Looking Back To The Future

I made a prediction on Facebook back in January of this year, for how 2015 would unfold and I have referred to that both there and here in this blog a number of times throughout the year.  I usually like to link my posts to a relevant article, and I did so in this case, to this fine piece of work by columnist Nafeez Ahmed

Industrial skylinePhoto: Christopher A. Dominic – Industrial Skyline

 I will repeat my Jan 2015 Facebook post here:

Everybody is getting in before me with their take on how grim 2015 is going to be.  I want to get my position out there but it just isn’t possible at the moment.  It takes me several hours to put together a reasoned presentation and I don’t have enough continuous electrical power at home at the moment to do that.  So, sadly, for me at any rate it will have to wait until after 27 Jan when my normal mains power is scheduled to be restored, three months to the day since it was cut off.

Meantime, there are enough good articles from some of the writers more noted than myself who have beautifully laid out likely events for this year.  Here are a few of them:
http://kunstler.com/forecast/forecast-2015/
http://cluborlov.blogspot.com.au/…/2015-grounds-for-optimis…
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com.au/…/the-cold-wet-ma…

…and here is one for anyone who wishes to continue to live in fairyland, oblivious to what is really going on, for as long as possible:
https://medium.com/matter/why-2015-wont-suck-f923634eccdb

Of course I know that not many people are interested enough to read even one of these pieces, except for the last one, but folk need to know that this information is out there …and maybe, just maybe, someone will sit up and take notice.  Let me know if that is you.

I was right about 2014.  All last year, from the very beginning, I said that would be the year everything changes.  And it was.  It was the final year that mankind could continue to kid themselves that everything was still normal, nothing much happening, carry on as usual, nothing to fear.  Just look back at the year and see if you still believe that.  We must stop kidding ourselves.  This is serious.  And what takes place this year and in future years will affect us all, will change the way we live.  Radically change it.  For many of us it will be our last year on Earth, for one reason or another.

I have named 2015 as the year the upheaval begins.  It may start slowly, and build over several years to come.  I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.  It could start dramatically, affecting the lives of millions from day one.  Ending the lives of millions from day one.   I don’t know, but I am prepared to expect either of those situations or anything in between.  One thing I am certain of: None of us will have any doubt at the end of this year, that modern civilisation is crumbling around us and there is nothing we can do about it.

I was harking back to 2014 where at the start of that year I began making a sort of prediction as to how the year would turn out, not just for me but for the whole of mankind, globally.

I had said that 2014 would be ‘The Year Where Everything Changes’ and I consider that was a true reflection of what happened.  2014 was the last year that life on Earth could ever again be considered as anything like ‘normal’.  It was the end of an era.  From now on, life would be different.  Nothing would ever be the same again, and we ought to consider that in our everyday plans.

I then made the prediction that 2015 would be ‘The Year The Upheaval Begins’.  As the year draws to a close I don’t think anyone could argue that this has not been a year of upheaval.  Maybe not so apparent in your life or mine, but on the global stage and even on the national stage, that is inarguable.  The world is in turmoil, the likes of which many of us will have never seen previously in our lifetime.  That situation is not going to go away and it would be foolish not to acknowledge that, and to plan accordingly.  Things are likely to deteriorate even further as we move into next year and, if they haven’t done already, are extremely likely to impact the lives of all of us.

I just want to repeat one sentence from my earlier post:

“One thing I am certain of: None of us will have any doubt at the end of this year, that modern civilisation is crumbling around us and there is nothing we can do about it.”

If you don’t see that, then you are not looking hard enough, or in the right places.

It is getting near time for me to make a prediction for 2016.  I have a vague recollection of having done so already, earlier in the year, but I can find no trace of having written about it, or what I might have said.  In any case, I have at this time no clear image of what title I should give to 2016.  I expect, if I think about it a bit, something will come to me over the next month, so stay tuned.

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A New Age of Global Paranoia

In the first weeks of this year of 2014 I became aware of a feeling that this was to be no ordinary time for the world we inhabit, the nations we live in, and the global civilisation of which we are all part.  I blogged about that thought at the time here: 2014, The Year Everything Changes.

Nothing that has occurred, between the time of writing that blog post and now, has given me any cause to doubt or change my mind at all about what I said there.  On the contrary, while at the time I had no explicit thoughts as to what way or in what shape the unfolding months would progress, many events this year, changing conditions, and rising influences, have tended to only strengthen the feelings I had. Not least the recent shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, which has the potential to critically alter the way of life for all of us.  I may elucidate on this towards the end of the year.  To do so now would detract from what I want to say in this post.

The title of this post, ‘A New Age of Global Paranoia’, I can not claim as my own work.  It is a thought borrowed from a fine article addressing this issue at the AlterNet website here: The New Age of Global Paranoia: Russia, Ukraine and Plane Crash.  I will remark on this article in due course but first I want to make a few general comments of my own about the current situation.

It is wrong, very wrong, for the leaders (the PM, Foreign Minister) of my nation, Australia, and others (US President especially) to pronounce blame and culpability for the tragic downing of flight MH17 on Russia and President Putin.  It is both blinkered and shortsighted thinking on the part of these leaders, or perhaps premeditated obfuscation of true intent, to do so. 

It is even unjustifiable to blame the Ukrainian separatist rebels who may, and it is only may at this stage, have fired the weapon that brought the aircraft down.  Leave aside the premise that whoever did it, it may have been an unfortunate but unintentional mistake made in the confusion of a conflict zone.  The chances of the event occurring as a deliberate criminal act are so minute as to be discarded as trivial, not fan-fared as an accusatory external response to the event.

The Americans always have a very short memory when it comes to their own shortcomings but are quick to jump on those of other nations.  How many Americans I wonder remember that they deliberately shot down a commercial passenger jet, Iran Air Flight 655, back in July of 1988 after supposedly mistaking it for an Iranian fighter aircraft.  Of course, Russia (at the time USSR), Ukraine, Israel, and an unknown perpetrator, have all previously caused similar tragedies.  The recent event is therefore not unprecedented.  This does not include destruction of passenger aircraft from on-board bomb packages.  Of which there have been several, perhaps most notably Lockerbie.

If blame for this tragedy is to be judiciously and fairly apportioned, it must possess a reach much wider than the local theatre of conflict.  After all, Russia is only looking after its own interests and protecting its own back yard by assisting, if they are actually assisting with the supply of sophisticated armaments to the Russian speaking Ukrainian rebels, just as every other nation, including and perhaps especially as the US does, when it suits them.

The separatists themselves are only seeking to exercise their right to self-determination in a country they see as sidelining their personal interests. These are not bad people and they are certainly not criminals.  At least they are no worse than those they are in conflict with and those who are really responsible for bringing about this whole situation in Ukraine. By that I mean NATO and the European Union, which inevitably means the US also, all of whom have broken an agreement with Russia (though some dispute this ever existed, it certainly does in Russian eyes) to steer clear of involvement in Russia’s sphere of influence (ie. to not move further East), which includes Ukraine, in return for agreeing to the re-unification of Germany late last century.

NATO, the EU and the US have for a while been pushing for just this sort of conflagration both overtly and covertly by seeking to annexe Ukraine to the West. It is little wonder that Russia and the many Russian speaking Ukrainians are objecting to this sort of action.

The blame net, if it is to be cast at all, needs to be cast even wider than this.  It is not only politicians, world leaders and governments of all persuasions that are trawled into this net.  They are only (supposedly) largely reflecting the thoughts and wishes of society in general. Society itself therefore must take its share.

You and I, and even (dare I say) the victims of MH17 (the adults at least) must take a share of responsibility as complicit members of the current crumbling, sick, global civilisation that has turned this world into the paranoid state it has become today.  A world of greed, conflict, and global paranoia as described in the excellent article from AlterNet that I cited earlier.  We are all jointly responsible, to a greater or lesser degree, for everything that happens both now, locally and globally, and into the future.

So I say to world leaders, back off from blaming Russia for this, or you could plunge us into something that will not be easily remedied.

Please read the AlterNet article.  It carries some useful insights.

Perhaps the most prominent idea that arises from this article is the actual and growing feeling of paranoia prevalent in the world today.  It is something that can be felt.  Maybe not explained but certainly felt.  Except of course by those who are so wrapped up in their own little sphere of existence that they hardly recognise or acknowledge anything outside of it.

People do not feel safe today.  For any number of reasons or for perhaps no reason at all that they are able to verbalise and formulate a clear image of.  I see this as a visceral recognition that something is wrong.  Something is going on that they cannot as yet get a handle on.  Something that breeds fear for the future such that it can only be dealt with by immersing the self in the trivialities of the present but knowing that it cannot be, will not be, ignored for ever.  A fear that can be dulled by an infusion of media distractions, consumerism, or worse still – drugs, or can be avoided altogether by suicide.  That is why these things are so prevalent these days.  That is why it has been so easy for controlling powers to surreptitiously install curbs on freedoms long held in less stressful times.  That is why immune systems have been able to be de-sensitised by the introduction of food substitutes and additives.  That is why pharmaceutical companies have been able to enslave folk to dependence on their sensibility numbing and behaviour controlling/inducing wares.

I know exactly what is going on.  We are living through the decline and collapse of everything we have come to know and enjoy as part of the modern global civilisation, and just like all previous such declines, and yes there have been many, and no this time is no different, it is a time of confusion, despair, posturing, over-reaction, violence and conflict on many levels.  What is needed to stem the fear and harness the efforts of all, is acceptance of the situation, a willingness to let go of the past and all of its binding principles, and the courage to prepare for changed times.

The conditions, actions, incidents, controversy and confusion that we see now, reflect the current state of the melting pot of civilisational decay.

Here’s how Andrew Leonard, the author, explains the phenomena:

“An already anxious world is sure to get more jittery. We’ve seen what happens after previous shocks to the global nervous system.  9/11 changed the psychology of a nation — changed our laws, the way we travel, the way our government spies on its citizens. We didn’t feel safe, so we became paranoid, with lasting effect.”

and…

The destruction (of MH17) …will further stoke close-to-the-breaking-point paranoia.   Adding a fully invigorated neo-Cold-War showdown to American anxieties about terrorism could further inflame nationalist fevers on both sides of the Atlantic.  We gasp, because our world just lurched again, and the only thing we can be sure of is that there are more lurches to come.

He concludes…

Remember the end of history (referring to a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama)?   The triumph of capitalist liberal democracies over the failed socialist experiment?   The deeper we get into the 21st century the more insecure that supposed victory feels.   A more terrified world is a world that justifies more surveillance, more hatred towards the alien other, more controls on movement and association.

History doesn’t end.   It staggers forward, fitfully, like a drunk bully.   And maybe that explains the sick feeling that accompanied the news from Ukraine.   Three hundred innocent people dying is horror enough.   The certainty that the consequences of this event will lead us places we don’t want to go is even worse.

Whether we like it or not, we are headed to places and events that we can exert little control over.  What we can do is to make that process as peaceful and ultimately fruitful as possible by our reactions to events as they unfold.  The present day reactions of current world leaders do not lend much hope to this possibility.  It is up to you and I.

2014, The Year Everything Changes

“It’s The System, Stupid!” – US Ex-President, Bill Clinton

It is the system.  The system is corrupt and bears us (you and me) no good will.  The system must go.

Democracy is dead.  Overpowered, overcome and taken over by Corporate lobbyists, Corporate greed and Corporate money.

Well, actually, democracy is not quite dead but has been zombyfied by corporate interests.  They actually need it to retain at least a semblance of life in order to keep the people (you know the people I mean, it’s the same ones as in ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’, aka you and me) guessing at what is going on but never quite sure whether they need to be worried or get restless somehow.  So democracy keeps staggering along, looking more dead than alive, arms dragging, face a grotesque mask and grunting incoherently about nothing that matters. Oh yes, and (just to complete the picture) eating its own brains (metaphorically) whenever it can.

This can not be allowed to continue and 2014 is shaping up to be the year that ‘we, the people’ bring it to a head.

I wrote the above on 7 January having been fired up by reading the latest piece called Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future, from David Holmgren, co-founder of the permaculture phenomenon and someone whose work I greatly respect.

2014, The Year Everything Changes

…Well, it would have been, but the angst has diminished.

It is now 17 January and I have calmed down somewhat, in the intervening week or so.

I don’t know if it was the intention of the author to bring out the same sort of reaction I had, at least initially, in the mind of the concerned reader, but it worked.  I expect it will get more readers fired up one way or another.  But sufficiently motivated to do something radical?

If I may bluntly precis and paraphrase David’s paper in my own words, what it boils down to is this:

There is a problem with the way we, the world’s people and our societal organisations, are handling the operational conduct of our civilisation. 

The problem concerns the fact that we are impinging on the wellbeing of the planetary systems on which we rely for our existence, in ways that are going to blow up in our faces before too long.

There is a growing, though as yet low-level, awareness to those facts among the populace and its leaders but the concern is that this will never amount to a drive with sufficient impact to halt or change the current way of things.  At least in time to prevent what could be a particularly unpleasant outcome for all concerned. 

Perhaps we should take steps to avert such calamity by attempting to bring about an early end to the current system (which is going to crash all by itself anyway sooner or later) in order to minimise the damage that might be caused by letting things take the course of natural progression. 

Such an effect could be achieved by sufficient numbers of participants from the most advanced areas of society withdrawing their support from the system, thus starving it of funding to maintain credit supply and causing it to crash.  David provides what he thinks would be appropriate numbers to make that happen.

This proposal, or maybe it is just a line of thought intended to provoke discussion, has so far drawn attention from two other prominent names from the resilience arena in a three cornered kind of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ scenario.  With no attempt or wish to  attach any of those labels to any of these participants (they can’t be referred to as ‘combatants’ as they are all more or less friends), they are the very well credentialed Nicole Foss (aka Stoneleigh, of The Automatic Earth blogspot), Rob Hopkins, founder of The Transition Movement, and of course David Holmgren.

With David having metaphorically fired the first bullet, not generally aimed at anyone specifically, it didn’t take long for Nicole to reply with the first answering shot in her TAE article Crash on Demand? A Response to David Holmgren followed soon after by a blast from Rob delivered in his article Holmgren’s ‘Crash on Demand’: be careful what you wish for.

Now, this is not a battle royal, and I didn’t intend to make it sound like that.  It is just a (mostly) friendly discussion between folk who are pretty much on the same side and who share many thoughts and points of view.  Yet there are distinct differences between them in certain areas and each argues their position lucidly and politely.  It is all worth reading.

The Transitioner View

Without intending to be over-critical, I think Rob Hopkins position, which basically hinges around the idea that we need the current system to continue as long as possible in order to reach a general state of readiness that would be considered adequate to meet the future with some assurance of success (a not unworthy goal), is the least defensible but then his organisation The Transition Movement perhaps has the most to lose in this regard being fairly closely (as I see it, and this is purely a personal view) tied in to that same system (working from within).  Transitioners may well disagree with that.

The main thrust of Rob’s argument against ‘Crash on Demand’ lies in his view that what he envisages as a Post Growth Economy, David sees as an Economic Crash.  Admittedly the two concepts are quite incompatible.  Which is the most likely to be what we actually experience?  Well, for me the idea of any sort of economy that looks in any way similar to the current one, except that it operates on some clean, green, renewable energy supply but at the same time enables much the same sort of activity and social complexity as we have now, is totally out of the question.

As I see it, there is no substitute, none at all, for the fossil fuel based energy that has powered our civilisation and its technology for the last century or so, and there is no way that we will be able to support such a system.  There is no way also that a population anywhere near the current level will be supportable in the long term.  To raise expectations of such an existence is in my view reprehensible.  That is not to say that we could not have achieved at least the rudiments of such a society at some earlier stage, but we chose not to do so.  The time for that solution to our situation has long passed.

The Financial Economist View

On the whole, and having gotten over my initial flush of rebellious revolutionary arousal, I tend to stand more in the corner of this triangle (before it becomes even more polygonal), occupied by Nicole.

Nicole comes from a position of concern that alignment or even perceived alignment with a move to bring down the system pro-actively, could react negatively on the good name of permaculture and all permaculturists by association.  She suggests that such reaction would not assist permaculture to be the beneficial force that it could be in forming resilient post collapse communities.

Nicole also argues that the best way to deal with climate change is to stop talking about it.  To me this initially appeared to be an astonishing statement but the more I thought about it, her reasons for making this claim made sense.  There is currently great concern about climate change, rising overall global temperatures, increasing natural disasters and climate related upheavals, and that level of concern is rightly and entirely justified.  In the short term.  But as I have said elsewhere, while we may be making conditions on this planet uncomfortable for ourselves and likely to be unlivable for most of us, perhaps all of us, for many centuries and even millennia, The Earth will never become another Venus.  Difficult as it is in times of stress, we need to look always at the big picture, the long term, and if we do that, we will see that climatic cycles always have and likely always will prevail despite local, temporal perturbences.  We will, or rather The Earth will (we may well not be around to see it), eventually enter another periodic ice age.  Like it or not, and past cycles do indicate that one is due shortly (in geological timescales).

Climate change, in Nicole’s view, and I have to mostly agree with her reasoning, is only one potential driver of possible societal collapse.  It is not considered the primary driver although if those forces attempting to keep the struggling global economy staggering along for as long as they can, succeed in any meaningful way, then climate change will eventually and inevitably force a collapse situation.  However, other factors are likely to intervene before that happens.  The prime suspect for being the triggering event of collapse of our unworkable global society, according to Nicole, is financial system collapse. She, both at her current blogsite, The Automatic Earth, and previously at The Oil Drum, has been saying the same thing for a number of years now.  Nothing I have read elsewhere has convinced me that she may be incorrect.  In fact Nicole’s position is that the journey to collapse already started with what we identify as being the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, which she claims is still ongoing and actually only in its early stages.  I find no reason to disagree with that.

Still, it is just a guessing game and there are a number of contenders for what the initial trigger for collapse might be.  Hopefully they won’t all arrive at the same time but that scenario cannot be lightly dismissed.

So, What Does 2014 Hold For Us?

What?  You think I am some sort of soothsayer?  I have no crystal ball, no time machine, no other-worldly, outer-worldly or inner worldly access to future events.

I can however, use my intuition, my knowledge of history, science, humanity, my big picture view of things and my accumulated experience of the way the world works throughout a reasonably long life so far, to be convinced that sometime soon, for each of us and for all of us, things are going to change such that life in the way we have come to accept and know it, will be turned upside down and we will be thrust into situations where we will at best have only our own wits, knowledge and resources to rely on in order to make a go of it.

We may be given ample opportunity to prepare for this, giving us reasonable expectations of weathering the storm so to speak.  We may only be given short notice, enough to make emergency preparations and therefore limited chances for a happy outcome.  We may also be taken completely by surprise and have little or no prospects of making it through.  One thing is for sure, we can expect little assistance from those directions to which many of us now look for help.  Government, emergency services, volunteer services.  Such help will be non-existent, having gone down in the ruins of collapse, disintegrated or dissipated as those who render such services look to their own safety.  Alternatively, such friendly or benign services as we look to now may prove to be anything but that in the new circumstance, instead becoming openly hostile to those in need.

Those of us who have been keeping a watchful eye on how events transpire, will have been preparing as best we can for some years now.  However, even we should admit to ourselves, if no-one else, that we may not be as prepared as we may think we are in the event that certain unforseen scenarios emerge.

Do I think 2014 will be the year this will become a reality?  I have said elsewhere that I can’t see the current system going beyond 2020 and we are already seeing evidence of collapse all around us in increasing unrest, hardship, poverty, homelessness, violence, suicide, genocide, loss of respect (self, others, authority), decaying infrastructure, inability to repair damaged infrastructure, widening gap between haves and have-nots, government corruption, erosion of liberties, growing police state, etc.   I can say with some certainty that we are on a downward track through troubled times and the journey is not going to be a smooth one.  There may be places where the time track ends abruptly in a hole or at a precipice before continuing on its path and some parts of the descent may be steeper than others.  At other points we may see some temporary hope by being directed upwards for a while.  We also cannot expect that the track will follow the identical path in every nation around the globe but we are sufficiently economically connected in this age to know that we will all end up at the same point which is both an end point for our current civilisation and hopefully a reasonably happy start point for what comes after.  If there is to be an after.

2014 will therefore unfold as it will.  But you will at the very least be able to recognise that the system is further crumbling around us.  If, that is, you are looking for it and not burying your head in the sand, hoping it is all a bad dream or the ravings of a madman.