and the way we build consensus is through a standardized system of symbols that replace experience... so our very concept of "real" is grounded in lies. (For a more thorough critique of language, check out John Zerzan's Language: Origin and Meaning.)
July 16. Rant-master Mark Morford covers the crash of civilization, and buys into the myths that I tried to debunk in The Slow Crash, that suddenly we'll all be "scavenging for scraps among the torched babies and the smoking carcasses and the giant robotic cockroaches." Here's a paragraph that's especially wrong:
The red states will finally rule the world. They will survive. They know how. They can eat squirrel brains. They can pickle things, including various animal parts. They have been known to marry each other. They can subsist on bad beer and cow pies and stuff they find growing in the rusty tailpipes of old farm equipment. They know how to perform home surgery using only a rusty butter knife and bathroom caulk. They eat mice.
Morford's indulgence in fun stereotypes of rural people is crippling his understanding. As Richard Louv points out, in his book Last Child in the Woods, rural people are even more alienated from nature than urban people:
I did interviews in more rural areas and suburban areas, like the one I grew up in outside Kansas City, which still has a lot of nature. I went in there thinking, Well, certainly if you have woods next to you, kids will be out in them. But that simply wasn't true. The parents and the kids there were saying the same things as kids in more urban areas. In fact, the amount of nature you have in New York City is actually better than some of the newer suburbs.
A major study came out a few months ago that said that the rate of obesity in children is growing faster in rural areas than it is in cities and suburbs. Again, it seems counterintuitive. But it's not so counterintuitive when you think about the fact that the family farm is fairly nonexistent now. Kids in rural areas are playing the same video games, watching the same television, and they're on longer car rides.
July 21. No Silver Bullets, great post on Cascadia Scorecard Weblog, about how advances in hybrid cars are being used to boost "performance" instead of fuel economy, and how this is a general problem in our culture:
Per person energy use in the Pacific Northwest has remained flat for decades, as each improvement in energy efficiency has been accompanied by an equal and opposite increase in our appetites.
This is a point willfully ignored by the people who believe some techno-fix will save civilization. I don't care if we get magical free energy out of nowhere. We will just use it to satisfy desires that are more and more selfish and spoiled and alienated and extreme, while continuing to kill the Earth at the same rate, or faster.
August 3. Here's a great excerpt from a 1998 book about the Rwanda genocide, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families by Philip Gourevitch.
In 1994, Rwanda was regarded in much of the rest of the world as the exemplary instance of the chaos and anarchy associated with collapsed states. In fact, the genocide was the product of order, authoritarianism, decades of modern political theorizing and indoctrination, and one of the most meticulously administered states in history. And strange as it may sound, the ideology -- or what Rwandans call "the logic" -- of genocide was promoted as a way not to create suffering but to alleviate it. The specter of an absolute menace that requires absolute eradication binds leader and people in a hermetic utopian embrace.
August 7. Brilliant comment from Patricia on Tolkien and Star Trek: The world of Star Trek, with the Federation, a benevolent galactic empire, and the powerful weapon-bearing starships with hierarchical crews that fly around helping people -- this is a fantasy of using the power of the Ring to do good!
August 8. I've spent the last week reading The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish cavalry officer who was captured by the Soviets in 1939, tortured, sentenced to 25 years labor in Siberia, and sent on a deadly forced march to the camp. Then he escaped with six other prisoners and traveled on foot all the way to India, through Siberia, Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and the Himalayas. There is some controversy about whether he made the whole thing up, but nobody has been able to disprove it (or prove it), and his descriptions of remote Mongolia were accurate.
Anyway, what I got out of the book, in 2005, the authors would not have guessed in 1956: The Siberian labor camp was surprisingly pleasant, much better than what I've read about Nazi work camps, and better in many ways than life outside prison in contemporary America. The prisoners were permitted to build their own shelter and supervise themselves while working. Their work week was less than 60 hours, with no commute. They breathed clean forest air and were fed fresh organic whole grain sourdough bread.
Later, after they escaped, they could walk across land without fences or police, and the people they met were all friendly and gave them food. Life as a Mongolian peasant in 1940 seems clearly preferable to life as a typical American worker, stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, eating food that's mostly dead starch and products of chemical plants, being mistrusted by everyone all the time, and getting sick and dying from an environment that is overwhemingly toxic both physically and spiritually.
We are crossing the Gobi Desert of History. Some of us will make it through.
August 10. Mind-blowing post on fantastic planet about Jinn, entities in the Muslim tradition that correspond to what Americans call "space aliens" and "spirits" and "demons" and so forth. Really, this is a Grand Unifying Conspiracy Theory that's at least 1000 years old, and in my opinion, explains stuff much better than other GUCT's. If the Jinn are behind the UFO phenomenon, and ritual abuse, and if they have human allies with great power in the human world, couldn't the Jinn be behind 9/11? I'm serious. Even if there are "real" terrorists who are not backed by a powerful nation, I think they would still have to be backed by the Jinn to pull off a big terror spectacle -- so the Jinn are playing both sides, which could explain how "terrorists" and government agents so often seem to be serendipitously cooperating, without anyone being able to find an overarching command structure. The command structure is in another dimension!
Could the Jinn be behind industrial civilization? Did you know that Rene Descartes, the inventor of our detached mechanistic modern consciousness, was visited by an "angel" who told him the way to conquer nature is through number and measure? Did the Jinn inspire humans to invent agriculture? If so, what is their motive? Where are they going with this?
I think the various human factions are like bugs put in a jar by a cruel child-god who is shaking it to make us fight. How do we get out? Something that comes up over and over in "paranormal" research is that the entities have very little physical power. Most of their power is in the ability to influence the human mind. So the way to get free of them is to be aware of their existence... and ignore them!
August 23. Militarized police attack a rave in Utah. The rave was legal, the police actions were illegal, bla bla bla. Here's my take on it. The old Green Bay Packers football team was so dominant that they would tell the other team what play they were going to run, and then they would run it, and they would still win every time. This police action, and the worse ones to come, are just the Empire telling us, "We own your ass." I have only a vague idea of what to do about it. We need to learn from people who lived through fascist police states in the past, including those operated for the benefit of the American economy. The tactics the Empire has always used in the colonies, it is now bringing home.
August 29. Two cloned cats reproduce! I think this stuff is really cool. If there's one thing humans can do to make up for cutting life on Earth back to the roots, it's to repopulate this desert with life that is even more diverse and interesting. Let's get some pink striped saber-toothed tigers, and ten thousand kinds of glow-in-the-dark insects, and birds that sound like spooky violins.
I know I'm making a difficult argument. It's true that we can't bring back the same species we killed, since their environments are gone. But we could create new weedy adaptable species, or just put new species out there to find a niche or not. And it's true that genetic technology has so far been used only for uniformity and control. Still, humans will soon have a power which, in theory, could be used to spawn an even better biosphere than the one we just killed. I just want to put that vision out there. How could it happen? Maybe after central control breaks down, innovation will continue and someone will invent a technique for home gene-splicing, and we'll have thousands of mad scientists cranking out new life. Since the old life is already dead, we have nothing to lose, and I think we underestimate the ability of nature to work with chaos. Here's an article, Man-made rainforest baffles scientists, about a complex rainforest that "sprung up chaotically from a mixed bag of botanical scrap" in only 150 years.
At the very least, I'm giving crazed techies a healthier vision than replacing biological life with machines. If machines run amok, we should assume they'll kill us all and establish a dead clockwork planet. If genetic engineering runs amok, the results, whatever they are, will at least be alive.