Friday, April 7, 2017

O is for Ouch!



Hello everyone, just to say that I'm not writing much at the moment as I've had a little ... accident. As you can see from the picture, my right hand is not fully functional, and given that it's my writing hand I'm forced to type with one finger on my left hand.

Yes, two weeks ago I was cutting through a steel pipe with an angle grinder when the tool caught an edge, banged against a wall and rebounded onto the back of my hand. Luckily, I was at home when it happened, which is a five minute walk away from the nearest hospital. Once there they ascertained that it was serious enough to be sent to the regional hospital, and I emerged two days later having had an operation to sew together a severed tendon and dig some fragmented disk out of the bone.

Although I've been using power tools for 25 years, this was my first experience of anything going wrong. It was a silly mistake that could have been avoided, and I've learned my lesson. I also got to learn a few things about the health system here, and got a free mini-break in a nice hospital with nice doctors and nurses. So, much humbled, I'm back home and recuperating.

Anyway, I'm pretty much handicapped for three months while it heals, which has torpedoed most of my work projects. At least I can catch up on a lot of reading - it could have been a lot worse.

***

In other news, I'm sad to report that heretical polymath and fellow peak oiler Liam Scheff passed away earlier today aged 45, having written this note. I wouldn't claim to have been a friend of Liam, having only become aware of his work six months ago, but I interacted with him quite a few times on social media and appreciated his rapier wit and sharp thinking. The tale of his demise is a sad one, but he bowed out lucid to the end and with true spirit. He was definitely one of the good guys - I've got his book Official Stories on order.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Not Sci-Fi but Pi-Fi



Right now, it seems like people's faith in the idea of endless progress is being shaken. Whether it's the UK leaving the EU, Donald Trump's ascension to the American presidential throne or simply a gnawing feeling that something 'big' has gone wrong somewhere, more and more people are expressing anxiety about the direction in which we are heading. If one wants to see proof of this phenomenon one need look no further than the mainstream media, traditionally the gatekeepers of human consciousness in terms of the day-to-day business of sorting out what is important from what is not. Even a brief glance at an online news site will show a slew of articles that are more biased opinion pieces than factual news items, and the reader comments below — if they are permitted at all — will more often than not display a remarkable level of hostility towards anyone who disagrees with them. Is it any wonder that trust in these mainstream publications has fallen to historic lows across a broad range of demographic groups, with only the over sixties still possessing much faith in them at all?

At the same time, faith in science and technology is facing a similar crisis. Casting an eye back over the last few decades, to give a couple of examples, it would seem that new inventions have been supplanted by mere innovations and 'upgrades', whilst actual space travel has been replaced by theoretical space travel (or low Earth orbit space stations). If one wants to see them there are plenty of artistic impressions of what faraway planets 'might' look like, presumably to make up for the occasional blurry pixel we are told is the actual, and the public at large is ambivalent at best about the latest discoveries made by particle physicists with research grants the size of small countries. Once again, is it any wonder why faith in science is being tested when there are so many things we were told were scientific proofs are now discredited, such as the idea that a low-fat diet makes you slimmer and that you must drink eight glasses of water and five (now increased to 10) portions of fruit and veg a day to maintain health? No, those men and women in white coats are having to fight harder and harder to win over an increasingly sceptical public.

Of course, this cannot be permitted. The reaction by the guardians of the media and the scientific technologists to this loss of faith by their subjects is to double down on their claims and amp up the rhetoric. Thus information that emerges from a non-mainstream conduit is decried as 'fake news' or 'propaganda' and science that emerges through a non-approved channel is debunked as 'pseudo science'. No quarter is given in this battle of consciousness, and no dissent is permitted.

And yet people do dissent. Finding themselves caught in an ever-tightening vice of economic policies which make them materially poorer with each passing year, and faced with an indifferent class of media-savvy personalities who insist that things are getting better all the time, they are wont to ponder whether, in the realm of hopes and dreams, they've been sold a dud. Most people, no matter where in the world they live, yearn for practically the same thing. They want peace and security, a decent low-crime area in which to raise a family where they might have a little place of their own with maybe a space to grow some food, and a few good friends with whom they can share a meal or a drink while feeling happy within their own cultural boundaries. That's basically it: a modest, happy life with peace and a degree of autonomy. Is this too much to ask?

Instead, what they get, is an increasingly degraded living situation where, if they live in a poor country, they either have to work long hours in a factory producing gadgets and other consumer items, or else they get a subsistence wage working in dangerous conditions mining minerals or producing chemically poisoned cash crops for the commodities market. And if they are fortunate enough to live in a rich country, the majority will have to work long hours in an office doing unfulfilling work to pay off the huge loans they have taken out to finance buying the gadgets made by the poor people. Here they are forced to dine in the staff canteen on chemically poisoned food from abroad while their bosses wax lyrical about replacing them all with robots made from the commodities mined by the even poorer people abroad.

Weren't we supposed to be living in Utopia by now?



And so people need some kind of new plausible vision. In the past, in the industrialised nations at least, we were offered salvation in the form of Sci-Fi fantasies about living in space and travelling around the universe meeting interesting new aliens. Now, unless the aliens come to us, these dreams appear unlikely. The dwindling of oil supplies, and the technical inability of renewables or anything else to replace it, means that the industrial basis of our civilisation has a very short shelf life. Indeed, due to the immutable and non-negotiable laws of thermodynamics, the party really will be over sooner rather than later. Mention this to most people of course and they'll airily dismiss it as an apocalyptic delusion, and that "they'll" think of something before then. But given that an ever growing groundswell of people are losing their faith in "them" — what's a narrative-driven sapient mammal with an above average sized brain to do?

That's where the PI-FI writers step forward. PI stands for Post Industrial and Fi for Fiction, because that's what is needed right now. So what's the difference between a sic-fic writer and a Pi-fi one? Well, instead of dreaming up yet another variation of the tired old trope of muscular space-heroes travelling around the galaxy in spaceships and saving virgins/peoples/planets from annihilation*, the PI-Fi writer recognises that the limits imposed on the human race by geology, thermodynamics and the biosphere mean that we're not looking to the stars for salvation, but under our own feet on the nice blue magic ball we call planet Earth.

PI-fi, it could be said, is a maturation of a form. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be a rock star? You played the music on volume 11 and stood in front of a mirror with a hairbrush and imagined thousands of adoring fans swooning, of lighting cigars with wads of money and seeing pictures of yourself in magazines (I know I did)? And then you get older and you realise it will never happen, and you learn to take life's tragedies and victories in your stride and you see on the news that another pop star has taken a drug overdose or died at a relatively young age and you think, "Thank God my teenage dreams never came true!" It's the same thing with fiction and all those ideas of conquering the universe and dominating other planets.

What does Pi-Fi look like? Thankfully we already have plenty of examples, probably the most well-known of which is James Howard Kunstler's World Made by Hand series. John Michael Greer's After Oil: SF Visions of a Post Petroleum World burst onto the scene in late 2012, cementing the establishments of a new genre, and in the meantime we have had the launch of the quarterly magazine Into the Ruins, showcasing further talent. Another new magazine, Mythic, explores post industrial fiction, as well as more traditional Sci-Fi, and I'm sure there will be more as we move forwards and old narratives continue to disintegrate.

Obviously Pi-Fi has more constraints placed on it than Sci-Fi in terms of possible story lines — or so it would seem. But, wait a minute, doesn't true creativity flourish best when it is constrained by form and must follow agreed-upon conventions? Don't the boundaries of the field of play focus the attention of what's happening in the centre? A case in point: which piece of music sounds better to your ears, Bedřich Smetana's Vltava, with its sinuously flowing phonics that evoke a force of nature, or a piece of avant garde 'noise music' that adheres to no rules or form whatsoever? As ever, the choice between the two is subjective and depends on the listener, and admittedly the latter is evocative of a certain technological dysfunction in its experimental nature: it has its place in the auditory sound ecosystem, but which piece would you rather listen to on your deathbed?

What qualifies as Pi-Fi? At its heart, any narrative that is written with this genre in mind must be set in a post-industrial future. This is our most likely future, and therefore the one that the tool of fiction is the most powerful and useful. This raises the question, what does 'post-industrial' mean? After all, we are often told that we live in a post-industrial society, since most manufacturing moved to China. No, Pi-Fi is different. We are considering a future in which industrial civilisation is either ending or has ended. To that end the following assumptions would have to apply:

1 - Humankind's access to highly concentrated forms of energy will be severely curtailed in the near to medium term
2 - There will be a corresponding collapse in the complexity of civilisation and the population it can support
3 - The future will be haunted by the mistakes of the past, especially in the form of inappropriate technologies

Sound a bit gloomy, or merely realistic? It's been pointed out by others that we have a binary obsession with either/or visions of the future, namely that either we will head off on a grand space adventure in the stars, or else face apocalyptic annihilation at home. But there's a huge amount of ground between those two poles — ground that Pi-Fi is more than happy to occupy. Neither of the two extremes is particularly useful to us, except as a means of escapism, and what if neither of our standard assumptions takes place? What if — gulp — the human story continues for another few thousand years, with different types of technology, different ways of organising our societies and different ways of relating to our planet? True, those skeletal horsemen are certain to be busy — just as they have been throughout nearly all human history — but the folks sticking around will likely have a lot of good stories to tell about their experiences.

Can you imagine telling some of them?

If you think you could then you might be interested to hear that I'm moving forwards with a small publishing venture, with the aim of publishing a handful of Pi-Fi books every year. At present there is not much going on in this genre over on this side of the Atlantic (Europe, that is), or indeed the world outside of America — so I'm particularly interested in, but not limited to, stories taking place in the wider world. I'm going to kick this off with a call for submissions for an initial anthology of stories up to 8,000 words in length, but 2,000 at a minimum.

For this anthology, writers will need to follow these seven rules for their story:

1 - Stories must be set in the future at some point within the next 100 years

2 - The laws of physics as currently understand them must be abided by

3 - Due consideration must be given to the natural limits placed on humans, as well as the damage done to Earth's ecological systems by industrialism

4 - No deus-ex-machina technology that rescues industrial civilisation at the last moment

5 - Stories must be stories, with believable characters, plots, narrators etc., and not just thinly-disguised technical propositions, sociological commentaries or screeds

6 - Metaphysics is permitted and even encouraged as a story device so far as it relates to popularly understood concepts (metaphysics doesn't run on oil, so there's no danger of us running out)

7 - Stories must not simply be "horses and hearses" i.e. a re-hash of pre-industrial Europe, supposedly set in the future

I'm really hoping that readers will respond to this and rise to the challenge with vision, imagination and plausible realism. Unleash your mind and see what happens. I will be cross-posting this blog on a number of different social media pages, channels and groups, and the closing date for entries will be May 1st 2017 — Beltaine — which is seven weeks away. To enter, ideally publish your story on a blog site or other web page and post a link to it in the comments below this post — making sure there's a way of contacting you in the form of an email address somewhere — but if you can't do that then send it to me as an email at the address found in the 'About' section on my site. The stories must be original and they must be by you. I'll pick the winners shortly afterwards and they will share an equal proportion of 70% of the proceeds of the resultant book after the costs of production have been discounted (which is simply the price of designing a cover and printing a few review copies). The book, after I've edited, typeset and printed it, will then be available through print-on-demand and published by Belenos Press (I'm working on making a website so it's just a Facebook page at the moment) — and I'll send all the published authors a copy.

Best of luck for the challenge and I look forward to reading your stories.





* I do realise that not all Sci-Fi is so two-dimensional, although much of it has been in the past, and some of it still is — and I'm as much a fan of it as you are. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

M is for Madness in our Time

Image by Tavis Leaf Glover


Have you noticed how many people are losing their minds recently? Ever since people here in the UK democratically voted to leave the European Union and, more recently, voters in the USA decided they'd rather have a businessman as the president instead of a career politician, people have been, to put it politely, going batshit crazy. People who, before these votes took place, appeared to be well balanced and generally happy in life, might now spend their every waking moment hammering away on keyboards with the caps lock on, spitting out an endless slew of invective against people they don't  know. The slightest thing can trigger them off into an epic meltdown and one can only imagine their red rheumy eyes scanning their computer screens as they scroll continuously looking for another perceived slight that can be blown up into a full-on fight to the death.

If this were the Middle Ages these people would be called "possessed".

Here's an interesting thought experiment, imagine if we wound back the clock by a couple of years and approached these keyboard warriors with a simple question. If they were British we might ask them "On a scale of 1 - 10 how interested are you in the political and trading arrangements between the UK and the European Union?" Most people, I suspect, would reply that they were either rather uninterested or utterly uninterested. Many would just grunt and look puzzled and say "Eh?" They would then ask you what you thought of the latest series of Game of Thrones.

Now, these same people might say that the arrangements between the UK and the EU are practically the most important thing in the history of things. They might then claim they have always thought that way — that all those years when they ventured no comment on politics or economics or anything serious at all were merely an act — and that anyone who even dares to question the importance of such a thing is a closet fascist and an ignorant sub-human who deserves to be put out of his misery with a cricket bat.

The same goes for America. Ask a person in 2014 whether the country should be run efficiently and like a business and most people would probably agree that it sounds like a good idea. Roll forward to 2017 and there's a president who's a businessman who's trying to run the country like a business and half the population are claiming that he's a satanic Hitler who uses kitten heads as golf balls and lets Vladimir Putin urinate on him as he's wrapped in the American flag.

What's going on?

Clearly, social media and digital legacy media have played a part in the great insanitising of the West.  People have retreated inside their own echo chamber silos where the only views they get to hear accord 100% with their own views, meaning the moment they encounter someone with a slightly different viewpoint (which, to them, will also appear 100% logical and correct) they react as if they just opened their wardrobe to find a tentacled Chthonic abomination trying on their shoes as it lazily devours their firstborn child.*

But anyway, what is it exactly that is causing so many people to go crackers over what, to many of the people who read this kind of blog regard as of the lesser order of magnitude of the Bad Things That Can Happen scale? For a long time we've been saying that our civilisation depends on cheap and abundant energy, and that the supply of our most accessible form of that energy — oil — is faltering and that there's nothing out there to replace it, in any meaningful sense. And that as it falters we'll follow the time-honoured trajectory of civilisations in decline which will feature the more powerful actors attempting to secure energy and materials (as represented by monetary wealth), an inevitable kickback by the left-behind majority whose survival instinct will lead them to choose leaders and reject the ideology foisted upon them by the establishment, who will in turn then fight back etc. — in a rinse and repeat cycle that continues until a new equilibrium is established, albeit at much lower levels of available energy, materials and — yes — population.

We entered into this part of our dance of death some decades ago and it's testament to the power of politics and marketing that the illusion of things getting better (How? For whom? At what cost?) has persisted for so long. When this mass illusion began to fracture in the early part of the 21st century most people doubled down on the denial presented to them by the corporate media. We had somehow convinced ourselves that we were a 'special case' and that the normal rules of entropy and dissolution did not apply to us. Boy, was that a bad mistake, but surely someone must be to blame?

Have you ever heard of the term 'gaslighting'? I encountered it for the first time when I read Thomas Sheridan's book on psychopaths and mind control Puzzling People: The Labyrinth of the Psychopath  — but have heard it used increasingly ever since.

The 1940 British film Gaslight is about a married couple who move into a vacant house in a fashionably wealthy London square. An old woman had been murdered in the house some years before and the property had stood vacant ever since. At first everything seems normal and the couple are happy. But then something odd happens; the woman keeps mislaying things around the house and forgetting where they are, and the husband begins to accuse her of stealing them. He disappears for long periods of time to the top floor of the house—somewhere his wife never ventures—and every time he does so the lights in the house dim. His wife notes this but he dismisses it, implies that she is losing her marbles.

Gaslight — which you can watch for free on YouTube — is a classic illustration of a how a psychopath controls their unsuspecting victim. The person being controlled does not realise they are being manipulated in such a way as they see every 'failing' as a personal one and they will do anything to protect the person who has captured their mind and soul. This is the precise manner in which cults are able to convince people to commit suicide en masse, and anyone who manages to escape from the cult will be able to tell you how terrifying it is for someone to have such complete control over you without you even realising it. They will sink to any depth to defend against anyone who is attacking their beloved leader, to whom they have unconditionally surrendered their mental and emotional faculties.

Which begs the question: have millions of people in the West fallen victim to mind control and gaslighting? In my view the answer is almost certainly yes. Are they irrational and impervious to any argument that doesn't conform with the one they have drilled into their own head? Are they united against some kind of common enemy or demon who is so evil as to justify any form of protest or violence against them? Are they willing to lay down their lives for their dear leader — just like the members of the Heaven's Gate cult, whom Marshall Applewhite managed to convince to commit suicide in order to hitch a ride on a passing alien space craft? When Hillary Clinton released a video yesterday calling for 'resistance' to Donald Trump, the hive mind of social media immediately responded with the following image:



Generations of cultural and social programming has resulted in a mass of people who are mentally vulnerable and easily manipulated. Some of it has been deliberate and some of it may not have been. In Dmitry Orlov's recent book Shrinking the Technosphere: Getting a grip on Technologies that Limit our Autonomy, Self Sufficiency and Freedom (New Society Publishers), he makes a convincing case for the existence of a "Technosphere", which is an emergent system that has evolved the characteristic of intelligence and now seeks to dominate the human mind and spirit. It takes human beings with rich histories and cultures, as well as great intrinsic worth, and processes them into almost homogenous units of consumption and production as a means of expanding its own power. People, willingly and unwillingly, submit to being fed into its gaping maw and one of the software programs this Technosphere machine runs on is neoliberal economic orthodoxy, as personified by Hillary Clinton or any other globalist politician.

The Irish writer and artist Thomas Sheridan, likewise, identifies the same phenomenon but from a different angle. Working on Wall Street he once handled a report for a large bank financing a dam being built in Central America. He asked a senior staff member what the miscellaneous costs item was at the bottom of a row of figures and was told off-handedly that this is the money put aside to pay the local mafia to murder all the people opposed to the project. That was an epiphanic moment for Sheridan and he went on to investigate how such seemingly evil machinations can be passed off as merely the cost of doing business, coining the term "Psychopathic Control Grid", which to all intents and purposes is the same as Orlov's Technosphere in that it assigns value to humans and nature only in as much as it can use them for its own ends. In this regard we have somehow created the ultimate death machine, and its modus operandi is neoliberal corporate capitalism.

For people to willingly submit to having their cultures assimilated, their economies ground into the dust, their sense of sexual identity made incoherent and to endure a lifetime of debt servitude in hock to a priestly class of bankers, academics and pseudo mystics (Zuckerberg, Bezos, Musk et al.) they must be offered something as recompense. And that something is no less than a vision of perfect enlightenment or Nirvana. The true believers, who usually identify themselves as atheists, are even willing to be sacrificed to the gods of progress — just look at how many applied for a one way ticket to Mars and the reasons they gave for willingly giving up their (usually young) lives. This Nirvana, of course, won't be attained by the faithful any time soon, but remains far off in a fuzzy Star Trek future i.e. after they are dead. In effect, 'progressive' neoliberalism is a death cult.

On the other end of what appears to many to be a spectrum, we have Donald Trump, Brexit, nationalism and conservatism all lumped uneasily together. For neoliberal progressives this can also appear cult-like. Who knows, perhaps there are people out there who worship Donald Trump as a living messiah and hang his tweets on their bedroom walls in gilt frames, and certainly there are those who maintain that concepts such as the "free market" (a mythic entity with no earthly presence) are worthy of unquestioning worshipful obedience — but in reality they are a different kettle of fish. Most people who chose to vote for Brexit or Donald Trump didn't do so on idealogical terms, they did so on down-to-earth practical ones. Unable to see the greater glory of a neoliberal progressive future they turned instead to look at their own run-down communities, their empty wallets and their ever-dimishing freedoms and they decided to vote against the assorted lawyer-politicos and unelected bureaucrats who they identified as the cause of their malaise.

So, if you got caught up in this and lost your mind, then I'm afraid to say you may have fallen at the first hurdle of our increasingly challenging future. If you spend hours of every day sitting on Facebook writing snarky passive-aggressive comments to your "friends" and trying to debunk them by posting links to your own favoured highly-manipulated information source, then you've been bitten just as bad. Claiming that anyone who doesn't agree with you is "Hitler" is not the way to regain your mental balance, and neither is calling anyone who doesn't agree with you a "Snowflake Pussy" from the other team. Bear in mind that, as Frank Zappa once said, politics is merely the entertainment arm of the military industrial complex, so try to concentrate on the things that are more immediately relevant to your life, such as your friends and family.

To that end, i you value your sanity and think it wiser to direct your energy towards making your little bit of the world a better place during your limited time here then it's probably best to steer clear of political death cults altogether, and instead take a more Stoical view of life. If you've got the time and inclination, take off for a hike alone in a region not too infested by the Technosphere. Pick somewhere you won't encounter many people (or, better still, any) and pack a copy of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius (as I did in the account of my Swedish forest journey The Path to Odin's Lake) and something by Carl Jung. To ensure you are out of the reach of the Psychopathic Control Grid, leave your phone at home and say 'Hi' to your shadow side as you contemplate your own inevitable demise and the demise of everyone and everything you hold dear — because plumbing the depths of your psyche builds perspective and makes you a more balanced individual. Spend time in nature, notice the animals and the trees and the way rain drips off leaves and how sun light is dappled on the ground, and then meditate on deep time and what it means to be a human being alive at this point in the turning of the Earth. If you do this you'll find it to be a useful first step in building up some protection against gaslighting and mind control and you'll feel a greater sense of autonomy and personal resilience. When you get back, if you've truly embraced the challenge you'll be quite unable to hate anyone on the basis of their ideology, cultural or religious identity or whatever — and that will be a useful mental state to be in as we continue on our hike down the far side of Hubbert's curve.

Of course, if this is too difficult and, like a moth circling a candle you simply must throw yourself into the flames, then by all means be my guest. You won't lack for company as you self-immolate and after you've been reborn you can visit a past life regression hypnotist who'll inform you that you died a martyr to some cause that will seem completely incomprehensible to the future you. But there will be more food and stuff to go round for the rest of us, so take your pick.

* [You will either have laughed at my flippant comments above or you will have stared at the screen shaking your head and closing the tab because you've no time for people who joke around when things are so serious. But please take note: gallows humour is another way of avoiding insanity.]

Monday, February 20, 2017

L is for Learning new Stuff



One of the benefits of knowing that the demise of the oil industry is at hand—and thus the modern way of life—is that it now makes sense to learn new skills. Under the standard educational model for most people in the industrial world, most learning takes place in the early years, perhaps stretching into early adulthood for a few. It is during this time, we are told, that the necessary skills are acquired to enable us to become obedient worker/consumers in the economy (or "upstanding citizens in society" in old money). For most people, any learning beyond this age tends to be merely a tweaking of what they already know. For example, they may already be able to operate a computer in an office environment, but they may need to be sent on a course to learn how to use the latest versions of a software package. This kind of learning is called training and one is expected to go through it in order to get a pay rise or avoid being sacked—at least until the day your job is handed to a computer algorithm or a robot.

Of course, this isn't real learning, it's merely learning how to tinker with an unstable and unsustainable system. On the other hand, many adults take it upon themselves to voluntarily expand their minds and pick up new skills. They attend night school classes and go on courses, learning a dizzying array of new subjects that could include anything from conversational French, stained glass window making or calligraphy, through to quilt making, taxidermy or astrophysics. Many more simply buy books and instructional DVDs and learn all about the foxtrot, Faberge egg painting or ritual magic that way—but usually the reason for learning this new information is motivated by a desire to practice a hobby in the leisure time outside of one's productive, money-earning life.

If you want to switch professions, say from being a teacher to a lawyer, you'll likely have to gain a professionally recognised qualification, awarded after a lengthy period of burning the midnight oil and at great personal expense. This is another kind of learning, often referred to as re-training, and although it might give you the ability to make more money in the short term it still likely does not address the problem of systemic instability in the longer term—you might be re-training for a job or profession that doesn't exist in five years.

Economic logic in our over-complex world currently dictates that it is very hard, if not impossible, to earn a living making useful things that can be made far more cheaply elsewhere due to mechanisation, cheap fossil fuels and globalisation. Only people in the continually-shrinking upper middle classes can afford to pay the real costs of production for items made by people who do not work under conditions of slave-labour. For example, I have a friend who is a highly skilled woodworker. He can take a piece of freshly-cut wood and transform it into a beautiful and practical object, such as a chair, a set of spoons and bowls, or a canoe paddle. The amount of work and attention to detail he puts into his creations is both impressive and admirable. But even he admits that he'd rather buy a cheap chair from Ikea than pay the full cost of one of his beautiful hand-made chairs — and he's realistic enough in his outlook that he doesn't blame others for doing so.

Yet this unfair-seeming scenario will not—cannot—last forever.

As the availability of high-density energy sources falters and dwindles, and the political technostructures that make globalisation possible grind to a juddering halt, the calculus of this setup will turn on its head. Many, if not most, of the items we currently take for granted will become very expensive. In other cases they will simply become unavailable at any price. When this happens, the laws of supply and demand will assert themselves and anyone able to provide necessary products and services will find themselves in an enviable position.

Learning new skills and how to make things, however, takes time. There's an assumption these days that anything can be learned quickly and easily, and that once one has learned it one can instantly become a teacher of it. The wife of my chair-making friend—who herself makes baskets, lamps and even coffins from willow—told me last week that she has fielded several separate phone calls in the last two weeks from people wanting to learn how to do exactly what she does. All of them, she said, wanted to quit their careers immediately and move down here to west Cornwall—which for many people is really the back of beyond—and instantly become basket weaving teachers, despite their never having touched a piece of fresh willow in their lives. When gently prodded as to why they felt so moved they each gave some answer that indicated Donald Trump or Brexit as the cause of their unease. An impending sense of Armageddon seemed to be the driver behind their sudden desire to learn how to make picnic baskets.

My friend patiently explained to them that it took her many years of practice to get where she is today. There were the years of experimenting with different designs, and of growing different species of willow, discerning which ones were appropriate for the local climate and soils. Aside from the ongoing learning of the skill of basket-making there were the years of plodding around the region's craft fairs—leaving home at 4:30am in order to get there in time to set up her stall, only to come home late in the day having hardly made the petrol money. There were the years of research into these lost skills (including hunting down old retired fishermen in their 80's and 90's, and learning how they once sat on the harbour walls weaving the extremely specialised lobster and crab pots before the era of mass industrial production) and the years of building up the strength in her hands and fingers. And then there were the numerous setbacks, such as rabbits destroying her willow crop, and all the other various slings and arrows that life chucks at you. Only, she then says, only after a decade and a half of dedication has she been finally able to call herself an artisan who is able to make a modest living from her craft—and she still refuses to call herself a master (you can see what she makes and judge for yourself).

But the people who contacted her were not interested in all of this—they wanted to learn how to make baskets next week and be teaching it the week after.

The point I'm trying to make here is that learning useful skills takes TIME. And the moment one begins to learn something new one begins to realise that there's a lot more to it than you previously thought. Growing food, for example, is another skill that many people assume you can just pick up more or less overnight. It's true that you might be able to quickly grow some food without any prior experience, but growing enough for a balanced diet that will keep you and your family alive is a whole different ball game: man cannot live by beans and potatoes alone.

From a personal perspective, since I first encountered the seriousness of our predicament some six or seven years ago, once I had worked through all the Kübler-Ross stages of grief "No, it can't be happening!", "I'll be alright if I just pack a bug-out bag and buy some gold," etc.) I have picked up quite a few new skills and been led down many an interesting intellectual avenue.  Having gone from a situation of relative complacency with a comfortable, if unfulfilling, office job, I have now learned the value of what it means to be a producer of things rather than just a consumer of them. Among the things that I can now produce are charcoal, wood products, fruit, biochar, natural soap, wine, cider, herbs and vegetables, and books. I'm working on producing many more things, including mushrooms, coppice products (fences, hurdles etc), herbal beers and honey. I've planted a forest garden, I've learned permaculture and coppice woodland management, I can strip a chainsaw down and I can field dress a squirrel. All of these things take skills that I have learned, to some degree.

Am I an expert at making and doing these things? NO! (I might be able to make some charcoal in an oil drum but I'll never be like the Japanese masters who had 2,000 different grades of charcoal, which apprentices had to learn to recognise merely by sniffing the smoke it gave off during production.) Could I live self-sufficiently using these skills? Don't make me laugh! In fact, I consider myself a rank amateur in terms of my practical skills, although to an outsider it might superficially appear that I know what I'm doing. This, I have learned, is the case for many people who nevertheless pass themselves off as experts (I recently heard of a young newly-qualified permaculture teacher who had never seen a carrot grow and was unsure how to get it out of the ground - and he was 'teaching' a group of middle aged people who had been expert gardeners since before he was born).

That's where the community aspect comes into play. Nobody can know everything. I would go further and say that hardly anyone can even know a lot of things. There are very few people in the world who  can do everything from rebuild a car engine, solder electronic circuit boards, grow (and know how to use) their own medicine, and defend themselves in a court of law. For the most part it is far better to specialise and organise into small, manageable groups. The ideal size for an autonomous group of differently skilled individuals is around 150 people (see Rob O'Grady's book, 150 Strong). This was the size of group I chose to use as an example of 'good practice' in my fictional novel Seat of Mars. In my story the 'clan leader' Art Gwavas, takes over a farm and only allows people with a variety of useful skills to live there. In this way they manage to make life a lot more bearable than it is for the hapless individuals hit by the same national calamity.

People learn in different ways. Many are autodidactic to some extent (can teach themselves), but many also prefer to be taught as part of a class. Some things have to be taught one-on-one. A good method for learning that I have heard works well is to be part of a skills swapping group. The concept is simple; you meet up once a week or month and someone teaches their particular skill to the rest. The next meeting it is someone else's turn. The ones I have heard about tend to involve skills such as sewing, soap making, fermenting and household item repair—but it could be anything really. What I have found with learning is that you should only try and learn things in which you have a natural interest. If you're unsure whether it is for you, you can always dip you toe in and give it a go to see if it appeals to you. I have something of a butterfly nature and tend to flit from one thing to next, so there have been many things I have thought would be interesting to me but turned out not to be. I've been learning my whole life and I plan to only stop learning new things when I'm dead.

It's scientifically proven that learning new things keeps your brain ticking over as you get older. My grandfather decided to learn Italian as an old man. Having never been outside of England in his life, he simply got on a ferry and a train and lived in Rome for a while. His method of learning was to sit on public benches and strike up a conversation with similarly-aged Italian men. They no doubt chatted about the war and the how things had been. When he was happy he could speak Italian he returned home.

So if you decide to learn a new skill for the future, make sure it's something that will likely survive the future. Learning how to race cars is probably not such a good skill for the future (nor is anything that would involve wasting fossil fuels). Also check out the competition. For example, when I lived in Denmark I taught myself how to make natural cold-pressed soaps. Everyone was amazed that I could do this ("What, you mean you actually make it? With your own hands?") and was happy to part with a tidy sum of money for a simple bar of soap. Then I moved to Britain and soap-makers are two-a-penny, and so my soap-making venture no longer makes sense*.

The main thing it's important to consider is the lead time involved in acquiring new skills. The best time to start learning them, ideally, is ten years ago. The second best time is today.


* Oh, and don't become a yoga teacher either. The world is already full of yoga teachers and doesn't need any more.

Friday, December 9, 2016

K is for Kids, and How to Prepare Them for the Future



One topic that is often glossed over by Kollapsniks is the topic of how to talk to children about the future. Perhaps it's because, as humans, we tend to place our hopes for the future in our children, and if all we can see is a bleak future then why bother telling them about it at all?

I have two daughters—aged 11 and 13. They are bright and beautiful, clever and compassionate. I'll admit that sometimes I worry about the world they will inhabit when they become adults. It's likely to be a world that very few people are preparing their kids for—and that's putting it mildly. Given what we know about how climate systems are becoming chaotic, how energy that was once as concentrated as a bottle of whisky is rapidly turning into a glass of shandy, about mass extinctions, overpopulation, the creeping corporate takeover of society, the dumbing down of culture, the pollution and destruction of the biosphere, mass refugee movements, resource wars, nuclear meltdowns and so on and so forth ... is it any wonder that so few of us want to broach the topic?

Despite all of these threats hanging over us what message, if any, is society sending to kids about the future? Are the cultural engineers who shape these young minds preparing them for a world in which the above drawbacks of industrial civilisation are honestly discussed? Or are they, instead, doubling down on the failures of the past and hammering into them the idea that what may kill us will also be our saviour? I think you already know the answer to that.

As a parent, I often get to unwillingly overhear/see children's TV programmes in the form of CBBC (Children's BBC). There are no commercials on CBBC but that doesn't mean it doesn't contain plenty of social programming and, by now, my kids are well used to hearing me howl in disagreement at something that was said—especially when Newsround is on.

Newsround—and pretty much every other programme on CBBC—propagates the narrative that we are heading towards a shiny future living on Mars, and that robots will do all the drudge work. Everything will be solar powered and there will be all sorts of consumer gadgets and devices, such as jetpacks and flying skateboards, and instead of dying we will be able to upload our minds into "the cloud" and live in virtual reality worlds that will be even more awesomer than living on Mars with robots.

The CBBC Newsround gang - getting the kids ready for the future

These little techno utopian skits are punctuated with other "news" items about reality TV shows, sports and the lives of celebrities, and—needless to say—everything is very PC and "right on" with a perfect mix along lines of gender/race/ability.

If this little window onto the cultural programming of infants is in any way reflective of the wider world then I hate to think what will be the effect on the state of mind of our youngsters as they approach maturity and find out what the real world is like. What's a concerned elder to do?

So, reaching over and turning off the mind-warp machine for a moment, what are reality-aware parents supposed to do to prepare their offspring for the future they'll likely get? Well, I can't speak for everyone, but my strategy is revealed in the 18 tips that follow:

1 - Teach them how to be aware of when someone is trying to con them. Adverts are a great place to start. Teach them how to strip an ad down to its basic components: what's it trying to do? Make it funny. My kids can laugh at any ad they see and tell you what emotion/fear/desire they are using to get you to buy their product.

2 - Get them interested in making things that are useful. I'm not very crafty, but my wife is, and she has taught them how to sew and crochet. They can now make their own clothes—and they enjoy doing it immensely. And if you're doing any DIY get them to watch and hand you the tools. There is nothing more lamentable than adults who don't know how to change a lightbulb or fix a leaky tap.

3 - Don't give them everything they want. Being denied something that you really, really want, is good for you. Growing up and getting everything you want all the time creates adults that are selfish and unhappy. They will be forever craving material possessions and will be mentally unable to process not getting what they want. They end up unhappy and have unfulfilled and unfulfilling lives. In the future people will not be able to get what they want—the best time to practice for that is now.

4 - Teach them to cook proper food from an early age. Let them be messy and let them create hideous concoctions, if that's what they want. Kids love preparing food and cooking, and the only way they'll learn about it is doing it for themselves. For your own sanity, also insist they clean up their mess afterwards.

5 - Tell them that school teaches you useful stuff but the real lessons come from life and what you learn yourself. I tell my kids that I don't care what grades they get as long as they do their best: that grading schemas are dreamed up by dull people in London as a way to get our kids to compete with Chinese kids and squeeze every bit of creativity out of the educational system. These days most children are put on a conveyor belt from early infancy which leads them through school and college and turns them into bonded debt slaves working in unfulfilling jobs. Impress upon them that this doesn't have to be the case and that alternative paths are open to them. Encourage them to follow their interests as long as this will likely lead to them being able to make a living for themselves that doesn't rely on massive amounts of fossil fuels or ponzi finance schemes. Guide them, in this respect. Impress upon them that the world doesn't owe them a living and that no job should be below them. To that end, don't give them pocket money unless they've earned it doing chores.

6 - Show them how much fun can be had for free. My fondest memories from childhood involved tobogganing down a snowy hill on a plastic bin bag, building dens in bit of woodland at the edge of town, hunting for fossils for my collection, playing conkers, riding my bike with friends from dawn until dusk and bodyboarding on a cheap polystyrene surfboard. All of these activities were either free or very cheap—and very fun. I also had loads of toys and certainly suffered no lack of anything—but toys were things to be played with when all the other possibilities just mentioned had been exhausted. Today my kids, and many of the other kids in town, go down to the harbour in the summer and jump off the walls into the water, just as kids have done here for centuries. You can hear their cries of joy from afar.

7 - Get them interested in reading, because books open up all sorts of doors in the mind. If you want to be really devious occasionally forbid them from reading certain books. I forbade my 13-year-old daughter from reading 1984 recently ("It's too grown up for you,") and—unsurprisingly—found a copy hidden under her bed with a bookmark placed well into it. There is nothing like forbidding something to make it attractive to curious minds. When they are young read them stories every night. All kids love being read stories and they love their parents to read them stories most of all. From a book. Made of paper.

8 - Teach them to question authority and not to blindly obey whatever instructions are given to them. By this I don't mean encourage them to be mouthy confrontationists, I mean tell them to trust their instincts and, if something doesn't feel right, discuss it openly with people they trust. At the top I mention CBBC—when I was a kid in the 1970s, many of the famous faces on TV (we now discover) were pedophiles, using their status to prey on young kids. We can only guess how extensive this network of kiddie fiddlers was/is (even the Prime Minister at the time, Edward Heath, is under suspicion of running a ring), but we know that the psychic vampires who populate it prey on people's blind obedience and unwillingness to question authority. Give your kids the equivalent of a silver crucifix and some garlic to ward off these monsters.

9 - Tell them about how the future is likely to be, but don't be a doomer. Show them documentaries. Talk to them about problems—and ask them if they have any good ideas about how to tackle them (you'd be surprised). Nobody knows what the future will hold. It will certainly be turbulent, and turbulence means lots of potential and possibilities for those willing to engage with it.

10 - Teach them about growing plants for food. Just as with preparing food, kids love to grow plants—especially if they can eat them afterwards. Tomatoes are great to get started, as are potatoes, peppers and radishes. All are easy to grow. If you have the space, give them their own plot, raised bed or mini greenhouse. If not, then get them to grow some plants of a windowsill. Take them to a farm and show them where eggs and milk and meat comes from. Teach them what grows for free in nature.

11 - Allow them to be bored. Many kids today are over-stimulated and cannot figure out what to do with themselves if the entertainment gadgets are switched off. Periods of boredom allow the brain to slow down and—more importantly—develop a more reflective aspect. In the future there will likely be far fewer opportunities to be over-stimulated, but at the same time there will be a lot of boring drudge work that needs doing. A mind addicted to external stimulation would not be able to cope with—say—working in the fields for hours each day, whereas a mind that is able to be quietly contemplative and reflective will fare far better.

12 - Make sure they are good mannered. Manners are a form of currency that will open doors and make them pleasant to be around. Also teach them how to disagree with someone with an opposing viewpoint without being hostile and reactive. Being good-mannered in a disagreement doesn't mean being a pushover—it simply means that you can reject the other side's BS with good grace and move on without turning into a foamy-mouthed berserker.

13 - Impress upon them the importance of avoiding debt. Unless they are certain the debt is an investment, make sure they realise how it can trap them. If they want to buy something that is a consumer item they should save up for it.

14 - Teach them how to physically defend themselves from attackers. Getting them enrolled in martial arts classes or boxing will be good for them in many ways. Not only will it give them the ability to fight off an attacker, but it will boost their self-confidence and improve their physical fitness. What's more, many if not most would-be attackers already have some knowledge of their victims, and knowing that they are a black belt in karate or a kick boxing champ will make them think twice. In Europe we are already seeing a huge upsurge in domestic abuse and violent street crimes as law and order breaks down. Young women on the streets of some cities face the prospect of being raped by gangs of men, who can get away with it as observers stand idly by and the police turn a blind eye in the name of community relations. As the father of two girls I want them to be able to fend off an attacker—fighting dirty if need be.

15 - Tell them they ain't gonna live on Mars. No way. Never gonna happen.

16 - Teach them to be open minded but realistic. Get them to think logically and to seek out evidence.  Once they have discovered the harsh truth about the Tooth Fairy and Santa, use this as an example of why you should never trust anything you hear. Being an open minded sceptic is the best way forward.

17 - Show them by example. There's no point in telling them to do stuff if you then go and break all the rules yourself. Admit that you're far from perfect. Tell them all the mistakes you have made along your path, and that you hope they'll avoid the same mistakes. Be ready for them to make the same mistakes.

18 - And finally—loosen up. Don't be one of those joyless parents who only allows their precious snowflakes to eat organic quinoa and listen to non-culturally appropriated fairy tales. Instead, allow them to drink Coca Cola, eat chocolate until they throw up, stay up all night during sleepovers, play with knives, hear rude jokes, encounter bullies, be in the same room as drunken adults talking nonsense, climb trees and run with scissors. Seriously. Because although there may be some minor risk involved in all of these things, there is an almost 100% probability that if you don't allow them this freedom you'll create a delicate little flower who won't be able to survive unless they are cocooned within a safe space and given trigger warnings every time they encounter mild peril. What's more they'll just end up rebelling against you and will turn into exactly the kind of person you didn't want them to be - and it'll all be your fault.

That's pretty much how I'm raising my kids, mindful of the likely future they'll find themselves living in. Oh, I forgot one last thing—make sure you treat your kids well. Look after them, love them and treat them with respect. Foster within them joy, compassion and a sense of fairness. Those kids are not yours—you're just borrowing them. Because one day the boot will be on the other foot and, if you've done your job right, you can only hope the favour will be repaid. And if the future turns out even harsher than all your preparations have allowed for, then at least they might help you to push that shopping trolley down The Road.




***

This blog post is an updated version of an earlier one, including four new points and a few edits for clarity.

Monday, November 28, 2016

J is for Just Out - Seat of Mars



And so, just in time for Christmas, my new book Seat of Mars has been released by Club Orlov Press. Some people will be familiar with the story as I wrote it as a series of blog posts over 2015/2016, but for those who are not, the synopsis is as follows:

"Hell-bent on preserving the privileges of the wealthy in the face of a looming resource crisis, the British government executes a false flag terrorist attack and shuts down the national electricity grid. In the ensuing turmoil a shadowy cabal of globalists watches on with interest from a bunker deep beneath the frozen wastes of Iceland as they ready themselves to roll out the “experiment” across the world. Seat of Mars follows the fortunes of a handful of ordinary people flung into extraordinary times. These include Rose, a teenage Goth, who finds herself pulled into a web of intrigue within a fortified London; Jack and Cat, an ordinary city couple who end up stranded far from home; and the resourceful prepper Art Gwavas who sees the mayhem as a chance to take back what is rightfully his. The story asks the wider question of how well any of us would fare if the safety blanket of industrial civilisation were suddenly pulled from us and whether, from the embers of chaos, something more beautiful could emerge."

This book is an updated, edited and slightly re-jigged version of that story. It's kind of funny how it came about. A couple of years back I wrote a story that featured in John Michael Greer's book After Oil 3 - The Years of Rebirth. That story was set in Greenland in the 25th century and featured a young female archaeologist named Saga—and the story is called Saga and the Bog People. She ventures across the sea to what used to be the Isle of Skye and there she uncovers the corpses of a family buried in a bog inside their Audi. They seemed have died a violent death and the driver was still holding his iPhone in his hand half a millennium on. 

This got me wondering who this family might be and it gave me the idea to write a story set 500 years in her past—i.e. our present. I wanted to write some sort of realistic(ish) collapse story that didn't involve zombies. And then a thought occurred to me: do you ever have those conversations where someone says "Oh yeah, the government knows all about peak oil and everything, but they just don't want to admit it? Well, I reasoned, if they know about it, why is it the only thing they try to do is grow the economy as an answer to everything? Why don't they take some kind of proactive action ... such as kill off 2/3 of the population and preserve the lion's share of the remaining land and wealth for an elite few?

So, with this thought in mind, I wondered how they might be able to achieve this. A false flag eco-terrorist event was what I decided upon, giving them the excuse to shut down the electricity transmission grid and essentially fling most of the population back into the middle ages. And if they did this, how would people survive (if at all)? I settled on the idea of taking a few people from different places on the socioeconomic spectrum and tossing them into the maelstrom. Thus we have Art Gwavas, an anarchist prepper who takes over a farm and raids local stores and houses to ensure the survival of his band of followers. Then we have Rose O'Keefe, a young Goth girl astrophysics blogger who gets sucked into a web of intrigue in a fortified London and ends up with some very special powers. There's also a city couple who get caught up in the chaos, the neurotic Prime Minister with a penchant for pills and the—frankly pure evil—political advisor Ignatius Pope, who just does what the voice in his head tells him to. 

It's quite a fast-paced story, with the action being spread between modern day London, Cornwall and Iceland. We also venture forth into post-apocalyptic Britain as we follow the travails of Rose O'Keefe as she turns from a young internet sensation into an old woman living in a hobbit hole where she spends a desperate night penning her life story in the knowledge that dawn will bring with it something wicked. It's probably not a book for younger readers or for people who are easily shocked, as I've been told variously that certain story elements are 'sick' (not in a cool way) and 'disturbing'. That isn't to say it contains gratuitous violence—far from it—but neither does it shy away from some some of the darker aspects of humanity.

If you want to get hold of a copy you can click on the book cover image to the right, or search it up on your regional Amazon site - or book distributor. It is only available in hard copy format at present, although it's possible that an eBook might come out in a year or so (issues with piracy remain).

Anyway, if you do read it I hope you enjoy it. Those who read this site and others like it will be familiar with many of the issues covered in the narrative of Seat of Mars. If it proves to be a success I'll write the second instalment in 2017.

Monday, November 21, 2016

I is for Interesting Times



"May you live in interesting times," says the old Chinese curse. The election of Donald Trump to president of the United States was the starting pistol for interesting times. From now on, not much will remain the same.

On the night of the election I had tried to stay awake to watch the whole thing unfold. Because of the time difference I knew there would be no clear results until early morning, and so I ended up going to bed at about 1am— at which point all the TV pundits were saying it was 'practically impossible' for Trump to win. So I went to be bed, but barely managed three hours of sleep due to fitful dreams. My phone was on the table next to the bed when I awoke, but I couldn't bring myself to turn it on and see all the "First Woman in the Whitehouse" headlines. I put it off and tried to snooze a while longer. Unable to do so I eventually reached over and turned it on with a 'better get this over with' attitude.

That was when I almost fell out of bed in shock.

It was like Brexit all over again. Brexit on steroids. The impossible had suddenly been proved possible. A spell had been broken and the world had been turned on its head. Donald Trump—a giant ego on legs—had pulled off the impossible. He had taken on the arrayed masses of media, celebrities, pundits, received wisdom and social inertia—and beaten them all. Thrashed them, in fact.

The stunned disbelief on social media rapidly turned into white hot anger. I felt a great disturbance in the force—it was as if a million voices cried out in terror; and then there was violence. Protestors rampaging around the streets, setting fire to cars and smashing window. Yes—the great hissy fit had begun.

From my perspective across on the other side of the Atlantic, I had one immediate cause for celebration: my family would not be nuked. Given Clinton's bellicose rhetoric about surrounding China with missiles and 'taking on' Russia, I had every reason to believe that she would willingly start a world war within months of taking office. With Nato forces building up on the border of Russia in numbers not seen since WWII, and the mainstream press squirting out anti-Russian propaganda from every orifice, and with Russia itself drilling its citizens for imminent nuclear war, I felt I had every reason to be concerned—especially as I live close to a couple of likely military targets. But on the morning on October 9th I got my geiger counter, my iodine pills and my copy of US Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survival Manual, and put them away in my bottom drawer. For now.

But, of course, global nuclear war is a piffling matter for those more concerned with transgender bathrooms and the breaking of glass ceilings for power crazed career politicians. "But what about Pussygate?" scream the angry mob of social justice warriors. To which I would reply that there are plenty of places where presidential fingers don't belong, but frankly I'm more concerned about them being on the big red button.

So, yes, a large bubble has been popped. This is what the apocalypse looks like. The word 'apocalypse' means 'living the veil'. It's a consciousness thing. The apocalypse will happen at the level of human consciousness before it happens (if ever) on the physical plane. The fake doctrine of neoliberalism/neoconservatism/globalisation—that has made the world we see today, has been exposed for what it is. And all of those who happily went along with it feel a deep terror in their bones. They sense, perhaps correctly, that all of the horrors America and the West have unleashed on the world over the last four decades—horrors which they thought were safely locked away in the basement—have been awoken and are starting to walk up the stairs, feet shuffling, hands outstretched. Not even the soothing tones of Barack Obama can convince them to go back down again—they know they are done for.

So who are all these people who are so terrified? They are the ones who have fallen prey to the globalist controlling mindset. For them, it's all a matter of identity politics, victim statuses and the almighty ruling patriarchy. Status is conferred by your relative minority status, delineated along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation etc. By shifting the entire nature of politics into the realm of identity politics the globalist class have quite brilliantly— with the unflinching support of the mainstream media and Hollywood—cast a magic spell that almost succeeded in enslaving the entire world. And because identity politics so enfeebles people, it was easy to divide and conquer them and get them to conform to their idealised state of passive obedience. This idealised state is one where everyone is defined in a very narrow sense, there is no collective grouping outside of one's own little group, and anyone who objects to this state of affairs is called a 'racist' or a 'homophobe' or a whatever. With everyone so caught up in policing one another the globalists have been able to continue their destructive course of war profiteering and handing democratic sovereignty to corporations largely unchallenged.

The power of the spell is broken now, even if the socially-engineered, weak-minded apologists for the power set refuse to believe it. For what they don't realise is that the election of Trump—and Brexit before it—was the anguished howl of a people who had had enough and were unwilling to acquiesce to the madness any longer. In that respect, Brexit and Trump's election will go down as the most important historical events of Western civilisation in the 21st century. If you don't believe me, just wait.

Yet the people still entrapped by this spell believe in maintaining the status quo so vehemently that they are quite unable to function when their overlords are exposed as frauds and fakes. They are fine with their military raining death down on foreign nations so that they can plunder their oil (but don't turn away the refugees), fine with supporting a candidate who takes blood money from a nation that routinely kills gays and stones women for adultery (as long as we have freedom and equality) and fine with starting a nuclear war which would kill millions of innocent people (because Putin said something nasty about gays). They are also the ones who loudly insist that it is racist to be against globalisation, although they always assume that the benefits of globalisation will accrue to themselves, and if you find yourself living in a wasteland of drug addiction, crime and unemployment because of it, well then that's just your own stupid fault and you're probably a racist so there.

These people are all going to be swept away into history's compost bin, and they know it. It would be a good thing if they could be brought round to see reason—after all, some of them are good people and it's not their fault they've been brainwashed. But, alas, in most cases they are too far gone and it is impossible to reason with them. They belong to a superfluous unproductive class for which there will soon be no further need. They are the corporate PR flacks, the media, the overstuffed university faculty members, the fat layers of government who produce nothing but new regulations and rules to penalise everyday people, and the political hangers-on and other assorted medieval court fauna. As the global energy pie shrinks and the very real limits to growth assert themselves, these people will find themselves pushed out of the picture. No longer will they boast on Facebook about not being able to change a lightbulb as though menial, physical, useful skills are for the Untermensch classes—they'll be too busy fighting among themselves about whose fault all this was and forming circular firing squads.

For anyone who thinks they might detect a note of glee here, they'd be right. I would dearly love to see the likes of The Guardian, the Clintons and all the other warmongering, social engineering, psychopathically driven impediments to real human progress tossed into the fiery abyss. But, gratifying as that might be, it doesn't mean everything will then be all sweetness and light. Indeed how do we even know what to expect next? As has become abundantly clear to many people, the world of mass media, talking heads, opinion formers and politicos don't offer us any useful guidelines any longer. That's why the polymathically inclined turn to other areas where they might find better tools for human understanding—and one particularly useful area is the realm of mythology and psychology.


The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung noted the various archetypes manifest in human consciousness, and explained how we relate to these in our lives (although they exist on a subconscious level so usually we don't realise it). Joseph Campbell took this a stage further in his analysis of myths throughout human history, drawing out these archetypal figures to help make sense of such a widely diverse universe of stories. These archetypes are encoded in our minds and have been there from the time of our earliest ancestors. For the most part they lurk there unseen, only revealing themselves in times of need, when they help us to make sense of the world when everyday logic seems to fail us. This, of course, flies in the face of progress and scientism and the other pseudo-religions we like to insist are useful to us, and so many people choose to ignore the lessons of mythology. So it goes.

The archetype that should concern us today is the one they call the Trickster. The Trickster is a magician—someone who can conjure something seemingly impossible out of nothing. Magic, by the way, is the ability to take something from a non-physical realm and bring it forth into the physical one. It is the ability to change human consciousness through act of will. We all do it, usually without realising it, and politicians try to do it more than most of us (check out the Clinton team's disastrous experiments with Spirit Cooking). The Trickster is adept at this, appearing in times when civilisations have become stale and moribund, and when politics seems dead and insipid. The Trickster strides onto the stage and explodes the neat order of things, creating chaos and mayhem and collapse. Trickster is a disruptive intelligence. He laughs as he brings down elites, chuckles as he tosses political grandees into oblivion and cackles with mischief as he throws entire societies into turmoil.

In Norse mythology, Loki took the main Trickster role. Loki wanted to start Ragnarök—an all-encompassing battle that would destroy much of the world and also kill the gods in the process. Pan was also a Trickster—you've heard of 'pandemonium' and 'panic'—as was Shakespeare's Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In Britain we have a real-life Trickster in the form of Nigel Farage, and now in America, we have The Donald. Pretty soon, across much of Europe, each nation will have its very own Trickster running the show.

A note of warning. Those who are tired of the status quo, who are sick of corrupt politicians and exploitative corporations, and who yearn for deep and meaningful change should beware. Because normally we don't get the Trickster we want: we get the Trickster we deserve. It is worth knowing that we ourselves may be tossed into the abyss along all the other detritus: we vanquish our control when we summon forth the Trickster. Because, as Jung once again explains, the type of Trickster we get depends on our own dark Shadow. This Shadow represents our deepest fears: it is everything about us that we have been too afraid to confront. Our Shadow, at a societal level, is represented by all those bodies in the basement I mentioned above. It's all the stuff we have tried to block out, such as the harm we do to the planet, the resource wars our politicians get into on our behalf, factory farming, nuclear weapons technology—all the stuff we chose not to focus on rises up from the collective subconscious and becomes the Trickster beating down our basement door.

What follows is never pretty. When Shiva dances, worlds crumble. But afterwards, when the Trickster has had his fun, he leaves the scene and a time of renewal can occur. For, even after the mayhem of Ragnarök the land rose up from the sea, cleansed and refreshed. 

I'll let Puck have the last word, with his closing speech in A Midsummer Night's Dream

If we shadows have offended,
 Think but this, and all is mended—
 That you have but slumbered here
 While these visions did appear.
 And this weak and idle theme,
 No more yielding but a dream,
 Gentles, do not reprehend.
 If you pardon, we will mend.
 And, as I am an honest Puck,
 If we have unearnèd luck
 Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
 We will make amends ere long.



***

In other news, the latest issue of the post industrial fiction magazine Into the Ruins has just been released. As ever, it features great stories that help us to imagine what might lie on the other side of Ragnarök, so to speak. I myself have a story in this issue called The Fifth Garden. It's about an old man in a dusty and ravished country who plants gardens and restores life to the land, changing human consciousness in the process. You can get your copy here.